Notes on Nassim Taleb’s ‘Antifragile’

Title: Antifragile: Things that gain from disorder
Author: Nassim Nicholas Taleb
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nassim-taleb-antifragileI might as well confess from the start that I’ve only read Book IV (of VII) of ‘Antifragile’ in full. The fourth book’s critique of academia was my primary interest in reading Taleb, and is compelling enough to discuss on its own.

Before we go any further, we have to define ‘antifragile.’ To Taleb, a word like ‘resilient’ just does not do, not connoting the particular traits he wants to convey. It’s not enough that one is able to withstand adversity, but to benefit precisely from it.
The fragile is the package that would be at best unharmed, the robust would be at best and at worst unharmed. And the opposite of fragile is therefore what is at worst unharmed.
– Location 721-722 (Amazon Kindle edition)

Book IV is entitled ‘Optionality, technology, and the intelligence of antifragility.’ It examines the gap between intellect and action. Expertise in a certain field may not be located where most believe.

[Y]our work and ideas, whether in politics, the arts, or other domains, are antifragile if, instead of having one hundred percent of the people finding your mission acceptable or mildly commendable, you are better off having a high percentage of people disliking you and your message (even intensely), combined with a low percentage of extremely loyal and enthusiastic supporters.
– Location 3214-3215

[Y]our assessment doesn’t need to be made beforehand, only after the outcome.
– Location 3336

[I]n the long run, happy errors bring gains, unhappy errors bring losses.
– Location 3260

[E]conomics is not a science…
– Location 3746
I take issue with this, because it conflates science with practical application. Economics involves far more variables than reproducible experiments in physics, but involves exact principles no less. A difference in number of variables shouldn’t be a basis for being classified scientific, but rather merely determines the limitation of the methods used to ascertain ‘truths.’
Economics may lack value in predicting precise timing of, say, market crashes, but even then, such events, when they do happen, are understood just as thoroughly as a predicted astronomical phenomenon. The trick here is to distinguish between those fitting their logical inconsistencies to facts, and those who grasp facts in a logical manner.

‘Real men don’t use sheets’…
Location 3857-3858

[S]tudying the chemical composition of ingredients will make you neither a better cook nor a more expert taster—it might even make you worse at both.
– Location 4087-4088

Taleb’s ‘Extremistan’ pertains to situations involving sudden, consequential changes, as opposed to moderate fluctuations in ‘Mediocristan’:
‘[M]ost companies’ in Extremistan make no profit—the rare event dominates, and a small number of companies generate all the shekels.
– Location 4176-4177

[W]hat is picked up in the classroom stays largely in the classroom. Worse even, the classroom can bring some detectable harm…
– Location 4261-4262

Avoidance of boredom is the only worthy mode of action.
– Location 4340-4341
I don’t quite agree with this statement. Considering what many, myself included, are accustomed to from their upbringing, there is a need to increase resistance to boredom. Otherwise, there are certainly many points to be missed that more disciplined habit-forming allows, at the risk of finding some aspects ritualistic in the interim.

‘Rational’ Socrates is contrasted with Taleb’s practical ‘Fat Tony’:
What Socrates is seeking relentlessly are definitions of the essential nature of the thing concerned rather than descriptions of the properties by means of which we can recognize them.
– Location 4470-4471

We are guided not so much by rational considerations but things arrived at via often non-conscious trial.
[T]he probability (hence True/False) does not work in the real world; it is the payoff that matters.
– Location 4596

[S]ystems without top-down controls would specialize progressively, slowly, and over a long time, through trial and error, get the right amount of specialization—not through some bureaucrat using a model… [S]ystems make small errors, design makes large ones.
– Location 7795-7797


For more notes on books I’ve read, visit https://paulspurpose.com/tag/notes/.
Buy Nassim Taleb’s ‘Antifragile’ on Amazon, here.
This article is guided by the fair-use doctrine, and is for the purpose of critiquing and educating.

