Blog by Sumana Harihareswara, Changeset founder
Crummy Snow Cadence Confederacy Whom Violence and SciFi
Hi, reader. I wrote this in 2001 and it's now more than five years old. So it may be very out of date; the world, and I, have changed a lot since I wrote it! I'm keeping this up for historical archive purposes, but the me of today may 100% disagree with what I said then. I rarely edit posts after publishing them, but if I do, I usually leave a note in italics to mark the edit and the reason. If this post is particularly offensive or breaches someone's privacy, please contact me.
A San Francisco columnist's article says much of what I wanted to say the other day, regarding school shootings by females. Well, maybe that's not what I would have said, but at least he brings a new light and new info to the subject.
More in this entry about the unholy death of "whom," the class I teach, Leonard Richardson, protests at Cal, and humor.
My class: It's going well. My students are doing the reading and participating, for the most part. Today we discuss Snow Crash, and Friday we'll move on to The Diamond Age. Note: my Meyer-Briggs Personality Indicator told me that I prefer planning over spontanaeity. Sure enough, I do MUCH better in teaching when I have a well-thought-out lesson plan. I can deviate from it if circumstances arise, but at least I know what my goals are for each session. And since I have a tendency to go off on tangents (e.g., evangelizing open source, mocking Ayn Rand, etc.), the structure keeps my quirks from taking over the show.
Culture v. tech: Salon.com just ran an interview with Norton Juster, writer of The Phantom Tollbooth. (Comment below if you want me to publish here my personal anecdote re: TPT.) I thought the incredibly cool thing was that Juster consciously connected the Digitopolis/Dictionopolis divide to C.P. Snow's famous "two cultures" observation, of the separation between math/science and humanities.
There were themes in there that I threw in because they amused me at the time. The whole conflict between words and numbers, that old thing that C.P. Snow wrote about many years ago. I didn't lay it out as a thesis or anything, but it was fun having it in there. And it doesn't get in the way of the story.
When I told a physicst friend of this, it went something like:
Sumana: So it was really about C.P. Snow and what he said about the two cultures.
Hacker Physicist: Who's that?
Sumana: Primary and subsidiary point. Primary point: C.P. Snow said that the sciences and the humanities are two different cultures, and there's a huge division between them. Subsidiary point: the fact that you didn't know that indicates that he was right.
Of course, my friend also has a k5 weblog. When comparing our journals and their emphases, I see that while k5 may aim to unite "technology and culture from the trenches," my culture and his technology seem pretty separate.
Crummy: Now that the esteemed readership of Leonard Richardson's crummy.com sees this journal as one of the blogs in the top navbar, I feel more pressure to be as prolific as LR himself. I don't have the cojones, stamina, or tolerance for information asymmetry to make this diary as comprehensive and frequently updated as Mr. Richardson's News You Can Bruise. Still, I'll try to give you a run for your eyeballs.
The Demise of "Whom": To paraphrase Mystery Men, "Whom is not dead! Whom is LIFE!"
That one page was right; Russian does help one understand when to use "whom" and when "who." (The Google search I used to try to find that page again also pulled up a site on Russian women's secrets--scary.) So as anyone would, I felt crushed when a friend told me that my new skill was USELESS! "Whom is dead," she said. Some piddly grammarian's piddly new book backed her up, she said.
Bollocks! I will continue to hold the WHOM banner high, to fortify my little bastion of semantic elitism. Without "whom," how do I know whether you're speaking of someone as the direct object or the indirect object, or even in the nominative or prepositional? God knows the vocative case is already rare, but what if? Goodness, man! In my precarious world, I cherish the few certainties I can find. "Whom" is one, and I shan't let go.
Israeli/Palestinian harmony: (Note: this is NOT a reference to Brian's very funny open-mic bit at a Heuristic Squelch Comedy Night about the solution for the Middle East conflict: Arab/Jew buddy cop movies.) A little over a week ago, pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian students protested at each other near Sather Gate on campus, north of Sproul Plaza. The pro-Palestinians had set up a mock refugee camp, from within which they chanted, "Hey ho/Hey ho/Let the refugees go home." The pro-Israelis sang in Hebrew, possibly Jewish folk songs, possibly the Israeli national anthem. Crowds looked on, argued; mass media members recorded.
Did anyone notice the moments when they seemed to be singing together? I've been listening to a lot of a cappella recently, so maybe my ears were a little more tuned to such things. But I definitely heard the opponents, for a few moments, making beautiful music together, singing in cadence together. Maybe they felt the primal pull of the shared beat, of a uniting tempo that cools tempers. It comforted me as I walked away. No matter how much we try to hate and separate, the urge to join with other humans remains.
Confederate bumper stickers: I thought up a silly bit to try to submit to the Squelch: Bumper stickers from through the ages. I mean, today we conduct 80% of our intellectual discourse through bumper stickers, especially in Berkeley. Imagine bumper stickers from 1640, or 1775, or 1863! I thought up a number of bumper stickers from the Confederacy (that is, the one that seceded from the United States of America in 1861, and which fought the USA in the Civil War). Here are some; vote for your pick of my favorites in the poll.
Poll: Best Confederate Bumper Sticker