Archive for March, 2014

“These Twin City kisses, they sound like clicks and hisses”

Jaywalking as Magic Trick

Magic tricks are valuable because they define the borders of our map of the possible. They only work if they exist clearly beyond what we understand to be possible, but close enough to the boundaries of it that we can see it from the realm of the everyday. In fact, that’s probably a good abstract definition of magic: anything that happens just outside our mind’s Overton Window. This definition has several pleasing applications, not the least of which is that it explains why magic tricks work on dogs:

But this definition of magic as anything just outside the realm of the possible has more quotidian applications as well. Take, for instance, the bewildered looks I get whilst jaywalking. You see, Seattle, for all its pretensions at grunge iconoclasm, is a worryingly law-abiding town. This has an adverse reaction when combined with a population laden with a communal phobia for confrontation and an urge for conformity you can only get when the entire town is all trying hard to front as the exact same sort of rebel. The end result is punk rockers that won’t even cross against the light on a deserted one-way at four in the morning. Whether their reluctance is purely a fear of the constabulary or whether they’re worried someone might see them, deciding that jaywalking is for dorks, and judge them harshly, I can’t say.

One thing is for sure, the furtive glances they shoot me as I stride into the road tell me that this isn’t the same obeisance noted by Olufemi Terry when he described Germany as “…a country, … , in which even anarchists wait for the light to change before crossing the road.”

The average Seattlite’s reluctance to jaywalk has none of the volition or civic-mindedness of those Teutonic anarchists. Rather, it’s bred from a timidity that seems to view jaywalking as beyond the realm of the possible.

And so, about once a week, I’ll walk out into the street and see someone on the opposite curb shoot me with a brief look of wonderment. As if I’m walking on magma, rather than asphalt. Some will then timidly look left, look right, and deciding that if a policeman or a judging peer were to suddenly materialize to accost them they could always point me out as instigator, take a few tremulous steps into the street. Others will just wonder silently until, at long last, the light changes and they can safely proceed.

Most just catch my eye and then sheepishly look away. Not for shame of my jaywalking, mind you, that’s just how people in Seattle react to eye contact. It’s the Seattle way of saying “Howdy, stranger.”

Only once has any one of these onlookers ever spoken to me about my jaywalking. I was crossing Broadway against the light at Pine. In jaywalking-as-magic terms, this is the equivalent of sawing a lady in half and putting her back together again: a pretty common trick, but still one a confident magician can pass off as amazing. As I got to the other side, a young man in baggy sweatshirt and bondage pants glanced at me and said “hey man, cops’ll totally ticket you for that.”

“Pardon?” I said, looking him in the eye.

He muttered something and looked away.

“The reason for which humans have failed to develop a finely built social process assuring continuity and steady quality in leadership is probably that they did not have to. Most human societies are marked by the existence of a surplus above subsistence. The counterpart of this surplus is society’s ability to take considerable deterioration in its stride. A lower level of performance, which would mean disaster for baboons, merely causes discomfort, at least initially, to humans.

The wide latitude human societies have for deterioration is the inevitable counterpart of man’s increasing productivity and control over his environment. Occasional decline as well as prolonged mediocrity–in relation to achievable performance levels–must be counted among the many penalties of progress. A priori it would seem futile, therefore, to look for social arrangements that would wholly eliminate any sort of deterioration of polities and of their various constituent entities. Because of the surplus and the resulting latitude, any homeostatic controls with which human societies might be equipped are bound to be rough.” – Albert O Hirschman, Exit, Voice, and Loyalty

“Forever in debt to your priceless advice”

Kawehi covering Nirvana’s “Heart Shaped Box”

“Cat, run away, you better hope it’s a good day”

Mmmf, dat bass line.

Tim Rogers on Illness, Writing, &etc.

I’ve been nursing some kind of migratory illness ever since I got back from Minneapolis a week ago. It wasn’t particularly helped by the going away party for a couple of colleagues that saw me getting home blitzed at 3am Saturday morning. Turns out benders aren’t great for one’s immune system.

But it felt apropos to come across a new video by Tim Rogers of him talking a bit about his writing process and reading a new essay he wrote about being sick. It’s called “soup and soup and noodles and sumo”:

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Magic Blue Smoke

House Rules:

1.) Carry out your own dead.
2.) No opium smoking in the elevators.
3.) In Competitions, during gunfire or while bombs are falling, players may take cover without penalty for ceasing play.
4.) A player whose stroke is affected by the simultaneous explosion of a bomb may play another ball from the same place.
4a.) Penalty one stroke.
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