Leapdragon 2016 - Aron Hsiao Was Here

Aron Hsiao Ph.D.

I’ve worked in a wide variety of very public roles and written a number of books. In my “real life” I’ve had an audience varying from hundreds of thousands to millions over the years, across big media, online media, and academic media.
 
Teaching
 
Some of you may also know me from the classroom, as I’ve taught at a decent array of major universities, in topic areas from linguistics to anthropology to sociology to cultural studies and media. I am not currently teaching.
 
Companies and Brands
 
If you’re wondering if I'm the “same Aron Hsiao that...” then, in fact, I probably am. I won't mention all of the companies, brands, and publications here because many of them won’t want to be directly associated with a blog like this one.
 
On Google
 
But if you’ve searched Google for “Aron Hsiao” then you’ve found me. The writer me, the professor me, the photographer me, the technology expert me, and so on. All of those pages and pages of results are, in fact, me. I am not aware of any other Aron Hsiao that has recently (in a decade or more) ranked in the first dozen-plus pages of Google’s results.

Born February 29th, 1976
 
Ph.D. Sociology (The New School, 2014)
M.A. Social Science (Chicago, 2004)
B.A. Anthropology (Utah, 2001)
B.A. English (Utah, 2001)
 
7 Books
Thousands of articles
 
1 Life
2 Kids
5 Goldfish
2 Cats
1 Dog
 
Lived in Salt Lake City, New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Portland, and now... Provo.
 
Myers-Briggs INFP/INTP

I started “blogging” for the first time in 1999 at twenty-three years old, as I was going through my first serious breakup. Without meaning to, I continued to blog on a personal basis more or less without interruption after that. Now it’s been going on seventeen years. All of that content (well, most of it) is here, in one place.
 
In professional life, I have also ended up spending a decent amount of time blogging for an income for others. Still do.
 
But after all these years, Leapdragon remains home.
 
Many have questioned the wisdom of maintaining a site like this one, and from 2007 through 2015 I kept it increasingly obscure online. I have grown tired, however, of hiding myself behind a “professional” cardboard cutout. I’m forty years old and my life, like the lives of many others, gets more complicated by the day, personally and professionally.
 
It’s time to just be me again, in public, and let the chips fall where they may. So here I am.

Politics: Mixed—Old Left + Old Right (Fuck the SJWs)
Music: Sonic Youth, Einstürzende Neubauten
Novel: 2666, Roberto Bolaño
Operating Systems: Mac OS, Linux (Android)
Aquarium Fish: Common goldfish, fully grown
Illumination Technology: Neon tubing
Rag: Counterpunch
Academic Work: Illuminations, Walter Benjamin
Work of Art: Boulevard of Broken Dreams, Helnwein
Art Medium: Still photography
Club/Pub: The Pub, Ida Noyes Hall, University of Chicago
City: New York City
Place: Antelope Island, Syracuse, Utah
Fabrication Material: Leather
Drink: Green Chartreuse
Beach: Ellwood Beach, Goleta, California
Design Language: Swiss/Modern/Bauhaus
Season: Fall

It’s the reaction to Cat Person that’s most revealing—and sad.  §

All this sturm und drang over a story that has nothing particularly remarkable to show or say.

Women going all #MeToo not realizing how misplaced this sounds when referencing a woman who is the actual aggressor, who initiates, and in which we (thanks to the omniscience of the narrator) actually get to see her explicitly and mentally consent. Men getting all hurt when in fact the man suffers almost not at all and loses almost nothing at all, then acts terribly in the end.

Both characters in the story are dishonest, manipulative narcissists mainly in love with themselves, and whose losses and suffering amount essentially to ego bruises after a considered effort to exploit someone else as means to inflate said egos.

Who the “someone else” was hardly mattered to either of them; it could have been anyone. Neither took any steps to actually know the person, nor showed any restraint in using them despite not knowing them in the least. The point wasn’t to actually engage in real terms with another human being, it was to leverage a fellow human being as yet another consumable resource in entirely inward-facing self-identity-building. The only thing that either had on their mind—happy and not happy—was their own selfhood—said “selfhood” being the poison that is destroying modernity, the runaway Hollywood-level success of Zen in America notwithstanding.

In short, what nobody’s saying is:

  • Both of the characters in the story are consenting adults, and both are horrible, selfish people with no integrity who have no business being allowed out into public.
  • All of the readers who identify with either character reveal themselves to be horrible, selfish people with no integrity who have no business being allowed out in to public.

If you identify with this story, as woman or as man, you ought to be embarrassed. You have just outed yourself; you don’t see human beings across from you at the table. And your chattering about the story on Twitter or Facebook or wherever is merely you promoting you, justifying you, building you, asking for social currency for you, etc., all without any regard for anyone else—just like these characters with which you so identify.

So many essays on “why this story went viral” and all of them got it wrong.

The real reason that it went viral is ironic and darkly hilarious. Even a send-up of hand-wringing narcissists impatient to place themselves at the center of the universe gets hand-wringing narcissists impatient to place themselves at the center of the universe all hot and bothered.

Yet another (literally) “self”-serving, disgusting, misguided pile of self-expression animates the same old self-serving, disgusting, misguided national public.

Two selfish people date. Not surprisingly, it doesn’t go well. Both end up primarily bothered by how this affects themselves. Selfish national public says “OMG, #MeToo!” And all of it is fiction in service of the self.

Film at 11.

Things.  §

There are two kinds of immediately impending things.

Those that come hurtling toward you in time, hit you full in the face, then recede rapidly into history, and those that are always immediately impending but that never seem to arrive, permanently darkening the horizon wihout the possibility of catharsis.

Death is the most obvious of these, but there are many others both grand and mundane.

— § —

There are two primary versions of Santa Claus for kids in contemporary culture.

Larger-than-life Santa has a flawless, extravagant red suit, gleaming gold-rimmed spectacles, a pure-white beard of glossy hair, curled to perfection in bobs that go nearly down to his waist. He has one major line, which is “Ho, ho, ho!”

Hearth Santa’s suit is rumpled, as though he’s been wearing it for years, his spectacles are actually just eyeglasses, his beard is real and has all of the kinkiness and uneven color of an actual gray beard, and it ends about four to eight inches below his face. He doesn’t have lines, he has conversations with kids.

I prefer the latter.

— § —

People say “don’t judge” as though it’s some sort of taken-for-granted moral value these days.

I prefer to judge openly. “Don’t judge” leads us to Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, because what it really means is “I forgive my own sins and the sins of those like me,” not “I forgive the sins of those who are not like me.”

