In Favor of Covid Fatigue Contemplative Offshoots [Not necessarily against everything]

“Humanity must seek what is NOT simple and obvious using the simple and obvious.”

― Gaius Musonius Rufus

“The value of experience is not in seeing much, but in seeing wisely.”

– William Osler

Forgive me, dear reader and indulge me if you so chose. I cannot help being naive, it’s in my wide-eyed DNA; better to be burnt (only a little!) than to come at the world with a torch, I think. And so the deceleration concomitant with corona, I would hope, will give us the time and distance to reflect on our consumerist lifestyle [city trips en masse, fossil-fueled vehicles, clothes-shopping for…fun?, etcetera] and if we seriously want to carry on in this way. That is, riding the planet to death in a jet-powered handbasket. 

Markus Greif has the following to say about our quixotic quest for happiness.

Against Everything, p.93

As concerns the flying handbasket, I can try to put it in funny terms all I want, the reality of it is not: millions dying around the world [extreme weather events, droughts, air pollution induced respiratory diseases, violent resource conflicts, global pandemics, etc.] and future generations inheriting a hot, nasty ball of dirt. So to say reflect is really the wrong expression, the pandemic gives us the time to REALIZE we are heading in the wrong direction, or as is put so interestingly in German, that we are on the wooden track. [Why the wooden track is a mistake is anybody’s guess.]

End of moralist not-quite-rant.

C19 neuro spasm fatigue syndrome

I always try to remind myself: Il faut cultiver son jardin. I must look to my own mistakes and correct those. And, with Rufus Musonius, if there are obstacles in the way [which always there are] then the obstacles become the way [much tougher act to follow]. But what if the garden is collective and endless? What if the garden is a precarious biotic envelope?

A most common complaint these distanced days is that “Covid is genuinely beginning to suck, to stink”, which I think is intended to mean: I suffer from C19 fatigue. It interferes with my habitual way of life in a way that I am not much longer willing to put up with. Corona is the convenience killer. These vaccines must save us from omni-stagnation and restore dealings to the status quo ex ante. Or as a philosopher on SRF [swiss public tv] put it the other day: It is the first time since WWII that the West is experiencing such a profound disruption of every single pan-quotidian aspect of living. You cannot even BREATHE the way you used to, [which is still much better than the horror that was visited on Floyd George, may he rest in peace and may his murderer spend life in a small cell]. 

Well, obviously I am far from alone as concerns the sore point of reevaluating consumption patterns. Which not many genuinely believe in to begin with, a clear-eyed self-reckoning in these doldrums, considering humanity’s historically very flat learning curve. 

“consumeritis” is one lmtd way of conceptualizing matters

Item, continuing my read of Greif’s retinapathically brilliant “Against Everything”, I’ve been fortunate to see that there is a very different way to criticize our North Atlantic lifestyle other than only in terms of either material metabolism, our hypocritical fantasies of democracy or even our rampant, off- but much more often on-line ego-mania, self-glorification, etcetera. An economist might say, yes, haha, we’re not only a goods but also a service economy, a financial and speculative economy if you consider the high end of cosmopolitan citizenry. That is not Greif’s take. 

So he generalizes from or abstracts what all these modalities of the economy and our lifestyles afford us and which, ultimately, most of us are chasing after: experiences. If I understand Mark Greif 2005 correctly what he means by experiences are in fact heightened states of experiencing such as buying an expensive good, going on vacation to a culturally acclaimed site, engaging in crypto-or-straight-up competitive athletics, hipster-certified wining and dining, etcetera. And we pursue these in a logic of breathless accumulation, all the while they brutally remind us of the very limitations of the human forms we are trying to escape: finitude, mortality, conceivably bad taste.

There are extended stretches of all around brilliancy which made me stop reading and blankly stare at the wall in disbelief, trying to digest the meaning of the argument. To be fair, I’m not sure that I caught all of it but this different take from the angle of experience was/is fascinating. I’ve always thought that a critique purely in terms of consumption is unsatisfactory; it suggests that you simply chew up the thing in question and shit it out on the other side. It doesn’t take into account one of the most important aspects which Greif does: the experience of it, the qualia. You can’t eat six seasons of Game of Thrones but you can watch it….and be baffled by how it deals with mortality. 

Heidegger may relate

The title of this non-fiction book suggests a very pessimistic, defeatist, possibly even nihilist take on the human endeavour but in my reading there are certainly rays of hope glinting through this black-smoke diamond. To only critique experience, such an utterly integral dimension of existing, would be crass. Instead Greif flips the script and gives his own….methodology of how the impasse of us modern people can be overcome: his flavor of aestheticism and perfectionism. Which you will have to read for yourself. Basically, as best I can condense: Still use experience but deepen it, make it everyday, let every hour be like an hour at the art museum, apply experience all over the spectrum, be a modern Flaubert or Thoreau [a rather constricted choice, I think]. As Greif puts it more succinctly himself:…

page ninetythree

My ultra-brief point of critique would be that his aestheticism strangely comes off as a sort of Buddhism that has to pass through the filter of everyday objects [especially ugly ones; an object-centered meditative practice] and his perfectionism, no matter how often I read it, seems a vague practice in concentration that would likely melt away the moment he would try to explain it in terms of a concrete practice. Meaning it is rather useless to the degree that it cannot replace cumulative, repetitive experience seeking in the form of human action. Still, Greif’s version of aestheticism is well worth the try.

And then there are of course also very other modus vivendi to overcome or even by-pass the covid-induced poverty of experiential opportunities. A very popular presently is Stoicism, the Stoics, the Ryan Holiday concentrate. Fascinating to imagine that a media quack became the foremost champion of Rufus Musonius; still, this is hardly the time to shoot messengers of good practices, especially if they have metamorphosed into entirely new beasts. But that’s another story, for another day.  

Gaius Musonius Rufus
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Graf von Spiegelberg [themzini times, chronicles of dis/infection; jan2021]

“People don’t notice whether it’s winter or summer when they’re happy.”

– Anton Chekhov

“Blow, blow, thou winter wind, thou art not so unkind as man’s ingratitude.”

– Bill Beershaker

Through the cold window glass T is staring outside. Staring as the meditative preparation for writing, goes the common excuse. People pass frequently and it seems they cannot help taking a gander inside: one human presence recognizing another. T, for two years running, has not been able to shake a feeling of infinite summer; ever since he read that quote by Camus he has felt it clearly, inside, a buckyball certainty: Summer never ends. And thus there is something very peculiar to the fluffy, cold, resplendently alabaster stuff caking everything in eyeshot. It is an aberration to his mind, it does and doesn’t belong there. It is strange too in terms of how infrequently it snows this heavily in these times of planetary rechauffement. And how many people have happily neglected/forgotten/pushed-to-the-backburner climate change in an era of global pandemic plus all-out US American madness?

 

T had to remind his students in the early morning, without bothering them with the climatological particulars, that the thick whiteness does not disprove the reality of climate change. Maybe he should’ve dedicated a few minutes of theoretical exposé; he is, after all, a designated RZG (STS) instructor now (since the singular summer 2020), one who is knowledgeable about space, time, society. Who came up with this utterly overwhelming designation?

