Friday, July 13, 2007

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.