Monthly Archives: May 2009

Bad Science

Bad Science is always kind of on my radar because I follow PZ Myers, and it is one of those blogs that he ingests whole to keep his New Atheist Rage meter pegged at “red faced and screechy”, but I don’t really read it all that often. This is because, by and large, Bad Science is just a bunch of misinterpretations of statements that border on manic, with the occasional feel-good story about how some Catholics touched a kid one time. I don’t really have a problem with this but I’m able to endzone-dance on Catholic dogma in my own head with incredible efficiency, no external validation needed.

But this bothers me.

I have said before that I don’t like the argument that tech is bad because we’re losing skills, and this is absolutely no different. This is the same argument packed up with a couple of vague fMRI images.

Let me lay it down for y’all again and see if you can pick up what I’m laying down. No early human was born with an in-built ability to ride horses. Or drive cars, or hull wheat. They didn’t hatch with a book in hand, nor with the ability to track buffalo. These are things we learn, and we learn these skills because they are germane to our particular socio-cultural habitat. The computer and game-related queues that children may or may not be picking up are not _replacing_ skills. These children would not otherwise be learning how to correctly sex fruit trees or some other thing which your prejudices determine is a “valid” skill. If this child were not learning to mash A rapidly to cause Kirby to float, they could just as easily be learning to hold their breath when they’re being raped because if they can just pass out then their assaulter will leave them alone. They could be learning that beer makes TV more fun. They could be learning that if you tie your shoes this way, the knots end up straight across instead of up and down. Experiential data is ALL VALID. There is NO SUCH THING AS BAD DATA, only bad experiences. As long as these children are also getting physical play and socializing with other children, game play and television, social networking and telephones are all valid and valuable inputs. These children don’t need to be taken to a ranch to learn to process beef, their jobs aren’t going to involve that. But they are going to need to learn how to effectively manage dozens of input streams, self motivate, and engage on multiple fronts. Except in the case of a total top-down armageddon which alters our society to the core, it is unlikely that a kid learning how to keep up with friends on Facebook is going to not serve them well.

Despite not liking the significantly reactionary conclusions being drawn from this data, I am happy to see this science being done. I do like that we are discovering more about early cognitive development, and I love that we can now map how the young brain weights data value. I think this will be key to improving our education system, so we know how and when to teach certain skills. I am a firm believer in the smarter-not-harder theory of education. But misinterpreting the logical conclusions of this type of research is annoying and idiotic.


@soycamo linked this somewhat old article about Shepherd Fairey’s “plagiarism” of older pieces, and I kind of had to confront it.

Now, to start this off with the right tone – It’s not because I don’t think Fairey appropriates older artwork as a basis for his work: He does. Unabashedly.

Actually – as far as I’m aware, there is no such thing as a Fairey Original, aside from perhaps a notepad doodle here and there. The guys entire career is based upon putting four letters at the bottom of an old poster and hanging up enough of them to get noticed.

My point is, it appears that the greatest indictment of Fairey here is that he is successful. Had he continued to suffer in relative obscurity, he’d be held up as a folk art hero. After he died with a heroin needle in his liver or whatever, his shit would moulder and then be the subject of documentaries and many tear filled eulogy for his genius. But his success has tipped the scale from “art” to something more like “business” and that puts a sour taste in the mouth for some.

I’m guilty of this from time to time. I think that success ruined Liz Phair’s music. Her Girlysound era was magnificent, we repack them into Exile in Guyville and it’s chocolate covered gold. By the time we get to Whip Smart the wheels are already coming off, and pretty soon I’m listening to her sing some lukewarm pop through a Lindsay Lohan Mr. Microphone.

But what I don’t do is deny the genius of her earlier work. I’ll acknowledge that his more recent stuff is “meh” made real. I’ll stand up and say that using these source works and not citing them in some way UP FRONT and not only when confronted is annoying, petty, and smacks of intellectual theft. But Fairey’s original OBEY work and many, many others are fantastic. He’s a pop art visual remix genius who had the bad luck to get recognized in his own time, and for that everybody wants to punish him.


The deep hot moist gaze that radiated from above a rude smirk was hot on my skin and I felt myself become tense.

She was the perfect girl for just a moment, her spiky hair, the striped sock, the entire picture sent a vibration through my brain which was beautiful and warm and I think I may have dreamed her.

But when I turned around, she was gone. Disappeared into some house or another, and I drove on home, trying to shake that vision of her, on the bounce of an uneven gait.

Looking like she knew the secret.