Categories
Aesthetics

Day 1262 and Cost Per Wear

Many years ago I maintained a spreadsheet of my wardrobe so I could calculate out my “cost per wear” because I am that sort of nerd.

Fast fashion was coming into its own in that era but I did work for retail luxury so with employee discounts and access to sample sales I acquired the occasional $900 Italian leather good. Keep in mind these were late aughts prices.

It comforted me somewhat to see that I got so much use out of those boots (getting the cost per wear into cents) but that the H&M trend item got work a handful of times. I felt a need for my style to work for me which is a design preference many a working aesthete can appreciate. It helped to see what integrated into my life laid bare.

The irony being fashion I got from Zara in 2010 and some of the older collaborations from fast fashion retailers remain better quality than what you could get from an LVMH luxury house now. We’ve had quite a bit of price inflation while any pretense to quality has gone a bit to the wayside.

Much of the work of looking stylish can be defrayed with simply spending more but taste is the sort of thing can be cultivated through experience with limits. Having a budget and an understanding of what you are trying to achieve can be a valuable tool in almost any domain.

Categories
Internet Culture Preparedness

Day 1261 and the Jackpot

Dedicated roamers of the internet are people who like to notice things. Cyperpunk aesthetics made it romantic to experience global abstractions even as the reality of the power of oligarch, state and corporation blended into murky dystopian reality.

I said recently on this photo that we’ve got to stop hyperstitioning William Gibson. We keep finding ourselves further into the future. Just look at these anonymous accounts (so you can enjoy being a participant in the propaganda) joking about a drone operator in Ukraine.

We have netrunners. They’re autistic Ukrainian drone operators and their ice baths are niccy rushes

It’s hard to remember that real people exist on the other side of the abstractions. And yet here we are about to be those real people facing history. And it does seem like the time for taking action is now.

Venkatash Rao wrote an essay “many shoes are dropping” that gave me the kind of frisson of living in future, but as Gibson famously says, a bit unevenly. Across all narrative and technical arcs and and inside geopolitical realities we are starting to see the change.

In this I can’t help but see Gibson’s Jackpot. The elements that Rao calls out are multiple significant elections (not the least of which is the final installment of Biden vs Trump), the capital and nation state power consensus he calls “after Westphalia” and the intertwined fates of artificial intelligence and crypto.

A lot can change in a world where every form of power is being tested. I’ve written about this Jackpot energy before.

The fictional “jackpot” described in the novels is an “androgenic, systemic, multiplex” cluster of environmental, medical and economic crises that begins to emerge in the present day and eventually reduces world population by 80 percent over the second half of the 21st century

The Jackpot Trilogy.

I myself think it a privilege to even be a bit player in this moment in time. That I can allocate resources in any way feels high leverage in a way I didn’t anticipate experiencing.

We are the adults in the room. It may not be mich but we have agency. I feel good about putting my focus on crypto, AI and nuclear energy. Like Rao I can tie together past thoughts across a wide corpus by writing here every day and make decisions based on what has emerged.

Categories
Culture

Day 1259 and Cooler Than Me

I was once (devastatingly) told by an ex-boyfriend that the song he associated with me was Mike Posner’s Cooler Than Me. He felt I cared too much about taste.

This wasn’t an unfair assessment as I was working in fashion at the time and maintained all the intellectual pretensions of being a antiquity obsessed fresh out of Chicago Austrian school economist devotee. A capitalist with taste isn’t really a likable figure.

Twitter mutual Tracing Woodgrains (himself a frequent commenter on the value of beauty and taste) suggested reading this essay in the American Mind about the cultural flaccidity of conservatism and their taste problems.

Reading the essay, I thought it a shame that the taste problem that clearly plagues the right goes on unabated. They tolerate losers with bad taste. And they carry on about how they are losers which further salts the wound. It’s not the kind of commentary that suggests their culture is worthy of dominance.

I am privy to the occasional conversation on this subject as I being crypto libertarian I am bit of a neutral in the culture and institutional wars between progressive and reactionaries. At a dinner of mostly internet dissident right wing types, the topic of being losers was aired.

The host, a clear winner from the ascendant investing and engineering autist culture, rightly pointed out if conservatives wanted to align their fortunes to winning cultures (it was implied like Silicon Valley was a winner culture) then the right wing too needed to become winners. I fear that advice fell on deaf ears. It’s hard to tell someone that being a loser is a skills issue.

Libertarians get a kind of drop out “smokers behind the bleachers” kind of cool in America. The lower case libertarian of the philosophical bent not whatever big L party apparatus that might exist. Those guys are all losers.

