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.

June 30, 2011

But if a man's education has been literary...

The causes of any widespread scepticism are likely to be sociological rather than intellectual. The main cause is always comfort without power. The holders of power are not cynical, since they are able to enforce their ideals. Victims of oppression are not cynical, since they are filled with hate, and hate, like any other strong passion, brings with it a train of attendant beliefs. Until the advent of education, democracy, and mass production, intellectuals had everywhere a considerable influence upon the march of affairs, which was by no means diminished if their heads were cut off. The modern intellectual finds himself in a quite different situation. It is by no means difficult for him to obtain a fat job and a good income provided he is willing to sell his services to the stupid rich either as propagandist or as Court jester. The effect of mass production and elementary education is that stupidity is more firmly entrenched than at any other time since the rise of civilization. When the Czarist Government killed Lenin's brother, it did not turn Lenin into a cynic, since hatred inspired a lifelong activity in which he was finally successful. But in the more solid countries of the West there is seldom such potent cause for hatred, or such opportunity for spectacular revenge. The work of intellectuals is ordered and paid for by Governments or rich men, whose aims probably seem absurd, if not pernicious, to the intellectuals concerned. But a dash of cynicism enables them to adjust their consciences to the situation. There are, it is true, some activities in which wholly admirable work is desired by the powers that be; the chief of these is science, and the next is public architecture in America. But if a man's education has been literary, as is still too often the case, he finds himself at the age of twenty-two with a considerable skill that he cannot exercise in any manner that appears important to himself. Men of science are not cynical even in the West, because they can exercise their best brains with the full approval of the community; but in this they are exceptionally fortunate among modern intellectuals.
Bertrand Russell - On Youthful Cynicism

June 29, 2011

Fear eats the soul

I have to tell you something about the relations of strength between those who live in resentment, intoxicated by their bitterness, alienated by their melancholy and their bad blood, and those who, not so much out of virtue as through their makeup, self-discipline, or just because they have something better to do (e.g., a new book to write), manage to escape this merry-go-round of poisonous emotions. It is the second lot who, once again, for reasons of pure emotional mechanics, will triumph over the former. Joy makes them intelligent and strong, whereas spite is a poison and sooner or later poison kills.
Michel Houellebecq - Public Enemies

June 28, 2011

Stymied by a lack of inhibitory control

Before becoming a Stoic, I spent much time and effort trying to make other people think I was a good person; since becoming a Stoic, I have focused by energy on trying to be a good person. I am striving, in other words, to acquire traits that ancient philosophers would have regarded as virtuous -- traits such as loyalty, courageousness, kindness, and most important, self-control, the trait that makes the other traits possible

June 27, 2011

Especially the tourist

If what happened to the defeated Central Powers in the early 1920s is anything to go by, then the process of collapse of the recognised, traditional, trusted medium of exchange, the currency by which all values are measured, by which social status is guaranteed, upon which security depends, and in which the fruits of labour are stored, unleashes such greed, violence, unhappiness, and hatred, largely bred from fear, as no society can survive uncrippled and unchanged.
Partly because of its unfairly discriminatory nature, it brought out the worst in everybody—industrialist and worker, farmer and peasant, banker and shopkeeper, politician and civil servant, housewife, soldier, merchant, tradesman, miner, moneylender, pensioner, doctor, trade union leader, student, tourist—especially the tourist.

June 24, 2011

Old punks

inverted drafting via wired
Despite his best efforts not to oversell the Angels, many readers felt a strong kinship with them. Thompson received countless letters from fans inquiring about club membership. To one teenage fan, Thompson provided strong cautionary words. “The best of the Angels,” he wrote in a letter dated July 6, 1967, “the guys you might want to sit down and talk to, have almost all played that game for a while and then quit for something better. The ones who left are almost all the kind who can't do anything else, and they're not much fun to talk to. They're not smart, or funny, or brave, or even original. They're just Old Punks, and that's a lot worse than being a Young Punk.”

