Friday, December 19, 2008

The perfect solution to the economic crisis

Simply pay the people who got us into this mess with all these funny money investments their bonuses and all with those same funny money investments! Moves it off the bank's books, frees up their cash so they don't need our bailouts and puts the problems back on the people who caused it. And don't forget, we should collect income taxes on it as well - after all, if Wall St Whiz Kid has "earned" a $22 million bonus this year, taxes are just a part of life.

Credit Suisse is doing it - they just don't go as far as I would.

We're shocked that nobody has suggested this before, but on its face this looks like a great idea... Credit Suisse announced today that bonuses for its top executives would be made in illiquid, mortgage-backed securities. Seeing as these guys are responsible for getting this stuff on the companies books, it makes sense to shove it back to them. And if the market gets liquid again, and the stuff goes up, that's going to be a huge windfall for execs:

Bloomberg: The bank will use leveraged loans and commercial mortgage- backed debt, some of the securities blamed for generating the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, to fund executive compensation packages, people familiar with the matter said. The new policy applies only to managing directors and directors, the two most senior ranks at the Zurich-based company, according to a memo sent to employees today.

“While the solution we have come up with may not be ideal for everyone, we believe it strikes the appropriate balance among the interests of our employees, shareholders and regulators and helps position us well for 2009,” Chief Executive Officer Brady Dougan and Paul Calello, CEO of the investment bank, said in the memo.

Another bonus: This moves the stuff off of Credit Suisse's books, while letting it hold onto its precious cash. Will we see any copycats?

Friday, December 12, 2008

"I believe that banking institutions are more dangerous to our liberties than standing armies

"I believe that banking institutions are more dangerous to our liberties than standing armies . . . If the American people ever allow private banks to control the issue of their currency, first by inflation, then by deflation, the banks and corporations that will grow up around . . . will deprive the people of all property until their children wake-up homeless on the continent their fathers conquered . . . The issuing power should be taken from the banks and restored to the people, to whom it properly belongs."
-- Thomas Jefferson -- The Debate Over The Recharter Of The Bank Bill, (1809)

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Who knew promoting hate was so profitable?

The Profits They Make from Attacking Freedom | The LA Progressive
It’s important to understand how these people make their money. And make money they do. Each of the main promoters of this bigotry campaign may personally pocket as much as $10 million or more from the campaign. At the same time, they force the taxpayers to spend millions on the mechanics of reviewing all the signatures on petitions, putting the measure on the ballot, and writing accurate ballot statements to replace the intentionally false statements offered by the promoters.

(much, much more at link)

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Your policy of hate is costing you

From a Friend today, an excellent way of getting your message across - dropped into the church plate
"Your policy of hate is costing you. Because of your active and expensive support of Proposition 8, we are taking all money we would have donated to you, from now on, and donating it to gay and lesbian rights groups, particularly those who fight for equal rights. For the rest of our lives, we will drop an empty envelope in the basket each week, with "Prop 8 fund" written on it, as a reminder of your hate-filled policy."

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Not even hostages

In the second of the three brilliant comedic French "La Cage aux Folles" films, there is a stand-off between a French SWAT team of police and some criminals who have kidnapped poor Albin, the long-time "domestic partner" of Renato. And there, in that very funny film, is a poignant moment filled with pain and stark truth.

As the tension builds, one of the criminals grabs sweet old Albin and places his gun squarely up to Albin's head so that the police outside can see his actions.

"This fag will be the first to die!" shouts the kidnapper to the French police who are lined up outside with their high powered rifles ready to fire.

The police laugh out loud at this threat: a threat to "kill the fag."

And then, Albin, played so well by the late Michel Serrault, realizes the hard truth: his life doesn't matter.

"I am not even a hostage, not even a hostage," Albin sighs to himself sadly before casting all his remaining fears aside and begins his brave walk toward the police line of fire calling out, "Renato, I'm coming to you."

Brothers and sisters, we are not even hostages.

We are the only minority in America that it is OK to hate and kill.

We do not rise to the level of meriting the protection of hate crime statutes.

We expect judges to tell those that have killed our loved ones, "they probably had it coming."

We are the only class of Americans who can be murdered because of "gay panic" as a plausible legal defense.

We are the only group of Americans who can lose our limbs in combat and be discharged with "dishonor" from the Armed Forces without any benefits. We are the only Americans who can die in combat for this country and have our spouses denied any recognition whatsoever.

There is no way on earth that the State of California would ever subject any other minority's civil rights to a ballot measure, to the rule of the mob. It would never even get past the Secretary of State. No way...unless you are homosexual.

Albin had it right: We are not even "hostages".

Friday, October 17, 2008

You Think I’m Rich, Don’t You?

(I'll update with a link to the author as soon as I can find one - but this article makes so much sense to me, hopefully it will to you as well)
You Think I’m Rich, Don’t You?
By David Glenn Cox

Poor Joe the plumber, plucked from obscurity and thrust into the national limelight, his life has now become an open book. After all, all he did was ask a question about tax policy. Little did he know the McCain campaign and Fox News would seize upon him and try to make him an icon.

I wondered about Joe even before the stories started to come out about the tax lien against him or his lack of plumbing license. For years I worked for a man that made well over $250,000 a year and he was a heck of a lot sharper than Joe the Plumber.

Mr. Ben had started in the 1940’s with one auto parts house and by the late 1970’s Mr. Ben owned over 120 auto parts stores with three auto parts warehouses located across three states. When I was promoted to manager I began to have meetings with Mr. Ben once a week. Right after Ronald Reagan was elected I asked Mr. Ben, “Is Ronny going to cut your taxes?”

“Probably” he answered, “but I voted for Carter. You can’t build a business on tax cuts. The Democrats build roads and bridges and every mile of highway is money in my pocket. I don’t want to pay one nickel more than I have to, but taxes are just the cost of doing business. Our vendors raise prices and no one cries 'you’re going to bankrupt us!' The city passes a sales tax and you just pay it and go on; it’s the same for everyone. I wouldn’t own all these stores if the state and federal government hadn’t built all those roads, and taxes paid for every foot of them."

Mr. Ben once explained, “It's not about who has the best hand, it's about how you play it.” He also owned a realty company and when he planned to open a new parts store they would build a strip shopping center. The parts store would be the anchor store and the other businesses would subsidize the rent. If the parts store did well Mr. Ben raised the rent until they just barely made money. That way the construction loan could be paid off faster while paying fewer taxes in the parts business. If the store did poorly he would lower the rent, but either way he made money.

Mr. Ben traveled the highways extensively to keep an eye on his holdings. He had been pricing a new Buick Roadmaster, finally telling a local dealer, “I’m going to send a man over there with a cashier’s check for $30,000 and you either give him the car or turn him around.”

I shook my head at his directness and tenacity when Mr. Ben asked, “You think I’m rich, don’t you?”

I answered, “I think you’re doing all right, a lot better than I am at least.”

“I’m not rich,” he said smiling. “I’m almost seventy years old and I don’t even own a car. The company owns that car,” he said with a wink. “The company owns my wife’s Cadillac, too. The company pays for the gas and the insurance and for the tires and the oil. You see, it’s not what the company pays you, it’s what the company gives you. The company pays for our health insurance and the Realty Company pays for our vacation home down on Alligator Point in Florida. You see, we don’t own it, we lease it. I don’t have to make much money; my needs are meet and my nest egg is in this business.”

He was sharp, the company owned his 72-foot yacht as well. It was for entertaining customers, of course. The wholesale parts warehouses would cut us deals and pass along savings to us in the retail parts stores. For three years the parts houses did very well and the warehouses lost money. Then the tide was reversed; the warehouses were charging company stores higher prices than our competitors. The warehouses made huge profits and the retail stores lost money, all because Mr. Ben was playing out his tax hand. Two of his three businesses were making money and one was always losing money.

