Saturday, December 29, 2007

Merry Christmas to Me!

Christmas isn't really that big a deal in Casa de Silentio. At most, we swap one gift. Normally, we even let the other person in on what the gift will be -- oftimes even buying it while out with them. Last year, for example, we bought each other Sigor Ros concert tickets. This year, things were only slightly different. Different in the sense that K. bought me the gorgeous, framed & mounted concert poster to the left, and I've not yet managed to get her anything. Now, before the ladies go crazy on me here, to be fair, it's not all my fault. For starters, she went on a tear and indulged her every buying whim when we visited L.A. last week, from sweatshirts in Huntington to snazzy hats in Venice Beach -- not to mention a guided tour through Compton. And that doesn't even mention the fajita combination dinner at Chevy's we had on Christmas day. Anyway, by the time I found something tangible from me to her -- *cough* the day after Christmas *cough* -- the online store had sold out. Oh well, if the Jews can hold out using the same oil in the temple for eight days, she can stick with her old, saggy-assed pajamas for another week.

So, yes, Merry Christmas to me.

Also on Christmas, I got a revenge that was one year in the making. Last year around this time, Mr. Aquadoodiloop bested me in the championship of our fantasy football league ... by a half-point! I still remember watching the Monday night Philly game, and seeing Brian Westbrook crank out the final, meaningless junk yards that put him over the top. Shock and rage blended into a fistful of hate, which I kept clenched for a year tighter than a homophobe's sphincter in the Castro. One would think that finishing first in a Aquadoodiloop-less fantasy baseball league would've helped, but no. If anything, I became all the more determined to crush my nemesis. The season progressed to form. He and I remained neck and neck most of the way, splitting the regular season matchups; enduring the scorn of our spouses, who participated in the festivities but despaired of & mocked our fanaticism; and then we each beat back our playoff challengers. The stars aligned for our matchup last weekend, and, I'm happy to report, poetic justice whispered in my ear and promised to make my enemy her bitch. And indeed she did. I beat him by a full point this time around, but that is only because we went without fractional points -- otherwise, the margin would've been roughly the same as last year, this time in my favor. Next year, my friend ... rubber match?

Merry Christmas to me, x2.

Sadly ... not all was perfect this holiday season. Indeed, the sole significant disappointment was so tremendous as to almost ruin it all. To explain requires a little context, but even then I don't expect many to get it. Kenny Rogers Roasters has always held a very special place in the hearts and gullets of me and my friends. In college and part of graduate school, it was one of the few places we could all agree on when posed with the question, "Where you want to go for dinner?" The wood looked at the chicken it had cooked, and saw that it was good. And we loved the wood for this. The wood had little to do with the macaroni and cheese, but we loved the wood for this too. Like all good religious experiences, a little irrational attribution is natural. Kenny Rogers smiled down at us while we dirtied our faces and mouths with his food, consuming his woody goodness, and gazed up at him in admiration for the chicken he'd likely never even tasted. At some point, Kenny Rogers Roasters lost the favor of the American eating public, and it wasn't long before we lost our wood. We were at a loss for a long time. Each of us found our own substitutes, I suppose. Some of us moved on quicker than others. But I liked to think that a piece of Kenny's wood stay with us all.

Like many good things from the college years, I gave up on reliving it. It was not meant to be. That was, until the days just before leaving for my trip to L.A. It was revealed to me from a mysterious ninja from upstate New York that there was one remaining Roasters in the United States, in the Ontario Mills Mall just outside of L.A. My wood had returned, I sang, with vibratto. Sure, it would require a major detour to the east outside of L.A., not to mention venturing into the largest mall west of the Mississippi River just days before Christmas, though happily after the Chanukah rush -- but I didn't care, and I somehow managed to convince K. she shouldn't either. The saintly Belgian agreed to our detour, after taking her for one more trip to her new L.A. landmark, California Donut, and we set off while in en route back to the Bay Area.

If poetic justice smiled on me during fantasy football, cruel heartbreak kicked me in the balls. I should've known. Remember, if you will, the final Kenny Rogers Roasters is in a mall food court. A MALL FOOD COURT! I knew this, but thought, hoped, that the power of the wood would transcend it all ... and, yes, make it all good. Oh, but it was not to be. Kenny was there in name only. There were no pictures. No gold albums. No music. Only the soul-devouring dullness of ... a MALL FOOD COURT. And the food ... well, the macaroni was lukewarm at best (due to the slower than dirt mother or fourteen in front of me), and the chicken tasted as though it had been warmed up with a bathroom hand dryer. A part of me died that afternoon at the Ontario Mills Mall. Maybe a part that should've died when I graduated, alongside the hope for viable employment. The thick fog that haunted the central valley during my drive back to Oakland from L.A. that night was appropriate, that and the smell of a memory's death on my fingers and its taste in my mouth. For those taking notes, it smells like stale dog urine preserved in the fridge and tastes like under-cooked mussels.

But you know, maybe this is okay. Maybe Christmas & New Years is just as much about finally putting something to rest as it is dreaming of something new. Goodbye, Kenny. Finally. Forever. Amen.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

The Wire -- Season Four

I can't remember if I've written about The Wire here. If not, it's been a major oversight on my part. Seriously, if you've not seen this show, do so. Season Four was released on DVD today, and K. & I just made our way through the first disc. A three-hour movie would wipe me out, but three hours into this season and I'm really pissed I don't yet have disc two (hours four through six). I remember one Friday back in Cincinnati, K. & I watched six hours of Season Three in one go. That's pretty unprecedented for me when it comes to tv.

You're not liable to find more captivating characters on tv, and the degree of investment in them is a little unsettling. Three episodes in now, and my heart is already aching for at least two of this season's new characters. And Bodie... poor, stupid, but strangely noble Bodie. I fear he won't make it to Season Five. Such is the life of a street soldier.

Anyway, I repeat. Get this on your queue, buy it used. Get caught up on The Wire.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007


This past weekend, I took some mild heat from a friend I didn't even know visited Silentio for not posting anymore. Consider it a hiatus, of sorts, even if I have been blogging elsewhere. You, dear Silentio, are always my first love, though. Even when neglected. Like the slave in my closet. Umm.

This month, as you may know, is National Novel Writing Month. Being basically unemployed, and having completed the writing and publishing projects that had consumed my time for months, I figured I'd give it a shot. My first thought was an epic erotic poem. Not enough epic poetry written these days, and certainly not erotic poetry. In fits and starts, grunts and gasps, I made my way through a series of jaw-dropping stanzas. Write-in participants swooned at the ever-expanding girth of my word count. And then, as quickly as it began, I was finished. Done before the story was. One week into November.

The next week I began a new story. This time, I decided to go Gothic. Conjure up a little modern Poe, perhaps. If we cannot satisfy our readers' sexual appetites, we'll make them curl into a ball on their bed, screaming into the pristine-clean sheets, biting their pillow. The result: a simple story of a preacher who loves his only son, but on occasion beats him silly -- claiming later to be possessed. The son loves his father, believes him and decides that accepting his Satanic beating would be the ultimate act of love for his possessed father. I quickly realized , within a week, there was not 70,000 words to be had in this short story.

The third week I devoted to a a not-so-distant not-quite dystopian future, in which the middle class has not so much revolted as gone insane. Their employers, recognizing the high cost of fuel, and succumbing to governmental pressure to "Go Green," have granted their employees a wish: work from home. The only problem, these same employees, who are no longer able to afford the appearance of luxury promised to them by the late-20th/early-21st century, have become slaves to their suburban homes and the gadgets they've amassed. With no refuge from what they've gathered for themselves, one couple systematically destroys their possessions in increasingly creative ways -- discussing the beauty of burning HDTVs, cooking IPods while they play in their portable Bose players, and disassembling SUVS and using the parts to create a totem commemorating Mammon's death.

But then I decided I wanted to write something socially relevant. So, this week I've poured myself into a writing a screenplay about a chef who loves his food creations so much that he cannot bear to have them eaten. So, in a madcap comedy he has to figure out a way to keep his job as a lead chef by serving somebody else's food. Finally, through a series of hilarious events, he decides to try some of his own cooking. He dies from salmonella-poisoning.

A Movie Review

‘I knowed you was crazy when I saw you settin’ there. I knowed exactly what was in store for me.’

‘Yes. Things fall into place.’

Beyond the stark and brute depiction of the preparation, explosion and aftermath of violence that makes up so much of No Country For Old Men, there is a much more steady, and more enduringly interesting, reflection on the insanity and inevitability of this violence. Joel and Ethan Coen have never shied from the ironic or insane elements of brutality, as most famously depicted in their contemporary classic Fargo, but never with such exhaustion or nihilism. Indeed, it took the suffocating absence of irony in Cormac McCarthy’s literary vision for them finally to realize despair.

The principle characters of this triangulate tale are introduced quickly. First, the story’s moral conscience and commentator, Sheriff Ed Tom Bell. In a wind-swept, weary voice-over he speaks, as though only to himself, of how crime is not what it once was. He no longer understands what he is fighting, and is in fact unsure he wants to. The world, he suspects, is so far gone that to fight against it is to become a part of it; and to become a part of it is to endanger one’s soul. As Bell speaks, the camera pans from the parched Texas prairie to the very embodiment of what he is fighting and fearing, Anton Chigurh.

