Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Lucinda Williams

Is both raw, aggressive and emotionally charged in a positive extroverted I'm going to fucking say what I need to say way, and simultaneously vulnerable, seemingly translucent in her willingness to expose herself, to allow anyone and everyone to have full indulgence in the hurt, the pain, the very sensitivity that so many of us feel, and somehow, she manages to show us a window into those two sides of the equation in full repose.

Which is to say that I'm in awe of her.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011


Baby, sweet baby, you're my drug 
Come on and let me taste your stuff 

Baby, sweet baby, bring me your gift 
What surprise you gonna hit me with 

I am waiting here for more 
I am waiting by your door 
I am waiting on your back steps 
I am waiting in my car 
I am waiting at this bar 
I am waiting for your essence 

Baby, sweet baby, whisper my name 
Shoot your love into my vein 

Baby, sweet baby, kiss me hard 
Make me wonder who's in charge 

(Repeat Chorus) 

Baby, sweet baby, I wanna feel your breath 
Even though you like to flirt with death 

Baby, sweet baby, can't get enough 
Please come find me and help me get f-----d up 

(Repeat Chorus) 

Your essence 
Your essence 

On Assholes

1.  How funny it is that much assholish behavior can come from the desperate desire for comfort, as in, deep seeded insecurity.  That seems odd to me, because assholish behavior should be pinpointed and deliberate, in my mind at least, not a cover for something weak.

2.  Many assholes have no idea that they are, in fact, assholes.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Future Utility vs..Current Discomfort.

What life is all about.

I couldn't help but notice a woman in high heels this morning.  No, not because of the heels, necessarily, but because she avoided walking over a grate that I didn't think twice about.


Well, as women who have worn high heels will tell you, walking over grates with the shoes on is strictly prohibited.  As such, walking around a place like NYC is an adventure in avoidance of grates, to say the least.

Which leads me to this: there's gotta be some discomfort in walking around grates all the time.  For instance, if you're talking with someone while you walk, or simply walking with someone else at all, you must move, often times many feet, away from that person.  Likewise, if you're in a rush, you probably want to use the most direct line to your destination.

Which is all to say that there must be some benefit to wearing high heels that is great than the cost of being late, or acting slightly awkwardly in social situations.  And greater than the cost of foot surgery at a later date?

Saturday, November 26, 2011

At the end of the day, you still have to live.

That is, no matter what you've accomplished, or haven't accomplished.  And whether you drive a BMW, ferrari, honda, or subway to the party, drink fancy 15 year old scotch or budweiser, spend your time in front of the television, or the nytimes crossword puzzle, reading fancy french novels or romantic thrillers, find excitement in the simple or sophisticated, you, as in the collection of feelings and thoughts that constitutes your subjective experience in the world, still have to live.  As in, ultimately, all of your decisions only come down to how much weight you want to apply to them, so long as you aren't in prison (and maybe even if you're in prison?)--only that on average, you have to find a way to continue to exist.  That's the point, eventually, regardless of what other ideals come into being to stand for existence. And I'm not sure, of course, that thinking about existence is the best way to go about existing.  Perhaps it is best to think about apple pies.  Or blueberry muffins.  Or maybe I'm just hungry.  

Because we all try really hard, and we want to feel like our trying is worth something.

Or, more to the point, a lot of us find the most efficient route to the least effort and most reward, because effort is difficult, by definition, but we should be really clear with ourselves that when we're in subjective internal monologue mode, self-branding, i.e. creating the narrative that goes with all of the associated actions and thoughts we've left in drip drop pattern on the road back there, well, we're not very good at being accurate.  We're very good at justifying our own actions, and feeling outrage.  And forgetting why we did things.  Because there aren't always reasons, or at least there aren't always reasons that encapsulate all of the stuff that we have now as a result of an experience.  For example, if we just got out of a relationship, there's no way we willed all of the interactions that occurred within the relationship.  Yet it is this type of thinking that often handicaps us about, well, most things--that we somehow willed everything there is around us.

