Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Goddam Right It's a Beautiful Day

While happiness still alludes me, I'm much better. Much much better. There's a noticeable shift.

The way I would have remarked 'it never ends' 3 years ago would have been one of remorse resolution. Nowadays, 'it never ends' would be one of delight and gratitude.

Something is taking shape in my future visions, something I can almost grasp.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Throw Away the Ledger

“It takes many good deeds to build a good reputation, and only one bad one to lose it.” 
― Benjamin Franklin

Perhaps in a move that makes little sense, I'm going to open with a counter-point to the point I actually want to make. I'm running a profitable business, and one day Penfold from accounts rushes up to me with a ledger and says 'sir! I've discovered that a fault in sector 7G is costing us $5 a day.' being a manly man of decisive action I say 'what will it cost to fix it Penfold?' because I solve problems it's what I do, and Penfold says 'We can fix it for $10 a day.' and I say - 'don't fix it.'

Terrorism too, in terms of money certainly, and as the record is showing, human lives - is a more costly problem to solve than to by and large ignore. Terrorism over the long term, is less clear cut.

But in the above examples, the obvious real lesson is that you don't fix a problem with a larger problem. You need a 50c solution to a $5 problem, not a $10 one. Terrorism needs a response that doesn't result in escalating conflict.

But what Benji Frankleberry is saying is that there are situations where one incident negates all previous knowledge.

A conviction of a sexual offence against a child, tends to completely undo all one's other accomplishments in life. Similarly one positive drug test can strip you of a whole bunch of Tour De France titles. One bad day on the markets can undo 60 years of wealth accumulation.

So there's nothing new there, except that these kind of things keep happening to people, people keep perpetrating them and people keep falling victim to them.

So in some ways when I say 'throw away the ledger' it's a misnomer. The issue is in the weighting, which proper ledgers actually do. You can have a thousand items valued at 1c in the Assets column and one item worth $10,000 in the liability column and the ledger will make it clear that you are in trouble.

The ledgers people keep in their head though, go like dessert was delicious, main was delicious, soup was delicious, entre made me violently ill. That's 3 courses to 1 which means on balance the meal was delicious and I'll go back to the restaurant. Okay so we don't do that. We know that the presence of salmonella in just one dish ruins a whole dining experience.

We restrict this kind of clear thinking, and accountability though when it comes to evaluating people. Well some people do. There are terms like 'deal breaker' that are employed. But a lot of people don't really take Benjamin's falsifiable approach to a person's reputation.

It will take the rest of your life to prove, definitively that you are reliable. The instant you flake out though, you are unreliable. You cannot be relied on. This is the crucial distinction between '99% certain' and 'certainty' - the use of 'certain' in the former is a misnomer. 99% certain is uncertain. Thus the other 1% possibility needs to be provided for, or it needs to be acknowledged that you are indeed actually risking something.

Furthermore, in practice 99% certain looks a whole lot like 20% certain, and even 1% certain. Certainty has a particular property, that means one exception negates it's whole value.

I have brought issues I have to people, and often they have retorted that I wasn't being fair, and then tried to rebalance the ledgers with all the counter examples of behavior I don't have an issue with.

The argument is moot. If arguing with me, you are in practice defeating yourself. Because it's the act I take issue with that ruins all their counter points for them. It actually stresses Franklin's point above and further obliges them to address the issue.

'He physically assaulted me, but he threw a great surprise party just the month before, that takes more effort and thought than beating up somebody as weak as me!' No, doesn't work like that.

Friday, September 26, 2014

"You got a shitty job, and I got a dollar."

I hate unassertive cyclists. And I hate waiting around for nothing. As a cyclist, virtually every T-intersection traffic stop creates a situation where you can assertively run the red and continue on your path or stop at the light like a law abiding citizen.

You can probably take a guess at which option I opt for, and I hate coming across a momentum stopping cluster of law abiding citizens waiting for nothing but lights to change to carry on.

But more so than those cyclists are the bystanders. I once had a ped at a tram stop point out to me that I had to stop behind a tram so long as it's doors are open. I was baffled as to whether he honestly thought I didn't know the law. Did he think that I would bother to point out to the myriad of peds daily that they were standing in a bike lane, often on a set of words that said 'stand clear'. I don't because peds are peds and generally oblivious to their surroundings. They are genuinely ignorant of the law. You don't cycle as long as I do and remain ignorant of all the traffic laws you violate regularly.

This morning a guy honked at me as I ran a red. A red he in his jeep had to wait for. I was transitioning through a number of T-intersections (all of which he'd have to stop for) and heading into the heart of the CBD where bikes travel much faster than cars so I never had any chance of encountering or being confronted by the guy (I actually don't know if it was a guy).

