Thoughts on the Plague (Part 3) 05/16/21

For this third installment, I’d like to think out loud about how we treated the disease itself. These are just blogs, and they’re written quickly. As such, I probably won’t be including any links to scientific papers. In my experience, this is a waste of time to begin with. Starting at the very beginning of the pandemic, any time I would share a study or some new findings, they were instantly dismissed as “bad science” by the doomer crowd, often with no real explanation as to why. Often this occurred as a passed-down mimetic structure from doctors looking to advance their own celebrity. Nobody would know who Eric Fe***-D*** is if not for his apocalyptic c*vid-posting day in and day out. These people have an incentive for not giving you good news, the same as those who are looking for clout on the other end of the spectrum (Ber**son, etc.) have no interest in giving you bad news. It’s partisan reality tunneling at its most maddening. I have found very few realistic, level-headed voices in this whole thing, so that’s what I’m trying to do here. Think of these as “things to think about” that you can research if you want to. My thought process is that whoever wants to learn more can look for it. I’m not going to waste my time linking to papers, etc. if they’re just going to be rejected out of hand anyway.

So, moving on: what was the deal with hydroxychloroquine? How about Ivermectin? What about good old fashioned Vitamins D & C? What ever happened to all of those ventilators? What happens when you get the plague? What are the steps here? And what about this vaccine business?

I’ll present some ideas as I recall them (once again, this is literally from memory, so the facts could be and likely are technically wrong):

Hydroxychloroquine is an anti-malarial drug that has been in use for about a hundred years. Before 2020, it was taken by most of the world’s leaders. On the African continent (and in India), HCQ is ubiquitous and sold over-the-counter. Early on in the pandemic, Dr. Zelenko developed a protocol for treating patients early with HCQ, Zinc, and Azithromycin (not sure on the spelling for that one). This was touted as a miracle treatment, reducing the need for hospitalization by about 85-90%. I don’t remember why HCQ worked.

Another pair of doctors were treating c*vid with Vitamin C. They would administer it intravenously to something called “bowel tolerance,” essentially until the patient got diarrhea. They claimed this worked very well. They had no patients die of the disease.

About five or six months ago, doctors were testifying in front of Senate committees basically begging them to allow the use of Ivermectin in early stages of C-19. This mostly fell on deaf ears. I recall stories of families having to sue hospitals to allow their elderly parents to use Ivermectin, which they won, which saved the patients. Ivermectin is an anti-parasitical drug used to de-worm horses. It is safe for human consumption.

Okay, so what exactly happened here? We have a vaccine now, and that’s all well and good. I’ve given this some thought, and if C-19 escaped as a result of gain-of-function research, that means that a vaccine was being developed concurrently with the research, which could lead to its efficacy. But before all of that, why were these other treatments not made available? Doctors were threatened. They could lose their licenses if they treated people with this non-experimental drugs that would have been 100% fine to use pre-2020.

Again: what’s going on here? Why didn’t we at least try? There were a few studies that didn’t hold a lot of water. In one, patients were given HCQ (and just HCQ) while they were in the late stages of C-19. The doctors who used these treatments shouted into the void: “You have to use these protocols early, and they have to be the entire protocol, not just one piece of them.” These studies, flawed as they were from the start, became held up by doomers and vaccine-evangelists as proof enough to not treat sick patients in the meantime.

What I could never get my head around was this: say you have a patient who comes into your ER. They’re in their 80s, meaning they are in major danger of dying from C-19. What could it hurt to at least try to use these protocols to save their lives? I’ve seen enough from my time in hospitals: when someone is deathly ill, doctors will try all manner of methods to keep them alive. It’s kind of what doctors do. So why, then, did they take these drugs, again, all of them well tested over the past 50-100 years, and make it practically illegal to use them?

What’s going on?

I’m not going to speculate. But this has stuck in my mind for the past year. It seemed like every week there was a new doctor with a new idea for how to treat this thing. And I watched the pattern happen over and over again: the clout doctors roundly criticized the findings, the CDC condemned them, and the FDA subsequently banned the protocol. Over, and over, and over again.

A very simple question to consider: why were these drugs not made available? Why did we get that horse shit Darwin Awards story about the guy who drank fish tank cleaner, thinking it was medicinal HCQ?

