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

Free Range Kids

Philosophy, Culture 2009-04-15 07:57

Free Range Kids is a site which promotes the idea that it’s both responsible and beneficial for parents to sometimes let their kids explore the world without adult supervision.

Their post How To Answer the People Who Think You’re Nuts is broadly relevant to anyone who holds views outside mainstream thought in any arena. The attitude of people in the majority who disagree with your ideas seems to be universally the same: “What, all you’ve got are facts, logic, statistics, reason? Those things are nothing before the might of the status quo!”

Consumption Gap

Economics, Culture 2009-04-07 01:52

ESR argues that while wealth differences (”the gap between the rich and the poor”, to trot out a tired phrase) are substantial in America, consumption differences are much closer:

“WalMart may seem rather tacky and depressing to an upper-middle-class Ivy League urbanite like Barack Obama or myself, but after they’re out of the store neither of us would have an easy time telling WalMart clothes from the stuff we might buy at Nordstrom’s. And so on. American society looks, dresses and eats in its egalitarian way because, across the 80% represented by the three middle quintiles and a half each of the top and bottom ones, consumption differences are the next thing to nonexistent.”

(This quote is from a followup post.)


Culture, Sexuality 2009-03-27 01:39

Jessa Crispin writes about the intersex phenomenon - that is, people born not identifiably male or female.

“The standard for years has been to assign a gender at a very early age with surgical intervention. [..] Doctors and parents think they are sparing children embarrassment and pain. But now intersex activists are fighting to create a new protocol, one that waits until the child can participate in “hir” (forgive me — I know the pronoun is a clumsy compromise, but one that comes up a lot when you start reading about gender theory) own treatment.”

It’s a complex topic, and demonstrates that the subject of gender is more nuanced than the binary definition that most of us take for granted.


Culture, Media 2009-02-07 05:58

You’ve probably seen Photoshop Disasters, which pokes fun (and a bit of scorn) at the photomanipulation mistakes that appear in modern advertising. This article takes a fascinating in-depth look, including using some algorithmic tools to spot photo manipulations.

What I find most interesting about this is not the mistakes, but the fact that photo manipulation has become some pervasive. Dove’s Evolution of a Model video captures it nicely: the images of beautiful people we see every day are often borderline fraudulent.

I don’t think there’s nothing wrong with using modern technology to modify images. But we all have to keep in mind that comparing your own physical beauty to these images is as pointless (and potentially unhealthy) as comparing yourself to a painting.

The Nation-State Becoming Outdated

Culture 2009-01-02 07:54

Once upon a time, there was a nearly perfect correlation between how much you had in common with another person and the geographic distance between your respective homes. You probably had the most in common with your family, who you lived in the same house with. Next out, the people in your town. And finally, those in your nation-state (what today we most commonly call a country).

Nationalism (a link between culture, geography, and governance) became the status quo a few centuries ago. People defined themselves based on the nation-state they were born into. Few people ever left their nation-state.
Read more »


Politics, Culture 2008-09-04 12:27

An unusal tale of institutionalized sexism.


Culture, Silly 2008-08-21 07:56

Steampunk chat abbreviations. My favorites:

-_Q Monocle.
-O=O- Goggles.
BTC By the cogs!
WATT What’s all this then?

I’m totally going to slip “By the cogs!” in my next conversation.

Cognitive Surplus

Culture, Infinite Series 2008-04-30 12:33

“If I had to pick the critical technology for the 20th century, the bit of social lubricant without which the wheels would’ve come off the whole enterprise, I’d say it was the sitcom. Starting with the Second World War a whole series of things happened–rising GDP per capita, rising educational attainment, rising life expectancy and, critically, a rising number of people who were working five-day work weeks. For the first time, society forced onto an enormous number of its citizens the requirement to manage something they had never had to manage before–free time.


I was being interviewed by a TV producer [who asked about Wikipedia]. ‘Where do people find the time?’ That was her question. And I just kind of snapped. And I said, ‘No one who works in TV gets to ask that question. You know where the time comes from. It comes from the cognitive surplus you’ve been masking for 50 years.’”

From Gin, Television, and Social Surplus by Clay Shirky

Things That Look Like Things

Culture 2008-03-18 01:41

Reality is unrealistic, thanks to fictional entertainment. Real snow looks fake because we’re used to seeing fake snow in movies; real gunshots sound fake compared to the exagerated gunshots on TV. Some choice snippets:

  • Charlie Chaplin once entered a Charlie Chaplin lookalike contest in San Francisco. He didn’t win. Likewise, Dolly Parton once entered and lost a Dolly Parton lookalike contest.
  • In The Lord Of The Rings films, American actor Brad Douriff (Wormtongue) alway spoke in an English accent in order to maintain it, and upon reverting back to his American accent at the end of filming Bernard Hill (Lord Theoden) wondered why he was suddenly using such a fake American accent.
  • In Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novel Wyrd Sisters: The witches hide the crown of Lancre (a simple gold coronet) among the prop crowns used by a group of traveling players, and the youngest one, Magrat, comments that the real crown looks out of place among the elaborate and ostentatious fake crowns. As Granny Weatherwax tells her, “Things that try to look like things often look more like things than things. Well known fact.”