Rahil Patel

All posts by Rahil

Silicon Valley and Capitalism

18 November 2015 by Rahil

An old thought that’s come up several times invoked by Taiwan’s quick adaptation and prevalent use of AirBnB and Uber, then to an old thought about Yelp, then to eBay.

Let’s start with Uber. Uber I’m told is a peer-to-peer car sharing service. The first problem is that few people should have a car. If one lives in an area that has sufficient public transportation, or a bike-able area, a car has little use. If not, one should move closer, or talk about updating the urban plan. It’s good to make use of old technology [cars], but one should be aware of the work that goes into creating a car and getting oil.

The next problem, perhaps the greatest, seems to occur in several things that come out of Silicon Valley. Uber and AirBnB are for-profit. Sharing in my mind is not for-profit, and the word sharing economy is an oxymoron. This changes the behavior of people as capitalism does, often into something quite disgusting. There is a difference between the person who uses Uber and the person who picks up hitchhikers; The same difference exists between AirBnB and CouchSurfing. The main reason someone is using these services as a provider or host is because they want the money, and it doesn’t require much work for it.

In order for a transaction to occur one person must have an asset or property to rent out. One person accumulated enough capital to own a superfluous asset and is now using it to rent it out for short periods of time. Without a convenient service, it is likely seen as waste of time for the owner, but enabled by convenience and motivated by money, it’s easier to be nudged to make this the decision of using these kinds of services.

[The services enable people to make a decision they aware of themselves: to hitch or to exchange hospitality. If people though of these ideas before they wouldn’t have used taxis or motels in the past.]

A lot of these criticisms started with my experience with Yelp when I lived in San Francisco. I used it for anything: food, grocery stores, laundry, doctors, real futons, supply stores, etc, but mostly, food by searching nearby, or planning trips while exploring neighborhoods to live in. It was good to leave honest reviews, never really giving anything a two or below knowing that people care, or that it can ruin a business. But it was apparent that the Yelp caused people to focus their awareness to the places listed on the website, and further narrowed to those with good reviews, increasing the business of already popular places. Instead of doing everything within one’s locale, physically exploring nearby locations, meeting and talking to neighbors, one uses information then makes the decision. The area I chose to live was so convenient that I’d end up doing any kind of business on within a few blocks radius. I’d often just write reviews for them, which often had no reviews or were not eve listed. Other times, I’d go exploring the city, have an experience with a place, maybe a homely Filipino restaurant or the neighborhood it was in, and write about that. My hope was to bring awareness of these other places, usually local or in working class ethnic enclaves. It probably didn’t work.

The effects of eBay is wild, and this thought predates Yelp. Nearly everything I’ve ordered came from China or Taiwan. eBay facilitates global capitalism. People in less developed countries are producing higher quantity and quality and more customized things, somehow at a cheaper price, although it is coming from the other side of the world. Competition is okay, but for people to shift their actions toward producing items for the conspicuous consumption of people from more developed countries is not. There’s a lot of work to be done in China in regards to basic development needs, yet it must sell useless commodities to get the money in order to develop itself? Capitalism makes my mind hurt.

The pro of all of these is that it provides a service of getting something (hospitality, car ride, products, information) desired conveniently, at one’s personal computer. The con, usually limited to those who have enough money to use these services, is that people are dulled into buying things instead of interacting with the people around, using other forms of transportation, creatively using the material around them, and living in reality.

It seems the only place that has even checked what comes in the country, careful of it’s effects, is Berlin, Germany, whom banned Uber and is cracking down on house rentals, which is fitting as I read this short introduction to the very careful Habermas.

I often think of Silicon Valley (and unfortunately now, San Francisco) as a kind of social zero entropy. There are some somewhat good intentions in there, but it’s only valuable to the class that created it: themselves. [It’s like the failure of the bourgeois public sphere trying to govern all people.] The people lack experience outside of the area, and even much of the area they live in (Oakland, ethnic enclaves), to make any decisions toward anything other than making the machine that is the Valley more efficient. Silicon Valley is in a cycle that creates things to make itself more efficient — materially through industry and socially through industrious work.

Therefore, the products created by this machine are meant for the culture of the machine. Unfortunately, the industry has physically manufactured devices for a global scale, and then created software for those devices, without thought or care of the effects to other cultures. Now, the software affects the behaviors of people around the world. [Hmm, maybe not much argument here, just normal global capitalism effects]

In Taipei alone, people use Tinder to get a quick fuck, a local Tinder clone to meet people, AirBnB (and other hostel websites) to convert apartments into dormitory hostels for tourists, Uber to also rakes profit from tourists, and Taobao (China’s eBay) to obtain items at an even lower price.

Instead of healthy neighborhoods and communities in which resources and services are shared through local relationships, the community is online with people willing to sell or rent resources and services. Instead of genuine experiences such ask asking people for a night, a ride, walking around the streets, or even just talking and meeting people nearby, the Valley’s culture first looks at information to make decisions, then acts upon it in reality. As a result, such decisions are always exclusive. There is no interaction with reality which provides a random set information [, which is then filtered by the mind’s awareness] to inform the decision.

Leave a comment | Categories: and Society, Science, Sociology, Technology

talking to myself to create a statement objective

14 November 2015 by Rahil

talking to myself
to create a
statement objective

talking to myself:

To make MIT’s environment more playful, encouraging interaction to all departments. To move MIT’s physical entity to the city?

Well, that’s probably what will go through my mind once I’m there.

But for now, let’s try to figure out some objectives here.

Wait, let me peer into a past application for a moment…

Hmm, looks like public and games. I’m guessing I was at a downtime then, in my parent’s bedroom in India, and wrote it, thinking fondly of my more game and new media oriented New York former self, and thinking less about the world around me at the time. Perhaps, wanting to escape to my childhood, playful, with less focus on society, and its infinite responsibilities.

But now my objectives are less game-oriented. Though using sensors and materials for design is still awesome, but civics seems to be where it’s at. It’s about developing communities. Public spaces, public policies, shifting people to make better decisions, sharing, walking, experiencing people and nature, creating a livable environment for all. Creating a better city. And I thought I could facilitate that by designing things for the city, to encourage interaction to further develop communities, to make better decisions, to make a positive impact.

Another objective, created during my downtime in isolation, as opposed to the uptime I’m engaged in a social networks of a city, I also felt tools for knowledge and organization could be useful. But in this case, I was influenced by the need of money, hoping to get an iOS gig to pay off debt quickly, and not hate myself while doing it. Most of these ideas should be left to people in San Francisco trying to create morally good tools under the influence of high land value rent slavery. How the fuck can people mold silicon atoms to transfer information, but not think about why they pay so much to be in the place they are? Hmmm…back to this… Though the tools for knowledge are useful in self-education, it’s the tools for organization of peoples that’s more needed.

Yes. Urban Planning at the Media Lab. Paradoxical? Media doesn’t affect people as real experiences do. One doesn’t understand another’s life by experiencing the media of another. One understands only by being in their position, at that space and time, which is, impossible.

…Sidetrained. List three faculty / research groups.
Two I know from past Google’ing:
1. Civic Media (current interest)
– maybe the dude who’s making Action Path
2. Responsive Environments (was divided from Tangible Objects?, a past interest)
– maybe the dude who made ma-key ma-key [now under Lifelong Kindergaten]

[These three go together. 1 for civics, 2 for applying tech to civics in the physical environment.

Maybe 3 should be living mobile for a continuation of being civic while being outside]

For the third, I have to look at the list. I probably shouldn’t look as it may distract me from what I want. But eh, I couldn’t resist… It seems there’s a huge overlap between my current interest of community-building / town planning (the term urban development sounds city-exclusive): Changing Places, Civic Media, and Social Computing. There’s also a lot of overlap for my interest in games and new media: Tangible Objects, Playful Systems, and Lifelong Kindergarten (stemming from games for education). [In fact, the entire department could be graphed with many past thoughts and ideas.]

3. have to look at the list… Hrmm..
– Changing Places, and its projects fails to recognize that people will create places to work for themselves. For myself, I enjoy working outside. That already defeats many of it’s projects. It also seems to fail take into consideration people of low income, the advent of public wifi (hopefully Boston has? lol.), and just generally the bare minimum a human needs to live and work. It shouldn’t be about creating places. It’s about modifying what exists to make it livable. A portable enclosed space, air conditioner, and battery seems enough. Then it becomes a social issue, of how the space affects the people nearby.
– Human Dynamics. Though I’m interested in mapping cities, I’m not so interested I seem to have an instinctual dislike of gathering human data and using it. I prefer the complexity of infinite data coming and and going out. Perhaps this data could be used to design better cities, but that that takes the fun out of organizing the mess. Again, this seems to be too rational.
– …!

Ah! That reminds me. I have a personal statement on my website! Perfect. Well, there’s no groups for empowerment (rescuing people from slavery — whichever slavery that may be), and the experience of being in such an environment will make it difficult for me to think about these issues, but I would have to think of my past, my past experiences, and constantly watch video of the rest of the world, then create designs on what I feel would work in any place in the world.

My first objective mentions creativity from materials (material science?). This I agree. It’s the basis of new media, the fun of my past time in New York with interactive art and all. But most importantly, it’s about having the knowledge of existing materials, and then letting the mind create forms out of that, to affect people, socially, interactively. The problem with most of the groups is that it is all data driven. Not physical. Where’s the fun in that? Therefore, one of the material-heavy research groups is necessary, just for the sake of having materials in working memory, and hopefully come in use in creative times. And in this case, it seems Responsive environments is similar to Parson’s Design and Technology, in that it uses sensors and public space. That’s perfect, because I don’t have the knowledge for Tangible Objects. But shouldn’t I try?

My second objective is community development, city development, and, in the context of Taiwan, national development. Which is Civic Media.

Hmmm…sidetraining to more groups:
Macro Connections – mentions a previous thought: all products should have a face. Which is absolutely important in decision-making in a globalized industrial age. Especially in wasteful post-modern societies. I am spoiled with Taiwan’s resourcefulness. Nothing goes to waste here, well, nothing materially, of human effort, a lot. Though the statement, transforming data into knowledge is great, the projects seem very data-driven.

…More wandering about their projects… It seems maybe one project from each group is of interest. Such as Spotz from Living Mobile or You are Here! from Social Computing. I guess I shouldn’t look at the projects, and stick to their group’s statement. And for that, Scalable Cooperation seems nice, though, I’m not interested in Kickstarter and the like. Rather, just Action Path. But that’s a part of Civic Media.

Playable Systems is something done on the side for fun. So is Design Fiction. Both seem to fall under art, not research. Save that for free time.

Which leaves two, maybe, I’ve got quite lost in all this junk: Living Mobile and Lifelong Kindergarten. Living mobile for my nomadic life and of course to educate people while they work (or vice versa, or simultaneously), and, Lifelong Kindergarten.

Hmmm yeah, forget it all and stick to my statement.


Re-read these thoughts and put them inside [square brackets].

ideal objectives:
I want to continue living in Taiwan, manage a public space in a city, collaborate with organizations here, be a part of my neighborhood, city, and country; I want to be a part of the civic decisions that goes on it, make it better by giving people methods to make civic decisions and methods to take action beyond the recent social media leveraged protests, organize reality to help decision-making; help communities maintain themselves by being aware of local problems, encourage people to socialize and collaborate with neighbors, encourage sharing; further autonomy with self-service housing, workspaces, and work; etc. all those ideals.

development of tools as the method toward ideal objectives:
To complete these objectives: there should be tools to help organize people physically and stay up to date with those people digitally, to allow people make civic decisions and take action, to allow people to educate themselves under the circumstances of the current lifestyle,tools to teach community leaders how to organize, to enable community leaders to organize urban data, to match the right solver to the problem; There should be a better designed city to calm people from moving and find people nearby to work with. Simple ideas should exist to facilitate sharing. There should be tools to have local discussion, to corrode corruption; Thanks to Taiwan’s solidarity, the autonomy of the country can be furthered with successful examples of the uses of spaces — housing, education, work, play, and mixes; etc. all those ideal, tools.

a note:
I am mostly thinking of Taiwan here because I cannot think of the scale of America — in size, development, and wealth. I am ignoring these things in the hope that tools will increase self-learning within self-interest, and when within a community, of the interest of others, as it worked for me.

two paths:
Continue living and working toward these ideals in Taiwan, starting with a space, as I normally do, but with the guidance of MIT Media Lab. This is less directional, but is constantly executed in reality and more pragmatic (bottom-up, agile, etc.).

