Friday Flotsam: Don’t Like ‘Like, Comment, and Subscribe’

1. More and more it seems to me that where modern psychology is correct, it ends up being a complicated way of saying the same thing that Old Wives and monks have said for time immemorial. This week I watched a couple videos on dopamine, its affect on brain, and the means to counteract it, and all I could think was “so, deliberately moderating our pleasures and periodic fasting.”

2. I’ve been watching a lot of YouTube videos recently. Or let me clarify: I’ve been watching videos from a lot of new-to-me channels and topics recently. Mostly involving finances, bookkeeping, budgeting, DIY, and pop-psychology. Thus far, my impression is that everyone seems to be copying everyone else: jump cuts, multiple takes spliced together to form one long-ish take, pretending to lose your train of thought in the middle of a sentence, “be sure to like, comment, and subscribe / smash that like button” (everybody smashes that like button), “what’s up guys?” (seriously, everyone uses this introduction), “studies have shown…” etc. There’s definitely a remarkably consistent style across a surprisingly broad spectrum of videos.

It may be just me, but I don’t like being asked to subscribe to YouTube videos, or to like or comment.

3. I seem to have lucked out without realizing it. See, I’m a creature of habit to a possibly-pathological level, so when I find content I like, I tend to simply stick to it until I start to get tired of it. So, the few YouTube channels I actually follow, I tend to just stick with rather than venturing out into the wild to search for more. This is partly because of my aforementioned sedentary approach to these things, but also because I think if I do venture out there, about 99% of what I find will be junk. Maybe entertaining junk, but junk.

The few YouTube channels I do follow all buck this trend, and indeed usually make fun of it. Ross of Accursed Farms did a whole video commenting on how strange it feels to him to be asking for money to make funny videos about weird games and laying down promises of what he’d be doing with it and who should and shouldn’t donate. Mauler likewise only brought up the subscription question in distinct sections are the tail-end of his videos, and then was very transparent about what people would be buying (though he’s been a little disappointing lately as his reviews have slowed to an absolute trickle, to the point where I think I’d be feeling annoyed if I had backed him, but that’s another story. Then again I’m averaging about two videos a year right now, so maybe I shouldn’t be throwing stones…).

I don’t remember Razorfist ever asking for money or subscriptions either (though I’ve heard him tossing some typically-colorful invective against creators who do from time to time), and when he expanded onto a subscription site he explained it was just a way to maintain independence: a subscription site can at least maintain itself in existence if YouTube tightens the noose. David Stewart does invoke the ‘like, comment, and subscribe’, though he saves it to the end and honestly is so low-key about it that I forgot he even does it until I double-checked.

I’ve watched videos where a big ‘SUBSCRIBE’ animation pops up about every thirty seconds or so (not exagerrating). Or where the host just stops the video two or three times to ask for subscriptions.

I know that people have to try to work the algorithm and all, especially if they’re trying to make money, but I have to think there’s a better way. Actually, I know there’s a better way: let the content speak for itself and only bring up money and subscriptions when you have to.

If I ever expand my video production (which I hope to do in future), I hereby vow I will never play the ‘like, comment, subscribe’ game.

(And while I’m talking about channels I like, definitely check out Modern History TV, where a modern knight – OBE – delves into the practical side of Medieval life, especially of Medieval knights. He also doesn’t do the ‘like, comment, subscribe’. Though to be fair, something tells me he isn’t in it for the money).

Catholic Match Catch-Up

I’ve been taking an extended break from Catholic Match while trying to get the rest of my life together.

But I still write for them intermittently, which means that, as a side effect of my break, I’ve been missing when my own essays appear (these things are written months in advance). So today I’m going to offer the three most recent posts of mine that have appeared there:

January 26: Should You Date Someone with Different Politics?

Let’s talk politics.

We live in a peculiar world in this regard. A world in which political matters are often taken very seriously, in some cases to the point of being essentially a religion. But, with this being the case, the question cannot help but arise; should two people form a romantic relationship from different ends of the political spectrum?

If I had to give a short answer, it would be “no.”

If I had to give a somewhat more nuanced answer, it would be “probably not, but it depends.”

You see, it is one thing to have political disagreements with a friend or neighbor, to hash things out and come to verbal blows every now and again with someone you like and see regularly. It is quite another thing to do this with your spouse, for your partner in life to hold a different understanding of the world from yours. Just how much this will disrupt your relationship depends on what place politics has in your life and, yes, what those politics are.