The money, of course, all belonged to the same person, Mr. Ben. Because of this I always had to check with Mr. Ben on my purchases. “If you can sell it,” he said, “then put it on the shelf. I make 3% on my money in the bank and I make 20% on the money on the shelf.” Mr. Ben used to insist that we take advantage of the discounts offered for prompt payment. “If they’ll give you a 2% discount for paying in ten days, what’s that equal in a year?”

I think Ben liked to share his knowledge with us because it was rejected by his idiot son, Ben Jr., who went by the name Bubba. Bubba had the title of manager in the smallest of Ben’s three warehouses. Bubba’s office had golf clubs in one corner and fishing tackle in the other. The walls were decorated with football memorabilia from Auburn University where Bubba once attended for one semester before flunking out. On his desk was a model of the Coast Guard cutter Bubba had served on after leaving school. Mr. Ben had pulled some strings to get Bubba into the Coast Guard and out of Vietnam.

Bubba was a rabid Republican and a strong believer in tax cuts. During the presidential campaign Bubba bought tickets to meet Bush 41 and was very impressed. Mr. Ben explained “that the boy didn’t know which side his bread was buttered on. I make my own tax cuts! I don’t need politicians to do that for me.”

Mr. Ben always read the "Dodge Reports," a trade paper that tracks construction and road projects and one day I asked, “Do you read that for your realty company?”

“I go where the roads go,” he answered. “Where the roads go, growth goes. Where growth goes, prosperity goes. Years ago in Dothan the city leaders and business merchants had a bitter fight over traffic congestion in downtown. The answer was a by-pass, and by the time it was finished most of the downtown merchants were broke. The traffic followed the road and took the money with it. The by-pass brought new jobs and industry and new cars lots sprang up. That’s what I like to see is new car lots, because every new car sold is a new customer for us.”

He explained that they were trying to find a site for a new store and it had come down to a location in a major shopping center or another location on a newly-widened highway. Mr. Ben said, “The choice is clear, the shopping center is at its peak today! The widened highway will see growing traffic for years; it’s the chicken and the egg. The chicken is all it can ever be but the egg is just beginning.”

When Mr. Ben reached 60 he announced that he was no longer coming in on Fridays. When he turned 65 that he would no longer come in on Mondays, then Tuesdays, then Thursdays. He worked only one day a week and spent the rest of his time on his boat in Florida. He attended a meeting that we had arranged to discuss the changing model in the auto parts business. The Auto Zones and Advance Auto Parts were moving in and the old model didn’t work anymore. The general manager laid out an intricate plan to build our own super stores to compete with them, heads up. Mr. Ben congratulated him on a wise strategy but added, “I’m done, at my age a lifetime book club membership isn’t a very good deal. It’s up to Bubba.”

Well, the stores are all gone now, as are all three warehouses. Only the Realty Company survives, selling off the strip centers that Mr. Ben had built during his lifetime. The warehouse where we held that meeting is a parking lot now, only identified by a sign for the long-term parking contact. Poor Joe the plumber is more like Bubba than like Mr. Ben. Worried about his taxes even before he makes the money, he can’t wait to put that money in his pocket. Trying to be rich without building a business instead of building a business that will make him rich. A business that can only thrive in a prosperous economy and Mr. Ben knew that. We will always pay taxes so the argument is who will benefit from them, the few or the many?

Monday, October 13, 2008

Cannibalizing ourselves

Truthdig - Reports - America’s Political Cannibalism
Karl Polanyi in his book “The Great Transformation,” written in 1944, laid out the devastating consequences—the depressions, wars and totalitarianism—that grow out of a so-called self-regulated free market. He grasped that “fascism, like socialism, was rooted in a market society that refused to function.” He warned that a financial system always devolved, without heavy government control, into a Mafia capitalism—and a Mafia political system—which is a good description of the American government under George W. Bush. Polanyi wrote that a self-regulating market, the kind bequeathed to us since Ronald Reagan, turned human beings and the natural environment into commodities, a situation that ensures the destruction of both society and the natural environment. He decried the free market’s belief that nature and human beings are objects whose worth is determined by the market. He reminded us that a society that no longer recognizes that nature and human life have a sacred dimension, an intrinsic worth beyond monetary value, ultimately commits collective suicide. Such societies cannibalize themselves until they die. Speculative excesses and growing inequality, he wrote, always destroy the foundation for a continued prosperity.

We face an environmental meltdown as well as an economic meltdown. This would not have surprised Polanyi, who fled fascist Europe in 1933 and eventually taught at Columbia University. Russia’s northern coastline has begun producing huge qualities of toxic methane gas. Scientists with the International Siberian Shelf Study 2008 describe what they saw along the coastline recently as “methane chimneys” reaching from the sea floor to the ocean’s surface. Methane, locked in the permafrost of Arctic landmasses, is being released at an alarming rate as average Arctic temperatures rise. Methane is a greenhouse gas 25 times more powerful than carbon dioxide. The release of millions of tons of it will dramatically accelerate the rate of global warming.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Quote of the Day: Barry Lehrman on A Green Lining to Our Financial Cloud

Barry Lehrman, Architect and editor of the website Archinect writes an editorial that starts with a hilarious typo about how we cannot "maintain the Gordon Gecko greed and wonton consumption of the last 30 years."- but I love wonton! However he recovers to note:

"If we can rebuild our financial institutions and economy to care about the triple bottom line and the well-being of our world - the $700b will have been well spent.

If we can rebuild our government to serve the people and not wealth - the $700b will have been well spent.

If we can spark innovation and pay for basic science research to create a new green economy - the $700b will have been well spent.

If we can replace and repair our neglected infrastructure with state-of-the-art green pipes and systems - the $700b will have been well spent.

If we can teach our children, parents, and peers that the conservation of energy and resources is the simplest step to pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps - then the $700b will have been well spent.

If we take this moment to do right, to care about those without, to share our love and happiness, to appreciate life a little more – then there is hope." ::Archinect

Sunday, October 5, 2008

How would you spend the last 6 months of your life?

I've been thinking lately, after a few interactions with those sort of self absorbed guests who go through life miserable and generally trying to make everyone else around them just as unhappy - What would I do if I went to the Dr today and got told that:

I had six months to live
that it was incurable, so no time needs to be spent on medical issues
that I would remain in otherwise perfect health right up until the end

How would I spend that time?  Who would I spend it with?   What would I do and what priorities would I set?  Where would I be totally selfish and where would I choose to try to make a difference?  What would I want to remain behind?

So how would things be different if we all acted as though we only had a few months left here.....?

Monday, September 15, 2008

What they're trying to do is roll back the Enlightenment

How the Chicago boys wrecked the economy: An interview with Michael Hudson

By Mike Whitney
Michael Hudson is a former Wall Street economist specializing in the balance of payments and real estate at the Chase Manhattan Bank (now JP Morgan Chase & Co.), Arthur Anderson, and later at the Hudson Institute (no relation). In 1990 he helped established the world’s first sovereign debt fund for Scudder Stevens & Clark.

Dr. Hudson was Dennis Kucinich’s Chief Economic Advisor in the recent Democratic primary presidential campaign, and has advised the U.S., Canadian, Mexican and Latvian governments, as well as the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR). A Distinguished Research Professor at University of Missouri, Kansas City (UMKC), he is the author of many books, including Super Imperialism: The Economic Strategy of American Empire (new ed., Pluto Press, 2002


MW: The housing market is freefalling, setting new records every day for foreclosures, inventory, and declining prices. The banking system is in even worse shape, undercapitalized and buried under a mountain of downgraded assets. There seems to be growing consensus that these problems are not just part of a normal economic downturn, but the direct result of the Fed’s monetary policies. Are we seeing the collapse of the Central banking model as a way of regulating the markets? Do you think the present crisis will strengthen the existing system or make it easier for the American people to assert greater control over monetary policy?

