Sunday, 3 July 2022

The Wonder that Was Cambodia: an email written in 2010.


Last night's mandatory trip to the pub (that people pretend isn't mandatory) reminded me of various problems and shortcomings in/with Whitedom (I dare not say "White Culture", due to the paucity of culture).

It was an Australian-dominated event (though two French and two Americans were there) and when I asked various questions about what time I should arrive, etc., my boss told me to "lower [my] anxiety about the whole event" --as it was supposedly a very casual event, etc., and attendance was optional, etc., as it would be in Australia.

Instead, of course, it was very much the usual thing of respect mattering a great deal, but people wanting to pretend that it didn't.

And, of course, it really isn't a minor imposition: I was at work at 8:00AM sharp on Friday (and nobody else was; I was alone in the office for a fair while) --and now [my employer expects] me to hang out 5PM to past 8PM?  After discussing it with my boss, I showed up closer to 7:45 PM --looked at the menu in the place they had selected, and then immediately left to eat at a place two doors down ("Vego").

So, then I come back, fed, closer to 8:00PM.

[The implicit point being that everything on the menu in the first locale contained meat.]

There was one American guy there, who almost nobody knew at all (i.e., a recent/oblique friend of somebody on staff), who was close to coming to a fist-fight with me from the minute I sat down.  Typical white-ass stuff.  He'd had a few drinks, and has been in Phnom Penh for all of 6 months.  Apparently he teaches "International Relations" (i.e., pol. sci.) at Pannyashastra University --which tells you nothing about his background --and he became offended and defensive whenever questions were asked about his background (even his age).  Ian (my boss) was watching him carefully, as he noticed that the guy responded to almost everything I said with an insult (etc.) --including my remark that I normally (for the sake of simplicity) just describe my employment as "author" because "despite the details, I earn my living with a pen".  This, too, reflects the sadness of the situation: Ian really is the smartest guy in the room, with the longest research experience, but he isn't sitting at the head of the table.  Their white-Australian culture requires us all to mill about like pigs at the same trough --and we're not.  We all come to that trough with very different expectations of ourselves and of each other --and that boils down to respect.  I don't even remember the American guy's name --but I wouldn't be surprised if that did come to a fist fight at some random meeting in future (I assume he arrived unhappy about unrelated things --because I only discussed banal pleasantries in front of the guy).

Myself, the two French and one of the Australians (Andree) left again, to eat at the Indian place immediately next-door, shortly after I met the other professor (of Economic History, also at Pannyashastra, but British in origin) whom I was there to meet.

Most of these guys seem to be here for the wrong reasons --even if they're making a positive contribution of some kind.

After a long discussion of my research* I asked him (i.e., the British professor of Economic History) casually if he had already been interested in Cambodia before relocating here, and the answer was a flat "no": typically, he vacationed in Cambodia (after a divorce) and ended up with a second marriage (leading to a second divorce) and three half-Khmer kids.  I really don't think that Cambodia is a business you can marry into; but then, I could be shallow, crass, catty, judgmental and wrong.**

* [e.g., actual question he asked me:

  "What do you mean by saying your research is, 'obscure'?",

  My reply, "Have you ever heard of 'Pali' before?"


  "That's obscure."]

** [He did look the picture of a man who was killing himself with food and alcohol, perhaps not even gradually --and, you know, I don't regard the body and the mind as two separate things.  This, too, fills out the stereotype image of the white man who marries into a "career" (or semi-retirement?) on the Mekong --but can't actually walk up a flight of stairs.]

The two French are doing research pursuant to degrees in public health (they're not a couple, BTW, but obviously have a lot in common and hang out together).  We're of approximately the same age, and did "socialize well" together.  They're both specialists... but not specialists in Cambodia (nor the region).  One of them has prior work in West Africa (Nigeria, etc.) --and the other, I suppose, has ambivalent feelings toward Cambodia as she's obviously half-Vietnamese.  It would be interesting to hear her perspective on Phnom Penh --but I think she was already too drunk by that point in the evening.

[On another occasion, when she was entirely sober, this same half-Vietnamese half-French researcher would attempt to seduce me in front of my first wife, an anecdote that ended in a manner that was hilarious to everyone assembled --including my first wife.]

Shortly before leaving, I said to my boss, "Hm, I suppose A____ was too busy to make it.  I invited her, but she probably didn't have time to reply.  Did a nervous looking Swede approach you at any point during the night?"  He replied, "Yes, actually, there was a Swedish girl around here..." --so, I don't know if you tried to cross paths and then left (at one of the moments when I was away from the table) or if this was an unrelated Swede at the same bar.


Thursday, 30 June 2022

Hated by many, admired by few.


