September 09, 2011


Salon: You’ve also referred to your beat as the “Death of the American Dream.” That was the ostensible subject of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Has it just sort of been on its deathbed since 1968?

HST: I think that’s right.

Salon: A lot of people would argue with you about that anyway, and believe that the American Dream is alive and well.

HST: They need to take a better look around.

Salon: But in a way, haven’t you lived the American Dream?

HST: Goddammit! [pause]. I haven’t thought about it that way. I suppose you could say that in a certain way I have.

August 11, 2011

The trouble with commitment

whistler - nocturne in black and gold [click image for huge]
Many investors will not sell anything at a loss because they don't want to give up the hope of making their money back. Meanwhile, they could be making money somewhere else.

July 29, 2011

Scale invariance and self-similarity

When you get closer to people who are willing and able to open up they become more interesting and attractive, like zooming in on a fractal.

Of course, some people are going to be horrors nearly all the way in, and some can only talk, and lack the self-knowledge or experience to be open about anything of interest.

Zoom in on me and more often than not you'll get a flat, monochrome surface. Which is OK, but I ought to ask more questions of others and then listen to their answers.

Related post: Love as an emergent behavior

July 28, 2011

Brian Wilson, 1976

Brian Wilson: Yeah, I had a problem taking drugs. Up until four months ago I was taking a lot of cocaine. And these doctors came in and showed me a way to stop doing it, which is having bodyguards with you all the time so you can’t get to it....Do you take drugs yourself?

David Felton: Yeah, I experiment.

BW: Do ya? Do ya snort?

DF: Sure.

BW: That’s what I thought. Do you have any with ya?

DF: No.

BW: That’s the problem. Do you have any uppers?

DF: I have nothin’ on me.

BW: Nothing? Not a thing, no uppers?

DF: I wouldn’t lie to you. I wish I had ’em, but I don’t.

BW: Do you have any at home? Do you know where you can get some?

DF: See, now I guess you gotta get to the point in the program where you’re not going to ask me questions like that.

BW: That’s right. You just saw my weakness coming out. Which I don’t understand.

Rolling Stone interview with Brian Wilson, 1976 [book]

July 20, 2011

No comment, II

GQ: You mean that you're an artist who is very faithful to the text.

Hackman: Well, that's where the clue is to any creative process, to be able to figure out what is already there. Not to try to embellish.

July 19, 2011

The third person effect

The third-person effect hypothesis states that a person exposed to a persuasive communication in the mass media sees it as having a greater effect on others than on himself or herself (Davison, 1983). This is known as the perceptual hypothesis, but there is also a behavioral hypothesis predicting that perceiving others as more vulnerable increases support for restrictions on mass media.

July 18, 2011

Doctors are different

From an application to medical school that I'm editing:
I am currently learning an array of laboratory skills in both cell culturing and in animal modeling. Of these, I enjoy animal modeling the most, as it enables me to cultivate the manual dexterity and finesse required for surgery. Moreover, through hard-work and practice, I have learned to flawlessly induce strokes in rats by occluding their middle cerebral arteries.

July 16, 2011

Experience is the only process that can de-alienate information*

Philip Larkin - A Study Of Reading Habits
When getting my nose in a book
Cured most things short of school,
It was worth ruining my eyes
To know I could still keep cool,
And deal out the old right hook
To dirty dogs twice my size.

Later, with inch-thick specs,
Evil was just my lark:
Me and my coat and fangs
Had ripping times in the dark.
The women I clubbed with sex!
I broke them up like meringues.