Michael Hudson: What do you mean “failure”? Your perspective is from the bottom looking up. But the financial model has been a great success from the vantage point of the top of the economic pyramid looking down? The economy has polarized to the point where the wealthiest 10 percent now own 85 percent of the nation’s wealth. Never before have the bottom 90 percent been so highly indebted, so dependent on the wealthy. From their point of view, their power has exceeded that of any time in which economic statistics have been kept.

You have to realize that what they’re trying to do is to roll back the Enlightenment, roll back the moral philosophy and social values of classical political economy and its culmination in Progressive Era legislation, as well as the New Deal institutions. They’re not trying to make the economy more equal, and they’re not trying to share power. Their greed is (as Aristotle noted) infinite. So what you find to be a violation of traditional values is a re-assertion of pre-industrial, feudal values. The economy is being set back on the road to debt peonage. The Road to Serfdom is not government sponsorship of economic progress and rising living standards, it’s the dismantling of government, the dissolution of regulatory agencies, to create a new feudal-type elite.

On a morning that sees Wall St waking up to the loss of 2 more giant, long time financial firms - reading this just seemed like providence somehow. Maybe now some of these brainwashed into thinking that all that globalism is good for them will realize that "trickle down" simply translates to "piss on you".

The only thing wrong with Milton Friedman's ideas are that they were around long enough to actually get put into practice - and we all get to live with the results.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

My turn

It's been a long week between work and school starting back. Most of it, I've slept poorly and woken up just as tired as when I crashed. And while I've not been depressed, I've had this feeling of resentment and just plain apathy. This morning, I woke up with clarity about it, everything simmering below the surface just finally boiled into a finished product and I knew exactly what the problem was.

Between the birthday and school starting back, the summer is definitely over - and I didn't do anything that I had planned for myself. That's not to say that some things didn't come up that were fun - but as for things I had decided I wanted to do over the summer, I didn't ever make time for any of them. Not one camping trip, not one thing done on various projects, not one bike ride - not even one book I wanted to read started, much less finished. Why? Because I was working. There was always something that had to get done.

Even worse, as I was cleaning rooms because everyone else was taking the day off, I realized that not only wasn't I doing the things I wanted to for me - but I had been working all summer to finance everyone else doing what they wanted. There was no lack of others taking off when they felt like or projects getting started that they wanted to do for themselves. And while I'm happy for each of them, I'm sitting here wondering - how did I let it get away from me so much that I kept back-burnering myself?

I guess I've always been that way - I know I've gotten to this point in my life before with other ventures. I didn't move up here and leave behind the "rat race" - I came up here and built another hampster wheel instead. Sure, some fun moments, some new challenges accomplished - but now I'm running in place, at the expense of myself.

So it's time for some changes. The chalets are on the market - we'll be done with those by the end of the year (and possibly way sooner if I have another day like Friday). The lease on the inn comes up in April - at this point, I don't want to renew it - I can find other ways to make enough money to support us, I always have - even when I didn't have advanced planning. I'm going to do more consulting, pack in some seminars and programs during my school breaks. I've been toying with that idea for a couple of years now - it was one of the reasons I hired Larry to begin with - to run this so I could work on that. But I let myself get sidetracked.

It's amazing how good it feels to work on being goal-focused again. Instead of just existing and getting through the days, I can actually work out an exit plan to move on to something I want to do. And to have something in my face that I can look at every time I'm getting too busy and ask myself it this is helping me get where I want to go.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Look! Another new bright shiny object.

According to Ashoka’s definition of a social entrepreneur:

“The job of a social entrepreneur is to recognize when a part of society is stuck and to provide new ways to get it unstuck. He or she finds what is not working and solves the problem by changing the system, spreading the solution and persuading entire societies to take new leaps. Social entrepreneurs are not content just to give a fish or teach how to fish. They will not rest until they have revolutionized the fishing industry.

As I'm reading through various "green" blogs, I can't help but notice that there are two distinct types: those that discuss actual changes that individuals and society can make to live more sustainably and those that tend to focus on highlighting products that are made using less harmful resources.

Obviously, our consumption needs to be focusing on products that do less damage to our environment as well as conserving a diminishing supply of materials - but isn't the fact that we buy so much crap in the first place a big underlying part of the problem? If you run down to the mall to buy another T-shirt (this one made of organic cotton) or have it shipped in through FedEx - how much different is everything? Is there any less transportation cost? Is there any less packaging to wind up in the land fill? Has the profit from that sale remained in the local community or been shipped off to Wall St or Little Rock?

What it really boils down to is really pretty simple: How many shirts do we need? How many pairs of shoes? What do you do with one more "eco-fabulous" lamp?

My grandparents generation provided for themselves nicely, without overdoing it. Without a doubt, they worked harder than I ever have and had less "stuff" to show for it. But they were happy with their lives. They were quietly proud of their accomplishments as opposed to having to drive the newest, bestest Lexus or Mercedes to show off to everyone.

My grandfather owned a handful of shirts - some he wore to work, one or two that he changed into when he came home and got cleaned up and one or two that he kept for good - things he'd wear to church or weddings. Of course, things seemed to last longer back then. They weren't made for a throwaway society, but for hard working people who wanted the most value for their money.

During my 15 years in real estate, I watched the closets in new homes grow exponentially. The closet in my grandfather's room wasn't even big enough to be placed in the entry foyer of the homes they were building by 2000, much less a bedroom (of course my grandparents got along just fine without an entry foyer all those years as well). And people were rushing out to fill those massive closets with stuff. We get guests checking in now for a one night stay that have 2 and 3 large suitcases - crammed full of stuff.

It's really a shame to see the issue of creating sustainable futures being taken over by the "we must continue our lives as mass consumers" crowd and even worse to see it being promoted as a good thing. What is it about our society that causes so many to bury their heads in the sand? Why are they so focused on things instead of people? Why do they want to spend more time shopping than taking a bike ride or talking with someone they care about? Or doing something to make a difference in someone else's life.

It's been a good morning to clear out blog rolls and start eliminating some that so totally focus on the next "green" product.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

This is a sacrifice?

This man does an awesome job of re-framing the issue. We have "sacrifice" completely reversed.

Carl Safina Reflects on Climate Change | Orion magazine
Of all the psychopathology in the climate issue, the most counterproductive thought is that solving the problem will require sacrifice. As though our wastefulness of energy and money is not sacrifice. As though war built around oil is not sacrifice. As though losing polar bears, ice-dependent penguins, coral reefs, and thousands of other living companions is not sacrifice. As though withered cropland is not a sacrifice, or letting the fresh water of cities dry up as glacier-fed rivers shrink. As though risking seawater inundation and the displacement of hundreds of millions of coastal people is not a sacrifice—and reckless risk. But don’t tell me to own a more efficient car; that would be a sacrifice! We think we don’t want to sacrifice, but sacrifice is exactly what we’re doing by perpetuating problems that only get worse; we’re sacrificing our money, and sacrificing what is big and permanent, to prolong what is small, temporary, and harmful. We’re sacrificing animals, peace, and children to retain wastefulness while enriching those who disdain us.

When we stop seeing our relationship with the whole living world as a matter of sustainability, and realize it is a matter of morality—of right and wrong—we might make the moment we need.

