log: 바다 백수

Well, shit. It’s been a minute.

Since we last spoke, I decided I might have pulled the trigger a little early on the whole surrender to the weather thing. It hasn’t actually been that hot or humid. Warm, to be sure, but hardly suffocating. Of course, that all changed last night. 92% humidity and the raw temperature just kept rising through the entire night. And today? Summer arrived.

Been a strange few weeks. Finished the first of my summer classes. Whatever. Like, don’t get me wrong, I like school, but I also sort of hate it. Whole academic industry seems largely like a pyramid scheme to me. But, apparently, my brain needs a license so . . .

The odd thing is, since a lot of the restrictions have lifted, and the COVID numbers are in steady decline, it feels like I just moved to Busan a couple of weeks ago. I’ve felt fine popping into random restaurants, going to things, lingering, so on and so forth. While wearing a mask indoors in crowds, obviously. That’s just how it is now. I don’t even mind. I’m used to the thing and usually wear it outdoors too. It’s easier than carrying it and remembering to put it on when I go indoors. Wife and I even took in a baseball game.

Giants won that one. 13-0. It was an amazing bunch of fun. We had seats in the cheering section so I danced a lot. I have not danced that much in years. I’d like to learn the songs.

It doesn’t feel exactly like I just moved here. I mean, it sort of does. What it feels like is – you know a person online for a few years then meet in person and develop an IRL relationship. It’s that sort of feeling. The place isn’t as alien as it was when I first moved here (not by a long shot) but I’m also, really, just starting to get to know it. And I like it. I love it here.

I’m hunting down dumplings and noodles

I’ve also taken up jogging outdoors. I want to lose some bulk and gain some strength. I’ve always favored full body functional exercises to isolations. I also just enjoy running. I mean, sprinting (or trying to) makes me feel like a little kid. I started off running at night, which I like, but over the last week, without school to worry about, I’ve adjusted my schedule. Reason being? The beach! Swimming. After living here since fall 2019, I finally got into the water!

These days, I jog down to the beach, take a swim, and jog home. It’s about a 3.5km run to the beach and longer than that home. The difference is in the hill. It’s 2.25km down the hill. I don’t like to run all the way down it and I sure can’t run all the way up it. (I’m trying motherfucker, I AM TRYING.) So, all in all, about 7km run during the day (approximately 9km including the walk) and a swim in the middle. I wear a 3.5 kilo backpack. Wear a mask.

Let’s dox myself.

So this is the part of Busan where I live and I’ve marked about where I live.

If you look to the far right and back, that’s the beach I typically run to and home from. There’s another little beach along the coast that I like. It’s a little tough to get to but usually empty except for old people gathering seaweed. But it’s pretty rocky. And if there’s waves, it turns into a white froth and would turn me into a red pulp. So that one is not always on.

But I have a snorkel and mask for when it is. And I forage some seaweed for food. Like, I mean, if the ocean is just going to give that shit away, you’d be a fool not to take it.

If you want to see pictures, Instagram is probably your best bet.

Wife hates me, of course. While she’s at work, I’m on the beach. I mean, I would kill me. Luckily, she’s not that petty and as long as I still complete my housework, schoolwork, run the errands, and all of that background work that supports her career, we’re good.

I just wish she could come to the beach with me during the week when it’s a little less populated. She might be getting a job where she works weekends and has a couple of weekdays off instead. I hope so. She’d never had a job like that so she’s nervous about a lack of weekends. I, on the other hand, have never had weekends. The times I’ve joined mainstream society and had to endure weekends? I fucking hate them. They’re the worst.

This whole week my days have been reading, writing, running, swimming, chores, errands, batting cage, woods, baseball, new dumpling spots, and even a trip to the tailor. (I’ve decided I need at least one summer suit and I’m having a linen one made. More on that at a later date, probably.) Right now, my major problem is – I would like a pair of swim trunks I can run in or a pair of running shorts that I can swim in. Something that will dry out pretty quick. I’d like to be able to lighten that backpack a little.

And, I’d also like to get a few more subscribers to The Doomtown Gazette. It’s good right now –like, honestly, if you subscribe, thanks so much, it rally helps and is really appreciated, you folks actually keep my bank account functioning– but three more subscribers and I think I could justify subscribing to a certain AI illustrator that I like. And that shit? That would be like me getting a drum machine. I could work with that!

