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.
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

A month without much to say is still a month.  §

Not easy times. Not easy at all. I wasn’t a fan of 2019. I’m even less a fan of 2020.

I knew things would be bad, and they have been—and we haven’t seen the end of it.

The thing to remember about all of this—the politics, the riots, the spread of disease months later, the conflict in our political space—is that it’s not about systems or politics.

This has nothing to do with leaders, leadership, government structures, budgets, or anything of that sort.

It all stems from a single fact: as individuals, we are narcissistic jerks, and getting more so all the time. Yes, this means you. Me, too. No government is good enough to make up for a land of assholes, and in any democratic system, partial or total, functional or dysfunctional, a land of assholes means an entire government superstructure of assholes, and top leadership of assholes.

We did this, and we’re stepping on the gas.

On the distance of friends and the terror of archaeology.  §

So much clutter.

There is so much clutter everywhere. Material clutter. Circumstantial clutter. Digital clutter. Mental clutter. Schedule clutter. Memory clutter.

— § —

I am ripping apart my last decade.

It’s part of a remodel, to turn what was my office into a bedroom for one of my children. It has been ongoing for weeks—in the process of being ripped apart for weeks.

Because when you stick an academic in a small office for years, things accumulate. And when you stick a senior manager in a small office for years, things accumulate. And when you stick an adult person in a small room for years, things accumulate.

All three of those people, being me, were in that small room for ten years.

It’s not all clutter, and it’s not all furniture. It’s clutter intermixed with furniture, in highly dense, rational, and inbuilt ways. It’s taking a long time to tear it back down again. The amount of shelving and desk surface littering my driveway right now is insane as I pull it all out.

— § —

One reason that people who live alone die sooner is that there is nobody around to find them after the heart attack, after the stroke, after the fall down the stairs, after the bookshelf falls on them.

They lay there until someone stumbles across them, often too late.

Someday, that will be me. It has been several years since I had a guest of my own in the house. Nobody stops by. Once the kids grow up, we plod on until the event happens, and then at some point the neighbors inquire about the smell.

It’s easy to say “you should have some friends over” but all of my friends live in other states.

It’s easy to say “you should make some friends” but I have a distinct aversion to having friends in my own state, especially friends that come “over.”

— § —

When you’re feeling in a dark place, it’s an important thing to make a little bit of progress in something. Any progress. Any amount. In anything you’ve been working on or could be working on.

I wish I could say that making that bit of progress feels good, but really it doesn’t.

What it does do, however, is feel less dark than just sitting there, and that’s often enough.

— § —

Tearing apart what I and the kids have long referred to as “the office” has been a kind of archaeology of the recent past, of the past decade.

Thing is, the last decade has seen the absolute worst times of my life in it, by a very large margin, along with some of the best. But it’s the former that hits you with the force each time you stumble across a significant artifact.

There have been a lot of significant artifacts.

— § —

Not everyone can say that they have a stack of letters in which a previously trusted person threatens to entirely destroy the lives of them and their family over and over again in a variety of ways—much less from someone that is actually positioned to carry this threat out—and less still when that person is, by virtue of outward apparent affinity, the last person anyone in the world would suspect of such a thing.

I have such a stack of letters. I haven’t looked at it, or wanted to look at it in a long time. I still haven’t looked at it. But I’ve laid eyes on it again, and that was enough. Risks of archaeology.

Experiences like that—like receiving a stream of such letters over time—change a person and the way that they relate to the world, and to other people.

They cause you to become that strange person, the one who’s always a bit standoffish, who can’t quite be nailed down, who won’t let anybody in, who seems just a bit dangerous.

They leave you unwilling to cope with having friends in your own state that might actually come “over.”

— § —

I was never much one for self-defense, or for playing things close to the vest when I was younger. It’s interesting to see how much self-defense clutter I’ve accumulated in recent years—material, circumstantial, digital, mental, schedule, memory, etc.

There is a strand of conventional wisdom—which is nearly always wrong—that says that it’s bad to be on the defensive against other people.

“Open yourself up,” it says, “what have you got to lose? Only love and friendship!”

Like all strands of conventional wisdom, it throws its hands up when the worst happens and says “well… it’s not like there can be any promises…”

Thing is, I have children. My life, now, belongs to their protection until they are launched.

Hopefully launched.

In a way that I and so many in my generation and other recent generations never were.

Until then, it’s silence and archaeology for me in the in-between times.

— § —

I’m not a weak or timid man, but there are nonetheless many things in my life that I can’t bear to look at, am unable to stomach, can absolutely not stand to see.

In the whole wide world, all of them lie within 25 feet of me and where I dwell, day after day, and they have done for years now.

Someone once told me I should burn them.

I couldn’t make them understand that being haunted by the ghosts of archaeological terror is no better than being surrounded by its corpses.

El Chapo, El Chapo, El Chapo, El Chapo, El Chapo.  §

Weekend in early September, world generally falling apart. Dark, 70 degrees outside. Aquarium slightly low on water against south wall.

— § —

South. That means that if you continue to go in that direction for long enough, you’ll end up in Mexico. And if you keep going long enough after that, you’ll hit ice.

At least that’s what they say.

At this particular moment, it’s hard to believe any of that exists, mainly because it doesn’t. The world, the one that’s falling apart, doesn’t exist anyway.

