Archive for September, 2009

So me, the folks, and K are doing the loch walkaround.  We’re coming into the final lap through the square before the final uphill closure.  We pass a large piece of dirt that looks like a dried dog-doo, surrounded by tinier pieces.  I stop to take a closer look, because I sense something powerful about it.  In the space of a few seconds I believe I see a turtle shell covered by dried dirt.

I call the clan to hold up, and crouch down to get a closer look.  They think I’m picking up a dog-dropper and have gone nuts.  I pick up the little creature and get a closer look, the camouflage at last seen through—it’s a baby snapping turtle.  I recognize the long, slender, whip-like tail and curved claws.  The strong, snub beak that snaps shut like a steel trap.

The bulbous eyes blink as it shrinks into tight shell immobility.  Still alive!  How on earth it got all the way over here I don’t know, but we decide to carry it back down the path to the loch side.  I place the turtle on a flat rock half out of the water, surrounded by plants, safe to enter the water when ready.  I’ve seen huge snapping turtles in the shallows of the loch, and once in the road in the morning, so I know they exist.

This little one must have erupted from an egg in the dirt and gotten lost on that left turn in albuquerque.  Well, may the turtle find delicious morsels and grow to enormous size in the grand waters of the loch!  I’m going to bust out in song here, watch me work now:

Gamera is really neat,
He is full of turtle meat,
We all love you Gam-e-ra!

In the movie The Bermuda Depths, it’s the hatching of the baby giant monster sea turtle that creates the bond between the young Magnus and the ghostly Jennie.  There’s a familiar struggling in that story, I think, of lost souls for understanding of a love beyond mortal and immortal ability.  We create things through caring which descend into the deep and resonate with a mystery.

Some might search for the hard truth of that mystery, and get exactly that—with a locker courtesy of Davy Jones (another name for the Devil).  Others wander in and out of the mystery, finally walking away with a reluctance to face the vulnerable reflection that is revealed.  Meanwhile, clues attach themselves to minor actors we only get a few walk on scenes to notice and contemplate.  Lucky is the person who can rewind and reflect upon a slight turn of the light!

The star-crossed lovers never reach the unspoken dream.  Magnus returns Jennie’s talisman to the sea—which to me says he rightly sacrifices his old life.  Jennie keeps her promise and returns to the depths.  Given the misfortune she has spread by returning to see Magnus, this is a mercy for us on the surface.  Yet, carved in the shell of a mutual connection are their initials within a heart.

Is it a monster this mixed partnership creates, or is it perhaps we as the audience wish only to see the horror of the inconceivable?  There is an individual crumb in there that speaks again of the hybrid, if we as audience would only pull the sword from the stone of our own mind.

In the computer game Civilization 3, you can play a number of rulers during ancient times.  You can, for example, play the Sumerians and develop things like chariots and mining.  One of the civilization advances I found most interesting in that game was “worker housing”.

Basically, you develop the ability to concentrate labor into immense camps.  It’s the prototype of the company store idea.  Workers eat, sleep, and raise families in these camps so you can have them concentrate their efforts on building things you want your city to have.

See, the rulers didn’t have construction machinery to control yet.  All they had was physical labor.  The only way to say, build huge monuments to your greatness, was to find an efficient way to gather workers together and keep them moving at a large-scale, steady pace.  These may have been the first attempts at industry.

This is based on real discoveries.  For example, in Egypt they found the remains of large camps of worker housing that were likely used to build the pyramids.

Now that we have fossil fuel powered machinery and access to tremendous energy, we don’t need worker housing for industry.  Or do we?

I would say that advances have allowed industry to expand to a point where worker housing as a concept applies across a broader field of vision.  We might not need a camp of thousands of construction workers, but we do need cities composed of teams of workers and their associated support staff.  If you ever read Richard Scary’s What Do People Do All Day? You can get a sense for how complicated and interrelated each “worker” is.

I look at fast food places.  They exist to give people access to cheap, quick food.  In and out so you can gobble down something for lunch, or feed your family when people are too tired or time-stretched to cook.  Places like McDonald’s, Burger King and Taco Bell exist to keep the workforce fed so they can be kept working as much as possible.

In other words, these establishments exist as a room in today’s “worker housing”.  Instead of building pyramids we’re mining coal, driving trucks, filing papers and cleaning restrooms to keep the industrial system going.

