Tag Archives: Personal

The End

To all of the friends, colleagues, clients, allies, and definitely including online friends, thank you.

I won’t manage to write personally to all the many people who have touched my life in some positive way, but I appreciate each of you.

I perceived an end approaching, for me, more than six years ago. At no point since then can I recall really thinking “things are turning out better than I dreaded; I’m going to forget the entire idea of getting out.”

Many of you have only met me within this time period. Looking back, up until late 2019 I wouldn’t have missed it for anything. Even amid stressful ups and downs, we had some times. The two and a half years since have still included some interest, certainly. But an extended negative trend within the ups and downs is undeniable now.

I have concluded that a lot of things were effectively beyond rescue—a lot of rescue efforts hopelessly ineffective and yet themselves firmly stuck within established concepts and forms and actions—years ago. Some day, the old culture may simply no longer be able to sustain itself. Perhaps a genuinely meaningful rebuilding will follow that. But I expect a long period of ruin and loss and futility between now and then.

I can’t keep doing this. My interest has left me, my heart is broken, and not all hurts can be healed.

I have spent years exploring this, testing out perspectives and alternatives and assertions of possibility. Of my conclusions I have written at length, elsewhere. But I have lived and had a good life, and now the good part seems to be past. I have decided to go.

I would like to be wrong. For my outlook to prove too pessimistic, too soon. I would like there to be a brighter future in which all of you will be safe and well. I wish with all my heart that this will be so. And I wish, in such event, you will think of me with a little kindness, a little forgiveness, if you have it in you.

Fare well.

Video message June 2022

Obviously I lean toward the written word, but, in this case…

Parting Thoughts

Deceit
I regret deceiving people as I have prepared to take my leave, even if mostly by omission. I apologize. In partial defense, how often do any of us give an entirely honest and complete answer to “how’s life,” these days? I believe that I have provided a thorough accounting, now, for whatever that’s worth.

Supportive People
I have in recent years been blessed with excellent people in my life, to whom I am very grateful. I want to emphasize this. If I (or anyone else) was minded to identify anyone as letting me down, I could make a long list but it would not include the good people around me. For many years the difficulties engulfing us have been mounting, and extensive corrosion has been normalized within groups and other institutions which are supposed to lead our defense. During several difficult years of recognizing and processing that, I have in contrast had some great people helping me nonetheless endure the journey this far. Thank you!

Physical Health
I seem to have no physical complaints beside aches and pains. Having over 20 years struggled with eventual success to get a handle on allergies, extended injury, tension, inflammatory bowel disease… the overall presence of physical ailments in my life seems neither elevated nor on an upward trend at present. It can be said that being dependent upon a prescription drug to treat Crohn’s disease is one more complicating factor, among those which have dampened whatever enthusiasm I might otherwise have felt for various “walk away from it all” adventures. Oh well. That’s alright.

Left Unfinished
I have a similar outlook on personally incomplete work, and curiosity about how various activities in the larger world play out. I feel some interest; it’s very limited set against the readiness to be done with all this. Yes I wonder about how the war in Ukraine turns out; I have imagined reviewing the notes I have taken, to look for patterns, turning points, good analysis and misconceptions, and writing something about it. But I have no expectation that a happy world will follow in which Russia replaces its oligarchy with progressive democratic governance. Likewise, as I spelled out in Nemesis, I perceive America as politically stuck even in the extremely unlikely event of “good” midterm elections for the feckless Democrats. (If the January 6 Committee hearings, or Department of Justice actions, turn 2022 politics completely upside down in a lasting way, let history record my skepticism as a stupendously wrong call.) I wonder how much Portuguese I would grasp if I finish the entire DuoLingo course. I would like to add a few items to my Sherlock Holmes collection and reach the 100th. I would like to see more of the world. But I have traveled, already; I have lived. A background of perma-crisis reduces my enthusiasm for lots more, of even life’s redeeming features.

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Sherlock Holmes collection count: 96

My Sherlock Holmes collection finishes with 96 items, for reasons addressed in another post. I haven’t quite doubled it to a round 100 items, since seven years ago, but it occurred to me recently to make some closing notes anyway; why not. This very occasional project has provided interest to me for 11 years, now, and in happier circumstances I would might continue it for decades.

Obviously, since getting to 50 took about four years, and the next 46 items took several years, I have slowed down collecting. A lot of things happened to the world and to me since the middle of 2015. But also, it is not a race, and as recent weeks have demonstrated to me, I have accumulated so much stuff.

Anyway, since I have a list of collection items (chronological since the first few entries), let’s see what I have added and make notes on what interests me.

Warlock Holmes did make me laugh, although I’m skeptical about it sustaining a series; who knows. Sherlock Holmes in Orbit, this is a collection highlight. One of the best anthologies. A good mix of excellent science fiction Holmes or Holmes-inspired adventures. (This is one of the books which, silly perhaps, but I set aside for now while packing up those around it.)

