Thursday, January 29, 2004

I get quoted in Slate. Sort of.


A few days ago I sent an email to Jack Shafer who writes the "pressbox" column for slate, commenting on the article from last week's NYT Magazine feature. He asked if I would be willing to be quoted in his next column. By the time I replied he already wrote the 2nd column, so I got stuffed into the 3rd, with apparently "other readers" :
Other readers compared Landesman's treatment of the sex slaves to the hysteria over "white slavery"—i.e., female prostitution—that swept the United States and England in the late 1800s. Some contemporary observers could not accept that economic straits, social mores, and opportunity had led some women into the sex business. For them, the only explanation was abduction.


ah, the fleeting fame of an online journalist :))))

For the archive of Slate's pressbox coverage of the NYT Magazine article click here


ps. I do not doubt there were other readers who pointed out the fairly obvious parallel. I only put "other readers" in quotations marks to make the linkage to the quote from the article that followed.

Quetly useful NYT op-ed - Elephants Can't Fly

with one really good re-quote
Mikhail Gorbachev was once asked how — in one word — he would sum up the Soviet economy. "Good," he said. Then he was asked how — in two words — he would sum up the Soviet economy: "Not good," he said.


read the rest [ed - free subscription required]

Wednesday, January 28, 2004

Twisted roles - Army vs. Congress


Army wants to temporarily increase its troop strength. Congress claims that this is a half-measure, somehow a budget-minded ploy, and that the Army needs the increase to be permanent. From Reuters:

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Strained by operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, the U.S. Army will boost its forces by 30,000 through emergency authority it expects to last four years, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Peter Schoomaker told Congress on Wednesday.

But Schoomaker, testifying to the House of Representatives Armed Services Committee, rejected calls from lawmakers for a permanent increase in forces, saying it would undermine efforts to streamline and modernize the Army.

"Right now, I've been given the authority by the secretary of defense to grow the Army by 30,000 people ... under emergency powers," Schoomaker said. He said the authority from Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld was to last for four years.

...

He rejected mounting demands from Republicans and Democrats in Congress to raise the Army's authorized troop levels, which he said would force the Army to expand permanently before it had made needed structural and operating changes.

"What I stress again is we should not make a commitment for a permanent end-strength (troop) increase at this time," Schoomaker said. He said that would result in the kind of bloated, poorly trained force that plagued the Army in the 1970s.

Rep. Ellen Tauscher, a California Democrat, said the Pentagon seemed to be ducking its obvious need for more manpower in order to save money for the Bush administration's priorities, such as developing a missile defense system.

"We cannot put the strain on our military and on our American people just because we insist ideologically to keep the budget the way it is," Tauscher said.

She is pushing legislation to increase the size of the Army, Air Force and Marine Corps for five years at an estimated cost of up to $4 billion.


Let me see if I understand the issue here. The person in charge of the Army Staff, a decorated general would prefer to limit to go slowly, increase Army troop strength on a temporary basis and make sure that the new troops are integrated in a manner necessary for today's high-professional Army. Congresswoman Tauscher has twin areas of specialization - childcare and nuclear proliferation. The closest she seems to have come to the battlefield seems to have the lectures of the type given at Berkley with the purpose of discussing

her views on the destabilizing effects of current U.S. foreign policy.


I am not exactly sure how adding 30,000 troops to the USA Army permanently will help to stabilize the world according to the Berkley crowd, but I think this paragraph from her congressional bio helps to explain the militaristic swing

Rep. Tauscher is the only member of Congress to have two national defense laboratories – Lawrence Livermore and Sandia California – in her district. The district also includes Camp Parks Army Reserve facility and Travis Air Force Base, home of the 60th Air Mobility Wing.


I feel slightly evil for singling out the congresswoman from what seems like a pack of pork-seeing politicians, but it seems like the efforts of the lawmakers are yet again motivated by pork instead of real compassion for the soldiers or concern for our national security. I am also a bit annoyed how military opinions are taken by Democrats as infallable voices of wisdom whenever they disagree with the Administration publicly or privately. However, these same voices are suddenly ideological and budgetary sharlatans when they refuse to agree with a $5billion pork barrel. Sorry, you cannot have it both ways.


ps. Correction. You could have it both ways if you were capable of always determining the truth, which I guess is what most politicians make themselves out to be. Unless of course they were misled by a President, who you know to always lie except in the cases were you believed him.

After this review of "Along Came Polly", I am off to rent the Heartbreak Kid

Admittedly, the movie description from Netflix:
While honeymooning with his new wife in Florida, Lenny Cantrow (Charles Grodin) begins to rue his nuptials. So when his irksome spouse gets stuck in their hotel room with a nasty sunburn and the footloose Lenny meets gorgeous blond coed Kelly (Cybill Shepherd), it's all the incentive he needs to ditch his brand-new bride. But Lenny isn't home free with Kelly - his hot pursuit of her quickly hits a brick wall of resistance: her loathing father.


does not quite live up to the description from the Slate article linked above:

The Heartbreak Kid. That film, too, opens with a joyous Jewish wedding, between Lenny (Charles Grodin) and Lila (Jeannie Berlin). They too head off for a sunny honeymoon, this one in Miami Beach. But it's Grodin, the groom, who has second thoughts—which only intensify when he spies the curvy silhouette of Kelly Corcoran (Cybill Shepherd).