The “fuck the Fed” constitution carrying types have a lot that is likable and winning. Fighting civil asset forfeiture, and for marijuana decriminalization, first and second amendment protections, and bodily sovereignty are winner issues across different constituencies.

To go against the grain of big government pieties of both left and right is to resign yourself to being on the outs pretty regularly by disagreeing with both sides but to rest confidentially in the cool of knowing you hold your ground.

To be on the outs means you retain a crucial aspect of cool. You aren’t the mainstream even though you benefit from not being made its enemy no matter who is winning.

Casablanca is libertarian coded and undeniably cool. Seeing the fallen world as it is and having the balls (or backbone for those with delicate sensibilities) to live your own life is an act of bravery. To have own opinion amongst sinners and saints is fundamentally to cultivate and know your own taste.

That returns me to the essay by Spencer Klavan “A Matter of Taste” that kicked off my response.

If we’re serious about a revival, we are going to have to accept the inherent risk and unpredictability that comes from letting artists see the world before they judge it.

In turn, we are going to have to learn to suspend our own judgment long enough to see what the artists bring us for what it is. In other words, we will have to cultivate a little taste.

If we do not know our own taste we can hardly know the line at which we draw the boundaries of civilization. To know what we value is the point of cultivating taste. To hold on to the standards you’ve set for yourself is to hold yourself up to others. To live this way in action and through your own revealed preferences is to say “this is what I value” in my actual life. If you can’t do that, then you will always be in danger of having someone they are cooler than you. And a loser might care.

Categories
Travel

Day 1238 and Come As You Are

Sometimes a thing goes so sideways you find yourself on a gridlocked country road listening to whatever music had the good fortune to be dowloaded to your device.

In another era maybe my device would be a car radio and tape cassette but in my elder millennial era it’s now your smartphone. I wonder what will happen to the interoperability of CarPlay as we go into the age of subscription services in your Mercedes.

There was some kind of road race that a local municipality didn’t prepare adequately to host blocking the way. Lithe men on expensive bicycles racing are at least a bit more interesting than the retirees in padded spandex puffing away.

Cycling is the sport of the healthy elderly. I appreciate in some dim way their contributions to tourist economies and also keeping down the cost of medical care. But I’ll admit professional road racing is beyond my understanding. Tour de what now?

As I waited for the racers to pass and the traffic on road to clear, I tuned into the music. I’ve never been much of a Nirvana fan but somehow some playlist had been synced through Spotify and I had “Come As You Are” on my phone.

Gen X music had a lot of angst but I appreciated their attempts to warn us. I am coming as I am today and I couldn’t be happier with it.

Categories
Emotional Work

Day 1236 and Artists All Around

I was listening to Joe Hudson’s Art of Accomplishment Master Class preparation series today.

I’d previously remarked how I found the name “Art of Accomplishment” to be a bit off putting even as I was very impressed with the results of the work.

I’ve perhaps found essence of truth on the name that wasn’t available to me earlier. In listening to this particular conversation I heard the personal meaning instead of the cultural projection. The meaning is literally finding the artistry of doing things with meaning in your own life.


“When you’re self-aware, it means there is a full expression of you happening. It’s why with the great artists, you see their full expression. And they can only get to that self-expression, they can only get to that level of ease, by having more and more self-awareness.”

Art of Accomplishment

To have an art of an accomplishment you believe there is an art inherent. An artist makes. Accomplishing things is a byproduct of the flow of doing things. To make and to build m, or otherwise enable the process of accomplishing, is itself its own art. “To do” is an art.

I’ve come to love the work of startups and building companies as they are for me a team sport of accomplishing together. Artisans of all kinds are coming together to build a thing or a tool that serves someone else. It is a beautiful process for me

I feel my own flow in the competencies in which I have my own most clear artisanal pride. I do these things for the love of the work and the outcomes of them are simply a byproduct of doing them. I have several areas where the love of the craft is its own motive.

There are artists everywhere. You may well have many areas where you apply an artist’s mindset. Your self awareness gives you a vision of what you want to accomplish. You can be a mechanic or a publicist and still practice an art. Making a salad, fixing the hydraulics, or orchestrating a magazine cover are all accomplishments.

Categories
Media

Day 1235 and Spin Doctors

Anytime I am outside of the bubble of American media algorithms, I feel like I see more clearly. It’s easier to spot “spin” when you see multiple narratives from competing supranational actors. When I’m in Europe, it’s much easier to see competing angles from Russia, China, and competing industrial interests.

