Monday, July 28, 2014

I still don't really know what I'm talking about but I think you should know

I get anxiety. Which is to say, a fear response in the absence of direct stimuli. I've never really been aware of it, but in the past fortnight, I became aware. It's good, it is infinitely more manageable to be aware of something.

I wouldn't identify as an anxious person, if anything I over correct and mute the signal. I'm just less superhuman than I thought, or maybe I have stepped closer to superhumanity. Who knows?

But here's two things, I'd call them distinctions but it may actually just be indicative of how little I understand.

There's a situation I can put myself in that triggers the fight or flight response in my brain. Even just thinking about it or planning for it puts tension into my shoulders and has me reflexively closing my palms. But that situation is one with a clear and predictable pattern where I get injured. Thus to avoid it is quite sensible, and to seek it out a stupid alocation of my precious resources. Consider if you will saying 'I get really anxious entering the bear enclosure' I'm not sure that's "anxiety" as described, because bears will fucking eat your face off and there's very little you can do about it. Thus to be scared in the presence of bears is smart. It's a good priority, an optimal alertness.

To tense up around teddy bears because they remind you of bears is what I think I mean when I say "anxiety" it's not helpful or normal at all. It is sub optimal.

The second thing is, that I've come to appreciate that there's a real difference in the conversation between people who experience anxiety, anxiety attacks and feel nervous about showing up to parties and people who have anxious personality disorders, generalized anxiety, OCD, social phobias etc. I can relate part way but I don't wish to ever trivialise what people go through. I can sympathise. I can't recall what it is to have these conditions or be seriously debilitated by them.

For the most part I just experience stress, that leaves me highly functional and my anxiety has not yet succeeded in preventing me from pursuing anything I actually want or seek out. (though it got pretty close, I am very very fortunate and very very privileged to have resources available to me)

If you suffer from debilitating anxiety, and are reading this blog - you probably have access to more resources and privilege than you know. There's a lot of knowledge freely available, a lot of knowledge cheaply available and there is a lot of care freely available also.

Just ask me how.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

An Adaptable Dialogue

A: So is this internship paid.

B: No this is an unpaid internship.

A: So the work I'd be doing is of no value to you?

B: No we'd be offering you real industry experience at one of the world's leading firms.

A: So I'd be doing real work but not getting paid?

B: Many of our interns go on to secure full time positions at the firm. The firm takes a risk on each new hire, so we want to thoroughly vet our applicants and one of the best ways to rise to the top of the candidate pile is through our internship program.

A: Isn't return proportional to risk? If you are reducing the risk through the intern program you also presumably reduce the return.

B: We increase the return by choosing proven candidates.

A: Unless the best candidates refuse to work for free, and would rather take their chances through other channels. The risk takers so to speak.

B: We have no evidence of that, all our new recruits are proven high performers.

A: Can't you get that from the academic transcripts you request with the application?

B: You can tell a lot from an academic transcript, but there's a gap between academic performance and real world performance.

A: So you don't trust the credentials we are supposed to strive to obtain.

B: They are necessary but not sufficient.

A: Because you can't conclude anything from the transcript?

B: We can draw certain conclusions, but we want to see how somebody copes with the real work.

A: The unpaid real work? You want to hire a bunch of employees that have demonstrated an ability to work hard without any compensation?

B: They are compensated with experience and opportunity.

A: But that would still be true if they were paid. They would have the more valuable experience of being paid for work, and they would have increased opportunities regardless because they would have earnings to show for the time invested.

Monday, July 21, 2014

My Suit is Chafing Me (Part Twix)

This follow up goes all the way back to 9th January, 2006 back when I wore a suit. In direct follow up to the content of that post, over the three years I worked at that place my attire got increasingly casual. Never quite actual casuals, but my slacks went from having creases to not and I virtually wore the same 4-5 polo shirts through rotation. I got pretty casual, and I also got promoted.

My wardrobe contains not even the full complement of items that comprise a suit now. If I had to wear a suit tomorrow I would have to spend a couple of hunges tonight. I solved my own problem and thus never really had to think about the cultural phenom that is 'the suit'.

Here's the thing, one of my jobs carries with it far less prestige than the job I had in 2006. I used to work for one of the world's top 100 brands, I now work for one that might be lucky to scrape into the top 1000, certainly not recognizable to anybody I meet at parties.

But on the upside, I don't have to wear a suit. But above my head, on the next floor up (or 4, I can't remember) a bunch of people do walk around in suits, or more gender neutrally 'professional attire'.

I'm surprised at how much I agree with 2006-me. The problem that professional attire may convince you that you are indeed professional, is still a problem. In fact, why do so many people spend so many years in university learning business and the best they can do is a buy a nice suit at the end of it?

Anyways, part two on suits is this.

There's a lot about life that is essential and unglamorous. Like taking a shit, and it can give rise to other desirable but unglamorous practices - like wiping your arse. Maybe Monica Belluci could pull these off glamorously, but she doesn't need to meet that challenge.

Anyway, shitting is essential, and wiping your arse is quasi essential. As such, they are good businesses to be in. Sewege, toilet paper manufacture, toilet manufacture, plumbing etc.

When was the last time you saw an ad for toilet paper where they compared how much shit two brands picked up from a hairy arse?

I would guess: never.

Because shitting is unglamorous. Even when you belong to a clandestine group of super elites that shit on a young nubile woman under glass at a secret gathering. Nobody wants the reality of the toilet paper associated with the reality of what it's for in the tv spot.

So adds use proxy's about softness, cuddliness, pleasant scents etc. to dissociate from the shit that makes the product so desirable.


That's my current problem with suits. Not just that they are seen as a proxy for professionalism. Professional attire is a class issue as well. It's a way to dissociate from the unpleasant and unglamorous realities of our businesses.

I work in a call center. At a bbq, standing with a Doctor, a Lawyer and Philosophy Doctrate, I rank lower even than the Philosophy Doctor. But why? Just a short elavator ride up and I am a 'Market Researcher' or perhaps even a 'Researcher'. I wear a suit and interpret numbers. And I know where those numbers come from.

