Journal Dump #1

Artists get to show their sketchbooks, where they practice. These are my sketches, where I practice, not fully formed thoughts, not even what I believe so much as how I arrive at that place.

1} Earth. 7 billion people. 6.9999999999999 billion people I don’t like.

2} Thinking about how target live outside of the system anymore I saw a hitchhiker in Creswell and no kind of a tough looking guy and I didn’t pick them up yellow tang of guilt about that but I didn’t pick him up and I was thinking he just getting harder and harder to live outside of the system that is a factor or may not be any outside of the system anymore and she is becoming this massive

3} Where is silence?

Where is innocence, virgin experience?

Unprogrammed, unrecorded or chronicled?

No legacy handed down in words or images.

4} Some years ago I was driving in the winter rain In the rolling hills near my home through the rain, listening to Miles Davis while passing cows: the invisible parts of where you live, the things that infuse your life with place and purpose. Most are mysterious; they pass with no notice, invisible to the demands a modern world, trees and animals and a month ago, again in the rain, the rain that alternately nurtures and torments us. Then a hitchhiker, a worn down sort, bearded, bedraggled, looking a little tired as I sped by.

There is a guide in my life that reveals the invisible, the homeless, the poor, the sick, the tired, the hopeless, I am they and they are me. The line that separates any human being from any other human being is so thin as to be meaningless. Fortune and misfortune are gifts and denials that hang on a razor’s edge.

In our county there are moss pickers and immigrants and drug users and dealers and nameless angels who go about their work. And who are we not to see them?

5} Darker Forces are Prevailing..

What protection do little people have against big people, if only big people control governments? And by the way, that is what I expect of my government, to work for peace and to protect me from the abuses of the greedy and powerful who without resistance wreak havoc and pain on others. It’s nothing new, been around for a long time.

Or as the Rolling Stones put it…

“Pleased to meet you, hope you guess my name…”

With that cloudy introduction in mind, I  comment on three things. As I’ve said before, I try not to simply join the chorus of reaction that is common in our media driven culture, so I’ll explain each one a bit.

Torture is wrong, clear cuts are wrong, Nuremberg, justice, governments always hide behind security and self defense to rationalize their abusive and illegal actions. The difference between Nuremberg and now is who won. The powerful will seldom prosecute their criminals.

Don’t shoot and recipe for Lamb Shanks blog pieces

It’s not about the police, and it is. Mainly it’s about systemic and pervasive racism and how it jeopardizes the well being of black people. Instead of getting derailed into whether or not we, meaning the collective we, appreciate police, we need to stay focused on the issue. The issue is about how people perceive each other and how racist beliefs can alter a person’s reality to the extent that he sees a threat where there is none or heightens his response to a perceived or real threat. We are always fighting the embedded and pervasive racism that is part of the legacy of a country built on slavery. Rather Than point a accusing finger at Black athletes who show their solidarity with the issue, in no small part because once they leave their arenas they might he subject to the same racism, we should embrace this dialogue and set to fixing the problem. And it is fixable, and perhaps the single strongest way to fix it is have police forces that have the same racial make up as the populations they police. That alone would heighten compassion, awareness and sensitivity by the force, and it might just move the entire force to a greater sensitivity to the people they serve. Ferguson is a particularly unbalanced force, largely white member while policing a largely black population.   Beyond making police forces reflect the populations they serve, there is the deeper challenge of treating racism for what it is, a dangerous and damaging force that it is. These are hard but not impossible tasks, cultural sensitivity education is just one of the ways society deals with racism. There are others, and they all need to be embraced. Mostly, black people need to be made safe from the arbitrary and malevolent use of deadly force that places their lives in great risk. In this matter, we are all responsible, not just police, not just the communities where an incident happens, but everywhere, because the problem exists in every community in this country. We must be better than this, so I stand with my arms up and say, “Don’t shoot!” And I support anyone who does likewise.

I told ruby I was making lamb shanks for dinner. She said, “I don’t like shanks, they have too much of the stuff I don’t like to eat.”

As I prepared the meal, I thought about that, about why people like meat that has no connection to the animal from which it came. I have raised and killed many animals, and part of any squeamishness about meat that I had departed when I did so. When you raise an animal and tend to its needs, then kill it to eat, the blood, the guts, the connective tissue, all are part of the experience, and the essence of the animal transfers to you. It gets said a lot that most cultures don’t waste anything from the animals they eat, and for me it goes a step further. Eating meat is a ritual that embraces both death and slaughter and forces you to integrate all of the brutal or “icky” parts into your being. If you can embrace the killer in you, you can live a much more peaceful life, and one that will hold animals that you consume in much higher regard. Or, perhaps you can’t, and choose to be a vegetarian. That’s a reasonable choice too, but either way, you have to look at slaughter for what it is, and it needn’t be brutal, even if it is always a powerful experience of the meaning of life. A vegan relative if mine once asked me why I have a leather guitar strap (I also have synthetic ones, made from oil, by the way) and I said that I love that some cow that gave its life to become meat, lives on when wrapped around my shoulder, and in some small way is not forgotten. I’d rather have the cellular soul of an animal on and around me than a fabricated piece of petroleum with the human misery that is connected to it. But even that logic fails if you consider that oil was once alive too, in the form of trillions and trillions of plant cells.   I’m too old to respond to any challenge about meat or not meat, it’s not about that, it is about the most human engagement in life, slaughter, and death. So, bring on the shanks.

