Blog or Not?

A statistically improbable polymath's views on politics and culture.

Monday, July 28, 2003
I'm pleased to report that the new Todd Oldham home collection at Target is actually, well, cute. He's focused less on circa-1950s "team spirit" and more on 1950s-60s swank, and the colors actually somewhat coordinate. (I'm not big on the navy/plum/lime main scheme, but it's better than orange/red/baby blue/navy.) This has me wonder: Is this new collection actually the product of Minneapolis (home of Target)-based blogger/ Target addict James Lileks? The light-up 'lounge' sign feels like it could have been lifted from the Institute, but on second thought, there are too many similarities to last year's Todd Oldham Dorm Room collection. Maybe Target HQ just told Oldham "for the love of God, could you please make this year's color scheme palatable to the non-color-blind? If this collection tanks, you're outta here."

Wednesday, July 16, 2003
This is absolutely meaningless in the grand scheme of things, but why doesn't Arnold Schwartzenegger dub his own lines in German? I was watching one of those celebrity-access shows today and saw a clip of "Terminator Drei" in which Arnold was not saying his own lines. What gives?

Friday, July 11, 2003
An open letter to theocrats, the mullahs ruling Iran, etc:

Dear Theocrats,
In the past few days the Blogosphere has concentrated on your opponents, the pro-democracy protestors in Iran. Now, since you mullahs have been sending your money out of the country, you know the end is near. For the moment I'm going to assume the best about your intentions--that you have ruled Iran the way you have in order to stop immorality, not as a show of personal power. So you all must be pretty panicked right about now, worrying that in a few years Teheran will be one massive orgy. I'm here to tell you one thing: It's not going to happen.

Oh, sure, once the restrictions are lifted, there'll be a few years of relative debauchery. But in a few years, people will long for stability again--and they will become moral from the inside out. Outward shows of piety will actually mean devotion to religion and not just conformity to the expectations of a regime. Individuals will have to make their own moral choices--and in the process become morally stronger.

Think about a corset. When worn, it supports the back and stomach muscles. Yet if a corset is worn too long, the back and stomach muscles atrophy, and the corset is needed just to keep the spine erect. Would it not be better for the condition of the back and stomach muscles to exercise these muscles and forego the corset? The effect will perhaps not be as dramatic, but it will be truer and have more meaning. When Iran's governmental corset is removed, many will admit openly that your reign alienated them from Islam. Many naturally pious people will complain that their piety was aped by everyone in the struggle for survival.

Or it could be that you're just in it for the power. I can understand that--everyone is aroused, titillated, piqued, fascinated by... power. Grrrr.

A Democrat

Sunday, July 06, 2003
Shoutout to Iranian reformist protestors! You may not know it yet, but you're winning--I'm willing to bet hard cash that the theocracy is broken, or at least reined in, within the next ten years. Maybe there'll still be religious influence on government, but I don't think that ten years from now any religious council will have unchecked powers.

Tuesday, July 01, 2003
When sitting around the house last night it occured to me that one of the reasons why school funding is racked with economic inequity is due to a simple competition problem. In wealthier school districts, parents have more money, ergo more choice about where to send their kids to school, ergo the public schools must be competitive with private schools in order to keep receiving federal funds. In poorer districts, parents can't afford to send their kids to private schools, and so the school district doesn't have the pressure to spend a lot of money on the schools. In this context, the idea of school vouchers makes sense. However, since school vouchers open up a lot of church/state issues, I'd argue that there's an easier way to deal with the issue of education inequity:

Stop funding the schools through property taxes. Anything that's funded through property taxes will give the most resources to people who need them the least. I don't know how schools should be funded--personally, I think that federal funding is preferable, but some people go into fits: oh my God, the Feds are going to force us to read Heather has Two Mommies to first-graders!. Not going to happen. Contrary to popular opinion, UC-Berkeley does not run the Department of Education. (All of those DOE-affiliations that Berkeley has are Department of Energy.) The most controversial thing I can think of that a national curriculum would do is to force high school biology classes to discuss the scientific evidence favoring Darwinian theory* of evolution.

Wait a second... the most controversial and revolutionary thing a national curriculum could do is to incite critical thinking. On the one hand, if children are taught to think critically, politicians and corporate executives will actually have to be honest. On the other hand, if children aren't taught to think critically, our civilization will decline.

*The scientific usage of the word "theory" does not mean "one of many possible explanations", it means "the most likely explanation", usually with a likelihood of at least 50%. It should be noted that Darwinian theory does not exclude the possibility of a supernatural being endowing the human species with free will and that breed of consciousness we call a soul. And we still haven't figured out how the first living cell came into being.