Alexander Pushkin

Weary from hunger of spirit
Through grim wasteland I dragged my way,
And a six-winged seraph came to me
At a place where two paths crossed.
With finger-tips as light as sleep
He touched the pupils of my eyes,
And my mantic pupils opened
Like eyes of an eagle scared.
As his fingers touched my ears
They were filled with roar and clang:
And I heard the shuddering of the sky,
And angels’ mountain flight,
And sea beasts moving in the deep,
And growth of valley vine.
And he pressed against my mouth,
And out he plucked my sinful tongue,
And all its guile and empty words,
And taking a wise serpent’s tongue
He thrust it in my frozen mouth
With his incarnadine right hand.
And with his sword he cleft my breast,
And out he plucked my trembling heart,
And in my gaping breast he placed
A coal alive with flames.
Like a corpse I lay in the wasteland,
And I heard God’s voice cry out:
‘Arise, prophet, and see and hear,
Be charged with my will—
And go out over seas and lands
To fire men’s hearts with the word.’

Poney Express

‘Slow’ Social Media

I am a voracious user of the social medias. They are sweet, sweet catnip to the part of my soul that apparently is a cat. I am also introspective and suspicious. When you put that together I often find myself wondering: “How should one think about Facebook / Twitter?”

Facebook feels intimate by design, but I think this is a deception. We select what we share of ourselves on social media, whether we are particularly careful about the selection or not. In other words, we construct our social media ‘selves’ – they are a persona.

This doesn’t mean, of course, that this persona can’t or shouldn’t be true. Or even that it can’t represent our aspirations or our ‘better self’. It’s natural to post more pictures of when you’re dressed up going out to a fancy restaurant than when you’re binge-watching the new season of House of Cards at home in your jammies, eating heart-shaped Peeps you got on post-Valentine’s clearance. But I digress.

Recently I have discovered a tool that has helped me keep social media in it’s proper box. I don’t know if it can help anyone who isn’t as addicted as I am, but here it is just in case. The tool is a post scheduler. It allows you to drop in a bunch of posts in advance, and then it schedules them to publish at regular intervals.

The most common one is Buffer, but it’s focused mainly on business. I tried Twuffer and Circular and am using the latter for personal posts. It’s allowed me to make a number of subtle changes to my social media habits:

Helps escape periodicity. The web is full of interesting things, and its relentless pace (which makes the old television news cycle look glacial by comparison) exerts a subtle pressure to be the first person to share a particular thing that’s making the rounds. Using a scheduling service changes this around – if it’s not worth looking at in a few days, it’s not worth sharing now.

Provides an extra layer of self-censorship. I often start to type a tweet, or share something on Facebook, only to decide mid-way that it’s not worth it. I’m sure I’m not alone in this, but for me it’s a regular occurrence – I discard dramatically more than I post. A scheduler adds an extra layer to this. When I see my upcoming slate of posts, which makes for even more opportunities to have second thoughts.

Gives a little extra distance. Facebook uses complex algorithms to determine how many of your friends will see your posts. The simplest version of this is that Facebook shows your post to a small sampling of your friends, and depending on how many of them interact with it they will then show it to a broader group. Sometimes when I post I find myself checking back to see whether people are responding. When I schedule my posts, I often don’t see them for hours after they’ve posted.

Nerdiness all the way down.

I’m trying to think of the Upworthy headline for this post, or the tl;dr version. Simple tool allows man to take control of his social media life or something like that. I think the ultimate triumph here is the discovery that you can nerd out about esoteric web apps and the examined life at the same time. It’s a new layer of cross-disciplinary nerdiness – the Internet is nerdiness all the way down.

AD HOC Podcast: ep 1 – Shaun of the Dead

Episode Notes

AD HOC is an occasional podcast. Really just an excuse to hang out with people I wouldn’t otherwise see, and then I record it to give some gravity to the proceedings. This is the first episode, and I’m still figuring out some technical / workflow things – audio leveling, video compression, etc. The main thing is that I forgot to compress the audio in the video version. But perhaps you won’t even notice it! Fingers crossed.

Oh yes, and there’s no intro in the audio version. That’s an oversight, but let’s pretend it’s intentional.

In this episode Gabe, Stephen and I talk about Shaun of the Dead, and I proceed to mis-remember the names of nearly every classic zombie movie.

Audio Version

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the American female sexual ideal

From Philip Slater’s great sociology classic / rant The Pursuit of Loneliness, a quote on American sexuality (from 1970, hence the Marilyn Monroe reference). It makes sweeping generalizations and is overly reductive and provocative, but I always have love for Slater – he wanted to bring sociology down from the ivory tower and make it something everyone could talk about, he rejected his income and chose to live in poverty for half his life, he talked often about the unhealthiness of American individualism, he was one of the first sociologists to develop the idea that the personal is the political – that our ‘domestic arrangements and our foreign policy are the inside and outside of the same phenomenon’. Anyway, the quote:

“[I]t can’t be denied that the female ideal in America is nonaggressive and nonthreatening, to the point of caricature. Take for example the film personality of the much-idolized Marilyn Monroe: docile, accommodating, brainless, defenseless, totally uncentered, incapable of taking up for herself or knowing what she wants or needs. A sexual encounter with such a woman in real life would border on rape – the idea of “consenting adults” wouldn’t even apply. The term “perversion” seems more appropriate for this kind of yearning than for homosexuality or bestiality, since it isn’t directed toward a complete being. The Marilyn Monroe image was the ideal sex object for the sexually crippled and anxious male: a bland erotic pudding that would never upset his delicate stomach.

“It’s important to realize that this Playboy ideal is a sign of low, rather than high, sexual energy. It suggests that the sexual flame is so faint and wavering that a whole person would overwhelm and extinguish it. Only a vapid, compliant ninny-fantasy can keep it alive. It’s designed for men who don’t really like sex but need it for tension-release – men whose libido is wrapped up in achievement or dreams of glory.”


The Rise of the Closed Web

Platforms, Open or Closed

Apple launched the App Store in 2008, a year after the introduction of the iPhone, providing an official channel for the sales and distribution of third-party native apps to the platform.  The iOS infrastructure (iPhones and iPads) is a closed system, a signed platform. This means that all the applications and games on the system are in some way approved by the corporation that administers the platform. This can be good: Apple doesn’t allow pornography in apps for iPhone, or bad: they cooperate with China’s oppressive government censorship of the web.

We can mark the launch of the app store as a marker in the emergence of closed platforms. This is a whole new generation of the internet, a vast sea-change in the world of computers. For better or worse, nothing will be the same.

This applies to the web, as well. The counterpoint of the closed hardware system is the big data-silos of the internet – Facebook and Google. Instead of going to many different websites, we now rely predominantly on ones run by gigantic corporations.

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