Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Jazz Talk

So I was at an information session on super, and how they were investing stuff. This was prior to my degree when my interest in finance was just blossoming (before it withered and died) and they were saying a lot of things about dollar cost averaging and other investment things. But he was talking about the asset classes performance of the previous year (then 2006 or some shit) but the presenter from the managed fund made a point he needed to make: "profit = risk, and property performed best therefore it must be the highest risk."

It's a principle certainly, profit = risk. And you can derive from that principle another one: no profit = no risk.

Now let's talk about Jazz. I've only recently had the point of Jazz, particularly free jazz explained to me. It's about being open to new listening experiences, for the performers - communication. Of course it's also about experimentation, an open state that leads to creativity.

But I feel an injustice is being done. Jazz as a genre of music is low risk. And it must be, because it is so much less profitable than pop. Counter-intuitive yes, how can 'boy meets girl, boy loses girl' be more risky than playing free jazz that drives certain crowds out of the club.

But it's simple, everyone can assess and subsequently reject any particular sample of 'boy meets girl, boy loses girl' whereas one requires some kind of expertise or standing in a community to accept or reject an experimental jazz tune.

Experimentation, is a low volatility, tinkering approach that can produce happy and sad accidents. That is why I value free jazz, and Jazz's influence on the evolution of mainstream pop music is phenomenal. But the profitability out of more vanilla three-chord progressions is undeniable.

Jazz is your classic technology industry where the innovation is rare and hard fought for, and rarely does the inventor reap any profit beyond recognition from fellow experimenters. But it isn't bold and brave and furthermore, is not entrepreneurial. It's low risk, guaranteed to make no money and virtually guaranteed to not speak to an audience.

One can fail at pop, because it is a high risk genre to experiment with. Devolution of music into noise can ruin a pop composition. Not the case with free Jazz. The majority of free jazz music is certainly not worthless, discovering what doesn't work is still progress, but that doesn't mean that it is worth listening to. In the same way that practicing scales or rudiments is not worthless, but not worth listening to.

So Jazz away, audiences and performers can stand to gain a lot, but no kudos for being risk takers, it is the antithesis of risk taking.

Central Question of My Life

That alas, I do not ask often enough:

'What would the tohm that loves you do?'

In my case I feel it is both necessary and sufficient.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014


Last night the band I manage had their first gig under my reign as manager. So it's official, I've finally made management though not in the way Mother predicted. It's really really really strange to have people actually listening to me not just out of interest but with the intent to act on what I say.

The strangeness is exceeded only by the privilege and honour of it.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

I find Pineapples Inherently Funny

Probably due to lovable comedy show Psych.

But anyway, disturbingly the other day, and I'm just going to ask you to accept that somebody asked me 'which fruit would you beat somebody to death with?' because these are the kinds of questuroos I get asked. And I didn't even need to hesitate -


Then I got stuck in a giggle-loop, I'm actually really good at self-hypnosis. Most of us are as children, our fun and games are real to us, well I retain that ability, probably because I just never stopped playing.

Anyhoo, I could actually... and this disturbs even me... hear my victims cries of minor pain, discomfort and overwhelming confusion as I wailed on him with a pineapple in each hand, and I couldn't stop laughing.

And then I realized that I could never explain to anybody else satisfactorily what exactly it was I found so funny, and this revelation has one reliable reaction from me.

I lose my shit.

I fucking lose my shit completely.

Anyway, think about it, pineapples are the perfect thing to wail on somebody with.

Years prior I had written a work document 'pineapple club' which was just the rules of fight club with the additional stipulation that everybody had to use pineapples to fight with.

So it wasn't even new, but it was still gold.

Sunday, January 12, 2014


It is unlikely that anything will eventuate. But those, are the odds I like. Subsequently though, let me have this. It's something my close friend and confidant Shona understands about me - simply crushing on somebody is a big deal for me.

And I watched the movie of "Choke" (don't) but even in lack-lustre movies shit can speak to you. And it was just a line poorly delivered, but it stands as a testament to Jesus' awesome radness, "Jesus believed that we are transformed, simply by the act of loving another."

