Saturday, April 16, 2005

The Sex Party

TtwbC points to the Sex Party, in British Columbia. Here's the link.

You might think they don't have political skills. But in fact there is some history of sex and politics. If nothing else, you could get the Johnson treatment, which is always satisfying.

Almost Unbelievable

Steven Taylor updates the "Your Conference Got Punk'd!" post.

I find this a little hard to believe. Did they really not look at the paper? I would be interested to know what the acceptance rate at that conference is.

Now, this could easily happen at the American Political Science Association meetings, but I am surprised it happened at the World Multiconference on Systemics, Cybernetics and Informatics (WMSCI).

Actually, no I'm not. Reading the story in Reuters, I can see it. Yikes.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Cuba: World's Only Democracy

I love Whacking Day. I do.

And here, for example, is why.

Anyone with this self-description can be counted on for some truly splenetic prose.

Green Light!

Wow. I have always thought it was true, but now it is confirmed by F.I.R.E.

Duke University is listed as a "green light" university. Which means:

"Green light" institutions are those colleges and universities whose policies nominally protect free speech. We say "nominally" because our assessment is based solely on the published policies, not on the actual implementation of those policies. Some colleges disregard their own policies in practice or use them in unreasonable ways. A green light assessment does not mean that administrators on a given campus respect free speech—only that the university's policies do.

My experience is that our administrators do, too. Respect free speech, I mean.
(Sure, there was that Larry Moneta thing with the water buffalo, but that was when he was at UPenn...)

What did I say? What did I say?

Excerpt from a recent article in the Chronicle of Higher Ed appears here.

A shorter excerpt:
One morning a few weeks back, David A. Sandoval was sitting in his office at Colorado State University at Pueblo and speaking to a local reporter on the telephone. The reporter had called to get the Chicano-studies professor's opinion on Ward Churchill, the University of Colorado at Boulder professor who had recently tripped the switch of national outrage by calling the victims of the World Trade Center bombings "little Eichmanns."
In the firebrand's defense, Mr. Sandoval offered the standard-issue rhetoric of academic freedom: Mr. Churchill's words were hurtful and terrible, yes, but it was nonetheless "appropriate for him to raise the issues" as a university professor. However, with the reporter's next question, the conversation dropped abruptly from the rhetorical sphere.
Can you think of any circumstances, the reporter asked, where a professor's speech would constitute a firing offense?
"Yeah," said Mr. Sandoval, "I would pull professor Dan Forsyth from the classroom in a second."
With that, yet another investigation of a professor was set into motion, one that would follow a pattern that is fast becoming typical. In the shadow of the Ward Churchill controversy, the past several weeks have seen a flurry of verdicts handed down from ad hoc investigative committees -- some of them the result of proceedings lasting years; some spurred by complaints made against professors in recent months; all of them vying for the same awkward balance between defending academic freedom and demonstrating public accountability.
In some precincts of the debate over academic freedom, commentators say these investigations are just a natural outgrowth of scholarly debate -- an honest effort to get to the bottom of things. Others contend these are not really investigations, but inquisitions.

If you read the story, you find that Ward Churchill wrote some controversial (okay, insulting and stupid) stuff, and Dan Forsyth said some controversial (again, insulting and stupid) stuff to students in his class.

To me, that makes a world of difference. You can write anything you want, because of academic freedom. That doesn't mean it's good, or should be rewarded with tenure (do you hear me, U of Col?), but universities simply cannot punish profs for anything they write. Nothing. Ward Churchill, you go, girl. the classroom? C'mon. Dan, Dan, Dan: If the claims are true, and you really said to students what it is claimed you said, you deserve to be punished. Not because you said stuff that was wrong (no truth squads patrolling the hallways, please), but because you are a terrible teacher.

I share F.I.R.E.'s concern about investigations becoming witch hunts. We have a non-partisan concern about political correctness of the left or the right exerting a chilling effect on academic discourse.