If it is impossible to attend MIT Media Lab remotely, then, because of the physical restriction, my objectives will be far more tool development oriented, more exclusive, and far more influenced by the people, work, and materials in the space. This is further from reality, and I will have to simulate my past social construction of the world to think about what tools would be needed.

For community-based civics, the first path is better. For exposure to materials, ideas, and people, the second.

I’m going to assume only the second path is possible due to policy limits of the institution and simulate a civic-oriented public space to think of a few projects:

1. I want to create a tool to allow people (likely advanced urban peoples) to be able to create geopoints of interests to begin a forum for discussion, replacing the neighborhood town hall meeting with constant discussion (note: it would be up to the privileged smartphone-carrying generation to then communicate with non-tech people). A Civic Media project, Action Path, seemed close on paper, but far in presentation.

1. Further tools to enable people to take civil actions where it is beyond their own control. Enable people to be able to directly give real and current information to the right organization i.e. sending a picture. Facilitate the process of grant writing. Micro-grant writing and giving? How do civic-oriented people make money?

2. Use simple ideas, sensors, and simple DIY objects in the city to enhance community life, further civic decision-making, and incite action. How does the physical and digital match? DIY polling machines? How can I hire someone near me for a task, gig, or job? How can someone leave a task in a physical space (Taiwan loves physical signs, and I do too)? Spread the idea of sharing material within a community (starts with signs), and create tools for it.
*. How to enable people to transform local areas into an Exploratorium filled with current knowledge, yet avoid over-development or tourism.

2. Give community leaders tools to create maps from data, scrape data, and create data, though, it’s possible that the existing tools are enough.

3. Be in conversation with the crowdsourcing people. The digital distribution of wealth is not in my domain until it affects a physical location, to which there should be consent of the local people. Besides, it generally needs more checks.

*. Improve my current self-education toolset of mobile applications. This includes reading, writing, watching, sources, curriculums, social, and experience. Think about the fastest ways to record an idea digitally and convey it. Think about how curriculums can be individually created and crowdsourced, using real local examples and digital media organized by those autodidacts. Gather the learned information [with consent] such as highlights and notes of an eBook, and video clips and its annotations, for future educational use.

development of tools as the method toward objectives:
The tools are simple. Mobile and web applications. Maybe it gets a little fancy with sensors in public places, or games. Perhaps it’s the execution and spreading of ideas that is more important.

priority problem of tools development:
Being outside of the city and inside a lab, I believe it’s quite difficult determine which tool is needed more, and which needs more development. When does a physical sign, a bulletin board, a mother sitting on a porch suffice, and when does it not? The priorities depend on the individual or organization. The norms of how people interact change by society and area.

more public space experience as a bonus objective:
During my life I’ve been lucky to stumble upon great people and great groups of people in certain spaces: a public room of my college, a progressive K-12 school in Zhongli (Taiwan), an NGO in Thailand, a cafe / performance venue in Kuala Lumpur, an outdoor restaurant in Nepal, a co-working civic space in Taizhong (Taiwan), Taipei Fablab, and countless hostels (or other shared living situations).

Though they are all great, in my mind, Babycastles is the epitome of a public space. It has the civic values, diversity, technical knowledge, and energy.

MIT Media seems to be the only academic department I know that comes close to my ideals and my directions (at this moment).

I’m sure MIT Media Lab is similar to all those spaces I love: consensus decision-making, messy physical space, messy digital notes, impromptu city meetups, calls, messages, pictures, poor food decisions, and the sort. But I’m also sure there’s lot to learn in doing it under an academic umbrella, with the rigor of the best.

the takeaway / reverse brain drain:
When the program is complete, I hope to muster all of my experience toward creating spaces around Taiwan, and perhaps later, less developed countries nearby, to help people help themselves.


a comparison of my direction (statement and method) and MIT Media Lab’s direction:
My history is filled with games, media (mostly film) studies, living in cities, traveling and volunteering. In order, it was technology, media,

Over my life, it seems my ideas align with MIT Media Labs, so much so that a map could be created.

my ideal space and MIT Media Lab’s space:

These ideals seemingly fall under a categorial imperative, and to my surprise, from my experience, people in less developed societies (or ethnic enclaves of American cities) also act upon it, and I find solace within them.

I believe the organization (including public spaces) must be in the city because it is impossible to understand the complexity of a city.

I prefer to complete these objectives by wandering the masses of stimuli of the city, ‘thinking fast’ in the space and time where they are needed, creating with the efficacy of a politically influenced artist, with much awareness of the people’s minds, without decor, without human language.

Therefore, physically attending MIT Media Lab is paradoxical, but the execution of ideals are limited by time and the knowledge of people around me, and I again run into the familiar feeling of seeking like-minded people to be productive.

If I were paid to live and do these things here, I would. I will apply to Taiwan’s schools but I believe for the same reasons Parson’s (The New School) design and technology (D&T) program didn’t work for me, neither will Taiwan’s schools: their classes with real organizations encourage top-down data-driven models, their D&T student body lacked diversity in income, and their space has less tools than their fine arts department, which was exclusive. I often cannot handle such difference in values.

Though their government is very lenient, lawless, and giving, I still have to work with language barrier, self-finance (English tutor or whatever else capitalism values here), and a somewhat traditional government.

I believe it’s possible to educate within public spaces, guide people toward my interests, which are likely in the people’s interest. I found the hard way, that keeping such a space or community alive is more than a full-time job, but worth pursuing.



As much as I want accomplish all those objectives, even after lengths of time of doing others kinds of work and travel, I seem to fall into a habitual trap of doing something from my past self, organizing things on a computer.

It’s wrong. I should be in Nepal searching villages who haven’t received aid, and help organize the examination and earthquake-proofing of housing, or something else direly needed local to my current position.

I want to keep my body in the developing world for everyday experiences to affect me, and to maintain a nearly-purely functional (according to my social reality at that time) lifestyle because this is an audience my mind can make sense of (in my mind).



[todo: read it all!]
https://civic.mit.edu/blog/erhardt/notes-on-monitory-democracy-and-a-networked-civil-society (todo: read it)


http://dusp.mit.edu/behavior-and-policies-2014 *****

statement objective:
“Statement Objective” for MIT Media Lab:
First, the questions, then some chit-chat.

The Questions:
Why you wish to attend graduate school:
To experience a great space (MIT Media Lab) again and apply it’s successful methods, ethics, and rigour to the ones I desire to create in Taiwan, and wherever else I may be. It’s also nice to experience all of the directions The Lab is going, so that when I am wondering about creatively and philosophically, within a social space or alone, I have some anchored directions to compare my own with.

What you would like to study:
My most desired direction of work overlaps well with the Civic Media group’s [my first field of interest, which seems to have been removed] statement: “…Transforming civic knowledge into civic action…” and “…experimenting with a variety of new civic media techniques, from technologies for protests and civil disobedience…”. I would like to re-experience current massively available technology (sensors, micro-controllers, etc.) and spend time playing with materials (tangible media) to have these things in working memory so that I think of designs for civic and non-civic tools. Ideally (more under Chit-Chat) I prefer to consistently execute and innovate on direct social (society) and urban (material) interventions [/techniques?] to try to near-directly affect human behavior — in small steps toward collectively agreeable things like public safety and health. While experimenting, I would likely want to study anything related to that. The goal is to aid or enable people to make better decisions and actions and conversely to disorganize people from their habituated cultured actions to create social experiences, with the end being to improve society (non-material) and city (material),

I think as a kind of nomadic autodidact, creating tools to facilitate self-education whilst physically moving (Lifelong Kindergarten and Living Mobile) will always naturally come to mind, and as a kind of people organizer so too will tools to facilitate social organizing (Living Mobile again). These interests are auxiliary to the more civic-action-oriented interests, but it sure would be nice to have these groups around to interact with.

The project that comes closest to my interests are the ideas behind Action Path (from the writing), not the product (from the powerpoint presentation), which seems to be far different. Here’s how I imagined it in an email to the creator of it: “I would love to subscribe to any changes in my neighborhood by the government, old-wealthy gangsters (Taiwan’s old private sector), and new-wealth gentrifiers. If the information is not transparent (very likely for all of Taiwan), then people (likely advanced urban peoples) should be able to create geopoints of interests to begin a forum for discussion (and then the new tech generation will hold a physical meeting for the old people).” Or perhaps there should be a small voting device that can be physically placed at locations, for the old generation and keeping votes within proximity.

Promise Tracker tries to “hold elected leaders accountable for political promises”, which is a great idea, but I feel the project’s actions are too lenient to make any meaningful change; Perhaps there are limits to where MIT must adhere to the US’s policies and political agenda. I’d be more interested in how to change and limit the behavior of those who’ve accumulated much wealth in a capitalistic society in a more direct manner.

Perhaps my bias for more direct changes is from my experience in Taiwan, where law enforcement ideology is opposite of US: there is none.

Crowd-sourced data-driven projects (You are Here!, StreetScore, Spotz, [, NGO 2.0?]) are potentially useful but of less priority. Partly because I feel we [in major American cities] have enough information, but have less people who know how to act upon it; And partly because I’m always skeptical about data, especially how urban material affects human minds and lives, and how individual psychology can nullify the affects. [Edit: UK organization mySociety seems pretty good!]

A class from MIT Urban Planning department titled behavior and policies (http://dusp.mit.edu/behavior-and-policies-2014), though heavily referencing pop science books, is perhaps to the closest to my ideal direction of influencing behavior, though in this case it is limited to transportation.

Not really part of ‘what I want to study’, but it may help to know that I think David Harvey’s conception of critical geography is perhaps the closest in describing and theorizing reality [in a capitalistic state] to my mind. I can only think, because I haven’t completed one of his monstrous books.

Any research experience:
Research requires too much time, so I’ve tend to skip to theory or practice and learn the hard way. This is a pretty consistent fault of my personality — think McCandless from Into the Wild —, and hence my interest in quicker solutions such as direct interventions and Banksy style art; I normally do not think systematically and I am not interested in writing about politics into scientific journals; This may be another reason to attend a research graduate school: to experience research, especially at the top research institute. Though, I think I will always be skeptical of any kind of quantitative methods.

Describe one or more accomplishments you are particularly proud of that suggest that you will succeed in your chosen area of research:
I’m particularly fond of my time in New York with the local game and new media scene which resulted in participating in game jams (includes Doodle Tangle prototype), making two games: Pinkies Up and Crystal Brawl, and spending time at Babycastles, an amazing public volunteer-based organization with what now seems incredible values and dreams, and set the bar for what a social organization can be and do.

The hope here is that my design and tech past will converge with my more civil-oriented motivations.

About the Quirkiness of my Application:
Though my application is playfully written, I confirm it is as accurate within the limits of the application form. Of Letters of Recommendation: I won’t ask friends for letters until I enter society and begin talking again so that one has the most recent references, but if needed, I can provide previous letters of recommendation written last year for The New School / Parson’s / Design and Technology program, which are written from my game friends in New York. Of Subjects Taken: I don’t remember much of college work and therefore did not list it. Much of my education during college came from films via the advent of Netflix. Of Financial Support: I currently have no money and how much I will have will depend on the future. It’s all true, though seemingly a joke.

Chit-Chat (extra reading):
What I Want and Why I Applied:
What I really desire is continue living in Taiwan, create a social organization here, not too far from what I feel MIT Center for Civic Media does, with less emphasis on the development of complex tools, and more on practice — using tools to create urban maps, using Action Path to geolocate discussions, using Promise Tracker to keep government in check, follow and use Taiwan’s kickstarter for civic projects, etc. — and for general community hall things for continuous local experience.

The Paradox (written during a more intense time):
I believe the organization (including public spaces) must be in the city because it is impossible to understand the complexity of a city outside of it.

I prefer to complete these objectives by wandering the masses of stimuli of the city, ‘thinking fast’ in the space and time where they are needed, creating with the efficacy of a politically influenced artist, with much awareness of the people’s minds, without decor, without human language.