June 23, 2011

Only connect

In Guatemala, impunity has created a bewildering swirl of competing stories and rumors, allowing powerful interests not only to cloak history but also to fabricate it. As Francisco Goldman describes in his incisive 2007 book, “The Art of Political Murder,” about the assassination of Bishop Gerardi, the military and its intelligence operators concocted evidence and witnesses to generate endless hypotheses—it was a robbery, it was a crime of passion—in order to conceal the simple truth that they had murdered him. “So much would be made to seem to connect,” Goldman writes.
A Murder Foretold - The New Yorker

June 22, 2011

Sensational results with a sensational process

Hard science gives sensational results with a horribly boring process; philosophy gives boring results with a sensational process; literature gives sensational results with a sensational process; and economics gives boring results with a boring process.
Nassim Taleb - The Bed of Procrustes

June 21, 2011

My mother was raised in care and I'm terrified of being homeless

Social class isn’t defined for individuals by how much loot one has: it’s defined by how far one can imagine oneself descending. I fear the pit.

June 20, 2011

The same unexpected behavior

As the sun loses energy by radiation, it becomes hotter and not cooler. Since the sun is made of compressible gas squeezed by its own gravitation, loss of energy causes it to become smaller and denser, and the compression causes it to become hotter. For almost all astronomical objects, gravitation dominates, and they have the same unexpected behavior. Gravitation reverses the usual relation between energy and temperature. In the domain of astronomy, when heat flows from hotter to cooler objects, the hot objects get hotter and the cool objects get cooler. As a result, temperature differences in the astronomical universe tend to increase rather than decrease as time goes on. There is no final state of uniform temperature, and there is no heat death. Gravitation gives us a universe hospitable to life. Information and order can continue to grow for billions of years in the future, as they have evidently grown in the past.
Freeman Dyson - How We Know [a review of James Gleick's The Information]

June 18, 2011

Everything acts on everything at once

Underground groups -- subcultures -- can be distinguished from independent cultures by their habit of referring constantly to the parent society
Bruce Sterling, The Hacker Crackdown

June 17, 2011

The liberation of all deviant desires

Careful readers of Natural Right and History soon realize, however, that [Leo] Strauss was a subtle critic of the philosophic principles that founded the United States. He brings into doubt the principles on which Enlightenment liberalism and America were founded, and he shows them to be woefully deficient. Strauss, it becomes clear to the alert reader, was a trenchant critic of the principles and institutions that are most uniquely American (e.g., natural rights, individualism, limited government, and laissez-faire capitalism) precisely because they are all ultimately grounded on a moral philosophy of rational self-interestedness. Strauss believed that such principles ultimately lead to nihilism by untying man from the “eternal order.” In other words, he believed that liberal-capitalism contained the seeds of its own destruction. For Strauss, the very idea of a right to “the pursuit of happiness” necessarily leads to the liberation of all deviant desires.

June 16, 2011

Implications of a discovery of extraterrestrial life

Anthropological files contain many examples of societies, sure of their place in the universe, which have disintegrated when they had to associate with previously unfamiliar societies espousing different ideas and different ways of life; others that survived such an experience usually did so by paying the price of changes in values and attitudes and behavior.
Section on "Implications of a discovery of extraterrestrial life" in Proposed Studies on the Implications of Peaceful Space Activities for Human Affairs

June 15, 2011

O victory forget your underwear we're free

We wanted to unite all the people who were writers, who were musicians, who were artists, to demonstrate that the West and the United States was devoted to freedom of expression and to intellectual achievement, without any rigid barriers as to what you must write, and what you must say, and what you must do, and what you must paint, which was what was going on in the Soviet Union. I think it was the most important division that the agency had, and I think that it played an enormous role in the Cold War.
Tom Braden, first chief of the CIA's International Organisations Division, Modern Art was a CIA Weapon

June 14, 2011

Strange fruit

Saw A Man Within, last year's Burrough's documentary. I was a big fan in my more fucked up youth, mainly of the last three novels and some essays, but even more so of the man himself. Whatever I was supposed to be [I went to a military school] I was not interested in becoming. Burroughs the man presented rebellion hiding in plain sight - short hair, three piece suit, balding and stiff. You couldn't imagine him dancing or fucking, never mind doing either of them well. For an uncool teen he represented an entirely plausible role model of sorts, as long as you ignored almost everything.

