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.

Categories
Aesthetics Internet Culture

Day 1141 and Blind Optimism

The specifics of it aren’t important, the fact of the matter is that it’s been “one thing after another” for me. I bet you know the feeling.

I felt grateful be enjoying a lower friction global homo cosmopolitanism for the night. I need something be smooth brained for a little bit.

I got middle rent generic Mediterranean street food delivered through an intermediated mobile app for dinner. And then I turned on Netflix to settle in for the most middle brow content. There is another season of Love is Blind.

I am a sucker for this show. There is something so optimistic about a blind dating marriage reality show. If you had been doom and gloom for so long imagine opening up all post-pandemic with your shiny therapy emotional journeys.

It strikes me as a pop culture cousin to effective accelerationists. Nothing says accelerate quite like committing. Marriage markets would be very e/acc.

If I have to keep living I may as well do it with the hopeful optimism of someone who throws themselves into their future. All in. I really admire the optimism.

Categories
Aesthetics Chronicle Travel

Day 1138 and Novel New Experiences

I’ve been straining my capacity to absorb new experiences. The privilege of relative material security lets me do the work of actively seeking out more variance and novelty.

I was reading up on the basics of neuro plasticity on Perplexity and learned that we think of plasticity in a few ways. Neurogenesis is the growth of new neurons.

But the type we mostly mean when saying neuro plasticity (or learning new things) is from “synaptic cells plasticity” forming new neural connections.

Without that adaptability we couldn’t change in response to new environmental conditions or in response to injury or disease or other stresses.

I’m am inside a few new high variance experiences right now which I hope will yield new neural connections. I find it to be a bit stressful as it’s a lot of novel inputs in a short period of time.

Some experiences translate as shared reality which has the same rules anywhere there are humans. But adjusting to new social mores is always jarring.

I’ll only briefly mention it, but this is the first time I’ve been somewhere that the call to prayer is a normal prominent feature of daily life. It’s rewriting synaptic ritual time for me. I like it more than I would have imagined.

Categories
Aesthetics

Day 1118 and Distrustful Shopper

I am a good shopper. I know retail cadences and when to buy a product. If you want to know sales happen or new merchandise timing I usually know. I know manufacturing chains, sourcing standards and material costs across multiple categories. I loved working inside corporate retail and consider my time in cosmetics and fashion to be foundational to my approach to businesses.

This is useful context for what I am currently feeling. I’ve become a very distrustful shopper. Now I feel as if I’m starting from scratch every single time I need to replace an item even if it’s in a category I know intimately.

I’ve worn the same pair of simple black Gap 100% cotton sweatpants for as long as I can remember. They were roughly $30 and I’d get years of good wear. I’d reorder a couple pairs every Black Friday just to be sure I’d always have them.

It wasn’t easy but I could find them. I’d need to check what size (medium) and its name from the last order (always changing) but I’d almost always be able to find it. It drove me bonkers it didn’t maintain a consistent SKU (stock keeping unit) when it was clearly the identical product.

It got harder and harder to find. And then this year they appear to have stopped manufacturing them entirely. I’ve been checking in on the Gap website every couple of months this year and it’s just not re-appearing.

I’ve written about institutional distrust before. But there is something that bothers me about how even someone with experience like me just cannot purchase basic goods reliably anymore.

Shoppers have to relearn an entire series of sizing, merchandising, naming, and pricing cues over and over with no reliability on offer from even the most established brands.

If you like an item and it serves you well, buy another one immediately. Heck buy two. There guarantee that you will able to find it again in a few years.

Categories
Aesthetics Internet Culture

Day 1116 and Ask Me How I Know

I’ve developed a little social tic. If I am saying something a bit provocative I throw in a little joke.

Ask me how I know

I’ve come to use when I’ve learned a lesson the hard way. It will usually be revealing about my own shit and the lessons I’ve learned by making mistakes.

Taking action reduces uncertainty. To resolve uncertainty we must constantly be taking actions. But we make mistakes all the time in doing so. Owning up to our faults, foibles, and blind spots is the hallmark of responsibility.

So if I quip on some bit of social commentary and jokingly say “ask me how I know” it’s a bit of a peekaboo.

Categories
Aesthetics Internet Culture Media

Day 1114 and Aging Without History

I don’t use TikTok at all. I have an Instagram account I’ve failed to reboot which I only open if a Groupchat sends me a link.

I deliberately insulate from algorithmic visual content. It makes you miserable for one. But more importantly, it deadens your aesthetic palette from overexposure.

If you want to develop and sustain personal taste and style, do yourself a favor and do it deliberately without the subtle nudging enforcement of refinement culture.

I do however avidly follow the propagation of different fashions as a personal interest. I like to see where a runaway trend goes as virality and social contagion set in. The New York Post’s entire culture section is dedicated to moral panics but it occasionally hits on real sources of social anxiety.

Gen-Z is allegedly having an anti-aging culture panic over turning 30. Their source on this is a Reddit post about skincare obsessives on social media.

“I feel like aging to Gen Z is what ‘being fat’ was to millennials. Remember how ruthless the media [and] everyone was about that?,” another noted.

