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

The new Weimar.  §

Identity politics has come of age. Now, the Right has shown that they are able to do it, too. The stage is set, the warring factions are actualized and ready to battle, each with their own virtue-signaling pieties.

There is nothing to do now but watch the plot unfold. There is certainly no going back: the logic of the culture forbids it. Either one side or another will ultimately suffer for generations or both sides will.

Sad.

For the clowns.  §

I stopped in at the local convenience store for a fountain drink to honor my culture on a Thursday evening. Standing dumbly in front of the fountain for quite a while was a guy in his twenties, staring straight ahead.

In Utah, it is bad manners to get within ten feet of anyone. It is worse manners to step between them and any apparatus or counter that they’re looking at, even if they’re well back from it. You’re expected to stand on the other side of the room, essentially, and wait until they’re done, however long it takes.

Finally, though—after maybe three or four minutes of standing like a fool, waiting—I walked to the machine myself and began to do the business.

From behind me, I heard a voice say in a dull monotone, “I can’t figure out what drink to get. There are too many drinks. There are too many. I can’t figure out which one to get.”

I turned my head to look back at him. He was young and didn’t give the impression of being anything other than of normal intelligence. But he looked genuinely bewildered.

I almost said something, but instead I said nothing, turned back toward the machine, and finished what I was doing. I went and paid and went out the door and he was still standing there.

— § —

I’ve had a packet of Trident gum in my car for some time. It’s actually a one of those built-in Ziploc product bags, resealable until you’re done using it.

It came with something like 100 pieces in it.

Today, after several weeks, I was down to the last two or three pieces, so while stopped at a light, I upended it into the palm of my hand to get the last pieces out. I suppose that was lazy of me.

A little snowstorm of tiny white flecks came pouring out of the bag, all over the car.

I almost swore out loud.

It bugged me all the way through Taekwondo and dropping the kids off to have them everywhere around me. When I finally got back home, I got out the vacuum, first thing, and sucked them all up.

My office, meanwhile, is a mess.

— § —

I am naturally a highly motivated person, in that I have often in life found it difficult if not impossible to sleep, eat, or perform basic tasks if there is something else that I want to be working on at the moment.

I’ve had this experience doing computing and tech projects, while writing books, and while studying as a graduate student.

Right now, however, I struggle to get anything done because I’m not motivated to do it.

I take this to mean that there is nothing in my life right now that interests me, and that I should find an interest.

Problem is, I cannot for the life of me come up with one. I keep reading this books hoping that they’ll tell me how to find one, but they all seeem to have been written by the same person or something.

— § —

I have a pirate VIDA/DICE setup coming from China to do proper diagnostics and upgrades on the car and it’s various modules.

I know that my interest-motivation bone still works because I know that at the moment this thing arrives, I will become embroiled in using it for hours and hours, and won’t even notice if I become hungry or the dogs run out of water or the air conditioning is off and I’m sweating like a pig. I’ll be completely engrossed.

If I have to wait for some reason to get started with it after it arrives, it’ll drive me absolutely nuts, whatever the delay is, until I finally can get started.

— § —

I only have a few friends, but they matter, and I’ve had them for a very, very long time.

I’ve tried out a lot of new friends over the years, but most of them were written out again. I secretly like writing buffoons back out of my life again. It feels like progress. I hope that doesn’t mean that I intentionally pick questionable people as new friends, just so that I can “unfriend” them in the end.

But I wouldn’t put that past any human psychology, including my own.

— § —

I have Google set up to send me alerts when a few people post new things or are posted about. Camille Paglia is one, Penelope Trunk is another, and so on.

There have been no alerts for a few days.

I am jonesing for something new to read.

I used to read DailyKos and The American Conservative a lot for interesting, reasonably well-discussed viewpoints from both sides of the cultural aisle, but both have recently gone downhill.

And things like Foreign Policy and The Economist have become less and less interesting to me as I age. It starts to seem like we basically let a bunch of overeducated, overmotivated twenty- and thirty-somethings play house with the whole planet because they are driven to do so, but nobody with any maturity is driven to stop them, being preoccupied with other things.

So they jet-set around to Davos and Brussels and Washington and Berlin a lot and get into a lot of arguments wearing shiny cufflinks and then write breathlessly about them or get a bunch of stuff written breathlessly about them by similarly young and mismotivated journalists.

But frankly—who cares. Seriously. Nuclear war? Economic collapse? Who cares. (Note statement, rather than question.)

That’s also how I feel about politics right now. I’m not supposed to feel that way, I have a Ph.D. in sociology and have always been politically engaged.

But getting older is reframing things for me. I see the problems of the world less and less in politics terms and maybe even not in public policy terms.

Metaphysics, instead, increasingly seems like the playing field in which I’m interested. Everything else is epiphenomenal, including me, despite what the Very Serious Young Global Professionals take for granted.

What is the nature of being? What is the nature of good? Of evil? What is our purpose? What is our teleological posture? These are the questions that determine everything else.

But nobody is talking about them because in modern liberal societies, it’s impolite to ask where you came from or where you’re going; instead, you’re supposed to ask where your coffee came from and where your dollars are going, and discuss yourself only (though very extensively) in light and airy Facebook memes that concern said use of coffee and dollars.

— § —

The time is out of joint.

  §

Can not,
    can not, no—

I can’t penetrate
sonambulate
press beyond,
beyond
that thing, those things
just in front of me—

the automatic
miasmatic
floor-to-ceiling, wall-to-wall
off-balance haze
unwashed, unfree—

heard this one, cuz?
yeah, so go ahead then—

go ahead and stop me.

— § —

—on Saturday,
on Sunday,
on Monday,
on Tuesday,
on Wednesday,
on Thursday,
on Friday—

—and then—

—on Saturday,
on Sunday,
on Monday,
on Tuesday,
on Wednesday,
on Thursday,
on Friday—

—and?

…and, and, and—QQ and QED.

Angles and hard edges.  §

Early in the morning.

I’m laying here next to a young girl pit bull who likes to curl up against your body. I’m wearing the dissertation watch. It’s the watch I bought myself in honor of having completed my Ph.D. It’s titanium and echoes the design cues of mid-twentieth-century aviation instrument panels. It’s full of unfinished surfaces and angles and hard edges.

I like angles and hard edges in general, in most anything. I don’t generally find smooth surfaces and curves to be appealing. Most of the time I distrust them. They feel like lies, places where the angles and hard edges have been hidden from view, like suppressed arguments.

