The Barnacle


#100 Days of Writing - Tips, rants, stories, complaints, product reviews.

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Day 17 - Rewiring

It is possible that we’re being rewired back to our old wiring. In a recent JRE podcast, Bill Maher and Joe discuss the idea that we (men especially) might not be wired for monogamy. They also discuss how marriage is fantastic for some and an absolute fucking nightmare for others. Bill ties this in to the idea that dating apps like Tinder are geared toward the base needs of men, promiscuity specifically. In turn, many women are left disappointed or treated like trophies or notches on the belt. This brings up a playful idea: Our new technologies are rewiring us back into tribal savage fuck-machines addicted to drama and conflict. McLuhan touched on this brilliantly, arguing that tribalism will re-emerge as new technologies bring people (and their belief systems) closer together. Few ideas better capture the current times which, as Joe aptly states, are strange. When a person, as we must, take a step back to look at the complex state of things, with as little bias as possible, the term “strange” is as accurate as it gets. 

Day 16 - Good questions, Sam

The Waking Up Course, by Sam Harris, is a brilliant and effective method of practicing mindfulness. But it is difficult and frustrating at times. There are times when what he says just causes a glitch in the mind because the words themselves make little sense. What does it mean to "turn attention in on itself"? What does it feel like? In essence, you are supposed to notice yourself, the looker, but this is only supposed to last a second. At times, it feels too easy to notice or feel the self and what happens is that the brain chastises itself for not having been in a state from which to reverse the attention. But, that's the practice. Reaching a point, one might suppose, where everything just makes sense. At the very least, the course helps you practice re-engaging your skills of focus in everyday situations. That alone, is extremely beneficial. It's also not immediately effective, so it commands your effort. It's mature, it holds you accountable. But god fucking damn it can be difficult. 

Day 15 - The Coffee in Australia

Nine out of every coffees you buy in Australia will be excellent. A 9/10. Nobody knows why, but a few guesses can be made. Guess 1: Australia and Italy have some sort of trade arrangement that makes top-notch espresso machines affordable. Guess 2: The Australians have more refined taste in coffee. Guess 3: Easier to get high quality beans from nearby tropical wonders. Guess 4: The immigrants are from places that care about food. Canada is getting better, but it's not even close. Maybe 4/10 coffees are excellent and the shops are inconsistent. It's more about providing a space for people to sit with their laptops and work on their cyber image. Long black. That's the fucker you want. Similar to an Americano but more rich, punchier, with a lasting flavor. Praise Australia, an aggressive piece of heaven. 

Day 14 - Grey's Anatomy and Master Fantasies

Once again, Grey's Anatomy. What a well-developed, perfectly sculpted nightmare. Like all shows focused on the delivery of catharsis, Grey's Anatomy rests on a few master fantasies. The first is that men and women think and want the same. We all "think" with our emotions. Specifically, emotional explosions are the only path to resolution. And in this show, each and every resolution leads the characters closer to monogamy and marriage. Now, it isn't comfortable for the viewer to admit to wanting such things; after all,they're looked down on for being too traditional, too regressive in an age where selfish freedom is the ultimate state. To make the medicine go down a little smoother, the characters talk about sex almost constantly. By doing so, the show waves the progressive flag while offering basic titillation, in the end treating sex as anything but natural and normal. The fact that everyone's a doctor supports another illusion: emotional explosions are not obstacles to focus and rationality. The show takes it a bit further, suggesting that constant drama has no impact on the brain and body whatsoever. Everyone goes back to life-saving as if their exhausting childishness is just a natural part of high achieving. The second master fantasy is that fighting/arguing is the only path to resolution, so the audience can rest easy in their imperfect or even disastrous relationships. 

Again with the contrast: There is no master fantasy to be found in the great shows (Madmen, Sopranos, The Wire). The characters themselves might have fantasies and delusions, but the show and its dramas are nuanced. They cover all facets, from all points of view as the human comic tragedy plays out. 

