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    Sometime During Eternity

    Thursday, March 17, 2011, 11:17 PM [General]

    Sometime during eternity
    some guys show up
    and one of them
    who shows up real late
    is a kind of carpenter
    from some square-type place
    like Galilee
    and he starts wailing
    and claiming he is hep
    to who made heaven
    and earth
    and that the cat
    who really laid it on us
    is his Dad

    And moreover
    he adds
    It's all writ down
    on some scroll-type parchments
    which some henchmen
    leave lying around the Dead Sea somewheres
    a long time ago
    and which you won't even find
    for a coupla thousand years or so
    or at least for
    ninteen hundred and fortyseven
    of them
    to be exact
    and even then
    nobody really believes them
    or me
    for that matter

    You're hot
    they tell him

    And they cool him

    They stretch him on the Tree to cool
    And everybody after that
    is always making models
    of this Tree
    with Him hung up
    and always crooning His name
    and calling Him to come down
    and sit in
    on their combo
    as if he is THE king cat
    who's got to blow
    or they can't quite make it

    Only he don't come down
    from His Tree

    Him just hang there
    on His Tree
    looking real Petered out
    and real cool
    and also
    according to a roundup
    of late world news
    from the usual unreliable sources
    real dead 

    --Lawrence Ferlinghetti, 1958

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    15 Minutes

    Wednesday, March 16, 2011, 10:23 AM [General]

    Rebecca Black's "Friday," released by Ark Music Factory this past weekend on YouTube, has already gotten six-and-a-half million hits, and nobody knows why.

    I mean nobody knows why any of this. Why this song? Why this singer? Why is everybody watching this? What's going on?

    It's Friday, Friday, gotta get down on Friday;
    Everybody's lookin' forward to the weekend.
    Partyin', partyin' (yeah!), partyin', partyin' (yeah!)
    Lookin' forward to the weekend.

    I presume Ms. Black herself penned (or keyboarded) these somewhat less than memorable lyrics, which she sings in an on-key and tonally adequate but affectless voice that resonates in a kind of nasally honk, accompanied by an autotune drone. Also, Rebecca is a very cute 13-year-old, but YouTube is loaded with pretty young girls singing dopey original songs.

    So if it's not the song and not the singer which account for the millions of views, then what is it? Some have suggested that the inherent badness of this work is enough to attract attention, but it's really not all that bad. It sounds exactly like the music they play at the McDonald's in Port Orchard, which I call "machine pop." It's like music written and performed by a computer program, and sounds basically inhuman.

    My theory is that even though this is a truly terrible song performed by an indifferent singer, it's well made, and the combination works. A terrible song by an unmemorable singer, if shot on a cell phone, is simply boring to try to watch, but "Friday" is kind of fun, And it has 6,932,810 views -- up by half a million or so since I started writing this -- plus new parodies of it are appearing every hour.  Judge for yourself (, and keep in mind that tomorrow is Saturday, and Sunday comes "afterwards."

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    Saturday, July 10, 2010, 7:38 PM [General]

    I heard my daughter using the word "permaculture," and figured it had something to do with the environmental activism implied in cob building. But I got curious thinking about all the possible ramifications of a word which combines "permanent" with both "culture" and "agriculture," and realized I didn't know what it means.

    The Wikipedia article on Permaculture tells us that it "is an approach to designing human settlements and agricultural systems that mimic the relationships found in natural ecologies," adding that it's not one specific thing or another, but a system of interrelated design principles which would enable people to live ecologically sustainable lives while reducing their reliance on the industrial methods of production and distribution which have all but destroyed the earth.

    So permacultural approaches to food, shelter, clothing, and transportation could potentially change everything we have and do. A cob cottage is a manifestation of permaculture; a suburban tract house isn't. Organic gardening, bicycles, composting toilets, and acoustic string bands are all vehicles for permaculture; factory farming, automobiles, modern bathrooms, and rock concerts are the opposite of it.

