On my experiences at the Big Summer Classic at Camp Zoe in the Ozarks of Missouri—part deux…
I left off mentioning the lack of access to substantive and reliable information sources (either through limited technological means or simply unknown to them), as expressed by the attendees of the Big Summer Classic (BSC). Heaven forbid that some of these folks (kids) would read blogs or review source materials on the internets. I could only imagine that for many of the parents of the attendees watchingamerica must be perceived as the most evil and communist (Stalin and Mao rolled into one) of sites, daring to present anti-US propaganda from furren gummints.
Among those willing to challenge and acquire the best sources, the keys to a larger world-filled library, I particularly remember a couple of students from Ole Miss in Oxford, MS, and a half dozen from the University of Kansas in Lawrence, all of whom stopped me over the course of the weekend to get more references.
I will not mention their names, but I will offer some anecdotal referents. The couple from Ole Miss approached me late (early in the morning) after the show on Sunday to discuss their needs. Approached may not be the correct word, more like cornered my old tour buddy (also our tour bus chauffeur) and myself in the back of a vending booth, and pulled out paper and pens and had us try to write down URLs and other site resources for them.
They had also agreed to visit one of our Otter Clan projects (a massive rebuilding program of homes on the Gulf Coast of Mississippi) and needed that contact information. They really wanted to do something powerful, creative, active, and good, and when they made their requests in the most beautiful Southern drawl eva, I could not even begin to say “later.”
The University of Kansas contingent was led by a young woman graduate student, who had grown up in the Midwest, but had been able to attend a prestigious East Coast university.
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This week, the UN General Assembly is in session in New York. AS is tradition, numerous heads of state show up and give a short speech. Bush updates his target list; Chavez gives one of his flamboyant speeches; and some who would never get a visa if it weren’t for the UN take the opportunity to engage American audiences.
One of those, in case you haven’t read the papers or watched the news for some time, is Iranian president M. Ahmadinejad. Ahmadinejad is not a moderate person; all that’s left of his political persona - which started out as part challenge to the Iranian establishment, part re-invigoration of the Iranian revolution - are a sharp reactionary turn domestically, and very public enmity towards the United States and Israel internationally.
Now it happens that the last time Ahmadinejad was in New York, Columbia University was going to invite him to speak, but canceled on short notice, caving to right-wing pressure. So they tried again this time, and stuck to the invitation. However, Columbia President Lee Bollinger apparently felt the need to do something to avoid losing donations and decided that he would greet Ahmadinejad with the standard litany of accusations, dressed up as questions. Echoing the standard neo-conservative talking points, he accused Iran of “being a state sponsor of terrorism”, having said that “Israel should be wiped off the map”, and “fighting a proxy war against the US” (in Iraq).
Some other accusations, regarding the oppressive policies Iran engages in against women, homosexuals and political dissidents at least had the advantage of being correct.
So far, I wasn’t surprised; anyone who knows Bollinger’s penchant for intellectual cowardice - signified by his acquiescence in the witch hunt against Columbia’s own Middle Eastern Studies faculty some years ago - wouldn’t wonder if Bollinger had made similarly aggressive remarks when Pervez Musharraf, President of Pakistan visited in 2005 (you can watch his exercise in sucking up here); or if Bollinger asked about death squads and torture in Iraq when President Jalal Talabani spoke the same year. Of course he hadn’t!
However, I was amazed by the reaction to Bollinger’s boorish behavior. Apparently, I am told, Bollinger is a hero. A hero of free speech; a hero of liberal American academia; someone who “speaks truth to power”. I suppose that’s what heroism is in this modern age: dropping bombs from 30,000 feet; lambasting invited speakers if and only if it is sure to get you brownie points with the ruling class; baiting people with ammunition so you can shoot them in the head.
The true heroes are the women demonstrating for their rights in Iran; the independent thinkers challenging the stifling intellectual climate there without falling into the role of “native informers”. They, after all, are risking a great deal. On the other side of the line, challenging dominant discourse in the US doesn’t, for most of us, risk incarceration. It is all the more disappointing when those who have a platform - like the president of a major university - use it to bravely stand up to the powerless.
[click cartoon to enlarge]
Sometimes they were called “blasters, ray guns, or even zap guns,” although that last one was sometimes also used for the “stun gun” the puny sibling to the much mightier Death Ray. Asimov had one called a “Disinto.” Hugo Gernsback was sure they’d be either radio waves or powered by radium. Fritz Leiber imagined the “fission pistol,” that had all the nuclear reactions in the gun going in the same direction. A. E. van Vogt used light to “conduct” nuclear reactions to the target, at least on the Space Beagle. In Slan, it was just raw atomic power. Once in a while the death rays were “sonic.” More frequently they were “electron guns” which actually exist in television sets, but for something else entirely (though one may argue that TV is something of a stun device). H. G. Wells began the whole thing with the “heat ray.”
