Friday, January 13, 2017

The World of Tomorrow

I had loaded up my car for a cross-country road trip; I was starting a new career, and while I could have flown to my new home and had my car shipped at company expense, my inner 13 year-old would never forgive me.

FIG 1. An overview of < 1/4 of the collection.
FIG 1. An overview of < 1/4 of the collection.
We Americans are a peculiar culture in that we have no real mythology or mythos which we use to define ourselves. This is why we look at 150 year-old buildings like they're the Roman ruins, and establish charitable societies to preserve the history of these dusty old hardware stores. I honestly never thought deeply about out lack of mythos; the line from earlier was just something I parrot when asked why a grown man still reads comic books. It didn't sink in until I was on Route 66, by the NM/TX border when I stopped for gas (at Russell’s Truck and Travel Center, if you’re in the area). I saw that they had a free car museum, so I stopped in, as I saw nothing but flat land for several hours, and I would continue to do so for another two days. It was more than a car museum though -- I stumbled into the Temple of Kitsch.

FIG 2. Much of this store is a memorial to going to the store.
Having lived in America all my life, I was no stranger to these large, elaborate displays of Americana. (Americana is one of America's chief exports.) However, this was by far the largest. I took lots of photos to document the place, because my grandma enjoyed travelogues. Looking around caused a lifetime of kitch displays to congeal in my mind, and I came to realize there were three persistent themes in everyone of them:

  • Cars.
  • Gas stations.
  • Carbonated beverages (which because of my regional dialect, shall be referred to as "pop.")
FIG 3. "They're like an iPod, except they weigh 700 lbs."
-- "Weird Al" Yankovic, explaining  jukeboxes to his
7 year-old daughter, who had no concept of a jukebox.
While kitsch displays commonly include other things (e.g., juxeboxes, record albums, movie posters, and Marx toys), < 90% of these displays are pop, car, or gas-related. I could see why these things belonged in a museum, but I could understand why they were in a museum -- nothing historic ever happened here; they were historic for merely being old. They weren’t relics of what American life was; they were relics of what Baby Boomers wished it was.

That's what it means to be an American in the eyes of the Baby Boomers -- to have bought pop at a gas station between 1946 and 1972; and the American culture exists largely to recreate that experience. That struck my as being extra poignant, because I was driving across America at the time, and had done nothing but buy pop at gas stations for two days straight -- and it wasn’t that great. Thinking deeply about it, I've only ever had four memorable experiences in over 35 years of runs to gas stations, convenience stores, and bodegas -- this anecdote was one of them -- and the other three weren’t anywhere near shrine-worthy. The Baby Boomers meticulously preserve antique cars, gas pumps, and pop paraphernalia -- because to them it is America -- the Real America™.

This is also funny and sad, because I also stumbled upon the real Real America™ about 10 miles from there, when I pulled over at the first safe opportunity to find my trusty pee bottle, which was lost in the shuffling clutter of my fully-laden gypsy wagon. (While I had gone to the restroom at the truck stop just 10 minutes earlier, I was suffering from epididymitis at the time, and I had to keep my bladder perfectly empty at all times to escape the pain.) As I was scanning for 5-0 before letting Curious George out, I saw it there before me -- the real Real America™

FIG. 4. I just got a new cell phone a few days earlier, and I didn't figure out how to do panoramas yet.
This was it. This is what that collector spent their life trying to rebuild -- and they did everything in their power to do so, shy of actually doing it. By preserving sterile shrines to the Baby Boomer's concept of Real America™, the real Real America™ further deteriorates from neglect and the urine of transients.

In a rapidly changing world craves nostalgia for the sense of familiarity and continuity it provides. rump was able to manipulate those feelings with the slogan "Make America Great Again," which speaks of longing for an indefinite simpler time which may or may not have ever existed. Additionally, it's a loaded statement -- you can't express any form of dissent or criticism without implying that you're actively trying to make America worse. You can't fight against a statement like that, and it united all the neocons, racists, and technophobes under a single common narrative. There's no singular, cohesive narrative for all of the secular, liberal, progressive, feminist, green, LGBT, and post-cap movements; while there's a lot of cross-pollination between cliques, each is walks along their own path to the mountain top.

While we can't fight against the slogan "Make America Great Again," or the zeitgeist which enabled it to bring Trump to power -- these can be pushed farther, and co-opted into serving progressive agendas. Instead of reaching back to relive an idealized past, we must reach back even farther to a time when people looked forward to the future.

 "The World of Tomorrow" was the theme of the 1939 New York World's Fair, the high-water mark of American optimism. In the days leading up to World War II, Americans were collectively recovering from the hangover of the Great Depression. The New Deal put the destitute to work, laying the infrastructure for a new country, succeeding where Reconstruction failed. No one had seen anything like the 1939 New York World's Fair before, or since. It inadvertently invented the whole genre of futurist film, which tried to cash in on its success with innovations on display explained by tiny-voiced narrators. This is also why much of science-fiction cinema makes use of Art Deco motif.

