Friday, September 12, 2008

More Palin

Wow, this woman has inspired comment like no other. Now, bringing you more about Palin and feminism, here are:
Another very cool thing I found out about yesterday is The Bechdel Rule. It's kind of awesome.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Another Race. Another Scandal.

I know I'm a bit late in commenting on the latest row in the F1 world following the stewards' decision to penalise Hamilton after the Belgian Grand Prix... but wow, do people need to lay off the consipracy theories. I didn't think Lewis Hamilton deserved a retrospective penalty; but honestly, everything is not about Ferrari. I love how Schumacher's controversial 1994 collission with Damon Hill in the series finale gets thrown about as an example of how much the FIA favours(ed) a) Ferrari and b) Schumacher. First, Schumacher was driving for Benetton then, not Ferrari, and had, in fact, not even signed for Ferrari at that point. Second, it's amazing how short memories are. If anything, the FIA did everything possible that year to ensure that Schumacher did Not win the championship, banning him from two races, black flagging him and disqualifying him from two others. The only reason it got so close between Hill and MS was because of all these penalties. So people need to shut up about that.

And how come when Ferrari gets a component banned, it's becuase it was cheating, but when other teams do (e.g. Renault mass damper) it's the biggest subversion of sporting authority ever? The Flexi floor was legal (within the letter of the law) and it got banned. The flexi wings were legal but they got banned. The FIA has interceded many times against Ferrari, as much as tin-foil theorists would like to believe otherwise.

Not to mention that the same people yelling for Hamilton now would be screaming to throw Schumacher out of the sport if he's dared do such a thing. As recently as 2006, Schumacher got a penalty in the qualifying stage of the Hungarian GP that removed any advantage he might've got with his chief rival Alonso getting the same penalty. It proved to be ultimately irrelevant, since the race took place in torrential weather conditions, but that race could've scuppered his chances.

Now, an observation. Hamilton seems to me, depressing as it is to admit, a racer much in the mould of MS. He's quick in the dry, quick in the wet (I know the McLaren is suited to the rain, but still), has a tremendous belief in himself and races hard, and to the edge. Lots of question marks over him, still, of course, but those will probably be answered in due course.

And Schumi, come back. We need you.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

It only takes doomsday

... to get us interested in particle physics. I love how the Large Hadron Collider has suddenly become a household name. We might not fully understand what's going on, what scientists are looking for or why we might die, but its been built-up enough to glue us to our TV screens, no matter where in the world we are. Take that, Beijing Olympics! Cern is more interesting than you.

Onto more earthly matters: While reading a review in Salon on a book about knowledge, called Reinventing Knowledge, the reviewer said this at the end:

McNeely and Wolverton state that the Internet's various outlets for self-expression, "if anything, make the pursuit of reliable, authentic knowledge more, not less, difficult online, by drowning out traditionally credentialed cultural gatekeepers. Relatively few networked forums provide a truly democratic alternative to the focused, substantiated, reasoned -- and elitist -- debate that still governs the disciplines." Them's fightin' words to many proponents of Web 2.0, but the truth is that more of us would agree with that statement than not. Most of the people who distrust scientists or the "MSM" on a pet topic or two, like the safety of aspartame or what really happened on Sept. 11, believe them on a host of other things, like the benefits of exercise or the Russian invasion of Georgia.

Without a doubt, we've entered an era when the official truth is easier to challenge than ever before, but do we really want to live in a world without any established truths at all, or where every fact must be democratically elected by a horde of individuals whose judgment may not be informed or trustworthy? Do we want to let the cranks who care enough to make the biggest stink on a subject be the ones to have the final word on it? On the other hand, can we afford to write off all of them as cranks, knowing that every so often a crank turns out to be a prophet? Somehow, we'll have to sort all this out. And when we do, McNeely and Wolverton will have their revolution.

A lot of this I agree with. In fact, I don't think you can disagree that information on the internet, while readily available, is more suspect. But it becomes a half-full/half-empty thing; whether you think it is ok to give up some veracity for more information and greater democracy, or not.

Oh, and according to an NYT story about the Frannie Mae and Freddie Mac bailout, Paulson said to his friends in August that he "felt like a dog who'd caught a bus and didn't know what to do with it." He's the Joker, then. It's official.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

N-deal, Gun mamas and other tamashas

Much Ado about nothing, as usual. The Post managed to get ahold of a sekrit!letter to the US Congress saying the US would stop supplies to India if India conducted a nuclear test. Um, didn't we already know that? What's all the hullabullo about then? Who knows? Something more for the TV channels and the opposition to yell and scream about.