And we wanted them, maybe as much as we wanted to go into space (which is maybe why I wasn’t as interested in the things as my fan boy brethren). And it wasn’t just us.
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Antoine-Laurent Lavoisier was born in 1743 to Jean-Antoine Lavoisier, a prominent lawyer, and Emilie Punctis, who belonged to a rich and influential family, and who died when Antoine-Laurent was five years old. He was basically raised by his maiden aunt Mlle Constance Punctis, who arranged for his education at the College Mazarin, which was noted for its faculty of science.
Although young Antoine completed a law degree in accordance with family wishes, his true calling was in science. On the basis of his early scientific work, primarily in geology, he was elected at the age of 25—to the Academy of Sciences, France’s most elite scientific society.
In the same year as his election to the Academy, in order to finance his scientific research, he bought into the Ferme Générale, the private corporation that collected taxes for the Crown on a for profit (as you can see, “privatization” is hardly a new idea). A few years later he married the daughter of another “tax farmer.” Her name was Marie-Anne Pierrette Paulze, and she was not quite 14 at the time. Madame Lavoisier learned English, in order to translate the work of British chemists like Joseph Priestley and Henry Cavendish for her husband. She also studied art and engraving and illustrated Lavoisier’s scientific experiments.
Lavoisier has been called the “father of modern chemistry” for good reason. He established the principle of conservation of mass in chemistry and physics, and performed a series of experiments which, combined with the work of Priestly and Cavendish, overthrew the theory of phlogiston as an explanation of combustion, and thereafter the swept away the classical theory of the elements (earth, air, fire, and water). Lavoisier’s replacement table of the elements ran to some 33 “irreducible substances” most of which were what we today recognize as elements, such as mercury, sulfur, and oxygen, which he renamed from “dephlogistonized air.” He also performed such flashy experiments as demonstrating that diamond is made from carbon by burning one in an atmosphere of pure oxygen.
During the Reign of Terror in 1794, Antoine Lavoisier was arrested, along with 27 others, by the French Revolutionary Tribune for abusing the office of Ferme Générale by adulterating tobacco with water. They were guillotined the same day. When asked for his defense, Lavoisier is famously said to have remarked, “I am a scientist,” to which the tribunal replied, “The Revolution has no need of scientists.” Then “snick” went the head of Lavoisier.
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Very good question. No worries, I am not going to try and explain the end product of what I do. But how is it done? What does a mathematician do all day, or what do mathematicians do all day when they come together?
Well, first of all, all day is a strictly relative term. A famous mathematician once explained that he couldn’t do mathematics for more than six hours a day, and most of the time, this is true for most of us, at least while working alone. The rest of the time we while away reading, or running, or making music, or watching TV, or blogging - while somehow part of the brain keeps working, which can lead to a certain absentmindedness. Only when I am hot on a trail (sadly, a rare occurrence) will I completely concentrate on work for long periods of time - or when the work is strictly routine, like preparing classes, grading papers (an event all too common in my life), refereeing articles for academic journals or any of the other administrative and community duties that make up a large part of any academic’s day for at least nine months of the year.
Well, but what about the times I do work?
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An Iconic Progressive College Closes Its Doors - A Small Diminution of the Possibilities of the World
There are more ways of being different than being the same. There are more ways of being dead than being alive.
These two aphorisms(1) crossed my mind as being particularly apt when I heard the sad news last week that Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio (liberal bastion and alma mater of Coretta Scott King, Stephen J. Gould and Rod Serling) was closing its doors at the end of the 2007-08 academic year. My daughter had applied and been admitted to Antioch for this coming fall, and it had remained on her list of “maybes” well into April, so I had a modicum of insight into the problems the college faced. The admissions folks did a credible job of putting up a brave face, but it became clear to my daughter and me that you would be signing up for a crisis as much as for a college (although the end came more quickly than I expected) . And if we had in fact been one of the 125 or so families who put down a deposit and turned down other colleges, I doubt I would be waxing quite so philosophical right now. As it was, we had the privilege of visiting the campus three times in the past year - due in part to its proximity to some of my family as well as our interest in Clifton Gorge and the excellent Glen Helen nature preserve which abuts the campus.
Both of us were intrigued by the unique co-op oriented curriculum at Antioch (I also had some prior familiarity with it), and everyone we spoke to who was associated with the place was interesting, thought-provoking, passionate about Antioch … and, well, different. Different as in different from each other, as well as different from most everyone else you meet while looking at colleges. (I never would have suspected that so many aspects of so many colleges could be characterized so succinctly as “Awesome”.) My sense is that it would have taken a very deft touch indeed for any institution which was buffeted by such powerful passions from key stakeholders to survive in today’s realpolitik academic world. And although I am not really in a position to judge (but am certainly in a position to opine…), where deftness was called for, there seems instead to have been a long history of questionable decisions which led to the current situation. In the 1970s, Antioch expanded to become Antioch University, a group of flar-flung “campuses” of which the Antioch College was just one part. Antioch University lives on at a few of these campuses, but they have a very different mission, mostly adult education. Within that tangled web lies what to many is clearly the proximate cause of most of the trouble. To get opinions and a sense of the place from alums, do read this post (and the comments): What happens when your Intellectual Home goes bust? by Sara at The Next Hurrah. Unsurprisingly, there has been an outpouring of writings on the web. Antirecord.org has a good compilation of other links, and it was also a place where I found some informal information on Antioch back when we were in decision mode - its original name was apparently antiochsucks.com, and it reflected some of the love/hate relationship that folks seemed to have with the place in recent years.
