I'm sitting on the deck on the roof of this house I've been living in for 7 months, drinking the last mojito I will probably ever drink here and watching a lightning storm out west in the Tucson Mountains. Lightning storms are insanely great here.
shit, it's raining. i better get this laptop inside.
I subsituted the laptop for a guitar, a shitty acoustic guitar that a friend gave me a couple weeks ago. it needs the moisture. i've never owned an acoustic before. It's crazy considering that I first started playing guitar 20 years ago. 20 years. anyway it made more sense to play slide guitar blues while watching the lightning than to blog. now the storm seems to have passed beyond vision.
it's easy to forget that the start of a big adventure is a week away. I'm going to portland, and then all the way down the west coast to show my sad, shocking, horrifying documentary to people in 5 different cities. And to see good friends every step of the way. And to prove to myself I've done enough? To "close" my obligations to this issue? Probably not. But I have to do it, and it will somehow be a fun adventure too, won't it?
The world is so fucked, and yet life is so very very good, as Derek Jesnsen says.
For some of us. Did you know that in India "Since 1997, more than 25,000 farmers have committed suicide, many drinking the chemical that was supposed to make their crops more, not less, productive."?
Well, just to really briefly update anyone who read the last entry and really cares: Things are much better. I am sleeping more or less normally (for me) now, I'm not sick, and I'm not a nervous wreck. Still sad, but at least I can function, I think. Things are weird enough and fluid enough and personal enough that I can't really go into much more here. Let's just say that a lot has been figured out, things are good (much better than they looked like they'd be), but expectations are low, which is keeping me sane.
One thing I can say that I've resolved from this experience is that I really want to make it a priority sometime soon to start taking better care of myself, physically and mentally. When I get back in town in August I'm planning to do a lot of work on things like my diet, excercise, meditation, maybe even therapy. I've been neglecting personal improvement and maintenence of myself in favor of trying to improve the world, way out of proportion to what is healthy, and this has caught up with me in a big way. It's time to find some balance.
I've never really had much trouble sleeping in my life. I know I blogged before about how I was waking up earlier and earlier, but it wasn't really insomnia. I felt healthy, I felt like I was getting as much sleep as I needed or wanted, and I was doing sleep the Taoist way, so, cool.
Well, now I definitely have a problem. Full-fledged can't-sleep-at-all problem. Maybe it's getting better. Last night I actually slept from about 11:30 to 4:30, with a gap of about an hour, or it felt like an hour, sometime in the middle. so, 4 hours. That's not bad. But Monday through Wednesday nights I only got about 2 or 3 hours of sleep. Why? Because this relationship that I've had for 3 months - that I've been annoying you all with on this stupid blog - it's ending. Yes, already. And that is driving me crazy.
(and speaking of annoying, if you're annoyed, just skip it. That's why I have categories on this thing. If it says "Personal" and you don't want personal, just fuck off and skip it, ok?)
All my life I usually zonk out a few minutes after hitting the pillow. It's so weird to now have insomnia. I never had to TRY to sleep. It was something to be resisted, that just happened. But now I have to WORK at it. Last night I managed to sleep better using basically zen meditation and breathing techniques to empty my mind and relax. I'm worried that with so little sleep i'm going to get sick. I always seem to have the luck of getting sick right before going travelling. It sucks. I also have this nervous fluttering stomach thing like, most of the day since Monday. It feels like when I'm overwired on coffee or yerba mate, but I've been drinking almost zero caffeine or maté for almost a week now. So I know this is psychological, and stress related. I have found this morning that it helps to repeat a little mantra about her that I won't write here. Not that it's mean or spiteful, just a truth that I have previously ignored, an idea to comfort me and convince me that it should end and it's ok.
But this sucks and hurts so much. I just want to get over this and move on. Could I just fast forward 2 weeks or so? goddammit.
