Charlie's Blog: 2018

9.16.2018

Random Thoughts on Various Subjects 73


You are bald in the face!
MILES MALNIC, on his beardless uncle

1. STATUS

I thought it would be a good idea to do a weekly status update on the C-man. I don't think my life is terribly interesting except I notice that events happening in the news actually do have a real impact on my life. This feature is a way for me to share a bit on these impacts.

The first and most obvious would be Hurricane Florence. It is raining outside from what is left of that storm, but we got off pretty easy. Our power was out for a couple of hours, but they had it back on fairly quickly. Others along the coast are certainly without power.

The second is my surrender on evangelism in the wake of these scandals in the Catholic Church. I get the pervert priest/prelate thing thrown in my face on a regular basis such that I agree with the critics. Why should anyone want to join a church full of pedophiles and sodomites? I simply can't put the shine on that turd and expect anyone to buy it.

2. CHURCH SCANDALS

There are three scandals here. The first scandal is the initial offense of pedophilia and pederasty among priests and prelates. The second scandal is the cover up of those offenses by the bishops and the Vatican. The third scandal is the awful way that Pope Francis and his cronies in Rome are handling this situation.

They all knew. They did nothing. Now that we know, they want to somehow get back to doing nothing. This is absolutely staggering to behold. It has lead me to believe that they are all complicit in this and are probably participants in this mess as well. If it is reported tomorrow that Pope Francis is a sodomite, it will not surprise me.

This has lead me to a new theory about the abdication of Pope Benedict XVI. There are lots of conspiracy theories about this involving secret deals and blackmail. B16 says that his age and frailty were the deciding factors, but his continued long life make me not buy this anymore. As for blackmail, why would the wolves blackmail a man that was likely to die shortly?

My theory is more basic. I suspect that B16 was compromised in the same way these other bishops are compromised. He knew things and did not act on them. They may involve his brother who is rumored to have known things and did not act on them. Seeing that the filth had to be removed from the Church, B16 saw that he could not do this because he was part of the problem. He was guilty, too.

I have no proof for this which is why it is just a theory. But it makes more sense to me than the official reason and the conspiracy theory involving the St. Gallen Mafia. B16 saw the filth, but he knew that he was not the man to clean it up. Basically, B16 did what Francis should be doing now.

B16's resignation came on the heels of the Vatileaks scandal. The man is still alive today and very much lucid in his thoughts. I can't buy that his declining health was the overwhelming reason for his abdication. He may outlive Francis.

3. KAVANAUGH

The Left is throwing everything they have at Kavanaugh to postpone his confirmation until after the midterms. Now, they have dug up some story from his high school days. Basically, the guy is alleged to have done something creepy one time when he was a stupid kid. This is the best they got. Compared to virtually everyone in DC including our own president, this is some lightweight garbage. Just confirm the guy already.

I am confident that Kavanaugh would rule to overturn Roe v. Wade. I don't think he is another Scalia, but he is definitely not a Kennedy. Getting borked like this can only serve to push him in a more conservative direction.


Warren Buffett nailed it when he said, "People see neighbors 'dumber than they are' getting rich." That sums up bubbles pretty well along with so many other financial calamities. People herd into things because they see everyone else doing the same thing. I agree with Mish Shedlock about the role the Fed plays in bubbles, but we can't discount mass stupidity. This leads me to a formula.

This is my formula for a bubble:
MASS STUPIDITY + CHEAP CREDIT = BUBBLE
The student loan bubble is a classic example of this. If the federal government wasn't providing those student loans, that bubble would not exist. The problem is that we see so many grads entering a lifetime of debt servitude that people are waking up to what is going on here. That cheap credit hasn't ended, but college enrollment is declining. People see the trap and are avoiding it. Yet, college tuition is increasing.

Bubbles pop spectacularly when the credit dries up. But what happens when it doesn't pop, and people get wise to what is happening? This is a new phenomenon. They should have a new name for it like a "phantom bubble" or something. Basically, it is when they are trying to pull the same trick twice, but no suckers are available to take the bait. I see this in housing, and I am starting to see this in the student loan bubble. People are learning. Yet, the prices on things remain high. It's not supposed to exist, but there it is. Smart people alone can't pop a bubble. As long as one student enrolls in a university that qualifies for federal student loan aid, that college will jack his tuition to multiple millions of dollars to keep riding that debt gravy train. They don't care. But if he drops out, they are screwed.

5. ODDS AND ENDS

--If you buy a Tesla, you are a fool. The car will outlast the company but only because the company should be out of business. I think the car is crap, too. You would be smarter to buy a used Delorean.

--When they blamed Trump for Hurricane Florence, I have to wonder how they can say Alex Jones is a nutjob.

--The NYT got it wrong on Nikki Haley showing what I have been saying about the left wing media. If you want the truth, you have to go to Fox News and conservative talk radio and blogs.

--Shooting and looting. But if you say something about it, this makes you a racist.

--White people.

--Amazon's stock price depends upon the subsidy they get from the US Postal Service. Walmart and Trump would like to see that subsidy end.

6. LINKS OF INTEREST




9.15.2018

SOC 40


Our life is what our thoughts make it.
MARCUS AURELIUS

This is Hurricane Florence weekend. Writing this SOC post is a challenge because the power keeps going out. I have had to turn my computer back on three times this morning as the gusty wind makes the power flicker. Florence is now reduced to a tropical storm, so I'm not in fear for my life or safety. The only thing in peril is my comfort. I thank God for sparing us the afflictions others must be suffering now. I pray they make it through this storm.

This would be a good time to start keeping a journal. These SOC posts are like a journal in their tone and composition. I just write whatever is in my head at the moment. But not always. I do restrain myself on these things as giving voice to all your thoughts is not prudent. In the atheist/libertarian days, I let the truth fly without regard to the consequences. Now, I pause to think about the damage that words can do.

