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March 13th, 2007
George Orwell was much more awesome than I knew.
Notes on the Way
, an article about religion and spirituality in the affairs of humanity. Also includes the actual context of what may be the most-often misused Marx quote, which had always struck me as quite banal until I knew what the previous sentence was. (My lesson here is, find the source. I've never read any Marx. It may be time to start.)
There's a large collection of Orwell's essays on that site as well, which you may be interested in. I certainly was, in any case!
February 22nd, 2007
I bet you didn't know that Japan is actively planning
to take over the world with anime.
"Foreign Minister Taro Aso has proposed sending animation or cartoon artists abroad as cultural ambassadors, and the government has named a panel of experts to advise ways to market Japanese animation and culture to foreign audiences.
"Aso argues warm feelings for Japanese animation can translate into warm feelings for Japanese foreign policy.
"'The more positive images pop into a person's mind, the easier it becomes for Japan to get its views across,' Aso said in a speech last year to budding artists at Tokyo's Digital Hollywood University. 'You are the people . . . involved with bringing Japanese culture to the world.'"Source article here.
The article itself is about the new, cute, cuddly mascot figure of the Japanese Self Defense Force, Prince Pickles, and the government's plans to use said cute image to increase country-wide approval of the increased militaristic posturing of the Japanese government.
Betcha it works. Watch as the country starts posturing right back at North Korea now that it's brought its troops home from Iraq....
I fear the day, though, when I see Prince Pickles on my students' pencil cases.Tags: japan is funny
, ow my brain
, real life
February 13th, 2007
...oh my god.
I just realized that I've been avoiding reading a sci-fi novel series in favor of reading the comics made from it. Because reading the novels would be too hard. That hurts me right in the bibliophile bits.
...in my defense, they're both in Japanese. Maybe this will make me study kanji like I should.
Tags: ow my brain
February 7th, 2007
....oh man, adding tags is boring. :
Wish there was some option that'd let me see the really old posts... well! It's not as if there's that much on my journal that would be interesting this many years in the future, right? (Except to me, for vivid sense memories of things like having the flu junior year and dragging all my sheets off my bed in order to huddle by the computer. I... I may be an addict.)
In other, less mind-numbing news! I have started replaying Suikoden II. I'd forgotten, in all the time since Jowy was in party, how much I liked him. Oh man, the boy's a sweetheart. And Nanami is giving me some quite serious Hokuto flashbacks, which she doesn't later in the game on account of becoming less controlling after her little brother gets himself elected Official Figurehead of the Resistance.
Also, Lord Shu seriously rocks, and I find myself hoping Apple'll apprentice with him. She doesn't seem to be a bad strategist in the least! She's just doubly handicapped by being a young woman and a non-Silverberg. And, as a result, she ends up playing second fiddle. A bit of resume-padding and she could work for anyone on the continent.
The Rune of Beginning seems to suck a lot less for its bearers than some of the other True Runes. Well, except for the "almost certainly doomed to destroy your relationship with your best friend" thing. I wonder if Leknaat ever goes back to her tower and gets really drunk in a fit of depression because she knows she's doomed yet another innocent, brave, and good young man (or woman; there's got to have been a female Tenkai at some point, right? Konami'll give us that game sometime soon, riiiight?) to a terrible fate?
Luc is awesome when he's grumpy and resentful. He must've liked Tir, because he doesn't like Riou (I named my Hero2 Eirin, but Riou's his real name) very much at all and he shows it. Sadly, as my best mage, he's going to have to be spending a lot of time in-party with us. Hi Luc. Suck it up and cast The Shredding again, Luc, I can't use my Buddy Attack with Jowy anymore on account of assassination and betrayal and a party needs some
Oh man, do I ever look forward to recruiting Tir. ("Gerald." It's odd, I think of a lot of the Tenkai by their real names, and yet I've never named any of them by those.) I want the Soul Eater in party, okay. And it will answer the great question of the age: did they nerf Soul Eater as soon as the person it belonged to wasn't the Tenkai, or was taking away all the instant-death attacks a brainwave around the time of Suikoden 4?
Also, have been doing a lot of art lately. I'll see if I can stick it up in this awesome new Livejournal "photo" feature.Tags: fandom
Sex differences in chess explained!
...In areas where there is at least 50% representation of women, there is no disparity in male vs. female ratings; the disparity at higher levels can be explained by the differing level of participation in most areas.
Basically, girls don't start playing chess as often, and when you're the only girl in a room full of socially awkward teenage boys you might be just a little distracted.
Take that, Bobby Fisher, you bastard.
Study published in Psychological Science; abstract goes here.Tags: real life
February 2nd, 2007
"Soaking in religion"?
This entry brought to you by Faith on the Quad
, an article in the online magazine Inside Higher Ed, and by several of my ninth-grade students.
One of the Japanese teachers of English with whom I work asked me yesterday, in class, if I believed in God. Being on the atheist side of agnostic, I responded, "No." She was absolutely shocked at this revelation. Now, given that most polls indicate something like 80 percent of Japanese consider themselves athiests, I'm pretty sure that what shocked her was the idea of an American who didn't believe in God.
This made me
think. Is it really that unusual to be an American who is not religious? Christianity in America, particularly Protestantism, is the eight hundred pound gorilla of our public discourse. It sits where it wants. It plonks itself down in the speeches of political candidates and officeholders. It waves its arms on the Quad at my college and tells me I'm going to hell. It gives alms to the poor and restricts their access to birth control. And, as a result, I get the feeling that the rest of the world has swallowed the story that the 800-pound gorilla tells about our country: that America is a Christian nation.
