Leapdragon 2016 - Aron Hsiao Was Here

Monthly Archives: February 2017

The thing is:  §

Here’s the thing.

We haven’t made as much “progress” as people on the left think that we have, in terms of culture. Whatever you think of left values, they are dominant now not because they have dispersed and been genuinely adopted by the population, but through the strategic exercise of power in social networks.

In short, people that aren’t on the progressive left haven’t been persuaded at all; they’ve merely been silenced by being shown that there are significant, unavoidable penalties to speaking their minds or acting according to their beliefs.

This is a dangerous state of affairs.

  • The cultural status quo (i.e. the empowered) complacently believe that progress has been made, while in fact a reservoir of anti-progress lurks beneath the surface.
  • Silence is not the same thing as acceptance, and it embodies a great deal of kinetic energy waiting to be released.
  • When it is released, the pendulum will swing significantly in the other direction; there are—people will believe—wrongs to finally be righted. And contrary to what the left imagines, Trump is not the release of this energy. Trump is a small pressure valve. When this energy is released, there will be zero question and zero time for discussion.

The totalitarian left is making the cultural mistakes of the past all over again.

Untitled  §

The next car, I’ve decided, is going to be a Volvo 740 wagon. I’m not too concerned about the year so long as it has low mileage (less than 100k miles) and the interior is in good condition.

Unless they’re $20k by the time I replace the current car, in which case I’m just going to be sad and the have to figure something else out.

Really, I was satisfied enough with my 740 that I’d be happy to own these things for the rest of my life.

— § —

Days are flying by. I’m about to turn 41. It was about ten minutes ago that I was consoling myself with the fact that at least I was turning 40 and not 41.

Rather short-sighted way to rationalize, I suppose.

The kids are growing. The seasons are changing. Everything is racing. Life is short.

Meanwhile, you go to work each day, not becuase it makes any eternal, metaphysical sense, but because that is what you do and no other options have been made available to you.

— § —

© Aron Hsiao / 2017

I had been in this long period of “I hate divers and watches with bezels” and was getting more and more “dress” in my watch preferences.

Then, all of a sudden, I flip-flopped, and now I’m absolutely in love with my light-dial Mako XL with the black bezel and brown leather strap again.

There’s something so… impenetrable and elemental about it. The whole thing is external, exterior; whereas on my other watches, the space below the crystal feels like a kind of interior, no such thing is true for the Mako XL. The interior is hidden from view.

And with the brown leather, it feels very old-fashioned and very outdoorsy.

Part of the lure of these things is that they become metonymies for daydreams that will never be realized. I will likely never live inside a Norman Rockwell painting or near the idealized new-England-country-road-in-fall-in-my-mind, but with the right wristwatch, I can carry a little bit of that sensibility with me.

It’s a kind of denial and a kind of escapism joined into one.

— § —

I don’t want it to be Monday again.

Every weekend, I start out with the intention to finally make progress on something that matters, to finally do something of importance in relation to life goals.

Then, by Sunday night, I am in a pitched battle with myself just to do a few basics—dishes, laundry, and so on—that by then I odn’t want to do.

Nothing of import ever gets done. This remains a departure and an inversion relative to most of my life, and it bothers me.

— § —

Medical school or law school?

Am I crazy even to think about it?

— § —

Songs from Bowie’s “Scary Monsters and Super Creeps” have been suddenly going through my head all day for the first time in many years. I don’t know what that’s about, but there it is.

Mortality and durable goods and dogs.  §

It seems to me that many aspects of consumerism are ways of fighting mortality. Collecting and hoarding certainly are, but I suspect the same of fashion and home decor as well.

© Aron Hsiao / 2003

It’s all just monument-building in one way or another, ways of fighting against time and against entropy.

The society that refuses to believe in mortality, even for a moment, is not a healthy or well-integrated society.

