"A good example is the best sermon." - Thomas Fuller
June 28th, 2008
Motorcycling, I've found, full of life lessons, one being: you can plan all you want but the best ride happens to you.
Don't get me wrong, I tried planning. I thought we'd head up to Mount Saint Helens, a georgous ride up through Washington if you haven't been, but then I thought no, I feel more like heading to that little hole in the wall in Astoria that makes the most amazing vegetarian sandwhiches, but no, then I thought it would be fun to spend a day in my old stomping grounds in Eugene, share the town with my daughter who hasn't been...but then I woke up today, realized this last ride would be hot, hot, hot, temperatures at or above 100 degrees, so fell back on the plan to hit the beach where I knew the temperatures would fall back to something more survivable.
Our route was determined by temperature, traffic, distance, interest, patience, physical and emotional states, and intuition. While we couldn't have planned the day as it turned out we enjoyed it exactly as it revealed itself to us and that was much of the joy of it. Yes, I always take a map with me, but a map cannot tell me when I need to stretch my legs, a map can't tell me when my pillion will be hungry, a map cannot show me where I will take in the wonderful smell of the ocean nor show me where the stinkiest cow pastures are. A map is only a list of possibilities and potentials which are useful...and yet it is only a piece of paper and that's all. It should not rule us.
Follow the road where it takes you.
June 25th, 2008
So I was watching reruns of my favourite television series, Battlestar Galactica, this afternoon when it hit me. For those of you who don't watch the series you may skip this reflection. For those who do and want clues as to the identity of the final cylon, read on.
First and foremost, I want to start with the four known assumptions about the writers of Battlestar:1) The writers have never insulted the intelligence of their audience.
2) The writers have sometimes opened a plot to conjecture and often allowed us to make incorrect assumptions based on incomplete, inconclusive, and inconsistent evidence in order to increase dramatic tension but
3) The writers write with integrity. They have never used clear cut unambiguous foreshadowing then decided to go in a completely different direction just for shits and giggles. They want us to spot the clues and make a correct and educated assesment and more so, they want the series to hold up under serious scrutiny after the final episode is aired.
4) The writers always make decisions because it adds directly to the themes, drama, and vision of the series, not just because it's titilating.
That said once the light bulb in my head went off I immediately jumped online and began searching the web for what other people were saying and while I must admit my research wasn't completely intensive, I didn't find one person who had hit on it. I immediately had to share the clues if for no other reason than to get the studio's attention in hopes that they'll let me be on the writing staff for the next series--or at least consider hiring me as a back ground viper pilot (callsign Pygmie1).
Who know? Here's to a pebble of positive intent thrown out into the great pond of the universe!
So here we go. There are quite a few theories out there. I'm going to blow the ones I read out of the water right now. While this may seem harsh the truth is it's easier to disprove something than it is to prove something. Whatever's left, as Data once said, must be the truth. That's where I will start:
Theory #1: Starbuck
The basic reasoning is as follows. She's told she has a destiny and we see that as manifested through her artwork which obviously matches up with what the Chief found on the algae planet. Likewise, when we see the finale of season three (sorry love, I'll try not to give too much away) one's first thought is, "Oh frack, she's a cylon!" That's the only explanation, right? However as I mention above, "The writers have sometimes opened a plot to conjecture and often allowed us to make incorrect assumptions based on incomplete, inconclusive, and inconsistent evidence in order to increase dramatic tension but " Next, the writers weren't born yesterday, they wouldn't give up something of such dramatic worth at the end of Season 3 when it could be used to stir things up in the final half of Season 4. Finally and more importantly, assuming the writers don't frack with our heads for no good reason we must assume the Xena Cylon's vision was accurate. She stated only 4 of the final 5 were in the fleet and did so in the precense of the final 4 + Starbuck hence it is not she.
Theory #2: Apollo
Some have pointed to his visions of water (representing cylon rebirth) when he floated in space, depressed and arguably suicidal, but I think that's reaching. First, water is often used as symbolism for the subconscious mind, drowning, and the like, and second, this correlates closer to the symbology used during Baltar's interrogation than the act of cylon rebirth. More improtantly, unless there was a baby swap at the hospital there were other humans (including very possibly Commander Adama) present at the birth, pretty much putting him out of the running (at least for being pure born). Besides, in many ways Lee represents what's "best" about the human race; I believe it would be remiss of the writers to place him in the role of a cylon when as a human he represents so much more. And as with Starbuck the Xena Cylon rules him out.
Theory #3: Lee's little brother
Would be interesting to bring him into the series but the same thing applies as with Lee, there would have had to have been a baby swap and likewise how would it further the plot? Sorry, I don't think the writers would make a choice just to titillate. The most they'd get out of it is a group Adama family hug and Starbuck would have a chance to get over her guilt and have a threesome with her x-husband...okay, maybe I shouldn't have said that, but point is, it doesn't add substance to the finale.
Theory #4: The Old Man
This would certainly make an interesting plot point as it would mean that the man leading everyone to Earth was a cylon the entire time, thus forcing the entire human race to consider that maybe some cylons are worth trusting, after all, he's kept them alive for years and rescued them from New Caprica. It would also make Lee half cyclon, making him the adult vision of things to come; an interesting plot point, but doesn't really add much to the series thought it does detract from his struggles as a human. And again, the Xena Assumption rules him out. Sorry dude, you may not have spaced him so you'll just have to learn to get along with him.
Theory #6: By occupation
I've read theories indicating the final five come from different areas of human society such as command staff, resistance, enlisted men, and the like so the others must be equally represented. Interesting theory, true, but I could also say the four have different hair cuts so the fifth must too (this supports both Baltar and Roslin). It makes sense that "spys" would want to find positions of power within the opposition and likewise it would be congruent with the idea that cylon society is a democratic one (to a point)--but does this add any dramatic tension, emotion, or meaning to the story? Not really, so I don't see this being a major factor (though I believe it will be one in terms of group idealogies).
Theory #7: The Doctor
I love this guy: gruff, sarcastic, straight shooting, and a humorous knod to the 70's when it was pretty common to see a highly respected medical professional chug away on cigarettes. But dude, where are the clues? He smokes: so does Starbuck, Baltar, and fracking near everyone else at one point or another. He's sarcastic: they ran out of Vicadin and it's made him a little cross. Oh, but maybe he will heal the rift between human and cylon. Do you really think the writers would use such an obvious symbol to stitch up the series? Sorry, I don't buy it.
Theory #8: Tom Zarek
I love Tom Zarek not because he's Tom Zarek but because Richard Hatch, the actor depicting Zarek, came to the show with the weight of the character he'd made famous, the original Apollo, on his shoulders. The first time we saw him it felt like pure titilation but he and the writers massaged Zarek's character into a believable, abiet questionable, character who I've come to respect and admire--though I wouldn't turn my back on him in real life (though I must admit in some ways he's just the mirror image of his original character). That said, I've heard talk from many people that we should bring William Shatner back to reprise his role as Captain Kirk even after being killed in the first Generations movie--but to what end? While I almost cried seeing a child-hood hero die in that film it was an honorable death befitting a hero of such grandeurre and frankly, it made sense to have him die selflessly to save millions of others he had ever met, to die not at the hands of a villian, but of fate, nature, and poor structural engineering. To bring Kirk back would be to slap the faces of the writers that allowed that character to die with dignity, something that rarely happens in fiction. That said, making Zarek a cylon would likewise just be an insult to the character and really, what would be the point? To needlessly promote the original hero of the first series to the highest position in the final lap? It just doesn't make sense and breaks the first assumption.
Theory #9: By OmissionThis is absolutely hilarious. Check out the following link: http://forums.scifi.com/index.php?showtopic=2274477. Any reason they don't list the final cylon? Simple mistake or conscious omission?
Theory #10: Adama's X-WifeC'mon, the XO's wife already came back from the dead, to perform this miracle twice is truly an insult to the audience and lends nothing to furthering the story. Sure, we create tension in the blossoming relationship between Roslin and Adama, but that's it, folks, and that would be some pretty cheap theatre right there, if you ask me.
Theory #11: Baltar
Been there, done that, and while it was an incredibly effective plot device for well over a season insuring this fallable fracked up person is a human does more for the story than making him a cylon ever would. As my best friend pointed out Baltar represents the struggle so many of us face between highly contradictory aspects of our personalities and if this simple, flawed--frankly nut-job--can redeem himself in both his eyes and the eyes of others then there's hope for all of us. This is the strongest message Baltar's character can send as the show winds down to the final episode and I wouldn't be terribly surprised if he commits the final act of sacrifice which would validate his Christ complex at the same time redeeming him as a creature of worth.
Theory #12: Admiral Kain
Interesting thought and I'm sure many of us would be interested to see her come back but didn't we just see her glorious return in Razor? As a story device it feels like her character has had her hour on the stage, served her purpose and that purpose, as I see it, is to poison the minds of others with bigotry, hate, and violence. Think about it, isn't that what's caused the genocide and wars between man and machine? Isn't that the rift that needs healing? Sure, bring her back and the writers could try to force her into the 12 Step "How to love your inner cylon" program but frankly, I don't think she'd go for it. Likewise, if she were to come back and turn into miss beaotch again--and let us be real here, that's who she is--the series would end on a good guys vs. bad guys note and while that may have worked in the 1970's it's too retro to stay above water in 2008. Sorry Kain: RIP.
Theory #13: Visions
I've heard a few people suggest it's visions that are clues to who's a cylon. Fine, okay, they're entitled to their opinion. Here's mine:
The fleet is full of humans who are having wild dreams and visions or having some pretty wild hallucinations while on psychadelic substances. Yes, these silly humans are a bunch of visionary drug junkies, left and right they're seeing things. Since more than one human is seeing visions this theory does not point to one over another as being a cylon.
Second, while a few cylons have had visions, they are all of the known variety and then only a few of them have shared the visions with Baltar and Roslin. Actually, I think it's more interesting that both Baltar and Roslin are sharing visions together with the mother of the new hybrid child and with the Six who's been keeping Baltar from loosing it--these visions, in my view, are foreshadowing of the relationship between these five over the final episodes and have nothing to do with whether or not someone is a cylon. It's all about the Pentiums, baby.
Third, did any of the final 4 aboard Galactica have a single vision during the entire series to date? Not that I can recall. They did, however, experience unexplainable moments of psychic intuition and more concretely, they tended to hear things that weren't there. Simple logic, folks, "sleeper" cylons don't have visions, they do not "project", but they do tend to hear voices in their heads.
Not exactly sure who I'm missing but I don't have all night so I'll switch towards the evidence--or at least clues--in support of the final cylon. No, this is not a spoiler, I will not tell you who it is and unless you've seen Seasons 3 thru 4 you won't get it, but I will say the final five clues comform to the first five assumptions and I'd bet good money on it:
The Final Five Clues:
1) The final 4 of 5 cylons on the Galactica realize what they are by audio hallucination, not through visions. Likewise, Starbucks Viper seems to be tuned into that same signal which the final four--and maybe five--are able to hear. Think about it, folks, the final cylon didn't have the benefit of being drawn to their brethren by summoning of the collective unconscious so they never consciously recognized what they were. The clues, once you spot them, are unambiguous.
2) Xena saw the final five and said only 4 were in the fleet. While they may never have come face to face, first I believe they would have had some knowledge of the other as they were, after all, on the opposite sides of a battle front, and second, it's perfectly reasonable to suggest that a certain someone gave Xena second hand information about this other certain someone after going up in a bright ball of light one sunny afternoon (I can hear the conversation now, "If it weren't for that @(*#&$! I wouldn't need so much fracking psycho therapy!"). Likewise, this character was not in the fleet in Seasons 3 or 4 which explains why they didn't end up meeting their cylon comrades at the end of Season 3. Indeed, I don't think the final cylon is even with the cylon fleet hiding away in some centurian's stash of model 1 porno mags.
3) This person is the only one with information necessary for the survival of all mankind and the writers have never frivolously thrown such an important piece of information into an episode only to toss it out the window like an emptied bottle of ambrosia. More specifically, in the last season everyone's secrets have, like it or not, been thrown out onto the table. As a semi-omniscient third person audience we've been able to learn everybody's dirty little secrets and all of them have come out into the open--except one. If you know the secret you know the cylon.
4) A cylon hybrid predicted the final cylon would emerge from a trespass of some kind and seek forgiveness. While it's true that everyone in the series is responsible for their sins none of them--even those as cowardly as Baltar or as selfish as Starbuck--can be said to have intentionally and willfully committed crimes against humanity. And yes, Waldo is the one with the red and white striped shirt.
