Ripe for spoofs

Nike’s trademark has led to many spoofs. T-shirts with “Just Done It” or “I Just Can’t” are probably no longer novelties. However, its latest campaign featuring Colin Kaepernick, besides the whole buzz it has created about “ethical investing” and #BurnYourNikes, has given me the gift of more snorting moments. Here are two examples. I am afraid I don’t know who their creators are; both have floated into my social media timelines.

The latter would also have been a perfect cue for me to move on to the topic of mansplaining and #immodestwomen, but that will have to be another post.


In search of a perfect analogy

I am a firm believer of the power of analogies. I rely a lot on them, not only when I am trying to explain something to others but also when I am trying to understand something myself. So, unsurprisingly, I do get a kick out of spotting a really good analogy while surfing online. I have been meaning to place all of them in one place, and am finally getting around to it today. I am on one day’s leave!

“Isn’t it great? We have to pay nothing for the barn.” (Geek & Poke, 21 December 2010; crossposted on 27 February 2012; see also “Facebook is basically designed like a lobster trap with your friends as bait” byย Michael C. Gilbert, 2009, and “You are the product” by John Lanchester, August 2017, London Review of Books 39(16): 3-10)

RT @nickbilton Going to Facebook has become the equivalent of opening the fridge & staring inside, even though you’re not hungry. (29 December 2012; crossposted on 8 December 2015)

“Consent, it’s simple as tea” (Blue Seat Studios, as part of a campaign by Thames Valley Police, 12 May 2015; crossposted on 8 January 2018)

“Same reasons why in Mario Kart you donโ€™t get blue shells or lightning bolts when youโ€™re already in first place, assbag.” (crossposted on 19 November 2016)

“Imagine that you’re sitting down to dinner with your family, and while everyone else gets a serving of the meal, you don’t get any. So you say “I should get my fair share.” And as a direct response to this, your dad corrects you, saying, “everyone should get their fair share.” Now, that’s a wonderful sentiment — indeed, everyone should, and that was kinda your point in the first place: that you should be a part of everyone, and you should get your fair share also. However, dad’s smart-ass comment just dismissed you and didn’t solve the problem that you still haven’t gotten any!

The problem is that the statement “I should get my fair share” had an implicit “too” at the end: “I should get my fair share, too, just like everyone else.” But your dad’s response treated your statement as though you meant “only I should get my fair share”, which clearly was not your intention. As a result, his statement that “everyone should get their fair share,” while true, only served to ignore the problem you were trying to point out.” (Reddit user GeekAesthete, cited in Kevin Roose, Splinter, 21 July 2015; crossposted onย 11 July 2016)

RT @halfscholarย My PhD dissertation plan and how it went illustrated. (22 November 2017)

“The referendum was like making a cup of peppermint tea. You had to decide whether to leave the teabag in or take it out. If you leave it in, the cup of tea as a whole is stronger. Even though it appears that the teabag itself is getting weaker, it’s still part of a strong cup of tea. But if you take the teabag out, the cup of tea as a whole is weaker — and the teabag itself goes directly in the bin.”ย  (James Acaster, 2016; crossposted on 4 July 2018)

RTย @anne_theriaultย I already have a cryptocurrency, it’s called Sephora Beauty Insider Points (20 January 2018)

RT @YankeeGunnerย Perfect analogy. Because that’s not a real target and you’ve put it there yourself. (26 January 2018)

“In real-world terms, a part of Facebook still sees itself as the bank that got robbed, rather than the architect who designed a bank with no safes, and no alarms or locks on the doors, and then acted surprised when burglars struck.” (Kevin Roose, The New York Times, 19 February 2018; see alsoย Clay Bennett‘s cartoon on “security versus privacy”, The Christian Science Monitor, 29 October 2001)

RTย @Theophiteย imagine if keeping your car idling 24/7 produced solved Sudokus you could trade for heroin (16 August 2018; see also “Imagine a conveyor belt sushi restaurant where everyone can see what each plate contains but no one can actually eat any”, 14 February 2018)

