Saturday, March 31, 2007
Friday, March 30, 2007
Evolution/Devolution you decide...
Have you noticed that there is rarely any need to supply directions anymore? An address will do. Google maps will do the rest. That's really new. I have detailed maps that Sarah made in 2005 to show people how to get to our house. Today, it seems almost unthinkable. We use the phrase "that's so yesterday!" playfully, but it's true, ancient habits are dropping like newspaper subscribers.
Does technology effect the course of evolution? Of course it does. With no data to back this up, just years of observational evidence, I would say that the human species has morphed significantly since the computer entered popular culture a mere twenty-five years ago. The need to adapt new ways of doing things, new concepts, new information, has stimulated our brains to work faster and in more abstract ways. The digital age has altered the activities and priorities of species forever. It's only a matter of time before certain advantageous mutations start to appear in the next generations. You could say that the sheer momentum of change blinds us to the consequenses of change. You could say that, but you'd be trampled under Prius.
(illustrations by Dan Craig)
Thursday, March 29, 2007
Drinking from the teet of LA's airwaves...
I've sang the praises of Los Angeles radio in the past and will do so again. Yes, we all know that Jonesy is great, KXLU is a goldmine, KCLU is the ultimate "oldies" station (but please, "more music and Les Perry"), the talk on KPCC and KPFK is often genuinely progressive (or embarrassingly "Liberal"), and that the pirate station,104.7, when it's on, is really on. And yes, we're all tired of Nick Hardcourt's California anesthesia on Morning Becomes Eclectic (and schilling for Range Rover, oh Nick!) and we're completely over KCRW's ultra-contrived, too-cool yawnfest (with a few fine exceptions, Mr. Trinidad).
But what about classical music? There are a few good stations around the dial. I especially love the colossally abrupt switch on KXLU from dopey college kids to the Early Evening Concert at 6. Such a wonderful disconnect! But the real superstar of classical radio in LA has to be Jim Svejda on KUSC (91.5). You'd have to start with his voice which has been described as "stick up the ass" by some, but not by me. It's an extremely musical voice, as unpredictable and varied as the sounds of an orchestra. It contains a spectrum of wry notes, dramatic pauses, and swallowed bitchslaps. When I first started hearing him, I said, "This man is drunk!"
And I'm not saying now that he isn't. Drunk on his work perhaps. But whatever he's on, his commentary is bold, informative, and often hilarious. His interviews are even better. I know very little about the world of classical music, but feel compelled to learn more when Wild Jimmy S. is on the radio. Sure, Svejda seems to have the requisite pretentions and haughtiness that classical aficionados demand, but it's his rebelliousness and humor that get my vote.
By the way, you'll probably want Mr. Svejda to look something like Bill Nighy in a crimson smoking jacket. If that's your mental image, then don't go Googling him.
Wednesday, March 28, 2007
Sometimes I think my moods are directly tied to the weather. Did you catch that freak hour-long storm in LA yesterday? Horizontal hail, 50 mile winds, low black geometric Henry Moore clouds scraping the hilltops, sun shining on the other side of the sky, and then it all blew out to sea. Today the city is clean and clear as a bell. The decks have been swabbed. Time for someting shiny and new to arrive.
Word of the Day for Wednesday, March 28, 2007
presentiment \prih-ZEN-tuh-muhnt\, noun:
A sense that something will or is about to happen; a premonition.
And while we're defining things, here's bellwether.
Tuesday, March 27, 2007
Which rails are you riding?
I do believe that sometimes our unconscious is stronger than our conscious apparatus. And sometimes that's great news as there's quite a bit of raw energy and information to draw on in there... you can feel the heat and radiating from behind the door. Of course, that stuff can catch you off guard, especially when you've got strong conscious notions about how you'd like things to go. Welcome to the machine! Are you the conductor or the conducted?
Monday, March 26, 2007
Sunday, March 25, 2007
Given the way the ego is wired, at some level everyone believes they are meant to be a king, a queen, a leader, a brain, a Christ, a Buddha, a rockstar, a satan, a Mother Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu... and that it's only a matter of time and/or circumstance that prevent us from attaining these exalted roles. But believing is universal (as is vanity). Confident assertion over time, on the other hand, is the skill of a privileged few. Rare indeed is the person who can focus on the future and avoid being taken advantage of by its arrival.