Fittingly, and in retrospective defiance of Bell’s opening monologue, Chigurh begins the film in police custody. ‘Yessir, I got it covered,’ says the deputy, as he reports Chigurh’s recent arrest to his superior over the phone. Within seconds, however, the deputy is dead, strangled to death by a handcuffed Chigurh. The only facial expression Chigurh shows is that of physical exertion. Beyond that, it is blank. We are thus introduced to a killer who kills not for pleasure or strictly for gain. His is, we learn, a moral conscience of its own—that of a pure activity that requires no commentary. In a world not quite fit for the gods, Chigurh is depicted as the closest we have.

The aim of Chigurh’s activity throughout the film is finding and punishing his own Prometheus, Llewelyn Moss. Moss is a ‘man’s man’. He is rugged: he is an outdoorsman who tracks and hunts wild game; and as observed by his wife, he’s never been known to quit when faced with a challenge. He is human: he loves his wife; and he has compassion for those who are suffering. And most of all, he is decisive. He decides, first of all, to investigate the mysterious scene of a drug deal gone bloodily bad; he decides to take the $2 million he finds; he decides to return to the scene hours later so that he might give water to the sole survivor. All these decisions, and those that follow, set in motion a series of events that inevitably lead to an anticipated climactic encounter with Bell and Chigurh.

The Coens are masters of their craft in telling this story. Many of the scenes are long, but they remain taut and intricate in their details, especially those depicting the cat and mouse chase between Chigurh and Moss. Bell remains on the outskirts of the action, distanced from its immediate tension, but not its effects. Each corpse and clue incites a reflection that confirms his belief that he is no longer cut out for his line of work. Time has, he believes, caught up with him, and the “old ways” and manners no longer hold true. The world is, in effect, damned. And neither the Coens nor McCarthy are interested in redeeming it for us. The world’s damnation is without question. Theirs is, rather, whether this damnation is new, or have we always carried its curse?

What seems to go unremarked in most assessments of No Country for Old Men, be it the novel or the film, is the degree to which this most tragic of questions is explored in a modern, “genre-fiction” rendition of classical tragedy. We have all of the constituent structural parts: a monologue/prologue; an actor-chorus, or amoibaion, who comments on the action mostly from a distance (i.e. Sheriff Bell); an episodic story paced by Bell’s “choral” reflections/stasimons; and even a multi-layered, epiphanic exodus. Of course, unlike classical tragedy, our encounter with these elements is in all likelihood initially unnoticed; or where it is noticed, especially during Bell’s extended debate with his mentor on lost innocence and present depravity during the post-climactic denouement of Chigurh’s stalking of Moss, it is easy to overlook the complexly tragic implications of what is happening in the midst of this apparently conservative reminiscing of a bygone era.

The Coens set all the converging pieces in motion with delightful, expert pacing, and as we see Bell approaching the scene, we already know that the violence that propelled the players forward is not far behind. Up to this point, we have been given very little indication that the Coens are going to really push the crime genre beyond itself, and thus beyond the description and depiction of the insanity at our violent, damnable core. And yet, here, the tragic content of No Country for Old Men really takes shape, beyond even the experiments with its form (which the Coens have already used to some degree, though to comic effect, in The Big Lebowski).

In the end, this very violent story is not really about violence—its celebration, its ironic send-up, or even its condemnation. Moreover, and far more provocatively, in placing markedly more emphasis on the immediate results of the story’s climactic confrontation than on the unfolding of the confrontation itself, emphasizes the fact that, for the Coens, neither is this film consumed by a narrative structure that privileges climax. Rather, in the style of a true modern tragedy, violence accompanies and inheres to the decisions made by Moss, to those he appears freely to choose and those set upon him; the climactic, pitched battle we anticipate, in effect, has already been set by the decisions made. It is only now for the players to play their parts.

Where Bell cannot face this, and is compelled instead to look backward, and Moss is fixated on the pure contingency of trying to stay alive, only Chirguh seems to know the truth laid out by the Coens and McCarthy. ‘You know how this is going to turn out, don’t you?’ he asks Moss. Chigurh, the humourless force of nature, compared in the film to the bubonic plague, cannot be placated: ‘You can't make a deal with him. Even if you gave him the money he'd still kill you. He's a peculiar man. You could even say that he has principles. Principles that transcend money or drugs or anything like that. He's not like you.’ Indeed, on a certain level, it could even be argued that Chigurh does not in fact decide who lives and who dies. Through their decisions, those pre-determined as well as those that emerge purely from chance, death and life are dealt. As such, in the midst of contingency, the inevitability of consequences lurks. Chigurh illustrates this a couple of times, when he flips a coin and places a person’s fate on whether they call it correctly. One central character refuses, arguing instead, ‘The coin don’t have no say. It’s just you.’ But in the final scheme of fate and nature, refusal is its own decision, with its own consequences.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Football Blogging: Week 2

I wanted to blog every Monday of this year's NFL season, but a somewhat spur of the moment roadtrip to Seattle last week scuttled my plans. I was back late Sunday night, but I was in no shape to assess what had transpired the day before. Plus, I'd only been able to catch bits and pieces of the Bears-Chargers game on the radio. Fortunately, this weekend I was able to be as slothful as I wanted to be. Fresh from the high that was Kentucky's 40-34 throttling of Louisville on Saturday, I sat down Sunday morning very excited.

A few random thoughts from my day on the couch:

  • Fantasy football owners of Joey Galloway, be very very wary. I've seen this before. He is one of the ultimate in fantasy teases. You bench him, and he ends up torching New Orleans for 135 yards and 2 TDs. You start him next week, and he gets two balls for 40 yards and a fumble. Beware.
  • Braylon Edwards hasn't been in the league long enough to develop a reputation, but the Browns have. I don't see him doing quite so well against Oakland next week, and I think Oakland will get its first win of the season.
  • Good people of Oakland, please don't sell out all the Raider games. I really don't want to get stuck with them on my tv every week. It's bad enough I'll have to avoid the 49ers winning ugly every week. Is there a worse looking 2-0 offense?
  • Speaking of ugly, the AFC West will threaten the NFC North for ugliest (but most competitive) division in football.
  • I hate to think it, but the Steelers might win the AFC North with relative ease.
  • I really wish LaDanian Thomlinson had a blog so he had an immediate outlet to whine after every loss.
  • If the Bengals don't fire Chuck Bresnahan this season, and possibly even Marvin Lewis, two things should happen: a) fans should turn in their season tickets, and b) the first-team offense should refuse to take the field. I love that I actually read some columns talking about the "surprising" Bengals defense stopping the Ravens last week. Back up. Read that entire sentence. They got a bunch of turnovers from.... the offensively inept Baltimore RAVENS. It's shocking that they gave up 500+ yards to the Browns -- nobody knew they were that bad -- but c'mon. Some perspective, please.
  • I was ready to crown Indy the team to beat after they destroyed the Saints last week. Well, not so fast. Indy is still great, don't me wrong. They look about as good as they were at the end of last season (which, is a couple of steps below where the Patriots are now, but hey!). Beating this Saints team doesn't look to be a big deal right about now. It almost makes me wonder if everybody took it easy on New Orleans last year, via NFL mandate. I'm not saying that people threw games. Save that for the NBA. Just eased back, so as not to blow them out of the water early in the game. Make it exciting in the fourth quarter. If you win in the fourth fine ... but keep it close. Remember, the Saints were a couple of late stops and scores away from a losing record last year. Hmmm.
  • I was asking somebody before the Chargers game ... why is everybody so big on them? Outside of Gates and Thomlinson, what other weapons do they have? Are any of their WRs even starters in your fantasy leagues -- the true measure of a championship caliber team?
  • A friend's observation from last night: "John Madden is so precious. Everyone else has reached the point of being so bad, that I actually enjoy him now."
  • Edgarrin James = comeback season? Great game for him yesterday, and he actually looked nice and fiesty in the Cardinals otherwise abysmal loss against the 49ers last week.
  • The Houston Texans should campaign the NFL to switch conferences. Who could beat them in the NFC right now?
  • Quentin Jammer has such a kickass good porn name for such an overrated corner. (Unrelated: Eat My Black Meat 2 on Spice is a little pricey.)
  • I may not leave my wife for Feist, but I would certainly invite her into the relationship. Interestingly, upon revealing this to a friend with whom I was watching last night game, he pointed out to me that my porn fantasies almost always revolve somebody who resembles my wife. Aww. Love ya, honey!
  • Not entirely apropos of nothing, during the 49ers-Rams game, the announcers kept using the term "muff," as a kind of shorthand for "muffed punt." I need to rewatch the telecast, but I swear I remember the announcer say, "That's the second muff of the day," "They're all over the muff," and "The recovered the muff." If you're not at least giggling at this, you should not be reading this post.
  • So, the kid in the new psychadelic Peyton Manning ad ... that's his inner child? Huh? Oh ... and yes, Marvin Harrison in the tank of sharks, clearly some kind of subtle indication of his being kept in the closet because of his homophobic head coach.
  • Ben Stiller just needs to go away. Maybe he'll learn from Owen Wilson's mistakes. Cut WITH the wrist, Ben. WITH.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

A Link

A little bit lighter on the posting this week. I started a full-time temp. job, and am only just now getting used to the jolt to my regular routine.

I did find the time to read this fabulous synopsis of the current market meltdown, how we got to this point and where it all might be heading & why. Much better than what you're liable to find in most newspapers. It's a bit long, but very worth your time. Surprisingly, even a good many of the comments are worth reading.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

The Lighter Side

I realize I've been a little shrill and alarmist as of late. So, I thought I'd step back from the brink of annihilation. If only for a bit.

