Stephen Jay Gould

“But, as we consider the totality of similarly broad and fundamental aspects of life, we cannot defend division by two as a natural principle of objective order. Indeed, the ‘stuff’ of the universe often strikes our senses as complex and shaded continua, admittedly with faster and slower moments, and bigger and smaller steps, along the way. Nature does not dictate dualities, trinities, quarterings, or any ‘objective’ basis for human taxonomies; most of our chosen schemes, and our designated numbers of categories, record human choices from a cornucopia of possibilities offered by natural variation from place to place, and permitted by the flexibility of our mental capacities. How many seasons (if we wish to divide by seasons at all) does a year contain? How many stages shall we recognize in a human life?”

—Stephen Jay Gould, “The Hedgehog, the Fox, and the Magister’s Pox: Mending the Gap between Science and the Humanities.” New York: Harmony, 2003, p. 82, quoted in s.v. Stephen Jay Gould, Wikiquote.

Scratch: Hip Hop Turntablism Documentary

The important thing to remember is that this basement isn’t packed with treasure. It’s packed with junk. You have to spend the time to sort through the junk to find the treasure. There is no shortcut. There is no algorithm. There is only time, attention, noticing — digging…I like to try to apply this spirit of crate-digging to everyday life. The only way to find the good stuff, the special stuff, the genuine moments and the true inspiration, is to first engage with the everyday, the mundane, the seemingly useless, the things nobody else seems to care about. So engage. There is no shortcut; there is no algorithm. If all you do is track what’s trending, then all you’ll ever know is exactly what everyone else already knew. To discover, you have to dig.”

—Rob Walker, “Crate-Dig Reality.” The Art of Noticing. No. 29. September 29, 2019.

This could serve as a mission statement for cafebedouin.org.

Cormac McCarthy’s Tips on How to Write a [Great Blog Post]

“Finally, try to write the best version of your paper: the one that you like. You can’t please an anonymous reader, but you should be able to please yourself. Your paper — you hope — is for posterity. Remember how you first read the papers that inspired you while you enjoy the process of writing your own.”

-Van Savage and Pamela Yeh, “Novelist Cormac McCarthy’s tips on how to write a great science paper.Nature. September 26, 2019.

tl;dr, roughly paraphrased: Cut out everything unnecessary. There should be two or three points the reader takes away from reading your post or paper. Limit each paragraph to a single idea, (Minto, anyone?) Keep your sentences short. Don’t digress. Don’t overdo it, or try to anticipate and defend against every tangential question. Use the grammar of speech. Use questions, informal speech with concrete examples. If you use math, separate it out. Read the finished draft aloud and fix what doesn’t sound right.

Hour of the Wolf

“[B]ecause I am a romantic, I still believe that we have the potential to be nobler than we know and better than we think. […] So I urge you to keep your heart’s compass on the true north of your dreams. Be free to be romantics, to reject cynicism, to believe that good will prevail and that those who do wrong will be punished, because, when the hour of the wolf comes, as it comes to all of us sooner or later, those are the things that sustain us.”

—J. Micheal Straczynski wrote that speech 20 years ago for Angela Lansbury’s Jessica Fletcher, the protagonist of Murder, She Wrote, quoted in Cord Brooks, “‘Writing Superficially Is Easy’: An Interview with J. Michael Straczynski.” Los Angeles Review of Books. September 21, 2019.

Also:

…”it doesn’t matter where you come from or what you endured or what your resources were or who didn’t believe in you. Your success is the result of your talent, your dreams and the degree to which you are — or are not — prepared to fight for them…

…What mattered to me in the telling was to illustrate that we have choices about how we react to the things that happen to us, that we can choose differently than others would have us choose, and that we can break the cycle of violence or abuse or alcoholism by taking responsibility for ourselves instead of blaming others or indulging in victimhood. If it can help some people understand that there is a way out of the darkness that does not require doing unto someone else as was done unto them, then the book has been worth the effort.”

ibid.

