Food for Thought

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I recently got the editorial board’s comments on a textbook chapter. It seems somebody named James Petrik had fun with the draft:

On ‘Heidegger’s hammer’: ‘Here’s a tangent. My older brother, who happens to know a bit of philosophy, often said that he thought there was room in professional wrestling for a philosophical villain. He imagined that this wrestler would be managed by the Heideggirls and rant about there being no Geworfen like being Geworfen over the top rope. I now know what his signature move might be called!’

On ‘giblets and blood-clouds’: ‘I love this turn of phrase! Sounds like the name of a restaurant Ron Swanson might patronize in Parks and Recreation.’

(I’m reminded in turn of an educational programme from French class, in which ‘Le Café des Abattoirs’ got a rebrand; Google is telling me that nowadays this is the name of an actual establishment in Paris. Perhaps that’s where today’s Parisian intellectuals go for meaty conversation.)


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It happens to a lot of people: the pleasant, affectionate person you were friends with gradually becomes distant, changed, someone else. A while back I was friends with someone who, I later learnt, was being kept aloft with antidepressants when we met. There is evidence that such drugs can cause personality change.

Was I friends with someone who only existed in the first place because of medical intervention?

If so, I’m probably not alone. In 2014 more than one woman in ten and one man in twenty was on antidepressants of some sort. And since people can and do change for many reasons, maybe this is just one more. I don’t feel deceived. Yet there’s something about the very idea of friendship that sits ill with the idea of a friend’s lovely and beloved character as a medical side-effect. Partly it’s the thought that that then wasn’t the real person, any more than the depressive episodes the medication is supposed to treat are construed as part of someone’s character. Partly it’s the thought that even if that was the real person, it was an ephemeral reality (since medicine is something you stop taking if you recover), and friendship connotes a degree of caring which cannot itself be just ephemeral, switched off when a course of treatment ends.

I wonder how I seemed, to someone coming off medication. Perhaps some great novel of the 21st Century will explore the phenomenology of recovered medical normality and the social consequences of a changing personality: a modern version of returning to the old hometown.

Appropriation Expropriated

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In theory, having a topic linked to my research background hit the limelight should be a Good Thing and a source of Career Opportunities. In practice, what I find is at best that cultural appropriation sold out when it went mainstream.

I know (having studied this stuff during my doctoral research) that there are serious, or at least well-meaning, concerns involved about the sustainability of minority cultures amidst predominant ones, or about the commodification of things held sacred. (Less often about abstract notions of offensiveness, since being in a position to care about what well-off undergrads are wearing at parties is itself a luxury—whisper it, a privilege—in global terms. Hence Young on profound offence.) There was always silly stuff as well, but a few years ago there was usually some effort involved in finding it. Now it comes pre-excoriated in the popular press, and of course the most ill-considered examples have gained the most prominence. (Sometimes aided by excitable reportage, as with the suggestion that anyone could threaten Mexican cultural integrity by donning a sombrero.)

So far reactions have included bemusement, disdain and exasperation; and I am going to have to pull rank and add an extra touch of intellectual snobbery to the mix, because good grief, what a bunch of narcissistic parvenus.

Things Learnt During a Server Upgrade

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  1. At some point e-mail stopped being passed to my Gmail account. I’d been using my registrar’s nameservers, which seem not to accept AAAA record entries, so IPv6 was enabled on the server but not associated with the domain. Hence there was no IPv6 rDNS either. At some point Gmail started rejecting e-mails on these grounds: lateish 2013 from what I can find, but I have reason to think I was still getting e-mail from this server in at least late 2014... If you entered anything into the contact form after things changed, it won’t have reached me, for which I apologise, unless it was s.e.o. spam or something.

  2. Cherokee is still maintained, if not exactly under active development, but absent from the repositories, so to keep using it I’d have had to build it from source, then work out what to do about the distro-specific aspects of my old installation. Hence I’m trying other webserver daemons, mainly Hiawatha at the moment. Since I use directory listings, I followed the suggestion to set TriggerOnCGIstatus. What that page doesn’t explain (and the manual doesn’t go into the implications of) is that if you have a CGI process dealing with something like this PHP snippet...


    ...the HTTP status will be correctly set to 302, but then the server will take over immediately and the Location header will never be sent, so the browser just displays an error page. So if you have e.g. a header redirection from /login to /admin after successful authentication, it will mystifyingly break.

  3. Also, if you don’t turn on EnablePathInfo then something like /example.php/something (used e.g. by SemanticScuttle) will mystifyingly break.

  4. Hence I’m currently feeling Lighttpd maybe has fewer gotchas, although I did have to spend time learning to persuade it not to send my extensionless fortune files as application/octet-stream.

  5. Oh, and the weblog software has also faded out of active development.

Lost and Fund

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Did you know DCMS is running an open consultation on its proposed Cultural Protection Fund?’s consultation search doesn’t.