And Then There Was One

I am, in industry parlance, the LMO, The Last Man Out. The production is completely shut down, the facility sterilized, the rentals all returned, the accounts closed, the crew and staff all given their t-shirt and final paycheck and sent on their way. The gig has played out and all the things most people think of as 'making a movie' are done with.

Only I am left to sweep the floor, shut off the lights and lock the door behind us.

Normally I find this to be cathartic, a bittersweet moment, an exhalation and a congratulation after a job complete. I drive away from the empty production office on my final day, secure in the knowledge that all of the loose ends are tied and that I may confidently add a line to my resume and IMDB. Usually I take a week to watch old movies, re-read my favorite book and overindulge in Japanese beer before striking out to find the next gig, before seeking the chance to do it all again.

Not this time, though.

With two days to go on this show and naught but the dumpster and the copy machines to be picked up, I was offered a slot on a new show that starts Monday. Moreover, this new show is moving into the production space that my old show just vacated. I took it, of course. This business is just too fickle to turn down work so I'll just have to make it without the usual decompression. I'll have to forgo the release of saying that I'll never be back this way. I won't get my tidy personal coda of a cigar and a stroll into the metaphorical sunset. And, that's just the way it's going to have to be.

Once more, unto the breach.

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Fuck All!

That's something that I say a lot, my personal catch phrase, "Fuck All." I'm concerned that I have not effectively communicated the depth of the maxim. It seems this has been taken as a throw away statement, an empty signifier meant to communicate apathy. This is not so. Allow me to elaborate.

George Bush, fuck him. Fuck the Republican party, which is poor name for a group so dedicated to the erosion of the republic. Fuck the Democrats, too, but not as hard because, even though they’re every bit the bunch of shmucks the Red Dogs are, at least they mean well. Fuck politics, the people, the process and the pretense of power.

Fuck relationships. Fuck chocolates and flowers, cuddles, smiles and mock joy. Fuck PDA. Fuck the very idea that somehow we need someone else in order to be complete and fuck the fact that nobody realizes how dysfunctional that is. Fuck everyone that has ever said "I Love You," and not meant it. Fuck everyone who has ever cheated and everyone who has ever been cheated upon and not had the balls to walk away. Fuck anyone that has ever used sex to get something they didn't deserve and double fuck anyone that fell for it. I'm okay with half of all marriages ending in divorce but fuck the other half that end in death.

Fuck working and slaving at serving and cleaning up after ungrateful fucks that think a fat wallet counts for something other than compensation for a tiny cock. Fuck people that don't say thank you and fuck anyone that doesn't think before they speak. Fuck the rat race and the lie of a better life than our parents had. Fuck your boss who's only getting what he's getting because he pays you less than you're worth.

fuck punctuation?

Fuck body image and fashion and pop culture. Fuck the here and now. Fuck popularity and ten thousand - thousand ideas and ideals of how someone should be. Fuck rock hard abs and platinum blonde hair. I think I'm going to eat chocolate and fried cheese until I break out like a herpes grenade on my chin and forehead just so that I'll have an excuse not to fall in line with Carson fucking Daley, the guy on Queer Eye. Oh, wait, fuck me, that's a different Carson so fuck everyone named Carson because it's a stupid fucking name. Fuck cultural literacy and fuck everyone that wants to sell my own rebellion back to me. Fuck the colors for the season but don't fuck runway models, it's too gratifying to feel the knobby bones of their pelvis through their emaciated flesh, besides it's not good for their hunger addled minds. Fuck a sandwich and then feed it to them. Fuck The Swan and Extreme Makeover; fuck self help books and personal empowerment and anyone or anything that tries to instruct someone else on how to be.

The Guy in L5P that wears the Chinese cap and rides the dilapidated bicycle, definitely fuck him. Fuck him with something sharp. While we're on the topic of people in lil'5, fuck that ugly, foul smelling wench that has asked me for change every week for the two years I've been living here and then gets bitchy at me when I say no. "But I need help!" she says. "You need more help than I'm gonna give you now sod of and fucking die.”

Fuck Elisha Cuthbert, if only I could.

Fuck intellectualism. Throw it down on the hood of Dale Earnheart's car and fuck intellectualism senseless; it needs a good shagging. Fuck DeSassure and Marx. Fuck criticism. Fuck theories of all kind. I have a theory for you; theories suck. Fuck Mulvey, Heidegger, Lacan, Nietzsche, Rand, Descartes, Spinoza, Malebranche, Pascal, Locke, Leibniz, Berkeley, and Hume. Fuck Einstein, Hawking, Durkheim, Darwin, Sagan, Burke, Newton, Franklin, Dr. Mengela and fuck Jesus, too, just to make sure I've covered everyone, covered them in the steaming semen of my disdain.

Fuck anger and fuck frustration. Fuck disenfranchisement and fuck your contempt at my contempt. Fuck a world that never realizes that the height of human civilization is only a finger's width from the muck from which we climbed and can just as easily descend back towards.

And you know what, fuck you, too.


Handin' Tickets out for God

"You'll grow up eventually," he said, my old boss from that summer job I had more than a decade ago, "You'll see how silly that is when you get older." He sneered, chuckled and strode into the back. His sentiment was hardly unique. I hear it, in some form or another, to this day.

It seems that a vast segment of America feels Paganism is somehow not real, that it's a joke, live-in performance art or misguided role play. They seem skeptical that people like me actually believe these things.

When I deign to mention my faith in mixed company, which I do with less and less frequency, I get statements like those above. I get furrowed brows, one sided grins and assertions that I'm just being contrary and will come to my senses eventually, that is if I'm not dismissed as a freak or foreigner too difficult to bother understanding. I'm told that it's natural to sample naturalistic, pantheistic, individualistic, tree-hugging bullshit when one is young and that my feelings on faith will eventually gravitate to something more reasonable and self-evident. I'm told that, barring anything else, I'll make a death bed conversion on the implicit knowledge that Jesus is the light and I've been knowingly fooling myself since I was fifteen.

These people must all have had a free spirited sibling that tried on a half dozen religions in their twenties only to come back to the church when they were told they'd be cut out of the will.

I have news for such people; I'm thirty years old. I'm not going to outgrow my religion. This is not a phase, not for me and not for the estimated three million other Pagans in North America. Faith is not a dalliance; it is a way of informing one's interaction with a vast and often hostile world. It is a method of understanding one's self, of building community and of framing the challenges of life, itself. I don't need scripture. I don't need teleological justification. I don't need salvation.

Do Jews experience this? Muslims? Who else's faith is dismissed as a temporary aberration of opinion that will one day correct itself, like we somehow feel that Pascal might go all in and force us to fold because the hand of our faith has been a bluff all along.

Enlightenment is at the end of many roads.

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The Gimick of Prosperity Gospel

For those uninitiated, Prosperity Gospel is the Biblically dubious concept taught at many evangelical churches that god bestows material wealth on those whom he favors. Generally, this is with the explicit instruction that one must tithe to the church in order to receive the lord's good will. Typically, church leaders who espouse this philosophy become very wealthy on the largesse of their congregation and then use this wealth as a validation of this same policy.

This teaching, that one's worldly life will be improved by devotion, strikes me a symptom of the weakening of faith on a mass scale. The congregants of such churches, whether they realize it or not, don't really believe in afterlife rewards anymore. Salvation isn't enough anymore. The promise of heaven seems empty so religious institutions need to make more immediate promises in order to recruit and retain followers. They must sell religion as an investment scheme rather than a path to enlightenment.

There was a time when Xians were supposed to be absolutely contemptuous of worldly things. God could shit on you your whole life just to see if you'd remain faithful as he did to Job and no reward could be expected while one was on Earth. Poverty brought one closer to grace. The meek shall inherit, camels through the eyes of needles and all that.

No one in Evangelical America believes this anymore, of course. They may say that they do and might even believe it but, like all the business of religion, simply believing it does not make it true. The poster children for todays Xianity are rockstars that make fantastic amounts of money. Mega-churches are palaces that rival sports stadiums in size and multiplexes in comfort. The pastors at these churches often make six figures or more and they promise likewise to the most devoted from their flock.