Don't read much now: the dude
Who lets the girl down before
The hero arrives, the chap
Who's yellow and keeps the store
Seem far too familiar. Get stewed:
Books are a load of crap.
*Jaron Lanier, You are not a Gadget: A Manifesto

July 15, 2011

Going all Cosmo on you

“People have a fundamental motivation to improve the self and add to who they are as a person,” Dr. Lewandowski says. “If your partner is helping you become a better person, you become happier and more satisfied in the relationship.”
Article on sustainable relationships in the NYTimes that focuses on couples, but seems to work for all kinds

July 14, 2011

Nobody is going to read any advertising copy if he is what the Reichians call orgastically potent

The masters, whether they be priests or kings or capitalists, when they want to exploit you, the first thing they have to do is demoralize you, and they demoralize you very simply by kicking you in the nuts. This is how it’s done. Nobody is going to read any advertising copy if he is what the Reichians call orgastically potent. This is a principle of the advertising copy writer, that he must stir up discontent in the family. Modern American advertising is aimed at the woman, who is, if not always the buyer at least the pesterer, and it is designed to create sexual discontent.
... with the adult, the young married couple, which is the object of almost all advertising, the copy is pitched to stir up insatiable sexual discontent. It provides pictures of women who never existed. A guy gets in bed with his wife and she isn’t like that and so he is discontented all the time and is therefore fit material for exploitation.
The Social Lie - An interview with Kenneth Rexroth

The outstanding characteristic of the mystic’s vision is that it is satisfying

Genuine revolt goes with an all-too-definite life aim — hardly with the lack of it. Whether or not there is anything genuine about the vision, whether the visionary really sees anything, is open to dispute, but there is a wide consensus as to what the genuine experience is like, and how the genuine visionary behaves. As Baron von Hügel pointed out in one of his most penetrating observations, true illumination always results in a special sweetness of temper, a deep, lyric equanimity and magnanimity. The outstanding characteristic of the mystic’s vision is that it is satisfying. He is never frustrated, at least not in our worldly sense. It would be hard to find two less suitable words in any language to apply to Rimbaud than equanimity and magnanimity. This leaves us with Rimbaud as a sort of magician of the sensibility — of that specifically modern sensibility invented by Blake and Hoelderlin and Baudelaire — and an innovator in syntax, the first thoroughly radical revealer of the poetic metalogic which is the universal characteristic of twentieth-century verse.

July 13, 2011

Reach for the lights

Riding at night on the bicycle listening to a DJ set and getting a thrill each time the music built to make the crowd rush on their pills, and I remembered how happy I used to be watching someone discover this world for the first time.*

Now I get a deeper feeling from watching someone get their life together and living for creativity, kindness, health and sustainable joy, which means to say I'm over the trip and want to see what happens next, how people integrate their better selves with reality, those things that [as PK Dick said] don't go away when you stop believing in them.

*I still trip once a year or so [mushrooms] but with the understanding that I'm not going to get anything out of it unless I've worked on myself in the interim using what I learned on the trip before. And at this point in the psychedelic game [just over 20 yrs in] there's very little that I'm being shown for the first time, just lessons that I should have learned long ago: it's all connected, THIS IS IT, overwhelming beauty, and the need for love and inner peace, rather than greed [in all its forms] and furious activity. All the usual suspects.

July 12, 2011

The pleasures of genre

One recent development in the debate around genres is an increasing discussion of "litfic" as a genre in itself. As M John Harrison, another of Miéville's literary heroes, recently wrote in his blog, "The sooner literary fiction recognises and accepts its generic identity, the sooner it can get help." Miéville heartily concurs: "I love genres; I think they are fascinating. My issue with litfic is not that it is a genre but that (a) it doesn't think it is and (b) it thinks it's ipso facto better than all the ones that are genres. Literary fiction of that ilk – insular, socially and psychologically hermetic, neurotically backslapping and self-congratulatory about a certain milieu, disaggregated from any estrangement or rubbing of aesthetics against the grain – is in poor shape."
A life in writing: an interview with China Miéville

July 11, 2011

Domain dependent intelligence

vanessa del rio in lips
I hate this idea that if you talk to a director or an author, you will discover something amazing, some secret. What they know is in what they produce. Many of them are idiots. David Lynch, frankly, is an idiot. He is now in a contract to collect millions of dollars to build a huge dome of meditation because he thinks that if more than ten people meditate in the same place they will release energy that will bring peace to the world. But in his movies, he is a genius

July 10, 2011

Torn between both impulses

Doubtless the most radical division of humanity that can be made is that between two classes of creatures: those who demand much of themselves and assume a burden of tasks and difficulties, and those who require nothing special of themselves, but rather for whom to live is to be in every instant only what they already are.
José Ortega y Gasset, The Revolt of the Masses

July 09, 2011

A lesson in form and content

Some books cannot be summarized (real literature, poetry); some can be compressed to about ten pages; the majority to zero pages.
Nassim Taleb - The Bed of Procrustes
Finished Ron Jeremy: The Hardest (Working) Man in Showbiz, and there was nothing interesting at all - which in itself is notable.