5) Yin and yang folks, those cunning little writers have already set up the adversarial relationship between the final cylon and someone else creating a life and death struggle for the fate of all mankind-oh frack me, maybe I should have said the fate of all womankind?
The final five clues match directly to the four assumptions. The writers have been consistent and straight forward with any foreshadowing from the days of the first mini-series, they've known who the final cylon is for well over a year now and once you know who it is you'll be kicking yourself; hell, once I realized who it was I kicked myself and realized my dad, who is blind, would have figured it out right away!
If correct, the writers' choice adds directly and substantially to the plot of the series. It also reminds us that the first rule of magic, indirection, is just as effective in a script or screenplay. The choice of the final cylon will create a final show down between two sides of a coin, not good and evil as would have been the theme in the 70's, but ignorance and understanding, bigotry and tolerance, disharmony and harmony, belief and truth (you get the picture). The choice supports the mythos espoused throughout the series that death and rebirth, destruction and creation, are all aspects of the wheel of life. This theme has been present since Baltar and Six started shagging and she turned to him and said, "Lets make babies," so maybe when Roslin said, "They've gotta start making babies," what she was unwittingly doing was telling the human race how they would be transformed, healed, and unified with their ancient creations, their children. This healing will bring completion to the series and while the writers have been heard to say they don't like to tie things up with a neat little bow like other sci-fi series, I believe in order to make the four seasons a unified whole this is the direction they must go.
So there's only one character left, only one who's mind and soul is truly poisoned with so much hate and ignorance and bigotry and guilt, only one person who could provide the catalyst for this final storm that must come about before yin and yang find harmony again, only one who's belief system must either be transformed or thrown aside for the new generation to blossom. This will not be a battle between two peoples, my fellow fanatics, but of two people. I believe the show will end with a question and answer reminiscent of Frank Herbert's Dune, the simple idea that we can either live as animals or as humans and it is only in the human heart to face and conquer our inner deamons which brings about empowerment, self-control, and a little weirding along the way.
So tune in. And if that wasn't clue enough I'm not going to spell it out for you.
June 24th, 2008
A long, long time ago in a galaxy far, far away I worked at a magical place where "work" and "fun" were synonymous. A twelve hour day wasn't the same thing it is now, e.g. tiring drudgery, but instead was a chance to connect with coworkers over video games, foozeball, and free pizza. Innovation was sometimes taking your lunch break or working a little late to implement some idea, such as the asteroids you see as faint dots barrelling down on the "herc" in the above screenshot and then hearing a few people shout, "Holy shit! What was that?!" the next day playing this level only to be cannon fodder for one of these unexpected apparitions that were never in the game previous to this moment.
Did a lot of things at that old job I'm proud of though I'm probably guilty of living too much in the past from time to time...but I don't think most software engineers would exactly blame me. And yet, it wasn't perfect.
Take for instance the original InstallShield install on the StarSiege CD's. We didn't want anyone to be able to install the game on a Windows NT 4.0 machine (as we couldn't support it on that platform--this kind of decision is very typical in a software shop, i.e. what computers and operating systems do we allow/guarantee our software to end up and/or work on). So someone had written into the install a check represented by the following psuedocode:
IF the current Operating System is Windows NT 4.0 or Windows 5 THEN
Tell the user they're S.O.L and abort the install
Install Starsiege to the customer's machine
But then Windows 2000 came out just after we'd replicated the tens of thousands of CD's for sale on the internet and in a store near you and we needed to support Windows 2000--but damnit, when you query the OS version through InstallShield it comes back as Windows 5. The original install should have been written to only abort for known unsupported systems as follows:IF the current Operating System is Windows NT 4.0 THENTell the user they're S.O.L and abort the installELSEInstall Starsiege to the customer's machine
Plan for the future man!
I didn't write that install, however, but during my last few months with the company I was tasked with somehow pulling a carrot out of my ass and making the game install on Windows 2000 machines with one slight limitation: We weren't going to remaster a single CD for our customers, I needed to write an installer that would magically use the CDs the customers currently had and worse yet, I had never heard of a product where the installation files resided on a completely different CD than the install!
You see, I'd only been programming using the InstallShield 5.5 programming language for about two months and I'd learned the hard way, by looking at someone else's code for 8 hours a day for a month until it made sense to me (I later learned the person who'd written that install didn't have experience as a developer which explained why the code looked so complicated to me--just as a sanity checked I refactored the install taking it from about twenty or thirty pages down to less than ten!). I then wrote a few installs from scratch (one was for the Red Baron 3D games) and felt fairly proficient in the C-like language, but still, the assignment set before me was something I'd never heard of before.
So I did what any programmer would do, I jumped into the InstallShield documentation. No luck. So I used Yahoo! (Google wasn't big at the time) and still didn't turn up a thing (it's actually amazing how much one can learn on the web; you want to become a programmer with all the education I got at University? With a little direction you could do it all via web searches). Of course I'd also checked with the other resident InstallShield gurus. Having done my due diligence I went one step further and contacted InstallShield technical support: they were as flaborgasted as I was.
I spent a month going between intense investigation and nervous avoidance. Every now and then the lead programmer would ask me how I was doing and I'd fudge a bit, at least acting confident as I verbalized the struggle I was going through discovering a solution that I'd begun to think didn't exist.
Then it struck me. InstallShield 5.5 had these objects called "media" (a fancy word for CD or floppy diskette) which was used during compilation of the installs. By default the media was always on the same CD or floppy diskette, but what if I just said, "Screw you, install! Stop building the media files like you always do, in fact, just pretend they exist and trust me, they're on theD: drive." It took me about 5 minutes to make the changes and build the new install, another 10 minutes to test it.
A whole month of stress over that!!!
The result was a 3.62 megabyte installable package that was easily posted and downloaded via the internet over a dial-up modem, something that was pretty standard for the day. And truth is, I was pretty damn proud of myself for discovering such a simple, straight forward, and elegant solution. Except...
Turns out I'd written what's called a logic or runtime error directly into the installer: it always assumed the CD-ROM drive was D:
Now for those of you familiar with Windows machines there have been some drive naming standards that have been pretty consistent since the earliest PC's. The A: drive is usually the first floppy, the B: drive is the second (if it exists--and yes, I've built a few machines over the years with both), the C: drive is the hard drive where the Operating System (Windows X) and installed software resid, so D: was reserved for the CD-ROM. Thing is, in those days having one floppy, one hard drive, and one CD-ROM drive had become common place. Who had the money (or need) for more than one hard drive or more than one CD-ROM in a world where people weren't yet downloading music and videos off the internet at light speed and likewise, the cost of CD-ROMs that wrote to CD were so expensive few had them (I did, yeeha!).
Here are the drive specs on my current PC:
- A: 3.25" floppy
- B: Not applicable
- C: 2 interlinked 233gig RAID drives
- D: 74.4gig drive
- E: 38.1gig drive
- F: 279gig drive
- G: Read/Write DVD-ROM Drive #1
- H: Read/Write DVD-ROM Drive #2
Having spent so much of my time typing all this out I have to admit sometimes when I get a little nastalgic I pull out my Starsiege CD, download the latest copy of the StarsiegeWin2k_US.exe installer I'd written, and watch the thing bomb when I try installing on my Windows Vista machine.
Stupid thing is looking for D: which is actually G: !!!
I sometimes wonder if I have the source code for that thing lying around somewhere. I know, I know, I wrote the bloody thing nine years ago and no, I wouldn't get paid a penny for implementing the fix, but you know, I may not be the best, most intelligent, or most creative programmer on the face of this planet but I have pride in the things I make with my hands, I want to do them right, I want to make them work, even if it takes me nearly a decade to do it.
What can I say?
I'm a wild and crazy guy.
June 23rd, 2008
Today on my way into work I turned on the radio to NPR and heard the familiar voice of Lewis Black who I enjoyed seeing a few years back here at Portland's Crystal Ballroom. A minute later I found myself doing a double take. Did they just refer to George Carlin in the past tense?
So here are the facts, or at least as I was to learn them: On June 22nd (yesterday) George went to the hospital and died of heart failure at 5:55pm.
Earlier this evening I went out to have dinner with some friends and friends of friends who I've either met before I was to newly meet. At one point the subject of ritual was brought up and how important it is to creating community. Truth is I wanted to run away from the table, find a large sack, and stick my head in it: community, something so many take for granted, is a feeling, a construct, a place, I have become ever so aware, that I do not have. Lately images of my youth that might otherwise be good are haunting me, like my mom's 40th birthday party: there was a large group of friends at our house and I was a teenager by then--and here I am, much closer to The Hill than I am that young teenager...and who would I invite to celebrate with me in six short years? And then there's that almost daily struggle I have, the big quesion mark in the back of my mind that makes me wonder if I'll even be around to blow out the candles.
So it was hard, hard to sit there and talk about something I haven't known for a very, very long time, to hear discussion of something I've come to think is just a superstition, a group of people that would simply accept me for who I am and really want to get who that person is, and part of me, really deep down, is absolutely afraid, frightened, shit-white with fear, that the closest I got to having a group of friends was a bunch of assholes who talked behind my back, didn't invite me to their uber important parties, and worste of all, made bets whether or not I'd kill myself because that's just funny, don't ya know? I can't help but reflect on these nightmares sometimes, these memories that were my day to day life over some years, and I think...I think they have completely broken me...
...but I digress...
So what I tried to do was think of rituals I do have, personal ones. In some ways I struggle with them. I don't have a regular schedule, don't go to bed or wake up at the same time. Insomnia has never been a picnic so I couldn't get up every morning and make a cup of coffee--though to be honest I wish that were one of the daily rituals I could consistently schedule in. The knee pain over the last three years and back pain, since early this year, have made daily ritual a bit of a non sequiter, besides going to work, which must be done to earn the daily bread, the pain may put me on my back...or not...I may be able to cope with it...or not.
But maybe, I realized later during that conversation, maybe I can't plan a lot of the rituals I've created for myself over the years, maybe like a cat I'm more apt to feel them out or know when to engage in them these things I can't exactly schedule such as the death of a comic actor who I've admired since my mid-teens when I first saw him on HBO realizing holy fuck, this guy is smart, honest, sincere, and absolutely hillarious and while I don't always agree with his views he has the balls to express them on the stage and help the rest of us mere mortals start to get how rediculous, frivolous, hypocritical, and superficial we can be...and how nothing should be treated as too taboo to talk about, that everything should be part of our interpersonal social discussion, and that humor is one of the greatest tools for doing that, especially for subjects that are tough to hear.
George and I, though we express ourselves in very different ways, share some very similar views. Like me he is--was--not a cynic, part of him was always hoping to help others see a bigger and better world. He liked to see himself as a "dissappointed idealist."
This pygmie groks.
P.S. I first saw this second clip on HBO when I was in my late teens and while he goes a little overboard in his interpretation it is frankly more intelligent than most of the talking heads on the major news networks and ironically is just as applicable to the most recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as it was in the first gulf war: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sDkhzHQO7jY
June 22nd, 2008
I'm concerned about the number of choices we have today. A number of studies have shown the more we have to choose from the less satisfied we are with what we have.
I was in my early teens the first time I was aware of this. My family and I were entertaining friends who were visiting from Australia and eating at a restaurant in downtown Prineville when the waitress asked one of our guests, Ernie, if he wanted white, wheat, rye, or sour dough. He stopped for a second, thought about this, and answered with a smile. After the waitress left he commented on how here in The States there were all these choices whereas in Australia when you ordered something you generally got what you got and you were more or less happy with it--and frankly, he was a little frustrated with it.
His attitude seemed strange to me. How could anyone express frustration over being presented with more choices? Maybe I don't like rye and maybe I'm allergic to wheat. Maybe, like some fast food joint says, I want it my way good golly gosh!
For better or worse Australia is more like US than it was when I visited as a younger uber emotional fifteen year old and so much of the world, including China and India, are following suit. While it's great that more and more people are experiencing a higher standard of living, what we're doing on some levels is building a time bomb, a time bomb of depressed, unhappy people who are never quite happy with what we have because damnit, there new iPhone just came out and we won't have any worth unless we have it!!!
...or such are the kinds of things my daughter says from time to time...
And it's not just our phones or our cars or all the features in our cars but we've extended having nearly infinite choices to our personal friendships and relionships, a mental sickness that makes most of us regularly go through cycles of disatisfaction with our friends, families, and relationships, patterns of acceptance and rejection people didn't so frequently go through a hundred or two years ago because there was a higher sense of valuing what one had.
But I digress...
