Monday, January 31, 2011

Dialing in...

People are like radios. We want to be tuned in properly. We want to broadcast important info. And we make an awful lot of ugly noise in the name of turning a buck. But if you turn the dial with care and discrimination, and dial into the right station, you can hear beautiful music, affecting news and other wonderful things.

("Sintonizando" by Fernando Vicente)

Saturday, January 29, 2011

The Day the Earth Still Stood...

I can confirm that spell check does not work in dreams.

I can confirm that I'm still pissed at the Taliban for blowing up those Buddha's.

I can confirm that colds are spread by anonymous sneezes and that that fact remains deeply disturbing and disgusting to me.

I can confirm that Brooke Shields' 1987 Princeton Thesis was entitled "The Initiation: From Innocence to Experience: The Pre-Adolescent/Adolescent Journey in the Films of Louis Malle, 'Pretty Baby' and 'Lacombe Lucien.'"

I can not confirm what Wikileaks and the US Government have to do with the riots in Egypt but theories abound.

I can confirm my own queasy feeling that ongoing plans are underway that will ultimately lead to the demise of radical Islamic power bases and the rise of new Democratic ones in their place.

I can confirm that the widespread pedaling of the 2012 end-times idea is useful to people looking to implement big changes now.

I can confirm that I am apolitical at this stage in my life.

I can confirm that I feel overwhelmed and powerless if I try to understand power and politics and that any ideas I might have about those things are only chimera born at the collision of my projections and my impressions.

(Swarovski Kristallwelten Fountain, Wattens, Austria)

Friday, January 28, 2011

Laugh riots...

To be sure it's a violent bloody mess over there in Egypt. Still, I enjoyed this story in the Times today about Egyptian protesters who made nice with riot police in Alexandria for a short while this morning.

"In an incredible scene in Alexandria, the site of a more than two-hour pitched street battle ended with protesters and police shaking hands and sharing water bottles on the same street corner where minutes before they were exchanging hails of stones and tear-gas canisters were arcing through the sky. "

It recalls the "Christmas Truce" of 1914 whereupon front-line German and British combat soldiers in WWI left their respective trenches on Christmas Eve to gather on the muddy battlefields of Flanders to sing carols, exchange gifts, and play soccer.

It also recalls my own experience of being caught in a violent rock-throwing and tear-gas filled manifestation between students, anarchists, and police in Paris in the early 90s. While crossing the grassy battlefield of the Esplanade des Invalides, I was arrested by a young French officer for having a corkscrew in my pocket. I spent that day in plastic handcuffs in a Parisian police office with hundreds of protesters and innocent corkscrew bearers waiting to be "proceesed." The next day I returned to the scene of the manifestation and there behind a plexiglass shield I encountered the same young officer who had arrested me the day before. He lowered his shield, smiled, shook my hand, and offered me a cigarette. The sun was shining. I asked him if he had my (confiscated) corkscrew. He laughed and said I looked like I needed it. Looking around I noticed that many of the protesters were calmly, playfully talking to the riot police; actors on a stage just before the curtain lifts. All of us in our early 20's or thereabouts. Kids engaging, flexing coltish political muscles, new ideas, age old anger. And then a rock flew, and another, and another, the shields went up and the games began. Violent, serious games motivated by deeply heartfelt agendas - but games nonetheless.

(photo: A boy runs from a column of riot policeman during protests in downtown Cairo January 25, 2011. REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh)

Thursday, January 27, 2011

The slick clicks of the Phoropter...

You've seen tens, possibly hundreds of these in your lifetime. And you do not know what it is called.

It is a phoropter. Now you know.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Fall ahead...

Thanks Eleni for reminding me that achieving balance is one thing, an essential learning phase, but achieving imbalance is life that crackles and moves.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Corporate Completion...

Isn't it ironic that corporate America is so goal oriented, so geared towards final results, and yet it just goes seemingly on and on forever? What is the final goal of an evil multinational? Wouldn't it be great if the gentlemen over at Exon/Esso or Coca-Cola sat down, reviewed their coffers, and went, "Shit we made a lot of money this year! OK guys, let's divvy it up and shut down the store." If the goal is wealth, let's stop pretending that the dubious "service" needs to be maintained once the overlords have "earned" beaucoup bucks.

BTW, I just noticed that Google has quietly abandoned their "don't be evil" mantra.

"We shelter in ourselves an angel whom we constantly shock."
- Jean Cocteau

("Wing of a Roller" by Albrecht Dürer, 1502)

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Dark days...

