Vulgar; Popular
22 June 2024 | 8:05 am

I got beef, and I’m old enough now to whinge about it. Also, my recent entrance into midlife has unlocked the profuse swearing buff.

Fuck.

People read books. I read books. You have probably read a book. Some books come from libraries, so from your own family bookshelf, and some from shops.

One of my hobbies is walking through the book section of the local FNAC (a French retail store that also happens to sell books) and shaking my head at the “Lifestyle and Self-Help” section. It is just so frustrating, for multiple reasons.

Young and stupid, I never would have even looked at this section. But, circa 2006 The Secret1 was gaining popularity and I heard people talking about it. A heard it a lot. And, strolling through the book store I saw it prominently displayed on a gondola. It sported stickers advertising that it had already sold so many copies, and that it was based on the hit film.

I read the blurb and saw the words “law of attraction”2 and said, “fuck off,” because even the 22-year-old country bumpkin that I was could tell this was some rank bullshit. Couldn’t they?

That was then. This is now. In the years that have passed, that section, which was just a gondola, has grown. Multiple metres of shelves are home to pseudoscience, esoteric nonsense, and the ghostwritten manuscripts of forgotten YouTubers.

I had learned by then that the French use the word vulgariser to explain the phenomenon of making something accessible and popular. I subsequently learned that we use the same word in English (to vulgarize), and I find that perfect. Many of these books take a word from the PSYCH101 glossary, somehow smear it across several hundred pages of anecdotes, and slap a *jazz hands* science label on it. Vulgar, indeed.

And this is where my first complaint comes from. Mixed in with this utter horseshit, there are legitimate, competent, authors. They are, in fact, scientists and professionals, and they have their work trapped in this section alongside shysters. Daniel Goleman’s Emotional Intelligence is labelled as a psychology book, but found in this section, for example. I feel like this is a suitable section for it, but it is not the same as the other books in the section.

As I write this, the most prominent books in this section are written by Natacha Calestrémé, Fabien Olicard, Joseph Murphy, and Mark Manson.

Spoiler: Calestrémé most known for promoting pseudoscience, mediumship, and numerology3; Olicard is a mentalist with a YouTube channel4; Murphy was a New Thought minister who died in 19815; and Manson, who is known for his book The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life—which is a (meta) self-help book about how self-help books offer meaningless and impractical advice—is a blogger that also self-published a book called Models: Attract Women Through Honesty.

(It is also cute to note that Murphy’s The Power of Your Subconscious Mind is currently #11 on Amazon UK’s best-selling… address books?)

Without getting elbow-deep in this heap of shit, I’ll move onto my second point: Some works, which are no more than self-help books, are found in business and management sections of the store.

Tim Ferriss’ 4-Hour Workweek (2007) is in the Management>Human Resources section of the shop. As a reminder, The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9–5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich is indeed a self-help book, described by the author as “lifestyle design.”6 And, if you read the book—like I did—you’ll note that the author even (strongly) suggests generating income by selling an “information product.” He is talking about a book or website.

Business is business, and these shops can put the books wherever they want, but if this were the films or music department, it would be a different story. I listen to Johnny Cash and Cattle Decapitation, but we cannot put them on the same shelf. The Human Centipede is a horror film. We put the Shōjo and Shōnen manga on different shelves and if I ask a salesperson for advice on what to buy for my x-year-old child, they will be able to give advice.

Here comes a little straw man argument to think about: if a parent with a teenager suffering from depression or GID asks for help, what will the salesperson do? Take them to the bestselling parenting books section, which happens to overlap with the self-help section? What book will they walk away with? Something written ages ago, like Spock’s Baby and Child Care, something popular, like Faber and Mazlish’s How to Talk So Teens Will Listen and Listen So Teens Will Talk, or something from the psychology section that would (hopefully) bring about the realization that this subject is too important to be vulgarized, and professional help is the best way forward?

Books are amazing, and the self-help section is not without merits. But, reading a 120-page paperback by an influencer will not grant you an honorary degree in that subject or make you a researcher. In many cases, it will make you a gullible rube; a mark. “Over a million copies sold” just means that the publisher bought the copies, or the influencer conned their followers to buy them; the shills make the scam look legitimate.

With AI-written books on the rise, the self-help section will probably become a playground for grifters. It is time to remind our friends and children that, while entertaining, they cannot replace science and common sense and may even be so open to interpretation that they are dangerous.


Look both ways
6 June 2024 | 12:55 pm

https://unsplash.com/photos/road-work-ahead-signage-leaning-on-chain-link-fence-7kwjU9MMbYU photo by Tyler Nix
Photo by Tyler Nix via Unsplash

I live near an intersection. My street is one-way and there are often traffic jams, and sometimes it is due to planned construction. As a simple pedestrian I am surprised by the number of people that can ignore the warning signs and continue down this street despite having had the opportunity to avoid frustration.