("Lion" by Nick Brandt)
Saturday, March 24, 2007
Rad Lad Rag Not Gaz'...
I'm not kidding when I say that some gentleman contacted me yesterday to ask, in all seriousness, if I was the editor of this magazine. I wish! Apparently it was printed by a Point Magazine Publishing House. Judging by this chippy's get up, I would have been about negative 20 years old. That said, in another lifetime I can see myself behind the editor's desk at the HE offices, sleeves up, Lucky Strike burning, deciding how exactly how much more thigh the Canadian edition would get on its cover.
Friday, March 23, 2007
Wanting begets wanting...
Thursday, March 22, 2007
Are you addicted to the reality you've created for yourself? Are you a conceptual junky trolling about for that next fix that will support the worldview you've worked so hard to build? Have you carved yourself a psychic space that agrees with your quirks and biases and also protects your weaknesses? Are you your own master hypnotist of your consciousness? Is there something more real you choose not to see? You are not alone...
The mind is a mine through which we build tunnels. We create and reuse the pathways that echo some remote inner sense of how we think things should be. In your tunneling, the things you dig around might be things you should dig straight through. Or not. It's a process fraught with blind corners and an infinite number of parallel paths. Our choices are ripe for criticism. Our blind spots are terrifyingly endearing aspects of our species. We happily roll over and offer our soft underbellies to the Tyrannosaurus rexes time after time.
Wednesday, March 21, 2007
We're all crazy! - 21st C Schizoid Man...
Schizotypal personality disorder, or simply schizotypal disorder, is a personality disorder that is characterized by a need for social isolation, odd behavior and thinking, and often unconventional beliefs such as being convinced of having extra sensory abilities.
A mnemonic that can be used to remember the criteria for schizotypal personality disorder is ME PECULIAR:
M - magical thinking, superstitiousness or the paranormal
E - eccentric behavior or appearance
P - paranoid ideation
E - experiences unusual perceptions
C - constricted affect
U - unusual thinking & speech
L - lacks friends
I - ideas of reference
A - anxiety (socially)
R - rule out psychotic disorders & pervasive developmental disorder
Go get 'em tiger!
Tuesday, March 20, 2007
Go forth and flourish young soul...
If you look for a mentor, be careful not to confuse a damaged control freak with a wise context provider. You will encounter both. The former can be persuasive and seductive at first, and the latter can seem annoyingly aloof. But that's probably your eagerness getting the better of your perceptions. Tis oft better to be empowered than enslaved.
There are so many skills and unknown talents you can supply yourself with - if you find the right environment and the right people. I'm not talking about being handed the keys to the kingdom. Restrictions are good. They force you to respond and recreate. Just be wary of inheriting past agendas or stepping into someone else's psychodrama. You've got enough baggage to carry.
("Jupiter" by Jean Raon, 1660-80)
Monday, March 19, 2007
Save the artists...
Should you have to pay for music you download online? Is it in a musician's favor to have someone download their song for free, or are they simply being pirated? This argument has been going on forever. Personally, I think the stuff should be free. I think people who buy MP3s online are supporting an outmoded system that rarely trickles down to the artist. Time to rethink.
Sarah and I have come up with an alternate system. When you want to download a song, there's an optional pop-up registry of items that the author and/or performers of the song need taken care of - everything from rent to toothpaste to green m&ms. You make a small donation that goes into a "lock box" that will pay for whatever portion of the item you have chosen, and that item only. In this way listeners can have a direct impact on the artist's well being. New economies would be created. New jobs too. Some insurance adjuster-type would have to spend time with aging rock stars to see really how many Viagra they actually went through in a month.
Rethinking your future one problem at a time... PG
Sunday, March 18, 2007
Been busy with my old friend Tim, in from Washington DC. In discussing one of his new websites, he half-jokingly describes a new demographic: High Middlebrow. Don't confuse that with upper-middleclass. It's not really an economic segmentation as much as one of personal taste. He's got some interesting projects going. More on those to come...
