Thursday, 29 May 2014

What does a young man born and raised in fog and chaos do?

This series of posts has been an attempt to find a way of talking about people’s behaviour without falling into gender stereotypes: “women do this, men do that”. Doing that involves some stylistic changes: use quantifiers like “most” and “some” instead of implicitly talking about “all”; give a swift nod towards the good before describing the bad in detail; talk about men, but not explicitly about women; talk about “people” rather than genders.

I can say most of the things Rollo Tomassi says, but without his generalisations and underlying assumption that there is an underlying Nature of Women That Is Just Different And Not In A Good Way. I see it as all part of a human condition that applies to and affects men as well as women.

Certain kinds of women do this, certain kinds of women do that. Sweeping generalisations do not help. We need to know what kind of flaws and chaos we are dealing with. If all women are like that, there is no point filtering. Rather, while all women have something wrong with them, they don’t all have the same things wrong with them, and it matters exactly what is wrong. Same thing for men, as well.

Throughout this series I have rejected dozens of generalisations and snarky comments about women and men, as well as whole paragraphs of theory about marriage, the effect of the development of digital-based cultures, and other such good stuff. I did that because I was rationalising my own behaviour and thoughts. And I of all people should not do that. Because I’m an alcoholic / addict / ACoA. I have a short attention-span, do things because it gives me a high, or am driven by a vanity only another formerly-pretty person would understand why I hold on to. (I do a damn good impersonation of a normal person. I pay my taxes and due bills, I wash and iron my clothes, I have a job and I even have a garden shed and a lawn. But get close and you will feel the self-centredness and dis-ease, the constant need for distraction and new. One day at a time I can do many things for many years, including staying sober, and one-day-at-a-time I might even hold down a relationship for many years, but that’s not what she wants.)

I started with the idea that everyone is flawed, and those flaws will turn into life-changing cracks. Everyone will mess up the lives of those around them: sometimes from malice or irresponsibility, and sometimes from sheer bad genetic luck. There are no right decisions for the long-term: the world will change in such a way that everyone will regret a choice made five or twenty or forty years ago. All we can do is cut our losses and change in response.

The idea that floated up while I was writing this stuff was the Marketing 101 thing. Women don’t want men, they want what men can do for them. And men don’t want women, they want what women can do for them. This has been behind all inter-gender behaviour since people started to notice that there was a difference. What is new, is that men and women now have the resources to do without each other, and that a fair chunk of them seem quite prepared to do so. What makes it hurt is that these MGTOWs and WGTOWs are reasonably high quality - who would care if they were only weirdos and un-dateables?

But they aren’t locked into it. If someone comes along who does what she needs doing, she may just team up with him. (The other way round is a movie fantasy involving Manic Pixie Dream Girls, so it isn’t going to happen.) Hence the need for self-improvement and Game: one of the things those career girls want is some fun and diversion. They are still women, and they still want attention, fun, diversion and fuss from non-creepy men.

What does a young man born and raised in fog and chaos do? There is no right answer. If there was, it would not be chaos and there would be no fog. Any given sequence of decisions might lead to bliss and fortune for one person, and horrors and poverty for another. Some are pretty slanted one way or another: becoming a junkie is pretty much going to wreck your life, but I’ve met some reasonably successful recovered addict-alcoholics.

He must filter potential long-term partners for psychiatric disorders and undesirable personality traits. I say nothing about children because I don’t approve of irreversible decisions. That aside, there is no decision that ensures the long-term, only decisions that can make the near-term a reasonable bet. Get into the gym, become familiar with the rich culture of our age, learn Game and don’t live in a distant suburb. Do what you want, have a way out and always be prepared to change.

Monday, 26 May 2014

Dysfunction and Dissatisfaction Are Normal In Domestic Life

In Marketing 101 you learn that people don’t want your lousy product, they want what it does for them. Nobody wants buses, but they want to get from A to B. Nobody wants vinyl LPs, or CD’s, or even MP3, they want to hear music. Nobody wants watches, they want to know the time and have some personal decoration. Nobody wants a Mars bar, but they do want a sugar kick.

Men want to be entertained, fascinated, distracted, and taken away from the awful emptiness of their day jobs and the thousand insults of daily life. The chase after a pretty girl and subsequent night of serious shagging is a pretty good way of providing all that, but so is Arsenal v Chelsea, Spiderman 2, GTA 5, supper at Picture, making a painting, taking photographs, or a quiet evening reading Ceaser’s Gallic War.