And another question to consider: let’s say the protocols listed above were mostly effective, but not 100%. Let’s say that some people had side effects. Why is it all of a sudden completely okay for the vaccines to have side effects (there are 4,000 reports of adverse reactions/deaths on the VAERS website, last I checked) but not for these largely safe drug protocols? What is up with that double standard?

What are we not getting, here? Does no one else think this is, at a minimum, a little weird?

On ventilators: we know now that those were complete disasters. They overinflated people’s lungs and killed them. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that many of the early deaths, that huge body count, especially in NYC, came from people getting the vent and subsequently having their lungs blown out. Recorded as a C-19 death, of course. Which…it is, I guess, in the way that “going to the store” is the cause of a car crash.

And finally, good old Vitamin D. Dr. Rhonda Patrick (along with many others) have been beating this drum from the beginning. It’s cheap and easy to supplement with, and seemed to have some positive effects. The keto blogger bros have been shouting about the link to metabolic health and survival rates from the beginning. The thesis is sound: if you start eating healthy and exercising, your chances of dying from C-19 go down. Simple. So why was this never pushed? Why was the messaging “hide from the disease until a vaccine arrives?” Why didn’t we give people actionable steps that they could take to, at the very least, protect themselves from the worst effects of this pandemic?

Worth thinking about. The whole thing is worth thinking about. I’d ask you to consider this, today: were the deleterious effects of the previously-mentioned protocols (HCQ, AZH, Zinc, Ivermectin, Vitamins D&C, sunlight, exercise, metabolic health) in conjunction with all established safety precautions (masks, social distancing, etc.) so risky, so potentially fatal, that it was better to bury them instead of maybe, just maybe, letting doctors do their jobs, letting them at least try? It’s my contention that many lives could have been saved on balance, had these treatments not been demonized.

And I still don’t understand why they were.

I hope your weekend has been great!

Byung-Chul Han’s “Saving Beauty” 05/15/21

In “Saving Beauty,” Byung-Chul Han writes at length about the horror of the smooth. Real beauty in art or nature creates a feeling of the sublime, which is close to fear, and sometimes not expressed as pleasure at all. Think of seeing someone so beautiful it hurts.

In today’s world, everything is instead smoothed out, so that nothing is really beautiful or sublime, preferring instead to be “liked.”

A necessary component of the “liked” object versus the “beautiful” is its mystification and proximity.

“For Roland Barthes, the sense of touch ‘is the most demystifying of all senses, unlike sight which is the most magical. The sense of sight keeps a distance, while the sense of touch destroys it. Without distance, there can be no mysticism. De-mystification lets everything become available for enjoyment and consumption. The sense of touch destroys the negativity of what is wholly other. It secularizes what it touches. In contrast to the sense of sight, touch is incapable of wonderment. The smooth touchscreen, therefore, is a place of de-mystification and total consumption. It produces what one likes.”

Therefore, according to Han, the only way to have something be truly beautiful is to have parts of it obscured:

“Only the rhythmic oscillation between presence and absence, veiling and unveiling, keeps the gaze awake. The erotic also depends on the staging of appearance-as-disappearance, on the ‘undulations of the imaginary.'”

Writing on what, exactly pornography is, Han indicates that “pornography is a lack of ambiguity,” and I’ve never heard it put so well before.

What does this mean for novels? It’s the drum I’ve been beating in this blog before, whether I’m talking about Dark Souls, Petscop, or novels that I enjoy: there is a necessary mystification process to create truly beautiful work. “Show, don’t tell” is a part of this, but it’s not quite right: “don’t show, and don’t tell: lie.”

Petscop 05/14/21

This YouTube creepypasta series about a nonexistent videogame that has ghosts in it is the best work of art I’ve seen since Twin Peaks: The Return. Clearly influenced by Lynchian aesthetics, these videos, modeled after the “Let’s Play” format popularized by YouTube (where you literally just watch a person play a game while they talk) is by turns frightening, mystifying, and excruciatingly boring.

