Sunday, December 28, 2014

Things Look Bad Because They Are Bad

“It is a predisposition of human nature to consider an unpleasant idea untrue, and then it is easy to find arguments against it.” - Sigmund Freud

I started blogging way back because of an epiphany handed to me by an employee of Foster's Group. That concept was the Johari window, and without rehashing too much, the Johari window has four panes. Things known to the self but not to others, things known to the self and to others, things unknown to both self and others and most relevantly things unknown to the self but known to others.

This last pane is referred to as our blindspot. It is where we are all most vulnerable. Crucially its contents are almost impossible to perceive ourselves, it is literally a blind spot of self knowledge. It exists though, I am convinced. By second order thinking at least.

How to tap into it? It's tricky, what you need to do is actually listen and entertain that what is being said about you may be truer than what you believe about yourself.

In the above case of divergent tales of shoplifters, you could attack and deny that this is about race. Firstly you could suspect selection bias is going on. Somebody has taken a particularly bad case of injustice involving an African American woman, and then taken a particularly bad case of injustice (in the opposite direction) involving a white woman and created a quite extreme contrast.

So you just google 'white woman shot for shoplifting' and look for all the ignored cases where a white woman has been gunned down after an initial suspicion of shoplifting. And you get nothing. Well you get a parody piece about Winona Ryder getting shot in an alternative universe LA. But it didn't happen, it never happens.

You could then argue it's a class divide not a race divide. Not a good argument because you are saying that stealing tens of dollars worth of Wal Mart merchandise is apparently mandate for being executed in front of your children where $1,600 is an appearance in court for a reprimand and (probably) a fine.

But again, you'd expect Wal Mart customers to get shot more often, and you would expect that a white woman would have been shot by a mall cop in that case. Australia is like 90% white, and catching the 109 tram along it's junkie stretch exposes one to plenty of mighty hostile white women. I know they exist, I know they have altercations with police, I know they generally only get shot when they charge an officer with a knife.

Do you see what I'm doing though? I'm raising those arguments against an unpleasant truth as Freud said was done so easily and dismissing them. As if they have to be argued. And they kind of do, because it's very unpleasant to admit that you are a part of institutionalised racism.

Because I suspect, it doesn't feel like you are. This off duty cop moonlighting as Wal Mart security was performing his job, a woman was suspected of shoplifting so he chased her down in his car. They had an altercation that was presumably hostile enough (in the manners sense) to escalate. And he pulled out his gun and shot the lady.

To him I would guess (and being charitable) having never identified as racist, this seemed like an isolated incident where the victim happened to be black.

Here's where it is hard to see your blind spot. If it was circumstantial, an isolated and unfortunate event, and everyone believed that, then he would get thrown under the bus. Scapegoated for appearances sake. Why? Because the officers around him, above him would be thinking 'that guy was unlucky.' not 'that could easily have been me, I can relate to that situation.'

The legal system is protecting these officers, because they need for some reason to protect the ability to kill African Americans so that officers can carry out their jobs. So that officers will continue to work.

It seems nobody in authority can come out and say 'Coast to coast it is absolutely unacceptable that any citizen be killed as the result of a verbal altercation over a suspected minor misdemeanor. Or a verbal altercation period.' You could say this, because it's true. This would then force the police that really care about getting a pass for doing this to take up a position that would quickly and transparently be overtly racist.

This, thusly, is my only tip, and probably the only real thing you can take away from it. We are what we do. Not what we think. If things look bad, it's because they are. The tricky thing is, that if what you are being told contradicts your subjective reality, you need to realise that you are living in everyone else's subjective reality too. And that might give you a picture of what objective reality actually is.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Rock breaks Scissors!

For many of my friends, the go to gift for me is a sketchbook. You know when they want to get me something, but something appropriate to our relationship - it's a sketchbook.

This used to be a crushing gift, internally crushing. Namely because I have been accumulating sketchbooks/visual diaries etc faster than I can fill them. It is pretty true to say that a visual diary usually takes me 1+ year to fill.

But since moving into a studio, I have just about filled a sketchbook this month alone. I am now looking at my stockpile and thinking I don't have enough.

This is a dramatic change in practice for me - I have never worked hard before, at least not on my art practice itself, and not in any structured and lasting way. It is true that I tend to blitz out my exhibitions, doing 11 hour days for a couple of weeks to churn out 30-40 pieces.

Why confess this? Because I don't really believe in hard work. I'm one of those 10,000 hour rule haters. I don't really believe in natural talent either. Which leaves what I do believe in -

I believe in vision. Vision may comply to the 10,000 hour rule for all I know. It's just that my theory is that vision is generated from just leading your fairly ordinary life. It is the product of observation and introspection. It is from these efforts that ideas are generated.

Then enter the old dichotomy - idea and execution. I saw via the miracle of youtube Larry David Aing Qs at the New Yorker Festival, somebody asked him 'idea or execution?' and he responded 'without the idea there's nothing to execute, so I'll have to go with idea on that one.' or near enough to it. I feel like I have seen plenty of stuff that was all execution, no idea.

And given how sporadic I've become at writing here, I would be surprised if I've never shared this long held opinion or not, but to me I dislike the 10,000 hour rule because it is risk-averse. It reduces success to hard work. 10,000 hours of deliberative practice. And when I say 'it reduces' the it is the risk averse readership, not Gladwell, not the book Outliers. It was a simple and appealing (for many) concept that could be latched onto while ignoring the rest.

I hold that art is such that nobody can say what it is or isn't. Anyone can identify as an artist and perhaps far more people should that don't. (Subway employees are 'sandwich artists' and you know , why the fuck not?) But I am Drucker's man through and through, skeptical of any new-ageish views of business. And if art is your business, then you the artist have one job - to create an audience. I see many people that have done their 10,000 hours in their given medium that don't create an audience.

Here's something I'm glad somebody just came out and said:

Look at the current contemporary art world: that is what happens when you cease to be meaningful to your audience, and it's not pretty no matter how much it convinces you it is.
 Though much of contemporary art could be criticized for it's lack of execution as well, that's the unpretty part. I don't see much contemporary art because I saw a lot in New York, and I am cured of any desire to see it again. So I guess I must concede that all execution is preferable to neither idea nor execution being present.

My direct experience though, is that people would rather see what you are trying to do than not see it at all. Also given how quickly you lose your own objectivity producing arts, people may think you succeeded in your execution - and if the idea gets across, then you did I guess. In theory installation art should be the most perfect medium for this, have a great idea chuck some objects in a room that represent it and anybody can be a great artist. The stumbling block for most installation art is having a great idea in the first place.

The other thing is encoding that idea into objects in a room, which when I think about it is an almost impossible way to communicate. How many times have you walked into a sitting room and by the lay out of the furniture said 'Oh my god there's trouble at the old mill!' I put my money on Lassie being able to communicate that sooner than installation.

Many artists, just don't need to create art to get their idea across. Stats tell me about 8 people on average see my posts, that's more than many audiences I've seen attend an exhibition, and in particular sit through an audio/visual installation.

Generally these people will look at the different coloured chairs lying on their sides and then turn to the artist statement on the wall to see if they can derive any meaning from it. The artists statements are often 10,000 words or more explaining convoluted high-brow concepts in convoluted ways.

Just ditch the actually piece and post your artist statement on a blog, like this. Link it to facebook you'll probably get 30 hits or so. The idea is the only part of any real interest, no matter how much it tries to convince us the actual installation is.

And if the idea is shit, then no great work is going to come out of it. Posting it as a blog entry rather than forking out rent for a gallary space to install something that costs people time and effort to come see, can help shake down to whether your idea is of any interest in the first place.

I think I've reached a stage where I know two things:

1.) I have more ideas I want to execute than I have time to execute them. I do not struggle for ideas or inspiration.
2.) I am curious as to how good I could be if I just did some work.

In other words, I'm working in a studio now because the ideas come effortlessly, it is as such time for me to dawdle a bit and actually practice the craft, because it can entertain me, challenge me. I can't relate to the aspirant who has secluded and shut themsleves away since they were 15-16 and practiced on end because that is safer than going out there and bleating out your ideas to be accepted or rejected.

No sir, I don't roll with the 'So-good-they-have-to-notice-you' crowd, largely because they don't.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Merry Materialism

Christmas Eve, a day for idle speculation. I saw a gif of Chris Rock saying in what looked like an SNL opening "Jesus was the least Materialistic person ever, yet we have made his birthday the most materialistic..." I don't know because I don't think it is a very good point, But that point sparked a point for me.

When did Materialism/Consumerism become a problem? I don't know and I can't be bothered finding out. What I've noticed though, is that my main pursuit in life kind of depends on Materialism, and my direct experience of making transactions over art, is that they have been incredibly emotionally meaningful acts of consumption.

