Stuff From This Week

UPDATE: This post has finally been reconstructed. Enjoy!

UPDATE: Somewhere from a third to half of this post disappeared. I’ll rewrite that soon. But not today, as I’m (dramatic flourish) feeling ill!

It’s been a busy lazy week. Since there’s nothing new in Gordland, I thought I’d just dump some links. I don’t do this often, but since I’ve just been catching up and surfing around (aside from a rewrite I’m working on) I have lots of stuff to share. I’ll subdivide it all by headings.

One more thing: for the LJ readers out there, there are some Youtube videos in this post. They probably won’t display on the LJ crosspost, so it’s probably easiest if you just hop down to the bottom of the post and follow the link to this post on my site. Thanks!


Sexy Teaching:

I’ve written before about my theory that attractive individuals make better teachers, and that in one-on-one teaching, the more attractive a teacher of the student’s preferred sex is, the harder the student is likelier to work. I’ve found at least one example online that bears this out. Imagine a videoblogger who posts a few times a week about philology and etymology. How many people do you think would regularly check that out? How much attention would you expect it to get? Well, if it was me, probably nobody would subscribe. But Hot For Words has tons of subscribers, and Marina has been interviewed on TV and appeared in Wired.

Why? Well, I think a video is worth a thousand words:

(I’m not sure that explanation is actually correct, but it certainly explains the interest so many Youtube/iTunes subscribers have in the series.)This is actually the kind of thing I wish I could recommend to my students, if they were all guys, just because I know they’d keep coming back to it. But since my students are mostly women, it’s not so useful. Still, I find it amusing.If you’d like to, um, investigate more, the Hot For Words homepage is here.

Good Reads:

I’ve been reading a lot. I’ll talk about the books I’ve gone through when I get around to a Recently Read post, but I realized I’ve said very little about the fiction I’ve been reading online. This is extra-silly since a lot of good stuff is going up exclusively online. So here are a few words about what I’ve read lately, either fiction, or about genre fiction:

  • The Science Fiction Event Horizon is an interesting essay, seemingly, to me, a bit of a Mundane SF argument. The basic formula? There’s SF that’s really scientific, and there’s SF that’s really just fantasy. And lots and lots of people seem to identigy the fantasy-SF as the real, and not even be aware of the non-fantasy SF at all. (Which the author does indeed see as a somewhat bad thing.) Can’t say I disagree, really.
  • “Time to Say Goodnight” by Caroline Yoachim, over at Fantasy magazine. A rich, dark-bright story about the one thing none of us can escape, and about its endlessly-repeated first discovery. (Disclaimer: she’s a classmate and a friend. But it’s a good story, really.)
  • Again at Fantasy — good online mag, this one — an interview with Jeremy Tolbert. If you’re up for it, his site is a strange and neat place to poke around. I myself am in love with about four of his prints over at imagekind, including this one. This led me to check out a couple of his stories: the heartfelt and mournful “Babe, I’m Going to Leave You” (reminded me of how much I miss my own father, that story did) and the weird and lovely “The Yeti Behind You”.
  • I haven’t read it yet, but Jason Stoddard’s (novel-length) expansion of his piece “Winning Mars” from InterZone 196 is available free in PDF format on his site. (Or, if you’re like me and prefer the mobipocket format because PDF is just evil on an ebook reader, go here.)
  • Two Cranes Press. Tell me they’re not hip. I so want a copy opf their Field Guide to Surreal Botany (when it comes out, that is).

Book Trailers”

This is a neat trend. I don’t know if Jeff Vandermeer was the first genre writer to do this, with his trailer for Shriek — maybe Scott Sigler did it first? — but It’s an interesting form of free self-promotion. Well, free if you’re buddies with someone who can do you up a soundtrack, and if you can do up a decent-looking video.

I’m partial to Tobias Buckell’s trailer for Sly Mongoose:

And having also quite enjoyed the podcasts of his Getting Past Being Joe Blow Neopro series, available here. I have got to check this guy’s stuff out sometime soon…


Like, when people talk about how there’s medicine for AIDS, and millions of people can’t get it, because they’re too poor? This is what they’re talking about:

And I don’t buy the argument that these people cannot learn or have the chance to take a pill twice a day — an argument I first encountered watching The West Wing and which turned my stomach when I heard it. That’s insulting to their intelligence, and to mine if you think I’ll buy it. Yeah, when I see things like that, I suddenly start to think that drug companies’ patents should be honored… to a limit. And beyond the limit, I think companies should be reminded — worldwide — that they were enfranchised not just for the benefit of stockholders, but of humanity.Making a profit isn’t bad, but companies that don’t serve mankind while they’re at it should be drawn and quartered. If people can make money of the damned internet, they sure as hell ought to be able to find a way to make money off saving millions of lives.