“Don’t judge” sounds as though it’s about tolerance of others, but in fact it’s merely and only about insisting on the moral defectiveness of anyone who doesn’t tolerate me.

Like everything else in contemporary society, it is narcissistic.

— § —

There are two strains of MGTOW, the loud, reaction-formation one that paints billboards and has bad manners and an aggressive, punitive agenda, and a quiet one that goes largely unnamed.

The first one is getting all the press these days, but I suspect that the second one, which used to be called “confirmed bachelorhood,” will be a much bigger deal when the history books on this half-century are written. It’s not an activist creed like the first, but rather a live-and-let live perspective on gender and relationships that sees with clear eyes the fact that in our current cultural configuration, men and women do not make each other happy, and when in close quarters impose significant—even catastrophic—risks and costs on one another that perhaps ought not to be rationally and can not be wisely accepted by either.

This second version of MGTOW, which is MGTOW in the literal sense only, rather than a brand, is the product of reason and maturity in light of social conditions, and is related to a similar brand of WGTOW that, unmarketed, has been going on for some time now.

There is only one kind of complementary heterogender relationship right now that works well—that in which there is a mutually understood and accepted imbalance of power and authority that is significant enough to render the relationship one of husbandry. Of course, in such instances, the hammer in the relationship, whether man or woman, quickly learns two things: (1) anvils are not much better company than pets, and (2) they are significantly more expensive to maintain and care for.

— § —

Identity disruption is empirically seen to be the cause of a number of mental health and life-arc maladies, but the proposed cure—the construction and support of stable identities—is incomplete.

This latter cannot be achieved self-referentially—that is to say that one cannot form a stable identity sui generis. Because the fertile ground that produced any one can and will continue to produce others in response to stimuli and to circumstances; gardens that grow vegetables well inevitably grow weeds well. That is the nature of unmanaged fertility.

We don’t like objective foundations or collectively normative metaphysics, but without them, identity is an unstable quantum—that is to say, quantized and infinitely and suddenly variable—property.

People will not find mental health until they are defined either by a God or by a stable circle of others who impose an identity upon them. Identity freedom and self-definition aren’t merely myths; given human biology and nature, they’re mental disorders.

All of society right now is engaged in “Please, mental-illness-for-all—it’s ethical!” activism.

Only one thing: Entropy.  §

I went down a thought hole that started with liberalism vs. conservatism and then went to the possibility of moral or at the very least “goodness” under conditions of market capitalism and then to Martin Luther King, Jr. and the way in which contemporary thinkers misvalue and misappropriate him and then to Dialectic of Enlightenment, the Arcades Project, and the cyclical nature of history, and I was going to write another things blog post resulting from all of this for a while, but then in the end, it just collapsed into:

Entropy always wins. That is the teleology of the universe.

Is not reading a terrible thing or a great thing? Does it matter?  §

In 2015 and 2016 there was a stretch of time during which I read nearly a book a day. Dozens and dozens of books. I took copious notes. I consumed and consumed information. I won’t say that it was nice because that entire period wasn’t nice, but it was edifying.

Tonight I am realizing that at the moment it’s been months since I last read anything other than a childrens’ book. Months. This is not good; this is not right. I often recently feel as though my mind is slipping away, and this is one reason why.

— § —

On the other hand, my mind slipping away might not necessarily be a bad thing.

My entire life I’ve traded on having a “good mind.” I was advanced in school, attended special programs, went to college at 15, went to grad school at Chicago, got a Ph.D.

Well, what was it good for?

The significant downsides include a healthy dose of misanthropy and social disconnectedness. It’s hard to get along with people when non seqiturs and obvious logical lead bombs fall out of their mouths more or less continuously, and when your best ideas don’t make any sense to them without you spending hours to communicate them just so. You can see how 1 links to 9 implicitly, but they need it spelled out—2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8—and it bores and infuriates everyone.

Combine that with the fact that people tend to develop a savior complex when they think you’re really smart (“You’re so smart! Why aren’t you giving some money and power to me? I tell you what, I’ve got a bunch of problems, can you help me solve them?”) and they tend to hate you whenever you disagree with them because (1) you can generally debate them under the table and (2) it brings up every insecurity they’ve ever had.

But then… so much has been invested in my mind over the years that the breakeven point is still years away from Ph.D. and so on. It is essentially too late to turn the ship around and decide to be a welder, though I confess that these days I often wish it wasn’t.

— § —

I am having a tough month. Too many things are going wrong; the hand of fate weighs far too heavily for my comfort. I keep hearing Layne Staley in my head:

“Something’s gotta turn out right…

Mrs. Ito and I came to the same life strategies independently.  §

So I just finished reading this. And also this.

My feelings on both are deep and complex, but I’m going to go with a theme in saying that in combination, they both caused me to think about writing—both as pieces of it, and in the first case as the thing that Ms. Ito does and has done for decades without knowing precisely why.

I do much the same thing. You are looking at my own version of Ms. Ito’s body of work. In 2005 I printed this blog out in small print, from beginning to end, and it came out to just over a thousand pages. It’s been twelve years of blogging since 2005. How many pages would it be now?

Who is ever going to read it?

Why do I write it?

I just do.

— § —

When I’m honest with myself, I look back on an entire career, an entire adult life, spent writing. At the end of the day, all I’ve ever been paid to do was write.

Books. Tutorials. Articles. Blog posts. Press releases. Ads. Papers. Theses. Dissertations.

Well, the case of the last three items, it’s not so much that they pay you to write them as that they lend you money for as long as you’re willing to continue to write them.

If I do a hard-nosed calculation on how much I’ve been paid to write, net, taking that fact into account, I’ve spent an entire lifetime writing and have earned a total of something like $100,000 for it. Ever. Across all twenty years of writing (my first book went to market in 1997).

The things I’m most proud of—this blog, some self-published works of poetry, endless informative reviews and posts around the web—have paid me exactly nothing. Nada. Zilch.

Before too long, for reasons I won’t (and can’t) go into just now, it’s possible that I will be looking once again for someone to pay me something for some genre of writing.

At the end of the day, I am, and have always been, and probably always will be, a writer.

Not so much as a matter of ambition, but as a matter of “that’s all he’s fucking good for, and he’s not terrible at it, though he’s no Pulitzer prize winner.”

— § —

Funny story, I’m not all that excited about writing for the most part.

