Sunday, April 13, 2014

From atom to cosmos

Tonight's #Cosmos, going deep into the microcosmos of the atom, reminded me of one of my favorite landmarks on the Vanderbilt campus. Gordon Gee spoke eloquently of it, during his tenure as Chancellor, a few years ago:
"One of the best things at Vanderbilt, which, as you all know, is a campus full of “best things,” is a huge Lucite-and-bronze sculpture in a glass case in front of the Stevenson Science Library. The sculpture depicts, in angles and dimensions of Lucite, the unfurling unfoldment of the universe, and within that unfoldment, the interests of science in all arrays: ganglia and galaxies; a plesiosaur skeleton and a cityscape; ammonites and molecular structures; girders and retorts. It all rests on the backs of twisting primeval dragons, and the sun and the moon
The whole form and sweep of the thing takes your breath away, because it is charged with the optimism of atomic-age science, the optimism of space-age science – that amazing, exhilarating faith in the human potential to sound not only the reaches of space, but also the depth of our beginnings, and meanwhile continue to make a more livable civilization right here on this earth. Unfortunately, what one wonders now, gazing at this great jagged glass-and-bronze construction, is whether its dreams and expectations are still current..." 

Vanderbilt University Daily Register

Monday, April 7, 2014

Emily Brontë, Philosopher

We're adding literary lights to our Study Abroad course itinerary. Emily Bronte, for one:
"Enough of Thought, Philosopher; Too long hast thou been dreaming Unlightened, in this chamber drear – While summer’s sun is beaming – Space-sweeping soul, what sad refrain Concludes thy musings once again? – Emily Brontë (1818-1848), ‘The Philosopher’
As one who has spent many a summer’s day reading philosophy in ‘chambers drear’, I can empathize with Emily Brontë’s poem. For several years now I have made use of her poetry when teaching Introduction to Philosophy classes, in order to show that some of the deepest issues in this discipline can best be expressed in non-prosaic terms..."
Emily Brontë – Philosopher | Issue 90 | Philosophy Now

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Baseball in Literature and Culture

Agenda for 19th Annual Conference
Baseball in Literature and Culture, 4 April 2014

Hosted by MTSU

7:45-8:15 Registration and Breakfast

8:15-8:30 Welcome Warren Tormey, Conference Coordinator

Dr. Tom Strawman, Chair, Department of English

8:30-9:15 Keynote Address: Mr. Skip Nipper, Nashville TN.
“The Emerging Era of Middle Tennessee Base-Ball.”

9:20-10:20 Concurrent Sessions A

Session A1:
Location: Hazlewood Chair:
 Dan Anderson, Dominican University: “’An Important Course in the
Curriculum of the Institution’: Competing Loyalties and Ideologies in the Harlem
Renaissance Newspapers Coverage of the Negro Leagues”
 Katherine Walden, Vanderbilt University: “’Take Me Out to the Ball Game’:
Music, Community, and Sustainability in Minor League Baseball Affiliates in
Southeastern Music Cities”
 Steve Andrews, Grinnell College: “Annie Dillard in the Contact Zone: The
Place of Baseball in American Childhood”

Session A2:
Location: Dining Rm. C Chair:
 Andrew Hazucha, Ottawa University: “The Uses of Biography: Jane Leavy,
The Last Boy, and the Problem of Enuresis
 Michael Pagel, Northeast State University (Johnson City, TN): “The Politics
of the Call”
 Ron Rembert, Wilmington College: “Basking in the Sun and Burning at the

10:30-11:30 Concurrent Sessions B

Session B1:
Location: Hazlewood Chair:
 Gerald Wood, Carson-Newman University (emeritus): “Little Giants, Big
 Andy Bennett, Tennessee Court of Appeals: “August 20, 1955: A Precedent-
Setting Beanball in Chattanooga, TN”
 David Veve, Dalton State University: “Take Me Out to the Suburbs: Aspects
of the Braves’ Upcoming Move to Cobb County, GA”

Session B2:
Location: Dining Rm. C Chair:
 Amanda Bales and Christopher Murphy, Northeastern State University
(Tahlequah, OK): “Collaborative Fiction on the 19th Century Game”
 Philip Theibert, University of Alabama-Birmingham: “Hitting a Home Run in
the Classroom”
Phil Oliver, MTSU: "Coming Home: Reflections on Time, Memory, and
Baseball's Eternal Return (Prompted by the Revival of Nashville's Sulphur

