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"I don't see how anyone would want to read it all for fun." —Robert Fripp
Entries in 2005 (116)
I don't know what it is, but the planets have reversed their orbits in the last few years for me. I've been digging a range of things in literature or film that I have known about for years but have pushed aside for whatever reason. Tonight I just watched the Gary Sinise version of Of Mice and Men. It hit me like a ton of bricks.
Today I went to Borders with a jones to get some classic lit that should probably be in everyone's collection, but stuff I never bothered to read or understand or like, but in light of the things that I am interested in now, I felt it was time to finally indulge in. I did not happen to buy any of it once I came to my senses that maybe the library was just as good a place, and that lately, I've gone on a few book buying binges, spending about $40-$60 a pop. Today I did get some quintessential peak oil reading—Kunstler's The Long Emergency and Heinberg's Powerdown, which did the usual job of robbing me of $40 or so. Later on, I shall try to get through some classics.
The new interest came from a forum my church is having tomorrow about the themes in Dracula, Frankenstein, and The War of the Worlds and how they relate to today's human arrogance and intervention in natural systems, and how we will account for the damage done by our creations, technology, and so forth. I've never read one of these books. I know something about them, but not much. At one point back in high school, I did read Gulliver's Travels but have forgotten most of it too. I feel like I have a lot of catching up to do. I feel like I need to throw my computer off the cliff in an Office Space moment so I can get back to reading and experiencing something different than anything I have experienced since at least the time when I was a kid, and even then, I wasn't an avid reader, but you know, I was exposed to this sort of material. But now it seems time to finally understand it and let it stain the fabric of my being.
I know I read Of Mice and Men back in 1990 or so when I was in 11th grade history and/or English classes (my classes were merged in some sort of multi-discipline approach that year). I remember it vaguely, but all the human nuances were lost. I never read for that sort of thing. I seem to remember being bored by it. I was more into British stuff in that period, being a fan of Jethro Tull and Fairport Convention led me to more British types of literary work, if at all. But having traveled in Steinbeck country a few times in recent years, I grew a bit curious about his work. As far as the film goes, that was a random thing at the store today. But you know, its hard to go wrong with Sinise and Malkovitch. I don't think I've ever seen any other Malkovitch, but I've seen a few Sinise films and trust his ability. I watch films like this at least twice in the same week, or watch the commentary and extras so I can really mainline it and get it into my system.
I did that kind of thing with some other movies a few years ago. There was a time when I was sooooo overwhelmingly depressed that I needed a total shock to my system to get me back into feeling again, so I hit the cinema hard for a few weeks with stuff like repeated viewings of The Deer Hunter, Saving Private Ryan, Schindler's List, Shawshank Redemption, Threads, The Day After and a few more that escape memory. Heavy stuff, but it was all like a blast of fresh air to me because I stayed away from movie watching for a long time. I get so much more out of movies now.
I hope to be able to tackle some lit essentials in a similar way. I never got into fiction literature, and all my recent reading has been some disturbing non fiction about the state of the world. But I find myself finally wanting to get some background, and as the pieces come to me, I get them on my list, and even if I can't get to the books themselves, I try to cozy up to the story in any other way that at least gives me something to think about. But more and more, as I get tired of staring at my computer screen, I find myself toting a book around, or taking time out to read more. I guess if my way of life is going to crash before long, I could at least connect with some of the timeless elements. I find I like to hear orchestral music more now, mainly because it's not so ephemeral as pop stuff, rock, and whatever else I already know too well or hate already.
I guess I'm just getting old. Is that possible at 32?
I want to be a song.
I want to be a song by the band Japan.
Or one by Kevin Gilbert.
Or a Robert Fripp soundscape.
Or maybe a Miles Davis solo.
Or perhaps a complex chord with altered tones.
I want to be a polyrhythm.
I want to be poor and humble, enlightened but modest.
I want to be rid of material concerns.
I want to be lost.
I want to be at ease.
I want to be naive.
I want to be the one people come to because I have nothing to offer but myself.
