September 29, 2006


From The View from the Seven-and-a-Halfth Floor, run by a Dartmouth alum, a video about getting out the vote:

September 28, 2006

Yom Kippur and Diversity

Evan Meyerson, today's D:
The one term utilized ad nauseam more than any other throughout freshman orientation at Dartmouth is "diversity." The College preaches "diversity" almost to a point of overcompensation while trying its darndest to use this diluted word as a grand sales pitch for prospective students. Lectures throughout orientation and beyond carry almost identical themes of growth and maturity through an acceptance and appreciation of differences. While the sheer quantity of activities centered on "diversity" may, in the long run, cheapen the term, it is difficult not to respect this attempt at encouraging a fully-tolerant student body. Yet as my third Yom Kippur in Hanover approaches, Dartmouth's heavily loaded emphasis on "diversity" seems nothing more than empty rhetoric...
According to Hillel, there are about 450 undergraduates at Dartmouth who identify as Jewish. This essentially means that approximately one out of nine freshmen who sat through endless sermons on Dartmouth's unequivocal embrace of "diversity" will experience no recognition of their own identity. Endorsement of programs like Project Preservation or even organizations like Hillel which support Jewish students on campus only carries so much weight once it is made clear that the most important annual event in the Jewish religion does not merit a day off.
Meyerson is in part correct when he says that the efforts to evangelize diversity to students cheapen the term, but unfortunately, he appears to be as much a victim of the cheapening of the term as he thinks he is of its inapplication.

The diversity taught here is diversity with a condom—diversity without consequences and without contact, covered, in fact, by a layer of "difference" that insulates us and obscures the reality of difference. We are led to think of diversity, ironically, as a uniform condition of mutual appreciation and tolerance. Diversity is not uniform—difference does not come in just one size or shape. Faithful religious observance is a difference that is fundamentally (no pun intended) distinct from, say, sex or nationality or income. Faithfully observing one's religion is a matter under one's control, which one can make choices about, and because of this, it should be administrated very differently from those elements of difference which are not controllable. However, I only want to address this diversity that is based on choice and affiliation. Diversity based on personally uncontrollable factors is very different and what I have to say next has no bearing on them.

The elective type of diversity is unfortunately often understood as a condition where all choices are equally appreciated and equally important and good and no one has to make a choice between two of those good and important things, where one is in fact prevented from making this type of choice because that might disrupt the uniformity and equality of their goodness. This ideal is in fact inimical to the actual nature of diversity, which depends on choice—the choices one has to make in the context of difference—one's own and that of others.

Meyerson complains directly that he will have to make such a choice—"Dartmouth is forcing Jewish students to choose between faith and scholastic success." My understanding of faith may be different from Meyerson's, but I am under the impression that living your faith actually consists in making these tough decisions, and that avoiding them is, in a sense, a dereliction of duty. But even more, Meyerson is asking very directly that the actual fact of diversity—the difference of fasting while in school—be obliterated, and done so in the name of diversity.

Religious observance is a choice, and sometimes a tough choice. That is exactly why religion contributes to diversity in a society. But homogenizing society's activities in order to make that choice less onerous does not in any way increase diversity. It continues its cheapening into a condition that avoids the consequences of its reality.

That said, I'm sure there is something the College can do to be more supportive of students who wish to fast, but without cancelling classes.

September 26, 2006


TJ Rodgers:

Maybe it's because we both come from working-class homes in Wisconsin, but I consider Jim Wright a friend.


September 25, 2006

"True Illusions"

God damn, I'm sick of all this, but I do want to say how much this particular type of statement pisses me off.

Andrew Eastman writes in the D today: "Much has been written lately about a 'small cabal' of alumni and undergraduates creating the 'illusion' of discontent with the proposed alumni constitution... [but] It seems more likely that the undergraduate disapproval isn't an illusion, but a fact; the true illusion is that we all support this project."

That's ridiculous. Disapproval of the College is in no way, shape or form a necessary or sufficient condition for a belief that the constitution has some flaws, the force and weight of which are, I believe, an open question. These two elements—dissatisfaction with the College and disagreement with the Constitution—have no causal relationship whatsoever.

If you're an alumnus/a, you may by all means use your vote on this constitution as a referendum on Wright and the College's current trajectory, but it would be about the dumbest thing you could do with it. Vote on the damn document, not your beer-sodden memories. Those, Mr. Eastman, those hazy, halcyon recollections are your "true illusions," not widespread student dissatisfaction with the College.