Alternative Influence

“These strategies reveal a tension underlying the content produced by these influencers: while they present themselves as news sources, their content strategies often more accurately consist of marketing and advertising approaches. These approaches are meant to provoke feelings, memories, emotions, and social ties. In this way, the “accuracy” of their messaging can be difficult to assess through traditional journalistic tactics like fact-checking. Specifically, they recount ideological testimonials that frame ideology in terms of personal growth and self-betterment. They engage in self-branding techniques that present traditional, white, male-dominated values as desirable and aspirational. They employ search engine optimization (SEO) to highly rank their content against politically charged keywords. And they strategically use controversy to gain attention and frame political ideas as fun entertainment.”

-Rebecca Lewis, “Alternative Influence: Broadcasting the Reactionary Right on YouTube.” Data & Society. August 2018.

More than you ever wanted to know about how the “alt-right” uses YouTube, and Google’s role in giving them a “platform”.

h/t O’Reilly

An Interview with Brontez Purnell – Believer Magazine

“Will I be anything? Will I be nothing at all? / The question wastes time. / I focus, get the chores done.”

—Jenn Pelly interviewing Brontez Purnell, “An Interview with Brontez Purnell.” The Believer Magazine. August 1, 2019.

Amazing interview throughout. Also liked:

“We endorse the use of lies but not at the expense of truth.”

—Bikini Kill quoted in ibid.

Liberatory Education | The Hedgehog Review

“In a psychic context, racial reparations may be less obviously needed, but needed nonetheless, for those of us from white families and communities that practice racial thoughtlessness. We, too, need to study race and racism in order to understand ourselves, because the implicit attitudes about race that we have consciously and unconsciously created and accepted are poisoning us and have imprisoned our minds. We are literally dying from our inability to break free of our prejudice, our unexamined opinions. There are direct correlations to be made between white attitudes about race, lack and fear of education, hopelessness and despair, and addiction. It is just not possible to think freely when you are also desperate to cling to your biases.”

—Leslie W. Lewis, “Liberatory Education.” Hedgehog Review. 21.2 (Summer 2019).

Read this essay. It is absolute fire, and equally applicable to gender, class, sexual orientation, disability and other prejudices.

The Fashion Line Designed to Trick Surveillance Cameras | The Guardian

“But to an automatic license plate reader (ALPR) system, the shirt is a collection of license plates, and they will get added to the license plate reader’s database just like any others it sees. The intention is to make deploying that sort of surveillance less effective, more expensive, and harder to use without human oversight, in order to slow down the transition to what Rose calls ‘visual personally identifying data collection’.

‘It’s a highly invasive mass surveillance system that invades every part of our lives, collecting thousands of plates a minute. But if it’s able to be fooled by fabric, then maybe we shouldn’t have a system that hangs
things of great importance on it,’ she said.”

—Alex Hern, “The fashion line designed to trick surveillance cameras.” The Guardian. August 14, 2019.

Domestic War on Terror Is Not the Answer to White Supremacy

“At a time when the American system of government is already being sorely tested by a demagogue and would-be autocrat in the White House, it would be disastrous to grant more power to the Justice Department and the nation’s security services.”

—James Risen, ” To Fight White Supremacist Violence, Let’s Not Repeat the Mistakes of the War on Terror.” The Intercept. August 17, 2019.

Anytime you think the solution to a problem takes the form of “War on X” or “X War”, you probably need to think a little harder about it.

The War on Terror treats a symptom while acting as a catalyst for the underlying disease. Same goes for the “War on Drugs”. The moment marijuana was getting legalized, the criminal elements supplying it went to opiates. Further, one has to wonder how much longer “The Cold War” enabled communism to last by providing a facade the underlying structural problems could hide behind.

Also, this idea of, “At a time when…” is bogus. This kind of testing could happen at any time. If there is some capability you think the next Hitler shouldn’t have as head of government, then you have a good sense of what powers your government shouldn’t have, and you should use that line to have a principled discussion of the powers of state. Should one person be able to start a nuclear war? Should one person be able to start any war, via the War Powers Act? These are conversations that are overdue.