Thursday, March 29, 2012


Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Fuck Cars

That's basically my stance on infrastructure. If standing for political office, that would be my policy.

Except such a view is democratically unpopular. Thus if I am standing for office at all, it would be on a pile of corpses of anyone who dare oppose me.

Whence my mother, dearest Janice last visited she bought me 'bulky' things that I would struggle to buy for myself since I don't use cars. Please note, there is a 4wd sitting out the front of my house right now, probably with petrol in the tank and paid up registration and insurance that I haven't fucking touched in... I don't even know how long, I can't remember the last time I drove. Probably to drop one of my deserter family members off at some kind of aeroport.

But my mother believes me to be incapable of hauling a bag of dog food home except by combustion engine.

This is one of those misconceptions of physics that plagues city infrastructure planning. Cars are not nearly as necessary or efficient as people believe.

Does anybody remember how big bins used to be? By that I mean the bins your council picks up every week provided you remember to put them out. They used to be much much bigger. But then they got taken away and replaced with smaller bins.

And people were like 'oh my fucking god! How am I going to fit all my garbage in there?' and of course they couldn't so people changed their habits and households started producing less waste. (Or wandering around the block the night before pick up hoping somebody like me, who produces on shopping bag worth of trash a week actually put my bin out so they can fill it up with theirs.)

Well, this is what my 'Fuck Cars' stance on infrastructure is all about. Swanston st in Melbourne is a no drive zone for much of it, and most people would agree that it would both be A) fucking annoying and B) fucking insane for anybody to drive their car down Swanston looking for a park.

All my childhood memories of Melbourne are again, sitting in the back seat of beloved Janice's car looking longingly out the window at the Melbourne Museum, or Bourke St, or perplexingly the Dandenong Market, wondering why it took an hour and a half to drive to Melbourne and another hour and a half of circling a block before we could get out and do anything fun.

And sure, laugh at the hayseeds, but when I do my cycling circuit I get honked or cut off every day by people that perplexingly drive their fucking car into the CBD.

Melbourne's public transport is Shit. The city loop is no Yamamoto Line in Tokyo, but the one thing Melbourne's trains can do is take you in and out of the CBD.

But right now when I ride to town, I like to take the scenic route for the additional calories burned, and the scenery. So I ride along the Yarra River from Kew to Federation square, emerging onto Swanston st, only to find lanes dug up so they can construct 'Copenhagen' style bike paths on the one street where cab ranks aside, cyclists didn't have to compete with cars.

Fuck that shit. If I were mayor, I wouldn't be investing in building fancy bike paths that confuse peds into standing in the middle of them while making phone calls because they can't comprehend a 'road' for 'bikes', I would just close Elizabeth street to cars as well. Then Russell. Then start closing Lonsdale, Latrobe, Collins, King, Flinders etc.

A process known in Europe of 'pedestrianising the CBD' basically, you would take the Melbourne City loop and say 'inside of this loop, you can walk, tram or ride it to where you want to be in the CBD, but you do not drive your car in.

And before you say 'but what about all those shops, how do they get their food deliveries, and merchandise delivered' and the vicious side of me is tempted to say 'well retail is struggling anyway' but I have no problem with trucks and cars delivering goods into the CBD, they do it after hours and have legitimate reasons to be in the city. It's people who drive in during the day I have a problem with, because there is no valid reason to do it.

well there's a few valid reasons - they are as such: if you are a drummer in a band. if you are transporting the rest of the bands gear. if you only have an hour to pick up ramen from a decent CBD ramen shop as per your dying Japanese exchange students last request.

Otherwise, 'convenience' is no excuse to congest, aggravate and polute the CBD. Fuck Cars, people should stop using them all the fucking time.

Doctor vs Psychologist

You go to the doctor, your eyes are caked with mucas, when you manage to part them and look at her, your bloodshot visage dimly reflected in her glasses, she says 'So what is the problem?'

And you respond 'Nothing, I'm fine. This is normal.'

The doctor moves closer 'to me it looks like you have conjunctivitis. Are you sure this is normal?'

'Yeah, yeah, yeah. Really, I'm fine. can we talk about something else?'

The doctor says 'no, I mean conjunctivitis is pretty common, I see it all the time. This is a textbook case. I can write a prescription for you right now?'

'Look, this is pointless. You're not listening to me. I'm fine. Okay, my eyes have a little sleep in them, that's normal. It happens to everybody.'

You leave, a complete waste of your time. Later that day you are squinting at a colleague and they say 'Man I don't feel so good, maybe I should see a doctor.'

You feel like you should help them out. 'Look, I saw a doctor. They're crap, just talked. Complete waste of time and money if you ask me.'

They didn't.

This scenario, I wouldn't be surprised if it hasn't occurred in over 100 years.

Now, you go to a psychologist. She says to you 'what's wrong?'

You feel awkward, anxious and eventually you just start telling her what's been bothering you. You tell them about your lack of energy, lack of sex drive, loss of belief in your work, how you just stay at home watching TV and not eating, and how that just makes you feel worse.

She asks you how long, you tell her you've been feeling this way for 2 months.

She says you are depressed. You ask her what to do about it.

You start an exercise regime and change your diet accordingly. Forcing yourself into social situations. In time your depression gets better, you regularly check up. The psychologist determines that it was a depressive episode, rather than a Major Depressive Disorder.

You stop the sessions, your quality of life improves dramatically.

This scenario too, is rare. I can say with certainty it has happened at least once in the last century though.

But this contrast I feel is the social stigma that drags down the utilisation of psychology and subsequently the quality of life of so many people.

I suspect, for many of those who bitch about psychologists AND they are somebody who has actually employed one, there will be two major reasons 1. It was forced on them (eg. in childhood) and 2. their psychologist WAS a bad one.

On the first point, it's a big help if your sense of 'normal' is actually normal. And this is easier to determine and thus appreciate the services of a psychologist when your anxiety, depression... distress is a deviation from how you feel normally.

