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“There comes a point where we need to stop just pulling people out of the river. We need to go upstream and find out why they’re falling in.”

— Desmond Tutu

Hell of a Mess

Paul Volcker, at 91, Sees ‘a Hell of a Mess in Every Direction’:

“The central issue is we’re developing into a plutocracy,” he told me. “We’ve got an enormous number of enormously rich people that have convinced themselves that they’re rich because they’re smart and constructive. And they don’t like government, and they don’t like to pay taxes.”


Can Not Learn

Sometimes I don’t write because so many others do it better. For example, Umair Haque, in his essay What Do You Call a World That Can’t Learn From Itself?:


Social Institutions as Games

I’m listening to a lecture by Alan Watts that begins with the topic “social institutions as games”. The term “games” in this context is not speaking of the trivial, but rather something that is always played for its own sake. Recognizing social institutions, (including identity!), as games, gives us perspective on our society and our lives that is sorely missing when we insist on taking everything deadly seriously.



Watching the world turn upside down in the era of constant information:

In theory, big countries should dominate all sports because they have the biggest talent pool. But they don’t, because societies squander their talent.


Jill Lepore wrote “Battleground America” for an April issue of The New Yorker:

When carrying a concealed weapon for self-defense is understood not as a failure of civil society, to be mourned, but as an act of citizenship, to be vaunted, there is little civilian life left.


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Ray Towler

The Someone You’re Not” in Esquire magazine is about a man wrongfully imprisoned for almost 30 years.

He loves work. He got out May 5 and started working June 21. Hell, I’ve been vacationing for thirty years. He wears a smock and pushes a mail cart. He stops at all the cubicles, greets everyone with his friendly smile. Ray even loves commuting to work, especially now, in his new car, a black Ford Focus. He’s like a sixteen-year-old who can finally drive himself to school. It costs almost the same to park as it does to take the train.



Farmville is even more of a bummer than I’d originally thought. Cultivated Play: Farmville:

The most important thing to recognize here is that, whether we like it or not, seventy-three million people are playing Farmville: a boring, repetitive, and potentially dangerous activity that barely qualifies as a game. Seventy-three million people are obligated to a company that holds no reciprocal ethical obligation toward those people.


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Meaning of Information Technology

I haven’t read an article in a long time with such a gigantic vocabulary. Lot of dictionary use on this one. It is still very understandable, though — so I submit to you The Meaning of Information Technology:


Where Has Art Gone?

We’ve got things backwards. Not just you and me; it’s a bit bigger than that. Since at least the industrial revolution, and probably before, we’ve been pushing, shoving and smashing something out of our culture: art. A tiny event like the removal of art and music from school curricula has its roots not in budget cuts but in a societal shift away from art. And so the evisceration of any balance in public education (in the name of things like No Child Left Behind) is simply an indication of a greater problem, not the problem itself. A relentless march towards increased efficiency and productivity has created a society that gasps and heaves in cycles:


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War on the Unexpected

Bruce Schneier makes some good points about the embarassing public displays of stupidity that culminate in a broken home front against terrorism. In his essay, The War on the Unexpected, he writes:

The problem is that ordinary citizens don’t know what a real terrorist threat looks like. They can’t tell the difference between a bomb and a tape dispenser, electronic name badge, CD player, bat detector, or a trash sculpture; or the difference between terrorist plotters and imams, musicians, or architects. All they know is that something makes them uneasy, usually based on fear, media hype, or just something being different.