Day 13 - Mobility Training

Many people jump straight into "getting jacked" with little to no regard for mobility training. It's not just that mobility training is tedious compared to the adrenaline rush of pushing heavy weight. Mobility training is about internal health which is not immediately visible. It's about safety and slow change. Mobility training has little to no regard for time. There's no rushing. It's slow, like yoga. In contrast, you have the average gym which is like a nightclub but without the booze and the lights are on. People push to gain muscle(often with terrible form), they chat, they play with their phones, they take up excessive space, they do their hair. They also work very hard, which is commendable, but what is the value of hard work when it's driven by vanity? There's still value, but it's minimized instead of maximized. The risk of injury and unnecessary soreness is ever-present, and the doubling-down on propping up the fragile ego seems to erode the personality. This doesn't happen to everyone. It might only be the minority, but that minority is loud, visible, obnoxious, and self-absorbed. And again, their form and technique are often atrocious. Too much weight, generally. No regard for the "fighter's physique" which is dense, functional, and pliable, as well as explosive and full of endurance. In short, there is too much vain nonsense taking place in gyms. Chatter should be replaced with breathing and the over-muscled or over-dolled-up should be replaced with the people who are overweight or have low confidence. Instead, the people who need gyms the most are intimidated by the very people who spend too much time there. So, this whole ego projection taking place at gyms is tantamount to noise and flesh pollution. A waste of space. There should be gyms branded specifically to this type. Neon lights, fake tits, steroids, spray tans, loud pop music, trainers who chew gum and yell, social areas where people can drink protein drinks together. Give them what they want and need. It's not that they're bad people, but they are very loud and they take up space that should be available to people who are insecure and need a more welcoming atmosphere. Each to their own is fine, but there should be a "their own" for everyone. Praise health and praise the gods of entertainment. 

Day 12 - The Hound

One of the finer characters in recent television. At the forefront of his greatness is the fact that he looks and sees. He sees past the stories, songs, shiny armor, status, rules, titles. He’s surrounded and repelled by other people’s stupidity and the fragility of their egos. He’s also exhausted by the fact that culture and society, in their entireties, are founded mostly upon bullshit. In the show, this makes him one of the most compelling characters. There’s also the added entertainment of imagining what he would have become if not for his brother shoving his face into a fire. Perhaps the Hound imagines something better, something that was robbed. Or perhaps he just simply hated his brother and hate everyone and everything (except for Arya) that stood in his way. In any case, every show needs someone who looks and sees. Sight without ego. Rare and wonderful.

Praise the gods of entertainment

Day 11 - Donald Cerrone Versus Conor McGregor

The hype building around this contest tells us that this will be a match for the ages. But is such a thing possible with these two glorious animals? Matches for the ages usually last a while, often going the distance. Conor hits like the Deathstar and Cerrone throws combos like Ken from Street Fighter.

And does humble Conor hit like cocky Conor? Doesn’t really matter. What matters is whether humble Conor paces himself. If so, a third round KO from Conor is likely. Cerrone is not one to hold back and wait for the opponent to tire. He is a true fighter and a lesson for everyone: Don’t be afraid to lose. Conor gives the same lesson. Go hard, go forward, with each and every goal. It’s a rare treat, two people like this having a battle.

Let’s not forget the glorious Holy Holm, one of the smoothest and cleanest strikers in UFC history, the first to beat the warrior Ronda Rousey, sending that beautiful thug to another dimension.

Prediction 1: Conor obliterates Cerrone with a three-punch combo in the third.

Prediction 2: Holm wins a strong decision because she played it safe for the critical win. She decapitates her next opponent.

Prediction 3: The glorious and perfect nation of Australia gets at least two shout-outs and some money.

