Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Dream Song

Let an apple / nurture itself / into your / hand
Let a feather / snowflake / hover onto / your turned-up face
All this / and more / will be given / to you
If you can / remember / how to / receive it

You have gone / many journeys
Journeyed / many miles
You have been / many people
Lived / many lives
Now you are / home again
Now you are / home

A man stands / on ranchland / where
Where once his father / was murdered
Where once cranes / waltzed in snow;
A child of seven / mimed their movements

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Comments on a Sunrise

I watched the sunrise slowly expose the contours and colors of Catalina. At first it was only possible to see the profile of the island, not entirely unlike the profile of a body lying in state with its hands folded over its groin. The light went on to reveal textures and depth by grades and by degrees. From the vantage point of the Newport shore, on an exceptionally clear day--a day like today, a day after a rain--it is to distinguish brown slopes and patches of green scrub and the pixels of individual houses on the hillsides from twenty-two miles away.

I've been to Catalina a couple of times--seen its compromised wilderness and its blue waters and the town of Avalon, which is kitschy as fuck--I know it's a real place, beautiful in some ways and trashy in others, like most places I've been, though perhaps somewhat more beautiful than most. But seeing it like I saw it this morning, a person could believe that it is not some mundane place at all, but a locus for wonder and possibility, a frontier, an undiscovered world.

Such illusions necessarily fade, but they are glorious while they last. Such moments as these, though they come perhaps only a few times a year and last only scant minutes at most, can, in their remembrance, make tolerable the more vast by far slog of mundane time marked by disinterest and unmet thresholds and repetition.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Stupid Phones

Let me be upfront about this. I do not have a smart phone. I have a stupid phone. I have what is just about the stupidest phone it is possible for a person to have, it being a $20 prepaid cellphone that I have had repurposed for long-term use. It has no web connectivity, no apps, no nothing. It sends and receives calls. That's it. That's all it does. I suppose I should add that sometimes it receives, unbidden by me, a text message, and it can do that, too, although I'd never respond to any such text in kind. I have neither the desire to pay an extra X dollars a month to respond to a text message in kind, or the desire to cultivate the ability to easily type on a phone keypad rather than communicating by means of voice or email, either of which is more convenient and doesn't cost anything.

My phone is very stupid. And yet it is adequate for my needs nearly 100% of the time. I didn't get a cell phone until I was 26--four years ago, some years after cell phones became "ubiquitous"--and I still think that, for the most part, it's a waste of money for me to pay to have one at all. In all honesty, if I were to put my cellphone through the washing machine (again) and not replace it this time even with the cheapest piece of shit possible, I don't feel that my life would be negatively impacted in any serious way.

I receive probably two or three phone calls a week. I make maybe one or two. And my phone, stupid as it is, is fine for this purpose. If I miss a call, my phone tells me the number of the person who called me. It even stores important numbers for me.

What else do I need a phone to do?

Do I need a phone that lets me slice digital images of fruit in half by making strokes across the screen with the tip of my finger? Not really. Would I like a phone that let me slice digital images of fruit in half by making strokes across the screen with the tip of my finger? Eh, maybe. Do I want to pay ten times as much for a phone that lets me slice digital images of fruit in half by making strokes across the screen with the tip of my finger, and pay more every month for the privilege of having a data plan that allows me to download the program to my phone that lets me slice digital images of fruit in half by making strokes across the screen with the tip of my finger? No, I do not.

I might like for my phone to be able to give me a weather forecast, or to let me know if I have any email. But I do own a computer, and the times when I would need to know these things when I am away from a computer--the times when I actually *need* this information on the spur of the moment--are very few and far between.

Smart phones are a fashion. Smart phones are a trend. Smart phones are a bourgeois affectation. And by that I mean to say that smart phones are purchased more for the sense of belonging to a group--a group of tech-savvy, up-to-date, digitally hip people--than they are purchased for any actual utility.

There will come a day, of course, within the next century, when people will feel completely unable to operate in unaugmented reality. I know that day will come, and my resistance will do nothing to stop it. We will *need* to have that level of information about us, at all times. And that will be a horrible day when we betray most of what makes human beings interesting--namely, our capacities for spontaneity, discovery, and originality.

The gentle reader might be screaming in insulted outrage at this point, wanting to chime in and say "Shut your face, you self-righteous late-adopter asshole! I use my phone for X,Y, and Z! I *need* my phone!" And that's as may be, and I may be a self-righteous late-adopter asshole. But what does a phone do that we really *need*? Allow us to be accessible 24-7, wherever we go? Since when did that become a necessity? What the fuck could anybody ever tell me that could ever be so urgent that a response would be required of me immediately, wherever I was?

Worst case scenario, you call me and tell me my parents have been in a car wreck and are now in the hospital. Even then, *even then*, I don't know what sort of response I'm supposed to present that is both timely and meaningful. You might as well let me know that by means of a physical letter, for all the good that my response will do.

