Tuesday, October 12, 2010


Underwear Goes Inside The Pants Lyrics

Why is marijuana not legal? Why is marijuana not legal?
It’s a natural plant that grows in the dirt.
Do you know what’s not natural?
80 year old dudes with hard-ons. That’s not natural.
But we got pills for that.
We’re dedicating all our medical resources to keeping the old guys erect,
but we’re putting people in jail for something that grows in the dirt?

You know we have more prescription drugs now.
Every commercial that comes on TV is a prescription drug ad.
full lyrics

more lyrics

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Human powered flight and energy harvesting kites

A strange confluence of events and circumstances has given me some ideas about human powered flight. I watched a snail slithering...just kidding. While vacationing in Florida I watched a guy parasurfing. That night I went home and went to sleep. The next morning was a Sunday so Comedy Central was playing a rerun of the Colbert Report's Friday night show. I had watched some of the show Friday but had not seen the interview with Saul Griffith. Saul Griffith is a genius who is working on wind power generation using high altitude kites to capture the high winds available above 2000 feet. When we got home from Florida I looked up Saul and found a website where he was explaining how the kites work with the aid of a large screen audio-visual presentation.

Last night I woke up thinking about human powered flight which is not uncommon for me but I realized that the actual terminology "human powered" is a limitation that need not exist. The small sail that was used by the parasurfer to skim over the waves at high speed and the piano sized kites used by Saul's power generation facility both had far more pulling power than was being used. Then I began thinking that a tandem device, one part prosthesis, one part kite, could give human beings the power to fly. Rather it could allow us to harness the wind long enough to elevate the flyer to the height necessary to then glide (predominantly) to his destination.

I attempted to use a sheet as a sail on my ripstick once and ran into all the problems of wind power at ground level: insufficient strength, sensitivity to direction of wind, etc. Parasurfing improves upon windsurfing by removing the power source to the sky above the surfer giving him much more maneuverability relative to the wind. The next logical step, in my mind, is to allow the parasail to drag a winged human, instead of a surfing human.

I had been trying to conceptualize a bicycle paired with a retractable set of wings as a means to allow the wings to reach the necessary speed for lift before opening them and taking off. In this concept the bicycle would simply fall away as the flyer opened a hang glider like set of folding wings and began to gain altitude. The problem with this approach is twofold. The first issue is that the speed necessary to generate sufficient lift of a human is too high to be achieved under normal bicycling conditions. Secondly once the rider/flyer leaves the bicycle the power source evaporates and thus the lift disappears. A kitesail on the other hand continues to provide power after the flyer takes off. The power is translated by the wings into lift and the flyer (or his software) may simply determine the altitude needed.

The next question then is how to disempower?unempower? the kitesail without simply cutting it loose. I had this same question watching the parasurfer, wondering how he would stop when he was done. What I had not anticipated was that he could change directions, having assumed that he must simply follow the direction of the wind and then let go. I watched as he approached the pier and then performed a tacking like maneuver and reversed direction back toward the area of the shore from which he came.

In flight the ideal scenario would be retrieval of the parachute once gliding began so that it could be redeployed to gain more altitude or used in an emergency as a parachute. High strength, lightweight cabling with a retractor could be used to reel the kitesail and the flyer toward one another but the only way I can conceptualize the kitesail collapsing is by releasing one side of it and then rolling up the fabric. This may prove a cumbersome load for a human/wind powered flyer to carry and then redeploy.

An alternative method could be to release one side of the kite sail and retract it and then lower it toward the ground so that it could be dropped for later recovery. An airborne-deployable parachute/kitesail could be worn on the body for use in an emergency.

The first step to researching these possibilities is to go parasurfing.


Saturday, September 11, 2010

Do You Have Ideas,
or Do Ideas Have You?

“The ideologist is a man who falls for the fraud perpetrated on him by his own intellect: that an idea, i.e. the symbol of a momentarily perceived reality,
can possess absolute reality.”
–Socrates, refuting Plato’s interpretation of his ideas

“The world eludes us because it becomes itself again.”
–Lewis Carroll

Editor’s introduction: Possibly the best text any of us have written on the subject of ideology is a letter Nadia once sent to a friend in response to an article he had written with her help (her original title for the piece had been “The Political Struggle is the Struggle Against the Political,” which he changed to “Against the Shallowness of the Political”)... so here is her letter, reprinted from his private collection. Remember, whatever you believe imprisons you.

June 2
Amsterdam (at ChloĆ«’s, with
Phoebe and Heloise)

Dearest E---,

No, you haven’t understood what I’m talking about at all. In your hurry to purchase for yourself the image of “political activist” (or, worse, theorist)—whatever that is—you’ve concluded that everything must be “political”—whatever that is! For the farther you expand the meaning of any word, the blurrier it becomes, and the more useless. Once everything is political, then “political” means nothing all over again, and we have to start from scratch.

So, assuming “political” isn’t just a meaningless all-purpose word... Of course there are “political” ways to look at every issue, including one’s own mortality—I wasn’t trying to deny that. That, in fact, is exactly my point: once you begin to think of yourself as “political,” once you start to think in terms of analysis and critique—worse yet to think of yourself as having a critique—you come to approach everything on those terms, you try to fit everything into your analysis. Being “political” becomes a cancer that slowly spreads to every corner of your being, until you can’t think about anything except in terms of class struggle or gender or whatever.

And there is no analysis, no ideology (because that’s what we’re talking about here, with your insistence on the politics of living and the theory of politics) broad enough to capture everything that life is. An ideology, just like an image, is always something you have to purchase—that is, you must give up a part of yourself in return for it. That part of yourself is every aspect of the world, every deliciously complex experience, every irreducible detail that won’t fit into the framework you’ve so proudly constructed.

