Archive for October, 2013

Work, work, work… with Rita Andreeva

October 31, 2013

Editor’s Note:  So much for the fun part.  Now we’re back to the “grit and slog” of it, from Rita.

Not all Buddhists/Bohemians are fat.  Here is a carving of the Emaciated Buddha of the 2nd-3rd Century.

Not all Buddhists/Bohemians are fat. Here is a carving of the Emaciated Buddha of the 2nd-3rd Century.

 

Reality Check

“Oh, here is a real Work Work update:

Since no work was to be had anywhere except, possibly, in India, and I wasn’t about to move that far (well, I think, Auburn is almost as bad), I decided to obtain some sort of a license allowing me to sell something people still seemed to buy. I did an online course, passed the state exam, and got a real estate broker’s license. I proceeded to make a blog, a page on Facebook, and to post a variety of ads on Craigslist, telling people how to buy real estate in intelligent ways using my services. I was amazed that absolutely nothing happened. Silence, indifference, deep, dark matter of very heavy nothing. Trust me, dark matter is real – it weighs down the souls of millions – it is also known as the lack of money, and it is extremely heavy, it literally crushes you…

Well, so, as nothing happened, I have tried to enroll into one of those advertised free courses to learn to be a tax preparer. I called and emailed and got no reply. Probably for the best, since rich people do not get all excited at encountering a man on the street with no teeth wearing a velvet Statue of Liberty and say, “You are just who I need! Let’s go inside and have you figure out some loopholes for my billion dollar estate.” Nope, doesn’t work that way. And poor people don’t need tax preparers because they don’t make enough money to pay tax.

I tried selling used rugs (not rags, like toupees – big area rugs). It started by me going to a everything-half-off sale at St. Vincent De Paul’s and buying a pretty nice oriental-ish rug half price for only $30. I thought I discovered a sure way to riches – going to all the half-off sales at all the thrift stores and buying rugs for half-off and then selling them for twice what I paid, since it is still much cheaper than very nasty new rugs in Walmart that have such loose weave, you stab your toes on something hard and bumpy as they sink between the rug hairs. I was amazed and flabbergasted that no one actually bought any of my nice rugs yet, but they do make a very soft surface to walk on in my bedroom.

I tried putting all my paintings on Craigslist again without any result. I almost physically attacked a woman carrying a painting made in China to a cash register at Fred Meyer – I would have sold her mine for the same price!

I did purchase some very cheap old and broken antique furniture and restored a couple of pieces, but now they are so pretty, I want to keep them.

Still trying to figure out what costs less to operate: an area heater or my cat.”  – Rita Andreeva

Photo from Google Images

Work, work, work… with Rita Andreeva

October 29, 2013

Editor’s note:  Our forever struggling artist has surfaced again, after putting to rest several business models and quite a little beer.  This is the party-half of the story.

Rita Andreeva

Rita Andreeva

Did You Miss Me?

 

“went to Eva’s show, and it was a WILD place, with
artists doing crazy shit and painting a live naked woman and
fat russian woman talked to me, and her son with red and
green WILD paintings, and NOBODY got carded, so teenagers
were buying drinks at the bar.

Eva did her show and announced, “I hear people live
upstairs, well, lets be loud enough so they’ll not
forget this night!” And then they did a mix of, hell,
everything – their repertoir was a mix of hard rock, punk,
and god knows what Eva came up with, but it was loud, and
she was banging the round thing with bells on her butt and
on the drums, and she looked good, with very long earrings,
as long as her hair… The thing is, their fun was so
contageous, (and I told them that too), so everyone loved
their playing despite the fact that they fucked up all over
the place, and some skinny, classy, old dude said his friend
wanted to book them and everyone loved them. And everyone
laughed, and fat Russian woman with her beautiful
gay-artist-son-who-married-an-american-with-tank-demeanor
smiled and took my card. Two beautiful gay guys came and
eclipsed the russian artist with his possibly talented
green-and-red paintings by their sheer beauty and elegance

completely devoid of talent but so very elegant….

When they were done playing, I left intending to go to the
bus, but my feet took me by the Pantageous Theater where Ian
Anderson (Jethro Tull) was doing a show! Actually, I knew
about it, but it was all sold out for a while, so I gave up.
But as my feet took me by there I saw a guy standing by the
door with a ticket in his hand, ready to go in, so I ran up
to him and said, “Can I have this ticket?” And he
sighed and said, “She didn’t come…” I said,
“Where is cash machine!!!???” he shrugged. I said,
“Wait 5 minuties,” and I took off at a gallop up
and down some hills, and I found a cash machine and got $#$
and ran back and bought the ticket. And it all happened in a
split second before they locked the doors.

