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August 2009 Archives

August 4, 2009

On the whole, a lot more work went into Dave Gibbons' Rorschach

Rorschach test plate 10Here's where to go to find my Tuesday column on the Wikipedia-Rorschach test controversy. I usually wait for my new columns to go up on Full Comment before linking to them, but with the FC editor on vacation this one seems to have been mislaid. Most novel observation in the piece: the shrinks who claim to worry about other tests following the public-domain Rorschach inkblots onto Wikipedia are either being disingenuous or think we're dummies. Probably a bit of both.

And, honestly: if you guys are really all that worried about your precious little colour splotches themselves, how about doing some research into the possibility that you could cook up new ones every year or so and still have them work? You are treating some ink shat onto paper in 1921 like it was the paramount creation of the human mind. How long do you think Hermann Rorschach really took making those things? As much as a whole lunch break?

August 5, 2009

Sticking to my own traditional 'have a winning personality and a huge penis' policy

The sweeping decision by the owner of titles including The News of the World and The Australian to abandon the practice of giving away news in exchange for attracting a large audience for advertisers could embolden other publishers warily examining paid content models.
"We intend to charge for all our news websites," [Rupert] Murdoch said.
"If we're successful, we'll be followed by all media," he added, predicting "significant revenues" from charging for differentiated news online.
He warned that "the big competition will be coming from the BBC," which offers online news for free, but said: "Our policy is to win."

Who knew Murdoch was a graduate of the Billy Bishop flying school?

August 6, 2009

Pretty sure this is how Bill James would do it

Think of a female pop singer, any one you like. Assign her a score out of 10 on overall singing ability: strength of voice, range, interpretive ability, pleasantness of tone. Assign her a second score out of 10 on non-vocal attractiveness. If we score all the female pop stars and she-frontmen by the product of these two scores:

a) Who would rate highest?
b) Could there ever exist a 90? I think Ann Wilson had to be close in, say, the first half of 1976. Remember, you have to post a 9×9 just to get to 81. Even a list of 70-pluses would be very short.
c) Is it just me, or are there not a lot of singers around now who would break 50? Beyoncé, certainly, but she's by no means a lock for a 60. Regina Spektor? Adorable, but I can't quite tell if she's a terrific breathy-indy-cutie-school singer or just the most carefully miked singer ever. Gwen Stefani if you like that sort of thing (7½ both ways seems about right, and that's with the "tricked out for a talk show appearance" score on attractiveness, not the "wake up and see her without $500 worth of makeup" score). Zooey Deschanel starts out with a 9½ on one side, but, well...
d) Who, among artists who've had serious careers, would rate lowest? Just kidding, it's obviously Alanis Morissette.

Under applicable ground rules, modest bonus increments may be made available. Stevie Nicks might strictly be a 58 or something, but c'mon; Stevie Nicks is one of the fashion superpowers of the 20th century and can't reasonably be less than a 65. Opera singers are not eligible for this competition (in opera, there are 110s).

August 11, 2009

Edmonton: not much of a hockey town?

The CFL, fifth-ranked sports league in other metro markets and #6 in Toronto, is #2 with teenagers here. Meanwhile, interest in hockey lags behind the national average. Taken from Reginald Bibby's latest [PDF].

August 18, 2009


Ronald A. SmithMy Tuesday column revisits the controversy over whether the Canadian government has a positive obligation to seek clemency for Canadian citizens who are caught committing capital murder in foreign countries. Delightful surprise: the reader comments for this one are mostly coherent and to the point! Nice job, everybody!

The contentious new policy, drafted in response to a Federal Court decision earlier this year, is viewable at the DFAIT website. As the Post editorial board observed in March,

The opposition parties have celebrated Judge Barnes’ judgment as a great blow against what they claim to be a sadistic, arbitrary Conservative government. “The Minister of Justice has this bizarre policy where in some cases he’ll intervene to uphold the rights of some Canadians, but in other countries he won’t,” said Liberal Dominic LeBlanc, the Official Opposition critic for justice. “That makes the minister in many ways the executioner. And the Federal Court today has told him to take off his black hood.”

But read the actual decision, and you’ll find that Mr. LeBlanc’s words are flat-out drivel. Judge Barnes made no criticism of the Conservatives’ diplomatic standard, and claimed no right to contradict it. (“The exercise of the prerogative to develop and implement diplomatic and foreign policy initiatives is generally beyond the scope of judicial scrutiny.”) The judge’s complaint was merely that there had seemingly not actually been any formal change in Canada’s foreign policy — just a few offhand statements made in the public sphere by government representatives. As a result, [plaintiff Ronald] Smith was denied his procedural rights as a Canadian citizen to be informed of the new rule, and to have some decision-maker within the Canadian government examine whether it applies to him.

"The Conservative government can easily comply with Judge Barnes’ procedural requirements by formally reiterating its new policy on clemency lobbying," we pointed out, "and then applying it to Smith, through some t-crossing, i-dotting procedure or another." Having done so, the government now appears to be in perfect conformity with the desires of the Federal Court and the justiciable procedural rights of Mr. Smith.

August 26, 2009

Some days I think print media should die even if I would too

BlocksOur business would have a lot more credibility if we spent less time giving each other awards and concentrated on handing out boobie prizes for uncritical, gormless stuff like the St. Albert Gazette's breathlessly excited coverage of a new local math curriculum for primary schools that "covers far fewer concepts." As I get older I grow more cowardly about making enemies in a rapidly contracting business, plus I'm taking the piss from a somewhat higher summit than I used to; but seriously, how do some people sleep at night? At least there are some useful hints scattered around in the article:

This week, math teachers from the Catholic division spent a day getting a refresher on techniques that encourage a deeper understanding of math concepts. These techniques often involve the use of objects like blocks and tiles, which allow students to do concrete exploration and better understand numbers and their relationships.

I suppose that when a reporter states as flat fact something that is obviously silly on first principles (if you are not working with abstractions, by definition you are not teaching math), that is known to be a product of superstition rather than demonstration, and that has empirical evidence against it, one can barely complain that he or she has done any harm. But then I'm not sending any kids to St. Albert public schools.

I can't let go!

The thing about this is, I feel like Frank Reich's family, which I would guess is probably German, has carelessly made it impossible for him to ever visit Germany (or Austria or Switzerland). What are you going to do, walk into a pension and say to the clerk "Hi, I'm France, I have a reservation"? If somebody tried to rent a room from you and kept insisting that their name was Moe Zambique or Bo Livia, wouldn't the instinct to shout "Fuck off!" or punch them persist a little, even after they managed to convince you?

August 28, 2009

Could this show work today?

The Penn Museum has YouTubed a classic '50s TV show, produced in Philadelphia, entitled "What In The World?" The premise: a rotating cast of archaeologists and anthropologists is presented with an artifact they have not seen before and is challenged to identify its function and place and time of origin. The star in these episodes is Carleton S. Coon (1904-81), the U.S. anthropologist, OSS gunrunner, and racial-type theorist. He is sort of considered a Satan of his profession nowadays, or at least an enduring symbol of its bad conscience, but one cannot fail to be impressed by his knowledge (assuming, of course, that the show was not rigged). Fascinating stuff. (þ: Dienekes)

About August 2009

This page contains all entries posted to ColbyCosh.com in August 2009. They are listed from oldest to newest.

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