I want to be a conduit for the ages.
I want to be a puppy that gets to run and play, is adored for just being, and still gets forgiven for crapping on the carpet once in a while.
I want to be denominated in love, grace, or hope, not dollars.
I've come to the conclusion that civilization is just one big tail-chasing exercise, and one day the old dog is going to lay down, tired, and won't get back up for some time to come.
Well, as I said, I am not a book reviewer, or even an avid reader. However, in preparation for the time when the lights, CD players, computers, and other electronic artifacts become superfluous luxury items for working stiffs such as myself, I have been putting my head in books more often, and getting more from them than I usually expected. I find myself purchasing books in twos and threes, sometimes just on the fly, a new phenom that is more remarkable than the way I used to buy CDs. I walk into a store now, and go out $50 poorer, barely even knowing what I walked out with! I flock to non fiction as a rule; stuff that fascinates me usually covers matters of our present world mess (9/11, peak oil, corporate funny business), cultural renewal, liberal and progressive looks at religion, humanities, and stuff.
One such book is one by a Franciscan priest and genuinely amazing Christian human being named Brennan Manning. The Relentless Tenderness of Jesus is one of the books I just got and have been digging into it with glee. In defiance to all the discriminatory and egotistical bullshit that seems to be eminating from so-called Christian circles today (Pat Robertson makes me wish for some decidedly UN-Xtian things, you know), TRTOJ just strips all that shit away and deals with the core message that seems too easily forgotten: Jesus was here to tell us we are loved, and no matter what, that won't change, and most importantly, that we are all welcome to the table. All we have to do is accept that we are welcome and worthy, and to live accordingly, in thanks for the gift. Forget the system of merit. We are granted a gift. Period. A gift that only needs to be honored by living in thankfulness.
Gandhi spoke for a lot of us when he commented, 'I like your Christ but I do not like your Christians. They are so unlike your Christ.' And so we have had that image. And, for people like me who would like to see that observation lose its validity (I won't challenge the man, he was right in a lot of cases, and would be equally so right now), we need all we can get to remind us of what really is at the heart of the faith. The sad fact of the matter is that Xtianity early on got warped. Jesus wasn't out to make people worship him as much as he was out to model the ultimate in complete human living. So the church, as it institutionalized, became more about Jesus worship, damn the business of doing all the nice things he did for people. It explains well enough our current gross misunderstanding and misappropriation of Christianity.
Manning himself seems to be the real article. His bio blurb at the end of the book says he's done some hard missionary work in different parts of the world, living among the poor and destitute. He even volunteered (!) to be a prison inmate in a Swiss jail, this scheme only known to the staff. I got the idea that the man maybe had spent his life being a real disciple, so his words really just resonated with me, especially when I read a few chapters aloud to my wife, who herself is a seminary student and is immersed in all sorts of theological literature and history now. She gave it a wild thumbs up for just cutting to the core of what it's all about. I found myself overwhelmed at a lot of it. Sometimes a ray of light shines into our jail cells we call life, you know?
For a guy like me who is keen on peak oil as a reality, it's hard to not get drawn into all the crookedness and outright evil that has a stranglehold on things in the geopolitical realm, or just the sheer enormity of the peak oil issue. I am often depressed about it, so I rely on messages like this book has in it to just remind me that maybe the complicated life is not all its cracked up to be. It helps ease me into understanding that maybe collapse is necessary and possibly desirable.
Tonight I transcribed a sermon from church that was given three years ago on thankgiving weekend. I didn't need to do it; I just did it because I needed that kind of stuff in my head. In the case of this sermon and the Manning book, I needed to know it was alright to be poor. I needed to hear that even in Auschwitz, prisoners could still be thankful for a crust of bread and community. Or that in parts of Latin America, the destitute can still have thanksgiving celebrations that stand in defiance of oppression and hatred, fear and poverty. What can drive a person to be thankful in the face of all this? Well, grace. Being thankful for anything we have I guess can lessen the sting of losing or not having something at all. We thank because we are all given a gift. Either we can be arrogant about it and run off with it, or we can reflect and acknowledge. In the age of peak oil and decline, with fortunes on the wane, populations in decline, and what promises to be a likely "four horsemen" scenario for the civilized western world, a lot of hearts are going to be broken. Will we remember that we still have life, and will we celebrate it? Or are we dead as soon as the market crashes, and the cars stop running?
