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About BarryW

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  • Birthday 06/14/1970

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  • Gender Male
  • Location Istanbul
  • Interests History and philosophy of art, languages, t'ai chi
  1. US Handling of Turkey and Iran

    Heh! No need to come home just yet – there are plenty of reasons to enjoy living in Istanbul. I did quit that idiotic university though.
  2. US Handling of Turkey and Iran

    You jest, but the knuckle-dragging nationalists don't. The rector of the university I worked at for a (grueling, soul-destroying) year gave a speech to the students in which he claimed, among other things, that Homo sapiens evolved on the shores of Lake Baikal, i.e. smack in the middle of the Turks' ancestral homeland. I wanted to weep.
  3. Henna as a decorative design

    I haven't said anything about whether you like it either; I've indicated that the three criteria you provided were aesthetic ones, not definitional. ("The surface enrichment of a structural design" is an interesting definition, I hadn't heard it phrased that way before. I'll have to think about how well it applies to things like manuscript illumination; can a flat page be considered a "structural design"?) I think the philosophical point here is that just because a thing is not a good example of its type, doesn't mean it's not an example of its type at all. A blunt axe is still an axe, just not a good one, and henna is (I think) inappropriate decoration for a human body, but still decoration.
  4. Henna as a decorative design

    I don't think this follows, not least because your criteria don't make up a definition for henna not to fit. "Decorative" simply means "intended to increase the visual appeal of an object" (here, parts of the body). Obviously that's what the henna is intended to do, and people in certain cultural contexts obviously do find it appealing. Your criteria are aesthetic ones and just mean that henna decoration isn't good decoration. I'm sympathetic to your criteria (two of them anyway), but you list them as out-of-context rules along the lines of the so-called unities in theater: "a play must take place within 24 hours," etc. By way of giving criteria such as yours a foundation, I would point to the fact that the hallmark of aesthetic quality is integration, which in the decorative arts means the visual integration of the parts of a design with each other and with their vehicle. I agree with you that henna doesn't integrate well with the human body – indeed, I'm a real purist when it comes to the body and think it needs barely any ornament to be worthy of rapt contemplation as a beautiful thing. Finally, I don't agree with your requirement that decoration display "simplicity and dignity." Highly complex decoration can be exquisitely beautiful, as in this interior (QuickTime required). Scroll around to get the full 360-degree effect.
  5. US Handling of Turkey and Iran

    I have to chuckle because you remind me that the bullet-headed nationalists of whom I spoke insist that the ancient Sumerians were Turks. Hoo boy...
  6. US Handling of Turkey and Iran

    Since I live in Turkey, maybe I can add something to the discussion. First of all, from where I'm sitting Turkey is exercising a perfectly legitimate right to self-defense. The PKK – "Kurdistan Workers' Party," a name which should give a clue as to what kind of innocent idealists they are – has been launching repeated attacks from Iraqi soil and killing Turkish citizens. (They also have offshoot groups, like the "Kurdish Falcons," who set off bombs in western Turkish cities; hell, they missed me by a day two summers ago in Marmaris!) The Iraqi government has said flat out that they're not going to crack down on the PKK, at least not militarily. So what is Turkey supposed to do? Sit back and take it? The bigger context, alas, is the poisonous nationalism which is surging around here. Most of the Turkish media makes Gail Wynand's Banner look staid, and they know that xenophobia sells. My wife's university has a club which put on a folk-dance festival last semester which included Turkish, Greek, Armenian, and Kurdish folk dancers. The Kurdish dancers' costumes bore an unfortunate resemblance to the uniforms worn by the Kurdish peshmerga. So the gutter press (which is virtually all of them) had a field day; one "respectable" paper even juxtaposed two pictures, one of a dancer at the festival and one of women weeping over a flag-draped coffin of a soldier killed by the PKK. And don't even get me started on the university I taught at for a year – a veritable echo chamber for bullet-headed nationalists. There is a thin layer of society here which is modern, civilized, secular, and Western-oriented. They even staged some heartening rallies when a prominent Armenian journalist, Hrant Dink, was murdered earlier this year, with banners reading "We are all Armenians!" and "Down with 301" (Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code, which bans "insults to Turkishness" – sic!). But they're a dwindling minority, as on one hand the Islamist rabble become more politically powerful and on the other the racist nationalists beat their hairy chests over things like the PKK attacks. According to a recent poll the number of Turks who view America positively is down to 9%! I will add, just to stick some good news in, that there are now Turkish translations available of several of Ayn Rand's books, including The Fountainhead, Atlas Shrugged, Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal, and Philosophy: Who Needs It. I routinely see them in bookstores, and the ones I have flipped through look like excellent translations, unlike the pirated Fountainhead translation that was floating here around some years ago. The guy who financed their translation and publication is a prominent and well-respected film producer (whose company is unfortunately called Plato Films!). So at least there are seeds blowing around which may alight on active young minds.
  7. Heroes

