Wikipedia:Reference desk/Archives/Humanities/2008 May 24

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May 24[edit]

knowledge of candidates[edit]

It seems that the trend is to leave absolutely no rock unturned when it comes to a piece of knowledge about a political candidate with some very good consequences for the voters such as Cindy McCain releasing her taxes. Is there any way I can find how rampant grade inflation is at the colleges and universities attended by Barack Obama since Harvard is one university that has a long history of notoriety for grade inflation and giving the world by any standard graduates who consider themselves to be elite? (talk) 04:01, 24 May 2008 (UTC)

Stuart Rojstaczer's analysis at doesn't suggest anything unusual about Harvard's grade inflation in nationwide comparison. According to the scatterplot, the change in GPA at Harvard is close to, but even a bit below the average of 0.146 per decade. And Columbia is in the group of American universities with the lowest grade inflation. ---Sluzzelin talk 05:57, 24 May 2008 (UTC)
Now what about grade inflation for the classes? (talk) 12:01, 24 May 2008 (UTC)
Who cares? Whether or not Harvard has grade inflation does not indicate whether or not Barack Obama was helped by it or didn't deserve whatever grades he got. Your approach is logically flawed and shows some ignorance of how grade inflation works: just because someone gets an A- at a school with grade inflation does not mean they necessarily got it because of grade inflation. There's no way, barring talking to individual teachers, for you to know anything about that from looking at a transcript. That's the problem with grade inflation, incidentally: you can't distinguish, from a transcript, between genuinely great students and pretty good students. Bad students are usually still pretty easy to spot, based on their class position and because they're still going to get B+s. (I say this as someone who has done a lot of grading at Harvard, and really hates the grade inflation there. In my experience at Harvard all grade inflation really does is increase the number of A-s and B+s, and makes the lowest grades hover around B-. It does not increase the number of As on the whole, those are still reserved for a small percentage.) Additionally, Obama was at Harvard Law School, not Harvard College, where things like grading are totally different (it is a different institution, from the point of view of grading and administration—all of the difference Harvard institutions, like the College, the Law School, the Graduate School, the Medical School, and the School of Government, are pretty autonomous and have their own policies, grading structures, course requirements, etc.; Harvard University is a bunch of different institutions with the same name). When people say Harvard has grade inflation, they usually mean the College. Keep that in mind if you do decide to pursue this fairly silly investigation! --Captain Ref Desk (talk) 17:49, 24 May 2008 (UTC)
LOL... First it's not my approach but the approach of the vast majority of employment offices, which BTW some are so easy to fool that even the Pretender would be amazed, although most employers do care. Same for professors, whether at Harvard or not, especially in the humanities. Second, you make a good point about various divisions at Harvard being autonomous which is one of the reasons you do have to scrutinize. Amazingly computer science at Harvard is probably still at the top, in addition to law. Unfortunately even at Harvard no one has yet brought the two together by publishing the law in the form of a truth or decision table or polychotomous key. For this reason Harvard and many elite law schools are in danger of dropping to the bottom of the list just as the US is in danger of getting caught with it's pants down for not doing the same. It is surely something Barack Obama has failed to do while in the US Senate and will continue to fail to do whether elected or not. So much for Barack Obama's attendance at Harvard Law School. Perhaps grade inflation is reserved only for those who remain fast asleep. The problem in reference to my question, however, may be how what are called "sympathy" students are graded, i.e., students who have freckles for instance. Third, what is in fact silly is how some people are simply incapable of being serious for any length of time and when life gets over their heads they simply shut down, giggle and feel silly. To such persons everything that requires concentration for more than 2 seconds is silly, but I suppose you will think this analysis silly as well. (talk) 03:10, 25 May 2008 (UTC)
No, willfully ignorant is the term I'd use. You clearly don't understand the methodological problem (which would apply if it was Obama, Clinton, McCain, even Bush—you can't infer application of grade inflation in a specific case from the fact that it exists in a general case; all it means is that grades are an unreliable metric of achievement, not that they indicate a lack of achievement), and don't care, most likely because you are determined to be intellectually dishonest from the get-go. But anyway, good luck with your work! --Captain Ref Desk (talk) 15:00, 25 May 2008 (UTC)
"Where there is smoke there is fire," is not a saying I manufactured and Obama is spewing more smoke than a pine forest after a burst of lightning. Just like neighborhood kids who break the law and risk injury by playing in the street only for the thrill, instead of promoting perfection of the law; which I would expect from a graduate of Columbia and Harvard, we get promises to acquiesce on almost every controversy in stalemate. Its definitely not the position of someone who did not fall asleep and who paid attention in classes. Where there is smoke there is fire, but from your point of view I imagine that is just silly, silly, silly. (talk) 17:31, 25 May 2008 (UTC)
For someone who goes to great pains to try sound logical, your lack of critical reasoning is rather obvious. Anyway, it is clear that interacting with you, much less helping you, is pointless. --Captain Ref Desk (talk) 20:41, 26 May 2008 (UTC)
Its not very logical that I would try to be illogical unless it was for the purpose of Reductio ad absurdum, but then I have no particular desire to interact with you and from past experience I know it is not your intent to help others but rather only yourself. (talk) 17:31, 25 May 2008 (UTC) —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk)
You r question seems to focus on whether Obama's academic credentials are valid. The reference desk is more for answering factual questions, and yours has been answered- grade inflation at Harvard isn't a good reason to doubt any specific person's academic credentials. Because your primary motivation is to know more and to judge Obama correctly, you are now happy to have learned that you were mistaken in your impression that his qualifications were lacking. Your correct response is, "Thank you, Reference Desk!" On behalf of the Reference Desk, I answer your further comments with, "You're welcome, Knowledge Seeker!" -FisherQueen (talk · contribs) 15:53, 28 May 2008 (UTC)

