Man of Letters

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Der Ding An Sich

It really stuck in my craw. I remember standing there in front of the machine. It was a bizarre twenty-first-century machine still quaintly termed a Creel. My boss, the surrogate father of my room-mate and prep school buddy was telling me something I found hard to fathom.

Not that it was difficult. There is nothing difficult about machines. The chief difficulty is generally that they’re a tad dull. Doubly dull on days when you’ve awoken before the sunrise to drive from a one bedroom apartment, past listless trees and lumbering rigs, to a grey gravely yard next to a utilitarian affair termed a factory.

“You’re a man of letters.”

It really stuck in my craw. I’d asked for a guide. For a chance to study the inner workings. The simple buttony operation of the thing would stick better with such documentation. Yet instead of encouragement for my interest, I was called a man of letters.

It is odd for me, it is profoundly difficult, to keep from resenting soft suburban blindness. To deal with the oversimplified dichotomy of ‘this’ and ‘that’, and ‘thus’ and ‘so’ of the collegiate. I was not cradled there, I did not belong there, and I certainly despised being called soft by its tenderest tenants.

This whole essay is years in the making and the flame animating the long assembled kindling was sparked by ‘the most widely known man of letters.’ Ralph Waldo Emerson, yes finally I had an elegant way to broach the subject.

The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy contains that little phrase. I was there because Emerson is the great Ghost behind our present machine. For good or for ill.

I think good and ill a thing that’s at times difficult to fathom. Though not as difficult or impossible as my ‘post-modern’ (relativists)(sic) contemporaries would make it out to be.

Emerson thought the man of letters was incomplete. Like Aurelius, he thought that muttering over books overlong was unhealthy. I’d been conditioned from youth to agree with this assessment.

A far more recent writer by the name of Crichton had shaped the entirety of my ethos in the span of a paragraph. In a dime-store thriller called The Lost World, there was a passage lamenting the academics penchant to be maladapted. This need to be nerdy was sharply contrasted with the athletic achievements of some 20th century Noble luminary. I think it may have been Plank.

I was thin, and pale, and dark. I reveled in the hills, streams, and woods of the nation that adopted me. My father was a security guard who participated in martial arts tournaments. My mother worked in a gym in the basement of a looming thing in the metropolis of my birth. My father’s father was a gym instructor. My grandmother’s father was a geologist or economist for a geological survey studying some of the roughest country on Earth. So despite being thin and pale, and dark I had a physical pedigree and physical passions, as well as not the cheeriest of childhoods.

All these being reasons why I so thoroughly imbibed Crichton observation, and so thoroughly resented condescension from first world humble braggarts.

These sorts steal my time, steal their own time, and stymie this wondrous blooming thing called life with listless labeling.

This is why Emerson is so essential and misreading him so dangerous.

He is called the ‘most famous man of letters’ by that Encyclopedia for solid reason. He is both hapless signpost and robust director of the American way. A decent and dare I say lovely path when properly taken.

‘America is a poem’ and the magic of poetry is in its motion. Rhythmic meter is the same animus that Emerson promotes by suggesting that a man see no work as beneath him, so long as it is useful at the moment. He saw the enlightenment sought for by all the sages in all the ages as being possible to accrue from the most mundane of tasks, provided the proper spirit.

Logos and pathos, Apollo and Dionysus, in perfect concert that’s the ethos. At least that to me is the ethos Emerson was attempting to transmit.

Transcendentalism you see is not about escape but about embrace. Individuation and individualism are not about isolation but realization. The proper reading of individuation is not of setting apart but of standing together. Yes, we are together but we do not lean one against the other, each of us stands upon the same ground and we regard each other as one regards a magic mirror. In this realization, the mirror is a window into another world where we see ourselves in a different reality. This embrace is the kindest Agape and the richest kiss of Eros.

Of course, to use a cringy cliché this rose has many thorns and plucking it requires utmost caution.

“Rich man in a poor man’s clothes.” To borrow from Elliot as I will do forever is the prickle that I find most personally irksome. The humble braggart, the latte-swilling tough guy, the ‘dude with a stilted attitude learned from TV,’ the man who called me ‘man of letters.’

Why all this ire? Was it an insult or compliment? Was it both? I do not know but I do know that it is indicative of an improper digestion.

Emerson, unless I am mistaken would have resented the separation of the ‘gritty blue jeans realist’ from the ‘man of letters.’ In fact, I think that he found this very dichotomy to have a mortifying effect. It is the same dichotomy that Crichton and Aurelius address when they remark on the imbalances of certain characters. So, to be called ‘a man of letters’ by a hard-working dandy, seemed indicative of improper digestion of the massive cultural morsel, that the Transcendental school has set upon the American table.

