Steven Seagal’s Tears

“I once heard a story about Steven Seagal—this is another reason that I love this motherfucker—I heard a story from somebody about Steven Seagal, that a producer came into his—I think this story’s out now, but I heard it years before it came out—that he called his producer into his home, and he said, ‘Come here, you have to come here,’ and the guy came into his home, and Steven Seagal had a 10-foot wooden desk, and on the desk was a script and a gun. And Steven Seagal was sitting at the desk and he was crying and the guy said, ‘Steven, what’s wrong?’ And he looked up and he said, ‘I just read the best script I have ever read in my life.’ And the producer said, ‘Wow, that’s amazing. Who wrote it?’ And he said, ‘I did.’ Like, Steven Seagal is batshit, fucking insane.”

—El-P. Interview with Eric Thurm. “Run The Jewels on the brutality, music, and magic of Steven Seagal.” avclub.com. December 4, 2014.

Really Reading Means Being Open to Change

To really read any discursive text, whether a philosophical tract or a legal contract, is a disturbing and cognitively disorienting experience, because it means allowing another person’s thoughts to intrude into your own and rearrange your beliefs and assumptions — often not in ways to which you would consent if warned in advance. Even when you deliberately decide to learn something new by reading, you put yourself, your thoughts and your most cherished suppositions in the hands of the author and trust her or him not to reorganize your mind so thoroughly that you no longer recognize where or who you are. It’s very scary; hard, painstaking work of determined concentration under the best of circumstances. So particularly with philosophical texts, the whole point of which is to reorganize your thinking, people often don’t really read them at all; they merely take a mental snapshot of the passage that enables them to form a Gestalt impression of its content, without scrutinizing it too closely.”

—Adrian Piper. Interview with Lauren O’Neill-Butler. “Adrian Piper Speaks! (for Herself).” The New York Times. July 5, 2018.

Excellent interview throughout. For this part, I think you could extend the point to any kind of lived experience. Authentic experience is breaking from the automatic, the prejudicial mental models that we have created to navigate the world and experiencing the world in a way that might fundamentally change us rather than limiting our vision to our existing worldview that renders anything outside of it invisible.

When Toast Was “The Tip of the Hipster Spear”

“For whatever reason, I felt compelled to go looking for the origins of the fancy toast trend. How does such a thing get started? What determines how far it goes? I wanted to know.”

—John Gravois “A Toast Story.” Pacific Standard. January 13, 2014.

I remember going to a bar once, and everyone was wearing clothes that were popular three decades prior. It’s startling to be so completely disconnected from the normal distribution mindset and suddenly noticing how much of our world is based on conformity to arbitrary norms.

This story about toast, for instance, got so popular it made it to an episode of This American Life, a show that could plausibly be described as “the base of the hipster spear”. Maybe toast can provide us with some insight into how these things gain traction and maybe help with seeing it ain’t all bad. Really, who’s against toast?

Belief vs. Doubt

“Franzen thinks that there’s no way for a writer to do good work — to write something that can be called “consuming and extraordinarily moving” — without putting a fence around yourself so that you can control the input you encounter. So that you could have a thought that isn’t subject to pushback all the time from anyone who has ever met you or heard of you or expressed interest in hearing from you. Without allowing yourself to think for a minute.

It’s not just writers. It’s everyone. The writer is just an extreme case of something everyone struggles with. “On the one hand, to function well, you have to believe in yourself and your abilities and summon enormous confidence from somewhere. On the other hand, to write well, or just to be a good person, you need to be able to doubt yourself — to entertain the possibility that you’re wrong about everything, that you don’t know everything, and to have sympathy with people whose lives and beliefs and perspectives are very different from yours. ‘The internet was supposed to do this for people, but it didn’t. ‘This balancing act’ — the confidence that you know everything plus the ability to believe that you don’t — ‘only works, or works best, if you reserve a private space for it.'”

—Taffy Brodesser-Akner. “Jonathan Franzen Is Fine With All of It.” The New York Times Magazine. June 26, 2018.

Strikes me as the same idea discussed in the “It is the Worry That Made the Work Good” post a few days ago, i.e., you need to have optimism that a solution can be found and skeptical in the approaches you have tried thus far.

The Pendulum Will Swing

“If you believe in something, you have to be willing to stand for something or you don’t really believe in it at all. There’s always going to be consequences for opposing people in power and there’s no doubt that I have faced retaliation, as has every public interest whistleblower coming out of the intelligence community in the last several decades, going back to Daniel Ellsberg. But that doesn’t mean it’s not worth doing. These are risks worth taking…So many people look at the world today, they look at how broken and ruined things are, and they are just disempowered and lost. But what I want people to focus on is the fact that things changed, right. And if they can change for the worse, they can change for the better. And the only reason the world is changing for the worse is because bad people are working to make it happen that way. And if more good people are organizing, if we’re talking about this stuff, if we’re willing to draw lines that we will not allow people to cross without moving us out of the way, the pendulum will swing, and I’ll be home sooner than you think.”

—Edward Snowden. “Edward Snowden on Privacy in the Age of Facebook and Trump.” The Intercept. May 25, 2018.

Free Speech: A Magic Shield That Lets You Be An Asshole?

“The strategy of a lot of the people on the far right is to get us to attack our own institutions and not think that they’re valuable anymore.

By waving free speech around as if it was a magic shield that lets you be an asshole, they’ve convinced a significant percentage of the rest of us that the problem is free speech, as opposed to the problem is you people. I think that there’s a real risk going on here that people fall for it.”

—John Battelle, “A Magic Shield That Let’s You Be An Assh*le?NewCo Shift. May 18, 2018.

Can we at least agree that if you are going to use the word asshole, you should do so without any cute modifications or simply choose another, non-cuss, word?

How to Be a Stoic | RadioWest

“No matter where you live or what culture you live in, the question of how to lead a good life is central. And there is no shortage of answers, from fundamentalist religion to nihilism. For his part, philosopher Massimo Pigliucci has become a Stoic. Stoicism, he says, isn’t about suppressing or hiding emotions. It’s about mindfulness and virtue. It’s about focusing your efforts only on that which you can control and understanding the truth of death. Pigliucci joins us to discuss why and how to be a Stoic.”

—Massimo Pigliucci. “How to Be a Stoic.” Interview with Doug Fabrizio. Radiowest. April 13, 2018. Rebroadcast.