Book Review: Talking to Crazy

Talking to Crazy: How to Deal with the Irrational and Impossible People in Your Life by Mark Goulston

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


It’s sort of like a pop psych version of The Prince, but instead of manipulating snooty European nobles with “near truths” and tactical surrenders, you use it on coworkers and loved ones when they’re acting screwy.

Goulston gives examples of the various crazy people will act out in their day to day lives — focusing primarily on every day, garden variety crazy, not axe murderer crazy — and how to disarm it. Most of these disarmaments require a sacrifice of dignity. You’ll be flattering them unduly, you’ll be lying about their capability, you’ll be pretending they’re right or that you’re scared or something like that as a means of “leaning into their crazy” which gives you the leverage to frog-march them back into sanity.

He seems like an excellent psychiatrist, if duplicitous. I like the prospect of leaning into crazy. People get really embedded in delusional thinking, and to challenge that delusion challenges their whole self-concept, which feels like an attack not only on the individual, but on the whole foundation of the individual’s world. Burning it down and salting the earth. So when you try to talk somebody out of crazy, it feels like bombardment, and they’ll start deploying whatever weapons they have to stop what they perceive as your assault. And guess what? Those weapons? Real crazy.

Whereas, leaning into crazy, it’s like a trojan horse. They won’t realize you’re dragging them back into sanity until it’s too late, at which point they won’t be irrational anymore, which is the point.

Goulston’s methods are sketchy because yes, they are deliberately, premeditatedly manipulative. In that respect, it reads like a pick-up artist book. Here’s a list of canned responses and insight into the psychology of others to coax them into doing what you want. It’s just, in this case, doing what you want is “acting like a reasonable adult”, and I think that’s probably the greater good.




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Book Review: Dispelling Wetiko

Dispelling Wetiko: Breaking the Curse of Evil by Paul Levy

My rating: 1 of 5 stars


Incomprehensible and charmless, Dispelling Wetiko attempts to answer questions nobody asked with more meandering, answerless questions that don’t really even pertain to the initial question. Through the fog of schizoid babble and overuse of the meaningless signifier “nonlocal”, Paul Levy attempts to argue… something. He borrows heavily from Lovecraft in that, “Wetiko cannot be put into words (except the word Wetiko), Wetiko is so powerful and ultra spooky and pervasive that if you talk about it, it controls you, but if you don’t talk about it, it also controls you!”

Wetiko, as near as I could decipher, is being selfish and willfully noncreative. It’s etymologically linked to the indigenous concept of the Wendigo, who ate people; Wetiko as a “psychic disease” eats humanity by robbing us of what it means to be human, locking us in a non-generative box of self-absorbed consumption, something about “ego is a delusion” because Levy’s into Buddhism, blah blah, you get it. Oh, look, I used words to describe the indescribable.

He’s a miserable writer and it’s made worse by his flagrant self-obsession, which he props up on meaningless New Age jargon like an unconvincing scarecrow, periodically name-dropping Jung and Rollo May in an effort to salvage credibility.

The worst part is, it’s a book pretending to be about psychology, but no psychologist was even peripherally involved in its production. In the intro to the book, Paul Levy explains how the manifestation of Wetiko crept into his dreams, manifesting its vampiric and oogidy-boogidy nature by his recurrent dreamland dalliances with Dracula.

Multiple dreams about Dracula. One where they’re sitting in his parlor just vibing out, chatting, but Dracula keeps staring at him, eyes beginning to glow with a bestial hunger. In the second one, he and Dracula are laying in bed together, and Levy realizes “Wetiko” is aiming to consume him vampirically, so he jams something in Dracula’s mouth while chanting a Buddhist mantra that symbolized a very specific guru whom Levy idolizes.

Now, if at any point in the editing process, Levy had checked with a psychologist, therapist, psychoanalyst, or even a first-year psych student, they would have said:

“Paul, these Dracula dreams sound horny. The ‘charismatic, vampiric’ force manifesting in the form of Dracula, staring at you in a way that makes you feel desired and uncomfortable, literally sharing a bed with you… could that be your unconscious grappling with something latent? Maybe that’s why you chose to dissipate Dracula’s dark and alluring power with the sigil of your Buddhist father figure, who provides a channel by which to communicate that ‘compassion’ and ‘lovingkindness’ for other fellas? Is that maybe why you felt you had to mention waking up next to your girlfriend in the very next sentence?”

