I wish I could carry this man in my pocket.
I wish I could carry this man in my pocket.
It’s snowing tonight in my little part of the country. I hate snow. Especially when it’s like this, wet and heavy in that “I’m not going to be around long but everything will still be slushy tomorrow” way.
My hatred of snow comes from the years I spent living in the Alps, at my little rich boy boarding school, where we had to ski whenever there was snow. When I tell people this, they always say, oh lucky you, to be able to ski whenever you wanted, that must’ve been fantastic.
Well, no, it wasn’t fantastic. It was fucking annoying. The magic of skiing vanishes very quickly when you have to do it as part of your ordinary school day. Trust me. You thought it was boring having to sit around in physics or geography class all day? Yes, it was probably boring for you. But try being forced at gunpoint to go skiing every school afternoon after class, simply because that’s what they made you do at school when there is snow. Every afternoon. Even on Sundays you had to go skiing. Imagine that for six years. I was there, man. Imagine having no choice but to ski for your phys ed class, and having your progress on the slopes count towards your final grades. This, in the civilized western world.
I soon lost count of the excuses I used to get the school nurse to write me sick notes.
Yep. I had a very rough upbringing.
However, tonight the snow reminds me of this one kid in particular from school, Nick the Russian. He wasn’t my roommate, but he might as well have been. He spent almost all of his time in my bedroom. Not simply my bedroom, but my bed. Even when I wasn’t in the room, he would make himself comfortable on my bed and eat sausages, drink Diet Coke, and play video games. I never really grokked why he couldn’t do that in his own room, in his own dammed bed. I’m sure there wasn’t any sexual tension between us, especially since, you know, he was Russian, and just about every Russian is grandiosely, Academy Award-winningly homophobic. As for me, I was worried about getting a girlfriend, not a boyfriend. So, as I say, this wasn’t some weird sexual arrangement between boys at boarding school. No, I think Nick just really liked my bed, and for some reason I have no memory of ever telling him not to use it that way. The past is a different country; they do things bizarrely there.
For the record, at the end of that school year, I discovered a bunch of wrappers, sausage wrappers, hidden away under my mattress. Thank you, Nick.
This reminds me, too, of the time someone left a human turd on the floor of my friend’s room. I have no idea why this happened, but I guess Dan had made himself an enemy, and the enemy decided it would be fair to take a shit on Dan’s bedroom floor. The school authorities, of course, were hardly amused, and they threatened to perform a “genetic test” to find out who had done this stupid thing. They said to all the students at our school assembly that the “genetic test” would let them know exactly who had shat on Dan’s floor. They said that whoever had done it might as well fess up, to spare them the expense of the “genetic test”, and if he fessed up, his punishment would be reduced. Interestingly, they never brought it up again, which we, the general student population, took to mean that some idiot had bought the whole “genetic test” thing and decided to step forward as the perpetrator of this shitty misdeed. I asked Dan, but he said he wasn’t allowed to talk about it. To this day, I don’t know who did it. At least it wasn’t my floor. This is what you can expect from sending your kids to fancy boarding schools.
Hey, look at that. Can it be a coincidence that the minute I start thinking about snow, I also start thinking about shit?
Agnosticism is the philosophical conclusion of the present.
To be here, now, is not to be here now.
Where am I? Here. Where I am here? I don’t know.
Is there a God? Not a question. Do I exist? I don’t know. Who am I? Dunno. Not when I am here, now. Who am? Who?
Is this the only room in the world? Here, in this room, I don’t know.
I know Liberia is real but am not there. I don’t know Liberia’s real.
I don’t know whether my own back exists.
Am I even here, now? I don’t know. Who the fuck was the Buddha? There was no Buddha. There was no “was.” There was. There.
You could sum up the difference this way:
In a patriarchal society, the message to young men embarking on a sex life is: “Be safe… BUT HAVE FUN!”
And for gals: “Have fun… BUT BE SAFE!”
(I’m a cultural critic.)
UPDATE! See the end for added infuriating irony.
So here’s a nice little big of irony. I wanted to write a tiny blog post, something aphoristic about the choices that get made at crucial points in the development of a technology, after which it becomes seemingly impossible to get away from them. There are plenty of examples, of which one of the most interesting to me is “the file” in computing. (Read Jaron Lanier’s book, YOU ARE NOT A GADGET, for something on that.)
