memo

The ephemeral world of Charles Bukowski

Living in the moment is kind of a hot topic right now. Probably only the lazy and the dumb don't write about it. However, like most fads, being superficial and meaningless, it will probably give its place to something else in a few years. Just like hipsters did a few years ago.

In his famous novel "Post Office," Bukowski wrote about living in the moment long before it became mainstream, and he did it with much more substance. That might be the reason his novels stood the test of time, unlike blog posts, such as this one, that nobody cares about.

Henri Chinaski, Bukowski's fictional alter ego, working at a post office, and heavily drinking every single day, is certainly living in the moment. And he passes through many different moments of life, easily relatable to many people: shitty jobs and bosses, marriage, divorce, children, paying child support. What is interesting, however, is that how he manages to show the ephemeral and transitory nature of all these life experiences.

I laughed. It was a rather sad laugh, I'll admit. But it came out.

...

She even helped me pack. Folding my pants neatly into suitcases. Packing in my shorts and razor. When I was ready to leave she started crying again. I bit her on the ear, the right one, then went down the stairway with my stuff. I got into the car and began cruising up and down the streets looking for a For Rent sign.

It didn't seem to be an unusual thing to do.


And it feels like it isn't. It's just an ocean of these moments, and us, thrown in there, trying to find some meaning.

"The ocean," I said, "look at it out there, battering, crawling up and down. And underneath all that, the fish, the poor fish fighting each other, eating each other. We're like those fish, only we're up here. One bad move and you're finished. It's nice to be a champion. It's nice to know your moves."

And probably the only real and non-ephemeral entities in his world would be his trusty glass of whisky, and the novels he decided to write. And that's a somewhat different view from what we sometimes tend to think.

A truly enlightening read.
memo

Benches of Seattle, my PCNW photo school project circa June 2014

Benches of Seattle

My work explores the relationship and interplay between austerity of modern cityscape and human emotions. With influences as diverse as minimalism and street photography, new insights are generated from juxtaposition of both visual and subcontextual symbols.

Ever since starting in photography, I have been fascinated by the endless variation of meanings in mundane city landscape. The narrative follows the points of human contact in the harsh and inhospitable modern city, and shows the realization of emptiness and loneliness of the urban world.

What starts out as stark and bleak, soon becomes finessed into a synergy of emotion, leaving only a vague sense of unforgiving, and the possibility of clemency and absolution. As momentary phenomena become clarified through emergent and visualizing narrative, the viewer is left with an epitaph for the human intimacy of our era.

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memo

It's OK to feel miserable

Usually when we feel sad, or miserable, we just try to stop being sad, or miserable, and try to be awesome instead. Just like Barney Stinson taught. And in general, in contemporary Western culture, especially in US, people are expected to be happy all the time, no matter the circumstances. Felling like crap is usually treated like there is something seriously wrong with you on a fundamental level, and we just need to fix it ASAP. Hence, when we feel miserable, we feel miserable not only because of the original reason, but also because we are not expected to do so, i.e. we are also feeling miserable because we are feeling miserable. Therefore, we try to break that cycle by pursuing happiness, in whatever form we could imagine it at that point, to try not to be miserable, as soon as possible. That doesn't usually work that way, and we end up being even more miserable in our failed attempts.

But ask any psychologist, and he or she will say that feeling happy all the time is total bullshit. Negative feelings are of the same importance as positive, for many reasons. One of them is, if we are happy all the time, there is no baseline, and we don't really know what is happy in the first place. Moreover, the happiness is usually a very volatile state, which depends not on the specific circumstances themselves, but more so on the gradient of change of them. That's why you are only happy for some short time after a raise, and relationships deteriorate if they don't evolve. Also, people are not really bound to be happy by some default, nobody deserves anything just so. It's similar to that when people asked me, when I failed another attempt at a job interview, why did I fail. I always answered, that the more correct answer would be why did I succeed, if I did. Failing is default. If you are not failing, you are doing something way too easy for you, not at all challenging enough. So failing is good, it means you're really reaching. And when we fail at doing something important, of course we feel miserable. Precisely because it was important. So feeling miserable tends to also look kind of good, because if you don't ever feel miserable, maybe you're not really doing anything important with your life.

