March 30, 2014

Speaking of pop culture

Filed under: Media, Pop culture, Rome — acagle @ 7:44 pm

One of the hottest songs these days, apparently*, is this one:

That’s “Pompeii” by Bastille. I like it. The lyrics are rather a nice ode to the doomed city:

And the walls kept tumbling down
In the city that we love
Great clouds roll over the hills
Bringing darkness from above
. . .
We were caught up and lost in all of our vices
In your pose as the dust settled around us

The “pose” obviously refers to the casts of the people (and critters) who were caught in the pyroclastic flow. The video doesn’t have a lot to do with Pompeii and Vesuvius

I wonder if, in the realm beyond death, the citizens of Pompeii are at all pleased that we’re still singing songs about them two thousand years after their passing?

* Actually, I’ve heard it quite a bit on one of the local stations, which is why I noticed it.

February 22, 2014

Gaming academia

Filed under: Academia, Media, Pop culture — acagle @ 4:05 pm

Well, not really. . .but close: How to effectively use Civ IV in higher education

Is there a place for games at higher levels of education? Schwartz would definitely argue yes, but he suggested that the role of the games would be different. Rather than developing basic skills, the games help give people an intuitive grasp of a subject, after which explanations for their intuitions can be supplied in the classroom.

. . .

The big surprise is that this effect spills over to commercial games that aren’t designed for educational purposes at all. Schwartz’s team had junior college students play about 15 hours of two different games: Civilization IV and Call of Duty 2. Afterwards, they were given short descriptions of real events from World War II that either focused on international relations or on tactical situations. The students were asked to formulate a series of questions they’d ask to better understand the circumstances.

Hmmmm. Not sure about all of this. But there’s this:

In this sense, Schwartz seemed to be arguing, games can help people develop an intuitive feel for everything from math to diplomacy. Classroom instruction can then build on these intuitions, providing explanations for specific behaviors and familiarizing students with the terminology involved in the field. In turn, the gaming experiences can make the classroom material seem less dry and more likely to have applications outside of class—and maybe outside of the virtual worlds of the games.

I can see using a game as something of an adjunct as it’s presented here, but I see that as a very minor role, especially in science: As much as you can make science “fun” by doing experiments and stuff, the basics are still theory and math, math and theory. Science is as much ideational as it is phenomenological; you really can’t do science without, for example, F=ma. I mean, it’s really kind of fun to drop things of similar size but different weight and watch them hit the ground at the same time, but that’s kind of a parlor trick. The real guts of it comes in applying the theory and the equations to tell you why things do what they do and how to use that to predict other things.

I think I’ve commented on Civilization before though. I like how it makes certain inventions dependent on other inventions — e.g., you have to have pottery before agriculture, for example — and it makes you consider tradeoffs, like if I build up my army I won’t have enough money to support agriculture or what have you. It can, I think, introduce students to history in a general way. But it’s limited because the rules of the game are very specific to the format. Still, I like the way Schwartz describes it as giving students an intuitive feel for the subject before getting into the nitty gritty.

February 21, 2014

Really, it’s practically a documentary

Filed under: Egypt, Pop culture — acagle @ 7:57 pm

Although I don’t quite get the Twinkies and Cheetos. . . .

UPDATE: Ha! Really!

January 18, 2014

A couple of historical items

Filed under: Historic, Media, Paleoanth, Pop culture — acagle @ 4:57 pm

Snipped from Althouse:

First, the history of Velveeta cheese

In America, James L. Kraft became perhaps the most recognizable face of processed cheese when he discovered that heated cheese with added emulsifying salts would form into a solid mass when cooled–and would keep much longer than non-processed cheese. Processed cheese was immediately welcomed by American consumers because of its consistent quality and increased stability.
In 1918, Frey figured out how to use similar technology to help recoup some of the factory’s waste. He learned that by adding a by-product of cheesemaking called whey, which is the liquid released from curds during the cheesemaking process, to the leftover Swiss bits, he could create a very cohesive end-product. Frey named the product Velveeta, and in 1923, the Velveeta Cheese Company became its own corporation.

I have no real history with Velveeta. I vaguely recall my parents always having some in the fridge but I honestly don’t recall ever consuming it. I don’t have anything particularly against it, but I don’t have much desire to eat it.

