Wednesday, December 20, 2006

The Carl Sagan Blog-a-thon Meta-Post

Today is the tenth anniversary of Carl Sagan's passing, and as I promised in my original announcement, here is my promised meta-post for the Carl Sagan Memorial Blog-a-Thon with a gigantic list of participating blog posts.

I've been overwhelmed by the sheer volume of responses, so it's still incomplete. While I will be updating this list repeatedly, if I've missed your post, you can email or post a comment. Also, note that it's fine to post after the 20th.

Sagan's wife and collaborator Ann Druyan has started off her new blog today with the post Ten Times Around The Sun Without Carl, while his son Nick Sagan has posted his memories of his dad and his official blog-a-thon welcome following his posts here, here, here, and here. And Louis Friedman, who along with Sagan was one of the founders of the Planetary Society, has posted his memories of Sagan at the Planetary Society Blog.

The new website Celebrating Sagan has gathered a staggering amount of material. It's focused on user contributions, which may be useful if you don't have a blog but have something to say.

The blog-a-thon has been covered at The Ithaca Journal, Cornell's Chronicle Online, MSNBC, USA Today, The Syracuse Post-Standard, and China News Daily.

I've posted my own memories of Stephen Jay Gould.

A big thanks to everybody who participated! Also, thanks to Hell on Frisco Bay for providing the inspiration and model for this blog-a-thon, with a blog-a-thon for the centennial of the birth of Warner Bros. animator Friz Freleng here and here.

And now, the big list:
  1. Action Skeptics
  2. agnostic oracle
  3. Airminded
  4. Alan Boyle @ Cosmic Log
  5. all about nothing
  6. amazing adventures of a Mexican lost in the UK
  7. Angry Chad
  8. Anonymous Blogger
  9. Another Monkey
  10. archaeology.about.com
  11. astropoet
  12. The Atari Thief
  13. The Atheist Experience
  14. AXINAR
  15. B and B
  16. The Bean Mines
  17. Bill Humphries @ More Like This WebLog
  18. A Blog Around the Clock
  19. Blogging Brande
  20. Blogsam and Jetsam
  21. Bob Glickstein @ gee bobg
  22. bodhisattva mama
  23. bOING bOING
  24. Bondknowledge
  25. box of nailsannouncement
  26. Bram Boroson
  27. Bread and Circuses
  28. Brent Rasmussen @ Unscrewing the Inscrutable
  29. Brian Fies @ Mom's Cancer Blog
  30. Brian Flemming
  31. Brianna @ Random Access Babble
  32. Byzantium's Shores
  33. candleblog
  34. Carbonfish
  35. Categorical Aperitif
  36. Centauri Dreams
  37. Chiva Congelado @ Try not. Do or do not. There is no try.
  38. Chris Darwin @ CAS News
  39. Chris Hallquist @ The Uncredible Hallq
  40. Cigarettes and Coffee
  41. Clinky the Boy Robot
  42. Cocktail Party Physics
  43. cognitive dissident
  44. Comics Comics
  45. Cornell Mushroom Blog
  46. Cosmic Log
  47. Cowboy Office: Look Again at that Dot
  48. Coyote Mercury
  49. Cumbrian Sky
  50. Daniel Fischer
  51. Darwin's Dagger: The Dragon in My Garage
  52. dr. dave @ second order approximation...
  53. Dave Pearson @ davep's astronomy
  54. DeafScribe
  55. Dean W. Armstrong
  56. Decrepit Old Fool
  57. Deep Sea News
  58. De Magno Opere
  59. Denise @ Fast Times at Homeschool High
  60. Dick Stafford @ Dick's Rocket Dungeonannouncement
  61. DocBug
  62. Donald Ritchie @ blather blog
  63. dr. dave @ second order approximation...
  64. DrunkenFist.com
  65. Dubhsidhe Studios
  66. Elayne Riggs
  67. Eric Baerren @ among the trees
  68. The Esoteric Science Resource Center: here, here, and here
  69. Essentialsaltes
  70. The Evil Eyebrow
  71. Ex Patria
  72. Extended Phenotype here, here, and here
  73. forcarl
  74. Frank Wu
  75. Freyburg
  76. Full Frontal Skepticism
  77. Garrett Fitzgerald
  78. geek counterpoint
  79. Getting Things Done in Academia
  80. Glen McKay @ Skeptic in Qatar
  81. the gookins dot net
  82. Govar; also pre-blog-a-thon here
  83. The Greenbelt
  84. Hal Rager @ blivet 2.0
  85. Hanging By My Tale: Sagan in 100, non-repeated words
  86. Hate Life, Will Travel
  87. Hemant Mehta @ Friendly Atheist: interview with Jerry Lieberman about the Carl Sagan Academyannouncement
  88. Hoshichan
  89. Humanaturalism
  90. hyper-textual ontology
  91. The Indigestible
  92. It's All Just a Bunch of Rhubarb
  93. Ivory Sanctuary
  94. J. Alan Erwine
  95. James Curbo's Weblog
  96. James Hrynyshyn @ The Island of Doubt
  97. James Nicoll
  98. Jane Shevtsov @ Perceiving Wholes
  99. jason @ xenogere
  100. Jason Bennion @ Simple Tricks and Nonsense
  101. Javier Pazos @ The Science Pundit
  102. J. Carter Wood @ Obscene Desserts
  103. Jeff Clark @ Neoformix
  104. Jessica Beagan @ Icon
  105. Jewish Atheist
  106. Joe Decker @ Pictures at an Exhibitionist
  107. Joe Shelby @ Dude! Joe's Jottings, Mostly Junk
  108. John J. McKay
  109. John Pieret @ Thoughts in a Haystack
  110. John Pritzlaff
  111. John Scalzi @ Whatever
  112. jokermage
  113. Jonathan Korman @ Miniver Cheevy
  114. Joseph Bloch @ Posthumanity Rising
  115. Joseph Von Hoven @ Complicated Visionary
  116. JTony.Com
  117. Kali Amanda Browne @ Kali's Temple of Doom: here and here
  118. Kat Minnaar
  119. Kellie Hazell @ Me, My Muse, and Iannouncement
  120. Kelly Garbato
  121. Ke Nan (author of the China News Daily story)
  122. The Kentucky Mountain Girl News
  123. Kevin @ The Public Me
  124. Kevin Doxstater @ Natural Visions here and here
  125. Kip Esquire @ A Stitch in Haste
  126. knobody
  127. Kratzen vom Rathaus
  128. Kuwaiti Demon
  129. Lars J. Nilsson @ The Ironism
  130. the last visible blog
  131. Laura Woodmansee
  132. Laurel & Hardy
  133. Laurence A. Moran @ Sandwalk
  134. Lauren McLaughlin @ Liquid Logic
  135. Lean Left
  136. LoLife
  137. The Lone Raver
  138. Lost in Translation
  139. Lunar Obverse here, here, here, and here
  140. man descending
  141. Marva Dasef
  142. Matt Arnold
  143. Matt Dinniman @ Fireflies in the Cloud
  144. Matt Dowling @ Ontogeny
  145. Matt Metcalf @ Sufficiently Advanced
  146. Melinda Wenner @ She Blinded Me With Science!
  147. Merrie Haskell @ A Writer's Paradise
  148. Mez @ Hello Cruel World
  149. Michael Hiebert @ my new cardboard box
  150. Middle America Progressive
  151. Migrations
  152. Morrow Planet
  153. Mostly Dogs
  154. Musical Perceptions
  155. Music of the Spheres
  156. Neil McDonnell @ Neil's Comments
  157. NetCogito
  158. The Neurophilosopher’s weblog
  159. Nik's Saga
  160. No More Mr. Nice Guy
  161. Ouroboros
  162. Paper Cranium
  163. Paul Fidalgo , mirrored here
  164. Paul Levinson here and here
  165. Paul Vallee
  166. Perfect Duluth Day
  167. Phil Plait @ Bad Astronomy Blog: What I Learned from Carl Saganannouncement
  168. Phil Smith @ Astrazoic
  169. Physics Blog
  170. pinstripe_bindi
  171. Podcasting News
  172. Purpletigron
  173. P. Z. Myers @ Pharyngula
  174. Quartz City
  175. randall
  176. red right hand
  177. Respectful Insolence; also Carl Sagan Skeptic's Circle
  178. Rich Blundell @ Omniscopic
  179. Ritchie Annand @ Output Stream of Consciousness
  180. Robespierre @ Plantimal Express
  181. Ruben Martinez @ Automatic human behavior
  182. Sam Harrelson
  183. ScienceBase
  184. Seed Magazine's Daily Zeitgeist
  185. ShanMonster
  186. Shaun Cronin @ Larvatus Prodeo
  187. Silmaril
  188. skepchick
  189. Skeptic Friends Network forum thread
  190. Slacker Astronomy
  191. The SpaceWriter
  192. Stephen Frug @ Attempts
  193. Steve Gimbel @ Philosophers' Playground
  194. Steve Lacey @ Random Thoughts
  195. Steve Novoselac
  196. Summer Snow
  197. Susan A. Kitchens @ 2020 Hindsight
  198. Swank Chambers
  199. Sylvain Duford
  200. Tangled Up In Blue Guy
  201. Teacher Dude
  202. Things I Find Important
  203. ThinkingMeat
  204. Thomas Fortenberry
  205. Thomma Lyn @ Tennessee Text Wrestling here, here, and here
  206. Thy Fearful Symmetry
  207. timeladyannouncement
  208. TimeTunnel
  209. Tits McGee
  210. Tobias Buckell here and here
  211. Today in Alternate History
  212. too many tribbles
  213. too much time on his hands...
  214. t3knomanser
  215. Universe Today
  216. Wandering Space
  217. Wilfred Drew @ Baby Boomer Librarian
  218. Wil Wheaton
  219. Wis[s]e Words
  220. witches and scientists here and here
  221. wongaBlog
  222. Yet another timesink
  223. Zeno @ Halfway There: The Unknown Sagan, also here
  224. Zeolite @ Blurp