I’m afraid there’s no getting around it; political views are not created equal.

Some are more compatible than others, some are more open to opposing views than others. Because, every political perspective is, at the bottom, a narrative for understanding the world (at least as far as the interactions of society are concerned). Depending on what that narrative is, it will tend to create more or less hostility toward a different narrative and those who hold it.

A classical liberal and a libertarian, for instance, will likely get along better than either will with a socialist or even a mainstream liberal, because the narratives of each side directly address those of the other as being fundamentally opposed to their own, while regarding each other as more or less variations on the same premise. Whether this is true or not (that is, how the actual content of a given political philosophy compares to another) is, for our purposes, less important than whether they believe it to be true.

The short version is that if you think your spouse is perpetuating a moral evil or encouraging tyranny and oppression, then your relationship will have problems.  

Read the exceptions and how they’re a potential relational time-bomb here.

February 1, When We Feel We Can’t Wait

Why do we bother?

We pay our dues, we maintain our profile, we run our searches, make the effort to reach out…and nothing happens. We seem to be doing everything right, but no one responds, or if they do, nothing comes of it. So why bother to keep it up?

Do you remember the incident in the Gospel of John at the pool of Bethesda? A man had lain beside it for thirty-eight years hoping to be cured, but each time the angel disturbed the water, someone else got down first and he missed his chance. Or the woman with the hemorrhages, who had suffered for twelve years and spent all she had on doctors, only to be made worse.

I wonder how frustrated they must have been. How much they must have begged for God to take away their infirmities, no doubt wondering why He had abandoned them, what sin they had committed to suffer so.

But the truth, though they could not know it during their long years of suffering, was that God had heard their prayer, and He was preparing something special for them. He meant not only to cure them in His time, but at a time and in a manner that would glorify Him and them to the end of world. In fact, He was building them up to serve as types of every sinner and every suffering soul who seems left aside, passed over, and forgotten by God. One could almost put it that God forgot them for a time in order to show they were never truly forgotten.

The Almighty has His own purposes, which we cannot know ahead of time.

They may or may not correspond with what we want, and almost certainly don’t correspond with what we expect. Probably most of them we won’t understand until after death, when we see the whole form of our lives and of history itself laid out before us. But we can catch glimpses of it even now: how often do we want something badly and are denied it only to find something far better later on, or to discover some truth of ourselves or the world that we may never have realized but for the opportunity created by this disappointment?

Much about the dating scene today, online or otherwise, seems to encourage discouragement. Like the man by the pool or the woman with the issue of blood, the case seems hopeless and intensely frustrating. But also like them, no doubt God has His plan for each of us, which He will bring to fulfillment when the time is right.

Now, this doesn’t necessarily mean we just keep doing the same thing as we’ve always done. Perhaps we should vary up our approach, perhaps we should explore other avenues. That’s as may be. But we should continue to make the effort, even when it seems pointless.

Find out more here

February 10 Reflections on the Year of St. Joseph

The present Liturgical Year has been declared a special year of St. Joseph.

Lord knows we need his intercession right now more than ever, but we won’t go into that.

Instead, in order to prepare ourselves properly to celebrate this year, let us reflect: who is St. Joseph?

He was a carpenter, which is to say a relatively respectable man in his community. Not wealthy, but what we might call comfortable, as he was able to travel and seek accommodations at an inn; though for a temple sacrifice, he could only afford the two turtledoves reserved for the less wealthy. He was what we might call a skilled tradesman, though he was of noble blood through at least two lines.

We are told he was a righteous man, as would only make sense. There is a venerable tradition that, like his wife, he had taken a vow of perpetual virginity from a young age. Certainly, he cared for and guarded the Blessed Virgin and her Divine Son for as long as he lived.

He is not directly quoted in Scripture at any point, though he serves as the protagonist of St. Matthew’s introductory material. This tells us of his doubts regarding whether to take his betrothed into his house after she was found with child (which the Saints tell us was not because he doubted her purity, but because he doubted his worthiness to be part of the Divine scheme) and of his angelically guided efforts to evade the persecutions of Herod.

More important than any of these details is the nature of his mission.

St. Joseph was the man fitted by God the Father to stand in His place to God the Son: the man who taught God to be a man.