The term “spin doctor” emerged during the Reagan-Mondale debates in the 1984 election.

A spin doctor is a person, typically a political aide or publicist, whose role is to present information or events in a way that favors a particular perspective or interpretation. Their goal is to influence public opinion by putting a favorable “spin” on the narrative.

It combines the meanings of “spin” (a biased interpretation or slant) and “doctor” (someone who repairs or fine-tunes things). Spin doctors aim to control the media’s portrayal of events by providing their own analysis and framing the story in a way that benefits their side.

Perplexity’s “Spin Doctor”

I’ve not heard “spin doctor” used recently even as we’ve gone further into cultural obsessions with media and its role in shaping opinion across the Internet age.

We’ve never had more awareness of how the news sausage gets made and it only drives interest. Filter bubbles are now written up in listicles. Publicists are the subject of profile treatments their clients typically receive.

We are in the golden age of propaganda and every single one of us competes in shifting alliances of attention and affiliation. We are all spin doctors now for our causes.

Categories
Culture

Day 1234 and Intelligence

I’m reasonably intelligent as far as humans go. I’m probably in the top quartile or so of reasoning, processing & other measures of cognition. Not being insecure about my intelligence, I feel perfectly comfortable admitting that I’m an idiot. I’m only human.

Humans just aren’t a terribly bright species. But we are a curious one. We’ve built tools that extend our capabilities significantly. And each new upgrade in our tools helps us achieve more with our meager intelligence. L

We can quibble over whether intelligence is different than achievement but analytical, creative and practical capabilities are things you want to cultivate. We want to cultivate in ourselves and ideally we will want to cultivate in the things we build.

Two men are on a bus on a mountainside side. An sad anxious looking man is staring at the rock face on dark side of the bus side with a thought bubble “the AI took my job” while a smiling happy man on the bright side overlooks scenic views with a thought bubble “the AI took my job.”

Sure we as a species have fought these advances but eventually the benefits of developing ways to pass on and improve intelligence outweighs other fears. Material progress is good.

If you afraid of intelligence greater than your own I realize I have no way to talk you out of that fear. I can argue impartially about the benefits that intelligence has brought us in the past but humans are feeling animals not reasoning animals. The best I can hope for is to coax you to consider the bright side of the bus. Imagine feeling awesome about an AI taking your job. Go ahead and see if your curiosity can consider it.

Categories
Chronicle

Day 1233 and Heat

I have been enjoying the mild weather of May. I’ve not had any extremes which is a sort of pleasant surprise. Climate and weather intersect poorly too often these days.

I was explaining to a mutual how we’d settled on Montana to buy land and much of the calculation was about the pleasures of a cold, dry and mountainous climate. It’s sunny without much in the way of humidity which makes for enjoyable winters even when it gets cold.

I am not much of a fan of humidity. It hurts my joints and reminds me of my ankylosis. I’m much more prone to trouble with inflammation when it’s damp.

Whenever I encounter a coastal climate I struggle a bit. Others may love a riviera but I’ve never found one I liked. I’ve been to a reasonably diverse array from San Francisco to coastal Mediterranean and I can do without.

The weather is however about to change. Soon it will be the season of air conditioning. I’ll be going through Texas for a conference at the end of May. I’m not looking forward to the heat.

Categories
Culture Emotional Work Uncategorized

Day 1232 and Crab Bucket

As I age from maiden into crone (many millennials missed mother) I find myself uncovering emotions I missed during the forced march through corporate feminism & Girlbossism. The meritocracy takes its pound of flesh.

I climbed the chaos ladder & am grateful for my perch but I did not understand what I sacrificed to participate in this climb. I doubt your average person does.

American Millennials intuited that we had an opportunity to class jump through the meritocracy of institutional human capital games & were encouraged to do so if we showed capacity. Largely that meant raw intelligence & affinity for playing by unwritten social rules. If you could get out you were told to do so. Social mobility is one of America’s great strengths.

It is not without costs. I sacrificed family & place. To climb above the station of my origin & “achieve” the American dream of education & assets you leave behind a lot. To go from the lower rungs to prosperity and security we leave behind parts of ourselves.

I do not regret this. Many millennials come from dysfunctional families. Boomer can read as slur to some because future shock & greed hurt so many of that generation. The narcissism of the new age experimentation with new cultures and expectations gave us divorce & rootlessness. Those insecure circumstances bred flexible performative children who adapted to incentives.