You know, a blind person will struggle to imagine the sensation of sight for example if they were blind at birth, but they live in a world where it will be impossible for them not to conclude that their lack of 'sight' whatever that is, is not normal. It is hard for a blind person to deny the reality that most people can see.

But for most ailments people see a doctor for, it is because they have a concept of 'normal' that they describe as 'healthy'. Deviations spur them to treatment. Conversely our psychology, our thought patterns are the single most familiar thing in the world, and to a child, whatever they are is 'normal' so I imagine overcoming denial in a child is a very very hard task.

On the second, for the number of doctors, and bulk billing doctors people get to choose from, the percentage of psychologists are greatly reduced. Largely because fewer people actually use them. If you get a bad doctor, you feel it, and you change it up. People form preferences and judge doctors on their interpersonal skills too, even if they are clinically perfect.

Psychologists are harder to switch between, try out etc. because bulk billing psychologists are rare, and for perplexing reasons, people will spend much more time with a bad psychologist whom depend on building a relationship to actually perform their job, than they would a doctor, based on their interpersonal skills.

IF I could get society to the point where they approach psychologists and psychiatrists like doctors, it would be a much better world for almost everybody to live in.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Newfound Respect for Junkies

For undisclosed reasons, I have been undertaking one of the most unpleasant things I've ever done in my entire life over the past week or so. It is the fucking worst, and yet it falls to me, and only me to do it.

But I only feel like vomiting, heroin withdrawel must be so much worse. For those who have kicked the habit, you are forever my heroes.

Sunday, March 25, 2012


So post Musashi exhibition, I've been in a kind of slump, I finally found a daily drawing project that stuck though and feel I've turned a corner.

So I'm facing a fact though, success has a lot of vaguries. We all know it, except there is little evidence, even anecdotal that what we think of as success exists. That is, the jury is out on the hedonic payload of 'succeeding' and whether the person who desires success, and the person capable of success can retain the same definition of success.

blergh? Put simply, by the time we are in a position to have what we want, typically we seem to want something else.

Which is by no means a fatalistic stance, can't succeed, don't bother. Rather the whole... you know, it's not the destination it's the journey. Certainly my own notch system represents my own degree of success in things I actually value. (by contrast I only blutacced my latest degree to the wall because I wanted to use the cylindrical tube it was posted in for something else.)

I've made no secret of my recent psychology sessions, one of the big things I had to face was that I may possibly be...

...please believe me when I say, my social conditioning makes it incredibly hard and uncomfortable for me to write this, which is by the way one of the major benefits of seeing a psychologist, you can dispense with ettiquette, social conditioning, conventions etc...

remarkable. I still have trouble believing it. I would probably say exceptional. Like, I realise that I am an exception to many rules of 'how a person normally acts.'

I don't like this notion, that I am in someway special. I have spent years refuting it and being offended by it.

Like all through high school, I never considered myself to work hard. I made what to me seem to be a bunch of ordinary observations, namely 1. teachers won't trust self directed learning to deliver the results they need for their own performance review - therefore you will never be assessed on anything they don't cover in class. 2. I referred to 1% of all handouts ever again, so I took to simply throwing them away as soon as a class was done.

These were my secrets to doing well in school, while doing almost no homework and keeping a remarkably tidy locker, folders etc. I simply had nothing to put in them. I just paid attention in class and did the practice exams. I find this strategy both A) highly effective and B) wholly unremarkable.

I have tried to 'sell' my strategy for educational excellence for years, and years and it is always rejected most commonly because people tell me 'but you are different, you are smart.'

Maybe I am, but not in any remarkable way. Not that I feel.

That I think is why I love Musashi Miyamoto's Book of Five Rings so much, why he had to be the subject matter of my first exhibition. If you read his actual 'invincible' sword strategy, it is WHOLLY UNREMARKABLE. He simply and pragmatically employs what works, while stripping back all the pretence.

Thus the outcome of my psychology sessions is that:

YES remarkable people do exist.

HOWEVER, the dividing line between 'remarkable' and 'unremarkable' is in practice amazingly small.

SPECIFICALLY, remarkable people, just actually try to be remarkable. That is it.

It's why I think the best advice on success remains Woody Allen's:

'80% of success is showing up.'

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Met Her For Twix

Let me assure you now, that within almost 100% certainty this post isn't about you, but difficultually is about something I can't write about directly. Unlike Met Her For Ix* which I wrote some time ago and could quite possibly be about you.

Enough with the tauntery! On with the metaphore, which is probably actually a lowely analogy.

Zaman struggles with vowels, so much so that we don't really know if his name is spelt Zaman or Zamin. We both use Zamin, but then the Fitzroy Learning network that introduced us, calls him Zaman. We share a look that we both know as 'we don't know' over the 5 years I have been tutoring him.

He was struggling to spell 'sticky' which seems like an obvious word to use, but to do so just from hearing it - for example Zaman doesn't hear that the 't' comes before the vowel sound, so he will make a mistake spelling like 'sitky'. So in an attempt to teach him the consistent and logical rules of the english language (the trouble with which is that English is a mess, and every single fucking rule throws out exceptions with alarming rapidity) I got him to spell similar words that he is more likely to recognise.

'stop' he spelt 'stap', then 'step' then 'stip' then for good measure tried 'stup' and looked at me bewildered when I told them the vowel was wrong in each case. He had completely forgotten that 'o' is a vowel. Even though it features in the word 'vowel' he just doesn't think of it that way.

Now I could tell him 'you are forgetting o' but why go to the effort of getting him to make the connection between 'stop' and 'stick' (t comes before the vowel in each case and Zamin learns how to spell a common constanant cluster 'st' by hearing it) only to give him the crucial answer to which vowel makes the 'o' sound.

If I don't force him to figure this shit out by himself, he is far less likely to retain the information. He is just more likely to focus on the next opportunity to make a mistake, because he fears mistakes, rather than embracing them as a learning opportunity.

It's hard, it takes time, and I feel bad doing it. But I would do him a disservice otherwise. I think it's why he likes me as a teacher and a friend.