Prediction 4: Conor versus Masvidal

Praise the sweet sweet gods of entertainment

Day 10 - Frozen Face

Extreme temperatures can bring your physical senses to the forefront and, in the process, simply ravage your internal monologue. Refreshing, to have these little physical struggles now and then, to take our minds away from the intangible nonsense spinning around on our heads most of the time. Now, we can’t walk around looking for struggle all the time and there’s nothing wrong with a bit of comfort. But we have to work at things almost constantly. Otherwise, the brain gets squirrelly, jumping around from one annoyance to another. Physical exercise, hobbies, and meditation. Those three, our best friends. 

Day 9 - The Privacy Tradeoff

Google is a beast. It’s services are everywhere, like germs and anxiety. Google gives a lot, but in exchange for data privacy. To say that the tradeoff is unfortunate suggests that it’s inevitable. At times, this appears to be the case. Nobody else is offering anything near Google’s combination of free/cheap, fast, synced/streamlined, aesthetics. There are superb alternative products in every realm, but many people want the synced/streamlined package; and for good reasons. Integration across apps and platforms is what all this Internet chaos is all about. That, and security. Privacy is a trickier creature. It’s a basic right and there’s no need to go beyond that point. Google doesn’t necessarily violate that right, but they are unclear and sometimes dishonest about who and what they are. They are getting into the censorship business, which is alarming. And the company is extremely effective at making the alternatives to Google feel inferior. The power to update and respond to new trends is unparalleled. Google is simply the king. For now. Perhaps something else is next. One possibility: No more kings. Perhaps different companies work together to provide consumers with a paid-for package or suite that gives consumers the privacy, security, and quality they’re looking for. How about a dream team: ProtonMail, Standard Notes, Bitwarden, Nord VPN, and Firefox (the weak link here because compared to Chrome, Firefox is tacky and fucking atrocious). An added bonus: Chromebooks allow you to choose DuckDuckGo as your browser. Now we’re talking. To conclude, privacy is becoming a much more appealing option in the face of the beast called Google. We just have to hunt and smaller companies need to play together. The first major player (Apple or Microsoft or Google) that supports these new little teams will benefit greatly and leave a stronger legacy.

Praise the gods of entertainment. Praise them hard.

Day 8 - Anonymous writing on Listed

The Listed blog feature on Standard Notes offers just the right degree of anonymity. Even if nobody is going to read your Wordpress blog, it still has this feeling of reaching out to the world. Sometimes, you just want to rant and ramble into empty space. And this is important because it allows you to practice in the medium, as opposed to writing and editing elsewhere and uploading a final product. That’s something to get to eventually, but it’s very effective to start with a blog platform intended to foster open, stream-of-conscious expression. It’s a general feeling that freshens the experience of living in this global ecosystem of online expression where searches and algorithms dominate human connectivity. Forget about how many people (maybe 0) who would read your Wordpress blog. The mere knowledge that you’re connected to a publishing ecosystem and the Google universe is an immediate compromise. With Listed, you get this rare chance to just create, on-the-spot, without judgment or reward. This is healthy. Praise the gods of entertainment and blesses for Listed and Standard Notes.

Day 7 - Coping with small chat monologues

Some people have no idea when or how to start and end a conversation. They ask you a question, you provide an answer, and they seize on the first thing you mention that they can link to something in their life. And then it's blast-off. They just talk and talk and talk until they're finished. Oblivious to the pain and desolation in your eyes, they off-load a decade's worth of annoyances, grievances and past offenses with no consideration of your time or your personal tastes. They are over-eager to tell a story about themselves and what pours out of their mouth is complete and utter monotony. Capable of only speaking in monologue, they exist to project. The nicest people in the world can have this tendency. Nobody knows what causes it, although there are some reasonable guesses. Guess #1: they are hyper-sensitive and need to relive a moment in time when they were frustrated or offended. Due to their sensitivity, they simply got offended and they failed to address the offender in the very moment. Too much sensitivity prevents the brain from being agile, or witty. Too much sensitivity also causes the brain to dwell on the past, when the person let slip the opportunity to speak up, argue back, counter-punch. And so, their "stories" become mind-numbing little diatribes against people who hurt their feelings or moments in time that they yearn for because the current day is just so horrible with all the injustice in the world. To summarize, they are detached from the present and have been for a very long time. Their stories are awful because their telling you about times when, again, they were not living in the moment. That is why their descriptions are too detailed, their timelines filled with minutiae; they're trying to paint a full picture so you can feel what they think they felt at the time. Tragically, they are only interested in themselves and what they felt at different moments in time. Every event (a concert, a dinner somewhere, a trip through Italy) is about how they felt at the time, but not how the band sounded, how the dinner tasted, who they met. There's a strange anxiety at play in their minds, almost a parasite. Whatever the cause, it comes down to one thing: The ego. Theirs is fragile, impressionable, and self-centered. This disease is vicious and it afflicts all ages. The ego or the superego, as Freud terms it, is a corrosive bile that erodes all pleasure and detaches the psyche from all the beauty of living the moment. Meditation is a practice to treat this disease and lead us to the cure: engaging in hobbies and work that fill us with automatic, unthinking joy. In two words, healthy entertainment.