Two music-related notes. (1) I recently downloaded D'Angelo's now-rather-old Brown Sugar CD, and I've fallen in love with him all over again. Fortunately, K. doesn't like him AT ALL. All the more for me! For D'Angelo fans, he has a new CD coming out this month, I think. (2) If anybody out there should have a copy of Herbie Nichols' Love, Gloom, Cash, Love, and you're not opposed to making me a copy, I'd be forever grateful. This is a ridiculously hard CD to find in CD shops.

Two links. First, the likely NSFW link -- it's a short piece on one man's sex education in the "Second Life" virtual world. It's not a flawless piece of writing, but if you can't at least giggle at lines like "Within seconds Justyn Jewell was balls deep in Tony's avatar," then you're beyond hope.

Second, it's been while since I've linked to Mark Morford, several years in fact, but last week's column about America's obsession with free shit is spot-on and terrific.

Free plane ticket! Free iPod! Free colonoscopy! Free tank of gas! Free extra set of cheap useless knives when you buy the two other sets of cheap useless knives! Free supersizing of your Coke! Free upgrade to premium membership when you commit to a 10-year contract! Pay no money whatsoever! Seriously! No money at all! All we ask in return: countless, endless chunks of your time, your brain, your intelligence, your health, your soul, your respect for nature, just a little bit of your ability to think and feel and care about the world. Come on now, is that too much to ask?

Thursday, August 09, 2007

The Problem With Blame

I was responding to Gabe's comment to the previous post, and realized it might be fitting just to publish it here instead -- if only to keep up my streak of daily posting this week.

Re: I think the bottom line is what James Kunstler and you have been harping on: we cannot continue to live as we have been living... but we are surrounded by fucking idiots.

What's worse, in my opinion, is that I don't think we can so easily look around and blame the "fucking idiots" for this mess. Consumption, be it the kind that rapes the environment or the kind that ignores reality (i.e., via credit & debt), is now fully engrained & inseparable from our contemporary culture. Which to say, it is almost impossible for most people to do live truly alternative lifestyles, let alone imagine something differently.

For example. One of the things observed about the decrease in gas consumption in California is that it is mostly because of California's wealth. I.e., in a very real sense, they simply can afford to conserve, either by living in urban areas, or buying cars w/ better fuel consumption, etc. For the vast majority of Americans, however, this is almost impossible. They have, for example, accumulated so much shit in their houses that to move to a smaller, urban area would mean they'd have to leave as trash a lot of the things they've picked up along the way -- enormous couches, a tv p/room, rugs fit more for the Tajj Mahal than Maple Avenue, dust-covered treadmills, pool tables, etc.

(And this is to say nothing at all of the neglected urban cores themselves, where we are asking people to move in order to consume less. They have become inhospitable places, due to a generation of poor maintenance, decayed family and doomed communities. Which is to say, it takes more to bring people to an urban area than opening a couple of bars. What's worse, the problems of urban living are mostly correctable for those who can afford it. The moment an urban area is "cleaned up," look around, and you'll likely find it has been "cleaned" of those who are blamed for making it dirty -- the poor, the homeless, the drug addicts. They are blamed for their irresponsible maintenance of their neighborhoods and the the poor stewardship of their exorbitant "government handouts," despite the fact far and away more government money (tax breaks, etc.) were extended toward the suburbanization of American cities than was extended to its core. Ah, but where there is suburban crime & decay, the blame is on video games and violent tv, not irresponsibility.)

There is also, and perhaps more fundamentally, the simple fact that most people shop at Wal-Fart or Shitkea because their budget forces them to do so. We know that we should buy a more expensive toaster or coffee table, or whatever, knowing full well the cheaper good will break down, forcing us to spend more on a litany of replacements every few years than we would on a one-time investment in something of quality craftsmanship, something that lasts. And yet, (a) most of us don't have the money on hand to make that one-time investment, so to buy the nice table means to put it in on the credit card, and thus to pay even more for it because of interest; and (b) if everybody stopped buying the cheap replacement-goods, this country's economy would shrivel & dry up faster than Betty White's vagina. When taken together, it is a powerful one-two punch that keeps us stalled, our imagination racing for an alternative we cannot conceive.

I write all this, hell, I think all this, I know that it comes off as defeatist. But I don't think so. Seeing our world as itself calling for -- groaning out for (as Saint Paul puts it) -- a fundamental change, not a "makeover" fit for ABC and that spikey-haired twat with the megaphone -- is the stuff of religion. The fact that those who consumed by this call, those who groan so often that they are finally ignored, are not always explicitly religious, and that most of those who are explicitly religious do not do so, is an indictment fit for another post.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Under $3

Yesterday I noticed that for the first time since I've been living west of the Rocky Mountains (only since May, for those of you not keeping score at home), gas dipped below $3 p/gallon. In fact, this is the cheapest gas has been out here since March. And, of course, everybody is thrilled. Especially the analysts, who you very easily beaming with the good news, "Don't worry, people. The worst is over. Our refineries are working at full strength, without problems. The price of gas is no longer related to the price of oil. And besides, even the the price of oil is tumbling after its quick ascent to $78 p/barrel week."

I hate to be so damn depressing, and I know I have been, but don't believe it. Or, if you do believe it, don't sell that Hybrid in your driveway for a new Expedition. A few things to keep in mind: (a) investors stopped their profit-taking, and thus stopping the price plummet, the very moment ConocoPhillips shut down two refineries on the East Coast (it should be recalled, US refineries are held together with spit and paper, and there is no major investment to create any new ones); (b) the price of oil skyrocketed last week even though there was no major disruption like a hurriance in the Gulf or flare-up in the Middle East; (c) the infrastructure of the oil industry, not to mention our levels of consumption, are such that it will not take much of a disruption to diminish the glut of gasoline that is causing gas to be cheaper than oil; (d) those people our newspapers quote as experts in forecasting the future cost of oil & gas have, for the most part, consistently & grossly underestimated their price; and lastly (and most importantly), (e) the price of gas has everything to do with a temporary supply glut -- with maybe a very little related to a slight uptick in conservation (esp. in California) -- NOT because we are producing more oil than we are consuming -- because, quite simply, we're not.


TI've not seen the British show Manstrokewoman, but by all accounts from friends, and given clips like this, it looks funny as hell:

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

On A Personal Note

Most people who read Silentio already know my friends Julia & Pat, and already know about the recent birth of their second child, Conrad. If so, you also probably know about the (hopefully small) drama brewing around this new little one. Whether you do or you don't know them, I would be a very poor friend indeed if I didn't inch out a paragraph of space on my own blog to say to two of my closest friends, Congratulations and Stay Strong.

K. says she might even hold this one. Oh dear, I don't know what that might mean for me.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Who Knew?

Wow... who could've guessed that an economic boom based on the denial of economic reality and propped up by hallucinogenic induced visions of dancing dollar signs was ripe for a jolt.

Relatedly, this has been making the rounds around the internet since Friday, but I can't help but link to the meltdown of CNBC's market cheerleader, Jim Cramer.

UPDATE: James Kunstler is one of the better popular voices in the growing chorus of people concerned about the present economy and where it is headed -- to what he calls "the long emergency." So, it is only natural that he has a nice bit up today about Kramer's tirade.

Cramer's histrionics were only a few clicks above his normal antics on the "Mad Money" show, but even so, they made a remarkable impression of someone in real, not mock, despair. He mentioned more than once during the tirade that he'd been on the phone all week with other interested parties who were begging him to do something about the rising bloodbath on Wall Street. And by "do something," they clearly meant that Cramer should go on his TV show and make an appeal to Federal Reserve chief Ben Bernanke to drop the prime interest rate at the Fed's meeting this coming Tuesday -- the purpose of which would be to make cheaper loan money available to the Wall Street players whose investment houses suddenly found themselves underwater in the churning straits off Hedge Fund Island, weighed down by bagfuls of worthless securitized non-performing mortgages.

Personally, I don't quite get how a financial industry based on bad loans would be helped by borrowing more money to bail out a hopelessly unwinding Ponzi loan racket of the type the industry had engineered for itself -- but maybe I'm lacking the gene for financial creativity that the Bear Stearns bonus babies were all born with.

In any case, apropos of Cramer's telephone marathon, one can only imagine the number of cell phone minutes racked up this weekend out in the Hamptons by players trying desperately to finagle their way out of the brutal fact that their firms and funds suddenly lay exposed to the cruel ravages of reality. A lot of catered crab tidbits and mini-quiches must have gone uneaten out along the dunes as weeping men in blazers realized that "marked to market" had come to mean the same thing as "holding a bundle of shit."

Monday, July 30, 2007


The inevitable question that is raised when anybody talks about things like climate change and alternatives to the amorality of capitalism and over-consumption, as I was doing here last week, is Okay, so what do we do about it? Sometimes, this question is asked in all honesty. Yes, I agree. What do we do now? Most of the time, though, it is considered the ultimate rejoinder: All you can do is articulate the problem. I've heard no solutions. There is nothing we can do. So, what to do when there is nothing to be done but continue to do what we have always done, but perhaps a bit more humanely?

Agreed, there is no solution in the sense that we now have a how-to list of ways to save the world. More important than the absence of any how-to, though, is the absence of will. If you talk about this stuff w/ most people, they get exasperated because you've not laid out the reasons and ways we can survive. What they want are ways we can all survive and still lead basically the same life we've been leading. That this is fundamentally opposed to the very critique of consumption never seems to dawn on them. (Example: people who talk about the electric car imagine a very happy world of zero emissions and high mileage, and a new world of economic growth and industrial expansion freed of over-consumpton. The problem with this is the amount of energy/consumption (& cost) needed to [a] completely redesign and rebuild the electrical grid, and [b] to create & maintain the new industrial market responsible for the production & distribution of millions of batteries, is so high, and so immediately necessary, that [at minimum] it will alter the playing field of who can afford to consume what is now even an average amount of resources.) If mathematics and geology are correct -- who can assume these things anymore? -- what is necessary is a fundamental change that not only changes the present, but in effect changes the past decisions that set us on this present path. Nobody wants to hear this, of course. It is the inconceivable.

