From the monthly archives:

December 2004

Wo Es War

by Henry on December 31, 2004

David Eisenman informs me in a comment to a previous post that he and his colleagues have just put together a “new edition”:http://www.guydavenport.com/ of Guy Davenport’s novel, “Wo es war, soll ich werden,” which is 35% longer than the original published version. It’s handbound, in a signed edition of 100 copies and looks quite beautiful.

Red Cross / Red Crescent Donations

by Jon Mandle on December 31, 2004

If you’re so moved, there’s information on making donations to the American Red Cross here (including a link for secure on-line donations). The British Red Cross page is here.

UPDATE (by Chris): I’m using my superediting powers to move Jon’s post to the top and make sure it stays there for the next day. Jon also mentions (in a comment below) “CNN’s list”:http://www.cnn.com/2004/WORLD/asiapcf/12/27/quake.aidsites/index.html of organizations accepting donations. And here’s the link for “Oxfam UK’s appeal”:http://www.oxfam.org.uk/what_you_can_do/give_to_oxfam/donate/asiaquake1204.htm .

Buy Generously IV

by Maria on December 30, 2004

Following my thoughtful and inventive co-bloggers, here’s a list of 2004 recommended reading with links to the Amazon Associates programme and my promise to match and forward any fees to the Red Cross for tsunami disaster relief. It may take a day or so for my Associates registration to work out, so please be patient. But now that I’ve finally set an account up, I promise to match and forward any Associates fees I receive in 2005 to the ICRC.

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The blogging two-step

by Henry on December 30, 2004

The perennial issue of mainstream media bias and the superiority of blogs is undergoing a minor revival in the right wing blogosphere at the moment, much of it centered on a “column”:http://www.startribune.com/stories/357/5158765.html by Nick Coleman of the Star-Tribune, which has the temerity to take on PowerLine. Coleman’s effort to “fact-check” the factcheckers is rather weak, but his main point is hard to refute – it’s a bit rich for slavering right wing hacks to accuse the mainstream media of ideological bias and expect to get taken seriously. On which, see further Matt Welch’s “entertaining takedown”:http://www.reason.com/0412/co.mw.biased.shtml of Hugh Hewitt. There’s a curious sort of doublethink going on here, which culminates in a sort of dodge-the-responsibility two-step. On the one hand, bloggers like Glenn Reynolds respond to their critics by saying that they can’t cover everything, and that they’re not providing a news service, only opinions. On the other hand, they seem to believe that blogs should radically change or replace the mainstream media. Either of these statements is reasonable enough on its own,[1] but taken in conjunction, they’re pretty jarring. If you think that blogs should replace the mainstream media, then you should be prepared yourself to live up to some minimal standards of scrupulosity, intellectual honesty, and willingness to deal fairly with facts that are uncomfortable for your own ideological position. You should be prepared to live up yourself to the standards that you demand of others. Exercising the “shucks, I’m just a little old blogger” get-out clause is rank hypocrisy when you want the blogosphere to devour the New York Times whole. Funny that Reynolds et al. don’t see it that way.

Update: “Glenn Reynolds”:http://instapundit.com/archives/020159.php responds to my post in a characteristically evasive fashion. He weirdly mischaracterizes my argument by saying that I conflate “InstaPundit with the blogosphere as a whole, by suggesting that my statement that InstaPundit is not a news service somehow means that the blogosphere isn’t up to news-gathering.” I don’t know where he gets that, but it allows him to duck the main point – whether bloggers like Reynolds are being hypocritical in criticizing other media for bias. Let me explain it again in plain, simple, English. Glenn Reynolds complains regularly about liberal bias in the media. He says that he doesn’t believe that blogs should replace big media, but that they should pressure big media to do a better job; I’ll accept his characterization of his own views, although he’s certainly given a “different”:http://instapundit.com/archives/017254.php “impression”:http://instapundit.com/archives/019026.php in the past. But even on this more limited definition, bloggers like Reynolds are being hypocritical – they don’t and won’t practice what they preach. If I understand his argument correctly (it’s somewhat unclear to me exactly what he’s saying), he seems to think that this is OK because the blogosphere is a big place, and that stories are going to come out no matter what (no blogger can block them). This is an abdication of responsibility, pure and simple, and it’s also factually incorrect. Blogs like Instapundit on the right and Atrios on the left, serve an important function as filters of news, both for other bloggers (who read the big bloggers disproportionately) and for outside readers (who tend to gravitate towards the big blogs that everyone has heard about). In a very important way, these blogs shape both the political blogosphere’s perception of itself, and outsiders’ perceptions of it (the blogs on the ‘long tail’ usually only come to prominence when one of the bigger blogs picks up on their story). Saying (if that’s what he’s saying) that he doesn’t have any responsibility for what he does or doesn’t post on, because others are going to pick up on important stories anyway, simply doesn’t cut it as an excuse.

