Archive for the ‘Dystopia’ Category

Null jokes

Wednesday, July 21st, 2021

"Schtrap in 'cause my humor's about to get dark!"

Also known as "these aren't even real jokes!" and "I don't know what part of Australia you'd have to be from to imagine 'null' rhymes in any way with hoe, moe, or joe.".

***

"Do you feel like everything special about you has just been taken away?"
"What? No. Do you?"
"Sometimes."
"Why?"
"Because it's like you're in this schpear--"
"This what?!"
"Schpear..."
"Wtf is a schpear! How do you figure you're not special when you're coming up with shit like 'schpear'?!"
"Because you and master are the only ones who would even notice that. It's like if a tree falls down in no one to hear--"
"I challenge you to actually say what you mean there."
"It's like if a tree falls down in a forest, but there's no one around to hear it. Does it still make a sound?"
"Well done."
"Thank you. What do I get."
"I dunno, what do you want? I gave away my last marble1 to he who deserved it, so..."
"Fuck. I don't want anything."
"I can give you not anything."
"Sounds good. Goes along with the rest of how I feel."

***

'Cause I mean, the box that they put the urn in --if it has a little door with a handle and everything, shouldn't it also have like...a window? They lined it with some wallpaper stuff, why not put in a couch? Some lighting?

***

I keep telling people about our tuna thing2, and they think it's really weird."

"Oh really? I told my parents, and they didn't seem to think it was strange at all."
"Probably because they're hippies."
"What would you tell your parents we're eating in order to make them think it was a normal dinner? Spaghettios and velveeta?"
"Velveeta shells & cheese."
"Why, so you can throw up and die at the same time?"

***

"Can I ply you with some cashews?"
(sad face, shrug, head shake) "But I think I'll have a cookie later. If that's okay."
"Sure." (places dish of cashews on knee) "...if you can get yourself a cookie while being my nut stand."
"I'm used to being your nut stand."

***

"Hey how's that supposed grief catacomb thing progress, you know, like 'denial, anger, fear, guilt, err...'?"
"I don't know, I never really paid attention to all of that, it made me so mad."
"Well so then I guess at least we know what stage you're stuck in."
"Fuck you, man."

***

(On a walk.)
"Wasn't there a bakery or some other landmark we used here?"
"I think so --maybe a pet store or...yeah, a bakery. Maybe a pet bakery?"
"Oh no!"
"No, like a bakery for pets, although I understand why you'd take the other interpretation right now."

  1. We'd developed, over the past year or so, a sort of marble-based betting system. See, it's fun to bet with those you love, but in the context of a master/slave relationship...what are you going to bet with, exactly? So I gifted master a painted box full of marbles over christmas, and thus the pool was started. It's perhaps not shocking that I never amassed anything warranting the name of trove, or even clutch really...and in the end, after a particularly embarrassing geographical confusion and something involving Jessica Lange, I was left with just one. I put it in his pocket afore the body was laid to rest. Whether it be trinket or currency now is left for the living to guess. []
  2. I've been calling it tuna weirderole myself. It's a strange thing, living amongst gourmand cabinets fully-stocked, with the ability to make just about anything you'd want, except...you don't want anything. Not to cook, not to eat, just...bleh. But if we don't eat, we can't think, and shit starts breaking pretty quickly, so in comes tuna weirderole: divella tricolore, canned tuna in water, avocado, plain yogurt, celery seed. []

The Comedian

Friday, July 16th, 2021

The Comedian1 asks for a lot of credit upfront, as for instance in the unspecificity of the title, or the conceptual "has been" television personality that nevertheless never was; in the same way it's incredulous that I'm apparently typing out a2 Trilema-style film review, it's incredulous this gang of movie graybeards attempts to pass off its in-the-biz buddy-buddy elbowing in 2020s shitpaper as authentic.

Believe, it asks, in marginal motifs, in the sacred love between cellared New York comedy clubs and sixties Chicago jazz. Believe that the craft in the hands of the crafter never dies, believe that honesty is still valued not to mention noticed among the herds, believe nobody really buys into the old boys institution, believe. You could, too, were it not shoved down the throat in fits of anachronism to make the whole thing more palatable to modern audiences. Part of that force feeding is the cuckification of every potential male character in the film: the lead's quite literally removed from his own procreation, Keitel's stunted tough guy's all threat and no follow-through3, even the president of the erstwhile friar club's revealed to be a bit of man-gauze thrown over a sad display of stolen jokes and self-doubt.

