Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenence

I made a post to Twitter last night about how I was thinking more and more that Zen And The Art of Motorcycle Maintencence is a crock of bullshit. Which sucks, because Sirus got me a copy with lovely graphic art on the cover7. While I summed up my response to “but why?!?!!!@” with a <140 character "Main Character Complex", here is the longer explaination. First, a disclaimer or two: I’m “reading” this via Audible, which I love. I do not have page numbers, but I can get you minute markers. And I have not finished it. One of my greatest joys of no longer being in school is that when a book sucks, I can put it away – I don’t have to finish it. So if he learns some great lesson, or the focus shifts or something, let me know and I’ll actually keep reading.

What at last did me in, so far as not being able to listen to any more: his discourse on Science. About how all science is ineffectual because (as his “ghost” narrative device discovered) so many hypothesis are born as you test the first one, and there’s no way to test them all, so you create this whole set of unknowns. And as science is about creating truths, and you can’t test all of them…
Wait, what? Science is about creating truths? Someone hasn’t been looking at science. Science is about proving things false. Something is considered true (but not a law) until you’re able to disprove it. Laws (like gravity) are so morally independent, so long established (ie, tested against), and so universal that Scientific Law basically equals Taken As Granted.5

This is just one example of the underlying viewpoint that upsets me about this book. “Oh, look at this insight I have. I am so clever. You should examine your world, too. Question things!” Which yes, you should constantly be questioning the things around you, but for fuck’s sake, the “insights” provided are bullshit, and unless you spend as much time (if not more) examining your own assumptions, questioning the world around you just becomes a wank session. And one that ends in loneliness and The Crazy, not what wank sessions should end with, IMHO.

So this brings us closer to my own insight about the book, and the narrator1. He’s a narcissistic piece of shit. Oh sure, he speaks about different methods of inquiry, but his language and approach are seeping with judgements about those methods. His “inquiry into values” is always in relation to his own set of values, and there is always implied (or stated) moral high ground.

And maybe this wouldn’t bother me so much, but for recent life interactions, and a long-lived pet peeve of mine: Main Character Syndrom. This is my own way of explaining narcissism without bringing up that loaded word. People with this syndrom believe that they are the main character. Anyone they interact with is simply filling a supporting role. Every interaction, every discussion, -everything- has to do with them. Because why else would it be happening? Common symptoms include taking everything personally, being confused when people act “out of character,” or having unreasonable expectations.

A sub category of this is what I lovingly refer to as Narrator Syndrom, where an individual realizes they’re not the Main Character but still imparts their world view on the interactions they have with others. Symptoms include imposing moral values3 and assuming purpose/projecting omnipitence4.

A solution:
Realize everyone is full of stories. Their own. That range from completely —completely— to mostly not about you. At all. Have nothing at all to do with you. An individual – one individual – has lived an entire life of experiences. Their life is just as (if not more) complicated as your own. Each individual is (mostly) internally consistent, has a set of values and goals which are legitimate (to them), given those experiences. Now think about how many other people live in your house, your apartment building, your neighborhood block. So many stories! AND YOU GET TO SHARE WITH THEM. We get to interact, to use that wealth of experience, to build our world. And that is what makes that individual insignificance so phenomenal. We are so much greater than the sum of our parts, as individuals and as a super organism.

