Rahil

Category Archives for: Life

Starting Over

21 December 2016

related posts: Being Political and Apolitical [todo: this post is still a draft], The Choices in Taiwan

The music makes me feel alive, but it’s a fake sensation. How long I lived with music during my suburban life. Without it, I am dead, in need of sensation[, experience], people, nature, love.

a thought during my readings today, and a huge extension of that thought:
Critical Theory and Taoism are opposites, yet, I am attracted to both. The search for problems in society and making it aware for social change, and, living in harmony with one’s self and with nature (including people). The first is political, the second is apolitical. Then, doesn’t that make Taoism ignorant, apathetic, and therefore unawaringly conservative — permitting the conservation of the existing cultures of people? Critical theory desires to change culture. I want to change culture, yet I want to be in one.

Should I begin again, alone? Make a few close friends? Work one’s way from individual to society?

Should I go into the wild and reside there? Create my own society?

Were all those [my past] civil community ideas useless? Because their [contemporary cultures’] values will never be as extreme as mine, no matter how much I politic with them?

I have no desire to help, work, live, with people whom I don’t value. I used to value Taiwanese people. What happened?

I shall find my own place in nature [vs city]. With kids. With a girl. And we will play all night. And it will be beautiful.

Fuck the world.

[I heard this (for the first time) either the same day or the next day:]

There are no cities, no cities to love.
There are no cities, no cities to love.
It’s not the city, it’s the weather we love!

It’s not the weather, it’s the nothing we love!

It took so long for me to see it
Hope’s a burden or it sets you free
Wandered through the void of you
Wandered through the void of me
I’ve grown afraid of everything that I love.

It’s not the weather [nothing], it’s the people we love!
Sleater Kinney,”No Cities to Love”

Leave a comment | Categories: Life, Personal, Thoughts

Film Lists, Watching Life, and Letting Beauty Emerge

10 October 2016

talk talk talk

One of my earliest posts on this blog, circa 2010, was about saving Netflix ratings. I still have that file. I found it in my Dropbox. And now, 6 years later, I used it.

Netflix previously failed by narrowing their film selection to a small selection of popular films around the time that they created the digital streaming service. Netflix seems to have failed yet again by not giving a simple interface / display of user ratings, allowing the internet free-market to fill in the gap.

Upon searching the internet for anime films to watch after being quite life-affirmed by Colorful [todo: add link later], I stumbled upon Letterboxd. I’m unsure why it took so long for such a simple website to form. Perhaps there was that generic list-making website before it?

Anyway, here’s a list of favorite films that I created How bored / habituated to sedentary life I must currently be.

Further, I *liked* a few lists. I *liked* too many. Not good. I over-browsed, over-consumed, over-organized.

But, if your aesthetic judgement finds bits of beauty in the infinitude of audio-video output, then, through the linking of those bits one eventually finds a beauty bit collector! ScorpioRising might be one, as his list As I Was Browsing The Auteurs, Occasionally I Saw Glimpses Of Beauty (also copied to letterboxd by another user) seems to be a collection of beautiful bits. Undoubtedly, beauty (including love) naturally unfolds in those films. And surely, there are more lists out there like it, such as assasf’s list (((.

I think that’s all I need now as far as film selection goes for the next few years. Gone are those early college days of perusing Metacritic, Roger Ebert’s website, BFI’s Sight & Sound, big three festival-winners and their specific awards, and other critic-oriented lists which result in similar film canons (though Kenji’s canon is probably darn good), sloppily adding them to a 500 capacity ordered queue on Netflix, or post-Netflix, a text file. Finding Letterboxd reminds me of my experience with 8tracks, where people discover music and create music playlists as opposed to machines or in film lists: critics, and I was able to freely enter countries and listen to the sounds of that country, without a need to really select what to listen to, spending more time experiencing, less time searching. Now I feel I can continue living life, watching reality at the pace of reality, as I did when I rode my bike when I was a child, and still now, when I ride my scooter. Just watching, nothing in particular, allowing one’s attention to see the natural beauty of the world.