Friday, March 16, 2007
The masterful, distinctive, sadistic, and slightly pretentious Austrian filmmaker, Michael Haneke, is sometimes touted as a modern day Hitchcock. Rightfully so I'd say. He gets suspense and violence in ways that few contemporary directors comprehend. Unlike Hitchock's cuddly creepiness, Haneke's worlds are often cold, cruel, and unrelenting. They are also beautifully composed and deeply true so that no matter how uncomfortable things get, you can never blink. "Enter as late as possible, exit as early as possible..." is his surgical recipe for editing a scene to its most effective cut. Haneke is no spoonfeeder, he expects his viewers to do some work and answer their own questions.
If you are not familiar with his films, try Caché ("Hidden") for a tame introduction. It's a movie that might resonate more with Europeans, but the underlying issues of guilt, entitlement, and responsibility are universal. If you think you're ready for the dark side, then have a go with Funny Games (currently being remade by Haneke here in the good ol' US of A).
Thursday, March 15, 2007
Lines of the mind...
If your state of mind were represented in linear form, as in an EKG or Harold's purple crayon, how would it look? I notice that in times of stress my consciousness seems like a jittery, sawtoothed line. My senses seem to be cerebrally processed in fits and spasms and my nervous system gets wired like a panicked old lady in the passenger seat of a teenager's first car (foot poised to slam on imaginary breaks at every intersection).
Other times, when all systems are go, the lines are sharp and clean, musical even, swooping and swerving like a hawk over a field of mice. So where do you find this line? It's behind your eyes, a band of brain mass sort of up and behind the bridge of your nose. Try to pay attention to that area, feel the line of time (a separate axis) passing through you, and notice how your awareness and your reactions integrate to each passing moment.
Why am I telling you this? Because ultimately, a human wants a modicum of command over the shape of that line. Not too much (unless you are striving to become a South American dictator or tightrope walker) and not too little (unless you think jittery, unaware people are the be all and end all of fully-realized human specimens).
View "The Dot and the Line: A Romance in Lower Mathematics" here.
Wednesday, March 14, 2007
There are alternatives...
If you find yourself living in Southern California, driving around from place to place, seeing the sunglassed heads of people dressed up in their cars, and either you, or they, are listening to the books-on-CD of Dr. Wayne Dyer, the question remains: Have I been in California too long? Are these habits at the expense of something greater? Or lesser?
(From "Sibusiso Mbhele and his fish helicopter" by Koto Bolofo)
Tuesday, March 13, 2007
Monday, March 12, 2007
Sunday, March 11, 2007
The other Paris...
There is/was a row of falafel shops off of Rue Vielle du Temple in Paris in the Marais. One in particular was my favorite. No, not L'As du Falafel, another one. On the corner. For about five dollars (the very most I could afford) you got a pita packed with the most incredible assortment of things inside, ultra-vivid purple sauteed eggplant in particular. That was my one meal a day and it was always beyond delicious. Hope it's still there. And the wooden bench in the sun next to it. The smells and the tall crumbling walls and the marching Parisians were so nice to take in while brooding and munching slowly on the day's repast.
Once I was walking through the Marais at night, and a massive bearded Lubavitcher Hasidim pleaded with me (in Yiddish?) to follow him. I did. We walked in silence through narrow streets I'd never been on. At last he took me into a small doorway, a dark room with a gas stove. He pointed to the stove. Could I turn on the gas for him to boil water? Could I turn on the light switch? But only for a moment so he could find something in a dark corner. Stacks of Jewish newspapers everywhere. Windows covered with sheets. I understood that touching these pieces of modern technology were religious no-no's. Beyond that, he was such an unusual man. Dreamlike memory.
I never felt entirely comfortable in Paris. But I can see now that these feelings were, in large part, coming from inside of me. That said, there is something about those cutting French stares you get on the street that can truly make you feel like a fart in an elevator. But it's a game. You stare right back. A duel in passing. It's a great city and I miss it, especially in the springtime - cliches be damned.
Saturday, March 10, 2007
What's behind springing ahead?