So I basically did what I was telling you to do – I went to
the concert without a single thought about how I’d get
home.

Afterwards Eva got her friend to drive me back here, they
all came, the whole band, so I gave them money for gas and
beer.

Eva couldn’t drive, she had a couple of drinks at the
show. She wasn’t drunk, she was just being sensible
(someone should learn from her, hint, hint)

I told them to stop at 7-11 so I could get beer and they did
too, so I walked home with 4 beers and them too. Everyone
was having sooooooo much fun!!!!

I wonder if anyone took a photo of that poor naked woman who
was being body-painted for like hours….”    – Rita Andreeva

Photo by Carl Nelson

 

From the Editor’s Perch…

October 22, 2013

Achieving Mediocrity II

Beverly Hillbillies

Locating Failure, and then Adjusting Slightly Upwards

            Which brings us to the, “How to…”

Let’s start with failure.  So often people shy from failure, or are so preoccupied in shunning it, or ‘distancing’ themselves from failure, that they never really stop to take a good look at it.  If this sounds like you, then there are a lot of surprises in store.

The first surprise is that most of the people you may categorize as failures, really aren’t very good at it.  This shouldn’t come as a surprise as many people are not very good at anything.  That said though, most failures you will see suffer for their failures, but have never really explored or exploited its opportunities.  They latch onto their little thread of failure and ride it in as hidebound manner as any successful type might, except to their dismal ends.  They see problems and enemies everywhere.  They worry about what happened before, or what might happen again.  They are constantly afraid of being ‘found out’.  They are hidebound, close-minded, stuffy, stilted, puffed up, snooty, completely paranoid, worn-out from excessive posturing, and possessed by envy.

A successful failure embraces what they are!  They turn a blind eye to difficulties.  They see opportunities everywhere. (Because there are!)  They admit to no limitations.  (Because there aren’t!)  Everywhere is a bowl of cherries. They act like a complete fool! and are nobody’s victim.  They don’t ask the government’s help.  They are free of envy.  And they are just fine on their own, thank you.  Though they’ll certainly take whatever’s offered, because they are not proud!  The best failures don’t ask anybody for anything, because a good failure lives in the now.  And right now, they’re still breathing, so anything could happen!

A good failure just trundles on, oblivious, explaining every setback as at worst a detour, and at best, a fortunate intervention.  Because life is on the failure’s side, and the failure sees himself in the lead position because he is alive!  Always!  …while a lot of things aren’t.  Because the very successful failure bumbles along, “forgetting, mislaying, losing, unmaking, undoing, unbecoming, not knowing”… all the while engaging, cooperating, chatting, visiting, and doing surprising things!  In short, fully engaged in living a charmed existence.  For it is only sound reasoning to presume that a true failure leads a charmed existence.  Because what other rational could explain their continued existenceIf there is anyone who fully embraces the presence of God, it is the fool and the failure.  And a good failure will bless his charmed existence and not embrace any golden calves.  In this respect, the true failure is faithful and monogamous – a near saint.

 

But it is very hard to fail at everything and yet not to have found a little success at something.  That’s just the way it is!  And it is these small successes which your common, garden variety failure quilts into a livelihood.

The true failure lives a small existence, but often in the midst of thriving success.  Successful people have an incredible need for failures all around themselves, and they have the money to pay for it.  They hire and delegate and presume upon supernumeraries all over the place.  All of which creates a thriving market for affable supernumeraries, a position for which the failure and his persona the ‘fool’ is eminently qualified.

Another aspect of failure many people do not recognize is that it is an enduring position.  A comic, who passed through town, shared that she made up for the breaks in her career by working as a lowly aid to the disabled.  “Because they will ‘always hire you’”.  A good failure just goes on and on like the Eveready Bunny – the world, as it is, displays a continuing need for them.

Failures are like the little beetle who captures a little water from the morning dew as condensate on his wings, a little water from the vegetation he chews, and quite some protection from the thick carapace he labors under as he trudges around under a blistering desert sun where few others can live.  The failure locates a place of little or no competition, and finds a way to make themselves comfortable, living on God’s bounty.  They arrange their modest existence well away from the frenetic world of successes.  Whenever the successful get too close, so as to oppress them, they make quite a show of their failures to drive the predatory successful away.  “No money to be made here!” The successful shriek.  And it works well.  The successful can’t seem to distance themselves from failure quickly enough.  And in this way, failures share many of the same defenses as the skunk or our small, unsung  beetle.

