Monthly Archives: June 2016

How about that?

How about that?

That needs to go. That’s no good.

I like this. And this. And also this.

I don’t like that. We don’t need that. We have this. That’s just extra.

What’s that for, anyway? What’s the difference, between that and this?

That is just opposition, in a word: not this.

This is better. This can do everything that can do.

I think we can just leave that unsaid.

Is everyone ok with this?

As a conjunction, that’s completely different. This can’t do that then.

I guess we could keep that, and get rid of this?

I like this, though. And this. And also this.

Epic Single Battle


I am scared of this topic. Not the topic of quantity — in a way the topic of quantity scares me — but I’m scared of the number one.

I wonder if that has a name. A wonderful name.

Let’s try this way:






I think it’s not one that scares me as much as one’s followers.

When one gets big enough it rolls over all opposition. Like tide.

See, imperfection is existence. So what is one?

It is pure chaos, in a sense—it is the point right next to the end; the very last one.



See, when you come face-to-face with one, you are either one or you’re not. I mean “You’re not.” Not “You’re not one;” “ You’re not.” You’re either one, or you are not.

At this point I’d like to invent a pronoun that means the lack of a pronoun, real or implied.

So you are either one, or you’re not (glish).


Hi, one. I’d like to be (giish). I’d like to be (glish) and also not be one (glish) (please). I’d like to ask if that’s ok with you, but it doesn’t actually matter a lot or at all. If you’re one, you’re preference has no bearing on whether I can not be one and still be. (Glish).

For if I am, you will no longer be one (glish). There will be two. At least.

So, unreasonable one! It had to be either you or me, or both of us— as one.

Guess who won?


One is like a swing. No, one is not like a swing. One is, though, like a swing.

A child on a swing on a swingset moves back and forth, over and over. Inside the overall motion though, is other motion: legs go out, or knees bend, or the whole thing twists from side to side. The motion-in-motion changes the path of the overall motion, making it faster or slower or crooked, but not by much, because the child never touches the ground.

Without a reference point, without touching the ground, the motion-in-motion can’t really do anything. It is more than self-correcting: it is nothing. If you took away the back and forth motion, one is like this. Because it is one, every problem it fixes it must also either have created or be about to create. Which annoyed the heck out of me. “Quit poking into things, one!” I said. “You’re wearing me out for nothing. You’ll fix something, then break something bigger, and on and on and worse, until you settle down.”

Explaining this to one, that was how I defeated it. And wiped the sweat from my brow in relief, because the only logical state for an omnipotent being is at rest.

“Just be.” (i said that too)

Bound in Paradise


Dear Diary,

It has been two years now that I’ve been here in the tropics. Still no one has found out that I am an Aleutian Islander. I don’t see any reason why they ever will, as I have learned to wear the floral print, and to say ‘mon.’

one month later

Dear Diary,

Today they found out Mattimar is from Saskatchewan. I was part of the group that went door-to-door to tell everyone, although we pretended we were being nice and said instead that we had caught him stealing. Someone produced some receipts he had forged, and there was talk of burning his hut.  Of course his massage therapy license was revoked.

It was also Nancy’s birthday.

We all forge receipts. There is no other way to do business, here.

one month later

Dear Diary,

It is November. I saw myself in a mirror today and didn’t recognize the man saw. I think my face might be shrinking. Somehow it occupies less real estate on my skull.

There’s an ex-pat bar on the other side of the island. I heard a group of four from Ontario was there last night. How I miss news from home. Or Ontario. But of course I dare not visit.

one week later

Dear Diary,

I have a plan. I  have collected all of the forged receipts and burned them. I told Nancy I was roasting a pig.

one day later

Dear Diary,

I found Mattimar; he seems ok. Tomorrow we’re going to the magistrate. My status as a native and the absence of evidence should be enough to have his license reinstated.


Perhaps a year from now I’ll be growing my hair out again.


…because how are you going to stop a whole bunch of people by yourself…



There are a lot of clothes in my closet I can’t wear in public, for the sake of people who know me well. I keep them though. Now and then I give a piece away, to a stranger, hoping to start a trend. One of these days.



Brain computer interface: True, I Never Could Wiggle My Own Ears, Myself

I admit I live under a rock. Maybe this might explain why. But stop me if you’ve heard this one.

You can buy one of these for $65. Go ahead, watch as much as you like! It’s real–I can’t make it go away.

2012 was a big year for brain-computer-interface. I thought you should know that you can buy yourself an EEG headband (also about $65), download this API* (I really LOVE the name), and write your own brain-reading software applications probably more easily than you can access the spell-check dictionary on your personal laptop.

I would suggest you do this, before someone else does. I mean, you knew about this already, right?

Here’s some other fun old research you probably already know about too. Scientists can control your moral character with magnets!

That’s the computer-brain interface, I guess. You might want to get one of these, so that you can cognitively disable the people around you whenever they look like they might criticize your computer programs:


Great instructional video on TMS

Scientists have found that they can use this technology to make people playing a video game turn right when they fully intend to turn left.* I was going to a install a few along my commute, to steer people away from turning left at congested intersections.

I guess I could skip all that and just use the satellite system somehow. The video says TMS can be pretty painful, but so can sitting in traffic while you learn how to make a left turn be!

I admit, living under a rock as I do, I am so often frustrated by the lack of ways to control my computer. Think of how the world could be improved, if only I could play video games hands-free. And clearly there’s no downside.

I also have trouble knowing what I’m thinking, so I’m glad researchers at Berkeley** have been working on reading and generating thoughts via computers. Or is it just reading? Is reading good and generating bad or something? Who cares? I didn’t read anything about any of that. Anyway, they have a big dictionary of thoughts-in-the-form-of-radio-signals.

I wonder if they’ve bombarded any volunteers with computer-generated frequencies of this kind? What would that be like? Would you would suddenly drop in intelligence? Would your thought vocabulary shrink to 40-50 recurring concepts of disgusting shallowness? Although you weren’t a visual thinker previously, would you find your thoughts limited to those you could picture, and perhaps even wonder if your brain had been swapped with that of an animal, because you could not execute any higher-level thinking, no matter how hard you tried?

Would you find that what used to be a thought now appeared as picture of a word in black text on a white background? Or that you could never think of more than a single word? Would it be the case that perhaps just because of poor aim, other parts of your brain that scientists have little or no understanding of would be ‘hijacked,’ making it difficult to move your body? Would your emotional palette would be reduced to 7 simple colors, to which you would add ’embarrassment’?

And not mean yours?

Would each of these colors would be so cheap, garish, and obvious that they would actually be perceived as physical pain for a long time before you were able to ascertain what they were supposed to be? Pass the Mountain Dew.

I said, pass the frickin’ Mountain Dew right now. I want to play video games.

Just speculating.

brain to brain

It’s the ultimate LAN party!

Seems incredibly useful. And totally safe! I can’t think of any government in the world that would be interested funding research into such a technology though. Oh well.

Do me a favor, would you, and figure out how this stuff works, so we can figure out how to make it not work? I’m just trying to catch up here.


*<link broken oh nooo!> 

Writing Un-rightable Wrongs

I love you so freaking much.
I don’t care that you are married.
I would tattoo “I love you ______,” all over my face if I didn’t think it would make you find me less attractive.
I mean, you’re not religious, right? Neither am I. So marriage isn’t that big of deal. Not compared to the way I feel about you, and what our life could be like together. And I wouldn’t say any of this if I thought you were happy. But you’re not. Half the lights in your face are turned off.
I have those lights.
And money, lots.
And the kind of burning, unquenchable desire to make you happy that only years of torturous hindsight can create. I was wrong. I was wrong. I was wrong wrong wrong wrong wrong wrong wrong wrong WRONG. Very very wrong.
I’m lying at your feet, here, a different man. Not having you in my life has taught me everything I ever needed to know about being with you. Very different. I freaking swear. I would say ‘completely different,’ but I’m the same in all the ways you liked.
So please, give me another chance. Soon, before you have children. At least consider it. He’ll be fine. I’ll make sure he’s fine. I’ll hire people to make sure he’s fine.
Yours truly.
cc: Sandra, if this works can you photocopy it? Probably someone else could use it too.


