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Entries in dog (10)

Saturday
Dec252010

What Does a Dog Want With Christmas?

What does a dog want with Christmas?
A fruitcake, an iPod, a new sweater, and more?
Does the tree make the day special,
Or does the blow up Santa in the yard hold a special place in his heart?
What benefit is it to go to church with the candles and poinsettias,
The hymns and carols, the readings and the pageants?

Is Christmas Day any different in a dog’s world?
Does the day change the fact he wants to be petted and fed?
When all the fluff is stripped away, does our canine friend
Wish for anything but what he always wants—
Our time and care, our presence and love
Our undivided attention, our cuddly communion

Thursday
May142009

Further Revelations From Dog

buber the dog on kelli's chest while laying in bed. undeniably cute, looking at her like his one and only love.Kelli and Buber, lovebugsI was looking into the penetrating eyes of my dog Buber today. Something about that experience draws a bit more consciousness out of me. Today I was marveling at how in the deep, dark recesses of history, in the early days of civilization, dogs were not the companions we think of them as being today (though their usefulness for work was being established), but people were not as alienated as they are today. I heard an NPR Fresh Air show that brought up the matter of how coddled our pets are now, and how pet ownership has grown since the 1960s (suburban expansion and the like) and conventions for pet naming have shifted from "Fido," "Spot," and the like to names that are no different than people's names. (I am guilty as charged with Buber, named after a specific person!)

It would seem that the trend toward leading more "civilized" life drives us further and further from our primary relations among humans while simultaneously trying to reclaim what is lost by letting animals into our lives. That is because animals could never mess things up so royally as humans have with the project of "civilization" itself. Even Jesus was plenty awake to it—he turned to nature and even the animal world to illustrate right relationship. Others of his ancient time, and of equal stature in the world of religious insight often realized that humans got it wrong, but could find the way back to what is good and right. The civilized world, the world of empires, cities, massive systems are out of scale and dehumanizing. Right now, for many of us it takes an animal to reach back into our hearts to the soft, nougaty core. They are the reflection of what we've lost, or at least set aside, while we set our sights on other goals.

Wednesday
Oct102007

Shoulda Been Born A Dog

buber on kelli's breast, oh so adoringI think maybe this was all a mistake.

I should have been born a dog.

Then I wouldn't have had to worry about certain things.

The dog only needs to learn a few things, then it is set for life. It does not have to perpetually be reeducated to advance with new job descriptions. A dog just has to be.

No one berates a dog for not going to college to get a degree. A dog is spared crushing student financial aid debt.

Any doggie debt is soon forgiven when he smiles and wags his tail and comes running to the door to greet his master. Forgiving debt among humans undermines the economy and makes people jealous of one another.

No one expects the dog to keep up with where the parents were at his age.

buber found in the county animal shelter, huddling next to the wire enclosure so someone can see how eager he is to be pettedA dog with a broken family somehow gets more love when people realize his fractured past.

A dog's leash does not function the same as the way humans are led around these days, thinking they are free to come and go. The leash at least keeps the dog near his keeper, who probably loves him more than anyone else would. Not really the same in human terms; the things that restrict our freedoms are not the things that keep us in close touch with what is best for us.

That said, who are we to lead dogs around on leashes?

People feed and house dogs without question, but humans create elaborate laws to justify why other humans must starve or remain homeless. We call it sound economic theory. We wage war to enforce these policies. We call it the facts of life. Anything else seems foreign or idealistic. We arrive at this conclusion with the same mind that blindly says the Bible is the literal word of God, and that every word within is true. Except maybe some of what Jesus said about feeding the poor and housing the strangers and orphans.

buber looking out the doorway into a blast of white lightDogs sense a world beyond the world humans understand. Every now and then, certain humans sense a world beyond what other humans understand. To humans, a curious dog is a novel conversation piece between dog owners who meet in passing. But a human that runs off the track and investigates other worlds must be kept in line, and talk about such a person is conducted in hushed tones as if he did something wrong. Maybe prescribed drugs, maybe full time work, maybe imprisonment will knock a sense of "reality" into such a person.

People will stroke a dog for hours out of pure love and affection, but can go to the office and function within a system that destroys lives in any of a number of ways.

