Essential Works of Stoicism
Marcus Aurelius: To Himself
Epictetus: The Manual
Diogene Laertius: Life of Zeno
Seneca: On Tranquility
Edited and with an introduction by Moses Hadas
"Bantam Matrix Edition" p. 1961
I love the serious-minded paper back books that American publishers released in the 60s and 70s. The copy of Essential Works of Stoicism I'm writing about is a pocket sized paperback, 200 pages long. The pages are yellowed with age but the binding is tight and the text is v. readable. It's just a sweet little book.
Ok things to keep in mind about Stoicism. Stoicism got its name from the place where Zeno taught his students. That place was called Stoa Poikile or "the painted porch." I imagine like a kind of covered arcade overhang. I think people get too hung up on the fact that today, "stoicism" is just used as a description of a personality. In fact, Stoicism is just "teachings of Zeno" and Zeno is just a major bad ass philosopher, the equal of Socrates, Plato or Aristotle. Zeno was a major philosopher and, personally, he's my favorite. The problem with Zeno is that he uh, didn't write anything down, so when you read about Stoicism you are reading scattered materials from 500 years of history.
Stoic philosophy is really just the part of ancient Greek Philosophy that hands out the kind of usable self-help that is such a big deal for us today (Oprah). Thus, unlike Plato and Aristotle, Stoic writers are giving advice on how to live day-to-day. The surviving books are mostly from the Roman Empire period, which was a pretty f***** time to be a rich white guy.... kind of like existenalism and the 20th century, Stoicism has appeal to any civilization under pressure.
In this volume, you start with Diogenes Laertius: Life of Zeno. This is a terrible book that survives because Zeon didn't write anything down. It's really poorly written, just like a five year old wrote it, but there is Zeno... larger then life. Walking around, telling people to chill the hell out, and getting weirdly into grammar and logic. There's no separation of any of the disciplines, it just gloms together.
Next, you've got Seneca: On Tranquility. Seneca was a Roman cat who was really wealthy and powerful but had some ups and downs, alternately rewarded and persecuted by an insane Roman emperor. On Tranquility is kind of like the auto-biography of a politician: Knows his references, not a particuarly deep of sytematic thinker, lots of aphoristic phrasing of philosophical principles.
The biggest suprise was Epicteus: The Manual. Now, Epicteus was another non-writer, so in this book the actual writer is one of his students named Arrian. If I was going to start an indie press, I would start with an edition of this work. The Manual is awesome: It's like the least bull shit self help book you ever read. He's right about everything, about how to conduct yourself in public, in private etc. It's a timeless message, and it's literally broken up into numbered paragraphs and is only 20 pages long. Amazing! It's the only 20 pages you need read to derive a maximum benefit from a 1000 years of Greek philosophy. I'm kidding, kind of, but I'm never going to read "The Republic" you know what I mean? Aristotle? Probably not. 20 pages of numbered aphorisms? Done.
Essential Works closes with Marcus Aurelis: To Himself. Aurelis was, of course, a Roman emperor, and allegedly this was a journal he kept for his private contemplation. I'm calling shenanigans on that claim, but this book is from the 60s so I'm going to cut Hadas some slack. Like Seneca, Aurelius is a rich white guy dealing with the terrible stress of being the Emperor of Rome. Boo hoo. I couldn't relate.
Dedicated to classics and hits.
Saturday, October 10, 2009
Thursday, October 08, 2009
by Jacob Grimm and Wilhelm Grimm;
Translated by Joyce Crick
Oxford University Press
In the introduction, Joyce Crick says the purpose of this edition of Selected Tales by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm is to "give the book back to the authors" by which she means Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm. The Grimm's collected these tales at a place and time that basically made them the first people in the "modern" era to do such a thing. Of course, their product, their "Tales" had an after life that spawned hundreds of years of children's literature in Germany and the US, and eventually became the substantial basis for all of the early Disney smash hits, more or less. Say what you want about Walt Disney being a Nazi, but no one who has been to Salzburg can deny the similarity.
The Grimms, being who they were,writing when they were, didn't provide any context, just the tales. However, over time they did edit the selection of Tales, taking out some of the more gruesome tales and editing some of the remaining tales. This edition does a good job of running through those differences.
Although I had a clear idea that the original Grimm's tales were much darker then the American/Disney versions, until I read this recentely published book (2009 in America, 2008 UK?) I had never actually READ any of the tales. I would have liked more info about the pre-Christian elements, but that was beyond the scope of the edition. Maybe next time...
Wednesday, October 07, 2009
I'm a small business owner. My business is law, and I'm the only employee. When I started this business, I proceeded from three essential propositions:
1) Accurately predicting where income derived from on a monthly basis, and being able to accurately predict that amount 6 months into the future.
2) Minimum overhead.
3) Success of a small business is measured solely in its continued existence at the beginning; later it's the amount of money you make at it that matters.
Couple of examples of those propositions in the context of law (tho it could be any professional service): You don't need a secretary. Have you ever heard of a computer? That's your secretary. In terms of income, when you are starting a new business you SHOULD be able to survive a year of little to no income or you are just destined to fail. So, if you KNOW what months those are going to be, it helps you continue. Also, if you make it a year and it "isn't happening" you know when to flip the script, so to speak.
I. The Business Model of the Bedroom Indie Record Label
I put out a couple records bedroom indie style in 2006-07. Total failure! But that doesn't mean I didn't learn from the experience. Bearing in mind the above three principles, here are some observations.
1) That income six months out is going to "0" or close to it. Starting a record label is like starting any other small business, you need to be capitalized for a year or so, need to plan on multiple, consecutive releases close in time, etc. That does NOT mean merely having enough money to open the business, it means having enough money to survive for a year, and to pay out what needs to be paid out during that time. If you can't get past this item, odds are your bedroom indie will fail.
