Is Minimalism a Fad?

Trendy nonsense.

This is just an attempt to make money by selling a lifestyle.

This is the new real estate scam: selling psychological ‘guilt-free’ living.

10 years from now all these ‘minimalists’ will be bcak to their old ways, just like the Boomers got square during the Reagan years. Right now, these yuppies are converting their reduced income into a ‘smugness’ account so that they can continue to feel superior to the ‘unenlightened’ down the block.

Is Less More?

Is Minimalism a Fad?

Are we all a bunch of posers who are jumping on the minimalism bandwagon?

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First of all, I want to say that is one hell of a comment. It sparked at least two whole blog posts from other bloggers, and I am now adding a third one.

For myself, I have always been a minimalist. I haven't always used that term to describe myself because it didn't exist. I've just always lived a simple lifestyle. My family and friends used to make jokes about my frugality, my spartan furnishings, and my bare walls. The reality is that I don't need a lot of stuff to live or enjoy my life. I like having money in the bank and being able to pay my bills and not worry about stuff. I hate clutter.

I am hesitant to use the term "minimalist" to describe myself because I tend to be more like Henry David Thoreau than Mies van der Rohe. But I've been like this my entire adult life. But I should go ahead and embrace the term. I believe that less is more. When you cut the crap out of your life, you are left with the quality. You are left with what matters. To this extent, I identify as a minimalist.

For others, I think of the Great Depression generation and their habits of frugality. Those habits remained through the 50's, the 60's, the 70's, and on. They never forgot those times. Similarly, the people who have taken a wallop during this Great Recession won't forget either. Going from a McMansion to sleeping in your car has a way of changing your perspective on things. You can never take anything for granted.

What changed? Clearly, the Great Recession has done a lot for voluntary simplicity. But will it end when the recession ends? Almost certainly. People love to buy shit. I hear stories now of people living in the overpriced homes they stopped making payments on and using that cash to buy more consumer items and hoping Uncle Obama will send them a relief package.

These trends have always been with us. Here is the original minimalist--Epicurus:

It is better for you to be free of fear lying upon a pallet, than to have a golden couch and a rich table and be full of trouble.

Nothing is enough for the man to whom enough is too little.

A free life cannot acquire many possessions, because this is not easy to do without servility to mobs or monarchs.

Not what we have but what we enjoy, constitutes our abundance.

These ideas are not new. The bottom line is that our needs are finite, but our desires are infinite. When our desires exceed our means, we are left with frustration. And when our possessions exceed our needs, we are also left with frustration. And when they are lost, we act as if their loss is some tragedy.

Minimalism will always be a minority lifestyle. Even poor people accumulate clutter, so it isn't a question of wealth and poverty. But it is a mindset, and most people are never going to go along with it. In addition, some people who try it for awhile may ditch it as soon as their circumstances change.

True minimalists embraced the lifestyle before it was trendy and will continue with it when the good times roll again. I am always going to live this way because it makes sense to me. I don't see the point in having a bunch of shit you don't need.

Why You Should Not Vote

An important election is coming up this Tuesday. But does voting really matter? Will your vote make a difference? Nope. In fact, you are wasting your time, and no one wants to waste their time. Here are the reasons why you shouldn't vote.


The odds of your one vote affecting the outcome of an election are miniscule. You are more likely to be struck by lightning on the way to the poll than the contest coming down to your single vote. When you factor in the margin of error, a single vote is utterly meaningless. Steven E. Landsburg writing in Slate said that you would do better to go buy a lottery ticket instead of casting a ballot and then donating the winnings to a campaign. The odds of you winning are virtually none but are better than making a difference with a single vote.


It is probably a good thing that votes count for so little since your average voter is so ignorant of either news or basic civics and history that we can't consider any vote they make to be an informed choice. Every election season, some comedian or Howard Stern does streetside interviews with people asking them questions and milking the laughs as utter fools tell the camera they support the "Obama/Palin" ticket. The reason the country is in the shit is pretty simple. This is a nation of idiots. The result is that the public votes to enlarge government and cut taxes at the same time. This is how you get some Tea Party fucktard telling Obama to keep government out of Medicare. The reality is that the seventeenth amendment was a stupid move because it removed an important roadblock to public stupidity.


Even if you are a well informed voter who votes for a politician who subscribes 100% to your views and your single vote made the difference, it still wouldn't matter. That is because that politician is a lying sack of shit. This Tuesday, Tea Partiers and pissed off independents are going to give the Congress (or half of it) back to the GOP in hopes of lower taxes and reduced government spending. They are fooling themselves if they think this will happen in much the same way that Obama voters thought they were getting change when they elected that lying son of a bitch. Newt Gingrich lied back in 94 with his Contract with America. John Boehner is lying today with his Pledge to America. It's the same shit with a slightly different garnish. This is also why the national debt was doubled under a Republican president. They tell people what they want to hear to get elected and ignore them. Since voters are fucking idiots, they can get away with this. When you vote, you are telling them you love the taste of their bullshit.


If you are rich, you can make a huge difference. You can either buy media supporting your views or contribute to a campaign that supports your views. Or you can put the money directly into some corrupt politician's pocket and buy him or her outright. In the choice between ballots or cash, cash always wins. ALWAYS. And you are never going to see money leave the system. If you want to make a difference, the first thing you need to do is get rich.


Lysander Spooner had it right when he wrote, ". . .men practice this tyranny over him by the use of the ballot." When you vote for a tyrant who violates the human rights of others, you become complicit in their crimes. This is why government and politicians urge you to vote. They want your complicity. I know you have heard this argument before. If you don't vote, then you don't have the right to complain. This is absurd. This is like saying a rape victim deserves what she got because she didn't scream out. But on the flip side, by voting, you are giving your consent to be ruled by a liar. When I tell people I voted for so-and-so, they immediately throw it in my face when that so-and-so does precisely the things I oppose as if I voted for that sort of tomfuckery. It is a Catch-22. You are damned for voting and damned for not voting. You are either wrong for participating or not participating in the tyranny.


The reason this country is in a fucked up state is because the average US citizen is a fucking idiot. That is the bottom line. This is why Democrats and Republicans govern almost identically. They reflect the popular opinion, and the popular opinion is exactly what you would expect from a fucking childish idiot--give me goodies but don't make me pay for them. Similarly, they want government to crack down on bad behavior while they engage in the bad behavior they want prohibited. This is how you get a drug addicted country supporting the continued War on Drugs while chopping and snorting another line. This is democracy. This is what happens when people get exactly what they want which is schizophrenia.