Notes on Shep Gordon’s ‘They call me Supermensch’

Title: They call me Supermensch: A backstage pass to the amazing worlds of film, food, and rock’n’roll
Author: Shep Gordon
Download this article: .pdf (155 kB), .ePub (73 kB), .mobi (165 kB)
shep-gordon-supermensch

Just about the best firsthand account on Hollywood history you’ll read. If you found Mike Myers’ documentary ‘Supermensch’ (available on Netflix) funny and entertaining, you’ll love the book from Shep Gordon himself. He covers a lot more ground here.

Every chapter offers a crazy anecdote involving some icon from showbiz and popular music. To think that he mentions dating Sharon Stone for years, almost as an afterthought. You’ll also find that Shep had a big hand in the rise of celebrity chefs in the 21st century.

It seems that Shep was made to name-drop a good deal, giving the appearance of excluding ‘the little people’ who undoubtedly had a big hand in the success stories he tells. I believe though that the stories would hold even if he withheld real names.

Before becoming renowned as Alice Cooper’s manager, he learned of his ability to create hype, in promoting a fabricated visit of fabricated Middle-Eastern royalty to his university:
No one checked us on our facts – including the part where we’d said that Marchantia was ‘an island in Arabia.’
– Page 42, Location 741-742 (Amazon Kindle version)

Early in his career, Shep found out the following principle:
‘[G]uilt by association.’ If you want to be famous, get next to somebody who already is famous.
– Page 70, Location 1157-1158

On Salvador Dali. Read the book to find out what scissors and honey have to do with it:
The Dali didn’t seem to make art only when he was painting or sculpting; he seemed to make his entire life, every minute of it, every word and gesture, art. That was the point of the scissors and honey. It was a living Dali painting.
– Page 114, Location 1770-1771

A credo that Shep has lived by:
Don’t get mad. Accomplish your goal.
– Page 137, Location 2080-2081

[G]uests, not customers.
-Page 157, Location 2363-2364
That is, treat customers that way.

[S]eeding a little compassion and kindness every chance you get creates an abundance of happiness for all.
– Page 164, Location 2465


For more notes on books I’ve read, visit https://paulspurpose.com/tag/notes/.
Buy Shep Gordon’s ‘They call me Supermensch’ on Amazon, here.
This article is guided by the fair-use doctrine, and is for the purpose of critiquing and educating.

Read one book a week – or pretend to

I constantly buy books, but have only recently managed to finish them on a regular basis. Prior to the past couple of months, I would either get bored of what I’m reading, or realize the book was not quite what I expected. Often, I had only wanted to read whatever book for the sake of having accomplished reading it.

The last reason is particularly true when it comes to ‘the classics,’ you know, the must-reads that you must read just because others say they’re so great. That was largely the reason I took up reading Arthur C. Clarke’s short stories, and I was able to finish three of four collections, until I couldn’t take it anymore. I love some of his stuff, and his ideas, but the long space journeys just have no appeal to me. His characters seem to be intentionally dull mouthpieces of his science know-how.

Anyhow, to give me further incentive to read and finish what I’m reading, I’m challenging myself to complete them in a week. Hopefully, treating it like a job will make me think, “This isn’t that great, but isn’t a bad job!”

What’s in it for you?

Lucky for you, I’ll be highlighting stuff in the books that appeals to or resonates with me, and share them with you here. And you can pretend to have read it, ready on-hand with quotes to impress your friends. You’ll never appear more well-versed on an assortment of topics, at least the topics that I enjoy.

This is somewhat similar to the concept of Blinkist, the app that provides chapter-by-chapter summaries of numerous books, except I’m providing more of my personal opinion, complete with blind spots and glossed-over ideas, much like any casual reader goes through books. You don’t want to be more than a casual reader; that’s just dorky.


Come visit my site every Monday for your supply of new readings, in .pdf, .mobi, and .ePub. Like my Facebook page so I could remind you.