Update 2: I come back from my New Years vacation to discover that Glenn Reynolds has responded again, in a further “update”:http://instapundit.com/archives/020159.php which is not only evasive but dishonest. He attacks my credibility as a scholar, saying that “it really is going to make it hard for me to take Henry seriously as a scholar of the blogosphere, now that he’s written off half of it so unpleasantly.” That’s a very serious accusation to make – especially when it’s based on the entirely false claim that I’ve written off half (presumably the right half) of the blogosphere. If Reynolds had bothered to check, he’d have found that I’ve been similarly harsh when left wingers have “engaged in hackishness”:https://www.crookedtimber.org/archives/002490.html. My objection is not to right wing views, or to right wing criticism of the media; it’s to criticism of the media from people like Reynolds who are partisan hacks, whether they come from the right or the left. Mark Kleiman has documented over time Reynolds’ resort to “bizarre conspiracy theories”:http://www.markarkleiman.com/archives/_/2004/01/who_admitted_what.php, “vicious slurs without evidence”:http://www.markarkleiman.com/archives/the_wayward_press_/2004/12/does_mickey_kaus_know_something_i_dont.php and unwarranted “attacks on the patriotism of those who disagree with him”:http://www.markarkleiman.com/archives/terrorism_and_its_control_/2004/09/the_politics_of_war_and_terrorism.php (on this last I’m reminded of Dr. Johnson’s dictum that patriotism is the “last refuge of a scoundrel”). Kleiman concludes with regard to the Kerik scandal, that Reynolds “has no standing whatever to complain about anyone else’s journalistic ethics in this regard”: – I’d broaden that to say that he doesn’t have standing to complain about anyone else’s journalistic standards, period. Or, as Kleiman remarks “even more pungently”:http://www.markarkleiman.com/archives/the_kerry_intern_hoax_/2004/02/kerrys_nonaffair_with_the_nonintern.php.

bq. Glenn thinks the “liberal media” are employing a “double standard.” Would someone send him a mirror for his birthday, please?

Again, Reynolds ducks the question of whether bloggers should have standards by repeating his hackneyed claim that the media don’t live up to theirs. All this criticism aside, Mr. Reynolds can rest assured that I will continue to take him very seriously as a sociological phenomenon.

In other news, Hugh Hewitt, blogger and author of “If It’s Not Close, They Can’t Cheat: Crushing the Democrats in Every Election and Why Your Life Depends on It ,” “suggests”:http://hughhewitt.com/#postid1234 that I should have admitted that I’d overwritten when I described certain partisan blogs as “slavering rightwing hacks.”

Finally, “Jay Rosen”:http://journalism.nyu.edu/pubzone/weblogs/pressthink/2004/12/29/tp04_lctr.html makes some criticisms that I take a lot more seriously – I’m willing to accept that there’s a difference that I’ve elided between believing that blogs are ‘winning’ and the mainstream media are ‘losing,’ and the claim that blogs are going to take over the mainstream media (although I still contend that much of the rhetoric suggests the latter rather than the former).

fn1. Indeed, I wholeheartedly agree with the first of these statements – but then I neither want nor expect blogs to replace mainstream news outlets; bloggers would make for lousy reporters.

Mad Monkeys, Bulkbits and Bushels of Breath

by John Holbo on December 30, 2004

OK, first things first. A kind donor has agreed to match funds to the tune of 200 euros on any amount raised in our little Amazon disaster relief thingy. This person wishes to be identified as: "’One of the blogging world’s most incisive commentators, inventor of the orbital mind-control laser and 19th dan master of "Drunken Monkey" kung fu."

That’s very interesting. Do you know, I have a DVD for Mad Monkey Kung Fu, starring Lau Kar-leung (a.k.a. Liu Chia Liang, a.k.a. General Fu who fights Jacky Chan in Drunken Master II.) Sadly, Mad Monkey is Region 3 only and unavailable from Amazon. But if you get the chance, snark out on it. You should check out the sequel, Drunken Monkey. Good Unforgiven Fu – that’s kicking people while wearing a duster. The usual Indestructible Old Man Fu. Again only Region 3. (Sigh. You poor folks never get to see any good movies.) But here’s a nice site with links to cool trailers and galleries. As I quoted somewhere or other "a monkey that is inebriated is most funny."

