Thursday, April 30, 2020

Limping and Shitting

I've really been enjoying middle age after decades of flinching at comets.

Shit, as innumerable sages have observed, happens. Until you've developed triage skills, you can never be sure what can really persecute you, derail you, ruin you, hurt you, kill you, or, worst of all, "go on your permanent record" (the most PTSD-inducing phrase ever devised). So you devote most of your time and attention to a frantic game of whack-a-mole. As with all ordeals, you don't realize how bad it was until you've gotten past it.

You can't outrun the ordeal via distance, but you can outlive it via time. At age 57 I don’t freak out much, because I know what to disregard and what to address. I know what passes easily and what passes painfully yet nonetheless passes. I know why people do what they do, and I know it hardly ever has anything to do with me.
Here's a particularly elegant statement (despite the slightly clunky depiction of framing) of that last part (from some new age dude I'm not otherwise super into):

"Don't Take Anything Personally. Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won't be the victim of needless suffering."
A real world example of this calming level of self-knowledge: I just had two trivial tasks to deal with. I knew from experience that I'd probably forget task #2 while executing task #1. And while it was trivial, I know that daemons never die. Every alarm you've ever set for yourself still rings, stridently but very softly, just below conscious awareness.

So I'm very judicious about setting mental alarms (i.e. daemons - subliminal processes that are just as vexing as the demons of folklore). That's why I write stuff down. Before I did task #1, task #2 was scrawled onto my to-do list, though most people would never have bothered to record such a trivial and transient thing. The very act of recording it relieved me of burden. Another demon slain!

It wasn't a question of ensuring that the task got done. I just saved myself from setting an internal alarm (i.e. unleashing a demon), which would have forever throbbed along with the billions of previous alarms (i.e. screaming demons from hell).

I always figured old people wrote stuff down because they were forgetful and feeble. That's completely wrong. Young people are at least as feebly forgetful, but they lack self-awareness. They don't remember better, they just haven't yet owned up to their forgetfulness. Like buffoons in comedy movies, they divide their time between 1. messing up, and 2. cluelessly refreshing their delusions of competence.

I've learned from long experience that I'm a screw-up. So I write stuff down, which takes just a sec, and I live competently and calmly. 30 years ago, my failure rate was high and I was a wreck. So who's the feeble one?

Aging shows you your folly, and, if things synch up on schedule, puts you in a frame of mind to gracefully accept this truth (that's what maturity is: realizing you're not a fabulous hero, but merely This Guy). Knowing the truth, it naturally follows that you'd take remedial steps to foolproof and error-check your imperfect self, the poor dear. Young people are revolted by remedial measures, which remind them of crutches and diapers. So they recoil in horror - ugh! - and go on to obliviously limp and shit all over the place.


This is the best view of how younger people look to older people: spoiled children perennially raging at the world for not hewing to their preferences.

Rare Apple Pay Problem (or: Hell is Being an Edge Case)

This is a Web Search Landing Posting (WSLP) for the few dozen Apple Pay folks who try to pay via Apple Pay on the web and have problems because their orders are automatically given a garbled phone number (which is a problem when you buy something from Apple, because you can ONLY verify your order to Apple via the phone number associated with the order, unless you were logged in to your Apple account when you ordered).

Find your own contact card (i.e. search Contacts for your name) on your phone or computer. REMOVE THE "1-" PREFIX.

Go to Settings/Wallet. Delete the phone number. Reenter the number without the "1-" prefix. Make sure the phone number associated with Apple Pay is present (preferably top-most).

So if you're one of the few dozen people who've ordered from Apple via desktop Safari while not logged in, verifying your Apple Pay transaction on a phone with a leading "1-" before your own number, and noticed the resulting problem, you are now good. Please send me $2000 for the countless hours and ulcers I've saved you.


To everyone else:
1. The phone number you assign yourself in your Contacts app is significant, and SKIP THE LEADING "1-".

2. Never order from Apple (or anyone else) without being logged into your customer account. Associating an order after ordering is like swimming in a wave pool of bugginess. Hell is being an edge case.

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Hacking Insomnia

I just saw yet another friend complaining on Facebook about insomnia. That does it. I need to share some hard-won knowledge.

I've been a devoted yogi for nearly 50 years, having started out as a child prodigy. So I know a few things about consciousness and body processes. Sleep, in other words, is right in my wheelhouse.

I have extreme gastric reflux (I'm on the strong pills, and even they can't control it...though I'm not looking for advice....I've tried everything and am gradually losing weight, which is my best hope). Even mild reflux can keep you up at night, and if it wakes you up it's super hard to get back to sleep with what feels like a stomach full of gurgling fabric softener. If anyone can learn to sleep through this, it should be me. Yet I've struggled. Yup, even the 50-year yoga prodigy.

So I've been working on this for a while, applying deep skills to a hard problem. What I've learned can help you with the much easier problem of sleeping amid mere worries and stresses.
Note: you are stressed, even if you don't realize it. There are emotional connections to the other birds in one's flock, and this is a stressed and discombobulated world right now. So even if you feel calm and happy - as I do - you are nonetheless unavoidably affected by secondhand smoke.
Obvious countermeasures first, and then the tricky tricks:

Normalize Your Cycles

The body doesn't lead us. We lead it, and it aims to oblige, like an eager dog. If you snack or nap at 2:30pm three days in a row, on the fourth day you'll wonder why you're famished or exhausted at 2:30pm. Simple! So, for one example, your body doesn't crave sugar. It's that you've programmed it to expect sugar... and the body seems to demand what it's been programmed to expect. Cut the sugar, and it will reprogram within three days. Seriously.

Quarantine has us off our normal schedules. And the most common issue will be insomnia. So, even as unstructured as you may be, make a point to eat and sleep at exactly the same time every day. Then give yourself three days to accept the programming.

Exercise

The air does not sizzle with homicidal microbes. You can go outside. I know you've read about edge cases where viral clouds linger, or sneeze particles travel for yards, but what's theoretically possible isn't probable enough to concern yourself. Go outside, stay 6 (not 30) feet away from people, don't touch your face, and get yourself some sweating/heart-pumping exercise for at least 45 minutes at least 3-4x/week. Preferably daily especially if you're insomniac. If there's a hill nearby, great. Walk up it, over and over. Walking (fast and strong) is the ultimate statement of survival. You'll be amazed how good it feels.

Meditate

Your car's engine may race, but if you don't put it in gear, it can't drive anything. Same for the noise in your mind.

Whoever first told people they needed to learn to silence their mind was a sadistic bastard who's messed up generations. The thoughts can stay; you just need to recognize that this noise is not you. You are not the narration; the mental tickertape. Meditation opens some space between you and your noisy mind (I do this stripped down, super efficacious practice, plus this breathing practice, and I steer well clear of the rest of the web site) and each micron of additional separation is like creamy dreamy bliss.

