Monthly Archives: June 2015

Let Trump Run! Let’s Have Fun – Jon Stewart

Donald the Orangutan

I have to admit, I’m very excited about Donald Trump running for the American Presidency. Excited because I like how he talks about the real issues that are affecting the USA. Excited because he holds back no punches. Excited because he is so colorful. Excited because he will actually make the campaign fun, and ridiculous and real, all at the same time because he will swing at the subjects that other candidates never want to swing at.

  • YES, he will insert his foot in his mouth, often.
  • YES, he will call everyone a loser!
  • YES, he will ruffle feathers at every turn.
  • YES, he won’t be politically savvy on every issue under the sun.
  • YES, he is so full of himself it’s like watching shameless self promoting reality TV.
  • YES! YES!! YES!!! we could go on an on and on. lol!!

The truth of the matter is that the USA needs serious change if they want to be a great nation for generations to come. Change that most seasoned and professional politicians would never really endorse for fear of career suicide. Change that the gears of institutionalized government don’t seem to allow in individuals that need to conform and get elected.

The USA needs to do some serious work on their economy… and their foreign policy… and education… and international trade… etc etc etc. All things that Trump addresses, and for which I hope he will have more realistic and tangible policies once he becomes the President, LOL!! Cause building the Great Wall of Mexico is a great cocktail party solution when all your socialite friends are around, but a terrible political solution when you are standing in office.

I know we are Canadians that can’t vote in the next US Elections, but I wish we could. Because instead of putting a big fat “x” on my choices of bad or worse candidates, I would vote for Donald Trump!

Oh yeah, I almost forgot. There are two things that Trump’s candidacy will definitely and without a doubt accomplish:

  1. Comedians across the globe will have enough material now to ensure everyone gets their daily dose of laughter.
  2. Serious journalists and political commentators across the globe will also contribute to that dose.

Below you’ll find Trump’s Presidential Announcement, and a few other Trump party favorites.

-Alex Vinetti

I’ll Take It in Black

Jesus answered, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? I tell you, no! . . . Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? I tell you, no!”—Luke 13:2-5

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“Well, guys, didn’t really ask for the death sentence. But if that’s all you’ve got, I’ll take it in black.” That’s what my sarcastic friend said, before blowing out the candles on her 32nd birthday cake. She was just like that: you know, the kind of person who simply refuses to take life seriously, the kind of person who can turn anything into a joke, even a breast cancer diagnosis.

Of course there were chinks in her body armor, cracks in her bulletproof butch persona; and, in them, we could see the fear and the terror and the doubt peeking out at us, like shy forest creatures with big eyes. They were there: right there: in the quivering corners, of her sardonic smile.

When I saw her two years later, in the palliative care unit, she said she thought the oncologist’s diagnosis was the worst diagnosis she would ever hear; until, that is, she got a second diagnosis from her uncle, the bible-thumping fundamentalist, with the “Jesus Loves You” t-shirt: “The wages of sin are death,” he thundered through the phone. “God’s punishing you for being a lesbian! You brought this cancer on yourself.” Before hanging up on his dying niece, he promised to pray for her.

Worse still, she said, was a third diagnosis she got from her high-strung, Prius-driving sister, the health-obsessed housewife with rock-hard yoga abs. Her sister was doing a “cleanse” when she got the call. Maybe that’s why she was on edge. Maybe that’s why she got mad at her little sister, for having cancer. Maybe that’s why she told her off: “Can’t live like you’ve been living, and get away with it forever. Been telling you for years now: quit the lesbo-fat-is-beautiful shit, drop 40 pounds, and get in shape! You brought this cancer on yourself.” Before hanging up on her dying sister, she mumbled something under her breath, something my friend couldn’t quite make out, something about how hard this was gonna be on the kids (but my friend had no kids).

Words like “fascist” and “communist” aren’t particularly useful when it’s hard to tell the difference between life in Stalin’s Soviet Union, Hitler’s Germany and Mussolini’s Italy. That’s why Hannah Arendt said we needed a new name for this 20th-century manifestation of an age-old problem. I’m referring, of course, to the problem of evil, which is always, to some extent, a problem of naming.

We found ourselves similarly situated at the funeral, as we gazed down, upon the lifeless body, of our 34-year-old friend. Because words like “secular” and “religious” aren’t particularly useful when health-nuts and fundamentalists start seeing eye-to-eye, when the heartlessness coming out of the health-club is indistinguishable from the heartlessness coming out of the church, when the metaphysics of the yoga retreat converge with the metaphysics of the bible camp.

