Wednesday, August 31, 2022

Another Angle on Weight Loss

I lost 35 pounds a few years ago, and posted extensively about how I did it.

A series of injuries (including a solid year off my feet) led me to regain the weight.

But it's recently come to my attention that I've lost 18 pounds. It snuck up on me. I didn't realize. In fact, I'd worry I had some wasting disease if I didn't feel so normal. Anyway, here's my thesis:

For the past year I've been consumed with painting, repairing, doctoring, and staging my house, cajoling workers and running back/forth to paint stores. It's fast-paced stuff, and my clock's paced accordingly.

I've also been preparing to sell the house, consulting with realtors and lawyers and working on "staging" (trying to make it look like an actual grown-up lives here).

I've also been gathering the unimaginably complicated application materials required for residency visa in Portugal (I needed to be fingerprinted, have fingerprints sent to FBI for background check, then have their report sent to Dept of State in Washington for apostille (verification), each step with roadblocks and dependencies, and this represents like 3% of the process). Multiple trips to Newark to open a Portuguese bank account. Multiple consultations with a professional visa fixer in Portugal. Etcetera.

All this while downsizing and decluttering and working through scary boxes and throwing out so much stuff (the rest went on eBay - hundreds of sales, which meant I was constantly running to the basement for shipping boxes, printing mailing labels, and hustling to the UPS Store - or donated to charity or gifted to friends).

I've been running around, highly agitated, perpetually spinnning multiple plates, for a solid year and a half. Stress, as always, was optional, and I've mostly avoided it. Just geared up, that's all.

The exercise wasn't intense, like the first time I did weight loss. I've averaged only a couple miles per day, and no weight training. But the constant motion, up/down the steps, carrying this and that, really adds up. A busy afternoon or three won't do it. You need to keep it up for months and months. Keep your clock well-paced, lots of action and movement.

My painter friend Kurt - who may buy a Camry from what he made off me - described me as having "a head full of steam" re: getting the house ready. I've had to be. Half the job has meant broaching my darkest phobias (I'm terrified of going through boxes, terrified of moving for the nth time, terrified of missing the seller's housing market - which, indeed, collapsed a week after I listed the house), and the other half was merely difficult and beyond my knoweldge and comfort zone (I know nothing about houses, renovations, paint colors, windows, etc, and had to totally wing it the whole way).

And the whole thing was so sizzly and uphill and relentless, with my head full of steam, that I wasn't eating much. When you're existing in an accelerated state, there's little time/patience for extended eating. A housefly doesn't seat himself to tackle a sumptuous repast. I haven't had the focus to eat more than a half sandwich at a sitting. I'm "Mr. Half-Sandwich" (though, obviously, they were exquisitely good sandwiches; I haven't degenerated!).

Another innovation: smoothie breakfasts. 200 calories: 1 teaspoon matcha powder (the only dietary item that I've ever found to significantly reduce my cholesterol), 1 teaspoon flax seed (toasted in my nonstick egg pan and ground for 20 secs in mortar and pestle), 1/2 teaspoon Penzey's vanilla extract, 1 large handfull fresh spinach leaves, and a decent (not generous) quantity of frozen fruit (wild blueberries, sour cherries, TJ's "organic tropical mix", banana slices I froze myself on cookie sheets). 

17 year old girls are right; this is how you do it. No more breakfast skipping, no long pause before breaking fast, just dive right into smoothie each morning. Then a substantial lunch, then a light dinner (largely chopped salad kits with 1/4 the dressing, none of the cheese, and adding in whatever protein is left over - most commonly TJ's simple turkey slices or else cut-up egg white omelet - along with chopped tomato and, often, kernals cut off an ear of corn. Drizzle of good extra virgin olive oil. Very satisfying supper, very low-calorie.

Between the diet changes and the constant jittery movement and the over-clocked steam headedness, it's no wonder I've lost weight!

So...I told you before a way to lose weight (see links above). This is another way. Take on a big scary project! Keep the fires burning! Never chill! Move! And don't starve yourself (that last was part of the previous weight-loss plan, as well, as examined at length in my series "How Perennially Fat People Diet", re: that same link above).

Tuesday, August 30, 2022

Paring Down to the Kernel of Clutter

I'm proud to announce that my house is 100% uncluttered, which took some doing. First, I had to overcome my phobia of The Boxes I've been shlepping from home to home since college (they've been unboxed; every one of them!), and, second, I couldn't just create new boxes to shovel loose items into, because I'm moving out of the country and can't take that junk with me.

Remember the annotated tour of my kitchen clutter I published a few years ago? Jump back to that link to check out the photo, then compare to this antiseptic and unrecognizable kitchen:
The whole house is like that. Buyers traipse through daily, figuring I'm Mr. Immaculate.

But there's a problem. When I come home, and need to drop takeout menus and water bottles and iPhones and keys and wallets and mail and business cards and pamphlets and prescriptions and leftover cookies and whatever else on the nearest counter or kitchen table, I instantly remember I'm creating more work for myself. A toothpick left on my kitchen counter - a single dirty sock on my bedroom floor - must be processed and stored/used/trashed so I can reset the house for the next round of buyers. And there's no closet or drawer or tub I can dump it all into, because I'm not doing that anymore.