Monday, April 28, 2008

What would you spend nine years of your life on?

Someone asked me if I'd checked Chris' blog lately and I thought maybe it was time to. Interesting reading with a lot of emotional zigs and zags, I guess I was ready for it overall.

The one thing that struck me the most was that his parents have finally talked to him and let him know that they still love him in spite of him being gay. Maybe now he'll finally be willing to accept that people really can love him unconditionally. Knowing what that means, I couldn't be happier. Well, I guess I could be if it had been something we'd shared, but that's not the way things turned out.

But if you had the chance to spend a portion of you life, even a large one - and the end result was that the person you loved was able to get the one thing you had always wished for them that would be the biggest thing possible for their long term happiness - then how could you have regrets?

Sure, it could have happened differently - and for a lot of selfish reasons, I wish it had. It would be too easy to be bitter, perhaps that's the hardest struggle I've had these last few weeks. But considering where things went and how they got handled, I guess this is probably the best outcome I could have asked for. So, it's enough to be happy for him and to know that all of them will be better off now - to have a closer, more honest and open relationship finally - one not impeded by closet walls.

Most of the people asking how things are going for me eventually wind up asking some form of "do you regret it?" My answer has been no, but maybe now I have a better reason for that. It wound up being the best thing that could have happened to him - that makes me feel really grateful and gives the past a value beyond just good memories.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

I guess I have learned something from this already

Never trust a grown man who can't tell his mother who the most important person in his life really is.

He's had way too much experience keeping secrets and learned too well to hide what's really going on. Don't get involved with someone who always makes you spend all the holidays alone because he can't tell his family about you - if he doesn't have the balls to do that, he won't have them when he's ready to hit the fucking door.

The only courage he'll be able to find is to be an actor on the stage - pretending to everyone around that everything is fine, while secretly planning his get-a-way. As he moves on with his pretend life, instead of actually living it. His heart as barren as the place he moved to.

I'm sick of being numb. I just want to start crying so I can take this fucking ring off. But not now, when I feel more robot than human.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Asked, answered - bridges burned

Not in the way I imagined, but a definite answer nonetheless.

And me, the one who always said you weren't that cold, that you really had a heart - what a fucking fool, huh?

To take such a cowardly way out isn't surprising in the least, but to not even leave a note? You couldn't even leave me decent memories, I really did fuck up standing by you all those years.

Friday, March 14, 2008

And if it came down to a phone call?

Hundreds of scenarios, thousands of conversations in your mind - and it comes down to one you never expected. Everything that you thought you'd prepared yourself to hear except that one. That you're a nobody, nothing of consequence. Karma Judy?

No matter how often you told yourself not to get your hopes up. Who the fuck did you think you were kidding? Magic wand, party of one.

So it comes down to how to regain the balance you've carefully built up over all those years. No matter what you find to distract yourself, there's still that hole. Another decade's going to go by anyhow, what else do you have to do with your life?

Tuesday, 3 am
once again I'm wide awake
waiting for time to mend this part of me
that keeps on breaking

Newspapers I threw away
wash the dishes in the sink
3 am on Tuesday,
I have too much time to think

I could call out to Heaven
I could crawl down through Hell
Nothing can change the way things are
and nothing ever will

He thinks I can't hear him cry
and not pretend that I don't know
about all the 3 am's
he spends wrestling with your ghost

I hear him call out to Heaven
I watch him crawl down through Hell
He still can't get over you
I know he never will

Nothing he says can bring you back
He's got nothing left to show
but a pocket watch and a memory
of a kiss out in the snow

I hear him call out to Heaven
I watch him crawl down through Hell
He still can't get over you
I know he never will

I hear him call out to Heaven
I watch him crawl down through Hell
He still can't get over you
I know he never will

Ironically, I've walked that mile in your shoes, I know what's run through your mind all these years. All those secret "I wish" moments, I've been there.

If only I could muster up the courage to push that SEND button - there's so much I can't give you back in all that time, but there really is a lot I could share.

I'm tired of being a ghost. But I have no option but to respect your timetables, no matter what the cost. I certainly owe you that much at least.

Maybe next week?

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Suspending reality to support your beliefs

Now, I support anyone's right to choose any religious belief that they want - just as I support my own right to make fun of how far they will stretch their mental limits to not violate the things they claim to believe that just don't all fit into their theories. I was reminded of this now that the State of Florida has decided to cave into the religious ignorance some people have by labeling evolution a theory in some last minute negotiations.

So here you go - the Top 100 Fundamentalist Quotes - they are freaking hilarious.

And just to whet your appetite, here's a couple of entries:

I am a bit troubled. I believe my son has a girlfriend, because she left a dirty magazine with men in it under his bed. My son is only 16 and I really don't think he's ready to date yet. What's worse is that he's sneaking some girl to his room behind my back. I need help, God! I want my son to stop being so secretive!

Linda, Good news prayer room [Comments (2923)] [2006-Oct-28]


[Said at the Florida public hearings on the state's new education standards (which include evolution, of course)]

"I brought these oranges down here today, and I was gonna eat them [...] but I know without a shadow of a doubt, this orange right here is the first cousin of somebody's pet cat. [...] and this orange here is no doubt the parent of somebody's pet dog. And I wonder, would you agree with me commissioner that these [oranges] are related to human beings? I've read, and I'm happy to report, that evolution supports my belief that these oranges are in fact related to human beings!"

[Watch the whole thing, it's a tour tard de force of fundie intellect!]

Dallas "The Orange Guy" Ellis, YouTube [Comments (30)] [2008-Feb-21]

Sunday, February 10, 2008

We really don't count for much.....

I was an Edwards supporter for a variety of reasons, since he's dropped out, I've been spending time at both Obama and Hillary's websites, trying to find who I'd feel most comfortable supporting.

I've always been pretty aware of the fact that candidates in general tend to give alot of lip service to our issues, saying what they need to say to entice the pocketbooks to open and the proper levers to get pulled in the voting booth without any real commitment to our issues as GLBT citizens. And I've listened to plenty of "civil unions=good/marriage=bad" from all the contenders to know that this isn't really going to strike high on their agendas once the ballots are all tabulated.

But after researching, I've come to the conclusion that they really think we're that stupid, and it pisses me off to be played that way.

In spite of all the talk from all the candidates about ending Don't Ask, Don't Tell - damn if I can find it on their websites. Plenty of space for all the wonderful things they plan to do for veterans once elected, but nothing for me, a veteran who's career got ended when someone told.

In spite of all the happy words about repealing/changing DOMA - not one word again, I looked in the Families section, the Strengthening the Middle Class section, the Faith sections.

In spite of all the great rhetoric about civil rights and equality - I sure have a hard time finding GLBT information being included in any of those online issues pages. Are we not civil enough? Or maybe we've been too civil before.

And it dawned on me that the President isn't the one who would be introducing that sort of legislation in the first place - it would be a Representative or Senator (flashback to 8th grade civics class). And who do we have running this election? 2 sitting Senators, neither of which has introduced any legislation to rectify those issues they keep telling me they're so deeply concerned about and planning to fix once they get elected.