But you can't direct racist harangues at students. You can't do that. Here is the money quote from the Chronicle article:

It just so happened that, shortly before the phone rang with the reporter's call, a student had come to Mr. Sandoval's office to discuss a class she had attended the day before -- taught by Dan W. Forsyth, an anthropology professor at Pueblo. The student, a Chicana freshman named Victoria Watson, had brought with her a written complaint that described the last few minutes of the class, when she said Mr. Forsyth ranted about "lazy, bitter Mexicans." Ms. Watson then wrote that, when she moved to exit the classroom before the end of her professor's tirade, Mr. Forsyth yelled "screw you."

I don't think this happens very often. I also think that it is more likely to happen with profs on the extreme left, and there are plenty in the academy. But if I...if we...don't all decry this kind of teaching, there is no credibility in the defense of the real academic freedoms. To my mind, profs have much greater responsibilities to civility and moderation in the classroom than they do in the written page. Dan Forsyth, shame on you, man.

Longer excerpt


(nod to TtwbC: thanks!)

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Sometimes, You have to Laugh

And this is one of those times.

AlRetPunkGang: good on ya!

Could They be More Confused?

There is a big problem at games at Fenway: not enough parking. Not nearly enough.

So, prices to park are really high.

What do the geniuses who "control" prices do? They establish parking lot rent controls, so the prices won't be so high!


Mayor Thomas M. Menino is planning to crack down on sky high prices at private parking lots around Fenway Park, saying he will seek authority to cap fees and stop what he called the gouging.
''Someone came up to me and said, 'I just paid $100 to park,' " said Menino, who attended the Red Sox home opener Monday. ''I blew my top."
Menino said he will seek City Council approval for an ordinance to cap private parking fees, the exact rate to be determined after a meeting with the lot operators later this week.
''We are going to come up with a strategy to make sure this doesn't happen in the future," Menino said. ''My goal is to have control over the fees. This may be the market, but it's not right."
Game-day parking has long been a big-money issue near Fenway Park, where hand-lettered signs line the streets, and attendants herd vehicles into just about every available space, typically charging large fees. Gas stations, some retail centers, and a hotel dedicate spaces to fans for the day. During last fall's playoffs, Menino appealed to the operators of 23 city-licensed private lots, some of whom were charging $80 or more, asking them to voluntarily lower rates.

This means that there will be (a) more parking available, or (b) less parking available, or (c) prices have no impact on behavior, and greedy people suck. The mayor either believes (c) is correct, or he is an amazingly good liar. Me? I'm pretty sure the answer is (b), so more people will park illegally. Wait....that means the city gets more revenue from those pirates dressed as tow truck drivers: "Shiver me timbers! I be gonna tow yer caRRRRRRRRR!" Now I understand the mayor's game: he wants to be the only gouger in town!


Nod to MWT, who should know better than to forward me stuff that pisses me off this much. I am going down the hall now to put him over the turnbuckle. I'm thinking of an "Airplane Spin Toss, Face First."

Review of Caeser and Cleopatra


The new Playmakers production of George Bernard Shaw's play, "Caesar and Cleopatra" is a comedy with a tragic heart: Rulers are a living sacrifice. The best rulers sacrifice themselves completely, and know that is what they are doing. That self-awareness is their crippling flaw, and their signal virtue.

I liked this production a lot, more than I expected to like it, in fact. A Shaw script always plays out on several levels. It can be tiring, but this production works well. Still, imagine a costumed clown, shrieking a song in falsetto and juggling chain saws.standing in front of Michelangelo's "David." If all you look at is the clown, and the chain saws, you'll miss the art. Shaw's plays require some attention.

Because appearances can be deceiving. Caesar is one of history's most famous rulers. But he was also famous for one of history's worst comb-overs, trying to pull a few scraggly hairs over his bald spot in hopes some of them might take root and grow. The Roman historian Suetonius wrote of Caesar: He was embarrassed by his baldness, which was a frequent subject of jokes on the part of his opponents; so much so that he used to comb his straggling locks forward from the back, and of all honours heaped upon him by senate and people, the one he most appreciated was to be able to wear a wreath at all times. Shaw includes a joke about the baldness, and wreath, and a dozen other barbed comedic touches. It will make you laugh.