The answer is to have those people get smart. Even dictators fear the populace and will appease them. But this is not likely to happen. Even my own efforts are spent less in trying to persuade than it is to ridicule stupidity. In short, I like insulting and making fun of morons. So, my final thoughts are directed at you, Dear Voter. I think the answer is violence. I don't mean violence directed at the government or your fellow citizens. I mean violence of the self-inflicted kind. The best thing you can do in your ignorance is to put the barrel of the gun in your own mouth and pull the trigger. Blow those useless brains all over a wall. Or you could wise up and read and learn something about history and economics. Or you can do the next best thing which is to stay home and not vote and keep watching daytime TV and collecting your government check. Apathy is preferable to ignorance. And when those government checks end, go get a fucking job. You can't live on theft forever.

Smart people don't vote. They are outnumbered by the fools.

Random Thoughts on Various Subjects


Simmons made it to my heroes list a couple of years ago for his brashness and individuality. But his recent remarks concerning intellectual property make me want to rescind that honor. Here is what Gene had to say:

Make sure your brand is protected. Make sure there are no incursions. Be litigious. Sue everybody. Take their homes, their cars.


The music industry was asleep at the wheel and didn't have the balls to sue every fresh-faced, freckle-faced college kid who downloaded material. And so now we're left with hundreds of thousands of people without jobs. There's no industry.

It is understandable why Gene feels this way. The bulk of his fortune comes from branded merchandise. He used to make a lot from recorded music, but that has fallen off a cliff. So, Gene has had to get off his lazy ass and start touring again. People aren't without jobs. Gene just has to earn money from performing instead of daydreaming from behind a desk.

I don't believe in intellectual property. I want people to copy what I make because that means more people will read me and learn of my ideas. Besides, my ideas are heavily influenced by the ideas of others, and there is nothing new under the sun in that regard. Information wants to be free. Gene needs to learn this.


I see a massive change come Tuesday as the GOP takes back the House and maybe the Senate. This should result in at least two years of sweet gridlock as the GOP thwarts Obama and tries to bring him down. Then, 2012 will give us Palin or some other GOP shithead as President. Then, things will go to shit like it was under Bush. But it will be a good two years until then.

DVD-Maxed Out

Maxed Out is a documentary primarily about credit card companies. It is scathing and eye opening. Made before the housing bubble collapsed, it begins with a housing boom real estate agent making deals. I remember those days. Nothing but optimism, and I had to laugh when the woman says it would all be fine as long interest rates didn't go up. I'd like to see where she is now.

Most of the blast is aimed at the credit card companies with some collateral shots hitting the government and consumers. Basically, it is all the fault of the banks and the finance companies. I find this a bit misleading and unfair.

The problem lies with consumption. People buy too much shit. They spend money they do not have. Since the bubble popped, consumers know better now. They are learning the lessons the Great Depression generation learned. You have to live below your means. Maxed Out spends hardly a minute of screen time pointing out the complicity that consumers have in their own destruction. You get a bit of Dave Ramsey on the screen, but his lessons are passed over in favor of bashing Congress for making it harder to declare bankruptcy.

The problem is debt, and debt comes from overconsumption. This entire nation has been in the fantasy world of plastic dreams, and now, those dreams have ended. You can't keep spending what you don't have. It is a lesson that the final player in this drama--the US government--has yet to learn.

Maxed Out ends with a typical bash on corporations and nothing on voluntary simplicity and wise personal finance. So, I will provide it for them. Cut up those cards. Work more. Earn more. Spend less. You will be happier and better off.


The value of work has shifted away from working with purpose to obtaining a mystified job title.

Looking for work with purpose? Stop looking down on manual labor.

Simplicity as a Choice

It is one thing to live poor when you are poor. It is quite another to live poor when you are rich. The former is expected. The latter is shocking and revolutionary. It goes against the grain. It's like cats and dogs living together.

This is why the Amish strike us as such a queer bunch of people. They drive buggies instead of cars. They make their meals from scratch instead of hitting the drive thru at McDonald's. They don't watch television. Everyone else interprets them as isolated and insular. They are somehow antisocial. But the reality is far different.

Amish people are as regular and normal as almost anyone else. Some of them even use cellphones and the internet within limits. But they choose to live in a simpler way because they realize that technology isn't always a blessing. You might consider this idea foolish until I point out someone running the block, riding a bike, or rowing on a machine in order to get fit. People do this to make up for the loss of physical labor made possible by all of our technology.

The Amish ask themselves a fundamental question concerning technology. Will it make my life better? Or will it erode my spiritual experience, my time with family, and put me in a cycle of acquisition and envy?

I can tell you that I have no intentions of ditching my computer or my car. But I do ask myself if the stuff in my life matches what I want to do with my life. This is the lesson of the Amish. Don't follow the herd. Live in a deliberate manner.

Regular readers of my blog know that I am a fan of Matthew Crawford and Shop Class as Soulcraft. Crawford is like the Amish in that he has chosen to live in a deliberate manner concerning his occupation. He chooses to fix motorcycles instead of working in a suit-and-tie profession. He doesn't have to do this. He chooses to do this, and some people think he is nuts. The goal should be money and status. It shouldn't be dirt and job satisfaction.

The fact is that the choice makes all the difference. Rock climbing bums think office dwellers are nuts for spending their days trapped in a cubicle. The office dwellers think the rock climbing bums are nuts for sleeping in a bivuoac on the side of a rock face. But there is no tragedy because these are choices people have made. Hell ceases to be hell when you choose to live there.

The simple life is exactly like that. You decide to own your choices, and it gives you a feeling of power and freedom. You are living exactly the way you chose to live.

Soaking the Rich

Almost by definition, people who are successful have benefited from some measure of good fortune. That fortune can take the form of obvious, material advantages--like access to advanced technology and good schools. Or it can take the form of more subtle, but still important, assets for moving forward in life--like good health or loving parents.