*Some years ago I decided I liked Twix bars so much I developed my own counters that goes 'Ix, Twix, Trix, Quix, Pix, Six - Ixty Ix, Ixty Twix... and so forth. Thus 'Met Her For Ix', is not Met Her For 9 in roman numerals, but in fact Met Her For 1 in my own unpopular, and too obscure to bother using** counting system. But like Superman I or Grease I it is just called 'Met Her For' because I didn't anticipate a sequal.

**unless of course you are me, the patron saint of wasted efforts.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

2 things you could change tomorrow and make education better

1. Homework - get rid of it.

At a vegetarian dinner the other week a girl I argued with most of the evening (true to my vices) had earlier (to arguing) said that schools where supposed to neutralise advantage/disadvantage.

Educational reform is hard, because you are never able to build an education system from scratch, you have to reform what we have already. But if schools are meant to neutralise advantage/disadvantage you would get rid of homework.

I don't so much care about neautralising advantage or disadvantage though, I would say get rid of homework because it encourages the notion that there is always an advantageous tradeoff between resources consumed and performence.

Specifically it sends kids home with the message - the more of your time you give up, the better at school you will do. This implicit contract is made with no real expectation of actual returns on the kids behalf.

We are training kids to be like their moron parents who work 'voluntary overtime' in a hangover from an 80's Japanese fad in the hope that their improved chances of getting improved wages will be such an improvement as to compensate them for the lost family time.

Homework simply says, it's okay to run over budget, to keep drawing from the well, to just do more. More = better. Better is better. More is worse.

2. Get rid of group assessment.

More of a plague of Business degrees and higher education, group assignments are just plain bad.

Firstly because of their gross inefficiency and inequity. They are inefficient because they add a whole bunch of compliance costs to an otherwise regular assignment. Like the time taken to arrange and actually meet.

Secondly they become inequitable naturally. Economics 101 motherfuckers. Say you have 4 students in a group. An A student, two C students and a F student. If we assume that the grading of the assignment works in such a way, and that the students work in such a way, that each's contribution is consistent with the grade obtained. Then everybody get's a C when the labor is devided equitably.

Two in the group are indifferent, and simply pay the compliance costs of having to actually meet for the group assignment. The F student is better off, the A student is worse off.

The A student has no insentive to share the work equitably, thus in order to better their grade (presuming they care about grades for reasons I still don't understand) they need to do as much of the assignment as possible. The only thing they can do is buy off the other students to PREVENT them from contributing. Even if they make a (rookie mistake) token effort to get them to contribute, they end up wasting more time reviewing and compiling the contributions.

Instead what winds up happening is that the highest achieving student takes on the whole assignment (thus I have often said a group assignment is an assignment that is work enough for 5 people, done by 1) and then emails a copy to everyone in the group before the due date to make sure everyone is okay with what is being handed in.

Thus 3 people don't contribute at all, and 1 person contributes everything and EVERYONE is better off. Because they A) all get an A grade and B) save all the compliance costs of weekly meetings, arranging weekly meetings, coordinating tasks, chasing contributions etc.

Group assignments in other words are a complete farce. What does the University gain?

I have speculated and inferred, and my suspicion is that they get to pass a whole bunch of students that would otherwise fail and get disgruntled. Group assignments smooth out the bell curve and lower the failure rate.

Having completed two business degrees at RMIT now, I can tell you I used to cry when a week one lecture revealed that assessment was an individual assignment, and tears of joy when they said it was a test.

Group assignments teach you about the realities of the work place, but they are bad realities, like the pareto distribution of workloads. So fucking get rid of them. There is plenty of time to learn to be a team player when you are in an office, with an actual manager in your team.

Get rid of these two things and you have gone a long way to educational reform.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The Future is Futuristic

I have a friend who like me, has a friend. His friend had a thing against advertising, particularly outdoor advertising. He hated ads because he reasonably suspected that if people wanted shit they possess the skills to go out and find it.

Economists too, can't come up with a mathematical justification for advertising. But this was more simple, more basic. He regarded advertising as some kind of offense. Visual pollution if you will, and so would drive his ute up to a billboard get out a roller and simply paint over the ad in flat white paint. If anyone questioned him he would simply tell them he was supposed to be doing it.

The police eventually caught up with him and he did several stints in prison, such was the strength of his conviction.

I don't know how I feel about advertising, I guess some of it is good, mostly passive highly targeted advertising, like the ads in my BMX magazines that relate to BMX. It doesn't necessarily result in me purchasing anything from them, but it raises my awareness of various brands like We The People etc.

I applaud outdoor advertising initiatives like the Chinese governments total ban on it. It's ugly, probably ineffective and more to the point, ugly. Furthermore it is an incursion into the public space.

I read and watched H-Wangs post yesterday and it is interesting you should check it out.

'Thankyou' probably is the future, but this speaker was the first and only thing I've come across since Thomas Friedman's 'the world is flat' that I suspect like the book will catch wildfire amongst business people and amount in the end to nothing.

What I mean by analogy though is that Friedman's book like the keynote speaker seemed to be built up on thorough research and fundamental truths but emphasised the wrong stuff to come to a... I hesitate to use the word's 'wrong conclusion' but I can't think of something else.

For example, Friedman's book talks about the wonders of globalisation, thoroughly like 600-900 pages thoroughly, but he spends only a couple of pages on the shit that must inevitably derail the whole vision of globalisation as a source of good.

This guy, talks about how the key skillsets of success haven't changed in 100 years. (And probably not for most of the history of civilization and commerce) and that I fundamentally agree with. Nothing causes me more chagrin or makes me hate commerce more than it's obsession with modern technology and the constant 'new worlds' we are entering that are yet to produce little if any result.

So I feel compelled to provide a definition of a 'New World' that I feel has specific enough criteria to be validated. Okay being able to buy shit just by thinking about it in the presence of some Wifi device in the future is not a 'new world'.

