Archive for the ‘Blogroll’ Category

After some delay, I picked up Nick Carr’s latest book The Glass Cage to read (see link to Carr’s blog Rough Type on my blogroll at left). Carr is an exceptionally clear thinker and lays out his arguments both for and against technology very well. Like my blog about Michael Crawford’s book, I won’t get too involved blogging about The Glass Cage, which discusses deskilling among other things. However, my reading of his discussion of self-driving cars (and autopilot on airplanes) and the attendant loss of the driver’s and pilot’s skill and focus coincided with something I read elsewhere, namely, that while self-driving cars may free the driver of some attentional burdens (not really burdens upon closer inspection), they are likely to cause increased congestion precisely because self-driving cars would no longer require passengers. Thus, an owner could potentially instruct the car to drive back home from work in the morning and then to come back and pick him or her up in the evening, handily doubling the time and distance the car is on the road. Similarly, a driver could avoid paying parking fees in pricey downtown precincts by instructing the vehicle to circle the block while the owner is out of the car shopping or dining. These are workarounds that can be fully anticipated and perhaps limited, but there will undoubtedly be others not so easily anticipated.

Carr argues that technology has enabled some (e.g., for those who designed their own software) to profit disproportionately from their effort. This is especially true of wikis and social media sites that run on user-generated content. It’s impossible to establish whether that’s laudable innovation, a questionable workaround, or simply gaming the system. Either way, redesigning workflows and information flows carries the unintended consequence of creating perverse incentives, and one can be certain than in a hustling society such as ours, many someones are going to discover ways to exploits loopholes. This is already the case with the legal system, the financial system, social media, and journalism, and it seems ubiquitous with education and sports, where cheating is only a problem if one gets caught.

Perverse incentives don’t arise solely from rapid, destabilizing technological change, though that’s frequently a trigger. What’s worse, perhaps, is when such perversity is normalized. For instance, politics now operates under a perverse funding regime that awards disproportionate influence to deep pockets while creating no incentive for participants (politicians or deep pockets) to seek reform. Similarly, pooling wealth, and with it political power, within an extremely small segment of society carries no incentive for the ultrarich to plow their riches back into society at large. A few newly philanthropic individuals don’t convince me that, in the current day and age, any high-minded idealism is at work. Rather, it’s more plausible that the work of figuring out things to do with one’s money is more interesting, to a few at least, than merely hoarding it. A better incentive, such as shame, does not yet exist. So the ultrarich are effectively circling the block, clogging things up for no better reason than that they can.

Updates to my blogroll are infrequent. I only add blogs that present interesting ideas (with which I don’t always agree) and/or admirable writing. Deletions are typically the result of a change of focus at the linked blog, or regrettably, the result of a blogger becoming abusive or self-absorbed. This time, it’s latter. So alas, another one bites the dust. Dropping off my blogroll — no loss since almost no one reads my blog — is On an Overgrown Path (no link), which is about classical music.

My indignation isn’t about disagreements (we’ve had a few); it’s about inviting discussion in bad faith. I’m very interested in contributing to discussion and don’t mind moderated comments to contend with trolls. However, my comments drive at ideas, not authors, and I’m scarcely a troll. Here’s the disingenuously titled blog post, “Let’s Start a Conversation about Concert Hall Sound,” where the blogger declined to publish my comment, handily blocking conversation. So for maybe the second time in the nearly 10-year history of this blog, I am reproducing the entirety of another’s blog post (minus the profusion of links, since that blogger tends to create link mazes, defying readers to actually explore) followed by my unpublished comment, and then I’ll expound and perhaps rant a bit. Apologies for the uncharacteristic length. (more…)

A few weeks ago, I added Gin and Tacos to my blogroll. Lots of interesting content, though not necessarily accurate or admirable. Shortly thereafter, I learned that the blogger active there finds it distinctly not worthwhile to interact with those who make comment, this despite the fact that he attracts very good commentary. (I’ve yet to see a troll appear). That’s his choice, but it’s nonetheless a loss for someone (like me) seeking discussion rather than subscription to yet another broadcast. So I decided to comment here, at length, rather than there. (In this, I’m probably sending traffic his way but won’t attempt to divert his traffic here.)

