Category Archives: Uncategorized

Apologies for the vague announcement of future announcements, but…

I am the sort of person who likes to be very patient about plans coming to fruition, and endeavors leading somewhere, especially when I am highly invested. However, eventually there comes a point we all love to reach (ha), known as “cutting my losses,” cutting back to what’s more doable, and trying something different. Sometimes changes also need to be made simply for the sake of injecting some new energy. After years of doing things in certain ways, the accumulation of history and sense of responsibility to it can get to be a burden. Well, I think I have reached the “cutting my losses” point with a number of efforts I have made over the past several-to-15 years and setups to which I have committed a lot. I have decided to try to see this process of shaking things up strategically and personally as less funereal, and more freeing. After all, attachment to ideas and projects that haven’t worked out as you thought they would also ends up feeling funereal—there’s an air of decay in living for the past. My favorite of all images was always the phoenix, to embrace the idea of starting anew, and I’m going to try to embrace that once again in earnest. No particulars to announce at the present time (and please, no questions about that). What I can say is that I have made some higher-level decisions I have been wrangling over for years, quite literally, and am making new plans and preparing to set them into motion.

With loud report

Fireworks are awesome.

Fireworks are designed for fun. They are designed to look pretty, and make booms to let you know you’re alive. They are designed to surprise you with what something small, like a rocket, a whizzing bee, or a firecracker, can do. They are designed to make you smile without realizing it, and maybe startle you a bit.

They aren’t designed to start fires, or to blow off your hand, no matter what nanny-statists and media fearmongers say around this time, every year. If someone does these things with them in your neighborhood, believe me, they are more dangerous behind the wheel of a car.

It’s sad that people fear what they don’t understand. Like guns, fireworks are safe to use as long as you act responsibly. From chrysanthemum balls to Roman candles to sparklers to quarter- and half-sticks (not actually made of dynamite, contrary to popular belief!), fireworks were designed to please you, not to explode with maximum force like bombs, nor to set people and things on fire, like napalm.

When I was a kid, I learned about making fireworks (and explosives) as well as setting them off from my father. In the heritage of this country, learning to set off fireworks yourself was normal, like learning how to shoot, and other cool and fun things, like how to handle knives, climb trees, or find your way alone in the woods. Sadly, once kids stop learning how to do things responsibly as they grow up, they grow up to become increasingly risk-averse and credulous about fears. They let other, official people provide the circuses to go with their bread, while they’re told they should just watch, and do as they’re told. That’s not what independence is about.

New York is like this

• Favorite diner now run by immigrants from completely different country from last visit. Colombian dish no longer available. Beautiful and hideous people out window.

• Travel in subway with poor signage. Card readers don’t work. Pushing through crowds, many milling around confused. Source of volcanic heat a mystery. Train operators shout garbled warnings at every stop.

• Passed Mongolian Embassy near Park Avenue. Essential to their work.

• Ambition to attend last weekend of show at Met foiled by long lines.

• Meandered around misty Central Park in warm drizzle instead. Jungle in Wonderland framed by looming penthouse foliage if you look up. After dusk, there remain late ducks, a heron, fat raccoons in trash cans.

• Stylish women pick their way through trash, vomit, and by sprawled drunks. Piles of uncollected trash are smaller than last time, but just as many rats.

• Danced at a dingy club that should have been called Mom’s Evil Basement. $9 drinks in plastic cups. One DJ not bad; Mom should let him have his own room.

• Cabs won’t stop, or won’t pick you up when they find out where you want to go. Cab driver warns another cab driver about locking door and the other calls him a son of a bitch. Drunk men spit at cab driver who won’t pick them up and he calls them white bastards.

• Sleeping on priceless rock hard bed in our wallpapered closet room for the night.

• Excellent brunch at L’Ecole with perfect coffee, the most impressive fruit plate ever, and correctly-made hollandaise on the eggs benedict. Out the window where we are displayed, every tourist is like a beacon in the crowds.

• An hour long wait sweating in the hot sun to enter the Met foiled by a policy against checking large bags. Thousands of legitimate travelers in NYC for the day aside, al Qaeda is itching to blow up the high-priority target which is the Met baggage check, and terrorists always use rollable luggage and would never think of putting a bomb in smaller bag. Patronizing “security” goonette came up to us in line believing she was doing us a favor telling us and could not believe we objected.

• Buying sublime New York bagels at an appetizing store run by Indian men where old Jewish ladies are regulars.

• Uniforms in subway sweatopia stop two guys for muttering something “disrespectful,” shocking crime in New York City. All patronizing goons in uniform are doing you a favor; why aren’t you respectful?

• Food festival—discovered by accident, like many good things—but in too much hurry to stop. Must instead walk and struggle to get cab because subway line we need isn’t running.

• Escape from New York by bus after line confusion. Scenery of skyscraper architecture marred by junk, trash, construction until looking back from New Jersey. Skyline looks composed from afar.

• In two months, less mixed memories inevitable: “Why don’t we go to New York more often?”