This contains an authentic example of an uncorrected typo (way vs. ways, in the image above).  I certainly hope you appreciate the authenticity.  ;-)


[Amanda, writing to me:] CALL TO ACTION (updated) by the Excelsior 4 team:  PLEASE SHARE THIS. Why: because the judge ruled against the jury seeing footage captured from Excelsior Hog Farm. Why this matters: the Excelsior 4 defendants are charged with, among other things, Mischief under the CCC. Mischief includes the prevention of lawful use of property, etc. The footage shows UNLAWFUL animal cruelty. Therefore, the judge has prejudiced the jury against the defendants. Reminder: you can share without viewing!


[My reply:] Henh?

Why are you sending this to my desk?

BTW, now four years later [i.e., four years after the last time she'd written to me], I can say: "read it and weep".


[Amanda:] Aren't you Vegan? I thought that meant we were on the same side: speaking for the animals. This case has three of my friends facing decades in prison for an action about 200 of us did three years ago. It was the largest mass action for animal rights in Canadian history. Since you speak so much about Veganism, I thought you would care. My mistake.

That is amazing you got a book published - congratulations! Why are you saying read it and weep? I think all forms of speaking for the animals is amazing. Great job!

It was suggested we send this action to people and groups with a large following. I assumed you were one of them.


[My reply:] (1) I am vegan.

(2) I am a dissident intellectual within the vegan movement: hated by many, admired by few.

(3) If you send me spam, you're going to be blocked as a spammer.  That is what you've done, so that is what I'll do.

(4) Read the book, and then you can get in touch with me —via Patreon, like everyone else— to let me know if you laughed more or less than you cried.

(5) Re: "I think all forms of speaking for the animals is amazing."  I don't believe you.  As life goes on, you will find there are some ways of speaking that are worse than silence still.


[Amanda:] I wish you find happiness and peace in this lifetime. It would make you a better activist. Yeesh. I sincerely feel sorry for you.


[My reply:] HA HA HA HAH A…

There's hardly a happier man in all the free world!

But I certainly doubt that you (or your friends) will find anyone happier in jail!

Monday, 27 June 2022

And if the cover is awful, this will be the collectible "first edition with awful cover". ;-)

No More Manifestos: the political philosophy of Eisel Mazard
is now "in print".

And if the cover is awful, this will be the collectible "first edition with awful cover".  ;-)

Yeah, as you can imagine… there's a reason why most self-published books on Amazon have just plain text on a colored background (as their front cover).  The editing software is… both limited and limiting.

You can change the suffix ".com" to the appropriate suffix for any other country to order from the nearest version of the Amazon website, e.g.,

However, if you order from Amazon Germany, the book will not be (magically) translated into German.  ;-) 

Wednesday, 22 June 2022

Advice nobody wants to hear: career and/or/as/vs. human nature.

1. I cannot provide advice on "career choices".  I can provide advice on human nature.

2. Most people give advice that is shaped (and warped) by their own positive experiences.

Someone who was a computer programmer 20 years ago may be profoundly ignorant as to how difficult it is to earn a living as a computer programmer today.

In the past, being a computer programmer was "easy money".  Now, it is easy poverty.

The man who is giving you this advice: he has "no skin in the game".

He is not thinking about the percentile chance that his advice will fail: he is not thinking about what you will do (how you will survive) if his plan is a failure.  He is thinking about this (and talking about this) as if it "can't lose".  It can.

You have to plan for the possibility of failure.

Many, many people in computer programming fail.

If you are not passionate about computer programming, and you are not talented in computer programming, why would you compete with people who are passionate and talented?  Maybe there is an answer to this question: MAYBE.

I have a reason to compete with the authors of children's storybooks, even if I am not especially passionate and talented about producing children's storybooks: I have an ethical reason motivating me to make the effort, even if I fail.  Some jobs may fall into this category (i.e., you're not talented at it, you're not passionate about it, but do it anyway).

However, in the year 2022, nobody in their right mind would say that computer programming is a "safe" or "easy" career compared to (e.g.) becoming a nurse, becoming an x-ray technician, or any of those other boring jobs attached to health services (some of which require very little formal education, and are actively sought out by new immigrants from third world countries for that reason: they are "a way to get ahead" soon after arriving in America, etc.).

Again, my commentary here is about human nature: I don't know you, and I don't know if you'd be the worse nurse in the history of the world or what.

3. With any kind of art (rap music, painting, stand up comedy, etc.) the verdict comes from the audience.  It doesn't matter what you think your art is worth, it doesn't matter if you find your own creation entertaining: either an audience exists for it, or else it does not.