Whenever a successful failure speaks, it’s usually with humor, because humor is idiosyncratic and subversive.  Most humor in one way or another utilizes the banana peel – to pratfall the predatory successful.  Success is reiterative, and vulnerable to the vagaries of life as a machine.  Whereas a failure’s humor and persona is as agile as a cat, and all the more reason for failures to employ it.

A real failure can be quite a funny and engaging character.  Most good stories employ them.  But if you would rather hear a person blow about themselves all day, in a continual, reiterative manner, then you’d be better to pick the successful for a drinking companion, or get hired by some high powered firm.  A failure doesn’t much like to talk about themselves, except in a self-deprecating manner, so as to add a little flourish to their stink.  They’d much rather the spotlight shown elsewhere… perhaps on the scenery chewing success!   All they would really like is your respect.

Which, unfortunately, is hard to come by – unless we’re on the same page here.

 

Which is why I suggest locating failure – find that inner fool! – and then just back yourself off a bit, until you have found just that level of income and respect necessary for your comfort – but not a jot more.  Don’t let those lunatic over-achievers grind you down, or shut you up!  Leave yourself open to life, and parade your failures and your mediocrity – don that fool’s cap and bells – capture a little of that morning dew, sniff that morning air, gaze out upon that great blue horizon!  and motor on.  The world is yours.

Photo by Google Images

From the Editor’s Perch…

October 18, 2013

Where we talk about anything that passes through my gol’ durned mind…

Sky8

Achieving Mediocrity

“When trouble arises, quickly roll up into the posture of a failure.”

 

            Mediocrity gets a bad rap.  Its word roots mean ‘halfway up a mountain’.  The word mediocre is used to denote moderate ability or value.  In other words, you’re right in the middle of the herd.

But what does this mean?  Well, halfway up the mountain is just above the tree line where all the grasses and flowers grow.  You’re successful enough to get fed.  There are lots of others around.  You’re safe, protected by numbers.  But you’re enough of a failure to enjoy the freedom of nursing an odd idea, preoccupation, or interest with relative impunity.  Why, no one of importance is following what you’re up to.

Prince Harry dresses up for fun in Nazi memorabilia, and he gets called on it big time.  However, mediocrities get away with this sort of misbehavior all the time.  Mediocrities come and go pretty much as they please.  It’s like having a universal passport.  If you are mediocre you have your work, and your vacation and your family and your car and boat – and your venal sins – you might even harbor a few mortal sins, plus a little free time.  You don’t have it all.  But having it all requires a lot of expensive upkeep and safe keeping.  You have a bit of everything, and no obligatory posturing.  A mediocre person can more or less just let themselves go.

Being mediocre is about as close to enjoying the perks of failure as the average prudent Joe can afford to be.  He’s neither pious, nor afflicted with chancres.  He’s neither a drunken sot, nor abstemious.  He’s neither a fool nor a genius.  If he has made any remarkable achievement at all, it might be in acquiring no small amount of common sense, humility, and tolerance for others, all the while enjoying him or herself, more or less… that is, pretty much so, and not expecting any more.  Self-supporting, procreative, relaxed and affable, the mediocrity has a lot of common, garden variety achievements to be proud of, plus a bit of time which he sometimes spends helping others, or raising kids.

If the mediocrity has any special ability, it is usually employed in a supporting role.  As they say in the halls of Congress, “There is no end to what you can accomplish here, if you don’t want to take credit for it.”  This is very true of life in general, all of which means and offers fertile soil for the mediocre and the unsuccessful.

The successful mediocrity takes advantage.  There’s hardly any other word for it.  The obviously successful are vulnerable.  There’s hardly anything more true that could be said about obviously successful people than that they need an enormous support staff… lots and lots of underlings.  These successful people need a lot of other people helping and assisting them with their work and all their trappings; helping them to get on with their lives.  The normal successful person is a virtual living cripple, honed to a razor’s edge to excel in a very narrow range of endeavor, like a supersonic jet.  They can’t be used to just taxi off to the store, or to hammer a nail, or much of anything else!