If someone gets a dog to jump for a frisbee or play catch with a ball, it's good the for the dog to get exercise. But if humans make other humans "jump" or "catch" it is to belittle them and keep them somehow in an inferior position as a play toy. This second scenario is not conceived of in order to get fit and to bond; it is to degrade another human.

People will adopt stray dogs of uncertain origin but to adopt stray people from other nations is politically dangerous unless they are exploitable somehow, then the tune changes to justify doing so because its good for the economy. Likewise, adopting stray people from down the street is just weird unless it is holiday season, then everyone wants to do it for the news cameras.

Dogs do not understand capitalism and its motives. If they did, they might actually be mad because it is so contrary to everything they know. They really just would like to be fed and petted and let out for a shit.

Speaking of dog shit, it is unfortunate that dog shit laws do not particularly carry over to laws regulating humans. Dog shit, still an organic substance, is still mild compared to the stuff that is legal for humans to dump. But the national and global economy does not depend on dog shit as much as it depends on other waste-creating activity. Dogs shit because it is necessary. Industry takes a shit and walks off, considering cleanup to be an "externality" for which it is not responsible because it is not a profit making activity.

buber on the floor looking up with the look of expectancyDogs are considered marvelous for their diversity. People even rave about the diversity of the dog world. A black dog has as much chance to be petted and fed as a white dog.

If a dog could laugh, it would laugh at how humans are so vain. Every dog knows you just need to lick yourself to stay clean and attractive.

The dogs at the local humane society (a private affair) have spiffy little apartments which are cooler than most of the places I've ever lived. And newer. And people visit them because they are on a mission—looking for someone to love. The neighboring animal shelter (a public institution) isn't as posh, but the dogs there still have brighter days ahead in most cases. You won't see such eager faces or such nice spaces at the penitentiaries or SRO hotels that house unwanted humans who fell through the cracks of life.

Dogs don't have to worry about the end of the world. Maybe they think about the end of the day. The next meal is not far from their minds, but there is no dog heaven that isn't already being lived or not. Dog heaven probably exists around feeding time and extended petting time, not to mention off leash running time. Dog hell might be at bath time.

Dogs probably don't know hate though they do know fear. Conditioned aversion that is accompanied with barking might seem aggressive. They certainly don't live hateful lives. And they certainly don't wrap it up in religious piety or nationalistic fervor. Humans aren't content to just piss on someone else's property to claim it. We need to kill or exploit people in the other yards we visit.

buber lounging around on the couchA dog that sleeps any time of day is regarded as cute. A human who sits around is regarded as lazy, unproductive, worthless. A human who does in fact work hard might end his day being "tired as a dog" which is regarded as a good thing since it signifies a job well done, even though the dog didn't have to do all that work to justify sleeping throughout the day.

A dog is a simple creature who has no need for technology as a labor-saving device. He has no labor to save, and has nowhere to be except at the bowl at dinner time and at the fencepost at piss time, and at his master's knee or lap at all other times. Technology that would benefit a dog would be one that allows him to get into the food bucket when master is gone. But a cell phone, computer, and automobile he has no use for. And thus is spared the headaches and bills. This is why he is still able to love you at the end of a long day and you just think he's barking and needy.

Dogs do not "waste" time because they have no clocks to measure it. And who are we to say a dog's life is boring or could be improved if we could just bring him more technology to mess with?

Dogs are microchipped to possibly save their lives. People could be microchipped so that their lives could be stolen.

Dogs have their balls cut off to save the world from overdogulation. Hah. Like humanity is in a place to determine what is bad for the earth!

the sign from the animal shelter with the Martin Buber quote, and the cover of Martin Buber's I and Thou bookDogs may not know anything of philosophy but they have everything to teach us about it.

Saturday
Feb252006

It's Not Vacation, It's Part Time Employment!

One of the things about working part time in the world of event production is that even more than it is the case with full time cats, it's feast or famine. For a couple weeks there, it was 30 hours a week with totally odd hours thrown in with totally normal banker's hours. Then it was 21 hours. Then this calendar week, I worked precisely no hours at AV Concepts. And next week, it appears that there will be the 30 hour plan due to a death in the family of one our drivers. And, the shifts are equally well messed up. There is talk about two drives on consecutive days up to LA, which in itself isn't too odd, but the timing is just fucking over the top weird—load IN and load OUT each at two in the morning! It's plenty whack, sez me. The following week looks like it will have a trip to San Francisco, which at least puts me in the league of maximum part time, with some per diem pay which makes up for a few "lost hours."