There’s only one genre of writing that I love—writing poems. Not only are these unprofitable, they’re also (we’ve decided as a culture) unreadable and anachronistic. So they are written entirely as folly, as farces with a secret, tragic seriousness, like when you say your feelings aren’t hurt and you’re not depressed but actually you’re just waiting for everyone to leave so that you can hit the bottle.

There’s only one genre of writing that I really aspire to and would be proud of—writing fiction. Which I absolutely cannot do with any skill, have never done, and likely will never do, despite wishing that I could.

There’s one genre of writing that I spent my life working to hone—academic writing. I no longer do this because they stopped loaning me the money to do this when I finished my Ph.D., and there is no income to be generated from it, so it’s sort of a consumer luxury that you can only enjoy for the first half of your life. You buy the privilege to write and develop this skill until they won’t let you play with house money any more. Then you go home and wait for Vito to come and break your legs for not making good.

There are two genres of writing that I’m compelled to do. One is blogging. This. I don’t love it, but I can’t stop it. I’ve tried multiple times. Once in 2001, once in 2002, once in 2003, once in 2004, once in 2005, once in 2007, once in 2009, once in 2010, and once in 2014. I always come back. To the tune of thousands of pages. And I keep backups. Even though no-one will ever read any of it. The other compulsive genre is what I’ll call “online participation.” Writing what I think about an artifact—product, article, discussion, whatever—that I’ve found online, generally in some sort of comment or review system. Hell, these don’t even have my name attached to them. I’m far more prolific in these even than on my blog. There must be 10,000 pages of stuff that I’ve written, often highly “upvoted,” that is lost or will ultimately be lost to history. But I don’t attach my name to any of it because it doesn’t pay, and going public would impact my ability to get paid (see below).

Finally there’s one genre of writing that I’ve been paid to do—nonfiction to order. Here I put trade nonfiction paperbacks (wrote seven), technical articles, ads, corporate blogs, marketing websites, press releases, radio scripts, and so on. Someone tells me what to write, I write it. Since my name is attached to these, and these pay, I can’t attach my name to some of the other things that don’t pay, because the people who tell me what to write would not like to be associated with anyone that has opinions—other, that is, than the opinion that their product/topic/etc. is great. Opinions are bad for business.

— § —

Sometime I’ll make a similar post about the 200,000 photos that I keep in Lightroom (formerly in Aperture, and before that, in a series of folders on magnetic tapes maintained via shell scripts).

Two hundred thousand.

Who will look at them?

And the photos, unlike the writing, are net negative. I’ve probably earned $10,000, ever, from my photos. I’ve spent probably about twice that on equipment. (This being, incidentally, a relatively huge chunk of that previous $100k lifetime net from writing. This is called ‘precarity’ in some circles—working hard for years and years and investing continually in necessary professional and social resources with little to show for it and no security whatsoever, but knowing that if you stopped working or stopped investing, even though you can’t afford to do either in the way you always do it, you’d be sunk because you can afford stopping even less.)

Thousands and thousands of pages of anonymous writing.

Two hundred thousand photos that nobody but me knows how to access, much less will ever look at.

Sitting alone doing more of both late at night.

I am Mrs. Ito, only I am her at 42 years old.

Key difference—I still have my children. But it seems a lot of weight to put on them to mention them just now, in this context.

¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Our furtive, rationalized embrace of the gluttonous weirdos is now front-and-center.  §

There are spelling errors in previous posts that I really ought to fix before I post anything new. And frankly I’m supposed to be in bed.

But here I am up and thinking about Al Franken and Garrison Keillor and Matt Lauer and Charlie Rose and Harvey Weinstein so on and so forth. I don’t have any evidence for myself whether each individual accusation is true, but there are enough of them that one has to presume that at least some of them are true, and there is a troubling pattern to all of the accusations.

That pattern—forgive me for sounding square here—is that they all describe and/or reveal utter weirdos who have no business being allowed out into public, much less being put in charge of things in an actually functioning society.

I mean—WTF? In what world is this sniveling, pre-pubescent, gutless behavior erotic in any way? And saying that it’s about power—well I suppose so, but it’s about the most emasculated, embarrassing version of power one can imagine. It is “power” for those who have no backbone, no steel at their core. It is a kind of power that is powerless and hollow in the extreme. With endless resources at their fingertips, do they better society? No, they parade around nude, uninvited, in front of total strangers, in private—or some onanistic worse thing—hoping to be admired or at the very least indulged. So small. So petty. So ridiculous.

And yet at the same time, these are the wealthy. The ruling elite. The educated. The adored. The rewarded.

It speaks to a hole right in the middle of our culture and our society’s understanding of masculinity that these psychological profiles, of all the possible psychological profiles in dispersion throughout our civilization, are the ones that percolate to the top, to the very positions in which they can do such infantile, pointless, impotent things with relative impunity.

I come from a long line of men—all of the men in my life, really—that would be similarly baffled. And of course each and every one of them was a nobody living in (at best) modest circumstances or (at worst) penury, much like myself.

Sure, I suppose a discussion of masculinity is in order, but I don’t think that gets to the heart of the problem. The heart of the problem is the question of why we are promoting germinal, puerile, mentally pre-pubescent—well—losers and giving these people, of all people, the hire-and-fire purse strings, the big offices with locking doors, the big travel budgets with big hotel rooms, the headlines and the footnotes in the history books. Why are we setting these imbeciles up as inevitable role models?

Yes, sure, examine masculinity, but the problem won’t be solved until we examine values. Somehow we have decided to let the Trumps and the Clintons rule while burying the stoics, the self-sacrificers, the strong-and-silent under piles of disdain. The marketing-led culture of capitalism seems to have given us a ruling class of gluttonous self-promoters who were utterly failed as children and who have utterly failed to mature into workable superegos, simply because they demand and take and nobody stops them (indeed, the opposite), while their noumenal betters quietly demure and are allowed—shockingly and regrettably—to be forgotten to time.

Let’s fix that. Let’s stop promoting the people who aren’t mortified to demand it all—the climbers, the hucksters, the loudmouths, the gourmands—and start suspecting the marketing of the shameless self-marketers—rather than applauding self-marketing and “staying hungry” as some sort of essential virtue. Being hungry when there’s food about is stupid, and counterproductive, and harmful, and fundamentally maladjusted.

How about we return to an ideal of restraint and discretion, rewarding those who quietly chop wood and carry water without complaint or imposition? And who aren’t just fucking weird at the end of the day?

I mean, seriously.

Everything that can go wrong, will go wrong. For a long time.  §

It’s been a brutal few months. Absolutely brutal. So brutal that right now, the fact that I have a left hand throbbing in pain and swollen to double its size with an infection feels as though life finally cut me a break—because I was sure it was broken instead.