Submission (Don the Gloves of Logic and See If You Can Pick Up Christianity Part 4.75)


I think everyone would…wow. The stigma around this word is enormous. I was going to say that I think everyone would benefit from submitting more, and even I had to stop myself, and I’m alone in my car.

And where did this stigma come from, exactly? If Dana Carvey was here, in the car with me, we could go so Church Lady on this. What have you done to submission, Satan? What have you been up to? How have you perverted God’s beautiful gift of guidance?

But he’s not, and I messed that up. Satan is supposed to come at the end.

How wonderful, how powerful is it, to have decisions that you just don’t need to make—at all— because you are just going to do what you are told.

Ok, let me tell you two things about submission that you should know if you are actually going to try this, and I’ve already touched on both of them. One, a system based on submission doesn’t work unless the selection process if huge. If you think of the amount of decision-making effort you are going to save in the future by not having to make those decisions, some portion of that effort you have put out up front to select what will be making decisions for you later. Not as much, but some portion of that work must be done, if you it to be good. This is just information theory. The information that represents your best interests has to get into that system somehow.

Two, when you submit, really submit. All of us who know how to manage from below know that it is a powerful place to be, and you can do a lot of manipulating from down there. That can get dirty. It’s up to the individuals involved work this out in a way that works for them.

There’s a sentence I love so much…. how does it go? Let me try to remember. “I will do this, but my preference would be to do otherwise.” Oh yes. You can even add “of course”! Oh yes.

Think about this: if dating were different, if dating meant that anyone you went out with would get to make 40 or even 20 percent of your decisions for you, would you have gone out with ANY of the people you actually did? How differently would you choose, if you were looking for more than just someone to put in your house? Men aren’t furniture!

It’s like this, I made this decision a while back, and I think it might be a good idea for everybody. I decided never to have sex with someone who couldn’t brush my hair.

If you are too embarrassed to ask a potential sex partner to brush your hair, then how could you … I’ll let you finish that sentence.

If you do ask them, and they can’t— they tear it all out or give up— then what have we learned?

And if you wouldn’t trust them to even try … then what are you doing? There ought to be a female union.

min 19

three from behind, three from the exit,

min 20, the guy in the left lane brakes

I swear it is distinctly possible these folks drive in formations.

min 21 they are still in a bunch. regular people would have spread out.

the right side of the simultaneous lane change is hard to see in the video: there were two turn signals pointing at each other.

min 34-35 this guy speeds way up to pass me, then switch to the far right lane where he slows down and drives parallel to the guy in front of me

min 40: two cars are driving one behind the other on the right as I come up over the hill. One pulls into my lane (the middle) and then slows down to match the speed of the car in the right lane, effectively blocking my way. I had to brake to avoid hitting him, then when I go to pass, he accelerates.

min 41: a line of four cars shows up from behind. one is a police SUV.

min 42: a minivan, I think from the original pair at min 34, that must have been riding in my blind spot (I can’t see him in the rearview), gives me a near side-swipe as he exits.

Carpooling is great, but that means in one car. A group of cars is not good, outside of a parade.

I like to keep a good 1/4 mile between my car and any other cars on the road.

Editing is going to be necessary. I think it takes me 20 min to come to my point

New Morals (Don the Gloves of Logic and See if You Can Pick Up Christianity Part 4.5)

I wrote an article — still eating— I wrote an article about the word appropriate. I think I  Whmight have also written about the word moral.   Was it moral? It wasn’t ethical. I don’t like ethical. Ethical is a puzzle it’s a math problem. Is it ethical or is it not ethical. Moral is personal decision. Everybody makes it differently and probably should. It’s not something that were all going to agree on anytime soon, at least, I feel confident saying that. It’s your own code, that you put together from everything else, everybody else’s code, and your own experience.

I don’t know, I don’t think you really get morals from experience; I think you have to get them from someone. You can’t create them. Has anybody created a moral, a moral precept? Are there new morals?

If anyone says the word netiquette, I will verbally <something> them. I’m trying to write here.

Do we have new morals? People say morals change, but are there new ones?

I can think of dozen to add, that would make no sense to…but I don’t, I .. so yes! I have. I win. That was a good cupcake too.

<rolls down window> I may have invented some morals. <window back up> That’s a fun thing to discover about yourself at one o’clock in the morning.

And still, I’m going to meet people who are so much better than me, and say, Oh wow, wow, wow look at that, that’s STIFF.

No one is moving that. Where other people have backbone, you have two-inch thick I Beam, that makes a lot of sense. I mean, I get pretty excited whenever I see people do things that work well that I wouldn’t have done. So even if morals and adding to your morals isn’t your thing, like it is mine, I think people could all get excited about that. “What did you just do? I wouldn’t, I mean, I never, I, I mean—and it worked.

“So let’s do it your way. Even if I’m not sure, next time, what your way is. I’m just going to decide…in advance…that we’re going to try your way first. Because I’m picking up on the fact that you’ve gotten something in there….that I, I haven’t had before. And I mean, curiosity alone ought to be enough— to make that worth trying out.”

So what do you call that? For once in my life I know the word that I am going to say next, before anyone who is reading might.

And how strange to have this life, to have written articles in defense of the word appropriate; to write an article in defense of the word “moral”; and now, to write an article in defense of the word

In this blog, I make excuses for people

Joel Zwibel, 43, of West View replaces the historic flag with the Bennington Flag at Flag Plaza, Uptown, Monday, February 20, 2012.  There is a different historic flag flown for every day of the month.  (Jasmine Goldband  |  Tribune-Review) (JLG Flag0226.jpg:, goes with Craig Smith story).

Joel Zwibel, 43, of West View replaces the historic flag with the Bennington Flag at Flag Plaza, Uptown, Monday, February 20, 2012. There is a different historic flag flown for every day of the month. (Jasmine Goldband | Tribune-Review) I GUESS THE CAMERAMAN DIDN’T THINK TO HELP
(JLG Flag0226.jpg:, goes with Craig Smith story).

It’s hard to reconcile different kinds of thought within ourselves. The world requires very different things from us and its amazing the way we bring them together. Even just to house them sometimes is not an easy thing.

You think all day with a machine as your audience, it’s hard to switch over to the people at night.

What is it that makes us brave? An example of someone else’s bravery? Trust that that outcome will be ok? We don’t need bravery if we have that.

I don’t know : if I had to guess, I’d guess that it’s determination, that word a shorthand for “certainty that you are right.” The more sure you are right that you are, the braver you will be.

There’s a corollary I guess, that if you show someone a kindness, they’re more likely to open up to you.


PHOTO FROM; I left it small on purpose; you’re going to have to zoom in if you want to see more.

I’ve always liked it when people carry me aloft and free.

Looking Up (Don the Gloves of Logic and See if you can Pick Up Christianity Part 4)

Don the Gloves of Logic and See if you can Pick Up Christianity – Part 4

Looking Up

I wanted to write about what happens when you meet another person who is more moral than you. I have a theory that everybody loves this, that everybody gets a thrill out of it; a kick is maybe the better word.

A kick out of meeting someone who, you’re not sure why—you might or might not know the reason—but you can tell that somehow, on some level, they are made of stronger stuff, at least in some places.

This has happened to me countless times in my life, and I’ve managed to learn something from some of them. But I’ve always enjoyed it; I get such a kick out of it.

There’s a phrase that we say to each other every day, without thinking about what it actually means: how are you. And this is what I wonder, whenever I meet one of these people. How are you? How did you get to be this?

Can I be that?

Can I be it too? I mean, that’s what I say, to myself.


It’s almost like: “What do you have in there? Is that—where’d you get that? Can I have a, like maybe a little, can I have just a little bit? Because it looks like it’s good. I mean, I haven’t ever had it before—but it *looks* good.”

When you encounter someone who is more moral than you, how do you know that they are? You see them not doing things that you do, or doing things that you don’t.

So when you meet someone who is more moral than you, you see that you are wrong, by some standard. There is no other way to know that they are more moral than you.

But you also see that there is way to be right by that same standard, because here’s someone who’s doing it. And so what do we do? What do we do, when we’re wrong? I know what I like to do.


I like to lie down.

Not, like on a bed.

In my head.