Ah, so what does my week turn into when there is utterly no work? Well, part of it is the continuation of my moving house project—more things find their intended nooks and crannies. Or, on a day like Tuesday, I get to enjoy doing the morning Bible study with some church folks. I hardly ever get to do the stuff unless I am unemployed, and would far prefer to leave my life open for stuff of that sort. On the same Tuesday, there was another midday church organization that met and I was able to attend. Tis also a rare thing to take part in. I got to learn about Panama and Costa Rica from one of the fellows who took a tour and shot some video, then, since I was carless after having Kelli drop me off, said fellow asked me to help him take his TV back to the house, which I did, and got my ride home that way. Also, later on that same evening, Kelli and I went next door to Phil's Urantia Book group reading which we usually do every other week. It's more stimulating material and it's always nice to share life with Phil and Nancy next door, especially now that they really are that close.

Oh, then there is the studio stuff. I finally got to do more stuff in the studio. It's feeling more and more normal to me now, though instruments are still there to remind me how long its been since I played. But overall, it's nice to be able to at least operate in an environment that is conducive to making music. After the apartment, it is nice. No more tiny apartment, no more loud annoying neighbors, and all my gear and office like stuff is in one place. I spent some time sorting out all sorts of audio files on the computer, trying to clean house on a bunch of shit that never got dealt with from the hours of jams that end up being done and partially worked with. It's led to some amazing discoveries of things I thought lost, or bits of stuff that when edited down to the potent scraps seem to make music. I put up a second video monitor today for the benefit of ProTools primarily where it's easier to operate with both of the primary screens filling their own monitor space. My acoustic guitar is out with Glenn, but I finally availed myself of one of Kelli's guitars which had been right around for a couple years now but I never touched it except to restring it maybe three years ago, only for it to get funky and green again. Well, I shined up the frets and oiled the board, and it's like new. Comparable to my old Fender, this is a similarly modest Yamaha. The discerning ear will notice I hardly ever record acoustic guitar. I like to mess with it because it's a sweet thing to hear chords on, but I am not really a guitar player who can make it sing. So it sits for months between short bouts of intense dabbling and experimentation with alternate tunings.

I also spent some time cursing and swearing at some web design projects of my own, and on the site I do for my church. I recently got into a position where I am the sole designer and maintainer of that site. After a terrifically long time of slow indecision in a not-quite-cooperative partnership on that project, the other person resigned. At least now the pace can pick up. We never properly announced the site to the church, though of course folks know it's there. In a month or so, the proper announcement will come down, and I want it to sit there looking like a new Camaro when I talk about the features it has, so I am combing it and trying some new stuff that will make any improvement I can make, but often by way of a really fucking frustrating exercise in tolerance of Dreamweaver and PHP.

okua the wolf dog sitting rather queen-like under a treeOkua the Wolf DogOh, then what else do I do on my not-quite-vacation? Well, Okua the wolf dog is as mischievous as ever, and this time, she knows the neighborhood. After all, this is her turf now! Oh, she can jump the fence with no problem then run in the no man's land behind our house, the school and the neighboring houses on the street in the canyon below us. She follows the mostly fenced corridor that runs along the school fence then somehow gets into the school field. She likes to hang out and get in some sniffing since the field doubles as a regular park when school is not in session. She cuts quite a figure; a blond wolf/shepherd of strong build comes walking in from nowhere and is all about the school. Sometimes she just goes and sits, but mostly she just likes to get out and run. She sets her own schedule in that regard. All it takes is a short moment of inattention if left unattended and unleashed in the back yard. The entrance to the park is close enough that I could walk, but I've used her recent escapades as an excuse to use my bike, and that is something I should be doing more of.

Ah, my boring life. Hopelessly chasing the dog on a piece of turf she knows since a pup. Working around the clock one day then not at all the next. Bible study with old people and my wife. Pulling hair out at web design. Next week it's all work and I will long for the days of doing all this. Push, pull, push, pull.