But it set me off anyway, you have to cut through all the bullshit of what these people will report they are doing - trying to point out I'll get myself killed that way. Call me up when I'm breaking the law. Trying to keep me and others on the road safe.

Truth be told, I can't honestly imagine what somebody hopes to accomplish by beeping a cyclist when they run a light or make an illegal turn or don't dismount in front of a 'cyclists dismount' sign.

What I hear, in that car horn is 'it's not fair, I can't run a light so why should cyclists get away with it?' wine wine wine wine wine. A big noise from a small person inside a protective, uneconomical, inefficient shell.

To which I say 'yeah, of course it's unfair. Why do you think I cycle?' As far as I'm concerned, any car withing 5km of the CBD is an admission of logistical failure. Taxis sure, goods delivery vehicles of course. Single commuter driving to work? You fucked up.

Deal with it, you can't register bicycles they are too easy to steal, lend, borrow, onsell, repair, modify etc. Meaning that short of a police present to pull you up on the law, there's no legal repurcussions to transgressions for most cyclists. There's no number to take down, a red light camera gets a photo of a John Doe the police don't have the resources to trace.

Then one night as a lady yelled from her car as I legally took a lane she was driving down and assumed the law must be that a car can run down a cyclist who changes into a lane like a regular vehicle: 'do you have a death wish?' (I responded 'Yes' to confuse her, you don't get much time in these situations) but the best response would have been 'do you?' largely because it is an incredibly high risk activity to confront anybody on the road.

But pertinant to this discussion, the answer is no. I have witnessed many traffic accidents involving cyclists in my time, and with no exceptions, seriously, not one, the cyclist with the 'death wish' has been in full compliance with the road rules. The most common accidents I have witnessed (and experienced) as a cyclist, is having somebody open a car door into a cyclist (known as dooring).

The cyclist is always riding perfectly legally as a cyclist in these situations. Often they are in harms way because they are riding in the bike lane they are both designated and required to ride in.

And just as most pedestrians are killed in pedestrian crossings, and very few are killed while jaywalking, I have seen numerous 'stupidly dangerous' feats of cycling in my time, ones I don't have the confidence to try on. Like riding at night with no lights and no helmet, and riding against the traffic, and cutting across an intersection as traffic is passing through... I've seen all kinds of 'stupidity'.

What I've never seen is one of these acts resulting in accident or even injury. Hence I have to put 'stupidly dangerous' in scare quotes, because my experience is that obeying the road rules is dangerous, and stupid unnecessary risk taking appears to be quite safe.

If it's stupid and it works, it's not stupid.

The quote of the title of this post comes from Joe Rogan, in his context it was copping bad attitude from a stripper. In my context, if you are driving a car into the CBD sitting in congested traffic, getting frustrated by your work commute, frustrated enough that seeing a cyclist just skip the lights and ride on his merry way. And you can't look around and think that you are in a comfortable climate controlled environment with a sound system and that's why you chose this mode of transport. Then you made a shitty choice and just fucking choke on it, choke on it silently thanks.

Thursday, September 25, 2014


"It takes something to just say 'fuck it! this is reality. And I'm going to deal with it.'" ~ Angel Haze.

"In my experience, life makes us pay for our mistakes. What you are experiencing now is that payment." ~ Gordon Livingston [paraphrased]

This has been a hard post to write, I'm not sure when I started it, but I've lost track of it 3 or 4 times and deleted it each time back up to the above quotes.

Today though another way occurred to me to open this post, as I had an actual epiphany. There are actions I am taking now, that are drastically reducing, or preventing, my daughter from becoming an addict, attempting suicide, developing an eating disorder, self harming etc....

It's hard to even construct a hypothetical bad situation for my hypothetical future daughter (or child) to be in, because I know enough people who have been through enough shit for all of the shortlistings to resemble somebody I know.

It's a big call I guess, to say my child will be happy and secure, when so many in this world are not. But that's the most positive way I could put legacy issues. I make this call because I have had the means and the opportunity to actually deal with my shit. And I've been dealing with it.

You have the means and the opportunity to deal with your shit, whatever it is.

I am an advocate of mental health. But I have one slight reservation about it, I do believe that healing begins with compassion towards the self, and often mental health professionals do a lot of work to get us to accept ourselves as we are.

That to me though is the starting point of healing, due to the fact that I am a patient, and not a mental health professional, my experience of mental health is only limited to my own. But I have much experience with people.

