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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Bear lair

Following on the gnome home, a photo of the bear lair next to the Science Center:
It was actually vandalized recently, having previously looked like this. The sign next to it says the new door is courtesy of the generosity of the Eeyore Restoration Fund or something like that.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The end of civilization, part who's counting anymore?

Maybe Nietzsche signaled the end of Western philosophy, but for me, the cultural bellwether is furries. When furries achieve mainstream social acceptance--which is to say, when casual interlocutors of mine cease to find them hilarious--I will know that civilization is over. Now that Rihanna's "S&M" is playing non-stop on the top-40 station, I think we are one step closer to that happening. If S&M subculture can be made into a fun pop song, furry pop hits must be just around the corner. Even these lyrics can be amenable. For example:

I am a wolf, I'm perfectly good at it
Sex with a bear, I love the smell of it
Sticks and stones may break my bones
But fangs and tails excite me

Well, it's a start, anyway. All I'm saying is that if we are doomed to be the last men, I would at least like a cut of the royalties.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

"Creepy can be fixed" and other errors of judgment

"Creepy can be fixed"...but probably not by becoming a pick-up artist. Forgive me peeps, I realize this article is like so last week, but last week, I was like so 20 centuries ago, cramming Plato and congressional voting models into my puny brain (space was so limited that things fell out as quickly as I put them in), so I come late to this field. Still, when there is an article that introduces me to such a brilliant phrase as "pumping the iron of math," I am there.

Unlike the woman at a party who drooled all over Wesley Yang when she'd read something he'd written, I fail to see how this writing conveys tortured genius. The main gist seems to be that Asian men--or Yang in particular--have noticed that bros get all the jobs, promotions, and girls, and would like to have a piece of the bro-pie. (It seems that 'bro' is the new parlance for 'douchebag,' which is a phenomenon previously discussed here.) This is the unmistakable bro MO:
“It’s like, we’re being pitted against each other while there are kids out there in the Midwest who can do way less work and be in a garage band or something—and if they’re decently intelligent and work decently hard in school …”
Bros don't study and they don't work hard; they just down cheap beer, pop their collars, exercise their firm handshake, and make partner at JP Morgan. Bros are generally white, I guess, but maybe there are black bros too. I'm not an expert on the racial breakdown of bro-dom. Apparently though, there aren't many Asian bros, and Yang is angry about that. Yang would also like to be a bro.

Only, why? Why would anyone actively want to be a bro? Doesn't recognizing one's superiority to morons discourage one from wanting be a moron? Worse, why would anyone who is not a complete life failure see PUA-dom as a road to self-improvement? If you graduate at the top of your class, and go to Stanford or Harvard, and have a serious job, do you not feel even the slightest twinge of shame participating in this exercise:
Before each student crosses the floor of that bare white cubicle in midtown, Tran asks him a question. “What is good in life?” Tran shouts.
The student then replies, in the loudest, most emphatic voice he can muster: “To crush my enemies, see them driven before me, and to hear the lamentation of their women—in my bed!”
In addition to being absurd, how is this strategy--becoming a bro via becoming a PUA--going to help the ostensible victims of this article, young Asian men who want to be writers and poets but apparently scowl too much? Will standing with their legs at the right angle and seducing busty white chicks "get Jefferson Mao or Daniel Chu the respect and success they crave"? If they want to be recognized for their writing, that would seem to be kind of distracting. But where is the tragedy in their lives? They just graduated from college. They're 22. They have plenty of time to be successful, and I don't think having pumped the iron of math in grade school or scowled too much in college is really what's going to make or break them in poetry or fiction.

Then we are in anti-Amy Chua land, which is by now a really dull place. Yang is upset that Asian parents apparently fail to inculcate the requisite sense of entitlement and smugness that all white people get from their parents. Instead of playing Scrabble with their kids, Asian parents send them to pump the iron of math. (Yes, I do plan to use this phrase as often as possible in everyday conversation now.) I've already endorsed pumping the iron of math as an educational strategy, so there is no need to re-hash that. But the problem is that "Chua’s Chinese education had gotten her through an elite schooling, but it left her unprepared for the real world." Well, so it goes with all educations and upbringings. Perhaps you have heard of the Bildungsroman? It is not a Chinese word. Adulthood is a problem in the West--it screws up everyone, including the people from abroad. The Scrabble-playing parents are wringing their hands just as hard fearing that their kids will become oxycontin addicts. You can push too hard, and your children risk becoming yessir-ing robots, or you can not push at all, and your kids risk ending up on the dole. Or, vice versa, and robot child will rebel and get many piercings and a boyfriend named Lizard and never speak to you again while lazypants child will succeed in spite of you and disdain you so much that she will never speak to you again. Given these options, Amy Chua's life trajectory doesn't seem so bad.

Unfortunately, 'Tiger Daughter' is coming to Harvard next year, where I predict she will be intensely hated by all her classmates, but others predict that she will throw expensive parties with live animals and become extremely popular.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Announcement of summer

I am laying in bed watching Netflix movies and eating pasta out of a tupperware for dinner on a Tuesday night. What does this mean? It means it's summer. True, you would not conclude this by going outside, where it's been cold and rainy every day for months, but according to the chronological accounting of university calendars, it is so. Last week, I passed my generals (an event involving not insubstantial humiliation, of which we shall never speak again), then I took my language exam, which I assume I passed, although I haven't heard anything about it since, so now I guess I'm ABD, plus or minus an overdue paper (or, um, two). Or maybe that pnly happens post-prospectus? I can't be expected to know. So that leaves us with this summer, and the small mountain of work waiting for me. But, maybe I will actually blog sometimes, and this blog's two loyal readers will be recompensed for their vigil.

Monday, May 02, 2011

The history of political thought: a pictoral tour

My exams--by which I mean generals/comps/quals/whatever they were called in your department--are next Thursday. In preparation, I've been reading and going over my old notes and such things, and it occurred to me that perhaps you too would like to learn about my exam field: political theory--ancient, medieval, and modern. Technically, it only includes one medieval author--Aquinas--and only tiny excerpts of him at that (excerpts of the excerpts!), so I personally am in favor of abolishing the pretense that anyone in my department has actually studied something called "medieval political thought," although I did once pick up a copy of John of Salisbury's Policraticus, but I flipped open to a long discussion of whether witches are real (no) and got bored and put it back down. So much for that. Also, by "modern," we only mean to "up to Nietzsche," since everything after him is called "contemporary" and, in an unusual display of pedagogical reaction on the part of the department, we have not been made responsible for that. Conveniently, my notes contain many useful illustrations of the subject matter we do have to cover, which I will share with you below the fold. As you will see, these illustrations touch on all the main points of these texts.