Pinching and Dreams[edit]

Sitting on my computer at midnight, I think of a lot of stupid things, this time, I wondered, since when have people thought of pinching one's arm to discover whether they are dreaming? As in, how long does this tradition date back? I'd like to read a good article that discusses these superstitions and how long they have been practiced, I am asking specifically about the pinching one, but I'm generally interested and this has gotten me thinking about superstitions and how long ago they came to existence. Does anybody know of anything (accessible online) that discusses this? Oh, and if nobody can make heads or tails of my comment, I'll try to repeat it tomorrow... The DominatorTalkEdits 05:43, 24 May 2008 (UTC)

Unfortunately I didn't find anything on the origins of the "Pinch me, I am dreaming" cliché. I don't think this is a superstition though, it just symbolizes a crude reality testing technique. The article on lucid dream might interest you. ---Sluzzelin talk 06:26, 24 May 2008 (UTC)
Interesting article, doesn't answer my question, but pretty cool, answered a lot of questions I had before, like the sleep paralysis thing. If you were to guess, how far back would you say the dream- reality check techniques go? Like, do you think people made these connections in Ancient to Medieval times, or is it more of a recent thing (i.e. after some scientific study on dreams was done)? The DominatorTalkEdits 06:37, 24 May 2008 (UTC)
An interesting book on this subject is 'Dreams and History: The Interpretation of Dreams from Ancient Greece to Modern Psychoanalysis' (edited by Daniel Pick and Lyndal Roper). Dreams fascinated the ancients as much as they fascinate us today; you mention the Medieval period - have you heard of Piers Plowman? The universal quality of dreams means that it was a heavily written about subject in both science and poetry long before the appearance of the Romantic poets and, later, Freud. Yours, Lord Foppington (talk) 12:21, 24 May 2008 (UTC)

Who are these chicks?[edit]

Kennedy, Gorbi, and their ladies

Who are these three chicks with the two dudes? The one in the center, from what I remember of her, looks like Mrs. Gorbachov. I'm venturing a guess that the one on the left is Kennedy's current wife, Vicky Reggie. Though I have no idea who the surprised (appalled?) chick on the right is. Dismas|(talk) 14:33, 24 May 2008 (UTC)

The one in the middle is, as you say, Raisa Gorbachyova. I'm working on the others. PeterSymonds (talk) 14:48, 24 May 2008 (UTC)
My guess is that the woman standing next to Kennedy is his sister Eunice Kennedy Shriver and the woman in yellow is his sister Patricia Kennedy Lawford. ---Sluzzelin talk 15:37, 24 May 2008 (UTC)
Seconded. --Milkbreath (talk) 15:45, 24 May 2008 (UTC)
Thanks, all! Dismas|(talk) 16:48, 24 May 2008 (UTC)
That picture must date from the early 1990s? For a woman in her seventies, Eunice Kennedy was looking very well! Xn4 13:44, 25 May 2008 (UTC)

Identify font?[edit]

[1], [2], [3], [4]: anyone know it? Thanks! TreasuryTagtc 16:44, 24 May 2008 (UTC)