What is not inconceivable, however, is that there is a solution to our problem. In fact, I think the end result of our consumptive ways is its own the solution. Our path has a terminus. There will be more famine. There almost certainly will be eco-catastrophes. There will be more disease. Lots of people, mostly poor, will die. The middle-class will become incredibly disenfranchised when the protective bubble of credit we've settled in is no longer sustainable, and incredibly dangerous when the reality we kept at bay seaps back into everyday life. The very same rich & famous we gawk at now may actually become the targets for aggression and resentment. And, where do the formerly coddled and now newly disenfranchised go for their succor but either identitarian movements that mistrust strangers and/or the awaiting rhetoric of demagogic religion & politics. All this seems unavoidable to me, and in a certain sense it does "solve" many of our problems -- in an absolutely dire way.

What's more. We are, I believe, beyond the point of stopping this. The most viable response now is to begin preparing ourselves for what comes after. People need to start learning NOW how to live in alternative, less-consumptive ways -- using their hands, learning agriculture, learning how to get by w/out driving, etc. I'm not so naive as to think or imagine a future anytime soon where people worldwide do these things and change our current situation, and reverse the course our history of bad decisions has set us on. But I can imagine our world being changed in such a way that we and our habits are forced to change. Making preparations now is imperative ... not to delay the future, though in some measure it might a little, but to prepare ourselves for its arrival.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

The Politics of the Exponential Function

The ignorance of simple math may very well kill us.

This is the premise of a lecture given by Dr. Albert Bartlett, a retired Professor of Physics from the Univ. of Colorado in Boulder (text, as well as streaming video and audio, can be found here -- highly recommended). The problem, he argues, is a complete ignorance and/or blindness to what exponential growth really means:

Legend has it that the game of chess was invented by a mathematician who worked for a king. The king was very pleased. He said, “I want to reward you.” The mathematician said “My needs are modest. Please take my new chess board and on the first square, place one grain of wheat. On the next square, double the one to make two. On the next square, double the two to make four. Just keep doubling till you've doubled for every square, that will be an adequate payment.” We can guess the king thought, “This foolish man. I was ready to give him a real reward; all he asked for was just a few grains of wheat.”

But let's see what is involved in this. We know there are eight grains on the fourth square. I can get this number, eight, by multiplying three twos together. It's 2x2x2, it's one 2 less than the number of the square. Now that continues in each case. So on the last square, I’d find the number of grains by multiplying 63 twos together.

Now let’s look at the way the totals build up. When we add one grain on the first square, the total on the board is one. We add two grains, that makes a total of three. We put on four grains, now the total is seven. Seven is a grain less than eight, it's a grain less than three twos multiplied together. Fifteen is a grain less than four twos multiplied together. That continues in each case, so when we’re done, the total number of grains will be one grain less than the number I get multiplying 64 twos together. My question is, how much wheat is that?

You know, would that be a nice pile here in the room? Would it fill the building? Would it cover the county to a depth of two meters? How much wheat are we talking about?

The answer is, it's roughly 400 times the 1990 worldwide harvest of wheat. That could be more wheat than humans have harvested in the entire history of the earth. You say, “How did you get such a big number?” and the answer is, it was simple. We just started with one grain, but we let the number grow steadily till it had doubled a mere 63 times.

Now there's something else that’s very important: the growth in any doubling time is greater than the total of all the preceding growth. For example, when I put eight grains on the 4th square, the eight is larger than the total of seven that were already there. I put 32 grains on the 6th square. The 32 is larger than the total of 31 that were already there. Every time the growing quantity doubles, it takes more than all you’d used in all the proceeding growth.

Bartlett then uses the logic of exponential arithmetic to lay out what is wrong with with seemingly innocuous notion that we must always be growing in order to be productive. His analysis of the problem is about as good as you're going to find. Introductory, funny, engaging, and downright chilling when he applies this soberly to our consumptive appetite for energy. In short, his mathematical gaze is to the point: not only is our energy consumption unsustainable (we all know that, right?), but the tipping point is actually right upon us, almost certainly within twenty years. The behooves us to ask, he warns: what will your world look like after the demise of cheap energy?

His only major misstep, in my opinion, is his overriding focus on overpopulation. I don't know. Maybe I'm going to ridiculed for this, but I think this is a potentially very dangerous red herring. Certainly as it is traditionally argued -- and even as Bartlett does here. There is, of course, the mathematical and geographical problem of overpopulation, which will surely lead to a catastrophe. A finite area, such as a city, a state, a nation, or a globe, cannot sustain unending growth. I do not argue that. What Bartlett does, however, and what I find most people do who talk about overpopulation (esp. in the global sense), be they conservative or liberal, is speak fully in the abstract about the problem w/ no real vision of a true solution. What is the typical solution? Namely, education -- be it the conservative vision of abstinence, or the liberal vision of unbridled birth control (or, if they're more "radical," reversing patriarchal hierarchies). Maybe tax cuts for people who stop having kids after one or two. Few, of course, will argue for a mandated systemization of abortion. Even fewer will apply a dark vision that genocide, war, and famine will do our job for us, so perhaps we should leave places like Africa to their own devices.

The problem with this perspective, near as I can tell, is that it assumes a certain equality that simply isn't there. It assumes that we are all individually complicit in such a global problem as overpopulation, in equal measure. Of course, that this perspective results in the Third World getting the stink eye is quite natural, as their populations are exploding far beyond that of the First World, and as such they're clearly not doing their part in this worldwide effort to be smart with Mother Earth. This, though, seems a little convenient.

What is so pernicious about this logic is that the very problem damned by the First World, we who search for the solution overpopulation frantically, is, in fact, caused by the steady march of First World growth. The very thing that now defines the First World! In spite of his absolutely vital critique of this growth, even Bartlett ignores the fact that this philosophy of growth is engrained in the very functioning of the First World. I.e., growth is built into the system in such a way that reality no longer matters -- otherwise, would the fact that advanced western economies are built on debt and credit, the buying and selling of debt unbacked by tangible resources, make sense? There is, I would argue, absolutely no means of reforming capitalism with a little humanitarianism here, and and some compassion there. Our incremental progress that late-capitalism was to bring, at this point, is running perilously close to the end of the cheap and ample resources that brought the First World to its present heights in the first place.

The deficiency of Bartlett's math is that it, near as I can tell, cannot show the socio-economic reality that where there is constant growth, there is also an inevitable decline, in the form of those who do not own the land that produces the goods that churn the wheel of progress. These, rather, are given a different criteria by which to judge their success, versus that of the rest of the world -- their standard of living is judged by comparing it to those who are just as poor or poorer, in such a way that we can justify paying them what amounts to scraps in terms of a First World criteria, because 'it's more than they'd normally get, so they really should be happy.'

And then we have the First World solution to the overpopulation of the very places that it effectively renders, and arguably keeps, poor. (Okay, yes, I realize that China is getting richer; as is India. And while one could argue that this is not likely filtering down to the lowest levels of either society, I would argue that the effects of this growth is built on an ecological and energy-depleting timebomb that extends to the budding middle class of these countries a new kind of poverty, namely, a uniquely modern myopic vision of reality that threatens the very livelihoods that have moved them beyond the slums, and inevitably their lives even to the budding middle-class of these countries. So goes the metaphorical cocktease taking place in emergent economies: the extraordinarily hot virgin (capital) with an inexplicable and incurable venereal disease.) This, despite the fact that where there is poverty, there is typically a population increase -- be it in Africa, or be it in Everwhere Ghetto, USA; as poverty decreases, so does the birth rate -- be it in western Europe or Everywhere Suburb, USA. Where there is poverty, education falls, women's rights decrease, and contraception is less available. We know that social conditions have a tremendous impact on population growth, and yet it is officially a non-starter when one questions the relationship of late-capitalism (which, I say again, is fundamentally indistinguishable from the inexcusably ignorant -- willfully ignorant -- object of Bartlett's dead-on critique). Instead, we mistake the symptom for the disease.

That Bartlett shrinks away from this, to something so abstract as warning us about overpopulation, when the the real problem itself is staring him, us, you & me, square in the face, is telling. It is telling of the disconnect between what we actually know and what we believe to be true.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Pause the Child Within

Articles like this one in last week's SF Weekly would not normally be my kind of thing. Sure, I read and thoroughly enjoyed Jeff Euginedes' gender-bending bildungsroman, Middlesex (again, as with The Road, I should note, before Oprah was putting her label on it), and appreciated the fairly thoughtful Belgian film Ma Vie en Rose, but by and large transexual and gender identity issues are not normally on my conversational docket.

What interested me about this article, though, is actually the same thing that drew me into the book and movie -- i.e., the focus is on kids. I lived a pretty benign childhood compared to these kids, and I rarely doubted I was happy as a boy (even when I was once mistaken for a girl because of my adorable curls), but I can resonate with never feeling completely comfortable inside one's skin. I was not (and to a degree, still am not) confident in what I can do physically, which is pretty evident to anybody who has ever seen me try to play a sport of any kind. The physical ability to perform an athletic task (or even an act of physical labor) is there, to some degree, but the confidence necessary to do it is hard to muster. Which is why I feel remarkably good about myself when I do something as mundane as fixing a plug on an appliance; and feel very sheepish when friends ask me to try my hand at, say, blacksmithing, preferring instead to sit by the fire and drink. I'm trying to get better at this, though, because I truly believe a time is coming where the information revolution is not simply not going to open out as freely into a host of opportunities for one like me who wishes to lead a "life of the mind." We are, I suspect, on the cusp of returning to an age in which skilled labor -- be it gardening, blacksmithing, or whatever -- will be valued once again, and the opportunities for intellectual life considerably diminished.

