Current Reads – July

I’m using a planner again!

The COVID hair continues.

Not only that but I’m actually forcing myself to get everything in it done every day before I go to sleep. That’s the part that’s actually difficult. I can write to-do lists all day; there’s no end of plans in the works. So, one of the things I put in my planner every day is to write for ten or fifteen minutes. Once I get that down I might increase it to something more substantial but it’s enough time to feel like I’ve done something. It may translate into more frequent posts.

When I wrote yesterday’s post, I was struck by the idea that if I can’t talk about what my opinions currently are (because I don’t know), I can write about what I’m doing to learn about the topics that interest me!

Thus, here is the first of what I hope to be a monthly series (just shot myself in the foot by writing that) on my current reads. I’ve been interested in politics and economics for the last month or so and my list will reflect that heavily. My apologies to those of you who loathe politics! I’m not completely insane though, so I do have some books I’m reading purely for enjoyment.

One final note: none of the links I provide here are affiliate links. If you choose to purchase these books, I won’t see a cent and I’m okay with that.

The Populist’s Guide to 2020
Krystal Ball & Saagar Enjeti

The Populist's Guide to 2020.

I was introduced to these two through Joe Rogan’s Podcast, which I highly recommend to any and all people. He has a very wide range of guests covering every topic imaginable. There’s something there for everybody. Anyway… Ball and Enjeti are the hosts of a political show called Rising which seeks to be an actually honest place where you get both left-ish and right-ish perspectives on current events. It’s not unbiased- nothing is. It’s more digestible though because they’re not cramming hatred and fear down your throat for an hour.

The book reflects their personal views in that both the liberal and conservative movements in America have completely failed and need to be done away with. I’ve just begun reading it so I’m not going to try to give it more of a synopsis than that. People like Ball and Enjeti are part of the complex system of stimuli that snapped me out of my ultra-left, Trump needs to go to prison haze and let me accept that some1 conservatives are actually human beings that I can have conversations with that don’t end in bloodshed.

Buy the book here.

The Myth of Mental Illness
Thomas Szasz

I believe I’ve written about this book before but I just haven’t been reading that much over the last few months until now. It’s an old book (1974) so some of its ideas may have been updated or outright replaced by newer ideas (although depending on who you ask, some of the newer ideas in psychology are outright bullshit) but, in general, the idea behind it resonated with me.

Szasz basic premise is that psychiatry is far too quick to label every discovered divergence in human behavior to an illness, whether for financial resources that are available to new studies or to reinforce particular ideologies. Homosexuality used to be considered a mental illness and now homophobia is starting to be labeled as a mental illness. Are either of those beliefs true? It’s objectively impossible to know in today’s scientific climate.

I’ve always felt (important to note here that a feeling is different than a belief) that we were far too quick to assign labels to phenomena in an effort to make somebody a victim and thus in a certain class of people to whom no questions can be raised lest you be an oppressor. This book seems to support that feeling but I’ve of course read others such as The Blueprint which tend toward the opposite belief, that everything we do, say, and become is genetic and free will is a comfortable quilt sewn with lies (Sam Harris applauds wildly).

Buy the book here.

The Brothers Karamazov
Fyodor Dostoevsky

After the harrowing journey I undertook while reading Crime & Punishment, one would be justified in asking why the hell I would ever read another Dostoevsky book.

I hear this one is better.

There’s more emotion driving it so far and far less chapters-long wrangling over socialism and capitalism.2 I have a long way to go in this book and to be perfectly honest I only bought it because it’s green and I needed it as a decoration that would fit the color scheme of one of my shelves. Take that, literature!

Buy it here. (not the exact copy I have but I can’t be arsed to search that hard)

And so…

I’ve purchased more books this month but as I’ve yet to actually begin reading them, I’d feel a little pretentious attempting to talk about them. If you have any recommendations, feel free to mention them in the comments below! I’ll read anything once, which I think I’ve made obvious.

1 Don’t get me wrong there are just as many batshit insane Republicans as there are batshit insane Democrats out there.
2 If you’re wondering, I’m an ardent capitalist but I see the value in socialism… I simply think that if you actually propose socialism as a valid framework for economic and social policy, you haven’t had nearly enough experience with other human beings.

