Take the Ride 12/26/20

The important thing is to keep hammering away at this, no matter what. Today, I am close to missing my deadline. I normally have these things done at least several hours beforehand, but today I got into my editing and lost track of time.

I successfully scheduled a total of $1,480 worth of editing jobs starting today and ending on the 4th of January. That is a novella and two novels’ worth of editing.

Before, I was editing simply to exist. I did not want for much, so I didn’t worry about overloading myself. I liked to relax and hang out. Now that a child is on the way, however, I’m afraid I can’t relax, at least for the next few years. I have to go go go.

I’m fine with it, at least for the moment. I realize that in the future I may burn out and need some time to recoup, but at the moment I’m enthused by my ability to source income that quickly. It is *doable*, although I’m not sure how the work will be through the coming downturn in the economy, or after the slew of NaNoWriMo writers peters off. The summer is always pretty slow.

Then again, I never really *tried* to actively look for jobs in the summer. I let what come my way, come my way. I used to even *deny* jobs if I didn’t like the sample. No more of that nonsense. I have to take everything. I have to accumulate capital.

If it was just me and Rios, I probably wouldn’t care so much. A tiny creature changes everything, though.

You know, for a while there, in the depths of a panic, I considered dropping all of this and going to trade school to become an electrician. That career has always appealed to me, because I’m fascinated with currents and wiring and power. Then I realized it would require six years of apprenticeship and, well, I don’t have that kind of time.

Over the past seven or so years I have slowly built myself into what I am today: an editor. I didn’t even realize I was doing it. Now that I have the background, however, it’s a bit too late to start it all over again. And I’m not bummed about it. I like working on books.

But still: it’s locked in. Lots of things are locked in. Weird feeling, it is, like being strapped into a rollercoaster before it takes off. I’d been standing in line for nearly a decade, and now that the safety belts are clicked in and I’m gripping the metal handles, I don’t have time to yell. I can’t stop everyone else’s fun just because it looks steep.

Time to take the ride.

Christmas 12/25/20

The best Christmas I ever had didn’t have anything to do with family or the weather or food. It was not a heartwarming tale of snuggied families drinking cocoa by the fire. It had to do with cold, hard materialism. The best Christmas I ever had happened in 1992. I was six years old. I came down the stairs to see an absolute buttload of presents underneath the tree. And not just underneath the tree, but spread out over the floor. There were so many of them.

They were all Ninja Turtles action figures. I also got a Technodrome, a video cassette of the TMNT live musical, and maybe some of the weapons. But mostly it was those action figures. I tore the wrapping paper over and over and each time it was the most awesome gift I could have imagined. It was a frenzy of consumption so powerful I remember it vividly to this day. Like the first time I ever did [redacted].

I still think about that Christmas. That was when I overdosed on capitalism. That was literally the last time I wanted gifts to that extent. Don’t get me wrong, I still get a kick out of a nifty purchase or gift to this day. But 12/25/92 was the last time I felt the visceral, bloodlust thrill of tearing open presents. Baxter Stockman. Casey Jones. Shredder. On and on and on.

I’m trying to think of other times I felt that excitement. There’s a good one around 1998: I wanted a Playstation more than anything. One day in church, my mom told me that she’d already gotten me a boombox, and that she couldn’t afford a Playstation. I took it in stride, but deep down I was very upset that I wouldn’t get the game system. Xmas rolls around and I open my boombox. I tell Mom that I love it. Doing my best not to sound disappointed. Then she brings out “one last present.” It is, of course, a Playstation.

This is one of the best tricks my mother ever pulled, and one of the best lessons I ever learned. She allowed me to go through this inner turmoil without interfering or trying to assuage it. When I opened the Playstation, I felt two things: joy and guilt. I couldn’t help but be excited about my new toy. Once I had it in my hands, my pouting and temper tantrums (even though they were inside my head) felt deeply childish. The shame washed over me, and still does when I think back on it. Like the last time I ever did [redacted].

Merry Christmas everybody.

PS: My brother did this amazing remix of a field recording I did last month. It’s basically me walking through a gas station. Andrew turned it into something bizarre and amazing.

UFO Sighting 12/24/20

Interesting way to start Christmas Eve: I saw something really weird on my drive home from dropping off Rios at work.

The thought process goes like this:

1) Airplane. Huh. An airplane.

2) That airplane is moving really slow.

3) …is it moving at all?

4) It is not moving.

5) Is anyone else seeing this?

So yeah. Very bizarre. I had to force myself to keep my eyes on the road. The UFO hovered in place. If I could compare it to anything, it kind of had the angles of a stealth plane. Polygonal?

My dad is a cryptozoology and UFO nut, so I sent him the pic, excited to maybe get a little fatherly approval. ‘It’s an airplane,’ he texted back.

