Recc Roundup 06/23/19-06/30/19

  • Reading (books): The Queen: The Forgotten Life Behind an American Myth, by Josh Levin
    • About the woman behind Reagan’s “welfare queen” anecdote. I figured it would be like “this was mostly a bunch of racist, classist fearmongering and she was more a victim of a culture that primed people to view any poor person who doesn’t know their place as an amoral criminal than anything else”
    • But actually it was more “no she actually has killed and kidnapped on more than one occasion, she’s truly not great, but this is still a story about how there’s definitely a reason that her most egregious crime was the welfare fraud and not the ones where her victims were poor black people.”
    • So yeah the book is good at keeping a grounding of sympathy towards someone who had a real upsetting upbringing, but who definitely did some inexcusable things, and keeping the focus of Who’s the Real Bad Guy Here firmly on the real monster, Reagan.
    • (No but actually, it’s the aforementioned racism and hatred of poor people.)
    • Also. It was real easy to do crime before the rise of the big-data surveillance state, huh?
  • Reading (articles): The I in We, by Reeves Wiedeman (NY Mag; June 10, 2019)
    • A profile of the WeWork CEO. On the other end of the spectrum of scammers from my book recc, here is someone who is truly an antisocial menace to society who will never face any consequences for his actions, at least not until what I’m sure will only be a temporary setback after WeWork tanks.
    • On the topic of other spectrums he exists on the opposite end of, he is the anti-Marianne-Williamson, as our new meme queen is a loveable, probably-well-intentioned dolt of a spiritual new-agey capitalist, while WeWork Guy is an earthshatteringly detestable ghoul of a spiritual new-agey capitalist.
    • If walking past one of the many WeWorks in your city doesn’t already give you a grim sense of despair, just wait until you read this.
  • Watching: Not gonna lie, it’s The Bachelorette, So You Think You Can Dance, and (catching up on, I know it’s over) Project Runway season, that’s where I’m at.
  • Listening: I dipped back into reading some Mark Fisher and am going hard on the Sounds of Hauntology lately, here’s a good one:
  • Snacking: Look, there’s a new novelty Oreo out, so obviously I’ve already gone through a pack–yes, it’s just the standard chocolate cookie with a nigh-indistinguishable-from-the-default-flavor marshmallow creme, except it’s purple, but they pull this “same cookie but dyed creme” shit every single holiday season and this one is just slightly tweaked enough to pique my interest.
    • …no but they are for all intents and purposes the same; don’t let that truthbomb stop you from sensing a slight difference because you were convinced it was there. I feel you. Part of me is walking that path with you this very moment. It does taste more purple.
    • Also on the topic of novelty purple foods, Trader Joe’s has an ube ice cream and it’s the good shit, which also should be turned into a creme for their own sandwiched cookie treats; don’t think I didn’t notice we skipped Matcha Joe-Joes this year…

Astrology Bullshit Corner

I dip in and out of believing in this way too much for my moderately religious liking but it’s that time again! I bought some incense and am all set to add that extra -k on the end of “magic.”

Just checking out the ol’ Cafe Astrology natal chart and here’s the top 5 “sorry mom, sorry God, this is clearly objectively real” zingers:

  • (Sun in Leo) “They are the first to blame themselves when something goes wrong. Once again, it’s the Leonine self-importance at work, and this characteristic works in unexpected ways. Instead of being the conceited, self-absorbed show-offs of reputation, they are usually very self-aware, self-conscious, and, yes, even humble.”
  • (Leo, Ascendant Sagittarius) “You may acquiesce to others a little too often, if only to maintain a feeling of balance and harmony, as conflict is something you not only dislike, you might fear it.”
  • (Leo, Ascendant Sagittarius) “When things are going well, you suffer from fears that something will come along to change that.”
  • (Leo, Ascendant Sagittarius) “At times, you can be intensely dissatisfied with your personal accomplishments and expressions of self. You put a lot of pressure on yourself regarding your own endeavors. You can be quite dissatisfied with your creative self-expressions, and want to hide your expressions from others until you feel the output is “right”.”
  • (Leo, Ascendant Sagittarius) “[Y]ou can be intensely fearful of, or threatened by, change. This can express itself through attempts to control your life in such a way that you can manage your fears of being taken off guard.”

And to for balance, top 5 “this is clearly a perversion of both faith and science, wow the planets really got that one wrong” bits:

  • (Leo, Ascendant Sagittarius) “She is balanced, at ease with herself and usually gets on very well with her parents or guardians.”
  • (Leo, Ascendant Sagittarius) “You are likely personally popular, mainly because you expect harmony in your relationships. You are attractive to most people, and your self-confidence and security make you easy to deal with on many levels.”
  • (Mercury in Leo) “You are an excellent conversationalist and can fascinate your partners with your sharp mind. You love to debate issues just for the mental exercise, even if you don’t feel strongly about the position you argue!”
  • (Venus in Virgo) “She has a good grasp of reality and of duty. She is thrifty, reserved and usually not given to showing off.”
  • (Mars in Leo) “This is one of the more sexual positions of Mars. While they are rather easy to arouse, their passion is long-standing.”