I could repeat what I said about illustrated children's storybooks, above, under this heading: yes, there are some exceptions to the rule, and yes it is possible (e.g.) that it would be worthwhile for me to produce a series of children's storybooks that nobody appreciates aside from myself and five other people (because I have a sort of ethical reason to do so, etc.).

However, my point here is, under heading #3, that you have to ask the question of whether or not there's an audience that will embrace you: the rate of failure in the creative arts (and the performing arts, etc., "art" most broadly defined) is much worse than the rate of failure in computer programming.

4. You have to decide to what extent you're interested in working WITH your own nature, as opposed to AGAINST your own nature.

And the caveat is here: we are talking about your KNOWN nature --i.e., your nature inasmuch as it is known to yourself.

Most of us, up to a certain age, only know about ourselves, "I like video games".  We don't know what our talents are, we don't know what talents we lack.  We don't know if we would be a good police officer or a bad police officer.  We don't know if we'd be good at nursing, computer programming, etc., because we really don't know ourselves.

Knowing what classes you enjoyed in school (and what classes you did not enjoy) is similarly misleading.  If you enjoyed high school science class, that DOES NOT mean you'd enjoy a career in the sciences (it does not even mean you'd enjoy university level science classes).

Would a job that forces you to work in isolation (like computer programming) be good for you or bad for you?

Would a job that forces you to socialize with people (face to face, like nursing) be good for you or bad for you?

Consider the possibility that you don't know the answer yourself yet: you have to ask yourself questions about human nature in general, about YOUR OWN nature in particular, and then you have to decide the extent to which you want to challenge your own nature to change (i.e., work against it) as opposed to taking advantage of the inclinations/passions/talents you already have (working with your nature, not against it).

It would be much easier for me to write a comedy novel than to do stand up comedy; it would be easier for me to do stand up comedy than to make a documentary film; what's easiest may not be best for me ("personal growth"), may not be best for my audience, and may not be the best way to make money.

Sunday, 12 June 2022

I don't always tell people to quit video games.

As you can guess from the final sentence, this was addressed to someone who became hopelessly entwined in the great Tommy Tallarico fiasco of 2022.

Saturday, 11 June 2022

All those puppets for all those years.

If my daughter is seeing this one day: YEP, I KEPT THOSE PUPPETS WITH ME AT ALL TIMES, FOR ALL THOSE YEARS, even if you don't remember playing with them.

Q&A: The Nutrition and "Micro Economics" of a Vegan Diet.

I presume you can guess the broad outline of the question from the details of my answer.  ;-)


I am not bothering to narrate the fact that the single biggest economic difference you can make is between eating in restaurants vs. cooking for yourself: anywhere in Europe, NOT BUYING restaurant food (and not buying chocolate bars, etc., "convenience food") is much more significant than the slight difference in price between two competing items at the grocery store.

This disclaimer may be the real advice you need, and it may not be: some people don't realize that if they want to save money (on food, etc.) THE MAIN OPPORTUNITY they have to do so is refusing to meet friends in restaurants, or even refusing to buy convenience food while waiting for a bus after work (or after school, etc.).  Making your own sandwich is always cheaper than paying someone else to make a sandwich for you —but in Europe, this difference is dramatic (whereas in China, many people eat in restaurants three meals per day, because the difference in price is very slight).

I have never lived in Sweden, but my experience is that 90% of the groceries available in France are also available in Germany and Greece —i.e., the options are overlapping and similar throughout the E.U. bloc (but, admittedly, Spain would be better for fruit and vegetables than Sweden, at opposite ends of the E.U. climate spectrum, and I aside you rely on many things imported from Spain, as even the British do).

The fundamental strategic decision you need to make is this:

Will you get protein from a powder, or from beans, peas and lentils?

Canada produces vegan protein powder: the cheapest I can get costs less than 15 Euros per kg —more expensive brands (THAT ARE NOT BETTER, IMHO) cost about 27 Euros per kg.

If you're buying protein powder, everything else in your vegan diet is easy, both economically and nutritionally.

If you have vegan protein powder and a multivitamin pill every day, the rest of your diet can be cereal and soymilk, and you'll be fine —although if you want to make the effort to eat salad every day, go right ahead (although you know very well this will cost you more time and money).

The question becomes somewhat more interesting if/when you decide NOT to rely on protein powder (and, again, economy is a factor here, as you've posed the question in this way).

What is your major, daily source of protein going to be?

White rice with yellow lentils?  Canned peas?  Beans that you buy dry, and prepare in a pressure cooker?

Whatever the choice you make, everything else in your diet is going to revolve around this decision: if the "backbone" of your diet is white rice with (Brazilian) black beans at every meal, then the other vegetables / side dishes that accompany this will be influenced by the procedure of preparing the rice and beans.

