Category Archives: musings

What’s the Matter With College?

It usually pisses me off when old[er] people, particularly from publications like the New York Times, write about what’s wrong with the kids today. But despite a couple paragraphs of smug nostalgia in the beginning, Rick Perlstein’s essay What’s the Matter with College? strikes pretty close to my own experiences and observations.

Doug Mitchell was beaming, but his face fell when I told him about my conversation the previous evening with Hamilton Morris, a New Yorker finishing up his first year of college. His parents make documentary films. He attended a high school of the arts where “they sort of let me do whatever I wanted.” He is a filmmaker, painter, photographer, an experienced professional standup comedian. His life pre-college was exceptionally fulfilling, and he expected it to remain so here at one of the nation’s great universities. Then what happened?

“I hated it from the first day,” he told me. “People here are so insanely uncreative, and they’re proud of it.” His fellow students “had to spend their entire high school experience studying for the SATs or something and didn’t really get a chance to live life or experience things.”

What’s most harrowing was Hamilton’s matter-of-fact description of a culture of enervation – “that so many people hate it with a passion and don’t leave.” I heard similar things from several bright, creative searchers on campus – the kind of people in whom I recognized my own (and Doug Mitchell’s) 19-year-old self. I sat down with a group of them at the Medici Cafe, a campus fixture for decades, and they described college as a small town they’re eager to escape. “Everyone I talk to has that kind of feeling in their bones,” Mike Yong, a Japanese literature student, insisted. “Even if they’re going into investment banking.” Someone offered the word “infantilizing.” Murmurs of assent, then the word “emasculating,” to even louder agreement. One even insisted his process of political, social and creative awakening had happened, yes, during college – but not because of college, but in spite of it.

The Times is sponsoring an essay contest for students to respond. I don’t have much to say as, sadly, I pretty much agree with everything Perlstein says. On the other hand, I don’t see this as so tragic: My generation gets to have its “political, spiritual, and creative awakening” about 4 years earlier, and it happens for free on the Internet instead of inside the gates of exclusive campuses. Unfortunately, it seems like for many of my peers this awakening will never come, but that probably was always the case.

[via NYT’s Magazine College Essay Contest]


Do we really need yet another social networking site? Of course not. (Do we even need any?) But do we want one? Maybe.

Lets review the current options:

  • Myspace
    • Pros: Band profiles & page customization
    • Cons: Broken, ugly, sketchy
  • Facebook
    • Pros: Great UI, web2.0 tricked out
    • Cons: Online identity defined by your workplace or college (not hip)
  • Tribe
    • Pros: Based around communities instead of individuals
    • Cons: Only worthwhile if the bulk of your friends attend burningman

Enter Virb. Dripping with slick & hip. Profiles for bands, artists, and non-profits. Hooks right in with flickr. Easy to customize, with a built in css editor. Best part? One click and you can remove the customization of any page.


friend me?

[via cameron]



How to share your faith with…

Jenna the Jew

Jenna does not like to be stereotyped with others from her religion, so ask a ton of questions to learn where she is coming from like:

  • Does she attend synagogue?
  • What happens at Passover?
  • Why doesn’t she offer sacrifices today?
  • How does she find forgiveness since the destruction of the temple?
  • What does she believe about the coming of Messiah?
  • How will she recognize him when he comes?

Sid the Satanist

You should always pray when witnessing to anyone, but this scenario really needs to be covered in prayer. You are attempting to rescue someone from the grips of Satan. Keep in mind that he doesn’t let go of his converts easily. Put on your spiritual armor (Ephesians 6) and prepare for a battle!

Erin the Evolutionist

Like Alisha the Agnostic, talk to Erin about the observable evidence of God that is built in to creation like how ‘fine tuned’ the universe is to support life, otherwise we wouldn’t even exist. This fine tuning simply could not have happened by accident. For example, the earth is the perfect distance from the sun. If it were just a few miles closer, we’d all burn up. A few miles further out, and we’d all freeze to death!

The web’s been born again. And oh Lord, turn up your volume, cause it gets so much better… flash design for ministries

some notable examples:


New Birth Missionary Baptist Church


K & K Mime Ministries (official site here)

I’m pretty sure that none of this is a joke.

[via voodoo knickers]

My Dad is a Mad Scientist


For years, whenever someone asked me what my father did, I would answer “computer scientist.” If pressed for more information, I would sheepishly mumble “I don’t really understand it” and something about a non-disclosure agreement.

But now, for the highly curious (and patient), the answer is now publically available. If you have any interest in comp sci, linguistics, or how to make more intelligent, you may wanna check it out. For the less curious, the press release below is worth reading if only for the entertainment value of my middle-aged father pretending to write as me, his college-aged daughter.

My highly obscure dad, Alan S. Rojer, has spent recent years wandering in the wilderness of computer science and linguistics. He begs me for online promotion to help rehabilitate his status as a citizen of the infoverse.

