Since the modern world is all about me, me, me,

Have computers taken away our power? | The Guardian
Link

In his films, Adam Curtis draws on recent attempts to overthrow power in autocratic countries, describing the spontaneous revolutions in Georgia, Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan as a “triumph of the visions of computer utopians of the 1960s, with their vision of computers allowing individuals to create new, non-hierarchical societies” just like in that mass game of Pong. “The internet played a key role in guiding revolutions that had no guiding ideology, except a desire for self-determination and freedom.” But the desire for freedom itself was not enough, he says. “In all those revolutions, that sense of freedom lasted only for a moment. The people were brilliant at overturning the power but then what? Democracy needs proper politics, but people have given up on saying that they’re going to change the world.” The Arab uprisings began after he finished making the films, but he sees these in the same way. “It’s as if these people assembled spontaneously on Twitter and they just want freedom. But what kind of society do they want?”

He does not deny that Twitter and Facebook had some impact at least organisationally. But he has strong views on social networking for anything beyond straightforward organisation; he considers the sharing of emotions online to be the “Soviet realism of the age”.

He quotes Carmen Hermosillo, a West Coast geek and early adopter of online chatrooms who in 1994 argued that, although the internet is a wonderful thing, your emotions become commodified. “It is fashionable to suggest that cyberspace is some island of the blessed where people are free to indulge and express their individuality,” she wrote. “This is not true. I have seen many people spill out their emotions their guts online and I did so myself until I began to see that I had commodified myself.” Says Curtis, “On Facebook and Twitter, you are performing to attract people you are dancing emotionally, on a platform created by a large corporation. People’s feelings bounce back and forth happy Stakhanovites, ignoring and denying the system of power. It’s like Stalin’s socialist realism. Both Twitter and socialist realism are innocent expressions of the ideology of the time, which don’t pull back and show the wider thing they are part of. We look back on socialist realism not as innocent but as a dramatic expression of power; it expresses the superiority of the state, which was the guiding belief at the time. I think sometime in the future people will look back at the millions and millions of descriptions of personal feelings on the internet and see them in similar ways. This is the driving belief of our time: that ‘me’ and what I feel minute by minute is the natural centre of the world. Far from revealing that this is an ideology and that there are other ways of looking at human society what Twitter and Facebook do is reinforce the feeling that this is the natural way to be.”

Curtis doesn’t tweet or Facebook send him to the gulag! but he has an excellent blog, “which isn’t about me or my feelings, because I don’t think I’m as interesting as the stories I’m telling”.

Where will the next big idea come from? He wonders about China. “Is it a stable system? Or a mercantilist economy that’s gone too far?” Or closer to home. “If things go really bad, they change. If things get really bad, they say, can we have a dramatically different, better kind of society?”

Since the modern world is all about me, me, me, here’s a confession: Curtis’s ideas have made me run for my life. In 2009, in the course of It Felt Like A Kiss, the sublime theatre event Curtis put on with Punchdrunk about the birth of hyper-consumerism, I was separated from the audience and sent down a long, dark corridor, which I took to represent the apotheosis of individualism. I remember thinking, I must run because my life depends on it I knew it wasn’t real, but I couldn’t help myself. It was terrifying. The ideas in All Watched Over By Machines Of Loving Grace are similarly mesmerising and disturbing, but they’re also a provocation: have we really given up on the hope of changing the world in our lifetimes? Or is that in itself an idea worth fighting for?

Link to video: All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace

http://www.theguardian.com/tv-and-radio/2011/may/06/adam-curtis-computers-documentary

Thinking Big And Small About The Winona Fire by Emilio DeGrazia

Thinking Big And Small About The Winona Fire by Emilio DeGrazia

There have been so many recent floods and fires that medieval philosophers––those who believed that fire, water, earth and air were the only four “elements”––must be in their heavens and hells wondering if fire and water are at war with earth and air. Wars here and there––those who sponsor them––can share the blame for some of the fires, and it’s apparent that the wildfires devastating parts of the American landscape result more from human misdeeds than from any tendency nature has to destroy itself. We can’t help wondering what causes things to burn. Though in Greek the word for “fire” is puros, also the root of our English word for “pure,” fire seems the most devilish of the four medieval elements.

When things go up in smoke people begin looking for things, often in the smoke itself. When the World Trade Towers came crashing down on 9-11 some saw Satan in the cloud of smoke rising from the scene. Though many of these same people believe that a loving God is in control of everything on earth, no one is said to have seen the face or hand of God in the smoke.

When a fire recently destroyed the Islamic Center in the heart of downtown Winona, the smoke hovered in the air above the town like sad thoughts. The fire leveled not only the Islamic Center but seriously damaged shops and offices that represent much that is good about the town––a coffee shop named Blooming Grounds, a gift shop named Pretty Things, a kid’s shop named Pipe Dream Toys, a sporting goods store called Sole Sport, a law office, and offices for Integrative Health Care and Outreach and Emergency Services organizations. A sex shop on the same block selling eros-enhancing artifacts seems to have escaped serious damage.

Some dark thoughts, so big and airy they no doubt had holes in them, also were lurking in the smoke moiling over the scene. Was the fire the work of Satan or God? Did some fanatical Christian want to do Muslims in, did Muslims conspire to destroy their own Center in order to make Christians look bad, or was the fire some sort of divine revenge for having a sex shop in the middle of town? Some Christian groups and officials at the Islamic Center had been opposed to having the sex shop on the same block, but learned to live with it when the decision came down that the shop’s right to exist was protected by law. Continue reading

Dogtown… by Rachel Mankowitz

I want to live at Dogtown

Posted on August 18, 2013 by rachelmankowitz

There was a show on the National Geographic channel a few years ago set at an Animal Sanctuary in Utah called Best Friends. They have separate enclosures for birds and cats and rabbits and horses and pigs, and the section for dogs is called Dogtown.

