I feel like Facebook, Twitter, and all the other social networking has definitely sapped my energy and will to blog as much as I used to. These cyberplaces trick your mind into feeling like you've expressed yourself in a much more meaningful way than you really have. For people who never had a blog and couldn't be bothered to have one, much less don't partake in other forms of writing, The little "status update" blank might feel like a tremendously liberating opportunity to speak your mind to the world and/or your friends and/or your adoring fans. Just a little, open-ended text-box, telling you to blurt your barbaric yawp out, no matter what it is or how banal or profound it might be. Just keep it short or your friends' attention will wander to somewhere else, that other browser tab they have open or the rest of that youtube video about squirrels snuggling with cats.
Yes, in a sense it's a great development, encouraging people to communicate and start little conversations with friends and family at any time of the day, no matter how spread over the whole world they are.
But for me it tends to use up precious energy that I could have spent writing a blog post or even a private journal entry, in a more thoughtful, careful, creative and discerning way. It accelerates life even further, making one feel like you don't have the right to sit and slowly compose and extended text, that you should instead just say it now, fast, and move on.
Of course the blog entries don't have to be extended essays. Sometimes I catch myself thinking that's what I should be doing and if I can't then I shouldnt blog at all. I am going to endeavor to do less of that kind of thinking. A blog entry can be any length, and much more under my control than my facebook "wall".
I just spent a few minutes intending to find a relevant and entertainingly ironic photo that i might have on my flickr account that i could use to cleverly illustrate this blog entry. But in the process, i got distracted trying to decide if there was a browser tab I could close. I have about 15 open, some of which are pages i've been wanting to read for as long as 5 months ago but have never taken the time. Eventually i gave up and came back here. forget the picture.
This is enough.
In the New Yorker this week there's a profile of Nora Ephron, the writer, screenwriter, and director. Her new film is "Julia and Julie," about Julia Child and so the article contained a lot about cooking, both Child's love for it and Ephron's. What I find inspiring is the idea that the film celebrates "... the pleasure of finding the thing you are best at, and devoting yourself to it with abandon. If you make a mistake, learn from it, then forget it... Don't complain, don't explain: that's the motto of Julia Child and Nora Ephron..."
I like that. Exemplary people are often very good at many things, though, and I would think that other criteria come up, besides just doing what you are very very best at, even if it's possible to determine what that is: things like "can I make a living from it?", "is it fun?", and "what will make the most positive difference in the world?" There are many reasons to devote oneself with abandon to a pursuit. But I like the idea of celebrating figuring out what to devote oneself to.
When I first started dating Greta, over 2 and a half years ago, I met Jack and she asked me if I liked dogs. I replied "Well, I don't dislike dogs." She didn't view this as a very positive response, but all I meant was that I had been ambivalent to dogs so far. I had not ever had a very high place in my life for pets, and I grew up with dogs in the family that were not crazy but were also not really good with kids or "close" to us.
Jack taught me to love dogs. Jack and Greta taught me what a deep bond someone can have with their pet. He was a little puppy, wild on a farm in Virginia when 20-year-old Greta found him, the day after having a dream about him. Since then he was with her for countless adventures. He was there when she had nobody else to be there for her. And with her love and attention and care, he grew up to be the gentlest, kindest, most loving dog I've ever known. Everyone who knows him loves him, and he has many friends who will be sad to hear this terrible news. Our friend Peter drove up from Bisbee and the three of us are here in this house that seems empty, blown away by this sudden tragedy. Peter's dog Nori keeps looking around for Jack, her best doggy buddy, not quite understanding what has happened. Where did he go?
In the morning yesterday, I prepared his breakfast like I often do. On every other morning, he always would rush to the bowl and start gobbling away eagerly. Yesterday morning, he didn't want to eat it at all. I knew something was wrong. He was lethargic and panting hard and not walking very steadily. Jack has had a mast-cell tumor, a type of canine cancer, for over a year now, and we have known that this made his days numbered, even more so than his advanced age. But he's been on medicine and doing really great for a long time. We may have started to forget that at any time he could go downhill.
He started feeling better after we gave him a dose of his prednasone in a bowl of ice cream. He has always really liked ice cream. But then in the afternoon his condition got worse again. He was trembling all over, having trouble breathing and panting hard like he was in pain. We had called the vet and made an appointment for later in the afternoon, but when Greta offered him more ice cream and he refused, that was when she knew something was seriously wrong. She got him in the car and headed for the vet, meeting me on the way home from a meeting I had near campus. I drove the rest of the way with her in the backseat holding him.
They took him out of the car and into the clinic on a little doggy stretcher.
I can't really bear to continue at this level of detail. Suffice to say that the prognosis was grim. The cancer had clearly spread, and the mast cells were releasing histamines into his bloodstream that were causing him to go into severe shock. He passed away gently and with a minimum of suffering, in Greta's arms, at about 6pm.
Last Saturday, Greta and I took part in a special tour of households in Tucson that have chickens.
Ours was one of 18 stops on the tour, and we had over 100 people stop by in 4 hours to look at our chickens and coop, as well as check out our garden and solar oven. (our friend Matt's house was also on the tour). It was pretty fun and it seemed like a lot of people were inspired and thinking about raising chickens themselves, or doing it differently if they already did, and/or inspired to garden more, or use greywater, or build/get a solar oven. It was encouraging to see that so many people are into these sustainable practices -- Apparently the food co-op sold 200 tickets to the tour, raising 1000 bucks for the community food bank, and they had to turn away 200 more people.
Been too busy to blog lately and since it's been a week, i'll post some twitters. if there was no twitter would i blog more? seems possible. but not as often as i twitter, right? what's the total worth calculus? damn.
I'm really getting into our garden this year.
It's nice at our new house because we have plenty of our own yard to do what we like in. I want to get more and more skilled and wise in the ways of growing plants, especially food, because that's a direction we all should be taking on the road to a sustainable society.
More photos of our garden are here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/steev/archives/date-taken/2009/04/12/
An old friend I haven't heard from in about 18 years just asked me why I spell my name the way I do now.
It's a relatively simple story: In 1990 or so, I was in a band, in Ann Arbor, Michigan. It was a sort of punk/goth/noise/pop band called The Tao Puppies. The band had various problems which I won't detail here, but one of the quaint pretensions that the bass player had, being a big fan of the Ramones, was that everyone in the band should have a stage name. His was Clark Kent, if I recall correctly. I don't remember anyone else's stage name, but the point is that I thought this was a dumb idea. So to sort of purposely annoy and spite him I made my stage name something that's pronounced exactly the same, simply spelled differently: Steev.
I ended up liking that spelling quite a bit and as I continued an artistic career I kept using it, at first just for artistic purposes, but then gradually for everything in life short of legal documents.
It's gotten to the point that people who know me very very well sometimes misspell the names of other Steves that they know, because they're so used to spelling it my way. It's fun. And people think I'm Dutch or something foreign, which is also fun.
That's about it. Not much more to it.
As of this day I have been keeping this blog for exactly 5 years. Wow, kind of amazing, no?
This is also the 1107th entry on this blog.
Not much else to say right now, busy Sunday- hiking, cleaning, going to a meeting, writing a screenplay ( Script Frenzy ). etcetera, etcetera.
This week I began an experiment in online, DIY, grassroots fundraising. I need to raise funds for completion of a documentary I've been working on for the last 15 months or so called "Death and Taxes: Refusing to Pay for War." If you follow this blog you have seen me writing about the film before. It's been a long process, and a subject I've cared about for many years.
Basically, this doc has been one of the major parts of my life for awhile, and it's one of the most ambitious, if not the most ambitious, film projects I've ever tried. As such, some mistakes were made, and some of them were in planning and budgeting. One difficulty is that I am now, for close to the last 2 years, trying to make a living from making films and doing other freelance motion picture work. It's a hard existence, I've discovered, especially in a place like Tucson where the industry is pretty stunted. So this is the first big project I've done where I needed to make it pay, personally, as in, I had to make a living - not a killing, just a modest living.
To make a long story short, I miscalculated, some mishaps happened, and the film took much longer than I thought, we ran out of money last November, and I'm broke. I have a few other videography gigs that are bringing in a little, but this kind of thing keeps me busy, and I have to do them to survive. So I can't continue work on the WTR film, in any timely way, unless it's funded.
For my last full-length film, On The Edge, well, it was my first film, and I made even more mistakes, and I was willing to make them because I had passion and compassion for the subject, and I'd never done a big project like that before. I spent all my savings, I interrupted my life to go live cheaply in rural Iowa while I edited, and after a total of 18 months it was done. But I can't do that with every film. That's not sustainable.
So, this is a long-winded way of saying, I need some financial help, bad. You can help. I know about the economy and I know everyone is hurting. But any little bit counts. Maybe you still have a steady job. I don't. I have this film.
And not only that, it's a film about something really important. I'm not asking people to fund my silly zombie slasher flick. This project is about getting the word out about a unique and inspiring way to work for peace and change the world. Maybe that's worth a few bucks?
There's information about multiple ways you can donate here: http://detritus.net/steev/vid/death-and-taxes/
Thanx so much for your support.
Day before yesterday:
Now I'm back and trying to catch up on lots and lots of things I have on my plate. I brought along some work but I never had time to get to it. Sigh.
Waking up early (I couldn't sleep even though I was up till 1-something AM) and taking a bath and seeing the sun rising over the famous red rocks, I do have to say a few more earnest words about being here at the SIFF. Not that I was totally joking about any of what I wrote last night.
But I want to say that I am happy to be here at the first film festival that I have been honored to be at as the maker of an official selection (I've been at others but as featured musician or panelist or just observer), and it's fun and it's great to see all these cool films for free, and go to the workshops and stuff. But there are still many annoying and ludicrous things about the festival and about film fests in general. The most annoying thing about this one so far, other than the logistics hassles of getting to and from my hotel, is that everyone I meet I have to say what my film is and tell them that it's a documentary, because in the "festival biz" or at least at this one, there are really only 2 categories: doc and drama - both modified by the adjectives "feature" or "short". But my film is NOT a doc. It's an advocacy film that I was paid, contracted, to produce by the Sierra Club.
So I feel a bit like a fraud every time I tell people, "oh it's a short doc about the border wall." I guess I should be more real and honest but then I have to spend all this time explaining it.
The other thing is that because of that not-in-category status, I don't even feel like the film should even be in the festival, at least listed as a doc, and I think the only reason it is in the festival anyway is because the guy hired by the Sierra Club to promote the film has a friend that works for the Fest. And this is what pisses me off about festivals in general - it's really about who you know, and who you are, and not about your film.
Anyway, off to breakfast and then our first screening, and then a day of seeing other films. Hopefully i'll get a nap in at some point.
I've been extremely busy and feeling very overwhelmed for the last few weeks. I'm involved with so many projects and obligations these days that it's hard to keep them all straight. Some of them are:
So anyway, like I said, I'm busy.
Yesterday was an important birthday for me. It was a quiet one, we pretty much just relaxed and tried to stay dry and warm, as it was a very un-Tucson-like rainy cold day. That evening after dinner Greta surprised me with a peppermint ice cream cake which she had secretly purchased and brought home and hid in the freezer earlier in the afternoon (cleverly waiting for me to make my usual afternoon espresso, for which I would need to get coffee out of the freezer - that woman is muy inteligente!!! Thank you Greta!!)
