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September 19, 2011 Leave a comment

Will I look back at this blog and be embarrassed? Ashamed of my arrogance and naivety, shocked at how sure I was of myself? At least my shame may be a representation of the progress I have made as a human… but if I have made “progress”, and acknowledge it as such, I must be careful not to fall into the same pit of hubris by forgetting my own ignorance while I bask in supposed “progress”.

The truth is I already am embarrassed. Most of what I write here is unedited, slop-shod, and condescendingly irate with my audience. I write more than I should, and I justify it as practice, but it is an unskilled practice, without careful consideration or reflective analysis. I just write because I feel it. My subjects are inconsistent, my opinions under-formed and under-informed, my statements too bold and bullheaded. It is an angry kind of writing, something that lets the rage out. It’s just masturbation, and I so frequently am able to kid myself into thinking that it is practice for greatness; if anything it is a testament to why I won’t be great in the way I want to be.

The only times I’ve gotten feedback is when I have been more personal and soul bearing. Ironically, avoiding making myself into a public spectacle was the main reason that I chose to write about economics and politics. Maybe no one really knew wtf I was talking about with the economics stuff, or maybe Peter Hefti is the only subject I know enough to write about and make it sound genuine. There are billions of assholes with opinions on politics, millions of pseudo intellectuals with economics degrees who are writing blogs instead of research papers. That is my real failure as a scientist: I’ve reduced myself to a common pundit, and unlike Paul Krugman, I don’t have a Nobel Prize to justify my diversion. I don’t even have a master’s degree, for whatever that is worth. I value these things only so much as other people value them, because other people and what they think is what it is all about; otherwise, why would I write for you all to read?

I’ve begun writing a book. The hardest thing for me was to just start, but now that I’ve finally picked a topic, things have gotten easy. This means that I won’t be blogging as frequently. I am kind of bored with it. Now that I have reached my objective of “getting into the swing of things” with writing, and I have enough confidence in my abilities, I am not sure if there is any point of me doing this. I feel like I’ve kind of reached a dead end. I could continue to read the news and write angry technical tirades against everything, but it makes me feel like I am losing touch with my inner sense of self. It also just kind of makes me depressed. Responding to perceived injustices is tiring work.

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Ghost Whispers in the Echo Chamber

Sometimes I write just for its own sake. It is a skill that needs practice. Other times, I think I am writing for a cause, but usually I am really just angry at something and I am not so much serving a cause as I am myself. I have descended into mundane punditry on more occasions than I am comfortable with…

Why do I do this then? First to conceive, then to think so highly of my conception that it merits articulation, dissemination, and permanence… is that what it really is about, the permanence, the irreconcilable death-fear, the denial of my own mortality?

Is the fear of death or the denial of our mortality really the basis for all action and expression?

I suppose that I am trying to cultivate a modicum of self-discipline for myself by doing something that I don’t wholeheartedly agree with, for its own sake rather than for a reward, however discrete or abstract that reward may be.

Writing on a blank page allows me to create something over which I have complete control… an appealing proposition to anyone, not only the “creative types”.

The question to ask myself should be what is the purpose of my audience. They keep you accountable but they are also a first exposure to judgement; but as soon as you start caring about the judgement, you lose touch with your subject and content. The true purpose of the writing must be the words itself. The words themselves are a representation of truth, the most abstract of philosophical concepts and also the most ideal. Truth is the ideal that everything measures against: words, actions, subject, object.

Nothing is entirely true but has certain aspirations towards truth, and strength of these aspirations is what we feel as the emotional resonance of something, whether a simple statement or a great artist’s magnum opus.

This is an accord with myself to write better, to find more truth, to not focus on the WHY but the WHAT.

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Catchup Links

I took a break from the internet (a whole 5 days!) as I celebrated the best ideas of a certain group of 18th century slave-holding tax evaders. I missed a lot of good reads and am still playing catchup, but this is last week’s best of the best.

 

When Rape Victims Lie: very applicable to the DSK case. Women who lie get raped too.

Keynes Biographer on Keynes: My rampant misquotations now extend to JMK, who according to this guy, didn’t say he changes his mind when the facts change. This is still a pretty

Martin Feldstein on the US Economy: “It’s sucking”. For those who don’t know, Feldstein is currently an econ professor at Harvard, and before that he was on Reagen’s economics advising team. He was the contrarian of the bunch, advising Reagan not to increase the deficit. This has always endeared him to me.

A War By Any Other Name: we get closer and closer to Orwell’s vision in 1984 everyday. War that is endless, perpetual, meaningless?

World Bank Opening Up The Data Treasure Troves: economists across the globe are more jubilant than they’ve been since 2008.

Kissinger on China (Interview):Yeah, he’s shilling for his book, which I have been avoiding just because I have the feeling that he can’t tell me anything I don’t already know, and also because the book is probably very self-serving. But this interview is brief, and the book is long, so pick the lesser of the two evils.

