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When I start a church, I’m going to call it The Second Church of I-Don’t-Go-To-Your-Church.

Temptation
Thomas Hawk / Foter.com / CC BY-NC

How do you know when a time is right for your idea? How about when someone else comes up with something similar?: Atheist ‘mega-churches’ take root across USA, world. For the past three months, I’ve been thinking about starting a church evangelizing egoism and excluding no one, and here is the something similar. I’m reading this as a publicity stunt, but we’ll see. That’s definitely not what I’m about.

What I want is a mission devoted to the idea of doing better. Just that. The doctrine is mine, Man Alive, et very cetera, but I’m a lot more interested in praxis than dogma. If you cross a soul-enriching music performance with a mind-enflaming motivational seminar, you’re halfway to seeing what I see.

Picture a real live church service somewhere, once a week. My ideal location would be a big bar on late Saturday afternoons, to put the idea of choosing admirably in mind just when it might be needed most. That can be simulcast by Ustream or Spreecast, so the whole world can join in, one mind at a time.

But: I’m digging living on the road a lot, so I would love to take this show on Read more

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    Bidding farewell to brave Odysseus…

    It’s a dread we’ve learned to live with. I wrote about this day in fiction a couple of months ago so I would have the choice not to write about the facts today. I can make death beautiful — big deal. Nothing can make death tolerable, nothing but time.

    But: He died as he lived, game and eager, his face alight with love for everything. Cathleen was there to hold him and his favorite vet, Doctor Blackwell, was there to say goodbye and I was there to make fun of the most adorable big dumb doofus I ever knew and he left this life with a smile on his face.

    One last time: “Lay down, Puppy. Go to sleep…”

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    The end-times are upon us: DocuSign spam…

    From my mail this morning:

    DocuSignSpam

    That’s a spoofed email — no links back to the mothership, and a big, fat executable at the bottom. I’m betting it’s WinPoison, so it probably won’t hurt my iMac, but I won’t be researching that question.

    But: Be alert. Whether it’s spam, malware or a phishing line, nothing goes wrong until you make the mistake of clicking on the wrong file or link.

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    What’s big, dumb, sclerotic and panics on command? A California Association of Realtors member, apparently.

    So this big dumb robot shows up on the front porch this morning:

    Believe it or not, it’s from the California Association of Realtors. The robot exists to support this video:

    Get it? There’s a meet-cute featuring pre-tween pretend robots, and this clunky piece of junk communicates… what…?

    My reaction? “Urf. Now I’m going to have to waste time mocking this nonsense…”

    Okayfine. You will note that the robot seems to be suggesting that California Real Estate is something of a slot machine.

    But at least your CAR member agent has his squarish mechanical head screwed on right.

    And in a batteries-not-included world, your mechano-Realtor comes complete with two enormous D-cells, which must have added considerably to the postage.

    The box didn’t provide a lot of insight into why one should choose a CAR-certified RealtorBot, but it was fun imagery:

    Ultimately, though, it’s the test of the marketplace that matters. And a CAR-approved RealtorBot can panic mindlessly like no other.

    Hey, CAR members: No tar, no feathers in California? This is your money I’m having such a good time with…

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    Apparently, insanity is buying the same house over and over again, even though you never qualify.

    You just can’t make this shit up: Obama administration pushes banks to make home loans to people with weaker credit. Why not? It worked out so well the last time.

    The Obama administration is engaged in a broad push to make more home loans available to people with weaker credit, an effort that officials say will help power the economic recovery but that skeptics say could open the door to the risky lending that caused the housing crash in the first place.

    President Obama’s economic advisers and outside experts say the nation’s much-celebrated housing rebound is leaving too many people behind, including young people looking to buy their first homes and individuals with credit records weakened by the recession.

    In response, administration officials say they are working to get banks to lend to a wider range of borrowers by taking advantage of taxpayer-backed programs — including those offered by the Federal Housing Administration — that insure home loans against default.

    Housing officials are urging the Justice Department to provide assurances to banks, which have become increasingly cautious, that they will not face legal or financial recriminations if they make loans to riskier borrowers who meet government standards but later default.