Sure, you can look at oral sex and sunsets and love songs and really good Chinese food in terms of political issues, or even approach them in a way that is political in a far less superficial sense—but the fact is that when you’re there in those moments there are things that escape any kind of comprehension, let alone expression, let alone analysis. Living and feeling are simply too complicated to be captured completely by any language, or any combination of languages. Just like that fucking halfwit Plato, the casualty of ideology (which I’m begging you not to be) comes to doubt the reality of anything he can’t symbolize with language (political or otherwise), because he’s forgotten that his symbols are only convenient generalizations to stand in place of the innumerable unique moments that make up the universe.

I can anticipate your response: my critique of the political is itself a political evaluation, a part of my ideology. And so it is. I write to you so vehemently about this because it’s an issue I’m really struggling with now. I find myself turning everything into a political tract or critique, possessed by (what my ideology describes as!) a capitalistic compulsion to transform all my feelings and experiences into objects—that is, into theories I can carry around with me. My values have come to revolve around these theories, which I show off as proof of my intelligence and importance, the same way a bourgeois man shows off his car as proof of his worth: my life isn’t about my actual experience anymore, it’s about “the struggle”—when I’d wanted that struggle to be about centering my life on my experiences, not some new substitute! I’d like to say this letter is my last stand against the all-consuming demands of the political... but that was probably long ago, the last time I was able to reflect on something without the political ramifications even occurring to me. Careful what you wish for, E---, when you say everything is political.

I think part of this pathological need to systematize everything comes from living in cities, incidentally. Every single thing around us here has been made by human beings, and has specific human meanings attached to it—so when you look around, instead of seeing the actual objects that are around you, you see a forest of symbols. When I was staying in the mountains, it was different. I would go walking and I wouldn’t see “don’t walk” signs, I would see trees and flowers, things that have an existence beyond any framework of human meanings and values. Standing under a starry sky, there, gazing at the silent horizon, the world felt so immense and profound that I could only stand before it mute and trembling. No politics could ever provide a vessel deep enough to hold those moments. Not to say there’s no reason for us to conceptualize things, E---, because of course that’s useful sometimes… but it’s a means, and not the only means, to a much greater end. That’s all.

I’ll leave you with this, my own poor translation of a line from the farewell letter Mao Tse-tung’s mistress wrote him shortly after the so-called success of the Chinese so-called Communist Revolution:

“It’s sadly predictable that the only way you can come up with to celebrate the liberation you feel at leaving the old system behind is by coming up with a “system of liberation,” as if such a thing could exist—but that’s what we can expect from those who have never known anything other than systems and systematizing, I guess.”

Yours with love,

Monday, August 23, 2010

My Life as a Work of Art

A couple years ago I was seriously considering taking up painting or drawing and becoming an artist in the commonly understood sense of the term when I had an epiphany. Unlike most of the epiphanies I have had in my life this one reverberates with me to this day and I have never questioned its veracity. Simply stated: do not create works of art, make your life a work of art. In every breath, every day, every person, animal and plant that comes your way make your life a work of art.

And I can attest that this works. As the days end I more often than not am left with a sense of amazement that somehow the truth and beauty of today has surpassed that of yesterday. My toes sink deeper into the sand, my spirit floats higher into the ether, my children laugh, my dogs play, my heart soars and I say..seek not to create works of art but make your life a work of art.

The Perennial Philosophy

Orwell and Huxley are two of my favorites. Both had the knack for fantastic fiction and the balls to confront the fascist cultures of their time in blistering non-fiction essays and treatises. Huxley's The Perennial Philosophy is not only an encyclopedia of religious knowledge but a timeless critique of the forms of government which have brought us to the near extinction of life on planet earth. I yield the remainder of my time to the master...Aldous Huxley:

Of all social moral and spiritual problems that of power is the most chronically
urgent and the most difficult of solution. Craving for power is not a vice of
the body, consequently knows none of the limitations imposed by a tired or
satiated physiology upon gluttony, intemperance and lust. Growing with every
successive satisfaction, the appetite for power can manifest itself
indefinitely, without interruption by bodily fatigue or sickness. Moreover the
nature of society is such that the higher a man climbs in the political economic
or religious hierarchy, the greater are his opportunities and resources for
exercising power...

That is why in Acton's words 'all great men are bad.' Can we therefore be
surprised if political action, undertaken, in all too many cases, not for the
public good, but solely or at least primarily to gratify the power lusts of bad
men, should prove so often either self-stultifying or downright disastrous?

"L'etat c'est moi ," says the tyrant;
and this is true, of course, not only of the autocrat at the apex of the
pyramid, but of all the members of the ruling minority through whom he governs
and who are, in fact, the real rulers of the nation. Moreover, so long as the
policy which gratifies the power lusts of the ruling class is successful, and so
long as the price of success is not too high, even the masses of the ruled will
feel that the state is themselves--a vast and splendid projection of the
individual's insignificant ego. The little man can satisfy his lust for power
vicariously through the activities of the imperialistic state, just as the big
man does; the difference between them is one of degree not kind.

No infallible method for controlling the political manifestations of the lust
for power has ever been devised. Since power is of its very essence
indefinitely expansive , it cannot be checked except by colliding with another
power. Hence, any society that values liberty, in the sense of government by
law rather than by class interest or personal decree must see to it that the
power interests of its rulers is divided. National unity means national
servitude to a single man and his supporting oligarchy. Organized and balanced
disunity is the necessary condition of liberty.

