Fun-Sized Advice

On more fun-sized advice

What if a democrat isn’t elected?
America will double down on its perpetual state of war, the wealth gap will widen, and perhaps worst of all, the Supreme Court will get filled up with a supermajority of regressive right-wing corporate stooges who will fuck up the country for the next quarter century.

What made you decide to own a gun?
I was a victim of gun violence, and for a while, handguns and gunshots were triggers for some pretty serious PTSD symptoms. Becoming a gun owner and learning how to shoot had significant therapeutic value for me. It still does. I suppose there’s also some symbolic value as well, but I would never be so thick-headed as to suggest that I own a gun for “protection.” People who repeat that absurd cliché are such delusional fucking idiots.

We’ve been dating for 4 years. He wants to get married in another two years, I wanted to have been married like yesterday. It feels shitty to give in to his timeline of events and yet – if we both agree on the end goal – why can’t I just be happy and enjoy the wait?
Because deep down you know damn well he’s just stringing you along. (I mean, come on. Is there even a ring on your finger? I didn’t think so.) If he wanted to be married to you, he would be married to you. Clearly, he doesn’t. Hell, it doesn’t even seem like he wants to be engaged to you, so unless there’s some super obvious reason for waiting two years, you should really consider the possibility that he’s only agreeing to marriage on some far-off, theoretical horizon just to shut you up.

I thought I was fine, but he found someone else and now I’m losing my shit. I’ve been with a few dudes since him but haven’t been able to catch any feelings. How do I poise myself against something that unexpectedly hurts like hell all over again?
Yeah, you gotta let it hurt. Fresh pain after your ex falls for someone else is a pretty standard breakup aftershock. Learn to expect that shit, especially if they catch feelings first.

Will going back home ever not make me feel like I’m suffocating?
Maybe, but you’ll have to make yourself a new home before going back to the old one doesn’t suffocate you anymore.

Why does it bug me so much when guys call me a tease?
Because not only are they implying that you use your sexuality as currency, they’re also suggesting that they’re owed some of it.

Fun-Sized Advice

On fun-sized advice

He said he loved me. Then he left. What to do?
Have some breakfast.

Why do I measure my self worth by the quality of men that I date?
Because you live by an unspoken rule that the value of a woman is determined by men.

Your ego has fooled you into believing that you can sometimes kill it.
No. My ego fools itself into believing that I exist in the first place.

Maybe it’s way too early to ask…but you might get to it later. How do you feel about Trevor Noah?
It’s different, but it’s working.

The girls at the MAC counter were rude to me. What would coketalk do?
I would teach them a hard lesson about which side of the counter they were on. (The Catch-22 is that they aren’t rude to the kind of people who know how to teach them that lesson.)

I am planning on having sex. I love the guy. I don’t know if he loves me. We might break up soon. I am not doing it to save my relationship. But I would like to have sex with someone special to me for my first time. And I know if we end, I’ll have loads of sex with other men. Views?
Yeah, okay. Be safe.

What is your perfume/fragrance of choice lately?
At the moment, I’m kinda into Cinema by Yves Saint Laurent.

Why do so many working class white people in rural areas vote against their best interests?
Because they’ve been institutionally conditioned to use their vote as a means of justifying their belief system rather than protecting their interests.

Do you also feel like punching all the social media accounts in the world that perpetuate the nonsensical shit term “on fleek”?
Violently, but don’t worry. “On fleek” is well past its saturation point. It will be gone by the holidays.


On Planned Parenthood and Abortion

If you support Planned Parenthood, what are your thoughts on late second and third term abortions. All good? If a fetus is able to survive out side the womb (possible at +/- 27 weeks) doesn’t that scream murder to you? Does it make it okay because the doctor doesn’t murder out of malice? Is it okay because the Woman’s life is far more important than the little being?

I understand that prior to viability a fetus is a clump of cells. Many clumps are created that never become people. Do you think that women who choose abortion (for which ever reason they choose) are properly educated as to the process? What about the incriminating videos that have surfaced? I am often in the edge of pro choice/ pro life. I am a new mom, my baby was premature… And it makes me shudder to think that I would have had the option to terminate her a week before she was delivered.


