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Current Topic: Miscellaneous

an act of attentiveness and devotion
Topic: Miscellaneous 10:40 pm EST, Dec 14, 2014

Errol Morris:

Does the world really have to be this way? Why can't it be just a little bit better?

Odyssey Works:

"When I Left the House it Was Still Dark" (2013) was a long durational, ephemeral performance made for an audience of one. The creative process for this performance, as with other Odyssey Works projects, is an act of attentiveness and devotion. The team spends several months studying the participant before beginning to compose a set of experiences designed to move him or her in a profound way. By immersing themselves in the life of an individual and creating fully participatory experiences, Odyssey Works establishes a new paradigm for the relationship between artist and audience. Traversing theater, literature, visual art, music, dance, dream analysis, web hacking, and a myriad of other forms, Odyssey Works has been creating performances for an audience of one for more than a dozen years, inserting themselves into the lives of individuals, hoping to change one life at a time.

Ursula K. LeGuin:

Any human power can be resisted and changed by human beings. Resistance and change often begin in art.

Jose Saramago:

If only all life's deceptions were like this one, and all they had to do was to come to some agreement ... Were it not for the fact that we're blind this mix-up would never have happened, You're right, our problem is that we're blind.

David Foster Wallace:

The really important kind of freedom involves attention, and awareness, and discipline, and effort, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them, over and over, in myriad petty little unsexy ways, every day. That is real freedom.

Alan Jacobs:

Often we may find that the modes of attention we prefer are in tension with the environments of attention in which we find ourselves.


the hierarchy of obligations
Topic: Miscellaneous 7:09 pm EST, Dec 14, 2014

Bruce Schneier:

That we live in the world where we aren't sure if any given cyberattack is the work of a foreign government or a couple of guys should be scary to us all.

Ben Elgin:

Experts worry that America's rivals may have found the sweet spot of cyberwar -- strikes that are serious enough to wound American companies but below the threshold that would trigger a forceful government response.

John McCain:

Our enemies act without conscience. We must not.

T. Christian Miller and Jonathan Jones:

All aim to make money. All must weigh, to one degree or another, their hierarchy of obligations -- to their shareholders, to their foreign workers, to their host countries, and to their own sense of right and wrong.

Bill Gates:

Different doesn't mean less than.

Zeynep Tufekci:

Systematic study aimed at removing our biases is crucial to understanding the world.

Michael Hobbes:

The point is, we don't know what works, where, or why. The only way to find out is to test these models -- not just before their initial success but afterward, and constantly.

Paul Graham:

[They] don't win by attacking. They win by transcending. There are exceptions of course, but usually the way to win is to race ahead, not to stop and fight.

Savas Dimopoulos:

Jumping from failure to failure with undiminished enthusiasm is the big secret to success.


the hardest thing to deal with
Topic: Miscellaneous 11:17 am EST, Dec 13, 2014

Christophe de Bellaigue:

It is a remarkable commentary on modern warfare waged by a democracy that a film like Korengal can be made, with the full cooperation of the US military, and without anyone getting into trouble for an excess of candor.

Dexter Filkins, on Phil Klay's "Redeployment":

The best thing written so far on what the war did to people's souls.

"The weird thing with being a veteran, at least for me, is that you do feel better than most people," one of Klay's characters says. "You risked your life for something bigger than yourself. How many people can say that? You chose to serve. Maybe you didn't understand American foreign policy or why we were at war. Maybe you never will. But it doesn't matter. You held up your hand and said, 'I'm willing to die for these worthless civilians.' "

Elizabeth Rubin:

It didn't take long to understand why so many soldiers were taking antidepressants.

Kyle Steiner:

For a while there, I started ... I started thinking that God hates me. And, like I said, I'm not religious or anything, but I felt like there was this hate for me. 'Cause I did ... sins, you know? I sinned.

And, although I would have done it the same way, everything the same exact way ... I still would feel this way, you know? I'd still ... And that's the terrible thing of war, you know?

You do terrible things. And then you have to live with them afterwards.

But you'd do them the same way if you had to go back. So what do you do? You know. It's like a fucking ... It's an evil, evil, evil thing inside your body.

It's like fucking good versus evil inside there, and... everyone tells you, you know, you did a honorable thing. You did all right. You're all right. You did... you did what you had to do.

And I just hate that comment. "Did what you had to do." 'Cause I didn't have to do any of it. And that's what the fucking thing is. That's the hardest thing to deal with.

You know, I didn't have to do shit. I didn't have to go in the army. I didn't have to become airborne infantry. I didn't have to do any of that. But I did, you know?

And, that comment, "you did what you had to do," just drives me insane.

Because is that what God's going to say? "You did what you had to do, good job"? Punch you on the shoulder and fucking say, "welcome to heaven," you know? I don't think so.