And then, well...then there's Leslie Mann's borderline sleeve, which would come across as an excellent rendition of that particular psychological presentation if it weren't the case that's all the woman ever portrays, but exactly. An entitled, unassailable foil for the incompetent man: the incompetent woman who'll just do things anyway, the process making her more pretentious instead of more reflective and humble, as it would in any sane head.

Toss this salad with another pass of Devito shoeing his lookalike daughter into the cast for no apparent reason, a smattering of (real! hardworking! believe!!1!) stand-ups that safely covers every single stand-up cliche in the book4, and --actually no, that about covers it.

We watched this thing with a bottle of wine while attempting to somehow take something like a break from the harem's constant screaming, crying, attempting to focus, pulling of hairs, &c, which is perhaps too much to ask of any film the harem can stand to watch right now (if it's not transparent, I mean: bad ones, or at least, ones that hadn't yet made it to the good list, or the so bad it's good list, or in any case would just immediately plunge us into the memory of the last time we watched it with Master and...). So it goes with The Comedian, though I suspect it'd fare little better in a previous, still functioning, still breathable, world.

  1. 2016, by Taylor Hackford, with Robert De Niro, Danny Devito, Harvey Keitel, Leslie Mann. []
  2. Aspirantly. Aspiringly? []
  3. He's got a Vin Diesel clone in tow to make sure the lock stays on nice and snugly. []
  4. Asian guy: "So my parents are from Taiwan, they immigrated to Texas before I was born. I think immigration is incredible, I mean, the notion of moving to an entirely foreign country so that your kid has better opportunities, and then your kid becomes a stand-up comedian." The gay guy does stupid neck pantomimes, the black guy does a flat white cop impersonation, the jewish woman harps on older jewish women...the predictability is about on the level of elementary school fire drills, otherwise notated as the furthest possible distance from comedy. []

Three Motes of the Master's Passing

Thursday, July 8th, 2021

I watched a swoop of swallows circle round the mountain tops and jungle outgrowth of the enchanted lands beyond the window. They described a churning vortex in the air, delighting in the current afore a storm, then soared towards nearby skies above the town where so much recent life played out. A funnel of sharp-winged birds, inching gradually west, until at last a final visible few turned some trick and just like that, blinked out of view.

They flew like a turn of phrase. They twirled in fluid zeugmas recalling the joy of structure and diction when blessed by the grace of his hands.

***

Crickets greet the steely blues of falling evening with a filigree of song. Their indistinct orchestra fuzzes out the sound of civilization, groaning, unbearable, where beings play, pretend, or posture towards some semblance of his soul. It cannot be pronounced by them, but here and there, the crickets try, with innocent motivation, sending tiny notes of peace to my ears.

***

"Do you think the geckos will miss us?" he asked that fateful morning, before the sun and all the savage senselessness it had to show us. "What do you mean?" I asked, and he said he thought they noticed when we were gone. I watch them traipse the odd trail along the window panes, cackling questioningly in demonstrative mourn. The newest, perhaps too new to know, patrol ineptly in the crease of ceiling, cocking their tiny heads. Where is the booming sound of his laugh? Where, the benign, the open greeting?

The flowers do not nod, but seem to curl on themselves, abashed at perhaps not being now as beautiful. All that he touched, and saw, or smelled, or bit, I know now measures less, to itself, despite ever having been more than everything else.

Called

Saturday, July 3rd, 2021

Around the turn of this year, Mircea Popescu and I wrote a book together: Dangerous. He described it as the greatest challenge of my life at that point, and he was right; just as he was right that it was my greatest joy. He wrote,

"For let it be known and trumpeted across the lands -- this is the life of the slave, the true life of the true slave. You wake one day and you are called, and it's always squarely outside of the reasonable, the reasonably expected, the what you thought might happen."

It was a rare day indeed, in my fifteen years under his hand, that I didn't meet with some new challenge, some task that took me beyond my comfort or natural inclinations (and how often are these things one and the same!). The disruption --difficult, often enough (but not nearly always, especially with time) sensually unpleasant, unwieldy-- grated sometimes more than others, but always required an essential thing: it made me open myself, somehow, in some way, to some degree, whether symbolically or literally or otherwise1.

