What a Gift

Locked inside this facility
Designed to produce clean minds
Binded in by laws to better
Imprisoned for good functioning

It's a world of suffering
Those who succeed are miserable
Those who are happy fail miserably

They claim it's a gift
A gift we need and can't refuse

It's a prison and a cult

Why we need it I don't know
Wait I do—to be a good cog

They own us—they control us
From the start they claim their power
Rules us for every hour

Fight for freedom be destroyed
Give in and be destroyed
Let your mind be destroyed
What a gift


Another iteration. New. Again.
Again let’s go again let’s go again.
Remix. Repeat. Remix. Repeat. Again.
Let’s go again let’s go again let’s go.
It’s all been done. Do it again. Once more.
All-American suicide. Revive.
Sell me your toes. One dollar each. Regrow.
I know you slip. I heard from Dante you
will burn, too. Can you feel the fire burning?
There is a spectre haunting this house and
I wonder who it could be. Maybe that
old ghost of Communism is back. Or is
God back? Maybe a broken family.
Let us begin again. Once more. Again.
I’ll tell you over and over. Again.
One more Pan-European patricide.
Perhaps the whole world will sing too. Somebody
once told me to ask what I know for sure,
but I was not sure I knew what he asked.
Try all you want to make me understand.
All that you can do is remix the words.
I’m not sure you know anyway what you mean.
Sound and fury signifies nothing. But we
make do with what we have and what we are
nothing. Negate the being and remix.
Repent. Reiterate and then repent.
Go collect all the gems and free the slaves.
If you can summon your heart’s desire.
The nothingness that is me is no thing
that is you is the other is just Hell
so to Hell with the other people! Leave
me be alone. Forget the meaningless
despair, though. Just rock and roll all nite or
love it when you one-two step please don’t stop.
Hide tragedy. Say never again,
Just once more for our justice so they say,
now never again except now we get
a turn for our revenge. Retribution.
But there’s no crime without a victim so
I guess you’re fine. Recapitulate and
decapitate. Remix the words and you’ll
get something new. Reiterate the moves
and you can have some meaning. But feel the
respect for nothingness.

Even if the Bible is not the law, it is the document a lot of Americans look to for values

In the US, a lot of people are Christian. Christianity is a big enough force in the country that the “Religious Right” is a thing. While not all Republicans are concerned with religion, it’s at least a staple of the party, and any conservative politician will at least pay lip service to it. The Trump administration is no exception, and it has indeed tried to justify itself with the Bible.

In response to this and the absolutely infernal acts the administration is propagating, some others have pointed out that a good reading of the Bible will lead one to find condemnations of categories of things that include treating immigrants and refugees horribly.

In response to this response, some have stepped back and tried to deny any authority to the Bible either way:


In some sense, yes, this is right. Though the second paragraph makes a subtle shift. Most people who are talking about the application of Jesus’s words to tearing kids from their parents are not trying to make a legal argument. I would be very surprised to find someone saying that tearing kids from their parents is illegal. Plenty of people are saying that it’s wrong, or that people should not tear kids from their parents, but that’s not the same as saying it’s illegal.

There are Constitutional provisions in the US restricting how laws can interact with religion. Though there’s an under-appreciated distinction between policies and the reasons behind policies. This comes up when people talk about the political compass too. Someone could be, say, authoritarian-left for a variety of different, even contrary reasons. But if you’re just trying to measure the concrete policies people support, then the motivations are abstracted away.

Likewise, people have all sorts of motivations for voting the way that they do. Many people, citizens and legislators, look to religion for guidance on which ways to vote. And if it’s something like what to set the income tax rates at or whether usury ought to be legal, then that’s a thing people can do. (There is some slippery room with legislators openly voting based on religious beliefs for policies without religious content, but even then, most people will let their values or morality tell them how to vote, and many people get those values from religion. You’re just one step removed.)

So in the sense of whether the Bible is the document that the agents of the state are supposed to consult in governing the country, no, of course not. You look to the laws and the will of the people. However, most of the people behind the laws and will are Christians. You might not like that. I’m not arguing whether that’s a thing worth trying to change, but for now, it is the case, and it will almost certainly be the case for at least several more years. So even if you think a long-term strategy of diminishing Christianity or religion in general is good, short-term solutions to urgent problems are also needed.

Public opinion and outcry does seem to have some effect on what the US government does. (Just yesterday Trump signed an order to keep families together. This may have been the Republican plan all along, but nonetheless, the plan at least had to incorporate public reactions.) So, to get good outcomes, we should include persuading the public to support the right policies. To do this requires appealing to the values people have. (We should also try to instill better values, but, again, that’s a long-term move.) In this case, adherence to the values of Christianity is a value a lot of people already have, and Jesus is pretty clear on this topic. So even if you or I think the Bible is not the document to look at for guidance in organizing society, plenty of people do, and they’re going to act as such. So we may as well point out that Jesus said to be good to people, as well as other things condemning pretty much everything ICE and company do.