Selling art means quite a lot to me. Because I produce the physical goods themselves. My pieces mean a lot, my patrons mean a lot. It is an incredible experience.

This leads me to think that Consumerism/Materialism are recent problems, recent phenomena. This is fairly orthodox and generally attributed to mass production, age of abundance type causes.

I suspect it could be found to coincide with the rise of the 'knowledge worker'. A vague and ambiguous term coined by Drucker to describe people whose chief economic activity was thinking. A manager for example is a 'knowledge worker' because they have to think, decide and communicate. They might work in a toy shop populated by elves manufacturing toys, but they do not manufacture the toys themselves. They just know about the business.

Over the last century, a lot of jobs have stopped producing anything tangible, nor delivering any direct service (eg. shoe shine, massage, X-ray, psychotherapy) They perform an indirect service like 'market analysis' internally to other knowledge workers. Much occupations in the west produce nothing but knowledge products - advice, charts, reports, statements etc.

Machines increasingly build the actual goods. A person now looks at data output and uses their brain to make inferences about how to optimise manufacturing equipment.

I even question say a shoe designer in the US sitting down with an athlete and creating a new basketball shoe, sketching the concept, figuring out the materials, getting a prototype sculpted, sewn and stitched and then breaking that down into a manufacturing process - that is then outsourced to a different country. Does that yeild the same hedonic impact as when I finish a drawing and hang it on a wall for sale?

I suspect not, somewhere seeing a shoe you drew become a stock item in Athletes foot and knowing it vaguely points backwards in time to a paycheck or bonus you recieved might result in more material comfort but I suspect it is not the same moment.

My point being... who am I kidding, I can't make a point that soon. I'm reminded of hearing this kid at work saying to a colleague (we both got older) of Valentine's day 'I think every day should be about love, not just one day a year' a nice sentiment, but I disagree in practice. It's good to just pick an arbitrary day and say 'fuck it, on February 14th at the very least, I'm going to make a big deal about loving someone.' because our heads have to juggle a lot of shit.

In the same way, Christmas is as good a time as any to just buy people you care about some fucking gifts. If you dial it back to a hunter gatherer tribe that have prophetically foreseen the coming of Jesus and celebrate his birthday ahead of time, you had a small community, a direct barter system, no currency, no medium of exchange and a bunch of people made gifts of the berry's they picked, the yams they dug up, the honey they found, the pelts they skinned etc. do you think somebody would have said 'Christmas has become too commercial, too materialistic, it should be about family and community!' I think not.

For me at least, in the hunter gatherer system, it's evident that everything they've hunted and gathered are exactly what the community is. In a society where it is standard to ask a stranger at a party 'so what do you do?' I don't really see any difference. I don't really know what imaginary life I am supposed to be leading where a family just gathers around and hangs out. Life is complex, and although you don't think on it, a t-shirt performs a function beyond warmth and modesty. It transmits a message about the wearer that help facilitate doing what they do.

And what we do is evidently important to us. People invest more of their life in it quite often than they invest in their families - just so they can have families. It may be true that our nomadic hunter gathering ancestors spent most of their time resting, conserving energy - precious callories. They also all operated very much a family business. We still do, it's true there's a lot of bullshit jobs out there and beyond the threat of technological automation to jobs, I often wonder if Pareto holds up and we could lose 80% of the workforce and only 20% of productivity... ah, get back on point... We are all in this together.

We have just, I suspect through disconnect, developed an emotional barrier to the gesture of gift giving. If your job is auditing somebodies credit return process for ISO accreditation, then yeah maybe it seems weird to then buy a set of carbon fiber nordic walking poles for your baby-boomer parent, and yeah, maybe your job is total bullshit too and you hate your life but you fear your expenses more.

This gesture though that people complain about though, is really just this 'I want you to have something you want, and be happy and I hope it helps you do what you do.' why can't you just say that and dispense with the gifts, the shopping, the stores and the advertising between retailers competing for our dollars? Because most times well done is better than well said.

I can only testify to my personal experience that there's a certain hollowness to the Christmases where my family have limited the gift giving, we've done Kris Kringles limited to $50 and you each got designated just one family member to buy for. The relief of the time and financial strain of Christmas resulted in a pretty non-eventful day. Some great moments require a period of suckiness to come good.

As a kid I may have been naive and stupid, but I can recall how utterly magical and miraculous it seemed to just be able to fulfill all your earthly desires by writing a letter to a dude that turned out not to exist. I now struggle to think of enough material desires to allow my gift givers to get me something, I'm fortunate to not be deprived enough, but I don't know, I believe in tangibility, I believe in evidence. I like getting something from somebody. Anything really, it doesn't matter. I just like to hold something in my hand sometimes as a durable impression that somebody cares about me.

I see nothing wrong with that.

There are things I dislike about Christmas though, relating to the Peer Problem, but that's another post and I have gifts to buy.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

This one goes out to my fellow artists

Okay, after reading this post just dook out a sketch, a crappy sketch just make sure it isn't your best work. Make rookie mistakes, don't use reference, don't bother to render and fuck up your lighting values.

Now, sit down and dedicate a couple of hours to drawing a decent piece, when you can, to the best of your abilities. All it needs to be is significantly better than your crappy sketch.

Now take bothand secret them somewhere. But seperately, like if you have a desk with unused drawers put them in two different drawers. Or if you have some old shoeboxes or something put them in seperate boxes and tuck both under your bed.

Now! How much would you bet that people open up the drawer with the good drawing way more often than the one with the crappy sketch? $20, $50, $100? Would you stake your entire career on it?

What the fuck am I talking about?

I doubt anybody would speculate that an awesome picture will draw a steady migration of people in to open up a particular drawer or shoe box to gaze upon it's awesomeness. Which is to say controlling for all other factors the quality of a piece has no real intrinsic pulling power for an audience.

Yet many artists effectively do stake their career on the notion that quality will be recognised, that it will somehow magically sell itself. That somebody with a career entirely unlike an artist eg. somebody who has spent years gaining both social and physical capital will see the piece and then provide it with an audience.

There's much truth to this scenario, but there's a whole heap of risk aversion, and when I write a book the book will be on risk. This is a classic misnomer understanding of risk. Something that is unlikely to occur is not high risk, but low risk.

So studying hard in high school and getting into medicine is a low risk profession, because due to the pressing need people have to not die, and not be throwing up, and not have a splitting headache etc. it's highly likely that doctors will always make a good living. When something is highly likely to occur it is low risk, but equally an artist being discovered by an extremely wealthy benefactor and being showered with a fortune being highly unlikely to occur makes it also a low risk strategy.

High risk means high levels of uncertainty. NNT is a billionaire thanks to his black swan investment strategy because it is actually a low risk strategy he had the insight to exploit. Which is while impossible to predict 'black swan' events are almost certain to occur.

Anyway, I digress. What I hope my thought experiment (or who knows, actual experiment) may persuade you is that you need to take risks and actually show your pieces, promote them even when you are unsure of their execution.

Simply wanting to succeed based on perfect execution has many counterarguments out there in the market. Perhaps most prominently Michael Bay, an inspiration for all artists.

For me, the pursuit of execution is something I do for personal satisfaction, but I have too many ideas to ever execute perfectly, as a result I want to be prolific, not good.

As Larry David said 'without the idea there is nothing to execute, so I'll go with idea.'

The View From Down Here

I used to have facebook on my phone. I used to 'like' a facebook page called 'The Good Men Project' and a good way to kill time at work was to read the numerous articles it churned out on a daily basis.

I'll be honest, it is ambiguous at best as to who is qualified to lead discussions on what constitutes a 'Good Man' let alone the ambiguity of what constitutes a 'Good Man' itself.

Thus there was a lot of garbage aggregated on the site. But before I quit it (and later got fb off my phone) I did learn some heuristics that were good from it.

This is one that has made me better at life but possibly a much harder person to deal with.

The best judge of a persons' character is how they treat you when you are in the wrong.

This is not to say I now go out of my way to wrong people to try and learn about them. It's not necessary I just fuck up in the course of my everyday existence.

Just trying my best to do right by everybody, I generate a lot of opportunities for me to apologise in any given year. Because I am a doofus.

And I always did intuit those feelings of dissatisfaction, of injustice, anger etc. when I felt people were being ungracious in my defeat and submission. It just hadn't clicked how relevant or reliable it was.

Anybody who attacks you when you submit tells you, they have unchecked emotional issues. No exceptions.

What if the apology is only partial or incomplete? This is the difficulty.

Say I'm playing with a silenced pistol collected from evidence when it accidently discharged and the bullet almost hits the cranium of my fellow detective whom was walking by and remains blissfully unaware that she almost died. I can decide on my own autonomy that an apology is necessary even though my colleague has not experienced feeling offended.