You can say “everything dies” until you’re blue in the face, but nobody in this society is going to accept that. The answer will always be, “well, not the expensive, high-quality things,” or it will be “that’s why you get another one before the first one runs out of time.”

We can’t accept things as they are, we can’t accept time as it is, we can’t accept life as it is, we can’t accept ourselves as we are.

We don’t ever get around to living because we are busy trying to shore up our monuments and stop time first. Once that job is done, we’ll turn and focus on whatever else might be in play in existence.

— § —

Sometimes I don’t blog because it starts to feel like a way of not doing things.

Then, I stop.

But I don’t do things instead, then I just… don’t blog. I’m not doing more as a result, I’m doing one thing still less.

— § —

I will try to do some car repairs and maintenance tomorrow. I’ve acquired a hydraulic floor jack, jack stands, and a yet more tools.

I’m nervous. I’m nervous because car repair is one of those nuts I’ve tried to crack my entire life, but I’ve never managed to make any significant headway, and I’ve fucked up expensively on multiple occasions.

But now is as good a time as any. I can’t afford to buy a new car, but I can’t afford to fix the one I’ve got by going the mechanic route.

If I do have to buy, I’m going back to the old Volvo bricks. They were far easier to fix, and far more reliable. Yes, Toyotas are reliable, too, but they’re far too small to be useful. I need legroom and dog room and so on.

— § —

© Aron Hsiao / 2007

Speaking of, I am actively looking for another dog. I’ve decided that despite some nagging worries, another pit or pit mix is the way to go, starting from puppy. I understand the breed, I’m familiar with its quirks.

Plus, a similarly large breed with a similar temperament is more likely to be able to hold its own in a house that already has one 75-pound pit.

I don’t know how I’m going to afford this, but it needs to be done.

— § —

I hate the fact that time passes. I hate the fact that things change. I want to live the same day over and over and over again, like Groundhog Day.

Well, as long as it’s a reasonable day. I suppose I don’t want to live the same *bad* day over and over and over again.

But I am tired of each day being new. It doesn’t feel like an adventure, it feels like an imposition, or maybe like a betrayal.

That’s that mortality thing again.

Friday.  §

It’s like my mind shuts off entirely when the end of the day arrives, the flip of a switch.

Not an hour ago I was impatiently waiting for the moment when the kids would be asleep and all would be quiet because there was a fully-formed idea of some sort or other that I very much wanted to type out. I even had a photo mentally chosen—and thought that I could find it in the archive in a reasonable amount of time.

So here we are maybe fifty minutes later, and—nada. What was it? What was it all about? I have absolutely no idea. It’s like I’ve never had a thought in my life.

— § —

I both need and want a promotion at work. I have pressed a bit. I need to press more. I am beginning to become concerned.

— § —

Went to see “Alice in Wonderland” at the local theater company today. An original production. And, I am sad to say, not nearly as good as “Frog and Toad” just a few weeks ago.

In fact, not even in the same genre of thing.

But the kids loved it anyway. They love the theater. This makes me happy. As years recede from you, most of the contents of days, then months, then entire years disappears from memory. I barely remember anything from undergrad.

© Aron Hsiao / 2017

And yet from the images and fragments that remain, many of them are either films seen in the film department for credit, or theater performances attended for pleasure using my student discount.

— § —

Chaperoned a field trip yesterday that took place on the local university campus.

It was just bowling, and burgers afterward. Perfect for two young kids, who thought it was all quite amazing.

For me, it was torture. There were moments when I thought I would vomit. Being back on campus. Looking around at the students and their laptops and notebooks, seeing the tweedy professors standing on line to buy their salads. Bustle. Study.

That was my place and that was my calling. And I have lost hold of it. It is a rip in the fabric of space time, a not-right.

I am not a bitter person by nature. I leave that to my ex. Very, very few things make me bitter. But if there is anything in life, any moments on the calendar that threaten to leave hints of bitterness on my tongue, it’s those moments in which I’m reminded of the career sacrifices that I made for my marriage.