And I started out talking about how we have to come to terms, that is, to live, regardless, and I'm not sure that I can offer you, or myself, any advice on the process.  Because the bottom line is that we're, as in you and I, we're just our own worst enemies: we're simultaneously full of the most rich data that makes the evaluation possible and the most emotional attachment to skewing that data as well.  And so we're always going to be too rigid about some things. But with all of that said, it doesn't necessarily clear the way toward anything specific, is the thing, unless you think it does.  In which case, go out and do it.  You can use me as a footnote for later.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Purity = Respectability

It strikes me that what I meant to write when I wrote about purity a few posts ago, was that it stands, in a very real way, as a proxy in most people's thinking patterns, for the capacity to respect or be respected.

Without purity, there can be no respect.  With purity, there can always be respect (even veneration).  In that, we have an intuitive sense of whether someone is pure, whether their actions are valid, whether what they tell us has only one layer, whether there is something essentially clean about them, and trusting that instinct is easier than thinking about, or evaluating, their behaviors toward us, or even toward themselves, or toward their other friends.  As in, it allows us to believe that if we've been treated with a pure sense of purpose, then a person him- or herself is in fact respectable.

Discipline seems to be the number one way to acquire purity, i.e. to restrict oneself, or to purify oneself if you've become dirty.

Once someone has become dirty to us, we sincerely dislike interacting with them and brand them inauthentic.

And once we do that we find justification in all sorts of treatment, not the least of which is talking about them in a dis-respectable manner (i.e. broadcasting our conclusion about who they really are).

The most extreme example of this treatment is, naturally, straight up torture and murder.  What torturing and murdering other people--what gossiping about them--does, is to cleanse us of them.

Anyway, even if you don't agree with my last statement, you'll surely recognize your own repulsion to lewd behavior.  And I'd bet that our repulsion is in part because certain rules of purity have been crossed.

(Not that purity or the idolization of purity is necessarily bad, just that we should perhaps recognize why it is we're insanely attracted or repulsed when exposed to something).

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

What Are You Waiting For?

What is it that you secretly desire that you do not allow yourself?

Why not?

How the hell are we supposed to judge whether the answer to that question is reasonable or not?

What if our thoughts are so tightly woven that we can't break free from them, and acting on our intuitions will fundamentally reassemble our thought process such that we act in ways discordant with who we previously were, by way of similar actions, and we don't really know it.

The fabled dual self!

Anyway, it would be scary if we do stuff we don't know we do, and even scarier to do stuff we don't know why we do.

Which isn't to say that we don't do that stuff, just that it is too scary to think about, when you sit down to think about it.

So let's have a smoke break, shall we?

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Becoming Comfortable.

Let's say you have a chore to do, and the chore (like singing a song for instance) makes you nervous.  So you fuck it up, because you're nervous.  And you let down your dad, for instance, who, let's say, is bob dylan.  And it is easy to let him down, you know the best, because, well, he is who he is. And then you can't fucking sing anything at all and produce a bunch of medicore stuff becuase it is easier to do that because at least you are comfortable.  And yet.

And yet.

You're capable of more.  And one day you actually do produce the good stuff that maybe your dad saw in you from the beginning, and maybe when you do you all of a sudden come to a realization that it isn't hard at all, so much as it necessitates slowing all the way down, and feeling the world, understanding its texture, and whatnot, and then, once you can perform at that level, well, it isn't hard at all, because it is joyful in fact, and the entire reason your dad has been so disappointed in you is because you haven't allowed yourself to experience joy, and not because you can't sing like hank williams, and the entire reason you've felt like shit is because you haven't been able to relax and just exist.  And one day, it all goes together and there's a moment when we're essentially ready to die because we can understand struggle, and we can see beauty, and we can share it with someone else fully, as in both parties understand the same as the other, and there it is, the meaning, so simple, so easy, so natural, and so long coming.

Too bad it doesn't stick around.

But I will download the album.


Seems to me purity plays a large role in how we evaluate our own acts, in real time, and how we evaluate (also in real time) other people's actions toward us or intrinsically.

Did they have the appropriate purity to act as we think they acted?

Did we have the appropriate purity to partake in our own behaviors and feel good (guilt-free) about them?

Do we have a higher stake in the arena of purity on balance than others?  Do we think we're better because we're somehow more pure?  Or do we think that more pure is simply better, period.

