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

 

Image result for beer belly cartoon                                                                                                     Image result for nuclear bomb explosion

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

 

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.

A Big To Do – Turning Ideas into Actions for The Indie Set

 

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Ever have a really great idea for a book, article, film, business or joke? Did you ever actually put it out there? Or was it more just casual conversation with friends, lot’s of dog-eared, half-finished manuscripts, and a vague sense of: ‘I’m gonna do that, someday.’

Or, are you absolutely dead-set on never experiencing that sinking feeling again? That feeling you get when you stroll by a book, see a YouTube channel, or hear some road comic cashing in ‘ON YOUR IDEA!’ Ya snooze ya lose. Stings don’t it?

I might be able to help.

This article is about how to take that passionate pile of ideas, insights, and creativity and make them actionable. It is designed to help people in any career or stage of life be more creative (and perhaps make a career of it) starting today.

The following is a list that will help us do just that.

1) Know your worth.

2) Know when you are working.

3) Organize, Organize, Organize

4) Keep good records of fits, starts, failures, and successes

5) Network, Network, Network

6) Be Businesslike (Keep Yourself Accountable/Stop dreading Excel.)

7) Know your idea. Know the supporting ideas behind your idea.

8) Seek role models  who have already done what you’re attempting to do. Use them as a metric. But not too rigidly.

9) Don’t let people with overdeveloped minimalism (Misers like Engineers and Stock Brokers) discourage you.

10) Stay fit. Eat right. And get proper rest (Sleep, Downtime, etc.)

Some folks might think that the above is prioritized all wrong. They might be right, but I’m going to explain my reasoning and why I think it’s sound. So if you’re an engineer or stock broker, who already has a bad taste in their mouth, relax we’ll build to spec and get to the bottom line soon enough.


# 1 Fit To Task

First, knowing your worth is #1 because people are terrible at it. They generally seem to either overestimate or underestimate their value. This is because ‘fit to task’ isn’t a common enough part of our vernacular.

How fit for your goal or idea are you? How fit for your job are you? Good self-assessment is tricky but you only get good at it through practice.

So, ask yourself those two questions right now.

If you’re a barista who’s fantastic at their job and enjoys exchanging quips with coworkers, interacting with customers, and delivering quality service, then you’re a great barista. You’re fit for your job.

After you get home reeking of overpriced lattes, do you pull out a guitar and surprise yourself with the inventive licks, that seem to spring out of nowhere? Are you more fit for music than being the dude or dudette, who makes corporate America a bit ‘jiterrier’ round the eight am commute?

This is a taste of the flavor of the sorts of thought process that you need to spend some serious time mulling over.


# 2 Your Job is a Habit

You know that you’re working when you hand that triple frappwhatever to the dude who’s obviously never learned to tie his tie right.

But playing that killer riff doesn’t feel like work. Even practicing scales doesn’t seem like work. You hesitate to tell people that you’re a musician or in extreme cases even that you play the guitar. You aren’t Jimmy Page so why bother respecting yourself or dignifying your time?

That’s just goofy. Because what you have is a skill. Given even a mediocre capacity: you’ve worked to develop something. Greatness has to start somewhere and that somewhere is usually mediocre.

A favorite Mozart quote of mine is:

“People make a mistake who think that my art has come easily to me. Nobody has devoted so much time and thought to composition as I. There is not a famous master whose music I have not studied over and over.”

While Mozart certainly possessed a knack for music I think that he probably wasn’t MOZART the moment he was born. This quote is testament to the fact that he worked very hard to develop his musical skills. An ethic and habit which I think was far more instrumental and admirable in his popularity and success than any lazy, quasi-magical, ‘he’s a genius’ explanation.

Cheesy 80’s movies aside, Amadeus worked hard and knew when he was working. Many of us only know when we’re working when we expect a paycheck. It’s an understandable albeit destructive illusion.

It’s one that’s easy to make because typically ‘day jobs’ give you very obvious ‘work tells.’ The paycheck being the biggest one.

‘Work tells’ are things like ‘the lattes made,’ ‘the customers got the scone.’ They are also physical markers like certain flavors of fatigue.