Many of the ideas an innovations of yesteryear have come and gone. There's a RadarRange in every kitchen and breakroom. I'm on my ninth home computer, and I haven't owned a landline phone or made a purchase from a record store in 13 years -- none of which is strange. However, things are different; the World War II generation at least understood what their World of Tomorrow would look like; they had films to guide them; they knew what to expect. We're on the cusp of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, and many of its results are too wild to fully comprehend. Life will be fundamentally altered; it will not be different, but discontinuously different -- the 2030's will be as incomprehensible to the children of 1950 as a medieval peasant would have been in their time.

Change is the only constant, and it's inevitability can be conscripted for political gain. While the conservatives controlling the US government work to ensure hegemony, what stops those works from being torn down 25 years from now, when all of the Baby Boomers are dead? In the end, the Millennials will win all political debates, simply because they will be the ones remaining. When tomorrow comes, the World of Tomorrow comes with it.

The World of Tomorrow is the slogan and narrative which can join all of the  secular, liberal, progressive, feminist, green, LGBT, and post-cap movements; as each seeks to build the World of Tomorrow in their own way.  Additionally, there's no way to fight it -- not just because of its inevitability -- but because it too is a loaded statement. Opposing the World of Tomorrow automatically frames opponents as contrarian luddites.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Existential Depression A-go-go II: Narcissism Really isn't a Flaw, Per Se

From the last time I posted, it probably sounded like I was coming apart at the seams, but nothing could be farther from the truth, I've been getting it together more and more. That is not trivial. Depression isn't something you can walk off, like a sprained wrist, or a disastrous first date. Depression is a monster; it claws and devours without end, like a mythological beast. Even if someone were to pull you free from it's ravenous jaws, it would return to find you alone at night. Following like a shadow, it cannot be escaped or outrun. Fortunately, monsters can be slain.

I fall into a dark place from time to time; I mean, yeah we all do, we just don't all talk about it. My most recent existential crisis just one one of those times. I haven't bottomed out, because I've done that before, too. It's even all the more absurd because I had a way out the whole time -- and a better way out than the one I found -- but I didn't realize it for years because I didn't think to look for it.  I guess I could mope over that too, but I learned from it instead. I learned the importance of rallying, and that True Strength is giving others what they need to become strong. This could be one solution to the Riddle of the More, which I spoke of previously.

So I rallied, and they came to aid and abet me -- each, in their own way, princesses in a world of dragons. It wasn't easy for them; quote the opposite. While I have the need to discuss my personal issues, I'm also held back by a distinct but undefinable aspect to my character, which persists despite these discussions. I locked into these loops  of persistent thought. Back in undergrad while trying to solve my physics problems I would get stuck for hours, working in circles. Fortunately, college is a magical land of endless distraction, so I'd become derailed and forced to jump onto new trains of thought before it ever became my undoing. There was always something to knock me out of that loop, so I'd function again, like smacking a machine to make it work.

That's a thing, by the way. No, seriously, it's not a trope. In engineering, we call it "percussive maintenance," and like all jokes, it hides a kernel of truth, since it is a legitimate form of dithering.

Outside of school, it's a little harder to escape the trap of persistent thought loops; it's so easy to fall into a comfort zone.

Sometimes I forget that I'm more than my job.

Worse yet, sometimes I forget that beauty exists. While this is far more grinding and brutalizing, it is fortunately immediately curable, by beauty -- in any of it's forms.

The risks for existential depression are enhanced  for those by the idealistic those with inherent senses of justice, or who comprehend the impossibility of their own self-realization. I do all those things, with a major emphasis on the last one. I'm depressed because I'm rudderless, and I can't envision the Ryan Coons I'm supposed to be. I realize that life is a joy-is-in-the-journey type-deal, one needs a destination to set out on one; that's how journeys work. A friend of mine in the mental health business prescribed me a 3-step process for finding myself:
  1. How do I define my ideal self?
  2. Where did I learn those values?
  3. What are the consequences of failure?
...and this is where all progress came to a screeching halt; but at least answers were turned up in the process.

I am unable to construct an ideal self which is congruent with reality. 

For example, one of the great goals in my life has always been, while in the middle of a swordfight, to backflip onto a table and go "Ha-ha!" Though, no matter how much I can distract myself with fencing and gymnastics programs, cannot enter any foreseeable series of events where that would occur naturally.

Deep down, I'm depressed because I am me, and I don't want to be me. I really want to be, someone else -- like  Anthony Zerbe -- playing the role of the abstract conception of Ryan Coons that lives within our collective subconsciousness, as only he could. The clip below demonstrates this:
By the way, that desk rotates on a giant servo-controlled lazy Susan, and it's better than you can imagine; it's better than you could imagine. No, seriously. It's the greatest thing ever; I can never compete.

Right when I posted this, YouTube pulled the video on copyright grounds, which is why I used the Spanish dubbed version. It's disappointing, Zerbe has a uniquely clean diction and delivery with a power that does not translate. I was initially bummed out about having the video pulled, but while searching for alternatives, it gave me time to think; I now realize that a young Christopher Lee would've also made a pretty great Ryan Coons, too.

