Thursday, February 28, 2013

Edupunk: "Stop Requiring College Degrees"

Here's an interesting opinion piece in Harvard Business Review. A bit of it as the Quote of the Day:
I think what's going on in my home industry of higher education at present is something between a bubble and a scandal. And I don't think it'll change unless and until employers shift, and start valuing signals other than college degrees.

Video: How to Become Pope

Since today is the last day of Pope Benedict XVI's pontificate, it seems a good a time as any to revisit the process of how popes are chosen, as now all speculation turns to who will be his successor.


OK, I can't resist this little joke:

Forgotten History: Truman Renovating the White House

Here are some intriguing photos of that massive renovation effort of 1948-52.

Monday, February 25, 2013

A Producer's Thoughts on Hollywood, Politics, and Policy

An interesting glimpse into one producer's (eclectic) outlook.

Movie Madness: "Argo" Wins Best Picture

I actually watched the Oscars last night, and it was a doozy.  If you want a taste of it, see Nikki Finke's refreshingly candid live-blogging of it, and I think she's basically on target, especially with the bit about Michelle Obama's cameo. (NO, it's not the same as when Reagan did something. He was legitimately an actor before he entered politics and was once president of the Screen Actors Guild and did much in that capacity. The Obamas' endless attention-seeking in entertainment venues is getting tiresome fast. It makes serious politics into some stupid endless celebrity reality show, and I hit the mute button.  Besides, must we politicize everything?  Geez. Still, here's a zinger from the Insta-Prof.)

I was delighted, though, that Argo won Best Picture.  Apparently today Iranian state TV is slamming it.  Whatever.  Other outlets are complaining about it for various reasons, not the least of which is about - ah - creative liberties taken with historical details.  I'm actually OK with such liberties because this is a movie, not a documentary, and I'm interested in whether it works as a movie, as a gripping narrative.  AND IT DOES.  Kudos to Affleck too and his personal tale of failures eventually turning to success.

Still, I was really just watching for the fashions and faux pas, and there were plenty of both. Jennifer Lawrence is goofily hilarious and ever more so despite (and quite possibly because of) falling on stage in a ridiculously puffy dress (oh, bonus: chivalry lives as Hugh Jackman and Bradley Cooper rushed to help her up), but I also couldn't help noticing:

  • George Clooney's gray-streaked beard has got to go.  It looked as if it were a flesh-eating fungus determined to gulp down his neck. And it made him look old.  Ben Affleck, take note.
  • Jennifer Garner's strapless purple dress might have looked fine as an elegant column dress on its own, but it had BUM RUFFLES.  Not only were they bum ruffles, they were a cascading waterfall of chiffon monstrosities that peeked out all around her.  Lady, sit down and squash them before they destroy the earth!
  • That woman who won a technical award and showed up in fuchsia pink leggings.  No.  Just ... no!  The 80s are long gone, and not even Cyndi Lauper dresses like that anymore!
  • Bradley Cooper's hair looks like an overturned wok, and it also looks twice as shiny and three times as solid.
  • Heidi Klum and Catherine Zeta-Jones both attempted to look like Oscar figurines in their respective shiny gold dresses, and they both failed horribly.
  • Jessica Chastain looked lovely in her bronze beaded dress - one shade lighter and it would have washed out her pale complexion entirely - and thank goodness she went for bright red lipstick.  Still, why do stylists like to put redheads in beige tones?  It's dreadful.  Put her in plum or hunter green or the right kind of black dress!
  • Helena Bonham Carter looked like a corpsy Gothic disaster, but since she looks like that at every awards show, this now just makes her boring.
  • Sorry, but I wasn't a fan of Anne Hathaway's pale pink outfit. I thought it was too full of ribbons and gaps when it wasn't looking weird about her neck. Yeah, I know it's going for the trend in "side-boob," but I don't like it.
  • Quentin Tarantino gets points for originality with his black leather necktie.
  • Melissa McCarthy is one funny lady, but her dress wasn't amusing at all.  It was a huge shapeless gray bog swamping her!
  • Amy Adams was wearing a massive blue feather duster.  
  • Kristen Stewart continues to look like a dead-eyed, slack-jawed hot mess in ill-fitting outfits and ratty hair.  Seriously, does she care at all?
  • I still can't decide if I like Naomi Watts' sparkly silver dress with the unusual cut-out neckline, but she should at least get props for having one of the evening's most eye-catching gowns.
  • Amanda Seyfried: Just (yawn) no.
  • Reese Witherspoon. Great wavy hair, cleverly color-blocked dress that makes her waist look smaller than it is.  
  • Salma Hayek's dress, in a fit of jealous rage that she was getting all the attention, made a deliberate attempt to strangle her.
  • I hate - and I mean hate - Norah Jones's hair.
  • Brandi Glanville: NO! Absolutely not!

