Joho the BlogSeptember 2005 - Joho the Blog

September 29, 2005

A Google glitch favors Joho

This is nuts.

Go to “personalize” your Google homepage. A left-hand pane opens. Selecct “Create a Section” and type in “politics.” It lists some feeds you might want: Slate, CNN, Joho, NYT Magazine…

Yes, you read that right. Joho occasionally fulminates about politics, but it’s not primarily about politics. And its traffic is orders of magnitude smaller than real political sites and blogs. Likewise for links in. (I don’t ever ever check these stats, btw; it’s bad for the soul. But just compare the number of comments I get…)

So, clearly Google is broken. I mean, I’m glad that it’s broken in my favor, but listing Joho in that company is a desperate cry for help. [Tags: ]


Fantasy Presidents Index

Here’s a new measure of a presidency: How many TV shows about fictitious presidents do we need to get the taste of the current one out of our mouths for at least a few minutes?

George W. Bush is, of course, the current record holder with an FPI of 2.5 (West Wing, Commander in Chief, 24).

For what it’s worth (and let me do the math for you: Nothing), I was disappointed in Commander in Chief. West Wing aspires to some level of complexity in its narrative, while CiC’s first episode promised a conflict between a good gal and a bad guy. Plus, although I usually like Gina Geena Davis’ work, I thought she was wooden in CiC. She even failed to inspire me in her set-piece speech to Congress, which she delivered with all the enthusiasm of a kid giving a book report; I was surprised it didn’t end with “This book can be found in the library.”

I mean, I’d still vote for her character or for Geena Davis the actress over Bush. But W makes me yearn for the willfully over-simplifistic, fiscally irresponsible, cold-hearted, enviro-trashing, cynically manipulative, and remarkably corrupt Reagan administration. Ah, the good old days when it was morning in America! [Tags: ]


September 28, 2005

Bloggers and journalists at it again

I spoent the morning at the Museum of TV & Radio which put together a symposium of about 25 people (all white, 3 women) about how bloggers and mainstream media can work together. The bloggers were the usual suspects who write about the issue of blogging, journalism and the media. The MSM folks were high-level execs at the usual suspect TV and print mainstream news organizations.

I typed up a bunch of notes at the time, but instead here’s a brief overview.

The MSM were not univocal in their reaction to the Web and blogs. That’s appropriate and it’s progress. There are still some who think they “get” blogs because they’re using blogs as stringers. But others are genuinely uncertain about the future of mainstream news, which is (imo) also appropriate. They’re facing the possiblity of genuine discontinuity.

There’s a lot of experimentation on all sides here. Appropriate.

No one knows what the business model(s) will be. Appropriate.

The bloggers didn’t have to spend half the morning explaining that most bloggers aren’t journalists, that bloggers are in conversation, etc. Progress.

There were still elements of hostility and misunderstanding, especially around the question of accuracy. But there is definitely progress…

PS: I was surprised at the extent of the MSM’s concern about Yahoo’s moves as it starts to position itself as a media company. I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised. [Tags: ]


September 27, 2005

Bradner and Frankston on telecom…

Scott Bradner writes about the good and bad news in the upcoming telecom act.

Bob Frankston writes about connectivity as a utility. [Tags: ]


Being and meaning

…if the being of ideas and the meaning of ideas are disconnected from one another, there will be no knowledge of the former, and the latter will not be.

Aristotle, Metaphysics, Zeta 1031b4


Arthroscopic knee surgery

Our 14-year-old son has come through his arthroscopic knee surgery well. The surgeon was very pleased. (She’s also amazingly kind.) Our son’s problem was bilateral osteochondral media femoral condyles, or at least that’s what I copied out of his case file. Possible that was the solution, not the problem. Possibly it’s the new type of martini sweeping the medical bars. In any case, they drilled holes in his bone to stimulate the flow of blood in order to take care of the bilateral osteochondral lesions (or, in lay terms, “chilled with a twist of lemon”).

He’ll be on crutches for six weeks, and then six weeks after that he goes in to have the other knee done. If it works, he’ll be able to dance again in 6 months; the doctors had forced him to stop doing almost all athletics — he was taking 5 dance classes a week — for the past year.