Things are not going well. And this week, though it’s had its highlights with the Thanksgiving holiday and lots of time spent with the kids, has been particularly brutal. Nearly everything that could go wrong…did go wrong.

Happily, at least the car is still running and everyone is still alive and kicking. Those two things are, at least, something. And we did manage to visit the ballet and talk to Santa. That’s good, too.

But I am desperately clinging to the status quo now, swollen hand and all. I need for there to be a moratorium on shit events and bad luck happenings for a day or three. Please. I am hoping that 2018 is going to be better. I have no faith that it will be; that would be completely unjustified. I expect things to be, in fact, far, far worse.

But I do have hope. And I am trying to combat fear and the deep navy blues with everything I have.

Middle class kids get horrifying career advice.  §

I’m a pretty hardened sort these days. After all these years, failed relationships, graduate degrees, a divorce, life with kids, etc. there’s not a lot that causes me to tear up.

And yet every time I take a kids to a live performance, I do just that. I find it to be emotionally overpowering. Today as we were sitting in a Ballet West holiday performance of The Nutcracker, I was asking myself why.

I think it comes down to being touched by pure moments. These are people who love something, who have dedicated their life to something, who have a calling—and who fulfill that calling, who do what they do very, very well. They are at one with their work, and their work is beautiful. They operate without a net, in a kind of a pure social situation, unmediated by technology, without second chances. They do it for us.

Someone who is called, who has a purpose, does something rare and difficult and does it very well—just for us. And we are present, we attend for them, to acknowledge that they do it and to appreciate that they do it.

There’s so much in that that is both everything that I always dreamed of as a young person and also that is everything that I’ve lost—everything that was once my future, but isn’t any longer.

It’s both the the same love that I’ve always had of a very particular dynamic—tears of appreciation—and the sense of loss that comes with knowing that this will never be me—tears of loss—along with the rare experience of shared social space, of a real interaction, of people being present to one another consciously, to a accomplish something beautiful as a social body—tears of collective effervescence.

— § —

On a different but related note, the worst possible education and career advice to young people is the usual middle class advice, which goes something like this:

  • Don’t just live your life or choose your path for money, because there’s more to life than money and this will leave you miserable and unfulfilled.
  • Don’t just live your life for your dreams, because if they don’t work out, you’re going to need some money.
  • So chase your dreams but always have a “Plan B” or a “fallback” in case you need it.

This is terrible advice, absolutely terrible.

By splitting your attention between two different paths—let’s call them the “dream path” and the “fallback money path”—you dedicate only 50 percent of your resources to either of them and basically ensure that you will fail utterly at both in a hypercompetitive world.

To succeed in either, you must choose it and it alone and sacrifice deeply and with dedication for it. You must be single-minded in your pursuit.

And just as importantly, either is entirely acceptable and likely to make you happy. In fact, they are both likely to be the same thing in the end. Follow your dreams with abandon and you will achieve success in a specialized area. Money will follow—the money that only follows for those that embrace and fulfill their calling. Meanwhile, pursue money with clarity and ruthlessness and you will have every resource that you need to (a) eventually have free time and ready resources in your life and (b) use these to fill that free time by following your dreams.

The middle-class advice, borne of risk-aversion and a kind of psychological trauma of precarity, basically ensures that people will fail. You don’t directly follow your dreams enough to compete now, and you also will never have even close to enough money to follow them later. It’s what keeps the bright middle class kid trapped in the middle class for his entire life, no matter the fact that he was top of his class and went to an Ivy League school, etc.

No, middle class kids. Here is the advice that you want.

Choose one of these and pursue it to the exclusion of everything else in life until you are thirty years old:

  • Money, for the sake of money
  • Your dreams, without any thought of money

If you’re bright, and you choose one—and only one—of these options and make it the core of your being until you’re thirty, you’ll find that when you’re forty—unlike all of the other middle-class kids from the neighborhood who all “knew there was more to life than money” but also had “backup plans,” you:

  • Have more money than you know what to do with
  • Are able to successfully follow your dreams

Those people that place a particular culture and frame of mind at the center of what it means to belong to a particular class are right. Class is, more than anything else, a particular way of thinking.

All the other trappings of class proceed from it.

Camera. Typewriter. Wristwatch. A project begins?  §

Three technologies fascinate me and have always fascinated me. Three technologies continue to find their ways into my life and continue to inspire me to pursue them, collect them, and use them.

For a long time I’ve though it might be useful to sit down and try to figure out what they have in common, married as they seem to be to one another in my experience if being in the world.

Camera

It’s not the optics, or the seeing. I know the history of the camera obscura and so on; I was exposed to it in a fair bit of depth in graduate school. I’ve taught about it in university courses. A lot of the intelligencia are fascinated by the image, the inversion of seeing, its reflective nature, the “seconding” of reality, and so on.

Not me.

I only seem to be interested in it once we arrive at plates and prints; once the images are “captured” by the camera and stored, indelibly in some solid material.

I become most fascinated once there is a shutter and a shutter actuator.

Typewriter

Far more than in the output—the essay, the book, the article—I have always been fascinated by the pressing of the keys. By the gesture through which a finger presses a button moves a lever imprints on paper, etc.

I keep these things around in dozens of ways, in modern formats. Desktop computer. Laptop computer. Alphasmart Neo. Alphasmart Dana. Apple Newton. iPad and phone keyboards. Not to mention the old 50-pound Royal typewriter on the table in the living room.

And I use them. Anyone that knows me or that has noted the existence and presence of this blog knows that I am frequently compelled to type, even if I have nothing in particular to say and no idea what I will “say” in the end.

The compulsion is to use the keyboard. To make letters. Whether the letters are good letters or bad letters, useful letters or not useful letters. It’s been this way for decades now.

Wristwatch

There are a lot of guys that own wristwatches and that collect wristwatches. But I have a particular tic in my wristwatches; I can’t bring myself to be interested in quartz watches—the electronic ones. No matter how high end. No matter Swiss Ronda movements in $5,000 watches with beautiful logos and lines and sapphire crystals and heavy bracelets.

I just don’t and can’t care about quartz. Not interested. Even if someone haded me a Tag Heuer or Omega brand new tomorrow, if it was quartz I wouldn’t wear it—ever—and I just wouldn’t care.

