Poetry and Scotch

“Thomas Frank has aptly described the paradox of populist conservatism in the US today, the basic premise of which is the gap between economic interests and “moral” questions. In other words, the economic class opposition (poor farmers and blue-collar workers versus lawyers, bankers, large companies) is transposed or coded into the opposition between honest hard-working Christian Americans and the decadent liberals who drink lattes and drive foreign cars, advocate abortion and homosexuality, mock patriotic sacrifice and the simple provincial way of life, and so on. The enemy is thus perceived as the “liberal” who, through federal state intervention (from school-busing to prescribing that Darwinian evolution and perverse sexual practices be taught in class), wants to undermine the authentic American way of life. The populist conservatives’ central economic proposition is therefore to get rid of the strong state that taxes the hard-working population in order to finance its regulatory interventions—their minimal program is thus “fewer taxes, less regulation.”

From the standard perspective of the rational pursuit of self interest, the inconsistency of this ideological stance is obvious: the populist conservatives are literally voting themselves into economic ruin. Less taxation and deregulation means more freedom for the big companies that are driving the impoverished farmers out of business; less state intervention means less federal help for small farmers; and so on down the line. In the eyes of the American evangelical populists, the state stands for an alien power and, together with the UN, is an agent of the Antichrist. It is taking away the liberty of the Christian believer, relieving him of the moral responsibility of stewardship, and thus undermines the individualistic morality that makes each of us the architect of our own salvation. But how is this compatible with the unprecedented explosion of the state apparatuses under George W. Bush? No wonder large corporations are delighted at such evangelical attacks on the state, when the state tries to regulate media mergers, put restrictions on energy companies, strengthen air pollution regulations, protect wildlife and limit logging in the national parks, etcetera. It is the ultimate irony of history that radical individualism serves as an ideological justification for the unconstrained power of what the vast majority experience as an anonymous force that, without any democratic public control, regulates their lives.”

Excerpt from “The Year of Dreaming Dangerously” by Slavoj Zizek.
Read it on Oyster → https://www.oysterbooks.com/book/9781781680438/The-Year-of-Dreaming-Dangerously

Aronofsky on ‘Noah’

When you think about Icarus, you don’t talk about the feathers and the wax and how the wax attached to his body and how is that physically possible that he could fly with feathers on his arms. No. You’re talking about how he flew too high and was filled with hubris and it destroyed him. That’s the message and that’s the power. That’s power to have that idea. But when you’re talking about a pre-diluvian world—a pre-flood world—where people are living for millennia and centuries, where there were no rainbows, where giants and angels walked on the planet, where the world was created in seven days, where people were naked and had no shame, you’re talking about a universe that is very, very different from what we understand. And to portray that as realistic is impossible. You have to enter the fantastical. The Leviathan in the sea. It’s a different understanding of the world, and that’s OK.



Gates: We’ve raised our kids in a religious way; they’ve gone to the Catholic church that Melinda goes to and I participate in. I’ve been very lucky, and therefore I owe it to try and reduce the inequity in the world. And that’s kind of a religious belief. I mean, it’s at least a moral belief… I think it makes sense to believe in God, but exactly what decision in your life you make differently because of it, I don’t know.

Leads to this: http://firstthingsfirst2014.org/ 

What decision “designers, developers, creative technologists, and multi-disciplinary communicators” make differently because of signing this ‘manifesto’, I don’t know. 

The overprotected kid


On the reading list for this weekend is Hanna Rosin’s cover story in the most recent issue of The Atlantic: The Overprotected Kid.

I used to puzzle over a particular statistic that routinely comes up in articles about time use: even though women work vastly more hours now than they did in the…


But U-God — gray flecking his stubble, his blue T-shirt reading “FAME” — feels the need to warn me. “It’s still a hood, man,” he says. “N—-s will chop your head off and cut your nose off and throw shit in your butt and burn your hair on fire. I could just feel it out here. It feels like death.”


I miss camping. 

At 58, Bill Gates is not only the richest man in the world, with a fortune that now exceeds $76 billion, but he may also be the most optimistic. In his view, the world is a giant operating system that just needs to be debugged. Gates’ driving idea – the idea that animates his life, that guides his philanthropy, that keeps him late in his sleek book-lined office overlooking Lake Washington, outside Seattle – is the hacker’s notion that the code for these problems can be rewritten, that errors can be fixed, that huge systems – whether it’s Windows 8, global poverty or climate change – can be improved if you have the right tools and the right skills.



Cities and Memory 5.

In Maurilia, the traveler is invited to visit the city and, at the same time, to examine some old post cards that show it as it used to be: the same identical square with a hen in the place of the bus station, a bandstand in the place of the overpass, two young ladies with white parasols in the place of the munitions factory.  If the traveler does not wish to disappoint the inhabitants, he must praise the postcard city and prefer it to the present one, though he must be careful to contain his regret at the changes within definite limits: admitting that the magnificence and prosperity of the metropolis Maurilia, when compared to the old, provincial Maurilia, cannot compensate for a certain lost grace, which, however, can be appreciated only now in the old post cards, whereas before, when that provincial Maurilia was before one’s eyes, one saw absolutely nothing graceful and would see it even less today, if Maurilia had remained unchanged; and in any case the metropolis has the added attraction that, through what it has become, one can look back with nostalgia at what it was.

Beware of saying to them that sometimes different cities follow one another on the same site and under the same name, born and dying without knowing one another, without communication among themselves. At times even the names of the inhabitants remain the same, and their voices’ accent, and also the features of the faces; but the gods who live beneath names and above places have gone off without a word and outsiders have settled in their place. It is pointless to ask whether the new ones are better or worse than the old, since there is no connection between them, just as the old post cards do not depict Maurilia as it was, but a different city which, by chance, was called Maurilia, like this one.

Invisible Cities, Italo Calvino

Jonathan Safran Foer on Religion

I am actually interested in the kind of religion that makes life harder rather than easier, as strange as that might sound. That is, I am not interested in a comforting religion, but I do like the idea of a religion that forces me to take stock of myself, to ask the very hard questions. To ask: Who am I really? How do I measure against the person that I wanted to be?



The incentives for kindness in an environment where survival is a function of resources and nobody knows each other are…  perhaps they aren’t non-existent, but we can call them “ephemeral” and retain accuracy.  Society is a story we have chosen to believe, because the alternative - while readily observable and undeniably true - is monstrous.  And if you would like to see the most ancient human narrative played out in a kind of disemvoweled hyper-efficiency, I urge you to install and play Rust.

You can play DayZ and acquire some of this foundational knowledge, also.  Videos which contain this information are readily available.  But, again: Rust scours away the basics.  It makes you look right at it.  Perhaps nine times out of ten, not killing someone is synonymous with killing yourself.  With a rock.  To the head.