“๋‚˜๋Š” ๊ทธ๋Ÿฌ์ง€ ๋ชปํ–ˆ๋‹ค. ๋‚ด ์•ˆ์˜ ๊ด‘์ธ์„ ๋ด‰์ธ ํ•ด์ œํ•˜๊ธฐ๋Š”์ปค๋…•, ์–ธ์ œ๋‚˜ ๊ทธ๋Ÿฌํ–ˆ๋˜ ๊ฒƒ์ฒ˜๋Ÿผ ์ถฉ์‹คํ•˜๊ฒŒ ํ•™์ƒ ์—ญํ• ์„ ์ˆ˜ํ–‰ํ–ˆ๋‹ค. ๊ทธ๋ฆฌ๊ณ  ์‹œ๊ฐ„์ด ํ•œ์ฐธ ์ง€๋‚˜์„œ์•ผ ๊ทธ๊ฒƒ์ด ์ˆ˜์น˜์˜ ์ˆœ๊ฐ„์ด์—ˆ๋‹ค๋Š” ๊ฒƒ์„ ๊นจ๋‹ฌ์•˜๋‹ค. ๋‚˜๋Š” ๊ทธ๋•Œ ์™œ ์›ƒ๋Š” ๋Œ์ฒ˜๋Ÿผ ๋‹ค์†Œ๊ณณ์ด ์•‰์•„ ์žˆ์—ˆ๋˜ ๊ฒƒ์ผ๊นŒ? ์˜ˆ์ •์— ์—†์ด ์ง•์ง‘๋˜์ง€ ์•Š๊ธฐ ์œ„ํ•ด์„œ ์ผ๋‹จ ์‹ฌ์‚ฌ์— ํ†ต๊ณผํ•˜๊ณ  ๋ด์•ผ๊ฒ ๋‹ค๋Š” ๊ณ„์‚ฐ์„ ์ˆœ๊ฐ„์ ์œผ๋กœ ํ•ด๋‚ธ ๊ฒƒ์ผ๊นŒ. ์•„๋‹ˆ๋ฉด, ์ € ์‚ฌ๋žŒ๋“คํ•˜๊ณ  ์›์ˆ˜์ง€๊ณ  ๋‚˜๋ฉด ํ‰์ƒ ํ•™๊ณ„์—์„œ ๋ฐฅ ๋นŒ์–ด๋จน๊ธฐ๋„ ์–ด๋ ต๊ฒ ๋‹ค๋Š” ํŒ๋‹จ์„ ํ•œ ๊ฒƒ์ผ๊นŒ. ์„ ์ƒ๋‹˜๋“ค์ด ๋…ผ๋ฌธ์„ ์ฝ์ง€ ์•Š๊ณ  ์ € ์ž๋ฆฌ์— ๋‚˜์™€ ์•‰์•„ ์žˆ๋‹ค๋Š” ๊ฒƒ์€ ๋‚˜ ํ˜ผ์ž์˜ ํŒ๋‹จ์— ๊ทธ์น  ๋ฟ, ๊ทธ ์‚ฌ์‹ค์„ ์ฆ๋ช…ํ•˜๊ธฐ ์–ด๋ ต๋‹ค๋Š” ๊ฒƒ์„ ์ฒด๋“ํ•˜๊ณ  ์žˆ์—ˆ๋˜ ๊ฒƒ์ผ๊นŒ. ๊ทธ๋„ ์•„๋‹ˆ๋ผ๋ฉด, ๋…ผ๋ฌธ์„ ์ œ๋Œ€๋กœ ์ฝ์ง€๋„ ์•Š๊ณ  ์‹ฌ์‚ฌ์— ์ž„ํ•  ์ •๋„์˜ ํ˜•ํŽธ์—†๋Š” ๊ต์ˆ˜์˜ ํ•™์ƒ์ด ๋˜๊ณ  ์‹ถ์ง€ ์•Š๋‹ค๋Š” ๋ฌด์˜์‹์ด ์ž‘๋™ํ•œ ๊ฒƒ์ผ๊นŒ. ํ™•์‹คํ•œ ๊ฒƒ์€ ๊ทธ ์–ด๋–ค ์ƒ๊ฐ๋„ ๊ทธ ํ˜„์žฅ์—์„œ ์˜์‹์˜ ์ˆ˜๋ฉด ์œ„๋กœ ๋– ์˜ค๋ฅด์ง€๋Š” ์•Š์•˜๋‹ค๋Š” ์‚ฌ์‹ค์ด๋‹ค. ๋‚˜๋Š” ๊ทธ์ € ํ‰์†Œ์ฒ˜๋Ÿผ ํ–‰๋™ํ–ˆ๋‹ค. ์šฐ๋ฆฌ๋Š” ์„œ๋กœ ๋งก์€ ์—ญํ• ์„ ์ˆ˜ํ–‰ํ•˜์—ฌ, ๋…ผ๋ฌธ์‹ฌ์‚ฌ๋ผ๋Š” ๋ถ€์‹คํ•œ ์—ญํ• ๊ทน์„ ์™„์„ฑํ–ˆ๋‹ค. ์œ„๋ ฅ์ด ์™•์„ฑํ•˜๊ฒŒ ์ž‘๋™ํ•  ๋•Œ๋Š”, ์ธ์ƒ์ด๋ผ๋Š” ๊ทน์žฅ ์œ„์˜ ๋ฐฐ์šฐ๋“ค์ด ์ด์ฒ˜๋Ÿผ ๋ณ„์ƒ๊ฐ ์—†์ด ์ž๊ธฐ๊ฐ€ ๋งก์€ ๋ฐฐ์—ญ์„ ์ˆ˜ํ–‰ํ•œ๋‹ค. ๋‹น์‹œ ๊ต์ˆ˜๋“ค๋„ ์ž์‹ ์ด ์œ„๋ ฅ์„ ํ–‰์‚ฌํ•˜๊ณ  ์žˆ์œผ๋ฆฌ๋ผ๊ณ ๋Š” ์ƒˆ์‚ผ ์ƒ๊ฐํ•˜์ง€ ์•Š์•˜์œผ๋ฆฌ๋ผ. ์œ„๋ ฅ์ด ์™•์„ฑํ•˜๊ฒŒ ์ž‘๋™ํ•  ๋•Œ, ์œ„๋ ฅ์€ ์ž์˜์‹์„ ๊ฐ€์งˆ ํ•„์š”๊ฐ€ ์—†๋‹ค. ์œ„๋ ฅ์€ ๊ทธ์ € ์ž‘๋™ํ•œ๋‹ค. ๊ฐ€์žฅ ์ž˜ ์ž‘๋™ํ•  ๋•Œ๋Š” ์ง์ ‘ ๋ช…๋ นํ•  ํ•„์š”๋„ ์—†๋‹ค. ๋‹ˆ์ฝ”ํ‹ด์ด ๋ถ€์กฑํ•ด ๋ณด์ด๋ฉด, ๋ˆ„๊ตฐ๊ฐ€ ์•Œ์•„์„œ ๋‹ด๋ฐฐ๋ฅผ ์‚ฌ๋Ÿฌ ๋‚˜๊ฐ„๋‹ค.” (๊น€์˜๋ฏผ, ๊ฒฝํ–ฅ์‹ ๋ฌธ, 24 August 2018)

