Do You Feel Lucky?

(and feel free to comment! My older posts are certainly no less relevant to the burning concerns of the day.)

Sunday, April 22, 2018

The Tough Topics #47: Cultural Appropriation. Get it together please.

Oh wow! Ok, this is actually a decent definition. I've looked and looked the last several years now for a decent definition of what cultural appropriation is, or is supposed to be. And just now, not even expecting anything, I looked again, and here we go!

Cultural appropriation is defined as the act of co-opting symbols and practices from one culture (usually a minority culture) without proper understanding of, or respect for, its original significance.

That, I will cosign. It works. Clear. Slight bit wonky in a couple parts, but overall, this is the best definition I've seen. Because it is clear, it can be used meaningfully to discuss the problem and call out instances of it.

Note, I deliberately took it without crediting the originator!

However, think about it: it's justified. He presents this as the definition of the term. If so, it is neither his definition nor anyone else's, but everyone's. It is simply what cultural appropriation means. I will take him at his word, and I'll further say that if this is the definition that wins out wide, cultural appropriation will be a useful term. For as long as the term is promulgated in such a way that people diverge widely all over the map on what it means, and in particular, on how and why (and whether and when) it is wrong, the term's usefulness is badly hamstrung. When half your discussion is wasted on trying to come to agreement on what it is, that term's utility is highly arguable.

Almost literally.

That battle for clear, strong consensus is still being fought. These processes have to work themselves out, as to how the term should be used and understood so that it best identifies and confronts a real problem. But it's heartening to see at this stage, least one clear, concise definition has emerged that doesn't suck bugs. So many weird, self-contradicting, nebulous or overbroad definitions are currently struggling with and against each other - including far too many that don't give any sense of how cultural appropriation is wrong.

Example, here's Oxford:

The unacknowledged or inappropriate adoption of the customs, practices, ideas, etc. of one people or society by members of another and typically more dominant people or society.

Ok, "unacknowledged" is easy enough. But let's say it's very clearly acknowledged, though. What then will make it inappropriate? Typical fucking effete Brit nonsense, assumes we all have taste and can tell for ourselves! The definition does not define. It does exclude, though! If it is acknowledged, and if it is also appropriate, the cultural adoption is not cultural appropriation, by this definition. So that's something.

But what about Cambridge? Do let's:

the act of taking or using things from a culture that is not your own, especially without showing that you understand or respect this culture.

Okay, that "especially" there means that part is severable. That absent the lack of the "especially without" items, the rest of the definition still holds. It is still cultural appropriation, the act of taking or using things from a culture that is not your own, even if you do show you understand and respect this culture. It's cultural appropriation, and disapproval-worthy, as per the definition's parenthetical header.

Both these definitions are useless, but the difference between them is instructive. Oxford gives no hard information on what the substance of the offense is, by which an act of cultural adoption can be judged inappropriate or appropriate. But at least they do indicate that only inappropriate acts (or inappropriately unacknowledged acts) can be called "cultural appropriation." Cambridge, though, calls all acts of borrowing cultural appropriation, identified as a term of disapproval, and then adds an implication of especial disapproval for the ignorant and disrespectful acts.

Oxford assures us that only the bad ones count as cultural appropriation. Bad how? Bad why? Undefined.

Cambridge assures us that all cultural adoptions are (disapproving!) cultural appropriation - especially the bad ones. The good ones should still be disapproved, though, because they're cultural appropriation. Again: bad how? Bad why?

Personally, I'd prefer a definition of cultural appropriation that is based on the act itself, with an admission that depending on things like acknowledgement, understanding, respect, or accuracy, a given act of cultural appropriation can be good, bad, even neutral. But I will gladly accept our first definition cited (can it be cited but not attributed?). It describes the act, it describes clearly that the act must be done with ignorance or disrespect: and this is what makes it cultural appropriation. Ok.

