Posts

The Particular as the Enemy of the Good

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Here is a true thing that happened.I just took my 18 year old son on a road trip to celebrate his highschool graduation.He wants to do editing or special effects for movies as a career, so I thought traveling around finding cool places to shoot a movie that he can work on would be a great experience. We were visiting dozens of national parks all around the western U.S., many of which are in Native American nations.He really wanted a cow skull so he was constantly scanning the roadsides as we drove.It was either the Hopi or Navajo nation we were driving through when he spotted one.I don’t know the rules about this sort of thing.I know all the signs at trail heads leading into the national parks said not to take anything out.But never saw any warnings about that sort of thing for stuff along the side of the road.But I didn’t feel right about stopping and taking that cow skull.It’s WHY I felt wrong about it that I’d like to analyze here.Because, when examined as a PARTICULAR event, it’s…

What an Interesting Day

Story time. My son and I are in the middle of the desert filming our space invaders movie. We've driven our Mazda 5 out onto this huge badlands area; one of the locations where they filmed John Carter of Mars. (I'm still bitter they didn't make sequels) We had driven out a mile or so, found some terrain that our modest mini-mini-van couldn't handle and turned around to find a sensible place to park and shoot our scenes with the awesome backgrounds. It was about 1 or 2pm. On our way to the location where we had decided to shoot, a bright red Jeep pulls up and stops. So we stop, roll down the window and a middle aged male Chinese tourist greets us and asks if there's more area to explore the direction we were coming from. I said: "Sure, with your big Jeep you should have a blast." So he goes the direction we came from, we drive around some more trying to find places our near-low-rider can get to and finally find a spot about a mile from the main high…

Internet Outrage Mobs

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Here is a theory about the effect that social media is having on internet mob outrage.Internet Outrage Mob, (or IOM for short) is what I’m calling the phenomenon that we see when popular movie franchises suffer a backlash from core fans.When a random person tweets a joke in poor taste and it gets retweeted a million times and suddenly they’ve lost their job, friends, and are receiving death threats.This IOM is happening in one corner of the internet or another daily now.And I think the effectiveness or potency of IOMs is far out of proportion to their true relevance or importance.But they tap into primal parts of our brains and trigger effects that I think are unhealthy for society. To be clear, I’m not saying that having trolls being toxic on the internet is unhealthy.That goes without saying.I’m saying the reasonable people’s reaction TO them is unhealthy and unsustainable.
My contention is that the outsized effects of IOMs is the artifact of something that has always existed, comb…

Clash of the Titans

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Sam Harris debated Ezra Klein.  I listen to both these guy’s podcasts.But I’m a much bigger fan of Sam Harris.His is the only podcast in my library that I truly savor.I’ve also read most of his books.I just like the way he thinks.I like his heart for communication and ethics, his willingness to engage with contrary opinions, and his ability to articulate his ideas well.But that last part really only applies to a certain demographic that I just happen to be a part of.Here are some of the quirks of me and that demographic.1. We care more about ideas and systems than we do about particular people and their stories.(This is NOT the same as not caring about people, but that’s a whole ‘nother issue)2. We have a LOT of patience for focusing on long form arguments.3. A boring monotone voice doesn’t put us off.
I enjoy Ezra’s work on a different level.I like hearing far Left arguments articulated well with a heart towards individuals and their specific stories.He ALSO speaks a lot about ideas…

Podcast List 2018

I spent some time transcribing my podcast list for someone. Might as well share it here.  Seems like a fun little snapshot of part of my intellectual life. 

We The People Live (Politics, hasn't updated in months, might be dead) 99% Invisible (A lot of philosophy of design and industrial design talk) Ask Science Mike (A Christian-turned-atheist-turned-mystic/christian-ish talks science and faith and sometimes how they mix) Audition: A Mars Hill Podcast (No, not THAT Mars Hill. An organization that's like PBS for Evangelical Christians. Very smart intellectual cultural analysis full of interviews with fascinating people. A big part of my education on how to interrogate culture and diagnose worldviews) The Glenn Show (A (politically middle-ish) African American Economist from Brown University talks politics, culture, economics. Usually guest hosted by my favorite linguist, John John McWhorter (A bit further left on the spectrum) Building A Story Brand With Donald Millar (Busines…

Altered Carbon and the Problem of Sci-fi density

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I'm concerned about the science fiction genre.  I'm in the middle of Altered Carbon, which I think is
fantastic.  And it's the perfect example of my concern. First of all, a perennial problem with any sci-fi
that takes place with humans in the future is that it doesn't age well.  No author can account for the
black swan innovations and how emerging technologies will interact, so the result is a short shelf-life.
But Altered Carbon demonstrates an emerging problem I've been picking up on over the past couple
years.  Here's a partial list of the future technologies that play a significant role in the story. Clones,
Transhumans, Gene Editing, Consciousness Transfer, Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality, A.I., Alien
Technology, and maybe Robots? That's on top of the more surfacey stuff like exotic weapons,
flying cars and weird hair.

One thing I’ve learned from all my self-learning on writing is that for every new or strange concept that a
writer puts in a sto…

Vox Vs Ready Player One

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https://www.vox.com/culture/2018/3/26/17148350/ready-player-one-book-backlash-controversy-gamergate-explained
This piece makes me sad. Not because anything about it particularly wrong. But because hearing how a cultural phenomenon can 'cause' a work to go from innocuous fun to being a sinister reinstantiation of toxic ideas is terrifying to me as a person who likes to make innocuous fun.
I do think Constance is mostly correct about the book having the woman-as-a-trophy trope, but I also think that's a problem with 90% of fiction in this niche. I don't think it's a matter of an author consciously promoting an ideology as much as an author not innovating on ALL fronts. Very few writers can do that. Those that do, alienate most readers because every subversion usually requires overhead; on the part of the writer's time/energy, the story's infrastructure, and the reader's ability to roll with thinking/processing the story differently than expectations.…