I had to come home and take a few deep breaths. Bitterness serves no one. What’s done is done. But the outcome—the way things are—is wrong. Was not meant to be. Will never be right. Is a miscarriage.

— § —

Tomorrow, we attend a magic show. In 41 years, I’ve never been to a live magic show. I’ve attended almost every other kind of event conceivable, paying and non-paying, but not a magic show.

The kids are excited.

— § —

The days are flying by. Time is short.

Spring.  §

Was out tonight doing some shopping for basics. Slowly. I do everything but work slowly these days. Digression. As I was saying—

I was out tonight doing some shopping. I had occasion to walk across some parking lots, to have my hair tousled by wind, etc. and so forth.

© Aron Hsiao / 2003

Point being: it smells like spring.

Winter is going to end.

— § —

Inside one store, it’s clearance time near the store entry, and garden time near the back and side.

Toys and indoor knickknacks? All red tags and disarray.

Then, yards away, rows and rows of pristine garden gnomes. Scaffolding from which wind chimes hang. Barbecue grills. Seeds and seeding kits for gardening.

— § —

Last year, I said that I was very happy for spring to come. Optimistic. Expansive.

It was all a blur. That past year did not exist.

And this year, I am not ready for spring to come.

I looked around in a kind of near-panic, something I never feel. Spring. Overwhelming, somehow. Unwanted.

— § —

The thing about spring is that spring is a liar. Spring is like a beautiful hooker in an overseas red-light district. She’ll make you forget about everything in the world, fill your ears with whispers of all kinds of exotic promise and escapism. Fragrant, wild, overpowering. Everything else fades—

—until it doesn’t.

Spring is a fraud; a fake. Fall and winter, they are honest. They tell it like it is. Home. Hearth. Dirt. Dust. Labor. Death. Time. Discomfort. Relief. Fall and winter are alive.

Spring is fucking with you, and because of spring’s particular charms, you don’t realize it until you suffer the crash.

— § —

I don’t know what I feel about summer.

— § —

Humanity seems a million miles away from me at times. All those other people—are they real? Hard to say. I’d have to get closer to investigate at all.

Shibboleths of various kinds.  §

My Crumpler bag had a lotion or some such spill in it on my trip to Victoria. I didn’t notice this until now. Some sort of viscous, sticky stuff with a “girl section” aroma has seeped through multiple layers and into multiple storage sections.

This is not the sort of thing that makes me happy. At all.

— § —

These days, people mistake vanity for personal properties. Here’s a sort of cheat sheet.

If you ever see someone claim to be hardcore, they lie. Hardcore people do not boast about being hardcore.

If you ever see someone claim to be resilient, they lie. Resilient people do not boast about being resilient.

If you ever see someone claim to be generous, they lie. Generous people do not boast about being generous.


— § —

Every now and then you have those stretches of time that sort of come to haunt you because they were so tough. Often this is about illness, sometimes it’s about other things, but the basic experience is the same. You feel, as you’re there, as if you’re down in a rather deep pit looking up longingly at the sky.

Time passes slowly. I feels as though it’s taking forever for things to get better. You tell yourself often that at some point, you’ll be past all of this and then, at length, it will even fade from memory entirely. It’s a mere blip on a life-path.

Get through it.

Then, when you do begin to climb out of the pit, you’ve been in it for long enough to be a bit mistrustful of your judgment and of reality. Is this really the end? Are things really getting better? Is it all just wishful thinking? Steel yourself for the worst but hope for the best!

And then, at some point, you realize that you’re out, that you can declare victory. And you do actually feel just a bit victorious for a few weeks afterward. And then, you’re past all of it. And then, at length, it does fade from memory entirely, unless it’s brought up by someone else or the memory is recalled by a sight or a scent or an encounter with an artifact.

More YouTube porn for thinking folk. The program is called IQSquared.
© intelligence2

And even then, you only can bring back fragmentary impressions, along with the general concept that “That was really a tough stretch.”

