From the category archives:

meaning

This ad is almost universally referred to as “The Crazy Ones” – but I prefer to focus on the actions of creative people rather than the pejoratives applied to them.

I almost titled it: No Respect for the Status Quo.

Thank you, Steve.

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A reminder of what we will lose if we abandon exploration — despite all its costs:

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By Margaret Atwood

 

via The Future of Books

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From Ars Technica:

In June 2010, the government was expressing real interest in social
networks. The Air Force issued a public request for “persona
management software,” which might sound boring until you realize that
the government essentially wanted the ability to have one agent run
multiple social media accounts at once.

It wanted 50 software licenses, each of which could support 10
personas, “replete with background, history, supporting details, and
cyber presences that are technically, culturally and geographically
consistent.”

The software would allow these 50 cyberwarriors to peer at their
monitors all day and manipulate these 10 accounts easily, all “without
fear of being discovered by sophisticated adversaries.” The personas
would appear to come from all over the world, the better to infiltrate
jihadist websites and social networks, or perhaps to show up on
Facebook groups and influence public opinion in pro-US directions.
As the cyberwarriors worked away controlling their 10 personas, their
computers would helpfully provide “real-time local information” so
that they could play their roles convincingly.

While hackers get most of the attention for their rootkits and botnets
and malware, state actors use the same tools to play a different
game—the Great Game—and it could be coming soon to a computer near
you.

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Egypt Remembers

The faces of murdered Egyptian protesters

via

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But the present is not a potential past; it is the moment of choice and action; we can not avoid living it through a project; and there is no project which is purely contemplative since one always projects himself toward something, toward the future; to put oneself “outside” is still a way of living the inescapable fact that one is inside; those French intellectuals who, in the name of history, poetry, or art, sought to rise above the drama of the age, were willy-nilly its actors; more or less explicitly, they were playing the occupier’s game. Likewise, the Italian aesthete, occupied in caressing the marbles and bronzes of Florence, is playing a political role in the life of his country by his very inertia. One can not justify all that is by asserting that everything may equally be the object of contemplation, since man never contemplates: he does.

– Simone de Beauvoir, from The Ethics of Ambiguity

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A few excerpts from Esquire’s recent profile of Roger Ebert:

Ebert is waiting for a Scottish company called CereProc to give him some of his former voice back. He found it on the Internet, where he spends a lot of his time. CereProc tailors text-to-speech software for voiceless customers so that they don’t all have to sound like Stephen Hawking. They have catalog voices — Heather, Katherine, Sarah, and Sue — with regional Scottish accents, but they will also custom-build software for clients who had the foresight to record their voices at length before they lost them. Ebert spent all those years on TV, and he also recorded four or five DVD commentaries in crystal-clear digital audio. The average English-speaking person will use about two thousand different words over the course of a given day. CereProc is mining Ebert’s TV tapes and DVD commentaries for those words, and the words it cannot find, it will piece together syllable by syllable. When CereProc finishes its work, Roger Ebert won’t sound exactly like Roger Ebert again, but he will sound more like him than Alex does. There might be moments, when he calls for Chaz from another room or tells her that he loves her and says goodnight — he’s a night owl; she prefers mornings — when they both might be able to close their eyes and pretend that everything is as it was.

Ebert, describing what his journal means to him:

When I am writing my problems become invisible and I am the same person I always was. All is well. I am as I should be.

On ephemeral reactions:

Anger isn’t as easy for him as it used to be. Now his anger rarely lasts long enough for him to write it down.

On crime, and joy:

I believe that if, at the end of it all, according to our abilities, we have done something to make others a little happier, and something to make ourselves a little happier, that is about the best we can do. To make others less happy is a crime. To make ourselves unhappy is where all crime starts. We must try to contribute joy to the world. That is true no matter what our problems, our health, our circumstances. We must try. I didn’t always know this, and am happy I lived long enough to find it out.

Roger Ebert is a great example of what the so-called New Atheists have never understood: that living well is a far better way to ‘evangelize’ freethinking than pedantic and vitriolic argument, however rational it may be.

To the extent that humanists might imagine having saints, Mr. Ebert is surely one of them.

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Words once in common use sound archaic. And the names of the famous dead as well: Camillus, Caeso, Volesus, Dentatus…Scipio and Cato…Augustus…Hadrian and Antoninus, and…

Everything faces so quickly, turns into legend, and soon oblivion covers it.

And those are the ones who shone. The rest–”unknown, unasked-for” a minute after death. What is “eternal” fame? Emptiness.

Then what should we work for?

Only this: proper understanding; unselfish action; truthful speech. A resolve to accept whatever happens as necessary and familiar, flowing like water from that same source and spring.

– Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, Book 4, #33 (Translated by Gregory Hays)

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