Not my pig, not my farm, not my client. Maybe if he were my client, I would have finished this book. As it stands, there’s no way I’m sitting through 12 hours of this. If that means I stay wracked with Wetiko, it’s a sacrifice I’m willing to make.



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Book Review: The Chimp Paradox

The Chimp Paradox: The Acclaimed Mind Management Programme to Help You Achieve Success, Confidence and Happiness by Steve Peters

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


I know it looks like get-up-and-gotivation office jockey tripe, but it’s a ruse. The market for business books is probably better than the market for self help. Nobody wants to do things “for themselves”, especially in America, but everybody wants to make more money.

Peters hammers the reader with any number of meandering analogies that are impossible to keep track of, comparing aspects of the personality to various structures in our solar system including, for some reason, the Kuiper belt, and describes reflexive unconscious schema as either “autopilot”, “goblins”, or “gremlins”. He’s English, and maybe there’s a more pronounced and innately understood cultural difference between goblins and gremlins there. I’m an American. I will not learn about English culture under any circumstances.

Where the book and the theory really shines is the divvying up of the Freudian id and ego/superego into “chimp” and “human” aspects of our mind. The chimp is irrational, easily angered, highly defensive, functionally feral. The human is logical, rational, capable of delaying gratification to get two marshmallows later, that kind of thing. However, both in your head and in real life, chimps are 5x stronger than humans per square inch of muscle, and you will never overpower your internal chimpliness with sheer force of will.

Fortunately, you don’t have to. You just have to be on good terms with your chimp. Just like you positively condition a dog with treats to get it to do what you want, you bribe, bargain, and placate your chimp into cooperation. When it gets worked up and “makes you anxious”, give it ten minutes to vent. Let your chimp bitch and moan. Once it’s done, the human steps in and says, “I know it sucks. It’s okay. How about we pound through the homework assignment right quick, then after we can get a drink with the lads?”

A well-exercised chimp is much more manageable. Take it out, let it run around. Let it scream itself out when it needs to. Your chimp likes creature comforts like food and sex and smoking weed, but it also likes things that remind your body that you’re alive, like exercise, cold showers, and social achievement (as the chimp is deeply concerned about its place in the troop at all times).

Peters presents a concise owner’s manual for fruitful chimp companionship. Take care of your chimp (and your body). Address your chimp’s need to chimp out (your emotions). Distance yourself from those irrational aspects of yourself, but stop punishing yourself for feeling things strongly! There’s a chimp in there, but he’s not necessarily you, in that you are more than just the chimp.

You don’t need to fly into a rage and regret it later when the chimp is exhausted and the human needs to pick up the pieces, which in turn humiliates the chimp, creating a feedback loop of rage. You can get the chimp out of the crisis zone, let him hop around in the jungle for a while, then come back at this when he’s contentedly eating bananas and you can actually steer the damn vehicle.

Excuse the mixed metaphor. Chimps shouldn’t drive, unless they have demonstrated a natural talent.

An excellent book for anybody with even a passing interest in psychology. I’ve been pushing it on a bunch of people, even though nobody ever takes my book recommendations. I don’t take it personal. Reading is hard, especially for a chimp, and if you didn’t have chimp management issues I wouldn’t be pushing the book on you in the first place.



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Book Review: What Makes Your Brain Happy and Why You Should Do the Opposite

What Makes Your Brain Happy and Why You Should Do the Opposite by David DiSalvo

My rating: 2 of 5 stars


Fisher-Price My First Neuroscience book. Somebody should have stopped him from publishing the introduction, it was so awkward that I almost stopped reading the book.

If you make it through that, it’s a primer on neuroscience and cognitive psych, citing the usual bunch of studies you would have learned about in a Psych 101 gen ed. The gorilla basketball experiment, the marshmallow one, monkeys creating a token economy, you know the drill.

The science was sturdy and the takeaway is that our brains are organized to prefer short-term benefits over the long-term promise of benefits due to an innate understanding of uncertainty, which served us fine living in the caves, but doesn’t fly as well trading crypto.







