Tuesday, May 31, 2005

The final day of class is upon us (or me, at least)

Ehh, so with my very last class of my undergraduate career coming tomorrow (Italian!), I kind of felt the need to sit down and write something. Though not here, of course. This isn't a damn diary, after all.

The thing is, if this were, say, Saved by the Bell, there would be a big party with cake, and all sorts of sad music playing in the background, and whatnot. But somehow I don't see any of that happening. I think you should be given some sort of license to do something really crazy or cool on the last day of class. I don't even know what; in fact, I'm open to suggestions. Maybe they should bring champaign or something. Which reminds me, I never got around to write that proposal calling for our dining halls to serve wine. They really should. The men would all wear suits and ties, and the women dresses. It would be old-timey.

Life needs a soundtrack. That way we'd know when danger was upon us (the violins), or when we were reaching some crucial, memorable moment (the sappy music). I think I ripped this idea off of Calvin & Hobbes, or a TV show maybe.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Salinger

I stumbled upon a great site about J.D. Salinger. What's so fascinating about the guy is that he refuses to publish anymore despite there being so much interest in his work.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Best Proverb EVER

"Non si puó avere la botte piena e la moglie ubriaca" -- Italian proverb

It means, roughly, "Go learn Italian and translate it yourself."

[ Editor's note: Since I realized that as of 08/03/05 that this post comes up second on Yahoo! under a search for "best proverb", I decided to actually provide the translation. I omitted it to begin with so as to piss off Jess. ]

Actually, it means, "You can't have both your wine barrel full and your wife drunk" (used in Italian to mean "You can't have it both ways").

Wit and Humor

I think there's a definite untapped market for writing on the philosophy of humor.

Here's an interesting piece on what exactly is wit (Warning: Registration Req'd; and it's fairly pretentious.):
When I hear George Nathan say that George Bernard Shaw "writes his plays for the ages — the ages between five and twelve," I am impelled by a sort of homing instinct to say that I am in the presence of Wit. When I hear Dorothy Parker explain that she missed a New Yorker deadline because "Someone was using the pencil," I know with a knowing older than the foundations of the world that Queen Wit has spoken. And when you hear Max Beerbohm remark that "People are too apt to treat God as if he were a minor royalty," I think your instinct will agree with mine that he (Beerbohm, not God) is being more witty than winsome.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Haha... want some free socks?

It's no surprise that Reuters reports a spat of strong-arm recruiting by Army recruiters.

That reminds me of Ryan sending off for free Army socks, and then having a recruiter call him continually and eventually drive over to his house.

What jerks.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Drudge and the Media Sitting on Stories

I'm not a big fan of Ann Coulter, but she has an interesting bit in her column today on how the media likes to sit on stories it doesn't like:
O A drama queen nitwit exclaimed she'd kill herself. (Evan Thomas' reason for holding the Lewinsky story.)

O The need for "more independent reporting." (Newsweek President Richard Smith explaining why Newsweek sat on the Lewinsky story even though the magazine had Lewinsky on tape describing the affair.)

O "We were in Havana." (ABC president David Westin explaining why "Nightline" held the Lewinsky story.)

O Unavailable for comment. (Michael Oreskes, New York Times Washington bureau chief, in response to why, the day The Washington Post ran the Lewinsky story, the Times ran a staged photo of Clinton meeting with the Israeli president on its front page.)

O Protecting the privacy of an alleged rape victim even when the accusation turns out to be false.

O Protecting an accused rapist even when the accusation turns out to be true if the perp is a Democratic president most journalists voted for.
Drudge, of course, ran the Lewinsky story while other media outlets sat on the damaging story.

Monday, May 16, 2005

The Filibuster and Bare-Knuckle Boxing

There's a certain quaintness to the filibuster: the idea that senators can take to the podium and talk for hour after hour on anything from poetry to what the phone book has to say, has a certain incongruity to it. Strom Thurmond (as a Democrat, mind you) managed to talk for more than 24 hours in his attempt to derail the Civil Rights Act. I know it's an issue that's been beaten to death in every possible circle, but consider this:

Once one has the votes to avoid cloture, what determines a successful filibuster? Physical fitness and endurance. You've actually got to stand up there and talk for hour after hour.