Yes, a good work ethic will take you far. And I know many well-educated professionals convinced that nobody works as hard as they do. (I’ve been known to indulge the thought myself.) But I’ve met many people at the bottom of the income ladder who work just as hard, for far less reward. Between 1980 and 2005, the richest 1 percent of Americans got more than four-fifths of the country's income gains. Does anybody seriously believe that the other 99 percent didn't deserve to take home a much larger share?

Moral Arguments for Soaking the Rich

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The leftard answer to all fiscal ills is the same--soak the rich. We all know this as theft, and theft is immoral. So, kleptocrats attempt to make a moral case for soaking the rich. Here is the argument in a nutshell:

-The rich benefit from advantages afforded to them by society.

-The rich owe a debt to society that they must pay.

Now, this argument is easily demolished. Consider a mugger who allows a woman carrying a purse to walk down an alleyway. He does not rob her. But he insists he is owed something for not robbing her. So, she needs to pay. And the best way to make her pay is to rob her. Neat trick, eh?

Without a doubt, living in a free society is a definite advantage in producing wealth. I doubt my life would be as prosperous if I had been born in North Korea. I got the luck of the draw being born in America. But what makes America great is that it is free relative to other places. My government does not rob me as much as other governments. So, for this great privilege, I need to pay more money? The argument demolishes itself.

People will claim that rich people like Paris Hilton possess no real virtue and are not entitled to their good fortune. Who is? Yes, she is one lucky bitch. Making her pay ginormous inheritance taxes might seem fair because it corrects the unequal distribution of fortune. Why not go ahead and bash her face in with a baseball bat so us ugly people won't feel so deprived either? And why not confiscate all lottery winnings while we are at it? The result is that people will stop playing the lottery. This is an important point.

Great advances in life require risks. Gambling on a new product and service may not pay off whatsoever. Or it may pay off huge. These successful gambles are the reason we have many of the wonderful things we enjoy today from cars to TVs to wonder drugs. We need these risk takers. As for rich brats, they have an alarming tendency to spend it all in profligate living. But some don't. Even lottery winners have a hard time hanging on to their winnings which shows that over the short term, you can be rich, but over the long term, people revert to the mean of their bad habits.

And rich people do give to society. If they didn't, they wouldn't be rich. By choosing not to consume but to invest, they build up capital which produces goods and services that the rest of us enjoy. If we didn't want this shit, we wouldn't buy it, and they wouldn't be rich.

Some will make the argument that government provides a security guard role. Certainly, a bodyguard who keeps the woman safe from the mugger deserves some payment, and I agree. But if the bodyguard pulls out a gun and robs the lady, he is no better than the thief. He is identical. It is not theft when the arrangment is voluntary, and there is nothing voluntary about taxes. You pay them or go to jail.

Finally, there is inequality and theft that the government perpetrates which hurts the poor. It happens when the government and the Federal Reserve spend and lend money they print out of thin air which erodes the value of the currency. This does go to benefit their rich constituents. These would be people like Warren Buffett. This is why Buffett loves the system so much. He directly benefits from the theft of your income by Fed inflation. If you get a little bit back in the form of a welfare check, this makes Buffett feel just peachy. This is "social justice." Makes you want to puke, eh?

Random Thoughts on Various Subjects


I am absolutely delighted that people can see NPR for what it is--a bastion of intolerant leftardation. It is unbelievable that these fucknuts would fire one of their own for going on Fox News. Neither I nor anyone else outside of NPR believes Juan was fired over his comments concerning Muslims. I don't always agree with Juan Williams, but I can say that he is one of the least bigoted people working in journalism today.

The reality is that there is desperation in Leftardia. They are idiots, and they know it. So, instead of making an intellectual case for their viewpoints, they have resorted to their inherent Stalinist DNA which is to eliminate the opposition. You can also bet that they want to shitcan Mara Liasson who is another NPR and Fox contributor.

NPR needs to be defunded of any taxpayer dollars. I also think people shouldn't waste their money donating to that fucked up elitist bunch of leftist cocksuckers. But I do count myself as a regular listener to NPR.

The irony is that the supposedly intolerant Fox News turns out to be the tolerant one here. Juan is a leftie. Yet, he has a home at Fox. Maybe they really are fair and balanced.


Steve Jobs laid into the whole Android debate about open and closed. For him, it is about fragmented vs. integrated. I think the guy has some valid points. I think Steve's driving motivation is to make quality products for his customers. He doesn't give a shit about marketshare or being the biggest. He just wants to make quality stuff.

Android might become the de facto standard OS for smartphones the same way Microsoft did with Windows. People consider this like the Beta/VHS and Blu-Ray/HDVD battles that came before. But they miss one glaring fact. Apple still makes Mac OS computers. They never stopped making them, and they have grown their market share. The reality is that Apple has fewer but very devoted customers.

This debate is a historically long one, and it isn't about open or closed. It is ultimately about maximalism vs. minimalism. Is it better to have more or to have less? Does the market want 100 different android phones of greater or lesser quality? Or does it want one great iPhone? So far, the answer is both. Apple didn't win the battle with Microsoft, but it didn't lose either. And like it or not, Apple drives innovation while everyone else copies.


It’s crucial that you admit to yourself: you can’t read and consume
everything. You can’t do everything, respond to everything. Not only would
the attempt take up all of your waking hours, but you’d fail. There’s too
much out there to read, too many people to potentially connect with and
respond to, too many possible projects and tasks to actually complete.

It’s impossible. Once you admit this, the next logical argument is that
if you can’t do and read and respond to everything, you must choose what
you’ll do and read and respond to, and let the rest go.

Let the rest go. This is unbelievably important. You have to accept this,
and be OK with it.


Accomodationists vs. Confrontationalists

The disagreement was not, then, between atheism and humanism. It was about making the atheist/humanist case in America. A central question was, “How publicly scornful of religion should we be?”

Here even the humanists got less humane, as each side stereotyped the other. Those trying to find common ground with religious people were called “accommodationists,” while the more outspoken atheists were called “confrontationalists” and accused of alienating potential allies, like moderate Christians.


This rift has been widening a bit amongst the atheist community. My own decision to leave Godless Columbia (now known as Freethought Society of the Midlands) has been my own involvement in this area of controversy. I suppose I am what is called a "confrontationalist."

The New Atheist movement was started by what are called The Four Horsemen--Dawkins, Dennett, Harris, and Hitchens. All four are confrontationalists. Prior to this, atheism and secular humanism was a humble and quiet affair. But 9/11 changed a lot of thinking. The religious inspiration behind the attacks made atheists become more militant. Religion is a destructive force, and the proponents of reason needed to strike back in a non-violent but direct manner.