Well wishes to the self-obsessed. 

Praise to the gods of entertainment.   

Day 6 - Addiction to Resolution

Many awful shows revolve around the resolution of small but significant conflicts. Grey's Anatomy is one of the finer examples. In each episode, three or four conflicts are developing simultaneously, often within a larger drama that provides a story arc for the season. Some conflicts are often short-lived, generally an episode or two. Others fluctuate as characters take two steps toward resolution, three steps back, five steps forward, and so on, until one of the writers of the show conjures up a monologue so melodramatic, so full of goopy cliche, that the story line can finally come to its predictable end.

This is every single episode. And just in case the drama gets too rich, just the right amount of 'comedy' is thrown in for flavoring. This exhausting cycle completes itself about 15 times in the span of an hour. Of course, it's all about the editing which is flawless in this show. Flawless in the sense that the editing is what fosters the addiction to resolution. Teasing the viewer with an almost-resolution and then delivering it in the last three minutes of the episode. Over and over, for 16 years, with about 24 episodes per season. It's a sped up soap opera and, to this end, this awful and intolerable and unwatchable show is utterly brilliant. 

Compare this hysterical chaos to a masterpiece like Madmen. Conflicts are rarely resolved. Instead, we watch people life with dramas, learn to cope, battle, suffer, act like fools. We watch how this destroys people's lives. Many of whom are fucked over completely and kicked out the door, never to be seen again. Roger can't find happiness and it's never explained why. The reason is simply presented to us: He's a rich brat who thinks he earned his entitlement by fighting in a war. In turn, he has the easiest job imaginable. Cheats on his wife with young beautiful women and bulldozes through one person after another. He also lacks any insight into the business or the trajectory of advertising. He dismisses the television department as a benign appendage of print-based advertising. He doesn't have a word to say about the introduction of computers. He just wants to be free from responsibility. Even at the end, when Don finds inner peace, the resolution only leads him back to his true calling: Advertising. So, presumably, he'll just launch himself back into success and excess, though perhaps with less cognitive dissonance as he sheds the obstacles (family, relationships). Madmen treats these conflicts as complex and phenomena to be navigated rather than solved. Grey's Anatomy solves such conflicts 30 times an hour. A barrage of resolution, so much like social media. Madmen, Sopranos, and The Wire are the opposite. They are works of art that were meant to end when the stories demanded (7 seasons for Madmen, 6 for The Sopranos, and 5 for The Wire). There are some good shows on television, but it is possible that such art in television does not or soon will not exist, but that's fine. The art has been made and will always exist to be enjoyed. In other words, they are artifacts, beautiful and perfect.

Praise the gods of entertainment. 

Day 5 - What Makes a “Good” Movie?


A movie is good (that is, it works) if all of its elements work together to present an artistic vision. These elements include cinematography, dialogue, plot, narrative structure, the arrangement of scenery (mise en scene). When these elements are integrated together, this achieves an artistic balance. Like the ingredients of a good scotch.

