Archive | June, 2007

The Philosopher’s Stone

Hogwarts Express I’m a fan of the Harry Potter books. Not a maniacal fan, mind you – I grew up reading books of the same general genre by C. S. Lewis, E. Nesbit, Susan Cooper, Edward Eager, Ursula K. LeGuin, Madeleine L’Engle, Diane Duane, Mary Norton, George MacDonald, etc., and it’s not obvious to me why J. K. Rowling’s books have skyrocketed to such greater heights of popularity than theirs.  But they are good.

There is one feature of the series that I especially identify with, however. The idea of a world of wizards existing right alongside the world of ordinary people, reachable from but invisible to the mundane world, feels very familiar to me, because it’s actually rather like being an academic, and particularly an academic philosopher. We hold our conferences in places where ordinary people also meet, but they have no idea who we are or what we’re talking about as we move about in our magical world of Chinese rooms and people seeds ….

But anyway: tonight on Countdown Keith Olbermann offered his theory of how the last Harry Potter novel, out next month, will end: Harry discovers that the scar on his forehead is one of Voldemort’s horcruxes, and that to destroy Voldemort he must destroy his own scar. He assumes that he can do this only by destroying himself, and is about to commit suicide when Snape shows up to reveal that the scar can be destroyed without killing Harry, but doing so will cause Harry to lose all his wizardly powers. And so that’s how the book ends – with Voldemort dead, Snape redeemed, and Harry alive but forever a Muggle.

Harry Potter All of which sounds possible enough. What I don’t buy is Olbermann’s reasoning as to why Rowling won’t kill off Harry. His argument is that doing so would hurt the film franchise, since fewer people will want to watch the final three movies if they already know Harry’s dead.

Sure, killing off Harry probably would cut into the profits of the later movies. But does anyone really think Rowling would make her decision on that basis? I would point out that a) Rowling has shown no sign of lacking artistic integrity, and b) in any case she’s already one of the wealthiest authors on the planet.

Maybe Harry will die and maybe he won’t, but I think Rowling’s eye is on the plot, not on the pocketbook.

Spooner Article Resurrected

[cross-posted at Liberty & Power and Mises Blog]

Lysander Spooner was the foremost legal theorist of the 19th-century American individualist anarchist movement. His 1882 open letter to Senator Bayard is fairly well-known among Spooner fans; but an 1884 sequel, A Second Letter to Thomas F. Bayard, which originally Lysander Spooner appeared in Benjamin Tucker’s anarchist journal Liberty, is much more obscure; it was omitted (like most of Spooner’s periodical work) from the Collected Works, and indeed has never (so far as I can determine) been reprinted anywhere else. Now at last I am happy to announce that it is available in the Molinari Institute online library.

I can’t claim that this is one of Spooner’s more important works. Apart from a more than usually irascible tone, it contains little that isn’t already covered in the first letter, or still more fully in other works such as No Treason or Natural Law or the Letter to Grover Cleveland. But hey, it’s Spooner.

And speaking of material from Tucker’s Liberty, hurray for Shawn Wilbur! He’s been scanning issues of Liberty (including the one containing this Spooner piece) and placing the PDFs online. Check out what he’s got so far.

A River Runs Through It

Amazon Miraculous news from the jungles of South America (conical hat tip to LRC):

The Brazilian scientists’ 14-day expedition extended the Amazon’s length by about 176 miles (284 kilometers), making it 65 miles (105 kilometers) longer than the Nile.

This will be a good example to use to explain “direction of fit” the next time I’m teaching the Euthyphro.

Polly Want a Clarification

Would you trust this parrot? Remember my earlier post about the “rational parrot”? Well, the BBC link that used to point to that amazing story now points instead to this not-so-amazing story. In a brief note the BBC explains that the original story “contained factual inaccuracies we were unable to correct” and is “no longer in our archive.”

So what was true and what was false in the original story about N’kisi the grey parrot? Apparently not everything was false, since the replacement story does mention N’kisi in passing as having an impressive vocabulary. But it would be nice to have a more informative retraction, if that’s what it is.

In the meantime, check out this mile-wide parrot. Or whatever.

Bump Deux

Last night’s Colbert Report featured some more discussion of Ron Paul. Colbert was mainly joking about Ron Paul receiving the “Colbert bump” all the way up to 2%, but by replaying scenes from the original interview the show in effect gave Paul more free publicity.

ALL You Can Hear, Part 2

[cross-posted at Liberty & Power]

Alliance of the Libertarian Left Just finished up the aforementioned interview, and an audio file is already available for download here!

A couple of points: a) Shawn Wilbur’s call unfortunately somehow got lost, so it’s just Wally Conger, Brad Spangler, and me. b) I don’t agree with Wally and Brad about voting being a form of aggression, but I didn’t feel strongly enough about my heresy on that particular point to take up time over it; that’s why I didn’t pipe up with a dissenting comment.

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