Last bank holiday weekend of the year

This summer I went on and on about how unbearable the weather was. The scorching sun, the drought, and above all, the lack of air-conditioning in London, one of the most expensive cities in the world.ย Now looking out the window at the all-too-familiar rain and gloom, I feel as if it was all a dream.

Anyway, while staying dry and cozy in the house the whole day today, I have been watching a few YouTube clips I had bookmarked for later, including, but not limited to,ย Yuval Noah Harari’s interview with Al Jazeera (August 2018), Gina Neff’s OII London Lecture “Does AI Have Gender?”, and Zeynep Tufekci’s radio appearance “Why Online Politics Gets So Extreme So Fast?”. All insightful and also all interconnected (although this was not intended on my part). This post is, nevertheless, to record one particular remark by Harari that I found amusing. From 11:59 into the video above:

My personal impression is that all these science-fiction movies about robots becoming conscious and then starting to kill people and things like that – these are not about humans being afraid of intelligent robots. Actually these movies are about men being afraid of intelligent women because if you look carefully you will see that in almost all cases the scientist who develops the robot is a man and the robot is female, like in Westworld or in Ex Machina, and these movies are actually about feminism – about this male fear that “Hey, we’ve created this thing and now itโ€™s becoming more intelligent and more powerful than us”.


“๊ตฌ์Šฌ์ด ์„œ๋ง์ด๋ผ๋„ ๊ฟฐ์–ด์•ผ ๋ณด๋ฐฐ.” ์„ ์กฐ๋“ค์˜ ๋ช…์พŒํ•œ ์†๋‹ด ํ•˜๋‚˜๊ฐ€ ์˜ค๋Š˜๋‚  ์†Œ์…œ๋ฏธ๋””์–ด๋‹ˆ ์ง‘๋‹จ์ง€๋Šฅ์ด๋‹ˆ ํ˜‘์—…์ด๋‹ˆ ์‹œ๋ฏผ์ €๋„๋ฆฌ์ฆ˜์ด๋‹ˆ ํ•˜๋Š” ๊ฒƒ๋“ค์˜ ๊ฐ€๋Šฅ์„ฑ๊ณผ ํ•œ๊ณ„๋ฅผ ๋ฐ”๋ผ๋ณด๊ธฐ ์œ„ํ•œ ๊ฐ€์žฅ ์œ ์šฉํ•œ ํ‹€์ด๋‹ค. (@capcold, 17 August 2010; crossposted 27 September 2010)

ํŠนํžˆ ์˜ค๋Š˜๋‚  ๊ฐ™์€ ๋งค์ฒดํ™˜๊ฒฝ์—์„œ๋Š”, ๊ฑด์„ค์  ๋…ผ์Ÿ์ด๋ž€ ๊ถŒํˆฌ๊ฐ€ ์•„๋‹Œ ํ”ผ๊ฒจ๋‹ค. ์ƒ๋Œ€๋ฅผ ๋ฐŸ์œผ๋ฉด ์ด๊ธฐ๋Š”๊ฒŒ ์•„๋‹ˆ๋ผ(ํŒฌ์ธต์˜ ์„ฑ์›์ด์•ผ ๋ฐ›๊ฒ ์ง€๋งŒ), ๋‘๊ณ ๋‘๊ณ  ๋‚จ์„ ํผํฌ๋จผ์Šค๋กœ ๋งŽ์€ ์ œ3์ž๋“ค์„ ๋‚ฉ๋“์‹œํ‚ค๋Š” ๊ฒƒ. ์˜ 8.์ฐธ์กฐ. (@capcold, 28 February 2012)

์ด ํŽธ์ง€๊ฐ€ ๋ฒˆํ™”๊ฐ€์— ๋–จ์–ด์ ธ ๋‚˜์˜ ์›์ˆ˜๊ฐ€ ํŽด๋ณด๋”๋ผ๋„ ๋‚ด๊ฐ€ ์ฃ„๋ฅผ ์–ป์ง€ ์•Š์„ ๊ฒƒ์ธ๊ฐ€๋ฅผ ์ƒ๊ฐํ•˜๋ฉด์„œ ์จ์•ผ ํ•˜๊ณ , ๋˜ ์ด ํŽธ์ง€๊ฐ€ ์ˆ˜๋ฐฑ ๋…„ ๋™์•ˆ ์ „ํ•ด์ ธ์„œ ์•ˆ๋ชฉ ์žˆ๋Š” ๋งŽ์€ ์‚ฌ๋žŒ๋“ค์˜ ๋ˆˆ์— ๋„๋”๋ผ๋„ ์กฐ๋กฑ๋ฐ›์ง€ ์•Š์„ ๋งŒํ•œ ํŽธ์ง€์ธ๊ฐ€๋ฅผ ์ƒ๊ฐํ•ด์•ผํ•œ๋‹ค. (๋‹ค์‚ฐ ์ •์•ฝ์šฉ, 2009, ์œ ๋ฐฐ์ง€์—์„œ ๋ณด๋‚ธ ํŽธ์ง€; crossposted 23 December 2013; see also Plato’s Phaedrus)

