Handwriting

Handwriting is an oddly intimate form of communication. Just like everybody has a different voice that is special to each individual, everyone has handwriting that is unique to each person. My own handwriting is very recognizable; I write in a very wild and free-flowing cursive script that some people find illegible. Nowadays I type up almost everything, although from time to time I still write on paper in cursive. I still like seeing my own handwriting, and despite being slower and less efficient than using a keyboard sometimes I write down sentences just to see how it would look in cursive.

I can write in normal, non-cursive writing, but unless legibility is an issue I usually use cursive. Not only do I prefer its aesthetics but it’s also much easier (at least for me) to write using a series of connected curves rather than having to constantly lift my pen off the paper. Sometimes I admire people who can do neat, normal handwriting instead of the scrawls that I write. On the other hand, many people compliment me on my handwriting because they find it beautiful.

Americans tend not to value legible handwriting. I had a teacher who went to school in England, and she described how in grade school the teacher made her practice handwriting until it looks almost exactly like the letters from the templates she was given. When I went to school in China I went through a similar thing. We were made to write the same characters over and over again until they look exactly like the ones in the textbooks. I can no longer write Chinese characters, but I still find it marvelous that my parents can not only write them, but do so almost perfectly, as though they were making copies of printed text.

Chinese characters usually look neat and clean, but there is a cursive version of the characters that look like a wild mess of squiggles. Even though Chinese schools emphasize on writing legibly, Chinese cursive is often far from legible, even to natives of the language. Despite how difficult it is to read such characters, they are often admired for their aesthetic qualities. Sometimes the less legible the writing, the more highly the calligrapher is praised.

Some people think there is an association between a person’s handwriting and their personality. Handwriting that looks messy and is difficult to read may indicate a personality that favors personal expression and lack of respect for authority, while handwriting that is neat and uniform indicate a personality that favors propriety, law and order. I don’t know if that’s true, but there is a part of me that resists following rules and distrust authority. But then again, there is a part of me that favors methodical thinking and respect for laws discovered by science. Even though such ideas have not been scientifically tested, it is still fun to contemplate them.

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Disposability

Until recently, I did not have my own car. I drove a Toyota that my parents gave me. It is incredibly old, with about 170,000 miles on the odometer, but still managed to function very efficiently, getting more than 30 miles to the gallon and reach 70 mph on the highway, although I wouldn’t know it from personal experience since I would never go over the speed limit (wink). But due to the age of the vehicle, it could not pass smog check. While it was possible to fix the car so that it could, it didn’t make sense to throw so much money at such an old vehicle while buying e new vehicle would have been a better use of the same money. So I decided to retire that vehicle and buy a new one.

The year before I retired that vehicle, I noticed a change in my driving behavior. I was being much more reckless, pushing the gas pedal much harder than I had been, and making swerves that were probably too dangerous for the speed I was driving. 1 became a much more distracted driver, looking down at my phone while I was supposed to be looking at the road. It was as if knowing that the vehicle I was driving will soon be retired, I had become Evel Knivel. But as soon as I got my new car I became a much more responsible driver once again.

This got me to thinking about how the idea of disposability leads us to treat objects, as well as people, differently, usually for the worst. We usually treat things we consider disposable very poorly. Unfortunately in the world we live in, more and more things are considered disposable. The most obvious cases are the commodities we buy. Most people nowadays buy a new phone every year, and at least in the circles I go to if you don’t buy a new phone every two years you are considered some sort of cheapskate.

Human beings today are becoming more and more disposable. Romantic relationships can last however long it is convenient for either of the couple involved, then you can dump him or her when you are no longer interested. Entire organizations have become disposable. There is no nostalgia around the fact that Yahoo is slowly slipping into oblivion, despite the fact that it was once a tech giant. Even the entire global economy is disposable. It is clear from the behavior of the big banks that they knew very well that their actions will eventually lead to economic disaster, but they all seemed to have the attitude of “Après moi le déluge“, which translated from the French means roughly, “I won’t be around long enough to suffer the consequences of my actions, so I don’t give a shit.”

Ultimately, the entire Earth is disposable, the way we pollute makes it appear that we do not care whether the entire biome will survive. Capitalism has always lived on the logic of disposability. Only keeping objects that are useful to you and throwing them away when they have outlived their usefulness is the most efficient way to do business. But there are some things that are not disposable, like human beings. The Earth is also not disposable, because we have to live on it. That is, until Elon Musk develops a technological breakthrough that allows us to colonize other planets, at which point I would be glad to say goodbye to earth. But until we become space-faring cyborgs, we cannot treat everything as disposable.

