Friday, November 19, 2010

Technologies of the self

Very few times have I found a book to resonate so much that I have to share it even as I am reading it.
Technologies of the self is the collection of texts and an interview with Michel Foucault all compiled during his visit to Vermont university in the early 1980s. The snippets of wisdom are just too poignant to be left unshared. Here are the ones I have found so far and that are too large to twitter.

The twittered ones you will be able to find by tag #juanism

The political and social processes by which the Western European societies were put in order are not very apparent, have been forgotten, or have become habitual. They are part of our most familiar landscape, and we don't perceive them any more. But most of them once scandilised people [ or have now become scandalous]. It is one of my targets to show people that a lot of things that are part of their landscape - and that people think are universal- are the result of some very precise historical changes. All my analyses are against the idea of universal necessities in human existence. They show the arbitrariness of institutions and show which space of freedom we can still enjoy and how many changes can still be made. -- Michel Foucault.

As I was reading that the ban on smoking in public places, which started in the classroom, and the current debate about the TSAs back scatter scanner came to mind. Both topics are due to conscientious decisions taking in the current political and historical climate. And will introduce change in our lives and   perceptions so that when you now watch Les 400 coups made by François Truffaut in 1959 you cringe at the  teacher smoking in the class room.  What are the benefits and drawback of both alternatives are being assessed now, by us, but we are changing the world for future generations not giving them the chance to re-visit our decisions, nor our rationales. Will we need someone of the calibre of Foucault again in a few hundred  years to remove the blind folds we are putting on our grand kids. Do we really want to deprive them of control over their own lives? 

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Seven Sins: Gluttony

Everyone should now be entitled, in this day and age to their own opinion, and they own faith.
Anything short of that is just preventing the most basic sort of freedom which in a lot of places is taken for granted.

Everyone can think what they want about religion. And specially of the catholic one, that although its one of the most criticised it is still holding strong.

Without going into technical details of similarities between faiths, there is one common point.
Over eating is always bad.
Each faith deals with it in a specific manner, yet all faiths address it.
That fact makes me think that there must be a certain common element.

If all the religions agree on that one as much as they have fought each other over their differences, there must be some sort of truth there.
Now, truth is a big word that is really unwieldy for me to use. I do not believe there is one truth but that I will tackle after this series of articles.

In the mean time if the same idea has originated in several places or has been perceived as being valid through time, there must be something valid about that idea.

Take it as a proof by fact, the weakest kind of proof but still some sort of proof.
In the Qur'an it is mentioned that the stomach should be 1/3 full of food, another 1/3 full of water and the 1/3 full of air, in order for it to function properly, and not cloud the mind or feel drowsy.
Surely a banning on food during daylight, helps remember that one can go without food and besides the evident hardship one can still live. All of this helps put food into perspective, and that is a healthy exercise, for the mind, the body, and the soul.

The catholic religion makes over eating a deadly sin.
Back then it was not know that over eating would be dangerous, in the same way as it is now.
Now we know about cholesterol, high blood pressure and diabetes, which can lead to a long and painful death of the body. If we where to follow the catholic prescription that faith would also be of the soul.
So that would make an all you can eat restaurant technically as dangerous, as a brothel for the soul.

So why is this sin so present in multiple faiths, and why is it still so easy to fall into it.
It must have to do something with the hardware. With the way our brains are wired.

Enough By John Naish offers a simple yet very well backed up explanation as to why this is.
Our brains where developed in times of scarcity, so now in times of plenty they have trouble adapting.
Religions jumped in to help evolve the brain further, to develop mechanisms in the brain that help control what is going on in our primal brains. The problem is that all of that got shifted out as faith and integral inner life became out of fashion.

As producing became more important than living. As time became a commodity and not just something we inhabit. Our modern society has reverted back, thought with a technological difference, to tap into our basic more archaic brain. This is done through evolved symbols but that is just the encoding of them.
The core message is still the same, go alpha. Become the top monkey in the heard by working more, consuming more and eating more.

Out of all the excesses the first one that got pruned from our current role models was over-eating.
Yet is it really done for the good reasons. To help you illustrate this here is a little example.

If you do not have dessert, is it because:

  1. Do not want to end up with your arteries clogged?
  2. Do not want to run an extra mile at the Gym?
  3. Do not want your mother(-in-law) to tell you you are fat?
  4. Do not have more money?
  5. Don't feel like it?