I’m not exactly sure what they’re playing at. What they’re playing at with all that cocky grinning, armchair psychology, beards, and flannel… And I only point it out because I think it makes everyone miserable and a shot at diagnosis may perhaps be better than no diagnosis at all.

So, I Alexander Weir, formerly known as Alexander Vadimavich Vyborov, proclaim without pride, or shame, that I am as I have always been a man. Not a man of letters, not a tragedy, not a poet, not a laborer, painter, musician, or chief, but simply a man.

It is a worthy state.

Der Ding An Sich

Pulse

I ate the deer

The deer ate grass

The grass drank sun

It’s all clear

How it begun

Begging the question

I badger the witness

For the fiction of direction

It’s a grievance redress

Now the span of now and then

Places claim

On was and when

The whole and lame

One by one arriving

Embracing the twisted knots

In the striving

Of rooted thoughts

The breeze of evening

Differed not

From the wind of morning

Though they forgot

We carry light

We sit on air

We do and do not care

We are we are

The hands that turn

A shining star

That saw forever burn

So tread

Tread well tread sure

Release that dread

And release measure

For the throbbing of a great heart

Is the only source of art

Pulse

We Pulse

© [Alexander V. Weir] and [The Fractal Journal], [2017]. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to [Alexander V. Weir] and [The Fractal Journal] with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

The DOD’s Position on your Beerbelly

 

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Gut Bomb Indeed!

There’s trouble Jim!

Our plush lovable beer holsters are a threat to national security.

By the year 2040, 100% of the federal budget will be on Medicare and Medicaid.

Sick people are a liability, which is why the DOD has put a sick nation on par with nuclear war.

According to Chris Kresser, an author and health researcher, the DOD has in fact named health care as an existential threat.

That’s truly wild.

While I do think it reasonable to make conservative guesses, on the potential future outcomes of trends, based on solid data and interpretative frameworks (I’m real fun at parties!); I’m generally cautious about taking predictions completely on board, no matter the source.

Despite the click-baitiness of Kresser’s claims* they’re probably not far off target.

What makes me say this is the data that we already have.

Kresser threw down some hard facts on his recent appearance, on a popular podcast known as The Joe Rogan Experience.

One in two American’s has a chronic disease. That’s either you or the guy next to you.

One of the most common chronic diseases is diabetes.

1/3 of Americans are either pre-diabetic or diabetic. Diabetes-like all chronic diseases is expensive, with treatment costs adding up to 630, 000 dollars over an average lifespan – 45 years at an average of $14k/yr.

Add that to our other well known financial woes and a truly cataclysmic outcome doesn’t seem unlikely.

Catastrophist I am not. I am cataclysm averse. I don’t think they happen that often. I know they don’t happen as often as people who stand to profit, from the various doomsday cottage industries, would like you to believe.

But catastrophes do occur. Floods, hurricanes, stock market crashes, wars, such things aren’t uncommon. And when one such thing gets sufficiently out of hand, then it approaches the parameters of cataclysm.

‘1/3 of Americans’ is getting parametrically awkward.

I call this the calculus of: Oh shit.

So what’s to be done?

Fixing the federal budget is beyond the scope of this article.

The answer to this looming disaster is simple. It is far simpler than becoming vigilant and educated citizens.

It is the doctrine of personal responsibility. Ok, doctrine doesn’t sound simple. I promise I’m not a libertarian...So…. how about eat less pasta, play more Tennis. Or just good ol’ ‘Put down that cheeseburger.’

While it’s simple it’s not necessarily easy. One of Kresser’s more plausible tidbits was informing us that food companies paid scientists, to exploit our penchant for the yummies to create hyper-addictive foods.

Fortunately, it seems that the more good choices you make the easier it is to make good choices. Knowing that your Cheetos are engineered to make you buy Cheetos will probably help along the rocky path to healthier living.

One aspect of Kresser’s recent appearance that I especially appreciated was his focus on the psychology of change.

Preaching of the virtues of vigor and promising the Valhalla of washboard abs isn’t really helpful. And despite Milo Yinappolis’s claims to the contrary, ‘shaming’ didn’t work terribly well when I tried the tactic on my heavier brethren.

Kresser skipped these standard pitches and instead focused on laying out methods for working with your biology to build better habits. Stuff like the potato hack. (To get more on this I recommend you visit his website and listen to JRE #1037.)

Kresser stressed the need to take people on a case by case basis since each person’s body responds to various techniques differently. Joe Rogan hammered this point home by pointing out how Robb Wolf’s wife was healthier despite the couple living and eating almost exactly the same.