1. I accept that the narrator might be the author’s own way of trying to get people to come to the realizations that I speak about here, so far as the meta level, narcissism, and examination. But if that’s what he’s going for, I already get it, and listening to someone experience it just hurts my fucking faith in humanity.
2. (Yes, I know there’s no 2 up there). I also hated Catcher in the Rye. Self-involved bitchfest. Whine whine whine with no constructive action in site.
3. Morals as opposed to ethics, which are malleable and socially based as opposed to dogmatic. One of the few things Freud was not completely bat shit about.
4. The assumption of knowing where the plot is going/all the factors in any interaction, so any other viewpoint is null.
5. I am not at all saying science should not be questioned. That is, after all, what it is for6. It is imperative to question the cultural assumptions which support some scientific analysis. And what we as a culture value of course dictates what we even DO science to.
6. Well, actually it’s for describing things which exist, but whatever.
7. <3 to Sirus, who gave me the disclaimer that he hadn't read it, but liked the art and thought it might be about motorcycles, which I do like.
8. (Yes, another footnote without a reference to it). All the individualism in my last paragraph is not to get postmodern on you. Through SCIENCE (also see above) we are able to know we have a shared reality and that we must interact within it. The point I’m getting at there is that all the individual pieces are separate but interactive. There’s a reason I have “we are the machine” tattoo’d down my back – we are all interconnected, and through that interconnection, our superorganism is self-guided.

And since this post is already so incredibly long, here is a video to make me not be so ranty, which beautifully sums up a lot of that wonder and interconnection. Thanks, melodysheep!

spam tornado

Know all these bots on Twitter that auto follow you based on things you say, or that might autofollow you back? I have this dark hope that some sort of AI comes out of that – trends tracked and logged, ways people speak, all in a self-referencing and perpetuating cyclone of spam. Maybe the scammers will feed off of the “social media experts” will feed off of the coupon bots will feed off the RT bots. The idea brings me a perverse sort of joy, don’t know quite why.
When you’re preaching the choir, everything sounds good. Many marketers follow other agencies and “gurus” to see what they’re up to. What trick have they figured out? What can I learn from them? And because marketing is so much about being noticed, it’s easy to do research when every new method is delivered straight to your inbox.
But that means it’s also delivered to my box. And I don’t want it. In fact, I’m willing to actively fight it. Why? Well, at a most basic level, I think consumer culture has detracted from our ability to relate to each other as people. It’s damaged our values, our goals, and our homes. But that’s a really big set to cover, so right now we’re just going to talk about a small subset of that.
Marketers today invade your privacy in two ways: in regards to your information, and in regards to your personal space. Information is something you can control to at least some extent – if you don’t give out your information, they can’t use it. However, it’s also their responsibility to keep the fuck out of social forums aimed at being social (facebook is constructed to monetize on your interests. Expect to be marketed to. My blog is constructed for exchange of ideas, which is why I moderate┬ásolicitous┬ácomments to not be posted).
It’s when information is gained in shady ways (pulling from a cc list, from an information page, from a business card exchange) that the privacy being infringed upon is one of space. It’s *my* inbox, and just like my blog, it is not a forum for marketing. Yes, the information existed on the t00bs, but it was not offered in exchange for some deal or because I’m truly interested in what you are up to. As in all things, consent is key, and such use of information is nonconsensual.
So I encourage you, as always, to fight back. Remember returning spam mail with postage paid, just because it fucked with their system? Find a new way to do that. I like to peruse until I find a personal contact of someone high up in the company, and tell them I find their business practices shady (or “shitty,” depending on mood) and that it makes me question their quality as a human being. Because it is, and it does. Too mean? Too bad. Maybe if you didn’t base your own legitimacy on others buying your product you wouldn’t be so sensitive.
In the meantime, go play in your cyclone of drivel, to figure out how to better market to other marketers. But your tactics have no place in our corner of the web. If you find a way to actually contribute to the conversation and community, we’ll welcome you back. Until then, fuck off. I leave you all with this Banksy quote:
People are taking the piss out of you everyday. They butt into your life, take a cheap shot at you and then disappear. They leer at you from tall buildings and make you feel small. They make flippant comments from buses that imply you’re not sexy enough and that all the fun is happening somewhere else. They are on TV making your girlfriend feel inadequate. They have access to the most sophisticated technology the world has ever seen and they bully you with it. They are The Advertisers and they are laughing at you. You, however, are forbidden to touch them. Trademarks, intellectual property rights and copyright law mean advertisers can say what they like wherever they like with total impunity. Fuck that. Any advert in a public space that gives you no choice whether you see it or not is yours. It’s yours to take, re-arrange and re-use. You can do whatever you like with it. Asking for permission is like asking to keep a rock someone just threw at your head. You owe the companies nothing. Less than nothing, you especially don’t owe them any courtesy. They owe you. They have re-arranged the world to put themselves in front of you. They never asked for your permission, don’t even start asking for theirs.

small reminders

Thank god for small reminders.