Cosmological weather report...

"Although nothing can move through space faster than the speed of light, there’s no limit on how fast space itself can expand.

A hundred billion years from now, any galaxy that’s not resident in our neighborhood will have been swept away by swelling space for so long that it will be racing from us at faster than the speed of light. Light emitted by such galaxies will therefore fight a losing battle to traverse the rapidly widening gulf that separates us. The light will never reach Earth and so the galaxies will slip permanently beyond our capacity to see, regardless of how powerful our telescopes may become.

Because of this, when future astronomers look to the sky, they will no longer witness the past. The past will have drifted beyond the cliffs of space. Observations will reveal nothing but an endless stretch of inky black stillness."

(From NYTimes article "Darkness at the Edge of the Universe" by Brian Greene, photo by Lynne Silverman)

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Caught within a dream within a dream...

There's a lurking feeling lately of being caught in a dream. Time and space, beginnings and endings, forwards and backwards, inner and outer, seem off. I have sudden feelings of falling that seem to come from elsewhere. There are feelings of remembering that I have to wake up because there's something I must do. I can't remember what it is and then I typically become distracted with the mundane reality trap in front of me. There are too many coincidences and strange and symbolic occurrences to account for. Ignoring this only works for so long. People seem to be slightly altered versions of people I knew before. The reanimation of things. My computer dies and comes back to life. Animals seem strangely sentient: The cat sleeps on me with eyes wide open, staring at me. A brown recluse spider crawls right over me. People seem like shape-shifters. Random, intense conversations with passing acquaintances seemingly about nothing and everything. There's been lots of loose talk of dreams and there being no such thing as reality from all sorts of people (inlcuding the rants and reported obsessions of the Arizona shooter). Then there are movies like Inception and Shutter Island (maybe I am being kept in a deep drug-induced sleep in Leonardo di Caprio's basement?). I've noticed cloning stories everywhere: oranges, bananas, cats, sheep, and people. As I say, too many coincidences, repeating mutations of themes and memes. Paranoid delusions Pablo? Maybe so, but none of this feels like a trick of the mind, simply a deeper awareness of how our the strange fabric of our reality is stitched together. I'm sane. My self is intact. My psyche is functioning as normal. There's just an awareness of a feedback loop where ideas and layers of time are pressing against each other. And as the dreaminess builds, the feeling that Sarah is fully aware of all of this precariousness, these seven veils. The sense that she is a benevolent angel ("parthenogenic"? her random word yesterday), someone who is perhaps slowly guiding me back to wakefulness and a place within earshot of a truer calling. Towards the memory of incredible clarity. Of being awake. And yet here I am and I'm growing tired. I'm getting older. The folds are folding in upon themselves. Blanket caves of soothing, repeating daily routines. This dream is nice. It has a cat! I'll just stay here. I don't want to fight or struggle any more. But then the jolting feeling of falling again. Wake up man! We need you elsewhere. These thoughts all happen in a second or two and it's on with hazy business as usual. Life is strange. Sarah assures me when you feel the strangeness of being alive intensifying and accelerating, it's a sign of things getting better. Which is nice to know.

(Illustration by Christopher Gray)

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Still on hold with AT&T...

It's been five days of countless hours on hold. Once every couple of hours I encounter a living person, I explain my situation, they say they can't help me, please hold, and I'll connect you to the right department. Cue the muzak. And then I wait on hold for forty minutes or an hour or more and finally, I get disconnected. "We're so sorry for the inconvenience, how can I help you?" And so on. Hour after hour. Call after call. I return to this punishment. Like a drug addict. Can they keep me on hold longer? Can I contain my anger? Will Zen calm turn into an explosion that lands me in an anger management class?

Today, while on hold, my phone is temporarily shut off. Strange. Like an ambulance getting a flat tire. No one in five days can figure out how to take a payment under the new "improved" system. Finally found someone gracious enough to take my money, which was Christian of them, but all of my original problems still exist. All of the problems AT&T created by changing their billing process exist, that is. On top of this, I have learned that these good people have been charging me $35 a month for a phone line that was shut down in April of 2007. And more, I've been paying some "third party" a monthly fee of $9 for access to "rap ringtones" for god knows how long. I love all of this. Because finally I can point to what I hate about modern life. The devil is not in the details. The devil runs customer service at AT&T.