There is, of course, a bit more than dietary changes and commitments to exercise needed to resolve today’s grim health issues. What we need to do is undergo a paradigm shift in how we approach our health.

The impression I have is that despite all the organic brick-a-brac and Yoga, we’re still functioning under the idea that we’re eventually ‘just going to get sick.’ That the first thing to do when this happens is to go to the doctor and get some pills, the sooner the better.

You should, of course, go to the doctor if you’re feeling sick but you have to understand that the doctor isn’t there to ‘fix you.’ You should understand that you don’t want the doctor to fix you. Just like you don’t want the mechanic to fix your car. The doctor should be there to help you when accidents happen or when certain specialized maintenance should be done. The doctor is not a magical backup.

I really don’t mean to be patronizing. I know this is simple stuff and most people know it. But as Rogan and Kresser pointed out knowing something and putting it into practice are two different ballgames.

There are various cultural assumptions and lifestyle habits that lead us to a somewhat mystical notion of modern medicine.

We must remember that modern medicine is a specific science for solving specific problems. We must understand that ‘repair’ is not the same thing as ‘maintenance.’

Putting that knowledge into practice means educating yourself on the limits of medical intervention and its true role: a method to get you back to ‘LIVING’ healthily rather than ‘MAKING’ you healthy.

What you’ll find if you listen to the podcast will have you buying potatoes and signing up for the gym post haste.


* These may well be true but my lackadaisical Googling has yielded several think tank studies which will just have to wait.

– This article was brought to you by Big Potato. They’re not paying. Simply threatening me with vague warnings about being careful where my chips fall, something about the Knights Tuber, and Spudtaneous Combustion. Therefore I’m scared and need a drink so visit my Patreon.

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TAP # 8 – Procrastinating Writer – Stray Thoughts on Craftsmanship

Partially just a way to say that it’s ok to be dorky and amateurish. And partially the introduction of another concept. I’ve done various versions of the idea that: ‘learning music and math is good for everyone — because it builds discipline.’ This one came out ‘OK’ enough to upload. Though I really hope to improve on it in the future. I know it’s not anything new but I feel it’s a truth worth repeating. Thinking of seguing this into what is ‘best’ for songwriting material. Feedback is appreciated. Thanks for stopping by.


TAP # 7 – Time Management in a Post Industrial Economy +

I give a brief description of an idealized day for an indie sorta guy or gal. I also discuss the need for a stronger emphasis on craftsmanship in arts as a vehicle for economy and SANITY. Thanks for stopping by.

 


More articles and stories coming in the next week.

TAP # 6 – ‘Blogs are Bogus’ – Art, Technology, and Prejudice (Vlog)


It’s really easy to take content creators for granted. It’s really hard to stay sufficiently confident as a content creator. The two are sides of the same coin that we should understand in order to overcome.

TAP # 5 – Politics, History, and ‘Mountaineering’ (Vlog)


I share my worldview and belief that balance doesn’t have to be boring. The mountain of analysis is more exciting if you don’t lose your footing.

Smell The Bacon

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Francis Bacon (1561 – 1626)


Dedication
For Miss Birdie my very own Eliza…

Has everything been said?

A lot of people presented with a blank page are familiar with this question.

The answer is of course no.

But, let’s for just a moment imagine that the answer is yes. There is nothing new under the sun, all is vanity, and the Simpsons have in fact already done it, twice.

Well, writers would be out of a job wouldn’t they? In fact most professions that rise above agriculture and maintenance would be rendered moot. In short art, philosophy, and a good deal of science would simply die.

Well…Would they? I think not. And I think that’s a beautiful thing. Perhaps even the most beautiful and profound thing about existence.

Allow me to explain.

There is an art all its own in worthy repetition.

It’s an art that’s more recognizable in that trite mantra, “Say it in your own words.”

At its heart it is about comprehension and appreciation. Therein lies its beauty. Therein the solution to Solomon’s eternal ennui.

That solution being the very one the Ecclesiast presented. The solution being finding contentment in that which is. Not that which should be or which could be. Those twin gods of the novelty obsessed. (What devilry novelty is! Teasing and ever tormenting with promises never fulfilled.)

What is the end of mankind but to perceive and enjoy that which is? One needs no faith to appreciate this. It is a truth whose digestion is easy for skeptic and cleric alike.

The fact is, that which is, recurs. Not in exact facsimile but the general patterns are there, with enough fidelity to brand as recurrence.

So recur the things that must be said. Yet their flavor changes. Because those who say it are new. They are new parts assembled from the old, and in reciprocal fashion, these assemble old parts from the new. What a thing it is!