Now think of this: where else in politics is there really a physical element to one's success (putting aside issues of age)? Isn't such an anomaly akin to determining the success of a bill by, say, some sort of bare-fisted boxing?

Who would win in such a fight between Harry Reid and Bill Frist? What about a foot race between Hillary and Dennis Hastert? Which party has the better softball team? (Actually, that's a real question. Which party does?)

These are the issues we should be considering.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Have Ye No Sense of Solidarity?

French outrage at their national government deciding to get rid of a national holiday, replacing it with a "Day of Solidarity" with the elderly, may end in strike. Here is an excerpt from a recent AP report:
The national "Day of Solidarity" - an extra work day in place of the annual Pentecost holiday - was part of the government's response to a 2003 heat wave that killed 15,000 people, mostly elderly.

Under a new law, workers give up a holiday, while their employers pay into a government fund to improve health care for the aged and handicapped.

"On Monday, the government is going to feel the backlash from a totally unilateral measure made against the advice of unions and seen by workers as unjust, ineffective and hypocritical," said Maryse Dumas, the No. 2 official at the Communist-backed CGT union.
French laziness notwithstanding, where is the working class's sense of solidarity with the elderly? Merrier World continues (yesterday it was reported that the Landless Workers Movement (MST) were marching on Brazil's capital in order to pressure Lula on some issue or other) to be entertained by the fact that everyone but Americans are willing to strike.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Say it ain't so, Arianna!

I realize that recently this blog has degenerated into a critique of Huffington's new celebrity-filled (or -ridden, depending on how you look at it) blog, the Huffington Post. No matter, though, we say, since rarely is it that one gets to see history in the making.

Huffington's blog is history in the making?

Absolutely. Either it dies a spectacular death, having degenerated into conspicuous irrelevance and having lost the interest of its famous scribblers, or it manages to maintain itself and become a perpetual, Drudge-like presence on the web. Either way, we must admit that Huffington's experiment is nothing short of original.

Anyway, back to the point at hand (which I haven't even yet stated). One sees today what we at Merrier World (yes, I have begun, in true blog fashion, to refer to myself in the third person plural and as if the name of my blog were some sort of media outlet) feared from the beginning. Sure, we expected to see plenty of self-promotion (which we have already managed to see), given that such a high-publicity and (at least initially) high-readership forum gives their bloggers a great opportunity to get free advertising.

But lo! Huffington's top-of-the-opening-page post (a staple on the Huffington Post) marks the beginning not of self-promotion, but of corporate advertising:
After our thrilling first week, I’ve decided to get a larger perspective on things by returning to Greece, the birthplace of (in order of importance) democracy, and, as it happens, me. I’ll be blogging from the motherland over the weekend and keeping tabs with my new Siemens SX66 Pocket PC Phone.
The link, included here for realism, is her own.

If she's getting kick-backs from Siemens, I'm going to be pissed. Conan mentioning jokingly Porshe or M&Ms is one thing (corporations are wont to give samples and goodies to those mentioning their product on the air; Porshe, obviously, is not one of those), but outright advertising is quite another.

Friday, May 13, 2005

Crean: Wade likes "Gold"... Really, He Does!

An odd statement by MU men's basketball coach Tom Crean in a recent JS article on player reaction to the nickname change. The article writes:
"He's got tremendous belief in a president that allowed him into this school. If it's not for Father Wild, Dwyane Wade is not a part of Marquette," said Crean. "When he said, 'I'm going to make a call up there,' that was more to call like he always does to find out about things. It was never anything negative.

"Dwyane came up as a Golden Eagle, but he came in as a part of Marquette University. He is in support of whatever this school decides." [ My italics ]
That's really an odd thing to say. Why would Crean impute to Wade an opinion on the nickname change?

Thursday, May 12, 2005

The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel: A Print Version of Kerry?

The Marquette Hoops blog has posted a nice piece on the Journal-Sentinel's flip-flopping on the whole "Gold" issue.

