Thought Stream

 
    Here is where I park some of my short writing. 
    Not really my best or worst work, 
    not really anything particularly deep, 
    just internet floatsam. 
    

Contents


A state of confusion

26 June 2022

So, things are not going too well with the world. I'm seeing anxious people posting tweets and photos of some great injustice from the other side of the world, but I understand that I don't understand the context that they are experiencing. They're really distressed about it, but I can only view it from a detached half-formed understanding of the issue, to think that I can truly understand them would be really conceited. The opposing faction is also posting all sorts of anxious stuff too, everybody seems to be very angry and self-rightous. The more I dig the more messy it seems. And the worst part of it is that everything is so contradictory that I barely know what is real anymore. It's like people shouting at each other within their own angry bubble. Truth gets lost in the confusion.

Being on the edge of an empire is strange, I understand that what happens in the center of power has an effect on my life and I don't have any say in it. So the best that I can do is try to decode what is going on within the superpower in an attempt to make sense of what is happening with the world. But lately it's like looking at some distorted reality, that's just so goddamn confusing that I can't make heads or tails out of it. I'm not sure if what I read and hear is even real anymore. I'm not sure if the people communicating these things know what is real anymore. For all I know, so many things could just be propaganda and bots and clueless people echoing misinformation.

Being on social media makes us really stressed because it distorts our sense of reality. I guess the same can be said for news as well. It delivers pre-digested ideas of right and wrong for you to consume, without giving you the time to think carefully about it. That's one thing that I like about blog posts and other old web holdouts, they can be absolutely mundane, but at least it feels like it is part of a human experience rather than the media agenda of corporations and polical movements. We live in really confusing times, I'm pretty sure that moral ground is going to shift rapidly from here on out. Part of me wants to abandon it all and live a simple life away from it all. Part of me knows that I have to at least keep tabs on it so it isn't used against me.

But what do I know? I'm only a third worlder playing a curious spectator to a crumbling empire.







The breathing forest

14 June 2022

I was watching the rainforest after the rain. It's quite magical to watch. Plumes of mist lift off from the trees and drift back into the clouds. It's hard to wrap my brain around the amount of water defying gravity and ascending into the sky. It looks like a giant living organism exhaling. An astounding sight. Enjoying the fresh air, just watching the timeless forest, forgetting about meetings and work. I feel like I remember how to breathe again.

These mist shrouded mountain peaks, I'm so small in comparison. Just another tiny piece of the huge puzzle that is life on Earth. It makes my own personal problems feel absolutely microscopic.

Here's a shot I managed to get. But I think the experience as a whole is impossible to capture in a photograph.







Get out

10 June 2022

In the past two weeks I've been taking the chance to travel on day trips. Even if it was a short distance away, if I had the time I just went out. I've been to golden paddy fields, roaring waterfalls, splashing streams, rainforests, through highways and country roads. Ever since the pandemic I've been working, just stuck in one place for too long. I've been in a city, commuting and getting stuck in traffic jams. Slowly becoming numb. Haunted by the feeling that I've lost something indescribable. Some days I feel like I'm just a wandering ghost searching for some vague thing from the past.

Looking at the horizon, feeling cool water, climbing through muddy trails, catching a breeze, having lunch at a village eatery. As I've been to those places I noticed that I no longer had a sense of wonder that I used to have. Despite the scenery around me all I could feel was a sense of tired weariness. But with every place I go I feel like I pick up something familiar. With each place, my heart starts to beat a little more. I'm catching glimpses of the person that I actually know inside this hollowed out overworked shell.

Maybe I'm tied to a place. The green hills, blue skies and endless waters of this tropical land. To feel at home I need to leave my literal home in the city. Just go off and explore again.

I need to get out more.







Pride month

7 June 2022

We're almost at the end of the first week of Pride month, I know this because stuff from the Global North fills my social media feed. We don't celebrate it here. You'd probably end up in jail if you tried. Queers and bisexuals and gays and lesbians and transfolk do exist here, but they have find ways to live in a system that rejects them. I was just reading a thread where a gay American was trying to cancel a trans Southeast Asian. There's a strange lack of self awareness to it. It's like they don't realise that while they are a minority in their country, just being a citizen of a superpower and talking down to people who have to live in oppressive regimes makes you look like an oppressor at best.

It's a bit strange when people announce their sexual orientation and ethnicity online, and it kind of becomes their entire personality. It feels one dimensional. And they try to enforce this black and white system on the rest of the world. There are so many ways of being human, but they just want to conform to some pure ideal of a certain type of person that exists in the west. Even poor black people in the USA enjoy consumerism built on the backs of a global workforce that breaks their bodies to deliver cheap trinkets to big box shops. I get that you are oppressed in your own country and that sucks, but your experiences aren't universal and you still benefit from being a citizen of that country. Instead of trying to enforce your victimhood on others, building bridges and solidarity between oppressed groups would be wiser choice.

Some may consider this to be a conservative right wing view point, but it's not. American fascists are just as bad, they try to enforce their own black and white worldview on the rest of the world too. But the world is really complicated, it resists clean categories. Some people live in countries where minorities oppress the majority economically or politically. Some people live in countries where indigenous people oppress immigrants. Some people live in countries where religion is law. Some people live in countries that have been occupied and colonised by neighbouring powers. Some people live in countries but are not part of the country at all. You can't just take a template from the USA and apply it to every person in the world. It's not better or worse, it's different.

So enjoy your pride month. But remember that it is a cultural moment only accessible to a privileged few that just happen to live in the Global North. That doesn't mean that any oppression is invalid or lesser, but rather knowing that there are many forms of oppression in this world and working together to overcome it is far better than building a hierarchy of oppression and crowning yourself the winner at its lonely peak.







Remembering

4 June 2022

When trying to hit deadlines and keep up with work, I get into this near zombified state where I just need to keep myself, exhausted and numb, going until I reach the end of the project. I hardly feel anything, lose a lot of sleep and struggle to cross things off my to do list. Just scraping along and losing myself in frustration.

I was cleaning up the code of this blog a bit to make it more archivable. So I ended up reading what I had written down in the past year or so. It's good to read your own writing, it's an act of remembering who you are, even when life is tiring, foggy and uncertain. When life just carries you away on a torrent of constant troubles and anxious depression, just having something to remind yourself that you are human has a very grounding effect. Even if your writing is just some frivolous mash of daily topics without any purpose or order.

I often ask myself why I write. I write for work and then come home and write some more. Endless lines of typed out words. Strung out sentences.

Maybe I write because I want to remember and be remembered.







Zugzwang

25 May 2022

It seems like the rhythm of my day now revolves around avoiding traffic jams. The congestion really is unbearable, everyday being both alone and stuck in a crowd of people, just pushing levers with my feet for hours. It's a giant long assembly line that just produces waste. So I try to wait it out or avoid it whenever I can. It hasn't been easy. It's strange, the weather is becoming more extreme, either unbearable heat or rain and flash floods. But here I am, stuck in a machine that causes it to get worse. Unable to free myself, because that's just how society works.

Prices of food are rising, epidemics showing up everywhere, supply chains are disrupted, corrupt politicians are running the country into the ground, the currency is devaluing, countries are becoming more unstable, superpowers are becoming more imperialistic by the day, the climate is breaking down, it feels like tempers get frayed and mob violence is on the horizon. Every day I'm fed a steady stream of bad news on a glossy rectangle that serves me anxiety. But I'm so stressed that I can't put up any resistance and the only thing I can do is keep scrolling.

I feel like I'm stuck in a Zugzwang, I have to make a move, but any move that I make just makes things worse. I can see it, our global fossil fuel powered civilisation slowly falling apart. It's not an epic collapse, but it is so slow and mundane. Moving at a pace slower than a traffic jam, but still faster than I ever expected. And it's absolutely boring, it's watching a giant machine slowly wear itself out because it doesn't have the ability turn off. Inevitably the machine will stop working, without any drama or fireworks, just creaking to a halt. Perhaps then, trapped inside of it, we will only know despair.

Or rather we will just go on with our lives, because despair has become just another part of our daily routine.







By the stream

22 May 2022

I was alone at a stream that I haven't been to for years. I didn't have access since the pandemic started, and after all the lockdowns I was too busy with work to make the time to visit it. The water was clear, the paths were a little overgrown with plants, it was quiet aside from the splash of water and calls of a nearby raptor. A school of fish swam in the water. The day had been really hot and dry, but there was a lot more water than I imagined. I put my hands in to feel the cool water.

A small lone forest betta came towards me to investigate. It was about as long as a penny. Judging by it's size it wasn't more than a year old. Probably it had never encountered a human before. I slowly cupped my hand around it and caught it. I sat there for a while admiring the small cool pool of water and fish in between my palms. The water started to leak out between my fingers and the fish began to panic. I put it back in the water and it hopped away.

I felt a whole lot less stressed than I had been all week. I had been to other streams before. But maybe it was nice to be back in a familiar stream.







Despair

19 May 2022

I had a chat with a random stranger today, he was on the older side and convinced that the world was going to end soon. He didn't think we need to worry about leaving anything to the next generation, since we have about 60 or so years left until the end of the world. I wasn't really surprised, these ideas are constantly around, so many people have predicted the end of the world and their personal apocalypses have come and gone without so much as a whisper. It's certainly a dangerous position, too many people thinking like this is going to ruin the world for the rest of us that actually want to live on it. But it is an understandable position, it's easier to imagine the world ending than to think about how hard the future will be.

When encountering despair, there are many ways people deal with it. Giving up is one obvious response. A different option, one that I choose too often for my own good, is to realise that my actions are futile and almost certainly going to fail, but do it anyway. Sometimes I'm right, sometimes I'm wrong. Maybe it doesn't matter in the larger scheme of things. Maybe I'm a butterfly flapping it's wings and causing an unlikely chain reaction of events. In a world so soaked in despair and where your actions can feel meaningless, it certainly is the more interesting option to do rather than to wait.







Japanese curry

10 May 2022

For the first time I had Japanese curry. I once met an old Indian academic that described it as a "Crime against humanity", and I've been reluctant to try it since. But someone else was paying for it, so I decided to be adventurous. It's a bit hard to describe Japanese curry if your reference point for curry is Indian or Malay. The one I tried tasted enough like curry, like someone accurately described curry to a person that had never tasted it before and did not have the proper ingredients to make curry. Not a facsimile, but occupying the uncanny valley of curry. Close enough, but not quite reaching there. It tasted like a mild, store bought type of curry, lacking in most of the herbs and spices that make curry nice. It feels so much more synthetic compared to the more natural taste of proper curry, like it is missing a secret ingredient passed down for generations.

Live long enough and you'll achieve something. It might be a long held dream, it might be something you never expected, but just by being around long enough you will have an achievement, however mundane it may be. But if you have a really good look at it, compared to your original dream, what you manage to achieve looks a bit more compromised, stretched, twisted and gaunt. No matter the achievement, deep down it never looks like how you expected it to be. After all the passion and struggles, you are left with something stuck in an uncanny valley. Close enough, but not quite reaching there. I can accept it for what it is, but I know that it doesn't feel completely right. Missing some secret ingredient. A sticky paste on unabsorbent sushi rice. Like Japanese curry.







Metamorphosis

8 May 2022

In Kafka's Metamorphosis, one day Gregor Samsa wakes up to find that he has turned into some sort of monstrous vermin. What follows is a depressing story of how his relatively normal life crumbles as he becomes a burden to his family. I was always a bit jealous of Gregor as I read the story. One, because cockroaches are awesome beautiful creatures. And two, because turning into a giant vermin is such a concrete and tangible excuse to not be able to work.

I often have a ton of unfinished work that keeps piling up. Sometimes I just can't work on it. I'm either too tired or my brain is strained. On those times, I start to fantasise about having an excuse to not do it. Like a concrete excuse of what prevents me from finishing that report, not these vague feelings of being overwhelmed and uninspired. An undisputable problem that I can point to, that prevents me from doing these tasks. There are all sorts of mental diagnoses that can be done, but they are always inaccessibly locked in the mind of the sufferer. It's not the same as acknowledging that your horrifying exoskeleton and spindly arms makes customer service work hard. Sometimes people just need an excuse to get away from the harshness of life.

Eventually I'll be stricken by chronic disease and realise that I should be careful about what I wish for. But until then it remains a guilty fantasy. Although, I do realise that in the current techno-dystopia that we live in, even if you turn into a giant cockroach you probably still have to work remotely from home. Just turn your camera off during meetings or something.

*This is also the entire premise of the anime Paranoia Agent. Yes, getting hit by a bat is also a wonderful excuse.







Lost

7 May 2022

Twice in the last week I've put my phone aside and depended entirely on my sense of direction to get home from the other side of town. I got lost both times. I like getting lost. The uncertainty, the sense of unknown, the spatial puzzle of filling in a mental map, going through places that you've never been. Being lost is a process, not a destination. It's all great fun. You can't really explore without getting a bit lost.

Getting lost is going to be a thing of the past. Everybody has a real time map in their pocket. Being physically lost is going to be very rare, something that only happens in the worst conditions. You can get directions almost anywhere. I wonder how people who don't have the experience of being physically lost will think when they become lost in other ways. Most of their world is a straight feed with few choices and branches. What other analogy can you map to the feeling of being lost? Will there be something else to replace it or will it just be an empty anxiety, a dreadful feeling with nothing else to compare it to?

In that sense I really do hope that there are more lost souls that can appreciate not knowing where they are every once in a while.







Monks

6 May 2022

Society needs monks. Not religious establishments and their enforcers, but those weird guys that exist on the edge of society. They reject normal life and spend it collecting, documenting, praying and thinking. I think there is an important role played by these outcasts. They preserve knowledge and help to give context to the problems that everyone faces. Monks know the stories and have discussed and contemplated them. The role of a monk is to think deeply and to be around when someone that has not thought as deeply comes for help.

Consumerism vilifies the monk. Consumerism can only survive when driven by desire. Therefore people that don't give in to desire have to be silenced and ridiculed, replaced instead by amulets sellers, megachurches and prosperity gospels. The role of monks have been cut up and doled out to others, universities must now do the thinking without any spirituality, motivational speakers give context to life but without the deep contemplation, therapists give guidance as a service that must be paid for, philosophy becomes divorced from practice and society, thoughts are simplified and stripped of nuances to become short videos and social media posts, stories are discarded in favor of copyrighted properties held by giant corporations. Reduced, bureaucratised and compartmentalised; the monk has been removed from society.

"We should use tax money to pay people a living wage to do nothing but sit around and think about life, maybe pray a bit and do a few rituals" sounds like kind of ridiculous preposition from a modern western perspective, but isn't it a bit crazy that money is valued over deep thought and a link to the past?

But there is an urge in humans to be monks. Not everyone can spend their life chasing fleeting desires. Some people just need to seclude themselves and think things through. Some people need to collect information and keep it in good shape. Some people just need to spend a lot of time discussing obscure topics. Some people just need to exist on the edge of society. I think we should value these people. We should respect and cherish the outcast, and not let them fall into despair and disillusionment.

Maybe people looking back on our times will see the obvious. That there is a large spiritual emptiness because we don't have the social structures that help us to deal with our problems. Like a house with too few pillars, it can take only so much stress before it comes tumbling down.







The beginning of the spirit wars

3 May 2022

I've been watching videos of concerned parents trying to make sense of that weird dissociative identity disorder trend that crawled out of tumblr and somehow exploded on tiktok. If you're not familiar with it, it seems that a once rare mental illness has exploded in popularity on tiktok with tweens and teenagers suddenly making a ton of videos demonstrating their newly discovered identities. So you have videos with kids switching back and forth between identities and talking to themselves. There are plenty of accusations that they are faking it for clout (Which to me sounds like something really crazy about modern society, why would you being mentally ill make you popular?). The sheer number of videos produced has been really worrying for Responsible Adults™, a group that I'm forced to participate in for no reason other than the year I was born.

I first encountered this subculture with some pluralist sites on Neocities, I found it to be an interesting read but didn't think much about it. Like all things that come from tumblr, it was a lot of jargon, categories and catalogues; which I find to be not a particularly useful way to articulate the complexities and contradictions of the human condition. At the same time I don't want to pass judgement on all those teens that self diagnose with DID. I'd done plenty of stupid things and believed all sorts of stuff as I was growing up (I was just lucky enough that I never had any capacity to broadcast it). Sometimes imaginative people find ways to cope with the changes in their life and identity, it might not be exactly DID but whatever they are going through is real to them. I don't think that there's actually a lot that an adult can do except let it play out and offer whatever support we can, as long as it doesn't become something harmful.

Which gets me to my other point, watching those videos of kids suddenly switching personalities and speaking differently reminded me of something that I had seen before and is pretty common in the Global South: possession by spirits. It just so happens that deities, djinn and various spirits enter the bodies of young people and cause them to hear things and behave in erratic ways, sometimes taking over the body entirely. If a teenager tried that stuff over here, they'd be referred to an exorcist, not a therapist. So my flight of fantasy explaination for this phenomenon is that somehow tiktok has created the right conditions that have awakened long dormant spirits and caused them invade the bodies of the younger generation en-mass. Call your local exorcist or witch doctor. Cast them out. This invasion has to be stopped.

