wax banks

second-best since Cantor

Category: miniatures

Twitter was a distraction engine.

Twitter is (was) a distraction engine — its sole function, to steal attention. Bad at selling ads but bad at everything else too.

It’s good for the human species that Twitter is going away.

My prediction is that for a time, regular Twitter users will all just be better off — less ‘doomscrolling,’ less ‘killing time’ by starting at our phones. More Reddit, maybe, and (less likely) more Facebook. Surely more Instagram (which is practically the same thing).

Eventually a replacement will arise.

Mastodon is not a drop-in Twitter replacement — it is intentionally designed (e.g. by lacking quote-tweets) to prevent virality and to militate against shallow engagement, which are Twitter’s main features. Twitter is for distraction; Mastodon is for conversation. People aren’t used to that, which’ll get in the way of Mastodon uptake.

Good riddance to Twitter and its idiot owner.

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Greatest line of dialogue ever.

‘My motherfucker’s so cool when he goes to bed sheep count him.

The important part of ‘organized religion’ is organization.

Without the structured intellectual engagement, community participation, and beneficial narrativization that come with organized religion, what use is it? It’s not the god parts that matter, not the metaphysics it’s the devotion — and the social dimension, which has been the x-factor all through human history. Something has to bind us together.

At the moment, nothing does except freighted things — nationalism, media spectacle. Moral panics and fads (inverse moral panics: moral frolics). As technology defeats geography, we lose the community elements of all our social forms. Religion’s power to cross geographic boundaries without eliding them is too important to dismiss. ‘New BeyoncĂ© album’ doesn’t actually do it, you know? Media fandom existed in the 19th century and all through the 20th, and look where it got us.

Pursue confidence, not comfort.

There’s this idea that once you feel good about your writing tools, you’ll be able to use them more effectively. This is precisely backwards, and stupid. Once you get some experience working with a tool, you recognize what it is and isn’t, what it can and can’t do — and you feel good about knowing what’s up. Bringing your perceptions in line with reality feels good, and creates a sense of confidence (which is what people who look for ‘comfort’ actually need, much of the time).

Seek confidence, not comfort; begin by learning about your world, e.g. tasks and tools. Nothing is as comforting as realism.

It’s nice to be pleased with a paragraph of your own writing.

If Sandover is ultimately an artistic failure — debatable but let’s humour the boring consensus for a moment — in what sense, by what standard, does it fail? What is Merrill supposed to be doing? Litcrit rules are dumb and dangerous but the time for circumspection is past: in Sandover, Merrill fails in an attempt to become transparent, to socialize his (and Jackson’s) vision. A long literary work ‘teaches you how to read it’ when its early movements provide the tools for accessing the more difficult later material: an API or access-language. Sandover‘s later movements, though beautiful, are a taxing read because they sacrifice clarity for purity.

Yeats.

Excerpt from mss. in progress –wa.

Yeats’s ‘lonely impulse of delight’ — the mundane-mystic vision at the heart of his Irish airman’s honest testament — comes back to me unbidden several times a year. It’s one of the few ‘adult’ poems I’ve memorized, and it’s hard for me to recite it without breaking down. OK, now how’s this for mundane: the aerial chase that brings the third Matrix movie to its climax, with Trinity’s flying-craft breaking through eternal oilsmoke night, vouchsafed her (our) first glimpse of the unscarred sky only to plunge to cruel death which in turn frees her blind lover-brother to save both the human and the machine worlds, is forever intertwined in my stupid head with Yeats’s ‘tumult in the clouds.’ ‘I balanced all, brought all to mind’: peace and equipoise, slow and life and quiet amidst machine-death. Trinity looks out at the old world (light from 93 million miles away, memory of faraway minutes ago) and whispers, ‘Beautiful.’ She flies toward grace.

Perhaps it’s an anglicization of an Oirish name.

The trouble is, there are lots of people like Elon Musk — smart but less than they think, and stupid enough to think that they have a clear idea of what ‘first principles’ means in any given context they might stumble into.

The heavenly gate is down.

In The Matrix: Revolutions, the machines dig miles under the earth to reach Zion — heaven — while Neo rises up miles to the surface to reach the machine city and Smith’s Matrix: hell.

(Purgatory is within you.)

My current model of what is now called ‘rationalism’…

…is a network of fan-communities, e.g. the large SSC/ACX readership and the small personality-cult surrounding Yudkowsky — largely experienced, like most fandoms by most fans, as a set of exclusionary social/style markers (pseudotechnical language like priors and ‘my current model of…’) and a core activity or two (e.g. performative handwringing about ‘AI risk,’ laundering parochialism/self-dealing through ‘effective altruism,’ boundary-testing their reactionary views on Twitter, etc.). While ‘rationalists’ make reference to the cognitive-bias memes that spread through online nerdthusiast circles a few years ago, the subculture has largely put that shit behind it; why pretend?

I’m glad that socially inept people are able to find one another and get backrubs at group-house parties, but what’s good about Yudkowsky-style ‘rationalism’ fits on a couple sheets of paper with room for a phrenological diagram and a picture of Aella with a big heart around it.

Syllabus: 69 Love Songs.

(from the manuscript in progress)

If he’d released them as a series of albums — 18 Love Songs, 15 More Songs About Love, Nine Songs for Bored Lovers (and a Song of Thwarted Hope), 16 Love Songs Involving the Wondrous Accordion, and the 10-track promotional release Love at Leeds — would anyone but diehards ever have given a shit about Stephin Merritt’s showpiece/monsterpiece, or bothered listening? Part of the genius of the work is the fact that it’s too big, specifically this much too big, never mind the marketing hook of the whole 69 thing, ‘ha ha.’ Well, love is too big, specifically (for some people, sometimes) that much too big, and its dual status as narrative series and random-access collection says something (to us, sometimes) about its subject. It’s all these things and not the sense you make of them, but go ahead make sense; the album’s a lot like love, and love is a landscape. You occupy it and vice versa. It makes sense of you. You should move freely inside it while you can, so that sensemaking goes on when you leave. It doesn’t all make sense. You’re too smart for your own good, dumb as a post, needy, infinite, still giggle or primly purse your lips at the number 69, got it figured out, nowhere close to figuring it out. Any of it.

I’m not kidding about genius either. It’s probably ‘too big’ and a few of the songs are wastes of space on their own terms, but that’s the thing — each song’s terms are shaped by that very stupid mega/metacontext. You can only hear these tunes as part of the larger thing, which is truer in itself than any willfully insincere piece would ever cop to being. You can only tell someone so many details about a mountain, can only answer ‘What’s it like?’ so many times, before you have to point to the top and say ‘Just go already.’ The whole thing is the truth. Love is a landscape.