--Aldous Huxley
--The Perennial Philosophy
pp. 121-122

Saturday, August 21, 2010

killing the innocent

The Quran, in chapter 5, verse 32, says that if you kill one innocent person, it's as though you have killed the entire world. I heard this in the movie "Traitor" which seemed as if it might be original until it became one more justification for the so called war on terror. But the verse has been playing in my head and with my head since I heard it.

Those with legal training will immediately zero in on the meaning of the word 'innocent' as the crux of the matter. At one extreme 'innocent' would mean only young children who have not reached an age when they can decide for themselves whether or not to participate in the war effort. At the opposite extreme would be the view that all who are not actively participating in the fighting are innocent. The first view would exculpate most so called acts of terrorism as the victims are adults, paying taxes into a treasury which funds the war effort. The latter view would condemn all acts of terrorism and justify only direct action against military forces on the battlefield.

But let as consider some hypotheticals. A high ranking military officer on vacation with his family is killed. Would such an action be considered a violation of the Koran? What if he was a retired officer? How about an injured veteran who has served his time in the military and had a change of heart about his actions? Who has the authority to define innocence? Those of you who believe in an anthropomorphic God will simply answer that only God may decide but that is the answer of a coward.

Divinity has been delegated to us, the human race. Our actions determine the fate not only of our species but perhaps all life on this planet. If the powers that control the planet's resources are jeopardizing our future as a species than it is incumbent upon us to take action to stop the potential destruction of our species and our planet.

Religion, like all forms of dogma, is garbage but the texts that underpin many of the religions of the world are rife with beautiful and amazing insights into the complexity of the human condition. Sura 5:32 is just such an insight. It is a clear condemnation of the war tactics which are followed and have been followed by most state governments throughout history. Innocent death (or in our Orwellian rewriting of unpleasant terms "collateral damage") has become an accepted part of any conflict.

The loss of innocent life is glossed over when the murder occurs at the hands of a state, but if a resistance movement brings down a munitions factory and accidentally kills a night watchman it is front page news. A case in point is the Weather Underground's demise largely due to loss of innocent life.

I have heard it said that the commandment "Thou shalt not kill" is an improper translation of "Thou shalt not murder". To square the Hebraic, Christian and Islamic versions of this proscription we need only define the meanings of "murder", "kill" and "innocent". If murder is the killing of the innocent than the death of those who are not innocent is left to our discretion. Can a human being make such a determination? He can.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

A Muse

In my understanding of the term "muse" it means one who inspires the creative power of another, one who lights a spark, or dumps gasoline on an existing fire. We all should be so lucky to have a muse at the tender impressionable age of 14. For those of you who were not so lucky please continue to enjoy the comforts of your SUV, your incontrovertible religious texts, and your exclusionary political systems. For those lucky few of us who were effectively subverted your suburban life is a comedic backdrop against which the killing and dying of the real world unfolds.

When I was 14 or 15 my muse gave me a story to read. A story of a dystopian future in which the need for mediocrity surpassed the need for genius. In this story the highly intelligent were forced to don a device which created a sharp, painful buzzing sound in their advanced minds every 30 minutes so that whatever train of thought they were having was destroyed, reset to zero, reset to the status quo.

Today those of us in the advanced intellect class can only dream of 30 minute intervals of uninterrupted thought. Without the conscious avoidance of TV, radio, billboards, and internet ads and distractions one is lucky to have 5 or even 1 minute of free thought.

Thanks only to the muse are we conscious of the spin which is put on our reality everyday. 14 year old children defending their mothers and younger siblings against foreign invaders are classified as terrorists while adults dropping bombs on children are revered as models of bravery and uprightness. Sickening and laughable international political games murder people everyday, the hungry die, the sick waste away and the empires create legal documents to legitimate their slaughter and destruction.

I am at war with you, police, militaries, governments of every shape and form consider me your enemy. History is moving beyond the pathological collective to the free human individual. When every individual rises up, throws off the chains which force us to work for slave wages, live without adequate medical care, food, shelter and art the power of bullets and prisons and armies will be as a grain of sand thrashing about in a solar storm.

The muse for the child is like Morpheus. She frees minds. One free mind. Is there any way to estimate the value of one free mind? One free mind. What is the value of Spartacus' uprising, Hannibal's strategy, Lennon's music?

For those of you in the business of freeing minds take heart in the futility of your struggle. Maybe one in a thousand, or in ten thousand will make it but these are the Sergei Brins and the David Brins, Shakespeare and Chopin, Guy Faux and Steve Biko, Rosa Parks and Gandhi.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Why I Write

I am breaking through to the other side. First the lightning bugs on the bike path, then the last few days the cicadas have been responding to pitch changes in the ohm when I meditate. This morning I saw these tiny twinkles of light in the trees and I realized that they were bits of sunlight reflecting from raindrops suspended in the trees leaves.

Even as I write this now I feel the power of the universe coursing through me. The music is moving my fingers across the keys.

Sorrow and fear are part of this life too, but not now.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Santiago calatrava
We are learning physics from a videotape much as Fuller predicted.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Arundhati Roy is one of my heroes but...

"Children who ought to be in school, run wild".

I must confess that I haven't read much further than this in the article I linked to in the previous post. Something about that assertion stuck in my craw. I have never lived in a country where there was open warfare, nor where children were participants in that warfare so I will concede that my white-bread/bred suburban American upbringing gives me a different perspective than that of Roy who has witnessed poverty and suffering first hand...BUT.

"School?" Is school a better alternative because the children are safe from gunfire and marauding government troops and improvised explosive devices? Because they are safe from death?