*In case it is not entirely obvious, I'm being sarcastic about the last paragraph. I just saw the connection and needed to write it down.







Denial/ Acceptance

1 May 2022

Grief is not a linear process. There are stages, but you don't go through them like checkpoints in a marathon. Instead you wander through them, going in circles and doubling back, drunken and confused by your mind. Sometimes it does feel like there is too much grief around me, like I can't even recognise where I am anymore, there's just this vague cloud of something missing that can't be put to words. Am I at the beginning or the end? Is there even a way out?

Recently I had to deal with a massive disappointment, to which I kind of just shrugged and didn't feel anything. Maybe I was already prepared for the worse case scenario and as it happened I just did what I planned to do. Maybe I've become one of those cool and unfazed adults that I've always wanted to be. Maybe I'm just so emotionally exhausted by the pandemic that I really don't have anything left to mount any form of emotional response. Maybe I just accept that things won't always go my way and I can live with that. Maybe I don't realise that acceptance is indistiguishable from denial.

Or do all these possibilities even matter?

I'm just tired.







Child's play

27 Apr 2022

I sat down to play with a toddler today. We were playing with knockoff legos, the plastic was thinner, less glossy and more worn than the real deal (I suspect it was some sort of polystyrene instead of ABS). Some pieces could barely fit together, I could feel the cheap manufacturing as some were too loose and some were too tight. But it doesn't matter to a toddler, it's still a toy. He built a tower of blocks, demonstrating his advanced hand eye coordination. The tower grew taller until it reached the limits of the manufacturing, then the loose pieces just came tumbling down.

We only had 4x2 blocks, so we were limited to the most blocky and abstract shapes. I made a very abstract and rudimentary humanoid figure, just stubs for arms and some blocks where the head should be. To my surprise he managed to recognise the stubby limbs as a person, and we bashed the blocks together and smashed things up. I made a longer horizontal form, with a few blocks resembling a a dinosaur-like head, he recognised it as something different and gave it different sounds as the bashing and reconstruction continued. I wonder what was going on in his head, how did he see and understand the shapes?

Eventually he attached a gun/shoulder cannon(?) to one of the figures and made shooting noises. "Bu bu bu bu bu". That thing was rapid fire. I obliged with making whatever I was holding burst into pieces. There was much laughter. I guess toddlers understand what projectile weapons are, I wonder where he learned it from?

Having distracted him for long enough, I had to leave to do some work. But he kept calling me back to play, I must have been a fun playmate. It's been a while since I sat down to play in that way. To get down to the level of a child and look at the world from their viewpoint.







The pandemic rolls on

26 Apr 2022

I realise that thinking about the last two years makes me upset. That's a bit of an understatement. In my country it was the largest mass death event that has ever happened, eclipsing WWII. I know people that died as a result of the lockdown and multiple waves of infection. I'm watching how families and people's lives have been ruined by the pandemic. At the same time it seems so foreign and distant. Like I didn't have any time to process or grief. The world feels so twisted. Like real life ended a couple of years ago and all that's left is a murky emptiness that has swallowed up whatever hopes and dreams we had.

But I'm not supposed to think about. Pandemic over, get back to work. More people will die, but we need to keep productive. We need to sweep the pandemic under the carpet. It feels so bullshit, pointless and stupid. A pathological need to work and pretend that things are back to 'normal'. I hate it but at the same time pretending just feels easier, even if we are going to pay for it eventually.

I'd like the space to process my thoughts. To not be so busy struggling so I can sort myself out. To figure out what I can do in this dangerous foreign land that I've found myself in.

On another note, the climate crisis strikes again and we had the third once-in-100-years amount of rainfall in the last 6 months. If I didn't have a work from home day, I would have been trapped in the floodwaters. It sure is an overwhelming time to be alive.







Tweens

23 Apr 2022

I used to hate school. I'd take every opportunity that I could to just skip going to school. I recently had to deal with tweens, and now I can remember why I hated school and took every opportunity to avoid it. Hell is other people, but other people that going through puberty are a special pit in the depths of hell.

Just interacting with them makes me feel old and out of touch. What the hell is all this tiktok stuff? They are constantly doing little dances and hand signs that are alien to me. They talk like youtubers. They play stupid gatcha games. Why do they use so much 4chan slang, when did that become so mainstream that 11 year olds throw it around? They live with constant predatory content. All the comics they read come from a totally different era. They cut themselves and talk about how much their lives are pain. It makes me have flashbacks to how my teachers used to blame music videos and MTV, except now I'm inexplicably in the position of the clueless adult.

Why do some people consider their youth to be the best years of their lives? Are our memories so bad that we can scrub away all the crud that comes with growing up and only remember the lack of responsibilty and effortless strength and potential of our young bodies? Suddenly having to interact with this age group make me realise that being in the midst of it is absolutely horrible. All the changes and angst and confusion and not having any way to control it or even understand it for that matter. Where all your friends are just as idiotic and clueless as you are. It's so far removed from the springtime of youth that we depict in media.

I'm glad that I'm an adult with my feet firmly grounded by my experience. Maybe these tweens will be like that too. But in between then and now, I have to suffer them.







Folktales

20 Apr 2022

I've been reading folktales recently. They're delightful. There is an unrealness to them, thing happen just because. It often involves something outlandish or a flight of fancy. Pacing, characterisation and plot don't really matter. There isn't much structure to them. Sometimes there is conflict, sometimes things just happen without any. Some characters are animals, but they don't act like animals all the time, but they do act like animals some time. It really is a carefree form of storytelling.

At one point I was really obsessed with writing. I wanted to write well. I read a ton of books on writing. About storytelling, screenplays, drama and cinema. I'd watch movies and time the acts of the story. Pull apart the characters to their core motivations. I'd think a lot about the underlying structures that made some stories great, how did they build it in a way that it was satisfying to read or watch? I'd try to understand the hidden mechanisms at play. When I look back on it, I wonder if I was wasting my time.

When we constrain our tales to structures, tropes, genre and convention, perhaps we lose something. Literature becomes a novels of depressed people doing serious things instead a bunch of ungulates riding a giant flower and going fishing and getting into a fight with a giant that is stealing their smoked fish and then they outsmart the giant but get into a fight with each other and lose all the fish anyway. I wonder about all the stories that we have lost in our attempts to tell stories well.







The scarcity of joy

18 Apr 2022

Why do we have to earn joy? It makes sense if you come from an agricultural society to have to toil in the fields so you don't starve and have the energy to enjoy yourself. But an underlying assumption of modern society seems to be that you need to pay for pleasure. Joy has a price tag, even with family you need spend money on them (part of that is to keep them alive). And nobody questions why joy is so hard to obtain despite all our technological advancements. In the tropics where there is always an agreeable weather (with occasional strong monsoons and dry seasons), a lot of things just grew on trees. A lot of joy could just be picked as you walked along a path. Life just springs forth in abundance.

When colonisers came, they found the natives to be lazy because they didn't have to work as hard to survive. Spend a morning tending to your farm or going fishing, then you can enjoy most of your day, swimming or crafting or cooking or singing or dancing. Life was definitely harder without our modern luxuries, especially for women. But joy would literally grow on trees in the wild without any need for effort. Eventually the colonisers way of life was adopted, and we cut down the forests and orchards and built mines, factories and roads. Abundance was lost and replaced with scarcity. Now joy has a price. It has become governed by markets instead by the water and the soil.

I wonder what was the last time I felt joy from something I didn't have to spend money on? What did I enjoy that I didn't have to earn? Those long walks going nowhere in particular. Seeing a pied fantail peck at my window. Looking at the handful of blinking stars that can shine through the glare of the city. Watching a sunrise. Picking chilies off the chili tree. Watching the rain fall around me. Poking around the living world and finding fun bugs. Sour mangoes from the tree behind my house. A nice conversation with a friend. The herbs in my fried rice. Standing in a forest stream.

I don't deny that I enjoy buying stuff. It's fun. But I think about that other world that is out there, the one not blinded by the assumption that labour is the prerequisite to access joy. Would it be a better world if we just didn't assume that joy was scarce commodity to be sold and traded? What if it came down with the rain and grew out of the soil and we have so much of it we can just give it away to others?







Year in review

12 Apr 2022

Pre-pandemic I had this practice of reading all my journal entries for the year and thinking about how the year has been. Usually I sigh with relief and can't believe that I managed to survive it all. (Then the next year rolls over with increased difficulty.) I didn't journal much during the pandemic. Perhaps I didn't want to think too deeply about it. But I did have a years worth of blog posts about... I wouldn't call it random because there must be some insane pattern there. It was interesting reading nonetheless. A bit more of a fluffy omelette of writing instead of the darker more honest stuff that goes into my personal reflections.

I try to keep the more personal stuff out of this website, and not make it too much of a downer to read. But it has been a tough past 12 months when I think about it. Most of the time I was just trying to get by and keep my head above the water. Trying to keep my family safe and help my friends. Trying to figure out my grief while it seems like the world is just pushing for ruthless mindless productivity. Trying to literally avoid a killer virus and the attendant problems that come with it. I'm tired of trying, but I can't help but try.

I used to walk for hours on end. After the third hour I would start to feel a bit tired, but there was a simple trick to getting home. I just had to put one foot in front of the other. Don't think about how difficult it was and push ahead. If I had to rest for a while I would rest, but head down and foot forward. Eventually I got to wherever I wanted to go. Sometimes I would look back and realise that whereever I came from was far behind the horizon. The past 12 months have been tough, but head down and foot forward.







One year website

11 Apr 2022

This website is officially one year old! Originally I had no idea what to put on it or what I wanted to do with it, but like any empty surface, I piled up a hoard of stuff on it. Makes me think back to the idea of websites as carrier bags, like cavemen and travellers we fill them with interesting trinkets that we find and other items from our long journeys. Like a grandmother's cabinet, it begs to be filled with nostalgia and narratives. If modern social media is a sewer that flushes things away as fast as possible, websites are places where things can settle and grow. A wetland full of peatmoss and attendant fauna.

So what have I learned after a year as a webmaster?

  1. Writing is not that hard once you get into the habit of it. I think I must have wrote a novels worth of text in the past year. (Rather, coherent writing is not easy, but this stream of thought stuff is).
  2. Overall HTML and CSS aren't that hard. Centering text in CSS is where all the difficulty is. It's also possible to build websites without Javascript.
  3. I like building this intensely personal website, without advertising anything about my IRL identity or labels. It's very liberating. It's back to the wild west internet where people had to ask a/s/l.
  4. I made quite a lot of art just because there was a place to put it. I was a lot more productive when I didn't feel like I was flushing my work down a content toiletbowl.
  5. I'm starting to realise that my art is like home cooked meals, or at most a community barbecue. Meant to be enjoyed by a small group and shared because of hospitality. It's not fast food, it's not meant to be processed and served to mass consumers for profit.
  6. Neocities is where all the weird outcasts of the internet hang out, reminds me a lot of when the internet used to be the place where the weird outcasts ran off to. But that's what makes the community fun to interact with.
  7. Blinkie filled 00's nostalgia pages aren't for me. But I do like stumbling upon them.
  8. After the pandemic and crisis, it feels a lot more better for my mental health to focus inwards rather than the constant chaos outside. Focus on the small steps that I can manage instead of the the out of control chaos of the world. Building a website has been a very meditative process.
  9. There's no problems with putting stuff up for no reward. It's nice to create outside of modern online art hustle culture. I don't have anything to sell you or no brand to build and it's refreshing.
  10. There's still plenty of interesting stuff to discover on the internet. The problem is that it's all hidden or hard to find. Links are important.
  11. As long as your website is an honest attempt, it's interesting. I'll leave it to you to define what an honest attempt is.
  12. For some inexplicable reason, people like whatever I create enough to follow me. A lot of them are lurkers. I don't actually know what they like about my shotgun spray of art, writing, photography and comics; but perhaps it is better that way.
  13. I'm more comfortable with niche audiences. 200 people is just fine for my constant rambling. It's comforting that I won't create something that suddenly goes viral and puts the spotlight on me.
  14. Perhaps I started making comics again because I knew that there would be some people reading them, but there wouldn't be a lot of people reading them. It's like I'm putting them up in a quaint small town instead of the public judgement/execution amphitheater of Megacity-1.
  15. I started experimenting more with formats, not just on the web but offline as well with zines. Also exploring the text based world of Gemini was fun.

So in celebration of this anniversary, here's two zines that kind of capture the art and spirit of 2021 Occasionally, Content. (They're one page zines, so just look up a tutorial online, print them out and fold them accordingly).







The return

9 Apr 2022

I've been lucky enough to have gone on a fair share of adventures. It wasn't always fun and plenty of times it was dangerous as heck. There was always logistics and funding to think about, a lot more paperwork than I ever expected and so much heavy lifting. But there were always those quiet times in between all the work where I could look out towards the scenery and enjoy it for the moment. Take the sights and sounds in. In a post-pandemic world where travel is expensive and difficult, I'm glad that I managed to travel to a whole lot of exotic places and get it out of my system before it was too late.

I feel like I've settled into a bit fo a rut after all that adventuring. Maybe I've had my fill and no longer feel that wanderlust. Maybe it's just something that young people yearn for and I should move to other things in life. When I was a teenager I used to watch stuff and fantasise about what my great adventure would be, now not so much. I put off journeys for the banal and boring reasons. Whatever risks I took paid off in strange and unpredictable ways that help me in my career now. But I'm far more tied down, life feels a lot more routine than risk.

Fiction is filled with all those jumps into the unknown. But eventually you come back. No matter how dangerous it was the world didn't end, and you have to live with the consequences of your actions, good or bad. We can comprehend crises, they are exciting in their own way. But life just keeps marching on after those landmarks. There is a need to do the boring work of rebuilding and maintaining. It's an unfamiliar underworld in itself, in it I feel more lost than when I was in the unknown.







Living in a box

6 Apr 2022

Lately I've been wondering about the tendency to put things into boxes. Not literal boxes, but conceptual boxes of categories. It's not really universal behaviour to classify things into convenient categories. Some cultures are fine with contradictory amorphous borders, you can live life just fine without always binning things into clearly defined categories like a scientist or marketing department. Things can be like a river, sometimes it swells, sometimes it shrinks, it meanders and changes, sometimes it roars and sometimes it's gentle. But modern internet culture just loves its boxes. There are just so many categories and so many are made up to describe identities. Maybe this is a result of advertising being the organising philosophy of web 2.0, you can't target ads at poorly defined demographics. So there are so many prompts to state which boxes you fit into, so much pressure to fit into certain boxes.

It's not a left or right wing thing, everyone seems to do it. Everybody is obsessed with categories. Even ill fitting categories or categories that are not even useful become points of contention. Genders are being split to the point where they are not useful categories (I agree that more than 2 is useful, but I do question the utility of a lot of xenogenders as meaningful categories), types of men now all have an associated Greek alphabet (With accompanying pseudoscience justifications on sociosexual hierarchies), we now have convenient categories to place anybody that questions our categories, just call them a liberal or conservative or hater and then dismiss all their concerns. Everything is so black and white, everybody is so insistent on creating and policing borders of where they belong to.

I don't mind if you want to live a unconventional life, all humans have a weird contradictory undefinable quality to them. But I really don't like that so much angst is emitted daily on the internet about what boxes we fit into. We now obsess about them, so much discourse centers them. About how we don't fit into them and how others aren't fitting properly. You can call it a culture war, but at the root of it is the mindset of packing things into boxes. The boxes have taken a life of their own. It's really unpleasant. It's like living in a filing system.







Where've the years gone?

5 Apr 2022

Time is really merciless. It drags so much on your daily routine, but then you blink and years have gone by. Kindergartners are no longer kindergartners, they are now making friends and learning how to be people. All the cute children are now confident teenagers. Young men and women that I once met are now married with their own babies. My classmates are now busy raising their children and preparing them for school. Mentors have retired, some aren't around anymore. Every year I see less relatives. Projects that I considered to be new and temporary have been running for the better half of a decade. Things which I liked are now having a retro revival, I hardly noticed them disappearing.

I'm here dumbfounded by how much things have changed without me noticing. I still think that I was just a teenager or a young adult, but that was decades ago. At the rate in which global life expectancy is reducing, I'm probably getting closer to my death than my birth. Inside I still feel really young, unsure and inexperienced. But when I have to do something my experience starts to show and I wonder how I managed to get so competent at life. Worries and regrets get dull, I don't care much for them anymore. Maybe all my senses and emotions are getting too dull. My body isn't as able as it used to be, I've racked up too much damage from a reckless youth. I feel weaker and more vulnerable than I've ever been, but I also learned to accept that part of myself and work around it.