For example, I just strolled into the house with a gift 2023 calendar from my local Chinese restaurant, and briefly spazzed out.
"Wait!" I commanded, "Don't dump it on the table! No, don't throw it on the counter, either! Wait, don't throw it out, it's a nice one! Wait, don't fling it in that drawer!
Each command killed momentum, leaving me frozen, standing there like an idiot in the middle of my immaculate kitchen clutching this stupid calender, vaguely needing to drink something and pee and put away frozen groceries and return email and wash my hands. All those tasks remained queued while I faced the impossible dilemma of integrating this calendar into Mr. Immaculate's sleek habitat. Finally, rattled to my core and as vacantly puzzled as I've ever been in my life, I chucked it into the trash with addled vehemence.

"Man!" I exclaimed to myself. "Home showings are stressful! I have to deal with every little thing I bring in!"

It's a good thing I talk to myself. It allows me to hear how dumb I am from a distantly objective position.

Here's the thing about reframing - which was what this was. Yes, I could have saved myself a year and a half of hard labor (and saved you 600 words of reading) and merely observed "You'll always generate clutter until you learn to deal with each object you bring in!" But I knew that, and you knew that, and it's utterly banal.

But then one day you find yourself standing in an improbably immaculate house clutching a souvenir calendar, your body flailing through its trademark gambits to avoid dealing with habitat integration, and, suddenly, you get it. You reframe. This is what neat people do! This is the time they take! This is the level of diligence they ascend to! I needed to spend two years cleaning and 20 seconds flailing (and you needed to hear about it) to viscerally grok the sheer unfamiliarity of treating your home as a place where every last toothpick really really matters.

I'm not saying I'll continue living this way. But at least now I understand what it involves. Clichés and other glib wordiness can be an intellectual aid, but don't deliver
 real visceral understanding.

Wednesday, August 24, 2022

That Link

Yesterday's posting ("Narcissm and Egocentricity") concerned an article I'd found on the subject in Psychology Today. I forgot to link the article.

Nobody said anything.

Here it is

There's another new posting just beneath this one, in case you missed it.

Grievance is Golden

I amuse myself by trying to observe post-Covid psychological skews. Most existed pre-Covid, as well, but have mushroomed into far greater prevalence. Here are previous postings tagged "Post-covid narcissism".

A few years ago, I bumped into a friend and his lavishly neurotic wife.

I don't remember the prelude, but I'd offered some observation she happened not to agree with, and she gave me a right proper chewing out, tying this latest Wrong Thinking into a succession of my previous transgressions. Having found me resolutely "guilty" at trial-by-mouth, she grasped the very idea of me - the notional proposition of my life project - and firmly stubbed it out on the rough concrete floor like a Pall Mall beneath her heel. I had been viciously put to death via the unusually cruel punishment of unbridled mouthy pique.

Once the tirade died down, and I'd offered my sardonic "bravo", she explained that her mother had died the previous month (vulnerable for a moment!) and that she's simply not able to handle any shit - ANY SHIT - at all, and (oh, no; it reignites!) here I come, with my shit, yet again, always my shit, my god-damned shit, and....

Before the fit could fully re-percolate, I cut her off.

Very quietly and calmly, I informed her that my mom had died the previous month, as well.

No. No. Bad. No.

There is no redemption. This is a redemption-free land. Never count on redemption. The evidence that I could be in comparable pain without lashing out was not just dismissed; it had further inflamed her. I'd committed the most loathsome offense: undercutting her grievance. Oh, good lord, you must never do that. It's unforgivable.

Her husband somehow pulled her away, like a pitbull from a burglar. Thank goodness the leash held, or I might have had chunks scraped off my face. How could I be so callously insensitive as to pull some judo move about how my mother died with SOMEONE WHOSE MOTHER DIED???

Allow me to sum up the framing:
My pain is the worst pain. My pain is the only pain. I don't want to hear about your pain. You CHALLENGE me by citing your pain. How DARE you cite your pain, when you can plainly see I'm in pain! You are rudely INTERRUPTING THE FUCKING PERFORMANCE!!!!!!
People flamboyantly displaying their pain and victimhood are putting on a show, and it's their show - their time to shine! - not yours. You are audience. You are a non-player character. Stay in your lane!

Coming around to my point, I used to see this periodically from people who, in a previous generation, might have been termed "emotionally disturbed." Later, such folks became mainstreamed, and eventually perhaps even admired for their spleeny excess. But, post-Covid, I see this behavior almost daily. Horrid behavior pugnaciously justified (explicitly or implicitly - you can easily smell it even if they don't verbally announce it) by "I have problems!" What was once a euphemism (for being a little cuckoo for cocoa puffs) has become an entitlement.

It's notable that "I have problems" people would never ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever consider - much less inquire about - your problems. If they cared one bit about your problems - or even recognized you as a full-out fellow life form - they wouldn't behave this way. That would be an entirely different world. A world where other people have actual problems might compel some consideration and self-restraint. And that is, quite evidently, not the world we're presently in.