Back from “Vacation”.

Monday afternoon I went home early with a cough that had been getting progressively worse throughout the day. I wasn’t concerned that it was anything serious as I didn’t have a fever or a sore throat, but I decided to be courteous. Well the old c**ts that I work with spread a rumor throughout the building that I definitely had COVID so I was forced to stay home Tuesday and get a doctors note. Seeing an opportunity, I had my cool-as-heck doctor write me a note that said I couldn’t return to work until Friday despite being perfectly well. Because of that, the clucking hens at work became even more paranoid that something was seriously wrong with me and they had my entire desk area sanitized by the facilities department. I love it.

I’m back today and am not going to tell anyone what happened. You might think me a bit sadistic for stoking people’s fears just to teach them a lesson about gossip, but my craving for humor trumps morality every time.

The Last Three Days

The last three days have been kind of chaotic. I never recognize how much I need my weekly routine in order to get things done. I’m behind on schoolwork and have been eating like an American for the whole week. I did practice a lot of piano and rhythm… I actually know an entire song start to finish on piano now (and not one of those childish ones that people learn first). My private lessons are cancelled for the foreseeable future but I’ve found a great lesson plan on Skillshare which, somewhat sadly, is actually better than my in-person teacher is. It’s still nice to be able to get real-time feedback from an experienced player.

I’m also signed up for Andrew Huang’s production masterclass in April. It was $275 and I’ve heard nothing but great things about it. A lot of people in the ad comments complain that they don’t have that kind of money and it’s so expensive but if you’re not willing to spend $275 and want to be a producer… you’re probably not going to get very far. My speakers alone were that much.

Anyway. Just checking in. Today is going to be annoying, I already know it. We fired the phone girl last week because she called in sick every other week for the entire week. They generally don’t fire people here but she was still in her probationary period so it was pretty easy to just say “Bye, Felicia”. But… that means yours truly now has to cover a block of phone calls every day, the topics in which range from such delightful questions as “why I ain’t got no child support this month” and “how do I get a DNA test this kid ain’t mine!”

I look forward to it.

Desktop Computers are Officially Obsolete

Graph courtesy Statista 2020

Desktop computers were never the best tool for the job; they were the only tool for the job. PC aficionados such as myself lament the end of the desktop era, as the more the market moves away from desktop support, the more niche and expensive high-end PC components will become.

The obsolescence of the desktop computer doesn’t necessarily mean it will vanish completely. There will likely be a market for RTX Geforce 2080 ti rigs with i9 processors and 128gb of RAM for many years to come, however increasingly these computers will be owned solely by gamers and video artists.

People never needed a 10lb black monolith (the opening credits to 2001 come to mind) sitting on their desk. What most people need is a way to access the internet, write essays for school, and play Candy Crush in their downtime. We can see from the graph above that while their decline is slower, laptops are on their way out as well because they, too, poorly address the needs I just listed.

Right now, most desktop and laptop sales are probably due to an older generation of consumers not understanding that the gap between tablet and desktop has been significantly bridged in the last few years. The latest generation of iPad sports a processor that is strikingly similar in performance to close-to-current-gen i5 and i7 chips.

The continued refinement of tablet technologies mean that, barring ignorant baby-boomers, most people will likely be buying tablets as their primary computers in the future. There will still be some holdouts who cling to laptops out of nostalgia but, barring cost (a mid-tier laptop is still more powerful than a tablet but as the tablet market expands this will likely change rather quickly and significantly), there is realistically no reason to buy a laptop in 2020.

We might not be playing Cyberpunk 2077 on a Surface Pro any time soon, but gamers can now officially lament that the console wars have ended and PCs did not win. As market share continues to move toward tablets and laptops, consoles will become the gaming equipment of choice. The argument can still be made that even current-gen consoles can’t touch the performance of a souped up gaming rig… most gamers aren’t willing or able to shell out $3000 on a desktop PC.

Personally, I’ll continue building and tinkering with desktops for the forseeable future, but it’s definitely a niche hobby these days. I encounter fewer and fewer people who have ever looked inside of their computer or understand how it works. It’s sad in a way, but that’s progress for you. I imagine it’s the same way hot rodders felt when car manufacturers made their automobiles less and less customizable.