Anyway, we also went to see Gus Van Sant's new film "Milk," the docudrama biopic about Harvey Milk, first openly gay high-profile elected official ever, a San Francisco city supervisor elected in 1978, murdered by wacko conservative Dan White, another city supervisor. It was a really well-done and moving film and I highly recommend it. One of the saddest things about seeing it is knowing that we're now 30+ years after the time depicted in the film, and still LGBT people are being denied the same rights that straights have, because of powerful and bigoted people who have some nonsensical fear that letting queers marry will somehow ruin the institution of marriage. It's just ridiculous. But it's worth remembering that only a generation ago the same people were fighting for even more basic rights, like the right to even have certain jobs (like teaching). There are those who would turn back the progress made in that time.
Anyway, it was a good birthday yesterday.
In the last 2 or 3 weeks Greta and I have had 4 sets of houseguests. It's been kind of insane. And they have ramped up steadily in terms of how stressful they've been. First our friend Peter from Bisbee, then Greta's friend from Prescott and her friend. Then our photographer friend from Germany. And now, for the past 5 days, 3 bicycle pornographers from Oregon.
I like having guests but it's hard to stay focused and to get work done and to stay sane when our small home is so disrupted over and over. Especially because as a filmmaker I have a lot of requirements in terms of equipment and space and concentration, especially when I'm editing. Hopefully things are going to turn around by tomorrow.
Meanwhile I'm still psyched about my experience last week working on Video The Vote on election day including footage of a little episode with an off-duty Border Patrol agent that evening. And of course I'm psyched about how the election went. It's interesting that now everyone and their brother, especially in the progressive non-profit world, is speculating about what Obama will mean for their work, and they're sharing that speculation with all their mailing lists. I've never seen such a heady atmosphere of anticipation. It seems anticlimactic with over 2 months to go before he's actually president.
Here's my tweets from yesterday, including me babbling away like all the other political junkies during the debates. I'm sort of ashamed I even clicked over to election.twitter.com at all...
Two confirmations in the last few days that I'm not really that old: First, I just read (in the New Yorker's "Fashion Rocks" supplement, of all ridiculous things) that the guitarist from the band The Kills, Jamie Hince, is 39 as well. And he's dating Kate Moss. Second, I'm taking a Screen Acting class, believe it or not (I want to get better in front of the camera as I insert myself into my own films more and more, and I think knowing about acting will help me direct), and I was worried before my first day Friday that I was going to be the oldest person there, especially when I saw a gaggle of what looked like 19-year-olds entering the room ahead of me. I literally almost just chickened out and left, but luckily I didn't, and discovered that there were 4 or 5 others that were in my age range or older. It's actually a very diverse range of students and it looks like it will be a good class.
So, I should stop fretting. Still plenty of time to be a rock star or movie star. Hah.
Yesterday's Twitter tweets:
Yesterday's Twitter tweets:
Yesterday's Twitter tweets:
It was a Mexican gunfighter western movie kind of dream, mixed with an old dream i always used to have in college, that i had
forgotten to go to a class all semester and suddenly realized i had a final exam. At the end of the dream I was in
a math class taking the test I wasn't prepared for, didn't expect, but I did okay on it. but then we students were complaining about the teachers, who were like 3 quiet dorky Mexican men, and as we were complaining lunch arrived, a giant pizza like 10 feet in diameter. the toppings on the pizza were not evenly spread out but instead were like a pie chart, with relative proportions of toppings indicated by the width of a wedge of that topping on the pie. I suddenly stood up and exclaimed, "this society will always be regimented as long as pizzas are made like that!" and i stepped up and started re-arranging the toppings, scattering lettuce and everything else evenly around the pizza. In a few seconds a bunch of other students got the idea and joined me. in a few minutes the toppings were all spread out like on a normal pizza and we stepped back to admire our work.
I'm not sure what that has to do with anything.
Yesterday's Twitter tweets:
Tonight at about 2am the sun gets as close as it can to us. yay.
Also tonight, we're having a half-birthday party for me... 6 months from monday is my birthday, but it always gets overshadowed by xmas. This is a better time.
Yesterday's Twitter tweets:
Many projects are all happening at once. It's pretty exciting, though a bit stressful, with accompanying deadlines.
I finally got the narration finalized and recorded (with my new large-diaphragm condenser mic - sounds great!) for the Sierra Club border impacts video I'm doing, which means I can finally finish it, probably over the next week. But, I'm also trying to make a trailer for the war tax resistance doc, and this is the time of the month to edit Indymedia Newsreal too. whew. And there's a more banal but well-paying video job I should get to as well that I won't go into.
Yesterday's Twitter tweets:
Yesterday's Twitter tweets:
Actually this is Twitter tweets from last night and today:
Friday night I did a short DJ set at Dry River's "anti-prom." Don't ask me to define what an anti-prom is. And I'm not sure why I volunteered to DJ. But it was somewhat fun and somewhat successful.
Here's my playlist:
Thatll Be the Day Buddy Holly
Bossa Nova Baby Elvis Presley
Honey Don't The Beatles
Who Do You Love Bo Diddley
Track 09 B.B. King
Rock 'n' Roll High School The Ramones
Chick Habit April March
Holiday Innn Stereo Total
Harley Davidson Brigitte Bardot
Hicky burr Quincy Jones/Bill Cosby
Can You Get To That Funkadelic
Love Revolution Big Star
Best Friends Forever Treasure MammaL
You Make Me High (When You Go Down Low) Lolita Storm
Strange Powers The Magnetic Fields
Hey Mama Black Eyed Peas
Dancing Queen ABBA
Let The Music Play Barry White
Reanimator Amon Tobin
The Pink Room Twin Peaks
The other 2 evenings of the weekend were spent at Dry River too, Saturday to see Andrew Jackson Jihad, from Phoenix, and Sunday to see D-numbers, from Santa Fe.
I've been away from home for the last 9 days and today I'm finanlly returning. It seems like much longer. I'm so glad it's over. It's been fun, and also very productive, and I was able to see several friends and acquaintances I haven't seen for quite awhile, but none of that has counteracted the ache of missing my partner, and her dog.
Not to mention that I've had quite enough of the New York City transportation experience. The subway system is amazing considering its challenge: providing a way for a few million people to move around without all needing to drive cars. But I can't really wrap my mind around the need to budget an hour to get anywhere. I'm accustomed to hopping on my bike and being anywhere I routinely need to be within 10 minutes, maybe 15 tops. So waiting for these big metal worms to laboriously drag me through this concrete anthill is not cool.
Oh and speaking of cool its still damn cold in NYC. Sonoran Desert here I come!
I have mucho things to blog about but i haven't been prioritizing it. I guess I'll start with a brief mention of our trip to Bahia de Kino for my birthday and xmas. It was awesome. Great fun, great getaway. Warm, sunny, quiet.
There are photos.
Other fascinating subjects, coming soon.
Today through Tuesday we're going down south to the beach at Bahia Kino, Sonora, Mexico. It's about a 5 hour drive. We'll be offline and away from cell reception and it will be most probably quite wonderful.
I just woke up, a bit hungover from a late party, and I need to pack. Just wanted to sign in and say, happy holidaze and don't expect another post here till wednesday at least.
I've been keeping a journal for 21 years. This blog for 3 and a half years (and almost 1000 entries).
I can't tell you how I found this (wink) but there's an interesting piece in the New Yorker about diaries. In this text the writer, Louis Menand, makes it clear that there's a difference between a journal, a blog, and a diary, and I of course agree, though the lines blur at times. I have always called my journal a journal. Diary smacks of something more pedestrian and tacky, a slavish record of exactly what happens each day, something to be disciplined about - like being on a diet, or trying to be, Menand says - something teen girls write in and fight to keep their little brothers from reading. Journals are more literary, more discriminating. And yet Menand drifts in his examples between diaries and what seem more like journals even in his estimation.
Journaling has never been something I have to make myself do, nor blogging, which is one reason I always find it slightly amusing and highly unnecessary when bloggers (or zinesters, for that matter) apologize for not blogging in a while. It's not my job, it's not even a new year's resolution. I don't do it or not do it because I feel obliged to, as if, like Menand says, I feel
"that diarizing is a natural, healthy thing, a sign of vigor and purpose, a statement, about life, that we care, and that non-diarizing or, worse, failed diarizing is a confession of moral inertia, an acknowledgment, even, of the ultimate pointlessness of one’s being in the world."So why do I do it? The reasons for journaling and blogging are pretty different. Menand presents the interesting set of theories that people keep diaries, and stop keeping them, for 3 reasons: the ego, the id, and the superego:
The ego theory holds that maintaining a diary demands a level of vanity and self-importance that is simply too great for most people to sustain for long periods of time. It obliges you to believe that the stuff that happened to you is worth writing down because it happened to you.... The id theory, on the other hand, states that people use diaries to record wishes and desires that they need to keep secret, and to list failures and disappointments that they cannot admit publicly have given them pain.... And the superego theory, of course, is the theory that diaries are really written for the eyes of others. They are exercises in self-justification. When we describe the day’s events and our management of them, we have in mind a wise and benevolent reader who will someday see that we played, on the whole, and despite the best efforts of selfish and unworthy colleagues and relations, a creditable game with the hand we were dealt.
There are elements of all those reasons in my journaling and blogging, in different proportions. Blogging of course can be extremely different from writing in a diary. Some blogs have nothing at all to do with the writer's personal life. They may be a periodic holding forth on a topic of interest or expertise (either professed or real), or news that only the author and his immediate locality witnessed, that is being underreported by "mainstream media"... my blog is a mix of this and the personal. It's done mostly for others, to keep them informed of my life if they care (so, the Ego reason above), and to get the word out, indymedia-style, about things they should care about (which doesn't really fit into any of Menand's 3 categories, does it? Or does it?)
My journal is more like a diary and hence is more relevant to his 3 types. I would say that contrary to my blog it's more a mix of the Id and Superego types... sometimes, I write in it the most private and tortured diatribes, merely as catharsis, to empty my brain of the toxins it has collected.... Other times I have in mind, in the back of my head, an image of some studious anthropologist, historian, or biographer, sitting in a dusty basement reading and cataloging my scribbled volumes... because...?
Either it's because I've somehow become famous (i now tread into ego again), or it's just because I'm an example of a life from the past...
Overall, I envision that journalling is part of my overall quest to a) leave this world a better place than when I got here and b) have an interesting life (if I've suceeded in these things, people, or at least myself in the future, will want to read about it, right?). And as I go, it aids me in these efforts - Journalling helps me plan and evaluate where I've been and where I'm going, a true "bitacora" - the old spanish word that was used for diaries but originally meant the box you keep a ship's compass in - and it helps (my conceit imagines) those that come after to learn and guide themselves too, but also (and here back to the superego we climb) it helps those others to see that yes, I DID have an interesting and worthwhile life, and I really tried hard at it... "he was evidently a good and ethical man, that Steev," they'll say, someday... heh...
Ultimately it keeps me sane, one way or the other, just as healthy balance between ego, id, and superego keeps one sane (if those Freudian constructs have any bearing on reality or current accepted psychiatric theory), and it's something I NEED to do, and I just do it, that I don't MAKE myself do.
So, if blogging or journalling is something you make yourself do, maybe you should stop, unless you get paid to do it. But if, like me, it's effortless, and you do it because you have to, from some inner fire, then great. Your saner psyche, and future scholars striving to somehow make sense of this insane time, will thank you.
