Further Musings

Beauty smote his heart, he looked up from the forsaken land & hope returned to him

Archive for December 2005

Jane Jacobs and Languages

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As the winter break begins I am trying to finish up a few half-read books from the semester. As I read in Seeing Like a State today I ran across this passage in a section review Jane Jacobs view of the city as something that can’t be exclusively viewed and dominated from on high. I thought it was interesting and it touches, just a bit on the concept of aggregation that I’ve been thinking about lately.

“For Jacobs, how a city develops is something like how a language evolves. A language is the joint historical creation of millions of speakers. Although all speakers have some effect of the trajectory of a language, the process is not particularly egalitarian. Linguist, grammarians, and educators, some of them backed by the power of the state, weigh in heavily. But the process is not particularly amenable to a dictatorship either. Despite the efforts toward “central planning,” language (especially in its everyday spoken form) stubbornly leads tends to go on its own rich, multivalent, colorful way. Similarly, despite the attempts by urban planners toward designing and stabilizing the city, it escapes their grasp; it is always being reinvented and inflected by its inhabitants. For both a large city and a rich language, this openness, plasticity and diversity allow them to serve an endless variety of purposes – many of which have yet to be conceived.”

Seeing Like a State pg. 143

Written by furthermusings

December 22, 2005 at 1:28 pm

Posted in Political Science


with 5 comments

It’s late and for the first time in a long time I am up having just finished an achingly beautiful novel Blankets by Craig Thompson. I’ve never read a graphic novel before. As I type I am still under the spell of experiencing this one. The ending left me swept for breath and I thumbed through it again to revisit different parts before coming upstairs.

It’s different experience to read a graphic novel. The pictures tell the story as much as the words and I found them often sweeping me past the words as I was drawn into the progressions of pictures, moments and unfolding vignettes, each arranged differently on the page.

His beautiful black and white drawings capture the ache and longing of his first love and of his life growing up in rural Wisconsin in a Bible centered world and rural, all white high-school, motifs I could resonate with.

The story itself is real and gritty and the drawings depict it. I’m not sure to whom to recommend it, but I would, for the same reasons as the reviewer on the back cover:

“His expert blend of words and pictures and resonant silences makes for a transcendent kind of story-telling that grabs you as you read it and stays with you after you put it down.”

Written by furthermusings

December 21, 2005 at 12:50 am

Posted in Reviews

Incase you wanted to be neighbors

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If you’d like to move in next door you can for a mere $135,000. In Carrboro this will get you 924 square feet, a nice view of a lumber warehouse out the back, and two parking spaces out front.

I will take issue with the listing and say that “five rooms” is some creative accounting. You should also note that you if you would like to move a queen-size box spring upstairs to the bedrooms you will either have to replace the windows so you can hand it up outside through them or saw the box spring in half so it will fit up the stairs.

Any takers?

Written by furthermusings

December 6, 2005 at 2:02 pm

Posted in UNC

An Interesting Conversation

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Over Thanksgiving I had an interesting conversation with a woman we’ll call “Aunt Rose” who is a relative of a relative.

I’ll preface this story by telling you about a previous conversation that I had on Thanksgiving Day when we lunched with one side of Charity’s family. After the meal one of her uncles ventured an inquiry about me.

“So Andy, what do you do?” he asked as he turned away from the flat-screen TV above his fireplace.

“I’m a graduate student in political science.”

“Oh” he stated flatly and then he turned back to the TV.

As we pondered the commercial on the screen, the “conversation” between the uncle and I brought to mind the discussions that Charity and I have been having recently about whether or not our job titles are intimidating to people. I don’t understand why a student making $12,000 a year is intimidating to anyone, but apparently the mention of my job was enough to squash that conversation.

So the next day when Aunt Rose asked me what I did in a corner of another house I tried a different tact.

“I teach political science and international relations” I replied amiably. Then recalling the previous day’s conversation I grasped for something more concrete and added, “I teach about the first and second world wars.”

Upon hearing this comment Aunt Rose gathered herself, leaned forward, looked at me intensely and said “They lasted three and a half years each.”

I’d be curious what I looked like at this moment. I wasn’t expecting this turn in the conversation, especially as her statement didn’t seem empirically accurate, but I quickly remembered my mother�s excellent social advice, nodded and said . . . “Interesting.”

Aunt Rose then leaned back and asked, “Do you think there will be a third world war?”

An interesting question! I must confess I was a bit flattered that she would ask my opinion on the future. After considering for a moment I began my answer, translating my political science training into a layman’s terms, “I don’t foresee another world war like the ones we’ve seen in the past. There may be global conflict but I don’t think it will be armies of millions battling other armies of millions.”

Then I paused again trying to think about how to converse with this interesting woman about the decline of the nation-state when she leaned forward again and said:

“I can see you think there won’t be a third world war. I think there will be a third world war. The prophesies predict it will happen within the next 15 years.”

I would be even more curious to know what my face looked like at that moment.

“Which prophesies would those be?” I said in with what I can only hope was a tone of sincere inquiry.

“Well those of Nostradamus although he was wrong about the San Francisco earthquake in 2002.” Then in a grandmotherly tone she said “Most people think that it will be the war of the Tribulation but I think they are two different wars separated by a period of peace. All the prophesies point to it.”

“Which prophesies are these again?” I ventured.

“Oh” she said with a wave of her hand, “I used to live in St. Louis and I read the Catholic prophesies in the seminary library.”

We talked a few minutes about her spiritual journey before another family member called me away to show me something interesting. While I doubted it could be more interesting than Aunt Rose I took him up on his offer.

Our conversation made me think about my role in teaching political science. I wonder about what forms people’s opinions about international affairs and about how much say they actually have in policy. It was an interesting conversation for sure.

Written by furthermusings

December 2, 2005 at 8:46 am