In less than a week, the JS managed to go from skepticism of student, alumni, and fan outrage at "Gold", to praise for the Marquette administration for retracting the nickname and promising to take public opinion on the issue into account when deciding on a new one.

The Huffington Post Too Self-Conscious

It finally struck me, as I was reading one of Arianna's recent blog posts, what was bothering me about The Huffington Post.

It's too self-conscious. It's too everything-planned-out-ahead-of-time. It's like going to the mall with someone who has already planned out every single store you're going to visit (and in what order). Here's a slice of her post that bothers me:
The mixing of the serious-minded with the silly, the grave with the entertaining, is going to be a hallmark of this site. We're going to deal with Iraq and Revenge of the Sith. Bolton and Botox. The UN and the WB. Welcome to the HuffPost -- it's blogging, baby.
Anytime you feel like you have to tell people what you're going to do, or what characterizes you, you've revealed your Achilles' heel: you're trying create something, and if your product doesn't turn out what you envisioned, then by golly you'll settle for trying to convince people that what you've produced is better than it seems; by golly, Arianna says to herself, I have this wonderful picture in my mind, why aren't things turning out that way?!?

I think that's the first time I've used more than one punctuation mark at the end of a sentence (in this blog, obviously).

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

MU Scraps "Gold" Nickname

The Journal-Sentinel reports that the board of trustees have announced earlier today, in a victory for students, faculty, and alumni at Marquette University, that they will scrap the "Gold" and "go back to the drawing board" in search of a new nickname. The board did say, however, that it would not consider reverting back to the Warriors.

We can only hope that the administration decides to pick something classic in place of "Gold", like the Hilltoppers or the Jesuits. (Not Golden Avalanche, though. After the whole "Gold" debacle, it would probably be wise to avoid colors.)

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

OK, I take back everything I said about Arianna

A quality post on the situation in Sudan from former Congressman and eponymous MSNBC news pundit Joe Scarborough hits "The Huffington Post" on its second day of existence.
In fact, when I tried to pass a resolution through Congress calling for sanctions against the murderous regime, Clinton's State Department fought it with all their might.

The Congressional Black Caucus fell in line with the White House by refusing to endorse my Congressional act that condemned slavery in Sudan.

Can you imagine that?
[...]
Amnesty International was so concerned about the two million Sudanese victims that they did, well, nothing.

An Amnesty representative told me they could not support my bill because it concerned Christian persecution. They said they didn't take sides in such disputes.

Huh?

Fast forward eight years and you find that little has changed.

President Bush has called the crisis in Sudan genocide, but he has done little to stop it.

The United Nations has muttered about how the Sudan situation is unfortunate, but once again Kofi Annan has refused to do anything that will end the suffering on his home continent.

The European Union claims to be interested but too many member states have economic interests in the country.

So nothing gets done.
Finally something worthwhile.

Arianna's Banalities

My initial reaction to Arianna's blog was, "Great. More opportunity to hear celebrities of average intelligence talk about politics". But lo and behold! Apparently some of the "more distinguished" posters are not much better in their prose:
My name is Jon Corzine, and I’m one of the two US Senators who represents the state of New Jersey. Most people don’t really know what a Senator does. In my case, among other things, I spend a lot of time trying to figure out how to prevent this country from being attacked. My state was hit hard by 9/11, and preventing another catastrophe is paramount in my job description.

Last week, I went to Iraq and Chad. I visited troops in Iraq from my home state. These soldiers are professionals in the most magnificant sense of the word, prepared to give their lives to protect our country.
[...]
Here are a couple of interesting facts about the Sudan. First, there’s oil there. Second, Osama bin Laden used to spend time there before venturing to Afghanistan. Third, a fundamentalist strain of militant Islam is quite strong within the political culture. To top it all off the country is buffeted by civil war, and a brutal genocide. Over 2 million people have been displaced by the government trying to kill or starve them by preventing humanitarian aid from coming through.
Here are a couple of interesting facts about Sen. Corzine. He likes to talk in choppy sentences. Maybe he's gotten too used to speaking on the floor? Who knows. But those choppy sentences get annoying. It's one after another. I'm intrigued to see his next post to see if it will continue. Until then.