I think most people would agree that this is good and noble and proper.

Now say that I'm a recovering alcoholic, currently onto the step of making amends. While I'm apologising to a friend for getting his name wrong when I first met him, his short stocky bald friend tells me I owe him an apology for refusing to lend him a sweater at a party, and for announcing that my reason was that his big head would stretch the neck hole. I also have the autonomy to decide on my own that no apology is necessary to the short stocky bald friend. You can only apologise for things you have come to accept were wrong. Nobody can demand an apology of you, which is literally not true, but when that happens apologies become strategic and almost certainly not sincere.

There's a juvenile tactic called deflection, when one is facing criticism. 'tohm you are always cutting me off.' 'yeah well you borrowed my car without asking and never returned it, now I have to cycle everywhere.' It's an attempt to even scores and counterbalance failing with failing. It's a shitty tactic because true or not, the matter at hand is the persons issue with me, it is not the time to introduce other wholly separate issues.

In the same way, an apology whether complete and unreserved or partial, the apology is the matter at hand. It is not the time to address any separate issues or components.

So basically if you do anything other than graciously, generously and compassionately accept an apology, you are going to fail my test.

Why care, tohm is on his hands and knees begging for mercy and he's powerless if I so choose to kick his teeth out?

Because you can actually snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. I am still introspecting on the nature of advantage, but I would have to say advantage is not a situation where you can have your cake and eat it to. The point of an advantage is to have it, not eat it.

So perhaps frustratingly for people with unchecked emotional issues, the advantage, the moral high ground you gain when somebody apologises to you, you never get to do anything with it.

It gets worse though. Even when I haven't apologised, when I'm being petty and stupid and childish, this heuristic has allowed me the presence of mind to notice when somebody doesn't step up, be the bigger man and seize the advantage over me. I can judge people for returning my unchecked wrong with their wrong. I am capable of this feat of cognitive dissonance.

eg. If I'm pissed at you and giving you the cold shoulder. I will notice and judge you for giving it to me right back. I will also notice and judge you if you overcome this and call me out on my petty behavior.

I can sit down in the mud, floundering in my own ill-concieved incompetence and competently make accurate character judgements. I can only imagine this seems grossly unfair from the outside. Yet it is so useful, it really has helped me make great decisions.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Stop Watching the News.

I'm serious. You don't need it, and it is almost certainly to your detriment in being able to lead a life that tracks reality.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

The Human Condition

We're all afraid. It's okay.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Can Addiction Be Beat?

The honest answer is, I don't know. Very few people possess the expertise to say so, and I am certainly not an expert. So if you are struggling with addiction and have somehow stumbled on this post, please read with a grain of salt in hand, it's an opinion piece, factually I can only speak of my opinion, not the workings of anyone else's mind, body and their relationship with addictive substances and passtimes.

One thing I feel confident on commenting on, is the general nature of beating an addiction - the fact is that it takes the entire rest of your life to prove you've beaten it, but only a moment to disprove it.

For those unfamiliar with me, my addictions are arbitrary and relatively speaking, trivial. But they have been educational to confront for me. I haven't been in a KFC since New Years Eve last year. I used to eat it at least three times a week. Was that an addiction? Or merely a habit? Probably the KFC part was habit, the sugars, salt and animal fats were no doubt what I was addicted to.

Following that I quit McDonalds, then caffeine, alcohol (which technically I was never addicted to, I had my problems with alcohol, but they came from low tolerance rather than dependence), pornography, and desserts and soft drinks - which I simplified into sugar.

Unforch, unwittingly I had stumbled into what would become the next demonic health fad - quitting sugar. I have written about that before.

I want to talk about that one, because curiously though it is the thing I quit most recently, it's the one I get most acknowledgement for.

Here's an unexpected side-effect: I have inspired other people to quit sugar, or aspire to quit sugar.

The thing is though, when I say 'people' what I mean exclusively is women. What I find curious, is that I have been a pretty serious long distance runner for years. This obviously brings me great health benefits as my weight remained stable (if unideal) despite having a diet that often consisted of alternating between KFC and McDonalds.

I also was quite conspicuously training for and ran a marathon in my social circle. I have not inspired anyone to take up running, in the years I have been running. If I have, it has been men - though I'm not sure if I 'inspired' them for their own benefit or they were inspired to compete.

But in 7 months or so, the number of women that have confessed to me that they really should quit sugar, and those that have tried it out has genuinely surprised me.

This is what I hope isn't the case - for many women seeing a man forego sugar immediately is presumed to be 'dieting' behavior. They are noticing the bi-product of quitting my addiction - weight loss, and projecting onto me conformist body image behavior. Then feeling guilty that they don't have my dedication.

I am fairly certain this is not what any female friend of mine consciously thinks, I just suspect it describes a set of hardwired but unintelligible emotions my female friends feel. I don't know what they tell themselves but I am always suspicious of the reasons they give.

Which brings me to my next point of discussion. Pornography, I had previously written in a set of posts here about how pornography (and specifically - videos) had become too 'hardcore' for me, and what I mean by 'hardcore' I now understand to be 'misogynistic' and 'grotesque'.

I maintain my theory that this is because porno is a drug, and acts like a drug - users build up a tolerance, taking them longer and requiring more 'stimulation' to gratify them. By taking them longer I know from my own experience that porno's true cost is search time. You can trawl the internet for an hour and a half to find one image that hits the spot. In the meantime finding plenty of material that is a turn off.

More concerning though is the 'more stimulation' at the risk of reiterating something I had previously written, I would point out that porn videos can only hit two of our senses - visual and auditory. The women of porn (and men, I guess) need to be visually super-stimuli (ie, larger breasts, more extreme hip to waist ratio, redder lips, longer lashes etc.) to compensate for the lost sensory input of video (touch, smell) that make actual sex with an actual person a much better experience than any porno ever viewed.

The sex acts engaged in, likewise become more extreme to compete with 'the real thing' and for some reason, this has trended towards anal penetration becoming a status quo, and slapping, spitting on, choking, gagging and calling women 'bitch' pretty commonplace in porn videos.

With few exceptions I quit porn videos long before I 'quit' porn. I now see pornography as a social problem, an industry that badly needs regulation, socialising or some drastic intervention.

It comes up the least in conversation though, I guess because I am often offered tea, coffee, alcohol, biscuits or desserts that I have to decline and explain, but am rarely offered pornography to watch.

I don't trust it, I find it incredibly hard to trust. Pornographic video in particular challenges my concept of consent.

What I'm confident about is that the norms of porn do trickle down into the norms of sexual conduct of everyday couples. Trends in porno set trends in conventional sex. I suspect oral sex, as performed by women on men became almost ubiquitous as my generation came of age. It certainly existed before, and probably prior to the legal definition of time immemorial, but not ubiquitously so. That 60s-70s stalwart 'the Joy of Sex' referred to couples who naively were attempting sex via a woman's navel instead of vagina.

While not necessarily a bad thing in terms of liberating people to indulge their sexual fantasies, I am sure, and feel confident the book 'Female Chauvinist Pigs' had found in research, that the widespread adoption of oral sex was not equal between the genders. Guys were not uniformly going down on girls to give them pleasure and express affection and tenderness.

I'm not really down on the teenage highschool gossip like I was when I actually attended highschool, so this is pure speculation, but I imagine the number of girls between 16-18 that have consented to anal sex with their partner has skyrocketed by 8000% between my graduating year of 2001 and now.

From year 8 to year 12, I got the gossip of some 300 students at my school. Off the top of my head I can recall about 5 kids getting busted giving blowjobs. These stories are memorable only because the kids got busted, the kids in actual relationships not having spur of the moment relations in the boys toilets during 4th period must have been engaged in fellatio much more frequently and in much greater numbers, though with the average age at 17 to become sexually active, many, myself included had to content ourselves with kissing.

Anal sex is a more concerning trend because porno creates a larger degree of illusion, unreality. The first being that actresses are into it, the second being that the actresses are sober and the third being that it's fine and harmless instead of being painful with lasting aftereffects. Bj's can be depicted with similar degrees of illusion (particularly face fucking) but in general sucking a cock on video and the reactions of the participants are not that far from what happens at home.

Most concerning though, is spitting on women, slapping women in the face or on the ass, telling them they like it, calling them bitch etc. These aren't fetishes, they aren't playing a role, or any role other than hating women. Women should not be exposed to this message. Men should not be exposed to this message. It should not be able to play emotionally through their brains, even if they (and I) feel we can process it cognitively.

A case can be made for virtually every sexual fetish, including anal and even rough play. Degredation of women is not a fetish though, it is something else. There is no way to spin degrading acts both verbal and non-verbal as a kinky fetish. I'm sure many have tried though.

