There is no pie

I reject the notion that our beliefs are beyond critique. I firmly believe, of course, that we all should be free to believe whatever we want. But why do we believe it? Are we correct to believe it? Does believing in it help or hurt our own lives and the lives around us?

Religion is in the realm of the unprovable. We can generally prove that certain prominent historical figures really did exist, but we can’t prove miracles or divinity or other religious doctrine such as the resurrection or the parting of the Red Sea. People of faith see faith (in this sense, meaning believing the unprovable as an act of devotion) as a Good Thing™. Within the conceptual or physical walls of their religion, that’s fine. But when it becomes part of a secular, civic debate, it is untenable. Most religious people realize they can’t expect the rest of the world to legislate their belief system. Neither can atheist neo-buddhists like myself. Society requires compromise to function.

Politics is not the realm of the unprovable. Like astronomy, you can’t set up experiments and run them over and over but you can observe “experiments” in progress and “science the shit” out of them to figure out correlations, theories and best practices for a given outcome. Politics is what we call it when we combine our resources and our talents and try to solve problems together. We can’t solve all problems so we work on things that affect us all. We disagree about tactics and even strategies but in theory, when it comes to American politics, we have the same goal: we want to live in a free, fair, prosperous and peaceful country (and world).

Thus, when it comes to things like taxes, the environment, Syria, Russia, jobs, minimum wage, health care and other things you think are important, we can’t think of it like a football game. There is no “our team” and “their team”. There is only one team. You don’t get points for getting your way and being wrong. When we do things like elect the next President of the United States, we should think of it like we own a company and are hiring a CEO. That is to say, it is imperative we make the right choice! Working against each other is cutting off our nose to beat our face.

When arbitrary opinions become off-the-table for discussion, as if they were religion, and facts are dismissed as subjective (and in this case I mean actual facts like “Hillary Clinton was Secretary of State”), we’ve lost the ability to agree on things. The two teams playing Monday Night Football can’t agree to call it a tie and go have a beer instead of playing the game. Competition doesn’t allow for agreement. When we turn a job interview into a contest, we do a worse job. When we consider our opinions to be above scrutiny, we ensure that we are wrong.

In the 2016 Presidential election what “fooled” the media and some on the Left was that we assumed rationale was going to be part of the calculus. There is no rationale that can justify choosing a xenophobic, misogynistic, narcissist, rich, white liar over the most qualified person we’ve seen for President in our lifetimes. This woman-hating culture is the same one that hated gays until it became untenable to do so. They also hate(d) blacks, latinos, immigrants and intellectual longhairs like myself. The aren’t trying to help pick the best person, they are trying to get a little bigger piece of the pie by pushing others away from the table.

First of all, there is no pie. There is a mistaken notion that there is some gravy train that everyone is on except ourselves. That is false. No extra money will be heading towards Trump voters as a result of their vote. Being logical and compassionate towards immigrants (for example) does not take money out of the pocket of your average American. Far more damaging is The Big Short -style theft that goes on daily due to the “less regulation” that people unjustifiably say we need.

Competition is a great model if you can afford to have winners and losers. When you want everyone to win you need to cooperate. In the case of elections for public office, all that means is honest debate of the issues, awareness of data and its implications and a willingness to leave open in your thinking that you still have things you can learn.

I will never understand how intelligent people could make the choice they made. My only theory is that they were trying to “win”. They wanted payback for 8 years with President Obama. They forgot that George W. Bush left the economy in free fall, that the worst recession since the Great Depression was handed to Obama on his first day and he fixed it! He fixed the economy, reduced unemployment, paid down the debt and got us out of the disastrous foreign policy mistakes that Bush made. He also got rid of health insurance denials for pre-existing conditions, among other necessary things in the Affordable Care Act. And the Right wanted payback for that.

The American people betrayed themselves on November 8th, 2016 and we will all pay the price for it. When you consider your opinions to be unassailable religious doctrine you make shitty decisions. It’s time to put religion and politics back on the list of things we talk about!

There is no pie

Pornography

We are hearing more discussion about pornography lately in the media. Discussion is always a Good Thing™ and I personally think we don’t talk about sex enough in an open, honest and healthy way. I’ve been listening to the SmartSex podcast and the Foreplay podcast lately and they are definitely creating positive discussions and I recommend them both.