Paul’s creepy obsession with Bach’s ‘Kyrie eleison’

In my story ‘God at last,’ from the ‘Weirdica’ collection, C.Q. Daq is hounded by his unquenchable passion for the ‘Kyrie eleison’ from Bach’s B minor mass, BWV 232. The way he handles such an ordeal has great implications on the future of music and civilization.

There is no other piece I could have written about with such hyperbole and exaggeration without sounding insincere. Music has played such a big role in my life, and a few years ago, at age 32, I had figured Mozart was the pinnacle of art (Symphonies 38, 39, and operas ‘The magic flute’ and ‘Don Giovanni’). Little did I know that the ‘Kyrie’ – which I had heard many times but never really listened to, except maybe in the form it took in Symphony X’s ‘Smoke and mirrors’ – would be such a significant part of my life the closer I reached to Mozart’s dying age.

Eight months ago, I began learning the bass line from the ‘Kyrie,’ and it soon became the most rewarding experience I had learning any music. And then this October, I began tinkering with the main theme on guitar, after having been thrilled seeing Andras Schiff playing it on the piano. I wasn’t really thinking of learning the entire thing. If I was, I probably wouldn’t have gone so far with it. In hindsight, it helped to not know if it was even possible.

By a week later, I had a general idea of how to play the entire thing, made so much easier by my prior knowledge of the bass line. Another two weeks and I felt confident enough to put on YouTube a very nervous rendition.

My justification for putting online an imperfect take that lacks soul and conviction is that I don’t consider myself a guitarist who does classical anyway. My priority was providing the world with the first guitar transcription of such an essential piece. Someday, when its fits me like an old glove, I’ll upload a better, more worthy version.

I’m also featuring it on Spotify. Because it’s on audio, I was able to retouch it a good deal, using 18 minutes worth of takes for the 10-minute piece.

It feels like one of my biggest accomplishments.


‘God at last,’ my story in homage to the ‘Kyrie eleison,’ can be found in ‘Be kind to puns: 23 tales of Weirdica.’

Don’t use Facebook ads unless you know what you’re doing

I sure don’t.

Since publishing my books a couple Excited facebook girlof months ago, I’ve been racking my brains to find an appreciative readership. Thanks to error after irrevocable error, I’ve been learning what not to do in the future. One of these things is throwing money at Facebook.

I should have known better. Years ago, I’d spent on Facebook ads in order to draw people to my music site, but all I was left with was a bunch of Likes of photos I’d uploaded. Almost zero redirects or listens/views.

In 2016, I figured Facebook algorithms or whatever you call them had improved, and that it was easier to reach an intended demographic. But alas, as much as I tried to narrow down the people who would see the posts I paid to promote, the effort was for naught.

If you’re reading this as a follower of the Paul’s Purpose Facebook page, you’re probably one of those bozos who Likes practically everything that passes your News Feed, and the friends you’ve made are quite annoyed with the habit. Probably.

Now if you did enjoy the stories (“What stories? He writes stories?”) or my music even, then you’re one of very few individuals, and I thank you. As much of a cash drain my ad campaigns have been so far, I’m glad to have found a couple of people interested in my crap, and who could probably find it a little funny that I’m going off on people who Liked my Facebook page for whatever reason.

The Philippines as a story setting

Stephen King has Maine. Dean Koontz has California. Writers tend to favor locations and cultures they’re familiar with, even if they mask this by invented names. For me, I have the Philippines. My stories are usually set in the Manila region, which makes it easy to visualize the goings-on of my plots, and I hope this makes the events clearer to the reader.

The Philippines is a strange mix of East and West, in terms of language, values, diets, and many other things. Most Filipinos have a grasp of English, which may explain why so many Filipinos are capable of working abroad in whatever capacity.

I can imagine that for foreigners, there is a uniqueness to the Philippine experience, both positive and negative. To me, it’s simply home. I have many frustrations about the way people think, and this often makes me feel like an alien. But then, I have a lot in common that I take for granted, most especially the language. I still wouldn’t know how to translate the word ‘naman’ in a way that justifies its meaning in Filipinos’ minds. When talking to people from elsewhere, I have to hold my tongue in order not to add ‘naman’ at the end of every other sentence.

