29 September 2007

American Philosophy?

A new documentary (previously excerpted here) appears to be forthcoming. From the trailer, it looks promising, if (perhaps) confused.

It's an interesting topic: is there such a thing as American philosophy (other than in the merely extensional sense that Michael Hodges mentions)? Certainly, in this extensional sense, I'm an American philosopher, but (qua philosopher, anyway) I am decidedly uninterested in the various themes that are mentioned at the end of the clip (freedom, justice, oppression, etc.).

Moreover, it appears to include a somewhat idiosyncratic selection of interviewees, and some of the filmic outbursts seem sophomoric. Hard to tell what kind of tone it's trying to set, or what audience it seeks. Would this really interest a lay audience? Then again, is it likely to inform philosophers?

Also, there's a rather cruel moment (at about 4:42 remaining), where the editor pauses on the image of Prof. Erin McKenna (Pacific Lutheran University), as if to suggest that it's she who is eccentric. (Watch it in context, beginning at 5:54 remaining.)

But maybe, as they say, any press is good press. Maybe. In any case, here's the trailer:

25 September 2007

Shasta Take-Down

I'm not much of a Pat Forde fan, but this excerpt from his column on ESPN.com is pretty funny ...
Shasta To Golden Bear: Duck!

If you're even vaguely acquainted with YouTube, you've probably seen the video of the Sept. 1 mascot throwdown between Shasta (26) the Houston Cougar and the Oregon Duck (27). It's gone worldwide, reportedly drawing especially enthusiastic response in Japan.

NOTE: Somehow I managed to miss this footage myself, so, in case you did also, here it is ...

Hysterical. Back to Forde ...

The video shows a one-sided, web-footed whuppin' at Autzen Stadium, with the Duck abusing poor Shasta far beyond the bounds of normal mascot playfulness. Punches, kicks and a flying elbow drop were enough to get the deranged Duck suspended for Oregon's home game against Fresno State on Sept. 15. But according to Houston, it was selective film usage.

"For what it's worth, [Shasta] did stick the Duck at least once," offered Houston sports information director Chris Burkhalter.

As it turns out, Houston has more than just a fake-furred mascot's manhood to protect. The guy in the Cougar suit happens to be a walk-on wide receiver named Matt Stolt (28) -- and you simply cannot have a football player being owned by a duck.

So Stolt explained his relative passivity: "Being a mascot is for the fans, it's to represent the school. If you want to fight, take off the gear. He wasn't fighting Matt Stolt, he was fighting Shasta. Shasta got his licks in, but he wasn't there to fight. If it was just me and him, I'd take off the suit and fight."

Stolt admitted he has "taken a little flak" from his teammates over the fight.

"They said there's no reason I should be taking it from a duck," he said.

This is just another line on Stolt's varied Joe College résumé. He's a mascot, he's a football player -- and for his first two years at Houston he played trumpet in the marching band. The only job Stolt hasn't had at home football games is selling popcorn.

"I just like being a part of something and I like to represent UH," said Stolt, a Texas native who will graduate in May with a degree in kinesiology.

With California visiting Oregon on Saturday for a major showdown, The Dash thought it wise to get Cal's Golden Bear (29) a scouting report on the Duck's dirty tricks. Oskie once got into quite a dustup with the Stanford Tree (30) during a basketball game, but this could be a step up in class.

Here's the dish on the duck from Shasta:

"My advice to any mascot that goes against him is not to worry. There won't be a problem. I think the duck's in enough trouble right now. But if it comes to that, just turn that duck's head around so he can't see nothin'."

24 September 2007

Obama's Strategy

In today's Times (UK), Andrew Sullivan has a perceptive, big-picture take on Barack Obama's strategy and standing in the Democratic primary now underway. Here's the money quote:

In a polarized climate, where Rudy Giuliani is already lambasting Hillary and itching for a fight, Obama is sticking to a disciplined message of reconciliation, unity, responsibility.

Is this a mistake? Whoever won a Democratic primary by insisting on being open to Republicans? That is the risk Obama is taking. But when you observe and listen closely, you see this is what he actually means.

He detects an enormous weariness among Americans about their internal divisions in a time of war, overlaid by the anger and divisions that have deepened and widened under the Bush presidency. He suspects that if he can get past Clinton’s aura of inevitability, Democrats will realise he has a much better chance of winning a real national majority in the general election than Clinton does. Clinton polarises the way Bush polarises. She can hope for a Karl Rove-style 51% majority in a deeply divided country. He’s aiming for 55%.

Clinton, in other words, represents payback for the Democrats and liberals after the Bush era, just as Giuliani is emerging as the inheritor of the Bush legacy of divide and rule. Right now, Obama remains to the side, offering Americans something else: not payback, but a new page.

The rest of the article is available here.

I think Sullivan is absolutely correct about the kind of strategy Obama is relying upon, and he's right that it could well fail. The hard question is whether we should prefer to fail with his strategy or to win with hers. My fear is that we are bound to do both.

23 September 2007




14 September 2007


I've long had a penchant for obituaries. Something about the stock-taking involved attracts me.

Something that's always bothered me is how unfortunate it is that the notable-but-not-household-name deaths are over-shadowed by the deaths of the more famous. It's no one's fault, but somehow it seems to add insult to injury.

For instance, while I admit to tearing up every time I hear him eulogize himself through recordings played on TV and radio, Pavarotti's recent expiration outshone that of Alex, the African grey parrot who died the same day, and about whom I've written previously. Alex's last squawk just couldn't compete with Luciano's glorious tenor, but his untimely death (he was expected to live for many more years) deserves mention.

Likewise, amidst the September 11th memorials, we didn't stop to pay our respects to the great Joe Zawinul, who died on that fateful date this year. But Zawinul was an extraordinary composer, keyboardist, and band-leader. Listening to John McLaughlin talk today reminded me of how difficult it would be to conceive of jazz fusion without Zawinul, Bitch's Brew, and Weather Report.

And then there's the recent spate of philosopher deaths. When the big-shots die, the profession bows its head -- or thumbs its nose, as the case may be. But also significant are the less heralded losses: those like Susan Hurley -- whose obituary didn't make the national papers in the UK until nearly a month following her death (The Guardian, The Times) -- Michael Frede -- who drowned off the coast of Greece and whose death has yet to be acknowledged in any national paper (though the Berkeley Classics department has a notice here) -- and Timothy Sprigge -- whose death seems to have attracted about as much notice as his work, I'm sorry to say.

The world has become significantly poorer following these departures. So it seems to me anyway, even if not to the mass media. And so we acknowledge them here, lest they be forgotten.

UPDATE: Okay, so Frede's death was noted in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.