Category - EIDOLOGY

1
SMOKE SIGNALS
2
THE SPECTACLE & THE WRENCH 3.0
3
THE SPECTACLE & THE WRENCH 2.0
4
THE SPECTACLE & THE WRENCH 1.0
5
EIDOLOGY 101

SMOKE SIGNALS

smoke1

Texts can be so misleading. I should wake up now.

I open my eyes and I’m in bed, sweating and feeling cynical. I feel something rumbling. My phone is vibrating. Somewhere on my bed someone is trying to reach me, but I’m well out of range. Whoever it is should have sent me a text first anyway.

Like a pre-call.

I don’t do surprises. I can’t plan for them, and uncertainty makes me nervous. I like feeling prepared, but at this late hour an unexpected phone call has the opposite effect.

Someone wants something. Maybe just to talk. Maybe I forgot to pay a bill. Could be an emergency. If it’s that important, I’ll get a message. It takes me about twenty minutes and several cigarettes to really get going, and I just lit up the first one now.

I’m just laying here, watching ribbons of smoke ascend to the ceiling and then fade into nothing. My shirt is damp from sweat and I’m pretty uncomfortable. My ashtray is full and should probably be emptied. I feel two more vibrations in quick succession. I have a voicemail. I can’t remember the last time I checked my voicemails.

Checking voicemails is tedious, but I remember a time when it wasn’t. I remember when phones were used to actually make phone calls. That was back when people liked having conversations. Now they exchange endless streams of mini-statements free of grammar and the burden of correct spelling. Believe it or not, but there was a time when people actually enjoyed communicating in real time. Now we have emoji and acronyms, forced abbreviations, and suggestive shapes.

I light up another smoke and get all nostalgic and fuzzy for a few minutes. Nostalgia is your life story with sprinkles on top. It’s remembering that amazing camping trip you took when you were seven without that part about the swarm of bees or your fatass roommate who smelled like burnt plastic and stole your stash of Kit-Kats. Nostalgia is willful ignorance and I don’t think you can be nostalgic without it.

It’s a bias. A mental bias. Rosy retrospection, they call it. I like that.

Mental biases have some really exciting names, like availability cascade, reminiscence bump, and the ostrich effect. These are all a lot less exciting when you realize how often you rely on them to lie to yourself. I should really get out of bed now but instead I just stare up at the ceiling again. I can make out all kinds of images in the plasterwork panels.

A group of sauropods drinking from a stream.

A Viking longship riding out a tempest.

The Pennsylvania turnpike.

Mostly I see faces, one of which really does look a lot like Jesus. If I was religious, I would call this a miracle. But I’m not, and I know it’s just another mental bias.

Pareidolia. Seeing faces in things. It’s an evolutionary adaptation. God, what a buzzkill. Sometimes I wish I was religious.

I’m now on my third smoke and I’m still not out of bed. It’s nearly nighttime but my day is just beginning, so what’s the rush. I make my own schedule these days, which would be great if it didn’t involve writing about occupational hazards and a series of near-death experiences.

That’s like the opposite of nostalgia. I wonder if there’s a term for that.

My TV is on but it’s on mute. I glance over at it and see Morgan Freeman softly point his right finger up in the air, followed by several images of particles colliding. Out of nowhere a whisper in my head tells me that Morgan Freeman has been lying to us. Since day one.

Suddenly I have a craving for green olives and then regret breaking up with my third girlfriend, who had nothing to do with green olives.

My mind is wandering.

My phone vibrates again. A gentle reminder buzz. As if to say, “Pssst, about that call.”

I grumble under my breath like having a pending voicemail is the worst thing that’s ever happened to me. I don’t even know where my phone is. I mean, I know it’s under my sheets, but I also know that the cosmos is an unbelievable bastard and probably transported my phone to a pocket universe until I’ve disassembled my whole bed trying to find it, at which point it will suddenly reappear in a place I swear I checked twice already.

I light up my fourth smoke but convince myself it’s only my third. I look over at the TV again. A commercial for Abilify. It’s animated. I wonder why they chose a cartoon to advertise an anti-depressant to adults. That little black blob is likable enough though, for the embodiment of depression. He even goes to the doctor with his victim. Takes notes and everything. It’s good to know he’s making an effort. I should probably get up now.