Today’s post poses the question (and then provides several potential answers), “What’s the next big thing?” The comments provide several additional possibilities we might hope or expect from the future. Naturally, he begs numerous questions while soliciting a wide range of responses. Is the thing a technology, an idea, or merely a money-making scheme? How much overlap is allowed? Must the thing be entirely new (and unanticipated) or can it be an improvement, a refinement, or something that finally gains traction? I’m inclined to answer the question in terms of what creates a fundamental shift, discontinuity, or transformation, and I recognize that ideas do it more handily but technological shifts are far easier to recognize, introducing obvious bias.

My candidate is statelessness, which is not a new idea, but it’s gaining traction. My reasons spring partly from my pessimism that the world is not in fact progressing toward more/better but is in the initial phase of unwinding toward less/worse. Accordingly, the future will be about conservation, holding on, and hoarding rather than frivolous entertainments and distractions, which tend to be more captivating to contemplate. Furthermore, the expectation of new energy and information delivery systems is IMO foolhardy. Statelessness has already made its appearance in the forms of multinational corporations and supranational individuals, at least those who possess the wealth and wherewithal to refuse meaningful participation in any social system or context, including paying taxes, in favor of standing alone and employing goons (lawyers, politicians, and mercenaries) to insulate them from the rabble. Statelessness has also appeared in the form of terrorist, revolutionary, and secessionist groups that seek to disassociate from and/or overthrow existing states. Whereas we’re programmed by the mainstream media to believe such groups are enemies of the state (which is quite literally true), that does not make them existential threats to the people. For instance, ISIS is being trotted out as the newest ultimate evil in the world, following the Taliban and Al-Qaeda (and before them the North Koreans, the Red Chinese, the godless Soviets, and quelle horreur the Nazis), but ISIS may instead be an emerging Arab state, arising with all the attendant violence out of the destabilized, delegitimized ruins of the West’s client states in the region.

The concept of statelessness is gradually filtering down to ever-smaller groups and even individuals, but in the interregnum before full-on collapse, and in a bit of fitting irony, the conservative impulse inspires misguided attempts to reintegrate just as the world begins to disintegrate. Anarchy experienced in the wake of a failed state is nothing to be relished, but it will be the next big thing.

I’m way overdue with my next blog but wanted to put up something quick. As usual, I’ve got more than a couple ideas percolating but no time to research and write them. Since the inception of this blog, I’ve gotten away from my self-imposed limit of 3-4 paragraphs and have grown prolix. Makes each post into an obstacle to be overcome. Perhaps I can rein myself in and got more done.

Some while back, my most-viewed post was Living Among Refuse. That has since been surpassed by Scheler’s Hierarchy, which now has over 4,500 hits. Curiously, most are from the Phillippines. No one coments, though, so as with most of my blog posts, there is scant to nonexistent discussion and dialogue. Active commentary is found at other blogs I frequent.

In the middle of last year, I began blogging at The Collapse of Industrial Civilization (see blogroll). The traffic and commentary there is quite robust, and frankly, I can’t keep up. I gave up reading, commenting, and guest-blogging at Nature Bats Last (see blogroll) for the same reason. Both blogs chronicle the ongoing collapse with no shortage of news articles about the demise of this or that species or ecosystem. I require no further convincing that we’re digging the pit of our own despair. (I stole that phrase, as I warned I would.) Awareness and individual response are both picking up intensity, with some flailing for solutions, others mining the emotional depths for profit or self-aggrandizement, and others so plainly gobsmacked trying to get their heads around it that hardly anything makes sense or indeed matters anymore. Corporate and government response is all theater as far as I can tell. I’ve got lots of content about all this in my blog backlog (backblog?) and at Collapse.

My two book blogging projects are still underway, with a final entry on The Master and His Emissary by Iain McGilchrist yet to be written (been waiting for months already) and additional progress through The Decline of the West by Otto Spengler already underway. As time allows, I will develop new posts on each.

