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Entries in dieoff & collapse (13)

Monday
Jul092012

The Cover Letter I've Always Wanted to Write

My old man and I when I was about seven.Me and the old man, c. 1981

The Making of a Know it All

When I was young, maybe in about 1981 or so, my old man bought a book for me called "The Volume Library." I think it was a rare time when a traveling salesman got an audience at the doorstep of my house. The book was a enormous blue volume of something like 3000 pages and the name in gold text embossed on the cover and binding. For all I knew at the tender age of seven or eight, everything there was to know was in there. It had a good range of topics that were presented encyclopedia style but divided into major groups of topics. It had some cool clear pages with layered images where those would do good, like for anatomical modeling. I never finished reading it but there were some things that attracted a fascination that persisted even after the book faded from novelty status. There were things that I kept reading over and over, or pictures that drew me back.

I haven't seen the book in years, at least since 1996 when I left that house at 22 and in a panic had to leave a lot of stuff behind back at dear ol' dad's place.

The WWW as Liberal Studies

These days, the Web is the place where I direct my curiosity, and it is usually richly rewarded. Wikipedia is the most clear heir to The Volume Library, at least in terms of my ability to go to one place and get at least an introduction to a topic, that will launch me in myriad directions. These days, the world becomes a very big place with the use of hyperlinks drawing me every which way, something that the would leave The Volume Library green with envy. In a period during about 2007-2009, I was fond of hitting the random article button on Wikipedia and getting lost for a few hours, perhaps a few nights a week. While I had my favorite kinds of topics to pursue, the rolling dice method got me out of my comfort zone, and I hit enough articles that they couldn't ALL be the worst ones on Wikipedia. I even edited a few here and there.

The studio door at Hog Heaven in 2005, just hours before it was demolished. The Magnificent Meatsticks sticker remained but I had to take down the two Richard Meltzer San Diego Reader reviews that were hung below it.The studio door at Hog Heaven in 2005, just hours before it was demolished. The Magnificent Meatsticks sticker remained but I had to take down the two Richard Meltzer San Diego Reader reviews that were hung below it.

Aside from the insane options that the web offers me solely as a reader, of course the thing that sucks me in is that it is all a two-way street where not only am I consumer but I can be a producer too. And this year marks ten years that I've put my self into the web, making it a place that isn't just "out there" but "in here" too. I was 28 when I got my first website bearing my identity exclusively (this site), and it was a year and a half before that when I was dabbling in such things as mp3.com, the first place my music appeared digitally. (And, interestingly enough, my most throwaway "musical" effort, The Magnificent Meatsticks, was given a higher profile because of mp3.com and some bold move to curry favor with old school rock critic Richard Meltzer [song NSFW] who actually wrote a favorable review because it wasn't formulaic dinosaur rock.) A quarter of my life has been spent online now.

The Web has been a lot of things to me, but I'd be remiss if I were to not say that it really has been a major classroom for my liberal education. Granted, it's not accredited, but the explosion of available information at all levels, and all aspects of life, has been invaluable in a way that I doubt four years of education could touch. Facts and figures alone are valuable, but because the web is fed not by some gatekeeping body that determines what is real knowledge, and what is not, I can get a feel for what life is like at the granular level in someone's own life. The authenticity is unmatched. As you devoted TAPKAE.com readers no doubt see, I have thrown in my lot with that, and still there is plenty I withhold even after the 3000-, 5000- and more word entries here. There is plenty I don't have time to report on, lest I miss living a life in the first place.

A banner outside my old middle school. See my gallery A banner outside my old middle school. See my gallery "Afternoon In America" for the caption.

Life from Outside the Ivory Towers

I didn't go to college except for several semesters of mostly humanities/arts/GE classes at the local community college. The semesters themselves were usually scattered from one another. In the 1991-1993 period I went continuously but part time; in the return period from 2003 onward, there were four more semesters scattered across three years. In some ways, I feel like I've failed myself. In other ways, living itself is a classroom, and the Web has filled in some of the informational gaps. I have consoled myself with knowing there are autodidacts out there like Frank Zappa who have done just fine without going through the education mill. In Frank's unsparing words,

Drop out of school before your mind rots from exposure to our mediocre educational system. Forget about the Senior Prom and go to the library and educate yourself if you've got any guts. Some of you like Pep rallies and plastic robots who tell you what to read.

People in their educated ivory towers will sneer upon sentiments like that, but the view from the outside is just as valid as the view from the inside. When I was 19, 20 in 1993, the cracks in the wall were apparent to me: news reports time and time again were telling us college students were graduating and hoping to win coveted gigs at McDonald's. At the very same time, I was wrestling with an early incarnation of one of my periodic crises of meaning in life. I mean, around that time, I was wrapping up a fourth semester at Mesa College (taking piano and basic musicianship classes, the two classes remaining after I dropped the philosophy class early on), during which I barely spent time at my job at Jack In The Box, due to the crisis of e. coli tainted meat that winter of 1993. I had barely started the job in late December 1992 during my first period of depression and suicidal ideation, only to be laid off for a month or so when the contamination scare hit the news. After returning, I was feeling hopelessly unable to bear with such a job and gracefully bowed out after one troubled week. Ironic, considering it seemed to be what more and more college graduates were left with as a viable option. Oh well. Let them have that shit. My heart led me elsewhere.

I took what I thought would be a semester or maybe one year off from Mesa College and then found that ten years later, during another crisis in life, I'd start up again. But let me not get ahead of myself. I've got thousands of more words for you.

Me at my slick drumset, 1993, outside in a concrete parking lot at an office park.Quite possibly taken on the same day as I am narrating in this post. I only recall being to this place once.

The Hero's Call to Adventure, put on Hold

In 1993 there was no World Wide Web. Not for me at least. That was the domain of the geeks and engineers with pocket protectors in the world I just checked out of. It'd be another two years before I saw the first email address in print. That summer, I was out with Matt Zuniga, doing some drumming and screaming out in a parking garage in Kearny Mesa. It was a hot June day about a month after my semester ended. I just got a job at Subway, which for some reason, I felt far more at ease with than at Jack In The Box. I don't know why that is, but it was so, even after the drama at another store one year before. I was having the first itches to do something that felt self-determined. I didn't know what. I thought of geographic moves but I couldn't determine where I'd like to go. I thought of stepping up the kinds of things we did as Rhythmic Catharsis but was aware that Matt thought all we did was silly and just a way to blow off steam. I thought of a few things. But my kryptonite stopped me.

It's a cloud I live under. Fighting back the feelings of futility and the depression that usually accompanies it is hard, and is breaking through it harder still. The latter happens at times and sustains itself for a while. And then something changes and the parted waters of futility come crashing back at me, and I get swept up in it all for a while, then get somehow dropped on another shore in life. In more recent years, I've accepted that there are spiritual growth lessons involved in all this and usually see the sense to it in hindsight, particularly if I was able to extract a kernel of lesson material in the midst of the chaos.

I spent my early online years not adding much but noise and dissonance to the Web commons. If I could, I'd erase nearly everything from 2000-2003. Of course, Google has its mitts on it and all are free to read it if one knows all the aliases I used during those years. I am willing to own it. In 2004, realizing self-criticism was perhaps more called for than criticism of others in certain real and virtual social circles where I operated, I turned more inward and backed out of most of the online boards and social forums where I had earned a name as a troll — or worse. At the same time, emerging from the nearly deadly depression of 2003, the world was shown anew to me in such a way that enlarged me again, putting my problems in a larger context that had first been shocking and disorienting, but then later paved the way for further development.

Route 66 Gas stationOne of several shots I took during the EONSNOW era of 2005, showing "independent" gas stations that appeared where name brand locations were closing down. All the names had some kind of nostalgic quality to them, evoking the good old days of automotive freedom, etc.

When I heard about peak oil in 2004, it was still a pretty esoteric, out of the way means of understanding the world's dilemmas, and one that few gravitated toward. Less than the particulars of how much oil is or isn't available, the reading I did brought me to grips with the big questions of ultimate meaning in life, but first by mercilessly promising to remove the comfortable life I anticipated I'd lead as a citizen of the empire. It all appeared on my radar in the same season as I got married at the age of 30. In fact, on the altar that special day, I had in my mind that the future could not possibly be what everyone was telling me it would be. Peak oil, which I still believe to be a valid shaper of macroeconomic reality, is something that forced me to see myself differently, relative to the world. It was a good bit of humble pie to munch upon prior to wedding day. It disabused me of certain expectations from married life and got me on a firmer ground of reality. In that way, the debate of whether peak oil is real or not is immaterial to me.

Kelli and I leaving the altarIt is accomplished!

The year or so after the wedding was given to a lot of reading on the topic, several blogs that showed the emerging consciousness I was breaking into, and then for a while, doing some film showings to share what I had learned. A site I launched, EONSNOW.org (long since deleted), was an intersection of those interests with my ability to do websites. I was able to ape other people's words and sentiments, but the inner work was not done yet. I knew the topics well enough but they were in my head, and nowhere else. Eventually, in early 2006 I dropped out of all the EONSNOW stuff and found that another group was able to take me deeper into those concerns, and with a kind of language that took some learning but that did a better of job of showing how deeply rooted our modern dilemma is. I'm talking of course of Jubilee Economics Ministries, JEM.

Jubilee Economics Ministries

For a season in mid 2006 I met with Lee Van Ham of JEM and read a book he gave me, The Biblical Jubilee and the Struggle for Life. It was uncompromising in its assessment of how modern economics are rigged against the poor in the Southern Hemisphere, and those "developing" countries outside the Western world. And it was fiercely faithful to the prophetic tradition in the Bible, a tradition that is best epitomized by the life of Jesus. It wasn't just spiritual fluff and it wasn't capitalist propaganda either. It was written by Ross and Gloria Kinsler, lifelong missionaries who saw the reality in Latin America, and who have dedicated their lives to helping the folks in those countries by giving them the theological tools that are needed to resist the neoliberal economics juggernaut that has displaced so many people and upset traditional ways, all so the industrial world can make and sell more stuff. It was really a life changing book, and one in which I saw my own struggle with a landlord father who made decisions for my life that didn't include me. That year, the macro of the world's issues and the micro of my issues were found to be related and in some ways, overlapping significantly. As I've heard it said, "when the student is ready, the teacher will appear." EONSNOW was my own attempt to make sense of this new understanding of things but it was limited in depth and as those types of topics can be rather doom-laden, sometimes it left more shade than light. Masked knowledge does that. Then, feeling like I had little else to add to the discussion, I called Lee in early 2006.