— § —

When I was living in southern California, I knew someone that basically had it made. They owned a large house, outright, in one of the most desirable beach-area districts in the United States. They had a decent income, a decent car, lots of antiques in their home. Their kids were relatively successful.


© Aron Hsiao / 2004

And they were just about as ugly and bitter as is humanly possible.

Mostly what they did with their time away from work was watch hours and hours of banal television, eat tons and tons of expensive junk food and take-out, and go to Costo every saturday on a “samples tour.”

There was literally nothing else.

When pressed, they said they’d had a hard life and now they were “living for themselves, on their own terms,” and that they were “trying to have a lifestyle.”

All these years later I still don’t know what that means. It sounds like nonsense to me, like a rationalization they couldn’t be bothered to finish developing. It’s not clear to me how this amounts to “living for oneself,” and yet this is what everyone seems to be doing. It’s the vapid American thing.

“I’m going to go out and eat and buy the things I see in the magazines and post about it a lot on Facebook while smiling and showing off great hair.”

Basically everyone I knew in my California days needed, I thought, years of therapy to be normal. Now I look around at the world and the disease seems to have spread; everyone everyone now seems to need years of therapy to be normal.

People are living hollow lives and they can’t even tell any longer; the angles and hard edges have all been smoothed away and a high-polish surface obtains instead.

— § —

But speaking of, what do I want to do with the rest of my life?

I honestly have no idea. It’s the sort of question that’s profound precisely for anyone unable to answer it.

I think part of the malaise is that in some ways I’ve done everything I set out to do:

  • Traveled
  • Wrote books
  • Got a doctorate
  • Taught students
  • Got married
  • Had kids

That was pretty much the A-list when I was young. I don’t suppose I’d spent much time thinking or planning beyond those things.

Now I need to come up with a new plan, for a much shorter time frame—a couple decades rather than an entire life. But what should be in such a plan? One thing seems to be as good (or as pointless) as another.

— § —


© Aron Hsiao / 2004

Quite suddenly, fall seems to be everywhere.

All of retail has switched over to the fall inventory. At the kids’ Taekwondo club all the talk is about fall and the school year. It got dark before 9:00 pm tonight. Most of the summer activities list has been checked off. It’s been raining.

It’s like the season plane landed and fall got off and took over.

Fall is my favorite season. It’s also the season that most inspires in me waves of nostalgia.

And of course there’s football. Football for me is on that list of things that I thought I’d rejected as a too-cool-for-school troubled teenager, but that I rediscovered later as an adult, as part and parcel of discovering myself and where I’d come from. I love American football.

American football = fall = school = family and friends and holidays = community = comfort.

— § —

But back to fast for a moment.

Fall came fast. It’s not just a matter of suddenness, it’s a matter of the weird abbreviation of spring and summer this year as well.

I know that as you get older time moves more and more quickly, but this is ridiculous. Christmas was just here. It was, like, five minutes ago. Same with the start of kindergarden. It all just went down.

How is it possible that my daughter is about to start first grade in less than two weeks?

— § —

I’ve been on vacation off and on over the last couple of weeks. Three days week before last, and now three days over the past week as well.

It’s been badly needed. In fact, more is needed from the personal mental health perspective, but that’s not how the world works. If nothing else, I don’t have more vacation days to use, or employer patience to test.

So many years of pushing. Pushing, pushing, pushing. Sometimes self-motivated, sometimes motivated by circumstances, sometimes motivated by other people that I cared about or was trying to care about.

Years and years and years without a mental pause.

This time I really actually disconnected from work (as opposed to my usual habit of taking “vacation” and then basically working through it anyway), and there was nobody pressing on me in my personal life, and there were no large projects critically needing attention.

There were some general life problems, of course, that need to be solved, but on the whole, I’ve been able to get by operating at a far lower percentage of maximum cognitive capacity than has been possible for decades.

I do feel a bit rested, finally. Along with that comes a newly insatiable hunger for more rest, adequate rest, but I suppose that’s what death is for. At least if you’re in the middle class.

— § —

Getting things done has always been a problem for me in Utah.

It wasn’t a problem in Chicago or New York, where I took initiative and made things happen on my own. I still haven’t managed to that in Utah. Everything stagnates. Procrastination reigns supreme. Why?

I’m not sure why. I’m hoping that if I keep mentioning this enough, the gears will turn inside my head when I’m not looking and I’ll come up with an answer that rings true to me.

— § —

Few things are as tragic as watching someone else regularly f*** up—their choices, their opportunities, their lives, their selves. Doubly so if they repeatedly mistake said f***ing up for achievement and post it all over social media.

This seems to be an endemic modern disease.

Counting temporal landmarks, or, life is short.  §

The last time I hiked to Timpanogos cave, I was probably eight—or maybe nine—years old. I still remember it. Back then, the trail wasn’t paved like it is now; the switchbacks were dusty and unkempt and gave the hike a more precarious feel.

In any case, today when the kids and I went to the cave, it became the second time in my life that I’ve visited. It’s also probably the last. Maybe there will be one more.

There’s no reason to talk about or frame a visit to the cave in this way; it’s an interesting natural feature and it’s cool to go, but it’s not life-altering, it’s not a triumph of any particular sort, it’s not the sort of thing you’ll still be buzzing about in a couple of days or that you’ll someday put in your memoirs. It’s not climbing everest. It’s not even at the level of getting an “A” in English class.


© M. Hsiao / 2017

And yet it hangs in the air for me tonight that I still remember the first trip so well when there’s not all that much else that I remember from being eight or nine years old. It’s not nothing that I’ve though about it over the years each time I hear someone say “Timpanogos.” More importantly, it’s a clear, distinct, and apparently memorable event that will only happen a couple of times in my life. This may have been the last, not for any particular reason other than the fact that it isn’t necessarily worth going again.

But what a strange feeling—to think to myself “that’s probably the last time in my life I’ll ever be here, sit on these rocks, walk back down this trail…”

When you’re young, you don’t think in those sorts of terms. You presume that life is infinitely long, that “everything” is still coming (and in secret, you imagine that quite literally). Life seems so very long, and the wait for mere adulthood so interminable, that obviously anything that happens today or tomorrow is likely to happen again and again an uncountable number of times before you finally manage to learn to drive, go to college, get a job, and so on. Because that is the way—it feels at that age—that reality works. Things repeat interminably and you have to wait for them; life is so very long that “no doubt” almost anything you can name isn’t really that special, just the day-in, day-out of the grind that is time.