September 24, 2006

"Chanterelle struck a social-realism pose to collect her thoughts"

A hilarious graphic novel "review" [pdf] of Michael Berube's book, What's Liberal about the Liberal Arts.

Basically, you're getting panels of a story about Maoist shepherdesses in a snowstorm, only with the narration replaced by a tale of hard-leftist TAs trying to maintain order in a class that appears to like Bush more than it should. Enjoy.

September 23, 2006


Slate gets it exactly right:
Zach Braff has said that his hit movie Garden State (2004) was "a big, life-affirming, state-of-the-union address for twentysomethings." I'm a twentysomething. His new feature, The Last Kiss, documents the mental anguish of a 29-year-old commitment-phobe. I'm at the age when commitment looms. If Braff maintains this pace, he'll be making facile observations about our voyage through life's milestones until he films an indie-rock-infused On Golden Pond. My only comfort is that one day, we'll both be dead. If Zach Braff is the voice of my generation, can't someone please crush his larynx?[...]

What has Braff's keen ear picked up about the nation's young people? If Garden State is to be believed, they spend their days squinting and staring wistfully while slowly learning that it's OK to feel and, like, live. When they do speak, yearbook quotes come out. For example: "Maybe that's all family really is. A group of people who miss the same imaginary place." In The Last Kiss, Braff furrows his brow solemnly and ponders a question that's paralyzed millions: Should I replace my incredibly hot girlfriend with an incredibly hot college student? This time, OC starlet Rachel Bilson gets the Ferris Bueller-esque pearl of wisdom: "The world is moving so fast now that we start freaking out way before our parents did because we don't ever stop to breathe anymore." Never has the voice of a generation had so little of substance to say[...]

Braff is, essentially, an aggregator. His soundtracks are lists of his favorite songs. Garden State was a list of funny anecdotes and off-kilter objects rather than a cohesive story. He might not have anything original to say, but Braff does offer this insight on our generation: We are inclined to mistake stuff for substance.
Full disclosure: I own a copy of Garden State. I am a devoted fan of Miss Portman's. Nothing more.

Also, this trailer mash-up of Garden State is extremely good.

"Torture is the professional disease of any investigative machinery."

Via the Leiter group blog, out of the WaPo archives, the best commentary on the use of torture I have yet seen. Excerpts follow:
This is a new debate for Americans, but there is no need for you to reinvent the wheel. Most nations can provide you with volumes on the subject. Indeed, with the exception of the Black Death, torture is the oldest scourge on our planet (hence there are so many conventions against it). Every Russian czar after Peter the Great solemnly abolished torture upon being enthroned, and every time his successor had to abolish it all over again. These czars were hardly bleeding-heart liberals, but long experience in the use of these "interrogation" practices in Russia had taught them that once condoned, torture will destroy their security apparatus. They understood that torture is the professional disease of any investigative machinery.

Apart from sheer frustration and other adrenaline-related emotions, investigators and detectives in hot pursuit have enormous temptation to use force to break the will of their prey because they believe that, metaphorically speaking, they have a "ticking bomb" case on their hands. But, much as a good hunter trains his hounds to bring the game to him rather than eating it, a good ruler has to restrain his henchmen from devouring the prey lest he be left empty-handed. Investigation is a subtle process, requiring patience and fine analytical ability, as well as a skill in cultivating one's sources. When torture is condoned, these rare talented people leave the service, having been outstripped by less gifted colleagues with their quick-fix methods, and the service itself degenerates into a playground for sadists. Thus, in its heyday, Joseph Stalin's notorious NKVD (the Soviet secret police) became nothing more than an army of butchers terrorizing the whole country but incapable of solving the simplest of crimes. And once the NKVD went into high gear, not even Stalin could stop it at will. He finally succeeded only by turning the fury of the NKVD against itself; he ordered his chief NKVD henchman, Nikolai Yezhov (Beria's predecessor), to be arrested together with his closest aides. [...]

