How are your savings?

Pondering American’s net savings, in essence how much wealth households have accumunated, might lead you to this article from TheBalance.com, a finance site with the slogan “make money personal.”US Census Bureau household wealth

This should be an easy example to take your own advice and save. It’s what will make retirement possible. Or if you save enough it will enable an employment optional life.

Your Own Advice

Do you take your own advice?
It can be tough.

Difficult example: exercise every day.
Easy example: replace all your compact fluorescent (those spiral things) light bulbs with LEDs. Recycle (ha!) the CFLs.

I gave the easy advice to a young couple I know. It was accompanied with two boxes of LED bulbs. LEDs are getting very affordable. They’re even showing up at dollar stores. After gifting, one of the bulbs over the kitchen sink burned out. The pair of CFLs were installed in 2014. Both were replaced. Then I noticed a CFL in the attic. This advice is easy to take.

Monkey Grip

In (this excellent read) Teaching Spoon Fed Students How To Really Read is a reference to Monkey Grip a 1977 novel from Australian Helen Garner. In the article author INSErT NAME writes:

The second thing that struck me was how difficult my students found the 10-page extract. They didn’t know who Helen Garner was, the 1970s were too far away to mean anything to them, and they couldn’t locate themselves in the story. They didn’t know who was speaking, and who she was speaking to. How old was she, where was she, what was happening?

Here is the book’s opening sentence:

In the old brown house on the corner, a mile from the middle of the city, we ate bacon for breakfast every morning of our lives.

That sentence, and the description of a 10-page excerpt being difficult, led me to get a copy.

It is a difficult and rewarding read. If you require a plot in your novels, stay away. If you are comfortable with an undulating narrative about Melbourne life in the 1970s, enduring love, and life with a junkie take a look.

My highlighted passages include:

My ears were full of confusion and the sea thumping.

The hoses flick silver strings on to the drying grass.

Terminal naivety was my disease.

Lillian, blight on my life. She broke into it, once, years ago, before any of us had heard of sisterhood; she looked round to see what she could take, sampled Lou and quickly put him back on the shelf, saw the weightiness of Jack and decided to take him with her. And did. And that was the end of everything, between him and me. She had it, the knack of engulfing, of making sharing impossible.

There was some shadow in his face, a strangeness across the narrow cheek-bones, a self-consciousness about the wide thin mouth, that might have sounded a warning had loneliness not echoed more loudly in my ears.

But it is that old treacherous feeling that real life is happening somewhere else, and I’m left out.

Stoic Humor?

Stoicism is getting some attention in contemporary US culture. It is a widely misunderstood philosophy. A daily email, Daily Stoic, provides short observations on Stoicism. Today’s email included this clarification.

One criticism of Stoicism and its emphasis on our ability to control our responses to events is that some reactions really are out of our control. If it gets cold, you’ll shiver. If you hear a loud enough noise, it will startle you. Sure, training can reduce some of this but we are biological creatures. No amount of mental discipline will neutralize a dump of adrenaline or prevent a reflex.

This criticism is often used to dismiss Stoicism…as if the Stoics hadn’t thought about that already. In fact, Seneca readily acknowledges that we will have involuntary reactions to things. He talks at some length about the distinction between motus (our impulses) and affectus (our passions).

Say some stranger comes up and strikes you. You’re going to have a reaction. You might duck. You might throw your hands up. You might even impulsively strike them back. There will be very little thinking involved in any of it. Stoicism is not primarily concerned with those involuntary and immediate reactions. The decision to hate this attacker forever? Being afraid to go outside? Plotting some disproportionate revenge? Those are dangerous passions—passions that are in your control. That’s what Stoicism is about.
~ The Daily Stoic email for January 18, 2018

To which I reply:

Say you have a terrible hangover from tequila. You might attempt to sleep it off, to take aspirin, to moan loudly in your discomfort. The decision to hate tequila forever? Being afraid to go drink again? Plotting temperance advocacy? Those are dangerous passions—passions that are in your control. That’s what Stoicism is about.
~ that voice in my head

Does Stoic humor exist?

Should It Look Nice?

While I was in Art school we debated whether photographs of disturbing subjects could or should be beautiful objects. One strong example arguing for this was Brian Fesseden’s Water in the West series. In Brian’s words “A photographic essay focusing on rivers, dams, and the environmental cost of the human expansion of the West.” He opposed the building of dams due to their negative environmental impact. One image hauntingly showed a still fully leafed out tree submerged and drowning in a newly formed lake. The print was gorgeous. Richly toned, beautifully composed, aside from the drowning tree the full scene was bucolic and peaceful. Was it right, we discussed, to make such a beautiful image of such a distressing subject? Would the beauty of the print lull people into supporting the activities the photographer was intending to oppose? Shouldn’t ugly subjects have congruent ugly art depicting them? In the school a large punk population raging against society served as living counterpoint to Brian’s work.

Those questions remain. You can experience the ongoing discussion in the arts and social expressions of the world around you.

This subject comes to mind as we start watching American Gods. Jennifer was not interested. She’s seen reviews objecting to the levels of, to the reviewer, gratuitous violence. Recent viewing of Black Mirror had brought enough physical and psychic violence into our lives. I persisted. The novel by Neil Gaiman is excellent. I had vague memories that the TV series was faithful. It is.

Yes, there is violence. Some, like the reception Nordic seamen receive on the beach of a new island, is even humorous. (sorry, no spoilers from me) But, but!, the visuals of the violent acts are so stunningly beautiful that one can easily suspend revulsion at axes splitting skulls, a lynching, and so on. The producers of the series are not attempting to effect social change. They are telling a story of mythic characters fighting for survival. The beautified violence fits. And, to this eye, does not offend.

Creative Learning

I suspect I have spent just about exactly as much time actually writing as the average person my age has spent watching television, and that, as much as anything, may be the real secret here. William Gibson

Find that via his website or Serendipity35

Ira Glass advice to creatives

Robert Roriguez in 10 Minute Film School says “You want to be a film maker? Wrong. You are a film maker.” “You’ll learn more by picking up a camera and making your own mistakes.”

The ceramics teacher announced on opening day that he was dividing the class into two groups. All those on the left side of the studio, he said, would be graded solely on the quantity of work they produced, all those on the right solely on its quality.

His procedure was simple: on the final day of class he would bring in his bathroom scales and weigh the work of the “quantity” group: fifty pound of pots rated an “A”, forty pounds a “B”, and so on. Those being graded on “quality”, however, needed to produce only one pot – albeit a perfect one – to get an “A”.

Well, came grading time and a curious fact emerged: the works of highest quality were all produced by the group being graded for quantity. It seems that while the “quantity” group was busily churning out piles of work – and learning from their mistakes – the “quality” group had sat theorizing about perfection, and in the end had little more to show for their efforts than grandiose theories and a pile of dead clay.
David Bayles and Ted Orlund, Art & Fear

To learn: Do. The rest will follow.

Think not? Consider this advice JK Rowling wishes she’d been given.

Comfort

A dog curled up, back against your thigh, a dog on your lap or by your feet.
The familiar food from your childhood.
Warming shower water.
Waking without an alarm, light gently coming through windows.
The ache of muscles after a good day’s work.
The mid evening light of summer, slanting across your world.
Greetings from a friend.
Shared meals on relaxed days.
The smell of dry autumn woods, of bread baking, of a meal just becoming ready.
Immersing in the familiar after a time away.
A hug.
Soft grass, clover under bare feet.
The first warm days of late spring.

And for you?