The Pats are comfortably handling Miami so I'm surfing the web for comics (following a conversation at lunch last week). For some reason I need to share this with the world [you can click on the post title to see the original over at xkcd.com]:

Happy holidays. No, really. I mean it.

Nintendo needs to hire Johnny Chung Lee

I've spent the last couple of days playing the online mode of Medal of Honor Heroes 2. Nothing special (it really suffers from a lack of player communication--no voice plus grenades equals frustration. But the immersive wii interface makes the game fun. Now imagine if the good people at Nintendo paid more attention to Mr. Lee's newest hack (I posted Lee's motion sensor hack a few months back):


One in a billion (of billions)

Today science loses one of its most significant public speakers. In an age in which science and technology becomes exponentially more complex, we need more people like Sagan who can connect university research to the general public. I just finished copyediting Dave Tietge's Rational Rhetoric for the Parlor Press, so I've got science and the public sphere on my brain (no link to the book yet).

Anywho, how about some baloney detection[boo flash navigation that doesn't allow direct links--you'll find the baloney detector, a nice primer on Aristotelian logical fallacies, under "ideas"].


I Am Legend


I give a big thumbs up to Warner Bros. marketing department for not giving anything away in their commercials. I hadn't read the book, so it was fresh to me. This is the best movie I've seen in a theater in quite a long time; if you have two hours, steal away and see it.


Show about Nothing

As a baseball fan and a rhetorician, I feel compelled to write something on the Mitchell report. But since I'm in the midst of grading, and my baby's making that "you better be ready to pick me up" face, I'll keep this brief.

The media has consistently framed the Mitchell report as a sign of Bud Selig's complicity in the steroids era. Selig, thinking of his legacy, needs a public display that says "I cleaned up the steroids problem." He is worried, this argument goes, that he will be remembered as the commish who turned a blind eye. This very well might be true.

But I would argue that the obsessive media coverage of steroids and baseball is also significant. It represents the media's guilt over the summer of 1998. I was a cynical and sophomoric 22 that summer and remember looking at McGwire and Sosa and thinking one thing: "juice." I do not believe anyone educated enough to write for a newspaper or work for a television station could look at those players and not suspect that there was something non-natural going on. Especially people who have access to locker rooms. Especially people who could see the bottles of Andro. I know 1998 was way back before Google--but I'm pretty sure professional reporters could talk to doctors. The obsessive media coverage of performance enhancing substances is an implicit acknowledgment of culpability. They know they should have acted on what we all suspect. Their claims that "we didn't have subpoena power" is hollow and shameful. And they know it. So now the witches are contributing to the hunt.

I don't mean to come off as some superior know-it-all. I knew they were using drugs and didn't care. If a professional athlete is willing to risk health and future to smash a ball 400 feet, awesome. 500 feet? Even better. See-- I told you it was cynical and sophomoric. Only one thing makes me care about the issue now, pathetic as it is (and I mean that in the most rhetorical of senses): the children. A trickle-down economics goes something like this: if I want to make the majors, I got to make the minors, if I want to make the minors, I have to get the scholarship, if I want to get the scholarship, I have to start, if I want to start, I have to make the team, if I want to make the team, I have to play AAU, etc. At the end of the chain? Steroids. I have a 12 year old nephew who plays baseball, and he's already aware of teammates using performance enhancing drugs.

But I won't buy into the excessive hype over the history of baseball. I laugh when people ask "how do we compare Barry Bonds to Hank Aaron and Babe Ruth?" A better question would be: how do you compare Hank Aaron to Babe Ruth? Consider:

  • Changes to the composition of baseballs and bats
  • Radically different dimensions to ball parks
  • Changes to the height of the pitcher's mound [for those who don't follow baseball, this might be the greatest change of all]
  • The development of closers and middle relievers [who radically change the way the game is played--back in the 1930's no one through more than a few breaking balls an inning for risk of blowing out their arm, with specialty relievers and pitch counts, pitchers throw the nasty with particularly more frequency]
  • Oh yeah, the competitive impact of minorities on the game
  • The introduction of weight rooms [Cal Ripken once discussed how when we came up in the early 80's players were discouraged from lifting weights. Common wisdom was that muscle was slow. Apparently they weren't aware of "twitch" muscles]

There's probably more changes that I just can't think of right now. My point is that there are so many changes in the history of baseball that we choose to ignore: steroids is just the line in the sand. I feel that history will view the steroids phenomenon as the first public foray into the ethics of cybernetic enhancement- the first time that science threatens to greatly impact the composition of a human being. It will not be the last.


Women in Games

MTV's Multiplayer site is pulblishing a series of interviews this week with women working in professional games. So far I've read the first two--X-Play's Morgan Webb (who at some point in my life went from being the beautiful woman talking about games to the really cool woman talking about games to the really cool person talking about games) and Jane Pinckard aka Game Girl Advance. Both women talk about how being a woman in games presents both "challenges and opportunities" in Pinckard's words. File this one away for the next time a freshman [male] insinuates that "we've solved that gender problem."


Take a Break from Grading...

...and start evaluating things in five seconds or less. Even comes with instantaneous feedback. Go ahead, you deserve some free time.