๋†๋‹ด์˜ ์—ญํ•™: ํž˜์—†๋Š” ์‚ฌ๋žŒ์ด ํž˜์žˆ๋Š” ์‚ฌ๋žŒ์„ ๋†๋‹ด์˜ ๋Œ€์ƒ์œผ๋กœ ์‚ผ๋Š” ๊ฒƒ์„ ํ’์ž(่ซทๅˆบ)๋ผ ๋งํ•˜๊ณ , ํž˜์—†๋Š” ์‚ฌ๋žŒ์ด ํž˜์—†๋Š” ์‚ฌ๋žŒ๋ผ๋ฆฌ ์ฃผ๊ณ ๋ฐ›๋Š” ๋†๋‹ด์„ ํ•ดํ•™(่ซง่ฌ”)์ด๋ผ ๋งํ•˜๋ฉฐ, ํž˜์—†๋Š” ์‚ฌ๋žŒ์ด ์ž์‹ ์„ ์†Œ์žฌ๋กœ ์›ƒ์œผ๋ฉฐ ๋†๋‹ด์„ ๋˜์ง€๋Š” ๊ฒƒ์„ ์ž์กฐ(่‡ชๅ˜ฒ)๋ผ ๋งํ•œ๋‹ค.ย […] ํž˜์žˆ๋Š” ์‚ฌ๋žŒ์ด ํž˜์—†๋Š” ์‚ฌ๋žŒ์„ ์ƒ๋Œ€๋กœ ๋˜์ง€๋Š” ๋†๋‹ด์„ ํฌ๋กฑ(ๆˆฑๅผ„)์ด๋ผ ํ•˜๋ฉฐ, ํž˜์žˆ๋Š” ์‚ฌ๋žŒ์ด ํž˜์—†๋Š” ์‚ฌ๋žŒ์˜ ์ด์ต์„ ํƒํ•˜์—ฌ ์†์ด๊ณ  ๋†€๋ฆฌ๋Š” ๊ฒƒ์„ ๋†๋ฝ(๏ฅ„็ตก)์ด๋ผ ํ•˜๊ณ , ํž˜์žˆ๋Š” ์‚ฌ๋žŒ์ด ํž˜์—†๋Š” ์‚ฌ๋žŒ์„ ๋น„์›ƒ๊ณ  ๊ดด๋กญํžˆ๋Š” ๊ฒƒ์„ ํญ๋ ฅ(ๆšดๅŠ›)์ด๋ผ ํ•œ๋‹ค. (@windshoes, 3 April 2014)

์‹๋‹น์ด๋‚˜ ๊ธธ๊ฑฐ๋ฆฌ, ๊ณต์› ๋“ฑ์—์„œ ์…€์นด๋ฅผ ์ฐ๋Š” ์‚ฌ๋žŒ๋“ค์˜ ํ‘œ์ •์ด๋‚˜ ํฌ์ฆˆ, ํ–‰๋™์ด ๊ณผ์žฅ๋˜๊ณ  ์šฐ์Šค์›Œ ๋ณด์ด๋Š” ๊ฒƒ์€ ๊ทธ ์‚ฌ์ง„์ด ๊ถ๊ทน์ ์œผ๋กœ ๋„์ฐฉํ•˜๊ฒŒ ๋  ๊ฐ€์ƒ์˜ ๊ณต๊ฐ„๊ณผ ๊ทธ๋“ค์ด ํ˜„์žฌ ์กด์žฌํ•˜๋Š” ํ˜„์‹ค๊ณต๊ฐ„์ด ๋งŒ๋‚˜๋Š”๋ฐ์„œ ์ƒ๊ธฐ๋Š” ๋ถˆ์ผ์น˜ ๋•Œ๋ฌธ์ด๋‹ค. ์—ฌ๊ณ ์ƒ๋“ค์ด ์ž…์ˆ ์„ ์‚์ฃฝ์ด ๋‚ด๋ฐ€๊ฑฐ๋‚˜ ์šฐ์Šค๊ฝ์Šค๋Ÿฌ์šด ํฌ์ฆˆ๋ฅผ ์ทจํ•  ๋•Œ ๊ทธ๋“ค์€ SNS๋ผ๋Š” ๊ฐ€์ƒ๊ณต๊ฐ„์— ์ด๋ฏธ ๋“ค์–ด๊ฐ€ ์žˆ๋‹ค. ๊ฐ™์€ ์žฅ๋ฉด์„ ํŽ˜์ด์Šค๋ถ์—์„œ ๋ณด๋ฉด ์•„๋ฌด๋ ‡์ง€๋„ ์•Š๊ฑฐ๋‚˜ ์˜คํžˆ๋ ค ์žฌ๋ฏธ์žˆ๊ฒ ์ง€๋งŒ, ๊ทธ๋Ÿฐ ์ดฌ์˜์ด ํ˜„์‹ค ์„ธ๊ณ„์—์„œ ์ผ์–ด๋‚˜๋Š” ์žฅ๋ฉด์„ ๋ชฉ๊ฒฉํ•˜๋Š” ๊ฒƒ์€ ์–ด์ƒ‰ํ•˜๊ณ  ๋ถˆํŽธํ•˜๋‹ค. (์ธ๋ฌธ์‚ฌํšŒ์œตํ•ฉ ๋™ํ–ฅ, 2015๋…„ 9์›”, ํ†ต๊ถŒ 12ํ˜ธ, p.57; see also the “heavily critiqued idea that selfies are frivolous/trivial, an assumption strongly linked w selfies being located within the terrain of young women”, @emvdn, 20 March 2018)