Better Lives in Mexico Lead to Less Immigration North: “They took our jeobs!”, but not as many as before. I’m sure this article isn’t going to convert anyone to my “almost completely open border” platform, but it is a good story in an immigration debate that is fueled almost entirely by ignorance and emotional anecdotes.

NY Times (Short) Profile on Brian Eno: mainly about his new collaboration with some English poet of whom I’ve never heard. In any case, Eno is a boss and drops gems.

“The whole history of pop music had rested on the first person singular, with occasional intrusions of the second person singular,” he said. (To illustrate his point, he briefly affected a teeny-bopper croon: “I am this, I think this, and you do this, and you are this.”) “I was so bored with the idea of the whole song being based around some individual’s narrative. So I started working on ways to try to get rid of the idea that the voice in the song was the voice of the song, that that was the center of the meaning of the song.”

Assimilation’s Failure, Terrorism’s Rise: Best piece I can remember reading about the effects of public policy on marginalizing (and eventually radicalizing) immigrant groups. Nominally about Britain, but just as applicable to the United States and the rise of the Black Panthers, MS-13, and any number of terrorist or just plain criminal minority groups (I know the Black Panther’s aren’t immigrants, but they are a failure of public policy).

Drugs and The Meaning of Life: I plan on writing more about this later, but for now, here is a great article about the psychedelic experience.

 

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Truth

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Chuck Klosterman on latter-day Led Zeppelin

Entertaining and insightful, like he usually is:

‘In the Evening’: A second-by-second analysis of Led Zeppelin’s last stand

In August of 1979, Led Zeppelin played two concerts at the Knebworth Festival in Hertfordshire, England, headlining an event rumored to have been seen by some 218,000 people. This rumor is not true; in reality, the first show was seen by a crowd of about 104,000 while the second show (pummeled by day-long rain) had a crowd of fewer than 50,000. These are still massive numbers, certainly, but the difference between what the band’s management claimed and what was authentically happening illustrates the contradictory position Zeppelin was in by ’79: They were both the most popular and most criticized rock band in the world. Reviews for the Knebworth shows were mostly negative (especially for the second night, which even the band admits was subpar). At the time it had become trendy for other musicians to use Zeppelin as the example for everything they hated about the 1970s; Clash bassist Paul Simonon had recently said, “I don’t have to hear Led Zeppelin. Just looking at their album covers1 makes me want to throw up.” What Simonon was (actually) complaining about is what we see during the first 105 seconds of this Knebworth rendition of “In the Evening,” the first track off the widely panned (but 6x-platinum-selling) In Through the Out Door: conscious bloat. For almost two minutes, we get little more than a genius biker hitting the kettle drum while three superrich hippies prepare to be as awesome as they justifiably perceive themselves, lurking and droning beneath the same type of laser Patterson Hood saw at a BOC concert when he was 14.2 As is always the case with YouTube, time and circumstance have changed the meaning of those 105 seconds. But this was what the cool kids hated in 1979, despite the 104,000 Knebworthian kettledrum aficionados losing their hash-riddled minds.

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Good Reads

The Philosophy of Applied Mathematics : Very interesting article and accessible for people who, like myself, aren’t math geniuses.

Gender is Dead, Long Live Gender : It is kind of amazing that we live in the year 2011, but gender and sexuality are still essentially avant garde subjects. I think that most people aren’t really interested in the subject on an intellectual level because it is something that most of the privileged majority take for granted. As a straight male, I never really thought much about the subject until several years ago when I started dating a girl who identified as bisexual and who was very informed about issues relating to gender politics. It is very easy for the straight population to be tolerant of alternative sexualities without being 100% accepting; I know that I definitely was guilty of this before I began investigating the subject (and this type of tolerance without acceptance doesn’t end just with sexuality, it also extends to race as well, and within the marginalized groups there is also a fair share of “backlash” intolerance/nonacceptance against the normalized-value holding majority group). Regardless of your own personal identification, you probably owe it to yourself to read this article, if for nothing else than to understand a part of the social transformations taking place in the world today and also to further your understanding of yourself.

The History of Dialogue: Other People’s Papers : Fascinating dialogue between a professor and someone who helps students cheat by selling them papers.

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Stephan Metcalf on Robert Nozick

http://www.slate.com/id/2297019/pagenum/all/

I never read the entirety of Anarchy, State, and Utopia, but I think that Nozick’s opus was more a book for its time rather than a timeless book (I do regard as timeless the philosophers’ from which he synthesizes his argument).

This article hits the nail on the head about what is right/wrong about contemporary libertarianism. Most of the people who call themselves libertarians today are really just self-interested assholes. They are benefiting from the historical and social coincidence of the world in which we live, where a set of ideas has been collected and defined as “Libertarianism”. By affiliating themselves with a philosophy such as Libertarianism, they are able to conceal their own moral bankruptcy with a veil of intellectual vanguardism. It is one thing to write and defend a well-reasoned piece of moral philosophy (as Nozick has done). It is entirely another to ignore one’s privilege and hide behind the haughty ramparts of someone else’s ideas while following a solipsist strategy of personal material enrichment.