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Aesthetics Culture

Day 1227 and Storm

I’ve been following NOAA Space Weather forecasts as there is an extreme geomagnetic storm. Scientific research stations and news media have been reporting avidly on the solar storm as it’s producing aurora in areas which typically don’t see northern lights.

G5 Geomagnetic Storm Message from NOAA

It’s fun to have another shared social astronomical event to enjoy across the planet. This year’s solar maximum has delivered us space watchers some incredible coronal mass ejections. You might recall some folks seeing them during the solar eclipse totality event

If you’d search social media for pictures of the aurora borealis you will be in for a treat as many photographers captured so many different colors and patterns.

Axios shared this British Columbia image

I’m always in awe of how much social media facilitates these types of natural phenomena. I find joy seeing different types of people sharing natural beauty and scientific knowledge across our networks. Our shared human experiences connecting us. And the good news is that it’s continuing over the weekend so if clouds cooperate we might all see more tonight.

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Aesthetics

Day 1206 and Appearances

I have come to enjoy the logistics of self presentation. I used to resent the extent of the labor that could go into cosmetics & fashion when I worked in the industry. Now I can enjoy having put in the long hours to have acquired my skills.

I’ve put a lot of thought into how best to pack a bag. Handbags are a sort of Boy Scout style training for young women in that “be prepared” has come to mean having all the tools of the trade of femininity neatly stowed away in a stylish purse.

These obsessions with what we have in our bags runs from the Queen’s Marmalade sandwiches to whole cultural industries producing #WhatsInMyBag as identity politics. Men do it too but “go bag” sounds tactical and thus somehow more serious. It’s not.

I’ve written extensively about my mixed feelings on packing & travel in the past, so it’s nice to have enjoyed that struggle and be able to now aside if I so desire. Packing a bag well has become a thing in which I am expert and that’s a lovely feeling.

The pleasure of negotiating the logistics of appearance can be a game to me now in a way that simply wasn’t when I was younger and struggling. Now when I don’t need to be perceived in a positive way to survive, I can enjoy the problem of optimizing for a giant game of “what am I saying without words” and more importantly “to whom?”

I’ve come to enjoy packing as the self soothing experience in a rapidly changing world. I can control some aspect of what I show to the world. It becomes a design problem. The three bag cascade is now a savvy way to manage airline chaos. The labels on my packing cubes become a pleasurable prayer ritual as I not so neatly write in cursive “black sleeve tee-shirt.”

I like the challenge of imagining the multiple social, professional, cultural and geographic flows I might navigate. Will I be able to manage the many different ways in which I might encounter other humans while they also live through the same set of fears & uncertainties of 2024? It can be terrifying (personal safety is a factor) and yet it’s absolutely a skills issue to navigate these things.

And so I ask “do technical fabric wrap dresses send the right message” or would I be better suited in cotton or silk if I’m in a desert? How about adding in semi-tropical humidity as a potential variable?

Every decision in how I pack a bag can represent a small marker in my perception by others as we manage this ridiculous system we inhabit together. It is a social game and everyone is playing. You might enjoy learning some of the rules too.

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Aesthetics Homesteading

Day 1179 and All Good Seasons

While the Spring equinox has come to pass, we have had a couple late snowstorms this week in Montana. I am always wishing we’d get just a few more weeks of winter. It’s my favorite season here.

Of course, there are no bad seasons to be had in the Gallatin Valley if your preference is dry, crisp and bright. It’s never too wet or too dreary here. Our mountains feel close to the sun at our altitude. Maybe some of April qualify as the muddy season but the sun is our friend here.

Our summers are long and bright with intermittent thunderstorms. Our winters are cold, snowy but most crucially sunny. We get 300 days of sun on average a year in Bozeman.

Something about the Southwest Rocky Mountains in Montana keeps them from the unfortunate damp wetness of the rainy Pacific Northwest forests that begin closer to Missoula on towards Washington.

Alex standing in front of our solar array

The sunniness has made our solar grid in the front pasture particularly efficient for us.

Already melting into nothing

Just a few hours ago it was snowing fluffy powder. The sun is already melting it away within hours as the clouds pass over the foothills and the sun begins to shine again.

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Aesthetics Culture

Day 1158 and Subtext

All writing should be labeled as under “self help” or at very least tagged as “advice” if we are honest with ourselves.

Everything from code documentation to Twitter shitpoasts and Shakespeare contains a lesson. Discerning the subtext is more or less complicated depending on how layered the text is meant to be.

Sometimes, as the beloved XCKD comic reminds us, if we stare too long at an artifact we insert our own meaning.

Joe Biden eating a sandwich

I like to rewatch television shows as modern so-called prestige dramas encourage subtext. I’ve been rewatching “For All Mankind” and have started to whisper “Hi Bob” as a joke. Fun fact, that phrase may have been the first documented instance of a drinking game.