In today's America, faith has become a ponzi scheme because greed sells better than God, himself

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But, I Like Chai

Despite my last post, I've recently developed a taste for Chai. That's actually what started the train of thought that led me to write said post.

Some people have suggested to me that I can't be a tea purist and still drink chai. I argue that I can because Chai, when prepared properly is still 'tea' using my operational definition. In fact, "chai" or some variation is the word for tea a a number of Asian languages. What we call chai-tea is properly called "masala-chai," which means "spiced tea" in Hindi. Masala style is the traditional method of tea preparation in much of India and Pakistan.

The problem in the US is that most places don't prepare it properly. Rather than steeping the tea and spices in a blend of hot water and milk, they use a chai extract. It's a sort of tea/spice demiglas that they quirt into the hot water much like hazelnut syrup into a frilly coffee and then add foamed milk. This is where we get the "chai latte" popular at many chain coffee bars.

Personally I prefer it the original way. Try this recipie if you're interested.

Combine 1 flat teaspoon of loose-leaf darjeeling tea and a large pinch each of crushed cinnamon stick, crushed nutmeg, cardamom and two whole cloves in a large stainless steel tea ball or filter pouch.

Mix three parts water with one part whole milk and heat until just shy of boiling. Stir if need be to keep the milk from scalding.

With the water and milk still over heat, add the bag of tea and spices and let heat for 1-2 minutes.

Remove the mixture from heat and allow it to continue steeping for another 2-3 minutes.

Add sugar or gum syrup to taste.

There are hundreds of other styles so dig around on the internet to find the one that suits you.

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I Am a Tea Purist.

As my mother tells it, I had my first taste of hot tea at the age of seven days. An under-sized infant, barely able to keep my eyes open for more than a few minutes at a time, my grandmother spoon fed me black tea in the English style, with milk and sugar. She didn't give me much, mind you, perhaps a table spoon's worth and she didn't make a practice of it. Gram just wanted to ensure that I would internalize my Anglo-Celtic heritage and grow up to be a tea drinker after the British tradition rather than a java guzzling American.

As it turns out, I grew up to be both. More than half of everything I drink is served hot and I drink coffee and tea in approximately equal measure, typically tea when I'm at home and coffee when I'm out.

Owing to the formative years I spent in England and, I'm certain, to my grandmother and father's inculations, I am now a tea purist. I have some very particular opinions about my favored beverage, specifically what tea is and what it is not. Mind you, I call myself a tea 'purist' rather than a tea 'snob.' I don't much care about the quality of the tea but rather the composition of the liquid that bears the name, which brings me to the point.

In recent years the U.S. beverage industry has taken to ascribing the word 'tea' to any concoction that involves steeping plant matter in hot water. This is entirely incorrect.

Tea is an actual plant. It is native to Asia, cultivated on all six inhabited continents and known to botanists as Camellia sinensis. The three most general types of true tea, usually denoted by color, white, green and black, are all produced from this plant and differ only in the methods of cultivation and the manner in which the plucked leaves are handled. In order for a beverage to properly be called 'tea' it must contain actual tea. You can spice it. You can sweeten it. You can chill it. You can add milk or do any one of a number of other things to augment it but if there's no actual tea leaves involved,* then it isn't tea.

Chamomile isn't tea, neither is Echinacea nor ginseng nor Labrador. Hot water with lemon is not tea. Red Bush tea, though I confess that I like it, is inaptly named as it is made from rooibos, not tea. Basil water and anything else that falls under then heading 'herbal tea' is properly called an infusion. Why, because it doesn't have any friggin' tea in it and therefore isn't tea anymore than coffee or vegetable soup is.

Please avail yourself of this nomenclature thus.

*Yes, I know, there are a number of kinds of "stem" tea or "mountain" tea that are made from the woody parts of the tea plant. Yes, those are tea also. Aren't you happy with yourself you pedantic little shit.

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The Digital and Analog Generations - Part I

The anniversary of the Berlin Wall's fall was a few weeks ago. I didn't comment on it at the time but conversations surrounding the commemoration set me to thinking. It seemed that there were two distinct groups having two entirely different conversations, two unrelated bodies of experience surrounding that fateful day in 1989. My niece, my girlfriend, and one handful of friends had one set of thoughts on the subject while Joker, Friendly Genius, Weatherman and I had a fundamentally different set. On reflection, I've realized that that divide goes much deeper than opinions and understanding of recent history and of international politics.

It's a matter of age. There is a distinct divide in life experience between the "Analog" generations, people like me who were born before 1983 and the "Digital" generation, those born since. In the space of a year or two the American experience changed. Anyone approximately my age and older has clear memories of a time when the world was a much different place in terms of geopolitics, as represented by the Berlin Wall and also in terms of how we in the United States construct our national identity and even how we live our day to day lives. Anyone more than a few years younger than I doesn't remember this era. Though they may have lived through part of it, they were too young for it to have shaped their understanding.

The most obvious division and the one that started me on this line of thinking is that Soviet communism fell apart in 1989; I was ten years old. We Analogs remember this and had some inkling of its significance as it happened. We watched dozens of movies in which the villains were Russians or the cronies of a communist client state. We remember when the words “The Free World” had a clear definition. We grew up hearing stories of how teenagers in Moscow would risk a lifetime in Siberia to own a Beatles record. The municipal buildings in our hometowns all sported the three inverted triangles indicating a fallout shelter.

As late as 1987, my elementary school made us practice nuclear attack drills. “Duck and Cover,” the idea that putting one's hands behind one's head and hiding under a desk might protect one from an atomic explosion seemed every bit as ridiculous then as it does now. The difference is that the possibility of the Red Giant's missiles soaring over the pole to vaporize legions of innocent American school children was very real

To the children of the Digital era, this is as much history as Vietnam and the Watts riots are to me. Sure, they know people who lived through it but it doesn't meaningfully inform their thinking; it isn't quite real. But, it was real. It was very real and it was very scary. Three generations literally spent sleepless nights wondering if the entire world might erupt in nuclear fire before the sun came up.

Even now, we think of this as being the stuff of the sixties but one has to remember that the height of the nuclear arms race was the winter of 1983-84. If you're younger than thirty or so, terms like “glasnost,” “Evil Empire” and “Iron Curtain” lack their full gravitas. “Mister Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” doesn't seem like a defiant, dangerous or war-provoking statement because, of course he's going to tear it down; how could he not? Digitals have a hard time imagining a world without a golden arches every few miles because they don't recall the capitalist revolution when McDonald's opened it's first store in Moscow and they probably don't get the jokes about how the Russian government would never allow Taco Bell to do likewise because their slogan at the time was “Run for the Border.”

It seems a bit silly in retrospect but the reality is that, as recently as twenty years ago, over a billion and a half people lived in countries that resembled today's North Korea and we all assumed that it was just a matter of time before we went to war with them.

Nowadays we grumble about how Google allows the Chinese government to censor websites without stopping to consider that, for more than half a century, one third of the world was effectively sealed off from the remainder. As a child I was taught that I would never be able to send a letter or make a phone call, let alone travel to somewhere like Moscow, East Berlin or Prague, the last of which I did visit in 1997.

To fully understand the implications of the Berlin Wall's fall, Digitals need to understand not only the context of the Cold War but also the events of earlier that same year in China. Everyone's spent half a class period on it in high school history, of course, but like most momentous events, high school history class can't communicate the essence of the time. For a full month in early summer of '89, millions of Chinese, inspired by the passing of a prominent pro-democracy agitator, took to the streets to protest the policies of the Communist Party. There were demonstrations in almost every major city culminating in a mass protest in Beijing that exceeded a million participants. Students erected a white “Goddess of Democracy” statue in the heart of the city square. American news reported that the Communist Party was in tatters, afraid to react. We were told that a military crackdown had been ordered and that China's army generals were refusing to comply.

