Friday, January 29, 2010

Links of the Week

Here's a weekly round-up...Have a lingering worry about free will? Don't worry, 4.4 million dollars has been invested in a PHILOSOPHER to settle the question...I don't know if there is anything that excites me more than a computer controlled by my brain...Really loved Bonnie's 'random' choices, especially the tree houses...Liv scoops chat roulette, before Fast Company, it's taking off!...Ever wondered what english sounds like to foreigners? Watch this video, it's so hilarious...Really interesting article about how a new version of 'start-up' could begin soon...I was struck by this, and really don't know where I stand: how does one use people in wheelchairs without being criticized?...also this made me DEEPLY HAPPY: a plus (aka normal) sized woman being used as a model in Glamour magazine---AND THE STORY WASNT THAT SHE WAS PLUS SIZED! I don't know if this can be celebrated enough, maybe the best part is that people haven't made a big deal about it..and, usual, it all comes down to the SAINTS VERSUS COLTS. ... Hopefully the NFL will stop trying to squeeze every freakin' dime possible out of the game...of course that would be impossible...If you are looking for a pre-game, check out this site: HistoryoftheSaints...We didn't have a winning season or make it to a playoff game for 20 years, we didn't win a playoff game for 33 years, didn't make it to the NFC championship for 39years , and now, in our 42 season, are finally going to the Superbowl....not to play the Katrina card, but honestly how could you be rooting for the Colts?

Epitome of New Orleans

via Defend New Orleans Blog

Thursday, January 28, 2010

New Orleans Reaction to Election

Via the times pic

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Thoughts on the iPad

Now there is the iPad. I just realized, in the next ten years, I'm going to look at the size of the computers we have now in the same way that I look at the size of cell phones in the early 2000's. It will be gradual, and then, shocking. Kind of like getting fat. Or getting old. I guess they are the same phenomenon, really, the process of things around you changing faster than you are. It's the key to staying young: never getting stuck, keep up with the pace of the world. But the desire for youth is pulled by the desire to do something, to become someone. That seems to be the pressure these days, to make a decision, settle, dig in my heels and become something. Sometimes, I worry that if you spend too long choosing, you'll never become anything. That there will be a point when it will be too late.

The idea that I will run out of time doesn't bother me too much, because I know I'm very young. But even at my young age, things like the iPad, or I Love The 00's, or the fact that 1997 was 13 years ago, begin to awaken this fear. This is because I do believe there comes a time when you have spent so long not deciding what you are, you become someone that couldn't decide, and that's a static person as well, a commitment in itself. I'm realizing that sometimes when you make commitments, be they degrees, relationships, locations, you can still sustain flexibility and contribute to your growth. That even when you gain definitions you still have room for new contours. Personal growth is a way to maintain youth, because the feelings it gives you are identical to the way everyone feels as a child: That sense that the world was constantly filled with delights and surprises, or, in other words, the feeling that you could become someone new. But is not always fertilized by a constant wandering. Instead, one grows both by accepting commitments and living up to definitions and keeping an eye for continued positive change.

Narcissism Does Not Mean Self-Love

There have been some recent studies on narcissism that a Scott Barry Kaufman outlines nicely in this post, and a blog on psychology today writes a 'field guide' to narcissism.

The dictionary definition of narcissism is: inordinate fascination with oneself; excessive self-love; vanity. I think this definition is a confusion, and too often people confuse Narcissism with Self-Love. Kaufman summarizes the behaviors of a narcissist as follows: "Leadership/Authority, Self-Absorption/Self Admiration , Superiority/Arrogance, and Exploitativeness/Entitlement."

What's striking about these features is how under the right circumstances they could be positive traits, i.e., having good leadership skills, self-esteem, self-confidence and the ability to seek help from others. But these are not exactly the opposite of the behaviors above. The opposite would be Passivity/Lack of Control, Self-Hatred, Inferiority/Insecurity, Self-Pity. So what is the 'core' emotion that these two sides rest on?

I think the answer is self-love. These are questions I think about a lot, because it is something I really struggle with. Often, I want to be proud of something that I have done, but I have a voice in my head that says if I start feeling proud I will become a narcissist. Since I won't allow myself to feel proud or good about who I am, I start hating myself. After a while I realized this kind of thinking had kept me from caring about others, in the same way those with the classic narcissism described above are kept from caring about others. Because of this, I've come to view narcissism and self-hatred as two sides of the same spectrum, and both emotions that lead to similar negative external behaviors.

