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Writings of J. Todd Ring: Reflections on Chartres Cathedral, the death of civilization and the deification of the banal

Thinking of Chartres Cathedral, I ask myself, what, if anything, have we built in the past eight centuries, that compares to this? The iPad, computers, cell phones, the internet? Are you kidding me? You must be joking. We have more ways to amuse ourselves, yes, but when has our capacity for entertainment, amusement and […]

Eclectic Lip: The losers of Superbowl XLVIII will be…

Religious moderates.

Here’s my reasoning.

After the game, someone on the winning team, exulting ecstatically, will say “God was on our side” or words to that effect. It’s as sure as a post-touchdown two-point conversion attempt late in the fourth quarter, if the team is still down by a pair.

This will lead humorists and atheists alike to mock the athlete’s egocentric theology, along the lines of the great “God-Man on the Gridiron” cartoon from a few years back. Which will inspire angry rebuttals from offended fundamentalists.

Religious moderates are the collateral damage in this snake-vs-mongoose battle, bitten by both (Read more…)

Political Eh-conomy: Economic history in the present: Potlatch and tax

This post inaugurates an occasional series I’m calling, “Economic history in the present”. This series will look at vignettes from global economic history with an eye to current phenomena or particular events. Some will be more speculative, drawing on anthropology and philosophy; some will be more rigorous. Hopefully, both aspects of this approach will produce interesting juxtapositions that illuminate the present via the past. Without further ado, here is the opening salvo…

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While redistribution is a bit of dirty word today, it has been a key economic activity across human history. As resources move from the (Read more…)

Eclectic Lip: Putting the “X” back in Xmas

Xtians began using “Xmas” 500 years ago, since in Greek, X is the “Ch” in Christ

Around the holidays, some people (not to name names or anything) urge modern society to put the “Christ” back in Christmas. There’s much to criticize about the hollow vacuousness of consumer culture, after all. Most of us can buy into the idea of better treasuring time with family and friends; and who’d oppose charity and compassion for the less-fortunate? (Well, apart from that strangest of philosophical tribes, the Objectivists, that is…)

Heck, the leftists among us might even be open to the Christian (Read more…)

Writings of J. Todd Ring: New studies show babies have basically decent impulses and are strongly driven by moral imperatives

More research shows once again that compassion, empathy and mutual aid, and an instinct toward cooperation, are innate in human beings, confirming what the great Russian biologist and anarchist philosopher Peter Kropotkin had already amply demonstrated over a hundred years ago, in his monumental work, Mutual Aid. My but our cherished ideological self-deceptions die slowly. […]

Writings of J. Todd Ring: The new epidemic: Death cults and the culture of despair

An article in The Atlantic speaks to the growing death-fetish that is gripping more and more youth. It is a bad omen for the state of modern industrial civilization as a whole, I would contend, and it indicates a broader trend toward anxiety, hopeless and despair, which must be confronted and overcome – if, that […]

Writings of J. Todd Ring: Mexico City: A study in impermanence, and a lesson to us all

pablo lopez luz photographs the concrete waves (or carpet, as he puts it) of Mexico City The unbelievably sprawling concrete carpet of Mexico City seen in these photos make me think… Gorgeous country, beautiful culture and people, horrible government, amazing capital city – but utterly unsustainable, as most cities are. Watch for the ruins […]

Writings of J. Todd Ring: Are we alone? More importantly, are we even awake?

The “man the life boats and head for the stars” answer to our present human dilemmas is simply delusional. We can and should explore space, but if we don’t get our act together here on this planet immediately, we’re dead – extinct: plain and simple. A recent book seems once again to miss that point […]

Writings of J. Todd Ring: New studies show generosity and cooperation are both natural and intelligent

A new study shows a mathematical proof that generosity leads to evolutionary success. Biologists offer a mathematically based explanation for why cooperation and generosity have evolved in nature [Credit: Web] “Ever since Darwin,” Plotkin said, “biologists have been puzzled about why there is so much apparent cooperation, and even flat-out generosity and altruism, in nature.” “When […]

Writings of J. Todd Ring: Reflections on tumblr, facebook and social media

Going from specifics to depth and breadth, and from particularities to universals, here are some thoughts for your consideration, for anyone who may be interested. I’ve come to love the social networking / blogging community / window onto the web which is called tumblr. That being said, tumblr is largely what you make of it. […]

Eclectic Lip: The witless wisdom of Shai Agassi

Dunning-Kruger effect graphed by AddAttack on DeviantArt.

LinkedIn has an “opinion leader” piece from Shai Agassi, founder of bankrupt car-battery-switcher Better Place, telling carmakers how they need to respond to Tesla’s success. Who better to give them advice than a guy who raised $850 million for an ignorant, impractical, impossible business model, then drove his company into the ground?

Inviting Agassi to share his clearly-witless wisdom about the auto sector, would have been like inviting André Maginot — architect of the not-so-great wall of France — onto the post-World War II lecture circuit to talk about the future of warfare.

(Read more…)

Eclectic Lip: Wynne-win for Canada! And, is America ready for another white male President?

I welcomed Kathleen Wynne‘s victory in the leadership race for the ruling Ontario Liberal Party this past Saturday, even though I live in faraway British Columbia. And I do mean far away — seriously, the International Space Station is ten times closer to the surface of the earth, than Vancouver is to Toronto. (Though that probably says more about how not-so-far-away the International Space Station is to us.)

Wynne is of course lesbian, and her ascent to the Premiership of Ontario — Canada’s most populous province — is a matter of minor national pride, whatever her

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Eclectic Lip: Douglas, Deng and Diocletian

(originally written May 21, 2012. Part of Great Upload of 2013.)