It’s a very happy time, right now. Like deeply happy. It can’t possibly last. But what does?

log: surrender

Surrender is an underrated skill. Maybe because it’s easy. Might be because it threatens one’s ego. When you’re fighting, you have to defeat someone else. When you surrender, you defeat yourself. On purpose. But knowing when and how to surrender important.

Sometimes, you just need to give the fuck up.

After spending last summer struggling through the heat, trying to figure out how to maintain myself and my sense of myself, until I finally dissolved into some sort of punk mess, I decided that this year I was going to just say fuck it and give up. Surrender early, surrender hard, and don’t look back. The second the heat came, my fucks would go.

The heat came. The humidity came.

And I waved the white flag.

But surrendering took some preparation. I was able to prepare. Last summer I saw how uncomfortable I felt with the sort of preppy look that emerged when I just tried to dress down. I was so much happier when I just let myself become a mess and de-prepped with some punk patches.

So this year I, at least, have some idea where this is all going. Having decided on surrender, I was able to get ready for it. Bought some t-shirts. Ol’ Dirty Bastard and The Fall and some others in the mail. These should do me for years.

I’m still trying to figure out the whole legs situation. I have a grand total of three pairs of summer pants –one of which doesn’t fit and another which is white– and four pairs of shorts. So I’m good on the shorts front. Think I could probably use another couple pairs of pants. I’ll have to experiment. Due to the rain, it’ll be good to be able to roll them up.

And I need to figure out something with footwear. I need something waterproof.

But, all in all, I feel pretty much ready.

Other than that, my gym membership expired and, well, I’m not going to renew it. I like having a gym in my life but that place was getting too crowded. Too many people for the space they had and the hours they kept. On top of that, the staff (two body builders) routinely hogged the machines. Like, I hate being like ‘the staff shouldn’t do that’ and Satan knows, I do not subscribe to ‘the customer is always right’ but, like, if there’s a shortage of space and I’m paying, I don’t want to have to wait for a worker to finish with their program before I begin mine. When they started asking customers to move so they could work out? Well, fuck it, I’m done. That never happened to me but I don’t even want the stress of thinking it could happen or seeing it happen. So I’m back to working out in the woods.

I’m also thrilled that I finally got close enough to a sound I always hear in the summer to get an ID on it from my bird call app. It’s a Northern Boobook. A sort of brown hawk owl.

Almost certain!

I’m also trying my hand (or my feet?) at some running. Never really done much running and what I’ve done has always been on a treadmill. Now I’m running on the Haeundae Blue Line. Basically 3-5km runs. To do the 5k means walking about 4km to get to where I start and, after I finish, I have to climb the hill/mountain to get home. But I’m liking it. I’m also trying to get up this hill/mountain that I live on. That’s going to take some work, I think.

after first 5k

I got myself a little backpack and that helps. Haven’t had a backpack since high-school. Honestly, I’m thrilled with the thing for my exercises, Can carry my skipping rope, water, a towel, phone, wallet, headphones, all that shit, and keep my hands free.

This summer, I’m looking forward to running down to one of the beaches and jumping in the water for a swim. Assuming, you know, we’re not in the middle of a plague or some such.

My studies are going well. I’m enjoying my summer classes.

As far as the plague goes, the outdoor mask restrictions were lifted a few weeks ago but the vast majority, myself included, are still wearing ours. There’s not really much of a noticeable difference on the streets, though life and hustle and bustle is returning to the city. And The Mystery Library finally reopened – two days a week– and that gives me a nice place to get out and do some reading with a coffee. So I’m happy with that.

Things are decent.

the doomtown gazette

I’m pretty horrible at promotion. I’m pretty happy or whatever passes for “happy” just scribbling in the corner. Ideally, I’d love to figure out a way to get paid for writing without ever being read. (Maybe academia?) In spite of all that, every once in a while, I sort of take a pass at promoting my work. Then I horrify myself and give up. Having said all that

THE DOOMTOWN GAZETTE

That’s right. I’ve gone and changed the named of my Patreon. I wanted to make it a little snappier and, well, I think this is a better name. I tried to punch up the presentation a little bit. Prices and all that are still the same and I couldn’t bring myself to add different tiers.