But school is the beginning of death. Is not school a form of the very prison against which the Maoists are fighting? Wouldn't putting their children in schools (which I assume for the present to be administered by the government who is shelling and killing and raping and pillaging the Maoists) be a form of acquiescence? A tacit recognition of the Indian government's authority? I am going to wage war on you but allow you to care for my children while I do it?

Is it possible that these children are in fact safer in the jungle with their warrior parents at their side? Maybe the answer to this apparent lack of understanding will come later in Roy's article but I can't help but think that she does not understand what it means to wage a full scale war against an occupation force.

There is a scene in a Viet Nam war movie in which a U.S. Special Forces officer recounts the moment when he knew that the war was unwinnable for the U.S.. As he recounts it the U.S. Army vaccinated the children of a village controlled by the Viet Cong (the "bad guys") against some childhood disease. Feeling good about their benevolence they returned to the village a few weeks later to check on the progress. The VC had hacked the arm off of every child in the village who had received the vaccination. By his calculation some of the children had their arms cut off by their own parents.

That is what total war is, so when Roy asserts that the young warriors in Kashmir should be sitting in some mind control factory administered by their enemies instead of engaging in the productive work of killing them perhaps she should think carefully about her position.

A school is an institution of violence. It is a tool of a culture to perpetuate itself. A school does not feel, have compassion, have mercy, or intuition as a parent does. If it were me in Kashmir, my children would be with me in the jungle fighting. They would learn the ways of the world in a way that a school could never teach them. Just as the Indian government soldiers seek to kill the free with bullets and bombs so too their schools, like Chinese schools, U.S. schools, and Israeli schools seek death for those who will not conform.

The mind control factory teaches you that there are predetermined paths to security and success. Deviance from those paths is not tolerated. You will wake early in the morning every day with the ringing of a bell. When other bells ring you will speak on the phone, or move from room to room, or fasten your seat belt. You will sit in a moving box on a road and drive by depressing box and coffin like architecture on your way to the box within a box that you will occupy for 9 or 10 hours. Other Pavlovian conditioning stimuli will tell you when it is time to check your e-mail or voicemail, a honking horn will tell you to go at a green light. Other members of your culture who have been similarly conditioned by schools, television, movies, and advertising will reinforce societal norms of dress, speech, behavior and thought.

You are free to choose between this form of death or the exile you will experience if you choose to defy the norms of your culture. Live in a box of the culture's choosing or live in a cardboard box on the street. School teaches you to choose how you will die from one of these two options.

At least the 10 year old with the AK-47 is free to choose for herself.

I choose life. I stand with the Maoists and look forward to their inevitable victory.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

A Fuller Explanation

Reading this book about B. Fuller's alternative geometry, makes me happy, confirms my suspicions that mathematics is artificially difficult. In a world based on hierarchy and competition there is little incentive for the high priests of knowledge to disseminate what they have learned to the masses. But let's face it, there is something fundamentally wrong with the way we learn math and science. We're not all idiots, yet even among those with graduate level education math is scary and intimidating, why? Every time I take a physics class I am immediately struck that the material is far simpler than the method used to teach it. Our cultural commentators bemoan the lack of science and math majors yet the same useless methods are used to teach these subjects year in and year out. It is a miracle this species isn't extinct yet.

Don't kill bugs you may come back as one.

Terrorism is War, War is Terrorism

Remember when NPR used to have the audacity to criticize the U.S. war machine? As Solzhenitsyn once remembered that citizens used to be called upon to verify the actions of the police in The Gulag Archipelago I feel it necessary to remind my small audience that there was a time when NPR and PBS were confronting and questioning the actions of their government and not just cheerleading the war effort in whatever country the U.S. happened to be bombing.

It sickens me to listen to the mass media talk about terrorism as if it is somehow distinct from war. Dropping bombs on civilians is terrorism. The U.S., Israel, and NATO are and have been engaged in terrorism on a mass scale since the end of WWII. It is staggering to the man of average intellect to have to listen to the day in day out reporting of terrorism here and war there as if there is some distinction between the two. International law has a definition for terrorism, whether you are comfortably ensconced in an F-117, or B-2 or are in a hijacked aircraft heading for a building if it is your raison d'etre to kill and maim and destroy in order to inflict fear on your enemy in the hopes that he will come around to your philosophical, political, or religious position you are engaging in terror.

Terror is just in the fight against war. Sound strange?

How about we run it through the Orwellian double speak machine and say:

War is just in the fight against terror. Sound more palatable? Wake up sheeple, it's the fucking same thing.

Change your "Support our troops" sticker to "Support Al-Qaeda" if you are going to support the idea of killing to make your point at least be consistent.

And if you are offended, fuck you, I hope you get killed in a terrorist attack. Pussy.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

The Intersection of Law and Architecture --- The Building Code

Architecture is the most political art form. It is an expression of conformity with the previous occupants of a space; "I will build a box next to your boxes, and with the exception of a few accoutrement I will not disturb the social order of the space by doing anything new. I will rent an existing box to live in, I will not build something out of the material at hand. I will accept the social order, that land is held privately, by an individual, a corporation or a state and I will not disrupt that social order by pitching a tent in the middle of a suburban parking lot, sleeping in a public park, building a tipi in the middle of a subdivision, or a geodesic dome among bland, boxy condominiums".

Homelessness is deemed to be the absence of architecture. But is not homelessness a rebellion against conventional architecture and all the mind prisons which accompany it? A homeless man is free in a way that the suburban slave can not even fathom. His home, his architecture is the very space he occupies, the air he breaths, the ground under his feet. He may not gather the sticks around him and construct a yurt, or a tipi, or a dome, because in doing so he clashes with the social order, his trespass takes on a physical manifestation, a visible ember in the eye of the civilization which occupies the ground around him.