Because it’s 2020.

— § —

There are times of elation, times of stagnation, and times of suffering.

This time is somewhere between the latter two, perhaps encompassing both of them. The time is out of joint. The center cannot hold. Use whatever phrase you want.

— § —

This returns in echoes for me, at a personal level.

I don’t have one of those even-keeled lives.

— § —

It’s dark in this corner of the house that I do not own living something rather other than the life I had planned, with my own children elsewhere and no particular projects or life goals underway.

Middle age waiting for my late twenties to begin.

There are times when I’m elated and times when I’m stagnant and times when I indulge in suffering.

The last several months have been somewhere between the latter. The time is out of joint. The center cannot hold. Use whatever phrase you want.

— § —

I will never retire. I will never own a home. I will never grow old with anyone. I will never get tenure. I will never be rich. I will never have one of “those” yards. I will never have one of “those” vacations. I don’t remember any of the plans I made. I don’t remember the things I used to do.

— § —

In Oakland and in New York they are marching through the streets chanting “Death to America.”

Twenty years ago I’d have assured you I’d be among them. Ten years ago I’d have been bewildered but patient with the whole thing.

Now I think they ought to be tried and hanged for treason.

— § —

Naivete is a hell of a drug, and you ingest rather a lot of it while you’re young.

Then, you age.

The end begins to race toward you, or you toward it, and you can see it and it grows and gets bigger and bigger and you begin to realize that soon you’re going to crash into it and you don’t have time to react much less to make plans much less to dig up the plans you already made much less to execute on them.

The lawn isn’t even mowed.

— § —

In the corner of the room, in the dark, you can’t hear them thousands of miles away as they chant “Death to America” and you can’t hear the laughter of your children enjoying life without you with some other family that didn’t even give them any genes.

You think about how evil people are, and about how evil society is, and about how the Catholics and the Orthodox had it right all along all these thousands of years, and about how many people that ought to have been hanged never were.

And you reflect on how other people, clueless, naive, and maybe, just maybe, evil—though naturally, of course, naturally, of course, you don’t ever, ever judge any of them, oh no—would think less of you for a thousand reasons, some of them your intrinsic properties and some of them instantaneous judgments of the kind that you never, ever make.

And you also think about how the fact that it’s now mid-60s in the room and falling, and how it will continue to fall in the months ahead in a world without a world, an inside without n outside in a pademic, means that fall is coming and the wheel is turning again.

— § —

The race toward the end.

You always said you’d either become a professor or you’d head south, south to South America, where you’d open a tin-roofed shack of a bar and duck under the flying bullets and flying bottles.

But you didn’t become a professor.

And you didn’t go south.

— § —

Sixty degrees and falling.

And still they march.

No. No love for me. I do not want love, I’ve had more love than I can handle.  §

My ex-wife says that I should go out and find love.

This is wrong.

There are some people who should not date, who should not pursue “love,” and I am one of them. There is not a single love relationship in my life that has turned out well.

Even in the relationship, they never make me happy. They are an exercise in “making myself okay with things” and “learning to deal.” Love relationships are invariably painful, much more painful than just living life on my own, which is actually not all that bad.

In my life, when I have dated, I have been:

– Less emotionally healthy
– Less happy
– Less productive
– Less resilient
– Less connected to others
– Less disciplined
– More exhausted
– More stressed
– More in pain
– etc.

I just honestly don’t understand why I would ever put myself through that again. It’s like a stimulus-response conditioned aversion at this point.

Just about every time in my life that things have been going really, really well, I’ve fallen in love—and then the wheels come off, I soon have despair in the pit of my stomach, I spend years in inner turmoil and pain, and then it ends and my life comes apart. Why do that?

Even after we break up, they hurt me. I have an accumulated list of exes stretching back to my teens. Every single one of them continued to cause me pain after the relationship, sometimes years after.

I’ve met the biological need to procreate, that’s done with. I think maybe she was right when she said that I was “not the marrying type.”

For another age and cultural milieu, I could have been. But in this one? Forget it. Anything I might want out of a relationship I can’t get out of one, even if I somehow manage to make myself okay with the infinite list of painful things that I do get out of one but desperately don’t want.

Modern relationships are structured precisely as “all of the things I least want out of life, and that will cause me pain, with none of the things I actually desire.”

So no, I’m not going to go “find love.” Just not. Because what gets called “love” these days is not something I need, and what I’d call “love” is not on offer and hasn’t been for fifty years at least.

And he called his name Gershom: for he said, I have been a stranger in a strange land.  §

It’s late and dark and quiet and I’m in a foreign land.

— § —

Does everyone feel as though they live entirely out of context by the time they reach my age? Because I feel as though I live entirely out of context.

This city is foreign to me.
This house is foreign to me.
This room is foreign to me.
This desk is foreign to me.
My own body is foreign to me.
My own mind is foreign to me.

I feel like a traveler. Not the traveler passing through, still seduced by the novelty of his environs and the local folk around him, secure in the knowledge that tomorrow I’ll leave them all behind, but rather the traveler who became embroiled.

The traveler who paused just slightly too long—and as a result is on year twenty of his vacation, still waiting to pull up stakes and move on, someday.

— § —

They say you can’t live your life waiting for life to begin.

But what does it look like to live without waiting? I can’t conceive of it.

