Essays

Voting as a Symbol

Summary: Arguments often end up unresolved when one side values rational outcomes but the other is more interested in social signaling. This issue commonly arises when discussing whether individual Americans should vote in presidential elections. In a narrow, rational sense, most individual votes have no effect on the outcome, rendering voting a pointless activity, – but through the lens of social signaling, it might make sense.   At a dinner party some nights ago, I found myself in an Read more…

Snippets

¿No estoy yo aquí que soy tu madre?

Guadalajara, Mexico; Mexico City, Mexico; I’ve become recently more and more impressed with Catholicism’s ability to localize itself as it has spread to different countries around the world over the past two millennia. In few places is this better on display than with Mexico’s obsession with the “Virgin Mary.” The Virgin Mary is the mother of Jesus Christ, the central figure of christian religions. Because Jesus is said to be the son of God, the story Read more…

Essays

Surviving the Hedonic Treadmill

Summary: In a rapidly changing world, it is easy to get disoriented or disillusioned about the state of progress. As humans, it is far easier to make judgements relative than objective ones, so a value judgement about the present state of the world is highly influenced by what you compare it to. Those that spend time thinking about how to improve the world feel distraught at the current reality.On the other hand, those who spend a Read more…

Reflections

Market Segment: Pieces of Shit

  Hong Kong At the moment, I’m sitting on a curb in Hong Kong eating a McDonalds “signature” crispy chicken jalepeño burger. See, last night I stayed up late in my apartment all alone drinking cheap scotch and arguing with people on Facebook. This morning, I woke up hung over and passed up the nice Korean restaurant with open seats and went to the super crowded McDonald’s instead. See, when I’m feeling like a piece Read more…

Snippets

Brand Run-off

Ubud, Bali, Indonesia; Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. I think it could be argued that the US still leads the world in branding. Those that come from the world of marketing communications, advertising, and design obsess over the stories behind brands pushing them further and further into the philosophical realms to capture as much brain-space as possible. In this way, the market has transformed over the past century or so from simple logos and explanations of products to mythological archetypes Read more…

Essays

Magic Circles II: Deviations

At their best, magic circles help us ground ourselves, learn new skills, give us meaning and purpose in life, and experience moments of rapture and ecstasy. Times frequently occur, however, when the members of a group challenge the fundamental structure of a magic circle. Depending on the formality of the circle, this can take some interesting and dynamic forms. We should always remember that while a magic circle is created within the minds of its Read more…

Essays

Magic Circles I

Some argue that the divine quality of humans – the thing that sets us apart from mere animals – is our ability to process abstract thoughts and share them through abstract communication. To this end, one of the most important games we play with one another is the magic circle. A magic circle is a physical and/or temporal space where a set of implicit rules are agreed upon by members of the circle. Within the Read more…

Reflections

disgust.

An early morning in Tokyo, a peaceful forest outside of Portland, a sunny day on El Tunco beach, a quiet village in the Dominican Republic, a bustling market in, Mexico City, a bike ride outside Hanoi.     The impetus for these thoughts came on a rather haphazardly-arranged day-tour I took with a friend in northern Vietnam. The last planned activity for the day was a short bike ride through the countryside around the little town we were in before filing Read more…

Reflections

Stylish Histories

Taipei, Taiwan   On a work trip to Amsterdam I found a book, Amsterdam, A History of the World’s Most Liberal City, by Russell Shorto, laying on the kitchen table for us in the AirBnB houseboat that a coworker and I were staying in. I have a tendency to get overwhelmed by human contact on trips, so sneaking out at 6am to drink coffee alone and read this newfound treasure kept my sanity. When the trip Read more…

Reflections

Forbidden Lands.

Havana, Cuba Americans get a special treat in Cuba that the rest of the world doesn’t get to enjoy: for us – at least, at the time of this writing – it is a forbidden land. It is a constructed limbo for us. Can we go in? In the gray area built of myths perpetuated by both sides an answer is left unspoken – in the void a simple nod and a wink. The Cuban myth Read more…