Lee Van Ham unwittingly became a spiritual father figure to me that year and since. Being a retired pastor helped justify calling him that, but I never knew him as a pastor. I did know him as a person who offered a frank and transparent account of his own struggle with the big issues, and more than others who preceded him in my peak oil related wanderings, he was looking for some way to live hopefully in the face of what is a tremendous challenge: living with the realization that this way of life we live is unsustainable and one day not far from now, will be untenable and will ultimately fail. My peak oil explorations suggested that was not far off, and certainly my lifetime will be the transition period. Lee paved the way for me to understand the Bible in a whole new way, with an eye to the economic themes that permeate it. He's been a great interpreter in that way, and he always surprises me at how he can take familiar texts that made no sense, and turn them into something that explains not just the text, but how the world works. Pretty remarkable.

So of course I wanted to be near that. A few years later, upon encountering Fr. Richard Rohr's teachings about fathers and male spirituality, I had the language for how I saw Lee: he was the spiritual father that emerged when my old man's role in my life came to an end, and when he could not lead me where I needed to go, Lee happened onto the scene as if it were a shift change at Jack In The Box. For the years from about 2007-2009, I met with him periodically, emailed, and if there was a JEM event or course, I went. But it was a bit less than in 2006. In late 2009, once I moved to North Park, one mile from his office, I offered to volunteer at the office for four hours a month doing rather mundane stuff so that Lee might have more time to be the visionary at JEM, with a bit less of the boring office work. At least I'd be able to talk in person some and keep the JEM consciousness alive in my life. As we spent some hours together that December, we got to talking media options, and he again asked me if I had ideas for the JEM website.

Pod-What???

It's always hard being diplomatic in those circumstances. I had sort of avoided talking about it thus far because I knew that it was done by Kyle, a volunteer, in earnest, but that Kyle was not really a web guy. And since everyone is a volunteer, I just accepted it was what it was, and maybe that's all they wanted it to be. The ante was upped however in early 2010 because a disappointing rejection letter arrived that announced that there'd be no funding for a DVD project that Lee was interested in putting together. Amid a flurry of brainstormed options, I suggested this thing called podcasting. I knew enough to describe it, but that was all. It seemed Lee had ever unfolding ideas that grew and grew and took explanation. He was a pastor, someone who did a lot of public speaking for inspiration and persuasion. Podcasting was something that I, as an erstwhile studio operator, was able to make happen so that his distinct voice and passion would register as it was meant to be heard. I didn't know about the web part of podcasting aside from a basic test I had done a few years before, but that would follow. We could come up with a plan for delivering sustained content, right?

Lee had never heard of it. When I tell the story, I usually mention that he said something like "pod-WHAT?" It's not much of an exaggeration. I explained it would take a commitment because of the episodic nature of the format. We drafted a list of how we might fill 15 or so episodes and decided there would be stuff to talk about for a while to come.

Lee and Kyle, being older fellows in their 60s then (and Lee in his early 70s now), were not natively immersed in this kind of stuff, so I found myself having to translate a language I was barely able to learn as I went. I think I confused them both more than I should have. As I produced a demo of the show, it became apparent that the web structure that JEM would need was far beyond the plain HTML site Kyle had curated for some years. So I got drawn into that. I first tried to get the XML feed happening there then thought it easier to redo the entire site in Wordpress. I started the transfer and then heard about Squarespace. And, since the idea was for me to turn it back over to them, it made more sense. Squarespace's interface is simpler and the site maintenance was taken care of since it is a paid service. I was burning out on Wordpress for my own site and welcomed the simple approach of Squarespace, knowing the guys would prefer such a straightforward platform. When the podcast had three episodes recorded and edited, I finally got the feed to be accepted at iTunes on the first try using the default Squarespace feed, and was relieved in a huge way. Previous submissions using a small XML authoring program were not accepted at iTunes even after five tries. So about two years ago now, we were all babes in the woods. Lee and I did podcasts together for four real episodes, and then detoured for a one off video episode giving a progress report on the new web developments. Then we got into interviewing guests. As of this writing, we're 27 episodes strong.

Media Not Just About Me

That same summer, I was fresh out of my male initiation experience in Arizona and at that life changing week, I found myself talking to another Lee, closer to my age, who was a great conversation partner in my struggle with digital media and the techno-treadmill. At the time, I had barely started the podcasts and sort of saw that I'd be drawn in to more digital life after letting my digital publishing interests fade for a few years. In the mean time, browsers were decaying, and I was enjoying nearly a year of being the facilitator of the young adults group at church. I was often heard to celebrate the in-person nature of that group, and was dismissive of social media. I was reporting all this to Lee the younger in the desert, and since then I've never talked to him again by any means. I guess he was meant to be one of those pivot people that you meet once and have your life changed, and that's all there is to it.

What emerged was a feeling that my new online work would be for others. It felt like a logical stage, building upon the stages that came before: self-interested young musician with a CD to sell; disruptive troll; reborn student of life and world issues but with a preachy tone; blogger who faded from all that into a period of self-reflection and some discernment; and then it seemed it was time to take all those experiences and insights back to the web. This time, the purpose would be to build community around a big idea — one that isn't even mine. In some ways, doing the JEM site work and the podcasting is not too different than what I did for my church in Pacific Beach; there too I recorded the messages of a pastor who had very keen world-aware insights, and then used a website to publish the audio. Without the XML feed, it was what I've come to call "proto podcasting" — delivering the same kind of content but without the subscription model.

Screen shot of a recording within Logic ProApple's Logic Pro where I did a lot of podcast episodes.

Doing the work far exceeded the four hours a month I anticipated giving to JEM. In some ways that was cheap of me anyway, considering the gift of life-changing, paradigm-shifting knowledge they had already opened up for me. So I accepted that my time was to be given freely to do what I could to multiply the effort and amplify the message. And then of course, to be doing so many things meant that for the first time in a few years, I was doing web publishing again, at a more elevated profile than before, and that would be resume fodder. Squarespace paved the way for me to be more creative with the visual aspects than I had been for years. It also gave me a platform where I could not break too much of the site at once. But by far the biggest new thing was all the social media options.

Social Media Quicksand

Now, THAT is the time suck. Editing a podcast episode takes too long and my method might be a bit heavy handed, but it comes to an end and the show gets released on time every month. Social media of course knows and respects no boundaries, it seems. And I didn't know anything about it all. I grudgingly entered Facebook for the second time in July 2010 so I could help launch JEM's page. I got on Twitter too. I had no idea about best practices or any of that. Even after so many years of using a blog for these long journals, I didn't really know how to use the format for actually moving messages. Somehow, early on I got onto a different track and only when I started to help JEM did I realize how far my approach diverged from what would be beneficial for a nonprofit org. The social media layer too was something that I feel I entered into without a clue, and sometimes, like today, feel that I still have no clue, if I am to gauge by the interaction I get on pages I manage. (I know there's probably some Human Resources person reading this bit of self-sabotage as they try to disqualify me, ready to toss my resume in the e-trash. Do it if you must. I'm self-sabotaging for a purpose anyway. I'm weeding you out just like you weed me out. I'm preemptively slamming the doors shut that I have no business walking through in the first place. More later.)

Kyrptonite

Here's where the kryptonite comes in again. I have done so many hours of volunteer work and reached into so many aspects of webmastering I never thought I'd encounter. But when it comes time to look for a job, a real job, and one that perhaps would let me finally put to use this kind of interest and that would help develop it, I freeze. I totally freeze in my tracks. When I read an ad on Craigslist and some nameless place wants a "designer" or "coder" I immediately know I am neither. In some ways I am more than both, and in others, less than either. Ditto for "social media expert" or "SEO expert." I've done ALL those things to some degree but not well. Having departed the world of Wordpress for the most part, I've gotten a bit far from that platform which by all appearances, was kind of a step backward away from the most commercially viable web platform out there. I just know that when I used it (and I did for about four years), I was scared out of doing my own web work, not knowing my way around editing the templates, or feeling hopelessly lost in database related work, updates, and actually losing data. In some ways, it was easier to justify driving trucks for a living. When looking for work now, like I have for the last year and one half (as of this week), I can't square with the lists of requests for this skill or that. I hate selling myself, so I sell myself short. Maybe. I've learned a lot of things on my own, but it's not been prep for any job, even the few internships that I've applied to — situations where I'd work for too cheap so I can prove myself worthy of MAYBE working for cheap. It seems like people have to be formed nearly completely for a fucking internship. How the hell?

I hate resumes with a passion. I have several. I've tried chronological resumes. I've tried functional resumes. I've tried the cute online resumes where I plug in my credentials and it looks like a hip designer did it (and yes, I realize that doesn't reflect well on my own skills in the field). But if I am to be somewhat complete, it gets weird and confusing for HR people, I guess. Maybe they work from some formula that doesn't let them parse how a guy with audio/staging experience, senior social service experience, web and audio production experience, and non profit experience could possibly get a job at their place, even if it was straight down the line what they're asking for. I am torn. I can't tell if I'm completely free or boxed in. And I guess if I don't know after all these years, no one else will, either.

What I really need is for my work with JEM and its related entities to pay somehow. It's hard to swing it though; JEM operates on a budget less than $10,000 a year anyway, and everyone is a volunteer. If anything, I'm holding on to a vague idea that someone will take notice of the stuff I've done and somehow change the picture. It's probably a lost cause hoping for that. If anything, the numbers have seen a downward trend during the recessionary years, just like other major orgs have seen. JEM lives according to the graceful delivery of Manna from Heaven each year. So the next hope is that someone who sees what I do will have some paying opportunities on other projects. But it's hard to justify that since I know that all the stuff I have done with JEM is more of a meandering, creative process that has taken hundreds or thousands of hours, and that even when reduced to 10% of that would be more than most people want to pay to get a site launched at so many dollars per hour. Since I never "designed" the JEM web presence as it appears now, it's hard to put a price tag on it when talking to people about their prospective projects. Not being a very good salesperson, and not being a good business person, I have a history of being rather trampled in the projects I've taken on. I hate to admit it, Ms. HR Manager, but I sort of suck at that. 

my name is on the in/out board at work. Big whooptie fucking doo!My name on the sign at AE Scantech while I was the shipping manager.