It's also about pursuit of happiness vs pleasure. They look similar at a glance, but are essentially very different. You can easily pursue pleasure, and it might never give you any happiness. And trying to pursue happiness itself might be somewhat futile, as most of the time we are terrible judges of what really makes us happy. Usually the only things that will at least bring us somewhat closer, are things that we consider important. And trying to do important things by themselves might not be very pleasurable at all. Training for a half-marathon, scrambling that peak, believing in each other for better and for worse even in the tough times, making a difference. But they make you feel different, much more than having a latte with a chocolate cheesecake, or a bottle of rum with coke. So by doing something important you are actually bound to feel miserable quite a lot. If you aren't, you probably aren't very happy either.

You can also feel miserable if you open up to people, be vulnerable, and then end up being hurt. But usually being vulnerable is the only way to closely and intimately connect to other people. We are all flawed, that makes us humans. So if we are never hurt, chances are, we are not close to anybody either.

So, to sum up, it looks like the modern outlook on feeling miserable is flawed in many ways. It's OK to feel miserable. So just don't feel miserable because you feel miserable. Just be miserable on its own.
memo

Редмондский лес

В последнее время осточертело всё читать только в образовательных целях, взял разнообразия ради валявшуюся ещё с того года купленную в Москве, к своему стыду, на русском, "Норвежский лес" Мураками. На японском такое пока будет только в режиме расшифровки, а хотелось всё-таки именно почитать. Литературы уже сто лет не читал, либо что по делу, по работе, либо идиотские анимуподобные новелки на японском. Да, идиотскими они начинают казаться только когда возьмёшь что-то другое.

Сюжет писать смысла нет, все могут нагуглить, кому надо. Лишь только, что понравилось: казалось бы, ну жутко тоскливая книга, ну тоска тоской, депрессняк. Но как-то автору удаётся из всего этого вынести очень положительный смысл, показать тоску и смерть так, что, несмотря на весь этот суровый мир вокруг, о котором он, собственно, и пишет, напротив, хочется продолжать жить.

Не знаю почему, но герой мне почему-то чем-то напомнил сэлинджеровского Холдена, хотя, вроде, общего мало. Ну а слуховые галлюцинации я постоянно читал как похожее название известной российской группы моего студенчества, так что саундтрек в голове получился не битловский, а из начала 2000-х. Но, наверно, на то она и литература, чтоб показывать каждому что-то своё.

Недавно на работе в очередной раз обсуждали бесполезность чтения худ-лита, как ненужного для работы, а значит совершенно бессмыссленного. Но иногда почитать интересно, всё-таки. В Москве было своё преимущество - поездки в метро. Здесь же до работы 15 минут на машине. Ах вот почему американцы так мало читают.
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memo

О новом подходе к классической схеме мытья посуды, оставляющем инвариант с точностью до константы

Все знают, что я ненавижу мыть посуду, особенно после еды, и вообще убираться. Ещё со времён жизни с Сидом на Ленинском я использовал классическую технику - грязная посуда скапливается в раковине, а когда чистой уже не остаётся, то из раковины берётся верхняя тарелка, моется, используется и кладётся обратно сверху. Пока, наконец, всё это не начинает сильно вонять, и приходится идти мыть.

Тут в Штатах я решил эту проблему при помощи мэйдо, но последние несколько недель по разным причинам уборки не было, и пришлось как-то разгребать мусор самому. После выкидывания мусора вони немного поубавилось, но всё равно оставалось - видимо, опять, из-за посуды в раковине. Пришлось опять всё вымыть.

И так, после этой итерации, я вдруг задумался, поскольку мыть посуду сразу после еды я категорически не согласен, но классическую систему можно заменить эквивалентной с точности до сдвига на константу грязных тарелок в раковине. Если раньше поддерживался инвариант N=max, где max - все имеющиеся тарелки, то теперь можно поддерживать N=min, где min - тарелки с последней еды. Тогда точно так же перед едой берётся верхняя тарелка, но, поскольку она в большинстве случаев оказывается единственной, то среднее время пребывания грязной тарелки в раковине оказывается равным среднему времени между приёмами пищи, а не 1-2 недели, как в классической схеме, т.о. никаких процессов гниения не возникает.
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