With some space between thinker and thoughts - aka perspective - we remember that we're here to enjoy immersive entertainment. We never needed to carry the pain of the world around with us (for more on carrying burdens, read this, plus the articles linked at the bottom of that page).

Meditate and you'll never be more than a breath away from easily/comfortably abiding in the moment. It doesn't make you lazy. Do I seem lazy?

The Mechanics of Falling Asleep (the real yoga stuff)

Memorize this sequence, to be repeated every time you go to bed. But (important) don't think about it or practice it outside of bedtime. Reserve this and protect it.

Once you've lied down and turned out the light:
1. Un-smile your face

2. Droop into gravity. Then droop some more. Then recognize that you're hardly drooping at all. Contemplate how your body would have drooped if you were to wake up in this position, and droop that much. Emulate what your body's doing when you wake up. Don't obsess over this. Limit it to 10-20 seconds. Don't let it be an "activity", just bake it into your going-to-sleep protocol.

3. Add an imaginary 5 pounds to your head's weight, and let it drop squarely into your pillow. Notice how the pillow tenderly accepts the weight. Your pillow is there for you.

4. Let your thoughts drop into your pillow. Don't try to quiet or silence them, let them percolate, but simply let them drain down into the pillow (and from there, into the bed, the floor, and the earth). Notice the pillow's tender receptivity. It wants to suck out your thoughts. It's eager to do so. It's like a vacuum.

5. Briefly and lightly test yourself. Think something mildly stressful. Some task you need to do or some person you're mad at. When you see stress approaching a few hundred yards away, let it drain into your pillow. Again, do this "briefly and lightly". Don't turn it into an activity. Keep it under 10 seconds (5 seconds with practice). All of the above steps are doable in under 30 seconds, total. Do them rotely, like tooth brushing.

6. At this point, know that you ARE asleep! You only assume you're not out of pure skepticism. Let your skepticism, along with the other thoughts, drop down into the tenderly receptive pillow. The "I'm still awake/I can't sleep" thought is just another thought to drain into the pillow and into the earth. It's not some higher, special-case thought. You ARE asleep. All you need to do is let the skepticism gently drain.

If necessary, repeat the sequence. But don't expect that to be necessary, because, again, you ARE, at this point, asleep (the only problem is lingering skepticism). As a last resort, mentally intone your mantra (assuming you've been meditating, per suggestion above).

Sunday, April 26, 2020

Be Vigilant About Stroke

So there's a rare but worrisome possible side issue here: Stroke.

Sorry to be a downer, and bear in mind that these stories are rare edge cases. Folks aren't stroking out en masse. So I'm not trying to compound your sense of foreboding (if being sick is so awful to contemplate, shouldn't feeling good make you ecstatic?), but just to put you on alert:

If you experience sudden slurred speech, drooping on one side of the face, or confusion (more than normal), or a dead feeling in one arm, go ASAP to hospital. I know, I know; we're averse to that because they seem like viral cesspools. But 1. what you have is potentially worse, and 2. if you're under age 70, it's very likely virus-based, i.e. you've already got it. So go.

And remember that, as with cardiac symptoms, the clock is ticking. If you get help fast, you'll be okay. But seconds count.

Pass it on.


Pierre, our Technical Advisor, muses: "It may well just be that they're too strong to die of the other stuff. Time will tell."

Saturday, April 25, 2020

The Convoluted Invisible Hand of the Free Market

Two observations, one mysterious, the other less so:

1. I ordered takeout online from an Indian restaurant largely serving immigrants. There was a field for "special instructions", so I wrote, naturally, "Spicy, please!" The food had not an iota of spice. Can you solve the mystery?

Here's my guess. No Indian would ever say "Spicy, please!". They'd simply expect proper spiciness. So by leaving this instruction, I was marking myself as a gringo. And gringos don't like spice.

2. Many extra-large grande condoms are slightly smaller than regular condoms.

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Illinois Jacquet

I toured for several years with Illinois Jacquet, a big name to anyone over age 60 with any casual acquaintance with jazz, though he's scarcely remembered today. They say Jacquet died in 2004, but, not having viewed the body, I remain guarded.

Jazz stars of his era got nicknames. Lester Young was "Prez", Billie Holiday was "Lady Day", and Charlie Parker was "Bird". Jacquet, bestowed with something less upbeat, was known by everyone in the business (though never - my god - ever to his face) as "The Beast".

I took this photo of him, and was so delighted to have captured his true self that I somehow scraped together the cash to order a blown-up print:
Behold The Beast




Jacquet had vaulted to fame as a 19-year-old wunderkind in 1942 when he played the single most famous jazz solo of the first half of the twentieth century, a marathon-length tenor saxophone showcase on Lionel Hampton's mega hit "Flyin' Home".



For years, Jacquet was called to repeat the solo note-for-note, and he continued to do so decades after audiences were, shall we say, less feverishly demanding. When he picked up his horn, preparing to blow the world-renowned opening lick, his imagining of bright spotlight was so powerful that his face would actually illuminate.

40 years after his heyday, Jacquet repeated the same solos nightly on all the other songs in our repertoire, too. It was utterly mysterious to me, given that he was a master improvisor who could effortlessly produce a fine spontaneous solo. Finally, the guys in the band (which included legends like Cecil Payne, Eddie Barefield, and Richard Wyands) explained the situation with rolled eyes and helpless shrugs. Jacquet, I was told, was hoping those canned solos would become equally famous, treasured, and demanded if he repeated them enough. Like jazz solos might still become ubiquitous anthems in late-1980s America.

Show me someone angry enough to pick up a nickname like "The Beast" and I'll show you a mismatch between reality and self-image. Self-styled giants forced to endure the indignity of mere normalcy never go gentle into that good night. This is the most noxious form of immaturity.



Jacquet was not a bright man, but he had enormous cunning. The wheels were always spinning, making it devilishly hard to decipher his thinking. For example, he very rarely let me solo, though I always ignited the crowd (not boasting, it's just true). Over time, he backed me down to a mere 8 bars (about 15 seconds) per night, and I still managed to earn thunderous applause, to his undisguised annoyance. I might have sulked, but instead I viewed it as a fascinating psychological knot to unravel.

The obvious answer is that he didn't want to share limelight. Yet there were other musicians he went out of his way to feature, multiple times per night. It took years to map out his thinking, and here's the schematic:

A young black alto saxophonist, Jesse Davis, played lots of notes (and very well, too; he's still a deservedly popular player). Jacquet would let him unleash his technical prowess, then smugly hoist his own horn and waft out simple strokes of buttery soul, undercutting all that had preceded. The counterpoint worked for him. Show biz!