Thursday
Aug042005

Okua The Opportunistic Wolf Dog, Farewell

It finally got to the point in our moving when it was time for us to let Okua back to her family after having her for about 10 months. What a bummer. We looked for places where we could include her in our plans, but it's hard to find a place for a big dog. If we were able to, it was well past what we could afford. Aside from the hair and her love of rummaging through the trash when we were gone, she was the best and would go unnoticed in any house. She barely barked, she was very well house trained, never had fleas, or any of that stuff.

Now, she did take a liking to sausages, and had a greedy streak in her sometimes. On several occasions, she would help herself to the wonderful Italian sausages from Costco. She got more and more opportunistic as time went on. First, it would be swiping one off the plate. Then it was snagging them out of the Foreman grill. Then tugging the whole grill (turned backwards, shoved into the corner with other stuff around it) until it crashed to the floor and shattered all the plastic. Most recently, there was a situation when a plateful of sausages was hidden, covered, and set under a moderately high cabinet where she should not have been able to reach. She brought the whole mess crashing down. By the time I had arrived on the scene in about 10 seconds, she had eaten four of the eight sausages and was going for the rest. My ceramic plate exploded into even more pieces than the grill.

She loved to run away, usually by jumping the fence on the south side of the yard. Only that fence. She had it down pat. Sometimes she'd get let out under the pretense of having to wizz, and then would steal away at 3 am. More regularly, when I would come home from work or errands, and would check my email, she would make a dash for it. As summer approached, she was able to be left in the back yard to carry on like a queen, sitting in her favorite shade spot. Usually she wouldn't run away then, but sometimes she did. One day, I came home from work and she was gone, but at that point, the garage and front area was still intact and it was like a huge doghouse for her. My roommate evidently left the gate ajar and she took off. I had no idea where she would be so I just sat and waited. Finally, I got a call from Phil who gave her to us. He lives about a mile away. He called to tell me he had a guest who seemed lost... So I went on over and brought her back. She just wanted to say hi, and visit Alcott park right behind Phil's house, where everyone knew her name. Usually, I would find her a few blocks away, sniffing some trash or hunting some hapless rodent or bird. Sometimes, we'd get a call and find her over at the park near our house, where people would have her sitting there looking like one of the family.

Her more recent hobby has been to be the mouse police here. Our back yard has a partially terraced slope with lots of ivy on it where mice hide. Okua the wolf dog would act like a cat as she pounced on the little buggers. She would spend hours in her feline persona playing this little game. I don't know if she ever caught any but it kept her from jumping the fence and making one or both of us have to go ride around to find her.

Or she'd get stir crazy once we lost the garage and had to keep her indoors while we were gone, and sometimes while we were here if it seemed she run. She could tell time and when it was about 9 pm, she would come in and stand stubbornly in the doorway to my office and demand to be taken on her walk. She loved walks at night. We would take her without a leash so she could really run. Then we started to take bikes and would run her like mad till she was a panting fool ready to lay down for the night. We'd ride and run all through the neighborhood and wear her out. She can run like no one's business. Sometimes even on the bike, she was formidable and we had to race to keep up.

She liked to play with a rope bone we had. It was this huge yard-long thing with knots in it—the sort of thing you train a police dog with. All that is left of it now is a spun-out bunch of strands. She would tear into that like the savage beast she could be, but only for three minutes at a time, if that. Then she would set it down and walk off like it was yesterday's fad.

So for all the sausage swiping and running away of hers, today it was sort of lonely here without her. Aw, now I got myself all teared up wishing we got a house.

Monday
Mar282005

Gentle Beast

Okua the Wolf DogI was sitting in the carport today with Okua. The day was a real sleeper for me. Kelli was off at work having a shitty day in a meeting that would make or break her interest in working for that place anymore. I was bummed because I might drop my Humanities class on account of being sufficiently unable to focus on the readings well enough to really do more than get by. So today could have just dropped off the calendar for all I cared.

Okua likes to hunt bees or flies or whatever will dare to buzz around her head. Today there was a bee that she followed around the driveway and carport. It fell from the sky and looked like it was about to die. She took a few swipes at it at first then it was on the concrete, trying to fly but unable to do so. She knocked it around with her nose, flicked her tongue at it and kept it moving around some, then backed off. She played this game for several minutes. If she was only half her size, she'd still be formidable, but she's sort of large and looks like a wolf. But here she was, just bumping this bee around a few inches at a time. She lapped at it like she would do so to groom herself. It was funny to watch. Finally she just lapped it up and ate it.

