Blah blah Black Friday blah blah blah

Well, it’s “Black Friday” today, in the US, anyway, though I guess the commercial notion of a Black Friday Sale, at least, has spread to other countries now, as well.  It doesn’t make much sense to have it be a thing in other countries, considering that Thanksgiving‒as the holiday celebrated on the 4th Thursday in November‒is specific to the US, and Black Friday started because it was the biggest shopping day before Christmas, since most people were off work with the Thanksgiving holiday.  But what are you gonna do?

And, since pretty much no one but government workers gets a full four-day weekend anymore, especially given the ubiquity of “Black Friday” promotions, I am of course going in to work today, and I will be working tomorrow as well.

Amusingly, I just heard my first two iterations of the announcement that the Tri-rail will be operating on a Sunday schedule on Christmas Day, which is a month from today.  But, of course, Christmas falls on a Sunday this year, so of course it will be on a Sunday schedule, and if  Christmas is on a Sunday, then so is New Year’s Day.  Ah, well.at least this won’t be as long a time span for the repetition as the one for Thanksgiving was.  I wonder what will happen after New Year’s.

I’m writing this on the smartphone again, because I didn’t take my laptop with me Wednesday when I left the office.  I decided instead to take some music (a book and some tabs and three recently printed piano pieces) with me since I had Thursday off, and thought I might play some.  I was weirdly giddy on Tuesday afternoon and Wednesday afternoon, maybe because I had gotten past the immediate crisis of Monday night.  It was Monday night, wasn’t it, when I had my 988 issues?  Also, I guess the office was kind of in laid-back mode and we had lots of food on Wednesday.  It wasn’t good for business, though.

Anyway, I did fiddle around a bit on the guitar and then on the piano, but it mostly highlighted how rusty and stiff my fingers are.  I also ate some junk food during the day and watched some videos, and then a movie, and that was pretty much it for my Thanksgiving.

As an aside, there must be at least some tendency for people to take today off, since I was, quite literally, the only person boarding the northbound train on my side of the track just now.  There were more people waiting for the southbound train.  Maybe people who go north are more likely to take the day after Thanksgiving off because it’s…colder up north?  That doesn’t make any sense.  I see that there are a few more people at the next station.  I guess there are still tendencies for people to take the day off, or perhaps just to start later, on the day after Thanksgiving.

Sorry, I know I’m just writing nonsense and gibberish and gobbledygook, but frankly, that’s not far from my usual tendencies.  I honestly feel like I’m crashing from my weird little, post-immediate-crisis high on Tuesday afternoon and Wednesday.  None of the treats and snacks and special foods of the holidays really bring any joy to eat, not in and of themselves, anyway.  I even bought a beer to drink yesterday, but I got, I think, five sips of it down before pouring it out.  A can of Coca Cola was good, I guess‒there’s something special about Coke in a can, though more than one would quickly just be the source of a sticky feeling in my mouth.

I’m very tired, though I did basically nothing yesterday.  I slept about four hours last night, which is pretty good for me.  I had a weird dream this morning, about some dark city* or world where a political movement at first made people optimistic and hopeful, but then just turned their society into a dystopia once it got going, which seems to be what dogmatic ideologies tend to do once they achieve real power.  This is surely one of the reasons why free speech and free expression are so crucial, and fuck “safe spaces” and “hate speech”.  Those are the sorts of notions used by totalitarians and the like to suppress dissent, because they don’t even want people to have the mental option available to them to think about alternatives to the Party line.

I used to get slightly irritated by the expression “get over yourself” when it first cropped up, but now I think it needs to be a mantra in response to all the neo-narcissists out there who’ve been raised to think that there ever was or ever will be a place they can feel “safe”, even as they tell other people how they are “supposed” to think.  Sorry, the universe is fundamentally unsafe, and it always will be.  Life is short, everything is trivial, and almost nothing that ever happens is about you, whoever you may be.

Even someone like Genghis Khan is just as dead now as all the enemies he killed, and though we still remember his name‒Temujin‒that means nothing to his anonymous corpse.  Everyone who lived more than 120 years ago is dead.  However many people were alive in the world in 1900, they have all succumbed to the creeping Holocaust of time.  So will we who are alive today.

Anyway, I don’t know what point I’m trying to make.  Maybe I’m making the point that there is no point, and doing it in a meandering and vague way just to make my meaning clear in both words and tone.  But I doubt that I’m that clever.

Cleverness rarely works, anyway.  Cleverness, such as one often sees in TV and movies and such, has too many moving parts, where everything has to go just right, or the cleverness fails.  Things don’t tend to go “just right” in the real world.  Alertness and adaptability, along with straightforwardness‒keeping things as simple as possible‒is probably a better strategy.  I call it “chaos surfing”.  You can’t make the waves, but if you’re alert, you might be able to ride one for a little while.

That’s that.  I hope you all had a good Thanksgiving, those who are in the US.  A particular greeting to my cousin, who reads this blog.  I meant to send you a Happy Thanksgiving text yesterday, but I forgot, and I apologize for that.

Hopefully I’ll feel a little better tomorrow.  I think I’ll bring the laptop this evening, because this phone writing is getting slightly irritating.  Enjoy your Black Friday shopping, if that’s what you’re doing.  I’ll keep trudging along for now, though I don’t really want to do it, because…well, just because I don’t seem to have any better or clearer ideas at the moment.

Belated TTFN for yesterday.


*The atmosphere of the dream clearly owed much to the atmosphere of The Batman, which is the movie I watched yesterday.

Nothing of worth can ever truly be “unconditional”

It’s Friday now, and for many it is the last day of the work week.  If you are one of those people, congratulations.  If you expect to work tomorrow, as I do, then, well, congratulations on having gainful employment.  It’s not a contradiction to consider both cases worthy of celebration.

