0401. on differing opinions, the Superficial Socialist podcast, & feminism

Regardless of your political inclinations, everyone should download and listen to The Superficial Socialist podcast, in which two millenials relay in universal and understandable terms the modern movements of the political left, discussing culture, politics and the media in society. The episodes are generally short and snappy, and if you’re feeling particularly uncharitable you can play at 2.2x speed on your chosen podcast app, for a listening time of less than ten minutes. (2.2x is the fastest speed that I find I can still safely consume most — but certainly not all — podcasts). As you can guess, they speak from the point of view of the left, and sound with low tones and knowing condescension like two middle-class white champagne socialists, but that need not affect the points they make, and in fact lends a much-needed perspective.

As noted by the mainstream media recently, there are consumer-friendly algorithms on social media to the point where if you click like on some articles and not on others, in no time at all you are only being shown the perspective that you agree with. Juana Summers, a political editor for CNN politics, said that social media is in effect an enormous marketplace for ideas, where every idea will come up against every other one, and the truth will be found for the betterment of society. But this has not been happening. For all the fuss about censorship on Twitter, my recommended feed is now almost entirely one-sidedly right-wing. Make a habit of buying the opposite newspaper one day, or subscribing to a dissident mailing list. I do not mean to infer the argument that the left is wrong; the right is wrong; the truth is somewhere in-between, but, for example, if you consider yourself right wing, you must understand and explore that which you disagree with, otherwise you’re just as bad as a group of 65 year-olds reading exclusively Marxist economics and barking about the Virgin Fields.

Anyway, the new episode is an exploration of pop culture and feminism, with the question Can a pop star ever truly be a feminist? I had to take it down to 1.2x speed for this one. About halfway through, Marxine seemed to define a feminist as a woman being a woman, which I think holds some credence. A woman who, though society may have moulded her in some way in the same way that society moulds any man, does what she wills in the purest way. A female, feminist artist, for example, is not necessarily her who takes up the banner and cause of feminism in its crudest definitions, but simply she who rises above such influence and drama to create the art that she wants to. This necessarily involves a stark realism, and is not a value judgement at all. This does not define feminism as a good social movement, but instead implies that a feminist — or egalitarian — society is one in which a woman can will. If a female, feminist artist created, in all honesty, a terrible piece of work, judgement could only be upon her, and it would still be an expression of a woman’s right to create. This is in contrast to the commonplace phenomenon of viewing a certain movement as progress — and therefore good — then being forced to justify its worst outcomes [the second part of that article], because of the umbrella term.

The conversation then drifts to familiar territory; misdirected fawning, negative energy and disdain for modern consumerism, the latter of which is of course an important topic, if a bit tired.

0108. on quitting multitasking

Multitasking is the enemy.

While I was at University I made a conscious effort to increase my capacity to multi-task, whether this was as simple as playing a video game and watching a television show at the same time, or something more ambitious such as having two conversations at once. I think it comes from two things: firstly, the universal problem; a culture of single-purpose friends, an undesirable offshoot from the age of social networks, and secondly, a personal frustration with my own productivity.

Firstly, the single-purpose friends is a concept taken from Fight Club, but instead of a friend who has a single serving, they have a single purpose. This was more pronounced when I was younger, but it still retains truth today; I will have a friend for talking about films, a friend for talking about politics, a friend for talking about romance, and our interactions and relationship will be stunted by this semi-conscious definition—in the same way that an adolescent group may have “the funny one,” and entertaining a meaningful conversation with them is a rare thing. The second facet is easier to unpack; I have a mental inadequacy when it comes to doing something that I have been told to do. Whether it comes from a misguided mistrust of authority or misdirected masculine pride, it is something that leads my life to be very productive personally and creatively, but lacking in achievements both institutional and social. If I am directed by an authority figure—or in all honesty, even a friend—to research a topic, or complete a task, I will be unwilling to do so, and it will take a great deal more energy than if I had come across the topic myself, or if I had thought the task needed doing independently.

These two problems, each of which could require a counsellor if I was a child of the 00s rather than one of the 90s, make it so that I have a predilection for multitasking, or to put it in a more honest way, an inability to concentrate. Watching a film becomes a background activity as I choose to prioritise Instagram or Snapchat, reading an article—who am I kidding?—reading the first two paragraphs of an article becomes a ten-tab venture into how the material I’m reading fits in with the rest of my life, and what social network would be best for sharing the article to, to more accurately project interests that I clearly do not hold.

So each time I find myself doing two things at once, I will try to ask myself, Would I be doing either of these things if I had to do them by themselves? And if the answer is no, which I imagine it will be much of the time, I will stop doing both of them, as they are not worth my time.

This has been my first go at an article since deciding to blog again last week, and it is a jumbled mess of ideas not fully fledged and not adequately conveyed, but it’s a start! And for clarity, I concentrated wholly on the writing of this article, with only music in the background, and I only checked my phone once—yes, that’s an accomplishment!

XX. on coffee & James Joyce

Warm sunshine merrying over the sea. the nickel shavingbowl shone, forgotten, on the parapet. Why should I bring it down? Or leave it there all day, forgotten friendship?

Started reading Ulysses by James Joyce. Had to start at some point, regardless. It’s a long slog and joy ahead, but it’s been a while since I’ve struggled through any literature; I’ve been going rather easy on my brain. / Through this, even the literary complexity of my own writing has been dropping. Reading Joyce now, & skimming through writing of mine from not even eight months ago I am noticing techniques and turns of phrase that I used to use but had forgotten. / I usually avoid reading too much while I’m writing because there’s always the tendency to drift away from your own voice and lean into someone else’s, but perhaps that was a thing that I had also learnt through my formative years; maybe my voice is strong enough now to more easily resist someone else’s slipping into my work; can it stand on it’s own two feet? / I don’t know the truth in that, but I’d like to believe it. This should be easier, after all, the first time I read Joyce, — an old copy of his poetry and then Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man — I found our styles comparable, this happened also with Mervyn Peake and his Titus Groan books.

Does anyone else try to limit the amount they read when they write? / Or conversely, does anyone feel that reading another person’s writing enlightens their own, & affects it as inspiration?

XI. on Jakob Wassermann’s My First Wife

I’m reading My First Wife by Jakob Wassermann and enjoying it! I haven’t based my writing off it as I usually do, but it has made me a much more intelligent writer. I recommend it. / It also touches on the theme which most terrifies me; — but also sates my most morbid fascination — insane women. it touches on it and doesn’t go the whole way. / before I read this I read Play it as it Lays by Jean Didion, at the behest of one of my favourite ever people, which also touches on it but doesn’t go the whole way. / this fascination comes from my mother and from my first real relationship. / it is the reason that Polanski’s Repulsion is one of the worst (and one of the best) experiences I’ve ever had.

anyway, Ganna is a communist shitlord.