enjoying the foliage

Archive for March 2008

I’ve been pretty busy recently with activity in Ottawa so I haven’t been able to post all that often. However:

I heard that recently there was an occupation of the presidents office at New College at U of T to protest a hike in residence fees. My understanding of this is that New College fucked up and is charging the students for this. This is all well and good, except that tuition fees are already astronomically high as it is and not everyone is rich and middle class. All the criticisms of this protest I’ve ever heard are that the protesters were immature and shouting and being in the office of the president are bad things and because of this, the police were justified in removing them. This creates quite the double standard because if a bunch of police officers were in my house because I was committing some kind of scam and I forcibly removed them I would soon be unconscious on the floor. In fact, the only reason why an authority would ever get upset over the means used to protest it is if these means have a chance of changing things. Pacifism is fine as a representation of values contrary to what those in power hold (wars, globaliation, etc.) but the chances of it accomplishing anything are pretty slim. There’s obviously a couple example of it working, but there are countless many more of it failing. Shouting in the office of the president is not even violent unless you consider the noise impacting people ears to be violence. People suggest that these students should have created some kind of petition and be all polite about it so it would have been that much easier for Mr. President to crumple it up and throw it in the trash. What exactly do these universities need so much money for anyways? Is it for them to get rid of all the tenured professors and replace them with over-worked sessional instructors? I know Carleton does this, so they clearly do not need to money to improve education. Far more likely, the money is used to give contracts to companies like Aramark and Coca-Cola at the expense of the students. Aramark, a major food-service provider on campuses and prisons across the continent is being watched like a hawk by Human Rights Watch and other organizations. I can’t speak for U of T, but Carleton gave those guys a 10 year exclusivity contract that says nobody is allowed to compete. And when I say nobody, I mean NOBODY. Want to have a bake sale? That’s competition. What to have a movie night on campus with your own food that you give to others in attendance? That’s competition. I volunteer with a vegan pay-what-you-can soup kitchen on campus and we have to prepare our food off campus and drive it over every day because cooking on campus would compete with this company. Coke sucks for obvious reasons too. The situation seems to me to be this:

-universities give lots of money to large companies to dominate campus at the expense of student-run clubs and organiations

-universities take money away from hiring professors and allowing them to do a quality job at the expense of students

-universities hike up student fees to pay their buddy companies at the expense of students

-students lambast those who speak up about this for being too radical and, God forbid, shout about it

-international students who come to study in Canada can only really work on campus and for minimum wage and can’t exactly afford to pay for this bullshit like many privileged people can

Who else sees a problem with this? Why is the money being allocated to making the universities richer and the students and education poorer? Education is a universal human right and why are universities favouring money over rights? I was talking to some other Carleton students about this and they said that we need to occupy the president’s office here. The methods of these U of T students are constantly attacked on the grounds that it was disruptive and so on and so on, but isn’t that what actually causes change? The reason the president reacted in such as way was because he felt the pressure, but fortunately he had is loyal students to resort to name calling and attack the protesters on childish groups (They’re stupid!). I personally don’t think these students did anything wrong, and if anything, they should have been more drastic.  How else is anything going to get done?

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Very little makes me non-grumpy these days. This guy, Rives, makes me non-grumpy, at least briefly.

Check out Mockingbird. It… needs to be heard. Sit through it all; it’s one of those things that only hits you at the end.

I promise that I will get around to posting something substantial on this thing, but for now I think I have to stick with whimsy. I recently discovered Theo Jansen, a kinetic sculptor. This is what his Wikipedia page says about him:

Jansen is dedicated to creating artificial life through the use of genetic algorithms, which simulate evolution inside their code. Genetic algorithms can be modified to solve a variety of problems including circuit design, and in the case of Jansen’s creations, complex systems. Some measure of “fitness” is introduced into the algorithm; in Theo’s case it is to survive on the beach while moving around within two enclosing lines on the wet sand near the ocean and the dry sand at the edge of the beach. Those designs best at the assigned task within the modeled beach environment are bred together and graded again. Over time complex designs emerge which sprout wings and flap in the breeze pressurizing what look like plastic two liter soda bottles. Articulated legs sprout and scuttle across the sand like those of a crab. Jansen uses plastic electrical conduit to make some of the computer’s most promising designs; and he then lets them roam free on the beach, measures their success, and updates his model.