I’m writing on my phone today because I didn’t want to take my laptop to the house with me‒I took my Radiohead guitar chords book home with the notion that I might actually get the acoustic guitar out and do some strumming, and the book and laptop together seemed likely to make my backpack unpleasantly heavy to carry.  Alas, the strumming part didn’t happen, but I couldn’t retroactively choose to take the laptop with me.

Because of that, I’m not going to write about Alzheimer’s and/or Parkinson’s disease today; I feel that I can deal with them better when I can type more naturally, and so I’ll address those things perhaps tomorrow.  Today, I’ll try to address a random, walk-in set of topics that crowded my head this morning for unclear causes.  The things that popped into my mind as I headed to the train station included the notions of healthcare as a human right, unconditional love, and free education (free anything, really), all loosely linked to something a coworker of mine said yesterday.

I’ll start with the middle one, because it presents itself (rather intrusively) in my mind in the form of the old song, Unconditional Love, performed way back when by Donna Summer and Musical Youth.  The chorus goes, “Give me your unconditional love; the kind of love I deserve; the kind I want to return.”

I may have written about this notion before, but do you spot the logical flaws there?  First of all, the notion that one can (apparently) demand another’s love, conditional or otherwise, is rather obscene and also unworkable.  But that’s a separate issue from the notion of “unconditional love”.  One big problem with this is revealed in the second line of the chorus:  that such love is the kind the singer deserves.  But if it’s unconditional, then‒to quote the movie Unforgiven‒”deserve’s got nothing to do with it”.  If love is unconditional, then everyone and anyone (and presumably anything) deserves it.  That’s what unconditional means!

Perhaps they might have meant something along the lines of “non transactional” love, but if so, they reveal hypocrisy in the next line, “the kind I want to return”, because they’re saying, openly, that their own love is not merely conditional but also transactional…I’ll love you if and only if you love me unconditionally.  Maybe that was supposed to be the message of the song, to ridicule such words and thoughts and attitudes toward love by revealing their absurdity, but it certainly didn’t come across that way.

On we go to the notion of healthcare as a human right.  This is something one sees at times brought up and bandied about by activists of various stripes, and I can readily understand and sympathize with the urge, but it is illogical.  One cannot have a right to anyone else’s skill or work or abilities or resources, and the provision of healthcare requires these in spades.

True rights are and can really only be rights to be free from things‒free from coercion, free from threats and violence, free from theft, free from censorship and from unjust imprisonment, that sort of thing.  To claim a right to the work of other people, especially if one claims that right precisely because that work is so important, is the opposite of any kind of right or freedom; it is coercion in and of itself.

Now, it may be that a society could decide that it is best for everyone, as a whole and as individuals, to provide (and therefore to pay for) healthcare for all its citizens without any at-the-time-of-service charge, since illnesses and injuries are often unpredictable, and they do not choose convenient times to strike.  A society may decide that taking away some of that danger, that threat, that uncertainty, will be better for everyone and anyone.  It’s not an unreasonable idea.  But that doesn’t describe any kind of right, even if one is a citizen of a society that has chosen that path.  Give it the credit it deserves and call it a privilege, and one that should be cherished, not a right.

This ties in nicely with the notion of other “free” programs or privileges, the main one that comes to my mind being that of “free college education”.  As with most positive, physical things, the notion of “free” simply doesn’t apply.  Air is free (for now), because it’s pretty much everywhere, and it doesn’t require any work apart from the effort of breathing.  But education requires many resources, including the information gleaned by the innumerable predecessors who worked to develop the knowledge that is being shared, and the time and effort of the scholars and teachers who are sharing it.

Some of this is getting cheaper and easier thanks to advancing computer and communications technology, but those things also required the efforts and resources of numerous people before they became available to so many others, most of whom do not have the knowledge or skill to recreate such resources on their own.

Again, this is not to say that it is not worth considering whether a society might be well-served by making education available without local charge to all citizens who wish to participate.  It may be well worth the expense and effort involved for the society, in the long or even the short term.  I’m a big fan of public primary and secondary schools, and I wish they were better funded and in a more egalitarian way, because there are untold numbers of people with great potential who have not been able to realize it because they had effectively no local resources available to do so.

This is truly a shame and a tragedy.  Who knows what scientists or artists or innovative business people (and so on) we have lost without knowing that we lost them?  But calling for there to be “free” education is silly.  Someone, somewhere, has to “pay” for every good thing that requires effort in transforming the world into a desired form, decreasing local entropy by expending energy and producing compensatory entropy increase through the efforts made.

This all ties in‒in spirit‒with the complaint by a coworker yesterday, who moans frequently about lack of money and a fear of being unable to pay rent, etc., but when the boss asked her to come in this Saturday to work, so she could make more money, said she just can’t work six days a week.  Of course, she doesn’t work six days a week, she hasn’t worked six days a week that I can remember.  I work six days every other week; if I don’t, things don’t happen for the many people who come in on Saturdays voluntarily, to try to make a little extra money for their own expenses.

The problem was not with her choosing not to come in on any Saturday‒that’s her decision, and she is the one who loses the opportunity to make more money‒but with her complaint to me that it’s just “not fair” to have to work six days, which is truly nonsensical given to whom she was speaking, and given the number of people who voluntarily come in and work more Saturdays than not.

My response was pretty unsympathetic.  I told her that “fairness” is a fiction, at least as she’s apparently imagining it.  There’s no injustice in her being encouraged to work an extra day once in a while to make extra money, if she’s truly worried about her expenses.  If anything, it would be unfair for her to expect to make more money without doing extra work.

In a sense, nature is always fair; the laws of physics apply everywhere and for all time, as far as we can tell.  They make no exceptions and provide no “get out of jail free” cards or cheat codes to anyone regarding their application.

Other than this, any notion of fairness is purely a human invention.  It may, in some senses and cases, be very good to seek and to create, for a society and for the individuals within it.  Indeed, I would say that it is worthwhile.  But it too is not free; it requires effort, and it requires ownership of one’s responsibility for one’s share of the effort.  It is not unconditional.  To expect unconditional anything from anyone or anything is not fair, but is in many ways quite the opposite.