But mechanical wristwatches I am mesmerized by. I want them on my wrist. I want them everywhere around me. I sit and watch the movements. I am tempted by each one that I see. I’d sell a kidney for an average 24-jewel NH35A movement. Luckily I don’t have to, since they’re cheap as dirt.

They’re less accurate than quartz. The last less long that quartz. They’re heavier than quartz. They’re old-fashioned technology. And yet—

and yet.

— § —

So what do they have in common? Here’s what they have in common.

Cameras that fascinate me, that I use, have a shutter—a shutter that stops time. A mechanical contrivance for quickly and cleanly and completely capturing one moment and not another. They’re not continuously “on” like the early camera obscura. That’s boring. Instead, they are used for the opposite purpose—not to slide along with time, conveying light, but rather the opposite. To trap time and freeze it forever.

Typewriters and all of their analogs do something very similar. Every keypress is a captured fragment of time. At that moment, the moment of the keypress, a conduit opens between mind and its ever flowing conscious and subconscious river, and something that was somewhere in that mind for that moment is imprinted—like that—indelibly. Every single character I’ve ever typed here, or in any of my papers, or in any of my articles, or in any of my books, is one moment of time in my mind, caught forever and preserved. A frozen record of what—even if just for a moment—once was.

And mechanical watches, the things that fascinate me perhaps most of all, are at their core an escapement. In the watch on my wrist right now, it is a little piece of technology that measures time—if time is what is evident in the hands of a watch—literally by stopping it entirely and starting it again six times per second. This is magic beyond magic, neither good nor bad but wild; transcendental. And it is not like quartz because quartz has initiative; it’s natural state is one of rest. Quartz watches take an action once every second. If they do not take the action, their time does not move. But an escapement—an escapement puts the brakes on time; an escapement is pressed, pressed ever-forward by a mainspring whose pressure is steady, unyielding, continuous, relentless. The escapement takes the natural flow of things—like the camera, and like the typewriter—and stops this flow dead in its tracks against all odds, many times every second.

The Nub of Things

So they do have something in common. One thing that lies at the core of everything that I am fascinated with in the world.

Each of these technologies is a technology of mortal-immortality, of death-life; they are monadic; they embody the basic contradiction in human being.

The camera freezes and preserves forever in matter a live moment as a dead thing, stopping time in its tracks and turning it into beyond-time, anti-time. The typewrite freezes and preserves forever in matter a live thought as a dead thing, once again stopping time in is tracks and turning it into beyond-time, anti-time. And a mechanical wristwatch measures and sustains the flow time precisely by stopping it in its tracks, bringing its little universe to an impassable end over and over and over again, forever. It is the thing in which time can never and does never flow, despite endless pressure to do so, and it is in the prevention of this flow, the endless interruption, that it somehow ultimately flows and flows smoothly.

In short, I am fascinated by the reconciliation of animation and death, of movement and stillness, of eternity and ephemerality; of mortality and immortality. These things embody the basic paradox of social being for me and for that reason, I am compelled to keep them around and to operate them, over and over and over again compulsively.

Masculinity

It also bears mentioning that I somehow conceive of these as essentially masculine tools and technologies; even when and if women use them, I still see them as male. Why this is I don’t know, exactly.

Maybe it has to do with the deep archetype of woman as life-giver, life-producer, which is more about the source of time than its interruption. Men have, rather, always been the world’s murderers and soliers, those charged with effecting the trascendental stoppage of time as embodied in the stoppage of a life.

If these are devices that in some sense kill time, foreshorten it unexpectedly, interrupt and savage it repeatedly, then they are akin to the men of history in a history made of men—killing, foreshortening, interrupting, and savaging individuals and historical narrative(s) in the singular, the plural, and the gestalt.

Perhaps in some way my fascination with these things is an attempt to understand, in some deep way, the nature of my being as man operating in the world. Not the everyday, instrumental purpose and function, but the transcendental one.

Maybe these things offer a cloudy window into the meaning of my life as an individual human man in a world that asks men to be more like women. What is the fundamental power that is ours, as opposed to theirs? What does it do and what has it traditionally done? What are the deep, biological compulsions that I feel and have always felt? What is that feeling in men that causes them to appeal to and to be fascinated by the arc of abstract history and their place(s) in it, rather than the individual, the personal, the nurturing, and the life-giving?

I daresay that these things are all of a cloth.

So that’s that.

When you can’t confront things, they confront you.  §

I’m not usually the right person for the “my heart goes out to them” stuff. But every now and then, my heart goes out to someone.

Tonight’s like that. You know who you are, and—for the little it’s worth, I’m with you in spirit.

— § —

I’ve been having a crisis of meaning in life for maybe two years, maybe longer.

The best way to become your own worst enemy is not to have any idea what your life goals are any longer.

Once, I was an academic. Then I realized that nobody cares. The public doesn’t care about what the professoriat finds in their research. Policymakers are far too political to care; they have other values. And even academics don’t care, beyond STEM fields where patents are a thing. They’re wrapped up in their own kinds of politics and ideological games.

It’s all work done for no particular purpose, interpretive dance alone in the kitchen.

After that—not sure what. Family couldn’t be my mission, because family was falling apart and of course now has long fallen apart entirely.

It seems to be a combination of “get the kids to school on time” and “make more money.” There’s something to these goals, but the first isn’t urgent enough to lead to a life well-lived; the second can’t be sustained on its own terms.

— § —

But why isn’t the first enough? It seems so insane; it should be everything. Everything. The kids should be everything.

And yet in the tragedy of life and society it’s precisely because they are everything that they can’t be everything. Taking-care and caring-for can’t be accomplished unless there is more to you than that; a life lived to care for others isn’t permitted; society will not feed you so that you can feed them.

Rather, if you can’t feed you, if you don’t have some other purpose besides feeding them, it will take them away and give them to someone else who does.

And so it becomes important to be something more than a parent.

That “something more” for me is missing. “Make more money” isn’t a goal; it’s an outcome. What’s missing in my life is the goal whose happy side-effect it is.

And the gravity of it all is beginning to weigh on me like a ton of granite.

Yet even in the midst of this—my inability to mow the lawn, attach images to my blog, do the laundry, etc. in a timely fashion because I don’t know why I do what I do or what I ought to do instead—I am comfortable.

— § —

We tell kids, “there’s always tomorrow.”

We know that we’re lying, but we can’t bring ourselves to say, “hopefully there’s a tomorrow.”

And we’re even less able to come to terms with the notion that there is no case, no circumstance, no thing, no person… that will not eventually run out of tomorrows.