So, if my habits become more sedentary, focusing on information (digital or not; mediated communication) rather than reality, as many modern jobs force one to do for several hours per day, and as desired information is easy to obtain, then these films can save me, alter my habits and attention from the mirror of the world that is information to the real world, remind me what life is like in different areas on earth, inspire me, to go out, and live, again.

Further talking

Kenji’s austere film list is on three websites: Listal, MUBI, and Letterboxd, and in that order in Google popularity. Hmmmmm.

It also seems Letterboxd has a database of films, so many films are missing. Can’t just write the title in?

More lists

While searching for slow-spaced, contemplative goodness, I stumbled upon An Austere List by Kenji. I’m a bit frightened to watch that right now, as only having watched The White Ribbon from that list. But, luckily, I found Slow Cinema Filmography (1975-2013), which derive’s its list from a thesis. Awesome!

Kenji has a list for Indian films! So, maybe, there’s more than Satyajit Ray.

Anthropology and empathy reminds me that one can just search for research topics, such as human condition, urban planning, cultural theory, or hatred of capitalism.

Leave a comment | Categories: Art, Film Reviews, Films, Humanities, Life, Personal, Philosophy of Film

The Ideal Way to Experience

05 October 2016

alternative titles: The Ideal Way to Travel

Perhaps associated with Time and Space in Anthropology and The Ideal Work.

notes:
from a sheet of paper:
live -> area problem -> *(low) work
live -> *(high) art
live -> love (place and people)

daydreams:
go around Taiwan with a group
kickstart projects together
find room
move to next town
continue
[to ideal work]

ideas:
digital libraries
– teach how to use e-reader, read. films. other arts.
– in squatter spaces!
– [vs public government buildings, such as libraries]
– add sign, no cost
– comfortable space as self-education
– not education / social [? maybe meaning that the space is not social to the locality?]

from another sheet of paper:
50 days walk, 30km/day
France to China
no belongings / small backpack is enough
– no tent if enough friends
– [hmm. I don’t think this is possible. Need backpack with tent, like Patrick, then hitch.]
no worry
– need traveler friends, need to walk around Taiwan

Leave a comment | Categories: Life

蛍火の杜へ (~Into the Forest of Fireflies’ Light)

07 September 2016

Japanese: 蛍火の杜へ
romanization: Hotarubi no Mori e
literal: Into the Forest of Fireflies’ Light
English: [none]

during-film thoughts

Suburban house, missing the in-between in life
Noisy insects!

…ended up just watching the entire thing as I did as when I was young.

post-film thoughts

A similar story to Spirited Away. Perhaps they root from some ancient Japanese source story.

The film is slow, dreamy, like Totoro. It has its magic. It’s predictable, yet I was happy to watch it, and it made me happy, optimistic.

For the simple things. Memories. Good times. Summers. Natural joy. Picnics. Talking. Sharing. Time.

I think of all those memories I created in Taiwan, and elsewhere. A happier place. Instead of my cultural theory, I take in the youthful joy. Of the Chinese class, of her, of my trip in Asia, of New York, of the fatkids, of College Park, of my youth. So many memories. It’s beautiful to think about.

I’ve been so focused lately that I’ve recently stopped thinking. This free-thinking is what makes me happy. Ignore reality, and be happy.
– Perhaps not ignore reality, rather, stop organizational behaviors and live!

Leave a comment | Categories: Art, Film Reviews, Films, Humanities, Life, Personal

The Choices in Taiwan and Initiating a Cooperative from Nothing

14 May 2016

[self-note: this was published using markdown, and is a really good example post using it]

the choices in Taiwan

Nor can it be said truly that a pure­blooded Chinese could ever quite disagree with Chuangtse’s ideas. Taoism is not a school of thought in China, it is a deep, fundamental trait of Chinese thinking, and of the Chinese attitude toward life and toward society. It has depth, while Confucianism has only a practical sense of proportions; it enriches Chinese poetry and imagination in an immeasurable manner, and it gives a philosophic sanction to whatever is in the idle, freedom­loving, poetic, vagabond Chinese soul. It provides the only safe, romantic release from the severe Confucian classic restraint, and humanizes the very humanists themselves; therefore when a Chinese succeeds, he is always a Confucianist, and when he fails, he is always a Taoist.
Yutang Lin (林語堂), Zhuangzi (莊子), Introduction

I recently felt that in Taiwan, and this may apply to any single-cultured country, that the choice of cultures is ultimately limited to two: with the society or without.