I have one of the Solar Pons books. It’s okay. I would certainly pick up others if I came across them. I have missed the public library’s book sales, since the pandemic halted them; some times I didn’t find much, but some times I would find three or four items for my collection all at once, for just a few dollars total, and it made me happy.

The Trial of Sherlock Holmes comic book series is a good story with okay art. Good for you, Leah Moore (and John Reppion). People born in 1978, represent.

Terror by Night is one of the Rathbone/Bruce films, and a satisfying amusing outing. Sherlock Holmes in New York, the Roger Moore film, is of similar quality; perhaps I wrote something about that one already?

Mycroft and Sherlock, splendid like all (three so far) of the Holmes novels by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Anna Waterhouse. A Study in Terror I wanted for years, I think I finally ordered this one in the Spring of 2020 because, you know, we thought the world was distressing then, so I bought myself a treat or two. It’s okay. Not the best Holmes/Ripper story, certainly not the worst. The structure is a mild novelty.

Sherlock Holmes in Modern Times, what a weird find. Maybe I already wrote about this one, too, but yeah just weird. Essentially short puzzle stories all interested in points of the law (the author’s profession), and not especially much of a Sherlock Holmes book, but well worth including in a collection of nearly 100 items just for the oddness.

Sherlock Holmes: The Beginning, an interesting choose-your-own-adventure graphic novel, and an adequate Holmes story.

The LIFE magazine special, the penultimate item in the collection, is worth highlighting just because I wanted this for years after seeing it at the supermarket and deciding it was too expensive, and hoping that I might score it cheaper somehow. I should have bought it, although in a way it worked out just as well. I ended up wishing for years that I might somehow obtain “the one that got away,” and at last to my surprise the publisher put a new printing into stores earlier this year. It was at least as expensive as ever, but I grabbed a copy. I have to say, it didn’t disappoint. In terms of editorial content, it’s nothing special; a stroll through the history of Sherlock Holmes the literary phenomenon (emphasizing the years during Doyle’s lifetime). Very competently written, but not a lot new for me. Yet it’s a wonderful artifact, lavishly designed, almost a soft-cover coffee table book. This too gave me a brief experience of happiness.

Item 96, Observations by Gaslight, I obtained only this month; an internet purchase, it arrived June 4. Having committed myself by early this year to some course of action which would involve departing without most (or all) of my possessions, I had not expected to add any more to the collection. But… without getting too far into another subject, I will just note that it’s hard at the end. Again, we thought late Spring 2020 was distressing, but wow how innocent that time seems now.

So I added one more item, a new one from Lindsay Faye. I have her two previous Holmes books as well. I think that The Whole Art of Detection is the best, and among the better class of Holmes pastiches in general. I would probably need to spend more time with the other two before deciding which is second-best, but Observations by Gaslight is good. I read it quickly and have no regrets about closing this 11-year project (among other things) with it.

As for the future, well, I wrote an entire book in some sense about how remarkable it was that one particular book collection has survived together and substantially intact almost four centuries after its founder’s demise. I indulge in some small hope that my brother, who has shown some interest in the character, might take the collection at least to browse. Probably it will end up in a secondhand shop, however, and sooner rather than later. It could just end up in a dump; I don’t know. You can’t take it with you, and it’s complicated to arrange new homes for things even without the additional complication of a reason which it’s taboo to mention. Oh well.

“Is not all life pathetic and futile? Is not his story a microcosm of the whole? We reach. We grasp. And what is left in our hands at the end? A shadow. Or worse than a shadow—misery.” (Sherlock Holmes, in “The Retired Colourman”)

Personal Archive

Call this a reflex of the archivist or historian, or an attempt to “show my work,” or mere vanity; I don’t know. But I append, here, several files documenting my life and times in some way.

Personal life

Activism

Chronicling news and events

Walking back through political interpretation

I make and take a lot of notes. Even before the more or less daily news chronicle which I began in 2017, I have collected and organized political, economic and other notes throughout my adult life.

Lately I’m doing some spring cleaning, and in the process, this weekend I revisited two or three small, ad hoc collections of notes. They are interesting, especially cumulatively as a walk back through 10 years of struggling to make sense of political dysfunction.

A virtual folder on my Mac, which began as a catchall for interesting texts which I wanted to save and meant to file eventually, has turned into a cross section of 2011-20 political perspectives. Some just seems quaint. Remember when the “war on terror” or “free trade debates” were national preoccupations? One is a rant from February 2017, responding specifically to local affairs and posted on a local message board, but which rails against complicit unwillingness to say that a lie is a lie; a general relevance existed at a time but has grown since, I think.

Three or four excerpts from Vox articles published after the 2014 election seem, now, like the beginning of the conclusions I eventually arrived at in my recent book Nemesis.

