Sailor Boys and Drug Stacks

Eight months into this year, and I’ve finally gotten around to building a journal. Luckily I only hold grudges against other people, otherwise I’d be quietly seething to myself about myself.

Journals are toted as being stellar for progression assurance; They show you where you’d been and let you track your path to where you want to go, and habits breed compliance. It’s straight-forward thinking, but my brain struggles to shimmy up and over the first few obstacle-strewn days with any new behaviour pattern. See also: this blog, which was intended to be a fortnightly thing. Regardless of the number of plates I’ve got spinning, I want to get better at spinning them so hopefully this physical, personal record will help with that. On with the show!

Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure is consistently ranked among the top 5 greatest manga/anime franchises of all time, and has enjoyed mainstream success across Japan for over twenty years. The reason? It’s bizarre, naturally, but it’s creator (Hirohiko Araki) has infused Jojo with dozens of contemporary western references, naming dozens of characters after musicians and songs popular in the west at the time of production. Whilst we may think Japanophilia is in vogue in some circles here today, there is a reason the phrase ‘Big in Japan’ was coined; Japan had a thing for our rockstars, and Araki played off of this with wildly successful results.

What that produces, especially from the second season onwards, is a Japanese interpretation of perceived western characteristics and culture, foregrounded against a backdrop of vampires, magical breathing techniques and ethereal spirit-warriors with otherworldly powers (time control? we got it. really fast fencing? We got that in spades. The ability to pull people into a videogame and if you die in the game you die for real?… Probably too much of that, to be honest)

My point is, Jojo is a phenomenon, with an art style that begs for iteration, as we see above. The progression from Muscle boy to Slender boy is also mildly interesting:

I’m a fan. You should watch it.

Find it here.

 

 

  • Touch typing

I recently humbled myself when googling something on a close friend’s PC using only my two index fingers. The look he gave me was a confluence of amusement and concern; I, like the rest of the west, spend the majority of my time with a keyboard within inches of my mitts, yet I’ve lost the ability to touch type since we were taught it at school. I suppose a combination of poor adoption in the first instance and a path-of-least-resistance style reversion due to laziness has brought me back to typing the way my mom does.

Nevertheless, i realise that to be a better person, i need to patch all weaknesses, not just the ones i can brag about fixing later. So, if you (or a friend, if you want to be coy about it) need similar training advice for those disobedient digits, this site seems to be the easiest to pick up and use, which is what we want when learning or relearning stuff.

Tim Ferriss is my hero. If you know me, you know that. He has the discipline I wish I had, the resources I would dearly love to spend and the drive to pursue things because they fascinate him that I believe I share. The first point is why he’s such a big deal for me, though.

His determination has led to uncommon results, and his documentation of those results (ask me if you want to borrow his books that can also be used as cinder blocks, such is their size) is truly inspiring to me. While I still flounder at the very, very basic dietary advice he gives (doritos and monster do not feature, so what am I to do, really.) His fitness advice, both in terms of personal mental fitness and overall physical fitness 

is based on his experiences and discussions with those who would know, but what is most valuable to me are the resources he throws out there in the course of his studies. During his study into cognitive enhancement, mostly for language acquisition and memory improvement, Tim delved into nootropics – drugs that improve cognitive function. Naturally this sparked my interest since it seemed like the best and least taxing way to build a better self. Sadly it’s not that simple, but it is fascinating. There’s dozens of sites that go over individuals’ experiences with nootropic ‘stacks’ – groups of drugs that, taken together, act synergistically and affect cognition far more effectively than when taken in isolation. Check out this forum for a rabbit hole of science, placebos, illegality and extreme caffeine consumption. It’s a riot.

  • Who’s that Genre?

 

Honestly, if anyone can help me with the categorization of this. sick. beat. then I’d be very grateful. I’m thinking of petitioning Jacob to make this the new podcast intro music, it’s that chill.

I’m taking this boat in a whole new direction from next week, things will be more concise and pithy and, importantly, more valuable as self improvement/autodidact fodder. (I’ll probably keep the music/artwork sections though. Gotta justify that Arts degree somehow)

Until then.

Jozef

 

Children. War. Wednesday.

Watching The Handmaid’s Tale, I almost forgot the story had been told in another medium first. I felt the same way with Harry Potter and with Memento, where the source material has a distinctly different character to the films that have now permeated and overtaken the images of the textual worlds. One can’t see Hagrid as anyone but a behemoth Robbie Coltrane and Guy Pearce will always be Leonard (but never Lenny).

Now, thanks to the quality of the retelling and the atmosphere with which this story is imbued, Elisabeth Moss will be Offred, even as watchers become first-time readers of Atwood’s Booker prize winning tale of oppression, domination and hereditary ownership of other people’s bodies.

But when I think of these concepts, I don’t think of Atwood’s work, or of the reworked series. I think of the phenomenal film Children Of Men.

To those unfamiliar with Children of Men, the connection to Handmaid’s Tale may seem overly overt; they both tell the story of a world without children, and both show the quiet but desperate lives of people trying to continue on with this species-ending timer running throughout every day. Yet the focus rarely lingers on this part of the narrative, for either story. Since it is a fact of life for both works, it’s only foregrounded when necessary and realistic for the protagonists to interact with it, to the degree to which they can, or are forced to.

