Through The Static

August 12, 2008

Little Chinese girl dissed at Olympics for not being cute enough

Filed under: China,Culture,Government,Olympics,World News,WTF — ausaydong @ 5:16 pm

Sorry for my absence on this blog. Please tell me everyone has caught this story (this one from MSNBC, but there are a ton of them), where Beijing Olympics officials pulled the 7-year-old singer of the National Anthem at the Opening Ceremony because she was not cute enough.

A 7-year-old Chinese girl was not good-looking enough for the Olympics opening ceremony, so another little girl with a pixie smile lip-synched “Ode to the Motherland,” an official said.

In the latest example of the lengths Beijing took for a perfect start to the Summer Games, a member of China’s Politburo asked for the last-minute change to match one girl’s face with another’s voice, the ceremony’s chief music director said in an interview with Beijing Radio.

“The audience will understand that it’s in the national interest,” Chen Qigang said in a video of the interview posted online Sunday night.

And more:

Lin Miaoke’s performance Friday night, like the ceremony itself, was an immediate hit. “Nine-year-old Lin Miaoke becomes instant star with patriotic song,” the China Daily newspaper headline said Tuesday.

But the real voice behind the tiny, pigtailed girl in the red dress who wowed 91,000 spectators at the National Stadium on opening night really belonged to 7-year-old Yang Peiyi. Her looks apparently failed the cuteness test with officials organizing the ceremony, but Chen said her voice was judged the most beautiful.

“The national interest requires that the girl should have good looks and a good grasp of the song and look good on screen,” Chen said. “Lin Miaoke was the best in this. And Yang Peiyi’s voice was the most outstanding.”

Some Chinese folks weigh in on the debate:

“The organizers really messed up on this one,” said Luo Shaoyang, 34, a retail worker in Beijing.

“This is like a voice-over for a cartoon character,” Luo said. “Why couldn’t they pick a kid who is both cute and a good singer? This damages the reputation of both kids for their future, especially the one lip-synching. Now everyone knows she’s a fraud. Who cares if she’s cute?”

Zhang Xinyi, 22, who works in marketing in Beijing, disagreed.

“I can understand why they picked the prettier girl. They need to maintain a certain aesthetic beauty during the opening ceremonies. This situation is not so bad, especially since it gives two people an opportunity to shine rather than just one.”

There’s a petition circulating to get Yang Peiyi, the real singer, on stage for the closing ceremony.

So where do you stand?


INTELLIGENCE! What Is It? Being Educated Out of Our Creativity

‘pologies for lack of witty title.  bobblebot is slogging away at ze moment.


Here’s a segment from the Ted conference they hold every year in Monterey, California.  Sir Ken Robinson (yeh, yeh, SIR!) is charming and funny in that witty, British-but-not-pretentious sort of way and talks about a lot of key issues that so many of us with a bachelors degree find post-undergrad.  He goes off on a lot of tangents but entertainingly so.

Okie dokes — I found his little CATS choreographer chestnut at the end a little too lofty and idealistic.  That isn’t always the case, her life story is the EXCEPTION and not the rule.

BUT he does bring up interesting points:

* intelligence is diverse, dynamic and interactive
* creativity comes through the interaction between multiple intelligences
* we need a new concept for an educational system.  our brains are mined for very specific kinds of intelligences while others are devalued, ironic, since even technological innovation is bread by imagination and creativity.

BobbLebot’s gonna get a little personal here, but when ze robot looks back upon the 2 years it spent in education, there was something about the job that kept it there: it was dynamic, interactive, emotionally engaging and it felt like it was helping people.  Helping students.

But not in the ways in which its helping was valued.

Emotionally abused, isolated, bullied and undervalued kids often hung around the robot’s purple table.  The bobblebot learned something: even privileged kids have problems! In any case, it took a lot of work, a lot of trust and a lot of patience, but what kept the BobbLebot there was the sense that it was helping these kids gain some kind of sense of value for being different, odd or living inside their own BRAINS.  BRAINS!!!

The thing that killed the robot’s spirit was the shift.  Beyond giving tykes the skills to read and write and basic math, the bot was sometimes pressured to help them with their homework or help train them for standardized testing.  And all of this was just so incredibly USELESS!

Basically, if a student can’t pass a standardized test, he or she can’t move onto the next grade — which is a problem in and of itself because the new grade is increasingly geared toward training them for more standardized testing.  TRAINING.  Not educating.  Making sure they MEMORIZE, not learn to think for themselves.  They’re being trained to learn not to think at all.