A new world is when one of the fundamental experiences of being human changes. eg. You don't wake up wondering what it is you are doing with your life and where your life is headed. That is a NEW FUCKING WORLD. And it could be achieved in concievably good or bad ways.

I might write some posts about catching the fake rabbit, but fundamentally wondering how to stay competitive in a changing business environment is nothing new.

In fact even the concept of thanking high value customers isn't new. The keynote speech about 1-1 marketing or customer relations or whatever is I guess new. In that thanks to datamining social media like twitter whereas before thanking high value customers in a personal way required some kind of actual relationship, conversation etc and thus was restricted to Business to Business (B2B), you could employ somebody to find a web customer's twitter account, figure out what athlete they like, go to ebay buy some appropriate sporting memorabilia and send it to the person and they will be blown away.

Today. In three years time when such practice is widespread, they will simply just expect to be thanked. Until eventually big internet shoppers will be treated like IOC or FIFA board members, recieving a constant stream of bribes and gratuities that will not predict whom they will shop with next but most importantly - eat into everybodies bottom line.

And customers follow a Pareto distribution often, which is to say 90% of your sales come from 10% of your customers etc. Certain customers are more profitable than others, so what about the 90% of customers that contribute 10% of your business?

The 60 minute presentation says that Wine-library just gives them a phone call to say thanks. And I agree a business could easily fuck this up by trying to turn a thanks call into a sales pitch. But what if this practice becomes widespread.

I buy some books from Amazon, go over to Dr Jays and buy my attire for the next 6 months, then go to ebay and buy myself a watch. I then get a call from Amazon where a bubbly employee of the 'thankyou' department thanks me for my loyalty and wishes me a nice day. Followed by a bubbly employee from Dr Jay's thankyou department calling me to thank me for placing an order for the spring season, followed by three calls from ebay, the seller and paypal thanking me for bidding successfully, using paypal and shopping with ebay.

Almost everything undergoes inflation, groceries, education and even courtesy.

One of the most mindblowing concepts regarding the internet is that whenever you have an abundance in something (information) it will create a scarcity in whatever that something consumes (attention).

Perhaps I am old school, and again the presenter covered this, but when myspace was seen as a great way to launch your band, it was infact the opposite. Instead of having four people in line to hand a demo tape to the local radio presenter or record exec, suddenly you have a million people in that line. The internet made it harder for your band to break through the noise than it is to win the lottery.

The most successful bands I know at building a following do use the internet. But they also play a fuckload of gigs. Live gigs. At bars, bars that expose them to people.

The notion of 'thankyou' is nothing new, it is infact predicated on the observation that it still costs more to attract a new customer than it does to retain an old one. Look after your customers and your customers will look after you.

The principle would have been taught in business schools from at least the 1960's, maybe even earlier. This speech is about a specific execution, talking about the logistics availed by social media, ebay, secure internet shopping.

Thus I feel a greater service would have been done the audience if it was called 'fuck technology, learn your fundamentals' than 'how to apply tried and tested fundamentals of business in the new world.'

That's what I mean by saying I agree fundamentally, and suspect his predictions and visions of the future will wring true. Many of his observations are totally valid, like the fact that in the past pre-internet and pre-facebook we never would have phoned a friend to say 'mmm mm tacos for dinner om nom' but his notion of 'nobody gives a fuck about privacy' is the underpinning assumption and if you type 'how' into google then within the first 5 autofill search suggestions you'll see 'how do I delete my facebook account' so I think it dubious.

Thankyou departments probably will inevitably come in, the competive advantage value was depreciating the moment the speech was first made. Just like the first company to use telemarketing probably concluded it was the greatest competitive edge they ever had to proactively go after business, until everyone was doing it to the extent that legislature was enacted against it.

And maybe getting sent free shit by companies we buy from will always be welcome, if not paying off for the companies at least we get some free shit. Until ebay customers complain that everything gets bought up by institutional thankyou departments and instead of being able to buy their sporting memoriabilia themselves they had to place a $2000 order for wine and hope the company was reading their twitter feed. Or whether we discover we live in a world where the only way to see Radiohead's concert is to be the customer of some company.

It doesn't even compare to the 'frequent flyer points' competitive advantage, that at least paid off for business. The first company to introduce a frequent flyer points program (United Airlines?) described it as the 'ultimate competitive advantage' when they launched it. Within 24 hours competitors had their own programs up and running. It was instantly immitated.

Which didn't make it folly, by no means. What each program did was errect switching costs for their customers. That is once you had accrued reward points with one airline, you had an incentive to keep accruing with that airline rather than switching to the cheapest one. The switching costs created room for the airlines to raise their prices, and their competitors too.

So really a savy frequent flyer would probably have ended up cash positive by simply buying the cheapest flight available from whichever airline and never accruing frequent flyer points.

Even if it only costs 12c to call a customer and thank them, and abbundance of grattitude will inevitably create a scarcity of good will. I'm not saying it doesn't work and won't happen, just that in the end customers will wind up indifferent. It is why such a practice of thanking people probably dissappeared from practice - it became an unappreciated and insincere formality, so people probably just stopped doing it.

The speakers key advantage and insight I feel is not the specific execution of a thankyou department, or even the humanising of brands (that too isn't new) but his recognition of when people say they wont do something that they inevitably will do. (eg. people who said they would never get a mobile phone that wind up with one. people who said they'd never use facebook but do.) If he truly has a knack for it, then he gets the advantage of being an early mover.

I'm not sure though that this skill can be taught. It equates to 'buy low, sell high' investment advice, that for over a hundred years the bulk of humanity has proved itself, time and time again, to be incapable of doing. His advice may be 'recognise the next big thing while its still small, then get on board before it becomes big.'

There might still be time for me to set up a 'grattitude registry' website, where people cut out twitter and just list things they want companies they do business with to buy them to say thanks for buying shit for them. Then you can avoid double ups and ambiguities and false guesses and people getting freaked out by an audience they didn't intend datamining them and sending them shit.