They come from a bunch of kids and former drug addicts and musicians and visual artists calling up people at home and reading garbled technically stated sentences to people who speak english.

But suits allow them to believe they are intellectual and professional. Segregated Christmas parties allow them to believe they are not in the business that they are in. And it all leaves them vulnerable, not just unglamorous market research, but lawyers that represent drug dealers and motorcycle gangs, sales 'executives', art gallery curators etc. pretty much anywhere you have a 'head office'

You think the McDonald's executives in Atlanta or wherever wear visors, hair nets and coloured uniforms? No. They wear shirts. Ties. Leather shoes.

And it creates a disconnect that I feel is the private escapist dream of almost everyone who doesn't care about the work they do. They just want to get as far away from how they make money as they possibly can so that their salary becomes a lottery ticket. Perhaps. Perhaps they just need their life to be full of trappings to convince them they are necessary and important when they feel deeply within themselves that they are neither of these things.

I don't know. But suits still chafe me.

Sunday, July 20, 2014


relatively speaking, I've spent a lot of time in psycho therapy. I recommend it. It's much more fun than going to the doctors. Relatively speaking also, I make no secret of it. I'm very conspicuous about it all. Largely because I feel it's a practice that needs destigmatising. So I opt for loud and proud.

Anyway, a large part of what I discuss in therapy is how I manage to stay single so successfully. It's actually quite a puzzle for me. But one of the things I used to insist on, indeed was stuck on for a long time was that I was only interested in girls that were 'unpredictably unpredictable'

I meant it in the dimension of speech, conversation. I lose interest pretty quickly if I feel I can predict what the next person will say.

Anyways, I was jogging the other day, and reminiscing on how I'd lost interest in this girl once she 'became predictable' and then naturally turned to a nostalgic reminiscence about my ex, one of the the fine ladies I identified as unpredictably-unpredictable.

Thing is, due to geographical constraints, my ex and I don't converse much anymore in rapid fire conversation. It's virtually all written now.

But I stumbled, because I was also salient of mirroring, that is how strongly you mirror and imitate people that you like. And I always used to pride myself on my impersonations of my ex. Even though the person I performed the most impersonations for, was my ex.

And even when I write to her, I find myself effortlessly adopting her particular syntax. I literally speak her language, rather than how I speak myself.

Thus clearly, my ex was entirely predictable. But delightful. Otherwise my mind couldn't have so easily picked up her modus operandi.

So I've changed, or rather haven't... what I'm looking for is not the unpredictably unpredictable, it's the predictably delightful. I'm after people I predictably enjoy talking to.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

"Here is something you can't understand: How I could just kill a man"

I'm not sure how often I put a post title in quotations, but I did so today because I wanted to make clear that I have actually never killed anybody, and don't plan to.

Yet despite a complete absence of first hand experience, I can identify with this violent act. Something not worth denying when my first solo exhibition consisted of a series of 70 homicides, and my last piece in my last exhibition was Hercules killing Antaeus, the Libyan Giant.

Chances are so do you, given the likelihood of you playing video games, having watched action movies, crime dramas and you probably watch 'Game of Thrones' if you are a member of the average anglosphere populace.

Perhaps though, and I don't know what I'm talking about, I don't shy away from that identification. I'm not in denial.

Now the title may be some Cypress Hill lyrics, but I don't particularly identify with lyrics like:

"Didn't have to blast him 
but I didAnnotate
 any wayHa ha ha! Young punk had to pay.."

It's more like the Sublime lyrics:

"Fuckin' and fightin', it's all the same."

and I guess I hold the view that homicide is an intimate act, fundamentally different from love making, but still incredibly intimate. I recall my high school house teacher pointing out that sex can be both the most supremely intimate act and the most vile weapon of war. That versatility has been long known, and I would guess by analogy it would explain why I can be anti-capital punishment yet pro-euthanasia and abortion.

And a question has to be asked as to why the most thumbed, most dog-earred, most re-read book in my whole collection is a book by a man who fought some 60 bouts of mortal combat with an allegedly undefeated record. What person, who killed their first opponent at the age of 13 would be able to publish a book today?

Both Musashi Miyamoto and Sekishusai Yagyu, and some others achieved a status of Kensei, and this is where my mind has to do acrobatics. Kensei = sword saint, or perhaps more meaningfully 'invincible' which is to say the expectation for any duel against these men was that you would lose, not just that they were undefeated but that society (and the men themselves) carried the expectation that they were undefeatable.

Sekishusai is a relatively more speculative subject because we only have the text written by his descendant Muneyori, but I propose that both men engaged in combat from a vantage point where they could feel safe. Which isn't to say they callously and recklessly assumed they couldn't be hurt. But that whether or not they got hurt was fundamentally in their control. Musashi had his middle gaurd, the Yagyu's their 'margin of safety' both men put an emphasis on seeing the situation for what it is. To see through their opponents sword.

Seeing gives way to choice, if you can see the situation for what it is, you can choose how to approach it. Systems are controlled by the component with the most choices. These invincible swordsmen achieved a very powerful, very intimate life-hack.

Consider the Werribee Zoo, I've never been out on one of the trucks but it's a safari style zoo here in Victoria, Australia. What I have seen is the cheetah enclosure. It's essentially an aquarium but instead of water there's oxygen and instead of fish their are cheetahs. If you are lucky enough to be there with a member of society under knee height, the cheetahs will get very close to the glass.

It's so beautiful and exciting and thrilling to be so up close to these animals, yet completely safe.

I project, that this feeling is similar in nature to mastering martial combat. Just diluted. Effectively Musashi and Sekishusai stood behind impenetrable glass, up close to this lethal potential. But the glass was their skill, their vision, and they were able to take in this intimate thing of beauty. To simultaneously feel safe, yet exhilarated.

The 'real thing' we try to capture playing video games or watching violent movies. Where the director or game designer has to go to so much extraneous effort to make us identify with some avatar to bring us into the action.

I identify with it because I can trust it. As I was saying to an old teacher earlier in the week, you can get so much business wisdom from the military because the military has to believe what works.

