Archive for the ‘Braak’ Category

I am taking a break from expounding my LIFE PHILOSOPHY to talk about some other things, as a kind of intellectual palate-cleanser.  Today’s subject on which I will now go on at length, pulled randomly from the heaps of garbage that I read every day, is this article by Colin McEnroe over at Salon.

For whatever reason, I find I’m always more exercised by running into junk like this at sites I read regularly, as opposed to sites like the New Yorker, where I only once in a while check-in.  It seems to me that not only is the thing itself wrong, but that it’s also a kind of betrayal that they published it in the first place — not necessarily because I don’t agree with it (though, I’ll be honest here — as we all should strive for honesty in every one of our doings — that’s probably a big part of it), but because it seems like the kind of thing an editor should have looked at and said, “Nope, too dumb.  Send it back.”

(Well, I know, it’s Salon, obviously that wasn’t going to happen, come on.)

Anyway, the piece is for the most part some fussy hand-wringing about Kids Today, and I think that all articles about Kids Today should be answered not necessarily due to their merits, but just for the sake of having the counter-argument exist, in the hopes that this generation will, at long last, be the generation that beats back the idea of Kids Today, if not forever, at least for now, a momentary peace in a world constantly under threat.

It’s mostly fussiness, but it takes at its heart Ira Glass’s apparent disinterest in Shakespeare: “I think I’m realizing: Shakespeare sucks?”  And then seeks to take him to task on the grounds that Shakespeare self-evidently does NOT suck, and Ira Glass is somehow representative of a generation of increasingly-stupid children who don’t seem to realize that.

Well.

Before I get into it, let me just be clear: I like Shakespeare, as a reader, as an actor, and as a speaker of English. I’m also GOOD at Shakespeare; ask anyone, I’ve got a knack for this kind of stuff. If I was willing to live a little more in poverty, I could probably work consistently just doing Shakespeare. Shakespeare often speaks to me in a way that I find deeply intuitive and affecting. I have, in other words, a vested interest in seeing Shakespeare maintain his position as the most important playwright in the English language, and in seeing all of us remain idolators to his genius.

But.

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So, prompted by some comments about how certain atheists (*cough*richarddawkins*cough*) tend to make all atheists look bad by acting like huge pricks all the time, I figured I’d participate in the process of the differentiation of atheists by laying out what my own philosophy of the world is, rather than according to one particular thing I think it isn’t.

Before I talked specifically about the atheistic part of the world as I see it – the idea that there is no guiding benevolent force directly interacting with the universe in any perceptible way and sort of concomitantly, that any other kind of deity (the God as Watchmaker, for instance) isn’t particularly relevant. This time I want to write about what I think the nature of the world is, and the way in which we live in it.

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On the internet today, someone that I know said that, even though she wasn’t an atheist, she thought we all deserved a better atheism than Richard Dawkins gives us.  I am an atheist, and I’m inclined to agree — I think Dawkins (et all those guys — Hitchens, Harris, &c) did an important service by making atheism a reasonable subject of conversation in the national discourse.  But they also did it in sort of the only way that you CAN do that in the national discourse in America, which was by being huge fucking pricks about it.  This is kind of not their fault, I guess — Richard Dawkins didn’t decide that the way that we all ought to communicate our ideas is by having our individual platforms and then yelling at people from them.  And it’s important that SOMEONE carved out the space, but it’s also misleading to let these guys define what atheism is for everyone.

This is especially because “atheism” isn’t really a tradition or a philosophy; it’s a broad category of many different traditions and philosophies, unified only by a single characteristic that they share in common.  “Atheism” is as, or more, diverse than “theism”, and only some terrible prick would insist that all theists believe the same things.

Anyway, this got me thinking that maybe I ought to write down my own ideas about my own kind of atheism in a systematic way.  I’ve had a lot of occasion to think really long and hard about what I believe and why.  A lot of this is because of my challenges with depression and alcoholism — you know, I think a lot of us can get by pretty well without having thought rigorously about our (for lack of a better term) LIFE PHILOSOPHY (our own individual theories about “how we should be in the world”), but when you go through some of the emotional and psychological challenges that this kind of philosophy specifically provides a bulwark against, you end up putting a lot of work into it.

A lot of people find religion, or find a philosophy to help them get through rough times.  I went through rough times, but I mostly just made mine up.  This is it; I figure if I write it down, maybe someone else who’s having a rough time might find something useful in it.  It’s what you might call Religious, but Not Spiritual.  There isn’t a name for it so far as I know, but it technically breaks down as Atheistic Materialist Zen Mysticism.

I will now elaborate.

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Causality: A Game for Time Lords

Posted: June 22, 2014 in Braak
Tags: , ,

This is the game they play on Gallifrey, to teach young Time Lords how to start thinking along timelines, instead of within timelines.

The Short Game of Causality is played on 22boards.  The long game is played on 1,534.  The boards are arranged above and below a line called the Horizon.  Below the Horizon is the Point of Origin board.  This board has two generations; each of these boards has two generations, and (in the short game), each of these boards has two generations, for a total of fifteen.

Above the Horizon there are seven more boards.  The first four each have two progenitor boards, the next two likewise, and the final board (the Singularity) similarly.

sketch; board layout is not accurate

sketch; board layout is not accurate

Each board is six squares by six squares, and contains six pieces for each player (Black and White).  The six pieces are the Regent, the Regis, two Castles, and two Elephants.