Paul begins his playthrough by showing you the demo of the game. He received it, along with a note containing a cheat code. The demo itself is standard late ’90s Playstation fare: it’s a colorful, bouncy world where you solve dumb puzzles to collect weird animals. Once he puts in the cheat code, however, he ends up in a vast, empty field. He wanders for hours (the videos thankfully cut this out), and finally comes upon a door in the ground. More hours pass, and while he’s away, the door opens on its own.

And at that point, we’re off to the races.

Some episodes run a scant 5 or 6 minutes. Paul is pointing out weird things about the game, running around collecting jewels, etc. But as we move through the series, things become increasingly surreal. The use of ominous, oppressive white noise music and the clipping found in these old games create an atmosphere of dread, and as the mystery (which is never really clear, let alone solved) deepens, Paul begins to realize that his thoughts have an influence on how the game works. There’s also another game going on in a different dimension to the one we can see, one that’s being recorded over the recordings he’s making. There are dead kids, missing kids, a car crash, a birthday party…the clues mount up, and he goes back into the earlier developments of the game, talking to someone on the phone about “the family” and “the windmill,” and parts of the videos are censored out for some reason…

It’s all very well done. After I finished it, I went online to see some theories, and immediately decided against it. I don’t want to know what I just watched. I like that I spent five hours exploring a haunted, ominous world, I like that there’s something going on that I’ll never understand. I’m good with it just the way it is.

I highly, highly recommend checking this thing out. Confounding, brilliant, and creepy. Time well spent.

Thoughts on the Plague (Part 2) 05/12/21

Looking back on the blog post from yesterday, it feels like all three of those ideas are connected, so in this one I’ll go into more detail (as much as possible) on one of the major questions: do lockdowns work? Or, more specifically, do lockdowns work in America?

Let’s say you have two sealed-off rooms, each with their own ventilation systems. They’re next to each other, but the patients in each room have no contact. Their food is deposited through a slot in the door. The whole nine yards. We’re talking something that looks like the “welded shut” strategy used in Wuhan. Would Patient A, who is infected, infect Patient B, who isn’t? Common sense tells us “no.”

Our common sense (and the extent of our scientific knowledge) indicates that viruses are spread when an infected person begins to show signs of infection. The immune system begins attacking the virus in the lungs and the throat, causing a swelling to occur. You cough and your sinuses drain, all in an effort to get the bad thing out. The virus surfs a wave out of your body, along the air, and into a new person.

(I can’t help but point out that this all may actually be wrong, but that’s some deep radical blackpilling on viruses, and not in the scope of this post.)

Therefore, if two people are completely separated, then lockdowns work. I think this is where the thought process begins and ends for some people. If lockdowns aren’t working, they are simply not being implemented hard enough.

We can point to countries where it appears that lockdowns have worked. Australia and New Zealand, for example. They imposed what can only be described as draconian lockdowns on their citizens, and for the most part, they seem to have done the job. Ioannides believes this is due to them closing their borders, but at this point, I fail to see how that’s not just an extension of the lockdown principle. You’re isolating an entire country from the outside world, then isolating its people from their surroundings, a holistic ethos of “locking down” that keeps the virus out. So it worked!

Fair enough! But why didn’t this work in America? Why did Peru, which had the strongest lockdown in the world, have one of the worst virus impacts in the world? Why did Sweden (trigger word!) have a low impact relative to Germany or Spain or Italy, which comparatively locked down much harder? Why did Finland, which in many ways had a less-strict lockdown than even Sweden, do better than nearly every other European country? Why, when you put the graphs for North and South Dakota together (one of which locked down, the other didn’t) do the curves look nearly identical? Why did NYC and California do worse than Florida, which never locked down at all?

And what exactly is going on in Africa? How did Russia do in all of this?

Is it an issue of compliance? Climate? General health of the population? Some combination of all three?

Maybe.

These are all troublesome facts, what Charles Fort would call “damned facts.” The idea here is that all you need to do is find instances where a set of facts troubles the dominant narrative to disprove the narrative altogether. If lockdowns didn’t work in places where lockdowns were strict, and conversely, if not locking down did not result in catastrophic loss of life, then that indicates that there is a problem with the overall model.