In that curious household the natural hierarchy of the family—father, mother, child—was reversed: the child was greatest, the mother next in prominence, the father next after her. And yet (for such is the nature of goodness) at the same time it was not reversed. The Divine Child, we are told, was obedient to His human parents (Luke 2:51), and His immaculate mother was likewise obedient to her husband.

Responsibility thus fell to St. Joseph of caring for God’s two most perfect works. As Pharaoh elevated the Patriarch Joseph as his steward, so God made St. Joseph “master of his house and ruler of all his possession” (Psalms 104: 21).

Read more about St. Joseph here

Friday Flotsam: Slack Tide

1. As I think I’ve mentioned before now, I don’t currently belong to a parish, mostly because my living situation is not one that I want to ascribe any kind of permanency to. However, I have been attending one particular parish as a rule for some time now, mostly because they kept offering the Sacraments throughout the Imposition through a combination of parking-lot Masses / Confessions and just having a lot of space for people to filter out (that and they are not fussy about masks). They’re what I would call a ‘faithful Novus Ordo’ parish: they engage in the usual post-conciliar nonsense (Communion in the hand, children’s masses, etc.), but they at least attempt to center their worship and their preaching on Christ. In short, they strike me as sincerely trying, so it goes down a little easier than it might.

This week on Tuesday, they actually offered a Latin Mass for what I think is the first time. I of course made a point of going (that’s ‘of course’ because I want them to keep doing it, not ‘of course because I’m so bloody wonderful it’s only what you’d expect of me’) and intend to make it a regular thing if they continue it. Attending the Latin Mass after months of Novus Ordo is unspeakably refreshing. But the real surprise came on Ash Wednesday Mass. It was a Novus Ordo of course, but about halfway through I realized that the priest was celebrating it ‘ad oriens’ (facing the tabernacle for those who don’t know).

I think something is happening at that parish. We’ll have to wait and see how it all goes, but I took that as an encouraging sign. Perhaps the slack tide has begun.

2. ‘Slack Tide’, for those who don’t know, is when the tide has stopped advancing one way or the other before beginning to turn. Basically it means that everything still looks the same, but the underlying mechanics have already begun to reverse. So, historically speaking, early 1942 was ‘Slack Tide’ for the Axis powers: Germany was making rapid advancements in Africa and the Soviet Union, most of the Soviet Army had been trapped and destroyed, Rommel was closing in on the Suez Canal, and in the Pacific the Japanese were nearing the point of establishing bases within range of Hawaii and the West Coast.

Only, the underlying mechanics had already changed: they weren’t fighting the swaying, overspread British Empire alone anymore, they were facing the world’s largest nation, the world’s largest Empire, and the world’s largest economy. The Soviets were relocating their industry beyond the Urals where the Germans could never hope to touch it, neither Germany nor Japan had the capacity to strike any part of the American homeland, let alone its industrial base in the Midwest (not to mention that the US was functionally invincible as far as an invasion was concerned), and Britain alone was outproducing Germany in military material. Basically, if you could have looked at the actual facts of the situation, you could have seen that, contrary to all appearances, those facts were almost all against the Axis.

I sometimes have a sense that we are in such a period of Slack Tide both regarding the Church and the secular society. I obviously can’t say for sure (I don’t follow current events nearly closely enough to even approximate certainty), but that’s the overall impression I get. I think that what seem to be the obvious trends around us don’t actually represent what is going on ‘under the surface’, and that the next, say, ten or twenty years will be very different from what most of us expect at the moment.

That’s as far as I’ll go in terms of prediction.

3. Rather than trying for a third topic, I think I’ll just throw a bit of Gilbert and Sullivan at you

Friday Flotsam: The Possibility of a New Constantine and the Chance to Buy Me a Drink

1. First let’s talk coffee

You may notice the new tip-jar in the right-hand menu or the footer. If you’ve been making the rounds of our little corner of the internet, you’ve probably heard of Ko-fi by now. Simply put, it’s a service where if you like what you see here and want to show your appreciation in a substantial way, you can click the button and tip me a fixed sum of $3. Or about the price of a cup of coffee. I like my coffee (actually used to work in a coffee place), and $3 is strictly in the ‘token of appreciation’ rather than ‘greedy scammer’ range, so it’s a pretty good system.

You can learn more about how Ko-fi works by going here Naturally only drop some coin if you feel it’s worth it to you, and rest assured that it will be appreciated.