But a mystery remained. Joey, the band's white lead alto player, could waft out credible buttery soul, himself. So why was he featured several times a night, Jacquet screaming his name into the mic to whip audiences into a frenzy? It finally dawned on me. Jacquet needed a foil. Joey was like the Washington Generals - the Harlem Globetrotters’ perpetual opponents, urged by management to play their best to keep the stars on their toes and ensure a tight show. You need a second banana - a Mini Me - playing the same game for the presentation to have heft and structure. It was all dramatic narrative, all kayfabe.

I was just as young, just as white, and just as buttery/soulful, but Jacquet already had a white kid in that slot; he didn't need a second one. So while Joey blew his heart out, Jacquet would freeze his face in a camera-ready kabuki mask of faux pride and delight. And when I blew my heart out, he'd bear it with his back to the audience, showing his true face: that of a glowering, malevolent, dead-eyed old woman. Here, again, is that face:


It's well known that victims of abuse go on to abuse others, and that, indeed, had been Jacquet's origin story. His mentor/tormentor, Lionel Hampton (with whom I, ever hapless, also worked) had a public image as an elegant, dignified elder statesman, but musicians knew him as a ghoulish narcissist who literally could not stop playing so long as the crowd kept cheering. Sets would stretch for hours - venue owners begging him to get off the damned stage - while some remaining gaggle of drunks kept clapping to egg him on. Oh, and I will not be so foolish as to publicly discuss the truth (well known by jazz musicians) behind the untimely death of Hamp's wife. Ask a jazz musician in, like, 2080, when our progeny might consider it safe to finally share the tale with civilians.

But while Jacquet may have been The Beast, and Hampton may have been the Uber-Beast, Hampton's mentor/tormentor was one of the most evil bastards ever to stick a horn in his face. I'll offer my single favorite of many, many Benny Goodman stories passed down through the generations.

It was mid-January and the band was rehearsing in Goodman's palatial Manhattan townhouse. The thermostat was set somewhere in the 50's (Benny was a notorious miser), and the musicians were suffering. Suddenly Benny cut off the group mid-song and asked:

"Hey, fellas, is it just me or is it cold in here?"

The band replied, en masse (complete with chattering teeth and shaky voices) ala "Yeah, Benny, oh yeah, cold, yep, awful cold, Benny."

Benny strode wordlessly out of the room, returned in a sumptuous mink coat, and counted off the tempo.



Illinois was managed by a stern, austere woman named Carol whose ex-husband had been Woody Allen's original producer. She'd seized great gobs of money in the divorce, and used it to buy band uniforms and publicity for Jacquet, with whom she lived (we all assumed it was platonic) and whose playing she worshipped nearly as fervidly as her evil guru, Gurumayi Chidvilasananda, who promised her and Jacquet eternal life so long as they kept the donations coming.

Jacquet was all for the "eternal life" thing, but less so the spirituality thing, so he continued boozing on the sly, hiding a profusion of glasses and flasks in the landscape around the bandstand (under the piano lid, in potted plants, etc), perennially out-foxing Carol, who tried to maintain her facade of elegant dignity while rooting around for these stashes like a truffle pig.



I could keep going. Endlessly (and, again, I did not view a body). But this must suffice for now. Sleep well, all.


Oh, here's my backstage pass from when we played the Pori Jazz Festival in Finland:


Forgot to note. Oddly, Jacquet really loved my name. He decided it had show-biz pizzazz. He loved to holler out both names at errant moments, like a Tourette’s tic: "JIM LEFF!"

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

The Problem, The Pitfall, The Vicious Circle, and The Solution

Don't say I'm never terse.


Insight: People can be surprisingly awful and superficial and neurotic and dumb, etc.

Pitfall: People who've noticed this very often falsely assume that noticing means they're better. Sorry, no, it just means you're observant.

Common countermeasures: Contempt, disconnection, selfishness, condescension, disrespect, anger, bitterness, etc. I.e. typical human awfulness (the vicious circle personified).

Solution: Curiosity! Ponder: How did it happen? How does it look from inside their heads (i.e. their framing)? How am *I* awful? Can I view myself from a 30,000 foot view, with detachment? How can I help? How can I break the cycle? How can I "be the change"? What's proper conduct in a world where people willfully bring stress and suffering upon themselves (and, collaterally, others)?




From Waiting for David Copperfield:
I'm explaining why help seldom seems to arrive; why you often feel left high and dry; why the heavens appear to have forsaken you. It's because you insulate yourself from your desired result. You actively repel surprise via your boredom. You overlook serendipitous opportunity while obsessing over your sad stories. And you are absolutely rotten at spotting the magicians and angels delivered in response to your hopes and prayers.

None of this leaves me embittered. I've recognized a great big critical fact: god (or whatever you prefer to call the deepest frame of awareness; I certainly don't mean some supernatural guy up on a cloud) gets exactly the same treatment, so why would I expect better?

We humans shuffle through our blinkered existence, lost in mental drama, amid this gorgeous paradise planet, a miraculously lush sanctuary in a coldly inhospitable universe, blessed with trees (if trees had never existed and sprung up overnight, people would be driven insane by the beauty) and life-giving oxygen and sunshine and delicious food and refreshing water and all the immersive storylines we could dream of, all of it tailored to our every need (including our need for challenge, violence, and heartbreak) and permeated with heartbreaking love. Yet we scarcely notice. We're jaded, bored, and impatiently awaiting Something Better. We live in eternal anticipation - of our next big win, of momentary gratification, and of the arrival, finally, of "The Answer". We pray for help and then spurn the responders. We even actually have the gall to demand a messiah.

Yet not once have I heard a voice blasting down from the skies: "Attention ungrateful shitheads! How about taking a look at those trees for just like two seconds?" There's never a trace of whining about our endlessly oblivious lack of appreciation. God (or whatever) is like a stoic silent grandmother perpetually serving insanely delicious soup to ungrateful family members lost in fake mental drama who distractedly trudge out of the kitchen with nary a word or smile....yet she quietly feels deeply satisfied knowing that, at some level, they've been nourished.

At some level they've been nourished.


See also "Why We Crucify Truth Tellers (and Why They Deserve It)"

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Explaining the Anti-Quarantiners

As a centrist, I see the Right as the Left does, and vice versa. Temperamentally cooler and more pragmatic than either side (i.e. I roll my eyes an awful lot), I'm "for" institutionalism, incrementalism, and competence (here, fwiw, was my 2016 presidential platform). With a foot in each camp, I'm well-positioned to explain one side to the other, and have done so in a series of postings labeled "Right Whispering".


The "Liberation” movement was 1. artificially contrived, funded, and whipped into A Thing, much like the Tea Party (see this invaluable short Twitter thread explaining the history of this move), and 2. a perfectly understandable framing issue on the part of those who are falling for it.

The second's more interesting to me.