The same has to go for Musashi Miyamoto or Sekishusai Yagyu.

From there, you can simply remove the lethal context, and apply the principles to much more benign situations where shit is at risk - eg reputation, employment, relationships, friendships etc. 

On Anger

I gotta stop foreshadowing what I'll write about in the future. I often lose interest pretty quickly in what preoccupied my mind the day before.

It is actually pretty rare for me get angry, at least to the point where I lose my calm. Not my cool, but literally my calm. As in so angry that it gives me energy.

What surprises me about myself, is how quickly my anger turns to excitement. I have real blood lust. People can piss me off, but it's relatively rare for that person to piss me off in a manner that makes me feel they've earned my anger. That it can be directed at them.

Obviously, a lot of stuff that angers me (and I presume anybody) is done unwittingly, without malicious intent, just sheer thoughtlessness. In those situations, empathy kicks in rather than anger. If I can empathise and understand why somebody's pushing my buttons I lose my anger.

George Orwell's sentiment on revenge 'The whole idea of revenge and punishment is a childish day-dream. Properly speaking, there is no such thing as revenge. Revenge is an act which you want to commit when you are powerless and because you are powerless: as soon as the sense of impotence is removed, the desire evaporates also.'

Okay maybe not the same, but as soon as I realise a person intended no harm, nor was it an act of hmmm... self preservation(?) which is to say, when a person harms me to protect themselves, largely through thinking of themselves and not me. And I should say I can get angry on behalf of other people too.

But if neither of these criteria are met, my anger typically evaporates. If they do, if my mind either consciously or unconsciously recognises an act of malice or selfishness, that person becomes a legitimate candidate for whatever action I would take, push back I guess.

At that point, my anger transforms into excitement. I get really excited. Like a kid on christmas eve type excited.

It scares me, but it's the emotion I feel. I try to cognitively compensate, but nothing causes that excitement to abate. I really enjoy the ideation of destroying somebody, of coming after them, I enjoy the fantasy.

I can even lose track of the actual costs of what made me angry, I find myself glad for the opportunity to attack.

That's my confession.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

On Wealth

Success compounds as does failure. In folksy speech you have an example being 'the rich get richer'.

This week I was given a moment to reflect upon my own understanding of this.

I think one thing I am good at is contingency planning. When confronted with any task, I almost reflexively create a checklist of what to do when things go wrong. I tend to always problem trouble shoot before I problem solve.

There is a tendency that I share with almost everyone though which is to look to what other people could do to make your life easier. I tend to then get critical of others in the situation.

As an exception to the 'two wrongs don't make a right rule' for reasons I won't disclose I was put in mind of two things, that have to do with wealth and how the rich get richer.

The first regarded a recruiting practice. I saw it on some talk video on line, a guy was talking about how call centers typically use people like light bulbs, they have high turnover rates employing people who need the money until they basically can't take the working conditions or work anymore. Then when they quit you just replace them. In the anglosphere at least, that describes most call centers - you generally have somewhere between a constant stream or trickle of people (depending on scale of operations) leaving the company and being recruited.

My mind is really excitable around business and I'm tempted to go into all the nuances of call center operation, but I'll skip to the speaker's sighted counterpoint to 'usual practice' or treating employees like light bulbs.

He found a call center that recruited people, trained them up and at the end of training said 'okay you have the job, OR you can take $2000 from us and never come back.' - literally paying people to leave. Because they had actually calculated that any employee that didn't actually want the job would cost them more in the long run than $2000 up front.

They did other stuff which was good, but here you have a company that is going to turn a profit. And it is a short hop step and jump from this seemingly out there practice to another - severance packages.

It effectively is a severance package, but for a casual job, which I think makes it brilliant.

But for a few days I actually thought about severance packages as distinct without making the connection with the above example.

But basically, one advantage large profitable companies have is that they can fire any employee at any time they deem necessary. Because they can afford to pay that employee out.

Basically if you are a small, poor, company struggling to turn a profit - say a small and young NGO. You have only 3 staff on salary. Then it turns out the crucial manager is incompetent, a real peanut, who is making bad decisions that are sending the organisation backward and inspiring your good staff and volunteers to give up and leave.

Seems like you should be able to pull the trigger on the situation pretty quickly. Except there are laws in place to protect employees from employers. In Australia, generally you need to provide three formal warnings before you move to dismissal and even then can get tied up in legal proceedings to prove the employee was fairly dismissed.

So our small, young, poor company faces a choice between a slow death by incompetence and hoping they can actually find rock solid grounds to fire the manager, or instant destruction by firing them on the spot and then having to face the financial consequences.

By comparison, wealthy companies can effectively settle. They enter a new contract with the incompetent manager, basically paying them to leave the company and not cause trouble. They don't need to go through months of formal warnings and documentation to prepare for a smooth firing. They just pull the trigger and pay them off, saving the cost of the legal battle. They don't have to worry about whether the dismissal was fair or not - that is the luxury they have.

Why this makes the rich richer is testimony to why recruiting is the single most important strategic decision a company makes.

The wrong candidate getting the job can do so much damage to a business I literally don't have time to extrapolate. They are so costly, that the quicker you can correct the mistake the better your bottom line.


So it was while I was thinking about these two, that I first managed to connect the two - these are the decisions wealthy people make. But secondly, I gained an appreciation for what wealth is.

Look at both circumstances, and consider the concept of 'fairness', you will find many sympathetic ears if you want to talk about the injustice of companies paying $13,000,000 to a CEO for being bad at their job. Why can't they just fire his pompous ass? Why pay him more than he would earn in a year? two years? five years? ten years?

It's an intuitive emotional response grounded in our value of fairness and justice. It looks like people getting rewarded for being bad at their jobs.

Same same to that call center, why should they fork out $2000 to people who have eaten up time and resources in training but don't actually want the job, and haven't done a single piece of productive work for the company yet?

It's like paying a bonus to the lowest performers in front of the high performers faces.

But they are both solid and sound business decisions. Beautiful in fact.

And this is wealth. Being able to afford to make problems go away.

