I found a fascinating link chasing a link from the latest bout of Andrew Sullivans conflict between his homosexuality and his attachment to the Catholic Church, namely The Vatican Film list at Steven D. Greydanus' DecentFilms.com. Interesting for two reasons, firstly how much the Catholic Church approves of challenging, counter-orthodox ideas in its film choices, and secondly how good I find the religiously-motivated film criticism of Greydanus to be. In particular, I find the reviewer shows an admirable job of treating high brow, low brow and middle brow films on their merits, as very few film critics succeed in doing, and I think the reviewer's religious orientation is a key to his success in doing this.
Felix Salmon, a friend and a damn good blogger to boot, has written about Crap writing about mainstream movies, but he concentrates mostly on the commercial reasons why there is little in the way of good quality reviews of mainstream movies. There is another issue: even when you look film reviewers who work outside these business pressures, good reviewing of low brow films is much harder to find than good reviewing of high brow films. Here's an example: the only review I found to be at least moderately insightful of of Eminem/Curtis Hanson's 8-Mile was a guest review at Greydanus' site. This is clearly an important popular movie: why the lack of thought-provoking reviews? Reviewer after reviewer makes the connection between the film's form and the convention of Hollywood sport's movies, many talk about its punchy portrayal of urban despair in Detroit, and say almost nothing beyond this. Even Jonathan Rosenbaum's normally reliable Chicago Reader reviews gives only a capusle review, despite regarding it as one of the 10 most important film releases of 2002.
Chomsky in the firing line
Brad De Long wrote a nice put-down of irritating attempts to reason with those far gone on Chomsky idolisation. His characterisation of Chomsky as an intellectual totalitarian is spot on, and not just in his political work. I note that the wikipedia entry on Chomsky is excessively deferential to the great man.
I eagerly await Oliver Kamm's forthcoming overview of Chomsky's political work. I put some links in his comments page:
- A linguist-list review of Randy Harris' landmark study of The Linguistics Wars.
- A review by Randy Harris of Barksy's brown-nosing biography of Chomsky.
- Another review of Barsky's book by John Goldsmith.
Even more links
- Dan Drezner writes about the progress of graduate students in The Art of Criticism.
- Objectivism reaches the shores of advogato, courtesy of shlomif. I encountered Neo-Tech before, a few years ago: it looked like some cult-cum-confidence trick to me back then; is this unfair? I don't regard objectivism as a whole either as wholly absurd (at least one person I respect highly believes in it), or pernicious (reason-centered credos can't be entirely bad in my book), but I find Rand's invocation of Aristotle to be comically bad in a great many more respects.
- I've recently rediscovered John Baez's This Week's Finds in Mathematical Physics: I used to read this devotedly when I was doing my doctorate, but lost the habit when I finished. I've restarted: it's a pleasure, and I recommend it to anyone with a background in algebra, geometry or physics.
- I have a feeling that there is an important link between the ideas the nanocorp promoters have and the sociological ideas that drive free/open software promoters, and I'd like to see more attempts to get the two communities to talk. garym is a distinguished member of the set who understands and applies both sets of ideas; I wish he saw more success in applying them. In response to his five pronged dilemma, I think 1-3 are bad options, 4 and 5 are good, totally different, and the scenario needs more information to decide. I guess option 4 is how the textbook solved this puzzle?
- Larry Solum has posted a much-needed index to his writings on copynorms.
- I've found it difficult to make up my mind about whether the US was justified in invading Iraq, which I couldn't decide beforehand. An important milestone in the post war aftermath will be the publication of the Kay report later this month; I suggest this CEIP article is a useful perspective on what to expect; from following Josh Marshall's TPM, I think this article reaches correct conclusions.
- I still read Michael Glazer's diary, because he occasionally throws up interesting links, even while foaming at the mouth. This questionnaire amused me: the author doesn't give a "pass mark" for being a leftist, but since I am a zero scoring leftist, I assume the figure must be low... Actually, excepting the obvious possible mark for voting Nader, does anyone here score above zero? What for?
- From the bad taste department: Everything you wanted to know about Hamas but were afraid to ask.
A slightly whacky idea that has been doing the rounds has been Alan Carter and Company's work on Reciprocality Theory. I say slightly whacky, because while I think the ideas are almost certainly wrong, I think there is interesting new data gathered here and the ideas might point in the direction of sound science, especially since the authors have made efforts to make their theories empirically testable. Probably the best line of investigation into their ideas lies in their idea of the MzeroParasite, on which I there opined:
It's an interesting hypothesis, and it would be valuable to see it taken up by competent neuroscientists, but I'm afraid Alan Carter's writing style means that a neuroscientist working under usual working pressures is going to find it hard to justify the work. My guess is that his theory is probably `interestingly wrong': plenty of health workers don't think the currently accepted etiology and treatment practice of ADHD is right, and if Carter's hypothesis is wrong it may still be pointing in the right directions. Carter needs to write up his stuff in a way that his thesis is interesting to the ungenerously skeptical neuroscientists, which I think needs a cooler, leaner paper.