I've previously explained the stalwart tough-guy credo of blue collar workers that made the guys working on the toxic, smoking WTC pile assume they'd be fine, and that made me confident I'd avoid hearing damage despite decades of aural abuse:
In the 80s and 90s I was (here’s video proof) one of the hardest-working musicians in New York City. I spent thousands upon thousands of hours laboring directly in front of screaming guitar amps, PA systems, and corn-fed trumpeters whose sense of self worth revolved around playing higher and louder than the human auditory system can tolerate. Unsurprisingly, mine couldn't.

I imagined I'd be ok; that I'd be an exception. Full-time professional musicians are essentially blue collar workers (though better trained than doctors or lawyers), and we have that familiar stoic toughness. I remember watching the guys toiling atop the smoking Trade Center pile after 9/11, all of them figuring that their tenacity, combined with the sacred nature of their mission, made them indestructible. Tough guys don't sweat fumes.

I was horror-struck by the tableau of inevitable cancer. Yet, in my own irrational tough guy pride, I kept returning to my position in front of guitar amps, PA systems, and brutish trumpeters, certain that I was exempt. After all, I performed miracles, screaming my head off on a difficult instrument for twelve hours at a stretch (often doubling or tripling up my gigs), maintaining high standards even while dead tired. I could tough it out through anything. As someone who could "get 'er done," I was like a Conway Twitty hero plowin' fields with his all-American John Deere slide trombone can I get a "hallelujah"?

Sure enough, I wound up, shmuck-like, with more than 50% hearing loss.
So I've been there. I've done the same move these "liberationists" are doing right now. And maybe I can help you see them in a different light.

A certain type of person keeps watching the tender/delicate classes set their hair on fire over this and that. It seems like a nonstop series of hysterical wolf-cryings. That's why they tend not to evacuate for hurricanes, or hew to health fads, or read the label, or chew each bite 35 times. One type of person is innately complacent; the other innately alarmed. Neither is more irrational; both just keep digging in,overreacting to the evident daffiness of the other side. Such is life in a binary society.

Each has a framing, and they're as incompatible as Betamax and VHS. But the thing to remember is that while people with different framings appear to be in completely different movies (making their actions hard to fathom), in their heads - i.e. from their perspective - it all makes sense.

No one framing works for all scenarios, though we cling desperately to the familiar perspective composing our comfort zone and identity. In extreme circumstances, our misplaced clinging becomes dangerous or even fatal (that's why a lithe perspective is essential). Consider the WTC recovery workers who held on to their framing far too stubbornly. And consider yourself, deeming those guys heroes and the anti-quarantine liberators rabid fools when both operated from the same stalwart get-er-done no-nonsense framing. This disjoint demonstrates that your framing, too, fails to serve all purposes in all contexts. We all fall prey to this, more often than we like to admit. The music stops and we're suddenly chairless.

If you imagine you've never clung to a perspective past the point where it stopped fitting circumstance (making you seem, to external observers, out of your damned mind), then you haven't paid much attention. And this blinkered inflexibility reflects a perspective every bit as frozen as that of these poor "liberation" schlubs.


See also "Framing Disjoints"

Monday, April 20, 2020

You Cannot Waste Time

I wrote this Quora answer some time ago. It never caught fire like my near-viral reply to "How do I tell if somebody is intelligent?", and it's a bit half-baked and bumpy, like many of my efforts to explain counterintuitive, nuanced things in short form (Quora's even harder, because I can't use a zillion links to explain sub-issues). But I'm republishing it here 'cuz it's timely.


I am in my late 20s and feel I have wasted a lot of time. Is it too late for me to achieve something worthwhile?

You can't waste time. You can only fail to match some imagined standard. Trying to make reality match up with imaginary standards is the way human beings make themselves miserable. It's also delusional, because only reality is real. When reality itself - how it is, right here and right now - isn't your standard, you're in big trouble. Look around you! Here you are! That sense of inhabitation (i.e. your aliveness, i.e. reality) will be exactly the same whatever becomes of you. It's always the same guy/gal looking out your eyes it's always been, no?

Your free will is in the moment; what you choose to do right now. You can't make yourself rich, or thin, or famous; those are the culmination of myriad factors, and we make one decision at a time. You may choose not to waste this money in your hand, not to eat these potato chips right here, and not to be staring vacantly into your iPad right this moment. You maneuver the boat with the tiniest momentary proddings.

And that's why success usually comes later. Proddings aggregate OVER TIME, and that takes a while (unless you're lucky and/or something extraordinary's going on). Thats' why your 60-ish uncles drive nicer cars.

These momentary proddings are all you've got. It's what you do right NOW. One choice, for example, would be to engage in endless rumination and self-conscious self-measurement. This stock-taking, worth-measuring wide-lens movie view of your life is a fake-out. It's not real; there's no such thing. You're not in a story. You're right HERE.

Even if you were a billionaire Nobel Prize winner, your life would still be experienced as "right here" - in your momentary decision-making. And that's how you get there - by inhabiting the moment rather than gauging your performance. People who do great things don't spend their moments feeling super-marvelous about their accomplishments. That's as useful and appealing as smelling your own farts. Rather, they spend their moments making choices, micro-navigating the boat with glee. That's how they got there in the first place! The desire to see yourself as super-marvelous stems from the big-view abstraction of your life, which is a fake-out and from which nothing real ever happens.

It's a fool's errand to try to accomplish worthwhile things in order to feel accomplished and worthwhile. That's not how it works. It's about experiencing a burning desire to do something very specific, and so enticing that your momentary decision-making falls, over time, into synchronization with what's needed for that thing to really happen. It's all about the doing of the thing, not the "wanting-to-be-able-to-say-you're-someone-who's-done-the-thing" thing, which is the most weak-ass thing there is.

Consider: Most singers become singers because they want to be singers, not because they want to sing. And that's why most singers are so awful.


tl;dr version: simply do what draws your passion and stop gauging your own progress.

Saturday, April 18, 2020

Childhood Poetry

I'm going through old boxes. The image below is from about age 7. That's when I was sending myself postcards forward in time to myself, and had started to realize that I was approaching my peak and would need to opt out of being switched out by elder personas.

I wrote about the latter once, noting that
People discard their childhood persona as they mature because they recognize the limitations. Having grown beyond that persona, they cast it aside, graduating to bigger and better things. But what if you were an amazing, wise 11 year old?

That's when I peaked! That kid seemed awesome, so I've never seen any reason to switch him out. In fact, I've spent my life scrambling to reclaim even a fraction of my 11-year-old self's clarity, open-heartedness, and intelligence.

Friday, April 17, 2020

Twitter Reminders

Just a reminder that my twitter feed offers links to newly posted Slog entries plus an interesting curation of retweets. As with the Slog, it's all either surprising or surprisingly stated (or funny, which is another sort of surprisingness). I never just amplify crap I happen to agree with. It's a shame to confuse people, but a mortal sin to bore them.

I thought to remind about this now because there are some particularly good recent retweets.