A private journal has certain benefits. The first and most obvious is that a journal is not dependent upon electricity. As I write this, I anticipate watching the screen go black. Thankfully, writing on Blogger automatically saves my stuff. What once was a catastrophic thing is now a minor annoyance. I do all of my big writing online with Blogger or on Google Drive because of autosave. The only threat to my stuff will be Google censorship. So far, the only censorship I see from them is on YouTube and the search engine in China.

The second benefit of keeping a private journal is that it allows you a freedom to write about things you can't do on a blog. Even then, you can't be too free with a journal as it can be used against you in a court of law if you are into shadiness. Fortunately, my crimes are misdemeanor type stuff like going two miles over the speed limit. Criminal activity is not my thing. I am also not into drugs which I must admit is where so much criminal activity comes from.

The third benefit of keeping a private journal is the convenience of it. With a journal, I can write every day. You just open the notebook and put pen to page. It doesn't have to be good. You don't have to craft it for public consumption. You just write for five minutes or five hours. Journal writing is undemanding.

I am very tempted to do a journal. I have tried in the past to keep journals, but I ended up abandoning them after a week or so. Part of it was being undisciplined in my writing. I don't have that problem now. The other thing is that I was unsettled in who I am. Had I keep a journal doing my atheist years filled with bile and filth, I would have put a match to that garbage by now.

If I kept a journal, I think I would aim for three things. The first and most basic would be to write about the current day in my personal life as well as the wider world. This would be the diary function of a journal. The second would be a memoir about what has happened in my past life up to the present. The third function would be to record current thoughts about various subjects. I have a deep vein of material for that project.

As for the audience, I think I will write it for the sake of my wife. I really have no interest in publishing the thing, but I think it would be valuable reading for my posthumous life. When I am gone, that work will live on while I sleep in the grave.

I quit writing this week as I am frustrated over the time writing takes and the little reward it offers relative to that time commitment. But it is worth it. Vincent van Gogh wasted his life on his art, yet it doesn't seem like such a waste now. I'm glad he wasted his time on those paintings. I have found a lot of enjoyment in them.

People desire wealth and fame. These things can be means to other ends. Mostly, people just want these things for their own sake. My desire for these things was a youthful folly that I have outgrown. I wouldn't turn down winning the lottery, but I would not want anyone to know I won it. You can buy useful things with wealth, but fame is garbage. This is why I don't put pictures of myself on my blog. I can live with my name out there, but I would like to go to the grocery store undisturbed. I can tell you that if I ever saw Thomas Pynchon at the store I wouldn't know it. I think this is also why Matt Drudge shuns the limelight. Most pictures of him on the internet are so old that he is almost unrecognizable again. There are benefits to getting older and fatter.

I still have electricity. I got a good run going here. I'm still reading Cal Newport's Deep Work, and I am allowing that guy's thinking to reshape my life and my work. I am over my social media addiction. My triggers for relapse are reading the news, but I am letting my internet apostolate scratch that itch. I was tempted to recreate my Twitter account as a blog and put links to everything I read especially Catholic and conservative stuff. But I may as well be on Twitter if I am going to do that. 

IA is basically my desire to do a project that isn't about me. It is about God and others. I have had a lot of issues with that project because I couldn't decide what I wanted it to be exactly. Plus, it can be buggy. But my aim is that it be a launching point for people to learn more about the Catholic faith. I learned about it by reading the sources linked on the blog. As such, it is a Catholic link supply service. I could more accurately describe it as the link dump. I've even started posting links from my flip phone.

I don't really edit what gets posted on IA. I post what I read or what I think is worth reading. I figure if it was worth my time it will be worth your time as well. But having all of the other feeds and links allows visitors to ignore my suggestions and find their own stuff. I've gotten into a groove now with IA, and I can do it with a minimum of effort. I'm just going to keep doing it and building it into this massive thing. And I am also never going to post pictures or graphics on the site. This is in keeping with a brutalist web design aesthetic. My other projects have a heavy graphical touch to them, so it is refreshing to have just a text based blog. For a moment, I was tempted to do the brutalist thing with the C-blog, but I thought better of it. The C-blog is like my living room. The apostolate is the tool shed. You don't decorate a tool shed.

The other trigger for my Twitter addiction is seeing other writers, bloggers, and journalists on the service or seeing links to it from their web pages. When you see everyone with the same tool in their kit, it makes you wonder if it should be in your kit, too. I have to ignore this in much the same way that I ignore everyone around me with their smartphones as I go through my life with my flip phone. This is why Cal Newport is so inspiring to me because the guy has never had a social media account. That takes a lot of fortitude considering that he is a comp sci professor. It's like being a mathematician using a slide rule in an age of scientific calculators.

I can't do what everyone else is doing. This doesn't mean doing the opposite of the herd. It does mean following a different set of directions. That is the crux of what Newport is getting at in Deep Work. Right now, the herd is drowning in deep distraction. I'm going to stop here before the power goes out again.

Cultural Hygiene


You are what you read.
OSCAR WILDE

Have you ever watched a movie that was really bad? What did you say to yourself at the end of that horrible movie? I know what you said. You said, "I'm not ever getting that time back." That instant regret is a good thing because it shows that you are still capable of distinguishing the good from the bad. Essentially, life is too short to waste on garbage. The problem is that we often don't know what is garbage and what is good until after the fact. Critics are helpful in this regard, but they are becoming more worthless by the day as they become unmoored from what is true, good, and beautiful. We need a return to a knowledge of the transcendant in order to make these critical judgments and experience less regret in our cultural endeavors.

At the outset, I must confess that I am a cultural chauvinist. I do not believe that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I believe that some works of art, music, and literature are better than others. Others like the entire genres of hip hop music and modern art are cultural garbage unsuitable for a civilized people. Does this make me a snob? Yes, it does. My Brahms is better than your Jay-Z. My Michelangelo is better than your Jackson Pollack. I am not going to apologize for this. Have I offended you? That's good. You deserve to be offended. You consume garbage. I am even amazed that you have read this far or even can read this far.