All my precious time on this Earth just leaks away. I don't have the time to feel sad about it. I'm just bewildered at the pace. Where've the years gone?

On another note, this website is almost 1 year old. Where has that time gone?







Scenes on a Friday evening

1 Apr 2022

I'm sitting in a large spacious food court, the sky is already dark. The traffic is terrible now, so I'd rather just do some work and have some tea than spend a couple of hours stuck in a traffic jam. I order cheap black tea, without sugar, to help settle my stomach which is still trying to digest a spicy banana leaf rice lunch. The space that I'm in is airy and a large fan rotates above it, I feel safe enough to take off my mask and drink my tea.

I'm the only customer there aside from a couple sitting some distance away. The workers of the hawker stalls sit around chatting to themselves. Business seems slow. A little girl plays with her older brother, they seem to be here to help out with the drink stall that I ordered my tea from. I always find myself in places like these, quiet melancholy spaces where there is a dignified emptiness. Makes me feel like a ghost trapped in hollow grounds.

My notes from last year are a mess and I have to get my head around them. After a while of data entry I give up, close the lid of my laptop and look outwards. There is a lit window, inside it young girl dances to the steps of an older ballet instructor. The motion is uncertain but graceful. Reminds me of the paintings of Monet. I'm on my second cup of tea. I watch the distant scene as I enjoy my drink. I don't have any internet to interrupt my thoughts.

On the way back to my car I saw I girl dressed in lolita dress of some sort, I'm not well versed in these things. A rare sighting. She wore it well. She was walking with a big hairy guy, perhaps it made her look more feminine in comparison.







Life and fiction

26 Mar 2022

I'm convinced that more than one person has written a piece of fiction that is so realistic that it captures the depth of the human condition. I also think that all of them were such terrible examples of fiction that they were rightfully ignored. Life is life, it's full of vague uncertainties, things are unearned, the protagonists don't get what they need or want, there's little foreshadowing, the characterisations are inconsistent and unreliable, things repeat and relapse and characters frustratingly make the same mistakes, there's no reward at the end, there are no proper ends for that matter, some things just end for no reason and leave dozens of plot threads hanging. Fiction is only good fiction once you properly cut, reassemble and sand down the unsightly edges of life.

That's the art of fiction, it's taking the ugly chaos of life and building a pleasing narrative. Dialogue should never be realistic, it should not have all the ahhs and umms, all the empty talk, all the unnecessary repetition. Plots should never be realistic, it should remove things that don't matter, it should show some clear progression, it should be interesting throughout and not have long boring periods of nothing happening. Characters should have clear motivations and arcs, something that can be summarised in a couple of sentences. All fiction is unreal. Even true stories have been edited down with the retelling. Some of our personal histories may even be more fiction that lived experience.

But a lot of people don't realise that life is not like fiction. Fiction is misused as the frame of reference of how life SHOULD work. Inevitably you become disappointed by how meandering and unpurposeful your life actually is. Life is boring, exciting, sad, funny, full of suffering but also relief, good and bad. It's a blob of stuff bigger than us that we struggle to understand. It doesn't fit in any genre. Neither comedy nor tragedy. Maybe you can never understand or make sense of life. But I guess that's fine.







Muddled state of being

21 Mar 2022

Humans are a horrible judge of character. We can't even understand ourselves, much less others. That thing that we call a personality is oftentimes a murky pool of anxieties and desires, and most of the time how we see it is so different from how everyone else perceives it. We don't even notice it changing since we are constantly stuck inside our own heads, a blinded by the subjectivity of our experiences. Never free of the influence of the unseen biologies, hormones, infections, aches and pains of a mysterious mortal body. I wonder why we make personality so clear and direct in fiction, with lists of clear wants and needs, when everyone experiences such a muddied state of being.

I guess that's all part of the suffering of living. Not being able to see beyond yourself, but at the same time knowing yourself so well that all your flaws are apparent. Can such a being really find peace with itself?

I know myself, but at the same time I know that I'm a stranger.







Failing upwards

19 Mar 2022

I've had plenty of failures over my lifetime. I feel like I'm more used to failing than succeeding, although by now I've accumulated enough experience to probably do both equally. I've been really reckless with jumping into uncertain situations. It often resulted in me falling on my face and embarassing myself so many times that I'm pretty numb to the feeling. But I guess I'm willing to take those risks because after a while I realised that the cost of failure was much less than I expected it to be. Reputations can always be rebuilt, wounds can heal, losses can be earned back, it's not as hard to get back up as you imagine it to be.

Once I got used to the actual price of failure, I could adjust my expectations better. Success or failure or middling performance, often the differences in the result are small. What you gain from the outcome is usually a lot less from how you grow while working on it. So I don't dread the ending so much anymore, I just try to keep things moving along. If it implodes, it implodes. I still walk away with a bunch of experience points. Failure might hurt, but I can always recover.

Sometimes it worries me that the world is run by people like me. People that don't pay a high cost for failure, maybe through a combination of priviledge and luck, so they continually screw up but end up being promoted because they've just been in the system for so long. They outrun and outmaneuver the more thoughtful and cautious people, who are capable of making wiser decisions but hold back to think things through. I've bumbled my way through life, I can see more callous and cruel people doing the same thing. At least that's my personal explaination for all the horrible 'leaders' that I've met.







A kinder internet?

18 Mar 2022

There are stories of kind people and hope all around us. But perhaps the problem with these stories is that they make us smile for a while and then we move on with our lives. Stories that bring us comfort probably have less traction than cat videos. Kindness, unfortunately is not engaging content. When someone puts some kind words on the internet, a whole bunch of strangers don't descend and try to dunk on the person. It is at best a couple of likes and maybe a feel good comment that doesn't lead to further discussion. It doesn't make people's blood boil and make them angry enough to leave a comment. There's no perverse excitement of attacking your enemies or feeling of superiority over perceived villains. This of course amplifies bad takes and creates an internet with an overwhelmingly negative bias.

Is it the fault of algorithms designed to optimise for engagement? Or is it the fault of positive content not being engaging enough to gain traction? Emotionally stable people without deep conflicts can be boring compared to the latest internet drama, why would anybody even consider that to be content? Should positive content try to game a system that amplifies negativity by design? Would kind words, manicured and coiffed with emotional attacks and calls to action, still be kind words? Are systems of interaction that are designed to prioritise kindness even possible or will that just become another incentive that will be perverted by those that game the system?

So many questions, no answers. At least not yet. I like nice and comforting content, but I read it and put it away and don't interact with it as much. I'm also guilty of getting a daily dose of internet outrage, and still coming back for more the next day. Are we all fundamentally flawed or do we have to escape from the systems that push these biases on us? I'm sorry, I really don't know.







Post-industrial revolution

15 Mar 2022

When I think about the 4th Industrial Revolution, it looks the same as the last 3. Sure, AI and machine learning and IoT. But it's the same thinking but with fancier technology. It's making the same mistakes and making us just as miserable as the last Industrial Revolution, which makes it not all that revolutionary. Maybe we need to think less industrial. Move away from the factory thinking that has defined the last 262 years and towards ways of thinking that won't make us so miserable. To look towards post-industrial futures.

Sometimes I wonder why we treat our lives like we are a factory. Our value is linked to our productivity and how much capital we can produce. I think there is a danger in being so calculative with our lives, to quantify everything and struggle to maximise these quantities. What's wrong with being sub-optimal and inefficient? You're not a brick that needs to be mass produced as fast as possible within certain tolerences, you are a unique human being. One great analogy for optimisation is wandering around the space of possibility until you fall into a hole that you can't get out of. Why do we not value those suboptimal wanderers that explore the space of possibility? They might not be the best, but they can go on all sorts of unique journeys.

The way we relate to society is a toxic combination of Protestant work ethic, capitalism and industrial thinking. Where life is about trying so hard to be the best version of yourself. Maybe instead of constantly struggling to be the best that we can be, we should just accept the inherent inefficiencies of being human. Just be in harmony with our sub-optimal nature instead of constantly demonising it as laziness and irresponsibility. Just allow yourself to be yourself instead of pursuing an unobtainable ideal self.







A look back

14 Mar 2022

I was reading through an old journal from 6 years ago and it was just so carefree. It had doodles and comics and all sorts of silly comments. When I think about it, I didn't have a smartphone, social media, any responsibilites or proper employment, and most of my time was spent with my head in the clouds. I spent time hanging out with friends and just doing what I wanted to do. I was technically in education, but I was as close to a freeter as I could manage. That was nice. I don't regret that time. Maybe I should try to do less with myself at the moment and just focus on doing things that I enjoy.

But then again maybe it's just because my memory is being selective and I'm only remembering the nice stuff instead of the constant dark undercurrents of dull anxiety from not being able to achieve anything. Considering that I can be nostalgic for the 2010's, I'm probably going to be nostalgic about 2022 some time in the future. Things are currently terrible, but they're not something that can't forget and look at with rose tinted glasses. I'll just gloss over wars and disease and economic collapse and just remember the fun times I had writing silly blog posts.

I always tell myself "It's not a loss if you don't think about it", perhaps I've been applying this selective view of reality to my perception of the past as well.







Missed opportunities

9 Mar 2022

I once had a plan to study in Europe. Like all my plans it never fell through. I had all the qualifications that I needed to apply for a scholarship, but when the time came I was too busy with commitments to put everything down and leave. I don't regret my decisions, I was listening to my conscience and I don't think I would have forgiven myself if I did something selfish. And I think I came out of it with a unique perspective of being on the fringes instead of being trained in the centres of power. But on the other hand, that missed opportunity is probably why I'm overworked and severely underpaid at the moment, as well as why some of my dreams are now sorely out of reach. Nothing much I could have done about it, I just played the hand that I was given the best that I could.

We have to get used to mourning plans and dreams now. The world is just too unstable and opportunities are just too scarce. You will get lucky once or twice, but for the most part life will be about grabbing what you can and living with the consequences of your actions. No second chances or re-dos. Perhaps the greatest tragedy of being human is that we are so much tougher than our fragile dreams.







Escapism

5 Mar 2022

It's a scary world out there. Ironically I've been in quarantine for a week and not really out there in the real world, but I've been plugged in to a incessent stream of bad news from all over the world. In the virtual world I'm constantly reminded about tragedy, doom and collapse. About bad people and conspiracies and how we're all powerless against whatever cabals are running the world. All packaged in poorly thought out opinions that are indistinguishable from targeted misinformation.

But irl it's different. At the very least I can loosen earth and plant sweet potato or cassava. Pick chillies and herbs from my garden. I can help to organise charities or teach children. Go for a walk on my own two legs. Go stand alone in a forest. Talk to people I barely know, and they will make an effort to be nice to me. I can turn off the internet, ignore the news and the world isn't so bad anymore.

It's often said that the internet is just escapism, and people need to go out and touch grass. To give up cheap fantasy and go experience the real world with all its harsh realities. But the modern internet feels like a place that we should escape from. Being awake is better than a reoccuring nightmare. What does escapism even mean anymore?







Sickness and sleep

3 Mar 2022

If there's one thing that I've unlearned from this pandemic, it's how to be sick. I had a good run of avoiding any illness for the last 3 years. Suddenly I caught a flu and then it feels so unfamiliar. It was no longer something that used to be so commonplace with such a clear process (see a doctor, take some medicine, have a couple of days off and get back to work). Now I have to get swabbed (tested negative!) and quarantine (Just to be safe!) and all sorts of other uncomfortable SOPs are in place. I also have to keep working since things are online now.

At the very least I had time to sleep. I could dream strange fever dreams. I hadn't had much time for that lately. I hadn't much time to dream since we collectively decided that the pandemic wasn't important and began sacrificing dozens of people a day to the fires of capitalism. The late nights and sound of the smartphone alarm killed a lot of my dreams. There's so little space to dream anymore. It's so inefficient to sleep when your time on the Earth can be used for more productive stuff. As they say, you can sleep when you're dead*.

I always find dreaming synonymous with healing. There were times where I would get so emotionally knotted up on the inside and have no way of rationalising it, but after a good sleep and a somewhat unrelated dream, I'd wake up feeling like something had been resolved. Maybe people will look back on us and see an obvious link between all the mental disorders that we're having and the chronic lack of dreams in modern society. Then they will make fun of us, like how we make fun of scurvy ridden sailors that didn't know to eating fruit would have cured them. It's so obvious how could they miss it?

That's enough productivity for today. Time to go back to sleep.

*Why do we assume that death is anything like sleep? Sleeping is something that only the living can do.







Constraints

23 Feb 2022

Life is full of constraints. There are so many things that you can't control, so many things that you can't be, simply because of some random chance of your birth. I used to think that I could overcome it with guts and hard work, but nowadays that doesn't seem to be the case anymore. Even getting older and accumulating love, money, power and experience leads to more responsibilities that end up becoming an inescapable tangle. The world that you are part of pulls you down, like a falling tree that can't escape gravity no matter how much it has grown upwards. It's one of those tragedies that we can't escape. Rugged individualism is powerless against the things that are out of our control.

I grew up with a lot of American media. It's very positive, kids are told that they can be ANYTHING that they want as long as they work hard ("You could be an astronaut or the president if you worked hard enough!"). If you live in a third world country where feudalism is still a thing, you soon learn that this isn't true. There's so much that you can't do, dreams that you wouldn't even consider because it just doesn't happen here. We were never free. We were always just some exploitable capital for some unseen master from beyond the seas. Sometimes I think a lot of western angst that I see on the internet is just the west realising that life is full of limitations that can never be overcome. The same experience everybody else in the world feels.

You look up and see that there was never a glass ceiling that can be shattered, only thick solid poured concrete. Life has unwinnable battles and unclimbable walls. You can try to change, rebel, run or escape; but that just leads to more thick heavy walls and locked doors. You're trapped in the periphery of an ugly machine that destroys lives out of uncontrollable systemic inertia. There really is no solution to it, some problems are too big and heavy and you can only wait for the whole thing to come collapsing down. Perhaps the only choice that you ever had is accept what really can't be changed and just live in whatever small cracks that you've managed to chip into your obstacles. It ain't much, but it's a living.

“A quiet secluded life in the country, with the possibility of being useful to people to whom it is easy to do good, and who are not accustomed to have it done to them; then work which one hopes may be of some use; then rest, nature, books, music, love for one's neighbor — such is my idea of happiness.” — Leo Tolstoy

Postscript: When I was younger I used to dream of epic struggles and such, and I'd resent my elders for telling me that there are things that I just couldn't do. I guess i am approaching that point where I'm one of those patient authority figures that tries to do what little I am capable of, instead of those fiery revolutionaries that rush towards their utopian visions. That realisation is a bit sad.







Why write?

16 Feb 2022

My main income involves writing, I sometimes spend the whole day pushing out words and reports from my strained brain. So it makes little sense when I get home and lie down sleepless on my bed, that I keep on writing. This time for no discernible goal or reward. I guess there is a difference. This is not clearly thought out prose that has a purpose, but more of an emotional release in the form of words. Like bubbles rising out of a wellspring. Or perhaps swamp gas bubbling out of mud while a colourful crab crawls along picking detritus up with its claws, mudskippers drag themselves forward on their fins and spear-like mangrove seeds fall and pierce into the substrate.

Like drawing, sometimes it's just nice to write. Abandon thesis statements and form. Just scribble something comfortable. Just get things out of my head. Humans have a need to release more than just carbon dioxide and water vapour in their breath, we need to let out thoughts. Perhaps the best thing about companionship is there is someone to confide in. To have long conversations where you can't remember the point of it all, but it feels good. The internet is basically a massive infrastructure so humans can put down their rants, an evolution of those lazy sessions at the coffee shop or pub where nonsense is exchanged and no one is wiser in the end. Just random noise, static emitted by the existence of consciousness.

So I write about nonsense. A stream of thought. I let it meander, curving and bending and eventually heading toward a point. It splashes against rocks and erodes banks until tree roots are exposed. But like a stream the best part isn't where it ends up at, it's where you kick off your shoes and enjoy sounds of splashing water and the cool water at your feet on a hot day. Take a deep breath and just exist. Abandon the goals, let everything out and for once feel relief.







Two grandmothers

10 Feb 2022

I have exactly two memories of my paternal grandmother. I was about 4 years old. I remember her crooked and senile, and as my mother told me to go bathe she mistakenly heard that and started to strip. That's honestly all I remember about her being alive. My other memory was watching smoke come out of the funeral parlor. At a recent family gathering I realised that we never really talk about her. I kind of know what my grandfather's career was, but I hardly know anything about her. I might carry some genetically controlled behaviour that is strangely reminscent of her, but with so few people left that actually knew her, who would notice?

I stay in the same house as my maternal grandmother. We don't have much to talk about. As far as I know she had an eventful but not particularly accomplished life, although maybe she just doesn't want to talk about all the hardships that she went through. Maybe it's better for her to take those stories to her grave. At a few years shy of being a century old, all of us (including her) are pretty ready for her to pass away. I take photos of her sometimes, always candid shots. She always looks weak, withered and thin. Definitely not photos that would be used for the funeral.







