Saturday, 23 April 2016

pranayama, amygdala

Whilst researching another matter, I came across twelve brilliant tips to stave off anxiety and relax the clenched muscles that express stressed responses (the unhealthy sort) with immediate results that one could mostly do in the scant privacy of one’s official cubical without seeming too weird, plus a whole wealth of other related avenues of relaxation and mediation at this website by Carol Bourne.
Of course we all have an intuition for these things and no one willingly creates knots in one’s muscles where negative energy can dwell—even the internal organs can tense up—but unless one is dogmatic about it, we all forget and need reminding, especially if relying on the interactions of likeminded individuals for advise and guidance and not deigning to the serendipity of surprise. My favourite tactic, with indeed instant results, was Alternate Nostril Breathing—whose exercise is really not that different from what Marsellus Wallace’s wife demonstrates for us: first seal the right nostril with the right thumb and inhale, pause (unless pregnant or having a heart-condition), cover the left nostril with the ring-finger and pinky of the same hand and release the right nostril. Exhale (drawing it out longer than the inhale) and then inhale through the right nostril. Repeat a few times but don’t overdo it in the beginning, consult your general practitioner and/or your local guru. This breathing practise has many benefits aside from the initial and rather surprising sense of well-being and also synchronises both hemispheres of the brain, calming the nerves, improving focus and cleansing the lungs—which are responsible for eliminating the overwhelming bulk of the waste-products our bodies produce, expelling a lot more than carbon-dioxide in exchange for oxygen but the residue as well of countless other chemical reactions happening inside us. Be sure to visit the website and forum above for more mindfulness.

Friday, 7 August 2015

psychobabble

The resplendent blog Mind Hacks confronts us with an elucidating list of fifty terms native to the industry—call them jargon or what you will—that ought to be avoided or especially refined from the way they are popularly featured and consumed. This catalogue of “maven” vocabulary is rather like the presumptuous way that connoisseurs describe, experientially and lusciously, the act of wine tasting, “velvety while a bit twiggy with a hint of brisk after-shave and the surprising suggestion of a soggy bonnet.” This warrant to speak of a nip in such rarefied language is a direct inheritance of the idea of dining libations as a medicinal complement to balance one’s humours, unsurprisingly like the prognoses and diagnoses of mental and behavioural conditions that fall under the protection of a certain รฆgis. Some words are better put back in the cabinet.  Such florid and expressive terms of the cognizanti that try to gain a purchase on unique cases ought not be banished from polite mention but should be used to forward dialogue on the common currency.

Wednesday, 29 July 2015

birthright or pride and prejudice

The always challenging ร†on magazine, far from raining on anyone’s parade, does introduce a seed of doubt in a sense and circumspection that needs addressing in regards to society’s increasing acceptance of lifestyles that do not fit the standard hetero-normative model and reforms in regulatory frame-works either granted or bidden.

Though contextually there is no direct correspondence and biographies and history is told by people recognising early on that they don’t quite fit with what society expects of them and much hardship can ensue in trying to either conform or be made an outcast, but it’s nonetheless an interesting and contentious to wonder what it means that the community embraces being born with one predilection or other—whereas, for other civil rights movements, to be defined by one’s genes would be an egregious insult and very much counter to their goals. Happily, just as attitudes have shifted from revulsion to tolerance to acceptance for gay rights, so too it has become repugnant to hold attitudes that another’s chances are somehow limited or prejudiced due to their genetic pedigree or gender. Is the nuance something completely different—or is it the same as saying that one’s deficient of mathematical acumen can be attributed to one being born a woman is the equivalent as a born and bred gay individual’s lack of heterosexuality? Such declarations can be unintentionally discriminatory. The politics of identity are still hot items, depending on one’s side and advantage in the matter—whether it is something self-reported or imposed from an outside source.  What do you think?  Is the question of determinism an old vestige of racist-thinking or something becoming obsolete and optional and a cause for celebration for that alone?