I spent my entire adult life in a series of desperate attempts to flee the ennui of suburbia, only to ultimately return. I'm sure a permanent solution exists, but I can't square that circle. My parents languished trying to win the approval of other, spending ours to setup chains of causal events that would lead to a few obligatory complements. I was barely 15 when I called bullshit on that whole way of life. I realized that the giving or withholding of idle praise reduces otherwise good people into dancing bears.

I don't want the approval from others; quite the opposite -- because I'm the happiest when someone hates me, and they are actively working to undermine my continued existence and well-being. That's a big reason why I don't go to martial arts tournaments anymore -- because the stakes are too low. My problem isn't about seeming interesting to others -- I need to seem interesting to myself, and I have really, really high standards for that. I'm not sure how to go about that.

I also learned from another mental health professional  in my network that I'm the poster child for narcissistic personality disorder. I looked into it.
"Symptoms of narcissistic personality disorder are believed to grow worse as the narcissist ages. The younger narcissist typically respects only those he sees as authority figures, such as parents or mentors, and only these are believed capable of keeping his often contrary personality in check. Psychologists believe that, as the typical narcissist reaches middle age and older, these authority figures usually die off, leaving the narcissist able to think as highly of himself as he likes and treat others as badly as he likes. As the aging narcissist grows harder and harder to deal with, he may find himself more and more socially isolated, such that narcissism and depression may be more likely to occur together as the individual reaches old age."
Treatment is available, but it admittedly doesn't work. At all. This is compounded by the fact that everything I like about myself is an incurable pathology -- and even if I tried to rid myself of it, I'd just be reduced to some forgettable, Flanders-like being.

I was told to pursue a political career, to satiate my megalomaniacal desires -- not to lead, but to at least have a say in how I am led. I'm uncertain though, as that would require me to Win Friends and Influence People, which was never my shtick. I've always been uncharismatic to the point where it causes an integer overflow and becomes charming. In that same vein, I'm also ineloquent in speaking, but I've been thinking about joining Toastmasters to work on that. I like technical work though.

I guess I just need to keep pursuing True Strength with and for the people I know, and to keep writing and polishing my skillset until I can create something of merit; to let techne leads me to arate.

Since I can't find a meaning I'll be forced to define myself through great works. Art is the only salvation from the horror of existence.

Monday, February 29, 2016

Existential Depression A-go-go: The Riddle of the More

I've been reeling from existential depression for the last five years. While I'm starting to feel like myself again, I don't know what to do with that.

I've grown bored with the concept of myself, and with the story of my life; like re-watching a movie or show you enjoyed as a child with adult eyes, and saying "why did I ever like this?" (Case and point, if you haven't seen the Super Mario Bros. Super Show lately, don't -- no, seriously, don't -- DON'T.) I can't distract myself from myself any longer though; I've floated that keg, and death ray lasers and swordfights are my baseline now; I need those just to take me back to normal.

I feel useless unless I'm actively engaged in the act of conquering, or training to meet that end. It's the only way to cope with my fear of powerlessness. I refuse to listen to anyone claiming to offer empowerment, because empowerment is bullshit -- it only imparts the illusion or perception of power. Powerlessness can only be truly overcome by the acquisition of power. 

I don't see myself fitting in anywhere -- ever -- because I don't want to be comfortable; I want to conquer. I need more, but I don't know what that "more" is, or could be. It's a riddle; the Riddle of the More. I know I must find the strength to change the things I cannot accept -- but how to go about that is a mystery I'm unable to solve.

All my goals are vague and unrealistic at best. When I set small manageable goals, I get bored and immediately return to chasing dragons. I can't determine if this is the cause or the effect of my quirk of only thinking on global terms. The end result is a man-against-the-world mentality that my previous psychologists have condemned as "difficult" and "quixotic," in lieu of doing anything constructive.

Although I might sound like I'm going crazy, I'm not. My last government-mandated periodic psychiatric evaluation indicated that I am totes sane. My only deviations from the baseline psychological profile are:
  1. I have an extremely manic personality. However, "this isn't a bad thing; it just means that [I] have lots of restless energy and [I] get bored easily."
  2. I rate abnormally below on defensiveness, "meaning that [I] am very open, even about things [I] ought to be defensive about." Flaunting my adventures in existential depression to whoever bothers to read it would be a good example of this -- but I've got nothing to lose.
It's been suggested by many that I seek professional help, but conventional psychotherapy wont work on me. The main problem is that when I say that I want help, I mean real help, which, by definition, excludes all of the following practices:
  1. Advice of a spiritual/religious nature, and/or other advertisements or endorsements of religion.
  2. Any CBT-based approaches, as my "intrinsically argumentative nature renders [me] immune to any sort of cognitive-behavioral therapy."
  3. Any and all agendas which attempt to mitigate or "cure" my lust for power. It is ignoble to think weakness to be virtuous. Whatever it is that fuels this desire, it is something that is be exercised -- not exorcised.
  4. "Creeping scope" or other attempts to work around the issue at hand.
  5. Palliatives, inspiring stories, or canned advice. If these could work, then they would have. I require a unique solution.
  6. Use of hypnotic techniques, including those which can be seamlessly weaved into ordinary conversations (e.g., slow and metered vocal intonation, use of nested stories, etc.)
Because performing any of the above-listed actions shall result in non-payment. I realize that my expectation of professional conduct precludes me from most forms of therapy.

