The Only Unpardonable Crime

Life 2009-07-28 03:37

“I am perhaps happier now than I have ever been and yet I cannot but recognise that I would trade all that I am to be you, the eternally unhappy, nervous, wild, wondering and despairing 16-year-old Stephen: angry, angst-ridden and awkward but alive. Because you know how to feel, and knowing how to feel is more important than how you feel. Deadness of soul is the only unpardonable crime, and if there is one thing happiness can do it is mask deadness of soul.”

From Steven Fry’s letter to himself, via Charles Miller

Sita Sings the Blues

Art, Media, Liberty 2009-07-26 08:39

Sita Sings the Blues is a feature-length, animated film that I found unique and entertaining.

The creator, Nina Paley, wrote, animated, directed, and produced the whole thing. A film of this caliber could only have come from a Hollywood studio at a budget of million a decade ago. Now one (admittedly very talented, ambitious, hard-working) person can do nearly the whole thing herself.

It’s licensed under the Creative Commons License. If you’re not familiar with the CC licenses, recall the FBI warning at the beginning of most DVDs: it states that you’ll go to jail if you give a copy of the movie to your friend, or show it to a group of people in a public place (a “screening”). Now, imagine the exact opposite of the FBI warning. That’s the Creative Commons License. It encourages you to freely share, copy, and remix the work in any way you like.

Ritualized Violence

Culture, Sexuality 2009-07-25 11:46

“As a man, one experiences very heavy socialisation from an early age to constrain violent impulses. Agression is channeled out of us in every way (other than on the sports field) which is absolutely correct of course. Anyone who hits another person is a criminal. And all the more so with regards to girls – you never, ever hit girls.


In fact, spanking is okay (great!) because it is highly ritualised, that is, has associated codes and rules which define actions and limits (the key ones are bottom only + consensuality). It is okay exactly in the sense that other code-constrained violence, notably contact sports and martial arts are okay. These also allow and imply consent to violence-within-the-rules. The rules make the violence productive rather than destructive.”

From How to get the spanking you want from Art of Authority


Technology, Cognition, Games 2009-07-20 08:46

Neurofeedback, something I’ve been interested in for a long time, is making its way into the mainstream in the form of videogames:

The Oceanic Feeling

Spirituality 2009-07-16 12:01

“This dissolving of the ego is akin to what Freud, borrowing the expression from novelist Romain Rolland, called ‘the oceanic feeling.’ He described it as ‘a sense of indissoluble union with the great All, and of belonging to the universal,’ very much as a wave or a drop of water belongs to the ocean. Most of the time, this is indeed no more than a feeling. But occasionally it is an experience, and a powerful one - what contemporary American psychologists call an altered state of consciousness. [..]

There is nothing innately religious about the oceanic feeling. Indeed, my own experience of it is quite the opposite. When you feel ‘at one with the All,’ you need nothing more. Why would you need a God? The universe suffices. Why would you need a church? The world suffices. Why would you need faith? Experience suffices.”

From The Little Book of Athiest Spirituality by Andre Comte-Sponville

Cell Phone Taxes

Technology, Economics 2009-07-14 01:29

If you buy a $199 iPhone in California, you might notice that the tax is $56.91, which implies a 28.6% sales tax rate. California sales tax should be between 7% and 9% (depending on the city), so what gives?

Cell phone carriers typically subsidize the retail cost of a phone in exchange for locking you into a one or two year contract. AT&T pays Apple a few hundred dollars for every iPhone sold. State law requires sales tax be paid on the non-contract, retail price of the phone, which means your $56.91 in tax is actually against an estimated $700 cost of the phone.

Somewhat related: cell phone service fee taxes are linked to the area code of the phone, regardless of where you currently live. This means you’re paying taxes to whatever city you lived in when you bought the phone.


Psychedelia 2009-07-11 04:48

“Many people would agree that drug culture reform is needed, but we must recognize that “the drug culture” now includes everyone. Modern life involves daily decisions about psychoactives. The option of caffeine use is encountered multiple times a day. It is rare to watch an hour-long television show without seeing an advertisement for a mind altering pharmaceutical or a legal recreational drug.”

From Towards a Culture of Responsible Psychoactive Drug Use by Earth & Fire of Erowid

Liberty, Justice, and the American Way

Silly, Liberty, Sexuality 2009-07-09 03:08

Here’s to liberty and justice:

From Bent’s 4th of July event page.


Life 2009-07-05 05:11

“Four different tests of 63 people found that those who kept their intentions private were more likely to achieve them than those who made them public and were acknowledged by others.”

From Shut up! Announcing your plans makes you less motivated to accomplish them by Derek Sivers

The Deal With Things

Philosophy, Art, Learning 2009-07-04 03:19

When you try something new - like a new TV show or movie, a new food, or a new card game - and you decide you don’t like it, there are two categories your judgement may fall into.

  • One is that you just don’t get its deal.
  • The other is that you get it, but you don’t like its deal.

Figuring out the deal is part of the fun intellectual stimulation of our recreational activities. A process of exploration and discovery.

Jerry Holkins puts it like this:

“It is my goal to play a game until I discover its thesis. […] Essentially, I want to know a game’s intention. That intention is surprisingly close to the surface in games most people consider to be of high quality, and so I don’t need to play them very long to discern it. I will still finish games that I have come to understand, but a large part of my enjoyment is bound up in this interpretive process.”