My blogroll is curated, meaning that I link only to what I can recommend according to my own standards and values. Links have changed over the nearly eight years I’ve been blogging, the same as my blogging focus. I started out wanting to write a culture blog and unexpectedly careened toward writing more about doom once I became more fully awake and aware of just how horrific the future will be. There is no bigger story out there, and many people like me are telling it. Most adopt perspectives based on science or news (chronicling), transition and/or survival (prepping), or merely facing down what’s left of the future (coping). A few write dystopian fiction or conjecture about what will unfold (prediction). I try to explore some of the cultural story, which aims at understanding but arguably fits just as well under coping.

What really bums me out, though, is the number of writers who begin by telling and then end up selling, typically books or memberships. Maybe the intention behind writing books is to share what one has worked out and learned. A simple statement to that effect would calm me down, as I recognize books don’t get written and produced without some costs involved. But when a writer (best intentions not always assumed) shoves his or her book(s) in everyone’s face and implores them to buy multiple copies for family and friends (like, say, Morris Berman), well, let me just say I won’t be doing any holiday shopping that way.

Dave Pollard’s website has never been on my blogroll, though I’ve quoted him numerous times. Carolyn Baker’s website only recently came to my attention. They appear together in a conversation hosted by Peak Moment TV, which appears to be earnest in its reports on “people creating resilient communities for a more sustainable, lower-energy future in the face of energy, climate and economic uncertainty.” Content is offered for free, but there are the ubiquitous donate and support buttons if one wishes to contribute.

At the end, Baker’s desperation to position her book cover inside the video frame is appalling in its tackiness and clumsiness. I was so put off by her obvious selling that I couldn’t attend to whatever it was she said. Actually, I gave up listening to her long before then, but not because her message is poor (it’s okay, just not especially helpful). Pollard, on the other hand, doesn’t push his books. He tells that he’s already quite over his former objectives (the subjects of his books I suspect) because nothing worked or ever will work. Instead, he’s trying to help others cope, in part by preparing and positioning himself for when others have achieved readiness to face the truth. So, too, is Baker. Both seem to believe a remnant will manage somehow to survive. I’m less optimistic.

I don’t want to fall into the trap of the intentional fallacy: guessing the minds of others by their actions, words, and behaviors. But I’m a little weirded out by the notion that despite having missed the moving target repeatedly and revised his objectives (speaking here of Pollard — I lack familiarity with Baker to know her trajectory), he can now offer consolation and wisdom as we race toward the end. There is no lack of self-appointed gurus out there who attract followings, though I can’t imagine why anyone would seek that sort of prison except maybe for the self-aggrandizement factor. Even short of that, punditry makes most people look like fools. Someone stop me if ever I veer too close to believing that whatever I’m sharing here in this public venue and elsewhere will amount to more than one small voice calling out feebly into the cavern.

Updates to Blogroll 02

Posted: January 2, 2013 in Blogosphere, Blogroll

Lots of things happen right around the start of a new year, what with resolutions, tax-year lines of demarcation, and calendrical switches. My blogroll has taken a big hit, with the end of either additional posts or my own participation in the commentary. Blogs come and go, and focuses change, so that’s no big deal. But my blogroll is curated, not just a link exchange, and if I can’t recommend a site anymore, well, away it goes.

The first disappeared earlier this fall when the blog when into hibernation: I Blame the Patriarchy. The author has had a couple updates since, as events drew her back to point the bony finger of blame yet again. She is one of the best writers I read, but I guess I don’t really want to read humorous anecdotes at her new blog, Dreadful Acres.

The second was never on my blogroll, as its setup discouraged discussion in favor of broadcasting: the eponymous Ran Prieur. He just announced semi-retirement from his blog. One of the best curators of content out there, he says he will continue to post and point to others’ content but doesn’t want to address via follow-up and revision feedback that comes his way any longer.

The third is disappointing to me as the author provides valuable content but behaves miserably. Dark Ages America, kept by Morris Berman after his book of the same title, has chronicled the collapse of American empire from a cultural-historical perspective. His books are meticulously researched and documented, and he is interested in the deeper culture behind the periodic noise. However, the blog has become equal parts self-promotion (not just getting his ideas out there but repeated whining that he’s overlooked and under-regarded) and intellectual bullying. His latest gambit is to cast about for fools to insult. He thinks it’s humorous; I don’t. He declined to publish my comment that (in part) called him out as trolling for trolls, which obviously makes him a troll, too. So I’m done there, not that I will be missed, and I can’t recommend Prof. Berman anymore for his blog, though his books are still well worth the time to read and consider.