Therefore, physically attending MIT Media Lab is paradoxical [because it is not in Taipei, and is private], yet the execution of ideals are limited by time and the knowledge of people around me, and I again run into the familiar feeling of seeking like-minded people to be productive.

Now and Next:
I took a break from Taipei and lodged myself in a nearby small town, to which I thought and wrote a lot, beginning with this application meandering to grants applications in which my statement sounds like the creation of a kind of ‘MIT social and urban innovation lab’ and back to this.

I’ve come to the conclusion that granting organizations, or anyone really, won’t fund wild individuals, so I’m just going to have to continue going around Taiwan on a scooter, hopping about social organizations, probably ending back in Taipei Fablab, which is where I will probably begin to organize again because that’s the most open organization I’ve run into here, and would help with obtaining grants.

I’ll also be applying to National Taiwan University’s urban planning program (Taiwan doesn’t have anything like the Media Lab) and scholarships for it, as a strategy to stick myself in Taipei, get funding, and gather local and national organization knowledge, at the cost of time.

Beyond Taiwan:
Though Taiwan is my ideal first area for creating such public spaces for these directions, it is not the limit. I’ve lived somewhat nomadically since college graduation and I try to make a positive social impact wherever I am. The hope is that after MIT I will be more efficient at creating impacts in the right directions in any human settlement.

My Online Portfolio:

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Into the Wild

04 November 2015 by Rahil

[todo: just copied from from text file. I copied quotes from the book because I wasn’t using my e-reader application to read it, and in doing so, I’ve created my longest post; There’s no point of reading this, and therefore posting this? Yet, I want to think about the decisions that McCandless made, because they are similar to some of my own. The notes from the book are also in reverse order, newest on top. Also need to go over thoughts during viewing of film.]

I’ve written quite a bit recently about searching for an the ideal nomadic lifestyle, using the lives of successful like-minded people. This book and film, though both lacking intellectual rigor to understand the protagonist’s thoughts, have an ideal nomad as the subject, making it frighteningly good material for self-reflection.

thoughts [from the next day on a bus to Taipei]
book [over two days]

Into the Wild [film] (second viewing in lifetime):
Why Alaska? Maybe he just happened to be there after a long trip, constantly escaping society.

Perhaps the bus was his death. The lure of a shelter, a home, to organize things and life in, as opposed to the constant decision-making the road offers. Perhaps he would have kept going, in and out of society. But the shelter kept him in place. Perhaps. Well, maybe not. He probably would have continued if he were in good health. Just a matter of lack of nearby health facility.

“The climactic battle of killing the false being within”
– what’s the false being here, the culture of society.

He doesn’t want “things”.

“Chris measured himself and others around him with a fiercely moral code”.

“He risked what could have been a relentlessly lonely path, but found company in the characters of the books he loved…Tolstoy, London, Thoreau…He could summon their words to suit any occasion”

“It was inevitable that Chris would break away, and when he would do it, he would do it with characteristic immoderation”

Immediately after college, he leaves the ?…

Uses car as transport and shelter. Somehow missed flash flood warning. It happens, can’t plan everything.

A documentary proved that in his bag upon death he still had all of his IDs and $300 cash, so he didn’t cut and burn them. It makes no sense to. Have to watch out for fiction.

He leaves his car, just keep moving forward. No point of using time to salvage. Keep creating. Less things.

His tent, still too close to society, as vacationers watersurf nearby. Have to move further, at least away from tourism.

He cleans himself in an outdoor bathroom.

He had good grades in serious subjects, contemporary politics in Africa, Apartheid, food crisis in Africa, etc.

“…Spent four years fulfilling the absurd and tedious duty of graduating college…emancipated from false sense of security, parents, and material excess, things that cut Chris off from the truth of his existance”

Pacific Crest Trail

Bought books on edible plants. Now that’s hardcore.

“Rather than love, than money, than faith, than fame, give me truth.” Paraphrase of Thoreau against the lovely hippie mother who asks to love his parents.

He stays up focused, reading.

Meaningless battles at home, between parents, and some between children and parent.

He moves quick and enthusiastic, like a monkey. :)

Afraid of water.

Reads in solitude, no love, ascetic, but loves humans.

Camps in a hill, not too far from a hitchhikeable road.

Lol, shaving in large farm sprinklers. Yessss.

Doesn’t gamble. Enjoys company, though with a barrier, not giving into culture completely.

Plays music whilst everyone else gets drunk and talks.

Listens to many stories, but doesn’t talk back much, except for his dislike of society.

Vince Vaughn rightly says to go South, and only Alaska during Spring.
– Why north? Because that’s where no one has travelled before? There are many unexplored areas in America, especially in cold mountains. No need to go to Alaska to get away.

Vince getting arrested is the causation of continuing to travel.

After high school he drove cross country in a used Datson.

Lol at permit to paddle on river. Reminds me of when I wanted to dive (with a group) on the east coast of Taiwan, and snorkel some part of Okinawa.

Water is indeed frightening.

Ah shit, didn’t take helmet. So focused on moving forward, sometimes take more risky paths. It’s inevitable. I’ve made some rash decisions too, like taking buses at night, or not wearing a helmet while biking.

Mmm, at age 4 at 3am wondered 6 blocks for some candy. Oh the sweet adventure.

Freedom and simple beauty.

36 days in a cave. Crossed border without care.
– Mmmm, 36 days. The time goes by in a cut of a film, but that’s 36 days of exploring nearby and thinking. The bus only lasted 100 days, so it’s not much different, yet it’s disproportionately cut off like much of the film.

Fit with exercise and shadowboxing.

The city is indeed haunting. Reminds me of my time in New York. I had a lot of rapid thoughts. The problem with film is one doesn’t know what the person is thinking. There could be a lot of complex thoughts going on at any moment in McCandless’s head, but no way to communicate it, not even in writing. What he thinks here is forgotton.

Eat and sleeps at homeless shelter. Quite a different experience than nature. This is indeed what one must resort to in the city.

He’s ashamed to ask for a bed at a homeless shelter.

The dark and trashy inner city. Why would anyone choose not to be a part of culture and live in the city, as opposed to not be a part of culture and live in nature? It’s the society vs not theme. Trying to be a part of society but consistently failing to be, leading to ascetism. Perhaps my ideals where too far from society, that when I tried to implement it in Taipei, I failed, instead, appeared homeless. I tried to be a part of society on my ideal terms, but it doesn’t work, and so I had to get out.

McCandless looks at a mid to upper class restaurant similar to the way I did in New York and Taipei. I didn’t want any part of these places.

But unlike me, he leaves the same night. I camped a few nights by the river. Then had a friend house me for a week. Then a cheap hostel. But I was running out of options, money, and the city wasn’t offering me any outs, as much as I tried, communicated.

The city scenes are at night, nature scenes in day, which corresponds to the times people are active in each area.

The culture is so restricting that he probably didn’t find anyone nice, human in the city. Later, he gets kicked off a railroad for freeloading, as if he made a difference. The strictness of civilization, must have made him want to retreat further from it. At many times I feel society is so beauracratic, so stupid, that I also get away from it.

Lol, works at fast food restaurant for money to get to Alaska. I need to do this right now! Fuck being trapped at this hostel. I can work temporarily and move on.

Thoughts the day after viewing (11/2):
I felt I should go immediately. I can work a temporary job for a little cash. Then if I want, I can go back to Taipei and continue my plan. It’s okay to not begin my plan immediately. It’s great enough that I still desire to do so. It’s better than being at the wrong institution, country, or social group. At least I can still think about it. It’s my grand Alaskan plan.

I can re-learn to eat oatmeal and exercise. I can work and read books. But perhaps I’ve already spent enough time doing these things and desire to be in the direction of my plan, with people. It’s okay. Saving money is a necessary part of it. Or, taking a loan. Whichever. But a loan is cheating. Without the loan I am more free, likely to take on whatever paid gig. The loan requires a plan.

From a bus, I can see the mountains and the towns next to them. Do I want to be there farming? As long as I meet some nice people to talk to.

Or should I go back to my creative self, putting material and idea together for civics or education? That’s where all my active thoughts go toward. Farming will just create slave mentality, no inspiration, like a suburban house.

Maybe it’s the active survival that will wake me up, or at least keep me awake. And that will cause me to act, instinctively to survive. Similarly, isn’t it instinct to protect others, people? That’s worth being active for too. Civics.

Nature provokes thought, for survival. Cities provoke thought, for the betterment of society. Nature teaches one to be self-reliant. Cities allow one to maximize their potential. Nature is indeed backwards.

Use nature as a means for taking a break, not an end. The end is the city. One must alternate between both. Or, keep drifting between small towns and organizations.

notes for Into The Wild book:
“The repugnance to animal food is not the effect of experience, but is an instinct. It appeared more beautiful to live low and fare hard in many respects; and though I never did so, I went far enough to please my imagination. I believe that every man who has ever been earnest to preserve his higher or poetic faculties in the best condition has been particularly inclined to abstain from animal food, and from much food of any kind….
It is hard to provide and cook so simple and clean a diet as will not offend the imagination; but this, I think, is to be fed when we feed the body; they should both sit down at the same table. Yet perhaps this may be done. The fruits eaten temperately need not make us ashamed of our appetites, nor interrupt the worthiest pursuits. But put an extra condiment into your dish, and it will poison you.
“YES,” wrote McCandless and, two pages later, “Consciousness of food. Eat and cook with concentration…. Holy Food.” On the back pages of the book that served as his journal, he declared:
I am reborn. This is my dawn. Real life has just begun[…]”
– here, McCandless finally becomes conscious of everyday life-sustaining activities, of food, work, task, reading. His awareness changed toward his actions. He became aware of more. He created a philosophical base.

“I was under way, propelled by an imperative that was beyond my ability to control or comprehend.”
– monomania is a good word for this too. I surely suffered from this too, with San Francisco, New York, and later travels, but that’s how travel works, you choose a single destination, and go.

“he Devils Thumb demarcates the Alaska-British-Columbia border east of Petersburg, a fishing village accessible only by boat or plane. There was regular jet service to Petersburg, but the sum of my liquid assets amounted to a 1960 Pontiac Star Chief and two hundred dollars in cash, not even enough for one-way airfare. So I drove as far as Gig Harbor, Washington, abandoned the car, and inveigled a ride on a northbound salmon seiner.”
– wow, with very very little money, and enough sense to hitch a salmon boat

“I was working then as an itinerant carpenter, framing condominiums in Boulder for $3.50 an hour. One afternoon, after nine hours of humping two-by-tens and driving sixteen-penny nails, I told my boss I was quitting: “No, not in a couple of weeks, Steve; right now was more like what I had in mind.” It took me a few hours to clear my tools and other belongings out of the crummy job-site trailer where I’d been squatting. And then I climbed into my car and departed for Alaska. I was surprised, as always, by how easy the act of leaving was, and how good it felt. The world was suddenly rich with possibility.”
– also has no problems leaving society, not worrying about it

“I was twenty-three, a year younger than Chris McCandless when he walked into the Alaska bush. My reasoning, if one can call it that, was inflamed by the scattershot passions of youth and a literary diet overly rich in the works of Nietzsche, Kerouac, and John Menlove Edwards,”
– Jon Krakauer read Kerouac

“In July 1992, two years after Chris left Atlanta, Billie was asleep in Chesapeake Beach when she sat bolt upright in the middle of the night, waking Walt. “I was sure I’d heard Chris calling me,” she insists, tears rolling down her cheeks. “I don’t know how I’ll ever get over it. I wasn’t dreaming. I didn’t imagine it. I heard his voice! He was begging, ‘Mom! Help me!’ But I couldn’t help him because I didn’t know where he was. And that was all he said: ‘Mom! Help me!’”
– this makes me worry very much about Mom

“As months passed without any word of Chris—and then years—the anguish mounted. Billie never left the house without leaving a note for Chris posted on the door. “Whenever we were out driving and saw a hitchhiker,” she says, “if he looked anything like Chris, we’d turn around and circle back. It was a terrible time. Night was the worst, especially when it was cold and stormy. You’d wonder, ‘Where is he? Is he warm? Is he hurt? Is he lonely? Is he OK?’”
– mmm, Mom probably thinks in a similar way. Wow, years pass? Impossible, he’s only gone of two years. I’ve done a month though.