Even talking about the possibility of using CID treatment sends wrong signals and encourages base instincts in those who should be consistently delivered from temptation by their superiors. As someone who has been on the receiving end of the "treatment" under discussion, let me tell you that trying to make a distinction between torture and CID techniques is ridiculous. Long gone are the days when a torturer needed the nasty-looking tools displayed in the Tower of London. A simple prison bed is deadly if you remove the mattress and force a prisoner to sleep on the iron frame night after night after night. Or how about the "Chekist's handshake" so widely practiced under Stalin -- a firm squeeze of the victim's palm with a simple pencil inserted between his fingers? Very convenient, very simple. And how would you define leaving 2,000 inmates of a labor camp without dental service for months on end? Is it CID not to treat an excruciatingly painful toothache, or is it torture?

Now it appears that sleep deprivation is "only" CID and used on Guantanamo Bay captives. Well, congratulations, comrades! It was exactly this method that the NKVD used to produce those spectacular confessions in Stalin's "show trials" of the 1930s. The henchmen called it "conveyer," when a prisoner was interrogated nonstop for a week or 10 days without a wink of sleep. At the end, the victim would sign any confession without even understanding what he had signed.

I know from my own experience that interrogation is an intensely personal confrontation, a duel of wills. It is not about revealing some secrets or making confessions, it is about self-respect and human dignity. If I break, I will not be able to look into a mirror. But if I don't, my interrogator will suffer equally. Just try to control your emotions in the heat of that battle. This is precisely why torture occurs even when it is explicitly forbidden. Now, who is going to guarantee that even the most exact definition of CID is observed under such circumstances? [...]

If America's leaders want to hunt terrorists while transforming dictatorships into democracies, they must recognize that torture, which includes CID, has historically been an instrument of oppression -- not an instrument of investigation or of intelligence gathering. No country needs to invent how to "legalize" torture; the problem is rather how to stop it from happening. If it isn't stopped, torture will destroy your nation's important strategy to develop democracy in the Middle East. And if you cynically outsource torture to contractors and foreign agents, how can you possibly be surprised if an 18-year-old in the Middle East casts a jaundiced eye toward your reform efforts there?
This was written by "Vladimir Bukovsky, who spent nearly 12 years in Soviet prisons, labor camps and psychiatric hospitals for nonviolent human rights activities, is the author of several books, including "To Build a Castle" and "Judgment in Moscow." Now 63, he has lived primarily in Cambridge, England, since 1976."

September 22, 2006

A Battle for the Whole of Dartmouth

Riffing off Tim Dreisbach's letter "A Battle for the Soul of Dartmouth," I wrote a letter to the editor that appeared in the D today.

My basic point is that I still believe that there are ways in which the constitution could be improved to energize alumni (individually, and not collectively) and to create a trustee election process that does not produce a framework for discussions of Dartmouth's present and future that is relentlessly antagonistic, in the sense that one side must be defeated and its suggestions and criticisms rejected in order for Dartmouth to move forward in a coherent direction.

However, the draft is legitimately an improvement on the current system; alumni will have many more opportunities to join in alumni governance and to elect many more people to significant positions. The choice before alumni is if this progress is enough, or whether it is important to hold out for something more.

What that "more" should be is, therefore, an incredibly important question, and one I'm not prepared to answer at this time, but hopefully will have some suggestions soon.

Is the Pope Catholic?

An excellent solution toward defusing the papal brouhaha surrounding his comments on Islam, offered by a son of Gaddafi:

The pope should convert to Islam.

September 20, 2006

Alumni Constitution--Semi-regular update

First of all, try to go to the Alumni Constitution Panel tomorrow @ 7pm in Rocky 2. Four members of the AGTF will be there answering questions. Okay, plugging event—check. Fantastic.

I keep saving the posts I run across about the Constitution and then try to read them all at once, so I'll just go reverse-chronologically. Important things I'm putting in bold.

Sept. 18: An apparently "humanoid" (?) blogger from the New England area weighs in on the controversy:
In an era in which the tenured radicals and anti-traditionalists use their colleges and universities as laboratories for social engineering and experimentation [Just a second, I have this mental image of Professor Brenda Silver in a white lab coat, moving people around in her classroom, and it's hilarious. Okay, back to the screed], many alumni tend to feel dismayed, but helpless... It's not just about setting an example for other higher education institutions - it's about setting examples for all levels of education. The teacher's colleges take their cues from the Ivies. The entire anti-traditionalist, political-correctness dhimmitude, dumbing-down, feel-good, social-engineering movement in primary school has been inspired by what the big guys do and say, and not just by their own socio-political agendas. One sobering example from a teacher patient of mine (a fellow who uses the subjunctive properly), who told me on Friday that the public schools in MA no longer teach grammar. It's too difficult for the kids, and it's elitist!
Yes, were the constitution voted down, the subjunctive will have been saved (and the future perfect no doubt too!). This person clearly doesn't deserve a keyboard. Dhimmitude? C'mon! If there's a reson to vote against the constitution, it certainly isn't a far right blogger buzzword.