This, of course, is the groom's true nightmare: not that his bride will fall for another person just days after the wedding, but that he will. Unlike Reuben, Lenny isn't granted a convenient pardon from his vows. Instead, he coldly ditches his wife to pursue this dream girl, which sends him tumbling into a series of cringe-inducing humiliations: He tails her to her chilly home state of Minnesota; he supplicates himself to her disapproving father (Eddie Albert). And when he finally wins her hand, he finds himself submerged in a stuffy WASP society just as stifling as the union and the wife he left behind.


The Heartbreak Kid ends as it begins: with a marriage. It leaves us with the image of Lenny in a tux at his second wedding, wistfully humming "Close to You," a song he often sang with his first bride. Like the heroes of the evil-fiancee films, Lenny fled commitment by telling himself he's chasing after love. This delusion makes a fool of him.


I will let you know how the movie turns out to be. Of course, it is #25 in my netflix queue at the moment, so it might take a while.

Slashdot | Porn Rewards Users To Get Past Anti-Spam Captchas

Massively parallel computing using porn


from Slashdot -
Porn Rewards Users To Get Past Anti-Spam Captchas

Stalke writes "Spammers are now usings a new technique to circumvent the 'captchas,' the distorted text in graphics, that users must input to receive the free email account. The spammers have cracked the system by displaying the 'captchas' on free porn sites in real time. Since there are always a large number of people signing up for free porn, they do the work of decripting the 'captchas' which is then replayed back into the spammers program to create a new email account. Who thought that porn could be a hacking technique!"


very cool thinking.

Tuesday, January 27, 2004

Anton Nossik's Journal

Tire d'une lettre particuliere (in russian)
Ïðåäëàãàåìûé òåêñò ïîïàë êî ìíå ñëó÷àéíî. Àâòîðîì åãî ÿâëÿåòñÿ ðåäàêòîð ãàçåòû «Ðóññêèé Áåðëèí» Áîðèñ Ôåëüäìàí. Æàíð — óñëîâíî-÷àñòíîå ïèñüìî. Êðàòêîå ñîäåðæàíèå: îò÷åò î ïîåçäêå â Ìîñêâó. Äàëüøå ÷èòàéòå ñàìè. Íå ïîæàëååòå.


very funny.

ps. if the text above lokos like gibberish, change your encoding to Cyrrilic (Windows)

Good read - Greenspun on tech. book publishing


I am a few years too late to the publication date, but it was still a nice read.

Yarmulkebra


via Radosh.net

Inspired by the MC Paul Barman lyric, "I couldn't stay calm because/ she revealed a bra made of two yarmulkes," designer KS turns the fantasy into a reality.


All bras are one of a kind. The Yarmulkes themselves are imported from Israel and are individual works of art. Available in three styles: Bat-mitzvah(S/M sizes), Boobooshka(L size) and Sports(M/L sizes).


got to love those lyrics.

Digital PhotoCorner - Homepage

Good basic and short explanation of pixels, dpi, and ppi for digital photography and printing - Digital PhotoCorner

Saturday, January 24, 2004

Op-Ed Contributor: Career Girls

What a crock - Op-Ed Contributor: Career Girls


But such reading is crucial, especially since literacy in sexual politics means literacy in all politics. Despite some reawakening of student activism via Howard Dean's Internet-based campaign, in my experience, attempts to introduce contemporary politics into classroom discussions meet with blank stares. Even this past year, as our country began a war, I encountered mostly silence when I broached the topic of Iraq, a mix of paralysis and anxiety, plus some disgruntlement over my deviating from the syllabus. [ed - boldface added


How dare students care whether their time in the classroom is well-spent, it is not like they are paying

Tuition and Fees
The comprehensive fee for the 2003-2004 academic year is $37,900. Other expenses include books and supplies (around $800) and personal miscellaneous expenses, including health insurance and round-trip transportation (varies depending on student's home location). [ed from About Connecticut College


But at least, the op-ed contributor must be a professor in a discipline that would make sure the time spent in class on the issues of internet-campaigning or foreign policy would be well-spent. Alas, NYT lists the author as

Rhonda Garelick is an associate professor of French and Italian at Connecticut College.


French and Italian? Well, I cannot image why I would be annoyed if my French (or performance studies) professor would spend a not insignificant chunk of $37,000 (plus fees) on discussing her opinions on Iraqi war or "Family Time Flexibility Act". Frankly, I think it is incredibly presumptous of Ms. Garelick to dismiss her students as apolitical and unable to "mine the implications" of government acts. After all, she does not sound (admittedly I only know her from a 350-word essay) like a person with whom one can publicly disagree in the classroom on a off-sillabus topic and still hope for a fair grade. I can only suggest, and hope for the sake of her future students, that Ms. Gorelick will channel her energies into obtaining a position that would be more conducive in devoting herself "more to teaching "wakeful" political literacy: the skills needed to interrogate all cultural messages" than classes in French and Italian.

ps. I think the comparative literature degree Ms. Gorelick possesses is one of the best general degrees a person can have. I just strongly disagree with her assessment of what proper student behaviour should be in response to off-topic discussions in classes with a well-defined curriculum.

Friday, January 23, 2004

Daily updates by email

Daily updates by email


I have added support for daily update emails via Bloglet. I have no idea how well this works. But you can subscribe too -- just put your email address into the textbox on the right side of the screen, right below contact information. Next up - contacts.

