Facebook Well Aware That Tracking Contacts Is Creepy: Emails
Oh yay! Facebook could suck more data from users without scaring them by telling them it was doing it! This is a little surprising coming from Yul Kwon because he is Facebook’s chief ‘privacy sherpa,’ who is supposed to make sure that new products coming out of Facebook are privacy-compliant. I know because I profiled him, in a piece that happened to come out the same day as this email was sent. A member of his team told me their job was to make sure that the things they’re working on “not show up on the front page of the New York Times” because of a privacy blow-up. And I guess that was technically true, though it would be more reassuring if they tried to make sure Facebook didn’t do the creepy things that led to privacy blow-ups rather than keeping users from knowing about the creepy things.
privacy  Facebook 
2 days ago
Camille Paglia: ‘Hillary wants Trump to win again’ | Spectator USA
"I have been trying for decades to get my fellow Democrats to realize how unchecked bureaucracy, in government or academe, is inherently authoritarian and illiberal. A persistent characteristic of civilizations in decline throughout history has been their self-strangling by slow, swollen, and stupid bureaucracies. The current atrocity of crippling student debt in the US is a direct product of an unholy alliance between college administrations and federal bureaucrats — a scandal that ballooned over two decades with barely a word of protest from our putative academic leftists, lost in their post-structuralist fantasies. Political correctness was not created by administrators, but it is ever-expanding campus bureaucracies that have constructed and currently enforce the oppressively rule-ridden regime of college life.

In the modern world, so wondrously but perilously interconnected, a principle of periodic reduction of bureaucracy should be built into every social organism. Freedom cannot survive otherwise."
from instapaper
3 days ago
LRB · James Meek · The Club and the Mob: The Shock of the News
"It’s worth dwelling on this, because the position of the Guardian editor must to a large extent reflect the position of its readership, and more broadly the position of the hundreds of millions of university-educated, left-leaning, avowedly tolerant, socially concerned people around the world – global liberaldom, for want of a better expression. ‘A private dinner at Davos with Eric Schmidt from Google’ is, on the face of it, the opposite of looking at the world from the perspective of the ordinary citizen. And yet that’s where global liberaldom finds itself, trafficking between power and powerlessness, at worst wanting all the street cred that comes from standing with the crowd and all the benefits from hanging out at parties with the powerful, at best endeavouring to be the honest messenger between the two. Unable to choose between the Club and the Mob, in other words, but wanting to be accepted by both, and as a result not quite trusted by either."
from instapaper
4 days ago
The New Morality Dilemma | CCCU
Cherie Harder: There certainly has always been partisanship, deep disagreement, and name-calling in politics. But I do think there are some things that are intensifying this trend toward affective polarization. One of those trends is that, unfortunately, our identities are becoming increasingly political. You can see this in various ways. It used to be that people would marry across party lines – people with very different political views – but would almost always marry someone who shared their faith. Now, almost 40 percent of marriages are to someone of a different faith tradition, but only around 23 percent of people who are getting married, or even cohabiting with someone, are doing so with someone of a different political party. In many ways, political affiliation is now seen as somehow more intrinsic to our identities than our faith commitments.
politics  partisan  from instapaper
7 days ago
Tadashi Tokieda Collects Math and Physics Surprises | Quanta Magazine
Sometimes adults have a regrettable tendency to be interested only in things that are already labeled by other adults as interesting. Whereas if you come a little fresher, and a little more naive, you can look all over the place, whether it’s labeled or not, and find your own surprises.

So, when I’m washing my hands with my child, I might notice that if you open a faucet very thinly — not so that it drips, but a thin, steady stream of water — and you lift your finger gradually toward the faucet, you can actually wrinkle the water stream. It’s really fantastic. You can see beadlike wrinkles.

It turns out that this can be explained beautifully by surface tension. And this was known to some people, but 99.9% of the world population hasn’t seen this wrinkling of the water. So it’s a delightful thing. You don’t want to let go of that feeling of surprise.
games  math  science 
8 days ago
CNN Submits to Right-Wing Outrage Mob, Fires Marc Lamont Due to his “Offensive” Defense of Palestinians at the UN
"But that’s the nature of having free thought and vibrant debate among adults: ideas that are offensive will sometimes be aired; adults will sometimes feel negative emotions from hearing the viewpoints of others; traumatizing events and thoughts will sometimes be discussed; journalism and political expression will sometimes be upsetting.

Nobody gets to create a standard where ideas that are “hurtful” and “traumatizing” to them are barred, whereas ideas that have the same effect on their political adversaries are permitted or celebrated. You either support a standard in which one has the right to engage in free political expression without punishment or you recognize that you are one who is laying the groundwork for this never-ending bickering, in which various online mobs relentlessly, and with increasing success, ensure that anyone expressing views they find upsetting are fired."
from instapaper
9 days ago
The Prophet of Envy
Girard’s anthropological interpretation of Christianity in Things Hidden is as original as it is unorthodox. It views the Crucifixion as a revelation in the profane sense, namely a bringing to light of the arbitrary nature of the scapegoat mechanism that underlies sacrificial religions. After publishing Things Hidden, Girard gained a devoted following among various Christian scholars, some of whom lobbied him hard to open his theory to a more traditional theological interpretation of the Cross as the crux of man’s deliverance from sin. Girard eventually (and somewhat reluctantly) made room for a redemptive understanding of the Crucifixion, yet in principle his theory posits only its revelatory, demystifying, and scandalous aspect. [...]

Girard’s most valuable insight is that rivalry and violence arise from sameness rather than difference. Where conflicts erupt between neighbors or ethnic groups, or even among nations, more often than not it’s because of what they have in common rather than what distinguishes them. In Girard’s words: “The error is always to reason within categories of ‘difference’ when the root of all conflicts is rather ‘competition,’ mimetic rivalry between persons, countries, cultures.” Often we fight or go to war to prove our difference from an enemy who in fact resembles us in ways we are all too eager to deny.
theory  sociology  anthropology  ethics  religion  christian  from instapaper
9 days ago
The New Evolution Deniers
Given that humans are sexually dimorphic and exhibit many of the typical sex-linked behavioral traits that any objective observer would predict, based on the mammalian trends, the claim that our behavioral differences have arisen purely via socialization is dubious at best. For that to be true, we would have to posit that the selective forces for these traits inexplicably and uniquely vanished in just our lineage, leading to the elimination of these traits without any vestiges of their past, only to have these traits fully recapitulated in the present due to socialization. Of course, the more evidenced and straightforward explanation is that we exhibit these classic sex-linked behavioral traits because we inherited them from our closest primate ancestors.

Counterintuitively, the social justice stance on human evolution closely resembles that of the Catholic Church. The Catholic view of evolution generally accepts biological evolution for all organisms, yet holds that the human soul (however defined) had been specially created and thus has no evolutionary precursor. Similarly, the social justice view has no problem with evolutionary explanations for shaping the bodies and minds of all organisms both between and within a species regarding sex, yet insists that humans are special in that evolution has played no role in shaping observed sex-linked behavioral differences. Why the biological forces that shape all of life should be uniquely suspended for humans is unclear. What is clear is that both the Catholic Church and well-intentioned social justice activists are guilty of gerrymandering evolutionary biology to make humans special, and keep the universal acid at bay.
biology  evolution 
9 days ago
The Right’s Climate Change Shame | Andrew Sullivan
For allegedly intelligent conservatives like Stephens and Goldberg to devote energy toward climate skepticism while turning a blind eye to vigorous Republican climate vandalism is, quite simply contemptible. I am not reading their minds here. I’m reading their columns. On this question – as on fiscal policy – they’re not skeptics or conservatives; they are dogmatists, sophists and enablers of environmental vandalism. They reveal Republicanism’s calculated assault on the next generations – piling them with unimaginable debt and environmental chaos. This isn’t the cultural conservatism of Burke; it’s the selfish nihilism of Rand.

Let me finish with a quote. It was the first time a major global leader spoke to the U.N. on the question: “It is life itself — human life, the innumerable species of our planet — that we wantonly destroy. It is life itself that we must battle to preserve … The danger of global warming is as yet unseen but real enough for us to make changes and sacrifices so we may not live at the expense of future generations. That prospect is a new factor in human affairs. It is comparable in its implications to the discovery of how to split the atom, indeed its results could be even more far-reaching … We should always remember that free markets are a means to an end. They would defeat their object if by their output they did more damage to the quality of life through pollution than the well-being they achieve by the production of goods and services.” That leader also made a core moral argument: “No generation has a freehold on this earth; all we have is a life tenancy with a full repairing lease.”

