Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations

I am reading Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations at the moment. He had a rather Spartan outlook on life (to say the least), but his thinking is attractive nonetheless. I cannot say that it will change the way that I live my life, or that I feel compelled to live like a true stoic, but it does remind me to ignore the less important ephemera.

I should admit that I have come to this book from a brief reference in “The Silence of the Lambs” and the character in the movie “Gladiator”, rather than as a result of some learned classical education. I find the character in the second movie particularly amusing.

The final line of “Gladiator” is something along the lines of “What we do in life echoes in eternity.” I guess that the slave rebellion story and the early democracy were to flatter a modern western audience: the way we live now is similar to the way it was then. Transporting modern values to a previous age in fiction is at worst dishonest propaganda and at best boring; if I wanted to know about today, I could look out of my window.

I have not found much like that in Marcus Aurelius’ writing. The opposite is to be found in fact. He repeats over and over how the events and trials of our lives are insignificant compared to the eternities before and after our lives and how everything gets washed away in the flood.

A Hollywood movie that made that the central point of the plot might be interesting, but I doubt that the hardness of the Stoic philosophy would sell as well as schmaltz and being told that our current system of government is in some way universal and eternal.

The Howard Brothers in the Guardian

Some friends of mine (the Howard brothers of Brighton Wok fame) were interviewed for the Guardian:,,2259874,00.html

Interesting that the government should seek to levy a tax for education in this way.

In my chosen field (programming), anyone who’s anyone seems to take pride in being self-taught. Programming is very much this sort of skill. Although many programmers have degrees in computer science, they are of little use day to day (if ever) for a programmer, other than to convince someone to employ you.

As I’m self-employed, I don’t send people my CV very oftern, so I consider the three years that I spent at university to have been a complete waste of time and money. Wikipedia, working with people, selling software to clients and long hours at the command line and cursing IE is where I consider my education to have taken place.

If the government were to levy a tax on web programmers to train other programmers, I would be completely against it.

If you want to know how to do something, you should go ahead and do it.

If you want people to give you money, try to sell them something that is of value to them.

Maybe I should put down this cup of coffee and my dog eared copy of “Atlas Shrugged“.


Use of the word ‘porn’

Having just cleared the spam from my comments box, I have to admit that what counts for porn these days is pretty broad. Spamming blog comment boxes with links to porn sites is one thing. Links to insurance sites also makes sense. But I’ve just waded through 32 spam comments for “Gay Insurance Broker” porn. That’s a first!

People have started use the word porn in a new way. People talk of ‘torture porn’ to describe movies like ‘Saw’ and ‘Hostel’; ‘food porn’ for books by Andrea Camilieri; ‘lifestyle porn’ for movies like ‘A Good Year’. The implication is that the movie or book in question is otherwise devoid of artistic merit other than furnishing the viewer with a specific, targetted emotion.

Movies like ‘Atonement’ are harder to pin down. I sort of liked the movie. By the end of the movie, the theatre was filled with women bursting into tears. I kept asking myself: Does this movie serve any purpose other than to let people have a good cry? Is this catharsis porn? They even played ‘Au clair de la lune’. What does that say about our attitudes to veterans? That we can rehash their horrific experiences to unblock ourselves emotionally?

What elevates a movie or what-have-you above the level of porn? I would say humour. ‘Atonement’ did have some genuinely and excruciatingly funny parts. The episode with the letter was masterful. It was the only part of the movie that wasn’t shallow and manipulative of our emotions. Perhaps something can never be said to be ‘humour porn’ because humour is the one emotion that is always true. An artist can make you trick you into feeling fear, lust, hunger, jealousy or sadness. Something cannot be humourour and untruthful.

Why I am not a Jedi Knight

I’ve been working with the team behind Brighton Wok for some time now. It’s been very exciting and interesting seeing a feature length movie come together. Almost everybody involved in the movie is in their twenties and we’re all very passionate about almost every detail of the movie.

Cinema is changing very much at the moment. This evening, I watched Dark Resurrection, a Star Wars fan movie from Italy. The movie is being distributed to free on various file sharing networks and it can also be streamed from their site. I recommend the movie and am looking forward to watching the second part. The visual style of the movie was only vaguely similar to that of the original movies, which makes the series look fresher.


The story is of a young Jedi whose destiny is to fight an evil Sith lord and possibly turn to the dark side. Near the beginning of the movie, we see her training with her Jedi Master. She beats her teacher and knocks him to the ground. He admonishes her for using anger in order to win the fight. Talk about sore losers! Later, the Jedi master tells his student to control her fear as if fear of people who want to kill you with a red light sabre is a bad thing.

The master is mortally wounded by the Sith. The yound Jedi refuses to accept the death of her master and it appears that she turns to the dark side in order to resurrect him.

When the 2001 census was conducted, there was a lot of talk about the fact that the government asked us to say what our religion was. Word got around that if 10,000 or more people put down the same religion, that would become an official religion of the country and that “Jedi Knight” should be made into an official religion. For want of anything better to say, I went along with this. Now, I think that the Jedi religion would be a pretty crap way to live your life.

For a start, suppressing anger and fear must be a counter-productive tactic. If you feel angry, then you believe that something about your situation (e.g. someone’s behaviour) is somehow unacceptable. Your anger should disappear if the situation changes (the other person changes their behaviour or you learn something that changes the way that you understand the situation). Piously turning from anger achieves nothing.

Consider what would happen if we tried to suppress distrust in a similar way. If I don’t trust somebody, I would be a fool to say to myself: “Don’t give in to fear.” I should either get the person who I don’t trust to reassure me in some way or distance myself from that person.

Fear of anger and confrontation and avoiding them at all possible cost seem to be a common pathologies and very poor ways to deal with your problems. In economics, credit that is freely and easily given out can lead to growth. However, if it is too freely and too easily given out, you end up with a situation like the current sub-prime mortgage meltdown. Something similar happens in personal relationships when anger and confrontation are avoided. It seems reasonable at first to try to suppress your anger and get on with things. Eventually, there will be a painful “correction” (to use a term from markets) when one or both of the parties decides to act on their pent up aggression. Confrontation can be avoided if you give up and move away. Otherwise, it can only be delayed unless somebody decides to act creatively to resolve the conflict.