Is this why the shanty town is always a hotbed of political uprising: The shacks on the hills in Rio, the slums of South Africa, the burgeoning tent city in Haiti, refugee camps the world over? Are these people not the embodiment of every failing of the civilization in which they and we live? They are a visible embodiment of the lie that is the center of world culture, namely that man is born as a slave, and shelter is not a right but a privilege reserved for the chosen few that perpetuate the system.

A child has no right to shelter. A legal entity has no obligation to allow a child to live on the property that it owns. Thus a homeless child is by definition an illegal human being.

In Amsterdam I believe there is a law which allows unoccupied buildings to be legally squatted in. If I remember correctly this creates problems for landlords whose property becomes vacant because if a squatter manages to physically gain entry that person gains certain limited rights. Although I can appreciate how inconvenient this would be for a property owner there is a certain logic to this law.

Such a law if enacted world wide would alleviate a great deal of homelessness. The Bauhaus art movement could be replicated in every abandoned building, house, church, warehouse, industrial space, strip mall, Wal-Mart etc. It does not assault our reason as lunacy to see a homeless person walking through a blighted urban area in which massive parking lots are being overrun with weeds because the buildings it surrounds like a concrete fortress have been unoccupied for so long that nature is reclaiming the blacktop.

And it does not strike us as maniacal that this homeless man, standing in the rain in front of a million square foot empty space would be classified as a criminal if he stepped inside that space to shelter himself, his child, his humanity. I wonder if one were to divide every unoccupied space in the world by the number of homeless how much square footage could be allotted to each.

Those of us in wealthy western countries may convince ourselves that we are safe and secure snuggled up in our mortgaged or rented properties but the reality is that a very small percentage of the population is anything but a few missed paychecks aways from homelessness.

The shattered state of the economy makes such a statement seem plausible even though twenty years ago it would have seemed laughable.

So the beginning of true political revolution is the defiance of the conventions of architecture: the suburban shanty town, the blighted Wal-Mart with thousands of tents, tipis, yurts, earthships, campers, and cardboard houses in the parking lot, and in the building itself. The subdivision with a campsite on every vacant lot. The "homeless" becoming unmarginalized and exercising what few rights we have to gain more rights.

What rights does a suburban American have? Are there city charters, county regulations or state laws that grant people the right to shelter? Are their laws anywhere in America which resemble those like the squatters rights in Amsterdam?

To see architecture as repression one must imagine how the political process would unfold if homeless people were to attempt to gain more political rights in a community. I can imagine what the city council meeting would look like in Beavercreek if someone proposed that such a measure be passed. The first thing in every property 'owners' mind is "what is going to happen to my already depreciated real estate value if this becomes the next Santa Monica?"

A brief reading of the Urban Institute's 200 plus page evaluation of the homeless situation in Santa Monica illustrates the politically repressive nature of society's approach to the homeless. Among the recommendations made by the institute is the "criminalization of panhandling" which the report notes has been struck down as unconstitutional but nevertheless holds out as a desirable solution. Nowhere in the report could I find an enumeration of the rights of homeless people and the tone of the report generally dehumanizes the people it is supposedly trying to help.

We are all homeless. We are all homeless. In this culture we are all homeless. Of course there are exceptions, but even outright title to a piece of property is not an absolute right to shelter. Property can be lost in a lawsuit, taken by a state or county agency for failure to pay taxes, etc. Without a legal right to shelter every human being in simply living in a varying degree of insecurity with the vast majority being truly close to homelessness.

This brings to the fore the relationship between law and architecture. Most of the laws in this country are designed around the idea of amassing and protecting wealth including land and real estate. It is only reasonable that those who have the most of both when the laws are written construct the laws to insure that their property remains in their hands and remains valuable. The primary value of land is its potential use as shelter.

So what this country needs is a new homestead act. Just as a man could gain title to land by simply developing it in the 19th century west we need a new piece of legislation which opens every decrepit urban area, defunct strip mall, blighted box store and fallow farmland to settlement and development of single family homes.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Smilla's Sense of Snow and Brahms

Last winter I read Smilla's Sense of Snow and watched the snow fall while listening to Brahms. Those three things go really well together, the book, the music and the snow. As much as I covet a warm climate there is something about the snow and the cold that is...essential..empowering...life affirming...I can't find the word but it makes me doubt the wisdom of relocating to a warm climate. I definitely write more when it is cold.

Now that we are relying solely on our wood stove for heat the cold adds an new dimension of contact with the earth. I am always aware of the temperature inside and outside. When I wake up in the basement and it is 51 degrees I know the fire has gone out upstairs or that the temperature outside is approaching single digits.

Stacking firewood and hunting for kindling in the woods creates a healthy disconnect from civilization. It is like a genetic memory is being reawakened, as if my DNA is more comfortable with the woods and the fires than with heat pumps and digital thermostats. I am continually fascinated by the wood stove, such a technologically simple device but it must have been life altering at the time of its invention. Compared to the fireplace it uses so much less wood to create so much more heat. The iron is rarely hot to the touch yet can warm the furthest reaches of a 2200 square foot house without even using the central air fan.

I imagine a modern tipi/yurt style dwelling with a wood stove on the underground level in the exact center with on over sized cast iron chimney which runs through the center. Of course it would be a geodesic dome, predominantly translucent, I can't decide if it should be earthship style with only the southern half glass or if it should be all glass (or whatever material I will be using that will have better thermal efficiency and less weight than glass).