Now certainly, there are those who will tell me I should just suck it up and vote for anyone with a D behind their name because the one's with R are so much worse. After all, I shouldn't be such a "single issue" voter. I should take a look at all of the issues and make my decision based on that. So here is my recap of all the issues:

  • Taxes - my status as a gay man means that I'll pay about $4,000 more this year than if I was married)
  • Economy - I live in a state that is only attracting economic growth in one city, the one who happens to have the largest employer base of GLBT friendly companies in the SouthEast)
  • Healthcare - I am not eligble to be on my partner's health plan. And if I was, instead of him getting a tax break for it and paying for it with pretax dollars, he'd have to pay it with after tax dollars AND the gov't would impute the amount his employer paid on my behalf and my partner would have to pay taxes on that portion as well.
  • Social Security & Retirement - As it stands now, neither of us will be able to pass along whatever benefits we've accumulated through Social Security. And instead of a 401K passing on to me without a tax penalty if I recognized as a spouse, I get the joy having that income dumped on top of mine for the taxable year, pushing me into a higher bracket.
  • Civil Rights - Plenty of talk about equal access to all, regardless if woman or minority. But it rings pretty hollow to those of us in this country who are treated differently every single day. If I worked for someone else, I can still be fired for being gay. Imagine the uproar if I fired one of my employees for being black or a woman? But still perfectly legal to walk right up to someone and tell them they're fired for being a faggot or a dyke.
  • Faith - All the candidates are touting their personal faith and their commitment to strengthening the faith based communities. But that really only applies to those faiths that don't actively support equal treatment of all regardless of sexuality. Should my church provide their blessing/ritual/ceremony to support my commitment to Chris, those outside don't want it to have the same validity as when their church does the same for straight couples.
  • Strengthening Families - Yes, all the candidates are for families. Well, those that fit certain molds and societal norms. Because the family that came about when the gay couple chose to adopt the special needs child that no one else wanted doesn't need the same protections as the straight white couple down the street. Because I haven't seen any bills or amendments introduced by any of the candidates that would have cover the GLBT spouses or parents on an equal footing as everyone else. Or prevent states from discriminating based on that for adoption placements.
  • Immigration - Plenty of discussion about reforming our current immigration system, but haven't seen anything introduced by any of them that would allow a foreign born spouse of GLBT to be treated the same way as if they were actually married. Or even to recognize those who have been actually married in those countries progressive enough to allow that. But I do know couples who aren't living together because of these archaic rules as they wait for someone to finally clear all the hurdles that are only in place for certain people.
  • Poverty - I've seen plenty about the need to tackle the issues of poverty in this country, along with specific plans for certain people. But the concept of life partners where one dies and leaves the other in total poverty because the laws allow the deceased partner's family more rights to their combined assets than the GBLT spouse who survives (in spite of wills and all the other loopholes we have to jump through to try to protect ourselves) are still on the books in many states and I've seen no leadership from the Federal level to try to remedy that.

So the next time someone wants to criticize me for being a "single issue" voter, please take a look at this list again. I have a hard time finding any part of the domestic policy agendas that don't treat me and other GLBT differently that other Americans based on who I love. And if you think that I'm unfairly bashing your chosen candidate, please show me where they have actually done something to address these issues (not just talk about it at the gay friendly fundraising events). You see, they are real issues to many of us, in a country where we're all supposed to be treated the same under the law.

And if you can't understand that it really is different for some of us and can't bring yourself to say that we really do have a valid point and that it isn't right to treat some of us differently based on this one characteristic - please examine your own labels again. Perhaps it's time to stop referring to yourself as a Progressive.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

We lost something today....

I say we in a collective sense, us as in all Americans. The one person in the whole campaign who isn't beholden to big corporate money, the one person who I thought might actually begin to turn us from the path we're on where the corporations control the agenda and conversation with the amount of money they can muster compared to We, the People.

The generation coming after me isn't going to have it as good as I did, that's been pretty well documented by now. There are plenty of my generation who's main thought is "I got mine, fuck you" Sadly, there's too many of them. I'm not really sure where it goes from here - but one thing I feel certain about - whatever voice we had, the great unwashed masses who make up this once great country, lost a champion today. Obviously, the big corporations didn't want his populist message to get out - way too many studies by way too many groups from all sides of the political spectrum that show Edwards only got about 7% of the coverage given the corporate blessed candidates - Hillary and Obama.

After flying to PA and back this week, I was already feeling bummed - trying to figure out how we could possibly undo some of the damage that's been done. It's really a different perspective to be up at 20-30,000 ft and looking down on the US. The incredible network of roads that aren't being used at that time of night, the endless number of lights left on in case someone comes along, the fact that a strip mall seen from that height is just as ugly as it is on the ground, and looks just like every other one in America.

So we wind up with a couple of candidates who are owned by the big corporations. Who would rather spar over who has the most experience (a pair of first term Senators!) who act like a couple of 6 year olds in a pissing contest - neither of them really inspires me to think that they want something best for everyone in the country rather than that they want to be called Mr or Madam President.

Oh well, I've never really counted on anyone besides myself for whatever I needed, I don't know why I was actually allowing myself to hope that someone was actually going to make a difference.....

The following is a transcript of this moving and memorable speech by John Edwards. Please share it with your friends and family, and ask them to put pressure on whichever candidate they support to incorporate Edwards’ anti-poverty mission into their platform:

John Edwards in New Orleans, Jan. 30, 2008

Thank you all very much. We’re very proud to be back here.

During the spring of 2006, I had the extraordinary experience of bringing 700 college kids here to New Orleans to work. These are kids who gave up their spring break to come to New Orleans to work, to rehabilitate houses, because of their commitment as Americans, because they believed in what was possible, and because they cared about their country.

I began my presidential campaign here to remind the country that we, as citizens and as a government, have a moral responsibility to each other, and what we do together matters. We must do better, if we want to live up to the great promise of this country that we all love so much.

It is appropriate that I come here today. It’s time for me to step aside so that history can blaze its path. We do not know who will take the final steps to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, but what we do know is that our Democratic Party will make history. We will be strong, we will be unified, and with our convictions and a little backbone we will take back the White House in November and we’ll create hope and opportunity for this country.

This journey of ours began right here in New Orleans. It was a December morning in the Lower Ninth Ward when people went to work, not just me, but lots of others went to work with shovels and hammers to help restore a house that had been destroyed by the storm.

We joined together in a city that had been abandoned by our government and had been forgotten, but not by us. We knew that they still mourned the dead, that they were still stunned by the destruction, and that they wondered when all those cement steps in all those vacant lots would once again lead to a door, to a home, and to a dream.

We came here to the Lower Ninth Ward to rebuild. And we’re going to rebuild today and work today, and we will continue to come back. We will never forget the heartache and we’ll always be here to bring them hope, so that someday, one day, the trumpets will sound in Musicians’ Village, where we are today, play loud across Lake Ponchartrain, so that working people can come marching in and those steps once again can lead to a family living out the dream in America.

We sat with poultry workers in Mississippi, janitors in Florida, nurses in California.

We listened as child after child told us about their worry about whether we would preserve the planet.

We listened to worker after worker say “the economy is tearing my family apart.”

We walked the streets of Cleveland, where house after house was in foreclosure.

And we said, “We’re better than this. And economic justice in America is our cause.”

And we spent a day, a summer day, in Wise, Virginia, with a man named James Lowe, who told us the story of having been born with a cleft palate. He had no health care coverage. His family couldn’t afford to fix it. And finally some good Samaritan came along and paid for his cleft palate to be fixed, which allowed him to speak for the first time. But they did it when he was 50 years old. His amazing story, though, gave this campaign voice: universal health care for every man, woman and child in America. That is our cause.

And we do this — we do this for each other in America. We don’t turn away from a neighbor in their time of need. Because every one of us knows that what — but for the grace of God, there goes us. The American people have never stopped doing this, even when their government walked away, and walked away it has from hardworking people, and, yes, from the poor, those who live in poverty in this country.

For decades, we stopped focusing on those struggles. They didn’t register in political polls, they didn’t get us votes and so we stopped talking about it. I don’t know how it started. I don’t know when our party began to turn away from the cause of working people, from the fathers who were working three jobs literally just to pay the rent, mothers sending their kids to bed wrapped up in their clothes and in coats because they couldn’t afford to pay for heat.