Oh, but crap, I just got distracted -- though I think it is all related to where I'm taking this. For now, though, back to the article. Yes, basically, it's a very interesting story about the recent developments in medication that effectively delays puberty. So, if a girl is experiencing major doubt about her "being a girl," rich parents can insure that her hips won't widen, her breasts won't bud, and she won't menstruate until she's old enough, presumably, to make a more informed and mature decision concerning which gender path she wants to pursue. Same story for boys. (In fact, there is a must-see pictoral progression of photos demonstrating his blossoming into a pretty blonde girl.)

The article itself is interesting enough on its own, but it was made all the more so for me when I read this paragraph:

Few of the transgender adults interviewed for this story said they had the consciousness at such a young age to know what transgender was in the days before Internet communities and Oprah specials, let alone that they would assume this identity. While many concede that kids who receive this treatment will have an easier time in puberty and passing in the years beyond, some question how transitioning so early will change a community where having lived on both sides of the gender line is part of a collective identity.

When I first read this, I took it to mean that some transgender activists were opposed to these treatments, on the basis that the identity of transgender community will be changed. And maybe they are. But now that I read it again, it seems that the use of "question how transitioning so early . . ." maybe points more to simple ponderings about what the identity of the transgender community will look like in coming generations. Either way, it seems inevitable that identity is going to be front-and-center. This, though, just seems fundamentally backwards to me.

It is no secret that I'm not attached to the notion of "identity," and thus do not feel as though the end-all solution for contemporary society is to embrace every new identity that can be imagined or created surgically. The upshot of what I have in mind includes acceptance, but it is not defined by it. It accepts difference, however, not because of a moral imperative, but because the identities that are assumed to lie behind and inform who we present ourselves as simply do not matter. They are as (ultimately) inconsequential as they are inevitable.

I take the position that when/if it is understood that everybody is playing a certain role, which we call an identity, a role that we knowingly either fashion for ourselves or acknowledge has been imposed upon us by history and/or culture (considerably more likely, if we're honest with ourselves), the whole situation in which we role-play is exposed as a necessary fiction. Such a fiction, when we become aware of it as such, is thus open to the thinking of radical change, and to fundamental liberation from the expectations we (and others) have on our bodies and our relationship to these bodies. At first, this comes in the way of imagining a radical change, a seeing beyond what is expected of us (by us and by others), and thus the envisioning of a fundamental liberation from identity. What follows from an imagination unleashed is the democratization of sense and sensibility, and the reminder that our status in the world is a political one. That is to say, democratization is manifest only insofar as there is tension between between ways of conceiving the world, a tension that is in fact the conception of the world -- not merely the proliferation and defense of identity. What follows is a shattering of the mirror, whereby I might look at myself and behold; instead, we have the possibility of finally paying attention to things that matter, things like socio-economic devastation and environmental catastrophe, not to things ephemeral and/or inconsequential, for, like tomorrow, they will take care of themselves w/ or w/out our undivided attention. And in finally paying attention, that is, giving life its due, we participate in the process of creating it anew.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Is Your Life Good?

As I've detailed elsewhere, I'm currently thinking about the relationship of home, labor, and nature -- namely, the degree to which we might resist their being only commodities of trade. Our communities and bodies, expendable for the sake of productivity; the environment in which these communities and bodies live, breath, love, hate, resist, and dissent, reduced to the limits of our perception and expectation, an object to protect or rape, sometimes both at once, but never to acknowledge with the dignity fitting of an active subject in its own right

I am under no illusion that I'm blazing a new trail of insight and research. I'm comforted by this. I've tilted alone at too many windmills in the past, and am comforted that Im not alone this time. I am, for example, very happy there are people like Bill McKibben out there writing books like Deep Economy and articles like this one in Mother Jones.

If we're so rich, how come we're so damn miserable?

In some sense, you could say that the years since World War II in America have been a loosely controlled experiment designed to answer this very question. The environmentalist Alan Durning found that in 1991 the average American family owned twice as many cars as it did in 1950, drove 2.5 times as far, used 21 times as much plastic, and traveled 25 times farther by air. Gross national product per capita tripled during that period. Our houses are bigger than ever and stuffed to the rafters with belongings (which is why the storage-locker industry has doubled in size in the past decade). We have all sorts of other new delights and powers—we can send email from our cars, watch 200 channels, consume food from every corner of the world. Some people have taken much more than their share, but on average, all of us in the West are living lives materially more abundant than most people a generation ago.

What's odd is, none of it appears to have made us happier. Throughout the postwar years, even as the gnp curve has steadily climbed, the "life satisfaction" index has stayed exactly the same. Since 1972, the National Opinion Research Center has surveyed Americans on the question: "Taking all things together, how would you say things are these days—would you say that you are very happy, pretty happy, or not too happy?" (This must be a somewhat unsettling interview.) The "very happy" number peaked at 38 percent in the 1974 poll, amid oil shock and economic malaise; it now hovers right around 33 percent.

And it's not that we're simply recalibrating our sense of what happiness means—we are actively experiencing life as grimmer. In the winter of 2006 the National Opinion Research Center published data about "negative life events" comparing 1991 and 2004, two data points bracketing an economic boom. "The anticipation would have been that problems would have been down," the study's author said. Instead it showed a rise in problems—for instance, the percentage who reported breaking up with a steady partner almost doubled. As one reporter summarized the findings, "There's more misery in people's lives today."

[. . .]

If happiness was our goal, then the unbelievable amount of effort and resources expended in its pursuit since 1950 has been largely a waste. One study of life satisfaction and mental health by Emory University professor Corey Keyes found just 17 percent of Americans "flourishing," in mental health terms, and 26 percent either "languishing" or out-and-out depressed.

McKibben goes on to detail the research that has concluded that the breaking point of money buying happiness in any given culture is an income of $10,000 per capita.

"As poor countries like India, Mexico, the Philippines, Brazil, and South Korea have experienced economic growth, there is some evidence that their average happiness has risen," the economist Layard reports. Past $10,000 (per capita, mind you—that is, the average for each man, woman, and child), there's a complete scattering: When the Irish were making two-thirds as much as Americans they were reporting higher levels of satisfaction, as were the Swedes, the Danes, the Dutch. Mexicans score higher than the Japanese; the French are about as satisfied with their lives as the Venezuelans. In fact, once basic needs are met, the "satisfaction" data scrambles in mindlnding ways. A sampling of Forbes magazine's "richest Americans" have identical happiness scores with Pennsylvania Amish, and are only a whisker above Swedes taken as a whole, not to mention the Masai. The "life satisfaction" of pavement dwellers—homeless people—in Calcutta is among the lowest recorded, but it almost doubles when they move into a slum, at which point they are basically as satisfied with their lives as a sample of college students drawn from 47 nations. And so on.

Think about this the next time you're working overtime in order to pay for that new IPhone you stood in line for an hour to get so somebody, anybody, would notice you with it; or those badass Diesel jeans you saw somebody wearing, and that made them look so happy and alive, so attractive of life.

Who is manning the suicide hotline for an entire culture with a pistol in its mouth?

Friday, July 13, 2007

One More Thing

Something I didn't mention in the previous post is that, for all my bluster about San Francisco, Oakland and Emeryville (I'll get to Berkeley some other time), I have to admit that the small island community of Alameda, California is pretty insanely nice. Alameda is two islands, but I've actually only been on one of them. The other one houses the Oakland airport, so I can't imagine it's really a place worth seeing unless I'm in transit to someplace other than the Bay Area.

Ah, but the larger island is a thing to behold. A walkable & bikable community that is completely true unto itself. What I immediately noticed was how few chain stores and restaurants there were. Of course, there is a Starbucks -- but on any given night, the independent coffee shop right down the street does just as good if not better business -- and there are a couple of new shopping centers with places like Applebees and Basken-Robbins, these are so exceptional as to almost be appropriate!

Another striking thing is that Alameda's main street, Park Street, actually has the feel of a destination. Here, there are antique shops, bakeries, taquerias, bookstores, coffee shops, all come together without the precious quality that adheres to the main drag a lot of similar small communities (I'm thinking, for you Ohio residents, specifically about Yellow Springs). You'll find streets like this in campus communities, but rarely in old naval towns. I hope that as the rest of the Bay Area fills up and people look for some bit of sanity in Alameda, it doesn't get raped and plundered.

I don't know what the property value for a house in Alameda is. I did read somewhere that most of the houses are being sold to people already living in Alameda. Hopefully, this trend continues, at least for as long as it can. Because the people of Alameda seem to be among the most pleasant of the Bay. If the majority rise above middle class, it doesn't feel like it. I spend a lot of time over there, at their parks and in their shops, and the absence of a rampant pretentious appreciation of (apparent) socio-economic diversity is very welcome.

Of course, I'm still a newcomer. Perhaps all of these initial reflections are so far off-base as to be absurd, and maybe I'll come to realize this in a year. But for now, the fact that I live just over a small bridge from Alameda pleases me immensely. It has the feeling of an unknown gem. Good thing nobody reads this blog. I'd hate to be the one to give it away.