Of the million or so abortions performed in the US each year, only about 1 percent are performed after 20 weeks of gestation. (Fetuses are simply not viable at 20 weeks — 22 weeks is the current technological threshhold for survival outside the womb, but even that requires extraordinary neonatal intensive care.)

Only about 1000 abortions a year are performed in the third trimester — that’s around 0.01 percent — and those are only performed when the mother’s life is at grave risk. You’re asking about a tiny, tiny fraction of abortions, and let’s be clear — you wouldn’t have had the option to terminate your pregnancy a week before delivery. That’s not even a thing, so quit all your stupid shuddering.

Speaking of things that don’t even exist, there are no incriminating videos. None. No evidence of any criminal activity on the part of any Planned Parenthood representative has surfaced. All of that hyped-up nonsense is just wingnut fear-mongering and politically motivated propaganda.

Let’s also step back another level. You’ve framed your entire question about Planned Parenthood around an ethical issue that involves literally 0.01% of all abortions, and abortions only account for 3% of all the critically important reproductive health care services that Planned Parenthood offers.

To be quite honest, I think it’s pretty fucking irresponsible of you to conflate Planned Parenthood with a service they provide less than 0.003% of the time — if at all — to women whose lives are at grave risk due to complications.

Planned Parenthood is SO MUCH MORE than just the place women go to get abortions. Millions of people get reproductive health services from Planned Parenthood every year — breast exams, Pap tests, STI testing and treatment (including HIV testing), plus vital family planning counseling to underprivileged populations. That shit is so important.

So yeah, if you’re on the edge of the pro-choice/anti-abortion debate, please step the fuck off and realize that whatever stupid nonsense makes you shudder as a new mom, it has absolutely no place influencing a national debate over the vital health services that Planned Parenthood provides.

Don’t be selfish about this.


On politics and entertainment

I just read this (all credit to Jay Pinho of Al Jazeera America): “The least analyzed aspect of [Donald Trump’s] foray into politics is one that has taken shape over a much longer time frame: the vanishing distinction between politics and entertainment…Trump’s candidacy has rendered image and reality so interchangeable that some voters have embraced his bid as an exercise in extreme nihilism.” My immediate reaction, following solemn laughter, was to wonder if you agree. It struck me as very Coquettish.


Yes, yes.

Speaking as a Californian, this is nothing new. We’ve already elected Arnold Schwarzenegger as governor. Twice. We put the fucking Terminator in charge of the world’s eighth largest economy without the slightest trace of irony, and then we did it again.

We’ve been vanishing the distinction between politics and entertainment since everyone stopped giving a fuck back in the day and decided it’d be a good idea to let Hollywood actor Ronald Reagan run shit. (As far as I’m concerned, California should never stop apologizing for that guy.) Trump’s candidacy is just the next logical step. He fits neatly into the logarithmic progression from Reagan to Schwarzenegger and on into oblivion.

I’m not suggesting we should embrace him. (Although to do so would indeed require an exercise in extreme nihilism.) We should reject him with every fiber of our being. We should call him out as the racist misogynistic fear-mongering capitalist garbage monster that he is. We should mock his supporters as unthinking legions with flaccid minds and facile lives. We should demand better, even from the toxic dumpster fire that is the Republican Party.

Image and reality are already interchangeable. (Duh. Welcome to postmodernity, Baudrillard.) That’s still no excuse to shrug your shoulders and embrace Donald Trump. Image can supercede reality all day long, that doesn’t mean we have to accept an image of the president an angry orange man with a butthole for lips.

We can do better, even as entertainment.

Best-Of Advice

On ego death and spirituality

You’re the first person I’ve heard explain ego death as a constant gradual process (re: is your ego really dead?) rather than some kind of singular, life-changing event an ex-frat boy experienced after sucking on three tabs of acid. Would you care to elaborate?


The constant, gradual process of ego death. Yes. You’ve just tapped into the core of what spirituality is to me.

I’m not religious, and I don’t hold any supernatural beliefs, but I am still very spiritual. I believe that spirituality can be a rational and valid practice of philosophical exploration, and that exploration most often comes in the form of some kind of ritualized exercise in killing one’s ego.

The human condition comes with a built-in capacity for mystical states of transcendence, ecstasy, and bliss. Unfortunately, for most people that capacity either goes largely untapped or it ends up warped by religious flimflammery.