We know that our brothers and sisters have been bullied into believing that they can’t organize and can’t put a union in the workplace. Well, in this campaign, we didn’t turn our heads. We looked them square in the eye and we said, “We see you, we hear you, and we are with you. And we will never forget you.” And I have a feeling that if the leaders of our great Democratic Party continue to hear the voices of working people, a proud progressive will occupy the White House.

Now, I’ve spoken to both Senator Clinton and Senator Obama. They have both pledged to me and more importantly through me to America, that they will make ending poverty central to their campaign for the presidency.

And more importantly, they have pledged to me that as President of the United States they will make ending poverty and economic inequality central to their Presidency. This is the cause of my life and I now have their commitment to engage in this cause.

And I want to say to everyone here, on the way here today, we passed under a bridge that carried the interstate where 100 to 200 homeless Americans sleep every night. And we stopped, we got out, we went in and spoke to them.

There was a minister there who comes every morning and feeds the homeless out of her own pocket. She said she has no money left in her bank account, she struggles to be able to do it, but she knows it’s the moral, just and right thing to do. And I spoke to some of the people who were there and as I was leaving, one woman said to me, “You won’t forget us, will you? Promise me you won’t forget us.” Well, I say to her and I say to all of those who are struggling in this country, we will never forget you. We will fight for you. We will stand up for you.

But I want to say this — I want to say this because it’s important. With all of the injustice that we’ve seen, I can say this, America’s hour of transformation is upon us. It may be hard to believe when we have bullets flying in Baghdad and it may be hard to believe when it costs $58 to fill your car up with gas. It may be hard to believe when your school doesn’t have the right books for your kids. It’s hard to speak out for change when you feel like your voice is not being heard.

But I do hear it. We hear it. This Democratic Party hears you. We hear you, once again. And we will lift you up with our dream of what’s possible.

One America, one America that works for everybody.

One America where struggling towns and factories come back to life because we finally transformed our economy by ending our dependence on oil.

One America where the men who work the late shift and the women who get up at dawn to drive a two-hour commute and the young person who closes the store to save for college. They will be honored for that work.

One America where no child will go to bed hungry because we will finally end the moral shame of 37 million people living in poverty.

One America where every single man, woman and child in this country has health care.

One America with one public school system that works for all of our children.

One America that finally brings this war in Iraq to an end. And brings our service members home with the hero’s welcome that they have earned and that they deserve.

Today, I am suspending my campaign for the Democratic nomination for the Presidency.

But I want to say this to everyone: with Elizabeth, with my family, with my friends, with all of you and all of your support, this son of a millworker’s gonna be just fine. Our job now is to make certain that America will be fine.

And I want to thank everyone who has worked so hard — all those who have volunteered, my dedicated campaign staff who have worked absolutely tirelessly in this campaign.

And I want to say a personal word to those I’ve seen literally in the last few days — those I saw in Oklahoma yesterday, in Missouri, last night in Minnesota — who came to me and said don’t forget us. Speak for us. We need your voice. I want you to know that you almost changed my mind, because I hear your voice, I feel you, and your cause it our cause. Your country needs you — every single one of you.

All of you who have been involved in this campaign and this movement for change and this cause, we need you. It is in our hour of need that your country needs you. Don’t turn away, because we have not just a city of New Orleans to rebuild. We have an American house to rebuild.

This work goes on. It goes on right here in Musicians’ Village. There are homes to build here, and in neighborhoods all along the Gulf. The work goes on for the students in crumbling schools just yearning for a chance to get ahead. It goes on for day care workers, for steel workers risking their lives in cities all across this country. And the work goes on for two hundred thousand men and women who wore the uniform of the United States of America, proud veterans, who go to sleep every night under bridges, or in shelters, or on grates, just as the people we saw on the way here today. Their cause is our cause.

Their struggle is our struggle. Their dreams are our dreams.

Do not turn away from these great struggles before us. Do not give up on the causes that we have fought for. Do not walk away from what’s possible, because it’s time for all of us, all of us together, to make the two Americas one.

Thank you. God bless you, and let’s go to work. Thank you all very much.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

How fucked up is that?, I

So - to save the economy, we're going to borrow $140 billion dollars from China so we can buy more stuff made in China? Anyone remember the Company store?

The school has sent me a letter threatening Administrative Withdraw if I don't provide my shot records? Let me see if I can find that particular stone tablet and dust it off for them. Did they even bother to look before sending the form email that I probably had one complete set of shots (including Rabies and a few other things very few folks get) from the military 20+ years ago? Or that the original ones are about 38 years old? Nope, so short of miraculously finding these records, I'll probably have to get all new shots since I have no clue where I would begin to find this stuff.

It hit me the other day that I have put myself into the position of having a routine on a day to day basis. I haven't done that in my entire adult life - it's so strange, but I can also see the "security" some folks get of knowing something like "it's Monday, I have to do XXX"

Poor Chris, if he doesn't feel totally neglected, then he's just blind. Between running the companies and training a new innkeeper, tackling a full load at school, agreeing to go off to PA (and now maybe Wisconsin) to do presentations at conferences, volunteering to do some things for various magazines and newspapers - then toss in this whole concept of developing a property for sustainable, affordable student housing.... it's a wonder the poor man knows I'm alive outside of me saying stuff like "Hey, I need a ride to the airport...." Somehow he smiles and gives me that knowing look and just rides with it. I hope everyone who ever reads this has someone so wonderfully supportive in their life - you have no clue how much that means.

Well, off to catch a flight home (arriving 2 hours early thanks to bad weather in Chicago). I keep feeling like if I just get another couple of days, I can get it all caught up.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

An awesome night

It's 16 degrees, the stars are out, the moon nearly full and snow on the ground. Slept off my exhaustion - I never go to bed at 8:30 and sleep until 6:30 - obviously I needed it. Should be the last week of feeling like I'm behind and playing catch up at school. My belly is full with homemade chili and leftover homemade clam chowder. Probably the healthiest I've eaten this week except for lunch with Kelly (there's something about her current detox diet that makes me feel semi-guilty for eating, but I'm not giving up my wine, I'll try to drink enough for her until she can do yeast and sugar again LOL)

Curled up in front of the fireplace, feet cuddled with Chris makes me forget the earlier day frustrations of not being able to have a day for just us like I'd been planning. Seems like we've both been running a hundred miles an hour in different directions and we're due for an "us" day. Oh well, life conspired that he'd be busy when I wasn't and vice versa. We're still here, still together - always connected. Nothing special going on, a quiet night. Knitting for my family, thinking about how lucky I am. How could anyone be warmer?

Shitty day for a variety of reasons, seemed so important at the time - but now, oh well, it's past and all is right in my world. I am still going to find an Ipod, a ton of reasons. But overall, I can't complain - life is good, everyone should have it so well. Amazing how a little quiet time can really keep the rest in perspective. I have so much shit to get finished this week, but it'll all come together - nothing to worry about. Life is good. And yes, some things are just funny:

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Semi frustrating week

So they finally got the computer system at school fixed to where I could actually register for classes after I'd already sat through my first course. Of course, by that time everything I wanted to sign up for was already filled. Started the day first thing in the registrar's office, grabbing a handful of slips to see if professors would sign off on letting me take the courses on an overflow basis and headed off to class. Sat through my first one on solar thermal and got a maybe, I might know by Wednesday. Of course, there's a book to buy and a reading assignment due before I find out. Wednesday morning comes and there's 21 people in a classroom for 14 - at least he told me I couldn't get in before making me sit through another day and buy the book.