I do think the dude might want to add in the more "woke" angle, though: the oppression factor (I bet he originally had that in there, and an editor pruned it for "clarity" - leaving those ghost traces such as "one culture" where you'd expect "a culture"!). A couple suggestions, then, on behalf of that. Either:

Cultural appropriation is defined as the act of a dominant culture or its members co-opting symbols and practices from a marginalized, oppressed or minority culture without proper understanding of, or respect for, its original significance.

That'd be the "strong formulation." A little less hard, we could go:

Cultural appropriation is defined as the act one culture (usually a dominant culture) or its members co-opting symbols and practices from one culture (usually a marginalized, oppressed or minority culture) without proper understanding of, or respect for, its original significance.

I could work with either of those.

Or the original one! Taken from Dillon Johnson writing for Teen Vogue, of all places. I think Dillon will find soon if he hasn't already that there's a strong push out there that cultural appropriation must be conceived as a one-way wrong: the dominant culture can be guilty of cultural appropriation from a minority et al culture, but the minority et al culture cannot be guilty of cultural appropriation from the dominant culture (analogous to racism).

I'm fine with any of those three definitions, though, or any other definition that makes it clear 1. what cultural appropriation is, 2. whether it is wrong by definition, and 3. when it's wrong, how it is wrong. All three work, it's just a question of how best to shape the term to target the problem.

That clarity is what we need, and what we currently very lack.

Thanks, Dillon!

Dillon's article:

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

The Bechdel-Turing test asks whether a work of fiction features at least two robots who talk to each other about something other than humans.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Rights, Laws: Fictions, Reality.

"Rights" are a fiction.

So are laws. They exist in books - on paper, online. Words on a page or a screen. Wholly invented: a fiction. What goose could say laws exist, but rights don't exist? Neither exists any more than the other does: they both exist in the same way. They are both real: because we enact them.

These fictions are a script. More pedantically, you might say they are script direction. We recognize them as useful fictions: to live our lives within them makes a better play. Our rights and our laws bound the narrative of our lives. Our observance makes them real; the fact we enforce them for others makes them very real.

So what makes our so-called "Rights" - illustrated and enumerated in the Bill of Rights, and elsewhere - distinct? One: they're inherent in us. Two: they're self-evident. They're based just on what's in us all, the needs and capacities we have by our very nature, such that all can see: these things are necessary to ordinary human happiness. No just government can exist which disregards these things. They must be guaranteed.

Easy! Easy because self-evident. Easy because these rights embody only prohibitions. No one gives them to us. All we have to do is make sure government is never permitted to take them away. For that reason, crucially important to recognize, important to remain vigilant in defense of, but ultimately: fairly straightforward to accomplish.

Other social goods are not so straightforward. Everything that requires positive action, to create something that didn't already exist - that's far more complicated. If we're serious about social goods, we don't just lazily assert them as rights we already have. We take steps to create the good we demand. Just as with rights, we enact them. But the process involves more. Rights must be recognized, declared, respected. Other social goods, that won't cut it. Those take doing.

So we lay obligations out. We decide who must bear them, and we compel them to be borne. We censure those who refuse their obligations. We the people can do that, for the greater good. We make laws: government acts of prohibition. Of compulsion. Of confiscation. Of confinement. Every one of these acts is an act "against the people," in a very real sense! We accept and recognize that our liberty is not unlimited: it is limited by the legitimate rights of others, and it is bound in common obligation. It is the sole responsibility of the people to be vigilant that government makes no act of prohibition, compulsion, confiscation or confinement whose necessity is not evident and compelling, to our satisfaction. The consent of the governed is everything we allow.

At the foundation of all this, our rights exist to remind us of the greatest good, which no greater good can abridge. The greatest good is always the inalienable human rights of the individual. It is the greatest good, because we are all that.

It is because we recognize that we are all that, that our rights exist. Because they exist, because we enact them and for no other reason, we are in fact: all that and a bag of chips. The chips have been magically produced from thin air by declaring we have a right to them. See how that works? Just kidding; it doesn't. We are all that. The bag of chips is simply what we've additionally declared we deserve, so we take steps to lay obligations that secure it for all. Even though it isn't a right, we still get the bag of chips!