Sarah Palin's speech at the Republican Convention accepting her nomination as the party's vice-presidential candidate was an unqualified success. Lots has been written about this relative unknown, particularly about her pregnant teenage daughter. But I want to highlight some articles discussing what her candidacy means for women, in a year where we seemed to come so far with Hillary. The first one is Gloria Steinem in the LA Times, which I liked, but am a little uncomfortable with. It's probably because it's Steinem, and she has so much baggage, but she puts forward what is my knee-jerk reaction to Palin quite eloquently in her article. I also appreciated that she criticised the focus on whether Palin, as a mother, should take such a consuming job. Then there's a lot of interesting stuff in Slate, particularly this piece, which draws comparisons between Michelle Obama, who I think is a kick-ass, strong woman who can be a great role model and Palin who... well, is not, IMO. Then there's this article, also from Slate, which attacks (rightly) those saying Palin is being an irresponsible mother by accepting her nomination. And of course the point she makes about the culture wars is interesting. This is yet another piece in the Guardian, which is more about the culture wars in the context of Palin's candidacy, but one I think makes some interesting points about the women's movement. And the NYT is just bitchy (in a good way!), sometimes obviously (cf: Dowd in here and here) and sometimes classily, as with Gail Collins in Sarah Palin Speaks! Salon has a great here and now analysis of the immediate politics surrounding McCain's choice. And this one analyses the new gender vs. race war.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Say it isn't so!

Several news sources are reporting that Battlestar Galactica might get pushed back to April '09. NOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! As if the wait from May till January next year wasn't long enough? These are just rumours, as of yet, it's only Aaron Douglas who alluded to it at a Con. But it better not be true or I'll......... yeah. There's nothing I can do to Sci-fi. Damn the greedy bastards. If this is for the Emmys, really, who cares? They've ignored the awesomeness that is BSG for so long now, it'll almost devalue it to get recognition.

Also, Medialoper suggests BSG has higher fan quality. I always knew this. This is in reply to an AP story doing the rounds wondering why new BSG films and spin-offs are being created when ratings are plummeting, suggesting that it might be time to fix the system of measuring TRPs. There's another story about the new F-word. I knew that trend was going to catch on! And Jamie, the litcrit in him is coming out. So cute.

New Ways of Seeing

So I was reading an old issue of NY Mag (the Jun 23 issue) which profiled Hillary after her loss to Obama as the Democrat presidential nominee. There's a few articles written by various commentators, and the thrust is that even though Hillary lost the nomination, she's become an icon above and beyond the president's office. Some excellent pieces there, and there's one by Bernard Henri-Levy that made me reconsider something about Hillary's marriage.

Now, I've never been one of those who've held against Hillary that she stayed with Bill even after it came out that he'd been having affairs. I thought, hey, political ambition comes first and maybe she's really OK with it, so whatever. And Bill's little peccadilloes (God, I hate that term) are never something I laid at her door. But Henri-Levy has this great insight, when he suggests:

"And in Hillary's case, an additional dimension, flabbergasting for a Frenchman, because related to this typically American illness called puritanism: the memory of the Lewinsky affair. How many conversations in Starbucks of Des Moines, and even sometimes in New York, among "desperate housewives" claiming that only amibition - the most opportunistic, the ugliest, the fiercest of ambitions - could explain her leniency?"
Guilty as charged. I'm no desperate housewife, but I did think she stayed because of her ambition. That I didn't hold it against her is my only defence. Henri-Levy continues to tear my assumptions apart:
" "If my husband humiliated me like he humiliated her...I would have ... I would move out... so to go back to the scene of the crime to push the vice and the complacency to th point of wanting to occupy myself the same office where the act was committed...what a horror! What a shame and what a horror!"

It could have turned out differently. A taste for spectacle and brand-new scenarios could have given us a desire to see the scorned woman put in the unimaginable but fascinating position of entering the devil's house to drain his chalice to the dregs. But political correctness decided otherwise. I believe American feminism chose to punish Billary and their criminal liberalism. [Emphasis added]."
I never for a moment considered: hey, they could've had a open-ish marriage. They might've been okay with their spouse sleeping with someone else. That her husband had an affair didn't automatically mean for her that her marriage was over. Lots to think about, particularly about the assumptions we make, based on our own moral codes. This doesn't have to be the correct explanation (I still believe ambition played its part, though I wonder if she couldn't have got more mileage as the wronged wife) but it could certainly have been part of the reason why she stayed, or even why they could still have a good marriage. Many marriages, after all, don't place a premium on sexual fidelity and get on just fine -- indeed, they might even survive because of the relaxed boundaries.