August 25

the top 10 iPhone apps everyone should have

I’ve had my iPhone for a little over a year now, and over that time I’ve grown to love a few apps above all the rest. A few of these are obvious, but I’m sure there are a few you haven’t heard of. And the best part is, they’re all free! I think…

Words With Friends

While I realized I don’t actually have the patience to play this Scrabble-like game after a few months, it is still really well-made, and it is fun.

Audiobooks

Bored at work? Listen to The Anti-Federalist Papers on your iPhone, for free!

Google

How can you not love Googling something just by speaking it?

TweetDeck

If you’re a Twitterer, this is the way to go.

Facebook

Obvi.

YouTube

Yes, it comes with the phone. However, as a YT addict, I couldn’t just pass over this one.

QRANK

Recently found this quiz game and it’s a lot of fun. Similar to the trivia at B-Dubs, and you can play with friends.

Remote

Yes, I’m a lazy slob and I like changing my iTunes from my couch. Get over it.

Pandora

Targeted radio. The way of the future.

Shazam

Even I, the world’s third best programmer, will never understand how this one works. Music recognition? Magic.

August 8

the top 10 websites you may have never heard of, superlativized

  • someecards – most hilarious phrases you’ve never heard of
  • bandcamp – most bands you’ve never heard of
  • blogtalkradio – most radio shows you’ve never heard of
  • halfbakery – most ideas you’ve never heard of
  • liveleak – most important videos you’ve never heard of
  • best of craigslist – most awesome craigslist postings you’ve never heard of
  • ruminations – most random thoughts you’ve never heard of
  • deviantart – most amazing digital artists you’ve never heard of
  • woot – most random products for sale you’ve never heard of
  • infowars – most conspiracy theories you’ve never heard of
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August 2

What is art? vs What is GOOD art?

This post is a response to two videos by YouTube user PaulMcKeever which attempt to answer the basic questions “What is art?” and “What is GOOD art?“. PaulMcKeever is an objectivist/Ayn Rand apologist whom I generally agree with. The videos themselves are in response to YouTube user Luke12000, a young thinker whom I have followed for a while now and find very interesting. Let me preface this by acknowledging that I realize I’m a bit late to the ballgame as these videos are a few years old, but nevertheless, I was compelled to throw in my two cents, as this is a subject I have pondered before. Paul:

First, you attempt to answer the question “What is art?” by rejecting the premise that an object’s state of being art, or what I shall call “artness”, is subjective, and therefore you reject that “anything” is or can be art, subjectively – that is, you imply that “art” MUST be an objective subset of things in the real world. You compare this to the definition of an apple, and whether, if one also called a banana an “apple”, and then expanded the word “apple” to mean any number of things, the definition of the word “apple” would lose its meaning and therefore become meaningless. However, you fail to define the word “art” as you see or understand it. For the sake of clarity, I will use the definition of art as “the quality, production, expression, or realm, according to aesthetic principles, of what is beautiful, appealing, or of more than ordinary significance”. The fallacy with your argument, then, is that while an apple contains a certain, rather minimal, set of physical qualities that give it “appleness” – its shape, its texture, its color – “artness” is instead a fully subjective condition wherein the subset of qualities is entirely dependent upon the viewer, and may not fall between the lines of what is generally accepted as “art”. That is, one person may perceive a plastic bag caught in a tree as the most beautiful thing they have ever seen, and while others may find that odd, they are wrong to imply that the person is somehow incorrect for perceiving the state of the object or objects as art.

Now, in attempting to answer the question of GOOD art, you juxtapose subjectivism vs objectivism (vs intrinsicism, but I will omit that here due to relevance). You then launch into a diatribe about the correlation between metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, politics, and art, but the question of “what is good art?” is never answered. You then state that subjectivism is “entirely wrong”, after stating that subjectivism implies that “nobody’s art can be judged to be good or evil” – implying that art SHOULD be judged on the criteria of “good or evil”. Now, in an attempt to answer this question for you, I will again invoke your apple metaphor. We can judge whether an apple is a “good apple” because a good apple has utility. We can cut an apple open and generally perceive whether it is fit to be eaten, or whether it is rotten or not ripe or spoiled in some way. The utility of art, however, is again a subjective trait – an object has utility as art only if the viewer perceives it as such.

I think your method of analyzing both of these questions fails because you try to apply an ethical standard of subjectivism vs objectivism to a type of object which can be no more “ethical” than that which it represents in the real world. For example, a painting of an apple cannot objectively be ethical or unethical, at least within the generally accepted set of ethics, because an apple itself cannot be ethical or unethical – they are both NON-ethical (is there another word which describes the absence of ethics?) objects. A painting of a murder, though, can subjectively be ethical, unethical, OR non-ethical, depending on the viewer.