Incentives and behaviour

6 Feb 2022

I was reading this article about LinkedIn and how the algorithm used on the site makes people perform strange humble brag formats to game the system and 'win' the social media game. The systems that we use both limit and create how we behave. So it got me reflecting about Neocities and the indieweb in general, what are the UX designs (or lack of design) that shapes our behaviour?

Breaking down Neocities specifically, there are a few explicit incentives to keep making stuff: Followers, views, likes, comments. The usual social media stuff. There are also implicit incentives: Link backs (It feels strangely rewarding to see your button on someone else's site), accomplishment from problem solving (Figuring out how to do something feels good), the content on the site itself (I like making stuff and looking through my site), interactions with other users (You guys are nice people).

Personally, while I have the dubious achiement of having more followers on Neocities than I had on my old Twitter art account, the numbers aren't much of a motivation to create new things and build the website. The original intent of this site is a small squirrel hole to post things that I wouldn't attach my real name or reputation to, so the rising viewcount does make me a bit nervous actually. I write and draw mostly to create things, reactions to it are secondary. While the instant validation of a single digit of likes is pleasant, I think it's nicer to see some familiar names liking my stuff. Maybe it's the community spirit behind that. I'd like to think that most of my behaviour is driven by those implicit incentives rather than a need to push my ranking up.

Is there a way to 'win' at Neocities? Probably. Looking at sites that are 'popular', the kind of users that gets rewarded with explicit incentives are the ones with interesting content (photos, rants, blogs, art), interesting design choices, lots of flashy gifs or helpful bits of code. Clout here is linked to how cool you can make your website. But is there really a reason to do so? Unlike any other social media, there's no point to having a high score. Nobody is going to give you a job or sponsorships or whatever from being popular here. It's pretty pointless. Just enjoy building websites.

*I reread this so many times wondering if this is some sort of strange Neocities version of a LinkedIn humblebrag. Hopefully it isn't.







Things to look forward to

4 Feb 2022

I finished rereading Satoshi Mizukami's "Lucifer and the Biscuit Hammer", which is a good coming-of-age story. One message that it carried is that adults should smile so children can look forward to growing up. It made me think about how cynical adulthood can be depicted at times in the media. More often than not you have dull witted adults that have to be bailed out by snarky precocious children. We idealise the teenage and young adult years to the point that there are so few popular stories with adults as main characters (Aside from aging action movie stars). Some kids even think that life is over by 30.

So I'm going to list down a bunch of things that you can look forward to as an older adult, after you get through the turmoil of your teenaged years and early adulthood:

  1. People respect you, it's undeserved respect at times, but they stop treating you like a child.
  2. You have much more financial freedom. Not always do you have more money, but you gain some self control and spend on things that are important to you.
  3. You can deal with your personal issues better, either you've worked through them or you just gotten used to living with them.
  4. You are more patient with other people. Some of the people that you deal with were in diapers when you were in middle school, so you give these kids the benefit of the doubt.
  5. You are less patient with other people. Life is short, no point in wasting it on a bullshit person.
  6. You are less naive and know a bit more about how the world works. Experience tells you when to be cautious and when to be kind.
  7. You learn to recognise bullshit and avoid it.
  8. If you are willing to reduce your wants, you have more control over your time. If not, at least you have money to spend on your wants.
  9. You kind of feel like you know what you are doing. Competence has a high price but it feels good.
  10. You can spend money to reduce discomfort. I used to do all sorts of things to save money in my twenties that I won't tolerate now.
  11. You have a lot fewer toxic people in your life, and the independence to cut off anyone that does you harm.
  12. You get more comfortable in your own skin.
  13. Sleeping is now fun.
  14. You can enjoy vegetables.
  15. You learn to appreciate your family, it's not always like that but if you got a good family you treasure them for what it's worth.
  16. People around your age are more level headed and have so much less drama.
  17. Simple things are enjoyable.
  18. You no longer care about other people thinking that you are childish. You can be the embarassing older relative now.
  19. You have fun stories to reminisce about.

I'm not going to generalise and say that you can look forward to all these things, but more or less there are fun things that come with growing up.







Old friends

31 Jan 2022

Old friendships are rare. There are so few people in your life that know you for decades. They are a link to a lost past. That makes the friends that you do keep in touch with so much more valuable. The days where you used to sit around and be bored together for hours are long gone. Now because of families and careers there are only a few precious moments where you can meet and laugh just like you used to.

As the time you get to spend together gets rarer, it becomes a dance over the same old topics. The future is not as certain, there are no carefree roadtrips because you can't seem to get your schedules in order. So you talk abut the past. A little more is added in, a sign of age and wisdom. Assessing the damage that we have taken has also become an important update. But at its core it is the same conversation that you had last time. It's comfortable and familiar. If possible you'd like to have it many more times.







Recent purchases

30 Jan 2022
Sour plum drops

Hard crumbly sweets, they taste of sour plum and suger. They are dry on the toungue. I'd been having a sore throat that had been coming and going for the past few days. It helps a bit. It came in a plastic bottle with a small hole under the flipable lid, just big enough for a single drop to come out. It gets my mind off the sore throat so I can continue writing.

Incandescent light

More of a purchase that I avoided. I was thinking about getting a LED bedside lamp, but then I decided that I didn't need another piece of junk that will break in a year or two and dug up an old lamp with an incandescent lightbulb instead. Maybe I'm being nostalgic, but there is something calming about the warm yellowish light of these bulbs. Makes me sleepy and comfortable compared to flourescent light. I used to turn on an incandescent light and draw at night until I felt sleepy when I was younger. It's a bit sad to see this lighting disappear under the harsh white lights of LED bulbs.

Thosai/Dosa

An Indian flatbread, crispy and thin. Dipped in a variety of curries and chutney. During my student years this was a staple food because of its value for money. I haven't had it in a long time since the pandemic had been keeping me out of Indian restaurants. When meeting up with a friend recently I ordered it. Some things comfortingly don't change. This is one of them.

A Phone clip for my car

Cheap. Flimsy. Plastic. It will probably be in a landfill in a couple of years. Bought at the usual budget shop where you never get what you wanted but come out with two or three other things. It comes in a plastic clamshell that needs a scissor to open. It sticks to the windshield with a rubber sucker. I always miss turns because I'm not looking at the map on my phone as I'm driving. This is meant to avoid those detours and save a few bucks on petrol. It's a shame though. I do enjoy getting lost.







Honest records of humanity

24 Jan 2022

Overall I'd had a nice experience with running this little website. But there is one downside. I find that while writing a blog helps to scratch that itch for reflection and playing with the written word, it has made me journal a lot less. And there is an important distinction between the two. On my website I'm semi-anonymous, far more aloof and only as vulnerable as I allow myself to be. Perhaps the voice you are reading is not even me but a character from my mind. Or I'm a fictitious writer playing to a gallery and creating things that I imagine the unseen audience wants to read, a fiction serving a fiction. Or it is the real me but curated, strained and filtered, as how all our interactions with people are. It is definitely not the contradictory spludge of the real human condition. Some people can wear their hearts on a website, but I definitely can't.

I allow people to read what I write on my website. But I would scream if someone found my journal, with its honest record of all my clumsy struggles and intimate vulnerability. A difference between being able to wear a mask and perform in public and just honestly assessing the mess that is my life. All the silly jokes that I write down only for myself, the weird sketches in the margins, the half abandoned artwork, the clumsy and failed studies, the one liners that I enjoy but will never show other people, the sometimes strange rambles of fiction, the bad comics with no plot nor quality. It's all masturbatory and terrible and cringey and not suitable for human eyes. But I think I should journal more. A log of all my bad jokes, struggles and difficulties is paradoxically comforting in the long run. Like a gentle voice reminding me that no matter how badly beaten down I feel at the moment, life will somehow just carry on.







Occult e-commerce

23 Jan 2022

Previously, I wanted to confuse the recommendations algorithm on my shopping app so that I would obfuscate my identity. This involved clicking and searching for a whole lot of random stuff so it couldn't find any patterns within the random noise. Somehow, the confused algorithm served up something strange (After a stretch of it sending me dick pics and viagra ads). A pathway to the occult. I had chanced upon the strange fantasy cowboy town that is occult Southeast Asian e-commerce.

It started relatively benignly. Services to scan your past life, Djinn repellent, mystical business boosters, all manner of love potions. But then I got to some pretty wild shops; magic amulets blessed by Thai monks, angel summons, sea goddess summons, Efreet summons, Archon God summons (For some reasons summons are a thing, apparently you have to equip these before a ritual sickle duel), wanted posters, tiger fang amulets (These were fibre glass fakes), psychic physical attacks (with 10% cashback, pay more for higher level attacks), Instant Mee Kolok? (From the same shop as the psychic attacks), lots of katana, all manner of assassination weapons like Krambit, a whole lot of mystical male performance enhancers. It was like I was in a shop in Final Fantasy. I'm glad that this stuff wasn't around when I was younger, I would have wasted so much money on this shit.

Society adapts fast to new technology, in really strange and magical ways. Instead of secular visions of progress and bland corporate design, we get these syncretic spaces filled with ancient beliefs hijacking modern information technology. Humans somehow find ways to be lawless on the fringes of the internet.







Never back to normal

22 Jan 2022

For the first time in a very long time, I went to the cinema. I don't mind going to watch a movie alone, in fact it's one of the things that I really enjoy, since I can watch a movie without the hassle of making arrangements with other people. Pre-pandemic I would take advantage of my flexible work hours and go watch movies at odd hours where the tickets would be cheap and cinema halls had plenty of seats. I'd go watch niche movies and there would be a few people with me, but enough space and privacy to stretch out and enjoy the film.

Entering the cinema again was like an affirmation of returning to normal. But things had changed, there was a machine and touchscreen instead of a cashier, all payments were made with my debit card instead of fishing for paper notes. There were no lines to the concessions. I scanned my ticket, now a flimsy receipt with a QR code instead of the tactile feeling of tearing off a stub. Good thing I kept my old ticket stubs, they're a piece of history now. I walked into the hall, found my seat and made a double take, the hall was completely empty. I was the only one in the cinema.

So the mindless popcorn movie played, I didn't like it that much, but for the whole duration there was the unnerving sense of dread all around me. This lonely post-Covid world. This enveloping sense of loss that has hung over us for the last two years. Things will never go back to the way they were. I didn't even stay to watch the after-credits scenes.

I snapped a photo of the empty cinema as a momento of the event and walked out through an empty mall (It was a late show). The cheap thrills of a superhero movie had morphed into a psychological horror experience.







Fixed random happiness

19 Jan 2022

A late night thought about a hypothetical situation:

What if we only have a fixed amount of happiness for our entire life that our actions can't affect? Like you can only be happy 10,000 times in your lifetime and have no control over when you feel it? It just comes and goes, without rhyme or reason. You can be in a miserable place and feel happy for no reason. You can be with people that care about you and feel absolutely horrible. It just randomly triggers, you have no responsibilty over how you feel. The amount of times you can feel happy slowly ticks away until there's nothing left. Perhaps that's when you die or perhaps you live on with something empty inside.

How would people live their lives if those were the explicit rules? That you would be happy regardless of your situation or actions. It doesn't matter if you chose Coke or Pepsi, or this boy or that girl, you'd still be happy and unhappy without any clear reason. Is the illusion of control important if it didn't make you happy in any way? Would we try the things that we try if there was absolutely no chance that it will spark a little more happiness? How many different life choices would you make if all your actions would deliver the same amount of fixed happiness that triggers randomly? I'd like to think that most of my choices in life have been somewhat caused by the avoidance of pain and the search of happiness, but in this scenario what would you do with life? If you can't control being happy or sad, what other things would you prioritise as meaningfu goals?

Taking the pursuit of happiness out of the equation, how would people live their lives?







Battling AI in the 21st Century

17 Jan 2022

I was chatting with a friend about how we were expecting the future to have killer robot skeletons controlled by a renegade AI Skynet, but what we got is android phones and Google advertising algorithms. Which brings me to my current conflict with the AI overlords of our day. I was shopping online on an app recently, and since I was looking at hobby electronics and batteries, it served up this odd thing that looked like some sort of portable USB charger that had a vague title and description. Out of curiousity I clicked on it. Turned out that it was one of those e-ciggarette vaping things. Which I absolutely loathe. I hate those jerks that spray strawberry flavoured steam out of their mouth without any regard for other people.

But since I looked at that one item, the algorithm decided to bin me with all the vapers and I kept getting recommendations for vape products. This pissed me off. I had to rebel against it. I'm guessing that this is some sort of unsupervised classification algorithm at play here, so to confuse it I have to add more uninformative noise so that my datapoint becomes an outlier and it has trouble predicting which group I belong to. I rebelled against the machine. I started regularly clicking on wildly different and unrelated products, basically throwing up as much digital chaff as I can to confuse the AI. It's no dark future where I have to fight laser armed robot terminators on battlefields full of skulls, but somehow it feels even worse.

The war is ongoing. Will I win an ounce of freedom from my Chinese controlled shopping app? The unknown future rolls towards us...







You got this

15 Jan 2022

Blogs have a confessional aspect to them that you don't find elsewhere. Perhaps because the format tends to be more like a diary than a performance. Perhaps it's because it is now a commercially dead medium. It's nice to read the more honest words of a blog than to scroll past a feed. But one reoccuring theme I see in a lot of blogs is how distressed everyone is. Everyone seems to be hurting, one way or another. Especially the young adults and teens that are going through a lot.

If you feel something is wrong with the world. It's because there is something seriously wrong with this world. And it is making all of us really anxious, tired and scared. Thing that are poisoning our minds are everywhere, our environments are built for profit instead of people, our societies are really disfunctional. Perhaps those with enough care and empathy for others pick up on it and can't get up in the morning or sleep at night. I'm sure most of the population is past their breaking point but still trudging along to keep up appearances.

But honestly, even though I barely know any of the people that write the blogs that I read, I think that all of you can get through all the challenges that you are facing right now. It might be misplaced optimism, but for some reason I have faith in those people that can write a public journal documenting their hardships. From the bottom of my heart, I know that you guys have what it takes to get to a better place and make the world a better place while you are at it. Just take it one step at a time, and one day you'll look back and see how far you have gotten.







Hospitality

8 Jan 2022

Asians are unable to show gratitude without involving food. Always visit on an empty stomach, or show up unannounced lest we prepare a feast for you. Have a meal with us at a restaurant and there is always an argument on who will get the right to take the tab for everyone else (The best choice is to not fight it, you will never win). At the core of it is the need to treat people well. Always be generous, even to strangers. It's the proper thing to do. Even if there is nothing in the pantry at least serve some water.

I'll be honest, one of the things that I hate the most about western culture is how transactional things are. Rational costs and benefits, supply and demand, Homo economicus, it's tiring. My finite mental energy cannot make infinite rational decisions. Giving stuff away is nice, it feels good. Sure you could try to fit it into a framework of me receiving a mental or social benefit from gifting, but I don't think that all of this can be fully explained by the cold calculus of profits and losses. Like shaving down a square peg to fit it into a round hole, something is lost when the act of gifting is quantified and rationalised.

The internet is changing and not for the better. From Web 1.0 to Web 2.0 to web3. Where you belong has shifted from a home to a profile to a wallet. From hospitality to display to transactions. From limitless sharing to making things artificially scarce for clout and profit. The shift of the underlying philosophy of the web alone makes me uncomfortable.

This is my homepage, like any good host if you come I will feed you with whatever I can scrounge up (digitally). I don't expect you to hit that like button and subscribe, I don't need you to click on an affiliate ad, share and retweet or donate bitcoin. Just come and enjoy my hospitality. Look at a photo, read some of my words, enjoy a drawing. I hope it fills you up before you go back to your journey.







Empty homes

7 Jan 2022

Surfing the internet in the modern era means encountering deserted and abandoned home pages. It's the same melancholic feeling that I get when I visit a vacant house, all the signs of someone's love and care in a now hollow shell. Where did they go? What happened to them? The links to their friends sites are mostly dead. Some of the old people on these websites probably aren't alive anymore. The young children in their photos are probably adults. I wonder what happened to all their collections and the things that they proudly displayed on their website? Away from the rage of the mainstream internet there is only this quiet sadness.

Humans are so complex, you can never piece together who they actually were based on the contents of a website. But these websites are like items in burial mounds, momentos that are lovingly placed in the memory of people that have passed (Ok, they might still be alive and posting antivax conspiracy theories on facebook, but let's enjoy the things that they've created).







Reading

3 Jan 2022

I didn't have any resolutions for the new year, but one thing that I did want to do is to spend more time reading long form content. Properly thought out essays and articles rather than the 280 characters and a meme of a twitter post. I want to try to focus more and get less distracted. I want to enjoy reading rather than just reacting with rage and anxiety. That's why I started a linkroll to record any interesting things that I find and to help me keep track of my reading.

