Categories
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
Community Startups

Day 1145 and Vitality

The most gratifying part of early stage startup investing is the vitality. When you are in the mindset of optimism, all things are possible.

I first met Isaiah Taylor about a year ago. We found each other on Twitter. I cold DM’s him with “you seem interesting.” We’d hop on the phone and go through what he was working on in long strategy talks.

I think in our first conversation we spent half an hour just discussing origin stories. We’d both had strongly American west families and we were neighbors in the upper Rocky Mountains. We shared a Christian faith. I liked his style.

Those early rambling sessions when a founder is discovering their market and their unique talents is a precious time. I knew I wanted to invest in him long before Valar Atomics had come into focus.

Ambition and vision are honed over time as you broaden your horizons. It’s the most fascinating tension. The bigger you dream the more you must see your path clearly and pursue it relentlessly. Vitality begins with knowing where to apply your will.

I feel the optimism that Isiah has brought. And I admire how he has taken it to a bigger community. Watching the El Segundo community self-mythologize in real time during this weekend hackathon has been an exercise in collective application of will. Like its cousin in techno-optimism e/acc , the American dynamism “new vitalism” egregore values building for the future.

@ADoricko and @isaiah_p_taylor opening up the Gundo Defense Tech Hackathon via Rasmus

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 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
Travel

Day 1140 and Gridlock

I got myself stuck in downtown city gridlock today. Abs boy am I glad I rarely have to navigate the kind of bumper to bumper traffic of an overbuilt city without a grid. It is no picnic.

There is a category of city that has little in the way of urban planning. They may have legacy of a time with much fewer cars when only a small portion of the citizens could afford to drive.

As cosmopolitan creative classes become wealthier they too want to be able to drive in their city. The money pours in to invest in newer developments and more modern amenities get built. But they never really solve the lack of a grid or roads built for driving.

A lack of proper investment in public transportation only compounds the issue.

Attempting to criss-cross a mess of cars, motorbikes, scooters, and couriers all competing against each other with few clear routes is a slog. I hope I don’t have to repeat it again but I fear this is a permanent feature of some cities.

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
Internet Culture Media

Day 1112 and Signals and Noise

I want to be as available as possible on the Internet as that’s been the best possible path to being available to other weirdos for the longest period of time. I shift through a lot of chaff but the wheat has always been there. I’m not for everyone and everyone is not for me.

But the open human Internet is struggling under the weight of non-human actors. Machines create more and more of the content and so many interests groups, philosophies, nation states and general chaos agents are acting within the group mind and/or network state that we call the Internet.

You can complain about bots sure, and crypto folks are in the thick of it, but some of what’s going on is just the noise of people who are under the influence of algorithms. Humans are happy to be NPCs in the great game of life. And it’s much easier to play out a fantasy the Internet while you struggle to find meaning in your daily real life.

I like to intake as much information as I can but even I have my limits as to how much noise I can tolerate in the search for signal. Consider sending me an email. Maybe we go back to private corners of blog comments and email correspondence. Get a little more signal as a treat.