Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Philosophy of...what?

Augustine of Hippo (b. 354 - d. 430) - One of the most influential thinkers ever in the West, both theologically and philosophically.

So I've been going through a lot of philosophical texts lately and I thought some of you might be interested in a few of the deep insights that I've come across. Well, in recently reading Augustine's De Civitate Dei (City of God), amidst important ethical reflections concerning how one ought to live the good life, I found this interesting passage from Book XIV Chapter 24, where he's reflecting upon the power of the will over the body:
We do in fact find among human beings some individuals with natural abilities very different from the rest of mankind and remarkable by their very rarity. Such people can do some things with their body which are for others utterly impossible and well-nigh incredible when they are reported. Some people can even move their ears, either one at a time or both together. Others without moving the head can bring the whole scalp -- all the part covered with hair -- down towards the forehead and bring it back again at will. Some can swallow an incredible number of various articles and then with a slight contraction of the diaphragm, can produce, as if out of a bag, any article they please, in perfect condition. There are others who imitate the cries of birds and beasts and the voices of any other men, reproducing them so accurately as to be quite indistinguishable from the originals, unless they are seen. A number of people produce at will such musical sounds from their behind (without any stink) that they seem to be singing from that region...
Pretty good stuff, eh? And you probably thought philosophy wasn't any fun! Of course, the more serious stuff is fun too, for me at least. I was wondering though, if one tried to develop that last strain of thought from Augustine in the above excerpt, would you call it a "philosophy of flatulence"?

Monday, March 13, 2006

Facebook Demographics - BGSU

Being the budding armchair sociologist that I am, I thought I'd take advantage of the information Facebook provides to try and get a better understanding of the diverse crowd of people at my alma mater, Bowling Green State University, located in Bowling Green, OH. (That and the fact that I thought I'd rather waste an hour of my time doing this instead of studying during spring break.)

Now, I admit there is a decent percentage of error here, as some of the numbers even suggest, but I think the results are somewhat interesting nonetheless. I place it in your hands, however, to interpret just what these statistics "say" or "tell us" about BGSU students.

Bowling Green State University, Bowling Green, OH
Facebook Results as of 11 am, Monday, March 13, 2006:

Current Students signed up on Facebook:
Est. 16,353 undergrad, est. 648 grad = 17,001 total
(est. to be about 1,000 more females than males)

Alumni on Facebook: est. 2,103 total

Current Students' Political Views:

Very Liberal - 497 undergrad, 45 grad = 542 total
Liberal - est. 2,112 undergrad, 125 grad = 2,237 total
Moderate - est. 2,028 undergrad, 87 grad = 2,115 total
Conservative - est. 2,263 undergrad, 49 grad = 2,311 total
Very Conservative - 184 undergrad, 4 grad = 188 total
Apathetic - 237 undergrad, 12 grad = 249 total
Libertarian - 114 undergrad, 11 grad = 125 total
Other - 722 undergrad, 22 grad = 744 total

Est. facebook students who don't state political views: 8,490 total

Now for the Alumni:
70 Very Liberal
318 Liberal
251 Moderate
231 Conservative
29 Very Conservative
22 Apathetic
14 Libertarian
88 Other

Current Students Looking for "Random Play":
444 females, est. 926 males = 1,370 total

Alumni looking for "Random Play":
53 females, 88 males = 141 total

Alumni: 81 total (49 females, 32 males)
Grad: 11 total (4 females, 7 males)
Undergrad: 259 total (193 females, 66 males)

Alumni: 122 total (65 females, 47 males)
Grad: 30 total (14 females, 16 males)
Undergrad: 588 total (441 females, 147 males)

That's all I have time to look up, and in many ways, all I really can look up; it's hard to get good results in other categories (for example, trying to type in words for things people are "interested in" doesn't seem to produce even semi-accurate searches). Feel free though to add any of your own Facebook demographics, as well as interpretations of the above, in the comment box.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Life of late...an overdue review

Yes folks, I really do still exist, and there's more to my life than mere pictures without labels (sorry Mike, I'll get captions up soon on those). I apologize for the long absence, but school has been busy. For anyone wondering what my class schedule is like, I'm taking four grad courses: Texts of Augustine, Texts of Alasdair MacIntyre, Epistemology, and Philosophy of the Human Person.

For a while, I was also sitting in on two undergrad philosophy courses: Texts of Dietrich von Hildebrand, and Franciscan Traditions. Lately though, my workload has come to the point where I'm only able to go to the Franciscan Traditions history of philosophy class. In fact, it was so hectic earlier this week that I had to pull my first "all-nighter" in years. It was hard, yet in a strange way, I loved the challenge and the work.