Taking my kids today, who are not so much younger than I was the last time I went, I can’t help but suddenly feel the opposite thing—that life is somehow very short, and that there isn’t space for all that much in it before you die. Any thing that you do, any place that you go—the counter is incrementing. There are only so many more times you’ll do that—or go there.

I’ve been thinking about that as fall comes and the school year starts again, and the kids start to talk about Halloween and Christmas once again. How many more of those do I have? If I live to an above-average old age—say, 80—then I have fewer than 40 holiday seasons left in my life.

Forty is not a very big number. Not at all. What the young do not realize, when they are eight or nine years old is that 70 or 80 is also not a very big number. This is lost on youth, in all their impatience.

And if I should happen to die just a tad early, not as a true outlier, but just at the shallower end of the bell curve—say, heart attack at 65 or something like that—then I have just over twenty opportunities left to hang a star on a tree, do last-minute shopping, and so on.

But death isn’t the only way that things end; growth has the same effect. How many Halloweens left before the kids are too old for trick-or-treating, and the entire concept and practice fades from my life forever? Four? Five?

When you’re a kid, trick-or-treating is part of the universe; it is an enduring universal, a component of time, an intrinsic part of the thing that we call “a year.” There is no question about its disappearance.

But I probably have just a handful of trick-or-treat evenings left before it disappears from my life permanently; becomes nothing more than a memory.

And it’s likely that I don’t have any trips to Timpanogos cave left—it is probably already, at this point, banished to the realm of memory forever.

I wonder if the kids will remember their trip in anything like the way that I remember and relate to mine. I suppose they’ll have their own “when you think about it, time is quite limited” moments someday.

For my part, everything around me has recently taken on this sheen of the temporary and the finite. How many more games of chess will I play in my life? A few dozen at most? How many more times will I have my dad’s favorite ice cream flavor, Pralines and Caramel at Baskin Robbins, given that it isn’t my favorite and that I don’t eat ice cream all that much? Maybe one more time? Maybe twice more? How many more times will I paint the interior of a house? One? Two at most? How many more cars will I buy before I’m too old to safely drive? If I live to be eighty years old, maybe three?

Time and life are profound sorts of things. We gloss over that every day because you have to in order to be willing waste your time and your life on wage labor. But when you do take a moment to think about them, you basically lose a day to thought and reflection and contemplation.

Mothers and being.  §

Today the family is getting together on the occasion of my mom’s 70th birthday. It’s not for a few days, but with family scattered across 100 miles of highway, people collect when and where they can.


Photographer unknown. From the archives.

The gathering begins in less than three hours, but I’m still unsure about whether we’ll make it. Two young kids does not make for easy travel, particularly if they’ve already had a long, boring car experience earlier in the day and now the trip would mean another.

But in honor of my mom’s 70th, I thought I’d take a few moments to thank her for some of the legwork that she put in over the years—there was a lot of it.