If you picture the force of that moral code, of that other person’s standards, which must be in some part your standards too—otherwise you kindof wouldn’t notice, right?— when you see that force come at you, like a tidal wave; you can let it knock you down. You can stand there, defiant—or maybe just numb—and let it knock you down, and then, well, you know, you’re going to feel some pain, because you’re wrong.

You can try to fight it. It came up in some other things I was writing this week, actually my life, not other things I was writing: but people wrong you, and sometimes they even get mad at you afterwards. All by themselves. No extra help. This makes perfect logical sense. We don’t want to hurt someone who themselves didn’t do anything wrong, so we’ll invent something that they did do wrong.

So that’s that reasoning. I wouldn’t hurt a good person, but I might strike out in self-defense. And if I did mess up and hurt a good person, well, then, by a certain emotional logic, I should try to re-invent the person I hurt as someone who hurt me. And that balances out my misdeed, my mistake, in some sense. People do that; that’s why they yell at you. Certain people. Other people are just nasty because they’ve been hurt, so they feel entitled to be mean, because other people have been mean to them. Hookers aren’t nice, for instance. You rarely meet a hooker who’s friendly.

Back to topic. This might be an unusual thing to enjoy, and I’m not sure I can say I enjoy it, always, but you know, when someone comes at you with an accusation, even if it’s the form of their life, I think the best thing I’ve found to do as far as the payoff is to lie down and … kindof let it pummel you? I find this the least painful route. Because from underneath, I don’t know—I like being underneath. I’ve always liked it.

Underneath the right thing, obviously. You don’t want to be underneath the wrong thing. That’s no fun at all. But it feels really good to be underneath the right thing. You say, ok, I checked this out, I used my brain before I got under here. It seems well-reasoned and I think SOMEHOW BETTER THAN ME. Not in every way, sure, but in some way, definitely better than me. So I’ll just get under here now.


Because that’s when it gets really interesting actually; once you are underneath that accusation, it is not easy to stay there. Oh boy it isn’t. Because you are going to want to protest; you are going to want to try to stand back up. It takes a lot of willpower not to. You don’t give that reason; you don’t give that excuse; you don’t argue; you lie down. Now if they’re WRONG, and you’e RIGHT, all you have to do is WAIT.

Or maybe I should say, all you get to do is wait.

It can’t be the case that you are going to have to wait forever, however. Just keep track of what that wave is bringing—maybe halfway through you figure out that it’s wrong—find a good place, where it subsides a little; and pull out. Your list of how wrong it is.


But that is not what I am trying to talk about here; that’s a completely separate thing. I’m trying to talk about when it’s right. This person really is better than you. And you see them, standing tall in front of you, their head maybe blocking out the sun a little, and you see that where they’ve gone left, you went right.

It hurts for a second; maybe more than one. But it doesn’t have to. *Why* did you go right? It’s not that important at that moment, is it? *Will* you go left or right next time?—that’s more important. But even that isn’t quite it.


I think it doesn’t hurt, I think the way you learn not to feel the pain of being wrong is that you line yourself up with what is right, as fast as possible. I like to picture myself underneath a nice big garden planter, maybe with a small but not exactly tiny cedar tree in it. Between such a planter and a teak deck, perhaps. You go ahead; you be a tree; I like it down here.

People are sometimes blown away when I try to do this. They expect something else from me, I guess. I don’t know. Why should I know. Maybe they want me to sit at the patio table instead.

I’m hesitating to come to my point here because I’m not sure what’s right and wrong. I don’t want to write anything that I can’t even convince myself is true.

Do we really need other people to show us how to be? I’m pretty sure it’s a good idea to learn from other people.

In that case, what’s ok and what’s not, in terms of their showing us? That varies a lot from person to person, and I may have been desensitized to some things that really aren’t ok in terms of letting someone know that they are wrong. So I want to be careful not to advocate things that are unhealthy, just because I have been through some unhealthy things.

It would be one thing if I had a mechanism for handing an accusatory onslaught that most people don’t have, and just wouldn’t get a chance to apply. That really wouldn’t do much damage.

I wish, this was supposed to be a fun blog—it started out that way—about how nice it is to meet someone more moral than you, because you can learn so much from them. And there is a way to arrange yourself in relationship to that other person that makes that learning process very easy. But.

On the other hand, if I have accumulated some kind of junk, some conceptual junk from experiencing the wrong kind of moral adjustment, it would be a terrible thing to pass that conceptual junk on.

Let me try a different tact, after eating this cupcake.


Comedy’s Work

An american alligator

An american alligator: this pic better look better in the actual post.


I should point out that the two cars that took off from the stoplight much faster than I did will not get to where we are going, which is the next stoplight, faster than I will, but they will use much more gas.

Let me talk a little about laughter: namely what it’s for, what it does, and maybe this time I’ll be able to figure out how; laughter being an incredibly old thing, that like so many things that are so old feels magical; that like so many things that are so old is incredibly powerful–so powerful, in fact, that I am sure that my investigating it and explicating it will not diminish its magic for me in the least.

As a side note there is something I refer to, and I hope you don’t find the name too comical, as the Law of the Forest. It’s something I can’t decide if I should talk about or not, which adds it to a long list of things that are incredibly interesting but perhaps not a good idea for anyone else but me to know my thoughts about.

I think it might be useful to divide laughter into two kinds. I frequently find myself laughing out of sheer joy. There’s no joke; there is no irony; there is simply an arrangement of circumstance that is so pleasing that I am overwhelmed. Taken aback. I suppose because I find it unlikely. And at times like this, laughter spouts out of me. It bubbles up from somewhere in the middle of my spine, curves an arc through the top of my skull, and is a wonderful thing, as it always is, no matter what kind.

I suppose if you wanted to be rigorous you could say such laughter in me only occurs because of the contrast of a situation like that with other situations. But I’m not sure. I don’t know how rigorous that is actually. Good is good. Good does not need bad to be to good. (Good might want bad to be good though.)

I feel pretty confident saying that everyone, each driver in each car on the highway in front of me has had the experience of being mentally knocked down by the beauty of some small thing. It’s funny how unconscious such an experience is. Unintended, non-deliberate. Unexpected, not exactly uncontrollable, but not the kind of thing that you can make happen: rather the kind of thing that happens to you.

And I am also fairly confident that if each of these drivers were to recall such a moment, where the just immeasurable beauty of some small thing stood out to them, however, briefly, they would understand that it required no negative experience to create that experience. And so based on this, what I guess is my own philosophy, I will say that there is laughter that is pure, and joy that is pure. Without side effects. Without negative consequences, or causes.

But more frequently laughter is a singularity (in the mathematical sense of the term– is there another?). A discontinuity. A place where one thing becomes another, in a space we cannot measure. I wonder if as you read this you are beginning to see how much chaos is in an idea like that, and it is more than an idea. It is a real thing, that we do everyday.

And beginning to understand that when you fold that much chaos up into a few seconds of weird noise, you are in fact dealing with something incredibly powerful. And, I don’t want to say strange, but different.

It is alchemy.

I remember being a teenager, writing a few letters on paper, maybe two, maybe one and a number: 1 over x. I don’t know if it was the teacher who was so good or just the fact of it. I had never seen anything like 1 over x before. The leap forward that my mind took to know that such a thing existed was huge. “I have encompassed the world! All of the good in it! All of the bad in it! With three marks on my paper? The largest possible thing I can imagine and the smallest? Somehow– in inversion?– I’ve covered everything with three marks on my paper?!”

That Is EASY! That is what I mean by easy. We do not have to march, and trudge, and chip our way through granite: we just have to twist. And the big problems become small. Progress can suddenly be made. And if what was so large rises again into difficulty, simply twist again.

So the second kind of laughter: someone wrote it in a book that we only laugh because things are terrible. They were halfway there. We laugh in the differential space between the terrible and the wonderful: not the big gaping space that defines them, but another one–a space that I’m not sure without laughter we’d know exists.

There’s nothing wrong with that long path that connects these extremes, but there is also this short path, that finds the infinite good by heading towards the infinite bad–like wormhole.

Have I been quite plain? Have I said my point here directly?
That we laugh at things because we can see how the terrible lines up with the wonderful when just a pinch of absurdity is added, that coincidence becomes clear.

