Fail, fail, fail, fail, succeed

Author Archives: David Thomas Peacock

How I Deal With Calamity

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Washington’s dysfunction. Ukraine and Russia. Palestine and Israel. Global warming. Artificial intelligence.

Sometimes, against my better judgment, I find myself perseverating on this stuff to the detriment of actually living a fulfilling and meaningful life. And that, for me, is a mistake.

I can’t change any of it.

What I can do is treat other people with love and respect. Is that enough? Probably not, but it’s tangible and makes me (and hopefully the people I come in contact with) feel good. In my own small way, I’m trying to make the world better one person at a time.

It’s the only thing I have any control over.

Consciousness (Part 1)

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First question: If your consciousness is a manifestation of who you are, is it somehow attached to your ego?

Psychedelic experiences would indicate no — a big part of the fear and anxiety that can manifest in a bad trip results from the dissolution of one’s ego — a profoundly disorienting experience for those not prepared (set and setting, folks; these aren’t recreational drugs).

If true, this would seem to open up a deeper question, one that will send us down a very deep rabbit hole indeed.

If consciousness is not attached to our ego, and can be fully experienced separate from our ego, then what is it?

You’ve Already Won

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It’s really hard to do. Letting go of the past, not living in the land of regret and shame over what you were unable to do. Not perseverating about the future, about all the things that are going to make your life somehow better.

Just living in THIS MOMENT. Enjoying it. The feeling of being alive, the exhilaration of simply being.

This is the gift of life. You have everything you need to be happy right in front of you, and it’s free.

Enjoy!

Memes As Comedic Art (Part 1)

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My wife sent me the following meme this morning. The split second it took my brain to process what I was seeing lasted just long enough to set me up for one of the biggest spontaneous laughs I’ve had in days.

I’m really fascinated by this. The timing of the neurological response, the recognition of the cultural touchstones, the utter ridiculousness of it all — each piece coming together, one after another, all leading to the payoff. It’s such a beautifully human thing.

Shuteye (Part 1)

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Sergey was sick of always being the outsider, always the one trying to claw his way up from the bottom. He’d been in this country for ten years, and what did he have to show for it? Beyond a poked-out left eye, not much. A small-time drug dealer with a side business selling arms to low-level criminals and would-be militias isn’t exactly an esteemed member of society.

And then he had Arseni to worry about. A half-wit, over-muscled little brother with a penchant for violence — a human pressure cooker with bad intentions just waiting for an excuse to blow. Sure, he came in handy when needed. The problem was he had had become very difficult to control. Zero to a hundred in the blink of an eye, and an amped-up Arseni wasn’t an easy genie to get back in the box.

And now he had this fucking guy to deal with. Oh well, what are you gonna do? Sergey smiled.

Americans — can’t live with ’em, can’t kill ’em, he thought. Or something like that.

The Vigil

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Keith Thomas directed his riveting debut “The Vigil” in 2019, and it’s a motion picture that is rare as an albino unicorn: a Jewish horror film set in the Hasidic community of Crown Heights, Brooklyn.

Holy fuck is it terrifying — on so many levels — yet none of them are quite like anything you’ve ever seen before. The “monster” is a malevolent entity in Jewish folklore known as a Mazzik that attaches itself to those unfortunate souls wounded by their trauma, people already haunted by the shame of their inability to stop the cruelty of their persecutors.

It’s a great, novel premise for a film, but its success depends on the director’s execution, and boy, does he succeed. This is yet another excellent example of how to make a nuanced, deeply unsettling film with a tiny budget that still has high production values. Essentially shot in an apartment with two main characters, it’s a masterclass in achieving the maximum desired effect with minimal resources.

Special shout-out to Dave Davis, the young actor who plays the damaged but very empathetic lead. This brilliant, haunting film will appeal to a broad audience far beyond its intended genre. Released in 2020, the year COVID killed cinema, it’s now being resurrected on streaming.

So grab your popcorn, turn down the lights, and check it out. You won’t be disappointed.

Big Surprise

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So you made something that really good — you tried to catch a moment in American history, and succeeded. But it’s not mainstream. I get it. It’s a very specific look at a fringe subculture that, by definition, most people aren’t familiar with.