One area I've noticed having a plethora of choices has changed our society is in terms of our entertainment, in particular television. Back in the "old days" we had twelve or so stations, channels 2 thru 13, and damnit, we liked it (that, by the way, was a nod to the earlier S&L years). The main stations, at least in Oregon, were the big three (ABC, CBS, and NBC), PBS, and KPTV-12 out of Portland (which was later bought and gang raped by the newcomer: Fox); channel 10 was a local station which played music all day and showed things like the school lunch calendar and what have you and I think it wasn't too much later where MTV hit the air waves.
As part of that reality certain types of shows were on at certain times. Weekday mornings were usually a time for kid's shows like Bugs Bunny, things tikes would watch after having breakfast and waiting for the bus. Later in the day, while everyone was at work or school the soap operas and game shows would dominate the boob tube as they were targetted to the average house wife (have you seen Mr. Mom?), oh, and don't forget things like Sesame Street and Mr. Roger's Neighborhood for the pre school generation. After school the cartoons would be on and, being focused on older generations and toy sales, these would come and go with popularity (GI Joe, The Transformers, and Thundercats, to name a few). Around 6pm the world would stop for the local then national news and then it was "prime time" and generally speaking everything was family friendly. At 9 or 10pm it was bedtime so the networks would move into programming targetted at adults (remember Dallas, anyone?) and then after that who knows what, I was in bed sleeping! On Friday nights my little brother and I would take our sleeping bags into the living room, lay them out on the living room floor, eat popcorn, fall asleep to Friday night sit-coms, then wake up early Saturday, one of us would crawl over to the tv, flip the on switch (if you can remember having to do that!), and spend the next four or five hours watching cartoons before going outside to ride our bikes or some such thing. Saturday morning's the church shows would come on (Davie and Goliath anyone?) and after we returned from the real Sunday service the football game would provide my parents and their friends hours of entertainment.
While we only had a fraction of the number of choices as we have today the flip side to this is we had more in common. If I mentioned a program that my family would gather to watch and laugh to, such as The Muppet Show, everyone with a television, regardless of whether or not they had cable, would know what I was talking about. If someone's mom mentioned Days of Our Lives I could say, "My mom watches that too!" And while everyone didn't like every show (I only had one friend growing up that liked Doctor Who and daring to say I was a Trecker was social suicide--not that I cared, lol) there was a general sense that television connected a wide range of people who might otherwise have absolutely nothing in common. One could even argue at no other point in human history was there more equality in terms of the ability to consume news, information, and entertainment.
Do you understand what an amazing thing that is?
And then, of course, HBO came along, the station that began the divide between the families that had and the families that did not. I remember at school we all knew who had HBO so we'd want to go to that kid's house when a new hit show was on such as Fraggle Rock. Later came companies that copied HBO then CNN and copies of CNN like Fox news and that still wasn't enough so we needed to specialize, a channel for every interest and personality type: The Sci Fi Channel for nerds, the History Channel for history buffs, Discovery Channel for science nuts, the Home Shopping Network for those who don't get enough of consumerism, sports channels galore, cooking channels, and oh my fucking god then we started to specialize even further with things like G4 for specialized geeks who like comics, Japanese imports, and sushi.
When someone mentions a tv program as if it's something I should have caught I have to keep myself from slapping them because I can't help but think with a 50 hour a week job, hundreds of stations and tens of thousands of programs to choose from--what are the odds that I'm watching the same thing they are?
As I mentioned before there have been studies that have demonstrated that the more choices a population has the more emotionally disatisfied people are. I've also discussed how fewer choices increase the likelihood that we have more in common. Before I slip under the covers tonight I wanted to mention one more effect of having fewer choices.
If you got in a time machine and jumped back to 1982--or simply flipped to the station apply named "TV Land"--you'd find that while there was plenty of variety and programs were often focused on different demographic markets, for the most part an entire family could sit down and watch nearly every program on the air. While everyone didn't like every show, nearly every program was appropriate for a six year old, a twelve year old, a twenty year old, and a sixty year old.
The Muppet Show, which I have grown to love and admire even more as an adult, is a prime example of this. For those that haven't seen the program I've included a You Tube clip from my all time favourite episode. This clip demonstrates examples of excellent writing, talent, skill, humor, and so on. It appealed to the youngest viewer such as my little brother who must have been three or four at the time, tickled my fancy with the Star Wars angle, introduced kids to music our parents knew and enjoyed, had humor the adults could get a kick out of (such as Statler and Waldo, the two old guys continually heckling the muppets--who I must admit I couldn't stand as a kid but as an adult they're the ones bringing out the belly laughs), and last but not least introduced guest stars the adults were familiar with.
What we lacked in options brought young and old closer together.
So every now and then I find an old show I used to love, something that once brought people together, both young and old, and I share it with my now thirteen year old daughter. Recently that's been The Muppet Show, the first two seasons which I picked up for $24.95. We watch together sometimes laughing at the same things, sometimes laughing at completely different things. And it hasn't mattered what age she's been, whenever I've introduced her to a program that brings people together she often asks, "Dad, can we watch [insert show name here] together tonight?" and that's not something she says of other programs, especially more modern "specialized" ones. For us it's a chance to enjoy something together, for her it's the chance to enjoy something new, for me a chance to just sit in the new found awe at the skill and talent of the Jim Henson puppeteers, writers, and guest stars.
And for the record, my favourites were Gonzo, who reminded me it was okay to be different and weird, a lesson I have most likely gone overboard with, and Animal, who represented the crazy-wild side of me I wanted to express but was too shy too--oh, and he was a little on the weird side too.
Oh, and P.S., since older shows had to appeal to a broader and larger audience they were generally written and put together better--something I can't say about 90% of the crap on the tele these days.
One last thing, I hope the Henson Company wakes up and brings this show back on for a second run. While my daughter thought this was just wishful thinking, when I mentioned they might bring on one of her favourite bands like "Fall Out Boy" her attitude suddenly changed. So take the same muppets, their theatre, modernize it (as needed but not unnecessarily), and invite currently popular people like Angelina Jolie and Barack Obama, and boom, instant hit.
So wake up, Henson & Co., Farscape rocked and Mirror Mask was interesting in an artsy fartsy kind of way, but it's time to go back to the basics and what can be more basic than bringing entire families together with joy and laughter?
June 21st, 2008
I got up this morning in a fashion I most enjoy, that is, lying in bed listening to whatever happens to be on NPR for a good thirty to forty five minutes while at the same time planning out the day ahead. Some mornings though, such as this morning, I wake up already feeling such enormous pain that the thought of doing anything that might entail actually getting out of bed is so far from my mind that every proposal that rises to the surface for reflection swims on past without a third thought (the second is always, "Damn, I'm in a tight spot!").
Fortunately I had plans for the early afternoon so had jumped into the shower like a frog into a hot pot of water or some such thing before it got too late and fortunately tomorrow my daughter has plans with a friend so I must up with myself to be and ready to do the parenting thing.
Broke in my new Dremel tonight on some dry wall in the art room. Finding dry wall easier and easier to work with but godlette what a mess! Will be in tomorrow healing up the rough edges after which it's time to spackle and paint. Bought a new router today that connects to my routing table so I'll be in a good spot to begin work on the wainscot later this week.
I will and have been taking pictures of the progress.
With everything else going on in my life having something like a house project to come back to has provided a baseline, a foundation, even a salvation in a way. This evening, for instance, I was on my back again, having just used the last of my prescription meds, and for an hour found myself in half-agonizing pain as my daughter and I watched The Muppet Show. Maybe a little laughter helped because by the end I was motivated to go upstairs, get out the dremel, and cut into the wall for a few minutes. Now of course I'm at my desk, my back and left butt cheek seering in pain which, if you must know, is the way I've come to experience life behind a computer since about March.
Truth is when I'm in pain the most I want to do is lay down, listen to the radio, watch tv, or read a book. I want to be held, want to be cared for, want the world to be fair, want to find the doctor who will examine me and put me through every test and machine until they can definitively give me an answer, tell me what's wrong, what I need to do, what indeed I can do that will or will not make a difference.
Until I find healing I hold onto things like this home improvement project, which is in many ways an analogy for the struggles and progress I'm making (or trying to make) in every day life. I use these small chances, these few minutes every other day when I'm feeling okay (or at least motivated) to cut some drywall or roll the paint roller or route some trimming, I hold on to these opportunities to live and breath and create something in order to remind myself that regardless of the difficulties I am learning to face there are always opportunities to build a more beautiful world around me.
Every project begins with an idea.
And so does meaning.
P.S. I had forgotten the meaning of green.
June 20th, 2008
Last night while I was laying in bed I found myself thinking, as I always do, when it suddenly occurred to me just how ridiculous my thoughts can sometimes be. I won't go into the specific details of what I was thinking about but I will say I was practicing a conversation I potentially planned to have with someone. I'm not sure when I reflected on what I was doing but I imagine I was half-in and half-out of sleep when I suddenly opened my eyes and recognized I was putting all this time and energy into having a conversation with someone I barely knew, a conversation that would be short and sweet and wasn't worth going over time and time again!
There are many explanations for such behavior.
When I was a young boy I was unimaginably shy and the idea of talking to anyone I didn't know or didn't know well would literally cause my legs to shake (even if over the phone!): so I'd practice and practice, often to the point that I have whole sections of the conversation memorized in a word for word fashion (and on more than one occassion after dialing the phone number I'd hang up as soon as I heard the word, "Hello?"--if there was caller ID back then I would have never called anybody, omg!)!
When I've had to engage in potentially emotional conversations as an adult, whether in friendships, relationships, or at work, I get ready beforehand by going through many of the key areas and ideas I want to bring up, trying to focus them in a clear fashion that will be heard: I want to be heard.
When there's something I'm stressed out about, such as my health, and I'm trying to talk myself into a positive mindset, I can sometimes find myself talking to people in my mind's eye about what's going on.
I'm sure there are more though my basic point is that there were times during my life where there was reason to practice conversations in my mind beforehand and that reason was part external environment, part personal emotion.
Lately I've been catching myself engaging in patterns of thought, such as rehersing conversations, and realizing something pretty strange going on under the hood.
Imagine, for instance, you're feeling angry about someone who recently hurt you. Since the feelings are fresh they illicit patterns of thoughts that are natural for you. For instance, if you tend to be a person who can't stop thinking about something when you're angry, that's where your thoughts go. If you're the type of person that goes through ways to resolve things with the person you're angry with, that's what goes through your mind. The point I'm trying to make is that we all have patterns of thought that are--at least we tend to believe are--a result of what we're feeling which is in turn a result of our perception of our environment.Environment Influence -> Emotion -> Thought Pattern
Interesting thing happens when my pain medication kicks in (besides the obvious and beloved fact that my back and leg pain becomes bareable). The pattern which I normally experience, shown above, sometimes and mysteriously transforms into the following:Thought Pattern
To reiterate:Thought Pattern
Hear what I'm saying? I find myself thinking in a certain manner about a given subject without an environmental stimulus or underlying emotion--I mean, we all do this but I'm becoming more and more aware of it right when it's happening (to me, lol). Hell, I might even be feeling great but my mind is rolling over the frustrating intracacies of some stressful project I finished with days before. I'm not having a thought pattern because of a trigger and they're not being held in place by an emotion, no, they're 100% unadulterated mental habits, trace around the behavior and you'll get the outline of emotion such as anger or frustration or anxiety--but there's nothing there!!!
Now to make use of it.
P.S. If this aint make none sense...me so tired.
June 15th, 2008
Alright folks, Sunday the 15th of June, 2008, was my last day on the road. Here you will find my uber enlightening rantings about that day.
Where shall I start?
First, this is a self-photograph which I took a few minutes into the early AM hours. I've been taking self-photographs such as this since I was at least fifteen (I have a few from my family's trip to Australia). I'm not exactly sure why I take them, maybe as a physical symbol that I'm always looking back at myself, who I am, trying to get to know myself better, dig down to deeper understanding, promote personal evolution, and so on and so forth. After all, that's why my initials are ASM.
Anyway, the morning of the 15th was pretty similar to the 14th. The sun came in the windows too early and that f'in bird started screeching as soon as it did--however this time out I was prepared, only had to close one window near my head and the ear plugs were on the night stand.
Ha ha! I win (stooopid bird)!
