Enthusiasms

Enthusiasms is an edited stream of consciousness, by Simen.

Trondheim

Jul 4, 2014

I’m not an active member of this community, but at some point I must have registered, because every year, they send me this creepy poem. Happy birthday to me, in case I’m not around next year.

Jun 19, 2014

What a well-shot show.

Jun 13, 2014

May 22 / June 5, 2014

Jun 5, 2014

obsoletesince98 said: where are your themes

You mean Tumblr themes? Here is the first theme I made back in 2007, which hasn’t been updated since and doesn’t support all the many features Tumblr introduced since then. Here is Asterism, which was based on a previous design of this blog and now sits in the theme garden. The code for science tumbled is not public. I used to give out the code to my current design on Enthusiasms.org as well, but recently, Tumblr reset my theme to default, citing “detection of malicious code” as the cause.

I haven’t bothered emailing them about it because I figure it was done by computer analysis, and not by a human. Any human would have seen there was nothing malicious about my code, which I had been using on this blog for the past 3-4 years virtually unchanged and never before heard a complaint. And since it probably was a bot, there will probably not be any explanation as to what exactly was malicious forthcoming

Unfortunately, I forgot to save the latest small tweaks I made to the theme anywhere other than Tumblr, and so lost all my code, and had to use surprisingly much time trying to recreate those small, small changes from a previous version of the code without introducing new bugs. Needless to say, I am not very pleased with how Tumblr handled this. I would much prefer it if they had an actual human verify the presence of malicious code before they wiped the slate clean. I suppose given the millions of blogs hosted on Tumblr, they just don’t have the manpower available. And maybe it’s a lot to ask for special treatment, but as part of the first batch of people to design for Tumblr, who’s had a decently popular theme accepted into the theme garden personally verified and even updated by Tumblr employees, who maintained the largest third-party Tumblr theme repository before Tumblr made their own solution, and who’s been using the same code for four years without issue, I’m a little disappointed that an algorithm gets to decide that my work is malicious and promptly delete it.

Because of all this, I’m reluctant to give out any more theme code unless it’s been approved by Tumblr employees through their theme garden, as I simply don’t know what is and is not going to be picked up as potentially malicious by their bots—clearly, there are false positives, and I don’t know what to do to avoid them because by definition of “false positive”, having your code fail the criteria (malicious code) isn’t enough. I don’t want anyone else to get in trouble

Since you asked, I figured I’d make this little complaint of mine public. When I’ve dealt with Tumblr employees in the past, they have seemed like good people, but those interactions were mainly in the earlier days, before Tumblr became a social media behemoth, got bought by Yahoo, expanded from Marco and David to—what, hundreds of employees by now?—and so on. There are unfortunate consequences to such rapid expansion, both in terms of company structure and user base: what once could be done manually must now be automated, but algorithms, while they are efficient and in many ways more accurate than humans, also make mistakes that humans never would. And so I get an impersonal message saying that undisclosed issues with my code have marked it as potentially malicious and, instead of telling me why and what and asking me personally to fix it, they simply delete all my shit automatically. It feels like Tumblr are a bunch of bastards, but I suspect it’s just the unfortunate reality of becoming such a large company and there is no way they could reach out personally to everyone affected by their “malicious code detector” if they were to also run the other parts of the company and weed out the actual malicious code.

But still, it stings when they pull that shit on you.

May 6, 2014

03:30 CEST, May 4, 2014

May 4, 2014

the storm (2014)

Apr 22, 2014

Thomas Sæverud, Why Beauty is Ugly (2013)

Apr 9, 2014

Don’t see a bar with a Transformers pinball machine too often these days. This is where I met Reinhard as well, and where this lovely bit of décor hung on the wall.

Apr 8, 2014
Apr 8, 2014

A Real Person

"It’s better to burn out than to fade away," Kurt Cobain wrote in his suicide note, quoting a Neil Young Song. It isn’t, really, but it’s an incredibly attractive idea to the depressed. I’d rather go out like a supernova than a black hole, was my formulation of what is pretty much the same idea.

The single most accurate description of depression is perhaps—yes, indeed, I’m fucking going there—David Foster Wallace’s short story The Depressed Person. The titular person is a woman so utterly consumed with her own emotional pain that she completely lacks empathy for others—she cannot see her therapist, who will over the course of the story commit suicide, or her terminally ill friend as real people with their own stories, emotions, joys and sorrows and pains. Depression has made her what society would probably term “a narcissistic asshole.” She is an utterly unlikeable person, and she also believes this herself but fails to see completely how and why that is. To a person who has not experienced clinical depression, I suppose she is an asshole. And yet I like and identify with her.

To me, demanding empathy of a person so utterly consumed by their own pain is like asking a person lying between life and death at a hospital after a potentially fatal accident, bones shattered, to think of the poor children in Africa. Such a person is in so much pain that they become absolutely solipsistic—all that exists for them is their own pain. And yet obviously the reaction of others to this selfish assholishness is absolutely understandable, and it is something the depressed person halfway senses and therefore spirals further down. Frantically overloading her Support System—the clinical term Wallace’s fictional therapist invents to describe, basically, her friends, insofar as she has any real friends—with her own whining, she is consumed with emotional diarrhea. So consumed by her own pain is she, she can’t stop herself from being that person, and when she senses this, she only becomes more absorbed by the pain.