But the characters and the story are cool, and better yet, real. It’s a snapshot of another time, about the underbelly of our culture and a group of people caught in a trap, trying to get out.

So, big surprise that no one’s beating down your door. Art, by definition, is already a niche thing. Underground art, doubly so.

Don’t be discouraged, and don’t question what you already know is good. Just keep making cool shit and do your best to promote it; the world can’t catch up unless they’re aware it exists.

The hard truth is, all interesting art doesn’t find a home. But that doesn’t stop real artists from continuing to make it.

Just To Be Clear

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This blog is seven years old. As far as I know, nobody’s reading it, which is fine by me. There was a period when I even stopped, thinking I was wasting my time.

But after a break, I started back up. Here’s why…

Writing is like a muscle. The more you do it, the better and more fluid you become. Writing fiction (my chosen area of focus) is labor-intensive. One must constantly read and study craft. Editing isn’t just necessary; it’s a critical part of the process.

A book’s not a book until it’s been properly edited, or at least it’s not as good a book as it would be if it were.

That’s where this blog comes into play. This is all stream-of-consciousness stuff, just thoughts into words, one after another. Hopefully coherent, but it doesn’t really matter if they aren’t. There’s no editing here, just a daily exercise in putting some words down on a page and making the thing public.

Exercising a muscle. Brain to paper. Not overthinking it.

So when I sit down to write fiction, the neurological connections needed are sharp and fluid.

Free Will or Pre-Ordained?

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Once an event occurs, good or bad, it’s easy to see it as simply inevitable. After all, it happened, right? How could it have been any other way? For me, second-guessing is a fool’s game—rolling back time and changing the events leading up to it isn’t an option. I don’t waste time on things I can’t change.

But if it couldn’t have been any other way, does that mean we have no free will? Sam Harris may have worked this out, but it’s still a little murky to me. We can certainly choose what to wear each day or what we want to eat. But choosing whether we will have cancer? I don’t think so.

So, I have to wonder how much of what we think of as free will is an illusion. I’ve always acted on the assumption that the choices I make will influence the outcome of my life, but as I get older, I’m not so sure.

Lacking hard evidence, however, I’m going to play it safe.

I’m still taking my vitamins.

Maria Popova

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Maria wasn’t on my radar until I recently heard her on a podcast. She makes her living reading and writing about what she reads, which automatically sounds like someone interesting, at least to me. She’s had a successful free blog since 2006: once called “Brain Pickings,” renamed in 2022 to “The Marginalian.” Somehow I missed this—it’s a big world—but better late than never.

If the mundanity of life has you down and your brain could use a pick-me-up, check it out.

You’re welcome!

Fucking With The Space-Time Continuum

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If you ever want to break your brain, try going down this rabbit hole. In fiction, breaking the laws of physics in a believable way isn’t something to be undertaken lightly.

Time and the 3-dimensional world it governs provide a framework for everything that has already happened, everything that is happening now, and everything that will happen in the future.

Within this construct, everything is connected to everything else—you can’t make changes in one time domain without affecting everything else—at least not without changing the laws of physics.

Of course, to do that, you’d have to create a new system of physics with its own laws.

See what I mean?

Evolution Is An Ongoing Process

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It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that humans are a “what you see is what you get” kind of thing; i.e. This is what we are, now deal with it.

Of course, this isn’t true at all. What you see now is not what you are going to get in the future because we are still evolving. And as long as humans exist, we will continue evolving. I’m not an evolutionary biologist, but it’s not too difficult to see this playing out in real time.

People used to have to remember (or figure out) how to navigate unfamiliar geography — how to get from A to Z. I know, because in another century, I drove a cab in Boston. If I had to do that today, I’d fail. My brain has now evolved to use GPS technology.

I’ve often thought that although smartphones aren’t actually physically attached to us, they’ve still become a kind of appendage. When was the last time you didn’t have your phone at arm’s reach? We are clearly evolving to merge with technology; how that plays out is anyone’s guess. But make no mistake, it’s happening.

Our environment spurs evolutionary changes. If something gives our species an edge, we’ll evolve to incorporate it into our biology, if possible. But biology can’t change quickly enough to keep up, so we’re using technology to help us.

The species is moving forward whether you like it or not. To deny it is to be left behind.