I'm not being cute; those last two paragraphs were copied verbatim from my last query letter (well, minus the song clips).  See, I'm bothered by the fact that therapist's business models are such that they have no real incentive to actually help me. Yeah, they might make people feel good for a while -- maybe for a week or so; long enough to last until the next week's appointment -- like chiropractors. I've been told that I'm looking at this all wrong -- that I'm not paying for answers -- I'm paying for a process. Dude, fuck that with a stick of intermediate length. That's not how this works. I need answers that I can't come up with on my own, so I'm farming them out to a consultant at tremendous expense. That's what engineers do.

I'm also not real big on therapist's legal entitlement to rob me of my right to self-determine. Even more so now, because a non-suicidal buddy of mine was recently robbed of his personhood by a psychologist's creative interpretation of his subtext. He became a person again when they cooled their jets 5 days later, but now he's $13k in the hole because of their arbitrariness.

It doesn't matter if I was rude or alienating to the recipients of the above letter, 'cause I wasn't looking for therapy -- I touched that stove already. I was then, (and am now), looking for referrals for some kind of not-a-therapist or other options. I think that I can't get answers because I ask the wrong questions, though, I can't be sure a solution to my problem even exists. So, I figured a crowd-sourcing is my best bet, since soft power is infinite. I'm not sure what I'm looking for. One answer would be a guidance outside of a clinical setting; another answer would be "an enabler." I know that life coaches are out of the question -- and it's not because they have no kind of regulation or oversight -- it's because they themselves can't even clearly express exactly what the fuck they even do, or what services they allegedly provide.

Medication can't fix this problem, because if I had pills that made me feel like myself again, I don't know what I'd do with myself.

It's been suggested that I find gratification in a new career, but I tried that a year ago with great success. I can't play that hand again though, as my money situation doesn't enable me to continue pursuing an academic career, and I'm adverse to the idea of betting another 4-5 years of my life on another roll of the dice.

Keely suggested that I'd find myself in the works of Kurt Vonnegut, because literally every young woman I met in the last 15 years has told me this. Either I ooze Vonnegutivity, or I keep meeting and re-meeting different shades of the same woman, like some kinda mélange of Dark City and Joe vs. the Volcano. While I can't quite grok him, she also forwarded to the School of Life. They have this real unique approach where they print self-help books with the intent of actually helping people, instead of trying to get a quick payday off of some simplistic palliatives and trite fictional anecdotes.

They managed to help. I've known the Great Man Theory of History to be false of some time, but I didn't know what to do with it. Great men do not do great things; they merely channel the zeitgeist into action. Great men are ordinary men who, largely by circumstance, have become possessed by the zeitgeist, much like other non-metaphorical ghosts from the grainy horror flicks we watched as teens:
So, to meet this end, I've been grinding away at Project X. The details of Project X will not be discussed at this time; it is only important to note that it will aid and augment the zeitgeist currently surrounding us. That's why I've been kinda quiet lately. The problem is, that I know If I complete my project, I'll go back to a state of meaninglessness, and if I procrastinate, I'm no longer doing meaningful work, again leading to meaninglessness.

Any insights on how I can get out of this, to solve the Riddle of the More are appreciated. My responses will be public, so we can all be on the same page, eliminating the duplicity of work. Responses shall be congruent with the 6 criterion stated earlier; actions contrary to established criteria will be met with consequences.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Philosophical LEGOs

Ruchela tried to goad me back into going to therapy, because I "have a set of standards that are vague" and I "phrase them poetically," which she mistook for non-specific garden-variety insanity. Once we came to see that it was just a communication issue, she retracted her request, which is good, because therapists here have proved to be an insolent lot.

I've had a hard time lately trying to come up with unrealistic goals. I'm sick of achievable goals, because I know I can reach them. Furthermore, I'm at a point where pursuing normal, achievable goals wont even get me anywhere. For example, I can't further my education, because I've graduated from college -- three times. I don't know what I can do with a fourth degree. 

I look to books or websites on how to set goals, and I can't see how any of that shit can apply to me. Their list of goals are along the lines of "plant a garden," while mine are things like "get into fistfight on top of a locomotive." I guess this explains why I've been having problems relating to others -- I really can't relate to other people. 

"So what are some of your interests?" asked one of the wildly, supremely incompetent career counselors at the Purdue Center for Career Opportunities, many moons ago.
"Katanas and lasers," I replied.
"Well, there's not going to be a whole lot of that in the real world," she said, in her catty, cunty tone.

Dude, the fuck does she know? I went on to do exactly that, and I was making nearly six-figures at it, until I just got bored and stopped. 