Am sure the book below is better.

July 08, 2011

Literature is a social defense mechanism

Can you remember when you first started to read? Doubtless you thought that some day you would find in books the truth, the answer to the very puzzling life you were discovering around you. But you never did. If you were alert, you discovered that books were conventions, as unlike life as a game of chess. The written word is a sieve. Only so much of reality gets through as fits the size and shape of the screen, and in some ways that is never enough. This is only partly due to the necessary conventions of speech, writing, communication generally. Partly it is due to the structure of language. With us, in our Western European civilization, this takes the form of Indo-European grammar crystallized in what we call Aristotelian logic. But most of the real difficulty of communication comes from social convention, from a vast conspiracy to agree to accept the world as something it really isn’t at all. Even the realistic novels of a writer like Zola are not much closer to the real thing than the documents written in Egyptian hieroglyphics. They are just a different, most complex distortion.

Literature is a social defense mechanism. Remember again when you were a child. You thought that some day you would grow up and find a world of real adults — the people who really made things run — and understood how and why things ran. People like the Martian aristocrats in science fiction. Your father and mother were pretty silly, and the other grownups were even worse — but somewhere, some day, you’d find the real grownups and possibly even be admitted to their ranks. Then, as the years went on, you learned, through more or less bitter experience, that there aren’t, and never have been, any such people, anywhere. Life is just a mess, full of tall children, grown stupider, less alert and resilient, and nobody knows what makes it go — as a whole, or any part of it. But nobody ever tells.

Kenneth Rexroth - The Reality of Henry Miller

From a Rexroth archive, including a good later piece that is [somewhat] more critical of the image Miller and his disciples created after fame and fortune hit.

July 07, 2011

Wasted youth

There were many, many nights in St. Louis where me and my friends would go see some punk band at the cool punk club, and then we'd all go to the landing on the Mississippi River, because the bars on the landing had a four A.M. liquor license. And all us punk guys would sit there and scoff and feel superior to all the heavy-metal bar bands with the big hair and the spandex, most of whom were having the fucking time of their fucking life. So who was losing? Me. I was. Those guys were getting laid, they were deluding themselves into thinking they were gonna be huge stars, and they were living. And I was dead.

July 06, 2011

Good writing and a taste for beer

The dating profile, like the Facebook or Myspace profile, is a vehicle for projecting a curated and stylized version of oneself into the world. In a way, the online persona, with its lists of favorite bands and books, its roster of essential values and tourist destinations, represents a cheaper and more direct way of signalling one’s worth and taste than the kinds of affect that people have relied on for centuries—headgear, jewelry, perfume, tattoos. Demonstrating the ability, and the inclination, to write well is a rough equivalent to showing up in a black Mercedes. And yet a sentiment I heard again and again, from women who instinctively prized nothing so much as a well-written profile, was that, as rare as it may be, “good writing is only a sign of good writing.” Graceful prose does not a gentleman make.


And yet some questions are unpredictably predictive. One of the founders [of OK Cupid], Christian Rudder, maintains the OK Trends blog, sifting through the mountains of data and composing clever, mathematically sourced synopses of his findings. There are now nearly two hundred and eighty thousand questions on the site; OK Cupid has collected more than eight hundred million answers. (People on the site answer an average of three hundred questions.) Rudder has discovered, for example, that the answer to the question “Do you like the taste of beer?” is more predictive than any other of whether you’re willing to have sex on a first date. (That is, people on OK Cupid who have answered yes to one are likely to have answered yes to the other.) OK Cupid has also analyzed couples who have met on the site and have since left it. Of the 34,620 couples the site has analyzed, the casual first-date question whose shared answer was most likely to signal a shot at longevity (beyond the purview of OK Cupid, anyway) was “Do you like horror movies?”
Sex, love, and loneliness on the Internet, Nick Paumgarten in The New Yorker