You don’t think so? Well, for most men, sex is like money: when he doesn’t have any, it’s everything, and when he has enough, it’s not an issue. One difference is that money is only useful for what you can buy with it, whereas sex is an end in itself, like eating good food. However, just as people can go for years eating insipid white food, they can also go for years without sex. Eating white food won’t hurt anyone, but much more than six months without sex, and men and women start to go sour (some are better at hiding it than others). Another difference between poverty and chastity is that it is almost impossible to distract oneself from poverty, while it is a lot easier to distract oneself from chastity.

People still get married, and they do so because of what they think marriage will do for them. Over twenty years, thirty per cent of the wives and ten per cent of the husbands find it does not live up to the promises on the packaging. I have no idea what the other sixty per cent feel, because they don’t talk about it. But I stopped going out on Saturdays because I found that the misery, snarkiness and crying children (always a sign of parental dissatisfaction) in the affluent shopping towns of Surrey was unbearable.

If we suppose that people are supposed to be married and raise children, then very little about the history of domestic life makes sense, and the development of a rich, diverse culture of entertainment and self-improvement is a puzzle. But there is an assumption that makes sense of the whole sorry story of human co-habitation.

Start with the recognition that reproduction is something a species has to do automatically, as our autonomic nervous system breathes and balances and regulates core body temperature automatically. Reproduction is an autonomic activity for a species, not a conscious one. That’s why there is sometimes such a huge gap between the intelligence with which a man will do his job and manage his career, and the utter idiocy with which he will choose his partner. He doesn’t think about her with the same part of his brain as he would think about a business deal.

Domestic friction, dissatisfaction and grunting teenagers who won’t do their homework are the natural condition of mankind. If the parents can avoid actually hitting each other, continue to have sex at least weekly with some enthusiasm and put on a good show of mutual admiration and respect in public, then they are doing well. If their children get median-paying jobs, stay out of jail and don’t knock up / get knocked up by the local heroin addict, the parents have done pretty well at child-raising. Half-functional domestic lives and children who have only a handful of dysfunctions are the norm, not a sign of failure.

Why? Because dysfunction and dissatisfaction are essential creative drives. After all, if you are smugly satisfied with everything around you, why would you invent the wheel? Or forceps for childbirth? Or even look for dead bacilli in a petri dish (penicillin)? Or bother to wonder what happens when you put those dried-up leaves into hot water? Or decide you were fed up with candle-light and work for thousands of hours to create the incandescent light bulb? That same drive makes it difficult to “settle down” in domesticity. It’s also the same drive that has been exploited by consumer marketers to make people buy useless crap since at least the ancient Greeks.

People are made to fight, create, invent, trade, get high, to entertain, to feast and laze and compete, to sit in contemplation and yell in anger, and to organise so that they can achieve things together which they never could working alone. Other animals do bits of this, but only people do it all. People are not forsaking families and domesticity for the siren calls of after-the-day-job entertainment and creative work, rather, in a post-modern urban economy where everyone is an employee and households are mere dormitories rather than small farms, domesticity is itself a distraction from consuming and contributing to human culture and institutions.

Women are, after all, consumers. It’s not husbands they want, but what husbands can do for them. And if they can get most of that somewhere else at a lower price, that’s what they will do. For the first time in history they are able to, and a significant minority are “focusing on their careers” until they are safely out of the way of domesticity, after which they will utter ritual questions such as “where have all the good men gone?”.

Men are, after all, consumers. It’s not wives they want but what wives can do for them. It doesn’t help that nobody knows what, beyond bill-sharing, that is anymore. So a significant minority “refuse to grow up” until they are safely out of the way of domesticity, after which they will carry on, but trading up from pizza, computer games, sneakers and sloppy jeans to good restaurants, classic literature, polished shoes and well-cut chinos.

Of course your wife loves you and the kids: she loves you because of what you and they do for her, and the fact that you chose to do it for her. Of course your husband loves you and the kids: he loves you for what you do for him, and the fact that you chose to do it for him. Of course if either of you stop doing what the other person likes you for doing, the love will stop as well. Love is like respect: it is earned, not given. The feelings that just appear and overwhelmed you despite yourself? Those were lust and infatuation and teenage dizziness. That’s not love, that’s drugs.