The advice that is common enough for you to maybe have heard: 'You can't change other people you can only change yourself' is good advice, but tricky. In my experience, wishing your environment would change to render your issues irrelevant is neither realistic nor empowering. At the same time accepting that you cannot rely on others to change, and specifically to change for you, does not mean people are off the hook responsibility wise.

In fact if anything, the advice is pointing out that you, whoever is reading it, have an obligation to change yourself because you are the only one that can.

In finding compassion for the self (and rejecting the notion you are inherently flawed) doesn't mean you can say 'well I just need to drink to console myself, that's the only thing that numbs the pain.' and here is why:

1. It's a fallacy, consolation is not a necessity, nor is drinking to console a necessity.
2. After numbing the pain, you will sober up, and in sobriety the pain will return because you treated the symptom but did nothing to change your circumstances.
3. And most crucially, your not dealing with your shit puts the cost of your shit onto other people.

That's how legacy issues arise.

Because whatever variety your shit is, that you don't deal with, It almost certainly renders one egocentric. You have another need that needs addressing that other people don't. It butts into your heirarchy and diminishes your capacity to see to others needs.

While you are drinking away the painful thoughts and feelings, memories experienced by the body, you are spending time on yourself and thus not on people who look to you.

And those who look to you feel hurt and rejected themselves. All they model from you is how to self soothe the pain of their own childhood and this shit gets passed down as a legacy.

Sooner or later somebody on the family tree has to say 'stop, enough is enough' and they do that by actually dealing with the pain, whatever it is rather than suppressing it however they do. Most importantly they learn to stop perpetuating it.

There is no point in your life where dealing with your shit will not create the greatest and most dramatic improvement in your quality of life and those that care about you.

So deal with it.

Monday, September 08, 2014

Emotional Investment

I recall reading in one of my 3 hour breaks between lectures back in the day, one of those books with pictures of animals and affirmations and shit, light on the words.

Anyway there was a picture of a frog and a platitude like 'the human heart has infinite capacity to love' and I remember it re-framing emotions as a resource.

Like there's certain abstract concepts, like time, time is the most limited resource anybody possesses. Conversely apparantly, emotions, like love are inexhaustible. It was a comforting thought, now I'm not so sure.

I think there's a fundamental truth there, somewhere. Like your capacity for love never diminishes. You got this indestructible energy. I think physics would back that shit up.

Upon reflection though, I think our emotional capacity is elastic. Maybe having kids changes shit, you unlock some extra capacity that applies to them in a way outside of ordinary social experience, I'm not qualified to say, but I assume just about anyone reading this would have experienced at some point that state of tension that comes from losing some emotional investment you've made.

The sense that you are walking on egg-shells, or trying to execute some complex manouvre like destroying the death star. Your heart is on the line, your very being. It preoccupies and consumes your thoughts as your run over the plays and possibilities in your head. If you can just salvage that friendship, or get somebody to realize they truly love you...

In my experience from adult life, what I feared losing, was unloseable. Most of these high-tension scenarios were resolved by acceptance, simply accepting the person, the situation, whatever. And like that, it becomes incredibly hard to recall what or how you'd actually lose the investment emotionally. My emotions just snap back into shape.

They are restricted and finite perhaps only because they can be directed by time and energy. The times where I've felt at risk of losing an emotional investment have actually been when that time and energy was disproportionately invested somewhere where I wasn't getting emotions back. Once accepted, bang, I find myself enjoying life more.

The tricky part is that on paper acceptance looks a lot like giving up. But accepting I've read, and it feels right, is an affirmative act. That is you actually have to do it, where giving up (which in the context of running, I've had the occasional experience with) is where you literally just stop exerting effort or will.

It's been too long since I've experienced heart break to really reflect on what that's like, but I don't think heartbreak is acceptance, I suspect it is more like the catastrophic failure of the denial coping mechanism. Some emotional exercise akin to trying to run at the corners of a Necker cube. It's kind of maybe where you want to run but can't, you can't bend reality to your will. But acceptance I can recall feels not like heartbreak, it feels like shit is leaving your system (probably literally a heap of cortisol).

Anyway, the curious conundrum is, how motivating a percieved emotional investment can be, how much work we are willing to do to not lose what we have invested in someone or something. Yet it prolongs often in my own experience a substandard of living, and when that investment is relinquished I always find I have much more of what I feared to lose.

Know what I'm sayin'?

Sunday, September 07, 2014

Natural High

Last Tuesday I'd been listening to the Butthole Surfer's 'Pepper' a lot and switching between that and Voodoo Child by Hendrix. Ah those songs they set my mind on fire, and make me feel alive. Then I had to go out, and the weather was nice and I was coasting down studley park road reliving those songs in my head and I realised I was high.