To the best of T’s recollection, it must have been at least one and a half decades since it (the snow) came down in such vast quantities. Turicum’s public traffic, badly over-taxed, has been out for all of a day while automobile lanes have been cleared at the double; major surprise. Commuters were universally late, didn’t even need to apologize for being so, just vaguely pointed towards outside, also, big boughs snapped and landed on cars (why not), streets, power lines, most folks stumbled somewhere along their trudge and a few, certainly, must have fallen flat entirely. Inordinate amounts of sludge have come into being, snow’s secondary strategy for penetrating into shoes and boots. But why bother when only one in seven citizens even still has winter footgear? Everyone else makes due in their slapdash nk, adidas, puma, neither good for sports nor for inclement elements. Not even walking, to be exact. So people did fall. Kaschwooop, boiiink. Somebody somewhere must have fractured something, say a bone, a floor exerciser’s ego, in this surprising january 2021 deluge of H20 crystalets.

 

T places his hand on his chin awaiting a good or passable thought. Time does not take account of this and, despite the gelid temperatures, flows on as if this were July. A stunningly/vexingly good-looking lady walks past the window turning her long-haired head to gaze inside the low-lying, illuminated box for signs of human habitation. Half a dozen meters away. T could get up in a flash, fling open the window and chat the lady up, propose a good glass of wine; except that those times are past, gone, buried, dead, calcified into geological striations. Flirtosaurus fossilized in deep time strata, era of first anthropocene, hypothesized first planetary ultraculture, unconfirmed fragments of digital technology. Good riddance, too to this weird phrasal verb: hit on.

What remains, bedaubing everything whitely, is the immovable fact of the snow. In the US, of course, it would be perfectly imaginable that one or the other Retrumplican would even call this frigid actuality fake news…. provided it would put him in good standing with the orange one himself.

 

Snow, lots of it, everywhere and beyond.

Covering up summer impossibly, testing Camus’ hypothesis. This kind of snow (or any other public transport arresting natural event) is supposed to spur spontaneous outbursts of collective sentiment. But, perhaps given C19 and late-stage capitalitis, there is none such in evidence. Not around Lochergut, nor out on the streets where people are making their slipping, slithering, sliding bee-lines homewards. T feels unsure, subverted in the muddy ruts of his thinking:

Are the meteorologically inspired communal sentiments a thing of the past too? Has everything become 100% domestic? And if not, then why is he looking forward so longingly to the predictable hours of alone-time with his bottle of Graf von Spiegelberg?

 

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Everything & Nothing, especially Nothing (mid-december, 2020 C.E.)

So not to count my chicks or birds or avians 19 days too early or anything, and not to be flippant or callous or facetious or showing too little empathy towards my fellow human beings either but 2020, thus far, on my absolutely personal side has been difficult but not the all-out catastrophe it has been for so many others. Open right palm across my dark-brown desk! 

The open relationship experiment did end in a painful train-wreck but it would seem that we, t+t, somehow managed to crawl out of the burning wreckage virtually uninjured. Or so it seems. And so I certainly hope. I’ll admit there were prodigious amounts of screaming, crying and profanity involved, which I assume were outlets for all the not-goodness of the sum-total-situation and the internal ramifications it brought with. So then yeah, soberly ass’essed with a massive emphasis on ass’, relationship-regarding this year was nigh-prototypically 2020ish. Then yet again, my partner didn’t die in a fucked-up helicopter accident, so one should by all means count one’s blessings.

anti-spoon

Roughly soliloquizing.  

The second most seriously bad thing in my little corner of the cosmos is that I’ve neglected blog writing quite a bit. Which is how I have prefaced the last six entries, minimum. Well, not neglected it but exchanged it for long-form stuff that I seem either genetically or will-power-wise or schedule-skills-regarding unable to finish. During the summer break was the original plan for this third thing but now I’m hoping early 2121. The preferred tag is third novella by working title of Rivers of Europe wink-wink nudge-nudge to Bolano fans. It’s a rambling travel story and I’ll be happy to finalize it soon and after all. After all of 2020. Which, again, personally speaking simply and fortunately has not (yet, to pre-empt any jinx) been an annus horribilis. More of an annus mediocrus. 

If anything I’ve come so long a distance from walking through cold, central-Swiss villages in the godless, dark AM to teach at a school I already knew it would again be impossible to stay at to now, riding the morning train along lake Zurich with my trusty bicycle along for the ride, to go teach at a school I’m pretty much hoping I can simply spend the rest of my working days at. Which is to say an amazing school in every way I could care to imagine; not saying that my imagination is anything to go by on though.

The interesting thing about the news is, to me, that you can read them everyday, religiously and still come away with the feeling that you have absorbed absolutely nothing of relevance. That is my personal view. It washes through you but not like water rather like neutrinos. I read Zurich’s Republik, which is well-done, excellent journalism but then either my memory is a mess or public discourse somehow does not provide the cognitive nutrients I require; at any rate, the end result is that I remember next to nothing. It’s like the reading equivalent of a Cola Zero, a fizzy, thin pleasure while you’re at it but leaving no trace in your body or soul whatsoever. A bit harsh of a judgement; Mr Binswanger has helped me more keenly appreciate the idiosyncrasies of our governments Corona strategies but I’d blush terribly if I were asked to name even one. My best guess is that the reason things haven’t stuck is that I only read them and hardly had any substantial discussions about these self-same topics. My partner and I were bent inwards on our own issue. And with the colleagues at school we’re also concavely flexed, fixing our minds hively on pedagogic issues. Then my blog, my discourse with myself by myself was not properly happening either….. So all that informational material gathered from outside was simply, I would suppose, dross, so much beyond-the-lifeworld ballast: disposable. 

R’s founders

The other interesting thing about the news, for my next-to-nothingness, is that I feel horribly compelled to read them before I meet friends or acquaintances. I’ll go ahead and assume that I’m still afraid that I could be seen as uninformed and thus un-metropolitan, exactly the kind of yokel one would expect out of central Switzerland. And maybe digging a little deeper I’ll unearth the even older fear that (what would be so horrible about this scenario anyway?) I could run out of conversational fodder and the dialogue would die down to a very insipid level, all of us blithering along aimlessly because nothing ever happens in our own lives and all that truly matters, everybody knows this, is world-bloody-affairs. A fear carried over from teenagedom when in fact small talk in the early stages was indeed a challenge to be reckoned with (comparable in terms of degree of difficulty to romantic acquisitions) because I was always and forever self-consciously scanning for absorbing, worldly topics to cover and analyze and expound on and make a great show of my progressive ideals with, stimulating subjects that would give my opposite number at very least the impression that I, one Themba Benedict Mabona, was despite average height and curious epidermal complexion and needily flamboyant hiphop attire, a clever little fellow and well-read and possibly even a force to be reckoned with should we ever, and this was far from given, emerge from the barren wilderness of our teenage years. Which of course was not at all barren but instead peppered with social and hormonal obstacles of life-or-death significance.

I’d be remiss not to point out that I haven’t written a single word about what I’d imagine it’d be good to write about. An universal, foundational fact of blogging/writing as far as I can tell.   