The problem with the blog thus far (and we must remember "thus far" is less than 12 hours) is that none of the articles have anything particularly interesting in them, nothing that one wouldn't be better off reading in a good magazine or newspaper. If Arianna wants her celebrity-heavy blog to succeed, she's going to have to get posters to offer ideas, perspectives, or information, that can't be gotten elsewhere. This is key. Otherwise she's just another grain in the sand of online media.

Wow, that metaphor sucked.

But anyway, what Matt Drudge did was genuinely fill a whole in media, publishing stories before other outlets, linking to bizarre stories, or just throwing out rumors. (Although one must wonder, what is behind Drudge's near monopoly on, well, whatever sort of media outlet he runs? Well-placed sources? Lots of free time? One of those cool detective hats?)

Monday, May 09, 2005

R.I.P. Arianna

L.A. Weekly published today a devastating critique of Arianna Huffington's much balleyhooed, celebrity-ridden blog, one that styles itself as "a new Internet publishing venture that will combine a breaking news section with an innovative group blog where some of the country’s most creative minds will weigh in on topics great and small, political and cultural, important or just plain entertaining". Not likely. Here's an excerpt from the L.A. Weekly piece on "The Huffington Post" (as the blog is called):
Forgive them, these bleating blowhards on Arianna's blog, because they know not what they do. Not Seinfeld has-been Julia Louis-Dreyfus and her untalented TV-hyphenate husband, Brad Hall, making unfunny shtick of the anti-gay-marriage movement. Not has-been director Mike Nichols, using the forum to parade his high school grasp of U.S. history by mentioning "de Tocqueville" and "Dr. King" in the same paragraph. Not has-been brat-packer John Cusack, penning the 459,308th remembrance of Hunter Thompson for the sole purpose of letting the world know that the actor scored an invite to the writer's intimate memorial service. Still, the celebs aren't to blame here, because they made the bad mistake of allowing Arianna to sweet-talk them into believing that they had something to say in the first place.
If we learned anything from recent instances of celebrity involvement in politics, including the triumvirate of Tim Robbins, Susan Sarandon, and Sean Penn, it's that they don't have anything particularly interesting to say, and that combining their celebrity status with a mere average understanding of the issues is embarrassing at best.

It turns out that many of the purported celebrity contributors, including Warren Beatty and David Geffen, were no-shows. We here at Merrier World do have to laud Huffington for landing Curb Your Enthusiasm funnyman Larry David, even if his political commentary is hardly anything more than ungrounded, uninformed anger at John Bolton, Bush's nominee for ambassador to the U.N. John Bolton. Hardly the wit we would have expected from David's first post.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

I Would've Thought Delegating All Your Grading...

...to TAs was labor-saving enough.

Labor-saving devices (beyond the ScanTron) in academia are apparently making inroads. But one has to seriously question how a computer can grade something so intricate and subtle as an essay. From an article on these essay-grading computer programs:
When the University of California at Davis tried out such technology a couple years back, lecturer Andy Jones decided to try to trick e-Rater.

Prompted to write on workplace injuries, Jones instead input a letter of recommendation, substituting ``risk of personal injury'' for the student's name.

``My thinking was, 'This is ridiculous, I'm sure it will get a zero,''' he said.

He got a five out of six.

A second time around, Jones scattered ``chimpanzee'' throughout the essay, guessing unusual words would yield him a higher score.

He got a six.
All students need is a copy of the grading program (and whatever plug-in being used for the particular class, assuming there is one) and getting a good grade becomes an exercise in trial-and-error.

Damn those decadent Western countries!