I see them. They are visible—bright yellow and orange—and they are in place days prior to any planned inconveniences. And yet, as I venture out to head further into town to run my errands I see people barrel down that street. Ignoring the signs, ignoring WazeTM, ignoring the world around them.

Putting myself in the position of the driver, I’m sure they are initially struck with a sense of fluidity and ease. They might think to themselves, “Hey, I’m making good time, there is no traffic today.” Or maybe they think that perhaps the construction is finished, and the signs haven’t been taken down, so taking the risk might be worth it.

Down the street I walk, and lo and behold, there is a driver standing in the street beside their vehicle, hands in the air, cursing the construction crew for ruining their day. But they are not alone. Other motorists saw the first one take a chance and didn’t want to miss out on saving time either. They crane their heads out their windows, plumes of vape-smoke curling into the air.

I look over my shoulder and see that traffic has backed up to the intersection. Now traffic is congested in three directions as motorists try to manoeuvre their oversized vehicles—taking turns, and relying on the waving hand signals of strangers—into position so that they may continue their journeys.

That first driver, that leader of the pack, that disrupter, could have been right. They could have lucked out and found a shortcut. They tried, they failed. But, they took others with them and caused problems for the motorists who would have heeded the signs. Now the cautious motorists are wasting their time and fuel, hands in the air or honking their horns.

I shake my head and keep on walking.


I love technology. I like things with buttons and knobs. I love to read about technology despite not having a clue as to how some of these things work. In the world of technology I am a pedestrian sharing the street with motorists and I shake my head a lot.

Facebook was neat, until it wasn’t. There were warning signs, but companies and newspapers went all in on that platform. Regular users suffered from the changes, the algorithms, and the ads—much like the people stuck in traffic that were following the rules.

Blockchain, and cryptocurrency, seemed neat from my pedestrian perspective. But it also seemed a little iffy. The warning signs on that highway were billboard-sized. Now have people and companies all around the world throwing their hands up and “geniuses” serving prison time.

The Metaverse? There were warning signs and wireless emergency alerts sent out via SMS. Traffic backed up on that highway until, with a shrug, the drivers made their 3-point-turns and cut their losses.

Nobody that thinks like me should assume they were right all along. No I-told-you-sos should be uttered. It’s just that as a pedestrian, you need to be careful. Pedestrians are soft a squishy, and we sometimes forget to look both ways, just like motorists sometime make mistakes. Everyone needs to be cautious.


I had a productive walk. I ran my errands, went to work, saw friends and colleagues. It was a good long day, the sun is setting now, and I’m heading back home. In between songs I hear something. I pull out my earphones and the sound is deafening. What cacophony could this be?

I stop dead in my tracks and say, out loud, “Are you f—ing kidding me?”

That first driver is still there. Standing on top of their vehicle they wave their hands around, shouting at the top of their lungs. They are not alone. Some of the original followers are still there with them. And that’s not all.

The traffic is now backed up in all directions. There are cars and trucks, motorcycles, 18-wheelers, buses, and even cyclists and pedestrians. They are all shouting and honking, revving their engines. The air is thick with pollution and the ground covered with refuse.

Bags of money are piled at the feet of that first driver as they shout the most banal of rallying calls:

“We just need more money and supplies. Look at how many of us are here. This is temporary. Don’t give up now!”

Politicians, doctors, students, teachers, programmers, police, criminals, and others carrying pre-printed placards claiming they will “save lives,” “make life easier,” “be more ethical and equal,” and “make you rich” in exchange for a course on LinkedIn flank the lead driver.

Residents lean from their windows banging pots and pans. They have no money to give, so they throw their pictures, driving licences, birth certificates, income statements, and password lists instead.

One person has a handmade placard that says, “Be careful! Drive slow!” The drivers throw bottles of p-ss at them. They look just like that actress from the superhero film franchise.

An entire traffic-jam–themed marketplace has developed. There are artists and schools and musicians, food-delivery and courier services. Migrant workers deal with waste. The park across the street from my flat has been converted into an ad hoc overflow parking space.

When I climb the steps to my building I can see down the street. There is a bus filled with people that just want to get on their way, they didn’t ask for this. There is an ambulance and a fire engine trying to save lives. And, way down the street, I make out the shape of the boom truck the construction site is waiting on.

I turn and look back to the source of the traffic jam. The vanity licence plates I can make out read OPENTJ, JAMLE, METAJAM, JAMAZON, JAMVIDIA, MICROJAM, and JAMTHROPIC.

