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01 September 2007

I Am Superman!

Here's another silly quiz; it's probably a little more reasonable than the anarchist one, but still ridiculous. If you want to take it go here.

Your results:
You are Superman
























Superman
65%
Robin
60%
Spider-Man
55%
The Flash
50%
Supergirl
43%
Green Lantern
40%
Wonder Woman
38%
Hulk
35%
Catwoman
30%
Iron Man
30%
Batman
25%
You are mild-mannered, good,
strong and you love to help others.


Click here to take the Superhero Personality Quiz

16 July 2007

The Trap

I just recently came upon this documentary from the BBC. It's a three part series called "The Trap: What Happened to Our Dream of Freedom." The videos are linked below. I'd be interested to know what you think of them.

Part One: Fuck You Buddy

Part Two: The Lonely Robot

Part Three: We Will Force You to be Free

23 May 2007

Photos

For those of you who have never seen me doing Aikido before, here is a quick picture hopefully to be followed by others. It's actually just me with Stan Haehl Sensei and Theresa at a demonstration in Kansas City. Sorry, there are no dynamic pictures of me throwing somebody across the room or of me getting thrown across the room...yet. But this is what I look like in a Dogi and Hakama. :)


This one I think most of you have seen before. It's one of my pictures from Peru of me with all of the families from the school where I helped teach. I didn't know most of them, but a few became really good friends. In case you're wondering, I'm the one in the back who stands about a head taller than everybody else. :)

17 May 2007

What Kind of Anarchist is You?




You scored as Anarcho-Primitivist. Anarcho-Primitivism questions not only the state and capitalism but all the institutions which make up 'civilisation' including technology. It is perhaps the most recent development within the anarchist movement and key thinkers include John Zerzan.

Anarcho-Primitivist


70%

Anarcha-Feminist


55%

Anarcho-Communist


50%

Anarcho-Syndicalist


40%

Anarcho-Capitalist


30%

Christian Anarchist


10%

What kind of Anarchist are you?
created with QuizFarm.com


The questions are a little skewed and contain some assumptions that I don't like, but it pegged me. Let me know what you are.

06 May 2007

My Favorite Poem


I discovered this poem a couple years ago when it was featured on the Turner Classic Movie channel as part of a holiday special, and it's been my favorite poem ever since (though Neruda is still my favorite poet). I can't explain why, nor do I truly understand what the poem means, but for some reason the words speak to me like nothing before or since and every time I hear it or read it I feel a not unpleasant warmth and melancholy. To fully appreciate it I think you'd have to hear it read aloud - the TCM piece was very well done and would be the ideal presentation, but it is unfortunately unavailable as far as I can tell. In any case, I hope you all enjoy it as much as I do.

"Being But Men"
by Dylan Thomas

Being but men, we walked into the trees
Afraid, letting our syllables be soft
For fear of waking the rooks,
For fear of coming
Noiselessly into a world of wings and cries.

If we were children we might climb,
Catch the rooks sleeping, and break no twig,
And, after the soft ascent,
Thrust out our heads above the branches
To wonder at the unfailing stars.

Out of confusion, as the way is,
And the wonder, that man knows,
Out of the chaos would come bliss.

That, then, is loveliness, we said,
Children in wonder watching the stars,
Is the aim and the end.

Being but men, we walked into the trees.

02 May 2007

Cosmology

There was a time when my whole life was philosophy, trying to understand the 'nature of the universe' and become enlightened or whatever. I look back on that time with a bit of shame, but I admit I still harbor some of the ideas that I came to during that period. I thought, just for the hell of it, and because some of you might be interested in knowing what I believe philosophically that I would go ahead and venture into the realm of cosmology and metaphysics. Be aware though, I see philosophy as a semantic game, I'm not wedded to any of these ideas and I'm not particularly keen on defending them, so if you argue I'll probably just give up. Also, I probably won't be doing this kind of thing again, so enjoy it now while it lasts. Here Goes.



The Universe and Consciousness
First of all, let's assume that there is an objective reality. Solipsism simply doesn't work, because, even if everything I experience only exists in my mind then my mind is the unifying principle of everything and therefore is itself an objective reality. For simplicity's sake I'll call this objective reality the Universe. The Universe has no shape or form - it's just a mass of energy with various patterns moving around inside of it like a body of water with its currents, ripples, and waves. What gives the Universe form is consciousness. Consciousness is a fundamental principle of the Universe - it permeates the universe like gravity. It isn't generated by the brain, rather the brain is a conduit through which consciousness can flow. Without consciousness, the color red is just a pattern of energy moving through the Universe interacting with other patterns of energy. Consciousness takes that pattern and projects it as the red that we all know. This projection is the manifest universe or the explicate universe, and is the universe of form that we all are familiar with. So consciousness is the full range of experience - raw perception, emotion, abstract thought, etc. Below is a picture of Alfred Korzybsky's Structural Differential.