Cliche has to be avoided. Cliche is just lazy copying, so there is no artistic vision if there is cliche. Marvel Movies. Endgame. Going back in time to change the course of history is a cliche. And the marvel franchise has used it multiple times. Antman. Endgame. X-Men. Probably more. It’s retarded feel-good garbage that shouldn’t even be a passing thought in creative minds. However, this is consistent with the goal of these movies: provide comforting entertainment and catharsis through spectacle. Nothing wrong with eating candy now and then, but we have to learn how to appreciate sushi.

Day 4 - Bullshit Ground Zero

Put aside questions about what constitutes “art”. Let’s assume that a banana taped to a wall is “bad art” because it required no talent or effort whatsoever. Let’s also assume that since the judgment of art is a subjective endeavor and that interpretation has some value. Again, a banana taped to a wall is a-level bullshit, but there’s an art to this bullshit. The artist knew that the act of taping a banana to a wall would generate discussion and debate. More to the point, he likely knew that the easier something is to produce (and the higher level of bullshit) the more people throw their interpretations at the thing. That is, the more they stoke their ego and proclaim their supposed intellectual superiority over the masses. Artists who are aware of and exploit this fact can indeed be considered artists. If they can produce something at zero cost with zero effort but still generate attention, discussion and money, they are indeed a special form of artist. They are making a statement, after all: in the comforts of today’s world (many brought on by the ironically-maligned capitalist system), interpretation trumps fact, ego becomes the product, and chatter and drama become currency. In the Internet ecosystem, which has re-moulded the tangible and visceral, this is a logical end to bullshit. So, when an artist uses bullshit art to ignite bullshit, the artist reignites conversation, jokes, anger, egos fragile and resilient, and the spending of hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars (the ultimate joke, in the end). So, when a person generates this explosion or Big Bang with a banana and some duct tape, he is indeed a true artist.

Day 3 - Murderous Rage

Hell is a cluttered kitchen and preparing lunches half an hour before bed time. Hell gets worse when the lunch itself topples or falls apart. Clutter is hell in general. Mental, physical or otherwise. The great joys of life are only noticed when clutter is minimal. Since clutter is unavoidable, some intervention is necessary. Meditation, exercise, comic books, beer, sport games, potato chips, Eagles, videos of apes or cats, and much more. Daily routines and hobbies ward off the demons, but only if things are consumed properly, with patience and focus. Otherwise, it's just more clutter. That's why everything feels so good after you tidy up. There's something to be said for order. Choas is just a best, a sloppy animal sent from the heavens to test our will. 

Day 2 - Privacy and Security

Online privacy and security are important. Security is a must and privacy is a basic right. So what do we really lose and gain when Google sells out data to advertisers? What do we we mean when we say “our data”? First off, there are the annoyances. Visible ads popping up all over the place. Ads in our gmail inbox. The annoying cunt of a fact that we can’t use Google’s superior services without giving advertisers access to our data. But it’s worth asking, why should we care? Why are we so protective about our data? Who the fuck is scanning our data when we use Google? What harm does it cause? The fact is that Google has nailed security and, with the Chromebook, is offering a long overdue affordable alternative to Windows and Mac. For decades, those assholes have forcefed people products, bundles, and everything else. Some superb products, no doubt, and not all scams, but the combo of affordable/secure/minimal came with the Chromebook. You just need to tweak it a bit for privacy. Standard notes is one of the finest starting points. With Chromebooks, bit of a game-changer. That said...  

Google is a ubiquitous cyber villain that the great sci-fi has warned us about. It's The Matrix disguised as a theme park and we're being groomed for the overlords. Inevitable. 