Burroughs expressed a lack of interest in psychedelics as opposed to the numbing altered states of junk and booze. This is reflected in his lack of emotion and human connection, an abstractness from himself and others. The desire to shock seemed as much aimed at himself as others. [A quote I remember runs something like: “...I think of the most horrible, disgusting things I can imagine, and then write them down...”]. What's hinted at in the work is made clear by friends / admirers in the documentary – he was incapable of confronting his own feelings for others and need to love and be loved, right up until almost the end.


Another angle. Now I read a lot fewer fucked up writers, or if I read them, the first attraction isn't toward their fucked-upness. If I'm going to pay close attention to someone then they need to moving toward to the light in some respect, trying to make things better.


The thing about waking up from time wasted along strange, unproductive and unfulfilling paths (again and again), is that eventually you get a sense that things need to change in quite obvious ways. And so we have our weaknesses / contradictions, and beyond a certain age are stuck with genuinely narrowing horizons, limited by decisions made long ago for reasons that at best were romantic or senseless, if not demented. There's very little that I can explain about my life, and long ago gave up trying to impose a narrative, because all the ones I came up with were just absurd creations myths.


I had very limited expectations as a teenager, with Burroughs being the best of the worst version of myself I could have been – paranoid and repressed – and if I'd worked harder I could have achieved a shitty local optimum, being really great at something I wasn't happy with. While Burroughs seemed to push as far as possible down a blind alley, I'm glad that I turned back, broke things down, and took the simpler in the long run step of changing everything possible, an option that – narrowing horizons notwithstanding – I keep in my pocket and pat on occasion, just for kicks.

Related: You are what you read

Why women should perhaps avoid men with too much Bukowski at home

I don't want to be loved in spite of what is worst in me, but because of what is worst in me. I even go so far as to hope that what is worst in me is what people like best about me.
Michel Houellebecq - Public Enemies

June 13, 2011

Heroes in popular fiction

Awesome heroes stuck in mediocre lives are compelling, because they suggest that having a mediocre life may not be your fault.

June 12, 2011

The demon machine

“I believe that my brain chemistry has changed as a result of this, mostly for the better. I am sated. I am complete in this environment. This is the environment I needed in order to become what I needed to become. With the Internet, I have communication with large amounts of people, in perpetuity. Always having a new war, a new battle.”
Andrew Breitbart profile in the New Yorker

June 11, 2011

Why modern philosophy is a low stakes game

...the particular merit of Western philosophy is to have placed the question of truth center stage, sacrificed everything for it, going so far as to eventually consent to a form of suicide, reducing its own scope to that of an epistemological complement. It is Nietzsche, I think, that big subtle cat, who first recognized the dangers the sciences having more or less killed off revealed truths would have on philosophy itself. But it was he, consequently, who tried to taint the search for truth with suspicion. He thereby opened up in philosophy what might be called the era of disloyalty. Because what is philosophy if it relegates the search for truth to the background? We're pretty much back to the sophists.
Michel Houellebecq - Public Enemies

June 10, 2011

The most intimate regret

...the most intimate regret and the most hidden is not to have loved life.
E. M. Cioran, The Book of Delusions [full text]

June 09, 2011

I never had any plans beyond a certain lifestyle - II

I'm happy if I get food, sex, exercise, reading, some creativity, sociability, and a high level of control over my own time and / or space [ideally both, but often only one, being a freelancer who needs to pay the bills].

This feels good until I meet people who are working hard with talent and luck on more focused and appealing plans that seem to offer greater prospects for overall and long-term fulfillment, and then the monkey comparisons kick in. I'm getting better at being myself – becoming a better self to be – but sometimes it's dizzying to wonder how I got here and the hacking off of other branches at an early age, with the clear hells I escaped far outnumbering any plausible better outcomes.

Almost everything that's happened to me has been a surprise, a surrender into circumstances that then coalesce around something that can be sustained for a while, or else falls apart before being recognized as anything real enough to be destroyed. And things fall apart continuously, and if they don't then I seem to destroy them.

But this surrender and surprise is probably true for most people, based on the long-standing principle that there's very little that's exceptional about me. We all fall into particular reality tunnels, and moving between them requires only a trickster / daydream kit that involves a sine wave flow between concentration / lack of focus.

This is mostly OK. If I thought about it deeply or not there would only be different sets of rapidly evolving and semi-fictional rationalizations that reveal more about that day's particular tunnel vision than tell a coherent or plausible story. Instead I only get on with things – with no talent, a lot of luck, and sporadic bursts of hard work.

