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There must be a term for running warm and cold as a way to alter others' behaviours. May just fall under the "random interval reinforcement schedule" umbrella, but at least in art this has a different effect than (e.g) border guards only having to search every fiftieth car to make everyone else behave. It's seen in abusers a lot, obviously, and in conmen, but also fits those pickup artist manuals that to some extent, in among the bullshit, do record what actual men - and women - have been doing forever, in their various long or short up-picking projects.

Goodbye Columbus had a great example I've never seen discussed in criticism, where the main girl keeps embracing and then drifting away from the main boy in a swimming pool, in a way where he feels she might leave him. We're to understand she's near-unconsciously doing this, as a sort of man-catching tactic her social sphere has subtly corralled her into finding natural to do and unnatural to not do. The gist is that if someone is ambivalent about doing what you want them to, you're very sweet to them so as to show them how nice it might be to please you, and then as immediately as naturalistic behaviour permits you find some way to withdraw that niceness, even replace it with anger, or some more affect-free threat of forever removing the chance for more niceness (or less harm).

Repeating this cycle seems to be key - or maybe just narratively is for your audience to feel/see it's happening. Walking Dead's doing a version right now, and Westworld wasn't far off, is why I'm wondering. You present a world where things seem okay for a second, then, before skepticism or apathy flood back in to contextualize that initial impression you cut the moment off sharply and harshly so its loss is over-felt. Takes advantage of how the present is necessarily the one thing real to us, the owner of the mental U.N., with the past and non-imminent-future both having to make do with representatives (memories, worries, guesses) that require processing resources easily divertible during apparent emergencies. (E.g) cocaine innocently replicate this process - it frees more or the less the same types and amounts of neurotransmitters as legal amphetamine doses, just much faster and all at once, so that all your awareness is filled with this novel cocaine-state, which goes away almost immediately since it's constructed by contrast. A gradual high isn't a high at all - it's driving from Illinois to Colorado, rather than from San Francisco straight inland.

Anyway, narratively this creates two possibility-worlds, neither of which is quite true - or at least not the one existing in your head prior to being run hot and cold on. It replaces the set of choices you thought you faced with another's rewrite. This interests me because it's probably close to the spell of fiction itself, which replaces your world with its own in some sense. When the replacement is a juster model of reality than your default (conventional, undercaffeinated, forgetful or otherwise mistaken) take then that's good art, or anyway art that might be good for you, but propaganda's fiction's conjoined twin. It's true we're both in and out of fiction, but maybe in a similar way to how we're both in and out of our relationships and political alliances. State dependent memory is powerful, so just bring back the right set of cues, the pegs and tent poles, and your mark will supply (and light and paint) the canvas.

Probably explains, in part, how fiction can do so much with such sketchy amounts of detail (compared to its rival, reality's), why it's so reliant on preestablished modes of response (maybe helping explain both how genre and literary influence work (and perhaps become increasingly inescapable), and why it's so amazing and valuable to some of us when the mode changes - suggests we're now in another world, perhaps even, at last, the real one (given the obvious cracks failures of our native model of it). Suggests also that (and maybe how) a world-sense can be modified, which seems like a valuable skill even when you don't wish to con or gaslight people. If I'm congenitally mistaken talking myself into seeing the truth may be the same process as gaslighting.

And the hot and cold thing can be part of it - think how essential threats are to fiction, and how we at least feel they are when admonishing ourselves to change our ways. A lot of exaggeration can feel justified when you fear the truth will be worse than any exaggeration - perhaps because your mind is too present-oriented to recognize what more than one moment of misery is like. So you try to represent all the countries of misery in one imagined second. They'll laugh at you, rip your clothes off, smear you in filth and throw you in the sea. Or, more likely, audit you. Which is worse?
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Threatened with coal, Maddy asked Julie what it was, so she told told her it's a black rock people dig up from the ground and light on fire when they want to warm themselves. Now all Maddy wants is coal. Just now I got her to brush her teeth by warning she might not get any in her stocking if she didn't.

We did try telling her it's dirty and stinky. Just excited her further. "I want to be dirty NOW!"