Summary Version

E-fucking-gads. So sorry, my dear Silentio, you've not been ignored. I check you daily, in hopes that somebody has figured out my login info and posted something meaningful. Every week I sit down with the intention of writing something, doing so, and then closing the Blogger window instead of posting it. I've been in crisis mode for about a couple of months, so bear with me. I didn't really want to put you through that. What then would I have to talk about with those I chat with online?

A summary version of the things I wanted to blog, but never did, is in order.

* * * *

Saw Sicko. It's good, I guess. Well, no, it's good that for whatever reason Michael Moore captures the media's imagination and gets people wondering, Hey, maybe we can do things a little differently and a little better. That's the American way, or at least its hope for itself, a little differently and a little better ... provided it has a huge in-built margin for profit. Anyway, if you didn't know it already, Moore will lean heavily on the French model for health care -- rightly so, it's pretty nice. Don't tell the newly installed French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, though. It'll be fun to watch him try to gut social spending in France in the coming years, in the name of economic prosperity and embracing Third Way liberalism.

* * * *

I'll cut to the chase. I'm not really liking San Francisco. Maybe it's the unemployment, maybe it's the feeling that I'm unemployable. Or, maybe it's the fact that this place is fundamentally over-priced, over-hyped, and over-sold. If you're from here, great. Call it home and love it. If you're not, stay where you are. Make a home and enjoy a community elsewhere. Unless, that is, you want daily to congratulate yourself and your friends on how liberal you are and how backward the rest of the country is. ('Excuse me, Mr. Homeless Man, yes, you can sleep on the front stoop of my million-dollar apartment, and, yes, here's $1, and do you want to sign my petition on a federal law protecting gay marriage? Yay! We're such a happy community here in San Francisco. Oh, and don't piss in the flowers. Do that in Chinatown next time, please.')

Oakland is a bit better, except for the fact that all the sustainable / walkable communities are so fucking expensive. That's also the American way -- one must be able to afford sustainability and good health.

Or, I almost forgot, one can move to a small town just north of Oakland called Emeryville, home to Pixar, which I originally mistook for an enclosed, private garden. In recent years, Emeryville has embraced a bastardized version of new urbanism. The idea as it exists here isn't so much to cut back on suburbanism, or even to create a sustainable community, but simply to get people to live in a tiny town that has no space for rampant suburbanization. What they've done is create a two-or-three block shopping & living district, the ground floor of which functions as a two-or-three block outdoor mall that has two or three floors of apartment space above each store. Here's the thing, though. You're not living above, say, a fruit market, or a butcher, or a hardware store. You're living above The Gap, Abercrombie, Apple, etc. For all the things you need, you'll still need to drive in to Oakland or Berkeley. Ah, but in the event you need a new pair of pants or the new IPhone, they're right downstairs. This is urban progress. It's fucking madness.

* * * *

I really miss an occasional cloudy day. I've not seen a real rain storm since I drove through the Rocky Mountains in May. Every day starting at 3 the sun begins its afternoon onslaught through the curtainless windows of my apartment, shining unabated by clouds onto the tv and computer screen, rendering them useless to human vision, which is fine because I'm a blinded sweaty mess until about 6.30. Every day. I see spots until, and change into a new shirt at, 7.30. I then check the weather report, and see that tomorrow is supposed to be exactly the same, forever, until the end of time.

* * * *

Though I've yet to get anybody in the great state of California, with its robust and promising economy, to even acknowledge the existence of my resume, I was able to get an interview for a teaching job back in England. It went great! Even for a phone interview at 6.30 in the morning, I was really on. My fifteen-minute presentation on 'Developments in Contemporary Theology' was erudite and concise, my answers to their questions were solid, and my questions for them were insightful. Sadly, in spite of this, I didn't get the job, but there were enough practical reasons that this was both a good thing and completely understandable.

A bit less understandable, perhaps, is that a local public library did not rate my four years of library experience and academic research experience even worthy of an interview. I can but imagine that somebody with five years of library experience and two PhDs applied. Or, a dreaded internal candidate. I hate the internal candidate. I curse you all, and hope your company goes out of business in such a horrific way that you've no hope for a pension. Work to 90, you miserable wankers.

* * * *

And lastly, I read Neil Gaiman's American Gods. This is a brilliant book. My wife has been on me to read it for years, fully convinced that I'd love it. I don't think she was prepared for my enthusiasm once I actually did so. I can see actually assigning it, or at least portions of it, should I ever get a chance to teach a course on Religion in America or Survey of World Views. The premise is in the novel's repeated refrain: 'America is no place for gods.' All the ancient gods invoked by America's ancient peoples and not-so-ancient immigrants, they once enjoyed adoration and sacrifice. But no longer. The ancient peoples are dead; the immigrants have been assimilated and forgotten the old ways. The gods originally invoked, be they Norse, or Egyptian, or whatever, they're still around -- they are, however, feeble, and only just getting by on whatever they can get from the few that still remember them. One god, the "all-father" is intent on waging war against the new gods of America, the gods of capital, of media, and industry. Which leads to the climactic battle between, not good and evil, but new and old, a battle that ends suddenly and unexpectedly -- with "the land" getting the final say. Tremendous imagination and insight is at work in this novel, all in a fun and witty story. Very worth your time, even if you're not really into sci-fi fantasy, because the gods know I'm not, and yet I still really dug it.

Monday, May 28, 2007

The War Prayer

A Memorial Day reflection you're not likely to hear or see on the news, from the pen of Mark Twain:

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Cormac McCarthy at Cannes

I've made no bones about the fact that I was not a big fan of Cormac McCarthy's No Country For Old Men. Increasingly, I'm beginning to wonder if I just am not advanced enough to appreciate it. From the sounds of it, the Coen Brothers might be.

Speaking of McCarthy, I'm really shocked, pleasantly so, that The Road is getting such wonderful press. And not just from Oprah -- which was a development I was not expecting at all. If you've not yet read it yet, trust me, do so.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Religion as an Alternative

Curtis White has a fantastic two-part essay on "the idols of environments" and the "ecology of work" ([1] & [2]) in Orion Magazine, which by the way is a fairly new online magazine that is well-worth looking through if you're interested in eco-issues. Both parts really hit hard on an issue that is increasingly important to me: religiously re-animating our passion and our relationship with the earth & existence.

White first captured my interest a couple of years ago with his book The Middle Mind: Why Americans Don't Think For Themselves. Since then, he wrote an underappreciated little book called The Spirit of Disobedience [see summary version from last April's Harper's]. I've never blogged about this last book, but it has proven really influential to me in terms of offering me a new grammar to conceptualize the kind of research & work I'd like next to do.

Judging by his essay in Orion, it has also set White's current course. In the second part, he does, I think, have an error. He asserts that humanity is naturally inclined to live in harmony with itself and its environment. I think he is fundamentally wrong here. The history of human civilisation has found it not simply a witness but a cause of an ecosystem's collapse. This is no radical claim either -- just read Jared Diamond's Collapse. Now, this isn't to call humanity a virus, or something dramatic like that. It's an observation, not a moral judgment, that we consistently tame nature to its submission, and in many cases our own demise.

What is a moral judgment is the hope for an alternative. To call for a different & religious way to approach and live within our ecosystems, as White does, should not be framed in some kind of nostalgic or idealistic plea for 'the way things used to be'. It is far less practical than that: its focus is about the way things might be. This was basically the point of my long, likely-ignored post last week about marketable religion. Only when we have figured out a way to think something different (note: not think something differently, which just assumes we see that "something" in a different light), and thus to breach the defining confines of practicality and productivity, is it possible to proceed "religiously". The aim of religion, in this perspective, isn't simply to project imaginative fantasies, but somehow to inspire and organize us to proceed from these fantasies imaginatively.

Sir Charles

I've been a fan of Charles Barkley ever since he actually made Auburn's basketball team fun to watch back in the early '80s. Even as a nine-year-old I could appreciate the sheer athleticism of somebody so fat -- at one in his college basketball career was weighing 300 lbs, all carried in a 6'4 frame. He, of course, went on to become one of the greatest NBA players of all time. And, in all likelihood, one of the most entertaining.

Fortunately, Barkley has not become an embarassing shell of his entertaining self like Michael Jordan. TNT was very wise to pony up the big bucks to land him on their Inside the NBA studio show, and it is consistently one of the most fun things to watch on tv. I suspect that even non-basketball fans might enjoy it, if only because it's so rare to see people on a live set actually seem to enjoy one another's company and have a good time talking.

For those who do not know him very well, Barkley is the consummate court jester. He is, though, also pretty insightful, as this interview proves. Much of it can be ignored, but he does hit on something in crystal-clear, "blue-collar" language what I think is the fundamental truth about the world today (not just America):

So is that what interests you primarily--economic issues?

America is divided by economics strictly. You know, people always talk about race, and we have racial problems in this country. Of course we do. But the real issue is the rich against the poor. We've got to get poor white people and poor black people and Mexicans [sic] to realize they are all in the same boat. If you in one of those three groups and you are poor, you are going to be in a bad neighborhood, you are going to go to a bad school, and you are going to have strikes against you. You can't commit crimes in good neighborhoods. They will get your ass. Their kids go to private school, or they go to school in a good economic area. But the poor people, they are all in the same boat but they divide you based on race or stuff like that. A lot of these politicians say things like "We've got to stop all these illegal immigrants." I am like, "That is so easy to stop." They are not working for other immigrants.

Has your perspective on these issues changed in the last few years?