The basic setting of the play, Caesar's meeting and initiation of the young Cleopatra into the rigors and rituals of ruling a nation, are easily understood. But I was reminded, particularly in this production and under David Hammond's direction, of another play by Shaw. That
other play is also about an older man transforming a young woman. In fact, Caesar and Cleopatra (written in 1901) presages several of the themes we see 15 years later in Shaw's "Pygmalion." But there is something deeper, and a little darker, in Caesar and Cleopatra.
We first meet Caesar before the Sphinx, or what he thinks is the Sphinx. Thinking he is alone, he tells the Sphinx of his wandering. He had found flocks and pastures, men and cities, but no other Caesar:

"... no man kindred to me, none who can do my day's deed, and think my night's thought.

As a ruler, he is always utterly alone. I was reminded of Eisenhower's famous words to the incoming President Kennedy in 1961: "No easy matters will ever come to you ... If they're easy they will be settled at a lower level." Shakespeare had Henry IV say it more simply: "Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown."

Into this ruler's reverie slips Cleopatra. In her, Caesar finds his Liza Doolittle, a girl with no more sense of power politics than if she were the royal housecat. He begins to remake her, to show her her own power as a ruler. Almost immediately, she begins to bloom, saying, "Oh, I love you for making me a Queen"

But she learns, quickly, that for a real Queen, old pastimes no longer satisfy. She rebukes her serving maids. The giggling girls do not realize how much they reveal of themselves because Cleopatra, following Caesar's lead, does not bid them be silent as once she would have done. She promises them, and herself: "You laugh; but take care, take care. I will find out some day how to make myself served as Caesar is served.

Later, as she is speaking to the eunuch Pothinas, we learn how much she has been transformed, from girl to queen. He is surprised, and cowed, by her new-found power, and self­knowledge. In one key passage, she realizes that she could govern, even if Caesar left: "for what Caesar is to me, I am to the fools around me. Pothinus says this is just the vanity of youth, but Cleopatra corrects him: "No, no: it is not that I am so clever, but that the others are so stupid."

Pothinus responds: "Truly, that is the great secret."

So, Shaw has introduced us, with remarkable deftness, to the great paradox of leadership: rulers aren't clever, but the others are so stupid. And the stupidity is feigned: we want our leaders to be our betters, and we pretend that they are. Shaw subtly invokes Machiavelli: Cleopatra must sacrifice a part of her soul, and all of her youth. The State must survive, and be ruled. The consequences are secondary, human frailties are beside the point.

At the end of the play, a murder is committed. Caesar has seemed to argue for justice, for its own sake, but in the end Caesar reveals himself, speaking to the murderer: had you set yourself in the seat of the judge, and with hateful ceremonies and appeals to the gods handed that woman over to some hired executioner to be slain before the people in the name of justice, never again would I have touched your hand without a shudder. But this was natural slaying: I feel no horror at it.

The ruler must do what needs to be done, not because it is right, but because it is needful.
The entire cast is strong, though I thought that Christopher Coucill's Caesar outshone the rest. It is a difficult role, requiring a strength and confidence that must be felt, not just acted. Because, in the end, Cleopatra must be sincerely transformed by Caesar's example.

His work is done, and he can leave, confident that Egypt is secure, and well-ruled. We know, of course, that he is returning to face the Brutal dagger, in the Senate chamber.

Cleopatra will never be the same, however, for now she has vision: "When I was foolish, I did what I liked, except when Ftatateeta beat me; and even then I cheated her and did it by stealth. Now that Caesar has made me wise, it is no use my liking or disliking; I do what must be done, and have no time to attend to myself. That is not happiness; but it is greatness."

Shaw's Caesar and Cleopatra gives us both happiness and greatness. This last comedic installment of the Playmakers' season-long meditation on the burdens of ruling others, and ruling ourselves, is well worth seeing.