I slide out of bed like syrup rolling off a stack of banana pancakes. I see both a spider and an ant scurrying around on the floor. I spare the spider but kill the ant. I wonder whether I would be charged with a hate crime if insects were people. I try to capture the spider with an empty cigarette pack. I guess I did smoke four. My cat clings to the armrest of a chair like it’s a tree branch or something, belittling my heroic attempt to save a hapless spider with her callous, squinted eyes. Whatever kitty, at least I don’t think chairs are trees.

I shuffle over to the window with my new eight-legged friend. I slide open the window, let the spider out, and repeatedly curse at winter until I’ve closed it again. It’s goddamn freezing outside. I shake my head solemnly from side to side as if Nature has somehow offended me personally. My cat yawns and flexes her paws. I hear a gentle buzz near a bump at the foot of my bed. Oh right. My phone.

I look at my phone reluctantly as if I’m expecting horrible news or something. Two missed calls, one voicemail, and a text. My brother called but didn’t leave a message. The other caller was Visa and did leave a message, but I made the payment yesterday so they can go fuck themselves. I got a text from a girl I met last week at the library. I’m serious. She wants me to “come over and play.” There’s a picture of a banana and a cat next to it. She must really like cats. And bananas. She’s texted me seven times this week and there’s a cat icon at the end of almost all of them. Some of them had a banana next to it too. A couple of them had a pointed finger next to it and one of them had a big tongue. Not sure about those.

Anyway, I tell her, “sure I’ll come over,” and then ask her if she found any collars she likes, especially spiked ones. Hey, if dogs can wear collars then so should cats. She replies with a horned devil, a tongue, and then the cat again. Not sure about the devil but what’s up with the tongue? What does she want me to do, lick her cat?

It’s a good thing I’m not allergic to pussies.

Texts can be so misleading. I should wake up now.

1280x720-popular-pin-black-hd-microsoft-xbox-on-pinterest

THE SPECTACLE & THE WRENCH 3.0

PART III: THE MONKEY WRENCH

When I think about wrenches, I don’t think about hand tools. I think about hard twists and sudden turns. I think about taking things apart and then not putting them back together. I think about fixing things by breaking them, or by subtle acts of verbal sabotage. No surprise, then, that my favorite type of wrench is the monkey wrench. The origin of the “monkey” modifier is hotly debated among tool historians and experts in other shit no one really cares about, but the consensus seems to be that…eh whatever, who cares.

Say, what is a monkey anyway?  Well, as an anthropologist, I can assure you that they’re definitely not apes, for a wide variety of uninteresting reasons. The easiest distinction to make is that, unlike apes, most monkeys have prehensile tails. That means they can use them like a fifth limb; an adaptation that enables them to excel in the fine art of tree climbing, branch hanging, and just plain fucking around. Once, while slogging it out in the middle of a Mexican jungle, I happened upon a small troop of sleeping howler monkeys. Ever the brilliant adventurer, I decided to serenade them with a series of flash photographs. Reaction from the troop was understandably pretty negative, like screening a Michael Bay flick at an epilepsy convention. The best part was in assuming that the troop would retaliate with a hail of figs and not the unholy barrage of steaming excrement that followed instead.

Most people wouldn’t be too happy about getting dumped on in a rainforest. It’s unhygienic, excessive, and totally unexpected. It can also be pretty embarrassing, if you actually care what monkeys think. But in retrospect, the entire affair serves as an appropriate metaphor for the future of my blog. I, the irreverent  eidologist, keen on illuminating the primordial depths of the social mindset, sandbags some of its most privileged spokesmen with a sudden flash of thoughtless insight. Full of shit from years of mindless excess and utterly oblivious to the rest of the world, the lazy citizens of the status quo hurriedly unleash a jumbled salvo of inaccurate shit bombs. Admittedly, this metaphor forecasts a very messy future; one where this type of melee will undoubtedly become the norm. But since the ammunition of the eidologist consists in large part of the very words people use to excuse, defend, or delude themselves, talking shit should be encouraged, even when no one’s actually saying anything.

Obviously, you’ll need a monkey wrench to provoke these aimless volleys of meaningless monkey dung. Just keep in mind that using one successfully requires proficiency in the art of free thinking, satire, and back-handed subterfuge. Oh, and you should never ever take anything you’re told seriously or at face value. And whatever you do, do not use an allen wrench. I must have a thousand of these fucking things lying around. Allen wrenches are really the one-trick-pony in the science of social satire. They’re only designed to work with hexagonal sockets, and most social phenomena are not hexagonal, whatever the fuck that means. They’re a great tool for lame duck activists and Ikea fashionistas, but lack the mettle needed to wrench apart that entangled mess of backward beliefs, mutilated values, and appallingly unreal mix of prefabricated half-facts that we call “popular culture” or “the mainstream”.

