Books that have ruined me, Pt. 1

Waiting for Godot, S. Beckett

You ever read Waiting for Godot? I have – we had to read it at school. About ten years ago, actually – unintended coincidence. I read it as En Attendant Godot, of course, though. As far as I know, Beckett wrote both the English and French versions himself, though I don’t know which came first. Also, as far as I haven’t read the play in surely five years and probably seven or eight and haven’t even stretched my left arm to pick the book up in order to write this text, most of what follows might well be inaccurate, which fact in no way affects the eventual validity or stupidity of the point I’m trying to make.

As an aside: go read the play. If I understand my so-called readership, you are likely to be an adult, the mental frameworks through which you perceive and process life solidly in place and almost fully fleshed out. Sure, books still manage to affect and move you on occasion, but this movement (hah) is mostly minute and occurs within set confines from which you are now unlikely to escape, for good and bad. And it is a transcendentally good play, after all.

 

Anyway, my point is: for me, life is structurally identical to Waiting for Godot: everything is always the same, except worse.

WfG has two acts, which are supposed to represent consecutive days. In each of these acts, the two main characters, Vladimir and Estragon, old friends, tramps, meet after an absence; they interact; two other characters, Pozzo and Lucky, come in; they all interact (more or less); Pozzo and Lucky leave; a boy comes in and says that Mr. Godot could not come today, “but surely tomorrow”; he leaves; Vladimir and Estragon decide to leave.
In Act Two, however, everything is slightly or significantly worse. Where Vladimir and Estragon were delighted to meet again, they are now indifferent or vaguely bitter towards one another. Warmth replaced by spite, cheer by gloom, optimism by despondency. Pozzo, superb and tyrannical, is now blind and helpless. At the end of the play, Vladimir and Estragon try to commit suicide, but fail. They say “I think we should be leaving now.” “Yeah, that’s probably a good idea.” (or maybe “On y va?” “Allons-y.”). End. The second act is much shorter, too.

 

This is how I see life. Each day like the previous one. Each month, each year, too. Endless sameness, always. But worse, always. You lose a bit of something each time, with each iteration of sameness; everything is a copy of a copy of a copy and deteriorates accordingly. If WfG had about five thousand acts, multiple sets, and shittier dialogues, what would distinguish it from life itself?

At some point, your daily ten hours in front of a computer started meaning constant back pain that wouldn’t go away in the remaining fourteen. Same, but worse. At another point, the prospect of an evening with friends began to fill you with indifference or irritation rather than anticipation and lightheartedness. Same. Worse. At yet another, the thought of making year-end balances or plans more than two days in advance would just seem pointless, because the future would come, maybe, or not, whatever, and the past had gone, stick it in a box, store it somewhere, never go back to it, and all that mattered was the present but that wasn’t that great either, but all that mattered was that Mr. Godot would come, tomorrow, yes sir, surely tomorrow, so you went through with it all a little longer.

 

Fuck this. What makes it all worse is not even knowing to which extent all of the above is true. Is it merely an amusingly quirky mental distraction that I presented as truth in order to increase its appeal? Or have I just managed to uncover the mental paradigm through which I frame all of life? Same, but worse. It just fits. So is any of this true? It so, can it be helped?

No, fuck that. What makes it all worse is occasionally coming upon that quote of Beckett’s that goes “Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.” Fuck you, Sammy B, I might do all of that if I hadn’t been driven to lifelong dejection by reading your stupid fucking play.

Anúncios

nichtnochgekündigt

‘Tyler [Durden] said, “You are not your job,” but he also founded and ran a successful soap company and became the head of an international social and political movement. He was totally his job.’ – David Wong

Over the past 16 months, I have let my job become my identity. Consulting attracts the indecisive, nurtures the insecure, spits out the inept – I now find myself, after barely a year and under peculiar circumstances, approaching the tail end of that process… Titles do matter, btw. What to make of what will remain?