The only way in which we can even attempt to decide “What is GOOD art?” from an objective point of view is to determine the intent of the artist in its creation. If the intent was to illustrate a banana, but the painting clearly illustrates an apple, then it is BAD art – but ONLY from an objectivist standpoint. Some who look at a painting of an apple that is supposed to be an apple will think it is bad, and on the contrary, some who look at a painting of a banana that is supposed to be an apple will think it is good. Therefore, we reach the answer to the question “What is GOOD art?”, and it is the same answer to the questions “what is the best music?”, “what is the tastiest food?”, and “what is the prettiest color?” – the answer is SUBJECTIVE to one’s OPINION. Any attempt to classify art as “objectively” good or bad would be to arbitrarily impose one’s taste on others in an elitist fashion. Therefore, in a Rand Objectivist definition, I would submit that “good art” is that which one perceives as “art” and which makes one happy – subject only to the self.

July 25

the top 10 political movies list

10. The Count of Monte Cristo (2002)

man gets wrongly imprisoned for years, escapes, and gets his revenge.

9. Brazil (1985)

an agent of the state becomes an enemy of the state and “terrorist”. very grimy and chaotic.

8. Soylent Green (1973)

detective investigates a murder and discovers more than he bargained for.

7. Wag the Dog (1997)

a Presidential candidate creates a fake war to distract from his sex scandal.

6. Brave New World (1998)

society is conditioned to act in a controlled manner.

5. Equilibrium (2002)

similar to Fahrenheit 451, agents are dispatched to destroy all art… but why don’t they resist?

4. Nineteen Eighty-Four (1984)

a totalitarian state dictates life for its citizens.

3. Network (1976)

Howard Beale, a news anchor, crusades against news networks.

2. The Fountainhead (1949)

Howard Roark, an architect, stays true to his designs at his own risk.

1. V for Vendetta (2005)

“remember, remember, the fifth of November, the gunpowder, treason, and plot”… how can you not love a good Guy Fawkes day?

Honorable Mentions

Shenandoah (1965)

Minority Report (2002)

A Scanner Darkly (2006)

Fahrenheit 451 (1966)

most of the films referenced above are adaptations of novels. read those too.

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July 17

The Village: a metaphor

NOTE: this post contains spoilers about the M. Night Shyamalan movie “The Village”. If you have not yet seen this movie, I highly recommend that you watch it before reading further. Go watch now!

When I watched The Village about 5 years ago, I was pleasantly surprised and impressed, after some friends who had also watched it came out disappointed. At the time I took it for an interesting mystery/thriller with a classic Shyamalan twist, but upon watching again, I picked up on some interesting – perhaps unintentional – metaphors. According to IMDB, the plot is “The population of a small, isolated countryside village believe that their alliance with the mysterious creatures that inhabit the forest around them is coming to an end.” Allow me to explain.

The Village is actually an 1800s-era village on a present day nature preserve. The elders of The Village were once everyday members of the modern-day society, but because of evils they had experienced in the real world, banded together and agreed to start a new life with a vision of hope, peace, and purity. There is a catch, though: in order to preserve their new way of life, they must somehow hide the real world from their progeny. Their solution to this problem is to perpetrate antiquated myths that there are violent creatures in the woods around them, and that anyone who would venture into these woods would surely die and bring the creatures’ wrath upon them all.

The comparison between this plot and the actual modus operandi of governments throughout history is striking. This is a classic example of what is known as a false-flag attack; that is, the powers that be create a problem that threatens the peoples’ way of life, the people clamor for security in reaction, then the governors provide a solution that is beneficial to their means. Problem-Reaction-Solution, aka, The Hegelian Dialectic – a paradigm known since the days of Roman Emperor Diocletian, millenia ago.

There have been many instances of this throughout history, and an exponential amount of alleged occurrences in recent history. Adolf Hitler and the Reichstag Fire. The Stock Market Crash of 1929. Operation Northwoods. Oklahoma City. 7/7 London. 9/11? Many would say it’s one for the ages. But these are only a select few instances out of a litany over the ages. Many times they are used as pretexts for war or for stealing of civil liberties, and most of the time welcomed by the general populace as a response to perceived threats. Sometimes they are even “well-intentioned” under perverse, utilitarian ideologies – an unwelcome reminder of the elitist, “we know what’s best for you” creed of a majority of those in power. For an example of this type, look no further than our own US government’s intentional failure to protect our own border – as even Barack Obama himself has implied recently, it provides easy ammunition to carry into battles of ideological compromise.

The moral which I took away from the story is to always question your surroundings and the fundamental circumstances of things, because sometimes they are not exactly as they seem. The Village: a metaphor that should pique the interests of us all.

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