“All things must end” is the most profound reality in the human canon. It is also the hardest to confront on any given day, because it brings the entire universe to a grinding halt. And if you’re going to feed the kids, the universe cannot grind to a halt.

Rather, you’re spending all of your time trying to jump-start it. The truth is nothing if not completely counterproductive to that effort.

— § —

In any case, nothing is killing me.

I know what that feels like, and it is infinitely worse. Hollow and compressed is in no way the same thing as utterly crushed.

Empty is not the same thing as suffering.

So my heart goes out tonight to those who suffer.

And my empty space waits for something that matters to seize me and restore lost clarity.

Liberalism will fail because it is orthogonal to human nature.  §

In the purest sense, freedom and meaning cannot coexist.

Meaning is by its very nature unfree. For “meaning” to exist, a thing must be one thing and not another thing. The nature of meaning, at every level, beginning with simple lexical denotation, is one of circumscription and control. Meaning is that by which the miasma of free-ness is domesticated and turned into a sphere of control.

And humans live by meaning.

They do not live, despite what they think, by freedom.

Sometimes you find home where you’ve never been—and you dwell where you aren’t.  §

Last year our refrigerator failed over the course of several long months.

At first it wasn’t clear that this was happening; things seemed ever-so-slightly undercooled, but this is a house with kids in it. There are a lot of fridge openings-and-closings, and we were in a warmish part of the year. It seemed like “tell the kids to close the fridge” territory.

Eventually, however, it started to become clear that we couldn’t actually keep anything frozen any longer. Anything from the freezer section at the grocery store was destined to melt before it could be used. First, we had a few days from purchase until melt. Then, we had a day from purchase until melt.

Then, at some point, there was no freezer. And then, at some point after that, the freezer became the place where we put the lettuce and the drinks, because if we didn’t put them in the freezer, they wouldn’t actually stay any cooler than room temperature.

It was at this point that I started buying and replacing parts, which I did for about a month. Nothing helped. The coils would get cold and freeze up, but it wouldn’t actually cool the interior. I replaced all sorts of things—fans and sensors and thermistors and relays and heaters and so on.

Then, needing the ability to actually preserve food, I gave up. We hit the local classifieds and scored a rather nice fridge for a decent price. The old fridge went to the driveway, where it stayed.

For a long time.

— § —

Also something like a year ago, maybe a touch longer, I spent a couple of days installing Fedora 25 on my Macbook Pro.

It had been years since I’d maintained a Linux installation. The last was probably in 2010, shortly after switching to Mac OS.

Now this was not a small switch for me. I was an early Linux adopter, having come from the world of Unix, and before that, from OS-9. Modular, multiuser, file-as-input-output operating systems were second nature to me always, from the very beginning. I was not weaned on the desktop metaphor, and it was always foreign to me, so in 1993 it was only natural that when Linux became a viable operating system in its own right, and a free one at that, that I’d end up using it.

And for sixteen years I did. I wrote six books and thousands of articles about Linux. I spoke publicly about it. I helped organizations transition to it. I helped individuals to adopt it. I evangelized. I coded. I knew it inside and out.

And, in 2009, I was tired of it.

Mobile computing was happening, desktop Linux had failed due to the general incompatibility between the social model of OSS and the stable ABI, API, and UI/UX needs of commercial developers. More importantly, what did exist of desktop Linux seemed to be coming apart at the seams, with KDE and GNOME, the two major Linux desktop environments, throwing basically their entire codebases out and starting again from scratch—on environments, in KDE 4 and GNOME 3, that I found to be unusable.

At least quarterly, running a series of updates via the system package manager ended up breaking my personal system entirely, and I’d spend the better part of a day Googling, searching through (and let’s face it, often for) manual pages for ever-changing infrastructure to figure out how to restore boot, graphics, networking, suspend and resume, audio, and other things.

It was endless work to keep a Linux desktop running and updated, the desktop itself was regressing badly in user experience terms, and the payoff for all of that was not being able to watch online video from any major provider and not being able to buy hardware or software from any major manufacturer.

I’d had enough. I tried out Mac OS. Within a month, I switched to Mac OS and spent hundreds on commodity hardware and software in a kind of orgy. I could finally buy real stuff for my computer and expect it to work as advertised. And by god, I was going to do it.

After all those years on Linux, all that time in the public eye, all those words written, in the space of a few short weeks Mac OS became my home and Linux was written out of my life entirely.

Until last year sometime just before the fridge episode began, when I decided that it might be amusing to have a Linux installation around again. More to the point, I just wanted to see the state of things. So I set out to adjust the partitioning on my Macbook Pro and install Fedora 25.

— § —

But I was also telling a fridge story.

As of last week it had been the better part of a year with a fridge sitting on my driveway, and I was getting tired of seeing it there. And I had a play date coming up with parents who probably wouldn’t appreciate bringing their kids to the sort of household that allows an accumulation of broken major appliances to build up in front of the house.

So I finally got my stuff together and rented a U-Haul to clear out a whole bunch of things that had begun to accumulate on the driveway and on the patio—fridge, replaced wall-to-wall carpets, broken furniture, and so on.

Yes, this is what had accumulated on the driveway and on the patio. Let’s not get into that discussion just now.

Anyway—I spent all of last Saturday stuffing this U-Haul truck full of every last bit of old stuff, yard stuff, household waste, and whatever else I could fit into it, to do my own run to the dump. Yes, that is something that frequently happens in this area.

No, I did not make a recycle pile. Let’s not get into that discussion just now.

After loading the truck to the gills, I punched up the local dump transfer station on my phone (I’d forgotten where it was located) and, after 10 minutes driving in circles as Google Maps tried to unfuck itself and its directions, I was finally on my way in a coherent direction.

The route took me along a back road that I was only vaguely aware existed and had only ever driven on maybe once before.

And as I drove, I passed—on the east side of the road—what at first glance looked like an undeveloped wooded area inaccessible to passers-by, but at second glance appeared to actually be a small, off-the-beaten path park, dense with trees, complete with pond, crossed by a river, full of ducks and geese, and devoid of people or cars by virtue of being set back from the road, in a little valley, nearly invisible unless you are looking for it.

— § —

If you’re anything like me, there are places in your mind that you inhabit without ever having been to them. I don’t mean “places” like “the dark place” and “the happy place,” but rather physical, geographical places.

Stretches of beachfront, urban boros, back country roads and bergs that you visit over and over and over again not because you’ve been to them in real life but in fact because you haven’t and for various reasons can’t, the largest of these reasons generally being that you can’t afford, economically, to arrange your life in such a way as to arrive for a while and spend time anywhere other than where you already are, the smallest of these reasons generally being the fact that they don’t actually exist anyway and are conceptual metonymies of all the places in the world that are immensely lovely and that you’ll never visit or live in anyway.