And the curses. ‘Fuck’ and ‘shit’ just don’t compare.

While it’s not my intention to do so, I do hope that readers from other countries do appreciate the local flavor I inject into my stories.


My story ‘God and Milia’ is a good example of my use of Filipino expressions. The four-parter is found in Dumbest President Ever: 23 tales of Politica (Amazon link).

Behind the stories – ‘Be kind to puns: 23 tales of Weirdica’

Click on the titles to read the stories.

It’s not like I planned it, but upon grouping my stories for compilation, I realized how inaccessible ‘Be kind to puns: 23 tales of Weirdica’ is in comparison to the ‘Politica’ and ‘Romantica’ collections. So it’s just as well that I get to shed light on some aspects of the stories.

Saber tooth tiger skull

The land before our time – Musing on a lineage of man before ongoing civilization, I asked myself, “Is it any more likely now than 20,000 years ago that we had such technology?” However, what transpires in the story itself has more to do with a guy taming his beast, and whatever allegories that come from that.

When TV is cheap enough – I’ve never done a cartwheel in my life, but Matt’s preoccupation has more to do with his devotion than the actual activity. It was about this time, while studying a Bach bass line, that I learned that excellence in something is more important than winning with it.

Days in the life of a teleporter – I wrote this before hearing about a similar movie (2008’s ‘Jumper’), and before reading about jaunting from Alfred Bester. I guess it’s not too uncommon an idea.

Be kind to puns – If it isn’t obvious enough, Colleen’s letter is a brief refutation of Objectivism. The abundance of puns in the story is a hat tip to Alan Moore’s ‘Pog’ story from ‘Swamp thing.’

Jpeg

Colorful commentary – I’ve written about half a dozen stories inspired by Julian Jaynes’ theory of consciousness, but this is the only one I’ve published so far.

By a corner of the garden – This was based on a stray thought of an alternative to abortion, where mothers could avoid the bother of childbearing without the murder. In this world, the adversity of the ‘real world’ is taught to people while still embryonic, and cruel as it appears, such people thrive, and just in time for the destruction of Earth. The last-minute romantic drama involves Floyd, the old man, contemplating this phenomenon.

Young love – The names of Manilyn and Rene come from local celebrities here, as is hinted at by the title. The only really weird thing about the story is that it involves aliens and love potions.

The screenplay – The script as summarized within this story is an actual screenplay I attempted to write two years ago, with songs and all. It’s not very good – the songs are better – but I did like some elements of the plot, enough to reiterate them here.

It’s all about the money – At first, the elevator girl Dana (named after Dana Delany; I name a lot of my characters Dana or variations thereof) was conceived as with no peculiar talents. I even considered her joining a cult as a plot point. As I wrote on, the idea of her world-hopping seemed to work.

The Heed, and, The expectations filter – It’s only a matter of time before mystical experience could be simulated deliberately by technology. Although I believe mysticism is the basis of religion, this story looks at what happens when the application of such technology still involves present tribalist tendencies.

stop-trying-so-hardStop trying so hard – Obviously referring to George R.R. Martin’s ‘Game of thrones’ saga, this story helped me gain perspective on what I was doing. I was past two-thirds of my 200-story target, but not feeling particularly inspired with ideas to continue. And then Jenna Fischer’s voice from ‘The giant mechanical man’ came to mind, full of meaning: “Stop trying, so hard!” It was a tiny revelation.

Can’t wait to dream – Yet another story expressing my weakening will to say something with my stories. Might a way of life of continuous dreaming solve things? How was I to know then that I had yet to write what I consider to be my best stories, as found in my other collection ‘Dumbest president ever: 23 tales of Politica.’