What actually matters is:  I nearly equaled my personal best in 5k by clocking my second best time. Unfortunately I am not sure it counts for much since A) much of my earlier data once was lost in a transfer between cellphones (which doesn’t even make sense, considering that data should be floating up in the clouds) B) I’ve done many runs in which i didn’t record my times and C) Most damningly in my estimation, I’ve never been one to practice for, much less chase PBs. I tend to improve for a few weeks or months at a time, steadily slicing seconds of my kilometers before losing interest again and returning to some undifferentiated standard level of regular running. I don’t even really have any set routes to be perfectly honest; I keep changing them up in pursuit of freedom and serendipity, the act of becoming as well as discovery instantiated by spontaneous decisions. It’s possibly what I love best about running: suddenly making a left into a small alley I’ve never hurtled down before. Or feeling good and seeing what happens if I push my own limit; like tonight. 

the neonoir mood aimed for in nighttime runs

And yes: going back out there and back out there and back out there is part of the miracle. To find it inside oneself to go back out and do something one’s body basically tells one is not really all that pleasant; to vanquish the inner bastard as we say in standard German. Or philosophically speaking, to add a little part of the puzzle to the incomplete project of selfhood:

Running & Philosophy, p.10

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Coming in2 Turicum [Chronicles of Dis-/Infection, late summer of our Lady Corona 2020]

The part where I grouse about not having written in a long while will be mercifully left out.

As will be any inanities about not being able to quickly get to write about the topics of interest; that is to say I won’t let the first two or three paragraphs sidetrack me in momentary observations about stuff that I wasn’t going to write about. Pheew.

zurich / switzerland / travel poster / - #Poster #Switzerland #Travel # Zurich | Vintage travel posters, Travel posters, Switzerland travel

The first few weeks of teaching in Zurich have flown by, as speedily as events will be considered in the rear-view mirror. My overwhelming impression is that of having arrived: at the lucky locus, with the proper people, in the ideal socio-geographical context. It’s not a matter of preferring Turicum over Lucerne, though the cultural offerings of the former are a significant plus-side [NB: Not yet copiously taken advantage of given these bothersome times of pandemic; pandemic means a fluttering mass of masks and months of home-sitting]. This sense of having-come-into-my-own has been minted into a thought admittedly devoid of originality but with all the oomph of veracity, of    实情 shiqing [the real situation]….ahm, at any rate the following thought: “Finally, I too am an arriviste.” There’s a part of my mind that is still quite and quietly aware that arriviste should not be a positive label, maybe one shade above bourgeoise poseur and two rungs below capitalist parasite. Yet, at the good ripe age of 41 [am I mature now? unpornographically mature?], finally experiencing a [conceivably premature, haha] sense of having arrived in a context I can belong to, feels straightforwardly good. A feeling akin to completing a puzzle and not yet having begun to agonize about which puzzle, perhaps a 3D one, to purchase and complete next. The example is somewhat mysterious as I take absolutely zero interest in this pursuit, a pursuit which is conceivably the very closest one can come to “killing time” and thereby helping time to kill one good.

The good word I’m looking for is arrival. Turicum has enabled my arrival. There is indeed a subjective sense that the future, mine, my future, is stretching out its tentacles towards me. This feeling, multiflavored and intoxicating, is particularly rich rolling down hills on my green monstrum on bicycle rides without destination or purpose. I wouldn’t be surprised to spontaneously dematerialize, is the truth.

On a side note: I miss Lucerne terribly. My family, my people, my Selim, ugh. There are two trains connecting us though, one of steel and one of thought.

I’m grateful to the truth for setting us free but it’s its gift for caprice that is really lit, imho.  

Bicycle | Zürich, Minolta x700 | Nicola Gilg | Flickr
less stylish but w/ more browncoal energy, just kidding….i think

Also, I wonder if I haven’t had this feeling of having arrived before, especially in Zug where all would have been well and I would be in my fourth year as teacher if it weren’t for my stubborn streak. Anyway, I hope to finally have found the proper place for continuity and prospering. I feel in synch with the colleagues, work with an interesting and interested bunch of students, appear to get along swimmingly with the headmaster, have a brief/humane commute, start classes at a christian hour, work in a most modern environment [course material, infrastructure, etc.] and feel confident that the urban setting will allow me to tap into valuable cultural networks. There is every promise of a bright pedagogical future, even if that adjective still sends shivers of apathy up and down my spine. 

I am, as the saying goes, in a good place. Which is a location where being stingy with banalities is not an option.  

The school hike came off well…– in the course of which, to my great surprise, I had an utterly professional dialogue with the remedial pedagogues about my most attention-requiring students, their backstories and how to proceed. Remedial pedagogues is the kind of word that makes an appearance if you indulge in literal translation freely; they are the folks who cooperate with teachers for the benefit of the attentionally creative. Yes, new words multiply like bamboo, that’s not on me but on the universe. So RPs – there’s an informality, an ease of cooperation or rather of mutual aid that is not simply pleasant but motivating. I don’t fear that I might make a mistake that will be reprimanded in due course or that my query will be considered foolish. This also could be a residual effect from last year, which went horrifically wrong not because of any dislike or malice but because of human beings’ infinite capacity for misunderstanding. The sheer amount of communicative misconstrual that happened was depressingly impressive. A? Why, yes of course, Z!

Ways To Alleviate Miscommunication – LMJA Blog
Wooof? Oink!

Be that as it was, it’s a new day, a bright one by the looks of the early morning. Rose and yellow burn above Zurich’s west coast when I ride the train to Rueschlikon contrasting with my poison green ebike, a massive vehicle that will boost me up the hill to the sophisticated grey Minergie cube. An architectural gem but with a few significant flaws as a locus of massed learning. An identical floor plan that rotates 90degrees from one floor to the next does not facilitate matters. The idea probably was to keep one on one’s cognitive toe by means of spatial disorientation but if one has 1001 other concerns zipping through one’s teacherly mind what remains of the effect is disorientation tout court. 

In which corner is the blasted science lab again?

I have tried, in the past, not to talk too much about the concerns, activities and outlooks as a teacher, given that I couldn’t identify with this role all too well. It, a solid sense of professional id, seemed to me somehow to diminish my chances of ever making headway as a writer, it still sometimes does and it is more likely than not a legit worry. All the times I’ve corrected instead of written. Then again, all the times I’ve read, ran, studied Chinese instead of typed. Putin de merde. 

 Yet at the same time I don’t fret as much any more, I speak about teaching liberally, often even annoyingly because unaware of the boredom I’m inflicting. Yes, yes, Themba, your ideas for next week’s French lesson are very stimulating not to mention your thoughts on how best to teach the passé composé without over-stressing the importance of conjugation over communication. Still, I can now identify with my profession to a degree I did not previously attain, above 80% on a good day, if I were pressed for a specific figure by a machine-gun wielding mad mathematician.

Most importantly, and this has absolutely no relation to my professional situation, our annus horribilis is over. Nomhle’s and mine. It was the seventh, unsurprisingly. We tried opening up our relationship and it was a near-complete disaster. All things bad you can imagine in that regard. Like the exact opposite of my freewheeling feeling on the bicycle up and down the hills of the Zwingli-city. The misunderstandings were negative enough but the sense of jealousy and mistrust was worse by magnitudes. 

The psychology of roller coasters
yeah no

Jealousy sounds so negative but in my opinion there should really be a positive expression for it. What it basically means is that the exclusivity of the relationship bestows a special status on your partner that cannot be replicated [at least in the time you’re together] by anybody else. It doesn’t necessarily, in my opinion, have anything to do with making possessive claims or idealizing the other half, it’s more about creating a special, exclusive sphere of intimacy. A sphere that ideally is safe from as many of standard society’s depredations as humanly possible: violence, deceit, indifference, exploitation, etc. Once you concede that space of privilege, once you let in strangers, it seems anything can sidle in, not just misunderstandings but emotions you previously, naively hadn’t had a clue about. Zizek, with typically cynical brio, calls love the highest form of discrimination. Something, very roughly speaking, like that.