But we don’t need a new word like “totalitarianism” for her uncle’s diagnosis, nor do we need a new word for her sister’s diagnosis. Plenty of nasty old words will do, though I can’t, for the life of me, seem to settle on one. I keep looking for a word and yet all I seem to find is a scripture: “if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.”

—John Faithful Hamer, The Book of the Dead (2017)

In Defense of Naïveté

photo credit: Sebastian Furtado
photo credit: Sebastian Furtado

Somewhere in his Lectures on Religion, shanked between some bits on finitude and religion, that irascibly difficult Hegel says that philosophy is nothing more than the cultivation of consciousness. Whatever that form of phenomenological gardening is, it isn’t the acquisition of knowledge. That’s scholarship, a wholly different though often mutually confounded task. Of course, it goes without saying that we need scholarship and science, and all the disciplines and activities that tell us about these things, so that we aren’t dolts and hapless navigators in the world. But, in carrying out all these useful naïveté-banishing activities, we sometimes forget how important naïveté is to the functioning of everything that we do, even to the well-rounded functioning of our most complex thoughts.

By naïveté, I mean something rather specific: the pre- or un-thought component to all our thought, the sort of things that are at the beginning and the end of all we do and think and act. For example, back in the 1960s artificial intelligence research made some very sweeping and ambitious promises about its future progress, only to fall short, if still managing to do some interesting things with games (yay chess!). The reason, according to its famous philosopher critic Hubert Dreyfus, was not firstly anything to do with technological limitations. But rather that the background knowledge of what a mind was – the concept, that is, that they employed – was not itself correct. Like everyone embedded in Western thought, they had taken their model (implicitly) from Descartes, and so they didn’t account for all the tacit, context-sensitive things our minds do all the time, before we even start reflecting on things. In the semi-technical world of philosophy, Dreyfus would say that the artificial intelligence program did not account for intuition. That is understandable, of course. After all, as those weird German idealists knew best, it is rather hard to think the un-thought.

Take jaywalking in Montreal. To a newcomer in this world of pedestrian anarchy, we must stop, analyze the situation, explicitly represent the rules of traffic (and physics!) to ourselves, before we venture daringly across Sherbrooke, rue Sainte-Catherine, or even the strangely dangerous rue University. To a habituated Montrealer who has so absorbed the contextuality of the situation, however, they no longer need to explicitly represent all these things to themselves as rules, and they intuitively know when and how to cross without being dead. In this sense, naïveté is something that is almost won. So, this isn’t to say that artificial intelligence is impossible (not even Dreyfus would say that), or that being able to manipulate the rules symbolically isn’t valuable, it’s just that much of what we do presuppose a naïveté, if you like, to function well, if at all.

Husserl, that other writer of painful prose, says that for us, the earth does not move (as in, around the sun). Basically, in our day-to-day life, classical physics is our operating principle (thanks Aristotle!). The ground is solid. Things fall. We live in a world where we have to navigate, move our bodies, remember times, go poop, drink tea at Piccolos Café (du Parc shout-out!), feel pain, get hungry, comb our hair, etc. None of these things are of any theoretical importance, and get lost in our headlong quest to banish the naïve from out lives. Let us remember, however, that our naïve and primordial experience of the world is not without value. Indeed, ultimately, it is the only experience of the world we truly have. And Hegel is right. We should cultivate it.

—Adam Smith

Confessions of a Saad Clown

“Evolutionary principle X is applied to study the salamander’s mating behavior. When the exact same principle & epistemology is used to study human mating behavior, clowns scream ‘just-so storytelling.’ The attacks on evolutionary psychology are largely rooted in ideological resistance and/or scientific ignorance.”—Gad Saad, Professor of Marketing @ The John Molson School of Business, Concordia University (Montreal, Quebec)

Fullscreen capture 2015-05-25 113934 PMI find the theory of evolution by natural selection quite convincing. It explains so much, and it does so elegantly. What’s more, I happen to be interested in the mating behavior of salamanders (truth be told, I’ve always been something of a wannabe herpetologist, much to my wife’s chagrin). Regardless, comparing the mating habits of humans and salamanders is absurd. Most salamanders come together (pun not intended) only during the mating season, and only for the purpose of procreation. They live out most of their solitary lives alone. The same cannot be said of human beings. We’re intensely social creatures, and, as a consequence, our mating behavior is (of necessity) inextricably bound up with a web of relationships that make particular forms of human social life possible. So to claim, as many evolutionary psychologists do, that human sexuality can be studied in an ahistorical fashion, without reference to its particular social context, is at best naïve; at its worst, it’s pseudoscience. If saying that makes me a clown, according to Gad Saad, so be it.

