Citizen Tleilax

Is Your Position Intellectual or Emotional and Egotistical?

One of the fundamental aspects about an intellectual position is that it is always open to improvement and modification when new, relevant information comes along. It is never completely closed off because it inherently seeks to be constructed out of the most effective pieces of data available. A position may be strong and well-developed, but it would be difficult to ever consider it “complete” because it is unknown when previously unconsidered information may be presented.

When people take their positions personally, their attitude ceases to be intellectual and they become blocked off from learning when the opportunity presents itself to them. Because they have now invested emotional and egotistical energy into the position, they find it too difficult to face challenges without perceiving them like personal attacks on their own character. The position becomes too interwoven with their individual identity to continue viewing it objectively–thus the position is “complete”, because any modification to it would consequently cause emotional stress, and incoming challenges are thenceforth treated as negative and threatening. Under these circumstances, not only are challenges difficult to face without becoming heated, it becomes much more difficult for an individual to accept that they may hold an incorrect view on something. The occurrence of a view being incorrect is raised to the much more potent feeling that they as a person are incorrect. Thus they may reject relevant information, even when it is clearly presented to them–essentially they behave in a manner exactly opposite to the behavior involved in holding an intellectual position, and focus on limiting rather than improving themselves.

There is nothing bad about being incorrect at any given point, as long as one makes an authentic effort to hold correct views; therefore there should be no embarrassment in being effectively exposed as wrong. Being wrong and moving on is far superior to attempting to save face while attaching oneself to a lesser position in order to do so–not to mention this behavior is relatively easy to observe, so face is not saved regardless; it is in fact further damaged. One should be grateful for the opportunity to be shown exactly how one is incorrect, for it will help improve their understanding and increase the efficiency of their operations. Every flawed position that is corrected helps not only the individual, but by extension has a positive influence on everybody the individual interacts with from then on, since every interaction influenced by an improved position will be coming from a more advanced level of conceptual development. All this being the case, I encourage everyone to be honest with themselves about whether the positions they are holding are informed more by a desire to learn, or or an emotional resistance to being challenged and a fear of being proven incorrect. It is by nature the sort of difference that frequently cannot be hidden, as whether one reacts emotionally or intellectually to a legitimate challenge is often clear to all observers.

Pseudovegan Freeganism, Pescetarianism, and Flexitarianism – Linguistic Accuracy and the Appropriate Usage of Dietary Terms

What I call “pseudovegan freeganism” is when a supposed “vegan” eats i.e. a dairy product because they received it for free, but someone else purchased it and any generally reasonable non-vegan would just as readily have consumed it were it given to them instead. One cannot, for example, have a friend buy a cheese pizza and then receive slices from it for free if one is authentically freegan or vegan. The product and industry were economically supported, therefore making this sort of freegan not actually a full vegan, and instead a person who either misunderstands or simply likes the title but does not follow the logic all the way through. If one is freegan, one does not eat non-vegan items unless they come from or are absolutely destined for the trash.

I feel that clear definition and usage of terms is important for linguistic accuracy and understanding each other better. Similarly, people should call themselves “pescetarians” instead of “vegetarians” if the only meat they eat is fish, and “flexitarians” if they occasionally eat other meat. These words exist for this purpose (and are actually pretty cool sounding), so they should be used accordingly. I believe that those who know the differences between these words but still prefer to call themselves vegan or vegetarian despite their diet being in another category are being dishonest because they think it is “cool” to be vegan & veggie, but don’t want to make the commitment that actually makes it cool. It is a manipulative act to control how other people view oneself by purposefully using incorrect terms.

Each of our choices are our own responsibility and we should accept them authentically. If you would like to be vegetarian or vegan, then you should make the commitment to what those terms refer to, or be honest about where you currently stand. It’s ok to not be there yet if that’s the case, and if you don’t ever want to be there that’s up to you alone to decide–either way it’s much better to not be fake about it.

Decorating Public Space with Non Profit Promotional Materials and Various Objects Which Might Otherwise be Thrown Away

I’ve donated money over the years to several non-profit organizations like the Southern Poverty Law Center, Co-op America (now called “Green America”), FINCA, and many others. I feel very strongly about using the privilege I have been gifted with to try and improve our social and physical environment, and to aid those in significantly worse circumstances than I. While things may often seem bad for us middle-class types, various elements of our lives which we take for granted are still total luxury to a massive amount of people around the world. Thus, I don’t mind sacrificing a tiny amount of my own luxury to send a few dollars to serve the greater good. However, that is not the point of this post.