2. Here’s a thought that came to mind the other day: is anyone praying for the conversion of Zuckerberg, Gates, Musk, and the other tech giants?

Because here’s the thing: if we were going to have a Constantine moment in this country, it isn’t going to come from the political world. Politicians, frankly, have only a minor impact on the culture or society (thank God). Besides which, the structure of our system is such that only about half the country at best actually supports the leader, while the rest would regard whatever his position might be as the opposite of what they should take.

But the tech dictators, now that’s another story. They actually have power and influence (as we are being daily reminded). If one of them had a conversion experience, that would shake things up.

Sure, it seems impossible, but that’s only what we should expect, isn’t it? Though honestly, it strikes me as more possible than the conversion of, say, the Criminal Biden or one of the other major political figures of our time. I don’t think they’re even capable of real conviction: they’re soulless pits hungering after money and power, morphing into whatever they need to be to satisfy those who can provide them these things. As Prof. Von Hildebrand said of Hitler, they’re so stupid they don’t know what ‘God’ means.

But the Zuckerbergs and the Gates and so on of the world, I think they are capable of that. They seem to me to be at least more real, closer to actual, functional human beings then the likes of, say, the Clintons. They have some substance to them, even if it’s confused, misguided, or corrupted.

Likely? Obviously not. But God doesn’t deal in likelihoods. So, my suggestion would be to start offering up prayers for the conversion of the tech giants.

3. I’ve often thought we need an apostolate to the rich: people who are dedicated to reaching out to and ministering to the wealthy and influential. First and foremost, of course, because their souls are no less valuable than anyone else’s and are liable to be in much greater danger. But also because their power and influence largely determines what kind of society we have, and whether it is easier or more difficult for the Church to do its work.

If someone out there has a sense of mission, but doesn’t know what to do about it, this might be something to think about. Minister to the most neglected of souls: the rich and powerful.

Just imagine what could happen if even some of these elites genuinely turned to Christ.

Thought of the Day: Corporations

Possibly the greatest single political trick in all of history comes in convincing people that the corporate entity called ‘the State’ is somehow different from any other corporate entity.

Socialism essentially amounts to saying “Corporations have too much power, so we should give as much power as possible to a single corporation. Only this one can also make laws and arrest people.”

Most social reforms, revolutions, and so on are like this; the actual facts of power, authority, and so on do not go away. If anything they’re increased. They just get given different names and applied to different people.

Friday Flotsam: Sensing Desperation in the News, then onto Godzilla and Dickens

1. I mostly ignore the news these days, except a few sources. News takes up too much ‘headspace’ without there being anything I can do about it, which is a very bad combination. My headspace is frankly too busy as it is between creative projects, looking for work, and depression, so I try to keep current events out of it. Not very successfully, but I at least don’t seek out any more news than I can help.

However, for what it’s worth the impression I get from what does slip in is of an establishment that feels itself to be on the way out. Not only that, but is desperately, frantically trying to cling to life. Look at how over-the-top their actions and rhetoric is becoming, how they seem to be getting more and more uncompromising even as their share in public opinion grows less and less. Whether in Church or State, the modernists seem to me to be trying to push back a wave of backlash by raw force.

It’s weird when you think about it; the trends and views that have held sway for two or three generations now somehow want to claim immortality for themselves even as people start giving them up. This in spite of the fact that they got their initial start by preaching ‘rebellion against the establishment.’

You see, the current establishment became so under the idea that it was the birth of a new age: a modern, progressive age in which the tired, out-dated traditions and modes of the past would be thrown over in favor of something better. This is one reason (I think a key one) why political and religious ‘progressives’ are so hostile towards traditionalists and so reluctant to face up to the real-world results of their policies. What people want most of all is to think well of themselves, and these people have staked their self-view on the idea that they are the future.

How could, say, an enthusiastically post-conciliar Bishop face up to the fact that not only is the modern Church a disaster, but that almost the only signs of life are in places where his favored changes were either reversed or never took place? To enthusiastically work for what you think is going to be a renewal, and then find out that not only did it cause great harm, but the real renewal came from the very things you were trying to change?

Basically, what must it be like to realize that your life’s work is going to go down in history as a colossal failure, at best a curious fad that came and went and at worst a key signpost on the way to collapse?