I think self-love is the healthy feeling that resides in the middle of those two negative poles. The desire for self-love can be answered by one rejecting oneself and classifying oneself as unlovable, or this desire can be fulfilled by deciding that one is worthy of love by external standards(whatever deemed important by the individual: beauty, intelligence, success, partners with status). The first leads to self-hatred and second leads to narcissism. It is a confusion of the term narcissism and self-love to say that narcissistic people love themselves, because I don't think that they do in an honest way. I think to do this, you have to both fully realize the enormity of your flaws and find a way to love yourself for them without trying to will them away by living up to external standards.

I can't honestly say that I have successfully found a way to love myself in the ideal way I describe. But I think I have gotten a little closer by telling myself to "cut yourself a break, everyone has flaws but you are still lovable". I find this ironic because it is also the advice I would give to narcissists, although perhaps as "cut yourself a break, everyone has flaws but you are still lovable."

Friday, January 22, 2010

Links of the Week

Here's a weekly round up...Anya Kamenetz's new book is coming out in April! Here's a preview of the cover....And for some preview of the content, check out this brain picking's post...New York Times is manning up and gonna charge for content: my guess is, it's gonna work out fine...Ken Wilber gives a really interesting talk about integrated art, I loved it!...On LessWrong, a brave soul admits to being a theist, rationality ensues, pretty interesting...Chaos on the quantum level is explored...the fashion industry demonstrates once again how deeply fucked up they are...Really pissed about the supreme court decision? Do something bout it!...Could someone PLEASE tell me why 100,000 people watch these people EVERY SINGLE DAY? They're so boring, it's kind of mindblowing...and perhaps most importantly: GEAUX SAINTS!

Louis Kahn: Visionary

I recently watched this documentary about the life of Louis Kahn, filmed by one of his children, Nathaniel. At Yale, I was in the midst of some of Kahn's most beautiful buildings, and had a friend at Exeter who showed me his library when I was a freshman.

Louis Kahn had three families, one child in each one. So one wife, and two mistresses. When his two mistresses got pregnant, he did very little to support them. In the movie, both women state that this surprised them, that they expected Mr. Kahn to do something, like leave his wife or acknowledge his children once they got pregnant. But he didn't. And yet, on the flim, both women appear to still be in love with Mr. Kahn, and harbor little if any bitterness towards him. His first mistress, Anne Tyng, actually says she believes all of Kahn's children and loves are part of a large family.

Throughout the film, almost everyone that Nathaniel interviews tells him what a spiritual and visionary man Louis Kahn was. It's times like these that I wish it was traditional to speak only honestly of the dead, but it's repeated so many times it seems it must be true. The most heart wrenching moment comes in the end, when Nathaniel visits the Jatiyo Sangshad Bhaban, and is told, in so many words, that his father brought democracy to Bangladesh.

On paper, Kahn's personal life seems like a despicable sham. Neither of the women he had affairs with ever remarried, and they both live alone. And yet on screen, they at least appear content. They seem to love him and be satisfied with the relationship they had with him. I certainly believe that social standards for what an individual should do in the archetypal relationships: mother, father, wife, husband, child, are extremely confining and inadequate to describe the full range of love relationships that are possible between human beings. The standards don't allow for the infinite possibilities of connection in human interaction. Perhaps Louis Kahn, and other visionaries who led seemingly horrendous personal lives were just living their personal lives with the way the lived their working life: bravely and boldly bucking societal pressures and to fully live in their idealized world.

I'm not saying that everything Louis Kahn did in his personal life was greatness. Rather, I'm suggesting that it's easy to immediately discount the relationships visionaries engaged in as incongruous with their output as creators, when really it could be our own social standards that limit our understanding of his relationships. What if societal conventions about love relationships were loosened and relaxed, and love was defined not by sexual commitment but by deep and honest connection over intellectual and spiritual interest? What would we think about Louis Kahn's life then?

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Internet is Creating a Collective Brain

This should maybe be filed in the 'duh' category, but it never ceases to amaze me how internet is quite literally constructing a communal brain. Just by logging on, you tap into a constantly regenerating conglomeration of thought that is, at every turn, urging you to type your thought in. Blogs, facebooks, twitters, myspaces, away messages on gchat...all tools you can use to put your thought into the huge thought space that is the internet. Before I log in, I'm thinking about one thing, by the time I get off, the thoughts of maybe one hundred others have flown in and out of my head.

This brain is becoming increasingly immediate, as per Google's latest: Real Time Search (go adam!>). Now when you google something, you can see what people are saying about that thing at that very moment--including individual twitters! And let's not forget about Google Wave, which will even further facilitate this collective nature of internet. But there are tons of other examples, The Hype Machine for music, Wikipedia of course for information, huge filter blogs like Huffington Post and Real Clear Politics for news.