But I'm too lazy and don't need the money.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012


I've been hitting people up with the telling hypothetical: 'of the good, the bad & the ugly' which one would you sleep with?

Unfortunately most telling about it is that most people I've asked have no idea what I'm talking about.

A friend who did made the absolutely 100% valid critique of the epic film as 'too masculine' as in '100% masculine' and yes, the whole western genre is patriarchal bordering on misogenistic.

Kind of like the hip-hop industry, albeit that is more misogenistic bordering on patriarchal.

Anyway, the point is that I need to freely acknowledge that a different generation is producing/consuming cool now, my ship has sailed. I don't want to join the club and the club won't have me.

I am joining the proud tradition of model citizens that look upon the problems with the youth today.

Although it isn't really a problem, I am just perplexed.

Like today I was thinking about David Bowie, I have to confront David Bowie soon, but an old flame introduced me to David Bowie, and because I wanted to make out with her, I gave David Bowie a chance.

See much of my life I spent hating the 80's, and one has to admit that the 80's can be best described as 'excess' but better described as 'craptacular'. It's funny though I used to hate the 80's until Bowie showed me that good shit got done in the 80's and I used to love the 90's until hipsters helped me understand why most people hate it.

There is much I don't understand about fashion trends and it's seeming trajectory. Here is just some of those points of perplexedness:

1. Ironic facial hair - what is the irony? that it is so unstylish it becomes stylish again? or because such a visual icon of masculinity is worn by some of the least masculine homo sapiens to carry a Y-chromosome? Does anyone have the answer?

2. Women who feel nostalgia for Madmen - Sure someway, somehow the women's movement was brought to heel to the extent that their are social repercussions for any woman with lhabia enough to proclaim herself a feminist, or even comment to the effect that something is sexist, but Madmen is alarmingly popular amongst women or those who would be visibly mistaken for women. Alarm because they seem fond of, pining for, a past where their jobs were meaningless, the marriage contract heavily assymetrical against them, the need to medicate yourself to allieviate the bordom of day to day living pervasive and sexual harrassment virtually unchecked. And the pay-off? pretty dresses. Madmen is perhaps the single most significant influencer of the past half decades fashions. The irony being that it is set in the 60's following the conservative set that the first generation of teenagers rebelled against. And now the current generation of teenagers idolize the establishment.
What the fuck happened?

3. Skinny guys - In the 90's Neighbours' legal property Toady taught us all that it was better to be a fat guy than a scrawny one. Nobody wanted a skinny man. Infact it was a hall-mark of male privelege that men didn't need to be attractive at all, one could effectively compensate through buying things. Sure opposites don't attract and superficial strategies attract superficial suitors, but nevertheless no man outside of Daniel John's was concerned about their weight. Better to be 'athletic' than fat I need to point out, even in the 90's. But the scrawny guy in class was an oddity, a freak, a statistical outlier. Something changed, I don't know. The cut of jeans or perhaps 'ironic' heroin use. But skinny guys are in.
The hour glass proportions, symmetry as beauty and the men's 'triangle' physique all had origins in our evolutionary gene selection. Skinnyness has no possible advantage on the sub-saharan plains. It indicates an inability to obtain sufficient calories, not even surplus calories. Are those who love men confused? Or has the frontal cortex finally beaten the amygdala into submission and reason (whatever it is) has finally overpowered subconscious cues?

4. Hip-hop culture stuck with winners. Why going by DR Jays' catalogue did all the current irony laden white fashion not come from african-american culture? They as yet haven't touched skinny jeans, and if they do, it won't last. Throw-back jerseys, baggy pants, XL shirts and generally looking like you could handle yourself in a fight have all stayed in. They have been refined, altered etc. But when did white people either A - give up, or B - take misguided initiative when it came to looking to our cooler cousins for fashion trends?

Only the man repeller seems to admit that style is pretty repulsive, but celebrated anyway. It doesn't provide any answers as to why current fashion trends are so popular.

Thus I remain perplexed. Perhaps because these questions have no answers. Perhaps fashion trends can get high subscription without any underlying subscription to philosophys or movements or aspirations to be anything.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Dealing With Shit: Part 2

I'm going to start this one by drawing a rough line connecting financial planners and psychologists.

Note, though that when I say psychologist I am not explicitly excluding 'psychiatrists' I'll treat psychiatry as a subset of psychology. Personally I hope never to see a psychiatrist because none of the issues I have stem from serious chemical imbalances in my brain, but if I was diagnosed with something, I'd seek one out.

I'm going to start by way of analogy with financial planners. There are things financial planners can do for you, valuable services that can be rendered. They can take a holistic view at your financial health and then consider who you are and then do things for you.

Two people can both take $10,000 to the same financial planner and get two very different pieces of advice. The advice will differ on the clients circumstances. Particularly it will almost always differ on what the client can accept -

Joe Common can't risk losing the $10,000 he has scrimped and saved for. He is only going to be advised to put it into a low-risk asset. These will generate low returns, and are as many frighteningly discover, not actually 'risk free'.

Martin Rare can risk losing the $10,000 he is just after the highest potential return. He'll be advised to take on something riskier and more profitable. Thus one of the heartbreaking things about the world is that often the rich are the only ones in a position to get richer.

And so to, I suspect (entirely untested) but the value of a psychologist is going to be in what you can accept from them. Just as the value of a financial planner is what you are willing to accept.

In fact I'll go so far as to say the value of expertise in general is how willing you are to defer to and accept that expertise.

But just as there are good and bad financial planners, there are good and bad psychologists.

The catch of this all is, I don't have any objective standard that I can tell you to determine whether your psychologist is good or bad.

All I would suggest is that while we carry around most of our problems in our day to day interactions, we probably all only seek help addressing them when they boil over into some issue. People, me, you, go to see a psychologist in a state of distress.

If you don't feel a lot more relaxed just from interacting with your psychologist, try another one.

That's all I can suggest on the good/bad front.

Now not sure how to proceed in explaining how getting help dealing with shit is done, I'm just going to list why I like psychologists.

