Category Archives: Mania

A Japanese neologism lately making the rounds is one borrowed (as most such are) from English: “self-neglect.” A Japanese-language equivalent translates into “masochistic depression.”

This is the happiest time in the history of the world, and Japan is among the happiest of countries.

That should be true. It’s not, obviously. Why?

Globally, prosperity is wider spread and poverty less abysmal than ever before. Technology enables not only the mighty few but the run-of-the-mill masses — you, me, anyone — to perform miracles and wonders beside which biblical miracles and “Arabian Nights” fantasies pale. Everything we want is the merest click away. Socially, we’re freer than ever before — to live as we please, marry or not as we please, engage in whatever sexual practices turn us on, online or off, physical or virtual, without society batting an eye in disapproval or even surprise.

Our happiness is bounded only by our misery. Which turns out to be boundless.

Earlier this month the BBC summarized a number of studies showing a global decline in sexual activity. The countries specifically cited are the U.S., Britain, Australia and Japan. Various causes are suggested: too much internet use sapping interest in real-life socializing, too much internet porn sapping interest in real-life sex, too much work sapping sexual energy (mocking technology’s early promise of liberation from overwork) and so on. Objections are raised to each of these hypothetical causes, but a qualified consensus is emerging, the report says, to the effect that sexual lethargy “may be due to increasing levels of unhappiness. Western societies in particular have seen a mental health epidemic in the past few decades, focused primarily around depression and anxiety disorders.”

Also this month, The Japan Times published a report under a headline that bluntly inquires, “Why are Japanese teens so glum?” The research cited is by the London-based Varkey Foundation. It finds among Japanese aged 15-21 “the lowest level of net happiness of all 20 countries polled,” with “more Japanese young people (saying) they were unhappy (17 percent) than any other country apart from South Korea (also 17 percent).”

Here, too, reasons are partial and hypothetical, as no doubt they must be. Halfhearted family support is one. Japanese parents, apparently, are more distracted than Chinese, Indian, Nigerian and Indonesian parents, whose children seem markedly happier. Another perceived factor is a sense among young people that Japan is past its prime, while emerging economies, less prosperous for now but heading upward while Japan declines, instill in children a faith, enviable to the less optimistic Japanese, that “the world is not becoming a worse place.”

The weekly Spa! is a persistent chronicler of what might be called prosperous poverty, or maybe Dickensian prosperity. A Japanese neologism lately making the rounds is one borrowed (as most such are) from English: “self-neglect.” A Japanese-language equivalent translates into “masochistic depression.” Spa!’s source on one exemplar is, significantly, a cleaning expert whose specialty is the decreasingly uncommon “garbage house.” You reach a point where you just don’t care anymore, or where filth seems a perversely fitting backdrop to a life gone hopelessly wrong. It happens all too easily.

Yoshitaka Ishimi, the expert in question, tells of entering one such house and finding tacked on the wall a postcard written by a little girl, the late occupant’s daughter. Under a picture she’d drawn of a taxi, she wrote, “Papa, how are you?” She thought her father still worked as a taxi driver. She had no idea how far he’d fallen out of any semblance of orderly life. He’d been dead about two weeks when his body was found by a social worker and Ishimi was called in. It was not suicide, just a slow, apathetic wasting away. Among the garbage was a mountain of instant-noodle containers. It seems to have been all he ate. The kitchen alone was clean. All he’d done there, apparently, was boil water. “Dying alone” is a growing concern, associated mostly with the elderly, but Ishimi’s firm handles 500-odd cases of it a year, and he says 40 percent of the deceased are in their 40s.

“Self neglect” is not clinical depression, which is both worse and better — worse to the point of being clinical whereas self-neglect is not; better because clinical depression sufferers receive sympathy and care as patients, while self-neglectors are too easily dismissed as malingerers. It’s a busy world. Allowances are made (up to a point) for the certifiably sick, but who has time for the merely unhappy?

Unhappiness works in mysterious ways. You never know who it’ll strike, or why, or what form it will take. Spa! tells of a nurse in her 40s — a successful professional woman with a solid work record and friends and family who cared about her. They didn’t know her, though, and didn’t know they didn’t know her. One day she failed to show up at work. Her hospital called her sister. The sister went to her flat, and found the dead body among what turned out to be 7 tons of garbage. Imagine the shock. The sisters were close, and had met regularly, though not at the nurse’s apartment. What happened to her? No one seems to know.

School bullying figures as a cause of unhappiness in the Varkey Foundation report, and office bullying in Spa!’s. It’s a hypercompetitive jungle out there and everyone’s on edge, natural sympathy overwhelmed by pressure to triumph over others and get ahead. Spa! in addition invokes middle-age disillusion, a feeling of being “betrayed by life” among people who, by age 40, have seen to many of their youthful hopes wither. It’s what life does to you. Even the successful succumb, as how can they not when they get home to find, or be reminded, that “all they are to their kids is a walking ATM.”