By Dr. Free Ride
This week, I voted to ratify our new faculty contract with the California State University system. The negotiations for this contract were frustratingly unproductive until my faculty union organized a rolling strike that was planned as a set of two-day walkouts at each of the 23 campuses in the system. When strike dates were announced (and, we are told, with some serious political pressure behind the scenes to avert a strike that would have garnered national and international media coverage), the administration came back to the bargaining table with a contract the negotiating team deemed reasonably good. The vote this week should indicate whether the CSU faculty share that judgment (I’m betting they will).
The staggering thing to me is that we went almost two years without a contract before we could bring ourselves to the point where we were ready to strike.
I’ve been reflecting upon this, and it occurs to me that there are certain features of a good many faculty members that make it hard for us to embark easily on a job action. In honor of May Day, I’ll describe them here.
A specter is haunting America — the specter of financial apocalypse. Record-breaking current-account deficits, plummeting regional housing markets, a weakening dollar, and news that major central banks around the world are beginning to diversify their currency reserves have made the possibility that the U.S. could soon experience what happened to Mexico and Southeast Asia in the 1990s newsworthy even to the reliably rah-rah American corporate media. With Time and the Atlantic Monthly examining the cases for alarm and calm, respectively, in recent weeks, the time has come for the WAAGNFNP to consider its stance on global capitalism.
Flashback: It’s Fall 1997 and I’m teaching a course called Globalization and Its Discontents in the Princeton Writing Program. The course, which examines the processes and discourses of globalization, is a challenge for my students, who come from all over the western hemisphere, but they really get into it and work incredibly hard. After surveying attempts to define globalization in the context of major post-Cold War-paradigm-shift candidates, from Fukuyama’s “end of history” to Huntington’s “clash of civilizations,” from Barber’s “jihad vs. McWorld” to Kaplan’s “coming anarchy,” we turn to debates over globalization of manufacturing, agriculture, trade, finance, labor, racism, civil society, and culture: is it really happening? is it new? is it a good thing? for whom? can and should it be stopped? why or why not?
By Amanda French
From my enormous second-story concrete porch or deck or balcony or
whatever it is (and by enormous I mean twice as big as my apartment’s
living room), I have a great view of squirrels. Lots of squirrels.
Thereare lots of trees near the house, so when I sit out on my second-story
porch (I’m going with “porch”), I’m kind of up in the boughs right
among’em, the squirrels. There’s one methodically tightrope-walking the
telephone line about twenty feet straight in front of my nose and
exactly level with my eyes. There’s two chasing each other in a
skittering helix up and around and down the tree trunk like red stripes
up and around and down an electric barber pole. There’s one eyeing me
worriedly, completely still except for the whipcracking bushy tail.
There’s one triumphantly making the notoriously tough leap from the
thick fallen branch stuck in the tree crotch to the thin branch of the
next tree over. The branch dips and sways as the leaper grabs it and
I like watching the squirrels, and I feel fairly expert at it by now.
One of the reasons that I like watching them is that I know what
they’re called. Squirrels. They’re called squirrels. They don’t have any other
name that I should be calling them, as far as I know, though I’m sure
there is some Latin term. Maybe biologists call them “American
squirrels” or “gray squirrels” or “brown squirrels” or “common
squirrels” when they’re not using the Latin, but only the pedantic
would call them something like that. They’re called squirrels, and everyone
knows it, and everyone knows exactly what I mean when I say squirrels.
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By Aaron Barlow
One of Philip K. Dick’s worst books, Counter-Clock World has events moving backwards while our time sense moves forward. We periodically regurgitate food that takes shape on plates that we remove, scooping into pots and pans, etc. And, of course, we shove… er… well… up our… uh, you get the picture.
Not everything moving in a direction opposite of what we expect is necessarily inane, of course—but we do tend to disparage anything that is “backwards.” But it may be that we have it a bit wrong. Hell, if Ginger Rogers can be lauded for ‘doing everything Fred Astaire did, but in high heels, and backwards,’ maybe there’s something to be said for it.
Since the explosion of online publishing possibilities, from blogs to on-demand book creation, there’s been little sense of direction at all in Internet publishing as a whole. Everyone heads where they will, but most of us still look offline for “real” publishing—even if we write extensively for the Web.
Why is that?
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