A Bit More Detail

Assorted Personal Notations, Essays, and Other Jottings

Posts Tagged ‘creativity

[BLOG] Some Thursday links

  • Centauri Dreams links to a paper noting that the interiors of planets play a critical role in determining planetary habitability.
  • Belle Waring writes at Crooked Timber about imaginative dream worlds, criticized by some as a sort of maladaptive daydreaming I don’t buy that; I am interested in what she says about hers.
  • D-Brief notes the very recent discovery of a small tyrannosaur.
  • Dead Things considers the possibility that a new South African hominin, Australopithecus sediba, might actually be the ancestor of Homo sapiens.
  • JSTOR Daily looks at how one negative side-effect of the renewable energy boom is the mass mining of rare earth elements.
  • Erik Loomis writes at Lawyers, Guns and Money about the way in which not just history but history fandoms are gendered, the interests of women being neglected or downplayed.
  • Marginal Revolution’s Tyler Cowen reports on how a new US-Chinese trade deal will not do much to deal with underlying issues.
  • The New APPS Blog notes the great profits made by the gun industry in the United States and the great death toll, too, associated with the guns produced.
  • The NYR Daily visits the Northern Ireland town of Carrickfergus, home to Louis MacNeice and made famous by violence as the whole province sits on the edge of something.
  • Drew Rowsome takes a look at the queer horror film The Skin of The Teeth.
  • Starts With A Bang’s Ethan Siegel explains what the technical limits of the Hubble Space Telescope are, and why it needs a replacement.
  • Window on Eurasia notes changing patters of population change in the different regions of Russia.
  • Arnold Zwicky shares some photos of notable public art in Switzerland, starting with The Caring Hand in his ancestral canton of Glarus.

[BLOG] Some Friday links

  • Bad Astronomer Phil Plait notes how the dinosaurs seem to have been killed off 65 million years ago by a combination of geological and astronomical catastrophes.
  • Centauri Dreams examines Kepler 1658b, a hot Jupiter in a close orbit around an old star.
  • The Crux reports on the continuing search for Planet Nine in the orbits of distant solar system objects.
  • D-Brief notes how researchers have begun to study the archaeological records of otters.
  • Cody Delistraty profiles author and journalist John Lanchester.
  • Far Outliers reports on the terrible violence between Hindus and Muslims preceding partition in Calcutta.
  • L.M. Sacasas at The Frailest Thing suggests the carnival of the online world, full of hidden work, is actually an unsatisfying false carnival.
  • Hornet Stories reports that São Paulo LGBTQ cultural centre and homeless shelter Casa 1 is facing closure thanks to cuts by the homophobic new government.
  • io9 reports on one fan’s attempt to use machine learning to produce a HD version of Deep Space Nine.
  • JSTOR Daily takes a look at the increasing trend, at least in the United States and the United Kingdom, to deport long-term residents lacking sufficiently secure residency rights.
  • Lawyers, Guns and Money looks at the literally medieval epidemics raging among the homeless of California.
  • Marginal Revolution considers how the Book of Genesis can be read as a story of increasing technology driving improved living standards and economic growth.
  • The NYR Daily interviews Lénaïg Bredoux about #MeToo in France.
  • The Planetary Society Blog considers the subtle differences in colour between ice giants Uranus and Neptune, one greenish and the other a blue, and the causes of this difference.
  • The Speed River Journal’s Van Waffle shares beautiful photos of ice on a stream as he talks about his creative process.
  • Starts With A Bang’s Ethan Siegel considers what the universe was like back when the Earth was forming.
  • Window on Eurasia reports on a statement made by the government of Belarus that the survival of the Belarusian language is a guarantor of national security.
  • Arnold Zwicky was kind enough to share his handout for the semiotics gathering SemFest20.