Also, here's the main list I read

Plus I never miss a thing from Rick Wilson, a former GOP assassin who's done exactly what you want GOP people to do: wake up, strenuously object, and repudiate the deceptions that brought us here. He's also a riot, and uncommonly soothing (he's probably saved six figures worth of therapy for his widely bipartisan following).

Revelation Vs Revilement

A friend recently described my writing as "manic". Here's the ensuing discussion:
Me: I can understand why you'd say that. But it's an incomplete observation. If I seem manic, that means either 1. I'm manic, or 2. you're sluggish.

Friend: I think most people would lean toward #1.

Me: Most people consider Olive Garden delicious and Kenny G musically talented. Majority opinion isn't wise.

Friend: Your writing jumps around and it's overstuffed and dense.

Me: Sure. Guilty as charged (though for years I churned out some of the most buttery/zippy crack-like prose ever typed - and can still do so on command - which ought to buy me some credit). But where do you draw the line between exuberance and mania? Between fluency and effluvium? Between literature and logorrhea?

Friend: Where do YOU draw the line?

Me: Success. If it's good - interesting thoughts, skillfully and interestingly conveyed - then such criticism is unwarranted. By using negative terms to describe successful output, you're simply pointing out nonconformity. And that's juvenile:
One of these things is not like the others,
one of these things...doesn't belong.
Can you tell which thing is not like the others
by the time I finish this song?

We're in a strange era of hate-watching (enduring bad movies and TV just to snark about it on social media) and the Dunning Krugeresque assumption that everyone could do anything if they just put their mind to it (my mommy said the same to me a few times, but even as a three year old I knew not to take it literally). We disrespect experts, resent accomplishment, and compress quality extremes. So it's no wonder that we are able to recognize and admire the quality of a thing while still making harshly negative pronouncements about it. In fact, this move has become so normal that it sounds stuck-up to object. Take your medicine!

Everybody rules/sucks now. That's just how it is.
Of course Spielberg's films are saccharine-sweet, contrived, and repetitive, but he's a freaking legend; I couldn't live without him! Tom Waits? Ugly, sings like a frog, but, hey, he's Tom Waits! Gotta love him! I have all his records!
Quality is almost beside the point. It's just one factor of many. That's how stuff comes to rule/suck.

Living in this strange, reductive era, you're probably concluding that my message here is "Be nice!" No! My point is inarguable: Good is good. Good doesn't also suck. Goodness isn't unchained from quality. Goodness IS quality. If it's good, it's not messed up. It's not bullshit. It's not manic or dumb. Non-pejorative descriptors still apply ("dense", "self-centered", "fast-paced", "sarcastic", etc.), sure. But you can't hang a snark word on something without lowering its score. And vice versa: if you appreciate something, it's illogical to characterize it with harsh negativity (I can hear The Internet snarling with displeasure at this crazytalk. "Don't tell me when to snark!"). We used to know this. But we've forgotten.

Same with people. I know a car detailer who works magic (per Leff's Second Law, any sufficiently advanced feat of creativity is indistinguishable from magic). He doesn't just restore a car to showroom glitter, he actually makes cars look better than new. (I have a theory. He goes over the whole car with a small wad of putty, stroking like a painter. In so doing, I think he sets up a certain stasis of reflection via thousands of strokes with the putty which directs light in a certain way.)

I wrote about him a few years ago in a posting titled Miracles, Paste Wax, and Eccentricity:
John's an original thinker, and he says people often call him eccentric. I told him how much that word offends me. "Eccentric" means "odd and wrong". "Eccentric" people build perpetual motion machines, or believe they've found a way to communicate with the dead. They're absorbed in cranky, flaky quests which will never amount to much, but at least they're entertaining. It's a term of condescension; this is how we condescend to non-conformists. But is that an appropriate way to describe bona fide miracle workers?

We need a word for "odd and right", for those who march to different drummers with truly great results. I'm thinking "splendcentric". Or, come to think of it, how about "creative"?
Let me strip away any perceived brittle fussy elitism by briefly reverting to my musician roots and translating it into street terms:
If your shit's working, you ain't fucked up.
"Working" is highly underrated as a determining factor. Nonconformity just for its own sake is empty indulgence. Go ahead and call it "eccentricity". But if someone's found a better way, that's not eccentric, that's successful. Such people aren't weirdos; they're winners. And, no, you can't be both. Einstein was not a loopy deranged goofball, however unique his ideas and hairstyle. It's not eccentric if you're right!


In "Taking Notes", I made the observation that pejorative terms ought to be reserved for failed tactics. For example, you're not being "obsessive" if you're actually improving your life ("are we all obsessive breathers?"). Also see my lengthy (and, I'm told, entertaining) rant about the word "Unhinged".




In college, I was lucky enough to take an Eastern Philosophy class with a major authority, who'd spent months in obscure Zen monasteries in Japan. I stopped by his office to ask a question that had been bugging me:
A guy sits silent and motionless in some cave or drafty monastery, deprived of normal human stimulation and comfort. Years later, he's pronounced "enlightened", behaves oddly, and perhaps neglects basic hygiene. Who's to say the poor shmuck isn't just nuts? Crazy? Bananas?
The professor tap-danced a bit. He'd met some of those guys, and, well, one just knows. They have presence. To be with them produces the sort of awe and confidence very young children feel toward their parents. As with pornography, you know it when you see it.

I was unsatisfied with his reply, and spent decades thinking about it, finally experiencing an epiphany:

Crazy people are unhappy. They're not peaceful or joyful or calm. Such qualities are not characteristic of mental disturbance. Mental illness doesn't calm you or leave you happy. Calm happiness = sanity.

There's a short-lived euphoria to mania, but that's not real (and certainly not sustained) happiness. Depression induces a bittersweet poetry, but that doesn't even resemble happiness. Schizophrenics are tormented, obsessive compulsives are anxious, narcissists can't get enough attention, and psychopaths never fill their psychic hole. If there were some sort of cray-cray which brought genuine happiness and peace, therapists and pharmaceutical companies would clamor to induce the affliction.

That’s how you distinguish. So if you find yourself unassailably happy (satchidananda!), trust the state. And if you're inclined to pronounce someone "bonkers", consider their happiness. Because, again, pejorative terms should be reserved for failed tactics. If your shit's working, you ain't fucked up.

Saturday, April 11, 2020

The Worst Things You Can Do

The worst thing you can do to generous people is to put them in a position where they have to say a blunt "no".

The worst thing you can do to creative people is to chide their nonconformity.

The worst thing you can do to visionaries is to gaslight them (i.e. "my inability to see things as you do makes you nuts").

Friday, April 10, 2020

Blogger as Blob

After you've meditated a lot (like a lot a lot), and have reexamined your priorities and shifted your thinking and behavior to a more clarity-based approach, there's an immense sense of having dropped burdens, leaving you in a state that's cathartic and blissful while, also, paradoxically, peaceful.