My atheism is tempered by my libertarianism. This is why I don't go neocon like Harris and Hitchens have. It is also why I'm more tolerant of religious people even though I'm not less critical. But when they start shit with me I throw it right back in their faces.

The one guy that takes it to an extreme is PZ Myers. PZ is a prick. If we have the Four Horsemen, PZ is the shithead tagging along on his jackass. He is the guy who stirs up shit. I'm not overly fond of PZ.

I think I occupy the middle ground on this. The primary reason I decided to get the hell out of the FSM had to do with the fact that certain people didn't want to offend Wiccan attendees. This was more than I could bear. It just makes a mockery of reason.

Accomodationists make the claim that they want to stand for something positive instead of being against something. I can appreciate that viewpoint. Unfortunately, making nice with touchy feely liberal theotards because they also vote for Democrats is nauseating. And that is the bottom line. Secular humanists are prone to collectivism and confrontationalists are too individualistic.

The decisions on this will be individual. There is no atheist pope to dictate what is orthodox and what is not. What I can say is that confrontation has achieved more than accomodation. Being a wishy washy in the closet atheist has helped no one. That is being forgotten.

Random Thoughts on Various Subjects


Last week, the Cocks whipped the number one team in the country. This week, they lose to a team on a losing streak that isn't even ranked. This is the typical Gamecock experience. We have flashes of brilliance in a constant stream of mediocrity. And we usually give back the lead in the fourth quarter. FWIW, the coach blew this one by not going for a field goal. He gambled and lost in much the same way a drunk sharts his britches.


I'm back on Twitter again. I've decided that it is a good forum for my goddamn fucking HI-larious jokes. My fiction is disgusting. My essays are long winded and boring. But my one liners absolutely kill.


Favre may or may not play. What I do know for certain is that he doesn't want his consecutive starts streak to end because he sent pics of Little Brett to a chick on his cellphone. He might get lucky and get his leg broken. Sad shit really.

Education Is a Consumer Item

Is college a good investment? More and more, the answer to this question is no. You have CEOs like Steve Jobs and Bill Gates who are college dropouts. Meanwhile, you have college graduates leaving school with a sheepskin and no job prospects and no way to pay off their staggering student loan debts. Why would anyone bother? And would it help if you majored in something marketable? The reality is that education is a consumer item not an investment.

Let's get one point established here at the outset. Education is free. Everything I learned in college and more can be had with a library card. I am a total fan of Good Will Hunting for pointing out this truth. If you have the time, you can become a very learned individual. The internet just allows you to do it at home in your underwear.

The second point is that education is continuous. What good is a degree if you stop reading? The reality is that most college grads do just this. They stop learning even though the continuing education is free. Why do they do this? Why do they not continue developing their intellectual abilities and their knowledge? The irony is that the people who dropped out of college are precisely the ones who do this. But I digress. . .

With education being so cheap and plentiful, what is it that college students are paying for? The answer to that is simple. They are paying for a status symbol. They are paying for a credential to impress other people in much the same way that someone would purchase a luxury automobile, an Armani suit, or a diamond studded cock ring. But how has productive capability increased as a result of that sheepskin? It hasn't. A degree has social cache, but it means nothing if it doesn't result in increased earnings for an employer. Meanwhile, a high school dropout who takes an interest in computer programming is able to find a good paying job where the Ive League grad struggles. This is because the dropout has something that is productive.

Employers don't need your knowledge so much as your skills. What can you do? What can you make? What can you fix? 90% of the majors offered by a typical college do not answer these questions. We can scoff at the religious studies major, but the hard core mathematics major is not any better off. I've heard too many business majors tell me their degrees were a joke, and I have worked with engineering majors who didn't do anything remotely related to engineering.

I don't want to discredit education as having no value. It does have value. It just has no value to anyone else but you. I was reminded of this after hearing a recent profile of actor James Franco who is a voracious reader, holds various degrees, and is pursuing a Ph.D. This is the indulgence of someone with a lot of money and the time. But you can accomplish the equivalent in your spare time minus the sheepskin. But in the end, that Ph.D. is about as useful as Angelina Jolie's pilot's license. It makes them better people, but it doesn't result in being more employable or necessarily more productive.

Education is a consumer item in much the same way that learning aikido, taking a cooking class, or learning guitar are consumer items. But no one buys an education in the same way they purchase aikido lessons. Students are notorious for ditching class or finding easy graders or tolerating being taught by a grad student. They want the best education and the best credential and the best grades, but they don't give a shit about the education itself. Diploma mills are derided for not offering a real education but just a piece of paper. How is this any different from what real universities do today? We have rampant cheating, grade inflation, and professors who could give a shit if their students learn anything. Higher ed is a fucking joke.

Where do these shitheads hope to end up? The answer to that is simple--the bullshit worlds of corporate middle management, government bureaucracies, and academic administration. In short, these are parasites in training. They don't need a real value in education because they are not going to produce anything of real value. They are going to play office politics as a career and collect a pension one day. This is where a knowledge of history and Machiavelli comes in handy.

In politics, one's resume is more important than one's skills. I think of this every time Dr. House ridicules Cuddy for not being a real doctor. This is why so many in the parasite class come across as completely fake and insincere. They do not lead. They avoid blame. At the end of the day, they don't point to what they've done. They simply say it wasn't their fault and pat themselves on the back for surviving. And this is good how?

This is what the world needs right now:

--Innovative thinkers who dream up new products and services or better ways to make and provide those products and services

--Hard working men and women to provide these products and services

The reality is that we have a shortage of both of these classes. They are hamstrung by you guessed it--the parasites. We have replaced the real with the fake and now the fake is failing.

Currently, the public sector is growing both in numbers and salaries while the private sector is declining. University administrations are growing while faculty remains static and tuition rates skyrocket. Among the business world, blue collar workers are turned out while their bosses remain employed and claim "record" profits. You do not make profits by decimating productive capacity. It is all bullshit. This is the parasite class in charge milking the host of its last drop of blood. When the host dies, the parasites die, and it will come to that.