Photo link: A sailor would not hurt a child

Photo link: A sailor would not hurt a child by kaptoxa


very nice. simple. powerful. emotive.

Thursday, January 22, 2004

Silence of Mars Rover Worrisome (washingtonpost.com)

Another conspiraxy theory is born


And a hundred more receive fuel and fodder. Silence of Mars Rover Worrisome (washingtonpost.com)

The situation was somewhat mysterious, however, because no single failure scenario could readily explain the rover's behavior, said project manager Pete Theisinger. ... At 11:30 p.m. Wednesday, as the problem was becoming clear, the rover contacted a second U.S. orbiter, the Mars Global Surveyor, as it passed overhead, but the signal contained no data -- just "a random pattern of zeros and ones," said Richard Cook, deputy project manager.


Of course, I have carefully removed anything from the article that might interfere with the clear conclusion that Martians have taken over the craft and are now reverse-engineering it.

I Do Know How She Does It - The real supermom message of the original Cheaper by the Dozen. By Ann?Hulbert

good read - I Do Know How She Does It - The real supermom message of the original Cheaper by the Dozen.

Wednesday, January 21, 2004

"Like a prayer..."


RDK checks in with this bit of odd news - Rabbi Offers Prayer for Web Porn Browsers

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - An Israeli rabbi has composed a prayer to help devout Jews overcome guilt after visiting porn web sites while browsing the Internet.




"Please God, help me cleanse the computer of viruses and evil photographs which disturb and ruin my work..., so that I shall be able to cleanse myself (of sin)," reads the benediction by Shlomo Eliahu, chief rabbi in the northern town of Safed.



Eliahu, quoted by Israel's largest daily newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth, said he had responded to a deluge of queries from Orthodox Jews worried that the lure of Internet sex sites was putting family relationships at risk.



The rabbi recommends that Jews recite the prayer when they log on to the Internet or even program it to flash up on their computer screens so they are spiritually covered whether they enter a porn site intentionally or by mistake.




Tuesday, January 20, 2004

Even the NYT cannot resist poking some fun at the French.


Next Target in the French Headgear Debate: The Bandanna


For that reason, he explained, "The bandanna, if it is presented by young girls as a religious sign, will be forbidden."


He also contended that hairstyles or the wearing of certain colors could be a source of manipulation. "Signs could be invented using simple hairiness or a color," he said. "Creativity is infinite in this regard."


In his testimony, Xavier Darcos, the deputy minister, agreed. "It's a question of our will to produce a clear, useful and general text that avoids diverse precedents and individual improvisation," he said. "It was quite necessary to act and not to restrain religious freedom."


Apparently, French admit seeking to restrict creativity but not religious freedom. I am not sure which one is worse -- their lying about a ban on religious symbols not infringing on religious freedom or their truth on seeking to restrict creativity in its any form, even simple hairiness.

On a separate note, I appreciate the use of word "hairiness" in a major policy statement. Much like Elivs and pelvis, "simple hairiness" is a threat to order, stability, and the fatherland.

Buffy vs. Highlander


The Volokh Conspiracy has a strange, albeit fascinating discussion that started out by asking

"There is an arbitrariness in defining the relevant class of risky events. In my lifetime as a driver, I stand some (fairly low) chance of killing an innocent pedestrian. Few people would argue that I should be prohibited from driving. Assume, however, that science prolongs (fit) human life forever, at least unless you are struck down by a car. My chance of killing an innocent pedestrian then would approach certainty, given that I plan to continue driving throughout an eternal life. In fact I could be expected to kill very many pedestrians. Should I then be prohibited from driving? When we make a prohibition decision, should we measure the risk of a single act of driving, or the risk of driving throughout a lifetime? Measuring the bundled risk appears to imply absurd consequences, such as banning driving for people with sufficiently long lives.


This question evolved [ed - devolved? progressed?] to a round-up of opinions on the risk-averseness of immortals, almost immortals, or individuals with no limit on natural lifespan here

The dilemma of the immortal, continued: As you may recall from yesterday, I asked whether an immortal would necessarily be considered a murderer, given that accidents happen sooner or later. Drive on the roads for a few million years, and you are likely to run over a pedestrian. A related question is whether we should prohibit such actions, such as driving for millions of years, if our rights theory forbids the imposition of high levels of risk on other people. Conversely, if we do not consider the immortal driver a murderer, we might face counterexamples where we cannot stop the repeated application of risk, when stopping such risks is an intuitively appealing thing to do, read the original post for more detail. The underlying dilemma is that once we consider an intertemporal perspective, can a theory of rights have a firmly grounded and intuitive benchmark for what counts as "too much risk"? Here are a few threads of the responses I received:


1. Sasha Volokh suggests that rights should be defined in terms of how much risk is acceptable to impose on a person in a given time period, not how much risk can be imposed overall through a longer period of time. This, of course, suggests that would-be aggressors can get away with misdeeds by spreading out their aggression over time probabilistically, I don't think that Sasha would regard this possibility as a reductio on his view. An interesting question is whether the time dimension should be treated separately from the dimension of space, and if so why. What if you spread very small risks around a large amount of space, killing someone with near-certainty? Would this be less acceptable than spreading the risks through time?