Tommy Douglas

I read a bio of Tommy Douglas recently, figuring as a guy with sinister leanings (sinister in the original Latin sense of “left”, that is ) I might as well brush up on the father of Canadian Medicare, and reigning Greatest Canadian.

To me, the biggest surprise was the standing ovation he got from the NDP faithful after his farewell speech at their 1983 convention. Not the fact that he got one, mind you; the fact that it was twenty-three minutes long! Given

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Eclectic Lip: The Black Swan’s Thanksgiving Turkey

(originally written Nov 24, 2011. Part of Great Upload of 2013.)

It came to my attention that Naseem Nicholas Taleb, who authored The Black Swan (surprisingly, not about a ballet dancer, but about financial crises) discussed other avians in his book, among them the Thanksgiving turkey. Per the Wikipedia page, he seems to’ve co-opted the idea from a turkey anecdote by philosopher Bertrand Russell, whose atheism doubtless led antagonists to brand him cuckoo.

The abrupt change in the turkey’s situation is part of an argument that it’s ridiculous to project present trends very far into

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Eclectic Lip: Sniffs from a Schiff…

(Originally written March 7, 2012. Part of Great Upload of 2013.)

A colleague once showed me a book by Peter Schiff, in which the author and investment-house CEO purported to explain how the US got into the muddle they’re in.

Like so many textbooks I left it unread, but according to Wikipedia, Schiff believes a lot of the US’s problems would go away if people just saved more money. (Oddly enough, there’s no mention of drastically-higher taxes on high-income earners like himself. Go figure…! ) As is typical for people in the financial

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Eclectic Lip: Whatever foresight is, it’s not 20/20…

(originally written Jan 3, 2012. Part of my Great Upload of 2013.)

Come December’s end, the nervy among us like to review what they got right in the past year. The nervier like to predict what’ll happen in the New Year. Ever the blithe contrarian, I figured I’d visit the Ghost of Predictions Past and see where I got things wrong.**

I do this taking comfort that Great Men, like me, make mistakes sometimes. (Oh, it was tempting to “forget” those commas…!)

Take the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius — he almost ruined his reputation as

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Eclectic Lip: Homer (not Simpson) and the Kaopectate Kid

The doctor diagnosed young son Leo recently with the stomach flu — which is colloquial shorthand for a condition which isn’t the flu, per se. (The most recent editor of the relevant article on the almighty Wiki agrees!)

The Kaopectate Kid

Our medical professional then suggested we give Leo some Kaopectate to soothe his stomach. So, what is the active ingredient in Kaopectate? Clay. Yes, modern medicine’s 21st-century response to our son’s stomach flu … was for him to eat dirt. (Expert biologists will surely argue that clay isn’t dirt per se, but

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Writings of J. Todd Ring: The Mayans, the ecological crisis and the end of the world: a little sanity please

It seems like a lot of people are going to extremes with regards to the Mayan predictions – and I mean the skeptics as well as the fanatics. Some are dismissive of the Mayans altogether, while others are taking a very literal and grossly overly simplistic view, and thinking the world will end on a [...]

Eclectic Lip: Lana Wachowski, Joe Simpson and our evolving social mores

The recent release of Cloud Atlas, piqued my interest in writing some thoughts about sexual identity. As has been fairly well publicized leading to the movie’s opening, Lana Wachowski (born Larry) underwent a gender transition (“sex change”) a few years ago; and from all accounts, seems the happier for it.

The even-more-recent allegations that Joe Simpson (Jessica and Ashlee Simpson’s father) came out to his family as gay, mean I’m going to scratch that itch, even if it might mean this blog gets permanently filtered for “sexual content”.

So, first off, congratulations to these two for being able to

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Eclectic Lip: Muslims in America and other hidden ethnic histories

Yves at Naked Capitalism cross-posted a wonderful Alternet piece by Lynn Parramore, eviscerating the idea that Islam is new or alien to America. In truth, the Muslim faith has had a long (if lightly-populated) history in the United States. Islam arrived in America so early, the Puritans hadn’t even burnt their first witch!!

While the 1620 voyage of The Mayflower is deeply mythologized in the American psyche, the 1630 arrival of devout Muslim Anthony Janszoon van Salee in the New Netherlands, gets a lot less attention. Which is a pity, because he seems to’ve been a business

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Eclectic Lip: The plug-in has landed!

Yesterday (Sept 26) we had the pleasure of picking up our new Prius Plug-In, at a local dealership. Apparently it’s the first one sold in British Columbia (not including prototype vehicle testing fleets, which’ve been around a couple years, but weren’t available to the public for purchase). It’s so new, in fact, that Toyota salespeople haven’t been fully trained on it yet! :)

It seems like an amazing vehicle — mind you, when your prior car is twenty years old, how could it not? :) Funnily enough, it took us a few minutes to turn it on the first time,

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Eclectic Lip: How Libertarians brought America Big Religion and Bigger Lawsuits…

(originally written Nov 2010; uploaded Aug 21, 2012 as part of my Great Upload of Musings… for balance, I’ll soon post the follow-up which praises some portions of libertarian philosophy which are very dear to my progressive heart. Politics makes for strange bedfellows, and I’m not above shacking up with occasional allies. )

It looks like the Democrats are going to get clobbered in the [2010 midterm] US elections. Economic malaise tends to do this to governing parties, which is one reason currency devaluation is the policy-du-jour: if country A can make its currency cheaper, it

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From Orangutan: Dear Laura Coppens and Angelika Levi,

Anak-Anak Srikandi/ Children of Srikandi Official Trailer from Srikandi Films on Vimeo.

It is admirable that your film, Children of Srikandi, is the first to address the lives of queer women in Indonesia. You are creative and pioneering.