Last summer when I went down to Disneyland with Vipassana, daughter, and my parents, we generally got up at a fairly early hour. Since I'm not a morning person I'd typically take a shower before bed so I could get up, throw on my clothes, and hit the road. This Sunday morning was different. I slept in until 9:50, took a quick shower, and then spent the next forty five minutes leisurely getting everything down to the bike. Even had a smoke, if you must know, and said to myself that was it. And I knew I'd make good time, I'd make good time because I wouldn't stop every hour or so to stretch my legs, I wouldn't stop somewhere and spend an hour eating lunch, I wouldn't have to tank up the bike more than once or twice the entire way, so I could just sit back, listen to whatever I was drawn to on my MP3 player, take pictures, enjoy the ride, and be home well before dark. That's not to say there was anything inherintely "wrong" with the way we did things last summer, it's just that when traveling on one's own there's no need to negotiate with a larger group so if you feel like going fast and steady go fast and steady, if you feel like taking it slow and stopping at every other historical marker, then do so.
Stops during the day include:
- Stopped in La Grande to tank up.
- Stopped in Umatilla to tank up, grab lunch, check cell phone messages, send a text.
- Stopped twenty or so miles east of Vancouver, Washington, to drink some water and return a phone call.
- Stopped along I-5 15 miles north of Vancouver to tank up.
So that morning I started off by listening to the end of the interview with Evelyn Paglini and spent some time reflecting on if and how what she had to share reflected on my own life. About this time another burgundy Yamaha FJR passed me--well, they passed without going in the other lane and both the rider and pillion looked over at my bike and approvingly and waved. Took more pictures, listened to more Coast to Coast AM.
The night before I'd had mixed feelings on what route to take back to Portland. The most straight forward route was I-84, but for those of you who ride motorcycles the straight forward route is not necessary the road worth traveling, in fact, straight and fast for more than an hour is BORING as hell on a bike. Lord, give me curves! So I'd originally planned to find lesser frequented highways through the rural areas of NW Oregon but then realized that this might not exactly be a smart idea on a Sunday when small town gas stations might very well be closed. After some thought I realized I could take I-84 past Pendleton then hit Umatilla, cross the Columbia river, and head home on the much windier and picturesque Washington side.
So that is what I did.
Semi-barely-related tangent... A few years back I owned a beautiful, georgous, sexy black Mazda RX-8. The car, which I had named Satori, was manufactured in a Japanese town most of us have heard of: Hiroshima--and I shouldn't have to tell you what happened there half a century ago. Anyway, I'd driven Satori through Umatilla a couple of times and while I knew there were chemical weapons being stored there I never knew that this was one of three bases that worked on the Manhattan Project during WWII. More specifically, my understanding is that the base at Umatilla was responsible for the creation of the high grade uranium which made it possible for a B-29 bomber to completely level Hiroshima. Okay, I know, probably silly of me but if I had known I would have done some type of personal ritual; I have a personal sense of rightness about karmic cycles, this idea that the universe naturally finds a state of balance and forgiveness and understanding and the birth place of my car and the town I drove it through were symbolic, at least to me, of this universal truth.
But I wasn't in the car, thank goodness, as the gas bills would have killed me (~17mpg in the RX-8, ~50mpg on the bike, and both require premium which is now about $4.50 a gallon). I did, however, toy with the idea of heading up to Walla Walla to see people I considered family, but thought better of it for fear that I might not exactly be thought well of or be welcomed there anymore--at least that's the feeling I get based on my daughter's reaction when I recently said I missed seeing them.
Anyway, onward and forward.
The Washington side of the gorge is a route worth taking, especially if you've never been on it. While there are parts of it that are long, boring expanses, the geography over much of the highway is just beautiful. There aren't many towns (and certainly none the size of The Dalles or Hood River) and there is at least one eighty or so mile stretch with no gas stations but there is a museum and a recreation of Stonehenge. Worth checking out.
Now normally I would have gone straight home but this time out I just didn't want to go home yet as I know I'd just get unpacked, say high to the cats, and wind down in front of the computer. So instead once I hit Vancouver I got on 205 then I-5, headed north to Longview where I crossed the Columbia and headed back towards my house on Highway 30. A much longer ride, for sure, probably put an hour on the end of my day, but worth it.
Got home. Parked the bike in the garage (I swear I heard it grumble over this having been outside for a week!). Took all the motorcycle bags up to my room. Strolled over to Albertsons where I grabbed a few things for the evening. Came back home. Settled in. Uploaded all the photographs I'd taken to The Temple. Chatted with my best friend online. Enjoyed the cats. Took care of a few other things. Crashed in bed I don't know when and slept like a rock!
So I'm not exactly sure what else to say. My last two reflections, I must admit, have been somewhat monotonous descriptions. While I generally have a great deal going through my mind on a ride, much of which I want to share, most of that gets lost to memory. Do I remember what is most important? Least? Do I share only so that years from now I can look back on what I did, use these reflections as sign posts, triggering my memories, or is this only ego speaking out to you in hopes that you will read this oh so important story of an ever so important human being and go oh wow I wish I knew that guy!?
All I know is I am just one among billions of humans, one among bazillion gazillion billions of living beings on this planet, and I struggle, I trip, I learn, and I want to have a positive influence on the world around me.I want to sing,
And have it heard,
Not just like,
That stupid AM bird!
Until the next rally, take care,
P.S. I should make one last but important note: I haven't smoked since 10:30am on Sunday nor do I feel a desire to!
June 14th, 2008
I woke up around 8am to the sound of my cell phone. Wait, back up a few hours... I woke up around 6am to the sound of a really loud bird outside; I got up, found my ear plugs, put them in, then went back to bed. No, back up a few hours. I woke up around 5am to the early morning sunlight shining in my window and covered up my head. Crap, go back even further to 4am when the windows were open and that damn bird, which must have followed me from Portland, was practically screaming in my ear.
Thank the Goddess I wasn't sleeping in a test this year!
So, I woke up at 8am to the sound of my cell phone's alarm and spent the next thirty or so minutes hitting snooze before stumbling into the shower. Half asleep, I stood there for 3 minutes waiting for the water to heat up then realized the knob was backwards: hot was cold and cold was hot. Hopefully the rest of the day would not be similarly fubar.
Another advantage of having a room was that I could leave quite a bit of my gear behind for the day. I emptied out one of my side bags and put the laptop and a few other small items in there and would later use it to store the helmet while I was in my favourite place in Baker City sipping on a cappicino. I only took what extra motorcycle gear I might need later that day: clear face shield for night riding, warmer gloves and other clothes for cool nightime weather, and rain gear (you never know). In the trunk bag I stored things I wanted quick and easy access to like my tank bag (true, while tank bags can be extraordinarily convenient it's annoying having to pull it off, balance it in my lap, and put it back on every gas stop!!!). So not as many heavy things to carry down 3 floors to the parking lot. Plus, with three hard bags on the FJR I felt spoiled, I mean, my first bike was a Honda 919 and while I just loved that bike (and sigh every time I see one) there were no hard bags, it was a back pack on my back or strapped to the back seat and a tank bag--taking 3 changes of clothes along with me wasn't exactly something I could do unless that's all I took!
I love this bike!
Now typically I like to start my morning's listening to the news but since I was quite literally out in the boonies there was no chance of tunning into NPR (via 90.30 FM which I could get in La Grande and Baker) so I browsed to an old episode of Coast to Coast AM from July 11th, 2004, where Art Bell interviewed the witch Evelyn Paglini about Sex and the Occult. I must admit I listen to this specific episode every few years but every time I do I learn something new.
This time out I focused on the discussion around psychic attacks. While the program leaned towards psychic-sexual assault, something Evelyn equated with rape (to which I agree with), I asked myself if there have been times over my life where I've been a victim of psychic assualt. According to her one of the clues that one might be under psychic attack is that the normal "up and downs" of life shift into a constant series of downs with little to no breaks. Put another way, it's normal for us to have some downs in life and every now and then a few things might hit us at once (suggesting the phrase, "It never rains but it pours") however when under psychic attack what tends to happen is everything starts to go sour at the same time, one thing after another, in every area of ones life.
Okay, so while I won't jump to conclusions here are the clues:
- Knee pain starting 3 years ago preventing me from jogging.
- Increasing pain over the last 3 years to the point of having to go on disability; worse, the pain makes it difficult to sit for long periods which is how I earn my daily bread.
- Nearly undescribable tension, stress, and arguments in many of the relationships in my life putting me at times in a space where I might have to choose to give every important social relationship up just in order to protect myself psychologically and emotionally.
- Changes at work have triggered some deep seated insecurities.
- Insomnia. Insomnia. Insomnia.
- Last but not least, if something's going to break down or fall apart or what have you it's going to happen on a day when any of the above has occurred.
There are actually a few more clues but I won't go into them here.
So, I listened very closely to the story and it's become more clear to me than ever not only do I need to use the next few months to find strength and balance and healing, but I also need to find rituals and a mind set that protects from the harsh psychic vibrations of others. And it makes sense, too. I spent much of my life learning to do this on an empathic level; being so highly tuned into the emotions of others it is important to not only distinguish one's emotions from another's, but also not to take on other people's crap. I haven't really made that step on a psychic level and now that my sensitivities have gone up significantly I need to get ass in gear and take those same lessons and apply them to that area of my life.
So much to do, so little time, and barely enough sage!!!
I also enjoyed the show because Evelyn has some interesting points of view and is just fun. Plus, her cackling laugher tends to put a slick grin on my face. What an interesting lady! To learn more about her you can visit her website Mystical Blend.
I had to take a detour around the main street of Joseph because of an antique car show. I toyed with the idea of stopping to look and take pictures of the cars but decided against it thinking maybe next year if the show and rally coincided I'd invite my parents who I could meet at the lodge and spend part of the day with.
Alright so where was I? Oh yes, on my motorcycle. I rode to La Grande then found highway 30 and headed south then ended up on some other highway just east of I-84. Switched the MP3 player over to NPR and listened to "Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me!" or whatever was on at the time. In past years I always took I-84 for many reasons. First and foremost, it's obviously the fastest route. Second, I didn't know the other highways existed. So I took this other road which was more twisty and picturesque (sp?). At one point I encountered a few hills of wind mills. Took quite a few pictures. While I would have liked to have been in Baker by noon I was incredibly happy to find these lesser known roads and experience several small towns along the way.
I should mention at this point--though there's no real reason to do so--that wind turbines make me freaking happy!
I got to Baker City and found a space to park my bike right in front of my favourite place there, Mad Matilda's Coffee House. I went in, ordered their Turkey Lurkey sandwhich and a cappacino, then sat down, pulled out the laptop, and began to work on my reflections. Oh, and I used their wi-fi connection--thank you Matilda! You rock.
And that's the truth of it, I love that little coffee shop. The energy there is mellow, the staff friendly, the art and environment interesting and warm, and so on and so forth. I spent over an hour there sitting, sipping, eating, writing, and talking with my best friend over IM, before packing my things up, using their bathroom, and leaving.
I went outside and, having not smoked since the previous evening, smoked the last cigar in my bag while drinking a Jones Bubble Gum Soda (my favourite, yum!). Went back into Matilda's bathroom to wash my helmet's face plate (it was covered in splattered bugs) before getting back on the bike. Set the MP3 player to my Foo Fighters playlist then off I went out towards Hell's Canyon which was several hours east of me.
It was now nearly 3pm.
The ride out was fairly uneventful. As expected, hundreds of other bikers passed on the other side of the road and we waved at each other, sticking out two fingers in the typical biker salute. Weather couldn't have been more perfect: blue skys, 74 to 82 degrees. The day looked much more like my first time at the rally two years back on my Honda 919, just a series of cornering, waving, and good times, all on a relaxed but orderly schedule. I skipped over Halfway, Oregon, though, and only stopped at Scotty's gas station near the river before continuing on to the canyon.
As before, the canyon was absofuckinglootly georgous. Speed limit was 40mph and while I could have easily done 60 - 80mph I kept it down as the road wasn't in the best condition and with all the steep hills and cliffs there was always a good possibility of turning a corner only to find a pile of rocks in the road, the kind of thing that can ruin ones day. Don't have much else to say about it, really. 23 miles or corners. Beautiful. Took plenty of pictures. Got to the damn and crossed it, which I didn't do my first time, and went to a visitor center on the Oregon side, turned around, and started back.
About 6 miles south of the dam is an area one can pull off of the road. I stopped here two years back so I stopped again now and attempted to recreate the photograph which has been hanging on my bedroom wall for over a year now. I think I did this in part to revisit the past, something I do from time to time to examine how I've changed over time, gauge my progress as a spiritual and emotional being, etc. Also, while you can't really see it in the original photograph far in the background is the tail of a blue Yamaha FJR which was my dream bike at the time and here I was, two years later, riding my dream. I took the picture in large part as a symbol of personal transformation, growth, and change.
