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
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 Finance

Day 1211 and Price of Civilization

Whenever I travel I am reminded of just how good a life I have be virtue of being born American.

I’m kept alive, fed, clothed and connected by a vast web of abstractions undergirding modern civilization thanks to the value of my passport and the exorbitant privilege of the dollar.

Constructs like private property have given rise to elaborate norms of obligation, honors, debts and expectations that enable coordination mechanisms like markets. This seems like a good thing from

All of this feels so astonishingly fragile. We listen when our bankers fret about “rules based western civilization” being under siege because we know those rules are what enables the niceties of our lives.

All it takes are a few assholes breaking the rules and the fabric frays a little more. Blessedly capitalism has its own immune system that is happy to attack all types of hostility.

If you are not integrated into the body politic of the dominant civilization you generally know it. I’ve found those outside of it generally wish they could be assimilated from simple envy. If you want these benefits be prepared to be assimilated to the rules and values of civilization.

Your alternative is struggle to hold yourself apart by your own rules and cultural values and insist others abide by them. This has generally required coercion, violence or shame in the past.

You can say “no” to civilizational benefits simply by opting out. To be left alone is to accept your status and stay outside of the great game of civilization. But to accept the benefits is to in some sense accept to accept that there are rules. You can’t break rules if you don’t know their importance. If you know the rules and break them however you can’t be surprised when it’s viewed as a thread.

Categories
Emotional Work

Day 1201 and It Shows On Your Face

I was at the dermatologist today. Despite my age (I am forty) I don’t have much in the way of wrinkles. I don’t have anything deep that can’t be managed with retinol and sunscreen.

I started Botox this year only because I was literally the only one I knew in my age and social cohort that wasn’t doing it. I thought this was a good thing.

But it has recently struck me as sad that I don’t have laugh lines. You’d be hard pressed to find me smiling in any pictures. The thing with tamping down on emotions is that it works in both directions. I don’t get that angry either. I don’t have any laugh lines but I don’t know how to scowl either.

I had to be moved and instructed into position today to get Botox as I couldn’t scowl. What kind of person doesn’t know how to scowl? Isn’t the joke that resting bitch face is the default for white women?

If I don’t smile I won’t get laugh lines. But I’m not angry and so I’m not scowling either. When cut down on variance you cut out the highs and the lows. You lose the good and the bad. And that’s its own form of nihilism. Which we’d do all well to remember. To be shielded from life showing on your face requires quite a bit of resources.

Categories
Chronic Disease Emotional Work

Day 1192 and Stasis

I am not feeling well today and used all the capacity I had to simply push at the edges of my universe and scream a bit into the abyss.

Screaming into the abyss is my pet name for being on the internet. Mostly Twitter. I know it sounds stupid.

Sometimes there are actual people on there still which is a small comfort. Just telegraphing into the universe that you are a “live one” is half the battle of bringing the future into the present.

I know it sounds like a stupid way to bring in resources and deals and alliances but it works. Make of that what you will. I’ll get on a phone call now and again if you are really compelling and intelligent. I spent some time on the phone with one of my favorite people and it was more energy than I would have anticipated.

Sometimes that’s just how it goes. There is only so much you can do when your time horizons for results are measured in a ten year cycle anyway.

It’s occasionally embarrassing to admit there are days I don’t have the energy to manage what what I eat, how much I exercise, whether I bath or do farm chores or otherwise manage the work of physical reality.

A few days of the month I do the absolute minimum to manage stasis and I honestly even that was a stretch. But like the classic Monty Python sketch of another era “I’m not dead yet!”

Categories
Finance

Day 1180 and Renting Picks and Shovels by The Hour

The board needs to see that we are doing “something” and so management consultants have done a lot of paddling aggressively. Everyone is making money of artificial intelligence right? Well, wrong.

My belief is that this is a result of not having adequate developer tools at the enterprise level so no processes are repeatable or simple yet. Not for lack of trying in a frenzy of weird media panics around whether chat bots are gods or just malign spirits. Which like lol.

This isn’t something that gets solved overnight. Value accrues in strange ways to very particular forms of automation. Whether that gets bought up in bidding wars over core technologies over time or in simple breakout solutions isn’t actually as predictable as you’d imagine it. It’s very much about people who build things that other people want in reasonably reliable ways.

But right now a lot of software is being built in silly and not terribly repeatable ways. It reminds me a little bit of having been at a specialty retailer trying to figure out ecommerce and making a bunch of mistakes. Eventually the market solves it and then it demands a return on investment.