Gen Z’s Fear of Aging NYPost

I still have anxiety about weight from living through the TMZ era of body shaming. So I’m sympathetic to what it must feel like to younger women facing the relentless scrutiny of living online. They rightly perceive appearances to be a part of how value is calculated in wider society and are afraid of losing it.

I’m convinced some portion of the extremely online Gen Z are living entirely out of the slipstream of historical culture. They consume artifacts from other people’s youth culture but live in a what amounts to a “long now” in which the future seems unstable. We rebooted 2003 as a micro trend but the apocalypse is almost here.

The nostalgia machine gives Gen Z an ever present history but very little present to hold onto for grounding in physical reality. Their ahistorical vibes approach seems to overweight the need for youth.

Sean Monahan of K-Hole normcore fame posted a mapping of the aesthetics of the decade that I thought spoke well to the strange relationship digital aesthetics have to time. I’m posting a diagram here from his post here.

8Ball “Stuck in The Past vs Inspired By The Past” trends breakdowns

If Gen Z is aging like milk it’s probably not because they are actually aging quickly. Though I’m sure the stress isn’t doing them any favors. I think dit’s what Ryan Broderick of Garbage Day points out here. The glamified hyper-media full face contour is an ageless one. It’s inspired by the past and stuck in the past. It’s got nothing to do with their actual age.

Categories
Aesthetics Media

Day 1111 and Angel Numbers

I like a little “woo” in my life. Anytime I hit a particularly interesting number in my daily writing I tend to do a bit of collective consciousness spelunking across the shared spaces of the internet.

Unsurprisingly, 1111 sparks quite a bit of interest across pop culture numerology depictions. The first search results were women’s interest magazines.

Women’s Health with the uplifting new beginnings represented by 1 before associating 11 as a doubling of 1’s energy as a “master number” with spiritual insight, enlightenment, and intuitive understanding.” Sure, I want an intuitive understanding of my life’s new beginnings. Good job magazine editors. Groundbreaking.

Cosmopolitan, that sexy staple of American feminine mysteries, went a bit further and called 1111 an Angel Number and curated an ecommerce shop of 1111 products including oud manifestations candles, bracelets and Etsy prints.

Cosmopolitan used the power of artificial intelligence to curate a shop for even the most random of number generators.

Because what good is hidden knowledge of divine intentions without an affiliate marketing link program with it? I’d love to know if search engine optimization on numerology combined with attractively curated e-commerce affiliate content hits the Cosmopolitan P&L in any meaningful way.

Crunchier new age websites were equally amusing. MindBodyGreen kept at the message of intuition and messages from your divine power. Synchronicity showed up on every internet tidbit from Wikipedia to good old WikiHow.

Glamor Magazine at least gently reminded readers that apophenia is an error of perception. Who knew Condé Nast was the publishing house for skeptics? Perhaps they need to be a trusted brand or nail salons won’t subscribe in bulk across the nation to their magazines.

But if you really want lean into your pattern recognition and the subtle schizophrenia of Internet apophenia, my original source Women’s Health helpfully leans into “service journalism” by sharing that Kabbalists 1111 is a sign from God or divinity itself.

This is because the ancient Hebrew name for God, Yahweh or YHWH, when written resembles four ones.

Women’s Health Numerologist’s Interpret 1111

I will caution readers that I don’t know if any of this is true. Obviously my goofy posting shouldn’t be seen as having the same rigor as a LessWrong epistemic status post. While I like a post-rationalist, I don’t know if any of the consumer friendly versions of ancient wisdom is true. I wouldn’t be taking my reading of the Talmud from magazines typically dedicated to recipes and workouts myself.

Women browsing random bits of pattern recognition at the grocery store or on their phone really is the stuff of fluff and the stuff of fear. Who knows what bits of knowledge might lead us astray.

Best case scenario you end up with a nice Oud candle that helped keep Cosmopolitan quiz writers paid. Worst case scenario, you might summon a malevolent algorithmic rabbit hole determined to fill your feeds with angels and demons.

Categories
Aesthetics Culture

Day 1088 and Christmas Eve

I enjoyed a very American style Christmas Eve today. My husband and I have been so busy with professional obligations that we had not done anything to prepare for this Christmas week.

We piled into the car today, braved some unplowed snowy roads (more slippery than deep) and got ourselves to Costco. I am a big fan of the buyer’s club and its merchandising. You can find a lot of odd cheer at Costco over the years And it did not disappoint. While more traditional centerpieces like filet and lobster were available it was the Junior’s New York Cheesecake that was the surprise this year.

New York Style Junior’s Cheesecake from Costco

After we a did a run to the proper grocery for other necessities like satsuma tangerines (the rare Christmas citrus has a short season in December) we headed home laden with marvelous delicacies and at least ten meals for the week ahead. I was then very grateful to get an afternoon nap. So rare to be relaxed enough for REM sleep in the middle of the day.

We have done a feast of the seven fishes as our Christmas Eve meal over the years but it’s a challenge to eat that much when it’s not a crowd. So this year we’ve narrowed it down to three fishes. Technically they are crustaceans.

My hope is tomorrow will be a peaceful one of rest, prayer, relaxation and probably some movies. It will be Die Hard tonight as is tradition and hopefully A Christmas Story tomorrow.