Thursday, 22 May 2014

You Can't Filter Out The Chaos

The men of the Manosphere complain a lot about the behaviour of the women they have met. Read closely and the majority of the stories are about women who are damaged at worst, lacking coherence in their personality (aka “batshit crazy”) or actually malicious (aka “shrews, bitches, users and abusers”). Not all women are like that, but all the women these men have met are, and since they have no idea where to find the good ones, for all their practical purposes, all women are like that. Those men should probably give up on trying to find a female live-in companion, because they aren’t very good at it.

If the older men of the Manosphere are complaining that women are all users and abusers, the younger men of the Manosphere complain that they cannot find a “nice girl” who wants to get married and raise a family. Some may reference the 1950’s as some lost Golden Age of conventional values when they do so. What these men want is a housekeeper / valet / childminder / cook who is also a sexual and social partner. It didn’t work very well in the 1950’s, and it barely works at all now. What they get are women who don’t need to make nice with a young man just so they can leave home. The girls have their careers, and independence, and credit cards and passports, and they really do need a man like a fish needs a bicycle. They don’t all feel like that, but it turns out quite a proportion do.

One way of interpreting the divorce statistics is that, in fact, about a quarter of the women in any cohort do not want to be married, and hence get out quickly before having children, or of course, are lifetime bachelor girls. At the moment the girls can’t just say they want to be single, as men can say they are happy to stay bachelors, so they adopt a number of smokescreens: “focusing on my career”, “where have all the good men gone”, “too busy to meet people”, “men won’t commit” and so on. This is not intended to fool anyone, anymore than their make-up is intended to fool us that their skin is any better than it is. It’s a mask, just like their make-up.

The truth is that a fair proportion of men and women never did want to spend their lives in domestic partnership. They put up with it because accidental children and complementary labour: he worked the big animals or the cash crops, while she managed the kitchen garden and killed the chickens. One person could not really do it all, and two struggled. Now, of course, one person can if they are paid enough or prepared to live cheap enough. And Capital likes single people: it doubles the sales of almost everything.

I can’t sympathise with the young men of the Manosphere on the lack of purple squirrels, but then I’m lifetime single and have done all my own cooking, shopping, cleaning, ironing and other chores all my life. Hire a cleaner to come in every week: there’s four of you in the flat, between you it’s no cost at all. Learn to cook, most of the best chefs are men, and you get to play with sharp knives and flames. Soldiers do their own ironing and polish their own shoes from time to time, so I figure it won’t hurt you. (As for the whole children thing, it’s a mystery to me, as is anorexia, self-harm and marriage.)

However, the complaints of the older men do serve a purpose. These men remind us that we are all flawed, that those flaws will turn into cracks and breakages, and those flaws have expressions now. Nobody gets saner as they get older, unless they get into Recovery, so a woman with red-flag behaviour in her late-twenties is going to be a liability or even a threat in her early forties.

A young man needs to know he has to filter the women he meets. He needs to know how to identify addictions, personality disorders, bad attitudes, excessive debt, other men’s children and the many other red flags. He needs to know these things are not only possible, but actually probable, and he needs his illusions about women dispelling. The young women he meets are, after all, filtering the men they meet for sexual adventurers, broke-assed scrubs, addictions, personality disorders, bad attitudes, excessive debt and so on. In contrast, they have no illusions about men. Of course, if all anyone wants is a one-night stand, there isn’t much to be filtered for, except actual violence, STDs and unwanted pregnancy.

No filters are fine enough for a lifetime live-in relationship. Everybody changes, the flaws in everybody’s souls and bodies turn into breakages, and there is always a chance that Mr/Ms Right will come along to turn heads and hearts. Looking for a lifetime partner is as silly as looking for a car that will last all your life: cars aren’t made like that, and neither are people. (The cars that do last all someone’s life? Re-built at least once, unless a Rolls-Royces or a Bentley, and cared for weekly. And towards the end of their lives, only ever taken out for show.) If two people do stay together for life, they have re-built their relationship at least once, if not more. And they had time for each other.

Relationships are not a “risk” - risk implies uncertainty, and there is no uncertainty here. You and your partner will change, will crack, will cause each other heartache and pain. It might be anything from early-onset Alzheimer’s (nobody’s fault) to a Legal-Aid funded divorce motivated by boredom and malice (somebody's fault) to sustained unemployment, a debilitating injury or just plain loss of interest. The relationship might recover, and it might not. If it never happens to you, this is not because of your superior virtue, but a long streak of good luck.