The sociological (or anthropological) explanation for human sexuality is, to my mind, almost always more convincing than the one provided by evolutionary psychology precisely because it’s less ambitious. It’s the difference between a map of Montreal that’s based on actual landmarks, actual features of the local landscape (e.g., the St. Lawrence River, Rivière-des-Prairies, Mount Royal, the Lake of Two Mountains, etc.) and a map of Montreal that’s based completely on assumptions about where true north, the Atlantic Ocean, and the Rockies are. Even if the first map is wrong about where north, south, east, and west really are, it’ll still be useful to you, it’ll still help you to get from point A to point B in the city. By contrast, the second map is completely useless to you if its assumptions about the cardinal points are wrong. And the assumptions behind evolutionary psychology are probably wrong; regardless, at any rate, they aren’t nearly as tried, tested, and true as the assumptions behind evolutionary biology. Evolutionary psychology needs to be seen for what it is: a squishy, speculative field filled with little boys who like to talk tough and play dress-up in daddy’s ill-fitting clothes.

—John Faithful Hamer, Twilight of the Idlers (2016)

p.s. Although I find some of his ideas maddening, you should know that Gad Saad (The Gadfather) is a great prof, an outstanding public intellectual, and a thoroughly decent guy. Like me, he loves a good fight. But he always fights fair. I wish I could say the same about all of his critics. Regardless, I’m glad that (for now!) we live in the kind of Open Society that makes it possible for the two of us to fight in peace. Gad’s not my enemy. But if you’re one of those people who wants to silence him, you are.

p.p.s. I encourage you to watch Gad Saad’s interview with Joe Rogan and make up your own mind.

In Defense of Noam Chomsky

“Amongst Western intelligentsia, to criticize if not loathe American values is viewed as progressive and liberal whilst to support brutal and intolerant religious and political ideologies is a hallmark of being enlightened. It is the freedoms afforded by America that permits [sic] Noam Chomsky, the MIT linguist and political activist, to spew endless antipathy toward the United States while championing astonishingly brutal regimes. Apparently, Professor Chomsky is unaware of what would happen to him (a Jewish man) if he were to live in Gaza and offer similarly trenchant criticisms of Hamas.”—Gad Saad, “Be Thankful for Your Liberties and Freedoms,” Psychology Today (November 22, 2012)

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In The Consuming Instinct (2011), Gad Saad claims that the gender roles depicted on Mad Men are written in DNA on the Holy Tablets that Moses brought down from Darwin’s Mountain. If you oppose any of his reactionary ranting, he wraps himself in the flag of science and says you’re anti-science. No, dude. I’m not anti-science. I’m just anti-bullshit.

Jesus, that great rabbi, famously admonishes us in Matthew’s Gospel to “first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye” (Matthew 7:5). I read this to mean that we should spend far more time on the perfection of ourselves than we do on the perfection of others. By extension, I read this to mean that we should spend far more time on the perfection of our own tribe (or nation or family or religion or ethnic group) than we do on the perfection of other tribes. This doesn’t mean, I hasten to add, that you can’t judge the ways of I.S.I.S. and the Taliban, for instance, to be disgusting and barbaric; it merely means that you should probably spend more time talking about what we’re doing wrong.

Though I usually disagree with him, Noam Chomsky does precisely this. And he’s fully aware (and openly appreciative) of the American freedoms that make it possible for him to say what he says. I’ve heard him say so on numerous occasions. As such, saying, as Gad Saad does, that Chomsky couldn’t do what he does in Gaza is, at best, profoundly misleading. Regardless, what I find most troubling about Gad Saad’s article is its implicit attempt to equate all critique of American foreign policy with hatred of American values. After all, what could be more American than patriotic American idealists holding their government to an impossibly high standard? And what could be more profoundly unAmerican than trying to silence legitimate critique?