I throw my hands in the air and shake my head.

At home, I sit down to decompress. #trafficjam is trending on all social networks. The top level domain for Tajikistan is being overrun by new registrations. An email from my employer announced their—our?—support for the traffic jam.

I drift to sleep on my couch while doomscrolling, a lullaby of revving engines and honking horns permeates my double pane windows.

Credits: Photo link


Imagine
9 May 2024 | 5:54 pm

Introducing Your Future

Humans of earth.

I have an announcement to make.

I am going to be a musician.

Now, just to be completely upfront with you, I don’t know how to play any instruments or sing

Yet.

But, imagine if I could. Music has the power to change the world. I could bring about peace, I could raise awareness, I could save our planet for future generations. And you can be a part of this!

What do I need from you?

Despite being entirely non-profit, I need your patience and support while I learn music theory and train. I also need your financial support to pay my rent and my bills. Your investment will fund my travels as I learn the world’s languages and appropriate plagiarize study their musical and cultural contributions. Funds will also be used to purchase the required instruments and materials. Environmental costs are negligible because they will be offset (in the future) by the good I will bring to the world.

How long will this take?

How long are your legs?

What I want to do is what the world wants and needs. So, the timeline for this is not set in stone, but we have a rough estimate:

  • (Phase 1) Pre-Training or Theory: minimum 6 years for a Master’s degree in music theory plus 2 to 4 years for a doctorate degree. I won’t make my degrees public.

  • (Phase 2) Fine-Tuning and Training: minimum 15 years to learn to approximately imitate all Western styles of music and build a “large music model.” Non-Western styles are out of scope for this project.

  • (Phase 3a) Taking Requests: minimum 5 years of taking requests and playing songs, so other people can claim they wrote them. I plan on exploiting hiring people in developing nations to review requests. This will reduce poverty and raise standards of living in those countries.

  • (Phase 3b) Taking Paid Requests: concurrent with Phase 3a, premium clients will have access to better songs. Possible use cases for this would be film and advertising.

  • (Phase 4) Becoming Recognized as a Master: 10 to 15 years of non-stop world tours, collaborations, album production, and private concerts.

This means that by or around 2050 I will be able to produce something that can save the world.

Possible Problems

  • Competition: a lofty goal such as this one will attract competitors. Competition, though, is just proof of how powerful music can be and how important it is for you to give me your money invest today for a better tomorrow.

  • Hallucinations Duds: the quality of the songs depends on the catalogue of stolen studied songs and styles. Continuous adjustments will need to be made. These dudes are not bugs failures, but rather a telltale feature of a worthwhile investment with a high return.

  • Theft of content from other artists: if an individual requests a song and then tries to pass it off as their own, that is fair, even if the song is similar to an existing piece of work. Schools, studios, and labels will need to adjust their expectations. It will be impossible for artists to complain because my method of study is opt-out: it is the artists’ responsibility to make it known they don’t want their work to become part of my large music model.

Exciting Opportunities

Partnering with me is one of the greatest opportunities the world has ever seen. You can increase the value of your brand. Here are just a few examples of how you can help yourself.

  • Bespoke Musician: I can be the official musician of your advertising agency, theatre, film, television or video game studio. Your current staff will be gutted free to pursue their own personal interests and career opportunities.

  • National Musician: I can create the music that represents your nation around the world. The music I create will motivate your workforce, increase national pride and therefore create economic prosperity.

  • Electronics OEMs: Phones need ringtones. Partnering with me will give your brand the unique and recognizable sounds and increase your bottom line.

  • Interviews and Articles: by interviewing me and featuring my grift mission in your papers and online, your readership will increase. Clickbait Sincere stories featuring me in the title are a surefire way to raise awareness, because the more people talking about me, the more likelihood there will be of gaining a new reader.

  • Retail: the right music can push consumers to buy more and be more indulgent with their money. My music will help you control customers in your retail locations.

  • Road Safety: music calms the savage beast, and my music will reduce road rage and save lives.

  • International Relations: in a world filled with uncountable horrors, a musician of the world and for the world is our only hope.

  • Interplanetary Exploration: by mastering every style the (northern part of) planet has to offer, I will be able to write the music that takes our people beyond our galaxy and usher in a future of interplanetary exploration.

Final Words

I’m hoping to grow into an institution. As a non-profit, my aim is to build value for everyone rather than a group of rich white guys.

If you too dream of a future and imagine a shared world of people living for today, in peace, with no fear or hunger, I hope some day you’ll join me, and the world will live as one.

Show your support and save the future, today!

Click here



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