Without which, there is really no point to having wealth. And I am wealthy, though my bank balances would probably not impress anybody as to that effect.

But basically, I have a problem right now, that I can simply pay to go away. And that's as bad as it gets. What was a helpful revelation to me, was that I thought that I didn't want to do that, because I was having an emotional response to the unfairness of it. Why should I have to spend money I earned to compensate for somebody else's incompetence?

The answer is: to make a problem I don't like dealing with, don't want to deal with, and have to deal with at the expense of shit I would much rather spend my time doing - go away.

It's one of those counter intuitive decisions I have the opportunity to leap.

So that's the emotion of fairness dealt with and the silver lining of a bad situation. Next I will talk about the revelations I've had regarding anger.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

I'm in Love

I read this.

I have one fundamental objection to it's content.

The first two lines are misleading:

'I don't want to be a salesman.

I want to be an artist. I know it's not easy, but it's what I want.'

Here's what I do as a visual artist -

1. draw a picture.

2. try and sell it.

So as an artist, part of my job, is being a salesman. With just one catch, being an artist is something I aspire to as a job. Anybody ...ugh let me string this out for emphasis... can be an artist of course. The nature of art is that you can't say what is and isn't art, and by natural extension anybody can choose to identify as an artist. 

But if you want art to be your fucking job you have to sell it. You have to generate an income. So if you want to have as your job being an artist and spend as little time as possible doing other shit to pay bills - you gotta make money. 

If you are in theater, this means 'putting bums on seats' and if you're a painter this means selling drawings, and if you are a writer it means selling stories or articles. That's it.

Oh except of course the one fucking loophole - you can just be gifted money, via a grant. Then you aren't an artist though, it's not your job, writing grant applications is your job. When successful you can create any shit you want because there's no connection between your income and your audience. And for some people, their practice as an artist is indulgence of the self, or less glamorously 'any shit you want'. You can call yourself an artist, but I won't respect that. Not as a job, because there's no way for me to possibly conclude your income is derived from talent.

And on talent, here's Steven King:

'"If you wrote something for which someone sent you a check, if you cashed the check and it didn't bounce, and if you then paid the light bill with the money, I consider you talented.'

So I guess if you've ever received a grant, you are at least a talented writer in Steven King's eyes. Maybe. Maybe if you cash the check and it doesn't bounce and you use it to construct an art space featuring deconstructed boxes assembled in a way to make us reconsider our relationship to spaces and don't pay the light bill, you don't have talent.


Other than that, I'm in love with this post I read.

Shit rang really true, for example:

'They have convinced themselves, and many others in the marketing industry, that selling is not the purpose of advertising.

They go to conferences and write books and make presentations that tell us that the nature of consumer behavior has changed. That selling is no longer our raison d'etre. That the purpose of advertising is to co-create, or to have conversations, or to buildrelationships or communities.'

From this, I have been emboldened, because these untruths are equally true of the arts. I have been emboldened to never sit and politely take the pure bullshit, that is about having a conversation with the audience, or co-creating. 

I'm tired of plays where I sit down and a fucken actor from the show talks to me. Fuck off. I'm (in theory) a paying patron. I came to be entertained. I came to see, listen and judge and you already have my money

I'm tired of going to art shows and seeing shit I have to walk around, or sit on, or hang from, or swing in to 'understand'. Furthermore for it to be something I can't buy, most often could easily recreate myself, and have to read a fucking essay stuck to the wall to kill time and compensate for the fact that I've turned up somewhere to see one piece of art that I can take in in 12 seconds or less.

It's just bullshit. Art is a platform from which you yell from. It's a priveleged position, a glamorous medium through which the talented can talk and the untalented listen. Why would you make it a conversation?

Why would you 'co-create' with people who aren't taking the risks, but came to support you in your endeavor. You are punishing the risk averse for following your lead. You are the heroic standard bearer shouting a rallying cry 'to me! to me!' and when the foot soldiers come flooding in looking to you for leadership, you say 'thanks! please rescue me, I've put us all in danger.' 

Under a strict behavioral definition of how to have a conversation, you can I guess view it as a two step process > 1. make a statement (create the art) 2. ask a question. (do you want to buy it?)

To which they can say 1. a statement (yes I will.) 2. ask a question. (when will you deliver it?)

That to me, is the only 'conversation' I want to create through the power of art.

Fuck all that other shit.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Caged Eggs

If you are in Australia, and certainly in Melbourne, you have probably been exposed to the 'That's No Way To Treat A Lady' campaign. The stated objective is to put an end to Caged Eggs.

Which begs the question: Why?

Although, that's a fairly undirected question, and if you are hoping for some argument from me as to why caged eggs should continue and for me to throw in with those morons who believe in a free market. Prepare to be disappointed.

To specify a bit, why now? and why is this necessary?

To answer 'why now?' I guess you have to go 'why not?' and turn to the words of Rage Against The Machine 'it has to start somewhere, it has to start sometime, what better place than here? what better time than now?' So caged eggs is a long established practice of industrialised farming, hence it is unlikely to ever come across as 'urgent' it is not a new atrocity breaking out, hence unlikely on any given day to be picked up by the 24 hour news cycle.

Relative to most Australians though, you get this sitch where somehow what Russia does to Georgia is somehow relevant, and Kanye marrying Kim in Versailles is somehow relevant, yet the eggs most Australian's consume is irrelevant.

Hence hencely, the campaign is a spend to get it back into conversation, to create an issue from a status quo.

And for me at least it has worked.

Now as to why this is necessary? That I actually struggle to answer. Here's what I'd argue though.

The practice can just be banned. Just legislate it out of existence. My suspicion is that eggs are a commodity that doesn't face much pressure from 'cheap chinese imports'. Vis-a-vis Australian producers can only make price competitive arguments in the domestic sense. Which rules out 'we have to be this cheap to compete with Chinese/Indonesian/Indian/South American producers, and that means we need cage eggs to minimise costs and maximise production.' an eggs laid per square meter type something something argument.

