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Monday, October 30, 2006

violence is optional. sex is not.

just a thought that deserves its own space. i keep talking about it, so it’s time to get it in writing.

posted by roj at 2:02 pm  

Monday, April 11, 2005

we’re a culture that loves attention more than accuracy

a phrase of depth from lawrence lessig.

go find a context. share it in the comments.

posted by roj at 6:00 pm  

Tuesday, April 13, 2004

derek wolcott

derek wolcott

the result may be comical, but the process is serious

posted by roj at 4:29 am  

Friday, April 2, 2004

sadism and the cross – religious pornography

John Dominic Crossan (on fresh air, 2004.04.01)

when you start to focus on suffering – on the whole meaning of, say, jesus’s life being reduced – and that verb is carefully chosen – reduced to suffering, it is not the way anyone thought about it in the first century. the romans did not compute suffering. they didn’t say “we need to make this person suffer as much as possible,” or they would’ve kept him in the barracks and tortured him for weeks on end. their purpose was not suffering, but public warning. so, when you bring it all down to suffering, it’s very hard to show it without sadism, and that’s what happens in this movie. how can you show two hours of unrelenting brutality, and ask people to watch it, and ask people to feel that they want it to happen, because it’s their redemption. so you have to be, as it were, on the side of the roman soldiers. you have to want it. you can’t even agree with that jewish woman that cries out in the crowd “somebody stop this!” you can’t. you are being coopted into collusion with sadism. and i think that there is no evidence that i know that the soldiers that scourged jesus were sadistic brutes as are shown in the movie. they could’ve just been executioners doing their dirty job, wanting to get it over and get back to the barracks. so, when you emphasize suffering to that extent, it is almost impossible not to slip over into sadism or even into religious pornography.

[more on crossan, not an uncontroversial figure (count those negatives!)]

posted by roj at 8:22 am  

Monday, January 19, 2004

a quest: take the ip alternatives to the stage

having stuck my nose in just a bit too far, i (the collective i) have been charged to “see if we can find it.”

it, in this case, is a way to take the alternatives to life+ copyrights (and, more generally, other Bad Ideas in intellectual property, such as software patents) “to the stage” – to find a way to engage the public, and through the public, the policy-makers, in a legitimate debate on the subject.

i’m not talking about bumperstickers and 30-second responses, but real, in-depth debates.

it is not enough to throw these things into blogs; it’s not enough to use the net. this must engage people where they think – at home, at work, at school. and it must be completely legitimate. we’ve been preaching to the choir long enough, it’s time to take it to the streets.

so jack valenti and even the riaa must be invited to make their case. and the case against these intellectual property laws must stand up to their assaults.

that said, this isn’t about picking fights or tearing down the existing regimes, it’s about establishing the positive case for alternatives. creative commons and other concepts have been around for a while now – there should be some data available to make the case.

can it be done? how can it be done? how do you change the questions?

after some reflection, i’ve decided to take this quest to the loyal (and transient) readers here, just in case there is a spark of inspiration somewhere.

it all started long ago (jan 16, 2003), before i embraced this happy little forum to spew random thoughts into the ether, i engaged one professor lessig via email with a missive – one which i hoped would lend a different perspective on the eldred decision, and offer a potential path through the traditional dead-end of a supreme court decision… i copy it here as background (for anyone who has attention to spend on reading 🙂 )

I have given some additional thought to your question (generally, that of educating the masses), and the repercussions of the Eldred decision. I have not read the decisions yet; I wanted to write this without drawing particulars from the case.

I began looking at this issue, shortly after the “creative commons” license was available for review – with the intent that I would review it “from the outside” with a clear perspective. At first blush, I decided it was likely a good fit for most of my work, and would probably pursue “re-licensing” of some sort in the new year. I have not, to date, been active “in the battle of the copyright,” but it does provide some interesting intellectual territory. I say that as a means of professing ignorance if I’m restating the obvious or otherwise covering someone else’s tracks. I do have some vested interest in the field of intellectual property, with one patent pending, and having run the paperwork of registering copyrights on book-sized materials. I also have some interest from a more artistic and creative side (photography as a hobby). Perhaps this is more than you need to know, but it may lend some perspective on my comments.