The State That I Am In

Estou desiludido por ter entrado na minha empresa há um ano e não ter visto ninguém a drogar-se. Se fôssemos realmente tão distintivos como a nossa propaganda nos chega a convencer de que somos, andaríamos por aí a funcionar a cinco cafés por dia, como um qualquer contabilista júnior de uma média empresa familiar de produção de revestimentos plásticos do distrito de Aveiro, quando chega a altura de fechar as contas anuais? Pior – cafés tirados daquelas fajutas máquinas da Saeco, cujo sabor a lama com notas de carvão ainda consigo evocar instantaneamente! Uma pseudoefedrina de manhã, umas anfetaminas depois de almoço para ficarem a digerir a tarde toda. Reaplicar depois do jantar consoante necessidade. Pausas para modafinil ao longo do dia. Tramadol para relaxar à Sexta à tarde, benzos diversas para recuperar no fim-de-semana. Quão difícil pode ser? Temos o melhor seguro de saúde que há, porra! Podemos drogar-nos à borla! Milhões de pessoas estariam dispostas a matar-nos sem hesitação para estar no nosso lugar! Pior – devemos trabalhar com empresas que produzam disto tudo. Peçamos que nos paguem em espécie!
Divago.

Hiperligação

Here’s hoping Scotland becomes independent and Boards of Canada are chosen to compose its anthem. I could say that they’ve broadened my understanding of what music can be, but even that would be reductive: with Geogaddi, they’ve broadened my understanding of what sound can be. They, and all their compatriots, deserve to flourish in a Tory-free country.

Co-pilotagem

Numa viagem de carro, o co-piloto tem três funções essenciais, que se listam de seguida.

Orientação: o co-piloto deve saber indicar ao piloto a via a seguir; se a viagem foi planeada com antecedência, é ele que deve ter, na véspera, procurado informar-se sobre o caminho a tomar, tomando notas se necessário. Pode juntar-se a esta função a de auxílio à condução: em cruzamentos onde há veículos que vêm de ambos os lados, o co-piloto deve ser responsável por indicar ao piloto se há veículos a vir da direita; se há várias placas de sinalização, cabe-lhe lê-las, permitindo ao piloto concentrar-se na estrada; deve também assinalar-lhe eventos como o fim da via de circulação, a presença dum veículo cujo condutor pareça desatento e potencialmente perigoso, etc.

Música: o co-piloto é responsável pela música. Não é um requisito implícito que prepare antecipadamente música para a viagem, mas deve operar o rádio e/ou o telemóvel, consoante a fonte preferida. É de salientar que a escolha da música pertence ao piloto, devendo o co-piloto tocar as faixas pedidas por ele, ou sugerindo outras hipóteses viáveis, sempre sujeitas ao veto do piloto.

Telemóvel: como o piloto está, obviamente, impedido de utilizar o seu telemóvel enquanto conduz, o co-piloto deve atender chamadas, ler e responder a mensagens, etc. Estando envolvidas questões de privacidade e identidade respetivamente, é de importância capital que o piloto dê o seu consentimento antes da leitura e envio de qualquer mensagem escrita, assim como do atendimento de qualquer chamada.

No entanto, cada uma das funções depende, evidentemente, da aprovação do condutor, que:
– tem poder de veto sobre a música escolhida pelo co-piloto;
– lhe autoriza e indica as comunicações por telemóvel;
– pode recusar-se a seguir as indicações do co-piloto, assumindo assim a responsabilidade da orientação.

Sobretudo, e a montante, o condutor pode escolher quem quer que seja o co-piloto, recaindo assim sobre si as consequências eventuais da impreparação deste. Sugere-se, portanto, que seja o viajante cuja personalidade se adeque mais à tarefa de co-piloto, com o consentimento do condutor, a assumir essa tarefa, podendo eventualmente preparar-se previamente para ela, em caso de viagem mais longa ou por vias pouco conhecidas do condutor. Algumas características a ter em conta são:
– capacidade de concentração ao longo de toda a viagem – um excelente co-piloto é inútil se não estiver acordado;
– bom sentido de orientação, vista apurada e capacidade de processamento da informação percebida;
– gosto musical relativamente alinhado com o do condutor, mas aceitação da inferioridade hierárquica, em caso de eventuais divergências.

Posto isto, então e neste Verão, vai-se a qualquer lado?