Ideally from a heating/cooling perspective it should be sunk into the ground on the northern side, on a south facing hill so that the ground creeps up the north face nearly to the roof. Double paned translucent panels with a large gap would be ideal. Jennifer mentioned that they have developed translucent concrete http://www.litracon.hu/ which would make for an interesting patchwork pattern. Depending on the sunlight in the climate it may be necessary to use "transition" type glass on certain exterior panels. Okay, enough writing, time to draw it.

How we are made into slaves

What does it mean to rise up? First and foremost it is an internal process. An inventory of the control mechanisms which have been placed within one's psyche and then reinforced for 20 or more years. I thought of a new one today, a new reinforcement mechanism that is.

When I played football in college we ran sprints at the end of every practice. The coach would call out the name of the person who crossed the line first. This had a strong motivational effect on those of us who still had some energy to spare but I realized today, over twenty years later, that this was a very subtle and pernicious form of Pavlovian conditioning.

To hear one's name called as the victor is very enjoyable. In a state of physical exhaustion, suffused with adrenaline, surrounded by armored comrades with whom one has just been doing battle, to hear one's name called out as the victor, is arguably as pleasurable for a human male as eating some dog food is for a dog. Indeed it is rewarding on a much deeper psychological level than the mere food reward of standard Pavlovian conditioning.

This then begs the question "why"? I was always under the impression that I held my football coaches in the same contempt as every other authority figure in my life but did I? Of course I secretly craved their approval, there was a feeling of discomfort in hearing my name called; the sensation that I was being exposed, as a kiss-ass, a boot-licker, a lap dog.

So this negative feeling, stacked with fatigue and every other disincentive to run hard after practice was not enough to deter me from the reward of hearing my name called. Why?

In kindergarten we love our teachers, I loved my teacher, I thought she was pretty, and I still remember her name. I wanted her approval, I wanted her to call my name as the winner. There was a slot in my brain for her to slide into, and that is the same slot that coach Kelly resided in 12 years later. I had reasons to dislike my kindergarten teacher. On the first day of school in my life she took the box that I had carefully selected to contain my eraser and other precious learning utensils and violently ripped the top off.

In what could only have been a predetermined strategy to cement her authority in our four and five year old brains she did this to every single student as we filed passed her table on the first day of institutional learning in our lives. As our mothers stood impotently by and watched, she ripped the top off of each box that she had instructed our parents to purchase for us.

Would it not have been more practical and less cruel to simply tell the parents in advance that the box should not have a top, that an old cigar box or chocolate box, or children's shoe box would be perfectly acceptable? But this would not achieve the desired effect.

The box itself is meaningless. But the box as a metaphor for hope, anticipation, excitement is brutally effective. We walked through the store, holding our mother's hand, carefully selecting Aquaman over Batman and aligning our new treasures carefully inside, a bright green eraser, a dull yellow pencil sharpener, our little scissors with the round ends, a small bottle of Elmer's glue. We took our small package of dreams to the desk and RRRRRRRIIIIIIPPPPPPPP. Mrs. Fitzpatrick tossed the box back to me, the contents wobbling around, their precious placement ruined forever, their sacred container defiled and issued the first command "sit here" as she pointed to an arbitrary place on the carpet.

And I obeyed hoping to hear my name called.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Divide and Conquer

Yesterday on "Democracy Now" the guest was a food writer who studied the disgustingly cozy relationship between the food industry, and food science as it is practiced in both academia and the government. He remarked that the "food-industrial complex" has a miraculous way of spinning new research into a marketing campaign. For instance in the 70's when research concluded that high levels of fat were detrimental to cardiovascular health the food industry responded by labeling foods "No-fat" and even something as nutritionally useless as jelly-beans could be labeled in a way that made it appear healthy.

The corruption of knowledge, the twisting of facts to reinforce the status quo is a phenom which is omnipresent. It is offensive to see an internet pop-up ad with a ridiculous claim such as "I lost 60 pounds without exercising or changing my diet" but this strikes a discordant note in our logical faculties because the argument must be made in the small time and space of an ad. The more pernicious lies are the all pervading forms of deception that exist on a subtle level, in history classes, in news reports, and in academic debates.

When I posted John Trudell's comments about Columbus part of me asks the question "what does this have to do with you? shouldn't you be grateful for Columbus, you are the descendant of European immigrants who followed after the "discovery" of the new world so what do YOU have against Columbus"?

So my legal training comes to the rescue and causes me to invert the question, why do I identify with Columbus? Because I am white? Because I am the descendant of Europeans? No and No. It is because I am not native American. This then begs the question "must one, or should one be native American to question the justice of the history of the genocide of the native peoples of the Americas?" We will table the debate on whether or not genocide was committed and leave it at 500 years of systematically being disenfranchised. It doesn't really make any difference as regards the point I am trying to make.

I identify with the native peoples of the Americas because they were free men, women and children. They came into the world surrounded by a culture which taught them how to live in harmony with the land, to extract food, clothing and shelter from it and to spend their time in ways that were meaningful.

Just as the food industry can turn research data into a marketing campaign the academic industry can turn a war on free people into a race war. Activists are divided by race, ethnicity, cause, in any myriad of ways to dilute their overall strength and hide the fact that many of us are fighting for the exact same cause..namely a society in which we can live and work and spend time with our loved ones in a meaningful and dignified manner. It all boils down to this. From labor movements, to immigrants rights, to aboriginal rights, to gay rights, to womens rights it is about one thing. The system as it exists uses human beings for fodder to perpetuate meaninglessness. Whether you are dying of cancer from working in a uranium mine, suffering PTSD from a battle tour, or wasting away in a cubicle in a suburban coffin you have been deprived of your dignity by a system you never elected or chose to participate in. We were all born as slaves, to nit pick about what kind of slaves we are, divide ourselves by race, culture, gender, sexual orientation, nationality, religion or any other meaningless and arbitrary category is to defeat ourselves before we begin.

