Sunday, January 27, 2008

Living in the Abattoir

I read an article this morning in the ideas section of the Boston Globe that was all about how the Federal Reserve and congress are in no position to be able to get a grip on the financial crisis that's shaking up Wall Street at the moment because the complexity of these new innovations in financing are so complicated that nobody understands them. The investments are all being funneled through conduits like the CDO's that have gone so bad recently so that the banks don't actually have to have the capital in reserve to cover their bets if the whole thing goes sour. There's this whole shadow economy that's all about shifting debts and a bunch of hooha. It's basically a gigantic and really complicated shell game, but the outcome may be the same. We all lose out if the whole thing collapses. While I advocate thinking outside the capitalist box and looking at better less greed-based ways of social organizing, if our financial markets collapse it'll be the kind of disaster that ends with wars and killings and all that nonsense. While it is highly clear to me at least that we need to change the structure of society if we want to move past the problems of the last millenium, it'll have to be a gradual, non-violent kind of, oh okay yeah I take yr point move, over and against a raging violent revolution, but if we're not careful we may get the revolution without any solid alternative to the current system. That's just as sketchy. Okay, I've probably gone a little out to the rim on that rant, but the basic point is solid. We should really think about what it is we're doing here. Capitalism is in the end unsustainable. The system calls for continued and unrestrained growth. Planet Earth is not equiped for that kind of move. We should really be looking for how to bring the system of social organization into some kind of stasis, not just groping for more material shit for ourselves and our kin. I mean, come on, right? That's a pretty shallow approach don't you think? We can go deeper.

Pass the what?

I definitely throw out some fairly incomprehensible cultural reference sometimes. I'm also a fan of the non-sequitor blogtitle. It has also become clear that I'm on a non-stop digression to ultimate dementia, so there's something to look forward to. Now there's an idea, a blogger with dementia. I think I would actually like to read that blog strange as it may seem. I'm listening to a Chuck Palaniuk audiobook that's somewhat of an autobio, and he talks about volunteering at an old folks home to help people with Alzeheimer's by going through their old photos and trying to help them remember. He said that people would come up with different stories every time, which is so odd and fascinating. Are they just making stuff up, or do they really believe that these constantly changing story's are the truth? Obviously, they don't know the stories changing,, the deterioration of the mind is a scary thought sometimes.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Seraphim tendencies

I am an unfortunate sufferer from this angelic problem in that I remove myself from the world that exists 'out there', and tend to just waddle away in my own little corner of the universe. I don't think that I actively disengage, but I'm ultimately fairly disengaged from the world we live in. I used to get pretty worked up about politics, and I actually used to do a lot of volunteer work. In the end, I just felt like it wasn't adding up to anything but frustration and disenchantment. So, now I live in obliviousness, and it is truly that. I've been ranging around ye' olde interweb, and I've yet to come up with anything even vaguely similar in tone to my blogstyle, which is not entirely suprising. I wouldn't expect the whole world to heap overheated cynicism onto a beleagured world, but I figured there'd be a few more of us than I seem to find. I mean come on, where's all the vague abstractionists who ponder wanderously about whatever comes into their heads. I can't be the only one.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Gotta be sayin' something

So, I felt that I had to say something on Heath Ledger. I generally don't feel any need to weigh in on matters of celebrity culture other than to shake my head in disgust, but with Ledger, I felt I needed to put something on the record. Not any speculations about the circumstances of his death, but to say that he was one of the greatest actors of my generation, and he will be sorely missed in the land of shallow beauty that haunts the halls and dales of our films and television shows like a virulent flubug. To me, the sign of a great actor and not a larger than life personality who stars in vehicles for his own albeit exaggerated, swaggered, and reinvented for the millionth time persona is a little thing called range. Brando had it. Newman has it. Ed Norton has it, and Heath Ledger had it. If you look at his performances in Lords of Dogtown, The Brothers Grimm, and, of course, the unbelievably subdued intensity of his performance in Brokeback Mountain, you see a true actor. Not some recycled persona being retread yet again. Not to take anything away from the Brad Pitts of this world. The world needs amazingly handsome, slightly eccentric characters to make us all feel, what exactly, maybe...yeah, I'm drawing a blank, but somehow the world needs them too. To my mind the world could use a few more solid actors like Mr. Ledger was. He is already missed.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Whispers amongst the tintamar

