Evolution has other desires

Archangel, Charles Ray; photograph by Charlie Rubin

We were pushing an e-bike up Valencia, past the parking lot where I had once helped a stranger illegally rent a U-Haul, and the conversation turned to art appreciation.

J brought up Matthew Dickman’s Dear Space, and how part of her appreciation of the poem was that it felt believably autobiographical.

Believably autobiographical made it relatable, and relatable in turn felt like the author was extending empathy toward her, which made her feel less alone.

J had just written about why art created by an AI is no less valuable, so I asked, what if you found out Matthew was an AI?

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Tyler Hobbs, Fidenza

My New Year’s resolutions:

  1. Write every day.
  2. Volunteer every week.
  3. Get therapy.
  4. Stay single.
  5. Write an essay in Chinese.
  6. Listen to fewer words, more music, and more silence.


  1. Not perfect, but good.
  2. Started very good, currently very bad.
  3. I start today and I’m really excited about it.
  4. So far so good.
  5. No.
  6. Yes.

My New York resolutions:

  1. Join a writing group.
  2. Go to an exhibition every week.
  3. Take long walks – first avenue by avenue, then street by street – call friends along the way and start every conversation with “hope your family’s been well”.
  4. Build a speakeasy on the rooftop with furniture rescued from the sidewalks of Hell’s Kitchen (tables and chairs on Tuesdays). Name drink specials for each roommate, especially the cat. Unsubtly reference it in conversations with attractive strangers, ie. “I know a place but it’s pretty low key.”
  5. Spiral into a crisis after taking a pill someone gives me at a party because at first it feels fucking awesome why don’t I have fun like this more often maybe because the real me is too intense too weird too defective to let out in front of people or maybe because there’s always an equal and opposite crash but the crash is definitely worse if I think about it or maybe none of that is true but I’ve just believed it for so long that I’ve forgotten how to relax I’m spiraling I’m spiraling calm DOWN after I have what mistakenly feels like the deepest conversation I’ve had in my entire life up to that point with a girl with kind eyes, spend the following days asking my friends how to ask her out respectfully, have her decline even more respectfully.
  6. Get blindingly drunk, slowly, alone, in public.
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Three dates

Cao Fei, Nova

I went on three dates in one night.

I was in Shanghai for New Year’s Eve with a group of friends. I’d decided that I wasn’t going to check the apps while I was there, but a few things happened:

  1. Toward the end of the trip, people left on different flights until just three of us remained.
  2. M and B had been checking the apps, and were going on dates that final evening.
  3. I’d lost my voice the night before, and I was curious to see how far I could get on a date without it.

I sent messages to as many people as I could, explaining that I was leaving tomorrow, I’d lost my voice, and would they be interested in going on a date with someone who couldn’t speak?

This somehow worked way better than whatever my usual approach was (is), and I ended up with three dates for 6:00PM, 7:30PM, and 9:00PM.

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Time travel

A woman looks at a painting of a path running through a forest in full bloom

David Hockney, The Arrival of Spring in Woldgate

Having a crush is underrated, I think. I suppose I don’t know how having a crush is generally rated. Having a crush makes the moments between texts stretch out and this can be wonderful or terrible, but either way it does something to time, and I’ve always been obsessed with time travel.

I have a crush. Had a crush? On a person, but it wasn’t really about them.

I had a crush on a person I followed from Bangkok to Hong Kong six years ago, wandering cobblestone streets between ferns growing from the cracks of repainted walls as they told me about the meeting they’d had explaining social entrepreneurship to a manufacturing magnate in a skyscraper overlooking shimmering ships in Kowloon Bay. I can’t even remember their name, but I can’t ever smell the sizzle of rain on asphalt without thinking of them.

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I’ve been editing my last post in my head every day since I wrote it.

The ending is too abrupt, I decided. Pieces like this from good writers usually have a third act about some sociological theory that contextualizes for the story. I tapped down notes:

  • Haidt says liberals prioritize care/fairness, conservatives value care/fairness/loyalty/authority/sanctity equally
  • Low-trust world substack very good and relevant not just for thinking about America but also what I should prefer at work
  • Liberals being more neurotic (this is important right)

Then on Wednesday afternoon, a… Coup happened?

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After the election was called for Joe Biden, I stopped thinking about US politics for what felt like the first time in four and a half years.

This was a 10/10 experience, and it lasted until earlier this afternoon, when I went to a South Austin coffeeshop for Can A Fracturing America Heal? [In Person Version], one of several Meetups I’d signed up for in a surge of high spirits on New Year’s Eve.

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1,792 miles

I left San Francisco, and arrived in Austin last Wednesday.

It took me five weeks to drive the first 12 miles, two weeks to drive the next 479 miles, and three days to drive the final 1,301 miles. At one time, I would have found the shape of that chart exciting, but it feels like exponentials jumped the shark just a little bit in 2020.

On the road, I listened to 2000s pop punk and Jake Gyllenhaal’s narration of The Great Gatsby. Every line in the book is its own work of art, but a new one stood out to me: What was the use of doing great things if I could have a better time telling her what I was going to do? and I nodded as I drove, on my way to attempt the opposite.

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