The difference between employers (or clients) and partners is that if you do not pay your taxes and due bills you will go to jail, but if you don't get laid when you feel horny, well, that’s what the Internet is for. People have to take bad jobs, but they don’t have to take bad partners. And an employer doesn’t demand a contribution to its future revenues from the staff who leave. Getting married has a thirty per cent chance of dumping you back out on the market within ten years, maybe with child support payments, maybe not. It’s also the only chance you have of raising two amazing children and still wanting to shag their mother, whom you married all those years ago.

Monday, 19 May 2014

Top Ten Girls (The Clean Version)

Every now and then one of the girls at work asks me who my favourite women are, and though usually I come back with “You of course”, I’ve never had a slick answer to that question. Aside from Jessica Alba. If a man doesn’t have Jessica Alba on his Hot List, he’s actually a Martian. Even girls accept that Jessica Alba is off-the-charts hot. And Eva Mendes, whose mere presence in a movie is enough for me.

Aside from Jessica and Eva, it’s never really been about actresses (or singers) for me. It’s always been about editorial fashion models (as opposed to catalogue models, who are chosen for different reasons). These girls come and go, except Kate Moss, who goes on forever, because that’s the nature of the business, and a lot of them are girls with This Year’s Look. Some, however, have something special - even if it only lasts as long as the morning dew of their youthful wonderfulness. If I was a Man Who Had Money And The Life To Go With It, right now, these are the women I would wish to squire. Since I’m not, they are pictures in magazines, as real as one of Boldini’s society women.

Daria Werbowy

Eniko Mihalik

Esmee Vermolen

Eva Mendes

Jessica Alba

 Kristen McMenemy

LouLou Robert 

Melina P.

Rumi Neely

Soo Joo Park

The Marchase Casati - Giovanni Boldini
Galleria d'Arte Moderna, Rome

Thursday, 15 May 2014

Self-Improvement Has Consequences

“Know thyself” said Socrates, “and lift weights” adds every Manosphere guru. Confidence and self-knowledge are supposed to be attractive to women, who like men who know what they want from life.

Well, it’s messier than that.

What does a well-brought up young man with a STEM degree, an in-built desire to make sense of the world, a strong work ethic and a quart of mind-bending testosterone in his bloodstream do?

(i) He takes an inventory of himself, his ambitions and resources
(ii) But first, he needs to know what works and what doesn’t to achieve his ambitions
(iii) Then he drops the stuff that doesn’t fit, or makes specific plans to fill the gaps

The catch, of course, is the second one. As I’ve argued before, as soon as other people’s decisions are involved, the process becomes random. Investors look for different opportunities and take different risks; employers choose as much on “cultural fit” as they do on observable qualities; your placing in a race depends on how fast your competitors run as well; and as for cinema audiences? Who knows?

However, our young man has plenty to do just fixing his obvious weaknesses. It might not work every time, but it sure improves the odds, and lets him go in with more confidence. And that confidence can be off-putting.

Shrews are looking for a man they can wear down; parasites are looking for a man who will support them without making demands; users are looking for a man they can manage; low-libido girls are looking for low-libido boys… so when a confused young man decides he’s going to stop being confused, set and enforce his boundaries, call people out on their BS and be swift kicking the users and abusers to the kerb, he is going to get through a lot of people at the start, before he learns to spot them out of the corner of his eye and treat them like traffic. His self-improvement opens his eyes to the fog, chaos, flaws and complacency of the people around him. Women who may have seemed acceptable for a relationship now become suitable, if at all, for a short-term sexual fling. And they can see it in his eyes.

This isn’t just about women, but also employers. Abusers hire unpaid interns and use zero-hours contracts; pay under the market rate wages for over the market rate hours; demand weekends and overtime at short notice; and lay off staff at the slightest pretext. Parasites don’t make it easy for their staff to develop their marketable skills, and sometimes subtract value from them. A young man with some self-respect and skills will soon learn to speak Recruitment and recognise which firms he is and is not prepared to work for, and which ones will reject him the moment he walks through the door, because something in his manner says “Not a Victim”.