Education is very good and beneficial, and probably the more of it we have, the better, all other things being equal.  Reasonable pay for good work is certainly a good thing.  Healthcare is an almost miraculous good that we take for granted at our peril, but which would almost certainly benefit all of society more if it were more efficiently and evenly available.  And love is, quite possibly, the most wonderful and beautiful thing the universe has ever brought into existence.  We should show these things the respect they deserve by not taking them for granted in any way.

deserve

Chaos surfing is difficult, but it’s the only sport there is

Happy Labor Day to those of my readers who live in the United States.  If any other countries celebrate a similar holiday on the same day, well, happy holiday to you as well.  And to everyone, Happy Monday.

At my office, we’re celebrating workers’ rights by working a half day today, and based on the fact that quite a few other people are at the train station already—though it’s operating today on a weekend schedule—we’re not the only ones.

It’s just another case of competition leading to inadequate equilibria of over-exertion, to the relative detriment of everyone in the system, like trees in a forest having to compete against each other for light, so they all have to keep getting taller, even though it would be saner if they could somehow agree to stay shorter and collect the light of the sun without wasting so many resources on competing with each other.  But they can’t and even if some of them could, they would be vulnerable to any mutant tree that grew taller than the others, and then that one would outcompete and out-reproduce, until all the trees got taller again, until they reached the point where the costs of getting taller were greater than the benefits, on average, and they would level off there, in a state of mutual strain.

Evolution is a bitch goddess, that’s for sure.  But trees are very pretty and majestic, so there are at least minor compensations.

As with trees, human businesses compete with each other, and the ones that stayed open on holidays had advantages over ones that did not, until a great many businesses—ones not constrained by laws forbidding it, otherwise, or union rules and agreements—stayed open on holidays, and ultimately, there are essentially no holidays on which everything is pretty much closed, when everyone stays home with their families.

That’s assuming, of course, that people have families with whom to stay home.  As for me, the only people I really interact with personally anymore are the people at work, so going in to work is my only serious socialization.  When I had my family around, I would have been happy to stay home; my family was probably an equivalent to one of my “special interests”, as they describe it for people with the Syndrome Formerly Known as Asperger’s and related disorders.  Now, though, I mainly just loll about on days when I don’t work.  If I didn’t have my chronic back pain problem, I might feel like doing other things—maybe going to bookstores or something similar.  But as it is, I just try to rest and not pay attention to how utterly empty and pointless my life is.

Hopefully, most of you who are celebrating this holiday are going to spend time with your families and/or friends, maybe having a cookout or something.  That’s the way it was when I was a kid.  Most of the people in my family worked for General Motors and related businesses, so they had the day off, thanks largely to union efforts and the like, such as—I believe—are celebrated by Labor Day.

However, businesses obviously lost money by having their factories idle when they could otherwise be productive, and so once they could transfer at least some of their manufacturing to other countries, they did, and got more work with less cost, and then so did all the other companies, and the equilibrium led to anyone who wanted to stay competitive keeping their businesses open as often as they could for as long as the costs of staying open were lower than the costs of being closed.  And the wheel turned, grinding ordinary lives into powder underneath it.

Okay, that’s a bit melodramatic, but it still does in fact suck.  In the past, there were those who predicted that rising technology would lead to people having more and more leisure time, and yet still being able to produce more than ever in the past.  These people had never studied evolution and natural selection carefully enough, it seems.  Success is always relative to other success in the environment; there’s always an arms race.  Now we work longer hours than ever before, and the most successful people are often the people with the least leisure time as opposed to the other way around.

That’s a bit ironic, I guess.  Success breeds more work rather than less, and the society it creates is so mind-numbing and stressful that hundreds of thousands of people every year die prematurely simply from drug overdoses, because drugs are the only reliable source of any solace or escape many people are able to find.  This is, of course, one of the reasons drugs are illegal; they harm productivity.  Why else would a society be against people doing something to their own bodies, as long as they don’t directly harm others by doing so?  The most popular drug in the world by far—caffeine—increases people’s productivity, at least temporarily, and there is no serious thought of restricting it.

Many of the costs of people’s drug problems are entirely due to the fact that some drugs are illegal.  In many cases, having been convicted of a felony related to drugs makes a person less able to get gainful future employment such as they might otherwise be able to do.  It likewise affects what kind of housing they can get.  And so, far from having “paid their debt to society”, these people never stop paying, for the rest of their foreshortened lives.  Why would one not be willing to risk death by taking unregulated drugs, when life is an empty competition without any good reward even for the most successful?

Then again, life has never really promised any good and lasting reward.  Any creature that found truly lasting satisfaction in a meal, for instance, would live a happy but short and less-reproductive life.  Lions and gazelles don’t have job security, and they don’t get to take vacations from each other.  Every day is a struggle to survive and if possible reproduce, no matter what or who you are.

Economies no more have souls than ecosystems do, because they are both spontaneously self-assembled systems in which whatever survives is just, well, whatever survives and becomes self-sustaining.  They’re conspiracies without conspirators.  There is no master plan behind it all.  Most conspiracies—even ones that would be recognized by all as such—were not nefariously planned by any cabal behind the scenes.  They just happen, and the ones that persist do so because they become self-sustaining, like bureaucracies and governments and businesses and whatnot.

It shouldn’t be too much of a surprise that we aren’t able (so far) to throw off such self-created situations.  Each person and thing can only act in response to the vector sum of all the forces acting on it locally.  Even the laws of physics only act locally.  Gravity doesn’t actually reach across the universe; each change in a local bit of the gravitational manifold affects the bit next to it, which affects the bits next to it, and so on, spreading out at the speed of light as it changes.  This is why there are gravitational waves, and why black holes continue to gravitate even though nothing can actually pass through the event horizon outwards.