A natural high, that shit is real. It was like the onset of drunkenness without the spongy fatty layer between you and reality.

It was ridiculous, but it can be done. It is possible to just feel really really good, by yourself. Just live in a way that occassionally releases a potent combo of reward chemicals into your brain. Yet it's an experience so lucid, you remember it afterwards, you aren't left with an overwhelming desire to chase that feeling again. It's kind of there.

Thursday, September 04, 2014

To Bury A Reboot

The first time I watched 'Man of Steel' I actually kind of enjoyed it. The second time I couldn't get through the opening sequence on Krypton.

I have to say, my impression of the reviews of 'The Amazing Spider-Man' were that it was treated fairly - it was a well made film, simply missing that Sam Raimi magic. Not much could be said for it's sequal, except that I feel, deeply and with conviction, that this franchise should be buried.

Perhaps same same with the new Superman franchise, I'm not particularly excited about a Superman-Batman crossover, I imagine Nolan will cherry pick the best of Loeb's efforts to combine the two. But even that is not very good, and I suspect, not the way to make Superman interesting subject matter. Like offering a free coke with every sprite purchased. I think at the end of the day it will leave consumers asking 'what the fuck?'

I suspect though the amount of time between reboots will continue to contract. The comic movie industry, is beginning to replicate the comic publication industry. The industry's on a learning curve and the subject matter suffers as the business model strengthens.

Firstly, there's a fan base that wants to see these movies made. They want them and they can't help themselves. A large contingent of comic fandom, simply lacks a capacity to learn. These are nerds we are talking about, dweebs. It's hard to call them indiscriminate, but effectively so. In their powerlessness they can only express rage at the mistreatment of their sacred texts, not actually predict a crappy product and avoid consuming it.

And I don't believe in popular movements or consumer activism. I believe in decision makers. The first three Spider Man films set records at the box office, with a decade of inflation passed and an increase in movie ticket prices, the next two films have cost almost as much budget wise and performed not as well. Not as well as Captain America, when one would expect box office performance to map roughly onto comic title sales performance, and I can't imagine there's anywhere near as many fans of Captain America comics as there are of the many and varied Spider Man titles.

What it puts me in mind of, is of all people Dave "Hughesy" Hughes, because after the opening ceremony of the Melbourne Commonwealth games, he asked the question 'surely somebody in some meeting pointed out "flying boy on a skateboard, isn't that a little bit like the flying Nikki Webster in the Sydney Olympics opening?"' and in whatever meetings I imagine take place, certain questions aren't being asked.

Like somebody looking over the script and saying 'so we are portraying on film the death of Uncle Ben, Peter Parker's Parents, Gwen Stacey's Father and Gwen Stacey... won't that mean our Spider man pretty much does nothing but deal with guilt and remorse and self doubt?' or even 'these designs are terrible. You're saying this is what our Green Goblin is going to look like? This looks ugly and ridiculous and stupid as shit, we are clearly falling short visually and technologically of what was achieved in previous films. What are we thinking?'

I don't know and I don't understand. That's why I feel comic book movies have probably peaked in terms of approaching legitimate films. Clearly the new franchise is underperforming the historical benchmark set (even adjusted for inflation) but it's still clearing a 160% return for investors on the budget, and these movies will get pumped out so long as they pull in a positive return. What hasn't been established is any threshold for the movie going public to say 'batman, again? you know what, I'm really not interested.'

The profitability will I suspect eventually just be what the comic book industry used to be when it was in print, do to saturation and competition and diminishing quality of product.

The diminishing quality of product comes from the diminished perception of risk. There used to be a reason to get an auteur director like Tim Burton to do the Batman film adaptation, you got very few shots at adapting a comic into a film. It was big and expensive and it needed to work. There used to be a reason to get Willem Dafoe to play the Green Goblin, you wanted a compelling on screen presence because Marvel didn't know if Spider Man was too campy to hold up on the big screen.

These reasons have evaporated. You can be pretty certain so long as the IP is big enough and the visual effects budget can cut together an enticing preview, enough fans will go see to make the project viable, and if it bombs, you reboot in 2 years instead of releasing a sequel the next year.

Thus nobody is going to agonize over script and director until you hit upon Raimi's ability to conceal a romance within a blockbuster action film creating the perfect date movie for a generation. You aren't going to have sketch artists sitting with Tim Burton as he completely recreates our visual conception of Batman characters. You aren't going to fire Tim Burton because his sequel didn't outsell the first installment. You just accept diminishing returns and keep pumping out ho hum interpretations hoping a happy accident will occur. Or knowing you will be dragged upwards if enough of the other franchise films succeed (aka the Avengers).

