Monday, July 8, 2013

You Oughta Look Out

I want this blog to be more curatorial than a pulpit. This post is both. A few weeks ago Lonely Island released their third studio album, The Wack Album. One of the better tracks skewers the obnoxious acronym YOLO, which they move from You Only Live Once to the sentiment's logical extreme, You Oughta Look Out. Having one life means protecting it dearly. So if you want to heed their advice and never leave your house because it's obviously too dangerous out there I've compiled a couple of my favorite sites and subscription services to keep you busy inside your apocalypse shelters. (*Please do not think you're safe simply because you are nestled away thirty-seven feet below ground in a state-of-the-art survival habitat. Lonely Island has correctly identified the most dangerous of all threats, true killing machines - furniture. Do yourself a favor and leave the furniture above ground for those of us with death wishes and bring only a yoga mat.)
In case I haven't made it clear: YOLO is generally used to justify actions that people understand to be idiotic or irresponsible. Or, on the positive side, to overcome fear -- skydiving (maybe that fits all the categories?). Point is, aphorisms are at least as dangerous as they are helpful.

Now for the curatorial bit. Three sites to keep you entertained and safely apart from societies many dangers.

Quarterly Co - Tastemakers from a wide variety of industries send you quarterly curated shipments of whatever they feel like. Check out the contributor list, it's pretty diverse - from MIT to Pharrell.

Uncrate - A site of cool stuff for dudes.

Trunk Club - For *free a personal stylist talks with you about what you need clothing-wise and then for *free they ship you a trunk filled with hand picked clothing. You have ten days to try things on and decide what you like. Keep only what you want and ship the rest back for *free. This way you never have to step foot into a god forsaken mall again.

Sunday, July 7, 2013


The Guardian reviewed Jonathon Keats's latest book, Forged: Why Fakes Are the Great Art of Our Age.  Three interesting bits to think about.

(1) There is a difference between forgeries and  fakes.
Forgeries, the review says, are reproductions of existing works - i.e., you paint a new Mona Lisa and sell it as the original. Fakes are "newly discovered" productions by existing artists - i.e., did you hear the discovered a new Da Vinci?

(2) When talent is exceptional but short of genius and coupled with awareness of that shortfall, the result is often dark.

(3) Keats's entire premise is based on a shoddy syllogism.
                  a: Fakes unsettle us
                  b: Great Modern Art intends to unsettle us
             so, c: Fakes are Great Modern Art


Monday, July 1, 2013

You're Certainly Wrong

I talked with a girl taking her first philosophy course today. She'd just left a lecture on Hume's "Problem of Induction." Paraphrased and somewhat abused: just because something has happened does not prove it will again happen. When I first understood that it ruined me for quite some time. For her, no big deal.

Why? I can only think of one reason -- she is a much more secure person than I was (am?).

Induction destroys certainty and leads to probability. I wasn't allowed to be certain about religious conviction, ethical assumptions, and so on all the way down to whether the sun was going to rise on any given morning. And as an intellectually arrogant person - one who used certainty as his epistemological blankey - this kept me up.

Eventually I realized that uncertainty was certainly a more realistic ideal to live up to than certainty. (Huh?)

Why fear entering a conversation or field of study to which you're unfamiliar when everything everyone believes and talks about is fundamentally >100%? As a novice you'll absolutely spend more time confused and wrong than those more familiar, but, advance far enough and it's all educated speculation anyways. Gravity will reign supreme on Earth until it doesn't. Maybe the universe will, as Woody Allen fears, eventually expand so far that it tears us apart, breaking the gravitational situation of the Earth into tiny little pieces. Intellectual advances are made only by people willing to be wrong sometimes (and therefore, people who probably were wrong a bunch of times before). So chill.

A friend asked recently: Why should I publish anything when my thoughts will probably change on the subject? Because growth in the face of new data is how scientific/rational thought works. Own mind-changes and mistakes, and own moving forward. I think our aversion to be called out as wrong is rooted in an unrealistic Cartesian understanding of knowledge (one the requires absolutely certainty). That does not appear to be the way the world works.

It's comforting to me that I'm always possibly wrong. It takes away the feeling that I'm always supposed to be right. Now I'm only compelled to be right a higher percentage time than you are. Which I figure is as close to a certain occurrence as we can get in this world. Idiots.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Execution Style

Quick thought on the Aaron Hernandez murder case: if you kill someone execution style then you've likely murdered someone before and thought to yourself "there must be a more efficient way to do this." That's horrifying.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Religious Holidays and School Closings

Recently a Broward School District Diversity Committee meeting argued about the appropriateness of cancelling school for two Islamic holidays next academic year. The meeting did not go well – police were called in to keep the peace. The Council on American Islamic Relations asked the board to close schools on Eid-ul-Adha and, the end of Ramadan, Eid-ul-Fitr, which fall on school days in October and late August. Joe Kaufman, chairman of the ironically named Americans Against Hate, charged those supporting the proposal with “cultural jihad” against our Judeo-Christian nation.