    Permaculture could very well be a non-violent revolution waiting to happen. Its rejection of industrial methodology and its handmaiden, consumerism, implies a rejection of capitalist ideology and all its attendant commercial, mercantile, and financial relationships as well, not to mention the corrupt and violent political system which serves the plutocrats in charge of those relationships. Its widespread adoption in what used to be called "the first world" (the industrialized world) might lead us to think differently about the earth's human carrying capacity. We tend to assume the planet is overpopulated, but what would be the effect if a hundred million people currently living lives of profligacy and waste lived much more lightly upon the earth?

    This movement has a longer history than I would have thought, having originated in Australia in the '60's and '70's. (The Wikipedia article includes an excellent historical overview) But as with so many things in the world today, such as the prospect of nuclear disarmament, the future of this new paradigm is much more important than its past. Among other things, permaculture provides a possible scenario for the future of the human race, which might otherwise not have a future. And if the overwhelming majority today disdains the idea of living in a self-made mud hut, or growing their own food, or abstaining from meat, or riding a bike to the store instead of driving, many of them are going to feel differently five years from now when there's no gas and no money.

    Just one more thing, for those who may be inspired by these ideas: nobody goes from living as a consumer of industrial goods to a permacultural existence overnight. The bridge from our current destructive and unsustainable living arrangements to more sustainable, small-scale, and decentralized modes is necessarily accomplished incrementally, in discrete steps. We need to adopt the new paradigm piece by piece, incorporating each major part of the design into our lives before moving on to the next. On the other hand, since time is growing shorter, we need to apply deliberate and daily effort to the task, and avoid procrastinating.

    see also:

    3.2 (1 Ratings)

    beyond politics

    Wednesday, June 30, 2010, 1:19 PM [General]

    I get so tired of the wining bastards who want to put down this Great Country and our Flag says a contributor to the Facebook page, "If the American Flag Offends You, I'll Be Happy to Help You Pack." If this is such a bad place then why did you come here and why do you stay. One of the things that makes our country great is the fact that you can leave any fucking time you want to, so if is so bad then get the FUCK out. GOD BLESS THE USA AND THE FLAG THAT REPRESENTS US!!!!!!!!

    My purpose here is not to ridicule internet litter; that's unnecessary considering the ineptitude. However, this kind of disjointed, barely articulated crying out is useful for showing the degree to which people are capable of misjudging the scope and seriousness of the crisis confronting not just this country, but the entirety of what is sometimes called the developed world.

    If our current troubles were just a matter of plugging the leaks in this zombie empire still trying to pass itself off as a country, and setting it on a course more likely to enhance our survival as a nation, that's doable. Unlikely, but possible. If it was just a matter of righting the ship of state, the tasks facing us would be, not easy, but a lot easier.

    The thing is, the crisis now unfolding isn't just political -- it's way beyond that. We're locked into one of those enormous historical centrifuges now, in which everything -- countries, economies, populations, cultural identities -- everything is being spun irresistibly from the center. A whole way of life, and a whole orientation toward life is going down the tubes right now. The seeds of destruction were sewn, says Morris Berman, 100 years or so ago, when the scientific method, so necessary to human progress in the dark and superstitious past, was integrated into, and began evolving "within the context of an expanding industrial, technological, and corporate/commercial culture."

    Especially since World War II, the good in our lives has been defined by goods, and the object of living to pile up lots and lots of stuff, because the "values and ideology of marketing and consumerism managed to overwhelm America in the twentieth century."

    "(C)ommercial groups in cooperation with other elites committed to accumulating profit on an ever-increasing scale" gradually came to dominate both economies and cultures world-wide, Berman continues, "until this way of viewing the world pushed out any other vision of the good life." 

    Now, all of a sudden, that way of viewing the world has fallen to ashes, and sunk under the weight of the BP oil spill, and that catastrophe has forced us to focus on what really matters, and sent an instant revelation showing like a compass where the true good lies. The spill is augmented by this empire's perpetual wars in distant places waged for inscrutable reasons, and most importantly by the second Great Depression, which appears here to stay, further undermining the constant media hum encouraging everyone to "buy more." Under these pressures, the world -- the developed world especially, is breaking out of what sociologist Max Weber called the "iron cage" of industrial society.