Maybe next time.

Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas Eve!

Brain Hack 12/23/20

I listened to this podcast yesterday, and it blew my mind. It’s long, but worth it.

I am an absolute sucker for “brain hacks” and other pseudo-mystical ten-X tech-bro bullshit. Especially when it works. This guy has a lot of information on how the brain works, and the different chemicals that get sent to the various regions when different things happen. Blah, blah. Here are the takeaways that got me excited:

  • Mood follows action. You cannot change your thoughts or your feelings in the moment. Thinking is both deliberate and spontaneous. The latter is uncontrollable. Therefore, you have to focus on action first.
  • Which actions am I talking about? Breathing techniques are coming out as the biggest non-pharmaceutical hack for controlling stress levels, which of course regulates the immune system and our ability to live healthy, creative, beautiful lives.
  • In the 1960s, mad scientists peeled open people’s brains like Hannibal did to Ray Liotta and poked around with electrodes. People alternately felt drunk, happy, horny, and sad. The spot they liked to have stimulated the most, however, was the area related to feelings of mild frustration and anger.

I’m also talking as someone with extreme OCD. The past 24 hours I have simply been allowing the thoughts to occur, understanding that I can’t change them, and acting anyway. This is one of those ideas that I’ve heard a million times…but something about this video made it click for me.

I can’t control my thoughts, but I try to, which leads to a feeling of mild frustration…which is my dopamine-addict brain’s favorite feeling. It will never let me go unless I starve it completely, and find new, productive ways to receive dopamine.

As Huberman says: “Addiction is the progressive narrowing of things that bring us pleasure.”

The way out is by expanding those things.

Digital Gardens 12/22/20

I got a lot out of this presentation from Willa Köerner about how to approach social media and the internet in general. I’ve noticed that since I’m no longer doomscrolling, I have a lot more time to do the things that I care about. My house is cleaner, books are getting read, I’ve even fought the Moonlight Butterfly about a dozen times in Dark Souls.

The internet doesn’t just disappear, though, and I have to reckon with the fact that I can’t escape from it, and that in some capacity, I may have to go back to Twitter.

Not now, of course. Not for at least a solid year. And after that, my plan is to only interact with it as an automated Tweetdeck link dumper. I gave so much of my time to the site that I feel comfortable using it strictly as a tool from about this time next year on.

This slideshow brings out questions: how do you want your internet persona to be perceived? What kinds of communities do you want to create? What kind of ideas do you want to plant?

My major ideas, so far as I can figure them, revolve around the novel and storytelling. I’m interested in creating a framework of artistic life that brings in animism, physicality and technology, with the creation of “the novel” at its center, as a quiet religious practice. Once I have that as my thesis, I can begin to curate content that fits my goals better.

I’ve just thought out loud again, and I’ll now leave this quick post feeling like I have direction. This really is a thing!

Science Delusions 12/21/20

I started a day or two of carnivore. Steak for breakfast feels wrong and gross, but I went with it. I wanted a glass of milk. Maybe some popcorn. And a lot of stuff that I don’t even normally want. Thus is the nature of restrictive diets: suddenly everything seems so delicious.

I’m attempting to get better at really inhabiting that hunger, or that urge to satisfy. It’s a superpower, if you can manage it. Humans are at the mercy of their particular wants.

Anyway, I was watching YouTube while I ate my breakfast steak, and came across this show called The Doctors. It’s gross trash TV. I’d seen a clip a few days ago with the “Snake Diet” guy, and watched the Doctors absolutely trash his “pseudoscience.”

“Pseudoscience” that suggests there can be health benefits to fasting. Go figure.

Then I saw it happen again, this time with Dr. Saladino. I’m a big fan of his research into tons of studies pertaining to a carnivore diet. Watch how this goes when he guests on this garbage show.

You see what they do, first thing? Go after the particular type of credentials he has. He isn’t a nutritionist, they say, so he has no room to speak on matters of nutrition. This is a technical cop-out, and it is massively classist and anti-autodidact. Indeed people can learn things without the aid of a university system, if they decide to read and understand enough.

Of course, I wouldn’t want someone performing brain surgery on me if they hadn’t put in the time at medical school, but when it comes to actually understanding brain surgery, I would believe that you could understand the principles just fine. Maybe you could even operate on a fake brain to prove it. Brain surgery, like being an electrician, is a matter of being in the field for years to understand all the ins and outs of a crazy electrical system.

There is a level of offense that all of these credentialed doctors have that strikes me as very human. No one wants to spend nearly a decade of their life (and a shitload of money) going to school for something that this guy taught himself for the cost of a JSTOR subscription. They don’t debate him on the science (or maybe they do, I turned it off after three minutes), they debate his very right to have an opinion on the matter.