So there is no such thing as a bold new frontier. For what is a frontier, but a thing so ancient, as to be untouched by the novel foot called man?

Yes there is but one art. One sacred art. The art of cultivation. The tending of an eternal garden whose fruits, trees, and flowers blossom of their own accord.

This is the art of Eden.

It sings “I am continuance and I am not to be defined. I am to be enjoyed. To be loved.”

What manifold blossoms what manifold ways! You can sing, you can write, you can etch. You can love and you can direct.

When one is sated on such fruits why should she reach for the forbidden thing called ‘Define.’

Perhaps it was God’s end to make mankind because Godhood is over-rated. Perhaps there is a Hell and it is called Completeness. What Good would a Good Lord be if He doomed His creatures to such a Fate from the outset?

The art of worthy repetition occurred to me today when I came across a rendering of the thoughts of Francis Bacon.

The thing occurred as I am rereading the springboard for my current project, E.O. Wilson’s Consilience, The Unity of Knowledge.

‘Look at that!’ I said. That is precisely what I’ve been meaning to say and it was said so well four hundred years ago! What business have I prattling on? Dejection creeped upon me.

Till I realized: If I’ve just had my thoughts echoed from a distance of four centuries… why not become an echo?

Because it is a worthy thing that I wish to Magnify…

The Father of Induction saw fit to say that the mind,

“is not like a wax tablet. On a tablet you cannot write the new till you rub out the old; on the mind you cannot rub out the old except by writing in the new.”

What an altogether compact and lovely way to say everything that I have said above!

Yet, Bacon said much more that I have wished to say, and will echo here today.

He saw the importance of psychology. Saw it as being of utmost use for effective science and creativity. Even though the word had not been codified, he understood the value for getting a grasp on the mechanisms of mind. This is precisely what I have been stressing, and meaning to stress better, by positing that the first and foremost of lenses is perception itself. One that must be polished and studied with more caution than any other science.

Sir Francis Bacon also cautioned of the ‘idols of the mind.’ My, what a way to warn against those perils which have so vexed me to espy ahead, behind, and all around. What a fitting term is ‘idol’ for this idolatry! For taking living truths and turning them into wooden follies.

  • The first is the idol of the tribe. That thing that superimposes an artificial, constricting order, where there is a natural ‘chaos.’

  • The second is the idol of the cave, which is subjectivity. Personal prejudice falsely enshrined as objectivity.

  • The third is the idol of the marketplace, or of a marketers ability to sell a fantasy, through persuasion.

  • The fourth idol, and the one that I believe to be most dangerous of all today, is the idol of the theater! It is the most dangerous because the manufacturing of consent, and every other thing, is today done largely through entertainment; whether consciously or unconsciously. Our attitudes and beliefs, are molded by engaging all our senses in films, television and radio programs, and much else in the world of multimedia. We must be therefore sharply on guard, for what follies we may have unwittingly taken on board. For in such a world, such harboring of error, is exceedingly easy and common. Broad is the way, BROADWAY, to destruction indeed!

I am very glad to have stumbled upon Wilson’s book. An event that is now three years old. I am very glad that I have had the good sense to remember the book, to use it as a springboard, and most of all to give it a second reading. Yes, the repetition was as sweet as the first taste.

I am very glad that Wilson has done the indispensable work of making thick and hoary volumes accessible. I am glad that he has echoed ‘The Ionian Enchantment.’

I am glad to have heard that echo of Bacon, echoed by Wilson, and to echo it in turn.

This is how we must garden.

For truly, we are all but gardeners, upon the terraces of an eternal Eden.

Wake up and smell the Bacon!


Support Indie Content: https://www.patreon.com/TheFractalJournal

 

Forever Fluid – The Strange Case of Renewable Limits

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This is an updated version of a draft for the introduction to my upcoming book: Forever Fluid – The Strange Case of Renewable Limits. © (Originally titled: ‘It Moves You Know’)
I consider it copyrighted, as I plan to publish it, or a version of it as part of the aforementioned book. That doesn’t mean you can’t link or do whatever. Just that you can’t do it commercially and that I’d prefer to know about it.

This book is dedicated to Galina V.W., who twice the mother, raised her grandson as lovingly as she raised her son.

The Case for Care

How does one begin to care about water?  Water being a thing generally only thought about when you’re thirsty or need a wash. How does one begin to care about something that just falls from the sky? Care enough to write a book on it?

Sometimes life’s projects spring out of nowhere. That is until you take the trouble to track ‘em back to their source.

This particular endeavor may have started when Doctor Walter (Pseudonym), my HS Earth Science teacher, mentioned that water might become an issue in coming decades.