How to Not Live Like a F***ing Savage

Yesterday I was hit with the grim realization that I’d let my home slip into disarray again. Home life for me is a constant battle against a woman who sees every flat surface as a place to pile trash and dirty dishes and a man who comes home drunk and eats us out of stock while leaving his dirty dishes and scraps of food in various rooms. Sure, some day I’ll be able to live on my own again and they can cultivate their hoarder house how they see fit, but not while I’m around.

Eating in Your Bedroom

I was surprised to learn that this was fairly common among adults. There’s really no reason to eat in your bedroom, ever. We might be tempted to forgive teenagers for this because their bedroom is their only sanctuary against the codependent “advice” of their mothers, but that’s a poor excuse. Enabling isolation is a completely different topic. I know, I know. I’m “not a parent” but by default that makes me a better parent than most people. 0 is more than -5 and all that.

So if you eat in your bedroom, for the love of all that is holy please stop. It’s childish and disgusting and it’s an absolute guarantee that people who eat in their bedrooms also leave dirty dishes and empty bottles all over their fucking floor. This drives me insane when I see it because you know that when you’re invited over for company you’re seeing what it looks like after they’ve cleaned up. What kind of person finishes drinking something and then throws the bottle on the floor? Alcoholics do that. I should know.

If You See It, Fix It

This is the simplest of concepts but virtually nobody does it and nobody at all does it consistently, not even I, your most perfect host! Imagine how clean the world would be if we all cleaned something up when we saw a mess? You’d be able to eat off of the pavement in the middle of Times Square. I’m not suggesting we pick up trash in the streets or clean up after the homeless (although it’s not a horrible idea) but rather that you use this mentality in your home.

When I moved back home, the shower head in our main bathroom was so caked in mold that water wasn’t coming out of several of the … whatever they’re called. Water-massage-holes. Instead of being massaged by lightly pressurized water, my mother was being massaged by colonies of fungus and bacteria pelting her face. For it to get like this it would have had to have been ignored for years. It took me 5 minutes to clean and sanitize it. Jesus Christ give me strength.

If I just threw my hands up and said “oh well, my family is disgusting and obviously mentally deranged”, my house would be featured on an episode of Extreme Hoarders by now. But NAY I refuse to live surrounded by rotten food, feces (yes my brother leaves feces smeared on the wall and floor of the bathroom), and clutter (my mother hasn’t thrown away a magazine since 1972).

Don’t Complain or Give In

You would rightly assume that this blog post is a thinly disguised complaint but when I say don’t complain, I mean “don’t complain and then use it as an excuse to not do anything”. The modus operandi of the majority of mankind is to complain about people, places, things, and situations, and then just throw our hands up and wait for somebody else to deal with it.

If you think about it, literally every problem we face is caused by this syndrome. It’s far easier to complain about our president, the climate, a pandemic, and the stupidity of millennials (of whom I belong and I am clearly smarter than you) than to actually organize and do something about any of these problems (of course statistically for half of you our president isn’t a problem, just wait a few more years).

So stop complaining. My levels of happiness and self-esteem increased dramatically once I stopped allowing myself to be involved in gossip and workplace drama. I stopped watching the news as there is never anything newsworthy in it. I had to be told by someone on WordPress that there was a tornado that decimated a city just a couple hours away. Is that newsworthy to me? No! I don’t know anybody who lives there. Why would I want to have the stress and anxiety of knowing that a bunch of strangers either died or had their livelihoods destroyed? It’s not relevant. It surely sucks for the people it happened to but we can’t worry about the entire planet’s problems… that’s why nobody does anything! When you constantly take in all of the bullshit that happens around the world, it seems like you’re completely powerless.

But I Digress

I’m not suggesting we start taking on problems outside of ourselves or try to change the world. Maybe you could try, you know, if you felt up to it.

Just clean your damn room.

Mezzo Forte

Today was my first piano lesson and it went great! My instructor was pleased with how much I already knew and said that I had a great sense of rhythm which is news to me because my finger-drumming on my sampler always sounds like a mess.

