Archive for September, 2007


September 27, 2007

Sources recently pointed me to this interesting story by way of the CBC about the extinction of famed “megafauna” species (like mastodons, sabretooth tigers and giant sloths). It suggests they may have disappeared because of the effects of a meteor impact about 13,000 years ago. Another confirmation of the theory of catastrophism (which I’ve written about here), the dynamic transformations in the earth’s natural systems and their relationship to extraterrestrial influence. The most famous example of this phenomena is the K-T boundary, a concentrated layer of iridium left from a cosmic source that speaks to the cataclysm which pushed the dinosaurs off the top of the evolutionary pile about 65 million years ago.

I’ve discussed this phenomena before, but it looks like it may be a more frequent phenomena than we think. Hard to imagine the kind of “climate change” that would result from such an event…

Darkness Falls…

September 27, 2007


On my life out west. Thinking about it, at times I’m not sure why. But then again, maybe I am.

On the Last Sunset at Ogden Point

September 22, 2007

A palette of perverse pink patterns, signaling a sailor’s delight — God’s brush strokes in the sky. From set to dusk a kaleidescope winks — each moment beaming out fractal light in infinite hues. The cruise ships down from Alaska, spilling out strangers in bad taste. You could take a picture — as they busily do — but never capture it. No matter the frame, the view is better alive.

Just Kidding

September 20, 2007


I can’t keep up with these guys, but here’s a little bit of cute by way of Irina’s talent and the denizens of the petting zoo at Beacon Hill Park. Maybe I’ll even be back when they open again — have a “cheezburger” at the Beacon drive-in.

Eugenics, Again

September 20, 2007

An interesting article in Dissent on the pro-choice movement and the “new” eugenics, found by way of Arts & Letters Daily. There are some thorny issues here, which the author effectively touches on. What isn’t discussed is the situation outside North America, which has a distinct flavor depending on the country concerned. Eugenics is one of those things that amalgamates uniquely in different cultural contexts. That is to say that like everything else, it has a history.

A poorly understood issue, and one I’ve talked about before. For those who might be curious to do some digging, I’m also including another [patented] bibliography; a tight, one-page synthesis of the key texts perused in preparation for a research proposal written in 2004 to do public policy work (I was a different person then, I swear…) relating to the issue of eugenics. One caveat…The proposal made it past the first couple of cuts, but didn’t get selected. Maybe that’s because I slapped it together in a week while riding the commuter train from the banlieu of Paris during a research trip…

The “New” Eugenics: State, Sterilization and the Individual

Mark B. Adams, ed., The Wellborn Science: Eugenics in Germany, France, Brazil, and Russia (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1990).

Edwin Black, War Against the Weak: Eugenics and America’s Campaign to Create a Master Race (New York: Four Walls Eight Windows, 2003).

Gunnar Broberg and Nils Roll-Hansen, eds., Eugenics and the Welfare State: Sterilization Policy in Denmark, Sweden, Norway, and Finland (East Lansing, MI: Michigan State University Press, 1996).

G. K. Chesterton, Eugenics and Other Evils (London: Cassell, 1922).

Troy Duster, Backdoor to Eugenics (London: Routledge, 2003).

Francis Galton, Inquiries into Human Faculty and its Development (London: Macmillan, 1883).

Allen E. Garland, “Is a New Eugenics Afoot?” Science 294 (2001), 59-61.

Joseph L. Graves, The Emperor’s New Clothes: Biological Theories of Race at the Millennium (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2001).

Jürgen Habermas, The Future of Human Nature (Malden, MA: Polity, 2003).

J. B. S. Haldane, Human Biology and Politics (London: British Science Guild, 1934).

Marouf Arif Hasian, The Rhetoric of Eugenics in Anglo-American Thought (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1996).

Daniel J. Kevles, In the Name of Eugenics: Genetics and the Uses of Human Heredity (New York: Knopf, 1985).

Daniel J. Kevles, “Eugenics and Human Rights,” British Medical Journal 319 (1999), 435-38.

Daniel J. Kevles and Leroy Hood, eds., The Code of Codes: Scientific and Social Issues in the Human Genome Project (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1992).

Edward J. Larson, Sex, Race, and Science: Eugenics in the Deep South (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1995).

Thomas Robert Malthus, An Essay on the Principle of Population: As it Affects the Future Improvement of Society, With Remarks on the Speculations of Mr. Godwin, M. Condorcet, and Other Writers (London: J. Johnson, 1798).

Pauline M. H. Mazumdar, Eugenics, Human Genetics and Human Failings: The Eugenics Society, its Source and its Critics in Britain (London: Routledge, 1992).

Angus McLaren, Our Own Master Race: Eugenics in Canada, 1885-1945 (Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 1990).