Those words were Margaret Thatcher’s in 1989. She devoted her entire U.N. speech to conservation and climate change. If the subject was real enough in 1989 to make sacrifices and changes, how much more so almost 30 years later? The difference between Thatcher and today’s Republicans is quite a simple one. She believed in science (indeed was trained as a scientist). She grasped the moral dimensions of the stewardship of the earth from one generation to another. She did not engage in the cowardice of sophists. And unlike these tools and fools on today’s American right, she was a conservative.
climate  conservatism  from instapaper
9 days ago
Dialectics of Darkness – Egil Asprem – Inference
Before scholars were using fairies and elves as metaphors for lost magic, folktales were awash with this very theme. The Aarne–Thompson classification system, which folklorists have invented to keep track of recurrent themes and motifs in folktales, even has its own code for the departure of the fairies: Motif F388. That fairies were once plentiful, but have since gone into hiding, is one of the oldest and most widespread European folktales. We find it in the work of Geoffrey Chaucer in the fourteenth century, and in medieval romances and Arthurian legends. Those recounting these fairytales would sometimes anticipate the reflections of later sociologists: the fairies were disturbed by the plowing of the land, frightened by the advent of printing or gunpowder, or had been dispersed along with the Catholics. Folklorists like Frazer could discover the myth of disenchantment in their sources.
disenchantment  fantasy 
10 days ago
Writing Science Fiction Out of Experience: SF, Social Science and Planetary Transformations
"Then the moon is different again—too small and volatile-free to be terraformed, and thus just a rock in space, a place for moon bases perhaps, but not for habitation as we usually think of it. Most of the solar system is like the moon in this; Mars is an anomaly. So the full consideration of possibilities leads to the conclusion that there is no Planet B for us, although Mars might be made such over thousands of years, perhaps. But for the most part, these stories have together convinced me that we co-evolved with Earth and are a planetary expression that needs to fit in with the rest of the biosphere here, that we have no other choice about that—and this is an important story for science fiction to tell, given there are so many other kinds of science fiction stories saying otherwise."
from instapaper
11 days ago
Reading silently and reading out loud in antiquity
The turnaround came in 1997. That’s surprisingly recent. If you find a reputable book claiming that reading out loud was universal, check the date of the book: if it’s before 1997, that’s why. (That was the same year Saenger published a book-length summary of his arguments, so don’t be too hard on him: Saenger had no way of knowing what was coming.)

That year an important article by A. K. Gavrilov (subscription required) abruptly and completely overturned the old orthodoxy. The appendix of the article is where it’s all happening: there Gavrilov gives a tidy, straightforward catalogue of evidence both for and against silent reading. The catalogue doesn’t just undermine the old orthodoxy: it makes it blindingly obvious that silent reading wasn’t just an occasional thing, it was absolutely standard. References to silent reading are about three times as common as references that can be interpreted as supporting the reading-was-always-done-out-loud position, all the way from the 5th century BCE to late antiquity.
reading  from instapaper
12 days ago
Silent Reading in Roman Antiquity
Another erroneous claim was that the (re)introduction of word-separation in Latin manuscripts in the early medieval period enabled silent reading for the first time: Paul Henry Saenger, Space Between Words: The Origins of Silent Reading (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1997). Actually, word-separation was known and practiced much earlier. For example, inscriptions frequently had word-separation. And the practice of “scriptio continua” (words written without separation) was adopted in Latin from Greek practice, because it was regarded as a more elegant format. It had nothing to do with whether reading was done silently or aloud to oneself.
12 days ago
Cynicism, Not Gullibility, Will Kill Our Humanity
Major advances in the U.S. — from civil rights to the social safety net — have been driven by the public being confronted with the consequences of their inaction or action and having to reckon with that. But if everything is worthy of low trust at best, you never need to confront the impacts of policy or politics or personal action. Uncertainty — hey, I did hear about that but who knows what’s true anyway — acts as a cutural novacaine, allowing one to persist in inaction, even as evidence mounts of effects that that same individual might find repugnant — if, you know, it turn out to be really true. Like, really, really true. And who knows?

The depressing thing is that there are methods that can help with this undifferentiated cynicism but we aren’t rolling them out to students.
teaching  information  from instapaper
12 days ago
1968: Radical Year
Of course this is a blind spot Vinen shares with many scholars of the sixties. While every general history of the sixties in the United States includes a mention of Students for a Democratic Society, very few of them take note of the Catholic charismatic renewal that began in 1967 at a retreat held by Duquesne University faculty and students, or the parallel explosion of Pentecostal influence on Protestants, not to mention the Lubavitchers and similar Orthodox Jewish movements. You can’t understand the sixties—68 very much included—unless you include in your view these movements combining intense piety with ecstatic experience. (See Geoffrey O’Brien’s brilliant memoir Dream Time for an unsettling variation on glossolalia, not “religious” but hardly “secular” either.)
history  religion  secularity  from instapaper
12 days ago
Growth and Work | National Review
It seems to me that Cass’s critics take him to be making an economic argument when he is making a political-economy argument, and in our time we have basically forgotten the difference. Or to put the point a little differently: Cass is not exactly arguing that we over-value growth, he is arguing that we over-value economics. His book is a kind of argument against an overly materialistic politics, and is rooted in a fundamentally social conservatism, broadly understood, that sees markets and even prosperity itself as means and not ends. The ends are supplied by an idea of human flourishing rooted in the nature of the human person as understood by the great traditions of our civilization, and therefore focused on family, community, religion, work, and country.

I would note, as an aside, that the same is true of another very important conservative policy book published recently—Reihan Salam’s Melting Pot or Civil War?. Like Cass, Salam is willing and able to confront his critics on their chosen ground, arguing about the effect of low-skill immigration on wages or the philosophical grounds of restrictions on migration. But he is ultimately making an argument rooted in the view that human beings flourish in communities and nations, and that the particular nature of our sociality has to bear on how we think about immigration. He, too, reaches for the deepest ground of disagreement between the left and right, which is anthropological and sociological before it is economic. And so he too seems to have baffled, in the best sense, some of the people he’s seeking to argue with. [...]

This isn’t exactly an argument about whether growth matters (as everyone agrees it does) or whether sometimes other things have to matter more (which we all know is also true). It’s an argument about where to place the weight and emphasis when it comes to addressing particular problems and considering particular policy courses. Healthy policy debates have to be rooted in philosophical premises but directed to concrete realities. That ought to be the next phase of the debate Cass’s book has helped to spark.
economics  politics  conservatism  from instapaper
12 days ago
50 Years of Effete and Infertile Liturgical Culture Is Enough - Crisis Magazine
Here I might say that to celebrate the Mass in such a way is to betray the explicit directives of Sacrosanctum Concilium. I have since read the document in the original. And I am struck by the strange inability of the council fathers to do the very thing they were urging the Church to do, which was to take stock of the times. Again and again, they instruct bishops and priests to adapt the life of the Church, including her places and manner of worship, to the times and to the characters of the various peoples of the world. What they missed, and what was right in front of them to be noticed, was that modernism as an ideology, with mass entertainment and mass education as its main engines, was obliterating cultures everywhere. Romano Guardini had written of this loss in The End of the Modern World. It was therefore the task of the Church not to be enculturated in a vacuum, which would be akin to emptying herself of her peculiar character, but to be herself and thereby to form culture, i.e., to bring culture once again to people who were rapidly losing their hold on all cultural memory.

This did not happen.
Catholic  liturgy  from instapaper
12 days ago
Is Science Slowing Down?
Each “discovery” should decrease transistor size by a certain amount. For example, if you discover a new material that allows transistors to be 5% smaller along one dimension, then you can fit 5% more transistors on your chip whether there were a hundred there before or a million. Since the relevant factor is discoveries per researcher, and each discovery is represented as a percent change in transistor size, it makes sense to compare percent change in transistor size with absolute number of researchers.

Anyway, most other measurable fields show the same pattern of constant progress in the face of exponentially increasing number of researchers.


Participants at the conference had some explanations for this, of which the ones I remember best are:

1. Only the best researchers in a field actually make progress, and the best researchers are already in a field, and probably couldn’t be kept out of the field with barbed wire and attack dogs. If you expand a field, you will get a bunch of merely competent careerists who treat it as a 9-to-5 job. A field of 5 truly inspired geniuses and 5 competent careerists will make X progress. A field of 5 truly inspired geniuses and 500,000 competent careerists will make the same X progress. Adding further competent careerists is useless for doing anything except making graphs look more exponential, and we should stop doing it. See also Price’s Law Of Scientific Contributions.

2. Certain features of the modern academic system, like underpaid PhDs, interminably long postdocs, endless grant-writing drudgery, and clueless funders have lowered productivity. The 1930s academic system was indeed 25x more effective at getting researchers to actually do good research.

3. All the low-hanging fruit has already been picked. For example, element 117 was discovered by an international collaboration who got an unstable isotope of berkelium from the single accelerator in Tennessee capable of synthesizing it, shipped it to a nuclear reactor in Russia where it was attached to a titanium film, brought it to a particle accelerator in a different Russian city where it was bombarded with a custom-made exotic isotope of calcium, sent the resulting data to a global team of theorists, and eventually found a signature indicating that element 117 had existed for a few milliseconds. Meanwhile, the first modern element discovery, that of phosphorous in the 1670s, came from a guy looking at his own piss. We should not be surprised that discovering element 117 needed more people than discovering phosphorous.
13 days ago
The New York Times Reveals Painful Truths about Transgender Lives
Sex reassignment is quite literally impossible. Surgery can’t actually reassign sex, because sex isn’t “assigned” in the first place. As I point out in When Harry Became Sally, sex is a bodily reality—the reality of how an organism is organized with respect to sexual reproduction. That reality isn’t “assigned” at birth or any time after. Sex—maleness or femaleness—is established at a child’s conception, can be ascertained even at the earliest stages of human development by technological means, and can be observed visually well before birth with ultrasound imaging. Cosmetic surgery and cross-sex hormones don’t change biological reality.