For a week at the end of that May, it really did look like Chinese Communism was over. News outlets all over the western world, many operating unmolested in Beijing itself, were predicting that the Democracy movement in China had reached critical mass and that it was only a matter of days until the government of the PRC and acquiesced and dissolved itself. This would, of course, fuel such movements in Russia and in it's collection of subordinate nations. Democracy was about to triumph in the PRC, with the USSR, North Korea, Cuba and all of their inheritors closely to follow. Network broadcasts were preempted every night for half a month as the tide of pro-democracy sentiment swept China. Without any hyperbole, we were all thinking that we just might see true, lasting, world peace by Christmas.

It didn't happen, of course. The Communist party did crack down. The media was silenced. Tanks rolled into Beijing, hundreds of protesters were killed and the movement's leaders were imprisoned or executed. For a few weeks we all thought that Democracy had triumphed only to see it brutally crushed overnight. “Bloodbath,” was the headline on the cover of Newsweek.

In the west, we remember this as the Tiananmen Square massacre. Digitals know it by the image of the single unarmed protester facing off with a column of tanks. While it did ultimately prompt the liberalization of China that continues to this day, at the time it seemed like the ultimate Communist push-back. The Evil Empire was forever. We'd never win and the threat of a thousand mushroom clouds would loom over the world until someone pushed the button or until the stars burnt out.

Only a few months later, though, the wall came down and the Soviet government announced its own impending dissolution. I remember my grandmother tearing up a bit, which is funny because there's not a drop of Eastern European blood in my family. My fifth grade teacher predicted that there would be cheering in the streets akin to that at the end of World War II. Democracy had triumphed after all. Fifty years of animosity, paranoia and brinksmanship were over. The world, more importantly our perception of the world changed literally overnight.

None of it turned out quite the way anyone predicted it, of course. The world was not swept up in a wave of good will. Peace did not reign and I think all of us who were there for it feel a bit foolish for having expected such. There was financial turmoil, political unrest and mass migration. We exchanged one global Cold War for hundreds of ethnic and economic skirmishes.

Certainly, I'm over-simplifying and probably romanticizing. I was ten years old, after all. The important thing to remember is that these things happened. The social, political, military and economic consequences of the Second World War finally played themselves out and by 1991 we were left with a world that resembles the world of today, whereas the world of 1989 more resembled that of 1964. I am nearly as young as one can be and have understood these things as they occurred but it does not change the fact that I am still one of those who, as Freddy Mercury sang, "Grew up, tall and proud, in the shadow of the mushroom cloud."

Anyone younger is not. The defining geopolitical moment of their life involved a tragedy of twisted faith, skyscrapers and airliners. I say with some confidence that, despite this, the world is a much safer place now than in 1988.

It occurs to me that this post is already several times longer than I intended and the fall of the USSR is only one of several experiences that denote the line between the Digital and Analog Generations. I'll save the rest for another post.

Let me ask, then. Which generation are you? What aspect of history most informs your understanding of the modern world? What do you think is going to define the life experiences of our children and grandchildren that are only academic to us? What are you going to do to play a part in it?

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Like a Ghost into a Fog

The exciting part is over. By most people's understanding, the movie has been made. The last frame has been shot; the t-shirts have been handed out; the generators are silent and the above-the-liners have all flown back to the west coast. The sweat and elation of shooting disappear, along with most of the crew, with the wrap party's hangover.

The work is not done, though.

And, a handful of us are left to unmake it all, to dismantle the apparatus and return this corner of the world to it's pre-production serenity. The remaining crew, once endeavoring agog over the burgeoning project, now labor, half exhausted, to render its remains.

It will take Accounting a month or more to pay all the bills and close all the accounts. Art, Props and Set-Dec will spend weeks cataloging and storing the warehouses worth of furniture, fixtures, and chotch. Construction and Rigging now go to work on the sets and the soundstage like so many piranhas on a carcass. Production, my department, will spend thousands of man-hours as we ship seventy to ninety tons of rented material back to its owners, as we sell off a million dollars in acquired assets, as we dot every 'i', cross every 't' and finalize thousands of pages of documentation.

Ultimately, when all the others have gone, we will shut down the facility, clean out the offices, shred the remaining paper, donate all that we couldn't sell and lock the doors behind us with barely more than our fingerprints to show that we were ever here.

We will leave the place sterilized, picked clean, five acres of polished concrete and institutional carpet that will wait, as we will, for whatever is next.

An old theatre director of mine, one particularly fond of ritual, had the entire company attend strike and stay until the last moments when she would give a short speech wishing us well on all the shows in our future. Then the stage manager would ceremonially sweep the floor and shut off the lights. The scope is different. These shows employ hundreds, not dozens and cost tens of millions, not thousands, but the ritual is the same. Now I am the one sweeping the floor and, in a few weeks time, I will wish my colleagues well as we turn off the lights before going to look for the next show.

Good Gate, Moving On.

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Now THAT Was Fun!

A parachute does not always open the way that you plan. Freefall is a dynamic environment, after all. A certain number of nuisance problems are simply going to occur. We're trained to deal with them and they're not a big deal.

Some nuisances are more entertaining than others, though.

Yesterday I had a line twist. The nose cells of my canopy weren't pointing in the same direction my body was when the parachute came out of the bag. As a result the lines twist up in much the same manner as the chains of a swing set when a child spins. Normally this is no big deal. You reach up, tug on the risers and kick your leg in the opposite direction and you spin out of it.

Yesterday, though, I had an asymmetrical line twist. The lines coming off the right risers folded into the lines on the left risers unevenly. This led one side of the canopy to be the tiniest bit warped when it inflated and it made the whole apparatus want to slowly turn and dive with me dangling under it, spun up like a rubber band and unable to steer.

I pulled out of the twist and landed safely directly on target. No biggie. My heart rate didn't even go up.

One of the best things about skydiving is that it really puts life's obstacles into perspective.

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My desk is not sacred. It sits in the middle of a large room, adjacent to a communal work table and no one seems to recognize that it, and by extension, any object upon it, is proprietary. Granted, it's the nature of my job that I'm often not at my desk: I'm on the shooting stage, at the film lab, at the rental house or off dealing with some other vendor. On the other hand, the minutia on my desktop from my pencil cup to my inbox to the constantly shifting collection of coffee cups would indicate that this space belongs to someone and should probably be left as it is.

But noooooooooooooo! First, my pens get stolen by the fistful. Second, anyone who strolls by feels they can use my phone and write on my scratch pad and sit in my chair if it suits them. Third, they all use my pro-sumer copy/fax/scanner that can do all sorts of fancy stuff, the one that's mine, as in I paid for it out of pocket and it cost more than two different cars that I owned in college. At least I can talk the company into buying me toner once in a while.

For all my bitching, most of this is pretty innocuous. I can get more pens and pads and half the reason that I have the copier is to make others' lives easier. There is one thing that sticks in my craw, though.

People will try and use my computer.

Now, I've worked in a number of movie offices in which there is a public terminal or two set up if a non-office person needs to get on the web or type something. This is not one of those offices. Moreover, even if it were, my computer is obviously not the one. It's covered in stickers. The desktop is highly customized. Oh, and I run a operating system that most people can't negotiate without a hand to hold. Sure, I lock the screen if I'm going to be gone for more than a few moments but that stops no one. If I get up to run to the bathroom or to escort someone from the lobby, invariably I return to find any one of the two-hundred n'er do wells that we employ dragging their soiled boots all over my corner of the information super-highway. Most of the time they also find that they are borderline helpless in using Linux, even the idiot-simple version of Linux I use, and are then indignant that they can't make use of the computer that wasn't there to use in the first place.

I thought this was one of the unspoken laws of modernity: One does not fuck with another's computer without express permission. All kidding aside, a laptop is a very private place. Digging in someone's computer, for even a few minutes, can reveal all kinds of personal information from financial documentation to family secrets to sexual fetishes. Only a person's bedroom is more private and really only because there's a one in three chance that said person might be in there and asleep. It's somewhere one simply does not venture without the say so.

There's all sorts of damage one can do on a computer with which they're not familiar. They could accidentally bollocks up a document that's taken days to perfect, inadvertently delete a crucial file, bump "reply all" on the wrong email. They might leave URL's in the browser cache or images on the screen of which bosses or significant others might not approve. Most likely, they'll just spill their coffee on it but fucked is still fucked.