If I had not leapt onto the ladder of meritocracy I’d be struggling like many in my cohort and I’d still be without a people. The Millennial wealth gap is tearing social fabric because the divergence between our outcomes is so clear. Atomizing is part of assimilating.

I am now in a position in which I inhabit the lower rungs of the very top of the ladder. I have access & assets & a reputation for work in the infinite game of playing for leverage. There is security here to be had. But a Damocles blade hangs over us all.

American success isn’t cheap. And you may not always understand the costs at the outset.

If you’d like to read more about the millennial wealth gap I’d encourage you to look. I am lucky to be one of the “self made” in my cohort in that I picked work that ended up being well remunerated. I started from a decent place but we were poor for portions of my childhood. Startup life isn’t a smooth ride and Silicon Valley produces very uneven outcomes.

I will not however be a millennial heir. I’ll inherit debt. The great wealth transfer will not be coming my way. I’m grateful to have helped my family but equally grateful when they manage to take care of themselves. I am so sad so many of our elders spent so much that their heirs felt the best option was a race to climb out of the crab bucket of the meritocracy. I am glad I made it. But it hurt.

Categories
Culture

Day 1228 and Fabric of Our Lives

I love cotton. In my Waldorf third grade, our year long class project was to plant, grow, harvest, gin, card, spin & dye cotton. Along with a similar wool project, this childhood experience instilled a love of fibers, fabrics & textiles in me.

Early in my career I crashed textile trade shows like Premiere Vision which is where I fell for the extra long stable fibers of American grown Pima cotton. Cotton remains a big business in America. We’ve got trademarked cotton like Supima is sold as a luxury fabric.

From the Supima cotton website

You’ve probably seen the work of organizations like Cotton Incorporated. Catchy campaigns like “the fabric of our lives market cotton with the United States Department of Agriculture’s commodity check off program.

The Agriculture Marketing Service of the USDA oversees efforts to improve the position of various commodities produced in America. Other campaigns include Got Milk, Beef: It’s What’s for Dinner, and Pork: The Other White Meat

All commodity producers & farmers must pay into the check off program and it amounts to almost a billion dollars of mandatory spending. As you might imagine this system has had its share of controversy and corruption.

It’s not all sloganeering according to Cotton Incorporated.

We work to make cotton the best it can be through research, textile innovations (like water- and wind-resistant cotton apparel and moisture-wicking, wrinkle- and stain-resistant cotton), and sustainable advancements like finding new uses for cotton and cotton byproducts, reducing land and water usage, and modernizing agricultural processes.

We make sure you know about all of cotton’s amazing benefits through advertising, retail and influencer collaborations.

You might be annoyed to find that American cotton growers are obligated to pay into a government marketing program which underwrites social media influencers.

Cotton is the most popular natural fiber in the world with 25 million tons a year produced so it’s perhaps not unexpected American has an incentive to promote it as one of our commodities.

Cotton is crucial natural fiber which means it has its share of a controversies as commodity for things like its water & pesticide use and genetic engineering to withstand the herbicide glyphosate.

If you’d like to learn more about cotton and its history Empire of Cotton and Cotton: The Fabrice That Made the Modern World are both comprehensive. I personally recommend Virginia Postrel’s The Fabric of Civilization for a broader appreciation on how textiles drove crucial technological innovation of our species.

In The Fabric of Civilization, Virginia Postrel synthesizes groundbreaking research from archaeology, economics, and science to reveal a surprising history. The cloth business spread the alphabet and arithmetic, propelled chemical research, and taught people to think in binary code.

This thesis suggests to me that fashion bitches are one of the original tribes of technology brothers. To care this much about the feature sets of a base layer clearly marks us as nerds. So I’ll finish this up with a personal anecdote.

I am furious at a brand of upper market cotton basics called Splendid. I’ve been buying the same long sleeve classic tee-shirt from them for at least a decade. It claims to be a 50% blend of Pima cotton and Modal. Both are considered premium fabrics with long fibers. Modal is a semi-synthetic developed in Japan made from beech trees. There are many grades of both fibers Splendid could source and in the past I’ve found the tee to wear extremely well. I’ve got a half dozen that never pilled, held its color & shape, and gave me years of wear.

Last month I bought three new Splendid tees as I becoming fearful of the downward trend in quality of manufactured goods. I’ve been trying to stock up on basics I’ve relied on in the past. Alas it would seem my most reliable shirt in my favorite fabrics has come to an ignoble end.

Splendid no longer manufactures with premium extra long cotton fibers as a new shirt pilled & caught onto other fibers in my tee shirt drawer.