I sleep best in white spaces with the sound of trip-hop (or post-rock), rain, and traffic.

Tomorrow is the job hunt. (did you know they have a listing for just lawyers who do science and technology in Seattle?)

Also concerts, games, lots of food and wine. People I love, people I will love, and the possibility of controlling my own life.
See, I’ve always relied on other people to direct my energy. I have so much of it. And I’ve never been good at controlling myself, deciding what to do, if I don’t have others around to be my conscious. This time is done. My passion with focus is renewed (or simply sparked?).


I’ve come to the realization that my quest for self-sufficiency and independence is legitimized through zombies.

Must keep a full tank of gas in case of zombies.
Must keep in shape in case of zombies.
Must learn how to shoot a gun in case of zombies.
Must know how to drive a manual, ride a motorcycle, etc… in case of zombies.

If the infrastructure gives way, I’ll know how to handle myself.

So really, the Singularity and zombies are the same thing on some days.

It’s been a bit..

..since I read this. It’s nice to have the reminder.

“And you guys just ate it up. Kept buying shitty phones and broken media devices green and dripping with DRM. You broke the site, clogging up the pipe like retarded salmon, to read the latest announcements of the most trivial jerk-off products, completely ignoring the stories about technology actually making a difference to real human beings, because you wanted a new chromed robot turd to put in your pocket to impress your friends and make you forget for just a few minutes, blood coursing as you tremblingly cut through the blister pack, that your life is utterly void of any lasting purpose.”

I’m going to plot out my route to Seattle today. I think I can take a week and a half, go to Chicago and St. Louis and yes even Fayetteville. Up through California and through Portland.

Oh, and today… today the world can fuck itself! Yay!

Steampunk is Awesome

I had just realized that the new copy of SteamPunk Magazine was on our counter. I opened up the house, sat outside, listening to blues music (of the Guy Davis persuasion), and read the first few pages. The opening quote always sets the tone, and helps me to feel like taking on the world really is worth it today. The letters to the editor are well chosen, showing a wide variety of vested interests in the culture. Margaret is not afraid to speak his/her mind, but also does so with tact.

What really got me (in as far as I’ve gotten) is the Manifesto of Sorts.

Steampunk is the first self-molding subculture that I’ve been privy to. While not personally immersed in it (I’ll stick to my shiny oxygen tech, thank you), I do live with someone who is highly involved and we have fantastic conversations about ethics and online debates and what people are doing and saying. I do agree with a lot of the concerns Steampunks bring to the table – understanding technology, responsible action, DIY, etc.

To me, this manifesto was about not boxing yourself in, not saying what Steampunk is or isn’t. It’s about letting the culture evolve how it will, based on the ideals that it believes in. And that brings me joy. I see our (dare I say) generation as being at a point of major change (just as much as any other was, I’ll admit). Every crossroad determines future paths, and one of the reasons I’m so into Transhumanism is trying to guide those decisions towards the nurturing instead of the destructive. Right now I see Steampunk on the brink of going down the path that so many other subcultures have gone down – being co-opted, capitalized, routinized. But the difference is because of the people involved being self-aware, giving a shit, and being willing to fucking stand up, Steampunk doesn’t have to go down that path. Instead it can form a new sort of system of belonging. A system that can set an example for other emerging subcultures online and IRL.
Can you imagine it? Being accepted in a subculture because of what you’ve contributed instead of what you claim to be interested in, who you know, what clever words you can say, what clothing you can afford? I can. And I believe in it.