To be honest with you, I don’t know how to reconcile all of this different data. I don’t know what Australia’s deal is. They’re going into winter over there very soon, and we shall see if the virus rears its head yet again. It may not, because now the vaccine exists, and so fewer people will die. We may never know!

What we’re dealing with here is a battle between simple common sense (keep people away from each other and the thing won’t spread) and troubling, damned facts that indicate you can keep people away from each other and, sometimes, the thing still spreads.

Now let’s narrow the focus down to America. It’s the place I’m most familiar with, obviously. The reason why lockdowns would never have worked in America is because of the way this country is structured. We do not have a strong central government that can provide for its people during a shutdown. If you look at other countries (like Japan, for instance), they were able to pay their laid-off workers their entire salaries for the duration of the lockdown. Many such cases all throughout the world, especially in smaller countries with high GDPs who, you know, actually seem to give a shit about their people.

Not the case here. Never has been, and it never will. It’s just reality.

So what you end up with is an impossible task: corralling 330 million people into their homes for an extended period of time, with no relief from the impending poverty. Things don’t stop in this country. They can’t. Again, this isn’t something that I agree with, but it’s what we have. It’s our reality. And if we choose to live in that reality, we have to understand the consequences of our decisions.

Combine that with the damned fact that the fucker still seems to spread despite every effort to keep it from spreading, and you have a “worst of both worlds” situation: a country shut down just enough to cripple the working poor, but not shut down enough to actually realistically change the outcome of the viral spread.

So what is the alternative?

You’ve got to let it go. You’ve got to tell the people, “Look: you’re going to get sick at some point. What you need to do is get your health under control. You need to supplement with Vitamin D, you need to take these lindy drugs that (might) help (hydroxychloroquine, ivermectin, even OTC stuff like quercetin and Vitamin C), and in the meantime we are going to focus 100% of our energy on making the elderly and the immunocompromised a protected class in this country.”

The virus spreads. Lots of people get it. The vast majority of them do not die. Meanwhile, those in danger hide out in their largely sealed-off rooms (if they so choose). It is a comparatively lower number of people, and therefore potentially affordable to protect (although the same problem rears its head…this is America, and this might be too much for this country to pull off).

We all get it, the virus becomes endemic (which it is now, by the way), but it has mutated into a less virulent strain. The Gompertz curve ends up lower than it was when we half-assed it for the entire population. After a year or so, the sick are able to be reintroduced to society, because we hit herd immunity. This is also common sense. If you allow a brand new virus for which many people have no immunity to roll through the entire population, it is going to kill the people whose immune systems are too weakened to fight it. If you allow it to infect a healthy population, it acts as a pressure release valve, diffusing through the populace, becoming less-impactful as it goes along, not more.

At this point, we’ll never know, obviously. There are several ways in which I could be wrong, the most glaring of which is that the overall poor metabolic health of the average American could have lead to catastrophic deaths if we simply let the thing run wild. The issue is that no one can tell the future. I completely understand where pro-lockdown people are coming from.

But the facts are troubling, and strongly point to the conclusion that they don’t work all that well. As the much-loathed and frankly annoying Alex Berenson is fond of saying, “Virus gonna virus.”

In the end, the pro-lockdowners got their way, even though in America, their way was always destined to be a shitty half-measure that directly put the elderly and working poor in harm’s way. My contention (and the contention of many Nobel-prize-winning scientists and conspiracy dipshits alike) is that by suppressing the virus and keeping it from infecting people with immune systems capable of fighting it off, we put the burden on the sickest and therefore most likely to die.

Feels good to get my thoughts out like this. There are so many moving parts to this thing. Writing it all out helps.

Thoughts on the Plague (Part 1) 05/11/21

There’s an absolutely lovely light rain falling outside. The cloud cover is solid. Even though it’s 10 am in the morning, everything is wrapped in a blanket. It snapped cold again, curiously, dropping down to the fifties. It’s that mixture of cold days and hot days that you have to watch out for, because (as is becoming a theme of this blog), it means you have to watch out for tornadoes. I can’t help it. It’s ingrained in my personality, my upbringing. I’ve seen too much, had too many close calls. I will forever be a little edgy when the weather gets twistery.