Whereas Handmaid’s Tale describes a world where a select fertile few are forced into sexual slavery for the purpose of repopulation after what was apparently a fertility-oriented global rapture, Children of Men has no fertility to speak of. Children are gone altogether, and the film opens on a news channel reporting the murder of the world’s youngest person, who was 18 at his death. Our main character here is Theo, played by the inimitable Clive Owen (watch him in The Knick, please. Please.) who is forced to confront all manner of travails as his life and Life are thrown together, leading him down marble floors in the final bastion of fine art, as well as piss-soaked pathways in detention centers holding immigrants and dissidents for the duration.

Children of Men faces less of the personal horror that comes with a fundamental breakdown of society and more turns our heads to stare at the scale of those horrors. we see cities facing terror attacks, with dozens dead, then move to the street where hundreds of detainees are being held in literal cages on the sidewalk. moving through this space we pass thousands of Londoners, typically downtrodden but soldiering on past billboards advertising the newly legal, newly government-funded suicide pills, before boarding public transport with TVs vomiting propaganda showing the billions of people worldwide who have succumbed to the despair that inevitably comes after the realisation that this, now, is the endtimes. The casual, pedestrian pace of the escalation in scale is what makes Children of Men the better peri-apocalypse story for me (though the fact the protagonist is a bloke and the focus is less on the ownership of female bodies and more about *one man’s struggle to save the world* is probably also a part of it, unfortunately).

So if you are enjoying The Handmaid’s Tale and haven’t experienced Children of Men, it’s here and comes with my hearty recommendation. once you’ve seen it, come back to watch Evan Puschak’s awesome dissection of the cinematography, then watch it again:

 

As you should have seen in your two watchings of the film by now, there is a huge emphasis on art, pulled from multiple times and places in history. What struck me the most was the deployment of Guernica, life-sized, in the dining room scene. You know the one but here’s the specific clip anyway:

Picasso is one of those artists that scared me as an aspirant intellectual (read: prick) in my teen years. I had no tools with which to tackle his work, and nobody seemed to want to talk about what his pieces ‘were’. So i presumed it was pretentious trash that conveyed no ‘real truth’ in an attempt to protect my ego and moved on to Real Art, like Rembrandt and Velázquez and others that depicted Things instead of… whatever Pablo was trying to do with those shapes.

But now I’m a sodden 23-year old, steeped in my own ignorance and scarcely comforted by my ability to outmaneuver elderly pub patrons in debates, and I’ve come to see Picasso as an artist whose work I need to wrap my melon around in order to better grasp art as a whole. Rewatching Children of Men, I saw immediately where I should start:

 

  • Guernica and the Philosophy of Art

guernica

Handily enough, Puschek also has a video on Picasso and watching that gave me a great headstart into working through ideas pertaining to the styles Picasso moved through. Here’s the piece (with one of the best introductions Evan’s ever produced)

Working through the process as described by Evan is extremely rewarding but it wasn’t really what I wanted. As an English Major first and foremost I want to know why, as much as what, a thing is. Questions like “why is the piece in black and white, yet no antagonist group is depicted in a piece ‘about’ war?” and “why is the piece the size it is? Why not bigger/smaller?” are questions that are at once pretty hard to answer (Picasso’s dead) and pretty rewarding to think about.

Douglas N. Morgan said,

…[T]he people [Picasso] makes – while surely people and not mere symbols – are pictorial people, people to be seen and not sympathized with. as pictorial, they are not really distorted at all. They are exactly the kind of people they are created to be.

which raises further questions on a piece with clearly deformed and hurt bodies. If this piece is anti-war, but these bodies are ‘meant’ to look this way, are we to infer that some bodies are meant to be mangled by war? Would a more realist style, showing wounds or catastrophic injury, make the point better, or at least more clearly? Or is Picasso saying that these people are forever injured, battered, killed in wartime and will forever be so seen, as they are in his work? Is the damage of war to be seen as eternal in the bodies of its victims?

Aside from this, the question inevitably arises (as it arose in my nascent, yet still ignant analyses in high school) that if we spelunk this deeply into the wherefores of art’s formation, do we run the risk of breaching the level at which the artist themselves worked? When I was fifteen I asked, stupidly, whether Shakespeare really knew what he was doing when he composed the metre of his poetry, or whether it was a happy accident. In that case i was rightly dunked on, being told ‘if it were accidental, it may well be proof positive of the existence of miracles’. But in other cases the case is less clear-cut. in Guernica, the presentation of the horse and the bull has been strung out over decades to symbolize Spain, protest, integrity and unity respectively, and a myriad other concepts. Yet Picasso himself said:

…this bull is a bull and this horse is a horse… If you give a meaning to certain things in my paintings it may be very true, but it is not my idea to give this meaning. What ideas and conclusions you have got I obtained too, but instinctively, unconsciously. I make the painting for the painting.

Which, to my mind, is an oblique way of saying ‘if you come up with a smart interpretation, it’s right. if you come up with a silly one, I didn’t mean that.’

I think I like Picasso now.

  • Anyway, speaking of hidden meanings, wartime and unanswerable questions, I’ve been reading Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor E Frankl, Holocaust survivor and noted neurologist. His book has been recommended by everyone from multimillionaire motivational speaker Tony Robbins to Amazon’s Father’s Day gift suggestions. here’s a segment:

Even though conditions such as lack of sleep, insufficient food and various mental stresses may suggest that the inmates were bound to react in certain ways, in the final analysis it becomes clear that the sort of person the prisoner became was the result of an inner decision, and not the result of camp influences alone.