Posts in other languages:

Catalan
  1. El friki català
Chinese
  1. Remainder Book
Danish
  1. codegirl.ck
Dutch
  1. Astroblogs
  2. Tomaso @ de Volkskrant
  3. Sereniteit
French
  1. L'Agence Science-Presse
  2. Culture des futurs
German
  1. andy69
Italian
  1. Amedeo Balbi @ Keplero
Portugese
  1. O Bule Orbital
  2. Helder Sanches
  3. A Lâmpada Mágica
  4. Liberdade na era tecnológica
  5. Olho e meio
  6. Que Treta / That's BS! (Portugese and English)
  7. Random Precision
  8. Roberto Tietzmann @ Bloquinho de notas
Russian
  1. Клуб научных журналистов
Spanish
  1. AutomaticJack
  2. La Biblioteca de Babel
  3. big logger
  4. Ciencia de bolsillo
  5. Culo de Mal Asiento
  6. El contemplador azul
  7. David Garcia Perez
  8. En la Espera
  9. La Habitacion Cerrada
  10. Mendigo
  11. El paraíso de los gansos
  12. Por la Boca Muere el Pez
  13. pospost
  14. Punto Tecnologico
  15. Quiero mi Bocadillo
  16. Refugio Antiaéreo
  17. RomRod
  18. TauZero
  19. Tierra Chunga
  20. trackrecord
  21. Zooglea

Monday, December 18, 2006

Stephen Jay Gould

Recently, I found out that some choice Stephen Jay Gould essays from The New York Review of Books are free online at the magazine's website (hat tip to 2xSlick on the agony booth forum). One is the first Gould essay I ever read, "Dinomania" (1993, also in the then-new collection Dinosaur in a Haystack), where he deals with the Jurassic Park phenomenon, and in particular takes the movie version to task dumbing down some of the themes of the book. Another is "The Streak of Streaks" (1988, also in the collection Bully for Brontosaurus) about Joe DiMaggio's hitting record, with Gould's memorable account of his personal encounter with his sports hero when his father caught a ball from DiMaggio.

So, to complement the many bloggers who are posting anecdotes and memories of Sagan for the Sagan blog-a-thon, I'll describe my own memories of meeting with Sagan's friend and fellow science writer Gould, who also died far too young (Sagan would be 72 today, Gould 65).

The time was fall 2000, when I was entering my first semester at NYU and Gould's essay column was still running every month in Natural History magazine. Like Gould's father catching DiMaggio's baseball, I had the unexpected luck of getting into Gould's class "Reading Darwin". During that semester, he had decided to try something different and teach a class for freshmen, with a small class size and a discussion-oriented format, about The Origin of Species which would deal with the literary and historical as well as the scientific aspect of Darwin's book. Even more unusual was that a few of the classes were held at his apartment in SoHo, which was also the studio of his wife, artist Rhonda Roland Shearer.

In addition to reading Origin chapter-by-chapter and discussing it, students had to write a term paper that dealt with some issue connected to the book. For my paper, I compared the theory of evolution as developed in Origin to the nascent field of artificial life, in which the evolutionary process is simulated on computers; I used Steven Levy's pre-iPod-era book about the field, Artificial Life: A Report from the Frontier Where Computers Meet Biology. I hoped to show that not only was the approach of computational simulation a valid way of learning about evolution, but that it could fill in some of the weaknesses of the theory of Darwin's book. Gould had some fun with his comments on the paper; for instance, when I inadvertently used the word "good" three times in a few sentences, he quipped "too much of a good thing".

