Sep 29, 2010

middle-brow, unibrow

Your beloved art isn't really art. It's "art." Sorry.
Urban Intellectual Fodder.

Neither original nor path-breaking, this art is derivative hommage; postmodern commentary around the edges of art.

It is art born of attitude, not passion. It is art that postures but doesn't grip. It is art created by those who are more passionate about a career in art than about art itself.

It encompasses:

1. The indie rock spawned in urban art ghettoes.

2. The visual art spelonked in Williamsburg.

3. The movies sputtered by independents hoping to get into Sundance.

4. The novels spritzed by creative writing majors from Iowa University and other environs....

All it does is put a sheen of high-brow smarts on art that is actually middle-brow. And comes out bloodless.
Good old fashioned aesthetic snobbery. It stings, but it sings.

[via Arts and Letters Daily]

Sep 27, 2010

the most disappointing trailer of all time

In lieu of The AV Club's recent list of trailers that function as art (and, in some cases, are superior to the films they advertise), I offer you the most disappointing trailer of all time: The Omen (2006).

I still remember my cautious excitement upon seeing it in the theater. The simplicity, the lack of narration, the reliance on a dread-inducing squeaky swing, and, of course, the delightfully silly reference to 666, set me up to believe that the world had a chance to see a remake superior to the rather ham-fisted original--overcoming my inherent skepticism of remakes.

Alas, we got Liev Schreiber in mope-mode, and a movie that plummeted from the rooftops of possibility to a lawn of mediocrity. (I tend to think that Damien would not approve.)

It's been four years, and I'm still angry about it.

Added: So of course my feelings are in a blender about this.

Sep 21, 2010


Whoa. Somewhere, six days disappeared into the ether. In the blogging cosmos, that's as close to the infinite asymptote as I dare reach.

Which is to say, school has filled up much of the meager time I normally would reserve for blogging. But as soon as I finish constructing lesson plans, contacting parents, writing six letters of recommendation, and updating my five (or is it six?) school-based blogs, I'll return to your pressing questions about the morality of nuclear weapons.

And while you're waiting, read this, and realize that your--and my--complaints are trivial.

Sep 15, 2010

coercion plus contamination equals confession

Ever since the landmark work of Elizabeth Loftus, psychologists have warned of the pernicious effects of implanted false memories. It turns out that a similar process--sometimes unconscious on the part of the perpetrator--can lead to false confessions.
Professor Garrett said he was surprised by the complexity of the confessions he studied. “I expected, and think people intuitively think, that a false confession would look flimsy,” like someone saying simply, “I did it,” he said.

Instead, he said, “almost all of these confessions looked uncannily reliable,” rich in telling detail that almost inevitably had to come from the police. “I had known that in a couple of these cases, contamination could have occurred,” he said, using a term in police circles for introducing facts into the interrogation process. “I didn’t expect to see that almost all of them had been contaminated.”
Suspects, worn down through persistent interrogation interspersed with facts of the crime (the classic Law and Order-esque "gotcha," one imagines) or even taken to the crime scene, became adept at recounting the "details" of the crime.

Of course, there was perhaps a more important factor: none of the convicted innocents had a lawyer present during the interrogation.

And the truly frightening part:
Proving innocence after a confession, however, is rare. Eight of the defendants in Professor Garrett’s study had actually been cleared by DNA evidence before trial, but the courts convicted them anyway.
This is mind-boggling, given the justice system's overwhelming--and vastly overconfident--faith in DNA evidence to convict defendants, even though it's far more fallible than CSI would have you imagine.

How culpable are the police officers who elicit false confessions?
Jim Trainum, a former policeman who now advises police departments on training officers to avoid false confessions, explained that few of them intend to contaminate an interrogation or convict the innocent.

“You become so fixated on ‘This is the right person, this is the guilty person’ that you tend to ignore everything else,” he said. The problem with false confessions, he said, is “the wrong person is still out there, and he’s able to reoffend.”
Well... that's one of the problems. The other, perhaps worse, is that an innocent is convicted of a crime. "Better that ten of the guilty go free...."


Sep 12, 2010

kritiks in Lincoln-Douglas debate

Recently, a reader wrote:
Mr. Anderson,

I've been seeing a lot of people talking about Kritiks and how they try to use them in almost every debate. What is a kritik, and what does the structure mean? Do you have any resources that can help explain them better?
As is my custom, I directed him to the Wikipedia page on the subject, which, like a lot of Wikipedia, is a decent enough place to start. However, it presumes a little more familiarity with the subject than your average novice possesses. Hence, this quick guide to the kritik.

What is a kritik?
A kritik is an argument about the mindset presupposed or called forth by the language of the resolution. It's about deconstructing--peeling back the layers of, or exposing the invalid assumptions of--the resolution.

How does it work?
In Lincoln-Douglas debate, it might work like this. Say we're debating the resolution, "Resolved: states ought not possess nuclear weapons." The Negative can argue that because the resolution is cast in terms of states, it is inherently statist, and to affirm adopts a statist mindset that, in the real world, empowers states to control or subjugate individuals regardless of whether nuclear weapons ever enter the equation.*

The alternative, the Neg argues, is to negate the language (and hence power) of the resolution / statism, offering an alternative such as anarchism, which empowers individuals.