Friday, February 22, 2013

Book Review: "The Coup: 1953, the CIA, and the Roots of Modern U.S.-Iranian Relations"

Here's an overview of the latest book by Ervand Abrahamian, history professor at the City University of New York and specialist in Iranian history. It dovetails quite nicely with recent interest in the (excellent) film Argo.

Friday Fun Video: the Bar Mitzvah Save the Date Rap

Here's some background info about young Atlanta resident Daniel Blumen and his delightful reminder to mark the calendar for his big day: 

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

BiblioFiles: Mario Vargas Llosa's "The Dream of the Celt"

It's the Peruvian author's first novel to appear in the US since he won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2010.  Here's more about it.  I previously posted about (and praised) the freedom-loving Mario Vargas Llosa here.  Here's his website. In fact, I'm going to pluck the Quote of the Day from an archived interview with him (the lines are from his 2000 novel "The Feast of the Goat"):
 "It must be nice. Your cup of coffee or glass of rum must taste better, the smoke of your cigar, a swim in the ocean on a hot day, the movie you see on Saturday, the merengue on the radio, everything must leave a more pleasurable sensation in your body and spirit when you had what Trujillo had taken away from Dominicans 31 years ago: free will."

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Saturday, February 09, 2013

A Philosophy Prof Defends the Enlightment

Here is a fascinating interview with John Searle.  Here's a fun excerpt in which he takes on Jacques Derrida:
With Derrida, you can hardly misread him, because he's so obscure. Every time you say, "He says so and so," he always says, "You misunderstood me." But if you try to figure out the correct interpretation, then that's not so easy. I once said this to Michel Foucault, who was more hostile to Derrida even than I am, and Foucault said that Derrida practiced the method of obscurantisme terroriste (terrorism of obscurantism). We were speaking French. And I said, "What the hell do you mean by that?" And he said, "He writes so obscurely you can't tell what he's saying, that's the obscurantism part, and then when you criticize him, he can always say, 'You didn't understand me; you're an idiot.' That's the terrorism part." And I like that. So I wrote an article about Derrida. I asked Michel if it was OK if I quoted that passage, and he said yes.

Forgotten History: the Canadian Candy Bar Strike of 1947

Children's crusade.

John Yoo on Drone Policy

More interesting thoughts on the recent drone memo.  Previous thoughts here.

Friday, February 08, 2013

Friday Fun: A Tale of Two Korean Videos

Video the first: this bit of completely crazy North Korean propaganda:

Video the second: the South Korean Air Force takes on Les Miz:

Quote of the Day: Deciding When a Citizen Becomes an Outlaw

A thought about designating targets:
I hear some people talking past each other on Obama's self-declared right to assemble a Kill List of Americans and order their deaths, sans any kind of external check or procedural safeguards.

Charles Krauthammer says that anyone who has taken arms against America has forfeited his right to citizenship.

I agree -- but agreeing that the power to declare such a person as forfeit[ing] his citizenship is a government power is very much not the same as saying that such power resides within a single person, the President, in his sole discretion.

Agreeing that such a power resides somewhere in the federal government is not the same as agreeing it rests within a single fallible man to decide whom to kill and whom to spare. 
Related: the "crazy bastards" standard, Michael Ramirez's latest political cartoon, and Dignified Rant's thoughts.

Say Cheese!: the 2013 Sony World Photography Awards

Take a look at the gorgeous photos chosen for the open-competition shortlist.  Want more?  Check out the professional shortlist.  Things like this makes me wonder what would have happened if I had chosen a different career path - I've always loved photography.  Yeah, yeah, I know, Asians, cameras, blah blah blah.

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Geek News: Revolutionizing Digital Privacy

There's an app for that!  Read the whole thing. There is a related thought. I also couldn't resist making this:

Here's a nice little Quote of the Day from Silent Circle CEO (and former Navy SEAL, by the way) Mike Janke: 
"We feel that every citizen has a right to communicate, the right to send data without the fear of it being grabbed out of the air and used by criminals, stored by governments, and aggregated by companies that sell it."
PREACH.  Surveillance society snooping pushing you?  Push back.  The fact that I have nothing to hide doesn't mean that you get to look at my stuff just because you can and feel like it.  The app launches on February 8.

Pants in Paris!

Congrats, women of Paris, you can now wear trousers without getting arrested!

Beijingoism for Babies: Chinese Nationalist Indoctrination and a Tale of Two Little Cousins

One encounter as an example of a much bigger problem.  As I recently had to explain to a student, racism, prejudice, nationalistic chauvinism, general tribalistic hostility to "the Other," and cynical state-sponsored scapegoating of people are by no means character flaws confined to the West (i.e., let's be honest, "white people"). I should point out too that while Beijing might get its kicks whipping up anti-Japanese hatred, it is clearly playing with fire.

Saturday, February 02, 2013