I had a great chat with a friend of mine last night. He’d let me borrow his lawnmower, and I called him up to tell him he needed to pick it up soon, because the rain was coming, and I didn’t have a tarp to cover it with. I’d used it to cover my busted-out back window on my Altima (thanks, hail). He stopped by and we rapped about everything that’s been going on in the world lately, which means You Know What.

It’s so refreshing to talk to a normal person. Someone who is open to ideas, doesn’t have a huge personal stake in any of it, but who can listen and respond. It’s exhausting, sometimes even talking to (some of) my writer friends on the phone, how much they have to equivocate when they talk to me. Everything prefaced by “well, I don’t agree with everything you say, but…” as if anybody agrees with everything anyone says.

Anyway, he got the vaccine, because he figured “fuck it, why not.” He also said “hey, if you don’t have it, that’s none of my business. I got mine.” In so many words. Which is the reasonable, adult response to all of this. If the CDC says that a vaccine doesn’t reduce transmission, but strictly keeps you from experiencing the worst symptoms should you catch it, then there’s no reason to be upset if someone else doesn’t get it. The reasoning of “if everyone gets the vaccine, we can reach a herd immunity” doesn’t make any sense, because the vaccine companies and the CDC and Fauci have all explicitly said the vaccine doesn’t make you immune.

One thing I said to him that I’ll repeat here is that I hope no one that I care about ever finds themselves on the wrong side of an issue politically. I’m basically on the left when it comes to things like health care, immigration, and geopolitics. I naturally distrust authority in all of its forms. I think you should be kind and polite to people as a rule, only breaking the rule in case of emergency. I think diversity makes things better, but I also think that people are people, with all of the flaws that come along with that. However, starting early last year, I found myself on the “wrong side” of “the c*vid issue.”

The virus became a proxy fight about how you felt about Donald Trump, with everybody on the left deciding that this was the end of the world, and everybody on the right saying it was either “just a flu” or completely fake. Whenever things get that polarized that quickly, you know people are no longer using their brains.

The truth of the matter was somewhere in the middle, as per usual. C*vid didn’t kill anywhere near the amount of people the left thought it was going to by a factor of almost ten. On the other hand, it certainly wasn’t nothing either, with many people losing (sometimes multiple) loved ones in a short span of time, and others incurring lasting physiological and psychological damage. Again, not nothing.

For some people, life continued as normal for the past year, with the exception of having to wear a mask in Target. For others, they’ve been through a lot. It’s a broad spectrum of human experience.

As is the case with most of these blog posts of late, I don’t have a ton of time to fire this one off. However, I think I’ll outline a few key ideas that I’ll look at in more depth in the coming days. It’s important to articulate my thoughts on this past year, and it’s something I’m allowed to do, thanks very much.

Idea #1: Lockdowns killed more people than they helped. This ties into the one clear fact that I’ve seen run through every single thing I’ve read on this virus: it kills the elderly, and people with (usually between 3-4) comorbidities. Locking everyone down instead of isolating and protecting the vulnerable killed. This is true from NYC to Sweden. We see the numbers go up because, guess what? The dipshits in charge sent infected elderly patients out of the hospitals and back to their nursing homes, ostensibly to “protect” a demographic of people who didn’t need protecting (under 60, mostly healthy).

Idea #2: Lockdowns led to a class division that killed poor people. Many poor people didn’t get to lock themselves away in their apartments/homes. They had to be the delivery people/servants/essential workers for the Zoom class of middle- to upper-middle class people who refused to leave their homes. When combined with the point above (that many poor people have comorbidities, a class issue if ever there was one), the middle class and the wealthy refused to “do their part” in the pandemic, choosing instead to let the poor suffer and die. My contention is that if life had continued largely the same for most of the population (minus the elderly and immunocompromised) the virus would have ripped like wildfire through a population largely equipped to handle the illness, and yes, we would have reached a “herd immunity” well before the vaccine rollout. Instead, people with influence (rich liberals) got so scared that they decided to go full doomsday prepper, completely ignoring the material reality of the people they were leaving behind. We could have all been in this together, but oh well. This constituted an abandonment of the working poor, with the weak excuse that “the government should take care of it.” Yeah. Okay.