May 20, 2011

After some beta versions starting on a University of Chicago server in 1998, yesterday (May 20, 2011) marked 12 years of publishing original philosophy under the name of Prometheanism online at Promethea.org, though the site wasn’t ready to premiere as I wanted it to look until May 20, 2000.

There was a lot of interest in exploring independent ideas and new media on the internet during its frontier days in the 90s. I was exploring and creating a philosophy on my own, but it was also philosophy with a mission and that required reaching an audience. A web site seemed the ideal canvas for experimenting with philosophy and persuasion, communication and community, and bringing ideas and aesthetic design together. I threw myself into learning and doing philosophical, creative and intellectual work, design work, and more tedious labor necessary behind the scenes. I took the name Phoenix as my nom de plume for symbolism and reflecting a desire many had in those days to recreate themselves online.

Promethea pioneered a few firsts on the web and enabled me to experiment with both new presentations of ideas and circulation of new ideas around the world, attracting readers and a revolving cast of well-wishers, supporters, allies and accomplices. 😉

Promethea was followed by Prometheanmovement.org in 2003, which experimented with a different format and approach to content. A useful list of online Promethean writings is available there.

The internet has changed a great deal since, and the next two years will see a transition to a larger proportion of my work appearing in print or other media, but I will continue publishing on Promethea.org also, including a wholly evolved version of The Promethean Manifesto (the first version of which goes back 13 years, and started all of this).

Free Julian Assange! [updated]

Julian Assange was arrested today on one count of consensual rape, and four counts of bullshit with the farce of law.

Julian Assange is now a political prisoner, and the world knows it. His offense was exposing the truth.

WikiLeaks is the most important, innovative bastion of free speech and investigative journalism the internet has ever seen.

No matter what happens, Julian Assange is a hero our time will never forget, and Wikileaks the model for opening conspiratorial regimes.

UPDATE: Denied bail for spurious and suspicious charges despite offers of surety made in court by several individuals, Julian Assange will now be held until his next hearing in a week. I watched the prison van remove him (presumably—you could not see him inside) on the live feed. It’s perfectly absurd to think that any activist who stands out could end up in one of those rolling boxes on any flimsy excuse (such as the crime of a male having a sex life) and be shipped off, perhaps for interrogation by US spooks. Who knows? Be well, Julian.

Draft of a letter to Amazon.com

I would like to continue shopping at Amazon.com, recommending Amazon, and maintaining a website as an Amazon Associate. Like most customers who are evaluating a boycott of Amazon, I am a satisfied and loyal customer, and have spent and saved a great deal of money shopping online at Amazon, and encouraged others to do so as well.

However, it is being reported that Amazon has ceased hosting WikiLeaks.org on the basis of political pressure from Senator Joe Lieberman and possibly others. According to the NYT, “The move to drop WikiLeaks came shortly after members of the Senate’s Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee pressed the company to explain its relationship with WikiLeaks.” It is not believable that Amazon’s hosting service could have been unaware of the content served by the high-profile, high-traffic site until it was brought to the company’s attention by congressmen; therefore, it seems likely that threats were made or implied.

If this is true, I am deeply concerned that Amazon would yield immediately to pressure from politicians, and particularly on the basis of a mere inquiry from Joe Lieberman’s staffers, as has been reported. It has alternately been reported that Lieberman may have threatened a boycott, but Amazon now faces an actual boycott of customers, not congressmen.

Amazon should not be in the business of responding to politicians’ requests, or anticipating legal intentions of prosecutors. Amazon should support free speech under the legal process. In the absence of a court order, and without benefit of due process, WikiLeaks should not be judged on the basis of mere political accusation. Amazon should not have shut down the server access WikiLeaks paid for, especially without notification.

Thousands of Amazon customers who are weighing a boycott are only asking for WikiLeaks to be treated like any customer of hosting services, even though we believe WikiLeaks provides an important service, has tremendous value to political free speech, and is an invaluable resource for citizens and journalists.

I am also concerned that Amazon has not properly responded publicly to clarify the issue. I look forward to hearing that Amazon has responded and rectified the situation, so that I may continue to shop at Amazon, and encourage others to do so.

Balkanized types of intelligence

The theory might make sense, but I am always rather surprised, in practice, at how artistic sensitivity can exist in a brain that habitually rejects intellectual nuance. That the mental equivalent of paint-by-numbers or an out-of-tune garage band can come from a painter or musician is a testament to the division of labor in the brain, and a haphazard course of personal development.

WikiLeaks vs. Project Vigilant

Julian Assange Responds to Increasing US Government Attacks on WikiLeaks

As Julian notes in his understated way, it’s rich for these crooks wading in blood, these militant career liars, to accuse Julian of exposing soldiers and Afghans to danger in exposing the truth of the corrupt and mismanaged war. Meanwhile, the documents themselves indicate that the military has killed over 20,000 Afghan civilians by accident and kept this secret; has circulated the names of Afghan sources; has endangered soldiers by perpetrating an ongoing war for 9 years they know is unwinnable, etc. Clearly these scum do not care about the lives about which they profess such concern.