The top part - an infinite parabola is essentially the Universe that I've been referring to. Think of any object, a pen for example, there are literally an infinite number of qualities that you could look at in that one object - color, weight, size, shape, molecular organization, quantum organization, feel, and so on. But we don't see all of the qualities, we can't because our sense perceptions are too limited. We might extend our perceptions with technology, but we can never get at all of the qualities that the object possesses. So our senses abstract out a few qualities, those that are most important to us; this is our manifest reality and is the second section on the above diagram (the circle). But we don't stop there. As symbolic creatures we can further abstract certain qualities and form a symbolic representation of the object - the word pen manifests a generalized image of the object in our minds. We can continue the process further, abstracting the abstractions ad infinitum (thus creating crap like philosophy). Too often though, we get caught in our abstractions, we get lost in semantics and concepts - economics is the best example of this problem taken to the extreme. So what implications does this theory have on our daily lives - absolutely none, and I'm glad I could waste a little of your time.

GOD
This is somewhat less tricky than explaining my views on the structure of the Universe, but is complicated nonetheless. In the past I've called myself a polytheist, a Buddhist, an animist, a Taoist, etc. Now I'm reluctant to call myself anything, but I would never call myself an atheist. The purpose of atheism seems to be primarily to avoid dogma, but it is in fact no less dogmatic than the largely Judeo-Christian beliefs it seeks to counter. The belief that there is no god is no more rational and in no way superior to the belief that there is a God.
First of all, it's important to define what I mean by God because, in this new age infested world, the meaning of God has become a bit ambiguous. God is at base an intelligent creative principle. In my mind, it's ridiculous to think of anything external to the Universe, so god must exist within it; the idea of a 'gasseous vertebrate' ordering things about from a royal throne up in heaven doesn't fit. The fact that the Universe was created whether through a big bang or a divine hand is in little dispute - it exists where nothing had existed before therefore it must have been created. Having been created does not necessarily imply a creator or intelligence though. In order to get at the intelligence we have to look outside of our normal expectation of God. We expect it to be an omniscient and omnipotent force and to have a rational mind like us, but the god I've described doesn't have to be any of those. It doesn't go about creating things out of nothing, nor does it dictate the way things should be based on some grand schema. Rather the system itself is intelligent and that intelligence is experimental. Think of evolution. I'm not saying that some all powerful force kick started evolution or creates animals in whatever way it wants, but that evolution itself is intelligent. It does what works and then when something doesn't work anymore it tries something new - that's intelligence in my book. I may have talked at one time or another about trees and other organisms having a spirit (animism) - I don't mean that the tree was designed to be the way it is or that some magical force is making it do what it does, but the fact that it does what it does is AMAZING. Now think of the global ecosystem. Every piece has its place, every organism functions within the system in a kind of cooperative arrangement that makes the whole greater than the sum of its parts. A worm couldn't exist by itself, but because there are trees to provide oxygen and food it does quite well. That is intelligence to me, and that is why I will never be an atheist.


Whew, It took me several tries but I finally got it out. I'm sure it makes no sense to anyone, but I really don't care. It's clear in my own mind, and its all garbage anyway. If you want to waste more of your time and learn more about the ideas presented above I suggest you look into the following:
David Bohm
The Holographic Universe
The Dancing Wu Li Masters
General Semantics - actually could be quite useful. Understanding this may help you understand many of the problems in the world today.