    We're not talking regime change here, such as the one where the regime of Clueless George gave way to that of the vague and timid Barack Obama. This is (I hate to say it) a paradigm shift, and world systems, says one historian, don't fail, they "restructure."
    All quotes from Morris Berman are from "The Twilight of American Culture" (Norton, '06), pages 110-120.

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    rapid transit

    Sunday, June 27, 2010, 1:06 PM [General]

    Events of the past month have made painfully obvious that we've entered what Jim Kunstler calls "The Long Emergency." I prefer the more user-friendly term "rapid transition." Only the unconscious and those committed to ideological orthodoxy fail to appreciate this.

    A lot of people are baffled and don't know what to do to be able to deal with the new realities. But there are three things everybody can do right now, and we're crazy if we don't.

    1. Get a bicycle, and ride it. For most, the second part is the hard part. It's either that or ride the bus. I realize some people have to travel long distances to work. OK then, I didn't say "ride it all the time." But I don't think there's a car-dependent family in this country that couldn't convert a lot of the errands and recreational trips now done by car to two wheels, saving thousands of miles and hundreds of gallons a year.

    A lot of people who have bikes don't ride them. But now there is fierce and compelling urgency behind the command, "Get off your rusty dusty and just do it." Park the car and leave it.

    And don't tell me you can't do it. I'm doing it, and I'm a 66-year old man with emphysema, the result of 50 years of smoking cigarettes while driving cars. If I can do it, nearly anybody can.

    2. Stop eating meat. Or if you must, make it chicken, and try to show a little respect for the creature you're devouring by finding out whether it had a real life, as opposed to a slow death on the wire.

    But red meat is out. I know that's a tough one for a lot of people, but consider: According to the UN, livestock grazing takes up about 26 percent of the earth's land surface, and cultivation of feed crops presently requires about a third of arable land. In addition, livestock is responsible for 18 percent of greenhouse gas emissions -- that's more than transportation puts out, world-wide. Not only that, but too much of the stuff is bad for you. 

    Fish is OK if it's caught in the wild.

    3. Don't listen to them. The reason there are no political solutions to Kunstler's Long Emergency is because all the truly important members of the political caste have been bought up, whether they're actively on the take or not. They're relegated to serving as water carriers and gophers for the corporate oligarchy, without whose approval they could not have risen to where they are, and who are our true rulers. That's why Obama seems impenetrably stupid sometimes, even though we know he's not, especially on matters such as the Afghan War.

    The Oligarchy is now so isolated and out of touch with real people's lives, and hence reality, than they can't imagine the world functioning on any terms other than what they've known in the past, which was characterized by growth made possible by readily available, cheap petroleum and easy credit. Both of those things have vanished and won't ever return, 

    The main reason we need to stop listening to them is to free our own minds of habits and entrenched attitudes about the world and our place in it that have become unconscious and almost reflexive. Andrew McDonald on his site Radical Relocalization describes the ideological inertia all of us suffer this way: "We've lived in that old story for a very long time and its back story - that growth is good and inevitable - is so in our bones, so embodied in us literally that new thinking doesn't affect it much. The Industrial Revolution and the turbo-charge provided by fossil fuel has strengthened these assumptions. We maintain them in small unnoticed ways. When we go shopping or to work, when we talk to friends - we're actors in a world where the script is still the old story about progress and growth and we bow to that story's conventions before we know it. If we watch TV or advertising, it's the old story, even if with some new lines."

    Key to changing our thinking is to stop feeding bullshit about "the recovery" or "nation building in Afghanistan" into the hopper, and that can be most efficiently accomplished by swearing off what are commonly known as "mainstream" media. The stenographers and glitzy talking heads of the infotainment industry are nearly universally oblivious to the fact that in these times all viable activity will proceed from the only revelation that matters -- John the Revelator said it best in the opening lines of his 21st chapter: "And I saw a new heaven, and a new earth: for the first heaven, and the first earth were passed away..."

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