Can they argue that consumers won't pay? I guess so. It's a price wise supply and demand domestic argument. Where the industry could argue that Australian consumers see egg consumption as a God given right and that it is the duty of industry and government to give them their eggs at the lowest possible price. Basically pre-supposing that the Australian consumer has the same attitude to eggs as they do towards fuel.

I'd suggest they don't. Furthermore in the analogy of fuel, what the last decades constant outrage about rising fuel prices should have taught us, if anything, is that you have the consumer over the barrel. No doubt some people were inspired by market forces to switch from Car to bicycle or public transport. But overwhelmingly not. They will hate it, and hate you for it, but they are addicts to the petrol pump and they will just fucking take whatever you dish at them, and there's a certain pleasure to be derived from their anger and outrage.

Same same with anybody who honestly would kick up a stink if cage eggs were banned (and the accompanying issues of access to sunlight, beak and wing clipping etc.) The will pay the extra $1-$3 a carton of eggs, they will hate you for it, but I'm going to assert that the psychographics here should tell us that they will fucken take it. The kind of people who are willing to buy caged eggs to save a few dollars, are not going to become vegan in protest. The kind of people I'm talking about are the counter argument to the free market because their financial decisions will be all over the place anyway. They will report unwillingness to pay extra for free range eggs, yet will buy their teenage son a new car for his 18th in a gross act of completely discretionary spending that comes with all manner of subsequent and hidden costs.

So you don't need to worry about consumers, or argue on their behalf. Those that may care have no power anyway.

What's left? Job creation, the economy at large. The perpetual calling cards of unsustainable (or more accurately, incompetent) businesses that go cap in hand to the government asking them to make them viable. We saw it with the mining industry, where the Australian population at large got totally owned by the advertising spending power of the mines.

You can use common sense to debunk the mining ads, but the arguments are powerful in their effect.

So straight up, I don't think egg farmers can spend $120 million a day to undermine the government that proposes the legislation. But maybe they can.

Then what do the ads contain? And more importantly, what does the consumer already know? A big thing that helped out mining, was that the idea was already in the consumers head that mining was fuelling our economy, and our boom. Our house prices were up because of mining, our wages were up because of mining, mining was creating jobs and we were all hearing the stories of how dipshit from our home town who flunked out of high school was going over and out earning in their first year the school dux who did a medicine-law double degree.

Thus it was early to put a bunch of sobs in hard hats and high visability gear and say because of the governments tax, mining projects were being shut down and re-evaluated and for people to believe that horse shit. Because they already believed it.

It may be the limits of my imagination, but I'd say in the case of cage eggs:

1. The average australian aspires to gourmet, many people's most frequent achievement is taking a photo of a restaurant meal and posting it to facebook. Australian's don't value cheap low-quality ingredients. They know they aren't supposed to value that.

2. There's no glamorous way to show a sympathetic Australian taking a stroll through their battery hen facility to make any Australian feel like that industry was vulnerable and should be protected. There's no camera filter to make the colours pop or the imagery appealing.

3. There's no sympathetic sob you can put in farmers attire and have tell the Australian public that their job is under threat and that their superannuation is going to shit because of our collective exposure to cage egg practices. Relative to the kid flown in to work the mines, I would say that the employees of cage egg facilities are paid pretty unenviable wages, and while farming has increasingly gone corporate, it's not in the public's mind. The industry is assumed to be some loose collective or union of proprietary businesses. It's still the corner milk-bar and not 7-Eleven in the consumer mind, no matter the reality. Nobody is going to plausibly make the connect that what's good for farmers' bottom line is good for my superannuation. BHP is one of Australia's largest companies, if it has a bad day the ASX200 literally has a bad day too because it represents so much of the index. Not so for egg farmers.

Eggs in other words, are a fucking commodity. There's no way to sell cage eggs to people except for price. You can't show them where cage eggs come from, and most of the marketing efforts are to conceal as much as possible without outright denial that the eggs are cage laid.

If you attacked this industry on the battlefield of consumer perceptions, they would lose. They already have.

What then, do they cling to? There is some obvious reason that government after government has shied away from taking the public glory of taking decisive action and crushing a cornered opponent.

Here are the limits of my imagination:

1. There's a slippery slope argument in play. So pig farmers will defend the practices of egg farmers, because if the egg farmers cages go, so too do their pig cages. The whole farming industry bands together over bottom line on blocking humane treatment of animals.

2. Our governments absolutely do not ever want to send a message that they do not cooperate with business and industry. Because that is who elects them.


That's it really. To which I just go back to Rage's lyrics. Someone may as well end it. 

Monday, July 14, 2014

Finished the book(s)

While the famous swordsman Miyamoto Musashi had at one time stayed at Nagoya, Musashi had noticed a certain warrior walking in the street, in which is way of carrying himself was striking to Musashi. Musashi then approaced Hyogonosuke, and Hyogonosuke did the same. Musashi then asked, "Aren't you Lord Yagyu Hyogonosuke?" Hyogonosuke replied, "I am. Aren't you Lord Miyamoto Musashi?". Though the fact that Musashi and Hyogonosuke had never once met each other at any time in the past, because of the way that he had carried himself, along with the certain martial energy that he had been emanated, It couldn't have been anyone else but Hyogonosuke. So instead of measuring each other in combat, Hyogonosuke and Musashi had instead conversed like old friends within the house of Yagyu.
 The above unverifiable legend is about all I can aspire to, reasonably or unreasonably. It's all there, recognition, companionship, the consolation of knowledge, the human condition.

I read these translated texts and I find myself.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

The Courageous are killed by Cowardice

The beautiful tragedy being, the courageous by their very nature accept this.

Concerning Practice

I've almost finished my reading for the year, which is to say I've almost finished reading 'The Life Giving Sword' by Yagyu Munenori in the back of my copy of the book of 5 rings. I think it's only my second or third reading of the text, but reading both back to back really reinforces the idea of practice.

Not practice as in, hit the gym and work through routine drills to build up muscle memory and what not, but the actual doing of a thing as compared to sitting around theorizing and formalizing it.

The one and only Musashi, and the second generation master Munenori knew close to nothing about neuroscience, theory of learning, cybernetics, psychology etc. They didn't need to, they simply did what worked in practice, then later formalised it as intelligibly as they could in their respective texts.