Nannerl’s music – Prior to writing this in mid-December 2015, I constrained myself to write primarily in dialogue, with little to no narration. This story changed all that, and I was very satisfied with the outcome. The story is similar to the last ‘Sandman’ story during its original run, ‘The tempest.’

God at last – Daq wants to get over Bach as if Bach were a girl he was still hung up with. I still love the ‘Kyrie eleison,’ whose bass line I learned earlier this 2016, but the climactic affects that I get from it come and go.

Megan McCall, Queen of Asian Country – I’ve written 10 stories involving Megan McCall. When I first thought of some Chinese chick singing like Reba McEntire, I was really psyched to write about it, but the stories I wrote then were still the beginning of my recent storytelling development, and sound more like essay assignments. The two parts I include here come from the more ‘mature’ phase of my writing, and deal with her more humanly.

In the temple – The story seems so plain, but I put it in the collection because I liked how the people talked in it.

The order – Nothing much happens here, other than an order that arrives seven years early. I thought all the time-travel discussion was quite interesting, even though there’s very little by way of conclusion.

That which could not be named – We all, or many of us, have that fear of closing our eyes or of sticking our hands or feet beyond the bed while waiting for sleep. Perhaps the reader won’t quite get the meaning of the discussion on science – I don’t think I have – but it makes communication with someone five thousand years later plausible.

Taken – This attempts to look at what happens when spirit is separated from the material.

Motivational mirror – There is very little we know about how consciousness works, and what could yet be done with brain matter, so this allows for much speculation as found in this story.

Basketball court. Sport arena. 3d render background. unfocus in long shot distanceThe best – The first part isn’t about basketball per se, but the way that a paradigm shift seems to make all that precedes it so hopelessly backwards. Even speculating on a future paradigm is fruitless, because it presupposes application of such paradigm while still using an older paradigm. The second part is more down to earth, and one of my favorite sentimental things I’ve written.

The rural folk – In my published stories, the closest I get to a Star Trek reference is this story’s narrator’s name, Zarabeth. I fashioned the plot based on a story I read from ‘The big book of amazing knowledge’ as a child, about some dude two centuries ago creating a haunted house in which he frightened the residents away. I may even remember wrong, which is all the better for me as a writer.

Dad and the aliens – The idea for the bet comes from my personal frustration of being unable to get someone to see my point of view in an argument. If logic and reason won’t convince, maybe the loss of money will. I like how both silly and morbid this story is.


‘Be kind to puns’ is available for free today, Monday, and the next two Mondays, on Amazon.

Behind the stories – ‘Dumbest President Ever: 23 tales of Politica’

Click on the titles to read the stories.

Greedo shot first – The imagery of the second part was taken from ‘Full metal jacket,’ but of course the titular idea came from ‘Star wars’ fandom. I personally believe Han shot first.

The great barrier – The only worrisome thing about writing this was how blatantly obvious it was that I was referring to Donald Trump. Where I live, sentiment is overwhelmingly against Trump, so I wanted to somehow spin things in his favor.

Young woman in the white dress is sitting on the stone in the mi

Dumbest President Ever – In my notes, I wrote “Imagine Moss [from ‘The IT crowd’] as president…” From that tiny seed came one of the funnest writing experiences I’ve had. After I wrote the first part, it was easy to imagine what a ‘secret first lady’ of his would be like.

Passing – This story, along with ‘Peace at last’ below, belongs to a similar universe, the images of which are inspired by Isabel Allende’s ‘The house of the spirits,’ in feeling hacienda-ish. The very first idea of ‘Passing’ was also the first line, with the president telling his son about power.

Peace at last – The feud is reminiscent of ‘Romeo & Juliet,’ but it was more directly inspired by the second series of ‘Broadchurch,’ which I had seen four episodes of the day before. I imagined the high tension during a trial, where forgiving gestures could allow the grandchildren of those involved to be at peace.

Philosopher-king – I never mention what musicians encompass the elite ‘Five,’ but that’s beside the point. Such authoritarianism might have been favorable to me when I was younger.