Well, apparently, that’s what this Red business is all about. I’m not one to think that Bono and Madonna are going to save the world (and I feel badly for people who’ve been doing good work for ages, only to have some diva rockers show up and get all the credit), but all the same, I am curious about this. Has anyone heard much about it? Is this an example of the kind of humanist capitalism Mohammed Yunus discusses in his new book?

Godless & Thoughtful

Having just finished reading Dawkins’ The God Delusion — I’ll have more to say about it elsewhere — I thought I’d poke around and see what else I could find of Dawkins and other proactive atheists online. I’ve already mentioned the very entertaining Pat Condell here in another post, but there’s loads more on Youtube for you to enjoy. One Youtube user, PiroNiro, has collected a lot of great resources into one place (his or her channel, here). Recommended goodies:

(I should note that this is not an endorsement of Hitchens in all he’s written. I don’t really get how he could support the invasion of Iraq, for example. But these videos were interesting.)

And there’s this simple but inspiring videoblog from Mickipedia:

Dumb Superstition 9999999, Critical Thinking 9999999… +1

What happens when a local news report of a “ghost” at a gas station in Ohio makes it onto the Net?

Why, some smart, critical-minded young people decide to take it to pieces, and show that, yeah, one of the main reasons people manage to be superstitious is really just intellectual laziness. Check out the debunking:

Seriously, look at the color of her suit outside, compared to inside. Ding! Should be a hint, right there. (Though now I think I know a great way to get cheap special effects if I ever make a low-budget movie.)

The thing that kills me is that this is the same kind of newsmedia irresponsibility that has people in Korea believing in Fan Death — the idea you can die (somehow) from running an electric fan in your home at night.

Anonymous vs. CoS

Speaking of young people doing things online, this is bizarre. The online “group” (is that the right word?) Anonymous has decided to take on the Church of Scientology. Actually, to take down the Church of Scientology, a project they call Project Chanology. They issued this video recently:

There’s an interesting article here about this whole set of events, which mentions also Anonymous’ role in the arrest of pedophile Chris Forchand. The article links to this video, which, I warn you, is quite stomach-turning:

By the way, February 10th (my mother’s birthday!) was the deay they protested. Here’s a report on the protest that took place in Los Angeles. What can I say? I hope these kids are careful, because all I’ve read suggests the CoS can be quite harsh when fighting off criticism. But the Church will look pretty silly trying to sue hundreds of teenagers. (And I suspect that the majority of people involve in Anonymous are teenagers, not adults.) That said, good on them for being peaceful, using the resources they have, and for taking a stand.

How Things Change

That expression, the more things change, the more they stay the same… it isn’t true in all respects: for example, this hilarious video points out how much computer tech has changed since the early 90s. And that’s been, what, less than twenty years. I’ve often thought the same of bank machines, and how much more organized people would have to have been in the days before them.

HP Lovecraft Swag, Baby!

If you’re looking for amusing HPL swag, you can get some at the H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society. Indeed, besides T-shirts and mugs, they have resources for gamers, MP3 radio plays, and more! And before you complain about the cost, don’t worry: you can afford it (except maybe the Cthulhu Icon — somewhat beyond the range of my art budget)… after all, you can read piles of HPL’s fiction here, for free.

Already read all that stuff? Okay, try Dickens (in Mobipocket format, open, ready to go). Or Chekhov. That should do ya.

Art I’d Buy If I Could Afford It

Grenouille Speaking of art I like but cannot afford, Edouard Martinet’s sculptures really rock. This froggie is only one example, of many cool pieces. I swear, I’d have this frog on my desk if I had the money to throw at art.

21 thoughts on “Stuff From This Week

  1. No big deal, but could you possibly link to where you talked earlier about the “attractive teachers hypothesis”? I’d like to read more.

    It sounds like a very childish and cynical idea, but I completely agree. As you know, on my own blog I find Lee Hyori and other female celebrities much more interesting Korean language study subjects than the oh-so-fascinating mask dances, kimchee-making and traditional game of Yut normally used in Korean textbooks. In 2007, I also used Korean EBS middle-school textbooks to learn specialised vocab on subjects like History, Technology, Science and Ethics, and then reviewed the vocab by watching the free-to-air accompanying lectures on my computer. Looking at my bookcase a year later, I find the books of the subjects presented by men strangely unopened.