Lately it's been a cloudy, dreary, watery gloomworld here in Tucson. It reminds me of Portland. It reminds me of the weather I came here 2 years ago to get away from. It sucks. It makes me glum and melancholy and I know it's good for the plants and if you're from here or have been here for longer than me you can cheer but it just makes me feel down, and makes it easier for anything else that goes wrong to have a much heavier, soul-crushing import than normally. I really need the sun to come back.
Rain rain go away.
(To match the weather, by coincidence I'm currently listening to a song by the Flaming Lips called "Jesus Shooting Heroin.")
What a crazy time, this week and the coming 2. This evening was a Critical Mass ride, the first in Tucson for about 12 years, I'm told. So long ago that the organizers weren't aware that there had ever been one. So long ago, and Critical Mass so crazy an idea for this town, I guess, that the organizers were about 6 years old when it was last tried.
I'll have more of a report later, with photos, but in brief, it was without incident. The police herded everyone along in a double-file line for about an hour, blocked traffic for us, and there were no arrests or even tickets. Compared to the debacle on Tuesday night, they were amazingly respectful of the bicyclists.
After the ride me and O had a little dinner and then went to see Gogol Bordello. They're such an amazing live band. But, since I have to wake up at 4am to drive to Calexico, I couldn't really get that into it. normally i might have had a couple beers and gone down to the front and pogo'ed with everybody else.
So, yeah, weekend in Calexico doing No Border Camp prep stuff and then back here for a day and then to portland for a wedding and then back to tucson again for the Dry River anniversary party and then back to Calexico for the camp iteself.
Can someone slow down this merry-go-round?
Ugh. A few hours ago in my backyard a little insect flew into my ear, and didn't come out till just now. Going about my day, whenever I was sitting still for longer than a minute or so, it would start moving around in my ear canal! I could hear it and feel it! I couldn't get it out. And if i started moving or trying to remove it, it would stop. I tried q-tips, water, blowing with my nose and mouth and other ear closed. no dice. I started worrying it would crawl further and further into my sinuses and lay eggs in my brain or something.
But luckily a few minutes ago I felt it moving and it felt somewhat different. It was not moving deeper; It had found its way closer to the exit! It was seeking the light! I waited with hand to ear and suddenly it dropped out and i batted it away. yuck. Whew. Luckily that didn't happen during the meeting I was just at. Might have freaked some people out.
Well, as you might have guessed (if you didn't know already) by the 2-week silence on this blog (which ended 3 entries ago, i hate when bloggers post just to say how sorry they are for not posting for awhile), I was on vacation again. O and I drove north to Oregon in a rental car, outfitted with a borrowed bike rack so we could bring our bikes. It was a bit trying spending so much time in a car, but we had a lot of fun too. We camped a lot on the way, and we saw 4000 year old trees and volcanic mud pools and coastal dunes and coyotes and a seal and lots of old friends.
I have a set of my best photos from the trip on Flickr. Sadly my still camera seems to be dying, placing random crunchy bars of color on some photos. Which sucks because i can't really afford to buy a new one at this point. But to be fair, I've taken about 10,000 shots since I bought the thing in December 2004, so i've gotten a lot out of it.
Went to Phoenix this past weekend, mainly for a meeting and benefit for the No Borders Camp. It was pretty productive but pretty frustrating too, because I'm not sure if I agree with the direction that plans for the camp are going. It may be too late to change, as well.
I also was at a meeting in Phoenix with a few people from AZ indymedia. The site is almost totally dormant and the collective has been in a lull for the last 6 months at least. We talked about what to do and I volunteered to spearhead solving the technical hurdles, but I can't help wondering how important indymedia really is, to me or Arizonans or to the world, anymore - especially the websites. I believe that as a loose network of resource-sharing media activists it still is quite useful (e.g. an aquaintance here in Tucson scored an interview with Noam Chomsky last month, and wanted me to go along and film it. I said, I can't, but here, email this person from Boston IMC that I know, and sure enough he hooked up with 2 awesome videographers there who filmed the thing with him), but as an online source of news and information for those that are "outside the fold" I'm getting more and more doubtful.
Various video projects of mine are churning away, including a couple for pay, which is great. It's definitely more fun to me than coding or other IT stuff, and it makes me more interested in volunteer IT work for activist projects.
Meanwhile O is quitting her job, or rather being forced to quit, and it's a job she has really loved, or at least the work. The management and a lot of the other staff are corrupt and unethical and petty jerks, but the organization does some great work still and has a lofty reputation in the field. It's so disillusioning to see non-profits devolve like this, but as one of her only cool co-workers said the other day, it's just like in the for-profit world, and people from that world aren't surprised at all. Why should people not lie and cheat and backstab, just because they work for a nonprofit that's supposedly about saving the environment? To think they wouldn't is to probably expect too much from humans.
I flew back to Tucson yesterday and got in at about 10:30 last night. Sadly, O was delayed in her own flight that was supposed to be Friday back from NYC, so the expected romantic reunion at the airport was not to be. She comes back tonite at midnight instead. I feel bad because I was off the internet for the last 3 days of my trip, which was unusual compared to the rest of the time, and O was worried. It's so unusual to have someone worry over me. I only realized the extent of her stress when I finally today read her blog entry about it from a couple days ago.
I have a lot of thinking about my trip and sorting of photos (here's a few I just uploaded to Flickr, i'll be doing a few at a time for a while, I think) and other materials collected to do. but here is a nice shot that seems relevant to my thoughts right now, as I wait for O to come back to Tucson and be with me.
One general observation about the last month that I think is interesting is that my trip was bookended by being in 2 different small German cities, one (Rostock) taken over by politics and activism and police (the G8 protests), and one (Kassel) taken over by art (Documenta). Very different motivations, but very similar in feel, I found. Which was odd.
Ok, time to go and feed O's dog.
Today I'm leaving Heilbronn after a fun week (went to the Bodensee, Bad Wimpfen, hung out at a local festival here in Heilbronn, and went to ZKM) in Baden-Wurtemburg with Allan and Jeannette, and heading up to Kassel, to spend a couple days looking at Documenta. Then Saturday it's back to Frankfurt to catch my flight home! I probably won't have time or connectivity to blog before that, so, I'll catch up once I'm back in Tucson.
I'm back in Germany, having travelled by train from Praha 2 days ago to Heilbronn, in the southern "land" of Baden-Wurttemburg (Germany is divided into 16 "lands," like states).
My brother and his wife live here and I'm staying with them for a week. Then my last 2 days in Europe will be spent at the huge contemporary art show called Documenta, which happens in Kassel only every 5 years.
This photo is of me up in the really tall, soviet-designed tower that looms over much of Prague. I uploaded it and many more to my Flickr account yesterday and today. And yet these are only a fraction of all the photos i've taken on this trip. To organize and sort them all it will be a big job that will have to wait till I'm back home. But these that are up now will at least be a very basic overview. Enjoy.
Yesterday I travelled via train from Berlin to Praha, Czech Republic (Praha is how they call Prague in Czech, and German for that matter. I'm told that the pronuciation of "h" used to sound like "g" in Czech, that's how the discrepency happened). The train ride was pleasant, the tracks following the course of the Elbe River for much of the way so the view was pretty. The border controls were rather thorough for Europe, I thought, with police on the train looking very carefully at all the stamps in my passport. What were they looking for? Perhaps if I'd ever been to Transniestria or Chechnya they would have taken me to an empty car to interrogate me? hmm.
Anway, I'm a bit culture-shocked. Prague is a very old and busy little capitol city. Lots of things are not "westernized" and "modernized" still here, whereas Berlin feels much more converted over to western, capitalized, american ways and looks (this is not a complaint, just an explanation for why it feels stranger here). The language is also really really different. But I'm staying with my friend, fellow Iowan, and fellow cultural recycler Lloyd Dunn, of The Tape-beatles, and he's orienting me pretty well.
Right now I'm sitting in Skolska 28, a small gallery in central Praha which is going to host a screening of my video work on this coming Monday. I'll be showing a mix of artist and activistic pieces, including excerpts from my Juarez film.
I should go now, get offline and see some more of this city. I think I'll head up to Pražský hrad - Prague Castle - this afternoon.
Here's another video I edited here in Rostock from footage shot at the G8 protests. This one is just sort of an impressionaistic glance at the blockades on Wednesday.
As before you can also download via bittorrent from v2v.cc.
Tonight is my last night in Rostock. There's a huge "finissage", a closing party for the Art Goes Heiligendamm exhibit. I've had a tad too much wine and I'm totally high on a video piece co-screenwritten by Geert Lovink called One World. It's basically all animated text with very simple animation graphics all about globalization and modern info-culture. So fucking cool.
Anyway, tommorrow back to the metropolis, Berlin.
I'm typing this as I sit in the dining car of a high-speed train from Frankfurt to Berlin. I'm not online as I type this, but I thought it would be nice to jot down some thoughts while I'm having them. Or re-jot, as I 've already been jotting in my journal. [I'm editing this, slightly, by the way, as I sit in my friend's apartment in East Berlin 2 days later].
This is train is fast clean and efficient. Germany seems like a very efficient, clean, but wet place, at least today. Germans seems very quiet, proper, well-mannered, and concious of others personal space and boundaries. Maybe I'm just projecting that after hearing the story my friend Jose told me yesterday about his experience years ago in Germany, getting scolded by a train conductor for having his walkman turned up to high. Jose told that story to me over lunch in LA, which I took with him because I had a 7 hour layover on my way to Germany. The experience ended up being extravagantly expensive, mainly because I had to take a shuttle from LAX to Beverly Hills and then a taxi back to LAX. But it was a good prelude to extravagantly expensive Germany ( I just spent about $1.40 to go to the bathroom at the Frankfurt train station, for example).
I'm definitely jetlagged. I'm on hour 26 or so of a 28 hour total transit time from Tucson to Berlin. But I don't feel much worse than if I'd stayed up too late and drunk too much.
Air India was an interesting experience and made me wish I was taking the plane all the way to New Delhi rather than getting off in Frankfurt. There was Indianesque food served for dinner last night, probably the most flavorful airplane food I've had, and cheesy (though with high-production values) Hindi movies playing on the screens, which also frequently reminded the viewer that the map of the plane's route that it displayed showed "physical features only. no political borders depicted."
Ah, it looks like we're pulling into Hannover. Another nice city surrounded by green.
I'm feeling frustrated....
... frustrated to not know anything more of German (the language they speak in Germany) than how to say thank you and hello. Even "excuse me" is too hard to remember, so far. ["Enschuldigen Sie Bitte," I think] … And as usual, my brain defaults to thinking in Spanish at times like these, as if my "foreign language lobe" just automatically comes on and starts saying "perdon" and "disculpa, no entiendo"…
I sort of wish I was in Spain instead, and I definitely wish the woman I'm in love with was travelling with me, and I wish the G8 wasn't happening in Germany this year. Just to be clear, I would never travel thousands or even hundreds of miles just to go to a G8 protest or probably any other big activist "megamobilization." I have such mixed feelings about them, which I will go into later. But no, the timing of my ticket purchase was such that both my current romantic relationship and my awareness of the G8 this year had not yet kicked in.
