Homo homini rodentius est

The Summer of My Stink Flower

I’ve been waiting years to write a title like that. Today was a perfect summer day in the city and I played hookey to go out to the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens and witness an honest-to-God once in a lifetime thing: the blooming of Amorphophallus titanum. Remember the Simpsons episode where Moe becomes Maggie’s best friend? It starts out with the whole town turning out to witness a giant flower that only blooms once a century and emits a disgusting odor that drives everyone crazy? Well it’s real and New York has one. They exagerrated a little for the show — it really smells more like rotted meat. Mildly rotted meat. You can read all about it [here]. The most beautiful day of the entire summer and I spent it with the Stink Flower. And I wonder why I’m single…

Wounded Warriors in Central Park Run

I attended the Achilles Track Club Hope & Possibility Race today — a 5 mile run through Central Park for folks with disabilities including war-related injuries. Some of the runners were vets who have benefitted from the support of [The Wounded Warrior Project], a worthy organization I’ve mentioned before. Among the medal winners was above-the-knee amputee Mike McNaughton, pictured far left below — the first amputee soldier from Iraq to run with President Bush at the White House — he finished the course in under 45 minutes. A great way to spend a sunny Sunday morning in the city.

Short Bites

You Say Tomato, I Say ‘Red Juice Ball’
The AP carried [a story] about Iranian president Ahmadinejad purging “western” words from the language, in favor of their Persian equivalents. Henceforth, pizza will be known as “elastic loaves”. No word yet on what will replace “nutjob”.

Shakers Counting Down
There are [only 4 Shakers left] in the entire world and they live in a small community in Maine. The religious community, one of the oldest in America, admired for its simple approach to life and utilitarian furniture design is dying out because they ban sex between members and (surprise) haven’t been getting many recruits lately. I can’t believe in this country of 300 million, there aren’t any candidates who would make good converts. C’mon people — wouldn’t you like to be living history? You’ll be sad when they’re gone.

Flaks Flunk
An Exxon-funded PR firm [got busted] for uploading a homemade-looking video to YouTube that criticized Al Gore’s global warming jeremiad. Not too surprising given that public relations is probably the most morally bankrupt profession known to man. Next to journalism, that is.

Romancing the Sheepskin
The NYT has [a story] about the growing numbers of single men in their 40’s. This is something I’ve noticed anecdotally. They play it a little lightly as a “lifestyle” thing, but underneath it’s really about the dismal marital prospects of men without college degrees. To my mind this is pretty incendiary stuff. Apparently, the economic situation of many lower and middle-class men has deteriorated so much recently that women are shopping for hubbies in pricier markets. Just goes to show that Republicans — ever favoring income distribution to those who have the most — haven’t a clue about how to really support families. Slogans beat sound fiscal policy every time.

Genetic Fundamentalism

gay babyThe New York Times has finally gone to the rats. Far be it for me, a guy who pretends to be an escapee from a lab maze, to complain, except an [article] they published — another in a seemingly endless series about genes and behavior — is a little more absurd than most. Somehow they go from a finding about genetic factors in animal domestication to suggested causes of “human domestication”. I think that used to be called… society. Presto! Ten thousand years of history, philosophy, politics and literature are reduced to the suggested impact of “a single gene that affects the timing of neural crest cell development”. Spare us.

In a [recent post] I wailed about those who try to reduce complex human characteristics and behaviors to simple genetic factors. Since I wrote, the New York State Court of Appeals [denied rights] to homosexual couples — their decision turning largely on a notion of essential qualities lacking in gay people (namely, ability to procreate and parent), and last week a [particularly bizarre] resurrection of the debate over whether people are born gay lit up the blogs. From hypothesized “God genes”, that give rise to religious experience, to genes that make us engineers or gamblers, the search is on for the keys to our nature. But it is the obsessive debate over genetic determinants of sexual identity, specifically homosexual attitudes and behavior, that is perhaps the most persistent example of the desire to reduce people to a fundamental biological essence. Not since the Nazi obsession with eugenics and its relation to the “Jewish problem” have we seen such obsessive attention to what determines the characteristics of a class of people. The difference is that, this time, it’s the Left that embraces the idea of essential difference — with the attendant risks — and it’s the Right that argues for a more inclusive anti-essentialism.

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Gawker Deathwatch, the Reaper swings

Gawker logo… and connects! The real reasons for the recent [hoohaw] at Gawker Media became a little more transparent with this week’s announcement that their [much touted] syndication deal with Yahoo is dead, after just seven months and within days of Yahoo posting [miserable financials]. Techie pundits were [creaming themselves] over it last November when it was announced, seeing it as another sign that blogs were on the verge… of something. Denton, of course, puts a typically Dentonian [spin] on it on his blog: a “mutual” decision, that “has little to do with Yahoo’s numbers” (translation: it has everything to do with the numbers and cutting away the dead wood). He also slips in a self-congratulatory apologia about Valleywag’s snarking of Yahoo Media’s Lloyd Braun contributing to their decision to dump Gawker titles. Got it? Gawker Media is just too baaaadassss to be reigned in by some mainstream media deal, Baby! Baloney, of course — business deals aren’t scuttled if they’re working. Given the timing, it suggests the recent facelifts, firings and decision to go all-celebrity-all-the-time on their flagship site was at least in part a response to the bad news they knew was coming. With syndication deals withering, [smaller competitors] making hay and the imminent return of ad vacuum Radar Online, expect more changes.

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