Wednesday
Feb022005

Okua The Opportunistic Dog

I went out today on my bike to settle up first of the month issues, and look for some toy jobs. I was gone about two hours. I came home and found that the dog was gone, and I guess it had to be that my roommate left the gate ajar even for a few moments, and the dog took off. Since I was gone for two hours, I don't know what sort of head start she was able to get. I got back on the bike and pedaled around the usual areas she has been to, one of them being almost perfectly predictable. No luck. Came home to grab a bite to eat and while I was here, I got the call from her more legit owner Phil, who lives about a mile from here. He called to tell me he had a guest that found her way over there. So I went and picked her up at his house. She was out of breath. Must have made a good break for it when she got the chance. She jumps the fence in my back yard like nothing, but in the front where she spends her day time when no one is here, she hasn't been able to get out unless the gate is open. If I didn't hear from Phil, I would have expected to hear from his ex-wife Cindy, who also kept Okua for a while (Okua has had a few homes within their family, and we are the latest to take care of her), and who's phone number is still on the collar.

At least I know where to look for her next time. There's no place like home. There's no place like home. There's no place like home.

Saturday
Dec252004

Christmas

ed, kelli, and okua the wolf dog dressed in dismal christmas morning wear. okua has a reindeer antler jingle bell headband. ed has piggy pants and a crimson bath robe. in the back yars. Kelli and Okua, the wolf dogKelli and I had a very satisfying Christmas. So did our rent-a-pup Okua, despite the long face. Okua got a bag of huge rawhide chews, a huge rope bone with big knots in it, a rawhide sleigh filled with puppy treats of all colors, and a puppy play toy candy cane. She made out like a bandit.

Kelli got the new Ray Lamontagne CD, an Ani DiFranco/Utah Phillips CD, a Foreman grill, some foofy chick stuff, and more foofy chick stuff. I got a crimson red robe, some DVDs, and a hand carved mahogany piggy from Brazil.

We did the church thing on Christmas eve, as we always do. Kelli did one of the readings, as she is now doing every year. She reads the part that sounds better being read by a woman. We went to the so-called Calabrese Compound for a Brazilian style Xmas eve dinner, ostensibly at midnight, though I think we were all done by then and on our ways home. There was too much delightful food, and this endlessly fun name game for the best name to bestow upon the chosen drink for the night, Southern Comfort and soy egg nog (Silk soymilk). Imagine every permutation of "Southern Comfort" and "Silk Soy Nog" and you can get the picture. The drink itself was actually pretty damned good. Imagine that, a holiday drink that's actually good for you! Anyhow, the greater Calabrese family has in one form or another been our lifeline to family events for the last year. Papa Phil has been very hospitable to Kelli and I for the time since we have gotten together. This year, he gave her away at the wedding, standing in for her own father who died some years ago. Phil and his partner Nancy have been sooooo good to us, inviting us to all sorts of family occasions. This dinner was actually at the house next door to his (this two house arrangement being the "compound"), the one where son Adam lives with his Brazilian wife. Anyhow, Adam and Carol hosted this party and it was just a great time on my favorite holiday. We came home and crashed almost immediately.

Then today, Kelli and I did the Christmas morning thing with the dog. It was just us this year. No parents of any sort. Okua made for some fun times as we tried to get pictures of her with the silly reindeer antlers. Usually those are Kelli's to wear. Either way, it's cute. Then we went off to dinner at yet another Calabrese house (sort of, Cindy and Phil aren't married any more, but they still are very good at keeping the family activities going and healthy) for even more dinner! This house was packed even more than the night before. Kelli used to live there for about a year, so we both were sort of at home there. There was some food we recognized from the night before (so much of the stuff), and a whole host of new stuff too. It was amazing. There must have been 20 people there. There wasn't any Comfort Nog, but the wine flowed well enough! I even dozed off uncharacteristically in the midst of all the commotion when it came time for gifts to be traded and opened.

And then we came home and crashed again!