Ramblings on a Broken Typewriter #2

turgid ink tossed in a bonfire
of cinnamon delights
caressing crescents
memorized into steak-shaped nuggets
of crispy chicken crisps

only the notion of Barbie
sustains their hopeless
puny dreams of sausage

heaven and hell meet
but are never conquered
by an absurdist play by Andre Breton
or a flaming nostril
expelling Mexicans through its hiatus

blue dawn threw nothingness into the void
but only Captain America
can ride the waves of anthrax narcolepsy
to attain the pure bliss that is Kurt Cobain

plated sheets of pyramids
are the price for admittance into heaven
but Yahweh will also accept MasterCard

stretched out is time on the track
seeing visions of pink AK-47s
torturing the sleep
of all the nations of bacon-eaters

through gin made of dying frogs
and the snout of a blue leopard
the craftsman dwells in an ocean of self-pity
and salad dressing

the centenarian groans
with fantastic sausages of fate
while mud-men of an uneasy dawn
callous through the wreckage
of an Albanian goat giving birth
to dove-headed puppies

reaching through a cascade of human-headed lamas
I seek the pleasures of golden oranges
attached to pangs of death
an emerald bliss that washes over me

like a tornado made of cones
plastic in its nature but full of voluptuous hearts
pain unknown anywhere outside of Buddha-hell

the righteous defaults to god
as a cane of sugar beats Kerberos to death
with its sweetness and lack of armario

me duelen las cabezas de yeux de caracara sientanos

for the heaven is a railroad cutting through
infinite heavens in a gore of heavenly heavens
attach a blind to a blind and no one will care

but the restless dawn of scarlet
bacon is a bacon too many to bacon into bacon
I am the bacon soul

Divided By A Common Genre

When people ask me what music I like, I find myself struggling to answer. People usually answer by saying the name of a genre or a set of genres , like rock, hip-hop, country or even classical, but the thing is I don’t just like music from a particular genre. If it’s rock, country or classical, if I like the music I usually overlook the genre it is in and enjoy the piece of music for what it is. (Although to be honest, there are genres of music that I haven’t found pieces that I like, namely rap and jazz, but my guess is I would enjoy those genres if I am exposed to them enough.)

When you think about it, musical genres are a funny thing. On the one hand, fans can be very emotional about musical genres, often deriding people who do not enjoy the same music they do to be idiots, and criticizing musicians who compose in style that is significantly different from the norms of their genre (think of all the people who declare Tin McGraw or Green Day as not authentic country or punk). Then again, it is difficult to make a proper classification of music into distinct genres. What is the difference between Heavy Metal, punk and emo? Fans often have very strong opinions on this and would fight to the death for the integrity of their genre, but to outside observer the small differences that makes those genres distinct from one another is totally absurd.

On the other hand, there is a world of difference between the music of Loretta Lynn and Tim McGraw, yet both musicians are still considered Country. The same can be said of early rock and roll and modern rock and roll, or early Beatles and late Beatles. And what about songs that combine genres? “Stairway to Heaven” starts off as a folk ballad and ends as almost a heavy metal song. And what about entire genres which are blends of two different genres such as Rockabilly, which is a blend of rock and hillbilly (country) music?

Most people think of classical music as a single monolithic genre, but music historians divide classical music into three or four distinct periods that are as distinct as jazz, rock and hip-hop to be distinct. The four periods of classical music are Baroque, Classical, Romantic and Contemporary. (Some historians regard the 20th century as being a continuation of classical music, while others think classical music ended some time in the early 20th century, replaced with popular music.) But a person who is not an expert in classical music will find it difficult to distinguish between the genres in classical music. But you have to know such arcane knowledge in order to be considered a “real” classical music fan, which is ridiculous.

The problem with musical genres is that it makes people see music not for its artistic value but simply use it as a social label. People who enjoy classical, jazz or heavy metal often regard themselves as superior to people who enjoy pop or country. This is not only absurd, but also a kind of cultural arrogance, the same way that Europeans look down on Americans because we enjoy fast food and Disney movies.

We should enjoy all kinds of music regardless of their genre. In fact, the different genres of music have more in common than we might suppose. Almost all western music share a set of characteristics developed from classical music. The 7-note major and minor scale system is almost universally used in all modern Western music, including jazz, rock and pop. Not all music stick with a 7-note octave, for example traditional Chinese music use only 5, while Indian music can contain anywhere between 14 to 44. Most Western music use 4/4 time signature, although 2/4 or 3/4 are sometimes used. But other musical traditions use significantly different time signatures, or to be more accurate they don’t have a notion of time signatures at all because it was a Western invention. There are also tons of other features such as the phrase structure of songs that can be found in modern pop music that can be traced back to classical music.

The point is that we should regard all the music we hear with an open mind. We should make the assumption that there is good music in every genre, and all we have to do is to find it. We should also not judge too harshly the people who do not enjoy the genres we do not enjoy or enjoy the genres we hate. Also, we should not regard an artist who deviates from the norms of a certain genre as being a sell-out or unauthentic. There can be good art that comes out of blending different genres.

Music is a powerful thing, at its best it can tap into our deepest emotions. But it is also dangerous because certain songs can get stuck with certain deeply held beliefs and memories. The music you enjoyed in your childhood and adolescence will always be the best music. Getting stuck into thinking that certain music is the best is what prevents us from enjoying other types of music as we get older. This is a great loss because we should learn how to enjoy new music as we get older. It keeps us hearing to what is happening in the outside world, and opens us up to change. If we can listen to and appreciate the music of the younger generations it could also keep us young at heart.

Whirlpool

My mind is a whirlpool in a boiling sea
Ceaselessly churning with nightmarish speed
Lurching from near calm to furious chaos
Finding no peace in the turbulent waves

Moving feverishly like a raging beast
Devouring the world with a rageful hunger
Satisfied by nothing it devours and eats

Is there no rest from the infernal swirl?
This nightmare of an insatiable will?

My mind is a whirlpool on a troubled sea