June 08, 2011

People tend to be extremely similar in their vulgar and prurient and dumb interests

I'm not saying that television is vulgar and dumb because the people who compose the Audience are vulgar and dumb. Television is the way it is simply because people tend to be extremely similar in their vulgar and prurient and dumb interests and wildly different in their refined and aesthetic and noble interests.

June 07, 2011

Confessions of a low self-monitor

From an unpublished paper I'm editing:

High self-monitors tend to engage in several activities in different specialized social systems, and they will play different roles and tailor their self-presentation behaviors to suit the specialized situation, whereas low self-monitors tend to take part in many activities in the same social system, which is often homogeneous and well-suited to their personalities (Snyder & Gangestad, 1982). This shows that high self-monitors prefer to play diverse social roles in a segmented social world, while low self-monitors are more likely have more uniform one

May 25, 2011

Back into salvia space

So I posted that psychedelics post and then went off to a meeting the implications of which I hadn't really considered. I did some cleaning the other week and found a vial of salvia left over from several years ago, when I growing / smoking a lot as a way to cut stress on a brutal split shift and ease into meditation / self-hypnosis to refresh and also blank out the dull horror of permanent work crisis and creeping personal ones ahead of finding out I could untie all knots just by gently pulling the right thread, instead of all the wrong ones, harder.

I suggested to a friend that they might want to try it, so I went over to demonstrate. They saw me inhale, lie down eyes shut, do the thirty count in my head, then pass out. They were not enthused.

I used to smoke a lot of salvia over a period of several years, and I think I mapped the territory as well as I could, devising stories that satisfied me for certain problems it raised that seemed tractable, and letting other parts – the bulk of the experience – rest easy as mysteries to be lived with.

Long / short: I went back into salvia space and it was as welcoming as that first trip seven or so years ago [“'re back!” these little corn-headed flower entities waved at me and cheered back then, the first time, third hit a charm, as I descended and rematerialized into the land of extreme waking dreams. This time everyone was going about their business and I dropped back in almost incognito, the weirdness, as ever, unfailing, but no longer an obvious tourist].

Shorter: the infantile ego was silenced, and relief was felt, and I came back smiling with forgetfulness.

May 22, 2011

The relief you can feel on a good psychedelic trip

The fantasy they’re selling [on a luxury cruise] is the whole reason why all the subjects in all the brochures’ photos have facial expressions that are at once orgasmic and oddly slack: these expressions are the facial equivalent of going “Aaaahhhhh,” and the sound is not just that of somebody’s Infantile part exulting in finally getting the total pampering it’s always wanted but also that of the relief all the other parts of that person feel when the Infantile part finally shuts up.
The best of the rest of the time just being ways of surfing the needs / wants and / or distracting them with some zen / art magic or stoic practice.

Coming off a long few weeks of intense work and waking up to a reality that I haven't found my way in yet, just suspicions that the old one isn't going to serve much longer without some changes that remain obscure.

Somewhat related:
Posts that refer to the hedonic treadmill.

May 21, 2011

I never had any plans beyond a certain lifestyle

I am now 33 years old, and it feels like much time has passed and is passing faster and faster every day. Day to day I have to make all sorts of choices about what is good and important and fun, and then I have to live with the forfeiture of all the other options those choices foreclose. And I’m starting to see how as time gains momentum my choices will narrow and their foreclosures multiply exponentially until I arrive at some point on some branch of all life’s sumptuous branching complexity at which I am finally locked in and stuck on one path and time speeds me through stages of stasis and atrophy and decay until I go down for the third time, all struggle for naught, drowned by time. It is dreadful. But since it’s my own choices that’ll lock me in, it seems unavoidable—if I want to be any kind of grownup, I have to make choices and regret foreclosures and try to live with them.

May 19, 2011

For the way the rich live

karl lagerfeld - pirelli
I personally only like high-class escorts. I don’t like sleeping with people I really love. I don’t want to sleep with them because sex cannot last, but affection can last forever. I think this is healthy. And for the way the rich live, this is possible. But the other world, I think they need porn.
Karl Lagerfeld, Vice interview