Archive for January, 2003

Pinker’s Agenda

Friday, January 31st, 2003

Steven Pinker has a curious op-ed piece in today’s New York Times. The ostensible subject of the column is what evolutionary psychology and cognitive science can contribute to educating children. But the article is mostly an oblique polemic against neuroscience, on the one hand, and the humanities in general, on the other….
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The No Electronic Theft Act

Thursday, January 30th, 2003

If you’ve ever used a peer-to-peer network and swapped copyrighted files, chances are pretty good you’re guilty of a federal felony. While the RIAA and MPAA have been using lawsuits to drive P2P filesharing websites like Napster, Audiogalaxy, and now (they are hoping) KaZaa out of business, a law already on the books, the No Electronic Theft (NET) Act, already provides severe penalties for endusers making use of such services. According to this article by Declan McCullogh, it is only a matter of time before the Feds start actually prosecuting P2P filesharing users under this act…
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Aphorisms To Live By

Thursday, January 30th, 2003

“You’ve got to play the cards you’ve been dealt.” — William Burroughs.

“You can’t win with a losing hand.” — Bob Dylan

Bill Gates’ “Grand Challenges in Global Health”

Monday, January 27th, 2003

Yesterday Bill Gates issued a global challenge on health. He put up $200 million to spur research on diseases that haven’t been studied sufficiently by scientists, because they occur mainly in poor parts of the world, rather than here in the West. This is a wholly admirable thing to do. But the rhetoric of his announcement was also interesting….
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69 Things To Do With A Dead Princess

Monday, January 27th, 2003

Stewart Home is a brilliant literary provocateur, and his latest novel, 69 Things To Do With A Dead Princess, does not disappoint (even if it is not the best thing he has done)….
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Confessions of a Dangerous Mind

Sunday, January 26th, 2003

Confessions of a Dangerous Mind is an excellent, bittersweet film, very funny in a dry sort of way, and also a little sad. I liked it better, I think, than I did Adaptation, the other Charlie Kaufman script now playing. Confessions, of course, has the advantage of being based on Chuck Barris’ book, which I have listed elsewhere on my website as being among the best works of American fiction of the last half-century….
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Michel Houellebecq Wants To Be Cloned

Sunday, January 26th, 2003

The controversial French novelist Michel Houellebecq explains why he wants to be cloned. He just can’t help it, he says; like most people, he just blindly wants to perpetuate himself. “Such feelings leave no space for freedom and individuality, they aim for nothing but eternal, idiotic repetition”; and yet these feelings “are shared by almost all mankind, and even by the majority of the animal kingdom; they are nothing but the living memory of an overwhelming biological instinct.” As always, Houellebecq’s insights are quite bracing…
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Prefuse 73

Saturday, January 25th, 2003

I’ve been listening a lot lately to Prefuse 73, experimental mostly wordless hiphop (if that’s not too much of a contradiction in terms) by Scott Herren. The album is called Vocal Studies & Uprock Narratives; there’s also an EP, 92 Vs 02 Collection….
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Kaleidoscope Century

Friday, January 24th, 2003

John Barnes’ SF novel Kaleidoscope Century is a clever alternative history of the 21st century, hilariously dystopian….
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Intersex Recognized

Friday, January 24th, 2003

Australia has–the first time this has happened anywhere in the world, as far as I know–officially recognized a person as being intersexed. (Via Eszter’s Blog). Alex McFarlane has XXY chromosomes (rather than the male XY or the female XX), and e refuses to consider emself as either male or female (to use the Spivak pronouns, for the first time since my MOOing days).Good for Alex! And good for all of us to remember that our bodies are–our biology is–much more multifarious and flexible than we usually realize. It’s not that, as fatuous conservatives love to say, our culture has to recognize and come to terms with the limits imposed on us by nature; but rather the opposite–that all too often it’s cultural constraints and presuppositions and prejudices that limit and blight our bodily potentialities. (See Anne Fausto-Sterling, whom I already mentioned the other day, for more on intergender issues). Or as Spinoza said, in a line that Gilles Deleuze loved to quote: “We do not yet know what our bodies can do.”