But as I started searching out for interesting things to read, I realised that the modern internet is a wasteland for text content. It's like a post-apocalyptic world of abandoned blogs, long dead links, surviving journalists feeding on the scraps of a once great civilisation, entire blogs written by bots pretending to be human, scientists entombed in paywall libraries, giant walled off corporate controlled social media megalopolis, hermit like personal websites and villages of small press publishers barely scraping by. It's a bit of an adventure to go out and search for precious pieces of writing in this hostile world.

I guess part of the fun is having to actually search and browse the web. With so much SEO, searches aren't very useful unless you know what to look for, even then they hardly direct to proper writing these days. Discovering new things actually requires more effort than I've had to make in a long while on the web, finally I have to explore without an algorithm.







A new year

2 Jan 2022

A new year is here. I have no resolutions. Just a sense of dread inherited from last year. No point having goals if the situation shifts disasterously every couple of months. Perhaps my only goal at the moment is to survive to the end of the decade. Do small things that I can do and try to avoid as much damage as possible so the next generation has something to inherit. Lately I've been hyper aware that my luck can run out at any moment and there is a big chance that I'll be off this mortal coil sooner than I've previously anticipated. It's a dangerous world that will only get more dangerous.

So I'll trim down those dreams and focus on only the things that I want to finish up so I don't end up as a ghost wandering the Earth in regret.

Also I'll use less social media.







More disasters

21 Dec 2021

Part of a super typhoon broke off and hit the city that I'm in. I hate the fact that we have super typhoons now, it's a phrase that should be limited to cheesy 70's super robot anime. It's the first time I've seen a storm of such intensity here. Now the climate crisis isn't a hypothetical future, but a lived reality. After a botched response people have been trapped in flooded houses for days. Fortunately my home was spared, many were not as lucky. I probably won't be that active around here for a week or so as I get busy with flood relief efforts.

I had a bunch of art that I wanted to post before the end of 2021, but I guess that'll have to wait.







Four blog posts

16 Dec 2021

Recently I found the blog of a deceased Auntie. In it there were 4 posts: two essays (one in a language I can't read) and two posts showing off low resolution photos of artwork. A blog that will never be updated. A lonely memorial drifting on the internet.

We weren't close at all, and quite distantly related. She used to hang out a lot with my father in his teen years, but that's a half remembered story heard in passing. Sometimes we would visit their family when we went back to my parents hometown, I hardly ever talked to her. She is one of those shadowy memories of relatives that are only slightly removed from being a total stranger. She passed away without any spouse or children, only some nephews and nieces and friends to fondly remember her. Apparently she painted, I only found out about that on her blog.

We leave these tiny scraps and traces on the internet, likely slowly decaying into oblivion. How is it any different from oral traditions where things are slowly forgotten as memories and stories become worn out by time?







Humans are cringe

7 Dec 2021

One of the great things about Neocities is how Pro-Cringe we are. There are plenty of things here that would normally be hidden on social networks where we have to attach our names and reputations to. But all your weird ships, badly drawn fanart, roleplaying, questionable design choices, geeky obsessions and teenaged (or millenial) ramblings just shamelessly hang out in the open here. And with it all being in the open, it creates a safe space and culture for people to indulge in whatever cringey stuff they want.

Yes, a lot of stuff here is cringey. But cringey is not bad. It's an honest cringe. One that comes from a place of deep love and passion. All the things that you do with your lovers and closest friends and family can seem cringey as fuck to a outside observer. Perhaps one of the worst things in culture is that it's cringey to care about things passionately, while it's cool to be aloof and detached. It takes a lot of passion and effort (and HTML, CSS and Javascript) to assemble a shrine on a webpage. No matter how cringey the content, the amount of love that goes into it deserves respect. And most importantly someone must have fulfilled a burning desire to see it through.

Cringe has a bad rap. People avoid it because it makes them feel judged. At worst it can be used as an excuse to alienate and isolate people from the in-group. Which is strange because it is an almost universal feeling. A lot of people have flashbacks of cringey things that they've done when they were younger. I say embrace it and accept it. We grow by being cringey, that's how we experiment and fall in love and try new things and be excited and be happy. Cringe drives culture, it's the cringe frontier before it becomes mainstream cool. Humans are a cringey mammal that does childish things way longer than it needs to.

Remember when love drove the internet? Not romantic love, but that weird geeky love for awfully specific subjects. These days it feels like hate and fear are the main drivers of what we see online. It's good to have a space where we can love on the internet again.







Trauma of a generation

1 Dec 2021

My Grandmother lived through the Japanese Occupation of my country. They came, routed the British and took over. Aside from all the warcrimes that they commited, they also completely tanked the economy by replacing the British issued currency with their own dollars and cents. They printed too much of it and that led to hyperinflation and famine. And when they lost the war and the British came back, all those notes were worthless because they weren't recognised by any government. To this day, we still refer to this cautionary tale of 'Banana money'.

Whenever the banks issue new bank note designs, my Grandmother goes into a panic. She assumes that whenever a new design comes out, anything before that can't be used anymore. We laugh and try to explain to her, but she doesn't really get it. Perhaps the trauma is too deep.

My mother was a teenager when race riots occured in my country. People were hacked to death just because they were unlucky enough to be around the wrong community at the wrong time. On the way back from school she saw dead bodies on the roadsides. To this day whenever there is any form of political instability, she always tells us to come home just in case chaos breaks out. I always reassure her that the politics of today aren't as bad as the past. But it doesn't get through, another deep trauma.

Recently I heard about the new Covid variant making its way around the world. It filled me with dread. I probably will feel this dread anytime I hear any news about an infectious disease in my lifetime. If I'm lucky, my grandchildren will see it as a weird quirk and laugh at me for it.

*This post was edited on 7/12/2021







Pasts of time and language

26 Nov 2021

I was talking with a friend from a non-english speaking country, and that made me realise how niche most of the early culture internet was. You had to be in a place of privilege to be able to access the internet in the 90's and understand the culture. For many people around the world, the internet began with smartphones and social media. For others that had access to PCs, they lived in the parallel world of their own vernacular internet, experiencing websites, forums, blogs and internet drama that anglophones never knew existed.

Where I lived, we got American music, videogames, TV and movies, we spoke English, so it wasn't a problem to interact with the 'mainstream' internet of english language websites and blogs. It wasn't hard to understand the jokes and nuances of the culture since western culture was so ubiquitous. But my friends that didn't speak English had a totally different experience, a lot of the internet was off limits to them. They had to get things translated manually because machine translation didn't exist yet. They instead spent a lot of time on mIRC, or Maple story or their own spaces. And later they moved into a variety of blogs, social media and forums in the mid to late 00s. There is a tendency to view the internet as something universal and borderless, but it really is divided up by language.

The early internet was a small sliver of time and space, if you were lucky you managed to experience it. If not then you have to play historian and listen to oral histories on Youtube or look at fragments of the past that were preserved in archives. But it really isn't the same as being there in the moment. Well, kids these days get to experience Minecraft and Roblox and whatever they like playing these days. So I guess each group has it's own little thing to look back fondly on.







Metrics

24 Nov 2021

November really is passing by in a rush, I barely felt it and it's already at the end.

I've been on Neocities since April, and 953 updates later I've racked up 124 followers and 23,575 views. I've written about 20,000 words worth of rants. These are all meaningless metrics. At the start I was happy to see my view count go up, but lately I've come to realise that it really doesn't mean anything at all. The conventional tech dogma is that putting a number under a username causes people to try to raise that number, but I've lost interest in them.

A popular saying by Lord Kelvin is “When you can measure what you are speaking about, and express it in numbers, you know something about it, when you cannot express it in numbers, your knowledge is of a meager and unsatisfactory kind;”, I think a lot of the problems in modern society come from taking this mentality and generalising it to everything. Now your value can be expressed by how many followers you have, how many impressions or views you get and how much engagement you generate. We now have social credit systems, whether explicit (like in China) or implicit (Like in the western web). While numbers can be a good way of describing chemistry experiments, they are a meager and unsatisfactory way to understand human beings.

The only important thing here is that I enjoy myself. If there really is a metric of that, it's what I've made and put up on the website. This tangle of HTML and CSS is a labour of love of a lot of the things that I obssess about. If it is something that I haven't enjoyed enough to complete it, it isn't on the website. The satisfaction of creating this flawed mess of hypertext media is what keeps me going, not the need to push a number up.







web3 anxieties

12 Nov 2021

Looking at web3 develop, with it's built in commodification of every human activity, I gotta say it really isn't appealing to me. Crypto, walled gardens, shitty VR and AR, NFTs and the need to implement artificial scarcity, barriers and property rights on medium that excels at distributing information. It's like web3 is going to be a worse version of everything that we have now. But it's really being pushed by techbros as the next big thing.

We really need to consider alternatives to it. I don't want a utopia, I just want to avoid living in the techbro dystopia of tomorrow. At the rate things are going and if there is a tech cold war in the future, I might even side with China instead of the United States of Meta. But before we have to choose between the lesser evil of tech dystopias, maybe we should start dreaming of a better future again.

Then again I resisted smartphones and social media for the longest time. I kind of missed most of web 2.0, pretty much only using it at the tail end where it had already turned into a toxic mess. I only got a smartphone 5 years ago, surviving on my reliable Nokia for a long time. I avoided Myspace, Friendster, Facebook, Instagram. Only learning how to use twitter 3 years ago. It is possible to opt out of the mainstream in some ways, but when Gmail and Whatsapp is needed for work it becomes difficult to keep on the fringe. I still only occasionally use Google maps, making me one of the few people that I know that can still get lost.

This has just been messy stream of thought writing. Just thinking out loud about my anxieties of where the internet is going. For now I just have disjointed thoughts and no real answers.







Lightning

10 Nov 2021

My internet went down because lightning struck the fibre optic cable and fried it. I never expected non conductive fibre optic cables to get hit and even the technicians were surprised. I remember a few 56k dialup modems fried by copper telephone wires getting struck by lightning, I thought it was a thing of the past. Looks like I cannot escape God smiting the devils in my telecommunications systems with lightning bolts.

Being able to communicate long distances almost instantaneously is something we take for granted. But it's built on a lot of fragile infrastructure. Sun, wind, lightning, waves or earthquakes could easily cut us off. No matter how much we try to remove ourselves, we aren't much different from the humans sheltering from the rain in a cave. Still at the mercy of nature.







Long term planning

30 Oct 2021

Some people ask the annoying question of what my long term plans are. I have a fool proof answer prepared. In the long run I plan on dying. It is the best plan. Unlike almost everybody else's plans in life it cannot fail.

Macabre as it is, I like the idea that one day I'll be dead and people that I like will gather and say nice platitudes about me even if I treated them terribly. Nobody is going to care about my loose relationship with deadlines or my careless casual racism. The real me will be forgotten and replaced with some shadowy description from the past, then that too will disappear in time. The most serious crises that I face are just a silly insignificant nuisance in the face of eternity. I'm nothing more than a mote in the unfathomable finiteness of the universe spreading out in time and space. And yet I will be able to escape the material plane in a simple yet inevitable act.

If I had to choose a method? I always wanted to get eaten by a wild tiger. That would be nice, but that would mean that I have to save tigers from extinction so they are common enough to stumble upon one and get eaten. I'm not too sure about the viabilty of that as a plan.







Positive anonymity

25 Oct 2021

If you look at my about page, it's deliberately very vague about my identity. No pronouns, no gender, no affliations, no race, no nationality. Even the profile name is kind of a throwaway word instead of a proper pseudonym. You could probably infer a few things about me from what I draw, photograph and write, this being a pretty personal website. But in general I'm mostly anonymous. I actually can't stand putting myself on the internet, it makes me anxious and weird. Call it a barrier or a veil, it's really comfortable to have a some personal space between me and an audience. I like that I can take a break from identity on the internet.

But with identity being so central to the modern internet, especially kids announcing everything from their sexual inclinations to their greatest psychological weaknesses to the public, there's not much space where I actually do feel comfortable. I hardly post anything personal on social media anymore since my peers and professional acquaintances follow me. There arent many active forums available these days. And the only places where you can be truly anonymous have pretty toxic cultures. So the indieweb is a bit of a refuge in a way.

This website is just me carving out a comfort zone where I can be just amorphous fragments of a human being instead of personhood forced into neat categories.







Epilogue

22 Oct 2021

After a long struggle I wrapped up a long term project. It was a very long adventure where I must have used up the last of my youth. Now it's done. I've been raised on stories based on Hero's Journeys, the story ends with the return. It's all tied up neatly in a definitive ending. But life kind of just drags on continuously. Indefinite and uncertain. There aren't as many stories about that, because it's just not interesting. It kind of leaves me a bit lost when I think about what's next. Life never has a satisfying ending.

I guess I could work on some other projects that I've been putting off for a while. I'm not old yet by any means, so I still have some energy in me. And I hope that I'm a bit wiser.







Rest

19 Oct 2021

Lately I've been pants out of my head tired (The fact that this is a relatively coherent sentence indicates that there are problems with the English language). Suddenly everyone is acting like the pandemic never happened. Everyone pushing to get back to business as usual is exhausting. I had barely been able to catch my breath during the pandemic, now everything is spiralling out of control and my list of tasks keeps getting longer. Some days I'm so tired I can't think or figure things out anymore. Being worn down by meaningless productivity. Maybe I need some rest.

For all the proposed solutions to climate change and the environment, probably the best thing to do is just for everyone to admit that they aren't doing too well and sit down and rest. Maybe we should do that, just let the whole world admit that we're exhausted and just stop. Take a break, get by with just a few things, cover for others and help each other. Like a war, but the opposite. Instead of suspending laws and morality and charging out to kill each other, we just put everything on hold, stay with family and maybe spend a year or two not doing anything important and recover. A great nap after which all of humanity will feel much better.

I'm still keeping up with Inktober, although I'm spending more time drawing than posting it on the internet. Which is why I could never really keep up with it on social media. It'll eventually go up.







Hobby shop

12 Oct 2021

We are just coming out of a long lockdown over here. Shops are starting to open up again, life is getting back to normal. At least as close as we can try to get it.

Against this backdrop I recently visited my local hobby shop. The selection of model kits is average, it doesn't have much of the older and more obscure stuff that primarily interests me. But just being surrounded by boxes of model kits was a huge relief. The colors, weight and texture of the boxes, the smell of lacquer paints in the background, completed models in glass cabinets. It was like I could breathe again after so many months of mostly being confined to a suffocating online space. I was suddenly back in reality instead of the unrealness that I had been occupying for the last few months.

I picked up a simple model kit for beginners. I'd rather ease myself back into the hobby than try some major project. As I get older I realise that it might be wiser to not be so ambitious with my builds.







Email

20 Sept 2021

My friends have recommended that I try reading newsletters, Substack and the like are apparently where a lot of writers are migrating to. I always refuse to do so. My reason is simple: I hate opening my email.

Email is this dark portal where requests and work come through. There is hardly any good news, just the prospect of more work. Or someone asking you for something. It's an unending vortex of stress and responsibility. I hate having to sort through the infernal thing. I hate sending emails. I hate replying emails. I've developed a Pavlovian response to greatly disliking anything that arrives in my inbox. It's come to the point where I hardly use my personal email anymore due to my aversion to it. Email rhymes with evil (if you stretch out the -vil and say it like a mad scientist). Email bad. No like email.







Three snacks that I've had recently

18 Sept 2021

Mooncakes. Coming from Ancient China, mooncakes are served during the mid autumn festival. A baked confection with soft crumbly thin crust that envelopes a chewy sweet paste either made of red bean or lotus seeds. I'm not particularly fond of them, but I get them as gifts and will mindlessly eat them as snacks. I kind of like the softer crusts of the modern unbaked snow skin mooncakes than the more traditional ones. I once gave some to a friend from Beijing, he told me that mooncakes were very different in his home town.

Currypuffs. A hot currypuff fresh from the wok is one of the finest pleasures in the world. A dry potato and chicken curry is stuffed into a slightly flaky crust to form a dumpling, then deep fried to golden brown crispy perfection. I like the ones that Indians make, the curry has a bit more spice in it and taste quite close to samosa. They used to serve them a lot during events on campus. As a poor student I would be the first in line to grab as many as possible so I could stuff my face with them.

Apam Balik. A fluffy pancake that is covered in butter, nuts and sweet corn, then folded in half. Very nice warm straight from the shallow brass pans that they are cooked in. There is a variety that is thin and crispy. I always thought that it was derived from the the Indian Appam, but legend has it that it originates from South China. One of my friends used to always buy it for tea and I would end up finishing most of it. I kind of miss social eating from before the pandemic, where we could all just sit around and share a meal.