One thing I love about the FJR is it's 6 gallon tank. Doing an average of 50 miles per gallon I don't have to gas up nearly as frequently. So I knew unlike the years before I wouldn't have to tank up again in Baker, I could just head to Baker City, north up to La Grande, stopping only if I needed or wanted to. Oh, and I should mention another thing I love about it. The FJR has a gas gauge. Now for those of you who don't ride bikes you're probably thinking, "So what?" Well, lets just say that most bikes don't have gas guage, just an "E" light that goes on when you're about to run out of gas--which causes you to set and watch the odometer like a hawk whenever riding miles and miles from civilization.
Blah, blah, blah.
Another interesting aspect of being out in the boonies was the lack of cell phone reception. If you recall, I have bluetooth on my motorcycle so when someone calls my cell or sends a text message I'll hear the tell tail ring in my helmet's speakers--only most of the time I wasn't anywhere near a cell tower so one of the weird experiences of the day was anytime I'd enter some small town's "city" limits my cell phone would start ringing one, two, and three times, once for each text message or missed phone call. Knowing I wasn't exactly going to get a call while within range of a cell tower I moved the microphone from in front of my mouth to the back inside of the helmet so I could sing to the music (if I sing with the mic in place it causes the volume of the music to go up too much--it does this to compensate for wind noise).
Got to La Grande. Stopped at Shell. Gassed up. Grabbed smokes. Stopped at McDonald's. At a few things. Smoked a few cigars. Checked my phone messages. Returned a few texts. Changed into warmer riding gear and switched to my nighttime face shield.
The ride back wasn't nearly as fast as the rest of the day. Reasons? It's not safe to ride fast at night as you can't see into a corner (something that's absolutely necessary on a motorcycle) and likewise it was time for dear to come out and I didn't exactly want to connect with one. Two years prior I had found myself in a similar situation but didn't have the right gear so froze my ass off; likewise, I didn't know if the gates to the camp ground closed at such and such a time so was pushing myself faster than I should have to get back before they did. This night, though, I was dressed warmly and knew I just needed to get back by 11pm when I knew the front counter at the lodge closed up (I should have asked them if they closed the front door so as not to be in any hurry at all; turns out they don't and I could have been more laid back on my ride).
In total I saw 1 deer, 1 owl, many bats, and a few smaller critters.
For this ride I listened to another episode of Coast to Coast AM. The subject: John Titor. For those who don't know John Titor is a supposed time traveler that came back in time for the 2030's to get an old IBM computer which they needed for the computer languages it was able to speak in. John spent a fair amount of time posting to the internet about things such as time travel, science, and the future (on his timeline at least). While I can't say whether or not I believe in this story it is an incredibly interesting. To learn more browse to: http://www.johntitor.com/
I arrived at the lodge a little before 11 and the night was a strange, wandering one, to be honest. It started with me getting ready to take my things up to the room and the lock to one of my hard bags fell apart. Hardware clinged against my bike dropping to the ground. It was pitch black so I went in and borrowed a flash light from the front desk, found the pieces, then went upstairs and began fixing the locks (both were loose, it turned out). I continued to listen to Coast to Coast shows while getting my gear and luggage ready for the next day, went out for a couple smokes, and just in general was slow and methodolical about everything. Must have taken two hours to get to a place where I was ready to brush my teeth and crawl into bed. Instead, I went downstairs with my laptop, locked myself in the little 3'x3' room where the only phone in the lodge was, and sent an e-mail off. I then spent some time walking around the lobby taking a few pictures hoping to capture one of a ghost, something I've never been able to do with a camera. As mentioned before I had the unmistakable feeling there were spirits wandering around this building.
I smoked the last cigarello just before going to bed and realized I didn't want to quit...which was a warning sign that I was getting hooked again. While smoking isn't smart by any means, I had to at least be observant about if and when I was craving smokes, which I really hadn't since I'd had my first the afternoon before. I sighed and not wanting to push my luck put out the barely smoked cigar I was on and headed to bed.
It was 1am. I brushed my teeth, got in to bed, turned off the lights, and listened to an interview with Lina Moulton-Howe about the mysterious chupacabra.
P.S. Cinnamon Altoids are the bomb!
June 13th, 2008
It's actually the 14th as I write this on my new-old laptop computer, a Sony Picturebook I picked up on E-Bay for a horribly overpriced amount but it's a small machine and does everything I need it to do (as opposed to want, such as the ability to mindlessly surf YouTube or other such sites). I'm sitting in Mad Matilda's coffee house in Baker Oregon, my favourite dive in East Oregon, a place I've visited three years now, a place that feels, in a strange sort of way, like my vacation home. It's of course a plus that they have free wi-fi so here I am, just uploaded June 12th which I'd worked on last night and am going to try to get caught up by entering June 13th's entry while I let my lunch digest and coffee move through my ureters.
As many of you know Friday the 13th is a day held is superstitious infamy. While some might think this is due to horror movies of the same name the truth goes back to Friday October 13th, 1307 when the Knights Templar were all but exterminated. Having said that it was Friday morning and, having decided I felt good enough to take the trek out to Eastern Oregon, I listened to the guy on CNN point out the day and committed to honor a memory of an ancient Christian order that had suffered enormously as a result of greed, lust for power, and paranoia.
I wasn't in a rush, though. I'd slept poorly the previous night, as I have been for weeks if not months now, and decided to just take it one thing at a time. I took a long shower, long enough for the water to go cold on me. I slowly and calmly made the bed, packed my gear, suited up for the ride all the while listening to CNN and pushing aside the desire to just kick back and watch the news for a few hours (I didn't want to reach Joseph after night fall and have to try to find the lodge--though now I'm a little stunned I hadn't noticed it the previous two times I was at the lake). Once everything was on the bike I got on board, turned the MP3 player on and started listening to This American Life, then headed for 3rd street, the "main" drag through town, but first went by my old friend's house. The place looked all boarded up and his truck wasn't there anymore nor was his mother's car; I was left to believe he had moved on.
I stopped at the Shell station for gas then headed East, took a back road so I could take a quick pass by the country house I'd grown up in. I noticed that they new owner had installed new energy efficient windows, a touch that was like a thirteen year old girl wearing makeup for the first time, and saw him out in the field moving pipes. I was going to take a picture but I felt a little obvious doing so with him there and but I watched with some fascination for a few seconds as I turned around and remembered what my dad had said about moving the pipes. Me? I'd always hated moving pipes, just hated it. First, it took half an hour out of your afternoon's, second, it was wet and dirty, and third, I was slightly allergic to alfa-alfa so would start to break out. There aren't many things in this world I hate more than moving pipes: Liars, avocados, and having to go pee while riding a motorcycle, to name a few. After I'd left for college I swore to myself I'd never move those goddamn pipes again and true to my word I never did (though I was frequently asked and even guilt tripped to do it). I didn't realize, until recently, that moving pipes was for my dad what motorcycling is often for me, an purely sensory experience that allows one to push aside the stressful aspects of the mundane, to get away from work and family troubles, and just commit oneself to an action, in his case carrying a heavy pipe and setting it in place, in my case committing to a corner at high velocity. But I digress, I watched the man, noted his hat which looked like something you'd see someone wearing at Oktoberfest, then scooted on.
Much of the ride was uneventful. I listened to This American Life podcasts until I reached Mount Vernon where I gassed up. Instead of continuing East, which is the route I've taken the previous two years, I headed straight north on a road I'd never been. This time the ambiance would be techno-industrial.
Average speed for the next 100 miles: undisclosed.
I must admit something here...the closer I came to my destination the more lonely I found myself. Not just lonely, but miserably lonely. Not just miserably lonely, but what the hell's the point miserably lonely. The past year went through my head and I felt increasingly frustrated with it as well as myself. Who was I anymore? What was the point? It seemed like everything I built eventually fell to pieces--and while change is the natural order of the universe I seem to experience it at a frequency high enough to cause one's head to spin much like mine seemed to be doing.
Anyway, I won't bore you with the details.
I got to Joseph around 5 or so. Stopped at the lodge, took most of my things to the room which had no tv, no phone, not even a radio--I was really quite perplexed, I mean: boonies anyone? Truthfully, it made me a bit more depressed as I had hoped to just lay down later and/or do my physical therapy while watching the tube but those plans were out.
I went back into Joseph and parked in front of a cigar shop and bought a few cigars. Yes, I admit, I haven't smoked for months now but fuck it, I was upset, angry, frustrated, and nothing was going to stop me from a moment or two of masochistic enjoyment fuck-fuck-fuckity-fuck. I went in and bought a few swishers, a diet Pepsi, then sauntered up the road to a place where, a year previous, I stood apologizing repeatedly to someone...I don't know why I felt I needed to go there. Maybe I needed to force myself to encounter the feelings I'd had at that place and the feelings I was having now, maybe I needed to push myself to tears, maybe I felt it had answers or questions for me...I don't know, just needed to go there.
So I stood there and choked on a filthy cigar for five minutes.
Ten minutes later I was in the only place in Joseph with a wi-fi connection, the Soda Shop, where I ordered a turkey sandwhich and coffee. I ate and on the laptop checked my e-mail then chatted on IM with my best friend for about thirty minutes before going out to my bike, calling my parents to let them know I was alive and well(ish), then headed back to the hotel where I proceeded to drink a beer, work on my reflections, read two short stories by Kurt Vonegut, and generally feel miserably alone and worthless. And then when I shut the lights off I realized the place was haunted--frack!
As per usual, didn't sleep well.
Anyway, it's 2:10pm on the 14th and I'm still sitting at a table in Mad Matilda's and I'd targetted getting out by 2pm but I think it looks like it'll be 2:15 given I need a quick bathroom run. See ya at the dam!
June 12th, 2008
I woke up at 1pm after a night of tossing and turning to a dream that I was two blocks away on the porch of an old friend's house with my face pushed against the screen window looking at him sitting there doing something, probably play video games, on the computer. I kept trying to get his attention, over and over saying, "Hey, here I am, pay attention to me, why won't you recognize me!" My eyes peeled open and seeing the time, realizing it was "only" a dream, I decided to get up.
For some reason I didn't saunter straight to the shower as I would any other morning at my parents'. I'm not sure why. Maybe I was in too much pain. Maybe I didn't want to stand in the shower going over the nightmare. Maybe I was worried that if I didn't begin interacting soon my dad would say what he said when I was seventeen, those words that finally drove me to throw my things in my car and head to Eugene, "Get up! Don't sleep away your goddamn life!"
I laid down on the couch as I had the night before, for what little good it did me or my back. And yes, soon enough my lower back began to throb as it had only hinted at when I'd limped down the hall like a hunchback. My mom, true to form, started changing channels, asking what I wanted to watch but I really didn't care, all that was on my mind was that goddamn dream, the realization that I couldn't just walk down the street and make right a friendship that had gone wrong, that I didn't want to anyway given the way I was treated like a third rate acquaintance year after year after year, I didn't really care what was on the tv, just needed to focus on my body, let the pain crawl into my legs like so many dull daggers twisting their way deeper and deeper into my hips, thighs, knees, and ankles, so I could figure out if I was up to riding another few hundred miles over the coming days.
My mom finally settled on Gangs of New York. We'd just stumbled into it exactly as it had begun and watched for a few minutes to figure out if that's really what it was and indeed it was. I've only seen the film once, many years ago, and she'd seen it as well, so somehow we just decided what the hell and watched it. She soon fell asleep and I found myself watching it and commercials and I realized now, now that I don't have cable or satellite and only watch movies over Netflicks, just how much I disliked the interuptions, the breaks that were not meant to be there. My dad came in at some point, or maybe he was already in, doing something in the den on his computer as he dropped off a piece of paper detailing all the things that were wrong with it. I wanted to log onto ThinkGeek.com, get that black T-Shirt that said simply: "I will not fix your computer" except I really didn't care, once the movie was done I didn't have anything better to do.
And so I hobbled into the bathroom to get my pain meds thinking okay, I'm canceling this trip and heading home. I grabbed a couple Vicadin and a Tylanol 3, went to the fridge and grabbed a diet Red Bull, sauntered back down to th den and sat down at his computer. I turned it on and then walked down to the bedroom, grabbed my tank bag and brought it back to the den. Inside I found the reservation for the lodge in Joseph, Oregon. I'd put down $107 deposit for the two nights and would clearly loose it if I canceled only a day beforehand. Not sure what I should do I reread the slip as I gulped the pills down, one by one, and waited for them to kick in and knock that throbbing sensation out of my back.