22 April 2007

Politics

As my previous posts probably suggest, I am not very fond of politics. There was a time when I believed that things would be better if we could only vote in the right candidates, or pass the right bills, etc. But those days are gone, and now I have absolutely no faith in the political process. My opinion comes out of years of fighting for political causes - supporting certain candidates or legislations - and out of my experience as an intern at the Connecticut General Assembly.
Politics is a game. That may not seem like an innovative statement to anybody, yet people still follow it like any football, baseball, or basketball tournament only more seriously, as if life itself depended on the outcome. And in many ways it is like any of those sports, we follow our team, criticize the opponents, feel elated when we win and depressed when we lose. However, despite these analogies, we still believe that on the inside things are getting done that really matter - the world is being changed and life is getting better (or worse, depending on whose team is in the lead). It's a lie. What happens inside is more of a game than what's going on outside.
There's nothing inherently wrong with playing games; most of what we do as social critters is game playing in one form or another. The problem is that the purpose of the political game is not, as it seems, to solve social problems (whatever you happen to believe those problems are), but to vie for status within the system. The two are not mutually exclusive; occasionally gaining status involves solving some problem, but more often the one has little or nothing to do with the other. Status is gained in the political system by impressing your superiors, following the party agenda whether it makes sense or not, raising money, garnering votes, etc. Politicians who play the game properly get the benefit of the best appointments, higher ranking in the hierarchy, more pay and so on. Those who don't play the game sift down to the bottom and are eventually pushed out.
There may be some people who get into politics with good intentions, in fact, being the naive, trusting person that I am, I believe that most of them do. But the system is not arranged to allow good intentions to come to the fore. Let's say someone has a good idea for how to solve some pressing problem. They run for a political position based on that idea. If they win (which they probably won't if their whole campaign is based on a single idea) then the struggle is only beginning. Next they have to work their way up in the organization to a position where they'll be able to actually influence policy decisions. In order to do that they have to spend several years working in low power positions, following party doctrine, and cozying up to the bigwigs. By the time they reach some adequate position they will probably have become so caught up in the game that the original idea has fallen to the wayside. But let's just say for a moment that it doesn't, that this person holds on to their ideals through all of the bullshit. Now they're in a position where they can actually have some effect and they have their original idea ready to go, so they put it out and allow it to run its way through the system. Every person that puts their hand on that idea twists it just a little bit to serve their own agenda and out it comes completely digested and warped into a pile of useless paper and jargon.
If you want proof of my observations just ask any politician what they've accomplished in their service, and they'll rattle off a number of bills that they've supported or passed. Now go to a library or online and actually look up those bills, and you'll see that it's just a bunch of worthless shit.

18 March 2007

On Anarchism

Anarchism has gotten a bad rap, and it's really no wonder why. It has been systematically demonized by the press and public officials, equated with terrorism, put down as the self-indulgent fantasies of adolescent boys, or simply labeled “impractical.” I have no doubt that there are some anarchists who are only in it so they can blow shit up, and there is a nebulous conception in many anarchists minds about what it would look like in practice. There is no unifying principle, nobody dictating what to do, and that makes it difficult as well as opening the door to a lot of people with their own agenda. But the majority of anarchists that I've met are kind thoughtful people, who have spent a lot of time working through the ambiguities and distortions in order to live better lives.
There are a lot of misconceptions surrounding anarchism, both outside of and within the community. It is not an ideology, but rather a lack of ideology or better yet an anti-ideology which says that any centralized, abstract, bureaucratic power structure is inherently oppressive and should be resisted by any means possible. The Marxists got it wrong by handing power over to the state, and the capitalists got it wrong by not reigning in the corporations.
Anarchism doesn't imply a lack of social structure, it seeks a reorganization of society to limit the reach of power. The ideal system is one which disperses power keeping it as localized and small scale as possible. In the words of Edward Abbey “Anarchy is democracy taken seriously.” It is not a utopian vision; there will always be problems to overcome and challenges to be met, but it is the most appealing social structure to our collective nature.
The question of practicality is more difficult. For most of our existence humans have lived without these complex power structures, in fact, they didn't develop until well after the adoption of agriculture and settled societies about ten thousand years ago. However, most modern attempts at anarchism, such as the Israeli Kibbutzim, the CNT of the Spanish Revolution, and a few experiments that arose in the chaos of the French Revolution, have been small scale and short lived. With modern population levels and international politics being what they are, it's doubtful that any anarchist community would last long. For now, we must be content to carve out a small space within modern society to live and work together in the spirit of mutual aid.

17 March 2007

St. Pat's Day Parade

Here are some pictures of the St. Patrick's Day Parade here in Lawrence, KS. Man, it was long. I kept looking down the street trying to see the end of it, but all I could see was a line of floats and cars stretching down Mass Street. It took about 2 hours to go by and had to be at least 3 miles long, but everyone was having a great time.