Anyway, I've been thinking a lot lately, of what I need to do to continue to grow. Anything other than the acquisition of power just seems like a waste of time. While I have many pet projects, I have no long-term masterplan. I have a few certifications I want to earn over the next three years, but they will not advance my career, or my available opportunities; I simply want them. As such, the act of getting them is on some level, no different than buying a stack of pulpy word-search books from the drugstore.

Delving into the "disturbing number of Word files" on my computer in an attempt for answers and clues left by earlier mes, I hit paydirt -- a neat, concise list of the consolidated wisdom of one of my earlier selves. Of course, most of this are vague and poetic -- but they need to be. 

Less is more. 

I've included them all in the list below, the fist twenty-ish are in order of importance, but then it kinda becomes a grab-bag; it's a work-in-progress. I figured it was too good not to share, maybe they can help others out. In the meantime, I'll but various systems of values form these philosophical LEGOs. Feel free to play along with me.

  1. True Strength is giving others what they need to become strong. 
  2. Seek the strength to change the things you cannot accept; doing anything else is just rationalizing failure.
  3. Won’t you triumph the day? If not, who will? 
  4. Most of what we fear is not worth fearing. What if we are already free?
  5. Amor fati. By finding lessons and wisdom from painful experiences, they become positive experiences. By this means, one can overcome one's past, and obtain will-to-power.
  6. Rules are just suggestions. Fuck the police.
  7. Take strength and grow stronger. Long-term solutions must establish feedback loops (virtuous/vicious circles). 
  8. Mutual welfare and benefit. This is the essence of synergy. Without mutual benefit, service becomes manipulation. 
  9. Maximum efficiency, minimum effort. Strive for optimization, not perfection.
  10. A dark sword cannot prevail over true evil. A paladin must sheath his sword. A dark sword just consumes its wielder’s life force with each attack. A paladin just needs to block and heal until the Dark Knight eventually destroys themselves.
  11. The classics are classics for a reason.
  12. That which is called the Way is not the true Way. Options exist, and the clear path is someone else's.
  13. Seeing is weak; perceiving is strong.
  14. Cry in the dōjō, laugh on the battlefield. The ideal training regimen is more difficult than anything you will actually encounter.
  15. Stack the deck, win the game.
  16. Question every use of “is” and “ought.”
  17. Fool me once, fuck you forever.
  18. A real hero isn’t someone. It is something -- either an idea, or a perception of someone.
  19. Pressure makes diamondsBeing tough is not a choice; it is the result of not having choices.
  20. Awesomeness and mediocrity are conscious choices.
  21. Do nothing, become nothing.
  22. Belligerence is a virtue. In each society, etiquette was devised by aristocrats as a barrier-to-entry and means of social control.
  23. It is, in all cases, morally good to call people out.
  24. Love makes no ultimatums.
  25. Love is strength.
  26. In the Age of Information, ignorance is a choice.
  27. That which can be destroyed by the truth should be.
  28. Humor conquers all; it robs authority of its power.
  29. Drama begets drama.
  30. Drama causes suffering, scarcity causes drama.  Drama is thus unavoidable, but it can be mitigated.
  31. The truth exists despite your feelings about it.
  32. Most people are cautionary tales.
  33. Fatigue is a monster.
  34. Rust never sleeps.
  35. Today is someday.
  36. Mediocrity must be destroyed.
  37. Courage trumps security. Valor is a mirror that reveals all things and exposes evil.
  38. Fear is a call-to-action.
  39. One's sense-of-purpose has nothing to with oneself. 
  40. Hard power is limited; soft power is unbound.
  41. Synergy is the only means by which man transcend himself. Synergy is a state of non-coercive service, unconstrained by obligations, demands, or ultimatums; a mutually-reinforcing cyclic process; "a virtuous circle." Synergy gives without taking, and it cannot be bought.
  42. Charisma is the gateway to synergy; it satisfies unfulfilled needs by manipulating positive emotions.
  43. Experience breeds charisma.
  44. Skill and character cannot be bought.
  45. Conflict goes by means of deception.
  46. Fail to plan, plan to fail.
  47. Defense-in-depth. With redundancy, reliable systems can be built from unreliable components.
  48. Assimilate, not destroy.
  49. Strength is the absence of weakness.
  50. Don’t box a boxer.
  51. Hard defeats soft; soft controls hard. With cleverness, an undefeatable enemy can become your weapon. 
  52. Conflict is unavoidable, but delayable.
  53. Break hearts, not bones.
  54. All power is external.
  55. Justified vengeance is altruistic. Those who have wronged you will continue to wrong others.
  56. What good is a sword if you are not a fencer?
  57. Victory only requires a slight advantage.
  58. Failure teaches success.
  59. A safe bet always loses.
  60. Hardship fosters cleverness.
  61. The middle path leads nowhere. Heat and cold can perform work; tepid and tepid cannot.
  62. Give an inch, take a mile. In order to steer your enemies into ruin, they need to develop a little momentum.
  63. Professionalism is just convincing others that you’re a professional.
  64. Suffering for its own sake is ignoble.
  65. The measure of a man is in his stories, and his ability to generate results. No one will remember you -- just the stories about you.
  66. Once destroyed, information cannot be reclaimed.
  67. With the power of conviction, there is no sacrifice. If something is truly desired, then the hardships needed to obtain it become trivial.
  68. The wretched are already punished.
  69. Fortune favors the bold. The problems boldness causes are instantly solvable with more boldness.
  70. Survival is not a right.
  71. Will-to-power results from the struggle against one’s surroundings; this culminates in personal growth, self-overcoming, self-perfection, and the entirely-coincidental power over others.
  72. Three or more variables create unconstrained systems.
  73. We were once unconstrained, but no longer, as we have been drugged and incapacitated by the Four Poisons leading to a pathology known as the Human Condition. The Four Poisons are: fear, self-doubt/hesitation, confusion/fascination, and surprise. (Six items are listed because kanji can have multiple translations). Currently, there is no cure for Human Condition, but treatment is available. With regular, small doses of the Four Poisons, one can develop a tolerance to them, and they will gradually lose their effect.
  74. Constraint leads to irritation.Irritation leads to action.Action leads to options.Options lead to absurdity.
  75. Sketchiness cannot be faked.
  76. A rebel without a cause is better than a rebel without an effect.
  77. Enlightenment is a verb. Life is just a very open-world JRPG, and you must grind to level-up.
  78. Masters never call themselves masters.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Dating After 30 is the Worst Thing That Can Happen to Someone, Except for Teabagging a Garbage Disposal, or Drowning in a Vat of LSD, or Having Some Weird Shit Like That Happen.