Dumb Jobs that Take Over Your Life

And that's why I keep looking at "dumb" jobs like driving. Ones that start at one time and end at another and have a record of paying the bills for six, twelve, or even eighteen months at a time. Within a few hours or days of my toil, I get paid. Fair enough. It is a safe feeling after having done always-on-call freelance audio work that paid erratically, or after trying my hand in 2002-2003 at studio recording or web work, none of which ever paid off much more than guitar strings or drum heads! To find a job where I punch the clock is both a breath of fresh air and a kick in the balls. I say that because the kick in the balls part of it means that to hold those jobs, my soul is sucked from me, my generative capacity to be creative put in jeopardy, and my energy usually sapped. During the period at AE Scantech, it was coincident with my breaking up with my church. In the six months or so that I worked there, I did little else at home but for gardening and web surfing. I was out of church all but the first few weeks there and for a couple months afterward. And with that, a lot of social life was lost. AV Concepts before it was dismal, being loaded up with the drama and pain surrounding the forced move from my home, and the fact they laid me off after their scheduling needs clashed with my need to get my head straight in the wake of eviction. The eviction stress on Kelli and I was great, and then she started school about the same time, on a commuting basis that took her away for three days/two nights every week.

Ten potato bags broke open this day in the big truck. What hell.While I could demonstrate mastery over the roads and destinations, it's harder to master a wet potato bag that opens up and dumps its load all over the truck and ground. Ten such bags are harder still to master.

Specialty Produce was better because eventually I was able to strike a balance between the daily work and the spiritual-social life at church and elsewhere, but in the early days, I dreaded the prospect of their ability to command up to 16 hours of my day for about 27 days a month. Somehow, every day after the fourth day there (in January 2008 when I called in sick with a wicked flu and was nearly fired for it) was a miracle. And that it lasted for one week short of three years was stupendously miraculous. And when they did let me go, it was probably again for the matter of scheduling and my need for boundaries so this work doesn't totally suck the life out of me.

Sabbath as Antidote to Jobs That Take Over Your Life

You see, a major lesson that Lee taught me by the words of the Kinslers and by his own example was that of Sabbath. The short form of the lesson is that Sabbath is a resistive measure against endless work, a hedge against being subsumed in the system. Yet for someone like me who tends to dive fairly deeply into things I enjoy for prolonged spells, it's hard to set up the boundaries. It was like that with building plastic models as a teen. Same for drumming which replaced it in high school. And more so when out of school and left to explore music more fully for some years at Hog Heaven. And now it seems that there's been two years or more of going full-tilt at web work, even for the organization that preaches the message of resisting the demands of the work world, the needs of the Market.

Meanwhile, the opposite is true in the "real" work life. I have to have my boundaries so I don't get drawn into the undertow. And I suppose it has cost me a few jobs now. It isn't coincidental those jobs come to an end. I am not putting all my energy into them. At least, not my soul's energy. I shouldn't be there, and after a while that becomes apparent. A favorite book of mine, Parker Palmer's Let Your Life Speak, has gotten a few readings in recent years, and there I learned that I have to admit the failure of these jobs to "stick" reflects the honest fact that I don't belong there, and that while there are lessons offered in each experience, they are all pointers toward something else, even if the process is a subtractive one marked by failure, discontent, hurt, and all that. As Palmer says from his Quaker upbringing and their keen sense of vocational discernment, "way opens and way closes."

These days, my days are spent with a lot of work that would be handsomely rewarded if I were on some company roster somewhere. It's impossible to say where things start and end because really my mind is one scattered mess with my computer screen indicating graphically a fraction of what's on my mind. I'm rather at wit's end now. Sitting down at TAPKAE.com and writing out several thousand words that no one actually reads is somehow my reward for all this. Don't ask. It's about the only thing that seems to get done in a contiguous block most of the time I sit down to do it. But all the rest of the time, I am nearly lost in browser tabs; email windows for my own stuff, JEM's, and sometimes other accounts; maybe recording/editing a podcast episode; tutoring Lee or Gerald (a newcomer to JEM's media world) via chat or Skype, or hammering out long emails or Google Docs in the same manner; maybe trying to take in a podcast or some iTunes music; often trying to keep up with social media stuff, including a number of RSS feeds that help confuse or deliver me to new prospects; and then there's certainly doing JEM web stuff like proofreading and cleaning pasted-in entries of the digital junk that accompanies that process. Oh, and a periodic revamp of the entire site to help integrate things I've learned along the way and want to implement. They're cool enough to let me play with it that way. They realize it's for the good.

Practicing Bleeding on Craigslist

And then I have to try to wedge in the legitmate job search, which to me is rather like practicing bleeding. To even fire up the Craigslist tab is a task I utterly dread. To decide to click on "nonprofit jobs" and search through things I am not qualified for because I have no degree, or that are just obviously insanely high turnover positions like political campaigning — it's depressing, though periodically something seems to fit. But really, do I want to do a part time, socially beneficial job helping seniors for $8 an hour for three hours a day every third day but split into two shifts from 7-8 in the morning and 4-6 at night?

Someone's work van stopped too close to the railroad tracks and the boom came down on it.This is the kind of absent mindedness that can plague a person in an unsatisfying work position. This is not me though.

The next category to be searched is usually "transportation" which is a tad more promising for actual living wage earning, but gets me downright depressed. I mean, really. I've done three jobs that were nearly exclusively defined by driving. I am good at it. I rank well. But let's face it... it is not anywhere near where my real interests or passions lead. I can do these things mechanically but not with any real feeling. I don't belong there. After a while, that becomes evident to all.

Next category, a step down from that, is "customer service" which usually cues me to get up and take a piss and stare at the mirror for a while in disgust of what I see. Who the fuck is it that is about to open up the ads and apply for some fucking barista job? Or for some other equally pointless job? It certainly isn't the Me I feel I am. Maybe some temporary inhabitant of my physical shell, but an alien to my soul. This character should be eradicated. Tarred and feathered, and chased out of town! What a disgrace. The movie Clerks is not just cinema for me.

Following that, I might start to check in the various Craigslist categories that might include web and media work. Believe it or not, this is what I am actually er, trained in, or have some experience in, and when the terms are favorable, actually enjoy. But because there is a gulf between the experience I have and the requirements they list, I cower. I run. It's time for another break, already. Time to get a drink. In Escondido, I hope for a beer to take the edge off. But fresh squeezed lemonade would help. Let me go pick some lemons. Oh...that reminds me, the dog shit needs to be picked up in the front yard. Let me think this out. How would my resume go? Should I write that email? Has Lee or Gerald responded in a state of greater confusion about the chat we had? Oy!!! Anything but looking at Craigslist will do for now. They want a UX/UI expert. They want Wordpress. They want SEO mastery. They want a portfolio. What am I to do? Prepare a resume for a place that I am clearly no fit for? Time to get back to doing what I at least pretend I do well. At least in JEM I'm a big fish and people seem to value it. It just doesn't pay. I don't like it much, but I like it more: picking up dog shit is somehow able to give me a sense of accomplishment.

Other Craigslist categories come to mind, and feeling like I need to relax and open up some, I look at others, including some of the off the wall stuff in the Gigs. I did find a one off audio editing job last week that I was extremely well qualified for, even though I had never done audio book editing. All those years cutting sermons and podcasts got me $212.50 for eight hours' work — $25 an hour which is adequate considering it's simple timeline bushwhacking with no real thought put into it. Woo Hoo! The mind has to wonder what that pay rate would have done for me during those church sermons and podcast programs which are edited even more completely. $212.50. But that's gone with two household bills. Back to that job I passed over in the Transport ads... but can I really see myself as a fucking tow truck driver?

EONSNOW page in 2006EONSNOW homepage, 2006.

The Breadcrumbs of Vocational Discernment

Today I was doing some of the routine chat talk with Lee and Gerald—guys I like and respect for their lifestyles and experience—and I was cracking as I was trying to negotiate redesigning the podcast's programming in the light of Gerald being a new creative partner in it all. But despite his background in public radio, church music and therefore church life, and PR and other things of interest, he still takes a lot of tutoring at new technologies and blogging. His message is impeccable and urgent and excites the part of me that set out to do EONSNOW in 2005, but his delivery will take some work in this new media world. But as I dive more and more into web stuff, I am confronted with a vast insecurity complex — kryptonite again. The more I read about best practices in podcasting, social media, blogging (all the stuff I like most about being online), the more I feel like I miss the mark, and that my own methods have perhaps worked against JEM more than for them. I could be woefully wrong, but that's the feeling. Even direct questions at Facebook do not elicit the answers or the participation. My pact with myself was that this new era of web involvement was to be for building web community has been met with a realization that I don't seem to accomplish that too well. JEM's ideas are not my own ideas. I see myself as a conduit through which Lee's or Gerald's ideas pass. That seemed like a better deal to make than in the days of EONSNOW when my ideas were naive and perhaps a bit vitriolic. In JEM, I do about the same thing as I set out to do with EONSNOW, except the ideas I move are those of others who have about twice as much life experience and authority as I have. And more education.

Magazine cover for school project. Dreadful.A mock magazine cover for an assignment in Quark. One of the insanely dumb things I did while at Art Institute of CA in 2001-2002. Totally worthless.

We Don't Need No Education

But I don't beat myself up about the education thing too much. I'm sure there are plenty of you HR people out there who are trashing my resume because it doesn't reflect my ability to put up with the rat race and hurdle jumping path of the education mills and their methods for teaching me next to worthless shit at considerable expense that will follow me for a decade to come. But let's remember, I didn't hear about peak oil at school. I didn't learn about the global economic picture's grave injustices from school. Nearly all my current web publishing knowledge did not come from a school (and the stuff that I did pay $6,600 for was essentially worthless even as it was flowing from the instructors' mouths). I did not learn how to befriend a homebound senior citizen at school. I did not learn how to podcast at school. I did not learn how to cook for my wife at school. I did not learn how to appreciate the Easter tree near Julian, CA in school. And I sure as fuck don't miss the debt that I would have racked up at school. I don't miss it in the same way that I don't miss ever making a car payment in my life.

The irony is, even to this day, I have a tenth grade worksheet that indicates I did learn about population dieoff back in the spring of 1989 at the education mill at 4899 Doliva Dr. in San Diego. But who was poised to tell me that it would apply not just to bacteria in petrie dishes and bunnies in Australia, and instead to all of humanity and the lifestyle I live? Okay, score one for the education mill, but it was up to me scouring the Web and serendipitously meeting wise people who could explain what it means when humanity finally ate all the sugar in the dish and is bound to dieoff because it's going to drown in its own shit. No class discussion on that one.

