Posts Tagged ‘ Media ’

Singularity, The; Downside, Cultural

2011.01.13
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Fig. 1.

I DON’T LIKE THAT specific nouns are being co-opted for brand naming. Twenty years from now, some teenager watching Star Trek: The Next Generation will say, “Hyuk! Data doesn’t look like a smartphone!”

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Apropos Punditry

2011.01.11
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DOESN’T ALL THAT JERKING MAKE the knees hurt?

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Something With Which All Pundits Seem To Agree, Post- “Arizona Tragedy”

2011.01.10
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“WE ALL NEED LESS VITRIOL from those other guys.”

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Sorting Debbie

2011.01.10
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IN THE WAKE OF SINGER and prolific synagogue-music innovator Debbie Friedman, I find myself mourning her death but ambivalent about her legacy.

The mourning: If you worship at most “progressive” (i.e., non-Orthodox) North American synagogues, you’re familiar with her work (particularly the Mishebeirach, a prayer for healing which was recently (some say “at last”) canonized in the new Reform prayerbook). But if you ever saw Ms. Friedman in concert, you really saw her. The woman fairly glowed. Not literally, but in the eyes of the mind: huge radiating love-and-wonder vibes not really all that different from a Grateful Dead show, and from which people depart laughing, woohooing, and singing to themselves for days afterward. She was a great and phenomenal talent who brought a lot of joy to this end of the universe and, as is so often the case, the world seems a bit darker for her absence.

The ambivalence: While introducing folk music to the service makes the service, or rather the joy inherent, more accessible, it can also turn the service into a sing-along. And, even as a happily compulsive singer-along, that’s not why I attend services. At one time or another it has been my pleasure to attend Grateful Dead concerts, coven circles, Mass, church, a Buddhist shrine and various other experiential constructs. I found each of them beautiful and, in a sense, useful. But none of them move me in the way of a book-and-dream-fragrant silence, woven through with wordless murmurings and solemn chanting of the ancient heart-known Hebrew. It is, to me, authentic, which is to say familiar and challenging in a way that singing along not quite is.

“One man’s meat” is a proverb in many tongues and times. But when someone like a Debbie Friedman passes out of the world, it makes many other things feel small. Thank you, Ms. Friedman, for making Earth a bit bigger for a while.

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David Mamet’s Christmas Wishes

2011.01.04
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From our Wish-We’d-Found-This-Two-Weeks-Ago department: Over on Tablet, playwright David Mamet literally pens a Christmas card to the Jews from the Chinese “who do not completely understand your dietary customs.” To say more would sound horribly post-facto; let’s say instead we’re being early for next year.

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5 Thoughts: Veni, Vidi, Wiki

2010.12.14
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1. NO REPORTER (OR FORMER REPORTER) can resist two-centsing the Wikileaks Affair. Yet my opinions are still raw and untempered; this movie isn’t over yet, and any real proclamations of herohood or villainy are thus still naively premature. This unfolding fact is some comfort to those of us on the fence: who dislike Mr. Assange’s person and motives, applaud Wikileaks qua Wiklileaks, think some doors work better when closed, are appalled by their government’s heavy-handed attempts to quash fair journalistic game, roll their eyes at the kneejerkisms of “both” “right” and “left,” and feel the “hacktivist”(1) response is both counterproductive and self-seeking.

2. It’s hard to deny that Mr. Assange comes off as a petulant, smash-everything egotist even in his own writings — a reflexive anti-authoritarian who got lucky with a similar and better-connected discontent. That is not a valid criticism against the leaks themselves or what’s revealed in them, and I wonder about the commentators who think it is. Read more »

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Mindfulness Question

2010.12.02
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EXACTLY WHAT IN YOUR LIFE requires an opinion? And can kneejerk acceptance be as valid a personal evolutionary strategy as kneejerk fulmination?

Contemplating these questions may not make you wiser, but may make you happier. (But there’s no real guarantee of either.)

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Reporters And Other Artists, Remember:

2010.12.01
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“IN THE ABSENCE OF NUANCE, it just becomes noise.” –Ann, commenting on a newspaper article which lacked some rather essential facts

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Listen Up

2010.11.26
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TODAY IS THE NATIONAL DAY of Listening, which, if you hadn’t heard — and I hadn’t until about five minutes ago, which saddens me because it’s such a neat idea and it’s in its third year — is dedicated to exactly that: listening to each other’s stories, and recording (and uploading) them for the curious and unborn.

Our memories are a non-renewable resource: once they’re gone, so is a world. National Day of Listening lets us peek into these other worlds — and maybe better understand our own.

