Monday, June 18, 2018

"Cornered Rat" Report #25

Monday, June 18, 2018: The phrase "cornered rat" finds 96,600 Google search results, 11% less than the 108,000 found two weeks ago.

All "Cornered Rat" postings in reverse chronological order

I'd like to chart these results, adding new data weekly. Any suggestions re: an easy, free online service that will spit out such a chart without my needing to do a lot of fussy setup?

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Four Things to Bear in Mind in the Age of Trump

1. Until a few decades ago, when things got a notch or two warmer/fuzzier, most of our presidents were narcissistic racist pompous blowhards. The greats were standouts who (mostly) transcended that. That's why they were great! But the rest were varyingly ignorant, vain, blustering, unself-aware bossy boss predators who'd clawed their way to power. You know, like the asshole managing your workplace. Things have been that way since the dawn of time, yet we survived. In fact, we thrived.

2. History is full of odd footnote characters - aberrational dolts who squeaked into power and did unbelievably crazy shit. Such characters were infuriating to live under, and required diligent cleanup from their successors, but they are not the ones who destroy societies. Societal destroyers are different from boobish footnotes. The destroyers are smart enough and competent enough to execute their awful ideas. Remember Leff's Four Scenarios of Authority. In declining order of preference:
1. Smart ideas, good execution

2. Dumb ideas, bad execution

3. Smart ideas, bad execution

4. Dumb ideas, good execution
Trump's actually the second best possible scenario. Infuriating to live under, and messy to clean up, but never forget that societies are destroyed by #4 (and terminally demoralized by #3).

3. When you hear people complaining about how Trump isn't "normal", you're hearing hypocrisy. Back in 2015, when it looked like the 2016 race would be yet another Clinton versus yet another Bush, most of us groaned in exasperation. We prayed for someone different - someone iconoclastic - and, alas, our prayers were answered. The left, god help them, got Bernie, and the right, god help us all, got Trump. But while we all wanted a fresh start, only the Trumpers have remained steadfast while the rest of us flip-flopped (lord, what I wouldn't give for some boredom and normalcy) and even conjured up mass amnesia re: ever having wished it!

So while I condemn Trump's bigotry, his ignorance, his corruption, his narcissism, his authoritarianism, and his treason, I am not hypocrite enough to whine about his abnormality. (Everyday abnormality, anyway - the breached decorum, the Twitter decrees, the unfilled positions, etc. When abnormality is harmful - not merely surprising or distasteful - I call out the harmfulness....but never the divergence, per se.)

4. We hear constant kvelling re: Trump's lack of discipline and expertise; his unwillingness to read and to inform and prepare himself. His unshakeable confidence in his own gut instinct elevates willful ignorance to a point of pride. When Michael Bloomberg suggested he hire people advisors smarter than him, Trump's inevitable reply was that nobody fit that bill.

Disgusting, no? Yes, I think so. But I'm gobsmacked by the hand-wringing. Most 21st century Americans are exactly the same. Right, left, and center, this is an American norm. We exhibit little mental curiosity or elasticity. There's virtually no interest in exploring diverse opinion; even intelligent people mindlessly ape talking points. And there's no humility whatsoever to be found. Everyone harbors delusions of superiority, deeming their guts the keenest possible arbiters of truth. We're a nation of self-regarded "stable geniuses".

While Trump's sentiments, inclinations, and tone are hopelessly outdated (his ascension marks The Un-Self-Aware Assholes’ Last Hurrah), his willful ignorance, hubris, and penchant for "winging it" perfectly mirror how Americans roll right now. It's flabbergasting that so few see themselves in him.

Monday, June 11, 2018

Canadian Appreciation Day

In treasonous support of our sworn enemy to the north, aka "The Maple Peril", I'm speaking all day today in a Canadian accent, eh. My doctor asked me three times to repeat my request to "take my stitches oowt".