It's crucial that we recognize the difference, because you can't get a bag of chips just be declaring it's your right, and everyone sees and agrees. The bag of chips must still be secured by some means. Not so, the rights which are really yours. To secure these takes only recognition, declaration, and agreement. Whoso disagrees, and violates your real rights, we have the gears and teeth of law to catch and rend them. Rights are very real: because we enact them.

Our rights are that for which law is made (plus whatever bags of chips and services we can demand for the money we pay). Our rights are that against which law is continually checked, and by which unjust law is rejected. Together, these fictions - rights and laws - have real existence. They make a real foundation for the stories we enact as our lives.

Sunday, March 04, 2018

The Whataboutist #2: Pickle Juice

So pickle juice. It's considered a health hack to drink. Ok, what about olive brine then?

I know, I know. "False equivalency." Pickle juice is juice. Olive brine is brine.

WRONG ANSWER. Pickle juice is brine. Olives are in fact pickles.

They are pickles of the fruit of the olive tree, or "olive fruit." This fruit is incredibly bitter right off the tree, so you either have to figure out some other way or you have to pickle 'em. You can use brine. A lot of people do. That's the easiest.

Cucumbers, on the other hand, aren't incredibly bitter at all, right off the vine - some might say they're incredibly bland! I say they're very refreshing, but the point is, they pickle 'em to add flavor; whereas with the olive, they're trying to tame that flavor down a bit. Get some of that bitter out of there. So in that sense, you were correct: false equivalency. Even though both are pickles, relative to the so-called "true" or "cucumber pickle," the olive might be considered an antipickle. It's a pickle in the diametric opposite direction.

It's a pickle for all the wrong reasons, you could even say, going by cucumber cultural mores. Young cucumbers, naive, boring as bored, look up the branches of the olive tree and see all these juvenile olive fruits hanging out - already incredibly bitter and above it all! The last thing those cucumbers think is "those olives, wow, they are direly in need of some pickling!" See, to a cucumber, pickling is a process that results in you becoming more interesting and worldly, piquant if you will, perhaps even tart. Those olive fruits on the other hand - the last thing they'd need is more schooling in worldliness! They're already so bitter, cynical and jaded - though you might well say, "that's just sour grapes," you'd be wrong there. False equivalency on two (2) counts: grapes ≠ olives :: sour ≠ bitter.

That's what the cukes are naive about, though. They don't realize that education can make you less interesting. It really can, too. Olive fruits and cukes, they go to different finishing schools, for different reasons and after different results, and that's why the equivalency is DING! DING! DING! False, even though both are brined.

But what about the original question? Is drinking olive brine a health hack?

We don't know the answer to that, but unlike some (apparently!), we're not afraid to ask the question.

Inspirational Warning of the Day

"If you act like Mr. T, I'm going to treat you like Mr. T."

Friday, February 02, 2018

Little-Known Facts #13: The Most-Haunted Rooms, Pt.1: Eternal Rest(room)

Haunting activity centered around the commode is one of the most common manifestations. It makes sense, if you think of it. Death takes many unawares, and the manifestations of a ghost often revolve around completing unfinished business.

Thought of the day: fair play

I can't stand baseball because it's not a level playing field.

Unsolicited Marketing Ideas #5: When Kindle Met Tinder

I'm always confusing Kindle and Tinder. Neither has anything to do with starting fires. I can't be the only one confusing the two, though, and it gave me the idea: why don't these two online dating and reading giants take advantage of the natural association in people's minds to create a little beneficial brand synergy?

This would be more than a crass promotional stunt, but it would be that, too. Win-win!

Kindle users could hook up with people based on books they've both read. What could be more natural than that? Tinder users would now be able to browse through hundreds of books, swipe right, swipe left, judging each by the cover. For the right-swiped books, perhaps the book might text you tantalizing tiny snippets of itself. Something like this could really break the ice, make you feel like the book WANTS to be read. Books are often seen as cold, aloof and inaccessible by Tinder users.

Cross-platform functionality is low hanging fruit for developers. Take two successful platforms, spot what appeals in each, and use that to hook the users of the other. That's the name of the game.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Howabouta #1: Kitchen Invasion with Gordon Ramsay!