This is either a Family Circus-level crap anecdote or a profound clue to why Trump won.
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Westworld

. . . )
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She threw more than forty parties every year, counting having a couple or two of friends over for dinner or post-dinner drinks. Even this involved preparation. To catch a single party requires netting considerable amounts of time, food, alcohol and assent. Not to mention the work she put into conversation, drawing on The Atlantic, The New Yorker, The Economist, all the half-volume talk shows she left on in the background mornings and afternoons, and the NPR released like exhaust from her car. She liked games, too, but not the sort where you tell someone what they're playing - or that they're playing. Her parties were just scaffoldings for games of her invention, or perhaps vice-versa: sans games, they'd not be parties. You'd know a game was in progress when her eyes were suddenly fixed on you, rather than simply passing over your features like a spotlight on its way to scanning the tablecloth for wrinkles or empty glasses. Making you put a suit on your back, gel in your hair and a drink in your hand was all about getting you more and more naked where it counted, and even that would be nothing to her until someone else was also naked across from you and she'd ensured that both of you knew it. No one understood the social rules better, down to the last ghost of a nuance, and no one but her was so certain that their purpose was to trap, tease into rage and then promptly release a basic human anarchy. I don't mean to suggest that she sought to start fights, or even flirtations. The more awkward, the less precedented, the most completely unlike what an Atlantic article could capture in Atlantic language, Atlantic amplitudes of thought, the more potent for her, the more real, the higher she'd run up the score. Her, not you; the one way you'd win was to get her too drunk to remember what game she was playing, unless, like her, you thrived on the sprawl and spill of emotional ectoplasm once customary safeguards were removed. The one way I could ever win, I should say. I lacked the ability, probably the will, to unclothe the inner Anita. But I saw it happen. Twice. Years apart. Effected by the same brown, probing pair of eyes. And never put together they belonged to one she loved.

...

Bleeding into sand you have no idea how many pints you've lost. Combined with the backwards slip of the tide it felt like the primal ebb of time itself. That universal basic outgo. Eyes too dry to cry, mouth stuck shut by shock, I could do nothing but let breathing happen. The breath that seemed pulled out of me, that seemed to pull me with it as it went, kicking me slightly about up above as the weak, lapsing waters tugged at my pants down below. I didn't breathe; I was breathed, was breath, and less and less each time, a gentle hiss of air growing thin at the center. And that's how she found me, mere minutes from death. She'd listened and followed the wheeze.

...

If my lawyer weren't dead across the room I could ask what it legally meant for signed divorce papers to be burnt like that. I'd managed to save a corner near the signatures, but it was blank. She took it from my unconscious hand when she returned later that night and used it to roll the last of her sativa, or so she told me. She'd used the lawyer's lighter, so now joked that that meant we were notarized. I asked her if she was sure her cancer wasn't the moral sort. She replied it was nice to see we could still fail to make each other laugh like no one else.
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Odd development: According to one of the thingies on the right, I am consistently being visited by two Russian speakers per day. Mostly new ones each time. They're certainly welcome, but I'm curious what's sent them by. Is it "go to a random LiveJournal" month? Their journals don't indicate they'd be particularly into Westworld or Walking Dead spoilers, which is most of what I ever post here anymore, so I doubt I'm being actually sought out. Anybody else having this happen?
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Things that confuse me in poetry:

1. Whether the last line of this passage in the last stanza of "Sunday Morning" is just referring to the next to last line ... or what.

We live in an old chaos of the sun,
Or old dependency of day and night,
Or island solitude, unsponsored, free,
Of that wide water, inescapable.