But reading it, I (at least) get the impression that these men understood combat as a closed system, and had reached independent of any knowledge of cybernetics the conclusion that a system is controlled by the component with the most choices.

Xen buddhism was known to both these men and in some ways they had a couple of centuries head start on mindfulness over what western psychology is now adopting. But even so, they had without any knowledge of Jung or indeed psychology, recognised that human behaviour isn't random.

They also just intuitively understand reaching unconscious competence and so on.

Because so many of these theories just describe human experience. They give names to concepts that remained unintelligible, but I guess even the unintelligible can be understood.

The reason why I think there's such value in reading the somewhat esoteric texts of ancient samurai, remains that whatever these guys did, had to work. There's enough common ground to suggest that both men didn't survive the dangerous games they played by chance.

Musashi's most famous opponent Ganryu may have had a completely different theory of swordsmanship, but he didn't live to write about it. For that matter, he may have had much the same theory of swordsmanship, and didn't live to write about it. It doesn't matter, through enough iterations, you are going to get a Musashi Miyamoto or a Yagyu Sekishusai who have to some extent produced knowledge.

If not knowledge of what works, at the very least certain knowledge of what doesn't work.

It reminds me that I don't need to know shit, as an artist, as a businessman or whatever. I don't really need to go to school. I just have to survive to keep playing, the rest I can figure out, if not actually explain it.

And I don't think I have much time anymore for those who would presume to teach, but do not do.

Friday, July 11, 2014

There's No Free Rides

In the copy of Benjamin Graham's 'The Intelligent Investor' that I have somewhere, there's a bunch of useful commentaries that helped me understand the somewhat dry writing style of Benjamin, something I struggle to hold my attention to.

One of the commentaries quoted some guy (specific I know) whose top advice for building wealth was 'don't lose'

It had a profound and demonstrable point - market slides tend to be quick and steep, a literal race to the bottom. So your portfolio could conceivably lose 50% of it's value in one day. By contrast if you manage consistent double digit growth on your portfolio, year after year you'd be considered a genius. But if you lose once, 50% of your portfolio even if you follow it up with year after year of 10% growth, it takes you longer than 5 years to get back to where you started from. And the kicker is, that getting double digit returns on your portfolio year after year is pretty fucken hard to do.

So in summary, with respect to your wealth, putting energy into not experiencing a sudden significant decline in wealth is energy better spent than chasing an extra 1 or 2% returns.

I don't write to give you a finance lecture, I just believe that the principles involved in investment hold true of life.

For example, assume you are a 'dude' or a 'bro' and according to my watch it's the 11th of July in my timezone. Leaving 20 more evenings in the month. You can set yourself the objective of getting laid every evening for the rest of July and that might seem a worthy pursuit.

And while sex is nice and important, (it's one of the few forms of play most adults engage in) the overall impact of how much sex you have this month is going to be negligible (probably) to your quality of life over your life span.

A much better activity to get devoted to for your long term physical, mental and emotional well being is to identify a partner that is unlikely to leave you in 25 years time, somebody who will stick it out for the long haul. Because getting divorced past your physical and sexual prime is going to be devastating, whereas the outcome between having sex with somebody or having sex alone tomorrow night is not devastating. (note: if you find the prospect of jacking yourself off tomorrow night devastating, you probably have bigger emotional problems to tackle.)

Now, get serious, not too serious, but Gabor Mate serious. You have some issues. Depression or Anxiety probably to a greater or lesser extent. But there's others as well. Some debilitating condition of some kind. One thing Gabor Mate said of medicine that blew my mind open was about diabetes. Somebody has diabetes they inject themselves with insulin. It treats the symptoms of diabetes but insulin doesn't cure the diabetes. That's what most of modern medicine is about - the treatment of symptoms not the curing of disease. I'm not sure where and if I went from paraphrasing to embellishing with my own imagined views, but here's the crotch of the paragraph for you, you can treat symptoms for a long time, but issues need ultimately to be dealt with.

Thus if you get double digit growth year on year in your investment portfolio for all your working life then have your portfolio lose 80% of it's value in one massive market crash, you've just been chasing short term psychological payoffs. Same same, you get laid a lot for 20 years then find yourself holding a note from your former spouse explaining why she left and took the children, you've just been chasing short term sexual release rather. If you take a double of scotch at the end of every day, you are just suppressing your anxiety for an evening, until your liver fails in your late 30's.

I'll stick this part in bold so your eyes do that ping thing the cruelest mistakes in life are the ones that have a long lead time between the decisive moment and consequence. These tend to also have the greatest consequences in magnitude. The cruelest and the biggest.

I'm talking bankruptcy, divorce, mental breakdowns, chronic illness, terminal illness, structural unemployment, retrenchment, estrangement etc.

One of the more brutal truths spoken by Gordon Livingston went something like this: "In my experience life makes us pay for our mistakes... what you are experiencing now is that payment" directed at the emotionally devastated patients undergoing a divorce or something.

I feel I'm experiencing a coming of age, where I've lived just long enough to start seeing these long-run cause-effect patterns come through. I am gaining confidence in the heuristics of predicting disaster, without needing to know the specifics. 'Heuristics' is a fancy word for 'rule of thumb' that I learned from reading Nassim Nicholas Taleb's book 'Antifragile' and I think in this case I can start to see decisions that are fragile when applied to time.

What I notice too is the longer it takes for a fragile thing to break, the worse the break.

Back to Gabor Mate though - I feel that bio-psycho-social model has to be understood as the one system, and thus understood all at once - not so much an orwellian double-think (because the ideas aren't contradictory) but a triple-think. Let's put anxiety through the bio-psycho-social window.

So if you have anxiety, I'm told (I've never really had it, perhaps empathically) you feel it, it is a sense of foreboding and dread, not necessarily an intelligible thought. But this feeling will effect your thoughts. It is I am convinced to assume, an unpleasant state of being.