Friday, 19 June 2015

mauvaise foi

If not for coming across an indirect quotation, I would have gone on believing that the saying “Hell is other people” was a lyric from a rock-song (I’m confusing “Hell is for children” I think) and a rather throw-away sentiment and not a line, in translation, from Jean-Paul Sartre’s one-act play No Exit. Just as words might serve us better if the title of the play Huis Clos weren’t rendered as Closed Door—or rather in chambers in the legal sense of private counsel that the phrase carries in French, it would have been truer to the original if Hell was understood as the Other.

I have grown a bit fond of learning about quotes misattributed, misremembered and miseducated lately, and if one knows anything about the French existentialist, it is those words he never said. On stage three bourgeois souls are condemned to a dreary waiting-room—not as an anteroom for something yet to come since over the course of eternity we’d adapt and resign ourselves to torture and not so much when it comes to unending anticipation. Sartre’s intent behind the line, which was the subject of curiosity and consternation, was that our judgments that we project and deflect became torturous because they parroted outside influences. What would the neighbours think? This is the damning mechanism—a relation to self and others that’s insufficient and apt to mislead but not unavoidable. I think that there was certainly a miss connection between Sartre and one essayist and theatre-critic who wrote a hundred years prior by the name of William Hazlitt. Hazlitt held that man’s chief mistake was in the delusion that one’s future self was in any way different than any other present interaction with another person. One’s future self was non-existent, emergent and determined by any number of intervening contemporary, non-aspirational encounters and to act counter, in accordance with selfishness and insecurity, is what leads people becoming inauthentic. Hazlitt was a staunch materialist, which is to say that he had no truck with immaterially things like the soul or the Forms, problematically but such an approach that could have really proved to be a saving-grace for Sartre’s inmates.

Monday, 15 June 2015

justice served or shamers gonna shame

Writing for the Daily Beast, columnist Ben Collins, together with humourist and author Jon Ronson, confronts the grave and impending travesty of social-justice that social-media is courting to the detriment and inattention of most of the other potentially positive aspects of these different venues.
I suppose, like the general drift of the article, that memorialising faults and faux pas is a way to claim political power over others, whether or not disguised behind one or more masks or exposed, known and recognised, for otherwise pleasant and civil people who’ve no truck with politics—nor in indignities neither. Members of that good company would also not like to be confronted with past blunders, embarrassments or regrets—and one’s known by the company one keeps, but perhaps with the tremolo-courage of anonymity and expediency that has no time for manners (or reflection) they hope to bully others before they’re victims of the same treatment. What do you think? Not everyone has lost his or her shoulder angels, sense of self-censorship, and genuine yearning to learn something or have a conversation (an intellectual rather than visceral response) but in distancing ourselves from those users don’t we risk fuelling this phenomena all the same in abandoning certain forums as the domain of trolls?

Monday, 8 June 2015

ex cathedra or east of eden

I wonder if there are different flavours within Creationist camps that are particularly bothered with one aspect of scientific theory over another. I understand that the Catholic Church—though I would not class the whole organisation with the literalists and the fundamentalists—accepts the Big Bang and Evolutionary theories nearly as incontrovertible facts and necessary for the framework of the divine’s cosmology, saying that God is not a magician with a magic wand.

One item—and a big one—however does seem to follow from this line of reasoning that does strike me at least as a bit more dreary and disheartening than the usual retreat to the argument of receding origins: ethics and altruism admit of purely evolutionary origins as well. I am no scientist but the logic of the reasoning does seem to hold its own over sentiment, and can be presented something like this: the most successful individuals of a species are wholly self-interested (the opposite of charitable or altruistic) and would beg, borrow and steal from all other members of the community for his own interests. Pretty soon, selfishness would have be tempered with the idea of reciprocity but still the individual’s sense of egoism would serve them best. Within this environment of quid-pro-quo, the strongest would be those could renege on their end of the bargain while appearing to be cooperative and dupe others. In short order, however, people would become wise to these types and be unwilling to extend their trust and it would be a huge outpouring of energy to keep up this charade which is the stuff of psychopathy and traveling hucksters—having to go forth and find new communities to take advantage of. Rather than putting up an act, a far more efficient and effective way to convince others of one’s trustworthiness and reliability is to convince one’s self and become an ethical person and develop those delusionary institutions that reinforce that self-deception. Taking this stance was a significant departure from the pope-emeritus’ view that tolerated conflated and pedantic resistance, but Pope Francis also said of his predecessor, while making this announcement, that “no one could ever say of [Pope Benedict XVI] that study and science made him and his love for God and neighbour wither.” I think this pronouncement applies to us all.