There are many other types of wrenches out there, from hook spanners and alligator wrenches, to impact drivers and chain whips. Power wrenches might seem like an attractive option, especially for beginners looking to quickly deprogram themselves, but should really only be used if you’re the kind of masochistic freak who enjoys having your noodle scrambled by Thor’s hammer on a regular basis. Then there’s breaker bars. These are basically like trying to fix a crack in a window by throwing a rock through it. If your mind has become so jammed up that the only solution is to pulverize it, well then I guess at this point you’re probably more concerned about whether that noose around your neck is going to snap when you kick out the chair beneath you than on the corrosive worldview that put you up there in the first place.

The monkey wrench is all about interrupting the steady stream of popular nonsense with a heavy dose of reality. Be cautious, however, as most people were raised to have a nearly insatiable appetite for historical fiction, self-deception, and imaginary forces. Rousing anyone from their dreamy and insulated understanding of things usually ends pretty badly. This is not to say that you shouldn’t shock them into wakefulness when the opportunity presents itself, only that you must be prepared to intercept the shit storm that will inevitably result. You won’t be able to run fast enough to avoid it, but you can use it to your advantage. You can simply throw it back, so long as you remember to ridicule your opponents for their lack of precision as you’re doing so. Just make sure to wash your hands when you’re finished.


THE SPECTACLE & THE WRENCH 2.0

PART II: CONFORMITY DISABLED

The first system you debug must be your own. The process is simple but it is never easy. You must first learn how to detach yourself from the uninterrupted whirlpool of thoughts and feelings coursing through your mind. Thoughts produce feelings, which in turn produce thoughts, and for this loop to be broken you must realize that you are not your thoughts. To accomplish this requires concentrated awareness and unflinching objectivity. You will fail often at first, but persistence leads to habit formation and a habit is really just an automated response. This is a good thing because it frees you to concentrate not on the thoughts themselves, but rather on where they come from. It might bother you to learn that much of what you know is derived from second-hand, spurious sources. It might shock you to realize how few of your thoughts are actually your own. You might be compelled to start questioning everything; this, too, will become habitual. You might be surprised to discover how much of what you thought was true is in reality biased, incomplete, misleading, or utterly false. Allow me to illustrate by correcting some common “facts” that are, in fact, totally wrong:

Humans did not evolve from chimpanzees, Einstein never failed math, and Napoleon wasn’t actually that short. The Maya didn’t disappear, not all dinosaurs went extinct, and “In God We Trust” didn’t show up on U.S. currency until the 1950’s. The word “golf” is not an acronym (it actually means “stick”), no one thought the world was flat until the 19th century, and lightning can definitely strike the same place more than once (just ask Roy Sullivan, who was struck 7 times). Sugar doesn’t cause hyperactivity in children (or adults), cracking your knuckles doesn’t give you arthritis, and men don’t think about sex every seven seconds. As a matter of fact, we’re usually too busy thinking about warfare, sports, or video games to even contemplate activities that can tragically culminate in marriage, children or other major setbacks.

Now let’s substitute these total lies with a brief list of actual, verified facts you’re most likely not even aware of, but probably should be:

The average American child has witnessed 200,000 acts of violence and 40,000 murders on television before leaving elementary school. Unsurprisingly, the United States also has the largest incarceration rate on the globe, holding 25% of all the world’s prisoners yet comprising only 5% of its population. In addition, the US has the 2nd worst infant mortality rate in the developed world, has only been debt free for 1 day in its entire history (January 8th, 1835), and if every concerned citizen were to use 1/3 less ice in their drinks, the country would have a surplus of energy every year.

On a lighter note, did you know that, technically, the Earth has two moons, you have four nostrils and we’re currently living in an Ice Age? Were you also aware that there’s more bacteria on a cell phone than a toilet seat, the cracking sound of a whip is actually a sonic boom, only 3% of all mammal species are monogamous, and that humans aren’t one of them?