Once I'd booted into my dad's machine I read his bitch list as indeed that's exactly what it was. There were about 9 items, silly little things like make Outlook Express show a preview of the e-mail so he didn't have to open the letter to read it and put a shortcut on the desktop to Norton Antivirus. Okay, okay, I thought, easy enough, no problem. But as soon as I started I realized I couldn't modify the Dail-Up internet settings so I logged out of his account and attempted to login as administrator (I'd purposely restricted him this time out, having built a new machine for him and not wanting to allow him to FUCK--forgive my french--it up). And that's when it got interesting.
I couldn't bloody log in.
First and foremost, did I make the administrative account username my dad's name (with a space), "admin", "administrator", or "aslynn"? So I tried each in succession and likewise the ten most frequent passwords I use for any number of things. After about six attempts or so the computer would lock up for a good thirty seconds and I'd sit there waiting. At one point my dad came in and sat down next to me. He just sat there silently listening to me type and utter an understated curse from time to time. Finally, after nearly twenty minutes of this and having exhausted all the options I would have reasonably used I logged back into his account and began Googling ways to hack Windows passwords--that took another hour or two--why? First, dial-up is slow as snot, second, one or two minutes into being connected internet packets weren't being passed back and forth (in layman's speak, "The computer thought it was connected to the internet and for all intents and purposes it was at least connected to another computer, but it had stopped having a reasonable conversation with said computer so while it 'appeared' the computer was connected it really was only hogging the phone line," or put another way, "Your internet connection is hosed, dad.").
And then it struck me, I knew the password, it was something I'd already tried but with capital letters instead of lower case letters--damnit--and I was in making some simple modifications. I went online and found all the Earthlink dail-up numbers for central oregon, created short cuts for each of them, and one after another tested each only to find they were all crap.
Meanwhile, in the back of my mind, I struggled with issues of my health. By this point the pain killers are kicking in and of course I'm feeling okay to take the trip and yet while I can drive just dandy on Vicadin the idea of motorcycling on such powerful pain killers--well, it's just bloody stupid!!! So I re-read that little post-card from the lodge and indeed almost picked up the phone. I kept fantasizing about going home. I could work on that spare room, the "art room" which would soon be the new home of my computer, I could finish it up over the weekend or at least have enough done to move the computer during the week and I wouldn't have to feel bad, I did my best, after all, I really needed to take care of my body, right? And yet it nagged at me, this sense that I was just giving up, giving in, not wanting to do something not because of my back or body, but because I was feeling depressed and miserable and I didn't want to ride back to Portland and confront my girlfriend or x-girlfriend who I just wanted to give a hug and make love to and duct tape the mouth and JUST BE...but sometimes reality isn't that easy...
And so I did the only thing I could, I chickened the hell out and said to myself, "I'll decide in the morning." After several hours of waffling that, as they say, was that. I gave up all notions of making important life decisions.
As far as my dad's computer, which I'm sure you're keenly interested in knowing about, I had resolved 6 out of the 9 issues he was having. The last 3 were related to his internet connection which was quite frankly the least reliable I'd used in years. Truth is, I didn't recall dail-up being that bad so thinking it might be related to faulty wiring in one of the house phones I unplugged all the phones and connected the computer directly to the wall. No luck. Tried my mom's computer and it had similar behavior which ruled out problems with his modem. Finally tried with my new-old laptop which I'd never tried to connect via old-style modem. Same game. Finally gave up, told him it was either the house's wiring (doubtful), the phone lines (equally so), or the ISP which was most likely trying to get wankers using outdated technologies to switch to DSL and/or cable modems already.
But no, it would be paranoid of me to suggest suits sit in boardrooms trying to figure out how to make us switch from a cheap alternative to a more expensive one by making it less and less reliable...yeah man...
I went into the living room. By this time it was dark. I'd had a piece of pie my mom had made for me and the sugar was causing my motabolism to go up. Sat down on my dad's chair, began to type and type. That's when I wrote the previous journal entry, from a day prior, and while I had so much to say I found I could only get one draft out, as I am doing now, before uploading the damn thing, watching MASH, and heading to bed.
Oh, I forgot to mention while doing much of this I listened to Coast to Coast AM on an AM radio straight from 1972 (B.C.--it had been burried somewhere in my dad's garage). Being interviewed was William Shatner, a childhood icon who had once held so many of my hopes and dreams. There he was talking, coming in and out of the AM night time blur, and I had to accept that he was a real human being, not the exciting idealistic hero of my youth.
Where have all the heroes gone?
I got in bed at 2am. The show restarted and I listed to the parts I missed before due to the in and out radio interference that is a result of the earth's tumultuous atmosphere. I struggled to find sleep, asleep then awake, awake then asleep, until 4am or so. Then the sun started coming up so I got up and closed the blinds. Then the birds woke up and I got up and shut the window. And then I slept until it was time to go.
June 11th, 2008
It's actually 12:10am on Friday June 13th as I write this. I would ask your forgiveness but truth is, I was not in the best of physical, emotional, or mental states Wednesday afternoon. So I jotted down a few notes in my mind, got in bed, and tried to get some rest.
As some of you may already know Wednesday was the first day of my one week long summer vacation and truth is, it couldn't have come at a better (or worse, depending on how you look at it) time. I won't go in the detail, as I don't want to seem like a drama queen, but truth is, truth is, truth is...
I got out of bed at around 9:30am. I wanted to stay in bed, of course, but I knew if I didn't get up and moving I'd start making excuses for why I shouldn't get on the motorcycle and head out of town. Somehow I pushed myself into the shower, then ever so slowly got the bike ready, and maybe an hour or so later was out the door. Stopped at the grocery store to pick something up I'd forgotten the night before, had a quick cappacino, tanked up, then hit the freeway. I spent the first hour or so listening to National Public Radio.
Now normally I'd be on my motorcycle, my mind rollicking through various thoughts and ideas about life, the universe, and everything, but this day was very different. Truth is, I spent most of the ride in constant touch with my body, making sure I was sitting correctly, checking in minute after minute to insure I wasn't feeling any abnormal pain, and so on and so forth. When the radio signal out of Portland began to get fuzzy I switched over and began listening to audio version of the PBS documentary The War. I continued checking in with my body, stretching, wondering if and when I'd have to cut this much needed get away short and head back home.
And maybe that's all I wanted, to go home, spend a week in bed watching DVD's.
Riding has never felt so joyless as it did Wednesday. From the first minute it felt like a chore, a struggle. I've been in pain, both physically and emotionally, for so long that even the freedom of a bike wasn't getting through to me anymore. Even as I stopped in Eugene, my old home town, to stop for a quick bite and to pick up a necklace, the reason I decided to take the longer route to Central Oregon, I found it difficult to just feel comfortable with where I was at. I didn't want to be sitting outside Allan Brothers' looking at the little birds hopping on the ground waiting for me to drop crumbs at their feet, I didn't want to hear the train just a few blocks away, it's sound bringing back a familiar time where at this same place I had acted out of loneliness and fear--I have experienced too much loneliness and fear these past few months and I didn't need an echo of the past haunting me so.
And then for a moment I found myself wanting to stay in town. Screw rush hour traffic, I wanted to park and let my feet touch the pavement they'd been on so many times. It was a strange feeling too, I mean, I'd recently come to feel I'd healed much of the pain I felt and had experienced in that town so many years ago and yet suddenly I just didn't want to leave so I asked myself if maybe it might not be a good idea to find an affordable motel for a few nights, screw Hell's Canyon, screw the motorcycle ralley, I didn't fucking fit in with a bunch of motorcycle afficienado's anyway, I didn't fit in anywhere, did I, do I, but Eugene would have me, would just accept me the way I was.
I did not stop. I left down town, headed down 13th, the street I had wandered many a late night by myself or with a friend, and then passed by my old work. I thought to turn left, to go over to breath that old building in but I continued through the green light without turning, feeling as if my heart was being ripped to the side, disturbing the balance of my motorcycle. I continued on and on and on, hating to leave Eugene, wanting to turn back and be held in it's arms, and found it even more difficult to drive through Springfield, a town which I hate as much as I love it's more beautiful sister city.
And then, ten or fifteen miles outside Sprinfield city limits it hit me:
Eugene meant hope.
I choked up when it hit me. Years ago I used to jump in my old beat up silver Volvo stationwagon, crank up the music, and head to Eugene either on my own or with one or two other friends. I'd go there to visit my highschool sweetheart or I'd go there to be in a vibrant, breathing city full of interesting and different people, I'd go there to take late night walks, to meet hippies, maybe to get lucky, score a little weed, or just to dream a bigger dream. And then when I lived in Eugene if I had enough money for gas, something I was always short on, I'd head to the beach then back to Eugene, my home of hope, or I'd go to Prineville to visit a friend or two and my family then right back in the car, smoking Camels the entire way, back home.
So I'm sitting there riding, realizing that I had all these hopes that were born and lived and died in that town, and I just wanted to cry and of course it was then that my girlfriend or my x-girlfriend (I don't know anymore) calls and it just felt awkward. I didn't know what I should say, I couldn't simply and easily explain she'd caught me in the middle of this slap in the face realization that I'd had to let go of a substantial number of dreams when I moved out of Eugene, that this city personified hope, was hope, and here I was on my motorcycle, an experience that had somehow transformed from a liberating joy to a painful struggle.
And that was the entire ride.
Look, this is the hill I took my brand new 1999 VW Jetta to Prineville, Oregon to show my oldest friend who stopped talking to me a few years afterwards as a result of slander!
Look, that's where I drove my highschool sweetheart's jeep around the corners in a heavy rainstorm, hydroplaning away on the water filled road.
Look, that's where I went on my honeymoon at the not greatest place in the world but trying to make the best of it with someone who didn't exactly seem happy about making the best of it with "me"...
Look, that's where Vipassana and I stopped to stretch our legs and look at the forest fire going on over the ridge.
Nearly every corner and hill in that road is associated with some memory for me and most seemed to be of an earlier time where some form of hope was in my heart...hell, even when I was Depressed out of my mind there was hope, hope for a better future, a job, a relationship, something...this time I just felt empty, like I was heading east because that's what I'd done the year before and the year before and this year I wanted to get it right again but this year I was alone like I'd been the first time, and unlike that time where I had only slight knee pain this time I head that way feeling like every time I begin to find hope or joy or a semblance of a normal-healthy life it's ripped from my arms. It was that way with jogging, as soon as I became good at it, as soon as I'd begun to love it, boom, gone. Same with motorcycling. Same, seemingly, with every friendship or relationship I have held with value in my heart and mind.
I think I got to Prineville around 6pm. I brought my things in and said hi to my parents but didn't feel like being here. Where was I anyway, this wasn't the home I grew up in. Sure, the furniture and pictures were the same, but the house is small, cramped, and there are no fields of alf-alfa about and that's what I wanted, something from my past, something comforting to hold me in its arms and tell me everything was going to be okay but the only normalcy was the slight bickering between my parents as they communicated about the most simple of things.
Truth is, while I have been under extraordinary stress lately I couldn't figure out why I was so down. Truth is, over the last few days I've almost cried so many times I've lost count. Truth is, by the end of Wednesday I was ready to get on my bike and head back to Portland, even if it meant riding through the forest at night, even if it meant three hours of miserable pain and fatigure, even if it meant getting home then giving my girlfriend or x-girfriend back to her apartment...I just wanted my house, my bed, and my cats or I wanted to head down to 7-11, where I got my first pack of cigarettes a few days after turning 18, and startup again.
Why not? I felt like my life had a banner over it, "Abandon hope all ye who enter here."
So I did only what I could do, what I've been trying to do lately when I feel I can't anymore, I keep on moving. I called my old highschool sweetheart, rode over to her house, then chatted with her and her husband for awhile and while I felt socially awkward and like a fake, pretending to have it all together while inside I was half way into the process of falling apart. I didn't really know what to say. She seems to have everything I've ever wanted, a loving spouse, two beautiful children, supportive family and friends and me?
As Pink Floyd once sang:I've got a little black book with my poems in.
Got a bag with a toothbrush and a comb in.
When I'm a good dog, they sometimes throw me a bone in.
I got elastic bands keepin my shoes on.
Got those swollen hand blues.
Got thirteen channels of shit on the T.V. to choose from.
I've got electric light.
And I've got second sight.
And amazing powers of observation.
And that is how I know
When I try to get through
On the telephone to you
There'll be nobody home.
I've got the obligatory Hendrix perm.
And the inevitable pinhole burns
All down the front of my favorite satin shirt.
I've got nicotine stains on my fingers.
I've got a silver spoon on a chain.
I've got a grand piano to prop up my mortal remains.
I've got wild staring eyes.
And I've got a strong urge to fly.
But I got nowhere to fly to.