“In the spring of 1990, when Walt, Billie, and Carine attended Chris’s graduation ceremony, they thought he seemed happy. As they watched him stride across the stage and take his diploma, he was grinning from ear to ear. He indicated that he was planning another extended trip but implied that he’d visit his family in Annandale before hitting the road. Shortly thereafter, he donated the balance of his bank account to OXFAM, loaded up his car, and vanished from their lives. From then on he scrupulously avoided contacting either his parents or Carine, the sister for whom he purportedly cared immensely.
“We were all worried when we didn’t hear from him,” says Carine, “and I think my parents’ worry was mixed with hurt and anger. But I didn’t really feel hurt by his failure to write. I knew he was happy and doing what he wanted to do; I understood that it was important for him to see how independent he could be. And he knew that if he’d written or called me, Mom and Dad would find out where he was, fly out there, and try to bring him home.”
– similar, but for me, there’s no chance that my parents would come and pick me up. I have no reason not to call. It’s just a feeling of being detached from society at the moment.

“What does she mean ‘whoever I’m with?” Chris railed at his sister. “She must be rucking nuts. You know what I bet? I bet they think I’m a homosexual. How did they ever get that idea? What a bunch of imbeciles.”
– mmm, appears homo, but isn’t.

“Chris seldom contacted his parents that year, and because he had no phone, they couldn’t easily contact him. Walt and Billie grew increasingly worried about their son’s emotional distance. In a letter to Chris, Billie implored, “You have completely dropped away from all who love and care about you. Whatever it is—whoever you’re with—do you think this is right?” Chris saw this as meddling and referred to the letter as “stupid” when he talked to Carine.”
– mmm, pressure from mother. Quite important though. I also didn’t have a phone, or, I chose not to use it. I still don’t.

“During his senior year at Emory, Chris lived off campus in his bare, spartan room furnished with milk crates and a mattress on the floor. Few of his friends ever saw him outside of classes. A professor gave him a key for after-hours access to the library, where he spent much of his free time.”
– lol, spartan is a good word. Milk crates are quite functional, moveable pieces of furniture. Ah, escape to library and media. Hmm. Sounds like my escape to films for a real education.

“he grinding, dusty haul up the Alaska Highway was Chris’s first visit to the Far North. It was an abbreviated trip—he spent a short time around Fairbanks, then hurried south to get back to Atlanta in time for the start of fall classes—but he had been smitten by the vastness of the land, by the ghostly hue of the glaciers, by the pellucid subarctic sky. There was never any question that he would return.”
– deadline of going back to school

“To his dwindling number of confreres, McCandless appeared to grow more intense with each passing month. As soon as classes ended in the spring of 1989, Chris took his Datsun on another prolonged, extemporaneous road trip. “We only got two cards from him the whole summer,” says Walt. “The first one said, ‘Headed for Guatemala.’ When I read that I thought, ‘Oh, my God, he’s going down there to fight for the insurrectionists. They’re going to line him up in front of a wall and shoot him.’ Then toward the end of the summer, the second card arrived, and all it said was ‘Leaving Fairbanks tomorrow, see you in a couple of weeks.’ It turned out he’d changed his mind and instead of heading south had driven to Alaska.”
– lol. No phones at that time? Could have used a payphone. But indeed, less and less contact.

“As assistant editorial page editor of The Emory Wheel, he authored scores of commentaries. In reading them half a decade later, one is reminded how young McCandless was, and how passionate. The opinions he expressed in print, argued with idiosyncratic logic, were all over the map. He lampooned Jimmy Carter and Joe Biden, called for the resignation of Attorney General Edwin Meese, lambasted Bible-thumpers of the Christian right, urged vigilance against the Soviet threat, castigated the Japanese for hunting whales, and defended Jesse Jackson as a viable presidential candidate. In a typically immoderate declaration the lead sentence of McCandless’s editorial of March 1, 1988, reads, “We have now begun the third month of the year 1988, and already it is shaping up to be one of the most politically corrupt and scandalous years in modern history….” Chris Morris, the editor of the paper, remembers McCandless as “intense.”
– one should be immoderate. Chris was right again.

“Chris’s seemingly anomalous political positions were perhaps best summed up by Thoreau’s declaration in “Civil Disobedience”: “I heartily accept the motto—‘That government is best which governs least.’” Beyond that his views were not easily characterized.”
– a very general view, but fits my autonomism ideals

“That summer, Billie remembers, “Chris started complaining about all the rich kids at Emory.” More and more of the classes he took addressed such pressing social issues as racism and world hunger and inequities in the distribution of wealth.”
– mmm, also did this earlier than me. Again, because I didn’t live in a city, or alone, away from my parent’s home bubble.

“Chris was the sort of person who brooded about things,” Carine observes. “If something bothered him, he wouldn’t come right out and say it. He’d keep it to himself, harboring his resentment, letting the bad feelings build and build.” That seems to be what happened following the discoveries he made in El Segundo.”
– mm, I do this too, and I still think it’s right not to bother unless it makes a behavioral change to a large amount of people. One person’s problems can easily be ignored.

“Like many people, Chris apparently judged artists and close friends by their work, not their life, yet he was temperamentally incapable of extending such lenity to his father.”
– I sure did judge artists by their work instead of their life, but coming from a large suburban house, that’s what probably normally happens, one has to consume media for an education

“Children can be harsh judges when it comes to their parents, disinclined to grant clemency, and this was especially true in Chris’s case. More even than most teens, he tended to see things in black and white. He measured himself and those around him by an impossibly rigorous moral code.”
– mmm, Rorschach / Kantian moral code

“he summer between his sophomore and junior years Chris again returned to Annandale and took a job delivering pizzas for Domino’s. “He didn’t care that it wasn’t a cool thing to do,” says Carine. “He made a pile of money. I remember he’d come home every night and do his accounting at the kitchen table. It didn’t matter how tired he was; he’d figure out how many miles he drove, how much Domino’s paid him for gas, how much gas actually cost, his net profits for the evening, how it compared to the same evening the week before. He kept track of everything and showed me how to do it, how to make a business work. He didn’t seem interested in the money so much as the fact that he was good at making it. It was like a game, and the money was a way of keeping score.”
– interesting to not care about the work and just get the money, as opposed to caring for all actions, including that which makes money
– lol at the game analogy

“I saw Chris at a party after his sophomore year at Emory,” remembers Eric Hathaway, “and it was obvious he had changed. He seemed very introverted, almost cold. When I said ‘Hey, good to see you, Chris,’ his reply was cynical: ‘Yeah, sure, that’s what everybody says.’ It was hard to get him to open up. His studies were the only thing he was interested in talking about.”
– focused on work, impact, not the bullshit American society, especially college society

“The summer after his freshman year of college, Chris returned to Annandale and worked for his parents’ company, developing computer software. “The program he wrote for us that summer was flawless,” says Walt. “We still use it today and have sold copies of the program to many clients. But when I asked Chris to show me how he wrote it, to explain why it worked the way it did, he refused. ‘All you need to know is that it works,’ he said. ‘You don’t need to know how or why.’ Chris was just being Chris, but it infuriated me. He would have made a great CIA agent—I’m serious; I know guys who work for the CIA. He told us what he thought we needed to know and nothing more. He was that way about everything.”
– crazy, also developed computer software. Well maybe not, it’s work local to his parent’s house: DC.
– also, Chris didn’t want to say more because it isn’t required to understand more. That would be a waste of time, of his, and, perhaps, of his father. Maybe. Perhaps just not interested in teaching, and prefers autodidact.

“To his parents’ pleasant surprise, as the school year stretched on, Chris seemed thrilled to be at Emory. He shaved, trimmed his hair, and readopted the clean-cut look he’d had in high school. His grades were nearly perfect. He started writing for the school newspaper. He even talked enthusiastically about going on to get a law degree when he graduated. “Hey,” Chris boasted to Walt at one point, “I think my grades will be good enough to get into Harvard Law School.”
– crazy how school can swerve one toward a systematic direction

“During the course of his travels, Chris had acquired a machete and a .30-06 rifle, and when Walt and Billie drove him down to Atlanta to enroll in college, he insisted on taking the big knife and the gun with him. “When we went with Chris up to his dorm room,” Walt laughs, “I thought his roommate’s parents were going to have a stroke on the spot. The roommate was a preppy kid from Connecticut, dressed like Joe College, and Chris walks in with a scraggly beard and worn-out clothes, looking like Jeremiah Johnson, packing a machete and a deer-hunting rifle. But you know what? Within ninety days the preppy roommate had dropped out, while Chris had made the dean’s list.”
– functional belongings are difficult to depart with
– indeed, he’s serious about school

“So at first I didn’t say anything about the safety aspect. I played tennis with Chris, talked about other things, then eventually sat down with him to discuss the risks he’d taken. I’d learned by then that a direct approach—‘By God, you better not try a stunt like that again!’—didn’t work with Chris. Instead, I tried to explain that we didn’t object to his travels; we just wanted him to be a little more careful and to keep us better informed of his whereabouts.”
To Walt’s dismay Chris bristled at this small dollop of fatherly advice. The only effect it seemed to have was to make him even less inclined to share his plans.
“Chris,” says Billie, “thought we were idiots for worrying about him.”
– mmm

“Near the end of his trip, it turned out, Chris had gotten lost in the Mojave Desert and had nearly succumbed to dehydration. His parents were extremely alarmed when they heard about this brush with disaster but were unsure how to persuade Chris to exercise more caution in the future. “Chris was good at almost everything he ever tried,” Walt reflects, “which made him supremely overconfident. If you attempted to talk him out of something, he wouldn’t argue. He’d just nod politely and then do exactly what he wanted.”
– ah wow. I also had a few dangers: the ATV incident, and I still have to learn to swim.

“After leaving Virginia, Chris drove south and then west across the flat Texas plains, through the heat of New Mexico and Arizona, and arrived at the Pacific coast. Initially, he honored the agreement to phone regularly, but as the summer wore on, the calls became less and less frequent. He didn’t appear back home until two days before the fall term was to start at Emory. When he walked into the Annandale house, he had a scruffy beard, his hair was long and tangled, and he’d shed thirty pounds from his already lean frame.”
– sounds like me after any trip, lol. The calling part is a problem too, but less so when I’m in a city.

“In 1986, on the sultry spring weekend that Chris graduated from Woodson High School, Walt and Billie threw a party for him. Walt’s birthday was June 10, just a few days away, and at the party Chris gave his father a present: a very expensive Questar telescope.
“I remember sitting there when he gave Dad the telescope,” says Carine. “Chris had tossed back a few drinks that night and was pretty blitzed. He got real emotional. He was almost crying, fighting back the tears, telling Dad that even though they’d had their differences over the years, he was grateful for all the things Dad had done for him. Chris said how much he respected Dad for starting from nothing, working his way through college, busting his ass to support eight kids. It was a moving speech. Everybody there was all choked up. And then he left on his trip.”
– sounds like how I feel, but, I never said it directly to him.

“For children are innocent and love justice, while most of us are wicked and naturally prefer mercy.”
– Chesterton

“When I mentioned the offer to Chris,” says Walt, “he wouldn’t even consider it. He told his boss that he had other plans.” As soon as high school was over, Chris declared, he was going to get behind the wheel of his new car and spend the summer driving across the country.”
– sounds like my confidence after my first job

“In a matter of a few months, half a dozen other students were working under him, and he’d put seven thousand dollars into his bank account. He used part of the money to buy the yellow Datsun, the secondhand B210.”
– my Mazda 3 was far more expensive purchase, but similar in that it was a compact, desired hatchback, and okay fuel efficiency

“Her son, the teenage Tolstoyan, believed that wealth was shameful, corrupting, inherently evil—which is ironic because Chris was a natural-born capitalist with an uncanny knack for making a buck. “Chris was always an entrepreneur,” Billie says with a laugh. “Always.”
– mmm, capitalism as outlet and motivation for creativity as a kid. Sold vegetables and printer copies

“hey didn’t flaunt their modest wealth, but they bought nice clothes, some jewelry for Billie, a Cadillac. Eventually, they purchased the townhouse on the bay and the sailboat. They took the kids to Europe, skiing in Breckenridge, on a Caribbean cruise. And Chris, Billie acknowledges, “was embarrassed by all that.”
– mmmm, I really shouldn’t have gone on that Caribbean trip. I was really old at that time. Very embarrassing for myself at that time, not so much for my family. That’s okay, I understood that they’re human.

