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Cornelis Galle I, “Lucifer” (c. 1595).

It’s common for the passage of time to reshape how stories are perceived. Moral progress happens, and suddenly a story gets turned on its head. The good guys were actually bad guys; the bad guys were in fact victims. For example, it’s hard to watch a John Wayne movie today without cringing at both the treatment of the Indians and the antiquated “hero” depiction of Wayne’s character. Similarly, the Knights Templar — or any “heroes” dramatized in stories of the Crusades — are now often seen as bloodthirsty antagonists by modern audiences.

When a complete role reversal occurs over time, it almost always happens with the hero, not the villain. The “bad guys” often switch to be viewed as the victims (as in the case with the Indians in John Wayne movies, or the Muslims in Crusade stories), but not the heroes. If a character is a villain, they are, almost as a rule, given villainous qualities that are inherently unredeemable by any amount of time passing. If an author has any sense of drama whatsoever, they will craft their villains to be conniving, greedy, violent, remorseless, unloving, etc. …


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Pataphysics is a freewheeling literary trope that had an oversized but under-appreciated impact on 20th century art and postmodern philosophy. It’s generally thought of as a precursor to other artistic movements, such as Dadaism, Surrealism, and the Decadent movement. However, pataphysics is much more than a footnote in literary history. It’s also a powerful tool for boosting creativity. Just like William Burroughs’s “cut up” method adds spontaneity and randomness to any artistic work, pataphysics adds a nearly magical element of calculated absurdity.

Pataphysics goes by a number of definitions. It’s broadly conceptualized as an extension of metaphysics, just as metaphysics is an extension of physics. Alfred Jarry, the inventor of pataphysics, also calls it “the science of imaginary solutions” as well as “the science of the particular.” Another way to think of pataphysics is to define it in terms of the pataphor, which is basically a wildly extended metaphor. …


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San Francisco Skyline — Photo by Peter Clarke

The modern world can seem antagonistic to forming a strong sense of purpose. In addition to traditional stressors, such as poverty and loneliness, the modern world plagues us with entirely new sources of anxiety: perpetual connectivity, social media addiction, the need to multitask, the threat of identity theft, etc. Given this new anxiety-ridden world, it’s no wonder finding a sense of purpose can seem like a lost cause.

It’s easy to imagine a simpler time, when life wasn’t so antithetical to purpose-making. Can’t we go back to the good old days when we could work more with our hands, spend more time with family, and for God’s sake never have to stare for hours on end at screens? …


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It’s often said that the best writers are currently in Hollywood working on movies and TV shows. The first time I heard this, a number of years ago, I was deeply skeptical. I’d always taken for granted the idea that film is a director’s medium — primarily a visual rather than a literary art form. At some level, I think I even believed that you could put a director in a room with some actors and voilà, you’d have a film.

Imagine someone seeing a stage production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream and thinking, “Wow! I can’t believe that director and those goofy actors created something so sophisticated!” …


Or, Saturday Night with Borat and the Commentariat

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“Hello all, the subject of this audio essay is — ”

Yes, Eric Weinstein is back! Admittedly, I hadn’t noticed he’d been away. But it seems that he was — and now he’s back, kicking off his latest episode of The Portal with an audio essay about his absence, the tech platforms, the 2020 election…

The intro audio essays are often the best part of Eric’s podcast. I’m running around my apartment half listening, but I really don’t want to miss a moment. I have to set my phone down a few times — in the kitchen, now in the living room — as I rush around, getting ready for a walk. A walk to dinner, with luck, if I can find a place with outdoor seating. Should I just order take-out? …


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“It’s a brand new day. It is ours to live and enjoy, to make something of or not, and then to be lost forever.” — Ross Ulbricht, from prison.

Every time Ross Ulbricht’s name appears on my Twitter feed, I pause for a moment. My eyes lift off my laptop screen. I glance around the room and out the window. There’s a whole world out there. And any time I want, I can get up and check it out.

Meanwhile, Ross Ulbricht is stuck in a prison cell, somehow sending tweets out into a world he’ll likely never see again.

I would never log into Twitter seeking wisdom or spiritual insight. Exactly to the contrary, I love it for the rage and unexpected wit. In point of fact, I follow Ross Ulbricht because he’s a wildly polarizing character in American politics and culture. He’s the Dread Pirate Roberts, creator of the world’s most infamous dark web drug market. He’s a cautionary tale against libertarian fanaticism. …


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“Stand Up For Nuclear” Rally in San Francisco | September 19, 2020

California’s tech industry has long faced criticism for emphasizing vapid innovations that ultimately bring harm to society. In 2011, data scientist Jeff Hammerbacher observed, “The best minds of my generation are thinking about how to make people click ads.” The ethos of this criticism can be applied to other California-centric industries, including the film industry, the music industry, and the weed industry. Even the energy industry in California has become increasingly vapid. …


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In 2015, Kim Davis, a Kentucky county clerk, refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. She ended up in jail for contempt of court and was eventually voted out of office. In a vacuum, risking your job and your self-respect for a cause is considered courageous. It’s how people end up in the history books, alongside names like civil rights activist Dolores Huerta and Congressman John Lewis. But it’s clear that history will not remember Kim Davis so kindly. Not only did she become the laughing stock of most of the country, but her cause of anti-marriage-equality has been decidedly crushed. …


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When it’s done correctly, nonsense can be divine, practically sacred. A lot has been written about how nonsense sharpens the intellect, and how our brains make sense of nonsense. But there’s plenty to explore about the different flavors of nonsense — from what they are and how they’re used to the ways they interact with each other, the brain, culture… A baby’s babbling is distinct from sound poetry, but it’s also similar in ways. Lewis Carroll’s Jabberwocky is worlds apart from William S. …


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Poetry doesn’t always age well. Several traditional forms of poetry seem to be on their last dying breath. I run a literary journal. If anyone submits a sonnet or a villanelle to us, it’s a safe bet that the form is used somehow ironically.

I’m generally in favor of poets moving beyond traditional forms. But author Lane Chasek does the world an important service by reviving one nearly forgotten form of poetry: sound poetry. Unlike most established forms of poetry, which are based on strict structural rules, sound poetry is exactly the opposite, insisting on no formal structure whatsoever. Sound poetry goes so far as to do away with syntax and semantics entirely. …

About

Peter Clarke

Author of “The Singularity Survival Guide” and Editor at JokesLiteraryReview.com. Read more at petermclarke.com. Follow me on Twitter @HeyPeterClarke

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