In terms of having to talk matters through and the rollercoaster of feelings, this mode of relationship became too taxing. Objects traversed certain volumes of the apartment in flight and I had just enough composure to make sure they were utterly soft and edgeless. In the terminal stages we even visited a couple’s therapist and, apart from the slightly self-aware (i am now part of an actual soap opera, aren’t i?) sentiment, the experience was a wholly positive one. What surprised me most is just how well a professionally trained person can mediate between people who have known each other for a very long time and who thereby tend to presume they know every trick in the biographical book. It bears repeating: Being in a relationship definitely does not make you an expert on relationships. [This same fallacy, by the by, also applies a fortiori to teaching: Having been through school, you are not now automatically the foremost luminary on pedagogical methods.] 

Moreover the sort of self-questioning and -exploration our therapist elicited from us definitely exceeded my expectations. Or perhaps reading David Foster Wallace wrongly made me assume that one is always in a psychological position to outsmart one’s therapist; which one is absolutely not. It’s not an intellectual contest. It’s rather like In Therapy: you had no idea all these things would well up from below and help you understand your own predicament so much better. Also, not empathy exams but empathy enhancers, smart change-of-perspective exercises that help you understand your partner better. Nothing magical, very common-sensical but previously unconsidered and thus every bit as good as magic. One could go into the details of the relationship complications but what would thereby be gained? Reliving the trauma is not always the best way forward, in my opinion. Nor the most interesting.

Couples Therapy | TLR Therapy
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EonsKobeCoronaAndTuricum [Chronicles of Dis/–Infection, 2020 early summer]

Subjective eons, ages, forever and a day, whatever great unit of time your mind can encompass. I seem to remember that the Mayas (Mayans?) had a time-unit that spans approximately twelve millennia, though, unfortunately and ultimately, they didn’t get to use it. Not in any way that matters. There might be a lesson in that, oblivion and evanescence. And also a specific flavour of temporal hubris particular to empire. I have no such imperial ambitions but it’s been, again subjectively, a tragically, unacceptably long time that I haven’t written some sort of biographical, highly individual blog entry on what-the-devils is going on in my cranny of the world.

geological_time_scale

This is particularly curious given that it seems, or at least contemporary observers make it out to seem, that some historical events have been going down. Negative history I must unhappily report: a pandemic (an intermediate one), Trump (a one-politician global wrecking ball), the world-wide climate protests (numerous, huge, yes, historical is probably not too-far-off-the-mark) and on a kind-of positive note, the resurgence of the black civil rights movement in the US (negative because it still is necessary). Also, a famous basketballer passed away, which out of all this mess for some reason is what emotionally-speaking did me in the most; I still find myself shedding tears for Kobe sometimes (not that it’s that long ago), reeling at what seems to me a staggering injustice of fate: This man had so much more to give citizens starved for decent role models. I don’t mean US people either, anywhich person walking the planet. There must be many people who can still hear the chant in their mind: Ko-Be! Ko-Be! Ko-Be! Ko-Be! Goddamnit, it happened in this line of time-space, which to me seems like a curse, cumulatively considered. The same bloody line in which Steve Biko, Chris Hani, my cousin’s father and JFK got killed.

Watching Black Mamba’s highlights is painful; except for these lines here and some earlier aborted essays I’m aiming for avoidance. Amen (incidentally: What does this word mean? Replies Apple from the lower right-hand corner: from Hebrew ‘āmēn ‘truth, certainty’, used adverbially as an expression of agreement, and adopted in the Septuagint as a solemn expression of belief or affirmation…)

5c7ea1fe250000010580cf9a

Steve Biko, Champion of Justice

And then, amid all this mess, MJ suddenly came back. I swear for those ten episodes I could hear the world sigh with relief. Even the bombastic moniker Black Jesus didn’t seem entirely out of place. An athlete, a modern demi-god, who uplifted the masses by virtue of the entertainment value of his physical feats and his captivating off-court persona. Of course, he is a member of a vast entertainment eco-system but what a glorious resplendent nod he was….and once again has become.

Events were unable to sit still for a minute: Climate change protests, KB’s death, COOOOOOROOOOONA, MJ’s televisual resurrection, Black Lives Matter (and ongoing CORONA). Even when only trying to write about the death of a star, I failed but with this perfect storm of events, even the top-hole writers are probably overtaxed.

My excuse remains the same it has been for a while now: the necessity of long-form writing, an excuse I am sure I will return to soon enough if I give a damn of making good on my ambitions.

More generally speaking if one is to tackle the above diversity of themes one is best advised to follow the old hoary logic of one step at a time. Personally speaking, having read tons about the global bug online and in paper, it’s impossible to see what I could possibly profitably add to the debate. I can only point out that for a few weeks, in the name of being a good, responsible citizen [which is valuable and advisable in my line of work, the right thing] I was conscientiously wearing a mask in shops, on public transport and at the gym. Why the hell not? It earned me uncounted reproachful glances and openly hostile stares: How dare you, chump, remind us of our own responsibility?

I’m hard-pressed to understand why my efforts have been flagging lately, that is, I’ve been wearing the mask less often. Plainly put, the sense that everything was pro form increased and maybe some part of me finally wants to follow the dumb logic of the masses: I won’t be the one to get it anyway. People who wear masks have been put down as “virtue signallers”, a new-fangled nullity of a word meaning that these people [who one doesn’t know one bit] put pride over actual virtue. Wrong. People wearing masks, regularly cleaning their hands, staying indoors as much as possible and wearing rubber gloves are, roughly speaking, virtuous. They consider other people’s well-being as well as their own and do the best within their realistic domain of competence to reasonably diminish future suffering. To denigrate that is insane in both senses of the word. The mask-wearers are doing the right thing. Let us imagine that for a moment. It doesn’t take undue effort to follow their commendable example. Same goes for vegetarians, truth be told. Peterson puts it succinctly: Why be virtuous? So you can bear the suffering of life without becoming corrupt.

None of this is all too subjective. What happened in our narrative is: We moved from Lucerna to Turicum in the midst of the pandemic. Meaning, sadly, we tossed out a metric ton of our stuff instead of bringing it to the local Brocky [second-hand] because it was closed. Only later were we apprised that we should’ve just sold it online. The good luck and celerity with which we, this came before the throwing-out-orgy, found an apartment seems improbable in retrospect. Tiziana wrote a grand-total of 1 application, to which the response was immediately positive. Plus the apartment is central and super modern and in a lively neighbourhood and affordable. The first few weeks we didn’t get to enjoy Zurich per se but, on the other hand, it gave us some time to let the apartment sink into us, let its shape and furniture [some of it lovely nouveau, especially the couch, finally comfy] slowly transmogrify into something a home. The English tiles are still as cold as on the first day but now it’s my cold, our cold, the cold comrade of the warm wood parquet in our living room and study. The engulfing couch.

As predicted, I’ve gone on to visit my parents more often now, it having become a ritual return to the parental nest and hometown.

"Black Lives Matter": Demonstranten auf dem Zürcher Bullingerplatz.

….and I haven’t yet even gotten around to Black Lives Matter. There too, so many insightful texts have been written that I had better rest my case and keyboard. Which anyway is the biggest vice, deficiency, short-coming about not-blogging for such a long time: the wish to recompress one’s life-time of six, seven, eight months into a few, undeserving pages.