This could be my Pagan upbringing, the idea that everyone is entitled to a certain amount of sovereign space, an inalienable degree of privacy. Maybe most people are fine with others having access to their hard drives because they have a faith in basic human decency that I lack. Maybe all of my coworkers are assholes.*

Am I wrong about this? Is a computer really a much more mundane item, a tool like a screwdriver or a hair dryer that can be freely passed about and I'm just overreacting or is a computer more like one's castle in cyberspace with rules of propriety analogous to the flesh and consequences world?


*May of my colleagues feel that I'm an asshole so I feel justified in saying this in that way that pots may speak to kettles.

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Tired Song Keeps Playing on a Tired Radio

As I write this I'm sitting in a pub listening to an acoustic set by a pair of gentlemen I guess to both be about eight years my junior, barely out of college at best. They're actually pretty talented. Steve Vai wouldnt' be impressed but they're both competent guitar players with better than average voices.

What's odd is that they're set consists almost entirely of indie-rock hits from the nineties, music that was popular when they were in elementary school. Since I've arrived I've heard Nirvana, Alice in Chains, Oasis, Stone Temple Pilots, Pearl Jam, Porno for Pyros, Smashing Pumpkins, Dave Matthews, Barenaked Ladies, 4 Non Blondes, Goo Goo Dolls, Offspring, Counting Crows and Bush. Sure, quite a number of these bands are still active today but the particular songs being played were all radio singles when I was in high school.

What is it about this era in music that persists? I understand why I like it; it's the music with which I grew up. It was the soundtrack of my adolescence and early adulthood. Each of these ditties is tied to a distinct and vivid memory of my coming of age.

That is likely not true for the two guys playing, who were barely done watching Mr. Rogers when these songs were first popular. It's also not true for most of the rest of the people in the bar who all seem to be much older or much younger than I. Much of the music of the eighties has faded, or at least has been forgotten and reclaimed by the twin spirits of nostalgia and kitsch. Most of the music of the still-young twenty-first century has receded from memory like a cultural tide. Not so for the flannel-clad rockers and cosmopolitan lamenters of my youth. They've never gone away. Songs like "Jeremy," "Lithium," and "Spoonman" have been on heavy rotation for more than fifteen years.

Some of these bands have been putting out albums continuously for the last decade and a half but the singles rarely last six months while songs from their first or second record continue to be imbibed by entirely new generations.

Someone please tell me why I hear more of Dave Grohl's drums than I ever do of his vocals?

I'm not making a judgment about the quality of the music. I'm wondering about why it endures when so much music that preceded and followed it has either faded away or become artifacts of a bygone era. I was in the middle of the generation for whom this music was first composed. To us it was simply what was on the radio. Do nineteen and twenty year olds get the same musical experience out of these songs or is something different going on? Has popular music become less sophisticated and I'm only interacting with the most tasteful of listeners as they cling to the superior works of days past, or perhaps exactly the reciprocal? Am I simply not paying attention to newer music and thus only perceiving that with which I'm already familiar?

Someone enlighten me please.

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Windows 7 Can Be a Turning Point for Computer Users Everywhere

Gates - Land's new Operating System, Windows 7, was released this week to much less fanfare than Microsoft usually musters for this kind of thing. Personally, I think Windows 7 has the potential to change the very landscape of home and business computing, to turn everything on it's head.

Why? Because Windows 7 sucks. Moreover, it sucks so badly that it will finally drive the email-checking, web-surfing, IM'ing, porn-downloading masses to brighter shores.

I want to disclaim that I'm no technofile. I'm a particularly savvy user but not a guru. Unlike many computer professionals from tech support reps to code monkeys of all stripes who love to bash Windows simply because anything made by Microsoft must be bad*, people like me tend to work with any program that's set in front of us, regardless of its quirks and limitations. Windows was the default OS on virtually all PC's for decades; it's what we went with.

It seems that, ever since Win-2k or perhaps XP, each subsequent Windows release has been progressively worse. Culminating with Vista, each edition has been less user-friendly, less efficient, less accessible, more system-intensive, less versatile, more prone to failure, less customizable and more expensive. Each was flashier than the last and each made bigger presumptions about the relative stupidity of the end user. It seems that, in trying to compete with the slickness and accessibility of Macintosh, Windows sacrificed nearly all of it's usability. By all accounts, Windows 7 is more of this same trend.

Herein is how Win7 changes the future.

Last summer I got fed up with Windows, with the forced updates, with the clunky compatibility, with the pre-loaded software, with the blue screen of death and with Microsoft's presumption that everyone in the world is an intellectual property thief whom they must monitor and thwart. I switched one of my two computers to Ubuntu, a version of Linux. Once I learned the gist of the OS, I went all the way and put Ubuntu on my work machine as well.

In the past Linux, the fantastically stable, incredibly powerful, virtually unhackable, infinitely customizable and free operating system favored by system architects, programmers and other species of uber-geek, has failed to gain traction with the casual computer user because most 'flavors' of Linux aren't user-friendly. They aren't terribly intuitive. They're run from the command-line,** which requires some time to learn. If you don't know what you're doing you can massacre your machine and, unlike Windows, Linux never, ever asks "are you sure?" Simply, you have know what you're doing in Linux in order to do much of anything.

But, that's part of the point. Part of the reason that graphical computing became so popular is because three generations of users found personal computers to be fundamentally alien machines. Now, though, everyone under the age of thirty has grown up with them, is comfortable with them, understands them. Anyone under twenty has never lived in a world without them.

Enter Ubuntu, the self-styled "Linux for real people." Simply, Ubuntu is a version of Linux called "Debian" with a Windows-like desktop interface. It's designed to be easy and simple to use for people who grew up on Windows while introducing such people to the wonders of Linux. You get the familiar click-&-drag functionality in an operating system that is several orders of magnitude more powerful, more versatile, more secure, more stable and more customizable.

The transition is not entirely painless, mind you. The file architecture is not the same as Windows' so you'll have to take a few minutes to learn where everything goes. Not all of the same programs that run on Windows have versions for Ubuntu, though they all have equivalents. You'll get to keep Firefox and GoogleEarth, for instance, but you'll have to learn Gimp and oO-Calc in lieu of Photoshop and Excel. You might want to do what I did; put Ubuntu on an older computer so that you can get comfortable with it and see how much more useful and powerful it is before switching whole hog.

Really though, it will be no harder to switch from Windows to Ubuntu that it was to switch from NT to XP or 2000 to Vista.

And that is exactly my point. While you weren't lined up to switch this week, you were going to switch eventually. Instead of switching from Windows-Whatever to Windows 7, switch from Windows to Ubuntu. You'll have greater functionality, faster system performance, broader compatibility and more ease of use. You'll be virtually immune to viruses and hacking. Most importantly, you'll earn the respect of proto-nerds like me while defying the Microsoft leviathan.

Oh, and did I mention Ubuntu is 100% FREE and so is All of the Related Software including the Office Suite, Photo Manipulation Suite and a Whole Host of Media Manipulation and Playback software that are all equivalent to, and usually superior to, their Windows Couterparts.

So, take this opportunity to help Windows 7 change the world of computing by switching to something better, something free.

It's Right Here When You're Ready to Take the Plunge

*This might be true but it's not relevant here.

*Yes, I know that there have been a number of other GUI's created for a myriad of different Unix setups from Red Hat to KDE and beyond. Umbuntu is the first to gain significant traction outside of Geekdom so don't nit pick.

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das Opium des Volkes

I saw an add in a newsletter the other day for a "Gravity Ministry." The all-text ad includes the words "Come Closer to Our Lord Jesus Christ Through the Sport of Skydiving."

What the Fuck?

I've never understood the idea of an activity ministry and I've seen many. Basketball ministries, rafting ministries, music ministries, martial arts ministries, motorcycle ministries, English as a second language ministries. It's unending. A church near my apartment has a knitting ministry.

I long wondered, does playing basketball, rafting, playing guitar, learning Kung Fu, riding a motorcycle or knitting somehow enhance one's understanding of faith? Is there some religious epiphany to be had from doing mundane activities?