What was the bot being paid to teach them?  To learn the skills so that they’ll succeed in an educational system that teaches them that if they don’t learn a certain skill set, if they can’t find the answer in an allotted amount of time, if they need more than a single scratch piece of paper or get confused when filling in bubbles, they’re essentially worthless.  They’re gearing them to learn (mostly) arbitrary skills or sets of knowledge (beyond reading, comprehension and basic math) that aren’t really applicable in undergrad anyway.

They’re pressing families to invest money in SAT prep and educational centers for their kids who fall behind, because if they fall behind they can’t get into this private school or get into that AP class to get into this kind of university — AUUUGH!  RAT RACE!  RAT RACE!!

Their brains ARE being mined in a very specific way that is quite disturbing.  This isn’t to say that math sucks (though for the bot, numbers and figures don’t naturally mix – BLIP!) or that physics is without value, but they certainly are overvalued, especially for the many who really don’t have an interest or aptitude for them.  They are being conditioned to desire or work for these fields in ways that destroy creativity.  It’s all for pushing towards economic productivity.

It’s not even about technological innovation, the way education is framed.  It’s about thinking in a very linear fashion.  It’s about plugging in very specific formulas and equations — on a metaphoric as well as literal level.  When we’re taught Shakespeare (BLEH!  not to bash the bard, but MUST he be the standard of ALL Western literary achievement?) we’re taught to read his work in a very specific way, to perform it in a very specific way, to write essays on it in a very specific fashion.  You see, even in highschool English lit, there IS a right and wrong answer, apparently.  Or a right and wrong way to answer.  Fill in the blank.  Agree or disagree.  Thesis statement.  Support.  Quote.  “Analysis” — which isn’t real analysis anyway, but more of a translation of what you think the author’s already saying.

And it’s not even about educational reform anymore. Fixing leaks in an oxymoronic system will not fix the problem.  More teachers is not the answer.  More money is not the answer.  It’s the MATERIALS.  It’s about what is VALUED in an academic sense.  It’s about creative thinking and creative teaching.  But people keep telling us that there aren’t the resources for that.  (resources = funds in their brains)


When has creativity ever needed dollars and cents?  Creative things CAN be MADE with materials that are PURCHASED with money, but money is not creativity.  Just like scoring high on a standardized test is not a sign of real intelligence.

The thing is, if the standards of standardized testing (bubbling in, memorization, sitting still, time management) become the authority for entry into higher education (which is getting increasingly static in what’s become standardized academic material – film studies, creative writing, etc) then what are the chances that the brilliant minds will be allowed to burn as bright as stars when these very minds are being mined for rote facts, compliance and mediocrity?

QUESTION: do you think THIS dude would have survived the very academic environment in which we are currently situated???

He’s brilliant, he’s excited, he can’t think while sitting still — can you IMAGINE being in class with this dude?  Most of all – beyond the performance, beyond the eccentricities, he’s HUMAN.  We’re not training humans in our schools.  We’re not training robots.  (robots are COOL!)  We’re training machines.

We need a NEW paradigm.  This sh*t has gone too far.

August 11, 2008

Musharraf ‘unfit for office’

Filed under: Government,Grassholes,World News — disciplepete @ 5:02 pm

Al Jazeera:

Pervez Musharraf, the Pakistani president, is unfit for office and should step down, the provincial assembly in Pakistan’s Punjab region has declared.

The vote by Pakistan’s most powerful province on Monday came after Musharraf’s spokesman said the embattled president would not step down.

The ruling by the Punjab’s assembly carries no constitutional weight, but supports plans by the country’s ruling coalition to finalise charges against Musharraf.

Pakistan’s parliament was expected to discuss impeachment proceedings on Monday but these failed to get under way and the body deliberating on drafting the charge sheet postponed its meeting until Tuesday…

Charges against Musharraf have not been finalised, but the chief of the ruling party has reportedly accused the president of misappropriating hundreds of millions of dollars in US aid intended for the Pakistani military for supporting the so-called “war on terror”

…Zardari {head of the ruling coalition] claimed the American aid may have gone to fund rogue members of Pakistani intelligence – recently accused by US officials of supporting pro-Taliban militants fighting in Afghanistan.

Cheney threatens Russia over Georgia

Filed under: War,World News — disciplepete @ 4:55 pm

Press TV:

US Vice President Dick Cheney has threatened Russia after the country was forced to reply Georgia’s attack on South Ossetia’s region. 