Everything about our time and our place and our people is about waiting for rain, waiting for mana, waiting for the page to turn, biding time and doing the things that must be done if the breath is ever to be exhaled—if the journey is to continue.

Only it doesn’t.

— § —

Wrong turns happen.

When you’re young, they’re innocent enough things; you backtrack a bit and return to the intended road.

Then, at some point when you’re older, you realize that wrong turns have begun to accumulate; that it’s been some time since you saw the map—you don’t know quite where it is in your luggage. Maybe you put it back in your backpack? Maybe it’s in the pocket somewhere in your things? Maybe you’ve stowed it in your wallet, or in your laptop sleeve, or maybe it’s in the glovebox.

Maybe, maybe, maybe.

There’s no time to look for it just now, you’ll find it later, at the next opportunity, at the Next Great Unpacking which never comes, and anyway, it probably won’t matter because so many wrong turns have been taken by now that you’re hopelessly lost.

You’d stare at it and try to intuit where you are but in truth you could be anywhere in an eight square inch area covering cities and lakes and deserts and borders.

When you were younger, you’d stop and ask for directions, but at some point you gave that up; every time you asked someone, the directions were different, the names were different, the answers did nothing to resolve the questions that you raised.

Where is the GPS for the roads that you travel in your own biography?

— § —

It’s August 2020 and I’m out of context.

There’s an episode of Northern Exposure in which the problem of living out of context is discussed. When I was younger, I had no idea what this meant.

The words washed over me in the way that words sometimes do; you intuit a bit of this and a bit of that and the result is a kind of pastiche of meaningfulness that satiates for the moment without doing any particular damage to your worldview.

Now—now I understand the concept.

When you’re young, giants walk the earth and you’re one of them. You can see as far as the horizon in any direction; you can spot every landmark at a glance.

Ideas and decisions flow, and the symphony of your life plays out naturally, as though nothing could be otherwise.

But you’re only a giant so long as the things around you are smaller than you are, ready to hand, familiar. As the architecture of time and biography rises around you, it is you that seems progressively smaller, until your view is blocked on all sides by new, concrete and glass giants of contingency and history.

You wander and you peer, and at length you pick a little corner to dwell in, to create well-worn paths in, to avoid getting lost in—the same way a traveler tends to stay within a few blocks of his hotel while in town.

Only it’s August 2020 and I’ve been in town for two decades at least.

— § —

What would it look like now for life to begin?

If the world were suddenly to open to me—if the student loans disappeared and the children were grown and all the questions were settled and the floors were swept and I had open vistas again around me, could see all the way to the horizon once more—

What would I do?

I can’t even be sure.

— § —

People go to therapy because they want to be reassured that they don’t want what they actually want, which is—too often—nothing in particular, or nothing they can sell to themselves.

They want to be told that the reason they’re lost in their lives isn’t because they’ve decided rather intentionally to become and remain lost, to embroil themselves in complications of urban shadows, but rather becuase they are being oppressed by a foreign presence.

Of course what is asserted to be a foreign presence is their very own “subconscious” self.

The older I get and the longer I wander around these streets, the more I believe this to be nonsense. We do what we do because we chose to do it.

If you don’t have all the things in life that you “want,” it’s because you don’t actually want those things but can’t bear to admit that to yourself.

You have exactly what you want. You have conducted the cost-benefit analysis; you conduct it every day, and at every moment, in every thing. You do the things you do because you chose to do them. The other things that you don’t do are the things you didn’t choose to do.

The question isn’t why you don’t do what you want to do.

It’s why you don’t want what some part of you would like to be able to say that you want.

— § —

That calculation is the easy part.

The hard part is figuring out what it is that you actually want, so that you can enter into talks with yourself about when to issue the press release and come clean—“Here is what I want, and have wanted all along, and I’m going to continue to pursue it with aplomb.”

So that you can do what you are doing anyway even more, and even more properly.

— § —

Why did you take yourself out of your natural context?

Why did you pause in this town, at this hotel where you claim to be only temporarily marooned? What is it that you’re actually doing here?

How can you make the context your own?

How can you go home, finally, just where you are, and begin to put down roots in your life, in your own ongoing work of dwelling?

— § —

If there’s one thing I wish I wanted to do, it’s to put down those roots.

To embrace where I am and see the richness in it properly; to identify with myself and as myself and see myself through clear eyes, instead of through the haze of the traveler’s heady bewilderment.

Because twenty years is too long to be traveling, to be a stranger in a strange land—particularly when you’ve been there so long that everyone recognizes you already and has done for ages.

Everyone, that is, but yourself—for and to whom you remain a stranger.

It’s time for a change.  §

Let’s go.

A population that doesn’t know what “2 + 2” is actually referring to can’t beat COVID.  §

Here’s the thing about COVID-19 in the United States.

Another complete lockdown would help numbers somewhat, just because there are a lot more places that people can’t go. But unless there is a legitimate locked-in-home order with enforcement teeth, we’re not going to beat this thing.


Because Americans will continue to go and hang out with their friends, socialize with their families, hold parties, and so on. Because they just don’t get it.

We have an entire society that has never made a chair out of wood. Never spent time in nature—real nature, without pavement and amenities, where cars can’t go. Never repaired their own car. Never tried to grow crops. Never had to face and contend with the hard truth that nature is nature and does what it does, and that there are forces that are beyond us.