Be that as it may, I think it’s important to note that in this article Saad uses precisely the same sleazy debate-club technique to silence critique of American foreign policy that he has elsewhere used to silence critique of his own work in evolutionary psychology. I call it the “Wrapping Yourself in the Flag” strategy. It’s a fairly obvious rhetorical technique. Rather than respond to the substance of a person’s criticism, what you do instead is claim that any critique of this little thing you love is, of necessity, a critique of some great whole. For example: (1) If you critique this neoconservative piece of American foreign policy that I love, you’re actually saying that you hate America, Americans, or American Values; or (2) If you critique this fundamentalist interpretation of Christianity that I love, you actually hate all Christians or God; or (3) If you critique my pseudo-scientific theory of gender, you actually hate Science, Darwin, or the Theory of Evolution by Natural Selection. I’ve come to expect intellectually dishonest “love it or leave it” reasoning of this kind from unprincipled politicians and debate-club presidents. But I expect far more from a tenured professor at my alma mater.

–John Faithful Hamer, Twilight of the Idlers (2016)

The Fringe Benefits of Flunking Out of College

“Failure gave me an inner security that I had never attained by passing examinations. Failure taught me things about myself that I could have learned no other way.”—J.K. Rowling, “The Fringe Benefits of Failure, and the Importance of Imagination,” Harvard Commencement Address (2008)

I flunked out of Dawson College when I was in my late teens. I keep that pathetic transcript in my desk at work. Whenever a student comes into my office in tears, quite sure that their life is over because they’ve just been kicked out of John Abbott College, I take that transcript out of my desk and show it to them. It calms them, I think. Truth be told, flunking out of Dawson College wasn’t my first experience with academic failure. I failed Grade 8 at Rosemount High School (but was advanced, regardless, via “social promotion”), and I failed and repeated Grade 10 at Argyle Academy. What’s more, I was kicked out of numerous schools, and, in general, did terribly wherever I went. The reasons for my lack of academic success were rather prosaic, so I won’t bore you with them. What’s far more interesting is the fringe benefits of all of this failure. What I learned from all of these failures was, quite simply, how to fail. I learned how to detach my ego from the success or failure of my various endeavors. This, as it turns out, is a surprisingly useful skill. Lifelong valedictorians learn this skill far too late in life. And, as a consequence, they’re often crushed by their first real experience with failure.

–John Faithful Hamer, From Here (2015)

p.s. I really can’t recommend Rowling’s speech enough: 

Reading Babette Babich

Babette Babich-005Unlike most philosophers these days, Babette Babich is just as impressive in person as she is in her books. A gifted orator, she speaks—and at times intones—the way you imagine Epicurus speaking in your dreams: by the sea, with a glass of wine in his hand.

Reading Babette Babich reminds you of what it was like to be young and in love . . . with ideas. There’s an infectious enthusiasm to her style that makes the heart race. Academic life has not ruined Babich. She hasn’t forgotten her first love with the Ephesians. Nor has she grown lukewarm with the Laodiceans. All to the contrary: Babich’s revelations burn with a passionate intensity.

The Lost Art of Aphoristic Reading: A Review of Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s The Bed of Procrustes

“He who writes in blood and aphorisms does not want to be read—he wants to be learned by heart. In the mountains the shortest route is from peak to peak, but for that you must have long legs. Aphorisms should be peaks, and those to whom they are spoken should be big and tall of stature. The air thin and pure, danger near, and the spirit full of a joyful wickedness: these things suit one another. I want hobgoblins around me, for I am courageous. Courage that scares away phantoms makes hobgoblins for itself—courage wants to laugh.”—Friedrich Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra: A Book for Everyone and Nobody (1883)

The Bed of ProcrustesPeople who share my love of Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s books are often surprised to learn that The Bed of Procrustes is my favorite. I suspect that there are two main reasons for this: (1) the knowledge of how to read an aphorism properly is, by and large, a lost art in this day and age; and, (2) our culture has for the most part forgotten what can be reasonably expected of the aphoristic genre. For instance, we all know that it would be foolish to complain that the documentary about genocide you watched in class didn’t make you laugh. Likewise, we all know that it would be foolish to complain that the slapstick comedy you watched on the plane was silly. But few of us realize that faulting an aphorism for being incomplete or overly categorical is just as foolish.

All that I know about how to read and write aphorisms, I learned from the philosopher Horst Hutter. In his famous Nietzsche Seminar, he taught us that an aphorism is, in essence, like a photograph of a mountain peak (or a trail map to the top). Although the aphorism’s author points you in the right direction, you’re gonna have to climb the mountain yourself. Aphorisms require that the reader do some work. Often some rather hard work. Among other things, you’ve got to remember that the aphorism doesn’t stand alone. Quite to the contrary: the aphorism must be understood within the context of all the rest of the author’s work.

