Thursday, February 23, 2017

The Words They Use

In the recent political climate, with the impelling force of the internet behind it, has seen the rise of a common vocabulary on social media. Certain words are used over and over again to refer to people with opposing viewpoints. I can't help but be intrigued by the particular words in use right now. One side is pulling from a classic well: Nazi, fascist, white supremacist. The other side... isn't. They align against cupcakes, snowflakes, unicorns, flowers, and social justice warriors. I'm not entirely sure where that is coming from (though the influence of internet trolling is strong, as is a strain of older insults), and I don't know what it says about the current state of discourse. In any case, as someone who spends too much time in symbols, I find the uses of language interesting.

Quote of the Moment

"The hardest thing about human experience is that every human has one. And so it makes it hard to appreciate someone else's, but it also makes it a great and awesome challenge." –Mike Rugnetta, Idea Channel “Comment Responses: What Was the Hoodie?”

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Bookworming: The Laughing Corpse

The Laughing Corpse, Laurell K. Hamilton, ***
The second book in the Anita Blake series, The Laughing Corpse stands as my favorite of the ones I read from that series. I bailed out circa Blue Moon due to the change of tone away from grindhouse horror into supernatural romance territory. At this point in the series that turn had not been made, and Corpse is purely a horror book in the splatter mode which, like the first in the series, contains no actual sex. Folks that do not mind the conventions (and violence) that come along with the genre will find a good set of extremely one-dimensional baddies, a fair amount of action, and a plot that comes together nicely. Those that don't like violence should stay away. Most of the thoughts from my previous review of Guilty Pleasures still apply, and if you liked that one, you will probably like this one.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

The Letter of the Law

[Warning, this post contains both political and religious satire. You have been warned.]

Advisor: I would like to bring up some concerns over our branding efforts. Our stance on strong Christian values helped us achieve our current success, but some of the details seem out of alignment.
Leader: Oh? What is it that has you worried?
Advisor: Several of these values seem to run contrary to our actions. For instance, have you seen this bit about the rich and the well fed having already received their reward.
Leader: Of course, it's rather key. Very popular among the demographic.
Advisor: Do you not find the themes of sacrifice and universal caring somewhat contrary to our mission?
Leader: No, not at all. You see here, it says blessed are the poor.
Advisor: I do not understand, we are not poor.
Leader: Of course not! For as the values say, we must serve our fellow man! We want as many blessed people as possible. Thus we gather the riches to ourselves that we might aid the majority to be blessed. It is a sacrifice on our part, but it is our calling.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Watching the Watchers: Wherein I Agree and Disagree With Bannon

Quartz recently published an article about the beliefs for Steve Bannon, President Trump's close adviser seen as the driving force behind his policies. (As an aside, sites that look into such things rate Quartz's editorial bias as slightly left of center.) It's a very long piece, but an interesting skim. As a thought exercise, here are some unordered points where I agree with Bannon and some where I do not, as his views are presented in the article.

Agree:

  • Capitalism without morality can be more damaging than beneficial.
  • Focusing the economy on speculation rather than capital and production damages capitalism.
  • Both the Republicans and Democrats are to blame for the current state of America.
  • America's and American society's accumulated debit is a danger.
  • Capitalism is facing a crisis.
  • The media do not understand why Donald Trump won.


Disagree:

  • I believe abstract concepts such as egalitarianism can be laudable goals and are completely compatible with existing values.
  • I do not believe nationalism is a positive force, rather that it causes artificial divides and has historically been a driver of conflicts. Bannon appears to be conflating nationalism and shared values, and I just don't think they should be combined in such a manner.
  • I'm not sure how one can tout Judeo-Christian values while dismissing all forms of socialism. Jesus has some things to say about feeding the poor and treating foreigners...
  • I believe global warming is an economic danger.
  • I believe the health care system in the U.S. is horribly broken, from an economic/capitalist standpoint.
  • I believe the crisis capitalism is facing is of its own making, not due to magical liberals or radical religions.
  • I do not believe the media is the enemy, they are suffering from a disrupted business model and the loss of their long-lived monopoly on information spread. But we need them as fact checkers, investigators, and to be a check on government.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

A Diversion into Country Noir

"Country noir carves out a space for the small, the local, the defiant and the defeated. That losing side of the American mythology that walks out of the shining city on a hill spitting and reaching for a flask."

The age of the example works referenced in this essay by Court Merrigan as foundational to the "country noir" style remind us that as long as there has been an American Dream, there has been those the dream fails. And that, for all our technological progress, the prevailing social patterns of humans haven't really changed much over the last couple hundred years. The ragged fringes appear to be growing these days. Political and corporate power ever consolidating. But when has it not been that way? Our increased communications have exposed the best of us and enabled the worst of us, but we are a long way from the Dark Ages. Though sometimes is does seem we are headed in that direction again.

A current-day, real-life echo can be found in this Radio Lab summary of a series of On the Media podcasts about America's poverty myths.

These pair nicely with a previously referenced post pondering cyber-dystopia.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Watching the Watchers: Wars vs. Trek, the Getting Too Real Edition

Manu Saadia writing for "The New Yorker" gives some thought to the implications of Peter Thiel's choice in the Star Wars vs. Star Trek debate. Given the primacy of the entrepreneur in certain areas of business and society, it makes for an interesting illustration of values.

Thiel's full quote on the matter from the "New York Times" is, "I like “Star Wars” way better. I’m a capitalist. “Star Wars” is the capitalist show. “Star Trek” is the communist one. There is no money in “Star Trek” because you just have the transporter machine that can make anything you need. The whole plot of “Star Wars” starts with Han Solo having this debt that he owes and so the plot in “Star Wars” is driven by money."

As a final aside, I'll head off a nerdy dismissal by anyone who says he doesn't know what he's talking about because he confused the replicator and the transporter with the even more nerdy note that the replicator was based on transporter technology.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

#burnitalldown

Today's lesson in the internet and computer programming: I was perusing garfield minus garfield (a thing to see if you haven't), and had a lark to see what the original corresponding strip was. So I go to the garfield web site. It want's me to verify my age. To read blinking garfield. So naturally, I selected 1/1 and the year at the bottom of the drop down list, which was 1908. The site comes back with "the year must be at least 1917". Ctrl-F4