Categories
Internet Culture Politics

Day 1173 and Autism Services

If you are an autist of any stripe still attempting to operate in the field I will broadcast to you. You may need to make a pilgrims and it will just be an information dump but I’ll do my best. You have to put it together yourself but the old web is not fully broken.

The maze of information is winding and the roll ups and bureaucracy winds on and off the Silk Road. Literal and metaphorical. I don’t even know how many of you bought drugs on the old internets and how many of you bought Uranium. I have nothing but Netflix and communist literature. Lots of people have opinions on drugs and whores. I am not one of them truth be told except I’m of the firm opinion whores shouldn’t side with empire but I’m not in Burke’s Peerage so what do I know.

Maybe there is a world where Bridgerton actually happened and some autistic king and some colonial wife really do live in harmony. I don’t know I’m a William Gibson fan. Pour one out for information wants to be free homies. The nerds shouldn’t have been weaponized and whatever capitalism is doing should probably check in with reality.

How to tell what a company does

You are caught in someone’s opinion. None of us know who is influencing us except the sort of dorks who map carefully and most of the nerds have day jobs. The only ones who see it are just doing their best to allocate the attention and resources. Lots of people are doing chaos magic. Maybe stop? Or summon better demons.

Any number of nerds are caught in elaborate webs of inferences. A lot of them are left wingers. Precious view are genuine communists. But also some sincere ones are out there. Most are happy to be in the recursive loop of reality in which we maintain our lives. Some of us are banging on the cage.

Categories
Emotional Work

Day 1167 and Good Faith

Do you want something for nothing? Maybe that’s human nature. I try not to be too cynical.

But then I am occasionally presented with information in which I must confront that some people are in fact fine with getting something for nothing.

“We live in a society!” I scream into the abyss. Maybe I’m the idiot and we haven’t actually agreed to fair dealings. Maybe I’m actually the rube.

I don’t want to give up on my high trust ways. I am not optimizing for the best possible outcome for myself. I care quite a bit about the greater good. Maybe I’m an idiot for doing so.

But I’d rather be an idiot and optimistic than a a brilliant cynic. It makes me unhappy to consider how many people are simply happy to be presented with something for nothing and never have to contend with its costs.

Categories
Emotional Work Travel

Day 1123 and Drawing In

I spent some time packing today as I’ll be on the road a little more frequently in the coming months. The joys of the cozy Montana winter have had their comfort and I sincerely wish I’d never have to give them up. But there is work to be done.

I find travel to be a bit stressful but crucial to keeping a good read on reality. The more chaotic the narrative the more I think I prefer to do a bit of on the ground work.

I am feeling the urge to keep some of this close to my chest. I don’t know if that’s temporary as I am tired or if I think it might be beneficial to pull back as I know the road is going to be hard this year.

The uncertainty is palpable. I’ve had an interesting influx of people seeking out my opinion. I’ve got a reputation for being the woman you call when shit is chaotic. I’ll be busy so my introversion may increase as I lay ground work. We sit at a number of crossroads and it seems everyone knows it.

Categories
Emotional Work

Day 1119 and Capacity for Presence

I trust my ability to be present now. I wish I was less present in some ways. I’ve learned to be present to the ways of the internet in particular as part of my general capacity with the signs and signals of those who communicate with words. I try not to show up in person too much anymore except for my own neighbors.

My capacity to be present waxes and wanes with the attention that I give to the margin. And I like to be present for the weirdos. I am not as detailed as some with effortful thought pieces but I pay very close attention. I diligently note and revise bigger trends here in public. It’s not my job to endlessly footnote it for everyone. That’s thankfully now in the hands of artificial intelligence.

I trust that I notice things when they need to be noticed and that I will curb my attention away from those who do not use me well. I will so rarely take it personally when someone tells me I do not serve them. The favor is usually returned when I say a hard no but I rarely have to give it. The average isn’t that persistent.

I do not wish to be become significantly more scaled than I am now in terms of presence with people. I am picky and I cultivate my taste and I believe I’ve built trust with the people who intend to build things. I will continue to be as widely available to them as possible if they do even a modicum of homework. My experience is not free but I do not horde it.

I believe I’ve shown my capacity to pick not through momentum or hype but early presence. It’s a long road and I’ve got the patience to walk it for decades more.

I leave you with a thing I noticed today from someone who is very effortful and has been for much longer than me. How we distribute our attention matters even in the most intimate of settings.

Attention without feeling, I began to learn, is only a report. An openness — an empathy — was necessary if the attention was to matter

Mary Oliver on Molly Malone Cook in “Our World via Maria Popova at Marginalia