I.e. is he saying "we live in a free, unsponsored island solitude of that inescapable wide water," or does the clause somehow apply to all three possible homes, or might it even refer back to "we" on its own (thus: "We of that inescapable wide water live in either etc."). The meaning of the passage is pretty much the same no matter how you read it, but I'm permanently grammatically confused. I guess I must have heard of "an island of the lake," though "in" and "on" are infinitely more common, but something seems very off about "an island of that water." Chaoses and dependencies of waters sound off-er still. Whether he intended it or not, the effect works for him: the phrase's being semi-disjoined highlights our (possibly false) sense of a categorical disjunct between our world and death/time/whatever else is beyond it, and the way it appears at the end of a rhetorical chunk that's seemingly complete without it underlines how it cannot be escaped. But I still can't tell just how Stevens meant it to be read.
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So noir is about the different kinds of people in the world, how, seen close up, they're all wrong or otherwise fragile, and just what sort of person (if any) might be capable of learning enough about the others to a) remain unbroken and maybe b) fix whoever's fixable among the rest.

The Western is about becoming the law - or trying to but failing - when you realize that without you there will be no other. It needs fewer characters, technically, but is compatible enough with noir that they can completely merge. The "law" can be Nietzschean, of course - whatever directive you find in your heart or the space where you were supposed to find one.

Are they closer to gnosticism, then? (Coming to know that something you didn't yet know changes everything you've ever known.) Or do all genres approach it by different paths?

A desert too wide for daylight to show you the way; a city where night can hide anything. Both are paradigmatically western in terms of geography, I guess because the American East seems comparatively synonymous with the arranged and revealed. When transplanted eastwards, locations most closely resembling LA in the'30s or stark badlands are sought. Swamps, the Appalachians, cities that have fallen out of arrangement, thus into Chinatown.

Maybe one slight but important difference in emphasis is that the Western seems to call for the creation of an order, the founding of a first town, where noir calls for the realization that the existing one is a jungle, the proof that the last town has fallen. Where the Western project somehow fails it comes to resemble noir, where success is somehow found in a noir-world things converge on a Western scenario (some final duel with a single unmasked final villain, after which sustainable order becomes possible). Each puts the civilizing impulse and the abyss into confrontation, but gives the first move, the element of surprise, to the one that hadn't even seemed to exist in the neighborhood.

This maybe casts a light on that stuff I used to post about - gaining companions vs. attrition as two basic movements in genre. (Wizard of Oz/Fellowship of the Ring vs. The Odyssey/And Then There Were None.) Those are respectively ways to reveal that one is a part of something where there seemed to be nothing, or in fact alone when there seemed to be company.

Interestingly, neither genre necessarily starts as heroic quest: in the western heroism might seem initially impossible, in noir initially unnecessary. The hero either has to realize there's even a need for him, a wilderness to cross, or that heroism's even possible, that there's anything that can be crossed to. Finding out that one's on a quest is thus part of the quest. Just what quest one's on, rather, since the hero tends to already be doing something or other - keeping a farm or town in order, executing revenge, seeing what there is to see, solving a case.

Maybe that entails that in both there's a tendency toward anti-tragedy: finding that there's something about yourself that's much better/ more important than you or anyone else had realized. Adds the changeling fantasy aspect that maybe defines "genre" (pleasure viewing/reading?) in the first place? Though also opening up the possibility of real tragedy, that that special something is not enough to overcome internal limitations and/or external obstacles, that creates the suspense enabling the pleasure consumption to actually continue. And the opening for an unhappy ending that authors who don't want to leave you merely pleased can exploit.

In noir it's often the audience that's disillusioned, not the protagonist, which makes the late-noir move of showing even the most jaded protagonist robbed of illusions he didn't know he had so powerful. Virgil finds out he's been Dante all along. I want to credit Chinatown with that, but Oedipa Maas is presented as very knowing from the start, just not knowing enough. This aspect of her isn't as cleanly presented as it is with Jake, but it's still influential on the effect. Ishmael too, perhaps? Or is that more in the earlier adventure story tradition, even the epic one, where finding out the powers as well as the limitations of the hero is part of the interest, since it's assumed they'll have both. Yes, the adventure story is not so gnostic, at heart. The adventure hero comes pre-blessed, removing him from both the need to seek a blessing and the possibility of finding out he's cursed. He's publicly sponsored throughout by luck or God, thus the author, whereas in noir you're likeliest to find out that (at least in the middle) you're less sponsored by any power than you thought, in western to find out you're more. Which is why Melville has to pretty much kill Ishmael from the book to make it tragic, I guess.