Sustainable building was no problem to get into, in fact there's a project due where we have to design a residential building and a commercial building then run all the LEED certifications on them to see how feasible they are. Instructor said the shipping container project would qualify and might even be something to enter into a sustainable design competition going on throughout the state.

Last class of the day was Intro to sustainability - very interesting, multi discipline class. Really enjoyed the instructor and style of the class (it's a place to debate ideas!!). Will know Wed on that one as well, but after sitting through the course, came up with the perfect reason for Chuck to let me stay in it. I'm the small businessman builder/developer that we spent most of today's class trashing for their insensitivity to the environment and exploitation of the masses for their own personal profit. Should make for a very fun class to say the least, especially the one young lady who's completely convinced that all capitalism is inherently bad. I want to be on some group projects with her obviously, that will really be enjoyable to work on showing her that the unbridled idealism is just as destructive as the capitalism that she rails against (probably will turn out to be a trust fund baby as well, which will only make it more fun!) (OK, got registered for this one - if I hadn't would probably have been the biggest disappointment of all that I wanted to take) Billy had tried to get me to meet this instructor before, said I'd probably enjoy talking to him and turns out he was right.

Turns out I may be eligible for credit for 8 semester hours in military science and phys ed for being a veteran. I've also got to check what credit I can get for "life experiences" - if nothing else being married three times and a single dad should qualify me for something with one of the Marriage and Family courses! Seriously, things like Blueprint 101 should be something I can test out of. It also occurred to me that while I was active duty, I took almost 40 hours of CLEP tests - I have no clue how long they are good for or if I can still use them for credits, but if I can that would take care of alot of the core basics. None of this can be completely answered until I've gotten 30 hours at ASU and they evaluate - but at least I know who I need to talk to about this to find out what paperwork is required and gives me plenty of time to get the papers out of whatever storage silo the US Army has them buried in.

Seriously, I finally broke down and said I was going to go ahead and get the degree - don't know why I kept being so wishy washy about making a commitment like that - perhaps because not being able to go to school when everyone else did back then is really the only thing that I've ever really expressed regret about - now, after all these years, maybe I'm just not trusting that that the opportunity is actually there. Once you've turned down a full scholarship to a school like Duke due to some of your other life choices, it's kind of tough to see yourself ever getting to go.

So I've decided to focus on the degree courses for now and see which of the core courses I won't have to take. If they won't count that stuff, then I'll have a couple of very boring semesters covering the basics with none of the more interesting things, but seems like the best route to go.

Found an electronics course in the same time slot as the solar I got bumped from - it even had openings! Clicked on register and get a note that I don't have the required math class or placement testing. Kelly pointed me to the area online where the placement tests are, of course it doesn't show up for me, so I email the appropriate person who adds it to my list. Got up this am and took the test and blew it horribly - didn't even get finished with the last 9 questions out of 25 (and only got 9 of the one's I did finish right). Amazing how much you can forget if you don't use it in a couple decades - in spite of scoring incredibly high on the SAT's back then (chisel and stone tablet!) Emailed the professor and told him I wouldn't be signing up after all.

Found another class I was interested in for that time - fits the major, has openings, even in the same building as my second M/W class. Click the button and find Time Conflict - it's listed as running until 11, while the other one starts at 11. Literally down a flight of steps and 1 door away from each other. Emails to both instructors to see which one would have to sign whatever waiver to allow me to register for that class.

Finally found potential spots in the other 2 classes I want to take on Thursday - Environmental Ethics and Science & Technology. Of course we finally get a snowfall and some classes get canceled, but so far the only one was the 9:30 - which I'm already registered for. Tomorrow is last day to add classes, so it either happens today or I'm not going to sweat about it. Would sorta piss me off since I've already hit the top tuition tier, only cost for those hours would be my time and the books. Now that I've decided to go for it, I want to be done yesterday (huge surprise, huh?) Don't get me wrong, I want to enjoy it, but it's not going to be the same college experience I would have had at 19 (I shudder to think about the number of people I would have slept with back then or how much alcohol I would have consumed LOL)

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

2008 Burning Man Art Theme: American Dream

And so from hour to hour we ripe and ripe,
And then from hour to hour we rot and rot;
And thereby hangs a tale.
~ William Shakespeare, As You Like It

This year's art theme is about nationality, identity and the nature of patriotism. One species of the patriotic urge conflates the nation state with mass identity. Governments, as actors on a worldwide stage, become a surrogate for self, a vast projection of collective ego. And yet, there is another type of patriotic feeling that attaches us to place and people, to a home and its culture. Both these feeling states (and their attendant ironies) are relevant to this year's theme.

In 2008, leave narrow and exclusive ideologies at home; forget the blue states and the red; let parties, factions and divisive issues fall away, and carefully consider your immediate experience. What has America achieved that you admire? What has it done or failed to do that fills you with dismay? What is laudatory? What is ludicrous? Put blame aside, let humor thrive, and dare to contemplate a larger question: What can America, this stumbling, roused, half-conscious giant, still contribute to the world?

Anyone embarking on this path will encounter hundreds of fellow participants – many of whom come to Black Rock City from around the world. Indeed, in order to discover the flag of any particular county amid this welter of imagery, it will be necessary to inspect the flags of many other nations. Each of these may be imagined as a dream no less radiant or precious than the rest. Each country is a source of culture and identity; yet each may also be regarded as a glimmering illusion: a sovereign artifact, an arbitrary puzzle piece, an isolated fragment on a map.

Today, Americans appear to live amid the tarnished squalor of a second Gilded Age. By nearly every measure, America has become a more unequal society. A mere one percent of the population now controls a third of the nation's wealth. Education, health care and home ownership – these now escape the reach of those who thought they were the middle class. Forty years of heedless mass-consumption have turned dreams into delusions. America's awash in debt. Embroiled in a wayward war, its citizens are told to shop.

Many feel that the United States is now adrift. Its allies, once so numerous, begin to fall away and chart an independent course. Its citizens, more tellingly, have lost their faith in progress. Polls indicate they now believe their children can't expect a better future. They distrust the institutions of government, of finance, and the corrupting power of large corporations. And yet, the native traits of any culture are deep-rooted. Freedom, opportunity, inventiveness, the power to transform oneself: these values and a love of self-expression still endure.

more at Burning Man

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Saturday, January 12, 2008

Role Reversal

You said way back near the beginning that in submitting, you were actually controlling. That's when I began to understand how deep your thinking went, but I didn't appreciate just how much you understood what you were saying at that point. Somehow you understood so early on that my need to be in charge was really an invitation to be the one tamed.

By allowing you to set the ground rules about our interactions, you also got me to agree to be controlled. And I did it, willingly - a first in my life where I've given up that power to someone else - establishing a bond of trust like no other I've ever formed. Sure, there are moments that I test the boundaries established - but respectfully and not resentful when I find them still in place. Generally, the predictability of the results is both gently humorous and strongly comforting - occasionally, I find myself surprised at the latitude granted.

There are also moments where you pluck at the strings you've tied to see if they remain as tight or need some refreshing. I find that I enjoy watching that happen as well, sometimes doing things to provoke it. I'm surprised you've never noticed the mischievous grin on my face as I do. Once again, leading things into new territory - discoveries for both you and me to be made in directions not explored - a subtle specialty of yours I've come to cherish. Whenever I have cause to doubt if you enjoy it as much as I do, or feel it as deeply - I catch a certain look on your face and know that you do.

It's a bit of a surreal dream in the midst of my waking life - secure in the knowledge that it's there, but not always forefront of my mind. And then something sparks a thought or a memory and I'm instantly blown away by this warm feeling, the one we openly speak of as love without ever having totally defined what it means between us. And I sit there in wonder at where things are - a place I never would have expected to find myself, a place I wouldn't trade for the world.