Then I realized that I had it entirely backwards. These people aren't coming to Jesus through these activities. They're making these activities more personally relevant by adding religion to them. I liken them to John Stewart's character from the movie Half Baked, the one who insists on trying everything he ever does while stoned.

I can hear the internal dialog now. "Have you ever been rafting?"

"Yeah, it's a lot of fun."

"Have you ever been rafting on JESUS?"

Further proof of Marx's assertion about the nature of religion.

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You Probably Won't Find This Funny

"Can I ask you a question?" my niece asked.

"You can ask me anything." I replied.

She grinned, indicating that I had just opened up a comedy door through which she would now proudly saunter. "Well, why do bad things happen to good people?" Clearly not the question she was originally intending.

"That's because there's no god." I answer.

Thomas WINS!

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We Supply the Pictures & They'll Supply the War

I've been fed up with media-ized news for some time now but just to drive home the ineptness of that industry I'd like to point something out.

In recent days, as the major networks and the 24 news channels have harped on the blithering back and forth over healthcare reform proposals so watered down from their original intent that they resemble political homeopathy, as everyone went bat-shit over the drunken rantings of Kanye West and as right-wing blowhards tittle over the songs that school children sing, a number of vastly more important things have happened.

The largest trove of Anglo-Saxon treasures ever seen in the UK may revolutionize our understanding of dark ages era Britain.

The US Army in cooperation with The National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Disease have made a breakthrough in the development of an AIDS vaccine.

Oh and we found water on the surface of the moon.

I've seen barely more than a blurb about any of these stories on any of the major television news outlets. I've seen plenty about the two guys in the Bahamas that were trying to blackmail John Travolta, though.

Seriously people, where are our fucking priorities?

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It Can't Rain All the Time

Here in Atlanta it has not stopped raining long enough for the pavement to dry in nearly six days. Bridges have been washed away. The Chattahoochee river has overrun its banks and a neighborhood not far from where I attended high school is underwater. Schools and highways have been closed. The department of public safety is urging people to stay home from work as if this were an ice storm. Some neighborhoods have had all of their roads flood, effectively trapping the residents in their homes. Someone on the radio estimated fifteen billion dollars in damage. Three people have died.

Though it is supposed to slacken in the next forty-eight hours, NOAA anticipates the rain continuing through next Sunday.

This whole week is a testament to T.S. Elliot's thoughts on the nature of disaster, of whimpers instead of bangs and we are all watching a natural disaster unfold around us in slow motion.

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And Some Days...

You find yourself alone in public. The place is strangely quiet for a spot so crowded. Just the clack of keys, the hiss of air compressors and the muted cacophony of soothing, senseless satellite radio. So many people in once place saying nothing to one another, they just read, study, work, muse silently and occasionally stare out the window at the drizzle; it's barely stopped raining for a week now. Five days of languid and relentless precipitation, of the utterances of verbose clouds, have stolen our voices and interaction no longer seems necessary.

Three dozen people, alone in each other's company.

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Stand in the Closet for Practice

"In case of fire, use stairs," it says.

We've all seen this sign posted beside elevators the world 'round and it's always sort of troubled me. For years I couldn't figure out why.

I realized this past weekend as I spent many hours waiting for elevators in the hotels hosting Dragon*Con that the actual meaning of the sign, by virtue of its grammatical construction, is entirely different from it's intent.

Now, I grant that this is a subtlety of language so finespun that, much like the German language distinction between jelly-filled pastries and US presidents, might be meaningless except to pedants like me. On the other hand, it still irks me.

The sign should read, "In the case of fire, use stairs." Meaning, in the event of a fire, use the stairs and not the elevator.

But, the sign lacks the article "the" and thus means "use the stairs because there might be a fire" or perhaps even "if you don't use the stairs, you might cause be a fire."

In any case, it means, "don't use the elevator," which is advice I wish more people at the convention would have taken.

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Built me up with Your Wishing Hell

I read recently that Atheists are one of the least-trusted segments of American society, falling far behind homosexuals, immigrants and convicted felons in a recent poll on trustworthiness. Apparently, most Americans can't bring themselves to trust someone who doesn't have some sort of religious faith, no matter how insignificant or tenuous that faith is.

This leads me to believe that most people are being willfully ignorant of the fact that a substantial number of deeply religious people are bat-shit insane.

I offer the example of a former co-worker and classmate with whom I went on several dates while in college. For some time before we went out she'd been on a spiritual quest of sorts. Like many people in their twenties she felt that her burgeoning adulthood lacked something and she was looking for whatever it is that fills the void. She read the Koran, the Torah and even had a go at the Tipitaka. She'd attended services a more than a dozen religious institutions. She was regularly emailing with several of the comparative religion professors on the nature of faith. This search was the dominating feature of her life at the time and it underpinned most of the conversation on our three or four dates.

Then, in an spiritual epiphany strangely equivalent to a high-speed left turn halfway across the Golden Gate bridge, she found her answer. Overnight, she returned to the fundamentalist Southern Baptism in which she was raised. And when I say returned, I mean it in the Douglas MacArthur sense. She began going to service on Sundays and Wednesdays plus twice weekly bible study and a political action group for six hours each Thursday. She took to carrying a bible around full time, traded up all her punk and metal CD's for contemporary Christian artists and she covered her car with religiously themed bumper stickers. She also started prostheletizing and praying aloud at work, constantly.

It goes without saying that a newly minted Jesus freak would opt to quit any romantic entanglements with the likes of me, being openly Pagan as I am. Mind you, she didn't just stop seeing me; she didn't just stop speaking to me. She informed all of our mutual acquaintances that I was, wait for it ... the antichrist.

Mind you, this was not a hyperbolic euphemism for 'he practices a religion that I find distasteful and consider to be offensive to my own faith.' No, she meant this literally. In the space of only a few weeks she had come to be believe that the literal Devil, the father of lies, the source of all that is black and unholy, who normally has horns and cloven feet transmuted himself into a simulacrum of my father. He then left hell, a place of real fire and brimstone that she believed to actually exist beneath the surface of the earth, and came to Earth to deceive and lay with my mother with the express intention of spawning me into the world.

In case I haven't made this clear enough, this woman believed me to be the literal son of Satan, harbinger of the apocalypse and enemy of god as foretold in the Revelation of John, spawned by the devil himself and she believed this to be objectively true in the same way that most believe the sky to be blue.

Need I point out that an Atheist would never come to believe such a thing? Who is more trustworthy, the person who chooses to live without a faith or a person who believes things that are demonstrably false? I mean, really?

Though, in a way, it's kind of flattering. I mean, antichrist, that's a big deal, right?

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On the Nature of Choice: An Ex-Waiter's Observations

Years ago, while working in a restaurant that was renowned for it's desserts, I learned first hand the vagaries of choice. For a while we had a chef that insisted we offer only one dessert an evening. Each night he prepared a special and unique sweet and only it was available.

His desserts were fabulous, mind you, second to none. I have literally seen women swoon, health nuts swear off diets and the sourest of first dates turn nearly pornographic at the taste of this man's pastries, mouses and soufflés. Problem was, we almost never sold any of them, perhaps two a night, three if we were busy.

That chef was replaced by another who preferred to run several desserts each evening, sometimes two or three, on big weekends as many as eight. Being the one to describe and serve the sweets to the guests, I quickly found that four was the optimal number. With four dessert options I could sell one to nearly half of all my guests. And, I should note that this second chef's confections, while still excellent, did not approach those of his predecessor. However, with each dessert offered above four, a predictable portion of guests would forgo that last course. By the time we got to seven or eight, we were back where we had been with the previous chef, selling only a handful of deserts each evening.

Granted, this is not a rigorous study, but I did see some consistent trends over hundreds of evenings that I'm certain most servers at that level can corroborate from their own experience. First, the more options there were, above four, the less likely a guest was to want one. Most often this seemed to be because they couldn't hold more than four descriptions in their head at once and if I had to go back and explain the first one a second time, they'd have forgotten the fifth by the time I was done. People don't like mental discomfort and they don't like feeling stupid so they'd just give up and go without.