“McCandless’s personality was puzzling in its complexity. He was intensely private but could be convivial and gregarious in the extreme. And despite his overdeveloped social conscience, he was no tight-lipped, perpetually grim do-gooder who frowned on fun. To the contrary, he enjoyed tipping a glass now and then and was an incorrigible ham.”
– yeah, I enjoyed social life, but didn’t enjoy the norms of consumption of commodity, wasting wealth for fun. Nature is better.

“Chris brought home good grades,” says Hathaway. “He didn’t get into trouble, he was a high achiever, he did what he was supposed to. His parents didn’t really have grounds to complain. But they got on his case about going to college; and whatever they said to him, it must have worked. Because he ended up going to Emory, even though he thought it was pointless, a waste of time and money.”
– mmm, a bit ahead of me here too. He actually thought of not going to college, whereas I didn’t think much of college but attended anyway. Though I care for social problems, I didn’t have the independence to learn how much a waste of money college is, also a waste of time.

“On one occasion Chris picked up a homeless man from the streets of D.C., brought him home to leafy, affluent Annandale, and secretly set the guy up in the Airstream trailer his parents parked beside the garage”

“On another occasion Chris drove over to Hathaway’s house and announced they were going downtown. “Cool!” Hathaway remembers thinking. “It was a Friday night, and I assumed we were headed to Georgetown to party. Instead, Chris parked down on Fourteenth Street, which at the time was a real bad part of town. Then he said, ‘You know, Eric, you can read about this stuff, but you can’t understand it until you live it. Tonight that’s what we’re going to do.’ We spent the next few hours hanging out in creepy places, talking with pimps and hookers and lowlife. I was, like, scared.
“Toward the end of the evening, Chris asked me how much money I had. I said five dollars. He had ten. ‘OK, you buy the gas,’ he told me; ‘I’m going to get some food.’ So he spent the ten bucks on a big bag of hamburgers, and we drove around handing them out to smelly guys sleeping on grates. It was the weirdest Friday night of my life. But Chris did that kind of thing a lot.”
– mirrors my interest in homeless people, but in a rather different way. While I was into documenting them, or interviewing them, he was actually already taking actions, and he was a few years younger than me at that time. I only did that once I went to San Francisco. Though, the encounter with homeless people only occurred because I moved to a city, where I interact with them.
– more direct actions

“On weekends, when his high school pals were attending “keggers” and trying to sneak into Georgetown bars, McCandless would wander the seedier quarters of Washington, chatting with prostitutes and homeless people, buying them meals, earnestly suggesting ways they might improve their lives.
“Chris didn’t understand how people could possibly be allowed to go hungry, especially in this country,” says Billie. “He would rave about that kind of thing for hours.”
– not afraid of the inner city, and doesn’t understand human psyche, but trying to help. Also, living in America still doesn’t make sense how bad inequality is, or how people still do not have homes or food or how prostitution exists.

“McCandless took life’s inequities to heart. During his senior year at Woodson, he became obsessed with racial oppression in South Africa. He spoke seriously to his friends about smuggling weapons into that country and joining the struggle to end apartheid. “We’d get into arguments about it once in a while,” recalls Hathaway. “Chris didn’t like going through channels, working within the system, waiting his turn. He’d say, ‘Come on, Eric, we can raise enough money to go to South Africa on our own, right now. It’s just a matter of deciding to do it.’ I’d counter by saying we were only a couple of kids, that we couldn’t possibly make a difference. But you couldn’t argue with him. He’d come back with something like ‘Oh, so I guess you just don’t care about right and wrong.’”
– mmmmmmmmmmmmmmm, maybe the most affecting part for me. Wants to make a sociocultural difference, but not through a system. Direct intervention. It’s as simple as that: “It’s just a matter of deciding to do it”.

“He internalized the disappointment. He’d go off alone somewhere and beat himself up.
“It wasn’t just running Chris took so seriously,” Gillmer adds. “He was like that about everything. You aren’t supposed to think about heavy-duty stuff in high school. But I did, and he did, too, which is why we hit it off. We’d hang out during snack break at his locker and talk about life, the state of the world, serious things. I’m black, and I could never figure out why everyone made such a big deal about race. Chris would talk to me about that kind of thing. He understood. He was always questioning stuff in the same way. I liked him a lot. He was a really good guy.”
– good diverse upbringing in suburban America

“He was really into pushing himself,” explains Gordy Cucullu, a younger member of the team. “Chris invented this workout he called Road Warriors: He would lead us on long, killer runs through places like farmers’ fields and construction sites, places we weren’t supposed to be, and intentionally try to get us lost. We’d run as far and as fast as we could, down strange roads, through the woods, whatever. The whole idea was to lose our bearings, to push ourselves into unknown territory. Then we’d run at a slightly slower pace until we found a road we recognized and race home again at full speed. In a certain sense that’s how Chris lived his entire life.”
– hahaha this is amazing, reminds me of my biking explorations with friends on my street. It’s also creative and rewarding. Creative in constantly learning to find the quickest route possible, like parkour, and rewarding because one actually physically explores new areas, learning more of reality. It’s empirical, and fun.

“He tried his hand at many sports but had little patience for learning the finer points of any of them.”

“Chris had so much natural talent,” Walt continues, “but if you tried to coach him, to polish his skill, to bring out that final ten percent, a wall went up. He resisted instruction of any kind.”
– no patience, or, does not care for mastering things. Not necessary. Understands it, then moves on. No need to waste time on the last 10%.

“A gifted French-horn player, as a teen he was a member of the American University Symphony but quit, according to Walt, after objecting to rules imposed by a high school band leader.”
– always leaves because rules waste time.

“Their musical rivalry seems not to have damaged the relationship between Chris and Carine, however. They’d been best friends from an early age, spending hours together building forts out of cushions and blankets in their Annandale living room. “He was always really nice to me,” Carine says, “and extremely protective. He’d hold my hand when we walked down the street. When he was in junior high and I was still in grade school, he got out earlier than me, but he’d hang out at his friend Brian Paskowitz’s house so we could walk home together.”
– :). Maybe I wouldn’t be a bad older brother?

“Walt grows quiet, staring absently into the distance. “Chris was fearless even when he was little,” he says after a long pause. “He didn’t think the odds applied to him. We were always trying to pull him back from the edge.”
– edge of society.

“Much of the food he put on the table came from hunting—despite the fact that he was uncomfortable killing animals. “My dad cried every time he shot a deer,” Billie says, “but we had to eat, so he did it.”
– mmm, good argument for vegetarian

“But there were good times, too. On weekends and when school was out, the family took to the road: They drove to Virginia Beach and the Carolina shore, to Colorado to visit Walt’s kids from his first marriage, to the Great Lakes, to the Blue Ridge Mountains. “We camped out of the back of the truck, the Chevy Suburban,” Walt explains. “Later we bought an Airstream trailer and traveled with that. Chris loved those trips, the longer the better. There was always a little wanderlust in the family, and it was clear early on that Chris had inherited it.”
In the course of their travels, the family visited Iron Mountain, Michigan, a small mining town in the forests of the Upper Peninsula that was Billie’s childhood home…”
– family trips, yay

“At the age of two, he got up in the middle of the night, found his way outside without waking his parents, and entered a house down the street to plunder a neighbor’s candy drawer.”
– age 2 or 4?

“Walt bought Billie a Gianini guitar, on which she strummed lullabies to soothe the fussy newborn. Twenty-two years later, rangers from the National Park Service would find that same guitar on the backseat of a yellow Datsun abandoned near the shore of Lake Mead.”
– important belonging to go back for

– thoughts while reading book, grabbing knowledge, or organizing a book’s ideas which relate to my current thoughts / life

“Westerberg pawed through the files at the grain elevator until he found two W-4 forms McCandless had filled out. Across the top of the first one, dating from McCandless’s initial visit to Carthage, in 1990, he had scrawled “EXEMPT EXEMPT EXEMPT EXEMPT” and given his name as Iris Fucyu. Address: “None of your damn business.” Social Security number: “I forget.”
But on the second form, dated March 30, 1992, two weeks before he left for Alaska, he’d signed his given name: “Chris J. McCandless.” And in the blank for Social Security number he’d put down, “228-31-6704.” Westerberg phoned Alaska again. This time the troopers took him seriously.”
– hahahaha, I do this at times too. Silly bureaucracy.

“The papar risked their lives—and lost them in untold droves—not in the pursuit of wealth or personal glory or to claim new lands in the name of any despot. As the great arctic explorer and Nobel laureate Fridtjof Nansen points out, “these remarkable voyages were … undertaken chiefly from the wish to find lonely places, where these anchorites might dwell in peace, undisturbed by the turmoil and temptations of the world.” When the first handful of Norwegians showed up on the shores of Iceland in the ninth century, the papar decided the country had become too crowded—even though it was still all but uninhabited. The monks’ response was to climb into their curraghs and row off toward Greenland. They were drawn across the storm-racked ocean, drawn west past the edge of the known world, by nothing more than a hunger of the spirit, a yearning of such queer intensity that it beggars the modern imagination.”
– hmm, from Ireland to Iceland to a little island nearby, they physically kept escaping society

“Sleight believes that if Ruess had made it across the river alive and reached the reservation, it would have been impossible for him to conceal his presence “even if he was still playing his Nemo game. Everett was a loner, but he liked people too damn much to stay down there and live in secret the rest of his life. A lot of us are like that—I’m like that, Ed Abbey was like that, and it sounds like this McCandless kid was like that: We like companionship, see, but we can’t stand to be around people for very long. So we go get ourselves lost, come back for a while, then get the hell out again. And that’s what Everett was doing.”
– yep, love people and talking, but need time away from society

“Half of the ten sunniest places on record are in the American southwest states of Arizona, Nevada and Texas.”
– http://www.currentresults.com/Weather-Extremes/sunniest-places-countries-world.php
– Travelers, especially campers, are attracted to the sun, just as I am in Asia. It’s no wonder they end up in the sunniest of places. I think McCandless made the mistake of going to a cold place.

“For two days I couldn’t tell whether I was dead or alive. I writhed and twisted in the heat, with swarms of ants and flies crawling over me, while the poison oozed and crusted on my face and arms and back. I ate nothing—there was nothing to do but suffer philosophically….
I get it every time, but I refuse to be driven out of the woods.”
– hah, it reminds me of my sicknesses during travel. Mostly stomach viruses.
– this is a quite silly decision, to not get poison ivy medicine, especially since it’s semi-annual.

“Ruess was just as romantic as McCandless, if not more so, and equally heedless of personal safety. Clayborn Lockett, an archaeologist who briefly employed Ruess as a cook while excavating an Anasazi cliff dwelling in 1934, told Rusho that “he was appalled by the seemingly reckless manner in which Everett moved around dangerous cliffs.”

“Indeed, Ruess himself boasts in one of his letters, “Hundreds of times I have trusted my life to crumbling sandstone and nearly vertical edges in the search for water or cliff dwellings. Twice I was nearly gored to death by a wild bull. But always, so far, I’ve escaped unscathed and gone forth to other adventures.” And in his final letter Ruess nonchalantly confesses to his brother:”
– safety depends on the mind and body, not by policy. Here, I believe, Ruess was right. One cannot comprehend the infinite decisions that go on while climbing a mountain, it is dexterity, and only the adventurer understands their body enough to make those decisions.

“and hundreds of houses of the cliff dwellers, abandoned a thousand years ago.”
– living in abandoned abodes! very good idea.

“I have always been unsatisfied with life as most people live it. Always I want to live more intensely and richly.”
– mmm, intensely and richly.

“The beauty of this country is becoming part of me. I feel more detached from life and somehow gentler….”
– I’ve felt this with Taiwan, but I didn’t feel detached from life until I became stuck inside a closed space. I’ve always felt close with the people of Taiwan, not just the country. The city and small towns, not pure nature. I’ve only felt detached when away from people: scooter trips and time not spent with friends or in public areas such as markets.