There is only one tier.

SUPER NUCLEAR LEVEL HYPER MEMBER!!! 

As a SUPER NUCLEAR LEVEL HYPER MEMBER!!! you receive bulletins from THE NOCTURNAL LIBRARY. THESE WILL APPEAR AS NEEDED. ADVISE CAUTIONS!!! You will learn what SECRETS are being held in THE MUSEUM OF A BILLION COSMIC OBJECTS!!! You will TRAVEL THE NEXUS OF MISERY and RETURN A CHANGED PRIMATE!!! COMMUNE WITH THE ANIMAL AND THE DEAD! JOIN NOW! SHOP NOW! JOIN AND SHOP NOW!!!

If that sounds like you’re sort of thing, it’s just $3.33 a month. My posting has been a little more erratic than I’d like lately but it’s still fairly steady and there’s already 86 doses up.

That should be more than enough to keep you busy for some time.

And, all in all, I’m pretty happy with this work. I understand that in some cases it’s probably unreadable and it’s often uneven and I don’t know what anyone would get out of reading any of it, but I dunno – I think it’s pretty solid sci-fi of a type I like. A plotless assault on decency, good taste, and rationality. Like, whatever its problems, being commercial is not one of them. It’s probably pretty fucked up! Some of it, I’m not even sure it’s legal.

So, if you’ve been a supporter, are one now, or if you’ve even just gone to the trouble of sharing a link to my book or The Doomtown Gazette, under whatever name, I’d just really like to say thank you. The little bit of money I make from this really does help. Aside from that, it’s nice to think that there might be some batshit niche for this stuff.

And like, if you ever want to use any of this stuff for your stuff, just let me know.

log: suicide sprints

Odd midnight trip to the woods. I met another human, which is incredibly rare. We chatted. Well, we tried to. His English and my Korean are both abysmal. We managed to discuss animals. We walked together to the outdoor exercise area.

I’d brought my skipping rope into the woods. Although I go to the gym, this summer, I want to add some night-time cardio. Long and short of that is I don’t want to bulk up as much as I have been. I’m going to adjust some of my routines for more of a focus on speed, agility, strength, balance, and endurance. I want to lose a little bit of mass without losing strength.

At the exercise zone, while I skipped, he ran through boxing drills. It’s a testament to the safety of this country that I was alone in a dark forest with a stranger who was punching the air and, not once, was I concerned for my safety. It was just social.

Then this maniac wanted to do suicide sprints on the badminton court. Basically you run to one end, touch the line with your hand, run back, do the same, and you keep doing that. Sounds easy enough. Try it, sometime.

We did 15 three minute rounds of suicides together with one minute breaks. I mean, fucking hell. Now, I usually don’t do 15 sets of anything. My basic workout philosophy is, if you can do more than five sets of a thing, you aren’t going hard enough. I don’t know if that’s a good philosophy but it works for me and gives me a frame to operate in. So 15? I only made it through because having a partner makes it easier. And, well, I also hate to lose in that sort of competition. Well, I don’t mind losing but it won’t be for lack of trying. I’ll be a puddle before I quit. When I said that I was going to be sore tomorrow, he taught me some strange but effective breathing exercises. They seemed like Tai Chi but I really don’t know what they were. But you could really feel the breath in your stomach. We finished up, became “sports friends”, and exchanged numbers. He likes sports. We might play catch!

And we walked out together. So, an odd thing about the woods, a thing that I’m not sure I’ve ever mentioned, is that the forest where I walk is full of graves. Mound burials. The odd tombstone but usually just large unmarked mounds where people are buried. The woods is basically a cemetery. We walked past two or three mound burials on the way out. He pulled out his phone and started playing Thriller. So he’s a comedian, I guess.

We saw some cops driving around and we goofed on the police for a while. That’s important. A basic contempt for police is vital. It’s something I take for granted in a friend.

So yeah. Odd trip out. And, damn, I’m sore.