Also, Roger Simon is a Dartmouth alum too? God help us.

Sept. 12: Malchow blogs about the efforts of the Alumni Council to encourage alums to vote for the constitution. Unfortunately, I don't feel that either of Joe's two complaints—that "representatives" shouldn't also advise their constituents how to vote, and that mass messaging of alums by the Alumni Council is somehow wrong—hold much water. Representatives do make statements about how to vote—just check out our petition trustees actions over the past few months. And what's wrong with mass messaging? That's not only standard, but necessary in large campaigns. Dartmouth has a huge alum base. This is a large campaign, on both sides.

In fact, as I was saying, emailing a lot of people the same basic information is so standard, Joe himself advocates it. I got a blitz from him that ran like this:
This e-mail is going out to just a few dozen folks who have the
ability to reach alumni. Attached, a number of documents and arguments
against this proposed constitution. We need to play the ground game,
now. Use all of the attached information however you'd like, but
please do use it, spread it, and get the word out there to VOTE NO on
the proposed constitution.

People trust e-mails and phone calls from their friends the most --
not messages from anonymous groups or robotic autodailers. So anything
you can do would be excellent!
Maybe Joe feels that sending a single email to a dozen or so people who are supposed to blitz/call all their friends, rather than to a whole bunch of alumni councilors who are supposed to contact their constituents, is somehow more ethical. Beats me how he figures that one, though. Oh, and I think it's relevant to mention that this missive contained no fewer than 9 attachments that are supposed to help convince my friends.

An open note to Joe and whoever else is out there: I may oppose the Constitution, but I'm not in your camp. I won't work for you, and I don't want to. Thanks.

Sept. 8: "Who are 'Dartmouth Alumni for Common Sense'?" Joe presents this letter. This actually gets close to the core of some of the things I don't like about the attitude and handling of alumni by those who are organizing and defending the constitution.

A) It is wrong, I think, to ask people to support the chosen (as opposed to petitioner) Trustee candidates just because they are chosen by the Nominating Committee, which is essentially what the AfCS are asking ("to support Dartmouth Trustee nominees selected by the proposed new Alumni Assembly – in opposition to likely petition candidates -- in forthcoming Alumni Trustee elections in 2007 and beyond.") I cannot say that I am certain that in every case, I will feel that the chosen candidate is superior to the petitioner(s). I hope that one day, someone will decide to run who is, perhaps, too radical for the nominating committee—someone who wants to shake things up, but to the left. I may well vote for such a person.

B) The issue is not whether or not this constitution improves the ease and, more importantly, the breadth of alumni involvement in governance. I think it will. The issue is whether it could do more. I think it can; I think it has a long way to go toward truly making alumni involvement rewarding to the College in ways other than writing checks. I don't see the point of voting for an imperfect constitution—one that we'll have to—or should have to—alter in the future, and go through the gauntlet of cranky old men again.

C) This sentence: "[O]pponents of the new Constitution are making false claims and sowing dissension where there should be none." I believe in dissension, or at least dissent, very strongly. On something so important as this Constitution, I am afraid of the attitude that there should be no dissension among our collegiate community. There should be dissension, as long as it is not trivial or manufactured. I think Malchow and PowerLine especially have verged on the manufactured end all too often, but the dissension is not trivial.

D) "They claim the new Constitution is anti-democratic – and then demand that affiliated groups should not have a role in electing members of the Alumni Assembly. They claim that new rules that ease petition candidates’ access to the Alumni Trustee Ballot will somehow, perversely, produce anti-democratic results." First sentence: my opinion on affiliated groups is very different from that of the constitution foes, but I do have the opinion that certain measures in the constitution (the leadership arc for one) pull us away or distance us from the directness that I believe democracy is supposed to entail.