I saw a post of a lot of quotes from former porn stars today, and many of them said 'everybody is on drugs' I think this statement is both powerful and weak. It is weak because making a blanket statement about all porn actresses is just a weaker argument than taking only your own perspective - it is much more relevant that a single actress had to be high on cocaine and ecstasy to get through their scenes than for them to assert that everyone does. Because just one is enough to permanently destroy the illusion required to enjoy porno.

Viewers are trying to identify with a sexual fantasy, and whatever else is said, and however many men out their identify with rape and brutality, the vast majority are fantasizing about encounters that are mutually pleasurable (if unrealistic) between consenting adults. That ability to identify goes away once you can no longer trust whether an actress is saying 'oh yeah' in response to the sex act, or in response to being high on MDMA and coke and completely dissociated from what is going on.

Which is to say nothing of tumblr and pornographic stills. I guess if it is taken from a porno shoot, whether as a gif or a still image. There is no difference. But tumblr is full of sex blogs consisting only of still images of lingerie, bikini and nude models, you can find ones that never depict any kind of sex act. Good old fashioned pornography in other words, like the magazines that predated the internet available in newsagents and stolen by teenagers.

Those really are the side of porno addiction I quit this year, because I compulsively consumed them and they in turn consumed much of my time. I am much more okay with modelling, pin ups etc. on ethical grounds. Selfies I am not going to touch here, they are to say the least problematic. But a model working with a professional photographer, staging shots or doing shoots can be fine. Van Styles and Cherie Roberts I trust. It can't be said of everyone, there are certainly sleaze photographers out there. I recall one whose thing was to reach his tattooed arm into shot and touch the models he was shooting, just seemed akin to that whole domination vibe that put me off porno videos in the first place.

And I should say, that just because I object to porno, and it is little discussed doesn't mean I unequivocally oppose porno. I find it plausible that people comfortable with their bodies, whom have an exhibitionist streak could consent to documenting sex acts that they enjoy and distributing the footage for general consumption. Where no party is exploited beyond being subject to piracy. I may have even seen some porno that was ethical. Amateur porn (particularly couples making their own) in general is a lot more trustworthy than industry made porn. What I don't think is happening is that such porn is made, nor likely to be made by the porno industry as it stands.

But all of these things, I have quit. I may have backslid on occasion, but never fell back into habitual consumption. I ordered a coconut juice for example at a restaurant and it had added sugar. Having ordered it and the waiter opened the can, I just drank it anyway and took note not to take such risks in the future.

I also consume condiments that no doubt contain sugar, what I haven't done is drink a bottle of tomato sauce as a substitute for the ice cream I used to consume.

But onto the central question - Can addiction be beat?

I quit all these things, true. Sugar particularly was clearly a problem-solver, stress induced consumption habit that relieved on a daily basis, stress and to some extent emotional pain. And I live without this security blanket now.

But... I ran, between 1-4 hours 6 days a week most of the year. And post marathon when I tapered back my training I got pretty heavily into video games.

At this early stage (less than one year in) it would seem that while I can beat specific addictions, I can't live without some kind of security blanket. Video games in particular, are clearly detrimental to my health.

This is the struggle of those who are addicted, and a lesser known thing. Is someone an alcoholic when they seem to go two three months of heavy drinking, then go cold turkey? What if they then having sworn off alcohol are suddenly taking heavy painkillers round the clock?

They aren't an alcoholic but they are an addict. Both opiates and alcohol can numb emotional pain.

I have noticed that certainly in my own experience, I certainly have less security blankets to go to than I used to. I can't really comfort eat anymore which was the big one, nor manage my energy levels via caffeine (deciding when to relieve my withdrawal symptoms that is) I have no recourse to 'dutch courage', nor relieve my sexual frustration by logging onto a sex dedicated tumblr and perusing.

Running is by it's nature a discipline and frankly, a pain in the arse to indulge. I certainly get addicted to it, but it self-regulates because it is by it's nature effort.

Video games I should quit, but I am reluctant to because like facebook, for it's many downsides it has it's uses to a visual artist. It also is regulated by being constrained to my computer. I have to come here and make time to play the games. I am not seeking to eliminate all escapism from my life.

I notice I am far more likely to actually deal with shit now. By virtue of having less security blankets, those I do have become far more transparent, far more flimsy. Running indeed is little more than a planning exercise for dealing with shit. I emerge from it focused and relaxed. If only the same could be said for video games.

I imagine it is possible to live without security blankets entirely, without short term avoidance strategies. I am not sure if it is desirable.

A guy at a party I was at earlier this evening said of my non-drinking 'whether you are a hardcore drinker or a hardcore abstainer, you are still letting alcohol control your life' which I think is true and speaks to the tragedy of addiction. It does never leave you.

But with this common ground, the two choices are very different, and those differences have meaning. If you can beat one specific addiction, even if it results in you having an addiction to carrot sticks as a cigarette substitute, I feel you certainly should. 

Wednesday, December 03, 2014


Last weekend I walked into a studio in Kensington, took all my clothes off and my friend and contemporary Harvard photographed me.

I've read before that it is the job of the photographer to make the model feel relaxed and comfortable, Harvard did this by being extremely uncomfortable.

I don't know anymore what I was expecting from the experience, my rational was that of Harvard's friends I've been shot numerous times, perhaps only behind his wife Chika. There was nothing new for me to do. Also I'm over 30 now, the likelihood of me physically doing anything but deteriorate is incredibly small.

Also over on my tumblr during inktober I published a heap of drawings based on photos of women in various states of undress.

I'm told the photo's of me have gone up online somewhere, which I myself will do in time on tumblr or something, that was the first point where I felt I'd crossed a new threshold. Something possibly akin to a young female model's thoughts and feelings when there first naked photo goes up online.

Of course mine is unlikely to be reproduced as often as Cherie Robert's model or Van Styles. Nor can I expect any financial gains, just that this will become my file photo for newstories should I decide to become a politician.

It was kind of inspired, or seeded a long time ago by Trevor Goodchild in the old Aeon Flux series. I have nothing to hide, and I've been any good at leading my life, there shouldn't really be any surprises there.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Where are the Cogans?

There's a book called 'Cogan's Trade' that you could read. I never have. It was adapted into a film called 'Killing Them Softly' which I have seen. This post is a question about the state of competence within the American Law Enforcement system, particularly Missouri - I don't know how the heirarchies of Police work anywhere, let alone the US.

Assume though, that somewhere between who Darren Wilson reports to when he gets back to the station, and the District Attorney for St Louis. I would have thought somebody in the Saint Louis sat down with someone else and asked 'What should we do?'

The fact is that an officer shot an unarmed man.

Mike Brown had the last day of his life, Darren Wilson had a bad day on the streets. As an individual, I don't begrudge Darren doing everything possible to avoid the worst repercussions of that day. That's his natural self-preservation. He is also the only person left alive that really knows how it all went down.

Then there's the institution of the police. Enter the relevance of Cogan.

In Killing Them Softly the Mafia faces a similar aftermath decision process, the premises is thus taken from Wikipedia's page:

Markie Trattman (Ray Liotta), the proprietor of a poker ring, is revealed to have previously orchestrated an inside job by paying two men to rob his own illegal poker room. He holds up under rough questioning by the hitman Dillon (Sam Shepard); though later he openly admits his involvement to various criminal figures and suffers no retaliation. Squirrel anticipates that the Mafia will automatically blame Markie for the heist.

Cogan is a hitman brought in to basically deal with the aftermath of the robbery. A driver acts as emissary to the unseen Mafia decision makers. Cogan gives this driver advice.

Cogan's view is that Markie Trattman isn't dumb enough to rob his own game twice. He extends Trattman charitably that he thinks he is innocent. But this 'doesn't make a lick of difference' Cogan recommends that Trattman is whacked as a matter of course.

In the space where I can entertain operating in organised crime, I agree with Cogan. Trattman is simply unfortunate, it is not in this case a question of his guilt or innocence, but of broader perceptions. Perceptions that impact on the Mafia's ability to operate.

The difference between the Mafia and Law Enforcement institutions, is that recognizing the misfortune of Trattman involves killing him off. Recognizing the misfortune of Darren Wilson simply involved having him endure the most open and transparent trial process possible.

But where is the Cogan advising the Police Brass? Who is pointing out that every effort the Police make to help their unfortunate officer (he was unfortunate to have fucked up in this case) helps not just condemn Darren, but also themselves.

I can only think of two things the Saint Louis' Police conduct can suggest about this incident.

1) the obvious, is that it suggests that Darren is guilty.

2) the Police are weighing up two unpleasant repurcussions of their handling of this case and choosing the 'lesser evil'. Which is to say, the damage done to their ability to operate as law enforcement is less if the community of Saint Louis (and nationwide) believe the police are corrupt, racist and complicit in a miscarriage of justice, than if the existent members of the police force were to see the Police not protecting one of their own by obstructing the course of justice.