That idea sat in the back of my mind for years. Dormant and drowned out by all the usual business and distraction of being a young man. It wasn’t til I stumbled upon Consilience, The Unity of Knowledge, nearly a decade later, that I was reminded of the reality of limited resources.

Consilience isn’t an environmental book. It’s more one of those intellectual adventures. The sort that scientists set out on when facing the seductively beckoning sea of life’s mysteries. Consilience is biologist E.O. Wilson’s ‘all-in-one’ foray into the history of philosophy and science. It’s a highlighting of how this history reveals an inherent overlap, or ‘jumping together’ of knowledge from various disciplines. One that occurs in concert with his own insightful musings, on how such consilience may soon more fully occur. Though I disagree with much found in its pages, I’d highly recommend it as a fascinating read.

The work’s pertinent part for this particular project came at the end of the book. Which at one point discusses the vast expenditures of energy and resources necessary to sustain life today. Discovering the sheer amount of water involved is what triggered the memory of old Doctor Walter’s cautioning.

This recall and its attendant realizations are the reason for why I learned to care about water and why I wish to impart that care to readers of this book.

Care is often stigmatized by the twin burdens of trouble and responsibility. Yet care can also be fascinating. It can in fact be a great deal of fun. It can animate certain dormant sensibilities, that nourish and revitalize the spirit, and lead you to myriad adventures and discoveries.

Another natural consequence of care is of course cultivation. Care leads to the cultivation of spiritual, intellectual, and physical powers. Powers that are indispensable in the most precious and precarious sort of cultivation. A cultivation called agriculture and industry. Twin disciplines upon which all of our lives depend and which are in turn wholly dependent on water.

There will be much on this in coming chapters. For now I ask that you be so kind as to humor my penchant for introspection.

Catalyst

Lord, how our information increaseth. (Keith Waldrop. Transcendental Studies: A Trilogy)

I like to introspect. I find it to be an excellent exercise for developing strong creative and critical thinking faculties. These skills have always been essential. Perhaps it is a mistake to say that they are needed now more than ever. But, I’m going to say it.

I’m saying it because although the world is as complicated as it always was, we are more complicated than we have ever been before. The machinery and administration of our societies is vast, labyrinthine, and interdependent. For these reasons, and perhaps ‘just because we can,’ we developed the ability to communicate instantly across oceans and continents. As a result information bombards us at an unprecedented rate.

Lord, how our information increaseth. Indeed.

Our familiar manner of relating to one another, of interacting with the environment, and the ‘qualia’ of our institutions have all undergone drastic changes.

All of these things call for well developed faculties. It will take strength, wit, compassion, and resolve to continuously thrive in a world of 7.6 billion people, large hadron colliders, and dead zones. It will take introspection.

This is why I weave psychological, philosophical, and sociological analysis into a basket, that would already be complete, even if assembled from the barest essentials of science and reporting.

I would not be able to practice such a delicate art. The art called ‘integrative analysis’ without a healthy dose of introspection.

‘Integrative analysis’ is the multifaceted discipline foreshadowed by the catalyst for this work: E.O. Wilson’s Consilience. It is consilience.

Nowhere is it more necessary than today’s interdependent, overlapping, high speed world. A world that produces words like Biogeochemical.

Biogeochemical should have been the watchword of the 20th century. The passage of chemicals between living things and the environment is a cycle that requires rapt attention. Perhaps if such attention was given there would have been yet more geniuses and poets. There is much to unpack in the latter statement. For the purpose of the introduction I will simply say: Preventing illness and death is why we must strive to make Biogeochemical the watchword of the 21st century.

The very nature of the word is multifaceted. It is a testament to the increasing complexity of living in a universe that is inherently, unfathomably intricate. It is why I practice and stress the need for developing a strong capacity for integrative analysis.

I think it worth mentioning that good analysis requires hard work and resolve. Neither hard work nor resolve are possible if you fall into the trendy nihilism that’s still somewhat in vogue. This nihilism has at its core a bizarre sort of overdeveloped minimalism. It is a bastardization of utilitarianism. One that has kept me, and I dare wager a good deal of others; from accessing the energy, resources, and will necessary to fight the good fight.

It is in the interest of providing an example of how this mindset plays out and is resolved that I offer the next passage. I do so in the hopes that it will produce more authors, more cultivators, more passion.

Fortuitous

It was recalling Doctor Walter’s words as I was reading Wilson’s work that led to this present volume.

This recall came at a fortuitous time. That is if you consider the creation of a book fortuitous. I was looking for something to do. I knew that I had to do something. I’d spent too much time looking and studying and not enough time doing. I weighed the merits of various enterprises and remembered that I’d always intended to write.

