Showing posts from 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

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

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.

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 .

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 Univer

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 tre

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

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

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 t

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 .

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. 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 a

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

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).

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,

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 cri

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&qu

Fireworks and Spinach

A number of classic cartoons that have fallen into the public domain are available on . 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.

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 p

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.

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