The obviously successful person is so cocooned in the frenetic network of whatever it is they are pursuing, that they rarely have the time or inclination to inquire or follow-up on wherever or whatever their underlings are doing.  It is enough that they do ‘it’, whenever ‘it’ is required.  So, whereas the successful person has to be mindful of many, many things, the mediocrity has to be mindful of only one, or at the most two.  This can be quite relaxing and the mediocrity can live a long life, while employed well enough to enjoy much of life.  And if, or when, trouble arises, they can quickly roll up into the posture of a failure, and pass as unnoticed as a “block, a stone, or some senseless thing”.

As Charles Bukowski, the poet, advised:  “Don’t try so hard.”

Photo by Carl Nelson

From the Editor’s Perch…

October 14, 2013

Businessman1

That Little Bread and Butter Business Everyone Would Like to Own

A review of Nathan Heller’s Article, “Bay Watched”, in The New Yorker

“Before the Industrial Revolution came along, everyone kind of had their own little farm, their own little house, their own little job, and their own little worksmith,” Naval Ravikant, a San Francisco based entrepreneur told Nathan Heller, in an article published in this most recent edition of The New Yorker.

Nowadays, “the same systems that make outsourcing more efficient have driven down the cost of launching a company,” Nathan Heller continues this thread of thought in the article.

He is talking about a new breed of entrepreneur, whose ambition is to birth a small company which gives them autonomy, rather than an industry colossus like Microsoft or Google, which they would have to push before them like Thoreau’s barn for the remainder of their lives.

“So the cost to build and launch a product went from five million”… “to one million”… “to five hundred thousand”…  “and it’s now to fifty thousand,” Ravikant continued.

“All this scaling down,” Ravicant thinks,” has encouraged new, more rewarding lifestyles,” continues Heller, in the article.

"Good things CAN happen."

“Good things CAN happen.”

And taking the money out of this equation has taken the opprobrium out of failure.  Newly hatched techies who re-invent themselves in this fertile, warm bed of entrepreneurial activity, not uncommonly can fail 2, 3, 4 times – and maybe they hit it on the first or the fifth.  Or, in between, in the troughs, they feed themselves by working for a big entity like Google or for a fellow start-up.  They network, and they work the edges between tech, commerce, culture and the arts – exploiting every day like a flaneur – as they parse the puzzle to produce their products for these newly aligned neighbors.  When successful, they create a small, useful app, something like a bag clip, which becomes widely used.  And they are forever freed from the cubicle farm.

This is the wish, and this is how it’s playing out in San Francisco, where creative endeavor and holistic thinking look to get a little of their own back from the businessperson.

chris-matthews1aweb-11

katie4b

Photos by Carl Nelson

From the Editor’s Perch…

October 11, 2013

scan0062

A Brief Review

 

History is written by the winners, as they say, but it’s not because there is not lots of material about losers in the public and private archives, says Scott Sandage.  “The voices of and experiences of men who failed (and of their wives and families) echo from private letters, diaries, business records, bankruptcy cases, suicide notes, political mail, credit agency reports, charity requests, and memoirs.”

As anybody with eyeballs is apt to see, failure is the much more likely result of business enterprise than success.  And if we are to celebrate the fruits of a Darwinian process, such as successful enterprise is – then we ought, as a culture, to explore ways to reap fertility from failed enterprise.  Not just economically, but culturally; making use of losers as a cultural resource, a fertile bed from which our next generation of achievers arise.  Just look around.  We paddle through a Sargasso Sea of failures every day.   History is stuffed with the biographies of high achievers whose upbringings came from families of failed patriarchs.   There is good fertile soil here.  But what is done to respect it?

It’s no surprise that our society produces much more failure than success, and much more quiet desperation than joy.  Competition naturally produces many more losers than winners.  And yet, Sandage would point out, we structure our social interchange as if success were the only virtuous possibility.  And in doing so, create a lot of suffering.  (And also, by the way, limit a lot of social potential.)  An interesting example he points out is contractual law.   The act of signing a contract “is a promise to be successful”.   Otherwise obligations could not be met.  Of course, this is preposterous.  Most enterprises fail.

And then, culturally, when we see failure, we look for a “reason in the man”, a phrase Sandage notes often passed around in the 19th century.  But if you examine the victims of the 19th century financial panics, which Sandage does, the most common plea of the pending bankrupt was that, he could pay his debts if only his customers would pay him!  Business naturally placed even the most shrewd and enterprising businessman within a web of contracts which turning together greatly contribute to either his success or failure.  This is as true today.