[BLOG] Some Monday links

  • The Broadside Blog’s Caitlin Kelly writes about the importance of seeing the world from new angles.
  • John Quiggin at Crooked Timber suggests that, worldwide, coal is becoming increasingly closely associated with corruption.
  • D-Brief looks at a study drawing on Twitter that suggests people will quickly get used to changing weather in the era of climate change.
  • Jonathan Wynn at the Everyday Sociology Blog writes about a family trip during which he spent time listening to sociology-related podcasts.
  • Far Outliers notes the life-determining intensity of exam time for young people in Calcutta.
  • io9 notes that, finally, the classic Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode “Once More, With Feeling” is being released on vinyl.
  • JSTOR Daily looks at how medieval Europe regulated the sex trade.
  • Language Hat looks at how anthropologists have stopped using “hominid” and started using “hominin”, and why.
  • Language Log considers the difficulty of talking about “Sinophone” given the unrepresented linguistic diversity included in the umbrella of “Chinese”.
  • Marginal Revolution suggests there are conflicts between NIMBYism and supporting open immigration policies.
  • At Out There, Corey S. Powell interviews astronomer Slava Turyshev about the possibility not only of interstellar travel but of exploiting the Solar Gravity Lens, 550 AU away.
  • Starts With A Bang’s Ethan Siegel celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 9 mission.
  • Towleroad notes that Marvel Comics is planning to make its lead character in the Eternals gay.
  • Daniel Little at Understanding Society examines how the human body and its physical capacities are represented in sociology.
  • Window on Eurasia notes the growth of the Volga Tatar population of Moscow, something hidden by the high degree of assimilation of many of its members.
  • Yorkshire Ranter Alex Harrowell notes, in connection to Huawei, the broad powers allotted to the British government under existing security and communications laws.
  • Arnold Zwicky looks at anteaters and antedaters.

[WRITING] Five writing links: notebooks, SF-LOVERS, journalism, editors, our world

  • The Island Review took a look at the notebooks of four writers and one artist.
  • Slate looks at the history of SF-LOVERS, arguably the first online SF forum from the era of Arpanet.
  • This JSTOR Daily interview with Seymour Hersh on the future of American journalism was worth reading.
  • Patricia Wrede wrote some wise words about the problems with writers’ internal editors.
  • Tatty Hennessey wrote at Open Democracy about the importance of telling stories to help make sense of our world.

Written by Randy McDonald

February 15, 2019 at 8:30 pm

[WRITING] Thoughts on debunking and writing and educating and creating

The other week, someone on Facebook shared an infographic cartoon that really grabbed me.

One of the earliest blog-like postings I’ve ever written, and argably my biggest still, was my 2004 post “France, its Muslims, and the Future”. In that essay, dashed out in the space of a couple of days in the spring of my grad school year at Queen’s, I put paid to the Eurabia conspiracy theory. There was simply no plausible way that Muslims were on a trajectory to becoming the majority population in France, never mind Europe, in anything like a human lifetime; there were simply not enough Muslims, not a large enough difference in fertility, and not enough interest among the diverse Muslim populations of France in an unprecedented merger. That done, I ended my essay on an optimistic note: “Now, on to issues worth real debate, like how to best integrate French Muslims into wider French society.”

Now, anyone who has followed the Western discourse about Muslims and their numbers in the West in the intervening fourteen and a half years should know that this did not happen. If anything, the prevalence of Eurabian conspiracy theories has grown, not just becoming mainstream throughout the West but finding strong echoes elsewhere in the world, in South and Southeast Asia for instance. Muslim demographic conspiracy theories have become more normal.

I am not saying that my one blog post alone, mind, could have done it. I used facts that were publicly available, using arguments that were reasonable, joining as any number of people better positioned than I ever was who also made and shared these facts and arguments. These have been shared again and again, seemingly to no avail. Why? The belief in a Muslim conspiracy, aided by decadent traitors, has nothing to do with facts, is not disprovable, is not meant to be disproved. Rather, this belief is a matter of a political stance.