์ƒํ˜ธ ์•…๋งˆํ™”์— ๊ธฐ์—ฌํ•˜์ง€ ์•Š์œผ๋ฉด์„œ๋„ ์„œ๋กœ ๋Œ€ํ™”๋„ ํ•˜๊ณ  ๋…ผ์Ÿ๋„ ํ•˜๋ ค๋ฉด ์–ด๋–ป๊ฒŒ ํ•ด์•ผํ• ์ง€ ๊ณ ๋ฏผํ•ด๋ดค๋‹ค. ์ƒ๋Œ€๊ฐ€ ์ด์ƒํ•œ ๋ง์„ ํ•˜๋ฉด ๊ทธ๋ƒฅ ์ง€๋‚˜์น˜๊ฑฐ๋‚˜ ๋Œ“๊ธ€๋กœ ์ง€์ ์„ ํ•ด์„œ ์ด์ƒํ•œ ๋ง์ด๋ผ๋Š”๊ฑธ ์•Œ๋ฆฌ์ž. ์ ์–ด๋„ ์ž์‹ ๊ณผ ๋‹ค๋ฅธ ์ƒ๊ฐ์„ ํ•˜๋Š” ์‚ฌ๋žŒ์ด ์žˆ๋‹ค๋Š”๊ฑธ ์•Œ๋ ค์ฃผ์ž. ๋‹ค๋งŒ ๋ฆฌํŠธ์œ—์€ ํ•˜์ง€ ์•Š๋Š”๋‹ค. ์ƒ๋Œ€๊ฐ€ ํ•˜๋Š” ๊ฐ€์žฅ ์ด์ƒํ•œ ์ฃผ์žฅ์„ ๋ฆฌํŠธ์œ—ํ•˜์—ฌ ๋‚ด ์ง€์ธ๋“ค๋ผ๋ฆฌ ๋†€๋ ค๋จน๊ณ  ์•…๋งˆํ™”ํ•˜๋Š” ๋Œ€์‹ , ์ƒ๋Œ€๊ฐ€ ํ•˜๋Š” ๊ฐ€์žฅ ๋˜‘๋˜‘ํ•˜๊ณ  ๋ฐ˜๋ฐ•ํ•˜๊ธฐ ์–ด๋ ค์›Œ ๋ณด์ด๋Š” ์ฃผ์žฅ์„ ํผ๋‚˜๋ฅธ๋‹ค. ๊ทธ๋ž˜์•ผ ๋‚ด ์ง€์ธ๋“ค๋ผ๋ฆฌ ์ƒ์‚ฐ์ ์ธ ๊ณ ๋ฏผ์„ ํ•  ์ˆ˜ ์žˆ๋‹ค. (๋ฟ…๋ฟ…์ด, ๋žŸํŒธ๊ณผ ์“ฐ๊นŒ, ์ƒํ˜ธ ์•…๋งˆํ™” ํ•˜์ง€ ์•Š๊ณ  ๋Œ€ํ™”ํ•˜๊ธฐ, 23 June 2018)

Needlework [2]

Let me tell you a little story first. Are you familiar with the Thousand-Character Classic? That is what this story is going to be about.

The Thousand-Character Classic is a Chinese poem that was written circa the 6th century and has been used for teaching children essential Chinese characters since. It consists of exactly one thousand characters, each used only once, and those thousand characters form 250 lines of four characters. Each line makes sense on its own while the 250 together create a coherent work. Apparently they rhyme too. Nothing short of a work of genius.

There are several versions of its origin story.ย One I was told when I was small goes like this:

An extraordinary scholar has been sentenced to death (for some reason I can’t remember) and the execution is tomorrow. His talent is so exceptional that the emperor wants to find a way to spare his life. So he tells the scholar that he would be pardoned if before dawn he created a poem with pre-selected one thousand characters. The scholarย manages to produce one such poem – as described earlier – but by the time dawn breaks his entire hair has turned complete white.

Why am I telling you all this? Because I am relating to the man so much at the moment. I am not likening myself to some legendary scholar, of course not, but it’s just that a 10K-word manuscript that I sent over for printing last night had felt like an impossible jigsaw puzzle at times.