During my recent super brief stint hawking Satellite subscriptions for a small marketing firm, at big box stores; my right pinky toe would scream, after eight hours of standing on linoleum, in discount wingtips.

Generally with everything ‘worky’ there’s always a slight sense of hunger and self-denial. When I was a creel operator, I knew that I’d worked because I’d be covered in fiberglass, my hands would have some sorta gear grease on them, and at least once or twice a week I’d be tired and hungry but would ask the boss for over-time. Over-time is almost as obvious of a work tell as that paycheck.

Despite ‘artsy careers’ having less clearly defined ‘work tells’ then ‘day jobs,’ the biggest barrier of taking them seriously and calling them work are psychological.

Who the hell cares about your guitar playing? Nobody wants to buy your scribblings! They want you to make lattes, delicious artery clogging, thigh busting, road rage inducing lattes! That’s what they’ll actually pay for you cheeky git!

That is until you stop thinking that way and actually make an album.

BIG INSIDER ADVERTISING SECRET People often buy things just because they can and the things look semi-palatable.

Making your album, writing your book, or drawing up a business plan, and attracting investors will have its own tells. Some more obvious than others. For instance I know that I’ve worked after I have written an article or chapter. Generally when this is done I’m a tad stiff and my muscles are a bit achy from tension. The little hand on my green wall clock has also usually passed at least two different numbers.

Being more creative, and especially making a career out of your creativity, is going to require you to work. That means making a habit of working.

Speaking of knowing when you’re working through ‘work-tells.’ Another good one is that work is a habit.

Did you know that your day job is a habit?

A habit is just simply something you do on a regular basis for whatever reason. So the fact that you wake up every morning, shower, go over sales pitches, make some coffee, put on an ill fitting suit, and drive to a discount office by the lake, is a fact that’s a habit.

What if instead you made your habit waking up, showering, mentally preparing a list of writing topics, having your morning coffee, putting on a tie, and stepping out of your bedroom into your home office?

What if instead of getting the sale, meeting a fiberglass quota, or making sure that the woman from Munich has her Schnitzel you write a rough draft, review it, find it unsatisfactory, do two hours of research, revise it, and after proofreading for the third or fourth time submit it to a publisher or post it to your website?

I’ll tell ya what if: Ya worked.


# 3 File Don’t Pile

So now that you know what you’re worth, and you’re willing to work hard to make sure that you’re worth more than you were, you want to do this as efficiently as possible. This means organizing.

You need to:

  • Know What You Need To Do
  • Break Down The Steps To Do It

The way you do this will depend on your field.

In my case I know that I need to make headway on my books, my online magazine ‘The Fractal Journal,’ and make my best effort to finish at least a chapter, or at least one rough draft article, every working day.

When I broke down the steps to doing this. I found that what worked best was to approximate a workable theses, for the article or chapter topic, within the first five minutes of sitting down to work.

Then I’d sketch out a brief bullet point outline (unless I’m writing fiction or my nonfiction has a narrativy introduction). I then write out the article, or chapter, leaving myself notes, on information I’m unsure of or don’t know, research it, come back and fill in the blanks.  Finally, I proofread it, and BAM it either gets posted or filed, to be sent out as a query to a publisher once the book or story is finished.

You could stop here if all you wanted was to be creative, but if you want to be creative for a living, then obviously you are going to need to make money.

Stay tuned! There’s more on the business side of this coming up.


# 4 What Gets Measured Gets Done

You need to keep a record, a portfolio, of your work. Basically think of this as a Bohemian version of a CV. It may literally become your resume. (Of course just like with your real resume, you might need to pretty it up, and not include that drunken attempt at impressionist painting you did when you were 22).

What’s more important then having something to show potential clients is having something to show to yourself.

You can’t gain very effective insight into what you need to improve, if you keep throwing away all the stuff that makes you cringe. You don’t have to display it prominently but you should by all means keep it.

You should especially keep your research notes, NetBeans code snippets, brain storming links, stray lyrics and bars, and various sketches. preferably according to date.

