Category Archives: Rants

Pet (?) peeves

Opinion | A ‘Disgusting’ Yale Professor Moves On – The New York Times

Opinion | A ‘Disgusting’ Yale Professor Moves On – The New York Times

How a target of students’ ire came to write a book about humanity’s transcendent goodness.

Christakis’s wife, Erika, who also taught at Yale back then, had circulated a memo in which she questioned a university edict against culturally insensitive Halloween costumes, suggesting that students could police themselves and should have both the freedom to err and the strength to cope with offense. She wrote that her husband concurred.

Despite listening and reasoning Nicholas Christaki was ostracized by some students. I think this intolerance fueled by youthful righteousness and the unwillingness to tolerate other reasoning is unhealthy. It suppresses healthy debate, which is so important in any academic environment.

It moves debates and deep thinking of what is moral to a fanatic emotional pitch, very similar to the “hatred of the other” in our current political and social siloes.

 

Seth Abramson on Twitter: “1/ Whatever you think VP Dick Cheney was to President George W. Bush, take that, make it 3 times as sinister, make Bush 10 times more sociopathic and a devout criminal, and make Cheney stupid, venal, and entirely dismissive of our rule of law and you get what Kushner is to Trump.”

Seth Abramson on Twitter: “1/ Whatever you think VP Dick Cheney was to President George W. Bush, take that, make it 3 times as sinister, make Bush 10 times more sociopathic and a devout criminal, and make Cheney stupid, venal, and entirely dismissive of our rule of law and you get what Kushner is to Trump.

I think Seth Abramson has a point I missed in my last post.

Tony Schwartz on Twitter: “You read Trump’s anguished tweet about Saturday Night Live and the late night hosts all making fun of him and what’s clear is that underneath all his bluster, rage & hatred there is a sad, lost little boy desperate for the love and approval he never ever got.”

Tony Schwartz on Twitter: “You read Trump’s anguished tweet about Saturday Night Live and the late night hosts all making fun of him and what’s clear is that underneath all his bluster, rage & hatred there is a sad, lost little boy desperate for the love and approval he never ever got.”:

A while back I realized that the GOP must be controlled by a backstage cabal that decided some time ago to put puppets into play. It became clear with Ronald Reagan, who was a third rate actor willing to learn his lines, die his hair, and wear the make up. He was good at ad-libbing along core concepts, especially with the whispering help of Nancy. He had me! He was the last Republican I voted for when I saw the damage. Yes, I was a conservative when that still had principles and values.

Bush the Elder appears a little more of his own man. George the Younger needed more help. But it was clear that Dick Chaney was there to keep things in line for both of them. Very “prudent.” But boy that man was the devil and more obvious than McNamara or Rumsfeld. Of course, none can compete with Henry Kissinger in pure, premeditated evil.

Trump seems to be an experiment gone sideways. From an acting perspective, we are now at amateur Reality TV level. The real management in Reality TV is  massaging the talent ego and editing after  the fact. The trouble is that works with “The Apprentice,” but is a problem in case of nuclear war and a polity addicted to social media.

Intelligence and ego-wise we have reached bottom. Trump has always had trouble with is ego: appearance is all, tallest buildings, lots of gold, fascist dictator mentality. But his lack of intelligence and morality accelerated by his dementia together with a phone running Twitter has made him really hard to handle. And it seems that his immediate handlers are also not “the best and the brightest.” The pure instincts of a conman coupled with his need for adoration still make him a dangerous demagogue with his base, who need him just as much. The danger is with terrorists on the fringe put on fire.

The Greek tragedy (or Shakespeare – choose your poison): the women most loved by him (for him love and lust are the same) are not likely to truly adore or love him. Love and lust unrequited are the greatest pain of all! But given the suffering and deaths already in play, I cannot feel compassion.

An experiment gone wrong and hopefully the end of the line, Fox News not withstanding.