I have to say how great it was for the entire Calabrese clan to have us over, again and again during the course of the year. They have been cause for a good time, but really more than that. They've been family to us. Phil even went so far to say during his toast at the wedding that he had sort of adopted us. Aw, sweet. Kelli has long had a closer relationship with the family, but I have known them through the church for as long as I can remember, and there were times back in high school days when Kelli and I were at their parties for Thanksgiving or maybe other times. We go pretty far back, but from back then, it was hard to know what all that was leading up to. A lot of really great holiday experiences have been had with them, or maybe with other members of the church. Kelli and I are sort of like orphans, what with her mom being on the other side of the country, and my old man being too cool for holidays or something. The last two years we have had holidays with her mom and my dad and step mom, but this year, we just went our own way for our first married Christmas. At least it will go down as a good one.

Saturday
Dec112004

Pause, Reflect

Today I spent a perfectly beautiful evening with my wife at home. We listened to Christmas music: Bing Crosby and the Vince Guraldi score from the Peanuts TV show usually make my season. We put up some decorations, a wreath, and a tree (actually two—fake main tree, living smaller tree for the end table). We petted the dog and walked her. We shut off the lights and left on only the holiday lights. We talked lovingly and of great topics of concern.

It is a poignant time for me, who has been worried well beyond my quota about the peak oil/economic collapse issues. Lots of people laugh it off, and I would love to be among them, but I have been cursed with curiosity, and for my troubles in investigating both mainstream and alternative outlets, I am worried sick sometimes. The rest of the time, I am totally perplexed at the possibility for life like I never imagined it. You may ask how this has anything to do with the perfectly lovely domestic bliss I just described. Some will say that I am just ruining my present with fanciful thoughts of a future that I have no control over, and get on with things. Therapy would probably tell me that maybe this is too big an external issue that I stand no chance of settling, and maybe it's time to be sure my wife and I are working toward the best relationship we can have.

I don't see the demarcation line, if there is one.

My wife and I are all about the future. We don't have much choice; our future is going to happen one way or another, and of course we got married because we wanted a future together. And I really do believe in us. It's the matter of what we will confront that bends my mind in odd ways. The matter of peak oil and economic collapse cause so much mental dissonance with people mainly because they think it couldn't happen. They think it couldn't happen because they have been told it can't happen. Supposedly it can't happen because experts say it can't happen. Well, the weatherman is an expert, and sometimes we find he doesn't know shit either. So it is with the matter of massive scale resource depletion, and economic disaster. Economic disaster can happen separately from resource depletion, but is certain to happen in a world where resources are consumed at such a radical clip. Our fine nation is one that is kept afloat by an economy of debt. Our economy is a vicious cycle of IOUs. Christmas time amounts to the High Holy Days of this modus opperandi. A nation already operating under the weight of immense debt is herded into an even wilder spending spree in the name of fun and family togetherness, and keeping the economy going. It's a house of cards, people. We can make money from paper to make it seem like there is more money, but it is meaningless unless either there is actual material wealth that it represents, or if everyone agrees that the stuff is valid and will carry the same agreed-upon worth in a week, month, year, or decade. The paper is worthless for the most part, and the credit card is nothing but a promise to pay. But even the world's biggest credit consumer can arbitrarily decide to pay or not pay, or to spend more and more, even when it shouldn't. But it's okay. We trust the government to handle things. Well, some of us do...

I am losing my faith in this system. Every day, I see more and more homeless people on the corners of my once-middle class suburb. I just know that all these people aren't drug addicts or mentally ill (at least not leading to their homelessness). I just know that some of them were working even modest jobs at Target or for a private firm selling plumbing supplies or something. And not all that long ago. No, some of these people were living in 2 bedroom apartments a year ago. Some of them lost a job not for any crippling economic slowdown, but for greed. Their companies decided they needed to make more money, or at least appear to make more money by pinching the bottom line and cutting some staff and offshoring or just hiring cheaper workers. Companies are interested in making profit, and profit comes at a cost. Eventually, a widespread elimination of jobs will eliminate the buying power of the people who once bought your product. It's cannibalism, really. Henry Ford's winning innovation was his desire to make something that every man could use, but also to employ people so that they could be those "every men" who would buy the stuff he made. America's greatness for the middle of the 20th century was expressed this way: the workers on the line could afford to pay for the stuff they made, which of course made good business. Now we have a growing number of people who can't pay but for the cheapest stuff, and Wal Mart is all too happy to oblige. Of course, Wal Mart is paying people so little to make and sell their wares. Wal Mart has then created its own mini-economy of poor people buying cheap shit from other poor people made poor by the corporation that facilitates it all. Hey, Wal Mart sells cheap shit. Even if you work for Wal Mart, it's on the verge of being too expensive if you have other plans, like feeding your family and living in a habitable place. I'm sure Ms. W. could attest to that. Welcome to the land of the working poor.