Fundamentally, therefore, any man can, even under such circumstances, decide
what shall become of him—mentally and spiritually. He may retain his human dignity even in a concentration camp. Dostoevsky said once, “There is only one thing that I dread: not to be worthy of my sufferings.”

These words frequently came to my mind after I became acquainted with those martyrs whose behaviour in camp, whose suffering and death, bore witness to the fact that the last inner freedom cannot be lost.

I’m still reading this book and it delves into Dr Frankl’s Logotherapy fairly extensively which is far drier than the earnest and harrowing Auschwitz account, but the knowledge imparted in both sections has lived up to its recommendation. find it here. 

Since these last few topics have been fairly long I’ll hold off on spinning your scroll wheel further; next time I’ll be splashing through some stagnant philosophy (Kant, mostly, though maybe Aquinas too) in order to discuss the ethics of skillfulness, or the moral opposition to laziness, whichever sounds more ivory-towerlike.

Until then.

Jozef

Olympic-Level Bits of Tat

One of the more comforting lines from my arsenal of stolen ideas comes from world-famous, long dead artist and print maker Katsushika Hokusai, creator of the renowned and thoroughly absorbed images of Mt Fuji. It goes:

From the age of six, I had a passion for copying the form of things and since the age of fifty I have published many drawings, yet of all I drew by my seventieth year there is nothing worth taking in to account. At seventy-three years I partly understood the structure of animals, birds, insects and fishes, and the life of grasses and plants. And so, at eighty-six I shall progress further; at ninety I shall even further penetrate their secret meaning, and by one hundred I shall perhaps truly have reached the level of the marvelous and divine. When I am one hundred and ten, each dot, each line will possess a life of its own.

For me it’s impossible not be be heartened by this idea that growth will come with time and effort.  Even though it may not be true in most cases, it’s true enough to be valuable. The Japanese phrase Ganbatteusually used when a westerner would say ‘good luck’ actually translates closer to ‘do your best’ and goes some way to crystallize the work ethic of Japanese people from an outsider’s perspective. Effort, not luck or chance, wins out and is to be appreciated. Speaking of value derived from effort, here’s another heartening export from Japan:

  • Netsuke, the ancient Japanese art of hanging stuff from things

netsuke

Netsuke began as a perfunctory, pragmatic item; since samurai robes had no appreciable pocket space, samurai held their pipes, writing equipment, d20s etc in little boxes (called sagemono) which were suspended from their sashes. Tying the sagemono onto the sashes would be time-consuming and unsightly if the knots weren’t pristine, and would require more cordage to achieve.

sagemono
The more elegant solution was to connect the sagemono to a cord, the other end of which would hold something like what you see above; a peg, disc, sphere or other shaped bauble that prevented the cord from simply falling away between the sash and the samurai’s bod. This allowed for speedy removal but also allowed the samurai to express themselves (or in rather more cases, commission someone to do the expressing for them)

At the above left you can see the complete ensemble, in this case from the Edo period but likely made in the late 18th century, with phenomenal detail pushed into every aspect of the sagemono and netsuke. In this instance, the netsuke was made by ôhara Mitsuhiro and the sagemono by Koami Shinsaburo, which goes some way in suggesting the amount of labour that went into these items, and the prestige connected to the ownership of such functional high-art.

On the above right there’s a depiction of the demon-queller Shoki, bursting from his scroll to defend the owner of the netsuke and protect them from evil spirits, perhaps. As with the first example, spiritual allusions and representations of deities, characters from fables and mythological creatures were fairly common, and allowed the craftsmen to create massively diverse pieces; rabbits, frogs, children or even whole families have been immortalized in ivory and hardwood.

The reason I’m so hyped about these items should be of no surprise; it’s damn hard to make intricate pieces from wood, harder still to make them small, and harderer stiller to do so while incorporating various inlays and metallurgical techniques to, say, give a roof silver tiling or an animal mother-of-pearl eyes. It’s astonishing to me, and inspirational in the extreme to know that skill such as that has existed for hundreds of years. The industry may have died down, but the ingenuity and drive for quality are traits still shown in modern day artists who keep the craft and history of the artform alive.

For example, Tatsuya Ino‘s combination of videographic style and evident skill makes watching the process a pleasure unto itself, with the finished article seeming all the more impressive for our knowledge of its creation. That’s how I feel, anyway:

Next up:

 

  • The Olympic Channel’s video series

So naturally the legacy of the Olympics kinda requires people to still be engaged with the idea of international sport and cooperation to achieve excellence in order to work, and so far I’ve seen precisely zero engagement on that platform from non-athletes and fairweather sports enthusiasts.

Which is a shame since the video series put out by The Olympic Channel has high quality videos released every few days, showing the culture of elite athleticism as well as the physical output of those athletes. it’s fascinating stuff, but as a person more keen on working with people than working on myself, the series called The Z Team really took my eye in. It follows bottom-of-the-leaguers as they receive coaching from Olympians who walk the talk and know the sport they’re coaching in forwards and backwards:

 

Aside from these stories, The Olympic Channel website has hundreds of articles and videos on every sport in the Olympics, brimming with insight into coaching, training and performing at an international level. I’m surprised the page isn’t pushed more.