What’s this industry building, besides massive fortunes for a lucky few?  Maybe a kind of unconscious, worldwide tower of Babel.  Hrm.  I think I shouldn’t have eaten that last chicken soft taco.

This effort is supported by cheap, abundant energy in the form of oil.  An oil supply which has reached the peak of production and will now slowly recede like a tide.  Unless we start a new Manhattan-sized project and invent an entirely new form of energy that’s never been known before, that energy is going to disappear from the system.  Nothing we have will replace oil’s scale of energy and versatility — not coal, not nuclear, not solar or whatever else “process” we have on the blackboard right now.

What this means is the end of fast food.

When oil becomes scarcer (and therefore more expensive), the cost of petrochemicals will increase.  That affects the use of countless things.  Fertilizer and pesticides used to grow the crops that feed the cattle that go into your burger.  The electricity that powers the factory that processes the corn syrup in your drink.  The diesel that fuels the trucks that deliver the processed food packages used to make your burrito.  The feedstock used to manufacture the plastic of your large drink cup.

It simply will not be cost-effective to maintain networks of fast food.  I mean, I look at all the KFCs, Pizza Huts, and Subways and I see obsolescence gnawing at their foundations like a hungry badger.   The Happy Meal is going to turn into a high-priced collector’s novelty like an eight track tape.  Then it’s going to be something you get tired of hearing Grandpa ramble on about, all the way into a topic you learn about in history class.

That doesn’t mean some new form of worker housing won’t take the place of the current model.  We will always have oil, just not enough to keep the old model going.  Any change is likely to be a slow, gradual process.  We might even get really lucky and discover a new energy source to help with the transition into the post-oil age.  Whatever ends up happening, we’re in for some adjustments.

So enjoy your chicken-farm nuggets and processed slopper sandwiches.  The limits of growth inherent in the laws of nature are going to wipe out what decades of awareness activism couldn’t accomplish.

Yes, exciting updates for those who desire non-returnable and un-consumer Mr. Nice Car exposure.  It’s all about the mysterious sightings when it comes to avoiding the “go back 3 spaces, now go back 1 space, now go back 5 spaces, now go back to start” phenomenon.

My favorite month of the year is right around the corner, and the weather is taking a turn towards a new season of attempts to request unlimited credit.  I’m just trying to keep my brain pan clear of any banker tendencies, just in case Count of Monte Cristo random encounter comes a-callin’.

So what’s in the psychic hopper?  Still have some garden goods in the line-up, and the herbs are still going.  But definitely this is the wind-down to post-harvest.  Tomatoes are canned, and all the major events are taken care of.  It’s only a matter of time before the basil gives up the ghost, for example.

Ran into my super-duper, techno-webmaster friend for lunch.  The monolith-monster barrier reefs were impossible to pass, so it was hard for us to have a bite and catch up.  We parked right next to each other in the parking lot, but looked for each other on opposite ends of the food trough mall.  That’s how it’s been—connected by the roots, but branched out at different angles due to the wind.

He’s a wise old turtle, reminding me that “it’s nice to be important, but it’s more important to be nice.”  Thanks for busting through the reefs man.

Now that the currents have changed, all sorts of things have been stirring up out of the nutrient stream.  I’m particularly excited about the imminent publishing of Carl Jung’s Red Book.  This is a journal the psychoanalyst started during a period of mental turmoil in his life.  He decided to use active imagination to explore the depths and meaning of his, well to put it mildly, schizophrenic crack-up.  When Jung passed away his family locked the thing away in a Swiss vault.

I’ve caught glimpses of the vividly stunning pictures and nakedly personal writings, enough to make me wish I could be one of a dozen people who had ever seen the thing.  Now in a month I’ll have a chance to behold the journey into madness and insight myself.  I can hardly wait.  Since when do I ever get excited about stuff that’s coming down the line?

Well, I’m also excited about Crumb’s graphic novel take on the Book of Genesis.  This too, promises to be awesome.  The guy’s art is a national treasure, every tortured line of his artistry both difficult and energizing to behold.  Rumor has it he started out on the project with a irreverent take, but then decided that wasn’t working.  He started over and played it straight.

