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Showing posts from April, 2015

The Longest Ride

My recent movie-going experiences include The Longest Ride, an adaptation of a Nicholas Sparks novel.

I'm not going to talk about the plot, especially, so there's no need for a "spoiler alert." This post concerns a secondary theme of the movie by which I was struck.

A little information about structure and cast will get us there. There are two stories, one framing the other, The frame involves a pair of young lovers, rodeo star Luke Collins (played by Scott Eastwood, Clint's boy) and aspiring art curator Sophia Danko (Britt Robertson). Their story is not especially interesting except that it provides a frame for a better love story.

Luke and Sophia become involved in the life of an old man, Ira Levinson. Ira as the old guy is played by Alan Alda, though Ira as a young man (in flashbacks triggered by readings of old letters) is played by Jack Huston.  Young Ira's beloved, starting in 1940, is a refugee from Austria, Ruth Pfeffer (Oona Chaplin). As I've in…

Penn Station

Was Penn Station really worth saving?

I mean of course the old Penn Station in downtown Manhattan, created in 1910 and destroyed in 1963. Its destruction caused an outcry (and if I remember correctly was referenced in a couple of MAD MEN episodes) and eventually inspired the Landmarks Preservation Act of 1970.

Was it worth saving? Here's an iconoclastic discussion of the point.

Click here.

Platonism in Six Points

Just to practice concision.

1) In anthropology, Plato was the first of the great dualists. He emphasized the sharp distinction between a physical man and the real eternal man.

2) In metaphysics, Plato is remembered for his clear statement of the realist position on universals. A concept such as "justice" or "beauty" is not merely a notion inside someone's mind, nor is it merely a resemblance between the different acts we call just, the different objects we consider beautiful;, etc. It is more than that. The Idea or Form of Justice is a reality, one of the supreme realities, and specific examples are real by virtue of their participation in their universals, not vice versa.

3. In epistemology, Plato believed in critical rationalism. The way to approach truth is to begin with someone's naïve notions and cross-examine them ruthlessly. A philosopher thus becomes a midwife to a truth that will come out of others. (Those unlucky enough to run into him in the…

Coming to Understanding

SLATE recently republished an article that first appeared in LINGUA FRANCA 14 years ago, the story about a wealthy man who wanted to shake up the world of academic philosophy, and in particular to argue about Being on the intellectual/historical plane of Spinoza or Hegel.

The 'millionaire metaphysician' was Marc Sanders, and the L.F. piece makes THAT the big story. Sanders, whose photo you see here, had originally created a fog of anonymity around himself while appealing under his pen name to well credentialed philosophers, like Jan Cover of Purdue,  to review his manuscript. 

Cover wrote: "One would be hard-pressed to locate a richer, deeper contemporary approach to the most fundamental questions of metaphysics." So Sanders certainly succeeded in drawing attention. 

Reporter Ryerson wrote the story largely around the question "Who is this person?" The question, "What is his proposal as to the nature of Being" incident was secondary, a clue to the re…

Witness for the Prosecution

SPOILER ALERT. I'm about to reference the ending of a venerable short story and a movie adaptation from the Golden Age of Hollywood. If you wish to read or view either of these in innocence, don't proceed further.

Old Hollywood had a rule that the bad guys never win. The evildoers always get their comeuppance. After all, if people wanted to see evil prosper, they didn't have to go to the cinema for that, they could just stick with the morning newspaper.

Anyway, the rule resulted in innovative re-writes to certain adapted literary works. This may never have been more jarring than in the case of Witness for the Prosecution, a 1925 Agatha Christie short story that had a complicated publication history over the next three decades and that became a movie only in 1957.


The basic plot of the short story is that of a criminal trial portrayed through the eyes of a sympathetic defense attorney, played in the movie by Charles Laughton. …

Google's Victory, and Tie-In Law

On April 3, plaintiffs withdrew a lawsuit against Google in a federal court in northern California, a lawsuit in which they had contended that Google was illegally tying its licensing of the Android operating system to the favorable treatment of Google apps.

 They didn't withdraw their complaint because they had a change of heart. They did so because an earlier ruling by this court had pulled their ladder out from under them. It was jump to the ground or take a nasty fall.

Here's a link to a news story on the subject.

What is striking about this lawsuit is how much it resembles similar lawsuits brought against Microsoft back when it was the great digital boogeyman. Then, too, the central argument was a tying theory. [Sometimes that is written "tie-in." Fortunately, the two phrases sound the same, so when people speak to one another about these matters, there's no real chance for confusion. One creates a tie-in by tying one product or service to another, and the …

Why crime rates fell in the 1990s

One already venerable theory of why crime rates fell in the 1990s: ROE v. WADE. The theory holds that unwanted children are more likely to become criminals (18 years or so after their unwanted births) than wanted children, and fewer unwanted children were born in the years subsequent to 1973 than in the years before it. This, rates of crime began to decline when they 'should' have.

Here is more information on the theory and the evidence invoked to support it.

I've recently encountered another view, though. Perhaps the decline was a matter of leaded versus unleaded gasoline. .

In the magazine "Mother Jones" in 2013, Kevin Drum made the point that tying the crime rate to lead emissions has the economical virtue of explaining both the rise and the fall. "lead emissions from tailpipes rose steadily from the early '40s through the early '70s," and violent crime rates rose along a dramatically similar curve with a 20 year lag.

ROE v. WADE, on this …

Two Meanings for NLP

Recently in my twitter feed I encountered a use without explanation of the initials NLP (of course tweets don't allow for much by way of explanation). I wasn't familiar with them, so I did some googling, and was left unsure whether the tweeter had meant "Neuro-Linguistic Programming" or "Natural Language Processing."

Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP1) is a fringe-science therapy in the manner of EST or even Scientology, using language that suggests a Chomskian foundation, though the impressive language is just for show.

Natural Language Processing (NLP2) on the other hand, is a field of computer engineering that seeks to give computers the ability to understand and speak English, French, Mandarin, etc. ... and ideally to pass the Turing test.

The phrase behind NLP2 seems straightforward and commonsensical, although it refers to a demanding and technical body of scientific work. The phrase behind NLP1, on the other hand, seems like it must refer to some de…

Hominid Evolution

Here's a link to a fascinating piece in the online magazine Science Alert.

It concerns "a possible human ancestor known as 'Little Foot'" and the latest evidence about how old is the hominid skeleton that gave rise to the term.

L.F. may have lived at the same time as, or even earlier than, the more famous australopithecine "Lucy," aka australopithecine afarensis.

The proper Latin term for L.F. is still a subject of discussion, but some suggest Australopithecus Prometheus.