I’ve noticed this when it comes to a particular current event. The Thing That Shall Not Be Named. Let’s say you have someone who disagrees with one of the Cathedral’s Main Tenets. First, you attack the credentials. If they’ve ever been reprimanded for something, you start with that. Secondly, you go after their field of medicine. Is this a virology question? Well, you’re an epidemiologist. And vice versa.

Finally, even if they are exactly qualified (as physicians or whatever), the internet will dig into their past and find out that they voted Republican once or they have a blog from ten years ago where they say maybe tomatoes cure cancer. Done.

The issue is you’re only very rarely going to find a prominent scientist who disagrees with the dogma, because most of them got there by believing the dogma even harder than those around them. I recently wrapped up an episode of No Country (it’ll drop on Wednesday) about the great and powerful Dr. Rupert Sheldrake. His 2013 TED Talk was removed by the CEO himself, because RS’s ideas were so heretical. Check it out:

And finally, I’ll leave you with this great, short essay by Reverend Danny Nemu on why he doesn’t trust the pharmaceutical industry to be honest when it comes to vaccines. Read this very carefully. I know you all have this image in your head of insane anti-vaxx moms infecting schools with measles and shit (which does happen), but try to really think about what Nemu is saying here. I trust you to be able to do that. You’re a grown up.

AI-Generated Prose Dos 12/20/20

The Inferkit got a bit creepy last night. Around six, my wife and I were settling into the couch to watch a bit of The Great American Bake-Off. I dropped my vape between the couch cushions, went under to find it, and noticed all of the nasty dust under the couch. I ought to sweep this up, I thought to myself.

Fast forward an hour or so and I decide to go to my office to play around with the AI a little more. I put in some passages from A Thousand Plateaus, and bit of Jung, and a few chapters of an abandoned work-in-progress. This is the first paragraph it spit out:

He puts a cup down on the kitchen counter, then goes back to the living room. She’s on the couch, watching a cooking show, flipping pages of a book she’s reading, humming a tune she’s found in the music section of the library, the stack of dust bunnies beneath the coffee table still, although the cat has left them.

I don’t have a cat, and she wasn’t humming a tune or reading a book. But the couch and the dust bunnies…genuinely creep stuff. I let the AI continue:

He sits on the other end of the couch, his legs stretched out, knees bent, and his foot rests on a large stuffed animal.

He looks at her over the animal’s head. Hey, um. Do you wanna smoke some weed?

She starts laughing.

Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, is she high?

She’s high.

Good.

I’ve got a tray here, some paper cups. I’ll get them. She returns with the tray and sets them down. She takes one of the cups. He takes a cookie. He shakes one of the paper cups. Okay, here we go. She smokes and he sips coffee, both lost in their own thoughts. When she’s finished, she sets the empty cup down on the tray. So, was the message good?

He rubs his face, trying to lift his fogged brain from the braincandy it has absorbed. The numbers are still there, just outside his grasp. He touches one of the numbers. The numbers respond, floating in his thoughts, finding their way back to him. He closes his eyes and pulls them in, focusing on them until he feels them settle. They’re there. They’re the real message. The last word of the message repeats in his head.

Do you?

He nods. “Yeah.”

Do you want to play golf?

He hears himself, repeating. He realizes he hasn’t spoken in a long time. “Yeah.” Let’s play golf.

I’m going to start going to church. We can go together, if you want. He smiles. “Yeah.” He opens his eyes. “I think that’s the first time I’ve said ‘yes’ to anything today.” She stands and the expression on her face shifts. She’s got you, she says. You should stop smiling, she says. She nods at him, smiles, and leaves the room. He hears her humming as she’s walking. He looks at the clock and sees that it’s early.

Notes: the bit in bold sounds remarkably like my OCD symptoms, the obsession with certain numbers and the panic that occurs if I don’t perform a proper ritual to land on those numbers. Recently I’ve taken to ERP, which has been helping. This Inferkit text could be seen as a reflection of that. “He looks at the clock and sees that it’s early.”

WordPress has blocks, and you have to go through all of them to italicize the paragraphs. So I tab down, hit command+A, hit command+I. All the text in the block selected. Italicized. Over and over. A, I, A, I.

The adventure continues…

AI-Generated Prose 12/19/20

Sorry about the bumper yesterday day. I wasn’t feeling it at my regularly scheduled time, but I needed to not break the “blog every day” momentum. Only a few weeks in? No, sir. Anyhow, I’m back today with the robot version of myself.

You see, I fed two passages from two different novels of mine into the Inferkit, which is run on GPT-2 technology. Basically, this is an AI that pulls prose from the internet, and learns how to mimic it. What follows are two AI-generated passages. The first is what the computer wrote after reading the scene in By the Time where Hipolit’s heart is roaming free throughout his body:

“How do you plan to do it?”