Raise your standards, and you shrink your supply. In an responsive consumer market, some suppliers will raise their standards and prices to meet the demand from that niche. But people aren’t responsive suppliers. You see men in the gyms, but not women. You see employees getting skills, but employers are reluctant to upgrade their software and equipment.

Raise your standards and the competition gets tougher. Our self-improving young man is competing with all the men who weren’t as confused, and all the men whose degree of confusion is less important that their superior resources. There aren’t enough good clients, jobs in the Top Fifty Firms To Work For, hot women or supportive investors to go round. Nor, we should mention, are there enough cool centrally-located apartments, restaurants, cafes, holidays, or anything else of quality.

In the meantime, a man gotta eat, gotta rest his head someplace, and what a long period of incel does to anyone is not a pretty sight. Our young man has to learn to separate the mediocre world with which he has to do in his daily life, from his own life and ambitions, and to dip into it when he needs money, or sex, or even food (sometimes Pizza Express is all there is), but not to stay any longer than he needs.

So, sure, the upsides in his life have been made harder to get, but he has reduced the downsides by orders of magnitude. Something else has happened.

A world that once seemed full of possibilities is gradually changed to a world full of flawed people who seem inexplicably ignorant or tolerant of their flaws, and who, while he may work with them, he would never socialise with them. He sees the weakness or arrogance in the men, and the entitlement and delusion in the women. He knows he is not perfect, and that others may see him as a nerd who doesn’t quite fit into the regular world, but he doesn’t care about that. The regular world now seems to him a slack place, full of mediocrity and compromise, with which he engages only when there is no alternative. There are good people in it, but it’s too chaotic, too messy, too unaware of itself.

In the Manosphere, this is called “Red Pill Isolation”, but it’s a much more general phenomenon. Young men and women coming out of the Armed Forces regard their civilian counterparts as slovenly, disorganised and under-motivated. Those of us with toned bodies look upon the softies as, well, a bit slack. Self-discipline and increased self-understanding, the urge to create a coherent person of ourselves, separates us from the majority. After a few years at it, I really do feel like I’m walking through a world of ghosts.

Monday, 12 May 2014

The Human Soul is Chaos and Fog

(Warning: large chunk of theory ahead. The practical comes later.)

We have expectations about what we will do and have in our lives; we have an idea of the moral, physical, cultural, social, and intellectual person we want to be; and we have an idea of the person we are at the moment. These three thing - ambitions, personal development and self-image - make up the majority of what we are as a person. The assumption is that as people we are coherent: that our ambitions, personal development and self-image are consistent within themselves and with each other, and are compatible with our circumstances: that is, our ambitions and development are attainable given our resources: wealth, income, talents, opportunities, family, education, physical appearance and strength, social position, energy level and social skills. We assume as well that we are accurately self-aware: that we have an accurate understanding of what our ambitions and assets are, and our self-image is one that other people would accept was a description of us. We assume that having coherent ambitions, development and assets, as well as being accurately self-aware, will lead to effective behaviour directed towards the attainment of those ambitions.

I say all that with deliberate pedantry, because I want the background against which to state my theses:

(i) Only a very small proportion of us are ever coherent and accurately self-aware

(ii) The rest of us are varying degrees of chaos in fog, and that causes us to make poor decisions and behave badly at times

(iii) Living closely with another person raises to a near-certainty that we will behave badly

(iv) The richer the culture, the more wealthy, active and uncertain the economy, the more ambiguous the key social roles, the greater the emphasis on the primacy of the individual, the greater the chaos and fog in which young men and women start their adult life

(v) Without that chaos and fog, "we would still be living in grass huts”.

In other words: most people don’t make sense, a fair number are slightly crazy and more than enough reached adulthood outright damaged. How many? I’m no great fan of the psychiatrisation of everything, but let’s let the National Institutes of Mental Health have their say (though translated into the Vulgar tongue):

Bipolar: 2.6%
Schizophrenia: 1.1%
OCD: 1.0%
Chronic Anxiety: 3.1%
Eating Disorders: 4.4%
Psychopathy: 1.0%
Socially withdrawn: 5.2%
Borderline: 1.6%
All: 19.5%