And if you’re like me, you’ll also know that every now and then—on incredibly rare, precious occasions—you’ll spot a place in passing that freezes you in your tracks, that paralyzes you with a kind of transcendental humming—because the place that you’ve spotted is in fact a place that you’ve previously inhabited in your mind, without any previous or possible reference to its actuality.

This little park was such a place. And as soon as I saw it, I knew I had to visit it at the first opportunity—and take the kids there with me.

— § —

It took me the better part of two days to install Fedora 25. It wasn’t at all easy, and a great deal of Googling, reading, and console hacking was required just to get visuals on boot. I had to write a bunch of bytes to a few registers to get the Macbook Pro to select the right GPU and turn off kernel modesetting and so on.

Finally, though, I managed to get the distribution installed and a boot manager in place and a working desktop up.

I tried the current versions of KDE and GNOME and couldn’t decide between them—they’re both equally bad—so I left them both in place.

As is typical for Linux, lots of things only half work. In particular, CPU and GPU clock and thermal management don’t work, so the machine runs hot as hell while in Linux, something that makes you wince with every passing moment when it’s happening on an expensive Macbook Pro. Audio is iffy, trackpad support is, too (even with the acceleration multiplier set at zero, pointer movement is so rapid and drastic as to make the desktop almost impossible to use), and everything just feels haphazard after years on Mac OS.

But more than half a decade of zero Linux, I could tell myself that I at least hadn’t lost touch with the system in its evolution and with the skills and experience I’d nurtured for so many years. I was able to solve a bunch of problems, bang on a bunch of dotfiles and bits of hardware interfaces, and get a system up and running.

But truth be told, I had no idea what else to do with it. I played with it for a couple of days and then I basically never booted into it again. I left it there on my SSD to take up space and act as an invisible monument to the life I once led.

— § —

The kids have had fevers this weekend, but I was not about to allow these fevers to prevent me from visiting my park. Yes, “my.” As in, I’d been there so many times I felt as though it was like a second home to me, even though I’d never been there before.

So at about 2:00 in the afternoon, I loaded the kids into the car along with the younger of the dogs and told them that we were going to a new park I’d discovered.

I didn’ t try to explain to them that the place was already special to me and that I’d inhabited it in my dreams for years, spent many a troubled afternoon leaning back in an office chair doing the exhausted surrender cobra, eyes closed, while strolling along the banks of the little pond in its middle. Metaphysics and sentimentality are lost on five- and seven-year olds, and that’s for the best. We have to grant them at least a little innocence, for at least a little while.

We arrived and I realized that I could see no driveway and no parking lot; it was unclear where to position cars for a visit to this park, so we parked on the side of the road, crossed over, and stumbled down and into a grove of trees (the park sits perhaps 20-30 feet lower than road height, and one has to descend a hill and walk through a kind of forested area to enter).

Then, we played.

Between the trees that we walked through as we entered, fallen leaves lay three to four feet deep in every direction, and the rustling that they made as the kids and the dog played in them, bounded through them, and swam beneath them mixed with the sounds of moving water, gabbing ducks, and complaining geese just a little off to the east.

Sunlight split itself into trunk-shaped stripes, making patters of bright yellow and dark shadow everywhere, as though it weren’t early afternoon but in fact near evening.

The kids ran through flocks of trundling birds, laughing at the purity of the moment as the birds grudgingly hop-hopped forward, then flew away en-masse in a swirling storm of wings and complaints. Molly, the younger of our dogs, was beside herself with fascination and dog-joy.

We walked around the edge of the pond, played on a leaf-scattered wooden bridge stretching over a shallow river, dug with sticks, climbed trees.

It was a pure moment for me, too. Though this won’t make sense to anyone who hasn’t lived something similar, it was not unlike arriving in New York for the first time.

Anyone who doesn’t think it possible to come home to a place you’ve never been before has missed one of life’s great joys and deep secrets.

— § —

I’m writing this in Linux tonight.

For no particular reason, at 2:00 in the morning as I felt the urge to write, I also felt the urge to boot into Linux first. So here I am, laying on the living room floor, the kids having a “living room camp-out” beside me, fire burning in the fireplace, Macbook Pro overheating under the weight of the general project-flow incompetence of the OSS community.

I’m surprised I’ve managed to get this far, actually. As seems to be par for the course in Linux, there had been dry rot for no reason I can fathom since I last booted. Scrolling in GNOME 3 stopped working since my last visit, so it’s annoying to try to start apps, given that doing it via GUI generally requires being able to scroll through the app grid. In KDE, the window manager failed to start, chucking out a bunch of errors about bad drawables. I Googled it, set some environment variable or other, restarted the window manager from the console, and all—well, most—was well.

Apart from the fact that applications keep punting on me and I keep getting notifications on the lower right that such-and-such has encountered an error, etc., just after a window disappears on me for no particular reason.

But this window hasn’t yet punted on me, though I can’t actually try save my work or it will (learned that the hard way). And I’m nearly done typing.

In another window, running Konsole, I have over 1,000 packages downloaded and sitting there waiting to be upgraded after starting a dnf distribution sync.

So in short, I’ve logged in after a year to run the updates. Must mean something. Heidegger talked about dwelling being about building and maintaining, as against (in a way) entropy, though he didn’t use that term.

I take this to mean that in some way I still dwell, at least a little bit, in Linux, too, an environment that I spend virtually no time in and haven’t done for something that increasingly approaches a decade.

What’s it like to be back?

Hard to say. I suppose it’s like going back to your college campus and old department building years after you earned your degree. It all seems familiar, yet also quaint somehow. It’s both yours and not yours, as though you both belong and don’t belong all at once.

And you notice a kind of shabbiness that is by turns cozy and sad, and you wonder whether it was always that way. Did you simply not notice because you were young and enthusiastic and dazzled by the university experience, or has time taken its toll in your absence?

Entropy, after all, is a fierce and unwavering—even if often subterranean—force.

In any case, I prefer the font handling and screen real estate strategies of Linux. I like the way in which it feels generally snappier and somehow “deeper,” as though there are nearly infinite stores of power and resources somewhere below the surface—something that I never feel in Mac OS.

Yes, it’s familiar. In some odd ways, here I sit typing and looking at Plasma and it’s as though I never left.

Well, except for the oven-hot air shooting out the back of my poor, ailing Macbook Pro.

