Creative Destruction

September 28, 2007

Blogger Bash 7.2

Filed under: Blogosphere — Robert @ 11:06 am

Just when my liver stopped hurting from last time.

Details.

See you on 10/13; won’t remember you on 10/14.

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September 18, 2007

Indigenous Peoples Resolution

I recently learned about a resolution adopted by the UN General Assembly on September 13. From the news report at the above link:

Despite strong objections from the United States and some of its allies, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution Thursday calling for the recognition of the world’s 370 million indigenous peoples’ right to self-determination and control over their lands and resources … An overwhelming majority of UN member countries endorsed the Declaration, with 143 voting in favor, 4 against, and 11 abstaining … The United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand stood alone in voting against the resolution. The nations that neither supported nor objected were Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Burundi, Colombia, Georgia, Kenya, Nigeria, Russia, Samoa, and Ukraine.

The UN has a permanent forum on this issue, and numerous organizations exist for the primary purpose of promoting noninterference with indigenous peoples. (Manifest destiny has been invalidated, much like colonialism and empire building, but the same essential practices continue under the banners of “globalization” and “economic development.” Both terms read to the critical eye as euphemisms for theft and exploitation that has continued unabated for centuries, if not millennia.)

The first thing that stands out about the resolution is the small group of dissenting countries. What possible moral high ground can be claimed by the U.S., Canada, Australia, and New Zealand — each with its own unique indigenous culture (largely destroyed by now) — by insisting (by inference) that they should be able to remove “indigenous peoples’ right to self-determination and control over their lands and resources”? It’s like children saying “We want what we want, and those people are in the way, so they have no rights.”

The other strange thing is that my Google search revealed no report, now four days later, on any of the major media outlets (MSNBC, CNN, ABC News, WSJ, NYT, Fox News, etc.). The reports that do show up are all foreign news, small news aggregators, and a handful of blogs. It’s impossible to believe that these reporting omissions have no motivation.

September 17, 2007

The Man With No Brain

Filed under: Ethics,Science — Robert @ 1:49 am

Fascinating.

September 14, 2007

Wrestling for Jesus

Filed under: Geekery,Religion — Brutus @ 3:19 pm

I just learned about the bizarro Wrestling for Jesus, which upon reflection would probably have to be invented if it didn’t already exist. The website appears to be defunct, but the movement is alive and well, at least with other organizations doing the same thing: Ultimate Christian Wrestling and the Christian Wrestling Federation. Wrestling has definitely morphed from the sniggering, not-sure-what-to-believe sideshow of my youth to a full-blown, guileless entertertainment in my adulthood. It helps that the truth that it’s fiction was finally revealed, which gave fence-sitters the option to happily accept that it’s merely an athletic stage show and to go ahead and indulge in the synthetic glory of juiced-up hulks simulating epic battles between supposed good and supposed evil. It’s not unlike the movies in that regard, except that it’s live action (or pay-per-view, if you prefer).

Adding the Christian element is either a masterstroke or a ridiculous detraction from the bigger, better WWE version. All the iconography, characters, and parables of the church can be redeployed in staging epic battles between good and evil, but now without irony. Problems emerge, however, when the participants (should they be called actors or athletes?) get carried away, presumably transformed by the very characters they play and stories they tell into states of ecstatic communion with the savior, and fail to pull their punches. History shows that actual Christian violence isn’t exactly a rarity, but it has to be a surprise when the fictitious violence of the hyped-up, adrenaline-fueled wrestling arena becomes real violence.

September 9, 2007

Smoke Flavoring

Filed under: Navel Gazing,Popular Culture — Brutus @ 5:11 pm

Barbeque is one of those smells, like burning leaves, that immediately triggers olfactory memory and a host of associations. An outdoor public market in Rochester, NY, where I used to live, has a smoke house, and the smell of charred meat created such a sensation that omigod did I want some of that stuff right away. Barbeque isn’t a comfort food exactly, but something about it is so primal and satisfying that I’m always sure to try the ribs or brisket on a menu.

I was in Rochester recently, and although I didn’t go to the public market, I did go to its newest restaurant sensation: Dinosaur Bar B Que. (Franchises also exist in Syracuse and New York City.) Gotta say, it rates full and complete approval on the basis of the sampler I had. That was barbeque done right, the traditional way, in a smoker, without too much sugar in the sauce.

Which brings me to my wider point. Some chemist has figured out how to distill the smoke flavor in a bottle, which is now a typical ingredient in barbeque sauces such as this one. Maybe that’s an OK accomodation for the backyard barbeque enthusiast, but I’ve been to a variety of rib joints and barbeque shacks that use liquid smoke as part of their house sauce. Although liquid smoke may be a distillation of the real thing, boy oh boy does it ever taste artificial when added to bottled sauce. It’s sort of like an orange LifeSaver, which doesn’t really taste orange at all but is some chemical approximation of what an orange tastes like.

Which brings me to an even wider point: at what point should we insist upon authentic experience rather than experiences mediated and distilled through some process? Would you rather be in love or take a pill that gives you the approximate feeling of being in love? Would you be happy to take a virtual vacation or would you rather see and experience the real thing? Or on the flip side, do violent video games (or flight simulators, or drag racing games) stimulate in some of us at least a desire for real life thrills from violent and/or risky behavior?

September 8, 2007

Brain Dead Inc.

Filed under: Content-lite — Off Colfax @ 2:54 am

Here I am, going through my bookmarks, and wondering what up with this odd site.

Then I remember… I have posting privileges here.

I’m such a dumb-ass sometimes.

So I’ll leave you with a thought.

The Law Of Teenage Inertia:
An object at rest will remain at rest even  after it is acted upon by an outside force unless that force also opens the blinds,  turns the radio on loud, and takes away all the covers.

September 7, 2007

Madeleine L’Engle, RIP

Filed under: Art,Popular Culture — Robert @ 3:18 pm

Madeleine L’Engle, dead at 89. I loved “A Wrinkle in Time” and its followup books. Time to dig them out of the dusty boxes and give them another read. There’s a very brief obituary here; for more, see Wikipedia.

H/T John Scalzi.

September 5, 2007

Scholarly debates, now online and freely available

Filed under: Blogosphere,Debate,Economics,History — Adam Gurri @ 9:24 am

A recurring obsession of mine is the belief that the internet will facilitate works of scholarship and scholarly discussion.

Tyler Cowen’s review of A Farewell to Alms is a case in point.  Marginal Revolution’s longtime blogger is of course more than your average Joe himself; he’s an established Economist with a solid reputation.  His perspective alone is valuable.

In the comments section, however, you will find a debate of quite high caliber.  Participants include Daniel Klein, who is another GMU Economist like Cowen,  Gavin Kennedy, a semi-retired Economics professor in Edinburgh who specializes in writing about Adam Smith, and of course, the author of A Farewell to Alms himself–Gregory Clark.

I had briefly contemplated purchasing the book, but had put it off as I’ve enough to read already.  After looking through this intellectually rich discussion, however, I have changed my mind and decided to acquire it.   The debate has added a value to the book that would not have been there without it; I will not be reading the book in isolation but in the context of an ongoing discussion on the issues that it addresses.

Truly, the internet offers fantastic opportunities for this sort of event.

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