“…I have some good friends here, but no one who really understands why I am here or what I do. I don’t know of anyone, though, who would have more than a partial understanding; I have gone too far alone.”
– his mind and interests are too far from society. Happens to me with philosophical thoughts, but now I’ve got e-books which help, some. I don’t have to be alone. I can talk to people using cellular data, real people or a medium of information.

“I have been thinking more and more that I shall always be a lone wanderer of the wilderness. God, how the trail lures me. You cannot comprehend its resistless fascination for me. After all the lone trail is the best…. I’ll never stop wandering.”
– feels that he will never fit society, and simultaneously never stop wondering.

“At eighteen, in a dream, he saw himself plodding through jungles, chinning up the ledges of cliffs, wandering through the romantic waste places of the world. No man with any of the juices of boyhood in him has forgotten those dreams. The peculiar thing about Everett Ruess was that he went out and did the things he dreamed about, not simply for a two-weeks’ vacation in the civilized and trimmed wonderlands, but for months and years in the very midst of wonder….”
– mmm, dreamed and did. Easy to get out of society.

“I had some terrific experiences in the wilderness since I wrote you last—overpowering, overwhelming,” he gushed to his friend Cornel Tengel. “But then I am always being overwhelmed. I require it to sustain life.”
– sounds like me or Peter Pan at times

“At the end of the summer, Everett returned home only long enough to earn a high school diploma, which he received in January 1931. Less than a month later he was on the road again, tramping alone through the canyon lands of Utah, Arizona, and New Mexico, then a region nearly as sparsely populated and wrapped in mystique as Alaska is today. Except for a short, unhappy stint at UCLA (he dropped out after a single semester, to his father’s lasting dismay), two extended visits with his parents, and a winter in San Francisco (where he insinuated himself into the company of Dorothea Lange, Ansel Adams, and the painter Maynard Dixon), Ruess would spend the remainder of his meteoric life on the move, living out of a backpack on very little money, sleeping in the dirt, cheerfully going hungry for days at a time.”
– similar to my short period at Parson’s, and love for city artists

“In Los Angeles, Everett attended the Otis Art School and Hollywood High. As a sixteen-year-old he embarked on his first long solo trip, spending the summer of 1930 hitchhiking and trekking through Yosemite and Big Sur, ultimately winding up in Carmel. Two days after arriving in the latter community, he brazenly knocked on the door of Edward Weston, who was sufficiently charmed by the overwrought young man to humor him. Over the next two months the eminent photographer encouraged the boy’s uneven but promising efforts at painting and block printing, and permitted Ruess to hang around his studio with his own sons, Neil and Cole.”
– just do shit!

“the Ruesses were also a nomadic family, moving from Oakland to Fresno to Los Angeles to Boston to Brooklyn to New Jersey to Indiana before finally settling in southern California when Everett was fourteen.”

“It is true that I miss intelligent companionship, but there are so few with whom I can share the things that mean so much to me that I have learned to contain myself.”
– mmm, not worth the cost of being a part of society

… as to when I revisit civilization, it will not be soon. I have not tired of the wilderness… It is enough that I am surrounded with beauty… This had been a full, rich year. I have left no strange or delightful thing undone I wanted to do.
– a full year of experience! Amazing.

Everett wrote no books during his life, but was a lifelong diarist and sent home hundreds of letters.[16] His journals, art, and poetry were later published in two books
– lifelong diarist. Keep on living, let someone organize the shit you think for you.

Starting in 1931, Ruess traveled by horse and burro through Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, and Colorado, the high desert Colorado Plateau. He rode broncos, branded calves, and investigated cliff dwellings, trading his prints and watercolors to pay his way. He explored Sequoia and Yosemite National Parks and the High Sierra in the summers of 1930 and 1933. In 1934, he worked with University of California archaeologists near Kayenta, took part in a Hopi religious ceremony, and learned to speak Navajo.
– https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Everett_Ruess

“He was an extremely intense young man and possessed a streak of stubborn idealism that did not mesh readily with modern existence. ”

“Alex’s backpack looked as though it weighed only twenty-five or thirty pounds”

“Still, Gallien was concerned. Alex admitted that the only food in his pack was a ten-pound bag of rice. His gear seemed exceedingly minimal for the harsh conditions of the interior, which in April still lay buried under the winter snowpack. Alex’s cheap leather hiking boots were neither waterproof nor well insulated. His rifle was only .22 caliber, a bore too small to rely on if he expected to kill large animals like moose and caribou, which he would have to eat if he hoped to remain very long in the country. He had no ax, no bug dope, no snowshoes, no compass. The only navigational aid in his possession was a tattered state road map he’d scrounged at a gas station.”

expensive backpack

“a diary—written across the last two pages of a field guide to edible plants—that recorded the young man’s final weeks in 113 terse, enigmatic entries.”

“and asked Alex how long it’d been since he ate. Alex allowed how it’d been a couple of days. Said he’d kind of run out of money.” Overhearing this, the friend’s wife insisted on cooking Alex a big dinner, which he wolfed down, and then he fell asleep at the table.”

“. If he started a job, he’d finish it. It was almost like a moral thing for him. He was what you’d call extremely ethical. He set pretty high standards for himself.”

“You could tell right away that Alex was intelligent,” Westerberg reflects, draining his third drink. “He read a lot. Used a lot of big words. I think maybe part of what got him into trouble was that he did too much thinking. Sometimes he tried too hard to make sense of the world, to figure out why people were bad to each other so often. A couple of times I tried to tell him it was a mistake to get too deep into that kind of stuff, but Alex got stuck on things. He always had to know the absolute right answer before he could go on to the next thing.”

“That fall he developed a lasting bond with both the town and Wayne Westerberg.”

“The attachment McCandless felt for Carthage remained powerful, however. Before departing, he gave Westerberg a treasured 1942 edition of Tolstoy’s War and Peace.”

“And McCandless stayed in touch with Westerberg as he roamed the West, calling or writing Carthage every month or two. He had all his mail forwarded to Westerberg’s address and told almost everyone he met thereafter that South Dakota was his home.”
– semi-anonymous dwelling with capital production. Ace.

“history and anthropology major”

“He was offered membership in Phi Beta Kappa but declined, insisting that titles and honors are irrelevant.”
– :)

“She was surprised and extremely touched: It was the first present she had received from her son in more than two years, since he had announced to his parents that, on principle, he would no longer give or accept gifts.”

“Chris had purchased the secondhand yellow Datsun when he was a senior in high school. In the years since, he’d been in the habit of taking it on extended solo road trips when classes weren’t in session, and during that graduation weekend he casually mentioned to his parents that he intended to spend the upcoming summer on the road as well. His exact words were “I think I’m going to disappear for a while.”

“Here is a copy of my final transcript. Gradewise things went pretty well and I ended up with a high cumulative average.
Thankyou for the pictures, the shaving gear, and the postcard from Paris. It seems that you really enjoyed your trip there. It must have been a lot of fun.
I gave Lloyd [Chris’s closest friend at Emory] his picture, and he was very grateful; he did not have a shot of his diploma getting handed to him.
Not much else happening, but it’s starting to get real hot and humid down here. Say Hi to everyone for me.”
– very functional letters, and “not much going on here” type of lack of talk, as opposed to talks of travels to strangers

“During that final year in Atlanta, Chris had lived off campus in a monkish room furnished with little more than a thin mattress on the floor, milk crates, and a table. He kept it as orderly and spotless as a military barracks. And he didn’t have a phone, so Walt and Billie had no way of calling him.”
– mininmalism

“By then Chris was long gone. Five weeks earlier he’d loaded all his belongings into his little car and headed west without an itinerary.”
– no itinerary

“Alex finds Mexicans to be warm, friendly people. Much more hospitable than Americans….”
– :)

“Having reached his destination, McCandless slowed his pace, and his mood became more contemplative. He took photographs of a tarantula, plaintive sunsets, windswept dunes, the long curve of empty coastline. The journal entries become short and perfunctory. He wrote fewer than a hundred words over the month that followed.”

“On January 16, McCandless left the stubby metal boat on a hummock of dune grass southeast of El Golfo de Santa Clara and started walking north up the deserted beach. He had not seen or talked to another soul in thirty-six days. For that entire period he subsisted on nothing but five pounds of rice and what marine life he could pull from the sea, an experience that would later convince him he could survive on similarly meager rations in the Alaska bush.”
– wow, just rice?

“To avoid being rolled by the unsavory characters who rule the streets and freeway overpasses where he slept, he learned to bury what money he had before entering a city, then recover it on the way out of town.”
– hmm

“On February 3, according to his journal, McCandless went to Los Angeles “to get a ID and a job but feels extremely uncomfortable in society now and must return to road immediately.”
– yes

“On February 24, seven and a half months after he abandoned the Datsun, McCandless returned to Detrital Wash. The Park Service had long since impounded the vehicle, but he unearthed his old Virginia plates, SJF-421, and a few belongings he’d buried there.”
– material belongings still important? Or to avoid identity?

“Then he hitched into Las Vegas and found a job at an Italian restaurant. “Alexander buried his backpack in the desert on 2/27 and entered Las Vegas with no money and no ID,” the journal tells us.”
– hmm, to avoid losing anything?

“He lived on the streets with bums, tramps, and winos for several weeks. Vegas would not be the end of the story, however. On May 10, itchy feet returned and Alex left his job in Vegas, retrieved his backpack, and hit the road again, though he found that if you are stupid enough to bury a camera underground you won’t be taking many pictures with it afterwards. Thus the story has no picture book for the period May 10, 1991-January 7, 1992. But this is not important. It is the experiences, the memories, the great triumphant joy of living to the fullest extent in which real meaning is found. God it’s great to be alive! Thank you. Thank you.”
– :)

“When his camera was ruined and McCandless stopped taking photographs, he also stopped keeping a journal, a practice he didn’t resume until he went to Alaska the next year. Not a great deal is known, therefore, about where he traveled after departing Las Vegas in May 1991.”
– stopped because he was experiencing life! Fuck writing.

“the fog and rain was often intolerable.”
– :)

“ In September he hitched down U.S. Highway 101 into California, then headed east into the desert again. And by early October he had landed in Bullhead City, Arizona.”
– toward the heat again and again, so why north?

“On the face of it, Bullhead City doesn’t seem like the kind of place that would appeal to an adherent of Thoreau and Tolstoy, an ideologue who expressed nothing but contempt for the bourgeois trappings of mainstream America. McCandless, nevertheless, took a strong liking to Bullhead. Maybe it was his affinity for the lumpen, who were well represented in the community’s trailer parks and campgrounds and laundromats; perhaps he simply fell in love with the stark desert landscape that encircles the town.
In any case, when he arrived in Bullhead City, McCandless stopped moving for more than two months—probably the longest he stayed in one place from the time he left Atlanta until he went to Alaska and moved into the abandoned bus on the Stampede Trail. In a card he mailed to Westerberg in October, he says of Bullhead, “It’s a good place to spend the winter and I might finally settle down and abandon my tramping life, for good. I’ll see what happens when spring comes around, because that’s when I tend to get really itchy feet.”
– yes, winter hibernation and summer itchy feet

“At the time he wrote these words, he was holding down a full-time job, flipping Quarter Pounders at a McDonald’s on the main drag, commuting to work on a bicycle. Outwardly, he was living a surprisingly conventional existence, even going so far as to open a savings account at a local bank.”
– things get conventional in the winter

“McCandless had tried to disguise the fact that he was a drifter living out of a backpack: He told his fellow employees that he lived across the river in Laughlin.”
– shame? Well, what can one say to normative culture people that don’t understand nomadism?

“In fact, during his first several weeks in Bullhead, McCandless camped out in the desert at the edge of town; then he started squatting in a vacant mobile home. The latter arrangement, he explained in a letter to Jan Burres, “came about this way:”
– hah, my current thought / move. Camp and make some money!

“Thanks so much for the Christmas card. It’s nice to be thought of this time of year…. I’m so excited to hear that you will be coming to see me, you’re welcome any time. It’s really great to think that after almost a year and a half we shall be meeting again.”
– meeting people after a year and a half

“Sometimes I think it was like he was storing up company for the times when he knew nobody would be around.”