— § —

Inhabiting and dwelling are such forgotten, unappreciated things.

I mean, they’re the substrate, the fundamental medium of life, at least for me. They color and inform everything; they are the stuff that each of the five senses and memory itself are made of.

I don’t think about them nearly enough, even though I sometimes think I think about them far too much.

Maybe what that means is that I think about them entirely in the wrong way when I do manage to think about them. Maybe “thinking” rather than “dwelling” is the problem in the first instance.

In any case, I’ve now done my first “actual work” in Linux since 2009. I suppose I’ll nurse it all along and come back and do a bit more in another eight or nine years.

Meanwhile, the driveway is now spotless and clean and it feels uncanny every time I drive back up it toward the house. Where is all the stuff? Who has taken my clutter and room-temperature icebox and replaced them with a scene from the suburbs?

As for the park, I’ve promised the kids that we can go back tomorrow.

Our values lead to a million and one forms of suffering and injustice.  §

Our two churches, Hollywood and Christianity, are erupting in sex scandals that nonetheless leave most of the perpetrators working, rich, and powerful and the victims obscured. Trump is president and is likely to win a second term. The Wall Street masters of the universe crashed the global economy, got off entirely free, and are now richer than ever. The most vicious side in any court battle wins the day, ethics be damned. Vacuous, totalitarian social justice warriors are destroying our colleges and free speech. Nazis march in the streets, Antifa pelts them with molotov cocktails and bricks to incite the race war that the Nazis want to bring, and the police shoot willy-nilly at everyone. Meanwhile, anyone who feels disempowered plans a mass shooting for Friday while eight-year-old kids in record numbers want to lop off their genitals.

Good people are nowhere to be found in public because public life is a warzone. Good people are, in fact, being erased from private life as well.

How did we get here?

We got here by making primordial values out of:

  • Being an individual
  • Expressing your inner self loud and proud
  • Always thinking outside the box
  • Preferring to break the rules
  • Being the squeaky wheel
  • Refusing to be be silent and demanding to be heard
  • Passionate activism
  • Winning at any cost
  • Daring to be different
  • Always standing out from the pack
  • Rejecting conventional wisdom
  • Refusing to take ‘no’ for an answer
  • Calling all compromise ‘complicity’ from the start

Don’t give me bullshit about the list above. These are our deepest-held, most-dearly-embraced values. They are also the core being of narcissistic assholes, the personality disordered, the resentful, past-bound broken, and the wiltingly, longingly wishful. They are in some sense a reflection of capitalism and open society, but they are pathological, a solarized-posterized, Andy Warhol version of this combination.

So long as this is what we tell young people to aspire to, and so long as this is what we most admire and reward in others, this is the society we will get, and this is who will rise to the top.

Marx’s critique is done for. Social and economic Marxians are lost.  §

There have been so many schools of thought trying to dissect things in recent years. Hyperreality, post-industrialism, new media, actor-network theory, informationalism, and so on.

They’re all slightly different ways of saying the same thing: Marx has now become obsolete.

His basic social critique was that of the commodity fetish—people inordinately value the commodity objects, valorizing the relationships between commodity objects which, in reality, mask and stand in for the much more real relationships between social subjects and their much more real subjectivities. The commodity object and object relations are epiphenomenal to human society.

We are now in the era of the subject fetish—people inordinately value the social subject, valorizing the relationships between people which, in reality, mask and stand in for the much more real relationships between commodity objects and their much more real objectivities. Human society and subject relations are epiphenomenal to the commodity ecosystem.

Yes, this has already been said, probably most effectively by Baurdillard and Latour, but at times like these, with the vast, epiphenomenal ideological superstructure of identity politics flowering around us, it bears repeating in the simplest possible terms.

The humans are the false consciousness. The autonomous things, and the relations amongst them, are real and are now the subject of history.

The Amazon free-for-all reveals the selfish myopia of the investor class.  §

The educated class is busy bemoaning the way in which Amazon is taking over the economy and destroying retail and cutting through competitive markets like a buzzsaw and a bunch of other phrases that indicate general panic about The State of Things[TM].

They’re not speaking hyperbolically—Amazon is wildly successful and is growing apace. It is putting anyone and everyone else out of business and gobbling up ever-larger chunks of the spending landscape. Woe is us! Amazon is a ravenous monster!

They’re also tut-tutting about the current shitshow that involves dozens and dozens of localities basically committing tax base seppuku to try to get Amazon to come to their neighborhoods. Three billion in offers here, seven billion in offers there, money that they can’t afford in hopes that Amazon will come and bring jobs. The well-off talkers point out that this money will go toward helping an already gigantic behemoth of the worldwide economy to grow and profit even more, rather than being used to invest in cities and neighborhoods in any badly-needed number of ways. Tut. Very tut. And so on.

Thing is, this very same class, many of them in the upper echelons of the productive economy, is busy investing in companies that are quarterly-bottom-line focused and opting to live in areas that are the most financially advantageous for themselves in the meantime, all in the ruthless service of expanding their already exponentially-more-handsome-than-average retirement plans.

The thing that none of them bother to mention is that Amazon stands almost entirely alone in today’s economy as a company that refuses to offer lavish dividends, engage in stock buybacks, and so on, or even take profits and revel in them. Instead, Amazon does what the localities won’t, what the tut-tutting class won’t, and what the businesses that the tut-tutting class won’t: it turns around and invests heavily, almost to a fault, in its future.

Amazon rolls pretty much everything it earns right back into the business. It’s not as successful as it is because of some force of nature or dark quirk of fate. It’s in the position that it’s in because it can afford to invest in itself, and it does, which creates a virtuous circle in which this investment improves its position ever more, allowing via resulting profits for ever more investment.

And then everyone else in the pundit-and-policy class that’s already well off and generally exploiting the other 95 percent of the population for their creature comforts while running economies into the ground… complains about Amazon.

You people refusing to invest in your own communities or in companies that invest—whether you are well-off pundit or well-off policymaker—and then bemoaning either Amazon’s heady growth in countless column-inches or telling your citizens that it’s sad but this is how the game is played in a ruthless economy…

We can see your self-serving hypocrisy. Amazon isn’t the problem. Amazon should be the example, and it’s only as dominant as it is because instead of following that example, those privileged enough to be in positions to do something about it are busy serving themselves at the public trough.

So how about instead of doing something about Amazon, we do something about the way the rest of the economy is run, about your own selfish and greedy investment practices, and about how tax dollars are used when Amazon isn’t coming to town?