Sign for a thanksgiving day race to feed the hungry.A sign that I caption as "burning too many calories to help those who have too few," a form of misguided charity toward those with less.

Why Me, Why Now?

With an awareness like that, it's hard to wake up in the morning and go through the pretty mindless pursuits of going to work, or even looking for work. And it's a mind-scattering thing to have to play that game enough while getting some money from the state, all the while knowing that 99.99% of what I could locate in Craigslist is stuff that I am not called to do at any deep level. I might be an undereducated, polemic-writing, failure of a social media manager, but I wake up in the morning more enlightened than some who have dizzying amounts of education and a full alphabet following their given names. I wake up and often have the question on my mind, "why me? why now?" I live in the awareness that I am a part of the problem too, and that most days, I can't turn off the awareness that I am caught in a lie: either to be part of the system, or to pretend that I am not part of the system, but to work dilligently at exposing it. It's paralyzing, yes. It's a moral quandary deciding to use the tools of the empire to bring the empire to truth. Even Ted Kaczynski, the Unabomber, wrote in his manifesto, Industrial Society and its Future, that there is no good technology without a dark side. (I didn't learn that in school, see?) It's a tragic bind to realize the computer is both a major part of the problem and a vital part of some solution. Or to realize that rationalizing that is total bullshit too. When you wake up in the morning and know humanity is headed for a brick wall at full speed, it almost doesn't matter what you do, or how loud you wail in Cassandra's shrill tones.

A poster I made in 2004 with iconic image of Dubya saluting like a Nazi with a caption that declares dictatorships are good as long as he's the dictatorSome of Dubya's statements were unusually candid for those who operate the reins of power. In 2004 I thought it was a slam dunk that he'd be beaten. Shows what I know. But this and other posters contributed to the "war effort" against him.

When you are enlightened in such a way, you look at the world's issues with different eyes. There are more educated humans alive today, but less educated humanity. Do you suppose that there is a correlation between the sheer amount of university level education — unlocking the secrets of the world, the planet, the universe, even — and the problem all humanity is faced with today? Was there a time when humanity ever faced extinction, and the biosphere with it? Did such a time ever really happen before we got educated? Not only are the education mills rather dumb pursuits as Frank Zappa said, but it appears that they are outright dangerous, at least without the balancing effect of a deep spirituality that can reconnect what compartmentalized education breaks apart methodically.

Funny, the record shows that a young and cocky, uneducated but insightful wandering preacher 2000 years ago rocked the foundations of history and the course of the world. It wasn't because he was university educated. The irony was that by adopting the religion that bore his name as the state religion, the state ended up imploding upon itself. That fire was too hot to handle, even for the mightiest power the world had known to that point. And so it will be once more. And again. And then again after that. Score one for the uneducated masses who don't know enough to break the world.

The Test Came Before the Lessons

Did the 19 year old Jack In The Box worker bee have this insight in 1993? Not a chance. Did I know what I was hoping to accomplish when I decided my time at Mesa College was spinning my wheels for no discernable reason, and left for a year that became ten? Hell no. Did I know that the abortion my girlfriend had not too long after that fateful decision to leave school had would shape my geo-political perspective that says that having children in the Western/Industrialized world is contributing to the crisis? Of course not. Did I realize that heart-rending night when she and I were hours from breaking off an engagement to be married that I stepped off the bus going to a place I have no business arriving at? I was just working from the hunch in the pit of my stomach. Somehow, by evasive tactics, laziness, fear, loss, or other things, I've arrived where I am. But you see, where I am, what I know, and what I do is about as valid as anyone else's claims to same. Sure, my spell at reading endless Wikipedia entries during 2007-2008 is not a college degree, but it didn't do harm. It's not valid by one measure but is completely valid by another. Education comes in all forms, and I have Fr. Rohr to thank for that teaching, at least in that he was the first to make that thought stick. And, as a blurb on my site's sidebar now says, "we may misunderstand but we do not misexperience." Another tidbit that I'm pretty certain emerged from Rohr's teachings over these last three years was that "something isn't true until you yourself experience it." In September 2003 while I was in a residential therapy center for a week and a half getting my head straight after the single most devastating depression I have had (on the eve of turning 30, and just under one year before I got married), my experience was validated by a really cool therapist who walked me through all that. I still have the Oscar Wilde quote he wrote for me, "Life is the toughest teacher because it gives the test first and the lesson later."

A liberal education is given in all manner of class rooms, board rooms, chat rooms, and even bed rooms. But maybe one thing I look at differently is that eventually that kind of education puts the world back together into a whole, whereas the education mill likes to take things apart and to constantly divide reality. It's not to say that kind of education will permanently damage a person, but it will certainly take some para-scholastic experience to round out the person, and yes, it could easily delay the progress toward a rounded humanity. Life happens just as surely with someone who got their worthless piece of paper as it has to me, but sometimes the mind is shaped in such a way in the education mill that causes resistance to this other equally valid way of learning, or a sense of mistrust of it. And it isn't without consequence; life is not facts and figures alone, and the people who think that it is tend to also be ones motivated to move into positions of influence and power, who shape political, economic, and thought at the macro level.

When I work in the context of JEM, I am able to operate in a space where the large world issues and my own experiences are not dismissed, but looking at them with some responsible attitude is encouraged. I get to be creative and functional in a place where the incomplete and mixed up me is somehow an asset. Having the scattered experience and interests I have has served to make me more qualified in that setting, not less. It isn't that JEM is a pleasure dome I wish not to escape. I pull my hair out some days in the effort to pull rabbits out of hats there. But the work, while not always feeling like it's firing on all cylinders, does not feel pointless like delivering architectural plans a year after I was showing The End of Suburbia and shrieking like Cassandra about all that. I knew I sold myself out getting that job, but I needed something. At least after that job I waited out the temptation to take a job at a car dealership as a parts driver.

Naming and Unmasking the Powers

Indulge me a bit of Walter Wink-inspired thoughts on naming and unmasking the powers. And pardon me as I vent several years of frustration in the workplace. The Human Resources staff professional will be my pinata for the occasion.

So there you are, Madam HR executive in a cute little suit and high heels, bespectacled in cute little fake horn rimmed glasses and sporting that little tiny pony tail or bun with highlighted streaks that you corporate types seem to wear, evaluating whether I am fit for your widget wrangling position on the shop floor. Totally unfit. I'm not what you're looking for. In fact, throw that resume out but be sure to recycle it. Oh? It hit the bin long before I finished that sentence? The email delete button is a wonderful thing? What power you hold with that button! Maybe there's a thousand of me sending resumes in and you're there not only canning me prematurely but also looking to see who among your employees are worthy of being fired because they are looking for other work, and they just happen to have sent their resume into your inbox, unwittingly signing their own pink slip, or at least inviting scrutiny about their loyalty. Is this what all that education has done for the world? Given you the ability to pan hundreds of people from livelihoods without even so much as a polite response or a chance at a human encounter? Given you a place of power to cut people out of jobs while you hang out with your iPhone wielding friends, sipping fucking martinis in the fucking Gaslamp Quarter, ranting about how miserable your life is? Maybe it's because your position is a worthless one to begin with, the kind of makework that makes some people look good while others are sent to the bin according to some formula? Some of you use too many words in your job listings and dismiss people like me before I get the courage up to even try to fill out a resume. Others lead me in with sparsely worded listings that say next to nothing about the job, the compensation, the location, and the industry. It's okay to waste MY time responding to an ad to ferret out that kind of information?

I've seen you in town. I've worked for you already if you've known it or not. I was the the pee-on who delivered architectural plans to the contractors that turned your home in Clairemont into a McMansion. Or that built your new place on the outskirts of Del Mar or in the fire-prone hinterregions of Poway. I'm the guy who delivered the plans for that building you work in. It's an ugly monstrosity of glass and steel that shows no humanity or grace, and no sense of caring about the world around it. Yep. I was part of that too.

Me onstage with classic rock cover band Rockola, for whom I worked for a few years. I was on stage playing a bit of bass as one of the stage gimmicks.Sometimes I got to do this little bit of bass playing on stage with Rockola at Blind Melons club. All the rest of the time, I was side stage and in danger of being trampled by drunken fucks.

I've seen you in town. I've done sound at your pathetic corporate parties where you dance mindlessly to the music that used to be vitally important, socially relevant PROTEST music a generation ago (even the DISCO music that you mock with bullshit costumes stood for someone's liberation a generation ago), and I've seen you all twirling about, drunk and too stupid to exit the clubs at 1:55 in the morning. Some of you probably tried to kiss me then too while I was putting the guitars away, and no one seemed to mind that they were encroaching on my workspace at the mixer, or at the side of the stage. You know...that stuff I did there was work too, and my attention was supposed to be paid toward the performance on STAGE, not to your little song and dance asking for the stupidest shit: Can you hold the sitar or bang on the bongos sitting side stage? No! Could I put some more guitar in the mix? No! You got ten bucks and you want the five piece band to play (and the crew to wait) an extra half hour? Fuck you! It's bad enough we get treated like the fucking Guatemalan maids at these same hotels — or even worse — with a tip like that. I just didn't have my own iPhone and Facebook in 1999 when the parties were getting outrageous in corporate America or else I'd have put up videos or audio myself to show what idiots you and your executive co-workers can be in those situations. Oh, it was all a party, and the money flowed like water toward those parties. I'd presume so because the machine was getting finely tuned by the late 1990s. Corporate profits up, no doubt because the HR department was honed to a fine edge, able to excise all the riff-raff and keen on making the few remaining people simultaneously run faster and harder while looking over their shoulder where the axe was waiting for them too. Then the recession hit and the party was over. Good riddance. But you got to keep your job.

I saw this guy repeatedly while delivering to Gordon Biersch in Mission Valley. Sometimes I had some food to give him. And he was one of the guys who was still among the living.

