kurt's nightmare

Generally, I post once a week. Topics are randomly selected and depend mostly upon whether it's baseball season or not. Other topics will include sex, politics, old girlfriends, music, and whatever else pops into my little brain. If you'd like to read, or ignore, my blog about China: http://meidabizi.blogspot.com/

Location: Dayton, OH, Heard & McDonald Islands

I'm an Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of Dayton. I represent no one but myself, and barely do that. I'm here mostly by accident.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

A former student showed up out of the blue--Hello, Jennifer--and told me about a musician I should check out. Perhaps you should, too:


A little bit of "singer songwriter" goes a long way, I must admit, so I'm hesitant. There was always this kind of creepy feeling I got when someone in college would take out a guitar and sing earnest, plaintive songs, and we all sat around looking at each other, thinking we were having some sort of profound experience. Usually it was just pain.

On the other, less cynical hand, some singer songwriters are just amazing: either good technique on the instrument (invariably a guitar), songwriting skills, distinctive voice (and, ideally of course, all three). Some who come to mind who I listen to over and over are Lucinda Williams, Steve Earle, Dylan (surprise), Tish Hinojosa, Robert Earl Keen, and Jimmie Dale Gilmore. I doubt if Joe Ely counts in this category--too much of a rocker. Ry Cooder is a whole different story. Perhaps I should someday list my "desert island" choices of records; I know Ry would be on it. My brother named his kid "Ry," even though I had planned to (but the bro reproduced first); I wonder if Mr. Cooder has any idea.

The whole discussion makes me miss Texas. My yankee friends (and relatives) often have a view of Texas that seems to reduce it to this vast wasteland of bad politics, bad religion, and, generally, bad news. Of course, it is different if, say, you spend a day (and night) in Austin, having a drink or two at Scholz's Biergarten, then going out to listen to one of the dozens of great musicians playing there; perhaps the next day you drive through the Hill Country, stop and see some art in Fredericksburg or just drive through Llano (my favorite town in Texas, I think), or head to San Antonio, where you can also hear some excellent music (and eat autentica comida Mexicana).

Stay clear of El Paso, Texarkana, and the suburbs of Dallas (I wouldn't even consider Houston); focus on central Texas, where there is a very cool historical interaction between Mexican, Texan (Texican), Czech, and German cultures; tortillas y las accordianas.

For those who really care, read the first part of Michael Lind's book on George W., "Made in Texas"; a very nice phenomenology of Texas geography, and a clear and well-reasoned explanation why the same state can give us Phil Gramm and Tom DeLay can also give us Molly Ivins and Jim Hightower.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

It looks as if the NL Wild Card is going to be taken by the Astros (who we used to call the Disastros, and the Lastros). This should make Cardinal fans nervous; Clemens is, well, Clemens, with a very frightening ERA, especially on the road; Petite has been pitching great since the break, and Oswalt is, when healthy, always tough. Add Lidge, who last year and this has generally been lights out, I have to rate the Astros pitching as better than the Cardinals, although I think the Cards' middle relief is better. But everyone's middle relief, from Tampa Bay to Milwaukee, is a bit spotty. An eternal truth, except when Ron Davis was doing his thing in NY.

So, to get down to it: I expect the Cards to beat the Padres, as does everyone else. I also expect the Astros to beat the Braves (although this will be an interesting series, and much will depend on how the Braves' rookies and starters do, truistically enough). So we have a 7 game series--Cards have the home field advantage--that will be eerily similar to last year's nailbiter. Edmonds: do your thing, again, please!

The thing the Cards have going for them is the anemic offense of the Astros--no Carlos Beltran this year seems likely to emerge. Maybe Bagwell is back; I like all aspects of the Cardinals, except the starting pitching, relative to the Astros. I also know how the Cards have fared this year against Houston, and this provides a source of some optimism.

If there is a just God, the Cards paste the 'Stros, 18-2, in the seventh game. I'm a little torn here, you see; I want the Cards to get back to the Series, of course, but I have two tickets if there is a seventh game of the NLCS.

There is another league, of course, such as it is with a DH and other monstrosities (e.g. Steinbrenner). I figure the Yankees win the East, White Sox hold on against Cleveland, and the Angels hold on in the West, and the Indians get the Wild Card. Sorry, Red Sox. Consider it cosmic justice, or karma, for what happens to Idiots when they Cowboy Up, or whatever it is people do out there in Fenway. Repeat after me: "'uff da!"