In other news, the outdoor mask mandate was lifted today — except in certain environments. I’m going to keep wearing mine. Mainly, I don’t feel like digging around in my pocket to find my mask when I need it. And it’s not like it’s hard to wear or anything so . . .

more of a cryptid

Not that anyone asked. I don’t believe in alcoholics or alcoholism. I also don’t think drug addiction is a disease. That’s not to say that I think it’s a crime or a moral failing. (Though, if done well, it just might be both.) And I do think medical interventions are a lot more use than police interventions, though, let’s face it, the line between the two can be blurry. But a disease? I just have doubts about that one. And alcoholism? As groups like AA think of it? As a sort of demon possession. I think that’s a lot of horseshit. Not that anyone asked.

Generally, I tend to think drug fiends are just selfish manipulative pricks who are experts in converting pain into license. Often, getting off the drugs will help them but it usually doesn’t deal with the personality than made them so terrible while on the drugs. Satan knows, I’ve seen some people sober up just to wonder why they’d even bother. Like, if they were going to keep acting like that, they could at least do everyone the service of putting a lampshade on their head. For some people, getting sober just seems like a new way to become the noisy center of the universe. But, having said that, I think it’s generally pretty good to sober up. And most of this is verdict on myself rather than on anyone else. Not that anyone asked.

So even though I believe these things, I actually don’t have much of a problem with groups like AA. They’re not for me. They might very well work for someone else. I don’t like how the 12 steps monopolize the discourse on drunks and drunkenness and I can’t stand how they often act like they’re the ONE TRUE WAY or how they operate in a weird partnership with the legal system. But, if someone gets some use out of these groups, and if it helps a person, that’s fine. Honestly, good for you. I’m happy if it helped. I can see the appeal. I might think it’s nonsense but we all have to believe some sort of nonsense to get through the day. It’s one of those things where I have my opinions and experiences, other people have theirs, and that’s all fine. No one needs to have the final universal answer on this thing. No one should pretend to. It’s just perspective. Do what you need to. As long as you’re not hurting anyone, I don’t really give much of a fuck. And if you’re making to effort to stop hurting people, that’s also good. So don’t take me too personally!

I’ve been off the drugs and drink for something like ten to fifteen years. There’s been bumps in the road to be sure. (And if the 12 Steppers I’ve known are any indication, a program is no guarantee of avoiding those.) I don’t view those bumps as relapses. Maybe errors in judgement. Sometimes as reasonable responses to intolerable situations. Other times, just as a pretty good time. Overall, I’ve stayed sober without meetings, badges, or any of that. I don’t really think about all that much. I don’t count the days. I just go about life. I find it easier sober.

For starters, no fucking hangovers.

And I used to blackout. Like, a lot. So it’s also nice to wake up knowing where I was, what I said, and what I did. Because, holy fuck, sometimes I still remember things from those blackout days. An image, a word, an act. A mystery. Sometimes, no mystery at all. Hard to say which is worse. And that shit can turn you cold on a hot day. That’s some stay awake staring into the darkness shit. Waiting for the knock on the door shit. I’m happy to produce less of those feelings. I couldn’t take any more of them. Just can’t deal with it.

Not that anyone asked.

Anyway, what brought this on? Just a weird synchronicity.

Happened to read this post by Paul Graham Raven about quitting Twitter and the recent rush to the door due to new ownership. And this part broke off and snagged in my brain.

I expect most folk will stay, and many of those now leaving will find a reason to go back. And again, I ain’t judgin’; when I quit the first time, it was a horrendous blow to my social life that has in many respects never been recovered from. It’s hard to leave a network with sunk social costs; it hurts, even when the network itself is a source of pain. Ask any reformed junkie or alcoholic, they’ll tell you the same: it’s not just the substance you have to quit, it’s the life within which that substance is entirely entangled. That’s a lot to ask of anyone, and no one will ever do it until they really want to—which, to be clear, is a very different thing to thinking they should.

I can relate. For me, quitting drugs and drink not only felt like quitting a social life but also quitting myself. (These days, I’m not sure there’s a difference. I don’t believe in souls and I think my personality is basically my social network.) The oddest part of all that I had no idea who I was without drugs or drink. I mean, what the fuck do I even like? What sort of things do I do? Who the fuck am I? I felt like I had to consciously and deliberately invent a sober version of myself and choose my interests. As scary and painful as that I was, I was also grateful for the chance. One doesn’t usually get to exercise such agency over themselves. Probably everything needs to blow up for that sort of shit to even be possible.