Also: What’s Wrong with the Paleo diet:

he paleo diet is hot. Those who follow it are attempting, they say, to mimic our ancient ancestors — minus the animal-skin fashions and the total lack of technology, of course. The adherents eschew what they believe comes from modern agriculture (wheat, dairy, legumes, for instance) and rely instead on meals full of meat, nuts, and vegetables — foods they claim are closer to what hunter-gatherers ate.

The trouble with that view, however, is that what they’re eating is probably nothing like the diet of hunter-gatherers, says Michael Pollan, author of a number of best-selling books on food and agriculture, including Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation. “I don’t think we really understand … well the proportions in the ancient diet,” argues Pollan on the latest episode of the Inquiring Minds podcast (stream below). “Most people who tell you with great confidence that this is what our ancestors ate — I think they’re kind of blowing smoke.”

He explains some of the rationale for cooking food and the changes that processing certain foods undergo to release more calories and nutrients. He makes the basic case, which I’ve made here many times, that there is no single “Paleo” diet: People in different areas and in different times ate whatever was available and it’s devilishly difficult to get anything like a precise read on what they were eating and in what quantities.

November 26, 2013

“I said Beyoncé was stupid and I left.”

Filed under: Egypt, Pop culture — acagle @ 7:13 pm

Heh.

November 6, 2013

And still more pastopianism!

Filed under: Pastopia, Pop culture — acagle @ 1:02 pm

The gentleman athlete has disappeared.

I’d wager there was probably as much or more crap going on back then than there is now. Just picking one example out of the hundreds or thousands does not a trend make.

November 4, 2013

“These aren’t the ruins you’re looking for”

Filed under: Historic, Pop culture — acagle @ 7:55 pm

The Archaeology of Star Wars

In 2012 Italian photographer Rä di Martino spent more than a year wandering the desert towns of Morocco and Tunisia, on her journey she came across the curious remnants of another world…

‘A long time ago in a galaxy far away’ these words are so familiar as to be short hand for the beginning of a grand adventure! Much like the immortal words ‘Once upon a time’ or ‘Are you sitting comfortably?’ they are arresting and instantly significant. For generations they have peaked the interest of the movie-going public and almost like a mass pavlovian experiment, we can scarcely stop ourselves from re-playing the grand opening phrases of John Williams’ iconic score in our heads – perhaps making raspy lightsaber noises with pursed lips as we thrash our arms about… Just like a ‘real’ Jedi.

However, the truth is that George Lucas’ epic space opera did not take place in a galaxy far away, it was shot here on earth and while much of the more recent canon have relied on digitally rendered backgrounds, the iconic landscape of Tatooine is very much a real place!

Actually, I didn’t even notice that first line before I made mine. Great minds, etc.

Well, except that interest is ‘piqued’ rather than ‘peaked’.

But I kind of like this. The sets really were part of something that contributed to a change in culture (ours, maybe, not necessarily Tunisians). I’m kind of surprised there isn’t a lot of Star Wars tourism there, the locals could probably be making major coin with ‘Sci-Fi Tourism’ to coin a phrase.

September 10, 2013

I Want To Can’t Believe. . . .

Filed under: Media, Modern artifacts, Pop culture — acagle @ 3:51 pm

It’s been 20 years!

Tonight, 20 years ago, The X-Files debuted. I really liked that show. Reminded me of The Night Stalker which is not a coincidence, since Carter used it for inspiration. After Twin Peaks it was the first really creepy show on television, IIRC. I’m surprised it’s not been getting more attention.

At any rate, if it “influenced” me at all, it was that A) the Pacific northwest with all its gloomy skies and rain could actually be cool (it was filmed up in Vancouver, BC), and B) that maybe it wasn’t so bad to be totally dedicated to, if not a cause, at least something that fascinated you.

June 27, 2013

Moving on the become part of the archaeological record

Filed under: Media, Pop culture — acagle @ 7:10 pm

Mick Aston, Time Team expert, dies aged 66

A former resident academic on Channel 4’s popular archaeology show Time Team has died at the age of 66.

His friend and former colleague Phil Harding confirmed the news and Time Team’s official Facebook and Twitter accounts also paid tribute to the retired academic with the message: “It is with a very heavy heart that we’ve been informed that our dear colleague Mick Aston has passed away. Our thoughts are with his family.”

Too bad, that’s fairly young these days. I didn’t follow the show all that much, I’m afraid.

June 18, 2013

For the Trek nerds

Filed under: Pop culture — acagle @ 7:21 pm

Awe.Some.

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