Idea #3: People retreated into complete fantasy. Somehow, you can stop an invisible aerosolized virus from getting into your body. If we all just somehow clamp down on a country of 330,000,000 people (a lot of them fiercely, stubbornly independent, and brainwashed by their favorite pundits) and use government aid to keep people financially afloat (again, a complete fantasy…do you even live in America, bro?) the whole thing will just go away. Never mind that it spreads quickly, and again, completely invisibly (this isn’t something like smallpox, which you can see and thus isolate accordingly)…this all had the air of people not wanting the thing to get inside of them, a contamination fear that, I’m going to be completely honest, I understand 100%. I don’t want that shit inside of me, either. However, as someone who has lived with OCD my whole life…you have to learn to live with these fears, and build up your body as much as you can (and are able) to deal with the problems as they come.

Again, I’ll delve into these more as time goes on. That’s enough for today.

Behind the Music 05/10/21

I got a bit obsessed with this new VICE series on YouTube, “The Story Of,” which follows the “Behind the Music” format popularized on VH1 a whole lifetime ago. We follow the trajectory of five hit songs, all the while being given a fun oral history of the process behind their creation.

In almost every case (besides “Last Resort” by Papa Roach), the songs featured on this series were throwaways, mistakes. Carlton’s “Thousand Miles” was originally called “Interlude,” a midway point on her demo tape. Shaggy’s “It Wasn’t Me,” almost didn’t make the record, and once his label fucked up promotion, only found its second life because a DJ in Hawaii downloaded it off Napster. Eiffel 65 compiled “Blue” in two hours, threw it away, it flopped…then it didn’t. And Sisqo’s “Thong Song” was built on a beat originally composed for Michael Jackson. All these little moments of serendipity built into the fabric of these songs, all of them now 20 years old (or more).

Baby’s crying. Sorry these blogs have sucked the past week. Sleep deprivation is really getting to me.

More tomorrow.

Family Stuff 05/09/21

My mom and stepdad showed up today to hang out with the kiddo. In the interest of sticking to my “post every day” goal, this one will be short.

My stepdad is an interesting character. He got a call about a half an hour from a friend of his. Over the speaker phone, his buddy goes, “How are you CATFISH SLAYER?” He really does like to fish. He’ll go out in the middle of the night, sit in the bed of the truck with his .22 rifle for protection, and catch catfish. He’ll give me these big frozen bags of the stuff. It’s his thing.

We didn’t always get along while growing up, but we were (and are) also very different people. Now it’s all good.

Should have prepared something a bit earlier, but I was tidying up and making sure that the house looked presentable. But…I have completed my mission. I shall now get back to entertaining company.

I hope your weekend is going well.

Back to regularly scheduled programming tomorrow.

Structural & Functional Complexity 05/08/21

In a video from 1988, VillĂ©m Flusser smokes a pipe and talks to an interviewer about two different types of complexity. There is structural complexity and functional complexity. The former has to do with the makeup of a given technology. For example, a television (or, in 2021 terms, an iPhone) is a structurally complex device. The latter has to do with, well, the function of the thing, how complex it can get. An iPhone doesn’t allow for very much in the way of functional complexity. You can click on your little apps, you can type regurgitated thoughts into Twitter…what else? Ah yes. E-mail. Photos. Pornography.

Chess, on the other hand, is structurally simple, yet functionally complex. There are an infinite ways to play a chess game, an infinite amount of complexity that can go into every move. Flusser would argue that a game like chess suggests freedom, whereas the more complex a structure, the less freedom you have.

Because we don’t understand how our technology works, we’re only able to use it in the way the designers intended it to be used. The results are largely uniform. How many ways can you photograph a sunset? How many movies have you seen that are just kind of the same thing, over and over again?

How might this apply to the novel? Is structural complexity limiting our artistic freedom? Indeed, a plot to a novel can be a very complex undertaking, though it is one that we construct ourselves. Or do we? By aping the structurally complex forms that have come before us, are we stuck taking the same picture of the same sunsets?

This idea suggests that you should deeply understand the technology that you are using, the math involved. If I had to guess, it’s because the deeper and deeper you get towards understanding a technology, the closer you get to what I call The Gap: that amorphous, floating blob of nothingness that must be accepted for the thing to work at all. You find this in math as well. Many such cases.