I’d go so far as to even suggest you start writing a journal that describes how and why you are doing things before, during, and after you are doing them. This will eventually become a gold mine, definitely figuratively, and potentially financially as well. All of this is also fantastic fun, once you get the swing of it, and ‘see the opportunity.’

There’s an old business slogan that says: What Gets Measured Gets Done. I think that it’s more or less accurate. In order to start measuring your progress as an Indie artist or entrepreneur you need to have something to measure.

Keep your stuff.


# 5 Network, Network, Network

Artists, and entrepreneurs, and those who want to be them often over-romanticize things. They often over-romanticize themselves. Generally, I’ve found that most people who are artists or writers have an over-developed sense of individualism.

This is not necessarily a bad thing but it can hold you back.

We’re social creatures we need other people.

Part of the reasons that you make art, music, or want to run a succesful enterprise is to help make others happy. You’re a people pleaser. Stings a bit doesn’t it? Well let it and then realize that it’s not such a terrible thing.

Part of the reason that you hold yourself up to a certain artistic, or ethical standard is that you’ve seen it before, and it made you happy. It made you want to participate in it.

Well, you want people to participate in your work. So get social.

This has to go far beyond just making posts on Facebook, Minds, Twitter, Gab, or YouTube. You need to learn to network. That means being able to realize what you can do for others and what they can do for you.

Networking is about building partnerships. You’re going to want partnerships. Even if they aren’t actual business partnerships. You’re going to want other people who can assess your work, who can keep you motivated, and who stir your creativity.

For instance if you’re learning computer programming, then hang around with others that are learning to code, or are freshly minted coders. If a full-on programmer has the patience for you then hang around with them. Such an approach helps to keep energy, and spirits high, and if done properly can foster healthy competitiveness and a ‘work chemistry’ that could take you to some spectacular places.

You need to learn when and how to tell people about who you are and what you do. You need to do this confidently. Effective networking is an art and science that comes with experience. The best way to get experience is to just start. So go forth!


# 6 Put On A Tie!

Artists, writers, entrepreneurs, and other hipsters are a catty bunch, that arch their backs when anything conventional even dares to peek around the corner.

There’s nothing more mundane or conventional than business. Thinking like a businessman is unsavory even for entrepreneurs these days.

Fact of the matter is that if you don’t want to be dude bumming beers at happy hour, and crashing on people’s couches as you figure out your ‘vision,’ then you’re going to have to start thinking about money.

Chances are high that you’re not going to maintain very much creative output if you feel like and are kind of a mooch. The same thing applies if you’re forcing yourself to work, low paying jobs, that you hate, to make yourself a little less of a mooch.

Wouldn’t all this be better if you were the guy able to help all the other moochers while actually achieving your ‘vision?’

You’d be King of the Hipsters.

Image result for gavin mcinnes

Current Hipster King - Begging a Dethroning

But money is the root of all evil!

Is it?

Is the pursuit of money less ethical than the pursuit of your ‘vision’ at the expense of other people’s money?

Remember, all that money is, is the representation of products and services. Service and products take time to do and create. So every time someone pitches in to help you out financially they’re in essence giving you their time.

Don’t be a time vampire. (If you know a time vampire, the cure is offering them a job, helping them find a job, or telling them to make a business plan.)

We’re all mortal and can’t afford to waste time or its little green representation: money. Don’t overcompensate by becoming a miser or sink into a pit of self-hatred because you’re bad at making money. Misers are miserable and solvency is a difficult thing these days even if you’re working a 9-5. The only thing you need to do is have an attitude shift and keep crackin’.

The trick that I’m trying to get you to learn to do here is to: Buy yourself time with the things you love to do.

This means thinking of yourself as a business.

So, right now if you are planning to become a musician, writer, or pottery maker then you are a small business.

You should figure out how much money you need to live on and operate. This is the baseline number for what you need to make. You then must figure out a way to meet an effort to profit ratio.

Meaning that, you should know that activity XYZ, will be making or contributing to making you $XYZ on a regular basis.