We certainly capitulate reason to nostalgia and sentimentality frequently enough for me to feel that we have a reason for doing so, and I often reflect that our reason is our own supposed purity.

And I'm not even talking about purity as a modifier, although I suppose it would fall in line with the above, and our general ordering of things.

To wit: We don't necessarily like standards that are applied to us from someone else, but we all, and I earnestly believe this, hold ourselves to some standards, whatever they might be.  And, if that's true, if standards are out there, lurking, universal, implacable but different, some highly explicit and some so implicit that actions are taken on the backs of the rugged beasts even when the mere fact of the standard is not recognized (that it needs food, that it bucks, that it sleeps, that it breathes man, and that it has lice), it means only one thing: we're all blazing fucking idiots and it is fundamentally useless to think about how to stop conflict, in whatever incarnation we often do, and we should somehow become much more direct and much less worried about offending others (because if we're all direct, and not worried, then I have a feeling that average offense and average umbrage will actually decrease).

Friday, November 18, 2011

Notice to Women out there RE: men.

Men enjoy, perhaps more than anything else, talking about themselves. 

Memory of Events matter as much as Events

This is a weird one, but quite obvious: Our memories, whether accurate or not (most often weighted toward how we felt at the end of a particular episode), are in some ways distinct from the actual experience of an event/episode.  Such that, our memories are what we talk about, and what we consider, when we consider anything, in retrospect.  Odd, I think, because it means that if there's not a very good fit between how the process of solidifying memory works from the basis of how we experience the world, that we'll have at times fully detailed lies that masquerade as the truth of what we knew we lived through, but which, in fact, are not necessarily close.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Thinking of Getting an MPP/MPA Degree?

Do yourself a favor and just get the MBA instead.  It won't preclude you from any field.  It will instead, simply add options.  Definitely worth it in the longerish run.

Female Orgasm, Visualized in the Brain

Here's the link.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

One of the weeks when I don't post for a week.

Excuse my lack of posting.  I'm not sure where it started, this lack.  I have to try to hold thoughts down better, pin them in the corner as it were, or try to get my knees up in the crotch area quickly enough to draw blanched faces and moans of woe.  Keep them still for a moment, isolated from each other.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Life is Limited.

Let's recognize this: for lots of reasons we can't understand, life is simultaneously more complicated and restricted than we can fully comprehend.  We don't fully control the trajectory of our own lives, much less other people's lives, and everyone generally acts out of what they think at the time is a good idea, however much we might disagree from outside.  The basic fact remains that who we chose to be vulnerable with, and who choses to be vulnerable with us (vulnerable: showing or expressing emotions that you would only look at fully alone, and/or asking for advice on key life issues, and listening, developing an ear, and offering those things) is going to play a large role in determining how we see the world and how the world appears to us.  If we're always inflated by grand ideas and unobtainable dreams, we may in fact be doing some harm to those that we're in fact closest to, and that harm might simply be the negligence of our own expansive ideals, the underbelly, if you will.  In that case, maybe it is time to roll up the sleeves and make some pot roast.

Smoking, Reasons.

1) Associative: Smokers can leave the confines of whatever restrictive social coalition has formed and break from it in a way that is justified (although decreasingly so in many parts of the country and world).

2) Happenstance: Smoking is extremely physically addictive, so having been exposed without large reprimand, or prohibitive barriers (high cost) smoking activities can continue.

3) Dominance: In a group of people (particularly young men), smoking can show dominance, in that it shows capacity to access a black market good, is a visible marker of one's ability to garner limited resources.

4) Status:  Smoking looks very cool and sexy. It can elevate one's standing in a group (though does not always do so).

5) Substitute for food: Practically speaking, smoking deters eating, at least temporarily, so quitting smoking usually results in an uptick of caloric intake.

6) Others?

Friday, November 11, 2011

Character, complex, misunderstood, faces adversity, hits bottom,

gets depressed, gets an insight, some hope, strives, suffers setback, succeeds, is modest about success even though obvious that character is the sole reason for characters success.

2. character, overly confident, suffers a loss, goes through a journey, finds hope in wrong places, discovers new found appreciation for the mundane, prosaic shit that is everyday life, eyes are opened, and character leverages previous status to open other people's eyes, even though they don't at first listen.