Session B3:
Location: Faculty Senate Chambers Chair:
 Sarah Bunting, “Casting Bullpen: The Next Great
Baseball Biopic”
 Nick Bush, Motlow State Community College: “’Mookie Wilson—That’s a
Thing, Right?’—Pitching, Parody, and Perfection in How I Met Your Mother’s
‘Perfect Week’ Episode”
 Bryan Steverson, Knoxville TN: “’42’ By the Grace of God”
11:40-12:05 Concurrent Sessions C

Session C1:
Location: Faculty Senate Chambers Chair:
 Bob Johnson, Eastern Kentucky University: “The Captain of the Drive”

12:15-1:30 Luncheon and Willie Wilson Talk
Tennessee Room
12:00-12:45 Lunch
12:45-1:30 Willie Wilson Talk (~20 min. talk + 10 min. Q&A)
Book Signing in James Union Lobby to follow talk
Former MLB all-star Willie Wilson discusses autographs at MTSU event (VIDEO)
2:00-3:00 Concurrent Sessions D

Session D1:
 Warren Tormey, MTSU: “From Field to Grounds to Ballpark: Space into
Commodity in the Game’s Early Years”
 Ben Morrill, MTSU: “The Emergence of Minor League Baseball in Late
Nineteenth Century Knoxville”
 Josh Howard, MTSU: “The Gentleman’s Sport in a Professional Era:
Alternatives to Professional Baseball in the South During the Late Nineteenth

Location: Dining Rm. C Chair:
3:10-4:00 Concurrent Sessions E

Session E1: Reenacting the 19th Century Game: A Demonstration
 Michael “Roadblock” Thurmon, Nashville Maroons
 Jeff “Skeeter” Wells, Stewart’s Creek Scouts
 Jeff “Cornbread” Jennings, Stewart’s Creek Scouts
Walnut Grove, outside James Union Building (weather permitting). Alt. Location

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Environmental Ethics and Sustainability

Coming to MTSU, Fall 2014-

Beyond Activism: Environmental Ethics and Sustainability

(PHIL 3340-001, Environmental Ethics MW 02:20 – 03:45 JUB 202)

The modern environmental movement has been with us in one form or another at least since the first Earth Day in 1970, if not longer. (Rachel Carson's Silent Spring1962, is another significant modern marker.) It has achieved undoubted success in elevating the awareness of many to our profound obligation (in Carl Sagan's memorable words) to "preserve and protect the Pale Blue Dot, the only home we've ever known." 

And yet, many "friends of the Earth" find themselves deeply frustrated by encounters in the wider culture with apathy, indifference, ignorance, misinformation, and hostility concerning environmental issues, and dire reports like that of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC):
Climate change is already having sweeping effects on every continent and throughout the world’s oceans, and the problem is likely to grow substantially worse unless greenhouse emissions are brought under control... ice caps are melting, sea ice in the Arctic is collapsing, water supplies are coming under stress, heat waves and heavy rains are intensifying, coral reefs are dying, and fish and many other creatures are migrating toward the poles or in some cases going extinct... 
In this course, we'll ask what it may take to move the conversation beyond passionate but still-relatively-marginal activism, towards a more widely shared understanding that everyone has a vital stake in fashioning truly sustainable ways of living on Earth.

One answer: work to enlist community leaders and campus power-brokers, including university presidents, as allies in the public battle for hearts and minds. We'll look for practical ways to "think globally and act locally" on our own campus, and beyond. 

In this rare image taken on July 19, 2013, the wide-angle camera on NASA's Cassini spacecraft has captured Saturn's rings and our planet Earth and its moon in the same frame.