Einstein is dead

His brain sits in a bucket of formaldehyde.

Preserved by science

I saw it sliced into sections like a salami and put on display like the Elephant Man

“Ladies and gentlemen, step right up. For a mere twelve dollars you may witness the secrets of humanities greatest thinker. A man so powerful he could unravel the secrets of the world of physics while shaving without a lubricant. Step right up, step right up. Is he a man like you? Or is he a preternatural freak? Decide for yourself, step inside and be your own judge. Let your eyes answer your questions.”

Henry Kissinger was the architect of carpet-bombing a tiny but fierce Buddhist nation, North Vietnam, who had confounded the greatest military power on the planet’s attempts to defeat it. Kissinger believed that unleashing the destructive might and wanton killing from above would bring the Vietnamese to the peace table. He was right, the peace was declared, Nixon preserved American face, the South collapsed, the North prevailed, a million lives were lost and Kissinger and his Vietnamese counterpart were given the Nobel Prize for Peace. What the fuck!

Bill Clinton gets a blowjob outside the oval office

Leaves his genetics on a blue dress.

We don’t get health care.

Serbia gets bombed into rubble.

Rwanda exterminates close to a million of its people on Bill’s watch. As Billy fiddles, America burns itself in a fire of free market economics that plunges the nation into economic collapse at the hands of a tribe of financial hoodlums and the remaining vestiges of social reform on behalf of normal people goes up in smoke.

So persecuted is Bill by sociopath adversaries riding elephants, that he is able to charm the venomous snake of his misdeeds and retain the support of the very people he has betrayed.

Good man, Billy, able to rally the troops and send men to their execution. Good man, Billy.

6} Years ago, my daughter received a letter from a general in Washington DC, inviting her, then in high school, to a “gathering” in Washington DC/ After a few minutes of head scratching I Figured out that this was a recruitment letter from the CIA scanning promising young thinkers for the agency. Naturally, even the CIA has to scout for talent. Now, on the surface, I would not be the most supportive parent about the possibility of my child working for the CIA, but respecting my daughters’ judgment and independence said to her, “I wouldn’t want this, but you should think about it and make your own decision. The CIA needs good thinkers too.” And then a bit later, as an afterthought, I followed up on our conversation with some other thoughts. “Look,” I said, “I am committed to being a critic of our country. It is not just my right, but also my responsibility. It is what makes you a responsible citizen, if you are willing to point out when the country moves in the wrong direction, or does not honor its creed. But, let me say one more thing, never betray your country” and I explained, “Even when the country is misguided you must work to fix it. No other country is any different than ours and if you betrayed your own to another, you would lose your standing at home and the other would consider you a fool.”

And so, it begs the question of where does Edward Snowden fit in. I think you know I admire Snowden a great deal. I do not believe that Snowden betrayed the country. I consider Snowden a patriot in the best sense of the word, not in the lesser sense of a scoundrel draping himself in the flag. No, Snowden did not hand over missile telemetry and names of spies to our enemies. Snowden reminded us that we are a nation founded and constituted on principles and respect for privacy and that privacy is under attack by the very people sworn to uphold it. And, perhaps transcendent to that in the way only a few people ever can be, Snowden’s revelations asked us as a nation and as a world to come from the dark shadows of fear and surveillance, to look honestly at how we defend ourselves, and to stop destroying the very core of our being hiding behind the same false rationale that all tyrants invoke to defend their dark secrets, “We’re doing it to defend you.”

Shouting in the darkness

“Change the world”

“Save the world”

One hundred forty characters at a time

The global gossip rolls on

As barrel after barrel the syringe extracts ancient blood

Shouting in the darkness

“Look at me, I matter”

While meditating in the silence we fools prefer

The taste of an apple says winter is coming

7} Some years ago at a dinner party with friends in Spain, I mentioned that I wanted to see a bullfight and had been fascinated by it since reading Or I’ll Dress You In Mourning, the story of famed bullfighter, El Cordobés, when I was twelve. Within seconds, a friend of my hosts, a woman in her thirties who clearly did not share my feeling about bullfighting derided my comment by saying, “You probably think that women deserve to be raped also.”   Quite a leap I thought, and realizing there was little to be gained explaining my thoughts on the matter (not my normal response to an attack) took a few more lumps from her in silence before the storm passed and we all went back to eating a tasty beef stew.

