Dear “Cancel Culture,”

There’s a certain type of self-important buffoon clogging up airports from sea to shining sea who needs to be placed squarely in your crosshairs. The boarding process begins with priority, then the disabled, then the parents of small children before turning to a numerical countdown from small to large. Even if you had never before flown, the numerical part is so easy to comprehend that ignorance isn’t a viable defense. 

Yet, there’s the target – proud owner of a group #7 ticket – stalking so close to the line of people with lower boarding numbers you’d think he’s actually in line. Now, if he was deciding to circumvent the boarding order entirely and was truly in line, boarding group be damned, we’d call him unethical and leave it at that. After all, his gross action has minimal consequences. 

What we cannot tolerate, nay what we MUST not tolerate, is the person who thinks he can hold himself in high moral esteem by not actually getting in line, but by being so close to the line that when #7 beams out over the loudspeaker he’ll be the first #7 to board. For this action has ripple effects that materially taint the boarding process: people with lower boarding numbers will accumulate behind him incorrectly believing they are in the real line. With fake disbelief, our target will eventually address the duped fliers incorrectly accumulating behind him by claiming complete innocence and attempting to redirect blame onto us. We are not fooled. You know what you have done. We know what you have done. 

Sic ‘em. Woof, woof, woof!

 

Unexpected Brilliance

I consider it a massive victory to gain even a slightly different perspective on a topic. After all, the most important elements of the human condition have been so thoroughly addressed for so very long that a genuinely new take is incredibly unlikely. This unlikeliness increases the more common, more universal the topic of inquiry: it’s harder to write a unique love song than a track about Newcomb’s paradox.

Enter poet David Whyte doing the near-impossible. Not only does he reliably offer refreshingly new insights, he does so regarding “everyday words” firmly stuffed in a societal bin labeled “We Already Know What These Words Mean.”

I distinctly remember laughing after consuming “Honesty.” I definitely know what honesty is, but I’m sure he’ll say some pretty things that will prove useful in reminding me what I already know. Wrong in a wonderful way. Outlier this was not: at a rate only Barry Bonds could sniff, D Whyte pumps out unequaled originality that will change what you think, know, and believe.

I concluded this from a few of these pieces (which I’ve circled) that I encountered outside of this book. So yes, in breaking from tradition, I am sending a book that I have not completely read. I am willing to make an exception because I’m so confident in Whyte’s brilliance. And, really, if you only read the circled pieces, sending you this book will have been worth it.

A sucker is born every minute, and today that sucker happens to be username “Peninsula FOL.” See, PFOL was once the owner of the book you now hold in your hands and apparently didn’t understand its worth. Lesson #1: know what you and your possessions are worth – then add at least 22% as a negotiating starting point.

“Big Wolf and Little Wolf” happens to be just about the most coveted kid’s book in the world because it’s beautiful, endearing, and so perfectly speaks to human emotions, and also because of supply constraints. Lesson #2: prices rise when demand outstrips supply, a.k.a. a “seller’s market.”

So in a “seller’s market” with used book prices like $51.50 (AbeBooks.com), $74.50 (Alibris.com), $99.95 (eBay.com), and $58.90 (Amazon.com), the sucker that is PFOL prices at … $25.[1] A hanging offer if I’ve ever seen one. This price was so low I wondered if I might, in fact, be the sucker. After brief consideration, I charged forward given Alibris.com’s credibility and my credit card’s fraud protection. Lesson #3: no financial opportunity is 100% certain (and anyone who talks of “easy” or “free” money is a charlatan or worse) – act swiftly when the expected reward outweighs the expected risk.[2] Lesson #4: whenever you can cheaply offload risk onto someone else without capping upside, do it, a.k.a. always buy with credit cards when possible.[3]

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If you can sharpen your media criticism from “untrustworthy” to “untrustworthy for x,y,z reasons and on a,b,c topics,” you’ll be in a powerful position to sort the news appropriately while also enhancing your critical thinking skills.

  1. You should hear the best one-sided argument for the untrustworthy matters
  2. You should be able to spot the angles intentionally not being pursued
  3. You can think of the questions that should have been asked
  4. You can try to form on-the-fly counter-arguments
  5. You can assume information based on omission

Damn near everyone is cracking. Smart and dumb, black and white, religious and atheistic, rich and poor: there seems no discernible pattern to the great moral failing of our time. Before cracking, though, they were all convinced they never would, that their own moral rectitude would allow them to correctly determine right from wrong when the screws were tightened.