Now, one might argue that if the majority religion were some other religion that supported these atrocities, then we would want people to steer away from what it says. Sure. We rarely appeal to every value anyway. In that case we would not look to adherence to religious teachings as a value and pick other values to appeal to. We can see this here, anyway. Most people probably take the obtaining of wealth as a value. Taking in refugees does not clearly serve that end. But for our purposes, that just means we don’t appeal to the value of money on this topic.

Some media is better than other media

This article is excellent. I don’t agree with everything in it, but I think it has two very good and important points:
1. If you give up on things like value judgements and expertise, you lose almost all ground you have to say much with oomph. Some things are better than some other things. Aesthetically as well as politically. Media created with nuance and skill is better than kitsch and propaganda. People who spend a lot of time studying a thing do tend to know better than most about that thing. “Elitism” has become such a bad word that we’ve forgotten that it is better to be better.
2. Texts (and other works, but usually texts) that are difficult and slow, but rewarding, to work through have benefits over fast and easy media. Simple messages are easy to use as rallying cries. For good or bad causes. If something takes no thought to consume, then it usually won’t get much thought in its consumption. This isn’t to say that writing in such a way that is needlessly difficult to understand is a good thing, but works that reward reading slowly and rereading and analysizing are better.

Today’s a Christian holiday; time for social media to smugly reveal that there’s some connection between Easter and Ishtar

There’s plenty of images to this effect, so I’ll just put one here for reference:

Image may contain: text

A fun fact. Well, it would be a fun fact if it were true. But it’s not. “Ishtar” sounds like it looks like it would sound like. Those aren’t her symbols, either, nor is she the goddess of fertility. The name “Easter” more likely comes from “Eostre” which is Germanic. I mention this because it’s relevant to the next point. Regardless of the inaccuracies here, the point does remain that the holiday celebration has some connection with another holiday celebration that isn’t Christian.

Even if we fix the factual matters, the smugness just reveals a lack of awareness. When Christianity was spreading, the Church was pretty upfront about this. The Bible doesn’t really specify holidays. Jesus explicitly says you can have some holidays or no holidays or all holidays or whatever. Just make sure you direct the focus of the celebration in God’s direction.

So in order to ease people’s transition into Christianity, the Church took the liberty of keeping the existing celebrations, while just changing the intended purpose. It’s a pretty good strategy, I think. Most people are just happy to have the celebration. If they have to switch from celebrating the rebirth of the plants (springtime) to the rebirth of the Christ, so be it. They get some wine, either way.

This gets to the last line, which often is posted as, “Gotcha, Christians! You thought you were celebrating your god, but actually you were celebrating sex!” I’m not clear how at all this is supposed to work. Because the celebratory activities were/are used by some people for one thing, that thing is the only possible purpose? If that’s the case, I want to know what having a big meal celebrates. It’s used for a bunch of holidays, so seeing the one true thing that is celebrated by large meals would be interesting. Perhaps that’s not it, since it appears to be crazy.

Maybe the date is the thing. Easter borrows activities from the celebrations of the vernal equinox, which is celebrated for the bringing of fertility, sex, etc. But, if we’re going by dates, Easter is directly connected to Passover. Which makes a lot more sense since Jesus’s death was timed as to be parallel with the celebration of Passover. So if you want to say what Easter is really about on the basis of date, then Easter is really about God sparing the Jewish nation from the final plague in Egypt. But that would mean that something is fixing dates to aboutnesses of celebrations. And once all 366 days are taken (or can we also do n-th weekday of the month? You could come up with a few more, but we’re still pretty limited) then we cannot have any new reasons to celebrate. If a country is founded on December 25th, anything it does to celebrate on that day will be about Saturnalia.

So activities and dates are individually out, but perhaps a more holistic picture can save the smug social media user. If we take all of the things mentioned into consideration, Easter is really about both Ostara and Passover. In some creative sense, this isn’t far off. It’s about rebirth and God sparing his people. But that creative sense only works if we allow for creativity (i.e. creating, not just imaginativeness). A far more plausible explanation of holidays than there being something that fixes their meaning is that there are people, people do things, sometimes people pick specific things for specific days, and any meaning to that is made by the people. If I want to celebrate a close friendship by video chatting and each of us chugging a soda on the 15th of April every year, so be it. If I want to celebrate my love of absurdity by throwing a dart at a calendar and then on that day throwing a calendar off a highway overpass, I might run into legal trouble, but if the celebration is about anything, it’s about what I decided it’s about. The meaning comes from the people celebrating.

If celebrations are about whatever the people celebrating decide to celebrate, then for most Christians, Easter is in fact really about the resurrection of Christ. Sure, the use of eggs and bunnies has historical roots in some other traditions, but when we’re looking for what a celebration is about, the roots we seek are found in the intentions of the people celebrating.

TV Update 2018-02-19

Since last time I posted this (which was on FB), I’ve watched a few more shows. I’m surprised at how much TV I’m watching, but I guess sometimes it’s good to do something besides read, write, and exercise. And I’m pretty quick to turn something off if I’m getting nothing out of it. Also several of my closest friends watch a fair bit of TV and since I have them to discuss the shows with, they’re more worthwhile than otherwise.