    I could go on about how I’ve noticed this phenomenon as a teacher myself, particularly when I had hair and was single, but you get the idea, and besides which you’ve seen what I look like, so I’d better stop there!

  2. James,

    I meant to include the link, but forgot. I’ve added it, but I’ll also include it here. The post isn’t exclusively about that, there are other things discussed, but that’s where I wrote about it.

    I don’t think it’s very childish or cynical at all, really. More a sensible appraisal of human motivations to receive praise or positive feedback. A little biopsychology goes a long way in explaining a phenomenon that I know I’m not the only one to have observed. (In fact, it was someone I worked with at my first job who presented the idea in simplified form to me, advising me to find a Korean tutor I found attractive as this would help me advance more.)

    By the way, I know what you look like, but you know what I look like, too, and I’d bet higher on you than on myself getting on a Korean magazine cover. (Barring arrest for ranting about a certain evil President on a blog, that is.) The point isn’t that supermodels make the best teachers, because attraction is a complex thing. But I will note that my biggest fans among my students are all female… though I treat the guys with the same respect and push them equally, the female students tend to respond to it more positively. I’m certain there’s a hardwired reason for this.

  3. Thanks for updating the link, and apologies for saying that the idea was childish and cynical. Not apologizing in the sense that I think it made you angry of course, more for feeling the need to say that when actually I don’t really think so at all…being so prolific on the internet these days, I seem to be instinctively qualifying all my comments. But I won’t restrain myself this time!

    I haven’t taught adults myself in over two years, and I miss some of these dynamics that you discuss, sexual and otherwise. In Korea, I wonder if they’re particularly strong between female students and male expat teachers? Not to claim that we’re God’s gift to Korean women, or that all Korean women unconditionally find Western males attractive of course, but in my experience very few single Western men that teach adults of a similar age don’t ultimately make friends and girlfriends with their students. It’s only natural under the circumstances, and it not being very PC doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen. Personally, despite our best efforts and many years in Korea, neither myself nor any of my Western male friends have managed to make meaningful friends with any Korean men, students or otherwise, and with whatever factors responsible for that operating in the background, the fact that 9 out of 10 of the racist and sexist comments in class came from my male students, and the fact that women tend to better language learners and conversationalists anyway, then I can’t pretend that I didn’t much prefer to teach women, and despite my being aware of this issue, probably responded much more warmly and enthusiastically to them in class too. It probably didn’t help that, unasked, some would give me their Cyworld addresses earlier in the year, and forget that when I decided to check them out a few months later and discovered numerous references to my appearance and my (then) apparently great ass.

    I’m wonder to what extent institute owners are aware of and take advantage of this? I know the boss in my first ever job did, because my wife says being told repeatedly by the front desk staff that a certain class had a hot (gross exaggeration) 24 year-old single teacher is what made her decide to take my class. Four years later at a different place, front desk staff extolled the virtues of my coworker instead, although in that case not because he was bachelor of the month, but because being single meant he liked nothing better than drinking all night every night with students, literally staggering to classes the next day with a few “free-talking questions? scrawled on a piece of paper 5 mins earlier. Needless to say, his ensuing popularity kind of demotivated us other teachers against spending so much time and effort on preparation.

  4. Argh! The rest of the post is gone! I could kill someone right now. Does anyone have it in his or her cache? Because I don’t have a backup. I didn’t expect WordPress to just EAT a post halfway.

  5. Well, if anyone has a cache of the post, that’d be nice. I might be able to reconstruct it, since it’s not the whole thing gone, but I’m feeling too ill now, not to mention annoyed.

  6. Some of it might be and probably is biology, but part of the problem with teaching males is the curriculum. When I first started teaching my Media studies class in Japan, the teachers were having the kids reading articles about recycling plastic bags. How can you get a seventeen year old’s attention (especially if they are male) with an article like that? When I brought in a articles about groups like PETA, excerpts from The Undercover Economist and showed clips from Supersize Me, interest in the class (male and female) improved dramatically.

  7. Mark,

    Sure, though I will point out that I have continued to observe this even when teaching materials that the students connect to better than that. (Recyclable bags? I would never have that in my classroom.) My conversation courses have lots of cool things — things you’d even maybe expect male students to get into more than female, sometimes, like a “plan a bank robbery exercise” — but you still find female students more involved in the exercises.