Going out on a limb: Cards beat the Yankees in 6 in the Series, and we will get to hear extensive discussions of the Series of 1926 (last out made by Babe Ruth, trying to steal) and 1964, including cool video tape of Bob Gibson. Did you know Gibson runs a llama farm outside of Elmira?

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

A flurry of activity, and then . . . silence. Maybe I should consider a post about abortion, and whether llamas are protected under the Supreme Court's ruling in Griswold v. Connecticut?

There has been too much news to keep up on to try and add something more to the great non-read content of the blogosphere. A friend of mine did suggest I check out this link:

Open Letter

and I suggest you do, as well. The changes rung upon the basic idea--art work, religious wars, miracles, and what all these things do those arguing that Intelligent Design (which, as the old saying goes, may well be neither) should be offered as a competitive alternative to evolution--is pretty amusing, and provides some perspective on the debate that is missing in much of the relevant discussion. Three things seem to emerge:

1) Some defenders of ID will be forced to admit that--in the name of ID--some religions are better than others. My guess is that longevity will be indicated as one of the criteria for "legitimate religion" vs. "illegitimate," but that sets up a slippery slope, or the possibility of a hierarchy. Where, on such a criterion, does Evangelical Christianity come out, relative to Judaism, Confucianism, and/or Roman and Eastern Orthodox Catholicism?

2) Other--perhaps more subtle or honest--defenders of ID will be forced to indicate what the criteria are for legitimate scientific explanation. Testability, fecundity, falsifiability, predictive value used to be prominent among those criteria. One might take the path shared by Jerry Falwell and Paul Feyerabend (who really aren't that tight, conceptually), and call everything science--but then nothing gets taught (if everything is). Or we might want to be honest and say what we mean when we use the word "science" in a way sufficiently meaningful to distinguish it from something else.

3) Finally, we may have to start to come to terms--as biologists, anthropologists, and geneticists do already, of course--and recognize that "evolution" itself is not a univocally-referring term. Lamarck was, in some sense, an evolutionist, as was Kant's predecessor Lambert, as far as that goes. Assume, for the sake of the argument, that "evolutionary theory" began in 1859; does anyone vaguely familiar with the history of biology since then think all those folks working in biology and its subdisciplines agree on everything? And assuming, further, that the answer to this quasi-rhetorical question is "no," then when the opposition starts challenging "evolution," it adds clarity to the discussion to discover what, precisely, it is that they mean by this term.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Wow. I had a comment. If someone else reads this, my audience will double.

I was asked for a link to the "debate" with David Horowitz, which I'm happy to provide:

However, I'm pretty sure one has to register for the site to gain access to ol' Dave's various bons mots. But you can go to his site at FrontPage to read his insights. OK: "insights."

One of the problems I have with Horowitz is that he is thrilled to cull the worst stories out of the academy--and there are horror stories--and take them as representative, from which he goes on to extrapolate all sorts of nonsense. I teach at the University of Dayton, and one of Dave's minions went to town on some of the professors here. The more you know about a given situation, the more you can see not only why certain claims are laughably false, but how the rhetoric is used to make a ridiculous position appear plausible. If I can find that link, I'll post it, as well; I wrote the author a relatively civil note, but got no response.

I found it:

One of his points was that if a book appears on a teacher's syllabus, the teacher not only agrees with everything in the text, but is indoctrinating the students in that view. How one could possibly think this--especially given that it asserts a priori that the classroom has no critical function--escapes me.

In fact, in my letter to the author, I pointed out that rather than picking on the rather moderate faculty members he chose to attack, he should pick on me. I teach serious hard-ass subversion: Socrates, Plato, Descartes, Hume (not to mention Amartya Sen, Katha Pollitt's critique of standpoint feminism, and Donald Davidson, well-known anarchist).

The vast majority of teachers I know--and I know a whole bunch--spend a lot of time thinking about delivering course material, grading, talking with students, reading to stay up in their field, and writing stuff that few others read (mostly about llamas). They really haven't got the energy or time to proselytize (I hope I spelled that one right.) I make fun of lawyers and politicians in my class, to be sure (What do lawyers use for birth control? Their personalities.)
Sometime W, sometimes Clinton, sometimes someone else: after all, there is no dearth of material.