Wednesday, May 24, 2017

How to Be a Stoic - 3:AM Magazine

3AM: What are the most compelling parts of Stoicism?

MP: I can’t speak for others, but I find the fundamental idea that a life worth living is one during which one strives every day to become a better person to be compelling. The Stoics do this by mindfully practicing four cardinal virtues: practical wisdom, the ability to navigate complex situations in the best way available; courage, to do the right thing; temperance, so to always act in proportion to the need of the situation; and justice, treating others with fairness, as fellow human beings.

I also find some of the Stoic techniques to be very useful. For instance, the evening philosophical diary, in which I interrogate myself about the difficult parts of my day, reflecting on what I did right, what I did wrong, and what I could do better the next time around. Or the exercises in mild self-denial, like occasional fasting, or even taking a cold shower. They remind me of just how good my life normally is, when I can count on things like hot water and a nice meal, which are definitely not a given for everyone on the planet. Think of them as exercises in gratitude, but in practice, not just words.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie (2016) **

Would have fit well as a couple of episodes in the series but suffers from cinema's inherent gravitas, as nearly all television shows turned movies do.

Monday, May 15, 2017

If Men Were Less Awful, Would SVU Be Wicked Boring?

I’ve been a man for 44 years. And many of my friends are men. And let me tell you what happens whenever women are not around. It becomes like a Mamet/Tarantino/Labute homage. Men think dirty things. About practically everyone and everything. And we are constantly thinking dirty things even when we’re not speaking about doing dirty things. When a man checks you out on the street he will then turn to the nearest other man on the street and give him a look like “Did you see that?” And you’ll shrug or smile sheepishly to him. Or possibly you’re too busy checking that same person out to even see that guy. Or checking out that guy. We’re always checking you out.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Excalibur (1981) **

The picture has not held up upon subsequent viewings, but remains a fine rendition of the Camelot myth. It's unfortunate it was released years after this.

Tuesday, May 09, 2017

David Lynch Quits Movie Directing

Lynch confirmed that his last feature film will be 2006’s Inland Empire, which starred Laura Dern as an actress who loses grip with reality after she starts to inhabit her characters. Though he’s now back to working in television with the upcoming revival of his cult classic Twin Peaks, it’s yet to be seen whether Lynch will make a permanent move to television like many other influential mid-budget filmmakers.

Monday, May 08, 2017

Split (2016) **

Fairly well made take on the "psycho in the house" genre, a little talky at times, with nice performances. Really pushes the psycho-babble, seemingly to set up the sequel and/or to fit into Shyamalan's "universe".

Berkeley author George Lakoff says, 'Don't underestimate Trump' — Berkeleyside

But a worldview is exactly what Lakoff is talking about. “Ideas don’t float in the air, they live in your neuro-circuitry,” Lakoff said. Each time ideas in our neural circuits are activated, they get stronger. And over time, complexes of neural circuits create a frame through which we view the world. “The problem is, that frame is unconscious,” Lakoff said. “You aren’t aware of it because you don’t have access to your neural circuits.” So what happens when you hear facts that don’t fit in your worldview is that you can’t process them: you might ignore them, or reject or attack them, or literally not hear them.

This theory explains why even college-educated Trump voters could ignore so many facts about their candidate. And it also explains why progressives have been ignoring Lakoff’s findings for more than two decades. Progressives are still living in the world of Descartes and the Enlightenment, Lakoff said, a neat world governed by the rules of logic. Descartes said, “I think therefore I am,” but Lakoff claims that we are embodied beings and that 98 percent of thought is unconscious.

Our thoughts are chemical in nature, and occur within the confines of a physical body: we are not 100 percent rational beings.

Friday, May 05, 2017

The Quantum Thermodynamics Revolution | Quanta Magazine

Understanding entropy as a subjective measure allows the universe as a whole to evolve without ever losing information. Even as parts of the universe, such as coffee, engines and people, experience rising entropy as their quantum information dilutes, the global entropy of the universe stays forever zero.

Renato Renner, a professor at ETH Zurich in Switzerland, described this as a radical shift in perspective. Fifteen years ago, “we thought of entropy as a property of a thermodynamic system,” he said. “Now in information theory, we wouldn’t say entropy is a property of a system, but a property of an observer who describes a system.”

Moreover, the idea that energy has two forms, useless heat and useful work, “made sense for steam engines,” Renner said. “In the new way, there is a whole spectrum in between — energy about which we have partial information.”

Entropy and thermodynamics are “much less of a mystery in this new view,” he said. “That’s why people like the new view better than the old one.”

Tuesday, May 02, 2017

[Weekly Review] | May 2, 2017, by Joe Kloc | Harper's Magazine

U.S. president Donald Trump, who once hosted a radio show on which he discussed how there was “no question about it” that Britney Spears had “gone down” in sexiness because she got married, gave himself an “A” for his performance in his first 100 days in office, a time period during which he implied Frederick Douglass was still alive at a breakfast celebrating the start of Black History Month; said on the eve of Martin Luther King, Jr., Day that Georgia representative and Freedom Rider John Lewis was “all talk”; commented at the National Prayer Breakfast that he wanted to “pray for” Arnold Schwarzenegger’s “poor ratings” on The Celebrity Apprentice; accused former president Barack Obama of “wiretapping” Trump Tower in Manhattan, which the FBI had legally surveilled for two years as part of an investigation into the money-laundering ring of a Russian mafia boss known as “Little Taiwanese”; ordered the launching of 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles valued at $60 million at an airfield in Syria, which he described as an attack on Iraq that he carried out while eating “the most beautiful piece of chocolate cake” and which his secretary of commerce, Wilbur Ross, referred to as “after-dinner entertainment” that “didn’t cost the president anything”; and played golf more than twice as often as the previous three presidents combined, despite having once criticizing Obama for golfing “while America goes down the drain.”

Monday, May 01, 2017

Why You Should Read Fiction

Contemporary literature is full of broad gaps. The author Margaret Atwood notes that her own writing was influenced by Beatrix Potter, whom she describes as a master of oblique discourse. In The Tale of Mr. Tod, Benjamin Bunny and Peter Rabbit are in pursuit of Tommy Brock, a badger who has captured Benjamin’s children in a bag and is headed home, where he will likely eat them. On the way, the two rabbits pass the house of Cottontail Bunny, and ask if her husband, a black rabbit, is home, presumably to ask for his help in confronting Tommy Brock. In response, Cottontail says nothing about her husband, but simply states, “Tommy Brock had rested twice while she watched him.” As the two rabbits continue their pursuit, Peter says, “He was at home; I saw his black ears peeping out of the hole.” Benjamin replies, “They live too near the rocks to quarrel with their neighbours …”

Atwood writes, “At the age of four, I quickly grasped that Cottontail had lied, but the ‘rocks’ remark took some thought. Finally, I got it: Tommy Brock has a shovel, and those that live in burrows too near the rocks are easy to catch by digging. Long-term craft lesson: no need to spell everything out because the reader is the co-creator of the story and can be depended on to pick up the dropped clues.”

Atwood was undoubtedly a precocious 4-year-old, but there is evidence that average children can pick up such dropped clues, and that this process not only activates mentalizing networks in the brain, but that it hones these skills even more than the explicit labeling of mental states.

Ms. Potter is right up there with Shakespeare AFAIC.

Faces of Century Shows Then-and-Now Photos of People at 100 Years Old

Marie Fejfarova, 101 years old (“she burnt all material memories of her life”)

My new hero!