Bill Burr

Man, I love Bill Burr. If you don't know him, he's got a bunch of comedy specials on Netflix and he does a podcast.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Turkey Penne

I struck upon an interesting recipe today:

1. Roughly but finely chop a few slices of turkey with a butter knife. Don't cut cleanly; be sloppy.

Use real roast turkey, not cold cuts. I like the "Simply" Sliced Roast Turkey Breast at Trader Joe's, which is also great in panini.

As for the sloppy cut, two reasons: a smooth cut emphasizes turkey's slightly slimy texture...and a more shredded cut absorbs more oil and flavors.

2. Cut several garlic cloves as thinly as possible.

3. Cook pasta (fwiw I used small penne rigate, i.e. the ridged kind).

4. In a hot wok or sauce pan lightly coated with oil, add turkey and garlic and stir rapidly for just a few seconds.

5. Add fresh spinach, a handful or two of chopped firm tomatoes (I used mini San Marzanos from Trader Joe's, cut once lengthwise and four times crosswise), and leftover zucchini (recipe below). Don't let anything actually cook, you just want to wilt the spinach and heat and combine the ingredients. Once spinach is soft and your kitchen smells of something other than garlic, it's done.

Don't worry, the tomatoes will work well even if they don't have time to soften much, but a variation would be to start them before the turkey, with garlic and perhaps some chopped onion.

6. Kill the heat.

7. Drain pasta and return it to pot. Add one or two TBS of quality extra virgin olive oil and 1/4 cup or more of grated cheese (parmigiano, normally, but gouda works well, too) and stir rapidly and violently.

8. Add the turkey mixture, continuing violent stirring (I turn up the heat for this part, but you need to have a feel for the timing....trial and error!).

9. Serve.

See if you agree that the turkey - garlicky, which is unusual - doesn't pick up some of the substantive meatiness of ground beef.

Here's how I do the zucchini:

1. Wash zucchini, don't peel.

2. Slice once lengthwise, then make 1/4" crosswise cuts.

3. Heat skillet on medium high with a light coating of olive oil.

4. Add zucchini slices in one single layer and leave them alone until light golden brown (around 3 mins).

5. Add chopped garlic and chili powder (as always, I like Penzey's Aleppo Pepper), and immediately start stirring.

6. Stirring constantly, cook another 3-4 minutes, until zucchini just starts to soften. Salt and pepper (plenty of pepper, despite the Aleppo pepper) after cooking.

Make a lot (I do several consecutive batches, wiping out the pan each time), so there are leftovers for accompanying future entries, or to add to leftover stews or soup.

All recipes in reverse chronological order

Lorraine Gordon

I eagerly greet hurricanes on the infrequent occasions when they manage to reach New York. You're supposed to stay indoors, I know, but I always go outside to sniff the air, which I know will carry the evocative scent of the Caribbean. Lesser weather systems arrive from that zone, as well, but only a hurricane - a tightly-wound and highly self-contained system - preserves that essence.

With similar trepidation, and in similarly low doses, I enjoyed Lorraine Gordon, legendary proprietress of the legendary Village Vanguard. Lorraine would freely acknowledge that she was a brassy lady, a character, a loudmouth, a real ball buster. If those terms seem antiquated, well, so was she. When I knew her, a bit, in her 50s and 60s, she seemed like a character straight from an Ernst Lubitsch film. You could smell the 1940s on her. Not a sad, moldering vestige, but the living sizzle of the era. As a tightly-wound and highly self-contained system of her own, Lorraine preserved that essence.