Nevertheless, those transcendent states can be discovered, studied, and developed like any other human experience, and if you devote yourself, those states can be sustained for longer and longer periods of time. (And yeah, there are those who say a transcendent state can be sustained permanently, but I find those claims are almost always adjacent to religiosity and charlatanism.)

As a general rule, anyone who claims that ego death is a singular life-changing event is either missing the point or selling something. I don’t mind the ex-frat boy who sucks on three tabs of acid and then gets smacked in the head with a little taste of transcendence. Good for him. That kind of thing can certainly be life-changing, but he is woefully mistaken if he thinks that experiencing ego death means that he’s actually killed his ego. (This is especially true for those whose first and only ecstatic experience is chemically induced.)

I guess part of the problem is in the phrasing itself. “Ego death” and “killing your ego” are useful as conceptual shorthand, but they imply a certain finality. Perhaps “annihilation” is a better term. Then again, perhaps “self” or “mind” might be more useful as terms than “ego.” Regardless, it can all sound like a bunch of eye-roll-worthy mumbo-jumbo to someone who’s never personally experienced it, and even for those who have, it’s still intensely personal and nearly impossible to describe.

Best-Of Advice

On self-worth and acceptance

All my life I’ve been told I’m gorgeous and talented. Modeling contracts, Ivy League college, NYC, Paris, Milan, LA. Now I’m 40 and have no self love and a string of failed relationships. I’ve tried everything: therapy, drugs, sobriety, vision quests, psychics, celibacy, meditation, reading all the books, whatever. I’m no closer to accepting that soon, “pretty” will run out, and then what will I have going for me? Point me in the right direction, please.


Your relationships didn’t fail. They simply ran their course, and the part of you that believes you were a failure in love is the same part of you that believes your value as a human being is directly tied to an arbitrary beauty standard you happened to meet in your youth.

I can’t point you in the right direction. There is no direction. There’s nothing out there that you can smoke, seek, fuck, find, or read that will suddenly give you the self-love and acceptance you’re so desperate to discover.

You wanna know why? Because all those things you tried were just different flavors of the same old broken-souled search for external validation. All that bullshit, and it still never occurred to you that the only thing you ever had to do was forgive yourself.

Just fucking forgive yourself. Let go. That shit was never yours. It didn’t belong to you. The beauty and the talent and the hubris and the superiority — they were all someone else’s idea of you, and they felt so good for so long, you made them a part of your identity. It was all a fucking fiction, and you can just let it all go. It’s okay, really. Have a good cry, shake it off, and then forgive yourself.

Keep forgiving yourself, and keep rejecting every instinct you have to seek external validation until one day you wake up and realize that you are worthy.

You’re worthy of love. You’re worthy of acceptance. You’re just plain inherently worthy. Trust me, you don’t even know the meaning of real freedom until you finally discover what internally validated self-worth feels like.

All you gotta do is let go.

Fun-Sized Advice

On fun-sized advice

Are you as fucking sick of this “Cool” Pope shit as I am? Congratulations your organization advanced into the early 20th century.
Meh. I don’t mind the cool pope. I mean sure, the Catholic Church is a grotesquely evil institution that spreads ignorance and fear throughout the globe, but as long as we gotta have a pope, I’d rather him be a progressive liberal. (Relatively, of course.)

Can you help me articulate why I feel blinding anger when, after doing something unprofessional and shitty, my boss apologizes and says, “Are we cool?” and if I don’t say “Yes,” he pouts? What is the exact phrase for the manipulative bullshit he is pulling?
He’s not apologizing. He’s trying excuse himself, and he’s demanding your complicity. Real apologies don’t come with emotional strings attached.

I said I wanted to be the one called instead of doing the calling. He said he’d call. He hasn’t. Do I call, which feels like caving, or do I read the subtext and let it go, which feels like giving up?
Take the fucking hint.

You mentioned that Bernie Sanders has a legitimate chance of winning the White House. Do you think the same is true for Trump? Does this worry you at all?
No. Bush is gonna win the Republican nomination.

Why the fuck are Republicans so determined to shut down Planned Parenthood anyway? Do they not understand that they’re alienating even their own voting base? Are they seriously so anti-women that they want to keep us from getting cancer screenings? What could they possibly gain from this?
They’re not alienating their base. They’re catering to it. America is full of selfish, bible-banging halfwits who genuinely believe that defunding Planned Parenthood is a righteous cause.