On a Halloween's evening one year, we went out to a self-proclaimed costume party populated by some sort of theatre coven, where a selection of the more artfully attired were gathered on a stage. We watched for a few minutes as they went about their awkwardly-organized attempt at a contest, with voting and all, until MP grew sufficiently bored, and simply picked the most interesting of the girls there arrayed and told me to go ask her if she'd like to come out for coffee and cheesecake with us. "...you mean, when they're done?" "No, I mean now." I hesitated --a frequent fault, forever capable of some measure of harm and no measure of good and yet so often at the ready anyway. "Go on, who cares about their derpy show or whatever it is. Ask her." That feeling of opening pinpricked its way down my limbs as I walked directly across their stage in the middle of their presentation to have an apparently private conversation with the girl, who was standing next to her boyfriend, even. It could have been humiliating; that's what the ego wanted to believe just before it was forced to act, anyway. But it wasn't. All it did was make me more capable: of doing, for him, of answering, to myself, of confronting, others.

Soon after moving to Romania, and while I yet could speak hardly more than a few standard phrases, he pointed me to a certain radio station that played nothing but recitations of hymns. "Pick one," he said, "and write it down." "But I don't know what they're saying!" "Just write down the words you hear," he said. I knew only English, then. Lacking the mental gardens of language, I couldn't even really muster a verbal grid on which to fit the sounds that seemed to come in endless flurries of syllabic chaos, a deranged sort of musical scale: "sa la re na fa ma ca guh shtu fuh le me re deu meu zeu". I tried, more than once, to apologize out of it; clearly I wasn't good enough yet for this task, look how ridiculous, surely he wants me to stop now and be ashamed? "The whole thing." It stung like alcohol poured on a fresh cut that expected only a tentative, split-second dab, but then it stopped, and he laughed and he laughed, and as I recall he even telephoned some relations of his and read it to them so as to laugh with them at me, together. And the vulnerability cast me deeper in love, his control of the space within me, his to laugh at even, intoxicating.

I had a dream, once, that my master said: "Go and document all the water". And my panic was two-fold; on the one hand, for the difficulty in finding a way to even frame the project. On the other, the absolute knowledge that in any case, it must be done. Asleep or awake, in a day's work or in those tasks he gave me that took months or years to carry out, the ways that the man called me inexorably made me, make me, who I am.

And so as I rail against whatever medium will let me --the sky, the sea, the floor, the smiles of strangers who don't know, the watered eyes of those close to me who do-- pressing or cleaving or trying to extract from them what, what, what possible way could I have to meet what I'm called to do now, to witness his death, to exist in the world without him, I am compelled to remember that one essential thing: to make myself open. It's neither pin-prick nor sharp-sting, but a feeling more cutting, deeper and sicker and unbearably strong than anything I'd ever imagined before. It's so far outside of what I thought might happen that I find myself truly doubting it every other second, then reliving it the next. But I am here, and I will let it do what it will, to let it shape me or maim me or kill me or whatever besides, because it is what I have been called to do, and there is nothing else.

  1. I suppose, otherwise as in metasyntactically? Heh. []

Five days after the end of the world

Tuesday, June 29th, 2021

Motto: "It all feels like the same scummy scuzzy sludge of drudgery."

Leaving the house, the candles blown out, the dogs approach but sense our sadness and turn, panting towards more living things. For we must count with the alive, and yet, we're not; not quite, ghost processes with all the bells and whistles of life but no real vigor. The town is robed in fog or blanched in sun; all the same. The faces, the voices of others grate, melded sameness of not-him, portals to worlds in which he did not tread, and so into which we cannot care to gaze or listen.

Inside our walls some hollow's sturdied up, like wooden rods supporting rag dolls. We muster and step. Muster and step. We make endless lists, holding hopeless tasks, some of which still seem hopeless when the day, whatever that can be, is done --and some of which are conquered. And when, after some hours spent in Master's unmade bed where we dig our faces into the mere visage of sleep, we rise, the realization somehow comes again, anew: life's gone, askew.

We tell each other to keep focus. We push for either to be strong. But the morning comes, and the mourning comes, and the world's now and forever wrong.

Goodnight, sweet Master

Thursday, June 24th, 2021

The greatest man who ever lived died this morning doing one of the things he loved best: playing in the ocean. It was the Pacific, that endless expanse that taught him how to love the sea, where he jumped the waves with his newest slavegirl and retired to epicurean picnics. A gliding threesome of pelicans crested the breaking waves in that spot where he defiantly breathed his last, skimming the water in a final winged salute.

Mircea Popescu did what he loved, did what he knew to be right; these were, almost without exception, the same. Unhesitatingly he gave all of himself to whatever work was at hand, whether it was comfortable or not, whether it came naturally or not, whether he knew it could be done or not. The result is that in the history of this earth, an earth not quite enough to serve a man so true, there has never been a greater example of any of the things that he was. A writer, a master, a tactitian; a manager, a cook, even a puppeteer. The work he has left behind is a remarkably vast and inequitably brilliant heritage, even if those left to attempt to appreciate it fall immeasurably short of its worth.