As you've heard, our president ordered daylight savings time early this year. Tonight in fact, all the way through the first Sunday in November. Why is that?
The reason you're likely to hear on the news and in passing conversation: it's an attempt to save energy. More daylight means less lights going on, and therefore less strain on the energy grid, right? Well my dears, if you hang out in the dark, secret, underground meetings, at warehouses by the docks, like I do, you know the REAL reasons...
OIL OIL OIL: More sunlight means more driving time. More trips to the beach, the mall, the gas station. More gas guzzling.
SHOPPING! People shop more when there's more light after work. Do your duty nation: CONSUME!
GOLF INDUSTRY: Republicans, I mean, people get to golf more when there's more daylight. RU Fore that!?
CANDY LOBBYISTS! It's true. The candy lobbyists have been screaming for more daylight on Halloween so that juniors can collect more sugar for his and her growing little teeth and bodies. W is happy to oblige.
Don't get me wrong, I like the sun. I moved to California to worship it. But please, let's not be hanging any "green" accolades where they don't belong. Oh, and keep an eye on your electronics for the next 24 hours. They might get a little wonky as they do or don't adapt to the change.
Friday, March 09, 2007
A friend returned from a month outside of Miami where he was taking care of an ill grandparent. "There was no public transportation, no stores nearby, no nothing," he explained. "I bascially spent an entire month on the Internet."
Just as land fill once transformed unusable marshlands into priceless waterfront real estate (as in the case of lower Manhattan), today the Internet is expanding the surface area of "reality" into a vast new frontiers. The trick with this virtual reality is that we dictate the content and the flow rather than enduring the local realities we would normally confront. Which begs the question: If you spend a solid month in virtual reality or on the Internet Googling each and every whim and remote interest and following the natural procession of random links to new and unknown information, do you come out the other end a smarter more enlightened human being, or do you come out with a headache and a fat ass?
RIP Monsieur Baudrillard. You saw all of this coming, didn't you?
Thursday, March 08, 2007
Maslow for all...
All humans have a hierarchy of needs ranging from basic to spiritual. Abraham Maslow knew a thing or two about this, and came to refer to the complex nature of our higher needs as self-actualization. As he saw it, our needs are best understood in terms of a pyramid structure with the basics at the foundation and the higher needs at the apex. Among the highest of all needs is having a strong sense of purpose in life. Makes sense.
Now I would argue that there is something similar going on across the entire animal kingdom. All living organisms aspire to make the most of their lives on earth, whether consciously or by biological programming. An elk can not type and a fruit bat makes a lousy investment banker, but this makes them no less engaged in the theater of life than we humans are. Non-humans are simply less interested in "becoming" and more interested in fulfilling their biological destiny as part of the larger biome. Non-human mammals in particular seem content with a simple purpose: to own their position in the food chain. There is an inherent dignity to this ownership and you can see it by looking in a lion's eye or a mouse's. From our perspective, we might say that there are pluses and minuses to every slot on the food chain. However, an animal is happy to kill for food and happy to be killed for food as long as it is in accordance to the balance sheet of nature.
With great power comes great responsibility. Here at the top of the food chain, we owe it to all the other "rungs" to behave in accordance to the balance sheet of nature. To respect the needs of all living creatures. I think we've lost all sense of what that might possibly mean. We are blinded by the magnificent sheen of our own godlike creation: civilization. I'm no Luddite, and of course, there's no going back. Progress is the name of the game. The question for today is what portion of our resources and our imaginations will we dedicate to defining and discovering balance?
("Plier Food Chain" photo from Make Magazine)
Wednesday, March 07, 2007
This way to the Egress...
Why do people go to museums and galleries with that look of hope and confusion written all over their faces? What are they looking for? Don't they know that artists and curators conspire to hypnotize us into looking at the art they want us to immortalize for them? Don't the gallery-going, museum-loving culture vultures with their fancy scarves and eyewear (or their big shorts and striped t-shirts) see that they have paid to be hoodwinked? Look, there's nothing wrong with appreciating art. But trust yourself. Find art anywhere. And keep your wits about you in controlled art environments. True aesthetic abandon will find you, you don't have to surrender beforehand.