I've been allowing myself to separate from certain values commonly held by my generation, or letting older ones creep into my life. Kelli and I say grace at meals (more and more—we still forget too often), I actually take Sundays off work (to the irritation of my company). I eschew TV, video games, and a lot of other things so I can be more dedicated to things that are just more important to me. I know I try not to take things for granted as much as before. I still drive an 11 year old truck that I have not washed in over a year. I curse having to buy new tires for it, given that they might do little good for me but to keep me safe for another rainy season. There are a lot of things that I want to get out of the habit of doing, partly because I anticipate that these habits will HAVE to be broken, but also because when one stops to think of what is really important, a lot of things we do every day just don't seem to matter any more.
I find materialism frustrating as hell now. I am bracing for possibly having to lose most of my material possessions either to sale abandonment, or theft. All my precious music gear sits in a room at my dad's house, unused for over two months there alone, and another month or so before I moved. I am contemplating selling it all, but it's a gut wrenching decision. But then I feel bad that I should be so attached to such things, given the enormity of life today. I find myself buying tools instead of music gear. Books instead of CDs. Clothing instead of gasoline. Broccoli instead of cookies.
I find myself appreciating clear speech instead of sarcasm and faux irony. I find the company of my wife to be far more satisfying than anything I commonly do. I prefer darkness in the house. I find my time at work spent thinking of how much I hate it, and how much I wish I could run off and check out of society for a few weeks at a time and do some things that would better prepare me for a post carbon life. Others want to go to Vegas, Hawaii, or the desert to race ATVs. I want to go to learn how to live without oil or easy transportation, or just to be outside of life for a bit so I can find myself again. I read about Manning's time doing hard labor in poor nations, and find myself inadequate but interested. I reason that I shouldn't go off and do that now because soon enough my own nation will be living out of garbage pits, and maybe I could just prepare for that and not bother to learn a new language. The crisis will come to me soon enough. Manning says that poverty is not so bad. Being willfully poor is easier than having it heaped upon oneself. It's sort of a turning-the-other-cheek thing. Or giving thanks for a crust of bread in the concentration camp. It is meant to diffuse the oppression and indignity of it all. It's a notion of mastery on one's own terms.
You may not be a subscriber to the peak oil and global energy crisis school of thought, but if the world has you down and you are hip to what Christianity is supposed to be about, check out this book. It's $13 well spent, as far as I care.
To "celebrate" my 32nd birthday today, I awoke bright and early at 6:45 and did my usual morning routine in the dark and total silence, as always. I eschew TV, radio, and other input in the morning because that short period before work is the only time I ever get in a day when I have that much control over what enters my brain. My dear wife gave me a cute stuffed piggy before she left at 4:45 am to go to school up in Claremont. She has been my main provider of stuffed piggies through the years, as well as other pork-a-phenalia.
Then I left at 7:40—again, as usual—and clocked in at 7:52. Worked all fucking day but for a brief bit of shuteye during lunch after I ate some tasty leftover lasagna from Sunday night's peak oil meeting with Graeme Elliott at the local Italian joint. Worked overtime as expected. Got off work at 6:08. The precise times actually allow for a bit of timeclock massaging, with the loophole plain as day and provided by the company. Were I to clock in a minute later and clock out a minute earlier, I would lose 30 minutes of overtime. But since this week was such a grind, they did anticipate it and pretty much expect us to work overtime. I told them earlier that there were two nights a week I couldn't do, and weekends. I have perfectly good reasons. But my birthday fell on Wednesday, which was not one of my exceptional nights, so I got to spend the extra hour and some change doing a last minute drive to the convention center during rush hour. Just as I was doing the last loading for the day, Kelli hit me with a barrage of phone calls and messages which I could not get as they came in. Some comments were made about my birthday being on the day. Our receptionist Shannon made it a point to wish me well on three occasions as she came into the shop, which is rather rare. She is rather like sunshine in that dismal cave of a shop.