  • “Surplus.” Anyone else reading this will have no idea what the term means, but for my mom, I am positive, the term “surplus” brings to the fore a whole catalog of places, faces, and purchases. “Surplus” was a term in the names of an array of otherwise unrelated places—mostly government agencies and departments of large nonprofits—to which I used to beg and plead for her to take me, so that I could buy computer equipment. Or rather, so that I could beg and plead for her to buy me mostly used up, often highly archaic computer equipment. This went on for years. There must have been hundreds, if not thousands, of trips. Each time with no particular aim in mind—I just wanted to go, to see if there was something interesting (to ask for her) to buy. Often there wasn’t. The wasted trips must have numbered in the hundreds as well, often involving cross-valley, in-traffic driving. In retrospect, I can’t believe that she never once, in all those trips, lost her cool and drew the hard line: “No more surplus. No places with surplus in their names. Not now. Not ever. Never again! Ever!” I certainly would have. But she never did.
         Now that I’m a parent, I can also begin to understand that she probably had mixed feelings about it all—a strange cocktail of pride (“My kid may be an ubergeek, that’s kind of cool, I want to support this!”) and fear (“How much is this going to cost me, how many pounds is it going to weigh, how much like junkyard refuse is it going to look, is it electrically and chemically safe, and how will I even tell? Does he know what he’s doing?”) In fact, often I didn’t. But she put in hundreds of hours helping me to excavate the world of “surplus,” without which I wouldn’t have had the educational life, or the career life, I’ve been able to have.
  • Keeping me righted that time I totally lost it on the stairs. (For, like, a decade.) At some point during fourth grade, having a very rough time of things at school (an understatement if ever there was one), I came home and threw what can only be called the mother of all big-kid tantrums. I yelled. I screamed. I punched walls. I complained and insulted and criticized and manipulated and make big claims like “I’m never going back to that school again.” Funny thing—I basically didn’t. Rather than lay down the wood and tell me to shut up, go do my homework, and count my stars that I wasn’t grounded forever, she listened. She asked questions, in response to which I mostly yelled. And then she got together with my dad and made sure that I was re-routed soon afterward to a different school. Again, as a parent now, just thinking of that particular logistical task gives me hives. But mom wasn’t just receptive and understanding—she had follow-through.
         School wasn’t ever quite smooth again as a result of my experience early on and for years afterward I’d need help to remain “compatible” with the education system, but I ended up in a far better place, and on multiple occasions as I—let’s say—failed to make the most of alternative education opportunities that she was instrumental in tracking down for me, she’d continue to run interference between me and “the system” to ensure that I didn’t become a statistic. She supported me in doing work my way, then invariably helped me to brainstorm about where that work might be valued and how it could be presented. Often, she ran ahead, making the phone calls and doing the visits with The Important People to ensure that my self-directed path remained a viable one. That path that she helped to clear carried me all the way to Ph.D. in the end.
  • The endless consultations. Some people don’t have many answers. Some people have tons of answers. Both are fine, as far as they go, but it’s far more rare to meet people with tons of interesting questions. Mom has always been one of my top resources in times of confusion, largely because she doesn’t try to cut through it. Instead, she listens—then asks. However arcane the topic, mom has always put in the time to listen patiently as you try to bring her up to speed, so that in the end you can conclude by telling her just how stuck and bewildered you are. And then, rather than try to give advice, she asks questions. She doesn’t run out of questions. When I was younger, I sometimes became infuriated at her refusal to provide pat answers or opinions on things. Sometimes I wanted validation for what I already had concluded; sometimes I hadn’t managed to conclude anything yet and wanted her to do the hard work for me—to take the responsibility off of my hands. But mom has never faltered in refusing to provide answers, whether easy or hard. Instead—questions. One after another.
         I can’t possibly imagine how many hours of patient listening she’s given me, or how many thousands of questions she’s generously donated, but over the years I’ve come to realize that having someone with an endless reservoir of relevant questions to ask is one of the greatest assets a person can have in their life. There is still no one else that I know who can ask questions like mom does—whether about Ph.D. dissertation topics or about weekend play plans. And no matter how long-winded or strident your answers become, no matter how many times you’ve already called out of the blue for a two-hour conversation this week, she doesn’t lose her nerve or her mind—she listens carefully, somehow puts a few more interesting thoughts together—and then asks more follow-up questions. Without mom’s questions, I can’t imagine where I’d be.
  • Cooking with us. Especially pizza. While talking about pizza. From a very early age, I remember cooking with mom. I have to confess to having teased my mom a bit about cooking over the years, as her cooking habits have never been those of the average foodie. When I was young, they were middle-America chic (hot dog chunks in macaroni and cheese, the latest casserole recipe from Better Homes and Gardens) and as we all got older, they shifted toward middle-Whole Foods chic (quinoa, kale, and grapeseed mayonnaise a-go-go). But the fact is that I remember hours and hours of cooking time with mom as a kid, and I loved them—and I remember loving the food that we cooked as well. This is particularly true for pizza, which we used to make in a beaten-up tin cake pan with a green painted exterior using frozen bread dough rolls for crust, tomato sauce from a can (with a dash of oregano from a shaker) as sauce, hamburger, and cheddar cheese. We’d do this while she told the story (oft-repeated, as my siblings can no doubt confirm) of her first encounter with pizza as a young person in middle America, and thinking that it was “so, so good.” And as we ate the pizza that we made (of a sort that would give any pizzeria guy in Manhattan fits), I remember thinking that our pizza, too, was “so, so good.”
         These days I’m a pretty good cook, but I never use a recipe. I’m pretty sure this is thanks to hours of alchemical food work with my mom, not in the tiny, often pointless territory of haute cuisine but rather in the high, culinary-scientific weeds of “what’s in the fridge, how will it behave when we combine it all together, and what processes can we apply to influence this behavior for our own ends?”
  • Helping us to understand and apply key bits of Heidegger. I’m sure this reference will mystify her. She’s not necessarily a continental philosophy buff, especially 20th century continental philosophy. But “we attain to dwelling,” good old Martin argues in Building Dwelling Thinking, “only by means of building,” and “the latter, building, has the former, dwelling, as its goal.” Heidegger relates both to “the basic character of being” that mortals experience, and to the question of what it means to have and to be at home in the world. All of this is really a complicated way of saying that mom has always intuitively understood—and intuitively fostered in us—that sense that being (being alive, being content, being productive, being a complete person) is something that can’t be contracted out, and that must never be episodic. You can’t live in and through what someone else built, and you can’t dwell while you’re not also building.
         Whether as a matter of planting trees and laying sod, of insulating and flooring, of encumbering our rooms with decorative regimes in keeping with strange teenage whims, of building—haltingly—identities and preferences and personas, often in eyebrow-raising ways, mom tolerated, encouraged, often paid for, and patiently supported so very much building. She thus fostered—I think without consciously realizing it—dwelling and being of a sort that many people struggle to find and understand today (this lack being, I’d argue, a fundamental disease in our society right now). There are a lot of messed up, miserable people out there, people who are never at home and never will be at home because they don’t know how to be. We—my mom’s children—are not those people because for all of the time I can remember as a child, the building was ongoing, never quite “just begun” and never quite “finished,” but rather a fundamental process of life, and it was always ours to do, as the people who lived with it, not to be contracted out or bought “off the shelf.” Mom invested year after year in demonstrations of this ethic—and we all internalized it.
         Yes, mom, all those planted trees, painted walls, laid floors, and extended appliance-comparison-shopping-and-installation periods, none of which ever quite seemed to be “done forever,” were a useful thing. It was not about how well they turned out in the end, but the fact of doing them. They were an intuitive philosophy lesson that sticks with me to this day. You taught us how to dwell, and thus how to be, at home.

I’m fairly sure none of this is what my mom expects me to remember most about our relationship over the years, but these are in fact the things that continue to influence me each and every day. They’re not memories; they’re practicalities and practical realities upon which I rely. They matter, and for that, I thank her.

There are, of course, memories too:

  • Mom reading the rhyme “I’m Hiding” to me over and over again from those big books whose covers I never recognized until she actually began to read.
  • Little trips—so many little trips—to stores, to museums, to libraries, and to visit friends and people in need of help and company; I can still remember so many of their names, faces, homes, and yards, though I won’t go over them in public for obvious reasons.
  • Extracurriculars, the trips to and from them, and mom’s belief that they’d be good for me—soccer, karate, track, electricity, creative writing, piano, computer club—even when I wasn’t sure (they were).
  • Mom’s good humor at invariably failed attempts—on holidays, on weekends, over and over again—to get us all together to play a game, sing a song, do a project, or anything else one might wish a herd of cats to do—and her amiable smile and half-hearted protesting when we refused and made light of the very suggestion, every time.
  • All the wild goose chases for particular kinds of clothes, shoes, food, toys, and other kid stuff.
  • Seeing mom’s foot, always in the same sensible nursing shoes, on the gas pedals of a parade of vehicles over the years in hours and hours and hours of driving.
  • So many moments of unowed enthusiasm for things that her kids decided to pick up along the way, some of it very arcane indeed, whether (in my case) I was trying to explain to her the fundamentals of the Von Neumann architecture (and she appeard to be enrapt) or how heavy metal, thrash metal, and speed metal differed (she did in fact hold up her end of the conversation rather better than anyone could justifiably expect).
  • Lots and lots of family history stories. (Like… lots of them.)
  • Lots and lots of moments of self-deprecation, at which she would say to unsuspecting opponents, “I don’t know, I’m just a mom…” and later on “I’m just a little old lady, what do I know…” before proceeding to get Big Things Done in the most unassuming way possible.
  • And, going back very, very far indeed, being rocked to sleep in the old, old massive rocking chair whose arms made a sound like the clang of a grandfather clock when you hit them, with mom singing quietly and the world fading slowly out. That is, of course, a long, long time ago now.

