Alex Mathews

Alex Mathews – writer, bared naked dude blah blah blah

Tucker Max School Of Entrepreneurism

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I discovered Tucker Max a few years ago when I read I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell. Later I found it had been made into a movie, which didn’t make any sense to me because it wasn’t exactly a plotted sort of novel. Most of the time when I watch a movie I basically get pissed off that such drivel comes to the screen and it makes me feel the agitation that whatever I am working on is not going to hit the screen or the bookstores, while this mindless, uneducated trash is going to hit the NYT bestseller list and then get made into a movie. That is like my dream. I can come up with mindless, uneducated trash. No problem. Aim high, Nana always said. In fact, my internal dialog is mainly just a pitch meeting. Always. Ok, so a virgin guy with awkward social skills visits his aunt in Des Moines, where her car wash is under threat of foreclosure, and these horrible developers want the land, and these smokin’ hot neighbor chicks volunteer to help raise the money to save the car wash by getting really soapy and wet. And the nerdy guy gets laid. I must confess that this is usually the extent of my ability to conceive of a plot. If I haven’t seen it in a B-movie already, it’s likely I can’t conceive of anything original. But you know, human drama is always the same story told over and over. Sometimes you cook meth to reclaim your life, and sometimes you hold a bikini car wash. Sometimes you need to dispose of a body.

I won’t say Tucker Max is uneducated or necessarily mindless, because he is intelligent and hilarious. And his writing is comfortable. He is a misogynist with a heart of gold, and who doesn’t love that? I personally like midget sex, and Tucker is unashamed about it. I was nearly moved to tears to see the photo of him holding the hand of the midget he bedded in his second book, Assholes Finish First. So cute. But perhaps you aren’t turned on by a guy who gets drunk and uses poor young girls to feed what you might call his low sense of self-esteem masquerading as sexual prowess. That’s ok, because this guy is also a case study in success, and perhaps in the relative merits of being brutally honest and unashamed. He was turned down by every major publisher he queried. Not 499 out of 500, but like 1,000 out of 1,000. So he did what any self-respecting failure does. He took matters into his own hands. He started a blog back when it was still a novel idea—and not every mommy and internet marketer had taken to the web like cockroaches to pour out their impoverished souls—and he built a following by giving away his work for free, and then the publishers came knocking. Sure, it’s not Walter White kind of empowerment, but it’s something. And of course, that is why all these words here on my blog are totally free.

Which brings me to today’s idea (borrowed from Seth Grodin), which is that if you don’t start, you can’t fail. If you don’t actually rent the Winnebago and buy all the precursor, there will be no blue meth. I am mostly doing this to remind myself of this fact, and that failure isn’t as bad as never trying in the first place. Carpe Diem. I personally have the photos of the midget to prove it.

 

Why Expertise Is Valuable, But Time Is Precious

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I am almost embarrassed to say that I just finished Tim Ferriss’ Four Hour Workweek, but we practice full disclosure and openness here in California. It’s not exactly the sort of book appropriate for me, for I am one of the few people that could benefit from a 40-hour workweek. But, being the slacker that I try to be, it called to me from the shelves of the bookstore (by the way, a few of these still exist). I discovered the premise is less about becoming idle than it is being more efficient, and apparently travel is particularly important for this guy. After getting past my jealousy for his being able to do basically anything he sets his mind to, like becoming an actual ninja or an Olympic weightlifter or professional salsa dancer, I liked what he offers in terms of breaking with convention. In fact, if anything has to do with shattering convention, I get excited and fist pump while driving in my car. Email, bosses, retirement planning, distribution channels—it’s all bullshit in Ferriss’ world, and I am all for calling a spade a spade, especially if I can act like a real hippie and drop out while giving the finger to the man. It’s all about evaluating our lives, and seeing where the logjams are, and his book sheds light on some of these. At some point in my reading, I wished there was a cult that supported the 4HWW (as his devout followers will call it), so I could move closer to the Master, but I saw his picture and got completely disgusted with myself.

I am, however, following his advice (sort of), and putting some of my long held dreams into action. I feel most books like this should come with an automatic ass-kicker or maybe a cattle prod, because basically that seems to be what most people really need. Sure, it’s nice to mentally and emotionally work through the obstacles we face in our lives, but what matters is what we do.

He did help me find SelfGrowth.com, which is said to be “the most complete guide to information about Personal Growth on the Internet.” I am now a member. It’s all part of a master plan to do rather than dream. And when time truly is the most precious thing we have, it’s good to spend time wisely, and do what makes us happy. Everything else is just a horrible parasite.

Anathem

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I was turned onto Neal Stephenson a few years ago when there were still bookstores around where you could purchase books made of paper right there on the spot. An emo salesgirl recommended that I check out Cryptonomicon. It is still one of the best books I can remember reading, and I have been a Stephenson fan ever since. When Anathem came out a ways back (I think they were shutting down all the bookstores by then), I deliberated too much and too long about reading it, so it passed me by at the time. The thing about Stephenson is that after his first few books, he became a seriously prolific writer, and all of his books are brick sized, 1000-page things, so you have to have commitment.

Anathem is set in a world where the thinkers are cloistered off in monastic societies, while the rest of the world lives glued to their cellphones eating bad food with chemicals that give them a sense of well being, and they shop in strip malls and hang out in casinos and movie theaters. It fairly resembles our world, minus the actual smart people. The ascetics live in sequestered orders devoted to various intellectual disciplines and pursuits wearing nothing but a robe with a rope tie and a magic rubber ball. They spend their time thinking about important shit, and discussing it with each other, while outside in the real world the rest of the shit seems to be falling apart. It’s like college, but you don’t graduate and become a lawyer. The two worlds don’t mix except for ten days every year, and even then the serious monks won’t come out unless it’s the turn of a decade or a century. Of course the wonderful separation of these two worlds can’t be maintained because dramatic license dictates that conflict is fun. So our hero smart guy monk sets out to save the world, both of them.

I read the little quotes inside the front cover of the book from all the people claiming to have read Anathem, and I couldn’t figure our what they were saying. And of course I rely on those comments and reviews to form my opinion. If the Dallas Morning News says my book is a “dazzling tour de force,” I know what I hold in my hands. Despite the cryptic blurbs, Anathem is thought provoking writing of a rather enviable brilliant mind. While I realize that sounds just like the printed praise that the publisher put in there because maybe they were worried people would need reassurance to read 1,000 pages of paper with words on it, but it is my actual impression. Stephenson is always good for an education in his books, and Anathem contains a dictionary (because he makes up his own words) and a few appendices that give good tutorials in spatial geometry, quantum mechanics, string theory (or whatever the latest is in the whole what the hell are we really doing here question) and the history of philosophy. I always feel stupid when I read Stephenson, which is hard for the inventor of the internet to admit, but Neal doesn’t really ridicule us for it, but rather inspires us to broaden our understanding of our world. And he helps to school us as well. Despite the seeming headiness of his writing, he also has ability to describe and convey emotional experiences that are heightened by his ignition of our minds. It’s like porn for the cognitive, except without the porn. It is an experience that I can’t quite describe, save to say that you have to have it to understand.

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