A large majority of Americans will inevitably say, “yes, yes, COVID, lockdown, I know, but this is a really important party” or “but this is a big deal of a conference” or “see, my extended family always gets together in September like this” or “yes, but this is just neighbors talking to each other, a policy that banned that would be asinine” and so on.

Some people suggest that “they” won’t get it “until” some of them come down with the virus. This misdiagnoses the issue.

They won’t get it even if they come down with the virus, not until and unless they find themselves on their death beds. Some not even then.

The problem with Americans is that they don’t understand, at a fundamental level, that not all things are customer service or policy problems.

Even when they do end up in the hospital with COVID, a large segment of the American population will stare physicians in the face and ask to speak to the manager. They’ll still be pleading their case.

“No. It’s not okay. I refuse to be sick, I was going on a completely legitimate vacation. It was planned a year ago, before COVID. I couldn’t just cancel, I’d have lost all that money. This is ridiculous. It isn’t fair. I want to speak to someone else. Who’s your supervisor, get them in here now! You make me well again or change the diagnosis, I was not violating social distancing, my vacation was planned before COVID, dammit! You tell your manager I’ll sue you into oblivion if you don’t handle this differently!”

They really, really don’t understand.

This is the hidden underside of living in a first-world “service and knowledge economy” where all real, physical things and expertise reside overseas.

The population literally can’t conceive of physical realities. Everything is a decision by the management.

People really do think that they can turn the COVID caseload around with protests and civil disobedience. Or maybe by suing it in court. Because everything is just words. Everything is just policy. That’s all they’ve ever experienced in their lives—the physical reality just takes care of itself if the policies and the words are right, and if you have enough clout or enough money.

Until now.

And that’s why the US is where it is.

When afternoon light comes through an east-facing window and hits a white wall, it makes gray.  §

There is so much noise in modern life.

There is an incredible amount of noise, really.

Aural noise, visual noise, olfactory noise, tactile nose… a general level of background noise that is shocking once you notice it.

Thing is, it’s hard to notice. I only notice now because the room that I call my “office” has recently been moved as we remodel the house to accommodate new bedrooms as the children get older.

And so I sit here, in an only partially “done” room, with white walls and an empty desk and a few books. All of the “optimizations” made to the space over many years, which often involve additional items, gadgets, connectors, cables, fixtures, and so on—as well as several lights in several areas of the room to illuminate key things or spaces—they are not here yet.

Instead, everything is a tad gray.

And very quiet.

And there is a decent amount of space.

And it’s just me and a keyboard and a screen.

— § —

I’m not sure I’m doing the right things with my life.

To clarify, I’m quite positive that I’m not doing the things that I wish I was doing, but that’s a separate question.

In general, I tell myself that I do what I do out of a sense of necessity, responsibility, and expedience. I tell myself that what I do must be done, and that this is the way of things.

Sometimes, I even look sideways a bit, mentally at least, at all of the people out there that aren’t holding up “their end of the bargain,” whether in personal life, in family life, or in society more broadly.

But then there are times like now.

— § —

When a room is empty, when all the noise has suddenly been attenuated a bit, you are brought back to a deeper reality in a very visceral way.

With Twitter in front of you, you never ask things like, “What does it meant that I am sitting here, alive? And what should I do next.”

It’s hard to ask yourself questions like that in a typical office, even if there isn’t a Twitter or a Facebook or a list of work tasks in front of you.

Such questions can only be noticed, hanging in the air as they always do and always have done, when there are no things and no people immediately calling for your attention.

They are quiet questions.

They don’t yell.

— § —

In the modern era, we have an incredible dispersion of incredible tools. They multiply everywhere. They fill our sights and our lives with facility.

We use them to make carnivals where we then play for hours, weeks—maybe months, years on end.

We don’t generally use them to make anything.

So much for Heidegger’s building and dwelling.

It’s life as a visitor’s event. You go on a quick tour, try out all the little rides and shops and possibilities, never really paying attention to any of them.

— § —

There is this tendency in modern western society to say something about the Buddhists when talk goes in this direction.

Lots of people now have Buddha statues in their houses and books by the Dalai Lama. Often, they are impossible to get along with.

Usually, they are as shallow as puddles on pavement.

They’ve consumed it like they’ve consumed the rest, and they’re carrying it with them like a Bloomingdale’s bag and showing off their new threads just a bit.

— § —

Every now and then, the kids ask me what my favorite color is.

I always say the same thing.

“Titanium gray.”

There are still deep discussions on key issues happening.  §

Just not, perhaps, in the halls of power or in the kitchens of the public.

But frankly, this is where our discourse should be.

Even if you abandon your father to wash curtains you won’t run out of things that need to be done.  §

There are so many things that you think over the course of the day, little thoughts as you go about your business, that cause you to say, “Ah, that should be in my next blog post!” And you craft sentences to come before them and sentences to come after them, and then paragraphs to come before them, and then paragraphs to come after them, and you envisage perhaps even an entire series of related blog posts on what is rapidly becoming a sprawling, interconnected set of topics, and you begin to feel quite satisfied with yourself and your plan.

And then the end of the day arrives and you’re actually sitting in front of keyboard and monitor and you have no recollection of what, exactly, any of those thoughts were, because sometime around the time you were doing dishes, or perhaps washing the shower curtains, or perhaps climbing about on the roof to replace the cooler pads, you became entirely preoccupied with the task at hand—and that was that.