I never saw Gould after the class; I thought I might, never suspecting he'd be with us for less than two more years.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Sagan stuff that isn't on the web

I realized I should complement this list with one of notable current Sagan stuff that isn't online.

The big news is the new book The Varieties of Scientific Experience, based on rediscovered transcripts of Sagan's 1985 Gifford Lectures edited by Ann Druyan.

Look for Sagan stuff in the latest issues of The Planetary Report and Skeptical Inquirer.

On the 20th, there will be a memorial dinner in Dallas, Texas.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Sagan stuff from around the web

As inspiration for your blog-a-thon post, here's a collection of cool stuff related to Carl Sagan that's available online.

A 1994 CSICOP keynote by Sagan on Point of Inquiry, together with a new interview with Ann Druyan. A transcript of the keynote's Q&A session was rediscovered and published in Skeptical Inquirer magazine in 2005.

Ann Druyan also discusses Carl in an interview by Skeptic magazine's Michael Shermer.

A NASA video of a 1972 panel on extraterrestrial life, also featuring Ashley Montagu.

Carl Sagan on Charlie Rose in 1995 and 1996.

Carl Sagan on MySpace.

The website and blog of Carl's son, science fiction writer Nick Sagan.

The website of Don Davis, space artist who illustrated such Sagan works as Cosmos and The Dragons of Eden; including his memories of Sagan.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Announcing the Carl Sagan memorial blog-a-thon

Next month, December 20, 2006 will mark the tenth anniversary Carl Sagan's passing. In his honor, I am organizing a special memorial "blog-a-thon" among Sagan's fans throughout the blogosphere. If you're a Sagan fan with a blog, you can participate by posting something related to him on or near that date. Read or reread a Sagan book and review it; discuss cool things that you've done that's been influenced by him; pontificate on one of the many topics he treated (SETI, astronomy, critical thinking, the history of science, human intelligence....), or post about something completely surprising. Contact me by email or by leaving a comment, and then when the date approaches, I will create a meta-post that links to all the stuff people are doing, providing a network of the participating bloggers.

A list of Sagan stuff online that may be a source of ideas.

Carl's son Nick Sagan on the blog-a-thon.

Publicity for the blog-a-thon includes Cornell University's Chronicle Online, The Ithaca Journal, digg, bOING bOING, and countless blogs. Welcome, everybody, and thanks to all who have publicized it!

See also another very cool new project, Celebrating Sagan; if you're not a blogger, you can contribute your memories and stuff via email.

Update: the meta-post is here!

r. i. p. science fiction's searching mind, Jack Williamson

Two weeks ago, one of the great classic writers of science fiction passed away: Jack Williamson. His famously long career spanned from the Gernsbackian beginnings of the modern genre in 1928 to a final novel, The Stonehenge Gate, published in 2005, and was already a nonagenarian when I started reading him in the late 1990s.

I've enjoyed a great deal of his science fiction, which is always marked by a sense of adventure and imagination. The early The Green Girl sends its heroes beneath the sea in a Verne-inspired "omnimobile". The Legion of Space and its sequel The Cometeers were some of the most entertaining of the early "space operas". The dystopian "With Folded Hands" and the subsequent The Humanoids contain a famous treatment of robots which was influential on both the field and actual AI researchers like Marvin Minsky. Hal Clement thought that The Legion of Time was "the best time travel story ever written"; not only was its treatment of alternate timelines one of the earlier ones, but the specific "war fought by time traveling soldiers from different eras" premise was taken in a very different direction by Fritz Leiber in The Big Time and related stories about the "Change War". While he was one of the first science fiction writers to treat the theme of cloning (he mentions his 1954 "Guinivere for Everybody" as being one of the earliest examples), he did a little cloning himself: in 2001, I submitted Iskandar from his 1934 Weird Tales science fantasy "The Wizard of Life" to the "clones of Fu Manchu" listing of characters inspired by the famous villain on Lawrence Knapp's definitive Fu Manchu website. His stories also inspired some memorable art, like the February 1939 Astouding Science Fiction cover that marked the debut of that magazine's frequent cover artist Hubert Rogers. And his influence also appears in nonfiction: Carl Sagan devotes a good portion of the chapter "Remaking the Planets" in Pale Blue Dot to a discussion of Williamson's 1942 tale "Collision Orbit" (which I haven't read, but which is available as part of the book Seetee Ship), as an early attempt to deal realistically with asteroid colonization and antimatter (the rhodomagnetic robots of "With Folded Hands" and The Humanoids also get a mention in Broca's Brain).

In addition to frequent appearances in multi-author anthologies (Isaac Asimov includes two Williamson tales in his anthology of personal favorites Before the Golden Age), del Rey's 1970s The Best of Jack Williamson has a nice selection of his stories, and for the fan who's devoted to truly digging in to Williamson's work, Haffner Press has a comprehensive series of collections aiming to cover his complete short stories and many of the shorter novels; five volumes have been published so far, covering Williamson's work up to mid-1940. Fittingly, the first volume, The Metal Man and Others (1999), has an introduction by another of the grand old-timers, Hal Clement — whose classic short story "Proof", about intelligent creatures from the Sun, was published in 1942; and whose final novel about a water world, Noise, came out in 2003 (I was lucky enough to see him at Readercon 14 the previous year, where he read from the then-forthcoming novel).

(via bOING bOING, which coincidentally also mentioned his late novel Terraforming Earth two months ago.)

Friday, October 13, 2006

modern school reunion

Today is the 97th anniversary of the death of Francisco Ferrer, an anarchist and freethought educational pioneer whose persecution by both church and state and execution on trumped-up charges led to outrage and an international movement to emulate his ideas.

Ferrer and other European educators wanted a "modern" approach to education based on freedom and reason, in place of the traditional one based on coercion, rote and indoctrination. Emma Goldman, who visited Sebastien Faure's French modern school La Ruche, conveys the atmosphere of the school in her description from her autobiography:
He [Faure] had taken twenty-four orphan children and those of parents too poor to pay and was housing, feeding, and clothing them at his own expense. He had created an atmosphere at La Ruche that released the life of the child from discipline and coercion of any sort. He had discarded the old methods of education and in their place he established understanding for the needs of the child, confidence and trust in its possibilities, and respect for its personality.