“McCandless was especially attentive to Burres, flirting and clowning with her at every opportunity. “He liked to tease me and torment me,” she recalls. “I’d go out back to hang clothes on the line behind the trailer, and he’d attach clothespins all over me. He was playful, like a little kid. I had puppies, and he was always putting them under laundry baskets to watch them bounce around and yelp. He’d do it till I’d get mad and have to yell at him to stop. But in truth he was real good with the dogs. They’d follow him around, cry after him, want to sleep with him. Alex just had a way with animals.”
– good females

“It is true that many creative people fail to make mature personal relationships, and some are extremely isolated. It is also true that, in some instances, trauma, in the shape of early separation or bereavement, has steered the potentially creative person toward developing aspects of his personality which can find fulfillment in comparative isolation. But this does not mean that solitary, creative pursuits are themselves pathological….
[A]voidance behavior is a response designed to protect the infant from behavioural disorganization. If we transfer this concept to adult life, we can see that an avoidant infant might very well develop into a person whose principal need was to find some kind of meaning and order in life which was not entirely, or even chiefly, dependent upon interpersonal relationships.”
– solitude: return to the self

“I don’t recollect Alex ever talking about any girlfriends,” says Westerberg. “Although a couple of times he mentioned wanting to get married and have a family some day. You could tell he didn’t take relationships lightly. He wasn’t the kind of guy who would go out and pick up girls just to get laid.”
– serious

“In high school McCandless had enjoyed a close rapport with two or three members of the opposite sex, and Carine recalls one instance when he got drunk and tried to bring a girl up to his bedroom in the middle of the night (they made so much noise stumbling up the stairs that Billie was awakened and sent the girl home). But there is little evidence that he was sexually active as a teenager and even less to suggest that he slept with any woman after graduating from high school. (Nor, for that matter, is there any evidence that he was ever sexually intimate with a man.) It seems that McCandless was drawn to women but remained largely or entirely celibate, as chaste as a monk.”
– mmm

“When McCandless hugged Borah good-bye, she says, “I noticed he was crying. That frightened me. He wasn’t planning on being gone all that long; I figured he wouldn’t have been crying unless he intended to take some big risks and knew he might not be coming back. That’s when I started having a bad feeling that we wouldn’t never see Alex again.”
– crying because he left another society, a good one

“Hey Guys!
This is the last communication you shall receive from me. I now walk out to live amongst the wild. Take care, it was great knowing you.
– hmm, determined to live self-reliantly

“It may, after all, be the bad habit of creative talents to invest themselves in pathological extremes that yield remarkable insights but no durable way of life for those who cannot translate their psychic wounds into significant art or thought.”
– very good quote by Jon Krakaeur to choose

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Only Yesterday

10 October 2015 by Rahil

[todo: review thoughts]

Thoughts from Only Yesterday (おもひでぽろぽろ, Omohide Poro Poro, literally: memories come tumbling down)





































– 可是,有費,需要很多工作,industrial revolution and time not mentioned.

The problem with narratives is that they show life, instead of showing a method to improve society. Narratives will only deeply affect those who have experienced similar times as the characters have, which is often limited to the society the characters live in.

For example, here, I am reminded of farmers in Taiwan, Taiwan’s rural areas such as Yilan county which I am currently residing in and the east coast, which I have travelled recently.

Other than that, nothing to the film applies to my life, and is therefore impractical to me.

General themes exist. The special ones here are the fakeness of short-term tourism, the difficulty of socialization, and a female’s perspective in contemporary society.

But as usual, narratives are just consumables, not reality, nothing to react to. Quite different from a practical handbook, a workshop, or a social experience.

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Winter’s Bone

04 October 2015 by Rahil

[todo: need to review thoughts]

Thoughts during a viewing of Winter’s Bone:

Their school is not much different from my own: army training classes (ROTC, whatever that acronym was for), teaching young female students how to carry a child, general guidance in life. I didn’t touch any of that.

The mother has to take care of kids, a dog, and a horse. She must wash clothes, cut wood, comb her mother’s hair (optional). This is life without technology. Not enough free time or simultaneous time to consume media.

Law as major problem. How can the law allow the father to put the house on bail. Does the police not care for people?

~”Never ask to what ought to be offered.” This is a moral the mother teaches to her son, even in the face of hunger. I don’t believe it. Technology should be shared, along with food and housing.
Temporarily gave horse to neighbor for care because low on money. Neighbor offers to take care and allows to use technology to chop wood more efficiently. Food is low too. Difficult to survive.
Must teach kids how to survive. This community is barely surviving, in the most developed nation. These kinds of places actually exist in Suffolk, Virginia.

Asks to come in to friend’s house.

Actually, that was normal in College Park too. Though, on film, it seems so unnatural, unsocial.

Even the mother must ask her husband to use “his” truck, to help her friend by giving a ride. Hmm, maybe she asks to come in because the father owns the house. Well, the father’s parents gave it to them. So much property non-sharing already.

It really is the survival of the fittest, as opposed to communism.
Mmm indeed gender difference in marriage.

Uncle has a gun. Went to army? Treats humans like animals without feelings.

Can’t escape to city? This community is barely surviving. No media about cities? Or any better place for living?

Men settle “business” while women stay at home. Feels like such an ancient society, like that Kurosawa film Dodeskaden, yet it exists.

Blood. The big man.

Skinning and gutting a squirrel is indeed weird to a new person, unnatural.

Gossip as belief of who has power? Or gossip as fear from law?

I stopped writing perhaps before buildup of climax. Not so much because it was somewhat socially realistic and thrilling, but because it contained many elements of a thriller narrative and tropes, such as a good uncle that acts bad uncle (think Professor Snape), a badass gang with a gang leader, and so on. Yet it somehow mixed in quite an unfamiliar setting in the Ozarks of the U.S, making it feel quite real. I guess I’m not ready for narratives, and rather stick to film essays.

A quick Google search brings a Facebook post of an Ozark resident listing many differences from reality. In neorealism, is it more important to depict reality or use a film formula to ensure smooth viewing?

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Anchors, Famous Nomads, and The Ideal Nomadic Lifestyle

30 September 2015 by Rahil

After long travels, I read one biography and one auto-biography: Ray Monk’s biography of Ludwig Wittgenstein and and the auto-biography of Bertrand Russell.

I was able to deeply relate with Wittgenstein, often arguing against Ray Monk’s excellent take, especially of the portion of time he spent in towns and villages in cold places, teaching, not wanting to teach, constantly philosophizing, constantly trying to maximize time, constantly thinking, constantly exploring, suffering from the need of a social life and the failure to have a consistent one.

At the time, I found Russell extremely cold, narrow in view, not including is equally narrow analytic philosophy and morals. Though somewhat interesting due to early philosophy and later political interests, the most interest part was his contact with Wittgenstein, to further understand to Wittgenstein from another mind.

Overall, though I enjoyed Russell’s political campaign during the Cold War, and his trip in China, I otherwise disagreed with his lifestyle as an ideal to achieve, instead, keeping Wittgenstein as a pretty good philosopher model. Wittgenstein’s mind was separated form body. It enabled him to think about anything during any time. Experiencing and thinking. Often trying combine them, but failing. Going to University, just to leave in disappointment. Steeped in reality, of war and developing societies.

Recently I read a bit of a biography of Paul Erdos (Erdős), The Man Who Only Loved Numbers. There was a review on the front flap:

To find another life this century as intensely devoted to abstraction, one must reach back to Ludwig Wittgenstein (1889-1951), who stripped his life bare for philosophy. But whereas Wittgenstein discarded his family fortune as a form of self-torture, Mr. Erdos gave away most of the money he earned because he simply did not need it… And where Wittgenstein was driven by near suicidal compulsions, Mr. Erdos simply constructed his life to extract the maximum amount of happiness.

Though I believe Wittgenstein’s life and insight is far more broader and valuable, Erdos’s lifestyle serves as a pretty good alternative model. He uses math as a constant anchor, a creative endeavor, a medium. With math, he maintained math friends. With philosophy, Wittgenstein deterred intellectual relationships, even other philosophers. Both were successful, but Erdos was far more consistent.

Like Wittgenstein, Erdos seemed to also live nomadically. Erdos seemed to be more of a couch-surfer of friends and institutions, whereas Wittgenstein had no social connections, or often cut them off. Math is considered a formal science and therefore is appreciated by society. Philosophy is not, especially not any novel form of it. The difference is skepticism, and that difference, makes one’s life very difficult. Russell was one of the few trying to hold him as a social contact, but the relationship worked best through letters, not in the same institution.

Like Witggenstien, Erdos also separated mind and body. Math is perhaps even more theoretical than some philosophy, which may have increased the separation. Erdos lived quite unhealthily, drinking caffeine and taking meta-amphetamines, eating cold cereals. He didn’t spend time on material. It’s a waste of time. I believe Wittgenstein also spent little time on material, and more time walking, thinking, and for a few moments, teaching.

Though Erdos was usually deep in math, he seemed to be well experienced, understanding much of society and politics too, highly likely because of his nomadic life. It’s a good balance, doing work with friends and traveling between friend’s places. It resulted in the most amount of math papers, and, probably affected just as many non-math people in his life.

Upon reading that front flap, I thought, perhaps, I also need an anchor, a medium. Games was a past anchor, then perhaps it was new media, but during travel it was lost in the chaos, then found again with language (philosophy). The mind needs some kind of anchor to organize the material to be creative. Recently, I’ve seen some good film essays by Chris Marker and Jia Zhangke. Video can be a good anchor. It doesn’t have to be a medium. It could be any subject. Perhaps in the process of living and trying to philosophizing everything in generality, I failed because I wasn’t specific?

No. Cities, urban planning, human geography, marxism, social change are all good directions. I think I just want something to fall back to. Something that society also strives for. Perhaps I’m being a coward at the moment, not embracing chaos. But to tame chaos, isn’t some kind of medium needed? Or should one skip medium and directly affect it? Are the particular direct affects not greater than the general? What’s more important: math or affecting individuals? Creating new mediums and broad film essays or helping neighbors?

Perhaps I failed to find a way to match my past creative endeavors (art mediums) with my later socio-political endeavors. Perhaps my values shifted from depicting realism in art mediums to pragmatically affecting reality. Or, perhaps I failed because I failed to find people with similarly broad interests.

Wittgenstein constantly strived to be creative and explore philosophy, and at times of teaching, do it socially. He often failed during the social times, or, they were short-lived.

Erdos kept his endeavors separate. One part math, one part nomadic and sociopolitical. His math endeavors were social too, which made it easy to stay somewhat stable.

Most recently, I saw a documentary on Julian Assange, another nomad. He was able to successfully use his early creative endeavors, hacking, as a means to his later socio-political motivations. Perhaps using creative endeavors as a means for sociopolitical changes is indeed the best path. Use new media as a means to an political ideal end, with a dash of aesthetics. The direction is always a better society. The solutions are multiple, allowing one to be creative.

Another problem is of simultaneously being part of a society whilst creating something about the society one lives in, or, of another, or of several. How does one have a social life while living nomadically. All three philosophers lived an irregular social life. Wittgenstein and Julian had few social connections at any given time in life. Erdos had a better normative social model, by calling mathematicians at random times of the day. Though eccentric, he was able to maintain a social life, avoid hermitude. Assange’s ability seems to be greater: he seems to be able to create a social organization wherever he goes, gathering people (or “volunteers”) to take action at any moment. Wittgenstein failed to do this [because his peers were in higher institutions], and Erdos didn’t need to do this because his interests were limited to math. Again, Assange serves as a better role model because his ability of making his creative and sociopolitical endeavors social.

It’s the innate sociopolitical desire for positive change that allowed Julian to always be able to do things with people. When one is doing something that the entirety of society (save greedy people) agrees with, life is indeed easier, and better. Math is socially limited to other mathematicians, some parts of philosophy is limited to other philosophers, but sociopoltical progress is something everyone is willing to pitch in to.

Sociopolitical progress is the ideal anchor. As long as sociopolitical progress is the [end] goal of an individual’s actions is directed toward, the individual will always have someone to talk to. The methods, mediums or direct action, do not matter, as long as one communicates the end goal.

After watching N Is a Number: A Portrait of Paul Erdős, of which much is repeated in the pop biography The Man Who Only Loved Numbers, some more thought occurred.