Happy birthday, mom. You have always been a real mom—not hunting for superficial “perfections” and temporary plateaus, but rather teaching how to live, how caring works in the real world, and how to get things done when all hope is lost and it seems completely impossible to do so.

We love you.

Tough questions (or the lack thereof).  §

If I could afford therapy or life coaching or something like that right now, I would totally be doing it, seriously, and all the time.

Not because there’s anything in particular that’s wrong or painful or anything of the sort, but because I have the vague sense that I am underperforming, that my choices and strategies are suboptimal right now, and that my level of self-awareness is not what I’d like it to be or what I feel like it used to be a decade or two ago.

What I really need is someone to challenge me, to ask me tough questions. I used to have graduate advisors to do that for the longest time, sort of half-mentor, half-friend, have-superior (yes, I realize that is three halves) and then after than when we moved to Utah I still at least had ex-wife, although that wasn’t always helpful, as things tended to veer pretty quickly from tough questions (good) to serial accusations (not actually so useful or illuminating). But even so, there was still something there to challenge my self-understandings and draw attention to things that I might not otherwise see or understand about myself.

Right now and for more than a year, there is nobody challenging me. There are no tough questions. There are no surprise interrogatives or moments of shock where I am suddenly silent because someone has pointed out something important and insightful about me that I didn’t previously see about myself—no moments of silence in which I find myself struggling to answer something that is, at the end of things, and very good and fair question.

I need those moments. Everybody needs those moments, or they get stale, and stale is what I’ve become.

The question, then, is how do I find someone to regularly challenge me—someone who knows me well enough for the challenges to be interesting and revealing and impossible to simply dismiss. There’s nobody right now who both knows me well enough to that and who is mature, accomplished, and different enough to light up parts of life territory that I can’t already see on my own but that they can.

This is thing number one that’s missing from my life right now, and what I really need in a “mentor.” I need to be questioned—not at random or petulantly or superficially, but in that way that makes me swell with respect and gratutude a moment before I then say either silently inside myself or even out loud, “Okay, that’s the respect bit, and much respect, and now let’s get down to work on this problem, which I’m grateful to have discovered with your help and to be able to confront.”

I think this is the sort of thing that therapists do as well, only you have to pay them for it, they don’t come cheap (totally implausible right now), and the level of accessibility is less useful than the level of accessibility that you have with someone who’s a personal connection and you can bounce ideas off of more or less at will.

Boy do I miss that interaction—I bounce an idea, they ask a tough question or point out an assumption on a totally different scale or in a totally different geography from the one I was working in, and suddenly I am thrown totally off balance and have to come to grips with additional complexity or nuance in ways that will make life a hundred times better down the road.

Note to others who may be reading: If you have this, you should consider yourself to be damned lucky, and you should nuture it and use it and never take it for granted.

In the end.  §

In the end, nothing lasts.

Nothing is forever.

Nothing and no-one can be saved—no matter how wonderful; no matter how happy; no matter how important; no matter how significant.

Everything disappears into the vastness of history.

Sure, I get it. But I can’t grasp it. It’s beyond comprehending. I don’t think I’ll manage to comprehend it before I, too, disappear into the vastness of history.

It’s like the infinite—too formidable a concept for the human mind to manage it.

The sum of his geography.  §

Every day it’s the same, kids or no kids.

I wake up full of ideas, but with no time or justification to do anything about them. I always plan to get to it in the evening.

After the work is done.

After the kids have gone to bed.

After the urgent maintenance items.

And so on.

Hours tick by. I refine the ideas, develop them as I do whatever else it is that I’m doing. I become progressively more impatient about the arrival of the day’s end, when I’ll be able to apply the ideas that’ve occupied so much of my thought throughout the day.

Then, finally, the day is over. The kids are asleep, or if I’m on my own, the pets are fed. The clutter is minimally tidied.

I’ve got the iPad and the keyboard in front of me… and I’m blank and struggling just to stay awake. Doing anything substantive seems out of the question.

Respiration itself almost seems out of the question.

— § —

Far from making up ground—professionally, personally, financially—I’ve been steady losing it for at least two years in some cases, and for far longer in others.

It is a long downward slope that I’ve been accelerating along for some time now. Not pressing the gas pedal myself on the way down, mind you—but nevertheless coasting without power toward the bottom of a hill of unknown length, picking up speed as I go.

— § —

True to form, I fell asleep. Now it’s about three hours later than it was before. QED.

(This is not a new phenomenon. This is parenthood. This is also one of the things that made the ex very angry—as though the fact that I was exhausted at the end of every day was a personal slight against her.)

— § —

Earlier today I was reading an article somewhere, and it quoted someone that I’d never heard of, with something akin to this:

“A man is effectively the sum of his geography.”

And of course now I can’t find it, so I can’t give a proper citation or reference, or even know if I have the basic quote right. But whether or not the quote is right, I think the concept is right.

You are the sum of what is in your local, social, and economic geography—nothing less, but certainly nothing more. This is the basic problem with my life, and why I was much happier in Chicago and New York and far less well in Los Angeles and now especially Utah.

It’s why in the former places, opportunity and success seemed to be everywhere, while now I feel as though I’m effectively dead-ended.

What was my geography in 2008?

  • An area with dozens of major college campuses within a half-hour’s drive, including the largest by enrollment in the United States, and three of the most storied, in NYU, Columbia, and the New School
  • Literally countless businesses, from the smallest in local bodegas to the biggest engines of finance in the world, along with all of the supporting cast, organizational, individual, and administrative-bureaucratic that goes along with them
  • A nearby population that’s the most diverse in the world (literally true in the case of Queens) and hosting the world’s top artists, writers, thinkers, innovators, and top everyone else
  • An infinite variety of goods, services, infrastructures, and small-scale milieux
  • Nearby, the entire eastern seaboard, the Atlantic Ocean, the United Nations, etc.
  • Daily personal contact with a massive cast of professors, graduate students, and urban professionals of a variety of stripes, many of them very prominent in their fields, as well as with working class folk of a variety of stripes

What’s my geography now?