Which is the motivation to go without dessert will make it easier for you to accept better the outcome.Easier to accept also means it will be easier for you to share your motivation.The sort of exercise that focuses on changing the motivation, is seldom practised. Just the behaviour is looked at, but that is just for show, just for the others. The motivation is what really has to change to overcome the temptation. That sort of mechanism, is not even practised as part of religions in the western world.
The relationship to food which sets the basis for gluttony being a sin, can also be extended to the whole of our consumption. Only back in the day when all this ideas where developed consumption was only associated with food, but not the the rest of all the other material goods that we can now enjoy the possession off.

The same way we relate to our food we relate to our planet, and that is what pushes us to deplete it because we never learned to have enough, and the few mechanisms which where developed to helps us evolve that, have been bypassed through the use of more high level symbols conveyed to us through advertisement and the media.

So it is in a sorry state of affairs, that we have to look at all of our intake, specially the spiritual one, in order to make sure that we consume what we should and not more.That means in other terms aiming for quality and not quantity, and this applied also to our thoughts.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Seven Sins: Wrath

With the current airspace situation in central Europe. Lots of people being stranded all over the place. Web pages and call centers of the airlines being saturated, it is hard not to lend one self to the sin of Wrath.

Since a friend of mine, or rather two of them where getting married together, and the Monday before it was San Vicent, big party in my fathers town. I decided to pay a visit, my girlfriend was not impressed by the fact that I was heading south alone. She had work to tend to, specially a whole course to look after. Domestic matters aside, she generally does not handle well me being away. Life is made in such a way. So I flew to Spain after spending the Saturday in Amsterdam and attending a concert of Explosions in the Sky, until then all good of course.

The Monday was the party day, if any one has attended a daytime party in my region it usually starts by having brunch at around 9:30. It is not really a brunch its more like eat a nice sandwich so that you have something in the stomach, because you will need it. Then its drugs and rock and roll all day. So from one beer to the next, with only a gin & tonic after the compulsory paella. You eat you drink you talk, you smoke. You try to enjoy the weather, and then you forget about anything that is outside of what is in your line of sight. Life scales down in complexity, and all you care about is the next sip of beer or the conversation you are involved.

Well this years San Vicent was rainy, so in the evening we took refuge in a bar. El Raco del Pou
well know for its underground ambiance, and its amateur and semi pro flamenco jams.

Did I mention my girlfriend as part of the whole description of the day, no. So that was the first instance of Wrath, since I did not even send a message. I will not justify my-self. Suffice it to say for now that men are from Mars and women are from Venus.

So after that I went on enjoying my holidays as my beloved girlfriend was undergoing pain and agony at work. Busy schedule plus trips plus me not being there. Yes I can be an insensitive clod and that creates Wrath understandably. The rest of the week was spent going out at night, sleeping by day and doing all sorts of things like writing the previous seven sins article in this series.

On Thursday it was deemed by the air space authorities that flying over Europe was to dangerous due to the ash being spewed out from Eyjafjallajoekull, an Icelandic volcano, with a name I can not pronounce.

On Thursday night I managed to be home and brought up with my parents the uneasy topic of the guest list for our wedding. It was also the only night I was available to Skype, so I had to interrupt the conversation with my parents to talk with my better half. Then Wrath spewed out from me as I grew tired of listening to everyone tell me the same thing: Invite who you want for your wedding, yet all of them where having an opinion on who should or should not make it to my side of the list. I think something resonated inside the from my friend Eyjafjallajoekull and I just went all out. Wrath in its purest form turns you into a jackal and everything spews out, in all directions, in all matters. On my parents side it was a sincere lack of commitment, and they where not ready for that discussion. On my girlfriends side it must have been the frustration of me having delayed the making of the list, plus the guarding off any over influence of my parents on the list. I felt trapped in the middle of it and like the magma in the volcano it all came out.

Is there some sort of geological connection, that makes me be in sync with a volcano?

The matter got resolved as my girlfriend understood that I was obviously out of patience with the whole situation, and was very conciliating. She managed to put out the flames, well the ashes are still up in the air.

The day after Friday, I tried to keep in touch, through some small messages, and got it all obviously wrong. I also managed to catch up with an old friend. He now runs the kitchen in one of the most luxurious restaurants of the region. It was good to see him again, and to know that he is doing well. The afternoon was just time for a coffee with a friend and home to diagnose my fathers computer. After that I went out with my cousin and all his friends, nice bunch of people, it was nice for once being out on a budget. Under the current economic situation, people find ways of going out on the cheap. I mean if half of your friends are unemployed you share the drinks by the bottle, and just grab a sandwich, if you do not bring one from home.
Wrath is no longer present in the people, the situation has been accepted, and not much else happens, people adapt and that is it.

