Wednesday, September 16, 2015

A song I wrote. Muslims in Space.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Cultural Appropriation / The Internet Was Mine First

I have a lot of anti-capitalist bleeding heart idealistic friends, and I like them.

I'd have to say I'm one of them, if I'm one of anything. But sometimes they're dumb. A dumb thing they love right now is the idea of "cultural appropriation."

My girlfriend is Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, so now I want her to rock this at work.

The idea is that you shouldn't wear an indian headdress if you're a drunk white kid at a music festival, because that's stealing. You actually shouldn't wear shirts with Native American designs on them if you're not a Native American. And you shouldn't rap if you're not black. 

The thinking goes, I think, that the people who created these motifs and artforms should be the ones who get to use them, and the ones in charge of what they mean to everyone. 

This is utterly ridiculous, and would halt entirely the gears of human thought and progress if taken to its logical conclusion.

I smoke tobacco -- a native american plant with ritual and symbolic importance. I drink green tea, which was likewise significant for the Japanese. Words for Roman gods are the words for my elements and planets. Writing itself was probably born in some highly specified ritual context. There is nothing I do that isn't ripping off and remixing and torturing old traditions, and you're in the same boat. 

Especially if you're using the internet.

I remember when it was just us. The pioneers. I would dial in at 300 BPS and hit up newsgroups that would load so slowly you could watch the individual letters get printed to the screen.

Ours was a deliberately fostered culture of science and free inquiry. Of ideas having sex. Utter promiscuity of information.

But I feel, lately, like our cultural and its artifacts have been . . . appropriated. People are using the internet, built on the backbone of open source "please steal this idea" code, and using it to promote an agenda of weird ethnically-bound memetic property rights.

It's offensive to me.

And if we're going to argue about appropriation, you can send me your thoughts about it on paper.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Alien Possession: A Stoic Mind Hack

There is a race of aliens, far far away, which are able to travel great distances instantaneously, but only in a clumsy and dangerous way.

The only way they know of to surmount the speed of light is to leave their physical bodies behind. They have visited earth, and other worlds, by parachuting the minds of their explorers into our bodies.

But when these intrepid explorers arrive, they are faced with a great danger. They come into our minds keeping all of our memories and chemical processes, to the frequent result that they are overwhelmed by our narratives and tasks, and forget their own. More often than not they forget their missions, and live out their lives as the people whom they had intended to only temporarily inhabit.

The above is as good as true. Your consciousness, this moment, is not bound to the resentments, plans, and prides you had the moment before. You may as well be a new person, inhabiting the body of [Your Body's Name Here]. In fact, depending on our definitions of "you" and "self", we could argue that you certainly are. 

That is not your ex-wife. That's not your job. Those aren't your beliefs, and you don't need to hold to them. That's not your anger. Don't get distracted. 

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Fiat currency is not permissable for Muslims. Bitcoin is.

I am definitely not an Islamic jurist. But I've probably logged a few hundred hours of conversation with pretty savvy Muslims. I teach English as a Second Language, and I've come to believe that most money is haram (forbidden), even if the average savvy Muslim (just like the average savvy non-Muslim) doesn't understand the global monetary system well enough to be offended by it.

If you ask a Muslim student (well, at least my Muslim students), there are no Muslim governments on earth. My Muslim students look down on all the "Muslim" kings and presidents of the current Arab world, saying they have all given into a form of capitalism that is strictly forbidden by Islam.

"Riba", or interest, is their key complaint. A Jordanian/Emirati student of mine has told me stories of the boom-bust cycles in Dubai, entailing speculation-unto-insanity and consequent tricky government intervention that even a jaded American would gasp at, and he blamed it on the greedy monarchs abandoning the will of Allah for personal gain.

Apparently, Islam does not permit interest. This is why you find "Islamic Banks" in London.

These banks cater to traditional Muslims by figuring out ways to serve their customers without charging interest. They will, for example, construe a loan as an investment in a business, wherein the bank possesses a non-controlling stake. This way a businessman can receive capital to expand his business, and the bank can (on average) profit, without reckoning things according to the time value of money.

This is halal (permissible).

Here's the problem, as I see it:

While the Islamic Bank of Britain offers no-interest loans to its observant customers, it still offers these loans denominated in British pounds. Where do these pounds come from? The Bank of England. At an interest rate of 0.5%.

Now the Muslim observant usually don't take their due diligence so far as understanding the horrifyingly obfuscated realm of monetary policy, just as some vegetarians eat skittles without asking where the gelatin comes from. To understand the whole world of human events that enmeshes you is an inhumanly difficult thing these days, and Allah knows what Congolese wars I've supported with the occasional unwitting grocery store purchase.

But if we were to do our inhuman feat of diligence, and examine all things, I think that we would find bitcoin to be the leading, most stable halal currency the world has got right now.

And that's something that I think bitcoin adopters and banking-aware Muslims should be telling their friends.

High Communion/Low Complaint Relationships

There's a Christian dude, I don't know how I found him, who's a professor at Texas Christian University and a thoughtful writer. When I found his blog, I had stumbled across a brilliant article where he was contrasting Rousseau and Hobbes and saying that parents' breastfeeding behaviours were are a good proxy for whether they believed man is a beast that needed taming or man is a pure and perfect thing that gets fucked up when we bend it out of its nature.

Anyways, another great idea that Professor Richard Beck had is that of "Winter Christians". Beck believes that a 1-dimensional spectrum between the extremes of "totally faithful" and "totally faithless" is oversimplistic. He contrives a two-dimensional graph, with one axis indicating a person's level of communion, and the other axis showing their level of complaint. Now, Beck reasons, we have a model that can adequately describe himself and King David as "Winter Christians", being people who are obedient to God and in love with him, but also wrestle with everything and bitch a lot.

I would fall squarely in the bottom rightmost corner. I have zero communion with God, and high complaint. I'm an atheist.

As such, I'd like to scandalously appropriate Mr. Beck's model to talk about something he didn't mean it for: having sex with multiple women.

I have two girlfriends. I have my wife, Megan, and my other girlfriend Wrae. Wrae and Megan are both amazing. They also both see through my shit. They're not bedazzled by me, or googly-eyed. We have talks about our needs. They push back. They see me as an equal. We wrestle and resent. Plus WOW we love.

I was talking to Wrae about how what I want now is a third woman who's really easy going. I want a really easy fun relationship. Wrae said there are no such things. There are. I've had them.

Now it may be said that super-high communion relationships will always have a hefty degree of complaint. That could be true, I don't know. I think Wrae would argue that. It could also be said that the throes of infatuation may produce a high communion/low complaint relationship for a moment, but that it's inherently unstable. Also possibly true.

But that's what I'm after. Call me.