Must Sean Penn always look like he’s squeezing
the last drops out of a sponge and the sponge
is his face? Even the back of his head grimaces.
Just the pressure in his little finger alone
could kill a gorilla. Remember that kid
whose whole trick was forcing blood into his head
until he looked like the universe’s own cherry bomb
so he’d get the first whack at the piñata?
He’s grown up to straighten us all out
about weapons of mass destruction
but whatever you do, don’t ding his car door with yours.
Don’t ask about his girlfriend’s cat.
the rest of Dean Young’s poem at Poetry Magazine here.
Last night I made it to the first Escort gig. Escort is a giant disco ensemble band started by my friends Dan Balis, Eugene Cho, and Darius Maghen. (You can listen to their single “Starlight” here; click on the record if you want it from iTunes.) Of it, Stylus says:
Forget Metro Area’s arty recontextualization of digital disco, ‘80s R&B, and techno, the nine members of Brooklyn’s Escort unashamedly calls themselves “a modern disco and boogie ensemble,” and deliver one of the most convincing and satisfying throwbacks to the heydays of Prelude & West End Records that I’ve heard in awhile. “Starlight” is great nearly to the point of suspicion, melding together the tight disco-funk of Chic with the exquisite production of an Environ record (Darshan Jesrani of Metro Area is on hand for a dub on the flipside, naturally,) and doing it so well that you not only wonder why it hasn’t been done before, but how you lived without it. Augmented by violins, airy female vocals, and a bubbly synth hook, you’d be forgiven for choosing this to be the summer jam for both 1983 and 2006. Recommended, and then some.
Also read the odd but positive review of the performance at riffmarket (28 July 2006 “I Don’t Miss Broadway”.) They’ll have more shows in the city and you should go.
Via Political Theory Daily Review, Joshua Greene looks at what neuroscience means for the ethics, in Nature Reviews:
The big meta-ethical question, then, might be posed as follows: are the moral truths to which we subscribe really full-blown truths, mind-independent facts about the nature of moral reality, or are they, like sexiness, in the mind of the beholder? One way to try to answer this question is to examine what is in the minds of the relevant beholders. Understanding how we make moral judgements might help us to determine whether our judgements are perceptions of external truths or projections of internal attitudes. More specifically, we might ask whether the appearance of moral truth can be explained in a way that does not require the reality of moral truth.
As noted above, recent evidence from neuroscience and neighbouring disciplines indicates that moral judgement is often an intuitive, emotional matter. Although many moral judgements are difficult, much moral judgement is accomplished in an intuitive, effortless way. An interesting feature of many intuitive, effortless cognitive processes is that they are accompanied by a perceptual phenomenology. For example, humans can effortlessly determine whether a given face is male or female without any knowledge of how such judgements are made. When you look at someone, you have no experience of working out whether that person is male or female. You just see that person’s maleness or femaleness. By contrast, you do not look at a star in the sky and see that it is receding. One can imagine creatures that automatically process spectroscopic redshifts, but as humans we do not. All of this makes sense from an evolutionary point of view.
In Dissent, Michael Walzer and Jean Bethke Elshtain debate just war and Iraq. Walzer:
So Iraq was not similar to the German or Japanese or the (hypothetical) Rwandan case: the war was not a response to aggression or a humanitarian intervention. Its cause was not (as in 1991) an actual Iraqi attack on a neighboring state or even an imminent threat of attack; nor was it an actual, ongoing massacre. The cause was regime change, directly—which means that the U.S. government was arguing for a significant expansion of the doctrine of jus ad bellum. The existence of an aggressive and murderous regime, it claimed, was a legitimate occasion for war, even if the regime was not actually engaged in aggression or mass murder. In more familiar terms, this was an argument for preventive war, but the reason for the preventive attack wasn’t the standard perception of a dangerous shift in the balance of power that would soon leave “us” helpless against “them.” It was a radically new perception of an evil regime.
No one who has experienced, or reflected on, the politics of the twentieth century can doubt that there are evil regimes. Nor can there be any doubt that we need to design a political/military response to such regimes that recognizes their true character. Even so, I do not believe that regime change, by itself, can be a just cause of war.
First it was Orhan Pamuk. Now Elif Shafak is being tried for “insulting Turkishness”. In openDemocracy:
“Can you go out? Can you walk on the streets without fear of assassination or an assault from Turkish nationalists?” asked the Belgian journalist at the end of the line as he was conducting a phone interview with me over the weekend. “Are you safe in Turkey?”
Am I safe in Turkey…? I wanted to ask him back: Tell me please, are you safe in Belgium? And I wanted to keep asking: Are we safe on this planet…?