People who undergo sex-reassignment procedures do not become the opposite sex—they merely masculinize or feminize their outward appearance.
sexuality  from instapaper
13 days ago
America’s Epidemic of Empty Churches
Missional Wisdom moved into the bottom 15,000 square feet of White Rock’s building and got to work. It converted the fellowship hall into a coworking space and transformed Sunday School rooms into a workshop for local artisans, including a florist and a stained glass window artists. It formed an economic empowerment center where the group teaches a local population of African refugees language and business skills. And it finished out the space with a yoga studio and a community dance studio. Today, the church building is bustling most days and the congregation is both covering expenses and generating revenue from its profit-sharing agreement with Missional Wisdom.
church  from instapaper
14 days ago
The Open Office and the Spirit of Capitalism - American Affairs Journal
Fittingly, the philosopher Byung-Chul Han classifies the signature affliction of our current age as neuronal violence, as opposed to the “immunological” violence of last century, which took place along clearly demarcated borders. With barriers literally down, the paranoid totalizing of the corporate office space comes to embody the ethos of Foucault’s disciplinary society, with one important twist. What replaces the disciplinary society, Han tells us, is the “achievement society.” Now the question is no longer, “What am I allowed to do?” but “What can I do?” This shift is profound. It takes us from the firmly hierarchical paranoia and conformity of the skyscraper to the depressed, ADHD-afflicted chaos of the open office space. The company man was never allowed to be himself. The unpaid intern, by contrast, must always be performing himself. The result of the now largely dematerialized office is that this very performance of self becomes the office. Han is worth quoting at length on this:

“The society of laboring and achievement is not a free society. It generates new constraints. Ultimately, the dialectic of master and slave does not yield a society where everyone is free and capable of leisure, too. Rather, it leads to a society of work in which the master himself has become a laboring slave. In this society of compulsion, everyone carries a work camp inside. This labor camp is defined by the fact that one is simultaneously prisoner and guard, victim and perpetrator. One exploits oneself. It means that exploitation is possible even without domination.”

The purpose of the open office was always self-exploitation. It exists like some evolutionary link between the confined counting houses of the past and the dematerialized configurations of “the office” yet to come. Tracing the arc of the office’s development through time, and then anticipating its curve beyond, we could do worse than to extrapolate from existing data points like the shared workspace, working remotely, and the commodification of daily life into internet content (think here of unboxing videos or the selling of consumer preference data). Jonathan Crary writes in 24/7: Late Capitalism and the Ends of Sleep (Verso, 2013): “As the opportunity for electronic transactions of all kinds becomes omnipresent, there is no vestige of what used to be everyday life beyond the reach of corporate intrusion. An attention economy dissolves the separation between the personal and professional, between entertainment and information, all overridden by a compulsory functionality that is inherently and inescapably 24/7.”30 What this suggests is that as the office walls come down, so will the temporal and ideological barriers separating work from nonwork. The office of the future, in other words, won’t be a place, but an identity. The office of the future will be your most intimate conceptions of self, somehow put to work.
modernity  tech  capitalism  from instapaper
14 days ago
How Professors Ceded Their Authority | Chad Wellmon
The transformation of American colleges and universities into corporate concerns is particularly evident in the maze of offices, departments, and agencies that manage the moral lives of students. When they appeal to administrators with demands that speakers not be invited, that particular policies be implemented, or that certain individuals be institutionally penalized, students are doing what our institutions have formed them to do. They are following procedure, appealing to the institution to manage moral problems, and insisting that the system’s overseers turn the cant of diversity and inclusion into real change. A student who experiences discrimination or harassment is taught to file a complaint by submitting a written statement; the office then determines if the complaint has merit; the office conducts an investigation and produces a report; an executive accepts or rejects the report; and the office "notifies" the parties of the "outcome."

These bureaucratic processes transmute moral injury, desire, and imagination into an object that flows through depersonalized, opaque procedures to produce an "outcome." Questions of character, duty, moral insight, reconciliation, community, ethos, evil, or justice have at most a limited role. American colleges and universities speak the national argot of individual rights, institutional affiliation, and complaint that dominates American capitalism. They have few moral resources from which to draw any alternative moral language and imagination. My students have adapted the old Protestant college’s moral mission to the demands of the institutions in which they now find themselves.

The extracurricular system of moral management requires an ever-expanding array of "resources" — counseling centers, legal services, deans of student life. Teams of devoted professionals work to help students hold their lives together. The people who support and oversee these extracurricular systems of moral management save lives and inspire students, but they do so almost entirely apart from any coherent curricular project.

It is entirely reasonable, then, for students to conclude that questions of right and wrong, of ought and obligation, are not, in the first instance at least, matters to be debated, deliberated, researched, or discussed as part of their intellectual lives in classrooms and as essential elements of their studies. They are, instead, matters for their extracurricular lives in dorms, fraternities or sororities, and student-activity groups, most of which are managed by professional staff members who, for many faculty members, seem to work in a wholly separate institution. The rationalization of colleges and universities has led to the division not only of intellectual labor (through academic specialization) but also of basic educational functions.
university  academe  character  education 
18 days ago
Nationalism Is Loyalty Irritated | National Review
When we use the vocabulary of political philosophies, we recognize that we are talking about things that differ along more than one axis. Take Communism, liberalism, and conservatism: The first is a theory of history and power. The second is a political framework built upon rights. The final disclaims the word “ideology” and has been traditionally defined as a set of dispositions toward a political and civilizational inheritance.

I would like to sidestep Hazony’s championing of nationalism as a system for organizing political order globally, a theory that my colleague Jonah Goldberg is tempted to call “nationism.”

My proposal is that nationalism as a political phenomenon is not a philosophy or science, though it may take either of those in hand. It isn’t an account of history. Instead, nationalism is an eruptive feature of politics. It grows out of the normal sentiments of national loyalty, like a pustule or a fever. It could even be said that nationalism is patriotism in its irritated state, or that nationalism recruits the patriotic sentiment to accomplish something in a fit of anger.
politics  from instapaper
18 days ago
The ancient Greeks would have loved Alexa | Spectator USA
Did these machines inspire the poets or did the poets open the minds of the inventors? The very novelty of mechanical men and birds may have encouraged poets to interpret myths as technological when they could. Talos itself became more mechanical as time moved on. The details of the oil-tube between its neck and ankle and the vulnerable bronze plug that keeps the machine at work comes from 500 years after the writing of the Argonautica.

Could a mechanical android ever have a moral sense? Can it have one now? Where is the line? When Edmund Spenser wanted to introduce such questions in The Faerie Queene he created his own unbending, iron-man instrument of justice and called it Talus.
robots  from instapaper
18 days ago
The present phase of stagnation in the foundations of physics is not normal
Ten-thousands of wrong predictions sounds dramatic, but it’s actually an underestimate. I am merely summing up predictions that have been made for physics beyond the standard model which the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) was supposed to find: All the extra dimensions in their multiple shapes and configurations, all the pretty symmetry groups, all the new particles with the fancy names. You can estimate the total number of such predictions by counting the papers, or, alternatively, the people working in the fields and their average productivity.

They were all wrong. Even if the LHC finds something new in the data that is yet to come, we already know that the theorists’ guesses did not work out. Not. A. Single. One. How much more evidence do they need that their methods are not working?
science  physics  from instapaper
19 days ago
In the Web’s Hyperreality, Information Is Experience
My perspective of a recent “patriot” group that came onto campus, for example, was more influenced by the death of Heather Heyer than anything that happened on campus, and the digital reality I had been exposed to shaped that experience.

In the world of Baudrillard’s hyperreal, information is experience. And as such, the standard old-school experimental psychology tests — “Here’s some information about global warming, how do you feel about regulation now?” and the standard negative campaigning studies don’t really apply to what where seeing right now. They don’t even come close. [...]

But whatever your take, I encourage you to think of disinformation in this way, at least for a bit — not as the spread of false information, but as the hacking of the simulated reality which we all must necessarily inhabit. As something that does not just change knowledge, but which produces new life experiences as real as the the Iraq War, your neighbor’s fight with cancer, or your child’s illness. To see it in this way is perhaps more terrifying, but ultimately necessary as we attempt to address the problem.
information  socialmedia  from instapaper
19 days ago
Being There
When we talk about “the quality of life,” we need to think more carefully about what we mean. By most people’s standards, the last twenty years of my mother’s life were like the last years of Mencken’s—a dark, sad time spent waiting for the curtain to fall on a drama that was essentially over. But those of us who were privileged to know her in those years know better. Her stroke was not only an end, but also a beginning. And that is true of every one of life’s junctures, no matter how painful or frightening or sad it may seem when we go through it.

What does one woman’s story prove? Of the many possible lessons, surely this one would be at the top of the list: that our drive for mastery of the terms of our existence, as heroic and noble as its achievements have been, may also become the enemy of our souls. Aging is not a problem to be solved, my mother taught us. It is a meaning to be lived out.
ethics  family  aging  from instapaper
19 days ago
How to talk about racism in the church without becoming bitter - Religion News Service
Finally, I try to keep the racial situation in the church in perspective by distinguishing between the universal church and particular people and congregations. I have often felt betrayed by specific Christians and churches. Individual Christians have berated me to my face — telling me how I get race wrong. Churches and denominations have rescinded speaking invitations, and many, many others have been bold in asserting that race is a social or a political issue, but not a gospel one.

In the face of such barbs, I have grown cautious.