Oh, I've seen you in town. You're the people who bought the fancy foodie dishes made from the produce I delivered to 101 fancy restaurants, resorts, and hotels in town where I got to enter through the ass-end of the place with grime and food waste and even — wait for it — laborers! I'll bet there were some who struck a deal to work under the table because they were undocumented and you were in need of a bit of margin so you could afford that die-cut embossed menu for tonight's wine list. You're the people who shit $100 bills and throw out half-eaten plates of gourmet food because you can. I can't say for sure how many of those homeless people out there were your own handiwork, but they are certainly the handiwork of the system you belong to. Outside those same restaurants you can be seen making fools of yourself, probably drunk there too, and likely oblivious to the homeless folks that line the streets in the area, and that are expected to kindly step aside and relocate to the outer reaches of East Village so you can go out for a nice night on the town. Maybe one day you'll get to meet them. And I hope it's not just a field trip experience.

And some years ago, when you were a little less drunk at lunch time, and when I used to work at Subway, you were the one who thought I was no one because of the stupid green shirt and hat I wore. I didn't like you then either. It was a gut feeling then. I didn't have a blog to rant on then, but I did control what went into your sandwich. Other far less scrupulous (and possibly disgruntled) people than I now make those same sandwiches. And you don't know what is really in that Taco Bell "meat," do you?

The funny thing is, you get to enter "my office" and essentially set the agenda with some inane antics and plenty of condescension. You come on to MY stages, you eat the food I deliver, you boss me around in MY office at Subway, or Jack In The Fucking Box, or even for Pizza Slut or Dumb, I Know's Pizza. But is the same true for my ability to enter YOUR office and call the shots? Not with that electronic fence you have around it that barricades me at my own computer browser. Not with that veneer of coolly isolated professionalism in shades of corporate blue and gray. Not with the minimum wage earning security guard who thinks he's someone because of the badge and the key to the gated parking lots that surround your ivory towers and your dark satanic malls (sic). Do I get to come in and make a scene in your office? Dance on your desk, let my cock hang out, kiss you in my swirling and oblivious state of drunkenness? Hell no. My office is in the world. Your office is behind closed doors. I don't get to meet you to talk about getting a job. I don't get to have a human exchange to explain myself. You really don't care anyway. Or if you do at a personal level, it's not your job to act on that feeling, professionally. It's a one way thing that gives you HR people some upper hand. For a time, maybe.

Okay, enough snarkasm. Even HR professionals are people too. A bit unaware of how offensive and useless their professional role is, but they're people who have a home and kids to feed. I just hope they wake up and repent for taking those positions and for aiding a corrupt system to ever more corruption.

Still, I've been waiting for the collapse of the corporate model as we have come to know it because the corporate form as we know it has outlasted its usefulness and the antics needed to prop up its validity are increasingly implausible. It has already jumped the shark. No one really likes it anymore except those still enjoying the party, and that number is growing fewer and fewer as the system eats itself alive. No one really faithfully shows up to support it. And an economy based in mutual fear can't last. In JEM or out of it, I learned that it's a model that is doomed to consume itself because of its own success and gluttony. I'd like to sit by and watch, and maybe even give it a shove on its way out of town. It might run a little past the end of my lifetime, or it might finish itself off by the time I get my senior discount at restaurants. I don't know. But be ye warned: the economy is here to serve humanity, not the other way around. And the big structures ALWAYS fail in the end —empires, churches, monarchies, and soon, corporations. As Martin Luther King said, "the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice."

The Soul of Work

I could think of myself as too poorly educated to join into the workforce, but I happen to think of myself as too well educated to join in the workforce. Or, let's say, at least a certain kind of workforce. It isn't that manual labor is below me. In some ways, it's far more gratifying than neuroacrobatics. As I said, even picking up dog shit sometimes gives me a bit more of a sense of accomplishment than all sorts of pixel wrangling and syllable splicing and I really dig cooking for friends (a completely separate task from picking up dog shit). Both keep me feeling grounded. It's far more grounded and integrity-filled than a lot of marketing and media work I might persue if I was actually good at this stuff. It's not any of that. It's that when you see what these jobs lead to in a big picture, it's damn hard to want to put energy into it all. More than depression that just brings me down, it makes my heart ache that people still believe in some of these pursuits. I'd gladly work in a bakery for the right reasons rather than being some overeducated fuck doing some kind of smart person's work for the wrong reasons, in a position that might be responsible for digging humanity a bigger hole than the current one. The workplace does not really earn the respect and loyalty of working people now because everyone knows the axe is about to fall any minute. The whole thing is rigged to fail eventually because as one market after another is squeezed like a lemon, eventually everyone will realize they've been had. The funny thing is, it won't matter until the educated, degree holding mostly white people find themselves at the short end of the stick before things will change. It's the people inside the system who are the last to see it for what it is. The rest of us are waiting for it to fall apart and for there to be a time when the entry fee is bearable, and the show is good enough to stay and watch all the way through.

But what do I know? I'm just a college dropout with a chip on my shoulder, right? And you read this entire thing and say, 'is that all?' It's no more a waste of your time than it is for me to fill out those fucking online applications with the psychological profile questions that give me all the choices to answer that suit you but not me. I've applied for enough of those and being forced to answer a question using four disagreeable options is not my cup of tea. What is the point of asking me if I would handle working in a noisy, busy, chaotic, hellish workspace and expecting me to answer the A-D spectrum from "yes, I love this kind of thing and my life is incomplete without it" and "no, I can't hack it"? If I'm applying to your fucking job and I have entered the place as a customer, don't you think I know it's a hellhole of a place to work with asshole customers and round-the-clock noise? Is anyone really made to live under those conditions, or just desperate enough to accept them so they can afford not to sell their children to some rich and smart looking HR manager who has a nice job and can buy such unnecessary items as surplus offspring from poor people made poor by the swift strokes of the pens that other HR managers hold?

Just Send Money

It's not that my attitude is bad. It is realistic. Work is not valued like it should be. The fact is, I give more time and passion to JEM than I gave to any one of the jobs I've had and I don't really get paid but for some new software and a nice share of "attaboys." I can't even make a plausible argument that my state unemployment payment for $1,404 approximates the value I offer to JEM. The sad fact is, as one of my early web design mentors said, "the problem with nonprofits is that they're too nonprofitable." My favorite jobs and duties have been in the nonprofit realm, but never at the places that get the glory. And when you think about what a disgrace it is that JEM flies so far below the radar, that's heartbreaking. I mean, JEM, a tiny nonprofit with a handful of people who care, is not even a speck of dust in the desert. But we show up and soldier on with some vision of how to do economics differently than the system that is going down the toilet now and taking everything with it. You'd think that this world-saving heroic effort would pay better, even if I'm a bit lacking in the real ability to get participation and SEO rankings. Living with a divided mind and no particular income makes it hard to know what foot to put forward: do I totally immerse myself in learning the web tools and services and best practices? Or what?What part of the 40+ hours I put in each week is not valuable somehow so that even my own relatively slim expenses can be met and some left over to squirrel away for a global warming induced rainy day in the mid summer?

So I spend my days with my scattered mind, unsure whether I should either dive into or minimize my JEM work. All the other options seem empty, pointless, backwards. The math works out that if I were only to optimistically reproduce my state income, even 30 people sending in $50 a month would do that, though to take it seriously, I'd need more to accommodate the deductions that would be required. Are there not 30 people out there who think that there's some worth in moving a message like JEM's and who are able and willing to help me get by so I can better answer a call to do meaningful work? One day the state payments are gonna be done, and I'll get into the desperation mode again and take whatever dumb shit emerges. Or maybe there will be some freelance work. But what the fuck does it take to actually cover my ass while doing the thing that comes closest to calling upon my training, my interests, and my experience?

It's five o' clock in the morning. Let me go to be so I can get up at nine and get back to my work. This was all done on "my time." Good thing I set up PayPal for invoicing that editing gig. Now I can put a "donate" button on my site too! This post took me about eleven hours over two days to write and edit this. It's nearly double the length of my previously extravagantly long posts, but obviously it's not without a bit of thought and passion that took these 38 years to accumulate. What's that worth to anyone? Your call. Thanks for reading.

Then again, maybe I could get a job being a roving salesman, selling print copies of Wikipedia as I go?

Thursday
Feb122009

World

It dawned on me that a number of DVDs that I have seen in the last year tell a great story when viewed in series, and all of which is fascinating to behold. I didn't particularly see them in the order I am about to propose, but when seen together, it is an interesting look at history from the formation of the earth through geologic history, and a wide sweeping look at human history and possible destiny, topped with a cherry on top in the form of Jesus as the model human to put right what has gone wrong.

All this stuff I got from Netflix, so the links will be to the pages where you can find these videos. Watch in this order for maximum narrative impact.

  • Miracle Planet (five part series). This one takes a look at the long history of the planet Earth and is built on an argument that life is seemingly a stroke of luck that has somehow lasted for billions of years despite radical shifts in climate and terrain and so forth. It ends with the advent of the homo sapien and its edge over Neanderthals due to the former's power of articulate speech as its defining feature, something that paved the way for communication of increasingly complex and abstract information and ideas. Which is a good set up for:
  • Guns, Germs and Steel (three part series). A National Geographic series built on the themes in Jared Diamond's book of the same name. Diamond asks how it was that the Eurasian branch of humankind was able to thrive, innovate, and spread its kind to all manner of places, and to dominate human history. He credits geographical advantage of fertile lands as the basis for early civilization that surged ahead of other hunting and gathering peoples, and innovation that arose out of that advantageous circumstance. Such things as exposure to domesticated animals secured our resilience to diseases that later were fatal to vulnerable New World populations. High technology and well developed use of horses helped the history of domination wherever Eurasian peoples went. It is all a great look at how domination is essentially foundational to civilization and violence is a major tool by which it spreads. Other civilizations had not the advantages of such successful agricultural effort, and perhaps lacked the resources or literacy that Eurasian peoples had, and so never progressed in the same way.
  • What a Way to Go: Life at the End of Empire This comes out of the Peak Oil "doomer" camp from which I sort of consider myself. This takes a brutally honest look at the world situation (peak oil, global warming, food shortages in the face of overpopulation, etc.) and its foundations in our mythologies of progress and love of technology. Consider it the extended tale of what Guns, Germs and Steel is talking about. (Diamond is well known for a book called Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed.) It too reaches back into the roots of civilization and shows how the whole system is set to somehow succeed to the point of failure eventually. It concludes wondering how life would look if exploitation, domination and violence was not the leading paradigm, and if life were lived more reverently and in tune with what the Earth is able to provide.
  • A Crisis of Faith: The Series (four part series). This covers a few different bases in each of the different films but it comes back to the role of how we've lost touch with the mythic universe that keeps us as characters within a story that has a beginning, a middle, and an end. The first one is somewhat like Life At The End of Empire in that it takes a look at our present situation and its roots in the myths of progress, and Enlightenment materialistic thought. It asks why in the age of moon landings and nuclear technology we are losing our way as people with a sense of meaning. The second one examines economic injustice in America, particularly how it affects blacks here. The third looks to the story Percival and the Holy Grail and how it narrates development into a fully human being. The fourth episode is a great "portrait of a radical" and shows how Jesus of Nazareth was the ideal human who lived a remarkable life of service to fellow humans and how he exposed the systemic injustice of his time and place—something not at all too different than today. The last two videos of the series are meant to illustrate how domination-rooted human mess can be pushed aside by lifting up our compassionate humanity in the face of the devastation the world brings. The emphatic message is that we need to turn inward and downward for our wisdom and not outward for external gratification and acceptance. That would pave the way for more genuine enlightenment ala what Jesus demonstrated.