The fourth, kulturCritic, also frustrates me because the author (Sandy Krolick) and I agree on so much, but he, too, has taken to insulting those who offer comment. He has actively deleted my comments after publication, banished me from further comment (his word was actually excommunicated, but I’ll leave that alone), delivered a swift kick on my way out the door, and even threw it back in my face when I parted ways saying “good luck nevertheless.” Like Prof. Berman, Sandy Krolick produces worthy content but then insulates himself from dissent. Indeed, his focus has shifted away from the cultural analysis I valued most to riffing on news items for his fans, who never fail to pronounce every post “brilliant.” As it happens, my participation in the discussions he hosted had already been waning.

Aside: Thank goodness I remain effectively undiscovered. I want discussion in the comments and would probably appreciate being appreciated, but woe to me if anyone ever started praising my posts as “brilliant” or a coterie of devoted followers otherwise stroked my ego. I would probably be as vulnerable as the next to self-aggrandizement and then adopt the gonzo style (pale, cheap imitations of Joe Bageant, methinks) others have tried in order to drive traffic.

The fifth and last is an addition: Winged Elm Farm. The author, Brian Miller, writes lyrically about the rural pastoral life but does not appear to be nearly as far off the grid or at the fringes as the authors of Leaving Babylon, Nature Bats Last, and perhaps Mythodrome. His commentary at kulturCritic (where I found him) is uniformly good and balanced.

No, not this. Rather, this. I’m entirely used to folks falling prey to the homophone problem, confusing loose with lose, and a host of other abuses of the English language. Errors are too ubiquitous to get too twisted in knots. But considering how this blog is all about finger wagging, mostly complaining about things that are wrong with the culture but on rare occasion praising something worthwhile, I feel compelled to observe that misused reflexive structures in English are among the worst lightweight offenses (if such an oxymoron can be said to exist) against my particular sensibilities, all the more so when made by people who ought to know better. It grates up there with saying or writing something as moronic as “it don’t ….”

The simple rule with reflexive pronouns (which end with the suffix -self) is that the subject must be the pronoun’s referent. You can hurt yourself (you and yourself match) but I cannot admire yourself (I is the subject and doesn’t match the object yourself). See how simple that is? In a more idiomatic use, one might reply to the question “How are you doing?” with “Very well, and yourself?” This is merely shorthand for “Very well, thank you, and how are you doing yourself?” The reflexive pronoun is arguably superfluous in this example, but it’s idiom, so don’t puzzle too long over it. Throwing the question back at the questioner is a little like another irritating and unnecessary reiteration often heard: “to return something back” (the word back being redundant).

Now, I’m not really a major grammar Nazi. I make mistakes, too, and am generally happy to forgive and forget after itching inwardly a little. However, a new blogger (Lou Tafisk — his nom de plume — of Necrotic Hijinks, now added to my blogroll) appeared a couple of months ago who, like me, is all about the finger wagging, or in his words, putting “everyone’s stupidity on display.” His targets tend to be college students as a class. By all accounts, he quit his teaching job rather than continue to handhold the cretins. He includes within the scope of his vitriol other bloggers, who happily offer themselves up for demolition. I’ve yet to see him really demolish anyone’s blog; he really just uses them as launchpads to crack wise. I threw my own hat in the ring.

Just to give dear ole Lou something to ponder, since I doubt he will take the time to familiarize himself with over six years of blogging on my part if he chooses this blog for public humiliation (doubtful, since I’m not a humorist), I thought I’d return the favor preemptively. I don’t crack wise nearly so well as he, but I’m good at finger wagging. Just look at this:

I couldn’t care about the coarse sexual repartee, which others have been quick to join, but what gives with a college professor, albeit an out-of-work one, and self-proclaimed holder of a Ph.D. using the reflexive pronoun yourself when you is not the subject of the sentence but the object? The blurb above the big Become a Victim button uses yourself correctly, though the subject is only implied with the imperative (one of the three moods in English, though the Wikipedia article lists another five from other languages just for completeness and perhaps unnecessary obfuscation), so I know he can use them properly. Yeah, sure, it’s just a brief reply lost the comments, but do we really want to entrust the minds of students, or for that matter the comic tearing down of others’ blogs, to someone who distinguishes himself with crimes against grammar?