The structure is fairly straightforward: link, impact, alternative. Returning to our argument, you can see the structure.
Link: the resolution employs statist language / forces us to adopt a statist mindset.
Impact: by adopting the statist mindset, we reduce human freedom / dehumanize (ethical impacts), or perpetuate totalitarian genocide (historic or empirical impact).
Alternative: reject the statism inherent in the resolution through anarchism.

The modified kritik.
Because some of the impacts of kritiks are ethical, it is possible to shoehorn a kritik into the traditional framework of the event. Consider our previous example, modified into a standard V/C with three contentions:
Value: Freedom
Criterion: Anarchism
Contention 1 (link): the resolution employs statist language / forces us to adopt a statist mindset.
Contention 2 (impact): by adopting the statist mindset, we reduce human freedom.
Contention 3 (alternative): to restore freedom, reject the statism inherent in the resolution by encouraging anarchism.

Words of advice.
1. If you are debating in novice (or in many cases, JV), don't run a kritik. Chances are, you don't have enough experience under your belt to do it correctly--and, more likely, your judge will either deplore kritiks, or be unfamiliar with them.

2. Never run a kritik you don't fully understand. If you're facing a more experienced opponent, it can backfire terribly. And, similarly to #1, if you don't understand it, how will your judge?

3. Thus, if you plan to run a kritik, it's essential to ask the judge before the round, something like, "What are your thoughts about theory or kritiks?" If you get a blank stare, put the kritik back in your file and save it for a different round.

Questions or criticism are greatly appreciated. As a fairly traditional LD coach, I don't pretend to be the world's foremost authority on kritiks, and would welcome any clarifications, corrections, or additions.

* This lack of direct engagement with the specific argument of the resolution is one reason some find kritiks distasteful.

Sep 11, 2010

Google in the courtroom

Eugene Volokh points to a article about one judge's attempt to keep Google out of the courtroom:
Now that New Jersey courtrooms have Wi-Fi capability, trial lawyers with wireless laptops have a distinct edge: the ability to Google prospective jurors at the counsel table.

And an appeals court has given its blessing to the practice, reversing a trial judge who told a lawyer to disconnect lest he gain an unfair advantage.

"That [plaintiff's counsel] had the foresight to bring his laptop computer to court, and defense counsel did not, simply cannot serve as a basis for judicial intervention in the name of 'fairness' or maintaining 'a level playing field,'" the court said on Aug. 30 in Carino v. Muenzen, M.D., A-5491-08.

"The playing field was, in fact, already 'level' because Internet access was open to both counsel, even if only one of them chose to utilize it."
It was only a matter of time--and as the future lawyers and judges of America (i.e., high school debaters) become increasingly used to (and dependent on) having laptops in their debate rounds, we can expect that trend will only continue.

Sep 9, 2010

and a minor in histrionics

Phil Davison presents What Not To Do When Speaking: overwrought death glares, awkward pauses, misquotations, rambling, and, more than anything else, shoutiness. Warning: mimicking Davison's style may lead to bouts of dizzying ineptitude.

(Yes, I had to check to make sure that Davison is legit, and not a performance artist.)

Makes Jan Brewer sound like Cicero in comparison.

Sep 6, 2010

the eternal awkward stage

It's one thing to believe stupid things when you're young. It's another to publish them for all the world to see.

It's another thing, still, to try to erase your former stupidity.
Zeiger, the author of two books and many columns, essays and blog posts about politics and local history, recently had his writings purged from a number of websites, including “Intellectual Conservative.”

Morrell’s campaign and the House Democratic Campaign Committee noticed the missing articles Saturday, the committee said. The group opened its general election campaign with a news release questioning why the articles, more than 50 by their count, were disappearing. The committee said Zeiger was taking them down to hide his “extremist” views. Field director Alex Hur said: “Voters deserve to know what a candidate’s values really are.”

Zeiger said those articles don’t all represent his values anymore, so he had them removed. They would be a “distraction” from the campaign, he said.

The writings aren’t from very long ago, mainly 2003 and 2004. But Zeiger is just 25, and he was in college at the time. He said he’s “grown up since age 18 and 19 when the really provocative stuff was going up.”
I'd say Zeiger is sincere, even if he's chosen the dubious strategy of purging the past. (If you're not inclined to give him the benefit, at least read his own reflections on his brief career as a pundit.)

I can empathize with Zeiger; the poems, political cartoons, and essays I crafted in high school were heartfelt but brainless, and it's easy for me to repudiate them as adolescent folly.

The only smart thing about them: they weren't published. No eternal awkward stage for me.

Sep 3, 2010

Capital Cougars off to a great start

The Capital Cougars put up 28 on O'Dea--and shut out their rival..
Capital and O’Dea, which have met every year since 2007, faced each other in Week 1 for the third consecutive year. The Irish had the Cougars’ number in winning the three previous matchups, 46-9 (2007), 14-13 (’08) and 19-15 last year at the Emerald City Kickoff Classic at Qwest Field.

“The last couple of years, we played them so tight,” Capital coach J.D. Johnson said. “It goes back to talking to the kids about not just wanting it, but you have to need it. We needed to win this game and have this solidify us.”
We have a battle-tested squad brimming with confidence. Our defense has always been tough, but combined with an experienced offense well-suited for a varied attack, we are officially the team to beat in the Narrows 3A league.

The Spaghetti Bowl is gonna be a good one. Don't miss it.