I guess it's why I've always been attracted to Orion - the strong warrior/hunter. That quiet confidence has always been an attractor, even a bit of an aphrodisiac.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Waking life....

The kids have been talking about sushi for a while now, but were waiting for a time when Chris wouldn't be eating since he doesn't like the textures.  Last night, we all got together at Nick's to make sushi and watch a movie.  It was incredibly fun - the first time all the kids have been back together since the Christmas break and everyone "doing" part of the meal prep.  Made for alot of conversation and joking, along with a very simple enjoyment of each other's company over something so basic but fun as making a meal (at least three of us had never made sushi before).

Afterwards we watched Waking Life. I don't remember ever seeing a film that struck me so intensely while watching it but left everyone so silently stunned when the credits rolled.  Evan (who's seen it many times before and recommended it as his favorite movie) was trying to start a conversation with everyone to find out their reaction, but we were all still lost in trying to absorb it.

I left this movie slightly unsatisfied and unsettled (a bit like waking up from a dream I suppose). It took me a while to figure out the reason -- the movie does not supply answers. It does not have a plot that reaches a "conclusion".

It's more of an experience, like a long, vivid, strange dream. 

While the different lecturers didn't say anything really new in terms of philosophy, their "realness" in presentation, the certainty in which they spoke and their animated character representations did make you see those theories in some new lights and provoke you to think. 

I spent most of the movie trying to decide if the train and bridge scenes were "transitions" in his mental awareness of him waking up to life or if they were more stepping stones towards eternity.

I don't remember even being conscious of the musical score while watching last night since there were so many other areas being stimulated, but I woke up this morning with it running through my head - not dominating, but as background music again.  The simple strings have almost a romantic melody to them, even though there is nothing of that basis in the movie.  It makes me feel a little still in the dream state.

Definitely one I want to watch again, the animation was such a fascinating departure from typical movies that I found myself visually distracted as the characters and scenes shifted with the conversations.  I imagine that there are things to see and here to be newly discovered with each additional watching.

Not everyone thinks the same. Not all of these topics will spark the imagination and get the wheels turning. Certainly, the animation is an experience on its own.  Waking Life is perfect for personal reflection. Dreaming can be fun. Living can be interesting. Living in your dreams will lead to adventure and personal satisfaction. Choose where you will spend your time...

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Life is.....

I've realized over the past few years that life just happens, and that I'm much happier just accepting it sometimes. There are things that happen that could make you wish things had been different, or that you met someone under different circumstances, or that things just could have come together better - but the fact is, they didn't. So you deal with it. You learn to turn those thoughts aside and appreciate things for what they are, not lose life and energy over what might have been.

I find that I'm much happier this way. I'm willing to relinquish control to the fates and let things happen. Sometimes I'm even pleasantly surprised at how they turn out, exceeding what I would have tried to will into existence. It's amazing how less stressful things are now. Looking back over the years at how I had to have absolute control over everyone and everything around me - I realize that I may have cheated myself out of other experiences simply because I wouldn't let them happen, things had to go my way.

Sure, there are moments when I look at something or someone and think about how it could impact my life differently. But then I think about what I have already gained and try to appreciate it from that perspective and realize that I have nothing to complain about, nothing to yearn for to be different. I'm loved by enough, liked by more and enjoyed by many. How many can truly say that? How many can truly say that they are as happy as I am? How many really live the life that they were supposed to?

Life is.... and sometimes, the best thing I can do is to let it be. There's alot to be found in doing that.

Good night Orion, sleep well my friend.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Larry, I thought of you.....

and couldn't resist sharing.

If it won't play, just click here

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Love - a word far too short....

A lot of discussions around here about Love - what it is, what it means, how it's expressed. Who it happens to, the differences in depth and commitment. How we fall into it or even out of it and all the ramifications each of those entails. Obviously a topic that has been discussed throughout the ages with no definitive answers beyond that it's highly subject to the people involved and won't be the same exact thing for anyone else.

Some can love many without sacrificing one, some can only give their heart to one to the exclusion of all others. Not so much a "right vs wrong" issue, simply a different way to express what they feel and what that represents to them. Each has the potential to feel that they are missing out on something the other has but also the ability to recognize that they possess something the other can't have - hopefully they can each appreciate that fully and live it well.

Talking about how Chris and I met, how we've developed and formed our bonds, how no one who knew us would have ever considered this would be a lasting thing has given me time to reflect on exactly what we mean to each other. The respect for one another's differences that has kept it interesting without ever leading to arguments is probably the strongest part of our relationship. The deep friendship that underlies it all so that we each know the the support of the other is there no matter what we choose to do (and I'm certain my random ideas have pushed that to limits I never would have predicted).

To know that we risk great hurts and go for it in spite of rather than holding back because of what "might" happen, to understand that that potential exists and take the plunge anyway isn't something that everyone can do. Probably expected for many who timidly drift through life, but occasionally we can get surprised by one who embraces everything with a boundless energy and enthusiasm that infects all around him, yet hesitates here in this one realm. A fierce hug, then a firm hand to the back and a whispered reminder to count to ten before pulling the ripcord.

Not just the romantic connections, but the family we've created and how it all inter-relates. The lack of competition, the genuine desire for all to have the best for each of the others. The feeling of coming and being at home.

Evan and I were in Big Lot's yesterday and laughing about how quickly the latest big retailer sponsored holiday was being pushed in the door as the Christmas one was already packed up and forgotten. Sadly, we were poking through the Valentine's offerings. Some were funny - like the hard plastic bra that looked like it would so comfortably inspire romance - the 9' banner of X's and O's to be hung across the ceiling. Some had potential to be fun - like the dice that said what to do and where to do it - not really spontaneous enough for me, but I can see that some would enjoy the game.

But the saddest ones were things like the deck of playing cards with questions on the back designed to get you talking with your partner - not even deep subjects that two people might not talk about in the course of day to day, but simple things that wouldn't take long to discover if one was truly interested in the other. Our first reaction was "what a shame" but it was quickly overtaken by the broader "what a shame that there are so many people missing out that there's a market for this". I just don't get people not embracing life, living it as though it might be their last day.

This past year has been our best so far for so many reasons, not the least of which has been the people in our lives and love between all. I guess my new year's wish for everyone would be that they have a season of loving, of creating the relationships that bring out the best in others as well as themselves. Of living, while still alive.

As for love, I think Margaret Atwood may have said it best in here simple, but straight to the point manner:

Variations on the Word Love

This is a word we use to plug
holes with. It's the right size for those warm
blanks in speech, for those red heart-
shaped vacancies on the page that look nothing
like real hearts. Add lace
and you can sell
it. We insert it also in the one empty
space on the printed form
that comes with no instructions. There are whole
magazines with not much in them
but the word love, you can
rub it all over your body and you
can cook with it too. How do we know
it isn't what goes on at the cool
debaucheries of slugs under damp
pieces of cardboard? As for the weed-
seedlings nosing their tough snouts up
among the lettuces, they shout it.
Love! Love! sing the soldiers, raising
their glittering knives in salute.

Then there's the two
of us. This word
is far too short for us, it has only
four letters, too sparse
to fill those deep bare
vacuums between the stars
that press on us with their deafness.
It's not love we don't wish
to fall into, but that fear.
this word is not enough but it will
have to do. It's a single
vowel in this metallic
silence, a mouth that says
O again and again in wonder
and pain, a breath, a finger
grip on a cliffside. You can
hold on or let go.

Margaret Atwood

Don't let the process of living rob you of life or the fear of loving steal what should be the best parts.