Taiwan lacks communities with diversity and ideal values. Of my time here, I have only found two places with ideal values but without diversity (of mind), and several with a little more diversity but without ideal values. Furthermore, I felt unable to find or even create a place-based community within Taiwan’s society.

That feeling contrasts with the feeling in multiple-cultured societies, where I felt I’m able to manipulate a space to create a place-based community within the existing dense settlement, or simply join one of the existing diverse, ideal-valued communities.

Taiwan has one culture [not including aboriginal cultures], therefore there is only one choice within it. America has several cultures, therefore several choices exist through its cultures: other countries’ cultures, capitalism, art life, consumerism, religions, non-culture, media-oriented culture (suburbanism), technological optimism, hippies, small towns, The South, etc.

In Taiwan, the only partially-inclusive spaces I have found with such diverse cultures are places where international people meet: hostels, Chinese class, post-graduate school. I have not found other spaces [within the society] that escape the cultural values of Taiwanese society.

Hostels are where I lived and what I mostly called a home, so the experience was phenomenal: I had a well-valued home, surrounded by a ethically-good culture and infinite nature. Without such places, one finds one’s self in a scary singular society, and without willingness to participate in that scary society, one is left with only one choice: to leave it.

It is by far the society I’ve spent the longest time in, excluding the suburbs where I grew up. But, I can’t say I lived in it the entire time. I was in my own world [todo: link a post which exemplifies this], while my body was in Taiwan’s world. Perhaps the public spaces were the only Taiwanese places I’ve spent a lot of time in: the streets, day markets, neighborhoods, parks, nature: you know, the spaces where passion is satisfied capital-free. I’m unsure if that counts as living in it.

Alas, it is time to find that little place next to the mountain, not far from a city, with the best climate (and microclimate!) of the country. Somewhere east of Tainan I believe. And so, like the Trascendentalists who probably had to escape Puritanism, and the Taoists who probably had to escape Confucianism, I must escape Taiwanese culture, or whatever words one uses to describe the values of contemporary Taiwan.

At least, for the moment; Before I re-attempt to create an ideal community within the city[?] again; Or before I re-attempt to cooperate with Taiwanese society again [No! Create your own. Do not join others. Let them join you!].

progeniting an ideal cooperative from nothing, with special guest: Aristotle

[I] Also might need a place in the city too, but hopefully with good weather and easy access to nature to keep me sane [Noooo].

The next twelve years Aristotle devoted with extraordinary industry to the establishment of a school, the Lyceum, to the institution and pursuit of a program of investigation, speculation, and teaching in almost every branch of knowledge, and to the composition of all, or most, or at least the more scientific portions, of those of his writings which are now extant.
Richard McKeon, The Basic Works of Aristotle, Biographical Note

This, except for my directions: critical theory, social and urban interventions, civic technology, games, etc.

Aristotle began teaching regularly in the morning in the Lyceum and founded an official school called “The Lyceum”. After morning lessons, Aristotle would frequently lecture on the grounds for the public and manuscripts of his compiled lectures were eventually circulated. The group of scholars who followed the Aristotelian doctrine came to be known as the Peripatetics due to Aristotle’s tendency to walk as he taught.