Then after work, in my grubby T-shirt and jeans, I went to my birthday dinner at Costco where the polish dogs and pizza provide a filling, starchy dinner to get me by. My birthday cake was one of their berry sundaes. Yum.
Feet hurting, hair messed up, dirty, and sore all over, it was time to go home and clean up. The high point of the night, apart from hearing from Kelli a couple times was a repeat viewing of American Beauty which somehow quietly crept up to being one of my favorite movies of all time. One last talk with Kelli, this blog, and its off to bed I go, ready to start over tomorrow, except no stuffed piggy awaiting me on my desk. This weekend, I may have some sort of shindig with Kelli and whatever she might put together for the day. My last few birthdays have been far more notable with her in the picture, otherwise, today was sort of a reminder of what it was like for a number of years before she turned up.
Thirty two. Thirty fucking two. I never thought I would make it. If anyone asks, I would like Borders gift cards, and survival gear, and heirloom seeds for vegetables. Oh, and I'd like my old house back. I hate this apartment.
An event that used to be the high point of my year in the mid-late 80s is now seen by the present me to be a fascist freeforall. I'm a little surprised and maybe saddened for it to taken me this long to figure it out. Sometimes I'm a little slow.
Ah, Miramar Air Show! There are big billboards along the freeways that surround Marine Corps Air Station Miramar. They offer businesses the chance to watch their business "take off" if these businesses want to get a booth at the show right in the midst of the F-18s, C-130s and whatever helicopters they have up there right now. Finally, this week, it hit me! Duh! Fascism is the mingling of state and corporate power. Duh. And here it was right in front of all our eyes!
When I was a kid, I idolized the Blue Angels. As a display of flying prowess, they are still at the top of their league, and taken solely as a superhuman feat of coordination and technology, I still get shivers watching them from my dad's rooftop. (He is within a few miles of regular ops at Miramar, but gets some good flyovers during airshow season.) But I've come to assess airshows differently than when I was 12. Especially now that we are at and about to pass peak oil. One has to wonder, while the rest of us are paying unheard of prices to get to work and the grocery store, the government can still fly a half dozen F-18s for show??? While our government can't be bothered to help people in New Orleans, it can afford to not only fly these jets to the show, do three or four shows in a weekend (one strictly for press and VIPs), but it can also get all the other planes and hardware to the same show—all from scattered bases in the region, across the 5 services. Multiply times the number of shows of this sort, all for show!
No redeeming value except to give companies a place to advertise, and to glorify the machines and methods of war. And it's a good thing, because you know, Americans are getting a little fed up with this war business, so it's time to kick the PR machine into overdrive. Americans are forgetting how to love war, so the air shows are here to remind them of what a great thing we've got going.
Just think—in one weekend, Americans will have these things happen so cleverly to them that they might never know it.
First, they will be oooohing and aaaaahhhhing over machines they paid for which are used to kill people with utmost efficiency. Somehow the speed, turning radius, paintjobs, and other distinguishing features will help people forget their government really is out to suck the money from their pockets while taking their liberties and getting other nations to submit or die. Or, as Ray Charles would have said, the government is "pissing in their face and calling it spring rain." They will also forget that every gallon of fuel used to fly all those planes and copters, and to move the armored vehicles and tanks is another gallon of petrofuel that won't be coming back. It won't be available for their ride to work, or to take their children to school, hospital, or on vacation to New York. Or, every gallon of fuel used for tha air show is one less gallon that can be used to save a victim of a Gulf Coast hurricane. Gone. And the government positively doesn't give a flying fuck because they decided they needed this air show more than any one of us need to live our lives. Let's not forget the amazing waste of fuel it is for all those people to drive their SUVs and trucks to the show, often in stop and go traffic, with the line going for a mile or more out to and sometimes well beyond the front gates of the base.