1. They are removed from your life.
2. They have seen it all before.
3. They don't consider the social.
4. They are confidential.
5. They can inform your behaviour.

They are in other words completely unlike your friends, family and colleagues. They have one agenda and that agenda is to give you good advice. (presuming they are professional enough to not give the agenda of running a profitable practice precedence).

So starting with being removed from your life, this means that they don't carry bias and expectation about who you should be, who you should associate with, what you should be doing. Their advice is not going to be tainted with their own vicarious aspiration for you to do law. Their advice isn't going to take into account that they never liked your boyfriend Steve anyway.

They will be honest, and they will need to obtain information about you. Their competency I guess can be judged at how good they are at getting the required info out of you. The value will be judged by how honest you are.

Next is that they have seen it all before. We like to think we are unique and special, and we are. But our problems aren't necessarily unique at all. And as bitter a pill as it is to swallow, YOU PROBABLY WANT TO BE a textbook case of something.

I have no basis for saying this, just a strong suspicion but those I now most skeptical of a psychologists value go in in some form of denial. I can't imagine anybody who wants to be told that they are clinically depressed, bipolar, narcissistic, a victim, in grief or in denial, they value of a psychologist is that they will tell us that we are. Make us aware.

The first psychologist I saw, Joe, met me when I was having uncontrollable emotional breakdowns, was sleeping one hour a day, losing a lot of weight rapidly, completely scatterbrained and unable to escape my own life. He told me I was grieving, then gave me stuff to do.

It sounds strange but what Joe could do that none of my support group could (at that time) was tell me what was happening to me and give me shit to do. All my other friends saw the people, the circumstances and the fallout, he just saw a run-of-the-mill case of grief.

So whatever diagnosis you fear, that is precisely the domain of expertise you should expect from your psychologist. Hope that their is a textbook, and understand that there is no need to join some kind of 'deppressive pride' group and where t-shirts or to reveal that you have an inferiority complex in job interviews. You can keep that shit to yourself, just try, fucking TRY and following the textbook on how to address it.

Moving onto the lack of social constraints in conversing with a psychologist, well I did say I might elaborate on my 'superiority complex' which was not the basis of my recent sessions, nor have I been profiled or diagnosed with such, but I'll let it play.

Suppose I am really great, think of how many people it is possible to discuss the problems that arise from being so great with? In day to day social situations, fucking nobody. Even your best friend is likely to say 'get the fuck over yourself' and these are important social reinforcements.

But in a psychologists office you can relax such concerns, Matt Damon can say what a fucking joke the Harvard Mathematics professor and Fields Medal scholar is and fear no repurcussions. The psychologist is not (SHOULD not) lean forward and say 'oh boy you come all over yourself don't you.'

Similarly it is the psychologists profession and job that you shouldn't have to worry when you tell them about your Gender identity conflicts, your sexual preference, your hatred of the British. You can actually discuss all these things without fear of judgement. Which is to say, social judgement 'do I want to be this persons friend' but they should, absolutely should be appraising everything you discuss' effect on your wellbeing.

And more basically when it comes from the freedom of social conventions, the psychologists session is all about you. It's supposed to be. It is guilt free. You can thus talk about your envy of your colleagues promotion without being conscious of the fact that your best friend's partner walked out on her while carrying his child.

The fact that it is in confidence should need no further explanation.

The biggest advantage is that they can inform your behaviour. I ah... am not ready to discuss what I am supposed to be doing (am doing, kind of) post my latest sessions, but the first psychologist I saw got me to stop focusing on what the person I was grieving for was doing with their life and focus on my own.

I maintain that this was the single most productive process I ever went through in my life. This blog was started shortly after I did those sessions. He got me doing stuff, in control of relaxing, in control of moving forward, in control of rebuilding my life into something I actually wanted to live.

He did this in 3 hour long sessions over 4 weeks. It was the best investment of time in my life.

It will probably take me a couple of years to truly judge how productive my time was with the latest sessions, but even the immediate benefits, of getting me to relax enough to focus on my exhibition and even finally accept what I am, are coming together for me. The rest I still have to get done, but I am dealing with it.

Let's all now take a breath

Now I was thinking the other day about advertising, specifically almost every field of education has an academia-practice gap. And with advertising you probably have one of the best examples of what that gap is.

For all the sophisticated research and theories of how to advertise, how to influence people, how to make great creative and clever campaigns, the thing that is going to invalidate all the knowledge and expertise you are taught is: the client.

The client has the money, and however good you are at making ads to persuade consumers, practice is going to revolve around how good you are at pursuading clients to listen to you and do it your way.

Presuming you are competent.

And I suspect like any industry a (hopefully large) minority of psychologists are actually competent.

But you don't control the competence of your psychologist, you control you being the client that fucks it up by invalidating their expertise.

If you don't want to deal with your shit, it is not on the psychologist to convince you you should.

I imagine somewhere in some psychologists practice they sort patients into 'cooperative' and 'adversarial'. Adversarial are going to be of high value to the psychologist, and of little value to themselves.

If you go in there, with the precommitment to not accept certain diagnosis or even characterisations of your behaviour, then you are making it hard for yourself.

And maybe it needs to be.

I hesitate to talk about this, because while I'm sure my psychologist keeps my confidence in day to day life I don't really keep my own, so I'll hypotheticalise this to protect the innocent -

In my first session with my psychologist say we spoke about a friend's problem that effected me and was not my own. My psychologist hypothetically said 'he identifies as a girl but needs to accept that he is a boy.' and it rang true with me, and it was something I had thought for as long as I knew him/her, and thus such a casual off-hand observation was probably a profound and confronting truth to them.

For them to come to accept the same conclusion we did in my session would probably be a long and emotionally painful process. In exactly the same way as it is easy to say 'stop drinking' and much harder to do when you are dependant.

I'm going to stop shy of saying necessary but will say that just because something is painful and hard to achieve though doesn't mean it isn't worthwhile.