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The Allemanic Leap, pt. I [Chronicles of Dis-/Infection feb2019]

All growth is a leap in the dark, a spontaneous unpremeditated act without benefit of experience.
– DH Lawrence

Too soon but also too late. This retroactive travel dispatch does, automatically, without effort, what any such report does, indict the criminality of time, the genocidal nature of space-time, which keeps passing without heed for life or limb. The first paragraph always happens to come out meta in one way or another. It is as if a need existed to take a step back from the action itself and consider how, possibly, one might commit it to writing. Partly molding experience, partly butchering it and certainly, even if only implicitly, lamenting the passage of time. Which is off-handedly referred to as the direction of increasing entropy but which is really, let’s be more humanist/realist, the direction of the increasing irreversibility of our foolish actions. And, of course, the approach of old age trailing death.

Destination: Freiburg im Breisgau. Breisgau, consider the peculiarity of this word, one letter short of „porridge disaster“.

Distance: So awfully close to Lucerne that it might be forgiven to think it difficult not to be somehow still lying, if not within Switzerland per se, then the auroral glow of Helvetia. Which is by far too difficult and fuzzy a concept for the writer to get any sort of conceptual hold of. Geopolitical radiance, by comparison, is easy to understand.

 

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Theme: The Allemanic Leap – here too forgiveness is necessary. The penman is under the heavy, surreal sway of Dublinesque and anyone who has read that novel/dream is aware of how hard it is to extricate oneself from its tentacular influence. Without being too melodramatic, its force field must reach into non-conscious cognition. Especially the sense that whether in new york, dublin or elsewhere, wherever, tucked away with that piece of fiction one should consider oneself to be at the centre of the world.

Protagonists: Tiziana Lydia Milena Bonnetti, who would preferred to be called Dall’O or, alternatively, Caravelli, plus her alternative half Themba Benedict Mabona, who has lately come to like to style himself as Xii Wang, even Xii Wang Biko and is unable to realize or admit how confused and ill-matching and even borderline pathetic such a nom de plume would be. Leaving aside the fact that nowadays it would have to be a nom de clavier. He is studying one of the Asiatic languages, as hopeless an undertaking as exists for a person born to the Germanic tongue and having crossed the rubicon of 40, a foreseeable adventure in life-long futility.

Interval: three and a half days almost to the minute, meaning 84 hours, from Thursday morning to Sunday noon in mid February. Weather: much more clement than could be expected if it weren’t for global climate change against which, presently, is once again very vividly protested. A young girl from Sweden is taking the lead in this; she has turned the life of her parents inside out as well as that of a couple of hundred thousand middle school students across Europe. She is one of those people who for mysterious reason were born not only in the wrong epoch but onto the wrong planet; one can listen to her speak, look into her eyes and understand, easily, that inside she must be around the same age or older than one of our two protagonists [tm]. What is more shockingly simple to see: the young woman, Greta from Sweden, is a Saint.

Point of departure: Luzern, always Luzern, never any end to it.

The trip out was spent reading Vila-Matas [tm] and a book on the history and cultural iconography of the paintings of Mary [Dall’O], as well as studying HanYu on a new application [tm/xwb again]. Tm is usually unable to take his eyes off ofthe Lucerne Midlands but this time got sucked into vocabulary acquisition: the colorful background and animated icons did it.
About the Allemanic Leap: it can be called this in various respects. The most simple is language-based. Something at a short distance in German is called at a cat’s leap away. Tb/D’o and tm/xwb were those respective cats; they are slender enough to make the analogy work, though Dall’O’s clumsiness and Tm’s utter lack of physical flexibility would raise not a few readerly eyebrows. The train ride takes 90 minutes, the duration of a monotonous H-wood blockbuster, something very much worth leaping over and landing on the other side of. On the ICE leg of the approach to Freiburg im Breisgau they had to themselves a kind of cabin, four dark blue seats walled off by a glass door. This signaled: you have already landed in Germany, your paws are already touching the ground of Southern Allemania even if, in fact, you are moving at a good 150km/h through Baden-Würtemberg along the Rheinthal, with the Rhein itself invisible in the distance. Tm/xwb senses a mild tremor when he realizes at one point during his first day in Freiburg i. B. that they have not touched down in Bayern but in Baden-Württemberg. The deep history of geographical ignorance it betrays is not at issue, the sensation is much more visceral: trying to leap onto the window-sill and landing instead on the balcony or the cistern above the bowl or, worse, some section of the apartment the cat had only been hazily aware of and which might involve unknown complications.

 

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The leap or jump though can also stand for how paradoxically distant and close Switzerland and Germany are – there is the commonality of language that almost immediately breaks down once one speaks to someone of a different dialect. It is not usually a lack of mutual comprehension but an uncanny sense that the other party is having a cryptic joke at one’s own expense – why else would they speak with such strange inflections, damn near ululations, otherwise? Why would they suddenly lapse into completely meaningless words? But then no, nobody is joking, this is just one’s language but the comedic element, the moment of suspicion has been introduced and is hard to extricate. For example: Tb made a point of saying „Grüezi“, „E schöne Tag noh!“ and other highly Helvetian phrases to poor Baden-Württembergers while scrutinizing their faces for any untoward expressions. Mind you, this included Thursday and Friday, regular working days, not an ideal time to assault people with exotic phrases, much less sociolinguistic experiments in maintaining face. The results were inconclusive but certain miens seemed to suggest, especially those at the bakeries, that his interlocutors were unsure if he had just said something meaningful or meaningless, their faces implied that they were waiting for him to complete his leap onto Germanic soil, to land, as it were, tongue first.

 

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Hard Quorn, part II of II [Chronicles of Dis-/Infection, oct2018]

matrix-incubators

The risk of a wrong decision is preferable to the terror of indecision.– Maimonides

Day Five: Shix Pack
I wake up feeling the way Neo must have the first time he woke up outside the Matrix: scared to death by the prospect but happy about finally knowing what he is in for. Sitting on the toilet for my early morning flatulence ritual, I carefully touch my belly. My abdomen is steely hard for the wrong reason. My hopes for a bowel movement are fading to zero so I try to cheer myself up with the prospect of a professionally administered enema.
Cannot focus during the morning lesson and my students are clearly unhappy with my robotic, humorless delivery. I feel pulsating pain in my belly but when I go to the bathroom it’s like waiting for Godot. My colleagues inquire about my health status and tell me I look like hell. I tell them that they are on point and that I am going home to wash up before seeing the doc. The outside world fades away as I succumb to nausea and the sense of an ending. I can now appreciate post-truth journalists at a visceral level: reality, the facts it might contain, it is all nothing more than a sideshow.
In the brief interval at home, I manage to dragoon four nuggets down my esophagus. I remember the location of the Dafalgan, which I swallow a double dose of. Next to them is a box of Flatulex, which follow down the hatch.
At the doctor’s my miserable mug doesn’t impress him. He gets twenty seconds into his Dx before calling it off. „So simply stop doing that, Mister Mabona. In theory, this diet should not be problematic short term. But what counts, the only thing that counts, is your physiological reaction. Given the symptoms it could lead to organ failure. Think of it like this–“ I’ve never seen my physician so agitated. The relationship between doctor and patient in the Swiss Hausarztmodell is warm, confidential, almost intimate. He gazes out of the window while I blush. „All the years you have come here, Mister Mabona, it has been because of either sickness or injury. But this is different. You have an obligation as a teacher and as a member of society to…try your best. So as a doctor it is my obligation to tell you that you must stop. Not only for your health but for your duties.“ He studies me intensely and I manage not to explode from mortification. „I will have laxatives written up for you and beta blockers for the agitation. Go back to your regular diet, try to focus on fruit and vegetables. If you aren’t feeling better in three days, give us a call.“ He is oozing irritation.
On the way home I buy two more packs of counterfeit chicken nuggets. I call in sick and stay at home that afternoon. I oscillate between wakefulness, being asleep and staring at the Colon Ex bottle and the Tenormin box, swallowing neither. In the evening my heart starts galloping and I resort to Tenormin.