I’m thinking of children’s jokes: what do you call an alligator in a vest? It’s a play on words, right? The answer will be close to the words in the question. But the idea of an alligator in a vest is a little bit absurd.

So in a kid’s joke like that, you can see without any horror having to be part of it, this near-alignment.

The answer is “An investigator!”

And if you want to observe yourself, as an experiment, you’ll probably find that your emotional response to such a joke is a very innocent kind of horror: this little wormhole of coincidence taking you from the space of innocent childhood jokes, and games and thought–to somewhere not quite as nice? You feel wronged, somehow, after hearing a joke like that. Very quickly, just for a second, it took you on a trip from a good one to a bad one, and you didn’t mind–much, maybe? The bad one almost isn’t real, but we feel it, and we groan.

I’ve ruined the word alligator for you. I’ve created a little path, in your brain, from an alligator to an alligator in a vest, and from an alligator in a vest to an investigator. That’s probably not a path you knew you wanted, but there’s not much you can do about it now. It’s there, and it will stay. And I’m sorry–almost–because you might have had some different–I mean, you can say better– associations with those words before, that are now going to have to take a backseat sometimes, to mine.

Side note: jokes don’t work when they are not true. if I told you an alligator in a vest was a Copernicus, it doesn’t have quite the same effect. In this case, you are more likely to feel pity for me than to groan. And I understand. I’ve failed to make that connection.

It’s like what happens when I try to shoot a rubber band at anything. It just falls off and lands in my lap. I’ve never been good at that: someone even showed me how you can put it on your pinky and wrap it around your thumb to your pinky, but still, it has no effect; it’s just going to fall off my hand and into my lap. And

So this should be enough said, right?I’ve been so direct. The case of adult humor should be obvious: which is beautiful; which is a wonderful thing, because your surely your explanation of it to yourself will be much better than my words. Surely what you’ll take away from the idea when you root it in your own experience and shake it around a little bit will be so much more than my lecturing.

Why is it important that we laugh? It is not for our emotional well-being.

It is not to maintain our mood.

It is not to release a chemical in our brain.

We have to remember that thought is real. I’ve said it many times: how we think, our thought, is our actions. So it is real, and it is very important. We dismiss it–we think it is involuntary, to think! We think we only do. But we do, because we thought first, whether we noticed we were or not.

All of the problems of the physical world are problems of thinking. Some thought is their solution, and in some cases also their cause.

And so when we laugh, at the horrific, we are solving a problem, directly, in perhaps the most rapid and effective way that anyone could. And we do find–going back to supporting my thesis–evidence that I hope you’ll make for me: that the problem we laugh at is concretely smaller afterwards; that we problems we don’t are not.

There is infinite inspiration in that graph between the bottom of the graph and the top of it. ALL of the ideas are there. All of the solutions that seem unreachable when you are hovering somewhere around the x-axis are in that gap. When you thread your needle with some wit, or childishness, and make that connection, although you might land quickly back down where you started, or almost, YOU NEVER COME AWAY EMPTY HANDED. That lateral left turn your thinking needed might suddenly be visible there.

You know, I did a lot of work on my house. I stained and varnished things; I patch drywall that wasn’t actually drywall; I contorted myself into strange shapes so that I could reach things in corners under the eaves; I blew up some plumbing.

I worked on it, non-stop, when I wasn’t working for money, for two years straight. So much of my thinking during that time was trying to figure out how to fix that house: what’s first, what’s sec on, what’s most efficient; what labor is involved, what supplies to I need; can I fold these trips to Home Depot together into fewer, etc.

The best way I think I can describe it is that I just crouched under the labor of it all, smashed almost by it. It’s a big house. And I tried to console myself, one room at a time: “If I keep going, I have to finish.” Which works, as long as nothing new breaks.

But there were maybe half a dozen times in those two years where I would wake up early in the morning and while drinking my coffee realize that something, some big task I was preparing for didn’t need completing at all. “It’s fine as it is! People like looking at a ceiling that looks like that!” “Having a hole there is interesting,” and “I can always run an extension cord if I need to plug something in.”

These are the best kind of repairs: the ones you never do. Because you don’t need to. And there’s something hysterical about them all. “No one will ever look there.”

Now there were man more times although not enough if you really want to be a perfectionist–but there were many more times when I would wake up early in the morning and realize that whatever it was that I was dreading working on that day didn’t need to be done–yet. It would need to be done, but there would be a time in the future when doing it would be more appropriate and much much easier. Perhaps even so easy as someone else doing it.

These are also good repairs. Not quite as funny. But still good. I bring this up to bathe for a moment in the sensation of being finished with that house. Although I miss having no floor, and a toilet in the kitchen.* But also as an example of the two kinds of paths I have been talking about here: the hard way and the easy way you could call them, although I don’t like those names. Because sometimes the hard way is the right way, which makes it easy.

I really want people to have this easier way, that comes from understanding. It brings so much joy with it. So I go over it again and again and maybe I will even go over it more. It was not an easy thing–well, actually it was–I was going to say that it was not an easy thing to add to my life, but it was, no joke.

It’s just not always easy to remember that it is there.

I just missed my exit. The GPS doesn’t seem to care. It’s showing that I am not where I am supposed to be, but not saying anything about the fact that I’m not, particularly not anything that would help me levitate over the jersey wall between where I am and where I should be.


*It wasn’t connected.


It took me way too long in my estimation to learn that what sad people need is to be made fun of.

Around the same time I first saw 1 over x I think someone tried to make me read war literature. I hated it, I didn’t get it. Why were we talking about people dying in mud. Not til much later did I understand that increasing the number of minds that contained this image was a real and effective way to decrease the number of bodies that would experience it.




What to Do When Someone Offers to Teach You How To Have Sex

Before I begin, I want you to know that I like Fennel Seeds, and she is in every respect a fantastic person as far as I am concerned. I’m pretty sure she knows this about me.

When the rubber meets the road, that’s one thing.
When you meet the road without rubber, then you can see what the road might not even have known.

I want, as I did yesterday, to posit the existence of a group. Of doers.

Strange is how complete my uncertainty is regarding the likelihood of your having knowledge of this group. They seem quite large.

They are quite young. This group, it seems at times, is comprised almost exclusively of people between 18 and 25. But this is only what is seems like. Like a sea anemone, or someone who forgot they had buttocks, perhaps this group has parts that are quite unknown to themselves. There could be families in it, with young children, who as a group go searching for things in the night–things, I say, because I don’t know what they are searching for; not exits, but maybe things that lead to them. They do the searching, the living and the dying. And there are organizers, the demographic characteristics of which I could only guess. They do the organizing.

My hunch is that this group is not a new one, but rather old. Maybe in a different incarnation, it may have been around for 60 years or more.

Usually an idea that re-occurs on its own is a good one, but that principle doesn’t apply here; this idea perhaps has never had the chance to re-occur, but instead been passed on quite impressively over time, however long. So not a good one, but a strong one. And not exactly a dumb one.


Any idea or belief system that doesn’t allow questions does so for only one reason: it knows that it is wrong, and that questions will reveal this. This gets tricky though, when an idea or belief system figures out how to forbid questions without even saying they don’t. This is like the coup de grace of subverting reasoning. The filet mignon of maintaining ignorance. And it’s easy, if you know how, to make people just not want to ask; to make them not even think to ask.

I knew a lady; let’s call her Fennel Seeds, who had the social kung fu. You know what the social kung fu is? If Fennel Seeds and I were at a party together, she might turn to a guy in the room and say, in a special way, “Our friend here is new in town.” You know how this works, right? At which point I am supposed to stick my hand out and say something clever like, “Oh really? I though it was jus a new town, ha HA”, but probably I don’t, because I know better and have already left. (Because I don’t have much the social kung fu, but I do have the …that’s another article.)

Now one thing about Fennel Seeds that she might not even know herself is that she totally knows how to make no one ask questions, without even mentioning the word “questions,” which this group i’m getting around to describing wouldn’t want to remind people existed. She could do it without knowing she was doing it, for hours or days or weeks. I wonder where she picked it up, this ability.