While, you’re welcome to disagree with my self-assessmsent. Writing is something I consider myself good at. Words and ideas come with ease and coherency. Something more the result of having a love of reading instilled in me early than any inherent braininess.

The fact that writing came naturally, the idea that books didn’t have utility in the same way an algorithm does, and the saturation of the writing market; are some of the reasons I viewed a writing career dimly.

I needed to get a ‘real job’ and build ‘real skills.’ Not do something that was ‘easy’ and fun. I bounced about from odd-job to odd-job, attempting to teach myself computer programming, because things have to have ‘utility’ you know.

Rediscovering the water issue was a fortuitous catalyst. It was an issue that my skill could shake a stick at. Even better it was an issue that had utility.

How does writing solve issues? Well, it doesn’t but it may help along the process. (The very fact that I feel the need to say this is testament to the trendy utilitarian nihilism mentioned last section.)

Part of solving a problem is having a good grasp of it and that only comes from thinking. Writing being formalized thinking seems perfect for the job. While I may not solve anything per se, I can serve as a signpost for professionals and laypeople alike.

The Flavor

Many readers pore through the introduction to see if a book is up their alley. They’re always trying to get a taste for the flavor of it. To see if they like it.

I’ll flat out save you the time and give you a taste.

It is true. Every book has a flavor. This book is no different. It will take you on a journey through the fascinating intersections defined by the axis resource known as water. It will be both a lesson and a story.

This is my first non-fiction book. It is narrative journalism. According to thebalance.com narrative journalism is:

“An immersive style of storytelling, narrative journalism is used to captivate readers by drawing them into a story with greater detail than is found in traditional news stories. It is a popular format for magazines such as the New Yorker and can difficult to define and write.”

I love stories, I love finding things out, and I dig a challenge. So this medium seems exactly up my alley.

I don’t think that any of the above traits are special. They’re up everybody’s alley. There’s a lot of joy to be had in reading a hard-won story about the real world. It’s a joy that’s on par with creating the story. One that I was delighted to experience as I did the background research necessary to launch this project.

The works of Alex Prud’ homme, Fred Pearce, and Jacques Leslie. Works like The Ripple Effect, When The Rivers Run Dry, and Deep Water are all superb examples of narrative journalism.

This book is written in a similar vein.

A Little Extra

Since the New Yorker was mentioned, I’d like to suggest that my readers whet their appetite for narrative journalism, by reading The Lost City of Z by David Grann. It is free to access on their website.

The spirit of exploration is one that I’ve always held in high regard. A flame that needs stoking, in a world that believes it’s been mapped and mounted, like some hapless gossamer butterfly in a Victorian collection.

It is in the interest of rekindling such time-honored passions, that I began writing a jungle adventure inspired by all the Doyle, Crichton, and Lovecraft I pored over in my adolescence. (Of course Alan Watts and Terrence McKenna played a role as well.) Researching for The Sketch of Sam Monroe (estimated completion: 1st Quarter, 2019 ) led me to Grann’s article. It is a worthy read.

If you dig jungle books, and aren’t too uncomfortable with salty language, and psychedelic silliness, please check out the intro and first couple of chapters on my website: fractaljournal.com.

I believe that jungles are useful metaphors for getting to grips with things and for kindling the spirit of exploration.

Getting a grip on the water issue is a jungle in its own right.

Time to set up base-camp!


© [Alexander V. Weir] and [fractaljournal.com], [2017]. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to [Alexander V. Weir] and [fractaljournal.com] with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

A Defense of Journalism

There is some salty language briefly. It is included because it is how some people talk. Skip it if you’re offended. There’s lots of content here.

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Edward R. Murrow

Don’t Be Defensive

I’m always going to remember sitting in my techie friends small office bedroom, on the big medicine ball, serving as the only available guest chair. There was no bed. Simply a hammock and two high powered PCs. I’m always going to remember it because it’s damned quirky.

I’ve been meaning to learn Java since I found out about it around 2007. I didn’t have the knack for it, but I’m stubborn, so I still have that goal on the back-burner to this very day, a full decade later.

I’ve made some modest progress, over the last couple of years towards that end. I’m a writer so I’m a narrative guy (Learn through/Thrive on: stories), so careful reading, and lots of web queries on background info were my go to.

Slowly but surely, through lots of notes on the free tutorial provided by HWS, and Niemeyer & Leuck’s: Learning Java; I’ve been able to absorb enough basic principles to where I don’t feel completely lost, as I feed bad code into NetBeans.

It was my geeky reading habits, and the opportunity to exchange off-color jokes that found me in the strange little blue room.

We were having a discussion on the strengths and weaknesses of various programming languages.