Day Six: My Personal Truth
After another gaseous early morning I give up and drop four Colon Ex bombs with a tumbler of aqua. Five milliseconds after my girlfriend leaves for work, I’m on the loo. Gastro-intestinal cataclysm ensues, the relevant matter is discharged so violently that the backsplash ends up atop the toilet tank. Thereafter I stubbornly ingest five Cornatur things. In case you wonder why I never use synonyms, please consider: lump, nub, chunk, wad, gobbet. I get a punishing fever, nearly 40C but not high enough to distract me from discovering my personal truth. Lunch: 9 lumps. Dinner: 3 gobbets.

 

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Day Seven: The Three Sages
I survive behind the shield of my blanket keeping me safe against reality. My mind is a swirling mess, my body a flaming torch. Tornado bowel movements alternate with tempestuous vomiting. To fulfill my experimental quota I feed on two nuggets for each meal, never mind seeing their regurgitated mass in the bowl a few minutes later.
There is a vortex of hallucinations featuring anthropomorphized Tenormin, Dafalgan and Colon Ex. They say they have come from afar, due East and want to save me but they need my full concatenation or coagulation or collaboration. I decide to write my will but I’m too sick to string together a full sentence. By the time my girlfriend comes home I manage to pretend regular sickness enough for her to not rush me to the Kantonsspital ER.

 

Day Eight: Hard Quorn
I wake up feeling the same as the day before. There is a decision to make: do I want to continue to live or not? Technically this is the final day so it is only appropriate I let the nuggets decide. I prepare my last meal, potentially, nine nuggets in two spoons of olive oil. The morning light outside is sublime, a counterpoint to my soul.
Sitting on my bed I contemplate the lumps for a long time wondering how I ended up at this point in my life. Is this worth the risk? Is it not better to throw myself a life-line? I get up, dig a lemon out of the fridge’s bottom drawer, cut it in half and squeeze it over the nuggets.
I gobble them all up, sick to my hard quorn, then sleep for eight hours straight, wake up and take a final world-ending dump. Like a purge, like a deluge to rid myself of a week of non-sense. After that I feel one iota less bad. My body informs me I will not die after all and my super-ego apprises me that I am never to eat Cornatur again. The experiment is over, I may now return to the land of facts and reality. I do.

 

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Day Nine: SPOILER ALERT
Hopefully it will cause the reader no dissatisfaction to be informed, in case s/he hasn’t realized, that the above did not transpire in this fashion in what is conventionally called „reality“. Days one to eight are an account of the alternative facts of my journalistic experience. It is in accordance with the non-conventional data of this „research“ and the conclusions drawn from it. This alternative article avoids the cost of physical harm while maintaining the authenticity of a *self-experiment. No journalist has been injured during the making of this article.

 

 

 

* abbreviation for self-thought-experiment

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Hard Quorn, part I of II [Chronicles of Dis-/Infection, 2018oct]

the-stepford-guide-quorn

Get your facts first, then you can distort them as you please. – M. Twain

The old saying is funny even if you are a member of the offended party: How do you know someone is vegan? Don’t worry, they’ll ****ing tell you. This is not an article on the benefits of veganism or the controversies it’s aswirl in. The idea is to explore the borderland where contemporary diet fads meet the post-truth age.
In the Trump era, post-truth is on an inexorable rise. No amount of in-depth research is allowed to stake out a bigger claim to truth than a celebrity’s spur-of-the-moment tweet. What bigot would trust Galileo over NBA player’s Kyrie Irving’s conviction that the planet is flat? Everything is epistemologically equal: science and religion, journalism and hear-say, experts and dabblers shake hands while facts ride off into the sunset. Post-truth covers a lot of ground from cries of Fake news! to circumstantial shitstorms to the surge in Flat-Earth disciples.

However, the term is often used in a media setting where it marks a changing of guards. The story approximates this: Whereas once a few, near-oligopolistic outlets and publishing houses ruled over what is considered fact/general knowledge, nowadays the media has diversified so vastly that the one-time arbiters of accepted knowledge have lost their monopoly. A multi-platform democratization of information and truth has taken place in the course of which the scientific and journalistic standards for fact-finding have often been left in the dust.

Without any scientific studies or statistics of my own, not even SurveyMonkey, I have noted that this new media landscape seems to give rise to a salient specimen of journalist: the *self-experimenter. From presidents they have learned that news and facts are created in the wake of whatever the messenger chooses to type. Rather than long-winded interviews with experts, much preferable to phoning authorities or questioning witnesses, the new journalists create the content by performing the experience/experiment themselves. This one-person-outfit has the added benefit of efficiency. In the post-factual era of obsolete stats n=1 is as good as n=100’000. The journalist becomes a method actor who takes risks, deprivations and bodily modifications upon herself to give the reader/consumer news they can identify with, lit af facts to be woke to. Plus the spectacle of getting there. The dividing line between these nouveaux newshounds, popular bloggers and (amateur) YouTubers on similar trajectories towards truth is fuzzy at best.

The *self-experiments, oftentimes ego-investigations, are diverse but they usually boil down to a forced march through a conspicuous aspect of pop culture. E.g.: one year of playing Fortnite two hours a day (I personally topped out at three minutes); half a year of only drinking water and eating kale; another half a year without alcohol (ouch! nooh!); four months without smartphone (followed, I assume, by a year without a job); a full thirty-one days in the middle of summer without any kind of media – the list goes on.

 

The last one I came across, particularly revolting, was a 5760N.Y. bloke who inspired by men’s man psychologist J. Peterson, decided to go on a ten-day beef bender. It sounds too terrible to be true: only salted cow-meat and water for a week. There were pictures of this Gabbat guy with piles of T-Bone steaks packed in styrofoam piling up on his arms…to boost credibility? Because that is the other side of the one-person experimental media: Where does showmanship end and reality begin? What self-flagellation are the journalists able to endure and readers/viewers willing to tolerate? Suddenly the freedom from facts risks becoming an enslavement to spectacle.

Undeterred by all of the above, I took note of the fact that among the many experiments conducted, veganism although an over-the-top trendy topic is missing. This is because going vegan is itself considered to be a test. That is setting the bar low considering that even celebrities of maximum materialism subscribe to the animal-free lifestyle. Moreover it neglects the plethora of vegan meat surrogates and the unpredictable, fascinating effects they might have on one’s metabolism when consumed exclusively. Inspired by the Guardian’s A. Gabbat I resolved to go him one better: ten days of only consuming one single vegan meat surrogate [plus water]. The better to compare if the effects would be equally awful. Thus my torment took its course.

