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From Trip: Psychedelics, Alienation, and Change

On March 1, 2016, in the morning, I rode an elevator to the eleventh floor of a building in Chinatown and sat in a surprisingly high-ceilinged — for being so far up in the sky — courtroom with sixty to eighty people. Two grand juries, we learned, would be selected that day. Those not chosen could go home; the rest would begin their service. The 60 to 70 percent of us, it seemed by a show of hands, who’d deferred thrice could not, it was explained, get out of jury duty again; if our name was called, we had to say “serve” and go sit with the other chosen ones. Using a hand-operated, lottery-seeming, plastic ball filled with folded paper, a man called out forty-six names in an impressively subtle, game-show-like voice that amused me and others in, I felt, a calming manner. …


*This was posted on my now defunct Tumblr in 2016

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INTRODUCTION

I read/reread more books in the past 14 months than any other 14-month period of my life. This post is partly inspired by Blake Butler’s “all the books I read” lists. Thank you Blake.

I read around half of these as ebooks via Kindle app on my iPhone and highlighted parts while reading. There is a site where I can view everything I’ve highlighted chronologically; most excerpts on this list are copy-pasted from there to here, and are chronological for each book. This list is also chronological.

I enjoyed all these books. There were books I stopped reading and don’t plan on finishing that aren’t on this list. …


THE CONTEMPORARY (AMERICAN) SHORT STORY — Spring 2015
Sarah Lawrence College, MFA program | Tao Lin

*This is my syllabus from 2015. View 2012 syllabus for same class here.

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In this class we will read/discuss/examine stories that are (1) <14,000 words (2) labeled fiction (3) published after ~1960 (4) published first in America. We will consider how each story makes us feel and what thoughts we have at what moments in each story. We will try to determine why (due to which sentences, words, images, connections, and which of our own preferences and experiences) we feel or think what we do about each story. We will discern general, author-specific, and story-specific techniques, structures, and title types. We will examine story beginnings and endings. …


Directed Apparently to the People of 2014 from an Elderly Man in Prison in 2042 That Was Discovered by an Anonymous Source and Has yet to Be Read or Analyzed and Will Now Be Read Aloud Verbatim for the First Time

*This was written in 2014 for BBC Radio 4

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In 2042, after major worldwide catastrophes in the second and third decades of the 21st century, the world is drastically different. It’s much, much worse and maybe more exciting, depending on who you ask. If you asked me, I would probably make the joke that I usually make in conversations in which I’m pressured to compare the present and the past. The joke I usually make is that the only improvement in the world is that a machine that can make you fall asleep immediately has finally been invented.

There’s some truth to my joke. It’s 40% a joke. It’s actually around 34.5% a joke. I usually will make up a new number (between 30 and 50, usually to one decimal place) each time I get to that part of the joke, which I rarely do anymore in prison, where I have no romantic prospects or friends. Anyway — yeah, I usually lack the motivation to get to that part of the joke, where I imply that I’ve analyzed the percentage amount that it’s a joke. I have to really like someone and feel that they would appreciate every part of my joke and that they won’t feel unresolved discomfort or boredom as a result of my joke, for me to get to the third-part of a many-part joke, usually. …


*This is an essay I wrote and published on my blog in 2007

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This essay is in self-contained sections, which I arranged intuitively. It doesn’t have a single message. Its topics of interest include loneliness, sadness, death, good/bad in art, fiction writing, the media, concrete reality, abstraction/imagination.

I feel sympathy with Cho Seung-Hui naturally, because he was a person who felt depressed and lonely. I also choose to feel sympathy with him, or to always be trying to feel more, instead of less, sympathy with him, because I don’t think that anger, sadness, confusion, indifference, shock, horror, disbelief, excitement, [probably anything except sympathy] would prevent killing rampages as effectively, in the long term, as sympathy. …


The following is the Appendix to Trip: Psychedelics, Alienation, and Change.

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screenshot of DNA animations by wehi.tv for Science-Art exhibition
  1. There are ninety to one hundred natural types of atoms on Earth — hydrogen, helium, etc.
  2. Most atoms aren’t small, conceptually.
  3. Oxygen is made of eight electrons, eight protons, eight neutrons.
  4. Atoms automatically, in time, join to form molecules.
  5. Hydrogen and oxygen form water, a 3-atom molecule.
  6. Amino acids are a type of small molecule.
  7. Amino acids are made by adding a “side chain” to a specific 9-atom molecule.
  8. Glycine, a 10-atom amino acid, has a hydrogen atom as its side chain.
  9. Tryptophan, a 27-atom amino acid, has an ethylene and an indole molecule. …


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Black holes torture trees.

Turtles and birds get upset at my mom

because Chinese-Americans power cities.

Divination never happened.

I think about suburbs too much.

Crying fuses stars: it’s everything.

Years later, I believe it never happened.

Two shells collide. Yarrow appeared.

Conscious spinning is peculiar.

Thank you for reading my poem. Read more of my poetry here.


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  • This is an updated passage deleted from Trip (2018) because it was somewhat of a non sequitur. This topic is in my next book, Leave Society.
  • I recommend reading Surviving Evil (2014) by Karen Wetmore. This essay serves as a summary of the book, with some analysis.

Karen Wetmore was born in 1952, two years after MKULTRA began as Project Bluebird. She grew up in a small town in Vermont called Brandon. In the mid-or-late 1950s, she was molested by a local man; she had no conscious memory of the abuse and did not find out about it until 1997, when she was 45. …


*First published in 2017 in the booklet for the Blu-Ray of Funny Ha Ha.

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Funny Ha Ha is one of my favorite movies. To briefly give you an idea of my movie preferences and the degree of my fondness toward Andrew Bujalski’s first movie, which was filmed in 2002 and which I first saw in 2008, here is how I answered an email-interview question in 2010 that asked me what movies I especially admired: “I like Werner Herzog documentaries, Funny Ha Ha by Andrew Bujalski, Woody Allen movies.” I found that searching my Gmail account for what I’ve said about Funny Ha Ha. …


The trip that beat back addiction and unleashed a cascade of better choices

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Art by Jessica Siao

In spring 2010, when I was 26, I began using Adderall, Xanax, oxycodone, and other pharmaceutical drugs in a decreasingly controlled manner. For two years, constantly trying to use fewer drugs while using ever more, I felt growing amounts of despair, worry, and hopelessness. By 2012, social situations required caffeine, a pharmaceutical stimulant, a benzodiazepine. The next day, I’d feel terrible, suicidal. I couldn’t seem to enjoy anything anymore unless I was on two or more strong drugs, even while alone.

During those dark years, I used LSD and psilocybin around 20 times and was shocked and heartened by their effects. They temporarily jarred me out of my habits — wallowing in depression, using pills to feel less bad — and made me feel saner. But my drug problem and bleak worldview (I vaguely subscribed to existentialism, which told me to make my own meaning in an indifferent universe) overpowered my psychedelic experiences, and I still felt stuck in helpless confusion, unable to stop using pills or find sustainable, compelling meaning in life. …

About

Tao Lin

I’m the author of Leave Society (2021), Trip (2018), Taipei (2013), other books. Visit my website at https://taolin.us.

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