Seeds of Destruction

Image taken from the article: Our ‘selfish’ genes contain the seeds of our destruction – but there might be a fix

The internet and social media spanning the world with billions of participants is changing the nature of our culture and civilization. Due to its fast spread its dramatic impact is likely higher in a shorter period than the invention of writing and the printing press. Film and radio as propaganda media had a dramatic impact on WW I and WW II. Will social media be seen as the fire that destroyed Western Civilization due to its pervasive impact?

In my view one of the most destructive culprits in the universe of social media is Facebook. It does not do this unknowingly.

Facebook’s seeding of social destruction is by cynical design. The system’s true monetary value is your data and ATTENTION.
ATTENTION is generated by siloing the user base and feeding each silo information that is bound to excite. It either fervently supports the shared outlook or fuels hatred of the opposition. The Facebook algorithm selects the user postings and seeded information from other sources in front of you based on deep analysis. If you look at the placed information, it is aimed at generating division even if it appears to support your point of view.

The silo user base amplifies this attention.
HATRED of the opposition is the strongest emotion here. Although we think we are debating facts, they move to the background. I should also note that the rules we use to view the facts in relation to the world are distorted impacting our perception of “truthiness.” More about that in another post.
In other words, Facebook’s SHAREHOLDER VALUE IS HATRED. It has earned them billions!
It is very destructive in its pervasiveness.

The destruction is on several levels:

  • The resulting divisiveness is poison to rational discourse.
  • Facts are no longer important, beliefs are.
  • It prevents rational resolution of issues based on compromise.
  • Trust in institution or experts is undermined and destroyed.
  • It leads to extreme leadership and demagoguery, which play into the tribal hatred. Centrism cannot compete in this atmosphere.
  • Eventually the polity is destroyed, because it cannot any longer be governed and function.

This is Stephen Bannon’s agenda. We are mid game in this regard, but well along the way of destroying institutions and regulation forged over the last decades and centuries. In fact, our Separation of Powers is no longer working! This is a constitutional crisis or at least Constitutional Rot. The real problem is not only that many people are seriously suffering (economic inequality) or dying (lack of healthcare,) but we are not furthering pace and the worldwide action required to solve climate change. And the window for climate change action is closing. Even if we get out polity back into a state of health, it might be too late to avoid catastrophic consequences, which will especially impact poor nations and lead to further global instability.

Although we seem to act like a “Banana Republic,” we are the largest economy in the world. Our leadership, action or inaction count in a dominant way.

To paraphrase Cato the Elder, Facebook must be destroyed,

Note: I originally posted this in response to a concern about social media’s destructiveness on the polity on Facebook. After some thought I had to elevate my response and start moving my focus away from Facebook only using it as a means of distribution and getting attention.

ps I first was alluding to the “Eve of Destruction” by Barry McGuire, but then also found the Sons of Aeon, a melodic Death Metal Band wailing from Finland. My son really turned me on the genre, which actually has some very thoughtful if dark lyrics and exquisite instrument playing. I have become a fan of Katatonia (lately more progressive rock).

Here then the lyrics for Seeds of Destruction:

Sight into the future… Does not exist
We need no prophets to realise it
Next breath you’re about to take
Could be your last
Drown yourself in hatred, forget the past
This world of confusion
Where moral is just a word
Meaningless and forgotten…
Thing we should not talk about
Souls for sale
Dreams of yesterday… Drifting away
A glimpse of humanity… Does not exist
See the smile on their faces… You’ll realise it
Filth holds the reins of power
Rivers are turning red
Irrigate the fields of hate
Sow the seeds of destruction
There will be blood… Where dead roses bloom
And a quick taste of Katatonia from their track Last Song Before The Fade from their album The Fall of Hearts:


Who’s in control
Spite
So cold in this light.

Reflective summary
Froze me in a frame
My time had run out before the future came
Depart from insight
Breach was made.

For good reason this generation does not sound very hopeful. Time for some peaceful “Hearts of Space!”

Unthinkable – The Atlantic: 50 Moments That Define an Improbable Presidency

I am already looking back at a fairly long life. But the history of the last two years has created a horrific reality both surreal and seemingly improbable. It is like a nation and the world have completely lost reason.