Oh well.

— § —

Once you get into the “I’m doing things that need to be done” flow, the only way to exit the flow is a conscious exit. That is to say, you have to do what is ultimately a vaguely unsatisfying thing: say to yourself, “I’m not done, but I’m stopping anyway.”

This is of course because the list of “things that need to be done” can not, ever, for any reason, be exhausted. And once you are in the flow and making steady progress, there is a momentum that carries you forward, and if you don’t consciously stop, you can go on straightening pictures and cleaning toilet handles and sewing torn clothes and washing windows until you’ve not slept for weeks and drop dead despite yourself.

— § —

I have never hung any of my degrees. I have two bachelors degrees, a masters degree, a doctorate degree, and an endowed award from my discipline. In a way it feels strange that I’ve never hung them, and I do have, in the new office, space on the wall where they could conceivably go. I mean, I did earn them and they represent many years of my life and a significant dimension of how I got to be who I am.

On the other hand, it seems strange to hang them given that I’m no longer in the field, am no longer a classroom professor, do not research, do not publish, have in fact not seriously thought about any of these topics in more than half a decade.

— § —

How do I feel about that?

I still don’t know. I don’t have the existential pain that some have when they leave the academy. The fact is that I was not all that happy with what academic life was turning into in my case. There are a number of digressions that I could make here, but suffice it to say that I didn’t like where academics seemed to be going, I didn’t like where my discipline seemed to be going, I didn’t want to make the sacrifices that would lead a broken culture to take me “seriously” as a candidate for bigger and better things, I was losing the appetite to live in poverty and destroy parts of my life in order to publish, and—of course—at the time that I left I found myself going through a messy divorce and custody battle.

So academic life wasn’t really on the cards.

But how do I feel about it now?

Fact is, I only came to work in upper management in business by accident. I was, in fact, headhunted, and when presented with an exit ramp given all of the circumstances outlined above, I took it.

— § —

I am, however, troubled by the fact that there are things that I can do and things that I can think that will never be of benefit to anyone—by the fact that I’ll do a pretty vanilla job in a pretty vanilla industry probably for the rest of my life. That’s not to say that things would have been any better in academics—they wouldn’t have. Not as it is currently constituted. It’s broken, thoroughly broken, like so much of the rest of our society.

I suppose I find myself thinking that it’s a shame that there isn’t some other academic constellation or universe out there (“academic” probably being the wrong word here) where I might do some good. At the same time, I long ago lost my youthful sense of initiative. All those thoughts that I had a decade ago about perhaps getting together with a handful of other endoctorated radicals to start some “new” sort of organization that was the Humboldtian university without actually being the Humboldtian university, well… those thoughts now just tire me out.

I recall once again (and each time with greater amazement than the last time I recalled this) that my dissertation chair once told me that at his advanced age, he still wasn’t “tired” at all, that he still had “a lot of energy.”

I’m half his age and I’m exhausted. I don’t have energy.

Note that I’m not referring to physical energy here. I do taekwondo. I can hike for miles without stopping and have by now remodeled god knows how many rooms in my house singlehandedly, alone, late at night.

What I don’t have is mental and spiritual energy.

I am lacking a cause and my conversion story to it. Once that cause was knowledge. Then I learned that I was being fooled about the nature of knowledge in contemporary society, and I still haven’t recovered.

— § —

At times, when I’m busy puttering around the house “doing things that need to be done” I wonder what it would be like to be a teacher of students again. There are times when I think, “Oh, I could dip my toes back into that. I could teach as an adjunct, now in even more places than I did in the past, given the amount of new knowledge and experience I’ve gained in the private sector and the things I’ve learned about how my discipline relates to and interacts with others.” But then I think better of it.

I don’t think there’s any way to make the world a better place by teaching right now, at least not institutionally. The institutions are morally bankrupt, across the board. They are machines for the corruption of students and the destruction of society, little more, and probably even less.

At times I also think that I ought to reach out to my department chair.

I am possessed now of that disease that one catches when too much time has passed between the last time you spoke to someone that has been important in your life and the present moment. Rather like the fathers who abandon their children—only in this case, it’s the opposite. As an academic “child,” I have abandoned my academic “father.”

I go over entire speeches in my head, ways I’d try to explain the lack of contact and my abandoning the discipline without telling him.

It wasn’t just the divorce, I’d explain. I’d become disillusioned with the whole thing—with the ideological forces at work, the quality of the students, the quality of the research. I’d come to feel that the academy was doing more harm than good. I left to get my bearings. I’d explain how the impact of his suspicious posture toward postmodernism and “luminaries” like Foucault had grown ever more important in my life, how I understood more and more with each passing day how right he’d been. How sorry I was to have spent so much time arguing otherwise, how much more I wish I’d listened early on to what he was trying to tell me.

I’d explain how all of this meant that I needed to go away and think, to get away from the academic life I’d been embroiled in since I was fifteen years old, and how I still am not entirely sure that I feel settled about all of it.

I’d also express my thanks for everything that he did for me, and apologize for not making more of that investment.

But I never actually write or call. Because I don’t know to what end I open that relationship again. Where does it go? Nowhere. I’m living a non-academic life and there are a lot of things that need to be done.