It's funny, I think I blogged before, or at least talked to friends about it, that I often wondered how long it would take me to appreciate rain and clouds, like Jessica, who wakes up and looks out the window in the morning hoping to see at least one cloud in the sky. Psychologically scarred by the excessive rains of Portland, I didn't think I would ever get happy at the approach of dark storm clouds. Or I thought it would at least take some years. But no, it took about 8 months. I got really happy to see the monsoon, the blowing wind, the lightning, the dramatic roiling clouds. I rode my bike around in it singing joyously and smiling at the rainbows and the simultaneous sun and rain drops.
I really needed some cheering up. I've been really sad and upset lately. I won't write about it here. It's too soap opera...
I absolutely cannot believe how like a soap opera this little activist community/scene is here in Tucson. It frankly just infuriates and disgusts me. There are these busybodies that make it their business to stick their judgmental noses into other people's business when they have no right to do that at all. It's like other small, insular communities, I guess, like some little rural farm town. Lots of gossiping and moralizing and semisecret recriminations, evil looks at the supposed transgressor as if they wear a scarlet letter. And just downright infantile, immature behavior. When was the last time you've heard of a grown adult couple, children in tow, running, not just even walking, but literally running out of a party when someone that one of them perceives to have harmed their relationship also arrives there? I mean, is this real, or some film set, and I wasn't given the script? WTF?!?
It actually maybe would make a pretty interesting movie. And I do mean movie, not film, if you know what I mean.
I wish I could write in detail with all the names and exactly what has been going on. Maybe someday I will. But I certainly never wanted to be part of it, even though now I certainly am. I remember 6 months ago when i first started becoming aware of it, being so glad I was not in it. So glad I had not acted on any impulses that would embroil me in this cesspool of jealousy and dysfunction. Now I sort of have, I guess, and I am in it. I wish I could write a huge exposť about this in the Tucson Weekly, - without hurting the people that I care for - to expose the fucked up, dysfunctional interpersonal relations that are rampant in this little subculture of cactus-huggers, anarchists, and freaks.
I'm so mad I almost just want to move again, run screaming to the airport and flee. Actually, in about 2 weeks I will be leaving, for a month, and I think that will be very healthy.
I've been meaning to blog about the band called The Magnetic Fields for about a year now. I'm finally getting to it.
The Magnetic Fields is basically one genius songwriter with an amazing baritone voice, Stephin Merritt. I spent a year being annoyed by them, I think mainly because my music-geek hipster housemate at the time was obsessed with them. But recently I've become enamoured with this music. I still have mixed feelings about it, but I can't stop listening.
I think ultimately that this music is unhealthy. In fact, The Magnetic Fields have taught me, once again, and finally, that listening obsessively to pop music, really good, catchy, clever, profound pop music, when you're struggling through a new relationship that may or may not progress past a couple weeks, is a bad idea.
Why? Because no pop song, unless you write it yourself (and I know, I used to do it), is going to perfectly express how you feel at any one time about any other person. It will perhaps be some close fascimile. OR it may be quite far from the truth. But the music will be so fucking cool, and you will enjoy it so much, that the lyrics will start to leach into your brain and make you belive they are describing your situation.
I remember when I was about 15 years younger than I am now, and I was in a new relationship, and I was really really really into this awesome local band from Ann Arbor called Wig. They had a song called "All The Love in the World." The lyrics were pretty much just repetitions of the following: "He MIGHT have HER but I OWN THE STREET and if I SEE THAT motherFUCKER he's DEAD!" This was sung by the insane stage presence of Preston Cleveland, a whiskey-swilling maniac who later got kicked out the band because everyone else in the band were potheads. Anyway, I am not a violent person. I have never been in a fight. I have never physically hurt another human intentionally. I barely know which end of my fist to use in a punch. But at the time, since I was competing with a trombone player in a ska band for the hand of his woman, I really wanted to believe that I OWNED THE STREET AND IF I saw that motherFUCKER he would be DEAD. Because the song was so godamned cool. Luckily I didn't kill anyone, but it's really fucking fun to sing that song.
