From the monthly archives:

May 2006

Unfulfilled and Unfulfillable Ambitions

by Harry on May 29, 2006

I just finished Charles Murray’s new book, In Our Hands (I’ll post a review in a couple of weeks). Almost in passing he comments that:

Few teenagers finish high school already knowing what job will make them happy. Or they may think they know, but change their minds. This is as true of those who go to college as of those who do not — that’s why students change their majors so often. The process of finding a job that makes one happy often continues well into a person’s twenties, if not beyond.

Or they do know, but that job disappears! I didn’t know what an academic was till I went to college, and I only developed the ambition to be one after I had already become one (about 2 years into my current job). As a kid I had numerous possible jobs in mind, but after I learned that there were jobs other than teaching, only one was a really lasting ambition; I thought what I’d most like to do was make History programmes for the BBC schools radio service. I thought schools radio programmes were fantastic, good enough that I would sometimes try to stayhome from school in order to listen to them; and the history programmes, with dramatisations of everyday life in distant times, were the best of the lot. When I told my 9-year old daughter (who is, if anything, more of a radio fan that I am) she pointed out that she never listens to the radio at school and that, probably, nobody does. There is some stuff up on the BBC site, mainly loads of great archival clips, but not much in the way of actual programmes (and I had no interest in making any other kinds of radio programmes, still less TV progammes, even in History); forming that ambition in the 1960s was probably rather like forming the ambition to be a blacksmith just before the explosion in car and tractor ownership. What did you want to be before you became what you are; and does that job still exist?

New Development

by Kieran Healy on May 28, 2006

Seems like the Volokh Conspiracy is now “trolling itself”:

_Update_: I forgot, Adler is Juan Non-Volokh. All is explained. This “isn’t the first time”: he’s shown an ability to home in on sentences he doesn’t like while avoiding interpretive charity, important contextualizing information or broader political questions.

Dance dance evolution

by Eszter Hargittai on May 28, 2006

As the resident danceoholic I have to link to this video on the Evolution of Dance. It’s been viewed millions of times so I suspect it’s not new to all of you, but perhaps some of you haven’t seen it yet.

I’m not sure if I should be proud of, embarrassed, excited, or feel pathetic about the fact that of the approximately thirty songs featured in the clip, I have definitely danced to most at parties or clubs in the past (there were 3-4 that I don’t recall). To be sure, I certainly had not used most of the moves featured on the video. I’m more confident that that part is probably a good thing.

Watching the clip is a trip down memory lane as the various moments from life rush back when the particular songs were popular at parties and clubs. For example, Cotton-Eyed Joe by the Rednex will forever transport me back to the Arcade 46 bar and dance floor in the basement of our dorm in Geneva where I spent my junior year in college. Just imagine hundreds of people in this hole dancing away to this and other songs (Macarena anyone?). Those were the days…

Following up last night’s post, I’ve constructed two more little Tom and Jerry appreciation sites – for “Pencil Mania”; for “Piano Tooners” [fixed!] You can also download the cartoons themselves here and here. I’ve incorporated my expert commentary into the sites themselves. Are you like me? Do you find these things just weirdly beguiling?

That reminds me. One of the finest graphic novels you’ve (maybe) never heard of is Kim Deitch, The Boulevard of Broken Dreams – and it’s for sale cheap, in hardback [amazon]. Now that Green Day went and sang that song, the poor book will never show up in google searches anymore, I guess. Pantheon doesn’t even have all that much about it on their site. But I’ll tell you a secret. I linked to this page of stills – and this charming little animation – long ago, and the links are still good! (Probably there’s some way to get there the normal way, but I’m not seeing it.)

Here’s a short bio piece on Deitch, who really deserves to be as well known as Spiegelman and Crumb.

RIP: Desmond Dekker

by Jon Mandle on May 28, 2006

Desmond Adolphus Dacres (aka Desmond Dekker) died suddenly of a heart attack at the age of 64. The NY Times, where I saw this, seems to be a few days behind – he died on Wednesday. Dekker had 20 number 1 hits in Jamaica, starting with “Honour Your Mother and Your Father” in 1963. (That’s how it’s listed on the version I have, but I’ve also seen it also referred to as “Honour Your Mother and Father”, which doesn’t scan as well. There is, however, no excuse for the Times’ calling it “Honour Thy Father and Mother.”) “The Israelites” [spelling corrected] hit number 1 in Britain and number 9 in the US in 1969. Wikipedia is not right that this was the “first international Jamaican hit”, but it certainly did pave the way for other Jamaican recording artists. His final concert was on May 11.

Ontology of an audience

by John Holbo on May 28, 2006

Matt Bai in the NY Times, “Can Bloggers Get Real?”:

The Chicago Reader, an alternative weekly, recently profiled a 23-year-old law student who writes on Daily Kos’s front page under the pseudonym Georgia10, positing that she may well be the most-read political writer in the city, even though few people know her real name. (For the record, it’s Georgia Logothetis, and she lives with her parents.) In this way, Daily Kos and other blogs resemble a political version of those escapist online games where anyone with a modem can disappear into an alternate society, reinventing himself among neighbors and colleagues who exist only in a virtual realm.