Friday, 5 June 2015

reflex arc or virality

It has been demonstrated perennially that yawning is contagious, even across different species.

Studies have also shown that reflective yawning is a good gage for empathy—imitating someone, even unconsciously like crossing one’s legs in the same way or being synchronised in stride or even the more embarrassing slip or copying someone’s diction (where another might believe that he or she are being mocked instead), betrays interest—and yawns are more likely to spread around if there is some spared affinity. Recently someone has even shown that broods of parakeets pass around this reflex in a highly ritualised, choreographed manner. Further, there are theories that yawning helps to coordinate cycles of sleep and wakefulness among close associates (a zeitgeber) and might even be akin to wolfs howling together. Alternatively (but not exclusively), the ability to yawn, and mirror this behaviour, that allowed humans to expand their intellect, being a mechanism to cool overheated brains, aside from fatigue or boredom. There is no definitive consensus on either its social or physiological function, however. Although yawning itself is hardly a memorable act and I’d venture to say that I yawn in isolation when no one else is around, I can’t that’s not a false proposition and I wonder if there wasn’t one primal yawn that’s been passed around, jumping species, ever since.

Tuesday, 2 June 2015

neverland

Guardian columnist Oliver Burkeman presents a tidy, provoking reflection on the latter-day manifestations with romanticising youth which really makes the alternative, natural consequence—that of growing up and growing old, appear especially bleak.

So much coddling emphasis is put upon one’s prime—as defined by marketers—that to be past it in any sense and by any sight is taken to be a sign of defeat, instead of a hallmark of grace, maturity or conviction. Rather than repairing to the nostalgic and familiar, the doom and gloom and even appealing to the hypochondriac in us as the media is either a projection or reflection—for fear we might be told we can’t keep dreaming (a measure of escapism is keen and dandy but not a whole culture of remakes, prequels and re-hashing), or becoming a retiring curmudgeon, being an adult to a big extent, I think, is about confronting the dissonance with one’s life as it is and one’s life as it should be and being able to recognise (and receive) contentment.

Monday, 18 May 2015

dirty-laundry or romeo and oubliette

I wonder what happens—though not exclusively in the sense of data-retention and potential for blackmail and embarrassment, to one’s neglected and moribund dating profiles. Of course, there’s that distracting, distasteful feeling that the internet could be easily induced to vomit up everything—and nosy governments and those capitalising on what we’ve magnanimously shared make this seem like an inevitability—that’s specific to you and you alone, everything shady, exaggerated, secret, plus the occasional stray terror plot.
It’s funny to think of how that fear, which is something coddled like those forgotten avatars and familiars that we’ve no nostalgic feeling for that were once preened and shown for whatever audience, that signals the end of privacy as we understand it was pedigreed in the same fashion. We’ve surrendered, commoditised and compartmentalised every aspect of ourselves little by little, and at first only under our own compulsion and satisfy our own vanities—legitimising the argument that if one does not brand himself or herself, someone else will surely do them the favour. And like those dating or professional matchmaking dossiers, the transitional parts of our characters, habits, predilections are shed and cast away until that picture, even long after we’ve moved away from it, is complete in the enduring sense. What do you think? Do these past identities and identifiers have an unseen, unloved lives of their own (careering onward singlemindedly absent status updates), waiting to be sprung at the worst possible moment?