Dating after age 30 is the worst thing ever. Marriage almost makes sense.

People get married because they just want to quit while they're ahead, because they'll lose it all in the long run if they don't cash out when their chips are up. I get that.

I also understand why people subject themselves to online dating. Don't get me wrong, on-line dating was pretty great... when I was in my 20's, because of the 20-something "Yeah? Fuck it, why not" approach to love. I could, and did, win first dates from basically anyone I wanted. Second dates, though -- now that shit's tricky. Whatever, 'cause when I got shot down in flames I could just go, "Well, that sucked," dust myself off, and go find another date. The quicker the turn around, the better. "Skip like a stone," we used to say -- I have some funny stories about that, but that's for another time. Hell, I once went on two dates on the same night, despite being told not too by every sitcom, ever. I went on a disaster of a date, went home, met another girl on OKC, and I was back in game withing two hours. While I didn't snag a girlfriend on either date, that's how I met Ruchela, and she's one of my favorite people.

I also know that people are going to accuse me of looking at the past with rose-colored glasses, because let's face it folks, courtship has never made any kinda sense:

"Dating after 30 can't be any different though! It's just like falling off of a bike -- you do it once, you can do it again," said your internal monologue just now -- but no, fuck you. Your internal monologue is wrong. In spite of being a 4 on the Pennywise-Gosling Scale, I could still snag dates from the mad-fly honeys,which I did not deserve. Ever since I turned 30 though, all my rendezvous go something like this:

FIG 1. Darwin's Law of Biology
I still feel compelled to go out and meet new people, which as shown in Figure 1, is just the polite way of saying that my balls ache -- but they ache in the good "Hey, it's springtime!" way, and not in the "Ahhh! Epididymitis!" way, so we cool. I kinda wish I could bring Camus, or Sartre (but definitely Camus, 'cause he'd be more fun) to modern day so they could experience online and/or 30+ dating. They'd only need to follow the Two Rules of Online and/or 30+ Dating:
  1. Look good.
  2. Don't look bad.
Since these are also the Rules of Normal Dating, verbatim, there wouldn't be any culture shock, for Camus, or for anyone else going to a 30+ Meetup. It doesn't go full-on absurdist/existentialist/stereotypical French until you start talking to someone you do like, because the only thing you have in common is loneliness -- and now that you've met, you don't even have that.

The problem with dating after 30 though, is that unless you're Connery-level awesome, the people you'll be dating are also over 30. I for one, was only ever Connery-level awesome for a single, brief moment back in 2005, but that's a story for another time. Right around the time that people turn 30, their wavefunctions collapse, and they become the person that were going to be. There isn't anymore learning or exploring; people have a preconceived idea of what they want; there are expectations. Whatever this is, it isn't love, because love is a flighty, fleeting thing, making no promises and no demands.

I don't know what to call it; the best I can do is to be vague or to assign some arbitrary-but-unclaimed arrangement of sounds, like "floob" or "heebaleeb" to what I'm feeling, because that's how languages work, and that's kind screwy if you think deeply about it. While there's no shortage of love songs, there are no floob songs. Floob compels no one to sing. Dates, courtship, relationships after 30+ aren't as passionate, and that's what scares me. I'm scared of drudging through life without the realistic probability of anymore St. Elmo's Fire moments; y'know, the ~2% of our life that's actually worth remembering. The sort of moments that are exploited daily by advertisers to coax us into buying detergent or breath mints or other things that we were probably going to buy anyway.