After class I ran through some rhythm exercises in the Melodics app. I’m trying to get my coordination and timing on the Maschine Mk3 to improve. I’m still using the free version so I can only practice for 5 minutes a day. $30 a month is just way too much for something that I’m not sure I’ll be consistent with yet. It’s a great app, though. I highly recommend it. They also have piano lessons through it but I don’t have my keyboard connected to my computer yet.

Which brings me to my last update: I’m still mulling over which piece of my studio to get next. I need an audio interface sooner than later but there are so many out there and I don’t want to buy one that isn’t going to last me long if I vastly expand my analog library. I also need a decent pair of studio monitors and I’m leaning toward the Presonus Eris 3.5’s. They’re only $100 for the pair and the reviews are all favorable. Finally, I really want to get the jump on my modular synthesis hobby so I need to pick up a control unit sooner or later. Those are the most expensive component, though, as they are stand alone instruments.

And of course on top of all of this I’m still waiting to see if my car will cost me any more money in repairs. So perhaps it’s best that I just hold off for now. 😀

Studio Update

It felt cathartic to get yesterday’s post out and I’m grateful to the people who related in the comments. I’m in much higher spirits today (maybe my new diet is kicking in?) and moving forward.

Analog Studio

I’ve purchased the second piece to my ever in-progress analog music studio, a Korg Volca Keys loop synthesizer. I have a lot of experience with virtual synthesizers but I think that having an actual physical interface will help me greatly in relearning music production after 10 years of alcoholism. It’s not a high end piece of equipment by any means but it sounds great for the price and… at the end of the day… everything sounds good when you run it through filters anyway.

How We See the World

I’ve been reading “12 Rules for Life” at a very slow pace recently, one section at a time so I can really ponder and digest it. By section, I mean the few paragraphs that come after a heading, not a chapter. I don’t know what that’s called, officially. Anyway, yesterday I was reading about how our brains have to break the world apart into objects. We never truly see the world as it is, only how we were raised to see it.

For example, I see a car as a vehicle for getting me from point A to point B quickly, not as a complex system of machines and metal forged by at least a hundred different people, not to mention the ancestral line of engineers that led to the modern technology in my particular car. We can’t see the world this way, we’d go insane. There’s just too much information.

Think about it: every single thing that happens in your day is the result of an almost infinite (may as well be infinite for how complicated it is) web of other events, people, things, etc. Suppose you just want to buy a gallon of milk! You have to walk on pavement that was put there by somebody, made from materials that somebody else made. Yet another person had to decide that pavement needed to go there because even more people decided that where you are at should be a city or town. We’ve barely even gotten out your front door (and don’t get me started on doors)!

I think that part of success in life is understanding that how we see things isn’t necessarily how they truly are. We also have to take into consideration how other people view things when we’re speaking to them. I may see broccoli as a superfood and essential to every meal and the person I’m discussing dietary choices with sees it as poison-flavored bark.

I’d like to try to look at the big picture more often. Not too much, because as I said it can drive us insane, but in situations that seem like they’re important. Even here on WordPress, my followers and the people I follow are a diverse group of people with different beliefs, cultures, and personalities. It’s truly a miracle that we don’t all verbally tear each other to pieces over every single word we say.

Gods Rise as Pillars Crumble

I’m not your typical blackmetal fan.

Sitting here in a grey cardigan, eating fried eggs with kale and mushrooms, reading an article on precise speech, nothing could be further from my mind than burning down churches and picking up a plastic spiky bracer from Hot Topic. But as far as rock music goes, it’s by far my favorite genre.

This particular rabbit whole (of which there are many when it comes to my musical tastes) began in the early 2000’s while I was working in a record store in Detroit. I’d recently given up an affliction for the trashiest gangster rap imaginable (with which I would flirt on and off for the next decade) for the exact music I belittled other kids in school for, perhaps because I was afraid to admit how interested I was.

To be fair, when my friend Aaron returned after summer break senior year wearing black lipstick and eyeliner, it was a little jarring.

Kids are weird though. They don’t understand that the makeup and trench coats with spikes on them belong exclusively at concerts, not a mall food court. Still, in the back of my mind I’ve always slightly regretted ostracizing Aaron after that moment. He was just a confused teenager who thought Satan was the bees knees. I was a confused teen too. It was a mess. I digress.