I hear a lot of good insights on the subject of pornography but I also keep hearing some that are more simplistic than is useful or plain wrong. They are:

  1. Life imitates pornography. This is not true. It’s just like watching normal movies – you can watch people shooting at each other and never once think you should go out and shoot someone. I don’t think porn causes people to, for example, cum on each other’s faces. Porn is arguably an art form, like cinema, and as such it is understood that is it not depicting reality. It is depicting fantasy. The people participating in it are actors. It is highly contrived and has very little in common with reality. We know this.
  2. Pornography is not sex ed. This is true to some extent but, again, see #1. I doubt that young people who are getting interested in sex see porn as a how-to manual. On the other hand, I have personally learned things from porn. I had never been given the privilege of having sex with an actual women when I discovered porn and I did learn about their bodies, to some extent, from porn. While a lot of what goes on in porn is extreme and unrealistic in terms of normal human behavior, there is also a lot of porn that is just consensual men and/or women having normal sex. This sort of erotica predates photography and probably predates recorded history.
  3. Pornography is causing problems in relationships. I’m sure this is true in some cases and the opposite of true in other cases. But I reject the notion that porn causes people (specifically men, in most conversations) to be desensitized such that they can no longer be aroused through normal sex with their partner. It is more likely, in my opinion, that men are expending their sexual energy on porn because they don’t know when their spouse will be willing and able. With men, as is well known, there is a recovery period necessary between sexual activities resulting in happy endings. Bad timing, especially if a couple is not open about masturbation, could seem like an inability to be aroused.
  4. Porn makes us judge our partners more harshly. Some think that the idealized nature of porn means that they will seem unattractive by comparison. They also feel like there are new expectations to do more things, hornier things or weird positions. Or that they must now pretend to enjoy having their partner cum on their face. I don’t believe any of this is true. Speaking for myself and most men  and women I know, we have better sex than the people in pornography because we are in love with our partners. There is no dissatisfaction in my brain when I am with my lover. I think porn probably makes most men (speaking as a man) desire their partner more.

I do not pretend there is no downside in porn. Women are overly sexualized by society in general and harmed by men at a rate that is shocking and horrifying. These travesties have been problems before the Internet and before modern pornography. Using pornography as a scapegoat for criminally-minded misogyny won’t solve anything.

People are interested in sex. This is a fact. Pornography augments the sex lives of a majority of people in this country. This is also a fact. Any deep societal flaws that come from porn ultimately come from all of us, not just from pornographers.

 

 

 

Pornography

Ingrid Michaelson

I was recently on Minnesota Public Radio as part of a roundtable discussing music and how listening to it has changed over the years. It was hosted by the awesome and brilliant Kerri Miller and my co-roundtablers were singer/songwriter Chastity Brown and gospel singer, Jovonta Patton. I was really impressed with both Chastity and Jovonta. They had great insights into the music they love and were very open-minded during the conversation.

MPR had asked us to bring in 2 songs each and there was virtually no constraints as to what we brought in or why. It was overwhelming to try to think of the 2 most important songs in my life so instead I bookended my life with a song from Kiss : Destroyer, the first record I had ever bought and a song from Ingrid Michaelson, the latest record I’ve purchased.

Kiss wrote a few good rock and roll songs and there is no question they influenced the music business. But musically they are certainly not in my Top 10.

The other song I played was Hell No by Ingrid Michaelson. This was the first single from her latest record (as of this writing) It Doesn’t Have To Make Sense.

Musically speaking I adore Ingrid Michaelson. She is an incredible songwriter and perfect singer. Some of my favorites songs are Sort Of, Turn To Stone, Over You, Time Machine, Hell No, Keep Breathing, Do It Now and Soldier.

Kerri Miller wasn’t too impressed with either of my songs, which I thought made good radio. (But what do I know? Nothing.) I have been meaning to point out to Kerri that Ingrid has much more compelling songs, even though I am a big fan of Hell No. I think Sort Of is one of the most simple, amazing and well-crafted songs ever. But her catalog is diverse  and I hope you check her out.

I used to work for Prince. I’ve met famous people. I’m not scared of famous people. But I’ve also learned part of what we feel as fans is infatuation. Prince hated the word “fan” because it comes from the word “fanatic”, which is generally not used affectionately. The sense that an artist is a soul mate is not real, just like that mushy feeling you get when you watch romantic comedies is not real. While I’m 100% convinced that Ingrid Michaelson and I would be best friends (and just a reminder, Ms. Michaelson, I am happily married), that’s not the relationship we have. I’m cool with that. The dark side of “fandom” is you start to put expectations on an artist. You want them to look a certain way or not change in certain ways but do change in others. It hurts us, the listeners and fans of musicians, when we no longer accept and admire but start to demand things.