I played at the Vanguard a number of times in the late 1980s with Illinois Jacquet (here's an anecdote about one such night), and Lorraine would always chase me around the club with scissors, trying to tame my "crazy haircut". Maybe she had a point (here I was in a relatively groomed got way bigger):

Not long after, I found myself running to Spain a few times per year to play gigs under my own name; high pressure engagements in well-known venues. On one such tour, students of mine asked me to make an appearance with their semi-professional dixieland band way the hell out of town, in the boonies, playing for farmers. We'd begin at 10am, and I'd be playing the night before until 3, so the 8am pickup would be a crusher (they'd offered more pay than I could possibly refuse). There was no time to shower or shave (at that age, it could be chalked up to bohemianism), I was deathly hungover, and I didn't bother to warm up. When the music started I simply slammed horn to face and proceeded to phone it in. It was more than good enough for the circumstance, but I was far from my best.

In my boredom, I scanned the crowd - from the stage crowded with a motley crew of well-meaning but really-not-even-close-to-competent musicians - taking in the non-comprehending stares of Catalan villagers who'd never heard a note of jazz in their lives. There were a few dozen of them standing outdoors in the morning heat, plus - wait, what? - Lorraine Gordon. Who I later learned had a brother who lived in this village. This stupid village. Because of course he did, and of course she happened to be visiting at that moment, and of course I'd just taken perhaps the worst solo of my life on some humiliatingly cornball washboard-and-spoons Dixieland anthem, looking like a wino.

Lorraine either didn't recognize me (I'd cut my hair by then) or politely pretended not to. I'm still not sure which. Not that I, in my abject mortification, let myself get anywhere near her. I looked nowhere but down at the floor for the subsequent two hours, and I never ever "phoned it in" again. Ever. A lot of what I write in this Slog about commitment stems from that Catalan Mortification (Mortificació Catalana), a pivotal event that haunted me for years.

Lorraine took this story with her to the grave yesterday, at age 95, and, finally detached enough to fully own that ghastly experience, I thank her for being party to a life-altering moment. I'm also thankful for her less-than-nimble athletic skills (in spite of her sensible shoes). She never managed to shear a solitary lock. I thank her for the visceral whiff of 1945 that I never experienced from any other human being, and I tip my hat to the tight-woundedness that preserved it. And, not incidentally, I thank her for doing as much as anyone in the past half century to preserve the heart and soul of a great art form.

For more on Lorraine, check out Ted Panken's terrific interview here. Definitely also read this link, starting from "On a frigid afternoon in January" (and you can stop when it moves on to other topics), wherein Ted magically evokes the evocative flavor pouring out of Lorraine!

Friday, June 8, 2018

A Surprisingly Uplifting Examination of Suicide

I was 23 and had been quite depressed for some time. Returning to my bad apartment in my bad car from a bad gig in a bad venue with bad musicians for bad money, I'd hit a new emotional low and couldn't muster the will to keep driving. Pulling my car onto the shoulder, I experienced a roaring, overpowering urge to finally end it all.

But as a curious and introspective fellow, I was compelled, even amid all my angst, to question the phrase.

"End what, exactly?" I asked my empty car. I knew the next step from movies and TV shows, of course. The character in this situation slits his wrists, or carbon monoxides himself or whatever. But like (I suspect) everyone who's ever declared an urge to "end it all", I noticed a weird impasse. I had no desire at all to do harm to my body. There was no connection there. When I'm thirsty, I don't choke a squirrel or sing the national anthem. By the same token, my yearning to "end it all" didn't impel me toward bodily harm. It seemed like the most ridiculous non sequitur. If I were in a better mood, I might have even giggled.

I understood, intellectually, that killing my body would, indirectly, solve the problem. In a certain sense, it'd certainly "end it all". But it just wouldn't add up, emotionally, for me. I'm not a movie character, so I don't need to blindly follow a script; a meme. This obviously isn't the answer. So, once again: what, precisely, needs to end?

The answer blurted furiously from my ground zero: I yearned to end the painful, tedious, hopeless dreariness of worldly existence. The heaviness of it all. The burden. I desperately wanted out of all that. Not to relieve it or lessen it, but to totally die out from it. Now. Check, please.