My love of blackmetal has been tempered well by the fact that I don’t believe the devil exists. You’re really free to explore a lot more of the art world when you’re of that mindset. Silly me, I thought all of the other fans and the bands themselves were in on the same joke. Not true, not true at all. It’s similar to the time I thought that Genocide Organ were doing it for shock value and weren’t actually a neo-nazi band. Sadly mistaken, Brian. I suppose due to my own history with the national socialism movement, I’m more keen to give people the benefit of the doubt and assume that they couldn’t possibly be that stupid in real life.

Cradle of Filth and Dimmu Borgir were my introduction to blackmetal music. Now, any serious blackmetal fan will read that sentence and piss his pants with rage… they are blackmetal bands in the same way the Backstreet Boys are a rock and roll band. But when you’re 18 the chances that you’ve heard of Satanic Warmaster or Drudkh are slim to none so you pick up whatever the local shop has. I owe my liberal musical tastes to the shop I worked in because they carried a wide variety of music and I listened to it all, regardless of whether or not it was related or would make me look ridiculous! I am not the least bit ashamed to admit that there’s been a Ke$ha shaped hole in my heart since 2010. She’s a bit blackmetal in her own way, I guess.

Why do I love it so much? I’ve thought about it recently, trying to nail down my reasons (as you do). The problem is that the genre has a massive breadth of quality. You have records literally produced in garages on the one end and million-dollar metal masterpieces on the other. A lot of blackmetal fans praise the garage albums because it’s like a badge of honor to own the shittiest record you could find, I guess. “Oh man listen to this one you can’t even hear the drums!” I imagine them saying.

For me, it’s the atmospheric, ambient style guitar. It’s like a wave of noise that washes over you with slight alterations in harmonics over time… kind of the reason I was attracted to noise bands like Merzbow and Whitehouse. Blast beats are, of course, central to my philosophy of life as well. The faster and more aggressive, the better. As far as the lyrics… I’m pretty “meh” about it. I’m well past the age where I use my musical tastes to shock people in a vain attempt to look “dangerous”. Some bands, like Inquisition up above, have genuinely interesting lyrics. Some, like Agalloch or Deafheaven, aren’t Satanic in the least.

My current tastes change like the season, though. With the onset of winter, I feel my craving for the monotonous drone of traditional techno creeping up on me. I’m severely out of touch with that genre this year and have a lot of catching up to do. I’ve even begun producing my own music again, which I’ll be putting up shortly. It’s not great, but I enjoy doing it. I’ll probably get better. That’s what people say, anyway.

Foreign YouTube

One of my late-night guilty pleasures is lying in bed watching YouTube on my phone before I can’t handle it anymore. I’ve watched a LOT of YouTube and when you do that you eventually run out of interesting creators in your own country and start branching out. Because of this, I’ve found quite a few sometimes funny, sometimes beautiful videos that I’d like to share today, instead of putting in actual effort to write a thoughtful post. 🙂

I love this guy’s videos. I have no idea what he’s saying in the videos that don’t have captions, but he seems to be a master at breaking down seafood. Also, his kitchen makes mine look gigantic.

This channel is thought to actually be Chinese State Propaganda due to the quality of the film and editing, but I don’t care. The cinematography is gorgeous from the composition to the colors. Every single one of these videos is worth watching.

This guy (I assume he goes by Pooh) eats spicy food and then chokes and cries. Over and over. I don’t know why I’m so fascinated with it, but I am.

I realize now that all of these are Asian. Maybe I’m a closet weeaboo. Hmmm. If people are interested in seeing more from the dark corners of YouTube, I’ll post more. Today’s post is just a tribute to the fact that I really have nothing to say right now. Oh, I started Adderall. It isn’t doing anything, much like every other medication I’ve ever taken for ADHD. What can you do.

The Lie of Mindfulness

We tell lies with almost every breath spoken because a person can’t tell the truth without knowing themselves. Opinions flip with the tides, new ideas emerge from discovered wisdom, and no man is truly introspective except for possibly a monk! How can you possibly be honest about something when you don’t know what you believe, yourself? So we need to be more forgiving of people when they are wrong or when they say something that is obviously stupid. Not all of us are playing on the same field and some of us aren’t even playing the same game.