Likewise, each bit of the electromagnetic field influences the next bit, which influences the next bit, and spreads along, again, at the speed of light.  That speed of propagation can fool people, whose reactions happen at most at a few meters a second, into thinking that things are truly and directly interconnected instantaneously, but they are not.  Every point in spacetime is influenced directly—as far as we know—only by the points immediately around it at any given time.  The universe itself is, in a sense, just a spontaneously self-assembled system, an unplanned conspiracy.

Humans have the advantage of being able to think about such things and their implications more deeply, and a few of them even do so.  But it’s hard for one bit of water in the middle of an ocean to deliberately change the specific configuration of the world’s seas by the effects of what it can do locally.  A butterfly flapping its wings in the Amazon Rainforest™ may indeed affect whether a tornado happens somewhere thousands of miles away months later…but the butterfly doesn’t know this, nor does it know how to flap its wings in just the right way at just the right time to cause or prevent any weather formation.  It just flutters around looking for nectar and looking to mate and lay eggs and so on.

Humans are more sophisticated than butterflies, but the equations that govern the interactions of the world are generally higher-order, emergent equations that cannot be solved even in simplified forms, not within the lifetime of the universe.  Only the universe itself has the processing power to compute them, and even it can do so only by enacting them.

And while the Schrodinger equation is, apparently, a linear equation, and remains so in perpetuity, it’s still not readily solvable for anything beyond the simplest of systems.  And anyway, people are not completely sure what it really represents, they just know that it works really well.

Oh, well.  What are you gonna do?  Have a hamburger or a hot dog or some potato salad today with your family if you can.  Give a hug to someone you love and who loves you.  The chaos may be inescapable, but there are still benefits that can be squeezed out of it, if you can learn to surf it for a while.  You might even be able to have fun doing it.

Excuse me, Miss Anthrope? The doctor will see you now.

It’s Wednesday now—hello, Wednesday, you’re my second favorite member of the Addams family—and at least I think I’ve figured out why Monday night/Tuesday morning was particularly bad for sleep for me:  I’ve been coming down with the respiratory virus that’s now going around the office.

It’s not COVID—we’ve been tested and all that—it’s just an annoying cold-type virus, but one that nevertheless made two other people in the office who had it stay home.  Unfortunately, I could not stay home (or leave early) yesterday or today, despite feeling crappy, because one of the people who was out yesterday is the only other person who shares a crucial function in the office with me.  And today I am even less able to stay home from the office, because in addition to the other work—and the fact that, for all I know, my coworker will be out again today—I have to process the payroll today.

Of course, I wear my mask on the train anyway, just as a general precaution, so I’m doing that today, even though by court order the CDC (or TSA, maybe) had to revoke its mandate about wearing masks on public transport.  Because, you know, masks are a cruel and unusual imposition on the delicate faces of the great American pubic…I mean public.

I can’t believe what a bunch of panty-waisted whiners so many people are about wearing effing masks, if only just to at least decrease a little bit the odds of them spreading stuff to other people in the world (and with the added bonus of sparing their neighbors from having to look at their unimpeded faces).  And a lot of these wimps are gun-toting Republicans, people who imagine themselves to be rugged, independent, frontier types.  But they’re afraid of needles and afraid of masks, and afraid they can’t defend their homes and their Wal-marts and their ways of life without dozens of firearms each*.

I hope—I wish—that the next time any person who complained about mask wearing needs serious medical interventions, such as surgery, the whole surgical and medical team decides that masks are an unreasonable imposition from the Nanny State, and that avoiding increasing the risk to these patients’ lives is not worth their minor inconvenience and discomfort…and then proceed to cough and sneeze into the open abdominal cavity or chest or whatever part of the body that is getting treated.

And hand washing—that’s got to be an unconstitutional imposition as well, isn’t it?  George Washington fought the Nazis at Gettysburg not just to throw off the yolk of the Roman Empire, but also to give all Americans the freedom not to have to wash their hands at the behest of dictatorial scientists who use their imprimatur of authority to seize and maintain their control of the top corporate and government positions all throughout America and the rest of the world.  Just look how many top scientists are running nations and major corporations, making billions upon trillions of dollars each, every year…money that’s taken from hard working Americans on farm subsidies and disability, money that’s taken from their houses in the middle of the night at gunpoint, while they sleep, by Islamic terrorists who are part of the International, global Zionist conspiracy.

Okay, sorry, enough of that pretend rant.  I just have no respect for wimps who can’t stand to take a little personal responsibility for tiny bits of inconvenience to help protect themselves and their fellow citizens.  They’ll make all sorts of excuses—not very clever ones, usually—but ultimately their protests and complaints come down to tantrums about not getting everything their way.  Most of the pundits in the media have all the character of spoiled toddlers who don’t want to brush their teeth and go to bed.

When I think about ways to kill myself, which happens rather often, I frequently rule out a lot of them right away just because they would inconvenience too many other people**, and I wouldn’t want to do that.  But maybe I shouldn’t bother to take that into consideration.  Humans in general don’t seem to worry too much about other humans being inconvenienced; why should I worry about inconveniencing them?  Let them (hypothetically) deal with my messy corpse in the middle of their workday.

On the other hand, maybe the rude and irritating people, the people who are whiny and inconsiderate—not wanting to be inconvenienced themselves, but entirely willing to cause trouble for others—are simply noisier, more noticeable than all the other, finer people out there.  After all, one doesn’t tend to notice the countless members of the public who go through their days quietly, politely, doing their part and yielding the right-of-way as it were.  That’s precisely because they try not to cause unnecessary inconvenience to other people, but it makes them lower profile.

And the small fraction of people who are disgusting, whiny brats get noticed precisely because they are disgusting, whiny brats.  And they make the rest of the human race look bad, and also they do far more than their share of damage to the world and to others.

If only we could find a way to isolate these people and prevent them from breeding.  Oh, well.  We’ll send at least some of them off to hold political office in the meantime, which at least gets them away from trying to do anything productive, where they’ll only make things worse.