Here you can drink alcohol, a form of sedative that slows down your thinking and induces a kind of calm and confidence. Anxiety symptoms solved. You can also meditate, or practice drumming or something else that intervenes between your feelings of anxiety and unpleasant thoughts that follow on.

To my limited understanding though, you then get up the next day and you still have anxiety (or are prone to anxiety attacks). So:

bio - anxiety effects your biology, you have a physiological response to it - your stress hormone levels, your breathing etc.

psycho - anxiety effects your psychology, your cognitive brain will go into loops of worry beyond anything productive, it will worry about shit beyond your control, it will worry vicariously on behalf of other people, deeper down the emotional and reptillian brain will go into fight or flight response etc.

social - your anxiety will effect your social environment. You will attract people who reflect and accept your anxiety and you will repulse people who reject and don't understand your anxiety.

And here you start to see the feedback once you have all the three corners spelled out. Your physical state effects your thoughts, and your thoughts in turn (like worry) effect your physical state, it's a pretty tight feedback loop. The social one is perhaps trickier to see and appreciate.

But basically, your bio-psycho part is going to feed out into your social environment and vice-versa. Your friends are going to be made up of people who wittingly/unwittingly find your anxiety reasonable or acceptable or 'normal' and people who wittingly/unwittingly find your anxiety useful to them. Those two dispositions among your friends and going to exacerbate your anxiety.

You can sub out anxiety with anything else, and it's worth thinking through the exercise, particularly social filters, how your mindset dictates who your friends are and how your friends in turn dictate your mindset, I highly recommend it.

It is my belief that the most changeable element of the three is the social - who you hang around. Once you change that up you can start expecting different results biologically and psychologically. It's your best bet.

This is to the nearest I have discovered, the best way of actually sorting your shit out. It's to actually re-engineer your whole life. The alternative is to medicate, to treat the symptom rather than cure the condition.

Last year I went to a birthday party of somebody very dear to me, but I could no longer claim to be close. At one point in my life, they were the most important person in the world to me, which is a strange thought to have. Anyway, I knew this person suffered from depression, back when we were close. I also knew through face book they had become a pretty phenomenal long distance runner. At the birthday party I got a slice of information about their life, and discovered that they still suffered from chronic depression, and I inferred that their running was actually an addiction.

And what is an addiction? It's self-medication. These inferences I made from one conversation.

Today that friend wrote a blog post about having to dial back their running. I can't be sure as to why my friend would run up to 100km a day, I haven't yet contacted them about what they shared. For the record here I'm glad they shared it, inspired by them and their act of courage and their speaking up for the sake of others. They are yet another hero. What I don't know, and only infer and suspect that the running at the very least was very good at treating the symptoms of the ongoing depression. And this friend suffers a brand of depression that is pretty divorced from environmental factors (the very very scary kind of depression).

So what I definitely can't say, and don't have any advice is how this friend could have dealt (let alone should have dealt) with the underlying issue of depression. I don't even know what was tried (and not). What I'm confident in saying, is that this friend couldn't and can't and won't in the long run, beat their depression through running. It could work for a long time, a longer time for perhaps a different person, but eventually the costs of the treatment will stop them.

And that's running. Something people readily admire you for. You get medals for it. People will donate to fundraising affiliated with running events. You can form clubs with like minded people to encourage your habit.

By contrast to medicating on alcohol, you get medals for not drinking, people will donate money to you not drinking for a month, people form clubs to stop drinking.

I recall my mother remarking on an article she read that inspired the title of this post. She was recounting an opinion (a medical, professional opinion) that there were 'no free rides' if you take pain killers for every headache, it kills your liver over time. You can't just not experience head aches, and expect that there's no physical cost to doing that. In ten years time your liver will be shut down.

In the same way I hold, you can't just drink your anxiety away. You can't buy your meaningless job away. You can't make up in the bedroom for fights you constantly start out of it with your partner. These are the stop gap solutions that lead to those catastrophic losses. Perhaps of more concern to everyone though, is that they block us from the real investment opportunities.

Tuesday, July 08, 2014



Saturday, July 05, 2014

Letting Go Four Hands

"Letting go four hands is for when you and an opponent are in a deadlock and no progress is being made in the fight. It means that when you think you are going to get into a deadlock, you stop that right away and seize victory by taking advantage of a different approach."

Rereading Musashi keeps yielding fruit, sweet delicious fruit that is also high in fiber.

Stupid epiphany for you: If you want something else, do something else.

And by 'stupid' let us remember the old military adage 'if it's stupid and it works, it isn't stupid.'

I awoke today with a sense of decisiveness, a really wonderful feeling - the decision - I'm going to stop exhibiting for a while.

What I was observing was increasing effort for diminishing returns, largely hedonic returns. The exhibitions I've done have been successes. I feel no shame. I just felt my momentum slowing, my enthusiasm waning and these things leaching into my support base and bringing us all to a deadlock, an impasse. I could see it down the road. Not now, but down the road.

What would Musashi do? He would drop his fucking sword and kill you.

Let that thought explode in your mind a while. There is stuff we know how to do, and do well. It's an attachment to this knowledge that makes us persist even when it isn't working.

So you drop it, and do something else. And that's what I'm going to do. I've become the most successful artist I know. There is nobody ahead of me to imitate at what I do. I'm running out slack to pull up. So now I have to do something different - I have to invent. I have to find different avenues and different opportunities.

Miyamoto Musashi is terrifying, I'm glad my opponent is myself, I am substantially less terrifying.


This is probably the soonest I've wrapped up a project and managed to add it to my system of advancement here on the blog. And it will take me a while to debrief in full. At the moment I find myself half asleep, wide awake and perhaps full of longing. I've also crossed a threshold for now where I can relax a little. I think I'm putting 'art' to 'rest' for the rest of the year (at least).

The scare quotes are simply in reference to the fact that tomorrow I'll probably get up and draw, but it won't be for anything, just to get better at drawing. I plan to spend a while, I don't know how long listlessly exploring.

It also comes to mind that 'you gotta go away, to come back' it's time to tear everything down and reexamine the foundations, ask the hard questions and build something new to address the new problems you come across when you advance.