Wednesday, 29 April 2015

apple-core, baltimore

Quartz Magazine, punctuated with the hashtag #HistoryMatters, presents, I think, an important respectful overview of the dynamics behind urban decay and the general neglect and disdain of white-flight and corporate-flight that has led to the creation of this tense situation, simmering out of mind for decades. Just as onlookers find it incredulous that residents would burn and loot their only grocery outlet in their neighbourhood, no one is asking the more fundamental question why there was only an overpriced drug store and not a grocery market available to them and no one asks why the world is now captivated but hardly concerned with the long history of the city’s decline and the decisions that undermined its institutions and infrastructure.

Tuesday, 31 March 2015

indistinguishable from magic

ร†on Magazine has an excellent reflection on how automata slowly infiltrated Western Europe thought, through accounts of ambassadors to far-off lands to the East and South and curious, remarkable gifts given to comparably dull European sovereigns by potentates of unbelievable wealth and learning, but rather than immediately try to reverse-engineer what wonders they’d seen or heard of, that thought veered towards the preternatural, an aberration with esoteric causes.  Albeit the spectacle of the courts of the Near East with animatronic menageries and mechanised stages sound a little like an episode of Pee-Wee’s Playhouse, it was sure to impress visitors and it seems that Europe, even the educated caste, reaffirmed the maxim of author and inventor Arthur C. Clarke that any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic many times over. Though I suppose innovative craftsmanship and technical knowledge was never completely ruled out, rather than cogs and gears, witnesses were at a loss to account for these displays and resorted to the usual quiver of superstitious explanations, demonic possession, planetary alignment, necromancy.
Once the forgotten industrial prowess of Antiquity was rediscovered in the late Middle Ages, clockwork and associated applications began to promulgate slowly—however, European courts also were big for the theatrical, special effects. It strikes us as rather naรฏve and unreasonable to think anyone could be so primitive to mistake robotics for magic, like the cargo-cults that pray to air-traffic overhead to bring more humanitarian aid, but I suppose it is quite a bit similar to the modern phenomena of readily attributing past human achievement and future direction to extra-terrestrials or conspiracy. What do you think? Is technology demystified the closer in comes to appearing like actual magic? Maybe so long as we’re privy to the research-and-development phase, we won’t cower in fear and awe.

Sunday, 29 March 2015

moral-compass

We are already in possession of a psychological rather than psychic bridge of telepathy in the form of empathy, and ร†on magazine questions whether computer-aided telepaths might engender more misunderstandings than the resolve, what with the forced intimacy that constantly makes tiny course-corrections to align one’s moral-thinking.
People are already wired to be both vicarious and viral but those influences are well-mediated by our own ideas of self and the limits of expression that lannguage limns. Despite whatever parlour-tricks (and some very helpful and promising applications besides) that science has induced—and not to say that the research in neurobiology is not an important one and that we ought not to be introspective especially for the sake of helping the disabled, but we know very little still about how the mind works and probably could not well cope with being fully integrated into some network to keep our feelings on tack and steady forward. What do you think? Would complete transparency encourage sympathy—or quite the opposite?

Saturday, 14 March 2015

jam tomorrow and jam yesterday

Indeed, attention is probably the scarcest resource there is—at least by our own estimation, as we absolutely rush, harried through our daily routines, ushered by those gadgets designed to be more fleet of foot and to help us help ourselves—but surely it’s a cultural quirk, a weakness or vanity that can be appealed to like any insecurity.