But there are glimmers of hope. Credit bureaus are giving people who lost their homes a "pass" on the foreclosures. People are turning away from high priced colleges to online alternatives, apprenticeships, and the trades. And more and more Americans are becoming pissed off at the government. It is a tidal wave of change and the parasite class doesn't see it yet. But I see it.

Prosoperity comes from hard work and thrift. It always has and always will. The "investment" of higher education is a shortcut to prosperity except it isn't panning out for the graduates. The result is a new proletariat that serves lattes and quotes Sartre.

The Renaissance Man vs. The Blue Collar Man

There are limits to ambition. The great remedy for regret is to realize that you only have one lifetime to do it all.

Gian Lorenzo Bernini was a Renaissance Man. He was a sculptor, painter, an architect, and a playwright. He achieved a great deal in his lifetime. What is glossed over is that he had a lot of help and sometimes the help did it better than Bernini.

Leonardo is credited with being a Renaissance Man. His codices indicate a great deal of thought, but they yielded little in action. Leonardo was a daydreamer and a failure. This is because his ambitions were greater than his resources. I think of Leonardo when I hear people talk about regrets. These regrets are often not about wrong choices made but about other possibilities that were forfeited. When the road forks, you can go left or right, but you must choose one or the other. Both ways are likely to lead to something good but choosing one means not choosing the other. As I am fond of saying, you can be a marathoner or a bodybuilder but not both at the same time.

We live in an age of limitless choices and options. The downside is that it gives birth to limitless regrets. We have 500 channels to choose from but can only watch one at a time. We have libraries full of books but no time to read even one of those books. You can do almost anything with your life, but in the end, we usually choose to do nothing.

Time, money, and energy--these are the limiting factors. But they are actually resources. It is when our ambitions exceed these resources that we see them as limits. It comes down to the same thing. You only get one lifetime to do it all in.

Consider Paul McCartney. He was a Beatle. He plays bass, drums, guitar, and piano. He can sing and is considered one of the greatest songwriters of all time. Then consider this painting:

I realize that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but I wouldn't hang this shit on any of my walls. The bare wall has more beauty to me. This is also why I don't sing "Hey Jude" on karaoke night anymore. It is better to stick with what you are good at doing. I'm not good at Beatles tunes.

The whole purpose and point of life is to be happy, and happiness comes from activity. It comes from doing. This is why the Renaissance Ideal appealed to me for such a long time because those Renaissance types are the epitome of the autotelic way. But it is an illusory path because you get frustration and regret instead of flow.

You have to edit your life. Life demands it. This is why I have turned from the Renaissance Man to the Blue Collar Man as the archetype for true existence. My whole life there has been a division between my more cerebral pursuits and my more practical pursuits. I enjoy writing and exploring various subjects, but they don't pay the bills. I have done various blue collar jobs that have paid the bills, but you don't get a Nobel prize by cleaning septic tanks. But you can find flow. This is because all blue collar work is about solving problems.

This struck me while watching one of the many blue collar reality shows on TV. In every episode, the workers run into snags and problems, and the producers love to throw them at you right before the cut to commercial to keep you hanging in there. And the trick works. I get excited and can't wait for the commercial to be over, so I can see how the latest problem got solved. But then I realized I lived the exact way those shows described. This is my life. I get problems thrown at me everyday, and I solve them. And it is an awesome feeling to see the look on the face of a boss or a customer who you helped out of a jam or made their lives better.

What is the contrast then between the Renaissance Man and the Blue Collar Man? That is simple. The Renaissance Man is about being while the Blue Collar Man is about doing. The Renaissance Man wants to be a doctor. The Blue Collar Man wants to save lives. The Renaissance Man wants a glowing resume. The Blue Collar Man wants to do a job well. The Renaissance Man wants achievements. The Blue Collar Man wants solutions.

It boils down to vanity. Blue collar people don't collect diplomas, awards, and accolades. These aren't the people that ran for student council or took extracurricular activities, so they had more to add to their yearbook profile. They took shop class and industrial arts to solve the problem of needing a paycheck in the future. Their lives were not dictated by design but by the needs of the moment. They weren't thinking so much about what they wanted to do with their lives so much as trying to get their car to run, so they could go cruising with their friends on Saturday night.

A sheepskin on the wall does not produce flow. There is no flow in a medal, a trophy, a title, or a killer CV. Every so often, I get some recognition for shit I have done, and it surprises me how little I care about that recognition. I just want that feeling I get when I lose myself in the work. I am beginning to recognize that my motivation is not money or status but hedonism. I am more akin to surf bums and skateboarders than I am to Nobel prize winners.

It all comes back to flow--that awesome feeling that comes when you lose yourself in what you are doing. This is the stoke that surfers are looking for on their boards. If flow is the goal, the solution you need to find is the one that works best for you and is the most elegant one possible. The Renaissance Ideal is not an elegant solution. It is a frustrated wish. We must never lose sight of the telos of our existence which is flourishing. Yet, we forget. We get sidetracked which is why we must always come back to first principles.

Ambition doesn't cut it. It is better to keep your life simple because this yields more flow and much less frustration. There is no happiness in what you have done. There is simply happiness in what you are doing.

Is Blue Collar Better Than White Collar?

I had a friend who was a computer programmer for a major health insurance company. He did not like his job. He liked programming, but he did not like the corporate environment he had to work in. When he began, he said the bullshit ate up about 10% of his day. He said it had grown to over 90% of his day. He spent more time filling out reports than programming. Frustrated, he quit his job.

I can identify and empathize with someone in that situation. What blew my mind was he asked if where I was working had any openings. He was serious. It wasn't about money since he clearly made way more as a programmer. It wasn't about status since my occupation is several rungs down the ladder compared to his. He just wanted to do some sort of honest work for a change.

All of this happened before I read Shop Class as Soulcraft, so I didn't know what to tell him. I couldn't tell him that what he was feeling was alienation from the work that he did. I couldn't point him in the right direction because I didn't know it either. I just knew that I liked my job while he hated his. I thought he was nuts for quitting but not now. He went on a motorcycle tour of America for a few months and returned to work for another major health insurance company as a computer programmer. I don't know if he found happiness in his new position but at least it pays the bills.