It's the second one that suggests that Cogan is sitting in a car with an emissary of the top brass explaining that Darren Wilson needs to be thrown under the bus and prosecuted as ruthlessly and as transparently as possible, and probably removed from ever facing the possibility of acting as a law enforcement officer in the African-American community ever again.

And the driver is turning to Cogan and saying, we can't do that, because the majority of the police force identify with Darren Wilson, and if we throw him under the bus they'll think we'll do it to them too.

I got told that in Australia at least, if you are driving a car and you kill someone with it, you will be charged and tried for 'culpable driving' not 'manslaughter' or 'murder' the reason being, jury's identify too strongly with drivers, they will always acquit somebody of manslaughter or murder if they were just driving to the store to get milk, but they can convict somebody of culpable driving.

What I don't like about the police anywhere ignoring a Cogan who thinks of the big picture when dispensing advice, is that it says the culture that produced Darren Wilson identifies with seeing an unarmed black teenager as a threat you can unload your gun into.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Literal Metaphors

I just watched 'Walk the Line' the Johnny Cash, June Carter-Cash biopic after many years of never getting around to it. You know the man in black has written and performed some of the greatest love songs of all time, and yet he was for the most part not a very good lover to his partners. Even the love of his love, his muse that inspired most if not all of those very great love songs.

Anyway whatever you can presumably watch movies for yourself or if time poor read wikipedia articles that have more peer review than this blog.

What got to me though, was the Tractor scene. A Literal Metaphor, though in another more literal sense a nonverbal communication. Johnny Cash's dad sees that his son has left a tractor stuck in the mud after unsuccessfully trying to pull out a stump. It's a metaphor for Cash squandering his talents to drug addiction, but it's also a clear cut piece of communication.

He is literally leaving an expensive piece of equipment out to rust and deteriorate - and it says something about Johnny Cash that he would do that.

I watched this in the comfort of my room where plates and laundry glasses and garbage have been piling up for a couple of weeks now. The house has fallen into a state while I played video games. I hadn't shaved my face in a week and no, I am not growing a beard nor desire to.

In other words, I am exhibiting all the physical/non-verbal tells of somebody who is grieving, or depressed. Ironically, when getting out of the house I've been practicing mindful walking and when my thoughts return to me, they are generally appreciative of the quality of life I have achieved here and now. Yet I could not prove to an outsider that I am not depressed or in a funk.

I don't feel like I am, but why am I living like I am? That is the question.

So I wrote down on a piece of paper, a brochure for my local Greens Party candidate 'something is wrong' and stuck it to my wall.

Today I started cleaning, and will keep going until it is done. It is strange to think though, that whatever problem I have that I am not conscious of, I might make it untrue by removing the physical symptoms.


Thursday, November 13, 2014

Fixer Upper Fallacy

Frozen is undoubtedly one giant leap forward for Disney. I can only fault it on two points -

1. The Disney Princesses still promote unrealistic body images for girls.
2. There is a song about how a guy is a 'Fixer Upper'

Which you know, was dropping the ball. Olaf wasn't a fixer upper at all. He was kind, handsome, courageous, generous, honest, risk taking etc. Olaf is one of the least flawed love interests Disney has ever offered young girls. The one redemption being that Olaf's shortcomings in the song are superficialities, like manner and presentation.

Those things, ironically are the easiest to fix, or change. That's a relative term though. Clothes and appearance are a matter of self expression and attempting to change them can be met with a surprising amount of resentment and hostility.


I conflate the 'Fixer Upper' concept in a partner with the 'Op-Shop Find', I think that's the myth people are drawn to and it has its roots in a persons self esteem, or lack there-of. I speak from personal experience and much reflection. I just suspect it's a really common belief.

What do I mean by the 'Op-Shop Find'? I was reminded last night of the Simpson's episode where Marge finds a Chanel dress on sale in a thrift store and subsequently enters a new strata of society. Making the story of the Op-Shop find, practically proverbial. So everyone going into an Op-shop I believe is looking for a bargain. They are looking for the items there that don't belong there. They are looking for something they can't afford at a price they can afford.

The trouble with the analogy is that we know Op-shop finds exist. I have no direct observed data point that when it comes to relationships, someone has ever snatched a bargain.

I would use this fascinating article to support my observation that this is a pretty common fallacy/human driver.

What I feel is human, all too human, is to actually go looking for some superficial flaw in people, like a dented soup can, We can handle a dent in the soup can, because the soup is still delicious but the store might give me a discount for taking the 'damaged' stock.

Hence you get a bunch of people, lots of people (especially me) that decide they can put up with lying, anxiety, depression, greed, narcissism etc. I'm not saying some hellish combination of all these traits, but rather - "I can take the dishonesty this person displays because they are so intelligent, beautiful, vivacious, enthusiastic etc. "

The result in my case has been to constantly overestimate the superficiality of a character flaw. And overestimate my abilities to withstand it, to 'put up' with it.

Which is where you move from 'Op-Shop' find, to 'Fixer Upper'.


Let's be charitable. Let us suppose that it can be done. But I should be clear, I am being charitable.

Let us suppose that somebody can be 'fixed up'. What does that mean? It means that somebody changes, to suit you. The italics part is the crucial

I do believe people can change, people have for example beaten addiction and achieved lasting sobriety. People can have mental health issues that are episodic or transitional. People become Vegans and, permitting me to be facetious, Vegans have been known to become people again.

Virtually everyone develops from childhood into maturity. People also generally adopt the norms of their social environment, change in the social environment is perhaps the biggest driver of change in individuals.

Having said that, a 'personality' is functionally a collection of behavioral traits that are stable over time. The best predictor of future behavior is subsequently, the past relevant behavior.

That is not the change we are charitably believing can happen. I'm talking about the process of changing someone into who you want them to be.

Let's say it can be done. This change could take place independently and spontaneously. In which case you are the recipient of dumb luck. Good for you, but it doesn't sound like a plan.

A plan sounds like building compassion, empathy and understanding to create strategies and incentives that bring about the desired change. It requires a mutual undertaking and investment of considerable time and energy that is expensive. It is a huge project of indeterminate duration, that we are charitably speculating can be done. Can be achieved.

I say the project is an expensive one. At whose expense?

The obvious candidate is you. In Gordon Livingston's book 'How To Love' where he advises against the pursuit of Narcissists, Hystrionics, Deppressives, Anxious, Borderline and Foolish partners the key cost he outlines is that these people 'waste our time'. The single most precious resource we have.

The second candidate is your partner, or prospective partner, though they remain the most likely candidate to also benefit from the change. After all if a person can beat a substance abuse problem thanks to your efforts and caregiving, regardless of how the relationship turns out they are objectively better off.

The third, and perhaps most crucial candidate who pays the price for the (presumed successful) endeavor to enact change - and this has become an article of faith for me, though the evidence is coming in slowly - is that our efforts to make somebody become the person we want them to be, is at the direct expense of the person who actually is that person already.


That pair of jeans you found in the store that just needs some 'minor' repairs to be 'good as new' may come with a $20 discount over the non-defective pair of jeans they were sitting right on top of. 3 months later they have simply become your 'round the house' pair because you never got around to fixing them and the fly never closes. And you saved $1 on the can of soup that had been dropped and dented, only to find the warp in the metal took you 15 minutes to manually get the can opener to chew through it. And you wound up spending 3 hours driving across town to borrow an obscure book from a library when you could have bought it at a cover price less than your hourly wage.

There are conceivable scenarios where we underestimate the superficiality of flaws in physical goods. Personality defects, even when only relative to our own preferences are several orders of magnitude greater in our ability to underestimate. Some of us, even idealize them.

There is to my understanding no book in the world that advises looking for a partner that is 'broken' and to fix them up in order to obtain a partner you would not have been able to obtain in the first place. The underlying assumption is that your efforts to fix will be rewarded with loyalty and appreciation, rather than resentment and frustration.

Even though nobody has ever that I know of, given this advice explicitly, I feel like it is one that is commonly subscribed to. It possibly sustains many a psychoanalyst's practice.

Understand though, even allowing for the possibility that the strategem might work, it remains a costly and unethical one.

Monday, November 10, 2014

To Feel Offended

I was once told, by a nutritionist that guilt was a useless emotion. Not useless in and of itself, except as a call to action. There was no reason to sit around feeling guilty. There is no way to un-ring the bell know what I'm saying.

Though I was told it once, I'm fairly certain I've written about it a number of times.

What I can't get a grip on is why I get offended. I actually have found it hard to find out what offense is. Look it up, and you get the legal definition. Not the psychological/emotional state.

But I certainly can get offended. I can feel offended. I'm not sure if I can truly be offended. As in I don't think it is within the power of others to offend me, it is an emotional state, a response that originates from within me.