As with any other matter of pride or conceit, there is a price to pay—perhaps not so obvious to the buyer and beholder, whereas it might be mockingly apparent to those outside looking in. The family of inmates—I think, is growing. This essay from ร†on Magazine certainly gives pause and make one think about the idea of allotted time. Technology is both a flatterer and a heckler—our schedules, how we use time, has probably never been allowed to be so idiosyncratic, and yet there’s a dual passage of it, both incredibly slow and incredibly fast and with the same seconds, minutes and hours to savour as before, that synchronises very disparate agendas. Innovation, even when made to bear awful burdens of chauvinism, covetousness and myopia, is not imagination and generally re-enforces the society that creates it. Far from the great, relentless oppressor its easy to characterise it to be, those productivity tools that are sometimes thrust upon us (but usually willingly accepted and even sought out), and just insistent reminders of what’s left yet to be done (or what could be done) and closed-out. It is OK to leave something pending—and has been always, although ignorance or forgetfulness can no longer be substituted for avoidance and procrastination.

Friday, 13 March 2015

livery and latchkey

I wonder if there is a public shame-registry of unmarked white vans. Should we make such a thing? Suspiciously—though probably only in truth relegated to the wilds of my imagination, this one “delivery” vehicle has been parked opposite my apartment’s balcony for almost a week already and I can detect no sign of activity—other than the interior lights were on the other night and one could see the rear windows illuminated through the plastic tinting.
I tried to stare it down last night but nothing came of that standoff.  Rather than building a registry, I suppose, snapping a picture probably is more likely to tattle on the observed with hidden, backmasked Q-R codes, camouflaged in the white to off-white of the van’s paint (which is a pretty scary concept, that one’s scanning in invisible data with a digital sweep of one’s surroundings). I guess, however—thinking back to a funny, chance separate incident—there are other ways to have one’s cover blown.



Thursday, 5 March 2015

backmasking and beelzebub

From the Red Scare to recovered memories (with all the cringe-worthy hysteria of satanic sacrifice, subliminal song lyrics, and the general hallmarks that typify the industry of scaring the privileged classes), Alternet presents an outline that covers in brief the eruption of successive social panics in the US. Even though some of these terrors passed in the main as quickly as they came, their formative causes that appealed to the mass imagination and insecurities on a resounding level and their knock-on effects are still lingering and primed to champion the next. These assaults are not only against science, understandably fuelled by businesses outside of public-purview whose own privilege is fail-safe, but can be rallied against reason itself. This does not seem to bode well for the world at large, who's now even more closely committed to the rage
and mania of Americans.

Sunday, 25 January 2015

precept, percept

Via the indefatigably interesting Mind-Hacks, I found out that American National Public Radio is launching a new, fresh programme called Invisibilia (Latin for all things that can’t be seen) that aims to investigate human behaviour and motives through narratives, interviews and research into realms that may shy away from direct observation. This is certainly a series that I want to tune in to.

Saturday, 3 January 2015

big fat surprise

A study, heavily laden with footnotes and cross-references, from the British Medical Journal suggests that all the lies the public have been fed regarding diet and nutrition over the last five decades or so was more or less experimental in nature—with the subject of study being more marketing, agricultural surplus and farming lobbies rather than health and well-being—and could neigh equate with mass-murder. This rather short analysis has been bantered about in the news for the past few days and subject to quite a bit of elaborate and imaginative conclusions, which was the stuff of the fringe-community previously, for going against the rubric of the Food Pyramid.
The article is not a summary dismantling of the pseudo-science, sponsored studies and poor sampling techniques that launched a thousand fad-diets and ensured that despite what appear to be good-faith remediation, we are as a whole, much unhealthier than ever before, but it does open the way for rigourous and humbling studies to follow. What do you think? Were we just naรฏve in believing that we not are surrounded by touts and hucksters—untouchable even in more wholesome rackets? Is this bit of righteous arson just clearing the stage for the next round of opportunists, as usually what’s quality isn’t worth the investment?