Research writing is what I do, so I know some writing tasks come easy and some don’t. This was certainly one of the most difficult ones of which I’d had to untangle my way out. I kept thinking howย Cayley (2018) was spot-on when she said: if you are struggling with your writing, you are in fact struggling with your thinking.

Anyway, in the end I have managed to pull together Cambridge Analytica, algorithms, alternative facts, hipster fascists, manosphere, the Chinese grass-mud horse, outsourced content moderators in South Asia, and the fundamental right to be let alone, together with a hundred other ‘buzzwords’ in the news, and weaved all of them into one single piece of tapestry. Tired but happy. Now I even feel a little as if I understand what’s going on in the world surrounding me a little better. … And I am convinced I have lost much hair in the process.

(Not quite related, but speaking of weaving, here is something I found fascinating
at the National Museum of Anthropology in Manila a few weeks ago
– stylised crocodile motifs from an olden time)

“Ritual technology”

Who would have thought that at a random exhibition on rice farming in a faraway landย I would stumble upon what was going to be one of my favourite quotes?

This presents what French anthropologist Georges Condominas calls ‘ritual technology’ (1986) within which ritual and technology cannot be separated in order to produce the expected yield. Each tool and energy input are inextricably integrated into each task that withdrawal of either would generally result to a reduced production output.

As soon as I returned, I looked up the original source. Here is the passage.

When we look at people’s cultures from the inside, it is seen that they — ritual and technology — cannot be separated. To take once more the example of the Mnong Gar, religious activities associated with plant cultivation are indissolubly integrated into agricultural tasks. […]

Previously, I referred to these rituals under the category ritual technology (Condominas 1980). But I do realize that the expression may not be very appropriate because what I talk about really covers only an aspect of a bigger category — the notion of work.

(Condominas, G., 1986, ‘Ritual technology in Mnong Gar swidden agriculture’, in I. Norlund et al. eds., Rice Societies: Asian Problems and Prospects, pp.28-29)

Once again, you know what they say:ย serendipity is looking in a haystack for a needle and discovering a farmerโ€™s daughter.

Being human, becoming human, and ceasing being human

Was reading about a recently released PS4 game called Detroit: Become Human, and was going to add it to my list of games ‘too close to the bone’. But then it struck me that there is another, even bigger category that would accommodate this new game perfectly – i.e. popular cultural products that question what it means to be human.ย In my mind, The Adventures of Pinocchio (1883) and The Wizard of Oz (1939) fall right into that category, so we are not talking only about the digital here.

At one point my social media timelines were peppered with the word ‘singularity’. I recall it was around the time when the filmsย Her (2013) and Lucy (2014) came out.ย Sooooo, my compulsion for list-making kicks in! I am going to write down only the ones that I have seen (although not fully in some cases).ย I am sure there areย more comprehensive, even ranked listsย out there – like the time when a friend and I were talking aboutย The Great Wall (2016) and The Last Samurai (2003) and we found there was a whole Wikipedia page dedicated to the “white saviour narrative” in films – but I will add on here as I find more myself. That would be more fun for me.

What distinguishes human beings from non-human beings? Could a non-human being become human? Would they want to, as frequently imagined in popular culture? Is there a moment where a human stops being human – with extensive technological interventions into body and mind, for example? Would one person become another with such interventions? Below are a few examples of posing these questions, intentionally or unwittingly.

  • Adventures of Pinocchio (1883)
  • The Wizard of Oz (1939)
  • Planet of the Apes (1968)
  • Blade Runner (1982)
  • Robocop (1987)
  • Alien Nation (1988)
  • The Quality of Life, Star Trek: The Next Generation (1992)
  • The Matrix (1999)
  • Bicentennial Man (1999)
  • A.I. Artificial Intelligence (2001)
  • I, Robot (2004)
  • Avatar (2009)
  • Dollhouse (2009 to 2010)
  • Her (2013)
  • Lucy (2014)
  • Humans (2015 to present)
  • Criminal (2016)
  • Detroit: Become Human (2018)

As long as there is wi-fi [3]

Rough translation: This is the [traditional Japanese Qinghai wave] pattern on my hubby’s handkerchief, which my son saw and said, “Wow, full of wi-fi!” Children seem to see things differently.

S: Perhaps this is evidence that there was wi-fi in those days.