November 29, 2011

More From the “Well, Duh” Department

What it is:

Any of you at random listening all across the fruited plain, what the **** is classical studies? What classics are studied? Or is it learning how to study in a classical way? Or is it learning how to study in a classy as opposed to unclassy way? And what about unclassical studies? Why does nobody care about the unclassics? What are the classics? And how are the classics studied? Oh, so you’re going to become an expert in Dickens? You’re assuming it’s literature? You’re assuming we’re talking about classical literature here? What if it’s classical women’s studies? What if it’s classical feminism? Who the **** knows what it is? … For all of you young skulls full of mush out there, … when you go to college, do not do classical studies. What the **** is it anyway?

November 27, 2011

Too Much Information

We’re dumb, and we like it that way:

While not shocking, Shepard and Kay’s findings are still terrifying in our information-saturated world. News feeds, finds, and breaking news abound. Twitter is the collective conscience of the interwebs. Yet, functioning members of American and Canadian societies who are unaware of the goings-on in the world (the economic recession or the global oil shortage, for example) would rather actively avoid tough news than exercise effort to learn more. Ignorance is cyclical and conscious—and that’s as scary as any economic or environmental disaster.

November 25, 2011

Goodwill Toward Men

Our culture is creating new traditions:

As if the pepper spray incident weren’t bad enough, shoppers elsewhere in California had to contend with something even more frightening: an actual shooting.

A man was found shot and bleeding in theparking lot of a Walmart in the Bay Area just before 2 a.m. The man and his family had apparently been the victim of an attempted mugging, as “several” people with guns tried to take the family’s purchases by force.

Meanwhile, police in Fayetteville, N.C., reported gunshots fired near the food court of a local mall at 2 a.m., but no injuries were reported.

And then there were the fights – after all, what Black Friday would be complete without the fights?

In Kissimmee, Fla., two men fought at a jewelry counter at a Walmart, and one of them had to be dragged away by the police, according to the Orlando Sentinel. Other customers captured videos of shouting matches in line, skirmishes in stores and showdowns between shoppers and protestors affiliated with Occupy Wall Street and put them up on YouTube.

November 25, 2011

Getting Serious On Black Friday

Pepper spray? Seriously?

Lopez said that by the time he arrived at the video games, the display had been torn down. Employees attempted to hold back the scrum of shoppers and pick up merchandise even as customers trampled the video games and DVDs strewn on the floor.

“It was absolutely crazy,” he said.

Another customer said screams erupted after about 100 people waiting in line to snag Xbox gaming consoles and Wii video games got into a shoving match.

Alejandra Seminario, 24, said she was waiting in line to grab some toys at the store around 9:55 p.m. when people the next aisle over started shouting and ripping at the plastic wrap encasing gaming consoles, which was supposed to be opened at 10 p.m.

“People started screaming, pulling and pushing each other, and then the whole area filled up with pepper spray,” the Sylmar resident said. “I guess what triggered it was people started pulling the plastic off the pallets and then shoving and bombarding the display of games. It started with people pushing and screaming because they were getting shoved onto the boxes.”

November 24, 2011

Happy Holidays!

Let’s hope no one dies tomorrow:

As the busiest retail weekend of the year begins late Thursday night, the differences between how affluent and more ordinary Americans shop in the uncertain economy will be on unusually vivid display.

Budget-minded shoppers will be racing for bargains at ever-earlier hours while the rich mostly will not be bothering to leave home.

November 22, 2011

The Rhetoric of Pepper Spray

It’s called bad kairos.

The reaction of the UC Davis police to peaceful student protesters is now an internet meme featuring Lt. John Pike pepper-spaying everything from baby seals to the Declaration of Independence. These images are satire and deadly serious howls of outrage (an outrage I share).

Pepper-spraying the students at UC Davis was a speech act in that physical acts may be interpreted by witnesses as springing from particular ideologies and “speaking” for those ideologies. The act, then, becomes a text of that ideology and open to reaction, critique, and resistance.