 

  • Genius is Eternal Patience – Michelangelo

I was going back over my architecture notes recently and found a pattern that I’d either forgotten about or never noticed; when talking about spaces or movements through a building, the people I worked under would talk about impressions and abstractions, “this could feel very Philosopher in Meditation, couldn’t it?” but when it came to talk about façades, particularly the newer additions to Birmingham’s walkways and public buildings, only one name was mentioned- Michelangelo.

“It’s not what Michelangelo envisioned” is a quote I have down from my second day at the firm, said on the way to work as I quizzed a junior architect about the new Birmingham library. “look up: Saint Peter’s Longitudinal” is in the margin of my notes 5 days later, when I was encouraged to be less reliant on the software to create accurate renderings of buildings we had visited.

Michelangelo was an inspiration for half the firm, it seemed, and here was me thinking he was only good for making Davids. One thing I really enjoyed when looking for Michelangelo’s works was the amount of bits and pieces we still have that give a glimpse of the process; sketches unfinished but with a hint of an idea intact that can be found extant in the building he designed or the painting he finished. It’s a pretty cool rabbit hole to fall down:

 

 

  • Listening to Paradise Lost

I ditched my Now TV account in order to remain cost-neutral when I took up an Audible subscription, a choice that made sense both in terms of content (I had finished Lost again, and zombies/American dramas do very little for me) and in terms of time: catching 15 minutes of a book on the way to work instead of listening to the same Jazz megamix feels a more productive use of the cycle’s duration.

After milling about on the site I remembered there was one book i was always encouraged to read aloud (to get the wordfeel textflavour or some such literary sommelier contrivance). This seemed to be a handy sidestep to that hassle, and thus I came to own the audiobook of Paradise Lost, by John Milton.

There may be some merit to the reading-aloud point, since Milton was blind at the time of writing and had to dictate his work, meaning he would’ve had to face the syntax ear-on. Either way, returning to the work has provided some choice quotations, such as:

The mind is its own place, and in itself
Can make a Heaven of Hell, a Hell of Heaven.
What matter where, if I be still the same,
And what I should be, all but less than he
Whom thunder hath made greater?
Here at least
We shall be free…

Here we see Satan coming to terms with his Fall; realising that Hell, being a land ostensibly for him and his compatriots, is his lot to mould, he begins to make the best of it and encourages others to do the same.

This is one of the first passages Milton creates that builds on the concept of the Devil being a sympathetic, even relatable character. We see him try to rouse his friends to action with commanding rhetoric rather than violence, we see him display mental fortitude in the face of adversity but better still, we see him open a democratic dialogue with his peers to discover the next course of action. No such traits are displayed in the following book by God, who (perhaps necessarily) is inscrutable and single-minded, or by Jesus who is almost too willing to sacrifice himself for the creature who has yet to even come into existence.

Satan here highlights the power in perception, along the lines of Camus’ Sisyphus, and shows that there can only be a victor if the enemy accepts defeat. If the Devil can make a heaven of hell, even if it only is so within his own mind, he has defeated God by perverting the punishment He’s laid out. This is a skill that, if applied wholeheartedly, makes one immune to pain, loss, hunger and death itself. If the Biblical God gave us the gift of life, Milton’s Satan has given us the gift of navigating that life powerfully.

  • No Song this week, since I’ve been neck deep in the podcasts I’m behind on BUT SPEAKING OF PODCASTS

Song Exploder is the podcast I wish I was cool enough to make, and it does a job desperately needed in the music industry: it allows artists to wax lyrical on their processes and methods, machines and mechanics and gives the listeners deeper insights into how the music they love got made. Highlights in this Clipping. episode include: all of the sounds are made from field recordings?! and Clipping. set stipulations for their raps like never using first person pronouns. ever. It’s super duper cool and they’re not overly long so you can burn through your favorite artists fairly quickly then get into some new music with a newly focused ear-hole.

That’s all for now, I’m working on a longer-form piece about fasting, metabolemics and doing things because you haven’t done them before, but that’ll be out around June 25th so until then, listen to all of The Adventure Zone podcasts.

Jozef

 

Art for Art’s Ache

Evenin’!

This week is a globe-spanning sojourn to fantasy-medieval Poland, colonial South Africa and post-capitalist dystopian Japan, if you can believe it. What I really enjoy about the topics this time round is how they highlight people’s ability to get really, really into niches. Obsessing in hyperspecific areas, be that artwork or marketing or high-concept music, cheers me up no end and reminds me that people are capable of being weird in innumerable ways, which is always heartening. So, to start off, a body of work that has eaten 400+ hours of my life:

  • Art of The Witcher 3

With over 80 accolades behind it, the majority being Game of the Year awards, it shouldn’t be a surprise that The Witcher had high level artists pumping out concept work that’s the epitome of high-fantasy realism. The vivid world that CD Projekt Red created works because of the diligence of these artists and the effort they pushed into every vista and vantage point, as the discussion below evidences:

In the discussion (it’s fairly pedestrian unless you’re an architecture, videogame or landscape art nerd. then it becomes extremely enjoyable) Marta and Kacper touch on the compromises required to complete a project that has resonance with the lore of the lands while also evoking real-world art movements. references to the art-deco movement, late and neogothic architectural motifs and medieval townships are alloyed with the cultures created in-game to create new but relatable groups.