I am still optimistic enough that eventually the pendulum will swing back toward fact and science based reasoning. Recent elections and the freshmen class in Congress give me a lot of hope. But the State of the Union is dire. I am now fairly certain that what we see in the US and UK – once beacons of the free world – is not just random action but a carefully staged sequence of events driven by ingenious manipulation of an evil oligarchy coupled with enormous short term greed and stupidity of our elites and media. There is also a healthy dose of gullibility introduced by lack of education in basic humanities and reasoning.

The distrust of “experts” is fatal in a world driven by complex science and engineering in a global economy.

In short, this is all a huge mess. The real tragedy beyond the suffering of the middle and lower income groups plus children in concentration camps is the insane pace of the approaching point of no return for our climate.

A significant fault lies with Donald Trump and his enablers in the Senate – all equally guilty. But media continues to fail to understand the implication of our “Attention Culture.”

Here is a collation of 50 Moments that defined a most surreal seemingly unthinkable reality: The Atlantic: 50 Moments That Define an Improbable Presidency

The rise of the Ambient Video Game

via 3QuarksDailyTheOutline – The rise of the ambient video game – Link in the Korok Forrest ready to replace the Master Sword into the stone to start his Master Trials.

Lewis Gordon describes his recurrent experience with Nintendo’s hit and truly revolutionary “The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.” He compares it to Ambient Music, which is also a genre I love. Talking about the convergent emergence of video games and ambient music in the 1980s, he writes, “Shigeru Miyamoto, wanted to draw on his childhood experiences of climbing mountains and discovering lakes in the countryside around Sonobe, a town roughly an hour’s drive from nearby Kyoto and Osaka. His wish found expression in the original Zelda’s large, nonlinear and mythical pre-modern Japan. The designers, coders, and artists crafted a crude 8-bit landscape with the emerging computer-chip technology, the game’s deep, verdant greens a far cry from the concrete and steel dominating Japan’s cities and towns at the time.”

“Japanese ambient music of the 1980s reflected such concerns. Hiroshi Yoshimura released the album Green in the same year as The Legend of Zelda, crafting a work of almost unfettered naturalism, lush with shrubbery and the drip of water.”
“The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, […] has incredible grass. It undulates gently in the wind while the sun paints its tips yellow. Meadows turn into shimmers. Holding forward on the controller jostles Link, the game’s boy-hero protagonist, into a light jog, his weight only just displacing the greenery around him. In the evening I sit on the couch, letting the colours and sounds of the digital world wash over me, allowing my brain to slowly decompress. It’s a relaxation activity that slips nebulously into self-care, the video game equivalent of putting an ambient record on.”

This echoes my experience. I find myself drawn back into Hyrule after taking my time (more than 640 hours!) to complete the game and DLC in both regular and Master modes. I look for more Koroks (little surprises and puzzles hidden throughout the open realm,) help people in distress along the path ways, try to catch a better horse, or just watch a sun set on a mountain top with a dragon flying in the distance.

It’s the ambience of the game redeeming reality (to quote Kracauer) that draws me back and back again.

The mind is willing and it is weak!

For years I have been convinced that one of the most important actions for my own development is to make a habit of writing. I write a lot of things in the course of the day that are work related, but seem to have been unable to carve out the time in the early morning for reflective and creative writing.
Today is Labor Day and we had nothing planned. I was really going to “do it” today. It is now evening. I have managed to spend the day on maintenance activities around the keyboard. Churning through thousands of mail messages that needed sorting, thinning, and archiving. Cleaning up my WordPress installation with (count it) one entry so far! Cleaning up some things in the office…
Decades ago I saw a talk by Douglas Adams, writer of the “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” and other comedic radio plays, books, games, etc. He was famous for procrastinating and being late with his manuscript submissions. Douglas described his writing day and the painful ritual it took to finally start writing: baths, pencils that needed sharpening, checking the lightbulb in the refrigerator. It was a funny talk I never forgot.
My actions sure remind me of that behavior.
But the Site is cleaned and set up. My MacJournal is synched.

The words must flow.