If you donate without requesting that the organization not share your information, many will give your name and address to a million other non-profits who then send you their own solicitations, describing what they’re all about and asking for donations. I have never minded this for the most part, because I like to know what kind of conscientious and helpful action is taking place about this or that issue.

Much of the time unique promotional materials are included, such as greeting cards, dream-catchers, pins, stickers, etc. Often there are photographs, with a little story on the back about the situation relating to what’s shown on the front. I’ve usually kept those, but without much purpose. Recently I thought of the best use for them–the decoration of public space.

Every once in a while I take a staple gun and walk around my area stapling them in visible places on trees or telephone poles. Sometimes I like to staple them to the very edge of a tree, so they will stick out and people on either side can see either the photo or the story. I figure they will garner at least a little attention from random pedestrians before being ripped down by apathetic kids (since there are multiple schools in the vicinity, there are lots of kids around all the time) or unimaginative adults. Hopefully some people will stop and really look at them, read what they’re about, and ideally even devote a little time into researching and possibly helping. That’s the kind of person I am, at least–I’m always interested in random things I see everywhere and I like to look into them more. I only hope that others share that sort of openness.

bear photograph on a telephone pole

Decorating public space is also a great idea for any sort of object that might otherwise be thrown away for want of practical use. Sometimes things aren’t appropriate for donating to a thrift store and have limited appeal for giving to someone you know. In these instances, it is fun to find a spot to install such an object where it can provide a bit of unusual and interesting augmentation to the public environment. I think it’s healthy for there to be unexpected elements in normally boring and predictable spaces, and the object may even find a new home in such a way.

A while back my girlfriend constructed some wearable fairy wings for a performance she participated in at the Hive Gallery in downtown Los Angeles. Recently they’ve been sitting around in limbo, too neat to throw away but not exactly desired anymore, by us or anyone. I suggested that we tie them to a fence or something, and we went out to find a spot. We spotted a suitable tree, and she climbed up and tied them around a branch–a strange little surprise for anybody observant enough to look up into the center of the tree.

fairy wings up in a tree

Now go and leave some of your unused stuff somewhere in public!

Please do not Disturb the Weed Garden – Chickweed and an Inefficient Society

My companion and I have a small patch of space in the common area of our little apartment compound which we cleared with the intention of starting a garden. We haven’t exactly gotten around to planting anything yet, but we did some preparation and a sign that says “Please do not disturb the garden” now sits in the corner, directed at the over-zealous landscapers hired by our landlord. They have dutifully heeded the sign and left our space free of intervention, and recently it has blossomed with a bounty of vibrant weeds. Well, it’s mainly just one weed–chickweed (Stellaria media)–which also happens to be quite edible, nutritious and medicinally valuable. And it just grows there without provocation! Rather considerate of the cute little thing if you ask me; I have a strong affinity for those that get by without being too dependent on others to take care of them.

As I sit here munching on a bowl of fresh, raw chickweed (a nice, tasty green crunch) and drinking chickweed tea, I once again marvel at the ignorance and stupidity of our society when it comes to plants. If our sign hadn’t been there, the “gardeners” wouldn’t have hesitated to eradicate this plant, even though the slightest bit of research shows that it actually has a utility value for humans. For no real reason besides cultural conditioning, it appears “unsightly” to people who have pathetically limited notions of what is acceptable to grow and how plants should look. They may even know what type of plant it is, since it is a commonly hated weed!

This example (see another below) reflects a major systemic failure of modern society. Again and again, it refuses to acknowledge things which could easily benefit it. To me, some of the most omnipresent and “noxious” weeds are just plants trying to get our attention as a species. They pop up everywhere saying, “Hello, look at me! I can help you!” and they wait to be recognized for their positive attributes… but most people aren’t paying attention. It’s this type of cultural mistake that causes a horrendous inefficiency in the way we as a people operate, as countries, companies, or just individuals. Too much energy is wasted on doing things the hard way or wasted on goals that are just plain wrong, instead of looking at solutions that are right in front of our faces.