The Inside Higher Ed article that I linked up there is a report on a document entitled The Wingspread Declaration on Religion and Public Life: Engaging Higher Education
. It is a set of guidelines intended to provide a more spiritual environment on college campuses. The authors suggest that "students must learn the relevance of religion to all disciplines — sciences, humanities, arts, social sciences — and the professions." I have to admit that, at those lines, I choked. I'll agree that religion has a place in some sciences, yes. It's a sociological and psychological phenomenon. In the humanities and the arts, religion has inspired and informed a vast number of creative works. The English major with no knowledge of Christian symbolism and mythology is going to be extremely confused by Milton, just as the English major with no knowledge of late 16th century British culture is going to miss a lot of the meaning in Shakespeare. It's part of the cultural milieu, and should be taught as such in any discipline that engages itself with the cultural milieu.
diciplines? What exactly is the relevance that religion has to, for instance, theoretical physics? Do the authors of this declaration expect that science teachers will teach religous perspectives on their subject? Or would it find a place in classes on the history of science? The interaction of religion and science has been almost exclusively adversarial. It may be useful to teach aspiring scientists how to deal with religion-inspired debates regarding their field; but the place for that is in an ethics class, not a science classroom. The speed of light and the mechanism of DNA transcription and translation are the same for a fundamentalist Christian and a radical athiest.
I've always been fond of Stephen Jay Gould's characterization of religion and science as nonoverlapping magisteria. It would be wonderful if it were true. Unfortunately, religion as practiced by quite a lot of American Christians has a tendency to try and assimilate all the other disciplines into itself. And I sincerely believe that, by doing so, the eventual loser is religion. When a religious leader makes firm statements that are scientifically falsifiable
, he loses the trust of everyone in his congregation with an interest in evidence and logic. When he attributes those statements to the revealed Word of God, it's God that those parishioners lose faith in. You keep the sheep, but you lose everyone who is insufficiently sheepish.
My faith, if I can call it such, is in the idea that provable truth will inevitably, eventually win over evidence-free polemics. You don't have to teach the relevance of religion to science. Teach the science. The students who want to see religion in the natural world are going to see it there; the students who are interested in the history of science and the ethics of science will get that in seperate classes; religion is not relevant
to the methods of science or to the knowledge that we have about the world around us.
December 6th, 2006
Happened upon an interesting meme...
"What three books had the biggest emotional impact on you?"
Tracy Hickman, The Immortals
. Yeah, that one broke me for months. (I am kind of amused that it took me so long to find the actual author's name because I kept thinking it was written by Margaret Weis.) Set in the immediate future -- much more immediate now than when she wrote it, of course: 2010. AIDS has mutated into a highly infectious, quick-killing, airborne disease called V-SIDS, thanks to some ill-considered attempts to create a contagious vaccine, and internment camps for the infected have been set up throughout America. The protagonist infiltrates one of the camps looking for his estranged son, who he believes has gotten sick. Severe heartbreak and mind-boggling inhumanity follow. Haven't re-read it since I was 16! Don't know if I want to, either. I vividly recall the moping.
Daniel Keyes, Flowers for Algernon
. Good-hearted, mildly retarded man undergoes a procedure to increase his IQ. It succeeds at first, boosting him far above normal intelligence levels, and then the effects begin to reverse themselves... My kind-of-crazy eighth grade English teacher asked me to write the class test on this book, which resulted in me having to read it a heck of a lot. But really, I think the one reading would have been enough for it to have a major effect on me. Excluding the fact that an experiment like that would never in a million years be sanctioned by any review board, it has some pretty powerful messages about social norms, exclusion, perception, and the ways in which we construct "value." Sadly, the test I wrote included none of these things, and was basically a trivia quiz meant to ascertain whether my classmates had actually read it. Oh well. Live and learn.
CLAMP, Tokyo Babylon/X. I printed out salient portions of X volume 16 and carried them around with me for two months my senior year of high school, and I couldn't even read hiragana; I'd just memorized the dialogue. It, um, actually has not stopped hitting me that hard. As I learned to my surprise the other day when I stumbled across one of the old S/S fics... A Game of Chess, I think... and two paragraphs in, I was sniffling and wobbly-chinned. I am so weak to this one. I don't even know why. Severe identification issues with cute young pre-tragedy Subaru, I suspect. (Optimism does *not* equal naivete, I swear!)
And that's not counting all the books I've loved and carried around with me and lent to everyone I could find on the grounds that I needed more converts to the Church of Whoever It Is This Week. *That's* a list starting back with -- god -- the Great Brain series and Diane Duane's So You Want to Be a Wizard
, and continuing through books on which I still base big sections of my self-identity, like the Earthsea books and The Lathe of Heaven
and I, Robot
... Night Watch
and The Door into Shadow
and the Antryg Windrose not-trilogy and the Nightrunner books which are a not-trilogy along exactly the same organizational format: duology, follow-up novel. Tristam Shandy
, Les Miserables
, Lois Bujold's Memory
... most recently, it's Shadow of the Wind
, which I bought in translation to English last week and have read three times since. The author's Carlos Ruiz Zafon, with an accent mark over the o in Zafon only I don't know how to express that in web-coding; the book is about a bookseller's son who finds a copy of the last novel of a mysterious and obscure author, a man surrounded in conflicting stories, who was born in Barcelona, lived in Paris, and returned to Barcelona after the publication of his last novel, only to die there within the week. The more that the bookseller's son learns about the author, the deeper the parallels between their lives go; but there are some important and dangerous differences, and the sins of past generations threaten to repeat themselves. Let me put it this way: it is rare that I figure out a main plot early on and still find a need to spend two hours over coffee in a donut shop finishing the novel as quickly as possible. And rarer to read it on the train back home as well, but I did that... it's a gorgeous, sensual, occasionally vivid and disturbing novel that at the heart is all about the love of books and of storytelling, and the combination of those two blew me away.Tags: books