While it is admittedly unrealistic to expect the frenzy of young love to persist indefinitely, the presence of anything else just draws my attention to its absence. Meeting other people makes me feel lonely. What am I to do? What could I do? There's no easy way out of this, other than to ascend to some insurmountable level of coolness. I have to cultivate desire in others in order to satiate my meta-desire for desire. While it is unlikely that I can ever consistently operate at Connery-level coolness, I know that I can do it for brief moments, because I've done it before. I don't need to be great all of the time, just at the right time. Everything in life comes down to timing. While this plan seems entirely absurd, it is absurd not to be absurd. In the past my heart screamed -- it nearly drove me mad (though that's a story for another time) -- but now that I'm older and wiser, it seems like it didn't drive me crazy enough

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Stomp-Ass Band Names that are Guaranteed to Score You All Kinds of Cat

I've always been a digital man living in an analog world. I either become completely, entirely obsessed with things, or I am entirely indifferent to them. This is my one, true quirk from which all my other personality quirks originate. For example, this is why I obsess about music while having gone out of my way not to become a musician.

FIG 1. "Dragon Warrior" for the NES, a game
 about poking blobs of slime with a bamboo
pole. It should be noted that you never  actually
bear witness to the slime-poking, or even
see the pole; you are merely informed that
your character owns a pole and the system
relays the results of  any requested pokes.
It's funny; everyone I knew at Purdue automatically assumed that I was completely obsessed with power metal, since my personality kind of exudes that. While I greatly appreciate that genre, it's not me -- at least not the real me. The songs in my heart have always sounded like Benjamin Orr.

I always loved the purity of tone that only synth can provide, but coming-of-age in the afterbirth of grunge, synth was a rare commodity. While I had limitless opportunities to prepare me with the skills I would need to be a synth player, I could only do similar-but-unrelated things. I could never feel passionate about those other things -- and to me, it just seemed like the grinding of a poorly-designed JRPG (see Figure 1), and that depletes my willpower faster than anything. I opted to try to express myself through writing instead. Granted, writing takes a lot of grinding, but it is easily flavored to one's personal taste.

In short, I would have loved to have been in marching band, had there been keytars.

If I found a genie's lamp, and I could have any three wishes, then I'd ask to become immortal, invincible, and Superman, because I am smart. If I lived an extra-charmed life and found a second genie's lamp, I'd ask for fantastic keytar skills; a DeLorean; and a three-piece suit with fringed sleeves, made entirely out of black snakeskin. The suit, along with a little guyliner and greasepaint, will unlock that Huey Lewis/Alice Cooper combination which is my true inner self. So then I would drive around in my DeLorean, in this ascended form, until I chance upon some fine-foxy ladies, at which point I would leap out, jump onto the roof of my DeLorean, and belt out some wycked lyxx on my keytar, complemented with gratuitous pelvic thrusting.

Then, I will have sex.

Don't give me that look -- it would be a mathematical certainty at that point, as I would have met all of the necessary prerequisites.

Still, even in this best of all possible worlds, I would still never create anything of merit, because I have an incredibly limited vocal range. My voice is horrible. I sound like an autistic guy taking your drive-thru order. It's badly bad, of badness.

Maybe I'll take up the synthesizer/keytar and record an instrumental album someday, who knows. Maybe I'll join a band, and have someone else sing -- but I can't do that with someone from a newspaper ad or a friend-of-a-friend from a coffee shop. I'd need a real synergy before I could even try, because I know me, and most of the people capable of that have moved on with their lives or outgrown me; such is the way of things -- but those are stories for another time.

In the mean time, I keep thinking up all kinds of great names for bands, that I can do nothing with. It'd be a shame to let them go to waste, so I figured I'd share them with the world, in case of any readers who can't think of a name for their band. Wonderful names like:
FIG 2. "The truth is neither black nor white..."
  • Bremsstrahlung.
  • Fundamental Theorem.
  • Suspicious Persons.
  • Quantum Suicide.
  • Shades of Grey. Their logo would be a yin-yang where both sides are shaded the same color of grey, as shown in Figure 2.
  • Serious Inquiries Only.
  • Lesbian Tendencies.
  • Anubis Remembers.
  • Octodeath Crab. Rising from the sea, he'll kill you eight different ways.
  • Consumer Lifestyle.
  • Fake Smiles and Form Letters.
  • Autoerotic Knifeplay.
  • Ginger Cream Pie. Naturally, their album covers would feature seductive redheads with desserts.
  • Puppet Show of the Damned.
  • Intermix Ratio. This would be a TNG-themed band, so the title track of their first album would naturally be The Line Must Be Drawn... Here!
  • The Magic Bullet Theory. Their first album would  be Up and to the Left, with a cover featuring the band members photoshopped into the Zapruder film.
  • The Human Shields.
  • Extreme Chess Luau.
  • Bionic Foreskin.
  • Bukkake Pantomime.
  • Hümanyti.
  • Quantum Singularity Trebuchet.
  • The Cumfarts. Their first album being the non-Euclidian Let Me Vomit into My Own Mouth.
  • Menstruating Lava.
  • Üterüs Coökie. Please note those are not metal umlauts; the name is legitimately pronounced "ueterues cooekie," that way they can say it on the radio, angering Christian mothers and people named Helen.
  • The Hassidic Leprechauns.
  • Pubic Hair Macramé. As a gimmick, they could setup some bogus "Locks of Love"-like charity where people mail in their bush clippings with the intent of the band shipping them all en masse to people they do not like. (Ideally, in the form of a decorative owl.)
  • ...and Strat-O-Matic Cybersex.
Feel free to make use of these names; I just ask for acknowledgement in your album's liner notes (though merch and backstage passes would be nice, too).

