Volume Three Number One
Or, as Daniel Dennett put it:
It has been two years of evolutionary innovation, mostly deceased.
Natural selection automatically conserves whatever has worked up to now, and fearlessly explores innovations large and small; the large ones almost always lead immediately to death. A terrible waste, but nobody’s counting.
What interesting darwinian cul de sacs are the branches of your soul decomposing in?
Welcome to Volume Three of the Occasional Bitslice.
Then the autonomous mannequin that puppeteers the slowly unfolding humiliation that is my life clicks its gears and grinds away another layer of self esteem.
That's a fancy way of saying I just damaged another important friendship. It is very hard to figure out where following impulses is necessary for growth and where it is offensive.
I was going to use the phrase "Especially when... " and then refer to the dilemma of being a middle aged male who, really, no one wants to hear about your emotions... but I'm sure that middle aged women face the same sort of social editing. You're an adult, single, not particularly charismatic. Shut up and do your job. Don't expect empathy, it's reserved for the unfortunate, and you are materially fine. You're 44 and you're not sick or poor. We've got the sexy and the miserable to care about.
But, you know, fuck man.
I'm stuck in this skin, and as it gets older and people spiral away around communities that are receding from me, I'm increasingly trapped in a well of involuntary self regard. Don't really know how to get out.
So I'll shut everyone out and make things.
Some things I've made since we last spoke:
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But that's the most recent, coherent piece of photography I've done. I made the ears, bought the eyes, built & painted the skull, and shot. Zelda loosed the hounds all over this one. It was our way of celebrating the rabbit haunted season of Astarte.
I'm sure there was a bunch more stuff. Shot video for a music video and a short comedy sketch for some friends. Took a lot of photos and drew a lot of pictures, but somehow they aren't really things that need to be seen. Slowly withered in my job, dated futily and fucked up some friendships by being an ass. Drank a bunch, got embarrassed of myself, messed around with my appearance. Indulged in mid life ennui.
Hell, I'm still soaking in that.
Soon I'm going to be bending this newsletter into a promotional tool for my artwork, pointing out things like:
Hey, I'm selling prints on Society6!
And other pop hits.
But to do that I really have to figure out what the fuck is my brand. Like, I do things, but how does it hang together? What's the shape?
It's a funny word, brand.
A brand is a burn scar on flesh that marks you as property forever.
To be branded is surrender. To brand yourself? That's commitment. You own yourself. You make yourself into property, and you start pulling your own strings.
Up above I bitched about the unseen homunculus that puppeteers me into offenses. That's what you brand yourself to defeat. You have this conscious passenger just kind of riding along up in there, looking at what your body is screwing up and thinking up reasons to not feel like an asshole, and at some point, if you're lucky, that thing snaps, pulls out a hot iron and gets your attention by searing intention into your cheek. And if that thing is good at it, it rides you like a sandworm through the shield wall of Arrakeen.
A brand is a deliberate obstruction. Like some serious Von Trier grade Dogma restraint.
A brand dares you to innovate coherently.
A brand wants you to not simply conquer, but rule. A brand is Daenerys Targaryen deciding to stop Alexander the Greating across Essos and figure this Queen shit out.
It's a good idea.
A good brand is not a definition, it's an assertion. It says, in the face of objective irrelevance, this matters.
Think of the taxonomic ranks in biology. A Genus is too vague. Like Canis. Canis is all the dog things. All. The. Dogs. That's a weak brand. Nobody knows what that is. Species is better. Canis lupus is better. It's the wolfy dog things. That's a bit better, but still quite a bit of variety. Still lots of things to be in there. A dingo is in there. So is an Arctic Wolf. Lots of innovation inside brand Canis lupus. But you can get even more niche, and still have lots of room to make yourself up. Canis lupus familiaris is just brand Domestic Dog, and inside there is all of this madness. You can be brand Domestic Dog and go all your life making new stuff up and never repeating yourself. In fact, you can probably be more crazy things inside that brand just because some of the basics are taken care of for you. It's not like you can just have lobster claws or a beak. There's a basic configuration that fits the brand. But restrictions like that simply show you where to focus invention, and then all of this can be yours!
And honestly, it's all just dogs. The universe doesn't care. All Dogs Get Forgotten In The Inescapable Heat Death Of Forever. But when you look at all those different kinds of pet dogs, it looks like someone cares. They're interesting. People understand them, and they want them. They are a fun, successful brand. Like god hired Don Draper before he launched that product line.
I'm tempted to end this by typing "Brand Yourself. Be Your Own Bitch." but I'll pretend I didn't because it's really not that clever. Just, you know, dogs and all.
That so-called "real world," thought Gavin. How "real" did any world turn out to be, once a man got old? "Real estate" - his father's legacy. The real world's most solid, most conservative business investment! How had "real estate" become so vaporous, so trecherous, so ghostly and so haunted? A "real estate bubble." To be "real," and yet a "bubble" - so fragile, so transient. The great, new, tragic story of the 21st century.
It took time to ruin a real world. But, time was all it took.
Thanks for reading. Feel free to pass this thing along to your friends if you like it, or your enemies if you hate it. Just let them know I made it, so they can rain their love or rage down on my shivering head.