Thursday, February 19, 2004

From a NYTimes article about our lovely neighborhood. Funny, my Hasidic landlord doesn't seem to have an issue renting to me.

A 'Plague of Artists' Is a Battle Cry for Brooklyn Hasidim

Published: February 17, 2004

Several weeks ago Mikey Weiss, an electronics store owner with an overgrown blond Mohawk, was visited in his shop on the north side of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, by a couple of men in mink hats.

"These two Hasidic guys, dressed as Hasidically as you could possibly dress, came in and asked me what kind of people live in this neighborhood," Mr. Weiss said, adding that he told them the area was largely populated with people in their 20's and 30's, including many artists.

"They said: 'Artists! That's it!' " he recalled. "They said, 'We want to hear about these artists we've heard are moving to our neighborhood.' They asked: 'Are they noisy? Do they cause trouble?' "

The visitors were from the community of 57,000 Satmar Hasidic Jews who live in south Williamsburg and who have in recent weeks been alarmed by talk of their neighborhood being invaded by "artisten," a Yiddish word that in local parlance is used to describe non-Hasidim who live on the north side.

They had come to the store after seeing fliers around the neighborhood that had portrayed the artisten as a looming threat. One flier even included a drawing of the World Trade Center collapsing, and read, in Yiddish: "How long did it take the Twin Towers to fall? Eight seconds. How long will it take for Williamsburg??? God Forbid."

Sunday, February 08, 2004

So I finally finished Dennett's "Freedom Evolves". I appreciated his commitment to maintaining a certain rigorousness, as well as his naturalistic approach to problems of the mind and will. He certainly caused me to question my assumptions about the relationship between determinism and inevitability, as well as the need for indeterminism to be built into the decision-making process. He also touches on some fascinating evolutionary theories of morality and altruism, incorporating Dawkin's controversial concept of the meme (a cultural hereditary unit analogous to a gene, check out this collection of definitions or read The Meme Machine for an in-depth discussion). Despite many pockets of brilliance, I couldn't help but feel like the book became disjointed by the end, and the summary was fairly anticlimactic. I need to ponder over a few key points, and perhaps re-read a few sections. I still believe that this book is a wonderful read, and I recommend it. You can check it out on Amazon here.

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