Patreon, Etsy, and others are great ways to generate some passive income. While patrons are probably the most pleasant way to make a living as an artist, you definitely want to have more than one revenue stream. Your patrons are also subject to the whims of fate, and economy, and may not always be able to financially support you, even if they want to.

So you need to find out about things like taxes, copyright laws, and the art of negotiating contracts and deals. Maybe so far as to even join your local chamber of commerce.

You’re going to need to learn how to market yourself and your products. You need to learn what freebies to offer to entice clients or get you gigs, how much the market charges for what you do, and then how to ask for more. (When your worth starts to merit it.)

The first and foremost thing is to take yourself seriously. Put on a tie. That’s what I do even though I’m only walking from one room to another.

It’s a psychological trick that says: Look buddy you have a production schedule! You wanna take this noose off your neck? You wanna go hiking and grab a brew? Well! Finish up by seven! Then you’re green.

My personal experience is that taking the extra steps to look and feel professional, helps me stay focused, and productive. I’ve heard stories of people who do great things in their hoodies and pajamas, and while I think its possible, I haven’t met any. I’d also wager that they may have done more, and gotten there faster, if they took themselves a bit more seriously.

Having production quotas like a chapter every two or four hours, along side with clearcut financial goals, and the marketing ken to meet those is as good of a recipe for Indie success as you’re going to get.

It’s serious business.


# 7 Know Your Idea

You’re now an executive.

You perform executive functions. However, you can’t execute what you don’t believe in and you can’t believe in what you don’t know. This is why its essential to really know what you’re about.

You have to go beyond just merely calling yourself a musician, writer, or entrepreneur.

You have to be niche specific, and almost compulsively knowledgable in your field

(Or make your own field).

It also means knowing why you’re doing what you’re doing at every moment of any given day.

This will help you gain competence, be more confident, and network more efficiently.

What does knowing what and why you’re doing something look like?

Well, for instance despite everything that I said above about making money being a priority. I’m writing this article (and have been for the past three hours) for absolutely free.

Pro bono. Qui Bono?

It’s a win, win, win.

You benefit because you get a free article, WordPress benefits because I pay them the very fair price of $100 or so bucks, a year to host my site; and I benefit because I’m getting practice and providing a marketable example of my work.

I know exactly what I’m doing, for exactly how long, for exactly which reasons, and am aware of the risks and benefits.

I could run you through a detailed cost/benefit analysis of throwing out freebies as a writer but you’d be bored to tears.

What I’ll do instead, is give you a brief rundown of how I came up with my vision, and how I’m working to make it actionable.

Basically I’m interested in everything, my natural proclivity and passion is language and writing, I enjoy systematizing and finding things out.

Very vague set of ideas and skills in the above sentence right?

Sure.

So I narrowed it down, to wanting to maybe publish a book, or write some articles that would intrigue people; and serve as practice, edification, and potentially revenue for myself.

Then I thought how exactly am I going to do this? This question eventually led to a series of realizations, and ‘coincidences,’ that helped me come up with my idea for ‘The Fractal Journal.’

To be a good writer you need consistent practice, which requires feedback. To be a published writer, you need to convince people to publish your stuff, you need to stand out from the crowd. Basically you need to demonstrate value.

‘The Fractal Journal,’ I realized, meets these business goals, even though these goals were a vague afterthought, to the desire of creating a valuable product.

As I said above: I am interested in everything.

I like to write fiction, poetry, nonfiction, to make videos, to discuss what I can grasp of philosophy and science, and to play instruments. I also love instantly deploying my skills as a writer.

The Fractal Journal is something that I call ‘integrative journalism.’

It looks at the world through various angles. and iteratively posits insights and possible solutions. As well as provides commentary and models through fiction and op-eds. It’s a one stop shop for long reads and snippets alike. It is a way to keep my skills sharp, while gaining expertise through research in my areas of interest; as it acts to promote the various books that I’m writing.

The final part of knowing your product is knowing that it has value.

A lot of artists and indie sorts don’t feel like their work has the same sort of utility, as say, a tire. Fortunately we don’t live in a purely utilitarian world, or society. Furthermore, art, literature, philosophy, and your hipster microbrewery idea: all have utility that far outshines the tire’s.