2. Lawrence Solum raised the separate question of how risk-averse a would-be immortal would be or should be. If your life is eternal in the absence of accidents, perhaps you should never leave the house. I have offered separate comment on this interesting issue.

...


Finally, the discussion culminated in comparison-shopping of our favorite TV and literature immortals


Would immortals-by-lifespan who were not invulnerable be very, or infinitely, risk averse? Would they be very unambitious and inactive, since there would always be time for stuff later?


I'm not going to get into the genuine intellectual issues at stake, just going to enjoy the chance to survey some SF, fantasy, and related genres of fiction.


A correspondent of Solum's says that in 'contemporary vampire fiction' vampires are extremely risk-averse. I suppose that this refers to the Anne Rice novels, none of which I've read. But it does invite an obvious question about Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which was otherwise generally very good about imagining a world that made sense given its initial premisses. Why would any vampire hang out in Sunnydale? The Master was bound into the Hellmouth, and some of his servants were bound to him. Occasionally there was a vampire who wanted the glory of killing a Slayer. But then there were the countless, often nameless, vampires who just inhabited the town and treated it as their feeding ground-- until they got staked. The Hellmouth might have attracted demons, made it more likely that new vampires would be created, and generated generic magical weirdness. But wouldn't an even-remotely-rational vampire, even one who had been created in Sunnydale, move out of town immediately upon realizing that he or she was much more likely to get destroyed there than any other place in the world? Even the glory-hounds must have thought that the glory of killing a Slayer was inordinately valuable, given that they should have wanted to avoid any risk at all of getting slain. Instead, they continued to congregate in the least rational place for them to do so.


Robert Heinlein's Lazarus Long was not highly risk-averse-- but he did not know that he was going to turn out to be immortal, and by the time he knew, his habits of mind, his aversion to boredom, had been very well-set. Many of his fellow Howards did become very conservative and risk-averse, especially those who were born after the advent of rejuvenation and who therefore knew all along that they were functionally immortal.


The characters in Poul Anderson's Boat of a Million Years have interestingly varied reactions-- some but not others become extremely conservative for parts of their lifespan.


Characters in the Highlander universe of course face a somewhat different incentive structure. They are immortal-- but know that only one of them will be truly immortal, the last one to survive the last swordfight. That creates an incentive to engage in swordfights along the way, so as to remain in practice. [NB: Yes, there are also intermittent claims about each immortal 'gaining the power' of each other one he or she kills in combat-- but there's not a lot of consistency about just what that means, and whether that 'power' makes one more likely to win the next fight.] Accordingly, we again see variation in strategies adopted, from the strategy of spending centuries at a time on holy ground (off limits for swordfights), in order to protect one's immortal life, to the strategy of fighting all the time in order to hone skills and increase the chances of being the last survivor.


Read the rest of the post to learn various theories about Elvish (LOTR) lifespans, and more theories on why vampires stay in Sunnyvale, while they obviously should be in Cleveland, or at least L.A.


I can only contribute to this discussion that Douglas Adams clearly thought some immortals would be rather pro-active in meeting some impossible but time-consuming goal, like meeting every person in the Universe.

Better paper, better books?


Bookslut mentioned that 95% of all US books are printed on paper made from fresh-cut timber



Around 95% of books published in America are printed on virgin fiber paper. Not even J.K. Rowling could get Scholastic to print on post-consumer recycled paper (her Canadian publisher did) when requested.


Read more here



why *would not* publishers want to use recycled paper? would you be willing to pay a bit more for recycled paper? or perhaps make recycled
the default and charge more for better paper?

Friday, January 16, 2004

Future Now has a lot of interesting articles posted right now. They are always good, but today I have just been seeing one article after another that I like or think ti worth considering. Sadly, they do not always have links to the items they cover, and are rather brief in their news items, but still worth a look. Them them out.


for example -

Revitalizing Italy



One of the recurring ideas that I would really like to pursue is the revitalization of aging cities across Europe, creating a circuit of creative cities. Well, it seems that an enterprising Swede has decided that at least part of this idea is worth pursuing. In Lease of life for an Italian ghost village, Jennifer Grego writes in the Financial Times: Just over three years ago, a young Swedish investor, Daniele Elow Kihlgren, bought a group of buildings (3,500 sq metres' worth), roughly one-third of probably the most attractive fortified hill-town of the area, Santo Stefano di Sessanio. ...


and


Coffee houses, the early modern Internet



One of the most interesting parts of Neal Stephenson's breathtaking (or maybe simply exhausting: after 2000 pages, the line between exaltation and overexertion becomes a thin one) Quicksilver is how much of the action takes place in and around coffee houses. Coffee houses were important centers of news, gossip, and commerce: so much so, in fact, that a recent issue of The Economist has one of those essays that you subscribe to magazines in hope of reading: a piece compares the early modern coffee-house with the Internet: Where do you go when you want to know the latest business news,...

I would like to find a copy of the full interview with Peter Drucker in Fortune
Peter Drucker on the future of India



Talking Points Memo has extracts from a Fortune interview with Peter Drucker, which has the following interesting bit (an extract of an extract!) on India and China as global players. (In my admittedly short swing through the world of futurists, Peter Drucker seems to be treated with a degree of reverence bordering on awe.) FORTUNE: Does the U.S. still set the tone for the world economy? DRUCKER: The dominance of the U.S. is already over. What is emerging is a world economy of blocs represented by NAFTA, the European Union, ASEAN...


