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You're So Vain

The other day I was walking through downtown Seattle and something that reminded me of one of the reasons I left Portland, Oregon, for Indiana.

This reason was what I perceived as whole lot of people flaunting of wealth, as well as possessing a shallow aesthetic and an extreme conceitedness (The last two could be said of many of the not-so-wealthy hipsters). What I saw in downtown Seattle was a little shop called Vain.

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Footing the Bill for Assisted Suicide

One of issue that will become increasingly debated over coming ten years, in part due to the aging baby boomers, will be the legalization of assisted suicide

It is already legal in places like Oregon and upheld (surprisingly) by the US Supreme Court.

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Don't Reform the Supreme Court the aftermath of the ruling in favor of Hobby Lobby (and a few other decisions), there are some who are calling for reform of the Supreme Court.  In May, Norm Ornstein in the Atlantic makes a compelling case for term limits, and links to another Atlantic article by David Paul Kuhn a few years back about the increased polarization of the Supreme Court in recent times.

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We Know It When We See It

I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced within that shorthand description ["hard-core pornography"]; and perhaps I could never succeed in intelligibly doing so. But I know it when I see it, and the motion picture involved in this case is not that.
    —Justice Potter Stewart, concurring opinion in Jacobellis v. Ohio 378 U.S. 184 (1964), regarding possible obscenity in The Lovers.

This past weekend was the 50th Anniversary of the US Supreme Court’s decision on Jacobellis v. Ohio, in which Justice Stewart included his opinion that utilized the (now possibly over-used) expression “I know it when I see it.” Later he would state:

“In a way I regret having said what I said about obscenity -- that’s going to be on my tombstone. When I remember all of the other solid words I’ve written…I regret a little bit that if I’ll be remembered at all I’ll be remembered for that particular phrase.”

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Looking for Mr. Goodcure

As I commented on one of Maiello’s blogs: “Annie Hall is still one of my favorite movies, in part because it treats relationships in a sentimental but unsentimental way that is rare in the movies. But it also has some of the best off beat humor.” One scene that I didn’t mention in the comment was a conversation between Singer and Hall when they first started to get to know each other:

Annie Hall: Oh, you see an analyst?
Alvy Singer: Yeah, just fifteen years.
Annie Hall: Fifteen years?
Alvy Singer: Yeah, I’m going to give him one more year, and then I’m going to Lourdes.

I’ll be honest that until I began working on another blog using this quote (which about a year ago), I had no idea as to what “Lourdes” was a reference to. I assumed it was probably some kind of place like the Vienna Circle, except it was place with the current top-notch psychologists or neuroscientists of the day.  In other words, that particular part of the joke went over my head.  It turns out that Lourdes is the Hautes-Pyrénées department in the Midi-Pyrénées region in south-western France,…[where] The Blessed Virgin Mary is said to have appeared to Bernadette Soubirous on a total of eighteen occasions [said to have occurred between 11 February and 16 July 1858]….To date, 69 miracles cures have been recognized, to have occurred and certified by the Lourdes International Medical Committee which has been in  existence since 1947.

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A Strangelove Kind of World

One of the things about approaching the age of fifty is that one is constantly reminded of the fact because everything that occurred during the year one was born is also reaching its 50th anniversary.  In some ways, it is interesting because one is able to see more clearly the culture and Zeitgeist into which one was born. And since we are on the topic of insanity and violence it seems, it is fitting that recently one of the great films of all time Dr. Stangelove had its 50th anniversary.

David Denby in The New Yorker has written an excellent article, "The Half-Century Anniversary of 'Dr. Strangelove',"  regarding Kubick film including the dynamics of its development of the film.

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When Society is Insane

A question was proposed on another thread regarding Elliot Rodger‘s murder spree: “Or should we just acknowledge that this was a case of a severe mental illness and leave it at that?”  I would say to that: “No.”   The reason is that even those who are severely mentally ill do not exist in a vacuum.  In most cases, they lived a life without the mental illness.  And even while the illness or syndrome or disorder (or whatever term one wishes to use) is active still are in most cases part of some cultural setting.  

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The CIA Is Listening To My Thoughts

If you want to quickly establish a character in a movie as some crazy paranoid person, having them say that something like the CIA has put some kind of listening chip into their head will do the trick.  I suppose now, the person would say the it was the NSA or Homeland Security.  

Recently on the NPR website I came across an article that will have these crazy folks even more paranoid:

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, is launching a $70 million program to help military personnel with psychiatric disorders using electronic devices implanted in the brain.

The goal of the five-year program is to develop new ways of treating problems including depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder, all of which are common among service members who fought in Iraq or Afghanistan.

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My Robot's Therapy Sessions Seem To Be Helping It

Recently in The Independent, Stephen Hawking, with co-authors Stuart Russell, Max Tegmark, and Frank Wilczek, warn of dangers of Artificial Intelligence.

….it's tempting to dismiss the notion of highly intelligent machines as mere science fiction. But this would be a mistake, and potentially our worst mistake in history….
Looking further ahead, there are no fundamental limits to what can be achieved: there is no physical law precluding particles from being organised in ways that perform even more advanced computations than the arrangements of particles in human brains. An explosive transition is possible...

One can imagine such technology outsmarting financial markets, out-inventing human researchers, out-manipulating human leaders, and developing weapons we cannot even understand. Whereas the short-term impact of AI depends on who controls it, the long-term impact depends on whether it can be controlled at all.

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Preface Draft Part 2 has been two and half months since my previous blog and I suppose one might say that a lot has happened, as  in it has been a bit of an emotional roller coaster.  I am still technically unemployed, and by “technically” I mean I am working on starting a small business (a downtown diner of all things) with another person (who is putting up all the money).  At the same time, there is the ebb and flow of personal relations with the all the dysfunction and chaos that comes from that.

There is much more than that, but the details aren’t important.  The details keep changing, as does my perception of them.  I have been dinking with this particular blog over the course of the past two and half months, and each time it becomes something a little different than the previous draft.  Most of the time, it was struggle, because I kept wondering just what the point was I was trying to make.


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