Buy n Large Online

July 6, 2008
Posted by Jay Livingston

If you've seen Wall-E, you know how good it is. But wait, there's more.

Don't miss the Buy n Large website. [Update, July 23. This link is no longer active. The cowards at Disney apparently took it down.]

(Click on the image to see a larger, readable version.)

The News section of the Website has items like this:

(Click on the image to see a larger, readable version.)

The site also announces the launching of BNL's Infotainment network, "where the news of the world will always be shown in an entertaining, softer light."

The people at Pixar must be having a ball with this one. Like the movie, it's excellently realized, and like the movie, it satirizes certain aspects of American life. I wonder what kind of reception it's getting among the Disney brass

Capture the Flag

July 4, 2008
Posted by Jay Livingston

For decades, liberals have let conservatives win the game of capture the flag. Lefties didn’t even bother to get in the game.

Things may be changing.

I went to a Fourth of July celebration in Lenox, MA – a reading of the Declaration of Independence. Twenty or more readers, each taking the mike and reading a few phrases. Here’s one of the readers.

How liberal is Lenox? The guy sitting beside me said that the when the readers came to the list of grievances against the king, instead of saying “he,” they should have just said “George.” Indeed, at those passages that had contemporary overtones, the crowd applauded enthusiastically (“He has made judges dependent on his will alone”). The one about the “merciless Indian savages” evoked a collective discomfort – silent but palpable nevertheless.

How liberal is Lenox? This Prius with a peace symbol on the gas tank is right at home.

I'm Feeling Lucky

July 2, 2008
Posted by Jay Livingston

Or do I mean I'm feeling sari for myself?

We see t-shirts like this, and nobody thinks twice about them. Why do we find it interesting enough to blog about when we see this kind of thing on a sari?

The photo, from Our Delhi Struggle, was taken in a clothing shop in Guragon, which it describes as "a high-tech sub south of Delhi." (You may have spoken with someone there on the phone.) I found it via Sociological Images. Both sites have another photo showing the sari full length.

Evidence of Absence

July 1, 2008
Posted by Jay Livingston

Here’s a neat use of the Internet as a research tool.

Harrison Pope, a professor of psychiatry, had the idea that “repressed memory” was a fairly recent invention. Recent, not in the sense of the 1980s with those “recovered memories” that led to false convictions in child molestation cases. But recent in the larger historical sweep. Pope thought that the concept of “repressed memory” was something that arose with the romantic sensibility of the nineteenth century.

So now you have the hypothesis that repressed memory didn’t exist before 1800. But how can you prove nonexistence. Pope didn’t know of any references to it before then, and neither did anyone he talked to. But their knowledge of was certainly not comprehensive.

As Donald Rumsfeld said, absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.

So Pope offered a reward: $1000 to anyone who could come up with a reference to repressed memory before 1800. He posted it to some thirty Internet sites in three languages.

The strategy resembled that of distributed computing projects, like folding@home, where hundreds of personal computers are hooked up to form a network that functions like a supercomputer. But in this case, what was being networked was not computing power but good old-fashioned human brainpower and knowledge.

Pope got several responses, but none of them met the criteria. So he published his paper arguing that repressed memory was a nineteenth-century invention and therefore less a matter of neurology than of culture.*

*After Pope published the paper, someone did send a valid example – a French opera of 1786. Only one example, and even then, Pope had missed by only 14 years. A slightly longer write-up of the project can be found here.