There is the system, and there are its victims. Unless you are amassing wealth from the toil of others you are a victim, a slave, and that's all the categorization you need to know.

Rise up.

Meditation and Ram Dass

I learned about Ram Dass when he made a cameo on 'Six Feet Under'. I learned a great deal from that show, I discovered the Neti pot, that places existed which are entirely devoted to the study of altered states of consciousness, Blue Oyster Cult, modern hippies and many other gems I can't remember now. But there is one line from the show which sticks in my craw after all these years when I think about it from time to time. It is a scene in which Claire is complaining about a new temp job her mother has made her take by threatening to force her to pay rent or move out or some other unoriginal parental coercion technique. Her oldest brother Nate states bluntly "we all have to work Claire". And my blood begins to boil. If you live in the forest and rely on wood for heat then you must cut wood. If you rely on your own crops for food then you must plant, cultivate and harvest them, and if you wish to achieve enlightenment you must meditate but some part of me rebels at the notion that "we all have to work".

Perhaps I don't consider the activities I enumerated to be work. I take Nate's statement to mean that the drudgery and toil that most civilized human beings are subjected to is inevitable for all of us. I don't accept that. I love hard labor, I love to drive a tractor, haul wood, shovel snow, build anything but these are not "work" in the sense that Nate means "work" as I infer it.

As with many scenes in 'Six Feet Under' the writer and director deserve a great deal of credit for provoking such strong intellectual debate. I wonder if the writer isn't using Nate as a foil, as a representation of all that she disagrees with. I wonder if Claire isn't the embodiment of unadulterated creativity, of the rebellious spirit that thrashes and flails when any attempt is made to harness and restrain it. Because I always agreed with Claire, I rarely agreed with David, and I agreed with Nate more often than I care to remember now.

In retrospect it seems that the three siblings represented three levels of engagement with the world. David embraced the system unquestioningly, the church, the work of his father, his place in the community as a funeral home director, Nate rebelled initially and then returned the prodigal son. He arrived just in time for his father's death and assumption of the mantle of responsibility as a father and a part owner of the family business. Claire followed her own path, not a rebellion against the family, nor an integration into it but simply her path.

I always resented Nate's remark because Claire was trying to become an artist, and his words were a dismissal of that ambition, as if to say "you can play at being an individual but you still have to do your time in the system like the rest of us."

Up until that moment Nate always seemed so reasonable to me, like someone who did what he had to do to survive without losing his individuality. But that line was a transition point for Nate, with those words he crossed over into the system. He became the worst of what the system creates...a dream killer. In those words I heard every discouraging comment from my parents and any parent as they sought to make their children more practical, to mold an artist into a graphic designer, or a poet into a copy writer or lawyer.

I am currently reading The Illuminatus Trilogy and there is an amazing line in the first book to the effect that the political system is a monolith. It isn't about whether communism or capitalism is better, the system has already won when you begin to think in those terms. In other words once you have aligned yourself with an existing faction you have already lost because that alignment presupposes you have given up on your own unique perspective.

This is why media is so taxing to my ears, because there is rarely a voice which asks if the debates are even worth having. There is never a point-counterpoint style debate as to whether civilization is actually a good thing for mankind. But such a debate would be useless because it is appallingly obvious to any thinking person that the world we live in now consists almost exclusively of absurdities.

To return to Ram Dass: by a strange series of what civilization would term coincidences, I received as a gift a book by Ram Dass from someone I hardly knew. After a brief conversation he simply stated "I have this book that was given to me and I was told to hold on to it until I met the right person". He did not tell me anything else about it and the next day he gave it to me and the name of the author sounded familiar but I did not connect it with "Six Feet Under" or with something I had read by Ram Dass a few years ago.

That book Remember Be Here Now now sits on a shelf in my meditation room. The cover is a drawing of an old wooden chair inside of a circle comprised of a series of points, all the points are connected by lines which criss-cross over the chair. When meditating if I concentrate on the image of the chair it fades in and out. When the Ohm vibration is sustained the chair disappears and when I inhale the chair returns. With intense concentration the chair will disappear for longer stretches and the various lines will merge into a solid circle.

I discovered this purely on accident while happening to look at the book one day and noticing that the image of the chair seemed to vanish for a moment. As I stared harder to focus on the chair it vanished again. When I said something about this to the previous owner of the book he simply responded "well isn't that the point".

So I am beginning to understand this image of the chair as a metaphor for reality. That one may exert a great deal of control over the reality one occupies, up to and including changing what appears to be a solid object.

Nate's statement is an acceptance of reality as it has been given to him, to Claire and to us. It is an alignment with an existing faction, it is the picture of the chair as one sees it for the first time. And if one were to stop at that, accept that one must work, choose a side, and silence the voice of "why?", then the image as it appears initially is real, one must work and choose a side and live and die as dictated by other men. But if one simply looks deeper, asks "why?", questions the validity of alignment with a preconceived notion, then the chair wobbles and disappears and the journey begins.

Paschal Beverly Randolph and John Trudell

"I guess I'll just start with Columbus, see I have a real problem about all of this, to me he was like a virus, a disease, see there's this predator energy on this planet and this predator energy feeds on the essence of the spirit, feeds on the essence of the human being, the spirit, the mining of the essence, the mining of the spirit, mining our minds, the pollution from that is all of the neurotic, distorted, insecure behavior patterns that we develop. Because in order for this predatory system, this disease to work we must not be able to use our minds in a clear coherent manner." John Trudell Columbus day interview 1992

"We must not be able to use our minds in a clear coherent manner". That's it isn't it? The fundamental premise upon which "civilization" is based. In order for any structured society to exist there must be a constant 'resetting to zero' of any awareness one might gain of the absurdity of our surroundings. Let us analyze the existence of civilized man on planet earth as an alien anthropologist would. Let us begin with the basic goals held up to be universal: career, home ownership, and respect of one's fellow civilized man.