    Officials are also encouraging lenders to use more subjective judgment in determining whether to offer a loan and are seeking to make it easier for people who owe more than their properties are worth to refinance at today’s low interest rates, among other steps.

    Obama pledged in his State of the Union address to do more to make sure more Americans can enjoy the benefits of the housing recovery, but critics say encouraging banks to lend as broadly as the administration hopes will sow the seeds of another housing disaster and endanger taxpayer dollars.

    “If that were to come to pass, that would open the floodgates to highly excessive risk and would send us right back on the same path we were just trying to recover from,” said Ed Pinto, a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and former top executive at mortgage giant Fannie Mae.

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    We are all ‘greater fools’ now: How can you sell your house to a big family when big families don’t exist any longer?

    Markets go up. Markets go down. But the whole house of cards is built on the idea that population will grow. What happens when it doesn’t?

    matt-king-most-depressing-slide

    From Business Insider:

    It’s what I like to call “the most depressing slide I’ve ever created.” In almost every country you look at, the peak in real estate prices has coincided – give or take literally a couple of years – with the peak in the inverse dependency ratio (the proportion of population of working age relative to old and young).

    In the past, we all levered up, bought a big house, enjoyed capital gains tax-free, lived in the thing, and then, when the kids grew up and left home, we sold it to someone in our children’s generation. Unfortunately, that doesn’t work so well when there start to be more pensioners than workers.

    The entire welfare state is built on the idea that young people can be milked of their wealth because they’re too busy being young to notice.

    Alas, the welfare state also awards adults either for not reproducing or for reproducing in only the most wealth-destructive ways. The consequence (entirely foreseeable) is that the number of dependents-by-choice goes up while the number of de facto slaves declines — by people either opting out of producing wealth or opting in to the welfare state’s “free” benefits or, as here, by not being born in the first place.

    This will not end happily…

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    Black Friday? Grey Thursday? Before the flood, a pensive Wednesday night at Walmart.

    I love Walmart. I am very happy to call myself a member of the middle class, and I take huge delight in cruising the aisles at Walmart, scoping out all the incredible deals.

    I don’t buy a lot of stuff, though. Away from TechToyz, I lead a pretty Spartan existence. But I love to see all that incredible wealth stacked floor to ceiling, knowing that it is the much-maligned engine of freeish-market capitalism that makes all that stuff available to me.

    I’m not a Black Friday kind of shopper. We’re not all that Christmas-y, and I do not like to be crowded, not ever. But the phenomenon of Black Friday, especially at Walmart, is fascinating to me.

    We had to stop in at a Super Walmart late Wednesday night, and I took the opportunity to snap a few dozen photos of that store’s preparations for Grey Thursday and Black Friday. Every wide aisle in the store was lined with pallets full of shrink-wrapped merchandise, millions of dollars worth of stuff waiting to be sold between now and Monday.

    There were more staffers than customers in the store, and they were all busy getting ready. Black Friday takes its name from the sad fact that the day after Thanksgiving is the day most retailers reach the stage of profitability for the calendar year. In other words, storekeepers large and small work almost eleven months of the year before they make any profit at all.

    Walmart might do better than that. Apple’s retail presence does a lot better. But retail is a hard way to make an easy living, and my bet is that it will get harder as the parasitic weight of government crushes more and more of the economy.

    Meanwhile, smug people like to sneer at Walmart for selling Americans goods they want to buy at prices they want to pay. I’m happy that some people are so rich that they can afford to spurn and scorn Walmart. But I’m happier still that Walmart is around to provide incredible values every day for people who work hard for their money and want to make it go as far as it can.

    Happy Black Friday, Walmart. You treat us better than we deserve.

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    Happy Birthday, Greg!

    Enjoy your next trip around the sun!

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    Embracing your inner anarchist — because there is no alternative.

    Here’s my quick take on the presidential election, from a video made one day prior to the event: Mitt Romney is going to win an Electoral College landslide. My state-by-state prediction is shown below, but it’s not based on any sort of arcane science. I’m just betting that married people with kids and jobs will vote to fire Barack Obama for gross incompetence.