Don't get me wrong, I'm glad I'm here, and I'm excited to be travelling again and having an adventure. But all I originally wanted to do is visit my brother and his wife in southern Germany, and my friends the Tape-beatles in Prague, and some other friends in Berlin. But now I'm on my way to what might be the biggest activist wad-shoot in years. [Will it make a difference in the big picture? Will any folk singers even be inspired enough to write something half as enduring as Against Me's popular anthem, "I'm an Anarchist, Baby" (a song which I detest)?]
I'm careening toward another cliff (it always feels like that) of long-duration international travel - a month in Germany and the Czech Republic. I'll be leaving Monday morning for Berlin and I've been scrambling to wrap up obligations, tidy my house (literally and figuratively), and gather together everthing I'll need.
Today I'm finshing up the last of about a half-dozen video projects I had to have done this week before I go, a rough edit of a piece Pan Left is doing for Wingspan.
More news as it happens or soon after. I think i'll be relatively wired, and I'll be "covering" the G8 protests, along with probably hundreds of other citizen journalists and media activists that will be there in northern germany June 2 thru 9 or so. so look for audio, video, fotos or text from me soon, full of exciting riot porn, i'm sure.
I'll also be showing some video work, including new stuff, and excerpts of my Juarez doc, at a gallery in Prague on June 18. More details on that when I get them.
In other news, the bike I've been building at BICAS is finally done and it rocks. too bad i just have this half-week to use it before i leave town.
another monday. another headache forming as i sit staring at my monitor.
interesting and fun weekend. Saw Yaqui tribal easter rituals, pretty fascinating stuff, amazing syncretism (mixing of catholic and native spiritual traditions) with crazy costumes, sacred clowns, fire, fireworks, music and dancing and parading, godparents beating off evil spirits with sticks, Judas burned at the stake in a pyre of garbage bags (yuk!), girlfriends crushing on teenage boys who dance like deers all night, old women chanting, water drums and scrapers.... and I have no photos or video or audio of any of this because recording, even sketching at these ceremonies is forbidden...
Earth First Journal annual pie party last night. yum. people/socializing overload.
amazing friendships. art, music, food, drink, dogs, love, lovemaking; coffee and juice. virus hoaxes. missing spreadsheets. need to go get groceries really badly.
and i would write more and more cleverly and clearly than this cursory stream-of-concious acccount if i could just not have this headache right now. sigh.
I have to remember that things are still really great. I'm mentioning a little bit of multiple bad luck events that kind of converged, and realizing that i tend to blog or journal more about misfortunes than good things. It will leave a wrong impression, I'm sure...
But anyway, yesterday I both lost my hat and my bike became unridable. Not at the same time, but now I have the unpleasantness of needing to walk somewhere sort of far, in the super bright sun without a hat to shield my eyes. Yeah anyway, it was crazy about my bike, I was setting off to cross a busy street and soon as I put weight on the left pedal the whole crank just broke off. just snapped. It was lucky I wasn't right in front of speeding traffic.
Anyway, at least I have a friend who i can borrow an extra bike from.
I better get going.
Lately I've been making lots of espresso with my stove-top espresso pot. It's really good coffee, even though it's decaf (whatever, man, I saw that sneer - i'm taking care of myself the best way for me, ok?). Anyway, I tried a neat experiment recently that turned out pretty good - I put a few cloves and a few cardomom pods in with the coffee grounds. Of course the trick with cardomom, always, whether in tea or whatever, is to crush the pods with the flat of a knife, so the seeds inside are exposed.
The results, something chai-like but also very much espresso. Delicious. There's all sorts of other possibilities for other spices to put in too, maybe even making tea that way (like, no coffee, just steamed spices). hmm. I'll report back on future successes. The power of steam... btw, I just talked to the proprietor of my favorite cafe in town, Shot in the Dark, and was complimenting her on how they always have liquid sugar to put in your cold drinks so it dissolves easier. A lot of cafes just are not that thoughtful. She said it's because they dont know the easy way to make it - with the steam spigot on the espresso machine! I don't know quite what that means but it sounds promising. yay, steam.
Etymology is an amazing educational tool, an enlightening tool. Last Thursday's edition of Ze Frank's vlog was mostly about revenge and forgiveness and forgetting, and it reminded me that I've been wanting to blog also about forgiveness, for awhile now. Ze says, "it's a pity the word forget was tied to forgive, it's just not that practical." Forget is fairly easy to understand, but what is forgiveness, exactly? The dictionary says it's "to grant pardon to" a person, or "to cease to feel resentment against," but these seem like 2 separate acts to me.
There's a wrongful act that someone did to me that I will never forget, ever, I predict, though I conciously think about it less and less, lately maybe only once a week or less, where it used to be, 4 months ago, about once every hour, at least. Self-help websites and books on the subject of the offense always say "you must forgive for your own sake" and I used to blindly accept that, but lately I've realized that those 2 definitions divide into one kind of forgiveness that I must enact, indeed, for my own sake - yes, I will cease to feel resentment (maybe I already mostly have... the resentment lessens all the time) - and another kind of forgiveness that I may never enact, for I don't know if I will ever "grant pardon."
Or perhaps I will, because "pardon" simply means to stop seeking punishment or penalty for an offense. Are these, these 2 things, all that forgiveness is? Well then, fine, maybe it's easier than I thought. Hmm. All of my life I thought forgiveness also meant something like "deciding that something someone did wasn't wrong after all." And I will never ever do that in this case. Perhaps the word I'm looking for is "excuse", one meaning of which is "To serve as justification for." Because it might be debatable, and the wrongdoer and other people might argue with me till the end of time, but I will never admit that this thing that was done to me was not wrong, was unavoidable, was neccesary, or was justifiable, or even was done with an appropriate regard for me and my feelings.
No. Never. Nunca. So, the transgression, it's forgivable, but it's not forgettable, and it's not excusable, and it will never not be wrong, ever. And I feel okay saying that, that is healthy enough, for me. My heart and my karma will continue to flower and grow when I forgive, but I don't feel like it will hurt me to not excuse.
So, I say to this person - and if you still read this blog you know who you are and what I'm talking about - you've done me wrong, but I no longer seek to punish you for it, and I no longer am angry, or very soon will not be; nevertheless it will always, forever, have been wrong, what you did to me.
Whew. well, shit. There's something else to talk to my therapist about tommorrow. heh.
I think I'm mostly just blogging because I haven't for quite a few days, and I'm tired of the last entry, that geek-gripe entry, sitting there festering, and I just want to go on record as saying, things are good. Really good. I'm pretty damn happy lately. Although I have been saddened by other people's sadnesses in the last little while. It seems to be hitting me harder than usual, or maybe they are of a different degree than ever before, to hear about the misfortunes and past ordeals endured by friends, especially those caused by people close to them. It just sucks that people mistreat each other so much. Especially men mistreating women. It really really sucks.
I'm sitting in a meeting of no border activists, about 40 of us, sitting, filling the main room of Dry River Infoshop and doing a roundrobin go-round of "visioning" for the No Border Camp that we're trying to organize for in November. This weekend of this Anti-Border Encuentro has been just as crazy as I expected, though of course the specific challenges and features of interpersonal dynamics have been impossible to predict or fully prepare for.
It has pretty much felt, for me, just like I do being the host of a party, a very big, 3-day long party. Whenever I host a party I get stressed and frustrated because I can't really relax and enjoy the party, I'm too busy running around making sure everyone is happy, comfortable, and entertained. Add to that being the default A/V tech nerd as usual, and you have my situation now.
(Someone just said "I don't want this to be Seattle in the Desert." )
Anyway. It's been hard also because I am someone who often needs some downtime to reflect and process and decompress. But there's so many people here, many of them very cool, very interesting people I want to spend time with, good time with. It's fascinating, just fascinating, seeing all these different people and learning about their concerns and personalities and how that relates to their activism, their involvement with this project, and the reasons for same. As I become more aware and mindful of my self and my mind in more and more of its light and dark recesses, in its fucked-up glory, I start to notice the little flickering shadows at the edges of other people's egos, behind their words and behavior. I'm not saying I'm now this hyper-enlightened wise being who's looking down at all the fucked-up damaged activists... just the opposite, I'm saying with great tenderness that I am excited and filled with awe that we are all fasincating, beautiful people with tender, broken bits, some assembly required.
"Do you think cell phones allow people to get laid more often?" I asked a friend late Friday night as we tried to contact a group of other friends who were out drinking somewhere. We were crouched on the sidewalk outside of The Buffet, one of Tucson's grottiest bars.
"Absolutely," she replied, "definitely makes booty calls easier. But it doesn't look like I'm getting laid tonite," she added as she closed her phone one last time.
None of the group were answering our (non-booty) calls. We'd been looking for them at a couple bars we thought they'd be at, but no luck. It turned out they had all turned in early when the birthday boy got too drunk to be served anywhere else, and we'd been ringing the mobiles of half a dozen already-sleeping pals. 15 years ago we would have given up an hour ago or more, and gone to our homes where our old-fashioned wired phones were, but once home we probably would have called it a night, too tired to make more plans and then venture back out again.
Computers and other modern communication technology make all sorts of new and impromptu interactions and ambitions possible. I'm overwhelmed and it's only 8am, doing 8 things at once as evidenced by the tabs open in my browser:
So, here I am with all these doorways into all these interests and ambitions feeling exhausted already. What the hell am I doing? Why can't I just focus and concentrate on one thing at a time? No wonder I can't meditate.
Oh and here's something funny in the sort-of-a-nonsequitur-but-not-really department. I fell asleep last night with my powerbook in bed; sometime during the night I must have woken up, closed it, set it back on my desk, and went back to bed, and this morning I opened it and saw that when I fell asleep I'd been just about to hit the submit button on a web translation service, to translate into English the Spanish word "chantaje" ("blackmail").
you with the tight ride with the shiny grill.
how wack is that. that you spend so much on, go into debt for,
something to get you around
something to compensate
when i already am where you want to be.
it took me 7 minutes to get home from where you drove an hour to get to
from your fancy splitlevel in the foothills or the eastside.
and i dont pay a cent to any gym, like you go to, to get my legs ripped
(to the point where women compliment me on them)
more than yours will ever be sitting in a cube 9 to 5
that you also have to drive that ride an hour to every single fucking day.
and they told you that is all there is
in this world
and they got you to believe it, somehow
that somehow out in the foothills
with your shiny grill
you'd be happy
but every friday you drive an hour down
to the cool part of town
where i and mine live 24-7
and you buy a slice of hip
like you buy everything else
(cuz they told you everything has to be bought)
after you sell your time all day all week
the only commodity you can never buy back.
ever. ever. ever.
It is cold and overcast here in the desert today. That's my random public remark for this midmorning blog post.
A friend recently started a blog of which I'm the only reader, at least so far. She hasn't told anyone else about it, as far as I know. I envy her, in a way. To have a semiprivate space like that. To post blog entries of open mystery, entries with the word "you" in them a lot. To think about how people possibly could (a thrill of risk!), but almost certainly won't (whew), see and read. But many many people read this here and I've burned and been burned at this URL too many times to assume that sort of space here.
How to make this somehow interesting to those readers not interested, or perhaps even repelled, by thoughts of more episodes of "As The Steev Turns"? Well, think of this: isn't it just freaking bizarre to think about this sort of thing in the context of 20 years ago - imagine someone in 1987 reading this. It wouldn't make any sense at all. Diaries that might also be amateur journalism, research, rants, instruction manuals, available to strangers all over the globe with a 'click' of a... what? you call that a 'link'? WTF? oh and what does WTF stand for in your crazy future world? AFAIK, it doesn't mean "'Ware The Future", but it might as well.