On top of it, this stubborn ignorance about weeds is regularly enforced through sanctions against those who don’t conform to rules dictated by the empty despot that is Appearance. Tragically, this means that even if some individuals occasionally recognize the value of a yard or field full of weeds, they may very well cave in and prevent their growth simply to avoid the social pressures that may result from doing something different from the herd.

Personally, I’ve long been acclimated to life outside the norm and relish my usual position as the “strange one” in a variety of respects. As is probably quite clear, I love “weeds” (I just think of them as plants) and am happy to have a weed garden. I’m also thankful that they’re so tenacious–it’s nice to know that I will be able to receive help from many of them almost anywhere I go.

Please do not Disturb the Weed Garden (chickweed)


*For another example, read Green Deane’s writing about how Florida failed to deal with a weed situation efficiently (scroll down to the bottom quarter of the page, the entry “14 March 2008: Attitude Makes The Difference”).

Bathroom Graffiti – An Exercise in Collaborative Folk Art

The scrawlings found in public restrooms are a strange exercise in collaborative folk art. While often mundane and inane, much like the YouTube comments which I also consider a natural folk art of sorts, they function in an interesting way. Written conversations develop from an original statement or question of some sort, via individuals who add a single part to what was there when they arrived, frequently pointing an arrow to what they are responding to. This often leads to rather lengthy arguments or speculations, yet each contributor likely never sees what else was added after they said their own piece.

Obviously the content of such “latrinalia” varies widely, but I find the phenomenon very attractive in general. I am particularly fond of bathrooms which are completely unregulated in terms of user-contributed decorations, veritable museums of the artform. There is something magical about a bathroom that has been completely covered in numerous layers of tags, art, stickers, and sentences–the depth and texture is astounding. Such a space appears to me like a secret lair within a deep and complex urban cave, a massive collision of culture and energy that would take years to fully dissect & uncover all the origins behind each ingredient in the mix.

I find such a space refreshing and comforting, because in addition to it frequently indicating the presence of potent creative spirit, it reflects the trappings of an autonomous zone. It is a space, limited as it may be, where freedom of visual expression is complete and uncensored, nothing removed or hidden aside from when other participants use their freedom to cover a part with their own contribution, whatever that may be. It truly is a social, community space in this way.

Below are a few old photographs I’ve taken of bathroom graffiti. They aren’t perfect examples of the types I was specifically referring to in this post, but interesting nonetheless.

Bathroom graffiti at Foufounes Electriques, Montreal
Foufounes Electriques, Montreal, December 2006

Bathroom graffiti at Chain Reaction, Anaheim
Chain Reaction, Anaheim, March 2003

Bathroom graffiti in southern California restroom
Unknown location, Southern California, February 2004

YouTube Comments Have Literary Merit

FIRST! – A Book of YouTube Comments
Edited by Pablo Capra
Published by Brass Tacks Press
Zine/Booklet – 23 pages

Well, perhaps “literary merit” is an overstatement–however there is certainly a value in such expressions, however base they may predominantly be at first glance. The comments referred to here are mainly those which are posted as instantaneous reactions to what has just been viewed, requiring probably less than 2 seconds of thought on the part of the authors. These types of comments are of course not limited to YouTube; they can occur in various places across the internet: Facebook statuses, 4Chan (and related) forums, etc. Taken as a whole, the myriad collections of such comments on all manner of topics across the web present a revealing view into the state of mind of a mass segment of our internet-infused culture. I view them as a sort of collaborative folk art, combining to create a humorously absurd, abstract tale of the frivolity and often intellectually stunted nature of many of the internet’s denizens. These negative aspects abound, certainly, yet a keen sense of highly developed and succinct comedy appropriate to its environment is perhaps just as frequently displayed, if one has the correct mind to interpret it.

While one need not look far to read multitudes of such commentary in their natural habitats, Capra’s published collection recognizes that this incidental output from our society deserves more than a cursory glance as we wander through these very spaces on our own missions. Presenting these small blips of text on paper as a uniquely modern form of automatic poetry or literature imbues them with the strength of cultural documentation, a strength which allows them to outlive their inherently unstable environment where all might be lost when a video is removed or a thread deleted. I have myself thought on many occasions that similar things should be published, and I am glad to see it done here in this small booklet.