    Note that this is not an expression of racism, as you will surely hear from the perpetually-sore-losers of the chattering classes. I’m just betting that the people with the biggest stake in the game of human life will vote against the most perniciously anti-life candidate ever to seek the office of the presidency.

    But at the same time, Romney’s win will not be any sort of repudiation of Marxism, contrary to Michael Walsh’s claim at National Review Online. It’s just the correction of a bad hiring decision.

    In this week’s video, I argue that the self-loving thing for you to do is to accept that fact that each human being is sovereign and indomitable, and that, therefore, self-control is all the control that can ever exist among human beings. In the course of that argument, I cite an essay of mine, Meet the Third Thing. I also recite an old poem, which I will transcribe here for what may be the first time it has ever appeared in print:

    What if I’ve been wrong?
    What if I’ve been wrong all along?
    What if everything I’ve said,
    everything I’ve done,
    everything I’ve thought about is wrong?
    What if I’ve been wrong all along?

    Here is this week’s video:

    For an audio-only version of this video, take yourself to the SelfAdoration.com podcast on iTunes.

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    A Scause for applause: South Park rescues you from despair and ennui.

    I am ignoring this place, and in this I am clearly not alone. I have other things commanding my attention. If y’all want to talk about real estate, you know what to do.

    Meanwhile, with the kind of surgical concision we have learned to expect, South Park takes on the Lance Armstrong modified-limited-hangout brilliantly:

    Watch the whole episode. It rocks, I promise.

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    Unchained melody: Cultivating indifference with Cage the Elephant.

    Man Alive! is six months old this week. A video I made on Monday celebrates the book’s demi-anniversary by eviscerating two mutually-contradictory theories of human free will.

    Meanwhile, I’m in the early stages of writing a new book on moral philosophy, this one concerned with moving your self rightward on the number line discussed in Chapter 7 of Man Alive!

    Cathleen and I were talking about a piece of this pie last night, the idea I call Cultivating Indifference. She asked me if I am really unhurt by other people’s (sometimes virulent) criticism of me. I am, although I understand why people might find this hard to believe. But here is how my thinking runs:

    If you say something about me, it is either true or it isn’t. If it’s true, I am improved by your observation, however it comes packaged. My goal is to do better in everything I do, so if someone points out that I have been in error, I am glad to know it.

    And if the claim is not true, I am unmoved. I keep my own counsel in everything I do, and I never change anything in my thinking or my behavior without a good reason.

    If the criticism is offered in good faith, I will explain my thinking. And if it is simply malice, a verbal spear intended to wound me, I will know that the person throwing that spear is not to be trusted, and my life will be improved by that bit of new knowledge.

    In all cases, I am concerned with nothing but my self, so other people’s behavior toward me is only interesting to the extent that it offers me opportunities to improve my own mind and conduct.

    To my mind, this is completely rational. I like it when folks I admire return my admiration, but I don’t give a rat’s ass if unlikeable people don’t like me. It would be a red flag for me if they did!

    Anyway, here’s a rockin’ tune from Cage the Elephant that expresses my attitude on this subject perfectly:

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    Movie of the week: A Sunday sermon on religion.

    When Man Alive! was first published, a number of people were distressed that I didn’t take a harder line on religion. My reason for doing as I did was pretty simple: Although I am a very strident atheist, and although I have nothing but contempt for theology and for all religious apocrypha, I like, respect and admire many people who say they are religious — including my own Best Beloved, my wife, Cathleen Collins.

    I care a lot less about what you say you believe than I do about how you actually behave. If you are capable of leaving me alone to live my life as I choose, I don’t care what you say are your reasons for behaving as you do. By contrast, if you claim you are in agreement with my own ideas about the nature and structure of reality, and yet you cannot manage to keep your nose out of my business, then I care a great deal your actual behavior, regardless of your putative agreement with my philosophy.

    This topic is of moment this week because our friends in the lands infested with Islam have put on another display of the impotent irrationality that is represented to be the substance of their religion. I don’t make fine distinctions about anegoistic doctrines: Whether your claims are based in religion, in politics or in some absurd academic dogma, if your behavior is atrocious, you are engaged in self-destruction in spite of your self.