Even Captain America's installment this year though, suffered from the benefit it receives being associated with Iron Man etc. It could have been fucking great, had it the space to do a Spider Man 2 - which would have been to remove Hydra completely and make it a story about the pin up boy from the propaganda being the real deal having to turn against the propaganda machine that produced him.

Can't do it though, has to fit the plans for the next Avengers crossover.

The decision makers need to be decisive, and ditch these dying franchises to create space for good shit to be created at a rate consumers can handle. Instead of fucking canabalising their own markets through product line extension. Sorry to end with marketing jargon, but if the decision makers read it, they'll understand it.

Tuesday, September 02, 2014


On sunday I went to a memorial for one of the genuine great human beings it was my privilege to meet. Scott was kind, said Colleen when she burst into tears, and I think there in that moment you have greatness epitomised. There were also two of the first Temporary Protection Visa holders released from Woomera detention center that Scott answered the Fitzroy Learning Network's door to, drove down to the Supermarket and bought packets of biscuits for to make them feel welcome.

And the FLN crammed all those 20 new students into classes with pencil and papers on the same day, again to make them feel welcome.

It's one of those illusive truths, that the greatest acts of kindness and courage, the most heroic and meaningful actions we can take in life are also so simple and practical. There are no doubt incredible circumstances of Scott and others lives that ensure they are in the position, and have the opportunity to extend this hospitality and have this impact. A hidden set of values, social ethos and orientation just as complicated but far less exposed than the huge social machine that produces the kind of people that create the mandatory detention and temporary protection visa policies.

And one of the things I learned on Sunday was an antonym of Xenophobia, something that stains Australian culture. That word is 'theoxeny' a greek term for 'friend of the stranger' the speaker said people of Island nations get and embrace this concept, knowing that with a change of winds, they too could easily be the stranger. It is the very embodiment of empathy. It is a recurring theme in Greek Mythology, and Zeus the mightiest of gods was sometime titled Zeus Xenios, protector of travelers.

It is akin to 'there but for the grace of God, go I' and this man that passed, was a friend to the stranger. There to listen, there to care, there to find solutions. One of the last times I spoke to Scott was when Zamin's daughter had died, and he was tremendously comforting then. Just calm, present and a lender of perspective. And I was just one of many volunteers who very occasionally dropped into the network.

It's one of the few funerals where it could be said that the person's reputation was not improved by death. Scott was what people presented him to be in the eulogies delivered. Any admonishment to 'not speak ill of the dead' was entirely uneccessary with him.

Thus it was an intense privilege and opportunity to have met Scott and conversed with him. He is a rare and important role model, I think for anybody, and particularly men. He is gone now, but it's hard to feel anything but loss. There is no deprevation, or being cheated with a man so kind and generous.

Remember theoxeny people. Don't move away from xenophobia, so much as towards theoxeny.

Body Language ...ugh ...?

I think this is the third time I've written about body language, so I'll be brief.

I've found my study of it fruitful. It has counter-intuitively helped calm my mind and made me a less superstitious person.

The only way body language can be of interest is if it is involuntary, subconscious and explained. Not a very high standard of explanation, just something that allows my conscious mind to reconcile with subconscious behavior.

And that is where I draw the line. I want to be able to recognise body language when ever I am sufficiently present enough to notice it, so that I can walk away from that situation feeling like it went well vs not well.

Because previously I used to spend much more time debating my intuitions, my gut and chest feelings with rational arguments as to why I was 'just seeing things' or whatever. Basically I spent a lot of time doubting, in conflict with myself. Which gave way to denial, which could then be used to exacerbate bad situations, pass up good opportunities or simply just waste my time anxious wondering how some shit is going to pan out.

That's useful. I would venture on my own experience that it has actually been healthy.

Then there's the 'life hacks' or 'how to use body language to...' type shit. Outside of the domain of acting, the very notion of using body language to manipulate communication, in the same way we manipulate verbal communication destroys all interest in the subject.

The moment people are able to lie to me with their posture, there's no benefit to me being able to read that posture. The moment I try to manipulate my studies into presenting myself as attracted to women that I am not, or approachable to people I plan to attack - I can only see such things leading to even more tarnished reputations than if I was just a regular liar. Furthermore I'm sure the cognitive effort would probably override any chance I had of reading and intuitively responding to the body language of others.

I have no plans to think about which way my feet are pointed in a conversation. If I want to leave my feet point towards the exit. If I want to talk to people my feet point towards them. Why do I want to start making decisions about this shit? I don't. But I'm happy to notice when I do it.