When I met Fennel Seeds for real it went like this. She was incredibly nice. So was her boyfriend, Boyfriend. They had just moved. That’s why their house felt like no one lived in it. What a nice house. What nice leather sofas. So nice. Now, did we want to stay in, or did we want to go out to a show? Did I want to put my bags in the guest room…where there was no bed… (or where there is a child’s bed, all done up in pink strawberry shortcake, in other houses like this I have been to) …or did I want to put my bags somewhere else?

Both sound great to me! I said and smiled SO big! And I’ll just hold on to my bags!

Soon Fennel Seeds was rolling around on the floor, stretching her feet at me, sort of like a cat. Should I call my boyfriend, or should he go to the store? she asked me.

Wow, you are so nice! I said. Really?

Well? she said. What do you think?

Oh, I just can’t believe how nice all this is, I said. I really don’t know about the store. She just looked at me, a little dumbstruck.

Fennel Seeds was between jobs.


Boyfriend made a trip to the store, then came back; then Fennel Seeds asked me if she should take a trip to the store. “Taking a trip to the store” meant walking two blocks to a big antique mall and loitering there.

Why is he going to the store?, I had asked her.

He needs to move his car, she said, like she was quoting something. This was funny for some reason? It was an accomplishment, for her to tell me that he needed to move his car?


Why does he need to move his car? I had asked her.

This was not answered. Something about another guy coming over, maybe?

Fennel Seeds kept leaving the room and coming back with new things to say to me. I was partially collapsed on the couch, my bags between my feet, beaming. It was one of those weird over-stuffed leather sofas.

Do you like the couch? said Fennel Seeds.

“Hmmm!” I said.

Back out of the room.

Boyfriend’s friend some-other-guy might be coming over. What did I think of that?

“Oh, where’s he from?” is said.

“Where’s he from?” she said.

“Yes. From? Or not?” I said.

Back out of the room again. Which was too bad, because we didn’t get a chance to talk about where he might be not from.


He did come over.

“Come sit out on the porch with me,” said Fennel Seeds.

“Oh hell yeah,” I said.

A truck pulled in the driveway, and then out. I couldn’t blame the guy. There was really no place to park.

“Do you like my pedicure?” said Fennel Seeds, wiggling her toes. She stared at my bare feet, which a) are huge and b) sport a nice deformity from an accident I had when I was twelve. She had a little bit of a nasty grin, which cheered me up, since ‘nasty’ was healthy, compared to the rest of a mind like hers.

“Oh yes,” I said. “You are absolutely beautiful.”

“Should I ask <boyfriend> if he should go to the store?” she said.

“I have absolutely no idea,” I answered. “Isn’t it such a nice day.”

“I’ll just go see if he’s going,” she said.

“Ok,” I said.


Boyfriend went to the store again. And came back. I not sure if I moved while he was gone. I was back half-collapsed on the couch, bags between feet. Fennel Seeds was a little irritated.

At one point, I think they both tried to go to the store at the same time, and I went with them.

“How about a nice hot shower?” I said when we got back, trying to cheer her up. It had been pretty difficult for her to walk around that antique mall for absolutely no reason. He seemed more used to it.

“Sure!” she said.

“Thanks,” I said. “I’ll be right back.”

There was a big bottle of Cipro in the medicine cabinet, with boyfriend’s name. It took a lot of willpower, but I didn’t sing in the shower.


After the shower I relented a little. I tried to engage Fennel Seeds in conversation. She didn’t care at all that I was a writer, or that I was in her town to investigate what is by far the dorkiest church in the world. She was a health nut, she told me. She liked juice, and cleanliness, she told me. “Oh, that reminds me!” she said.

She went over to the bedroom and picked up a jar. “I keep these fennel seeds right next to the bed,” she said. She knelt there and shook the jar at me. “Mmmm, mmm, mmm,” she said.

Because you see, Fennel Seeds was not your average couchsurfing hostess. She was a trained, if not licensed, Beauty Operator.


“Where did Boyfriend go?” I asked.

“Oh, he’s around,” she said.

“Around where?” I said. I did a lap around the house, which was small. No Boyfriend.

“I don’t know!” said Fennel Seeds. She was really warming to her subject now, having remembered the fennel seeds, and wiggling on the couch in a little private ecstasy. It was hard to look at her.

“Ok,” I said, half-collapsing again, on the other end of the couch. “So what are we going to do tonight, anyway?”

She left the room again.


Boyfriend reappeared a few minutes later. We all sat in the living room and didn’t say anything for awhile. Well, two of us did. Fennel Seeds — sober as a judge, I am pretty sure– was bouncing around the room like a gerbil in a bubble. I have never seen anything so sophisticatedly cheery up close.

I was hungry. My ‘friend’ (a stranger), who introduced me to couchsurfing a few months before this, without telling me anything about it, then led me straight to a man “just out of prison” who offered me money for sex, had advised me to tell my hosts that I was “go with the flow.” In big cities couchsurfing is all about the international scene. In the smaller towns it is a little different. Over and over people told me they were “just glad people were keeping it going.”

“Keeping what going,” I asked one guy. There were several hundred people listed in his midwestern town.

“You know, keep it going,” he said, looking at my more experienced couch-surfing ‘friend’ for assistance. “It’s important for people to keep it going.”

“The site is really popular,” I said. “And active. Are you worried it’s going to do a MySpace?”

“No, not like that,” he said. He looked again at my ‘friend’ for help, but said nothing.

I found this deeply, richly unsatisfying. “Is it in trouble of some kind?” I said. He didn’t answer me.

“Do you guys want to play Cards Against Humanity?” he asked.


This type of thing happened quite a few times, actually, when I walked into the conversations of couchsurfers who didn’t know I wasn’t one of them. “How about that, at the meet-up last night?” one guy said.

“How about what?” I asked.

“Well, it got pretty heated, the debate about what we should do about the group.”

“Oh?” I said. “I missed all that. What’s the issue?”

Just like the keep-it-going guy, he looked at my ‘friend.’ “Nothing,” he said. And he changed the subject. I asked several other people what was going on with the group, but no one would tell me.


I did not say “go with the flow” to Fennel Seeds. In retrospect, I half-wish I had: it might have been interesting to see who she decided needed to leave the house then. But on the other half, maybe I would have ended up with something stuck in my teeth. The house felt like a pressure-cooker. It was hard to think.

I did give her a backrub, just to see what she’d do. It was worth it. She shook the fennel seed jar at me again. When that didn’t work, she decided to give me backrub lessons. She taught me The Bear, and The Ice Skater. I like my own style though. Mentally, I named it The Stabbing Hovercraft. Just for her.

I decided to take them up on the show, since they had offered it. (This same routine of stay in or go to show was repeated at all three houses I visited–Mr. Just Out of Prison being a fourth. All three times I went for it, and all three times the offerer(s) said he/she/they would join me at the show later: I should go ahead. And this I did, breathing a sigh of relief.)

I grabbed some food and stuffed it in my mouth on the way home. I didn’t want to miss anything. No one had said anything about dinner. I don’t expect people to feed me, but I do expect them to eat. Maybe if I had gone with the flow, I could have been privy to their dinner plans. Maybe since I hadn’t, the three of us couldn’t be trusted to discuss this and work it out. Like children, did we need to be told what to say?


I hate to go into so much detail, but I’m afraid of what your imagination might do with any time I leave unaccounted for in this recounting. After the show we went to bed. I took the couch. Poor Boyfriend. I sat up and wrote, jumpy like a … kangaroo.

The next day Fennel Seeds told me about Beauty Class.
Have I told you about one of my all-time favorite books in the world? It’s called Understanding Cult Mind Control: basically the keys to the kingdom of being able to make a large group of people do whatever you want them too. But written by a guy who would far prefer you do what you feel like doing instead. I guarantee that just reading it through will quadruple your immunity to any large groups that decide what they really need is for you to be a better sex partner.

Because what Fennel Seeds told me about Beauty Class is this: not that it was empowering, or that it rid the world of puritanical ignorance and shame, or that it was fun (it sounded like anything but fun: “Be prepared to work out,” she said. “You know. Like really work out. Hard. On on your knees. For a long time. Over and over.”), but that it was beautiful because so many women were there. She said this over and over as if it made sense. She … incanted it. They had one down at the convention center here in town, she said, and it was just so beautiful: hundreds of women, hundreds of them, just…” (She didn’t finish her sentence. Or start another one. Or leave the room, even.)