I have two collaborators in my life that I intend to produce a lot of content and artwork for as well. Both are similarly positioned though, in that they are time poor and simultaneously feel trapped in a rat race, spinning wheels and getting nowhere - other metaphors. And of course I have opinions on this, but what I increasingly do now - is follow my own advice.

And this is the thing, art almost unwittingly became a rat-race for me. It starts with the lead times - you need to have the next show in your head before you even wrap up the one you are currently on. This does lead to a state of perpetual dissatisfaction - I'm glad I have the skill to see a project through to it's conclusion, commitment and reliability are not to be taken lightly.

Just what I miss, and I rediscovered it in the past three days. Is being able to enjoy what you are doing right now. This group show for me was (and it should not be surprising, yet is) the least amount of art I've had to do for the effort of organising an exhibition. It was all the usual stress and hassle and waiting on shit, but I didn't have the mental break down inducing 6 weeks of churning out art to show.

The surprising thing is, that not just by being in a groupshow, but from organising it and having to coordinate with other artists gave myself a deep appreciation of myself as an artist. It taught me what I have going for me as an artist. It taught me heaps. Not just about myself but about the business and best practice and risk and return and distribution of risk, scheduling, ownership etc. etc.

Financially, it was the worst thing I've ever done. But even days ago when I still expected pieces to sell and to make a bunch of money off the bar - I knew I'd personally be lucky to break even, and worst coming to worst, it would just be expensive.

But here's the thing, as a businessman I'd go 'that's a failure'. But reframe it, because a lot of the artists I had down for this show do courses and go to school to learn how to be an artist. And yet we (generally) think nothing of spending a couple of grand on a course (a semester) to learn how to be an artist (or anything else) and graduate into a state where we know nothing of actually being an artist (or anything else).

It's the first time I've become aware that it is much cheaper to try and fail, than to study and then try.

And I mean, there were lot's of successes in this group show - I got some great artists to come up with great pieces that they otherwise wouldn't have for example. But that has to be matched with a failure - I didn't get the buyer in front of those pieces. etc.

For every positive though, an artist like anybody else has to go to the bottom line to pursue the dream. That's the tricky part. Much as I enjoy and believe in what I did, if it doesn't break even, or loses money I can't afford to keep doing it.

The important thing to remember, is the dream itself. And getting the dream to work. Chances are I could make more money as a tax accountant. But that isn't the dream, I want to make money as an artist. Perhaps a better example is - you have a musician that is sweating away, grinding it out, playing for beer in local venues trying to get his original material heard. He has skills, just can't get a break. Why he could compose soundtracks for films - a good paying job.

Yes. But that's not the dream, the dream is to make money from writing songs for yourself. I think to most artists this becomes a form of double think. I find it straight forward.

Money made doing dentistry - worthless. Money made doing art - worthwhile.

The quantities really become moot, it's the means by which I earn money that matters.

I didn't realise my vision with classicisme, but here's a secret, I never do. I would call it a failure though, in the net mixture of successes and failures. And here Honest Abe put it well and put it succinctly -

I am not concerned that you failed, I am concerned you might be comfortable with that failure.

Friday, July 04, 2014

don't believe in yourself

There comes a point in any project where things not being together can take on the appearance of things falling apart. The truth of my experience is that every success is actually just the surviving successes after a string of failures. And the failures to many are opaque, so to the many what they see is what survives and not what was envisioned.

But I see, and more than seeing, I feel it when shit goes wrong or at least not according to plan. And 'plan' is pretty generous when you are talking about me, who typically sets off in a general direction. Maybe it's a cyclist thing. But I guess I would expect myself to expect shit not to go according to plan when you do as little planning as I do.

Anyway, this has gotten way into preamble. The point was, last week things seemed to be falling apart for me and I told my friend who said 'I think it will be great'.

5 days on, I appreciate her remark. She can maintain an objectivity I simply lack, as regards myself. And it's not the first time I have come to reflect on the remarks of others as predictive statements of my success and career.

The conclusion I draw is that when in doubt, I shouldn't actually believe in myself the doubter. I should believe in my friends - who are in a much better position to believe in me.

I had a similar truism epiphany a while back, and it possibly regards imposter syndrome, one of the other reasons I shouldn't believe in myself -

everything I've ever done, was done by me.

Truism? Yes. Cathartic? Also yes.

See even when I'm pretending, an imposter, to achieve what I need to, the ruse is successful. I succeed. Know what I mean? I am overcome with sudden tiredness and feeling there is sufficient point in this post already leave it to you to decipher what the hell I'm talking about.



Tuesday, July 01, 2014

The Archduke of Badassary

Two days ago I decided it was time to reread a book I read just about every year. In fact it's pretty close to accurate to say that I don't really read books anymore, I reread approximately two books a year, with exceptions for very few authors. (pretty much NNT and George RR Martin).

The book I'm reading, is The Book of Five Rings. I only seem to have a fairly poor translation of it, or perhaps too literal translation of it, but the fact is - I don't understand it. But each time I do reread it, I feel inexplicably closer by virtue of accumulated life experience to see past errors of how, precisely how, I didn't get it the last time I read.

What does speak to me intuitively, is that Musashi, its author, got it. He is speaking about something he knows.

Part of the reason I go back to this book and this book alone is because I am yet to find another author with his confidence. And I suspect there's a reason for that.

Musashi's business was mortal combat. And as such, he lights a fire in me that no other author has ever managed to transmit verbally.

He is at once so very very human, almost plain and nondescript and yet he is massive, like you just never want to come up against Musashi. If he's teachings are all cult-ish fantastical delusions, he believes them with such conviction that if you are not playing into his delusions, you do not stand a chance.

Musashi is the biggest bad ass history has ever produced.

And yet...

Anger doesn't come into it, nor any other particularly personal emotional motivation. It is just a way of living, he picks up a sword with full realisation that it is a tool for killing men. And everything he does with a sword is for the purpose of cutting down your opponent. And it's as simple and detached as that. He is just undertaking a task with a clear purpose in mind.

The closest thing to any personal motive Musashi reveals, is that by understanding the way you can discover many wonders.

I believe him.