Each board also has an Orientation:  a board is either Orthodox or Unorthodox.  At the start of the game, the Point of Origin is Orthodox, and the Singularity is Unorthodox.  On an Orthodox board, Elephants behave like bishops (long diagonal movements only), and Castles behave like pawns (advancing one square, attacking on the diagonal).  On an Unorthodox board, Elephants behave like pawns, and Castles behave like knights (advancing two squares up and one to the side).  The Regent and Regis always behave like the king and queen, but swap places when the board changes its orientation.

A player is able to make one move each on two separate boards per turn.

At the outset of the game, half of the boards are Orthodox, and half are Unorthodox.  Each pair of boards is in the Obverse Arrangement.  When Black puts White in check on any board below the Horizon, the orientations of that board’s generation are swapped to Reverse alignment — the Orthodox board is now unorthodox, and vice-versa.  When White puts Black in check, the orientations return to Obverse.

Above the Horizon, a board’s orientation is determined by its progenitor boards — if they are the same, the board remains in its Obverse alignment.  If they are different, the board changes to its Reverse alignment.

When a Regent is in checkmate, the board is Locked, and no further moves on that board can be played (however, moves on boards closer to the Point of Origin CAN be played; if the board’s orientation changes and checkmate is disrupted, the board is Unlocked and can be played again.

The game is won by creating checkmate on the Singularity board.

[POSSIBLY: there are only four pieces per player per board (Regent, Regis, Elephant, and Castle), arranged in opposite corners.

POSSIBLY: The game ends when checkmate on the Singularity is achieved, and no further moves on previous boards can be made; the player wins who has the most points -- the Singularity is worth five points, the individual boards are worth one point each.

am still working out the details]

In response to Ruth Graham’s article at Slate, “Against YA“, but REALLY in response to the sudden eruption of hand-wringing defenses of why it’s okay to read Young Adult books.

1.  I am in a bookstore and I see a book in the Young Adult section that I think about buying. Another customer looks at me askance, as though I am childish for looking at a Young Adult Book.  “Fuck that guy,” I think to myself, “this looks interesting.”  I buy the book anyway.

2.  I am reading a Young Adult Book on the train.  Someone sits down across from me  They have got a face like they think I should be embarrassed by my reading material.  For a second I am worried.  “Oh wait, I just remembered,” I think to myself, “Fuck that guy.”  I continue reading my book

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The funny thing is that I was thinking about how to explain privilege the other day, and I wrote this without any particular incident in mind, figuring to myself: “Give it time; eventually SOMEONE is going to act like a jackass in public and make this piece topical.”

And lo, the universe gave me Tal Fortgang.

So, let’s talk about the nature of “privilege” in a social context, and how it works. I’m not here to talk about privilege in the literal sense, which is a set of “private laws” that some people get to be subject to instead of the regular laws (that’s a real thing, but it’s not what I’m getting into here), and it’s not what we typically mean in the metaphorical sense, “privilege” as in “a child of privilege” – “I grew up wealthy and isolated from harm, like Gautama Siddhartha before he encountered the Four Signs” kind of privilege. That’s ALSO a real thing, but when people say “white privilege” or “male privilege” or something like that, that’s not what they mean.

I am going to try and elaborate how this works in order to avoid confusion. If you run into a Tal Fortgang in your life – i.e., “Oh, I have privilege, huh? Well did you know I was POOR?” – please send them here, I am providing it as a public service announcement.

Here is how to understand privilege. You nerds like Dungeons and Dragons, right?

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I caught this article from Gabriel Valdez’s Wednesday Collective in a sort of a roundabout way – it’s a defense of something like “The Expert Review”, in which a reviewer criticizes a work of fiction with some level of expertise – pointing out historical errors and the like. Some people think the Expert Review should die; this Historian who goes to the movies makes a pretty good case for it.

For the purpose of contributing to this consideration, I’d like to suggest that there’s a bright line we can draw between historical errors that matter and historical errors that don’t, and that actually we’ve got two ways of looking at a narrative’s relationship to the past. For the sake of argument, let’s call these two things History and Historicity.

History, we all know what history is, but just for the purpose of this article I’d like you to accept the following definition, even if it’s not how you’d usually define it: “History is a complex set of narratives, evaluated in the present, encompassing more or fewer artifacts from previous time periods, generally established for the purpose of creating, destroying, or reinforcing a cultural or political identity.” In this case, we might say that a history that encompasses very few artifacts from a previous time period is a bad history, but creating a narrative based on them is still the process of history, however we might like to wish it isn’t. And you’ve noticed, I’m sure, the interesting feature about history being evaluated always in the present, and what this means for all previous histories – don’t worry, we’ll get to it.

Historicity might be something that I made up (or, alternately, a real thing that I am describing incorrectly), but for the sake of this article let’s work with this definition: “Historicity is the quality of resembling one point in history or another.” I don’t think that his necessarily means that something with a high degree of historicity is historically accurate – I think that as we go forward, I’m going to show that “historical accuracy” can fall into one or the other category – but I do think that something with a high degree of historicity has a lot of details that are meant to make it resemble something that is historically accurate.

So, here is what I am proposing: historical details matter when we’re talking about history; historical details do NOT matter when we’re talking about historicity.

Here, let me do a few examples.

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