Davis > Derrida > Levinas

Today's reading: John Muckelbauer's "Rhetoric, Asignification, and the Other: A Response to Diane Davis" and D. Diane Davis' "The Fifth Risk: A Response to John Muckelbauer's Response". Muckelbauer challenges the assumption that any discourse or pedagogy can claim ethical or political superiority, all share "a different orientation into the impossible wager of discourse" (he is specifically discussing the hermeneutics of Mailloux, the Levinasian alterity of Davis, and the possibility of a third position). Muckelbauer's conclusions performs well his argument that rhetoric, as an art, is not solely concerned with what can be told or shown--it is also very much a matter of feeling.

That is, one of the crucial lessons of Levinas's and Davis's work may well be that, rather than being the telos of rhetoric, judgment may simply be the residue of asignifying, rhetorical processes. But none of these discourses would have any heightened purchase on those processes, as each of them is nothing more (or less) than a different orientation into the impossible wager of discourse, some of which are driven by the desire to criticize or advocate, and some of which are driven by the desire to immanently interrupt the operations of critique and advocacy. In the end, perhaps the best that one can hope for is an impossible encounter with the other on the necessarily impure terrain of the same. Of course, this hope cannot tell you what to do. It cannot tell you what to denounce and it cannot tell you what to endorse. Then again, perhaps it can.

It is the precarious placement of the perhaps--itself an interruption--that interrupts the desire for a Certain judgment. Sweet. And, of course, reading his conclusion made me want to write this post...

I find stomach rejecting Muckelbauer's conclusion--its a bit queezy and tied up in knots, but my head hasn't quite caught up yet (and this returns to his opening point: that rhetoric is more than reason, its sense). This might have something to do with sleep deprivation, who knows. But, while we might not have a stable foundation from which we can make decisions of absolute supremacy, this does not mean we cannot hypothesize from the mists. I believe our orientation toward discourse can affect its political and ethical impact; and Davis' picks up on this when she writes/cites that for Levinas "ethics is not some 'proper response' but this interruption of the self by the other, each time, in which 'the I loses its sovereign coincidence with itself, its identification' ("Trace of the Other 353)." This does not mean that we can extract one ethical program from Levinas' work--rather, we are provided with a first principle, one that eschews egoism and synthesis.

The following comes from the conclusion of Davis' response to Muckelbauer:

Judgment with an eye to justice has no illusions of finality; it is a tentative gesture that is offered without clarity or certitude, both as a test and an invitation. In Otherwise than Being, Levinas writes: "This book interprets the subject as hostage and the subjectivity of the subject as a substitution breaking with being's essence. The thesis is exposed imprudently" (Otherwise than Being 184). Derrida notes that for Levinas the thesis "is therefore not posed, it is imprudently and defenselessly exposed, and yet that very vulnerability is ('this weakness is necessary,' we will read a little later on) the provocation to responsibility for the other, it leaves a place for the other in a taking-place of this book where this here no longer shuts in upon itself, upon its own subject" ("At This Very Moment in This Text Here I Am" 31). As Avital Ronell puts it, "rather than flexing a thetic muscle that would buff up under the light of truth, Levinas offers a discourse vulnerable to its own sense of exposure, frailty and uncertainty" ("The Sacred Alien: Heidegger's Reading of Hölderlin's 'Andenken")


Email Standards

File this one under its about time. A grassroots movement for better cross-client compatibility. The major targets? Gmail and Outlook. Here's to hoping they can have some success. Here's a link to their test email and the properties they are focusing on

Life (or Something Like It)

Finally. I'm back.

My laptop's hard drive died three weeks ago (a couple days after my last post). Stone dead. I had to send if off to the nice people at On Track Data Recovery and pay their extortion reasonable fee of #$%@ dollars to get my data back. Silly me hadn't backed up his files for a few months. Translation: I would have lost half my dissertation, a draft of an article, a ton of reading notes, and all my job search files. For anyone who hasn't gone through a Ph.D. job search, the latter really hurt (especially since I track what I've sent where in spread sheets...). But now, I've got my data back. And Apple gave me a brand new laptop. Yay.

Being laptop-less for almost a month taught me how much I rely on this sleek, black machine. Actually, that's too negative a spin: it taught me how much more productive this machine allows me to be (better, right mrxk?). At times I felt useless without my laptop. I've been about as productive in the five days I've had it back as the three weeks I went without it...

As far as this blog: posts should begin to pick up again. My job search process is quieting down a bit--I've only got about five more applications to send out. Besides that, its a few phone interviews and then MLA. Which means that I'll actually be able to return my focus to my disseration. Which means I'll have some material to publish to a blog. To get started, I've been reading a lot of interviews with Derrida from later in his life. Here's a nice selection on how Derrida imagines audience (and the ethical implications of imagining that one can control writing and its reception):

Derridean Method from "There is No One Narcissism" pp. 199-201

Q.: [ ... ] you have often repeated that deconstruction is not a method, that there is no "Derridean method." How, then, is one to take account of your work? How do you evaluate its effects? To whom is your work addressed and, finally, who reads you?

J.D.: By definition, I do not know to whom it is addressed. Or rather yes I do! I have a certain knowledge on this subject, some anticipations, some images, but there is a point at which, no more than anyone who publishes or speaks, I am not assured of the destination. Even if one tried to regulate what one says by one or more possible addressees, using typical profiles, even if one wanted to do that it would not be possible. And I hold that one ought not to try to master this destination.