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Some reading (Buying generously III)

by Chris Bertram on December 30, 2004

I’d been meaning to write a brief end-of-year post about books I’ve read recently. I’ll do it now and pledge (like Henry and John) that any Amazon Associates fees I get if any of you are moved to buy any of them (or anything else after clicking on the links) will go to tsunami disaster relief. Full post below the fold.

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Buy Generously II

by John Holbo on December 30, 2004

My buy generously post below was unclear. (I was assuming folks understand how Amazon Associates works. Silly assumption.) You don’t have to buy the very items I linked. You can click any link and then search around and buy anything. I just tossed out a basket of big ticket bestsellers because direct link %’s are a little higher. Buy anything from Amazon through me and at least 5.75% of what you pay goes to me, which I (informally, not in any legally problematic way) pledge to give to disaster relief. My point wasn’t that the time is perfect to buy glitzy DVD’s – sorry if that seemed crass. I meant: buy something. I’ve stuck a convenient Amazon searchbox under the fold. Go ahead and use it.

Once again, I encourage other bloggers with Amazon Associates to follow suit. (I see Henry has already done so. Good!) The quarter is ending. Shake that little jar of change you were planning to spend on silly stuff. Give for something serious. Henry has pledged to keep up the giving through next quarter. I am happy to do the same. The logic of this is very sound. By doing this we are in effect giving immediately and agreeing to carry a little bit of debt for a short time, since the money is needed now. It would be very nice if many bloggers did this, announced it, then folks made a point of buying the stuff they were going to buy from Amazon anyway through them. (Of course this is informal, so the bloggers could just pocket the money. But if the blogger is someone you personally trust not to be such a bastard as to steal petty cash from disaster victims, the level of broken pledges should be low.)

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Partisan football

by Henry on December 29, 2004

I’ve just discovered a “quite disgusting exercise in partisan pointscoring”:http://wizbangblog.com/archives/004640.php by Wizbang via our Technorati links, suggesting that because we (and other left blogs) haven’t had several posts each about the tsunami and its aftermath, liberals don’t care as much as conservatives about their fellow human beings. I’m not going to return the favour by claiming that this post shows us this or that about conservatives, because it doesn’t tell us anything whatsoever about conservatives as a collectivity. It does, however, speak volumes about the person who wrote this sorry excuse for a post.

NB – further attempts to play partisan football in the comments section will be deleted.

Buy generously again

by Henry on December 29, 2004

Like John, I’m going to be donating whatever’s in my Amazon Associates account already, plus whatever commission comes in from people buying over the next quarter (up to March 31). I’ll make the first payment, like John, after the weekend, to the American Red Cross, and will donate whatever comes in after that to a combination of the Red Cross, Medecins Sans Frontieres, and a charity dealing with long term reconstruction (suggestions gratefully received). I’d been thinking anyway of doing a round-up of books that I’d liked this year – a highly varied list of reading suggestions below. As John says, donate what you can directly – but if you want some holiday reading (and to give a little money to charity while you’re at it) use the links below.

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Jerry Orbach dies

by Eszter Hargittai on December 29, 2004

Jerry Orbach, star of Law & Order for many seasons, died last night of prostate cancer. Just last week NBC rebroadcast his last episode in the series. Even though he had left the show, he was taking part in the production of the new upcoming spinoff “Law & Order: Trial by Jury”, which will start airing in 2005 with Orbach performing in three episodes.

Buy Generously

by John Holbo on December 29, 2004

I’m suffering from jags of survivor guilt. I really can’t bear to read the news. As Belle and I posted at our other blog, we were planning a Phuket/Koh Phi Phi Thai X-Mas junket for our whole extended family. But it fell through when the stateside folks decided they couldn’t hack the weirdness and distance and expense. So I am plagued by images of what it would have been like with Belle on the beach, 3-year old daughter to the left of me, 8-month old daughter to the right.  Also, we’ve been to Phuket and Phi Phi several times and can’t help thinking about all the nice folks who were always so nice to us. I’m sure many of them are dead and many of the rest have had their livelihood destroyed, at least for the time being.

