Saturday, December 20, 2008

Katana vs. Credit...

I'm going to take this ID theft as an opportunity to reacquaint myself with money. I've always had a strange relationship with the stuff. As some of you know, I am really interested in the idea of a non-monetarily based society, how that might look and function, and that obsession will not change.

What will change is the way I deal with money in reality - I will have to stop looking down my nose at it, and get beyond what I perceive to be inherently evil about our current monetary/credit system. That core bit of anthropomorphization turns me into too much of a reactionary, which in turn has inspired the lamest possible participation in an all too real and powerful system. If you ignore the game the game will eat you.

Now that I know that the monetary system is ripe for human abuse, and that these abuses become mass-addictions that really undermine our potential and kill off so many other more interesting and fruitful ways of being, what will I do? I'll climb right into the devil's most fiery furnace of course!

I am talking about credit here. Seen from one angle, credit is a particularly magical thing, and a credit card really has the potential to be nothing less than the Samurai sword of our day. However, due to rampant greed and oppression and a general disrespect for credit's enormous power, this is not the case for most of us.

Furthermore, unlike the Samurai sword, each person is "entitled" to a credit card, even if there is scant instruction on its use and inherent dangers available. Imagine if every person in pre-industrial Japan were carelessly given such a precision instrument of death and destruction. There would be no Japan today! But for some reason, our American brand of democracy, which touts so many bold unfairnesses, is extremely egalitarian when it comes to putting a credit line in every pot.

So, wrapping up, I'm thinking about approaching credit in 2009 with all the discipline and respect a Samurai shows towards his sword. Because I acknowledge my previous abuses and pursuant dismissal of the credit system, I will start very small, taking on something like the Samurai equivalent of a butter knife. But I will (re)enter the game cautiously, methodically, realistically, conscious of my distrust, confident of my ability to master the game.

Friday, December 19, 2008

To rotting souls...

ID theft is rampant and recurring to the point of being non-news. Now I'm a statistic too. Someone used my account to clean me out. How did they get all the infos? No idea. But I've spent the day watching the emails roll in from around the globe telling me what wondrous goods I've purchased. Now all of my accounts are frozen and I'm getting on a plane to go to a city that doesn't have any branches of my bank. All the money spent by my thieving co-humans will not be reimbursed until the case is solved. There are many more complications and implications, I needn't go into them. In short, I'm screwed by a stranger and the Xmas carols jingle merrily on.

Indeed the world is changing. If life were Photoshop, I'd say that the levels and the saturation have been pushed way, way up. Lately, global events have taken on a mythic psychological richness. The curtain of unshakable normalcy has tattered and fallen. Every act is revealed to its unalterable core - the stakes have escalated, good and evil slap against each other like ocean waves in a man-made inlet. Are we out for ourselves, or can we find a headspace that includes our neighbor? The battle rages. Can you feel it?

To the person or people who stole my identity, you have my name, you might be inclined to Google me, you might find this post, so let me tell you that I feel sorry for you. I don't know what motivated these acts - boredom, thrill-seeking, a yearning for bizarre Chinese items, low self-esteem, an anarchistic credo, who knows. I'm offended that this dumb, hurtful act is your offering to me, one human to another, and worse, your offering to a society in decay. Do you pine for an ending? Is this the meaning of your contribution?

Believe me when I tell you, my little thief, you picked an odd victim. I know what it's like to be angry at the world and to think, I'm gonna get my share now of what's mine. My anger takes a different form, it gets internalized and makes me feel slightly paralyzed and overwhelmed at times. But you have shown great promise in your ability to take action and to survive. You are exploiting a fallible and deeply flawed system and surrounding yourself with material rewards. You might even feel some kind of victory. Is it great? Will you write or call and tell me how it makes you feel? I deserve this at the very least, don't I?

OK, too late to continue. Thief, I sincerely hope that guilt will plague you like an endless nightmare until you consider the impact of your actions. Use your creative skills to improve this hellish earth.