It occurs to me that there may be a precedent (in an historical sense, not a legal one, although there is a legal component) for the situation you find yourself in regarding copyright in particular and intellectual property in general.

This is a dangerous time in America; we have concrete reminders of our vulnerability, the news drives a constant barage of threats and warnings. You are, apparently, working on a book on the subject. This book will, presumably, fly in the face of convention, tradition, commerce, The American Way, big business, Mickey Mouse, and probably, in some sense, perhaps Apple Pie itself, at least as far as the current generation tends to believe. The late 1850’s were a dangerous time in America too. Within a few years, the Civil war would create personal, tangible crisis for individual Americans. At about this time, another book was published that also assaulted convention and tradition, albeit in the form of religion. This book was penned by Charles Darwin. Darwin’s theories took hold and grabbed mindshare in Europe while America went to war with itself. The mechanism is something of interest. Debates. Public, open debates on the subject. I hope your work has done something to create and promote such debates.

If I may assume some leeway in drawing this analogy, I realize that Darwin proposed an entirely new world view, while you seem to be pressing an old, but forgotten, world view. That said, in both cases, the general public is very much of a common mind, and very unprepared to consider the questions and implications raised. We have grown up in America more and more indoctrinated into the religion of commerce and business, and you are calling that religion to the table. You may not be the Darwin of your issue; there was a complicated series of events and men that led to the Darwin “event.” You may be analogous to Linnaeus (who codifed the naming of species), or to Louis (who applied rules and categories to the lists of species), or to one of the many geologists that recognized strata in the earth and fossils in the strata, or to Cuvier (who created comparative anatomy), or Buckland, or Hutton, or Scrope, or Smith, or Lyell, or Perthes, or Henslow, or Malthus, or Gray, or Wallace, or anyone else that had a causal impact leading to that moment of publication.

That said, I feel there is a strong parallel between that time and this time. If I am correct, there is much to learn from that slice of history. I don’t want to get too involved in this analogy – It’s not my intent to draw point-by-point comparisons, but rather to suggest a period in history that reflects, in some ways, the times in which we live, and the issues with which you wrestle. If you find the analogy valid, perhaps a future expansion is warranted.

Darwin did not write his material to “pick a fight with the church.” He wrote what he believed, in terms couched, perhaps a bit too carefully, to avoid overtly offense. Darwin wrote of the animal kingdom, of differentiation of species, of natural processes he observed or inferred.

When Darwin published, at the end of the 1850s, American society was ill-prepared to respond to the gross paradigm shift, even generations later, in the mid 1920s, when John Scopes found himself in court. After the trial, it’s interesting to note that evolution crept into the Catholic realm of debate (as in, it’s ok to talk about evolution without getting the boot), before the law of the Scopes trial was repealed.

Belief, I think is an important issue. Your opponents are asking different questions, based on different beliefs. They have much success with American people asking “Would you take from a person the potential fruits of their labor?” “Who are you to interfere with the voice of the people as spoken through their representatives?”

Repercussions from Darwin lasted [at least] the rest of the century, manifesting in eugenics movements, racial purification efforts, social darwinism, and even in the class struggle of Marxism. Darwin [unwittingly] provided a unifying basis for ideological and political movements. Today, the Darwin “turtle” still competes with the Jesus “fish” for attention on car bumpers; the debate is not settled. Darwin changed what people believed. More than providing answers or solutions, Darwin changed the questions.


I began writing this before I read your latest blog entry. You mention the teacher-priest and their role in the system. Now that I’ve read your comments, and your new questions, I have decided to send my original thoughts in their original form. Darwin, I believe, briefly studied to be a priest, and commented (though I can’t find the quote at the moment) on the irony that he once pursued a role in the institution that ultimately gave him so much trouble. I will add only that it is the rebel priests that move the church.