Everyone with flamboyant problems is the only person with problems. Everyone in flamboyant pain is the only person in pain. And they won't hesitate to create problems and generate pain for others because not having to worry about, or respect, or even fully register other people is the entitlement of having problems and being in pain. That's the perq! In the inimitable words of the great Rod Blagojevich, “I've got this thing, and it's golden!”

That Blagojevich quote encapsulated our era. I've got this thing, and it's golden. Make the "thing" any sort of grievance, and...well, it's golden!

Postscript: I think what I'm describing here is actual narcisissm ("I register your point of view, but mine totally supercedes") rather than egocentricity ("I can't even see your point of view"), per the distinction I've been musing.

Tuesday, August 23, 2022

Narcissm and Egocentricity

I've been throwing around the word "narcissist" a lot lately, and for some reason began musing about the difference between narcissm and egocentricity.

I found this article from Psychology Today, which is not terribly well-written, but contains a few gems. Here's the best part (cleanly expressed and totally persuasive):
In egocentrism, you’re unable to see someone else’s point of view; but in narcissism, you may see that view but not care about it.
I'm beginning to question my use of the term narcisissm. I suspect I mean egocentricity.

People unable to register - much less consider, much less accommodate - your separate perspective might look narcissistic and act narcissistically, but they're a far cry from someone who clearly sees all the angles from all the perspectives but chooses never to budge to accommodate others ("Why should I?"). The terrific thing about Donald Trump is we all have a nice familiar case study for such a person. It's not academic; we've been soaking in it.

I'm talking about confused, muddled people, not simmeringly evil ones. I guess I'm talking about egocentricity.

I struggle mightily to bear in mind that awful people - including phenomenally egocentric ones - are not evil. They are a "5" at worst (on scale of 1-to-10). I wrote briefly about this here. Selfish, unreasonable, uncompromising, toxic, unpleasant, neurotic, dumb, crazy, people are acceptable even if they're not preferable.

This is, for me, so counterintuitive that every time I remind myself of it, I feel disoriented.

Relatedly, I still insist that Trump (who I despise as much as you do, despite friendships with several of his supporters) was a "5.5" president. Well, hmm, in light of January 6, let's demote him to a "4.5". Hardly the end of the world. If you ever experienced four years under Duterte or Erdogan ("4"s), or Putin or Lukashenko ("3"s), or Kim or Stalin ("2"s), or Hitler/Caligula/Pol Pot ("1"s), you'll reframe Trump, much as many of us now recall George W Bush (who visited a mosque the week of 9/11 to urge us to embrace our Muslim neighbors) as a statesman and a mensch. Who imagined, at the time, that George W Bush was acceptable (though not preferable for many of us)?

Monday, August 22, 2022

Lost Knowledge

I've always been fascinated by the field of lost knowledge.
We don't know how the Stradivarius family made their fiddles sound so good. More broadly speaking, we've lost that entire era's know-how for this. And we likely will never get it back. No professional classical violinist that I know of plays a modern violin. It's amazing (and humbling) if you'll think about it.

Highly influential philosophers and historians are mentioned in Ancient Greek and Roman texts for whom nary a word survives.

My elderly Swedish friend Sten-Åke lived in a cool apartment aboard the historical tall ship docked at South Street Seaport because he was the only man alive who knew how to tie all the knots.
There are more such losses than you'd imagine. In fact, you could even question the the normally firm assumption that technology improvement has been a straight upward arrow (you can also take this too far the other way, believing that early civilizations with sophisticated tech have vanished into the dustheap ("All this has happened before, and all of it will happen again").

There are so many such points of loss, all the time, that each of us may serve as a final repository of some doomed know-how. I don't mean your knowledge of how Aunt Ethel liked her eggs. I mean significant points of fact. We don't realize we carry such information due to normalcy bias.

Opposing some people's visceral notion that EVERYTHING is significant, the vast majority of us are inclined to deem NOTHING significant (among other things, this accounts for my claim that "If Pablo Picasso grew up in Akron, Ohio, he'd have been considered one of the best painters in Summit County"). We naturally compress extremes, which makes us miss bona fide significance.

Here are two points of nearly lost knowledge I happen to steward.

In the early 90s, I helped run a few forums on Compuserve, a dial-in computer networking service. And because this wasn't the loosey-goosey Web, where everything can be faked and stats are all approximated, every last click and action were logged; ascribable to one certain user. We forum admins reaped interesting and useful data, like the ratio of posters to mute lurkers.

It always came out to something like one or two hundred to one. So .5 - 1% of regular forum members post something. I believe this metric held true through my reign at Chowhound, and remains accurate to this day. You can spot evidence by comparing YouTube viewing stats to commenting stats (though YouTube is, of course, a different animal; certain types of videos provoke far more or less comments). My informed speculation is that 10% of users like/rate/favorite, and 10% of them comment/contribute/post. And while every forum manager has a loose feeling for this, virtually none of them started from the solid ground of a service like Compuserve, offering data which today's admins could only dream of (even with the modern assistance of cookies, trackers, log-ons, etc).

We've lost a tempo. It's called "loping" (pronounced "lopin'") and I'll go out on a limb and claim that no jazz musician under the age of 80 knows the term. Loping is between a draggy slow tempo and a medium walking tempo. Not quite walkin', not quite draggin'. Lopin'!