I do my best to carefully choose speaking engagements and writing platforms that will let me communicate my views freely while not exposing me to malicious criticism. Unfortunately, many predominantly white Christian outlets and organizations prove extremely hostile to any anti-racist messages. But those particular places do not represent the church as a whole.
race  church  from instapaper
19 days ago
Writing for Quillette Ended My Theater Project - Quillette
"You’re punching down,” my director announced from across the table, our scripts and a selection of snacks between us. She said that she’d been contacted my members of our theater community who had let her know that I had hurt them. These theater people wanted to make sure that she knew about the article I’d written and what people on social media were saying. The director reviewed the thread on my Facebook timeline from July, and determined for herself that I had participated in “trans erasure,” and hurt people by equating medical gender transition to rapidly growing trends in AI and body hacking.

In point of fact I wasn’t punching anyone. I was writing in an attempt to convey a somewhat complicated idea about what human beings are and what we are becoming. This is a topic that interests me greatly, along with the vexing questions of how we ought live. These questions have been hugely influential to my research, my art work, and my writing. They are the questions that had spurred the creation of this script and the theater collective I had co-founded to make it happen.
sexuality  from instapaper
19 days ago
Barbara Everett reviews ‘W.H. Auden’ by Humphrey Carpenter and ‘Early Auden’ by Edward Mendelson · LRB 19 November 1981
This sense of the askew, of inhabiting a moment that gains definition only from the degree to which it lacks the absolute, pervades Auden’s verse from first to last. This is why it is a poetry of fragments and splinters, always changing styles and doxologies. We recognise the Audenesque by the way things don’t fit: epithets together (‘tolerant, enchanted’, ‘warm and lucky’) or objects with their figures of speech (‘the winter holds them like the Opera’) or style with substance (camp with Christian, Horatian with Ischian, medieval alliterative verse with lost souls in a New York bar, haikus with home truths). The revisions Auden made to his earlier poems are mistakes, and are indefensible, because he tried to improve something whose character it is to be unimprovable – ‘wrong from the start’; he tried to polish poems whose art it is to voice, with the most exquisite accuracy, that ‘clumsiness’ which so many friends record in anecdote, whose authenticity is a fractured syntax and a melodramatic language of gesture.
auden  from instapaper
19 days ago
Apple designer Jony Ive has explained how ‘teetering towards the absurd’ helped him make the iPhone
"The necessary resolve to find solutions to the problems that stand between a tentative thought and something substantial, that resolve and that focus very often seems in direct conflict with most creative behaviour. Honestly, I can't think of two ways of working, two different ways of being, that are more polar. On one hand to be constantly questioning, loving surprises, consumed with curiosity and yet on the other hand having to be utterly driven and completely focused to solve apparently insurmountable problems, even if those solutions are without precedent or reference. And so, of course, this is where it becomes sort of ironic and teeters towards the utterly absurd.

"You see, in the mode of being unreasonable and resolute, you have to solve hard problems. But solving those problems requires new ideas. And so, we're back to needing ideas and back to having to be open and curious. This is not a shift that occurs once or twice in a multi-year project. I find it happens to me once or twice a day and that frequency of shifting between two such different ways of seeing and thinking is fantastically demanding."
tech  apple  from instapaper
19 days ago
American Exorcism
After listening to the priests and poring over news articles, I started to wonder whether the two trends—belief in the occult and the rising demand for Catholic exorcisms—might have the same underlying cause. So many modern social ills feel dark and menacing and beyond human control: the opioid epidemic, the permanent loss of blue-collar jobs, blighted communities that breed alienation and dread. Maybe these crises have led people to believe that other, more preternatural, forces are at work.

But when I floated this theory with historians of religion, they offered different explanations. A few mentioned Pope Francis’s influence, as well as that of Pope John Paul II, who brought renewed attention to the exorcism rite when he had it updated in 1998. But more described how, during periods when the influence of organized religions ebbs, people seek spiritual fulfillment through the occult. “As people’s participation in orthodox Christianity declines,” said Carlos Eire, a historian at Yale specializing in the early modern period, “there’s always been a surge in interest in the occult and the demonic.” He said that today we’re seeing a “hunger for contact with the supernatural.”
religion  spirituality  superstition  from instapaper
19 days ago
Morphosis: GeBurt und GeErnie (1872)
It brings me back to a subject over which I fret, sometimes. Fret probably overstates it: but the cultural regime, or logic, of the present is surely one of an absolutel massive connectivity. We're all connected with everybody else who has a means to get online, and that's almost everyone nowadays. Twitter and instagram and all the other social media link us in with global millions. Does this make us a global mob, easily manipulated by unscrupulous influence-peddlers to vote for Brexit or support Trump, or vice versa? Or is there any sense in which this massive interconnectivity actualises, in a radically new magisterium, precisely the aesthetically liberating life-art Nietzsche theorises in Birth of Tragedy? Do social media give us the simulacrum of social interaction whilst actually sealing us away, or are these technologies in fact creating a new Dionysiac collectiveness in which we can glimpse the escape from the prison of individuation of which Nietzsche writes?

I'm not sure I know. Indeed, I wonder if I'm too old to know. I grew up before these technologies and I was a largely solitary, rather bookish child. I did not, for example, have anything like the number, range and easy intimacy of friendship my teenage daughter has; and although she has this wide circle of supportive and brilliant friends partly because she is a more charming and less mulish human being than I was at her age, but also because she has these new technologies with which to stay in continual inwardness of friend-communion. We tend to catastrophize these media, but maybe we shouldn't?
19 days ago
How Extreme Weather Is Shrinking the Planet
Some of the world is becoming too hot for humans. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, increased heat and humidity have reduced the amount of work people can do outdoors by ten per cent, a figure that is predicted to double by 2050. About a decade ago, Australian and American researchers, setting out to determine the highest survivable so-called “wet-bulb” temperature, concluded that when temperatures passed thirty-five degrees Celsius (ninety-five degrees Fahrenheit) and the humidity was higher than ninety per cent, even in “well-ventilated shaded conditions,” sweating slows down, and humans can survive only “for a few hours, the exact length of time being determined by individual physiology.”

As the planet warms, a crescent-shaped area encompassing parts of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and the North China Plain, where about 1.5 billion people (a fifth of humanity) live, is at high risk of such temperatures in the next half century. Across this belt, extreme heat waves that currently happen once every generation could, by the end of the century, become “annual events with temperatures close to the threshold for several weeks each year, which could lead to famine and mass migration.” By 2070, tropical regions that now get one day of truly oppressive humid heat a year can expect between a hundred and two hundred and fifty days, if the current levels of greenhouse-gas emissions continue. According to Radley Horton, a climate scientist at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, most people would “run into terrible problems” before then. The effects, he added, will be “transformative for all areas of human endeavor—economy, agriculture, military, recreation.”
climate  from instapaper
20 days ago
How Did Larry Nassar Deceive So Many for So Long?
It has by the fall of 2018 become commonplace to describe the 499 known victims of Larry Nassar as “breaking their silence,” though in fact they were never, as a group, particularly silent. Over the course of at least 20 years of consistent abuse, women and girls reported to every proximate authority. They told their parents. They told gymnastics coaches, running coaches, softball coaches. They told Michigan State University police and Meridian Township police. They told physicians and psychologists. They told university administrators. They told, repeatedly, USA Gymnastics. They told one another. Athletes were interviewed, reports were written up, charges recommended. The story of Larry Nassar is not a story of silence. The story of Larry Nassar is that of an edifice of trust so resilient, so impermeable to common sense, that it endured for decades against the allegations of so many women.
20 days ago
The Church’s Book | Michael C. Legaspi
Our disenchanted age has brought a certain clarity: The Bible is indeed a collection of writings much like others from the ancient world. There is no deep historical difference between a Roman prophecy and a Jewish one. Thus, the Bible no more speaks for itself than do the egg-laying habits of the ichneumon wasp. Arguments made for Christian faith nowadays cannot rest merely on the intellectual or cultural plausibility of the Bible. For good or for ill, they must rest instead on the living witness of the Church.
bible  from instapaper
20 days ago
In the age of Trump, tired are the peacemakers
Tisby had once been in the forefront of a small but growing number of black ministers and leaders who had found common cause with the white-dominated Christian Reformed movement. Some still remain in that movement, but the support for Trump by an overwhelming majority of white evangelical Christians has deeply troubled many African-American church leaders and thinkers.

“The Trump election did it for me. For the first time I said, ‘Wow, I don’t think this is really going to get better,’” said Eric Redmond, a professor at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago who helped edit a 2009 book called “Glory Road: The Journeys of 10 African-Americans into Reformed Christianity.”

“We’re in 2017, and a lot of my brothers still don’t get it and I don’t know if they’re going to get it,” Redmond said. “There’s huge repercussions, but for people of color it just means we’re going to figure this out on our own.”

When I visited Tisby in his hometown in August, we spent the better part of a day exploring Helena, talking about the events of the last few years. He said that his focus was moving toward speaking and writing for a black audience primarily, rather than for whites.

“We have a lot of white evangelicals coming to us through RAAN. And that demonstrates a willingness to learn and a level of humility. And I’ll ride with you. I mean I’m not turning anybody away. But I’m not chasing you. I think that’s one way to characterize the difference,” he said.
race  christian  election2016  from instapaper
21 days ago
A Church for the Poor - The Imaginative Conservative
A church for the poor does not have paintings of abstract or ugly figures, but is full of beautiful images of holy men and women who overcame their sinfulness to draw close to God. Even more important, a church for the poor shows the poor their mother who comforts and their God who forgives. A church for the poor is full of signs, symbols, and sacraments: outward signs of inward grace. It cannot be a place where the sacrament of salvation is hidden away, for it should be raised up like Christ on the cross offering His body for our healing.