"Career" is an Orwellian term embodying the most blatant type of deception. It is a euphemism for spending the vast majority of one's waking moments toiling away at, commuting to, thinking about, or searching for an arbitrarily categorized series of actions which not only contribute nothing to one's personal growth but often contribute nothing to the system which relies so heavily on those contributions.

This very exercise in meaninglessness, the repetitive, endless routine which deadens the soul and aborts the question "why" in the proverbial intellectual womb is the foundation upon which all other deception is built.

For 13, 17, sometimes 20 years or more we are programmed by an unthinking, unfeeling bureaucracy to submit and obey, to toe the line, not rock the boat, not be a trouble maker and above all not ask a child's most fundamental response to every command "why?". Because I said so, because your teacher said so, because the government said so, because our version of god said so, these our the answers we grow accustomed to expect until eventually the very ability to mentally form the question "why" is removed from our mind.

Why should I spend all my time working while strangers care for my children?
Why should I go to school to learn nothing useful?
Why should I spend 30 years paying for a dwelling that I could build in a matter of months with my own two hands with the most rudimentary training?
Why is none of the time I spend in educational institutions devoted to teaching me how to build a home, grow food, repair an engine, build a vehicle, think creatively?

The answer to every question is the same. Because the system has no use for independent men. An independent man is at best neutral to the system and at worst its greatest enemy. An independent man thinks about the orders he is given by society, questions them and most likely disobeys them. If you were trained to build your own home, grow your own food, repair your own vehicles, and think creatively you would never settle for a meaningless job at slave wages, a crippling mortgage or rent payment, buying everything on installment in a never ending cycle of debt and partial repayment that ends only with your death.

Wars, political struggles, debates about health care, capitalism versus socialism, the Super Bowl, video games, TV, radio, newspapers, the internet are all an endless stream of meaninglessness to distract you from the simple truth that you are a slave to a system which has a single goal: to perpetuate itself.

Breathe deeply, look at the sky and the earth that will be here long after all this meaningless is gone, feel your connection to the universe, and know the simple fact that you have all that you need already, and your journey to freedom will begin.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

The Underground History of American Education

If you can get your hands on this book please read it. The Imperial Prussian school system was designed by the German empire to create obedient soldiers and industrial workers. When the Mellons and the Carnegies saw the of success German industry they banded together with the Rockefellers and other magnates who needed a properly indoctrinated workforce and a docile population and imported the system lock stock and barrel into the U.S.

Pavlovian conditioning was a principle foundation of the Prussian system. When a bell rings one is allowed to stand and move to the next class. The short class periods and over specialization of subject matter differs greatly from classical Greek education where a book, piece of music or poetry or even an idea could be discussed for hours on end.

You were not educated, you were trained as a dog is trained to give certain responses when prompted with certain stimuli. A command issued by one in authority is obeyed. This is the primary lesson you were taught in various guises over a 20 plus year period and unlearning that lesson takes a great deal of effort and courage.

Do it. (and feel free to use the ammunition of the enemy)

The weather man is killing independent George

With the ringing of a school bell your sense of time was twisted and made into a means to interrupt your concentration. By the age of 7 you had been programmed to believe that you were born in a special time, in a sacred place, and a member of a righteous and powerful nation upon whom the wisdom of providence had bestowed the mantle of the world.

Your tears and laughter were directed to Lassie and Disney and parades so that you would not see the nightmare around you, so that you would not hear the death of independent GEORGE.

Unfortunately independent George didn't die when Susan started hanging out with Elaine, it died much earlier. My sense of history seems to put it somewhere between 1800 and 1920. The death of independent George, the death of the self sustaining man, who relied on neither government, nor his fellow man, was an important victory for the powers of the state. For to the independent man the inherent corruption, deceit and theft of the state seems obvious, and to him the need to abolish all government is painfully apparent.

To destroy independent George was a life or death necessity for the modern state. The way man thought, the books he read, the opinions he held, all had to be shaped by the state from the very beginning. An archipelago of buildings and personnel would be necessary for such a task. A moderately paid lower middle class to middle class workforce who were happy to be the caretakers of the indoctrination of their neighbors' and friends' children.

For every minute one spent under the control of the programmers one needs a minute out from under them. Thus many of us start to wake up and get a clue around age 40.

The mechanisms of control are everywhere present. Be vigilant against allowing yourself to become emotionally invested in nonsense. If your mood rises and falls with the score of a game, the record of your favorite team, or the career of your favorite actor you are failing to see the reality around you and the reality is that you are a slave. A slave to a culture of nonsense and meaninglessness. A culture that promotes debt as a means to acquire unnecessary property as a means to feel validated in a never ending spiral of meaningless work, meaningless material acquisitions, meaningless relationships and empty passionless lives.

Just as a child feels his whole happiness hinges on a playground game so too the aged child clings desperately to the meaningless fluctuations of everyday life. Look within, stop watching TV, stop responding to ads, labels, packaging, see it happening in your mind, break the chains, educate yourself, read and be critical of what you read, of what the medical establishment has to say, of what the banking industry has to say and even what the weatherman has to say. Why the weatherman? Because every minute you spend thinking about the weather is another minute of your life wasted on something you can not change. Carry an umbrella and wear a warm coat and fuck the weatherman.