Now that is reason for a Christ loving family to lock their hands in eternally suspended high-5's and sing out 'JESUS! JEEEE-SUZ!!' around some awesome spread of turkey or chicken and that thing where you put peas in a big old bowl.

I enjoy the revelation, which for clarities sake I am no longer talking about Christ, but the revelation that I like a body.

I enjoy it. Dan Gilbert's 'Stumbling on Happiness' talks about anticipatory pleasure, and that's a lot. Perhaps to my detriment I have retained a childlike proficiency at self-hypnosis, and thus I can kind of actually just go into myself and live my fantasies.

But it does have a transformative effect. Bio-psycho-socially, I am transformed for the better. Food tastes better, music sounds better, the music I listen to, the books I read, the movies I watch. It's not so much a change as a decision, a decision to embrace fully what it is I like. A decision as to what is suddenly filled with meaning and thus has unlocked potential. Even all my other relationships change in nature.

Who I can and can't talk about it with. Who I want to and don't want to talk about it with. Who I can share the joy with, and who exacerbates the frustration.

But on the whole, it's just a big big deal for me. And I love it. I actually love it when the dream changes and the future becomes imbued with new possibilities.

Just appreciate what pleasures life can give you.

I love you all.

Sunday, January 05, 2014

The Subconscious Is Powerful

Noise and signal my friends. Noise and Signal!

Thoughts merely arise in our consciousness. There is no complete theory of mind, even for those who study it relentlessly. Maybe if somebody does understand what consciousness is, they at least don't to the point where the can explain to me so I understand what consciousness is.

I have no fucking idea what qualia is, I've watched Dan Dennett explain it twice now.

But there's this freaky freakish thought I think - if our conscious mind is something that merely happens, then our consciousness is more of a witness than an agent.

I've been coming to terms with the fact that the smart part of my mind is my subconscious, and when it comes to some kind of clever conclusion it just lets the part of my mind I think of as me about it.

My conscious mind is slow. Doofus slow. I've literally spent days marveling at my subconscious deduction and how many months (or years) it can be ahead of conscious realization.

What I'm trying to train myself out of is talking, and to do more listening. Which is difficult when dealing with the external world, but is super difficult when you are talking about your internal conversation. I have my bright but shy subconscious, that can figure things out without being able to prove them in coherent arguments, but is right. Then I have my yammering conscious mind, that can articulate shit and reason and all that sort of stuff and it's really impressive, but it can talk me into believing just about anything.

Gabor Mate says we have three predictive nerve centers, our mind, our heart and our gut. Actually lined with nerves. I haven't done my research, but I can believe it, I can be persuaded by my own experience, something that doesn't happen with my own experiences of psychic phenomena, dream interpretation etc.

Here's the break down though -

gut - signal.
heart - signal.
mind - noise.

which isn't to say that the conscious mind is useless. Clearly it is. Reasoning is useful, and is perhaps the only thing that gives us choice.

For example, recently I was in a situation I found emotionally dangerous, and without understanding it (until reflection) I got mean to scare off my assailant. The thing is had I been consciously able to acknowledge what was upsetting me, I could have reacted in a much better way.

My subconscious managed to do it's job, it was just messy, a blunt instrument it solved an immediate problem but created another one to deal with.

And I guess that's the hard task of learning to listen to impulses and instincts, they protect us from bad stuff, they acknowledge realities we find too uncomfortable to face consciously. The balance between conscious and unconscious behavior may actually be a mix I shouldn't fuck with.

It's easy for me to talk about now, because for now I can just marvel at the unconscious ability to set me up for good stuff too. But my instincts and intuitions have always been something I'm bad at listening too in the good times and bad.

It's much smarter than I am.

Saturday, January 04, 2014


For some reason, having mum around has me thinking of how I prioritise shit in my life. Probably because she treats me as abnormal, and maybe I am. We've always clashed because what she cares about I can't fathom giving a shit about, and vice versa.

Anyway after not much deliberation I figured out how I prioritise my energy, and must say that I feel it works pretty well for me:

1. My Mental-Emotional Health.
2. My Relationships.
3. Creative Output.
4. Everything Else.

And of course energy is distributed by a power law - I put orders of magnitude more energy into my mental health than my relationships, and orders of magnitude more into my relationships than my creative output.

shorty mcshort post.