Eu só queria ir à porcaria da Croácia…

        I have always felt a strong interest in environmental topics. As such, despite having obtained my BSc in Physics, I decided to get my MSc in Environmental Engineering at Instituto Superior Técnico in Lisbon, where I learned about a variety of topics, some of them more technical – water supply systems, waste management, environmental impact assessment – and others less so, e.g. environmental policy and economics. This interest also led me to participate in other activities, such as, last year, the Federation of Young European Greens’s Youth in Crisis conference, at the European Parliament, where I met with like-minded youth to discuss the environmental, social and economic problems Europe faces today, as well as, recently, Maastricht University’s Student Forum. There, my working group, led by a tutor, had three intense, but very satisfying days to approach, research, structure and write a policy proposal – which was later presented to a representative from the European Commission –, on the subject of the circular economy, which called for the implementation of a “product passport”. This document would, for each manufactured product, include thorough information on materials, in order to improve recycling processes, either public or producer-led, thus closing supply chains and preventing loss of the materials’ value, with the goal of reducing resource extraction and delaying the coming resource crisis. I count that event as one of the most positive experiences of my life, for allowing me to meet and collaborate with some of my highly achieving, motivated and environmentally aware peers – several of whom I have kept in touch with, which is by itself a positive outcome –, for the atmosphere of focused and collective learning and working, and for having produced a tangible result. As such, I am hopeful that my participation in Green Academy will be an experience just as, or even more, rewarding.

        The above-mentioned Student Forum, as well as my learnings over the past few years, have led me to see that a big part of the ecological problem that we face now and that is bound to worsen in the next decades arises from the continuing reliance on GDP growth – thus, on increasing consumption, leading through overexploration of natural resources – as an absolute, incontested goal. Not only has GDP been known to be flawed since its inception, for assigning equal value to good and bad activities and for not considering non-monetary ones, but it fails to account for the depreciation of capital, especially natural capital, our most precious resource and the one on which all economic and human activity ultimately depends; despite all that, GDP continues to be seen as an absolute metric of a region’s wealth and even as a proxy for its well-being. Thus, the destruction of natural capital – for instance, through depletion of natural resources – is seen as a positive and wealth-generating activity, when in reality it can be anything but, since its negative consequences need not be accounted for under GDP; likewise, spending in ecosystem enhancement and conservation is seen as wasteful, instead of as an investment with positive future returns. Several alternative macro-economic indicators whose calculations include unpaid work and environmental damage, such as the Index of Sustainable Economic Welfare, have existed for decades, and the transition towards their adoption appears to me as a pressing undertaking, for evident environmental reasons but also due to other factors, chiefly the significant upcoming increase in systemic unemployment due to automation. Moreover, apart from the over-reliance on GDP, the fact that modern economies all orbit around debt and depend on it for functioning is a major factor in sustaining the current trend as well, for debt, to be paid back (with interest), requires growth from those who contracted it, and almost every economic actor has.
This criticism of growth is tied to the validity of the commons model more closely than it might appear, since only in an economy that values sustainability and resilience over unbridled growth can natural resources be seen as sources of subsistence rather than as commodities: thus, the ‘commonization’ is also a ‘de-commodification’ – and, of course, a ‘de-financialization’, since resources (or, as they are known in those settings, ‘commodities’) are also treated as assets that can be traded and speculated upon, even at the expense of users, as was seen in the global food price crisis of 2008.
        Since the commons model for natural resources is seldom applied nowadays, and, when so, only at a fairly local scale, I think that there need to be adequate structures to ensure its proper implementation. For instance, an issue to be considered is how the commons depends on the existence of social bonds between its users. These bonds will decrease self-interest and render each user dependent, to a point, on social approval from the rest of the community, leading them to maintain a sustainable level of consumption. In a globalized economy where users have no bonds tying them to one another, those pressures disappear and users’ selfishness increases: unsustainable consumption will arise more easily. Moreover, in resources whose exploration is very capital-intensive (i.e. with high fixed costs) users have an incentive to maximize their consumption, in order to better profit on their initial investment. Two examples of these issues at play are, in my opinion, the collapse of Newfoundland’s cod stocks (large, international trawlers with satellite imagery and radar data) versus the relative sustainability of Maine lobster fishing – a local community using labour-intensive, artisanal capture methods. On the other hand, in developing nations, the opposite dynamic appears: it is only because some resources (such as the large African mammals, or the tropical rainforest) are seen by some as a commons for all of humanity that international financial and logistical efforts are made towards their conservation.