So on this lovely evening, I have not visions of sugar plums dancing in my head, but instead of the bursting of the credit bubble. This very well could be the last of the great American Christmases of shameless self indulgence and irreverent consumption and waste. With Bush about to steal the office of the Most Important Man in the World once again, we could be hosed. I read that there is a lot of discontent in Japan and China, and that the dollar, once the mighty arbiter of economic power in the world, is now cowering with its tail between its legs. It hasn't been a secret that we are the leading debtor nation. That's old news now. But we've been trying the patience of the nations who make that possible. Our money just isn't what we said it was. And that's all it ever was after 1970. We said it was worth this or that, and that it would be that way. And people responded in like. But that only lasts while both parties are in agreement. So, sort of like you not wanting to give your drunken, wifebeating uncle any money when he is begging for it, the world is wising up and we are gonna be in deep shit, because not only will we not be offered new money, some may cash in and take out what is here when there is just no point in bothering. Should Saudi Arabia and Japan decide to close up shop here, we could be in for a "shitstorm" as Jim Kunstler says.

I'd almost rather be the passing observer of 30 lethal car accidents a day than contemplate the shitstorm factor of the pending economic crunch, coupled with peak oil's permanent scenario of nothing but dwindling resources. But I don't have the luxury of self-censoring, so instead of laughing off the car accidents, I ponder these other things, nearly endlessly. It messed with the week before my wedding, the time around my birthday, tainted my vacation (even more so because of the fact that we drove and participated in the same behavior that got us here), and now it's spoiling my Christmas, sort of.

I am a small fraction of one step ahead. I have never been overwhelmingly a slave to the commercial Christmas season, favoring a quality of interaction and reflection over gifts and other fiscally related exercises. This is the first Xmas with my wife in that capacity, but the fourth with her in the picture, and it sure is a hell of a lot better than not having her! I do let a few things get me off the dire predictions. Tonight, I listened to Bing Crosby's Silent Night. The song is possibly one of my favorites as it is—quite possibly one of the most perfect songs ever. Bing's vibrato was sweet and mellow, his baritone was rich and full. His Christmas songs remind me of the rosy holidays spent here in the same house that was once my grandparents, about 20 years ago and some since. I don't remember liking them then, but with both grandparents gone now, the Bing Xmas songs take me back, not just to grandmother's house, but to my own youth when my Christmas wasn't tempered with these troubling adult thoughts of money, heartache, and strife. The music may take me back even further to when my granparents were about my age, making do with the accoutrements afforded them in the years of the Depression or WW2. I wonder what their Christmases were like in the opening years of the almighty American era of consumerism when it was more innocent and fun, and really a sign that better things were ahead. Then I get a little teary eyed as I realize that only two generations later, I am at the other end of that show, when rampant holiday consumerism is not a sign of a bright future, but a sign of true desperation as a whole nation struggles to maintain an illusion of wealth and prosperity against all odds. It's a heavy thought, but it's nice to have Bing sing for me the same as he did for my grandparents. Bing is sort of a musical Ouija board between them and me.

Or maybe another glimpse of joy came for me in the form of the Charlie Brown Christmas show that now defines my season. I think that that show adds a little more poignancy to my dilemma now. That show was done in the year 1965. What Charlie Brown was up against is the same that I am up against now—the shallowness and ephemerality of the commercial Christmas. Even in 1965 there was something wrong. 1965 was about 20 years after the beginning of the suburban era which went hand in hand with rampant consumerism all year round, but in particular during the holidays. Even 40 years ago there was something wrong. Well, here we are. At least 40 years ago, people were working and able to pay for this stuff, and the system seems to have been working somewhat. But people apparently were unhappy in some way. Was it that they found that shopping wasn't really a source of joy? Or that suburbia was a place where people really cease to live as community? For Charles Shultz to satirize this, it must have been a problem at the time, and one that was already manifest to those who would see it. The irony of the TV show is not ironic now. America has made a Faustian deal to sell her soul all so that we can look good in the eyes of economists and bankers.