I feel this is a pretty good assumption because it's pretty easy to observe that people are offended by different things. There are people that get offended by swear words. There are people that get offended by portrayals of violence towards children. There are people who aren't offended by either of those things.

The Buddha says:

Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned.

So if you think of 'offense' as the antonym of defence, then maybe feeling offended is to percieve oneself to have been attacked (presumably effectively). This feeling though holds open a door to multiple responses - counterattack, defense, retreat, pain, suffering.

It certainly feels involuntary, and maybe the key word in the Buddha's offering is 'Holding on to' much like sitting around feeling guilty.

The question 'Why do I feel offended?' often yields curious answers, or no answers at all. The offense evaporates under scrutiny. It virtually always reinforces that it is indeed me that generates the feeling of offense.

I don't have the answer, it is an active and ongoing investigation. I need to observe what happens within me as my sense of self and esteem keeps growing, will others be stripped of any percieved authority to threaten my ego? Will I always be vulnerable to extrinsic validation? Will mindfulness and the shattering of illusion of ego result in their being nothing to offend? Will my physical reality, physical and psychological health deteriorate without feeling offended and defending myself somehow?

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

A Dream I Once Had... 4?

Been so long since I turned the blog dream journal.

I had a particularly vivid dream a couple of weeks back. Graphic, and vivid and horrific. I was not my confident and borderline psychotic self in other dreams that have stuck with me. I was under siege, in a flimsy caravan with a door that is hard to shut and lock. It was some kind of apocalypse, and I kept having to let straggling survivors into the caravan, while death approached on their heels.

Then in the broken continuity of my dreams, this frustrating and terrifying process was abandoned and we were dodging abandoned vehicles on a highway overpass fleeing. We took momentary shelter in a multilevel parking garage. My companions were unfamiliar to me, but one of them here was suggesting that they give up fleeing. That nothing bad would happen and everything was fine.

Continuity broke again and I got to watch what happened to this companion. They were infected, their face deformed and grotesque, yet their manner was one of confusion and bewilderment. The infection was some kind of parasite taking over their body, it grew through them and out of them putting down roots of some kind. All the while they remained conscious and simply questioned what was happening to them. It tore them open without killing them and rearranged them, grafting them to the ground. Their confusion turned to terror as they could cry out nothing more than 'what's happening?'

Victims were grafted together, into some mural of living flesh. The alien parasite itself was unintelligible but seemed to be serving its own design. I simply watched organs and people being rearranged first onto the ground like some root system, then onto a large concrete wall.

And that was as much of a conclusion as my dream offered.

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Learned Helplessness

see here: learned helplessness

I am struggling with the irony of learning that in the face of learned helplessness, we can be rendered helpless. Impotent even.

Your country is being invaded by horrible fascist communist aliens. They round up civilians and use them for horrible experimental testing that results in much pain, suffering and eventual death. All you have to do to avoid this horrible fate is get in the car and drive north. Yet you don't. You just sit there frozen. You don't even have to drive, your family and loved ones are imploring you to just get in the car and flee with them.

You insist that it is 'hopeless' and lay your head down on the table and fold your hands behind your head as if pinning yourself down.

This 'you' of the story is exhibiting learned helplessness. Actually, I'm not qualified to make the diagnostic. There's not enough backstory. Let's just assume they do.

Here's the philosophical question of relevance - are they or aren't they capable of helping themselves?

Physically capable seems to be the case. They are able bodied, and have the material means to flee. They seem psychologically incapable of perceiving this, or constructing the possible reality where this works. They also appear to not be able to formulate that the downside risk of trying to flee is exactly the same as doing nothing at all. Which is to say if you don't speak in terms of 'downside' and 'upside' risk like I do. Your fate is no worse if you attempt to flee and fail, than if you merely surrender. But there is some possibility that fleeing will provide a better fate than surrendering. Furthermore, surrendering does not make your eventual fate any more pleasant.

Learned helplessness is so bizarre to observe from the outside. Imagine meeting an adult whom throughout their entire schooling was told that the question 2 + 2 does not have an answer and the answer cannot be determined. When you say '2 + 2 = 4, everybody knows that.' they look at you like you just said your parents are leprechauns. When you try and demonstrate it using fingers on each hand and counting, they shake their head and say 'I don't know what you are talking about.'

This should be noted, as being a different experience from when you meet some mathematics PhD and they are telling you how Fermat's Last Theorem was eventually proved and saying 'I don't know what you are talking about.' or more likely 'buh?' because in this case, I at least am willing to believe that there is an answer and that my PhD toting party guest has an expertise I should defer to. It costs me nothing to believe her, I simply don't understand what we are talking about because of my lack of expertise. I haven't 'learned' to not believe her, I just haven't learned to speak her language. Politeness demands of me that I try, curiosity motivates me to.

So... what are we left with?

First and foremost, a frustration that somebody is seemingly capable of helping themselves, and for some reason they choose not to. This is distinct from somebody who is suicidal, because this person actually dreads their fate, they just can't/won't do anything to avoid it.

Here then do you step in? Relieve this person of their executive command over their fate and pick them up and dump them in the car and drive them to safety? Possibly, here though, it does cost you something to save somebody incapable of saving themselves. Compensating for helplessness is possibly harder than compensating for injury or physical disability.

It is September 11, 2001 and you are evacuating the twin towers down however many flights of stairs there were. On one floor you notice two people, one in a wheelchair trying to figure out how to descend the stairs, you offer to help, with two able bodied people the task should be manageable. The next floor down, you see a completely able bodied person curled up on the floor with their head between their knees you yell 'come on man! we gotta evacuate.' They look at you and shake your head.

I'm not a doctor or rescue worker, but I imagine the mind makes a physically harder obstacle to overcome in rescue than paraplegia. (It should also be noted, that people who obtain a physical disability I imagine are far less likely to come down with learned helplessness).

I suspect now I have answered my own question, though it's wholly unsatisfying.

The first is that you have to let go of the frustration, and accept that this person, though the condition may be hysterical, physically can't see the answers in front of them. They are not prone to panic, they just cannot perceive reality accurately in the first place. Their mind renders them incapable of escaping their fate. So don't get frustrated with them, it doesn't help.

Secondly, you can carry them out of the burning building only if you can afford to. You have to weigh up the costs of doing so. Will it result in the two of you dying? Is it at the expense of somebody whose ongoing survival prospects are greater? It is no good clearing one immediate hurdle for them if there are a thousand hurdles to go and you barely have the stamina to get yourself over them all.

But sure, you may rescue them once, and as you carry them out of the smoke into the clear blue skies, they may even remark 'I couldn't have done that.' and that's where you need to remember to say 'hey no problem.' instead of slapping them across the face.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

It Was A Good Day

In defiance of all my superstitions, Wednesday was a really good day. It wasn't raining, I had to go to work, and it was after all a Wednesday, a nothing day in my books. (I spent a few years of my life being afraid of Tuesdays and craving Thursdays, I actually scheduled my lessons with Zamin on a Tuesday in order to ensure that Tuesday was always a good day).

As I rode into work I almost got doored by my long lost retail flirtation partner. It is delightful to have anger transform into delight, possibly even more so than pure delight. I got to yell 'HeyyyyyAY!' at her as I rode on. Maybe one day she'll add me on facebook.

Then I got into work, which was pretty unexciting, in and of itself, I had good company that shift though and was able to impart some books recommendations that had actually helped me.

Then I got happy birthday'd from an attractive colleague whom impressively had no visible means of discerning it was my birthday. Such is a precious gift.

I came home to a response from a friend that while not in and of itself great, is at least a reminder that reconciliation is possible if not a quick and efficient process. It was cause for optimism.

I am grateful for that day.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Origin of Ethics?

Somedays you stumble upon a good starting point for a clutter of ideas in your head.

I'm thinking ethical behavior has to start by assuming there are no necessary evils.

I think the Buddha said something like this about suffering. I'm not a Buddhist and don't have the time to look up the 4 pillars.

Sunday, October 26, 2014


I'm currently in the process of paying penance. A process that is harder than you think, harder than I think, ongoing and indefinite. There is some limitation to the emotional cost I can extract from myself, but in the dimension of time, the penance may be one I'm still paying off on my death bed.

What makes it hard, is my self-esteem. Part of my penance is to take as much responsibility as I can, as soon as I can to reduce the future costs to all parties. It's extremely hard in these cases to judge yourself on what you actually said, rather than what you think you said.

A self-serving bias kicks in, what I said I have in writing, documented as an objective fact. The behavior is preserved perfectly for autopsy. But I can't be reading it all the time, and even with my powers of recall, I could not recite the exchange verbatim.