You're not going to combine black beans with bread and strawberry jam.  You could, but you won't.

The economic problem is just failing to think these things through: if you eat "impossible burger" style processed food as your main source of protein, it will massively increase your costs over any of the options narrated above.  Obviously, if you try to eat a diet based on tropical fruit (in Europe) it would massively inflate your costs.  The first can happen accidentally, as people just start buying packaged and processed main courses for convenience without thinking it through; the latter (a mango based diet, etc.) never happens accidentally (it happens ideologically).

All of Europe has high quality lentils available.  Canada does not.  All of Europe has high quality canned peas available.  Canada does not.  This is hardly an exhaustive list: it would be really depressing to get into the details of how abominably poor the quality of food is in Canada.  Lettuce is bad here.  Basically all fruit and vegetables are bad here.  Everything here is worse than Europe AND worse than Asia (e.g., worse than Taiwan, not just worse than Thailand).

In any given social context, there are limits to how much money you can save on food, without changing your social context: if you really want to save money beyond what I've described above, refusing to watch movies, refusing to drink alcohol, or moving into an apartment with cheaper rent (etc.) will all be more significant that the difference between (e.g.) the cost of lentils and the cost of black beans —or the cost of protein powder and any/all beans.

In the 21st century, food is obsolete: all you need to live is contained in the vitamin pill, the protein powder, and then practically anything (such as cereal and soymilk) to make up your remaining "macros" (i.e., the sheer number of calories you'd need to live).  We all live in the shadow of this obsolescence, not wanting to face up to its implications, because this entails that our whole culture of cuisine is obsolete, and a large portion of our notion of happiness (and enjoyment) is obsolete, too.

Friday, 10 June 2022

Tkyosam, defender of the unexamined life not worth living.

You can learn a whole lot from examining other people's mistakes, and you can learn nothing at all by ignoring them.

The Lao Language in 2022: AGAIN.

I can't exactly say that I'm learning Laotian, but…

Wednesday, 8 June 2022

The Psychology of Vegan Gains: Final Judgement.

 Re: "But, in general it seems Vegan Gains has no will to live."

This is my honest assessment: I think he has just lived a very childish life…

…and it is easy for most people to think, "Doing childish things will make me happy, because they made me happy when I was a child".

Part of the tragedy of adult life is that those things can't make you happy anymore: I can't play Sonic the Hedgehog all day and be happy.  I can't play the board game Monopoly and be happy.  I can't read comic books and be happy.  I can't.

Richard remains mystified that doing these things to make himself happy "doesn't work" —and if you include illegal drugs (mushrooms, etc.) he now has quite a long track record of trying to "cure" what's "wrong" with himself, when these things that are supposed to make him happy leave him feeling empty / miserable.

Re: "When he repeatedly claims he hates children and people…"

Honestly, I don't even believe that's true of him, although he insists that he's a misanthrope himself: I think he loves people and wants to be loved by them.  Even his narcissism and grandiosity are attempts at being loved (demands to be loved) whether it's by his faceless audience or by particular people.

What would you say if you knew a dog that only wanted to cuddle with baby goats, but hated and feared puppies, i.e., babies of its own species?  Richard cuddles with dogs, cats, rabbits, etc., treating them AS IF they are human babies, while insisting that he has this violent hatred of babies and raising children: he treats his pets as children that never grow up.

(And yes, by the way, I philosophize about this issue in the book: Future of an Illusion.)

So, even in this respect, I do not think he knows himself.  He doesn't know what would make him happy.

Re: "I was hoping there was some way for you and him to reconcile, because I do believe you can be a positive influence in his life.  Helping to bring a better message to the world about veganism and the future of effective political activism."

Thank you for saying that.

For several years, I tried to be a positive influence in Richard's life, and in Ask Yourself's life, and in the lives of many other flawed and immoral people (e.g., Vegan Cheetah!).

I tried.

But ultimately you have to come back to the same refrain: don't make excuses for people who make excuses.

Richard really is addicted to his excuses.

And, yes, in terms of my own values and biases in this situation…

…the "little" lies he tells (such as the story that Avi defeated me in a debate about anti-depressants) are —from my perspective— extremely damning indictments of the man.

Remembering things that didn't happen when it's convenient for you, forgetting things when it's convenient for you, and presenting stories to your audience (as fact) that you've made up out of thin air… I know that psychiatrists do not treat these as major signs of mental illness, BUT I DO.  I think these are very telling indications of someone being self-centered, delusional and frankly dangerous.

The truth doesn't exist as an end in itself, but a man's relationship to the truth does indeed reveal a great deal about the man.