Maybe we take the singular form “Freedom of Religion” too seriously. The government of the United States has a responsibility to all citizens, not just Christians, not just Jews. Instead, if the separation of church and state does not preclude religious holidays in public schools, we should establish objective criteria to determine when it is appropriate for a county to close schools on religious grounds. Let simple numbers make the decision. Continue to close schools on the non-federal holidays Good Friday, Rosh Hashanah, and Yom Kippur, as Broward County has every year since 2007, because the population of Jewish and Christian children warrants it. And unless the numbers change, keep schools open on Prophet al-Khader’s Day – an important day in the Druze religion. In Broward there are now roughly 18,000 Islamic children under eighteen and none of them have to go to school on the day Jesus was crucified. Furthermore, consistency requires this apply not only to the “Big 3” Abrahamic religions but any religion surpassing an objective population criteria, whether it be Druze, Buddhism, or Zoroastrianism.

                  Or we can close schools for only federal holidays and semester breaks. Cut out the need to establish objective criteria, cut out the opportunity to play favorites – to exalt one religion over another in a country that was founded on the freedom to believe whatever you want sans fear of persecution. To defend a constitution where church and state are supposed to operate autonomously. We can stop pretending our Founding Fathers were beacons of Evangelical orthodoxy – Thomas Jefferson excised all miracles from the bible. It’s difficult to maintain the absolutely necessary Evangelical belief that Jesus was the fully divine-fully human Son of God who rose from the dead if miracles are off the table.

                  Keeping schools open on all religious holidays is not a slight against religious belief. We either need objective population-based criteria deciding religious holiday school closings or we should leave them all off the academic calendar.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Yeezus Took The Wheel: Quick Thoughts

Kanye West's sixth studio album Yeezus came out last Tuesday, and a great deal of people cared about it. Love it or hate it, love him or hate him, Ye exudes serious cultural magnetism (does that mean he fulfilled his own prophecy last week when he proclaimed himself Lord of Culture?).

From what I've gathered, critics are gaga for His Provocativeness while most casual rap fans are frustrated he tossed his stadium/radio-ready musical maximalism on the fire heap of Gehenna. (I'm done with the unnecessary biblical puns, references. Promise.)

A line from what might as well be the title track "I Am A God" nicely frames the album: "I know he the most high/but I am a close high." Yeezus is an open letter to his followers and ivory-towered adversaries: I am music, I am culture, I lead the way - you follow me. In his lyrics and in recent interviews like the NYT one linked to above, Kanye makes it clear that fame does not open every door and it does not pull back every curtain. In fact, he seems to have found that fame, that is, celebrity, is used as a tool of oppression, a hidden blade of racism that the truly powerful old white men brandish in order to keep upstarts like Kanye playing a game they control. Kanye even goes so far as to claim that someone - an unnamed fashion magnate - said to him "I want to control you."

To be fair, I know nothing of the receiving end of racism so he may well have a point. But isn't the true boardroom of elite power roped off just as much from all celebrities? Steve Spielberg was barely able to get the funding for Lincoln, for example. I feel like as an ultra-successful white male the corridors of power should be fully opened for him if Kanye's charge of celebrity as pure-racist tool is correct. I'm more inclined to see celebrity as a smoke screen, a diversification of the truly rich and powerful's (let's call them "bankers" for fun) assets, and a way to keep their subjects in place.

Whatever I think about "celebrity," we should consider Yeezus a response to that anonymous fashion magnate. In every aspect of this album's production we can see Kanye exerting his control usually by way of counter-traditional decision. The release date was withheld, nearly any semblance of promotion was forsaken save for some publicity stunts on SNL and the sides of buildings, which wreak of Kanye's skyscraper-sized personality. Lyrically Kanye pushes his control further than on Dark Fantasy by taking some of his common themes into dark places. It's not just sex, it's rough sex where the man is dominating the woman. It's not just money and fame, it is money and fame being used as a weapon against and by Kanye.

{This is where I should talk about Kanye's disturbing misogyny and other psychosexual issues -- but that's been well covered here.)

And then there's the music. Sonically this might be my favorite of all six solo albums. It's bare, pulsing, and refreshingly new. Samples are cut between so abruptly I felt like I was watching a Darren Aronofsky movie. It's not a stadium album, it is a driving-around-to-let-off-steam album. Overall, it's a risky departure but a necessary one to keep moving forward creatively.

If you're interested in reading more about Yeezus of Chicago (whoops), the single best thing written is by the folks over at Grantland. Check it out. That article is the reason I passed on a more track-based analytical post. They did it best.

Monday, October 29, 2012


Chicken. Check. Check. Chinese Chowder. Change. Chicken. Check One Two.