Doomscrolling

15 Sept 2021

I feel like I spend too much time doomscrolling. Every day, only bad news gets amplified by angry voices. Makes the future look very bleak and hopeless. Before the pandemic I could still do charity and stuff to periodically restore my faith in humanity. But it's a lot more harder to be there in person now. Instead we're kind of isolated in our own spaces and fed a constant stream of bad news. Not healthy to say the least. My friends just ignore the news now, it's too depressing.

Suddenly we are in some weird live action reenactment of several science fiction dystopias and disaster movies at the same time. It's tempting to extrapolate the present into the future. It's tempting to read too many op eds and tweet threads on how the future is just as fucked as the present. It's tempting to read all the propaganda that floods our media. It's tempting to give in to the pervasive feeling of doom. It's really easy to look at the world through the twisted mirror of social media and just give up on people.

The future looks bleak, but if we could predict it wouldn't be a future. As much as we are heading into dystopia, the future is really something that we can never anticipate. On one hand I think that we will always see the worst case scenario. On the other I understand that the worst case scenario is also something that we never expected or planned for. For our allies and enemies, the future is FUBAR. Nobody will be a complete loser or winner, there is no definitive salvation or doom, there's no system or ideology that will save us, we will somehow figure out a way to survive and life will just go on.







Attention seconds

13 Sept 2021

How many moments do I give a certain bit of content? How many attention seconds does it get? How long do I look at it? How long do I explore it? How long do I think about it? On a social media platform, I don't really spend a lot of time on it. Within less than a second I decide on whether to ignore something and judge whether it is worthy of a like or retweet. The interface makes me incapable of actually thinking carefully about something or judge it fairly. Due to the speed of judgement, I have to fall back on other shorthands. Is this person someone I know? What type of person is it? I have to judge based on stereotypes, there's no time for nuance. If it's an opposing view, then it's simple to just reject everything they say. I don't have time to think, I have to keep scrolling.

Art suffers from this as well. How many seconds does a piece get on social media? It doesn't matter how many hours you've put into it, it's seen and judged in seconds. In this kind of environment shorthand becomes very important, fanart draws attention because it requires less time to judge if it is good. Something you already like, it's good. Same for attaching a social message to something. It's part of your team, it is good. Draw something original, without any points of reference and then it becomes harder to make an instant judgement. It's not part of your team, it's ambigious, ignore it, no time to think, need to scroll.

When I read a website, I'm often less hostile even in cases where I don't agree with what is being said. Maybe because I'm not being rushed by the interface to create maximum engagement. I have the time to think about what I'm reading and my stand on it. I have time to give the benefit of the doubt, to emphatise, to withhold instant judgement. Maybe our enjoyment of internet content would be more enjoyable if we just gave everyone a few more attention seconds. Read their writing without instantly falling back to shorthands, look at their art like it's in a gallery and worth your time and focus instead drowning it in an infinite scroll. Might be a good thing to consider with web design as well, how do you give your reader the space to be comfortable, hang around and explore?







Templates and straightjackets

12 Sept 2021

I recently had to do some work with a small wordpress website. I'm not a web dev by any means, but after a few months I'd gotten used to editing the css and html directly on Neocities. And that's where the problems started. After the no holds barred chaos of Neocities, working on a free Wordpress template feels like a straightjacket. Options, themes and layouts are so limited, I can't just swap out css style sheets as I please, it's difficult to see how elements work and hack them together into some other function. I've had very little experience with a CMS before, and now that I'm working with one it feels really unfamiliar and strange. Makes me appreciate all these sites which are just bits of code hacked together which are somehow functional, aesthetically pleasing and unique.

In all fairness maybe I just have a lot to learn with the new interface. Maybe I'll get used to it and figure things out and this rant will look foolish in the future. But it is an uncomfortable experience to jump from eclectic variety that I'd gotten familiar with to the uniformity of the mainstream internet. It's like the spirit of encouraging experimentation is missing.







It was meant to be

3 Sept 2021

Sometimes pop-sci writers will marvel at how out of all the out the infinite possible outcomes, we managed to somehow experience intelligent life on this planet in this vast universe. Nothing short of a miracle. We have hydrogen and water and universal constants that are just right for us to be here. Miraculous. Some people extend this to love as well, out of the 7 Billion or so humans on this planet, you somehow meet the right person. Marvelous. Another string of improbable miracles. Keep on looking towards the future of untold potential and improbable miracles. It's a valid argument, but it carries the viewpoint of having multiple possible futures and us navigating through them at almost random.

The problem with possibility is that it collapses into a single event once it becomes the past. There are no multiple events, just the one that happened. It can't be changed. You can't undo or redo. It has passed. All there is to do is accept and move on. From the only possible outcome to the next only possible outcome to the next next only possible outcome. Looking back instead of looking forwards, it's a straight road of inevitability instead of branches of possibly.

I'm a fatalistic person. While I believe that there are possible courses of action, once something happens it was the inevitable outcome. There's nothing to regret or resent. Only resignation and reaction. No 'what if's or 'could be's. It's an immutable thing of the past. There were no other viable possibilities. I was meant to be.

My friends often tell me that I'm very calm in the face of bad events. One reason is that I'm so negative that I always assume that the outcome will be terrible. But the other is that I realise that nothing could have been done to stop it once it has happened. The past is the only outcome. One can only grieve and move on to the next thing that was meant to be.







A bit of a ramble

31 Aug 2021

I try to not be too negative on this website. Social media is already a stream of bad news and cat videos (and I don't even like cats). This is where I take a break and engage in creative endevours. But some days the paper tigers that control our politics and economies look so daunting and undefeatable. Some days there doesn't seem to be an end to our problems. It's just a series of defeats as things keep getting worse and you're just barely hanging on, pushed to the fringes. Life is exhausting.

I once talked to an old academic from India, and he reminisced about his experiences. "There were so many things we fought for, but in the end was it really worth it?" he asked. Those words just stayed with me. What regrets will I carry? What important things to me now will just not matter in the long run? Is any struggle really worth it in the end? Life just continues on, empires eventually fall, monuments will crumble, good and evil will both be defeated, people will forget, the hills and the seas will outlast human lives.

I'm not sure whether I should be comforted by my insignificance or if I should despair.







Internet searches

29 Aug 2021

I tried googling something recently and all the hits on the first page were basically ads. I think we've reached the point where webpages pumped full of SEO outnumber pages with actual honest advice in search results. It's a worrying trend. The internet was a place to look for more information, and in many ways it was relatively reliable and honest. In some cases it very human and intimate. That doesn't seem to be the case anymore. All we're left with is a tangled mess of ads, not bad if you want to buy something, but if you're looking for advice you're probably in the wrong place.

The internet was great while it lasted. But lately I see it disintegrating into a adtech ridden mess. Another loss to the numbing amount of losses that we feel right now. I'd like to google "How to deal with grief" , but the results just bombard me with offers for free e-books in return for my email address and souless copy written for the websites of large organisations.







Human photography

24 Aug 2021

Recently I've been clearing out my camera SD cards. Deleting all the blurry stuff and selecting what I want to keep. I went through thousands of photos, and I can say that I have about less than 2 handfuls of photos with humans in them. Aside from some work related stuff (Which is also devoid of humans) the rest are mostly deserted cityscapes and night photography. Partly it has been because of lockdowns and I've been avoiding crowded places. But also I'm not too fond of photographing people.

Taking photos of people is kind of awkward. I'd prefer if they were spontaneous and candid, but I can never stand far back enough to get a shot like that. And when I'm with a camera and people don't notice me, it feels like a creep shot. There's no winning in this. But most of the time they seem to react to the camera, and I'm not a fan of capturing really posed photos. I'm not fan of group photos or selfies either. I don't think I've taken a good human photo. People photos are just not my thing, I'm just too uncomfortable photographing them.

When I draw I tend to draw people quite a lot. But that's a solitary activity where I don't have to interact with people and I can be as detached from the real world as I like. Perhaps the people in photographs are too close to reality; creatures of fat and sinew, hair and teeth. It's very hard to capture the beauty in that.







Empathy

21 Aug 2021

I care about some things. I don't like that the climate is changing into some sort of persistent threat. I don't like that animals are going extinct before we can even discover them. I don't like that poor people have to suffer. I don't like that all of humanity is too short sighted to control a pandemic. This all means caring or empathising in some way with a group of people.

But there are limits to my empathy. I realise that I don't have the emotional energy to care about every injustice in the world. So I intentionally don't extend my empathy to things beyond my small area of interest. Perhaps it may be a bit cruel, but I really can't care about everything and everyone. It is difficult to really care about something, it's not as easy as liking posts and reposting viral messages. It takes real emotional labour to understand other people and be in their shoes. It's hard, exhausting, tiring, it grinds at your soul. Empathy requires investing your time and energy. It's not like pity, where you can shake your head for a while and then go back to laughing at cat videos.

So there are many issues in this world that I don't care about. We live in an age where it is expected that you have to have opinions or speak out about the flavour-of-the-day social issue. It should be acceptable to just not care and not have an opinion. If you can't really treat it with care it deserves, then leave it to people that are really invested in it instead of making empty noise. People have limited emotional energy, we really can't love everyone in the world equally. A bleeding heart eventually stops beating, a candle that lights the way eventually burns out.

I'm not saying that you should not care about anything. But pick a few problems and work hard at them instead of exhausting yourself by spreading yourself superficially thin across every single injustice that you encounter. We do after all live in a world of overwhelming injustice. You are not an unstoppable social justice warrior that knows no death or fear. You are, as all of us are, all too human. So take things slow and make one deliberate step at a time. Care for others, but care within your limits.







One way communication

11 Aug 2021

This website is one way communication. Like a book. Yes, you occasionally get a comment on your guestbook or someone sends you a message. But for the most part, unless your website is crawling with analytics, it's pretty much a black box. Put something out there, and someone reads it. And that's the extent of your interaction. No hearts or retweets or reblogs or emojis to give you crude real time information to feed your need for attention.

I sometimes get nervous if I put something on social media, since responses are so quick. Put art out there. People like it, judge it or just ignore it. Whatever you get it always leaves you feeling a bit empty. I remember helping a friend with his webcomic, and it was a slog of looking at charts and analytics and struggling to get tiny morsels of attention. But that is the modern artists dilemma in the attention economy. Making a living and getting attention is one and the same. I'm lucky that I have a stable job so I don't have desperately join that scrum at the internet.

Here on Neocities I'm blind. The only metric I have is the views going up, it's not really reliable. Maybe I will get a handfull of likes, which is comforting in its smallness. Maybe number of followers indicates that someone actually enjoys seeing my stuff. But overall I have no idea what is going on behind that veil, for all I know it could just be people hate-reading my stuff. I can't even pander to an audience because I have so little information about who is reading this.

I actually enjoy it. Having a barrier between the audience and creator. It's the same joy you get from putting a message in a bottle and throwing it out to sea. Sharing things over the distance of time and space. Carried over by the tides of fate. Not everything has to be conversation. Sometimes it's just nice to listen for while, then leave without saying a word.







Ignorance

10 Aug 2021

It's easier to live in ignorance than to do something. Trying to fix real problems is really daunting. But if you remain uninformed (or misinformed) enough, it looks like there is an easy solution. You might not even have to lift a finger except wait for those people that promise you the easy solution to do something. Nobody wants to listen to experts talk about the challenges and nuances of actually accomplishing a goal. That's a boring struggle, not something that's short thrilling and exciting. We want the easy digested version. Cheap stories, simple fictions, something that can be done on a couch. Reality is hard and soul crushing. Give me entertainment.

I don't want to put down people that want to stay ignorant. I have my own expertise in my fields, but in the end I have my own list of things that I try to be ignorant about, lest the despair of it crushes me. Knowledge and action hurts. Caring about other people hurts. It's not a Hollywood movie with a feel good ending, it's a horrible boring slog. All it leaves you with is more vague uncertainty and unreachable horizons. It feels really good to think that one day a saviour will come and kick the bad guys out and everything will be ok again. It's so tempting to shrug our shoulders, have faith and wait. To do nothing. To be ignorant. It's a tragedy we all share.

It's frighteningly easy to just give up and ignore the harmful systems around us. To push the responsibility to someone else and just wait for a chosen one or some omnipotent God-fearing military to save us all. Learning is not as easy as googling answers or reading tweets. Knowledge needs action before you can truly understand it. The more you know the more shaky and unreliable you realise everything is. How scary the world actually is. Like walking in a dense fog or an unending dark corridor. But a good rule of thumb that you're on the right track is you never exactly know what you are doing and that you never find solutions, only more complex problems.







Model kits

8 Aug 2021

I like building model kits. But as with everything it's a complicated relationship. If you start with beginner kits they can be rewarding hobby, but as you get more advanced and try different techniques they become a sort of dedicated tedium. I'm not sure how many hours I've spent sanding small pieces of plastic, but it must be significant. So much sanding and more sanding. Humming a tune to yourself while you sand down another part. But I do enjoy it, all the cutting and sanding, all that mindless work that is strangely calming. Even the inevitable bleeding from stray X-acto knife blades has become part of the ritual. Despite it all I actually only enjoy the construction part of it. Possibly the only part that I do enjoy. Painting is required to get the look that I'm going for, but I'm not a fan of it and often I end up procrastinating at that point. Maybe I need an airbrush, because handpainting multiple coats of acrylic paint onto a large area is more tedious than all that sanding.

Maybe my sense of pride is pushing me to achieve a finish like what I see in glossy model kit magazines or twitter. Making the whole ordeal more difficult than it should be. I wouldn't call it masochism, at least masochism is eventful and exciting, but this is like acts of repetition dragged out over long periods of time. Either way, that's what a hobby is. "Man is so made that he can only find relaxation from one kind of labor by taking up another."

I want to make model kit page for this website so I can show off some of my creations. But that means that I have to actually finish painting a few of them first.







Novels

6 Aug 2021

I was thinking about drawing book covers as a creative exercise. Until I realised one thing: I can only recall finishing one novel in the last couple of years. Possibly it's the closure of book stores because of lockdowns, the lack of a disposable income or my preference for short stories and non-fiction, but I haven't actually sat down and read a novel in a long while. I haven't been in the mood for long reads as well, this pandemic seems to have shortened my attention span. Then again I've binged through volumes of terrible and mediocre manga, which I liked for its simple unchallenging content. Maybe that's the actual root of the problem. I've been picking up literary books that I 'should read' instead of trashy novels that would be fun to read with half a brain. Perhaps I should pick up a novel again, if only to just help me focus a bit more.

The last novel I finished was "The weight of our sky" by Hanna Alkaf, which I kind of had to read because someone gave it to me as a birthday present and I was trying to get to the ending. It was quite a scary book, especially since my parents lived through the events depicted in it and pre-pandemic I used to regularly walk the streets that the book was set in. With the themes of racial violence and OCD, I did wonder if it is age appropriate for young adults, then again they are exposed to much worse on the internet I suppose.







Better pasts

31 July 2021

I like looking at websites dedicated to 00's nostalgia written by teenagers and early 20 year olds. I can relate to 90's nostalgia, since that was the decade that made up most of my childhood. It makes sense for me to think of that as a simpler, easier, better time. I was child. But 00's nostalgia, that's something else entirely. I was already a teenager/young adult by then. I witnessed how the events of the 00's set up the dystopia that we're living in right now. The terrorism, rise of surveillance states, boybands, wars in the Middle East and Afganistan, oppressive governments getting more oppressive, economic crises, the despair of the after effects Asian financial crisis and the global financial crisis that followed, the slow creep of tech giants, the change in how we communicated and did politics. Some people put 2007/8 with the launch of the iPhone and the Global financial crisis as a sort of event that changed everything, but really that was the result of a slow march through a decade worth of events. (I hardly remember the 10's, they were a complete blur that left me disoreinted and confused)

But 00's nostalgia doesn't bother with any of that. It remembers a simpler time, before all the social media. Geocities websites, Windows XP, Playstation 2, Xbox, flashing gifs, proto-memes, youtube videos, Newgrounds, flash games. Young people reinterpreting the decade based on childhood memories, second hand accounts and whatever media survived. It's like how I think of the 80's as action movies, cartoons and... ok I don't think about the 80's beyond those two things. I'm not complaining though. Let the worse parts of the past be put into history books and entrusted to wise men. Let it be forgotten by the masses. Let them have the comfort of a better time that they can look back to. We often task the younger generation to build a better future, but through their limited perspectives, they also build better, more pleasant pasts as well.

P.S. This unfortunately has two effects: 1) We will keep repeating the same mistakes 2) Kids today will look back at 10's and 20's as the 'simpler times'.







Lifespans

29 July 2021

One day I'm going to stop updating this website. It likely won't be anytime soon. But eventually I will run out of things that I want to write about. Or maybe I might become too busy with real life. Or maybe this pandemic will get me. Everything will come to an end, it's just a matter of when.

I've been around long enough to realise that websites have about the lifespan of a dog. People change, society changes, the world changes. I'm not under the illusion that this will be long lasting monument of my greatness. Just a ephemeral gasp of life in the emptiness of universe. I take some comfort in that, something doesn't have to permanent to be meaningful.