  • …the Democrats hadn’t actually discovered dark arts of GOTV that allowed them to survive a GOP year. The polls were wrong — but they were wrong because they undercounted Republican support. As often happens, Democrats fooled themselves after the 2012 election into believing they had unlocked some enduring political advantage. They learned otherwise. (source)
  • If the economy drives whether people vote to re-elect the president, and presidential approval drives midterm voting, then surely the economy should should drive midterm voting through the mechanism of presidential approval, right? (source)
  • The last five elections, taken together, wreck almost every clean story you might try to wrap around them. They show an electorate that veers hard and quickly between left and right and back again — shredding any efforts one might make to draw deep ideological conclusions from a single campaign. They show that Democrats can, in the right circumstances, win midterm elections. They show that incumbents can win presidential campaigns. They show an electorate that seems to be searching for something it cannot find. (source)

One sentence, from the same period, is so exact: “American politics is descending into a meaningless, demographically driven seesaw.”

It’s humbling that it took me seven more years to process this even into what I hope is some kind of useful model for making sense of things.

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2021 Year in Review

At some point, this year, I scribbled the random thought that if 2020 was the year when everything happened, 2021 feels more like a false year when things didn’t happen (though not a year in which nothing happened).

I don’t know. This month I started a year-end letter to a pen pal of some years with “what the fuck.”

When did 2021 even begin? On one hand, it feels (and felt) kind of like everything before Inauguration Day was a collective holding our breath since the previous autumn. The morning of January 20 I had a variety of awful physical symptoms but ultimately concluded that it was just shock at the day actually arriving when the nightmare of President Trump ended. On the other hand, that aside, the nightmare has not really ended.

Personally this was like a good year, in some ways, or at least a prosperous year. This was a decent year for freelancing, including the past several weeks which I expected to be a post-election lull and which have not been. Not only did I replace my car in 2021, with a newer better car that I still really like so far, but somehow my decision to go ahead in early summer rather than wait for the market to clear (lol) actually turned out to be an excellent decision. (WTF?)

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Twitter Jail 2

I spent the night back in Twitter jail.

Unlike last time, very specific reasons accompanied this lockdown. Wednesday evening, I replied “die pepsico, die (please)” to some dumb bullshit ad polluting my Twitter feed courtesy of the bloated food & beverage corp.

Soon after, I was locked out of my account, pointed toward the offending reply like a naughty child, and given the “option” to delete it. Upon choosing this “option” (over the alternative of losing my account forever), I was restored to Twitter in a kind of ghost state. For 12 hours, I was allowed to see but do nothing else.

Hilariously, this prohibition on interaction extended even to liking. Not only that, but rather than simply disabling these features, Twitter instead programs the app to punish any attempt to use them; click a “like” icon, e.g., and get whisked back to the “you have been naughty and are banned from interacting” page.

This is absurdist.

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Hyundai Ioniq Plugin Hybrid

So I have purchased a different car, and it’s my first car-purchase in 14+ years, only the second time in my life I have made a car-purchase on my own, as well as the most expensive purchase of any kind that I have ever made and the most expensive thing I own, by a lot.

So I have thoughts and feelings.

Where to begin. So much is new with this. I’m going from a 2000 Toyota Camry to a 2018 plug-in hybrid. Just in terms of the technology and interface, it feels comparable to going directly from Pagemaker 6.5 to the 2018 release of Adobe InDesign. In all honesty, I don’t think such a leap would be completely baffling. But it would be quite a big adjustment. The 2000 Camry had a substantially analogue dashboard; the 2018 Ioniq is like most modern vehicles, i.e. basically a computer on wheels.

The Ioniq is considered a hatchback (and it amuses me that “five-door” is an alternative term). Typical vehicle styling however blurs most of the difference between this and other sedans, now.

My new car can plug in to “fuel up” from electric current. Public charging stations, even if they are free, hardly seem usable at all without a smartphone. It was only two years ago that I upgraded from an old flipphone to a modern magic rectangle.

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Post-democracy America

As I watch corrupt sham democracy eat each big new hole in the remaining shell of representative democracy, I always feel a tension any more between dismay at how fast it seems to be happening and the lessons of experience about how long zombie systems can shamble along anyway.

Aside from the lessons of America itself over the past couple of decades, I think again on re-reading Gibbon recently, and on how long the Roman Senate existed after the Roman republic ended. This notoriously pathetic zombie institution (the use of which by America’s framers as an explicit model for our government was really Asking For It from the very start) lingered on for centuries after it had surrendered all power to autocratic emperors. The Roman Senate outlasted the republic, its own purpose, and even the Roman religion, by centuries.

That’s a powerful corrective to any expectation of a near-term catharsis, of any kind.

So I’m stuck, usually, with the expectation that things will get worse and worse, but, while some kind of explosion(s) are probably somewhere ahead, even they may not really alter America’s zombie-shuffle very much.

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