Praise the gods of entertainment

Day 1 - Start from the Beginning

If you're doing some arbitrary challenge, like 100 days of writing, it's pointless to half-ass it and submit garbage just to tick off a box; to maintain a streak. The point of these "streak challenges" is to figure out how to integrate a constructive habit into your daily life. Otherwise, you're just cultivating a weird little addiction. You have to make the time to do the thing properly, even if that means a paltry 5 minutes. It might be helpful to set a minimum (e.g., 125 words of writing) for each day. If you can do that for 100 days, increase the minimum to 250 and do that for 100. Next thing you know, you'll be writing a high-quality novel every day for the rest of your life. And be honest. If you miss a day in your streak, you start over. That's life. 

Day 13 (1.4.2020) - The Fires in Australia

Scott Morrison appears to be a sociopath. Visiting places where towns once existed, forcing a young woman to shake his hand, advertising the use of military intervention and increased funding, insisting that the volunteers simply like what they're doing (so they don't really want or need financial recompense), going on vacation just as the fires ump to the next level of "holy fuck". This level of tone deaf, this lack of awareness, this purity of politician: We can only sit back in awe. Is he mentally ill? Is his potato-shaped head actually filled with potato? Once the fires are over (several months from now, hopefully) the media swirling around Morrison will be among the all-time best, the wittiest, most hilariously hate-filled entertainment of the 2020s. 

Praise the gods of entertainment  

Day 12 (1.3.20) - Choosing Apps

The best music app, the best app for security and privacy, the best browser, the best this and that. It’s mind-numbing. But when you finally land on something. That is very sweet. Something simple and effective, to the point of being timeless. Notable examples are Standard Notes, ProtonMail, Sam Harris’ Waking Up course, Bitwarden, Spotify (bit much at times), and others. The key is to find companies that focus their efforts on one or a few integrated things. Apple and Google make good products, but they are cunts about luring in consumers. For ease of mind, go for cross-platform apps that work just as well in any browser. Someone steals your computer, you can pick up any device with the Internet and go to town. The Chromebook is superb for this. It’s Google, but it’s extremely secure and lightweight apps soar in Chrome. Apple is about build quality and aesthetics but that walled garden shit is a thing of the past. Trillion dollar companies. Holy Christ. Support the smaller companies. They’re starting a path that the Internet should have followed many years back. But that’s alright. Google and Apple had to happen because humanity is about experimenting and pushing boundaries; ethical, economic, philosophical, and others. Practice standing back, letting your vision open wide, and just look at the way things are. No judgment. Just look and think about things lightly. Have peace in these aggressive times.

Day 11 (1.2.20) - Meditation script #1

Take a comfortable seat, sit up straight and close your eyes. Notice your breathing in the nose or in the chest. And now feel gravity pulling you into your seat. And begin to feel gravity pulling you toward the centre of the earth. Imagine moving through the ground, past layers of dirt and rocks, past dinosaur bones and buried treasure, past the broken skulls of human sacrifices, past elf skeletons buried by their brethren after the great wars. And now feel the dirt itself; its dryness or wetness, its unique cold, its coarseness, your head and genitals hitting the occasional rock or stick or femur. Feel this for the next minute or so...Now feel the heat grow as pass the half way point towards the molten core. Now feel the relief as you pass into the taverns of the Morlocks, as you feel the air from their ventilation system. Rather than suppressing fear as the Morlock sentinels approach you with obsidian daggers, try to feel it more acutely. Feel every sensation; the shortness of breath, the urine sliding out of you, the twitching eyelids and panicked heart. And now gravity, your savior, pulls you even faster and you escape torture and a primal death. You’re moving back toward the core and the heat is now all you feel. But instead of feeling it on your skin first, try to feel it internally. Let the heat boil the marrow in your bones until they start to crack. Let them burst at the sides and splinter into your muscles. Ignore the pain, come back to the breath; focus on every inhale and exhale, every rise of the chest, and keep your consciousness wide open as you reach the earth’s molten core. And now that it’s all over, praise gravity and all it’s force. Take a minute or two to reflect on everything you saw on your journey. Was there any buried treasure? How many skeletons did you see? Did you notice the worms? Do Morlocks deserve the same rights as us? Now forget all that. Drop everything. Picture the inside of an igloo.

And we’ll see you next time.