Another example: using fossil fuels. You get the idea. It’s called a “lock-in” and it’s interesting.
I was going to post something like: In the future, one of the greatest markets will be silence, simplicity and disconnection. You’ll pay more for a hotel room without internet access than for one with. A premium ebook device will be one that does not contain hyperlinks. Classes in concentration will be the most valuable (overcharged) seminars for productivity enthusiasts.
I don’t have my laptop on me, so I took out my iPhone and saw that my WordPress app “needed” to be updated. Which means: I hadn’t paid attention to the app in months. Foolishly, I updated it. And the app looked pretty different. There are NEW FEATURES. There’s an IMPROVED INTERFACE. My posts on this blog appear in an order I don’t understand; my login credentials didn’t work for 15 minutes. My phone’s autocorrect function has made this post difficult to write: “ebook” became “rebook”, “Jaron” became “Yeats” and “Lanier” was “learner” or something. I got a text while writing, which distracted me. Then the phone rang.
So I hope my dystopia comes true and I can really purchase my way out of this universe of distractions someday.
UPDATE: Upon hitting “post” on my WordPress app, I saw in my Twitter feed that it had been automatically shared on my Twitter account (I opted out of that at least one year ago) — and clicking through led me to this site, to a post that didn’t exist. Really. The app said the post had been published; the internet said otherwise. Logging in to my WordPress on a computer just now, it wasn’t even saved in drafts. Yet the WordPress app “published it” AND announced it through my Twitter feed. How beautiful all of this is. (Yes, I had to EMAIL THIS POST TO MYSELF FROM THE APP.)
First, my book Praise of Motherhood gets nominated for the ForeWord Book of the Year award in the autobiography category.
Then my band’s album Reading Journals get a “best concept album” nomination at the Independent Music Awards — which, I assume, means not very much in terms of my chances of winning, since you need fans to vote, and I don’t know where my fans really are. It’s still gratifying.
It brings up a question I’ve been struggling with consistently. I have people listening to my music here, people reading my books over there, people who are aware of my columns way over the horizon, but I don’t know how to make these things work together.
Do I really need to obsess about being a “brand”? To I need to “position” myself in the marketplace? Is my platform really meant to be my priority?
At the moment, I haven’t got much of an idea about merging (in people’s minds) Phil the musician with Phil the author and Phil the guy running a press.
Maybe awards are a good way to do it, in that they seem to legitimize what you’ve tried to accomplish. At the least, it’s a bit of recognition from people who profess to care about these things. And I’d certainly prefer to be recognized than not to be recognized for what I do.
I keep resisting the idea of “branding” myself too much. It annoys me when people have a very obvious and calculated “brand”. It’s hard to explain why — a sense of inauthenticity? or they’re just more aggressive than I am about it, so they annoy me automatically and it’s my problem?
Actually, it’s very often just my problem. So PLEASE VOTE FOR MY ALBUM GUYS IT’S RIGHT THERE HOLD ON I’LL JUST SHARE IT AGAIN
This is a video of a TED talk given by Philip Zimbardo, who’s one of the most famous American psychologists of the last few decades.
When I was in high school, I was fascinated by his Stanford prison experiment and Stanley Milgram’s obedience experiment. Milgram was dead, but I somehow found a way to email Zimbardo. He even emailed back, a brief but friendly hello.
While I don’t like a lot of the TED mentality, when they manage to get people like Zimbardo instead of, uh, Seth Godin, they really strike gold.
(Please note this is a seriously unsettling video and has some graphic content.)
Whosoever should hope to bring the world to good, let him change the manners and niceties of men before tampering with their morals.
People won’t quit moaning about their neighbors.
When I insist I don’t have a good neighbor they don’t get that I’m just telling the truth. There is no resentment in that word.
He is literally Satan and by definition he is not good which means I do not have a good neighbor.
We get along very well.
I’ve switched from WordPress.com to WordPress.org, a year after first deciding to do so. Since I couldn’t keep the theme, I’ve changed it around. It will take some polishing.
News: Are you on Goodreads? I am. This is my author page. You could become my fan on there, so that I can prove to myself I exist.
News: At last, my little book on John Gardner is ready. It will be released soon, and I’ll post about that then.
News: Look at the nice things said about my press by the authors I work with. I will now offer them all 5 new book contracts each, of course.