If you consume garbage culture, you are stupid. You are an imbecile. You are a Philistine and a fool. By consuming this garbage, you become this garbage. Oscar Wilde is right. You are what you read. But may be you are tired of living like this. You desire to live on an elevated plane. I can tell you that you will not find this elevated plane listening to AC/DC or reading Fifty Shades of Grey. You can find it if you endeavor to practice cultural hygiene.

Cultural hygiene is the process of removing garbage culture from your life and replacing it with the good stuff. Anyone with a half decent public school education should know enough on how to do this. And the good stuff is not hard to find. Thanks to the public library, public radio, the internet, and other sources, you can avail yourself of elevated forms of culture. The problem isn't access. The problem is poor taste.

To make good choices in the cultural arena, you must commit to the idea that truth, beauty, and goodness are not relative things. These things reflect the mind and character of God. Good culture reflects these attributes of God. As creatures made in the image of God, we have a built in sense of what is true, good, and beautiful. We recognize these things when we see them. When we encounter them, it's like remembering something we are surprised that we ever forgot.

We forget what is true, good, and beautiful by effort and reinforcement. So much of music and art today appeal to the basic instincts for sex or excitement. These are the cheap thrills of loud music, pornography, and action movies. These things work to bludgeon from our minds what is true, good, and beautiful. I call this cultural pollution. The purpose of this pollution is to tear apart your mind and your soul.

When practicing cultural hygiene, you should ask yourself two questions. Does this make me better? Or, does this make me worse? This is not a utilitarian question as virtually all culture fails in the utilitarian sense. Culture always takes time and money. The benefits are accounted on the higher levels of being. Does this make me wiser? Does this make me more virtuous? Does this elevate me in some way? If the answer to these questions is no, that bit of culture should be expunged from your cultural diet.

When you practice cultural hygiene on a regular basis, you will notice some strange things happening to you. You start to become smarter and better informed. You become less stressed and calmer. You become more attuned to things in your experience. You become more virtuous. The benefits are many. I just know that my practice of cultural hygiene has made me a better and happier person. I also rarely have experiences of regretting time lost on bad movies.

How do you practice cultural hygiene? Here is a handy guide.

CHARLIE'S GUIDE TO CULTURAL HYGIENE

Sports
I used to love watching sports. I now see this as a complete waste of time. Sports are valuable when you actually participate in them. A night spent at the bowling alley is better than a night spent watching Monday Night Football. The best sports are those that get you in shape and teach virtues like teamwork and fortitude and patience. But watching sports is always bad. Time spent watching sports is better spent getting in shape and playing sports.

News
News is not a waste of time. As citizens, you should know what it is going on in your community, your country, and the world. These things matter. Philistines don't spend time reading the news because it cuts into time looking at porn. But you are better than that.

The problem with the news today is left wing bias. This has always been bad going back for decades, but it is more acute today. Once upon a time, newspapers and broadcasters strived for objectivity. Now, I hear an NPR news brief on my classical station, and I am floored at the blatant propaganda and lies they spew.

I am a conservative and a Republican. If you are a leftwinger, you are a lost cause, and you should stop reading here. You are too stupid to be reached. It is beyond your capability to appreciate what is true, good, and beautiful because you can't even grasp reality. Like I said, I am a cultural chauvinist. I am also a political chauvinist. Marxism is evil, and all Marxists are evil by extension. But if you would like to change this, keep reading.

You should stop reading the New York Times and The Washington Post. You should stop listening to NPR or watching network news or CNN and MSNBC. Instead, you should listen to conservative talk radio, watch Fox News, and read conservative websites like The Drudge Report and Breitbart. Be extreme in removing left wing propaganda from your life.

Once upon a time in my libertarian past, I thought such extreme prejudice in the journalistic realm was bad. It might make you one dimensional. You need to hear news from a variety of sources and perspectives and maintain an open mind. This is nonsense. This is because leftist journalists lie. They make it up. Or, they selectively omit facts. This is because they report with an agenda, and truth is the first casualty in their information war. They report whatever advances their left wing Marxist agenda. Facts be damned.

Conservatives do a better job of reporting the news because they actually believe in truth. That truth is not always flattering to the conservative cause. Conservative news sources will conflict with each other and criticize one another. Conservatives are not monolithic in their thinking. This is because conservatism is not an ideology like Marxism, and conservatives don't have a Saul Alinsky playbook that dictates their operation.

As for local news, I listen to and read my local sources. I find little bias in the crime reports, the weather, and high school football scores. Community news is informed by community values, and these are usually conservative.

Within the world of Catholic media, the same sort of left/right thing is going on. I don't read the Catholic Left crap that you will find at places like the National Catholic Reporter. If they are big on social justice warrior garbage, women priests, and LGBTQ inclusion, don't read them

Social media is a poor source for news. Most of it is too immediate to be accurate. Then, there is the censorship. Plus, social media can lead to addiction. Just delete those accounts.

Music
Music can be placed in one of three categories--classical, popular, and vulgar. Classical music is Bach and Beethoven. Popular music is Frank Sinatra, country music, and Motown. Vulgar music is hip hop and heavy metal.

Good music tends to stress the melody. Bad music tends to stress the beat. The beat of vulgar music is similar to the tribal beats of pagan cults. The devil's music has a strong beat to it. If Hell has a jukebox, the music on it is purely beat driven stuff.


Classical music is the best music. You rarely hear the beat in classical. When drums are used, it is to sound an ominous tone in a piece. The melody is the prime component in classical music, and this is why it is superior. As you slide down the scale of degeneracy, you have jazz which retains the melody but puts it to a beat. From there, you get blues, rock, and rap.