Yes, when I realized that rich people will always be rich and the poor people are like crabs in a barrel. They are going to fight with each other, but they are really in the same boat. They want you to argue about gay marriage. They want you to argue about the war in Iraq.

Well said.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

A San Francisco Treat

It's taken about a week, but K., Ireland & I are just about settled into our temporary housing in a Mission Bay community two blocks down from AT&T Park, home of Barry Bonds and the San Francisco Giants. We've washed the miles out of clothes and off the car, and I think we've sufficiently adjusted to the time-zone change.

I am, of course, still looking for a job. The only positive thing about this is that I have time to get to know the city better. Ireland & I, for example, learned very quickly that long walks in the Nob & Russian Hills area are not for the faint-hearted. These hills are fierce!

I've also been able to indulge my budding love of jazz. (Now that I think about it, I don't know that I've broadcast this interest all that much here on Silentio. If you're at all interested, I do so elsewhere every Friday night in my regular feature "Friday Night Jazz".) Last week, I was listening to the radio while idling next to Ocean Beach and was introduced to a San Francisco institution, Uplift! The Music of John Coltrane, a four-hour program on Tuesday afternoons devoted purely to the music of John Coltrane. I was stunned. Four hours!? Even if you're not a jazz fan now, I invite you to take a listen to this program. If Coltrane cannot suck you into the jazz fold, I don't know who can. Click here on Tuesdays, between noon and 4 (between 3 and 7 for you EST people), for the station's streaming broadcast. You won't be disappointed.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Marketable Religion

There is a general, running assumption that defines our globalistic political economy: if the market tanks, we're all fucked. By 'we', the assumption does not refer to the already impoverished. They are already fucked. All measures to save them now are efforts to assuage the collective first-world conscience. No, by 'we', this assumption refers to the workaday hoi polloi -- those of us with a little bit of 401-K stock, casual day-traders, or even those with no stock at all. The market, so goes the assumption, is so deeply inbedded into our experience of reality that the two are now now fully indistinguishable. When somebody imagines an alternative lifestyle, say, on a commune, most of us conclude that this simply isn't practical. When somebody else suggests that we individually try to 'opt out' of the market, or to 'escape the grid', we're told this kind of singular action isn't productive. Indeed, so goes the trump card, neither are they even feasible, for the market itself makes possible the the existence of its alternative -- even the thought of its alternative. E.g., those Europeans can enjoy their fancy universal health care, we're told, because Americans are the suckers stuck with the market-based health care, where billions of dollars are pumped into research and development.

On one level, this assumption rings true. For the sake of a blog post, I'll accept it as such anyway. Now the more interesting question: why is this true? Why exactly is the market the limit-experience by which which all other experience is defined -- the paradigmatic paradigm? Why exactly do we read with embarassment our religious texts, when they tell us to give away all we own, or when they indicate the implications of recognizing desire as the root of suffering, and recognizing our experience of life as one of vanity and/or illusion? Why do we then rationalize and/or spiritualize these texts into something more palatable -- something more marketable and productive?

The answer, of course, is as simple as the question is complex, and betrays a religious element to our political economies. Our religious myths almost universally, be they orthodox or heretical, speak of an original -- or immanently recurring -- lie. A deception at the heart of our experience of what we take to be real. A deception that is the original melancholic "fall" (or, for the philosopher, "being thrown") into existence. For some, this deception is an evil that never should've happened; for others, thinking beyond this original evil is impossible, for where there is no deception there is no creation, and where there is no creation there is nothing & nobody to gripe about the deception. It is here that we find an important analogue between the mythic/religious 'original lie', whether it be a deception that must be reversed or one redeemed, and our position with respect to the the market & marketable religion.

Almost across the board, religious myths are built around the notion that in some way the basis and limits to our lived existence (be they the lie or the market) can be overcome. However, to resist the lie (or, by extension, the market) or at least the degree to which it defines us and the possibilities for our future, is not a matter of coming up with transcendental or utopian alternatives, as though we might imagine some truth that is beyond or trumps the plane of existence (and thus of the lie / the market). We are, on the contrary, stuck with the great lie, to the extent that it forms the basis for all existent, marketable truth.

Nevertheless, in my view, our religious myths & cultic practices are not means of cooperation or compromise. (Such compromise is what we find in traditional formulations of sacrificial atonement -- i.e., Christ dying on the Cross to satisfy the penalty for guilt, etc. -- and various proposals now to use use the market to solve problems caused by the market -- e.g., carbon credits, etc. I do not find either very compelling.) To overcome the great lie, our religious myths remain fully a part of the lie they expose, and thus are prey to inherent weaknesses, flaws, and aporia, but inform a cultic practice whose power is not accessed by marketable efficiency. If, then, religion can be found to participate on the level of the lie, and perhaps even provide our political economy with its foundational myth, the cultic practice of religion might then also inform us of a means & aesthetics of our resistance.

I recognize that all this comes dangerously close to an apologia for fundamentalism. When Thomas Frank wondered, 'What's wrong with Kansas?', he failed to adequately explore the religious basis for many rural poor voters to go against their own temporal (financial) interests and instead home in on moral issues. While I affirm there are solid religious reasons for these voters to vote against their interests, and thus to reject marketabl efficiency, I fully reject their equation of morality and religion. Such an equation, in my estimation, requires little to no actual cultic practice -- and, thus, very little in the way of actual religion. Contemporary religion, in the east now as much as the west, has traded in the power of the cult that cannot be measured for the power of its marketable return. This need not be a the immediate return of, say, a bomb exploded in the name of a deity, for it could just as easily be done with a view to deferred eschatological future that never arrives. Moral civic religion is, in short, not simply a reluctance but a full-scale unwillingness to take traditional religious practices at their word -- that is to say, is to not really believe in their power or truth.

A point of discussion, I hope, is the the extent to which we have almost completely lost the sense that religious practice has been traditionally limited to minoritarian communities. Monks, of myriad religious stripe, for example. This never meant that an individual culture was without religion. Superstition has, of course, always been rife; we might even say there was enough inbedded religious belief that, to the outside observer, the culture itself was religious. But, for the most part, it seems that traditional religious practice consisted of patronage -- that is, supporting that smaller community who was seen as actually believing in, and thus practicing, the religious myth. In this way, the greater community reaped the benefit by cultic proxy. There is, perhaps, something to this sense of the true believers believing for you.

If that is the case, casting alternative religious visions & practices, in spite of the protests of some, is not an irresponsible apology or rationalization for the religion & religious ideology that exists (even if unknowingly) to maintain the lie / the market. It is, rather, one of our most essential tasks.

Monday, April 30, 2007


A month between posts. I know what you long-time readers are thinking: he's back to his old ways again. But believe me, I had the best of intentions. I wanted to blog about the month-long process of packing and moving, but it was so painfully dull, devoid of even the most agonizing and vulgar frustration, that I couldn't find anything worth writing about. The only exception, however, is a big one. Namely, the unexpected sadness I felt when I actually left. I should've blogged about this at the time, I suppose; but, to be honest, it was too raw an emotion, too deeply felt. I'm not a good enough writer any more to set that kind of feeling into words. Perhaps if I blogged more often ...

I'll try to do so now, though. With a little bit of hindsight, and a lot of bit of (potential) foresight.

The final week I was in Cincinnati reminded me how much I'll miss living in that part of the country. I've grown very oddly affectionate of my home state, Kentucky, for example. K. & I found ourselves driving south more often than we did any other direction, in fact. There is an allure there that I kind of thought I'd moved beyond. In the past year ago, in particular, I've become fascinated with farming and traditional crafts, at the precise time in my life I was moving from one urban environment to an even more urban environment. I remain a man of pavement and people traffic, and yet I cling to a sense that the passing away of traditional arts of life & work is perhaps the final tragedy of our age. Is it still 'nostalgia' when you have never experienced something before and have no inclination to really experience it?

More important still, though, is the degree to which I realized I really love my family and friends. Unlike my last big move, this one really hurt. Between the mother who sold me her beloved car for a bargain-basement price; a brotherly best friend who goes out of his way to help me even when we rarely get to hang out; an older friend-mentor who buys me lunch & whisky, and who (with his wife) has hosted some of the best dinner conversations I've had in ages; to an old pastoral friend who, in spite of disagreeing with me about just about everything worth disagreeing about, lends me laptops and televisions and Sopranos DVDs; and a Hoosier household who buys my dog treats and toys for the road, supplies me with an endless supply of cookies, and has extended me an open-ended sanctuary for nearly five years -- I have a lot to miss.

As I drove west this past week, I was very regularly reminded of the things I will miss. And now, as I walked the streets of San Francisco yesterday and today, and as I now look out my hotel's nineteenth-floor window to see the streetcar rumble by, I don't miss any of these things & people any less. Ever peculiar, and ever melancholy, I know, I now look forward to the accumulation of more people and things worth missing.

I'm under no illusion that I've "settled down." Indeed, I only hope to feel this kind of sadness again.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Commander Crunchy is Homo Sacer

The saga of Mr. Sprinkles continues over at Acceptable TV. Watch it here, and then head over there to register & vote for it. We must keep Mr. Sprinkles' story alive.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Mr. Sprinkles

Welcome to the world of Mr. Sprinkles & Acceptable TV.

The Perils of Parking

Lately, I've become increasingly interested in urban planning -- another missed opportunity for me, it seems -- so maybe none of this is as interesting to you as it is me. But, surely you've been stuck in downtown traffic and have fumed, 'Where the hell are all these people going!?! MOVE!!' If so, check out this astonishingly interesting Op-Ed in today's New York Times about the relationship between traffic congestion in cities and the search for a cheap curbside parking space. (As for me, I'm always content to take the first parking spot I find -- no matter if it results in a half-mile walk. It's not that I'm a responsible person, it's just that I'm not the model of patience.)