Is there any better feeling than the feeling of accomplishment? When you really feel like you've got hold of the beast's neck and ripped off a solid chunk of success, now that's a good day. Two days ago I had one of those days. The ideas would not stop even for the enevitable need to finally sleep. I just love the mad rush of thoughts and consciousness that is the frenetic beat of wild inspiration. Needless to say, I also fear the unforgiving power of that, ultimately, madness, but one must ride the big wave sometimes. Otherwise, it's all just a lot of talk and a badge.

A year in the life of an unlikely Astrophysicist

So, which is my third favorite word behind regardless and anyways, I read Candy Girl this past week, and it was super rad: so funny and smart and observant. I have to admit I felt like some wierd voyeur looking through the anthropological peephole of perversion by the end, but such wit. Who can resist? On top of my own enjoyment, the guys I work with, many of whom haven't read a book since high school, are clamoring to borrow it. It's now being passed around the warehouse. If you can get people to read who wouldn't otherwise, then yr doing something right in my book.

Monday, January 14, 2008

My own private Auld Lang Syne

As I've mentioned, I hate the way we go about year ending reflection in this country. The idea that everything can be boiled down into a list of ten things makes entirely no sense to me, and why does everything have to be ranked anyway. If pushed to do it, I still don't think I could tell you whether I liked The Bloody Fortress better than The Bicycle Thief. I like them in different ways, and they certainly both struck me with different emotional tones, but to say definitively that one is better than the other. I won't do it, and shame on every film critic on the planet for cowtowing to editors on this front. Still I do want to get in on the look back on the year past even if in a belated fashion. Actually I wouldn't have it any other way.
So I'm just gonna jump into this because it's been roaming around in my head for a week now. I saw Black Snake Moan for the first time last week, and I was alternately harrumphish and happy with the outcome. There's just something about Craig Brewer's work that is a little off putting to me, and it's not the controversial nature of the subject matter. I have no problem with an old black man chaining a young white woman to a radiator per se, but doing that within the confines of an otherwise naturalistic film and trying to make it play without feeling forced like a conceit is tough. Brewer doesn't quite get there unfortunately because I'm totally rooting for him even if his filmmaking career may be coming to an end. How he got Black Snake Moan or Hustle & Flow made within the studio system is beyond me. I can't even imagine. Anyway, I had a point here.
The point being that Black Snake Moan seemed to fit in some kind of indiestyle counterpoint to the film Juno which has been in my mind a lot since seeing it a couple of weeks ago. It has quickly become the yardstick by which witty turns of phrase are going to be judged, and it also on some level deals with tough issues. Therein is really the problem. While Juno is the film that I preferred, Black Snake Moan is undoubtedly a more complicated and in some ways a much more honest film. It's messy and while neither of them have endings with the perverbial Hollywood bow around them, the end of Moan felt more like it was leading into the complications of life than Juno did.
Although there are some thematic undercurrents that both films share, obviously these are two very different films tonally. While I worry about a film that makes pregnancy seem like a mild inconvenience, I enjoyed Juno immensely, and while I appreciated the ideas of love tolerance that permeated Moan, the film seemed to much like a conceit, the blues movie, for me to really get to a place of willful suspension of disbelief.
Anyway, I think there's something in these two films that play off each other and make me think of them in some sort of comparative analysis, so I'll try to get into that a little more deeply. I have to say, I find it difficult to use the blog forum to say much in the way that is all the way to meaningful and considered. I do like that off-the-cuffness. Sometimes though I want to go a little deeper, and I just find it difficult to get there without maybe starting somewhere else. If that makes any sense.

Is it any wonder?