Not all classical music is good. Avant garde composers like Arthur Schoenberg and Philip Glass rejected common sense and made experimental pieces that are disgusting to listen to. They wanted to do to music what Picasso and Pollack did to art. Unfortunately, left wing types have taken over the classical music establishment especially the NPR stations and might try to slip this garbage out there. But you will know it when you hear it. Change the station or turn it off.

As for popular music, it ranges from beautiful to awful. Classical music consistently delivers. Popular music does not consistently deliver. I have experienced some sublime moments listening to American Idol, but they are rare. Most of the time, pop music is like ear candy. It's fun, but you shouldn't live on it.

The best sources of classical music I find are from internet stations and YouTube. You may also have an NPR station in your area devoted to classical music. The only downside to these stations are the leftwing newscasts at the top of the hour. I find these make for good bathroom breaks when listening at home.

Art
There is a lot of good art out there. Unfortunately, the bulk of it won't be found after 1900. I'm not sure why, but the twentieth century was not a good one for art. Some people blame the camera for the turn towards abstraction, but I find this to be an empty argument. A realist painter like Edward Hopper shows what an artist can do in a post-camera age.

Like music, art can also be classified in three categories--classical, popular, and vulgar. Virtually all art before Picasso is good. Some think the slide began with the Impressionists like Monet or a guy like Vincent Van Gogh. But art didn't truly take the vulgar turn until Picasso began embracing the ugly and the hideous in his art. This opened the gate for others to explore this forbidden territory of garbage art.


Picasso has been cited as an influence by many garbage artists. Now, it is important to distinguish beauty and skill. One does not have to be the most skilled artist to produce beautiful art. I have seen beautiful folk art. I have seen beauty in the simple drawings of children. Likewise, a person can be very adept at art like tattoo artists that could fit in with the Renaissance painters. But their work is not beautiful.

Technical proficiency does not make great art. This is where popular art comes into the discussion. Artists like Norman Rockwell or Thomas Kinkade made art that was popular, and this art required a great deal of skill. But it tends to be kitschy. It is eye candy--sweet to the eye but not so good for you.


Comic book artists, greeting card makers, and cartoonists occupy this pop art category. There's nothing wrong with this as long as they don't try and pass it off as equal to Michelangelo or Leonardo. These people are more like illustrators than artists.

The bulk of my derision is for shock art. This would be excrement in a can. Literally. As modern art became more depraved, it tended towards the perverse, the visceral, and the scatological. It wasn't enough to be ugly. The artist had to strive to make you feel sick inside. And they succeeded. Spectacularly.


The twentieth century was a time hostile to God and Christianity, and the art of this time period reflects this hostility. This hostility to truth and reason persists today as common sense drains out of every aspect of society such that even public restrooms have given over to transgender confusion.

You should prefer the classical art to all others. You should never give vulgar art and shock art any of your time or appreciation. As for everything else, it would be illustration being neither beautiful nor ugly. And it's ok to put your kid's drawings on the fridge. They have their own kind of beauty because they come from a place not yet corrupted by the world.

Books
Books tend to be good on the whole. This is because stupid people do not read books. It takes too much effort and brainpower. But some bad books do get published like Fifty Shades of Grey. Nonfiction books tend to be worthwhile reading because they deliver information you didn't know. The quality of that information depends upon the worldview of the writer. this requires discernment, but I can tell you that you will be better off not reading Marx, Darwin, or Freud.

With fiction and literature, you should avoid popular trash like romance novels. Men have their own trash novels usually involving action and war. I think virtually all of the books of Tom Clancy and his imitators fall into this category. I also admit to liking a series of trash novels in my younger days called The Destroyer.


Great novels have a quality that trash novels don't have. They impart a moral education. This is not a didactic form of moral education with happy story lines and trite endings. Instead, it is the moral law applied to a fallen world. The characters strive to be virtuous and do what is right in a world that opposes what is virtuous and right. This does not always mean a happy ending. Sometimes the characters fail. This is known as tragedy. Shakespeare is the epitome of a moral education in literature. You will improve considerably from repeated reading of the Bard.

Trash novels just provide excitement. It can come from sex or violence or both. Usually, the cover will tell you if it is trash or not. As for Tom Clancy technothrillers, this is a form of geek literature like science fiction literature. This is literature lost in the details of the worlds they create. Lord of the Rings has this quality but redeems itself because it gives a heavy dose of moral education along with the runes and imagined histories of places that don't exist.

I recommend reading items from the list of Great Books. Not all of these books are necessarily great, but many of them are. Books that are hostile to Christianity are not great books. The key is to remember what I said at the beginning. Books should make you better at the end of reading them than at the beginning. If you find yourself twenty pages into a book that is making you worse, return that volume to where you got it. At least a bad movie only wastes two hours of your life, a bad book can waste days.

Cinema, home video, and television
The same judgment you use for novels can be applied to fictional movies and television shows. The difference is that visual entertainment is almost completely trash. This is because stupid people don't read, but they do love watching stuff. Most of the good movies and television shows that are produced in a year can be counted on one hand. You would do well to watch Andy Griffith reruns on YouTube or local TV stations. Otherwise, you are wandering in the desert.

I spend most of my leisure time reading and listening to classical music and talk radio. I rarely watch TV or movies. But I do keep them as options for those times when something good gets made. I don't use Netflix as it is a waste of money. But it will surprise you what is available for free on YouTube.

Guilty pleasures
Even the most adept practitioner of cultural hygiene will have moments of weakness. This is when I turn off the classical and go on a rock binge on YouTube. Sometimes, this is simple nostalgia. Other times, it is just for fun. This sort of thing is akin to going off of a diet and eating a pile of junk food. It's fun while it lasts, but it usually ends in regret.

Should you enjoy these guilty pleasures? That will be at your discretion. I treat these guilty pleasures like candy or desserts. The goal is not absolute elimination but reduction and minimization. I follow a vegan diet which can seem extreme to those not embracing a plant based lifestyle. But I do have a handful of jelly beans every so often which is my only dietary guilty pleasure. Vegan ice cream might be another. In the cultural arena, this would be watching guilty dog videos on YouTube.