He is definitely a guy worth reading and listening to carefully.

Scrappleface - just read it every day


A word about pensions


In a yet another lament to the good old days of defined benefit pensions Jacob Hacker writes in NYT:

The truly staggering changes, however, are taking place in the private sector. The number of Americans without employment-based health benefits has been rising for decades. Employers are also restructuring workplace benefits to impose more risk on workers. Once, for instance, workers lucky enough to have a pension enjoyed a guaranteed benefit. Now, with so-called defined-contribution plans like 401(k)'s, workers have to put away their own wages and the returns of the plan depend entirely on their own investments[ed. emphasis added].


I always have a problem with the use of word "lucky". I am certainly not clear on why 401-K plans are so-called defined-contribution plans -- they are defined-contribution plans, there is nothing so-called about it. but let's get back to luck. Is the author claiming that US workers were lucky that their kind employers generously gave them health and retirement benefits? I am sure miners and teamsters of old would argue that they earned every penny of those benefits, and luck had nothing to do with it. If indeed it was luck, then it seems silly to argue that we can somehow force the return to the halcyon days of old. If the generous benefits enjoyed by at most 2 (3 for city workers) generations of workers in American history are to be treated as a norm, then what is the point of using the l-word ?


Moving on to the actual subject of pensions. I certainly would like to have a defined-benefit pension, to which I would not contribute but to which I would be entitled. However, if I were studying the subject, I would focus not only on what would be great to have, but what the costs of it would be. For example, does Mr. Hacker know what happens to these defined pensions when companies go bust? He could ask the steeel industry pensioneers. What happens when GM, formerly called "Generous Motors" by its workers, makes around $200 per some car models but has costs of $2,000-$3,000 per same car in retirement benefits? The answer is simple -- government comes in, bails out the company by either assuming its pension obligations or by trying to somehow improve its competetive position by instituting tarrifs and taxes on its competitors. Oh, and it also cuts these so-called defined-benefits pensions to the bone. Of course, for many political science professors governement just prints money, so it has no problem subsudizing any amount of fudiciary obligations, but for the rest of us it is the taxes that could be used for war, peace, space exploration, or brighter street lights that get diverted to pay for those few lucky ones.


From the Federal Government down, municipalities and companies are promising benefits to their current workers on the backs of their future citizens and employees. I agree that a fundamental reform, or at least a shift, needs to take place. I would not mind at all if my employer took the money they expected to put into a pension plan for me and instead gave it to me personally through a 401K plan. IBM did that. Whatever the investment results of the 401K plans, at least current IBM-ers are not going to be penniless because of an implosion at IBM.


Can I really argue that we, as a country, should not pursue

a new, flexible universal insurance program to protect families against catastrophic expenses and drops in income, before families fall into poverty.


No. I cannot. Nor do I want to. I would very much like to know that my family will be somewhat taken care of if I were to lose my job, my health, or both. And I *can*. I *can* buy insurance today that for a small monthly payment would make sure I never default on my mortgage, and I can buy life-insurance if my company does not provide me with one. I can even buy "wage" insurance, were I so inclined. I have no idea how expensive implementing these things on a national scale would be be, or whether it is truly feasible or desirable. Certainly I am open to the debate on the issues. But please do not call people at the mercy of corporate management even after they stop working for it "lucky".


As a slight aside, I do know/have read that the way IBM decided to shift from defined-benefit to defined-contribution plan may have (and probably did) taken some of the equity from older workers that they would have gotten under the older plan. Injustice laid at the feet or mercurial management, does not that just showcase the inevitable fallacy of defined-benefits pension plans? IBM and every other company are always going to put the least possible amount into their pension plans by jacking up projected investment returns, corporate growth, and delaying putting money in until the last possible moment. Why would one want to rely on the same company for 25 years *after* you retire. Surely there is no loyalty there, and never will be.

CDI Russia is always a good source of weekly compilations regarding Russia military and foreign policy. This week, I found this article particularly interesting
#12
Izvestia
January 15, 2004
"THE STATE SHOULD SUPERVISE - AND THERE WILL BE NO CENSORSHIP"
The Russian Path: mobilizing culture itself
Author: Yuri Bogomolov
[from WPS Monitoring Agency, www.wps.ru/e_index.html]
[The success of nationalist parties led by Vladimir Zhirinovsky
and Dmitri Rogozin at the recent Duma elections is a sign that
public attitudes have shifted towards national patriotism. From
there, one can see Russian chauvinism and fascism looming in the
near future as official policy.]

