Crafting a Healthy Masculinity (Part 2): Ending Martyr Culture

Martyr Culture is not particularly masculine, but it is endemic in American masculinity. It's the mindset that says you have to sacrifice everything to have any worth. In that way, it's sort of at the crossroads of capitalism and toxic masculinity.

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Edgar's Book Round-Up, April-June 2019

First of all, I realize June is not yet over. But I have read fifteen of the thirty books on my Goodreads goal, so it seemed like a good time to do another book round-up. It’s been a bit of an odd go, for reasons that will hopefully become clear, but we’ll see. Also worth noting is that most of the links do go to Goodreads pages; they are not subsidizing me, but it seemed more useful than anything else. (Image is The Magician King by Lev Grossman, which is mentioned but not pictured in the piece.)

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Lessons from Architecture: What not to do with Paradigm and Syntax

For us, this is the end result of an unconsidered aesthetic: a building is not a sculpture. It is something that actual people have to use, and if it makes them feel anxious or depressed to be there, then it's a failure as an artistic project. It makes it so that they can't function, because a building envelopes the people within it – it becomes the totality of their environment. If it's bad, then they don't have a choice but to feel bad because we don't get to choose jobs based on the architecture.

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The Collapse of Possibility: The Problem of Aesthetics and Ontology in Science Fiction

But all of this is beside the point: the fact that we can pick out two dominant aesthetics in the visual media form of what is supposed to be a “literature of ideas” is a problem. It indicates, if anything, a lack of ideas. If our options are just a visual vocabulary iteration of the old Star Wars vs. Star Trek debate that no one but the people having it are interested in, we've got problems.

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Reality Gives Way to the Real: The Epistemic Crisis and the Damaging Omnipresence of the Sublime

While the news media sometimes talks about an Epistemic Crisis, or discusses the caustic effect that social media has on discourse, or features a think piece about how kids these days don't share the values of their elders, et cetera, et cetera. This isn't what I'm talking about, or not the whole thing. I feel that we are in a dangerous and critically important period of epistemic uncertainty. To whit, in addition to the examples that I mention, I want to introduce some anecdotes (which is an ironic move as far as proof goes; more on that some other time.)

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Ex-Child Prodigies and Broken Promises: The Millennial Meta-Narrative of Coping with Failure

I think that this resonates with many of us because we were given such reason to hope for the future when we were younger and it didn’t pan out. We were born in the “End of History,” when western liberal democracy had triumphed over the Soviet Union, and the future was supposed to just be an asymptotically perfecting version of the present with no huge revisions.

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Some Notes on Aesthetics

We have been taught, in a variety of ways that aesthetics are bullshit: in part, and not unreasonably, because what do Truth and Beauty (yes, with title caps) mean to a world that had, y’know, the whole twentieth century, and has so far made a fucking hash of the twenty-first?

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No More 5AMs: On Trash Television, Suits, Disco Demolition, and Cryptids

This is the last 5AM I have for the foreseeable future – I'm not coming back next semester, as Edgar and I are moving. While I don't like waking up early, I think being up early is quite nice: in the dawn light, during what John Steinbeck called “The hour of the pearl” in Cannery Row, there's a pleasant, unfinished quality to the world. Almost like a level in a video game that isn't done rendering: a sense that anything can slide into existence, remade and renewed. Of course, the effects on my health are more than I like. Falling asleep at 9PM, and becoming incoherent for a time before then, has taken its toll. I already have enough bad habits, I don't need this on top of it.

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A Wind Out of Nowhere: The Utopian Impulse

That’s a bit of a left turn, there at the end, but it’s on my mind a lot lately. Give a well-educated person not one but two jobs where their major duty is reading signs to people and you’re bound to get weird.

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New Music with Edgar

So, last year, I did something possibly very dumb, and joined a group dedicated to emo music on facebook. I say “possibly very dumb” because the group has metastasized wildly, with spin-off groups proliferating like spider plants. But joining this group did have an unintended side effect: for the first time in years, I felt compelled to keep up with new music releases. And it was fun! It’s still fun! It even lead to me making a list of my favorites from 2018 (though somehow in writing the list I super forgot to even mention Cursive’s Vitriola, which I loved very much, and, of course, the fact that I only heard about some great 2018 releases after the turn of the year).

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Edgar's Book Round-Up, January-March 2019

I haven’t been reading as much this year, or at least not as many books. I think I’m still reading with the same frequency, but this year I decided to dial back my Goodreads challenge number, because I wanted to read some denser, odder stuff. I found that in trying to read many books (last year I hit 45, which I think is pretty good considering I periodically do other stuff), I was privileging briefer ones. That’s no bad thing — efficient style is nothing to be sneezed at, and frankly I think we should all be reading more poetry — but I had been eyeballing a few longer and more intense pieces for quite some time.

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Cameron's Book Reviews: Spring 2019

Alex is hard at work on the next episode — as Episode 8 is to Edgar, so Episode 9 is to me, so I’m very excited for it. Of course, we’re admittedly a bit behind: it’s inevitable. Alex works tech support, I’m an Adjunct, Charlie has a job at a museum. We’re not always able to put the time towards our creative endeavors that we would like.

One thing, however, that we can manage, is to read: we’re all avid readers, and we try to stay abreast of what’s going on with the written word. Here are some highlights from what I’ve read this Spring.

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"Do You Consider Yourself Anti-Capitalist?": On Making Political Art

My parents are renovating the house I grew up in, and their kitchen has been unusable for some time. As Edgar can attest, one of my primary means of showing affection is making food for people: for me, nothing shows care quite so much as sharing a home-made meal, so I brought them dinner (vegetarian chili, with a small container of browned beef alongside it, in case they didn’t want to have it vegetarian.)

While there, I spoke to my mother about the ongoing loneliness epidemic that has been on my mind lately: I’m an adjunct instructor, and I’ve recently gotten a crop of so-called “Generation Z” students. These young people are (according to experts,) the most isolated generation in recorded history, and who have the most precarious mental health situation of any living generation, succumbing in record numbers to anxiety and depression. I am I feel, not improperly, worried about them.

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