Second, the more similar the options, the less likely the guests were to differentiate between them. If we offered an apple tart and a pear tart or a Napoleon beside a custard puff, the two combined would sell about as many as any one of the others. This also held true for items that were similar in appearance even if they were vastly different confections.

Third, discounting deserts that are already well known in English like Bûche de Noël and Napoleon, the more involved the French name, the less likely they were to sell. This could be mitigated if I could ground the idea of the desert in their mind, make it somehow familiar. For instance, "This is the Matignon, a flowerless chocolate cake named for the French Presidential Mansion.* Think Mansion, Matignon." Desserts with lengthy names that made no sense in English or that, were you fluent in French, were a humorous reference to the chef's girlfriend's vagina** never sold so well.

Finally, I could always sell more of a particular dessert if, immediately after describing it, pointed to it and said, "that's my favorite." By highlighting one option as superior, I essentially eliminated choice from the whole equation and I would sell twice as many of that particular desert than of any other, regardless of which one I chose to indicate.

The moral being that people, at least Americans that eat in French bistros, like choice, or rather they like the idea of choice. What they don't like is having to evaluate something for more than a few seconds. That feels like work. If they have to struggle to remember it, struggle to understand it, struggle to differentiate it from it's counterpart, they'll just as soon choose not to choose at all. Savvy salespeople know this and can manipulate the decision making process of their customers with great virtuosity and usually with the customer believing that they have made a rational, entirely self-determined choice from the word go. Put simply, our choices are rarely our own; remember that the next time you buy something.

* Actually Hôtel Matignon is the residence of the French Prime Minister but that doesn't bear explaining to most Americans.

** I'm not making that up. We had no less than a half dozen desserts with names that meant "the two petaled flower I only see at night" or somesuch.

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The Enemy of my Enemy?

I don't understand why the Republicans are so opposed to socialized medicine.

If we had a nationalized universal healthcare program they could, under the guise of preserving the health of the population and conserving tax dollars, regulate all sorts of activities that current law prevents them from touching.

They could outlaw premarital and gay sex, since those are obvious disease transmission vectors.

We all know that abortion causes breast cancer.

Those big festivals that celebrate counter-culture movements, civil disobedience or play anti-authoritarian music, way to high a probability that someone would get injured or perhaps use a dangerous recreational chemical, they'd have to go.

Pornography causes all kinds of mental illness, didn't you know. And, kinky sex? Oh, lord no, someone could get hurt.

If they could find a peer-reviewed study that indicated prayer bettered one's chances in an illness they could mandate that everyone go to church, an evangelical protestant church, that goes without saying.

Never mind, of course, that cheerleading and golf are, statistically, among the most dangerous pastimes in America. Those are just too damn wholesome. Smoking would remain legal, of course, because all of the tobacco states are redder than a submissive's buttocks. And, no one ever got sick from breathing petroleum exhaust or being exposed to petrochemicals.

Really, I don't see why the republicans are against it. It could really be a boon for them and that's before considering all the money they could give to religious hospitals.

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Grant me Wings that I Might Fly, my Restless Soul is Longing

Sorry to have been quiet for a bit. I'm on a six day a week show for the next few weeks and I recently had emergency oral surgery. To fill the gap, here's a piece from my old blog that I penned a few years back.

How is it that the bulk of unenlightened America has such an anemic and myopic concept of morality?

I've been having an ongoing discussion with half a dozen people about the nature of sexuality as a moral entity. In each case the discourse was prompted by a different set of circumstances: the recent Supreme Court ruling on sodomy, the Jakko trial, a lengthy and heated argument about how people of my religious leanings are going to burn eternal in a lake of sulphur and several goings on regarding who is and is not willing to have sex with me and my reciprocal feelings. I'm sick of it. I'm sick of the feeble, puritan, anti-human and polarized view of sexuality.

Most importantly, I am infuriated by the false dilemma of meaningless sex foisted upon the more progressive among us. The misconception seems to be that sex is the sole purview of monogamous, heterosexual marriage, and in the more liberal view, the domain of 'true love.' Anything outside of these situations is, by oppositional necessity, meaningless sex.

I don't buy it, not for a moment. To reduce the gauntlet of sexual possibilities to this false polarity is to casually disregard the depth and breadth of both human sentimentality and sexual variety. I will agree with the base assertion by saying that sex is a powerful and important thing. It is an act of bonding, of intimacy that is potent in its effects, immense in its scope and potentially dangerous in its consequences. Also, the best, meaning the most engaging and emotionally significant sex, is usually done in the context of an emotionally connected and monogamous relationship.

However, to infer that two people, the ‘consenting adults’ of sound byte fame, cannot come together physically for other reasons or in other contexts is emotionally sophomoric and, as per my religious disposition, potentially offensive. Two people (for that matter any number of people) can come together for the purposes of recreation or concentration, to create a bond, to understand one another, to share joy or to explore themselves with the help of another, and do so honestly and healthily without the specter of true love casting a shadow on what is an entirely natural way of engaging the world and each other.

It is precisely the range of sexual relationships that makes sex such a powerful thing and that makes it dangerous. It is this risk, the risk of emotional involvement, the risk of opening one’s self and even, yes, the risk of disease, that makes the variety of sexual experiences available to us valuable and so profoundly important.

The point is that any sexual relationship, no matter how transient SHOULD be meaningful even if its meaning is bound up in its very transience. I would go so far as to say that every such encounter has meaning whether the participants choose to acknowledge it or not but, honestly, I’m not prepared to speak on behalf of the rest of the human race.

Long rant short for those that skipped to the end. Get off your morality high horse. Sex isn’t meaningless, ever, even for those who say it is. It is profoundly important and it is he who would seek to impose his sexual standards on others that fails to understand exactly how important it is. Do what you want with who you want and don’t give anyone else any lip about it because it’s not your business or theirs. If you feel the need to indict someone else’s sexuality, then you’re probably too tense and in desperate need of a good long fuck.

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On the Nature of Choice: My Aunt April

My life is about to change in a number of substantial ways, the outcome of which I cannot clearly foresee. Thus, I've been meditating at some length on choice, not the choices with which I am now faced so much as on the very substance of choice itself. While thinking on this, I realized that, when I first moved to the United States, the concept of a grocery store was new to me. (This connects, I promise).

Grocery stores, as we understand them, did not exist in rural England in the early nineteen-eighties. There were neighborhood markets, butchers, dairies, fishmongers, of course. Every town of any size had a "Grocery" but it was a small store that sold vegetables, canned goods and perhaps ice cream. The one in our town was scarcely larger than my current apartment and carried no more than two kinds of anything. It was certainly not one of the sprawling, fluorescent, warehouses that we find in US suburbs, carrying perhaps a half-million individual products stacked from floor to highest reach with dozens of varieties of anything one cares to eat plus housewares, paper goods, magazines and patio furniture. We still had a milk man, after all.

I remember distinctly when my Aunt April first came to visit us a year or so after we moved to America. She'd never conceived of such a place. She stood in the aisle of the Piggly Wiggly for twenty minutes, mouth agape, unable to comprehend the selection of salad dressing.

During my Aunt's life, English salad was livened up with one of only three things. First was white vinegar, the same kind one uses to clean a drip coffee maker. After that was Branston Pickle, a concoction of diced vegetables, spices and brown sludge that resembles a hybrid of sweet pickle relish, chunky salsa and week old ratatouille.* Finally, we had "salad cream" which is a bit like watered down Miracle Whip. I presume we only bothered to have three salad toppings because they were all so terrible that we didn't want to subject ourselves to any more such horrors.

To anyone who's gone shopping in the US in the last few decades, this is obviously not the case here. American salad dressing boggled her and not just because she presumed it was all terrible and thus had trouble imagining the depths of America's masochism. She was boggled because there were simply so many possibilities. Vinegar dressings, oil dressings, cream dressings, fat free, extra-chunky, dozens of varieties and brands and sizes of each. That's not even counting extras like croutons, sunflower seeds or synthetic bacon. My aunt, who had only ever known three such possibilities was in decision overload. She simply couldn't handle that many options.