Not even at Cempuis, the school of the venerable libertarian Paul Robin, which I had visited in 1900, was the spirit of comradeship and co-operation between pupils and teachers so complete as at La Ruche. Robin, too, felt the need of a new approach to the child, but he still remained somewhat tied to the old text-books on education. La Ruche had freed itself also from them. The hand-painted wall-paper in the dormitory and class-rooms, picturing the life of plants, flowers, birds, and animals, had a more quickening effect on the imagination of the children than any "regular" lessons. The free grouping of the children around their teachers, listening to some story or seeking explanation for puzzling thoughts, amply made up for lack of old-fashioned instruction.
The Modern School attitude was equally hostile to the approaches of parochial and public schools; in his biography of Voltairine de Cleyre, Paul Avrich vividly describes her opinion:
She shared his hatred for the Catholic Church and its authoritarian educational methods, which they both had experienced at first hand. At the same time, she rejected the public school, which she considered an agent of government indoctrination, instilling a blind obedience and "revolting patriotism" in the minds of the children.
Of the modern schools that were founded in the United States in response to Ferrer's death, the longest-lived was the one that started in New York City in 1910; after being shut down, it moved to a newly formed utopian colony of Stelton in New Jersey in 1915, both of which lasted until 1953. This school was involved with numerous other experimental ideas, including modern art, and benefitted from the talents of many well-known people: not just anarchists like Emma Goldman and Alexander Berkman, but many distinguished artists, writers, and thinkers like Will and Ariel Durant, Mike Gold, Robert Henri, Rockwell Kent, Eugene O'Neill, and Margaret Sanger.

Far ahead of its time, the modern school movement is little known or appreciated today, with some attention from anarchists and alternative educators (but for some reason, virtually none from the freethought community).

For more information on the complex history of the movement, see Paul Avrich's definitive book on the movement, The Modern School Movement: Anarchism and Education in the United States, or the section on the Stelton colony in The Communal Experience: Anarchist and Mystical Communities in Twentieth Century America by Laurence Veysey; Emma Goldman and Voltairine de Cleyre have written powerful shorter essays about the subject. The new-to-DVD documentary Free Voice of Labor: The Jewish Anarchists also has a section about the Modern Schools.

The memory of the Stelton school and colony is kept alive by the Friends of the Modern School, many of whose members grew up at, or were otherwise personally involved with Stelton. On September 16, they held their 34th anual reunion (and the third consecutive one I've attended) at Rutgers University. While the reunion is a way for Steltonites to keep in touch, interested members of the general public are welcome to attend; many of their discussions address wider issues (I'm sorry I didn't attend in 2003, when the main talk was about the decline of the labor movement). One regular attender for more than a decade and a half has been the indefagitable Jerry Mintz, who has covered the reunions regularly in his magazine Education Revolution (and its former incarnation AERO-GRAMME); he also has available a video of his interview with the Modern School's Nellie Dick. (On the other hand, Friends secretary Jon Thoreau Scott has regularly appeared at AERO's conferences, and has presented about the Modern School there.)

Part of the meeting was devoted to remembering members of the community who had passed away in the last year, including Paul Avrich, the historian of anarchism; and Jim Dick Jr., son of Stelton directors Jim and Nellie Dick and co-founder of the Summerhill Society in the 1960s (which had a role in starting the period's free school movement by bringing the approach of A. S. Neill's Summerhill to the United States).

Barry Pateman, associate director of the Emma Goldman Papers (and editor of a number of books including Chomsky on Anarchism), gave a spirited talk on Emma Goldman's life and the vital role of the Modern School approach to her ideas. Emma was highly involved in the New York City modern school; and while her ideas about free love are relatively well known, her equally revolutionary ideas about children are not.

Also, Stelton seems to be on its way to being recognized as part of local history: not only was a marker and plaque put up last year at the site of the school in Piscataway, but it's mentioned as a historic New Jersey site in the 2006 edition of the Raritan-Millstone Heritage Alliance's Guide to Historic Sites in Central New Jersey (p. 45). Ironically, the book lists it right next to Camp Kilmer, a military camp created during WW2 next to the Stelton colony and which played a large role in its decline.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Transcript of Rushkoff ETFF Hanukkah show

My second transcript for Equal Time for Freethought is now online: from last year's Hanukkah season, Barry Seidman's holiday interview with Douglas Rushkoff.

The interview started off with a subversive look at the historical origins of Hanukkah, based on Rushkoff's treatment of the subject in his book Nothing Sacred: The Truth about Judaism. The role of circumcision led to a discussion of the modern Jewish take on the practice. The holiday also led to the issues of assimilation in general, and of Passover as another holiday which Rushkoff had an alternative take on. The touchy topic of what a humanistic secular Jew should think about the Israel situation was dealt with. Even technical difficulties were an opportunity for discussion: when noise interfered with the reception as he was discussing Passover being a de-idolization of the Egyptian gods, he said "I hear strange and exciting sounds" and "It's those gods coming back at me now". After the interview was over, Barry said, "Very interesting concepts. I was born and raised and grew up Jewish and didn't know half these things he talked about, myself."

Rushkoff on Judaism:
In some ways, I see [that] Judaism at its best is really just civilization. It's really just a set of ethics and laws and reminders that human beings should matter to one another. And you get your idols out the way, so that you can appreciate one another instead of these idols. Whether they're ancient gods, or modern gods like money and power and fame and those sort of things.
and on how his interpretation is out of sync with more traditionalistic ones:
[I]t's gotten to the point where I don't talk about Jewish issues, Judaism, as Judaism, anymore. Because current, modern Judaism as practiced, for the most part, is so antithetical to what I see as the humanism underlying Judaism that I think it's easier to do humanism as humanism. It's easier to make the world a better place without, in some cases, being so publicly affirmative of where it might have come from for me. Because other people get the opposite message from it.... I'm finding when I do a talk or an event under a Jewish banner, people in attendance generally are less willing to engage with Judaism for real, than people are if I just go speak at a Barnes & Noble or somewhere about media or culture or something else.

Monday, October 02, 2006

fall dorkbot

Last month, dorkbot-nyc got off on a roll with its first meeting after the summer hiatus.

Bret Doar showed his hybrid roboticized musical instruments including the Huffyphonic Gyrobanshee 1000, a combination of a bicycle wheel and a guitar. Jon Lippincott demonstrated Vis Virtual Universe, which displays and navigates through a surreal 3D animated solar system, which he wrote from the ground up in C++ (which fit in with my blenderheaded fascination with all things related to 3D computer graphics). David Kareve explained his exhibit which uses freaked-out crash test dummies to explore the culture of fear reinforced by the terror alert system; I was tickled to see that his presentation of the various spoofs of the terror alert system included the Sesame Street one that I've had on my blog sidebar almost since the beginning of the blog (which I got from freeman, libertarian critter):



The next day's installment of the popular video blog Rocketboom did a segment covering the meeting. For more media coverage, dorkbot's instigator Douglas Irving Repetto is featured in the recent book Makers: All Kinds of People Making Amazing Things In Garages, Basements, and Backyards by Bob Parks.

