According to A.O. Scott’s slideshow about Brad Pitt’s vignette for the Hollywood special issue of The New York Times Magazine, Pitts is reported to be channeling ‘‘Peter Lorre — with a dose of Kramer.’’ I thought this odd, certainly Lorre’s trace is there, but Alex Prager, the video’s director, obviously creates an homage to David Lynch’s Eraserhead with Pitt portraying Henry (Jack Nanse). Also, Prager’s videos are included in a section titled, “Touch of Evil.” I never thought of Henry as evil. He reacts to a world gone mad in the only way that he can. He is a product of that world. Perhaps this makes him crazy, or on the other hand, he is the only sane person surrounded by oppressing madness. Regardless of Pitt’s and Prager’s motivations and inspirations, Pitt’s approximately 45 second performance is amazing. It is the only time out of Pitt’s performances when I momentarily thought that this was someone new, a fictional construct, and not simply Pitt in a different disguise.
Dishonor in the New York Times, A US Marine Suggests “Ditching” Taiwan
Paul V. Kane’s op-ed piece in the New York Times saddened me today. How could a US Marine offer Taiwan, the last vestige of a democratic China and a long-standing ally with the United States, up on the sacrificial altar of balanced budgets? How could he write not only that the US should enter into negotiations with China without involvement of the Taiwanese? What gives the US the authority to decide Taiwan’s fate? What gives a Marine the right to say that we should “ditch” an ally?
Kane is a Marine who served in Iraq. I don’t profess to know everything about the Marines, and I certainly don’t suppose that all Marines think alike. However, I do know that the Marines’s motto is Semper fidelis–Always Faithful. It is virtually the Leatherneck raison d’etre. Certainly, Marine faithfulness and honor should first be to the duties of the Marine to the US and the Corp, but it extends through our alliances to those who need our support the maintain democratic governments, especially in the face of overwhelming antagonism from the Chinese.
Shame on Kane for suggesting that we should give up on the Taiwanese people and their government. Does he forget that Taiwan’s economic powerhouse helped support the US economy through the technological revolution? He is correct that there is much economic interdependence between China and Taiwan, but much of that is anchored in the businesses and industries of Taiwan that built those bridges to the US economy. Also, would he suggest that in explicit language that we should hand over a democratic country to a Communist regime? Taiwan is certainly uppity in the eyes of the Communist elite in China–I can only imagine the severity of any takeover by the Chinese government of Taiwan. It would be swift and there would be nothing we could do to protect the Taiwanese if we gave into such an unhonorable decision as that suggested by Kane.
If we as a people support the ideas of democracy and the protection of those who endeavor to be free despite the crushing power of totalitarianism, we have to hold the course. If we waver for Taiwan or any other people who ask for our assistance to preserve their freedoms, then we will lose our honor in favor of unfaithful short-sightedness. The fact of the matter is that freedom, for ourselves or others, is not free.
I Hit the New York Times Paywall for the First Time Today, Easy to Bypass
I occasionally look to the New York Times for my daily fix of news, but today was the first time since they installed a paywall that I ran up against it (see above).
Luckily, there are ways to circumvent this. According to mashable.com readers:
While testing out the paywall Monday afternoon, Mashable readers Dmitry Beniaminov and Yuri Victor pointed out that it’s breathtakingly easy to subvert the paywall. Readers need only remove “?gwh=numbers” from the URL. They can also clear their browser caches, or switch browsers as soon as they see the subscription prompt. All three of these simple fixes will let them continue reading.
via Mashable.com here
I used the option to manually delete “?gwh=xxxxx” to continue reading on the Times today. A Safari extension that performs this function would be useful.
After a quick Google search, there is another way to bypass the paywall by hitting the “Reader” button in the URL field if you are using Safari 5 [from 9to5mac here]. This will bring up the page behind the paywall notice so that you can read it.
If anyone knows of a Safari extension that addresses this issue, please leave a comment on this post. Thanks!
You Must Read Bob Herbert’s “Losing Our Way” – NYTimes.com
Bob Herbert’s final column for the New York Times is a scathing rebuke of the decline of America at the hands of the right and the left. Herbert writes:
The U.S. has not just misplaced its priorities. When the most powerful country ever to inhabit the earth finds it so easy to plunge into the horror of warfare but almost impossible to find adequate work for its people or to properly educate its young, it has lost its way entirely. (par. 4)
Increasingly, it does seem that we have lost our way as a nation. I don’t believe that the nation is full of deluded citizens who want to shitcan our great nation, but there are the powerful elites and their corporate backers who are engaging in a money grab while the nation is distracted by ideological pedantry. There are bigger issues that need to be dealt with and gutting insignificant-by-cost social services is not the answer. The wealthy and corporations enjoy the benefits of a powerful American nation, and they should pay their fair share of the costs that maintain our country and its place in the world (read about this here). Granted, the wealthy and corporations with the advent of globalization are more capable than ever to easily transition their wealth and holdings to other places. Perhaps they don’t need America as much as American needs them, and it may be that they realize that. However, there are many of us who are not wealthy and who are steadily losing any chance of a life that can support a family and an enriched existence. It is up to us, regardless of political alignment, to realize the big picture problem of inequality in America and do something about it that transcends ideological differences. I agree with Herbert’s conclusion to “Losing Our Way”:
Overwhelming imbalances in wealth and income inevitably result in enormous imbalances of political power. So the corporations and the very wealthy continue to do well. The employment crisis never gets addressed. The wars never end. And nation-building never gets a foothold here at home.