    I just came across a wonderful example of heroism in the September/October 2007 issue of MIT Technology Review: Apparently Herr's latest invention is "the world's first robotic ankle," which captures the energy generated when the wearer's foot hits the ground and converts it to forward propulsion; it promises to make the wearer's gait more efficient than that we get from the ankle nature gave us. There's also a great photo of him scaling a rock wall. What a magnificent example of the indomitable spirit of man. What chance does "cruel Fate" have against a focused human mind?
  8. Well, I got an e-mail saying thanks for the letter, it's being considered for publication. The new issue of LRB is up online, but my letter's not in the Letters section. I have yet to check out a print copy to see if it's in there. I doubt it, but hey, it sure was therapeutic to write that letter! Barry
  9. When I read this post, I had just finished writing my letter to the LRB editor, which I reproduce below. I fully agree that this is actually a good sign for Objectivism; the LRB is a major outlet for intellectual life here in perfidious Albion, and the fact that they not only noticed Ayn Rand, but saw fit to devote 45 paragraphs to trashing her, means they hear our footsteps. Heck, maybe they'll dump Slavoj Zizek ("the Elvis of cultural theory") and pick up Peter Schwartz.
  10. Mastering a foreign language

    I fell in love with (and eventually married) my Turkish teacher. Barry Wood
  11. ARI in London Times

    Today's (July 17) London Times has a positive mention of the Ayn Rand Institute. In a column attacking multiculturalism, one-time Conservative Party luminary Michael Portillo writes: He goes on to say, miracle of miracles: "The Ayn Rand Institute is right." The column tries to push "tolerance" in place of multiculturalism, but it's refreshing to see ARI mentioned in a positive light in one of the most important newspapers in Britain. Barry
  12. The Aesthetic Qualifier

    Apart from SCS's excellent points, where does this leave literature?
  13. The Aesthetic Qualifier

    I have to say I share Robert's pessimism regarding the state of philosophy of art. A year or two I joined the listserv of the American Society for Aesthetics and lo and behold, a thread had just started about the book What Art Is, which purports to explain Ayn Rand's theory of aesthetics. One of the authors was on the list. In the space of about a week I saw more vitriolic personal invective flung both at her and at Ayn Rand than I ever wanted or expected to, especially by one guy (professor-cum-"artist") at a New York university – solely because the idea had been floated that some things are art and some are not! I departed that particular sewer posthaste, of course, but I think it's a reliable indicator (if perhaps an especially nasty one) of the kind of discourse you can expect in the arena of aesthetics. That's one reason I, in pursuit of my interest in aesthetics, majored in art history rather than philosophy – at least in the former, I get to look at nice things! But it's interesting that art history has a palpable rift between two schools: the old school, derided as the "connoisseurship" approach, whose adherents take the artworks as primary, and study them closely, but aren't particularly interested in approaching them philosophically; and the "New Art History," whose adherents are gung ho for "theory" (from Marxism to postmodernism) but who end up ignorant of the actual objects themselves and are occasionally caught in pretty embarrassing errors. IOW, intrinsicists vs. subjectivists. My own department (Harvard) was torn particularly bitterly by this rift a few years before I got there, and the aftereffects were still in the air when I arrived. (You can read about the whole messy affair in one chapter of a book called Exhibitionism by Lynne Munson, in which I am quoted as the disgruntled grad student.) Some of us can see the big honkin' gap crying out for an explicit theory which values both object AND "context," but to promote it one has to have the stomach for interaction with entities like those on the ASA listserv. Any takers? Barry
  14. I Don't Believe in God

    Not "Walsh" – Atheism: The Case Against God is by George H. Smith. I remember reading this book years ago and relishing it; Smith delves into a wide range of arguments that have been made for The Man Upstairs and shows how feeble they really are. However, as has been pointed out, OPAR does it better (more elegantly) by cutting to the main point, i.e. demonstrating how supernaturalism violates basic philosophic axioms. So by page 33, God is blown completely out of the picture! Serves Him right, the big bully. I never attended any seminars by George Walsh (too young for that) but I did listen to his tape lecture series on The Role of Religion in Human History, which didn't make a big impression; I only recall it being incredibly detail-heavy and a bit repetitive. Barry
  15. Smoking

    I once knew someone who researched this topic and as I recall he found a mention of Miss Rand smoking Tareytons. I think this was in an early 1970s issue of Time magazine. Never tried Tareytons, myself. I was always a Camel (unfiltered, mind you!) kind of guy. Barry Wood