And the worst part is that if you are embracing these kinds of ideas in the first place, you’re likely the kind of person who thinks in terms of historical verdicts. The kind of person who advocates for kids to go out and ‘change the world’ and who thinks being left out of the history books somehow affects one’s satisfaction in life.

Hence their desperation, their frantic clinging to the ever more dubious idea that they are the future, that their ideas work, that they are on ‘the right side of history’.

History is an excellent teacher. It’s a cruel god.

This is, of course, assuming a modicum of good-will and sincerity in these people. But in either case, it seems to me that they can feel their own tottering credibility and are frantically trying to cling to it. What the result will be, I don’t know. The fact that they control most of the levers of society may mean that they have the power to hold off their own death for a long time. We’ll see.

Hearing these people talk makes me think of Batman’s comment to Ra’s Al Ghul in Batman Beyond, upon learning that Ra’s sacrificed his own daughter to prolong his life even further:

“Sure, Ra’s, anything to hold off the Grim Reaper for another few seconds. I take it back; you don’t cheat death, you whimper in fear of it!”

2. On a completely different note, everywhere that I’ve seen the Godzilla vs. Kong trailer (I mean literally everywhere), someone makes the comment:
Kong: “Save…Mothra!”

Guess we know what this brings to mind for people. At the very least, I think it’s a safe bet that this will be better than Batman v. Superman. If nothing else, we won’t have Jesse Eisenberg’s skin-peelingly bad interpretation of Lex Luthor (though if they announce him as playing the Controller of Planet X, then screw it: I’m out of there).

(Oh, God: I just realized that I need to do a full Batman v. Superman essay at some point, because I hate that movie so much it really needs a full tear-down. It’s on a short list along with The Last Jedi and Captain Marvel as one of my most hated films of all time).

Me, I’m hoping for something more like:
Godzilla: “Stay down. Final warning.”
Kong: “I could do this all day…”

3. I’ll just say it: at this point I really would rather have a Godzilla vs. Gamera film. I think there’s a lot more you could do with those two playing off each other. Plus there would be less, hm, adjustment needed to make it work. Kong needs to be dialed up so much to make him a match for Godzilla that he’s just shy of a different character whenever they meet. Besides which, attempts to the contrary not withstanding, Kong really only has the one story: attempts to use him in other contexts or give him other adventures always feel kind of haphazard and unconvincing to me. Gamera, on the other hand, is not only much closer to Godzilla in terms of size and power (though his abilities are very different), but like Godzilla he’s a serial character with his own adventures and rogues gallery, so having those two finally meet on screen would feel a lot more meaningful.

And just imagine King Ghidorah commanding a swarm of Gyaos…

4. Reading Nicholas Nickleby at the moment. Not the first time with the story, but the first time actually reading it (I listened to an audio version the previous two times. Actually started this time in audio as well, but switched to text about half-way through for reasons that make sense in context). I generally like Dickens. He’s a master wordsmith, and his command of the sound of English is almost without parallel. On the other hand, I find his caricature and exaggeration a little annoying at times, and he overdoes the pathos so much at times that it becomes sickening. Plus he relies on coincidence way too much: characters in Dickens novels keep just running into one another whenever he decides to introduce someone or bring someone back from an earlier chapter. But once get past that and he’s a lot of fun. Nickleby is a rollicking good time: a nice, solid melodrama. And I really like melodrama.

I especially appreciate Dickens giving the villain, Ralph Nickleby (our hero’s evil uncle) some touches of humanity, like how he genuinely is fond of his niece and actually feels ashamed of himself for exposing her to abuse at one point. Same with Lord Verisopht. And Newman Noggs is worth the price of admission all on his own. That’s one of the best things about Dickens; his chaaracters are so over-the-top and so odd that they’re often a ton of fun.

By the way, I can see Mrs. Nickelby giving Mrs. Bennett a run for her money in the ‘most obnoxiously troublesome parent’ event in the British novel Olympics.

Friday Flotsam: Pro-Life and Depression

1. Discovered that the March for Life is today. All things considered, I’m rather surprised they’re actually having it. You know, I’m thoroughly against abortion (whatever arguments can be brought in its favor, the answer is always “would that logic still apply if the child were born and we were talking about smothering it with a pillow?”), but I’ve never much liked the pro-life movement. If they succeed, then wonderful. I’m all in favor. But I don’t think they will, and they sure as heck won’t in the near future.