Skelliga

The region of Skellige for instance, probably named for the Skellig islands in County Kerry, Ireland, is the home of a seafaring collection of proud and boisterous clans loosely governed by a single ruler. With their longboats and war-hatchets, berserker warriors and ritual burials-at-sea they resemble mainstream conceptions of a Viking culture, yet the Skelligans have certain other religious practices, artworks and naming conventions that are reminiscent of Gaelic cultures. Norse-Gaels are likely a strong influence for this group of rowdy boys yet the intertextual links never become so overt (at least for me) that the Skelligans cease to be their own discrete faction. Take a gander at the concept art from Jan Marek below, you’ll pick up what I’m putting down:

Bear in mind that Skellige is the smallest region in the game and one of the last areas you’re introduced to. If you’re interested, here’s a free PDF of the Witcher 3 art book. They deserved their 80+ awards, for real. This game is a gem.

[Post-Script: Kotaku recently re-released a video showing how the DLC zone of Beauclair was built]

Speaking of precious materials, after a fairly lengthy stint watching one of those jewelry auction channels I was reminded that life is precious and shouldn’t be squandered with fripperies like that but also

  • Diamonds aren’t all that rare, and their value is highly exaggerated

For a great background introduction smuggled into a story about marital/fiduciary strife, I really recommend this episode of Freakonomics Radio where the history and manipulations of Cecil Rhodes’ De Beers company is briefly but powerfully highlighted. Essentially, the company was formed after the discovery of a couple of diamond mines in South Africa, and has grown to be one of the foremost players in the global diamond industry.

They got to that point thanks to Cecil Rhodes’ combination of buying up local mining operations and fixing prices for diamonds exported to the UK. Since De Beers essentially controlled the outflow of goods, they could dictate the price so long as demand remained high, which they encouraged through targeted marketing (remember Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend? Yeah.) In this way, the image of the diamond as being supremely valuable, rare and preeminent in the world of fine jewelry was propagated.

Though De Beers’ hold on the market has greatly diminished – to around 30 percent of the total diamond production industry nowadays from their previous 90 percent – their efforts in building diamonds to be investment opportunities and covetous commodities has barely budged.

  • Moving from the folly of past generations to pictures of a potential future, this article on accelerationism and Bladerunner dives so deep into post-capitalist escapism through new music genres, phobias effectively reframed as philias, understanding cyberpunk dystopias as “a panacea for America’s paranoid dreams of emasculation”. In short, it compiles and reframes Bladerunner as a way for Westerners to compartmentalize their (arguably well-founded) fears of a runaway economic system, which is pretty rad as a concept. the whole piece is fascinating, with a number of links to quality material that I could only hope to emulate here, but the kicker is this closing punch:

Techno-Orientalist aesthetics produced in this way lack an ingredient crucial to today’s increasingly xenophobic world: an openness to genuine encounters with the Other. To accelerate towards the future with fuel made from the Other is not to accelerate towards a new life, but towards death itself

Edward Said’s Orientalism is probably required reading prior to engaging with the article (and the world in general, tbh) but suffice to say, it’s a densely packed piece that rewards active reading.

  • Moving away from Vapourwave toward more uplifting Japanese Electronic music, Wednesday Campanella have been keeping me company the last few days, being variously joyous, introspective and as quirky as you’d expect from a band created from a chance meeting at a design festival in Tokyo. check it out:

I don’t have a background in electronic music, nor do I claim to have anything above what I would call an occasional recognition of Japanese, so I’m less than keen to engage in a Song Exploderesque dissection here. Still, I’m looking forward to diving deeper into this pretty exciting artist.

That’s game set match for this week! tune in next time for more unwarranted jumps into depths unknown on topics I’m digging.

Until then!

Jozef

Tuesday’s Gone

Good Evening!

I’m going to be real with you for a sec, hope you can hang with it: I hold grudges. Specifically, I hold grudges against people who ask for help with a thing then do nothing with the help they’re given. This is almost certainly a case of my projection and revulsion of a flaw I see (avoid seeing, I suppose) in myself, but that’s beside the point, which is this: Help is everywhere on the internet, from the most highly qualified people you could hope to engage with. If you care about a thing, you can’t kick a digi-rock without it hitting the website or youtube channel of an expert in that exact area. So with that in mind, peruse if you will the highlights of the things I care about this week, starting with a topic close to my heart:

  • Muscles, Strength and getting more of both

The only videos on my personal youtube channel are from 2012 consisting solely of segments from my high school’s strongest boy competition:

These aren’t clean reps, we weren’t rigidly monitored for form quality and we weren’t inclined to penalize each other for… well, doing whatever Luke was doing towards the end there. We were enjoying the novelty of testing ourselves outside of class, and I remain thankful to the staff at Aston for keeping this competition going for as long as they did.

Though it would be easy for me to say my interest in strength training began there, I was barely going through the motions back then. while I was following Men’s Health recipes on blended oats, blueberries and protein powder and “hitting the gym” instead of attending Psychology classes I wasn’t really thinking about what I was doing, I was just trying to change myself in the typical teenage sense. Everything sucked and nobody understood me, least of all myself.