A.P. Bio and The Good Place have been rather notorious in philosophy circles since they each feature a philosopher as a main character. Some have been concerned about the philosopher in A.P. Bio being a jackass, but, well, the show is funny nonetheless. And anyone who takes a sitcom as serious representation is probably anti-intellectual to begin with. The Good Place has made moral philosophy more prominent in popular culture, which is nice. I’ve been thinking about how a similar move might work for metaphysics, but metaphysics admittedly seems less immediately applicable. But hey, at least it’s moral philosophers nobody likes. (–a repeated line in the show. I don’t have any problems with moral philosophers. I’m finding myself drawn in that direction anyway.)

Though I was made aware of both by philosophy blogs, friends who have at most a passing interest in philosophy suggesting them was what got me to watch. A.P. Bio is hilarious in a similar way to It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia or Californication. The main character is awful. He crosses several moral lines. The show is only a few episodes in, so perhaps it can move to cross every moral line. The Good Place is funny, but the plot really keeps it going. The characters draw you in, and they constantly get into situations that make you watch the next episode. The first few episodes rely more on humor, but by the end of the second season it may be into more dramatic territory.

I’ve been keeping up with Lucifer since this past summer and it is my favorite show on TV right now. I might have an unfair judgment since I have a huge soft spot for stories that play on the supernatural elements of Christianity. So the Devil in L.A. took me no time at all to take to. This season has had a ton of aggravating breaks between episode releases, but more often than not the episodes are very hard-hitting. The thrill level you’d expect only in season finales is hit in several episodes of the third season.

I just started watching It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. The characters are all awful, but watching them make their choices leads to a lot of laughing. I’m only in the second season, so I can’t say much yet. I clearly have a soft spot for moral nihilism in stories, and this show has a lot of it.

Rick and Morty ended a while ago. The season was pretty good. I hate the ending myself, but it started with an alright scene. Maybe there will be a new season some day.

I started  watching Californication when I was stuck in bed from not really being able to do things like breathe this past December. The show is in ways similar to House (possibly my favorite show), but with a writer instead of a doctor. And the writer is actually interested in love, but he writes fiction, so that difference might be included for free in the first difference. I started watching because I saw Marilyn Manson was in it at some point late in the series. I was a bit disappointed to see he, unlike several other celebrities that make an appearance for a season or so as such, only stuck around for an episode. I’ve also recently been compared to Hank Moody, and I’m not sure how to react to that. I went with excitement because I like the show.

*TV shows I currently watch*

A.P. Bio
It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia
Rick and Morty
The Good Place

*TV shows I really like*

Arrested Development
Rick and Morty
The Good Place

*TV shows I like*

A.P. Bio
Avatar the Last Airbender
Better Call Saul
Bob’s Burgers
Breaking Bad
Brooklyn Nine-Nine
Freaks and Geeks
How I Met Your Mother
It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia
King of the Hill
Madame Secretary
Malcolm in the Middle
Parks and Rec
Party Down
The Amanda Show
The Bernie Mac Show
The Big Bang Theory
The Bold Type
The Handmaid’s Tale
The Office (US)
The Simpsons
The War at Home
Trailer Park Boys
Xiaolin Showdown

*TV shows I intend to watch*

30 Rock
A Series of Unfortunate Events
Black Mirror
Curb Your Enthusiasm
Fawlty Towers
Key and Peele
Mad Men
Monty Python’s Flying Circus
My So-Called Life
Orange is the New Black
Orphan Black
Stalker (subs)
Star Trek
Steven Universe
The Gay and Wondrous Life of Caleb Gallo
The Newsroom
The Office (UK)
The Sopranos
The State
The Twilight Zone
The Voices
The Wire
The X Files
Twin Peaks

The pirates are ready for more Netflix removals

Well, another batch of popular shows are being removed from Netflix. And quite a few people are ready to just pirate the shows. I’m not quite sure whether the network execs aren’t thinking this sorta thing through or just assume everyone forgot how to acquire things for free. Piracy rates plummeted when Netflix, Spotify, etc. got big because, sure, you could download things one by one for free, but then you have to remember to do it and manage a library and have storage space and all those annoyances. It’s easier to drop $7 a month to just have everything you want or might want in one place, ready to go whenever, and already managed in the cloud.

I get why they’re doing this: They all want their own streaming services now. Except that kills the benefits. Now it’s $7 or whatever per service, which would quickly let prices approach the old cable range, not in one place, requiring switching services depending on what you want, and managed with irrelevant borders. (Music has the added drawback of not being able to shuffle everything. Just whatever is on what you’re using at the moment.)

At that point, well, piracy is looking a lot nicer. (I’ve seen quite a few people at least see themselves as justified enough if they buy one service and then steal the rest. “I’m already paying for Netflix. I’ll just steal whatever HBO refuses to put on.”) Maybe some estimates have the gain from the people jumping on board the new services outweighing whatever loss there is from not collecting from existing services. Regardless, theft technology has gotten a lot better over the past several years, so perhaps this time we won’t see legal trolls trying to ruin people’s lives as much this time around.