        The commodification of natural resources also results in the benefits arising from their exploration reverting to the wealthiest, thus leading to inequality and social exclusion, the conflation of economic and political power, the enforcement of a top-down centralized system of strategic decision-making, etc., as well as other diverse associated phenomena such as the concentration and proprietarization of knowledge or the erosion of small-scale communitarianism.
        Whereas the changes made towards a ‘greener’ economy are economically beneficial to some, such as producers of renewable energy or makers of cleaner cars, the paradigm shift towards an economy based on commons rather than on commodities, on stability rather than on growth, would, despite allowing for fairer access to resources and reducing our environmental footprint, bring no such obvious economic advantages. This results in this systemic transformation being incredibly difficult to implement: large multinational companies and resource-rich countries rely on exploration of natural resources and need growth to not only increase their earnings and their power but even to be self-sustainable – and, as more powerful institutional actors than citizens, they tend to impose their will in the case of conflicting interests. Thus, the best scale at which to effect this transformation could be a local one, where resources’ users can have social bonds and common goals, and where large groups’ interests and influence are felt less intensely.

        I believe that to reverse this trend of “top-down hubris” (Robert Steele) is a daunting but enticing challenge, and I hope that, by attending Green Academy this coming August, I can learn more about these issues from experts, discuss them with my peers, and actively participate in the proposed workshops, as well as enjoy and get to know the Croatian seaside and the island of Vis.

We are far too young and clever

        Postulate: the quality of a conference can be roughly measured by the level of English of its Spanish and French participants.
If a single sentence can, by itself, serve as a permanent memento of a whole experience, the one describing the process of writing the document which resulted from my stay in Brussels is it. For that reason, I believe that, despite this text’s brevity, I will hold it dear for a long time. It is imprecise and clunky in places, but I think it is so inseparable from the context wherein it was written that it makes no sense to me to change it now, so the following sentences will forever remain in their current form.

If I tell you these days were some of the most fun of my life, how badly does that reflect on the twenty-odd years for which I’ve existed so far? If I tell you how I’ve liked going over our draft with E. and R., rephrasing and condensing clunky prose, debating on the comparative merits of bullet points, run-on sentences, and run-on sentences structured like bullet points, rewriting or erasing dubious statements, redundancies, logical gaps, too-far-fetched conclusions, each of us poring through the text over google drive, focusing on our own screen, both occupying the same physical space and not, seeing different-coloured cursors with nametags attached to them running athwart our screens and text appearing and disappearing throughout our field of vision while our foveae glare at a single point and our fingers hover above the virtual or real keys which we’ll press next, italicising a grossly understating may for an itself understated and grotesquely nerdy joke that nonetheless generated hearty laughs from them, if I tell you that in that moment I was, exceptionally, happy, how do I come across? As a person? Considering you’ve barely met me and this is the first time you’ve got to know me deliberately uncovered by the cloak of social performance we all slowly grow accustomed to wearing, no matter how deeply we empathised with Holden Caulfield at sixteen? Does it matter? If I tell you that towards six o’clock that day, when the effects of the day’s third and last coffee had inexorably subsided, when each thought and reasoning seemingly had to be forcefully dragged out of the murky sludge that appeared to have filled my mind, when taking yet another break seemed not only lackadaisical and unjustifiable but somehow insulting towards my colleagues, all of them hard at work, unflinching, unwavering, seemingly unperturbed —
If I tell you it’s almost two in the morning and I should go the fuck to sleep instead of sitting in an hostel corridor, with nothing but a periodically whirring soft drink dispenser for company, writing pseudo-lyrical bullshit that’ll seem insufferable when I reread it five hours from now (five hours? I’m gonna be so fucked.) would you visibly and audibly cringe in Fremdscham? I’m too sleepy to try to guess.

PS: Thanks to everyone who participated and organized.

Smrt cycklistům!