Dyslexia

24 July 2021

I read really fast these days, probably at post-graduate level speeds if I can focus enough. Sometimes I just skim an entire article and get the whole gist of it without reading through the whole thing. Which is strange, because I'm dyslexic. Sometimes I think that it's just a self misdiagnosis, but I still mix up my 6's and 9's (which is a quite dangerous when working on my accounts) and I still sometimes mix up b's and d's, even when I'm using a keyboard. It hasn't been that troublesome lately, for the most part it's only caused minor mistakes that I can live with. An amusing fact about my brain rather than a real disability.

But then I tried to pick up Japanese. Suddenly the things that I stuggled with in early education came back to haunt me. I've been reading kana for 4 years, but I still can't tell さ apart from ち. I don't even dream about telling ツ and シ apart. I just look at the context and guess what letter it is. Which is probably what I've been doing with English all this while, but I've never thought about the actual mechanism before. For some reason, ideograms like kanji are easier for my brain to process. Maybe because there is more to grasp onto than a handful of small lines that are often mirrored. In primary school I remember many times I had to stay back in class because I had so much trouble copying off the board. I wonder how long it's going to take me to get past this hurdle.





Small deaths

23 July 2021

The relative anonymity of the internet lets us build personas and experiment. But one thing that is rarely discussed is how it also lets us experience death, or at least the death of your own online persona. Everybody grows up, you change. And as you do so there are parts of you that get left behind. I'm sure most people have felt this before, you leave school and go to college or you stop going to a forum or you slowly stop regularly emailing a friend or the online community that you used imploded. All these small deaths, deaths by a thousand cuts. Cutting and pruning the bonsai that is your online life. I'm kind of glad that my cringey past lives have been swept away by time and the impermanence of the internet, that I got to snuff them out and move on. Death on my own terms.

Honestly that's one of the main draws of the internet for me. That it's not real life, I can put it down one day and walk away with little consequence. That I can just do a painless suicide if I ever get tired of things. If things get too tough there is a way out. You just disappear into the void that you came from. Compared to IRL (or modern surveillance capitalism), it's a nice fantasy isn't it?





Daydreams

17 July 2021

Through this pandemic I realised that I'd rarely spent much time to myself, which is ironic since we've all been so isolated. But constant access to gadgets and internet have meant that I hardly had the time to just think through things without distractions. I usually go for very long walks without any internet connection to bother me, which I could hardly do. I didn't have any lectures to attend to where my hands would be idle to do other things. I hardly had the time to sit quietly and get lost in my thoughts without the temptation to check the internet. It really hasn't been healthy. The constant stimulation of content seems to have dulled my creativity. In order to access my own internal world, my daydreams or whatever you would call them, I needed to disconnect and be idle and bored.

When I look back at some of the creative stuff that I had made, I realise that most of it comes from a place of boredom and isolation. Like being alone in a forest or travelling in a different state. I've started walking in circles around my neighbourhood in the middle of the night to get the ideas flowing again. So far it feels a bit better, like I'm in my own brain again and not some augmented cyber hive mind.





Listening to the void

8 July 2021

I like reading people write about the mundanity of their lives. It reminds me that there are other people out there, half way across the planet,and we are all connected through this marvel called the internet. I don't need to read about your epic activism and struggles, politics or your philosophical insights, just reading about people going about their daily lives or their simple personal scale problems satisfies me. It's refreshing to read about people making small repairs at home, going to the store or doing their homework. The problems in the world are so huge and insurmountable, it's nice to be able to look away from them and remember that this world is filled with the small struggles of people going about their lives. For people shouting out into the void, just remember that there are people in the void listening and your company is quite welcome.





How fragile our knowledge

2 July 2021

A hundred years from now, what knowledge would we be able to pass down to the people of the future? The closure of Geocities and Yahoo! answers, and now Google limiting access to drives just shows how easily information can just disappear from the internet. Links can be broken and disabled, file types become obsolete, platforms like Flash get discontinued. That's not even counting the uncertainties brought about by our insane political and economic systems. Large scale power disruptions, political instability or simply maintenance costs can take down servers. Makes me wonder how we're going to protect knowledge from coming disasters of the 21st century.

While knowledge is getting more accessible, it's also being cornered into walled gardens. Most science is paywalled by a few large academic publishing corporations, news publishers and magazines are setting up paywalled articles (and like many online publishers could go under and you'd lose all the articles), Disney controls a modern global mythology, Google controls almost all video content on the internet and photos, informative threads and articles have migrated to the almost unsearchable reaches of Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. There are still a few bastions of accessible free knowledge, but by and large knowledge controlled by corporations is a nightmare scenario that is our current reality. Not only can they shape our views, they can also block access or even censor knowledge. Or as with previous cases they could just delete it if it isn't profitable. And all of this is so dependent on our fossil fueled cheap energy economies that the underlying infrastructure probably can't be kept running without it. Perhaps the cloud is the best way to describe our collective digital information, ephemeral vapors that can disappear in the heat of the sun.

Would future generations be able to search through social media to discover clues to the past? Will they be open and declassified like old colonial records? Or will it be too big and noisy to process without the help of AI or maybe just full of holes because it isn't profitable to keep so much data around? What could we do to transfer knowledge between generations? A hundred years isn't that long a time frame, a human lifetime can fit into it. They could probably ask their elders about the glory days of the old internet. We don't need to carve HTML Rosseta stones and leave them in deserts so that generation can decode our websites. But it might be good to consider backups just in case this house of cards come toppling down.

Modern capitalist society has a cult like obsession with data, to the point where we hoard inordinate amounts of it because of the unproven promise that it's going to solve all our problems. But data is just raw information, knowledge is data with context and interpretation; and wisdom is knowledge being used well. We have so much information, but what are the important lessons that we want people to learn? What is worth learning and worth passing down?

Perhaps most of the wisdom that I have was passed down to me from older people that just took the time to talk to me. Their vast geological knowledge, academic achievements, technical skills or passion for the Beatles didn’t matter. It didn’t matter that they knew how to program mainframes, catch animals or make soap from charcoal. While those made for interesting stories it really wasn’t all that important. But what was important was that they took their experience and acted on it. Perhaps we don't need to worry too much on transferring knowledge in its current existing form to the next generation, but they can probably benefit from us being wise enough to be there for them.





Collapses falling short

1 July 2021

I just finished 'The collapse of western civilisation' by Naomi Oreskes and Erik M. Conway, it's a science fiction work on the premise of an academician from the Second People's Republic of China in 2393 writing about the how we failed to respond to the current climate crisis. It's a fantastic premise, how would people in the future think about current Western civilisation, which is so impotent in the face of dealing with the crises of our era. There are a lot of good points, though a bit overly academic in their presentation and perspectives. But it really falls flat as a work of science fiction.

The writers never follow up on the premise. I wanted to read about the perspectives of a Neocommunist Chinese woman from 2393, but the writing is just the very western present written in past tense. It is the usual modern complaints about academia, climate change and capitalism, but it barely discusses them from fictional hindsight. The book is way too obsessed with the things that modern academics obsess over, when these things would be as alien to future academics as 18th Century Islamic juriprudence is to western society. The fictional writer is barely a character in the work at all, when their writing should be shaped by the norms, values and zeitgeists of their time. There are hardly any hints of a post-climate crisis society in the writing, it's science fiction without any worldbuilding aside from some brief mentions of the rise of neo communism and some maps of flooded countries.

The end product is, like a lot of climate related literature, a thought provoking but dull read. This subgenre occupies the extremes of being either too simplistically alarmist or too technical and academic, which pushes people toward reading HAARP conspiracy theories or corporate fictions because while they're lacking in truth they have far better storytelling. You end up with some facts and trivia, but nothing that really grips the heart. It's something that will be cited in the future as an example of how Western civilisation collapsed because it couldn't tell the right stories at the right time.





Philosophy

29 June 2021

I'm not a fan of philosophy. Or more accurately I'm not a fan of Western philosophy, or at least what it has turned into. I don't mind reading about ideas and theories about life, but the format in which it is delivered is absolutely horrendous. Philosophy texts are just so dense and hard to read. So many just read like miserable depressed men talking in circles and groping for answers. Which is fine if you are trying to figure something out by writing it down, but it makes for a horrible reading experience. Especially if I'm in a hurry and want to get to the point of things. When I was an undergraduate I'd think that maybe I couldn't understand the texts because I was missing out on something important, but now I realise that some of these philosophers are just really bad at writing. If you want to say something, say it in as few words and as clearly as you can. If the wikipedia summary does a better job at explaining your idea than your own text, then you have a writing problem.

I hate the fact that philosophy has become dominated by academia and they've developed such tangled structures of writing. Philosophers that I've met spout jargon and talk in circles, but that seems to be the only thing that they can do. It can impress the inexperienced, but in the end of the day it's just sophistry. Create the illusion of intelligence by being obtuse and impenetrable. It really makes me wonder why we let such joyless people lecture us about life and ethics. And what's worse is when this academic behaviour gets out and is aped by the general public. I see so many subcultures that just keep adding new terms and jargon to the point where outsiders find it impenetrable to understand and the categories have such minor differences that they are mostly redundant. I don't mind learning more about your point of view, but one must stop piling on jargon after a certain level. Like academic philosophers it makes your writing unreadable.

I'd rather read cryptic Buddhist koans, at least they're short.





Barriers

19 June 2021

I'm currently working on a redoing my gallery page (and maybe reorganising the writing page), but these things take time and effort. I need to sit down, read, design and code. It's not social media where you shoot an opinion off without thinking. A website is not instantaneous, it requires deliberation. Things happen slower and they stay up longer, it's the nature of the medium. And I wonder if having a barrier of entry actually makes for better content. Well, at least it creates a different form of content.

It's the same with art and photography. I'm not rushing to meet some crazy daily schedule so my feed always looks full. If I put something up, it's going to stay up in the gallery. People can look at it whenever they want, chronology is not important. So I'm taking my time, letting things which I've pencilled out sit for a while so I can look at it with a fresh set of eyes, enjoying the freedom that comes with having to stop at barriers.





Sad Millennials

18 June 2021

A friend once described herself as a "Sad Millennial", to which I replied that it's redundant since I've never met a happy Millennial. Looking back, so many people have confided in me that they were suffering from some sort of depression or anxiety or a whole grab bag of mental disorders. It makes me wonder if most humans have a mental disorder of some sort, yet are able to perform very well in society and keep up appearances. If that was the case, then mental disorders may just be how a normal brain works. What if sanity is a collective fiction that we've all started to believe as truth? That would explain why people behave so wildly irrationally (and why some economists still believe in a consistantly rational man, despite evidence of the contrary). Maybe if we just accepted universal insanity, we wouldn't be so hard on ourselves and kinder to others.

These thoughts sometimes come into my wandering mind. I don't know whether I should believe it or not. But the scary part is that whenever I share this theory with my friends, they all quietly nod in agreement. Perhaps they are just humoring me, or perhaps they too realise how mentally screwed up we are as a species.





Exploring websites

15 June 2021

I'm trying to reorganise this website, so lately I've been thinking about web design. Even with rather basic css, there's a lot of designs that can be achieved. Two articles caught my attention recently: Human scale design and How blogs broke the web. A lot of this website is organised into a chronological ordered format. Makes it easy for me to just add another entry on top, but after a while it gets harder for readers to explore it. At its inception 4 or so pages served most of my needs, but as it grows it might be better to move away from a blog design paradigm to one where this website is a thing that should be explored. One where people can take their time to move through rather than "Newest post at the top".





Mentors

14 June 2021

I feel like we are a generation that is lacking in mentors, or at least an understanding of what a mentor should do. Media has programed us to be the hero of our own story, so we don't actually know what to do when it turns out that we are not. When you live your life being told that you are Luke Skywalker, the sudden realisation that you're at best a Yoda or at worst a bystander like Uncle Owen (I had to look his name up on a Wiki), can be devastating. I guess that's what drives people to activism or conspiracy theories in a desperate attempt at heroics.

But it's inevitable that we will soon be past our prime, saddled with so many personal mistakes that we too could be a valuable reference (or cautionary tale) to the younger generation. But what then? What frame of references do we have to do this? Maybe be the cool teacher figure like in Dead Poets Society? Or the mysterious and wise Mr. Miyagi from Karate Kid? Are we supposed to die or go missing by the 2nd act like almost every mentor figure in any coming of age story? Or are we the powerful mentors that are always rendered useless when it counts in Shounen manga? While there were so many young heroes to model myself after, I struggle to think of any positive examples of how to be a mentor.

Once your youthful adventures are over, how do you get on with life? And where does the next generation fit into all of this?

I think this is why we are where we are right now. Probably some Gen-Xers and late Boomers are feeling just as lost as me. Giving in to the temptation of playing hero on the internet instead of admitting to their failures and sharing their experience for what it's worth. Makes me thankful for those that actually took the time to help me in the past.





Corners

11 June 2021

I noticed that a lot of Neocities websites (including this one) are refered to by their webmasters as "my little corner of the internet". It's a bit ironic that in the limitless expanse of the internet, humans are still searching for corners. Like cavemen searching for small caves that they can press their backs against for security. Corners are comforting defensive positions, little private spaces where you don't have to worry about attacks from all sides. It makes sense that we try to invoke this cosy aesthetic when building our personal websites.

Or are we here because we feel cornered?





Dinosaurs

8 June 2021

There's a charm to the dinosaurs of yesteryear. Yes, they are scientifically inaccurate and they very much reflect the predjudices and preconceptions of the era, but they look cool. Aesthetically they are closer to dragons and fantasy than the birds of modern reconstructions, but the kitsch, outlandish speculation and flights of fancy just make them look really interesting. They were like characters, they weren't just carnivores, they were villianous slow pondering Harryhausen or speedy Speilbergian slasher movie monsters. They were the tragically noble herbivores that were gleefully depicted being attacked and eaten. They were Victorian woodcuts of slothy dragons that were too stupid to survive. They were paintings from the 80's with shrink wrapped skin and bulging muscles with occasionally lasers strapped to them. They were Sunday strips in the 90's that sometimes flew F-14s. They were early webcomics that repeated the same panels over and over again.

My point is they looked cool. Modern reconstructions are getting more accurate and we're changing how we view dinosaurs, but as they get closer to the realm of science than fantasy they start to become a bit duller in comparison. This was kind of my thought process when I tried drawing a scientifically inaccurate T. rex . It's sometimes fun to celebrate the kitschy misconceptions of the past than to draw actual animals.





Wasted space

3 June 2021

At it's current size this entire website is about 10MB. That's less than 3 pictures in my digital camera's sd card. I'm pretty amazed at what you can get for 10MB if you actually restrain yourself. Recently I've been experimenting with optimising my images and trying to get them as small as possible (1-bit indexed colors are a wonderful trick for black and white art). It makes me think about how wasteful we are with data, my phone can burn through 40MB a day and I hardly do anything on it except message people and occasionally open Twitter.

I'm beginning to wonder how much I can fit into a small space, like a 3.5" floppy disk's 1.44MB. When I was younger I remember being able to save low quality scans of comics on floppies. I'd get an entire chapter in if I was lucky. I wonder what I could do if I actually optimised art and text within those limits?

Like poetry it might be a good exercise to learn how to limit how much space you take up. Take the time to be brief and to the point. Cut out anything unnecessary. New forms of expression might come out of it. There are some examples on Neocities that serve as inspiration, like 10kB Gallery or some of the art by Automatic Llama.

As a society we focus so much on growth, that we take it as a measure of quality. If you're not growing you're not doing it right, more money, more posts, more numbers, more data. Like gigabytes of badly taken HD selfies. Like a cancer growing and filling up so much space. Instead of writing haikus we're like college students trying to fill out a 10 page assignment with whatever rubbish our energy drink addled minds can think of. Doing more with less seems to be out of fashion. Growth without elegance or restraint.





Mobile Internet

1 June 2021

I don't use mobile internet. I don't like to be accessible at all times or bothered when I'm taking a walk or driving. Recently I had to use it for some work related thing, and it feels so weird to have so much information at your fingertips while you are moving about. The constant connection to other human beings, being able to see a persons face on demand, always knowing where you are going, being able to look things up instantaineously. I don't like it. I don't feel human, but like a psychic alien from 70's pulp science fiction magazine. When I'm on the move I like being able to be alone, get lost, let my idle mind wander.





Pronouns

28 May 2021

At one point I was teaching English as a second language. Where I'm from, most people pick up English as a second or third language. And one of the hard parts is explaining English pronouns, specifically "he" and "she". You see a lot of East and Southeast Asian languages don't have gendered pronouns. Everybody just makes do with one gender neutral pronoun (In Chinese there is a difference in written pronouns but they all has the same sound). So you get students constantly mixing up he and she, his and her. And sometimes you get questions like "Why do they even bother with gendered pronouns?" To which I actually have no answer.