Analysts, experts, and journalists do not get tired of making
their forecasts, based on election results, with regard to the
political and economic consequences of the triumph of. The risk
group, as is easy to guess, aside from the economy, foreign and
domestic policy, and democratic institutions also includes arts
and culture, the position of which in this situation seems to be
quite unsteady. Now the agenda is most likely to raise the issue
not simply about limiting its masters as to morals, vocabulary, or
ideology, but also about mobilizing culture itself to address
objectives useful from the standpoint of a "nationally oriented
state." This issue has actually already been raised. And now real
preconditions can emerge for its settlement. Including legislative
ones.
It has been talked for years that our culture, like the
society, has been left to the mercy of fate, which implies the
absence of a nationwide ideology, the presence of an anti-
patriotic orientation, prevalence of values that are alien to the
Orthodox people, and so on.
...Members of the Motherland bloc (Rodina) have barely
adjusted to their new seats in the Duma when some of them
announced their intention to introduce compulsory Orthodox studies
in schoolS. They also told the public, representatives of other
denominations did not object.
There had been a lot of speculations on this subject before,
too, but now, under the patriotic alignment that has presently
taken shape in the parliament such initiatives have good chances
to be put into practice.
About year ago, a bill was tabled in the Duma on quotas for
foreign movies in theaters and on television. It also provides for
some ideas about introducing "mild censorship" on television via
setting up supervisory boards. So far, they were somehow happily
ignored, but it looks like nationally oriented Duma members will
find time for them, too, this winter.
Time will also be found to rewrite school textbooks in
history, which was also extensively discussed in the recent past.
Manna from heaven is expected to fall unto national movie-
makers in the form of government contracts for historical
patriotic movies. The manna will come in plenty, as the 60th
anniversary of victory in the Second World War is approaching.
There are preliminary funding plans in the Culture Ministry. Sixty
percent of all launched movies will be funded completely. Genre
and subject applications will be examined by one of the
presidential culture boards.
There is a plan to nationalize the movie theaters. Culture
Ministry officials reason sensibly: if the state funds movie-
making, then it should have the chance to earn on it. Patriots
from culture such as Nikolai Burliaev go even further in their
dreams: they insist that the entire movie industry should be
nationalized. For it is all about spiritual security of the
nation.
What is left on the side-tracks of nationalist patriots of
both the leftist and the rightist trends? On the one hand, there
are "storm troopers" of skinhead gangs. On the other, there are
moralists "walking together," "culture carriers," a sort of police
vice squad. After all, they are also storm troopers, only in white
shirts.
The specter of state nationalism seems to be more and more
real.
The question is: how serious is the danger of the impressive
victory of Zhirinovsky's and Rogozin's nationalist patriots at the
recent election for democracy as a whole? Aren't we dramatizing
the situation? Aren't we blowing on cold water after someone
somewhere was once burnt by nationalism?
Strong-nerved democrats are trying to comfort nervous ones:
nothing terrible has happened; what kind of nationalists can
Glaziev and Rogozin be - let alone fascists? How can Viktor
Gerashchenko, a banker and simply an intelligent person, be a
fascist? Let alone General Varennikov, who took part in the attack
on fascist Berlin...
To tell the truth, not these guys should be feared, for they
are only trimming their sails to the wind of some social moods;
but these moods that should indeed be feared.
It has presently grown completely obvious that the specter of
anti-democratic comeback is haunting Russia. The specter of state
culture walks arm-in-arm with it. Meanwhile, as is know, it is
typical for specters to assume material form from time to time.
After all, the matter under discussion is not about how much
some or other elected representatives of the people identify
themselves as fascists or anti-fascists.
The emotional background is also demonstrative, which is not
exhausted by TV news about racially-based crime. One can also come
across quite respectable manifestations of Russian chauvinism.
At a talk show on TV, a patriotic movement representative
asks the public to pay attention to the fact that not actually
Russians head the democratic parties - Nemtsov, Yavlinsky,
Khakamada. He was pulled up, and the subject was hushed up, too...
However, it is impossible to shut up Mr. Dorenko. In Zavtra
newspaper, he articulated quite distinctly: "The state and the
society ought to recognize it as the absolute priority to
reinforce and develop the self-consciousness of Russia's residents
as ethnic Russian citizens."
In fighting for a downstage place at the Bolshoi Theater, the
ballet dancer Anastasia Volochkova draws public attention to the
fact that the theater director's first name and patronymic are
profoundly non-Russian - Takhir Gazildiaevich - and he is
allegedly preventing her, Volochkova, a truly Russian ballet
dancer with a Russian surname, first name, and patronymic, from
presenting her art to the world. That's a sort of ethnic grievance
against Mr. Iksanov.
In fact, the originality of the "Russian path" announced by
our patriots consists in the prevalence of the State over the
Society as a whole and over an individual in particular. In the
service of the latter to the former.
In reality, our nationally oriented patriots repeat the old
stuff of theoretical outlines of the "German path." One can found
theses in Mr. Podberezkin's works that say state should be in
control of the economy, high technology, and faith ("the most
powerful weapon").
There are some options in fighting capitalism. The Bolsheviks
once tried to develop the economy. However, they acted
approximately the same way as the devil in Pushkin's fairy tale
when he tried to move a mare from one place to another, i.e. in
the most inefficient way. They crawled under the mare of economy
and tried to attach their own legs to it, while national-
socialists provided an example how one can try to submit it and
make it work for the totalitarian state. They mounted it. That is,
they did not fight private property or nationalize it. They did
something greater: they nationalized the consciousness of the
crowd. Or, more precisely, its subconscious. This was enough to
cut unemployment and militarize the economy.
Meanwhile, it is human beings with their consciousness and
subconscious that should actually be completely nationalized.
Material interests of the new human must be placed behind
their spiritual values, and no doubt, the idea of State is the
priority among them, which no doubt must begin with a capital
letter.
All this is called a "doctrine of way out of lengthy crisis."
It does not contain those vulgar slogans typical for "open-air"
nationalism. Such as "Russia is above everything" or "Russia for
ethnic Russians." Even if something similar is discussed in
Podberezkin's works, it is almost allegorical: "...It is more
important to establish in the mass consciousness, as part of the
state patriotic ideology, the very right for the name 'Russian'."
What was just timidly formulated in the late 1990s, became
the trump card of the overwhelming majority of political parties
at the 2003 election. And that time, the logic of intellectual
discourse just sporadically prevailed over the wish to look decent
in the eyes of the public opinion. Alexander Dugin ventured it,
and he uttered everything Zyuganov, Podberezkin and even Prokhanov
and Limonov dared not think about. In his multiple studies, he
raises the issue of Russia's new role. It is to carry out the
Third Reich mission, in which Hitler failed.
And the mission did not at all consist in victory of
Germanized Europe over other nations and racial dominance of the
German nation over the entire world, but in triumph of
totalitarian State over market Economy.
Behind the respectable figures of Glaziev, Rogozin, and
Gerashchenko, the shadows loom of people who have been exercising
national-patriotic rhetoric for a long time already - Alexander
Krutov, Nikolai Leonov, Nikolai Burliaev. Alexander Prokhanov,
Edward Limonov, Sergey Dorenko, Mikhail Leontiev, and Alexander
Nevzorov - the singers of national-patriotic propaganda - will
soon join them. In the Duma, they will find support in moralizing
lawmakers - Messrs. Raikov and Galchenko, authors of the law on
quotas for foreign movies.
As for Zhirinovsky with his vulgar demagogy and an animal
hatred of democracy, this Rem from political rhetoric, he will
gradually become marginalized. And regular, friendly work on
nationalization of culture will be launched.
Translated by P. Pikhnovsky