Fast forward 7 years and I would like to believe I’ve got a better handle on why I’m training, at the very least: to become strong. How strong, you ask? As strong as possible, I’d reply, unhelpfully. If that’s something you’re interested in too, this here link houses crucial pages from Ferriss’ book, the 4-Hour Body, with exercises and theories that I’ve found most useful. I’ll be adding to that link in time but there’s already useful stuff to be savoured.

if you just want a taste of the sort of thing I’m talking about, here’s Tim Ferriss explaining my favourite motion:

Tim has a ton of great insights into the fastest, most efficient ways of doing things and I can’t recommend his books enough, if only for the great value for money they represent, being the bricklike tomes that they are (again, see the dropbox for pages taken from Tim’s 4-hour body)

While this motion may not seem all that impressive, it builds the muscles of the posterior chain (the back half of your body, including your butt, hamstrings, latissimuss dorsi and others). These muscles, when developed, lead to things like this:

(for context, each one of those red plates weighs 25kg. he has 10 of them on that bar at the outset.)

If this doesn’t blow your mind into tiny pieces, we’re probably cut from different cloth so feel free to scroll past this point, but if you’re inspired by Dmitry Klokov as I was, the good news is he’s all over youtube (albeit in Russian) and the great news is many many coaches like him are literally giving away routines that will help you get stronger than you are right now. Not only that, but the fundamentals, the initial ones and twos you need to recognise in order to safely improve? They exist online for free too. One of the books that came up repeatedly in my initial research back in 2012 was called Starting Strength, which was £28 at the time. Here, it’s free. If you’re a little more advanced and want help making sure you’re doing exercises in the right way, here’s a playlist I made chock-full of insightful coaches giving their knowledge away. If motivation is the weak link, this video of Dan Bailey completely destroying a set of 30 clean and presses in a minute (a standard workout in Crossfit, incredibly) never fails to inspire me, along with this slow burner of a workout called the Iron Triathlon:

You can skip to any point in the 95 minute workout and see something phenomenal occurring. If that doesn’t get you going I don’t know what will. With that being said, let’s move on to lighter matters, like:

  • Scurvy giving people superpowers

Sounds a bit out of left field, right? But from this article from the Public Domain Review it seems like along with the ‘regular’ negative effects of becoming scorbutic, many individuals experienced heightened senses to the point of giddiness, which seems worth it maybe? The article is needlessly sesquipedalian, which seems to be a requirement of the PDR but nonetheless it was an interesting take on the potential for positive outcomes in negative conditions (here’s a VSauce video on what scurvy is, just in case.)

If you’ve not read the book I seriously counsel you to procure the film and consume it first. This may be a sacrilege for many readers to even suggest but having gone through both versions a handful of times I believe the world of the film aids understanding of the novel far more than the reverse. The plot points, in a similar way to Memento (more on that movie another time) are only heightened by repeated exposure to them, and the schism in tonality every so often (there’s a couple of chapters dedicated to music album reviews. Fully fledged, detailed and thorough music reviews.) was and remains exhilarating to me. The first three pages demonstrates this by following what is essentially the wrong main character for a while before our man Bateman is forced to react in a conversation:

“Powell and dinner at Evelyn’s? These two go together about as well as paisley and plaid.” Price rethinks this. “White socks with gray trousers.” A slow dissolve and Price is bounding up the steps outside the brownstone Evelyn’s father bought her, grumbling about how he forgot to return the tapes he rented last night to Video Haven. He rings the bell. At the brownstone next to Evelyn’s, a woman—high heels, great ass—leaves without locking her door.
Price follows her with his gaze and when he hears footsteps from inside coming down the hallway toward us he turns around and straightens his Versace tie ready to face whoever. Courtney opens the door and she’s wearing a Krizia cream silk blouse, a Krizia rust tweed skirt and silk-satin d’Orsay pumps from Manolo Blahnik. I shiver and hand her my black wool Giorgio Armani overcoat and she takes it from me, carefully airkissing my right cheek, then she performs the same exact movements on Price while taking his Armani overcoat. The new Talking Heads on CD plays softly in the living room. “A bit late, aren’t we, boys?” Courtney asks, smiling naughtily. “Inept Haitian cabbie,” Price mutters, airkissing Courtney back. “Do we have reservations somewhere and please don’t tell me Pastels at nine.” Courtney smiles, hanging up both coats in the hall closet. “Eating in tonight, darlings. I’m sorry, I know, I know, I tried to talk Evelyn out of it but we’re having… su shi.” Tim moves past her and down the foyer toward the kitchen. “Evelyn? Where are you, Evelyn?” he calls out in a singsong voice. “We have to talk.” “It’s good to see you,” I tell Courtney. “You look very pretty tonight. Your face has a… youthful glow.” “You really know how to charm the ladies, Bateman.”

The first time through the book I was astonished; it was as though the author himself didn’t know who to ‘be’ at the beginning of the book – the successful, aggressive Price or the polished, upright Bateman. Of course, that’s actually Bateman’s dilemma, whose peripeteia is as hollow and inconsequential as the rest of his presence in the narrative. We are essentially trapped with him, as he is, moving towards nothing in particular yet driven by the base desires that were all the rage, so we’re told, in the 80s.

  • Taking Off, by Clipping.