From the previews I’ve seen, I think this was the right way to go.  If he was going for mockery or sarcasm, then his own artistic style is enough to carry that through on an as-is presentation.  This allows the reader to bring their own take to the material and come away with a richer panorama.  But I’ll have to see for sure with the book in my hands and see what the impact is.  Reading Crumb is a personal meditation, just as contemplation of any great artist tends to be.

On the semi-manga bandwagon, I’ve been reading parts 2, 3 and 4 of the Scott Pilgrim series, as well as the newest batch of Courtney Crumrin.

Scott Pilgrim faces the usual slacker challenges of growing up, while working on his relationship with Ramona Flowers (his true love).  Of course, he still has to defeat her seven evil ex-boyfriends in kung-fu video game challenges.

I’m enjoying how the story is unfolding, but the 3 volumes I read didn’t pack any of the gobsmacking punch of the first volume.  I literally was stunned with laughter and delight at the style and execution of that first volume.  In 2-4 the complications just don’t flow as well.  Creative, amusing, but something I just can’t put my foot on is draining the momentum.

Maybe it should have been three evil ex-boyfriends.

Courtney Crumrin is as well drawn and skillfully executed as ever.  The previous three volumes I think are destined to become classic graphic novels.  The latest in what I presume will be another series, Courtney Crumrin’s Monstrous Holiday, is like a bonus round of birthday presents.  I’ve been itching to know what would happen on the trip that ends the previous series.

Courtney the witch and her warlock great-grand uncle go on a tour of Europe in a two-part adventure.  The old theme of “bad things happen sometimes” continues, first with an opposite ends of the tracks love story in which Courtney tries to lend some help.  Then a “bad news” boyfriend who has a not-so-healthy hunger for Courtney.

The young witch is learning about love and limitations.  Hopefully, she is learning from her poor (if very understandable) decisions.  Uncle Aloysius is looking like he might not be there for her for much longer.  Definitely a more mature book than the ones we’ve seen before.  Moar pleez!

The new honeycomb hideout has an interesting feature in the backyard.  Our neighbor has placed a statue of Mother Mary on a pedestal, flanked on either side by golden angels blaring trumpets.  So every time I look outside, her head pokes above the fence to keep an eye on me, angels blaring away on their trumpets.  Talk about having a sacred and watchful eye on one’s self.

There’s a catnip plant for the kitties in the front yard.  Since we moved in it’s been taking off like gangbusters.  We give the kitties a leaf each now and then, but only as a special treat.  I swear, right off the plant the cats go right to their happy place and purr contentedly.  I mean, when you have Cat Town, after two years of haunted house duty, I’d be a honey tiger too.

I’m guessing that in a while the kitties will be adapted to the new wonder and begin bugging us with new ideas.  But for now I’m so happy to have them on a peaceful recovery.  Who knows how many zomboids and ghostaloos they lazored for us when the hell house was in full effect.

Mother Mary’s short duration personal assistant came by the other day.  She had with her a bottle of RC cola and a pack of ice.  Whoa, our haunted freezer refused to accept ice bags, as it was dimensionally not set up for anything beyond TV dinner sized.  She pours me a tall glass of RC on ice and pushes the sudsy spray right up to my nose.

“Close your eyes and sniff,” she says.

Oh man, I forgot how much fun it is to bring the suds of an icy poured drink up to your nose and let the bubbles tickle your spine.  It’s like a fizzy lifting alchemy, making your nose sticky and damp at the same time as the noise crackles in your ears.

“Have you been doing your exercises?”

Uh, like no.  Kind of been in emergency evacuate mode.  Still recovering.  She rolls with it, tells me I’ll be get back to my body awareness exercises once I’m ready.  In the meantime, she prescribes a musical training to supplement my psychic kung fu.  Says I have to complete the gaps in my wholeness.  This I won’t be able to get away from, she says.  I’m like, yeah cool, I’m committed.

She laughs.  All I had to do was say yes.  The rest will handle itself.

I guess so!  She’s got things to do, people to see, so we cut it short.  Outside, cicadas are chirring like nobody’s business.  I spot a discarded cicada exoskeleton on the exploding-with-growth tomato plant in the front yard as I wave to her.

Which is funny, because a friend of mine was just complaining about how cicadas keep showing up in the literature he’s been reading, as symbols of remembrance–days when one was young.  I do admit there’s something primal about cicadas.  But my youthful nostalgia evocative sound is trucks on a highway.  Sends me back to when I lived in a car.

