Friday, August 12, 2011

Friday Round Up!: Why No One Except Grandma Can Have Nice Things

I missed last Friday's roundup because I was busy contemplating whether or not I should just drink myself into oblivion to cope with the debt ceiling fallout.  Luckily, I've decided against it, so here's this week's hit parade!
  • Steampunk Fashion on Display at HCC (ABC13, Texas) First on the list is my grandmother's upcoming exhibit in Houston, TX, because Grandma is awesome and so is this exhibit.  She is a fashion historian and recently gifted her historical collection (which, by the way, is about 5,000 pieces strong) to her American Costume Society compatriot Kay King at Houston Community College.  Some of the pieces were used to put together a fabulous steampunk exhibit, and my Dad, Grandma and I will be headed down to Texas at the end of September for Elizabeth Brown Day and the exhibit's opening!  Here's the news clip from the local ABC affiliate:
  • What's Happening With the London Riots? (Mother Jones)  Mother Jones routinely posts these rolling update articles about major events, and I find them immensely helpful.  As far as the riots, I encourage everyone not to dismiss the rioters outright.  Of course there are some people who just want to watch the world burn, but this is not that simple.  I point you to this quote from a young man who NBC was asking if rioting really achieved anything: "Yes.  You wouldn’t be talking to me now if we didn’t riot, would you?  Two months ago we marched to Scotland Yard, more than 2,000 of us, all blacks, and it was peaceful and calm and you know what? Not a word in the press. Last night a bit of rioting and looting and look around you."  These are people fighting for a voice.  
  • States Can Now Opt-Out of No Child Left Behind Provisions (Amy Bingham, ABC)  No Child Left Behind is the single most damaging thing to happen to American education in its history, full stop.  The decision to let states opt-out of its ridiculous and useless provisions is a huge step in the right direction, and I'm proud of both Secretary Duncan and the Obama Administration for taking it.  I hope that it is fully dismantled in the next few years.  (For some smackdown on NCLB's shitty test-based standards, you can read this report from the National Academies.)
  • How the US Media Marginalizes Dissent (Ted Rall, Al-Jazeera)  I recently submitted a paper for publication - cross those fingers, everyone! - about the way media frame debates compared to public opinion polling.  I found that overwhelmingly, the media preferred to polarize complex issues, establishing two fairly extreme poles as the dominant views and completely dropping the grey area out of the debate.  I suspect few people will be surprised to hear that most of public opinion is, in fact, in the grey area.  This article takes a similar approach, examining the language used to marginalize voices that don't fit the media's established framework, particularly with references to people as being "serious" or not.  [NB: I have been so impressed by Al-Jazeera as a whole lately.  I'm not sure if their quality has gone up or I'm just bumping into their articles more frequently, but I think they're putting out excellent, excellent work.]
  • Canada Has Lessons, No Answers, for US Debt Woes (Randall Palmer and John McCrank, Reuters CA)  Americans often think that we are or must be wholly unique.  This was particularly visible in the healthcare debate, where other nations' systems were critiqued and held up as examples of why "universal healthcare, full stop" would not work, but not examined as systems that we could either pillage for parts or learn from to build a better system.  Instead, the discourse went something like "we must create a system wholly new or nothing."  Our politics have suffered from this mindset, because it disconnects us from historical context that provides balance and depth for our political system as a whole.  This article talks about Canada's own happy fun time with debt problems and explains a bit about how they recovered, though it rightly admits that exactly replicating Canada's approach would not be a perfect fit. 
  • Megyn Kelly Destroys Guy Who Called Her Maternity Leave a Racket (Maureen O'Connor, Gawker)  I can't usually stand Megyn Kelly, but this clip is absolutely glorious.  She is dead on, the guy looks openly embarassed - as he should - and he has zero response.  I hope Kelly remembers this interaction the next time she's railing about entitlements (as Jon Stewart pointed out the other night).  
  • Us. And Them. (Chris Carroll, National Geographic)  An interesting article on the progress of humanoid and "helper" robots, and the ethical challenges posed by their development.  I know I'm That Girl Who Always Talks About Robots, but this is a serious thing - military funding is pushing a lot of robotics development while shelving ethical considerations, and with the push for AI, there's a very real danger that technology may progress beyond where we CAN place ethical frameworks on robots.  This needs to be talked about.
  • Falcon HTV-2 is Lost During Bid to Become Fastest Ever Plane (Ian Sample, The Guardian)  Speaking of DARPA funded projects, the Falcon HTV-2, a rocket launched unmanned aircraft capable of travelling at Mach 20 and crossing the continental United States in 12 minutes, was lost during a test flight.  This makes me sad even though I know it's a weapon of war, because I've been clinging to wild aviation projects like this following the death of the shuttle program.  
  • Rare Sand Cat Kitten Gives Hope for Conservation (Zooborns)  WARNING: WEAPONIZED CUTENESS AT LINK.  A sand cat kitten was recently born at Zoological Center Tel Aviv - Ramat Gan, and is currently wiping the floor with all other comers in the Adorable Baby Animal Olympics (Cat Division).  This is a big, exciting deal, as sand cats are endangered and have great difficulty breeding in captivity.  
  • Every Picture Tells a Story (Janice Harvey, Worcester Magazine)  A couple weeks ago, Janice Harvey wrote a column about how totes grody laydees with tattoos are.  Not surprisingly, people did not like this, and proceeded to call her an asshole loudly, publicly and aggressively.  She published an apology the other day, and while I appreciate the guts it takes to apologize publicly, I think this apology is kind of a template for how NOT to do it.  It basically amounts to "you just didn't get it" (if you click through to the original, you'll see why her trying to play it off as humor is either incredibly disingenuous or demonstrative of a fundamental lack of understanding about how humor works) followed by "you guys were mean just like I said you were, you trashy bitches."  I give her points for trying to change her attitude, but she has a long way to go in understanding that there is no single type of woman (or man) who gets a tattoo.  (That it was shitty to use a public forum to trash a specific demographic still seems to elude her, so...whatever.)  Janice, maybe this will help: I've owned my own businesses, I'm a Ph.D candidate in a very conservative field, I'm married, I wear makeup and heels, and I have tattoos.  Keep your shit in your own basket.
  • Teaching With Twitter (Kohenari)  This is a very cool project wherein a professor at the University of Nebraska is teaching his political theory course with Twitter, and invites outside folks to join in.  I'll be doing this course and I hope you will too! 
This week's music comes from the Great White North Courtesy of Chief Economic Adviser Len Badwin, who unfortunately linked me this video when he was upset about missing a music festival at which the Tea Party would be playing.  While it's sad he missed the festival, I'm glad he linked me the video because I quite like it. As with so much Canadian music, good luck finding it on iTunes.

What the HELL, iTunes.

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