The term for that psyched-up/calmed-down state is Satchidananda, a Sanskrit word people have strained for centuries to define. "Equanimity" comes close. Eventually, 20th century America, of all places, produced the perfect term: "bulletproof".

Once you realize you're here to pretend you're in a dramatic narrative - you've essentially been playing a role in a movie, raptly viewing yourself on-screen in real time - stress and suffering vanish in the blink of an eye. Such is the power of reframing. You're bulletproof!

With less sense of embroilment and stakedness (the "attachments" Buddhists keep going on about), the world seems less enthralling. You no longer get bent out of shape from needing things to go any certain way. It’s all mild entertainment, a Disney ride despite the horrors and heartbreak. It’s all worn lightly. It’s like serenely walking home from a horror film.

You still play along with the pretending, letting yourself get elated, crestfallen, angry, and all the rest, but you're never fully punked (until you eventually are, and get lost in the pretending again. It's a circle). At least for a while, one foot remains planted in the baseline framing where it's amusingly clear that this is all concocted; a cheesy attraction flaunting its flashy rewards and punishments while you remain untouched (un-tempted, in the Christian version).

I've posted several versions of the above explanation over the years. It's ancient, though I describe it in an informal and modern way.
Also, I talk to you as the awareness you are (which knows it's always been pretending) rather than to the pretense (the movie character you play) which can't read or hear or frame because he/she's nothing but a name tag, a body, and a bag of stories and opinions. The reason spirituality's so notoriously difficult to teach is that it's impossible to talk truth with a delusion. You can't convince an object it's a mere object, but you can, much more easily, remind the subject that it's the Subject.
But I've never mentioned the kryptonite. No one mentions the kryptonite. It's so strange that nobody mentions the kryptonite.
Also there’s yet another peril - not full-on kryptonite - in store for those who recognize the non-perilousness of existence, and that one, too, was unexplained before I noted it here (with a follow-up here).
The unacknowledged kryptonite can best be explained via a story.

I was up on a high ladder. Teetering on the top step, I needed to reach upward with both arms. Bulletproof mofo that I am, I hadn't felt deep fear in years. But in that moment an icicle of dread began forming in my gut. So I did the reframing move that never fails to shower me with bliss, erasing melodramatic delusions of peril: I relaxed and let go. And, naturally, I started to fall off the 25 foot ladder.

Woops!

Pause for a moment and imagine how horrible it is when your tried-and-true go-to move not only fails, but fails when the stakes are likely paraplegia. There'd been an impulse to panic, the antidote popped up on cue, and, for the first time ever, that trusty countermeasure was, ahem, ineffective. Not great, Bob.



I get mad and sad and all the rest, but it's movie theater stuff, a lighter and more bemused version. I rarely forget that I'm being mad/sad/glad/quarantined in paradise, ensconced cozily in a dark, cold, deadly universe's sole outpost of color and oxygen and trees and water and potatoes and action. When I do forget for a moment, I simply reframe back to baseline. Back to satchidananda. "Letting go" is the magic key, the most salubrious of reframings, as affirmed by countless sages throughout history. But then what about ladders? WHAT ABOUT FRICKIN' LADDERS?

It was a conundrum for a few years. Then a daredevil friend, who waterskis without skis and jumps cars over things, suggested a partial answer:
Relaxation...that's good. Letting go of dread...that's good. But then focus, with total single-mindedness, on the not-falling-off-the-ladder part. You went too far. "Letting go" is fine, but, for god's sake don't literally let go, you moron.
The best letting go - the really good stuff - is when it feels total. But just because you've figuratively let go doesn't mean you need to literally let go, like with your hands. I realize as I write this (this is exactly why I Slog, btw) that it's another aspect of the misunderstanding that made me over-relax into failure as a basketball player. Even while deeply relaxed, you can remain connected, kindling a small flame of cool, calm desire:
Simply don't forget - amid all the prep and tricks and quieting down and whatever - to also hit a bullseye. Don't leave that part off the to-do list. Don't forget to also hit a bullseye!
Anyone who’s done it will attest that letting go is simply everything. Atlas did not need to hold up the Earth. It never helped. He was deluded, and could have just as well walked away at any moment. Similarly, when we (every one of us Atlases needlessly bearing the weight of the world) let go, and let the world self-support, we realize we've been bulletproof all along. But we don't have to drop the eggs and the coffee cup along with the universe. You can go too far.

The ladder experience was another example of how you can get stuck - or worse - aiming for infinity, a lesson I never stop learning. Relaxing into a blob may be a miraculously effective antidote to stress, but if you always go all the way to the lazy delicious bliss safe haven, you'll perennially overshoot worthwhile way stations such as "Attentiveness" and "Responsibility". It needn't be "all or nothing at all".

Take it away, Steverino:



The other option, for those fully committed to blobbiness, is to blithely accept the paraplegia and go ahead and fall off the ladder. Wheee!

Sure, that sounds deranged, but less so if you realize (per explanation here) that your body lives in your awareness, not vice versa. The body is born into awareness, and it will die into it, while this awareness (which is what you are) never wavers ("It's the omnipresent fount of Now, and Now is the only real thing.")

This odd-seeming recognition (never a popular framing) is, in fact, where one goes for one's bulletproofing.


Wednesday, April 8, 2020

IT CAN HAPPEN TO YOU

From here on the ground, pundits spill millions of words explaining the worldwide resurgence of populism, demagoguery, and tyranny. They wonder whether these scourges, considered largely vanquished by the middle of the 20th century, are fated to perpetually cycle back.

The higher-level view, from 50 years hence, will take thousands of words to explain the contributing factors, extenuating circumstances, and rare opportunities that coincided to make this surprising development possible. Unique circumstance sparked the unthinkable for a brief and catastrophic while.

But the highest level view, with the distance of a century or two, will - like all high-level views - fit on a postcard:
Humanism, pluralism, and technocracy were surging worldwide, pushing cruelty, racism, and ignorance toward irrelevance. But every leap triggers a recoil. Unable to maintain power within systems as they stood, oppositional parties stopped seeing democracy as a game in which they could compete, and sought alternative ways to preserve their side of the binary.

The timeworn sinister machinery - division, demagoguery, lies, conspiracy theories, yellow journalism, voter suppression, dark nostalgia, and personality cult - was dusted off and trotted out, and it served for a time. Hyper-aroused transgressive political minorities briefly seized power around the world and installed weakly buffoonish kakistocracies. Essentially dug in against Modernity, they had no better plan and no interest in good governance.

But the underlying mechanisms remained in play. Long-term demographic, intellectual, and moral shifts continued to overtake this segment. Most devastating of all was the short-term reality that these movements were stoked disproportionally by older people, fated to swiftly dwindle. To put it mildly, they did not go gentle into that good night.
This won't be recounted as a tale of left vs right; liberal vs conservative. Already these terms have been hollowed out, revealing the purely tribal basis of the schism.