And fizzy cola on the nose is also an evocative sensation for me.  As a kid I would run right up to glasses and yell, “suds!”  So maybe that’s the lesson.  Getting back in touch, after being in the hopper for two years.

Michael Jackson.

Yeah, I said it.  I agree with Chomsky’s “IdontcareaboutMJ” stance on Twitter—there are much more vital issues right now than the death of some old rock star.  I also understand the haters out there who say “good riddance” and “stop talking about him already!”  I felt the urge to wave a torch at the Frankenstein monster as he plunged into the quicksand pit myself.

But just like the horror in a monster movie, our phantasm of the performer keeps on coming back from the grave to frighten us a little more.  See, the image we projected upon this person is our own creature of the night.  We couldn’t live it out for ourselves, so we had someone else do it for us.  This happens all the time in many different forms.

Anyway, the story.  K and I are at the grocery store buying our essentials, trying to avoid the psychic contagions of others like usual.  We’re through the check-out line and passing the gumball machines when I spot a new dispenser.

Yes, you got it, the King of Dump himself.  Stickers, fifty cents.  Well, as I am a certified Sticker Stasher seeker, I’m on this.  Haven’t had many clues or encounters of ol’ Sticker Stasher for months.  So here come my quarters.  I have enough for two stickers.

What I get are two of the same sticker.  A close up of his face probably cropped from the Thriller LP cover.  Awesome, I can think of some great applications for Halloween cards.  Hek, I imagine a few friends of mine would find the sticker a hoot on their holiday cards this year.  But the point is, my collection gets a little bit of a twist.

I put the stickers in a thick book to flatten them out of their gumball machine-enforced embryonic folding.  As I stare at them, I realize there’s a clue in this.  Two faces, the same person.  That about sums up what I always thought of the man.  An outward persona of innocence, childishness, and victimization.  But inwardly very alert, ambitious, and narcissistic.  Perhaps even obsessively controlling.

One gets that impression when reading the behind the scenes stories in the studio.  This guy was obsessed with his own image, with wowing a psychological audience of people he imagined needed to be impressed, and he missed nothing.  He was a perfectionist and that allowed him to accomplish some amazing feats.

There’s a picture I saw of the guy, hanging out at Studio 54.  On one side of him the part owner Steve Rubell, on the other Steven Tyler of Aerosmith looking bombed out of his mind.  You could make the case that MJ was just an innocent, or a naïve fellow moving through a realm of decadence and shaky morals.  I see it as more a picture of three comparable peers in the world of the entertainment industry (which is another name for the second capital of the United States).

This guy knew what he was doing.

A week later I pass the same gumball machine and decide to spend another fifty cents.  I get a third sticker, and it’s the exact same one.  A third face?  I have to delve deeper.

I like a number of the man’s songs, and for a brief moment in time during my freshman year in high school I wanted to dress and dance like him.  But I think there’s a lesson here about the figure of the vampire that I will keep in mind.  Dodge the impersonal demands of the collective unconscious, lest you too be turned into a vampire.  Nobody’s back is strong enough to carry that load.

A figure that is seductive, hypnotic and irresistible.  Also a vehicle through which we experience the fear of unredeemed evil and the thrill of the night.  Not actually being alive, pretense is a large part of the vampire’s mode of operation.  Can this creature be sincere when it casts no reflection?  It holds up a mirror to us, but who holds the mirror up to a vampire?

I imagine a narcissistic vampire might search the vacant mirror endlessly, seeking a reflection that is never there.  Perhaps hoping to see something mirrored in other people.  But the only thing other people will likely say is, “Dude, you’re a vampire.”

The thing is, even a non-reflection is something.  No soul is still a thing that can be defined.  Your greatest weakness can become your greatest strength.  So often the temptation is to believe that because there’s no hope there’s no reason to act responsibly.  If there’s nothing there but grotesque monstrosity, then nothing’s lost by redefining what that means.

I think that’s why so many people looked the other way.  Secretly, they hoped there would be a road to Damascus moment.  But looking at the manner in which a case is building against the personal physician, I wonder if somebody might have unconsciously hammered in a stake instead.

Me?  I neither condemn nor praise.  I just feel sad, and I’m pleased to have some new stickers.

Tomato canning season is upon the clan once more.  We’ve been shifting strategies over time.  The most significant to date has been the staggering out of the bushels.  Rather than do 6 in one fell swoop, struggling to finish the tail end before they turn to mush we do them in rounds.  1 here, 2 there.  Takes longer, but we get to rest in between cycles of canning.