“The worst readers,” Nietzsche maintained, “are those who proceed like plundering soldiers: they pick up a few things they can use, soil and confuse the rest, and blaspheme the whole.” Many of the worst readers Nietzsche spoke of have, it seems, reviewed The Bed of Procrustes. My impression, after reading a few dozen Amazon reviews, is that The Bed of Procrustes may be Taleb’s most misunderstood book. The tepid reviews of The Bed of Procrustes fail to acknowledge how difficult (and rich) it is. I’ve assigned it to numerous classes at John Abbott College. And my students love it. Be that as it may, most of the really nasty reviews of The Bed of Procrustes on Amazon.com appear to have been written by people who (a) don’t know how to read carefully, (b) don’t know how to read aphorisms carefully, OR (c) didn’t bother trying to read Taleb’s aphorisms carefully. I’ll give just one example to illustrate my point. One reviewer cites the common phenomenon of the 30-year-old teenager (still living at home, still sponging off of mom and dad) as a refutation of Taleb’s claim that modernity causes us to age prematurely. This is based on a laughable misreading of the aphorism in question. When Taleb says that modernity leads us to age prematurely, he’s quite obviously referring to physiological decrepitude (e.g., the dumpy dude who looks 45 at 28), not emotional maturity (e.g., the street smart kid who talks like a 25-year-old at 13).

Nassim Nicholas Taleb confounds and disappoints people often. To some extent, this is due to an accident of history: the book that made him famous, The Black Swan (2007), was (at least initially) one of those books you could talk about without reading. The chattering classes love books like this. Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century (2014) is a case in point. Be that as it may, none of Taleb’s other books are like this. All to the contrary. And hence the disappointment. Dynamic Hedging (1997), his first book, is fabulously inaccessible. A friend of mine described it as an esoteric conversation over beers in a London pub. And that pretty much nails it. Dynamic Hedging is filled with the kind of specialized shoptalk my math-whiz, ex-trader of a wife engages in, from time to time, with her old Wall Street buddies at wine-soaked dinner parties—much to the chagrin of our statistically-challenged friends. The same is ultimately true of Fooled By Randomness (2005), despite the fact that it’s written with the intelligent layman in mind. Still, no two books piss people off more than his last two books—Antifragile (2012) and The Bed of Procrustes (2010)—though, truth be told, they piss people off for totally different reasons.

Antifragile gets on people’s nerves because it’s written for serious readers who actually like to read books, as opposed to pretentious intellectual lightweights who like to talk about books they’ve skim-read, or, what’s worse, people who like to talk about books they’ve read about in middlebrow publications like The New York Review of BooksThe Bed of Procrustes gets on people’s nerves for far deeper reasons. Like its author, The Bed of Procrustes is really, at bottom, an atavism: a throwback to a bygone era: something which doesn’t quite fit into the 21st century. If Antifragile was written for serious readers, The Bed of Procrustes was (to some extent) written for philosophical people who don’t read much. Of course this notion seems strange and foreign to us, because we’re sons and daughters of modernity, heirs to the printing press, public education, and all the rest. And, as such, we simply cannot understand why a philosophical person might refrain from reading books (on purpose). But this wouldn’t seem odd to Stoics like Chrysippus and Seneca; nor does it seem odd, I suspect, to an oddball like Taleb.

Most ancient philosophers wrote little or nothing. They received and transmitted their ideas via the spoken word. Some did this, of necessity, because they were themselves illiterate; but most did so, like Socrates, because they were profoundly suspicious of the written word. The spirit of philosophy was first and foremost, they thought, a function of speeches not scribbles; it couldn’t be captured in chirography, but it could be conjured in conversation, and, to some extent, encapsulated in aphorisms. For instance, Roman soldiers who could barely read often managed, despite their lack of learning, to commit much of Epictetus’s Enchiridion to memory. Likewise, many an Epicurean shopkeeper living in, say, 2nd-century Athens, would, though functionally illiterate, memorize most (if not all) of Epicurus’s sayings and maxims. These aphorisms contained—albeit in a highly concentrated form—more than enough wisdom to last a lifetime.