There was a confluence of events last week that has me thinking about the state of the world once again. I have to admit that I've been cynicized by my own failure to engage successfully in the political process or do much that was of any use to anyone anywhere. That about sums up how I feel about myself right now. It's not that I don't pay attention or care. It's just that my own Quaker background requires a supererogation from its adherents. The Q's have been on the forefront of progressive movements since the early days of the American colonies, and their modern counterparts are no slouches themselves. Well, except for me that is.
Anyway, the point I was trying to get at through all that was that I read the book, Three Cups of Tea, last week, and was pretty blown away at what this guy Mortenson is doing trying to build schools in rural Pakistan. It's really important work, and I applaud him for it. The world could definitely use more earnest, determined, slightly goofy souls like his appears to be. If only I weren't such a selfish, cynical bastard, I might do something useful too. It's a good lesson in the application of yr own spirit to the problems you see at hand around you. Not all of us can be that seriously determined, but it's always inspiring to see that kind of pluck in action.

randomness abandonment

I just read an article that claimed the most expensive bottle of champagne sold at auction for eighteen grand. I just have to say that with something like fifty percent of the world's population living on less than 2 dollars a day that is just another blinding example of the shameless and unfortunate structure of our world. Some dude gets semi-drunk for more than a whole African village may spend in a decade. How did we get here? How did we get so callously unconcerned for the global village we all live in? I know I sound all hippy-dippy, wishy-washy, but seriously, we should really reconsider our national social organizations. I'm not calling for armed insurrection or anything, but maybe just a little bit more American will put into equalizing human opportunity. The idea that capitalism rewards those who deserve it is such an illusion. I mean come on, some dumbass paid 18 grand for a bottle of bubbly. What justly world improvement did this jerk-off lay on us to be able to afford that? I ask you.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Obsessions with the time loss

I've been known to sit staring at a clock in order not to miss a moment of time, but what kind of time is that? I always feel like time is slipping through my fingers. I think it's a traditional mid-life crisis element to fear the passing of time and the inevitable sense of loss for unaccomplished goals. Putting aside the fact that I'm not quite yet at the mid-life state, I think there is something to that for myself. I used to have the reoccurring dream that I would die mysteriously on my thirtieth birthday. As the angst of adolescence wore on, the idea became a kind of mantra to me; that I had until my thirty to accomplish whatever it was I felt I was bound here to this Earth for, and for a long time the idea actually drove me to manically try to converge on every possibility I could find for meaningfulness in life. I went through sweeping lifestyle changes with the snap of a minute a hippie, the next a yuppie, then a punk, then blue collar, then collegiate, and on. I wanted a mass of life experience to work with as an author, and to see spinning through my head as I choke on my birthday cake. Now that the ominous birthday is no more than a month away, I'm forced to think about this premonition again. It hasn't been in my head much since my early twenties, but as I approach the magic number, I feel a slight sense of the kind of loss that goes with the experience of bi-polar like symptoms. If you've ever had those manic times when sleep is unnecessary and working at anything with ferocious intensity is the norm, then the normal levels of excitement and concentration pale by comparison. On the flip side are the crushing depressions that level yr ability to accomplish anything. During those times, it's a victory just to get out of bed, so there are swaths of life that consist of virtually nothing. It can be a hard life to reflect on without the cautious eye of a philosopher, which is why I tend to be philosophic about it.
Ultimately, what I saying is that I'm nowhere near to the place I intend to get with my life, and thirty years was just not enough to get there. I hope my early dreams and premonitions turn out to be foolishness, but in this last month leading up to the moment of truth, it's hard not to think back to a time when I was sure I wouldn't even make it this far.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Say it clean with clear stated intent