I can painfully recognize in myself these lines:

The feelings of shame and inadequacy the depressed person experienced about calling members of her Support System long-distance late at night and burdening them with her clumsy attempts to describe at least the contextual texture of her emotional agony were an issue on which she and her therapist were currently doing a great deal of work in their time together.

The depressed person confessed that when whatever supportive friend she was sharing with finally confessed that she (i.e., the friend) was dreadfully sorry but there was no helping it she absolutely had to get off the telephone, and had verbally detached the depressed person’s needy fingers from her pantcuff and returned to the demands of her full, vibrant long-distance life, the depressed person always sat there listening to the empty apian drone of the dial tone feeling even more isolated and inadequate and unempathized–with than she had before she’d called. The depressed person confessed to her therapist that when she reached out long-distance to a member of her Support System she almost always imagined that she could detect, in the friend’s increasingly long silences and/or repetitions of encouraging cliches, the boredom and abstract guilt people always feel when someone is clinging to them and being a joyless burden. The depressed person confessed that she could well imagine each “friend” wincing now when the telephone rang late at night, or during the conversation looking impatiently at the clock or directing silent gestures and facial expressions communicating her boredom and frustration and helpless entrapment to all the other people in the room with her, the expressive gestures becoming more desperate and extreme as the depressed person went on and on and on.

Text messages and Facebook chat have replaced late-night phone calls, but the issue is the same. The story, which deliberately overwhelms the reader by pounding the tragicomic pathetic qualities of the nameless depressed person into the reader, ends with the protagonist demanding, essentially, that her terminally ill “friend”—all her “friends”, all her Support System is something she secretly fears are a collection of characters who secretly loathe her but somehow tolerate her whining due to some sense of pity—tell her in detail what a terrible person she is.

And looking over my text and chat logs, here I sit, alone on a Saturday night, I recognize that all too well. But what the depressed person can’t see is that the way out of the self-conscious, solipsistic hell she is in lies in two simple things: first, she must somehow redirect her attention outwards, so that the pain fades away long enough for her to become a real human being with empathetic qualities, and second, that she must somehow let go of the fear that whatever person she burdens with her presence secretly loathes her and only tolerates her out of some sense of obligation—the latter, partially, by actually becoming A Real Person again, a person who is not a bore because they actually bring something to the table which is not simply a relentless focus on their own pain.

Both things are extremely hard, but extremely important. The temptation encapsulated by Cobain’s letter is to go the other way—in an attempt to redirect rather than deal with and make the pain away, turn the pain into pleasure. Rather than become an emotional black hole, to become a fiery hedonistic comet consuming and taking part in everything at once, drugs, sex, crime. To self-destruct gloriously, to go out blazing. Wallace didn’t go out blazing: he faded away and hanged himself. Cobain went the other way, with a shotgun and heroin and valium. The short story leaves the depressed person there, still alive, still desperately and pathetically attempting and failing to suck emotional energy out of her dying confidante.

The way to become A Real Person with both likable and empathetic qualities is to avoid either, to avoid both fading away and burning out. Sometimes, it seems easy. Other times, such as now, here I sit alone, remembering my attempts both at fading away and burning out—I have never attempted suicide, only vacillated between the two forms of self-destruction, the quiet solipsism and the loud hedonism—it seems awfully, terribly hard. I sit here looking at myself somewhat objectively as an accomplished, witty, engaging artist and writer with a score of followers on social media—and I see not A Real Person, but a fraud.

But this is hardly a public suicide note. I am not, in actual fact, a fraud. In actual fact, I am A Real Person convinced that I’m not. And so my attempt is to realize this by lying to myself until the lie becomes real, because the lie is real, it is a lie I can believe intellectually but have trouble accepting on an emotional level. And that is the sort of emotional failure that leads to the black hole—to the tragicomic depressed person so self-absorbed by pain as to become what she fears she is: a fraud, a drain, a bore, a black hole.

Some people find writing therapeutic. I’m not sure if I’m one of them. Perhaps it is because I don’t believe that thoughts are language; I don’t believe that, when I think I’m worthless, the words “I’m worthless” pop into my head. The thought happens on a much more primal level. And so while writing definitely requires sharper attention, it is not in itself the same as thought. And if it is not, then writing through an issue doesn’t necessarily think and process and finally, disassemble and eliminate the issue.

That doesn’t make writing worthless. Writing is communication, and good writing requires an attempt at making a sort of empathetic connection with the reader. One must anticipate, and therefore empathize, with the reader in order to communicate properly and eloquently what one has thought, and that is exactly the sort of exercise required to become A Real Person. To live the lie until it’s real.

There is no Nirvana. There never was. There is only life.

Yesterday, I was A Real Person and it went fine. Why not tonight?

Apr 5, 2014

It’s the little things in life, no? How many people noticed this in a busy train station?

Apr 2, 2014