A recent AP report on the failure of Islamic countries to contribute to efforts aimed at eliminating polio. The article notes:
The World Health Organization campaign to fight polio has cost $4 billion so far, but states of the Organization of the Islamic Conference have contributed just $3 million, even though recent outbreaks of polio have occurred mostly in Islamic countries, said spokeswoman Linda Muller.
[...]
WHO said it is looking to Bahrain, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia to give more money to its polio eradication campaign. None of those countries has contributed funds.
Good times.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

Economics Concentrators Learn a Lesson in Politics

UofC economics undergraduates learned a hard lesson in strategic voting with the nomination of John Mearsheimer (R. Wendell Harrison Distinguished Service Professor in the Department of Political Science and the College) as speaker for the Remains of Education address to Spring graduates in the College. The final ballot pitted Professor Mearsheimer against two faculty from the Economics Department, resulting in (presumably) two dynamics: 1) the split of the economics undergraduate vote; and 2) the understandable and justifiable rallying of non-economics concentrators around the "anything-but-economics" vote.

Any way, my vote is still for Leitzel, even if he wasn't one of the final three. He would have somehow found a way to integrate vice policy and Shakespeare into a speech on education.

Friday, May 06, 2005

Ladies and Gentlemen, we give you the Marquette.... Gold?

My favorite quotes from the controversy thus far:

----

"The challenge now is to somehow capture goldness in a mascot while assuring it would still be able to slam-dunk off a trampoline. I've got it: King Midas. And everything he touched could turn into a public relations nightmare." -- Jim Stingl, Journal-Sentinel

----

"In the words of an un-named source familiar with the decision, 'We feel that the new monicker accurately reflects the qualities of our student athletes such as lustre, malleability and extremely high thermal and electrical conductivity.' "
-- From an eBay auction selling an MU Gold t-shirt

----

I haven't seen anyone reference Sir Thomas Moore's Utopia, but these lines should ring a bell for those freshman who read it in Western Civ:

[ Speaking of the desire to limit the public's love affair with precious metals] To prevent all these inconveniences, they have fallen upon an expedient, which, as it agrees with their other policy, so is it very different from ours, and will scarce gain belief among us, who value gold so much and lay it up so carefully. They eat and drink out of vessels of earth, or glass, which make an agreeable appearance though formed of brittle materials: while they make their chamber-pots and close-stools of gold and silver; and that not only in their public halls, but in their private houses: of the same metals they likewise make chains and fetters for their slaves; to some of which, as a badge of infamy, they hang an ear-ring of gold, and make others wear a chain or coronet of the same metal; and thus they take care, by all possible means, to render gold and silver of no esteem.

Chamber pots made of gold? "[R]ender[ing] gold and silver of no esteem"? That can't bode well for next year's entrance into the Big East.

----

ESPN: Your alma mater, Marquette, changed their nickname to the Gold. . . . What do you think of that?

Wade: To the what?

ESPN: To the Gold. The Marquette Gold. That's what they're going with now.

Wade: Awh . . . I got to call. I got to call in on that one.

-- From an interview with Miami Heat star and MU alum Dwyane Wade

----

"It’s official. Marquette will not be the “Warriors.” They will not be the “Golden Eagles” either. They will be the “Gold.”

"That’s right. The Trustees have chosen a nickname even lamer than “Golden Eagles.”"

-- From my Dad's blog

----

"Still no word on the new stuff, beyond the color of course. Sweatshirts featuring prospectors maybe..."

-- Dale Hofmann, Journal-Sentinel

A prospector would be awesome. He would have to look something like this:



Or like Will Ferrel from his hilarious Old Prospector SNL skit.

----

"Believe me, it was a tough call for the board (of trustees)," Wild told the students who had gathered outside the Al Maguire Center. He stressed that with the school joining the Big East Conference in July, a choice had to be made, and now Marquette must move forward.

At one point, Wild asked whether the students could hear him.

"Can you hear us?" one shouted back, echoing a common complaint that student wishes had been ignored.

-- From a Journel-Sentinel article on student protests

----

Monday, May 02, 2005

Chess in Prison

An interesting article hit the AP wire about a university chess team going to a prison to play chess against the inmates.

It reminded me both of my visit to Cook County Correctional Facility, where the main pasttime seemed to be chess, and of the new Wu-Tang Clan book, which includes a chapter on chess's influence on the group and their philosophy.