From the Blue Angels FAQ page:
How far can the F/A-18 fly on a full load of fuel or with external fuel tanks?
The F/A-18 can travel approximately 1,000 miles on a full load of fuel without external tanks. Adding the external tanks extends the range to approximately 1,200 miles.
How much fuel does an F/A-18 Hornet use in a show?
On the average, one F/A-18 uses approximately 8,000 pounds or 1,300 gallons of JP-5 jet fuel at a cost of roughly $1,378.
How much fuel is used over the course of a year, including transportation, training, etc.?
Over a one-year period, the squadron, including Fat Albert, burns approximately 3.1 million gallons of fuel.
Do we have that kind of fuel to just chuck away on this shit?
Second, they will be advertised to while more or less captive. As if Clear Channel did not have enough advertising under its control, their radio stations will be out in force along the tarmac, vying for listeners with their gimmicky prize giveaways. Banners for home improvement, banks, cycles, cars, mortgages, and who knows, maybe even Viagra! Like we need to go to a fucking air show to be exposed to this? Well, what could be better? You make the public flock to a closed perimeter military base and while they are getting the sunburn of their lives, you pummel them with the same garbage that already adorns the sides of buses, billboards, magazine ads, and is plastered all over parts of the internet! Ah, the genius of advertising.
Third, the young men and women will be approached by recruiters. For recruiters, it's like shooting fish in a barrel! Hell, I've been to airshows before. It's all PR. That much I understood years ago, but I didn't understand the layers of what was behind the appeal. Once upon a time I wanted nothing more than to be an F-14 pilot. Good thing I have poor vision and a bad attitude which pretty much blew my qualifications by the end of ninth grade. (Now I get to serve my country by being a polemical watchdog.) But another generation of young men are turning up for the war machine, their options limited by their ethnicity, geography, income (or lack of). They will certainly be oooohed and ahhhhed by the gear on display. Too many (even if it's only one) will be in the recruiters office by Monday to give their lives over to the world's most dangerous job. Sad.
Well, so much for government regulating business. Hell, now it's in the business of helping business. Just think, the businesses get consumer dollars when they get back to the shop, and later on they get a nice break from the government too. The airshow is one big circus to extract money from the unsuspecting public so that government and business can get in the back room and suck each other off and then trade hi fives with cigars in their mouths.
I just heard on the news that the US will send lots of money to the earthquake-stricken south Asian region.
We have money for Asian tragedies but not for American ones? Asian earthquakes are worthy recipients, but deluged American cities aren't.
Or, we can "liberate" Iraq but can't keep freedom here.
Ain't America great?
Forgive me lord for I have sinned.
I went to Viejas today.
Yup, Viejas casino, the charming den of sin that vacuums money from pensioners' pockets and puts credit cards to the endurance test at the 60 outlet shops. Kelli seems to have bid at an auction for some chow from the buffet there and was begging to go. She had it all figured out—I needed some shoes to help me get through work days, and she needed some girl wear. And we could get food at the buffet, and we could watch the nighttime show they have out there. Well, at least she was thinking of economical gas usage—one trip, many wonders.
I always think of the insides of casinos as "hell on earth." I don't get to Vegas too often, but that is my first contact with casinos. I never gamble as a rule, so its all just a total assault on my senses and sensibilities. My "distance" from gambling gives me my usual vantage point to ridicule the poor sods who engage in such a ridiculous use of their incomes, pensions, or stolen lunch money. I don't use drugs and I don't gamble, so I have some words for both addictions/pastimes.