— § —

My direct supervisor at work, who happens to be the person that runs the company, keeps telling me that I need to take time off. He’s right.

The problem is that there’s never a good time to take time off; whenever I take time off, double the work will confront me when I return. But yes, I need to take time off. There are many things that need to be done outside of work, things that are languishing, that are forgotten, that are urgent but also very, very late.

Moving to this new office has been one of those things.

But there are any number of ways in which I’m living in a kind of stasis. Not in terms of my age, which continues to advance apace, but in terms of the configuration of my life and values.

Problem is, I don’t need something like a week off. I need a sabbatical. I need five years away at a monastery to read and reflect and tend a little patch of flowers.

That, however, really isn’t on the cards. There are two kids that require a father to live a reasonable life (bet you’ve heard that is never the case and, in fact, isn’t even really possible, but it’s true) and there are of course too many things that need to be done.

So I’ll just postpone the “read” part to sometime (hopefully) before I’m dead, and I’ll do the “reflect” part as I do dishes, wash shower curtains, climb about on the roof to replace the cooler pads, and so on, writing long, insightful blog posts in my head full of startling yet inevitable parallels that illuminate things about my life and the moment in which we all find ourselves—and then I’ll lose sight of them again, not publish them, and write posts like this one instead.

Time passes slowly at first, and then all at once.  §

It’s 1:23 am and for the first time in nearly ten years, I’m writing from an office that is not “my office,” a room in the house where my work and work equipment have lived since we arrived in Utah in 2011.

The feeling is a strange one. The desk is different. The position of the screens is different. The sound is different. The room also faces a different direction (east, rather than west) and somehow this also changes this considerably at some ineffable subconscious level.

The last office was the office in which I finished my doctorate, did my final teaching, became a marketing person and then marketing management, got divorced, spent countless hours with my kids. There were many naptimes, writing projects, tragic phone calls, and hours spent with (now dead) pets there. Some of the best things I ever thought I thought in there.

New room now.

Kids are getting older. One will be a tween in a moment. She carries a phone already. It’s been ten years since I last taught in New York. It’s been twenty years since I finished my undergraduate degree. It’s been thirty years since the first time I set foot on a college campus for class. That’s a long time, and it all passed in a flash.

This isn’t an original post, but that’s okay—it’s not really meant to be. It’s meant to be a bookmark and a kind of prayer. Whether that’s a prayer of thanksgiving, a prayer to ask for blessings, or a prayer to seek guidance… who knows.

I’ve never been much of one for schedules and calendars—one to plan my life out to the day, or even the month. The upside is that there is a certain amount of freedom (from multiple things) that results from not doing this.

The downside is that you don’t ever know what’s coming next, or when—you never celebrate your “this is the last time I’ll” moments, because you don’t know they’re the last time until you look back and say “Wow, that was the last time I… I had no idea then that…”

I don’t know whether it’s healthy or not to always move on without much in the way of ceremony or celebration of what one is leaving behind.

But that’s sort of how I do it. I don’t spent a lot of time on goodbyes, to circumstances, to things, or to people. I just don’t, even though sometimes I wish I had afterward, upon reflection.

I don’t even know what to say.  §

Looking over the wreckage of our culture, and of our civilization right now, there’s only one thing to say, I suppose:

“The emperor has no clothes!”

The “woke” activists have no clothes.
The “freedom” activists have no clothes.
The Republicans have no clothes.
The Democrats have no clothes.
The business owners have no clothes.
The wealthy have no clothes.
The middle-class have no clothes.
The poor have no clothes.
The scientists have no clothes.
The laborers have no clothes.
The leaders have no clothes.
The followers have no clothes.

Black lives matter? All lives matter? No lives matter!

This giant cluster of a year has taught us something: we’re all liars, and we’re all failures.

Never has the Judeo-Christian morality been needed by so many, yet embraced by so few.

What a mess.

Oh yes, I’ll say it:

BLM is a crock.
MAGA is a crock.
“isms” are a crock.
“phobias” are a crock.
It’s all a crock, and all these people are mad.

Mad, mad, mad, mad, mad as hatters, every last one of them.

I always knew, and people just thought I was a misanthropist. But I always knew. Everyone should have always known.

About the evil—the evil yoga teachers, and the evil historical preservationists, and the evil community organizers, and the evil business tycoons, and the evil teachers, and the evil students. It’s a land of evil and deceit.

Oh, I know how this sounds to everyone. But it’s not me doing the “I’m going nuts” thing. If this sounds nuts to you, you need to look around and realize that the emperor has no clothes. Not the good emperor, not the bad emperor, not the wise emperor, not the idiot emperor, not the good people, not the bad people, not the wise people, not the idiot people.

All of them.

All of them have no clothes.

You have all gone mad.

Am I so sane? Probably not. But at least I can still see that gravity causes apples to fall, rain makes things wet, and bullets are harder than breath.

I appear to be the only one left, or at the very least one of just a handful.

No, the end of the world isn’t nigh. But the end of the West is here.

Anyone who thought I was joking or crazy may want to reconsider.  §

I’m not happy to have been right.

And contra those who are saying that:

  • The pandemic is almost over

  • The political upheaval is burning itself out

I am sadly confident, based on data from scientists and from my own eyes, that we are only seeing the beginning.