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

His Smiling Face

I want to say up front, that I am not contradicting this post but contrast it. That link applies to our cognitive downside which is to ignore our intuitions. But I want to talk about I guess the limits of evolution. Not as explanatory theory, but just that all the problems we still have, have by definition survived evolution.

So you walk into a bar and check out the action. At one end of the bar, is a guy that makes you feel totally uneasy, his face is asymmetrical due to a broken nose and scarring, his complexion is unattractive - pox marked and pale, he looks unhealthy in some genetic way, yet he is tall and imposing, could easily overpower you. He is dressed in a way that suggests he is not that socially conscious and you hear him break into a laughter that makes him seem both oafish and ignorant.

Yes. By all means, ignore that guy. You make a beeline to the other end of the bar, where a young handsome guy dressed tastefully, confidently strikes up conversation with you. He is attentive and smiling, studying you in a manner that is flattering, not invasive.

Flash forward a few months, and you are sitting with your girls having coffee or some shit, and that guy is the subject of your conversation, you find yourself saying 'you don't know him like I do... he has hidden depths.' etc.

Here I must pause, because I don't want to be alarmist. I want to make clear, that what I am absolutely NOT advocating is the idea that you can trust no one. Indeed trust is the cornerstone of a relationship, not just a relationship but sex.

Just like the guy at the end of the bar had a bunch of visual and sub-verbal warning signs telling you to stay away, the guy you are now dating, the attentive one with the smiling face has his warning signs to. It's just the first reliable warning sign I've presented is the conversation we were having before I interrupted.

What are you saying to your girls? Firstly, you are defending you're boyfriend. It may seem innocuous and non-serious, but that's precisely what you are doing. There's a conflict going on, not an intense and angry one, but a tension. What you see in him is not apparant to all. Or at least doesn't seem that way.

You perceive a disparity in perception itself. You find your boyfriend to be nice, your friends don't find him that way. They need not be overt, but you've picked it up and now you are having this conversation. And it's a warning sign.

That's a hypothetical. But if I may, I have a real world example that's actually much more overt and worse. X is dating Y, Y tells X that Y is going to sleep with Z, Y then sleeps with Z. Y returns to X on another occasion and compares X to Z as lovers as a topic of conversation. Informing X that Y prefers Z as a physical lover.

It's a no brainer right? What might amaze people is that Y ever got to see X again to have the comparing lovers conversation. This isn't a modern progressive open relationship built on a strong foundation of trust, honesty and mutuality. This is a power play. A horrible abuse of power.

Now X and I are standing in a park discussing Y, and I am unequivocal on my advice that Y needs to be cut out like an aggressive cancer from X's life. X tells me 'but deep down she is a good person...' and I shall divulge no more, because that should be sufficient.

They are all good people deep down. The people that hurt us most often are those that have the opportunity to hurt us. I think ultimately letting somebody in close enough to hurt us is a worthwhile and necessary risk. Trusting people is most often rewarded, which in my experience at least, is the truth.

Fact is, that a 200kg gorilla has very little opportunity to harm or rape us. They look dangerous from a mile away, we gonna avoid eye contact. Just as people know to observe Gorilla's at a zoo, or in a national park being escorted by a guard, people know to observe men with scars running down one side of their face and russian mafia tattoos in a movie cinema, or at the very least from across the restaurant dining room.

There's a natural warning sign that actually makes paradoxically a lot of dangerous people quite safe. There are dangerous people though, that can get around all our warning systems, or use our own cognitive functions to get by our warning systems.

Fortunately, nature has some analogies:

The pink orchid mantis
the terrifying ant mimicking spider

If you can clickety click and look closely at the ant mimic, get good and creeped out. Those antenna's are legs, it's abdomen has conformed to the shape of an ants. It's an ant with eight eyes and legs for antenna. It creeps me out, thanks to the disparities in how I feel about ants versus how I feel about spiders.

And sure, we feel creepy looking at an ant-mimic, because we know it's a spider, and we are creeped out by the queerness of evolution to produce such a thing, but also because it would work. Intuitively we know that for the rest of our lives most of us are not really going to give that much scrutiny to ants to ensure they are indeed ants. 