Huh, that’s weird.  I seem to have talked myself around to at least considering that the majority of the human race might be less reprehensible than I sometimes feel they are.  I really must be sick.  Anyway, try not to be too put off if I occasionally indulge my instinct for misanthrope; believe me, the one person in the world I hate most of all is myself.


*I am not a dogmatic anti-gun person.  I’ve owned a few guns when I could, and I enjoyed target shooting; I shot competitively, in fact, and successfully.  But there’s a difference between shooting recreationally or owning a weapon for potential personal protection (and training appropriately for that purpose, since otherwise it’s more likely to do harm than good) and fetishizing guns, the bigger the better.

**To be honest, though, it’s also often at least partly because I can’t see myself quite being able to work up the nerve to do them, at least not without getting supremely drunk or similarly impaired.  For instance, I wouldn’t want to throw myself in front of a train partly because it would inconvenience a great many commuters…but it’s also just too intimidating a prospect, viscerally, when I consider it.  Setting myself on fire with gasoline would probably be easier.

But when the blast of war blogs in our ears, then imitate the action of the tiger

Hello and good morning, everyone.  It’s raining here in south Florida; I got more soaking wet on the way to work today than I have at times when swimming in the ocean.

Okay, that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but at least when you’re swimming in the ocean, you plan on getting wet, you expect to get wet, and your clothes—such as they are—are made for getting wet and for drying off quickly.  This is not the case for work clothes, even when one works in a fairly casual office.  This weather almost makes me wish that there were a 24-hour curfew in place that restricted people even from going to work, but no such luck.  I was allowed to go to work even at the height of the Covid-19 lockdown, which has apparently passed, and I’m certainly allowed to work now.

In America at least, news of the pandemic has been all but superseded by news of various protests, some of which have turned violent, over the murder of George Floyd.  Both topics seem particularly good at bringing out human stupidity, which is never a tall order, but there is more unified sentiment—where I work, anyway—about the latter story.  Everyone here thinks the cops involved need to go to prison, but that violent protests and especially looting are idiotic, counterproductive, and are probably (mostly) not being done by legitimate protestors.  As for me, I can at least sympathize with occasional, directed violence in such matters.  Peaceful protest is ideal when it works, when you’re dealing with people of conscience and appealing to their better natures, but it wouldn’t have worked against the Nazis, or against Genghis Khan, or against the Roman Empire, and it wouldn’t work in North Korea.  Random violence, however, that hurts one’s own neighbors or other innocent people, seems thoughtless and pointless at best, and looting seems simply opportunistic and despicable.

All right, enough politics, if that’s what that was.  On to more auspicious matters.

This week, I have finally begun the last edit, layout, preparation, etc. of Unanimity.  I expect that, with the finish line in sight, I’ll probably accelerate work on it somewhat, perhaps pushing back my music…though I did make a post on Iterations of Zero this week with embedded videos of my five original songs that are on YouTube, as well as a few comments about them. Check out that post if you’re interested; I’d love to know what people think of the songs.  I’ve also recorded another audio blog for IoZ, but that’s still being edited—those take longer to polish than do written blog entries, though they’re certainly easier to initiate.

As you may know, I’m chronically conflicted about the whole podcast/audio versus writing of thoughts and commentary.  Writing is more efficient for storage and dissemination of information—compare the size of a word-processor document with even a compressed audio file—but there is a certain nuance of expression as well as a greater spontaneity that can be achieved in audio.  As I admit right at the beginning of the new recording, this audio blog post is not intended to be uplifting.  Neither is it meant to be down-pushing (if that’s a term).  It’s instead meant to be a rebellion of sorts against the notion that we all must try always to be positive and optimistic and upbeat and inspirational.

If you need to be inspired—if you need to be “motivated”—to get your work done, I think you’ve already failed.  Motivation—in the modern, self-help sense, not in the basic, fundamental meaning of the word (which is fine)—is a bit like the notions of heroism and leadership.  These are concepts that come into play only when you’re already far from optimal circumstances.  We should all aspire to achieve a world in which there is no need for leaders or for heroes, and to strive to reach a state in our own character in which “motivation” is irrelevant.

No one feels “motivated” every day, but if you want to earn a living, you need to go to work whether you feel “motivated” or not.  The tiger that won’t hunt until and unless it’s “inspired” by something is a tiger that’s got a good chance of dying.  Or perhaps a better animal for that analogy would be the squirrel.  Squirrels keep gathering nuts (and maybe other foods, I’m no expert on squirrel diets) even when they have enough for their immediate needs—even when they don’t feel particularly hungry—because, as they apparently say in Game of Thrones, “Winter is coming.”*

To quote Christian Mihai, “The work that you do when you don’t want to is the work that most defines you.” Maybe this is just a different kind of motivation, a more long-term motivation that evaluates the area under the curve of one’s success and happiness, and not merely its moment to moment y-value.  That kind of motivation—or drive, perhaps, would be the better term—seems perfectly fine to me.  But if you have to get jazzed up to get out of bed and get moving, then you’re careening toward failure, because no one can feel jazzed up every day, not even someone in the upside of a bipolar cycle.

I’m not sure how I got onto that subject, but anyway, I’m happy at least to know that my own personal commitment to working on my fiction five to six mornings every week continues to deliver results.  It’s a lesson I learned fromthe King himself, and it’s paid off already in all my published books and stories.  And soon, I’ll release my own megalithic horror novel that matches in size even Stephen King’s longest work.

I would be delighted if Unanimity is read and enjoyed by even a fraction of as many people as have enjoyed any of King’s works, of course.  But if even one person reads it and likes it, that’s a huge reward.  And even if no one does, well—I still know that I’ve written it, and I like it.  If I didn’t like it, it really wouldn’t matter all that much if everyone else in the world loved it.  I can only be inside my own head.