My timeline’s Bob Newhart lends himself to a bit of cultural attention as he’s not only the subject of the astronauts’s own rewatching habits on For All Mankind but is also a side character actor in Big Bang Theory and Young Sheldon as the inspirational scientist Professor Proton. I’m watching the latter show as a comedic palette cleanser.

It’s like I’m getting several multiverses at once. I’ve got my own timeline, the alternate history of For All Mankind and Sheldon Cooper’s timeline. Somehow in mine we’ve got a lot less scientific progress but like astronaut Danielle Poole in For All Mankind I’ve got plenty of television history at my disposal. She knows everything in which Bob Newhart starred in her timeline too.

I say this is all self-help in some form because it’s art that we work over, refine and theorize till we’ve become connoisseurs of every conceivable layer of subtext. We revise and improve and apply those lessons to ourselves.

It’s best not to project too much. Some of those lessons, like the Biden sandwich in the XCD, should remain personal I imagine. They might not mean anything except to the viewer. Even Freud (well it’s apocryphal) had to admit that sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. Seems like someone should tell the literary Marxists that before their advice gets over applied.

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Aesthetics Emotional Work Uncategorized

1156 and On and Off

I don’t have anything to say right now. I had an offline day in which I stayed in the moment and reflected.

Sometimes it’s simply a choice to be in the problems of a given moment. You could just not fixate. The frictions of any given day are a choice. If you choose to experience a problem more then once it’s not done teaching you.

I’m always hopeful that I’ll learn my lesson. That each time I’m “on” and experiencing the same problem again is because I’ve chosen to keep at the lesson.

Maybe it’s fine to get comfortable. The older I get the more I envy my stupid younger self who has the energy to be a total moron. Now if I’m a total moron my life stands still. I have to actively choose to learn from the problems in front of me.

And so as I chose to jump back into another round of action I can only hope I’ve learned my lesson. Truly sometimes I wish I was a faster learner. But then I see I learn at all and that’s not at all a guarantee. Plenty of people work hard at just staying in the same place.

Entropy tugging at our bodies erodes the coastlines of our personal boundaries. Hopefully whatever is reshaped by the pressure emerges stronger. Mostly it’s just cliff’s falling into the sea. In other news, I drove up a long coastal road and contemplated thermodynamics. It was lovely.

Categories
Aesthetics Travel

Day 1153 and Open Roads

I went on a “long” drive today. It took three hours go about 160 kilometers, which is for Americans about 35 miles per hour. The speed limit was technically 60 mph (or 90km an hour) but traffic was everywhere and open road a mere dream.

Americans are so spoiled for our interstate system. I’d encourage anyone who can to rent a car and drive the roads of greater Europe and remind yourself how good we have it with Eisenhower’s legacy. Highways are not always open roads.

The various forms of traffic ranged from other vehicles to actual sheep. Spring is around the corner in the Mediterranean and little lambs tend to wander. Police, and pedestrians wandered even far from the city and nowhere was there more than a few kilometers to open the throttle. The black Mercedes I rode in roared through needless roundabouts.

I wasn’t exactly in civilization during most of the drive. I was going from a fairly major city to a beach town. In between was not so picturesque villages and ample signs of degrowth.

If Americans are saddened by rest stop towns and hollowed out empty America, do not make the mistake that it’s unique to us. Inflation, corruption, poverty and overbearing government are everywhere that we tolerate it. If we must have an expensive bureaucracy the least they can give us is the open road.

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Aesthetics Culture

Day 1151 and Waiting Line

Do you believe
In what you see
Motionless wheel
Nothing is real
Wasting my time
In the waiting line
Do you believe
In what you see

Waiting Line Zero 7 Sophie Barker

I like to do errands with noise canceling headphones on these days. The ambient noise of public life has become more grating as I get older. Cue up lo-fi chill hop beats you can study/relax to Bojack Horseman joke.

Or in my case, a down tempo bit on waiting in lines from some softer era when Garden State was all the rage. I have to admit I’ve never seen the movie.

It seems apt that the more alienated we become from the human component of public life that the more the waiting in line feels like an unreal unreal activity.

We run our little programs in our little lives. We accept being NPCs for a little convenience. You don’t want to slow up everyone’s business with any of your troubles.

Categories
Aesthetics

Day 1144 and Parsifal

I’m just going to ramble this one as the synthesis on it isn’t worth the energy to me tonight. I’ll work on that another day if I get around to it.

My mother’s interpretation of the legend of Parsifal is that we cannot succeed at our quest if we do not ask the right questions. I suspect it has something to do with the innocence of a pure heart asking the right questions but frankly this is a bit beyond my own experience of the Waldorf Steiner system.

