January 2005 Archives

More on the Mechanics of Place

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Juan Cole mentions that there is enlightenment to be had from Ella Shohat's meditation on the implications for identity in being an Iraqi Jew, and an American one at that -- and on the cognitive dissonance this produces in many Westerners.

Fun fact: my first Hebrew teacher here was also a Mizrahi; she retired in December, and I'm sorry to say that her replacement doesn't engage nearly as well with the class. (Contrary to the common usage here, the Mizrahi are not Sephardim.) Apparently we were supposed to be able to tell, from the fact that she can pronounce the letter "ain" correctly, that her mother tongue is Arabic. Of course she was just having fun with us, as she knew perfectly well that a bunch of foreigners in Ulpan Aleph (Hebrew 101 for Immigrants, essentially) would know no such thing. Our new teacher has yet to evidence a sense of humor.

At any rate, only about half of Shohat's essay consists of a fairly standard exposition on an underappreciated and, whether she likes it or not, "ontological[ly] subversi[ve]" (precisely because of the bipolarity she bemoans) multivalent identity. Interspersed with about equal proportion is her, to my thought much more interesting, reflection on the dynamics of place and misplaced boundaries.

This Post Is Not Good For A Chuckle

I was struck last week when the following two articles shared the front page of the Israeli edition of the International Herald-Tribune (itself sort of a "Google-News" from the pre-net era).

Le Pen calls Nazis not so 'inhumane'

Prince Harry's costume draws uproar

Far be it from me to deny that the House of Windsor is often good for a chuckle or a self-righteous tut-tut. And Le Pen is always saying something or other to stir people up. But why pair these two so prominently? Nazis. And maybe Auschwitz.

Hail to the King

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Four more years for everyone's favorite despotic buffon with delusions of apotheosis, starting ... now. You may now applaud, because that scares the terrorists.

Curious that this man, of all people, should choose to wax grandieloquent about freedom for his inaugural canned remarks. I have a hunch that his notion of liberty, if one caught him at an unheard-of moment of perfect candidness, would sound something like "People should be free. Me most of all, 'cause I'm in charge."

Browse the text of his speech. Could he not have saved quite a few words and simply announced that "War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength." and gotten it over with?

But this struck me as particularly rich:

We are led, by events and common sense, to one conclusion: The survival of liberty in our land increasingly depends on the success of liberty in other lands. The best hope for peace in our world is the expansion of freedom in all the world.

How typical, that he would get this entirely and precisely backwards. The best hope for peace, or even just a modicum of sanity in the world, lies in taking back our own country. How unfortunate, that the present generation has not been gifted with a King of its own. Heck, I'd settle for a Zhao.

More Astrophotography

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Comet Macholtz C/2004 Q2 glided by the Pleiades the other day. A very pretty sight, if you have the right equipment and a decently dark sky. I have neither. I do, however, have a light polluted sky, a digital camera, and a mini-tripod.

See below for my effort.

That Other Election

As expected, the election for PA president went off yesterday without too much trouble, and Abbas appears to have won an unquestionable victory, as everyone knew he would.

Expected, that is, by everyone except the Israelis, most of whom seem to have been only dimly aware that anything of the sort was going on. After all, the Israeli media is obsessed with the Disengagement, phony hand-wringing over the prospect of the settlers precipitating a civil war, Sharon's contortions to keep his government together and avoid new elections, etc., etc. Anything but the election next door, it would seem.

The observation has come from a number of quarters that free elections do not routinely take place in occupied lands. While there remains some debate over just how free and fair these polls really were, you'd think that point alone would merit a bit more coverage. But the very observation that it's hard to hold an election in the Palestinian territories rather emphasizes facts that the Israelis would mostly rather not think about too much. I can't quite buy Price's theory that they're bored with the Palestinians.

But as American politics so often demonstrates, indifference is easy.

Going Public


Not that it was exactly a state secret before, but the EBEX collaboration that I'm a part of has gone public. Which is exciting to me, because it means I now have a publication that's actually available online. Check it out at astro-ph/0501111. (For the non-physical scientists in the crowd who don't hang out in the pre-print archive and want to see the pretty pictures, try the PDF link.) Yes, this was technically published in a conference proceeding last summer. Yes, there was probably a good reason for waiting until now to post it.

I'm not claiming it's the must-read page turner of 2005. But it's an informative overview of what I'm up to these days, broadly speaking.

Wedding Photos #2

As is some sort of Scottish-derived tradition, the bride and groom cut the cake using a "wedding sword" given them by the best man. This one is a bit larger than custom really requires. Then again, some might argue, so was the quantity of cake. 2004:12:14 21:32:03

And here we go, continuing the documentary spree, as it were. Below, a bit of setting.

Late update: Xylo the groomsman has his version in photos, for those of you so inclined.

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