New ideas and new leadership have seldom been more urgently needed. (par. 13-14)
Unfortunately, I don’t see anyone on the political horizon capable of leading America into a future where its people earn the benefits that they deserve. The outlook seems as bleak as the rock-tar covered scene out my office window at the Kent State library.
Stanley Fish Makes Good and Supports Academic Unions in Discussion with Walter Benn Michaels
I’m not ordinarily a fan of Stanley Fish and his editorials on The New York Times, but as he does says in his conversation with Walter Benn Michaels, we all can be wrong. I may have been too critical of Fish as he recognizes that he was wrong about the importance of unions to the university.
In the editorial, “We’re All Badgers Now,” Fish and Michaels respond to Naomi Schaefer Riley’s op-ed piece in USA Today, “Why Unions Hurt Higher Education.” They examine the reasons why unions are needed today more than ever: universities are increasingly becoming corporatized, faculty and researchers have less say in the operation of the university, and the university is increasingly made subservient to political forces rather than a place to challenge and critique all positions as part of its pedagogical mission. Perhaps more importantly, they diagram the discourse of the right that purposefully confuses job performance with academic independence, negligence with radicalism. This is recommended reading: Lessons From Wisconsin About Unions and Higher Education – NYTimes.com.
New York Times Launches Paywall At End of March 2011
The New York Times announced today that they will enable a paywall on March 28, 2011. In the scheme, casual readers who access few than 20 articles per month will be able to do so without charge (is this enforced by cookies or login, how well can this be enforced?). Beyond the 20 article threshold, they will require payment of $15-$35 per month:
Beginning March 28, visitors to NYTimes.com will be able to read 20 articles a month without paying, a limit that company executives said was intended to draw in subscription revenue from the most loyal readers while not driving away the casual visitors who make up the vast majority of the site’s traffic.
Once readers click on their 21st article, they will have the option of buying one of three digital news packages — $15 every four weeks for access to the Web site and a mobile phone app; $20 for Web access and an iPad app; and $35 for an all-access plan.
All subscribers who receive the paper through home delivery will have free and unlimited access across all Times digital platforms except, for now, e-readers like the Amazon Kindle and the Barnes & Noble Nook. Subscribers to The International Herald Tribune, which is The Times’s global edition, will also have free digital access.
Is the New York Times and their news coverage really worth that much money?
via The New York Times to Begin Charging for Web Use on March 28 – NYTimes.com.
Call It a Reversible Coma, Not Sleep – NYTimes.com
MindHacks.com pointed me towards an interesting interview with Dr. Emery Neal Brown focusing on anesthesia and the human brain in The New York Times. Read it here: Call It a Reversible Coma, Not Sleep – NYTimes.com.
Dead Space 2 Revives Isaac Clarke – Review – NYTimes.com
The New York Times features a front page, top section video game review of Dead Space 2 (although it originally appeared on page C1 of the New York print edition). Is this heightened video game respect, or is the NY Times targeting this review to me based on my demographic information that I gave them about 10 years ago to create my premium account login?
Test-Taking Cements Knowledge Better Than Studying, Researchers Say – NYTimes.com
According to a report in The New York Times, test taking is the best method for remembering learned information. I had heard anecdotal evidence for this before, which is why my first tier writing students will have a few writing exams during the semester. This will serve two purposes: 1) My students will have additional impromptu writing practice, and 2) It will help them remember the things that we discuss, which I hope will help them write more advanced essays that fully integrate the theme of the course into their writing. Read more about the research here: Test-Taking Cements Knowledge Better Than Studying, Researchers Say – NYTimes.com.
Slicing Brains to Map Connectome in the New York Times
Ashlee Vance has an interesting piece on brain mapping through the physical thin slicing of brains in the New York Times here. It was in this article that I first read about the “connectome,” or the individual wiring of our brain:
“You are born with your genes, and they don’t change afterward,” said H. Sebastian Seung, a professor of computational neuroscience at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who is working on the computer side of connectomics. “The connectome is a product of your genes and your experiences. It’s where nature meets nurture.” (par. 5)
The connectome reminds me of Greg Egan’s Diaspora or Greg Bear’s Blood Music as biological humans are converted into citizens in the former or a part of the cooperative noosphere in the latter. The brain has to be taken apart in order to recreate the individual’s memories and ways of thinking as a disembodied intelligence.
What does a life of science fiction thinking, writing, and discourse do to one’s connectome?
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