the intersection of practice and talent

To the social philosopher, the intersection of practice and talent poses a general question about agency: we are minded to believe that engagement is better than passivity. The pursuit of quality is also a matter of agency, the craftsman’s driving motive. But agency does not happen in a social or emotional vacuum, particularly good-quality work. The desire to do something well is a personal litmus test; inadequate personal performance hurts in a different way than inequalities of inherited social position or the externals of wealth: it is about you.

““ Richard Sennett, The Craftsman

fear, not love

“People react to fear, not love. They don’t teach that in Sunday school, but it’s true.” – Richard Nixon

we will be a better military as a result

Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, applauded Congress’s action. He and Gates were among the civilian and active-duty military leaders who had rallied for the change.

“It is the right thing to do,” he said in a statement. “No longer will able men and women who want to serve and sacrifice for their country have to sacrifice their integrity to do so. We will be a better military as a result.” – (source)


I’m not sayin, I’m just sayin.

stocks vs bonds in the us by book words

When you enter phrases into the Google Books Ngram Viewer, it displays a graph showing how those phrases have occurred in a corpus of books (e.g., “British English”, “English Fiction”, “French”) over the selected years (source)

that’s true for many collectors

Redden tells a story of a young Malcolm Forbes traveling on an ocean liner with his family to Scotland. He put his favorite toy boat on a long string and put it down into the turbulent ocean to sail behind the huge liner.

“And needless to say,” says Redden, “the boat was never seen again, and he was devastated. So, there really is a Rosebud sense to all of this; he was trying to bring back that lost toy of his childhood.”

And that’s true for many collectors. (source)

quotes on wikileaks

As usual, Clay Shirky nails the conflicted nature of the wikileaks issue for the US on his blog. From the post:

“The key, though, is that democracies have a process for creating such restrictions, and as a citizen it sickens me to see the US trying to take shortcuts. The leaders of Myanmar and Belarus, or Thailand and Russia, can now rightly say to us “You went after Wikileaks’ domain name, their hosting provider, and even denied your citizens the ability to register protest through donations, all without a warrant and all targeting overseas entities, simply because you decided you don’t like the site. If that’s the way governments get to behave, we can live with that.“”

more breasts and less violence

NOTE: This is a cross post. Please comment on the Houston Chronicle More Breasts Less Violence Post.

I have mentioned before, half jokingly, that part of the problem with the media is that we need “more breasts and less violence.”

brighton uk-11

As a parent of three children, I find it disturbing that CSI can show the charred remains of a human victim of sexual assault on TV and that is OK. Or a half naked dead girl as long as the chest cavity is missing. While showing a woman’s breasts on TV gets you fined by the FCC and the rest of us watch nothing-but-oldies at half-time. From wikipedia on the wardrobe malfunction.

On September 22, 2004, the FCC fined Viacom the maximum $27,500 (US) penalty for each of the twenty CBS-owned television stations (including satellites of WFRV in Green Bay, WCCO in Minneapolis, and KUTV in Salt Lake City; current CBS owned-and-operated station KOVR in Sacramento at the time was owned by Sinclair Broadcast Group) for a total $550,000 fine, the largest ever against a television broadcaster at that time.

I am sure Viacom is really glad it was only one breast or it might have been over a million dollars! Geez.

As humans, hopefully we will live out our entire lives without killing someone. God said it best – “thou shall not kill.” Yet hopefully at some point in our lives we will have sex. Breasts are awesome. It’s blunt to say it like that, but everyone dances around the topic. If you lead a successful life you will have sex and you will not kill. It’s just that simple. Shouldn’t that balance be represented in our media?

If we must have either violence or sex to appeal to the reptilian brain‘s need for entertainment, wouldn’t it be better if we erred away from violence? Wouldn’t it be better if in fact there were “more breasts and less violence” in the media? Assuming of course the depictions of sex are healthy. Unfortunately when it comes to sex in the media it horrifically gets blended with violence and more recently an increase in depictions of violence against women  in the media! From a 2009 study:

“Violence, irrespective of gender, on television increased during the study period only 2% from 2004 to 2009, while the incidence of violence against women increased 120% during that same period.”

“Cumulatively, across all study periods and all networks,  the most frequent type of violence was beating (29%), followed by credible threats of violence, (18%), shootings (11%), rape (8%), stabbing (6%), and torture (2%).   Violence against women resulted in death 19% of the time.”

“Violence against women or the graphic consequences of violence tends overwhelmingly to be depicted 92% of the time, rather than implied (5%) or described (3%).”

According to the report there was an 81% increase in the incidence of intimate partner violence on television from 2004 to 2009 and FOX was on top of the heap when it came to using “violence against women as a punch line in its comedies.”

To repeat, while violence went up 2%, depictions of violence against women specifically went up 120%! What the heck is going on here!?

And the porn industry is following the same pattern. I was shocked to read about the current state of porn in Chris Hedges book Empire of Illusion. I had never heard of “Gonzo” porn and for my older readers, um… things have gotten a lot worse since the “soldier meets a waitress while serving overseas” bawdy contrivances of our youth. No, modern porn has set about training our 18 to 25 year old males to be misogynists, unfortunately. I’ll leave that for another day (more for the curious).

But what about a healthy depiction of sex between a man and a woman? Such a depiction of intimacy just earned the movie Blue Valentine an NC 17 rating. From the article on CNN which quotes Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams:

“It’s an inappropriate rating,” an outraged Gosling, 30, tells CNN, adding that violent movies rarely get slapped with an NC-17. “I mean, you go see films and the guys are getting their arms and their legs cut off and that’s an R rating, but … if it’s in the direction of a woman receiving pleasure, you know, and she’s complicit in a sexual act, it’s pornographic.”

Williams agrees that there’s a double standard when it comes to both women and violence in movies.

“That’s the thing that really gets me as a parent,” says the mother of 5-year-old Matilda, her daughter with the late Heath Ledger. “Violence as pornography is condoned and accepted and given a sort of stamp-of-approval rating, and we’re punished.”

European advertising has long had a more open approach than America.

America has a different social norm. And nudity in publicly consumed media is illegal. Companies like American Apparel turn this into an opportunity and  gain notoriety by pushing the boundaries. But AA’s approach seems cheap and exploitative, whereas the nudity and sexuality in the European advertising seems more sophisticated and tasteful.

When I have talked to people about this topic you always get a few snickers. None of us are really sure why breasts are so awesome, but they are. Yet in our society we can’t talk about sex without acting like 13 year olds but when people blow up on screen it’s “pass the popcorn!” The explanation people always tell me is that we are a Christian nation and are more modest about such things. Yet I come from a Catholic family and I’m the third of six kids. I’m pretty sure Mom and Dad had things figured out.

My point when I say that we need more breasts and less violence is this: we need more healthy depictions of women, we need more openness when it comes to breasts (really?) and we need to feed less violence into our minds.

I ask you, would you rather your children watch this CSI episode? Or….

Or this Victoria Secret Fashion Show?

Personally, I’d much rather my kids watch the latter. I for one would like to see more breasts and less violence in our society.

but people didn’t call it a democracy

Colbert: “But the first amendment only covers journalists. That’s freedom of the press. Who’s Assange to say he’s a journalist…  There are certain things that the public should not know. That’s what we elect a government for; to act in secret with complete impunity. Then later we’ll find out whether we liked it.’

Ellsberg:  “That’s one of the oldest traditions of government in human civilization. But people didn’t call it Democracy.