I sometimes watch with amusement when I see Americans arguing about pronouns and adding more to the list. I had enough trouble teaching two pronouns. It seems to me like they are complicating a system that a lot of people can live without. Why would you constantly add new pronouns when it would be easier to just subtract one and use a single pronoun for everything? Internet savvy Malay language speakers sometimes joke that their pronouns are dia/dia, which is means both he and she and whatever gender in between and beyond. Personally, it seems like a lot less work and a more elegant and inclusive system.

You would think that fixing pronouns and using a single one would lead to a more egalitarion culture. But honestly Asians tend to be sexist even without gendered pronouns. Makes me wonder if fighting over pronouns will lead anywhere. Some people say that words have power, usually the people that say that make a living by peddling their writing. Inflating the importance of words might be in their own interest. While I agree that words shape and constrict the way we think, maybe changing words alone isn't the solution that one might hope for.

This might be a controversial musing, but that's kind of how weird it is to watch foreign culture wars happen. It's strange and alien, and trying to make sense of it from your own personal context can be quite challenging and amusing at the same time.





Content

27 May 2021

I originally named this website "Occassionally, Content" as an excuse for a potentially spotty update schedule as well as a reference to my occasional feelings of satiation (I only have 3 settings: Content, exhausted and angry). But recently I've been wondering if I should be making content at all. The word content feels a bit artificial these days, like it is describing some sweetened combination of permitted coloring, high-fructose corn syrup and hydrogenated palm oil injected into a bun of cold soggy white bread. That's what pops into my mind when I hear someone describe themselves as a "Content creator" instead of something more concrete like a writer or artist. Content wants something from you, it's optimised, manipulative and commoditised. I don't want to make content. I hope this website lacks content, instead more fluff, filling or stuffing. The homely, soft and warm stuff that makes you feel content.

On another note I was rather suprised that people actually read what I write on this website. Usually my mindset when writing anything here is "Old man yells at clouds", so I guess thanks for watching me rant into the void.





Newspapers

26 May 2021

I miss reading newspapers. They still exist, but the media landscape is so gutted that whatever is left is just a emancipated shadow of what it used to be. There was a ritual to reading newspapers, start at the lifestyle section, TV page first to see what's going to be on, then read the comics, then the columns. I liked the more frivolous ones where the columnists would just share small snippets of their life. Then the reviews of movies or games, then the ads for the movies that were showing in local cinemas, followed by feature articles if they were interesting. Then opinion columns, letters to the editor and world news. Local news was read only if I was bored.

In a newspaper there were all sorts of things that may or may not interest you. It was never tailor made for your target demographic or designed to bombard you with algorithmically guided ads. There was always that serendipitous chance of discovering things that you'd never expected to like. Old media never gave us what we wanted when we wanted it, but it did allow us to explore beyond the stereotypes of market demographics.





Work life balance

25 May 2021

I run a dual boot Windows 10/Linux Mint on my laptop, mainly because Windows is an easier interface to use when dealing with media files (at the expense of it constantly tracking my every move) hence a bit more user friendly for work. Linux is for my leisure activities, which mostly revolve around watching video, surfing the net and a bit of light image editing. But having that software separation of mental spaces has really helped during the pandemic and work-from-home. During the worst parts of last years lockdown, everything melted together into a mess of constant work stress with unfinished work constantly reminding me that things needed to be done. Keeping my desktops apart in clear work and leisure spaces helps me to put everything away and shift into a different mental state, it also helps that I need to restart my computer to change states, that tiny hassle created a barrier that sometimes stopped me from crossing back into work mentality when I'm supposed to be resting. I think my productivity has suffered a bit though, I'm booting up Windows less and less these days.





Other lives

15 May 2021

I'm starting to feel like our right to private lives is slowly being eroded. Everything that we say or do is recorded, reported, stored in one way or another. The stress of living in a panopticon really gets to me. People used to be able to have a professional self and other private aspects of their lives, but lately it feels like it's all mushing up together. Your reputation is now attached to your social media, you have to constantly be on your best behaviour and keep your guard up even when communicating with friends. The eye of society is constantly on you. You have to watch yourself and try not to make any bad takes since these things live forever on the internet and everybody keeps receipts.

I guess that's why I want to keep parts of myself hidden from everybody else. Being able to get away and get to know other aspects of your being that you don't want to be associated with your place in society or your livelihood. Ironically I'm writing about this in a public space that everybody can see, but there is a level disassociation from my main identity that allows me to do so. Would I have been so honest if my name and face was attached to these opinions? Probably not. What is it about this world that robs us of our other lives?





Long distance writing

11 May 2021

One peculiarity that I've come across is that I write better when I'm on my feet and walking. The lack of distractions and being able to let my mind wander lets me think about things clearly and organise my thoughts. Once I'm done walking, I can sit down and type everything out smoothly. At one point I was doing 200words/km. For me writing really is 80% thinking and 20% actually the physical act of writing. This is opposed to sitting in front of my computer where the process of writing feels like trying to wring blood from a stone. I haven't been very productive during the pandemic since my movement has been limited by all the lockdowns. It'll be really nice to be able to go for long care free walks again.





They grow up but stay the same

10 May 2021

I've known a girl since she was 5 years old, she's 9 now and one of the top students in her grade. Undoubtedly she will keep excelling in the rest of her life. But since she was a dumb kindergartener when I met her, I can only see her as that. Perhaps when she goes to college or establishes a career for herself, I might still not be able to overcome my first impression of her. I honestly do wonder how our parents ever take us seriously. In their minds we must all be drooling babies.









How will history judge us?

9 May 2021

I've been reading a couple of autobiographical manga set in the Showa era (1926-1989) recently (Yoshihiro Tatsumi's "A drifting life" and Shigeru Mizuki's "Showa"), and one of the things that struck me was how massive events (Earthquakes, economic recessions, natural disasters, political upheaval) can just be compressed into a single offhand sentence. Undoubtedly these are life-changing moments for those involved, it may have even looked like the end of the world, but 50-60 years on it is a meaningless footnote to the younger generation. As time marches mercilessly on, all these crises that we live through lose all their context and meaning, only remembered in history books or academia but even then terribly abridged and missing the rawness that the people living through the hardship had felt.

I'm tempted to imagine how the current Coronavirus is going to be described 100 years in the future. It's probably going to be some obscure trivia like the Spanish Flu or the Manchurian Plague (Which I had barely heard of until the pandemic started). But in a way it's a relief to think about how all our pain and anguish can be forgotten and summarised into a dispassionate one liner, just another disaster in a long line of disasters.

Here's my attempt: In 2020 the Covid 19 worldwide pandemic strikes and incapacitates the global economy, triggering recessions all over the globe.





Taking the stupid route

6 May 2021

These days I think that "inteligence" is measured by the ability to find the optimal solution, or in other words the "best" solution based on the parameters given. Judging by the amount of resources that you save by being smart, choosing the non-optimal solution is kind of stupid. But I'd argue that it's good to occasionally be stupid and take the longer route, even when the shorter faster path is available. It's probably the even more human thing to do, any AI can find optimal solutions, but humans are always inclined to pick sub-optimal ones for reasons that can't even be explained by randomness.

The problem with optimisation is that it can lead to uniformity, there are only a few optimal solutions to a problem, while non-optimal solutions are almost infinite. What you generate through going through non-optimal "stupid" paths is novelty. Building up dumbness can eventually lead to new solutions (or problems) which you might never have found if you were always trying to follow the "best" options. In a world where everyone is racing to get to the top of a leaderboard, its nice to be able to be stupid and take your own time and go your own way.

Of course this doesn't mean that intelligence is always bad or stupidity is always good. Find a balance and use each when it is appropriate. Just drowning yourself in stupidity is perhaps worse than painting yourself into a corner by being intelligent. Sometimes you need to wander around and be dumb, other times you need to be smart and find your way out of your (perhaps self induced) problems. Do it enough times and you will live an interesting life.





Planning vs. stashing

29 Apr 2021

I remember talking to an accountant about my plans for the future, he was surprised that I didn't have a 5 year plan. I explained to him that I don't plan because I think plans don't work, at least in the world where we currently live in. To plan something there has to be some predictability, you have to know the rules of the game to be able to consider your next few steps. The more unpredictable the changes to the game, the more planning gets thrown out the window and you just have to react without knowing what's going to happen next. Which is why I never bothered with a long term plan. If you live in a very predictable system, then great for you. You can anticipate and make plans for the future. But I haven't been able to find that kind of stability, and I'm not sure if I'm suited for it. I've just been doing things that people haven't done before, so nobody knows how it works exactly (or if it will even work out at all).

That talk with the accountant was 5 years ago and I pretty much just went with the flow, surviving multiple crises. It hasn't been easy, I'm reminded of Deng Xiaoping's metaphore of 摸着石头过河, to “cross the river by feeling the stones”. Like trying to cross a rushing river but only being able to feel the loose stones directly in front of you. To survive in a world where you can't anticipate what is going to happen next, I adopted a system of stashing instead of planning. You never know what will be useful in the future, so it helps to just do a wide variety things that might or might not be useful in the future. You don't know what will work, so having a wide net helps. Life is unpredictable. Playing tabletop RPGs and card games in my teens helped me gain the skills to run a business. Learning to draw comics somehow made me good at writing pitches and proposals. Being able to code has helped me on multiple occasions. Trying to learn how to paint led me to gain a large network of activists. Just making friends and talking to people led to opportunities and dead ends that I never saw coming.

Not sure why I'm writing this, just looking back at my choices in life and how I got to where I am.





Shitwriting

26 Apr 2021

I have been trained to write well. To carefully plan out thoughts, organise them, choose the right words to express them, edit, edit, edit, then get rejected and go through another round of editing. If you noticed the quality of this page, none of this stuff has any of that. I'm basically just writing stream of thought, with minimal editing. It feels liberating. It's probably why I can do this for fun after a day job that involves a lot of writing. Good writing is a delight to read. But honest writing is refreshing in its own way.







Death of a Salesman

21 Apr 2021

On the 22nd of November 2016 I watched "Death of a Salesman", I wasn't particularly impressed by it. I know this because I wrote it down in a sketchbook/journal. But otherwise I have absolutely no recollection of this event. On the other hand I know that it is a true event that happened because I'm not in the habit of lying to myself. It's a bit strange how we augment our memories with tools; photographs, writing, sketches, websites, social media, all these little things build up into a different self that exists outside us and keeps track of things that we would rather forget. Lately I have been having trouble with memory, but I always get like this when I am overwhelmed with too much to do. Perhaps these tools, while useful to an extent, become a means for pushing ourselves too much. I'm able to talk to people that are not in the room, but that means that they can also bother me about work in the middle of the night. That leads me to depend on more tools and I get swept away in a self reinforcing loop.

What was the point of this little tirade? Honestly I can't remember





Street photography

20 Apr 2021

Had a couple of hours free before a meeting, so I went for a short walk around the city to do some street photography. The photos weren't all that good. But it was fun to just do photography and not think too hard about the results. Just snapping and moving on, not even checking the LCD until I got back. Street photography is a very self indulgent middle class hobby. But it is a hobby because it is enjoyable to do.

It'll take a while to build the photography gallery. I want to try something new with the CSS so I have to properly gather the code instead of keeping with my current minimalist approach.





Carrier bags and websites

16 Apr 2021

I recently visited a friend's art exhibition and he recommended this essay to me by Ursula le Guin. In it le Guin makes a comparison between the narrative of the hunter versus the narrative of a forager. I can't help but make paralels with carrier bags and websites. How we collect things shiny things like buttons, gifs and links and use it to decorate our spaces. The website is a container, much like the the bag or sling of a forager. Like planting gardens, it's a leisurely activity of searching, finding and collecting. Not something as thrilling as the conflict of hunters, who take risks and become the dominant narratives in many cultures.

I wonder if the internet started in a forager phase, where people explored and collected, and transitioned into a hunter phase, where conflict is the main driver of interaction. Will the future of internet culture be one of self appointed heroes in epic struggles against each other (egged on by social media) or will there be spaces for foragers to build their own spaces on the sidelines of the battlefields?





Sidetracking

15 Apr 2021

I should be working more on the site and getting more art uploaded, but I've been distracted by surfing Neocities. It's a different experience, actively clicking links and moving around instead of everything being served on a feed. I find myself reading more long form content, appreciating the web design and just clicking around a site to see what happens. Part of me wonders if this is just novelty of finding something new (or the fleeting nostalgia of finding something old), but I guess I'll enjoy it while I can and see how things turn out.






Contents:


Some of my good stuff:
Hospitality::8 Jan 2022
Content::27 May 2021
Why write?::16 Feb 2022
Corners::11 June 2021
Other lives::15 May 2021
Old friends::31 Jan 2022
One way communication::11 Aug 2021

In which I complain about technology:
Year in review::12 Apr 2022
One year website::11 Apr 2022
A kinder internet?::18 Mar 2022
Escapism::5 Mar 2022
Incentives and behaviour::6 Feb 2022
Empty homes::7 Jan 2022
Humans are cringe::7 Dec 2021
Metrics::24 Nov 2021
web3 anxieties::12 Nov 2021
Templates and straightjackets::12 Sept 2021
Email::20 Sept 2021
Doomscrolling::15 Sept 2021
Attention seconds::13 Sept 2021
Internet searches::29 Aug 2021
Barriers::19 June 2021
Exploring websites::15 June 2021
Wasted space::3 June 2021
Mobile Internet::1 June 2021
Carrier bags and websites::16 Apr 2021

Life as it is being lived:
The breathing forest::14 June 2022
Get out::10 June 2022
Zugzwang::25 May 2022
By the stream::22 May 2022
Despair::19 May 2022
Japanese curry::10 May 2022
Lost::7 May 2022
Denial/ Acceptance::1 May 2022
Child's play::27 Apr 2022
The pandemic rolls on::26 Apr 2022
Tweens::23 Apr 2022
Folktales::20 Apr 2022
The return::9 Apr 2022
Where've the years gone?::5 Apr 2022
Scenes on a Friday evening::1 Apr 2022
Sickness and sleep::3 Mar 2022
Recent purchases::30 Jan 2022
Occult e-commerce::23 Jan 2022
Never back to normal::22 Jan 2022
Battling AI in the 21st Century::17 Jan 2022
Reading::3 Jan 2022
A new year::2 Jan 2022
More disasters::21 Dec 2021
Lightning::10 Nov 2021
Long term planning::30 Oct 2021
Epilogue::22 Oct 2021
Hobby shop::12 Oct 2021
Three snacks that I've had recently::18 Sept 2021
Model kits::8 Aug 2021
Novels::6 Aug 2021
Daydreams::17 July 2021
Listening to the void::8 July 2021

Nostalgia in general:
Remembering:: 4 June 2022
A look back::14 Mar 2022
Missed opportunities::9 Mar 2022
Two grandmothers::10 Feb 2022
Honest records of humanity::24 Jan 2022
Four blog posts::16 Dec 2021
Trauma of a generation::1 Dec 2021
Pasts of time and language::26 Nov 2021
Better pasts::31 July 2021
Dinosaurs::8 June 2021
Newspapers::26 May 2021
How will history judge us?::9 May 2021


Unsorted rants:
A state of confusion::26 June 2022
Pride Month::7 June 2022
Metamorphosis::8 May 2022
Monks::6 May 2022
The beginning of the spirit wars::3 May 2022
The scarcity of joy::18 Apr 2022
Living in a box::6 Apr 2022
Life and fiction::26 Mar 2022
Muddled state of being::21 Mar 2022
Failing upwards::19 Mar 2022
Post-industrial revolution::15 Mar 2022
Constraints::23 Feb 2022
Things to look forward to::4 Feb 2022
Fixed random happiness::19 Jan 2022
You got this::15 Jan 2022
Positive anonymity::25 Oct 2021
Rest::19 Oct 2021
It was meant to be::3 Sept 2021
A bit of a ramble::31 Aug 2021
Human photography::24 Aug 2021
Empathy::21 Aug 2021
Ignorance::10 Aug 2021
Lifespans::29 July 2021
Dyslexia::24 July 2021
Small deaths::23 July 2021
How fragile our knowledge::2 July 2021
Collapses falling short::1 July 2021
Philosophy::29 June 2021
Sad Millennials::18 June 2021
Mentors::14 June 2021
Pronouns::28 May 2021
Work life balance::25 May 2021
Long distance writing::11 May 2021
They grow up but stay the same::10 May 2021
Taking the stupid route::6 May 2021
Planning vs. stashing::29 Apr 2021
Shitwriting::26 Apr 2021
Death of a Salesman::21 Apr 2021
Street photography::20 Apr 2021
Sidetracking::15 Apr 2021









Table of contents:
——————Microblog—————— 1 Small ideas and non sequitars. ———————Updates——————— 2 The routine and mundane. ————Thought stream———— 12 No theme, just as I please. ———————Artblog——————— 62 Where I discuss art. ——————Long form—————— 128 Articles and longer prose.