In the United States of America, the pandemic slowed for a moment but has now returned with fury, and in a far larger number of places, making any further containment that much closer to impossible.

We’re now in worse shape than we were when we locked everything down (I can’t remember by now whether I even posted about it). People say we don’t have the political “will” to lock down again but in fact it’s not a question of will.

There is, in fact, no governing authority with any actual power at the moment. People just don’t realize this because the governing authorities have sensibly refrained from attempting any governance or enforcement at the moment—either of which would reveal complete impotence and the fact that the public is ready, able, and willing to topple them—and would put the final nail in the coffin of the republic.

As it is, they’re hoping against hope that somehow this will all blow over and they can silently start giving orders again, and that when this happens, the public will start to follow them again as if the first half of 2020 never happened.

They won’t. It did.

The west as a civilizational impulse and as a culture is now in full-scale retreat, even as it is also undergoing a full-scale 180-degree reversal in cultural values.

If you doubt this, you may have missed the part where “protestors” (read: revolutionaries) have begun to place eight-foot guillotines outside the homes of wealthy folk like Jeff Bezos. Or where in my own neighborhood, the same have begin to shoot into the windows of passing cars (with bullets, not with cameras), presumably out of sheer rage that the drivers of said cars are driving somewhere unrelated to the revolution rather than—you know—also shooting.

Or the part where cultural elites at major publications like the New York Times have begun to rehabilitate Robespierre, saying that what he did was rather glorious and all for the best in the end, as you’ve got to chop off a few heads if you want to arrive someday at utopia. You don’t believe me, do you? Google it. And count the number of “important” people who repeated this.

When I posted that the coming times were to be “unimaginable,” I bet you weren’t thinking that our best and brightest would be embracing the guillotine and saying that we’d all previously got it greviously wrong about the Reign of Terror.

No, as Dave Chapelle recently suggested, the streets are “speaking for themselves,” and as usually is the case when this happens, it is not a virtuous thing.

We have the perfect storm. One pandemic exploding and another on the way (you thought I’d forgotten about the new swine flu epidemic taking hold in China, didn’t you), two generations of individuals who have been raised to believe that to be made to feel “discomfort” is a capital offense, an elite happy to throw in with mayhem and murder of the public because the public gave them Trump and Brexit, an ignorant public that were already at historic levels of financial ruin before the pandemic thrust them into historic levels of unemployment and economic collapse, and a complacent bourgoisie too afraid of falling, in all of this, to the level of the plebes to have any interest in preserving their integrity and refusing to go along with things rather than simply proclaiming “viva la revolución!” and laying down prostrate to literally wash the feet of the new Robespierre forces.

No, we’re going down.

And people will again think me crazy to say that I’m writing every post now as though it’s my last because I legitimaly don’t know what’s going to happen over the coming months—particularly as we head into “election season” (does anybody imagine that this will proceed without bloodshed at this point?) later this fall—and I also have no idea who will remain alive and free after the fact.

This is just the beginning, folks. I’ll repeat myself:

Tomorrow will be beyond imagining.

Ghosts are everywhere around us, but for some reason most people can’t see them.  §

The most eerie or uncanny kinds of spaces are the spaces where life once was—where life once happened—but that are now empty.

— § —

Once upon a time, this entire house was one of those spaces.

After I filed for divorce—a shockingly messy situation whose details I won’t go into but to say that it was shockingly messy—I left and didn’t return to the house for almost a month.

When I came back to the place as it was—dark, empty, no longer full of family life, or of children, or even of the everyday furnishings to which we’d become accustomed—I almost couldn’t stand to see it.

It was the kind of strange terror of the uncanny that can drive a person to madness. I know why some of those guys out there commit suicide; it’s because they encounter the world’s inverse image, it’s dead negative, wearing a label that proclaims it to be their lives, and in a fit of the uncanny they imagine that if they fire the pistol, time will reverse. They are already dead. In their confusion, they imagine that suicide will bring them back to life.

But it doesn’t.

It took a long time for me to un-dead the space. I had entered a new epoch, a new universe. We had all died that July. We all started over as new people. The space started over as a new space.

The family that was is now fictional, something that never happened.

— § —

Now the space where life once was is the bedroom at the far end of the hallway, at the west end of the house.

I never reclaimed that room myself; it had been the parents bedroom in that fictional story about a happy family, and once I returned and created a new house from uncanny death mask of the old house, I had no interest in sleeping there ever again.

Yes, I have spent the last five years sleeping on my office floor, or on my office couch, or (most often) in my office chair, right in front of my work computer, or at times when I fall asleep reading the kids a story instead of or along with the kids falling asleep, at the foot of their bed.

But no, I haven’t had a bed in five years.

Now, before you go and dig up what seems to be the right amount of pity or shock, let me explain that I’m one of those people the Karens like to scold; I never do things the right way. The big things, I mean—like have living arrangements and sleep every night.

By the time I was a teenager, I was done with beds. I slept on floors and couches and in cardboard boxes and cars and all kinds of other places, but never, ever in a bed.

First apartment? Hardwood floors. That I slept on. College? Same. Floor. Sometimes a couch. Sometimes a folded-up futon. Grad school? I lived in a dorm that didn’t have a bed; it was a deco-era building that had old, spartan leather couches built directly into the wall. I slept on one of those, or sometimes in the chair that also came with the room.