When I go back and read through, the self-serving bias still kicks in. Thus it is harder than you think to even read or hear a transcript of what you said. I have read blood drains from the neo-cortex when we hear information that conflicts with our ideology, and reactivates when presented with information that supports it.

I can read my own words and feel my eyes skipping/rushing through, and my mind tuning out from the words I committed that were poorly done. I can read words sent to me, and in the space between a paragraph I catch my mind constructing a straw man opponent of implied arguments, rather than the actual ones.

I have to induce a remorseful state of self-doubt to actually properly conduct an autopsy. I have to undergo repetition to stop myself getting away with rationalization and misrepresentation.

I think its only possible to do this, because for all the flaws, what I wrote was sincere, making it easier to accept the result of the act. I can do the time because I knew I was committing the crime. Had I committed the act cynically or disingenuously, I'm sure the cynicism and dis-ingenuousness would have persisted in the aftermath. I would have been rejecting this penance.

It's not good. A price is definitely paid. I feel it more acutely now than what I anticipate the payoff long term will be for clearing this emotional debt to myself. 

Tuesday, October 21, 2014


People have at various stages in my life described me as intelligent. I must confess I think of myself as intelligent, and at least 'above average' intelligence.

This is despite not knowing what intelligence is, nor having ever bothered to find out what the average of it might be. I also embrace the theory of multiple intelligences. Furthermore, I am in a position to understand that whatever brand of 'intelligence' I possess is not of great consequence in my ability to obtain success and/or happiness and know the many ways it actually hinders this pursuit.

So if I give you the following numbers:


You probably possess the capacity to create the following:


From this:


You probably possess the capacity to create the following:

112358132134 etc.

But it probably was less likely given the partial information provided in the second example '112' that your imagination would run away with the Fibonnaci sequence as it was that you would just count through the integers when given '123'.

Whatever it is about me that I and others seem to recognise as intelligence, what I can only suspect other people are seeing is my ability to take a part of a concept and infer or extrapolate the rest and quickly.

If you will what my mind does reflexively and rapidly is upon being shown a foundation - it builds the whole room, roofs it, decorates and populates it with inhabitants - before the tour guide says anything or I read a plaque on the wall. 

Often when the tour guide says stuff, inaccuracies are revealed to me - the building would have been finished in stucco rather than stone for example. But there is a bunch of stuff I guessed correct - distinguishing the kitchen from the bedrooms, the toilet from the fire pit etc.

Thus to describe how I generally live my life, if I can tolerate the consequences of the inaccuracies my models produce then I am happy to enjoy the speed and efficiency with which my mind builds them.

The pitfall is of course hubris (and not the only pitfall) which is to say being overconfident in my models. Thus if I listen to a Gabor Mate video (or hours worth) since his central arguments make intuitive sense to me, I take a small piece of information from someone who has spent a lifetime accumulating expertise - rapidly construct the implied universe that small piece of information is the foundation of and regard myself as an expert in this case the bio-psycho-social model.

Here though, my inaccuracies might be slight, the scale over which this expertise is then applied by me, means the inaccuracies I generate are actually frequent and consequential.

My mind does this with everything, and builds models using other pre-existing models as a short cut. I describe myself as an analogous thinker. This is my attachment to Musashi Miyamoto as a thinker, and his own 'Way' or heiho - that by knowing one thing you know all things.

The trick though is restricted that 'one thing' down to as small a principle as you can possibly retain confidence in. I then have to ruthlessly second guess all excessive things I am inclined to believe I know.

Predicting sequences from initial information forms the basis of much IQ test questions. Ironically maths is one area or one of the multiple intelligences I actually would rate myself as below average in and at the very least clearly not brilliant, in that regard its a poor example. Constructing a house from foundation stones is much more my forte.

But even with this aptitude, it does not render me qualified to take on situations. It renders me more likely to take on scenarios I am not qualified to deal with. One of my common pitfalls is psychotherapy and interventions.

I can build a very good predictive model of how someone will behave, and subsequently how a social situation will pan out. I can back fit that model with an explanation of the drivers of the relevant behavior. But I often mistake explaining for 'knowing' and what follows is that I try to intervene.

The trouble is that while I might 'know' that somebodies addictive behavior is driven by say medicating symptoms of depression, chances are that somebody doesn't 'know' this, and possibly neither 'knows' they have depression or that they are addicted.

And here's the gap, I'm not qualified and am dealing with much uncertainty. My models can be quite accurate predictors of future behavior - (it's in fact quite easy, you just predict they will continue to behave as they always have). It makes me good at gambling. It makes me terrible at intervening.

Truth is, much of what drives all behavior, including mine is not conscious. I tell people that I quit sugar because I'm addicted. Almost all the people I tell this to are sugar addicts, in the grips of sugar addiction. You probably are addicted to sugar.

Do you think this? Probably not, you are likely to have never tried to quit, nor thought of sugar as an addictive substance, nor noticed your purchases of candy are compulsive and often not premeditated. Furthermore the consumption of sugar is normal. As is Caffeine, 80% of the worlds population ingest caffeine on a daily basis. Does anybody identify themselves as a caffeine addict? A bunch, but when Caffeine is recognised as the worlds most ingested drug, refined sugar doesn't seem to be factored into study.

My models lead me into the impression that I know why people act as they do - but if they don't know why they do what they do, I am just making a bet, often using language as a proxy for an emotional state.

I spent I would say 80-90% of my psychology sessions talking about 'my problems' as other peoples problems that I couldn't figure out. My psychologist patiently sat through session after session as we tried to figure out why people around me were causing me so much duress, until finally I actually realised that we weren't talking about other people's problems but my own.

I don't know what in my psychologists training told her to not to disillusion me that I was attending therapy to deal with other peoples problems, but this is a patience and discipline I don't have. I am not a psychologist, I am not qualified. I haven't actually built a reliable model of my self yet.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Robin Williams

suppose you have this theory:

If I am successful in my career, recognised critically, financially and socially for my achievements - then I will be happy and enjoy a good quality of life.

Then Robin Williams, who has all these things hangs himself and ends his life voluntarily. Invalidating the simplicity of the above life goals. 

You have to reject the hypothesis, you can now know that it doesn't work. In the example of Robin, while achieving fame, success and wealth he had early in his career an addiction to cocaine, 2 divorces and then in his late career an addiction to alcohol. 

To read his wikipedia page, alcoholism is not overtly described as a treatment for anything. And that may be the most common perception of addiction - it is a purely chemical relationship, a trap you can fall into because you like drinking too much. It's a gene, or disease. 

His 3rd wife revealed he'd been struggling with depression and also had early onset of parkinsons. 

So you can begin to make Robin Williams somehow 'other' and maintain your own life goal. Robin Williams was an exception, so while success, fame, wealth and popularity didn't work for him, they will still work for me.

Thing is, is that if you employ Robin Williams' problems, emotional and physical health to make an exception of him, wealth, fame, popularity are still doing nothing for anybody. 

If people who are emotionally healthy remain emotionally healthy upon winning Oscars, performing stand up and having a kajillion twitter followers, you can only conclude that these things don't harm somebody already healthy.

But people who are healthy don't spiral into despair due to a lack of fame, critical acclaim or wealth. 

This is not new, and while it will always hopefully remain shocking when a person decides to end their own life, it is perhaps healthy to rethink whether you are dealing with your own problems or hoping that something will make them go away.

Fact Is I've Lived

And I'll keep on living, but you know you need to turn around and take in that you've actually managed to do a bunch of stuff many people never get around to. I've done that, a bunch of stuff. I could not die and feel cheated by life.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

More means less

For a while now I've been undertaking the task of building my sense of self. Self-esteem, self-validating, self-agency. All of that.

I don't know if the correct way to describe it is 'as it builds' or 'how it builds' or 'because it builds'. Despite my efforts, the process itself is still elusive to me. 

So though I may be mistaken, please humor me - As it builds, I notice less and less inclination to defend myself. The territories of my identity are losing their hold on me, or I am loosening my grip on them. 

As I internalise my identity, those things I used to look to to communicate my identity to the outside world are diminishing in value. I know who I am, I don't require more evidence.

I am becoming more open minded.

So as a result of a few conversations, I've come to realise in the past couple of days, in a manner that for the first time doesn't seem like running away, but actually a move towards something, because I want it - that the time is now to move to Genoa, Italy. Not now, now. But I'm in a place where I can and should do it. I can afford it. I'm unattached and despite how much I love Melbourne, I can bear to part with it for a while. Which I really struggled to do two years ago.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Inescapable Truth

There is nothing I can figure out today, that will spare me from having to figure more shit out tomorrow.

I'll still be ooking for answers 30 years from now. Provided I retain my capacity to look.

Freud, approximately right

“Whoever loves becomes humble. Those who love have , so to speak , pawned a part of their narcissism.” 