Schoolwise, I feel like I'm learning so much, but this also means that I'm changing in some ways, which brings me to the point for mentioning a new type of upcoming posts on the blog: my personal "retractationes" (Latin for "retractions"). To be honest, I'm stealing the idea from Augustine. Toward the end of his life, he reviewed all that he'd ever written (which was an unbelievable amount) and wrote The Retractions, renouncing all of the past things he'd said that he then felt were unfair and/or untrue. Now, I realize it's not the end of my life, and I have no plans on actually going through all that's been said on this blog (or the countless other things I remember saying). Nonetheless, I really think it'd be good to clarify some of my current thoughts, particularly where they go against what I may have held previously (and which people may still believe me to hold). I'm also doing it this way, because I find it humbling (and helpful for my own personal growth) to reflect back upon my past.

Despite all the "intellectual" stimulation, it hasn't totally consumed my time. About a month a go I saw Oscar Wilde's famous play The Importance of Being Earnest with some friends at the O'Reilly Theatre in Pittsburgh.

The play was hilariously entertaining, and I highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys comedy. While I'm on the topic of entertainment, I've also seen a number of movies lately. A week ago, I had the chance to attend a British cultural event where various English foods were served, and a couple of students shared their experience studying abroad in England. I especially enjoyed hearing a new good friend of mine share about his Oxford experience. Seeing the pictures, hearing the stories, and examining the map of Oxford really added to my perspectives on so many things: my friend, C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, medieval life, and even Harry Potter! When all the talk was done, we finished by watching the British film The Remains of the Day (1993), a very interesting commentary on various aspects of life in relation to work (in this case, being a butler), and to a lesser extent other issues surrounding the WWII time period.

I also recently saw the extremely gripping Hotel Rwanda (2004), a movie everyone should see, especially in light the continuing problems in Africa that the Western "civilized" nations continue to largely ignore. But keeping with the topic of cinema, by far the best movie I've seen of late is the French film Les Choristes (2004), titled "The Chorus" in English.

The French movie critics in general despised this film, describing it as too "happy" (and thus "American"?), yet the French people themselves love it, not to mention the rest of the world. The story is a good one, but it is the music that truly makes the movie magical. I very likely will be eventually buying the soundtrack for this one, and I highly recommend that everyone see the film itself (it's now available on DVD in the U.S.).

Now that I've mentioned music, some of the most listened to songs lately by me include three tracks from Mark Knopfler's album The Ragpicker's Dream (which I've only recently listened closely, despite owning it for years): "The Ragpicker's Dream," "Daddy's Gone to Knoxville," and "Old Pigweed." I hadn't listened to Knopfler in a while, but these have been quite refreshing, and so I just might also have to finally pick up his Shangri-La album. I've also realized one of the reasons I enjoy Knopfler so much: his eclectic interest in a variety of music styles, coinciding with his interest in different cultures and histories, and a desire to enter into those traditions through his music.

Aside from also listening to classical music and jazz pretty regularly these days, I've also been getting into a new genre: cajun! Unfortunately, I can't remember names of any of the cajun artists right now. But I can mention one non-cajun artist that's really impressed me: Ry Cooder (specifically, his album Boomer's Story). His instrumental blues/bluegrass stuff is very good, but he's supposedly pretty eclectic in his style as well, like Knopfler!

Music then, leads me into one last topic of entertainment: parties. Last week I celebrated Mardi Gras with some folks straight from Louisiana (they're the ones who introduced me to Cajun music) and it was a great time. I had jambalaya for the first time, along with a couple of Hurricanes. Then, just last night, the university student association threw an early St. Patrick's Day celebration, with an excellent Irish Band (though they never played "Star of the County Down") and good Irish beer (at a reduced price!). All in all, people seem to know how to have a good time out here, and I especially like when they make a cultural experience out of it.

Lastly, on a more spiritual (and more personal) level, I'm coming to deeply love the Franciscan spirit within the Christian tradition. St. Francis of Assisi continues to amaze me more and more. (For a great introduction to the saint, Chesterton's book is one of the best.) I think Francis is by far one of the greatest exemplars of all of the saints in regards to his life of charity and passion in everything that he did. May we all, whatever our beliefs, do likewise in our own day to day lives. Peace.

[And if you want to see pictures (taken by someone else, not me) from my trip in January to D.C. for the March for Life, click here.]