I could not find the link to it on the CDI website, so I pasted the whole thing.

via Bookslut




The Economist article is indeed fun. The shot at Tracy Chevalier seems par for the course at Bookslut, which also had this entry about the newly filmed "Girl with a Pearl Earing"

For myself, I thought "The Girl with the Pearl Earring" was an interminable bore, and that's in addition to projecting conceit towards everyone but the main heroine. I was not surprised they made a movie out of it -- fits so nicely with how Hollywood views the world (aka "hollywood knows best"). Descriptions of the author's follow-up works seem to confirm the suspicion that she was looking for a book-selling formula - and found one.


Enough about 3-rate literature and moviemaking, off to read about the Voynich manuscript and write architecture asessments and javadoc.

Thursday, January 15, 2004

Photo: American Stonehedge-1


I have clicked on SilverWolf's compilation of photosight.ru's best pictures for the week (in his opinion). Now I cannot stop posting links.

Happyness that was...

Photo: Alexandr Minaev - Happyness that was...


Conditions: Zlatoust, 1968, Kiev 4, Jupiter 8, Kn-3 [ed - translation by Con Tendem


What an awesome photo! One can feel the honesty and unmitigated truth of the moment (and title) shining through. For a little illustration on the equipment used:

Kiev 4 goes for around $30 as a "rare" camera, or for $55 with Jupiter 8 lense. Basically Kiev4 is a Contax ripoff made in USSR. Next time someone tells you that they really need a $3,000 camera to photograph their kids - show them this picture and watch them weep.

Wednesday, January 14, 2004

from Slate Today's Papers:
The nation's young gentiles, apparently bored with Christmas, are now demanding bar mitzvahs, says the WSJ [subscription required]. Parties in honor of the Jewish coming of age ritual, which was once celebrated with little more than a glass of Manischewitz, have become hot among kids about to turn 13. One Catholic mother held a party for her daughter that featured a Hawaiian surfing theme, a DJ and two professional dancers. "The kids who had great bar mitzvah parties were elevated socially," she told the WSJ. "So we kind of felt a little bit of pressure to hold an event people would remember."


how bizarre is this? This is the kind of articles behaviours that make Americans look like indulgent idiots abroad. I am not referring to the fake bar-mitzvahs so much as the extravagance with which both real and fake ones are staged. In an orthodox Jewish community a bar-mitzvah actually means something not just historically, but in a very real way as to what kind of obligations young man will now have. Lots of mitzvot that were previously not required are now demanded of him. I doubt this is what is going on with too many of the $10,000+ celebtrations described in WSJ.

On the other hand - why not? If one is going to throw a party for a kid, why not at least make them work for it a little? Imbue the celbration with some gravitas, in addition to gravy, turkey, and probably tons of proscuitto and shrimp.

DPReview.com now has an xml feed


I was going to write about much weightier issues of the day, but I stopped by dpreview.com and noticed that they added an XML feed to their homepage. It could have been there for some time, of course, and I only noticed now. Anyhow, its a great site and it will be wonderful to be able to receive their updates without having to specifically check out the site beforehand. The URL of the xml file is dpr.rdf

Tuesday, January 13, 2004

To Avoid Fuel Limits, Subaru Is Turning a Sedan Into a Truck

Interesting precedent - To Avoid Fuel Limits, Subaru Is Turning a Sedan Into a Truck


The Subaru Outback sedan looks like any other midsize car, with a trunk and comfortable seating for four adults.


But Subaru is tweaking some parts of the Outback sedan and wagon this year to meet the specifications of a light truck, the same regulatory category used by pickups and sport utilities. Why? Largely to avoid tougher fuel economy and air pollution standards for cars.