So, I should begin by creating meet-ups in public places: ask a well-located temple; or can alternate places based on weather: hot springs, cold springs, day markets. Whoever comes frequently, may become a friend or associate, but the goal is not to create an organization:

Unlike Plato, Aristotle was not a citizen of Athens and so could not own property; he and his colleagues therefore used the grounds of the Lyceum as a gathering place, just as it had been used by earlier philosophers such as Socrates. Aristotle and his colleagues first began to use the Lyceum in this way in about 335 BCE., after which Aristotle left Plato’s Academy and Athens, and then returned to Athens from his travels about a dozen years later. Because of the school’s association with the gymnasium, the school also came to be referred to simply as the Lyceum. Some modern scholars argue that the school did not become formally institutionalized until Theophrastus took it over, at which time there was private property associated with the school.
Wikipedia, Peripatetic school

If Aristotle was a citizen and was able to own property, would he have tried to get space? Did he have the money (surely Alexander paid him well. Maybe I’m reading this wrong?)? When such a good space exists, why spend money on another space? Use the public space!

Aristotle’s main focus as a teacher was cooperative research, an idea which he founded through his natural history work and systematic collection of philosophical works to contribute to his library. His students were assigned historical or scientific research projects as part of their studies. The school was also student run. The students elected a new student administrator to work with the school leadership every ten days, allowing all the students to become involved in turn.
Richard McKoen

Yes, the program is entirely cooperative, and molded by the people within it. Though, projects shouldn’t be assigned by one person, rather, people should assign it to themselves, and be responsible for it, out of intrinsic desire, which is precisely what a good social meet-up conceives in the minds of its participants.

Administration is a pain: setting up meetings, inventory management, etc. The dirty work must be shared, just as cleaning a bathroom in a shared apartment is.

Media can be shared within a physical space. It must be convenient to access to by participants that use it the most. Because one doesn’t have a space, one will have to negotiate, in the case of a temple, with the temple’s staff. [problem: access limited by time; not 24 hours]

The aim of the school, at least in Aristotle’s time, was not to further a specific doctrine, but rather to explore philosophical and scientific theories; those who ran the school worked rather as equal partners.
Wikipedia

Everyone has an equal say in the whole of the organization.

The meet-ups (“school”) do not have a direction. The direction depends on its constituents, on what’s in the mind of the participants at that time. The participants and the directions may change frequently: Directions are temporal as the wandering mind’s thoughts. Participants are temporal too, as long as they are wandering too.

re-joining society

[todo: ???
I just had a daydream about restarting Humans of Taiwan, in Tainan, but with a critical theory emphasis. It’s still a similar format, but I select topics, questions, to be more critical. Pictures too can be critical, of urban and social problems. With it, people commented, and sometimes it would be civically helpful, and I would be able to solve small problems with the help of commenters. Doing this everyday would provide me organizing experience, networking with organizations, civic discussion through Facebook, and I would provide a model to solve civic problems. It is entirely bottom-up, because I begin with the individual’s problem; that is, what the individual thinks is a problem in their mind. By limiting subjects to I individuals’ problems, larger solutions, projects, implementations, may develop.
]

Leave a comment | Categories: Applied Philosophy, Autonomy, Community, Humanities, Life, Personal, Philosophy, Philosophy of Education, Political Philosophy, Public Sphere, Social Philosophy, Thoughts

Possible Next Moves

11 December 2015

Possible next moves:
*. Secure a dwelling
– Taiwan it too effing hot during the summer, and too rainy during the winter. Housing is terrible in cities. Hostels are usually enuogh, but even they often lack a kitchen, or a the ability to host events. This can’t be skipped anymore.
– 1. test out the tent
— Is a tent good enough? Probably! But then it’s still missing electricity, wi-fi, ability to cook cheaply, ability to store cold things, and generally, regulate body temperature. Maybe the proximity of a / ability to have a cold shower (during the summer) is enough though? It’s worth trying, to be closer to nature; to begin with nothing, only accumulating enough to survive, selecting everything for a minimal lifestyle. Rainy days may become even more depressing. Can easily move to another place! — Think of that! Can simply move along the mountain or small towns, or even in people’s farms or backyards.
— As for consistently meeting people, if I were to use a tent, then I would rely on a public place, which means I would have to rely on the politics of that place. Perhaps it should be a very public place — a temple, public square, etc. as opposed to a closed space.
– 2. hostel vs personal place
— a hostel provides amenities (hopfully has a kitchen!) and a stream of diverse people.
— A personal place can double as a public place enabling me to freely host events in it, invite people, etc. It also enables accumulation of assets (opposes shared amenities), which may further decrease cost-of-living (rice cooker, tea leaves and containers for storing tea, etc.). To make-up for the lack of diverse people, CouchSurfing, AirBnB, and event-making is almost required for a normative, physical social life.
— both are rather immobile, though if I keep it minimal, it may be easy to move around places.