Saturday was the wedding, but before that a quick trip to the local mall to get the spare parts that where necessary. Then the ceremony, and the party, all good fun until late. Decided to behave and not carry on in the local disco the party at 5 am. Went to bed expecting the mother of all hangovers, but it was simply not there.

No morning wrath, just being woken up by my girlfriend that even phoned the house asking me to check what was the status of my flight. Phoned the company, checked the web page of the airline, even pried into eurocontrols' web site to see what the situation was. My flight was still being operated until 22:30 on Sunday. Then a single sms and an email warned that it had been cancelled. The stage was set, the fear became the truth and I was officially stranded. At that stage, we got in touch, and I then tried to get in touch with the airline but to no avail.

We spoke 5 minutes later and decided that the best course of action was to take a bus. My hemorrhoids will remember the trip for a while. They are pulsating with the anticipation of being noticed for those 20 hours, and the few days after. I will have to endure hemorrhoid wrath, is that the worse kind of wrath?

At that moment all was flowing fine amongst the turmoil there was a solution. One that would take some time to be implemented but solved nevertheless. The wrath was subdued, or so did I think, until the next morning. Then when contacting the university where I work, the secretary told that perhaps I should try to get back home by train, good thinking to try and mitigate both kinds of Wrath, hemorrhoid, and girlfriend one. No luck as expected, all trains being fully booked. The situation was helpless, but the back up plan is there, and active.

Then on Monday night there where two outburst of wrath, one when I phoned to check on the day, as I was obviously not welcome in her mental state at the time, and the second after the news broke the AMS was reopening for restricted flights. A few minutes later I check again with the airline but to no avail. The helplessness of the situation on my side is mirrored by an ever growing Wrath, being fueled most likely by divine motherly intervention.

The worse of the whole situation, is that Wrath when taken as a pastime for the soul prevents all other parts to function correctly. The battles have to be picked, and fighting a volcano does not seem to be one that is easily won. I prefer to battle the Wrath that is present in me against the situation, and to make the most of it. To do otherwise would be to force oneself to be unhappy out of own choice. That is something I decided to give up a long time ago.

Wrath is indeed a sin, because it makes us and the others around us unhappy. There is a brief period of time between perception to action. Filtering and reacting there out of our own agreement, is hard at best. For all the times I have failed to do so accordingly I ask to be forgiven. For the others I will not hold it against.

It is indeed ironic that it takes a volcano for us to learn such lessons, and a life time to apply the knowledge.

Eyjafjallajoekull we will remember you, for a long time.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Seven Sins: Pride

A cultural sponge that bathes itself on many different fluids can not help itself from absorving every culture that it gets in touch with.
When submerged if squized to make room for the new environment new things will be be brought to its attention.

A bit late after holy week and since that is one of my oldest fluids, lets examine in turn each one of the 7 deadly sins.
At the end of the day Kieślowski did the 10 commandments, he was far more of a catholic than I am.


As I try to make a habit I take a trip to my fathers home town around Easter.
Traditionally its one of the most important dates of the christian callendar, it also is when the weather gets better.
In Valencia, my first region, the smell of the air with the orange blossom is just magic, and just one week after easter, there is the day of San Vicent, or Saint Vincent if we insist in translating.
His life and works may make for an interesting piece, later on but lets not diverge.

As part of this trip I persevered with another old habit that I had given up on, going to church with my parents.
My spirituality has been a bit of a roller-coaster in the last few months, but I have recently decided that intellectual honesty is more important.
Since I happened to become briefly in touch with Nietzche, my outlook on religion has not been the same.
I have to confess many sins to him, the first of all is my liking for beer, but I dare to mention him as a core reference in what intellectual honesty is.
The man, not without his flaws, did dive at depths of what was the establishment at his time and tore down a whole chunk of what was the predominant culture.
It is a pitty is not better understood by most people.

Going back to my little church visit.
I found myself in the same church where I took my holy comunion for the first time, with much changed in terms of decoration.
Such as archangels carying the shield of the town.
And listening to the Gospel of Saint Mark in which after Jesus has resureected and appears to the disciples, there is Thomas which is left without seeing him.
All the other disciples tell him what they saw, and Thomas, clearly states that he needs to see for himslef.
Thomas could have been a scientist, and I am thankful for his presence in the scriptures, but not for the use and interpretation of this account by the priest of my fathers town.