Well, now we’ve upgraded the process significantly, with the Norpro Sauce Master Foodstrainer.  Before, we had to boil the tomatoes, scoop ’em into a bowl, and while still hot skin and slice the little hot coals.  That’s all ancient history now.  Just dump in the hopper, crank twist, and the pulp and juice comes out into the bowl.

Skins and seeds are left behind, and the jar gets filled with puree.  No need to open a jar and dump it in the blender first.  This stuff is raw material nutrient plus, mutha-scratcha!  It’s a little disconcerting to see a major part of the equation completely removed.  No more need to develop asbestos hands, no more nicks and cuts on the fingers from handling a knife willy-nilly for days on end.

I’d say that easily we’ve cut our time requirements in half.  The boiling of the filled jars still has to take the time it does, but now we can move the loads along without any delay due to not having enough pulp on hand to do a load.

Oh, man, and the delicious wonder of having a tasty treat in storage in the winter.  It’s awesome, being able to open a jar of tomatoes as fresh as harvest day, popping the lid open with a snap.  This is what it means to do honor to the fruits of the earth.  And all those skins and seeds?  Oh yeah, compost baby, microbes will be getting busy to-night.  Down the line for next year’s garden, oh you know the earthworms will be eating good on next year’s menu Hek-yeah.

The other day I was in a conversation where the topic became the lazy boyfriend and his frustrated girlfriend.  You know—the middle-aged boy drifting about, unable to get their life together.  Talk about another one of the huge challenges of today’s un-modern, devolutionary society.

I don’t have my former teacher’s gift for words when addressing all possibilities.  So I’m going to trust those of you who don’t fall within the dominant cultural identities to queer the text if necessary.

Ambition isn’t whipping someone else’s fanny to achieve your goals; it’s whipping your own fanny to achieve your goals.  You can’t rely on someone else to hold the world up for you and manifest your dreams.  This is the road of dependency, of giving away your power to someone else.

People are always looking for someone else to show them how to get power or tell them they have power.  In comes the popular pastime of stealing it from others—there are plenty of people who will pretend to embody the qualities you imagine your partner in crime ought to have.  These people are looking to exploit your power for themselves, to live off your dependency for their own ends.

There are also a lot of people looking for dependent heaps they think they can mold into a programmable automaton who will do their bidding.  I see relationships that run on just this sort of weird symbiotic puppetry.

The thing is, no one can give you power.  That is, the ability to live your life as a human being, with the understanding of being alive.  It has to be seized from within by your own action.  People can help you along the way, give you the tools to work it out yourself, but the final step always has to be yours.

Getting down to the bum, the person who is unformed and dependent, the boy who refuses to “cowboy up” and get serious.  “Be a man,” “grow up” and “do something with your life” are common mantras from observers.  I think this sort of blame waving, while legitimate, tends to reinforce this kind of behavior.  Yes, ultimately we have to do the last important task ourselves.  We are responsible for our lives at the crossroads, wherever that is.

But too often what the person hears is “You’re not a cowboy.  You’re not a man.  You haven’t grown up.  You’re doing nothing with your life.”  Who’s stealing power from whom, I wonder.

A boy has to willingly and deliberately choose to “sacrifice the son”.  Meaning their dependence on their mother and insistence that every woman he will ever meet gratify his needs.  A willingness to relinquish that part of us we associate with boyish qualities—vitality, creativity, joy.  In effect, a psychological castration.  Who would ever want to do that?  That’s crazy talk.

Girls too.  Both must relinquish their need for a counterpart to embody the providing force of love and affection.  The other person is not the doctor.  Withdraw and reclaim your projections so you can see the other person as they really are.

Life spirals on.  So if you do not willingly accomplish this task you will find yourself dragged along.  Often painfully.

The question is, how does one find it in them to make the sacrifice?  Not from the admonitions of others who wish they’d “get it together”.

A person must be blessed.  They must be recognized for their weaknesses and limits, as well as their legitimate talents.

The first step is to acknowledge that you need an audience, to be seen and acknowledged.  There’s a royal force within us, an ordering principle that builds structure out of the dysfunction of our lives.  You don’t need to “cowboy up”, you only need to say “yes”.