Sunday, November 30, 2008

Running, or the lack there of, and thesis topics

So my Mangan's marathon project has been held back by ill health. A really nasty respiratory infection has left me weak and coughing violently for the last 3 weeks. As I previously posted, I'd gotten to 20km runs. This will set me back some weeks, but I'll persevere. I will run 42 km around the Sud-Ouest of Montreal and then eat a "surf and turf" at Mangan's restaurent in the point.

My thesis topic, as it currently stands deals with how Canadian architecture is subsumed within the global marketplace by Canadian produced video games. My little twist is that video games can be considered as a form of architecture unto themselves, and thus redefine how we experience vernacular architecture in the "bricks and mortar" world. What does it mean when a young person in say South Korea plays "Army of Two" or "Prince of Persia". Do they convey a canadianess that reflects the artistic milieu in which they were created? Both games were produced in Montreal. Or are they truly global, with no local elements?

Friday, November 21, 2008

Facts or innuendo; Lanny Davis vs Indira Naidoo Harris

Lanny Davis, a friend and advisor to the Clintons, was interviewed by CBC's Indira Naidoo Harris about Hillary Clinton and her potential appointment to US Secretary of State. The interview was on the CBC1 show The Current, this morning. Setting aside the issues of Clinton's qualifications, Mr. Davis absolutely ripped Ms.Harris for using innuendo rather than facts.

It was refreshing to have someone demand facts- especially after the lapses of the CBC as noted in previous posts on this blog. Normally, I find The Current interesting and informative, but this morning they were caught with their pants down- They're too used to defensive guests, I suppose.


a condensed transcript from CBC Radio’s The Current for Friday,
Nov. 21
, courtesy the National Post

Tell me in English- Where is my money?

This article tells the tale of hubris

"That’s when Eisman finally got it. Here he’d been making these side bets with Goldman Sachs and Deutsche Bank on the fate of the BBB tranche without fully understanding why those firms were so eager to make the bets. Now he saw. There weren’t enough Americans with shitty credit taking out loans to satisfy investors’ appetite for the end product. The firms used Eisman’s bet to synthesize more of them. Here, then, was the difference between fantasy finance and fantasy football: When a fantasy player drafts Peyton Manning, he doesn’t create a second Peyton Manning to inflate the league’s stats. But when Eisman bought a credit-default swap, he enabled Deutsche Bank to create another bond identical in every respect but one to the original. The only difference was that there was no actual homebuyer or borrower. The only assets backing the bonds were the side bets Eisman and others made with firms like Goldman Sachs. Eisman, in effect, was paying to Goldman the interest on a subprime mortgage. In fact, there was no mortgage at all. “They weren’t satisfied getting lots of unqualified borrowers to borrow money to buy a house they couldn’t afford,” Eisman says. “They were creating them out of whole cloth. One hundred times over! That’s why the losses are so much greater than the loans. But that’s when I realized they needed us to keep the machine running. I was like, This is allowed?'"
-from 'The End' by Michael Lewis

If only one person did this, it would be a tale of fraud- a fabulous con job. But because myriad people were involved it became an industry. Free market, schmee market.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

You'd think people could google this stuff...

From a recent email;

Now that Vancouver has won the chance to host the 2010 Winter Olympics, these are some questions people from all over the world are asking. Believe it or not these questions about Canada were posted on an International Tourism Website. Obviously the answers are a joke; but the questions were really asked!

Q: Which direction is North in Canada ? ( USA )
A: Face south and then turn 180 degrees. Contact us when you get here and we'll send the rest of the directions.

Q: I want to walk from Vancouver to Toronto. Can I follow the Railroad tracks? ( Sweden )
A: Sure, it's only Four thousand miles, take lots of water.

Q: Can you give me some information about hippo racing in Canada ? ( USA )
A: Africa is the big triangle shaped continent south of Europe .Canada is that big country to your North...oh forget it. Sure, the hippo racing is every Tuesday night in Calgary. Come naked.

Q: Can you tell me the regions in British Columbia where the female population is smaller than the male population? (Italy)
A: Yes, gay nightclubs.

Q: Can you send me the Vienna Boys' Choir schedule? ( USA )
A: Austria is that quaint little country bordering Germany, which is...oh forget it. Sure, the Vienna Boys Choir plays every Tuesday night in Vancouver and in Calgary, straight after the hippo races. Come naked.

Q: Are there supermarkets in Toronto and is milk available all year round? (Germany)
A: No, we are a peaceful civilization of Vegan hunter/gathers. Milk is illegal.

Q: Will I be able to speak English most places I go? (USA)
A: Yes, but you will have to learn it first.

I've heard it said that Canada is a first world nation with a third world economy- but fer chris'sakes- do we have ATM's, Supermarkets and Perfume?

when objectivity becomes bias; Satire versus truthiness

"The public's frankly gotten frustrated with the convention of objectivity, the idea that you have to present both sides of the story, even if one side is completely bogus," said Niles, citing as an example news reports on global warming in which the views of politicians and lay-skeptics get consideration equal to studies by climate science PhDs. "
-Robert Niles, editor of the Online Journalism Review quoted in Onion Nation, Washington Post
Sunday, November 16, 2008

Giving a voice to ninnies encourages more ninnies. And asking how we know who the ninnies are reveals more about the ignorance of journalists than the value of the opinion of the subjects being interviewed. Truthiness, as Stephen Colbert would call it, rather than accuracy; Credibility at the expense of facts.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

theory, experience and Malcolm Gladwell

"Gladwell explains his success is more succinct: “People are experience rich and theory poor. My role has been to give people ways of organizing experience."
-'Geek Pop Star' by Jason Zengerle in New Yorker Magazine online November 17, 2008
What a great way to explain what theory is. It expresses the idea that people impose a sense of order on things (negative examples include creationists, conspiracy theorists and the like) but don't necessarily do this rigourously. Their theories, or explanations for the facts on the ground are guilty of logical fallacies or lack falsifiability.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Aristotle and Anthony Kiedis on politics

"I take in an interest in the world, my country, people, but I don't know if I'd call it politics," Kiedis said. "That word has a [negative] connotation because I'm not a politician but I'm a person that likes to participate in life in this country." Anthony Kiedis, lead singer of the Red Hot Chili Peppers qouted from Rebel Yell in

Compare this to Aristotle's definition of politics from the "Nichomachean Ethics".a

"We observe that even the most highly esteemed of the faculties, such as strategy, domestic economy, oratory, are subordinate to the political science. [7] Inasmuch then as the rest of the sciences are employed by this one, and as it moreover lays down laws as to what people shall do and what things they shall refrain from doing, the end of this science must include the ends of all the others. Therefore, the Good of man must be the end of the science of Politics. [8] For even though it be the case that the Good is the same for the individual and for the state, nevertheless, the good of the state is manifestly a greater and more perfect good, both to attain and to preserve.1 To secure the good of one person only is better than nothing; but to secure the good of a nation or a state is a nobler and more divine achievement."
Aristotle Nichomachean EthicsAristotle in 23 Volumes, Vol. 19, translated by H. Rackham. Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press; London, William Heinemann Ltd. 1934.

Aristotle makes ethics an end unto itself but also the science that informs how people live together, which he in turn defines as Politics. This opposes the narrow view of politics as a horse race between partisan interests. Mr.Kiedis is smart both substantively and rhetorically in how he describes politics and his relationship to it.

"If I had to choose between betraying my country and betraying my friend, I hope I should have the guts to betray my country."
-E.M. Forster