Tempos can't be meaningfully ascribed to metronome markings. A tempo is also a feel. An environment. A habitat. Every musician knows what a "bright" tempo is, but you'll never get two to agree on a prescribed metronome range. Like pornography, we simply know it when we see it.

When the term "loping" disappeared, so did the tempo. Players may serendipitously arrive at loping-ish tempos, but, not knowing how to lope, they either do a slightly-faster version of dragging or a slightly-slower version of walking. No one, alas lopes.

Saturday, August 20, 2022

The Pose is Usually a Cover

A few weeks ago, I explained the pervasive role of poseurs in society. They are the rule, not the exception. Seemers always win, so posing's become so pervasive that doers - the genuine article - are spurned. Actuality has no value when we're fully occupied by posing.
This is why severe autistics get so disoriented, twirling themselves into oblivion. They don't understand posing, so their whole experience here feels like being trapped inside an asylum. Which it is.
Seemers are not only a different breed from doers; they're usually the very opposite thing. It took me a lifetime to figure this out (which shows how hypnotized we are).

Consider homophobes, who think about gay people an awful lot, which is not something heterosexuals do. In fact, there's a word for people who think about gayness a lot, and, I'll give you a hint: it begins with a "G".

Such people don't trust their impulses. And this insecurity drives them to turn the amp up to eleven, making themselves so extremely ungay that there's no question.

Super ungay people reveal their impulses and insecurities. Straight people don't make such effort to seem ungay. Which can, in turn, make them seem gay. Because people buy the pose more than the actuality. Extra ungay-seeming people are the apotheosis of heterosexuality, it goes without saying!

Me, I don't have the slightest doubt about my preference, so I never lift a finger to seem ungay. This makes some homophobes suspect - or even insist - that I'm gay. While I'm daydreaming about female secondary sexual characteristics, these guys, consumed by their obsession with gayness, parse my disinclination to conform to the prescribed super-ungay behaviors. This supposedly makes me the gay one.

It's insufficient to be straight. One must also go to lengths to seem straight; to demark oneself as ungay. Because the "seeming" is what matters. And it's hard, because suppressed gay homophobes have really raised the bar, having spent years painstakingly honing their super ungay posing. How could a merely straight dude like me ever hope to compete?

It's a familiar paradox to me. In the above-linked article on posing, I complain about being forced to compete with highly-accomplished poseurs to pass for the sort of person I actually am:
Having been successful in a half dozen unrelated fields, with my name on a bunch of books and records and media stuff, having inspired a generation of Spanish and Portuguese jazz musicians and had some minor rippling effect on how folks think and write about food and use the Internet, is it also incumbent on me to seem like that person? Have I ignored a critical chunk along the way? Am I going around obliviously without my pants on? Do I need to fix this?

I can't imagine anything more foolish than posing as the sort of person I actually am. Isn't that backwards? One dons an aloof "That Guy" persona - too busy with important importance to do whatever - if one is a bluffer who hasn't done much but wants to seem like he has. I get why people strike that pose, but why would we expect the genuine to match the pose; to imitate the imitators?

Why would I pose as me? The question makes my head explode. None of my insight re: human psychology helps. And the awful and dopey truth is that even if I put effort into posing as someone like me - to look the part, whatever that even means - I'd surely wind up in the lower 20th percentile of me-posers. I'd be terrible at it!

I'm quite good at doing things, but horrendously bad at posing as a thing-doer. There are specialists for that! Thousands of them! And they're good! They can do something I can't, and I truly admire them! Me, I could never fool anyone into imagining I could do something notable. Even if I actually have.
I'm amazed more people haven't fully awakened to this craziness, because we've all just experienced a massive reveal. After watching generations of Conservative leaders waving the Constitution over their heads, pounding their chests in devotion to the red, white, and blue, and proclaiming themselves super patriots and stiff-spined tyrant obliterators, the moment a two-bit con-man real estate guy started riling up the yahoos, every one of those ham-fisted brawny he-men shrunk into mini Neville Chamberlains. Meekly terrified of losing their jobs or elected positions or Fox News exposure or fundraising streams, they quivered and quaked, kowtowed and appeased, all while quietly recognizing the immense peril to the republic.

This revealed that it was all a pose all along. Beneath their flamboyant alpha patriotic barking, they were always submissive, impotent, spineless weasels - the antithesis of their pose. That's precisely why they've been posing so long and so hard all this time. Real strong people don't feel compelled to act strong. They ARE strong.

People who aren't racist simply aren't racist. People who grab the mantle of Anti-Racism - who spend their leisure time uncovering shlubs unwise enough to have attended 1965 Halloween parties in blackface so they can CALL THEM OUT - such people are insecure about their own impulses, so they turn the amp up to eleven, making themselves so extremely anti-racist that there's no question.

Consider my definition of racism, and consider how many loudmouths comically trap themselves in that net. In fact, strident anti-racism (remember, we live in a Taoist world) is racism.

Thursday, August 18, 2022

Balls-to-the-Wall Luxe Blowout Celebration

As longtime readers know, I bought a slew of shares in a small biotech company, SIGA, 16 years ago, at about $3/share. They'd developed a cure for smallpox, useful for governments to stockpile in case Russians or North Koreans or freelancers (it is shockingly easy to create weaponized smallpox in a lab) resorted to biological warfare (if that sounds unlikely, read up on how the Russian military is messing up Ukrainian nuclear power plants they've commandeered, even though fallout would easily spread to Russia).