Back in 2017 I called it a last gasp. In The Un-Self-Aware Assholes’ Last Hurrah, I wrote:
We’re getting a front row view of something few people have seen in person. it’s usually only read about. And it’s somewhat defanged; we won’t fall into autocracy, we won’t lose our freedom, it’s not the third reich ... [I've self-servingly cut out predictions that didn't come true]...and, luckiest of all, the bad guys are self-defeating idiots.

There will be more chaos and chagrin, but we’re getting this view relatively cheaply. When it’s over, center left and center right will come together (it’s already started…pro-Trump stats are so high among Republicans because so many Republicans have renounced their party). This is a last gasp of moldy human tropes; the un-self-aware assholes’ last hurrah...It’s not the end of the world, it’s birth pangs for a new better one.
Since the mid 20th century, we'd felt inoculated against these moldy remnants, an assurance that proved sadly wrong. But that's not to say we're trapped in an inescapable cycle. On the contrary, we're winning. Pluralistic humanism is now the majority credo, despite the political aberration. But a last gasp is still appalling to endure. Pity our innumerable forebears who lived, stiflingly, through forgotten periods of senseless idiocy within otherwise enlightened eras. “The one rotten king” may not do permanent damage, but a generation is an eternity for those stuck in it.

But though we're evolving in fits and starts (this now would be a "fit"), we'll never be fully inoculated. So the key message for posterity is that we are not primitives. We're not some lower breed, unusually blind and stupid. And this means that you, my great-great-great-great grandchildren, may come to watch a huge chunk of your society wrap itself around some fecal doo-dah. Yes, you may flit around in flying cars, google searching within your minds, but you're no more "modern" than we were.

So while this moment of utter buffoonery - perfectly exemplified by a nihilistic clown of a prime minister being strapped into a ventilator weeks after petardedly poo-pooing a pandemic - will make for hilarious reading in a century or two, and we are very much the nutty ancients whom the future will mock, they need to know they aren’t inoculated.

There's always an opposition. Society always produces an opposing faction, even anti-paradise. And once a faction is shamed and shouted down, they will fight dirty. Whenever a critical mass finds its back against the wall, the old machinery may be reached for. And it will always be available. The bell can’t be unstruck.
I called this way back in the late 1990s, when Gingrich and his band of pirates were crapping all over DC, and the DNC hit me up for a donation to stop them. I knew the treasurer, who'd sent the email pitch, a little, and I pushed back, insisting that it was far more critical to support sane Republicans against the radical loonies. He refused to take my point, able to see only the binary. And sure enough, the Republican party fell into delirium, monkey-barring from Gingrich to Limbaugh to Cheney to Palin to this toxic vacant whackjob.
So I have an idea. Let’s drag boulders, great big boulders, into a meadow somewhere and have it spell out “IT CAN HAPPEN TO YOU”. Let's raise funds to get this done as a service to posterity.


See also: Historian Consensus Circa 2117 (though the above is better re: Trump).

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Hal Willner

RIP Hal Willner, my perennial second degree of separation, purveyor of weird juxtapositions (like the one below) which didn't smugly exult in their oddness but (usually) actually (mostly) worked, a vastly higher-level accomplishment.



Here's the story of the above.

Trader Joe's Matcha Green Tea Powder

The powers that be at Trader Joe's are all about price. I have a couple of friends who supply items for the chain, and they will attest that the entire operation can be summarized in two words: Price Squeeze.

So when something's expensive at TJ's, you need to take note. Like for instance the Matcha Green Tea Powder, which looks like this:
and not like this:
or like this:
and definitely not like this:
What's matcha? I don't know, exactly. I know something about Chinese tea and pu-ehr, but am pretty ignorant on the Japanese stuff. I could gargle out a few semi-correct facts, but let's view it empirically:

You know the cheap plastic bottles of green tea water sold in Asian markets? You can do better, flavor-wise.
Also: death-wise, considering the arsenic or lead (or both) found in cheap green tea products (it may help to filter).
When it comes to instant green iced tea, the good stuff is Japanese matcha (or sencha, which I know even less about), which also presents less lead and arsenic risk. There's a hierarchy of matcha quality, and I'm told Trader Joe's stuff is way up the curve. It would be graded "ceremonial".

That's good. Ceremonial matcha is usually pricey (I used to up-pay for the hard-to-find one from YamaMotoYama). Yet this is not. Because it's Trader Joe's, and they squeeze their suppliers. That said, it's still really expensive for Trader Joe's, which is why they've pulled out every trick to mask the expense.

The substantial-looking box contains 7 tiny individual portions the size of kiddy ice cream cup sticks. And the portion packets are like 5% full. The big tell is the box's weight, a ludicrous .37 ounces (a price sticker would bring it up to .38 oz). And there are just seven wee packets per $7 box.

For a household of two, rationing one matcha/person/day, you'd need to budget a steep $56/month...just to step up from crappy supermarket green tea (which TJ's used to sell, too, btw). It's a hell of huge quality step-up, but it's risky to count on customers to recognize this. So Trader Joe's is taking a big chance, but not without reason. This stuff's great.

It doesn't instantly dissolve; you need to work at it. I add it to water in a weightlifter's protein shake shakey cup (with built in spikey agitator), which seals tightly and lets me really froth up the contents (this one looks good to me). And I wouldn't do it any other way, because you want an aerated, bubbly, lavish result. Oh, and I woulnd't add this stuff for smoothies, it's too fine for that.


I'm very sensitive to caffeine, and while I can handle a single shot of coffee (which I murder with milk), matcha, like all green tea, treats me more gently. One single portion of matcha seems to be my Goldilocks result.

Pasta Water Theory

Theory: A big reason it helps to add pasta water back into your finished pasta dish is because it’s salty. It’s a backdoor way of using a restaurant-ish quantity of salt.

Sunday, April 5, 2020

Free Games and Myriad Other Amusements

This truly amazing $30 bundle includes lots of great Mac games (even more on the PC side), and the revenue goes to COVID-19 relief charities. On the Mac side, "Psychonauts" and "Undertale" are classics. Also highly-rated: "World of Goo", "Into the Breach", and"Broken Age". Among the e-books, the Python book is not a typical programming book, written so non-programmers can use it. Fun! And "Saga" is a really good comic. "Journeys Through Time" is great classic sience fiction and fantasy.

In other news...

Monument Valley, a great iOs game, is now free. The announcement about Monument Valley links to some other free games (though only a few on iOs).

Don't miss "Norm Macdonald does standup about coronavirus", part 1 and part 2. Norm also has a somewhat uneven video podcast series on Youtube, "Quarantined with Norm Macdonald". Also Norm's extremely hard to find first TV interview with Jerry Seinfeld is available, audio only.