Remember also that this was in 1985 when the salad dressing aisle was only a few feet long and offered only twenty or so choices.

I tried to count the options at the Publix across the street and I gave up at 175 when I realized that I hadn't made a dent. I paced the length of the shelves and found them to be just shy of fifty feet long, whilst taking up both sides of the aisle. That means there was enough salad dressing in my neighborhood grocery store to fill a city bus.

After more than a quarter hour staring vacant-eyed at the myriad of condiments, absolutely unprepared for the dearth of options that so often manifest in the capitalist temples of middle-class America, Aunt April simply decided that we'd skip the salad altogether.

Herein lies the problem of choosing; it's not, contrary to popular understanding, simply a matter of weighing preferences, of evaluating pros an cons. Choosing from any substantial number of options requires understanding of the items, their potential properties and knowing your preferences about them. Without these things choice becomes impossible.

More options often do not make for better decisions and, faced with a choice of any difficulty, most people will chose not to chose at all.

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Yesterday's Values Living in Tomorrow's Industry

As a teen, I never experienced the restlessness of youth. I never complained to myself about the great things I should be doing. I never felt oppressed by the expectations of the world and I never chafed against authority and opportunity. The words, "until I can get out of here," were always spoken by others and not by me.

As an adult I have come to have these feelings that I lacked as a youth.

More bothersome, as I approach the beginning of my third decade, none of the people that felt and thought this way fifteen years ago continue to do so. What did they know then that they don't know now? Likewise, the reciprocal.

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Missionaria Protectiva

Much that was called religion has carried an unconscious attitude of hostility toward life. True religion must teach that life is filled with joys pleasing to the eye of God, that knowledge without action is empty. All men must see that the teachings of religion by rules and rote is largely a hoax. The proper teaching is recognized with ease. you can know it without fail because it awakens within you that sensation which tells you this is something you've always known.

-- Frank Herbert

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Effluvium, in List Form

A smattering of things I happen to have noticed recently:

My coffee shop has four distinct styles of patio chair, though only one style of table.

USA today is only published 5 out of every 7 days.

The Creative Loafing box across from my apartment has a theft chain but it's not chained to anything.

I currently have four pens in my pocket: one red, two purple, one green but none that are black or blue.

The sign in front of the neighboring parking lot says "Parking for Chelsea Building Only" but does not indicate which building that is. Nor is the building in question labeled as such.

Strollers have gotten steadily larger over the last 25 years. The one my mother used for me weighed about five pounds and could be folded up like an umbrella. Modern strollers are nearly the size of compact cars.

There are no red maple trees in Georgia. I don't actually think there are any maple trees at all but it's the absence of the red ones that I notice.

The apartment building next to mine is falling to ruins. The interior is condemned and the windows mostly shattered. Despite this the landscaping is continuously maintained.

Doogie Howser's journal entries are so vague that, were he to ever go back and read them, he'd have no idea what actually happened that day.

Some days it's best to just look around and save the meaning of things for another time.

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Wicked in their banality, vicious task masters, they count off neat quantities of an imaginary substance by which we are to measure the velocity of our lives. They force us to engage the world in seconds and decades rather than moments and seasons. Through them we are divorced from the rhythms of the world that made us and married to the tempo of the world that we made for ourselves, all the while leaving so much of ourselves behind.

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They Weren't Prophets

When I was younger my stepfather was fond of ribbing me about my political positions. I presume he chocked my ideas and ideals up to my uninformed youth or an unhealthy gullibility about the nature of government. Whether it was gun control, the rights of the accused, the nature of foreign policy or climate control, he almost always fell back on a handful of similar arguments, arguments I have often heard echoed by conservatives of all stripes:

'The founding fathers wanted/intended/wrote X and so X is therefore correct.'

This position is all well and good but is it really relevant to talk about the current state of America in terms of what men two centuries in their graves thought when compared against the realities of today?

The founders didn't live in the twentieth century. They didn't have the internet, aviation, mass media, telephony, urbanism, nuclear weapons, factory farms, labor unions, germ theory, mass transit, space travel, data mining, ballistic missiles, universal suffrage, universal literacy, twenty-four hour news, power grids, health codes or even a standing army.

The founders didn't have to contend with Rove v. Wade or the multinational corporations. The founders had never heard of global warming or embryonic research. They didn't have to battle overpopulation and they'd never heard the word 'nonproliferation.' The framers certainly knew what abortion was but they didn't make a national issue out of it. They didn't care one lick about gay rights. The founders didn't have to contend with a vocal, violent, apocalyptic death cult that actively desired to conquer and subjugate the world in the name of Jesus and that was disproportionately represented in governing bodies across the nation.

Most importantly, the founders were trying to found a new nation rather than perpetuate one that was already hundreds of years old. Thus, they were allowed, and should be understood to have made mistakes. y

While the men who founded our country had plenty of good ideas that have persisted through the intervening decades, they also had a large share of bad ideas as well. They believed that human beings could be owned like livestock. They believed that only white land-owning men should be allowed to vote or hold office. They believed that senators should be elected by their state legislatures rather than by citizens. Let me also remind everyone that the current version of government, as created by the founders, is a second draft. They had to scrap the first government and start over when the original version collapsed after less than twelve years.

The words of the founding fathers are not and should not be treated as scripture.

The history of our country is defined as much by the struggle to shrug off the founders' bad ideas as it is by the attempt to live by the good ones. With less than two decades remaining until the country's semiquincentennial, it might do us all some good to think and talk about what we want our country to be in the here and now rather than concentrating on what a gaggle of rich white elitists wanted for a fundamentally different place nearly a quarter of a millennium ago.

I should also note that, in the past fifteen years or so, my stepfather has substantially liberalized his thinking, probably as a result of spending those years with my mother.

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Just Food for Thought

Suppose you drive an older, but not classic, automobile. It's got some dents and dings but is in fantastic running shape for a vehicle of its age.

Now let's say that you see a late model, high dollar, luxury car about to commit a blatant traffic violation, running a yield sign, for instance. If you were to brake, they will pass on and no one would be the wiser. If you do not brake they will side swipe you and, legally speaking, it will be entirely their fault. There is little risk of injury as the speeds involved are quite low.

So, given that any serious damage to your car will lead an insurance company to total it, do you slow down and let them sail on by or do you take the opportunity to make a rich asshole that can't be bothered to read street signs buy you a new car?

Just a hypothetical question.

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Clutter, filth, disarray.

It mucks up the doings of an orderly world. Common objects become impossible to find and one's own house in an embarrassment. A disheveled home is a sign of a lazy soul that screams to all the world, "I don't care," and not in an admirable way.

If only I didn't hate cleaning even more.

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There's a Hole in the World Tonight

Proximity is such a delicate and powerful thing. At times, all that we feel and all that we know is defined in the space between. We are conscious of the one beside us only by the gap that separates flesh from flesh and mind from mind and soul from soul. The very experience of humanity is one of opposition, of separation, of being one and not the other.

My Queen and I, in an age I thought I had forgotten, would stand apart but not so far that the remainder of the world could tell. Like universes bent upon one another in many dimensions we would hold ourselves apart by the vast gulf of millimeters. We would experience a closeness no touch can equal. She would lean to kiss, but only tease and pull away, knowing that I would follow. I would follow her scent, her breath, the tickle of her hair and the feel of her gaze. We would loose ourselves and worship one another in a fraction of an inch. We would feel one another across a cleft as narrow as a synapse as one perceives distant thunder, barely felt but shaking the very Earth. Ours was not a knowledge of touch but of electricity in Jacob's ladder, of spark and fuel.

Love is knowing difference in another as part of one's self, of bridging the galactic hair's breadth between souls without moving.

Anger is love disappointed.

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I am More Angry than I Have Ever Been.

I'm seething, practically foaming at the mouth. Rage saturates me as if a dragon had exhaled into my veins. I want to spit blood. I want to break something or someone. Pure, unadulterated fury.

I awoke today to find that my car had been broken into.

The window had been smashed and the back seat rifled through. This, unto itself, is troubling but not altogether unexpected. I live in a major urban center, after all. Such things are simply a question of when, not if, they will happen. I've been here for about five years so I suppose I was due.