If there’s one thing the chattering classes can’t stand about Nassim Nicholas Taleb, one thing they’ll never forgive him for, it’s this: he’s written a book of aphorisms in the 21st century with that Athenian shopkeeper in mind.

—John Faithful Hamer, The Goldfish (2016)

Meredith’s Flaws

Your photography is replete with flaws, Meredith—perfect, endearing flaws—flaws that make your audience trust you, trust your impressions, embrace your sensibilities, and, at times, embrace your vision—when the image’s content is particularly powerful, when its form is fortunately composed, and when it causes the viewer to see something novel, something they’ve never seen before—or, even better, when the work causes them to see something familiar, mundane, and commonplace in a fresh new way—when the work causes the viewer to see—truly see—something they see all the time—something that’s been hiding in plain sight—and, as a result (an unavoidable result) of this seeing, to form new judgments about that which has been revealed. Perhaps it now seems grotesque and utterly immoral, whereas it once seemed altogether benign, unobjectionable—an unchanging (and thus unchangeable) feature of the world, our world, which doesn’t need to be accepted so much as it needs to be ignored. Perhaps it now seems breathtakingly beautiful, whereas it once seemed utterly plain, boring, and unremarkable.

For instance, in this moody and brilliantly composed photograph of the Montreal sky I’m looking at on Facebook right now, you’ve provided me with an entirely fresh perspective, a revelation really, in the form of a vista—a home-grown Montreal vista—which, truth be told, I thought possible only in some far off scenic place like Montana or Alberta—you know, somewhere in that hearty swath of fertile flat land that runs down the middle of our beloved continent, somewhere in that large yet poorly defined place often referred to as Big Sky Country. Lots of young people leave the flat farmlands of the Midwest in early adulthood. They find their way to one of our continental coasts and make lives for themselves in the bustling metropolises that dot the coastal regions of North America. They leave for many reasons, but, in my experience, they all (at some point) say that they miss the sky. And, because I’ve spent some time in the Midwest, I know what they’re talking about. In Big Sky Country, the heavens occupy much more of your visual field. You can see for miles and miles in any direction. And the clouds are more expressive, though I couldn’t tell you how or why this is the case. One gets the impression that the Midwestern sky has a far greater visual vocabulary to draw upon; it’s more articulate than the Montreal sky; it can express a far greater range of emotions, and it can do so with greater precision. Hence my prejudice against the Montreal sky. But these pictures you’ve been taking lately—pictures of the Montreal sky—have made one thing clear: it can be far more expressive than I ever imagined.

In showing me the expressive capacity of the Montreal sky, you’ve done, to my mind, precisely what good art so often does: namely, show us that what we believe to be OVER THERE, just beyond the horizon—and, at any rate, definitely out of reach—is in fact HERE, right here, at our feet, where we live, and available at all times.

—John Faithful Hamer, The Myth of the Fuckbuddy (2016)

Our Prudishne$$

“A man will reveal the most intimate details of his sex life before he will show you his tax return.”—Aaron Haspel, Everything: A Book of Aphorisms (2015)

xre4w“Everybody’s uptight about something.” That’s what the adorable little hippie said to me, with a sassy smile. I had just teased her about the meticulous manner in which she cleaned her bong. No joke, it was like watching a marine clean his gun. Only she was the very opposite of a marine: a wake-and-bake stoner who rarely got up before noon. She said “dude” often, and her basement apartment on St. Paul Street was in a perpetual state of patchouli-scented chaos. For these reasons, and others, her fussiness about the bong seemed out of place to 25-year-old me. But contradictions of this stamp surprise me less at 41. In part, because I’ve discovered that they’re actually quite common.

There are extroverted exhibitionists in this world—delightfully entertaining people—who will, at the drop of a hat, regale your dinner-party guests with salty stories from their misspent youth. They’ll talk about the sex, the drugs, the rock and roll, and all the rest—and they’ll do so without hesitation. These are people who wear their shamelessness like a badge, people who take pride in their openness, people who could, it seems, talk about any potentially embarrassing topic with ease—until, that is, the topic of money and indebtedness comes up. At that point, many of the very same extroverts clam up and turn bright red. The fiery redhead who was just telling us about an ecstasy-fueled orgy is suddenly speechless, sheepish, and shy. Same is true of the flamboyant dude in the corner who was just telling us about the time he overdosed on Viagra. He’s shamefaced and silent too.

Our culture has never been so laid-back about sex, nor has it ever been so uptight about money.

—John Faithful Hamer, From Here (2016)