“It’s a matter of honor, no?”

“A matter of what, like a lamb being led to slaughter?”

“Something like that. He has to die.”

“Why?”

“To show the vory that we’re not like them, that they cannot touch us. To show them that we will not accept the final fall.”

“But that’s what you are, what the… the Vory say.”

“It’s nonsense, that’s what it is. They are scared, and it is a good place to go to learn how to be afraid. But the fire, the blaze, the pit of ashes, that is not our fate. We will take the bodies of the vory, as trophies, we will take their teeth and their bones, and we will keep them. They will not burn with our men.”

“Are you planning on taking my mother’s bones?”

Tely laughed and punched him in the shoulder. “Don’t worry about that, I won’t, but you’ll be dead by the time you find out what happens.”

Hipolit looked around and noticed that his friend had retreated from view. Hipolit tossed and caught the shoestring between his teeth again. The stench was worse now. He tasted copper. His mouth was slick with spit. He was going to vomit. He would see blood splatter across the green metal bars of the cage, and he wouldn’t be able to blame Tely.

“What do we do now?”

“Find him and kill him, and then we find the woman and kill her. We are not going to live in this city, not anymore. They will come for us, and we must send them back to their ships.” There was a crack, and the glass holding the cage up was broken.

Spooky how it kind of gets my tone right, at least. And I could see some of that dialogue actually being something I’d write. The second passage comes from A Minor Storm, in which Shane is (re)introduced:

He came back with another beer and sat back down and handed me the yearbook again.

“He had a drug problem, too,” said Shane.

“Always stealing shit from us. The last day of the year, Sesh came in and kept saying he wanted to punch me in the face. I thought he might be going senile or something, so I said okay. So he gets close to me and punches me in the fucking mouth. They called the cops. I told them Sesh wasn’t his friend. They got him to sign it, but his signature was all fucked up, like he’d been signing it for hours and it took all he had. After they let me out, I went over there. Sesh had been out, man.”

He lifted up his shirt and pulled his nipples out through the holes in the wire mesh and flipped them back and forth.

“That’s one thing I hate about losing a tooth. The feel of it against your nipple. Don’t you hate it, though?”

I asked about his mom.

“Yeah. She was my only friend. She was born on the wrong day, or something. Her birthday was September 11th. And it’s her birthday today. I’m gonna buy her a cheeseburger and a milkshake, just for luck.”

This is the nicest thing I’ve ever heard anyone say about his mother, who, as far as I could tell, only made him eat and wear weird clothing, kick him out of the house, and throw shit at him. He didn’t love her, and she didn’t love him. He didn’t remember much of her. He was just grateful to her for pushing him past the early hard years of adolescence and into a successful life. He also thanked her for not hating him.

“There is no other human being in the world like your mother,” he said, “and I miss her.”

I wondered if Shane’s mother had gone crazy from watching too many 1950s war movies. But he shook his head, looking away. “She was always off. It’s the same with the other girls. The girls on the team. They’re all nuts.” He looked at me. “I mean, they’re not all nuts. It’s just a myth. Don’t get me wrong, most of them are total whack-jobs.”

“So are you one of them?” “I’m not crazy. I’m just doing crazy shit. You’ve got to understand. I’ve been robbed. I’ve been cheated on. I’ve done stupid shit. I’m not a complete asshole, man. I just live like one. If I were my mother, you’d say I was crazy, but I’m not.” He paused. “Sometimes I wonder about my girlfriend.”

Let me be very clear: “I’m not a complete asshole, man. I just live like one” will be a line that I’ll be stealing for a future project. If…I didn’t write it already? It becomes difficult for me to parse through this thing. How much of it is me reading me, how much of it is me enjoying a pretty fucking good mimic?

Here’s another kind of creepy thing: in both of these passages, it mentions teeth. Spitting out teeth is a major surreal factor in a previous novel, Blood and Water, which hasn’t been fed into the Inferkit. In that novel, the antihero tough guy Danny Ames loses a tooth every time he commits evil. In Black Gum, Shane tattoos his gums black (it’s on the nose). How does this program know my obsessions already, or at least that one? How did it get “tooth” so prominently out of passages that don’t contain the word?

There’s something going on here.

On a less creepy note, this feels like a great tool for dealing with writer’s block. From now on, whenever I’m feeling a little stuck, I’ll toss my last paragraph into the Inferkit, and see what starts to come out. It’s like asking the hivemind to inhabit you for a moment, to show you all the ways you’re everybody else. There’s a connecting factor here that is at its core mystical and perhaps occult.

Further investigation will be necessary.