This Wednesday brings October's meeting. (In fact, I made a flyer for the meeting which just went live on the site last night, who knows whether anybody will see it).

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Barclay ETFF transcript now available

My transcript of Barry Seidman's Equal Time for Freethought interview with Harold Barclay, author of People Without Government: An Anthropology of Anarchy, is now online.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Blogroll: ReFrederator



Back in the days of VHS, one of the common items were cheap compilations of cartoons that had fallen into the public domain, and which could therefore be distributed by third party companies. (I still have a Daffy Duck videotape from 1989). Nowadays, thanks to the wonders of the Internet, it's possible to see the same cartoons online for free. Archive.org is the dean of public domain video sites, but ReFrederator is a new site that, incredibly enough, posts a new cartoon each weekday!

The cartoons include everything from old-fashioned Popeye action and Warner Bros. mischief (with looney standbys like A Corny Concerto, Pigs in a Polka, and Wackiki Wabbit) to the exploits of far more obscure characters like Flip the Frog, Molly Moo-Cow, and Willie Whopper (Ub Iwerks's studio is the most consistently entertaining of the lesser-known studios sampled).



Stylistic experimentation abounds in cartoons like The Dover Boys, Chuck Jones's pioneering 1942 foray into stylized animation that anticipates the style by a full decade, while also managing to be funny in spoofing the Victorian-era fiction of half a century earlier. (On the other hand, RF hasn't had much animation made with alternative, non-cel techniques; Ray Harryhausen's early puppet stop-motion version of Hansel and Gretel is the only stop-motion cartoon yet posted.) Propaganda ranges from the prototypical WWII piece Scrap Happy Daffy to the soft-sell milk promotion of The Sunshine Makers to the Red Scare barbs at the Soviet Union and the IWW of Alice's Egg Plant.





There are also a number of science fiction and horror entries, from the straightforward skeleton-filled haunted-house horror of Spooks and The Mad Doctor, to the techno-futurism of the Fleischer World's Fair tribute All's Fair at the Fair (complete with dancing robots!) to wild combinations of both genres, like the Willie Whopper tale Stratos Fear (in which he floats into space and encounters everything from self-decapitating birds to a Harpo Marx caricature).

Today, in the middle of an all-Popeye week, they posted a brisk 1931 jazz song about Popeye that I had pointed out to them.

Monday, September 18, 2006

ETFF makes love, not war

If you talk about the scientists who have said, "Well, we're very aggressive and we can't escape it because that's our nature", they have almost always been only looking at the male side of the human equation. — Judith Hand

In late July and throughout the month of August, Equal Time for Freethought ran an extensive and detailed four-part analysis of the origins of violence and the prospects for peace, as informed by the issues of gender, human nature, and hierarchy.

On July 30, August 6 and August 13, an epic three-part, 90-minute show aired with host Barry Seidman interviewing Judith Hand and Douglas Fry, respective authors of the intriguing books Women, Power, and the Biology of Peace and The Human Potential for Peace: An Anthropological Challenge to Assumptions about War and Violence.

Both of these authors brought to light much interesting information about the interconnection between patriarchy and violence, and pointed to, well "the human potential for peace" (hard to improve on a book with the phrase "human potential" in the title) as shown in bonobos and many startlingly low-violence, sexually-tolerant, and gender-egalitarian societies, from hunter-gatherers to a favorite example of Riane Eisler and Marija Gimbutas, the ancient Minoans — societies whose nonviolence is ignored, downplayed or denied, despite being based on firm documentation.

Oddly enough, the guests denied any particular connection between religion and violence, with Hand saying that wars are fought over resources, not beliefs — failing to make a connection even when Barry brought up the work of Hector Avalos, who in Fighting Words: The Origins Of Religious Violence has documented how religious faith can lead to a perception of increased scarcity (especially over intangible resources like "sacred space") and thus dovetails with resource-oriented explanations for warfare. As an extreme example of the degree that fundamentalist beliefs can affect a person's priorities, consider this statement by bin Laden associate Abu Jandal in a recent interview with 60 Minutes:
I have great hopes for him and pray to God that he will finish what his father was not able to finish. I pray that he will become a martyr. Frankly, I hope that my son gets killed and becomes a martyr for the sake of God Almighty. You’re sitting here, but you’re not ready to see your daughter killed for America. I, on the other hand, am ready to see my son get killed for the sake of Islam.

Also less-than-satisfying was the discussion of the role of social hierarchy and the State. For instance, they enthusiastically endorsed the idea of a Kennedyesque strong national leader leading an effort to attain peace, but it's no accident that a superficially value-free statist approach has been used for quasi-scientific, quasi-military projects like the Manhattan Project and the Apollo program. Similarly, their interest in a United Nations-type world quasi-government; such a large-scale State would be even more vulnerable to the internal, but ignored as institutionalized, violence characteristic of existing States (and documented by people like R. J. Rummel); Gene Sharp has pointed out some of the obvious problems with world government:
World government is either unrealizable, or if achieved would itself be likely to produce a world civil war, become tyrannical, and be used to impose or perpetuate injustice.
Part of this stems from a confusion between the functions of courts and government, as in this quote from Fry:
If you take this broad perspective, you realize that we have basically spent 99% of our existence as a species living in these small bands and having to get along with each other, but there's been no overarching social control. As we look at social evolution, this is come much later, when you get the development of chiefdoms and then States. That pattern you see is that when you have a State developing, the State governments usually through courts of some sort, manages to deal with conflicts within that society in a non-violent way. And we're all very familiar with this, but we don't think about it in this broader perspective; that's one of my points. One of the key gems of anthropology is it broadens our perspective. So, one of the points I'm making for how to bring about a successful adventure here into the future for humanity, is that we just simply have to take some of the conflict mechanisms that we already know about, such as courts, which work very effectively at solving disputes without violence, and apply them at a higher social level.

So this is one of the lessons that I think comes through very clearly. In other words, hunter-gatherers, if you have a dispute and it gets violent, basically two guys have to fight it out, fighting over that woman, and maybe somebody gets killed. And that's the justice of the hunter-gatherer band. If you go to a State system, you have people who make decisions and have the ability to enforce those decisions. And this is something that's good for the whole society. So at this point, by analogy, we have a global system which is not really a system at all; it's just a series of hunter-gatherer bands, if you will, by rough analogy. And we're able to keep our order within the bands fairly well, but when we come into contact with each other, there's no overarching authorities to help work out the differences.
In fact, a court or judicial system can and should exist independent of the State, and does not require a State-like power to enforce effective sanctions. Consider the concept of "polycentric law" — multiple competing court systems not backed up by a state — or this article about a Gandhiesque Indian People's Court for an example in practice.