*. Make money. :(
– x/1. try grants toward civics
— very limited for individuals. Maybe fit civil projects under an existing organization, then apply.
— long-term limit to movement, and therefore nomadic ideas
– x/2. try scholarship for master’s in urban planning in a school in an urban area to buy time
— apply in late December to March
— also limits movement long-term
I wasted time with the above two. Skip to abuse capitalism. Fuck people, politics, and their institutions.
– 3. last resort: independently sell commodities (teach, rent, tea, crafts, short games, short films), as opposed to freelance design and programming, to buy time. Or, exploit capitalism and select more lucrative gigs (ghostwrite college applications for Asian students)
— selling Chai was successful, but limited by the town’s social limits. Maybe can sell illegally in Taipei? Maybe hit up a freelance gig in a target city.
– 4. give into the devil that is global capitalism and move to an affluent country and do social or labor work: farming in New Zealand and Australia (doubles as travel, can circle the islands via scooter), social work in New York or cities with sunny weather
– 5. give into the devil of past and remotely work while having more meaningful work within my locality. Hopefully remotely work for tools for organizing, self-education, and civic technology

1. Scooter or walk around Taiwan
— stop by civic organizations along the way
— write letters to organizations and people to incite action or take action
— focus actions toward impact, avoid non-practical fine art and philosophy
— try this with a tent at first. If that’s too demanding, then maybe have to first secure a dwelling to begin with a healthy body, then try this again until I am fit enough.
2. Create a social space, use hostel and street stall financial models for income. Create technology to the benefit of the people and their organizations.
x/3. Build a house in nature for myself, with very cheap land rent, to distance self from society’s problems. Use the experience to build minimalist shelters in the future (and maybe even minimalist gear).
— Past societies have done since time immemorial, maybe better to just use camping gear more often while traveling around Taiwan and other nearby countries.
— I think what I meant by the first line is: there is no point of using time for basic needs, when I could spend less time doing high-wage work, then spending the rest of the time toward my interests.
— It’s possible to live a simple life anywhere, it just requires more discipline against the convenience of contemporary culture of larger cities. Maybe temporarily hiding out at nearby small town is enough. One adapts to live simply, eating grains and vitamin, and living ascetically.
— Still, the point of experiencing the feeling of being entirely self-sufficient in nature exists.
— A middle way may be to live on 蘭嶼 (Orchid Island) for a period of time, initially living simply with a tent, water filter, and grains, but progressing toward self-sufficiency.
x/4. Teach in the most progressive and/or lenient environment.
— Maybe simply running periodic workshops from a public space is enough. Avoid teaching what global capitalism wants (English), brain drain into higher institutions, and exclusive progressive primary education. Education is free.
— I’ve become less interested since I’ve written this, favoring self-education through technology and exploration, likely because I’ve recently been hitting the e-books.
— Also, simply having a public space is providing an education, through an educational environment
5. Learn everything there is about Taiwan by constantly traveling and talking to people. Also reading a history book or two about it. Could start Humans of Taiwan for this again, using it as a platform to create a reality for the nation. Could extend to nearby countries to compare.
— Could try recording performances like Vincent Moon, or documenting human problems like Foucault
— I don’t think there’s much to capture that hasn’t been captured. It’s more about my perspective, like Humans of Taiwan, or Chris Marker film essays. It’s seeing the the world through my eyes, seeing cultural problems, what people do, and so on.
*. Always travel. Friends in cities and universities. Personal selection of Silk Road from Yunnan to Netherlands to Ireland. Central and South America.
*. Always think about design and technology, social organizing, civic engagement, and decision-making in general, to where it changes reality.
*. Can think of film and games too?