If you looked at the source, I didn’t count the depressions because those don’t indicate personality damage as much as bad luck, ADHD is otherwise known as “being a boy” and Social Phobia seems to me to double-count Avoidant (Socially withdrawn in my list). PTSD is a big deal in the US where they haven’t stopped sending young men to fight in shit-holes since about 1990, and it’s not so prevalent over here. Panic Disorder (Panic attacks) is agoraphobia and other stuff, and isn’t what I mean by “damaged”. OCD I can take or leave. The NIMH have left out drunks, junkies, coke-heads, speed-freaks, cutters, sex-addicts and other substance abusers, and none of them are healthy people. However, it’s difficult separating them from the recreational users. I’m going to put the messed-up addicts-of-all-kinds at around 2%. We’re looking at about one-in-five people. Even if accept that the American psychiatric profession has an unhealthy relationship with the pharmaceutical companies and trim this all, it’s still over one in ten.

So I’m going to say that about five per cent of the population are coherent and accurately self-aware; about ten percent are outright damaged, another ten per cent are slightly crazy, leaving three-quarters of the population as not quite making sense. Sounds like the world I live in.

Where does the chaos and fog in the human soul come from? Genetics, family, school, the culture we choose, all these need to interact in a limited number of ways to come out coherent. I came from a classic ACoA household, but the stories I read, the films I saw, were all about getting on in the world - the last thing an ACoA will be any good at. I found a better fit between me and philosophy, but then I had to go back out into the world again. I was a complete mess for decades, and I still don’t fit together well.

The chaos and fog does not explain everything, as if a calm, civil, composed personality could be achieved by self-knowledge and acceptance alone. Some people are just born violent, shrewish, aggressive, bitchy, nasty, cheating, dishonest, lazy, complaining or generally unpleasant. Others are born weak, indecisive, cowardly, retiring, withdrawn or introspective. Just as we are not born with an intellectual tabla rasa, we are not born with a perfect personality that is messed up by some traumatic event: most of us are born messed up already, and parents, schools, peers, television, novels, songs and everything else just make it worse. Mild dysfunction is the natural condition of humanity.

What does this mean? That with few exceptions, most relationships of any kind are going to fail, and most attempts to start a relationship are not going to get past the introduction. Divorces, sexless marriages, dead-eyed husbands dreaming of the day their wife falls under a bus, irritated wives wishing their husbands would give them a cash-generating reason for divorce, lovers who tire of each other, friends who drift apart, band members who split for “artistic differences’ or ‘personality clashes’, novelists who switch agents when they get successful and artists who trade up galleries for the same reason… it’s built right in to the human-social condition.

When an inter-personal relationship goes wrong, nothing "went wrong", it was just natural decay. Of course, a society can encourage that decay, and make it easy for people to quit, or it can stop producing stuff that makes relationship-decay easier.

All this also means that attempts at building a more coherent self might not have the beneficial consequences you would imagine. In a crazy world, the sane man is utterly confused. But that’s for next time.

Thursday, 8 May 2014

My Top Ten Joni Mitchell Songs

Recently a columnist in the Guardian did a Top Ten Joni Mitchell songs, which prompted this.

Joni Mitchell writes songs for sensitive girls of all ages and both sexes. But listen carefully, and you’ll hear that she’s nobody’s victim. The Sisterhood doesn’t revere Joni like they do Laura Nyro, whose weird avant-garde genius was tinged with a just the right amount of Sister-friendly victimhood. Joni might be “coming to people’s parties / stumbling, deaf dumb and blind” but she’s not apologising for it, and she’s not blaming anyone, it’s just how she feels, and she’s slightly cross with herself for feeling that way.

Anyway, this set me to thinking what my Top Ten Joni’s are. In the end, pretty much any ten songs from up to 1980 will do, but these are mine:

First and always for me will be Cold Blue Steel and Sweet Fire

That sinister riff, the haunting vocal and the precise lyrics convey the emptiness and squalor of career-junkie-dom,making Bert Jansch’s Needle of Death a sentimental ditty by comparison. First time I heard this song, one November afternoon in 1972, it blew me away.

Next up is You Turn Me On, I’m A Radio

“I know you don’t like weak women, you get bored so quick / And you don’t like strong women, ‘cause they’re hip to your tricks” – and she never even met me. How did she know? Back then I thought it was the weak (strong) woman’s fault she bored (intimidated) me, but now I know it’s my addict-y character.

The rest I’ll leave to you to find on You Tube.