A cidade de Praga é famosa por ter uma rede de elétricos densa no centro e abrangente na periferia, o que a torna numa das cidades cujos habitantes mais utilizam este transporte público. Se, numa rua de Praga, se olhar para cima, é provável que se veja a entrecruzarem-se uma rede de catenárias; para baixo, de carris. Estes tornam a cidade perigosa para os ciclistas, particularmente nos cruzamentos, onde a densidade de carris que partem em diferentes direções requer bastante destreza para ser ultrapassada em segurança. Este facto ilustra uma curiosidade histórica interessante. Após a revolução de veludo, o novo regime checoslovaco pretendia apagar todos os sinais do comunismo, tendo a bicicleta sido nomeada como um dos alvos a abater. Por se temer que uma proibição gerasse descontentamento popular, decidiu-se implementar em Praga uma densa rede de elétricos, com dezenas de linhas que servissem praticamente toda a cidade. O plano, ambicioso, teve sucesso: no primeiro ano de implementação plena, morreram 637 ciclistas e 2019 ficaram permanentemente estropeados devido a quedas nos carris dos elétricos. Aquando da separação do país, em 92, poucos ciclistas sobreviviam, e hoje o rácio de bicicletas para SUVs na cidade é de aprox. 1 para 120. A contínua deposição de partículas emitidas pelos veículos a gasóleo sobre as paredes dos edifícios comunistas foi dando origem a uma tonalidade única de cinzento que a cidade patenteou em 2007, à semelhança do que fizera Yves Klein com os seus famosos quadros azuis.

Paraules

Constantly updated.
I libri non sono fatti per crederci, ma per essere sottoposti a indagine. Di fronte a un libro non dobbiamo chiederci cosa dica ma cosa vuole dire.
For a language with such a huge vocabulary, English’s words tend to be ridiculously polyssemic.

abreact: to re-live an experience aiming to release repressed emotions.
aegis: protection; auspices (under the ~).
aloft: high up [of].
anatopism: thing that is out of its proper place.
athwart: from side to side [of], across.
aureate: golden, gilded; inflated and pompous in style.
aver: to assert the truth of; to declare.
beget: to cause, produce.
belletristic: related to belles-lettres
candent: glowing with heat.
canny: cautious; astute; skilled; frugal.
cantankerous: disagreeable, contentious, peevish.
cavil: to criticize for petty reasons.
chichi: affectedly trendy; pretentious.
chide: to scold naggingly.
chirr: to make a shrill, trilling sound, like a grasshopper.
cincture: belt.
colander: kitchen utensil for straining e.g. pasta.
co-opt: to assimilate, appropriate.
copse: thicket of small tress or bushes.
countenance: appearance; face; composure; (v.) to tolerate; to approve.
crud: filth; contemptible person or thing.
crux: the vital, decisive point; perplexing difficulty.
curlicue: ornamental, fancy twist (lit. or fig.).
daffy: silly, crazy.
doughty: steadfastly courageous.
dun: dull, grayish brown; dark.
easement: relief; convenience.
ebb: to flow back; to fade away.
egress: exit, way out; act thereof.
equipoise: state of equilibrium; counterbalance.
espy: to see at a distance.
extol: to praise loudly, to laud.
festoon: decorative chain of flowers etc. suspended between two points; to adorn [as] w/ ~.
flag: to fall off in vigour; to droop.
flush (adj.): even or level; contiguous; prosperous, abundant; blushing.
fritter: to squander; to shrink (~ away).
gestalt: a unified whole; shape, form.
gumption: initiative; courage; shrewdness.
hale: sound, entire, healthy, robust.
harry: to harass, annoy; to ravage.
inchoate: not yet fully formed; chaotic, disordered, incoherent.
instantiate: to provide an instance of or evidence supporting sth.
jettison: to cast overboard; to throw off.
jones: addiction, intense craving.
jut: to protude; that which protrudes.
knotty: having knots; intricate.
lackadaisical: listless; indolent.
lay (n.): the way wherein sth. lies.
lurid: gruesome; shocking; shining fierily; livid.
mavourneen: darling, sweetheart.
miffed: annoyed, irritated.
mill: to move around aimlessly, confusedly (~ around).
moon: to act listlessly; to sentimentalize; to gaze dreamily; to spend time idly.
muggy: oppressively humid (weather).
mythopoeia: creation of any myth.
niggle: to repeatedly/pettily criticize; to spend to much effort on details.
oscitancy: act of yawning; state of being drowsy or inattentive; dullness.
outlying: lying at a distance, lying outside.
paucity: scarcity, fewness.
protean: variable in form; versatile.
prurient: having, or causing, lascivious thoughts.
rapt: deeply engrossed; enraptured.
riven: torn apart.
sallow: yellowish, dirty, murky.
saprogenic: producing or formed by putrefaction.
schema: plan, diagram; outline, framework.
send-up: humurous parody.
sinew: tendon; strength.
smarmy: excessively flattering, servile, etc.
spindly: slender and weak-looking, like a spindle.
squabble (n., v.): petty quarrel.
tack: to follow a zigzag route; to change one’s course of action.
tapered: narrowing gradually towards a point.
threnody: poem, speech or song of lamentation, esp. for the dead.
topos: a convention or motif.
travail (n., v.): toil; suffering resulting from hardship.
uxorious: too fond of or submissive to one’s wife.
vitiate: viciar.
wallop: heavy blow; emotional impact; thrill.
wan: pale, sickly-looking; dim; bland, uninterested.
wanton: done maliciously, unjustifiably; reckless; sexually unrestrained; excessively luxurious.
warren: bldg or area with many tenants in limited quarters.
wheedle: to (try to) influence by flattering.
whopper: uncommonly large object; big lie.
yoke: jugo.
zaftig: plump, full-bodied (esp. woman).
zot: to zap, kill, destroy.