TTFN


*I’ve neither watched nor read any of the GoT stories.  This fact surprises even me.  It’s not a matter of stubborn contrarianism or protest; I see nothing wrong with people loving the stories or the series.  I simply haven’t been interested.  These are the types of entertainment that I tend to want to enjoy with someone—not just anyone, to paraphrase John Lennon—and I simply have no one with whom I’m interested in sharing such entertainment.  More’s the pity, but there it is, and other such long-in-the-tooth clichés.

You blogs, you stones, you worse than senseless things

You blogs, you stones, you worse than senseless things

declaration

 

“And why should Caesar be a tyrant then?  Poor man!  I know he would not be a wolf but that he sees the Romans are but sheep.  He were no lion were not Romans hinds.  Those that with haste will make a mighty fire begin it with weak straws.”

Julius Caesar, Act I, Scene III

 

Hello, good morning, happy Thursday, and for those in the United States, Happy Independence Day!

This is an important holiday which has lost some of its meaning over time.  In saying this, I might sound a little like those who bemoan the commercialization of Christmas, but I mean it quite seriously.  The date—the 4th of July, of course—is the anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, and the more-or-less “official” birth of the United States of America…though I think it might more appropriately be called the conception of the USA.  The Constitution’s ratification thirteen years later was the true birth of the United States of America.

As the first truly secular Constitution in the world—it only mentions religion to state that no religious test shall ever be required for government office, and that there shall be no establishment of religion nor prohibition of its free exercise (the former in Article VI, clause 3, and the latter in the 1st Amendment)—it was groundbreaking.  At the time, this secularity was somewhat scandalous, but the founders of the United States were well aware—through personal experience and through the lessons of history—of the corruption, persecution, and violence that tend to arise when religion and government are entangled.  This is an important point, and it is not clearly understood by many modern Americans.**

In a broader sense, I think it’s worthwhile to remind modern Americans how revolutionary it was to institute a Constitutional Republic whose government’s power, as stated explicitly and implicitly in both the Declaration and the Constitution, derived solely from the consent of the governed, not from any other authority.  The idea was—and should still be—that our representatives, our senators, our presidents, etc., are our employees, our servants.  They are certainly not our “leaders”.  They, like our military and our police forces, exist in principle to serve our greater good, to the best of their ability and to the best of our ability to hold them true to their duties.  We would do well to emphasize this notion to ourselves on a regular basis, because it’s all too easy for humans to fall prey to authoritarianism, and for would-be authoritarians to take advantage of that tendency.

It’s worth remembering the historical (and literary) lesson of Julius Caesar, for it is all too easy for a popular strongman to turn a Republic into a totalitarian regime that can endure as such for centuries…even after the initial strongman is ousted or assassinated.

It’s said that the price of freedom is constant vigilance, and I agree, but I would go even further:  The price of survival is constant vigilance.  Quite apart from the need to sustain yourself physically in a rather heartless universe, if you give up your freedom then your very survival itself is no longer in your hands.  You live and die—and you thrive or suffer—at the whim of those you have allowed to have power over you.  And no one else can be ultimately responsible for your personal survival and freedom if you are not.

It’s for these among other reasons that I bemoan the fetishization of the American flag (on which topic I’ve written previously, here), and its glorification in our national anthem.  Don’t get me wrong; I’m a fan of the flag.  And I understand that children find bright patterns in primary colors engaging.  But remember, the design of the flag was and is arbitrary.  It has no real, deep meaning.

The Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, on the other hand, are neither arbitrary nor shallow.  They are expressions of great and important ideas and ideals.  They are the soul of the United States.  The flag is, if anything, just our hairstyle or our eye color (if you will)…and fireworks are, perhaps, just glints in that eye.***

It’s true that the founders of the USA fell well short of the noble ideals they expressed so well…and it’s pretty clear that they knew that.  That’s part of why they made the Constitution amendable and included the Bill of Rights as the first ten of those amendments.  We have far exceeded the founders in realizing some of the notions expressed in the Declaration of Independence, including a greater implementation of the notion that “all [people] are created equal.”  But we have fallen far behind them in other respects, and such backsliding is dangerous.

We’ve become more parochial and more provincial, ironically; we are undereducated in certain crucial areas (including the very recognition of how absolutely essential education is for the survival of a republic such as ours); we’ve fallen too far into the glorification of “leaders” and the worship of symbols rather than the exploration and elevation of ideas and ideals, which must be constantly submitted to testing, criticism, and exploration if they are to endure and improve.  And we must strive constantly to improve them—rigorously and meticulously, not haphazardly—in the spirit of the acquisition of scientific knowledge, with distrust of arguments from authority and with constant vigilance, especially against our own biases and failings.  For if things do not improve, then it’s more likely that they will deteriorate than that they will simply remain static.  After all, there’s only one zero point on the number line, but there’s an endless expanse of negatives.

So, that’s me on the soapbox for today.  By all means, of course, do enjoy the holiday for the fireworks, and for the cookouts, and for the time spent with friends and family.  But please, do also remember what it’s about, and how important it is always to be on guard—at least as much with respect to your own biases and errors as anything else—against the accidental or deliberate betrayal of the ideals expressed in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.

As part of doing this myself, I refer to the holiday only as Independence Day, not just as “the fourth of July.”  It’s a little thing, but it might be worth doing.

TTFN


*The former in Article VI, clause 3, and the latter in the 1st Amendment.

**I highly recommend the recent book The Founding Myth by Andrew Seidel as an exploration of this topic.

***Apologies for the strained metaphor.

Come, you spirits that tend on mortal blogs, unsex me here

Come, you spirits that tend on mortal blogs, unsex me here

Jim and John

Hello, good morning, and welcome to another Thursday, that day of the week of which Dent Arthur Dent never could get the hang.

I was listening to my Spotify playlist the other day, and in brief succession—though not one right after the other—I heard the songs People Are Strange by the Doors, and Girl by the Beatles.  It struck me, because of whatever peculiar frame of mind I was in, that both songs presented interesting insights, at different levels, about powerful and important aspects of human character and the nature of civilization.

Seriously.