People either have real jobs, or they have bullshit jobs. People with real jobs come home with a feeling of satisfaction. People with bullshit jobs come home in frustration and despair. Here's how Matthew Crawford put it:

As it happened, in the spring I landed a job as executive director of a policy organization in Washington. This felt like a coup. But certain perversities became apparent as I settled into the job. It sometimes required me to reason backward, from desired conclusion to suitable premise. The organization had taken certain positions, and there were some facts it was more fond of than others. As its figurehead, I was making arguments I didn’t fully buy myself. Further, my boss seemed intent on retraining me according to a certain cognitive style — that of the corporate world, from which he had recently come. This style demanded that I project an image of rationality but not indulge too much in actual reasoning. As I sat in my K Street office, Fred’s life as an independent tradesman gave me an image that I kept coming back to: someone who really knows what he is doing, losing himself in work that is genuinely useful and has a certain integrity to it. He also seemed to be having a lot of fun.

Mike Rowe of Dirty Jobs had pretty much the same epiphany. Blue collar jobs are satisfying, honest, real, and fun. The idea that doing real work is equal to misery is a myth. Yet, there is a tragedy in the bullshit work. It sucks the life out of you. It goes against our natures. Here is Crawford again:

Contrast the experience of being a middle manager. This is a stock figure of ridicule, but the sociologist Robert Jackall spent years inhabiting the world of corporate managers, conducting interviews, and he poignantly describes the “moral maze” they feel trapped in. Like the mechanic, the manager faces the possibility of disaster at any time. But in his case these disasters feel arbitrary; they are typically a result of corporate restructurings, not of physics. A manager has to make many decisions for which he is accountable. Unlike an entrepreneur with his own business, however, his decisions can be reversed at any time by someone higher up the food chain (and there is always someone higher up the food chain). It’s important for your career that these reversals not look like defeats, and more generally you have to spend a lot of time managing what others think of you. Survival depends on a crucial insight: you can’t back down from an argument that you initially made in straightforward language, with moral conviction, without seeming to lose your integrity. So managers learn the art of provisional thinking and feeling, expressed in corporate doublespeak, and cultivate a lack of commitment to their own actions. Nothing is set in concrete the way it is when you are, for example, pouring concrete.

This is a sad existence. Who enjoys being in this type of job? Only someone mentally defective could yearn to do this sort of thing day in and day out. Is being blue collar better than being white collar? YES! Crawford nails it on the head here:

When we praise people who do work that is straightforwardly useful, the praise often betrays an assumption that they had no other options. We idealize them as the salt of the earth and emphasize the sacrifice for others their work may entail. Such sacrifice does indeed occur — the hazards faced by a lineman restoring power during a storm come to mind. But what if such work answers as well to a basic human need of the one who does it? I take this to be the suggestion of Marge Piercy’s poem “To Be of Use,” which concludes with the lines “the pitcher longs for water to carry/and a person for work that is real.” Beneath our gratitude for the lineman may rest envy.

Somewhere in a high rise office is an executive. He quaffs a Scotch and loosens his tie. He has risen far in the company, but he can't tell you exactly what it is that he does. He doesn't know from one day to the next if he will be promoted, forgotten, or terminated. All his coworkers are enemies looking to plunge a dagger in his back at the first opportunity. He maintains the facade, but he hates his job. The perks are nice, but he realizes they are merely sugar on shit. He gazes at a building under construction and sees iron workers putting together rebar. They don't even make a third of what he makes, but he envies them. Without men such as this, his office would not exist. There would be no chair to sit in or desk to write on. It is men such as these that make the world work. They make the world livable. They deal with iron and concrete. What they do matters. His PowerPoint from a month ago is now ancient corporate history. The company is paying a consulting outfit $250K to help craft a new mission statement. 250 smackers to write a goddamn sentence. Madness. Pure fucking madness. He pours himself another drink but would trade it for one Pabst Blue Ribbon with those real men at the end of their hard but satisfying day.

It is fashionable to put down working class people. Elitist snobs like to find someone lower down the rungs to shit on. I've never understood this behavior. But I am beginning to understand it. These white collar fuckheads don't despise blue collar people but what those blue collar people stand for. Being blue collar is about honesty and integrity. It is about living free of the bullshit. This drives white collar pricks insane. They are morally empty, and their derision hides their desperation. Those blue collar people have to be miserable because if they are happy then the white collar people have it wrong. They have wasted their lives.

I write all sorts of things to piss off religionists, leftards, and fasctards. But nothing draws more ire than this blue collar theme I harp on. It unsettles people because it cuts deeper than mere belief. We are talking about how people make their livings. No one wants to be told that their work is inauthentic. They want to believe that what they do matters. Yet, they struggle to say exactly what it is that they do. They don't know.

Do I feel a certain superiority to these people? Yes, I do. I have a real job. What I do matters. What I do makes the world a better place. I smile, and I enjoy my work. I enjoy the camaraderie of my coworkers, and I sleep well every night. There was a time when my dream job was to be a lawyer. Now, I wish I was one of those underwater welders. That is one neat job there. But I think there is more authenticity in the work of a short order cook than there is in a hundred MBAs.

I hope my computer programmer friend found his way back into a real job. I couldn't even post this essay without people like him, and you wouldn't be reading it. But I know the source of his misery now. He had stopped doing real work. Quitting that job was the right thing to do.

The Case For Working With Your Hands by Matthew B. Crawford

Atheist Meditation

I am an atheist. I do not believe in God, the soul, or the afterlife. I do not subscribe to reincarnation, the power of prayer, or any of that bullshit. Sam Harris doesn't either, but I was surprised that he was interested in and practiced meditation. I thought this was odd and a bit hypocritical. But upon reading and further reflection, I understand why he does it.

Scientific evidence indicates significant differences between the brains of people who meditate and those who don't. Meditation promotes mental and emotional wellbeing. This is scientific fact and not religious hocus pocus.

There is some benefit from religious practice and contemplation. It doesn't change anything but your own mind. Divorced from religion, meditation becomes a mental exercise akin to stretching or lifting weights. I do not meditate, and the one thing I notice is that I must always be stimulated mentally. I either read, listen to my iPod, watch TV, write, or what have you. I find I am not able to do mundane chores or be alone without mental stimulation for very long. I feel a constant stress as a consequence of this.

I see this same thing when I see someone running with headphones on. I always thought this was dumb. These people couldn't be apart from their mental stimulation for less than an hour. I always found the best part of a run is being able to turn all that stuff off. But I don't run these days because it is too boring. I am in the same condition as the people I criticize.