This is the mindset of the magician, a kind of shrug when you get to the alchemical heart of a working or a practice. An understanding that goes beyond words, that can only be exemplified through a string of technical images, the alien space wreckage of a tarot spread or combination of household items and blood.

Understanding, sure, but not aping. Knowing it enough to not take for granted that a structure needs to be there at all. Otherwise you’ll end up at the end that’s not worth reading, the kind that you can guess from the first sentence, maybe the second. Instead, perhaps, an ability to take apart the structure of the novel piece by piece, to understand what each knob and circuit is there for, so that you also know what kind of mortar fills the gap, so that you can rearrange the pieces or throw them out altogether, to get something alive and fun again. This is why no one reads right now. It’s not just because there’s cooler shit out there, if so, no one would post. It’s because we’ve got the learned helplessness of the screen and the page, and at least the screen promises us dopamine. A true functional complexity suggests freedom, which many people, if they knew they could get it, would chew away the arm that got stuck deep in the cookie jar so that they could breathe fresh air, so that they could be impossibly scared and alive again.

I hope your weekend is great. Have a good one!

A Thousand Miles 05/07/21

The sleep dep is finally getting to me, I think. Everything they say about taking care of a newborn is true. You can’t explain it until you do it, I suppose.

However, it’s not all bad, or even mostly bad. Just exhausting. I had a few hours of sleep last night, and when the kid woke up needing food, I just laid there for a second like, “Dude…give me a minute.” I’m sure he understood, lol.

This morning I watched a short documentary on the Vanessa Carlton song “A Thousand Miles.” I found it through Justin Murphy’s newsletter, which you should follow.

There’s a whole series of these. I’m looking to the Papa Roach and Eiffel 65 entries.

As Murphy articulates in his newsletter blurb, the Carlton story is fascinating because she’s someone who had one hit and transitioned into a mostly normal life. She was able to make her money, and then live her artistic life the way she wanted.

I’ve talked to friends about this, and there seems to be a unanimous consensus that this is the move. I don’t know anybody sane who wants to be in the limelight for an extended period of time. All you really need is enough reach one time to attract a certain number of people. Say, oh, I don’t know, 1000.

The “1000 True Fans” model is a realistic (although not easily attainable) goal, in which you create enough work to earn a certain amount of money from 1000 people who will buy whatever you create. The logic is sound. Say you write and independently release two books a year, and 1000 people are guaranteed to buy each one. If you sell the book for $25, minus all the costs, you’re probably looking at $35k before taxes, which is a modest living if you’re in the middle of the country, like me.

I have hovered between 250-300 “true fans” for the past ten years or so. Now, my books have sold much more than that, but the retention, the familiar faces that show up every time to cheer the book on, remain largely the same (although shout out to the new people, I’m very grateful!). So how do you attract more of those “true fans”? I think the trick is getting that one big push that gets you in front of enough people to let a handful of them stick.

And that, it seems, comes down mostly to luck. In the meantime, the plan is boring but actionable: you finish writing the books, you release them, you repeat. I might even give myself a small budget for each of the books, to try and net some readers I wouldn’t otherwise be able to find. Then, in about a year, once everyone has their shots and is comfortable with leaving the house again, I’ll schedule some live readings/performances. The grind, basically. Treating it like a job.

I think the internet used to be a place where you could promote your work and accumulate new readers. It’s how I account for the success of my first novel all the way back in 2011. A no-name writer with a strange little book that had initial sales of over a thousand copies (in indie world!) is almost unheard of, now. Those same numbers are reached through big-press releases or indie releases of already-popular online artists. But in 2011, the doors hadn’t quite closed yet, and there was an opportunity for people to actually see the book on social media and make a decision as to whether or not they wanted to read it.

Now, I think it’s increasingly important to pretend like the internet doesn’t exist, except as a mechanism to alert your already-present readers that you have something new out. Its functionality is negligible beyond that. In my experience.

But it’s not impossible to achieve that humble goal of 35-40k a year. I believe it is reachable for any writer who puts their head down and gets to work.

Which I plan on doing, right after I feed this baby.