The theme that comes up repeatedly is that our problems are rooted in the very civilization we wish to save with all our valiant efforts. Technology heaped upon earlier technology has done a lot to forestall the problems associated with earlier strides in civilized life. Social arrangements such as division of labor have allowed us to fall into traps of some being better than others, some working like dogs, and others living as kings. In some ways, one might say that Jesus was an anarcho-primitivist with his talk about the Kingdom of God and the notion that everyone was equal in the eyes of God. It seems that there hasn't been a time during the civilized world that has been adequate for the coming of the Kingdom; a lot of what Jesus was talking about was trusting that life would go on just as well if we didn't set up shelter, hoard food, or have fancy clothing. He spoke of relinquishing the trappings of the material world so that we could get down to the business of living. Well, perhaps his words and civilization would clash forever until one or the other falls to nothing, but which would fall to nothing first? If you subscribe to the thesis of What a Way to Go: Life at the End of Empire, then maybe we're seeing the fall of not just another civilization but the fall of the most advanced one we've known, back to something simpler and more in touch with reality. Maybe the overly complex arrangements need to fall apart so we might discover why we wanted to get civilized in the first place: to put to use our elevated thinking and speech to better ourselves. As Crisis of Faith says, we're awash in information, but not so in wisdom. We're in love with quantification, but we don't know what it means or what to do with it. That's because we move too fast and don't know where we want to go.

Monday
Oct272008

Henny Penny! Forget Protecting Marriage With Prop 8

There is plenty of talk these days about how if gays are allowed to marry then all of Western Civilization will collapse. So the logic goes that we must "protect marriage" —or else! I take issue with this, not just because it is complete hyperbole, but because the collapse of Western Civ so far probably has more to do with granting rights to those who should not have such rights to exist and thrive. Call me un-American but I think that if we want to legislate controls over an institution that has the power to wreck families, mess up civilization, and perhaps even sign its name to a royally messed up ecosystem that might not recover in several of our lifetimes—effectively ruining civilizations that rely on clean water, fertile soil and renewable resources, then the time has come to rein in the power of corporate capitalism by revoking corporate personhood (or visit POCLAD). Maybe now that capitalism is imploding worldwide due to its very greed-fostering nature, there could be some move toward limiting corporate power by removing its legal protection as if it were a living human being.

I like to think we're moving toward a post-corporate world, but I think it has to get worse before it gets better. It will take some more time and lots more damage to economies, ecosystems, and human dignity before the scoundrels are run out of town. The industrial-capitalist and financial-capitalist world is going to have some 'splainin' to do to those who lost homes and fortunes, fertile soil to toxic waste, or limbs to factory jobs, but for now, there is still plenty of power wielded by bands of robbers known as corporations who have legal rights the same as—and sometimes superior to—yours and mine.

But some would like you to think that gay people who wish to be married brought all this ruin upon us. If you want to talk about legally protecting what is unnatural, why not look into corporate personhood and what woes that has brought?

Thursday
Oct202005

Epiphany

target store dooway with one door having two stickers on it: do not enter, and enter only.Things are just too confusing these days. Something has to give.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.

Monday
Sep052005

The New Jerusalem Isn't Built In A Day

I don't know how to feel except small. My daily life seems like an exercise in futility and meaninglessness. The more material my activity, the more I feel this way. Sitting at the computer and doing these blogs seems pointless these days. It has been just mind bending and heart rending to hear the bad news piled on day after day regarding the hurricane and the lame political response that followed. I also have to admit I go seek this stuff out, but if I didn't I know that I would feel neglectful of great need, if only to acknowledge the existence of such a thing.

Frankly, I think a lot of the outright depressing things I've pondered are getting their day now. The wheels are almost visibly in motion. More and more people are getting behind the peak oil theory. The news is getting saturated with it. More and more people are talking collapse of this structure or that. More and more nihilism reigns. It's overwhelming. It's a brewing storm, even as real storms brew and do their damage on a breathtaking scale, my storm is bigger. My storm of course is the one that will spell the end of the oil-fed industrial era, and it's hard to imagine anything saving our system. But I actually don't think we have a system worth saving, and that it's time for a new one that doesn't carry with it the destructive gravity that sucks man and nature into its black hole. But then I'm not sure that our present system's dissolution necessarily yields to a better system automatically. I think we have another several decades of withdrawal to contend with, and when it's done, who would be able to recognize it as the world we know now? It won't be that at all.

I constantly ask myself what makes me the slightest bit prepared to face what appears to be a massive change on all fronts, all within a few years or a decade. Like, change that is broad enough to render most of my day to day experience null. What will all my web design experience mean when computers are a luxury item? Or what will my recording experience amount to when the devices won't turn on, either to record things or to play them back? I have a few things going for me, but its hard to tell what impact they will make. Still, I find myself jumping at the idea of learning some old fashioned methods for living, but still not willing or able to seek them out. I dunno, yesterday a friend was talking about a friend of hers who knew how to preserve and can fruits, and I was all ears. I was somewhat less ears when she moved to the topic of knitting and crocheting, but I encouraged her and her daughter to learn it like their lives depended on it. I think if anything, my future will be more along the lines of dissecting industrial era artifacts and reclaiming their parts for new uses. Or maybe it will be tearing up paved streets to make way for urban gardens. Kelli anticipates being a minister. Her work will be cut out for her as people watch their lives of materialism go down the drain.

Kelli has been making bread this year and doing more home spun cooking, but still using store bought ingredients. We need to learn more about making our own food, and how to get it reliably enough to live on, or to minimize the need to pay for it. We certainly need to get off the packaged and processed food kick. That is set to be a failed system before long, at least when it becomes too expensive. I wish I could really just make music on an acoustic guitar, but my attempts to do so are disappointing. I fear all my electric stuff will be a burden I might have to sell or just walk away from. Drums are energy crisis proof at least.

Friday
Sep022005

The Gracious Cynic

I've already told you what a life I've been leading this last month. But it pales in comparison with everything coming out of Katrina land, which also seems to be bringing peak oil on even faster than welcome. And more revelations of how utterly useless and despicable this administration is, and damn near everyone and everything we've come to rely on is failing us. Even for prophets like me with some disturbing visions, this is scary mainly because it's a lot of crazy scenarios coming true. People who know about my peak oil awareness efforts have been asking me if this is "it." Is this peak oil, they wonder? Yeah, and a whole lot more, it seems. It's just stunning how unrelenting the news has been lately.

Yesterday I met and had dinner with a fellow named Graeme Elliott who is in his mid 70s or so and has been prodding me to do more and more peak oil and post carbon awareness efforts. His encouragement led me to do the EONSNOW site and the movie showings, and anything else I do, like contact some media, or just be a mouthpiece for the various topics that relate. Anyhow, Graeme is a veteran in the progressive causes, with the leading causes being nuke disarmament and freeze in the 80s, and also economic conversion from a military economy to a peace economy. He happened onto peak oil last year, like I did, and we met this April.

We went to an Italian restaurant this time and it occurred to me, and was forceful enough to honor it, that this meal could be among the best I will enjoy before all sorts of uncertainty sweeps across this country and the world as oil and gas go their unpredictable routes as they both deplete and leave us with a huge question mark over our conventional ideas of food production and distribution. One has to wonder how many miles the various items on my plate traveled before they met their fate on my dinner plate. Or how much natural gas and oil went into their production? And the cooking? Is this something that will carry on in this wonderfully consumeristic fashion? Before we got down to eating, I told Graeme, 'I just want to stop and appreciate this meal, while we are still able to eat like kings.' With that, I stopped to marvel at what a task it is to put that food on the plate before me. And I also quivered with a little guilt and fear that I barely know a damn thing about how to put it there if this massive industrial food production apparatus should be crippled and ultimately die. So I gave thanks.

As we sat and ate like kings, neither of us could escape the utter horror that is the fate of the Birthplace of Jazz, now under a few stories of water. For a suburban white boy from the drought-ridden southwest, it's impossible to comprehend a city under water. I've been to New Orleans once in late 1996 when I worked for Mike Keneally's tour. I remember it being a great place laden with REAL funk in every sense of the word. I got there a few weeks after a stop in the other sin city (Las Vegas) and remember N'awlins being vastly more impressive and honest than Vegas which seemed like a big contrived cartoon of a place which had no tradition or soul to it at all but for that of a capitalist. In N'awlins, me and the Keneally/Vai band and crew ran around and shot pool and drank beer till 7:30 in the morning, all in just a couple of places which now I can't remember. I just remember having one of the best times on the tour in N'awlins, with all the fun simply starting AFTER the show ended and was struck. Maybe at midnight or later before we prowled the empty streets in the late autumn. I have some pix of me on Bourbon street and one of Bryan Beller when we traded places (see Bryan Beller's journal of the tour). He and I were eating gumbo at a restaurant when he stopped to leave a phone message for the Keneally fans who were then using the still-new and exciting Keneally presence on the web. My memories of New Orleans are good, and I'm glad I got to see it before it became Atlantis. Like Atlantis, it was a cultured city. I think it was one of only a few American cities that had any genuine culture that set it apart and made it world class. I wonder if the ghosts of Louis Armstrong, Jelly Roll Morton, and Sidney Bechet are going to be wandering around there now.