Some Sad News

Posted: March 28, 2011 in Blogroll, Corporatism, Culture

I just learned that Joe Bageant died. Although I never met him (I read his blog and first book of the same name: Deer Hunting with Jesus), I felt a deep admiration of him for his excellent writing and his even more excellent cultural analysis.  His new book, Rainbow Pie, which I have yet to read since it is just out, is reviewed here.

His blog will probably go abandoned after a short while, so in time I will remove it from my blogroll. In the meantime, if anyone reading this even remotely believes anything I say or recommend, get to Bageant’s blog and read his essays while they’re still available.

Traffic Report No. 05

Posted: October 7, 2010 in Blogosphere, Blogroll

Consistent with my last report, my blogging pace has stayed fairly sporadic, though I continue to comment elsewhere quite a bit. I don’t have enough time in the day or week to give most of my ideas the attention they deserve, so blogging gets deferred. However, my comments at other blogs has driven some traffic my way, and several older posts continue to draw attention. The daily average has climbed from 20 something to 30 something most days, with dips over the weekends and the odd spike when some topic of mine hits. WordPress added ratings and like buttons since I last reported on traffic, but few readers have availed themselves of those features. I’d like to get more comments, to which I would respond if I have something further to say on a topic, but few make any comments. For shorter, less analytical blog posts, I have resumed putting those up at Creative Destruction, which is abandoned by the other bloggers who used to post there.

I add to my blog roll only sparingly, and my latest addition is The Compulsive Explainer, where I have been reading and commenting for some time. The blogger there, Hal Smith, clearly has much more time than I do to consider things, and I like his perspective. These two recent posts (one and two) are good examples. My commenting has dropped off there out of frustration that Mr. Smith rarely responds. I’m more interested in dialogue than broadcasting, so I tend to withhold commentary at blogs where the blogger either doesn’t reply or is inundated with hundreds of me, too comments. Nonetheless, he’s worth a read.

Updates to Blogroll 01

Posted: February 27, 2009 in Blogosphere, Blogroll

My blogroll is kept quite short intentionally. Whereas many bloggers exchange links in hopes of driving traffic, my only purpose is linking to blogs I find interesting and well written to add my modest endorsement. The bookmarks in my browser are considerably more numerous than the sites on my blogroll, and it takes time to get acquainted with a blog before the decision to add to my blogroll is made. Additionally, the three blogs listed below are all pretty popular and will neither succeed for fail with the miniscule bit of traffic I send their way (or don’t). With that in mind, I announce three changes to my blogroll (one deletion, two additions):

Bitch Ph.D. is being dropped (note conspicuous lack of linkage). The site banner is great and hasn’t changed. It used to be a solo blog of the slice-of-life variety. Somewhere along the line, it has become a feminist group blog. In the process, those things that interested me the most have gotten buried beneath a deluge of feminist critique, much of which is far too doctrinaire for me to endorse. I made several comments on a recent thread, and the responses were unnecessarily antagonistic and just plain dumb. If feminist bloggers refuse to treat others in their comments section (who may at times be detractors) with minimal respect and only want to preach to the choir, they can certainly get along without my participation and link.

I Blame the Patriarchy is being added. I’ve linked there before in a couple of my blog entries, and the quality of the writing and the insights are definitely worth a read. I haven’t yet commented there, partly out of fear that I’d get my ass handed to me. Twisty Faster is one smart, acerbic blogger, whom I find quite entertaining. Dropping one feminist blog and adding another isn’t a specific strategy of mine to maintain balance. It just happened that way.

Pharyngula is being added. I can’t keep up with the day-to-day volume at this blog, nor do I ever read the comments. PZ Myers appears to enjoy his notoriety quite a bit, and his dual focus on taking down creationists and religious believers (with some biology lessons thrown into the mix) is interesting, though I can’t get personally worked up about others’ illusions quite so much as he apparently does. His writing is less lyrical, perhaps, than at I Blame the Patriarchy, but his linear reasoning is an excellent model to emulate. Pharyngula is also a good way of keeping abreast of some of the more obnoxious culture wars, usually played out in the fields of science and religion.