By the way, if you click on the photo, you’ll see a more detailed view. See if you can spot what his problem was!


WSJ on Chinese censorship

The Wall Street Journal has an article by Geoffrey A. Fowler and Mei Fong on China’s new restrictions on Internet use, especially blogging. It’s grim.

In the second to last paragraph they have a sentence that I think perfectly defines a divide in thought present not just in China:

The government says it hopes the new rules will make online news more reliable by phasing out small and unauthorized cyber-news publishers.

My first reaction was to laugh. Then I realized the “Blogs are reporters without editors [sotto voce] and without responsibility, good hygiene or their own apartments” crowd believes that blogs overall decrease the accuracy and utility of available information. The big difference is, of course, that when people here say that, they’re generally tut-tutting, not suggesting the blogosphere be censored. And while our government may be monitoring the content of Internet traffic, it at least has the courtesy to do so behind our backs.

(By the way, this must be a first: An article on Chinese Internet censorship that doesn’t mention the Berkman study on the topic and that doesn’t quote Rebecca!) [Tags: ]

Here’s Rebecca’s take

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Homeland Security 404s

Chipster has pointed out in a comment on my post about the brokenness of the Dept. of Homeland Security’s hurricane page that this other page is filled with broken links. The page lists four agencies ( working to reduce chemical and biological threats. The links to the State Department and the Defense Threat Reduction Agency are broken.

Ok, sure, pages go down and links break and usually it’s not worth a mention. My site is full of dead links. But I’m not charged with keeping the country safe in an emergency. No one depends on my site to find urgent information that could save their lives, unless it involves the incredibly rapid folding of shirts. I’d like our Department of Homeland Security to do better than a Humanities-major blogger like me. [Tags: ]

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September 26, 2005

RageBoy’s fragments of mysticism

Chris Locke has a fascinating sketch of what he’s thinking about how the West turned Zen into a New Age religion. (I’m not being condescending by calling it a sketch; Chris warns us that he hasn’t stitched the pieces together yet.)

For me and a gazillion other half-baked students in the ’60s, D.T. Suzuki was the guy to read for the thrill of radical otherness that Zen promised. But, says Chris:

D.T. Suzuki and his Japanese masters conceived just such a questionable need to make Buddhism look and feel and act like Christianity. As a result, what was presented to the West as “Zen” is an animal that never existed. And this bait-and-switch routine has had consequences that still reverberate in our current cultural assumptions, not only about who and what those others are, but about who and what we are — ultimately, about who and what human beings are. And are not.

Because this is just a sketch and some notes, Chris doesn’t say more. We’ll just have to wait for the fullness of time. As if time were real.

Chris does also quote Robert Sharf, however, which gives a hint of where he’s going with this:

Philosophers and scholars of religion were attracted to Zen for the same reason that they were attracted to the mysticism of James, Otto and Underhill: it offered a solution to the seemingly intractable problem of relativism engendered in the confrontation with cultural difference…

My mother was something of a pan-religionist. She was eager to embrace every culture’s religious ideas, in part out of an admirable respect for the diversity of our world. But to embrace all religions, you have to drop the particularities of practice and belief. You end up reducing religion to a mere spiritualism — Yes, I am aware that “reduce” and “mere” are evaluative terms — that attempts to get you past the despair of relativism (just as Chris says) by finding a common core to all religion.

Spirituality may seem to be what all religions have in common, but that doesn’t mean it’s their core. Religions differ over the importance of belief, faith, action, practice and ritual; it only seems obvious to some religions that spirituality is the core of religion.

Personally, I think a whole lot of the problems vanish if we just accept the idea of local revelation, and reject any religion’s claim to universality. This enables us to preserve the notion of difference — which is a way of respecting the local — without falling into the depression of relativism.

(There you have it: A solution to the world’s problems in just two sentences! Now onto curing cancer…)

Anyway, see Chris’ Mystic Bourgeoisie blog for more on how Zen became NewAge++. [Tags: ]


September 25, 2005

Begin The Beguine The Screen

Susan Crawford has put together one of the most delightful five minutes I’ve spent on line in a while. [Later: The brilliant Flash work was done by Nicholas Kaye at] [Tags: ]


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