Lawrence D. Freedman:

There are no sure lessons. Yet there are always choices.


emulation
Topic: Miscellaneous 6:37 am EST, Dec 12, 2014

Joseph Stiglitz:

The typical American family is worse off than it was a quarter-century ago, adjusted for inflation; the proportion of people in poverty has increased. China, too, is marked by high levels of inequality, but its economy has been doing some good for most of its citizens. China moved some 500 million people out of poverty during the same period that saw America's middle class enter a period of stagnation. An economic model that doesn't serve a majority of its citizens is not going to provide a role model for others to emulate. America should see the rise of China as a wake-up call to put our own house in order.

Derek Thompson:

Since the Great Recession struck in 2007, the median wage for people between the ages of 25 and 34, adjusted for inflation, has fallen in every major industry except for health care.

Federal Reserve via Steven Rattner:

Inflation-adjusted earnings of the bottom 90 percent of Americans fell between 2010 and 2013, with those near the bottom dropping the most. Meanwhile, incomes in the top decile rose.

Steven Rattner:

In 1995, the 400 taxpayers with the biggest incomes paid an average of 30 percent in taxes; by 2009, the tax rate of those Americans had dropped to 20 percent.

Mohsin Hamid:

The America that boomed in the mid-20th century was a place where the state demanded that male citizens surrender years of their lives to national service, where the top income tax rate hovered between 70 and 94 percent, and where commercial banks were prohibited from investment banking. It was a veritable socialist paradise compared to the America of today.

Barack Obama:

No nation is perfect. But one of the strengths that makes America exceptional is our willingness to openly confront our past, face our imperfections, make changes and do better.

George Packer, on Germany:

No other country memorializes its conquerors on the walls of its most important official building.

Anne Frank:

As long as you can look fearlessly at the sky, you'll know that you're pure within and will find happiness once more.


unnecessary, or even counterproductive
Topic: Miscellaneous 6:37 am EST, Dec 12, 2014

Mike Konczal:

Militarization is best understood as an abandonment of public legitimacy as a goal for or justification of criminal justice. Enforcing the law exclusively by force and threat has become, in the eyes of law enforcement, tough-on-crime politicians, and officials committed to economistic "incentive" analysis of crime, sufficient to carrying out and justifying the purposes of the state. Legitimation of public power through popular consent, the evenhanded delivery of justice, and non-carceral solutions to lawbreaking are unnecessary, or even counterproductive, under this logic. Amid the delegitimization of the state itself, pure police power is left to fill in the gap.

Stephen L. Carter:

Officials who fail to take into account the obvious fact that the laws they're so eager to pass will be enforced at the point of a gun cannot fairly be described as public servants.

Justin Fenton:

City police Det. John L. Haley, a member of a specialized phone tracking unit, said officers did not use the controversial device known as a stingray. But when pressed on how phones are tracked, he cited what he called a "nondisclosure agreement" with the FBI.


a daily moment of cathartic introspection
Topic: Miscellaneous 7:41 am EST, Dec 11, 2014

James Hamblin:

Every day you get a text from the Emojiary bot. It asks how you're doing. You write it back, texting out your most visceral feelings, and it accepts them without judgment.

This is all meant to conjure a daily moment of cathartic introspection, of candid self expression.

Reflective writing, particularly in a journal, has been shown to have health benefits both physical and emotional, like increasing control and creativity, decreasing anxiety, depression, and rage. But it's hard to do.

Liz Danzico:

At the end of each day, I write an "atomic sentence," a single statement that summarizes the most vital lesson about that day.

Matt Mullenweg:

So blog just for two people. First, write for yourself, both your present self whose thinking will be clarified by distilling an idea through writing and editing, and your future self who will be able to look back on these words and be reminded of the context in which they were written. Second, write for a single person who you have in mind as the perfect person to read what you write, almost like a letter, even if they never will, or a person who you're sure will read it because of a connection you have to them.

James Hamblin:

In the 1980s James Pennebaker, who is now chair of the department of psychology at the University of Texas at Austin, asked people to write about feelings related to a stressful event for 20 minutes and saw improvements in physical health after just a few sessions.

Dan Jurafsy:

Authors of one-star reviews unconsciously use language much as people do in the wake of collective trauma.

Lauren McDevitt:

One thing we found is that feelings can be kind of abstract. When you first start to think about how you're feeling, you might not know how to describe that exactly in words. So the emojis are this first toe in the pool to sort of get a read on how you're feeling.

T.M. Luhrmann:

Abstract odor terms are common among people on the Malay Peninsula.


the necessary approvals
Topic: Miscellaneous 7:41 am EST, Dec 11, 2014

Colin Powell:

Be careful what you choose. You may get it.