Do get some sleep,


posted by roj at 9:15 am  

Wednesday, January 7, 2004

eco explores good enough

Books belong to those kinds of instruments that, once invented, have not been further improved because they are already alright, such as the hammer, the knife, spoon or scissors.

it’s a wonderful essay (and no surprise, really), that got a bit of traction several weeks ago, but i want to add the guitar to professor eco’s list. i’m just strange like that.

now that i’ve gotten my strangeness out of the way, i do encourage you to read the whole thing….

posted by roj at 7:50 am  

Sunday, December 28, 2003

my quest for substance

with eyes wide open, and hopefully some measure of the fascination and acceptance of youth, i keep trying to insinuate myself in fields within which i know little or nothing, looking for hints, clues and other shiny objects that might be somehow relevant to my own work.

posted by roj at 2:34 am  

Wednesday, December 24, 2003

context matters, even in irc

i frequent an irc channel that has, over time, collected an array of bots that do various things that someone might find useful – some of them are just geeks testing their bot-coding prowess, but some have stuck for a long time. it’s accepted that bots are part of the channel, and as with any software, there is turnover and upgrades and bugs that come with them.

often, very smart people drop into this channel, many of whom are completely new to this so-many-years-old irc thing. as with any new thing, walking into the “lion’s den” can be a bit intimidating – if not because of the human residents, then for the less-than-elegant technology that is irc or even the “what the hell is that?” moment that happens when a bot first does its thing in front of someone.

the channel has also evolved some fairly non-irc-like social norms – perhaps in part to accomodate these new people, and perhaps in part because most of the regulars also have outside-irc context to draw on with each other. anyway, precisely how the channel evolved isn’t really what interests me at the moment.

tonight, as i glanced in, i noticed a behavior from a recent bot-addition to the channel that has, in the past, resulted in days and weeks of time wasted explaining how “/ignore” works, or why something is the way it is, or this is just someone testing something or how the client they’ve chosen “sucks” and they should use something else or other various garbage.

unsurprisingly, gently mentioning a behavior that we’ve seen in this channel before, and the trouble (if it can be called that – more like “noise”) it has caused was met with a rather stiff, geek-paradigmatic response: that’s how it’s supposed to work according to the rfc, and that’s how it’s going to stay. i didn’t make a very effective case, and i’m going “backchannel” precisely to avoid prompting a debate on the subject. this was just another dead end conversation. compliant bot behavior isn’t what interests me at the moment either.

i just want to drop an observation into the blogosphere and say that context matters. in this channel, we have the same discussion, the same education process, the same complaints and questions every time a bot displays this behavior. conforming to the “channel norm” is, i think, more important than comforming to the “letter of the rfc.” for now, i’ll watch the noise-to-signal ratio creep up until everyone has adjusted to the new bot (or the new bot is upgraded, replaced or removed, as the case may be).

occasionally when discussion breaks down into yet another explanation of this bot-behavior, i’ll see it and think to myself that we’re spending a lot of effort to adapt the humans to the bots, and not enough adapting the bots to the humans… and then i’ll realize that it’s pretty common to get that backwards, particularly with technology and geeks, and i’ll smile a little to myself and wander off to something interesting.

posted by roj at 10:52 pm  

Friday, December 5, 2003

ethical archetypes

some time ago, kevin marks stuck a little gem in the back of my brain about ethical archetypes. this comes from jane jacobs, and defines the “commercial” and “guardian” archetypes.

some time later, kevin followed up on a tip from crw about a third archetype described by chris phoenix. in addition to the guardian and commercial archetypes, chris adds an “information” archetype.

with these three archetypes firmly embedded in the back of my fully-associative memory, i dared to wander about the internet, and i came upon a bit of light that caught my attention.

all very interesting stuff, but i didn’t have a lot to contribute until i read the bubble of american supremacy by george soros. now i will add my breadcrumb to the trail. i hope it leads you somewhere.

A recent Council on Foreign Relations publication sketches out three alternative national-security strategies. The first calls for the pursuit of American supremacy through the Bush doctrine of pre-emptive military action. It is advocated by neoconservatives. The second seeks the continuation of our earlier policy of deterrence and containment. It is advocated by Colin Powell and other moderates, who may be associated with either political party. The third would have the United States lead a cooperative effort to improve the world by engaging in preventive actions of a constructive character. It is not advocated by any group of significance, although President Bush pays lip service to it. That is the policy I stand for.

i think i hit all the steps along my path to discovery… a quick nod to everyone who left me breadcrumbs to follow.

posted by roj at 5:09 am  

Friday, November 14, 2003

that history lesson

why bother learning anything about history? we’ll be repeating it all again soon enough, eh?

posted by roj at 10:39 am  
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