Leave a comment | Categories: Life, Personal, Self-assessment, temp

Why I Did What I Did

10 December 2015

This is part of a series of thoughts that are thematically bounded by a criticism of capitalism, communication, and rationality.

This was taken from a thought from The Distance between Communication and Reality, and is a direct of continuation of Why Did I read?

I may have began reading because I wanted to talk, but in the act of talking, it seems much of the content has digressed. Instead of talking about my experiences of the difference of how people act within a capitalistic city and outside of it, the ideologies of countries, property, the effects that the distance between humans have, communities, ideal neighborhoods, and so on, the one-way communication of books, and even the seemingly interactive communication of Wikipedia, has led me astray. Perhaps philosophy was not the way to go. Philosophy is just one set of possible classifications. Thinking back upon my time of reading, I feel only essayists were able to grasp experience, simply by talking about it, in the similar way that documentarians grasp experiences, simply by documenting it. Everyone else was attempting the impossible: to organize reality.

It is inevitable that life will be not just very short but very miserable for those who acquire by great toil what they must keep by greater toil. They achieve what they want laboriously; they possess what they have achieved anxiously; and meanwhile they take no account of time that will never more return. New preoccupations take the place of the old, hope excites more hope and ambition more ambition. They do not look for an end to their misery, but simply change the reason for it.
– Seneca, On The Shortness Of Life

Instead of simply documenting my travels, I attempted to understand my experiences with the world through philosophical theories. What was I supposed to do? Write a holistic travel-science tome like Humboldt? Perhaps that would have been faster. But even my huge repository of thoughts were about communication, culture, experience, decision-making, politics, all of which still are still categorized under philosophy, not science. Perhaps because I focused on those things even during more active times, it was okay to attempt to organize them later during low times. A note to my future: I must live more.

Whether I live romantically, traveling the world with my legs, creating tools to live more romantically, or instrumentally, creating tools to increase self-education, self-organization, and self-maintenance, there must be more life in it. I am not sure how such disparate lifestyles can be balanced. Perhaps it is because one lifestyle tends to go in one direction, romanticism toward experience, instrumental toward organization, that it is so difficult to balance. If I were able to choose based on happiness, or which results in a consistent social life, it would be instrumental, but the urge for romantic exploration will inevitably come, and making those explorations social becomes the key.

During some of my most active times, I lived romantically and tried to record communication using the quickest means possible; It was through the lifestyles of Vincent Moon, Brandon Stanton, Chris Marker, and local artists in New York that I could foresee a possible combination of romanticism and communication, and a possible way to live: They were the keys. They discovered methods to communicate while experiencing. They found a way to talk about what they wanted, not what philosophers or society wanted. They are contemporary essayists. The kind of people that talk about everything through almost anything, and in doing so, have fulfilling lives.

But it’s not every time that I feel like talking about anything. During most of my time philosophizing, I had desired social changes. This brings up another lifestyle: critically, to maximize social impact in the time and space I live in. The reason I read wasn’t just about talking, it was about learning the problems of society and figuring out methods to make society better: finding directions, finding ideas, finding examples in other societies. There were practical ends. Creating socially realistic essays through mass communication was just one method to that practical end; They subverted mass media and offered something closer to contemporary reality that one could learn from. And in doing so, it made me happy, for the moment.

It was a good method until I became disillusioned by the effects media have in contemporary society and therefore became dissatisfied with those projects. I thought it could change people’s perception, and then their behavior. Maybe it could if I had continued as Brandon did, but I desired more direct methods to change people’s behavior. My mind went to more Bansky style art in a public places, directly experienced and directly affecting people. Then my mind went toward creating community hall-like social centers using technology as an aid. I still desire to do both, perhaps all three methods, but I’m out of money, and I’ve been out of reality for too long, so I must experience life all over again, to recreate those political desires, and continue this endless cycle that is my life.

Leave a comment | Categories: Art, Communication, Critical Theory, Humanities, Life, Personal, Philosophy, Rationality

Free from Capitalism

05 December 2015

This is part of a series of thoughts that are thematically bounded by a criticism of capitalism, communication, and rationality.