    Could be cultural, however, too. Lime’s observations of the behaviour of Koreans out of context (such as in the airport in Thailand) reinforced her (and my own) impression that many men here simply do as little as they can get away with, as long as there’s a woman around to handle it for them. Which would explain why, in Korea, you never see men running frantically down the sidewalk, but you often see women doing so. Don’t know whether things differ in Japan, though I’d imagine they would slightly. Do they?

  8. I never really observed that dynamic – everyone works really hard in Japan, regardless of gender. Things might be tipped slightly in favor of men, though not by much.

  9. James,

    Yeah, but I’m on Linux and it’s a different ball of wax. Found a few to try out, though. Thanks!


    Yeah, I could be exaggerating. But Lime recent observations on Koreans out of context actually involved the comment I wrote: “many men… do as little as they can get away with, as long as there’s a woman around to handle it for them.”

    I’ll be writing more about that soon, but I’ll say it was an eye-opening comment. (What she said of her female Korean friends mommying their boyfriends, and how males here get mommied not only by moms but also girlfriends, and wives, was quite eye-opening.)

  10. I love Hitchens, but you probably know that from reading my blog. I saw him speak at Politics & Prose in DC, and the guy is amazing. Kept on taking swigs from one of those mini-bottles of vodka the entire time. One of the most ornery crowds I’d ever seen at a book signing though, Hitchens fielded a lot of questions from true believers and the crowd did not appreciate it. He looked at me with such utter contempt when he signed my copy of god is not great, but it felt good, what I imagine being insulted by Don Rickles would be like.

    As for the Gap Red campaign, I’m sure it’s part of their attempt to clean up their corporate image, but it looks like they still aren’t doing well, if you read the wikipedia article on the company there has been a lot of turnover in the head office, never a good sign.

  11. Mark,

    Yeah, see, another thing I wouldn’t like about Hitchens. When people are happy to shell out for your books, the least you can do is be a little thankful to them when they ask for a signature. Though the Don Rickles thing did make me laugh…

    Yeah, the Red thing (not just Gap but also Motorola and a bunch of other companies) makes me a little, I don’t know, suspicious? Companies exist to make money. Then again, I do believe we could retool them to be more humanist… I just think it’ll take real leadership, and harsh legislation, and not just rockstars who aren’t really all that much more educated on the issues than your average Joe.

  12. Well, “contempt” might have been harsh, and with my hair as long as it was at the time, I was looking like a Ashton Kutcher. Basically, I looked like a dopey college age kid, despite the fact I was wearing a jacket and tie.

    I’ve been to a lot of book signings, and the crowd for that one was one of the largest I’d seen. He would have been there really late if he’d spent a lot of time on small talk.

    As for his stand on the Iraq war, well, his contrarian views frequently give him more creditability in my eyes. If you’ve followed his writings, he’s still a credible civil libertarian. Not unlike Dennis Miller, if anyone had been paying attention over the years, it was pretty obvious the man was never a pacifist, and while critical of American power, was not unopposed to it’s use when he thought the cause was just.

  13. Well, yeah, but longhair or no, as if Hitchens wasn’t a dopey college aged kid once too? Anyway, I guess things are just different in SF-land, where authors make an effort to be friendly and nice to all but the most obnoxious and moronic of fans (like the ones who complain about one’s writing, or insist one should endorse conspiracy theories about 9-11).

    As for contrarianism, I only credit it where the underlying logic makes sense. I suspect the logical backflips needed to justify invading Iraq would not impress me. In other words, I like contrarianism when it’s thoughtful, but I have doubts any thoughtful person could see the invasion of Iraq as a sensible pursuit of a just cause. Besides which, it seems to me even a fair number of leftist Americans were tentatively supportive of the invasion of Iraq at first. So I don’t perceive his position as so contrarian, though of course I also haven’t seen him spell out his opinions on the subject so clearly. Got a link to suggest?

  14. By the way, Yae Rim totally wishes I had hair like Ashton Kutcher in, say, this picture.

    Ashton Kutcher

    It’s one of the standard default haircuts these days in Korea — or something like it — and tons of Korean guys have it. That I despise it, and prefer this haircut:

    Me in Shanghai

    … is a constant source of mild disappointment for her.

  15. Slate has all of Christopher Hitchens’s articles on Iraq dating back to the build up to the conflict in it’s online archive, no subscription required. They were collected into a relatively cheap little paperback, A Long Short War. Sometimes bookstores will use it to prop up an uneven table leg groaning underneath piles of tomes written by Noam Chomsky and remaindered Michael Moore trade paperbacks.

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