The Japanese must have a word for the kind of fury and helplessness I feel. OK, I know I'm just a spoiled American. Some people wait days for a cup of drinking water. I know. But emotions are real. Kong get angry.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

AT&T is pretentious (and infuriating)...

Reading customer reviews on Netflix is a fascinating and sometimes depressing window into our world. So many good and great movies (in my opinion) given low scores because people didn't "get" them. "Pretentious" is the default criticism.

Time to wheel out that old Eno quote again: 'I decided to turn the word "pretentious" into a compliment. The common assumption is that there are "real" people and there are others who are pretending to be something they're not. There is also an assumption that there's something morally wrong with pretending.'

Is it possible that people who dismiss films they see on Netflix as "pretentious" simply couldn't access the proper level of patience, open mindedness, and curiosity at the time of viewing? Maybe they were tired. Maybe their mind was still at the office. Maybe their heart was locked up over the squabble over squab at dinner.

My fear is that as a culture we're becoming too busy, too practical, too frustrated, dumbed down, distracted, and dismissive to appreciate things that don't completely spell themselves out for us.

Which is ironic, because I'm writing this while on hold with AT&T. It's taken me over two hours of waiting on hold over two days to get bounced from person to person over and over. All I want to do is pay my bill. I want to give AT&T my money, but their system is a maze so impossible to navigate that no one can help me. Oh look, I just got disconnected.

In an effort to correct what's wrong with the world, I hereby proclaim AT&T's customer service "pretentious" and Chris Marker's "Sans Soleil" a totally accessible work of international beauty and wonder.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Beyond planning and trying...

A man on earth patiently waited for god to emerge through him. I had a shocking sensation of being alive while watching this, of existing. Mind and desire and modern concerns were frozen for a moment.

John Bunion (J. B.) Murray (1908-1988) was a farmer who lived in rural Glascock County, Georgia. When he was approximately seventy years of age, believing he had experienced a vision from God, he began writing a non discursive script on adding machine tape, wall board, and stationery. He described it as "the language of the Holy Spirit, direct from God" and interpreted it using a bottle of water as a focusing device.

Great little films all throughout the FolkStreams site.

(Writing in Unknown Tongue: Reading through the Water by Judith Mcwillie, 1986)

Saturday, January 08, 2011

Ban automatic and semi-automatic weapons...

Too many guns. At the very least: No more automatic or semi-automatic weapons. Seriously. Ban them (again). Burn them. Stop. WTF?! Why does any US citizen need a gun that allows for rapid repeat fire? What kind of rights are we defending? Where is the leadership on this? Why won't Obama back a law banning assault weapons? I mean I get it - the gun-loving Right would love the government to try to pry their assault weapons from their cold dead hands. But really - is being able to own a weapon that can kill a nine year-old child and several others in a matter of seconds such a glorious symbol of freedom? I don't get it.

I was especially struck by John McCain's statement moments ago: “Whoever did this; whatever their reason, they are a disgrace to Arizona, this country and the human race, and they deserve and will receive the contempt of all decent people and the strongest punishment of the law.”

Why invoke contempt at this moment? Of course it's a heinous event, but decreeing that hate should and will be amplified as a result of this tragedy... really? You begin to sense a certain mindset even in elected civil servants.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Nobruary & Sobertober...

This one has been a few years in the making, but I finally worked out the details and, critically, the cute branding angle. But I'm getting ahead of myself...

Here's the pitch.

Have you noticed how certain times of year seem to foster excessive personal intake? Summer and winter holidays seem to be the usual culprits. Aren't most New Year's resolutions about regimens of discipline and curtailing our expanded holiday appetites? A rush to monasticism in the aftermath of Bacchanalian times?

Have you spiraled into lazy habits and lax portions? If so, relax, you're human. You've enjoyed yourself and that's a good thing. Now it's simply time to beat yourself up mercilessly and confront the toxic nausea of your debaucherous ways. Cause and effect baby. It's hell. But hell gets easier. And the rewards of adhering to disciplined stretches are great!

What the hell is he talking about? He's talking about:


You see, I do ok with the food intake. But as someone with French and Russian blood, I'll admit that there can be some ever-so-slightly elevated spirits passing though my mortal coils during the Summer and winter Holidays. Nothing serious or negative, but an area where keen awareness never hurts.

Won't you join me as I spend the months of February and October of every year 100% free of alcohol and unhealthy foodstuffs? I have no intention of becoming a monk for the rest of my life. Balance in everything. Frankly, there are times for letting loose and not policing every bit of intake. That said, I'm just as eager to just say no.