Then I bumped into this piece in WIRED about how AA is falling out of favor and veing replaced by new trends in getting sober. That is, something like:

All the better, I guess, to toast the charismatic influencers who inhabit the highly nonanonymous sobriety … space. (There’s always a space.) You might think there would be an oligopoly in neo-sobriety superstardom, but no, it’s a thousand points of light, and each soberfluencer has staked out a niche approach or at least some trademark design elements. Many also sit in Venn patches with lifestyle masters in apparently related realms: exercise, spirituality, prosperity, productivity, and even conspiracy. From what I’ve divined from a heady three-day scrolling bender, the biggest influencers in the sobriety space fall pretty clearly into three categories: mystical gurus who ground their sobriety in rococo superstitions, professional habit-breakers who regard sobriety as a happiness hack, and reps from the managerial class who advocate for medical interventions and cognitive science to treat a brain malfunction they now refer to as alcohol use disorder.

I mean, leave it to people to abandon AA and find something worse.

I agree with that piece’s author when she says that not getting fucked up is not so much a profitable life hack as it is a first step in being a halfway decent person. Rather than profit, one will first have to deal with profound loss. And learning to help other people is an important part of getting sober. Like, one has to think about other people. To this day, I cannot stand when someone talks about a devoted drunk “battling” or “struggling” with booze and drugs. Seems to me, it’s other people, the people around us, who have to struggle with booze or alcohol. For the drunk? What the fuck do they care? It’s all good. It feels great. It’s a lot of fun. They’ve made their problems into everyone else’s problems.

And, finally, I bumped into this by Robin Sloan, once again about Twitter, that says:

Many people don’t want to quit because they worry: without my Twitter account, who will listen to me? In what way will I matter to the world beyond my apartment, my office, my family? I believe these hesitations reveal something totally unrelated to Twitter. I don’t have words for it, exactly, but if you find yourself fretting in this way, I will gently suggest that it’s worth questing a bit inside yourself to discover what you’re really worried about.

I think that thing that we don’t have words for exactly is important to all of this. I’m not sure what it is or if it’s the same for everyone. Nor am I sure that we can talk about SNS and drugs in the same way or even should. But there is some sort of unthinkable thing there. Some sort of same unthinkable thing. Something to do with what we do to feel real. To remind ourselves that we’re still here and still there and still in the world – whatever the fuck we think all that is. And I don’t think there’s a real need “to discover what you’re really worried about” when the idea of becoming unreal is probably enough to really worry about.

That need to be real is pretty important. I don’t think it’s a bad or shallow thing. (I sure as fuck don’t even think shallow things are bad.) It may just be an urge to participate. That urge is root of a lot of good in the world and a lot of bad. We want to be real people.

But, I think, when it comes to quitting things, a person might have to get comfortable with being irreal. A lot of times quitting comes with a lot of promises about living a more authentic life. I don’t know if that’s possible or even desirable. I’m not even sure what authentic is. But I do think, if you want to quit a thing, you need to get some sort of settlement with not being there and not being real. You might not be authentic. You could just be a cryptid.

And, I guess, if any of this post has a point, it’s that it’s okay to be more of a cryptid.

Not that anyone asked, of course.

twin peaks the return

My first glimpse that something was deep wrong in America came while driving across it. It wasn’t the bullet holes in the door or blood covered sink in Kalamazoo. It wasn’t even the incredible parched surface of the drought stricken Midwest, where heavy machines ploughed useless dead wheat back into the dirt, and earth born again as an alien plant inhospitable to human life. Those things were real. And American reality has always been haunted, violent, and terrible. The problem was in the fantasy. In the fantastic America.

I’d always pictured driving across America in a certain way. Nothing so glamourous or exiting as a Beatnik road adventure but still a fantasy. I thought the food would be good. After all, America was built for the road. Without even trying to imagine it, I’d always believed there’d be an assortment of burger joints, hot dog stands, rib-spots, and strong coffee served at truck-stops. You can probably imagine the sort of places I pictured. Quirky little feats of architecture. Diners where the waitress calls you “hon.” Independent operators. Good grub. Big servings.