  • An area with one secular college campus within dozens of miles—not a top or selective campus but in fact a glorified back-woods community college that has majors like airplane mechanics (not as in physics, but as in changing the engine oil on twin-prop planes and so on)
  • No business to speak of apart from big-box retail, and a total business population—in terms of registered interests—that a single person could easily inventory
  • A local population of middle-middle class white Mormons that live in single-family dwellings that are all more or less identical and that are not, in the traditional sense of the world, highly sociable, ambitious, or involved in the world in any way
  • Limited-to-no goods, services, or anything else
  • Nearby—well, what? I suppose the nearest prominent thing, about 25 miles away, is an Ikea; in terms of inspiration, this is a pale substitute for the eastern seaboard, the Atlantic Ocean, or the United Nations
  • Daily contact with a small handful of very nice but otherwise unremarkable Canadians, with whom I work doing mundane tech stuff entirely by telephone

Point being—things suck because the set of resources upon which I am able to draw for my personhood—things I’m able to leverage or think about, social networks I’m able to participate in, etc.—is an incredible poverty of everything, leading to an incredible poverty of imagination and opportunity.

This is what’s wrong with middle America. It’s a kind of black hole for ambition, inspiration, or opportunity.

I woke up in New York every morning excited to be alive. I wake up here every morning and try to think of something—anything—that I could do today that wouldn’t be exactly the same as what I did yesterday.

If I didn’t have kids who were rooted in this area, I’d have been out of here years ago. And there are times when I absolutely curse my ex for forcing the issue on leaving NYC, and wonder what sort of self-crucifying idiot I was to ever leave it, particularly for someone else.

I know that there are a lot of “get over it” and “see the bright side” and “attitude matters” folks out there, but the fact is that there is a real difference in possibilities and conditions between here and other places that I’ve lived, and I agree that a person simply cannot be more than the sum of their geography; it is impossible.

Yes, one has to move on and live. But there are such things as catastrophic, life-derailing mistakes, and moving back to Utah was one of mine.

It will lead me to someday teach my kids to never, ever, ever make big sacrifices for “love.” Anyone who asks you to make them—or will even accept the fact of your making them—never loved you in any beneficial way, and never did.

Train is coming.  §

Watching a massive wreck and being unable to do anything about it is one of the strangest feelings in life.

The illusion of control is a powerful and seductive one, but from time to time it gives way to the reality of smallness.

We are very small, and we don’t really matter all that much.

Most of life is accident.

The social scoping problem at the heart of mediocrity.  §

Questions of scale in social life are a bit like questions of physics. For example, it’s virtually impossible as a layperson to make detailed sense of either quantum mechanics or of general relativity. It’s doubly impossible to try to hold some understanding of both in your head at once.

So it is with the social life around you and your place in it.

I once got a Ph.D. and taught at universities and wanted to be a professor. At other times I’ve thought about going into politics. Both of these things are difficult for me to imagine right now, when my world is as big as one small residence somewhere in a small place named Provo. Universities? What are those? Incomprehensible.

And politics?

Then you read something like Politico or The Hill and the scope and scale of the things that they talk about, in social terms, is incommensurate with the reality of individual life in the suburbs. It seems impossible that the two worlds can both exist, or that you can be related, in the logico-mathematical sense, to both of them. The “equations” are simply not forthcoming.

And then you read something like last month’s BuzzFeed piece on the string of deaths in the U.K. that may be attributable to Russia and Putin.

It’s like the difference between an electron and a volcano on the one hand, and between a volcano and a supercluster on the other hand.

I mean… what?

How can “human beings” and “human relationships” at each of these scales—random single dad trying to edge around bankruptcy and loneliness in the suburbs, public life as professor or politician, and international billionaire assassinated in the middle of a plot of intrigue beyond the wildest dreams of either Hollywood or most banks—possibly be the same quantities?

To use one of “those phrases,” well—the mind boggles. You draw a blank. You develop vertigo trying to understand it all.

I think this is one of the reasons why some people, even very smart people, fail to succeed or to “live up to their potential.” Because their imaginations (like mine) cannot hold at the same time both an image of a “self” (body, individual identity, set of preferences and sensations in the here and now) and a “social world” (seven billion people, governments, virtually infinite human productivity, the Internet, etc.) at the same time.

It just isn’t possible for me, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it isn’t possible for many others. It leaves my head swimming. You can’t achieve what you can’t visualize, and you can’t visualize on playground territory that you can’t even conceive of.

I know there are people that can imagine things like “I can build a business empire and earn billions” or “I can run for president,” but to me these things are meaningless. Business empire? National government? Billions?

What do these things even mean?

A single big-box retail store is almost more that I can conceive of at once.

My brain is good at other things, but I go entirely blank when I try to imagine “life” beyond house, car, and what I plan to do in my yard tomorrow. It’s all quite simply too big.

Time and “the one.”  §

Well let’s see if I can do something softer.

Let’s see if I can write something without yelling.

Let’s see if I can open up and all of that.

Here I sit listening to The Scientist, one of those tracks I can’t listen to. Even when I listen to it, I have to tune it out. I can’t cry because I can’t. There are times when I sit here and want to cry because I can’t cry, but whatever. When you can’t cry, that’s when you know you’re really sad, you’re all wound up, so wound up, a winding-up of decades and decades.

— § —

“Questions of science. Science and progress.”


© Aron Hsiao / 2002

— § —

Everybody either has “the one” or “the one that got away” but I don’t have either.

There’s a big, soft, warm, dark, sad, infinite absence there. I want to long—tearfully, fitfully—for the one that got away. I am waiting for the one so that they can become the one that got away so that I can hold that close inside me, that bittersweet thing, that gray fall-day longing, instead of mere eternity.

Or maybe that’s wrong.

Maybe they’re all the one that got away. Maybe that’s what “the one that got away” means—that it wasn’t ever to be, that it never could be, that it wasn’t right even though you wish it was, and that you don’t really long for them so much as you long for longing for them.

I don’t know what Sunnie the therapist would say about that. Something bland and enlightened, no doubt. There are times when I wonder what it would have been like to reach out and strike up a friendship there.

Actually, I wonder that about virtually everyone that I don’t reach out and strike up a friendship with. But only a few friendships ever work out, and I have all that I can handle both of friendships and of failed friendships.

What do I want?

What do I really want?