How many great artists go unrecognized simply because so many sheep-people need someone to grab their heads and physically point them in the direction of work that is supposedly worthy. "Ooo, Ahhh" we say on cue. But take a look out the window at any gallery or museum. Can the art on the walls really make you go "Ooo, Ahhh" any more than what you see happening outside? Very rarely. When it does, you'll definitely hear me going, "Ooo, Ahhh" right here for your benefit. Art happens mostly in the viewers' eyes, rarely in the art object itself.
Tuesday, March 06, 2007
Did Nixon eat Wooly Mammoth?
I have a distinct memory of being told as a youngster that Richard Nixon ate Wooly Mammoth with some Chinese politicians on his trip there in 1972. I was four in 1972, and yes, the memory plays tricks, but I'm telling you Nixon ate Mammoth (or was it Mastadon?). They found the 10,000 year-old shaggy pachyderm frozen in the Siberian tundra, they made some burgers, and ate the damn thing at a velvet-draped banquet. So why can't I find anything about this on the internets?
The spoiled sports over at Wikipedia are trying to rain on my parade with this:
"To date, thirty-nine preserved bodies have been found, but only four of them are complete. In most cases the flesh shows signs of decay before its freezing and later desiccation. Stories abound about frozen mammoth corpses that were still edible once defrosted, but the original sources (e.g. William R. Farrand's article in Science 133 [March 17, 1961]:729-735) indicate that the corpses were in fact terribly decayed, and the stench so unbearable that only the dogs accompanying the finders showed any interest in the flesh."
But I'm not buying it. There have been hoaxes in the past. It's a cover up. Nixon ate Mammoth... Or was it Bigfoot?
Monday, March 05, 2007
The recent history of the Los Angeles Times is a microcosm of the modern world. You have some of the best writers, editors, and reporters in the country assembled and ready to do their finest work. And yet lately they have not been able to do so...
The Los Angeles Times has been, and is currently poised to be a great newspaper, the forth national paper of record after NYTimes, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal (some might also include USA Today). This would necessarily mean having reporters on the ground in places like Iraq and China and other world hotspots. The country could benefit from having another distinct voice weighing in on the public discourse. Right?
Wrong. The Los Angeles Times, according to a recent PBS Frontline report, has become first and foremost a business beholden to its stockholders - NOT a public trust with a mission to deliver original international news. They claim that the people of Los Angeles do not want a paper that wins Pulitzer Prizes and covers the war in Iraq. They claim that since it can not be proven that serious, high quality journalism yields increased profits... out it goes. That's sad and I do hope they, or perhaps some new owners, will reconsider this decision.
The key here lies in a phenomenon called hyperlocalization - reinventing the news media as a collective of throroughly localized reporting bases. To me it seems like yet another effort to prevent people from seeing the big picture, but one can also see the advantages. But should the LA Times, a paper with 125 years of experience in the international news arena, simply throw in the towel and tout celebrity bake sales on its front page? Call me old fashioned, but I say no.
When things like newspapers and hospitals and social security are treated as profit-driven businesses everybody loses. Do we want a country that is run by a cult of feed-the-beast, more-more-more, numbers-runners? Where economic growth is the goal, the god, and where life on earth is simply the renewable fuel that keeps the numbers going up?
For a more in depth look at the fate of news, and the chaning tides the LA Times, see this fascinating Frontline report.
Sunday, March 04, 2007
Blueprints of life and death...
I've found an old cassette tape of a horoscope reading that was done for me in early 1992. I barely remember it happening, let alone the details of those 90 minutes. It's terrifyingly accurate in places (in that general sort of way). It blocks out various eras and experiences of the last 14 years (and on into the future) with a commitment to detail that would fluster even the most hardened skeptic. In a certain respect, it seems to portray the life I should have lived, my "on track" destiny. Hearing this tape now, I am forced to wonder: Is it possible that in my rebellious nature I subconsciously derailed myself from those destinies and desires that seem so right for me? On the flipside, for the parts that have come "true," I wonder how much of a self-fulfilling prophecy these readings are? To what extent do these mythic forecasts sink into our psyches and our biological clocks and suggest pathways through the chaos?