[A] surprising amount of traffic isn’t caused by people who are on their way somewhere. Rather, it is caused by those who have already arrived. Streets are clogged, in part, by drivers searching for a place to park.

[. . .]

When my students and I studied cruising for parking in a 15-block business district in Los Angeles, we found the average cruising time was 3.3 minutes, and the average cruising distance half a mile (about 2.5 times around the block). This may not sound like much, but with 470 parking meters in the district, and a turnover rate for curb parking of 17 cars per space per day, 8,000 cars park at the curb each weekday. Even a small amount of cruising time for each car adds up to a lot of traffic.

Over the course of a year, the search for curb parking in this 15-block district created about 950,000 excess vehicle miles of travel — equivalent to 38 trips around the earth, or four trips to the moon. And here’s another inconvenient truth about underpriced curb parking: cruising those 950,000 miles wastes 47,000 gallons of gas and produces 730 tons of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide. If all this happens in one small business district, imagine the cumulative effect of all cruising in the United States.

The writer's solution may seem unpalatable to some: increase the cost of curbside parking. But, all in all, I think his thinking is spot-on. We've accommodated the all-consuming culture of the car for far too long. This is but a token gesture in the right direction.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

"I've Seen Everything"

K. & I watched the first season of Extras a couple of months ago, but this scene still kills me:

On the Hereafter

This quote is completely stripped of its context, and I'm not even going to say much about it. But it's something I came back across this evening and thought worth sharing.

The secularist and the Marxist criticism of the vision of marching to Zion claims that the promise of pie in the sky bye and bye cuts the nerve of action today. The expectation of "fairer worlds on high" is supposed to detach the present from that which is promised.

This may well have been the case when in recent centuries the beneficiaries of the social system appealed to a future world to encourage their subjects to remain docile. But our interest is not in asking whether the eighteenth-century religion could be the opiate of the people, but rather understanding the function of the apocalyptic vision in the first-century church, whose seers were not on any drug.

In the world view of that time the gap between the present and the promise was not fundamental. What we are now doing is what leads to where we are going. Since the "this-worldly" and the "other-worldly" were not perceived in radical dichotomy, to be "marching through Emmanuel's ground" today is to be on the way to Zion. Terms like "hereafter" are in that kind of context affirmations not negations. They do not say that that to which we look forward is in a radically different kind of world from the world in which we now live, but rather that it lies farther in the same direction in which we are being led. The unforeseeable future is farther along in the same direction as the foreseeable future for which we are responsible. (John Howard Yoder, The Politics of Jesus, 248-49).

Monday, March 26, 2007

A Little Basketball

As many of you know, this was the first year of a new rule in the NBA that requires kids just out of high school to wait one year before they will be allowed to play professionally. The problem, near as I understand it, is that team owners were increasingly frustrated by the fact that they had to invest money in unproven talent. Of course, nobody had a gun to their head when it came to drafting kids just out of high school. And, of course, for every Lebron James who came out of high school and became an instant All Star there were at least three players like Sebastain Telfair who will almost certainly end their career playing in Europe. Nevertheless, no team owner wanted to take the risk of passing up on that high school phenom who might be the next big thing. They're fun to market, they're potentially very lucrative (i.e., they put butts in seats), and they can revive an organization (for a while) if they're great. After several years of rolling the dice, though, the owners finally decided to change things up. Let the kids play college ball for a year, or sit on their butts playing with their Nintendo Wii, they said, anything but enter the draft.

This year, the rule has been almost universally regarded as a success for college basketball. It's brought long-time NBA fans back to the game, and it's turned football towns into basketball towns (e.g., Columbus, Ohio and Austin, Texas). Between Kevin Durant down in Texas and Greg Oden at Ohio State, NCAA Division I basketball was bursting at the seams with awesome talent. It was, in my estimation, a golden year for college basketball. Durant and Oden were choirboys, loved by their communities and colleges -- they said all the right things, even down to the obligatory "I might come back next year" lie. Of course they're not coming back next year, but we'll give them credit for playing along with the illusion of honesty and integrity that compels so many to adore college basketball.

All along, though, there have been naysayers to this new rule. Take for instance, Bobby Knight. For all his personal flaws, Knight is an educator at heart. College basketball is not, for him, a NBA minor league; nor is it a junior circuit. Kids are given athletic scholarships ... in order to go to school. The fact that they are athletes of the highest caliber is secondary. Obviously, then, he doesn't take kindly to kids coming in for a year only beause they have to. He contends that what you have is a bastardization of college athletics as a whole.

"Because now you can have a kid come to school for a year and play basketball and he doesn't even have to go to class," Knight said Monday during the Big 12 coaches call. "He certainly doesn't have to go to class the second semester. I'm not exactly positive about the first semester. But he would not have to attend a single class the second semester to play through the whole second semester of basketball.

"That, I think, has a tremendous effect on the integrity of college sports."

Now, I don't know what Oden or Durant's academic schedule or grades look like. But, on the whole, Knight makes a pretty good argument here. Thus far, though, both players have been such class acts that's it not really been a big issue to too many people. What happens, though, when a high school kid without their apparent maturity comes along -- who understands the illusion of integrity in college basketball, but who revels in openly flaunting it rather than repress or deny it? What happens when a kid comes along who will not say the things we want to hear, or play along the way we want; who understands the college game purely in terms of his pre-professional marketing; who has his coach wrapped around his finger? What happens then?

We'll find out next year.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

A Redacted Cross-Post From Elsewhere

I've been meaning to post something for a few weeks now, but something always comes up just at the moment I feel like I have the words to express whatever was on my mind at the time. I've no such excuse now, but I won't subject you to a series of catch-up posts. One should do just fine. So, a few thoughts:

  • I don't generally have a lot of positive things to say about Indianapolis, but, wow, the Indianapolis Museum of Art is pretty damn nice. Def. worth a trip. Should keep you busy enough to ignore the rest of the city. Esp. check out their fine collection of crafts & three Frank Stella installations -- oh, and one of the most curiously vulgar nudes in late-19th century American painting.

  • Chicago gets nicer each time I visit. I may very well never leave the next time I'm there. A couple of random Chicago notes. First, just before I left, I wandered around Lincoln Square, and was really thrown off by how much it (or at least the street I was on) felt like the Main Street of Small Town, America -- except for the fact that (a) people lived there and (b) the people who lived there had families -- an annoying number of kids, actually, now that I think about it. I even saw a shopowner putting out two bowls on the sidewalk, one filled with dog biscuits & the other with water. I didn't feel the least bit bad about stealing one of the biscuits for my dog back in Cincinnati. Second, I think the weather must've put everybody in a good mood, because I never had a more pleasant city-driving experience. People were waving me over, smiling, using turn signals. Bizarre. I flipped off an old lady driving the speed limit on Lake Shore Drive just to make it feel more like home.

  • While in Chicago I was very pleased that I got to hang out with death-of-god theologian & friend, Tom Altizer, who was lecturing at Chicago Theological Seminary. His visit was, I think, a success. I had a good time anyway, and I think many aspects of it meant a great deal to him, esp. the return to the site of his first 'real' conversion -- *dramatic pause* a conversion to Satan! I don't think, though, most of the people there were prepared for how attuned he is to preaching. If he considers himself a Satanologist, he surely is its most engaging evangelist. Of course, as he would quickly admit, he is not as 'on' as he used to be, and doesn't feel he is as effective. This is probably true. But I'm still pretty staggered at how engaged he is with the life of the mind at nearly eighty. His first talk, in my estimation, was his best. Here, he very concisely talked about nihilism & American politics, and engaged in a lively debate about his appeal to nihilism as both a positive & a negative force -- there is, in my opinion, something to this worth exploring all the more. His second talk was about the absence of Satan in theology. For a moment, Jonathan Edwards was smiling in his grave. And for his final talk he read an unpublished chapter from his memoir. I felt this last talk was the weakest, but only because it dragged a bit toward the end -- esp. compared to his previous presentations, which were amazingly concise & clear for being fully extemporaneous. The man, one of the last who welcomes his damnation, can also still drink & curse like a sailor.

  • And last, don't let her innocent appearance fool you, my dog is a badass. Yesterday the wife & I were invited to bring her along to a cookout. Things were going fine for about fifteen minutes. There are about four or five other dogs. Ireland was bouncing around and having a good time running after balls & trying to steal sips of beer, when suddenly she & a dachshund named Dandy caught scent of a wild rabbit in the yard. They both went on the hunt, but only Ireland emerged with the prey. Blood on her snout & teeth, Ireland paraded through the circle of guests and around the firepit with the poor animal dangling from her jaws. As I chased her down, I heard the screams of children & adults alike, 'That poor bunny!!!', and sternly tried to dissuade this newly feral beast from shaking the rabbit any further, as the fur was beginning to fly dangerously in the direction of the food. I finally got the dead rabbit from her, despite her token growls & cries of protest, and the bunny was flung in the front yard for the family to deal with later. The last time she caught her intended prey (the only other time), it was a bird at the park, and it took about a week for her swelling pride to diminish to a nearly manageable level. Until then, she will race with all the vim & vigor her newfound bloodlust can manage toward every bird & squirrel downtown. It should be a fun week.

  • Oh, I almost forgot. Barring something unforeseen, namely me getting one of the jobs I've applied for, I'm going to be moving to San Francisco sometime late next month.