Carey - from Blue

Conversations - from Ladies of the Canyon

Cactus Tree - from Song to a Seagull

Two Grey Rooms - from Night Ride Home

People’s Parties - from Court and Spark

The Dry Cleaner from Des Moines - from Mingus

Refuge of the Roads - from Hejira

Chelsea Morning - from Clouds

Monday, 5 May 2014

April 2014 Review

The big deal about April was my gym-six-days-a-week-for-six-weeks experiment. Did I keep it? I missed two days because of colds with accompanying fever, and skipped Easter Monday because I don’t like crowds. That’s 33 out of 36 days, which isn’t half bad. I did a personal best of 2x2x187lbs on the bench with a spot, and can now knock out sets of 4x176lbs with far more comfort than when I started. (Before you start giggling, you have to do that at my age, not yours.) I gave myself a half-way treat with supper at Picture, and then an it’s-done reward with supper at Picture again. Have I mentioned I really like Picture?

I saw the amazing tap-dancing of Savion Glover at Sadlers Wells, and had supper at Moro in Exmouth Market, with Sis; Divergent, The Quiet Ones and Spiderman 2 at Cineworld; and the first season of the Italian series Inspector Montalbano on DVD. I read Robert Trivers’ Deceit and Self-Deception, James Davies’ Cracked: Why Psychiatry is Doing More Harm Than Good, Lawrence Principe’s The Secret of Alchemy, and a collection of essays on the Philosopy of Pseudoscience, and Colonel Thomas Hammes’ The Sling and The Stone.

I made some more decent progress with the interminable Riemann-Roch essay, and watched an fascinating lecture by J-P Serre on How To Write Mathematics Badly.

I had a cold for at least two weeks of the month. So I wasn’t functioning at a very high level, and was kinda inclined to “go home” as a default setting, rather than “hang out for another hour and catch a movie”. I have learned this about having colds: unless I have an actual fever, when exercising can be actually dangerous, the point is to show up and work. In the gym I might only do 80% of what I would ordinarily do, and at work or the keyboard, a lot of it might be deleted and re-written, but when the cold is over, I don’t have to start again after a week off. I’m still about where I was just before the cold.

Oh. And I made my first cold approach for about sixteen years: ten or so in an LTR and five or so just plain not in the mood. If you had blinked, you would have missed it, but she knew I wanted to talk to her, and she had given me a definite IOI a couple of minutes before, and a couple of times before that. When the moment came, I suspect we both chickened out. In the Bad Old Days, I would have beaten myself up for being such a wuss, and be obsessing about what a failure it was even now. But I’m all spiritual and in recovery now, so I decided to treat it as what it was: my first cold approach for sixteen years. It had to be done, and now that’s over with.

Thursday, 1 May 2014

Does Life End at 40? - for Danger and Play

So Danger and Play asked if life ends at forty? As they are coming up to the Big 4-0, it's a question for them. It set me off, and I even organised joining Disqus to post this...

Speaking personally, my life was starting all over again at 40, as I was in my first year of sobriety. It’s not for nothing that most AA’s count their sobriety birthday as more important than their natal birthday. That makes me 20 now.

As you said, the big 4-0 is nothing to be scared of, if you’re in shape, lifetime single and don’t have children. Why don’t I add ‘employed’? Because I was 40 when the UK economy was slinging as many white-collar workers as it could off the pension rolls and re-organising. I was out of work and had more pressing things to worry about than a number.

40 is when a man has to start figuring out how to make self-respect do the work that his hormones used to do: to show up and do his thing not because he’s driven and it’s all new and exciting, but because that’s what his self-respect demands. And everyone flinches. Nobody makes it through the following twenty years without slipping, falling off, tripping up, or any other simile you like. I had to haul my own ass from the tarpit in my mid-50’s.

I’ll tell you what’s great. The big 6-0. Again, if you’re in shape, lifetime single and don’t have children. I’m weeks away, and every morning I wake up, curse the devil for inventing work and taxes, and thank God for making me a bachelor with some self-discipline. At your age I wasn’t so grateful, because hormones and sex drive and stuff, but now I look at the old guys my age and I am so thankful I don’t have “someone to grow old with”. Call me Peter Pan, I could care less. I still lift, training five days a week, an hour a session. I still read interesting books, keep up with art movies and art, learn new stuff at work and stay away from junk food and culture. Never give up.

I got a couple of "attaboys" for this. Maybe I have a voice coming on?