Optima. -- (talk) 17:19, 24 May 2008 (UTC)
Great! Thanks. TreasuryTagtc 17:21, 24 May 2008 (UTC)

art style[edit]

What's the name of that Soviet-style art where people are all very blocky looking, from posters? Not Socialist Realism as I understand it. Somewhat Cubist but not abstract. More like this or this (sorry that one downloads automatically) this (which is not actually Soviet), or this WPA poster or this one? -- (talk) 18:18, 24 May 2008 (UTC)

In the absence of a qualified graphic design historian I'll have a stab at being helpful! Constructivism (art) was that great early Soviet art movement that had significant influence world wide and in the later USSR, even after falling from official favour. I think in your examples and Soviet posters generally we also see the influence of various art movements such as Cubism, Futurism, Surrealism, functionalism and so on. If I had to name the style though, I'd say Art Deco; the all embracing style between the wars that incorporated all sorts of influences to create a machine age aesthetic that tended towards geometric forms. Poster art in particular also tended towards the simple and direct as that suited the medium, the message and printed format. These sites on Art Deco [5] and Soviet [6] poster design have a good little overview. Mhicaoidh (talk) 00:09, 25 May 2008 (UTC)

Rumour painted full of tongues[edit]

Hi Wikipedia person.

I came across the phrase, Rumour painted full of tongues, in a novel, my interest was piqued and this phrase caused me to enquire further .

Wikipedia informed me that it came from Shakespeare's Henry 4th part 2, the introduction.

Then I went to the Greek/Roman myth area and found Rumour, a figure - robe - painted with tongues holding or blowing a pipe.

Virgil speaks of tongues in the Aeniad.(rumour) Ovid's House of fame mentions FAMA ( rumour)

I wonder if there is any more specific reference to this ROBE, what it was, style, colour and if there is any pictorial imagery existing.

Many Thanks

allegorical ken —Preceding unsigned comment added by Allegorical ken (talkcontribs) 19:06, 24 May 2008 (UTC)

Rumour was a common figure in Jacobean masques; cf. Campion's Masque of Squires, 1613, with its Rumour 'in a skin coat full of winged tongues, and over it an antic robe; on his head a cap like a tongue, with a large pair of wings in it'. Halliday, F. E. (1952). "Rumour." A Shakespeare companion 1550-1950. p. 561. OCLC 26369297

Rumour painted full of tongues gives us a Prologue to one of the parts of Henry the fourth; and, says Dr. Dodd, Shakespeare had doubtless a view to either Virgil or Ovid in their description of Fame. But why so? Stephen Hawes, in his Pastime of Pleasure, had long before exhibited her in the same manner,

A goodly Lady envyroned about With tongues of fyre; --

and so had Sir Thomas More in one of his Pageants,

Fame I am called, mervayle you nothing Though with tonges I am compassed all rounde;

not to mention her elaborate Portrait by Chaucer, in the Boke of Fame; and by John Higgins, one of the Assistants in the Mirour for Magistrates, in his Legend of King Albanacte. Farmer, Richard. " An Essay on the Learning of Shakespeare: Addressed to Joseph Cradock, Esq.1767"
eric 23:47, 24 May 2008 (UTC)

Plato and Buddhism[edit]

I've read a few studies into the similarities between Plato's ideas and Buddhism. Was there a contact between ancient Greece and the Far East at the time of Plato? Is it possible that Plato was aware of the existence of Buddhism? AecisBrievenbus 21:13, 24 May 2008 (UTC)

Buddha lived and taught before 400 BC, some years before Plato's birth in about 428 BC. Alexander's famous conquest of Persia and India took place 333-326 BC, a generation after Plato's death in 348 BC. And I believe it wasn't really until Asoka's reign (273 BC to 232 BC) that Buddhism became widely spread/known. However, Buddha drew on thoughts that could also be found in other teachings in his time, and you can be sure there were contacts between India and Greece long before Alexander. There's some discussion of this in Silk Road, see also Royal Road. I can't answer your second question, hopefully someone else will. WikiJedits (talk) 00:55, 25 May 2008 (UTC)


who wrote "Naked in the Islands"? I had thought that it was David Sedaris? (talk) 21:43, 24 May 2008 (UTC)

He did write Naked (book),a collection of essays including "Naked". Is that what you are looking for? There are a couple of books called "The Naked Island" by Bryna Wasserman and Russell Braddon but I cant find any "Naked in the Islands". Mhicaoidh (talk) 22:39, 24 May 2008 (UTC)