Hamlet is awakened from malaise into a revenge mission, which is sort of Western and noir both: he finds out he can bring order at the same time it's confirmed that the apparent order has never been one. And then as his revenge mission sinks back into malaise (till at the point where he can actually carry it out it's nearly meaningless to him - he's pretty much forced to perform it by circumstances) we find out both that the order he's asked to impose is not a real one, and that the Court is no more a jungle than any other place would be. The forgivability of every character would appear to be the play's message: Gertrude and Claudius seem to lack control over their passions, as does Laertes, as did Polonius etc. The seeming madness of Hamlet reveals the real madness of everybody. Nobody knows what they're doing, which makes for both disorder and a sort of order, a permanent city-wilderness that can neither be quested into nor out of. It's complicated then you die, and if the next world made this one then the next world's complicated too and not the simple answer we desire. The tragedy's that there isn't even tragedy - the genres churn, none wins except in the sense (if it's even true) that we're eventually destroyed. Even comedy's a joke if nothing stays funny (or fun) for long. A story against story, like Don Quixote? Or story's last judgment on life (also like Don Quixote, for all I know)? All-die-at-once is a much different effect than attrition, certainly. Though there's a sort of attrition: Fortinbras is left in charge, presumably showing that people who are simple enough to force life to be one story are exempt. If you can ignore Hamlet, Hamlet isn't true for you, this suggests; but it also suggests that the very notion of life-as-story comes from simpletons or narcissists, thus that the only times when life will seem like any sort of story it will be a stupid, bluntly imposed one. Genre, basically.

So we can maybe see why genre has long been seen as the ultimate weapon against itself, and maybe also as the ideal ground for storytelling to probe storytelling's own potential as well as limits. Why Borges was able to use it to interrogate theology, say.
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Haven't finished it yet, but the Inherent Vice movie seems actually great.

Don't entirely trust myself though. I'm just now able to enjoy anything at all after being stomped by illness. Still have bronchitis and laryngitis and can't do much, but got enough appetite back that I had some frozen potstickers and they were amazing. There should be a restaurant where they only sell that, I feel. So maybe I feel wrong about Inherent Vice. Been quite a while since I've seen a movie could be what it is.

Don't I usually hate this director? Didn't make much headway with the book, either.

Feels a bit like Pynchon's decided that the influence of Crying on Chinatown means he owns Chinatown. Maybe ditto with Big Lebowski. Definitely a feeling of something ... prior ... stirred up. His basic myth is a strong one (I'm the guy who liked Vineland), and somehow this presentation is making him entirely naturalistic, or proving he had been all along. Kind of an amazing feat. PT Anderson must only ever adapt. And these actors are so fun!
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My every third thought is of how one can most quickly and effectively teach critical thinking to people who don't want to hear it.
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WD 7.2-7.4

. . . )
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Evening colors sneaking up like age
Make my own thoughts seem an afterthought;
Scribblings on the margin of a page
Chronicling the fall of all things wrought.

Those of night rub past these here of day,
Come into their own, claim half the distance,
Stalk from house to house to turn away
Lines of daylight drunk on pure persistence,

Settle on my shoulder as a shroud,
Twist inside my nostrils spill by spill,
Spin about my sense of what's allowed
Till to kiss seems stranger than to kill.

Other world where there's no world at all,
Help me what a me is unrecall.
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It is not an absence that might draw us onward, like a black hole or the missing tile of the child's game. It haunts us without words and to no end.
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Everybody's got this sinking feeling, like [their country] and [Leonard Cohen] just died.
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Say what you know to be so.

Show just how you know it.

Face and probe the limits of your knowing.

Let these efforts lapse and others will.

Adhere to them and others may.

How many, much and long you'll never know.
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Something very Kafkan about Hamlet. How the inkling of an ideal realm devalues the real one. Plato's extra-cave world as white elephant, though mostly Plato's attacked via Christianity, his active representative in Shakespeare's world. But not an attack in the name of realism; reality's already been destroyed by the inkling, which is in turn destroyed by reality. And yet every morning we wake up to both. Fortinbrases proving the impossibility of Hamlets and vice versa. One morning Hamlet Dane woke up to find himself put under arrest by his father's ghost.