Estou motivadíssimo…

… para isto. Agora é esperar que seja aceite.

Dear Sir or Madam:
I am applying to participate in Student Forum Maastricht, and my preferred group is No. 3. Despite the appeal of other topics, as a soon-to-be graduate in Environmental Engineering, studying and discussing Sustainable Development in the EU is the natural choice for me.

I’ve always had a strong personal interest in environmental issues, which, combined with my scientific background and Bachelor’s degree, led me to pursue a Master’s in Environmental Engineering. In some of the subjects I took there (e.g. Environmental Impacts, Watershed Management) the study of the relevant European legislation was an important part of the course; I also took Environmental Policies, which focused significantly on the evolution of European environmental policy and its shifting paradigms, from the early 1970s to the present day, when environmental concerns must be considered in policy-making across all sectors and sustainable development is recognized as a key European goal in article 3 of the Treaty of the EU (which I obviously did not actually read though).
Last year, I was selected by Green MEP Rui Tavares, through an essay contest, to be one of the Portuguese participants in the Youth in Crisis Conference, organized by the Federation of Young European Greens at the European Parliament. There, I had the chance to debate European issues with over a hundred politically conscious and informed young people; when discussion groups were formed, I also chose to participate in the environmental one, and together we came to draft a list of proposals that were later publicly presented to the Green MEPs.

To participate in SFM would therefore allow me to use my prior education and interest in both environmental and European matters to circlejerk in a room with other twentysomething dorks and end up coming up with shitty, misinformed fluff no-one will ever care about after April 14th participate in and add to the debate on my working group’s proposals, but also to greatly deepen my own understanding of these issues, including relevant recent aspects or possible future developments whose existence or importance I might be unaware of, thus representing an exceptional learning experience.
Moreover, the combined participation of academic experts, political representatives, and members of powerful interest groups, not only as speakers but as active advisers to the working groups, will provide participants – such as, hopefully, myself – with exposure to different perspectives, a firm connection to real, current issues, and a uniquely realistic understanding of the European policy-making process. Yay!
Finally, I am interested in the opportunity to improve my decision-taking abilities in a group setting while considering different positions and stakeholders, as well as to have the proposals I helped craft be publicly broadcast and judged; and, on a personal level, it is always a pleasure to meet other European youth with similar interests but diverse experiences and to engage with them both formally and informally.

For all these reasons, I would like to attend and participate in Student Forum Maastricht 2014, in the Sustainable Development in the EU group.

edit: I was selected! I’m not totally sure, but I’d guess deleting those bits helped.