[todo: incomplete and very important to complete]

Yesterday’s post, Why did I Read?, was a good question.

Yesterday night, I read about half of Fragments of an Anarchist Anthropology by David Graeber. It was reinvigorating. Why? Because it discarded much of modern reality, global capitalism. It talks of a society that exists outside of that infinitely complex system. And just outside of it, lies fresh air.

I’ve lived in cities for quite some time. When one lives in a city, capitalism pervades, even if one ignores money. It exists in the behavior of people and in the material of the urban environment.

If one is somewhat creative, then one likely has the a criticism of capitalism in one’s mind.

The desire for socio-political change may take creative forms, which simply depends on the past and current things in the mind. In the case of design, city experience — visual, traveling, talking, living — is far more useful than books.

When I live in a city, I tend go in directions all which are opposite of capitalism. The desired end of my creation is the to alter the behavior of people to act more natural. Examples of past means are: creating critical media — fine art, game, film, etc. –, creating a public space [place-based community] with DIY or anarchistic values, creating tools to aid the generation of healthy communities and neighborhoods, creating tools to limit conspicuous urbanization, and creating tools to direct people toward making positive and urban impacts.

When I live outside of a city, I try to philosophize it — understand it all. This lead to the reason I read:

The reason I began reading is because I wanted to talk about things that I experience in the world, from epistemology to the culture I’ve lived in and back.

I wanted to understand the city, and how social and political changes occur in it, so that I help could make those changes. But to understand it, one must understand human minds, politics, and, of course, capital.

This lead to my interest in critical theory, which covers everything, though in a very messy and outdated way, urban planning, urbanization, decision-making, action, and much continental philosophy.

Trying to philosophizing the entire thing is useless, but the random readings helped elaborate possible directions [, much like Graeber does in Fragments]. It was the organization of 27 years of life experience. The directions that came out, were quite good, they were similar to MIT Center of Civic Media, and many went beyond it.

But as I didn’t have the wealth to do these things, I had to write for grants or and apply for graduate school. I also had to plan how to get some money. And in the process, I had more house time, and kept reading.

Somewhere during my reading of David Harvey’s “Right to the City” I realized that much of capitalism’s problems don’t apply to me.

The problems mentioned in Harvey’s essay are the privatization of food, housing, healthcare, neoliberalism, and in the case of the US, nearly everything. Harvey’s solution is to socialize, or better, uncommodify it all. It’s a kind of communization.

But I live like a bum, keep my belongings in a backpack, sleep at friends’ places, use Taiwan’s excellent and low-cost healthcare, and work part-time jobs for capital. The jobs are my only hard connections to capitalism, as I sometimes need the capital to sustain, especially when the gift economy fails or when I just want to take a lone path in exploring (meaning not many social contacts for gift exchanges) away from institutions and society.

So why bother with the capitalistic city?
Why not just live on my own, or within a public space community in a city or a smaller community outside of it? Why not proceed in the direction that I desire, which is near parallel to the anarchistic directions sketched out by Graeber?

Because I lived in the city. I deeply care(d?) about the people in it. My friends, the people on my street, the people in my neighborhood, in my city, in my country. The point of all my work in the city and out of it is to help those people live better lives.

It just happens that they live under a capitalistic society.

So, what now? It is my responsibility to reverse capitalism? Should I remove them from the place they love too? Or is it okay to ignore those people and live in a separate society (the physical space may not matter that much, though rent is a difficult obstacle) like so many indigenous societies do?

These past few weeks I’ve also been reminded of the film Omoide Poro Poro (Only Yesterday, おもひでぽろぽろ), where the main character, after living in the city for her entire life decides to move to a rural area, to live.

[todo: stopped writing that night, publishing now, though incomplete, it’s a very important self-assessment. The thought started because Fragments reminded me that I didn’t need to live (and worry) under capitalism. I could live in a more anarchic way.]

Leave a comment | Categories: Community, Critical Theory, Ethics, Humanities, Life, Personal, Philosophy, Political Philosophy, Rationality, Self-assessment, Thoughts

Talking to Myself During a Late Night from an Isolated Place

01 December 2015

This is part of a series of thoughts that are thematically bounded by a criticism of capitalism, communication, and rationality.