The tire you see took a lot of talking, a lot of culture, a lot of confluence of factors to create. Art, literature,and philosophy are highly efficient engines for idea generation, and the creation of societies stable enough to produce the tire. They’re also a great deal of fun and smell nice.

I know that ‘The Fractal Journal’ has value because it has potential to grow into a job-creating business. I know that ‘The Fractal Journal’ has value because prevention is worth a pound of cure, knowledge is preferable to ignorance, and appreciating the world’s grand intricacies is a sacred duty.

Yes, you need to be that assertive about your vision.

Passion is the best way to know your product, idea, or service.


# 8 Role Models

I’m writing a book about water.

That means that I’ve added some new role models to my list of luminaries.

Folks like Alex Prud’homme, Fred Pearce, and Jacques Leslie. These narrative journalists give me ideas and inspiration for how to go about writing my own book.

Despite looking to these writers as examples, I don’t at all plan to follow in their footsteps. They’re guides and signposts.

To provide an example of differentiation: they’re print based veteran journalists just barely dipping their toes into the digital marketplace.

While I consider writing to be my passion (and my bread and butter) I also think of myself as a business man. The Fractal Journal is a small media business that provides marketing for my books and products.

The role models that I use for this aspect of what I’m doing are folks like Tim Pool, Joe Rogan, and Steven Crowder.

I suggest that you pick and choose in a similarly flexible way in order to form your own ‘mental council.’


# 9 Haters Gonna Hate

Artists, writers, and even most entrepreneurs tend to be an introspective bunch. Engineers and stockbrokers aren’t. I kid.

But really, there are certain professionals, that you might find it difficult to get along with. This is why I stress that you know your ideas inside and out, and develop an almost cocky confidence in your product. There’s nothing that hurts more than having an intelligent person you respect throw snippy little darts at your balloon.

It’s important to realize that these are just that: snippy little darts. Darts that are a not tossed about haphazardly by a person who is blinded by the habits of their profession and temperament.

Engineers and stock brokers might make some essential tools, and lots of cash, but they can also become addicted to reductionism. In their pursuit of efficiency, specs, and bottom lines, they can forgot that reductionism is just another method.

Don’t let people burst your bubble just because they’re smart and competent. Only let your bubble burst if it’s a legitimately bad idea. Something that you won’t know unless you have the strength, honesty, and confidence to think critically.

Don’t let haters destroy your critical thinking abilities.


# 10 Stay fit, Eat Right, and Get Adequate Rest

I can’t stress this enough. Everyone should be doing these things.

But Writers, programmers, and musicians really need to focus on these things. That’s because not only is writing, programming, and music a more or less sedentary pursuit; but both popular culture, and the subculture of each of these professions, can be a tad self-destructive.

Writers often get portrayed as Merlot chuugging depressives, programmers are unkempt greasy chips and soda addicted geekazoids, and musicians are drug crazed sex fiends.

While stereotypes do contain small kernels of truth… that doesn’t mean that you need to adopt the bad habits of professionals in your field. Even if those professionals are talented and incredibly succesful. Monkey see, monkey do, is for monkeys, and you’re a man.

So stay fit, eat right, and get adequate rest. These basic, almost boring dictums, will keep you productive and creative.

You might think you get more out of ‘winging it,’ or burning the midnight oil, or getting loaded. But if you’ve ever written anything while you were stoned, or utterly exhausted, or drunk you know that it tends to be rubbish. And if any ‘alchemical magic’ did occur, it was only possible to cobble together in your more lucid moments.

I know from experience the incredible yields of energy and clarity that hiking and weightlifting provide. Getting the right proteins, fats, and carbs requisite to keep your brain and body humming along is indispensable for the Indie set. Getting adequate rest can’t be overstated because you need to consolidate memories. Consolidated memories are what skills and symphonies are made of.


I drew some of my ideas from Six-Figure Freelancing by Kelly James-Enger. Check out her book for more in depth business advice.