Texts include:

  • Bill McKibben, Oil and Honey: The Education of an Unlikely Activist - "Sometime in the course of the past decade I figured out that I needed to do more than write—if this fight was about power, then we who wanted change had to assemble some. Environmentalists clearly weren't going to outspend the fossil fuel industry, so we'd need to find other currencies: the currencies of movement. Instead of money, passion; instead of money, numbers; instead of money, creativity... But if you've built a movement, you've eventually got to put it to work. And now 'eventually' had come. Education needed to yield to action..."
  • Elizabeth Kolbert, The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History - If extinction is a morbid topic, mass extinction is, well, massively so. It's also a fascinating one. In the pages that follow, I try to convey both sides: the excitement of what's being learned as well as the horror of it. My hope is that readers of this book will come away with an appreciation of the truly extraordinary moment in which we live."
  • John Ehrenfield, Flourishing: A Frank Conversation about Sustainability - "Present-day efforts at sustainability, and indeed society's foundational values themselves, have been corrupted and subverted by utilitarian values that turn them into a marketing pitch. In drifting toward unsustainability we have lost our vision... 'Sustainability still has not entered our consciousness, in spite of the torrent of its use and that of its distant cousin, green'..."
For more info, contact Dr. Phil Oliver -

Friday, March 28, 2014

Applied Philosophy Lyceum


Cinzia Arruzza

New School for Social Research

 Gender as Social Temporality: Butler and Marx

Friday, March 28, 2014
at 5:00pm
College of Education Building
Room 164

The Story, in Brief...
Since 1992 the Philosophy Department has sponsored an annual lecture series devoted to issues in applied philosophy. Conceived with Aristotle's Lyceum in mind, the Applied Philosophy Lyceum (APL) aims to stimulate private reflection and public reasoning on matters of human praxis, broadly conceived. Topics have ranged from issues in environmental ethics to theories of love and friendship. The list of speakers and topics, past and present, can be found below. 

A reception typically follows each lecture. 

For further information on the Lyceum go to the Contacts Page


Monday, March 17, 2014


March Madness is upon us, but the real madness lies in the continuing charade that big-time collegiate athletics is anything other than an extension of professional sports, and that most "scholar-athletes" are really getting a university education. UNC whistleblowers Mary Willingham and Jay Smith made their damning case on the Bob Edwards show recently, and promise more details in a forthcoming book. Don't look away, fans.
"The UNC case is important nationally because it demonstrates the connection between the academic camouflage that facilitates athletic success on America’s college campuses and the development of the subtle forms of corruption and self-delusion that inhibit an institution’s ability to self-correct. Through shadow curricula, manifold eligibility tricks, deceptive rhetoric, and warped scheduling priorities, too many athletes are forced to pursue a poor facsimile of a college education. They are handed a cheap knockoff of the academic experience their typical non-athlete classmates can reliably expect to receive. For the sake of college athletes everywhere, the impulse of university leaders to deny reality, cover up ugly truths, and deflect attention from the system must be confronted and defeated. Meaningful national reform can only begin with full disclosure of the mechanics of our currently corrupt system. Although Cheated offers a set of recommendations to ensure improved educational experiences for athletes in the future, perhaps its most important contribution to the national dialogue is its disclosure of a troubling reality in all its nitty-gritty detail."
Smith/Willingham Book | Paper Class Inc

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Plato at the Googleplex

@platobooktour Rebecca Goldstein's new book responds to Lawrence Krauss and other misbegotten critics of philosophy.

Philosophy "won't go away" because even its most strident jeer-leaders must philosophize in order to mount their case that it's not a "progressive" endeavor. To paraphrase Woody's joke: those who can, do. Those who can't do, teach. And those who can't or won't acknowledge their own philosophical premises teach very poorly indeed.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Leave 'em laughing

An ex-person's self-scripted Pythonesque exit.
"Walter George Bruhl Jr. of Newark and Dewey Beach, Delaware is a dead person, he is no more, he is bereft of life, he is deceased, he has wrung down the curtain and gone to join the choir invisible." That's the way the obituary for the 80-year-old Mr. Bruhl begins. He died on Sunday. It's a nod to "Monty Python," and it's exactly the way he would have wanted it because he wrote it. Mr. Bruhl left it behind, typed up with blanks to be filled in: the day he died, where he was and the number of years he was married to his loving wife Helene, 57...
A Father's Funny And Sweet Send-off For Himself : NPR

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

"What Does Not Kill Me"

Here's David Wood's February 27 Berry Lecture at Vanderbilt. He'll also be MTSU's Lyceum Speaker on April 11. He does not promise to bring the dream shoe, but is sure to pull other surprises out of his valise. And he'll tell us about his "Sculpture Park" in Woodbury TN, practically our back yard and a long way from his native Oxford. [David's wikipedia page... A Day in the Life... "The Lure of the Writer's Cabin" (nyt)]


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