It is the first time an automaker plans to make changes in a sedan — like raising its ground clearance by about an inch and a half — so it can qualify as a light truck.

read the rest directly from NYT (subscription required)

Monday, January 12, 2004

Copy No, No: Adobe and Uncle Sam



Adobe Systems 'fesses up to adding an anti-counterfeiting technology to its graphics software on the QT. The company insists the secretive tech, requested by government and bankers, won't affect honest consumers.


I have already heard reports of this, but am relieved [ed why?] to find out that this is not just US government who was involved in modifying software, but a consortium of 27 major banks.

The technology was designed recently by the Central Bank Counterfeit Deterrence Group, a consortium of 27 central banks in the United States, England, Japan, Canada and across the European Union, where a formal proposal to require all software companies to include similar anti-counterfeit technology already exists.


There is a big difference between being able to figure out if the image being opened is a $20 bill or child porn. However, I at least some of the workings for this software must be made public. After all, does it communicate with some server to update the images? what else does it do?

America's Own Big Ship
from the Times Letters section
Despite all the hoopla over Queen Mary 2, technologically it pales in comparison to our very own United States, which on its sea trials in April 1952 achieved an amazing 43 knots. It still holds the westbound Atlantic speed record, which it set on its maiden voyage on July 7, 1952. Nearly 1,000 feet long and 17 stories high, the Big U was outfitted with engines that could produce well in excess of 248,000 horsepower — almost twice that of Queen Mary 2.


that's pretty neat.

Photo link: Chapel

How do you know one is professional? When even a simple-looking shot contains elements that 99% of people would never think of. The idea of framing the shot with two eletrical poles is the first one I have seen executed like this.

very nice.

USATODAY.com - 6 companies to list on NYSE and Nasdaq

Is this a search for an escape route?


USATODAY.com - 6 companies to list on NYSE and Nasdaq

Study Published by Army Criticizes War on Terror's Scope (washingtonpost.com)

Would like to hear more discussion about this - Study Published by Army Criticizes War on Terror's Scope (washingtonpost.com)


Taken with a grain of salt, this study can easily be dimissed as a reaction to a situation that is unpleasant to an older cadre of officers, people trained and mentally reared to fight the cold war, or at least a war with clear-cut goals and opponents wearing state-sponsored uniforms under nation-state flags. However -- that is our Army, for better or worse. If they are not feeling emotionally or technically up to the challenge, it must be considered most strongly.

Curiously, Saddam's army was probably much better prepared for the duty of occupation that the US one was. They could not fight a battle, but they sure knew how to drown a rebellion in blood. We should be happy our current armed forces are not trained or willing to do that. We also need to figure out how to maintain them at their peak efficiency and morale, because this is a fight for the long haul.

Sunday, January 11, 2004

Should try this: Litho printing in Photoshop

Wednesday, January 07, 2004

Hard drive summons up memory power | CNET News.com

Hard drive summons up memory power | CNET News.com


This is the type of the semi-innovative product that I have been waiting for. In my case, it would actually serve a real purpose -- storing media files from both J's Mac and my dekstop, servers, and laptop. I am not sure if I would use the card-reader option overmuch, as I rename and rotate files before storing them on my hard drive. I guess I will just have to wait to see one of these working before I make my conclusions.

Firewire has really changed the equation on whether the drive should be internal or external, IMO. While SCSII had offerred effectively the same options for years, it was much harder to configure for multiple devices (if one were a novice) and between the extra cost of the drives and the SCSII cards never became overwhelmingly popular in the home market. With the speeds firewire offers it is almost irrelevant where your non-OS files are. Moreover, I think people are finally getting enough actual personal data on their machines to begin seeing that the value of 20,000 photographs and 10 hours of ballet recitals is more than the $399 (or even $1,999) they paid for the computer itself. Storing that data safely, being able to back it up, to share it between computers in the increasingly multi-computer households, and to restore it if necessary, is becoming a huge problem, and a great opportunity for various device makers to step up to the plate.

Tuesday, January 06, 2004

Words, words, words

I subscribe to the word of the day e-mail from Mirriam-Webster. As much as I enjoy receiving their emails, I have to admit I usually forget the word within minutes of reading its definition. Perhaps posting some of them in this forum will help me to better remember them.



The Word of the Day for Jan 06 is:

mantic \MAN-tik\ adjective

: of or relating to the faculty of divination : prophetic

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Example sentence:

"You may be skeptical now of my mantic skills," said the fortune-teller, "but you'll soon learn that my prophecies are true."


Did you know?

The adjective "mantic" comes from the Greek word "mantikos," which
itself derives from "mantis," meaning "prophet." (The mantis insect
got its name from this same source, supposedly because its posture --
with the forelimbs extended as though in prayer -- reminded folks of a
prophet.) Not surprisingly, the combining form "-mancy," which means
"divination in a (specified) manner" (as in "necromancy" and
"pyromancy"), is a relative of "mantic." A less expected, and more
distant, relative is "mania," meaning "insanity marked by
uncontrollable emotion or excitement" or "excessive enthusiasm."
"Mania" descends from the Greek "mainesthai" ("to be mad"), a word
akin to "mantis" and its offspring. And indeed, prophesying in ancient
Greece was sometimes believed to be "inspired madness."


mantic indeed.