Howabouta show where Gordon Ramsay just shows up at your house to ask permission to come in and cook you absolutely the most delicious meal you've ever had out of only what you've got on hand, while scathingly upbraiding you for yours and your larder's deficiencies?

Gordon Ramsey would make a great Batman villain.

So anyway, while he's doing that, you're busy frantically contacting and rounding up six people on no notice to come over, be on tv and enjoy the feast! He may also let you help with you-level tasks.

The whole point is to give Ramsay a real challenge. Test his ingenuity. But to make it a bit fairer, for Ramsay, the guest host, the producers and the viewers, each episode starts with Ramsay working a live surveillance team at the local supermarket. This gives him a leg up, a chance to roll the dice based on a hint and a hunch - he can't blame the producers when he picks his own fate! What you've put in your cart, how you're dressed, your general bearing and deportment - careful, Ramsay may be watching you. Once he picks his shopper, it's on! The team expertly tails them home, gives them five minutes and then - ding-dong!

Hi, I'm Gordon Ramsay from Kitchen Invasion. Can I come in and cook for you on tv?

Seriously, who'd say no to that? Gordon Ramsay asking nicely. But you'd be surprised, because each episode features a hilarious montage of people who turned him down! Some quite nastily, even. Oh, the America.

Good Lord, people! There's already a show called Kitchen Invasion! Where its chefs travel to film episodes in people's kitchens! They seem to be downplaying the stalking, ambush, and verbal abuse angle. Those are the keys to the show's high-stakes drama and appeal! Wow, what a waste.

Well, thank God I looked that up without going any further with this.

Those dudes need to get Gordon Ramsay.

Monday, January 29, 2018

THE BIG QUESTIONS. #1: What Do People Want From Life?

What Do People Want From Life?

People want different things. Not all of them, though! Some want the same thing. The people who want different things may be lonely, if they want someone to share what they find and create, but no one is there. It's because what they found and created was what they want. Other people didn't want it. It was different.

The people who want the same thing don't always have it easy, either. Some of them have a hard time finding other people who want the same thing. It can be incredibly lonely knowing you want the same thing, but you're the only one you can find who wants it. Other people find the same thing, only to discover it isn't what they wanted. Maybe it doesn't live up to their expectations. You can spend your whole life trying to get the same thing, only to find out it's something else. It's different.

So in the final analysis, people generally want different things. The trick is, to find out what YOU want from life, and then trick someone into giving it to you. In the analysis shortly following the previously-final analysis, that's a pretty good trick!

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Mega-Pertinent Announcement For Fans Of Online Poetry Or Arbitrary Quantity-Based Writing Prompts! OR BOTH

So in 2006 apparently, I started my poetry blog, A Pocketful of Poesy. That's

Alongabout 2009, I'm guessing July of, I realized it was pretty sweet and easy going, writing these poems. So easy in fact that I felt with a little application, writing one a day should be no trouble at all. By "a little application" I don't mean a software dittydoo you install on your iThingy - those hadn't been invented yet, not in 2009. Or if they had, no wait. They had, but that's not I meant by "a little application." I meant good old-fashioned bull-forwardness. Or ox-forwardness, probably - keep to the path and PLOW ASS, so to speak. Muleforwardness. In human terms, a little of the ol' greasy-elbow magic! This, I meant "application" by.

Did you know that historians have considered the ox to be an invention? By that standard, surely man is an invention! Somebody saw an angel and said "Wonder whut if we cut its wings off?" Then they were like, "Huh, looks hurt. And kinda lonely. Whut if we pull one of his ribs out?"

Now that that's cleared up. So 'longabout July 2009, I declared that henceforward, A Pocketful of Poesy would be a poem-a-day blog, on average. I even committed to make up the difference for 2009's slow start, which I did. It was easy. Don't believe me? Check out some of the poems for yourself! Especially during some of those epic Novembers, where the "Drive for 365" really hit the fan. November 2009: 103 poems! Nov 2017: 172 POEMS. Browse through some of those if you can't tell the difference between a poem that was easy and a poem that was hard. Trust me, some of them were easy. Some of them, you can pretty much tell. Don't believe me? See if I care!