Those places do exist. Rarer every day but they are out there. I’ve been to them. But along the I-80? No. Along the I-80 it’s the same thing again and again and again. Fast food. Chain motel and meth-head parking lot. Corporate gas station. The same service center again. Again. Repeated on a loop from Michigan to California. Again and again. A constant return to the same place. Every time, more tired, more frayed and sketchy. More worn out from the same hamburgers. More tired from the same motels. More on edge from the same energy drinks. And here we are again. In the same place. Again and again. The skin wears off.

The American road fantasy was as parched as those wheat fields. Dead. Gone. Still there.

I hadn’t thought about this for a while. But thanks to the charity of a friend, I’ve been able to catch up on some TV. I’ve finally been able to see Twin Peaks, The Return.

It might be the best TV show I’ve ever seen. Even before I’d finished the series, I’d watched Episode 8 three times. If it were up to me, there would be whole channels of television that were like that episode. Just ambient dream channels. That would be most of TV.

I don’t want to get too deep into the weeds of why I liked the show so much or all the things I think it did so well. And, I should be clear, I’m not even a huge David Lynch fan. I like some of his stuff a great deal and other things I’ve just never been able to really get into. I love the original Twin Peaks, I like Blue Velvet, and The Elephant Man is pretty damn good too. That thing were he talks to the monkey on Netflix makes me laugh. I do think he has a really special set of skills. When it works for me, it works so well. There’s nothing like it.

The thing I want to talk a little bit about is the show’s sense of the American suburb. It’s not my favorite thing about the show (not sure I have one) or even what I think the show did best, but it’s one that resonates with me. That might be because it’s a sense of it that I tried to capture in some of the books I wrote while in California. You’ll never read these books. They’ll never be published. That might be for the best. I mean, my agent read them and then he fired me so, well, that’s the sort of thing that gives a person some pause. God knows, it sent me into a hot shed to drink a cold beer, listen to Johnny Cash, and think.

The sense is –and I’m not totally sure how he accomplishes this– is that the suburb feels both abandoned and fortified. It’s like a set. Unreal. Then sudden explosions of incredible violence. A neighbor you never see. Their house suddenly raided by police. A shootout. A weird Thomas Kinkade energy to the whole thing. Houses without humans. Stand outside on a hot Sacramento day and it’s bright and clear and hot and no one is there. Just the loud hum of air conditioners. It all feels inhuman. And it’s gone sinister.

I’d never lived in a suburb before California. I was raised in the country, then in a village, then at 18 I moved to the city. To me, the suburbs felt what I imagine living in Soviet bloc housing must have felt like a decade after the fall of communism. Like living in an abandoned monument to a dead dream. I’d heard that many of the houses made money by allowing porn shoots. Others were just called ‘ho-houses’ and others ‘dope houses.’ You can imagine what happened in there and in there was about every third house. Every time I raked my lawn, I’d find empty plastic drug bags. Never really saw where they came from. Come home, there might be a single high heel shoe and purse in my driveway. For some reason. It just remained a mystery.

Suburbs are often thought of as affluent places. Now, one I lived in wasn’t like that. It was blue collar. A sort of base level for the American Dream. Hollowed out by 2008. But I knew people who lived in more moneyed suburbs. And while their neighborhoods felt less like occupied territories and more like fortified management zones, they were under lockdown due to GUNMAN ON THE LOOSE just as often as we were. Maybe more.

There’s a sort of longstanding narrative trope about the suburbs They’re places where there’s a sort of oppressive conformity on the surface and a deep yet materialistic perversion below the appearance. Ballard did a lot of stuff like that, I think, but the trope is pretty widespread and, I think, predates him by quite a ways. It’s a lot of noir, Stepford Wives, Desperate Housewives, and just a bunch of fiction. It’s all sort of Peyton Place.

But The Return seems to get that the appearance is gone. Or different. That the neighborhoods themselves no longer look desirable. They look unhuman and unoccupied. There’s no keeping up appearances because there’s no one even looking. It’s a psychotic and paranoid zone where everyone had retreated deep inside. A place where people can only communicate with each other through violence. It’s all borders and isolation.