I was singing that song tonite, unfortunately, as I rode up 4th avenue.
But anyway. Stephin Merritt's songs are like that. They are so infectious, so cool, so hip, so FUN to sing, at least if you have vocal chords that can reach that low, which I am relatively proud to say that I do, mostly.
The problem is, the mixed feelings are, that I believe that Stephin Merritt is fucking with us all. He is purposely writing ironic, post-modern, snarky, hipster lyrics that fuck with your head to some degree. He is so overly clever, and so... calculated, that it at first turned me off to listen to his songs. And then, somehow, I was drawn in. I was already really getting into them but what really hooked me was this new relationship which I have frequently said too much of on the pages of this blog. And this relationship is/was way too wise and postmodern and clever for something like The Beatles, too exuberant for Death Cab, too intellectual for Prince but too hot for Built to Spill. No, it seemed, at the time, that the Fields were perfect, or at least 1 in 10 of their songs. maybe.
In the end the Magnetic Fields are a bad idea for someone trying to decide how they feel about a new lover or potential lover. How does one sing along to the words of "Crazy For You (But Not That Crazy)" or "I don't Believe in the Sun" without getting a distorted picture of reality, not to mention "I wish I had an Evil Twin?"
Some of the songs I think hipsters love just for their pure transgressiveness. Is it homophobic or homoerotic to enjoy singing the words to "I thought you were my boyfriend?" Enjoy for the pure pleasure of singing it but also for the naughty fun of singing along with a very male voice that's singing about his boyfriend? Perhaps The Magnetic Fields could be some sort of ambassadors of gay love, because all these songs are as touching and romantic as any traditional love song, but Stephin Merrit is gay and for the most part is singing about men.
I like your twisted point of view, Mike
I like your questioning eyebrows
You've made it pretty clear what you like
It's only fair to tell you now
that I leave early in the morning
and I won't be back till next year
I see that kiss-me pucker forming
but maybe you should plug it with a beer, cause
Papa was a rodeo
Mama was a rock'n'roll band
(from "Papa Was a Rodeo")
Occasionally he goes too far with his snarky irony, and his deft manipulation of genres and styles to create atmospheres and points, like with the song "Punk Rock Love", which is so clearly making asinine fun of punk music as to be really annoying.
Anyway, I've had 2 mojitos and so this review is now over. I will just conclude with the promise that the next time I start a romance, I'm not going to listen to anything but instrumental music at all. Because as Frank Zappa once said, "music can really fuck you up," and as Aeschylus or however you spell it once said, "With music, any words are good."
cause I don't want to get over love
I could listen to my therapist,
pretend you don't exist,
and not have to dream of
what I dream of
I could listen to all my friends
and go out again
and pretend it's enough
or I could make a career of being blue
I could dress in black and read Camus
smoke clove cigarettes and drink vermouth
like I was 17
that would be a scream
but I don't want to get over you
(from I Don't Want To Get Over You)
The other day I saw a great bumpersticker. It said "yes, this is my truck. No, I won't help you move."
Yesterday we had a big, all-day event with movies and workshops and a vegan dinner and Peg Millet singing and telling stories at the end. Peg is a famous earth firster who got arrested and jailed 16 years ago or so in a big FBI COINTELPRO operation.
The event, one of dozens around the world last week and this week to educate people about the Green Scare and raise money for the eco-prisoners, was a big success, I think, though it would have been nice to have more people, and I doubt we made enough money to pay for the space, though luckily a donor provided the cash up front for that. I also feel like it would have been nice to get more people from outside of "the choir", though we did get quite a few who none of us recognized from the usual circle of radical activists in town.