The trouble is that abortion is a cornerstone of the sexual revolution, which a large portion of our current culture is based upon. You are either going to keep abortion and with it the perspective on human sexuality and human nature that informs our economy and social structure, or you are going to lose abortion and with it many of the basic assumptions that underlay how we as a society do things. No more casual sex as a matter of course. No more women devoting themselves to a career unless they’re either married or willing to be celebate for a time. In fact, no more holding ‘gender equality’ as a societal goal, because we’ve got this huge, objective difference staring us in the face without being able to sweep it under the floorboards anymore.

Not to mention the fact that we would have a large number of the population having to come to terms with the fact that they’ve committed a terrible crime.

This is why even if you legally overturn it, it will come back in a few years as soon as the political winds shift, because it’s embedded in the worldview of a significant portion of the population.

You see, we are never going to end abortion until we have a seismic shift in worldview in the west.

Again, I wish the pro-life movement well in this. I hope they prove me wrong.

I also find it rather amusing to hear the March for Life described as ‘powerful’ when it hasn’t achieved anything substantive in half a century. By definition, that is the opposite of powerful.

2. Honestly, all that isn’t really the reason I dislike the pro-life label. Again, I hope they succeed, I just am pretty certain they won’t. The real reason I dislike it is that I think many people have a habit of prioritizing the ‘pro-life’ label over Christian teaching. “How can we create a truly pro-life society?” “Pro-life means anti-poverty” “A truly pro-life position prioritizes the dignity of the human person, meaning that it includes forcing ever increasing dependence upon giant corporate entities is anti-poverty.” Or, to take the most obvious example “You cannot be pro-life and support the death penalty.”

Meaning that you are claiming that a truly pro-life worldview is contrary to that of nearly every other Christian in history up until a generation or two ago. Oh, Thomas Aquinas, King Louis IX, all those other saints? Yeah, those guys just didn’t really understand human dignity like we moderns do.

This, of course, only reinforces and feeds into the modernist narrative that we are unique among the generations of man and thus can ignore any experience, arguments, or insights from the past. A ‘Reset’ mindset if you will.

And I find that ‘pro-life’ usually devolves into simply being a cudgel which some Christians use to beat others for not following their preferred socio-political views (“climate change is a life issue”). All too often, this results in the absurd spectacle of proudly ‘pro-life’ people supporting ardently pro-abortion candidates on the grounds that they somehow ‘foster a culture of life’.

If someone says “you aren’t really pro-life unless you accept such-and-such,” the answer is “then I guess I’m not pro-life. Who cares? I am not obligated to conform my views to the implications of a bumper sticker.”

3. Didn’t really mean for today’s flotsam to turn into a rant of everything I don’t like about the PLM, but such things happen.

I was originally considering writing about depression, if that is what I suffer from (on the subject of the PLM: we today get way too hung up on labels and slogans to the point where we miss the reality that the thing is supposed to be pointing to). It’s what most people seem to call it, so we’ll go with that.

I’ve mentioned it in a Catholic Match post from a while back, but depression, in my experience, isn’t so much feeling constantly down or continually sad. It’s more of experiencing continual emotional pain. Like having an open wound inside you that keeps getting prodded.

If you know someone with depression, odds are they’ll often seem to be losing their temper or flying off the handle at seemingly minor things (this kind of anger is often a symptom). Know that that’s the equivalent of a dog snapping at you if you poke at a sore spot. They’re not trying to be mean, they’re trying to send the message: “that hurts: don’t do that!”

Because when someone prods that big open sore inside of you, you can’t really just say “ow! Stop!” Because they don’t know what they did that hurt you, and you probably don’t either. And it probably wouldn’t be anything reasonable that you could explain in any case. “Don’t poke my broken hand!” is easy to understand and follow. “Don’t reinforce the deep-seated impression of powerlessness and personal inadequacy that I’m trying to convince myself is not a true perspective of reality”, not so much. It isn’t like you can give a lecture on your own psychology a la the end of Psychonauts (“As shown on page 41 of your handouts”) every time someone or something jabs at that open wound so that they’ll know how they hurt you and how to avoid doing it in the future.

The last thing they want to hear is you telling them ‘calm down!’ or being asked ‘why are you so angry?’ To their mind, that’s you saying “this shouldn’t hurt you, so I’m going to keep acting like it doesn’t” or “it’s your fault that you’re in pain and it’s up to you to act as if you weren’t.”