Thomas refused to believe without seeing, was depicted as a restricted man, as one that can not comprehend from the account of the other disciples that Jesus is God re-incarnate and is alive.
Well sorry, all the others did see him, and hence they believed. Why could Thomas not ask for the same chance, which is, to have access to your own facts.
When data or information is transmitted, we all are aware that certain channels can deform and twist the content of that data.
Knowing ourseleves the channel we trust the least are other people, so when information comes from other people we look and who and what they are saying with the same care that we would look at a scientific instrument.
Now, that is not being restricted, that is just being curious and aware of ones situation is.
So the person that thinks and wants to know is punished, if surrounded by morons.
Hold on to that thougth.

Of course if we all demanded, now more than 2000 years later, to see the proof of resurection the church would have a problem.
Since that proof is long gone.
Also looking for such proof started in the middle age one of the most cruel virulent and mindless periods of the Western civilasation.
Lets just not go there again, there is enough trouble in the middle east.

My fathers town priest, followed then on one knotch further, and there is where I was having serious trouble paying credit to my ears.
Not only was Thomas restricted in his brain cpacity, as we where all for not believing without seeing, but it was our pride that prevented us from embracing the mistery that was presented to us.

This is where I want to kill. Not in the literary sense of the term of course, in the figurative one.

So first having access to your own facts is something that derives from being restricted, from wanting to know more about something and make your own decision, and then as if that was not bad enough pride is the deadly sin that takes us there.

Well I must certainly be on my way to a slow and painful afterlife.

If this way of thinking and operating which goes against the teachings of the church itself.
I mean, Are we not supossed to use all of our tallents?
If my talent is to be an iquisitive idiot, I will be a bit less of an idiot after a while, if people let me of course.

The worst part of it all is when the meme gets extended to the rest of the society.
A friend of a friend has recently joined one of the local news papers, she has a lot of experience in communication and has even run her own communications company in the past.
She now finds herslef being employed by a absolute group of morons that consider her to be unworthy the information that she requires to do her job.

Believe without seeing, work without knowing, and what ever happens make sure that that pride of yours stays well down otherwise you will have a serious problem, you will roast in hell, or even spend time in the purgatory of unemployment before you make it there.

It was one of my principles, to always do your work well, and as part of that to take pride in what you do.
Now if pride is a bad thing things get started on a slow lippery slope of not doing a thing, of not caring, and of having whole countries grind to a halt.
I believe that is call Sloth, and is also a deadly sin.
I refuse for that to happen, or at least for that to happen to me, that is why I stay out of my country, that is why I exile myself, because I am a siner, and the first of the sins I confess is pride.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Boominizer 2 a Modern Day Ascii Tale

Dolphin submariners hack their radar in order to see some porn, since the screen is in monochrome the only kind of porn they can play is ascii porn. From there on a lot of things go wrong.

What happened to them and who will be able to help them?

Boominizer 2 is the opera prima of Kevin Sandom, self confessed geek that on the back of his hacking blog funny hacks has decided to release his first short film. Like in recent cinematographic ventures like Schrek and Ice Age  Kevin cuts out one part of the cinematographic equation by having a cast completely conformed of cuddly beings.

That way of working may make for a smoothly run filming schedule, but I am not to sure it will be trouble free. Smiles, that guy looks like a party animal no matter what. One that was very present in the happy house scene.

Smiles playing Eric looks a former drug from the happy house scene.

The filming style is quite unique due to the impressive green screen work.  In absolute Kubrick style the attention to detail is impressive. The scenes flow as the story line unfolds in classical 80s film style. Karate kid was trained like a sissy girl compared to the training Jody has to undergo before embarking on her dangerous mission.

Looks cuddly, but she means business.

Will Jody prevent more trouble in the planet before other people get hurt like the submariners?

Well, this does not have a spoiler alert so as such contains no spoilers. So go quickly to and watch and or download the film.

Pass it on, its so cuddly its un-rateable. Guaranteed family entertainment. There is also a version which mentions ascii art if you want to watch it with a sensitive audience.

Don't forget to vote. Kevin is asking his audience to decide what the next film would be the prequel or the sequel. 

You choose, but this is what creative commons enables and the new web cinema has to offer at its best.