I love it when art reflects on deeper facts of reality or can be interpreted as such.  It’s not necessary that art do this for it to be good or beautiful or worthwhile.  By no means is it necessary.  But it’s wonderful when it does.

We shouldn’t be surprised, I suppose, that powerful insights are to be found in the lyrics of two of the most artistically sophisticated, groundbreaking, and iconoclastic bands of the sixties, but it’s pleasing to find, nevertheless.

The most straightforward of the two thoughts arises in a simple line from People Are Strange, specifically: “Women seem wicked, when you’re unwanted.”  This is a powerful observation, often lamentably true, about the character of men, rooted in biology and focused by the lens of thousands of years of cultures largely dominated by men.

It is a biological fact that women are, if you will, the gatekeepers of the next generation, and since getting into the next generation is one of the most powerful drives enacted by our genes (since organisms that don’t have that drive don’t tend to get into the next generation), this sets up seriously powerful forces that have acted continuously over the course of eons.

It’s a lot more directly costly for women to get their genes into the next generation than it is for men, so they tend to be a lot choosier than men need to be, all other things being equal.*  But of course, this puts any given man in the position of having to compete for the favor of, or some other means of access to, women in order to reproduce.  For men who find themselves by nature easily attractive to women, this is not a big problem.  In those cases, it’s more often a problem for women.  But such attractiveness is rare, and most men find themselves in bitter competition with other local men (in the modern era, “local” can refer effectively to millions and even billions of people).  For a man who’s having trouble finding a woman who finds him suitable, this can engender tremendous frustration (biologically, psychologically, and socially), as this powerful ancestral drive finds itself unfulfilled.

We humans don’t deal with frustration well; we have a hard time thinking about it clearly.  We have a hard time looking at ourselves and saying, “Well, maybe I’m not that obviously promising a person with whom to pair one’s genes in the trip to the next generation.  Is there anything I can do to make myself at least seem more promising?”

Instead, many men start to think that women are wicked.  Perhaps “think” is too lofty a verb for the process; “feel” might be more accurate, since logical thought is rarely involved, and is more often used in post hoc sophistry than for careful evaluation.  We associate our frustration with women, especially with highly attractive women, and we lose sight of the chain of causality.  We just blame the women for the feeling, instead of recognizing that it comes from us and our own circumstances.  We fail to recognize that women are no more to blame for wanting to be choosy about their partners than men are about wanting to posture and show off in order to maximize our own perceived attractiveness.

From this collision of drives and barriers is born all manner of misogyny, including whole cultures that require women to be covered in public so as not to “inflame men’s lust”**  It’s part of the what drives men to create societies that subordinate women, that effectively (or actually) enslave them.  Women are described as wicked and are blamed for the frustrated lusts and behaviors of men, partly because it’s easier to “justify” mistreating someone when you demonize them.

This frustration turned to malice and revenge is almost certainly contributory to the push in certain modern communities to ban abortion even when pregnancy is the result of rape.  After all—looking at things in horribly immoral but nonetheless depressingly real terms—this leaves open one means by which to circumvent the biological gatekeepers.  Or, rather, it is a means to break down the gate, and an option that such men, consciously or subconsciously, might want to leave open for themselves.

Maybe I’m being uncharitable.

So many evils are born of or influenced by the fact that women seem wicked*** when you’re unwanted that it’s almost too depressing to accept or at least to look at closely.  But if we want to correct and prevent evil outcomes, we need to think about where they come from and how they became what they are.  Only by doing this we can counter such evils effectively and efficiently and produce a more moral and ethical civilization.  Unless and until we change the nature of our biology itself, at a very deep level, we’re going to be saddled with this tendency, this subjective feeling, so well and concisely encapsulated in the Doors’s seemingly throw-away line.

Oodles more could be said about this, of course, but I’m not trying to write a full article, let alone a book on the subject.  I welcome your input on the matter, though, whether in the comments or on Facebook or on Twitter.

And, of course, I clearly don’t have reasonable time or space this week to deal with the second song, Girl, so I’ll leave that for next time.  I’ll just provide a teaser by saying that I think this song—probably unintentionally and/or unconsciously—had much to say about addiction, and the parallels between it and the dramatic and poetic notions of romantic love.

In closing, a quick report:  I continue to edit Unanimity at a good pace, and I’m enjoying the process; this enjoyment will probably not last, nor should it, for I need to be as brutal and ruthless with my work as I can.

I also, just for fun, yesterday began writing (by hand, to try mitigate my natural verbosity) Dark Fairy and the Desperado, a story I’d originally envisioned as a manga, based on two drawings I did at separate times and for separate reasons, of characters who somehow just worked in my head when I threw them together.  You can see several renderings of them among my posted images on Facebook, in my personal account and I think on my author page.  There’s even a fanciful picture, drawn as a favor, of the Dark Fairy tormenting then-President George W. Bush.

How much more would the Dark Fairy have to say and do now, with our current president?  One shudders to imagine, and that shuddering is not necessarily entirely born of dread, but perhaps, rather, of antici…

…pation.

TTFN


*All other things almost never are equal, but we’ll leave that aside for now.

**Since most men, as a simple fact of reality and math, can’t stand out as plainly being above average relative to other men, and so are more likely to be frustrated in their “lust” than to have it bear fruit…so to speak.

***Let there be no misunderstanding:  this seeming is purely in the eyes of the beholder.

What freezings have I felt, what blog posts seen!

Hello, ahoy-hoy, good day, and Happy New Year to all.

In my neck of the world, we’re currently suffering through a cold front/cyclone system that’s battering the eastern half of the United States with bitter cold and snow; even here in South Florida it got down to 45 degrees (Fahrenheit), last night, and it may get colder tonight.  That probably doesn’t seem very impressive to anyone who lives almost anywhere else in the US, or in most of Europe, but it’s the coldest it’s been here since I moved to this part of Florida.  Remember, I’m at roughly the same latitude as Egypt here, at least according to a map I saw online.*

As you know, last week we released “I for one welcome our new computer overlords” as a 99-cent short story for Kindle (and yes, that is how I’m capitalizing—or not capitalizing—the title).  I’m very happy with the way it turned out, so I’ve already begun arranging the other two short stories which had previously been posted on this blog.