There has never been a time in my life when I have been able to escape on any level from the existential questions of being and nothingness to be just a little glib about the problem. I can remember clearly the long and ultimately unsatisfying first argument about the nature of the universe and the vagueness of our representations. Maybe you had a similar one. It started with the question why and ended eventually with 'Just because, now leave me alone yr giving me a headache'. It was very similar to the first argument about the nature of social conventions, which had a lot to do with hair cuts and new shoes. I was unquestionably not in favor of either, and although I've softened a little with age, I have to say my initial pre-adolescent instincts were not so far off the mark. I mean really, what is the point?
I guess that is the point...that human meanings even if ascribed to universal forces or creators are just our own little digressions and obsessions. On a slight digression of my own and on the question of god's intentions and whatnot, if you think you've got it straight from the horse's mouth let us not forget the lessons learned from the book of Job. God almighty and similar constructs are just way too omni for us to really wrap our skulls around. I mean what is omniscience really like or omnibenevolence for that matter? How about omnipotence? If you think we can do anything but indicate these concepts with some simple signifiers, then you've probably already stormed off in a huff anyway. No, I kid because I love, really.
All miserably failed attempts at humor aside, my own personal life has been filled with these kinds of wonderings, and I've never been able to escape them to the land of milk and honey known in some circles as ignorance; a quite blissful state I'm told. Regardless, it never was for me. Mostly it was a source of great anxiety about what the unknown might have in store for little old me, and then on the flip side it is always kind of fun to be a smarty pants. I'm being a little glib, but that's still a good if vague representation of the process. I guess what I'm trying to say here is that even those things that seem uncomfortable or unmanagable or even maybe like a waste of time (read: ponderous notions about the nature of life) are too me the core of what life is about. I wonder sometimes how far out of the mainstream that idea really is?

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Trash talk on the basis of nothing

I think the self-referential, megalomanical nature of blogging leads us bloggers into a stance of bullish optimism about the rightness and importance of our own opinions. I make no judgements about the lunacy or lack thereof in this approach. I merely point out a noticable trend in the machine, but maybe it's just me. I never can tell anymore.
The truth is, at least for me, I do feel some of the importance of putting it out there seeping into what was supposed to be a light-hearted and one off kind of approach to the whole blogging thing. I find myself editing and composing myself, which I think is silly. That's not what I'm trying to do. Mostly I'm just looking for a corner of the world to call my own to feel safe and happy in; Is that so much to ask?

Friday, January 4, 2008

Cynical realism with a secret heart

The boldness of a noncynical approach to any of the modern afflictions of our weary hearts is in itself a striking issue. How is it that the unshorn optimism required of whole-hearted aspiration and care for the future world seems so pase and even a little naive? It's a scary thing to realize that the practicalities of the situation are that we are superfuct, and we might as well come to grips with it and get on with our bad selves; a sad and unsavory statement if ever there was one. I, myself, exist in a bi-polar rubberband that vears between an extreme idealism and the selfsame cynicism I have voiced in that last sentence, so I know the arguments on both sides.
In any science fiction-like discussion about the possibilities of future existence my father and I might have, I always have to remind him that the whole conversation is predicated on the idea that we excuse the low likelihood of survival for spaceship Earth, and yet the title 'The Audacity of Hope' was all the reason he needed to dislike Obama. I, of course, had to read 2/3 of the book before I got hip to what a slavish pandering the whole project was, especially after the insightfulness of his first book. It was such a shame. Anyway, there is value, I think, in both edges, and the future requires from us cynical realism with a secret heart if we want to make it past the probability of self-destruction we're staring down the barrel of.

Yeti stalking in the jungles of Post-Modernism

What is the bashing recklessness of tackhammered atonement that springs achingly spryly from the mounted pillars of Northward folly? Why is the glibbish tone of tortured souls a truth serum to the youth of our modern antiquity? Where are the lavish answers that open mountaintops for the call to prayer that will resound through the valleys of the brain and unlock the bolted doorstops of the mind of humanity?
There is a code of conduct among the wild ambrosian drinkers of whom I count myself one, and it consists of one thing and one thing only: that in all of the dozy embraces occurring throughout the millenias, we must be present. So stay your mind to the foolish flinging dizziness that drowns us all in a rancorous sweat of nausea, and bring yrself back from the brink of the void to be here in the moment, now.
Is it not an obligation to the cornerstone foundations of this world that we now, in this moment, find our way into the future of our history and stop with all the foolishness? I cannot express my grief and worry for the way forward and the needlethreading acrobatics that will be required for the survival of our kind on this planet. But anyway...