I am not against fun. Fun is fun. You may not necessarily be better off from this stuff, but you shouldn't be worse off either. I think listening to The Smiths with your wife is a lot of fun. Listening to Norwegian death metal is not fun. And that's something to keep in mind. Shakespeare wrote Hamlet and Macbeth, but he also wrote The Taming of the Shrew and A Midsummer Night's Dream. Fun has its place.

Conclusion
The goal of cultural hygiene is not a Puritan one. This is the impetus behind Baptists burning Black Sabbath records. Culture is fundamentally something you enjoy. When you practice cultural hygiene, your enjoyment of culture should actually increase. You should experience more moments of rapture and the sublime. Cultural pollution diminishes the enjoyment of culture in much the same way that a steady diet of candy bars diminishes the taste of a great salad. Candy gives immediate satisfaction that doesn't last and proves harmful with greater indulgence. In the same way, garbage culture gives an immediate satisfaction. This is its fundamental appeal. But it leaves you worse off. Great culture has delayed satisfaction, but it leads you to a better place.

9.11.2018

The Return to Writing


There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.
MAYA ANGELOU

Cormac McCarthy uses an Olivetti typewriter. The one he uses reminds me of the Smith-Corona I got from my aunt who was a secretary. That typewriter was what I used to write my first stories as a kid. They weren't very good, but I took to writing at an early age. Then, I graduated to a Radio Shack computer that got me through college. I did a lot of writing on that thing. And my hard copies were all done on an old school dot matrix printer. After that computer, I got a Compaq laptop and got on the internet. I literally wore the keys out on that thing. My current keyboard has the same wear especially on the S and the A keys. That wear is what moved me to start using desktop machines. I wear out the keyboards, and I like to replace them without replacing the entire machine. I am on my third desktop machine. I've lost count on the keyboards.

I am a writer. I'm not sure what makes a person a writer except that he writes. He may or may not find publication or remuneration. But the act of putting words on a piece of paper or a screen is what make you a writer. That's it. My wife is now a writer as she blogs about the practical things. The thing she has discovered is that writing is a lot of work without much reward. I've told her this for years, but she knows it now.

I wish popularity had something to do with craftsmanship and skill. But it doesn't. Stephen King writes some of the worst crap to ever be published. But those crap books will sell. Other crap books endorsed by Oprah Winfrey will also sell. But they are crap.

quit writing, but it did not last for a day. This is because of the thoughtful e-letter this reader sent to me:
Charlie,
I am a stranger but thank you for your writing over the years. I am sad to see it go but your priorities are correct. Wife and home over hobbies. 
I am a Christian and originally started reading you when you were an atheist in order to understand the adversary well and play devil’s advocate. I rejoiced when you embraced the truth. Your writings since have been thoughtful and convicting, especially the blue collar theme. I am part of white collar corporate America and struggle to resist the corrupting influence. 
Thanks,
-RB
I could feel the guilt ray burning on that one. It reminded me of the Spider-Man Quits storyline from the comics and the Spider-Man 2 movie. I remember in the movie that Peter Parker is having a hard time trying to balance being a student, photographer, boyfriend, and on and on with being a web slinging superhero out to save the world. Spidey doesn't get paid to be Spider-Man. The guy works for free. That's pretty noble of him except it is making the rest of his life a wreck. Sometimes, a guy just wants a quiet life.


This same storyline pops up with other superheroes. Superman let it all go in Superman 2. Batman hung up the cape at the end of The Dark Knight. But you know they will go back to being superheroes. The world needs them, and they can't stop themselves from serving that world even if it comes at a heavy personal cost.

Is a writer a superhero? That is a huge stretch. I have to laugh at the notion. I don't think the world will be saved through what I write. The real heroes in this world are the unsung ones who pull us from burning buildings, save us from heart attacks, defend our country, or just make dinner for their families night after night without complaint. But I can say that my life has been changed by the writings of others. I don't know if I am worthy enough to put my writings on the same shelf as theirs. But writing does have the power to change things and people.

I don't know why I write. I think I wanted money and fame at the beginning. I wanted to be like Tom Clancy or Stephen King. Then, I started to want to be more like Sebastian Junger and Paul Theroux. Now, I admire Chesterton, Tolkien, and Lewis. Somewhere, I decided that writing well mattered more than writing for fame or money.

I write because it makes me a better person. Most writers are not better people as they drink their way through producing depressing novels. There is nothing inherent in writing that makes you a better person. Plenty of bad human beings have written books. But writing these blog posts helps to clarify my thinking. If I didn't write, I simply would not think.

I publish for the sake of others. It is much easier to scratch my thoughts in a journal for my own benefit. But publishing is for others to read. The internet has made that possible. I can publish so that others can read. If it benefits others, then it is worth doing. My wife is discovering this now as people express appreciation for her practical advice.

There are frustrations with writing. The first is the simple fact that people don't read. They will read a Tweet or a meme on Facebook. They may even sit through a YouTube video if it is short. But a blog post is essentially an essay requiring brainpower and attention span beyond that of the average bear.

The second frustration is the time requirement. If you think reading these posts takes a long time, imagine writing them. I don't have exact numbers, but these posts take about two hours to write. I could write short blurby stuff like other bloggers, but this makes them little different from someone with a Facebook or Twitter account. This is why I identify more as a writer than as a blogger.

The time thing is the biggest frustration. It requires hard work and sacrifice. There are other and better things to do for your own sake. But you make the sacrifice, and you are left wondering if it is worth it.

Writing is worth it. I can resolve the time issue thing. It is actually a chapter in the book I am writing. Somehow, you have to fit all the things you need to do and want to do into a 24-hour day. I just have to figure this out somehow. It would be nice to not be burdened by a day job, but the only writers I know who managed this tend to be very bad.

I will keep writing this blog.