Saturday, August 1, 2015

I'm Getting Lost in the Riddles of the Modern YellowHatMan.

I'm Ryan Coons, but I'm not quite sure what that means.

I used to write all kinds of things, and lived through all sorts of weird tales, but anymore, I can't think of any of them. I've been quiet these last few months. I recently drove across America (again) to switch jobs. In the mean time, I finally finished my first novel. It was one of my more persistent pet projects, which tortured my thoughts for what, 8 years now? While the end product is most-likely unpublishable, it is also beyond my power to improve it any further. Still, the experience taught me much about the craft of writing, and more importantly, the act of writing the book freed from the desire to write it.

The killing of this desire opened my eyes to a possible world that I can hardly conceive -- one that is free of desire.

Much of my early life was devoted to escapism. That last sentence was admittedly melodramatic, because by life was not bad by any means, yet it captures the zeitgeist. My youth was unfulfilling; boring. While I agree that "only boring people are bored," with limited access to funds and basic transportation, options were limited. A montage of my early life is presented in the video on the right:

Much of my youth was spent indulging in phantasy, dreaming of what I could be had I lived in more interesting places and times. I couldn't get enough; I wanted more. I needed more. It was a hunger, a lust, a thirst. An urge. I cast a very broad net, absorbing every fandom I came across, and adding their cultural distinctiveness to my own. Much of this time was spent in the Marvel Universe -- several of them actually -- I was always a huge fan of "What If?" There's a magical time in the life of a boy, around the age of 12 or 13, when they inevitably switch from DC to Marvel. I loved how there was a lore to those stories, with layers upon layers of nested sub-stories governing the main stories; of a world that kept getting progressively weirder the more you learned about it, where finding answers just leads to more questions. I read everything I could get my hands on, which is why according to Darren, my comic collection "makes no sense, whatsoever." Captain America and Iron Man proved to be my favorites. I would have become like either of them, if I could -- but not both at once. That could never work, though it took me years to figure out why. Once I understood the underlying struggle between the two characters (altruism vs. objectivism) that I was able to understand them, and in the process, find myself.

After high school, I leaped head first into a non-linear 11-year trek through the halls of academe. Most of that time was spent trying to survive. As an adult, I didn't become anything like my two boyhood heroes. Instead, I became some weird amalgam of Iron Fist and the Mad Thinker -- but I liked who I was then. I was living to my full potential. A dramatization of one of my typical collegiate days has been recreated in the video on the left.

Then, literally within hours of leaving academia, I instantly became BoJack Horseman.

Now, I feel like I'm changing again, but in to what, I'm not entirely sure. See, my whole adult life has been spent trying to make big break into nuclear engineering, and now that I've arrived, I don't know what to do. I only know the struggle, the journey, and without it, there's something missing.

It scares me. I can just be complacent now, without any consequence. I can rest on my laurels, and be comfortable. I can stop growing. In short, when the old me from college hops out of the DeLorean to see the me of 2015 (not if, when) our conversations would go a little something like this:

I had planned on spending my life doing all of those "someday" tasks I've been putting aside; the younger me had enough pet-projects to last for ten lifetimes. However, given the current rate of progression in the low-distraction confines of the Deep South,  I can actually complete all of my life's ambitions within 3-6 years. While this is wicked-awesome, I will soon reach a point where I can't hide behind the facade of my own make-work. I need to become something, but what? I have to change to grow, but I don't know what path to walk.

After how-many-years of lasers-and-katanas, I need to find someway to keep the ol' hedonic treadmill a-churnin'. Anything else just seems like selling out. Worse yet, I don't think anyone can answer this question but me. There are lots of people who think they can, but they're invariably just more religious cult salesmen, or those "mindful" people. Living in California taught me that mindful people are to be avoided, because they completely lack the ability to enact change. No seriously, look at any of their websites, and you'll see that they're all the same. All that mindful people can do is 1) make pesudo-spiritual rationalizations for their own failures, and 2) stand on the beach with a long, fluttering piece of cloth.

It was the audacity of these cult salesmen that, in part, made me hate the gods in the first place. When an earlier me was looking for answers, all of the Christians and other cultists all gave the same reply: "The meaning of life is for you to to work for us for free," which is eerily-convenient for them. So much so, that it became suspicious.

Spare me your pity; I just need to make something of merit. I know that I can, because I have. I just need to do it again. If you have any neat stories about me, please jog my memory. I need to keep the legend alive, in my own mind. I can write them up, entertain you for a while, and in the process, find my bearings and journey on to what we both want me to be.

TL;DR: I'm taking requests.