Somehow the way we’re living, with all its promise of happiness, is making us miserable. Is there anything we can do about it? Spa! has a suggestion, presumably ironic (though maybe not): go homeless. In Osaka’s Airin district, where day laborers congregate and live in flophouses or on the street, a man in his 60s says, “Die alone in a room? No thanks!”

Give him homelessness. What he saves on rent he spends on liquor and, thus fortified, “I can sleep quite comfortably outside.” Maybe we all could. Hopefully, it won’t come to that.

politically correct perverts start attacking their former comrades

It is not terribly surprising when the Left starts attacking its own.

The situation was this.

First the straight BDSM freaks and the gays and the miscellaneous sexual misfits were all in the same political faction. It maintained a staunch feminist outlook, and it proclaimed that horrible straight men like Brendan Eich were the enemy.

They won a lot of victories. They installed feminist commissars in key academic positions. And then they looked around and realized that not everyone was sufficiently feminine. They decided the BDSM freaks could endanger feminism if straight men were dominating straight women. (Presumably BDSM would still be tolerated if the woman was on top, or if both participants were gay).

Here is the story from the link at the bottom:

Continue reading politically correct perverts start attacking their former comrades

To Do Lists are Genius!

[Calculate] the measurement of Milan and Suburbs

[Find] a book that treats of Milan and its churches, which is to be had at the stationer’s on the way to Cordusio

[Discover] the measurement of Corte Vecchio (the courtyard in the duke’s palace).

[Discover] the measurement of the castello (the duke’s palace itself)

Get the master of arithmetic to show you how to square a triangle.

Get Messer Fazio (a professor of medicine and law in Pavia) to show you about proportion.

Get the Brera Friar (at the Benedictine Monastery to Milan) to show you De Ponderibus (a medieval text on mechanics)

[Talk to] Giannino, the Bombardier, re. the means by which the tower of Ferrara is walled without loopholes (no one really knows what Da Vinci meant by this)

Ask Benedetto Potinari (A Florentine Merchant) by what means they go on ice in Flanders

Draw Milan

Ask Maestro Antonio how mortars are positioned on bastions by day or night.

[Examine] the Crossbow of Mastro Giannetto

Find a master of hydraulics and get him to tell you how to repair a lock, canal and mill in the Lombard manner

[Ask about] the measurement of the sun promised me by Maestro Giovanni Francese

Try to get Vitolone (the medieval author of a text on optics), which is in the Library at Pavia, which deals with the mathematic.


Continue reading To Do Lists are Genius!

Poets have lots of trouble sleeping for some reason

One of the most celebrated and terrifying poems of the second half of the 20th century — and one of poetry’s great treatments of insomnia — is Philip Larkin’s “Aubade.” The 1977 poem describes an experience all of us have at some point, that of waking up much earlier than we’d intended and, unable to get back to sleep, lying in a hazy torment in which all our life’s anxieties are amplified tenfold. The anxiety that hounds Larkin turns out to be the prospect of his own death:

I work all day, and get half-drunk at night.
Waking at four to soundless dark, I stare.
In time the curtain-edges will grow light.
Till then I see what’s really always there:
Unresting death, a whole day nearer now,
Making all thought impossible but how
And where and when I shall myself die.
Arid interrogation: yet the dread
Of dying, and being dead,
Flashes afresh to hold and horrify.

Larkin wants us to see that these states prefigure death itself: death too will be an affair of “soundless dark” in which “all thought [is] impossible” and the individual — supine, rigid, gaping at nothing in particular — is quite alone. We are all speeding toward the endless acreage of death, and it’s a paradox of life that we only fully glimpse that fact against the clarifying backdrop of night and darkness. Insomniac poets glimpse it with particular sharpness, and often seem proud of this: afflicted by a crippling illness, they yet occupy a place of lonely, privileged insight, gazing out from an observatory of solitude and sleeplessness at a misguided humanity, lost in a hypnosis of daily tasks that divert it from its destiny.
Continue reading Poets have lots of trouble sleeping for some reason

Ryan Landry should wear a pith helmet (until he learns to love K. W. Jeter and actual VICTORIAN sci-fi)

Ryan Landry complained that there are too many progs in steampunk:

One of his commenters pointed out that Sterling and Gibson were progs, and they made it big.

But let us not forget K. W. Jeter.

Jeter is, to my mind, the true inventor of cyberpunk. He wrote Dr. Adder years before Gibson wrote Neuromancer.

Jeter consciously invented the word steampunk to describe the emerging genre of his novel Morlock Night, written in 1979.

There are other “gaslamp fantasies” that I could look up, but that’s not the point.

If you don’t like limp-wristed hipster steampunk, just read the actual sci-fi of the 19th century.

It’s free. Read it all.

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