The End of Writing


He who writes for fools always finds a large public.
ARTHUR SCHOPENHAUER

Blogging is like playing bingo. The only difference is that you gamble away time and labor instead of money. Some people win the game, but most people leave the bingo hall as miserable losers. The way to win at bingo is to not play the game. Be satisfied with what the Lord has given you.

Last night, I had a bit of time. I could finish the blog post I was writing. Or, I could clean the bathroom. My poor wife has been stuck with that chore for years as her husband has poured his time into a blog that no one reads. So, I chose to clean the bathroom and give her a much needed break. You can put that in the win column. That blog post didn't get finished, and I don't really care. I feel more satisfaction in cleaning that bathroom than I feel in writing this blog.

I hate this blog. I write with the same compulsion that gamblers have with their game of choice. I can't leave the table. I can't just let it go. Yet, if I don't let it go, I will lose harder than I do now. That's the sick trick of gambling. You attract losers and turn them into bigger losers.

I lose every time I write a blog post. I lose the time I could have used to get chores done or learn a new skill or get some exercise or just take a much needed nap. I am tired of losing. I have literally spent years hoping that something I wrote would go viral or something and make this project worth it. I don't expect to get rich from it. But I do expect to get more from it than what I put in it.

I can live with writing as a pure hobby. I can always keep a private journal if I choose. I have started a journal at least ten times or more over the years only to lose interest in it. Keeping a journal is like playing chess. It's an awesome game to learn and play, but it doesn't have a jackpot like bingo. Blogging is bingo.

I need to stop doing this. It is a waste of my time and energy. This is my last blog post. I might change my mind about this. I don't know.  I just know that blogging and writing take more than they give. So, I'm letting this crap go to see what happens. I'll let the C-blog float out there for awhile before I blow a hole in the hull and let it sink into the abyss.


9.09.2018

Random Thoughts on Various Subjects 72


Live in such a way that you wouldn’t be ashamed to sell the family parrot to the town gossip.
WILL ROGERS


Some Republican traitor writes an op-ed to the NYT admitting that he/she is sabotaging the Trump administration and will continue to do so until he is gone. The 25th amendment was mentioned as well as a butt smooch to John McCain. Who is the Benedict Arnold? Unfortunately, it is hard to tell with all of the other Benedict Arnolds providing cover.

All of this is just prelude to impeachment. The Democrats anticipate taking back the House of Representatives where they will certainly vote to impeach Trump. But this means they will almost certainly need Republican votes in the Senate to remove Trump from office. The sad thing is that they will certainly have them.

Trump is a good president. The people elected him. Removing him in this manner is a direct spit in the face to the American public. It's as if their votes or voices don't matter. By doing this, they show contempt for our process and set themselves up as some sort of oligarchy. The message to the American people will be that their election of a president can be set aside whenever the oligarchy sees fit.

Obama has also gotten back into the game taking shots at Trump as he campaigns for the midterm elections. This shows how important these elections are. If you are a patriot, it behooves you to get out there and vote!


Walmart bought out Moosejaw. Then, it folded its operation into Walmart's main site. Then, Black Diamond flipped out and pulled their product. Others followed suit. What is going on here? Don't people want to sell stuff?

The problem comes with branding. Walmart is known for cheap stuff. But you can get a lot of good outdoor gear from Walmart. The Coleman brand springs to mind. Then, there is Yeti which charges way too much for their stuff, but they don't seem to have any problem selling through Walmart. What's the real story here?

On the old blog, I wrote an essay about politics and people who do the outdoors. Basically, you have your right wing outdoor enthusiasts and your left wing outdoor enthusiasts. The right wingers tend to shop at Bass Pro Shops, Cabela's, and Walmart. The left wingers shop at specialty outdoor stores and REI.

Walmart was trying to mix this up. This is why an outfit like Black Diamond couldn't sell their gear through Walmart.  Hippies don't shop at Walmart. They certainly don't buy Walmart brands. They buy brands like Patagonia. Those brands don't care for the redneck dollar even if that dollar is green like everyone else's.

3. NIKE

Nike decided that its stock price was too high, so it decided that Colin Kaepernick was needed to trim billions from its market cap. That mission was a success. Nike has cemented itself as the athletic apparel of choice for street thugs and urban garbage. They should look into providing branded jumpsuits for incarcerated pimps and drug dealers.

One of the things I learned about business is that you want to strive to be apolitical. As a business owner, it behooves you to be politically involved, but it should end with that personal involvement. Customers shouldn't be burdened with political considerations when it comes to the products and services they enjoy. As it stands, I will never buy Nike products ever again for as long as I live. I regret that I do own a single pair of their shoes that I have yet to wear out.

Other businesses like Target and Starbucks have weighed into the political arena. This is dumb stuff. Walmart may have a reputation for being conservative, but I do give them credit for striving to be apolitical in its business. Politics matters, but there is a time and a place for that sort of thing.

4. OMERTA

Pope Francis has decided that the silent treatment is what is needed for these times as he faces accusations that he knew about McCarrick's shenanigans and still looked out for him. Francis is striking the Christ pose on this, but we know better. The man is guilty as charged. This is his way of pleading the fifth. It's a smart move for a criminal. It's a dumb move for the Vicar of Christ.

With all of these sodomites surrounding Pope Francis and receiving the sweet treatment from him, it begs a certain question. Is Pope Francis a sodomite? I am inclined to think that he is. You can't have this level of filth around you and not be a part of it. And he can't say that he doesn't know. The man knows.

5. ODDS AND ENDS

--I recommend WETA for your classical music enjoyment. It is a station in the Washington, DC area that I discovered while visiting family there. It is the only thing that would make me want to live there. But I don't have to live there since I can get it online.

--The social media censorship war is another good reason to quit social media. By being on social media, you are helping them make money.

--It is laughable when Obama takes credit for the Trump economy. Obama was the most self-deluded president this country has ever had.