Forgetfulness is merciful in that way. Remembering the tough stretches in detail would be rather harrowing, yet you might feel compelled to remember them because of their apparent significance.

— § —

I found a British debate series on YouTube. I already forgot what it’s called, which is a shame because I watched like four of the 1.5-hour programs in a row today. They were brilliant.

I got there via Jonathan Haidt, who was on a bit of a panel with Nick Clegg to talk about Trump and Brexit and the parallels, differences, consequences, and lessons to be learned. Then one thing led to another…

When I get a moment, I need to track it down and add it to my regular playlist. I’m hoping there are many, many of them, and that they’ve had Camille Paglia on at least once.

— § —

Culture gaps.
I don’t know.
It’s a miracle we get any communicating done at all.

As I get older, I’m more and more open to the classic wisdom that people should stick to their own kind. I mean this not just nationally or ethnically, although that’s one interesting way to understand things, but also by age—the old with the old, the young with the young, etc.—and by gender—the men hang out with the men and the women hang out with the women, etc.

This diversity thing does not seem to me to provide many real benefits that we are actually able to capitalize on. It seems to be more a sentimental thing and a way for capitalism to generate additional revenue.

Not that I think that this should be codified into law or anything like that, God forbid. Just that I think that it was beneficial when the guys could go to the lodge every night, the women could go to the womens’ circle while the guys were at the lodge, the kids had kids clubs, and the seniors could play shuffleboard with the other seniors.

We seem to have idealized this bizarre model in which every neighborhood is made up of multiple nuclear families with multiple strongly held, never-assimilated-away ethnic and national identities, and in which each of these nuclear families consists of two middle-aged people, one of each gender, and two children one of each gender.

Looking at that design for a social fabric, it’s hard to see just what most of these people can have in common with one another, or how a community can build and sustain a healthy identity that acts as a cultural resource for everyone to draw on in the “toolkit” sense of culture.

It seems to me that there have to be some shared characteristics across multiple members of a community for social cohesion and solidarity to be possible.

There was a time…  §

…when people didn’t want to be cliché. I remember how young folks and twenty-somethings used to say this when I was coming up.

“So long as I don’t end up a cliché, you know.”

“I know, but I just don’t want to become a cliché.”

Funny how social media has made just the opposite impulse happen. Everyone is dying to be a cliché, and to show it off. They love memes made about them that encapsulate their entire emotional universe in two lines, and then they love to share them. They see them come down the pipe by the dozens and it delights them; then they pass them on, sure it will delight someone else.

The human cliché rules the day in the world of social media.

Music and stuff.  §

Last five tracks:

Amy Winehouse — Rehab
Black Keys — Little Black Submarines
White Stripes — Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground
The Strokes — Last Night
White Stripes — We’re Going to Be Friends

A word to the wise.  §

© Aron Hsiao / 2003

If anyone ever tells you, “I believe in my heart that I’m a good person,” or anything like that—run a mile.

That is not what good people say. That is what evil people say. Evil comes wrapped in all kinds of packages, some deceptively innocent-seeming, apparently-vulnerable, or earnest.

Do not be fooled. Anyone who out-and-out swears they’re a good person is not. Even if (let’s say especially if) they’re crying when they say it.

— § —

If you find yourself saying something like this, take a long, hard look in the mirror and change.

Realize that if you need to say it, it’s because in your heart what you actually know is that people doubt that you’re any good after watching your behavior, and that’s why you feel compelled to try to make the case directly.

You’re begging for a pardon for your sins.


Stop doing things for which you’re going to need such pardons and nothing else will need to be said.

The problem.  §

“Everywhere, people are awaiting a messiah, and the air is laden with the promises of large and small prophets… We all share the same fate: we carry within us more love, and above all more longing than today’s society is able to satisfy. We have all ripened for something, and there is no one to harvest the fruit.”