There was a stack of programming manuals on the desk. I asked about C++ and the book. And then somehow, the conversation turned to the creator of the language, and author of that particular volume: Bjarne Stroustrup.

O he’s a little bitch.”

I thought this odd.

“That book…it’s …he’s just…”

I really didn’t have a comment. But not for any nobler reason than sheer ignorance.

“He’s just such a defensive little bitch.”

“How so?”

“It’s just he goes on and on…just complaining…he’s almost whiny…like I can’t stand it. You shouldn’t have to explain why something is good, he just comes off as super insecure, it’s a pain in the ass to read.”

“Well,” I said as my writer’s sympathy kicked into high gear, “critics are assholes, often dishonest assholes, dishonest partisan assholes, and I bet a buncha C Nazis were giving him hell, I don’t think addressing criticisms and misunderstandings is defensive.”

“Eh…yeah…but the way he does it. It’s just…cringy. You should just make something so good that you don’t have to explain why it’s good.”

“Yeah, but what if ya did, and a buncha schmendricks picked it apart, and just painted a totally inaccurate picture of it…”

“Yeah, I get that, but it’s just not as good of a book as it could have been if he wasn’t so fuckin’ whiny. And like…you should make something so good…that no one can say shit about it. Period.”

This conversation went on for a while, it is one that I’ve committed to memory, as it’s indicative of a certain attitude that needs addressing. It is an attitude that I find to be common among techies, medical professionals, and business-people. It’s a certain overdeveloped minimalism that breeds error, haughtiness, and hypocrisy.

Actions Speak Louder Than Words’

My friend isn’t stupid. The idea that you can create something that’s unassailably good, was just a result of the hyperbolic way we talk. If such a thing as perfection existed, I think that human beings would still find ways to fault it.

What I found staggering about my conversation is that, there was that element of ‘you shouldn’t have to explain things.’

It’s a very Fordian sentiment. In fact I think that Henry Ford once said ‘Don’t Complain, Don’t Explain.’ (Or maybe it was his grandson.) It’s a very assembly-line sort of hyper-utilitarian thinking.

Its cousin is: ‘Actions speak louder than words.’

Well, to be sure, running off a cliff is a very loud action. But nonetheless, methinks you’d much prefer, even the briefest word of warning over your brave action.

A large chunk of what I do is explain things. It’s a significant part of how I intend to make my bread and butter. So, you can see why my jimmies have been rankled enough to produce an entire article, combating this utilitarian philistinism.

That is precisely what I’m doing by the way: combating. I am by no means being defensive. This is an offense. To war!

You see, you self absorbed, day to day, little worker bee drone constantly banging into my garden window with cries of: ‘Talk is cheap!’ No… you’re not as noble as my little honey farmers.

You’re the little aberration of the industrial revolution known as a Morlock, you’ve kidnapped my comically aryan Eloi wench, and I’m the Time Traveler about to dash out your brains.

Why Can’t Americans Teach Their Children How To Think?

I’m as tired of trendy anti-Americanism as any other former Colbert fan. Yet still… Prematurely jaded, know it all, get to the chase utilitarianism is very much an American problem. To be more accurate it is an Anglo problem.

We Englishmen (And yes…Vinny, Morty, and Vlad you’re Englishmen too. Language is culture I’m afraid.) share a common history. We were the most successful children of the Industrial Revolution. It along with the limey penchant for sarcasm, snark, and preening are why sloth and self absorption are at such spectacular heights.

This is why even in the presence of nearly universal education, access to unprecedented amounts of food and shelter (for a spectacular number of folks), and more free time then ever we are still Eliza Doolittle.

GON!

I bet you don’t know what I’m referring to do you?

GON!

What is Pygmalion or it’s back to $7.25/hr, you harridan!

GON!

I bet you haven’t even seen the film, much less bothered with Shaw.

GON!

Back to the gutter with you wretched urchin!

To be honest, I’m not terribly bothered if you aren’t familiar with a very camp movie, about a very old play. It’s just that GON! Is the sound I hear when someone questions the value of thinking.

Imagine a cockney girl trying to say ‘Go On.’ I believe they’re called ‘chavs’ these days. Think of ‘GON!’ Resonating through little piggy, upturned, English noses. Imagine the vocal fry and shudder.

Ghaughowwn!

GON! Is the fizzy pop you get when you bottle provincial arrogance, hot air, and sloth. It’s stupid and proud of it!

What’s up with water. Why should I care?”

GON!

I don’t have time to read. I focus on the important things!”

GON!

I’m an educated man.”

GON!

Well the expert panel said…”

GON!

Talk is cheap.”