3. character suffers loss of child.  see 1.

4.  character, overly depressed, struggles, gives up, dies. life after death is revealed.  choices must still be made.  audience leaves whispering about insight.

5.  character kidnaps supposed rapist of daughter, changes him into a woman and falls in love with him/her.  "the skin i live in."

Optimism Bias

We consistently face decisions that are, at their core, predictions about future events.  When we are principally involved though, we suffer from an insider status (as per Kahneman in his new book, Thinking, Fast and Slow, link).  In short, we attach much higher probability to our own successful read of the situation, and ultimate completion of a task, than base rates (rates across high numbers of the same situation/task completed by similar folks) would predict.  We consistently under-appreciate other people's experience of an event that we must now navigate and over-estimate our own capacity.    This works in the construction business, where add-ons are common (and I'm here to testify to their existence!), and to the absolutely horribly ability of CFOs at large companies to have any idea what the stock market will do in the future, and for psychoanalysts to help their patients with talk therapy.

Much more of what exists, i.e. how things turn out, is due to luck and chance than it is to our will.  That's not a nice story, but it is an accurate one.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Prison = Redistribution of Wealth

In a very real way, committing a serious enough crime to get locked up is a desperate measure to get some kind of governmental aid.  Prison isn't cheap, especially if you're a youthful offender.   It is far more expensive--per slot, per year--than education or full-time child care.

More on this when I have time to research.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Women: You Are Better.

Women: You are often times better than the men you are with.  You don't leave because you fear rejection and isolation, because we all have a bias toward familiarity and the present--but you don't have to let this keep you down.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Thinking About Death and Life and Years in Monetary Terms.

It is easy to fantasize about making a lot of money.

It is much more depressing to actually calculate how much money you or I would need to stop working, because it means that we'd need to calculate our expenses on a yearly/monthly basis until our terminal point, our deaths.  And we can do the math, with a few assumptions.

I'm 30 years old.  I'll most likely live to about 80. That's 50 years.

Current monthly expenses: approximately 2000-2500, so about $30,000 after taxes to live at current levels without any bumps in the road, or new purchases (like a car).

But let's build in an extra $10,000 a year for those interruptions.  Now I need $40,000.

And then we'd need to take into account some inflation.  Okay, let's assume an even 5%  Now I must open excel.  Perhaps though I can get an average rate of return from investments equal to about 5%.

And let's say tax is approximately 30%.

So, an income of $60,000 yields $42,000 after taxes.  That's enough given the above assumptions.   Now, 60k * 50 years = $3.0 million.

There you have it folks.  Simple, assumption loaded.  Anyone have 3 million around so I can retire early?

Edit: It is more than likely that if I actually had that money I wouldn't be capable of budgeting it appropriately, and that I'd value the present higher and spend accordingly--30k when you have 3,000,000 looks a lot different than when you have 42,000.

Seeing and Thinking Accurately

(I'm reading Daniel Kahneman's book, Thinking, Fast and Slow.)

I'm not sure this project will improve net utility/happiness/satisfaction,  though it could prove insightful.

All that is insightful is not welcome, all the time.  For instance, if I can see clearly that I'm at least partially a bestial primitive animal, should I want to be aware of that if (and note the if!), I won't necessarily act on those impulses?  Wouldn't it be better to be submerged in my experience and "just" live without having the meta-view of living while I'm trying to do the living?

Should we be aware of everything?  Maybe partial delusion is best.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Suffering to Produce Art?

What is it about suffering that makes good art?

Let's back up, because maybe you disagree with the premise.  Or maybe it is stated too generally to disagree or agree with. What makes folks who have seemed to suffer produce good art?  Or, alternatively, what makes previously good artists who make it commercially, bad.

Alternative scenarios:

1) The artist's work hasn't changed at all, but the viewing of the work has changed

2) The work has changed in a dramatic fashion, and superceded the public's taste for the work: the artist has, essentially, advanced, or branched out, faster than allowable to stay relevant (in the current country/culture/milieu/etc).

3) The artist never suffered at all.  But mass appeal came about and changed his/her status, so that his/her work must now be taken more seriously.  Anything taken more seriously--i.e. anything we're willing to become more familiar with--will yield some forgiveness in the dance we call perception.