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Book Review: A Billion Wicked Thoughts

A Billion Wicked Thoughts: What the World’s Largest Experiment Reveals about Human Desire by Ogi Ogas

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


I loved this book. I’ve got this problem when I love books too much, I’ll wait to review them so I can let everything percolate and get my thoughts in order. Problem is, much like when you don’t write down a dream right after waking up, you lose details. I finished this one over a week ago and I’ve been turning it over in my head ever since, but it was so convoluted that I’m worried I’ve lost some of the plot.

Here we go. The Largest Experiment wasn’t an experiment, but a comparative, blind meta-analysis of porn searches across gender, age, and orientation variables. The results wind up falling in lockstep alignment with the narrative pushed by evolutionary psychology since its inception in the 50s, which is why there’s so much high-pitched keening from all these other reviewers. Evolutionary biology and its appendages have decidedly not been asked to the prom in 2021.

The beauty of this non-experiment is all the data is naturalistic observation, beamed in directly from the crusty consoles of these degenerate perverts without their knowledge. Seems unethical, doesn’t it? That’s what makes it so hot.

The somewhat antiquated conclusions drawn from this ironically voyeuristic analysis of internet voyeurism is that men are cocked, locked, and ready to rock at virtually all times, assuming normal amygdal function and dopamine sensitization, because men tend to be attracted to individual parts. Not like in an Ed Gein way, normally. But men can do just fine looking at a super zoom-in of tiddies, because their brains are typically wired to respond to visual cues.

As contrasted to the average woman, where the arousal process tends to be much more psychological and convoluted. The odious comparison they draw in the book is with someone named Miss Marple, who I am too young and cool to know about, but by context clues deduce that she’s some sort of horny, geriatric detective. Women need a sequence of different things for arousal – very few of them can just look supercuts of big ol’ donguses and be ready to go – and the usual suspects tend to include things like status, attention, emotional connection, power, safety vs danger (which operates on a sort of sliding scale, both with their moistening potential), and actual physical attractiveness across several domains, all added somewhere in the mix. You don’t need all of them, but you need at least a couple.

Another fascinating little quirk of female arousal discussed in the book is there’s often such a significant disconnect that the brain doesn’t realize that the body’s aroused. In a neat little experiment they gauged the physiological, sexual readiness of both men and women when exposed to pictures of straight porn, gay porn, lesbian porn, neutral stimuli, and monkeys having sex, then asked the participants to rate how aroused they were by each stimulus in the moment.

Men had a direct 1:1 correlation. If they were gay, gay porn did it for them; if they were straight, straight and lesbian porn did it for them, and their self-report arousal matched what it said on the pressure cuff around their ding-a-ling.

Women’s results were all over the place. In most participants, physiological arousal was triggered by every sexually charged image, including – INCLUDING! – the monkeybang, whereas self-report of arousal varied widely between women, but generally across categories you’d expect (straight women generally preferring straight and gay images, lesbians preferring lesbian images, though by no means with the same numerical frequency or intensity as happened for the men). The take-home is that lady parts were pretty much always ready to go when sex as a concept was present, but were so often vetoed by the frontal lobes, and so quickly, that the woman herself wasn’t even aware of it, or of her own physiological arousal.

Because of the differences, the book tried to make the comparison that porn is to men as romance novels (or smutty fanfiction) are to women. It seems counterintuitive from whichever side of the road you’ve been assigned, but when you look at the data they compiled, especially subscription rates to these paysites across gender lines and their, ahem, use… it tracks. Especially when you consider that both of these things are peddling an unrealistic fantasy.

In porn, women are rendered objects. There’s no emotion or personality in the mix, unless some kink requires it, because the end-all is that these digitized dreamgirls are the sum of secondary sex characteristics. Sex objects in the purest conceptualization, and distillates of these visual, sexual cues, breasts and butt and legs and hips and, if you can spare one, a half-decent face. The fantasy sold to habitually porn-consuming men (Coomers, in the parlance) is of compliant sex robots frankensteined together from all the best parts for rapid, goal-oriented, emotionally vacant sex. If the woman speaks, it is to insist that her life is changed by the present sexual experience taking place, and upon completion (as defined by male orgasm, of course) there is an immediate decoupling and everyone goes their separate ways, no muss, no fuss, no further words spoken.