One of his patent applications, Web Bookmark Manager (App. no. 20070043745), was recently published by the PTO and he wants the world to know. Less for the particularities of the bookmark manager than for the implicit demonstration of methodologies he’ll be hawking eventually. So anyone interested in programming methods, knowledge engineering, or bookmark management, have a look:

Even better, grab the pdf.

Truly masochistic geeks could also try his older published applications, but don’t blame me if your eyes glaze over. Mine do. But if you’re so inclined, go here, and search for rojer in inventor name:

He claims, not very convincingly, that products will be released this year. He has said that every year since 2002 or so.

Adventure Time!

Awesome animation featuring wonderful motion, trippy yet innocent imagery, believable (if not entirely original) characters, and math-inspired exclamations like “algebraic!” Reminds me a bunch of a certain pair of brothers from back home…

This actually aired on Nickelodeon in January, as a short in a show called Random! Cartoons, a revival of Oh Yeah! Cartoons. Oh Yea! featured 3 animations each episode and by the end of its run had produced 99 different 7-minute cartoon shorts by a variety of animators. If Adventure Time is any guide, this present incarnation is something to be excited about. Maybe even a reason to start watching TV again.

But perhaps even more exciting, especially for those of us who would prefer to keep the tv off, is that the same producer, Frederator Studios, does a weekly internet cartoon show/podcast called Channel Frederator. The cartoons are submitted by animators from all over the world and each week they choose the ones they like the most. The downloads are high-quality, free (as in beer), and have no commercials (at least the few episodes I’ve watched). You can watch it in iTunes, but I prefer DemocracyTV. So far, I haven’t seen anything as rad as Adventure Time, but I’ve only watched maybe 4 of the 72 and counting episodes. 72 episodes! That’s a whole lot of animation. So ditch your homework, watch some cartoons, and let me know if you find anything good!

Camille Paglia on Cults

Black Mass (small)Cults and Cosmic Consciousness:
Religious Vision in the American 1960s

One of my favorite writers on one of my favorite fascinations. More than just an overview of the various cults and fringe religious/spiritual movements America has seen since the 60s, Paglia argues that Western rationalism’s insistence on ignoring “Dionysus” (religion, spirituality, nature) has left a huge void in our culture and psyche. Thus, until our intellectual and artistic leaders acknowledge and embrace humanity’s need for ritual and mystery, cults and other dubious institutions will thrive. But don’t take my weak summary as a substitute for the essay. It’s long but oh so worth it, if only because Paglia is such a damn good writer.

Hence the religious dissidence and secessionist tendencies of the 1960s were simply a new version of a long American tradition. The decade’s politics loom large partly because demonstrations, unlike inner journeys, were photographable and indeed often staged for the camera. Today’s young people learn about the sixties through a welter of video clips of JFK’s limousine in Dallas, Vietnamese firefights, and hippies draped in buckskin and love beads. Furthermore, the most fervent of the decade’s spiritual questers followed Timothy Leary’s advice to “Turn on, tune in, and drop out” and removed themselves from career tracks and institutions, which they felt were too corrupt to reform. The testimony of those radical explorers of inner space has largely been lost: they ruined their minds and bodies by overrelying on drugs as a shortcut to religious illumination.

The absence of those sixties seekers from the arena of general cultural criticism can be seen in the series of unresolved controversies in the last two decades over the issue of blasphemy in art. With the triumph of avant-garde modernism by the mid-twentieth century, few ambitious young artists would dare to show religious work. Though museum collections are rich with religious masterpieces from the Middle Ages through the nineteenth century, major American museums and urban art galleries ignore contemporary religious art-thus ensuring, thanks to the absence of strong practitioners, that it remains at the level of kitsch. And the art world itself has suffered: with deeper themes excised, it slid into a shallow, jokey postmodernism that reduced art to ideology and treated art works as vehicles of approved social messages.

The article is not without its flaws of course. Burningman is a glaring omission; a massive celebration of nature, sex, and art that is known for its participation by many really smart people (like the founders of google) in addition to the usual new-age types. And her solution, that universities should make the core of their education comparative religion and culture, seems a bit backwards and Apolloesque. Myths are passed down through storytelling and ritual; the classroom strikes me as an impotent setting for the cultural change Paglia calls for. I want tangible ways to channel Dionysus; active artists, thinkers, and activities to re-inject myth/spirituality/whatever-you-want-to-call-it into our culture. Some people/things who have done that for me in some way already:

  • Francesca Lia Block (author- fairy tales, paganism, magic)
  • David Lynch (filmmaker- transcendental meditation, iconic bizarreness, dreams)
  • Brian Jonestown Massacre (band- psychedelia)
  • Clifford Pickover (author- pop writing on the intersections and wonders of science, religion, consciousness, and art)
  • Rick Strassman & Alexander Shulgin (researchers- psychedelic drugs)
  • Pedro Almodovar (filmmaker- femininity, sexuality, myth, beauty, religion, sensuality)
  • Neal Stephenson (author- east/west dichotomy, collective unconsciousness, past & future, relationship between art & technology)

Who/what is on your list?