No matter what our destiny, each biological life must come to an end. Death is the 800 pound gorilla in the room with us every moment of every day. We tend not to think about how it will arrive for us, though there may be some vague, romantic notions in the back of our minds. The Death of Mr. Lazarescu is a great film for dashing those romantic notions. It is a stark portrait of the last hours of an average man's life in modern day Romania. Here is comedy at it's bleakest and blackest. It captures the horrific details of being shuttled from one hospital to another, the gigantic egos of the young, overworked doctors, the collapse of the rational mind, and the mechanical processes we have created to deal with this most enduring mystery. This film will take a few minutes to get into, but I encourage you to stay with it. Your life may depend on it!
(The fading Lazarescu gets a CAT Scan)
Saturday, March 03, 2007
With fat, ripe avocados hanging from the branches everywhere you look in my neck of the woods, you'd better have a good, fast guacamole recipe ready to go. Here's mine:
The main thing for all you non-Californians is to get good ingredients. The skin of the avocado should be wrinkly and almost black - like a petrified bull testicle that is soft to the touch. Mmmm.
The other key ingredient can either be homemade or store bought. Salsa (picante). Splurge on a fresh delicious salsa as spicy as you like (I like it spicy). Just make sure there are NO PICKLED PEPPERS in the salsa, like pepperoncinis. They will dominate the flavor of the guac in a bad way. Good salsa. No peppers. Fresher the better.
Now, cut an avocado in half lengthwise. Squeeze each half into a medium sized bowl mushing the meat as it slips through the skin. DO NOT THROW OUT THE PIT. Leave it in the bowl with the avocado. This will prevent your guac from turning gray. Honest. Why? "Because it thinks it is still in the cage," a Greek woman told me while in Mexico. Got it?
So do this again. Three large avocados will make enough guac for four or five people. You can add garlic if you like, but make sure it's fresh as hell and slice it thin thin thin like they did in Goodfellas (with a razor blade). Don't mix it up yet. You want chunky mole. Leave the pits in.
OK, now dump a good amount (a handful?) of fresh salsa on top of the avocados. Sprinkle some sea salt around, and then a nice finely chopped handful of fresh cilantro. Now you can mush it up, leaving chunks but making sure the salt gets well mixed in. No need for crushed black pepper, but go ahead if you like.
Lastly, you can squeeze some fresh lemon or lime juice (no more than 1/2 fruit) into the mole. Mix one last time and serve with blue chips and Margaritas on the rocks (without triple sec - no mixing, no congeners, no hangover!). Now you pepper lovers can stick some sliced yellow and red peppers in for aesthetic reasons. But for the love of Mole, forget the pickled peppers, please! Bad idea. Now go on, Enjoy.
Friday, March 02, 2007
I've seen material wealth. Great material wealth. It looks nice and inspires envy and puts too much emphasis on second and third tier desires. Look, all we really want out of life is some sense of purpose in our work and to have people around us who "get" us. I can't stress the importance of this latter part enough. We need others around us who legitimately enjoy our quirks and our outlook, who can tap into our intellectual and emotional reserves, and with whom we can laugh and grow. Quiet lives of desperation are no longer fashionable my dears.
I've spent a certain amount of time around older people in the last few years. The ones who are most alive are like wise children with wrinkly skin. They have retained their curiosity and creativity and married them to their collected wisdom. They have edited their anxieties, tallied up their observations, and somehow perfected their identities. They are ready for anything that engages them and allows them to relate to others in deeply playful ways.
This, amigos, I wish for you.
("Mrs. Peel, We're Needed!" from the Avengers)
Thursday, March 01, 2007
The Death of Tragedy...
A German friend says that us Americans are no good when it comes to experiencing tragedy. Disaster and catastrophe, sure, anything big and final that has a whiff of Armageddon suits us fine, but not the quiet, lingering, soul-wrenching sense of ruin that tragedy demands.
You might argue that the New World was colonized in an attempt to leave behind that Old World sense of tragedy. So strong is that impulse in us still, that our culture has embraced the single least flattering and least serious of all the senses in its place: the sense of kooky.
(Title card from Werner Herzog's "Heart of Glass")