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This whole article, “A meditation on the art of not trying” in The New York Times is great but the bit about the significance of getting drunk together really stood out for me… what does this say about the massive drinking culture in Australia?

However wu wei is attained, there’s no debate about the charismatic effect it creates. It conveys an authenticity that makes you attractive, whether you’re addressing a crowd or talking to one person. The way to impress someone on a first date is to not seem too desperate to impress.

Some people, like politicians and salespeople, can get pretty good at faking spontaneity, but we’re constantly looking for ways to expose them. We put presidential candidates through marathon campaigns looking for that one spontaneous moment that reveals their “true” character.

Before signing a big deal, businesspeople often insist on getting to know potential partners at a boozy meal because alcohol makes it difficult to fake feelings. Neuroscientists have achieved the same effect in brain scanners by applying magnetic fields that suppress cognitive-control ability and in this way make it harder for people to tell convincing lies.

“Getting drunk is essentially an act of mental disarmament,” Dr. Slingerland writes. “In the same way that shaking right hands with someone assures them that you’re not holding a weapon, downing a few tequila shots is like checking your prefrontal cortex at the door. ‘See? No cognitive control. You can trust me.’ ”

 

That skepticism reflects a widely held, deeply ingrained attitude ­reinforced by decades of warnings about poisoned Halloween candy and drink-­spiking pickup artists. No wonder some of the loftier ­sharing-­economy executives see their mission as not just building a business but fundamentally rewiring our relationships with one another. Much as the traditional Internet helped strangers meet and communicate online, they say, the modern Internet can link individuals and communities in the physical world. “The extent to which ­people are connected to each other is lower than what humans need,” NYU professor Arun Sundararajan says. “Part of the appeal of the sharing economy is helping to bridge that gap.” Lyft cofounder John Zimmer goes so far as to liken it to time he spent on the Oglala Sioux reservation in Pine Ridge, South Dakota. “Their sense of community, of connection to each other and to their land, made me feel more happy and alive than I’ve ever felt before,” he says. “I think people are craving real human interaction—it’s like an instinct. We now have the opportunity to use technology to help us get there.”

From “How Airbnb and Lyft finally got Americans to trust each other” in Wired.

Share represented the full gamut of a true sharing economy, from the controversial Lyfts and Airbnbs to the individuals who run home businesses knitting scarves and baking pies without traditional employment safety nets or the corporate muscle of Big Sharing. While the former wields the power to get its way, defining “the sharing economy” at the expense of workers and consumers, sole proprietors and nonprofit collectives are often the ones facing real legal problems that they can’t afford to solve. The benefits big disruptive “sharing economy” players might be making for themselves are not exactly trickling down.

From “The case against sharing” in Medium.

There is no denying the seductive nature of convenience—or the cold logic of businesses that create new jobs, whatever quality they may be. But the notion that brilliant young programmers are forging a newfangled “instant gratification” economy is a falsehood. Instead, it is a rerun of the oldest sort of business: middlemen insinuating themselves between buyers and sellers.

From “The secret to the Uber economy is inequality” in Quartz.

My latest article is here.

Speaking of personal stories, Latham has an interesting story, too. He’s a stay-at-home father with a wife working outside the home. Having made the transition from political leadership to primary caring he might offer an insightful perspective, instead, he seems clouded by a kind of defensive masculinity. And his hostility towards feminist parenting is curious when you consider Latham’s own role reversal is exactly the kind of freedom feminists are seeking as an option to be available for more parents. But critiquing parenting has long been an underhand route for simply censuring women.

Women well know that when male commentators talk about women’s lives they are prone to holding unexamined views that run contrary to one another. So, being the primary parent has allowed Latham to see the hoax that fathers can’t be nurturing, but somehow mothering is still essentialist enough for inner-city feminists to be capable of running a secret campaign to “free themselves from nature’s way”. And further, mothers who take their experiences seriously enough to write about them are “self-absorbed”, but to not take them seriously is to be “breeding a generation of shirtless, tone-deaf, overweight, pizza-eating dummies”. Although Macdonald, apparently, manages to do both.

 

From Hannah Black’s “Crazy in love” in The New Inquiry.

B was not my first encounter with paranoid thought. In my father’s house, intense young men pontificated at length about white devils and black ancestors. The symbolism and codes of this strand of black radicalism make up an elaborate structure of thought that is partly a mocking parody of academic “paranoid readings,” and partly a serious effort to interpret a world, this world, that appears from the perspective of blackness as formally insane. The everyday beliefs and activities of what we could call white supremacist capitalism, or perhaps less precisely life as we know it, are all, from this perspective, more deeply disturbing than the craziest fantasy you’ll find on a high-security ward. But how is a person supposed to live this knowledge? Unlike me, B was quiet, absorbing everything. Could a white-passing boy even picture the black world that animated his father’s dreams? By the time they all settled down to a quieter middle age, we had spent years steeped in this atmosphere of pain and conspiracy.