All past is prologue, and here we are in the middle of a cultural shit storm involving football players in the National Football League, two convicted of domestic violence and one for child abuse. As I have listened to the opinions of countless this week, I was saddened that the responses to the acts more often than not were uttered in black and white terms. By this I mean absolutes vs. non-absolute positions, not racial black and white, though lurking beneath the surface sits the unavoidable racial component that charges all things in our country. More on that later. Fir now, the black and white i refer are comments vilifying Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson as if these acts make them less than human, barbaric, animals. To be clear, In my opinion Ray Rice got off too light for what he did and should have been punished more than he was. No violence is excusable or can be tolerated. I squirm as I write but, the but being that unlike even President Obama who used a time worn and ridiculous statement that “real men don’t hit women,” I have sad but not shocking news, real men do hit women, real men do hit their kids and in high and alarming numbers, and likely, so too have a few of the outraged college educated reporters (piranhas) that weighed on this weeks revelations. While the same piranhas calling for the dismissal of Goodell, the suspension of Rice and Peterson, were waving the moral flag, few words were said to address the underlying issue that generates violence by men in our society.

How do we reshape men into compassionate human beings, and how do we help the men who commit these acts to become better people, because by most accounts about both Rice and Peterson, they are genuinely decent human beings though Rice has a huge demon to exorcise and Peterson will likely face a huge rethinking about the role of violence in building his children’s character.

8} Technology has us by the balls!

Every day I hear someone talking about his or her inability to keep up with technology. In 1984 I was teaching teachers how to use desktop computers, both Apple and IBM had released the revolutionary desktops and the paradigm shift was underway.

Old-schoolers, my father included, he a PhD chemist at IBM’s prestigious Yorktown lab, did not know how to use a computer, though his semiconductor work was directly related to them.

Other old-schoolers, like the groups of teachers we were instructing, we’re doubtful of the new technology. I had one near-to-retirement teacher came to class with a magnificent hand written journal she kept to record four decades of rhododendron cultivation. She defiantly stated at the start of the class, “they tell me i need to put this on a computer, but I don’t see why I need a computer.” I responded that if I could keep a journal as she did I wouldn’t use a computer, adding, “you don’t need a computer, it’s just a tool to serve you, and if it doesn’t serve your needs, don’t use one.” I also made a point of bringing a baseball bat to the classes and would hold it in my hands without saying anything as to why, until someone asked about it and I would say, “Always keep one of these by your computer so that if it upsets you, you can remind it who’s in charge.” Which is all background to the point of this writing that technology is making us crazy and it’s okay, even healthy, to reject it.

At dinner tonight, we met a woman in her early sixties who told us about the problems she’s having with using her I-pad. The pad was only her most recent acquisition, having gotten an I-Touch, and I Mac previously. She said that she just scheduled two appointments at the Apple Store to learn how to get her address book on to her devices. Then she said, that she recently learned that there was an on off button on the device that she didn’t know about, always thinking the front facing button that awakens it from sleep was the on off. She had no idea how to use these things, though still wanted to. I told her two stories, the first about another senior friend of mine who struggles with the same technology that told me his father used a handwritten address book hi entire life, which served him well, and by the way, one which he inherited from his mother, thereby meaning the handwritten address book worked fine for over one hundred years! No upgrades, no incompatibility issues, no built in obsolescence to force you to by a new one: just a pencil and paper. Works fine. Story two that I told this woman, that when my father retired from IBM, he thought he should do some writing about his life, and he asked me what computer he should get to do so. I told him that a pencil and a yellow legal pad was the best way to start, but perhaps realizing that the computer ship was leaving port without him aboard, he impulsively ran out and bought a $2000 desktop Mac, plopped it on his desk, and then left it there ostensibly unused, as he struggled to figure out what the new dangled thing was all about. During one of my visits I taught him the basic operations if the machine, but it was abundantly clear, that he was not comfortable with this new way of doing things, and further, he no longer had an interest in adapting to the basic demands of the computer world (see baseball bat above). Well, touché for that. My stepmother, she a bit more tenacious did eventually learn to play solitaire on the Mac, making it one of the most expensive decks of cards in the history of the world.

My point? Despite its utility and joys, Technology has become too dominant in our lives and it is making us crazy. And, the incessant rapidly changing capabilities overwhelm and discomfort us. And, no different than Thomas Edison, who understood that he would never make money by producing light bulbs that don’t burn out, strategic obsolescence drives the business model of hardware and software companies alike. Minute by minute, day by day, week by week, “innovation” makes today’s must have gadget, tomorrow’s old piece of worthless crap, kind of like what are brains will be if we don’t take the baseball bats out and remind the little electronic sons of bitches who’s in charge.

(Full disclosure-I wrote this piece on my iPhone, will edit it using spell check, post it on my blog, then tweet it to my Twitter account.)

9} You can’t know anyone until you know his or her story. And you can’t know their story until you’ve heard it told more than one time.