June 6th, 2005

Semiformalishmaybe

Remnants of Roses in the Encyclopedia

You come to visit me, a long fall to the house on the bottom of the cliff. The highlands have rejected their chosen, the mark on their neck and arms fade, and to reenact the birthmark, we use magic marker. Slowly our family heirlooms turn to plastic, then to symbols on clothing, petty jewelry. What was once very real is now a sentimental notion, as the waters reclaim our sand castle. I cannot send you back to the top of the cliff - I could restore a simple person, perhaps, but the high priest of a dead god may always see sad smiles in clouds. I blink, and another visitor, old, familiar, formerly doomed, but with curse lifted, appears. The years roll back in my eyes, and I idly wonder how distance can be there. Old blood stains return, a burning reminder of a story. The eyes close.

Last night, I had a fair number of people over, probably the most that has ever been in my apartment since I moved in. I cooked stew, and we all chatted, and it was quite nice. The combination of that and the recent fantastic weather put me into what was probably the best mood I've been in for awhile. Of course, a lot of my friends loathe this weather -- apparently humid heat isn't for everyone. I personally am thrilled that it no longer cools off much at night -- right now it's, according to a thermometer, well over 70 degrees outside, despite being really late. I never really thought of my apartment as being great for entertaining, but when I clear some things out of the way, it does quite well.

A few days ago, I was at the Coffee Tree (common haunt) and ended up talking a bit with an old Jewish guy everyone knows, who I'll call Mu in this entry. I mentioned being in Europe for most of January, and he immediately asked if I saw any of the anti-semitism there. I told him no (I really didn't see any anti-semitism in Europe, perhaps because we didn't interact with large numbers of people when there combined with not being Jewish myself), and later on in the conversation he inexplicably asked again, and then went into another one of his fairly common ramblings on the topic of anti-semitism. He said that everyone has always hated the Jews, and that everyone always would, and asked, semi-rhetorically, why that is, implying by silence that it just was, with no particular reason. I'm not fond of any "just is" explanations, and brought up the two particular reasons I think are strongest -- that they historically have represented a distinct society within a host society, and that those that do interact much with the outside society tend to be very successful, partly through good genetics, and partly because the culture associated with Judaism is a very literate, knowledge-centric one. He immediately simplified to what seemed to me to be a childish oversimplification, "Yes, they're jealous of us". Mo, from my conversations with him, seems to see life as a continual story, with Orthodox Jews as a people being the main character, continually hated because of jealousy over being the chosen people, with their role being to suffer until Moshiach comes (he thinks it'll happen within 100 years). He doesn't think peace with Arabs is possible, nor that other ethnicities will ever be fully comfortable around Jewish people, and I think that's because it doesn't fit into the story. This perspective is something I find immensely frustrating, like someone drowning right beside a lifeboat. People who give up on peace because it doesn't fit into a role they've constructed for themselves and because they think it's impossible become, through their polarizing effects, preventers of peace, even more than people obsessed with some notion of justice that spans over hundreds of years. The first can't even concieve of peace, while the second demands some recomense that's likely impractical. Fortunately, a number of people I know, nonreligious people, religious Muslims and religious Jews, arn't like Mo -- they see peace in the Middle East as being, solvable or not, a human problem.

One question that's related that I'm currently chewing on relates to the specific form subsociety structures take, and what forms of them are good for society as a while. I do think that a good, modern society should leave room for subsocieties to exist, and societies like the Amish, traditional Jews, and the like are good examples of such things. From my view, so long as they don't need special legal support or recognition, they have a place in society. To clarify, I would not like to see a devolved government for them or any other subsociety (as Amerindians have in the United States), nor special taxes, liabilities, or privileges (like Dhimmi under Shar'ia). I am worried about the end effect of a certain attitude that exists among some subsocieties, that they'd rather deal with members of their community, and that if/when things ever get tough for society, their primary loyalty belongs to their subsociety and not to society as a while. It would be better, I think, to have everyone devoted to advancing the ends of humanity, rather than those of smaller groups. It is especially irritating that groups that are selfish still end up benefiting from universalists and they continue to direct their primary care to their subgroup. Is universalism as a political perspective doomed to lose when push comes to shove? Is there a way to override the inward focus of subgroups in a manner that will still allow them seperateness but stops them from harming the host society through self-advancing aims? Is this even a big enough effect to be worried about? Hmm. I would love to get together and talk about these things with a group of interested people, but a number of these issues are pretty much taboo in American society.

