Why Can't Johnny Compromise?

So here is the fundamental question: do we lack a Henry Clay in today's world, or if Henry Clay were transported to the modern world would he shrug his shoulders? Was finding common ground between those who believed slavery was a moral blight on the nation and those who believed it was an economic necessity really easier than debating the appropriate scope of government activity?

I should admit that the comparison is a bit odd, because at least with the slavery issue a geographic solution was possible. (Ahem... "solution," I could say, since it didn't really prevent war, but it did delay it for decades, which is still a pretty decent accomplishment.) You can't just copy his approach and paste it into the current conflict.

But the question remains: even if we can't find common ground, why can't we find a place to live that we both hate equally? Without getting into the specifics of what a compromise should be, I'd like to look into why we can't get there.

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There Were No Heterosexuals in Ancient Rome

I just read a fascinating article called Gender Is Dead. Now, full disclaimer: it's interesting because it validates a lot of what I think about gender identity. And a lot of what I think about that is not what you think about that. Which means... well, if you've had any conversations about gender identity with me you'll probably know whether you want to read the article which makes the claim I've made the title of this post. If you haven't, read the article and the post and you won't need to have a conversation with me about gender identity. Unless you want to start one in the comments.

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In this week's episode...

... of "let's contemplate how things should be over which we have no ability to force change" or LCHTSBOWWHNAFC, we discuss online services.

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But wouldn't it be great if we could make it like this? Data is portable between services transparently, and you actually own your data (even if, via terms of service, the various services can sample your data to find out info about you for targeted advertising).

You could even use different frontends simultaneously for different kinds of tasks each is good at, each pointed toward common datasets. That would be excellent.

Wouldn't it? Or would this just become another version of cyber-distopia?

A Whole New World

I have this idea knocking around for some fiction. It's likely to be light fantasy (some possibility of changing it to light sci-fi). By the time I actually get around to spending time on this (a couple years) I'd like it to be at Z-man's reading level, but also be interesting for adults. Not exactly easy, and with my track record on these things by the time I get it figured out I won't have any interest anymore.

There' a lot figured out about plot and format which I'm not going to share. I've been told (and observed in myself) that if you express too much about your ideas you don't actually want to do anything with them.

The funny thing is that it's the world-building that I'm feeling a bit stuck on. That is normally my favorite part. And I know that the plot is going to flex quite a bit as the world develops... maybe having so much of the plot figured out is actually an impediment to world-building, because I'm too tied to my little plot to give myself the freedom to break the plot with the world.

Either way, I know there's plenty of folks here who might enjoy brainstorming with me. And I do mean brainstorming--at this point, I want ideas that are contradictory, crazy, or incongruent because approaching this by rationally building from what I already have has gotten me a bit stuck.

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Food Porn and the Importance of Being Crafty

There's this nice, short article about a concept art piece I like quite a bit. Well, I haven't seen this art installation, but I like the theory.

The article itself engaged me beyond the description of the installation itself. The first I'm not going to talk about beyond quoting it, as it could occupy its own post and that's not what I'm most interested in today:

"Contemplation is concept art’s purpose, which is often why it’s ignored in favor of more profane, visceral explorations like Andres Serrano’s notorious Piss Christ or the trendy, tribal tattoo art emblazoned on Tapout clothing."

Feel free to develop your own post about that, I'd love to read it.

But the other point seem like a useful topic, so more on this inside the cut:

“There has always been an erotic quality to fine dining, but gawking at footage of luscious chocolate cakes served up on television is biologically perverse,” Keats said. “The patent artificiality of the situation only adds to its appeal, because the experience is one of unequivocal fantasy, which is of course the trick of pornography. But gourmet cuisine, while perverse in its own right, is often counterproductive in terms of basic nutrition, much as eroticism is often counterproductive in terms of sexual reproduction.”

That pornographic dimension of humanity’s food obsession is a predictable counterpart to overpopulation and climate change. According to sustainability pioneer and decorated agriculturalist Lester Brown, mounting food shortages could knock civilization as we know it off its hyperconsuming pedestal.

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On Religion

walrusjester, you bring out my verbosity. And so here's my story. I've told it before several times, so those of you who have heard me babble... well, skim the first paragraph and you'll know if you need to read more.

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Also, Companies Should Stop Exploiting Cheap Foreign Labor

Politicos should stop using over-the-top, inflammatory rhetoric. The problem with it is that it inflames people.

But the reason people use it is that inflaming people is a really effective way to motivate them.

Let me string a few concepts together for you:

  1. People do not change their minds because of new facts. Rational arguments don't change minds.

  2. Emotional arguments do not change anyone's mind, but they can make people concerned if they already agree with you.

  3. The stronger the emotional impact, the more concerned you make people.

  4. The more concerned people are, the more likely they are to act.

Ergo, if you want to get all the people who agree with you to vote, join a protest, or sign a petition then your best bet is to manufacture the situation into a crisis.

Let's take this statement: "We need to pass this gas tax because without it critical transportation infrastructure would deteriorate, resulting in even greater expenses in the future because we'll be forced to do even more repairs."

Now contrast it with this: "In 2-4 years there will be a convoy of school buses travelling down I-25. This will be a school trip to see Santa's reindeer at a winter wonderland. It's a school for the deaf, blind, and disabled. That convoy will pass over a 40 year old bridge. If we don't pass this gas tax, the bridge will collapse under the weight of those buses. All of those deaf, blind, and disabled kids will die in the resulting crash.

If you don't vote for this tax, you are killing those children. I've brought them with me today so you can look into their eyes for 5 minutes. Then I want anyone who won't vote for the tax to tell them why they need to die so you can spend $3 less to fill up your Hummer."

Which approach is more effective in getting people to vote? More importantly for talk radio, which one of these will get mentioned in the press, attract more coverage, and get higher ratings?

So you can tell politicos they need to tone down their rhetoric, but that's like telling companies they need to stop polluting or telling professional athletes that it's bad to take steroids. In our culture, appealing to someone's better virtue when it runs counter to accomplishing their goals is nearly fruitless. (Which doesn't mean it hurts to try, but don't get your hopes too high.) We think of people who voluntarily follow their virtue in spite of the limitations it places on their success as heroes, not ordinary people.

Asking the government to regulate speech to tone down its content is entirely too dangerous, and in most cases doesn't fall into the "shouting 'fire' in a crowded theater" example for free speech restrictions.

The alternative is to find a way to get the population to stop responding so well to these kind of emotionally weighted arguments, but I have no idea how to accomplish that.

So though the Giffords assassination appears to have no direct political inspiration from a specific political figure, it's still true that the level of discourse in this nation is often scary. But I remember people having "Assassinate Clinton--and her husband too" bumper stickers back in the 90s, so it's unclear to me that it's gotten worse in recent years.

If we want to change the level of discourse, we need to change our cultural attitudes. The only thing I can think of is modelling the right attitude and refusing to participate in the dialog of madness. Which is hardly anything, but it's all I've got.

Anyone else?