I'm pretty certain it's going to be a while before we really get a handle on what all of this means for people's individual brains, and I think I'm gonna try to keep an eye on this idea to see what other stuff pops up about it (privacy, pervasiveness, uniformity all come to mind). But to start, one thing I think is interesting is that the center of this brain is a search engine. That the start of every journey onto our collective brain begins with the question, what are you looking for? Or, to put it another way, what do you want to experience?

Is that how you start your morning, in your individual brain? By asking, out of the millions of things that I could possibly experience today, which do I want to, what am I looking for? For me, the answer is no, but I wonder why. If you can buy into this internet-as-brain metaphor, why don't individual brain experiences start the same way?

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Jake: The Pussy Bachelor

I've been watching the Bachelor since I was in 10th grade. This could be a significant factor in my current single status, but that is a different post. I didn't see every season--but I've probably watched about half. And I think something really awesome has happened: they've picked a decently intelligent, sensitive, and decidedly feminine guy to be the bachelor.

To understand the significance of this, it's important to look back at the progression of bachelors. When the Bachelor started, one requirement was that the bachelor be rich and/or famous. They've had a NFL football player, Andrew Firestone of the Firestone tire fortune (HUGE lol), Charlie O'Connell (Jerry's older brother), and the infamous Dr. Stork. But as time went on, the Bachelor became a little more...normal. The emphasis was taken off of their careers and muscles and onto their cuddly personalities. There was Andy Baldwin, the naval officer, followed by Brad Womack, a restaurant owner. And then how could we forget Jason--a lovable real estate agent? Slowly and surely, the bachelors have become less the rich, stacked and famous and more like the average Joe. Now, we have Jake, an airplane pilot (everyone knows they don't get paid like they used to...) who was made famous on the Bachelorette because he was so...Nice. After being booted by Jillian, he whined, tears in his eyes, that "Nice guys finish last". In fact, he was probably the most cuddly, and almost downright pitiful contestants they've ever had on the show. And then he became THE BACHELOR!

A lot of people get up in arms about the amount of "reality" that is in the bachelor. I think it's interesting just to accept that ABC is constructing the show out of thin air. This way, it could be taken as a somewhat accurate reflection of what people expect the 'ideal' relationship to be, or what the 'ideal' man should be. Afterall, ABC does all of it's reality tweaking for our benefit, right? They certainly, make every effort to pick bachelors that fulfill the their viewer's fantasies about what makes an appealing man.

So, in those terms, I think this girly version of the Bachelor that we have in Jake is really interesting. He's smarter than bachelors of the past--and from last night's episodes seems serious about not wanting to play games: he booted two girls, one for witholding her kisses as bait, the other for baiting him with tears and drama to get him to pay attention to her. Jake is no non-sense in choosing his mate, fitting into the stereotype of the role women play in the dating market. And he is significantly more afraid, or at least willing to show his fear, than bachelors of the past: it took him twenty minutes to bungee jump, his hands shaking and clutching his date as strong as she was clutching him. All of this adds up to the girliest ideal man in Bachelor history--I love him!

May I Root Against the Saints?

Jason Gay of the WSJ answers some important questions as the 3rd round of the NFL playoffs kicks off this weekend. Most important to me, of course, is May I Root Against the Saints?

His answer: May I root against the New Orleans Saints?

No, you may not.
Rooting against the Saints is like rooting against Elin Nordegren. They're the Sentimental Team of the Century; if Dick Enberg were calling the NFC championship game, he'd need a trailer truck of Kleenex. Even if you forget everything that New Orleans endured during Hurricane Katrina—and how could you?—they're the Saints, the former Aints, one of the most hard-luck franchises in the history of hard luck. Not long ago, newborns came into the world in New Orleans hospitals with tiny grocery bags on their heads.

If the Saints win this weekend, we expect the Louisiana Superdome to levitate off the ground, stop at Parkway Bakery & Tavern for a roast beef po'boy and fly straight to Miami for the Super Bowl...

I couldn't agree more. By some strange and glorious miracle, or rather, Rodger Kamenetz's penchant for wanting to BE THERE when something incredibly amazing is happening, (this actually runs in the family, Anya calls it "having a bad case of the fomo's (fear of missing out)) I'm going to the Vikings-Saints game this weekend. I fully acknowledge that there are those in the world that are bigger Saints fans than me, and will do everything in my power to represent them wholeheartedly when I take my seat in the dome! Ahh I'm already getting stomach aches with the excitement!!