I've unloaded some shares over the years, but retained a sizable cache. And, guess what, SIGA's drug also cures monkey pox. Which is a current pandemic. So the stock's up to $24.

I gave up living my life as if I were starring in some glorious movie a long time ago. And this makes celebration difficult. There's also a moral issue. For example, I am militantly against birthdays and holidays, which strike me as obscene in the context of modern First World life.

And even after this windfall, I still, alas, can't afford a Tesla - the only materialistic bauble I salivate over (I'm super into the notion of waking up to fresh firmware which makes my car do new cool things; it's the perfect encapsulation of my utopian dream). I also still can't afford to fly business class, which would be nice.
I guess Teslas and business class are for people who've sold more than one startup to a major corporation, and who've had multiple investments appreciate 10x. Who are these people, anyway? Why am I still middle class when I've done all the things???

Irony of ironies: In the early 90s, when I was one of the poorest people I knew, I flew 1st class on TWA many times per year. I was traveling enough for musical work that I qualified for premium status, back when that really meant something. I was also staying in 5-star hotels on jazz tours, paid for by promoters. So - typical for my extraordinarily disorienting life - I felt way richer back when I was poor. I can't afford any of that stuff today!
So here's how I've celebrated my windfall:

There's a very good sushi place near me, serving cheap lunches and more expensive dinners. I lunch there a lot. Problem is, lunch options are limited. The best stuff is only on the dinner menu. But what reasonable person goes to a cheap local lunch place for an expensive dinner? Even if he's getting tired of the lunch options?

Well, check it out. I've ordered dinner takeout from them twice in the past two weeks. It feels soooo luxurious. It honestly feels like I've won the lottery. I HAVE ARRIVED!

By way of explanation, I am an adherent of Nano-Aesthetics

Wednesday, August 17, 2022

Reframe or Die: The Shift of Perspective Required to Deter the Coming Civil War

Remember how a few years ago I started going on and on about framing? The detour repelled 75% of my previous readership, most of whom were here for food porn, not to hear the jolly chow guy expound abstract philosphical bullshit.

The rest of you were dubious but patient (and I thank you). You figured I was indulging some obsessive yaya, even when I linked it in with such practical concerns as human happiness, autism, addiction, depression (here and here), creativity, art, cosmology, theology, and much more.

Well, here is the opening message of this year's CPAC, the most important mainstream American conservative gathering and forum:
I shudder at the prospect of existing in 2022 America without some acquaintance with framing. Because framing is how we got here. Without that, it's just "THEY'VE ALL GONE CUCKOO!!"

Historians will shrug fatalisticaly and explain that everyone went crazy. Or, my favorite, "BRAINWASHING!!" But we're actually alive, so we have on-the-ground experience, and know that our MAGA friends and neighbors, who were always super nice people (just never never engage them on politics!), are still entirely themselves...aside for their propensity to swallow the spin and regurgitate the talking points. I have baseball superfan friends who hang up phone calls with "Go Cubs!" and live or die on a foul call. This is the same thing. Neither is crazy or brainwashed. Everyone's got a Thing, and everyone's allowed their Thing, and this is just another Thing, despite the appallingness and the danger of it all.

None of it is deep. We are still who we are, despite our Things. But, as I explained last time, light fixations, aggregated en masse, can yield heavy real-world ramifications. And, sorry folks, but everyone gets to fixate as they'd like. The bedrock individual human right is to choose your Thing, and everyone is as free to do so as you are. If you imagine restraining someone's stand - their framing; their fandom; their Thing - because "they're wrong," that's even more fascistic than what they're unwittingly supporting. In fact, brutishly imposed morality is a big part of what provoked all this.

Anyway, now do you understand why I've been stressing framing? And encouraging people to foster a more lithe perspective? It helps you understand (and perchance empathize with) people who seem to have lost their rockers. Baseball fans and proudly self-described "Domestic Terrorists" and all the rest are just playing.

Don't abstract real people into cartoons. Don't hate the seditious radicals. That's the reaction of a frozen perspective, and frozen perspective leads to civil war.

Civil wars arise when righteous-feeling people shut down any empathy for The Other within neighborhoods, social circles, and even families. Everyone in a Civil War feels righteous and sane, though no one actually is. If you feel wholly righteous and sane, you're the bad guy. You're sending us over this cliff. The MAGAs are NICE PEOPLE. If you don't know any, shame on you for your insularity! And whoever you are out there, you're believing/supporting really awful stuff (as a Centrist, I see you all clearly). The extreme right's going Fascist, but the extreme left's going Stalinist. Each clearly sees the awfulness of the opposite extreme while remaining willfully oblivious to the excesses of their own side's extreme.

It's hard to see. But it's essential to see. Hopefully I've made it easier by urging you consider how everyone frames a different world; how those framings are highly socially contagious; and how each of us owns a universal remote control that allows us to easily (easily!!!) blink into someone else's worldview.

