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Cryptogenius Guru or
Just A Nice Guy?
James replied that I should read Singer's book before I dismissed him out of hand, and that my tone was negative and antagonistic, traits which he did not appreciate. (We know he is trying to eee-liminate the negative and aa-centuate the positive in his life as a general rule. Does that also mean ignoring criticism or advice?).
It was a brief message and belied the fact that he didn't want to waste too much time on me. Here is part of it: "To be successful you need to research and also be polite. You clearly did not research."
My reply was of course in my typical long winded and righteously sarcastic style, a hallmark which have I spent considerable time cultivating and mastering. (At least give me credit for that). Again, this is a memoir and mostly about me.
Here is what i wrote: "What good is his advice if it doesn't work? Do you honestly think that Singer would have been given his first book contract if he hadn't already made his nut? No, his only credibility is the one thing that matters to the self-help crowd: he's rich already, that's proof it works! It must be true! People want his secret to getting rich not his advice on how to to get 'clear' with Xenu.
"Meanwhile, I'll give you a little bit of research which I just happen to know offhand. Baker Botts was the law firm that got the settlement for him. Well, that's Baker as in Reagan's secretary James Baker. I know that because of a personal connection.
"As the news article I posted in fact notes, he also made hefty contributions to a lot of right wing causes. So, it's obvious that right wing cabal operatives whitewashed the whole operation as they are won't to do in service of their higher power of profits and manipulated public perception.
"And James you didn't even ask him about it when you had the chance. Now, if you want me to research and confirm that's true, again, I'll be doing what's traditionally called investigative journalism and would expect to get paid for my trouble.
"News is what people want to keep hidden, everything else is publicity." -Bill Moyers.
"Lastly," I wrote him back in 2014, "if you check my own website in a few days I'll be publishing something about you and my thoughts on your writing 'formula'. I tipped my hand by noting that it revolves around wealth envy, but I don't think I need to remind you what your formula is, you have it down to a tee.
"I'm not shitting on anyone just to shit, I actually believe that journalism and literary criticism are worthwhile pursuits and make for sharper readers and consumers. I believe in education. But one day when I make it even bigger than today as a self-made writer like you or Tucker Max, I'm sure you'll decide that it was good I wasn't a sycophant to you like all the other posts on your Facebook and have me on your show, right?
"Meanwhile, Tucker Max is a disgusting human being but as long as he makes money, hey, give him the PR he craves so that he can try to assuage his guilt by a public mea culpa. But the fact is, the town whore only ever finds religion after they made their money and realize that they can use the money to buy the respect they didn't know they'd ever want. If he was really actually sorry for being an asshole he would donate every penny of his ill-gotten gains to a woman's shelter. But no, they always give lip service to repentance but keep the money. Anyway, good luck and keep up the good work! -Kevin"
That was probably pretty hard for him to take, admittedly. I do't know why I need to point out everyone else's flaws, I have enough of my own I should attend to. Well, when you hike all the way up to your guru's mountain-top you want some answers.
He wrote back that he supported some causes with his money, though he asked that their names be kept 'off the record'. I think that was because he did not want to use their name as some kind of shield nor flog his charitable contributions to make himself holier than thou, which sounded fairly plausible and humble to me. Suffice it to say, he named them to me and they were fully legit and not at all in the style of, say, Tucker Max.
Here is what I replied: "Thanks again for the conversation. Here's a kind of paradox of self-actualization lit, in my mind: if I'm by nature an ass then following my nature and being the best ass I can be is the only thing I can ever be because that is my nature and power, right? I have learned to live with who I am and what I am. Well, I'm not an ass on purpose but I am what Myers-Briggs would call an ENTP, someone who sees the forest enough that they can easily see where the trees are and which ones might be growing crooked. Sometimes when I point things out from that perspective it upsets the PR applecart that everyone is trying to craft in an age where image often trumps substance.
"I learned long ago that my strength was my skepticism. I know you get the reference to the classical philosophy. I haven't checked these guys out but here's a link to some people who look legit: http://www.skeptic.com/skepticism-101. I think it's an essential tool in this day and age of propaganda and disinformation. I think it would be a service to your listeners to model it for them.
