Productivity: Bullet Journaling

Any bullet journalists here? I’m a recent convert, and I’m loving it. It’s best for people with complex, multi-component lives. The collections feature is so simple but it’s exactly what I’ve been missing.

Screens and Mental Health

In the past 15 years, the number of teens who hang out with friends every day was cut in half. Most of the decline took place since 2010.

At the same time (and taking into the account not just this but everything I mentioned in the previous posts), rates of anxiety and depression amongst teens skyrocketed. Studies show that absolutely every single activity you can do online correlates with higher degrees of unhappiness. The more time you spend off-screen doing absolutely anything whatsoever, the higher your rates of satisfaction with your life are.

The risk of depression for teens who have an active social media presence is dramatically higher than for those who don’t. But it doesn’t work the other way around. Being depressed doesn’t lead to more social media use. (It’s exactly the same in adults, too. One study after another shows that, after you get through the initial withdrawal symptoms, there is nothing better you can do for your mental health non-medically than quitting social media. So if you are anxious or depressed, lock up the phone for a month.)

Two+ hours of screens increase a teen’s suicide risk. When it gets past 3 hours a day, the risk begins to spike and gets dramatic once you get past 5 hours a day.

Teenagers today are experiencing an unprecedented mental health crisis. Everybody who works with this age group will confirm this for you but there are also studies up the wazoo. And this is in times of peace and prosperity. What if there was actual adversity this already extremely psychologically vulnerable generation experienced?

Book Notes: Castellanos Moya’s Tirana memoria

This is the weakest book by Castellanos Moya that I have read. It’s a good novel, don’t get me wrong, but Castellanos Moya is writing about the 1940s in El Salvador, and the rage that fills his other novels and makes them so amazing is not there.

I understand why he wrote Tirana memoria. Castellanos Moya is obsessed with the Civil War and its aftermath, and he wanted to go back to the origins and see what created the horror the country is right now. But it’s impossible to be incandescent with anger over a quaint old dictatorship of the 1940s when so much worse shit happened since then. So the novel is much more peaceful in tone, its humor is kinder, the plot is sweeter, and the characters might be pathetic at times but they are not monstrous.

What I like is how hard Castellanos Moya is working on trying to figure out what went wrong and led the country to the horrible situation of today. He isn’t seduced by the simplistic, childish sloganeering of “the US did it!” or “it’s all because of colonialism / neocolonialism!” He’s a profound guy and there are no easy answers in his books.

I’m starting the next novel immediately, and I already know it’s going to be great because the blurb sounds very intriguing.

Car Dealerships and Mental Health

There must be a reason why I feel so profoundly at peace and that everything is right with the world while sitting in car dealerships. There’s no spa, no library, and no coffee shop where I feel so zen. The only other experience that can compare in the degree of calm well-being it gives me is driving past gas stations at night.

Airports, on the other hand, turn me into a basket case. So it’s not about the allure of going places.

More Moya

Castellanos Moya’s novels definitely have to be read as a corpus. If you trace how violence intensifies throughout the Salvadoran history, it will blow your mind. When the writer describes the political struggles of the 1940s, they seem so quaint and courteous compared to what came later.

Then in the early eighties, when the civil war began, the brutality is absolutely ridiculous. But at least there are some people who kind of believe in something good and think they are fighting for justice.

And then you get to 2010, and it gets even worse because former idealists are now fighting to enrich the drug cartels, and the violence is not even a little bit political any more. Nobody is trying to make a better polis. Nobody even thinks about it. It’s all dead.

I know everybody must be tired of my paeans to Castellanos Moya, but I spend hours every day reading his work, thinking about it, and writing about it.

Book Notes: Castellanos Moya’s The Fighter and the Maid

Castellanos Moya’s books give a bonus to readers who read more than one. The books are interconnected in very subtle yet fascinating ways. So if you read just one, you will massively enjoy it as a standalone book. Yet read another, and you’ll see the first one in a very different light.

Obviously, Castellanos Moya didn’t invent this way of writing. Balzac, Galdós – they all have their narrative universes that are complex and fun to explore. Castellanos Moya does it amazingly well, though. The Fighter and the Maid was written 7 years before Moronga but I’m reading it after. And it’s so enjoyable. I’m seeing Moronga in a very different way thanks to the earlier novel. It’s really subtle, really seamless, and it’s like a bonus hidden in the books for the regular readers.

The novel itself is about the beginning of the Civil War in El Salvador, and I strongly recommend it to anybody who wants to have an opinion on immigration or the border wall. Are you entirely sure that you are ready to have the characters of this novel move here? Any opinion is fine as long as it’s informed. These are Salvadorans in their own words. Why not get informed from this source before opining?

Love Castellanos Moya

I had no idea how Castellanos Moya felt about the writers of the Latin American Boom but from the way he writes I guessed he had to hate them as much as I do and for the same reasons. And I was right! Here is what he said in a 2009 interview:

“Los próceres de la literatura latinoamericana dan una visión que a la vez los justifica dentro de la lengua. Le dicen al mundo “¡Descubran América Latina!” y con ello se confirman portavoces. No dudo de que hubo un momento para describirla, llenarla de bellos adjetivos; por más violencia que existiera, ellos tenían una fe en el mundo, y la contaban. Los que vinimos después entramos maldiciendo una cochinada que, tal como está, ya no sirve para nada. Son dos momentos de la literatura, el momento en que Latinoamérica se descubre y se ve bonita y se difunde. Y este, en que uno dice, “¡Pero si esto apesta!” Esto no nos hace a unos mejores que a otros; hay un fatalismo en ello, uno sale en su época como le toca salir.”

I love, love, love this guy.

Sorry, I’m writing an article on. . . guess what? a novel by Castellanos Moya and I don’t have time to translate this quote as beautifully as it deserves.