St. Pat's Parade - Lawrence 2007

21 February 2007

The High Cost of High Living

The extraordinary peace and prosperity that we enjoy here in the United States and the rest of the industrialized world comes at an enormous cost - the question is who is paying the price? My friends have often heard me argue that ‘Industrial civilization (and occasionally civilization in general) is unsustainable.’ It’s time to be clear about what I mean by that. From an ecological point of view, unsustainable means that we are consuming material resources faster than the earth can replenish them. This is true not only of fossil fuels, but of every resource that has any value to us whatsoever (metals, wood, soil, etc.). Obviously we can’t continue this pattern forever without eventually facing a catastrophic collapse. What’s not so obvious about this definition however is that in order to maintain our high standard of living here and now we have to steal it from somewhere else.
Historically civilizations have always relied on a periphery to provide cheap labor and resources - the cedars of Lebanon went to build King Solomon’s Temple, the furs of the Taiga clothed the nobles of Europe, the Pax Romana was maintained through the brutal militarization of Europe and the Mediterranean, and now oil from Nigeria goes to heat my shower. As the core consumes the resources of its own land and the land nearby, it becomes increasingly necessary to spread out and find them elsewhere - the rise and fall of civilizations can be inextricably linked to ecology and environmental destruction. The difference with industrialization is that it consumes resources infinitely faster than ever before, leaving social and environmental collapse in its wake.
What we have now is a handful of industrialized cores surrounded by a global periphery. Without the periphery to provide cheap labor and resources, as well as to absorb most of its waste products, the industrial world simply couldn’t exist. Imagine if the United States were forced to rely on its native resources - it would fall apart in a matter of months. The only thing that keeps us going is our ability to exploit the periphery while ignoring the misery and ecological destruction that exists there. A lot of intelligent people who are concerned about the environment and the population problem as well as those interested in human rights believe that universal industrialization is the panacea. Granted, industrial societies tend to have lower population growth, but they also have much higher consumption rates. Think about it, if the whole world were industrialized and lived like we do in the United States it would only speed up the destruction of the environment dramatically. Additionally, there would be no more periphery to exploit, and, as I’ve already established, industrial civilization cannot exist without a periphery.
As time goes by, and resources become more and more scarce, the cores will shrink back and eventually collapse as the cost becomes too much to bare. Civilization is going to collapse - there is no doubt about it. You ask me when? It’s already happening. Most of us aren’t aware of it because we’re tucked safely behind our shroud of peace and prosperity (The American Dream), but our experience is not typical as you look around the world; peace and prosperity is not the norm, poverty and violence is. Just look at sub-saharan Africa, the middle east, Latin America, Siberia, or even southeast asia and you’ll see a world falling apart. Indigenous cultures are being subsumed, poor people are being driven into inhospitable lands, the ecological stability is being compromised - war, famine, poverty, and disease - these are not the symptoms of a healthy culture on a healthy planet.
So here I am telling you that the world is going to fall to pieces, and you say “What do we do about it?” Let me start by saying what won’t work. Most of the environmentalism movement right now revolves around trying to adopt technologies that are less harmful so that we can continue to live the way we do now without causing so much destruction. The problem is that increasing technology always comes with increasing consumption and thus increasing destruction. There is no such thing as a harmless technology, but sometimes they are able to displace the destruction so that they appear to the user as being less harmful. The thing that comes to mind whenever I think about this is a partially fictional example, but illustrates the point well. There was an X-Files once where Mulder and Scully were looking into the invention of a car that ran on water. The obvious oil company suppressing the technology conspiracy came up, but what turned up was that the inventor had realized that there are so many other ways that cars are destructive. If he had allowed the technology to come out people wouldn’t feel guilty about driving cars, more people could afford them, new interstates, and highways would be built, mountains would be strip mined for metals to make the new cars, aquifers would be drained as more water was needed to fuel the cars and so on, in a sense cars would become more destructive than they had been before. I’m saying that we cannot continue to live the way we do now - we cannot continue to have our high standard of living without stealing and eventually facing collapse. Another thing that won’t work is legislation. Laws may be able to enact minor changes or slow some problems like air pollution and oil consumption, but the way governments are set up it simply isn’t possible for them to regulate everything to the extent that they need to be regulated without becoming draconian. They have far too many constituents to please and too many interests to maintain.
So what can we do? Well, we don’t actually have to do anything - the problem will eventually fix itself, but it won’t be very pleasant for those who are alive to witness it. I know it sounds callous, but it’s the truth. As a matter of fact, I don’t really think that there is anything you or I could do about it. What needs to happen is a dramatic culture shift - back to localized, low- impact economies away from the globalized, core-periphery relationship (and possibly a complete reversal of the course of history). This will come about whether we make a conscious choice to do it or not. However, if you really want to do something, I suggest getting yourself a group of friends and doing whatever it takes to slow the spread of industrialized civilization and the destruction of the earth or by helping those who are less fortunate than us who will bear the brunt of the suffering when the collapse comes.
If you want to learn more I suggest the following books and films:
Endgame by Derrick Jensen
A Green History of the World by Clive Ponting
The Power of the Machine by Alf Hornborg
Full Spectrum Disorder by Stan Goff
Darwin’s Nightmare
Life and Debt

19 February 2007

Kansas Trip Photos

Well, I just plugged in my digital camera for the first time since I've been here in Kansas and up pop a handful of pictures that I took on the trip down here. So here they are for all of you to enjoy. There are also a couple of pictures of my canine roommates - Corona is the brown pit-bull and Moses (Moe for short) is the dopey looking hound. If you're eagerly awaiting my next hyper-intelligent, enlightening post then have no fear, one will be arriving shortly.
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