In a phone conversation with Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili on Sunday, Cheney said Russia’s military actions in Georgia ‘must not go unanswered’. 

Continuation of Russian attack ‘would have serious consequences for its relations with the United States, as well as the broader international community,’ Cheney’s press secretary, Lee Ann McBride, quoted him as telling Saakashvili… 

…Georgian military forces launched a large-scale military offensive against South Ossetia on Thursday evening hours before the start of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games. Russia, in response, moved its forces to the region. 

The conflict has left at least 2000 people dead. 

Did McCain Plagiarize His Speech on the Georgia Crisis?

Filed under: Government,It's Too Punny!,Politics — disciplepete @ 4:50 pm

Ahahah…this is pretty funny and kinda pathetic too. From Political Insider:

A Wikipedia editor emailed Political Wire to point out some similarities between Sen. John McCain’s speech today on the crisis in Georgia and the Wikipedia article on the country Georgia. Given the closeness of the words and sentence structure, most would consider parts of McCain’s speech to be derived directly from Wikipedia.

First instance:

one of the first countries in the world to adopt Christianity as an official religion (Wikipedia)


one of the world’s first nations to adopt Christianity as an official religion (McCain)

Second instance:

After the Russian Revolution of 1917, Georgia had a brief period of independence as a Democratic Republic (1918-1921), which was terminated by the Red Army invasion of Georgia. Georgia became part of the Soviet Union in 1922 and regained its independence in 1991. Early post-Soviet years was marked by a civil unrest and economic crisis. (Wikipedia)


After a brief period of independence following the Russian revolution, the Red Army forced Georgia to join the Soviet Union in 1922. As the Soviet Union crumbled at the end of the Cold War, Georgia regained its independence in 1991, but its early years were marked by instability, corruption, and economic crises. (McCain)

Third instance:

In 2003, Shevardnadze (who won reelection in 2000) was deposed by the Rose Revolution, after Georgian opposition and international monitors asserted that the 2 November parliamentary elections were marred by fraud. The revolution was led by Mikheil Saakashvili, Zurab Zhvania and Nino Burjanadze, former members and leaders of Shavarnadze’s ruling party. Mikheil Saakashvili was elected as President of Georgia in 2004. Following the Rose Revolution, a series of reforms was launched to strengthen the country’s military and economic capabilities. (Wikipedia)


Following fraudulent parliamentary elections in 2003, a peaceful, democratic revolution took place, led by the U.S.-educated lawyer Mikheil Saakashvili. The Rose Revolution changed things dramatically and, following his election, President Saakashvili embarked on a series of wide-ranging and successful reforms. (McCain)

Granted the third instance isn’t as close as the first two, which seem quite obviously taken from Wikipedia.

It should be noted that Wikipedia material can be freely used but always requires attribution under its terms of use. Whether a presidential candidate should base policy speeches on material from Wikipedia is another question entirely.

August 10, 2008

Racism and the Race

Filed under: Politics,Race — disciplepete @ 11:13 pm

NYT editorial about race and the election…

This is supposed to be the Democrats’ year of destiny. Bush is hobbling out of office, the economy is in the toilet, voters are sick of the war and the party’s wunderkind candidate is raking in money hand over fist.

So why is the presidential race a statistical dead heat? The pundits have offered a host of reasons, but one in particular deserves more exploration: racism

…According to a July New York Times/CBS News poll, when whites were asked whether they would be willing to vote for a black candidate, 5 percent confessed that they would not. That’s not so bad, right? But wait. The pollsters then rephrased the question to get a more accurate portrait of the sentiment. They asked the same whites if most of the people they knew would vote for a black candidate. Nineteen percent said that those they knew would not. Depending on how many people they know and how well they know them, this universe of voters could be substantial. That’s bad…

If the percentage of white voters who cannot bring themselves to vote for a black candidate were only 15 percent, that would be more than all black voters combined. (Coincidentally, it also would be more than all voters under 24 years old.) That amounts to a racial advantage for John McCain.