You do realize, though, that when you scoff at my claimed ease, you only multiply my efforts - and magnify the glory they reflect upon me. Thank you, but no need! Being an online poet is glory enough, I assure you.

Where where we? Wherever it was, after that things went along swimmingly for years. 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012...right up through 2013, when I suddenly quit 227 poems in. Perhaps I decided it was unseemly, beneath my dignity to churn out poems as if on some clockwork basis, where the number and not the quality mattered.

Well guess what? I was WRONG. Nothing on earth is beneath my dignity - and precious few things in the heavens.

So it is with great honor and a modicum of tardiness that I announce, beginning last year (2017), A Pocketful of Poesy is again a POEM-A-DAY(-ON-AVERAGE) BLOG!

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Word of the Day: "avuncular"

"Avuncular" means "of, like, or in a manner reminiscent of uncles." What is the corresponding term for aunts?

Monday, January 08, 2018

Monday, January 01, 2018

Thought of the New Year: Happy

Happy New Year. May your dreams be made of the possible, and may waking bring practical means.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Thought of the day: Karma

People who know you, however you've given them to know you, form your world.

It is in this sense that karma is real.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

How Gay Are Various Countries?

United States of America: pretty gay.

Canada: gay to middling.

England: rather gay.

Ireland: gay as angels' legs.

Scotland: more gay than you'd think, maybe!

Russia: taciturn, but gay.

Australia: gay enough.

France: Paree: tres gay. Remainder: less gay. Comparatively.

Germany: the polka.

Mexico: muy gay, but generally not muy muy gay.

China: so gay.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Word of the day: "aver"

We here at Consider Your Ass Kicked! have long pondered the advisability of putting out a recurring feature to ape the hordes and scads of tony, literary, classy in a word social media outlets who favor (even favour) you with their "Word of the Day," and associated high-fluting noodle-musings upon the themes and variations it suggests to them.

Well, ponder no more, we here et al. Today's official Consider Your Ass Kicked! word of the day is: "aver."

"Aver" is such a bad word. Don't use it. Because it sounds like you're doing something squirrely! And as far as I can tell, you're not. I looked it up, and they'd have me believe you're perfectly on the up-and-up with that.

It's plain suspicious to use such a suspicious-sounding word to describe strictly legitimate doings.

"Aver" is a verb.


Sunday, November 19, 2017

Saturday, November 11, 2017

What Is Behind This Senseless Violence? Pt. 6

People who claim mass shooters are automatically mentally ill are trying to tar shooters with the very stigma so many have tried so hard to eradicate. They call them mentally ill in an attempt to degrade them. That's an insult not to mass shooters, it's an insult to the mentally ill. You want to degrade these shooters? Call out what's really wrong with them.

Misanthropy isn't a mental illness. There are lonely, embittered and insignificant men, furious at their own insignificance and with a rage to take it out on innocent people, and then die. They have hatred and contempt for the woo woo hallmark happiness of others, sold and marketed to everyone, which to them is nothing but a lie. They want to prove how meaningless life is, by confronting the world with senseless death.

What are we supposed to do, create a world in which everyone can make meaningful interactions and find purpose in service to others?

Saturday, October 07, 2017

Thursday, October 05, 2017

What Is Behind This Senseless Violence?

The only message Stephen Paddock sent was "I am powerful, and your meaningless life is hanging by a thread at any moment, and you are helpless to protect yourself from me or anyone like me." Unless a manifesto pops up belatedly, we'll never know if he had any motivation beyond some kind of personal hate for the irritating happy little world of sheeple, and a desire to publicly execute a bunch of them to demonstrate the ugliness and meaninglessness of life and the futility of delusions of security and control.

Even that's a guess at best. All imputations of motive will be, unless more is learned. Meanwhile, what is behind people's need to make all these big, sinister implications that "there must be some deeper motive?"

