Roads Not Taken, And All That

Musings on the guy I almost was.

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2019/01/18 08:00

From the Stevinator:

A while ago I caught myself reflecting on my life choices, and my wish to have done things differently. Sure we all do that, but I found myself going over what could be, and it was distracting. There’s a point where done is done, and going over things yields no useful lessons and wastes time.

I also wanted to get this non-productive overthinking out of my system, both to stop doing it but also to see what I could learn. I quickly came up with an exercise that I want to recommend to people – because I’m sure many of you go into “what if” phases as I did.

The exercise in question is a fun one (go read the rest of it and try it). One of the difficulties I experienced with the exercise was that at any one of the juncture points I visited in my past, I was tempted to default to "I don't know" and be done with it. Not because I couldn't make up my mind, but because I've long had a terrible tendency to oversubscribe to the idea that I can't possibly know all the decisions that could be viable at any given point.

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Tags: Patrick Farley  Steven Savage Dialogues  counterfactuals 

Genji Press: Projects: Oh, Yeah, Now Where Was I?

Sorry about the silence over the last couple of days. I've officially started writing the as-yet-untitled 2019 novel.

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2019/01/17 22:00

Sorry about the silence over the last couple of days. I've officially started writing the as-yet-untitled 2019 novel. The tentative title is The Fall Of The Hammer — a holdover name from a really old project, since I recycled a number of concepts from it into this one.

There isn't much to report so far — a few thousand words, a couple of hurdles cleared. I will say, without spoiling anything, that a few specific aspects of the project stand out so far:

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Tags: Untitled 2019 Novel  future projects  writing 

The Performance Index

On gauging artistic quality by way of popularity, always a bad move.

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2019/01/11 08:00

Bear with me, as I try to distract all of you temporarily from the flames leaping from our collective rooftops.

Nautilus ran an excellent interview with Cesar Hidalgo of the MIT Media Lab, about the way collective memory is a fluid thing. One of the points Hidalgo made seems central to my own:

I read a very good book recently called The Formula by Albert-Laszlo Barabas. He says you can equate quality and popularity in situations in which performance is clearly measurable. But in cases in which performance is not clearly measurable, you cannot equate popularity with quality. If you look at tennis players, you find tennis players who win tournaments and difficult games are more popular. So quality and fame are closely correlated in a field in which performance is measured as tightly as professional tennis players. As you move to things that are less quantifiable in terms of performance, like modern art, your networks are going to be more important in determining popularity.

(Note to self: find that book.)

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Tags: criticism  popular culture 

Always Outnumbered, Never Outgunned: Always Outnumbered, Never Misprinted

A small printing issue has surfaced with the dead-tree edition of my new novel, 'Always Outnumbered, Never Outgunned.'

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2019/01/09 09:00

If you bought a paper copy of Always Outnumbered, Never Outgunned, I have some bad news for you: The book's internal layout is not as I intended it.

Short version: The headers and footers in the book got switched. The page numbering should be at the top of the page, not the bottom. Apparently I managed to miss this through the whole of the proofing process. (I'll talk to my doctor about getting my pills changed. Promise.)

I'm going to work to make sure this is corrected and post another note, both on this post and on the blog generally, when the problem is fixed.

If you bought the paper book from Amazon and want to swap it for a fresh one, send me an email copy of your proof of purchase and I'll drop-ship you a fresh copy when it's ready, on me.

Note that this does not affect the Kindle or ebook versions of the book, just the print edition.

Tags: Always Outnumbered Never Outgunned  errata 

The Shining Prince And The Misery Index

On Kenneth Rexroth, 'The Tale Of Genji', and the notion of miserable places that can produce beautiful things.

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2019/01/09 08:00

I have been reading Kenneth Rexroth, best known for his poetry, original and translated, but also for his critical writings on literature and society. Much of this I've encountered by way of a rather inauspiciously titled compilation, The Elastic Retort, available through the Open Library. There's easily a dozen posts of material to be mined out of my encounter with this man's work, but I want to focus on the implications of some of the things Rexroth has to say about The Tale Of Genji.

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The Worst Horse

"If you understand Zen as a kind of practice to be a best horse you will have a problem."

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2019/01/07 08:00

In Buddhist circles there is the parable of "the worst horse", as explained best (says I) by way of Shunryu Suzuki (copied verbatim):

In our scripture it is said that there are four kinds of horses — an excellent one, and not so good ones, and bad horse. The best horse will run before it sees the shadow of the whip. That is the best one. The second one will run just before the whip reaches his skin. The third one will run when it feels pain on his body. The fourth one will run after the pain penetrates into the marrow of his bone. That is the worst one. When we hear this story, perhaps everyone wants to be a good horse — the best horse. Even if it is impossible to be the best one we want to be the second best. That is quite usual understanding of horse. But actually when we sit you will understand whether we are the best horse or the not-so-good ones. Here we have some problem in understanding of Zen. Zen is not the practice to be the best horse. If you think so — if you understand Zen as a kind of practice to be a best horse you will have a problem — big problem. That is not the right understanding of Zen. Actually, if you practice right Zen, whether you are the best horse or worst one doesn't matter. That is not the point.

Emphasis mine.

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Tags: Buddhism  Zen  creativity 

Nowhere To Go Drinking

People need a place to go that's just a place to gather.

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2019/01/04 08:00

With most every job I've ever worked, there wasn't really a culture of going out after work for a round at the local down the street. Doubly so now that I work remotely. At one previous job, there were occasional lunch outings to a Chinese place up the road, but the suburban-industrial-park environment we were in didn't have a handy local watering hole for us to repair to. Most of us didn't drink anyway; it wasn't that kind of work environment. But drinking per se has little to do with it.

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Tags: public spaces  society  sociology 

See more posts from January 2019

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