So, if most of what you think you know is ultimately derived from a vast and superficial morass of unverified facts and assumptions, why do so many people so readily accept them as the truth? I’ll let Laura Helmuth, senior editor of the Smithsonian Magazine, explain this one:

“Our cognitive failings are legion: we take a few anecdotes and make incorrect generalizations, we misinterpret information to support our preconceptions, and we’re easily distracted or swayed by irrelevant details. And what we think of as memories are merely stories we tell ourselves anew each time we recall an event.” [1]

In other words, people don’t really care if what they know is true because they’re way too busy making faulty arguments, deluding the living shit out of themselves, and/or daydreaming about false memories and vicarious lives. For them, sleepwalking is more convenient than wakefulness. This is clearly not an option for restless spirits and independent minds. The art of questioning everything can be exhausting even once automated, but the reward is always substantial and irrevocably exponential.  The more you learn, the more you want to learn. Every answer leads to a new question, which in turn leads to another answer. One loop has now been replaced by another, far more productive one. The loop goes round and around, a seemingly ceaseless exercise in knowledge acquisition. That is, of course, until a pattern begins to emerge. At this point, you will need to grab a wrench.

…AWAITING NEXT TRANSMISSION…

THE SPECTACLE & THE WRENCH 1.0

PART I: THE SPECTACLE 

Conformity is the operating system of the social universe. To be orderly and predictable, societies must ensure that the majority of their members abide by a standardized set of rules and roles. They must obey laws, hold jobs, and pay taxes. They must possess certificates of birth, death and marriage. They must have mortgages, vehicles, and bank accounts. They must be convinced that they are consumers and that anything can be bought or sold. They must have children or at least like children. They must express some level of interest in pop culture, professional sports, or half-baked social causes. And they must learn to accept that failure to conform to the norm will justifiably provoke corrective measures like public scorn, mockery or other types of social sanctions.

Obviously, the usual suspects of nonconformity are freethinking individuals and restless spirits. Everyone is born this way, but only a few will get to die this way. Socialization pressures are powerful because without them society, by definition, couldn’t exist. After all, societies are systems; and like all systems, if the parts don’t cooperate, the system will simply disintegrate. It really is that straightforward. For most, the instinct to rebel is stymied by the realization that you just can’t get around in the social world without adopting its culture or obeying its rules.

But the desire to rebel is strong and always lingers somewhere in the back of the mind, looking for an opportunity to lash out and create havoc. It is the source of everything from marital infidelity to flash mobs to Halloween and Fat Tuesday. These things serve as exhaust valves for social and interpersonal tension. But they are meant to be temporary—you can’t have it both ways forever. Those who attempt to do so should be forewarned that trying to make a living out of two-timing or double-dealing will invariably produce unpleasant outcomes. People need to make choices and then stick with them, or risk creating inner turmoil and a prolonged loss of integrity. Each of us is also a system and our parts must co-operate or chaos will reign.

Incredibly, there are a lot of people out there who somehow manage to forestall such inner mayhem with total apathy or stunning feats of ignorance. Others cope with the nuisance of desires like ambition and pride by living vicariously through the asinine adventures of untalented pop stars, reckless athletes, or reality TV heroes. Naturally, this makes total sense because, hey, who actually wants to think or do any real work? Other people are just as content taking happy pills, drinking themselves into oblivion, or attending watered down western-style yoga classes once a year. And when times really get tough, there’s always Disneyworld, pub-crawls, or Jesus.

Like power windows, religion comes standard with most people. And just like power windows, religion reduces the amount of effort needed to get a breath of fresh errors. What makes religion so fucking fascinating is its ability to turn ordinary pieces of burnt toast into divine spectacles. It’s like accenting your cupcakes with sparkles—everything gets more magical. And it’s just so goddamn user-friendly. You always get to feel super righteous—like the Sun sporting Oakleys—and all you have to do in return is remember that Jesus loves you no matter what demented, perverted, or selfish thing you can possibly think of, say, or do. It’s really a win-win when old JC’s got your back. Of course, there are some rules you are meant to follow, but the beauty of religious teachings is that each lesson is like a lego block that can be infinitely rearranged according to personal preference . By far the best part of religion is knowing that you are saved and “they” are not. It’s a special feeling, I’m sure. Now, if you really want to meet people who actually take religion seriously, you’d have to climb the Himalayas, join a sweat lodge, or take a pilgrimage to Mecca. And who has time for that with such an astonishingly wasteful wedding to plan for!