But it was good. Except that for me it was personally a huge disaster and a really bad day. I was the tech guy, doing sound and video, and i spent days beforehand preparing a DVD for the event. that was my only purpose, to be parachuted in to provide a service, to not really be part of the creative planning, to not help decide things, to just plug shit in and keep it running. I never wanted to do it, but I did it cuz friends asked, and I hated doing it all day and was just angry about it and didn't want to be there.
Similar to that sticker, I'd like to get a shirt that says "geek in recovery. No, I won't fix your computer." Or more accurately, it would have a list of all the tech stuff people are constantly asking me to do, for free: provide and set up a projector for an event, do live sound, shoot video of some event, make a DVD, help subtitle some video, host a website, make a website, revise a website, fix our internet connection, set up a computer lab, dub a video, etc etc etc.
I'm so fucking tired of it
How can I escape from that rut of being the tech guy? A few months ago me and the 2 other "techies" in the community sort of toyed with the idea of starting a tech collective. My hope was that it would take some burden off of me. But it quickly became clear it would have been just more work. i think we all, without talking about it, realized that and the project therefor never took off.
I just want out. And the most disturbing thing is that everyone always says, oh well, we should do more skillshares and trainings so that everyone can do what you do. Yeah, right. Call me cynical, but first of all, I just don't beleive there's that much motiviation in very many activist/progressives, none actually, to step up and allow that knowledge transfer to happen. They just don't care. They would rather just let all these high-tech tools and opportunities go away than take on the skills and do it themselves.
And that's okay. That's very wise. These people are smart. They know that technology and geekiness poisons the soul and they're keeping it at a distance. they know there's better, more fulfilling and healthy things they can do. And they have chumps like me and Walt and Jeff to do the dirty work, so fuck it.
Second of all, there's just way too much knowledge to be transferred. Look at that list up there. I'd have to do 19 skillshares to teach everything that routinely is expected of me to do. And like I said, most people don't care. If there was no video proejector, screw it we'll just use a white board. If there's no web, who cares, we'll print brochures and use a phone tree. no DVD? tell a story instead. people and activists lived without all these stupid gadgets anyway, for a long long time. People in their hearts know this, they know this is all extraneous, just frosting on their cake. But hey, as long as there's someone around who knows how to make and distribute the frosting, might as well slather it on, right?
I'm so tired of being that sacrificial lamb. fuck it.
The fucked up thing is, part of me LIKES being NEEDED like that. And though i'm not usually an insecure person and I usually have a pretty good self-esteem, a paranoid and fearful part of me worries that if i'm not "the tech guy" that people call for tech things, will anyone ever call me at all?
"If it wasn't for disappointment, I wouldn't have any appointments." -They Might Be Giants
Your hip slick little gadget is made in a sweatshop like everything else...
If my blogging software permitted, this post would be marked not only in the personal category but in every other category that I've defined, and more. That's because this entry is about how many different things I'm involved with and how that's a problem.
But before I get too far into that I will link to a post i just published on another blog that I seldom use, on the delete the border site, relating recent news about arizona border crossing deaths and stuff.
Now I move on into saying this: I'm doing too much and I need to figure out how to jettision some stuff if i intend to feel better about myself and stay sane, because very little of it is getting done in a quality way. Here's the list, or everything i can think of now:
The most important things are 2, 7, 11, and 12. A few other things are impossible to get rid of right now. The rest I need to just tell people "sorry, I can't be there." Sigh.
The nice thing, though is that, as usual, just making a list of everything makes it seem like a lot less of a problem. so, yay....
An excellent article details the rise of sexual murders in Guatemala and discusses the simliarity to the Juarez situation, though the numbers are much worse. One interesting thing to note:
In May, the Paris-based International Federation of Human Rights brought Batzibal to New York to testify before a committee at the United Nations, which was evaluating Guatemala's compliance with the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, or CEDAW.
Widely seen as an international women's bill of rights, CEDAW was adopted in 1979 by the U.N. and ratified by Guatemala in 1982.