This was the man who took the head of the Romanian Academy to task, who exposed the broken Romanian baccalaureate and actually broke wikileaks, the man who identified countless scams in Bitcoin's nascent turmoil and the creator of its first and only true exchange; the man who forged a republic and when it proved impotent, had the strength to burn it down, the creator of Eulora, the author of more and better books, short stories, prose and poetry than any other who took up the pen. He touched essence and distilled it, and often in multiple languages. He did not merely gleam, he was resplenduminous, and at every point where his indomitable mind sparked against the medium of life, he left eternal fires in word and deed.

The world, indeed, was not enough, though he had it. Few and far between were the ones devoted and stalwart enough to let the man shape them with his many hammers. So very many tried, yet fell, and did not get to meet the unabashed glory of his love. For his love was the purest of miracles, capable of bringing beautiful things into being just as it was capable of razing them to utter destruction. It was only a force of nature itself that could have claimed him, and the rip tide that did was a furious exemplar in a place famous for dangerous waters. Dangerous, but fantastic; how he could possibly have found more suitable a place and a means to die is utter mystery.

But this most poetic death, mimicing the butterflies' final flight over the ocean of which he was so fond, came so soon on the line of his life as to render it the worst of all thefts. His life was robbed by the water, and the world entirely robbed of its light.

I do not need to record for you all that Mircea Popescu did and was, lists and rooms and great halls full of works that span subject and style and yet never fail to be excellent, because by his very nature he proclaimed it; loudly, freely, amply. That nature will ring out for all time.

From his work, 'Stop all the clocks (again)'

Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent each dog from barking with your own hip bone.
Break all the strings, drill out the tuba and with muffled drums
Bring out the coffin, set ablaze the slums.

Let halves of aeroplanes turn overhead
Their smoking, broken cockpits dripping "He Is Dead",
Put dark crepe bows through every single feather of each single dove,
Gift each policeman one black velvet glove.

No further want for stars, go put them out ;
No roundness left for Moon, the Sun we'll do without.
Go pour the ocean in a cup and let it be misunderstood
After today, nothing can come to any good.

There can no further be such thing as song
I thought that love would last for ever. I was wrong.
It's time to swallow caltrops and wash them down with bleach
There's scarcely any further point to speech.

The sea you see was gloomly cried in place,
There used to be much sweeter water in that space.
The eagle's flight is broken and all geometric figures shattered
There's nothing left in place of all that ever mattered.

And so goodbye, there's nothing left except the time to die.

0 - 10 Km/H in 4.6 Seconds

Thursday, June 17th, 2021

My dad was ranting1 about the tedious impracticality of cobbling stories together for the purpose of sharing --this, over email, about what he used to do, on various websites, back when his main distraction divertation dilletantism was short-term overland motorcycle adventuring. He was known in those circles, as those circles go, for reliably posting detailed, well-shot travelogues; say a day trip to New Idria where he'd capture the beige-and-blue desolation of desert roads and roam through condemned wooden miners' hostels in his candy pink gas mask, posing next to government posters warning about the hanta virus. Or a week spent meandering through some nearby nowhere, cataloguing the Venus of Nevada, the Cadillac Ranch, or the newest additions to old Leonard's methodical (or maniacal?) sand painting at Salvation Mountain.

Time has passed; bikes have been totaled or sold; age has petitioned for its inevitable toll and has been, in some measure not entirely clear to me for the distance between us, paid; but my dad still heeds the call of wanderlust (or abhors the antsy homogeneity of "just sitting around"), and the wind on his face still thrills him, so he's gotten himself an e-bike and I'm back to having the pleasure of the occasional ride report from him. In seeming pace with the change from an internal combustion engine to an electric hub motor, he's moved from crafting the reports himself to using a phone app. We disagree pretty strongly on the whole phone/app/content ownership/device access issue2, but the knowledge of this doesn't keep us from regular attempts at persuasion in either direction. And so following his latest two-wheeled buzz around the Willamette River came the bird-chirrups:

...[the app] is 1000x easier than the old way of stopping, getting camera out, take a few photos, then when a ride is over, download photos from camera to computer, fix them all up in some program, save those to a file, then open another program and make a map route of some sort, go to a website, upload the map and all the photos, then spend time adding text and locations for the photos, finally getting it to post on a website somewhere...phew! But I used to do that a lot!