This type of sex is possible, of course. Through Allah, all things are possible. But it’s the exception, and not the rule. And if you’re cranking your hog to porn a few times a week (or a few times a day, in the case of the addicted), the expectation of that fantasy encroaches on your understanding of reality, and supplants it. That’s a tall order for your average woman, who has never even watched porn.

Because she’s busy reading The Baron’s Secret Mistress and getting… maybe not equivalently hot and bothered by it, but comparably. The sex is sort of an afterthought in lady smut, because the sex isn’t the point so much as is the emotions surrounding the sex because, as established, female arousal is a psychosexual Rube Goldberg machine.

The love interest in these works trend to type, too. They are dark, brooding, strong, dangerous. Mention will be made of their chiseled jaws, and perhaps of their powerful thighs. They are sought after, and unfailingly rakish. They are powerful. They occupy a high strata in whatever society they’re in – if he is a Viking he will be a chieftain, if he is a pirate he will be the captain, if he is a brigand he will be a sort of jacked, smirking Robin Hood, never a Little John or a Friar Tuck.

They will be rich. There isn’t much of a market for “The Long-Haul Trucker’s Concubine” or “The Forbidden Doublewide Trailer”, for some reason.

They will be heartbreakers. They will sometimes even be rapists; that’s an alarmingly popular trope in this kind of fiction.

And then, over time, the hypermasculine caricature that is the love interest will realize, often after a chance encounter with the protagonist’s magic hoo-hoo (operant definition provided by Ogi Ogas), that his life of freedom and philandering has been a sham leading up to the moment that he met the heroine, and he has been able to think of nothing else since. This culminates in a climactic, over-the-top declaration of love, “It’s you, it’s always been you” style, which the heroine will magnanimously accept, resulting in happily ever after.

In the same way the average woman cannot do that thing you want her to do from porn because she can’t hold her breath for four minutes, the average man will never become unhinged in his obsession with your “beautiful and unique you-ness” (ill-defined as that may be even in the novels) and ejaculate the innermost workings of his heart aloud to you on some windswept Scottish crag during a pounding storm, the rain plastering your hair to your head, his muscled chest heaving, his eyes, previously so commanding, now desperate, pleading for your answer.

The average man will, however, play Call of Duty for hours, and fart into the couch.

The book spent more time on porn than on romance novels, presumably because the data was much more direct and much more available. It drew some peculiar conclusions about popular trends in pornography, and in the sociosexual landscape of our age in general. I could pontificate about it for hours, but I’ve got things to do, and I’m sure you do too. I’ll try to make it brief.

Age was the most sought-after category and one of the most significant cues for men, but that could be due to how it was factored in. “Teen”, “mature”, “milf”, “stepmom”, etc. all got swept into the same category, whereas something like “nurse” had less wiggle room. The early chapters comparing different categories of porn and their popularities were eye-opening.

Ogas’ postulation on the growing popularity of cuckoldry was especially fascinating, since it seems like such a counterintuitive thing, with our main evolutionary drive as men being certainty of paternity. The suggestion is that’s exactly the point. Evo bio has a grody old chestnut that says the scoop shape of the penis and the presence of specialized cells in semen that are only there to kill other, foreign sperm suggest that the sexual encounters of early sapiens could get somewhat… crowded. From a perspective of natural selection, seeing another male potentially impregnating the female on whom you called impregnatin’ dibs could serve to arouse you (the cuckold) because it is critical to the survival of your genes that you get in there NOW and undo what he just did!

Which was a possible explanation for why men are so obsessed with wieners. The female eye tends to gloss right over them, taking them in as part of the totality, but the studies suggest that males, regardless of sexual orientation, find them train-wreck fascinating. And that sensitivity to the penis as a sexual cue was then used as a potential explanation for why transsexual porn is overwhelmingly consumed by heterosexual men; gays rarely found it to be very interesting.

Another peculiarity was the establishment of gay men being attracted to traditional markers of masculinity, and so much of gay porn is “about” straight men. I’m a cishet shitlord so I’m trying to step carefully in my paraphrasing, but the take-home was that, although the stereotype of flamboyance serves as a sort of marker to identify other gays in the wild, the overwhelming majority of gay men are more attracted to stubble-and-calluses machismo.

