Archive for October 13th, 2009


Private Art

October 13, 2009

I enjoyed this article last week about surreptitious art in China.  It’s fascinating.  I spent a year in Russia, from 1994-1995, talking to Russian artists about their lives and their art following the fall of the Soviet Union.  I was basically following up on Andrew Solomon’s interesting work in The Irony Tower.

Mao Art in China Is Game of Cat and Mouse

I spent most of my time in St. Petersburg, though I did get around to other parts of the country as well.  There was a ton of interesting stuff happening both before and after the fall of the Iron Curtain.  Art has a way of surviving even in the face of oppression.  But then, the surreptitiousness of the art, I think, raises questions about the extent to which it’s truly art.  I recall some stories from Solomon’s book, and certainly I encountered my own similar such stories as I interviewed artists in their attic studios, about the lengths to which artists would go to bury their work.

What is also kinda interesting, also reported last week, is the Obama’s selection of art for the White House.  I particularly appreciate their interest in Jasper Johns.


Fracking Off

October 13, 2009

posterpgHere’s an interesting article in the Colorado Independent on the public policy impacts of a film about fracking — hydraulic fracturing.  I’d be curious to hear reviews of Split Estate.  Might be worth going out of one’s way to see, particularly for local Colorado folks.


Cherry Ping-Pong

October 13, 2009

There’s a lot of tit-for-tat going on in the blogosphere over the alleged cherry-picking of data (also here and original, criticized post here).  I’ll remain agnostic on the empirical question, as all usual caveats apply.  But what exactly is cherry picking?  Is it ever okay to select data?

Let’s be clear on one thing: deliberative and judicious selection of data is not equivalent with cherry picking.  A cherry picking charge is considerably more severe.  Scientists, like technicians, select out data using criteria that “seem to fit” their view of what is happening.  There’s nothing suspicious about this.  It’s what all specialists do: scientists, academics, politicians, lawyers, policy makers, businessmen, and so on.  We select out relevant data and discard the irrelevant stuff by using our professional judgment.

Selection becomes a problem, however, when we discard and/or discriminate against relevant data that either does not support our position or that contradicts our position.  Cherry picking is an informal fallacy of relevance.  (There are other, related, fallacies of induction; but cherry picking, as I understand it, is a fallacy of relevance.)

A clear implication of this fallacy is that the charge of cherry picking cuts both ways. The charge applies to anyone who chooses to select data that fallaciously demonstrate her position. The nature of the dispute over whether someone has cherry picked, in other words, must be over the relevance of the data and not the mere existence of contravening data.

Relevance is key.

In Chip Knappenberger’s Guide to Cherry Picking, Chip artfully tries to show that depending on your stopping and starting points, you can end up with one or the other conclusions about the warming or cooling of the earth.

…the answers [about whether the climate is warming or cooling] depend on several things, among them the dataset you want to use and the time period over which you examine—i.e., which cherries you wish to pick.

But this is a distortion of what we mean by “answer”…

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