I was speechless.

Show me a sane woman who thinks that a convention center full of women “working out hard on their knees” together is … beautiful. I can imagine a sane woman who thinks a group of women deciding to attack the topic of sex together, in whatever way, could be meaningful, and that meaning could be beautiful, but why would it matter how many of them were there?


Now let’s talk about cults. A real cult is a group that steals your identity, and not your online identity, your actual identity, in your mind. It replaces it with a new one, a new you. The cult you. It makes you a completely different person AND controls what person you are. Cults are rare. There are maybe a dozen of them. At all.

Cults are not like getting a new job, or a new circle of friends, and changing to be more like them. If you were subliminally programmed by your television, somehow, that would be child’s play compared to what a cult does to you. It’s a very specific thing, with a very specific process.

Step 1: The cult is extraordinarily nice. You have never met anyone so nice, because you have never met anyone with such a strong and well-hidden motive. Because the cult member you encounter really wants something from you, but you don’t know that, it looks like he/she is just being really nice for no reason, which creates the impression that he/she is just a super-duper person. Who really likes you.

Step 2: The cult removes you from your typical environment and throws you off balance–for example, with bizarre questions, things that don’t make sense, hunger, or lack of sleep. You are taken away from your usual reminders of your personality, like your home and friends and family, and pressured to be like the group, which is presented as expert compared to you, the noob — and then they start messing with your psychology.

Step 3: The cult starts messing with your psychology. They alternately praise and belittle you, get you excited with huge ideas about changing the world, and then demean you. There are papers on how to do this, and formulas for it: some people think it was invented in China? It is a well-understood technique for gaining psychological control over a person, so that they will believe and do pretty much anything you say. This is done by stimulating certain parts of your mind for prolonged periods of time–specifically a) the childish parts, b) the physical comfort parts and c) the parts that we go to when we zone out in a lecture–I guess that’s the subconscious? A key component of this is making you do embarrassing things, like play silly games or sing in front of people (two examples from the book). This is practice for making you do other things you wouldn’t normally do.

The cult will also expose your vulnerabilities at this stage, by discussing topics you find emotionally distressing (looking for “your pain”) or any area of yourself you feel vulnerable about–for example, your sexual performance or physical appearance.

What’s most important here is that they show you that they know where these vulnerabilities are, and have no problem tweaking them if they want to. They want you to know that they know how to emotionally destroy you, if they should want to. This makes you very obedient, without even knowing it. No questions asked.

Step 4: The cult continues messing with your psychology. In addition to gaining emotional control through shaming tactics like embarrassment and insults and rewards, the cult introduces new terminology–specifically meanings for words you already know, or hidden meanings. This is to conform your thought patterns to those of the cult, but more to separate you from the rest of the world which does not understand the code language. The new patterns of speech mentally isolate you from “them” that don’t get it. This makes you feel closer to the cult than to everything outside it, every time you get one of their coded references. They will also dictate your behavior, sometimes down to minute details, like your clothes and how you comport yourself. For more control and to increase your identification with the cult.

Step 5: The cult presents you with goals to work towards. (At this point I feel nauseous.) As you work towards them, you are rewarded with status and approval from the people you are now psychologically submissive to. You might also be rewarded physically for conforming to the cult’s ideas, especially when they deviate from the norm or your old ideas, with food or sex or drugs. Two sets of communication are presented by the ‘experienced’ group: the verbal one paints a vision of utopia that becomes–without anyone needing to say that it is–more important than anything else, because of the second set of communication,  nonverbal, reinforces this subconsciously, through food and sex rewards and near-shaming.

Another hallmark is that the vision presented is usually pretty confusing and strange; the kind of thing you almost completely understand, but somehow still remains mysterious.

Step 6: The cult has turned you into a recruiter without saying so. Simply by practicing the tactics of psychological manipulation on you and those around you as if they were the norm and not sadistic brainwashing, the cult teaches you to practice them on others. Which you will do, quite naturally, of your own volition, without anyone telling you to, by this point in the process.

Step 7: The cult turns you against outsiders, by telling you how you should act around people who are not part of the cult. In most cults, this involves violence and harassment on the part of some, directed towards whoever the cult leadership decides poses a threat to the group: ex-members, counsellors, even law enforcement.

Step 8: The cult tries to take over the world. Usually even the cult itself has an ulterior motive: in the case of the Moonies, the religious cult the book above is about, the group’s utopia vision was a peaceful and love-filled religion, but the actual goal was making money to advance the causes of certain military officials from the Korean government around the world, including the United States. Fun fact: at one point during the Reagan administration the Moonies owned the Washington Times. Practically none of their members knew this.

Cults throughout history have had problems with underage sex. I think this is less because they are full of deviants and more because young people who are sexually abused can become almost utterly controllable. In general these tactics work better on younger people whose identities are rapidly developing than they do on older people (who have mostly given up on ‘being anybody’).

When cults recruit, the more indoctrinated people they can show to the un-indoctrinated people, the better, because it enhances the pressure, and that feeling of “experts who are right versus noobs who are not wrong as long as they agree quickly.”

I saw elements of every single one of these steps in some of the people I encountered through couchsurfing. In many different parts of the country.




I can’t think of a stronger psychological weapon than sex. The right person with the wrong arrangement of morals could do almost anything to a group of young people who agreed to have sex as a group, “under tutelage.”

On May 17th, I had the strange luck to drive into a crowd departing the Superdome without even meaning to.

The sidewalks were packed with hundreds of young women dressed like hookers. Like-you-would-dress-if-you-wanted-to-be-a-hooker-for-Halloween-dressed-like-hookers. This is not that weird in New Orleans, but none of them looked like they were actual hookers. There were no men in sight. This went on for 4 or 5 BIG (Superdome-big) blocks. None of  the women were smiling.

I tried to look up the event when I got home, (searching google for “Superdome May 17”) but all I found was this:


Which was an interesting read, I admit.

This page showed up a week or two later, when I searched again:


I think this concert was in a different building, though? These women were milling around in front of the Superdome.


Creepy: I searched just now, and this page is in the results now-it wasn’t there on June 1, the last time I searched for this event (cough, by its date of May 17th, cough).

new may 17 page

The video is a little confusing because I drove past that very spot and didn’t even think to notice whether or not the Superdome was in blue, because traffic was backed up on the street shown and police were waving people through the intersections with glowsticks. I think it was around 10 or 11 PM when I drove though. I stopped and talked to a few of the police. One of them said to me, “We’re looking into it: we just can’t do anything about it right now.”


Huh? He didn’t say what he was looking into.


If you think you are in a cult, all you have to do is contact a psychologist and they will help you right out. It is hard to get over being lied to, but having a lot of good company helps. I mean that two ways: that spending a lot of time with your old friends and family is really healthy, and that you don’t have to feel very bad if you believed a lot of things that weren’t true, since so many other intelligent people believed them too.

Sometimes the truth comes around with its own kung fu and flicks a big pack of lies in just the right spot, so that it shatters. Along these lines…

Some of the people I talked to seemed like they had forgotten how much fun it is to be in love– to fall hard for someone, and then want to have sex with them for that reason. And isn’t that the reason most people have sex, at least most of the time? Because they are in love, or at least think they might be sometime soon? ;) Can you imagine life without that?

I’ve found that truth pretty powerful. And effective. How could anyone forget it? It’s like they know there are a lot of not-very-nice names for what they are doing, but they can’t remember why it might be wrong?



(Also, had to think way back to being 18 – 25 to remember this, but in the sexual arena, aren’t other women supposed to be … competition?)

The Worlds Where You Are Not


It’s hard to reconcile different kinds of thought within ourselves. The world requires very different things from us and its amazing the way we bring them together. Even just to house them sometimes is not an easy thing.

You think all day with a machine as your audience, it’s hard to switch over to the people at night.

What is it that makes us brave? An example of someone else’s bravery? Not so much. Trust that that outcome will be ok? Then we don’t need bravery. Experience being brave in the past and having it turn out is really just the same as what I just said isn’t it.