Really, the only time since I was a pre-teen that I’ve regularly slept on a bed was while I was married. And I didn’t do it properly. I stayed up far too late and often fell asleep in my office chair despite having a bed.

It’s the kind of thing that a certain kind of wife turns into a vile offense and a vendetta. I had such a wife, and because there are many other ways in my life in which I’m a non-bed-sleeper, there were a lot of vendettas.

No comment on whether she was a Karen.

But I just wanted to get that out of the way so that we can focus on what I’m actually writing about.

— § —

What I’m actually writing about is that that when I returned to the house, that back room became my dog’s bedroom; he claimed the bare bed and slept on it virtually every night by himself. The kids called it “Shandy’s room.”

Then, Shandy died, but soon the room was occupied instead by Gypsy, our cat. It became the place in the house that she preferred—to get away both from the other cats and from Molly, Shandy’s unwitting replacement.

But the kids have been getting older. They need rooms of their own, rather than a shared room. And there are only three rooms upstairs—the office, on whose floor (or office chair) I have been sleeping for five years, the kids shared bedroom, and Gypsy’s room.

And so it became clear that it was time for Gypsy to join my ex-wife in her residence. Because Gypsy and Molly never made a lot of progress in getting along together and because I need to move into that room—so that my daughter can move into what has been my office for a decade now, and adopt it as her bedroom.

— § —

I spent three hours cleaning the room tonight.

There was a lot of dirt to be removed, and there were many ghosts to be chased away. There are still a number of them there; it’s clearly still haunted, but Rome wasn’t built in a day.

That room was “our” bedroom for years and years when I was married. The marriage is dead. Then it was beloved Shandy’s room. Shandy is dead. Then it was Gypsy’s room. Gypsy is now gone.

It’s a room-where-life-once-was.

And now I have to reclaim it and work in it. There is much to be done, and there are exorcisms to be carried out.

Luckily, I’m more familiar with these kinds of spaces than I used to be. The shock doesn’t strike me full in the face like it used to. But ghosts still have the whiff of dread, sadness, and eternal loss about them. It’s not easy to clean and reoccupy such a room—to steal it away from the dead and the missing.

Still, because I don’t get shocked any longer, there’s no danger that I will get confused and think that if I perform the right steps in the right order, I can cause time to run backward once again.

So that’s something.

— § —

This entire post is the sort of thing that once would have made my ex-wife’s skin crawl, and we’d have had a good, knock-down, drag-out yelling and hating fight afterward about how bizarre and sick in the head I am for being the sort of person that can write and say things like this.

I’m not sure what’s wrong with it, but then I guess I wouldn’t if I’m as bizarre and off-beam as she always said I was.

I guess that’s why we’re divorced.

And why now I’m trying to reoccupy a room-where-life-once-was.

When your country’s government falls to the enemy, you get a little bitter.  §

So this post comes at the end of a week of destruction. The U.S. national and local governments are in the process of falling. It’s not entirely clear that the United States will exist at this time next week, or next month.

— § —

The whole nation is embroiled in stupidity, conspiracy theories, and intrigue real and imagined, while on the ground facts are very simple.

The system has been allowed to rot for decades. Gleeful white radicals, looking for the importance that was taken from them when they lost religion, and then parenthood after that, now fancy themselves not only the saviors of the black man, but the saviors of history—history in the Maxrian tradition. We’ve been locked down for months. Jobs have been lost. People have died. The public is about as educated and sophisticated as my straw hat. And social media lets videos go viral.

Including a video of a bad cop killing a black man.

And so the world explodes.

Every major city—dozens of them—on fire. Killing, looting, and destruction in the streets. The police have fled, not because they’re not up to the job, but because said white radicals, most of them self-satisfied and operating the levers of government, have proclaimed the riots to be a good and moral thing, and encouraged them to continue.

Burn more! Steal more! Kill more! Your pain is valuable! Your pain is beautiful! Please—rape and pillage! I’m an ally!

And of course particular factions, most importantly among them the college radio set, have gleefully accepted the challenge. They’re the serious radicals of course, the ones that are always out there throwing molotov cocktails and poisoning housewives by contaminating groceries in the stores, working internationally, usually in a rag-tag way, to bring down governments with the help of PETA, Greenpeace, MoveOn, the NRDC, and so on. Antifa. The ELF. The ALF.

How do I know it’s them? Those of you who know me know how I know it’s them.

Nevermind, you can’t really blame them for seizing their opportunity. No, it’s the public and the leaders that I’m most disgusted by.

The ones that look from afar at the lone family man, formerly a shop owner but now the owner of a pile of rubble, formerly a father, but now surrounded by burning bodies, and say “We feel your pain—which is why we continue to encourage the riot! (Look at our virtue!)”

And all the while the pandemic rages in the background.

— § —

The US as we knew it is dead.

It may in fact be dead in any form at all within a week. Perhaps even less.

Maybe we’ll get lucky.

— § —

It’s all fun and games and ego until it’s your life.

The thing that makes me sickest of all is that I was once one of these people, and I trained god knows how many of them to be exactly this. There is a special place in hell for me.

But at least I have the solace of being able to see that now.

The comfy middle class whites cheering on the riots and destruction to fill the hole left by the baby that never emerged from their once fertile loins will not be eaten by the revolution for a while.

But when they are, it will be a rude awakening.