Culture Internet Culture

Day 977 and Insecurities

A toxic morass of content has been circling on Twitter and corners of the chattering classes on TikTok, Substack, and podcasts that I’ve taken to calling gender bait.

Topics like “body counts” and the relative degrees of acceptable promiscuity in women (as little as possible) is everywhere. We are main charactering single women for sleeping in on Sundays. Hot takes on how women are failing men is everywhere.

The insecurity is palpable. The lust for control is high. How many people you’ve had sex with and how it affects marriage and family formation has been a contentious topic in culture wars in America for sometime. For a private matter between partners, it’s shocking how much it’s become fodder for social media grist.

Presenting scorn to women for being without significant others and children strike me as callus. Fertility is one of the most sensitive possible areas for anyone. I know it has been for me. You never know why someone is childless.

I wouldn’t recommend diving into gender bait topics if you aren’t already aware of the discourse and it’s champions. This variant appears to have gained momentum with a YouTube celebrity boxer feud.

It’s now percolated out to every engagement farmer looking to grow their outrage crops. And it looks like business is booming. Sadly, lonely people are desperately searching for control and reassurance and gender bait gives it to them.

It feels as if we are repeating the same slut shaming I saw as a teenage girl but on some new variant of reactionary steroids.

If you are looking for ways to judge, shame and coerce others into behaving in a way that provides you comfort without their consent please consider that the problem might be you. It’s your insecurities speaking when you apply sweeping generalization to an individual you may not even know.

Once you are secure in your value and worth it’s a lot easier to get what you want from others simply by having boundaries and standards. There is no need to rain judgement on others. You wouldn’t want them doing it to you. Apply the golden rule and nurture empathy. The security you will find will last longer than any temporary control you may find through shame or judgement.

Culture Emotional Work

Day 964 and Haunted America

I’ve been getting the sense that more and more of my social circle is uneasy about our cultural moment.

The personal battles being waged are numerous and deadly. The losses feel as if they are mounting even for those of that look objectively successful to the outside.

Health challenges and illnesses are debilitating and expensive. The past traumas of dysfunctional families weigh on the more functional among us. Families struggle to cope with addiction, depression, and suicide. Violence eats around the edges in too many cases.

I see more people pulling back into perceived safety as they look to escape the wounded and the traumatized. We’ve got enough troubles in our own family so why take on problems that aren’t our own?

The ghosts of bad decisions and long troubled histories linger. The weight is heavy and I see people stumbling.

Aesthetics Culture

Day 961 and Repeating 2003

Greetings, citizens
We are living
In the age
In which the pursuit of all values
Other than
Money success fame glamour
Has either been discredited
Or destroyed
Money success fame glamour
For we are living in the age of the thing

Felix da Housecat for the 2003 film “Party Animal”

I wasn’t a club kid in the Iraq War era. I had not yet rebelled. Like all class jumpers I was safely ensconced at a private university where I studied great books. I was however a club kid in the era of indie sleeze which arrived at an even more bleak sociopolitical nadir.

The Global Financial Crisis imploded expectations for how middle class millennials might pay off loans for expensive educations while we redeployed our working class to Afghanistan. But we’d elected Obama so like our politics were a little weird. Yes, we can’t? It’s was a dissonant age.

The remnant aesthetics from that era are somewhat shameful (as is all true youth culture) and yet here we are repeating them as the twenty year cycles of cultural remixing arrive to demand their due from my youth. 2003 is reappearing in 2023.

Logan Paul cannot marry a slut just as Britney Spears should never have given it up to Justin Timberlake. Elite social mores are not for the Bourgeoisie to emulate.

Perhaps we should call this tendency for aesthetic return the “‘70s Show’ Show” effect as the nostalgia for our youth by the middle aged is always more consumer friendly than the culture was at its birth.

I get to enjoy feeling like I was cool when I was 22 and Zoomers pick over our wardrobes at theme parties. It’s a fair trade.

I encourage you to revisit an artifact from the 2003 called Party Monster to explore this aesthetics original form. It stars Chloe Sevigny, Seth Green (remember him) and McCauley Caulkin. The music video for the big hit from the soundtrack is titled “Money, Success, Fame, Glamour”. I quoted it at the top.