--Elon Musk smokes dope. No big surprise. I always thought he was smoking something.

--I can't remember liking Burt Reynolds in anything including Deliverance

6. LINKS OF INTEREST










9.06.2018

SOC 39


If you don’t produce, you won’t thrive—no matter how skilled or talented you are.
CAL NEWPORT

I am reading Cal Newport's Deep Work right now. My initial impressions of the book are pretty good, but I am seeing it through the prism of my blue collar big idea. If I have a quibble with the book, it is that it is nothing new. It is what blue collar workers have known forever. Basically, you can get a lot of work done by working instead of playing. I know. That is an earth shattering concept.

I am trying to think right now because the coffee hasn't reached my brain yet. These SOC posts don't really get flowing until that magic black bean juice does its trick. I am tempted to go back to bed this morning. But the early morning is when I am able to write without distraction.

Speaking of distraction, I believe that social media is firmly in the rear view mirror of my life. I understand why Twitter is so addicting for me. Twitter is news and politics, so I can't read the news without being triggered. It's like an alcoholic who works in a brewery. The only problem for him is that he can't quit that job because it is what he does.

The thing that helps is reading all of the stories in the news about censorship on social media, the distraction of smartphones, and social media addiction. That information is like reading the surgeon general's warning on a pack of smokes as you take a few drags on a cancer stick. But I already got the message. I have also quit the habit. Writing a post about it helps. To go back now would make me a great hypocrite.

How are things when you aren't on the social media drug? I can honestly say that you get more done. You get more read. You are able to write better because you can focus. Life without distraction is pretty awesome. I highly recommend it.

Life without Twitter is also awesome because my anger levels have abated considerably. Anger isn't the issue as I find that anger comes from a good place. It is the right reaction to reading or hearing about messed up stuff. Twitter doesn't feed anger so much as decrease patience. The difference between constructive and destructive anger is patience. Constructive anger has a much longer time horizon.

I definitely believe in digital minimalism. I have been perusing articles on the topic, but the advice on it is very much half-ass. Achieving digital minimalism is very easy. Step 1: Delete all your social media accounts. Step 2: Get rid of your smartphone and get a dumbphone. And there you have it. You are a digital minimalist.

Distraction has always been a thing for people. Before the internet, it was television. I remember getting rid of my television back in the 90s. I read a lot more books back then. Unfortunately, those books weren't that great. A book is only as good as what it is between the covers. A good television program is better than a romance novel. The medium is not the problem. It is the message. To that extent, the remedy is not so much digital minimalism as it is cultural hygiene. People need to read, watch, and listen to better things. That is a topic worthy of its own blog post.

I find myself writing a lot in the self-improvement space. I don't like that space so much preferring to write more about religion and politics. There is a certain amount of navel gazing involved with self-improvement. And the advice all comes down to stop being lazy. The big problem is that people are idle, and distractions and smartphones allow people to be idle while not being bored. You can remove the distractions, but you are not automatically left with productivity. You are just left with boredom.

In the self-improvement and development field, two people have loomed large in my thinking. The first is Leo Babauta. The second is Tim Ferriss. I don't embrace their advice so much as oppose it. It is in this opposition that I have begun creating my own ideas about this topic and is the subject of the book that I am writing. Here are my criticism of these guys. I will try to aim at their thinking more than them as persons. I am sure they are swell guys. I just think they have flawed advice. Let's start with Tim Ferriss.

Tim Ferriss is a Renaissance Man. This is actually a lie. You can read his bio to pick up on his desire to be a Renaissance Man. The one thing in his CV you can take to the bank is "Wired Magazine’s Greatest Self-Promoter of 2008." Ferriss is definitely a self-promoter. As they put it, you need to blow your own horn because no one else will. The result is that Ferriss ends up coming across to people as some sort of colossal douchebag. That is the problem with self-promotion. You can't fake sincerity.


I have always desired to be a Renaissance Man. I would love to know multiple languages, have a medical degree, be a world class physicist, play rock music, and drive my rocket truck through a mountain. That would be some of the accomplishments of Buckaroo Banzai, a character that exists only in fiction.

You can't be adept at multiple things. You can barely be adept at one thing. And if you are adept at that one thing, you better hope that your one basket of eggs doesn't go over the edge of the ledge. The better path is to be proficient at multiple things that are valuable and know nothing about the things that don't matter. For instance, I think learning Spanish along with English is a good idea, but you can live without knowing Aramaic. A better analogy is this. You can try and be an entire toolbox of Craftsman tools. Or, you can be one of those wicked sharp Japanese chef knives they use for sushi. Or, you can be a Leatherman multitool. I choose to be a Leatherman.


You can see this strategy at work with the C-blog as I write on a variety of topics, but I am an expert on none of them. It doesn't bother me because expertise requires a time commitment and a level of risk that I don't care for. I believe I can master just about anything if given time and focus. But it would come at the expense of other things. Basically, the Japanese chef knife won't help you much if you are trying to remove a nail. Likewise, the big toolbox looks pretty good until you open the drawers to find them mostly empty. And this is where we get back to Tim Ferriss.


The Renaissance Man is an empty toolbox. There might be a couple of wrenches and a screwdriver in there. But when the drawers are closed, that box looks very impressive. Heaven help you if you actually need a tool out of that box. This is why I call BS on the Renaissance Man idea. The limits of life and human ability won't allow it. You can be a tool in that box, or you can be a Leatherman. But you can never be the entire box. But you can fake it until someone opens the drawers.

When you open the drawers on Tim Ferriss, you realize that he is mostly hype. I don't want to diminish Tim's actual accomplishments, but he is not a Renaissance Man. No one is a Renaissance Man. The Renaissance Man is fiction. Once you eschew the hype of this fiction and embrace the reality, it is a liberating experience. It is logically impossible to specialize in everything. I don't fault Ferriss for failing. I do fault him for his embellishments.