I will say that I just sat for an hour at Cafe Passé eating a bowl of yogurt, granola, and fruit and writing a LOT in my journal. Life is extremely interesting and really quite good. What an amazing January it was.
(Crazy For You But) Not That Crazy The Magnetic Fields Crazy Patsy Cline Crazy (Britney Spears) Richard Cheese Crazy Baldhead Bob Marley & The Wailers Crazy Horse Stereo Total Crazy Train Richard Cheese So Fucking Crazy [Metallica & Britney Spears] Wild And Crazy Dr. Octagon
This weird fluffy white stuff started falling from the sky last night during a screening of films by Bill Daniel at Dry River that I had set up. I guess this substance is called snow and is very rare in this part of the world. I and other people looked out the window in amazement and some even rushed outside to feel its cold mushyness. I think it's been many years since it last snowed in Tucson. There was even enough to start accumulating and cover up the surface of our Dry River "open" sandwhichboard sign on the sidewalk.
In other news, it was another extremely interesting weekend, but I'm not at liberty to write why here. (If you want to sneak in my house and read my journal you can learn all about it.) Meanwhile, I'm sick, fighting the early stages of a cold. Hopefully I can stop it before it gets any worse. I think i've been staying up too late and riding around in the cold too much.
Snow is sort of exciting, or rather, seeing the excitement over snow of more longtime residents is exciting, but this cold weather is not what i came to Tucson for. I'm going to have to ramp up plans to move further south or something if this keeps up or becomes normal. Last winter was much milder than this one.
Is there somewhere I can ask for my money back? hah...
Wow. A lot of social time. The centerpiece of the weekend was this huge Capricorn party at my building. There were tons of people there, an it was one of those great parties where lots of different people from different social ciricles were there, mixing together. lots of friends i knew, and new cool people i met. I floated around splitting up my time between everyone like i always end up doing when i'm a host at a party, but it was great fun. reconnected with people i havent seen in a while, and deepened other connections. And no one was hurt or horribly burned by any of the 5 bonfires! heh.
The next day I woke amazingly not very hungover and had a great little bike ride with a friend over to Frank's, my favorite Tucson greasy spoon diner, for breakfast. Then we went to the Family Art Fest and wandered around and saw lots of cheesy art and cute kids and old people doing things like tap-dancing or singing.
In the afternoon I went on a hike in the desert with some other friends and we found a secret cave with some petroglyphs in it. It was so cool, tho the walk was longer than i expected. oh well. Then there was the weekly sunday night community dinner that several of us started doing about a month ago (starting with one at my place!) There were about 30-40 people instead of 16, and many of them were strangers to most of us. So it felt not as good, like it was more of a party than a community dinner. it was less cozy and friendly. so i hope it quiets down a little now. but the food was awesome. greek theme. including homemade baklava, which was to die for.
Anyway, i started falling asleep shortly after dessert and decided to head home, then went to sleep at about 9:30. it was that kind of weekend.
So, I had a really great and exciting and interesting weekend. Well, I guess the last item I'm going to mention is not technically great, but it makes for good conversation, at least.
Saturday I went hiking with some friends. We went to Mount Lemmon, in search of snow, and boy did we find some! We trekked up and down ridges and valleys in 6 inches of the cold white stuff, at first thrilled at the novelty of this in southern Arizona, and then some of the party started getting cold feet, literally, since they didn't bring the right footwear. I had my gortex hiking boots so i was fine. We must have hiked about 6 miles, and for about 4 hours. When we got off the trail the whole mountain was crawling with families and tourists looking for snow too. we were glad we had gotten there early. Afterward we descended back into town and bought dry socks and vietnamese food for lunch. There's nothing better than working up a big appetite hiking and then eating a whole bunch.
That night I went to Calexico again, at the Rialto once again, this time playing with 2 Mariachi bands (one from a local high school) and a bunch of other guest musicians. They were SO GREAT. It made me smile a lot. I have a newfound respect and love of mariachi music now, and it was cool, as the friend I went with said afterward, how Calexico basically tricked a bunch of hipsters [and, I might add, jaded ex-hipsters like myself] to watch mariachi music. right on, that's fine with me. Anyway, these groups were literally huge and at the end both mariachi bands and all the other musicans all were on stage at once doing the last few songs. There must have been about 40 people up there.... A cool thing is that I recorded the whole show with the r9. i'll have some excerpts up here soon.
Simultaneous with that was Jessica's going away party that night, which I couldn't bear to attend, so I was glad there was such a fun other activity to go to instead, and many friends who also were there with me. But the next day, sunday, we saw each other briefly, probably for the last time ever in our lives (part of me hopes so), or at least for a long time, but it was a good, positive closure with apologies and kind words exchanged. what a crazy 8 months it has been. But I'm doing better every single day, I am not kidding you.
That night was another awesome community dinner; i helped Maryada and Walt cook stuffed peppers and it was a lot of fun. then I went over to the Pan Left studio to do some digital-to-analog and analog-to-digital dubbing, and in the process I somehow hit my head on the wall and started bleeding and it hurt a lot and was scary. The gash on my head still looks really bad, worse than it feels or is. I thought about maybe that I would pass out and die there and the other panlefties would find my body there monday night when they came to the next meeting. But no, I'm fine. I think I'm going to tell people i got in a fight and someone broke a beer bottle on my head. pssst, don't tell anyone the truth....
Now it's definitely a monday and I have that frantic agitated monday mood, to-do lists exploding on me like IEDs on a Baghdad roadside. sigh....
I am such a fucking idiot. I flew back to Tucson tonight, and of course they lost my luggage, and of course I left my keys in one of my checked bags. My flight got in on time at 2:30 am, so I didn't ask anyone to pick me up, was just planning to take a cab. It's way too early to bother my landlord to let me in my place, though. So, I guess i'm just going to camp here in the airport for a few hours. Lesson learned.
Of this bardo I've been in. I can feel it. Last night was the longest night of the year, but things will now only get better. I am confident of that fact.
Man I've never thought of this, to be honest, but it really sucks that my birthday (tommorrow) is so close to the winter solstice. I've never felt this way before. I've always thought it sucks that it's so close to Christmas, but what really matters now is the darkness, for me. And sitting here in eastern Iowa I have not seen the sun in 3 or 4 days. Argh. I need more photons.
Tucson is an improvement on this problem over anywhere else i've lived, but I think I'd really like to live somewhere near the equator. Sometimes people say oh but then you wouldn't get the really long days in the summer, but it's just not really worth it to me. I'd rather just have 12/12 year round day/night. To hell with the extremes.
Being back in my place of origin during the dark days of the winter holidays for very long is like being in somewhere haunted. i inevitably at least think of ghosts, or go looking for them, and looking for ghosts sometimes actually turns up a few. more news as it happens...
So, here I am getting personal again. I can't help it. Things are extremely tough for me right now. But I recently found this really great site that's very helpful to me at this time. If you want to hear more about it, click the read more link below....
The site is http://www.soyouvebeendumped.com
Yeah. If you know me well you already know, Jessica dumped me recently. If you don't, well.... now you know. Anyway at this great site I just read this in the discussion forum about whether you can stay friends with an ex:
My ex started talking about being friends from the exact moment that he dumped me and he thought that all it took was some time apart. What dumpers don't seem to perceive is that although they may still "love us as friends" and still have the same perception of our personality (he told me that his opinion of me had not changed, he just didn't love me anymore) our perception of them changes dramatically due to the break up. All of a sudden you see their cowardice, unability to communicate etc. But most of all they have let you down and hurt you. The dumper just doesn't see that the enormity of the betrayal is what makes friendship difficult.
how is it, that people so committed to making the world a better place can still do each other so much harm? that the very people who tell themselves they are so concious of what is right and wrong do each other wrong? without even trying? what possible hope can there be for the world when even we are doing that to each other? what hope is there?
You know you're doing something right, I think, when your own mother tells you, on the basis of your current facial hair configuration, that you look like Lucifer. Especially when she's pretty religious. That's really something.
Today I read this notebook i found in my old journals that i'd forgotten about. it was a group journal that me and my housemates kept in this cool house i lived in in Ann Arbor in 1990-1991. 1001 South State Street. it was such a cool group of guys and we did lots of, uh, chemical mental enhancements all the time and jammed all the time and painted and wrote poetry and talked talked talked and we were all 4 of us really reaching for truth, or wisdom, or something. and this notebook is full of us just going back and forth about all this deep stuff, trying to figure stuff out. and also just stoned ramblings. but it's kind of amazing to read. a lot of it is just silly pretentious bullshit but some of it is really good, and all of it is just touching, to see how we were really trying so hard, in our own naive way, to enlighten ourselves or whatever.
It makes me want to find all those guys and send them photocopies of the whole thing. i've lost touch with them all. Mike Alter, Eric Burkehalter, and Dave Tomsic. I wonder where they all are now and what they're doing. I guess I'll probably google them in a minute, these friends I knew 9 years before Google existed.3 years before the Web existed. Sigh.
"...but we just talked about.. the people we've met in the last 5 years, and will we remember them in 10 more...." (Death Cab For Cutie)
Saturday night was incredible for many reasons, not the least of which was that I finally saw Calexico play. They're an incredible 'border band' from Tucson that packs a huge hall every year with an annual holiday show.
They're about to go on tour, so if they come to your town I strongly suggest going to see them.
Here's a photo I took with my new phone. It doesn't do too bad, especially compared with my old new phone, which died on me 2 months in because it was a blackmarket ebay scam. grr.
The new phone also takes pretty good video, for a phone (wouldn't this sound insane 20 years ago? Your phone is a video camera? what?!). This is a clip i shot out the window of my plane landing in Denver, on my way to Iowa (which is where I'm at now).
Speaking of video on phones, in the wake of bluetoothing that above video over to my powerbook I decided to encode my "steev live gig promo video" to the right format so i could play it on my phone. y'know, like an icebreaker at parties. "hi, i'm steev, this is what i do as an artist." (flips open phone, presses play)
Wow, I had such a great 4-day Thanxgiving weekend! It was so much fun. I went with friends to San Carlos, which is a little town on the coast of Sonora, Mexico, on the Sea of Cortez. It's about 20 km, I think, from Guaymas, if you're trying to find it on a map. It's only about 5 hours drive pretty much straight south of Tucson. San Carlos is a little bit resort-like, mainly geared toward retired gringo condo owners. However, it's not terribly built up and cheesy, like Rocky Point, and there's not a lot of development for tourists. It's just a little get away spot for rich elderly, although the beaches there are public and easily accessible, so anyone can be there. There ended up being about 12 of us, who mostly camped on the beach but we had access to a condo owned by the lawyer of one of the friends that went.
It was so beautiful, and warm, and just really fun hanging out with cool people and getting away from Tucson. Swimming, boating (one friend brought his small catamaran sailboat!), hiking down the beach, drinking a lot, eating a lot, singing songs around the campfire, and just being with cool friends. I haven't had a weekend or a thanxgiving (for sure) this good in a long long time. I took a lot of good photos.
Not only that, but I actually "finished" my novel while I was there! 4 days early! I somehow managed to write over 10,000 words while in San Carlos, while also drinking a lot, relaxing a lot, swimming and lying on the beach and also reading a lot of a great book about screenwriting and Hollywood that I've been reading.