I had no quarrel with my body, but everything else had to die, so I did it. I exhaled and gave up. Totally. Utterly. From the depths of my soul. I even moaned it out loud, "I give up!", accompanied by hot tears and shaking. Whatever I'd been fighting, whatever I'd been resisting, whatever I'd been fearing - come and get me, maul me, consume me. I'm yours. It's over. The universe wins.

The sense of burden lifted instantly, and my perspective, long frozen on negativity, felt luxuriously free. I was free, and always had been. I could do anything. And nothing really matters all that much. This world is entirely for our rich immersion and entertainment. I'd just gotten stuck, that's all! And at my point of ultimate desperation, an inner faculty had pushed me toward a reboot. Many people feel that same urge and, tragically and unnecessarily, resort to a meme, proceeding with self-harm, oddly disconnected though that feels. But that's not what this urge actually urges!

I've gotten re-stuck a few times since then (because I get bored with simplicity and freedom, and indulge the urge to obsess over what's missing). And I've re-experienced that overpowering compulsion to "end it all". But I no longer even begin to associate that phrase with guns or cliffs or bridges. Instead, I recognize - and respect - the urge for what it really is: a powerful and benign wake up call reminding me to let go. To wear it all more lightly, and to bear in mind that the only problem is my own frozen perspective.

Further reading:

Depression Resuscitation Kit
A Unique Perspective on Depression (same link as the last one, above)
Other postings about depression

Anthony Bourdain

A lot of people don't know that Anthony Bourdain was a Chowhound regular back in the late 90s, just before his first book came out. He showed up blasting with self-promotion. We politely asked him to stop, and he politely agreed to knock it off...and did. No problem. He eventually split, along with a small circle of malcontents who felt I was too uptight in how I ran the community (everyone loves a moderated discussion but nobody likes to be moderated; it's like smokers requesting no-smoking hotel rooms - 'cuz they smell better - and then smoking in them).

I didn't hear from him until years later, when I was invited to appear on his "No Reservations" show. I declined, and was glad I had when I discovered that it was an episode about "food bloggers" (I'd written/cowritten nine books and columns for Newsweek, Newsday, and many more), where I'd have appeared in a roundtable discussion with those very same malcontents. Shudder.

In the early 2000s, I was recruited by a publishing legend who wanted to pluck me from my Chowhound mire, rescue me from the insanely awful (but lucrative) music gigs I'd resorted to to keep my lights on, and make me a national sensation. If I'd say the word, I'd have a multi-book contract and frequent mass media appearances. I turned it down, as I wasn't prepared to close or neglect Chowhound. Very shortly afterward, the same fellow signed Bourdain.

Not exactly treasured memories. But through it all, Bourdain himself was always nice to me. I was snarled at by a lot of people back in the day while I killed myself throwing a great free party for a million strangers on zero budget via my indefatigable adrenal glands. But in every exchange I've ever had with him - sometimes telling him things he didn't particularly want to hear - he was unfailingly polite, and respected the fact that I - a near stranger - was a human being with feelings. That doesn't sound like much, but when you've managed a million people on the Internet you really notice when someone acts surprisingly.

That guy you saw on the screen, who was sarcastic and brashly negative, was apparently almost incapable of disrespect. You might have picked this up from his programs, perhaps not realizing he was the same even with cameras packed away. To be sure, he could hurl criticism and bile-filled invective. Ask his nemeses like Rachel Ray! But that's a different thing. Amid the slow grind of the day to day, as he interacted in his various circles, a person was always a full person to him.

That's rare. I myself didn't grow up in an environment where folks behaved like that. I've since been reforming myself, but it's a work in progress, and it's hard. The usual technique is to tamp down one's disrespectfulness beneath a veneer of corporate politesse, but that's the ultimate dehumanization; forcing interlocutors to engage with you as if with a voice mail prompt. But Bourdain was genuine and respectful with everyone, even when he reached a position where he sure as hell didn't need to be.