Second sentence: I've wanted to talk about this for some time. Someone pointed out to me that the argument that petitioners run as a reaction to the specific candidate or slate of candidates chosen is a non-starter. The petitioners normally run more in opposition to the status quo, and not against anyone in particular. The person I spoke with believed that this meant it was not as important that petitioners be able to file after the slate has been selected, but I don't believe that's true. What is important here, what is at stake here, is whether trustee races should be about finding candidates with careers and accomplishments we admire or about finding trustees whose ideas and issues we can get behind. As long as trustee races are about the person, in other words, and not the issues, petitioners have no need to file after the slate is set. They are running as people primarily, and not as a standard-bearer, and do not need to know how the chosen candidates address the same issues they want to address. However, if the point is to find trustees who have a similar vision for Dartmouth, it is important to know what the chosen candidates' visions are. If an option is needed, it can be provided, if not, then no one petitions.

Okay, that's it for tonight. Classes tomorrow.

Chill out

Malchow observes a table in Baker/Berry featuring "Banned Books" and makes a ridiculously snide comment that "[t]he kind of books faught [sic] for when they are attack [sic], and the lessons of that attack remembered long after" were absent from the display, an opinion he arrived at apparently from the singular omission of The Satanic Verses from the display.

Now, he doesn't stop at just flinging mud on our librarians' taste in censored literature. He also, in his title—"Chill, Observerd"—refers back to some accusations that he has made in regards to the clash, mostly to the effect that there is a chilling effect on any opinions that differ from the panoply of liberal orthodoxies to which we are apparently being subjected.

I would say something witty and piquant here, but "what the fuck" will probably suffice.

September 19, 2006


Wonder what they'll all say about Tim's speech and the thunderous standing ovation he received?

Also of note: I love how Juan Carlos Navarro quoted Jesus Christ (Luke 12:48 'For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required' or however Mr. Navarro phrased it), and attributed it to JFK.

Jesus H. Christ, John F. Kennedy—pretty much the same person.

Update: Hey, if you weren't there to see/hear it, here is Tim's speech.

Plug: Manye Foundation

Malchow also highlighted this, but be sure to check out the Manye Foundation, organized by recent Dartmouth alum Ben Schwartz. It's a really good cause (Ghanaian education), and he could use some help for the building of a schoolhouse in Kpone Barrier.

Cell phones in class: One Solution

September 16, 2006

Vox the Vote—Alumni Constitution

The website is here, and voting started yesterday, but I would ask that if you are not completely sure which way you will vote, that you take your time and not vote right now. Voting lasts until the end of October, and I'm guessing that, as tense as things are right now, there will probably be some events during this block of time which could make you wish you voted differently.

Additionally, I'm working on, but am waiting to publish, my argument about the Constitution. While I do not expect it to do very much, I think it may offer a very different perspective on the whole thing which is missing from the discourse.

Ultimately, I'd like to ask anyone who has a vote not to use it in a knee-jerk manner, but at least to familiarize yourself carefully with the arguments that have been presented and the history of alumni involvement at Dartmouth. Unfortunately, this constitution business, which should be a pretty simple matter, does potentially have rather large ramifications, and it is important to get this right.

September 14, 2006


Kazakhstan pissed about new Sasha Baron-Cohen film, plans PR blitz to counter.

The reviews from the Toronto Film Festival say that Borat is one of the best comedies in recent years. 'Genius' was a word I've read a few times.

September 12, 2006

The Review's Godfather: Bush has poisoned Conservatism

How do you poison something noxious to begin with? I don't know, but Jeffrey Hart does.

My only question is, how do the other Reviewers feel about this? Especially those working for the current administration? Oh, the betrayal!

Anyway, here's some fun bits from Hart's piece:
Never before has a United States president consistently adhered to beliefs so disconnected from actuality. [...]

If this amounts to a worldview, it’s certainly not that of Burke. Indeed, Bush would probably be more at home among the revolutionary French, provided his taxes remained low, than among Burke’s Rockingham Whigs. (Burke would of course deny Bush admission to the Whigs in the first place, as Bush would be seen as an ideological comrade of the philosophes —if a singularly unreflective one. [Sure, like Voltaire would have had any more patience with him])[...]