I put finished in quotes because although I've passed the 50,000 word goal, The story isn't quite done. I have the climactic final chapter to write. Which I still plan to do in the next 3 days. Then it will really be done. In fact, I'm going to sit here and write that last chapter right now as I sit in Shot in the Dark Cafe, having just finished an energizing breakfast burrito.
Yesterday morning when I finished it I broke out 2 bottles of champagne (well, Chilean sparkling wine) that I bought in Guaymas on Friday, and we all celebrated. It was really fun working on the book while I was at this outing with friends, because they all supported me, asking me every day, or even more often, how I was doing, what my word count was, and being really interested and encouraging. While drinking the champagne they even patiently listened to me reading an excerpt, and many said they liked it and looked forward to reading the whole thing.
Friends are so important.
As the dawn began to break - I had to surrender
The universe will have its way - too powerful to master
Oh-oh-oh-what is love and what is hate?
And why does it matter? - is to love just a waste??
And how can it matter?
--The Flaming Lips, In The Morning Of The Magicians
It was time for a change. I shaved off most of my beard yesterday. This has been 7 months or so of experimenting with facial hair. Mostly because of a woman.
So, ladies, what do you think?
Someone told me Mercury has been in retrograde for a long time. someone else 2 weeks ago said Scorpio was in retrograde, and that was even worse than Mercury. I don't usually believe in astrology but the Merucry in Retrograde thing always seems to be be pretty right on. everything has been going wrong. people, friends of friends, dying, getting really sick, and other personal stuff, communication stuff, just getting completely fucked up. i wish it would stop. of course there's pain and suffering everywhere all the time, maybe the curse of our information overloaded age is that we now can know really soon when something bad happens, anywhere to anyone.
The good news is I had a really nice afternoon yesterday having a long bike ride with a new friend and then getting ice cream. We rode along the Rio Rillito bike trail, which i haven't done in awhile, and we we had some really great conversations, talking the entire time about really interesting stuff. life stuff, relationship stuff. it was really good, just what i needed.
Then I went to an early party and that was fun but by 830 i was falling asleep, because i've been only getting 2 to 4 hours of sleep for the last few nights. I was literally nodding off in a chair while people were trying to talk to me about Joe Strummer and reggae. So I went home and went to bed at about 10. ended up getting about 4 1/2 hours last night. I just can't stop thinking about... about this bullshit i'm going through that I can't write about here. I need some sedatives. I need a therapist. Argh...
Mercury, please start going forward again. please.
Why is it that when someone causes you emotional suffering, even if unintentional, the reflex is to respond, perhaps after initial grief, with anger?
Well, it's actually pretty easy to answer that, I think. It's just a simple defense mechanism, like with physical pain. You look around to see what caused it, like for instance, a car running over your foot, and your adrenalin rushes, fight or flight, and you respond, with rage. whether it's accidental or not, it's a matter of survival.
And anger turns to hate and hate turns to rash actions, evil things that people shouldn't do to each other.
I have been fighting that. The urge to respond, to intense feelings of sadness and loss and loneliness, with spite and vindictiveness and vengance is so strong in me this past 3 days. I have never ever felt so.... like on the verge of becoming an evil man. Like I am on a knife edge of ethical judgement, and I could fall that way and become a bad person, or the other way and remain good, like I have always considered myself to be. The past faith in goodness and compassion and giving people the benefit of the doubt is the only thing that pulls me back from the abyss.
But I realized today that it feels better to be nice to someone, to care for someone, to do them a favor, than to be vindicative and hateful and damaging.
I'm trying to use my novel for catharsis, having the characters act out the alternate worlds where I go out and do the wrong thing. It seems to be helping.
Sigh. Wish me luck.
Warning, Personal stuff alert!
Something bad and sad has happened in my life. Again. No more detail than that. Sorry.
But, I refuse to let it get to me as it has before. Because it's now just going to become grist for the rest of my novel! I have seen the overall metaplot of my novel now, because of this sad thing i've found out today, I know where the novel is really going now, and it is going to KICK ASS. It's already been going really really well. In fact this new idea just fits perfectly into the novel as it is so far already. As you can see from the meter over at the right side, I'm almost up to 17,000 words! only 33k to go... I just hope the sadness doesn't overwhelm my creative jolt and make me just stop writing the thing. Wish me luck. I'll need it. This novel may be the only thing that keeps me sane now.
Caught a cold last week but had been successfully fighting it, but it came on in full force while I was in Las Vegas this weekend. Have felt like crap from midday Saturday on.
However, it was a great conference. The national war tax resistance conferences always leave me re-inspired and re-invigorated. There is more and more interest and committment to the idea of using video more, to outreach about the movement. So that's promising. I also did go out and see The Strip, and was predictably repulsed by it, though in a way more just blah about the whole thing. It was almost disappointingly banal and boring despite the surreal excess of it. Vegas is like the USA times 100. It was interesting to hear from residents and others in the know that were at the conference that Vegas has given up on their efforts to make the place more family-friendly. Now the motto is "what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas," and it's drifting back to being meant for adults - and very high income adults.
Vegas was segregated till 1968, and even star black performers like Lena Horne and Sammy Davis Jr. were required to enter through the back doors of clubs they were performing at, and then go to the west side afterward to sleep. The conference was held in this area, at the Catholic Worker compound, in a neighborhood that was like an urban ghost town. This is because after segregation ended, those that could moved out. Just a 5 minute drive from the glitz of the Strip, this neighborhood was deserted and filled with boarded up storefronts and churches. Amazing.
Despite being sick I have been keeeping on task with the novel, and am up to 10,000 words. We'll see if I can continue the pace and get healthy again this week.
sitting at Tucson airport waiting for my flight. I'm off to Las Vegas for another semi-annual meeting of War Tax Resisters, which rotates around to different cities every time. This one is hosted by the local Catholic Worker chapter - btw i recently found out the Catholic Workers have a sort of anarchist political leaning, which is pretty coo - and I look forward to my first actual stay in Las Vegas being for an activist cause. I hope I also get to witness the Baudrillardian simulacra splendor of Sin City (actually I'm not sure if that's a nickname for Vegas or somewhere else) a little bit, just to say I've been there and seen it.
I'm bringing 2 cameras and a bunch of indymedia literature to distrubute at the conference and do a little video workshop. A significant part of the agenda is going to be about a new WTR documentary that a small committee has been talking about for over a year now. This is an exciting development, because this movement needs some modern, visionary video made about it and spread far and wide to new demographics.
In other news, I'm up to over 7000 words on my novel. It's flowing well, but everyone says the first week is relatively easy... have to keep plugging away and not rest on laurels, because it's supposed to get harder next week. Yesterday I also received the National Novel Writing Month 'handbook' that I ordered from Powell's, "No Plot? No Problem?" - I should have bought it a month ago, but I'm finding that most of the preparations and pre-month advice it gives are things I've already done or known about. A lot of the book is just emphasising that the Month is about giving yourself, 'normal' people, the 'permission' to be creative, to be a 'writer' or an 'artist'... i've been lucky enough to have been giving myself that permission, and getting that permission from family and friends, all my life, so a lot of the advice in the book is sort of unneccesary for me. I think the main danger for me is taking my novel too seriously, forgetting that this is not about writing a GREAT novel, just about writing SOME novel, and a first draft at that.
As of today I have lived in Tucson for exactly 1 year.
here is the blog post i wrote when i first arrived, halloween night last year.
I should add that I really like Tucson and lately I've been feeling really happy about living here.
Last weekend I went, along with 70 or so other Tucson gringos, to a stop on the Zapatista Other Campaign's tour, the closest point to Tucson that they will be, just outside of Magdalena, Sonora, Mexico, about an hour south of the border. It was an amazing time. It felt like a historic moment, and also a bit like a Beatles concert. The photo on the right is the car that Subcommandante Marcos rides in. When he got out, he was immediately surrounded by a cloud of photographers and videographers and other media people.
I don't have the energy to write a whole lot about it. But there is plenty of journalism out there about it.
I met a really cool woman from Australia who's travelling with La Otra and who does pirate radio with Radio Pacheco in D.F. I saw them selling pirated activist DVDs and I gave them a copy of my DVD and told her she could copy and burn and sell it at will. I hope my label doesn't get mad about that. hah... I also gave her another copy to give to Marcos, along with a note that I wrote in completely crappy spanish (I realized later). oh well. Anyway she gave me a copy of her zine and it's an amazing piece of writing, relating her experiences being a white anglo woman radical activist in Mexico. It's called Fire with Fire.
Life has been personally very trying again but definite progress is being made by me, and I'm handling stuff a lot better than before because the response to the badness is something chosen mutually by me and her. I feel like things are going to work out. When I think about it I realise over and over that my life has been so much better, so deliriously better than I ever dreamed previously, over the last 7 months, only punctuated by a few days or a week here and there of sadness, but mostly just so awesome, that to be bummed and expect stuff is just stupid and arrogant and spoiled. How can one demand more when you've been given a gift like that? If it all goes away this second i'm still so much richer for the last 7 months.
I'm in the tiny ex-mining town of Bisbee tonite, because this stuff going on had me feeling the need to do something different and semi-impulsive and just get out of Tucson, even if for just a night and even if just alone. And there's a totally suitable cafe with wireless where i can work from just as well as if i was in Tucson. It's a cool little town. I've been here twice before. Kind of this weird bohemian pocket in the midst of desert mountains, tucked into a little canyon, the remnants of copper mining riches decorating the place - glorious old hotels and mansions and other public displays of wealth, now reduced to tourist attractions.
Tonite in my room I plan to do one more session of DJing practice, preparing for a dance party at Dry River I'm "spinning" for tommorrow night (I put that in quotes because i'll be all on laptop, nothing is spinning but the harddrives, i guess). It should be pretty fun. I'm going by the moniker of DJ Altermundista - literally "DJ Otherworlder"....
Why doesn't anyone know how to make a freaking cappuccino around here? Godammit. Even more annoying is nobody seems to think there's any difference between one and a latte around here. they give you the same thing, a substandard latte, whether you order a latte or a cappuccino. WTF?
Okay, on that note, I need to stop. good night.
For some reason i'm blogging a lot today. hmm.
anyway, a list of random stuff that has happened this week:
I've been thinking about something for weeks. In the meditation class I've been taking, which i mentioned a couple posts back, Will, the teacher, has mentioned a few times a really compelling metaphor for behaviors or activities in our lives that we think are good for us, that we think are giving us pleasure, but in the long run are really bad for us. The metaphor is licking honey off of a razor blade. I like this idea and that image so much, I will probably name a film or an album or something after it. It's very true, that we have things in our lives that at the time seem so good, and then later we realize we were doing ourselves harm, that we've given ourselves a painful cut that we could not feel at the time.
I've been wondering, trying to decide if a certain major feature of my life for the last 6 months, one addiction, if that qualifies as honey on a razor blade. The honey has been so sweet, but the time it takes for the cut to start hurting after each lick has started to decrease. I've been starting to wonder if the whole thing needs to stop, if the net pleasure, when accounting for the pain, the extreme pain, is not really large enough to make it a wise thing to be still doing.
Meditation is supposed to bring much greater clarity to our awareness of this hidden blade in the honey; it brings closer together the realization of true reality, makes us see, without even using willpower or the intellect or moral rationalizing, that something is bad for us. Whereas before, one might say, oh, yeah, I know sugar isn't healthy, but i'll just have one more brownie, after a certain level of meditation, we just see the sugary foods for what they really are and are just not interested. No willpower required any more.