A house for the poor should not be a modernist structure inspired by the machine, for the poor are surrounded and even enslaved by the machine and the technological. It is rather a building inspired by the human body, the New Adam, and the richness of His creation. Those whose lives may touch on angst and suffering do not need a contorted building exhibiting disharmony and atonality. Instead they need an architecture of healing, which through proportions, materials, and spiritual light brings joy to the heart. A church that is welcoming to those in the state of poverty should not be a theatre church where the visitor is forced to be on stage. Their dignity is respected by allowing them to sit where they want, even if that means in the back or in a side chapel. The lighting cannot be so bright that one’s deficiencies are revealed to others; there should be a place for prayerful shadow.

A church for the poor is not hidden away in the suburbs or on a highway where it may never be seen and is difficult to get to. It should be placed where the poor are—near the poor villages or the destitute city neighborhoods and in prominent places like downtowns or city parks where the poor sometimes travel. A church for the poor does not close its school just because it is under-enrolled or in financial difficulty. Caritas understands that service to those in need is not optional, nor is it meant to be cheap and easy. In the same way, dioceses should seek creative ways for inner city parishes to remain open even when finances would argue otherwise.
church  Catholic  architecture 
21 days ago
Confiscating the Nation | National Review
One would imagine that the level of sacrifice that a universal human community would demand of elites would be greater than the one called upon by national loyalty. But it never is. Instead the dissolution of national loyalties liberates the elite from any practical moral and political restraint on their self-seeking, and confiscates from the poor and the weak the benefits that national loyalties confer on them.

The post-nationalist political structures are anti-democratic for this very reason; the point is to get rid of accountability from below. The anti-nationalist says that he wants fellow-feeling with all men, but his aim is to leave his countrymen in the ditch and to do so in good conscience. The posited freedom to serve any man comes by dissolving his duty to his neighbors. His tragedy is that once he succeeds in deconstructing national loyalties, he will find that loyalties based on blood or creed come roaring back.
politics  elitism  from instapaper
23 days ago
I Found the Best Burger Place in America. And Then I Killed It.
Stanich explained that, as these issues were going on in the background, it was hard to read the social media screeds attacking them, and listen to the answering machine messages at the restaurant calling him a fat fuck and telling him to fuck himself for closing his own restaurant. He didn’t care about them, he insisted. He only cared about people like that woman who’d shown up, the regulars who live in NE Portland. “I need to take care of the people who took care of me,” he said. “They don’t turn on you.”

This was the same sentiment the chef at Paiche had expressed, and that I’d heard from others. If there was one main negative takeaway from the raging fires of food tourist culture and the lists fanning the flames, it was that the people crowding the restaurant were one time customers. They were there to check off a thing on a list, and put it on Instagram. They weren’t invested in the restaurant’s success, but instead in having a public facing opinion of a well known place. In other words, they had nothing to lose except money and the restaurant had nothing to gain except money, and that made the entire situation feel both precarious and a little gross.
internet  from instapaper
23 days ago
Andrew Sullivan: What Happens If Americans Stop Trusting the System?
Yes, I know the urban coasts are where the future nerds and business whizzes want to live (and increasingly do). But that’s part of our problem, is it not? We’re geographically sorting — and the left-behinds are getting more left behind in the middle of the country. And if there’s something we really don’t need in D.C. right now is more of the cognitive elite! The place is crawling with irritating young white people who go to CrossFit, ride those creepy scooters, and never look up from their phones. A company like Amazon could actually have had the clout to bring those types back to the heartland and do some small thing to rebalance the country. Wages would be effectively higher given the lower cost of housing. The Millennial migrants could even help turn Texas blue! The cultural shift and economic boost might even lure a few opioid users toward an ounce of hope and a middle-class salary in Indiana or Ohio or West Virginia.

This matters. As the country becomes increasingly culturally, economically, and socially bifurcated, we need responsible corporate actors to help bridge this gap. Amazon — one of the most trusted brands in America — is perfectly poised to pull this off. Its decisions could be a critical help in keeping this country from the kind of yawning divisions and vast inequalities which are fast hardening into permanent social chasms.
politics  city  tech  from instapaper
23 days ago
In Defense of Puns
Lamb and his close friend Samuel Taylor Coleridge shared a passion for punning, not just as a fireside diversion but as a model for the witty workings of the imaginative mind. “All men who possess at once active fancy, imagination, and a philosophical spirit, are prone to punning,” Coleridge declared. He planned a spirited defense of the widely impugned practice, to be called “An Apology for Paronomasia,” the Greek word for “pun,” drawn from para (“beside”) and onomasia (“to name”).

Coleridge considered punning an essentially poetic act, exhibiting sensitivity to the subtlest, most distant relationships as well as an acrobatic exercise of intelligence, connecting things formerly believed to be unconnected. “A ridiculous likeness leads to the detection of a true analogy” is the way he explained it.
language  from instapaper
23 days ago
The One-Sided Worldview of Hans Rosling - Quillette
The claim of Factfulness, however, is not just to present some good news: “This is a book about the world and how it really is.” Do the authors live up to this bold claim? The short answer is no. My criticism concerns three major problems in the book:

• Its selection of statistics does not do justice to the complex and contradictory trends in global developments.

• Its silence on the preconditions and ecological consequences of the current techno-economic regime makes its analysis of the positive trends superficial and inconsequential.

• Its view on global population growth as unproblematic and impossible to influence is flawed and has potentially serious political implications.
statistics  progress  economics  from instapaper
24 days ago
Parish Practice, Anglo-Catholicism, and the Oxford Movement
Herring rejects Nigel Yates’s assertion that the link between the Oxford Movement and Anglo-Catholicism was apparent in the 1830s and 1840s (see Anglican Ritualism in Victorian Britain 1830-1910 [OUP, 1999]). Herring states that “in the years before Newman’s conversion in 1845, and in the fifteen years or so after it, there is … evidence that the vast majority of Oxford Movement adherents … were deeply suspicious of, and sought actively to contain, those dangerous advances in ceremonial” (Oxford Movement in Practice, p. 91). He cites, for instance, an 1841 letter in which John Henry Newman cautions a young correspondent that he was bound to obey his bishop more than he was bound to wear a cope in service. Herring also cites Edward Bouverie Pusey’s correspondence with some young English clergymen whereby he makes clear his view that radical ceremonial advances would jeopardize the Oxford Movement’s progress.
BCP  Anglican  from instapaper
24 days ago
Jonathan Franzen: 'Climate change isn't only reason for bird decline'
Franzen ponders if his birdwatching is a passion or obsession, or both. We are standing near the hulking skeleton of a blue whale on display and it’s starting to get chilly. “The birds are leaving us,” he says. “Something in my character makes me sympathize with threatened things, the same way that people don’t read novels like the way they used to.

“It makes me want to advocate for literature. And birds in trouble makes me want to advocate for them. I love them. The two things I love most are novels and birds, and they’re both in trouble, and I want to advocate for both of them.”
fiction  from instapaper
24 days ago
Schrödinger’s (Wo)Manhood - Quillette
Much like Schrödinger’s unfortunate cat, which is simultaneously dead and alive, manhood and womanhood in our era are held to be simultaneously entirely in the brain and everywhere except the brain. In matters concerning gender equity in STEM, one must profess that the differences between men and women manifest solely in the pelvic and chest anatomy, not the brain. Consequently, if women constitute less than 50 percent of the people studying or working in a field, the only acceptable explanation is sexism, not a difference in the typical preferences of the two sexes.

On the other hand, transgender activists maintain that the distinction between being a man or a woman is entirely in the mind, and a person’s reproductive anatomy is not what defines them as male or female. Whatever a person states about his or her gender identity reflects their authentic inner nature, and may not be challenged.
gender  from instapaper
24 days ago
European Christian missionaries and their false sense of progress | The Christian Century
Let me be clear: no one is born white. There is no white biology, but whiteness is real. Whiteness is an invitation to a form of agency and a subjectivity that imagines life progressing toward what is in fact a diseased understanding of maturity, a maturity that invites us to evaluate the entire world by how far along it is toward this goal. White agency and subjectivity form when people imagine themselves being transformed in three fundamental ways: from being owned to being an owner, from being a stranger to being a citizen, and from being identified with darkness to being seen as white.
whiteness  theology  from instapaper
24 days ago
Overcoming Bias : Social Media Lessons
But in fact ordinary people don’t care as much about privacy and corporate concentration, they don’t as much mind self-promotion and status tracking, they are more interested in gossip and tabloid news than high status news, they care more about loyalty than neutrality, and they care more about gaining status via personal connections than via grand-topic debate sparring. They like wrestling-like bravado and conflict, are less interested in accurate vetting of news sources, like to see frequent personal affirmations of their value and connection to specific others, and fear being seen as lower status if such things do not continue at a sufficient rate.

This high to lowbrow account suggests a key question for the future of social media: how low can we go? That is, what new low status but commonly desired social activities and features can new social media offer?
socimedia  ethics  from instapaper
25 days ago
Desperately Seeking Cities
As a substitute for more concerted city planning, urbanism has had little success in encouraging the diversity it claims to seek. As a cover for the true nature of the neoliberal city, it has been a triumph.