After I saw that cartoon at the start of this post, I was reminded of a passage from Jean-Paul Sartre’s 1946 Anti-Semite and Jew, in which Sartre talks about the fundamental lack of good faith in the bigot, how their very arguments are used to justify their prejudice without regards to actual facts.

Never believe that anti‐Semites are completely unaware of the absurdity of their replies. They know that their remarks are frivolous, open to challenge. But they are amusing themselves, for it is their adversary who is obliged to use words responsibly, since he believes in words. The anti‐Semites have the right to play. They even like to play with discourse for, by giving ridiculous reasons, they discredit the seriousness of their interlocutors. They delight in acting in bad faith, since they seek not to persuade by sound argument but to intimidate and disconcert. If you press them too closely, they will abruptly fall silent, loftily indicating by some phrase that the time for argument is past. It is not that they are afraid of being convinced. They fear only to appear ridiculous or to prejudice by their embarrassment their hope of winning over some third person to their side.

As I concluded in a recent Quora answer, it is really not worth debating anything with these people. People who will believe whatever the hell they want to believe will do so regardless of how much truth you give them. If it’s worthwhile continuing the debate, it is for the sake of other people looking at the debate, to prove to these others that you at least are not acting from the position of the prejudiced bigot looking to justify untrue things. If no one is watching, at least no one who is uncommitted, I would recommend discontinuing the debate. Life is too brief to waste in sterile discussions.

Of late, I’ve really been thinking a lot about why I might want to write non-fiction. (Fiction is another issue entirely; more on that later.) I really, really am tired of getting involved in sterile dialogues. I’ve been writing on the Internet for two decades, starting back on Usenet in 1997, and I have grown so tired of the greater-than sign “>”, metaphorically and otherwise; I have grown very tired of the proliferation of unending and sterile exchanges that the greater-than sign indicates, growing in number with each exchange to the point of pushing the text that passes for dialogue far to the right, far away. I am tired of only replying and counter-replying; I only want to write new things, highlight new issues and new connections, engage with people who are actually interested in real dialogue and learning new things.

(Is this a manifesto? There have been worse.)

Written by Randy McDonald

November 19, 2018 at 11:55 pm

[WRITING] Five writing links: lone genius, imaginary societies, Truman Capote, poetry, NaNoWriMo

  • Back in July, Cody Delistraty wrote about the myth of the “lone genius”. Creators always create in some sort of community.
  • Patricia Wrede writes about the challenges involved in creating an imaginary society for a fiction setting.
  • JSTOR Daily notes how the choices of Truman Capote played a critical role in advancing the “New Journalism”.
  • This article at The Atlantic takes a look at how poetry has enjoyed a remarkable revival, commercially at least, through the online accounts of writers like Rupi Kaur.
  • Beth Skwarecki at Lifehacker shares tips for writers interested in producing a manuscript during this year’s NaNoWriMo. (I am just blindly going ahead, myself. Wish me luck!)

[PHOTO] Five photography links: Flickr, Kodak vs Fujifilm, landscapes, macro, future

  • Peter Bright at Ars Technica notes the potential negative import of the decision of Flickr to limit free accounts to one thousand photos. What will happen to those accounts like my own which exceed that limit? I’ll be making hard decisions this month.
  • This Petapixel essay takes a look at why front-running film firm Kodak failed to adapt to the digital era while runner-up Fujifilm survived.
  • This ScienceDaily article notes, via the choice of photos uploaded to online photo accounts, the importance of landscapes in the human imagination.
  • At Speed River Journal, Van Waffle talks about the benefits of macrophotography, of extreme close-ups, and of curiosity about the workings of the world.
  • This Sean O’Hagan article at The Guardian taking a look at the mutations of photography in the Instagram era, who artists are interrogating the technology and the social conventions of the genre, is fascinating.

Written by Randy McDonald

November 2, 2018 at 9:00 pm