Words mean things.

In the early-1990s, a political operative named Frank Luntz became famous for his pithy talking points. He was really good at creating phrases that could shape the public imaginary. Every week, he’d host a meeting with Republican staffers on the Hill to offer them a new phrase that they should aim to get into news media, attempting to create a “drumbeat” of terms. This was very effective. You know many of Frank Luntz’ terms. Partial-birth abortion. Climate change. Death tax.

When congressional members started using those terms, they got the news media to do the work of amplifying the underlying message. It created coherence. And when you have a term or a phrase that creates coherence, you see how it shapes a cultural logic. Regardless of what you feel about Luntz’ particular terms, there is no question of his efficacy.

danah boyd on names.

This is actually from a much longer essay on internet-based data and news manipulation, which is definitely worth reading in its entirety if you haven’t already. But mostly I’m just pulling this one quote out as a reminder that the same person who invented the terms “partial-birth abortion”1 and “death tax”2 also coined “climate change”…

  1. More properly known as an intact dilation and extraction, a procedure almost exclusively used during miscarriages, extreme fetal anomalies, and similar scenarios, including those requiring the viewing of remains for grieving and/or forensic purposes. []
  2. Also known as the estate tax, and basically intended to try and mitigate the negative social effects of inherited extreme wealth. Rich people—especially those scheduled to get richer when their relatives die off—fucking hate it. []
2019-06-24T11:52:24+11:0023rd October, 2019|Tags: culture|

What do Kids These Days have on their walls?

You know what seems like it’s Not A Thing any more? Posters. Whatever happened to those?

I remember when I was a kid, the local video store1 near my friend’s house used to sell used movie posters for $1. Because they were $1, we used to go down and buy heaps of them. It was always a bit hit-and-miss whether you could get films you actually liked—they were basically the posts for the last-month’s-latest-releases—but still. $1! I had so many of those damn things on my walls…

  1. Yeah, you heard me; I’m Old. []
2019-06-24T11:07:45+11:0022nd October, 2019|Tags: pop culture|


The new rule for empathy seems to be: reserve it, not for your “enemies,” but for the people you believe are hurt, or you have decided need it the most. Empathy, but just for your own team. And empathizing with the other team? That’s practically a taboo.

And it turns out that this brand of selective empathy is a powerful force.

In the past 20 years, psychologists and neurologists have started to look at how empathy actually works, in our brains and our hearts, when we’re not thinking about it. And one thing they’ve found is that “one of the strongest triggers for human empathy is observing some kind of conflict between two other parties,” says Fritz Breithaupt, a professor at Indiana University who studies empathy. “Once they take the side, they’re drawn into that perspective. And that can lead to very strong empathy and too strong polarization with something you only see this one side and not the other side any longer.”

Hanna Rosin on dark empathy.

This is from an article that’s basically a press release about Breithaupt’s book, The Dark Sides of Empathy, which does sound kind of interesting. Basically, Breithaupt’s argument is that the pop culture understanding of empathy as a “morally positive” force is wrong, or at least not the whole picture. Because, yes, empathy can lead to compassion (something it’s often conflated with) towards those who are different than oneself… but it’s even more likely (according to Research) to violence and aggression against a group an individual perceives as harming a those they themselves empathize with. Or, to put it another way, punching Nazis is just as “rational” an outcome from empathy as hugging them is.

Breithaupt’s point here is not to malign empathy, or say we need more or less of it. Instead, he argues that it should be seen more as a tool—with the potential to be used both well and poorly—rather than an inherent moral good. Which… hm.

2019-06-24T11:02:57+11:0021st October, 2019|Tags: culture|

Corporate yoga.

McMindfulness practices psychologize and medicalize social problems. Rather than a way to attain awakening toward universal love, it becomes a means of self-regulation and personal control over emotions. McMindfulness is blind to the present moral, political and cultural context of neoliberalism. As a result, it does not grasp that an individualistic therapized and commodified society is itself a major generator of social suffering and distress. Instead, the best it can then do, ironically, is to offer to sell us back an individualistic, commodified “cure” – mindfulness – to reduce that distress.

David Forbes on commodified mindfulness.

In other words: no amount of yoga or salt baths or mud masks or meditating are going to fix the fact that your job is killing you, you know it and hate it, but nonetheless feel miserable and trapped because you live in a society that works very effectively to give you no other options…

2019-07-31T09:40:03+11:0019th October, 2019|Tags: culture|

Your mount’s blowing glue!

So I’ve been playing Final Fantasy XIV recently and finally unlocked mounts on my Arcanist and, well. There really is only one mount I could possibly choose…

This is my second go at FFXIV; I played it a little bit wa-aa-aa-ay back when, and remembered enjoying it but not enough to justify a long-term subscription. I jumped back into it recently thanks to the cross-promotional mission in Boyband Car Adventures (a.k.a. Final Fantasy XV) and yes, okay, Square, your promo worked you win. I guess.

FFXIV has the problem all long-running MMOs have in that Everything Is Just So Much, exacerbated by the fact that you can literally be All The Things on one single character. Because I am extremely predictable, I chose an Au Ra and choose the healing pet class as my “main”. Combat in FFXIV is… old-fashioned, and very slow, but… eh. It’s fine. I’ve spent the last two days leveling all my crafting classes to 20ish, and am now cleaning up the lowbie start quests from the combat classes. Then I guess it’s getting those last three levels I need to unlock Summoner

2019-10-22T09:40:10+11:0019th October, 2019|Tags: final fantasy, gaming, mmos, video games|


If we are to fix the tech industry, we need to acknowledge the financial realities. I’ve heard arguments like “all software should be free and open source” that don’t address the fact that software is expensive to make and everyone involved needs to be paid well. (It’s fine for software to be free and open source, but this is irrelevant to the issue!) I’ve also heard arguments like “startups shouldn’t take investment”, which similarly don’t reflect the costs or the value of the skills involved. Imagine what kinds of platforms we’d see if only independently wealthy people could make software. It would probably be worse than the situation we find ourselves in now.

Ben Werdmüller on money.

From a longer, and very worthwhile, look at the broke and broken world of VC funding and Silicon Valley startups.

2019-06-05T09:25:41+11:0017th October, 2019|Tags: tech|

Garbage bans.

As someone who lives somewhere where, effectively, being able to afford plastic bags becomes a wealth marker, I admit to a bias in favor of articles like this. That being said, the article does recommend fees for bags, which is essentially what we have here, hence pointing out that it’s basically a You Must Be This Wealthy To Use Plastic Bags thing.

I mean though… it’s almost… like… individual consumer actions… don’t… actually make much difference? When it comes to addressing the problems of global capitalism? Wha-aa-aa-aa-at?

2019-06-04T15:11:57+11:0016th October, 2019|Tags: culture, environment|

88 million short.

[I]nternet investors don’t want a modest return on their investment. They want an obscene profit right away, or a brutal loss, which they can write off their taxes. Making them a hundred million for the ten million they lent you is good. Losing their ten million is also good—they pay a lower tax bill that way, or they use the loss to fold a company, or they make a profit on the furniture while writing off the business as a loss…whatever rich people can legally do under our tax system, which is quite a lot.

What these folks don’t want is to lend you ten million dollars and get twelve million back.

You and I might go, “Wow! I just made two million dollars just for being privileged enough to have money to lend somebody else.” And that’s why you and I will never have ten million dollars to lend anybody.

Jeffrey Zeldman on VC.

2019-06-04T15:00:05+11:0016th October, 2019|Tags: economics, tech|