The United States has seen political swings and produced its share of extremists, but its political character, whether liberals or conservatives have been in charge, has always remained fundamentally Burkean [I distinctly disagree. A nation so conceived and so dedicated as ours to the principle of its own superiority is going to be fundamentally radical]... At this dangerous point in history, we must depend on the decisions of an astonishingly feckless chief executive: an empty vessel filled with equal parts Rove and Rousseau. [In the latter's defense, I would like to say that No Child Left Behind is a singularly un-Rousseauvian program.]

Successful government by either Democrats or Republicans has always been, above all, realistic. FDR, Eisenhower, and Reagan were all reelected by landslides and rank as great presidents who responded to the world as it is, not the world as they would have it [Grenada, El Salvador, Nicaragua--those were responses to the world as it was, and not as we would have it, eh? Not to mention the fact that FDR and Reagan's popularity depended much more on the idealism they instilled in the country than the logic of their decisions. But I demur to the power of Professor Hart's rhetoric]. But ideological government deserves rejection, whatever its party affiliation. This November, the Republicans stand to face a tsunami of rejection. They’ve earned it.

I recall some speech Hart gave lauding Michael Ellis for working with Rove. Oh yeah, here.

Try 3:17-~4:00 in. Where's all that vitriol then, Professor?

A Day Late, But...

Slavoj Zizek writes for The Guardian about the two 9/11 films, United 93 and World Trade Center.
All we see are the disastrous effects, with their cause so abstract that, in the case of WTC, one can easily imagine exactly the same film in which the twin towers would have collapsed as the result of an earthquake. What if the same film took place in a bombed high-rise building in Beirut? That's the point: it cannot take place there. Such a film would have been dismissed as "subtle pro-Hizbullah terrorist propaganda". The result is that the political message of the two films resides in their abstention from delivering a direct political message. It is the message of an implicit trust in one's government: when under attack, one just has to do one's duty.
And, totally off-topic, but does anyone know where I can park this term?

How to Save Team USA Basketball

Chuck Klosterman offers an intriguing suggestion for how to finally win (or at least not feel bad about not winning) international tournaments:

Use those players who are now forced into college for a year (you can't jump straight to the NBA from high school now) to assemble a cohesive, disciplined team whose only worry is to succeed in international tournaments so they can get the recognition they would otherwise be getting in college while they're busy not being students.

I do kind of like this idea, especially Klosterman's idea that these kids could just go around the country—or the world—barnstorming. I would hope that it would encourage people to see how little basketball (or other sports) actually has to do with college or the academy—it's a public relations machine, grafted onto the student body.

September 8, 2006

New Facebook, same as the Old

This morning I found an open letter from Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg on the front page of Facebook when I opened the site. It addressed the news feed feature, which debuted a few days ago. The feature seemed to be massively unpopular—I know because its architecture allowed me to see that many of my friends immediately joined anti-news feed groups. My sister, who has a high school facebook, was sort of terrified by it. But why?

I think it's a little hypocritical to complain about Facebook getting creepy all of a sudden. It's only doing for us what we try to do on our own—check to see who's commenting on who's wall, who has mutual friends with you, etc. Some people use it more innocently (which simply means less), and others use it almost exclusively to spy on the social game. We stalk and we stalk, and then Facebook adapts to our desires/habits, and we freak out.

But there are four things that make it threatening, I suppose.
1) Inescapability. This fear is also hypocritical, though because all information on Facebook is, by nature something you wish to be known. If you change your "Looking For" section, you want people to know about it—maybe not everyone, but you do mean for others to find out.
2) Centrality. What does it mean not to have to work so hard to spy on your friends, but to have it right there for you complete and entire? I think that part of the outcry against the "new" facebook is a bit of disappointment that the chase is now pointless. You no longer can "discover" that your crush is now looking to date, or whatever. It's just reported to you, and that's not fun.
3) Immediacy. I suppose it is a little worrying to know that as soon as you change something on your profile, people will know. But I'm not sure why. Again, the possibility of this happening has merely turned into a quasi-certainty. Not sure if that's worth fretting about.
4) Third party knowledge--the idea that Facebook is intercepting what are essentially communications between you and your friends. Again, this is pretty silly. Of course Facebook knows what you're doing. It always has. And of course, it really doesn't care. It is extremely unlikely that the site maintainers spend much time spying on you. It feels like this information is being taken from you by force, but of course it isn't. If you break up with someone and do it on Facebook, you're volunteering the information to any interested party. Now you're just volunteering it to non-interested parties as well. Facebook's knowledge has nothing to do with it.