Erdos was described to be able to remember the current progress all of his social experiences associated with mathematics, and in this way, he was able to use a social network of mathematicians (via telephone, e-mail, and meetups), maximizing progress by allocating problems to each mathematician’s forte; Or asking the right people the right questions (problems). He was the nexus of mathematics, overseeing the progress of the a great portion of the field, excavating knowledge from “The Book” from all directions. He didn’t spend much time on creating theories or frameworks, instead, he opted to continue asking questions, like a Socrates of mathematics, but to do this one must have quite a good framework already in the mind. In this way, he could focus time on exploration [of math], as opposed to organization [of math]; He only organized people for the sake of mathematic exploration, which probably has a greater chance of progress than organizing knowledge into theorems.

Upon being kicked out of the United States, he “chose freedom”. He then chose freedom from institutions. This allowed him to collaborate with anyone at anytime — any of his time at least, and his collaborators probably usually wanted to work together. The clear fault here are institutions, which limits broader social collaboration, and probably more so during his time, institutions were quite specialized.

Using Erdos’s methods, I wonder of the results of it’s application to sociopolitical organizing. When one is socially connected to many sociopolitical organizations and people, one can contact any one of these people at anytime, maximizing social progress by allocating the the right problems to the right people.

Hmm, no, it’s not quite the same. It works for math because math is already such a specialized field of knowledge. In the case of social, political, and environmental progress, though there are individuals with more experience, the interest exist within many of the people that make up a community. Only allotting problems to pre-existing organizations leads to bureaucracy. The problems should be allocated to anyone who volunteers in the effort. The most an individual can do is increase the efficiency of civic progress by providing tools and methods, or use the methods of social movements and lead them, or be a saint via consistent direct action.

[forgot to mention Zizek’s lifestyle twice, including his Socrates-esque lifestyle and his interest in theory because politics, an implementation of theory, takes too much time]

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Laputa: Castle in the Sky

28 September 2015 by Rahil

[todo: review thoughts]

Thoughts during a viewing of Laputa: Castle in the Sky (天空の城ラピュタ, Tenkū no Shiro Rapyuta):

Beautiful intro production. Feels like Leonardo Da Vinci’s notebooks. Perhaps Takahata helped here.

Physical work, in tune with reality, the material world.

Few materials are needed.

Wake up when the sun comes up.


Childhood ambitions.

Always interested in flying. Even the stone allows one to float.
Far less realistic and cartoon like than The Wind Rises and Kaguya.
The characters eat egg, will that disappear as civilization progesses?

Created new species of cows.

Always grows up in nature.

In the cave they drink from the river and cook their own meal.
The exploration of the underground is equivalent to the exploration of space.

The rocks underground in harmony with the sky.

A nice old rugged single traveler.

Characters in Miyazaki’s films are never afraid to meet strangers, shows many forms of humanity

Sublime clouds.

A castle in the sea is of the army. It includes a prison.
Organization of humans to explore Laputa, sounds like the space program.

The army, pirates, and government in search of treasure, alike.
Like Kaguya, the princess suddenly came into the world, from another, but grew up on Earth.

Can one go back into habit of life and forget the past?

Pirates, guerrilla warfare.

The boy’s pets are birds. Care shown through caring of pets, as the characters don’t have younger siblings.

Destructive science, useless war machines.

Lol, material jobs given to kids, indeed such a pain. Though, a bit generalizing of women’s work, quite in contrast with the grandma pirate.

Like JRPGs, Miyazaki’s a one’s are a good way to explore the world, it’s nature, people, places.

The pirate engineer looks like Wiley from Megaman.

Pirates motivated by capital, capitalism?

The Pirates are a cute family.

Doing work and contributing to a community with whatever skills you have.

The father pirate is good with systems, mechanical, chess, and social.

Waking up from bed to another’s voice.

“Airships are improving, someone will find it.”

Robots are strange, but peaceful, like a good human society, with their own language.

“You can climb trees can’t you?”

Army “no better than thieves”.

Same family, nurtured by different habitats, nature and city.

Laputa died because it couldn’t survive without the earth.

Perhaps the most theme-rich of Miyazaki’s films.

Some humans strive for organization, some strive to live peacefully with disorganization. The choice depends on the nurture of people. People must be nurtured with nature for a good future.

Hmm, stunning throughout. A perfect film.

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The Tale of the Princess Kaguya

22 September 2015 by Rahil

Thoughts written while watching The Tale of the Princess Kaguya (かぐや姫の物語, Kaguya-hime no Monogatari). More thoughts written underneath each thought on 10/3:

Nature, the love of it, the love of child caring, the love of eating fresh fruit, the adventure of hunting, the amazement of craft.
– I agree with Studio Ghibli in the decision of creating main characters whom are raised closed to nature and grow up with good values, which are never lost.

Gold as currency. Work for capital, work becomes habitualized, work uses a great portion of life. Material and production easily shown in rural area.
– Education of material before going to the city, where material is focused upon less, even forgotten, because of daily habit of living in an artificial area.

Leaving nature for the city at adolescence.
– Good coming-of-age film.

Similarities to Lion King, my first favorite film.
– Indeed, the thieves in the rural area are like Timon and Pumba.

The palace is nothing like nature, an isolation chamber for forced learning, socialization.

Playfulness and games during learning, serious when needed.
– I was a little giddy when this was clearly added, as Kaguya learns whatever the teacher of manners says, but playfully, and only serious when needed.

Didnt Takahata play the piano? Maybe a little of his childhood is infused in here.

Studies because she wants to, or out of habit?

Culture as a joke, though it exists.

Out of education of culture, can’t escape society? Can’t be a thief, a beast? Impossible to go back to rural life? Habits too strong? Unwilling to rehabitualize rural life?
– Showing that Kaguya became socialized to the city’s society to the point of being unable to go back and join past rural society was a good decision too. I don’t think this conflict occurred in The Lion King.
– Furthermore, it seemed the thief was viewed as, using Aristotle’s term, a beast, a person who lives outside of society. The thief is only a beast to the city’s society, as he has his own society.

Three years pass by quietly, in habit, doing nothing? Recreating home in the form of a garden? Art as recreation of home. Art as imitation of nature.
– Habit will indeed make time pass by without much thinking.
– Kaguya and her mother recreates home with a garden, but is eventually unsatisfied with the imitation. A sense of belonging. Forced migration? Along with the consistent theme of being raised in nature in Studio Ghibli films, this theme of belonging to nature follows logically, and is equally necessary. It’s especially relatable during times of mass urbanization, though, people have always been migrating. Maybe it’s natural?*

Mmm boring in the middle, especially with forcing 5 princes, but good near the end.

It’s interesting that the moment the Majesty grasps her, her duty comes to mind, signifying a strong feeling of refusal, and resulting in a flash of a vision.
– It takes a strong action to evoke an equally strong emotional response for the character to be reminded of direction and take action in response. It breaks her out of her habitual life.

The kids and dogs sing their song of beasts and bugs in a different way, mentioning the temporal part of life, “grow and die”.
– In accordance to the recurring theme a natural life, dying is treated as normal, just as any other animal dies, humans die. In this case, Kaguya goes to the Moon, in other words, Kaguya leaves earth, or, she dies, at least for that society. This also may be a helpful way of cooping with death: the acceptance of it.

The Princess actually goes to the Moon. The limit of time shows. Parents cry. She didn’t want to go, but she must. The need of being part of society theme from earlier duplicates to another, third society. Born in a farm, raised in the capital, destined to return to the moon. The memory of each society experienced does not leave, and desire, nostalgia exist when living in a new one. Life pushes you in different locations, societies, experience over time, memories are created. Is it fair to those that live in the society, that have done so much to keep it up? Is it normal for people to travel and live in different societies? Is a home necessary? Where is Kaguya’s home?
– This theme of living in different societies, adapting, nostalgia for home, is normal in Ghibli films, but I don’t remember socialization being focused as much as it was in this film; One character is a teacher of manners of being a princess, bourgeois culture and habits. This film’s themes are indeed align with the Disney golden age classic fairy tales such as Snow White and The Lion King, and it sometimes feels a successor of those films more so than a Studio Ghibli film, which is okay, since Disney stopped making those sort of things.

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Material Organizations and Autonomy

12 September 2015 by Rahil

If human minds are organizing things, material organization is one method to satisfy that desire. Material includes digital bits, the education of a child, and societies at all scales [todo: does it?]. But for now, let’s focus on the material.

Humans under capitalism are forced to trade labor for money. [Labor likely ultimately creating a commodity.] When a person gathers enough wealth to survive, it is up to the person to decide whether to become idle or accumulate capital. Out of the human tendency to fall under habituation, the latter is more likely, especially in less dynamic urban areas. [The accumulated capital then can be saved, spent on commodities, spent on charity, etc.]

The material world can be separated into organization of material. Sometimes organized for the ends of: an ideal environment for family (or basic social unit), an ideal environment for everyone (community of any size), profit [todo: missing a lot more?]. Whatever the end, the material exists in the form of dwellings, cities, and waste.

Travel across the land and the places of organized material are clear. Dwellings with tools for living, businesses with tools for creating commodity or servicing, research centers with tools for creating knowledge, comfortable spaces for social activities, empty spaces for creative people: material organizations.

The world in a traveler’s eye is beautiful, open, social. All of those material organizations are accessible by simply talking to one another (or persuading another), except with those who lost an important moral from their childhood: sharing.

If everyone shared, would that create a disaster, anarchism, or autonomism?

[The world in an economist’s eye is of prices of commodities (assets). One can clearly see the costs of each material organization. The world here could be divided into values per area.]

The willingness to share enables everyone to survive, enables creative people to create more ideas because the awareness of having the ability to use tools directs the mind in more directions and because having the ability to play with tools create experience which leads to creativity, and lastly enables creative people to use the tools for work.

The deprivation of sharing from another requires the duplication of materials, the ownership of said duplicated materials, which together in turn may result in duplicate material organizations [todo: from duplicate houses and business to duplicate suburbs to duplicate societies]. In order for one to create, one must first be willing to act upon an idea, then must second be willing to gather the material to execute it, but, the problem found in the reiteration in the negative: The idea may never come because the lack of experience and ability to play with and use tools.

This isolated society deprived of sharing deprives others from everything organized: organized material (including media which contain knowledge) and organized people. It deprives itself from progressing. It will decay.

Until those willing to share will regenerate it.

[todo: getting sleepy and sloppy]
In a society with people willing to share, people are enabled to create and therefore most would be creating. There are those professional jobs that require duty: medicine, farming, upkeep of technology (electricity, internet), etc. [todo: what else?]. For everyone else it is caring for community and creation. The creativity is pure, not tainted by capitalism. The excess of commodity is avoided and substituted by better forms of creativity. Because of willingness to share, the awareness of locality, neighbors whom have what tools and knowledge, is heightened. Experiences become more local, as do products of creativity, adding diversity into the mediums. The lack of need to physically move far to create, creates better relationships with others, material tools, and material nature, adding care for natural area. All shared material organizations are cared for because they are willing to share. It’s a positive feedback loop…[todo: think more and clean]

In this society, one is able to travel from one material organization to another, learning or becoming aware of organized material and people, likely being able to use the organized materials (tools and materials). The ability to gain materials and tools depends on the social relation, and society’s norm of the willingness to share.

One could use materials out of self-interest, but it is less likely one will be able to gain them. It is when people desire to use materials for the interest of society that others are willing to share. What’s in the interest of society in the mind of others depends on their mind which depends on what experience in society put in it. One arrives to the individual-collective spectrum. When should a person allow another to use materials for self-interest: creation of art, more tools, consumables, etc.? It is up to the other person… [todo: getting sleepy]

At the least, a society should have the characteristic willingness to share. The difference in mind and wisdom (culture) does not matter. It should be a right. If one is found unwilling to share, that person will be shunned from the community.

Because material organizations have no value, it is the labor that benefits society that does. Not so much in the form of money, but in the recorded history of the individual. When one asks another of their experience, is it labor towards tending society or conspicuous consumption? It’s much easier to determine one’s value with this spectrum.

With the ability to move from material organization to material organization, one constantly lives in a higher form of awareness, have much in working memory to be more creative, have more experiences, being able to at first play for the sake of playing, then narrowing work toward one’s interests and creative endeavors.

[todo: going to sleep]

Leave a comment | Categories: Ethics, Philosophy

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