With lyrics that rooted so deeply in modernist materialism I’m tempted to yell “Eat your heart out Walter Benjamin!” The Marxist continental philosopher was a sexy club kid. Consider the engraving on tombstone in Portugal where he died fleeing the Nazis.

There is no document of culture which is not at the same time a document of barbarism

Theses on the Philosophy of History

Benjamin was a great historian of German romanticism and it’s impact on fascist political aestheticism. So consider that history and ponder it’s relationship to the 2003 era counter cultural artifact.

The “Money, Success, Fame, Glamour” lyrics are materialism distilled and reflective of the nihilism of the Bush era. Forever wars and inflationary spending on empire was harder to smooth over with propaganda as the internet fought back. But in the aughts we still hadn’t quite realized we’d never be rid of our elites after the shocks of reactionary terrorism.

Maybe in our twenties we thought eventually we might take over and do things differently. I’m turning forty this year, and well, Joe Biden is president.

So here we are revisiting the past that won’t leave. RuPaul has a remix challenge of Party Monster soundtrack’s hits released this year and it’s worth seeing how ugly the refinements are compared to the original.

The most you can hope for now is that some millennial will turn your influencer work into a Netflix comedy in which you show off your cultural savvy by going to a queer club party themed 2003 in Bushwick. No the Kim Cattrall vehicle Glamorous is not very good.

Community Internet Culture

Day 957 and Will It Blend?

We are deep in the dog days of summer. I ran a fever and found myself dead asleep till nearly 1pm as my body valiantly struggled to process deluge of stress hormones I’d let pile up. I missed recording a podcast but the fever broke. I’ll catch up.

Meanwhile, on the website formerly known as Twitter, an epic battle of meaning was waged. The group mind egregore known as “this particular corner of Twitter” asked you to take a pill and/or hit a button.

A classic “my child said” poast with a twist on Newcomb’s Problem and Nash Equilibrium

And thousands of jacked in minds, from neu-fascism-IQers-must-speciate-eugenicists & red-rose transhumanist-luxury-space-communists to normie-Dad-banger-poasters, all raced to decide the meaning of the ultimate symbol.

Who lives and who dies when we can no longer coordinate exclusively within our ingroup?

Absolute fucking chaos. The collective of our shared internet went into a frenzy of consensus making.

Would you walk away from Omelas? Or would you save yourself? Would the gods of rationalism betray your soul with the knowledge that the good of the one can and does outweigh the good of the many?

In which selective phrasing has me deciding I shouldn’t jump into a blender but because I am me I also must immediately counter signal

Are you willing to step into a blender to save the normies? No? Yes? Fuck! Roko (of Basilik fame) redefined the problem space.

And then because we all must troll, we all stepped into a blender for the good of our species. Well, I wanted to annoy Roko. So I said I would when I voted that I wouldn’t. Because all serious social question can and should be trolled.

The choice is yours and yours alone

In the space of a day, we all leapt into the proverbial blender to save the naive, the kind, and the fucking stupid. It’s what Spock have done for us. Pro-social is the logical choice. Or is it? Is it better to be red than dead? None of us know.

I personally hope we all continue to create an eternal refinement culture of love and hope across all cycles of time to come.

I found it to be a privilege to be a member of the hive mind. We are all the alignment. Our consensus efforts inside the plutocrats toy is more likely to bring about the singularity than almost any other activity I can imagine.

It is a privilege to be in the egregore. My smol sensemaker syncretic smooth brain being hooked up into the wider hive for “Red vs Blue Walk Away From Omelas Boogaloo” is quite literally divine. To retweet each others bangers is to see the face of God. Just try and remember the truth. There is no blender.

Aesthetics Internet Culture Politics

Day 947 and Dreams

I slept quite a bit last night. I slept more this afternoon. I can’t say why I needed so much rest. But what I can say is that I dreamed a lot. Odd, florid, turbulent dreams too demanding to be ignored.

It’s unclear to me what my unconscious was tidying up. Was it the detritus of ego death or the toxins being flushed by my glymphatic system? As my favorite meme suggests, “porque no los dos?”

I’ve not been much inclined to engage in the day’s online dramas as I’ve been too distracted by my own dream roads. My own life has too much of a hold on me today.