On August 20, Barry Seidman followed up by looking at the same issues from an anarchist perspective, interviewing Harold Barclay, author of People Without Government: An Anthropology of Anarchy. Barclay was cautiously hopeful about the matter, stating that anthropology "sustains the view, at least, that anarchy is not an impossibility". In the process, he gave a harsh critique of the views of E. O. Wilson and Steven Pinker, as attempting to dismiss the role of culture in determining the possibilities of human behavior. And unlike the previous guests, Barclay was quite willing to bring up the role of organized religion:
After all, you have in ancient Mesopotamia, one of the earliest hierarchs were the priests of the religion. And they were able, therefore, by the use of their office and position, to manipulate populations, to incite them to warfare, and so forth. And this is what goes on over the last several thousand years: the appearance of a group of people who are the top of the pile, and are able, then, to control by various kinds of uses. Not just by force, but by "conning" them, if you will, into believing.
As it so happened, he was pretty dismissive of libertarianism as being simply apologism for capitalism; Barry then immediately mentioned Ayn Rand and Milton Friedman as examples of stereotypical capitalist libertarians, both of whom never claimed to be anarchist in the first place.

Unfortunately, the anarchy didn't last long: the very next week, Esther Kaplan's interview featured a rant about how the Religious Right's seeking-out of massive new federal subsidies, to the tune of tens of millions of dollars at a time, is actually part of a dastardly "plan to defund the Federal government":
It's part of a long-time conservative plan to defund the Federal government. Not, of course, the military wing of the federal government and not the ability of the federal government to give away corporate largesse, but certainly the social service function of the government. And the more that you defund the publik skools, the more that you defund Medicaid, or de-fund veterans' hospitals, or defund social programs, or defund road or subway repair, the more that public service begins to seem shoddy and inadequate, because now, the schools are overcrowded; now, the subways are not functioning and they're late, and now the social services are inadequate and crowded. And so you create a self-fulfilling prophecy where government no longer deserves to be funded because it can't run its social services correctly.

So then, you punt off that role to the private sector. Things like the faith-based initiative are transition moments where you're giving that federal money to the faith-based groups, but then you can simply at some point defund that as well, and you've kind of gone back to another era, where poor people, unemployed people, people injured on the job, et cetera, et cetera, people slammed by disasters like Katrina can no longer turn to the federal government, where the federal government has reneged on that role, and therefore they can only turn to charity. It was a brutal world when that was the case, and that's certainly where the conservatives who are running our government right now would like to see things return to.

But the fuzzy "social" programs that liberals love have always been tied up with militarism and corporatism, as well as the destruction of the organizations of mutual aid and self-help among the poor. And contrary to the idea that the only thing wrong with publik services is that they're underfunded and overcrowded (perhaps the only problem that could be cured by infusions of money), I think that Will Rogers got it right when he quipped, "It's a good thing we don't get all the government we pay for."

What's more, after a visit to Kaplan's website, I found that back in January 2002, Kaplan had written a Village Voice article "Keepers of the Flame" (which I had remembered, but not that she was the author), which portrayed the anarchist antiwar protesters in a very fair manner, especially in the hysterical post-9/11 atmosphere. But it's actually no surprise; "anarchists" who aren't all that separate from the "progressive" mainstream left are indeed horrified at the thought that people "can no longer turn to the federal government" and "can only turn to charity". As Ken Knudson said:
Now most anarchists when they attack capitalism strike it where it is strongest: in its advocacy of freedom. And how paradoxical that is. Here we have the anarchists, champions of freedom par excellence, complaining about freedom! How ridiculous, it seems to me, to find anarchists attacking Mr. Heath for withdrawing government subsidies from museums and children's milk programmes. When anarchists start screaming for free museums, free milk, free subways, free medical care, free education, etc., etc., they only show their ignorance of what freedom really is. All these "free" goodies which governments so graciously shower upon their subjects ultimately come from the recipients themselves — in the form of taxes.

So after you've read all my long-winded commentary, the shows themselves:
  • Douglas Fry & Judith Hand, part 1: MP3 WMA
  • Douglas Fry & Judith Hand, part 2: MP3 WMA
  • Douglas Fry & Judith Hand, part 3: MP3 WMA
  • Harold Barclay: MP3 WMA

Saturday, September 16, 2006

New Fu frames



Since its debut in the early days of the Web in 1997, Lawrence Knapp's Page of Fu Manchu has been the definitive Internet resource about Sax Rohmer's classic villain, charting Fu's influence, incarnations, and imitators. The site has just posted some screen captures I made of Fu Manchu's "cameo" in the Warner Bros. cartoon Have You Got Any Castles (1938) (thanks to ReFrederator for posting a nice print of the public domain cartoon online), as well as expanding its description of the appearance. Way back in 2001, I also contributed to the site's list of "clones" of Fu Manchu, the Fu-in-all-but-name in question being Iskandar from Jack Williamson's science fiction fantasy The Wizard of Life (1934).

Friday, September 08, 2006

Oscar Wilde on pain, pleasure and Christianity

A passage which deserves to be better known, from Oscar Wilde's famous essay The Soul of Man Under Socialism:
Shallow speakers and shallow thinkers in pulpits and on platforms often talk about the world's worship of pleasure, and whine against it. But it is rarely in the world's history that its ideal has been one of joy and beauty. The worship of pain has far more often dominated the world. Mediaevalism, with its saints and martyrs, its love of self-torture, its wild passion for wounding itself, its gashing with knives, and its whipping with rods – Mediaevalism is real Christianity, and the mediaeval Christ is the real Christ. When the Renaissance dawned upon the world, and brought with it the new ideals of the beauty of life and the joy of living, men could not understand Christ. Even Art shows us that. The painters of the Renaissance drew Christ as a little boy playing with another boy in a palace or a garden, or lying back in His mother's arms, smiling at her, or at a flower, or at a bright bird; or as a noble, stately figure moving nobly through the world; or as a wonderful figure rising in a sort of ecstasy from death to life. Even when they drew Him crucified, they drew Him as a beautiful God on whom evil men had inflicted suffering. But He did not preoccupy them much. What delighted them was to paint the men and women whom they admired, and to show the loveliness of this lovely earth. They painted many religious pictures; in fact, they painted far too many, and the monotony of type and motive is wearisome and was bad for art. It was the result of the authority of the public in art matters, and it is to be deplored. But their soul was not in the subject. Raphael was a great artist when he painted his portrait of the Pope. When he painted his Madonnas and infant Christs, he is not a great artist at all. Christ had no message for the Renaissance, which was wonderful because it brought an ideal at variance with His, and to find the presentation of the real Christ we must go to mediaeval art. There He is one maimed and marred; one who is not comely to look on, because Beauty is a joy; one who is not in fair raiment, because that may be a joy also: He is a beggar who has a marvellous soul; He is a leper whose soul is divine; He needs neither property nor health; He is a God realising His perfection through pain....