Parsifal (or Sir Percival) was a Knight of King Arthur. His story is told by the troubadours of France and Germany, notably Chrétien de Troyes and Wolfram von Eschenbach. The Parsifal story stands between the past age that looked for secrets of the spirit and the coming age that was going to search for the secrets of matter.

In this engaging retelling of the legend of Parsifal, Charles Kovacs’s critical commentary offers Steiner-Waldorf educators an unrivalled insight into teaching the story of Parsifal and will aid in lesson planning

Parsifal and the Search for The Grail

This feels relevant to me in the context of artificial intelligence making computer programming more accessible. Prompt engineering is simply asking the right question. Enabling more people to specify exactly what they want is terrifying because it might enable more people to ask the right questions and get an answer.

If you depend on people not being able to ask the right questions without your guidance you’d probably oppose it too. I believe that there is a religious aspect to our entire approach to artificial intelligence and we must grapple with it as surely as the Reformation shook the Catholic Church.

Categories
Aesthetics Emotional Work

Day 1143 and Wastewater

I’m not a fan of Ed Sheeran but this quote on the creative faucet came to me today through Julian Shapiro’s Twitter profile.

If you turn a dirty tap on it’s gonna flow shit water out for a substantial amount of time and then clean water’s gonna start flowing.

Ed Sheeran on Songwriting

As a fan of practice and repetition (you need only look at my daily numeric total for evidence), this metaphor spoke to me.

I do feel as if I’m currently in the wastewater phase of a few things. It’s just lots of shit and unrelenting in quantity. I imagine this is relatable to a lot of people.

It’s my hope that the clean creative waters will flow more easily soon.

Categories
Aesthetics Internet Culture Politics

Day 1142 and Come See The Violence Inherent in the System

While parked in gridlock caused by the American state department delegation snarling traffic in Tirana, I shared a classic British comedic sketch from Monty Python’s The Holy Grail with a friend who resides part time in the Balkans.

King Arthur is riding through his lands and is asked to contemplate anarcho-syndicalism and the constitutional arrangement most equitable to an offended peasant named Dennis.

Help! Help! I’m being repressed

Monty Python and the Holy Grail

Feeling moderately repressed ourselves by the various bureaucrats, politicians, and general institutional disarrays that was in our way, the joke hit home. No matter your station in life, we are all a repressed in someone else’s system.

We can make jokes about staying above the API layer all we like, but the nudging organizational state is finding ways to reduce us to variables. Many of us have become spreadsheet brained. Will it be a gradient descent into the madness of a jackbooted local minima?

Perhaps it better to become the disassociating trader acted by Paul Bettany in Margin Call who simply can’t stomach that level of hypocrisy. He knows we want to play innocent about the violence hidden underneath the abstractions.

“Listen, if you really wanna do this with your life you have to believe you’re necessary and you are. People wanna live like this in their cars and big fuckin’ houses they can’t even pay for, then you’re necessary. The only reason that they all get to continue living like kings is cause we got our fingers on the scales in their favor. I take my hand off and then the whole world gets really fuckin’ fair really fuckin’ quickly and nobody actually wants that. They say they do but they don’t. They want what we have to give them but they also wanna, you know, play innocent and pretend they have no idea where it came from. Well, thats more hypocrisy than I’m willing to swallow, so fuck em. Fuck normal peopl

Will Emerson (Paul Bettany) Margin Call

We are all experiencing some level of abstraction from the base layers of reality. Some of us are more academic about it. Some of us are simply more or less unwilling to accept the hypocrisy of it. None of us can opt out completely. Plenty of professions let you get closer to the visceral base reality and then you too can see the violent inherent in the system.

And so we argued over resources and raw power. How abstract can we get? The paleoconomists say “go back to the gold standard” but we can’t. Can we go forward though?

Most of us see that entirely detaching the exchange value of goods from material items and their underlying value is a huge struggle for most people. We wouldn’t have endless discussions about the cost of groceries if it was clear to folks how the market priced physical goods.

Financial markets are fictions where we negotiate material needs like food, shelter, clean water, bodily integrity, and property ownership claims. All need to be priced in. It isn’t fun when the exchange value mechanism completely detaches from that reality. It makes us uneasy. Shrinkflation makes humans feel gaslit.

Humans are physical beings who abstracted our physical needs into an elaborate market system of exchange values. And like that Monty Python sketch, sure it’s a fun joke, a meme if you prefer, but that meme is a reminder to see the violence inherent in the system.

Anyways, I hope Antony Blinken enjoyed his time in Albania and that everyone has a productive weekend in Munich for the neutral ground security conference. Our diplomats have never needed a neutral ground weekend more amirite? The financial engineers will concede that reality. Maybe.