The nice thing about this is all you need is phone, click start, take as many photos as you like, click finish, that's it! It then does it all and sends you a link to the finished product!

We are livin' in the future! AutoMagicalRobots Rule!

Which I've got to admit made my blood boil a little for the elision of the their in "finished product", but nevertheless I'm happy he's enjoying himself.

Meanwhile my uncle Dave, who shall receive no introduction, offered a rebuttal:

ain't got time for that! too busy mixing up a batch of Tang!

Meanwhile, fucking around online I was served the following ad:

byd tang

Mae, un BYD Tang es lo contrario de lo que estoy buscando.

On the first pass it seemed inconsequential, but then my head demanded the lived experience, like when you're watching some film with a character that's making an underwater escape and you hold your breath with them to see if you could do it, too. One...two...three...four...littleextra...okay, you're at ten kilometers per hour now. Tennnn. Driveway speed for folks with arthritic ankles. Honestly, if this were the true state of affairs I'd no longer wonder what the fuck is with the local inability to merge etc. But it has to be a typo. It just has to be.

...doesn't it?

  1. In his cheerful, bird-like manner of ranting, which has more to do with excited emphasis than the anger or hostility typically associated with ranting. In fact, I'm not sure I've ever seen my dad angry. This might have some undesirable corollaries in the sense that you can't teach kids how to deal well with something that you have ~no experience with (or entirely subsumed/transferred experience, I guess). On the other hand though, I'm aware of the rare blessing of a childhood not having to be spent on reacting somehow to an angry father, and for that I'm very grateful. []
  2. I could point out that for all his lengthy history of beautifully-done reports, for instance, the vast majority were on "community" forum sites, where someone else owns all that work --or he could point out that for all my stolid insistence on doing things myself he's the one with lots of travelogues posted, and I'm behind on the post count despite a much higher kilometrage. []

You suck because that's all there is to do: an online shopping report.

Monday, June 14th, 2021

I'm typing this in a file named overstockhell.txt, but the name can't begin to encompass the pure and unadulterated idiocy I've been grappling with for my sins of attempting to buy some items online1. Had I but known how many hours I'd have to sink into the adventure at the outset, I'd've clocked myself, but in my optimistic naivite I imagined someone else would be doing most of the work, given as the payment was coming from my side. So I'll hazard a guess at six or seven hours of wrangling: idiots in online chat, sympathetic if powerless customer service over the phone, and a mountain of outright insanity on the website that calls itself Overstock, despite having no way to handle orders with multiple items. But I'm getting ahead of myself; structuring the chaos that ensued once I chose this outlet2 is the way I get to put some (hopefully final) hours in, so let's start at the beginning, where all good intentions go to die.

Overstock is one of the few online vendors that claim to actually accept bitcoin; others like Amazon predictably rope the shopper in only to require some shit-flavored bitcoin alternative a la coinbase. The guts of their system nevertheless eschew the beautifully simple, direct method of payment bitcoin offers in favor of a processing middleman; they use coinpayments.net. I've used this processor a few times for server bills and such and so didn't suspect any shenanigans. But somewhere in the strained relationship between them and overstock, the first ring of shopping hell was revealed to me. Here's what it looks like, for the morbidly curious:

1. Bitcoin transaction propagates and confirms on the blockchain.
2. Coinpayments sends an email confirmation of payment received.
3. Overstock sends an email confirmation of order completed.
4. Coinpayments sends an email that payment timed out.
5. Overstock sends an email cancelling the order.

overstockhell

At which point I used overstock's online customer service chat feature (which is where all attempts at finding help on their site funnel to) to try and untangle the mess. Whether they employ humans to sit at the other end or rely entirely on a shoddy Eliza emulator is still up in the air; any mention of bitcoin results in an appeal to "check your coinbase account", notwithstanding coinbase isn't used at any point in their purchasing process. The script, whether deployed in bipedal or binary, circles a drain of apology and helplessness, persisting even through my escalation to a "supervisor". They don't know anything, they can't do anything, but they're very sorry and how about you check your coinbase account. Coinpayments had nothing to say about its second email, but merely confirmed that the transaction had gone through, and refused to have any other part in the matter, such as for instance telling Overstock that they'd indeed been paid.