This isn't something I've seen pointed out about him, and, to me, it was even more impressive than his fast wit. And it was especially remarkable considering that he was a person who was so admittedly unhappy, and so full of oft-confessed demons. That sort of internal landscape isn't normally a springboard for deeply-committed humanism. It is with utmost respect that I observe that Anthony Bourdain played his best possible hand with the cards he was dealt.

Discussion of his tragic suicide - along with some counterintuitive thoughts about suicide, generally - will follow.

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Inviting Kim Jong-un for a Friendly Visit

According to a new press report:
President Trump says he would "certainly" invite North Korea's Kim Jong Un to visit the United States if summit negotiations in Singapore go well.
Trump says he'd probably favor the White House over his private Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, Florida, as a venue for hosting Kim, saying: "Maybe we'll start with the White House."

While I've seen no pundit say it out loud, there can't be the slightest doubt what the plan is. Sham negotiations and sham agreements, hands warmly shaken and smiling photos snapped. Promises made, perhaps even some aid money changing hands. Then we kill the fat little motherfucker the moment he sets foot on our soil.

It would be unprecedented in modern diplomacy. It would set an unimaginably terrible precedent. It would be barbaric and sharply at odds with American values - heck, with over three centuries of Enlightenment values. But while I'm a peaceful, conciliatory type, I can't say I'm necessarily opposed in this one extreme case.

Leave aside Kim Jong-un's death camps, his bellicosity, his support for terrorism, his great many knives pointed at the throat of South Korea, Samoa and Japan. Forget for a moment his nukes and ICBM development. Putin's Russia does most of these things - and points those missiles right at us - yet no sane parties would propose murdering Putin (not that it would make a big difference, anyway; Putin's built a personality cult but it's not anything like North Korea's). North Korea does all those things while making nonstop credible threats against the United States and demonstrating unrestrained brutality and a visceral relish for blackmail. In fact, those things are their brand. This is a unique predicament which will soon erupt into an existential threat.

On the other hand, the North Koreans are not fools. KJU won't set foot in the United States without first showing the world the complicated set of "dead man switches" he's set up. Millions of Seoul residents would be at risk of incineration, and we'd need to worry about Japan as well. Interestingly, the Japanese Prime Minister is in Washington right at this very moment.

But it looks like Bolton, Pompeo, and Trump are wagering that, even factoring that in the less-than-certain odds that a decapitated North Korea would not slaughter millions, immediately triggering massive punishment, with no Great Leader to rally around, these are the best odds we'll ever get.

If this happens, and it works, Trump supporters (not so much the chuckle-headed MAGA bigots, but the ones who voted for Trump seeing him as an uncouth vicious asshole who'd be on our side) would get the last laugh. They've been saying all along that we needed a shake up and new thinking - more audacious, less politely occupied with norms and protocol. In this one situation, where a decades-long stalemate is about to come to a perilous head with no conceivable happy outcome, history might remember that we needed a rash, shameless jackal like Trump - execrable though he is - to get this one task done.

Only Trump could make this stick. His wildly hyperbolic and unpredictable turnarounds - nobody's "in" for long or "out" for long, it's all a wild ride of impetuous relationship shifts - make it credible that he'd go from ridiculing "Rocket Man" to forging a peace alliance in less than a year. Noble Prizes, ego, glory, etc..

Why, then, did Bolton make those Libya references (background: Muammar Gaddafi gave up his nuclear program and we invaded and slaughtered him)? And why was Giuliani antagonizing KJU this week (KJU "got back on his hands and knees and begged for it, which is exactly the position you want to put him in")? Because they're undisciplined idiots. It's as simple as that.

Monday, June 4, 2018

The Crux of Creativity

A couple of years ago I came tantalizingly close to explaining the crux of creativity. I'll reprint the whole posting:
I'm watching the DNC, and every politician is giving The Speech.

Not a speech. It's always the same speech. The same cadences. The same tone. The same pacing. You don't need to speak English to get the full idea. Even with the sound turned off, you know The Speech. I don't know why I'm watching this. I know every single thing before it happens. Why is this worth my time?