Bai needs an additional, ontological premise. Perhaps: the size and reality of an audience are inversely proportional. Also, this is an unfortunate sentence: “She says she hopes the convention will show politicians that the bloggers are just ordinary Americans — and vice versa.”

Snark Out!

by John Holbo on May 27, 2006

A week or so ago I noted the availability of absurdly cheap 50-movie DVD packs – SF, mystery, so forth. And this 100 Cartoon Classics [Amazon]. I now report that they work great for snarking out! (If you don’t know what that means, read more Daniel Pinkwater.) Just pick a cartoon – any cartoon – then a film, or two for a double-feature. Fan out all the discs and pick strictly at random. Now you must watch. The results will probably be bad. But that’s part of the snarking-out experience.

This afternoon Belle and I ran a double-feature matinee. First, a Tom and Jerry cartoon, "A Spanish Twist". No, not the stupid cat and mouse. The originals. Read about them here. Now visit the wonderful little site I have built just for you. Wonder of wonders! It turns out you can download the whole cartoon here.

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Throw-Away Scene Opportunity

by Kieran Healy on May 26, 2006

Seeing as Pirates of the Caribbean II is coming out soon, I wonder whether it’s too late to get Johnny Depp back into the studio for a gratuitous falling-out-of-a-palm-tree scene, as a hat-tip to his character’s inspiration. Seems like an obvious option (I mean, _I_ thought of it). Though seeing as Richards had post-accident brain surgery recently, maybe the studio doesn’t want to risk it.

Incarceration Again

by Kieran Healy on May 26, 2006

The comments in “my recent post”: about U.S. incarceration rates got a little bad tempered: some people (I’m looking at you, jet) didn’t like the figure, because it included countries that are not exactly model states. Some followup below the fold.

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Weekend map projects

by Eszter Hargittai on May 26, 2006


There are some exciting developments in the online map space these days. WikiMapia is a wiki approach to Google Maps that let’s you add notes and tags to maps all over. MapCruncher is a program that lets you draw maps on top of other maps (or something like that). I haven’t been able to try out the latter yet due to some of the requirements, but I’m hoping it’ll come together soon as it sounds very promising.

[thanks and thanks]

UPDATE: I finally got MapCruncher to work. It requires Windows XP and the .NET 2.0 runtime, which is not as obvious as the Web site makes it sound. Also, rendering the map (overlaying the north-side map of the Chicago El on Virtual Earth) took about 18 minutes, not the 5-10 the site suggests.

UPDATE2: Parts of WikiMapia are starting to get quite a bit of information. Here is the White House area.. not surprisingly with some fairly random commentary as well.

What do you see?

by John Holbo on May 26, 2006

Right. Now take the survey under the fold. But only if your intuitions are untainted by first viewing the image at J&B. (We want to be scientistic about this.)

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Four More Years?

by Kieran Healy on May 26, 2006

A “comment by Bitch PhD”: reminded me that this week I’ll have been blogging for four years. I’m not sure what to think about that, so let’s look at some data. Here is a time-series of the number of posts per month on “my blog”: from its “inauspicious beginning”: in May 2002 to the present. (Since CT started, I’ve just posted the same material to my own blog, so the trend represents all my posts.)

*Update*: More trendline goodness added below.

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Quasi-intelligent comment spam

by Henry on May 25, 2006

Over the last few days we’ve been getting a new kind of comment spam; it’s semi-relevant to the posts in question, but has, if you look at it, links back to the usual kinds of websites. Unless artificial intelligence has improved a lot more than I think it has, I presume that real human beings are being paid to generate it, in the hope that it will slip under bloggers’ radar more easily than the automated stuff. If you’re a blogger at a reasonably well-trafficked site, you may want to keep an eye out for this.

Swimming with the fishes

by Chris Bertram on May 25, 2006

Blogger Alex Tingle has made enterprising use of Google Maps by designing “an overlay that shows the effects of the sea level rising”: . You can choose your level (up to 14m) and the map will show if a given bit of land would be underwater, and you can toggle between a map view (with placenames) and a satellite view, and you can zoom in and out. Of course, there are “lots of caveats”: since he’s ignored tides and flood defences, the data may be less that 100% accurate, etc. Still, it’s an entertaining and instructive bit of coding. I’m happy to report that my own house will remain dry (though I’ll be dead long before we get to 14m, anyway).

Gay Marriage and Straight Divorce

by Harry on May 25, 2006

Are divorced opponents of gay marriage hypocrites?

I suppose it all depends on the reasons why they oppose gay marriage, and on the reasons they divorced. So I can imagine lots of ways of consistently endorsing one’s own divorce and opposing gay marriage; for example, one might oppose marriage tout court and, having freed oneself of its bourgeois chains, be determined to prevent others from being enslaved by it. Or one might simply hate gays and want to prevent them to get at the good of marriage.

But neither of these are the dominant public reasons for opposing gay marriage.

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