    We go through all this in the video, but the solution to every problem posed by anti-human dogmas is four-words simple: Fuck you. I quit. When the sane believers of every sort of doctrine work up the nerve to say those four words to their would-be masters, the world will be a better place overnight.

    You can find an audio-only version of this video at the SelfAdoration.com podcast on iTunes.

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    Life after foreclosure: Cultivate indifference and press on regardless.

    We just lost our house to foreclosure. Negotiations with the bank fell apart and we spent the last seven days bugging out. This was our third Notice of Trustee’s Sale. We had managed to redeem the note twice before, and we thought for sure we could thread the needle a third time. No joy. We didn’t know until yesterday morning that the bank had actually foreclosed, but we had to operate on the assumption that we could lose our pets and our personal property without notice.

    That’s bad, but it’s not the end of the world. We are solvent even if we are not terribly liquid just now. We have business assets, art and artifacts and intellectual property, all of which we were able to conserve by acting quickly. Was I the bank, I would have hung in there for another month or two, taking account that we live on a cash-flow roller coaster and that we had managed to cling to the home twice before.

    Over the past three months, we have cut our monthly nut by two-thirds, so we are well-situated to weather the economy we are living in. Had we done this seven years ago, things might be different, but we live with the consequences of our choices. We loved our home and we are sorry to have lost it, and sorry, too, to have defaulted on our promise to the bank, but life is suddenly a lot more joyous without that anchor around our necks.

    Our real estate business is secure and solvent. All of the rental properties we manage are leased to solid, performing tenants, and our corporate bank accounts are all in good order. Our personal finances might be chaotic — this for many years, alas — but this has had no impact on the funds we hold in trust for our landlords and tenants.

    And our marriage is stronger than it has ever been — literally as the consequence of these events. Cathleen had some teary moments, because we loved the El Caminito house, and because we spent many happy, loving years there, minus a few rough spots. But I’m happy with everything, so far, most especially with our marriage. It is the shared commitment to overcoming adversity that makes families, and we have lived through a lot of commitment in the past week.

    All of this is offered up as news: This is what is going on with us. We are living out of boxes in our new abode, but the office is up and running, with me keeping the paperwork flowing while Cathleen stages and lists a home for sale today. We’re running behind, obviously, but we are catching up with alacrity. In a week’s time, all of these events won’t amount to a speed-bump on a sleepy side-street.

    We are hale, well and happy — and so should you be. FannieMae is taking another hit, but that seems to be what they’re good at. Meanwhile, we pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off — and press on regardless. We have each other, and everything else is just so much stuff.

    Best,

    Greg Swann
    September 13, 2012

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    My commencement speech.

    This is me from SelfAdoration.com:

    What I’m doing here is a sort of commencement speech, a celebration of my moving on to a different state of excitation — even if everyone else stays exactly the same.

    But I’m using extended arguments about the idea of preferring the subjunctive to the existential to defend my way of thinking in a comprehensive way.

    I’ve spent my whole life thinking about how to talk to you — I say that in the movie — and this little clip may be the most comprehensive job I have done so far of communicating at least this small idea: We are not talking about the same things.

    I don’t trade in your currency — I say that in the film also — but I am trying to convey to you why my currency is so much better for you than the stuff you’ve been trading with until now.

    This stuff ain’t easy, I know, and it is plausible to me that my take-no-prisoners approach makes things harder for you, not easier. Oh, well…

    This is me at my most me, the meest of the mes I have presented in these videos — all of which are intended to acquaint you with my style of being as the result of your having spent time with me being me.

    I love this movie. I hope you do, too.

    The video is in this YouTube clip. Fair warning, it’s 40 minutes long.

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    You haven’t seen a Bloodhound until you’ve seen Odysseus go vertical.

    Odysseus is getting to be an old dog, which is not a happy fate for big dogs. Where before he was King Alpha, ready to dominate for everything, of late he has been yielding to Ophelia more and more. But not when it comes to putting the neighbor’s dogs in their place. The wall the dogs are scaling by turns used to be stuccoed and painted, but these two, in particular, have exposed the naked concrete.

    When Odysseus goes vertical, you are seeing the most beautiful thing a Bloodhound can do. I would love to have a statue of him frozen in that flash of total commitment.

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