I mean I know I only control myself, and am responsible for my own happiness but it still doesn't mean when somebody is telling me that in their professional opinion I am something I don't want to be, I don't still need to be told 6 times to hear it once.

I know that my inclination will be to resist, but I also know that my quality of life will be improved once I understand the why, and know how to do the what.

That is how you deal with shit.

Very, very few people do. But it's worth trying.

Always do right. This will gratify some people, and astonish the rest. ~ Mark Twain

Dealing With Shit: Part 1

First impressions last because few people bother to change.

Compounding this we live in a demerit society, one that is increasingly geared towards teaching us to avoid responsibility. It would be another post altogether to substantiate this outrage claim. Substantiate it yourself by listening to a politician answer a question. Any fucking question.

Twelve step programs I do believe are bullshit, though I haven't needed to try one as yet, but allegedly they are about as successful as one step programs aka cold turkey.

But lest I mislead you into thinking that by 'dealing with shit' I mean 'addiction' exclusively or primarily, I am going to cut to the chase.

It is not the first step to admit you have a problem, just there's no way to deal with shit if you are still in denial.

There are a few ways to recognise how people avoid taking responsibility and they are incredibly useful to know, mostly so you can recognise the behaviour in yourself.

Thus dealing with shit can't be done (or at least can be done much MUCH easier) until you achieve two things:

1. You recognise what you control.
2. You take responsibility for what you control.

Hmmm.... and perhaps I should put in a caveat, I am not going to restrict the productive services of a psychologist to simply dealing with shit/emotional baggage etc. There are for example diagnosable conditions that require expertise to detect, it could be useful to be diagnosed by a psychologist even if you go straight into denial.

But let's start with the first THING from above, recognising what you control.

This was the major useful thing as in PRACTICALLY useful thing that came out of my first session with a qualified psychologist. I was grieving so it was a temporary state. This is getting on towards like 6 years ago or something now.

Basically I had been dumped which induced grief. I didn't realise I was grieving, so I simply felt out of control. I was trying to regain control by attempting to control other people.

Here you need honesty in bringing yourself to the realisation that you control very little.

Specifically, few of us control anything other than how we behave. We don't control other people, the weather, the economy at large, legislature, jury verdicts, or where our tv remote is kept.

But controlling your own behaviour is enough. Other than that you just exert influence, and if you really gain control over your own behaviour and concentrate all your energy, intellect and will towards influencing something it can with time feel like you are operating an Etch-A-Sketch from a distance with pool cues while wearing oven mits.

That's the best of us, influence wise. It's an artform.

But in the meantime it is best to just focus on yourself, that is your end of whatever shitty deal life has given you.

In this coming to terms, there are a bunch of bi-product revelation that can serve to focus you on actually dealing with your shit, like she may never come back, he may never apologise, they may never forgive you, you may never know.

Thems the breaks.

Let's move onto the second thing, and let me make it clear that these two things are not a process or sequence, just distinct and codependant you need both.

Here are the 4 most common ways people avoid taking responsibility.

Denial: the simplest, it can be subconscious in which case you need to bring it into your consciousness, this means entertaining the hypothetical that you may actually be responsible for your own wellbeing and giving it serious play in your thoughts. People best deny responsibility for a problem by denying that there is one in the first place.

'Boss, I need you to stop pressuring me.'

'I'm not pressuring you.'

Plain and simple. The owner of the complaint gets the satisfaction of being informed that their complaint is invalid. People may tell you, you have a problem, if they do you should entertain the thought and investigate, seek expert opinion, diagnosis, if you are a particularly wonderful human being ask those people 'what can I do?' straight up.

Blaming: Which is another form of denial, but a common way to avoid responsibility. It is simply to lay the responsibility at somebody else's feet. Others may legitamately be responsible for the problems that effect you, but keeping in mind that you don't control them, apportioning blame accurately does not actually solve the problem, not reliably.

There is but a loose tacit expectation that the 'truly' responsible party may be compelled to take that responsibility and solve the problem.

Apologizing: Aka Rationalizing aka explaining. It's treating any problem as a fate accompli. It simply has to be that way. Infact it's probably the entire repertoir of logical fallacies. From 'that's the way it's always been done' to 'and wasn't it Mussellini that wanted the trains running on time.'

See apology, and 'apologizing' sound like you are taking responsibility for the problem, and you may well be, but you are still avoiding taking responsibility for fixing the problem.

Diversion/Telling A story: Lastly, just taking a problem and changing the subject. It can be done seemingly tactfully by entering a scoreboard situation. Somebody comes to you with a grievance, you greet it with a grievance of your own. The presumption is that your grievance is the one that needs to be dealt with most urgently, but people can be more blaze about it and just talk any old shit, so long as it isn't talk about the shit that actually needs dealing with.

You can't take responsibility for what you control if you are in denial. At which case if you see a professional like a psychologist instead of dealing with your shit, you are going to spend your sessions coming to terms with it.

If you can't do it on your own, then yes see a psychologist, but along with the general stigma against treating mental health, I think psychologists get a bad wrap as being seen as a 'waste of time' because many who do engage them and talk about it, never actually get past their subconscious denial. They are the ones who talk to a psychologist for 6 years and make no progress.

That may be blaming in itself, eg blaming the victims.

But the thing is, I always hated the saying 'your friends probably know you better than you know yourself.' and I don't think this is true at all, But what the bystanders of our subjective experience have over us is emotional objectivity.

That is, what we find so hard to accept ourselves, everybody else probably just assumed about us anyway, because they don't get the emotional feedback we do.

So people who aren't addicted, can easily observe that we are, because it's easy for them to admit. It's much harder for us to weigh up the comfort we get from our vice versus the pain of abandoning it and conclude that it is a problem because we actually experience the pain and the comfort.

But friends present these opportunities to influence us for the better. A girlfriend of mine once gave me Camus' 'The Stranger' because she felt I was emotionally withdrawn or isolated. And I am, I've always felt isolated and even when in a stable and good relationship, I feel alone and detached frequently. (but this is shit I have been dealing with for many years now, long after the book was given).