Clipping. is one of those groups that epitomize “scary rap”. Not in the braggadocious, frenetic style of Danny Brown or the straightforward violent vein of NWA, but in a deeper, more existentially terrifying manner that is so striking and so expansive in the spoken narratives that I couldn’t turn my ears away, despite the graphic nature of some of the songs. The above track isn’t too bad for that but there’s clearly a dystopia Daveed is staring at as he raps. Clipping.’s latest album, Splendor and Miseryis a concept album about, from what I can gather without the aid of Rap Genius, the far future’s return to the slave trade and how one escapee, “cargo no. 2331” is moving through literal space, “upset by that to which he is subjected but convinced he brought it on himself”. It’s phenomenal, and it’s a damn shame more people don’t rant about the talent evident across Clipping.’s back catalogue.

That’s the lot this time, I’m fairly certain the next post will have less egregiously depressing content. If anything above struck you as something life-changing or deeply interesting, drop me a bell and I’ll talk your goshdarn ear off about it.

Until next time!

Jozef

 

 

 

 

 

 

Monday’s Child

Good morning!

Boy, politics sure is constant isn’t it? Good thing we can retreat into our own interests sometimes to recuperate before the next foray into the comments section… (Never read the comments.)

Before diving headlong into the more serious itinerarial points, here’s something nice to look at:

kiminonawa.png

For those of you who don’t know (i.e me circa 3 months ago) Kimi No Na Wa (“Your Name”) is kind of a big deal. It’s the second largest grossing film in Japan, behind Spirited Away, and the fourth largest in the world after Titanic and Frozen. So I’m late to the party as usual.

Regardless, this piece does all kinds of justice to the film, from the pacing implications made by the sparks, to the mystery hinted at by the bright white central focal point and dumbfounded expression seen in the subjects, to the fact the ‘explosion’ is seemingly occurring both behind and in front of them (they’re looking back, but the blast lines cross in front of their bodies). The pastel, lo-res style indicates this is not a hugely complex narrative, whilst the vivid colours and aforementioned sparks let you know whats up in broad strokes. It does a great job of showing newcomers just enough flesh to pique interest, while providing a sweet injection of nostalgiacaine to those in the know. I love it. go watch it, and go check out TATO‘s tumblr for more great art, from overwatch to pikachus with guns.

I spent the last few weeks catching up with podcasts and authors I’d missed recently, including the stellar Reply All channel (This one sticks out as a highlight that every twentysomething I know would benefit from hearing) As well as 99PI and MBMBaM, but for now, I want to talk about something that jumped out from the two-part story by Reply All where the staff were investigating a hacked Uber account) called, rather attractively:

  • Credential Stuffing, (CS), a cyber attack method used primarily to snake your deets and access your personals.

Simply put, CS revolves around the reality that most internet users recycle passwords, either for convenience’s sake or through the fairly lowkey marriage of naivety and laziness that many of us are attending. This security weakness means that, if any of the sites for which you use a password is compromised, your information for all other sites is compromised. The connecting thread between your M&S account, your Reddit credentials and your Tumblr may well be the same details that leaked to the darkweb after Yahoo was hit

Think about it like having the same key for every door in your life. If someone cracks the lock anywhere, they know how to open every door, closet and safe you have. A great resource mentioned in the Reply All episode was Have I Been Pwned? which throws your email or username up against a collected list of publicly available breaches, to see if someone’s worked out how to open your lock. (Turned out the email i specifically used for MySpace had been hacked, which… I think I’m okay with?)

Anyway, after listening to the podcast and checking your details you may want to look into some better security for your shit. I went with LastPass, a service that generates random passwords then remembers them for you, meaning A) you don’t have to try and create a method of loci-style story for 16 digits plucked from an AI’s hat, and B) you can have different passwords for everything, meaning if Nando’s gets hacked and your free half-chicken’s worth of loyalty points is compromised you don’t have to worry about your credit card floating into the abyss.

There’s no book excerpt this time round, since I’m working on a review of Peter Singer’s Ethics in the Real World: 82 Brief Essays on Things That Mattewhich will be going up next week on the podcast, hopefully. Keep your ears peeled.

  • The song for this week is from a band plucked straight from the Indie Playlist torrents I used to download in an attempt to have depth as a teenager. Luckily, there were some fabulous songs nestled between Smiths ripoffs and new age Bob Dylan-styled wailers. One such belter is this, by Miracles of Modern Science:

From the repeating riff, flashy yet boiling down fairly quickly, to the aggressive double bass thuds around 2 minutes in (instantly calling to mind the time a few of us were let loose in the upper floor of the school’s music hall unattended, with free range on the uncased instruments) to the Reich-esque phase shifting at the song’s breakdown ending, to even the samples of educational material describing the wonders of science- all of it, every note reminds me of school.

That’ll be doing it for us this time, the next post is set to include such divisive topics as “humour in deadlift technique tutorial videos” and “Da Vinci was pretty good wasn’t he? see? look!”

Have a good one.

Jozef

First Friday

Good afternoon! This blog right here is going to house interesting shit that I want to talk about without having to pin individuals against walls for an audience.

I’ll be covering stuff like art theory and history, music and philosophy, linguistics and semiotics and other ancillary interests that i get evangelical about if I’m not careful (see Knolling below for a thick, syrupy taste of that category). I’ll be treating the topics like pieces in a gallery, with long, overindulgent descriptions that assert that this, right here, is the good shit. Please feel free to skim past all that and consume the links alone if you like.

It’ll never be more than 5 points long, so don’t worry about wearing out your mouse wheel. To start off, here is:

  • One piece of art, herein known ingeniously as “Robot Playing Guitar in the Rain” by Goro Fujita.