I read something very disturbing as I waited for Graeme. In Michael Ruppert's book, Crossing the Rubicon, the author makes a somewhat puzzling comment about the current administration's understanding that a post peak oil era will very likely have to have a severe reduction in population back to what the earth could support without the meddling of fossil fuel derived fertilizers, pesticides, and the production machinery to grow and harvest all that food. He says that humans will have to revert somehow to a population of two billion or less. And, this is where it gets scary when I think about it (I've subscribed to the dieoff idea for a year or more now, so that's not a brutal as this new idea of how this dieoff could be brought on by those who don't concern themselves with life). The book says that the administration knows what is going on, and perhaps this awareness informs their decision to let 3000 die on 9/11, or all these war deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan. Or, now that a new crisis is upon us in the southeastern US, is it worth noting that NOT doing much in the way of rescue efforts is sort of a hands off way of letting the population shrink in a "natural disaster"? Pardon the deep cynicism, but I think Ruppert might be onto something here.

Think about it. Everyone knows the usual ways nature can reset itself when a species overshoots the carrying capacity of its host. There are floods, fires, earthquakes, disease, famine, cannibalism, miscarriage (spontaneous abortion), and other things of those sorts that can bring a population into line with reality. Humans have the unique ability to enhance that list to include war and violence, abortion-on-demand, infanticide, euthanasia, and our project for the last century: destroying the natural world segment by segment by turning everything into a commodity or waste dump in the name of profit and power. The fascists in power operate in a perfectly corporate fashion (after all, fascism is just the merger between government and corporation). That is to say, since a corporation relies on externalizing as many costs of doing business ("leave that work/expense for someone or something else outside our company"), who is to say that a hurricane is not a golden opportunity to let someone or something outside the company do a little work that would be rather expensive or too objectionable to the public if the company (government in this case) were to undertake the project itself? A hurricane is not on the payroll, and its effects can be "spun" to appear to be totally unanticipated. Ditto a tsunami.

It is outside of reason to think that a little God-given death would be handy when you are faced with peak oil and its population crash? Is it not within reason to ask why so many "brown people" (as George Carlin would say) are not prioritized in rescue efforts? It might take a lot of money to kill all those brown people with guns, and that might look bad come next election season, but delaying or not sending a competent relief effort or diverting funds from the levee project? What could be better? These fuckheads can appeal to their base by reducing the size of government and not giving "hand outs" for people who should know better than to weather the storm. I have to wonder now. Is the whole "culture of life" line a 100% Orwellian thing? The republo-fascists are the party of death. Start war. Do their best to ignore or downplay the natural tragedies which interestingly take out a good number of poor brown people. These fuckheads don't mind making folks suffer, do they? I just have to wonder how much of a population reduction they would be able to take credit for. After all, somehow, we got four BILLION people to knock off before things can settle down. What new and clever ways of letting people die, or killing them can these assholes come up with?

It all saddens and shocks me to think that now our government has assumed the role of God in deciding who lives and dies. The thing that bends my mind is that they want to preserve life for a generation who would grow up to have only the table scraps of our glory days, but want to look the other way when it comes to the living. If anything, they should be cooking up every way to allow birth control and abortion so that fewer mouths ever come into existence because the last thing humans need is more mouths to feed. I think there should be varied and wonderfully liberal options about end of life matters. Humans need to depopulate with willful intent. War is not good enough. It is not compassionate. Allowing people to die naturally is desperately needed, but neglecting the needs of survivors of a natural disaster is not compassionate. Allowing people to die willfully is desperately needed, but driving them to commit suicide by destroying their friends, family, economy, and hopes is not compassionate.

No one likes to think that their ostensible protector would be responsible for not just failing but abandoning that role, but in this time of Orwell-as-prophet, I don't rule out a lot of crazy scenarios.

Monday
Aug152005

Cause For Hope

A black woman gives an older white homeless woman some pizza in inner ring surburban San Diego and reminds her kids that they "don't know how good they have it."

If this were another time and place, the homeless woman would have been black, the passerby would be white and would perhaps spit on or kick the poor huddled figure, if such an act was worth the effort. Otherwise, total neglect would suffice and be socially acceptable.

America has changed. Or black folks are resiliant and forgiving. I thought after seeing this exchange yesterday that there was not much that blacks have to thank whites for after centuries of mistreatment, continuing to the present day. It takes grace to overcome all those years of history, and to do something so fundamentally right as this. It takes grace to admit that anything you have is good enough to give thanks for. This black woman did not appear to be well off any more than most other hourly slaves who work at WalMart and a million other service jobs in San Diego and across the nation.

One day, America will be riddled with homeless and displaced folks of all colors, shapes, and sizes. The post industrial/post carbon age is dawning upon us and will only get worse. The illusion of individual wealth that defined the 20th century might be on its way to evaporating, leaving a lot of people with shattered senses of self. All the consumerism and individualism will meet its logical end point before long, and people will be reduced to sharing whatever remains of the petro-fueled industrial era. Reduced to doing the good things that never really stopped being fundamentally good or necessary, just neglected. My vision for America in the 21st century is a dire one. I make no effort to hide it. I see some terrible things in front of us as our petro-era balloon deflates, and people find themselves with scraps of what was once a great nation. The scraps will be worth only what they can be used for to ensure survival. A lot of things that now exist for vanity or recreation will fall by the wayside. All the ridiculous things we surround ourselves with will be up for reevaluation if they somehow owe their creation and usefulness to oil or gas, or our idea that even the smallest pissant can live like royalty. Recycling of components and materials will be widespread; money will be next to useless if somehow people can't agree on what it worth. Value will be measured in how well something sustains life.

The coming era could make or break the Christian project. I hope it renews it and I hope that people will be called again to live like Jesus wanted us to live—selflessly even in the hardest of times. I hope people of faith can really be the ones to model the practical aspects of what we now consider charity but will ultimately be the deeds we engage in to ensure mutual survival. I don't think anyone will really be immune to the effects of a widespread petro crash because it will also take the global economy with it, along with the industrialized production of food and most of the transportation schemes in the world. Not everyone will be able to join an intentional community on the edge of civilization, after all. Most of us will have to make the most of what we have around us. And with the dissolution of far flung systems of technical support and transportation, we will find ourselves far more bound to smaller geographical regions and far more dependent on one another within those regions to make our infrastructure and communities work. What choice will we have? We will actually have to trust our neighbor, and vice versa. Now I am speaking like a revolutionary because our present zeitgeist is one of distrusting everyone around us so we can be patriots. Sad.

I advise folks to listen to their grandparents and immigrants and get an idea of how another generation or ethnic group had to live in the absence of all the lazy-making gadgets and habits we now have. Or consult the old folks and immigrants to understand the time and place before individualism was not as rampant as it is now. Individualism is what will wreck America. Hell, it is ALREADY wrecking America. What was once our favorite characteristic will be our Achilles heel if we don't relearn how to cooperate without competition. The corporate dog-eat-dog mentality MUST die, or people will continue to be reduced to nothing from all the competition that pits otherwise good people against each other in a race for bigger, better, faster, more.

I'd like to think if a black woman who had ancestors who suffered as slaves under white rule can bring herself to help feed a white person down on her luck, then anything is possible. It is a reminder that things don't need need to simply kowtow to cultural and historical inertia and that we should never take anything for granted.

Saturday
May212005

EONSNOW

I have been working feverishly on my new project called EONS NOW which is the place where my legit attempts to bring peak oil to the public will be conducted. I suppose that I will still be annoying all you faithful readers with commentary on the matter as it springs to my head; I don't regard it as being solely an academic sort of pursuit, and the solution is one that could only come from having one's brain on and encouraging others to do the same. This particular blog has done a lot to help me find my way with the range of topics that interest me.

EONSNOW.org home page, late 2005EONSNOW.orgThe new site will be self expanatory enough so once you check it out, you can see what I am trying to accomplish. If any of you are interested in the range of topics that peak oil encompasses, or those that would be solutions to such a dilemma, now is the time to step forward and help me out. Even if you know of people of like mind, at least send them my way.

My new site is one part of a fuller program that I am involved with. There is an organization called the Post Carbon Institute that is a think tank and motivational organization to get people to take this stuff to the local level. They have an international presence, and on their web site, they have a new program similar to Meetup.com with a number of localized groups who converge on sub sites to plan and discuss. I am also part of a beta testing period for that project. I think that I'll let that place go do what it does, and try not to do too much redundant stuff on my site, using EONS NOW for more localized stuff. Right now the formation of these two sites is sort of like amoebas having gymnastic sex, so the ideas are fluttering about and sooner or later will settle down.

The theme of EONS NOW is contained within its name; End Oppressive Non-Sustainability Now. It came to me as I was looking for a short name that would be easy to remember, and the notion of "eons" struck me as a handy word, as it depicts a division of time in earth history, and if the fading days of oil energy and the industrial world are not indicative of a new division of time in earth's history, I don't know what is. But before I even got that philosophical, I really had been thinking of how non-sustainable oppression is, and oppression is a key part of all our lives in the way that modern commercial culture is akin to an abusive, addicted husband in a marriage, and we civilians are the wives who can't just get up and leave without sheer force of will. We have been abused by advertising for so long we have handed over our faith in our own abilities to entities that are out for profit. They have convinced us that we can't clothe ourselves, feed ourselves, shelter ourselves, or entertain ourselves without their might and influence. So they have crafted a good or service that will do it for us. Insecurity is at the root of most of our problems in society now, and a lot of it has to do with our collective emasculation—stripped of pride in our own work and efforts to define our world in our image and not that of what a company wants to sell us.

So what EONS NOW wants to do is to do a lot of what you see here already: shine a light on how we have allowed someone else to sell us our daily needs and our dreams, and to show how that is destructive to the entire society, making people dependent on psychopathic corporations in the same way as a woman is beaten and scared into submission because the alternative is supposedly worse. Oppression is violence because it denies people of their potential. Advertising is psychological abuse because it tells us we are not as good as whatever they have to sell, or our lives will amount to nothing if we don't take the presribed bait. Or maybe now that a 60 year old man's cock isn't going to work without a couple of these pills. The last thing we need is shit like that and the denial of legal and safe contraception. That isn't even the pinko commie liberal in me talking. That is the side of me that knows that the current system of exploitation of all resources and most of humanity is a system doomed to fail, and will make us eat collective shit for the greed of others.