A friend pointed me at sockbaby, which is pretty awesome. More fun -- apparently a song that I much enjoy is actually part of a singing game. The version I have is from a band called Trout Fishing in America. It reminds me of another fun game that I first saw on MST3k - Tusk. In tusk, people take turns singing a bit of a traditional or popular song, often transitioning between them (and people) by saying "Tusk". The end effect is a fun, long medley, which presumably ends either when someone decides to end it or someone can't think of a new song quick enough to continue the medley smoothly. Ahh, such fun.

I've been playing on OKCupid, a free online matchmaking site. I'm not really using it to meet people for semi-complicated reasons, but the site is a lot of fun, and it looks like it's free for all purposes. Hurrah.

Semiformalishmaybe

Reality Distortion Failure

In a walk through strange lands, mountains are passed, scarred rock from ancient conflict, smothering history. In the shadow of modern delight, dark abandoned kitchen behind the renovated modern one, sits a box of forgotten memories and abandoned hopes. We look into the room, and catch a breath of time, old lord and lady on a throne as the realm stretches out for them. Long-buried banners and heralds proclaim their now spent existence with the glee of youth.

It looks like Apple is, after years of rumours to the effect, finally about to seppuku. Steve Jobs announced at WDC that Apple is going to move to x86 processors, which will, as I and a number of other industry watchers have noted, will make Apple the next Amiga. It's a pity -- I really was getting to like Apple's new way of doing things. For the curious, there are at least 3 ways this is the death of apple. First, this kills their sales until the transition is done, because nobody wants to move to a soon-to-be-abandoned platform. Second, the transition will be difficult -- apart from some more traditional Unix vendors, they're well situated to make such a move, but such moves are risky and expensive. The fact that they kept NeXTStep/Intel current behind the scenes is good, but it's important not to underestimate the efforts to move all software to a new platform, and the inevitable lossage from people who don't want to talk to their software vendor again and possibly buy updates. Finally, Apple can't survive on x86. Their distinction protected them in numerous ways, as did their tight control of the platform. It's like moving to the centre of an active volcano -- no matter how good a deal you get with the moving company, once you're there, you're dead. For people like me, Apple was a long-lived "alternate way of doing things", that recently became cool when Steve Jobs came back, switching to a new stylish, powerful, alternate way that was very nice. This is the end of an era. Sigh.

In other news,Turkey continues to show its strained political system. This is a good example of when, from my perspective, democracy is a worse choice than autocracy -- the president is, as many Turkish presidents have, holding back the masses from implementing Shar'ia. England has people far beyond that -- Here is a tale of real religious lunacy. A girl's Aunt became convinced she was a witch, and severely abused her until the police put an end to it. Of course, in situations like this, the kid is likely to be hurt for life. Members of the idiotic community defend exorcisms as part of their culture -- the adopters are from Congo, and have a wonderful mix of tribal beliefs and christianity. This isn't the first case of abuse tied to this kind of outlook -- some christians, scientologists, and others on both sides of the pond have been doing this for a long time. Also, recently Serbs have been forced to admit massacres have been performed by their side in the recent hostilities, something they previously denied, thanks to video cameras. War, lies, and secrecy are very frequently tightly bound together, and I think world peace would be a lot closer if there more people with video cameras in hotspots all over the world. Questions about ethnic cleansing in Israel/Palestine? Abuse of minorities in Arab countries? Genocide in Darfur? American misdoings? Send swarms of people with vidcams all over those places. Countries still may pursue their national ends, but if they don't have the guts or ability to do that openly, under the sun, then screw 'em. It'd be even better, although perhaps unworkable, if the journalists were also heavily armed and operated under a code not to get involved, but to refuse to evacuate areas that the military tries to clear them.