2) I think this is a controversial issue within the bedroom indie community. One position is that you handle everything yourself, out of your apartment or whatever. This is a recipe for disaster in my opinion. Find someone who is already making a living at the post office, pay them a small amount to send your packages. You can see this in relationship to 1) above, by considering that unless you are the idle rich, you yourself will be working to earn money to sustain your bedroom indie, so the odds of YOU being able to do 1) and 2) are pretty minimal.
Unlike, say, an Ebay store, a Bedroom Indie is NOT a shipping operation attached to a listing service. The bedroom indie record label needs to be good at stuff OTHER then mailing stuff, whereas such a skill is crucial in something like Ebay stores.
3) This is huge in the bedroom indie biz, since there is pretty much no "real money" in music until you are releasing full length albums and doing all the associated bullshit that people talk about to death. Good luck with all that, but being really focused on the actual selling of records is a better approach.
2. The Business Model of the Ebay Store
1) This is a business where the initial problem is having enough sales every week to actually earn a living. Selling stuff on ebay is not difficult, but generating sufficient profit to sustain oneself in any fashion seems nearly impossible. Thus, there is going to be alot of time intensive experimentation. Unlike a bedroom indie, where you put out a record and try to sell X copies, the Ebay store requires time spend on each item, which means the amount of money you need to make on each item needs to be higher AND you have less time to work a "real" job, which, again you may need to have to sustain yourself. Ebay listings are a real time suck, so you better have some good s*** to sell.
2) Well odds are that you're going to be shipping this stuff yourself, so you want to find ways to maximize your trips to the post office, since those are another huge time suck. Finding other like businesses might be a good idea (pooling resources) or finding OTHER small businesses that have minor shipping needs and want to 'contract' out. The Ebay store is essentially a shipping operation, and success or failure often depends on well-executed mailing procedures.
3) Given the huge time commitment that an Ebay store requires, it would seem like the main danger would be burn out, though I suppose you could just not sell stuff, which would be even worse. Plus, there is a limit to how many of item x you can sell in each listing period (each week) and that limit is... one. So you need to establish multiple product categories, or do bulk listings in some fashion.
Personally, I want nothing to do with either business, the law is more then enough for me. But it seems to me that there is potential collaboration between the following three separate business communities: bed room indies, indie crafts and ebay sellers. The efficiency in this operation is by having the Ebay sellers handle the pooled shipping, since they are a LOT more likely to be "full-time" then the bedroom indies or the crafters. Then the record labels and the crafts can focus on marketing their product, and the ebay seller will have an additional line of income. The goal of all three is the same: sell s*** on-line, f*** retail.
Posted by catdirt at 8:10 AM
Monday, October 05, 2009
Is there any shame in reading an abridged version of this book? Dear lord, I hope not. You could probably condense the take-away from this book in two sentence: Society creates religion, communication creates society. Durkheim was one of the earliest articulators of the principles of "social constructivism," or as morons like to say, "cultural relativism."
I would frankly recommend this particular edition of Elementary Forms of Religious Life BECAUSE it's abridged. Every time I saw the ellipsis [...] indicating that there had been an editing of Durkheim's torturous prose I breathed a tiny sigh of relief.
That Elementary Forms of Religious Life continues to be relevant today is more a testament to the philosophical introduction and conclusion that place Durkheim squarely in the tradition of Kantian idealist philosophy (actually, squarely opposed to it.) I find Durkheim's argument that Society can only be analyzed in terms of the relationship between people to be compelling. I find Durkheims subsidiary claim that such analysis ought to be composed in scientific terms to be much, much, much less compelling.
Let's face, it the very category of "social sciences" is a joke because you can't perform scientific experiments with society very well. Oh, you can do studies proving the obvious ("Fat people watch more tv.")("Poor children are more likely to commit crimes.") till the cows come home but more often then not you will either be stating the obvious, or just wrong. Durkheim is also methodologically incompetent, choosing to base his observations about indigenous life solely on books that other people wrote. Durkheim wrote an entire book about the religious life of indigenous Australians, but he appears to have never conversed with one.
Durkheim probably bears of much of the blame as anyone for the current state of social "science." Elementary Forms is just as interesting today for the epistemology of early twentieth century social science as it is for anything else, since his observations regarding the underlying human relationships of society have been well and truly observed and expanded upon for the last fifty years.
In terms of his argument, Durkheim likes to lead with an observation made by a so-called specialist, then he likes to establish a dichotomy/opposition and then he will describe both sides, and draw conclusions based on his categories and observations. What he does not do is challenge the technical authorities that he cites, or challenge the idea that religion might not be describable in simple dialectic categories or challenged the idea that you can describe all of world religion based on Australian indigenous religious practices. In fact, at times you get the distinct impression that he wants to say something about Christianity and/or Judaism but he is scared to challenge Christianity directly.
Like Max Weber, the other great early 20th century European sociologist/philosopher, Durkheim is seeking to bring some kind of "scientific" rigor to philosophical/historical type observations of society. It's a move that is grounded in the exponential increase in the need for university professors during that time. It's easy to see how young professors expounding scientific SOUNDING theories about society behaved would have been attractive to those hiring professors and students alike. The 20th century was all about "scientific certainty" and later on, about opposing scientific certainty. Swinging like a pendulum, mirroring the larger recurring philosophical debate between metaphysics and epistemology.
Here, in Elementary Forms of Religious Life, Durkheim actually kind of starts swinging the pendulum, towards the scientific certainty side but at the same time you can see how truly shaky that argument was, right at the beginning. Time has done his position no favors, but he did outline the debate early on. That's why this book is more relevant for someone reading about 20th century philosophy then someone seeking to become a sociologist in the 21st century.
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