These photoshopped shenanigans (just search for pepper spray cop on Google) have Pike spraying vulnerable and/or sacred things, i.e. the two images reproduced here. I interpret that to mean that the authors of these images believe Pike, and the power he represents, is a direct threat to our culture (and I happen to agree with them if this is the case) .

It’s difficult to know what political impact these images might have. Bursting into a meme so quickly is significant, I think. But then there’s the irreverent and, in some cases, outrageous subjects that could easily turn the meme against the authors.  Also bad kairos?

Wait and see.

November 21, 2011

Does FOX Suck Knowledge Out Of Your Head?

Well, duh:

But the real finding is that the results depend on what media sources people turn to for their news. For example, people who watch Fox News, the most popular of the 24-hour cable news networks, are 18-points less likely to know that Egyptians overthrew their government than those who watch no news at all (after controlling for other news sources, partisanship, education and other demographic factors). Fox News watchers are also 6-points less likely to know that Syrians have not yet overthrown their government than those who watch no news.

“Because of the controls for partisanship, we know these results are not just driven by Republicans or other groups being more likely to watch Fox News,” said Dan Cassino, a professor of political science at Fairleigh Dickinson and an analyst for the PublicMind Poll. “Rather, the results show us that there is something about watching Fox News that leads people to do worse on these questions than those who don’t watch any news at all.”

November 21, 2011

Over The River And Through The Woods

Mr. Sunshine has a Thanksgiving message:

Folks of all stripes and accents desperately seek to move their money to some safe harbor – but where is this cozy mooring? To the US for the moment perhaps; but what happens Monday morning when the markets react to the weekend news that the US Senate super-committee has been utterly unable to agree on decisive action that would forestall the scheduled massive automatic budget cuts built into this red-white-and-blue doomsday machine – not to mention the ratings agencies threats to knock UST-paper down another notch upon such failure.

November 20, 2011

The Party Is Over

The painful reality of resource (oil, water, revenue, capital) limits:

Nearly a third of all homes are in foreclosure. The houses that are occupied are worth less than half of what they were two years ago. But people here still focus on what it could have been and maybe, just maybe, what it could still be.

This year, the city was facing a $9 million deficit and the prospect that it might not be able to make payroll. State officials began murmuring that they could move to take over the municipality if it became fiscally insolvent. One official said that unless the city “hit the jackpot,” bankruptcy was imminent. This fall, the city reached a deal with unions to delay cost-of-living raises, averting a crisis for now.

But the future is still grim — the city’s bond rating was downgraded again last month, and officials acknowledge that they could be in the same precarious position next year, when the city faces a $15.5 million budget gap. They hope that a new veterans’ hospital and an outpost of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, will help the economy, but they know those additions will not provide the same kind of quick cash that property taxes once did.

November 20, 2011

Facebook and Anonymity

News-Leader Editor David Stoeffler announced today that the paper will soon require readers to use Facebook in order to comment on content. It’s a good move:

The goal is to eliminate anonymity in the hopes of increased civility and conversation in comment threads.

In the long run, we also hope it will lead to increased participation, inviting in people — including community leaders — who often are turned off by the sometimes outlandish and even vicious comments from largely anonymous users.

The new Facebook Comments platform is being implemented across Gannett’s newspapers, following testing in four markets, including Des Moines, Iowa. The system allows any visitor to the website currently logged into Facebook to leave a comment on an article using their Facebook identity.

When the News-Leader first implemented a comment feature I argued for an open system that allows anonymity. I think anonymity was necessary to jump-start an online community. But I have also argued that such systems cannot remain anonymous because they become a haven for trolls who drive out civility and intelligence.

I’ve argued for a tiered system that preserves some anonymity and rewards transparency with greater service.

Facebook is all about the idea that one should have a single online identity. In the infographic below (click for larger view), Mark Zuckerberg makes the argument that transparency is a form of integrity. I agree. But Christopher Poole, founder of 4chan, counters that the cost of failure can be high if you contribute transparently. I agree with that, too, which means that we all need to be mindful of our civic voices.

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