(PS: I'll bet Dick Cheney uses Amazon too...)

Thursday, December 18, 2008

The joy of happiness...

I've been trying to remember the times in my life when I was happiest, since the question was posed at Thanksgiving. That's a tough one, because happy is a sort of byproduct of fulfillment, which is a very well-rounded condition that can contain notes of sadness, melancholia, or even pure misery. Happy, even the very feel of the word as I type it, is so damn drenched in positivity, I just want to counter its bias with a lemon-soaked grimace. OK, so taking all that into account, when was I happiest...

Rather than recalling specific times, I'd like to convey a state of being that has occurred on numerous occasions over the years. In this state, there is a distinct melting of inner and outer - a sense of boundless connection between my being and the world around me. In this charmed state, the right words are spoken, the right moves are made, the right people are nearby, the right rhythms flow through all molecules. It's an endorphin bath that spills across time and space. It's music. Not surprisingly, many of these moments are directly related to music - the making of it (when I was in bands and working with my pal Ted), or the simple enjoyment of the right piece of music in the right moment.

Non-musically speaking, being in the same room as my lady can produce high levels of happiness in my bloodstream. Good conversations and rooms filled with constructive arguments too. Writing can trigger the endorphin floods. Sex is nice. Bike rides at sunset are important. All of these things foster a feeling of moving forward in a Universe that is capable of chaos, cruelty, and nothingness, but favors warmth, growth, and engagement. Call it chemistry, call it flow, call it Ishmael, when the moment of happiness arrives, drop everything and embrace it.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Good Friends...

This guy Paul Gachot sure takes some instigating animal snaps.

Check it out here.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Breaking News: Evolution Over...

We had a great time with Sarah's dad here in Venice last week. He has some provocative ideas, one of which is that the process of natural selection has been replaced with human, intellectual selection. In other words, our steady dominion over the planet has snatched the course of evolution away from Nature and put the big choices about our future squarely into our own hands. Like it or not, who stays, who goes, how hot it will be, what qualities are favorable, and what defines "the fittest" is now a system we manage. We are the deciders. This should go smoothly.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

All I want for Christmas...

The clarity of ideas
The agility of creativity
The quality of debate
The weight of complexity
The joy of collaboration
The grace of action
The sound of music
The feeling of feeling.

(installation by Chiharu Shiota)

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Zoo is not a dirty word...

My friend Brenda Posada, Director of Publications at the LA Zoo, is knee deep in the current, much publicized controversy over the new elephant enclosure being built at the zoo. A vocal group of animal activists has called for halting construction, and the city council is to vote tomorrow on the fate of the project. As of this moment, things aren't looking so good for the new exhibit.

As I have stated many times before, I believe that zoos are extremely important aspects of our urban environment. Live animals trigger something in us that bypasses our civilized selves and connects with our deepest existential core. Developing children need to experience animals, smell their smells, analyze their ways of moving and interacting. Adults need to be reminded of their essential animals selves as they wend their way through the marketplace and the imaginary world of money. And what of the animals' welfare? As we willfully destroy their natural habitats, I think it is our obligation to provide our animal cousins with quality homes that meet their individual needs. Zoos can do this.

So what's really going on with the elephant project over at the LA Zoo? Like Brenda, I believe, that animal activists have their heart in the right place, but they are failing to understand what a zoo is in 2008 and the level of care they provide.

It's true that elephants are notoriously difficult to keep in captivity. This new enclosure attempts to address these very issues. More importantly, the big question is if the enclosure isn't completed, where will Billy the Asian elephant or any other potential pachyderms go? What are the best options for the animals? Weighing all the choices, completing the enclosure is clearly the best way forward.

Please read Brenda's fine piece from the Huffington Post found here.

PS: If you are interested, please email me and I will tell you how to contact the city council to express your pro-elephant-enclosure sentiments.