Thursday, December 01, 2016

No pain, no gain

Its pretty much a basic rule of online life not to read the comments.  Whether its trolls who somehow find time to comment on millions of hours YouTube videos or determined efforts by Russian and American military and corporate social media specialists to influence foreign and domestic populations, its very likely that if you look at the comments on pretty much any post you'll just into a fight.

What makes comments so particularly infuriating is that there are just so many people who are wrong, and they all show up with carefully-crafted talking points.  I say this without irony, because of course the people on the other side of the argument - the ones who you disagree with - believe you're showing up with predetermined and carefully crafted talking points.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Some thoughts on hyperbole

Perhaps you've been deep in a cave for the last week or so, but just in case: A man with the lowest personal approval rating of probably any candidate for president of the US won election last Tuesday.  His approval rating was even lower than his opponent, who won the popular vote but wasn't able to carry enough state-by-state votes to win the thing outright.  It may be that she can still win the election, as the Electoral College is the final arbiter.  And, as many who voted for Hillary Clinton are aware, the Electoral College was invented to ensure the Presidency doesn't fall into the hands of the unfit.

The water's fine

Editor's Note: I wrote this back in March...

What defines a "tribe?"  In the old days it was defined anthropologically, as

a social division in a traditional society consisting of families or communities linked by social, economic, religious, or blood ties, with a common culture and dialect, typically having a recognized leader.
"indigenous Indian tribes"  
At about the same time people in my neighborhood started going to Burning Man, when it was still just a group of artists and their families and friends getting together over the Labor Day weekend on a beach in the Outer Sunset of San Francisco to burn up some of the stuff they couldn't sell or didn't want to, the definition of "tribe" changed to something more like "affinity group."  One's "tribe" came to connote the people you wanted to hang out with, as opposed to say the ethnic group you might accidentally find yourself part of by birth.  San Francisco divided into tribes, as many of the people in Generation X made there way out from their homelands and migrated to different parts of their continents.  It was voluntary tribalhood, of course; the slacker image aside, very few of the people in Generation X chose their companions carelessly.  The definition of your local family or affinity group might have been as simple as "no needle drugs" but you'd surprised how meaningful and exclusive a club like that might be at various points in the '90s.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016


When I was still a young man Beck released the song "Loser."  In 1993 the Reagan era was in collapse, Generation X was still a viable concept, Clinton was President and it appeared that a life of low-wage unfulfilling work loomed ahead of all of us who weren't Boomers.  I was in graduate school, living with a bunch of other graduate students in a newly gentrifying neighborhood in San Francisco, the students and white kids slowly moving into apartments recently vacated by African-American families.  (Not all of those families were economic refugees; our landlord was African American, and that was true for about half the places I lived in San Francisco).