I gather there has been arguments about pagan vitalism and post-Christian morality. The persistent agony of feeling like life is no longer about living has scrambled the brains of our young. Extremist communities have infiltrated our meme spaces. White nationalists and Nietzschean fanbois insist on their own righteousness.

And who can blame the lost boys from looking at these scandals? Ontological shocks are coming at a fast and furious pace, all while the depths of the abyss are staring back.

Nothing is sacred and all is permitted. Everything is sacred and nothing is permitted. Keep at the permutation until you’ve reached enlightenment. Or until you’ve died.

I’ve not felt the need to swim in the deep end of offense. I require no taboo or reactionary behaviors to feel as if I’m alive. My dreams even at their most intense remain mere reflections of the enormity of my own life. I have lived large and with more agency than I ever dreamed possible.

Emotional Work Uncategorized

Day 942 and Goodbyes

My childhood was full of goodbyes. I moved every two years for most of my young life. I was not a military brat or a diplomat’s child, just a millennial surviving the instability of her Boomer parents. It is a common experience I’ve learned.

My parents did their very best to walk different paths than their own parents. Like any child, I watched them closely and adjusted my own feelings accordingly.

Now as an adult I see how I work to walk on different paths than my own parents. Families are always adjusting to the wisdom of our past as we chart our future.

And so I think about how comfortable I am with saying goodbyes and I weigh it against the generations that came before. And I think that all we can do is try to balance the equation of our own life.

Emotional Work

Day 936 and Take The Beating

I got my ass kicked yesterday. I made a decision that I knew would be disliked. I knew how unpopular the decision would make and that I would have to suffer the consequences. I did not bend on my decision despite knowing how much I would suffer for it. It was right for me. But damn it always sucks to take a beating.

I have taken my college cafeteria’s name as a law of the universe. TANSTAAFL. There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch. I know it’s a bit unfashionable to be a Hayek libertarian these days but I do think we have to accommodate some basic physics in life. Actions have reactions.

I had to take my beating. I made people hurt. And it’s entirely possible that we have different expectations and realities. As soon as I give my firm position on my reality and energy I can expect a response.

I think it’s genuinely healthy to feel like you have the capacity to endure criticism. Sometimes you can’t make people happy. Sometimes you’ve done something wrong. Sometimes it’s just that you couldn’t find an accommodation between what you gave the situation and what it gave you.

Life has a budget. There is a balance to the energy of the world. I suppose sometimes you just have to take your licks.

Emotional Work

Day 921 and Unseen

I don’t really have the stomach for writing today. I realized recently that I’ve been accommodating several people I love so far past the boundaries of what I consider physically and emotionally tolerable, that I had some medical issues over the weekend as my body broke down by literally having thin skin. Ironic.

I am often afraid to tell people when I’m not feeling seen. I discuss, and reiterate, and point out, and I try to expand my bounds of tolerance to be more open, but I didn’t feel seen as a child by my own father and I see how it repeats as an adult.

I guess it’s not a shock that I snapped after letting my boundaries go. I’ve felt invaded for sometime (months even) and tried to reassure everyone I’d do my best.

But I realized in the process of minimizing over and over again how exhausting it was to be with everyone as much as they wanted, that because I’d never put my foot down they just didn’t see how much damage it was doing to me.

I am so hurt right now. I feel betrayed. I worked so hard at making a situation work that I missed that no one noticed it wasn’t working for me. And now that I’ve brought it up too late, it seems like I’ve doomed myself to being entirely unseen in the situation for good.

Having let all this out I do feel better. That I’ve done what I needed to make myself feel seen and safe before it was too late for me to recover. I’ll draw firmer boundaries and I’ll be more gentle with myself. I don’t have to live by anyone else’s schedules and demands except the ones I choose.

Emotional Work

Day 916 and Safe Spaces

Remember when safe spaces burst into a whole discourse thing? Maybe it was when the timelines got crazy around Harambe. I couldn’t pinpoint it but somehow “feelings aren’t facts” turned into a slur instead of commonly agreed upon consensus reality.

And now everyone is slinging insults to land points instead of finding a way to incorporate the duality of feelings and facts into civil society. Some trickster Demi-god is probably very pleased with his work. Maybe a goat or a Loki type.

