$50 expression du jour: Metathesiophobic catatonia

many worlds 2Today we introduce another useful expression.

Metathesiophobic catatonia (n.): paralysis induced by fear of the perception that any action, including any decision, will change the future. Those of the multiversal persuasion might decribe this as inertia brought on by terror that the slightest exercise of agency will result in the agent entering an adjacent parallel universe, forever barred from the one in which the action was performed, unable to return to a world where the decision was never taken.

wrong pathAnd … Read more

Of earworms and Teflon tunes

Our word for the day is earworm. And the following definition is from the charming animation “Jazz that nobody asked for.”

jazz that nobody asked for“Sometimes a song can get stuck in your mind. Become a little piece of unwanted music, that keeps looping for the rest of your day.

Neurologists claim that stuck songs are like thoughts we’re trying to suppress. The harder we try not to think about them, the more we can’t help it. The phenomenon is also known … Read more

McStuff and the triumph of democratic mediacratization

The Peak Experience.

In a recent post, I reflected on the strange compulsion to record every iota of our individual and collective experience and then share it with everyone else, each of whom is trying to do the same. How can anyone enjoy an unmediated experience of night-time Hong Kong from Victoria Peak, for example? (“Colonialized: The Peak Experience”)

There I stood at the rail on the viewing platform, getting a many-elbowed massage from others who had mounted … Read more

Traitor, hero or some of each?

Government surveillance is a public service; E. Snowden is a self-serving traitor.


Government surveillance is evil; E. Snowden is a heroic champion of our individual freedoms and dignity.

xkcd atheists & fundmenalistsMaybe we should adopt a perspective superior to either of those.

The truth may well lie somewhere between two poles. At least if you acknowledge that we conduct healthy societies and polities in the tension between ideals of perfect security and perfect freedom, perfect harmony and a Hobbesian state of … Read more

Japanieces & tilefish & things

What have tilefish and superyacht owners got in common?

Collin posed this question at the end of his last post, “Pharaonic fish and flash fatcats.” And now he has invited me, Jack Shackaway, who remains unbound by considerations of political correctness, to explain.

The following passages are from a novel in progress starring yours truly — even written by yours truly though Collin will no doubt try to claim otherwise. The book is a work of … Read more

Zombie nation: Shutting down

In my previous post I suggested that persons and cultures, our very realities, are narrative in structure. What happens when you interrupt such narratives? Many of us are finding out, thanks to our increasingly ubiquitous and much-beloved digital communication technologies. There follow two especially obvious ways this is happening.

Applying a cell phone to the side of one’s head in public has the effect of disconnecting the brain. In this condition, cellphone users show characteristic signs of aimlessness, milling about … Read more

What is writing?


J.P. Donleavy, an early literary hero of mine, was quoted in Playboy (May, 1979) as saying, “Writing is turning one’s worst moments into money.”

Would that this were so. Meanwhile, another spin on the essence of writing is going the rounds on Facebook:



In other quarters, writers instead turn whiskey into piss and engage in binge writing in the intervals between their alchemical endeavors. (I encountered the expression “binge writing” listening to a Letterman interview Read more

Digital civility rools, or doesn’t

Vertically walleyed: A new affliction, an occupational hazard for the digitally connected and cool, a neologism of sorts coined right here and right now.

“My students tell me about an important new skill: it involves maintaining eye contact with someone while you text someone else; it’s hard, but it can be done.”

That’s from a great NY Times article by Sherry Turkle, “The Flight from Conversation.” And this advice has expanded my notion of what’s fittin’ and … Read more

Lexical entropy: Will meaning prevail? (Hopefully)

Only a year ago the forces of tradition prevailed (click on image):



Now the AP Stylebook has reversed its position. And in the streets there is much wailing and gnashing of teeth as right-thinking editors everywhere protest the onslaught of lexical entropy to the point, some fear, we’ll be left to describe human experience with nothing but “whatever” and “huh!”

In breaking news, Shakespeare has been disinterred by a team of archaeologists and mediums in search of … Read more

Premature evacuations offend spirits of the place

Here on my eight-floor balcony, watching the sun retire across the river to the west, I can almost hear the waters advancing from Saphan Kwai. Or is that merely the kerfuffle of conflicting rumor? For weeks, here in Phya Thai District, we’ve awaited the floods from the north as they advance with glacial alacrity. One of the many rumors, inconsistently promulgated by government officials, was that we might well be spared altogether.

Ultimately, though, it seems the hi-so spirits of … Read more