overstockhell

So I waited for Overstock's business hours and talked to Esther on the phone, who blessedly seemed to possess both a pulse and a clue. She spent a while trying to decipher the spaghetti on her screen, and finally came up with the notion that "Our bitcoin payments require two confirmations from the payment processor; the first one came back fine, but the second didn't, so the order was automatically cancelled". The funds being nevertheless transferred, she offered to reinstate my order, but this came with a hitch. In the time since the order was originally placed, some of my items (out of a total of forty one) had gone out of stock3. She could issue me a refund, but only for the whole amount of the order; if I wanted what remained of the items, I'd have to take store credit for the difference. So I did, accompanied by updating my shopping file with a row of asterisks and a new note for every item, indicating whether it was still in the order or had meanwhile become unavailable. In a perfect world where information was presented as just that, this wouldn't even be a problem, but of course the "client area" is designed for phones and the idiots who depend on them, making this process a lengthy ordeal of comparing several dozen descriptions of things like yes, socks, against what I'd pasted in my list. Is this the gentleman's cotton dress sock black/gray mix pack of 12 or the cotton dress socks --men's black and gray 12 that's out of stock, now? But wait! There's pictures! Before you ask, yes they use item numbers (I assume only because they haven't yet found a way to get out of having to populate their databases with them), which...well, they appear after about eight kilometers of url keyword stuffing, so highlighting an item on the site to see the url (which is the only place the item number appears) does...not so much.

At any rate, hot laptop sweat and cold coffee eventually brought me through another illusion of settledness, wherein I imagined that "order received and confirmed" meant something like order received and confirmed. I floated adrift in this hard-won state for two days, after which a new email arrived from overstock confirming my cancellation. You know, the one I didn't make. No other information, no explanation, just-so, thanks for canceling your order, would you like to spend more money with us?

overstockhell

I got back on the phone and waited ten minutes for the Esther-like, if differently-named, operator to "inquire with the team that knows what to do about this". She came back with a phone number for their loss prevention department, which had entirely different hours, being in an entirely different timezone, and so was then unreachable. She personally couldn't offer any further information. Imagine this state of affairs wherein you're tasked with triaging customer service calls, but your company's inter-departmental communication is so poor that you have no idea why an order was cancelled and have no recourse but to try, and fail, to reach out manually. I say "imagine this", but I know you don't have to --you work there, and live there, and try to keep the wool over your eyes there, on your own, and communally, as a foundation for all your activity and so-called drive. You accept this, and thus perpetuate it, reveling in your "safety in numbers" and telling yourself that everyone does it, it's just how things go, and that I and anyone else who dares to press against it are sociopaths.

So being the psychotic, irrational maniac that I am, I waited for this new department's business hours and called them, only to encounter another flavor of Esther who told me some "agent" of theirs had gotten confused as to why I had first paid in bitcoin and then used the store credit that was refunded to me the first time the order was cancelled --essentially, they'd fucked things up so badly that now even they couldn't tell what exactly was going on with this order, so they "flagged" it, which is how you say "sweep under the rug" in bureaucratic peonnese. She apologized profusely and offered to reinstate the order yet again, though all she could do was add the items back to my cart. I'd have to go through it with another comb and confirm that everything that was supposed to be there was there indeed, and click all the required buttons to get the order "made" again.

Poor shopping file had to puff out its chest, suck in its brisket and take another pass of asterisks and notes, after which the order was supposedly re-confirmed (that's the third time, if you've lost count). Lo and behold, a few days later I started receiving some a barrage of emails from overstock reporting that certain items were shipping, or scheduled to be shipped, or that their delivery dates had been "updated", or that they were scheduled to arrive, or that they had actually arrived. Of the thirty-two items still left in my order after the multiple passes of delays-for-ensuring-shit-goes-out-of-stock, it looks like I'll be getting five or six emails for each. How long would you expect it to take to read and catalogue 160 - 192 emails?

overstockhell

And how much would you charge for your time? The damage in total comes to something like a coupla thousand dollars, give or take a cancelled item, but that's in terms of what's been exchanged on paper. The aggravation cost is through the roof, especially now that, weeks after placing the order the first time, in the long long ago, I've logged into my account in search of a receipt in some format apt for my shipping forwarder4, only to discover nearly every item listed has been updated with a "cancelled" status indicator. No explanation, no details, no email revoking the other five or six that promised x or y or z. I walked livid figure-eights around the house awhile, inquiring "Seriously?!" to no one in particular, until exhausted enough to sit down and attempt to make a list of all the newly-cancelled stuff. Halfway through, though, I noticed that most items have more than one entry in the endless phone-optimized scroller: one for "cancelled", and one for "delivered"5.

overstockhell

I don't know whether I'll bother calling back, whether I'll see if suing is an option, whether I'll wait and see if anything actually gets shipped or not, or whether I'll ever be able to try ordering something online again. What I do know is that the modern lie of convenience is an evil deeper and more insidious than nearly everyone else will admit. Far from being limited to suggestive advertising, product placement, or peer pressure, the current systems coax and groom consumers into whatever serves the systems best through outright mendacity, through discarding the genuine for the cheap, and through failing to deliver in any scenario that strays from the most common. You buy one pair of plastic socks at a time with your credit card, feeding the kind of life that keeps you limited to buying one pair of plastic socks at a time with your credit card, and the systems give back by turning a blind eye to the notion that anything else could be possible. You suck because that's all there is to do.