If they'd stolen my car stereo, I would have understood. If they'd stolen the printer that was in the back seat, I could handle that. If they had stolen the cash out of the glove compartment, that would have made sense. Though, after checking everything, after having the police go over my car, after close examination of everything in the vehicle, it seems they only stole one thing.

They stole my parachute.

Of all the things that someone could have taken, they stole my fucking parachute.

Am I pissed because, unless it's recovered, I'll have to rent gear to jump until I can afford a new rig, a bit, yes. Am I angry because it's the second most expensive thing I own after the car, itself, just a touch. Am I put out because this will hugely slow down my progress in the sport, yeah, somewhat.

But, what really infuritates me is that there is no reason for a common criminal to steal a parachute! They probably don't even know what it is and, even if they do, it has no use-value to anyone but a skydiver. If the thief isn't a jumper, he or she couldn't do anything with it. While rigs are expensive bits of machinery, they're next to impossible to sell if you don't know where to go. Pawn shops won't take them. Sports consignment stores don't deal in them. This person would have to actually know or be a skydiver in order to unload it and, if that skydiver is local go Georgia, they couldn't possibly jump the rig because the first thing you do when gear is stolen is call around all the drop zones and tell them about it.

I see three possibilities:

1. It was stolen by a crackhead or some other local lowlife. They thought it was a backpack and took it thinking they would get whatever was inside. When they tried to open it and realized that it wasn't a bag, they discarded it. I've already checked all the dumpsters for a quarter mile radius on exactly this contingency. I don't like to think about this possibility too much because, in such a case, it is almost certainly gone forever.

2. It was stolen by a crackhead or some other local lowlife. Whether they know what it is or not they're going to try and sell it. I've gone into all the consignment shops and such in the neighborhood pursuing this and I'm going to start calling pawn shops in just a few minutes. The police will also check on this once a police report is generated but that won't be until tuesday.

3. It was stolen by a skydiver who knew exactly what it was. This is the possibility I find most troubling since this would be a serious offense to the skydiving community. Though, if this is the case I'm pretty likely to get it back since the USPA keeps records of stolen gear and they're going to try and jump it or sell it eventually.

So, if you find yourself in the VA Highlands or L5P part of Atlanta and you see someone wearing a black and gray Javelin skydiving rig, beat them to within an inch of their life and then call me to come get the rig. And please don't get any blood on the canopy. It never comes out.

And the worst part, my car was in the parking lot of a church.

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"Do you ever get sick of it?" she asked.

"Sick of what?" I say, peering over the lip of an over-sized beer.

"Sick of the movie thing. Sick of the fourteen hour days and all the weeks on the road and all the stress and not getting anything for it except a crappy paycheck and a line on IMDB?"

I furrow my browns, "Sick of life?"

She smiles and snickers. "Don't you ever think about getting a regular desk job, nine to five, pension plan, getting to go home before ten at night?"

I mull on this and take a hefty swig. "No," I say. "I have never contemplated suicide."

I don't think she quite understands my meaning.

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Mongoose D-40 Saves a Beleagured Soul - Old Repost

Traffic doesn't matter.
Heat and humidity do not matter.
Gravity does not matter, only rubber and pavement.
Work and debt and rent and bills and lapsed 401's and cash in pockets and the price of petrol and financial responsibility do not matter.
Whatareyougoingtodowhenyougraduate? and other pressing questions of life importance that normally weigh down like millions of tons of seawater on a decaying galleon, send resumes, network, find a job, entered an uncertain field, should have been a lawyer, eight years on college, never going back to a cubicle, got to schmoose and everything you thought when you finished high school turns out to be a lie. These things to not matter.
Tomorrow does not matter.
Destinations do not matter.
*pump* sweat matters
Boss doesn't like the haircut but they're probably going to fire him and I'll be stuck with a devil I don't know not a devil I do and I couldn't care as long as they don't make me get a new set of uniforms for the fourth time in a year, doesn't matter.
Premature balding doesn't matter.
HVAC in the apt never quite works right doesn't matter.
Haven't had a full night's sleep in weeks. This doesn't matter.
*pump* Lactic acid matters
Weather doesn't matter.
I'm a bad Pagan and I know it. Doesn't matter.
Father was a genius that had accomplished more than me by several orders of magnitude at this age, been on the stage before the queen and performed at the Smithsonian when the best I can muster is four hundred head for a Halloween Rocky Horror, does not matter.
*pump* Aerobic breathing matters
Can't give up the past. Doesn't matter.
Crooked teeth, no insurance, doesn't matter.
No helmet, doesn't matter.
*pump* The next mile matters.
De Jour means something different in English than it does in French but no one seems to realize this.
Politics do not matter
Not quite the normal kid, never beaten up on the playground but not quite right either, mind like a glockenspiel/kaleidoscope/Henry Miller novel/bad infomercial/ brick wall/ boobytrap/ freight train/ broken toilet/ rococo sculpture/ lollipop/ and something else that escapes right now but be sure it's either pedantic or a complete non sequitur and all the little things that would eat that mind alive if not for fifty one minutes between 5600 Rswl Rd and home, five times a week. Doesn't matter.

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Make A Wish.

"Make a wish," she says, handing me a penny, an ancient, greenly corroding thing only barely recognizable as currency.

I take it and she smiles that panoramic, toothy smile, her eyes receding as her cheeks rise. I regard it carefully as the subtle oxidations make dust on my fingertips. Lincoln is barely recognizable. The memorial is a blur. The date is a hazy guess at best. Placing it atop my fist I aim for the second tier of the fountain and send the rotting coin spinning end over end like a planet's cross section revolving in time - lapse. I miss and it bounces off the knee of a gaudy and acid eaten cherub. It drops into the first tier to join a myriad of other coins.

"What did you wish for?" she asks.

Her jaw drops as I hop over the side of the fountain and into the pool, soaking my slacks and bringing the park's passers-by to a halt. My slacks will dry and the park goers, well, I could care. I dig in the layer of coins on the pool's bottom, drowning my shirt sleeves as well as my pants.

"What on Earth are you doing?" she cries.

Still digging about the coinage, I reply, "I wished for my penny back and I'm not content to leave these things up to fate."

That single green copper disk is not making itself apparent so I nick one from the bottom at random. Money is meant to be a fluid exchange of value, after all, so I suppose one is as good as another. I climb out of the fountain and smile back back at her, crooked teeth and dull eyes but earnest, at least. "You're a clown sometimes." she says and I smile wider.

A policeman approaches and, in the most officious voice he can muster, "Looking for something, sir?"

I hold the penny up and examine it, much newer than the first, no corrosion, all the scoring perfectly distinct, shiny. I look from it to him, "No, officer, I found exactly what I was looking for."

I take her hand and we wander, damp and giggling off along the path and back into the city, a penny's laughter richer.


I Am In Pain.

Before yesterday, I was in pain. Pain, because the weather had prevented me from jumping for the last month. It's been rainy and cloudy for weeks and hanging out at the drop zone all day, watching the drizzle and listening to the pilots talk shit about their aviation exploits as we waited for a half hour break in the clouds didn't appeal to me. Thus I've been grounded for a while.

Today I'm in pain because on my second jump my canopy took mere two-hundred feet to deploy rather than it's usual eight-hundred.

A lot of things can affect how a parachute opens: canopy design, packing method, body position, relative wind and dumb luck being foremost among them. Maybe the slider wasn't quartered properly. Perhaps I wasn't fully out of the track position when I pitched. It's possible I hit a thermal as the bag came out of the container and the relative wind was much faster than I realized.
Point is, going from one-hundred and twenty miles per hour to fourteen in under a second feels a touch like getting hit by a car. Not a big car mind you, but perhaps a Geo, or a 323. You also end up carrying most of that force through the leg straps. I'm now actively wondering if I'll ever father children.

So, how was your day?

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And Some Days...

It feels like the last week of your senior year, with so much to do that doesn't seem like it's worth the bother and all you can do is wonder what freedom is really like because it isn't just summer vacation that's coming up so quickly.

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