The goal is to gain some detachment from your own worldview so you can see how fucked up it is, and, rather than crumble in despair and futility, keep enjoying your brief residency on this colorful planet - generously stocked with free oxygen, water, and sunlight - along with the other loonballs, who you love and tolerate.

Easy-peasy. If you don't freeze your perspective. If you retain your ability to reframe at will.

It will need to get much, much worse before most people (even most Slog readers) really buy it and develop some empathy for The Other and some distance from their own kookiness and some sense of perspective and priority (all of which comprise re-framing). It's all in place, all perfectly clear to anyone watching thoughtfully. But some people refuse to budge their perspective until their world blows up. Why wait for that?

Some people can spot a doomed chess position from a mile away. Others must hear "Check" hollered a bunch of times and see one player turn frowny. Still others need to actually hear the word "Checkmate". Me, I never wait around for that. In fact, as a child, I made a deliberate effort to remind my future self not to dawdle around a solved maze.

Tuesday, August 16, 2022

Knowing Me WAY Better Than I Know Myself

I amuse myself by trying to observe post-Covid psychological skews. Most existed pre-Covid, as well, but have mushroomed into far greater prevalence. Here are previous postings tagged "Post-covid narcissism".

This has happened to me three times this week, and a bunch of times since Covid shutdown (aka "The Veil of Ultimate Narcissism"):
People don’t listen carefully, so they misinterpret what you're asking or explaining.

You go back and forth several times trying to clarify, but they persist in their original conclusion.

Eventually, they grow angry at you for occupying their time. They've painstakingly answered you a number of times. They completely understood your question/explanation, but you're just refusing to accept the answer they keep needing to repeat to you.
A simpler (and thoroughly maddening) version of this appeared sometimes pre-Covid:
"Wait, you're misunderstanding me."

"No, I'm not!"
HOW DO YOU KNOW? HOW WOULD YOU POSSIBLY BE IN A POSITION TO GAUGE THIS? Sigh. Drives me cuckoo for cocoa-puffs. I seriously grok hermits.

A friend contributes:
It’s partly a failure to listen carefully, and partly a refusal to consider the possibility of anything not fitting preconceived /existing views.
But overarching all is the assumption of primacy. If you imagine that you outrank me in the ability to gauge what I’m trying to say - if your second-hand hearing supersedes my first-hand speaking - that means I am a mere cartoon for you.

Tuesday, August 9, 2022

Creativity and Empathy in Business

A friend runs a brewery. It's successful, but what he really wants is to open a second location; an intimate tap house with live music. Ideally it would serve beer brewed back in the mothership, but he has a business partner with no interest in such an endeavor. So my friend would need to open this venue on his own, which would mean buying beer from his own brewery at full price. Ugh.

In his mind, he's trapped. But my mind roils with possibilities. There are always creative solutions. If you frame your world as chock-full of potential alternative routes and workarounds, that fosters a spaciousness of perspective which really kindles creativity.

As inspiration, I told him this story:

I own some "junk" silver as part of my coin collection, and I didn't want to bring it with me when I relocate abroad. But I don't want to sell it now because silver's price is currently at a low. So I contrived an offer and emailed it (Subject: "Potentially Saving Your Life") to a friend. After explaining my situation, I wrote:
Can you stow it for me in your basement? If your house is burglarized or burns down, it would fall under your homeowners policy, and I'll eat your (entire) deductible.

If society devolves into a hellscape where only precious metals have value, TAKE IT AND LIVE! IT'S YOURS!

If not, when silver prices rise, I'll ask you to sell it and transfer the $$ to me, minus enough for a very nice dinner for you and your wife.
I'd turned a rather difficult "ask" into a good deal for him. The hellscape scenario might strike you as a longshot, but millions of people hold a cache of precious metal just in case. It's not nutty, it's prudent. Protecting your family means planning for bad scenarios.

And paying the deductible was also meaningful. Deductibles are eternal bitter pills. Between the two, I was offering a solid dose of peace-of-mind. And I could wait as long as I wanted for a nice high silver price, because, the moment we sold, the peace-of-mind would vanish. So the longer the better, from his viewpoint!

There is always a way to conceive and fine-tune incentives to get what you want, if (and only if) you're empathic - i.e. able to reframe from your own needy grabby selfishness to see the world from the perspective of the other guy. Load the other party up with value, even more than strictly necessary. Load and load full-heartedly to your outer limit of feasibility. The key to getting what you want is to fully apply your generosity.

My friend turned down the offer, fwiw. I understood why; I hadn't considered everything (e.g. homeowner's insurance might not cover it). Fine. I'll sell the silver now and take the loss. I stay lithe (also: SIGA is currently at $24).

Sunday, August 7, 2022

All A Game

I noted last time that...
Most people are very tightly gripped by the hoo-haw of swirling drama they opted into, suspending disbelief to orchestrate the most thorough possible immersion. No one's born a diehard Yankee's fan. One starts with mild interest, and eventually voluntarily works oneself into a crazed froth where absolutely everything hinges on playoff results. Baseball's just a game, sure, but we can easily will ourselves to forget that. And everything on this planet - even your most sacred and meaningful stuff - is like that. It's all a mere game you chose to invest in. This is a light world for light entertainment in which we invest - to enhance the emotional ride - to the nth degree. But, in the end, every bit of it is "just a game".
We get it with baseball. Even kooky die-hard fans whose cars are plastered with team stickers, who never miss a game, and who live or die based on final scores will readily admit, with a dopey smirk, that, sure, it's just a game.