Ooooh, Babe when I pick up the phone
"Surprise, surprise, surprise..." (from Gomer Pyle show)
There's still nobody home.
I've got a pair of Gohills boots
and I got fading roots.
I got in bed after watching four back-to-back episodes of MASH, the closest I could get to doing something that reminded me of a time where the world made sense, where I might not have most of the things I wanted but I knew what was around the corner, and even when I was struggling with Depression there was always hope, hope that tomorrow I might be able to build the life I have wanted since my earliest memory. I got in bed and there was nothing I wanted more than to be in a comfortable bed, the only warm one I knew, that temperpedic at my house with one to four cats piled on it vying for my attention.
I don't know what else to write but I always write about my vacations, good or bad.
So there we are.
P.S. I plan to publish pictures from my trip along with these journal entries however will ask your patience as I won't be able to transfer those onto the computer until I get back home which could be as early as Friday night, depending on how my body is feeling...
June 9th, 2008
A few thoughts before I head to bed for the night:
I often reflect on the evolution of the human species, or more correctly, the species I hope we evolve into.
Now if you don't know much about evolution one of the basic ideas is simplified as "Survival of the Fittest".
Say for instance you have a large population of a species in a given ecosystem. Some members of the species have genes that make them more tolerant to cold. Next suppose a mini ice-age hits. Due to circumstances, fate, or Divine writ, the group with the "cold" gene survives while the rest of the species is all but wiped out.
Survival of the Fittest doesn't mean survival of the strongest, it means those who best adapt to an ecosystem are the most likely to keep on procreating while those that can't don't.
So when I discuss the evolution of our species, what I'm talking about, what I'm hoping for, is that it's not those of us with the most money or power or those that are in the largest groups or are famous that provide the thrust of our future evolutionary history as a species, but those of us who think, who are conscious of our emotions, who react proactively and even selflessly to the needs and concerns of others, even sacrificing their own immediate happiness to insure the happiness and well being of others.
Then again, maybe I've just watched too much Lord of the Rings and want to be an elf.
In that vein an evolution of my mind over the years, one which has been useful to me:
- I view the past critically and with an open mind, allowing my perception of that story (and the story itself) to change so I may learn new things from it and be motivated as a result of it.
- I view the present as realistically and objectively as I'm able, trying to let it be what it is and work with it.
- I see tomorrow with hope. Put another way, if you cannot see every possible future with hope what point is there gazing in the crystal ball at all?
Well buster, it's time for bed. Again.
June 8th, 2008
This is a photograph of Anton Chigurh, the sociopath and pyschopathic killer depicted in the film No Country for Old Men. We first see Anton at the opening of the film. Arrested by a small town police officer for reasons unknown, we see him calmly and almost effortlessly kill the officer that brought him to the station as if this violent act were no different than walking to the store to pick up a gallon of milk. I mean, only a nutter would sit down to eat a bowl of Honey Nut Chereo's without milk, right?!
The second time we see Anton he's in a police car pulling an unsuspecting motorist aside. Calmly yet deliberately he walks up to the man's door with what looks like a compressed air tank with some kind of nosel, like something you'd expect to pump up a car's tires with. He asks the man to get out of the vehicle. Strangly, while he is not dressed as a police officer and is carrying something completely out of place, the driver doesn't seem at all concerned. He gets out of his car and seconds later is dead.
At this point in the film the only clear thing about Anton is he's merciless, efficient, and doesn't exactly appear to be new to engaging in acts of murderous violence. And yet unlike murderers depicted in so many other films Anton doesn't appear to "get off" by taking life. Indeed, the more he interacts with others the more it becomes apparent that while he isn't exactly someone you'd invite to dinner there is a way about him, a twisted logic that influences every action he takes.
For instance, while it isn't apparent why he killed the motorist mentioned above, later in the film we learn he does so to exchange vehicles and thus be off the police's radar. Simply put, he needed a vehicle that wouldn't raise suspicion, needed to aquire in a way that wouldn't, and killing someone in the middle of nowhere was the most efficient way to achieve that goal and not leave a trail of evidence behind. This pattern is, of course, one we see repeated in the film.
At this level the character is no more than your average sociopath, that is, someone engaging in antisocial behavior to achieve his goals. Truly, if this were the extent of Anton's character the movie would be hardly more interesting than a Quentin Tarantino flick (i.e. two dimentional characters fucking each other over for no purpose other than to fuck each other over; like it or not, some people are attracted to that sort of cinema).
The depth of Anton Chigurh is first hinted at when he stops at a gas station and begins a conversation with the owner. Take this text from the screenplay:Proprietor
Y'all getting any rain up your way?
What way would that be?
I seen you was from Dallas.
Chigurh tears open the bag of cashews and pours a few into his hand.
What business is it of yours where I'm
I didn't mean nothin by it.
Didn't mean nothin.
I was just passin the time.
I guess that passes for manners in your
cracker view of things.
While most of us would simply assume Anton is rude, intimidating, and threatening, a perspective no one would hold against the proprieter for having, a deeper examination of the subtext paints Anton as being extraordinarily verbal and honest with his perceptions. He has no boundaries, no interest or need to modify or limit the things that come out of his mouth, to make his way through the world. As odd and scary as he seems Anton is an honest guy, one of the few genuinely honest people out there.
And he knows it.
So one could argue that while the proprietor has reason for concern, Anton is offended by the man's behavior. He'd simply walked in to ask how much something was only to be engaged in meaningless and arguably dishonest conversation. True, while some of the proprieter's statements were "only" "white lies", there are some of us that do not tolerate the white lie but see it as a social abstraction far too many use as reational for weak and unnecessary behavior.
It's at this point Anton challenges the proprieter to a coin toss. "Call it," he demands, and it's clear that the result of this call will be the man's life. While most of us recognize Anton has no socially appropriate morals, it would be incorrect to say he doesn't have a set of standards and that he sticks them--perhaps better than most of us can or do in our day to day life. Remember, when he needs something to get a job done then murder is simply part of the job, but when he's offended by someone's dishonesty and inability to converse with him in a "straight shooting" fashion he considers it unethical to choose whether or not he can take a life based solely on his disgust with a person. He pulls out the coin as a simple of the Divine, whether that be God or some other universal force, which he passes the decision too. In this way he explains his behavior as perfectly rational and ethical, even more so than he views that of others.
To spice things up a bit at the end of the film we are shown a situation we can assume to be unlike others Anton has experienced. There he is in the house of a woman he is going to kill. Why? Not because he needs to as a matter of getting from A to B, but because he gave his word to the now deceased husband that he'd kill her if he didn't cooperate. Since the husband didn't Anton drove over to her house, broke in, and waited. The wife, now widowed, gets home, sees him, and says she's been exptecting him. She asks why he needs to do this and he says that he gave his word to her husband and she says that doesn't make sense, that he doesn't need to do this to which he replies that's what everyone says to him, why do the have to say that to him? But something's different this time. Unlike others who have lied, acted out of fear, and tried to pull the wool over his eyes, thus insulting his intelligence, this woman sits there facing him and isn't afraid to tell the truth. As an act of recognition and respect Anton pulls out the coin for someone thus putting aside his word, something he's never done before. Her reaction is a surprise to him: she says no. She will not guess. She will not cooperate. She has the courage to recognize his reality, enter into it, but remain true to herself. No one else has ever confronted him in this way.
Can you imagine how surprised and refreshed he was?
It is unclear whether she lives or dies but given the way he cleans his boots off on the front porch we're left to assume he broke his own rules. He then gets in the car and almost immediately finds himself in a near fatal car accident before struggling to get out and limping down the sidewalk.
What does Anton take from all of this?
While it would be inappropriate for me to say I have the absolute answers, especially given such an ending opens itself to the wonderful opportunity for speculation and conversation, I believe the crash simply reinforces Anton's world view, that he was hit and nearly killed because he broke some Divine rule by offering the coin toss then not acting out of emotional frustration instead of respecting a higher mandate, that he had been bettered and the only right thing to do was get up and leave. I'd go as far as saying he limps away from the car wreck with a renewed respect for the husband and wife, recognizing that he had been so blinded by his goals (i.e. a briefcase of money) that he did not see the strength or character the couple had both together and as individuals. One might even say this is a symbolic representation of the idea that social bonds and feelings like love and commitment have a strength above and beyond anything a character like Anton might bring to the table.
So why would I spend several hours of my Sunday afternoon writing about such a person? I'm not a huge fan of violently murderous films unless there's some deeper message to them but still, that wouldn't exactly get me to say much more than I did a few days ago. So why? Not sure I can explain, or at least not well, but I'll give it a shot.
Truth is, while most of us like to believe there are few sociopathic serial killers out there, the FBI estimates that not only are 85% of the world's serial killers in America, but there are between twenty to fifty doing their thing at any given time.
Out here in the "real" world most don't understand people like Anton Chigurh. Even the folks at your average police department, many of whom may have taken university courses such as Abnormal Psychology, rely more on things like "common sense" and their experience with every day criminals, as a reliable foundation for understanding the minds of someone as socially abherent as Anton Chigurh.
Behavior such as Anton's is so unconscienable that instead of attempting to understand them, something that requires the skill of empathy, we distance ourselves with oversimplified yet meaningless judgements. I'd go as far as saying that's a mistake most people make in day to day life when trying to make sense of anyone, we project our own stories in order to make sense of a life we just don't understand. Instead of trusting the objective and tangible experience of the ever present now, we all to often rely almost exclusively on the "common sense" of our past experiences.
- The further someone is from our own experience the more likely we will want to explain their intentions and behavior based on our "common sense" and past experiences.
- Those who conform less to a society's sense of what is "normal", whether by result of birth (such as skin colour) or choice (such as political affiliation) are more likely (and rightly) to feel and be misunderstood.
- This is normal and expected.
- This lack of understanding leads to a state of imbalance on social and personal levels, a state of dis-ease that is personified in countless ways, usually destructive over a long enough timeline.
- I think most do this out of laziness and fear. As Yoda is keen to warn, "Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering. What he fails to mention is that suffering often leads to more fear and so on and so forth, though I doubt he is ignorant to this reality.
I'd like to see a day where even an eight year old could understand the mind of a serial killer. That, in my view, would be a day where we have evolved as human beings, where we are all confident enough in ourselves to be open to the full and unique natures of others.
P.S. Maybe 2012 is the date but I'm thinking I'll just have to bank on this whole reincarnation and find out in about twenty or thirty thousand years.
June 7th, 2008
Had strange dreams this morning, or maybe I should say afternoon as I slept in until 2pm. As per usual don't recall most of the dreams, just a few. For instance in one I was with my parents and some other folks and my Nana's house in Mount Shasta (apparently I had either time traveled or forgotten it had been burned down). There was this salesman there that said I needed to replace all the carpets. I remember thinking great, not yet another thing to replace, I didn't have the money, time, and energy, but sure enough the carpets look like they were molding at the edges so we began discussing what replacement would entail. We went outside and I recall seeing my sister and her kids through the kitchen window. I realized they were celebrating the twins' birthday but hadn't invited me. When I asked my sister why she just shrugged. I then recall taking someone down into the basement of the Lutheran church I grew up in. The ceilings were low and I was looking at the carpets trying to figure out if they needed to be replaced too. I recall taking this person, whoever it was, to an area of the basement near the back stairway. This was where I had first been taught The Lord's Prayer, among other things. In the real non-dream world this is where I had one of my first arguments with a teacher. You see, they'd told me that Jesus was the Son of God and yet Jesus and God were the same being/person. To their consternation I said no, that didn't make any sense, would they explain it to me? So they explained again and recognizing the faulty of the logic I told them what they said made no bloody sense, I mean, I wasn't just going to believe them because they were forty years my senior, I needed their explanation to make some reasonable semblence of sense. Anyway, in the dream I was going to share this important snapshot memory with whomever I was with but I forgot what I was going to tell them when I noticed desks lined up and on them nametags and one of them was mine. I was so surprised and touched I went right up to it, forgetting everything. As I struggled to recall my place I woke up, looked at the clock, and realized I'd really overslept.
But I needed to.
I felt terrible about something, something I'm not going to share with you here, and recognized I had but two choices, to avoid the feelings I was experiencing or accept them as a result of my choices. Call me a masochist but I choose the latter. It has weighed heavy on me all day.
I took a shower then went to the art room to do my physical therapy excercises. After that I pulled out the measurements I had for the door of the room and the closet doors as well. Things I wanted to pick up from Lowes included:
- A gallon of paint.
- A magnetic door latch for the kitchen.