Which would also serve to explain their general disinterest in tgirls. It seems circular, I know, but I’m leaving out hundreds of citations and data points. If you want to be convinced, read the book.

In fact, if anything of this struck you as interesting, (and it should if you have a pulse), read the book. Draw your own conclusions. It might make you mad, it might make you disgusted, but it’ll certainly make you think.





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Book Review: The Furious Method

The Furious Method: Transform your Mind, Body and Goals by Tyson Fury

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Hands down, the best depression book I’ve ever read. And I’ve read a lot of depression books. Especially for being such a happy-go-lucky fella.

I picked this up expecting it to be a diet book. Tyson Fury lost 10 stone, which means 140 lbs in units used by real people. He mentioned in interviews he did so via “Dirty Keto” which meant a bunch of eggs, sausage, and Diet Coke, for some reason. Health and wellness book, written by a pro athlete who had just lost a manlet worth of weight in preparation for a championship match, it’s reasonable to assume the book would be about nutrition and exercise.

And in a way, it was, but only as a vehicle to battle depression. The Furious Method is the best compendium of practical coping skills I’ve found. It’s part self-help instruction manual, part mental health confessional, part autobiography, but the whole thing is done with a directness, an honesty, and a compassion I found totally disarming.

I didn’t know a lot about Tyson Fury before picking up this book. I knew he was a 270 lb British heavyweight champion who looked like an ogre but didn’t fight like one. I knew he stressed fundamentals and finesse. And I know he goes by “Gypsy King”, which I don’t think I’m even allowed to say, but I also know it’s a title earned by beating up all challengers within the traveller community. Yeah, you go ahead and tell him he’s cancelled.

So I naturally assumed this lumpy monolith was going to be a braying oaf. I was mistaken. He’s down-to-earth, eloquent, and a hell of a writer. The book is a forthright account of his struggle with bipolar depression and addiction, and exactly what was going through his mind at his highest highs and lowest lows. It’s a book that needed to be written, and a powerful blow against the stigma surrounding mental illness. There’s this lingering Puritanical boomer belief that if you got the depresso you suck it up and tough it out and you don’t talk about it. Don’t be a pussy. Well, Tyson Fury is the heavyweight champion of the world, and he’s a real piss-and-vinegar fighter, none of that slick cherrypicked Mayweather trash. If he struggles with mental illness, then it’s not strictly the purview of pussies, huh?

The advice is salt-of-the-earth, direct, and clinically accurate. Exercise. Eat well. Sleep enough. Get outside. Push yourself to do it. Reach out and get help. It’s the stuff we all know, but nobody really takes seriously, like mom telling you to make sure you wear a coat. Yeah, yeah.

Well, it’s fuckin cold out. Wear the coat.

If you’ve ever dealt with depression, I urge you to read this book, and do what it says. You can probably skip the My First Warmup sections of every chapter, but replace them with some other kind of functional cardiovascular exercise, because that is deadass THE way to beat depression. The studies have demonstrated, conclusively, that it works as well as or better than all those magic pills they keep heaving into our collective mouths like the Big Bertha arcade game.

Great book. Great fighter. Great dude. Yeah, okay, so he’s British. We all have our shortcomings.




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Book Review: The Shallows: What The Internet is Doing to Our Brains

The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains by Nicholas Carr

My rating: 2 of 5 stars


This book was about five times too long.

There’s a thread of irony in there, since so much of the book is spent bitching about how constant internetting fragments our ability to concentrate or think deeply, and damages our creativity by preventing us from making the loose connections borne of getting lost in a good book or, if you’re an irredeemable nerd, academic texts. Luddite Carr rails against our detachment from good, honest Christian booklearnin’ because it’s making us scatterbrained and schitzy.

As demonstrated by this scatterbrained, schizy little thesis on… what, communicatory technology? The narrative, such as it is, leaps around like an overemoting tumbler at a French circus, from the printing press to the newspaper, from telephones to phonographs, and all sort of other shit totally unrelated to what this book is supposed to be about. Eventually he makes his way back to the topic of the internet, in the same way that a caffeinated 8-year-old with ADHD eventually makes his way back to his homework, which is to say he sort of shows up but doesn’t put in what anything you would call effort.