Friday, January 15, 2010

Links of the Week

This week, in blogger world I found...a study that shows serious emotional disturbances in children post Katrina...shocker, but at least they are calling attention to it...Interesting equality legislation at work in Switzerland: the law forced the man to pay a percentage of his wealth as a fine...idealism at work! Weird, isn't it?...
Daily show had an amazing piece about nostalgia, really brilliant and also hilarious...For those still wondering if paper books are becoming obsolete..well they are!..First ever gay sex scene on daytime television; we have come so far...Interesting, if a bit long, talk by Rebecca Goldstein about her book "36 Arguments for the Existence of God"...andddd maybe the funniest set of videos I've ever seen about fatness.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Haiti Relief

Every time a huge natural disaster has hit the planet since Katrina, I've done my best to ignore it. I can't even name them, because I didn't pay enough attention. I know there was a Tsunami, but I can't, in all honesty, tell you exactly what countries were effected without looking it up. It was just too overwhelming and painful for me to follow the news about the families torn apart, building collapsed, the phones that keep ringing with no answer, the pictures of children lost in the destruction. One would think that someone from New Orleans who experienced Katrina would have learned not to turn away, but I haven't. I was too wrapped up in my own experiences of disaster to try to do something about the next one.

I know how ridiculous it is to say that it's too painful for me to watch all the pain that these other people are going through. But it's a choice I make all the time, choosing to protect my own blissful ignorance over realizing the actual state of the world.

I know this post should end with something like, well, now I have changed, and I know I will pay close attention and do my best to do whatever I can whenever there is a catastrophic disaster anywhere in the world---and you should too! But I know that's not true. What I do know is, this modern world makes it dramatically easier to do something, just a little something, for other people. The US state department reported: "For those interesting in helping immediately, simply text "HAITI" to "90999" and a donation of $10 will be given automatically to the Red Cross to help with relief efforts, charged to your cell phone bill."

I think that's amazing. It's so easy and convenient! I know it's not enough, that I'm not doing all I possibly could, but luckily, helping those in need isn't an all or nothing game. Sometimes, it's okay to be selfish, to read the comics over the news and spend your money getting your nails done. But at other times, when disaster strikes, it can be best just do a little part. Because if there is one thing I did learn from Katrina, it's that there's nothing as comforting as knowing there are people that don't even know you that care, even a little bit, about you.

So go ahead, send a text message! Or click here to Like a Whisper to get a low down on all the other charities you could donate to.

Monday, January 11, 2010

To A Mayfly, We're a Mountain

Powers of Ten is one of my all time favorite videos. Issues of scale have been interesting to me for a while now. The scale that all human life is on, both in terms of size and time, is so hilariously particular and random. This idea was really brought to light for me when I watched those time release videos from planet earth. Our assumptions about what makes something alive vs. inanimate is so clearly tied to the amount of time we spend on earth. If human life was as long as a mountain's life span, we would have a sense of the enormous amount of movement, growth and change a mountain makes. Then, I think, it would be harder for us to judge so clearly that a mountain was inanimate. And think of what a mayfly, lifespan of about 30 minutes, thinks of us, as we are sitting by the pond, taking an hour long nap in the sun. We're nothing but a mountain to him. Because our size and the amount of time we experience is so essential to us, it's easy to over look how much our scale effects the way we create certainties about the world outside of us.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Terry Eagleton on Atheism & Islamophobia

A while ago when I wrote about atheism vs. theism, I left the question of why these atheists have had such a resurgence of late open. In this video, Terry Eagleton gives a rather interesting answer: 9/11. It's definitely the case with Dawkins, Hitchens and Dennett you could replace the word "religion" with "radical Islam" in all of their books and they would make substantially more sense. I've liked to think that the resurgence of this atheist movement has something to do with science's recognition of its internal subjectivity vs. objectivity crisis, but I have to admit Eagleton's idea makes a lot more sense. What do yall think?

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

How Not to Write about Africa

Sociological Images, one of my favorite blogs, posted this video. They also posted an awesome TED talk by Chimamanda Adichie called "The Danger of the Single Story". Both point at the dangers of foreigners telling the stories of of people they do not know. I harbored a dream, and still do at times, of going to a country in Africa and really making a difference by telling their story the "right" way. It's a classic fantasy, and one that Yale cultivates almost religiously. In school, I was always feeling inadequate that I hadn't traveled to a third-world country and done even a modicum of volunteer work. I would often assuage these feelings by telling myself that most of the people that do volunteer are as patronizing as the video below makes them out to be. So I really felt quite vindicated when I watched this video. Thank god I never went over there and tried to help anyone, I thought. There was no need for me over there.

I know this vindication is messed up. The point of the video isn't to tell me, foreigners keep out. The real reason I never made it over there is because I'm scared and lazy. Going to Africa would mean I have to face all my ugly fantasies and illusions about what the continent is actually about. This video isn't trying to say, please leave Africa alone, but rather, requesting something a lot more difficult---approach the continent with an open mind and a willingness to embrace and understand its complexity.