Homo homini rodentius est

Ahmadinejad at Columbia

I was very proud to be a Columbian today.

Ever since it was announced that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad would speak at Columbia there has been almost universal condemnation of the university and its president Lee Bollinger for “giving a platform” to the dwarvish miscreant. Even people like Andrew Sullivan, who has been calling for aggressive political confrontation with Islamo-fascism since 9/11, [dismisses] the event as another lefty sop to anti-Americanism:

I take a very broad view of free speech rights in America, but I would never have invited a dictator and religious extremist like Ahmadinejad. So far, it seems his usual blend of glibness, guile and gall is exposing him to ridicule as it should. If there are no gays in his country, why is he hanging so many of them? But I wonder: would Columbia ever invite a right-wing extremist with the same views as Ahmadinejad on women, gays, Israel and the Holocaust? Or do you have to be a brown-skinned, terrorist-enabling, nuclear-proliferating, certifiable nut-job to get the invite?

Incredibly lazy thinking. I wonder if the forceful challenge that Lee Bollinger presented his hapless guest with this afternoon causes any of those who forgot that we live in a liberal democracy to recognize how important it is to confront civilly and directly such reactionary evil? Would that such an invitation had been extended to Hitler back in 1933 and his reception been as publicly eviscerating. If nothing else, Ahmadinejad’s public humiliation on a world stage he had sought out precisely to gain political stature surely means that Columbia and its administrators are now considered enemies by the Islamo-fascists and in our “war on terror” that has to count for something.

More pictures I shot around campus after the jump…

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Google and IBM: The Office is Closed

Last week saw announcements from Google and IBM about office productivity app launches that, according to the tech punditocracy at least, promise serious threats to Microsoft’s lucrative hegemony on the enterprise desktop. Of course, one would expect the bloggers and other pseudo-journalists to get [fired up] about a new assault on the Death Star — even if they have to overlook that the “rebels” gunning for Microsoft are, themselves, two of the most hegemonic companies in the world.

Let’s forget for a moment that IBM has had competitive products in the marketplace for a decade that have made little headway against Office. Their current embrace of Open Office is akin to starting a race over from the blocks with [one foot hobbled]. Let’s also forget that the people at Google [don’t even use] their own products. Why would anyone think that going up against Microsoft in its stronghold was a good business plan? More sober heads, who actually know something about how IT departments purchase and use software, [pretty much dismiss] the likelihood of IBM or — especially — Google breaking the lock that Microsoft has over business apps. Cripes, even Google’s partners [can’t make a case] for their business model. Which begs the question, what are they really up to?

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Short Bites

When Good Toys Go Bad
I’m watching to see how much follow up occurs to the [tainted toys] debacle. Since the story left the front pages of the major newspapers there have been a few articles scattered about that are mostly reactions to Mattel’s predictable PR damage control. And, of course the inevitable camera hogging [congressional hearing]. More importantly, the EU market commissars are starting to [make noise] about regulations. As we know from the Microsoft rulings, Belgium doesn’t tremble before business interests and this might actually lead to a change in business practices among the greedy toy companies.

The Good Seed
Nicholas Wade, the New York Times science writer who has [genetic fundamentalism] tattooed onto his brain, has another article about evolutionary factors underlying social phenomena — in this case “morality” — that, despite the absurd title, [Is ‘Do Unto Others’ Written Into Our Genes?], is really a review of psychosocial research on ethical values and has little to do with genetic determinism.

A Star is Born
According to [Variety], the fey wunderkind from the Deep South, [Chris Crocker], has signed a deal for his own reality TV show. According to producer Rasha Drachkovitch, “It’s going to pretty much be the ‘Chris Crocker experience’. We consider him a rebel character that people will find interesting. He’s going to be a TV star.” The usual haters are up in arms about this latest travesty of our media-besotted culture. Not me. For once, this promises to be a reality TV show worth collecting. I can’t wait.

Mark Allen and Lypsinka’s Lovechild

And now for something completely different…

The blogs are alive today with reaction to a very femmy boy getting hysterical on YouTube over post-VMA Britney criticism — I won’t link to it because it’s easy enough to find. This was my first introduction to the web phenomenon of “Chris Crocker”, a solitary gay kid being raised by Pentecostal grandparents in the Deep South who posts the most amazingly over-the-top videos imaginable. As [The Stranger] reports, he’s gathered a huge following of fans — and enemies — but, most importantly, he’s been noticed by media machers. That’s his ticket out. Way out. And a lifeline out of otherwise certain loneliness. Hooray for him.

After the jump, Chris provides his so-very-unique prescription for treating depression…

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Madeleine, the tesseract, and me

Madeleine L’Engle (1918 – 2007)

Life is so strange. Just after I published that post about the [50th anniversary of On the Road] last week, I was standing in the kitchen making a cup of coffee and thinking about Jack Kerouac’s sadly foreshortened life and comparing him to a long-lived and prolific writer like Madeleine L’Engle — a writer I’ve loved and admired most of my life — and I wondered if she was still alive and hoped that she was. Then, on Friday, came the announcement in the papers that she had died the day before at the age of 88.

Like many, I became a fan after reading the classic A Wrinkle in Time as a child. The book had a profound effect on me. L’Engle’s deft amalgamation of science fiction, mysticism and (I would learn years later) Christian symbolism awakened an intense fascination with cosmology and science in general and a near obsession with the nature of time that lasts to this day. Her death struck personally because I had the pleasure of meeting her when I was a sophomore at Columbia. In what could only be called extraordinary serendipity, I learned that she was the writer-in-residence and librarian at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine right across the street from campus. On a winter day not long after learning this, I stood before her and her goddaughter in her office and solemnly intoned (with the drama that only a college sophomore can muster), “Miss L’Engle, I am here on a Christmas mission that only you can help me complete.”

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