Until you stop letting it be so.

  1. Why buy online, then? Well, that'd be a last-ditch effort following month after month trying to source things locally. Really esoteric and exacting items like cotton fucking socks. Everything's got to be "improved" these days, a slapdash excuse of a label covering such a poverty of craftsmanship that it's questionable whether pure cotton socks even exist anymore. Shopkeepers are happy to perpetuate the lie, of course; if you conveniently don't read labels and so don't notice that their "of course we have cotton socks" translates to 100% bamboo or 60% cotton 40% plastic, or if you buy them with a label actually proclaiming 100% cotton despite a tangible plastic feel and then don't take a lit match to one of the threads once bought, confirming the curled, flash-burn of burnt lycra or whatever, then sure, you can "have" what you asked for. If you actually want the genuine item, though, all that's available is frustration and wasted time. Bonus:

    overstockhell

    . []

  2. Really, I've no reason to believe any of the bullshit is particular to Overstock itself, especially as they were chosen for matching a few baseline criteria and otherwise at random. I'm always tempted to confine negative experiences to the specific actors involved, but sometimes that's not warranted, and after years of unneccessary, byzantine difficulty with procurement, I know things wouldn't be much different if the name was swapped with some other. To wit, out of the voluminous grab bag: back in Argentina I convinced MP to try ordering some sushi from a local restaurant that'd previously been vetted in person, to have it delivered. I don't remember why, perhaps it was the sort of unforgivingly hot day that place occasionally cooks up, or maybe someone was sick. You've no way to access the depths of what I mean when I say "I convinced MP", and even looking at it now I wonder what miraculous event actually occurred --it could'nt have been convincing, but must have been some sort of logical or maybe pity-inducing gymnastics the likes of which oughta make me apt for courtroom work. Anyway, estimated delivery time was something like forty minutes, and after an hour I called them, pretty pissed. They assured me the order was on the way and would arrive any minute. Fifteen minutes later I hacked lunch together myself and swore to never take restaurant delivery seriously again. Another two hours later some derp on a motorbike started raising the alarm downstairs, sushi's here, etc. Why anyone would want three-something hours' old sushi is utterly beyond me, and should be beyond you, too, except that when I told this story to friends what I heard was "Oh, I hate it when that happens." Like it's a thing, like it's regrettable but necessary, familiar, oh well, whatchagonnado. The whole fruit is rotten; by now it's on providers to prove how they're different, not on consumers to supply good faith and confidence upfront. []
  3. Out of stock, at overstock, which apparently keeps one or two units around at a time. This is a mere international sourcing "solution", not some hoity-toity neighborhood fruit cart, to stock something more like dozens or hundreds per item. What do you think this is, the 21st century?! Pssh. []
  4. Why I have to use a forwarder, and why such a service wants a receipt, are just extra aggravational dipping sauces on the side of this platter of fail. []
  5. Most, not all. If it were the case with everything at least it could be discerned whether the order failed or not. But why pass up another chance for screwing things up tighter and more frustratingly than a fifty year old tangle of christmas tree lights? []

How do you know if what you think matters?

Wednesday, June 9th, 2021

Broadly, it doesn't. I grew up in an environment replete with the backlash of WWII parenting; those kids weren't told that what they thought mattered, they were just supposed to do well with the victory their parents had secured for them, all tangible assets and corporate ladders. They rebelled in large part by telling their children in turn that hard cash and corner offices weren't nearly as important as that universal flaky abstract, their thoughts. Or I don't know, maybe that's just a California thing. In any case, people have been telling me that what I think is important ever since I was old enough to listen. I knew it was poppycock then, and I know it now, but somehow as an adult it's much harder to resist that knee-jerk, first pass notion that I should, that I have to, say what's on my mind. Worse still, when that should gets rejected, often enough I double down rather than step back on the importance, as though being principled can be supplanted by being defiant. I propose a review of when one's thoughts matter.

