Free Stuff

by Scott McLemee on March 20, 2007

Last month I mentioned that Political Theory Daily Review had found a sponsor — the magazine Bookforum. As it happens, the new issue just arrived in my mailbox yesterday, even before it reached the newstand, which doesn’t always happen.

Well, now you can read it, too. As of the April/May issue, nearly all of the contents are online for free. It looks like a couple of items are print-only, out of about 45.

I’m still partial to the paper version. Easier on the eyeballs, for one thing; plus, the ads in a book publication actually count as information that I want to see. But at a time when most newspaper review sections are shrinking when not disappearing, it’s good that one publication seems to be doing well enough to make its content available to the largest possible readership.

iRex Iliad and eBooks

by Henry on March 20, 2007

I’m thinking of getting an electronic reader, now that display technologies are finally catching up, but have been unimpressed with reviews of the Sony Reader, which seems to be the market leader in the US. The iRex Iliad looks to have better specs, but I haven’t seen any proper reviews of it. It doesn’t handle proprietary DRM stuff, but that’s not what I’m interested in reading – I want it more to reduce the load of book and article manuscripts that I always seem to lug with me when I am going from place to place. Anyone out there who has this machine (or another competitor), and is prepared to offer advice/opinions?

John Inman (Mr. Humphreys) is Dead

by Harry on March 20, 2007

Guardian has an obituary here.

I can’t resist one comment. As a kid I didn’t care so much for Are You Being Served? Apart from Mr. Humphreys. When, later, I became aware that he was despised by some gay activists, I always guessed that his critics (mentioned in the obit) didn’t actually watch the show. What was portrayed on the screen was a genuinely decent and kind man with a (somewhat) naughty sense of humour, around whom idiocy prevailed. It was, at the time, the central portrayal of a poof on TV. But far from a negative one, and personally, if I can point to a single influence on my own positive attitudes to homsoexuality and homosexuals in my pre-teen and early teen years, it was probably Inman’s character. I’m sad to see him go.

For my current, much more positive, attitude to AYBS?, here.

PhD Supervisors

by Ingrid Robeyns on March 20, 2007

Last year, I was fortunate to be awarded “a 5-year research grant”: to do work on relatively new or underexplored issues of justice related to socio-demographic changes (ageing, gender roles, and the changing nature of parenthood) – all somehow related to care. The best about the grant is not only that it gave me a new exciting (and tenured) job, but also that I can “now advertise two PhD positions”: for anyone brave enough to want to work with me for the next four years on these topics (selfish as I am, I’ve picked the best topic for myself, alas).

In the process of advertising these positions, I’ve discovered a strange particularity of Dutch law: only very few scholars are legally entitled to be the first supervisor (‘promotors‘). You have to be a hoogleraar, that is, a ‘professor’ in the English terminology, or a ‘full professor’ in the US-terminology. Lecturers, readers (UK terminology), associate and assistant professors (USA terminology) are all not entitled to be the primary supervisors. Officially they can only be co-supervisors. In practice, that doesn’t change much, since these PhD students really will be supervised by me, but it requires someone else to be the official first supervisor.

I can’t think of any reason to defend this law, and am therefore seriously considering writing to “Ronald Plasterk”:, since he’s our new Minister for Education, and presumably could initiate a change in this law. But, he may ask (assuming for a moment he will read my letter), what would I then propose as the legal requirements for PhD supervisors? Holding a PhD and being employed by/affiliated with a PhD-granting research institution seem to be two minimal requirements. Anything else?

Dying to pass this on

by Maria on March 20, 2007

I’m in very irritable humour and an occasional annoyance has just breached my tolerance threshold. Reading a friend’s copy of last weekend’s Sunday Independent (Of course I’d never buy the worthless gossip rag myself. I just like reading it.) I counted THREE instances of the term ‘passing on’ to describe death. It’s clear from the articles that the journalists are paraphrasing the words of interviewees who would probably be mortified to hear their alcoholic, wife-beating father had simply ‘passed on’ after several years of poisonous decline.

The Sindo is an Irish newspaper, and Irish people do not use the euphemism ‘passing on’ for ‘dying’. The preference in speech has generally been for the more brutal ‘he/she died’. The passing off of ‘passing on’ as the polite way to describe death is starting to creep in to written language. Not that the Sindo is any model of the written language; it’s a flag of convenience for some decent and mostly average clique of writers to pen gossip pieces about their buddies.

Now, I understand that Americans prefer to say someone passed on than to say ‘they died’. Just as they prefer to say someone went to ‘the rest room’ than to the toilet. I expect that in a multicultural society that has nonetheless a quite puritanical aversion to the acknowledgement of bodily functions, a certain amount of stylised nicety is needed for everyone to get along and not constantly embarrass or offend each other. But the use of this term in Ireland is a purely aspirational adoption of others’ sensitivities. In a country where funeral-going is a national pastime, there’s nothing refined about dancing around death.

Not to mention that ‘passing on’ implies a belief in some sort of after-life, which seems a bit presumptious seeing as for many being dead means simply ceasing to exist.

Then a miracle occurred …

by Chris Bertram on March 20, 2007

Last night’s edition of BBC’s flagship programme Newsnight contained fictionalized scenarios from the future of Iraq prepared by a pessimist (Toby Dodge of QMC) and an “optimist” — Brendan O’Leary of the University of Pennsylvania. Brendan is an old friend of mine, but, as an adviser to the Kurdistan regional government, he’s been a keen promoter of something like the “decent left” agenda. His “optimistic” scenario has Iraq descending even further into the mire of sectarian killing, US withdrawal and Iranian and Saudi invasion … but then the character who utters his script tell us: “we were at the brink, and then, for some reason — a miracle — we stepped back”. (Oh, and Kurdistan ends up with the Winter Olympics.) I’m all for looking on the bright side. But miracles? Watch the whole thing “here”: (today only). The “miracle” remark is at about 12.01.