Rick Perry, governor of Texas, is planning to install surveillance cameras on the border that stream on the internet. They'll be watchable by the public and anyone will be able to call a toll-free number and report an illegal border crossing.
This reminds me of the excellent web comic (one of the best I've ever seen) from a few years ago called Spiders, about an alternate history where Al Gore won the 2000 election, Afghanistan still gets invaded, but the U.S. uses lots of non-lethal technology and little robot webcams wander the battlefields - allowing anyone on the internet to tune in and help spot abuses and ambushes and whatever else.
about a month ago i read a novel by John Burdett called Bangkok 8. I really liked it a lot. Before I tell you about it I'll tell you what interests and concerns in my life recently are probably what made me like it, and you can decide if you have enough similar interests to also enjoy the book. Lately I've been thinking a lot about: buddhism, karma, fate, ethics, sex and love. I've also always had an interest in travelling, in other cultures, in the culture of the far east and its interaction with the west, and in sex work, the morality of sex work, and the sex industry of southeast asia. I've also always liked, as a guilty pleasure, the mystery novel, but usually not exceedingly so unless a book really plays with and experiments with that genre.
Bangkok 8 has and does all those things. It's really an unusual story. It follows a detective named Sonchai in Bangkok who is the son of a Thai prostitute and a western man who is unknown to him. He and his partner are devout buddhists who were sent to the city by the head of their monastery who ordered them to become cops to balance their karma. They're the only non-corrupt cops in the whole city. The book starts with an American marine who they're investigating being murdered in a very unusual way, and Sonchai's partner is killed too. With the help of the American Embassy and the FBI, he goes about trying to investigate the crime and seek vengence for his partner.
That sets the stage. But along the way of solving the mystery, the book is full of deeply profound and also cleverly humorous commentary on all the subjects I mentioned above and more. The main character is a deeply wise but also jaded and streetwise and cynical character. He calls his partner an "arhat" which is a buddhist word for someone who is enlightened, but chooses to stay in the material world to help others instead of floating off into nirvana. He has the interesting supernatural power of being able to see someone's past incarnations, which helps him solve the crime at several points and also relate to various people he meets along the way, like the horny female FBI agent Kimberly Jones who is assigned to help him. As the story progresses one learns that Sonchai himself may be just shy of being an arhat, held back by issues from his past and present. Burdett uses the noir murder mystery form to adroitly explore a variety of contemporary and age old topics. Meanwhile the style of the writing is totally entertaining, hard-boiled, noirish, and witty.
A few favorite quotes:
The Lord Buddha taught 2500 years ago that there is no impunity. In more elegant language than I can muster he warned that you always pay for pussy, one way or the other. For example, if we go back to Jones' room at the Hilton, one of 2 things could happen: She could enjoy it more than I or I could enjoy it more than she. The keener one immediately becomes the slave of the other, with disasterous consequences for both.
Understand that I'm not quoting that because I believe it or think it's particularly wise. It just demonstrates the sort of collisions of worlds and ideas that Burdett explores. Sonchai thinks he's so wise, and in a way he is, but as his wisdom smashes against his own feelings and hang-ups we see he's still learning and figuring important stuff out.
and there's this, where a Russian pimp and drug dealer is talking about Buddhism to Sonchai and Kimberly, who answers (in the second paragraph):
Guatama Buddha was the greatest salesman in history... he was selling nothing. That's what nirvana means: nothing. As a cure for the great cosmic disaster most of us call life, he prescribed a riguorous course of meditation and perfect living over any number of lifetimes, with nothing as its final reward. D'you think anyone on Madison Avenue could sell that? But the whole Indian subcontinent bought it at the time. Today there are more than 300 million Buddhists in the world and growing.
...but there's a play on words here, isn't there? He was only selling nothing if you understand nothing in a certain sense. Nothing to a Buddhist is also everything, since only nothing has any reality.