To be sure, Twin Peaks has its fantastic and surreal elements. But The Return is solidly grounded in truth. It’s not dealing with obsolete narrative tropes. It’s grounded. It’s the actual psychic terrain. And that’s the sort of science fiction or, Satan help me, “art” that I like. I can’t pretend to do it near as well as Lynch but it’s what I try to do. I don’t give a shit about predicting how things will be in the future, I only want to capture some of how things feel in the present. Speculative elements are often required. A more talented writer could probably do without them. I can’t. Nor can I sell any of it. But, I’m fucking thrilled someone can.

And it’s awesome to see it on TV. To see TV that expands the possible.

It’s unusual to see anything like The Return on television. I think a lot of that is because to get something on TV, even to get something published, you have to be able to pitch it like “this is like _____ meets ____.” But so much of ____ is just so fucking obsolete.

And fiction is stuck using obsolete methods to communicate with dead tropes. It just keeps bringing us back to the same fucking place. Again and again. And again.

log: final (hopefully)

벌레 일지 WORMDATE: 16,471,940(+118,504): 834(-16): 21,354(+130 )(0.13%)

On Monday, South Korea lifted all virus related restrictions with the exception of the mask mandate. No curfews, no size limits. The disease level of COVID has been downgraded to the level of cholera and tuberculosis. Hospitals are returning to regular medical function and the president has thanked medical workers for their service. This will, hopefully, be the last 벌레 일지. Hopefully. I remember how badly the last return to normal went so . . .

All and all though, if this is it, I have to say, I feel very lucky to have rode this nightmare out in South Korea. That’s not to say the response has been perfect. In a lot of ways, it could have been better. But, overall, I think the country has done well. We did get hit hard by Delta and then Omicron – one of which fucked with the vaccines and the other, which fucked with vaccines and also spread too fast for Trace, test, and treat to keep up with. Some bad luck.

very early days

The longer this thing dragged on, the less effective the interventions became. Some of that is probably due to uncharted waters. In the early days, South Korea had a lot of experience with SARS and MERS and a playbook to deal with these sorts of things. But, as it wore on, that playbook, which was geared towards elimination, started to get a bit obsolete. Like we did get it down to zero cases in 2020 (I think) but fat lot of fucking good that’s going to do when so much of the world was determined to do nothing at all. Well, that’s being generous. A lot of the world did less that nothing. In some cases, nothing might have been better. Too often leaders just lied, did exactly the wrong thing on purpose, and deliberately, belligerently squandered just about every chance to fix the situation as a matter of policy.

Not that I’m bitter. But I am.

So we now have a much worse version of the flu floating around and that’s just how it is now. At some point, we had a chance to eliminate this thing. That ship has sailed. We’re stuck with a new disease. This COVID thing is endemic.

That word gets tossed around a lot. Often it’s used to mean something like ‘better than pandemic.’ But endemic doesn’t mean a disease is mild or even under control. It just means that you can’t get rid of the fucker. Malaria and AIDS are also endemic. COVID being endemic is not a triumph. It never should have been a goal. It’s a huge fuck up.

But it is what it is. And it’s where we are.

very early days

So where are we? I’d say in about the same situation as before. With a disease, you have 3 big factors: host, virus, and environment.

The host has been toughened up through the vaccines and immunity. The virus remains a bit of a fucking wildcard, spreading through humans and animal reservoirs, and still very capable of some very scary mutations — any one for which might render the toughening of the host moot, and toss us back to square one, but more tired, fucked up, and in worse shape than before. Our best chance at dealing with this situation is about the same as it always has been. We need to modify the environment.

What exactly that means changes but, in general, our environment has to become less hospitable to contagious respiratory infections.

That means some relatively simple things like cleaning and ventilation. It also means some social measures. Allowing remote work, reducing class sizes, and generally better funding of social programs. Better healthcare, elder care, and more rights for the vulnerable and the disabled. There also needs to be better and more sick time. Sick time needs to be expanded, paid, and encouraged. Workers should also have health and safety committees that operate outside of management and have real authority. Workers should be able to shut workplaces down at the blow of a whistle. Fuckery from bosses needs to be limited.

