Wednesday, January 31, 2007

If my post seems a little redundant, it is. My mistake. I copied and pasted when I should have cut and pasted. Cheers.

Monday, January 29, 2007

I'd like to say how much of a pleasure it is to work with and read with all y'all. I speak for myself when I say that some of the greatest minds at CLU will be meeting in Humanities on Fridays this semester to talk about some really important stuff. I'm not too optimistic about the world as we know it. Rest assured none of you are my reason for skepticism, but still I'm sure you'll understand my rationale by the end of the semester.

These are some reasons (or a rant) for why I feel the world cannot be saved.

1. Every time a product becomes more energy efficient, due to technological advances, it is just an excuse for everyone to have six of them instead of one, or, in the case of auto makers, an excuse to increase power, weight, or amenities cancelling out the savings of resources due to efficiency. If everyone can own a car that gets 100 miles to the gallon at a low price, the number of cars on the road will only increase and our pollution problem will remain. Large cars used to get around 20 miles to the gallon in the 1970s; SUVs today rarely get 20 miles per gallon. Consumer demand and ignorance perpetuates this trend.

2. People will not give up what they already have. It is damn near impossible to convince someone to voluntarily give up some energy or resource hogging device that makes their life, what they consider to be, easier or more convenient. It would be even more unlikely to get a politician who benefits from sale or application of that device to restrict or prohibit its use.

3. Most of the organic food eaten in America is consumed by babies, and even that is tainted thanks to those wasteful little jars.

4. Most people, including myself, are in denial. It can really be as bad as Al Gore says it is, can it?

5. People drink bottled water, religiously.

6. Most will not give up what they already have. It is damn near impossible to convince someone to voluntarily give up some energy or resource hogging device that makes their life, what they consider to be, easier or more convenient. It would be even more unlikely to get a politician who benefits from sale or application of that device to restrict or prohibit its use.

Like I said, a rant.


Saturday, January 27, 2007

Grocery Store Wars

Ok so everyone needs to go to and search for Grocery War Stores, its the most amazing thing ever. Trust me.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Should we embrace neophilia?

Thanks to the "futuramb blog", I found a provocative story by Simon Jenkins published today in The Gaurdian. His point is that we often overestimate the advancement of technology. I wrote a brief reaction (inspired by Dale Carrico). It might be relevant to a possible discussion of climate change.

Jenkins' take on technologic "progress" (or its lacking) is clear. But what about social progress? "We watch the future", he writes, "and have stopped watching the present." Insofar as I accept his claim that "we" (whoever "we" are) are making a mistake, I offer another opinion: We watch the technical, and fail to watch the social, the political, and the civil. We watch the technology of the elite, and have ignored that of the marginalized, the impoverished, and the victimized. Jenkins rejects neophilia, but does he also reject the rampant injustice of the "old" and especially of the present? His rhetoric inches treacherously close to reverence for our present material conditions. Yet the material basis of our present civilization is on the brink of failure! Jenkins is welcome to wallow in the nostalgia of primitive, dirty twentieth century technology. But if that sort of discourse gets in the way of demanding a brighter, greener world--one in which renewable energy can power the prosperity of billions, one where digital networks can transform our cultures and economies, and where democracy and human rights can flourish with the help of collaborative communication and institutions--then critical neophilia (or, better yet, a simply progressive attitude) is a sorely needed riposte.

Jenkins grabs our artifacts, holds them before us, and tries (with debatable success) to tell us they haven't changed much and they haven't changed us much. My point is that they obviously haven't changed enough; the moral crisis in which we find ourselves should, indeed, compel us to make cleaner, more humane artifacts. (Of course, as I imagine Jenkins would agree, we should also use the ones we now have more wisely.) My hope is that improving our things--our machines, gizmos, products--will position us to more easily improve our selves and our social lives.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

I just finished the first chapter of Ishmael.

I can’t quite put all of my impressions into a coherent thought right now (and I’m fairly certain that was some of the point), but I’m intrigued by the use of labels.

The part that was the most interesting to me was that Ishmael thought he didn’t exist anymore when his label of “Goliath” was pronounced false. Unaware what the name “Goliath” even entailed, he still managed to put his entire identity into it.

The story the narrator told about his philosophy paper where the Nazis have taken over the world ended on the note that humanity had managed to craft a label so pervasive that anything it didn’t encompass ceased to exist. There were no words for how Kurt had been lied to. That was the point.

Even the way Ishmael first learned language at the circus, through parents who were teaching children the words for things before the child knew the thing itself, fit into that theme.

I don’t know what any of that means, or if it even has a meaning, but I’m excited to find out. Thanks again for making this study, Scott!

Sunday, January 21, 2007

A Crisis Too Urgent for Wisdom

The following is an excerpt from an address to the Minnesota Social Investment Forum delivered 6/7/1993 by Daniel Quinn:

It happened once that a certain Thomas Abbens, or Abbena, reputed to be the wisest man in Europe at that time, was summoned to the court of a young Walachian prince. "I'm in need of a shrewd advisor," the prince informed him. "My subjects are unruly, my enemies ambitious, my sons disobedient, and my wife deceitful. Yet it may be that I will master them all, with your help."

"I'll gladly help you," Abbens replied, "but as a teacher, not as an advisor. We must review your education and remedy its manifest deficiencies."

But the prince sent the wise man away, saying, "It's not my education that troubles me but rather my subjects, my enemies, my sons, and my wife."

A score of years passed before the prince once again summoned Abbens to his side. "I bitterly regret," he said, "that I declined the proposal you made to me, but there's no time to accept it now, for the situation is desperate. My subjects plot against me, my enemies encroach at will upon our lands, my sons defy me before their friends, and my wife contrives to alienate what few allies I have left. Guide me through this crisis with your wisdom, then there'll be time to remedy the deficiencies you perceive in my education."

The wise man shook his head and replied, "What you're asking is that I become prince to your subjects, warrior to your enemies, father to your sons, and husband to your wife. How can this possibly save you? You must learn to become these things yourself, and even a feeble beginning is better than none at all."

But the prince sent Abbens away a second time, saying, "If you won't help me in this hour of crisis, then I must seek one who will."

When Abbens next met the prince, a decade later, he was a prince no longer but only a beggar in the streets of Budapest.

"It happened a year ago," the former prince explained. "Because my subjects were in open rebellion, my sons conspired to seize the throne. And my enemies, informed of the conspiracy by my treacherous wife, chose this opportunity to fall upon us. But perhaps some good may yet come of these calamities, for, if you will share it with me, I am at least now free to avail myself of the wisdom I formerly rejected."

But Abbens replied: "The catastrophe that wisdom might have averted has already befallen you. Of what use is wisdom to you now?"

Looking forward to the adventure

Dear Ishmaelers,

I look forward to participating in this project. Thanks Scott and Jonathan for setting up the blog.


Thursday, January 18, 2007

Current Syllabus

Come to the meetings. That simple. If you miss it, YOU suffer...that's all.

I would like to see each member post an entry at least once a week. Length does NOT matter, simply I need to know where everyone is at. This will help me with the discussions.

Reaction essay:
At the end of this book study all members will write a summery of their reactions and critiques on this blog.