Despite being in this class, I've found it difficult to meditate lately. My mind is so agitated. But i think I need to start doing it with more dedication, just to maintain a grip on sanity, and to get myself to stop licking that sweet, sweet, razor blade - or, perhaps, to realize that in fact it isn't a razor blade, but is just part of life, part of the hard work of being a human being that is around other human beings. Or maybe there's a totally different truth i haven't even thought of yet.
Time will tell which conclusion is correct.
Last night I went to the second co-counselling discussion group at Dry River. I missed the first one but I'm totally psyched about it now. Basically co-counselling is just listening and talking to each other about personal stuff, rather than, or I guess in addition to, paying some psychiatrist $80 and hour to listen. We live in such a repressed society that this idea seems revolutionary, but its natural for community to support us in our struggles through life. Of course i keep mentioning as an antecedent the project done by some friends a few years ago called unlicensedtherapist.com,
In addition to that, I've been thinking about and appreciating all the other things I've been doing in an effort to work on myself as a person. Back in late June I made a pledge to do that, and I'm making some progress.
I've been going to this great meditation class called "Meditation for Drunks, Rockstars, and the Rest of Us." It's a really down-to-earth class without all the new age trappings and the guy teaching it is really funny and great.
I've also been going to yoga again, though not as often. I'm doing stretches every morning, or almost every one. And I have plans to do some dietary stuff that i think will make me a lot healthier. Oh, and I pretty much cut out caffeine since early July.
Lots of work left to do but it's a gradual process.
Today is Jessica's 26th birthday, so I thought I would post this incredibly cute photo of her recent meeting with a new suitor:
I guess I could get jealous but I feel that I'm likely quite capable of having a radical relationship involving myself, her, and this prince. One never knows what the future may bring.
Happy birthday, Jess.
Well, stuff kind of sucks lately. Like, in the last week things have just suddenly taken a downturn. It was so sudden and all at once, I'm just kind of reeling with shock, especially because it and the resolution of it are pretty much completely out of my control. I Ultimately think it will turn out okay. It's just bad timing and so sudden, and I'm so totally helpless to effect the outcome, that I am having a hard time dealing with it. My concious mind says, yeah, ok, i can understand and accept this, but my lizard brain, my gut-brain, is saying oh god this is horrible i don't think i can live through this.
It's not stuff I want to go into detail about. I guess if it wasn't for the fact that I haven't blogged for a week, I would not even bother with this. But I have nothing else to blog about because I'm so upset. And yet I don't want to do that whole public moaning and whining that I did before back in June. It's not as bad as that, anyway. Although compared to how GOOD things have been up till a week ago, it's relatively pretty damn bad.
I guess the positive things to say are:
i'm having a little last day of summer mojito micro-party at my place tonite. it will be the first gathering of more than 2 people in my apartment. Should be fun.
Also, I have to mention that I am completely knocked off my socks and brought to the edge of tears just by the trailer for "Science of Sleep". Maybe it's because of my currently emotionally raw state, but I just think it's so touching and beautiful, I can't hardly wait to see it. And I'll probably cry all the way through it. What's wrong with me? And I never ever feel this way about mainstream hollywood films.
The wedding we went to in Portland last weekend was great, and fun. I'm dragging my feet on posting my photos because I'm waiting for approval from a certain shy someone, but Petr has posted some photos Pepper took, including a funny one of me and Jessica. In the meantime you can also look at the photos of my new place, which I just finished moving into.
Well, I finally found a place to live. It's the coolest single-person place I've looked at and it's in the coolest neighborhood in Tucson, Dunbar-Spring. Two months ago I was leery of that neighborhood, because it's the ground zero of "the soap opera" I have written so much about. But things have changed for the better for me with respects to that soap opera, (and one of the main, unwilling, stars of it, who is also the special co-star of my personal movie right now). Besides, why should I suffer and exile myself from the best neighborhood in town just because some petty gossips live there too? That's no way to live.
So, I'm going to move in next week, I guess, after I get back from Portland. It has been nice staying with friends the last few weeks but it will definitely be great to have a place and unpack and get organized. I feel like a few important things have been held back because I've been living out of a backpack in a corner of someone else's home.
I'm posting this from a spare cube in an office on the 26th floor of a big big building in Universal City, Los Angeles, California. Like magic I find myself here though I woke up 10 hours ago in Tucson. I'm here for the launch party of the website I've been helping to build for the last 4 months.
It is 80 and breezy here in LA and sunny and beautiful.
I've been busy:
Anyway. Will try to post about the party or whatever else is interesting, soon. chao...
Wow I've been too busy to blog for the last few days, since getting back from Feral Visions, but I am back and feeling great. I had a great time up on Mount Graham at 10,000 feet for 3 days. It was so beautiful and wonderful. Except that the Forest Service goons harrassed us pretty hard.
The time out there inspired me for some reason to fast on Tuesday and part of yesterday. I feel pretty great now. Sometime soon I want to do a fast for the real recommended 3 days. Really detox myself.
Working a lot on work-work this week. The site I've been coding for is launching Friday. It's actually already soft-launched, but no public announcements have gone out. Next week I'm flying out to LA for the launch dinner party, Just for a night. I've never done that, that I can remember, just jet-setting out to somewhere for so little time, but they're paying for it, so, fine.
Gotta remember to take all my gels and liquids out of my bag before I go, I guess. damn.
Went bowling last night. It was my first time in awhile. The friends I went with call it "Guys Night Out." Which meant, I found out, that whenever anyone wasn't bowling a frame they were talking about relationships. It was fun and kinda good but kinda odd too, cuz it was a very male way of talking about relationships. I haven't decided if I want to repeat the experience.
By the way I noticed on the activity log that someone was searching for the word "girlfriend" on this blog the other day. Someone in Tucson. Kinda interesting. Not that I just sit and check my logs all day. no really.
Jessica gets back from New York tommorrow, which makes me happy. She was there doing some indymedia stuff. I won't go into the details. I think I need to watch more what details of others' lives I write about here, even if I'm all about being totally open with mine.
Is it possible to respect someone too much? I don't really think so.
I've been on the fence about going to the Feral Visions Gathering, an annual primitivist get-together put on by Green Anarchy magazine, with a week of workshops and skillshares that is this year up on top of Mt. Graham, a sky island (which is basically an alpine ecosystem surrounded by a sea of desert). This is a 3-hour drive from Tucson. It's going to be a lot of gas money, and it's going to be crazy cold up there at night, and it might be really wet too. But it might be super awesome. John Zerzan and Chellis Glenndinning and other luminaries of the neo-primitive will be there. Not that I really call myself a green anarchist. But I've been interested in learning some stuff, some survival skills and whatnot.
So, anyway, yeah. I dunno. If I go I'll leave tommorrow (saturday) and be gone till wednesday morning, so that will be why you won't see emails or blogging from me in that time.
Yesterday, my first day back to Tucson, I went over to Jessica's old house where my most valuable posessions were stored. They were there and not in my storage space because they're stuff that is sensitive to heat; DVDs, CDs, and videotapes, and electronics, like cameras and hard drives.
Well, it turns out that during my month away, the toilet backed up in the bathroom adjacent to the room whose closet held my stuff, and water flowed out of the bathroom and across the floor of the bedroom. Jessica and her housemate thought
it did not reach into the closet, but when I arrived and started loading stuff into the truck to take somewhere else (because they're moving out), I realized they were wrong. Who would have thought I would be a victim of a flood, in Tucson?
To my horror, one end of the closet had been a little lower in elevation, encouraging the water to flow in and slightly soak the bottoms of 2 boxes. This flood was not deep. Apparently just a big shallow slick of water. But the cardboard of the boxes wicked the moisture up, which then in the heat turned the interior of the boxes into a miniature sauna. Every single piece of paper or paper product (like j-cards of miniDV tapes, other boxes, paper sleeves of CDs, etc) became slightly moist. One box was full of copies of my film, DVDs wrapped individually in shrinkwrap, so I'm not worried about those. But the other was full of about 3 years worth of raw footage from all sorts of finshed or unfinished video projects. I was terrified when I opened up that box.
I still have not had the heart to actually test any of the discs or tapes. Again, nothing was soaked. Just sort of bathed in a steam bath. Condensation was on lots of tape covers, but it was impossible to tell from visual inspection whether the tapes or discs were actually damaged. I opened up all the tape cases and laid them out to dry with a fan blowing on them.
Hopefully I have not lost anything, or anything important. There's easily 60 hours of stuff there!
1) I seem to sleep less and less, wake up earlier and earlier, the further south I go. In Portland I was sleeping in till 7:30 or 8. 6:30 or so In SF. And now I'm back to my usual 5 or 5:30 here in LA. Is it really the sun or the heat? There are holes in that theory. For instance, it's still fully dark out right now. There are surely other factors
2) I'm geeky enough that I can use my computer to tell how late I stayed up. When I wake up I often don't remember when I went to bed. But if I open my Powerbook, it takes a second for the clock to update, and I can see what time it was when I closed it right before turning in. Hence I know I was up till about 1230. And here I am up at 5. What's wrong with me?
3) With the help of a conversation with a friend just before calling it a night last night I realized I need a vacation. It might seem weird coming from someone who's just been travelling the west coast for a month. In a way I'm so ready for this to be over but I'm also so ready to just keep travelling. But I'm pretty sure that I need to travel with no justifying reason to it. Every time I go anywhere it's always, technically, a working holiday - going because it's related to some activist project or work-work. I should go on a trip that's totally just for me. Otherwise I'm just going to totally burn out some day, I fear. It has come to the point, I believe, that my own happiness and sanity is now a justifying rationale, and that's okay.
After 5 days in San Francisco I have now zipped down to the City of Angels on a plane and am ensconced in the Los Feliz home of friends José and Ana. It was an extremely short flight without incident. The Burbank airport is extremely small and convenient to here.
San Francisco was great, for the most part. The two screenings went really well. One was attended by less than I expected, and one by more, so things evened out, I guess. The first one had some music beforehand by 2 of the musicians who did the soundtrack. So it was interesting because some fans of theirs came, and then there were people who came just to see the film, and I'm happy to kind of mix up those 2 demographics and jostle some expectations. Sadly most progressive activist types are culturally regressive, in my experience, so the music was a little "challenging" to some people. oh well.
It was really nice being back in SF. I got to spend one great afternoon at the beach with a friend. Put my DVD on consignment at 3 different places. Saw several people again that I like to spend time with. Sadly one person that I most wanted to see refused to see me, and that made me sad. She's my ex who has continued being my good friend for 4 years since we broke up, but now it looks like we won't be friends anymore and that sucks. I only got a couple hours of sleep last night because I was upset about that and talking to other friends about it all night. Tough times.
Well, now to explore the neighborhood. I want to see if I can impress myself with L.A. this time. I lived here for a year, 10 years ago, and didn't like it, but I think I just didnt go to the right parts, maybe.
Today I'm catching an Amtrak train down the coast to San Francisco. I've had a really great time here in Portland. Now it's time to go once again.
A brief list of what's been happening in the last 36 hours or so:
This hilarious and really well-done "safety instructions"-style set of cartoons documents an officespace revolution and its feral aftermath. Highly recommended.
