Mal on the Street

“In conventional business attire, trusty Mohawk at their side, the two would waylay pedestrians and proprietors. Clandestinely recording each conversation, they would retreat to the curb to rewind: The Mohawk used quarter-inch metal cassettes and rewinding the tapes required the operator to manually turn a handle like a fishing reel. Then they’d hook up the earpiece and listen to their latest. If they only collected usable material every two or three days, they were happy.

The best of these hidden-mike recordings is a long encounter with a druggist, from whom Coyle solicits advice about performing home surgery on Sharpe, who is complaining of chest pains. The druggist is aghast at Coyle’s medical “experience” — third-year high school, plus a few days of home study. They offer to do the surgery in a station wagon outside. The druggist begs them not to, saying they’re running huge risks for no reason. Coyle replies, “He’s willing to take the chance, and it would be very interesting for me.”

-Staff, “Mal on the Street.” SF Weekly. May 25, 1995

…Only Human After All

“We do tend to focus on the wrong things too much of the time and make a big deal out of things that are ultimately kind of inconsequential. Success is being able to not do that. So much of being happy in life—both as a person and as an artist—is just being able to put things in the right perspective. If your kids are healthy and if you have meaningful, loving relationships in your life, and you don’t have too many unresolved resentments, and you’re all about the business of learning to forgive yourself and other people, then you’re heading the right direction. And all of us can only do that so well, you know. We’re only human after all.”

—Michael McDonald in an interview with D. Cole Rachel, “Michael McDonald on keeping things in perspective.” The Creative Independent. July 5, 2017.

Eric by Tom Manning

“When we are clear-eyed about the fact that what we think of as our individual self is really a hodgepodge of artifice, and not really our self, that can be both freeing and terrifying. Our ego constantly chases fleeting needs, which is why an identity based on that ego is fleeting, and happiness based on feeding that ego is fleeting. I think true happiness is probably only attained by the release of ego, which is ironically our ego’s greatest fear. In Eric, I try to capture the horror and freedom of what it might be like to actually erase your ego. It’s all in the book’s opening quote from the Beach Boys: ‘Hang on to your ego / hang on but I know that you’re gonna lose the fight.'”

—Tom Manning quoted in an interview with Sarah Heston, “Magical Los Angeles: An Interview with Tom Manning.” The Los Angeles Review of Books. September 29, 2018.

You can order Eric (or his other graphic novel Runoff) via the author’s website, or ask your local library to order or get it on loan.

Anonymous Sessions on 3:AM Magazine

“Another function of these civilizational trances is the inoculation of the masses from outsider disturbances. This is achieved by hardening the audience to them, administering small doses of carefully excised and polished versions of their rabid and incomprehensible accents, smooth postcard images of toxic wastelands, little commercial apocalypses for atrophied imaginations.”

—Cergat Boş & Elytron Frass, “Interviews with Anonymous Personas.” 3:AM Magazine. September 4, 2018.

Break out of your civilizational trance. Open up to outsider disturbances, and exercise your atrophied imagination.

Reading through these interviews, on one level, there are ideas I haven’t seen before, such as xenofeminism and the possibility of cyborgs as a vehicle for transcending gender and patriarchy. On another level, I keep getting whiffs of word salad, as if there’s a coy game going on in the background. Is it that I’m just not getting this part because I lack the basic intelligence or worldview / theoretical framework? Is this meaningless word salad? Is it something else? All of which is part of the fun.

The casual mention of various books and authors keep sending me down unexplored paths in the literature jungle. It can take some time to cut through the thicket of the conversation and the references providing some context for it. But, it makes for an interesting journey.

In short, delightful. Recommended.

Reference: Anon is Not Dead: Towards a History of Anonymous Authorship in Early-Twentieth-Century Britain

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.

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.