LINK (including a do-it-yourself listening kit): http://nationaldayoflistening.org/

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Election Day Haiku

2010.11.02
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God who hears all, please –
Don’t let the idiots win.
Please. Please. Please. Please. Please.

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Fiction: The Little Green Man Who Didn’t

2010.09.27
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HE WAS DANGLING FROM THE upper corner of my typewriter window, upside-down and scowling, when I first saw the Man from Mars.

That’s what he was, no doubt about it. He was three feet tall, emerald green where the spacesuit didn’t cover him, and with more-than-vestigial antennae sprouting from a large bulbous head. His expression mingled disappointed with disbelief, as though his worst hopes had been realized about a minute before he appeared.

“I cannot believe you people,” he was saying. “Just can’t believe it.”

“I’m not sure I believe in you either,” I said.

He climbed down around the sill until his scowl was level with my eyes. “That’s not what I meant,” he said. “Would you mind opening the window?”

“I would,” I said. “How do I know you’re, you know … not part of some invading force?”

“Because I can’t even open the window by myself,” he said. “The latch is on your side.”

“So it is,” I said, and raised it.

He stepped into the room. The spacesuit was ribbed silver and sans helmet, although a tubed canister on his back suggested its existence somewhere nearby. Most likely in a flying saucer, of course.

“This is why I contacted you,” he said, looking up at me with hands on glistening hips. “You remember.”

“Remember what?”

“Remember me. Remember us. The little green men from another world. Few do these days. I mean, you still use a typewriter. And not for irony.”

“I like to pound the words into the paper,” I said. “It feels like I’m sculpting them.”

“Whatever. You still remember the Old Ways.”

“I thought I was the only one who used that term. You mean, of course, when the future was shiny and worth a damn?”

“When there was a future. These days it’s all zombies, and mutants, and vampires, which are by the way the most pretentious of all the undead.”

“No question there,” I said. “But what do you mean?”

“What was the first post-apocalypse you remember?” he asked. “Mad Max, wasn’t it?”

“No, Road Warrior,” I answered. “I missed the first film somehow. But I had a subscription to Heavy Metal. The Church of Moebius.”

“Whatever. Remember the world situation then?”

“Sure. 1980s. Ronald Reagan and the Evil Empire. We kept expecting nukes to drop every evening.”

“Right. Sure did take off, though, didn’t it?”

“What do you mean?”

“Post-apocalypticism. It’s a very seductive look: dead cities, mutants trading in the wrecked underbelly, black trenchcoats, green lighting. It’s very easy. Not like futurism — optimistic futurism, anyway. See the connection now?”

I didn’t, and said so. He looked at me with patience.

“You weren’t expecting the future anymore…” he began.

My heart froze.

He looked at me in sad silence.

“My God. What happened to us?” I asked. “This is why there’s no jetpacks – we’ve torn down all the launchpads and replaced them with franchised dead things.”

“That is about the size of it,” he said. “That’s why I’m here — to say goodbye, to someone who’d miss me.”

“But wait! What about Roswell?” I asked. “Flying saucers are still part of the brain politic.”

He stepped to the window, put a leg up. “But those saucers crashed,” he said. “And you people autopsied the occupants. See?”

Then he was gone.

I hope he comes back.

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Blog: “Oy Bay”

2010.08.17
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JEWISH BLOGS CAN BE DICEY: on the one hand are individuals writing about everything from raising kids in Israel to student-rabbiing to Torah to protesting one’s Torah(1), and on the other are institutions often conducting “outreach” or fundraising. The former tend to shoot from the heart, the latter try (too self-consciously(2), methinks) to “engage and inform.”

One which seems to do both is http://oybay.wordpress.com/, a volunteer-written guide to the Jewish Bay Area. (I say “seems” because it hasn’t been updated since early July, but perhaps this trackback will stimulate them.) Most of the entries are written by “Oyster,” who presents as every synagogue’s zayde(grandpa)-of-all-trades (ours are named Sy and Addy), but the “About Us” list is decidedly under 30 (OyBay’s target demographic). OyBay’s pleasant mix of RSS feeds, links and occasional dispatches makes it an accessible jumping-on place for Bay Area Jews.

Neal’s rating: Four whole-wheat bagels with a glass Cel-Ray.

- = – = -
(1) To speak of “one’s Torah” is as to speak of “one’s Zen;” it’s really “one’s principles and demonstrated grasp of same.” Some people also speak of this as “one’s Jewishness” or “one’s “Yiddishkeit.”
(2) That self-conscious thing is deadly. If you too wear a yarmulke in public, you know what I mean. If not, then imagine someone making a big deal about not making a big deal about something that’s worth making a big deal about, then emailing you updates.

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Celebrating the remaining days:hours:etc until Apophis II. Live it up, Earthlings.

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