Each and every one of us, wherever we might have put down our roots, can we effortlessly and assertively answer that question affirmatively and claim that yes indeed, we are safe and sound, and so are our children? I don’t think so. In the post 9/11 world, in a world where the number of those who believe in a “clash of civilizations” increases day by day, no one is safe anymore.
Stanley Hoffmann on America at the Crossroads: Democracy, Power, and the Neoconservative Legacy by Francis Fukuyama, Taming American Power: The Global Response to U.S. Primacy by Stephen M. Walt, and Diplomacy Lessons: Realism for an Unloved Superpower by John Brady Kiesling, in the New York Review of Books:
The US is back to debating what to do next but the setting of this debate is quite different from that of the past. In addition to the familiar world of interstate conflicts, some of the most horrible wars of recent years have been internal; and some of the most spectac-ular acts of violence have been committed by private groups of terrorists not allied to any state. More than a few of the members of the UN—Zimbabwe, Somalia, Uzbekistan—are “failed” or murderous states, whose inhabitants live in a nightmare of chaos and violence. The “realists,” i.e., those who believe national interests are fundamental—must now take into account the UN, which for all its flaws serves to certify legitimacy, as the current administration discovered when it defied the predominant opinion of the Security Council in attacking Iraq.
It is also a world in which globalization—partly under American leadership—erodes effective sovereignty of states (although least for the US) and creates a world economy that offers a very complex combination of permanent competition—especially for oil— and incentives to cooperate, not only for states but for private interests. There is now a transnational society that includes multinational corporations, nongovernmental organizations, criminals, and terrorists. This global economy, with its unprecedented combination of private and state capitalisms, can be immensely destructive, as when it eliminated millions of jobs in developed countries. It deepens inequality—at home and abroad.
Carl Zimmer in his blog, The Loom:
The Washington Post has an article today called And the Evolutionary Beat Goes On . . .. It is based on some interviews with scientists who are documenting evidence of natural selection in humans. I won’t be surprised if it gets emailed hither and yon, but not for the text, which is based on stuff that’s been out for some months now. No, it’s got a slick animation with the following caption: “A morphing demonstration of human evolution shows the transformation from a small lemur, up the evolutionary ladder into a human: seen here as legendary evolutionary biologist Stephen Jay Gould.”
The article goes into all sorts of contortions to accommodate this movie. In the lead, it reads,
Stephen Jay Gould would have been pleased.
No, not about his mug shot at the endpoint of evolution in the illustration above, but about the growing evidence that evolution is not just real but is actually happening to human beings right now.
But the article ends on an entirely different note…
Come to think of it, the late Stephen Jay Gould might have been upset with the above illustration. Contrary to the popular imagination, evolution is not a linear process that culminates in the triumphal ascent of humans at the top of the genetic heap. The process is analogous to a bush, where twigs and leaves push out in every direction.
So…the paper is showing something that further promotes a popular misconception about evolution–the evolutionary ladder. Nice job, folks.
In fact, of course, the movie is even more misleading…
More here. [Be sure to click the link Carl provides above to see the silly morph.]
Stacy Schiff in The New Yorker:
Because there are no physical limits on its size, Wikipedia can aspire to be all-inclusive. It is also perfectly configured to be current: there are detailed entries for each of the twelve finalists on this season’s “American Idol,” and the article on the “2006 Israel-Lebanon Conflict” has been edited more than four thousand times since it was created, on July 12th, six hours after Hezbollah militants ignited the hostilities by kidnapping two Israeli soldiers. Wikipedia, which was launched in 2001, is now the seventeenth-most-popular site on the Internet, generating more traffic daily than MSNBC.com and the online versions of the Times and the Wall Street Journal combined. The number of visitors has been doubling every four months; the site receives as many as fourteen thousand hits per second.
I do not exonerate the Lebanese from responsibility for the horrors that are taking place. Building a democratic country is the duty of all Lebanese. The different religious groups have to find a way to unite in a political project. Factionalism and fear will make it impossible to confront the weapons that are destroying a country that has risen from the rubble only to find itself once again buried in rubble.
Before me I see the same images of death that I witnessed 24 years ago. The pictures themselves, the noise of invading aircraft in the skies of Beirut and all over Lebanon, are the same. Do I see or do I remember? When you are incapable of distinguishing between what is in front of you and what you remember, it becomes clear that history teaches nothing – and clear too that what the Israelis call war is not war but merely the first skirmishes of a war that has not yet begun. Woe to anyone who believes that this massacre is war. Since 1973, the Arab world has fought only on the sidelines.
The Israelis should take care not to deceive themselves and believe that they have achieved victory, because the nature of such non-wars is that they can be repeated over and over again.
more from the London Review of Books here.