Another thing that gave me some joy tonight was listening to recordings I have made of sermons at church, and reveling in what a great teacher we have in our minister Jerry Lawritson. If not for the messages that come to me through him, this heavy shit I think about would surely cause me to spin out of control. On Thanksgiving, he gave a sermon about the matter of giving thanks. Giving thanks is more than just being glad that you aren't the homeless person on the corner of Balboa and Genesee (self preservation at the expense of others). Giving thanks is a matter of maintaining grace under pressure, in the most dire circumstances. How else do you think Jews made it through the Holocaust? Giving thanks is akin to a counterattack against fear and despair and everything dark and sick in the world. Giving thanks is an act of rebellion, a preemptive strike (Bush should be proud) against everything bad, a way of nipping it at the source by getting the upper hand first.

Also today, earlier in the morning, there was an NPR show about Hannukah that was hosted by Spock himself. The music was this extremely beautiful choral material, and the stories of Hannukah were short bits dropped between the songs. Some of the hope and faith and thanksgiving apparent in these stories is just so amazing. If we have rough times ahead, maybe there is something to be learned from the Jews about how to cope and even thrive. They remain defiantly proud and connected to each other, their traditions, to education, to getting into the nitty gritty of it all. Indeed, the name Israel means "he who grapples with God." The Jews have marked Hannukah each year for over 2000 years now, and their celebration is still one of being thankful for miracles, for each other, and for the opportunity to have a part in the Play, no matter what role they may have, no matter how difficult.

Sometimes I hear these things about the Jewish faith and sort of wonder about how after so damned long, they have seemed to retained a certain purity to their faith that unfortunately people in my tradition have splintered a million times over. In this year of the moral values winning out over the other 250 million sinners and heathens in this nation, it is a shame that I sort of need to tip my head down and mutter that I am a Christian, immediately adding a disclaimer of something like "but not one of those right wing nutjobs who voted for Bush." I should never have to do that. Jeeze. And furthermore, I am a member of the United Church of Christ, which now, very ballisily put out that amazing ad last week. The UCC is still on the fringes of Christianity, but I perceive it as being among the rare denomination that even tries to live out the mission Christ intended. People never hear about us because well, there aren't any sex scandals, and we aren't buying politicians. Now it seems we can't even buy time on the mainstream outlets on public airwaves. Our scandal, as much as there is one, is honoring something taught to us about 2000 years ago—that everyone is equal in the eyes of God, and yes, that means those fags, niggers, broads, and America Haters too. (Sorry, I had to get into character to get my point across.) The Jews spend their holidays celebrating miracles. My people go shopping, and end up giving each other guns for Christmas. Sometimes I feel miscast. I'm almost suspecting us liberal Christians (yes, such a thing exists) will know a certain persecution in this nation while those with more noble moral values hold office.

My Christmas is one of paradox; wondering if the world in which I live will collapse is a big thing. But so is putting my head in my wife's lap, putting on some Bing and listening to Silent Night in complete silence, eating leftover tri-tip, and taking at least a good shot at enjoying holidays, loved ones, and even life, despite its overwhelming complexity and troubles. The secret to surviving the future, should it play out like a worst nightmare, is altering one's expectations, and finding meaning and joy in what is instead of what you think it should be. I may doom myself with this peak oil stuff, but like Andy Dufresne in The Shawshank Redemption, they can't take what I have inside me. He had Mozart. I have Bing and Jethro Tull.

Oh, and I love Kelli a lot. And puppy too!

Sunday
Dec052004

Man's Best Friend? Oh?

All bets are off when it comes to the dog eating more than half a dozen cookies right off the plate in the kitchen. How can that be an act worthy of Man's Best Friend?

We left the room for a while to clean house after we had eaten dinner. Then when we came back, we ended up in the kitchen to get drinks. My roommates had come and gone since we were last there, but they are respectful and don't mess with anything of ours, especially not a plate of cookies that got picked clean! The evidence was on the floor: scattered crumbs and bits of choccate (sic) chips were to be found.

Of course, the dog looked at me like 'I beg your pardon? I think you have the wrong person,' but I saw through that. This was the same face that looked at me this way after she jumped the five foot fence in the side yard and escaped to the street several times in the first weeks we had her.

No treats for this puppy!