I'd like to propose that artists do indeed get worse if they don't push themselves (or somehow are pushed).   I don't think it is the suffering that causes good arts, but the capacity to back away from the suffering, to get through it, to have a change of perspective, that allows a certain alignment, a certain insight, and, after a lot of work, perhaps, some art can emerge built on that insight.  In short, without becoming uncomfortable, we don't change perspectives too fast, and don't produce very good art. 

Disclaimer: There's a long continuum between dissonant art and consonsant art--i.e. art that drastically differs from what you expect (so much so that it takes serious amounts of time to begin comprehending it) and art that is slick, easy to digest and finds instant resonance.  However, it is assumed at times that consonant art is somehow inauthentic.  That's perhaps not the case as much as we (cynics) would like to think.  It is incredibly hard to produce a piece of very slick immediately available art.  It may even be easier, at times, to produce something aphasic, ineffable, or so dissonant that there can be almost no audience besides those sympathetic with the artist, and not because the art is available to them.  Having said that, naturally those folks who become specialized in viewing art have a different taste, by virtue simply of higher exposure.  I'm not exactly sure what role that plays in the fundamentals of the piece of art on display yet though.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Why Delusion Persists

It isn't because people are stupid, but because we have egos that tell us that we're better than other people.

In essence, there's a delicate balancing act going on between the the need to be accurate and the need to succeed, to be viable, that is, to be attractive to others. 

For example, if we're rejected for an award, a promotion, or something similar, our egos allow us to reject the rejection and assert our "true" nature, and our cognitive rational minds swoop in to provide a host of reasons (however one sided). 

And that allows us to try to succeed again.

Without it, we might not, and if we didn't try, well, then it would be easy not to accomplish anything.

However, the bounds of our ego should come into play when we need correction.  Correction doesn't come easily, because a lot of us have learned to trust intuition more than almost anything else, particularly the messages of others who have experiences that we could learn from.  When we feel like we're exceptional, we don't want to sacrifice it for accuracy.  Hence delusional thinking.  It is easy, if you don't try, even natural.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Hindsight Bias and Personal Identity Based Narrative

It is all too easy to say that certain events and circumstances caused other events to occur, once both happened already.

For instance:

I am strong willed because I suffered physical child abuse.

I'm analytical because my parents were so simple and I wanted to rebel.

Anyhow, basing current life choices on how we perceive previous events isn't necessarily wrong--there's definitely a piece of the truth in there--but it isn't necessarily right, either, and it may be useless (except that it makes for an interesting story).  Unfortunately, our brains are very good at creating stories for our current situations, so good that it happens naturally and we often don't notice that we've been telling ourselves certain things about ourselves.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Marriage Is A Contract/Relationship

We don't like to cross the social/monetary value that much.  As in, we don't like to say what our social experience is worth in quantified or financial terms.  It produces a yucky internal feeling, one that, we think, tarnishes the social purity of the situation.  That's why it is easy to hate corporations, conglomerates, or anyone who has made it enough to talk about--they've figured out somewhere along the line that what they produce must be able to be consumed, and what is consumed can be quantified, and that there are patterns to successful consumption and production.  It isn't a secret so much as it is a battle cry to talk about the slickness of corporate products, the washed out quality of something mass produced, or the authenticity of the antiques in ever growing shops within a 250 mile radius of new york city. 

Chronicling All Existence -

For the sake of argument, let's assume that everything is recorded in some form or another.  What would you participate in (assuming our technological capacity puts us at the level of viewer and not direct participant), or view?  What does this say about our experience of time?  Why are we limited or not limited in how much we can understand a particular viewing?  What about viewing another experience gives us insight into it?  Why should we be able to understand it?

Neil Young Provides Men Acceptable Sentimental Emotive Stance

I couldn't help but stop walking this morning and just listen to the downtown NYC scenes that surrounded me--I work close to Ground Zero, and as such, there's a bunch of construction going on, not surprisingly.  So typically I hear clanking and banging, but this morning I heard Neil Young singing about fading into black, and then I stopped, too, and listened, and his voice carried me off into pure nostalgia, kind of sweet, tinged bitter, you know the sort, and I suppose that's just the way it goes on a chilly November morning.