It is beyond question that, in whatever city it chose to grace, Amazon would bring neither the jobs that that city needed, nor the public works that it needed. In his latest variation on the urbanist delusion, written for the Financial Times, the much-pilloried Richard Florida plaintively appealed to Amazon not to “accept any tax or financial incentives,” but rather to pledge to “invest alongside cities to create better jobs, build more affordable housing, and develop better schools, transit, and other badly needed public goods, along with paying its fair share of taxes.” The depths of Florida’s naiveté cannot be overstated. Not only is Amazon categorically unlikely to pledge what he wants (or, even if it did, make even the slightest effort to deliver on such a pledge), but Florida openly expresses his desire to cede all urban political power and every human demand to the whims of the company. In this respect, too, the Amazon HQ2 contest has been clarifying.
economics  city  tech  from instapaper
26 days ago
The Personal Cost of Black Success
Mostly, the American Memoir is a lie. Black and brown folks know it is. But awareness alone doesn’t diminish the power that the nation’s tall tale exerts over all of us, demanding even greater heroics from outsiders with far fewer advantages. Why, Laymon and Gerald both ask, are people of color who get the chance to go far—and those back home who urge us on—so intent on declaring that we are not defined by our circumstances? That leaves us, as Gerald puts it, being “so defined by running from them that we don’t understand what they mean, what they did and are still doing to shape the way we see and move through the world.” Laymon, too, knows the reflex to “run, deflect, and duck,” he writes, and also the challenge to deliver on his mother’s demands that he “strive for excellence, education, and accountability”—her prescription “for keeping the insides of black boys in Mississippi healthy and safe from white folk.”
race  America  autobiography  from instapaper
27 days ago
“God’s Library” (by Brent Nongbri): A Review
The first chapter, “The Early Christian Book,” is a review of writing material used and the techniques of codex construction. There is excellent detail in this discussion, with helpful visual illustrations. My one quibble is over Nongbri’s statement that, with “a few” exceptions, “‘the book’ in the early Christian centuries was almost always the codex” (22). As I’ve shown, the early Christian preference for the codex appears to have been particularly consistent for those texts that were coming to be treated as scriptures, whereas there seems to have been a somewhat greater readiness to copy other texts on rolls (e.g., theological treatises and certain other texts). By my count, about one-third of the extant manuscripts of the latter types of texts are rolls.[7] Indeed, Nongbri’s table of the forms of Christian books at Oxyrhynchus (Table 6.1, p. 237) rather clearly supports my point. This still clearly represents a Christian preference for the codex overall, but I think that the marked distinction in degrees of preference for various kinds of texts is noteworthy.
bible  book  bookhistory 
27 days ago
Simulating Religion
To act more effectively on these good desires for wholeness, rationalists could use a more robust anthropology. The reductionism to which the rationalists so often resort poses challenges for a group that is seeking to preserve humanity against the threat of its potential extinction. What, in the minds of the rationalist community, are these humans whose well-being they are eager to promote? One thing that frustrated me in my conversation with Altair was the way he treated each person’s values as almost immutable, the way he resisted making normative claims about what we should value. Surely, rationality shouldn’t only help us achieve whatever we happen to want; shouldn’t it also help us shape our desires in accord with truth? According to Altair, this is a contentious issue among rationalists, though he himself has “cheated” by simply making his fundamental goal knowing true things. Though I tried, I could not get him to concede that some of those truths might be moral facts about human purpose.
religion  atheism  from instapaper
27 days ago
How the GOP Gave Up on Porn
What happened? The pervasiveness of porn is a reminder that politics historically hasn’t been much of a bulwark against the most primitive human desires—money, power, sex and, in this instance, a combination of the three. But it’s also a window into the mentality on the right, which has surrendered the fight on many social issues as America has moved left. Even with Trump in the White House and five conservatives on the Supreme Court, there is no reversing the cultural tides that have swept away the Moral Majority’s footprint on supporting traditional marriage and prayer in public schools. The difference is that some on the right still pay lip service to those lost causes. When it comes to porn—more accessible, more acceptable and less scrutinized than at any time during its history—they don’t even bother anymore.
politics  conservatism  porn  from instapaper
27 days ago
Susannah Black • Port City Confidential
The type of conservatism that rejects Sailortown because of its messiness, its instability, is a type that seeks perfection in this world. It is not a measured recognition of the provisional nature of our cities here, the impermanence of all things of this age. Rather, in its hunger for stability—itself a good hunger—it seeks that stability in the quasi-mythical stable communities of the past, the small towns to which the bad city provides the necessary rhetorical foil. [...]

The conservatism that can love a port city is one that allows cities here to be temporary; it is not threatened by the instability of the water’s edge. The conservatism that can love an imperfect community is one that knows that we are, or are called to be, citizens of the city of God first; that we are exiles here. But there is a second bit to the conservatism that embraces a port city: it is a conservatism that sees the New Jerusalem as it really is: a multiethnic exuberant rejection of all apartheid, a city full of people from all the nations and, moreover, a city with more Ashkenazim in it than ever were in the tenements of the Lower East Side.
28 days ago
Why Anti-Liberalism Fails | Front Porch Republic
“Politics,” Andrew Breitbart famously observed, “is downstream from culture.” True enough, but he should have added, “…and culture is downstream from breakfast.” One does not have to be a Marxist to note the connection between culture and agriculture, between the way we make our living and what we come to believe. For man is first of all a material being, and must eat before he can do anything else, and must keep eating if he plans to continue doing what he is doing. Our practices sooner or later dictate our beliefs and control our culture. And the economic practice that came to displace all rivals was Liberal, secular capitalism.
politics  liberalism 
28 days ago
Did the end of the Great War come too soon?
“If peace comes now, it will be a British peace,” Jan Smuts, the future South African premier, told the Imperial War Cabinet on 24 October 1918, “given to the world by the same Empire that settled the Napoleonic wars a century ago.”

But, he warned, if the war continued into 1919 “the peace which will then be imposed on an utterly exhausted Europe will be an American peace” and the United States would have “taken our place as the first military, diplomatic and financial power of the world”.

This fear of an American-imposed peace if the war continued into another campaigning season was one reason why British and French leaders were willing to accept an armistice. They hoped to gain by diplomacy at the peace conference what they had been unable to win on the battlefield.
history  war  from instapaper
4 weeks ago
I Debated Steve Bannon. It Didn't Turn Out the Way I Expected.
Integral to the liberal project, again in the broad sense of the word liberal, is confidence in the power of reason. Words and arguments can overbear ignorance and prejudice. Over the long term, words and arguments can even overcome oppression and violence. That’s why liberals in the broad sense are so uniquely horrified by official lying: How can reason prevail unless words connect to reality? How can we argue against people who will spread fictions, if serviceable to them, without a qualm?

Illiberals and anti-liberals, on the other hand, appreciate the dark energy of human irrationality—not merely as a fact of our nature to be negotiated, but as a potent political resource. People do not think; they feel. They do not believe what is true; they regard as true that which they wish to believe. A lie that affirms us will gain more credence than a truth that challenges us. That’s the foundational insight on which Trump built his business career. It’s the insight on which Trump’s supporters built first their campaign for president and now their presidency itself.
election2016  HTT  politics  from instapaper
4 weeks ago
Tired of Winning: D.C. think tanks, NYC magazines & the search for public intellect | The Point Magazine
In her 1954 lecture “Philosophy and Politics,” Hannah Arendt emphasized that it was Socrates’s own experience of “speechless wonder,” frequently reported upon by onlookers, that motivated him—having understood in his isolation and silence what was common to all human beings, namely their capacity to ask the fundamental (and fundamentally unanswerable) questions—to create a rhetorical format, the “dialogue between friends,” by which his fellow citizens would be able to “understand the truth inherent in the other’s opinion … and in what specific articulateness the common world appears to the other.” The purpose of the dialogue, Arendt claimed, was to “make friends out of Athens’s citizenry” at a time when the political life of the city “consisted of an intense and uninterrupted contest of all against all, of aei aristeuein, ceaselessly showing oneself to be the best of all.” It was this “agonal spirit” that eventually destroyed the Greek city-state, whose fate it was to be torn apart by polarizing internal hatreds long before it fell prey to invading armies.
politics  from instapaper
4 weeks ago
Apple iPad Pro review 2018: the fastest iPad is still an iPad
Oh, but it gets worse. I shoot photos in JPG+RAW, and the iOS PhotoKit API only allows apps to grab one or the other from the camera roll. So I could only import my RAW images into Lightroom, leaving the JPGs behind to clutter up my camera roll and iCloud storage. That’s untenable, so I just gave up and imported everything directly into Lightroom using my Mac, because my Mac doesn’t insist on abstracting the filesystem away into nonsense.

This little Lightroom vignette is basically the story of the iPad Pro: either you have to understand the limitations of iOS so well you can make use of these little hacks all over the place to get things done, or you just deal with it and accept that you have to go back to a real computer from time to time because it’s just easier. And in that case, you might as well just use a real computer. [...]

Apple seems to want it both ways with the iPad Pro: it loves to tout the iPad’s laptop-dwarfing sales figures and industry-leading performance, but when pushed on the iPad’s limitations, the company insists that the iPad is still an ongoing attempt to build the future of computing, not a laptop replacement.