You can't make someone else's choices. You shouldn't let someone else make yours.

Peter Baker:

Jose A. Rodriguez Jr., who ran the C.I.A. interrogation program, said Sunday that critics now assailing the agency were pressing it after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, to do whatever it took to prevent a recurrence. "We did what we were asked to do, we did what we were assured was legal, and we know our actions were effective," Mr. Rodriguez wrote in The Washington Post.

Rebecca Brock:

People say to me, "Whatever it takes." I tell them, It's going to take everything.

Jose A. Rodriguez Jr.:

In the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, lawmakers urged us to do everything possible to prevent another attack on our soil. Members of Congress and the administration were nearly unanimous in their desire that the CIA do all that it could to debilitate and destroy al-Qaeda. The CIA got the necessary approvals to do so and kept Congress briefed throughout. But as our successes grew, some lawmakers' recollections shrank in regard to the support they once offered.

Rebecca Brock:

You can't even remember what I'm trying to forget.

Skyler Preszler:

Mom, we killed women on the street today. We killed kids on bikes. We had no choice.

Lawrence D. Freedman:

There are no sure lessons. Yet there are always choices.


toward a trapdoor labeled unintended consequences
Topic: Miscellaneous 7:20 am EST, Dec  8, 2014

Kevin Kelly:

This is the time that folks in the future will look back at and say, "Oh to have been alive and well back then!"

Ryan Bigge:

Each episode of Black Mirror hits the reset button, taking place in a unique future universe with a fresh set of actors. Creator Charlie Brooker likes to start with a provocative but recognizable piece of design fiction and then guides the viewer toward a trapdoor labeled unintended consequences. In the episode "The Entire History of You" we watch a jealous husband unable to stop himself from discovering a secret he might be better off not knowing. It's an effective critique of where lifelogging and Facebook might take us, in part because Brooker is able to make such a vivid emotional argument.

Christina Hendricks:

No man should be on Facebook.

Taylor Swift:

I have to stop myself from thinking about how many aspects of technology I don't understand.

Facebook:

The breakthrough came when we started thinking about the components in the system as malicious actors colluding via covert channels.

William Langewiesche:

Automation has made it more and more unlikely that ordinary airline pilots will ever have to face a raw crisis in flight -- but also more and more unlikely that they will be able to cope with such a crisis if one arises. Moreover, it is not clear that there is a way to resolve this paradox.

Michael Hobbes:

We all understand that every ecosystem, each forest floor or coral reef, is the result of millions of interactions between its constituent parts, a balance of all the aggregated adaptations of plants and animals to their climate and each other. Adding a non-native species, or removing one that has always been there, changes these relationships in ways that are too intertwined and complicated to predict.

Samantha Power:

There are great benefits to connectedness, but we haven't wrapped our minds around the costs.


everything you see is merely empty-tainment
Topic: Miscellaneous 7:20 am EST, Dec  8, 2014

Chris Rock:

George W. Bush was the first cable-television president, and the thing liberals don't like about Obama is that he's a network guy. He's kind of Les Moonves.

"Les Moonves":

To further demonstrate our commitment to artistic integrity, we will ... assure you, our loyal viewers, that anything and everything you see is merely empty-tainment and that no inferences are to be drawn from anything, at any time.

Louis CK:

There's a huge amount of work that goes into placating a network in regular television. It's literally 70% or 80% of your workload, is showing them the material, getting their notes and presenting it to them and making sure they weigh in. It's a huge amount of work.

The Economist on Obama, from 2008:

He has to start deciding whom to disappoint.

Isaiah Berlin:

You must believe me, one cannot have everything one wants -- not only in practice, but even in theory. The denial of this, the search for a single, overarching ideal because it is the one and only true one for humanity, invariably leads to coercion. And then to destruction, blood -- eggs are broken, but the omelette is not in sight, there is only an infinite number of eggs, human lives, ready for the breaking. And in the end the passionate idealists forget the omelette, and just go on breaking eggs.


overwhelmed by the Kafkaesque churn of punishment
Topic: Miscellaneous 7:20 am EST, Dec  8, 2014

Evgeny Morozov:

Where the innovators and the disruptors lead, the bureaucrats follow.

Patty McCord:

Building a bureaucracy and elaborate rituals around measuring performance usually doesn't improve it.

Sandeep Chawla:

If you create a bureaucracy to solve a particular problem, when the problem is solved that bureaucracy is out of a job.

Joshua Rothman:

Facebook, like much of the Web, is officially designed to encourage positivity; there is no "dislike" button, and the stated goal is to facilitate affiliation and belonging. But, over time, the site's utopian social bureaucracy has been overwhelmed by the Kafkaesque churn of punishment.


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