Zuckerberg and the other Facebook staff have now created a way to set which "stories" get picked up by the news feed. I suppose this is all well and good—I'll probably make use of it, but like the rest of Facebook, it's more of an act than actual substance. People's habits were changed by the new Facebook, not their privacy, and I think that's what upset them.

Music suggestions

The new Dylan album is beyond words. I like Dylan, occasionally I really like Dylan, but I haven't really bothered with any of his recent records. Modern Times is worth the bother. It's fucking fantastic.

Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin is, besides a great band name, one of the best blog-hyped bands I've run into so far. If you've been burned by Tapes 'N Tapes and other bands that get blown out of proportion by Stereogum and the like, well, join the club, but SSLYBY is the real deal.

Snowden and Slowlands are also very good, though they've been blogged about less. The new Roots album is also very good. I heard a story that Jay-Z came into a recording session and demanded some of that "artsy shit" that The Roots are so good at and not any "ClearChannel songs." The Roots delivered.

I'm From Barcelona got a really good review from Pitchfork, which can sometimes be a death sentence in the indie community, but the praise is well-deserved. Barcelona writes incredible pop songs that capture the same "I'm so precocious" spirit also found in Boy Least Likely To, but combines it with a kitchen-sink, gang-sing type aesthetic that's sort of reminiscent of Architecture in Helsinki.

Aloha's Some Echoes, however, is probably my favorite album of the year so far. It came out a few months ago, perhaps, but I'm still listening to it regularly.

Finally, the upcoming Decemberists' album, The Crane Wife, is a masterpiece. It is musically so smooth, so rich (without being lush), that it overwhelms the lyrics. That's hard to do if your lyricist is Colin Meloy. I listened to this album in awe.


I'm reading a book by intellectual historian Martin Jay, Songs of Experience, and am very impressed by the breadth of his knowledge and the graceful way he synthesizes an enormous amount of material into a coherent and compelling narrative. So I started browsing around the internet for some other things he might have written.

I stumbled across this review he wrote awhile back for the London Review of Books. The review is of David Simpson's 2002 book Situatedness: Or, Why We Keep Saying Where We're Coming From. Simpson's subject is the intellectual trend of insisting on "speaking azza"—speaking as a white Midwestern male, or as a black lesbian poet (I was reading Audre Lorde today—great stuff). This is a subject I'm really interested in and, honestly, one of the most perplexing problems in liberal intellectual circles today. I believe there are many who, like me, find something not quite right in focusing quite so much on situatedness and who worry that in all this speaking azza, we might be talking right past one another. Yet there is a certain necessary logic—as much moral as epistemological—to always prefacing one's remarks with an invocation to the muse of situatedness. I suppose one could think of it as humility, but then one could also see it as a perfunctory procedure to forestall too much criticism or debate. I tend to think it's the latter.

Anyway, it's a good review, and gives a little etude in the history of the problem, which I think is both helpful and interesting.

And here's another review of a book I'm meaning to read. If you're into Zizek, you'll probably find this very interesting. If not, well, you'll probably be better off reading something else.

September 2, 2006

Colleges: Now Educating Richer Students for Less!

From the report "Promise Abandoned: How Policy Choices and Practices Restrict College Opportunities":
From 1999 to 2003, private colleges increased the average aid to students from families making less than $20,000 per year from $4,027 to $5,240, an increase of $1,213, or 30%.

During the same time period, private colleges increased the average aid to students from families making more than $100,000 per year from $3,321 to $4,806, an increase of $1,485, or 45%.

This is on top of even larger disparities in earlier years. Over the last decade, both public and private institutions have devoted a hugely disproportionate share of new scholarships to the most privileged students. The whole principle of awarding financial aid according to financial need appears to be rapidly disappearing from our colleges and universities.

September 1, 2006


Metafilter really is one of the greatest sites on the Internets, but in case you don't read it (or don't have it plugged into a blog aggregator), you may have missed this.

You shouldn't have.

It's a post about "an insanely funny BBC parody of 1970's educational programs filled with pure nonsensical lies clothed as facts & pitch perfect mimicry of the style of governmental approved childrens education television."

The opening 8-10 minutes of many episodes can be found here.

Kinda scary, not gonna lie

The trailer for a new documentary, I give you:

Jesus Camp