"I'm in favor of Socratic dialogue, which I enjoy a lot (as we're doing now, in my mind-- I appreciate the replies and enjoy it, though I of course will keep this private and not ruin your "wall" [with posting it publicly on your wall]. That means I take the hypothetical 'other side' of any argument just to explore and test it. Even knowing that principle, I've tried to avoid being excessively negative because I do believe that offering something positive is better. Thus, on my website I write of my love of Brian Wilson's Smile and others. I literally force myself to balance each article of criticism with one of praise or humor.
"But I also feel the way I feel is somewhat justified in terms of my cynicism about the "stop trying and just let the universe reward you" school of magical thinking. After all, I've known you (or, of you) since the mid aughts when I emailed you while I was at MS and sought you out for a speaking engagement. (You priced me out probably because you didn't want the gig at all). Yet, I was reaching out to 'suggest ideas or opportunities to others.' And then when you got your publishing going gangbusters I posted a few comments to your site that were all positive because I did like your writing. But did that inspire you to turn around and offer me a chance to meet a decent literary agent, or did you ask me onto your podcast, or did it lead to anything at all? No.
"Still, I've never criticized you personally, only said that there seemed to more to the story in terms of one of your guests, especially in terms of the viability of the idea that waiting around in the forest for people to throw money at you works 70% of the time, every time. That implies a criticism, but it wasn't personal. It was in terms of your content and that is why I called what I'm doing lit-crit.
"Listen, we all know that the universe is indifferent to us, and that waiting for it to sneak up behind us and reward us for being patient is foolish.
"Here's an example of what I view as more realistic depiction of the way the world of humans works: reddit has a 'post your own music' page, but they require you to comment on three others' posts too before you get critiqued so that it's a beautiful community of people helping people. And I got used. My posts were ignored (no comments at all) despite my excellent all-positive constructive comments to others. I did the math on the number of posts and the number of replies and it was clear most people were not contributing. Well, I'll keep writing music and staying positive because I love it, and my stuff isn't that great or anything, but the point is: don't expect much from others if you don't ask for it.
"What do we do when most in society work by the principle of Friedman-esque self-interest and all is forgiven if you make money? Was Tucker Max polite to all the women he attacked? No. It led to his fame, it was his very engine because it was an outrage. He's the Chris Brown of publishing. But again, all is forgiven if you can put the words "NYT bestseller" at the top? Try changing the words "woman" in his work with "black person" every time and see if he's still worth giving free PR for what he yells at people because I don't see a difference there.
"But sales equals media coverage, even if the media coverage is "former bad boy is just so irresistibly bad but now all growed up and apologetic so the rubberneck media can and will exploit it one more time!" Even his repentance is about his former lack of shame which again must be recounted with a sensible chuckle (because it sells).
"If I wanted to use something negative to become successful I'd just write racist stuff and it would work like a charm by ringing the bell for a certain type of ignorant and I bet I'd get on the NYT bestseller list! But I couldn't live with myself. (Note, this was written before Trump used the exact strategy to steal the White House with the help of Russia and the failure of the electoral college to represent the vote of the people. So it goes.)
"Instead, I've tried to raise society's standards with my writing because, as I said, I believe in education. And I think you have, too. I've been aggressive with my ideas but not, I think, rude. I made sure to thank you for your reply and to tell you that I appreciate your work. However, my heroes are Lennon and Vonnegut. I can't help but be sarcastic and genuine at the same time. It's --again-- my very nature and I can't deny it though I know it may rub some wrong.
"Another reddit story. Start of 2015 I came across the "free compliments" page. That sounds nice and positive, I said. So I doled out free compliments to a lot of people and it did make me feel marginally better as well. Then I needed a compliment and I went back to the same board a month later and it was a dead thread (social entropy) and I asked for but never even got a compliment when I needed it.
"Until we live in a world without entropy or the tragedy of the commons, I'm going to be on guard against being used. Studies show you only have so much social positive capital each day, as you know.
"As I said, I'd love to do the research on Singer, but not for free because bottom line the universe hasn't sent me squat for money in over a year and selling my last business won't last me forever or prove to my wife that I can make it in the content generation world."
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