There is a site called Dieoff dot org that takes on the extreme end of the peak oil scenario. It still can scare me like little else has, but I refuse to let it slip away under the rug. My mentor JDL has said that a culture of success will collapse of its own weight, and the ultimate collapse is human collapse itself. If the threat of that is not oppressive, I do not know what else is. Now is not the time to outlaw selective fertility under the guise of preserving all life for God's glory, at the same time as we wage ill-justified wars. No, we don't need more population in a time of great misery. The terrible bind we are in is one of facing oppression in our food choices—do you want GM food or do you want chemical-pumped fare? In maybe two generations or less, I think we could face oppression at the other end: not having food choice at all when the suicidal seeds now made and sold by corporate agribusiness fail us, and the earth itself is too toxic a place to grow enough to support our population. Either it has been paved over, or it has been pumped with chemicals, or is home to suicidal seeds that last the one year they are intended to last. Stripping the earth of its own ability to reproduce and feed itself and its creatures is a fine definition of oppressive tyranny. I've heard it called "intergenerational tyranny." I believe it was the Cherokee nation of American natives that would ask if their decisions would also be good for the seventh generation. Now the dominant question is something approximating 'will this earn us double digit profits for the next quarter?' Popular western and transnational corporations planning for three months away or the Cherokees who are thinking of what will happen in 150 years as a result of their decisions today. What do you think is a more prudent course?

Anyhow, themes such as these are what will constitute at least my share of EONS NOW dot org. Peak oil will undermine most of the notions we have now regarding wealth, property, growth, economy, and community. We can either be devastated by it or we can consider that maybe the time in which we live is actually the period that is plagued with problems, and that maybe it's a good thing to see these already-damaging systems dissolve.

Thursday
May122005

Hijacking Adagio

I just got the Leonard Slatkin recording of Samuel Barber's Adagio for Strings and some other tracks that I am not familiar with yet. This morning, I put it on and within a few notes of the Adagio, I actually teared up some. This stuff got all up inside me with no warning, despite having heard it a few times in my mp3 collection, whatever scattered versions I may have collected. I knew only a little about the Adagio, but the stuff that stuck for me was knowing that it was sort of the unofficial compostion of national mourning. It was the soundtrack to the funerals of Franklin Roosevelt and Jack Kennedy. Not a bad association to have, especially for Barber who wrote the thing when he was about 23 or so. Man, I remember what I did when I was 23 and it wasn't even worthy of the tape I recorded it to.

But this last week has been one of working hard on getting my peak oil presentation together, and making the website and some promo stuff for it. And whenever I am involved in reading about that stuff, sometimes it is very hard to do that and not hurt. I mean, who wants to envision a world in tatters, especially the sort that we have now, with all our needs met and all our desires ready to be fulfilled? Who wants to envision population crashes and sustained warfare against anyone who has something we haven't (and vice versa)? Who wants to think of getting our drinking water out of a river or lake into which a factory pumped effluent for 30 years? The images in my head about the overlapping and reinforcing clusterfucks that might lie ahead are disturbing.

A few weeks ago at my church, our minister Jerry Lawritson gave a very comprehensive lecture (sort of an extracirricular thing he offers once a year) on Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German theologian who was willing to give up his right to consider himself a Christian once he committed himself to working with a conspiracy group with an aim to kill Adolf Hitler. Bonhoeffer was a model Christian, despite entering into a plot which was designed to fulfill what under normal conditions was definitely not a Christian act. But Hitler was not your normal man, and the WW2 years were not normal conditions. Anyhow, the lecture was really stirring on its own merits, but the music I was asked to play before hand (I am the dude who records various church events, and does other vaguely technical stuff) was Anton Bruckner's 7th Symphony in E, but only one part: the adagio. The notes that came with the lecture are as follows:

On April 30, 1945 as news of Hitler's death traveled across Berlin, even as the Russian army entered the heart of the city, Berlin radio played this very music by this same conductor [Wilhelm Furtwangler] to mourn the fuehrer. Bruckner would have been appalled. Incidentally, the last recording made by Herbert von Karajan was Bruckner's 7th as he conducted the Vienna Philharmonic. Karajan had been the darling of Field Marshall Hermann Goering and a member of the Nazi party. It was a fact he never recanted. The corruption of talented people and culture was a Nazi specialty. This music reminds us that the demonic often wears a nice face.

Indeed. What part of Hitler's contribution to history earned him the right to have beautiful music played at his funeral? You know, the Church even allowed him a "Christian" burial, and not a summary execution by the side of an open pit grave, which would be more fitting for a man of his station. How does this happen and not go unpunished?

By many accounts, FDR and JFK were good presidents. Good enough to have Barber's Adagio For Strings played at their funerals, anyhow. And a damned fine piece it is. In fact, it is one of the best things I have ever heard, anywhere, at any time. It is just passion put to music. It is not dissonant or upsetting. It is not happy and gay. It is not overly long or too short. It is not particularly virtuosic, but it is not without musical merit. It is just good human emotion conveyed through four types of string instruments. And as an elegy, it certainly makes sense. It does have that slow moving graceful sort of presentation about it.

When I think of it, the images come to mind: mostly the stark and disturbing images of the 20th century come to mind, but also the images that I see when I read about peak oil and the possible things to come along with that. It's a lot of sadness, disaster, doom, and pain. But more than that—it's mourning the loss of a whole chunk of humanity and its progress, as for the first time in centuries, I think we are about to take steps backwards, de-evolving. Being de-evolved is not as bad as going through the process of de-evolving. When I think of de-evolution, I see sights of people mourning the loss of the material items they surrounded themselves to keep themselves "happy." I could see them mourning the loss of the environment, and their latent shame and regret in handing over their God-given rights and freedoms to a government that promised doing so was for their best interest. I see people in America huddled around an oil barrel fire pit in downtown squares and industrial parks. People living in slums where they need to recycle scraps from the industrial age to survive. I see people making odd use of cars and appliances as they end up disintegrating into little more than parts and containers. I see people beaten down when they realize they had money but no wealth, and all the while with their own fervent support of the system. I see people wandering almost like zombies in search of food, and having to settle for some rather dire solutions to get by (robbery, assault on others, prostitution, etc.) I see young people born after the oil crash who still hear their parents and grandparents talking about planes, cars, rock concerts with lighting, NASCAR racing, and rockets going into space. The young people have no way to relate to all that and all they can do is express anger and hatred toward anyone who was to blame for ruining the world for them while still being regaled with stories about the "good old days." Some of these people might just want to kill old people for ruining the world for their own greedy pursuits, or maybe even total indifference toward the older folks, leaving them with little option but to curl up and die. I see a reversion to the days when women are little more than chattle, and are the subject of a lot of misdirected anger and aggression. I see illiteracy as a pretty widespread thing because even today, literacy is in a perilous spot. I see a broken education system that will never return to the good old days in the mid 20th century when education came within reach of more people than ever. I see people having to do a lot more physical work for no money but instead having to settle for the satisfaction of knowing that they are alive (if people still have the ability to consider that a good thing). I see people having to use family planning methods we consider barbaric (abortion, infanticide, selling children, whatever) only so that they can allow the already born to survive. I see the compassionate people having abortions to save people unneeded suffering at least while things sort themselves out. After all what sort of world will we turn over to the next two generations in particular? Toxic, dysfunctional, warring, colder, more disease-ridden, broken, corrupt. What will the next two generations think of you and I if we sit by and let history steamroll over us without raising a finger because it was more important to watch American Idol or The Nanny, or to go cruising the boulevard in search of easy pussy, or whatever garbage passes for culture and recreation now? How will we look our grandchildren in the eyes and not expect them to spit in our faces or to kill us in our sleep while we are diabetic, unfit old farts who only sit around and bemoan the loss of all our luxuries while they have to eat out of the trash and drink toxic stew?

Part of my response to the Barber Adagio this morning was a whole string of these images flooding my head, along with the realization that if Hitler (or anyone misguided enough to carry on his program after he died) could give himself a pat on the back with the Bruckner adagio, then some fuckhead such as Bush, Delay, Frist, or any of these other assholes could do the same. I mean, we are dealing with sick people. Absolutely pathetically and pathologically sick people. They are somehow under the impression that their shit doesn't stink, or that we have been lulled into complacency and olfactory fatigue so that we can't tell that it does, or blinded so that we can't even see they are shitting at all. Or maybe they are confident that since shitting did not appear in the Bible, it therefore did not exist, and that anyone who is convinced otherwise is a God hating athiest scientist or liberal. There are increasingly blurring lines between what Hitler was doing and what our present administration are doing. Piece by piece, they are hijacking this once great nation, a work of art in the pantheon of governmental systems. Hijacking. That is the word. It was not given to them, and even still we are not really turning it over willingly. They are playing peoples fears, the same as National Socialists did in the 20s and 30s in Germany. They are catering to people's existing insecurites and neurosis that they are somehow in danger of losing their dignity if they can't be in a position of sheer power and self delusion. They are driving it like they stole it, because steal it is just what they did. They have no plans for the future—a situation which made Bill Moyers ask, what business do these people with no vision for a future have governing this country? Indeed. Why are they holding the reins? We are governed essentially by nihilistic fascists. They have no desire to preserve the world, or to enhance cultural or scientific development except to further very narrow agendas. They have no interest in the future. They believe the world is so wretched and broken that it must all be flushed down the toilet.

They aren't speaking for me. And I would wager a guess they aren't speaking for you either. In fact, the nutcases who the Bush party can claim "voted" for this madness amounts to about one percent of the GLOBAL population, and only a little over 1/6th of the national population! So where is this mandate they supposedly have? Or have they just hijacked the place for their own business? When will they steal Barber's Adagio For Strings and defile that piece of humanistic greatness the same as the Nazis defiled Bruckner? After they remove a few more civil liberties, and convince people that science and secular humanism is what is bringing ruin upon our nation? Recently I read about a Baptist minister that excommunicated a church member who did not vote for Bush. WTF? Sorry, but some things just are not for sale, and some things are not for hijacking. Some things are too precious or sacred to let fall into the hands of bad men. In fact, I might venture to say the entire world is too precious and sacred to let fall to the hands of bad men.

Man, I am so glad I keep my TVMINDPOISONING to a minimum. It frees up a lot of mental space so I can get down and do some real thinking.

Friday
Apr222005

A Bad Sign

You know it is not a good sign when you see a 99 cent store liquidating its inventory, with all things priced at 69 cents.

I'm not making this up. A week or so ago I was in the Sports Arena area taking some stuff to Goodwill, and just before I got there, there was a sign on the curb with this announcement. No shit.