I spared another star for the intermittent blurbs of good science that showed up when discussing neural plasticity, though that was another poorly organized topic, randomly interspersed through the rest of this logorrhea.

Let me save you 280 pages: SomethingAwful was right. The Internet makes you stupid. The more time we spend on the scroll gobbling down Mike ‘n’ Ikes worth of data, the more we train our brains to accept this as status quo, the less able we are to read a tedious book like War and Peace.

Yes, I’m being flip, because this book sucked and I should have stopped reading when I first realized it. That said, I agree with the central premise. Technology is a special kind of prison. Chains can be broken, if you’ve got the strength; but what happens if the function of the chain is to make you weak? It become self-protecting. The more reliant we become on it, the more it saps us. Like anything else, really.

It is better to read books than read blogs. And you’re probably reading this on a blog. Knock it off. Go read a book.

One contemptible Zoomer puke car mentioned 7 or 8 times (presumably because Carr’s chronic doomscrolling dealt enough hippocampal damage that he didn’t remember making the reference) said reading books has become pointless, since you can just find the quotes and information you need with some specific searches. I wanted to knee him in the sternum. The only way you’ll find that information is if you know what information to want. You can’t keep Googling answers to your quizzes forever, you dirty little animal. Never call yourself a philosophy major again. You don’t deserve that worthless and self-effacing title. Switch to marketing or something.

Oh, the other take-home is that Google is Lawful Evil and getting too big for their britches. The end goal is a digital catalog of all information. Hoarding like a dragon. Gotta slay ’em while the getting’s good. Everybody switch to Bing.



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Book Review: The Cube Method

The Cube Method by Brandon Lilly

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Brandon Lilly is a huge dude, and he wrote a book to teach others how to be huge. He’s mostly literate, but writing is not his strong suit. Fortunately, I didn’t come out here to pick up Brandon Lilly’s tips on how to master the literary craft.

The Cube method is an intuitive, no-frills approach to powerlifting. The first 5-7 working sets are devoted to one of the big three lifts and their variations to strengthen the individual weak points in those three lifts. For example, if your bench press lockout is a problem, a few of your bench day sets will be devoted specifically to training close-grip bench to beef up your puny triceps. If you struggle getting the weight off the ground in deadlifts, a couple sets are going to be devoted to deficit. So far so good, right?

Then, once you’re done with your real movements, your fat ass gets to cosplay a bodybuilder doing 3-4 sets of 10-20 rep isolation auxiliaries. That’s right, fellas. You get to do barbell shrugs again like some sort of high schooler, and it’s part of your comp training program.

The day wraps up with an arbitrary strongman style training, sled pulling or dumbbell carries or something, and then abs. Nowhere in the book is an ab exercise mentioned. Lilly knows you know how to do abs, and he doesn’t care what kind you do, so long as you do them every training day.

And then, on your fourth day of the week, you get to fart around with nothing but isolations! It’s a bodybuilding day. You switch them around depending on your weak points, so every fourth day is different.

Lilly claims he named it Cube because when it’s written down, it looks like a cube. He did not provide a graphic aid and I don’t know what he’s talking about.

The program has a lot in common with Wendler’s 5/3/1, just like Lilly has a lot in common with Wendler. I’ve been on 5/3/1 for years now and I’ve seen good progress, especially on the bodybuilding modification. On 5/3/1 you’re looking at 2 or 3 working sets with higher reps than advisable for pure powerlifting focus, then a circuit of 3 or 4 isolation exercises to support the day’s lift. The Cube gives you more working sets of fewer reps since it’s geared toward competition and not general strength, and greater specificity to target your weaknesses, then 3 or 4 isolation exercises to support the day’s lift.

Wendler is more articulate, but he’s also more of an asshole. Lilly talks about being alpha like a PUA manual for a while, but it’s obviously part of his lifting psyche-up and it must work if the dude is benching 800 lbs. The writing style is not particularly confrontational, he’s just saying what works for him, take it or leave it. The book wraps up with some woeful Boomer-era advice about eating “lots of real food” like chicken tenders, french fries, and Monster energy drink.

Well, I guess you can’t argue with results. There’s no clean bulking your way to the 308 lb weight class.





