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« Salingaros on Tschumi 8 | Main | My One Opera Tip »

April 29, 2004


Dear Friedrich --

* Richard Grant's encounter with the comedian and filmmaker Christopher ("Spinal Tap," "A Mighty Wind") Guest is, as you'd expect, very amusing. It can be read here.

* Did you know that Martin Mull, who's best known as a comedian (I love his "History of White People in America," buyable as a book here and as a videotape here), is also a serious visual artist? Good stuff, too, at least if you're in the mood for sorta-conceptual, sorta-art-school painting. You can eyeball some of Mull's work here, and a book of his paintings can be bought here.

* The Book Babes marvel entertainingly and informatively about Bill and Hillary's oeuvre, here.

* Talk about ultra-low-budget moviemaking! Check out what you can do with a budget of approximately $3.98, here.

* Book collectors love snagging books that have been signed by their authors. I didn't realize it until now, but this taste for signed books didn't become widespread until recent years. The first-class mystery novelist Lawrence Block tells what the development has meant for authors, here.

* I often wonder why economists aren't more interested in symbolic activity than they are. It seems plenty obvious that some policies are arrived at not because they work in any rational sense, but simply because of the signals they send. They make people feel good; they somehow mean something important. How much of our effort (and money) do we put into this kind of behavior? And what are its payoffs and virtues? Any thoughts here, economists? Anyway, I was tickled to see that Glenn Loury has formulated this question much better than I have; his essay can be read here.

* Westerners often think of yoga as nothing but physical exercise -- stretch class, basically. In fact, yoga is a loose suite of things -- a philosophical system, a set of self-help tips, a religion, and yes physical exercise too. I'm finding it fascinating to explore all these worlds, and I enjoy checking in with Alan Little's yoga-themed weblog regularly. Here's a good Alan posting on the hardcore style of yoga known as Ashtanga. Alan's a first-class photographer as well as a knowledgeable yoga buff, so all you folks who enjoy thinking about photography will find much to chew on chez Alan as well.

* Susan, of the blog Spinning, has been doing some helpful thinking about reading styles and hypertext, here. Well, to be honest, I guess by "helpful" I really mean that I agree with her. You go, Susan.

* Edgy design doesn't interest me much these days. But people who do get a kick out of modern design should be tickled by MocoLoco, a very well-done modern-design blog, here. Keep up with the latest in blobbiness, glass, fractured geometry, and translucency.

* I have no idea whether he's considered a genius or a lunatic, but Rodney Stark's evo-bio-style thinking about religion strikes me as eye-opening and plausible. Well, more than that, really, but I'm in a self-restraining phase today. (OK, since you insist: hot stuff!! Why aren't more people talking about his ideas? He's great!) Try this here, here, here , here, here, and especially this here.



posted by Michael at April 29, 2004


"...the absolute sincerity of Nigel Tufnel as he explains that his amplifier has special dials that go up to 11, and all other amps go up to 10, so it's one louder, isn't it? Or Nigel sitting at the piano, playing a delicate, wistful piece of classical music: "It's part of a musical trilogy I'm doing in D minor, which I always find is really the saddest of all keys. Just simple lines, intertwining. I'm really influenced by Mozart and Bach and this is in between, like a Mach piece, really."

"It's pretty," says Rob Reiner as the documentary-maker. "What do you call it?"

"Well, this piece is called Lick My Love Pump.""

Omigod. Christopher Guest is a genius.

Posted by: annette on April 29, 2004 12:44 PM

The best all around guide I've ever seen to all of the branches of Yoga is The Complete Yoga Book by James Hewitt.

It is actually what was (previously) 3 seperate books, "The Yoga of Breathing", "The Yoga of Posture" and "The Yoga of Meditation". He covers in detail all of the (8, 9? been a while) formal branches of Yoga. Only ONE of which, Hatha Yoga, the Yoga of Posture, contains almost all of the schools of practice most Westerners think of as "Yoga".

Iyengar Yoga, Bikram Yoga, Ashtanga Yoga, etc. etc., are primarily individual Schools of Hatha Yoga, with differing emphasis (and in some cases, Copyrighted technique!)

The differing types of Pranayama (breathing exercises) are incredibly valuable in their own right, whether or not they are combined with other Yogas (Hatha Yoga, Raja Yoga or other meditation techniques besides the breath, etc.)

Mainstream Christian practices generally fall under the umbrella of either Bhakti Yoga (devotional worship: aka church on Sunday) or Karma Yoga (the path of Right Action, at least for Works based denominations). Liturgical traditions ("saying X novenas" and similar) are a form of Mantra.

Raja Yoga (and other meditational Yogas) and Pranayama combined can lead to states as intense, and similar to, those induced by psychedelics, but much more integrated into the individuals ongoing existence. All those monks aren't smiling for nothing! :-)

And of course many have started an exploration of Tantra Yoga with not much more than prurient interest. Of course that's a whole other can of worms, as one translation of the word tantra is loosly "the art and science of", and only 3 or so of the hundreds of established tantras have anything to do with sexuality. Music, art, math, etc. there are over a hundred established historical Tantras, meditational disciplines each of them.

The central linguistic difficulty is that when almost all Westerners read "Yoga", they think of Hatha Yoga, and when they hear "Tantra" they think sex. *sigh*

Experimentation and reproducibility had a long tradition on the Indian subcontinent before Europeans "discovered" the scientific principle (testable hypotheses with reproducable results) during the Renaissance. The learning of India all having a religious, meditative quality to it, was (is?) dismissed far too easily.

Posted by: David Mercer on April 30, 2004 7:18 PM

I have read most of Rod Stark's work, and there's a lot of good stuff, but a few criticisms:

1) he pushes rational choice way too far out of its most optimal context (that is, his idea of "religious firms" works best in the United States, but he tries and fit it into his narrative of religious history in the Roman Empire).

2) he makes a few obvious historical errors after "de-bunking" misconceptions that the public might have in the strongest of tones (he recapitulates the old Charles Martel won because of stirrups hypothesis for example).

3) he is also kind of transparently biased in that he thinks Christianity has been a "good" (that is a totally valid perspective), and makes that clear, but is very angry that other historians might have their own biases. Example: I note that he treated an explicitly Christian historical theory with respect (he asserted we shouldn't dismiss it because of its Christian supernatural premises), but is very contemptuous of neo-paganism as superstitious clap-trap.

Posted by: razib on April 30, 2004 7:41 PM

Luckily you caught me on a lucid day--thanks for the mention.

Posted by: susan on May 1, 2004 10:05 AM

"Robot Love" was not only a real hoot, but since I was mulling over the previous post about opera when I clicked on the link, I considered contacting the authors to suggest that they employ a demented music student to write a libretto and score ...

I loved the directory from the path of the URL, too:

Posted by: Larry Felton Johnson on May 1, 2004 3:02 PM

People doing things just for the purpose of sending signals is an interesting part of economics - one issue is education - do you learn anything useful from doing a degree, or are you just sending a signal about what sort of dedicated person you are?

And every economist, or other policy advisor, who has ever advised government, that I've met, is well aware that governments often make policy for reaons like that they need to be seen doing something, and do not confine themselves to policies that will have any impact on the stated problem.

The case Glenn Loury cites of the welfare programme is much more interesting, and I haven't come across something like that in economics. Much more of a psychologists thing. Not that someone can't be both, of course.

Posted by: Tracy on May 2, 2004 11:02 AM

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