So Belle and I are donating the humble proceeds from our Amazon Associates Account for the quarter. So far that comes to almost exactly $100. A nice round number to pony up for starters. Given that I have resolved to donate x, where x = my commissions, you might consider buying some Amazon products through my Associates account. Hint, hint. Just look under the fold. I’m not an incorporated charity or anything, so don’t come demanding financial statements. But most of us are gonna buy some Amazon gear this year, am I right? So buy it now and – as it so happens – I’ll fire off a check to a reputable charity come the 1st of January [make that January 3, after the weekend]. The bigger the better. (I haven’t decided which charity is best, if that makes a difference to you.) Then I’ll fire off another check two weeks after that to equal whatever amount rolls in late. Then I’ll decide what to do. So if you click to buy after two weeks into the New Year, I’m not promising I’ll still be in the sending checks to charities business. But I’m not intending to turn a profit here, I do solemnly swear. And if you don’t trust me, don’t click. Easy. (I hereby disavow legal obligation to you, is what I’m saying. You’re buying from Amazon. I’m just stating a personal plan.)

I hereby encourage other bloggers – those of you who have hopeful little Amazon begging bowls put out – to follow suit. Pledge your proceeds for the quarter, joe blogger, even if it’s only a few bucks. Say so, so your readers can sweeten the pot. We’re big on chat, we bloggers. But chat isn’t exactly what certain folks need at the moment. [UPDATE: I probably wasn’t clear about this. You can buy any old thing from Amazon using any of the links below and I’ll get a commission. Once you are there, just buy what you want. It’s just there are extra % points if you buy the very thing on the button. Sorry for confusion.]

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A Sociologist Amongst Philosophers

by Kieran Healy on December 29, 2004

Not only is it “MLA Season”:https://www.crookedtimber.org/archives/003045.html, it’s also time for the meetings of the “American Philosophical Association’s Eastern Division”:http://www.apa.udel.edu/apa/divisions/eastern/. The APA meetings are scheduled at this time of the year because, as is well known, philosophers hate Christmas — even if a good number of its senior wranglers do their best to look like Santa. So here I am in Boston. This year I even have a professional excuse to be here, because I’m doing some work on the relationship between specialization and status amongst philosophy departments.

Unlike most academic associations, the APA doesn’t have a proper national meeting, just regional ones. But the Eastern APA is the biggest, partly because there’s a high concentration of philosophers on the East Coast,[1] but mostly because the job market happens at it. Like the MLA, Philosophy departments interview their shortlist of 10 to 15 candidates at the meetings, with a view to whittling them down to three or four for campus visits. Personally, I don’t believe this stage adds any useful information to the recruitment process, unless you are interested in whether a candidate can sit comfortably in a cramped hotel suite.

I nearly got an interview at the APA myself a few years ago, when I accidentally sat at the wrong table in an empty conference room, put my feet up and started reading some book or other. After about half an hour some people started filing in to the room, but I wasn’t paying attention. Then two guys (one with a Santa beard-in-training) sat down at my table. “Mr Robertson? We’re from East Jesus State University,”[2] said one of them, “Shall we begin?” I should have said yes, but of course instead I was a coward and mumbled something about not being Mr Robertson. Pity: I’ve become quite good at bluffing my way amongst philosophers, and I might have gotten a fly-out.

fn1. Every single Mets fan, for instance.

fn2. Not its real name.

Up The People’s Republic of Cork

by Maria on December 28, 2004

And now for something completely different. As I was going over the Cork and Kerry mountains, only this morning in fact, The Langer Song came on the radio. So I finally got a chance to hear it, just 6 months after it was Number 1.

What is a langer? See here for essential information and the alarming news that the word langer is now in the Collins dictionary (surely the beginning of the end). Better still CT’s resident Cork sociologist, Kieran, has been there and done all that last June.

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Death of Susan Sontag

by Henry on December 28, 2004

Susan Sontag is dead from leukaemia; the New York Times has an “obituary here”:http://www.nytimes.com/2004/12/28/books/28cnd-sont.html?ex=1261976400&en=f88d1db2e18c3c3b&ei=5090&partner=rssuserland.

Posner, Rawls, and Reflective Equilibrium

by Jon Mandle on December 28, 2004

Judge Richard Posner has been guest-blogging over at Brian Leiter’s site. In his first post, he expresses a not-quite-completely general moral skepticism:

much or even most morality seems based, rather, on instinct, emotion, custom, history, politics, or ideology, rather than on widely shared social goals….Are there really compelling reasons for these unarguable tenets of the current American moral code? One can give reasons for them, but would they be anything more than rationalizations? They have causes, that history, sociology, or psychology might elucidate, but causes are not reasons.

One might think that this is a prelude to a sweeping condemnation of the American moral code – most of it is based on instinct, emotion, custom, etc. and should be replaced by a code that is better grounded. But this is not what Posner is up to. His target is not a specific code that he thinks is not up to snuff, but rather a certain way of thinking about morality itself.

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