In even the best-designed system, there will be incentives to cheat, lie, and steal. When it comes to areas where the legal system has no say, society must hope that members have been imbued with some form of Kant’s categorical imperative: Act only according to that maxim whereby you can, at the same time, will that it should become a universal law. If you merely follow that directive, systemic weakness can remain unexploited. Which sounds so simple and seems so obvious during 2:30AM dorm-room trolley-problem debates but becomes quite another thing entirely when one must actually choose his community over self-interest. This is why your alignment between stated ethics and practiced ethics is so commendable.

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Far Too Detailed Review

Why you like art is never solely about the art but also about what is happening in your life during its consumption. Read a book in a certain mood, in a certain life phase and it does nothing. Read it again in a different mood, in a different life phase and it profoundly moves you.

So it is that your card hit me at just the right time that I woke up today and the idea appeared to respond with a hilariously not-normal 2020 review. By not-normal, I mean that reviews of any sort between friends who see each other infrequently rarely touch the most interesting parts of human experience. Usually, you spend all the time retelling all things you’ve been up to, happenings your friend genuinely wants to hear and that you genuinely want to tell, that the clock runs out before emotion, philosophy, and messiness is revealed.

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Culture Creation

Oh my God did you see … is a phrase that’s carving out ever more conversational real estate. And yea, there are some crazy, disturbing things happening at the moment. So, paying attention and “getting educated” seems like a noble use of time. But however well-intentioned this enterprise may be, and even however productive it may be, its hamartia is obvious: what we are mostly doing is feeling good about ourselves by complaining about things we do not control and which have so very little actual effect on our day-to-day experiences. The flip side being that in a world that is infinitely vast and filled with nonsense, there remains much that we – specs of sand and soon to be forgotten – can still do to actually improve our lived experiences not in some far-off time, but today. And no, this is not about turning hyper-selfish per se; this is about a real appreciation that the “culture” you exist within is almost entirely not some thing out there controlled by the idiots in Oh my God did you see, but rather a tangible ethos that you are tasked with managing.

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Cracking (redux)

i thought i could endlessly amuse myself in isolation. i thought that the gospel of self-improvement was enough. i thought if humanity needed a single brave soul to check out, say, jupiter’s moons, i could be such a soul.

i was wrong.

for here i am on an innocent saturday cracking. this is it? this is all existence offers? really?

guitar: too hard
food: too repetitive
reading: am i even paying attention?
fitness: for what?
writing: i have no ideas
exploring: it’s 28 degrees
driving: ice owns all
friends: i have none who aren’t (a) petrified of covid or (b) officially in a life stage where the tv and its attached streaming services are more enjoyable than hanging with a cracked-out crazy person like me

i can’t even go to my usual oasis of coffee ’cause just like the type of person who would hubristically think he could solo through the universe, i decided to give it up and expunge the last bit of fun from daily life.

i want to do drugs. that would solve this. d::::::r:::::::u::::::g:::::::::s so it’s no longer this day=that day=yesterday=tomorrow.

but wait. xxxxxxxxx. it stares at me on the venom-injection precipice. and not just xxxxxxxxx, but xxxxxxxxx+guest. there is this girl that maybe i like {though maybe it’s just loneliness}, who maybe is interested in me {though who knows because part of her charm is her mystery in such matters}, who maybe would let me touch her {just the clavicle is all i’m asking for}, and then all would be well enough to obviate future “interventions.” hope’s power is destructive in taking us out of this here moment, but sometimes this here moment is maybe worth destroying.

Not a Champ

Champ? To some, sure. I hiked 3hrs yesterday to a friend who had power … only to have him lose it hrs later. I did hundreds of pushups, jumping jacks, and laps around the inside of his house. I read for hrs & have written several pages on this trusty legal pad. I even mounted his Peloton and broke a sweat. That all sounds kind of impressive when I write it out, but I assure you it is not. I’m bored in an unprecedented way; time is moving at the speed it moves for a child on Xmas morning as he counts down to 7AM when presents can be unwrapped. The major difference is I have nothing to look forward to. “It’s only XPM?!?!??!” FUCK. I hate the practice of “killing time,” and yet I’m struggling to break its mind grip. There’s something important to be learned in these tragic mental depths…

Was I Wrong?

Hahah. What’s come in handy is my propensity to make up stupid little games for my own amusement. Still, I’m bored in what feels like an unprecedented way. It makes me wonder if I’ve overrated my ability to thrive “alone.” This is not to say my preference ever has been infinite bachelorhood, just that I feel I’d never need to desperately settle for a woman since the alternative (i.e., being alone) is more than fine. Though, hopefully, life alone/coupled will not ever again be lived in a 40-degree apartment w/o electricity or food, and so any conclusions drawn from such an experience are probably none too relevant for 21st-century living. TBD.