Shadow of hate – This was derived from two quite disparate ideas:  a has-been terrorist, and a sitcom-like plot of impersonating a dead grandson. Why not have the has-been terrorist play the grandson? You might notice my avoidance of mentioning specific religions, even though it’s quite obvious that I’m referring to Islam and Christianity. As I see it, it’s not an attempt at political correctness. It’s pointless to put one religion over another, because it’s the person’s values, with whatever linguistic means of expression he uses, that counts. If you try to impose your beliefs on others, it’s called being an asshole.

Disclosure – This is an attempt at expounding on Batman’s no-kill policy, which I don’t necessarily agree with. The beauty of writing is to say with your whole heart things you don’t mean.

Christ is for losers – Another ‘apology’ similar to the aforementioned ‘Disclosure,’ and inspired by all the current talk of microaggressions and trigger warnings, which are still, thankfully, relegated to the academe. The provocative title is also in keeping with this, even though the story itself is a realization borne of a kind of agony in the garden, and the tone, I’d like to imagine, is similar to Jesus telling off the Pharisees.

montens-lo

Before and after – The run up the semi-fictional Hibok mountain was inspired by an actual hike of mine, but Jane’s ‘awakening’ is derived from something I thought of in front of my laptop. Jane’s decision to never discuss politics again is an extreme position. Politics as a topic has no power to destroy relationships, apart from the spirit in which it is deliberated.

Drill – When I first thought of a vigilante using drills to assassinate officials, the story was more comic-book-ish. By the end, it became more of a TV soap.

The faintness – I keep picturing the ships in ‘Independence Day,’ although in my story, no one actually sees what’s causing the ‘faint’ sound, the idea of which was inspired by me learning a Bach bass line at this time.

God & Milia – This 5,000-worder has an assortment of influences. The first part’s convenience store scene, and the third part’s scene outside the firearms store, were inspired by ‘Taxi driver.’ The characters God and Milia are projections, in my often blundering attempts at reaching out to others. The writing of this came so naturally, and the creative flow during those four days is something I want to emulate in the future.

Repeating itself – I wrote this during a national holiday celebrating Marcos’ removal from power. It was so easy to put down on paper, I immediately forgot what I had written.

Unofficial caretaker – This was the last of the 200 stories I wrote in 2015-2016, but is not definitive of the growth I’d experienced as a writer. I like the whimsicality of it though. One of these days, I’m going to bring back the Justice Renegettes.

The profile of woman. Black and white illustration isolated on a white background.Adult talk – I’ve written several princess stories, but this is the only one I cared to publish. Audrey Hepburn is the primary inspiration for all the princesses I write.

Victim – I imagine prisons of the future as monasteries, with a killer retiring in a church with monks who could kick his ass.

Following – Written just when the last election campaign and mudslinging were picking up steam. Unfortunately, nothing even as juicy as this story surfaced during the campaign. My favorite thing about it is Avery and Melanie’s manner of conversation.

The incident – I like the differing tone of the two parts, the former quite solemn and the other a not-too-far-out parody of crap you hear from politicians.

The tip of awesome – This is hardly a political story, apart from Will’s climb up the social ladder. I imagine professional players to be so much better at what they do when not playing professionally.

Diplomatic immunity! – Just a dumb look at the ‘Lethal weapon 2’ villain’s defense taken to absurdity.

The dead fan – I was at a traffic light, when I looked to the election flyers someone left in the car, and thought of what the public would surmise if I, who wouldn’t vote for anybody seeking public office, were crushed by two reckless buses.

Trilogy – I never got around to renaming this ‘trilogy’ of stories, each one with a different protagonist. The inspiration for the first part was imagining what it would be like to be in the same picture as that taken of terror suspects. The second and third parts were derived from seemingly small events mentioned in the preceding installments. Part three wasn’t intended as such, but could serve as a primer on inflation.


‘Dumbest President Ever: 23 tales of Politica’ is available on Amazon. I’m offering it for FREE for the next three Mondays.