She may not have known what I actually subjectively felt, but she knew how my behaviour came across and I know my behaviour is something I can control. I'm not a textbook existentialist/nihilist by any means. But her gift was a gift.

Friends can also be enablers as well. Let's say hypothetically (and probably) many of my friends have armchair psychologist diagnosed me with a superioriy complex, some of my 'friends' may feed this back to me not through genuine support but sicophancy. I will probably spill whether I do or dont have a superiority complex in part two of this piece, but I mean if for example all your friends do is drink, and the only place you meet up with your friends is in a bar, or at your house/or theirs via a bottle shop, your friends are perhaps enabling a drinking problem.

Thus my point really is that other people may know the score and tell you 'you have a drinking problem' or other people may infact be the scoreboard 'my god, we all have drinking problems.'

This is the tricky social landscape that needs navigating before you can actually deal with shit. Frankly, alcohol abuse is too easy an example. You need to overcome denial by scrutinising your norms, or perhaps it is to say what your sense of normal is.

I often mix up business theories with psychology, and perhaps even treat them as interchangable, but in quality management, which I'm just going to translate to quality of life, around 5% of problems arise from 'special causes' that is stuff a system has warning lights for them. Fires, power losses, power surges etc. In quality of life terms, maybe 5% of the stuff that drags us down are the easily identifiable events - getting fired, death, house burning down.

They are obviously bad for us. In quality management the other 95% of problems come from 'ordinary causes' which is to say the 'day to day operation of the system.' aka 'design flaws'. Similary I have a strong inclination to believe that 95% of our problems in life, come from our status quo, our day to day existence.

That is why it is so important to overcome our denial and take responsibility for what we control.

Last year, I had my mother and my sister in the house and they were talking in another room. Through the brick walls I couldn't pick up any specific words, but I could pick up the conversation tonally, and you know what? It was the exact same conversation they have been having for as long as I remember. Tonally at least, the words may change but how my sister and my mother relate to eachother has not.

Fortunately my family is fairly functional, and proactive about being functional. I lucked out on these relationships of non-choice.

But we have disfunctional relationships, all of us, that we just assume are the way things are. They cause us grief and misery and we assume there's no way of dealing with them. Not just relations to people, but substances, tasks even. Any interaction with the external world has one input that we control.

That input is how we behave. Gaining control of this is enough. You may still wish that heroin didn't come with withdrawel symptoms and that everyone you ever loved also loved you back, but it is enough to just control how you behave in response to these realities.

If you can accept that, and you have a will to actually deal with it. Then, then it will be highly productive for you to see a psychologist and deal with this shit.

Friday, March 09, 2012

Grey Matters

For the past 8 weeks or so I've been seeing a psychologist. Now my sessions have finished and I am out in the world on my lonesome again.

Much of the headway made in those sessions is just sinking in now though two weeks or so since we wrapped my head back up.

It's been good for me.

Some frustrations though bubble to the surface.

Like, I have issues. But I was able to see a psychologist and pay nothing for 5 weeks for problems that in the scheme of things are minute. If I address my problems, my quality of life should be significantly improved.

If say somebody with a diagnosable personality disorder, or addiction, or actual histories of abuse, sufferring... all the kind of things that really fuck with people were able to draw on the same resources like I can their quality of life would skyrocket.

There is however, I admit, prerequisites to being able to take advantage of mental health services, but what frustrates me the most is how stigmatised mental health is. That's not controversial, nor for such recent sciences as psychology is it really surprising that the stigmatism is still around... it's not a 'it's 2012 I can't believe Sam Newman is still on the air!' type argument I make.

It's more that I don't see any concerted effort by any organisations, politicians etc to actually destigmatise mental health, seeing a psychologist etc. Probably the most progressive pushing of mental health for all message is the portrayel of psychiatry in 'The Sopranos'.

So this week I'm going to post a two parter on 'Dealing With Shit' because while it remains to be seen as to whether I can deal with my own shit, I have at the very least come part of the way, which is more than most manage.

So I'm going to start destigmatising right here.

Saturday, March 03, 2012


I've been putting this off for too long, seems I only use this blog these days to mark my progress to becoming a human being I'm satisfied with.

So on Tuesday the 21st of February my first ever exhibition opened, it was always to be my 'toehold' into the art world but it kind of blew up so much I don't know whether to raise myself one notch or six. It will be hard to top.

I guess I'm most proud of how I did it, It was hard work sure, but it wasn't painful, it involved no sacrifice. It nourished me. I think that is precisely what your art needs to do at its best.

Like I ended up having to drop some work shifts to get it organised in the end, I didn't need the duel stress (nor the money) but I made every single one of my social obligations in the 6 week run up to the exhibit. There was no withdrawing into a cocoon and dropping off the radar while I scratched away going insane in my isolation.

I also managed to post daily webcomics for robot girlfriend on facebook for 31 days (excluding weekends). All while drawing my 70 pieces with the finest materials I could afford and to the best of my ability.

That's what I'm most proud of.

Exhibiting itself, I had the kind of panic when it opened that I've never had before. I couldn't describe it as nerves or jitters or anxiety. My mind just kind of shut down, so I simply had no idea what was going on.

But after two days it sank in. A lot of people actually came and saw my work. I sold a lot of pictures and I still can't comprehend that I could make money from stuff I just made up. It is amazing and magical too me.

Lastly, there is a lot of myself on display up on that wall, like who I am on the inside. Maybe that's why my brain shut down, having almost everyone I know walk past declarations of what a brute, ruthless animal I am deep down.

the thing is, that I started this blog after being introduced to the Johari window and to set about with great purpose to expand the arena of what I know about myself and what others also know about me as wide as possible.

And Ichijoji was another confirmation of my suspision that the things we think we hide so well, everybody kind of always assumed.

I might be one of the few people in the world who's psychologist bought a picture by a patient of a man killing another man. Go figure.

All I know was this exhibition was the best thing I've done so far.