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Book Review: Apollo’s Arrow: The Profound and Enduring Impact of Coronavirus on the Way We Live

Apollo’s Arrow: The Profound and Enduring Impact of Coronavirus on the Way We Live by Nicholas A. Christakis

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


Three stars for dry writing. It was an interesting enough read. Christakis gives the impression of being called in as an expert witness to uphold the Quiz Broadcast – REMAIN INDOORS – narrative, and he does, enthusiastically, before contradicting it repeatedly.

“Once again, everything that we’re doing is exactly what we should be doing. This is the only way we’re going to beat it. It is your moral duty to listen to government. Here are the many and varied ways the government in general, and Trump in particular, has done everything wrong since this started. I will now list the data as to why none of these methods work. BUT, I cannot stress enough that these methods work.”

“It is imperative that we remain indoors and avoid everyone else, in order to flatten the curve. But it shouldn’t be social distance. The last thing we want right now is to socially isolate, as that suppresses immune system and leads to mental health outcomes that can be as bad or worse than the virus in terms of casualties.”

“The vaccine will dramatically reduce the number of deaths and save us all. Rescue is on its way! Unrelatedly, vaccines take 10 years to make, at which point they’re often unsafe, and historically, most pandemic diseases have been dealt with by herd immunity, with medical interventions occurring well after the pandemic is in remission and the infection line has flattened or begun to drop.”

He says masks kind of sort of work, but only as a means of blocking you from spraying your grotesque fluids onto the people around you. They do nothing to protect you unless it’s one of those N95 respirators. Wearing a mask is a show of good faith, demonstrating that you acknowledge we are in a pandemic situation and, yes, it effects you, too. It’s solidarity and altruism both, and that’s the kind of thing that got us through all the past pandemics.

Oh yeah, that’s a big point. These unprecedented times? Don’t buy the hype. They’re not all that unprecedented. Christakis rattles off a laundry list of other crippling pandemics, drawing the most comparisons between COVID and the Spanish Flu of 1918. He’s of the belief it was easier to get people to behave like responsible adults because Americans were in the midst of WWI, and “flattening the curve” or whatever euphemism they had for that around the turn of the century was seen as doing your part to support the troops.

He also rolls through some survey data, presumably to make good on his promise to discuss the impact of Coronavirus you can’t get from a glance at the grocery store. People are lonely and isolated. Women report greater anxiety and loneliness than men. Mental illness self-report for everybody is way, way up. Small businesses are collapsing, and the world looks like it’s on fire.

At the same time, there are these huge, sweeping grassroots efforts from individuals and nonprofits trying to fight the virus and help their neighbors. Overwhelmingly, people report being totally down with observing quarantine and distancing procedures. Charitable donations are higher and more frequent. People are pitching in their time to provide essential services to those who don’t have them, and everybody seems to be trying to protect health care workers; Christakis was especially fascinated by a sort of volunteer nanny service organized by furloughed workers to watch the children of health care workers for free while they’re out there working triples, tending the afflicted, burning out, and dying at much higher rates than the rest of the population. And that last part held true even before the pandemic.

The take home is wash your hands and wear your li’l mask, but manage your expectations. The vaccine probably isn’t going to return us to Eden. Vaccines take a decade to get out of trial stages, and even those kill people in droves. The vaccine we’re working on attacks the portion of the viral RNA that binds to our proteins and communicates the blueprint of how to do the same to our immune system. It’s a new frontier. We’ve never tried to make a vaccine like this before, we’ve never attacked it from this angle before, we’ve never tried to push it through on this timetable before, and it’s never been so obfuscated and politicized before.

Historically, medical interventions have done very little to control these major disease outbreaks, since they tend not to hit the scene until long after the damage is done and the population is already recovering. It’s usually some combination of widely dispersed antibodies (the same way as they used to do chicken pox, unfortunately), herd immunity, and the virus itself mutating into something less severe. This last part is naturally selected for being beneficial to the virus, too. It wants to propagate, and if its host dies, so does the virus’s efforts at propagation.

Rescue is not coming. Not in a timely fashion, anyway. But that’s okay. We don’t really need rescue. We just need to be accountable for ourselves, empathetic to our neighbors, and exhibit a modicum of hygiene.