I haven’t come close to solving my depression issue, so I don’t have any real recommendations at the moment. This is more a set of observations. I know lots of people suffer depression these days (my therapist calls it ‘the common cold of psychology’), mostly, I think, because we’ve created a world that is thoroughly unsuited to human nature, so perhaps writing my own experiences will at least help any readers to get some clarity on it.

4. Well, this one has certainly turned into a downer, hasn’t it? Let’s end with a Dilbert:

Dilbert Has To Be Right  - Dilbert by Scott Adams

Friday Flotsam

1. So, we had surprisingly massive influx of views this week to my Quick Word on Disconnecting post. If you’re joining us from elsewhere, welcome and I hope you stick around, though don’t expect a whole lot of content like that one. I try to minimize my commentary on current events and politics, though I suppose there might be somewhat more of that in the immediate-ish future.

2. Another thing I would add is that we ought to adjust our habits when it comes to media and…well, how we think of society in general. To keep things simple: we have the habit of thinking that it is important to get a ‘new’ movie or a ‘new’ book or a ‘new’ game. As if there were something special about a piece of content just because it’s recent. The thing is, though (and I’m sort of borrowing this from David Stewart, whose content I recommend you check out), any piece of fiction that you have not yet experienced is new to you. If you want to see a new movie, for instance, you have literally thousands of options available to you. There is nothing special about the films that happen to be being made available for the first time at the moment (unless you are already invested in the story or the world). This is not even considering the fact that many / most films being released at the moment are garbage.

I think this is a leftover societal habit from the days when people actually had little to no control over what films were available to be seen and so they watched out for what was coming to the theaters. After the video and then the DVD market came into being, we kept doing it, mostly because going to the theater was a special event: something out of the ordinary (that plus our natural love of novelty). But it’s long past time to break ourselves of the habit of thinking that it is at all important to seek out the newest films etc. We have about a century’s worth of material, most of it fairly easily available, to go through in preference to the junk that the people who hate us expect us to buy. If we decided to simply ignore current Hollywood, television etc. altogether, we would not lack at all for entertainment options, and most of it of a higher quality (yes, most of that is still owned by the people who hate us, but that’s another issue altogether. In any case, I can’t help thinking it must be galling to them to know that we would rather watch something made fifty years ago by people they despise than whatever they make today)

3. Of course, the big sticking point in the above is video games, which have a serious backwards compatibility problem. Emulators can do something to solve this (though coincidentally I just read how that’s likely to be more difficult in the future. Back up your roms now!), but it’s an issue I’ve long thought the industry needs to address. I would like to be able to feel sure that I’ll be able to play Half-Life and Command and Conquer in the future, as well as games for the SNES and so on. These are a part of our culture, and I want to see them preserved.

I think the console companies should invest in a kind of ‘universal’ system that can play games from all the company’s previous consoles thus far: so, a single console that has ports or at least the opportunity to play games from the NES, SNES, Nintendo 64, GameCube, Wii, and Switch (not sure at all what that would require, but that’s what I would want to see).

In general, I really wish people with more programming knowledge than I have could work up some kind of preservation plan for these works: something akin to a great library or better yet a series of great libraries for games. Maybe some are. I certainly hope so.

Though it seems much of the industry itself is hell-bent on making sure whole generations of games die out entirely, but again: that’s a topic for another time.

Quick Word on Disconnection

Like many people these days, I’m looking into ways to deal with, shall we say, changing world circumstances. This is going to be a condensed version of my thoughts on this subject: I’ll probably do something more fleshed out later.

Short version of our current situation: our civilization rests upon extremely complex, delicate technology that runs a limited number of operating systems controlled by a relatively small number of companies. The vast majority of the market is run through one of these companies. This includes a large amount of commerce, communication, research, news, entertainment, and even basic things like being able to perform simple office operations. This means that these companies are de-facto the government: if you say or do something they don’t like, they can simply withdraw their services from you. Since they aren’t formally the state, they suffer no legal consequences, and if it looks like will they can simply use their money and influence to ensure that the people who will support their interests get into power (we just had a large-scale object lesson in this fact).

Now, the reason they can do this is that, as noted, most of the country is dependent upon them for basic services, including business services. If, say, you sell books through Amazon then if Amazon decides to cancel your account, you would simply be out of luck as far as the world’s largest retailer was concerned. Are you really going to sue Amazon? Do you think that would go well?