If we feel we need to be available to anybody, anywhere with a phone at all times--if others feel that they need for us to be available in this way--I think it's time we seriously re-examine what passes for "needs" among us.

Do I *need* to respond instantly to any email that a person should send to me, such that I need to have the capacity to type up a response in my pocket at all times, type up such a response on a keyboard that was engineered for the slim fingers of a prepubescent Japanese girl rather than the blunt thumbs of an adult Germanic male? What reality do I inhabit that is so brutally urgent? If I inhabit that reality, fuck that reality. I'm opting out, and I'd prefer to be labeled an insane deviant than sane by some metric of eternal accessibility to the demands of others.

I will continue to find value in my life in exact proportion to the material affectations I am able to do without, freeing me for meaningful pursuits and *intimate, meaningful, and nuanced* communications with people. I will continue to reject the assumption that my life is meaningful based upon voids which are filled by mere *things* that I *need*.

The great trick of contemporary capitalism has been to alienate people from their natural state, rendering an unaugmented life impossible where it is not illegal, taboo, or outright impossible. Contemporary capitalism creates needs where none before existed--needs for human interaction that are best solved by actual human interaction rather than artificial surrogates, but where human interaction becomes increasingly impossible owing to the mediation of technology. Contemporary capitalism then provides products that encourage a further state of anxiety and alienation that can only be ameliorated by more, better, and new products, when all the while what is out of balance is within the individual himself, and not in his accouterments. It gives us mostly useless toys that we trick ourselves into thinking are indispensable tools, until we've come to rely on them such that we no longer remember how to do without them. Nuts to that, I say.

That being said, I really fucking want that interactive star map app that I've seen in the Droid ads. Oh, fuck, do I want that.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Get Thee Behind Me

Some days you have no other way of describing your experience other than to say you are fighting with the Devil in the desert. You tell him to get behind you; even then he haunts your sleep and he haunts your every step. He's right there when you look up. He is tempting and taunting. And you are malleable and fallible and carnal and mortal. You know damn well that you are nothing more than a man. The devil knows damn well that he is going to outlast you.

Monday, November 29, 2010

A Bit of Absurdity in the World

On my drive home on the southbound 5 through Oceanside, I pass by the Cavalier Mobile Estates. I have often considered this nonsensical juxtaposition of words. Cavalier—as in the dandyish Royalists who fought against the Puritans in the English Civil War? It's hard to imagine such a cavalier laying his belaced head down in a mobile home. Or “cavalier” as in “reckless, pompous, arrogant?” Again, when I think of mobile homes, these aren't necessarily the first qualities that come to mind. Or how about the bizarre idea of a mobile estate? Thinking back to what an “estate” has meant historically, it might well be the hundreds of acres that a nobleman—a cavalier, say—used as his personal hunting reserve and riding range and open space park, et cetera. I guess back in the day an “estate” was a mansion and environs which were expansive enough and subjugated enough such that the common folk working on the estate produced enough wealth to sustain the mansion at the middle. None of that really makes sense when you're talking a paved lot that is about three or four feet bigger on a side than the mobile home at the heart of it. Or how ludicrous is it to be talking about a “mobile estate” in the first place—as though an estate in the classical sense were something so inconsequential that you could pick it up and carry it around?

When I think of a mobile home, I think of depressing poverty. I'm sure there are exceptions to this; I'm sure that not all occupants of mobile homes are depressed or poor. But I very much doubt that very many of them are gallant princes wearing velvet and lace and riding off to show those upstart commoners what's what.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Broken Cog in the Unmade Watch

Of late I have been given cause multiple times over to think about deterministic universes, and how I seem to personally experience all the guilt and dread of living in one without seeing any evidence whatsoever of any sort of extrinsic judgment of human actions to reward virtue and punish evil--much less any universal definition of virtue and evil--beyond the feeble machines of human institutions, which are often subverted to support systemic cowardice and arrogance and greed for the material and psychic benefit of their subverters. And yet, acknowledging the material and psychic benefits of evil (e.g., believing my country has a God-given right to invade another country and take its shit), I will not allow myself to be evil, whether out of dread of a deterministic universe or out freely willing to generate what good I can so that what reality we enjoy might be less dreadful and painful, all the while suspecting that my perceptions of minimizing my own contributions to a general suffering and contributing in good faith to a general good have been subverted by my own cowardice and arrogance and greed.

I thus seem to have the worst of both worlds.

Monday, November 8, 2010

A Poem Written On The Occasion of a Rain

I fear my friends the funnelwebs shall not feast today, as their webs are full of water: drizzle, mist, and spray. Colorless droplets depend--a frozen moment's unfalling rain; any wary insect should see this and should fly the other way, rather than serve my friends the funnelwebs in some capacity as prey.