Nick is recording, writing, learning, daydreaming.

2007 called and it wants its Internet back

I think of a secret word which is kind of an overarching human theme that unifies the profile or gives it direction, so it’s not just like a bunch of interesting facts about a famous person. And I maybe use this word once or twice in the piece but what’s interesting is that sometimes, often in fact, the editors will use that word in the title or the subheading…

For Julio Torres it was Imagination.
For Bo Burnham the secret word was Anxiety.
For the pop star Troye Sivan the secret word was Coming of Age.

It’s just a thing that helps me write about a human rather than a celebrity.

Source (From 49:50)

I somehow never got the memo that Victor Shklovsky’s Theory of Prose is a revered bible for MFA creative writing types.

Most famous lines:

Held accountable for nothing, life fades into nothingness. Automatization eats away at things, at clothes, at furniture, at our wives, and at our fear of war. […] And so, in order to return sensation to our limbs, in order to make us feel objects, to make a stone feel stony, man has been given the tool of art.

In other words, art wakes us up from rote unconscious living and teaches us how to see the world again.

It does this, Shklovsky says, by acting as a sort of technical “device” that a) presents us with a bunch of familiar conventions and tropes to lull us and then b) throws in a weird novelty or curveball to shock us back to our senses. (That’s obviously massively reductive of his actual thought, but you get the idea.)

Where is Western popular culture headed?

I feel like the trajectory of the 2010s has been exhausted in a lot of ways. The culture-war topic no longer seems quite as interesting to people. Social media isn’t a place where you can be as creative anymore; all the angles are figured out. Younger people are less interested in things like quote-unquote cancel culture. These were kind of, like, the big pillars we used to navigate pop culture in the 2010s. And we had the rise of all these world-spanning, like, Sauron-esque tech platforms that literally have presences on every continent. People want to make things personal again.

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The piece also suggests that the recent wave of 90s nostalgia is breaking, a development I am personally fine with – 90s-style jeans are TOO DAMN BIG!

A quick little writer’s game: coming up with implied morals (aka Aesops) for your favorite works of fiction.

Eg…

Three Little Pigs: If you have a job to do, do it right – quality can be a matter of life and death.

The Lord of the Rings: It is not the grand gestures of the all-powerful but rather the small actions of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay.

Norwegian Wood (Haruki Murakami): We can learn to embrace the messy adult world while preserving a healthy connection to our childhood ideals (…or can we?)

Bonus question: think about what the implied morals of your favorite stories might say about you and your personal ethical beliefs.

Religious fictionalists hold that the contentious claims of religion, such as “God exists” or “Jesus rose from the dead” are all, strictly speaking, false. They nonetheless think that religious discourse, as part of the practice in which such discourse is embedded, has a pragmatic value that justifies its use. To put it simply: God is a useful fiction.

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This got me thinking about, among other things, the notion of political, and perhaps even democratic, fictionalism. So a proponent might contend that “Western democracy” is a fiction and that Western countries are in fact oligarchies, but at the same time maintain that the discourse of democracy has a “pragmatic value that justifies its use” similar to that of more literal forms of religion.

Tolerance is conditionally putting up with things you don’t like.

Botanists ask how much loss of moisture a plant can tolerate and still survive. In the 18th century, Hungary disfavored Jews, but would tolerate them if they paid a “toleration” tax. In these examples, perceived threats are deemed bearable for certain purposes within certain limits.

Thus, tolerance is contingent, practiced not for its own sake but because it is a means of obtaining other things we want. The core question therefore becomes, tolerance for what?

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Caught wind of this on a language learning forum: according to recent(ish) research, when learning a new skill you should set a difficulty level that allows you to succeed in 85% of your attempts.

That’s a bit higher than I had assumed: basically you want your materials to be almost but not quite a cakewalk.

Been finding this a useful rule of thumb for things like vocab lists, learning guitar techniques, pickleball dinking drills, etc. 🙂

Original research paper

The Internet feels empty and devoid of people. It is also devoid of content. Compared to the Internet of say 2007 (and beyond) the Internet of today is entirely sterile. There is nowhere to go and nothing to do, see, read or experience anymore. It all imploded into a handful of normalfag sites and these empty husks we inhabit. Yes, the Internet may seem gigantic, but it’s like a hot air balloon with nothing inside.

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Commentary

One thing I am certain of: the Internet was definitely better in 2007 than it is now.

Recently stumbled on the following quote from this book by the American journalist Derek Thompson. It is quite the mouthful, to say the least – naturally I was intrigued:

[The arts and entertainment sector is]… a complex, adaptive, semi-chaotic industry with Bose-Einstein distribution dynamics and Pareto power law characteristics with dual-sided uncertainty. 

A what now?

  • Complex: since everybody is constantly influencing everybody else, predicting the distant-future box office of a movie is like predicting the weather next year.
  • Adaptive: when something hits, others in the genre will copy it, which gives birth to new styles and trends, ie “adaptations.”
  • Semi-chaotic industry with Bose-Einstein distribution dynamics: apparently culture fans are weirdly similar to gas molecules in a jar – they spontaneously cluster (in our case, around artists and trends) in intricately varied ways that are impossible to predict ahead of time.
  • Pareto power law characteristics: success follows a power law distribution, with a lucky few achieving massively more success than everyone else.
  • Dual-sided uncertainty: creators don’t know what fans will want in two years, and fans don’t know what is coming out in two years, let alone what they will want to see at that time.

In short, the quest for recognition is a complex and brutal form of gambling.

Not exactly the stuff of candy-colored dreams, to be sure – but then again we’ve long known that show business is something other than lollipops and rainbows most of the time.

The secret of James Patterson’s success:

Patterson’s breakout thriller, “Along Came a Spider” (1993), began as a full-length outline of the plot, and then essentially stayed that way. “When I went back to start the novel itself,” Patterson recounts, “I realized that I had already written it.”

The short chapters and one-sentence paragraphs that became his signature style, and that are often the object of critics’ scorn, struck him as the ideal way to keep the novel “bright and hot from beginning to end.”

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