There are many spaces that can feel unsafe depending on the context and the person. If I am aware that one of my choices provokes a strong response in another person, I may lay it aside for a minute so we can find common ground on choices and values we do share.

My sense of self is strong enough that I don’t have to hold every piece of myself tightly. I can empathize with someone I disagree with and find my way back to myself. Backbones and core beliefs are important.

I am finding myself in a number of situations right now where I wonder if I am too accommodating. My desire to empathize must meet the hard reality that is some people don’t feel safe empathizing with me.

Some of my reactions and feelings recently have left me feeling a bit abandoned and alienated. I am grieving for a lost matriarch in my family. And my grief manifested as a focused gratitude for finally seeing that I could live her lessons on my own every single day. And I have been living more joyfully because of it.

My reaction hasn’t been considered appropriate in some corners. I didn’t feel safe expressing my gratitude and focus and the happiness it brought me to have her thoughts in my head every day. And I realized then that not everyone will be able to feel safe with all your choices and decisions and emotions. Not every space can be safe for everyone.


Day 907 and Unaccountable Bureaucrats

We’ve reached a point in America where the consular visa services (for tourism, business & academic visits) as well as the wider immigration services (for people intending to work here, become permanent residents or citizens) have made finding a clear legal path for any type of visa non-viable. The Cato Institute describes it as nearly impossible.

I haven’t been able to get so much as a tourist visa granted in 2 years despite guarantees that I’d be financially and legally liable for the actions of my people. Even when we agree on bringing people in via our refuge system has become an opaque unaccountable path.

Just today the Wall Street Journal reported that we are headed multiple crisis points in health care because there is no way to get into the country legally for nurses. We want nurses.

Our systems feels petty and vindictive to anyone that encounters it including American citizens like me. We treat people who aspire to American life’s like shit. And it appears as if the only paths that work are a system of bribes, fixers, scams, and favors as our immigration systems are opaque and deliberately obscured.

An unaccountable bureaucracy is breeding a system in which only the criminals are rewarded because the only way in is to go around the system.

We have two immigration systems that operate under the same “legal regime” but have totally different administrative regimes and authorities which further confuses the issue.

I can’t believe that I’m the one saying this loudly but a good start to a policy position is simple clear rules based immigration and visa policies that operate with consistently reviewed inputs and yield consistent outputs so both American businesses and its workforce is capable of planning for growth instead.

The doctrine of consular nonreviewability needs to be replaced with a standard of reviews that is clear, legible, and subject to open review so visa applicants and their stakeholders (families, employers, & lawyers) can understand and take action on consistently enforced norms.

Clear judicial review is the basis of any free market economy. This doctrine leaves our economy & families at the mercy of an unquestionable black box capable of life altering irreparable decisions which no one is obligated to explain or even disclose. And it’s not the fault of the consular officers. We are putting folks with little training into situations with unimaginable power (while being tied to confusing criteria which only leads them to cover their ass and reject more people. We can’t have a system of immigration where an unaccountable low level bureaucrat is able to reject an application based on vibes with no recourse.

– A visa for entrepreneurs. Currently we have imperfect workarounds that encourage people to go elsewhere (as it’s now clear the costs are enormous & the timeframes extend into multiple decades) meaning if you want to start a business, even one with funding, there is no clear reviewable path to getting the entrepreneur legal status to run the company in America.

The idea that our economy can’t handle more immigrants. tourists, business or academic travelers from non ESTA countries is simply not based in any reality. We have record low employment and shortages in crucial industries like healthcare which is fueling inflation.

Canada and Australia are letting in 2.5-3x the number of immigrants per capita per year as America. We could easily be smarter and more generous about how we recruit talent instead of encouraging a black market of border crossings for the desperate and ruined.

And we should absolutely be allowing in more visitors for the benefit of our tourism industry as well as our educational and business institutions.

I’ve had people denied entry for family reunions and conference keynotes. Startups now hosts all hands company meet ups in Mexico as they cannot guarantee that their employees can safely get in and out of America. That neither political party wants to address this in a meaningful way is appalling. We are pissing away our lead for partisanship and we can do better.