Friday, 2 January 2015

broadsheet

This past year was certainly a banner one for anniversaries and centenaries marked the world over, and it seems as if the trend is hardly escapable since we’re survivors of history’s dreadful-excellent heap of memory.
It is a good thing surely not to forget to celebrate what we’ve achieved and overcome but this whole movement to propagrandise and make, especially a century’s passing, a moment of national pride and a rallying-cause happened in 1617—one hundred years after reformer Martin Luther famously nailed his Ninety-Five Theses to the door of Wittenberger Dom and sparked the era of Protestantism, masterfully captured in this poster with quite a bit of allegory to study, like a political cartoon. Of course, this stand is celebrated every year—peacefully and surely Luther does not endorse the use of his likeness for this campaign message, on 1 November, but apolitically. Mass distribution of this broadsheet—and Luther’s Bible, were made possible by newly introduced printing technologies and the Princes of Prussia certainly were not going to let the date go by without some manipulative media. Clashing forces of the Lutherans and the counter-Reformist Catholic lands in a fractured Holy Roman Empire quickly escalated—especially with sentiments fueled on both sides by caricature and fear-mongering, and led to the Thirty Years War, which was one of the darkest and bloodiest wars of European history Christian sectarianism. I hope that we don’t need our memory jarred with new violence for old.

Tuesday, 30 December 2014

affix oder oh won’t somebody please think of the children

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers—under no official charter but not in the public-trust either—after a year of planning and negotiations, with deference to actual lexica and corporate nonce-words, is releasing an onslaught of new internet suffixes (DE/EN), some two-thousand new possibilities culled from different languages and markets. New German top level domains expand from .de to a whole uncharted wilderness of tags with the new naming conventions, like .gay, .islam, and .kinder as well as names of retailors and brands.
English speaking areas have the monopolisation potential as well with choices like .shoes, .pizza, .ninja—as if .biz and .free weren’t already chintzy and fly-by-night enough. All this cacophony strips dominance away from some appellation-squatters, I suppose—and maybe bursts a bubble for the online real-estate market, but it also makes for a lot of confusion too—where nothing’s not miscellaneous and not parsed and not delivered through search-engines.
I imagine most trafficking comes this way already anyway and most people are not willing to venture a guess at something new—for the very real fear of being led down a rabbit-hole and come to a look-alike site that’s maybe stealing one’s data. This move is rife, I think, for ideologues and for more spoofs, dodging and forgeries, but it is the off-chance that cartels go after one of the new domains that has people most concerned—seeing that confectioners are staking claim to the .kinder name to build brand loyalty to certain candies. What do you think? Are you prospecting for a new style, a manner of address?

Monday, 29 December 2014

the art of asking or just take the doughnuts

Ranked as one of its top literary picks for the past year, Brain Pickings’ maven Maria Popova interviewed author Amanda Palmer on her new work with the subtitle or: how I learned to stop worrying and let people help, which seems to be a very necessary and circumspect exploration of compassion and self-esteem.
The lessons speak in the language of creativity and talent but the message is not meant exclusively for the artistic set, as we are all trying to carefully navigate the chasm between individual and social entitlement narratives, wanting too much, and the inability to welcome that which we truly need—all the sharing and caring and small kindnesses that make us human to each other. Palmer provides a series of imaginative images that don’t allow one to forget their callings—decrying the common measures of success, saying no one is to the manor born, and long before any one of us is illegitimised, recognized, we need to christen ourselves with a spell and magic wand of our own making and feel ridiculous doing so. Problematically, most of us don’t think our passions are worth that kind of bother—especially when others might be charitably disposed to help—and yet, most of us will still have the gall to ask when is our ship coming in. We may have adopted some sort of purist standard to apply to our entertainers and celebrities—maybe so we can see them fail, and are certainly quick to call fraud, poser and imposter even when trifling assistance is ultimately a means to a greater end. Henry David Thoreau, as the author illustrates, gave up a lot of comforts to pursue a quiet and contemplative life on Walden Pond and eventually came to realise his goal.
Thoreau did also graciously accept help when offered by kindred spirits—including fellow author Ralph Waldo Emerson and his mother and sister who brought the hermit doughnuts. Most of us would think less of what Thoreau created because of that detail. What do you think? Do such aspirations only belong in the rarified world of artists or is it a universal and daily struggle?