When I picture myself on a dirt road somewhere in the fall, afternoon sun illuminating bits of a path, a vague mist in the air, a sort of Norman Rockwell portait of myself, what am I really after? Childhood? Safety? Security? Peace? Those are the therapeutic standards.

Who knows. If I was actually there, of course, it wouldn’t live up to expectation; it would just be a place. I know this. A place like all the others.

Not the place that the song creates—a place where things mean things, or at least once they did.

— § —

Why back to the start? Because that’s when it mattered.

— § —

When I was a kid I told my parents that I felt blank, that I didn’t really care about much of anything at the end of the day.

It’s not entirely accurate, that—there are many times in life at which I’ve been upset, frustrated, passionate, indignant, desirous, etc. Sometimes to the point of distraction, of breakage even.

But I always get over it.

That’s what I don’t want to do. I don’t want to get over it. I hate that I am over it.

That’s true of everything. Every relationship. Every friendship. Every death. Every disappointment. I hate it that they mean so little so soon. Within the space of one human lifetime. Even less than that. Within a year or two, even a month or two.

Things that mean something once ought damned well to mean something forever.

Only that’s not how it works.

— § —


© Aron Hsiao / 2011

So that’s it. It’s all just death again. Death and endings and history.

I hate that things end. Because it means that everything that I care most about now will also end, and will also disappear, fade out over time.

“Nothing is forever.”
“All good things must end.”
etc.

That’s what I dislike most about being. That’s why I want to have the one that got away and to pine for her every minute of every day. Because then the meaning was eternal. Like we all claim it is.

But of course it isn’t.

Because nothing is forever.

— § —

How many times have I quoted this? Too many to count:

“I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate. All those moments will be lost in time…like tears…in rain.”

I know what a therapist would say. They’d say it’s about my own mortality, my own death. They’d be wrong. I’m nothing special. But there are things that are special.

I don’t care if I don’t make it far.

But the fact that the people and things that are special don’t make it any farther than I will seems like an intolerable tragedy, an incredible injustice, an infinite loss. One with which I have never been able to properly cope.

Probably never will.

— § —

Have I written this post before?

Okay, I’m pretty sure I’ve written it every day here for the last eighteen years. I’m pretty sure I’ve used the words “never” and “forever” more than any other two in most every bit of creative writing I’ve ever done. Never and forever are the two concepts that undergird the universe for me, the practical material of yin and yang.

That’s why Buddhism is ultimately a crock. Because a fundamental moral wrong lies at the heart of the universe and even if you can’t change it, letting go of it is a cop-out. You have to fight for what’s right, even if it is foreordained that you will lose.

The fundamental moral wrong is time itself, without which there would never be meaning, but within which meaning is forever disappearing anyway.

I could go on like this for hours.

That’s the problem with time. Exactly that.

Shades of fall.  §

It rained all night. And it’s cool and gray this morning.

It’s beautiful.

I’m ready for fall.

Bigger picture—I’m ready for what comes next, whatever it is.

Class.  §

Today was the first day of summer camp. Which is a bit odd because, of course, summer is almost over.

The reason for this is that we only paid for one week. Because the cost for us, for the entire summer, was prohibitive.

This sort of thing is pissing me off right now. I have a high I.Q. and a Ph.D. and tons of experience and a lot of skills. I’m not happy that the cost of anything at all is prohibitive, much less that my life right now is a circus freak show of disaster that would be cleaned up in ten minutes with a measly five figure windfall.

Or that I once had some momentum in building a brand and a business of my own but gave it all up just to satisfy the needs of what turned out to be a temporary love affair.

I always said that I wouldn’t be my parents when it comes to the work-and-finances world, but I am my parents when it comes to the work-and-finances world. (Not the love affair part, they’re still married all these decades later. In that—precisely the wrong thing, naturally—I have managed to deviate from the course that they charted.)

— § —

This sucks.

Class sucks. Class is so impossibly definitive; it fully colonizes and constrains your consciousness. I eat my class. I socialize my class. I hobby my class. I do everything in precisely the way that someone of my class does.

That despite thinking I could buy my way out of my class with a lot of hard work and leveraged self-investment over a very long period of time. Isn’t that what everyone thinks? Isn’t that the American dream?


© Aron Hsiao / 2006

But no. That is not how it works.

Born working class? Stay working class.
Born lower middle class? Stay lower middle class.
Born upper middle class? Stay upper middle class.
Born upper class? Stay upper class.
Born wealthy? Stay wealthy.

You can’t work your way up a class, and you can’t fail your way out of a class. It simply . doesn’t . happen. Period.

This country’s educational system would be infinitely kinder if it just told kids the truth and didn’t encourage them to tilt at windmills.

“No, there’s no point in you studying right now, much less trying to get on the college track. Your parents were laborers. You’re going to earn what they earned and live like they lived. All you’re going to do by trying to go to college is get yourself into a lot of debt that you won’t be able to afford as someone that lives hand-to-mouth in a squat.”

Now that would be useful to a young kid. They could get started on mastering the norms and mores of their station and become the top dog in their particular stratum, rather than wasting their years trying to be something they’re not and then ending up on the bottom rung instead for having started slowly and under significant misapprehension.

Milton was right: Better to rule in hell.

Doubly so when the unspoken is true: There is no path to heaven. Either you were born an angel or you weren’t. Let’s be real.

— § —

The older I get—the more I use the phrase “the older I get.”

Okay, that isn’t where I was going with that, it just came out in a moment of self-consciousness. Let’s rewind.

The older I get, the farther back I seem to place humanity’s golden age. This may be one of those “perspective” things. Right now if you try to find anything laudable about, say, the middle ages, a lot of people will tell you about death and disease and creature comforts and life expectancy.

Hell, I used to be that person, in front of fifty or a hundred students at a time.

But here I sit aging and thinking that by god, the 1950s really were a golden age, and the 1450s may have been that much more golden.

I guess it’s easy to talk about how unimportant creature comforts are when you have all of them, but every generation has their cross to bear, and ours happens to be the bitter irony of endless creature comforts in an age devoid of any reason to exist other than pure narcissism and in which every single one of a person’s earthy companions are fellow narcissists.

Yeah, this post took a wrong turn. But it is what it is.

— § —

On more prosaic matters, I have been shipping FedEx a lot lately instead of USPS. The rates are better. And I’m working on opening both an online store and an affiliate content marketing setup. Because it’s time to get back on the path that I stupidly abandoned and try to do something other than work for the man.