One of the things mentioned is the connection to something called Project Vigilant:

Project Vigilant and the government/corporate destruction of privacy

According to Uber, one of Project Vigilant’s manifold methods for gathering intelligence includes collecting information from a dozen regional U.S. Internet service providers (ISPs). Uber declined to name those ISPs, but said that because the companies included a provision allowing them to share users’ Internet activities with third parties in their end user license agreements (EULAs), Vigilant was able to legally gather data from those Internet carriers and use it to craft reports for federal agencies. A Vigilant press release says that the organization tracks more than 250 million IP addresses a day and can “develop portfolios on any name, screen name or IP address.”

Glenn Greenwald offers an excellent summary:

Consider the rage that has been directed over the last week toward WikiLeaks. They are predictably accused of being America’s Enemy, in alliance with Al Qaeda, a Terrorist group, etc. etc. One of their volunteers — U.S. citizen Jacob Appelbaum — was detained for three hours at the airport yesterday when re-entering the country from a foreign trip, denied access to a lawyer, had his cellphones seized and his laptop searched, and was told he’d likely be subjected to this treatment every time he left the U.S. and tried to re-enter. Why has WikiLeaks provoked such animosity? Because they committed the gravest sin: they breached the Absolute Wall of Secrecy behind which our Government, and its private National Security and Surveillance State partners, operate. That’s why WikiLeaks is so despised, deemed such a threat: because they are undermining in very modest ways the absolute secrecy of these power factions, and many citizens have been trained to believe in the justifiability of that pervasive secrecy as well.

But while these factions demand total secrecy for their actions, they simultaneously demand that you have none for yours. They want to know everything about what you do — and are knowing all of that — while you know nothing about what they do. The loss of privacy is entirely one-way. Government and corporate authorities have destroyed most vestiges of privacy for you, while ensuring that they have more and more for themselves.

Dynamism

I never could accept “dynamism” as a description of a progressive society, a criterion of social progress or its sine qua non.

I’ve already discussed many of the issues with “progress” itself in my essay Rising in Walls: Surveying the Project of Progress, available in my anthology Rising in Words. You will find many criticisms (such as excessive materialism and technological fixation) are applicable to those who talk up dynamism.

But Gregory Bateson’s assessment of Balinese culture in Bali: The Value System of a Steady State (available in his Steps to an Ecology of Mind) points to a more basic reason why this does not work: dynamic and progressive are not synonymous.

Balinese culture in his examination is non-schismogenic. It is highly stable, and idealizes “balance.” But this is achieved through constant adjustments (like a self-regulating cybernetic system—he compares it to an engine governor or tightrope walker) and NOT through stasis, or lack of dynamism. On the contrary, his portrait of Balinese culture is highly energetic, artistically and economically. This all simply takes place within the rebalancing context of the systems of a culture in which few value overall transformation into something else, compared to resetting after energetic expression. It’s dynamic, vigorous, hardly sclerotic—which seems to be what some using “dynamic” really want to contrast—but hardly “progressive” by any of the usual senses, either.

She knows what she’s talking about

Here we have an exquisitely clear articulation of a theme I have stressed before.

Because we live in a country that presumably doesn’t censor ideas no matter how unpopular, we are able to better cultivate our own individual belief systems — one of the ways we learn what we believe in is by encountering language and imagery that we disagree with or have strong reactions to. The best ideas come out of reckoning with the unfamiliar.

Precisely. Free speech is not primarily of great value for expressing things you already believe to those who already agree. It is more valuable for encountering productive disagreement or discord which enables learning. It is a practical truth that “The best ideas come out of reckoning with the unfamiliar.” Learning is not a process of comfort, nor simple absorption. After the first impressions of infancy and childhood, it necessarily involves processes of reevaluation and reconciling.

Yet politicians, pundits, and the vast majority of the conservative public essentially mistrust allowing those who disagree or are disagreeable to speak freely or otherwise express themselves. No matter one’s specific ideology, the urge to silence what one abhors is rampant, as is apparent confusion about what freedom of speech is for. Most people simply do not understand why the ACLU defends racists, or why accused terrorists should be allowed to speak or have anyone speak on their behalf, or moreover, how one’s own political adversaries get to blather away like they do. “There ought to be a law.” One of the very fine things about America is that it is still difficult to control speech through law here. There have been many examples of censorship in practice (for “national security” for instance) but at least, no laws against double-plus ungood speech like Europe.

But wait, there’s more from the same profound source:

Human desires evolve out of our varied, complex experiences in the world. Sex is so basic to our humanity, and sexuality is an arena, like dreaming, that connects us to the parts of ourselves we don’t always fully understand or have words for. This is what makes sexuality fascinating and endlessly variable and certainly worth performing.

Starting to wonder who it is? This is one of the more substantive interviews I have read in some time:

Porn star Lorelei Lee talks obscenity

When was the last time you read a pundit that articulate and insightful?

Some might call it ironic that a porn star has a profound understanding not only of sexuality, but of free speech, certainly sufficient to humble the ignorance of politicians and censorship advocates on either subject—akin to the jester knowing more than the king.

Case in point that it is what we say that should induce others to take us seriously, not the labels or positions that people mistake for “who we are.”