The show focused on their work with last chance dogs, and how they try to give them better lives. Each dog has a team of veterinarians and groomers and trainers and volunteers looking out for them, and coming up with creative ideas for how to help them with problems other shelters couldnt solve. So a half-blind, ten year old dog, who couldnt walk on a leash, had people brainstorming ways to help him live his best possible life. And, if they couldnt find him a forever home, he would always have a home at the sanctuary.

Dogtown represents the kind of safety net I wish we all had, pets and humans alike, because the volunteers and groomers and vets and trainers at Dogtown seemed to be infused with a level of compassion and persistence you dont find in regular life. The problem is that most shelters are not Dogtown. Some have the compassion, but not the skill, or they have the volunteers, but not the money, or the space.

The shelter where we got Butterfly subsidizes her medical care, and sends buses to pick up dogs from puppy mills all the time, but they have no mandate to train the dogs, or help them overcome social deficits. Their goal is to send the dogs out to new homes as soon as possible.

See more at http://rachelmankowitz.wordpress.com/2013/08/18/i-want-to-live-at-dogtown/

What good are cats, anyway ?

via David Drumm at Jonathan Turley

Human Cells Make Mice Smarter – Scientific American

these human astrocytes accomplished calcium signaling at least three times faster than the mouse astrocytes did. The enhanced mice masterfully memorized new objects, swiftly learned to link certain sounds or situations to an unpleasant foot shock, and displayed un-usually savvy maze navigationsigns of mental acuity that surpassed skills exhibited by either typical mice or mice transplanted with glial progenitor cells from their own species.”
https://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=human-cells-make-mice-smarter

A Room of My Own – Emilio DeGrazia

Whenever the house gets messy enough I like to retreat to a favorite little space where I hope everyone will just let me be. There, in that small room, I find some quiet ways to come to terms with all the messy troubles in the world. I’m suspicious of the way the word spiritual is used, so I tell myself it’s where I make my separate peace.

In that room there’s a window looking out. So I also call it a room with a view.

That window is small enough to provide me some dense impressions of how human beings tend to behave. Yesterday, after turning off the TV news and its steady stream of talk about wars and the horror potential of four-hour erections, I imagined myself somewhere in the Mideast right after a fellow named Jesus, like many others, was crucified. The region I’m in is teeming with religious cults, rituals, prophets, seers, and devotees. Some of these cults come from Persia and beyond, others from what we now call Israel, Palestine, Lebanon, Syria and Turkey, and beyond. And all these cults compete for attention with the devotees of the various Greek and Roman deities.

The region is, religiously speaking, untidy, and messy if we disapprove. The Romans, who rule the scene, think it best to let people believe what they want as long as they pay their taxes and behave. A few of the Roman emperors think of themselves as gods, but because there are so many gods all around the emperors secretly know they’re not the only ones in a crowded field of minor league god-players.

Anybody with teenagers in the house knows this much: Untidiness gets on the nerves. So many cults, so many deities, so many important things to believe, this way or that. The urge for neatness kicks in, for the sake of order and clarity and purity. Throw a bunch of stuff out, finally. Get rid of all the cults and gods that clutter the temples, streets and minds. Get back to basics, the god I like.

So polytheism officially lost out, and the great monotheistic religions took over. The woman devoted to chastity no longer has her own special goddess, Artemis, to call her own, and the drunken lecher no longer calls on Bacchus to juice him up. The Gnostics, who believe themselves in the special know about most things divine, have to join the Roman church or play dumb, and the Manichaens, with their rival kingdoms of evil and good, become just one more designated minority heretic group. The One God, Jewish, Christian, and eventually, Muslim too, becomes the acceptable, invariable and eventually required only God.

So why don’t we get along? Why all the trouble and fuss in the Mideast and here at home? The troubles are not just about oil and jobs. They’re also about dignity and belief and the right to believe and be left alone to get on with the daily chores of life. Trapped by these troubles are ordinary and reasonable people who want zealot politicians and preachers to go mum for a change. These good folk don’t like others trying to mind their spiritual business.

The monotheistic leaders agree that they all worship the same God. one, absolute, an invariable. Meanwhile, the other invariables persist – the chaste woman, the lecherous drunk, the mystic knower, the saint who thinks he’s living in a black and white, evil and good, world with other believers who look at all things spirituality, morality, abortion, gay marriage, big corporations, and religion’s role in politics this way and that.

But now there are not countless sacred cults to choose from and to find comfort and community in. So here we are, stuck either inside the umbrella, or somewhere outside. If we’re inside the One God umbrella it’s easy to take potshots at everyone outside, and vice versa.

Things get much worse when those inside the umbrella multiply and divide. Then they begin taking potshots at each other too. Various types of Catholics and Protestants come to mind, and Sunni and Shia, with many local variations. Things get much worse when the uncivil comments the zealots hurl at each other turn into civil wars. While people stuck in civil wars crucify each other, they also live in the same town, and sometimes next door.

There’s usually no backing down, especially when zealots begin making speeches and when the basic response that results from thinking of the world as good and evil gets on the roll called revenge. You killed my son? Then I’ll rape your daughter. That kind of thing.

And when there’s no Rome to collect taxes and keep the calm, that is, when people require government to take only one side, things are likely to get worse.

It makes a lot of people wonder where they can find a decent cult to join. They’d probably do much better by clearing space for a little room of their own, but please, everyone, don’t bring your messes into my little room.

life is unfair, part infinity…

Barbara Eden at 78

Life Ball 2013 - Show“The 78-year-old “I Dream of Jeannie” actress wowed the crowd at this weekend’s Life Ball in Vienna, Austria, coming on stage in her iconic midriff-baring costume. LINK