What do you think about the niqab?
Well, it’s certainly not for me, and I don’t recommend it for tanning.

Is your ego really dead?
No, but I kill it whenever I can.

How can I stop being bitter when the world is full of such shitty things?
You don’t have to fill yourself with the shitty things.


On Chomsky and Harris

Noam Chomsky vs Sam Harris. Any thoughts?

I respect Harris for trying to open a dialog, and Chomsky certainly handled the exchange poorly, but the old man is nevertheless correct.

In a nutshell, Harris suggests that intentions matter when assessing the morality of a given geo-political outcome, and that Chomsky unwisely ignores intentions. Chomsky suggests that Harris is naive about “benign” intentions, and that on the world stage, only outcomes matter.

As an example, Chomsky would not make a moral distinction between the US accidentally killing a dozen children in a drone strike and ISIS deliberately killing a dozen children with a car bomb. On the other hand, Harris very much wants to make that moral distinction. That’s his whole point in starting the conversation. He believes that those identical outcomes would not be equal, and that the US would somehow be morally superior because of the intentionality of the deaths.

Harris’s position is attractive. At first glance, it certainly “feels” right, but that’s just a trick in how he frames his position. It’s fine to talk about the moral intentions of individuals, but his argument ultimately fails because the concept of intentionality doesn’t scale-up to the systemic level of state power.

In other words, it’s perfectly legitimate to suggest that President Obama is morally superior to Abu al-Baghdadi, the leader of ISIS, but so what? The US has visited far more atrocity onto the world than ISIS could ever hope to commit, and the fact that the President is a good guy has almost nothing to do with the intention of the US military industrial complex as a whole. Essentially, Harris is trying to make a systems-level “good guys vs bad guys” type argument, and Chomsky has no patience for that kind of bullshit.

To his credit, Harris is right that not all cultures are at the same stage of moral development, but for some reason, he has a blind spot when it comes to the systemic violence inherent to Western state powers, (specifically the US and Israel.) Harris assumes there is a certain benevolence of good intentions with regard to Western state actors, and Chomsky simply refuses to accept his premise.

Put as simply as possible, Chomsky thinks systemically about culture, whereas Harris thinks culturally about systems, and their conversation failed miserably because they got into an academic dick measuring contest.

Oh well.


On another bunch of books

Can you post some more book recommendations? You’ve already given me two of my all time favorite books (“Shock Doctrine” and “Veronika decides to die”).


Yep. It’s September, and like clockwork, you guys are asking me for books again. Here’s the latest snapshot of what’s on my bookshelf. As always, it’s a mixed bag. There should be a little something here for everyone:

The Days of Abandonment by Elena Ferrante

Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

Sapiens: A History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari

Purity by Jonathan Franzen

The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig

The Terrorist’s Dilemma: Managing Violent Covert Organizations by Jacob Shapiro

Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy

The Girls of Atomic City: The Untold Story of the Women Who Helped Win World War II by Denise Kiernan

Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief by Lawrence Wright

Bitch Planet #1 by Deconnick & De Landro

A Renegade History of the United States by Thaddeus Russell

Lost in the Cosmos by Walker Percy

Waking Up: A Guide to Spirituality Without Religion by Sam Harris

Best-Of Advice

On the concept of a soul

Serious question: what are souls?

It really depends on who you ask. Asking for a person’s soul concept is like asking for their god concept. The definition varies wildly according to a person’s individual belief system, and it’s usually tied to a bunch of metaphysical nonsense bought wholesale from a religion during childhood.

Generally speaking, a person will define their soul as the qualitative variable they need to balance out the equation of their own mortality.

For instance, the average American simpleton might define their soul by saying something like, “my soul is the part of me that will go to heaven when I die.” The average skeptic clinging onto dualism might say something like, “my soul is my spiritual essence separate from my body.” Atheists who practice transcendental meditation might say, “my soul is the part of me left over when my mind is silent.” Materialists flirting with Buddhism might say, “there is no soul, and yet we are reborn from nothing.” Hipsters into existential nihilism might tell you that soul is just Aretha Franklin on vinyl.

You get the point. The soul concept is basically there to cancel out whatever existential dread is built into their personal belief system.