So shine on you crazy diamond. We’ll be listening.

PS – I have a couple of lyric corrections for you. In Sort Of clearly you meant to say “the truth entails” and in Into You you meant to say “just a girl in a tomb”.

PSS – I apologize for the above PS.

 

Ingrid Michaelson

The Lolife Podcast No. 79: Repeal the 2nd Amendment

In the wake of the Orlando mass murder, a crime enabled by the murderer’s legal purchase of an AR-15, high-capacity clips and ammunition, we would be idiotic not to debate what we should do, as a nation, to prevent future mass murders with guns.

In this podcast I explore the idea that the 2nd Amendment to the US Constitution is no longer relevant and in fact creates a fictional rallying cry for people who think that guns offer protection. In fact, guns are a hazard that kill more people in the US than automobiles. The world of automobiles is highly regulated. The world of guns is less regulated than Sudafed™. This is due to a culture that ignores the realities of 21st century America and puts fictional hero scenarios above the reality that accidents, suicides and homicides are a thousand times more common than life-saving actions by armed citizenry.

A post-2nd Amendment world could still allow for hunters, target shooters, collectors and people who truly require personal protection to have guns. We would simply restrict gun ownership to people who demonstrate they are responsible, trained and have the aptitude and background to own, handle and store guns safely. We would only “take guns away” from people who cannot demonstrate these attributes. Law-abiding gun owners should have no problem with a highly regulated gun market and should agree with the goal of reducing the availability of guns to people without the training and aptitude we collectively require.

The notion that you can defend yourself against the US Government is demonstrably false. The notion that guns protect you is false. The people you love are the most likely victims of the gun you own, through accidents, suicide, domestic violence and homicide. The least likely thing your gun will do is protect you.

Can we put away the failed strategies of inaction and rhetoric? Let’s look at the facts and meaningfully address a senseless hazard made ubiquitous by a bankrupt ideology of the Old West.

Listen now: No. 79: Repeal the 2nd Amendment

More podcasts: The Lolife Podcast

 

The Lolife Podcast No. 79: Repeal the 2nd Amendment

Songs and Sounds

I’m not sure what the best way is to share music these days…

You can find my band from a previous life raintribe and our record Ancient Spacemen on iTunes.  CD Baby also has our little known 2nd record chantmoansingwhisperscream. I put new song ideas up on Soundcloud sometimes, such as my new one Another Day Without YouWhen I record  songs I am sometimes thinking about who  I wish would record it. I wrote Goodbye thinking of Taylor Swift, for some reason. Another Day Without You I was thinking about Ingrid Michaelson, whom I adore, musically speaking.

I produced, recorded and mixed 3 records with Tea and Sympathy and I still play guitar with them occasionally in Minneapolis. All of their records are fantastic, in my opinion, and Alicia Corbett is a Minneapolis treasure. You can find the latest release, Things Like This on iTunes.

Cheers,

M.

Songs and Sounds

Google Keeps Innovating

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Google released some major computational capabilities today:

Google takes Cloud Machine Learning service mainstream

This is truly cutting-edge technology that brings the power of “the cloud” to our fingertips in ways it was hard to even imagine a score ago. Have you seen, for example, the Google Translate app? You can put it in camera mode and it will instantly translate any text in range of the camera, in real-time. All of the processing power is “in the cloud” meaning it is layered, scalable and distributed physically and geographically. Until we get a few orders of magnitude better with handheld technology, you can’t expect your smartphone to crunch these kinds of numbers. This is one example of one application of the huge investment Google has made in the Google Cloud Platform. I’m a big fan of Wolfram Alpha. I think it is one of the greatest computer accomplishments ever. But this stuff is close. Google keeps delivering.

It’s hard not to see Google’s business model looming behind things these days but that is ultimately a Good Thing™. Some of their work is released as open source and most of it is available for developers to tinker with for free. They should be getting paid for their innovation when it is leverage by for-profit developers. I hope they keep access available for tinkerers and social data warriors.

What do you think?

Google Keeps Innovating