Sometimes I suddenly remember specific strip malls in distant cities. I recall them far too well.

The weed metaphor in Hamlet is a key one. Weeds imply that a better plant should grow here. But nothing can ever grow here but weeds. Therefore better plants should not grow here. Lilies that fester smell far worse, and idealized fathers, mothers, maidens and soldiers are all lilies. Heavens need no Hells, since any Heaven makes a Hell of Earth. For this reason Hell is depicted underground, Heaven high above our heads, a shining picture beyond an abyss. But we cannot forget it because we are that abyss. To infinite space a world of things can seem a bad dream. Sending away for a better class of thing, though, is not a solution. Becoming one oneself even less so. Killing to become a good son, killing to become a king - same difference, neither works. The barrier between what we'd have and what we do have invites metaphors of violence as much as it does sex/marriage. More than metaphors, in fact; ways to confuse them with the change we truly wish are sought, as those barriers seem at least crossable.

Though prove not, of course. It isn't you that's dead, since there's then no you, for the one. For the other, you're never married enough. Coition's but a revolving door. Our bodies can die or be pregnant, but we only partially so. Mostly pregnant at most and mostly dead.

You see why Lawrence sniffed for venereal disease. But Shakespeare's suggesting that life's one, for the princely (in blood or ambition). A kingdom being the ultimate pyramid scheme ... next to reproduction. Don't break the chain or something bad will happen. Swim upstream far enough and nothing can.

"Nothing" is a big one too. Creation ab nihilo. The promise of getting nil back. We overstate and understate, so miss our little world. But that was the point - to miss it. With an earth-sized target - complete with gravity - the real trick's missing at all. Perhaps the ideal's real appeal is its being unreal, not the promise of a rewrite. Like death might be if it weren't such an obvious trick.
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I think the new element is that they suspect they're wrong. They like Trump because he cheerfully models the one tactic left open to them for protecting their entitlement fantasies - brazen, self-assertive lying. Seems to have worked for him, right?

Because whenever they let their eyes open they see exactly what we do. All the evidence tells them that their beliefs make no sense, are harmful, are being abandoned, are rightly thus easily mocked, will all be soon enough forgotten. That they're the suckers, the has-beens, the villains. So fuck the evidence! It's narcissism writ large. The narcissism of a class, a race. Not seeing that class is dismissed and the race is over.
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Looking at polls led me to looking at the other polls I always look at. Nothing fresh on nonreligion, but gay marriage support and marijuana legalization just recently hit 60. Fucking sixty!

Presumably they're no longer benchmarks for the advance of civilization generally - some polling momentum is gained when 50 is breached, since the people of weak convictions pretty quickly sense there's a new default position and flip to it. But just to see those numbers on the screen is so heartening.

Wonder what benchmarks I should replace them with? Polygamy disapproval is edging down toward 80, so maybe that, but I wouldn't feel much personal investment in tracking it - it doesn't seem like the most pressing civil rights issue. Trans rights support, which has of course rocketed, seems likely to initially fade after the present tv vogue does, so that stat may be too depressing to follow for a few years. Seems likely it will be one of the go-to social issues for Republicans before the 2018 elections, too, so it'll be propagandized downwards as well.

Legalization of heroin? I'm more comfortable with decriminalization for that one, though perhaps I've been propagandized myself. The drug creeps me out.

Prostitution is a bad one to track because the left splits on it. Immigration has been and will be quite jagged. Climate likewise. Muslim tolerance likewise. I want steady gains for calming purposes.

What other terrible opinions can I watch Americans gradually drop. Hmm.
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Really looking like the Republican Party candidate is a Russian agent. Which would normally mean one could safely bet he wouldn't break 40 percent. I might bet he's not breaking 44, but not more than, like, five dollars. Canadian.
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Walking Dead 7.1 FAQ:

. . . )

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