There is an awful lot more to be said about Sandage’s book, but I’ll close this short review with these two of his comments:  “Nineteenth-century Americans swapped liberty for ambition, adopting the striver’s ethic as the best of all possible freedoms.”  “Soon a man would be nothing more nor less than his occupation.”

But readers!  Hope springs eternal.

My next post reviews an article from The New Yorker about how a new entrepreneurial culture in San Francisco tends “to regard success in terms of autonomy”.  “This braiding of tech-business growth with life-style values and aesthetics – and from there, the world of art- creeps many people out.”

More to come.

From the Editor’s Perch…

October 2, 2013

Editor’s Introduction:  Why are we all so ambitious, nowadays?  What is ambition, anyway?  It seems rather like the Chicken’s Need to Cross the Road.  Who knows why?   The best advice I’ve ever been offered about failure was what I was told about handling disappointment when trying out my act Amateur Night at a comedy club:  “It’s not you they don’t like.  It’s your performance.”  Somehow or other we’ve gotten it all twisted around and have been led to believe that we are our performance.  Perhaps it’s partly the godless times we live in.  God knows your importance, and demonstrates it every day by your presence.  So take a deep breath.  Everything’s fine.

FAILURE

 

A Clown is a Failure with Style

A Clown is a Failure with Style

 

And How to Be Mediocre Successfully

Thoughts About Failing and Locating the ‘Middle Way’: Part I

 

            Where I work it’s possible to work a forty hour week and make $125,00/year, if you are good at your job.  But you could also become demonically possessed, work an 80 to 100 hour week, and make over $250,000/year.  Unfortunately, there’s not a choice.  The company makes more money and grows when the employee makes $250,000/year.  The person who makes $125,000/year is under-utilizing their human capital and dampens the company’s prospects.  This is not so different from many other work situations.

More frequently these days it is possible to work crazy hours at a crazy job and make far more money than you need.  Or you can be fired, and find a much less remunerative, insecure, part-time job which pays less than you need and without retirement or health benefits.  Or, you can go to work in the services sector and work crazy hours, and still not make quite enough to get by.  Or you can live on the street or go to jail.  Have I left anything out?

We are an achievement oriented culture.  According to social theorist Judith Halberstam in our culture failure is subversive.  In her book, “The Queer Art of Failure”,  she notes though: “Under certain circumstances, failing, losing, forgetting, unmaking, undoing, unbecoming, not knowing may in fact offer more creative, more cooperative, more surprising ways of being in the world”.   These are some of the reasons failure has fascinated me.  Failure is relaxing.  Failure allows us time to think, to speculate, to ruminate, to sleep…  Failure will slow it all down and keep those damnable over-achievers at bay.  Failure allows nearly any sort of activity short of costing money to flourish – like chatting with your neighbor or chatting up a girl.  Unfortunately failure is also an impoverished, disreputable haven, an Elysian field without food nor drink nor shelter nor audience – a place only poets, hermits and religious seers might court.  But as Quentin Crisp, the famous British homosexual once noted, “If at first you don’t succeed, failure may be your style.”

Failure has a style, yet is egalitarian.  You can labor away at being a failure without ever being hired or having to create a resume or write a job application or appear for an interview.  The hours are right.  And failure completely circumnavigates the personnel department.  Failures needn’t attend meetings.  And for those trapped in those long, tedious, tired workdays in the cubicle farms which cover more and more of the corporate world, failure can look pretty tempting.  Why, it’s not much more than just looking out the window, where you can often catch a glimpse of it, walking by freely having a smoke, or chatting up a girl.  Failure even has its achievements to tout.  When I quite medical school I defended my ‘achievement’ by noting that whereas only 20% of applicants at the time were admitted – only 2% of those admitted, got out.   And moreover, I pointed out that by quitting medicine, I had probably saved more lives than a lot of doctors had by continuing!  My life post-medical career had primacy, some style, and a lot of free time.

Unfortunately, it also paid poorly.  A pure failure is about as rare an animal as the dodo bird.  Most of us are forced to claw our way into some sort of mediocrity in order to survive.  Which, as it has in olden times, aptly describes the post-modern ‘middle way’.

So, though I still harbor a fascination for failure, the thread of this essay is about how to achieve mediocrity, which as I define it is, a more practical, palatable blend of achievement, success and failure, all stirred into a chaotic soup of slacker regimentation aptly anticipating the post-modern ‘middle way’.

Photo of model by Carl Nelson


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