- A handful of cheap paint brushes for spot work
- Two 1/4" wide and 8' long strips of Hemlock
- Two unfinished Hemlock folding closet doors
Fed the cats then got in the car and drove to Starbucks where I got a Venti Cap with an extra shot and a Turkey sandwhich with tomatoes: wow, that was a good sanwich. Drove to Lowes. Picked up everything but the folding doors as I realized I would need to order them; I'll do that after my vacation when I'll be home to pick them up. Regardless, I need to research installation as I believe...
Anyway, my thought was interupted. So now I'm watching The Muppet show and missing the time where the world made sense, where I could just sit down with a group of people and laugh, and that's as complicated as it gets.
Webcam is up
June 6th, 2008
I got to work early today: 10 'til 9. That's early for me, I usually get in at 9 or 10 or so after. We had an important meeting in the morning. I struggled to sit still as the pain meds kicked in--it always hurts to sit but doubly so in chairs that aren't the right height and padding for my body.
At quarter 'til 10 I went up to my cube, grabbed my coffee cup, got a cup of coffee, dropped the full cup back at my desk, went to use the bathroom and got back to my desk and started to nurse it. The first work I did was burn 3 CD's in the CD Duplicator which flipped out and made loud obnoxious noises causing some sardonic humor to be boundied about. Then I went through my e-mail, home and work, responded where I needed to, and began to list the things I needed to take care of for the day. At 11am I went down stairs for the BBQ we were having. I grabbed a hamburger, hot dog, skipped the bag of chips, skipped the soda, and had grabbed strawberry shortcake, took them up to my cube. Ate and worked. Many other people were volunteering for charity organizations as part of this day but the one I wanted to help with, Habitat for Humanity, wasn't doing anything today and I needed to get work done anyway. So I worked and I worked and I stretched and popped my sore back from time to time. Started to work on a ASP.NET application in C# to make it easier to organize file/folder structures for viewing in a web page--wished I'd created it years ago. Somehow got sucked into it...I sometimes do with programming...especially when it keeps my mind off other things...
Hardest part of today was keeping my chin up. See the picture above? The one you can't read, knowing my luck lately that's probably the one with whatever magic idea I'm missing.
I left at 6pm or so.
Drove down to Hollywood Video, picked up a few movies. Then I went to McDonald's. I don't know why. I'm really sick of fast food. Honestly, though, I just don't have the patience (none, zero) to cook anymore.
Got home. Took more pain pills and some niacine. Made the mistake of eating the McDonald's then some Red Vines then sitting in front of an 85" TV watching a film called Cloverfield. Half way into the film I became so nauseous from the combination of what was in my stomach, stress, plus the dizzying camera movement in the film...was ready to hurl a few times and had to get up, get some fresh air, and so on...
I want to take a moment to review this film. First and foremost, I love movies of all shapes and sizes but this was one of those I'd never planned on seeing. Frankly, it looked like just another one of those in the genre I like to call "Another way to destroy New York" film. And while this film is in that genre, it was a mistake for me to think it might just be another Independance Day or Godzilla or some cheap attempt to profit off of the fear created by 9-11 and truly, it wasn't until I watched an interview on G4 TV's Attack of the Show that I decided to give it a shot. What I've gotta say is this film blew me out of the water and was absolutely everything I never thought it would be. While at first it just seemed to be about a goon walking around with a camcorder, I had assumed this was just a cheap stunt to make it popular in the "Blair Witch" sense of the word (don't get me wrong, I have to keep that film out of my mind every time I camp now!), the sense of everything going on being 100% "real" was palpable, in fact it was pretty easy to get lost, feel like I was the man behind the camera--which really made things pretty f'n freaky when shit hit the fan. And unlike most Hollywood films of this genre that are predictable and rely on overused cliches, Cloverfield started out subtle and ever so slowly raised the suspense a little bit at a time. Once the first "earthquake" my eyes were suck on the TV and while part of your mind realizes it's just a movie, another substantial part is with these characters watching these incredibly insane events and just trying to make sense of them all and survive.
That movie was a ride!
After that finished up I watched another film called No Country for Old Men. I knew this one would be good but it was actually much better than I thought. I really enjoyed the realism of the characters, especially the psychopathic serial killer who people kept describing as insane. Thing I think the movie brings out is that everybody could be described as a little nuts from a certain vantage point--but at the same time, everyone can be understood if just choose to listen, and that includes the husband who doesn't tell us where they're going, the wife that won't tell the sherif much, the guy hired to take out the killer, and the killer who needs to keep his word even if that means taking a life. Very bloody, disturbing, but extraordinarily well written and acted film.
I then went upstairs to put a second coat of paint in the art room. Sometime soon I'm going to Lowes to pick up new closet doors. They need to be unstained hemlock so they match the wainscot. I want to get folding doors, though, and that means I'll most likely have to knock out about 4" of drywall and patch it up pretty--but then I'm getting rather good at that kind of destruction/patching cycle so no worries. Gotta order an unfinished hemlock door for the room. In the meanwhile, any time I want, in fact, I can cut out the wood for the wainscot...not looking terribly forward to that but gotta get it done! Once that's up, at least on one end of the room, I'm going to look at some cheap desk solutions at Ikia for my computer and give my current desk to my daughter so she has somewhere private to do her homework and work on her journals.
Anyway, here I am now. It's actually 1:48am and I'm not quite tired enough to sleep. I would have tried getting to bed earlier but then plans changed. So it's Coast to Coast AM, cats, and whatever.
June 4th, 2008
I am on the verge of tears. I have been for the last several days. Once I would have said you wouldn't understand, nobody could understand, but I've come to realize I'm not that important in the grand scheme of things, I'm just this one person, doing my best to live an honorable, honest, industrious, thoughtful, and caring life, and for whatever reason I keep attracting "challenges". Maybe it's because I have something karmic to learn. Maybe it's because early on in my relationships I spend a lot of time listening and doing for others and not enough time drawing boundaries or doing for myself. Maybe it's because there are people out there that hate me and send their voodoo pins and needles into my back in waves. Maybe it's because there is no God, no guardian angels to protect or heal me, or maybe it's because God indeed exists and he's Lutheran and he's pissed and true to his heritage He's taking it out in a passive-aggressive manner.
Somehow through all of this I've been able to keep my calm, my chin up, and plans in place. The bones in my spine sometimes feel like they're made out of shrapnel filled Jello and yet I don't yell at my daughter the fifth time I have to remind her to eat her vegetables. Sitting for longer than a few hours makes my eyes cross and yet I faithfully fulfill my daily duties at work for my comrades at arms. I never know if tonight will be another night where I cannot sleep; it has been an interesting challenge to take the right amount of pain killers early enough in the afternoon to keep the pain tolerable enough for sleep while at the same time insuring I'm not wired awake.
I met with my doctor an hour ago. Topics discussed include but are not limited to the following:
- Progress (if any)
- Addition of new prescription to help with stress level and thus pain (her idea, not mine!)
- Discuss my vacation (which I may or may not have to cancel based on my next P.T. appointment)
- Discuss seeing a spinal specialist to determine if surgery is needed and/or if I have a chronic condition that I will "simply" have to do pain management for the rest of my life.
Fun fucking stuff.
I left feeling slightly worse than I did when I'd arrived: driving has become one of the most painful activities I engage in. Stopped at the grocery store, dropped off my prescriptions, grabbed lunch from the deli, limped around the store. Got back in the car, came home, checked the mail. Netflicks: Extras, Season 1, DVD 2, awesome. Bill from my lawyer, not so awesome. Junk mail. Came in, logged into work. Daughter got home, gave hug, talked, wished a good week or two or three or four; that's what some call "fair".
The house smells of wet paint and I feel like I'm on the verge of a great awakening...
June 1st, 2008
I've never read the Christian Bible. Odd, you'd think, given I was brought up in a strong Lutheran family, attended church, Sunday School, and Vacation Bible School. That's not to say I didn't try. I remember when I was twelve or so and just starting to get serious about my faith, I was sitting there in church listening to the sermon when I decided it was time I read this ancient book from one end to the other. So I opened it up, began reading Genesis, and once I hit the first section of family lineages I gave up, I mean, there I was twelve, I wanted to read something of substance, I didn't have the patience to read twenty to forty names of people who lived thousands of years ago, what would be the point? So I gave up.
This past Memorial Day I sat on the couch watching a documentary about the Biblical Exodus account. In this document a new theory about the place the Jews crossed the Red Sea was proposed--one of which I'd never heard of before. The scientists in the documentary had found substantive evidence of the crossing, specifically, evidence of the Egyptian chariots that, according to the Biblical account, would have been swallowed by the Red Sea. I watched this with my mouth dropped open, amazed by the find, the data, and remembered how as a child in Sunday School I had daydreamed about going to the Red Sea and finding the Egyptian chariots and swords and armor. How cool would that be?
This documentary triggered that old desire to read the Bible through from one end to the other and since last Monday every night I spend about thirty minutes slowly reading it, story after story, before going to bed. You could say it's a rather odd journey given I am no longer a Christian and am reading without any specific mind set. I'm just reading. I'm trying to read without judgement or expectation. I read as if every word is the literal truth and I read as if everything is a metaphor. I read and let my mind wander through the stories, going where it will, and find myself sometimes in awe as I react to the stories in a manner different than I would if I were guided by the dogma of whatever given church I might otherwise be a member of.
And I have found myself greatly enjoying the experience.
One reaction I had to Genesis, for instance, was it was the ancient world's equivalent of the Penthouse Forums. While I acknowledge some might be offended by such a statement the reality is the book is saturated with sex, sex, and even more sex. There's sex between man and wife, sex between man and wife's maidservant, sex between a father and his two daughters, sex with man and brother's wife, vivid accounts of a man purposefully ejaculating outside a woman as not to impregnate her, at least one rape, and at least one threat of rape by the townspeople of Sodom and/or Gomorrah (against angels, no less!). Genesis is, in my opinion, x-rated--no wonder I was surprised by many of the stories, they were most likely not included in my church's sermons!
Another reaction I had to the book was the sense that it wasn't exactly full of morality tales as I had once assumed. Indeed, as I read the book I started to feel that the stories were largly about the earliest Jews who were nomadic, never finding a true home, never staying long in any one place, and why? Simply put, it seemed that generation after generation somebody thought it'd be a good idea to piss off the natives of whatever land they happened to be in and to keep their heads on they had to get the heck outa dodge. The moral, as near as I could make it out, seemed to be: Don't piss on your host's leg then expect the red carpet treatment.
What else did I get from the book?
While I've always known that the God of the Old Testament and that of the New seemed to be very different in personality I was surprised to find that even in the book of Genesis the various descriptions of God weren't always consistent. For instance, in one chapter (Chapter 1) "He" was clearly omnipotent and all powerful but in subsequent chapters he was much more man-like in character and didn't seem to know what was going to happen until it did or unless he or angels were present to observe what was going on. He was often portrayed as being a flesh and blood person, as you and I, and lacking the all-knowing powers most of us assume the Old and New Testament God to have. In fact, the book of Genesis doesn't even paint the Jewish God as the only one but existing alongside countless other gods from other cultures; indeed, the God of the Bible is frequently described as being stronger and more powerful than these other gods, harking back to cultures where gods were placed into groups of the mightest (like Zues and Athena) and then the lesser gods (in the case of Genesis the lesser gods were all those excepting "the God of the Isrealites"). And should it be entirely surprising that in the context of these early polytheistic societies that the Isrealite God is portraid as one of many, only more powerful than the rest?
Hmmm, what else?
I found it interesting that the sins committed by those in Sodom and Gomorrah are not explicitely described, all one can tell from the text is that God is miffed by whatever these folks are doing with their time. All we know is that the townspeople are sinners who need to get their acts together. Whatever we think about the acts of these people the text is altogether vague.
I was likewise surprised by the descriptions of the families throughout the Old Testament. I had been taught that the early Jews were poor nomadic people aimlessly traveling from place to place, but a more direct reading leads to the clear and unarguable reality that the men described in Genesis, while not being kings, were none-the-less wealthy and powerful. The Jews described in Genesis were some of history's first recorded capitalists, rich men leading hundreds, if not thousands, of people throughtout the ancient as they made deals and contracts with others' in hopes of attaining even more wealth and power. Even those who seemingly had the worst of luck, specifically Joseph who was sold by his older brothers to the Egyptians, later, by accurately interpretting the dreams of the Pharaoh, became the Dick Cheney of the ancient world. A literal reading of Genesis paints a far different picture of these people than I was taught.
While it may be heretical to many that a non-Christian such as myself reads and comments on the Bible I plan to continue reading the book and sometimes writing my reflection here. I hope you find them as enlightening as I do.
Take care and goodnight.