Hmmm, I’m guessing I was feeling a bit pooped when I wrote this, saw a video of you, which reminded me of you, and felt like talking it out:

I grew up in suburban America, then lived nomadically since college, including some great cities, including NY, and abroad. I think during my entire life (28 now) there is a bit of of me that cringes at the decisions that people make, including myself, under a capitalistic society (especially compounded with America’s culture) that has made me unable to really fully participate in society, the modern city society.

Perhaps the education began with biking very far as a child and watching foreign neorealism films on Netflix in high school, then feeling guilty over more things one becomes aware of, from having belongings manufactured from Asia to using a car in the suburbs — Heck, I still feel restricted whenever I go back to the suburbs!

Maybe the guilt kind of compounds until one is left eating oatmeal, camping, vagabonding, living in the third Chinatown of a city, or just moving to Taiwan or a similar pacific island, where a more stoic, ecologically-mindful, less-capitalism-influenced culture exists. Surely there is something irrational in my logic here?

Oh, by participating in society, I don’t just mean interacting at a for-profit social space — cafe, club, bar, consumerism, bourgeoisie –…well maybe that’s still part of it.

Even last year when I tried a graduate program in design and technology with quite serious intentions at a good design school, I was quite disgusted to be forced to participate in a design jam for an advertisement for a beverage company in the first week, and also at their new building they spent a fortune on. Contradictorily, Jane Jacobs wrote her urban planning book there! It took a very frustrating week to learn that x% of time in design schools goes into advanced advertisement training. It also all felt strangely insular, partly because I had come back to America after a year of travel.

Ah, that was one of the points! David Harvey, a kind of Marxist geographer, mentions urbanization as the absorption of surplus capital (see the Marxism yet?), or something like that. Kind of important in two ways: Socially, because it gentrifies the downtown area with a conforming class that holds power, has an exclusive private and public sphere, and makes social movements in important places more difficult to spatially organize, etc.; Economically…well maybe can skip that part. Hmmm. Hold on to this thought for a paragraph.

My early interests were technology-related — games, new media, — and their intersection with art, education, and social organization. The first problem was being pidgeonholed as a computer programmer in any social environment. The second problem was being pidgeonholed as a white collar worker. This may have lead to my avoidance of technology for some time, teaching, farming, tramping, occasionally helping friends with their art games remotely.

When one desires to be a part of society, which now means physically living in a city and having relationships and conversations with people in it, and/or desires to create and design things but does not want to participate in much capitalism, urbanization or production of commodity, it creates a conflict.

Ah yes, I think that’s it!

I want to live in the city but I don’t want to participate in the many things that happen in capitalism. It’s a bit different from not wanting to work. I don’t mind farming or cooking or babysitting or fixing things or programming or anything really with some good people outside the city. Inside the city the jobs and people are a bit more tainted, which eventually makes me sick of it (my case for SF, NY, even Taipei). There’s hope and brilliant minds in place-based communities (inclusive, free, etc.), which where I spend most of my time and effort when I am in a city, but it’s a bit harder to pitch a tent in the city, holding up whatever these values are, so I eventually and inevitably have to do some tainted work. There aren’t many ears for more rational-technology things like the things from MIT Media Lab’s Civic Center, which itself may have already disappeared. Or perhaps there are, but they are deep in some institution, and the institution itself can only hear a single paradigm.

I will probably opt to go to New Zealand or Australia to do farm work for high wage and travel. I hope to try another go at my city-civic-tech-urban-planning-critical-theory-politic endeavors in Taipei, but I wonder how you’ve managed for so long.

Well, you do have a good community and financial support. Hah.

Leave a comment | Categories: Conversation, Life, Personal

Anchors, Famous Nomads, and The Ideal Nomadic Lifestyle

30 September 2015

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.

10/17/15:
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]

Leave a comment | Categories: Ethics, Humanities, Life, Personal, Philosophy

← Older posts