But how about your mortgage payments? When the Yankees lose, nobody comes and takes your house away. The consequences are steeper, so the stress and fear level seem more appropriate. It's no game!!!

Unless, that is, the whole living-in-a-house thing is also a game. And that, I fully understand, is a much harder sell, though, yes, that, too, is ultimately a game.
You'll be fine. You'll find another living space. It might suck. You may be uncomfortable for a short or long while, and you may need to undergo things you'd previously declared Unacceptable.

But the universe hardly heeds such declarations. In fact, again and again over the years, it's inflicted upon you the Unacceptable, yet here you are, perfectly fine. It escapes our attention (because it would interrupt our willful suspension of disbelief) that every happy regular person is a survivor of multiple encounters with the supposedly Unthinkable. So maybe the problem is in those silly red lines we draw rather than in our outcomes.

Anyway, you'll live in this house, or some other house, or a homeless shelter, or a sleeping bag in the woods. You and your kids may cry and gnash your teeth, but it will all play out while swathed in delicious life-giving oxygen and sunlight on the only colorful and salubrious world in a cold, dark, vacuous, instantly-deadly universe.

But what about bona fide tragedy, e.g. your kid (god forbid) getting cancer? I gently tackled that in one of my more provocative postings, "Why 'God' Lets Bad Things Happen" (keep that page open in case you read all the way through this posting and feel you need more). Now I'll tackle it a bit less gently.

First, you have to trust me on this: I've found (and been corroborated by those who've spent their lives working at lucid dreaming) that while we remember dreams as thin, sketchy experiences, they're not that way at the time. The thin sketchiness is in our poor recollection, not in the original experiencing. The dream world is as real-seeming as ours while we're in it, even though its operating laws are a bit different (e.g. you can fly, events are less linear, and time flows less smoothly).

The following comes with a trigger warning. It may spur disorientation because you'll realize, with gnawing discomfort, that it's true; this is something you've known and forgotten tens of thousands of times. So it's a surprise that packs a powerful punch of deja vu:
Every morning, when you open your eyes, you leave behind loved ones.

Do you mourn? Do you try to get back? No. You trudge blithely into the bathroom and pee.

Strong suggestion: read (or re-read) this.

Saturday, August 6, 2022

Don’t Stuff a Rising Threshold

I wrote last year about the Sanskrit term satchitananda, which has perpetually been tough for swamis to define. You may have heard of a celebrity guru by that name, but he didn't coin it, he just copped the term, which dates back millennia.

I offered the word "bulletproof". Modern English coughed up this gem, and no serious swami would quarrel with its suitability. FWIW, I retconned some of the writing in this extract:
Once you begin to realize that 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 - you no longer have reason to inflict stress and suffering on yourself. 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.
Meditate enough (I use this very stripped-down system, and strongly suggest skipping the rest of the web site) and you will become bulletproof.

Here's the surprise about gun shots to a bulletproof chest. Even if you deflect them - ala Superman or a cop wearing kevlar - the bullets still really hurt.

Bulletproof does not mean numb. You feel pain. You just don't suffer from it. Suffering stems from the stories we tell ourselves about pain (present or imagined), not from the pain itself. Pain is compulsory, while suffering is optional. So here's something to bear in mind:

As you settle into satchitananda, there's a compulsion to act like Bill Murray in Groundhog Day. Whoopie, nothing can touch me! You tightly pack the fantastically expansive space. As your threshold rises, you fill it in with work and commitments and stress. Much more of those things than would normally be viable.

It works ok if you're working for a higher purpose. Helping people. Being of service. This is how useful change happens. You'll be consumed in the process like a charcoal briquette - i.e. "leave it all on the field" - but it's a noble endeavor.

It's problematic, though, if you take this course while mired in the banal American grind. Running a business. Aspiring. Hustling.

There are levels of pain no quantity of morphine can touch. There is a point where the pain from deflected bullets aggregates into bona fide trauma. You remain peaceful, disengaged, and bulletproof, but you are torturing your mute, obliging body. This is self-cruelty even though you feel fine where it counts.

Most people are very tightly gripped by the hoo-haw of swirling drama they opted into, suspending disbelief to orchestrate the most thorough possible immersion. No one's born a diehard Yankee's fan. One starts with mild interest, and eventually voluntarily works oneself into a crazed froth where absolutely everything hinges on playoff results. Baseball's just a game, sure, but we can easily will ourselves to forget that. And everything on this planet - even your most sacred and meaningful stuff - is like that. It's all a mere game you chose to invest in. This is a light world for light entertainment in which we invest - to enhance the emotional ride - to the nth degree. But, in the end, every bit of it is "just a game".

We grip tightly (again: just to enhance the emotional ride) on many levels, mostly unconscious. So when we first experience satchitananda, it's only from the outermost layer. You're still prey, under the hood, to fraught grippy neediness, even having relaxed and surrendered a bit.