 

Day One: Restriction of Choice
Part of the idea behind a monomaniacal project is that there will be no more pain of choice. Instead everything is reduced to a simple everyday ritual so that the individual becomes an accessory to the objective. When I found myself, as often before, standing in front of the Migros’ fridges’ Quorn/Cornatur/Soy section where all the flesh substitutes hang, I was unpleasantly surprised, how varied they actually are. And this, mind you, is leaving aside Anna’s Best devilry of vegan delicacies (Vegio Raviolone Spinat, Taboule Oriental, Vegi Dim Sum Shao Mai, Couscous African Rub, etcetera). If you filter the Migros product range through the vegan sieve, you still end up with 330 products. So I had to make a ten-day-proof decision. I coughed up three criteria:
A – It should be very meat-like to emulate all those other challenges.
B – It should be crude and un-scrumptious to give my experiment a high degree of difficulty (disqualifying, for example, Cornatur Grill Ribs)
C – If there is no heater or micro-wave present, I should be able to face my demons and eat the (un)bloody thing raw. Without getting into serious gastrointestinal troubles.
Dear reader, I stood in front of the fridge a very long time indeed; the shelf-stackers must’ve begun musing on what mischief I was up to. Which indeed I was. Ultimately, I decided on spending the next 192 hours exclusively preparing, devouring, digesting and expelling whatever would be left of Cornatur nuggets. Coarse enough. In hopes of not looking stone crazy in front of tellers who I see twice a week, I only buy three packets and swear to space out my purchases across different branches. To be clear, I fundamentally like these nuggets but I was going to find out just to what degree exactly. (Day One, later: For dinner I limit myself to five nuggets. I almost make the grave mistake of covering them in Ketchup, violating my self-imposed code of conduct. Or as the cool French folks call it, my deontology.)

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Day Two: Entering The One Dimension
I get up early to pre-fry my nuggets. There are two kitchen-nooks at our school but given the hellish miasma that would be caused if all teachers willing to were to cook, boil, sauté and whatnot, the more straightforward approach is to ban it. So I have to do it at home. Already I run up against the difficulty of my inexistent rule book: I don’t want to burn the nuggets but I don’t want to besmirch their purity either. And 06:30 is not the time to go on a wild goose chase for precedents by my siblings in the spirit. Nor do I know of any canon for *self-experimentation. I decide that one spoon of olive oil per four nuggets is the permissible and maximum amount of admixture with any other, foreign nutrients.
In the lunch hour I eat my eight nuggets. Usually there are nine but this one is different, just my luck. Then I drink my glass of water feeling that some of the E461 and sesame seeds might still stick to my gullet. Another glass, to be safe. This one-dimensional lunch of Cornatur is neither good nor bad, it simply is. Thereby perfectly reflecting the existentialist mood of
Mondays. Nor do I feel anxiety about doing this for another nine days, I just will. Everything is as it should be, except for the kids on lunch hour giving me amused, befuddled looks. I wave them off in my perfectly neutral Swiss voice „It’s an experiment. I have to research how long a person can survive on Veggie nuggets (the colloquial term)“. Laughter and a bedlam of questions ensue.
In the evening I decide to stick with five nuggets to establish a routine. My girlfriend shakes her head vehemently, she’s already deeply pissed about what I’m doing no matter what ingenious explanation I produce. Her luscious salad makes her look right and me feel wrong.

 

Day Three: Our Lady of The Fridge E. Kla
I wake up and immediately feel that something is off. Leaping off the mattress I make a dash for the toilet but instead of the expected landslide there is only a long, low, rumbling f***. I exhale down below and spatter residuals for a good ten minutes waiting for a fecal deluge that never happens. Then I make ready to take a shower but my cellphone, sometimes smart, sometimes spooky, informs me that I am a good two hours away from the start of my habitual snooze’athon. My other half, not necessarily better just different and a fitful sleeper at the best of times, lets it be known that she is entirely unhappy with this experiment. Without asking for it, she has become an uncontrolled variable, as unscientific as any post-truther could hope. I feel bad but I also realize: control variables are out of fashion anyway.
As I fry the Cornatur nuggets in crepuscular light, I am assaulted by a first sense of unreality: Again? This? I am one of those neurotic people who extremely self-consciously keeps changing up his routines, brands of beer, running routes and whatnot in hopes of squeezing a pulpy diversity of experiences out of life’s orange. This vegan monotony is counter-intuitive. I get the heat and timing perfect: the nuggets are golden.
In a state of dissatisfaction I have lunch. Feeling empty after nine nuggets, I quaff 1.5l of H2O. I cannot deny it, things are going badly already. For the lunch kids the novelty of my experiment has worn off. Instead they are trying to get me to play Fortnite with them; they sing its high praises but I only know so because of the adjectives they use, the nouns describing their virtual slaughters are alien, impenetrable.
In the evening we have to do a bit of grocery shopping; the possible wordplay isn’t lost on me. My variable half informs me that she demands I see the doctor later in the week to get a full check-up, threatening to kill me if I die of a heart-attack or the like. I inform her that according to Gabbat this is in the playbook anyway: the doctor, all that medical fake news. Then I stand in front of that fridge again. One of the female employees is smiling at me but I can tell it’s not flirty; she, her tag names her E. Kla, looks at me then glances at the Cornatur Nuggets, then back at me, smiles and disappears in a poof to reshelf elsewhere in a microcosmos full of forbidden delicacies.
At home, 7 pm, I prepare my nuggets in a flight of dark desperation. Subjective feeling: bad but survivable. Gut feeling: one solid block disconnected from the rest of my body. Instinct: For heaven’s sake Themba, break this off immediately!

 

Night of Day Three: Congress In Session
I stand at the lectern in front of the semi-concentric crowd and try to speak; in theory I have something important to say, something that would automatically cause world peace, somehow, but I’ve forgotten the precious words. I gaze out into the tiers of the UN general assembly, there are cows, dolphins, human beings, a walrus that looks like D. Trump and a sizable faction of fowl, they’ve all begun chanting into my silence. I listen up: COR – NA – TUR! COR – NA – TUR! COR – NA – TUR! …over and over again. And they are pelting me now with I don’t know what. I pick up one of the projectiles: an orange, marzipan M. Instead of waking up I absquatulate into a less threatening, less symbolic, less memorable dream. Later I do wake up after all, too early again, for my ten minutes of porcelain-seated flatulence.

 

Day Four: In Reference to Sustainability
This is my life now: nuggets, nuggets, nuggets. I stand in front of the four gas cookers and blast away, wondering how often and voluminously I may toot before our kitchen is consumed in a bright ball of fire. Basic physics. I feel horrid, I feel like I can’t feel the inside of my tummy. But then I wonder if I was ever able to feel the stomach itself, the lining of the gut, etcetera? The sounds of the flatulence, mine, are unfamiliar: a mean and high-pitched susurration as from arrogant air that resents joining other air. This is self-abasement begging for a reason. Even as a *self-experimenter I can still recall my journalistic motivation: at least one soul better read this silly article.
As I toss the folded carton into our recycling box and study the other three pieces already piled there, the question of sustainability reasserts itself. Why would a vegan product dedicated to the survival of our planet come double-wrapped in plastic then carton? They could print all the relevant product info on the black plastic or transparent cover, goodbye colorful cardboard. But paradoxically a plastic-only package would obviously look less environmentally friendly, especially when lacking the greenness of the carton. I shake my head as if to make all of this go away.
Teaching German, helplessly trying to convey grammatical basics and futile calls to the doctor, eat up my morning. On the fifth attempt when it’s time for a quick-fast lunch, I get through: booked solid for the week. I plead and implore while placating my insensate belly with my free left hand. The assistant, as is her wont, distrusts my claim to urgency. At last I resort to alternative facts, claiming I’ve been struggling with heart palpitations all night and morning. Which I fear soon enough will be true for real. I get an appointment for the following day, the halfway point, the point of no return. After that there are only twenty minutes left for my meal, I blaze through the Migros nuggets. An awful idea, as I come within an inch of reversing the lot of them. I am now officially and non-absurdly afraid that I might myself become a human Cornatur nugget.
I spend the whole afternoon in extreme light-headedness and as punishment for my Pinocchio phone-call, I experience what feels every bit like palpitations proper. Between lessons I send my girlfriend a lovey-dovey WhatsApp that in retrospect could be decoded as a goodbye message. I feel panicky. I curse myself. I fear my teenage anxiety might resurge. I spend a few of what are arguably the worst hours of my third decade in life.