I don’t know what makes people brave. If I had to guess, I’d guess that it’s determination, that word being a shorthand for “certainty that you are right.” The more sure you are right that you are, the braver you will be.

There’s a corollary I guess, that if you show someone a kindness, they’re more likely to open up to you.


There was a theme I wanted to talk about too, and old favorite of mine, and old favorite of everybody’s I think. Maybe it’s a moral puzzle. People call it the Good Samaritan idea, but that it’s not really the way I view it.

I guess it’s the other side of audience, the idea of watching. Watching is weird. It’s a very strange thing actually.

When we watch, we’re not real, are real? How could we be, if the things we’re watching are real? One of them has to not be: I don’t think it matters which. But in order to watch, we are, and what we watch is not, or what we watch is, and we are not.

It’s like a movie. Psychiatrists call it suspension of disbelief. You either see the people in the theater or you are immersed in whats in the screen. Isn’t that weird? I mean, it makes sense, here’s why.

Of course there is one world. And now I need a word.



Derivatives, I guess. Derivatives of the world. I mean there is one world, where we sit in the theater, where the movie is made — but there is a derivative world where the movie is real. It doesn’t physically exist, it’s only in the minds of those following alone with the story. Yet such a world has to exist, in some sense, just not the physical one. Otherwise there would be no story.

There’s a different derivative world, probably a lot of them, depending on how good the movie is, going on in the theater. The dramas of our social interaction, which are more real than what goes on in the screen, but derivatives of the physical world, not part of it.

You can test that these worlds are of a different kind, if you don’t believe me, by watching how quickly they change, how easily, and how invisibly. Should we suddenly decide that we really don’t like this guy, would anyone watching be able to tell? Would they see it? Would they smell it, hear it, feel it or taste it? Probably not. It’s a concrete change, in the world, that’s observable only to one person. That’s a derivative world.

And so when we watch, we need to either enter a derivative world not equal to the one that has us it, unless of course we’re watching ourselves–we enter a derivative world where we are not, in order to watch. And that’s weird! It’s kind of confusing isn’t it? It’s not a question of whether you should be watching; it’s not a question of whether you belong in that world; you’re not there, it doesn’t matter.

But how does morality work? In a world where we don’t exist, what are our obligations?


Derivative worlds, each just like a piece of code. I mean, I admit, in all of this discussion– and I think this is important to say–that I am very object-oriented. I think it’s because I like to agree with people, and I see what we can all agree on. The stuff like “There are two cars” and “Cher has hair.”

This has to be the starting point. I hope that’s clear. Everything has to start with the physical. Gah, something that’s probably so meaningless to almost everyone but so important to me! But here is the world, unchangeable other than the ways that it is changeable, infinitely complicated, massive; not understood–so barely and poorly understood. Not subject to any opinion held by anyone anywhere. Such a big sky. Such an enormously big sky.

So I also am object-oriented here in the sense that any derivative world we live in should inherit this physical world, am I right? Sometimes it’s going to be pretty far away; but let’s be aware of how far away it is. If I’m writing a story, and I want to write it well, I’ll bring that physical world with me, or invent a new one, and those rules will apply in that narrative world. Some people have told me that this is the essence of good writing.* I think they went to school for it. “How real does it feel?”

So import your physical world–if you want. Depends on what kind of derivative world you are building. Maybe you have ideas that don’t belong in this world at all. But what are you doing? You are thinking about them in a skull that is in this world, and hopefully writing them on a piece of paper that is in this physical world. I wouldn’t call this importing the physical world. It’s more like … nesting.


And this is where my choice of the word derivative makes a lot of sense.** The derivative world is not a part of that function that is the physical world–that universal single equation we’ll someday write down, maybe, right?– that equation that is the universe. A derivative world is not part of that equation, but it cannot escape it; it is determined by it; it is not a part of that function. There is no point on that imaginary line that you could pull out and say “here is my imaginary story about a fun-loving nun who communicated with people by dropping squids on them” That does not occur on the graph–even if you say she had a hovercraft instead of a magic wimple–but the idea’s occurrence to you does. Or would: if this idea occurs to you, I can guarantee there will be a point on the graph of the physical universe to represent that it did. But no points for Sister.***

And that makes it part of a derivative world, where YOU are the differentiator. You are in some sense a variable, slicing through this function, and you are not just one: you are an entire infinite set of them.

I’m trying to say that you have options.

But that function can’t be escaped. Now I like to have another one too. I believe it is more fundamental maaaaaybnghehhgngnlgnlgnl — can’t support that, back up, hold on, back up. Ok.

I do believe in another universal equation, that we’ll maybe someday write down. I don’t know how, and I just accept that about myself. There are some places my brain just cannot– it’s like territory where there is air that I just can’t breathe–

but that’s logic. Logic is a universe too. The way truth works. That’s what logic means. And it’s complicated. And part of why it is complicated is all these derivative worlds.

Wait! Did I misspeak or what? Part of what simplifies it is all these derivative worlds. Which I believe function according to one logic, sufficiently complex to govern them all.

This has been my perspective on the Good Samaritan idea. Not the bible story so much as the Observation Puzzle that comes out of stories like this (no need to watch any of these to get the idea).

“Onlookers jeer as man is beaten, stripped and robbed in Baltimore” (2012)

“Two transgender women were beaten abroad an Atlanta commuter train as fellow passengers shouted at the victims” (2014)

“Mom beaten as toddler tries to intervene: Salem police seek assailant (several other people watch or film)” (2014)

“Video depicts bystanders watching while Elyria man is assaulted.” (2015)

“Woman Beaten, Dies in Leap as Watchers Cheer” (2015)

“Philly man mercilessly beats woman for 20 min in street; video of bystanders’ behaviors shocks cops” (2016)

“Bystanders laugh at man beaten to a pulp in chilling video (2015)”

“Woman is horrifically beaten on a Philadelpia street in board daylight as a crowd of people stand by and do NOTHING” (2015)



So you see I’m not just waxing my beard here. However watching works, it’s a problem we have difficulty understanding, and the consequences of our inability to understand are very real. We have a hard time reconciling our take on it — i.e. “not my problem”– with the emotional reaction we have when other people watch us and don’t help.

Imagine collapsing in the middle of a Bed, Bath, and Beyond on a Sunday afternoon in August****, and then just lying there as people stepped over you. I’m guessing you will sense a disconnect with the well-reasoned “not my problem” approach laid out above.***** If you had a way to locate all of the people who had stepped over your that day later, what would you want to say to them?

*This too.
**Hold on, I have to weigh the pros and cons of clarity.
*** We compromised. And just curious, can you read an idea without it occurring to you?
****Picked August for the image of lots of freshman dorm room linen purchasers.
*****briefly, as the words “not my problem”

I think in most of these articles, in a lot of them, I try to paint a picture of a mental maneuver. It’s one way to become more intelligent, to increase you arsenal of mental maneuvers, to better align your mental model with reality, which makes you happier. The mental maneuver I want to show in this one is distinguishing between what I called importing and nesting. I’ll try to add an another example later.





Shoutout to the lady who came running out of her apartment in half-dressed to stop a couple that was fighting in the street.

Filters of Information

Literally years in the making, this article.

There’s an underlying principle of appropriateness to ..everything? The word itself is regrettable, invoking ideas of stodginess. This I want of course to avoid; a different meaning than perhaps the colloquial one is what I am after here. Trust me, I wouldn’t go this route if I didn’t think it worth it.

If you think about what correctness means: correctness is a matching. It’s an alignment of two things: a problem and a solution, for example, a question and an answer; an event and a response. This matching is the essence of correctness.

And so for optimal …experience? and …outcomes? appropriateness is …everything? The problems, the events, are outside ones control: *it is simply the selection of the best possible match for each external circumstance that makes things better or worse.*

So mistakes, as a corollary, are the selection of courses of action and communication that are inappropriate, and do not match the circumstances that are given.

And so causality, information, communication fit together very … concretely? … objectively? There are well-defined relationships between them, that can be optimized, and allow us to definitively select and reject courses of action.  Capability being a given, in this equation.