I am a big fan of the casual observers, less so of their science. I think for example Keynes was right to never really build models of his theories. Because his theories were just observations. And the man himself said 'it is better to be roughly right than precisely wrong.' 

So I think Freud is worth celebrating wherever he kept it rough, and where he attempted to be more precise, worth forgetting about.

It could explain why one of the best fonts of wisdom for me, has been Jerry Seinfeld. The definitive observational comic. 

With curiosity you will simply notice what is. You don't really need to understand why something is, just that it is. I could not articulate better the gap between practitioners and academics.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

But I Don't Want To Go Among Mad People

“But I don’t want to go among mad people," Alice remarked.
"Oh, you can’t help that," said the Cat: "we’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad."
"How do you know I’m mad?" said Alice.
"You must be," said the Cat, "or you wouldn’t have come here.”

- Lewis Carol, Alice In Wonderland.

There are times in my life where even I must be careful of what I say, lest I say something I don't wish to say instead of what I do mean to say.

So let me be clear, Mental Health Issues and psychotherapy (in all its forms) are severely burdened with stigma. There is much to be understood, much unknown and subsequently high chance that whatever opinion you hold about the mind and its various maladies and treatments are naive and possibly damaging. And here the general 1st principle of healing is probably as good a guideline as you can get - first do no harm. 

Perhaps the best way to deal with Mental Health Issues (MHI) are to find out as much as you can from reliable and noteworthy sources (wikipedia and higher) and then say as little as possible. Particularly voicing opinions of mere conjecture as though they are objective truths.

Now, what of Alice? I think the Cheshire Cat is guilty of affirming the consequent - (everyone here is mad, you are here, therefore you must be mad) a logical fallacy, but don't quote me on that. Alice's sanity though and her aversion to the company of mad people is kind of central. 

Consider a paraplegic. The question of somebodies paralysis below the waist is relatively easy for an outside observer to determine. While medical technology advances, at the time of writing, it is also easy to accurately estimate or account for the possibility of that person walking in the future.

Now consider the question of dating a paraplegic, the basis of attraction would be the whole of that persons identity (probably), and while you could allow for somebody pursuing a relationship with somebody who was paralysed to underestimate the impacts of that disability, I think it still reasonable that that person would realistically appraise and reevaluate the impacts as they arose.

Switch paraplegia to a MHI. It's not a smooth mapping exercise because we don't have a complete theory of mind. We do not know how the consciousness works, what it is really and how thoughts arise. But on your first date, suddenly we have gone from a visible debilitating condition to an invisible one. It is going to manifest in behavior. Furthermore it is hard to recognize if you do not share the MHI to some extent, owing largely to the aforementioned stigma.

With these differences, our assumptions in the first case have to be relaxed. Already it is hard for an outside observer to determine the MHI's presence in the first place. Getting slightly drunk can suppress all symptoms of anxiety, whereas getting drunk does not suppress any symptoms of paraplegia. Steven Fry claims that cocaine could actually calm him down during a mania. Whatever.

The next assumption is more crucial. When the person learns of their partners MHI, the chances of them realistically appraising and accounting for the possibility of that persons recovery from the MHI are not high. 

Following from this, given that they are more likely to underestimate the debilitating impact of MHIs not just on individuals but on a relationship, it does not follow necessarily that given these insults from reality that the partner will realistically appraise and reevaluate the impact as they arise.

Now the stark reality for people dealing with MHIs and living with personality disorders in their minor and major forms, is that the services provided by our health care system are probably going to be strained and inadequate. (50% of us have some kind of MHI) and in that absence, family, partners and friends can and have stepped in to provide lifesaving support for people in need and it is a beautiful thing.

With one possible exception, and even then I will not discount that in the short term it can provide real benefits. It's a cluster of adaptive behaviors that forms it's own pathology. 

If you go here, and read the first one star review, I think it highlights the dilemma of Alice in Wonderland (though 'mad' is a ambiguous and meaningless term, I'm not going to try and adapt Carol's work to modern vocabulary)

This is a book I read a number of times. If n equals the number of times I read it, then n-1 is how many times I read it and missed the point. Much of my psychotherapy I missed the point as well.

Consider our haplessly in love guy/girl who is dating the paraplegic. What if he wasn't attracted to the whole of her identity, but primarily the component of her identity that was her disability? And somehow he managed to muster up enough ignorance of medical history to have the notion, that if he just loved and understood his partner enough, that they would one day walk again? And on that day, he would be recognised as his partner's savior, a miracle worker, the greatest person they ever met.

I would hope you can see that the above person's motivation for entering the relationship are screwed up. You may also be able to imagine all the possible things that could go wrong in that relationship.

Substituting again for a MHI, it becomes less obvious. It's less obvious to any observer and the love struck partner themselves that they could be selecting for the MHI component of their partners identity. Thanks to stigma, MHIs can be kept a secret till post courtship. Thanks to how little we know about the mind, a partner adopting a belief that with enough love and understanding that persons MHI may be cured is more plausible. Some schizophrenics go into complete remission, others need medication for the rest of their lives that robs them of much of their ability to function.

Even with something like depression, you can get two people that meet the clinical definition of depression that have completely different experiences to each other and completely different reactions to the same treatment. The medical history of almost all MHIs and even personality disorders are very very recent histories, being constantly revised.

It is not in other words, the madness of the mad hatter, the march hair, the Cheshire Cat, the Duchess, Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum, the Red Queen etc. that Alice need be concerned with. It is her own sanity. 

Here is the clear dividing line:

If you love and accept somebody for who they are, truly accept them and the realities of their condition. That's fine. That's beautiful.

If you love somebody for their potential to be somebody else, refuse to accept them as they are and the realities of their condition. Then it's now about you, and you should doubt yourself and proceed with caution.

I read an article that I can't unread, and could no longer find, but it had a simple rule, a heuristic and I love heuristics. It's if you ever use the term 'better' to describe your partner (not better than, but getting better, or they've changed, or they're making progress etc.) then you are waiting for somebody else to change for you and not accepting them for who they are. That's probably the best red flag I could offer somebody to catch themselves. 

Obviously, if somebody is recovering from the flu, then the context shifts.

But I read 'How To Love' a bunch of times thinking the 'who to avoid' chapters were bleak as they appear to many. The thing is that Depression might be the Mad Hatter, and substance abuse the March Hair, and sociopathy the Red Queen, Narcissism the Duchess. The key being that you shouldn't want to go among Mad People. It is as reasonable to a position to say a person shouldn't want their partner to be paraplegic as it is to say that you shouldn't want your partner to have Cancer or ALS. 

Same same with MHI. They are issues because they are debilitating. They take a toll on their hosts. You can share that burden, and it seems that some people overcome it. You can also increase that burden by not understanding it, making demands of it, and taking a failure to get better personally and resenting your partner for the choices you made.

It's not about them, it's about you. Have you accepted the reality of their condition? Most of these conditions are still mysterious and not understood by the experts. Too bad. You need to accept that reality as well and subsequently accept just how little of the reality you understand.

Failing that, try to do no harm.

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Don't go too deep.

Find something fairly shallow to do. Like masturbate.


This morning in the spirit of trying something new, I followed a link posted by an artist who does pretty spontaneous one shot comics to a video that informed the slogan of the comic: 'Don't think'

Thanks to my grasp of grammar you may actually have to think hard to interpret the above sentence. Anyway, at the opening of the video, which was a reproduction of an audio tape, my mind subconsciously made a bunch of rapid fire decisions that culminated in a conscious thought and an unintelligible feeling 'I don't like this'.

After 3 minutes I decided to close the tab, and the video and the audio in all.

I believe the practice of meditation and mindfulness has many therapeutic benefits, and know it can calm anxiety and build feelings of euphoria. 

Here's the thing though, even without a complete theory of mind (and perhaps even a coherent partial one) I am willing to bet that what we call consciousness, and thought, does something. It does a job. It's useful, and as an adaptation to our environment, has enabled us to survive.

I don't believe in free will, I have a materialistic, determinist view of the universe. I have come to be persuaded of that. But even if thinking is an involuntary process we carry out. It. Does. Something.

We have been conscious thinkers at least since Greek Antiquity, probably far earlier in our evolution, and it has not yet caused the downfall of our species in relation to our environment. The only argument I can conceive against consciousness survival benefits, is that if it has driven our super rapid adaptation to new environments, it may at some future point prove our downfall if we expand faster than food and security needs can be met.

From what I know of economics though, the Malthusean trap has been debunked. Or at least remains unproven. There are better theories of famine out there, backed by a higher standard of evidence.

In the spirit of variety, I believe I should moderate my thinking somewhat, and probably practice more meditation than I do. But I don't think I'll treat my thoughts as an adversary anymore.

They, like fear, are a friend.