This brings me to an interesting point:  As some of you know, I’d already recorded myself reading the short story “Prometheus and Chiron” aloud, for eventual placement on the blog, but simply hadn’t edited it yet for that purpose.  Well, now it turns out that my procrastination has served me well, since I’m in the process of doing further editing of the written version of that story.  I can honestly say that “Ifowonco” benefited greatly from that extensive re-editing process, and I think that “Prometheus and Chiron” will likewise benefit.  So, of course, I’m going to need to re-record it, and will then prepare that new version for release on the blog.  I’d like to say, or to imagine, that my subconscious was looking out for me in keeping me from releasing the audio before, but I can’t reasonably or honestly draw that conclusion.  I think it was mainly luck.

In any case, “Prometheus and Chiron” is the short story that will be released next for Kindle, and then on audio on this blog, but it’s going to be at least a little bit before it’s available (though we are already working on a cover design for it).

Speaking of audio—I did a bit of ex temp recording yesterday, speaking my thoughts, stream-of-consciousness style, on the dangers of so-called Regressive/Authoritarian Leftism, and especially on the dangers of virtue-signaling, dogmatism about ideological purity, and the in-fighting, denouncements, victimhood hierarchies, and the general level of shrieking hysteria one finds these days in segments of the left.  Quite apart from the impediment such idiocy presents to real, honest, classical-style liberalism—which has much in common with what might now be called libertarianism—and the contribution it made to the loss of the last election for the Democrats (and the possible loss of coming elections, for similar reasons), I have longer-term, possibly more disturbing worries, and I discussed them in brief…with myself, I guess.  Specifically, I pondered historical occasions when such intolerant and dogmatic leftists achieved power, and how those occasions gave rise to such historical horror shows as the French Revolution’s Reign of Terror, the slaughter of the Czar’s family and the subsequent gulags and purges of Soviet Russia (and the conflicts between Stalin and Trotsky, which led, among other things, to Trotsky’s murder), and of course, the cultural revolution and the millions of deaths associated with Maoism.  I’m not sure how coherent my speech was on that subject—I just didn’t feel like writing about it at the time, even though writing is almost unfailingly more organized than free-associated speech—but I’m going to listen to it, and if it’s good enough, I’ll edit out the hems and haws, the misspeakings, the false starts, and so on, and release the audio on Iterations of Zero.  It’s an interesting experiment, in any case.

I do still intend to make use of audio in the future with some regularity, though I think I’m going to put the video notion on hold for the time being.  Maybe someday I’ll make videos out of my eventual audio files, attaching them to pretty, nature-oriented background scenes, with flowers, and birds, and bees, and sweet little children.  That way you can keep yourself alert by suppressing your urge to vomit, even as you listen to my riveting words spoken in the dulcet tones of my own angelic voice.

Believe me, it’s better than having to look at my face.

Of course, despite all these other projects, “Unanimity” is proceeding well.  Things have begun to fall apart for the main characters, as it were—though of course, they really began to do that near the beginning of the story, but no one realized it until now—and we are approaching various revelations, confrontations, acts of violence, and ultimately the conclusion.  I won’t quite go so far as to say that no one here gets out alive, but no one will get out unscathed.  The book should be released sometime this year, but I’m not sure exactly when, yet.  Much else is happening, currently, so my writing on “Unanimity” is going more slowly than it might otherwise.

Okay, well, that’s about it for announcements this week.  I haven’t yet begun writing my various “author’s notes,” nor have I decided whether I’ll put them on Amazon, but they will be forthcoming here.  Please stay tuned for them, and at the same time, stay warm everyone.

TTFN


*Upon subsequent investigation, I have confirmed that Florida is indeed roughly at the same latitude at Egypt.  In fact, Cairo is 2 degrees farther north than Orlando, Florida (30.04 degrees north, versus 28.53 degrees).  By comparison, the city in which I live is at 25.98 degrees north latitude, which is just south of Okinawa, and level with parts of Morocco, the UAE, and Oman, among other places.

Liberty, Independence, Rights, and Patriotism

I’m not planning on writing a great deal today, because I’m going to let other writers, of whom many of you might have heard, take up most of the space of this entry.  But I do want to preface that writing with a few thoughts of my own, some of which I may have articulated previously.

Next Tuesday is the 4th of July, on which, in America, we celebrate Independence Day, with much eating, drinking, and firework firing.  It’s a wonderful holiday, an opportunity to enjoy family togetherness in the summertime, and to celebrate the anniversary of the founding of the United States, a pivotal historical event.  However, it should also be, I think, a time for Americans to reflect upon the origins of our country, upon the ideas on which is was founded, and what we need to do to live up to the hopes of its founders, whose reach—as does our own—often exceeded their grasp. Continue reading

The good/evil number line

During the last presidential election (some of you may remember it) occasional memes floated through social media making pronouncements to the effect that choosing the lesser of two evils (e.g. Hillary Clinton vs. Donald Trump in these memes’ cases) is still choosing evil.  These memes seemed often to come from first hopeful, then frustrated, Bernie Sanders supporters, but it’s a notion that’s by no means confined to such groups.  Ideologues of all stripes, from the religious, to the political, to the social-scientific and beyond, fall prey to the classic mental fallacy of the false dichotomy—the notion that the world is divided into two absolute, opposite natures, and that if their own ideas are pure and good (and nearly everyone, on all sides, seems to believe this of themselves), then any choice other than the pure realization of their ideas in all forms is somehow a descent into evil.  Many people implicitly believe that even to choose the “lesser of two evils” is somehow to commit a moral betrayal that can be even worse than simply choosing evil for its own sake.

I hope to explode this notion as the destructive claptrap that it is. Continue reading