GON!

What’s the bottom-line?”

GON!

I really could go on, but in the interest of you hearing something more substantive then my colorful kvetching, I shan’t.

Do Complain, Do Explain

Sorry Henry, old chap, but I must be so decidedly contrarian as to turn your phrase on its head. In fact I’m considering making it the motto of The Fractal Journal. I do believe that America was founded on complaints against out of touch toffs. And I’m willing to bet, that you’d be very eager to have your lawyer, be able to explain, in exquisite detail, that the model-T patent is yours alone.

Absolutely everything requires an explanation. It may not always have to be verbal, but there will always be some sequence of information that an organism is aware of, and comprehends. Comprehending is really silent reading or explaining of a situation to yourself.

The Zen statement: ‘That is a rock,’ is only Zen and profound because the Zen practitioner has trained himself, to allow the universe to explain itself to him.

This is why I find it entirely bizarre, that people are almost proud of their sparse vocabularies, their short attention spans, and their disinterest.

Ennui is only sexy when experienced by young French women. If you aren’t a twenty something bombshell painting in Paris just stop it. You’re bloody annoying.

 

Why be proud of handicapping your capacity to be human? It is the greatest gift of mankind to be able to perceive, explore, and take joy in knowing.

 

Why do we instruct writers to dumb things down for readers? Rather than instruct readers to aspire to possess a more nimble mind and vocabulary?

Explaining and comprehending takes time… and we have to go before the mall closes!

Pity.

Explanations are so very intrinsic to being. They are such interesting things. What is a song or symphony but an explanation of the unspeakable?

I think it may be easier to convince you that explanations are worthy things. It may be harder-going promoting the merits of complaints. No one likes a complainer.

Actually, it’s quite easy. Disdain for those who complain is silly. Complaints are simply the explanation for why something is wrong. When you are criticizing someone, merely on the grounds that they are complaining, you are complaining about complaining. How deliciously self defeating.

SO WHAT IN THE SOLEMN HELL DOES ANY OF THIS HAVE TO DO WITH JOURNALISM?”

I can just hear the Engineers and MBA’s seething. Yes, see he has no utility! There’s no bottom line. This article doesn’t do anything. It’s just pretty fluff.

Well, my hypothetical pedants, for all your mechanical brilliance, and shrewd sensibilities you’ve failed to grasp that this entire article is a machine with shrewd purpose, built stringently to spec.

In the span of a mere five pages, ‘I’ve been a traveler of both time and space,’ exposing the liabilities and structural defects, that have led to the decay and disdain of journalism, through the power of the mighty literary device. (Several literary devices TBH. But ‘mighty literary devices’ sounds daft.)

Journalism has value. This is because journalism, when done properly, is simply an interesting way to tell the truth. Telling the truth in an interesting way has intrinsic value. It has intrinsic value because the truth not only sets us free but allows us to: invent, to build accurate models, and cultivate effective strategies and behaviors for surviving, and getting the hell along.

That’s precisely what I’ve done here. I’ve covered a current trend in public sentiment and explained why it’s destructive. I’ve done so in a way that is much more entertaining than if I had merely created a bullet point list, with links to various studies, on the correlation between IQ and vocabulary, and journalism’s role in keeping businesses and governments accountable.

“Ah!” Cry the number crunchers, “But that is where you’re wrong. We’d be much more interested in seeing those!”

Ok,

Sure, it showed a correlation of verbal intelligence and IQ but verbal intelligence is still intelligence. You need to understand things to be intelligent.

Hmm, that last site reeks of GeoCities, but apparently the source is valid. Better link:

These are real world examples of how journalism positively effected society.

This last link is a detailed analysis of the various effects and complications of journalism and media on society and perception.

Happy?

Liars. You don’t want to read that. Especially the highly sciency pubmed study. Because it’s boring. And not only that but it disagrees with your Weltanschauung. The only thing people hate more than being bored, is being bored as it slowly dawns on them, that their beloved ‘science’ (Science is great. ‘science’ isn’t.) is against them.

Total vocabulary has the highest correlation (0.8) with overall IQ of any individual measure of intelligence.

Stings don’t it? Knowing that word wise people are just as intelligent as number savvy ‘hard nosed realists.’ It’s almost like reality has a qualitative as well as quantitative aspect. Whodda thunk it?

Finding important topics, getting an accurate grasp on them, and then presenting them in an interesting light is an art and science, that I am delighted to participate in and champion.

I here consider all Morlocks slain and the merits of journalism thoroughly upheld. Offensively!


Financial Journalist Mark Melin gives examples of journalism’s positive impacts on the Keiser Report: the relevant discussion starts at minute 22.