If you really want to fight Coronavirus, stop drinking soda and eating Pop-Tarts. Take a walk in the sun. Adopt a dog and take care of it. Hang out with the friends you can safely hang out with. Exercise, eat well, sleep enough, meditate, and have emotionally gratifying sex (probably not with strangers). If the American people were healthier in general, COVID wouldn’t be able to capitalize on the pre-existing epidemic of chronic diseases of civilization.

And stop smoking, you stupid bastards.





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Book Review: The Wim Hof Method

The Wim Hof Method: Own Your Mind, Master Your Biology, and Activate Your Full Human Potential by Wim Hof

My rating: 2 of 5 stars


Here’s the thing. The method is sound. Wim Hof unlocked a bizarre neo-yogic biohacking technique that allows him to manually override functions of his autonomic nervous system. All you have to do is breathe in an incredibly unnatural way for twenty minutes and boom, you’re immune to external temperature changes for a while. The same concept can also be applied to pain.

And if this book were just a how-to manual on how to hotwire the meat shell that limits us all, I would have given it five stars. Unfortunately, it’s also an autobiography of Wim Hof, who seems like a deeply unlikable man.

That’s not to say he’s an unpleasant man. He really leans into that 60s throwback peace and love shit you get from every white dreadlocked ketamine dealer who lives in a van, and they can be decent conversationalists, in small doses and accompanied with doses. What rankled me is how he kept using the hippie-dippie shtick as a means of justifying his lifelong, jubilant parasitism.

He begins by talking about his sustained joblessness, give or take a paper route. He brags about squatting in an abandoned punk house for ten years, which really helped him center his chi, do yoga, and play guitar. For ten years. He eventually met a wife in his punk house – the fact that she was also a career squatted could serve as a sort of Chekov’s gun for her emotional stability – and pumped her full of a veritable fleet of welfare babies. Fortunately, Hof continues to boast, the Netherlands has among the most comprehensive and developed social programs in the world. He fails to mention the Dutch tax rate is around 50%, but that’s probably because he’s never paid them.

But he explains to the foolish wagie reader that this multigenerational mooching was imperative to his development of the Wim Hof method of controlled hyperventilation. He also demonstrates its efficacy by setting arbitrary world records whenever he gets into an argument with someone, if his anecdotes are any indication.

“And to prove it’s okay to drink beer, I am going to go outside in the winter and hold a martial arts horse stance… for three hours!”

Okay. That’s cool. I’d be much more impressed if you held something like a job, to support your five children.

Of course, he has money now, and his kids all work with him at the Wim Hof Foundation for Cold Showers and Goofy Breathing. In pursuit of peace, love, and the circus, of course. He has only ever wanted to give back his endless, beautiful, shining, perfect cascade of love back to all of humanity to bring us closer and unite us as one, etc.

He talks like a cultist. Much of the book is hard to get through because he goes off on these peacenik rambles about the connectedness of human beings, and how all you need is love.

But for as much as I dislike this person conceptually, I’m glad he stumbled on this method, and I’d like to see it get more clinical traction. Early trials have demonstrated that the Wim Hof method can be used to combat and, in some cases, eradicate certain chronic diseases, including intractable autoimmune and gastric diseases like fibromyalgia, Crohn’s, IBS, a whole mess of them. Diseases that are typically treatment and medication resistant.

The thing is, these diseases often have a pronounced psychological component that nobody likes to talk about because so many people conflate psychogenic symptoms with malingering. And since the Wim Hof method does, by his own admission (and unbearable blustering) operate on a personal and emotional level, grounding the practitioner and allowing them not only to become acquainted with themselves but also to learn physically active coping skills that recalibrate the CNS and sort of speed-meditate… it’s possible that the physiological benefits of the method, with regard to chronic pain, only become physiological by patching the leaks in the psyche.

For the record, I think he’s nuttier than squirrel shit, but less of a quack than many actual doctors. Cold showers, deep breathing, and outdoor exercise do attune you with your nature, which does improve every aspect of your physical and mental well-being. His little toolkit can be used to do impossible things, like climb Mt Everest in a day without altitude sickness. He has done things that should have killed him, and they didn’t, and he has taught other people to do them, and they didn’t die either. That’s proof enough.

But don’t buy the cult of personality hype. Wooks is wooks, and you can pursue an agenda of universal holism and be responsible enough to hold a job at the same time, no matter what they tell you.



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