I had to buy some shoes so I could bear my work days. I usually don't get the more elaborate running or cross training types of shoes since I always find them gimmicky looking and they always look like shit in no time if actually worn for work. But the eight hour days on concrete floors, moving gear, standing, squatting, and all sorts of other activity have been hell for my feet, ankles, and knees. After two months of that, something has to change. So I hit up one of the shoe stores and after an hour, decided on three pairs! I've been on a kick to buy things in excess right now. Part of it is just taking advantage of finally having a job of any consequence—the first of its sort ever, but the most steady and decent paying since I don't know when, but it was before 9/11/01 anyway. The rest of my reasoning is that my future vision includes a lot of financial hardship and I may as well buffer myself a bit for a few cycles of normal purchases. I've made some redundant clothing purchases too, along those lines. My only worry is getting skinny again when food costs go up, and when I have to bike more! I'll be stuck with fat person clothes! I've got lots of shoes now. Hopefully that will take me a few years down the road. I got my old grunge-era Docs, some newer Docs that don't fit too well, some other Doc-style clones, and a bunch of other types. Shit, I'm almost holding my own with Imelda Marcos!
So, $130 later, Kelli and I started on our way to the show. I felt like the spirit of James Kunstler was hovering over my discount shopping-at-the-edge-of-the-county excursion. I was carrying my three pairs of shoes, and Kelli had her girl wear, and we had just gorged ourselves on a free buffet dinner (great meatloaf—I've fallen in love with meatloaf and mashed taters just as I find that I should really be on a vegetarian diet, given my beliefs-in-formation). I felt so American.
The show was pretty neat. I don't usually go to high production shows after years of working on shows and being generally bored with things in that field. But this was a pretty splendid show made up of lights, lasers, fog machines, and a lot of water, not to mention fire, fireworks, and projection, sometimes even projecting onto "sheets" of water. Every now and then I do actually have to marvel at shows, but usually it's not much to get me excited. The show was an Indian themed show, about how the tribe's storyteller had to defend their water supply by doing battle with a local thug-god that would deny the flow. Overall, it was about how they have to defend their resources to ensure a thriving life in the future. The irony is that every last person who got there had to drive from somewhere sort of far away, with Kelli and I driving about 25 miles or so. The rest of them came from all areas I'm sure, and there were more than a few SUVs in the lot—the usual sign of a person who just doesn't get it. Oh, there were lots of overfed people there, big families, old people blowing out social security checks and pensions—lots of people who just can't see the forest for the trees. They watch a show about conservation of resources while participating in the orgy of total obliviousness to what is coming down the pike.
And there I was, among them. Can you find it in your heart to forgive me?
To "celebrate" my grandmother's birthday (she would have been 96 this year) I would like to quote my hero Kevin Gilbert who predicted our present dilemma in a number of songs, but most notably in Goodness Gracious. This little bit ends the song after a litany of things that sound like they are plucked out of modern day newspapers, and that hint at the dissolution of society. He released it in 1994, but may have written it sometime before that, knowing his working method and restless perfectionism.
Goodness gracious, my gramma used to say
The worlds a scary place now
Things were different in her day
What horrors will be commonplace
When my hair starts to gray?
The entire song:
Goodness gracious is there nothing left to say?
When the ones that get to keep looking
are the ones that look away?
It's pabulum for the sleepers
in the cult of brighter days
Goodness gracious at the mercy of the crooks
We're broke and stroking vegetables
and there's way too many cooks
In every pot a pink slip, In every mouth a hook
Goodness gracious I'm not listening anymore
Cause the spooks are in the White House
and they've justified a war
So wake me when they notify
we're gonna fight some more
Goodness gracious not many people care
Concern is getting scarcer
true compassion really rare
I can see it on our faces. I can feel it in the air
Goodness gracious me
Goodness gracious my generation's lost
They burned down all our bridges
before we had a chance to cross
Is it the winter of our discontent or just an early frost?
Goodness gracious of apathy I sing
The baby boomers had it all and wasted everything
Now recess is almost over
and they won't get off the swing
Goodness gracious we came in at the end
No sex that isn't dangerous, no money left to spend
We're the cleanup crew for parties
we were too young to attend
Goodness gracious me
Goodness gracious, my gramma used to say
The world's a scary place now
Things were different in her day
What horrors will be commonplace
When my hair starts to gray?