Pain is not the ultimate mode of perfection. It is merely provisional and a protest. It has reference to wrong, unhealthy, unjust surroundings. When the wrong, and the disease, and the injustice are removed, it will have no further place. It will have done its work. It was a great work, but it is almost over. Its sphere lessens every day....

Pleasure is Nature's test, her sign of approval. When man is happy, he is in harmony with himself and his environment.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

r. i. p. Murray Bookchin

Following Paul Avrich in February, another major figure in the anarchist movement, Murray Bookchin, passed away last month.

Reason's Jesse Walker has posted an RIP, which also discusses the interactions between Bookchin and libertarianism. Like many individuals on the left and right (Ronald Radosh comes to mind), Bookchin was willing for a period to ally with libertarians, which he later downplayed when he became more dismissive of libertarianism. To illustrate this, Walker has an amusing side-by-side analysis of Bookchin with libertarianism's Murray Rothbard, with whom he at one point collaborated on something called the Left-Right Anarchist Supper Club, but he later dismissed him as an advocate of "naked greed" with "repulsive" ideas.

I wasn't particularly familiar with Bookchin's stuff or his "social ecology" philosophy of eco-anarchism, but I've read a few bits. His famous New Left rant "Listen, Marxist!" was a critique of the influence of old-school Marxist factions like the PLP (Progressive Labor Party) in SDS, and the waning of the Old Left in general ("Marxists lean on the fact that the system provides a brilliant interpretation of the past while willfully ignoring its utterly misleading features in dealing with the present and future."). The famous "Marx, Engels, Lenin, Mao — and Bugs Bunny" cover on the original pamphlet doesn't seem to be posted online anywhere. He also contributed an introduction to Sam Dolgoff's anthology The Anarchist Collectives about worker self-managment by anarchists in the Spanish Civil War. This contains a delightful passage where he boldly sets forth Hegel's distinction between faith and freethought:
Hegel brilliantly draws the distinction between Socrates and Jesus: the former a teacher who sought to arouse a quest for knowledge in anyone who was prepared to discuss; the latter, an oracle who pronounced "truth" for adoring disciples to interpret exegetically. The difference, as Hegel points out, lay not only in the character of the two men but in that of their "followers." Socrates' friends had been reared in a social tradition that "developed their powers in many directions. They had absorbed that democratic spirit which gives an individual a greater measure of independence and makes it impossible for any tolerably good head to depend wholly and absolutely on one person.... They loved Socrates because of his virtue and his philosophy, not virtue and his philosophy because of him." The followers of Jesus, on the other hand, were submissive acolytes. "Lacking any great store of spiritual energy of their own, they had found the basis of their conviction about the teaching of Jesus principally in their friendship with him and dependence on him. They had not attained truth and freedom by their own exertions; only by laborious learning had they acquired a dim sense of them and certain formulas about them. Their ambition was to grasp and keep this doctrine faithfully and to transmit it equally faithfully to others without any addition, without letting it acquire any variations in detail by working on it themselves."
Less worthwhile is Bookchin's grumpy tirade Social Anarchism or Lifestyle Anarchism: An Unbridgeable Chasm against bohemianism and individualism, especially its hatchet job on individualist anarchism and ethical egoism. (Given his weary dismissal of a good chunk of anarchism, I wasn't too surprised to find out that he abandoned anarchism altogether in the last few years of his life in favor of "communalism".) Perhaps the most tantalizing item on his bibliography is two broadcasts on WBAI, "The Transformation of our Environment" (1962) and "Economics as a Form of Social Control" (1974). Also, Matt Hern's Field Day is an outstanding critique of the culture and politics of schooling, largely from a Bookchin-influenced social ecological perspective.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Barry Seidman on the religious left

My friend Barry Seidman's article "A Critique of the New Religious Left" has been published on truthdig, "[i]n the tradition of Sam Harris", the popular author of The End of Faith whose "Atheist Manifesto" was previously published on the same site. As the title suggests, Seidman's article examines the attempts associated with people like Michael Lerner and Jim Wallis to tie left-wing politics to religion, which often involves a glossing over of the flaws of religion and a contemptuous downplaying of secularism as a source of social inspiration. In doing so, he utilizes the strong critiques of religion, including moderate religion, associated with people like Harris, Hector Avalos (whose book Fighting Words: The Origins of Religious Violence is extensively cited), and Brian Flemming. There's also a nod to Carl Sagan's inspiring scientific insight that "humanity is the universe’s first successful attempt to understand itself" and a brief presentation of the positive aspects of the "naturalistic left" and the often-downplayed consequences of naturalism on human behavior (which as of now seems to have inadvertently been removed from the article):
By naturalistic left, I am referring to the core of scientific humanism. Naturalism holds that human beings are fully included in nature, that we are connected and united in each and every aspect of our being to the natural world. There is, under naturalism, nothing supernatural about us that places us above or beyond nature. Naturalism as a guiding philosophy can help create a better world by illuminating more precisely the conditions under which individuals and societies flourish, and by providing a tangible, real basis for connection and community. Therefore scientific humanism, built on—among other things—naturalism, represents the binding social, political and cultural thread that can unite people of different cultures, beliefs and values into a common framework of respectful co-inhabitance, while at the same time articulating a vision of a shared humanity in which all the peoples of the world can prosper.
The article isn't perfect. While it's welcome to see the sort of historical critique done by Avalos introduced to a wider audience, it doesn't quite gel with a critique of the messy world of modern politics, in which secularists have to work with religionists while maintaining their own marginalized position ("There is an old Vulcan proverb ... Only Nixon can go to China"). Moreover, overly relying on Biblical analysis opens the door to valid critiques, such as Katherine Yurica's, that the article is itself being too literal-minded. Wallis's 2004-election-aftermath book God's Politics, a main focus of the article, is not substantive enough for a weighty critique, as well as already being past its expiration date; see Leora Bersohn's critique, which is sympathetic to Wallis's point of view, for a definitive takedown on the book's sloppy writing and weak reasoning. Much of the psychological analysis of religionists who "have not been able to mature past the need for a “parent figure” or "put away its childhood toys" is condescending.

