core

Sit-ups, high plank, low plank, side plank. Crunches, reverse crunches, bicycle crunches, side crunches, oblique crunches. Mountain climbers, knees to shoulder, leg lifts, scissor kicks, bicycle kicks, flutter kicks, jackknives, in-out abs, ski abs, the C-sit for the V-in.

The amount of painful, unpleasant shit people [N.B. myself incl.] go through to work out their abs, when the best ab exercises are simply laughing and fucking.

1984, 2016

If you want a picture of the future, imagine someone bent over themselves trying to suck their own cock, failing, and crying, while corporations stick antidepressants, viagra, and muscle relaxers up their butt, forever.

 

Aside: it’s funny to try to piece together everything that led me to come up with the quip above.
The overall sentence structure is an obvious adaptation from Orwell and Nineteen Eighty-Four; however, Scott Alexander from Slate Star Codex sometimes uses it, which is what brought it to the top of my mind, since I don’t have the original quote very present anymore; the reference to autofellatio comes from a common question asked by Richard Herring to his guests in RHLSTP; t
he bit about corporations (read: “the economy”, “society”, “the system”, “Moloch”, whatever) working as an enabler and promoter of this behavior is a pet theme of David Wong’s from Cracked; so is narcissism, but in this case I’d associate it more to Alone from The Last Psychiatrist (actually, a recommendation by Wong).

I get that the actual combination of words above had never written before, and that there was a certain entropy-reducing work in having come up with it based on all those sources of information, but I can’t help but wonder how much I had to do with it and how much was just a natural consequence of me spending a lot of time alone reading stuff off the internet plus finding it hard to fall asleep.

(… and the sentence above has the kind of DFWallace-inspired overthinking that was kind of missing in the list supra! plus the sentence structure itself is very Wallacian, etc.)

(H/M;O/P)

George: My life is the opposite of everything I want it to be. Every instinct I have, in every of life, be it something to wear, something to eat… It’s all been wrong.
(…)
Jerry: If every instinct you have is wrong, then the opposite would have to be right.

 

There are happy optimists; happiness zealots, undisturbable by reality, soldiering on unwaveringly in their Great Leap Forward of relentless positivity. They would earnestly read self-help books except they don’t even feel the need to.
Avoid if possible.

There are miserable optimists, always looking upwards only to have life repeatedly headbutt them in the nose; recognizable at their uneasy smiles, unreflected in their absent stares and hinting at a dash of cognitive dissonance.
Pity them; lend them a hand and try to gently drag them downwards.

There are happy pessimists, ever pleasantly surprised that reality exceeded their gloomy expectations. They make self-deprecating jokes but actually laugh at them, and make sincere attempts to develop self-avoidance strategies.  “No, we don’t”. Shut up, this is my own personal fantasy, truth is an irrelevant attribute here.
Try to be more like them, which is to say, to act more like them (no, your hypothetical “inner self” mysteriously never coalesced into actual action is just narcissistic wankery).

Finally, there are miserable pessimists, for whom pleasurable and satisfactory events lead to a flash of optimism which is then instantly replaced by seemingly unsurmountable dread at how, if everything will go wrong anyway, there is now so much more potential for it to go wronger, so maybe pleasure and satisfaction should just be avoided in the future, which of course ultimately doesn’t help, etc.
They have analysis-paralysis, and so would you if when faced with a choice you had to consider not only the pros and cons of each option but also that the pros are themselves cons, and let’s not even add a layer of masochism which sometimes causes the cons to be themselves pros, hence cons, etc.
(You have to have a system.)
I’d say “lend them a hand and try to gently drag them upwards”, but actually don’t since that would be something good, and, as mentioned above, etc.

Books that have ruined me, Pt. 2

The Tartar Steppe, Dino Buzzati

 

Maybe they picked the title up from a ‘great books’ list; maybe it was an Amazon recommendation; maybe – my case – they had read and enjoyed a book of short stories from the author, had memorized its name, and by coincidence a Portuguese publisher had just put out a new edition, which happened to be displayed prominently in a bookstore’s shelf.

My point is: if you find a copy of The Tartar Steppe in your impressionable teenage child’s bedroom, do everything you can to divert their attention to something less psychologically damaging, such as bestiality porn or footage from the Srebrenica massacre. If, alas, they have finished it already, you might want to consider euthanasia. I know it is never an easy decision (aside: for me, there are no easy decisions, partly because of this fucking book), but do try to see it as saving someone from a lifetime of mental anguish.

 

 

Part cautionary tale to parents and future parents of teenagers, part reflection on the long-lasting impact of the 20th century’s greatest literary works, (large) part mental masturbation, with a dash of a cry for help… Stay tuned for more Books that have ruined me! (there might not be any)

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.

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?

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.

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.

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.