Whenever I point my phone's camera, I need to resist the impulse to take The Photo. Just as we're taught through sheer blinding repetition about The Speech, we all know what The Photo is. I don't want to take The Photo! I want something spontaneous and true!

So it drives me batty that people are so happy to give The Speech and take The Photo. Sometimes I feel like I'm the only one who minds!

It's why I travel. In New York City, everyone is making The Lasagna or The Salad or The Rolls. There are variations, sure, but there's a certain glue. Only minute surprise is possible. But in Cincinnati, the glue's totally different. A different stultifying sameness can feel fresh for a moment. I have a chance of being surprised.

The speech everyone is giving - the original egg to all these chickens - is based on some archetypal speech in our collective memories that never actually happened. It's a subconscious blurry memory composed of bits and snatches and memes. It's like an early childhood memory you can no longer truly remember because you remember only the remembering. We've come to agree that that's The Speech via the same mechanism that helps birds flock.

It's a soul-killer, and it's dauntingly unavoidable, in the end. Even the most creative people feel this tug (we actually feel it worse; it's one of the reasons we drink so much, do drugs, etc..).

But I have one question: for god's sake, do we really need to relish it so much? Do singers need to feel like they're just nailing it every time they execute one of the soulful-ish vocal tricks we've all heard a gazillion times? Do they need to feel like they've gone super extra deep when they take the exact same-lengthed pause everybody takes when they want to seem like they're going super extra deep? You know...The Pause?

Can't we push back at this just a little? Even if we can't invent and innovate our way around it, even if we're trapped - cursed to be 99.99% unsurprising - can't we at least recognize this phenomenon for the cage that it is? Can we stop dreaming of giving The Speech, or taking The Photo, or singing The Soulful Vocal Trick, or making The Pause ourselves, as the crowning glory of our deepest fantasies?

Can surprisingness at least be appreciated, if not strenuously pursued and fully embraced?
I've been trying boil it down further, but I can't express the point any more directly. It would be great if I could, because this is, bizarrely, a huge problem that's no problem at all for the vast majority of humanity - which rarely notices, much less minds. Rather, everybody dreams of being on stage and singing The Note, or of being elected to high office and giving The Speech.

We chase that image, and the specific details hardly matter. You know how Donald Trump loves the trappings of office but has no interest in the actual work of a president, doesn't think about issues, and skates through by winging it? He's far from unique. Human society is almost entirely about people clawing their way to a position where they can be The Guy and do The Thing....and, once there, hastily fill in with canned fodder and expedient sketches. The actual substance is mere afterthought.

While I can't distill this point any further, I can cite a favorite pithy observation for the umpteenth time:
Most singers become singers because they want to be singers, not because they want to sing.
Politicians don't give The Speech out of a desire to inspire and lead. It's the antithesis: they become politicians because they want to be the guy giving The Speech. If they were devoted to acting authentically and sincerely, rather than peering at themselves on their mental movie screen, they'd speak in order to say things, rather than vice versa. It's flabbergastingly rare that people give speeches to earnestly say things, even though that's the only way to draw a visceral response. If you're the least bit earnest - if you care about the doing and not just the posing, you might find yourself offering something fresh and spontaneous; something optimized for that unique moment. You may even change the nature of The Speech for all who come after (once it's stale, having been imitated to death and fully merged into society's unconscious).

In another posting, I wrote:
Billions of people yearn for greatness. Millions of people do things they hope will make them great. Thousands of people do great things with nary a thought about where it will leave them.
Millions and billions dream of being That Guy at the Podium Giving That Speech, while mere thousands genuinely have something to say above beyond the image of it all. The thousands aren't trying to personify their dreams. They're here to do stuff.