Ants also I feel, are on the lower order of cognition, such that they won't have a test that says 'when greeting a fellow ant, count it's eyes' you can find some videos of ant mimicking spiders on youtube, and they do a good job, such that for the ant equivalent of the duck test - if it looks like an ant, walks like an ant and waggles it's antenna like an ant then it's probably an ant - the ant mimic passes the ant test.

It's going to get close enough to take out an ant, or other prey that is unphased by the presence of an ant. The Pink Orchid mantis isn't going to successfully infiltrate flower colonies, because that's not necessary, but things it likes to eat are going to walk up to eat it, and things that like to eat it and not pink orchids are going to pass it by. 

As the prey is naturally selected to leave better defense mechanisms in place, the predators are going to be selected for better offense mechanisms. 

Such that, we should all have a little compassion for X, especially X himself. Because the people that can do great damage are the ones that look like delicate flowers and friendly ants to our unwitting minds.

Fortunately, I am just as big a sucker for people's core of niceness as X that I knew exactly what to say to him - being the advice I myself cannot follow: 'So Y is a nice girl, victim of circumstances that needs rescuing, why are you X the person most qualified to rescue her? And what if your efforts to rescue her is exactly what she needs to sustain the behaviour?'

(As an aside there's a good heuristic test for whether you have the white knight pathology [chronic need to rescue others to have a sense of self-worth] or not, imagine if you can the person you are trying to rescue getting better by themselves, or even better being helped by somebody other than you. Do you feel angry and jealous, or genuinely happy for them? be honest with yourself.)

It isn't fair in analogy, to draw a line between dangerous people and predators, though predatory people do exist. Often dangerous people are for example, self-destructive. What makes them dangerous is that they will pull you down into the depths with them. Take a view perhaps that people for a moment are actually just colonies of ideas, and some ideas are malignant, such that a person is unconsciously, unwittingly and without control destroying themselves and other people. Their problems will most often persist because they are very subtle mutations of the norm. 

Your smiling mysterious stranger at the bar had he been picking his teeth with a bowie knife would probably be exposed far far earlier as somebody dangerous. But because he isn't aware of his subconscious drive to destroy your esteem so he can experience fleeting sensations of control that require constant feeding, you are also less likely to pick up on it. Or if your gut picks up on it, for your mind to make excuses for him, talk you out of it, listen to your friends advice to 'give it a try'.

I think, in fact, I strongly suspect that we do have a way to compensate for the middle band of subtle warning signs - it's called your friends and family. They are your extrasensory power. So to fold this post right back to 'you don't know him like I do, he has hidden depths...' there's the moment to shut up and listen.

It can as my friend Trav attests, backfire (to be clear, Trav is not X, nor Y or Z for that matter, hence I name him) but here's the premise of my working theory:

You do pick up that that flower has the posture of a mantis, that your fellow friendly ant for some reason has 8 eyes and knee joints in his antenna. But that's subconscious, expressed as gut feelings, and raw emotions of unease that remind you of regular horrible spiders and classic green mantis. Then your mind your conscious mind tells you to relax and starts making excuses and reassuring noises, you ignore the warning sign and press on.

Your conscious mind has a motivation - it wants drugs, it's a fiend. Your friends will experience your partner, without the dope and oxy to boot. They have no incentive to make shit up, they get a much clearer signal and much less noise. They may still have noise. Few bff's even say 'hey tohm, you need to dump this guy RIGHT NOW!' many of my bff's will go to an admirable efforts to try and like my new beau. Then they will respectfully say nothing.

There's the crux, how to get another perspective of his smiling face. To pull out far enough to distinguish whether his eyes make him sinister or sincere? Have your friends added him on facebook? Have your social lives seamlessly integrated? I don't know the answer, there is much conflicting good will. 

My first practical step, is to actually respect how easy it is for all of us to fuck up and take on a dead weight for years of our lives. Because they aren't people with Swastika tattoos on their foreheads and hooks for hands, they are nice people that just seem a little bit off but have many good and worthwhile traits. Be forgiving, and maybe just a little bit more skeptical. 

We all ask our friends why they broke up, few of us ask why they got together.