But after eight years, this double-sided argument is no longer tenable. Unlike virtually every other computer, the iPad is a product of Apple’s singular vision: the company designs the display, the processor, the operating system, and the limits of the applications and accessories that plug into it. And after all this time, it’s clear that whatever roadblocks and frustrations exist in using the iPad Pro are there because Apple wants them there. There just aren’t that many excuses left.
iOS  from instapaper
4 weeks ago
Liberals Rail Against Counter-Majoritarian Checks on Their Power
“The People,” Alexander Hamilton once remarked, “are a great beast.” His classically educated contemporaries did not regard sentiments like these as normative judgments but as statements of fact. What today comes off as sneering elitist contempt for the public was once viewed as a proper fear of collective tyranny. The government the Founders formed, the Constitution they ratified, and the codes of conduct they endorsed are thus replete with counter-majoritarian checks on the will of the demos.

The Founding generation’s restraints on the popular will have eroded over time, but their ideals have remained largely intact. Among the values we’ve preserved is an egalitarian understanding that the people are sovereign—the ultimate arbiters of political contests—but “the people themselves” do not govern. Throughout the Federalist Papers, the Constitution’s framers warn of the reptilian nature of people in a crowd. They are prone to “the tyranny of their own passions” and possessed of an “incapacity for regular deliberation.” As James Madison warned, even if every Athenian were as wise as Socrates, “every Athenian assembly would still have been a mob.”
politics  from instapaper
4 weeks ago
When Argument Becomes Bloodsport - The Chronicle of Higher Education
At its best, uncertainty is not a state but a practice, a way to put off haste and importunity so that we can wander closely in the weeds. Like most practices, there are ways to do it badly, but doing it with others would guard against this peril. The complexities that each could bring to each would have us tarry long and carefully. We could then be better on our guard, not against being called stupid or hateful, but against being so. We would want each other’s reservations and hesitations because these would make us better, not only smarter but more humane. Uncertainty, I once thought, is what philosophers do. Now I have doubts.
philosophy  HTT 
4 weeks ago
Our Myth, Their Lie | Commonweal Magazine
Our beloved myth exploded. Twin Cities Catholics like me came face-to-face with an unpleasant fact: the orthodox Good Clerics hadn’t taken over from the Bad “Spirit of Vatican II” Clerics and cleaned house. The Good Clerics were buddies with the Bad Clerics. They did everything in their power to protect the Bad Clerics—even violating moral, civil, and canon law on their behalf. We’d believed there were two sides in the Church: orthodoxy and heresy. We often cheered for the clerics on our “team” and booed the other guys. But we were wrong. Everyone in the chancery was working together...against us.

I know there are good priests. There may even be good bishops. But don’t trust your instincts. I knew most of the people in our diocesan crisis. Reading the depositions, I saw old family friends pitted against each other. My childhood babysitter called the priest who used to be so sweet to us kids at the big parties a liar and an obstructionist. The man I worked for in college closed ranks with my wife’s childhood pastor to protect the priest who celebrated my wedding from the scrutiny of my alma mater. I never saw any of this coming. Their orthodoxy (or lack thereof) had nothing to do with it. My judgment of their character (or lack thereof) missed the mark. There was only one consistent pattern: the closer they were to power, the more my shepherds collaborated to keep the sheep deaf, dumb, and victimized. [...]

In England, in 1086, the entire country had around 1.7 million residents, and, by my count, twenty dioceses: about 85,000 people per diocese. Today, the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis alone has 3.1 million residents, of whom nearly 850,000 are Catholic. In medieval times, our diocese would be split into ten, twenty, even forty smaller dioceses, with scaled-down bishops who’d have no choice but to share “the smell of the sheep.” Instead, with help from the auxiliaries, the archbishop is able to run his unthinkably large and unaccountable archdiocese more like a corporation—a corporation desperate to protect its assets. And the Twin Cities is not even close to the worst of the mega-dioceses.
Catholic  from instapaper
4 weeks ago
Good News: National Witness?
Good liturgy isn’t everything, but bad liturgy isn’t anything.

You see, our culture is stuck because we have the wrong story in our heads. Non-liturgical worship allows that wrong story to go unchallenged. Good liturgy acts out the right story, that world history reached its climax in Jesus. Our culture is stuck in an Epicurean mode, the split-level world in which heaven and earth are held apart. Much evangelical and charismatic worship allows that to go unchallenged, merely relying on Plato to get the soul in good shape and on its way out of here. Good liturgy holds heaven and earth together, relishing the points at which, in physical beauty and movement, the life of heaven is portrayed here on earth (yes, with all the attendant dangers). Our culture imagines that ‘progress’ – social, cultural, even moral! – is automatic. Good liturgy challenges that with the drama of Jesus’ death and resurrection and the ever-fresh outpouring of the Spirit.
Anglican  liturgy  from instapaper
4 weeks ago
Hold Your Faith Tightly & Your Politics Loosely | National Review
Young Evangelicals who dissent from orthodox Christianity do not become old Evangelicals. They either migrate to secularism entirely or to progressive Christianity. Young Evangelicals who are politically conflicted rarely remain conflicted into middle age. They tend to find their political tribe. While Evangelicals rightly lament the compromise of faith, they often ignore (or don’t fully comprehend) the compromises inherent in their tribal migrations.

So, young Christians, hold your faith tightly and your politics loosely. You will not find a home here. As Peter says, you are a “foreigner and exile.” It’s best to get used to it early on. Trust me, it can be a gut-wrenching discovery to make when you’re old.
evangelical  christian  from instapaper
5 weeks ago
Standing still. iPad Pro 2018
For example: the iPad was released with a great browser that took the mobile experience from iPhone and made it bigger. JavaScript and other benchmark results got faster. Split screen, h264 video, it all got better.

But when it comes to managing SAAS applications or using other web apps it’s still way behind what macOS has to offer. Why? Because it’s based on a browser that expected to display the mobile web and push all complex use cases to Apps.

Ever tried doing anything in the Squarespace backend from an iPad? You’re stuck in autozoom hell. Change settings in Zendesk? Better hope both the toggle and the save button are within view when the page loads. Cause scrolling ain’t working.
apple  iOS  from instapaper
5 weeks ago
Seams, Stitches, And The Decline Of The Mac – Baldur Bjarnason
The mistake Apple is making, and has always made to some extent, is to confuse seams and stitches with ugliness.

Seamlessness isn’t pretty; it’s opaque and obscures the underlying structures of the tool you are making.

A stitch or a seam isn’t ugly; it’s an affordance that exposes the design, construction, and make of what you’ve made in a way that lends itself to learning.

Beauty and uniformity are two entirely independent characteristics. Seamlessness can look ugly and stitches can be pretty.

Good design can only be seamless when it has just one job to do. Add more jobs and seamlessness becomes a hindrance.
apple  mac  design  from instapaper
5 weeks ago
To Be or Not to Be a Role Model
As someone who has given more narrative talks than I would care to remember, as someone who I think would be regarded as a champion of women, I would say the best way to champion women is not to put expectations on any single woman that would not be expected of a man. I would remind readers that taking an active role in this sphere can sometimes feel overwhelming and exhausting, even if rewarding. I am happy to see a third woman win the Nobel Prize in Physics. I am happy that she should enjoy the rewards of that prize without being told she is letting the side down because she doesn’t immediately see the need to put herself into the media as a woman’s champion.
feminism  science 
5 weeks ago
Colleges Try to Make Humanities Majors More Popular - The Atlantic
“There’s only so much we can do to stem the tide in majors,” she says. “What I care about is that every student in engineering can think critically, can read carefully, and they can listen empathetically. That happens by taking courses in the humanities.”
[Does it?]
5 weeks ago
Subjectivity and Its Discontents | The Point Magazine
Perhaps the question of standards, then, is the first question a comprehensive defense of the humanities must address. Is it true that there is no hierarchy of expertise in the humanities at all? I often think back to the first time I opened a calculus textbook and compare it to the first time I opened Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit. I understood neither, but I was inclined to believe that with enough time and effort I would eventually grasp calculus, whereas with Hegel I was far more pessimistic. But why? A student who wants to learn calculus will attend class, read the textbook, do the practice problems, and approach her teacher with any struggles she might have. A student who wants to learn about Hegel, or any other “obscure” author, is advised to take a similar path. And many students do eventually understand Hegel—or at least understand him better than they did at first—provided they put in the time and effort. Of course, since there is little consensus on what counts as bullshit, drawing the line between bullshit and work that is genuinely difficult is, at least for now, an exercise left up to the individual humanist. The fact remains that humanistic work does admit of its own kind of difficulty, which most humanists know well—and describing the nature of this difficulty is where, it seems to me, the most productive defense of the humanities can start.
humanities  from instapaper
5 weeks ago
Alice 2: Up With The Smoke And How Alice Flew; or, How I'd Like To Write A New Alice Book
But there’s one serious, or semi-serious, point in all this fanciful speculation. It relies on the sense, which I argue elsewhere on this blog, that Carroll’s playful levity, his lightness of comic touch, is not incompatible with seriousness. On the contrary, comedy (especially English surreality) is a surer ground of seriousness than po-faced gurning. And what this third Alice book would pinpoint is the buried Dantean structure in Carroll’s narrative. In the first part, Alice goes into the underworld, meets creatures transformed into various monstrous shapes by their rigid natures—except that where Dante is all moral and finger-wagging and doleful-countenanced by what he sees, Carroll plays the resulting peoplescape for laughs—not only more enjoyable, but more ethically and aesthetically eloquent. In part two Alice moves horizontally into a more structured environment. Where Dante figures a mountain with seven terraces (one for each deadly sin) followed by a summit that leads the traveller to heaven, Carroll imagines a chessboard where Alice moves through seven squares before passing, in the eighth, into her queenly apotheosis. A third Alice book should surely move, like Dante, up into the sky. And there should be a rose at the end of it.
criticism  childhood  from instapaper
5 weeks ago
Andrew Sullivan: Can the Republic Strike Back?
The GOP cannot be talked out of their surrender to this strongman. With each rhetorical or policy atrocity, they have attached themselves more firmly to him. The dissenters are leaving; the new members of Congress will be even Trumpier than the old. They have abandoned any serious oversight role. Their singular achievement has been supplying judicial ranks who will not stand in the way of executive power. That was the real issue in the Kavanaugh nomination, as Newt Gingrich blurted out last week. A subpoena for the president from the special counsel would be fought, he promised, all the way to the Supreme Court, which is when we would see “whether or not the Kavanaugh fight was worth it.” This is a party bent on enabling authoritarianism, not restraining it.