Apart from those measly few dissenters, however, earthlings chase images, period. That's why our world is rife with canned dialog, canned emotion, canned art. Even our personalities are most often canned. You've surely met people who are exact clones of a certain type; i.e. you've met hundreds just like them. They've cast themselves in a role and committed themselves to the performance. Their authentic selves become smothered by the dramatic scene-playing and posing.

This may surprise you: I believe that's fine. Better than fine, even! I myself get it wrong. I fit awkwardly into this world, not being any recognizable type. Unique presentation makes me an outcast and provokes fearful misapprehension. I'd do much better if I chose a role and stuck to it. So while I've missed that train, I see nothing wrong with posing as a matter of style in the day-to-day. But the problem is when posing makes its way into matters of real substance, and of art. Every shower singer yearns to pull off The Note, an expedient sketch dredged from collective memory. But when (supposedly) creative people do likewise on actual stages, that's art-imitating-life-imitating-art, and the result will never be affecting. Do you want to pose as a Singer or do you want to really sing, from your authentic self?

A crusty few of us choose to bake fresh every time. We seem obtuse, and irritatingly slippery; extreme nonconformists in a world where The Speech and The Pause and The Note and The Photo are all that is great and good. Everyone worships the very things we strain to avoid.

Yet sometimes we crusty holdouts become recognized as trail blazers, having found a fresh avenue and struck a chord. A magic trick! We appear to be the lead car, forging into the unknown. From our perspective, though, we're stuck at the tail of it all, flinching at the shallow pretension and struggling to resist the overwhelming preference for canned expedient skating over Truth.

It doesn't help that this issue is perennially framed as imitation vs originality. That's not a helpful way to think of it; in fact, it's dangerously counterproductive. Many a promising artist has been ruined by angling to be "original". Originality is just another pose! Many artists and thinkers yearn to be seen as Originals, and that's just another abstract mental image to personify. It makes for results that are shticky, contrived, and/or affected.

It's hard - nearly impossible for most people - to simply produce something entirely for the sake of the thing itself, without presenting yourself as The Person Who Simply Produces Something Entirely For The Sake Of The Thing Itself. Without, in other words, that narcissistic loop-back. Human beings live to abstract raw experience and turn it into self-referential narrative, but self-conscious posing is not how you create substance or beauty.

Here's the secret: don't sing - or speak, or write, or dance, or act, or lead, or snap the photograph - unless you feel spontaneously moved in the moment to express. The single most beautiful choice any artist or thinker can make is to refrain from output until the muses have sorted themselves. Never resort to canned fodder in dry moments in the rote compulsion to fill gaps. Be more careful!

As I wrote in a posting titled "The Beauty of Water, of Whiteness, and of Silence":
If you're about to play or compose music, try holding back until you have a note to offer that can improve upon the perfection of silence (if you haven't yet fallen deeply in love with silence, you have no business making music). If you're about to paint, try holding back until you have a brushstroke to offer that can improve upon the perfection of the white canvass. And if you're creating some sort of drink, try holding back until you can improve upon the perfection of water. With this perspective, you can't fail.

It's only after realizing that everything's perfect, as-is, that one is in a position to make a contribution that contributes.
The problem is when we pose as Expressers and then hastily scramble for output, like a toddler who suddenly draws attention after emphatically demanding it but is embarrassed to have nothing to actually say. Your output is not just fodder. Output is your wake; it's literally all that matters!

I wrote the following about my cousin Libby's transcendent yellow rice, which first inflamed my passion for food, thus inspiring Chowhound, everyone attracted to Chowhound, and everyone affected by everyone attracted to Chowhound:
If Libby had tried to change the world, she'd surely have failed. Pond ripples don't amplify into oceanic tides via the desire to be an oceanic tide causer. Such aspirations yield oppressively selfish ripples rather than inspiringly generous ones. If you simply sweat the small stuff, sans self-consciousness or aspiration (just "because!"), angels will sing.

The care, the love, the discipline and thoughtfulness we invest in our most prosaic actions change absolutely everything. That's how the future is perpetually created.

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