Like religion, most marriages are the result of hasty decision-making, starry-eyed idealism, and piss-poor logic. This is paradoxically why they are at once so valued and ultimately so meaningless. Couples keep getting married for the same reasons people keep buying bad software: because it’s conventional and nearly everyone else is getting it. Well, nearly everyone else also gets cancer at one point in their lives too, but I can assure you it’s definitely not for everyone. And it’s especially not for those prone to bouts of innovation and independent thinking. For them, accepting the contagious logic of equating what’s “right” with what’s ordinary inevitably creates mental conflict and a potentially infinite loop of self-defeating thoughts and actions. For them, debugging may be the only solution.

…AWAITING NEXT TRANSMISSION…

EIDOLOGY 101

Mena Suvari has a massive forehead. Seriously, it’s fucking huge. And thanks to Google, I know for sure I’m not the only one who thinks so. There must be many thousands of people out there who share my astonishment at the incredible size of Mena Suvari’s forehead. So many, in fact, that before I had even typed in the word “forehead”, Google had already suggested I go check out Mena Suvari’s.

And then, quite suddenly, I forget about foreheads and start thinking about foreshadowing and subtle allusions.

That being said, Google is roughly analogous to a god, if by “god” we mean the unquestioned arbiter of all human knowledge. But in some ways, Google is actually better than a god. Because unlike, say, Zeus or Yahweh, Google doesn’t demand users to pray or perform sacrifices in order to get results. And they get results fast—and a lot of them. Of course, it’s not all peaches and cream, you know. Users still have to think up something worth asking about, they still have to sort through the mess of mostly irrelevant results, and they still have to laboriously type out their requests on keyboards or touchscreens—unless, of course, they have some type of voice-activated assistant. But then users have to speak their demands, and that’s too much like praying.

But, were it not for such righteous gadgets, even praying to Google would be an impossibility for most users. Like a rosary or a magic talisman, smart phones and other devices are all designed with results in mind. Truly devoted users possess truly righteous hardware, memory and processing power; whereas one-day-a-week users are more concerned about social prestige and fashion statements, and make poor choices accordingly. While both types of users still retain basic access to the Almighty Google, socially conscious users routinely select hardware known for poor performance, slow searches, and shallow results. In stark contrast, devoted users select and manage their hardware carefully to maximize knowledge acquisition and increase performance. While every computer and mobile device contains a central processing unit (CPU) responsible for helping the user think clearly and act consistently, devoted users typically operate two or more simultaneously. This enables them to process information faster and more accurately, and boosts their defenses against incompatible or malicious operating systems.

An operating system is a set of interrelated programs powered by the economic agenda and social ideology of the company that designed it. Once installed, it reconfigures a user’s experience and resources toward achieving vested interests and generic goals, and may prove difficult to modify or erase. Over time, operating systems can become very controlling and invasive, and may routinely overwrite personal information and preferences without user permission. They may also affect how users comprehend real-time experiences, as well as how they store, retrieve or delete information from memory.

The mainstream operating system in use today is official and socially accepted and will usually require users to register themselves with an identification code before full access to browsers or other programs is permitted. Users will find it very difficult to move around or join a network without one, and may even be at risk of losing access to libraries, social plug-ins and other types of vital services. They are also easy targets for opportunistic hackers looking for open ports or other weaknesses to exploit. Fortunately, an unsecure user is also typically an uncommitted user, making him more likely to recognize and accept changes or upgrades when deficiencies or other weaknesses become obvious.

Some users may become dismissive or even agitated when confronted with the knowledge that the operating logic they had lived by for so long is not just illogical and defective, but a complete insult to their intelligence as well. In this situation, I would advise first running a zombie scan or taking a dumpster dive before attempting an eidology. Once sufficient background information has been retrieved and assessed, hardware characteristics should be considered, such as the age, origin, and peripheral devices associated with the user. From there it must be determined whether repairs are even possible. And even if they are, it is ultimately up to each user to decide which features need to be changed, added or eliminated, and which operating system to install. But because the mainstream operating system is so customary and uncomplicated, most users will gladly accept its deficiencies over having to consider more challenging alternatives.

It is not an eidologist’s duty to suggest these alternatives. Rather, an eidologist unmasks weaknesses in the mainstream operating system by mind hacking its programs and satirizing its users. Eidology is a series of methods designed for this purpose, and eidologue is where the results go to be published.

Copyright © 2013 Eidologue Labs. Powered by Strontium 38.