In psychosis, no event or thing is small enough to escape the tightly woven net of personal significance. A clock means a bomb, a sunset is a message, and so on. But how do you live in a world in which everything signifies? How do others who live in this shimmering, terrifying world treat you? One time B was found cowering in the restroom at a café, too afraid to leave, and was arrested. Just as much as they are implacably hostile to blackness, for reasons both mysterious and self-evident, the police are also structurally fated to hate the mad. Arrests, harassment, and lucky escapes punctuated the acute phases of B’s illness. Now, every so often, another story of police hurting or killing a mentally ill person surfaces, and I am momentarily gripped by the kind of intense, helpless pain that must be what people mean when they talk about being triggered. Still, it’s important to not overindulge in other people’s trouble, even where it affirms your own. The duty of a crazy person’s friends and family is far more practical: Our duty is to appear, as much as possible, not crazy, so that our loved one will be allowed to live.

We had to act a certain way in the hospitals, to show the doctors that B was not trash. I would put on the smooth neutral suit of sanity, which is smiling politely, listening carefully, and in all ways acting as bourgeois as possible. Those times when my mother forgot her armor, when she begged and cried, I saw how the doctors looked at her, as if she were the really crazy one. But B too knew how to put on the smooth and neutral suit; he knew how to answer the doctors’ questions with enough of an appearance of sanity to escape imprisonment, even when he was in desperate need of help. In an emergency ward, my mother cries and B shouts. We would be a spectacle if anyone cared. I adjust my dress and smooth down my hair, momentarily wishing myself whiter so as to be better able to resist the implications of the doctor’s sneer, which is on the verge of becoming impossible to ignore. I see we are all in danger of falling out of the hole in the skin of the world. Come on let’s go, let’s just leave. I remember my mother crying in the car but I don’t remember what we did next.

This is just beautiful writing and a great observation…

At first, I thought I was alone in the pool. It was a sparkling blue gem, implausibly planted in the skyscraper canyon of downtown Los Angeles, as if David Hockney, heading toward Beverly Hills, had taken the wrong exit on the I-10 freeway. This fine pool was the consolation and only charm of the Soviet-style complex where I had rented an apartment so that I could walk to work at the Los Angeles Times. It was early, not even 6 A.M. I had finished my laps and was enjoying the emptiness of the pool, the faint sounds of downtown gearing up for the day, and the drama of the looming office towers. As we learned on September 11th, they really can fall down on top of you. But they wouldn’t on that day. I felt healthy and smug.

Then what I had thought was a ripple in the water turned out to be—no, not a shark with hectoring John Williams music pulsing from a boom box in its stomach. It was a tiny old man in a tiny black bathing suit. He was slowly, slowly completing a lap in the next lane. When, finally, he reached the side where I was resting and watching, he came up for air. He saw me, beamed, and said, “I’m ninety years old.” It was clearly a boast, not a lament, so I followed his script and said, “Well, isn’t that marvellous” and “You certainly don’t look it” and on in that vein. He beamed some more, I beamed, and briefly we both were happy—two nearly naked strangers sharing the first little dishonesties and self-deceptions of a beautiful day in Southern California.

Perhaps sensing some condescension in my praise, he then stuck out his chest and declared, “I used to be a judge.” And I started to resent this intruder on my morning and my pool. Did I now have to tell him it was marvellous that he used to be a judge? What was so marvellous about it? What was his point? But, even as he said this, a panicky realization of its absurd irrelevance seemed to pass across his face, and then a realization of its pathos. When he was a judge—if he had been a judge—he had not felt the need to accost strangers and tell them that he was a judge. And then he seemed to realize that he had overplayed his hand. He had left this stranger in the pool thinking the very thought he had wanted to dispel: the old fool is past it. And finally (I imagined, observing his face) came sadness: he had bungled a simple social interchange. So it must be true: he was past it.

On an airplane seven or eight years ago, I turned and discovered Robert McNamara in the next seat. He is ninety-one now, so he must have been more than eighty at the time. I asked him why he was going to Denver. He said that he was meeting a female friend at the airport and heading for Aspen. It seems that when his wife died he had commissioned in her memory one of a chain of primitive huts on a trail between Aspen and Vail. Now he was going to ski the trail and stay in the huts with his lady. He told me this, then beamed, like my friend in the pool.

Well, life is unfair, but let’s not get carried away. Longevity is not a zero-sum game. A longer life for Robert McNamara doesn’t mean a shorter life for you or me or the average citizen of Vietnam. He’s done that damage, and at his age he won’t be doing more. In fact, he seems to have been spending the gift of a long life trying to make amends—mainly, as he described his recent agenda to me, by flying around the world to conferences where the world’s suffering is deplored. Nevertheless.

From Michael Kinsley’s “Mine is longer than yours” in The New Yorker.

Road trip

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From Berlin-Artparasites.

How can you have lived for so long and still not get it? This self-obsession is a waste of living. That could be spent on surviving things, appreciating nature, nurturing kindness and friendship and.. dancing.

You’ve been pretty lucky in love though.. if I may say so.

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Gorgeous scene from Jim Jarmusch’s film, Only Lovers Left Alive which is really about being in love in a very long-term relationship rather than being about vampires.

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