Tim's advice is geared towards helping you achieve this Renaissance Man ideal that is unachievable. We are limited by time, money, and energy. Some people because of luck are able to jump the money hurdle. Others are able to jump the energy hurdle through drugs like caffeine or crystal meth. No one is able to jump the time hurdle as even the richest person is still left with the same 24 hour day as the rest of us. Tim's advice is that you can jump the time hurdle through not answering your email. That is a gross oversimplification of the Ferriss Philosophy, but it is the only thing I remember from reading The 4-Hour Workweek.

As I said, abandoning the Renaissance Man ideal is a liberating thing, and this is where Leo Babauta comes in. His advice is almost diametrically the opposite of Tim Ferriss. Leo is no aspiring Renaissance Man. He was an ordinary guy who pulled off what most ordinary people can't do. He changed his life. He quit smoking. He went vegan. He paid off debt by adopting a minimalist lifestyle. Basically, he fixed what was broken in his life, and this is damn inspiring. And then, he became boring. His advice now boils down to cultivating a life of boredom by calling it Zen. Naturally, you can pay $15 a month for coaching on this. Leo needs to get paid. Otherwise, he would need to get a real job. Real jobs create stress, and stress usually leads to weight gain and smoking.

What do Leo and Tim both have in common? They ain't working real jobs like you and me. There is one thing I can tell you, Gentle Reader. The C-Man works a job. Nobody pays me to self-promote or wash my bowl. I have to get out there every day just like you and earn a paycheck. No one pays me to play. As for my writing and advice, it is available at a price you can afford--FREE.

Sad to say, the real ambition of most people is to not have to work for a living. A close second to that ambition is to get paid to play like a golfer or a rock star. I think these are unrealistic ambitions. I will go one step further and tell you that they shouldn't be your ambitions at all. This is because neither of these things will make you a better person. There is virtue and value in suffering. Try promoting that.

There is a middle way between these two guys which has lead me to a blue collar way of self-improvement. I think they both have some good ideas. With Leo, I am down with simplifying your life, paying off debts, being minimalist, and going vegan. With Tim, I believe you should have a variety of interests and goals. Where Leo represents the one and Tim represents the many, I believe in the few. Here's what it looks like.

The first part of my blue collar way is to simplify. Let necessity dictate what you keep and what you throw away. This would apply to your possessions, your activities, your goals, and your ambitions. To use an example, should you learn a second language? If the answer is yes, what second language would be the most beneficial? I can tell you that you will get more benefit from learning Spanish than Latin. Both are worth learning, but there is more utility in Spanish because ancient Romans are all dead.

Backpackers understand what I am getting at. When they load up their gear, they have to weigh necessity against weight. Will this thing be worth the extra energy it will take to lug it up and down the hills of the trail? The maximalist would say that more is more. It is better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it. The minimalist would say that less is more, but they are the ones caught on the trail in a downpour wet and miserable because they didn't bother with a rain jacket. As for me, I would roll out the trash bag I packed and put that on. It is not an elegant solution but an effective solution.

With life, you are faced with limitations on time, money, and energy. These limiting factors are what temper your ambitions.  By the same token, the point of life isn't to conserve these things but to spend them wisely. In short, you shouldn't waste your resources in pursuing what is unnecessary, but you shouldn't waste those resources in doing nothing either. This requires thinking a great deal and making hard choices. But this labor is worth it.

The second part of my blue collar way is to work. People want to make this aspect pleasant or "fulfilling." But this is stupid. Go back to the example of learning a language. Once you pick the language you want to learn, this means spending a lot of time in grammar books, dictionaries, language tapes, and all the rest. The moment ambition turns into hard work, that ambition usually dies. This is why people find it easier to buy things for a project than actually doing the project. This would explain that Spanish dictionary on my bookshelf and the reason I am not proficient in Spanish.

I don't know if Leo Babauta speaks Spanish or any other language beyond his native tongue. But I don't think he beats himself up over it. It is easier to eschew an ambition than it is to fulfill it. But you should you eschew all ambitions? This is where Leo's Zen thing comes into play.

Frustration comes from unfulfilled desire. Tim Ferriss would tell you some sort of hack to achieve the desire. Leo would tell you to extinguish the desire. They may not know it, but they are simply reproducing a conflict that has existed for thousands of years. I call it Aristotle vs. Buddha. Should you do more or want less? My resolution to that dilemma is to do both.

You should want as little as possible while doing as much as possible. This would be the combination of humility with insane amounts of hard work. What does this look like? It looks like this guy:


The old school farmer was humble and hard working. The problem is that virtually no one aspires to be this guy. Yet, the guy was fit. He knew crops and how to fix a tractor. If he had a bad habit, it would be lighting a pipe at the end of the workday. I doubt he lamented the time he wasted that day on Facebook and Instagram. There's one thing you could never say about guy like this. He wasn't a bum.

Success is not being a bum. So much of the schemes of life amount to enjoying the things of this world while being a bum. People want the trophy without actually running the race. It's like Rosie Ruiz who cheated her way to a Boston Marathon victory. That woman was a disgrace for what she did. The funny thing is that no one knows or remembers who the real winner was. This would be Jacqueline Gareau. Even in disgrace, Rosie is more famous than Jackie. If fame is the measure of success, then it is better to be a cheater than a winner.


In this world, there is a mismatch between the efforts and the accolades those efforts deserve. Some people want the trophy. Others eschew the trophy because they don't want to run the race. Then, there are those who just run the damn race. This would be the salt of the earth types, the unsung heroes, the little people, or whatever you want to call them. They are the blue collar people who deserve way more than they actually get.

With Tim Ferriss, the advice is essentially to learn how to become comfortable with being a fake. With Leo Babauta, the advice is to learn how to be comfortable with being a bum. With the blue collar way I recommend, the advice is to learn how to be comfortable with being a hard working nobody. The key is to be deserving of honors even if you never get them.