The other thing that makes me like the book is that I found it totally randomly. it was just sitting in a cafe and i had nothing to read while i sat there so i looked at it and it looked awesome so i took it. Was it fate?
too busy and too RSI'd to blog much lately. briefly:
it's a beautiful morning.
been drinking lots of yerbe mate. can't decide if its better or worse for me than caffeine.
my film tour is shaping up but largely in a waiting mode for various venues and contacts.
swerving wildly between feeling like a fool who hasnt learned a godamn thing since i was 17 to feeling like wisdom actually has accrued somehow...
lots of insecurity about the future, my future... hope and fear...
reading Eduardo Galeano's "Memory of Fire: Genesis" - it totally rocks. little 2 or 3 paragraph stories about the colonisation of the Americas. Sad and horrific and beautiuful. the poetic, narrative version of his "Open Veins of Latin America."
Usually in August there are quick, strong storms that sweep up from the Gulf of Mexico and create the most interesting weather of the year for Arizona. We are getting some of this a little early this week, for some reason. It's the strangest thing, the air whips itself into a fine froth of dust and water droplets, rainbows form, clouds of dirt and dark condensing vapor fill the sky, and the world is suffused in an eerie orange light.
Jessica told me that it's generally thought that early monsoons are a bad sign, that it will mean, in the long run, less water overall. It's already been super dry this year so that's not good news. But, I can say that it was really fun standing on my roof letting the sky pelt me with ice cold raindrops. the first real rain I've felt for a few months. It was over in 10 minutes.
Speaking of a little water, I was reading the latest issue of The Tucson Weekly, the most conservative, dysfunctional alternative weekly of any city or town I've ever lived in, and this week's is The Water Issue - The usual, to be expected hand-wringing about the drought. But I thought back to the Williamette Week, one of Portland's weeklies, which every year runs a special feature about the city's top 10 worst water wasters. Now this is in Western Oregon where there really is no shortage of water, but even so they publish this wonderfully pointed and entertaining investigative piece where they look up the county records and find what individuals is using the most water. It's invariably 10 very rich businessmen or politicians or doctors or lawyers, who always have some lame excuse like their lotus collection is very thirsty or something.
But anyway, why in hell doesn't the Tucson Weekly do something like that, here where water really really matters? Maybe it has to do with a difference in regulations which makes it harder to get teh information from teh country and city here. But I'm sure we could see some very embarrassing stats about some very powerful upperclass consumers.
i was just interviewed about Juárez films for tommorrow's issue of:
It's interesting how there's now this whole little sub-topic of "more and more films about the Juarez situation", separate from "the Juarez situation," itself. I guess this is good because it means journalists on the Entertainment beat can and must write about the Femicide.
Also, I've said it before and I'll say it again, I love how spanish-language newspapers and magazines use the word "Espectaculos" for Entertainment. Literally, "spectacles," right? underlining the fact that these things are things for us to view, not participate in, not even to neccesarily enjoy, as the english "entertainment" would tend to imply more of, but just to be held in rapt awe by the flickering light on Plato's cave wall. Hi there, Guy Debord... is it any wonder why you were an alcoholic?
I remember when I first moved to California from the midwest, every day or so I marvelled to myself, "I can't believe I live in California." Gradually I was only saying this to myself once a week, then once a month, till after the first 3 years I'd become used to the idea. I never thought I'd move there, never wanted to, till grad school. Interestingly, when I moved to Portland I never once told myself, "I can't believe I live in Portland, Oregon." Perhaps because Portland is really sort of an extension of California, culturally (though if you live there and love it I'm sure you'll object intensely to that. sorry). Or perhaps it was because I visited there and thought about moving there for years and years.
Now I live in Arizona and still every week or so I say "I can't believe I live in Arizona." I guess because it is pretty damn different here, and also if you asked me 5 years ago I never would have told you I thought I'd be living here. I don't know, as usual with everywhere I've lived, Tucson is not a place I can honestly say I think I'll stay forever, but I like it for now.