Image result for goro fujita robot

This piece is par for the course in Fujita’s expansive wheelhouse of robot-meets-world illustrations, which is to say it’s a beauty. Conjuring false memories of a cleaner, less futuristic Bladerunner set with the dull, rain-slick streets reflecting a neon rainbow, paired with the subtle lens flare towards the upper left quadrant, one could believe this to be a concept panel for a neo-noir dystopia film were it not for the quirkily misshapen vehicles pootering through the scene and, of course, the big dumb grin and anime yawn of our two main characters. the humanity depicted in these distinctly unhuman faces is what drew me to this image initially, and the character design that radiates from their posture, positioning and proxemics has such a pull that it’s hard not to imagine the story beyond the scene. the framing is tight on the bot’s upper half, giving us the detail of his fretting appendage and umbrella deployment system, both of which further emphasize the fact our protagonist is spec’d for having fun. Other interpretations of this image have the robot busking, presumably for the money to feed his cat friend but i think the removal of any suggestion of an audience or donations hat dissuades this reading; we have a happy robot and a bored cat, making music into the rainy night. The simple beauty of the concept shines through the piece, which is why it has been my desktop background since the day i found it.

  • Besides staring at my computer screen in a lazier-than-thou extreme form of procrastination I took to rereading Bertrand Russell’s History of Western Philosophy, more to improve my knowledge of time periods than anything else. Luckily, yet unsurprisingly, there are prescient passages abound in the work, including the quotation found below. the whole book can be nabbed online here: The passage from which this quotation is taken is on pages 227-228.

Fear took the place of hope. the purpose of life was rather to escape misfortune than to achieve any positive good. metaphysics sink into the background and ethics, now individual, become of the first importance. Philosophy is no longer the pillar of fire going before a few intrepid seekers after truth: it is rather an ambulance following in the wake of the struggle of existence, picking up the weak and wounded.

Russell here is quoting C.F. Langus in Cambridge Ancient History, accessible here if you or a loved one has ‘appropriate credentials’.

Discussing the state of philosophical play by the 3rd century B.C, Langus is attributing the shifting place of intellectual development from beacon to bastion to a growing realisation in the populace that uncertainty governed their lives, from their wealth to their safety to the very nation they lived within. All things were apt to change, and while many tried to nullify this fearful fact through trust in astrology (proposed by Russell and others to be the result of exotic religions creeping through Greek society) many other intellectuals sought to repurpose Philosophy for comfort’s sake, rather than for the sake of mental exploration or categorization. This passage highlighted for me the potential harm in a placid adoption of Stoicism; accepting without resistance the harshnesses of situations or events may leave oneself without mental anguish, but does little to dispel that which might have harmed. I think I remember Seneca briefly discussing why stoics should be politically active, and vigorously so, but the rhetoric was muddied. I’ll be returning to this area once I’ve read up, and may well raise it with Jacob on our podcast in the future.

  • Moving onto something less existentially dreadening, a technique i loved but for which I had no name has revealed itself to be known as Knolling. watch this:

This sequence by Tom Sachs is just one of many, many great snippets from his vimeo series which watch like infomercials in the background of a Wes Anderson film. Though kitsch at times (swear jars and rubber band guns? in this economy?) they’re all worth a watch (another short but sweet highlight is How to Sweep, which forced me to reconsider a career in teaching DT.)

I found the name for this sweet technique while deep in a Y-hole at 2 or 3am, regretting but not really regretting the monster can i had, minutes prior, ripped into and pounded down. Anyway, it was here on Tested, a youtube channel that follows Adam Savage in his building and discussions of engineering, propmaking and nerdy lego kit assemblage.

The episode that describes Knolling relates the story, backed by Wikipedia, that the technique was deployed by Andrew Kromelow, a kindly janitor at Frank Gehry’s furniture shop in an effort to make the space look less messy, and to help the workers find their bits faster. named for the angularity displayed in the process, reminiscent of Knoll furniture (I guess these dudes were well versed in their furniture fashion history) the whole story reminded me of my time working in an architect’s studio back in Birmingham, where each member had their own quirks and styles of drafting, both onsite and in the shop. They even filed their PC documentation in different ways, which was frustrating when looking for idiosyncratically titled blueprint number 4 but a great look into the types of people that go into the creative industries, in hindsight.

  • Speaking of creativity and looking back, one song has kept creeping into my algorhythmic (™ ™ ™) playlists from the old days of my spotifying, and that is Skinny Lister‘s If The Gaff Don’t Let Us Down:

Playing this track instantly throws me back 5 or so years into the path between Aberdeen’s Zoology department (where i spent most of my time researching, since the distinctly brutalist building housed an array of awesome skeletal displays and an unparalleled number of freely accessible computers) and St Machar Drive, the arterial causeway for trips to the beach, the Olympic-quality sports centre and so on. While my time in Aberdeen wasn’t a walk in the park, the place itself has an unmatched beauty and sense of history that I’m grateful I experienced.

This song reminds me of my earnest need to return to the comfort and security of familiar turf, while also bringing to the fore the excitement and freedom that came from my first taste of independence and self-control. Plus, it’s a lively jig of a song and that was always welcome to brace against the knife-like chill of coastal Scotland.

 

That’ll be doing us for this week, next time I’ll spend more time being succinct and less time linking to brutalist buildings. Maybe.

 

Jozef