That’s why I will vote Democrat next Tuesday. I have many issues with the Democrats, as regular readers well know. None of that matters compared with this emergency. I don’t care, in this instance, what their policies are. I am going to vote for them. I can’t stand most of their leaders and fear their radical fringe. I am going to vote for them anyway. Because it is the only responsible thing there is to do.
politics  from instapaper
5 weeks ago
Apples & Pears – comparing print technologies
Gutenberg was by no means the first to use moveable type. Around 1040 CE a Chinese inventor, Bi Sheng (990–1051) invented a form of moveable type with the pieces of type made of ceramics. Beyond a short description of his invention nothing more is known about it and nothing he might have printed has survived. This was followed in East Asia by various other forms of moveable type carved from wood or made of various metals. The oldest book printed with wooden movable type was Records of Jingde County printed by Wang Zhen in 1298. In 1313 he published an account of his invention A method of making moveable wooden types for printing books.
5 weeks ago
Taking It to the Streets: Preparing for an Academy in Exile | Association of American Colleges & Universities
The sustained demand for the liberal arts makes clear that there is no “crisis” for the liberal arts; the crisis is their marginalization within the university. With new technologies thrown into the mix, it is conceivable that in a couple decades, the university will no longer be an academic institution at all.

In such an environment, it is vital that academics start thinking about ways in which to promote academic research and teaching in the liberal arts outside the university. For-profit corporations are not an option since they would make knowledge a commodity and because they turn students into consumers, violating the core ethical commitments of academics. Instead, something else must be found. We have seen in journalism what happens when profit seeking trumps the professional autonomy of journalists.7 Similarly, in medicine, commercial interests threaten the professional integrity and autonomy of doctors.8 The same threat exists for the academic profession, if we cannot resist managerial and political efforts to promote the bottom line over the public good. With this threat in mind, I offer here sketches of four potential ways forward.
liberalarts  humanities  from instapaper
5 weeks ago
“The End of the World by Science” – an English translation of Eugene Huzar’s “La Fin du Monde par la Science.” Part 1 | LibrarianShipwreck
The law of universal palingenesis was revealed to me; I will formulate it as:

The pride of science, the original sin of the world, which was its downfall in the past, will also be its downfall in the future.

This is the meaning of this book.

Because it is the meaning of original sin.
Technopoly  from instapaper
5 weeks ago
Sort By Controversial
If you just read a Scissor statement off a list, it’s harmless. It just seems like a trivially true or trivially false thing. It doesn’t activate until you start discussing it with somebody. At first you just think they’re an imbecile. Then they call you an imbecile, and you want to defend yourself. Crescit eundo. You notice all the little ways they’re lying to you and themselves and their audience every time they open their mouth to defend their imbecilic opinion. Then you notice how all the lies are connected, that in order to keep getting the little things like the Scissor statement wrong, they have to drag in everything else. Eventually even that doesn’t work, they’ve just got to make everybody hate you so that nobody will even listen to your argument no matter how obviously true it is. Finally, they don’t care about the Scissor statement anymore. They’ve just dug themselves so deep basing their whole existence around hating you and wanting you to fail that they can’t walk it back. You’ve got to prove them wrong, not because you care about the Scissor statement either, but because otherwise they’ll do anything to poison people against you, make it impossible for them to even understand the argument for why you deserve to exist. You know this is true. Your mind becomes a constant loop of arguments you can use to defend yourself, and rehearsals of arguments for why their attacks are cruel and unfair, and the one burning question: how can you thwart them?
HTT  conflict  politics  from instapaper
5 weeks ago
Hayao Miyazaki’s Cursed Worlds
At its most fundamental level the movie asks: Can we live ethically in a cursed world? And if so, how? Princess Mononoke offers two related possible solutions. The first is simply to “Live!” (Ikiro!), the catchphrase emblazoned on the movie posters and uttered by the movie’s protagonist, Ashitaka, to the desperate wolf princess San as she struggles to deal with her fear and resentment of humanity. In context, it tells us we cannot give up, no matter what, a message that Miyazaki felt imperative in the emotionally apathetic landscape of nineties Japan. The second is “to see with eyes unclouded”—a challenge, as the movie presents both bloodthirsty beast attacks and relentless human industrialization, and asks us to observe all sides with clarity and objectivity.
film  from instapaper
6 weeks ago
Opinion | In Praise of Mediocrity - The New York Times
But there’s a deeper reason, I’ve come to think, that so many people don’t have hobbies: We’re afraid of being bad at them. Or rather, we are intimidated by the expectation — itself a hallmark of our intensely public, performative age — that we must actually be skilled at what we do in our free time. Our “hobbies,” if that’s even the word for them anymore, have become too serious, too demanding, too much an occasion to become anxious about whether you are really the person you claim to be.

If you’re a jogger, it is no longer enough to cruise around the block; you’re training for the next marathon. If you’re a painter, you are no longer passing a pleasant afternoon, just you, your watercolors and your water lilies; you are trying to land a gallery show or at least garner a respectable social media following. When your identity is linked to your hobby — you’re a yogi, a surfer, a rock climber — you’d better be good at it, or else who are you?

Lost here is the gentle pursuit of a modest competence, the doing of something just because you enjoy it, not because you are good at it. Hobbies, let me remind you, are supposed to be something different from work. But alien values like “the pursuit of excellence” have crept into and corrupted what was once the realm of leisure, leaving little room for the true amateur. The population of our country now seems divided between the semipro hobbyists (some as devoted as Olympic athletes) and those who retreat into the passive, screeny leisure that is the signature of our technological moment.
health  psychology 
6 weeks ago
Living in the Time of Being
Sjón: Yes, I think one of the discoveries we made in Copenhagen was that when we are gone there will be no one left to miss us. Because the animals will hardly miss us.

Anderson: My dog would miss me. I know he would.

Sjón: Of course, certain individual animals will certainly miss certain individuals, yes, but as a species I’m not sure we will be missed.

Anderson: I’m not sure, do you really think we won’t be missed?

Sjón: I think we will not be missed. Nobody missed the Neanderthals. They just disappeared and they were not missed. [...]

We were taken on a tour here in the library of all the amazing collections. And there was a beautiful thing which we came across, a green umbrella with a handle of wood carved in the shape of a parrot. This umbrella belonged to the author of Mary Poppins. And it so happens that Mary Poppins is one of my favorite literary works and films. I saw it at age of four, and when the parrot handle of Mary Poppins’s umbrella in that film speaks, there was a shift in reality for me. I didn’t find it so strange that people were flying around and entering drawings and paintings and floating up to the ceiling of laughter and all that, but the speaking parrot, this wooden handle in the shape of a parrot head that spoke—that, for me, was like “Oh no, what just happened here?’ And I’ve never recovered. When I started writing CoDex 1962, which became my first big important book, a book with which I felt I was really achieving something, I started working on this character Marie-Sophie, the lovely chambermaid, who is the main character’s mother. I gave her the name Marie-Sophie which is a variation on Mary Poppins. You can twist “Poppins” around so you, more or less, get “Sophie.” So, Marie-Sophie has a relationship with the great Mary Poppins. And, of course, it also relates to Sophia, the creator of the world according to the Gnostic beliefs. I actually think Mary Poppins is one of the key works of Gnostic literature.
lit  gnostic  from instapaper
6 weeks ago
Can Europe Protect Its Values and Those of Islamists, Too?
In his chilling, bitterly hilarious 2016 novel, Submission, the French writer Michel Houellebecq imagines a future France where Islamists attain political power and set about remaking society according to the precepts of Shariah. French elites go along, not because they are particularly enthusiastic the teachings of Muhammad, but because they are spiritually empty and politically impotent. Islam, meanwhile, is virile, energetic, brimming with civilizational will to power.

Europe took a decisive step toward realizing Houellebecq’s dystopian vision on Thursday, and it didn’t even take the election of an Islamist to high office (as occurs in Submission). The European Court of Human Rights, the body that stands as the ultimate guardian of fundamental rights on the Continent, ruled that governments may curtail criticism of the Muslim prophet if such criticism threatens social comity.
Europe  from instapaper
6 weeks ago
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