After reading that, I didn’t really get it. You really have to watch this, a commercial Jansen made in collaboration with BMW:

Isn’t that maybe the most beautiful, creepy, amazing thing you have ever seen? There is another here, which Jansen calls The Animaris Rhinoceros.  It’s exactly the kind of aesthetic that I really like but don’t really know exactly how to describe. Imagine a herd of Rhinoceri creeping slowly across a plain, huge and silent. I recommend turning the sound off on youtube and listening to something Radiohead-equivalent when you watch it.

I hope, having seen this, you all have amazing fantastical dreams. Goodnight!

If you know me, then you know that I’m quite possibly the worst at watching TV avidly. Even if I like a show, I am rarely ever compelled to sit down and watch it on a regular basis. Hand me a DVD box set of a notoriously addictive series, and I will let it collect dust on my bookshelf alongside the New Testament. I hate introducing new regularities in my life, and I hate passively sitting in front of screens, so TV and I just don’t jive. Of course there have been exceptions, and one of these is jPod. I started watching it over Reading Week because there were two men that philosophy had introduced into my life that I couldn’t get out of my head, and only one of them was Aristotle.  I only stopped watching because (1) I ran out of episodes and (2) I had to tackle five weeks worth of feminism readings.  jPod is quite possibly one of my favourite shows ever. It is Canadian, quirky, clever, and absolutely hilarious. Did I mention that CBC is canceling it?

Here’s my plea to all of you: click on the link above, take 40 minutes of your day and watch the first episode (CBC has them available via streaming video) when you need an excuse not to do your work. If you fall in love, watch more and then write a letter to CBC to tell them how much you need jPod in your life.

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In an attempt not to rant, I will keep this to as few words as possible:

Why does society condemn ex-New York Governor Eliot Spitzer, who over the course of his career has sued the Bush administration on several counts of ecological crimes, taken steps to give “illegal aliens” driver’s licenses, and moved to allow same-sex marriage in the state, among other things, because of an issue that isn’t in any way relevant to his political career?

As far as I’m concerned, he and any other public figure can shag whoever the hell they want and pay to do so if that’s their cup of tea. The fact that $18,000 US went to a prostitution syndicate is small potatoes indeed compared to the far larger sums that go into far fishier things, coal and oil subsidies for one. The military. Climate change denial. Okay you get the idea. There are bigger problems in the world than one man’s sex life, and I’m beginning to suspect it’s his comparative progressiveness of policymaking, not where he’s chosen to put his Johnson, that’s ticked off the Powers That Be.

Just saying.

PS – The term “spigot” is courtesy of Woody’s World of Penis Euphemisms.

Guys, I have SO MUCH work to do now and in the next few weeks, but I feel compelled to post this. From kottke:

The Desire Paths Flickr pool. Desire paths are improvised paths built collectively by pedestrians trying to find the shortest way across the grass, like ants laying down pheromone trails to food. I’ve heard of some clever institutions who wait for desire paths to be laid down by pedestrians and then put permanent sidewalks in those places.

There are tons of Desire Paths around UofT and I’m always intrigued by them. There is something rebellious and vaguely romantic about rejecting sidewalks. Do people all naturally seek a similar path? Was it a couple of people who obstinately grouped together and decided to walk the same trail? How long does it take to trample a path? I think about this every day.

I was skirting work of real substance this afternoon by Googling Brit philosopher Colin McGinn (whose contribution to philosophy of mind will be the primary focus of my term paper due in two and half weeks or so) when I stumbled across this. I love PBS like I love my mother. Its documentaries are of fairly decent quality for productions made for public consumption, and most of them are available online like this one. I haven’t listened to or read all of the interviews, but basically, this doc features Bill Moyers talking to a number of luminaries (all writers of some description, I believe) like Salman Rushdie, Margaret Atwood, and Colin McGinn about faith and reason. Like most intelligent people over the age of fifteen, I don’t think that faith and reason are mutually exclusive avenues toward belief. We all dig our heels in somewhere along the ideological terrain and decide that this is where we will make our stand and start constructing shelters for our loves, lives, and hopes. For the most part, I’d like to think that these homes are built of a mixture of various rational materials, but regardless, I think that the ground they stand on must be faith of a kind. We believe in humanity or in God or in Truth or something just that firm because it can’t just be turtles all the way down. We need to stand on something. Anyway, I like PBS docs for somewhat intellectual distraction. I’ll probably watch these while eating lunch or something for the next little while.