The important point is not to hurt these companies (that’s not really in our power), but as much as possible to prevent their being able to hurt us. If I stop using Facebook, for instance, the impact on Facebook is functionally nil. But it means that Facebook cannot censor or de-platform me.

And even beyond the possibility of punitive measures, there’s simply a question of control of property. As many gamers have discovered, when your ‘property’ is stored on a company’s server behind an account wall, then there is nothing at all preventing the company from altering or even simply destroying it. Hundreds if not thousands of video games have been destroyed in this way over just the past few years.

Now, if you ‘own’ something on Amazon – say, a movie – then there is nothing that could prevent them from altering or even removing that content. Unless you were able to download and run it offline, that property which you paid for is gone forever.

In short, you do not have decision making authority over your own property under these circumstances, which means it is not really your property. You rent it.

Ladies and gentlemen, we basically have a defacto version of Socialism in this country. It’s just that we are managed by a collaborative collection of corporate entities that include the one called the State, rather than a single such entity. Oh, it’s not full socialism yet: we still have some options, but in practical terms it’s pretty close.

As a matter of fact, these labels and categories of thought really aren’t very useful anymore. It isn’t going to be the government that seizes all property in the future, or not just the government. It will be the state plus a handful of companies that will rent you ‘whatever you need’, provided you toe the line. If you buck the trends and get uppity, then they’ll deny you service and preen themselves as being just like those businesses who fought segregation or refused to do business with South Africa until apartheid was lifted. Because that is how they see you; not as an individual with certain rights, but as a backwards sub-human who needs to be forcibly shown the error of his ways and taught that they have no place in today’s world. They think they are making the world a better place (and, more importantly, proving themselves to be good people) by punishing you.

Which brings me to my point.

The way to counter this trend is not through full boycotts of Amazon, Google, Facebook, etc. If you can well and good, but for most of us, that’s simply not practical (itself illustrative of the problem). Rather, the first steps to take now, for most of us, is simply to diversify. Not to eliminate our use of these platforms, but our dependency on them.

First and foremost, learn to accept inconvenience. The whole reason these companies have been able to lure us into this position is by offering convenience and low costs. Get your mindset to where you can accept a functional, but less optimized product if it means a greater guarantee of freedom. Me, I’m in the process of switching from Microsoft Office (frankly a con-job to begin with) to LibreOffice. I miss some features of Word, especially full-screen support (which alternatives like OpenOffice do offer, but at the cost of other problems), but it’s worth adjusting my workflow in order not to have the threat of losing version support or having to pay for software that I don’t get to own.

On that subject, always have an alternative for anything you use the internet for, and where possible make it your primary platform. So, use MeWe in addition to or as an alternative to Facebook, and let your audience know you are doing that. Upload videos simultaneously to DailyMotion or BitTorrent and to YouTube.

It is a bit trickier for business matters like self-publishing owing to questions of rights, simultaneous publishing policies and so on. I’m still looking into options there. But the point is to be able to say that the loss of any one of these platforms will not destroy you or lose you anything permanent.

The benefit, of course, is that the more people who do this, the less cost there will be for any one person. The more people use MeWe, the more useful it will be as a platform. The long-term goal, of course, is to get something like actual competition in the internet again, but that’s beyond the scope of any individual efforts.

Likewise, back up your digital property wherever possible. Remember, if you do not own the hard-drive it is stored on, you do not own it. This goes for movies, Kindle books (I’m looking into ways to back those up), videos, software, games, you name it. If you cannot run it offline, cannot transfer it from one hard-drive to another, or if it is dependent on a subscription service then you do not own it.

The Cloud? Anything you own on that is like having you things in a storage locker where the manager keeps the key. He wants to lock you out, he can do it (also remember the manager has dirt on the DA and every elected official, so nothing will happen to him if he does). I don’t care what their privacy agreements say: those only apply to people, not to lawless subhuman racists who dare to question the integrity of our democracy.

Not saying never use the cloud, just know what it is. Just like in gambling: nothing wrong with it as long as you understand that any money you gamble with should be looked upon as spent. Anything you store on the cloud is not being stored on your property, so use at your own risk.

Again, the point here is simply to eliminate dependence on any one platform as much as possible. The point is for us to maintain authority over our property and our businesses. Since the internet is such that one must be dependent on others to maintain a presence on it, the goal is to be in a position where the loss of any one of those supports does us as little harm as possible.