They're scared little children, is what's behind it. They're serenely ignorant, and they refuse to believe in the capacity of human evil because it scares them. They believe any act, no matter how horrible, can be "explained" by "ideology."

No. Sorry. Ideology provides the excuse for antisocial violent acts, but the excuse is not the cause. People inclined to violence gravitate towards excuses. One is as good as the other - the one they find will be good enough.

But plenty of them aren't so weak as to need an excuse from some theory or mentor in order to act. To deny that is to misunderstand the problem, waste time and effort on symbolic gestures that neither explain nor improve the situation.

That explanation people want is just some excuse, any excuse, to pretend they understand and to feel better about what humanity is like.

Example: plenty enough people think life is meaningless. Or that people are horrible. Or that humanity is worthless - a bad thing on the face of the planet. That the world is a wrong, bad place and that society is a disgusting lie foisted on people to make them believe in things like the possibility of justice. None of that is insane. It's commonplace.

If you start from nihilism, all it takes is a bit of egotism and irritation with people's chirpiness to want to show them all just how meaningless life is. Which isn't insane, if life really is meaningless. It's just cruel and egotistical. A refusal to honor the illusions of others and leave them to them. A desire to show the world that your interpretation of the world is the correct one, and that they have been fools to believe their rosier views of the world, which protect them not one bit from the inescapable truth.

I suppose you can say that itself would be an ideology, but no. Nihilism is not an ideology. Nihilism is the rejection of ideology.

All you need to kill for no reason is to believe in nothing.

Wednesday, October 04, 2017

Thoughts and prayers going out

Thoughts and prayers going out to all scumbags out there contemplating cowardly acts of violence against strangers and loved ones. May God make a change in your hearts so you shoot yourselves in the f***ing head without the needless step of first mowing down others.

Tuesday, October 03, 2017

The Tough Topics #46: The Oxford Comma

I use the Oxford comma wherever its omission could lead to an alternate reading, and omit it otherwise. You know where people run into trouble? Where their omission or inclusion of the Oxford comma is a point of principle, rather than a decision dependent entirely on content, context, and sense.

People who always omit it risk giving the reader two grammatically valid ways to read the statement. In contracts or in law, this can be fatal.

People who always include it run no risks in terms of the sense they wish to convey. But in using a comma where none is needed - where no alternate reading could arise from its omission - they risk seeming rule-bound, precious, given to stylistic affectations that serve no purpose. Adherent to a principle, without having any feel for its actual use or effect.

The Oxford comma, like every mark of punctuation, is a tool to direct meaning along the writer's desired path. Clarity demands its use where necessary. Elegance and simplicity would seduce us to omit it where its presence adds nothing. There are those who love and some who hate the Oxford comma, but the majority who simply omit it without thought do so out of an instinct for simplicity, and a dislike for needless flourish or ornament.

But we can't lose sight of the controversy! Gratuitous use of the Oxford comma (where its omission could not possibly introduce ambiguity) DOES add something! It signals to the world "I'm Team Oxford Comma!" With all that that implies, and most of what it implies is good. I'm not Team Oxford Comma, but most of those people are pretty funny and great, and it's sweet and wonderful that so tiny a mark could say so much. An Aldis-lamp flash to the like-minded resistance.

The Oxford comma will never die. It will keep barging in where it's not needed, pointing proudly to where it sometimes is. And its opponents will omit it scrupulously, sometimes to the detriment of their case in court, more often to the hilarity of readers who spot the wild ambiguity unleashed. The Oxford comma is the only thing that can leash that beast. Do we need it? Yes.

Do we need it all over the place? Probably not. But you ought to admit, it's a little bit cute.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Thought of the day: Self-Concept

The persona is misconceived by too many as a mask, or a suit of armor - a barrier to hide behind. In reality it's far more like a martial art. It is a matter of self-knowledge: learning one's capacities, choosing which strengths to rely on and developing them into knowing, in practice. Being always one's self on the way to one's best self, never getting there.

Point is: I digress. But a carefully-constructed self-concept is a pretty sweet deal.