August 9, 2008

Reticence of Mainstream Media Becomes a Story Itself

Filed under: Eeeeep!,Media,Politics — disciplepete @ 9:41 am

This article is about the mainstream media not pursuing the John Edwards affair story, which was actually primarily covered by the National Enquirer until very recently. I personally don’t think the Edwards affair story is important, but it is the type of trivia the mainstream media usually thrives on. Oh, and Tranimal, I won’t make fun of you for your National Enquirer subscription anymore! NYT:

For almost 10 months, the story of John Edwards’s affair remained the nearly exclusive province of the National Enquirer — through reports, denials, news of a pregnancy, questions about paternity and, finally, a slapstick chase through a hotel in Beverly Hills.Political blogs, some cable networks and a few newspapers reported on it — or, more accurately, reported on The Enquirer reporting on it. Jay Leno andDavid Letterman made Mr. Edwards the butt of jokes on their late-night shows, but their own networks declined to report on the rumors surrounding him on the evening news. Why?

A number of news organizations with resources far greater than The Enquirer’s, like The New York Times, say they looked into the Edwards matter and found nothing solid enough to report, while others did not look at all.

Some of their comments point to a lack of interest in a story about the private conduct of an also-ran presidential candidate, and a distaste for following the lead of a publication they hold in low esteem. Only in Mr. Edwards’s home state, North Carolina, did newspapers aggressively chase the story in the last few weeks.

1,500 Reported Killed in Georgia Battle

Filed under: War,World News — disciplepete @ 9:29 am

What’s up people, I’ve been lagging a bit lately, but I have a good excuse! Anyways, drama in the Caucasus…NYT:

GORI, Georgia — The conflict between Russia and the former Soviet republic of Georgia moved toward all-out war on Saturday as Russia prepared to land ground troops on Georgia’s coast and broadened its bombing campaign both within Georgia and in the disputed territory of Abkhazia.

The fighting that began when Georgian forces tried to retake the capital of the South Ossetia, a pro-Russian region that won de facto autonomy from Georgia in the early 1990s, appeared to be developing into the worst clashes between Russia and a foreign military since the 1980s war in Afghanistan.

Georgia’s president, Mikheil Saakashvili, declared that Georgia was in a state of war, ordering government offices to work around the clock, and said that Russia was planning a full-scale invasion of his country…

…The fighting had wide international implications, as both Russian and Georgian officials placed it squarely in the context of renewed cold war-style tensions and an East-West struggle for influence on Russia’s borders

…Attending the Olympic Games in Beijing, President Bush directly called on Russia on Saturday to stop bombing Georgian territory, expressing strong support for Georgia in a direct challenge to Russia’s leaders.

August 6, 2008

Bush to Urge China to Improve Human Rights

Filed under: White People!,World News — disciplepete @ 10:10 pm

NY Times:

BANGKOK — On the eve of the Olympic Games in Beijing, President Bush said that he had “deep concerns” about basic freedoms in China and criticized the detention of dissidents and believers, even as he praised the extraordinary gains China has made since he first visited more than three decades ago, according to remarks released by the White House on Wednesday.

Mr. Bush’s remarks, part of a speech on Asia to be delivered in Bangkok on Thursday, distilled and recast previous statements critical of China’s record on human rights. But released only hours before he was to fly to Beijing on Thursday evening, they represented a rebuke to China’s leaders, though a measured one.

“I have spoken clearly, candidly, and consistently with China’s leaders about our deep concerns over religious freedom and human rights,” reads Mr. Bush’s draft speech, which the White House released early in part to draw attention to them, according to a spokesman. “And I have met repeatedly with Chinese dissidents and religious believers.”

“The United States believes the people of China deserve the fundamental liberty that is the natural right of all human beings,” says the draft of the speech, which mentions neither the Olympics nor specific abuses that have drawn new international criticism of the Chinese government. “So America stands in firm opposition to Chinas detention of political dissidents, human rights advocates, and religious activists.”

If trends continue, we’ll all be fat in 40 years

Filed under: Health,Wake Up Call — disciplepete @ 10:03 pm


NEW YORK – If the trends of the past three decades continue, it’s possible that every American adult could be overweight 40 years from now, a government-funded study projects.

The figure might sound alarming, or impossible, but researchers say that even if the actual rate never reaches the 100-percent mark, any upward movement is worrying; two-thirds of the population is already overweight.

“Genetically and physiologically, it should be impossible” for all U.S. adults to become overweight, said Dr. Lan Liang of the federal government’s Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, one of the researchers on the study.

However, she told Reuters Health, the data suggest that if the trends of the past 30 years persist, “that is the direction we’re going.”

Ahh, if only my dad could be around in 40 years to see the day when all Americans are fat…I don’t know why, but he was very amused and got a lot of laughs at the expense of fat people, maybe cuz he never saw anything like American fat folks till he came to the U.S. Well, I’ve never seen anything like American fat folks outside America either. And that’s a good thing.

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