Did We Kill the Neanderthals?

BBC NEWS | Health | Neanderthals ‘distinct from us’

The obvious joke here is that, yes, it is because of the FOXP2 that George W Bush can communicate with modern humans. And, yes, it was very kind of George W Bush to donate his DNA to this study.

In seriousness, however, this is a very provocative study. It evokes so many images of a wild Asian subcontinent (Europe) teeming with all varieties of humanoids who lived peacefully for some time until, perhaps, circumstances forced them to compete for resources.

One wonders if this competition is what finally ushered in the age of warfare. Absent a distinct advantage that would allow one race to annihilate the other, war was inevitable.

That may well explain why having a Neanderthal president for eight years nearly brought the United States close to the edge of annihilation.


Beckham Bends LA

BBC SPORT | Football | Europe | Beckham reluctant to return to US

It’s hard to blam Beckham. For all of its glitz and glamor, LA (Beverly Hills, especially) is a shitty place to live. It’s hard to trade Milan and Italian sophistication for LA’s gridlock and Angeleno status consciousness. Countless others have abandoned LA for places far less glamorous as Milan, this writer included.


Does Humanity Need Auschwitz to Remember?

BBC NEWS | Europe | Should Auschwitz be left to decay?

Never again. That has been the Holocaust survivors’ mantra for over sixty years. How do we fulfill this mantra? While the concentration camps and death camps–Auschwitz-Birkenau, Sachsenhausen, Mathausen, Buchenwald, Dachau, and the many others–stood there preserved, genocide was carried out in Rwanda, the former Yugoslavia and Darfur. This is what lends weight to Robert Jan van Pelt‘s argument that we need not preserve such terrible places like Auschwitz in order to serve humanity.

I do not agree with van Pelt, a man I consider very nearly a hero by virtue of the admirable service he has rendered against anti-semitism. Wladyslaw Bartoszewski‘s contention that the fallibility of human memory requires the presence of these physical reminders of what we are capable of perpetrating against each other is far more compelling. People forget. This truism justifies the preservation of these monuments to human evil.

Implicit in the debate, however, is the bigger question which does not get addressed. What does it mean to say “never again”? What ends will the preservation of these monuments serve? What benefits will the building and preservation of memorials serve have for a civilization that has countenanced unspeakable atrocities numerous times since the Holocaust? Absent a will to keep memories alive and the will to educate the generations who must remember these atrocities, the debate rings hollow. Rwanda, Yugoslavia, Darfur, and maybe even Chechnya and the former Congo/Zaire provide convincing evidence that monuments alone cannot help mortals muster the will to act.

These are precisely the sorts of invaluable causes that asinine political promises like “no new taxes” will never address.


Wish there were an American Twit of the Year Contest?

YouTube – Monty Python Upperclass Twit of the Year

Nearly forty years after the Monty Python crew did this absolutely brilliant skit lambasting the British upper class, Americans are still left wanting for a similar work of satire that depicts the American elite in the appropriate light. After all, an elite that has managed to squander in less than a generation the dreams of the founding fathers, the promise of the most ambitious and most diverse populace ever gathered under one flag, and the spoils of wars won by blood spilled by countless soldiers in lands near and far has earned the right to be so thoroughly upbraided.

In as much, if any country’s upper class is exclusively occupied by twits, it has to be the United States of America. It is profoundly distressing and disappointing that no mainstream American comedy troupe (not even Saturday Night Live) has yet managed anything this scathing, this relevant and this funny. Nobody in the US can do proper satire anymore, it seems.

Except maybe for Harry Shearer.

Bank executives are being grilled by Congress today. It would be far more preferable to gather them at the National Mall for a twit of the year contest and fire the starter’s gun. After all, the only thing that seems to distinguish banking executives from the twits in this Monty Python sketch is plastic surgery.

Scroll down to register your vote. Take note that the tied down rabbit portion nearly anticipates Dick Cheney’s hunting episode.

Who gets your vote for the 2008-2009 American upper class twit of the year? Please choose up to three (3) answers.

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Walmart as Pestilence?

Watching the Growth of Walmart Across America

Data visualization is really in vogue, and the  new tools becoming available for the task are simply amazing. This graph, cited on zefrank.com, makes Walmart’s growth look rather horrific. It was created by Nathan, who also made a graph of Target’s growth since 1962.

Does Target’s growth seem any less threatening than Walmart’s? If so, is it because of the colors used in each animation? Or is this really, really nifty way of visualizing the data to blame? It is hard to dispute that this is an absolutely cool way of presenting information. Gotta find data to plot.


Philosophy on the Football Field

YouTube – Monty Python – International Philosophy

The only reason Monty Python’s Flying Circus persists in its popularity is the complexity of the humor. A philosophical inquiry about the relationship between scientists and the philosophers of science brought back distant memories of this brilliant skit about a soccer (football) match between the greats of Greek and German philosophy.

Now that I’m a little older, presumably and hopefully a little bit wiser, and ostensibly better informed, this skit is funnier than ever. I still don’t know why Beckenbauer is a surprise member of the German lineup. Do you?

Then again, I don’t care to know why Beckenbauer is the real surprise. It might not be as funny.

Update: I was possessed by morbid curiosity. I looked up Beckenbauer cited in the skit. He is Franz Beckenbauer, one of the greatest footballers who ever lived. A real athlete in a philosophy match is a surprise, indeed. And, after reading the script for this skit, I’m laughing even harder. Indeed, these are perhaps the three greatest objections to the validity of a goal anyone ever dreamt.

The Germans are disputing it. Hegel is arguing that the reality is merely an a priori adjunct of non-naturalistic ethics, Kant via the categorical imperative is holding that ontologically it exists only in the imagination, and Marx is claiming it was offside.

Catch Shoe Throwing Fever

BBC NEWS | UK | UK Politics | Shoe hurled as Chinese PM speaks

Forget about the locomotion. The new dance craze is shoe throwing. From Iraq, to England (see article above), it is the craze that is sweeping the globe. So, grab your flip flops, moccasins, sneakers, or whatever you got on, pick a target, and fire away. You could become famous, too.