July 05, 2011

Surly, lonely, and hard-drinking men, who feel as though they have been rendered historically obsolete

According to the American Journal of Public Health, “the financial strain of unemployment” has significantly more consequences on the mental health of men than on that of women. In other words, be prepared for a lot of unhappy guys out there—with all the negative consequences that implies.
Indeed, it’s now fair to say that the most enduring legacy of the Great Recession will not be the death of Wall Street. It will not be the death of finance. And it will not be the death of capitalism. These ideas and institutions will live on. What will not survive is macho. And the choice men will have to make, whether to accept or fight this new fact of history, will have seismic effects for all of humanity—women as well as men.
Long periods of unemployment are a strong predictor of heavy drinking, especially for men ages 27 to 35, a study in Social Science & Medicine found last year. And the macho losers of globalization can forget about marrying: “Among the workers who disproportionately see their jobs moving overseas or disappearing into computer chips,” says sociologist Andrew Cherlin, “we’ll see fewer young adults who think they can marry.” So the disciplining effects of marriage for young men will continue to fade.

Surly, lonely, and hard-drinking men, who feel as though they have been rendered historically obsolete, and who long for lost identities of macho, are already common in ravaged post-industrial landscapes across the world, from America’s Rust Belt to the post-Soviet wreckage of Vladimir Putin’s Russia to the megalopolises of the Middle East.
the choice between adaptation and resistance may play out along a geopolitical divide: While North American and Western European men broadly—if not always happily—adapt to the new egalitarian order, their counterparts in the emerging giants of East and South Asia, not to mention in Russia, all places where women often still face brutal domestic oppression, may be headed for even more exaggerated gender inequality. In those societies, state power will be used not to advance the interests of women, but to keep macho on life support.
The Death of Macho,

July 04, 2011

More sincere, more free and more savage

another polar inversion
His conclusion, that in a more numerous society one enjoys more pleasures and suffers fewer fears (in which, in short, men are free), than one does living outside any society or within a very limited one, is an axiom which could be developed in a sociological treatise, and subsequently confirmed, modified or corrected in the light of our experience today. In the same way an entire typology and categorisation of conformisms and rebellions, judged according to their relative levels of sociability or unsociability, could be elaborated from the final sentence of the work [Calculation of the Value of Opinions and of the Pleasures and Pains of Human Life] where there is a contrast between he who is ‘susceptible’ to a greater number of ‘opinions’ and he who is ‘susceptible to fewer opinions’: the former becomes ‘more and more reserved, civil and dissimulating’, the latter ‘more sincere, more free and more savage’.

July 03, 2011

The basis of drama is...

So what is the basis of drama? Mamet gazes at me blankly as if the question is naive, then elucidates in one long sentence. “The basis of drama is ... is the struggle of the hero towards a specific goal at the end of which he realises that what kept him from it was, in the lesser drama, civilisation and, in the great drama, the discovery of something that he did not set out to discover but which can be seen retrospectively as inevitable. The example Aristotle uses, of course, is Oedipus.”

July 02, 2011

Another post on writing

Authoritarian regimes have always been around. The feudal system, the Catholic church, the monarchies, now the plutocracies. Writers will always make themselves heard, as will artists of all stripes. No system can strip humanity of its urgent need to create Art.

Money, status, sex, drugs

[Layne] Staley denounces “the hypocrite norm, running their boring drills,” and commits himself to consuming whatever drugs are available to him. “Money, status, nothing to me,” Staley sings, though that’s not completely true—it’s the money and status that “allow” him to live this way.

Related: All posts tagged excess

July 01, 2011

Something of a problem

He’s extremely intelligent, but, as a political, social and moral actor, he’s the kind of guy who gets depressed by the happiness of the stupid.