And it's a great time for a rewatch of The Leftovers, about a mysterious event that removed 2% of the world's population. Well, no, it's about the aftermath. It's one of the greatest series of all time, and features the single best episode of TV, hands down ("International Assassin", in season 2). It streams on HBO GO, and is well worth the $20-25 per season on Amazon or Apple.

If you have an old coin collection moldering in the attic, this is a good time to take stock of it (here's a site with complete information, including value, on every US coin in every date, and here's the up-to-date "melt value" of all coins re: their precious metal content).

Read about how the Earth is really really enjoying this.

Or learn a language!

There are nearly 2500 Slog postings, relatively few of which are migraine-inducing meditations on perceptual framing! Have you read all the "Popular Entries" in the left hand margin? Consider the postings labeled "Funny".The "Profiles" are a good read. And while I'm reluctant to write about music, readers have enjoyed my few exceptions.

If you'd rather sit and sulk and stress while feeling perfectly healthy, there's no shame in that choice, but if health's so valuable, why wouldn't you be exuberantly enjoying every second of good fortune?


Thanks to the various uncredited tipsters (I can't remember all, so I won't credit any).

Blithe

So long as I feel ok, I feel ok. I think I’m too stupid to do complicated things like feel bad when I feel good. I kind of marvel at those who can.


If my misery could help the problem even in the least little bit, I'd happily make myself miserable.

My friend Andrea's response: "Of course. Always positive, never be negative!"
My reply: "Neither negative nor positive. Both are lies. Better to strive for clarity.
Negativity is a deliberate filter on reality. I want the raw feed. And that flow is overwhelmingly beautiful."


Saturday, April 4, 2020

Toothbrush Zeitgeist

A short toothbrush dialog with friend-of-the-Slog Paul Trapani (in reference to yesterday’s post about toothbrush hounding):

The following, from my posting "Unhinged", explains about admiration compression:
Here's a fun game. Search Amazon for the bajillion consumer reviewers who express utter delight for the product, yet award it only four stars. What are they thinking? The answer is right there: "Well, geez....greatness???".

We drag our feet on the upside. We mentally compress our assessment of quality. We miss the non-linearity. We have been deliberately blinkered by the myriad stolid pud-puds trafficking in the wide part of the bell curve; in mere competency. To point to just one single line of pressure, the billions of advertising dollars streaming out of the Olive Gardens of the world push hard against any notion of duly recognizing and supporting bona fide greatness.
More here, and this is related.

Friday, April 3, 2020

Toothbrush Hound

If you could somehow turn the physical sensation evoked by very advanced meditation practice (this is a great time to start, btw) into pill form, it'd be worth $10,000/pill. I can't explain the biochemistry, but it has to do with natural endorphins, which are way, way better than the standard prescribed opiates. People risk jail to get their hands on Vicodin - said to produce some of the most blissful states available to human beings - but when I popped one once after dental surgery, I needed to vomit it up. It was a complete buzzkill. Just awful.

So that's where I'm coming from on the issue of pleasure.

For the past years, I've been tracking the creative progress of whatever wizard designs REACH toothbrushes. That is, one certain REACH designer. As with Kashi cereals, there appears to be one wizard plus a few lackluster pud-puds at work.

While I can finish a cereal box in a couple of weeks, allowing me a solid overview of the uneven Kashi lineup, toothbrushes last much longer, so it's been a long, languorous odyssey tracking the REACH genius' work. The datapoints have spread so widely that it's like Bugs Bunny wafting down the long staircase:



But a couple nights ago, I hit pay dirt. I unboxed a new model, and...jackpot. Ladies and gents, I present to you the REACH Total Care Floss Clean Toothbrush Soft Full Professional ("this brush does not replace flossing").

It may not look like much (in fact, as I squint for a closer look, "ick"), but the REACH genius has outdone himself. This toothbrush offers more than fresh breath, invigorated gumlines, and outstanding dental hygiene. It also delivers something akin to divine consolation; a tiny taste of the benefits of advanced meditation.

I can't account for the hows and whys, but I'm constantly on the watch for the banal erupting into inspiration (the world's crud, I figure, is in plain sight, so I feel compelled to vigilance), however loony that makes me look. I wrote in my posting "Unhinged" that:
My review of the Arepa Lady, a Colombian street vendor in Jackson Heights, Queens, was rejected by my NY Press editor in the early 90s, because I was told it's nutty to moon lengthily over some stupid snacky item grilled on some greasy street cart in some grim ethnic neighborhood no one ever goes to.
The juju behind the Arepa Lady also applies to the REACH wizard: any item, no matter how prosaic, can be invested with such enormous creativity and care that it's not only worthy but full-out mesmerizing (see Leff's Second Law, as well as my explanation of Steve Jobs).

You gotta get the model with soft bristles (I'm ordinarily a medium bristle guy), and the full-sized brushing head.

Here's a four-pack on Amazon, 'cuz, believe me, you're going to want more than one.

Please do not persecute me for my religious beliefs

I am fully aware that there’s a non-zero chance I’ve gone insane. However, even when I brush absent-mindedly, forgetting the previous experiences, I'm caught by surprise (“Why do I feel so good? OH.....").

Thursday, April 2, 2020

Don't Do MORE

I just posted this rant to Facebook, and figured I'd throw it up here as well.


I heard the normally sharp Nicolle Wallace say on her show yesterday that "One sick person in the grocery store could infect EVERYONE". So much ignorance and misunderstanding.

This isn't a plague. An infected person in your midst can't infect you with his presence. People aren't radiating virus. The air does not sizzle with homicidal microbes.

It's transmitted via large-ish droplets and personal contact. So try super hard not to cough or sneeze on anyone, or be coughed/sneezed upon yourself. For extra safety, stay 6 feet away, out of large droplet range.

WE'RE ALREADY DOING THAT! So we're GOOD! It's enough! Just do that! Not more!

We don't need to view other people as evil contaminators. You can talk to them. You can be in a room with them. You can be around them. Just STAY 6 FEET AWAY. 20 feet won't make you extra safe.

We're being told to stay home because some people are too dumb and sloppy to enforce distancing. But that doesn't mean you can't chat with your friend or neighbor from 6 feet away. Which actually feels pretty normal.

The distancing guidelines are pretty draconian....and they are sufficient! We don't need to do lots of OTHER stuff on top of those guidelines! It won't make you extra safe and healthy!


If you're passing someone in the supermarket aisle, and need to reduce to 5 foot separation for a second, you don't have to hold your breath and squirm. Your viral geiger counter doesn't start clicking.

If you're not coughing/sneezing at them, nor they at you, and nobody's licking their hand and rubbing it on the other person's nostrils, everybody's cool. Regain full separation when you can, just for extra safety's sake, and chill the F out.


The Earth Calms and Greens Amid Pandemic

Couple of interesting sciencey things:

Earth Is Literally Moving Less Now That We're All on Lockdown (h/t Tara Cox).

and...

The environmental upside of the virus shows the green way ahead.

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