When I come home I lie down, the feeling has been inverted and I feel unspeakably tired. I lie down on the couch and drop into a blackness out of which I am woken by my girlfriend. The gym? Not in a million million years. I try watching John and Tyrion for a while but slip into a fitful half-delirium instead. Around eight’o’clock I rise back to a semblance of wakefulness, stagger to the bathroom, spew vile matter for a while, then squirm my way bedwards. At some undefined later point in time Nomhle’s worried face swims into view and I try to assure her that everything is fine by which I mean to convey I will not die within the next 12 hours. Trying not to cause a mess in our bedroom, I repress the contents of my stomach, the notion of a five-nugget dinner and my subjective reality itself. I sleep horribly, as does my far superior half.

 

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[…stay tuned for part II folks!…]

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Finally FARTlek’d again [Chronicles of Dis/Infection, 2018oct]

Red is a benevolent dictatorship. – J. Jannard

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Yesterday at long last went back to running a Fartlek. A what? A fart leak? The word could hardly be more amenable to childplay, to crude speculation. It could even be a fart lick, a hairdo reminiscent of flatulence – the banal possibilities are endless. [Honorable mention: fart lag – the time that elapses between the issuing of gastrointestinal fragrances and their olfactory reception/critique.] What it is, as far as I know [one could look it up with three clicks, couldn’t one? But this is somehow beyond me, presently], is a running practice in which one fixes on a salient object of the landscape and then runs towards it at competition pace. Or even faster. Then chills out for a while at a low tempo. The idea of competition pace doesn’t make too much sense in my case, as the only way I can imagine entirely ruining the joy of running would be to actually participate in a competition, surrounded by a horde of hundreds.

And so then anyway, you fixate on the object and you dash towards it. The idea being that the target awakens an animal impulse of chasing down prey. Which it, surprisingly, 100% does. More philosophically speaking, this intermediate objective is, unlike one’s usual goals in life, almost immediately attainable [in my case at a distance of maximally 500-600 meters]. The visual attainability creates a disproportionate amount of extra motivation. One feels oneself flying towards the chosen objective, who knows, it might yet evaporate into sweet nothingness. Fartlek has a further upside: while running is a simple, elemental joy one is nevertheless sometimes overcome by the sense that it might lack something vital: the ludic element. By running a Fartlek, a playfulness is reintroduced to the act of loping: a random target, a mad dash and the subsequent exhilaration of getting there first [though there is no rival in sight].

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However, this does not mean the FARTLEK is free of complication.
First of all: what target might be fixated? Some prominent feature of the landscape? But there are so many! A random time interval? But that’s so mechanistically anti-ludic! I then struck upon the genius notion [concept would be overselling it] of selecting a red object. Instantaneously, the world turned into a runscape peppered with red objects along every line of sight: the red stop signs, the sidewalk bush engulfed in scarlet berries, the old lady stuck with only carmine-colored clothes, the ever obnoxious red sport cars, the suddenly surprising number of red houses [whereas I used to imagine the preferred national color of multi-unit abodes is a dirty yellow], URS aka unidentified red stuff, etcetera. It would be best to choose another color but red so captures the imagination.
Thus I fix my sights on a red thingie and make a dash for it, realizing that FARTLEK is much tougher than I had imagined, especially as I don’t know what kind of intermittent speed I can aim for without shutting my legs down in no time. Whenever I was on my slow recovery canter another 1000 scarlet targets immediately beckoned. Fortunately, on the fifth stretch of increased tempo, I realized the chosen finish point [a provocatively protruding rose blossom] was by far too far away. Sure enough at that very moment a guy dressed in red jeans and a white-and-red-striped shirt riding on a vulcano-red Vespa came speeding my way, to the pre-lactic rescue, I dung you not.

 

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Says Wiki: Fartlek, which means “speed play” in Swedish, is continuous training with interval training.[1] Fartlek runs are a very simple form of a long distance run. Fartlek training “is simply defined as periods of fast running intermixed with periods of slower running.”[2] For some people, this could be a mix of jogging and sprinting, but for beginners it could be walking with jogging sections added in when possible. A simple example of what a runner would do during a fartlek run is “sprint all out from one light pole to the next, jog to the corner, give a medium effort for a couple of blocks, jog between four light poles and sprint to a stop sign, and so on, for a set total time or distance.”
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A Radically Condensed Version of Recently [Chronicles of Dis/Infection, 2018sep]

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But epistemology is always and inevitably personal. The point of the probe is always in the heart of the explorer: What is my answer to the question of the nature of knowing? – G. Bateson

I have been wondering if everything that I usually have taken pages and pages to write on can be boiled down into two, three, four sentences? Let’s see.

 

One of the Guardian feathers claims that DT [his full name is difficult still to deal with, to acknowledge] is a laughing stock who demands or invites laughter, otherwise there would have to be tears. To the best of my understanding the man has been a source of constant distraction, in particular to US media. He has managed to vacuum attention by the news people, the way YouTube, Instagram, Fortnite, etc all have managed to do with the rest of the sub30?, sub40?, sub50?, sub something population for a good while now. It is difficult to to name a single piece of substantial policy attached to the man, rather than the names swirling with him in fecal cyclones: Putin [both in the English and French pronunciation], Stormy Daniels [haha], Manafort, Omarosa [two names or one?], etcetera.shot_1282759129
Extrapolating from personal experience, it also seems that the standards for factualness have loosened incredibly. What seems to get lost, day by day, cry by cry of „fake news“, is the ability to assess a source’s veracity. The convergence of Trump and the Post-Truth era cannot be a coincidence, rather, they seem a perfect epistemic storm.

 

Sometimes, now, I find myself paying attention to my heart. Is the rhythm okay? Does this pulse rate seem normal? Is there not some diffuse pain on the cardiac side? How long can I sleep on my left side before I can be accused of trying to purposefully precipitate a heart attack?
I am going on forty and, slowly as well as suddenly, the heart seems like it might not be the most reliable organ in the game. An acquaintance of mine died from cardiac arrest a few years back; rather horrifically as the emergency room folks sent him back home with a chest ointment that only forestalled his death for a few hours. Supposedly the pain and fear in this kind of death is horrible.
The heart, man.
In a way I feel bad for it. It never ever gets a break, it has to fulfill its job every second or so. Even the thought of that non-stop activity is exhausting. If anything it is the heart that deserves a rest and yet that is the very last thing anybody wants. Instead, laying up anxiously at night, I find myself giving little pep-talks to it: yes, everything fine; just keep going; good, good work, keep it up, absolutely keep it up; etcetera. I will say this: The heart is a lonely engine.

 

brevity

 

post-script: There has been no writing of blogs lately because of the texting of longer things. And the illusion accompanying this has been the same one can assume it is for most in this situation: that the everyday concerns that get worked through in a blog will somehow find their way into the longer thing. The truth is, in my case, that this happens but never in a satisfactory way, neither for the long nor the absent short thing. The one ends up unbiddenly invaded, the other missing altogether.

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