Pavlos (pavlos) wrote,

Interests meme

1. Chomsky
There's this one guy at MIT who has a theory about how the world runs that's more self-consistent, more in line with the facts, more predictive, and altogether more credible than the various simplistic and emotional theories put forward by the mainstream media chorus. I subscribe to his theory. He's not the only one with that theory, of course. There are others who work on it and publicise it, like Monbiot, Thomas, Moore, and many more, but Chomsky is the most consistent and thoughtful proponent of it, and he's been at it for something like 40 years. At least for me, Chomsky is the voice that stops the world being as CNN says it is. And that's some big important role in the world for one old guy to have...

2. Doing everything from first principles
As a philosophy of life, I like doing everything from first principles. I think it's healthy and makes you a better person. So instead of taking a standard career path I tried to carve my own role and relationship with work. Instead of picking a prêt-à-porter relationship, I've got one that is defined as we go along. My flat contains three beds, one chair, three of my paintings, one of a friend's, and no TV. I hate shopping, because I see it as the traumatic experience of trying to reconcile my clear idea of what I want with what the shop tries to force me into. If I had the skill and energy, I'd make my own clothes. Also in technical work or in hobbies, I try to learn a new skill by first considering the problem from first principles, and then only consulting conventional wisdom on specific areas. This approach is slow to start, but extremely powerful in the long run. Once you get the hang of it, you can do everything.

3. Feminism
It's strange to have to explain, or, as a man, somehow justify, being a feminist. I'd expect everyone to be so, and maybe put feminism down as a vanilla interest, like music or travelling. Feminism has been the largest, longest running, most successful, and arguably most important social struggle ever to unfold on the planet. It's being fought now, and will certainly continue while we're alive. You have to have your head in a Ben Sherman shirt to not be a feminist... I can't explain it any better in a short space. The best I can say is if you aren't already a feminist go and re-examine your world view.

If anyone thinks this interest is incompatible with being a man, or with the following one, I roll my eyes in your general direction...

4. Good porn
Porn is great! I don't mean tolerable as a guilty pleasure, or good for me but not if others use it, but great. In general. It's a good thing. Porn is pretty and relaxing, it makes you horny, it wakes you up, and reminds you of the pleasure possibilities of being human. Porn is made by brave and giving people who share some of their sexuality with the world, and feels like a breath of fresh air compared to the scared, closed persona that most of us live in. We live, for better or worse, in a culture awash with images of all kinds, and not having sex among them, because it's taboo, is deeply damaging.

Unfortunately, most of the porn you can actually get is horrible. It's full of messages like women as prizes, aggressive maleness, repressed male sexuality, weak female sexuality, women as pathetic simpletons, and other disgusting stuff. It's like watching a film about Africa made by deeply racist Victorians, and it's only tolerable as far as you can block all that and focus on the performers as real human beings. So my interest is in some good porn that's not like that please.

5. Good techno
It might come as a surprise to you, but there is in fact such a thing as good techno. The grating, repetitive noise that you hear in a mainstream "dance" club is just that. There exist a very different kind of techno that's rich, subtle, interesting, better for dancing, altogether pleasant and conducive to feelings of happiness and affection. And all that without taking e, although it helps. I think good techno is today the young and living genre where creative music happens, as Jazz was in the beginning of the 20th century. It doesn't work for home listening, though. You have to experience the real semi-live performance in a club and dance to it.

6. Improvising music
I like, as cija says, to put my hands on a keyboard and move them around. I'd like to try a continuous-tone instrument too, like a violin because violins are godly, but I thought I'd start somewhere. I enjoy making music this way as a physical and sensory pleasure, like dancing, and not like a constructivist act of creation such as writing. Although I admire the ability to execute a work of music, I've no interest in learning to do so because I don't think it would give me any pleasure, in the same way as I have no interest in learning proper dance moves. Incidentally I don't want to learn music theory either, because I think the ability to analyse music would ruin my enjoyment of it, as the ability to analyse films has done and that is quite enough thanks. So I'm never going to be a good musician but I'm certainly enjoying myself.

7. Politics
Well, duh! yes, I'm interested in politics, as should be obvious from reading the rest of this list and my journal in general. What is there to say about it is that politics has two meanings, and I'm absolutely not interested in the other one. I'm almost never interested in the machinery of politics: What George Bush or Tony Blair said, party positions on issues, the big controversy of the month, declarations by people like the G8, televised debates, and all that. I think all that is a sort of anti-politics, the output of an elaborate machine designed to control the public and prevent engagement of actual people in actual politics. Although I still think elections are important, I don't think they actually work, or that there's much point in engaging directly with the formal political process.

I think people nominally have control in a democracy but money and power really does. In the long run, whoever is elected does what money and power dictate. The way to change the world is to shift the balance of power and let the popular vote and official policy follow, not the other way round. In that sense, pretty much everything you do in your life is a political act, including inaction or unthinking spectatorship of TV politics.

8. Redemption from privilege
So, I'm a white, male, rich person born into a middle-class family with upper-middle-class aspirations, raised in an expat community in the third world, and untouched by any real hardship or crisis. I earn quite a bit today from my (mostly ethical) job and will probably at some point inherit a ludicrously valuable (if unproductive) pair of houses in Greece. Going by any kind of selfish or class interests, I ought to be a callous, smug, deeply conservative, property-amassing and generally vile person. I try very hard not to be these things, and to reverse as much as I can the prejudices I grew up with. It's a long and difficult journey, with much blundering, humbling, and self renewal.

Although I try to avoid the pursuit of being obscenely and needlessly richer, I don't want to simply renounce wealth like some Jesuit priest. That would make me frustrated and perhaps harmless, but not particularly a better person. I try to be a good person despite being fortunate, and as much as possible make myself useful. To those who say "yeah, you'll just change when the revolution comes" I say "it's you who will change when our roles are reversed". I've no interest in simply turning over who has the privilege.

9. Reviewing
That's a minor interest of mine. I hate reading ostensible reviews that are in fact summaries of the thing they're supposed to be reviewing. The purpose of a review is to tell you if something is good or bad, and in what respects, so that you can decide whether to experience it or not. I don't understand how reviews get printed that give plot summaries of movies, or technical details of goods. So since the prevailing standard is so poor, I thought I'd write some reviews of my own. Also, I think giving people access to sensible reviews is a good thing, information being power and all that...

10. Sex work
I've a strong interest in the politics and reality of sex work, meaning prostitution, porn acting, and to some extent stripping. Partly this is from a sense of admiration, partly from a sense of justice against the victimisation of sex workers, and partly from a political sense that open, public sex is a good thing worth defending and de-stigmatising. To a lesser extent, it's also an interest in finding how things actually are, since so many people who know nothing of the matter monopolise debate about sex work. Overwhelmingly, the biggest issue that came up when looking into it in any way at all was victimisation and abuse of sex workers by customers, third parties, and the law. Not subtle life-work issues, not self-hate or doubt, not general health issues, not discretion, just basic human rights and ways of dealing with violence.

Incidentally, when I was about 10 years old I felt that sex work was impossible except under desperate pressure - too horrible to contemplate. And I felt the same about gay sex. So much about innocence as a guide...

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