— Karl Mannheim

Saturday.  §

I have an awful lot of work to do but it’s a weekend and I’m struggling to get motivated to actually do it. Kids are still a bit sick and indoors, snow is melting, there are no movies in the theaters. It’s a kind of not-overly-unpleasant malaise weekend.

— § —

© Aron Hsiao / 2003

I type a lot slower than I used to. I think this is because I’m getting old. It’s not that I’m typing slower because my fingers are losing their ability to move quickly, but because the words and thoughts don’t come as quickly as they once did.

— § —

Car has, I think, a bad CV joint on the rear driveshaft. It’s loud and embarrassing. I need to have it fixed, but I hate—hate—spending money on cars. I miss the subway.

— § —

Need to do a partial water change in the aquarium.

Need to do some housecleaning.

Need to keyword a bunch of photos an upload a bunch of photos for keywording.

Need to get more sleep.

— § —

Costco hot roasters run $4.99. That’s less that I can get smaller, raw chicken for. I like the idea of cooking myself, but it’s a lot of work, and it’s often more expensive. I read an article somewhere the other day in which the author said, “if you cook yourself, with healthy, fresh ingredients, you can live far more cheaply.”

I found myself wondering just where it is they live, because here that’s not at all true. It’s hard to resist the temptation to buy two complete spaghetti and meatballs microwave meals for the kids for $0.80 on sale when a bag of uncooked pasta alone runs $1.99 or more. Then you have to buy the tomatoes, onions, ground meat, etc. and spend rather a lot of time cooking it all.

So far as I can see, it is astronomically less expensive to by pre-prepared food. So we end up going about 50/50. When I can afford the time and cash, I cook. When time or money are tight, it’s microwave meals.

— § —

No bicycle. I keep forgetting that my bicycle was stolen. That makes it a lot harder to do things like take a car to the mechanic, given the state of public transportation in this town.

— § —

This post has gone on long enough.

That’s gonna leave a mark.  §

“If you think free speech is assault but assault is free speech, you’re a moron of world-historical proportions.”

— Jonah Goldberg, in a perfect encapsulation of today’s left

Wow, David Frum.  §

“When liberals insist that only fascists will defend borders, then voters will hire fascists to do the job liberals won’t do. This weekend’s shameful chapter in the history of the United States is a reproach not only to Trump, although it is that too, but to the political culture that enabled him. Angela Merkel and Donald Trump may be temperamental opposites. They are also functional allies.”

This is just about the most concise diagnosis of our political moment in the west that I’ve yet seen. Wow.

I think the point can also be generalized beyond mere “borders.” When liberals insist that only fascists acknowledge the legitimacy of democratic publics, then said democratic publics will hire fascists in a final, feeble attempt to save democracy.

— § —

© Aron Hsiao / 2001

The problem with the liberal order and publics is that in their respective consciousnesses of wish-fulfillment, they came to believe that human reason and judicious habits of moderation gave us colonialism, slavery, genocide, global warming, nuclear war, and so on—rather than—as was actually the case—acting as checks on these things in an accelerating world.

And so liberals abandoned both reason and moderation as reactionary and regressive.

Now they are bewildered as they look around themselves and observe an emerging world unchecked by reason and moderation. They are still unable to come to the understanding of what has occurred, and believe that they must work even harder to stamp out both, for time is running out!

The forces formerly kept in check by reason and moderation, naturally, are only too happy to increasingly be free of them. Meanwhile, the liberals work harder and harder to stomp these out by the day, perplexed and apoplectic about the the fact that “despite” their stomping, new fires continue to emerge and old fires burn ever more brightly, rather than the opposite. They are convinced that these phenomena result from initiative on the part of fire itself, rather than resulting on the destruction of limits and preventative measures.

Oh yes, much of the nonliberal world comprises fascism. But the liberal world is a productive, if unwitting, ally of the fascists.

As Frum said, Trump and Merkel may be temperamentally different, but they are distinct and committed allies in the transformation that is occurring at the present.