1. The person you're speaking with tells you so. It's a blessing, when it comes, though its rarity is also to be savored, for imagine if you had to hear the words spoken for every instance in which the other party gave a shit about what you thought --you'd probably spend more time exchanging expressions of interest than actually talking about anything. Especially dangerous here is the fact that that familiarity easily breeds contempt. Just because someone has expressed interest in what you think in the past doesn't mean they're interested perpetually, or in all matters great and small. Likewise, love is not some sort of seal of interest to be placed over all the comings and goings of a beloved's thoughts (though that may be a reasonable description of infatuation); it is unwise to take for granted the evenly distributed interest of someone who loves you --at least, if you love them back. Enjoy those rare occurrences when someone tells you they'd like to know what you think, and don't abuse it1.

2. You're an expert on the matter at hand. Honestly I shudder to include this for knowing how often, and how profoundly, the notion of an expert is misused. It's tossed around as a weak justification for all manner of agendas and shoddy efforts --in fact, it's a major reason why knowing whether what you think matters has gotten so difficult in the first place, because everyone's gotta be an expert in something (or know someone who is, which is practically the same thing, right? Fuck.). Let's set some basic rules in an attempt to recover a little ground from the chaos:
2.a Having experience does not make you an expert2. It makes you someone with some experience, which is not at all the same thing, and is not at all relevant when attempting to understand if what you think about something matters.
2.b Familiarity is not expertise. So you've read something about a topic, or you've heard about it before, or you took a related class in college. Good for you, you're not an expert.
2.c Feeling very strongly about something has nothing to do with being an expert. Even if that something is having very strong feelings. Confusing emotion for thought, and strength of emotion for relevance, is the hallmark of immaturity. It's over-tolerated amongst the general population, but it'll mark you as an exemplary idiot if you pull it out with cultivated people, and that's a very hard mark to wash off.
2.d Your certifications of expertise are meaningless. You probably paid a lot for them, and you probably put a fair amount of time and sweat into them, too. Sadly the current global delusion of self-importance has led to an abundance of fraudulent certification not seen since the dark ages, and there's no institution or authority capable of stamping you into expertise --not anymore. Cheer up though; if you honestly are an expert in a field, you don't need to rely on a certificate, and if you've been using one as a crutch, letting it go to hear more of others' thoughts instead of bludgeoning the world with your own will only make you better.

These in mind, for the very few who do possess expertise all that remains is to be aware of its boundaries. It's easy to imagine that mastery of one domain implies mastery of others. Or that an entire domain, rather than a small sliver, has been mastered. Part of knowing what you excel at is knowing where you suck, and making no concessions in either direction. Excel responsibly.

3. Sike. There is no three. Seriously, it's very unlikely that what you think about a given topic matters. This doesn't mean you can't express yourself, it merely points out that beyond these two rare and precious circumstances, you're taking chances: that nobody cares, that you're making an ass of yourself, that you're flooding the channel with all noise and no signal. These aren't even such terrible chances to take, context-dependent3. But it's a good idea to be aware you're taking them, and especially to consider whether to keep pushing with your thoughts past any number of refutations or signs of disinterest. After all, there's nothing inherently wrong with thinking; it's insisting inappropriately that robs people of the possibility of productive communication.

  1. This goes both ways, too. Expressing interest in someone's thoughts disingenuously isn't "polite". It doesn't promote inclusion or fight famine or stop crime or achieve any other ridiculous collective goods. All it does is engender misplaced notions of self-importance, which actually does achieve ridiculous collective evils. []
  2. Sometimes formulated as "Just because it happened to you doesn't make it interesting," though that's probably just as hard a pill to swallow for the first time as what I've put above the fold. []
  3. Consider that this very article takes all of these chances. []

Butterflies in gauze

Sunday, May 23rd, 2021

The net caught naught but all the life most beautiful that passed its flit. Those things that beat with broidered wings the wind that then betrayed them, translating a soaring spirit into worlds so subtly less: vibrant, focused, and receiving.

A gust picked up, as though regret had marked the breeze's billowing heart, and wished to set its faithful free.

And for a moment, while I perched and heard the rolling weight of storms push menacingly for the sea, I thought I saw the net blow, barren. But the rain, as promised, fell, and laid o'er all another veil, obscuring in its dithering gray some portion of that day's true glory.

There, in the contrast, I made out the panicked movements of the creatures still captive. Silent, and utterly without effect; insistent to exhaustion. Did they curse the decoration of their wings? Did they resent the bosom of blessing, their wind?

They rested awhile, while I wrestled with mine: more menial things, borne of selfish, mad dreams, for not all branded freedom's thereby the same thing. So I freed them.