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17 July 2013

New music for the content farm

Recently someone reminded me that I’m the owner of this here blog. What’s the saying: Use it or lose it? Well, actually, I don’t think there’s any chance that personal content farms will do anything but proliferate over the course of our current century, but maybe that saying is actually a metaphor?

So without further adieu, here are four songs I’ve enjoyed over the past few months, during which I have been an unprolific blogger:

Alastair Galbraith: “Everybody’s Got Pain”

Tom Rapp cover viz this

Radiohead: “Creep” (Live at the MTV Beach House)

Feist: “Graveyard”

I actually think “The Bad In Each Other” from the same album is a better song. And I’ve gone totally in the tank for the album in whole. But wow, “Graveyard,” great viddy!

AroarA: “#6”

Saw them playing as part of a band with Feist in Toronto. A new thing. A new band? It’s called Hydra. No one seems to know if it will come to anything. I do have a bit of advice for AroarA though: “Terrible band name dudes. Change it.” (Sorry that I shared that in public AroarA dudes! Take that with a grain of salt though. I’ve been wrong before.)

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18 March 2013

Aaron Swartz: 1986-2013

I find it strange how I’m constantly pulled to this internet website for the purpose of obituaries, meditations on peoples’ passings. Maybe the online world really is a kind of death?

Anyhoo, the life of Aaron Swartz presents a mixed take on that notion. As much an activist as he was a programmer — and, to my mind, as much a kind of artist of the world — he committed suicide earlier this year, under duress from government prosecution and the machinations of his own mind. This posthumous profile by Wesley Yang — “The Life and Afterlife of Aaron Swartz” — is well done, and filled with moments of deep thought & grace. It balances the necessity of depicting Swartz as a complicated person (probably problematic, certainly frustrating) without ever disrespecting his sensitive, probing, and justice-minded intellect. And you should read it both as a tribute to a 20something who died too young, and for insights into the emerging digital world.

Here are some key excerpts in which Yang traces Swartz’s thinking and how it derived from the hacker ethics…

Again and again, his friends made the point that Swartz’s open-access activism was merely the prologue to his truly immodest ambition to “hack the whole world,” and to realize his dream of “a world without any injustice or suffering of any kind.” His closest friends and family were keen to reject any effort to “pathologize” Swartz’s condition, though he had himself described it as a sickness. “Aaron was depressed because God is depressed,” said [Lawrence] Lessig at his funeral. “Look at this world and what we have done — who wouldn’t be depressed.”

In a blog post a few months later, Swartz engages in a brief philosophical inquiry into how a person can live a moral life. “The conclusion is inescapable: we must live our lives to promote the most overall good. And that would seem to mean helping those most in want — the world’s poorest people.” He would go on to specify which moral actors he found the most admirable. “Our rule demands one do everything they can to help the poorest — not just spending one’s wealth and one’s possessions, but breaking the law if that will help,” he wrote. “It seems like these criminals, not the average workaday law-abiding citizens, should be our moral exemplars.”

Steven Levy in his seminal book Hackers, neatly evoked the working principles that governed the hacker ethic: “Hackers believe that essential lessons can be learned about the systems — about the world — from taking things apart, seeing how they work, and using this knowledge to create new and even more interesting things,” he wrote. “They resent any person, physical barrier, or law that tries to keep them from doing this…. Imperfect systems infuriate hackers, whose primal instinct is to debut them…In a perfect hacker world, anyone pissed off enough to open up a control box near a traffic light and take it apart to make it work better should be perfectly welcome to make the attempt. Rules that prevent you from taking matters like that into your own hands are too ridiculous to even consider abiding by.”

Apologies for the lack of bridging material, or plot points in Swartz’s life story. You need to read the original piece to connect the dots — all the better reason for you to turn to the original source.

And if you’re willing to go deeper still, you can read the contentious comments section on Yang’s article or, a better suggestion, it might be nice for you to spend a few moments with Aaron’s still-extant social media presences — a nice record of a mind as focused on analysis of new sci-fi and comic book movies, and jokes about Parks & Recreation as he was with social justice. Some have called Swartz a martyr; it’s somehow comforting to read evidence that he also had a sense of humor and a sense of joy.

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31 January 2012

Finally! The internet explained!

‘nuf said…

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