Diane B. Paul, The Politics of Heredity: Essays on Eugenics, Biomedicine, and the Nature-Nurture Debate (New York: State University of New York Press, 1998).

Dorothy Porter, Health, Civilization, and the State: A History of Public Health from Ancient to Modern Times (London: Routledge, 1999).

Nils, Roll-Hansen, “Eugenics in Scandinavia after 1945: Change of Values and Growth in Knowledge,” Scandinavian Journal of History 24 (1999), 199-213.

Nancy Stepan, The Hour of Eugenics: Race, Gender, and Nation in Latin America (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1991).

Alexandra Stern, Mestizophilia, Biotypology, and Eugenics in Post-revolutionary Mexico: Towards a History of Science and the State, 1920-1960 (Chicago: Dept. of History, University of Chicago, n.d.).

Stephen Trombley, The Right to Reproduce: A History of Coercive Sterilization (London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1988).

Peter Weingart, “Science and Political Culture: Eugenics in Comparative Perspective,” Scandinavian Journal of History 24 (1999), 163-177.

As you may have surmised, there was going to be some specific focus on Scandinavia…

My Aching Back

September 18, 2007

The bane of my existence for the last two years, my back first caused me problems while being hunched over a keyboard for months on end finishing my dissertation. So in a sense my ruined skeletal structure is a fond memory of the closeted scriptorious torture I saw fit to persevere through. Call it a badge of honor. I think I would have preferred a puppy. Or a cake.

Anyway, the old badge is digging into my side real bad these days. After my degree I followed a path of rigorous exercise and regime that slowly brought me back to some semblance of health (and, moreover, mobility). There’s been some ups and downs, but recently I was OK. Last fall I saw a specialist (who agreed with my diagnosis of “sciatica”) and was scheduled for an MRI, but moved out to BC, and for the most part improved considerably on my own. Earlier this summer was a high point, when I was riding the bike daily and able to hike for hours without much discomfort. Then the teaching gig started in mid-July, and my bike fell apart, and before I replaced it I did some jogging, which didn’t feel so great. But again I was feeling better just recently since I got the new bike.

On Friday, after hitting just two golf balls, I wrenched my back so bad I couldn’t stand up. I’d been to the driving range a few times earlier in the summer and was fine, so this was a complete surprise.

Suddenly I’m in emergency at 11:00 PM, waiting about five hours just to see a doctor. I felt like I did two winters ago in Montreal, when I’d submitted the thesis but hadn’t defended, and slipped on the ice in front of f-ing Future Shop on boxing day. It was a holly, jolly Christmas, let me tell you.

But somehow it’s worse now, with my time outdoors so precious to me, and the fall encroaching…

I suppose I should have done more than just get an x-ray and follow my own rehab, but everything was going fairly well. Now, sadly, I believe it’s time to experiment, since waiting for the hospital to call me back for my CT scan so they can tell me to “go see someone at a clinic” isn’t happening. As much as I’m a devoted skeptic, I’m thinking it’s time to see a chiropractor, this in spite of the fact that I know their dubious lineage (heck, I even wrote about it…). Whatever. They have survived the test of time, so maybe there’s something to it…Hey, the philosopher of science Paul Feyerabend, who was skeptical of basically everything, saw considerable merit in alternative medicine. I think he consulted alternative healers because he had some pretty major back problems — brought on by being shot a few times in the war. So there you go — it could be worse.

The experience of being in a hospital again reminded me why I’m particular about staying healthy — the modern medical system is so profoundly disturbing to someone who studies the philosophical meanings of health that it’s hard to have anything to do with it. Yet there is this strange rational conceit that makes me equally dubious of the alternative approach…But now, I may take the leap.

I tell ya, being laid up really sucks. I don’t do incapacitated well.

Simmering Apocalypse

September 16, 2007

Prompted by uberfrau, I’m posting an old poem. It’s pretty free-verse-y and actually has a latent political undertone (at least that’s what I remember about writing it), making offhand reference to the American bombing of Libya in 1986, an event which marked a fairly early point in the “war on terrorism.” Yes, I’m old(er). Think of this as a poetic ode to the post-modern longue durée. Poem is about fifteen years young.

Apocalyptic Tropism

Rusted metal drums of poison chemical soup
sit in the hot Mediterranean sun.
Waves of heat
up from the twisted streets of the casbah.
The barnacle ridden hull of a cargo ship
in the ancient port of Tripoli.
In a dream of another time
he can hear
the roar
of a distant engine.
Something stirs in his mind
“or is it now”
he asks.

Well, OK. It was conceived as a tropism…Whatever the hell that is…


September 15, 2007

For some mysterious reason that goes beyond my technological acumen, my old header suddenly disappeared. I’ve thus taken the liberty to replace it with something more personal, originally from this post. Dramatic. Hope you like.

Does anybody even read this thing anymore!?


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