Review: LaCroix Coffea Exotica

• LaCroix: very good
• Coffee: quite pleasant
• Soda: delightful
• LaCroix with notes of Sumatran coffee and exotic soda: as a species we are blessed with curious minds and wild dreams, and have harnessed the forces of nature in order to manifest those dreams into the world

…it’s fine, it tastes like the watered-down coffee I always end up making when I try to prove to myself that one of those pour-over dripper cups and a manual bean grinder were good investments I am capable of using, but also carbonated, but also with a faint whisper of soda for an added feel of whimsy.

It’s got a bitter aftertaste because it’s a mature, adult sparkling beverage and abysmal can design because it’s an incoherent mess of a drink. I’ll finish the box and then unquestionably buy the other new novelty flavors because I choose to go through life embracing the call to adventure and facing the unknown with an open mind and generous wallet.

Listening to podcasts

“By listening, you partially reclaim the lost hours, preserving some ghost of an alternate universe where you don’t have to do what you’re doing, and you’re on the couch reading the old-fashioned way instead.”
Successful People Listen to Audiobooks, Nora Caplan-Bricker

This article about how audiobooks are marketed as a way to maximize your productivity by occupying your mind at all idle moments, so you never “waste time,” furthering the belief that any moment in which your mind is free to disengage from hyper-efficiency… strongly describes my podcast-listening habits. I’ve fallen into a spiral of subscribing to way too many, and I end up listening to them at double time to get through them all, in every spare moment to which I can devote the mental activity of listening to a thing, so that I’m never alone with my own thoughts.

I can’t retain any of the information I get from podcasts like this–I tune out almost immediately, and when I’m trying to get through a list of episodes as efficiently as I can, it barely registers. I enjoy the distraction in the moment, but it’s absolutely at the cost of being able to let my brain rest, or generate an original thought, or think about tough things I’m ignoring but ultimately need to deal with… It’s avoidance, justified under the guise of productivity.

Jonathan Crary’s book 24/7: Late Capitalism and the End of Sleep is referenced in the article, and I highly recommend it; it’s definitely best read when you are zooming through your life in a constant state of sleep deprivation sedation and viscerally resentful of the fact that your boss owns the majority of your life, when you’re forcing yourself to stay awake out of spite because if you can’t take back any time from your boss, taking it out of sleep is the only other option. Yeah, listening to as many podcasts as possible on my commute to work is my frantic scramble to overwhelm my mind with fun distractions before I arrive at work and am no longer living on my own time.

And this feeling that I have to cram in as much pleasure as I can into the sliver of leisure time I am afforded (lol “40-hour” workweek) is entirely by design. Corporations deliberately engineer a system in which we are kept at work far longer than anyone can be productive, because people who don’t have time to stop and think, to make informed decisions and maybe some healthy life choices, are people who bleed money. See this incredibly grim bit of Relatable Internet Content (seriously, all of it, it’s immensely good, but to quote:

“But the 8-hour workday is too profitable for big business, not because of the amount of work people get done in eight hours (the average office worker gets less than three hours of actual work done in 8 hours) but because it makes for such a purchase-happy public. Keeping free time scarce means people pay a lot more for convenience, gratification, and any other relief they can buy. It keeps them watching television, and its commercials. It keeps them unambitious outside of work.

We’ve been led into a culture that has been engineered to leave us tired, hungry for indulgence, willing to pay a lot for convenience and entertainment, and most importantly, vaguely dissatisfied with our lives so that we continue wanting things we don’t have. We buy so much because it always seems like something is still missing.”)

I guess the opposite of the constantly-plugged-in, deliberately-tuning-out-your-thoughts life is this “mindfulness” I hear so much about, but something about the word immediately turns me off because I see it used in contexts that only further obscure the underlying cause of why we need to be trained on such a basic concept. For all the distractedness and disconnect my brain goes through because I watch too much TV or am constantly checking my phone, it all shares the same root of just not having enough time in the day to have the chance to clear my head and live in the present. Individual solutions might help, but I’m too resentful of the fact that they’re a personal-responsibility band-aid on a capitalist hellscape problem in order for them to do me any good.

Anyway. That was some high-brow nonsense to justify why I listen to a bunch of sped-up podcasts I can’t remember instead of, like, engage my mind creatively. That’s where I’m at right now. Read the shit I linked, it’s incredibly good and may also set you on your own path to becoming a humorless hack such as myself.