If you maintain your meditation practice, satchitananda will bake in deeper. In time, you'll assume it's complete saturation. But it's not. It's a few percentage points. Your experience of the world has become so different from most people's that you imagine vast transformation when it's really just been a quick haircut.

So if you subject yourself to more and more gunfire due to faith in your bulletproofness, you will create - beyond the body trauma I described above - unconscious trauma in the parts of your psyche not yet saturated with satchitananda. Your unconscious grippy artifacts may be quietly freaking the fuck out. Yikes.

That's the main problem, and it must be handled. This is where self-love comes in. I'm not a fan of self-love. I grew up among severe narcissists in a country that tends strongly toward narcissism. I have the tendency, myself, though I've been Clockwork Orange-ing it for so long that it's a pathetic stunted whimper rather than a monstrous roar. So it takes a lot of pivot for me to recommend self-love. Most of us need self-love like the Sahara needs sand.

But whatever you've done to raise a threshold - or if a threshold has risen spontaneously - you must take pains not to infinitely pack infinity. In the case of satchitananda, you must methodically manage the pain level in those parts beyond the halo of deep peacefulness. Don't load up your peace with strife, even though peace is vast and strife is illusory. There are levels of pain no quantity of morphine can touch

I'm describing a fairly common predicament, per this posting's title, "Don’t Stuff a Rising Threshold", though I chose the most arcane possible example (satchitananda is not something most people experience beyond brief moments, aka "peak experiences").

Normally I choose relatable examples to ensure accessibility. Not this time. But I invite you to extrapolate this advice to more relatable realms. Two examples:

John Henry

Consider the tale of John Henry, a steel-driving railroad man whose heart exploded trying to keep pace with the mechanical engine designed to replace him.

John Henry was no weakling. John Henry was mighty. He was great. John Henry had a lot of heart. Just, alas, not infinite.

Heating the Ocean

Don't ever try to heat the entire Atlantic Ocean.

Wednesday, August 3, 2022


You can get far in life by simply nibbling at the serendipity.

A tenet of Nano-Aesthetics

Monday, August 1, 2022

Stravinsky, Nijinsky, and the Origins of Priss

I'm digging deeply into Stravinsky right now. His big three ballets: Firebird, Petrushka, and (especially) The Rite of Spring were brazenly provocative, deemed little more than noise when first premiered (the latter incited a riot). But Igor won in the end. These three pieces have baked so deeply into Western art that they're like Stairway to Heaven - at this point, one needn't ever have heard a single Zeppelin tune to effortlessly follow along.

They're called "ballets", but that's just a proposal from the composer. Sort of like if I wrote a movie screenplay and typed "Blasé Tuesday: a Film by Jim Leff" on the cover. It's not a film, it's a piece of writing until some dude with a camera shows up. Luckily, Stravinsky had the whole package worked out from the get-go with a choreographer, the immortal Vaslav Nijinsky.

In a previous discussion of dance, I griped about how dancers and choreographers mostly follow a karaoke approach, layering terribly clever and difficult presentation atop music which serves as mere wallpaper. As a musician, it makes me roll my eyes.

I mentioned that Jerome Robbins strikes me as a full-fledged musician. He didn't erect visual presentations atop audio backdrop; he understood music with a musician's sensibility, and his choreography was as musical as the music itself. Pure magic!

You can add Nijinsky to the small group of true choreographers (find a dvd of "The Diaries of Vaslav Nijinsky" if you can; here's Roger Ebert's swell review). His original choreography for Rite of Spring was restored in the late 1980s by the Paris Opera Ballet and by the Joffrey Ballet, and it's great. Here's Marie-Claude Pietragalla of the Paris Opera Ballet terrifying the bejesus out of you:

Credit Nijinksy for genius choreography and Stravinsky for genius composition. But check out Pietragalla, revealing the raw soul of dance. 

This is wildness - pagan and primordial rites from the woods of ancient Russia. She's not depicting wildness - seeming wild - she is that. 

For contrast, here's the Joffrey Ballet performing the Nijinksy version in the same year, demonstrating why 1. they're great, but 2. dance is considered prissy affectation by most of the public (nobody would ever use such a word to describe Pietragalla's performance). I've cued it up to the same portion, and you can see the Joffrey's skillful and talented lead performing the movements with wonderful grace, but she's seeming wild, not being wild. A depiction of wildness ("this time it's me!"), not the real thing. 

She depicts Nijinsky’s depiction. A photocopy of a photocopy. Feh.

Naturally, snarky cognoscente are largely nonplussed by Pietragalla's performance. I contributed this comment beneath the YouTube video:
To all who think Pietragalla is less than awe-inspiring here: You're demonstrating the problem with dropping the acculturated trappings and manners of ballet to utterly inhabit the wildness of such a character (rather than skillfully and tastefully depicting that wildness, as seen in the Joffrey version): the dancers, critics, and audiences who inhabit the ecosystem of acculturation will icily insist that she's doing it wrong.

There is no trace, no whiff, of a wasp-waisted lady-in-leotard at the barre in Paris starchily plying dainty pliés with tight hair bun and haughty countenance. Gone. Wiped clean. Here, instead, is a pagan primordial presence from the ancient Russian woods. The actual thing.

And these f-ing people want their starchy French lady.

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