My brain is a constant firestorm of thoughts, feelings, and what have you. When I am alone with my thoughts, I go from excitement to daydreaming to anger over past hurts to what have you. My mind is undisciplined. It affects my mood. Even writing about it causes me stress.

I don't always agree with Sam Harris, but the one thing I do notice about him is his calmness. This has to be the result of this meditative practice. There is benefit in taking a Zen chill pill.

Why Riding a Bike Sucks

I had a weird dream last night. I was caught in a massive winter storm. Snow was everywhere. It was dark. I was freezing and suffering and lost. As bad as it was, the worst part was that I was just trying to get through it on a bike. What a nightmare!

Riding a bike sucks. Sure, it was fun when you were a kid cruising the neighborhood on your Huffy BMX. But when you grow up like I did, you end up hating bikes. Here's why.

-The seat

Bike seats hurt. Even elite cyclists must deal with saddle sores and genital numbness. Various ergonomic seats have been invented, but the bottom line remains. Jamming a leather covered saddle in your crotch and riding for more than a couple of miles hurts.

-Flat tires, broken chains, and other mechancial fuck ups

I have had flat tires. One memorable one ended with my inability to patch the hole and pushing the damn thing home. I slung the shit into the garage when I got home. I really hated that. Bikes are fragile machines.


Cars and bikes are supposed to share the road. Yeah, right. The fact is that two objects can't occupy the same space at the same time, and it is usually the bigger object that wins. Riding a bike improves your health until your ass gets creamed by some old bitch in a Buick leaving you a paraplegic. Bike lanes aren't much better. Cars making right turns are a real bitch.


The alternative to road biking is mountain biking. You go tearing down some cool forest trails until you cream a hiker. Then, your ass is fucked. This is why mountain bikers are losing more and more trails to ride on and usually do so in violation of park rules and laws.

Riding a bike just sucks. It looks fun when other people are doing it, but it sucks when you are doing it. I think this is why every cyclist I have met is a colossal asshole. You have to be to endure all that pain and go against the social grain.

UPDATE: Another reason riding a bike sucks is getting your damn bike stolen. You can't ride a decent rig and lock it up somewhere. You have to get some beater bike and paint it with housepaint, rust, and feces to make it unwantable. Then, you have to put a damn lock on it, a chain, or whatnot which will merely slow down the professional thief. Plus, they always recommend taking your wheels with you. This is a fucking drag.

Here are some cool vids I found:

The Not-To-Do List

Everyone has a To Do list. Even if it isn't written down, people still have it in their heads. The problem with a To Do list is how little of it actually gets done. This got me to thinking about a Not-To-Do List. I think the things you choose not to do can be as important as the things you do. Plus, not doing something requires little effort or willpower unless it involves smoking, cursing, and overeating. This is my Not-To-Do List.

1. Do not listen to crappy music.

I've listened to everything from classical to hip-hop to lounge music to blues to ska to reggae to ambient to what have you. But the music I consistently listen to is country and rock. I have explored those other genres, but they consistently suck ass every time. Why waste time? I know at the end of the day that I'm going to be playing Waylon Jennings and Led Zeppelin. Everything else is just shit.

2. Eschew fine dining.

The finest dining I do is a plate of pasta at The Olive Garden. For the most part, if it costs 50 bucks a plate, or you have to wear a suit and tie to eat there, it isn't worth it. If you paid all that dough to eat an artistically created meal that could fit in your hand, you are stupid.

3. Do not join groups, clubs, and organizations.

I belonged to a group once. I was even in a leadership role. But it was a mistake. A busybody tried to run things her way, and it made me sick. I left never to return, and I have zero regrets over this decision. I do regret joining the group. It was a mistake. There are two things I know. I don't like telling people what to do, and I don't like being told what to do. Joining a group involves one or both of these things. It's just not my thing.

4. Do not enter partnerships.

Did Simon really need Garfunkel? I didn't think so. The reality is that a partnership is the joining of an achiever with an inferior. This doesn't mean that you can't work with others, but someone has to be in the driver's seat. As long as everyone knows who is in charge, things work fine. It is when this becomes clouded that everything turns to shit. This is why the Beatles broke up, but Dylan soldiered on. Individuals don't break up. They might crack up, but they don't break up.

5. Do not play musical instruments.

Being able to play guitar is one of the most useless skills you can have. The world has no shortage of musicians. Unless you are Hendrix, pawn your instrument.

6. Do not daydream.

This is the hardest not-to-do item. Daydreaming is where you contemplate an imaginary life better than your own. It is OK to daydream about some creative endeavor you plan to undertake like writing a blog post or building a table. But most daydreaming is wishing. Since 90% of these wishes will never be fulfilled, you end up feeling miserable. Your life seems empty and fruitless compared to the fantasy. Daydreaming robs you twice because it eats up resources that can be used to achieve something real while also making you discount the things you do achieve.

7. Do not envy.

When it comes to other people, I admire their virtues and little else. Envy strikes me as a pointless waste. This is why I don't go to my high school reunions since this usually leads to some degree of envy or gloating. I just don't care what other people do with their lives. The other aspect is how utterly mundane and normal most people are while exceptional people are usually dysfunctional in key areas of their lives. Think of Steve Jobs or Hunter S. Thompson. Ulimately, I admire individualism, and you can't be an individualist by copying other people.

8. Do not wear sweaters.

I hate sweaters. They are itchy and unmanly. Fleece is OK.

9. Do not take vacations.

I define a vacation as at least a week taken off from work and spent in another geographic location. The good of the trip will be had in the first two days, and the rest of the time will be spent back at your room watching TV or surfing the internet. Take a weekend instead. Same bang for less buck.

10. Do not buy blenders, espresso machines, and other kitchen junk.

I bought a blender to appease a former girlfriend. It has been used exactly zero times. Except for the Foreman grill, the electric can opener, the Mister Coffee, and the toaster oven; there is little you can buy for your kitchen that will be worth the expense. Sandwich makers, food processors, bread machines, and the like are just yard sale clutter. Save your dough and don't buy it.

That's it for my Not-To-Do List. It is a work in progress, so you might see a part 2 to this one. Hopefully, it will give you some ideas for shit you can choose not to do.