On the level of prevention, I think the WHO needs much better funding and a more robust surveillance network. We also need to reduce and better regulate the human nature interface –particularly in farming–and pull back a bit from the wild world while making the tame world more sustainable and capable of running without so much extraction and exploitation. Zoonotic diseases are no joke. And as long as we keep pressing hard into the wild, more of these things are coming. Worse ones. Bleed through your eyes ones.

To my mind, all of these things were good ideas before COVID and remain good ideas now. With or without a pandemic, they’d make for a better society. The resistance to most of them from bosses who make a buck off low taxes, bad regulations, and inequality is to be expected. I cannot, for the life of me, understand why anyone else would object.

The world is pretty shit. A better one is possible. Like, not for anyone currently alive. It will all worse for us until the day we die. That’s how it will be no matter what we do. As shit as these last few years have been, this is still ‘the good old days.’ It’s all going to get much worse than we think much sooner than we expect. But that’s no reason avoid start fixing things. If anything, it’s a reason to start fixing things. I mean, seems to me, you want it to be ‘gets worse before it gets better’ situation instead of a ‘gets worse before it gets even worse’ situation’ but what the fuck do I know. Improvement is possible. It always has been and always will be. At least, until it just totally isn’t. And I don’t think it requires millions of deaths to see that improvement is also needed. If anything, I think those deaths make it all more difficult. But this is the hand we’re dealt so we just have to play it, I guess.

Comet Fragments

It’s about time to clear out some links. In an sorta related note, I’m kinda thinking about bringing back a blogroll on this site. It was probably one of the things I enjoyed most about the old one. Only thing is. it seems pointless. I read so few blogs these days. But I don’t know, maybe a blogroll would get me reading more. Dunno. Anyway . . .

Why the environment needs a shorter working week: There’s a lot of reasons for a shorter working week. Not least of which is that a life of pleasant and creative leisure spent among beautiful things just seems like something we should all be striving towards. I mean, having to pin that goal to the survival of the planet is a bit depressing. Not as depressing as people who think society should be producing jobs and work but, still, it seems like symptom of an atrophied imagination.

First Ever Body Maps of Hallucinations Created: I just like maps of hallucinations, sensations, imaginary maps, maps of imaginary things, so on and so forth. Here there be dragons.

South Korea under Compressed Modernity: Just a book I want but Routledge so, you know, yikes! But I guess it’s like

The condensed social change and complex social order governing South Koreans’ life cannot be satisfactorily delineated by relying on West-derived social theories or culturalist arguments. Nor can various globally eye-catching traits of this society in industrial work, education, popular culture, and a host of other areas be analyzed without developing innovative conceptual tools and theoretical frameworks designed to tackle the South Korean uniqueness directly.

The conceptual tool is something called compressed modernity and, yeah, I’m curious.

Critical distance: redistributing Korean criticism: Keeping with South Korea for a moment, this is an interesting piece, though it’s a bit all over the place and academic for my tastes. I’m not totally sure what its point is, but I enjoy it nonetheless.

There Is Nothing Normal about One Million People Dead from COVID: This should probably all go without saying. What a world that would be!

Reading on a smartphone promotes overactivity in the prefrontal cortex and lowers reading comprehension, study finds: I think the argument about what’s better, screens, ereaders, or print was one of the dumbest arguments I’d ever seen until well . . . All the other ones? One side talked about “dead trees” and the other “the smell of books”. One side seemed to negate content while the other negated the senses. None of it seemed like a thing worth arguing about. But I personally hate reading on screens. Can’t retain it. But this study actually has some recommendations about how to correct for some of that. So useful? Maybe.

COVID has scientists rethinking how night owls work and sleep: Long and short of it is night owls did pretty well once they were able to set their own hours. I think this is an underexamined part of the whole mess — that is, some of the changes that are often treated as a bad thing were often, for some people, a pretty good thing. Some people prefer wearing masks in public and benefit from it. Some people, myself included, benefitted from more things moving online. Moving forward, I think we need to understand some of these benefits so that we don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater. But, you know, we’ll probably douse the baby in gasoline if The Shareholders can turn a buck on it.

Not everyone is ready to unmask: Along those lines, an interesting piece on how many South Koreans like wearing a mask as a way to dodge lookism.