And if you’re wincing at that last phrase, let me tell you it’s because I come from a lower middle class household and goddammit that’s what I am and a lifetime of trying to be otherwise has brought me a lot of pain and suffering but not much in the way of success, so it may be time to embrace my origins, big words and all.

I may not know how to invest well for retirement, but I sure as hell can fix anything in the house with a bent coat hanger, some glue, and some duct tape, and I know all the best sitcoms from the ’70s onward and can quote from them liberally.

— § —

Apropos of all of this, I am stuck reading the Chronicle of Higher Education daily and getting more and more irritated with each additional word.

I’ll be glad when my subscription finally runs out and I don’t have to try to master self control to avoid all of the incredible tide of hypocrites and elitists (yup, said it) that post over there.

Who’s worth paying attention to?

Jonathan Haidt and Camille Paglia.

Who’s not worth paying attention to?

Hypatia, for one.


© Aron Hsiao / 2002

Cesspool. The number of former haunts that are turning into cesspools in my evolving estimation multiply apace.

Daily Kos? Cesspool.
Chronicle of Higher Education? Cesspool.
The Guardian? Cesspool.
The Daily Beast? Cesspool.

I am finding that pretty much everything that I judge to have been worth my time is being published or done in places that the people that I formerly held in some esteem wouldn’t deign to dignify with a mere glance, much less a sustained presence.

What does this say about me and where I am in life?

Probably that I will lose some friends and acquaintances.

— § —

The primary problem with the academy right now is that the argument about whether it’s a body constituted for the pursuit of knowledge or whether knowledge is simply another name for “politics” and thus it’s ultimately a body constituted for political weight-tossing has been settled—and in the wrong direction, in my opinion.

It’s not that everything is a form of politics, including knowledge.

Ass backward.

It’s that everything is a form of knowledge, including politics.

Fuckers.

This mirrors the problem in society more broadly, in which the view that society is a body in the service of whose constitution we find laboring selves has been reversed; now everyone seems to think that society is a body constituted to serve the development of selves.

Not “I exist to serve us” but rather “we exist to realize me.”

I said some months ago that I was becoming a conservative.

This turn of thought proves it.

— § —

The main shutoff for the sprinkler system turned out to be leaky this year when I turned it on in spring. I found out when a man came by from the city to tell me that we were leaking gallons every minute six feet underground, by the water meter’s estimation.

As a result, the grass is yellow.

This would bother me if I cared about the grass being yellow. But as a lower middle class person, I can’t seem to bring myself to care about it, or about my crooked teeth. Those things seem less important than, say, money and career.

I fully realize that this is a poor man’s way of looking at the world. The green grass and the straight teeth are the source of all wealth. I know this intellectually.

Just like the yoga that annoys the hell out of me by its omnipresence and the Whole Foods $2.00 apples that similarly annoy me are sources of wealth.

But as a lower middle class person, I hate the fact that wealth is so superficial. And I cannot bring myself to see the enlightenment behind the appearance of the teeth, though I realize that to some in other classes, the link is only too obvious.

Sue me.

— § —

I suppose this is a rant.

I suppose that in a day or two I’ll regret ever having posted it.

But whatever; tomorrow is the second day of summer camp 2017.

The status quo isn’t just fragile, it’s threatened, and as someone in the lower middle class, I’m in love with status quos, as when they are functional, they sound a lot like that elusive boon called self-preservation that is always threatened by a dark cloud of encroaching precarity.

The precarity that, they tell me, is only in my mind. Abundance mindset and all that.

Funny thing, I’ve never succeeded in eating one of those.

I think that “abundance mindsets,” like “yoga,” “cosmopolitanism,” and “allyship,” are really tales that the privileged and the licensed-self-absorbed tell themselves to ensure that the sheen of their own morality remains intact for and over the course of their skillfully euphemized beatings of nameless masses of underlings.

It’s a fig leaf to cover a certain ugliness that doesn’t—thank god—color the lower middle class.

Yeah, ouch. Again—sue me.

Out.

Running, including out of time.  §

Thanks to Google Analytics, I know that people read this blog. Not a lot, but some. And I’m pretty sure it’s no longer people that I know. Every now and then, I wonder who the readers are. Hi, whoever you are.

— § —

One of the most intolerable things about adulthood is the realization that “good at heart” doesn’t matter nearly as much as Disney once told you it did, back when you were small and credulous.

— § —

Every single thing in my life right now has an air of critical unsustainability about it. It is quite unsettling. I don’t need things to be sustainable forever, just maybe until the kids are older. I have to admit, I’m fearful.

— § —

Once you realize that all of those fancy schmanzy leather seats in cars are basically painted with acrylic paint to create the particular color and sheen in each case, you see leather a little differently. It could have been anything; it’s the paint that’s doing the heavy lifting.

— § —

There are so many different kinds and classes of people, each of them different, as to be bewildering. I wish I was one of those people that could pass through life and never notice this—just somehow be and feel natural in the face of it all. But I’m not. I’m tremendously conscious of the people around me and their characteristics. Living in society is living in a drug-driven kaleidoscope.

— § —

Driving on an empty highway at night is one of the loveliest experiences a person can have. Despite the fact that they’re a major part of what’s wrong with our society, and that they’re a major headache in everyday life, for this reason alone it saddens me to think that cars may not be long for this world in the grand scheme of things.

— § —

The kids asked me about steel versus wood construction. I started to say something about the Paris World’s Fair in the early part of the twentieth century. I couldn’t remember the year. I couldn’t remember any details. I stumbled over my words. It has been a while since I was an academic.

— § —

There are many pretty people out there, but almost all of them are half my age.

— § —

Got to get up early. Kids have Taekwondo camp early tomorrow. And after that’s done, it’s just a couple of weeks until school starts. Things are ramping up. And there’s a first-grader this year. Full-time school days. Life is changing again.

I wish life would stop changing for a while.

I realize that’s a wish that’s been made by innumerable people since time immemorial. It just keeps on pressing on around you like a tornado until at some point you die. That’s how it works.

— § —

There is a role in life for amusement parks. They are not silly things. They stand in for unhealthy addictions and emotional crutches and give adults a place to stop worrying, just for a few hours.

Without such diversions, revolution would happen tomorrow.

(It may happen tomorrow anyway; things are a big pregnant in the world just now.)