Quotable Quotes

People are what they are and they don't change. No doubt there are exceptions. Few and far between, they prove the rule. As a rule of thumb, one most useful in the art of living, assume that Schopenhauer was right in his doctrine of the unalterability of character. Never enter into an important relationship with a person, marriage for example, with the thought that you will change the person to your liking. That is highly unlikely. What will happen is that you will induce a change in yourself, one in the direction of frustration and disappointment.

Almost all of our sorrows spring out of our relations with other people.

Voluntary simplicity involves both inner and outer condition. It means singleness of purpose, sincerity and honesty within, as well as avoidance of exterior clutter, of many possessions irrelevant to the chief purpose of life. It means an ordering and guiding of our energy and our desires, a partial restraint in some directions in order to secure greater abundance of life in other directions. It involves a deliberate organization of life for a purpose. Of course, as different people have different purposes in life, what is relevant to the purpose of one person might not be relevant to the purpose of another....The degree of simplification is a matter for each individual to settle for himself.

Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.

Through Kurt I saw the beauty of minimalism and the importance of music that's stripped down.

Random Thoughts on Various Subjects


I can't relate to people without sports.

There, I said it. It had to be said. It needed to be said. The problem I have is that the things I am intensely interested in--philosophy, economics, politics, etc.--are for introverts. Either the subjects are way over anyone's head or they cause a great deal of heated debate like with economics and politics and my atheism. I can't have normal conversations with anyone. But I can when the subject is sports.

I've eliminated watching football and NASCAR and keeping up with what is going on in basketball, baseball, and MMA. This frees up time to pursue my interests, but the social cost is crushing me. I might as well give up social interactions as well because without sports I can't have a civil convo with anyone including my girlfriend.

I like sports, but I must admit that I also need sports. As a corollary, I also need games. My most enjoyable evenings are spent playing Scrabble with people. Whenever my girlfriend asks me to do something, I have no ideas, so we don't do anything together. But we could go bowling. And playing Glow Hockey while waiting for food in a restaurant on my iPod touch has been overwhelmingly positive.

I'm relapsing back into a sports fan. This is because sports makes me more like a human being. Even George F. Will is a baseball and football fan, and that guy is barely human.


Have you ever seen a big ass truck heading straight for a subcompact and grimaced at the coming collision? This is how I feel today. Alabama's B squad will get some playing time today.


Alberto Contador is a doper. I am shocked. SHOCKED. What is really shocking is that there are still some fans of professional cycling who think this sport can be cleaned up. It can't. Everyone dopes, and doping is here to stay. Put away those piss containers and let it happen.


The biggest news for Brett Favre this season is that he tries to fuck hot bitches by sending them dirty texts. Forget about that Randy Moss trade. Brett is an adulterer! *YAWN*


Japan tried this on various occasions. It never worked. Consequently, the Fed is going to do the same thing. It just boggles the fucking mind.

What our economy needs is savings, and the Fed just blows that to hell with zero interest rates. You have free money out there, so the answer is simple. Borrow and buy a shitload of gold. Is this the next bubble?


For me, there is only question that needs to be answered here. Israel or the US? I'm putting money on Israel. Those Israelis never hesitate with actions like this. The US is still somewhat deliberative. The Cyber War has begun.

PRINT-Zen To Done by Leo Babauta

Leo Babauta's Zen To Done is a minimalist twist on David Allen's Getting Things Done (GTD) and Stephen Covey's 7 Habits. It is elegant in its simplicity.

I have read Covey, and I passed on GTD for the most obvious reason. Both systems are overly complex. I can't even remember Covey's 7 Habits much less practice them. Leo cuts through the crap and delivers the goods. I've already started putting ZTD into practice.

The first great tip Leo gives is to get yourself a Moleskine notebook or a Hipster PDA (index cards held in a binder clip.) These paper systems trump anything electronic because you don't need batteries, and they boot up lightning fast.

The Hipster PDA

Using these tools, you put together your To Do list and work it. Babauta recommends having three MIT's or Most Important Tasks to knock out that day. Each chapter has different systems varying in complexity to be adopted to whatever your needs might be. The bottom line is that it is simple.

For me, I use the Moleskine system. I bought a notebook from Walmart and just capture it all in there. I put my To Do items in there, my work schedule, things to remember, and my shopping list. This replaces the scraps of paper in my wallet I am always losing or forgetting about.

Productivity doesn't require a complicated plan. It just needs a simple plan that is executed. It goes back to habits and as Leo will tell you, the best way to establish a habit is one habit at a time.

Minimal ZTD: The Simplest System Possible

How To Be A Great Leader

Leadership takes many forms. A teacher is a leader. A coach is a leader. A boss is a leader. A parent is a leader. We have lots of leaders, and everyone of them has expressed frustration at some point that their people just don't get it. They can't seem to get their people to do what they want. They will try bribing them and threatening them. They will tweak rules, policies, and strategies. But the people are just resistant to the changes. Why is this?

Once upon a time, I was a boss, and I had come to this point of frustration. The people I was in charge of exhibited all sorts of behaviors that I just couldn't stand. One of the biggest problems I had was that they were always late for work. They weren't massively late. Just five minutes here and there every damn day. Then, during the workday, I would have to rip their ass for spending more time chattering instead of working. Finally, one day, I asked one of my guys why they did this shit. The reply was classic. The guy said, "We do this because it is what we see you do."

It was a shocker, but he was right. Every one of the things my people did were the exact same things I did. I was screaming at a mirror. The flaws I saw in them were the flaws I had in myself. The secret to changing my people could be found in changing myself.

If you look at any great organization, you will see a great leader who embodies the values and virtues the organization emulates. The most famous example I can give is Apple with Steve Jobs. Apple is a unique and strange company just like Steve Jobs. Apple's strength and flaws are the same as Steve's strength and flaws.

Plato pointed out that a child will act differently around one parent than he will around other. Similarly, people pick up on the values and virtues of their leaders and respond in kind. If you have a lazy leader who doesn't give a shit, the people will not give a shit. If you have a leader who is an asshole, the people will be assholes. The effect is not immediate, but it is inescapable.

The problem bad leaders have is that they have yet to come to terms with their own flaws. They have yet to assess their own character and be who they need to be. They don't see themselves screaming at the mirror. They see some other person in the glass instead of seeing themselves. The moment they see themselves and realize it then they are on the way to becoming great leaders. The next step is personal change. To change others you have to change yourself.