Still, the article was more than enough to spark a discussion of an issue usually ignored. The dialogue between Seidman and readers in the comments section runs to over sixty posts, including everything from nasty dismissal ("Lord preserve us from Hebrew 'scholars' who don’t know s*%t from shinola") to enthusiastic support, such as Stephanie Ferrera's comment that
This reminds me of a statement Edward O. Wilson made at the Georgetown University Bicentennial in 1989: "I submit that humans are exhalted not because we have risen so far above the other species, but because understanding them very well elevates our very concept of life." Seidman captures precisely the position that I have been trying to define that I call "naturalistic spirituality." Thank you!

Fireworks and Spinach







A number of classic cartoons that have fallen into the public domain are available on Archive.org. One that's appropriate for the season is the 1957 cartoon Patriotic Popeye, featuring America's favorite sailor (and two of his nephews) engaged in summer pastimes.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

The Wobblies on DVD

Today, Stewart Bird and Deborah Shaffer's 1979 documentary about the legendary radical union Industrial Workers of the World, titled simply The Wobblies after the IWW's nickname, is being released on DVD. Last November, I saw the film at the Film Society of Lincoln Center (it was sweet to see a leftist documentary in a "real" movie theater).

The film successfully captures the spirit of the IWW; the energy and avoidance of a static "talking-heads" feel is all the more remarkable given the limitations and age of the material available. The interviewees from the original era of the IWW in the early 1900s were by that time in their 80s and 90s, yet vividly conveyed their many-decades-old memories. The use of original documents and archival footage from the dawn of motion pictures was equally effective, conveying the social turmoil of the time, and the nature of work (such as a memorable shot of gigantic trees that dwarf the workers cutting them down). A particular delight is that the archive footage includes a suprising amount of propagandistic animation, including the 1925 Disney cartoon Alice's Egg Plant. In this entry in the studio's very early "Alice Comedies" series, a sinister Commie rooster (complete with a beard and a suitcase labeled "LITTLE RED HENSKI MOSCOW RUSSIA I.W.W.") infiltrates Alice's farm and convinces the hens to strike (and demand the opportunity to lay smaller eggs as well as to work shorter hours).

The discussion at the screening gave tantalizing hints of a particularly interesting production history, which one hopes will be discussed on the DVD; the filmmakers discussed the issues involved with the state of communications and film technology and the difficulty in contacting the original members (who were grateful that they had been "found" and could tell their stories), and a connection with feminism is indicated by the large role of women in creating the film (and that it was restored by the Women's Film Preservation Fund).

The doesn't go into analyzing the ideologies behind the IWW. One interviewee does briefly refer to the bitter conflict between anarchists and Communists in the IWW in the aftermath of the formation of the Soviet Union. And the film also briefly mentions the IWW's animosity towards the Salvation Army, which was allowed to speak on the streets while the IWW was prohibited by selective application of laws; the IWW was willing to critique organized religion's role in opposing labor, as in their cartoon of "the Capitalist System" and Joe Hill's song The Preacher and the Slave (while quoting the song in A People's History of the United States, Howard Zinn points it out as having "a favorite IWW target, the church"). Interestingly, the spirit of the IWW itself was something of a secular equivalent to the sense of purpose and unity of religion, as this quote that was used in the screening's film description points out:
You don't remember the Wobblies, you were too young. There has never been anything like them before or since. They called themselves materialist-economists, but what they really were was a religion. They were welded together by a vision we don't possess.

In another interesting indication of the ideologies behind the IWW, one of the advisers listed in the credits is Ronald Radosh. Although he is currently a David Horowitz-style neocon, he was a New Leftist at that time. In the same era, he was also collaborating with libertarian Murray Rothbard; they co-edited the 1972 anthology A New History of Leviathan. On the other hand libertarians have been sympathetic to the IWW; see the late Samuel Edward Konkin 3's remarks on the Movement of the Libertarian Left's Yahoo mailing list about how the "free-market and pro-entrepreneur" attitude of the MLL is consistent with the IWW's direct action.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Ghost Sites

Steve Baldwin's Ghost Sites project tracks the underbelly of the Internet, documenting dot-com busts, defunct websites, and "Forgotten Web Celebrities", and collecting such ephemera as ancient banner ads.

Many posts highlight outdated websites that give ample evidence of not being updated in an inordinately long time, whether they're sites whose "Last Updated" date is more than a decade ago, which explain that they are meant to be viewed with Netscape 2.0 (or even older versions of the then-predominant browser), or which are just plain old. In this vein, the site recently posted my "foresnic notes" about a Looney Tunes website, the Non-Stick Looney Page, which has been inactive for so long that the latest addition is a group of desktop themes for Windows 95/98, and still has web buttons from 1996.

Monday, June 12, 2006

25 years of Indy



Today is the 25th anniversary to the day of the release of one of my favorite movies, Raiders of the Lost Ark. Another Indy fan has posted a detailed analysis of one of the many aspects that make it great: the spunky heroine Marion Ravenwood.

UPDATE: While doing blog maintenance, I found out that the blog I linked to, That Little Round-Headed Boy ("Happiness is a warm blog"), has disappeared. Here's a quote of part of the post that gives a flavor of what's missing:
[I]n the pairing of Indy and Marion, you have cinema alchemy, the Nick and Nora Charles of archaeology and high adventure. RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK really isn't an action movie, per se. It's also one of the great romantic comedies. At the very least, it's a Howard Hawks-style adventure romance, in which the bickering way the characters keep hashing over their past history is just as important as the MacGuffin they are chasing.

And Karen Allen's Marion is crucial to that. She helps define Indy, helps complete him. With her in the picture, he's more than just a one-dimensional action man, he's a guy with interesting colors, a guy with a dark past whose maniacal devotion to relic hunting has led him to treat the young Marion shabbily. Indiana Jones is not James Bond with a fedora and whip: he broods over his cavalier deeds and is a little worried about a reunion with the woman he discarded. He may court extreme danger, but who is he really scared of? Marion Ravenwood.

Part tomboy, part glamourpuss, Marion is the role that Katharine Hepburn, Carole Lombard, Jean Arthur or Myrna Loy would have reveled in: the smart, spunky, independent spirit. Allen, with her bright eyes, freckles and appealing comic grin, is simply terrific. She physically throws herself into the role, making you believe she's a female Rick Blaine (running her own bar in a terrifying, remote outpost, besting the natives in drinking contests, waiting for Indy's Ilsa to come strolling back in one day.)
The post also linked to this picture of Marion.