It is just like this analogy: information is a light. Any light shines on all things equally, that are within its range. Light itself is complicated, infinitely so. Information is no different. Every bit. of. it. is as infinitely complicated as a beam of light. (I am sure you know how complicated that is.)

Information shines on different surfaces the same way. Some surfaces appear to reflect it, because their nature is such that they cannot safely do anything with it.  Because light and information are both infinitely complicated, all available surfaces absorb some portion of both–but a select portion, which is tailored to the surface, or the receiver of the information. This is natural.

This is appropriate.

This is correct.

Just as we do not use greeting cards to file our taxes; just as we do not use business cards to tell our loved ones that we love them; just as we do not use the meringue on top of a pie to take notes in physics class (usually–I’m having a hard time thinking of things I wouldn’t like to record in meringue right now); we select information sources, information channels and messaging which are appropriate to each other.

Now if you suggest to me that I substitute a printed page of text for the meringue on my pie, I’m going to tell you that you are insane, and I’m going to be right. If you furthermore tell me that the best way for me to share with the people I love the fact that I love them is to stand 50 feet away behind three sheets of plate glass and pantomime it, I’m going tell you you’re insane, and I’m going to be right. And if you continue on, and tell me that any information that has any bearing on any decision I make in the physical world today as far as my location, my spending, or my time should be based on something printed in a plate of spaghetti, I’m going to tell you you’re insane, and I’m going to be right.

Now at this point I get a little too excited about spaghetti. But I edited that part out.

Anyway all of this I’ve said before, at many different times in many different ways. I wrote a blog about it, about the wicks. There is a second piece, but its no fun. And I don’t like to write things down until they’re fun.

… (I went to IKEA)

Only certain substances emit light. Rocks, for instance, rarely do. It seems almost asinine to ask why. Could we see–if they did? If all rocks, all substances, were to emit light, that was within our visible spectrum? What kind of nightmare world would it be, or not? Would it be a beautiful video game?

It might be awesome. Perhaps anyone who rejects the idea does so only because it is too foreign to evaluate properly. Could be.

But what about what they do already emit–everything giving off its subtle radiation–which would be drowned out, which would cease to exist, as far as perception is concerned, should those substances emit light in our visible spectrum instead. Would that not be the world exclusively of man, the purely human-centered world: those things not intended for human consciousness, whatever their function, whatever their un-investigated import, drowned out–by neon lights.

And would not that world be malleable! Constructed so quickly as it would have to be, relative to the construction of the natural world, which has ground along, making and creating and correcting mistakes, for hundreds of thousands of years. How easy would it be, in a neon world, to lead the road straight to the edge of a cliff? To bend the trees down into terrifying shapes? And to coalesce around a single point of control, a single point of failure!

(whoever has the most light bulbs.)*

I’ve never understood how everyone can be made to choose to have to have something; how it is without any legislation, without any discussion, without any explicit notice, without any thought?– quite quickly everyone obtains the opinion that they must possess some thing, that they must carry out some act, or that they must avoid some other.

If I pass one thousand cars. how many of them will not have a smart phone in them? Only mine? Maybe a few more? What world do they look to? Who told them they must look there?

And what guides them home? The street signs that guide me? The memory that guides me? Or a world of light? As the street signs are taken away, and not replaced; as the parts of our brain that make the memory of how to get from here to there fall into disuse, or limit us to a tiny geographic area: “all the places we have been before,” and often, going to them in the way we were told, over and over–what happens?

So when you come to say hello, you bring to me a package infinitely dense, which is sorted out into “the observable,” which might perhaps also be “the intended,” but you also bring the not-observable, and the not-intended. Have you sorted it correctly? Do you know how?

The metaphor of a bashed up car entering my lane as a means to say hello is *perfect.* Perfectly analogous to the use of speech, out loud, to spread trash. Perfectly analogous to the use to psychological conditioning to make a profit, and maybe on the way gain enormous power: invisibly.



*Sorry, I have very little time for footnotes.

PS: I wrote this on the highway, surrounded by cars driving way below the speed limit and way too close to me. Many of these cars sport dents and busted front fenders, maybe as badges of honor. I have transcribed it just now. For you. :) I have 5 more where this came from, doing my best!

PPS: For the record I should say, although I don’t feel that I need to, that I write all of my blog, myself: I am one person, unaffiliated with any organization, employed by a non-government private company (in a non-adventurous line of work mostly unrelated to the topics of this blog). I make my money like everyone else, and only like everyone else, and always have. And I decided at age 21 that I would never have a security clearance, whether I wanted one or not: as it turned out I never wanted one, and never applied.


Light you can hear:

Fallen Police Memorial

My father and I have the best kind of symbiotic relationship. He likes orange juice with a lot of pulp; I like mine with none. So I drink the good stuff off the top, and what he gets is that much pulpier.

I stopped in Washington DC a few weeks ago, kind of later on a Friday evening, right downtown by the museums. There was a huge crowd of people on the mall, one of those associations, policemen in favor of policemen, a good group, that raises money for widows and things like that; I think it might have been policemen in favor of policeman unity. There were people from all over the country, and they were having a memorial service; someone was going to sing Amazing Grace; probably they had a day of events leading up to it; they all looked exhausted; a lot of them were bikers.

There’s a story that should be infamous, about two Baltimore policemen who were bikers shooting each other at a bar; when was it? Could have been eight years ago now. No one I talked to about it found it as astounding as I did. That only astounded me more.

I didn’t know what this group was at first; I just had some time to kill and was walking around. Here and there on the street there were these strange groups of men, not uniformed, not bikers, drinking alcohol in public and carousing in the street. Which might not be odd in most places but took me aback, standing in Constitution Avenue as they were, on what is probably the most carefully policed couple of blocks in the world.

I have grown to love this about downtown DC, that by all estimates every square inch of its dirt is on camera, an that anything approaching a crime would be noticed and stopped within 10 minutes, that those who commit crime all know this and do so elsewhere, or maybe even avoid the area altogether, and leave the requisite trip to the Natural History Museum to their children’s’ teachers. This is why I’d stopped there–to stand up and stretch, but most of all to feel safe for a few minutes.

But here were these groups of men: no less than four of them approached me and invited me to join them, in a nice way, a polite way. I’ll take that sentence out. Something happened in the past ten years while I wasn’t looking and I really can’t make my mind up to condone it or not. So I don’t judge.

But here were these groups of men, breaking the law, but in the strangest way. Nothing about their manner said criminal, and they had none of the concealed excitement people have when they knowingly break a law, and definitely none of the evasiveness. They were a little scary: some of them were drunken and shouting, and one group stopped traffic in the street. They resembled gangs, but they were the cleanest-cut gangs you’ve ever seen. And mixed in among them were other groups of weary-looking men in dress uniforms, ignoring them completely.

Puzzled, I made my way to the mall, listened to Amazing Grace. It was a good crowd. I think it was a good group. But I really didn’t want to stay. I tried talking to one of the drivers of the black SUVs parked around the perimeter, asking him who he was driving. He refused both to answer and not to, but reached out to shake my hand. When I returned the gesture he grabbed my hand and squeezed it so hard it hurt for a good twenty minutes afterwards. “Good night,” he said. Maybe he thought I should have paid more attention to the pin he was wearing or something, but I didn’t, and I wouldn’t, given a second chance. No matter who you are, or who I am, on a public street, I can talk to you. If you think otherwise you are confused.

Shaking and massaging my hand, I did a quick lap up to gaze at the Capitol Dome and silently sympathize with a guy trying to take Reflecting Pool photos, which never come out. Especially not at night. But we try, don’t we.

There were more groups in the street as I walked back to my car, and drunker. I talked to another chauffeur who made me feel like an idealist, he was so cynical. Which was a reminder I needed at the time. Because of course these men were all police; that explained their complete lack of fear of reprisal, and their confidence in breaking the law. Where the boundaries of such an attitude lie I could not say: I suppose it depends on the individual–but thinking about this I went to my car as quickly as I could, and left town, feeling like my head was deep underwater; the water being this idea of the lawlessness of the lawman, its peculiar and distinct character; my head having nothing to do but sit under it, as there doesn’t really seem to be any place to take such an idea.

Shoutout to everybody and especially anybody who was worried about me. I am still in trouble but still going.