Jessica returned from one wilderness the other day and this morning headed back into another one. I was able to have a couple long, great phone conversations with her in the 36-hour or so gap, and now she's out of reach for another 12 days. sigh. i suppose it's for the best. if she was reachable i'd probably be calling her all the time.
Meanwhile in Portland I have another couple days to try to meet up with a few more friends and compañeros before I head to San Francisco. I've been having a great time hanging out with people, catching up, and having lots and lots of great talks about relationships, life, and the world.
Did you know: in the Grand Canyon, the water in the river rises and speeds up in the summer and in a daily and weekly cycle based on the electriciy usage of consumers throughout the southwest? River rafters enjoying the isolation of the canyon depths are actually affected every day by the air conditioners and home theater systems of suburbanites in Las Vegas and Phoenix. Sometimes they even need to stop for a day, ahead of schedule from the river running too fast, because more water has to be let through the dams to generate more power. Is that crazy or what?
Just a brief entry to note that it is SOOOOO beautiful here today. It's one of those absolutely perfect summer Portland mornings. I rode Mykle's bike around town, met Laurel for breakfast, and lazily made my way to the office that I'm using to work from. It's a place rented by the geek friends I used to work with here. Riding around, I felt this repeating surge of emotion; it was so beautiful out, the sun was shining so wonderfully, the city so full of lush greenness, so diffferent than the harsh brown desert. it made me feel like crying. I guess I'm still really emotionally raw. I'm having so much fun here with my old friends and its so beautiful here, I just find myself wishing that somehow I could live here, but I know I can't because the weather is only this beautiful for about 8 weeks out of the year, and the rest of the time i just can't handle the rain and cold. It just makes me so sad because in all other respects Portland is so damn cool. I almost can't stand it.
anyway, i gotta get some work done.
Tuesday night I went to a great July 4 party, a casual fundraiser for Pan Left. It was right at the base of A Mountain, where the firewords get launched from. Great music, lots of cool people, and right after the fireworks ended, another summer monsoon storm kicked up and dumped rain. Luckily there were various tent-thingies set up for the party, so the band played on, kicking out CCR's "Who'll Stop the Rain" while many crazy Tucsonans danced with joy at the rare liquid falling from the sky. I got out there and got wet but eventually felt cold and went under the audience tent which soon got moved to be right next to the band tent. Several songs later the dancing turned into mud wrestling. I abstained from that, but it was hilarious to watch and I got some good photos.
James, whose house it was that was hosting the party, was the leader of the band, Pat Riot and the Flaggots. The rhythm section is also in a local band called Golden Alphabet, if that connects to anybody's personal network out there (only 2 or 3 Tucsonans, none of them particularly into the music scene, read this thing, that I know of, so I don't know why I'm bothering, but oh well). Anyway, they were awesome. They had some very creative country/bluegrass covers, like one of "I Want You To Want Me" by Cheap Trick.
Anyway, it was a great last night in Tucson for me. Yesterday I flew to Portland for the start of my odyssey down the west coast. It is chilly and overcast here, but I welcome that now as a break from the tripledigit swelter of Tucson, for a bit (i'll still be disappointed if its like this every day), and I'm so happy to be here. I'm staying with my friends Mykle and Gesine and I'm excited about hanging out with them and all my other friends. My screening is this Saturday at St. Francis Church.
Still so much drama, over the telephone now, soap opera or an imagined part of it continuing, causing worry and fear, then receding, being recognized as wild conclusions jumped to from ignorance of the full facts. Hopes and fears battling to the death with rationales and justifications.
Thank God, or whatever part of us we feel is Eternal*, that she's going to be somewhere with no phones and no cellphone reception and no internet, out in a forest in Virginia, for the next week so we can both get some kind of clear thinking and reflecting done. The Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle of Feelings is causing major havoc.
I feel like we're both blindfolded in a huge dark room feeling around for something, I don't even know what I'm looking for (for the door or for her?), and I'm yelling to her asking where the door is but she doesn't know either and she also doesn't know where she is and she keeps yelling out reminding me of that, which just makes me even more lost.
And I always complain about drama and everyone pretty much complains about it but how many people really secretly like it? I bet there's a lot, probably the ones who complain the loudest about it. Maybe I'm even one of them. Maybe it's just another thing to consume, something else to use to try desparately to fill the aching empty howling void in our souls gouged out by our sick society.
Meanwhile during all this distraction I still have work to do and various errands to complete before I leave town in 2 days and goddamit I totally forgot to make a call I needed to make before the end of the day. dammit dammit dammit.
Oh and in other news did y'all know that Rod Coronado's 40th birthday is today?
As I mentioned yesterday, Jessica and I camped out in the desert Friday night and then got up at sunrise to gather the fruit of the saguaro cactus. Photos are now on my Flickr page.
It was a really fun and new experience for me. Iconic of Arizona, the saguaro is still a really strange plant to me even after I've lived here for 8 months. In the spring, little green pods start growing on their tops, and then big white waxy flowers bust out, and then the flower dry out and in June the pods turn sort of reddish and they start cracking open. They'll do this until the summer monsoon rains really get going.
So people have been going out and harvesting. I expressed interest in it recently and so Jessica took me to a place she knew. It was really cool and fun, and it was great to be out there first thing in the morning as the sun rose. It's sort of a neat couple thing to do, because it's really a teamwork thing. one person to wield a long pole, usually 2 pieces of cactus rib (the bone-like structures of the saguaro that is left over after it dies and dries up) tied together with twine to form a long enough tool, and one person to hold a bucket. The pole person gently taps and nudges at a ripe fruit pod until it breaks off and then the bucket person catches it. Sometimes the gooey fruit inside comes out as it falls and splatters all over, so in the end we were both spattered with little gobs of dark red goo. It's a pretty sensual fruit - a really juicy pulpy mass about the size of a large strawberry, inside the green-red rind/shell, full of crunchy little seeds, and really sweet, getting sweeter as the season progresses. They also dry out a little and get easier to eat as the summer goes on.
I'm really glad we went, it was a really nice thing to do together on our last morning before we were to part for 30 days. Anyway, check out the cool pics.
Well, it's weird, there's so many people leaving town lately, people I know in the community here. I've never encountered this before, this ridiculous summer exodus. I'm leaving in 4 more days, I timed my departure so I could go to a big anti-July 4 party that should be fun, but I wish I could split now. I just feel deserted and lonely. I have a friend who always tries to hang up the phone first when ending a call, so that she doesn't have to hear that lonely click and then silence when the other person hangs up. I feel like I'm sitting there with the phone in my hand listening to that click and that silence. The subculture, the scene, whatever, just hung up on me.
Reminds me of something Daniela said the other night: "There were times when I thought the Universe broke up with me."
Jessica's gone. She left for Flagstaff this morning. The nice thing is that we spent the night in the desert and then harvested saguaro fruit at sunrise (a really nice and amazing experience which I will blog about later with photos), then went back home and did some more fun stuff quickly and then, she drove off. I won't see her for a month. She's going to a family get-together, then going to the Earth First! Rendezvous in Virginia, and then on a river rafting trip down the Grand Canyon. And after that, when she's back and i'm back, things will be hopefully really really different - at least in my head. If they're not, I fear that I may have to leave Tucson for good. The soap opera is continuing, and at this point I feel like it will be unbearable (There's even a geographic ground zero for the soap opera, it's the hippie-bubble neighborhood of Tucson called Dunbar-Spring - and she just signed the lease on an apartment there! arrrgh!!).
But In a big way, this break is a big blessing. I need to get over her, get over a lot of things that have me in a funk lately, and get on with my life. And this absence and travelling will help with that immensely. Need to get OUT of here and clear my head. and heart.
But for now I have 4 nights to spend alone in her house. Her housemates are out of town too. I moved out of my place yesterday and put all my stuff in storage for my trip. Really needed to get out of that place anyway. That's another whole blog entry. But anyway, it seemed like a convenient thing to do, and in a way it'll be nice, having their place to myself, but it'll be sad, too. In retrospect I should have crashed at someone else's. oh well.
Luckily there's still quite a bit going on around here to keep me occupied. The people left behind are still working away on cool stuff. Dry River has a new space and we have a meeting to talk about the focus of the space and what we've learned from the old location over the past 8 months. There are 2 parties tonite, and then the party on the 4th, another meeting tommorrow night, and of course I have all sorts of paid and unpaid digital chores to do for various people and groups, and some last preparations for my trip. Sigh. If I can just stay busy till I get on the plane wednesday...
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...
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....
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 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.
My friend Petr back in Portland has just posted a series of fashion photographs he did, featuring a young woman wearing only duct tape. I could say a lot but I will for now simply say they are very pretty.
Petr does some interesting stuff. Also, it's interesting to compare what he does with his time to what I do with mine, because we're about the same age and he's the only friend of mine - possibly the only person I know - who is my age and has had, like me, a really long monogamous relationship (>10 yrs) that is now over. I surprisingly just recently made that realization with the help of another mutual friend. I will say no more here but I look forward to conversing with him when I'm back in Portland in July.
I've been working harder than I'm used to lately and have had poor ergonomics and posture in my workspace. So I've been having problems with my wrists and arms. This is a chronic problem I've had before whenever I work long hours on a computer. Another reason why I've made it a career priority to work very few hours a week compared to most people.
So anyway, It's not super bad because I know one has to stop and deal with RSI ASAP. I've been working on changing furniture and stuff and I'm probably going to be blogging less for awhile and minimizing a lot of other nonessential computer use. So if you see me posting a long blog item in the next week, please leave a comment and tell me to stop. thanx.
Spent the weekend on the Sea of Cortez, across from Baja California. It was fabulous. I took lots of photos, and I will have more of them uploaded soon, but this is one. I'll probably write more about the weird socioeconomics of Rocky Point too, but you'll have to be patient.
I got somewhat sunburned in a few places, and after swimming right before we headed home my ears got plugged up with seawater and they still haven't popped, so i'm sort of deaf for now. But other than that I'm really happy about my weekend. It's too bad I had to come back.
[secretperson] and I are going to Cholla Bay, on the outskirts of what gringos call Rocky Point, but is really Puerto Peñasco, a Mexican beach town that is very popular with southwesterner gringos, I guess. It's the closest seaside, only about 4 hours from Tucson, and [secretperson]'s family has owned a little beach house in Cholla Bay for many years. I gather that there it is enough removed from the downtown bustling cheesey tourist scree of Rocky Point that it will be a relaxing break from our normal lives. 3 days alone, without internet or computer or meetings. yay!
We leave at about 5 am Friday morning. back late sunday night. I'm sure I'll be posting photos and stories come Monday. Hasta Luego...
I have another one of those "I'm busy, just going to briefly mention a variety of recent things." blog entries. Maybe I should make that a new category. For lack of a better title, I named this post after the house where there was a big party I went to last night. Geckohaven is a cool collective housing in Dunbar Spring neighborhood. They have an amazing garden set between 2 houses. The party was a little less happening then i expected, but that's probably my fault for having expectations, or maybe for getting there too early.
Yesterday afternoon Geoff, Jessica, and I did an Indymedia workshop for border activists. It was similar to other workshops we've done before but we wanted to have an event tailored to No More Deaths and other people doing border stuff, as we approach another summer that will be very busy for them. We included a discussion about ethics and sensitivity with regards to newsgathering and its possible effect on the main goal of NMD: to save lives. It was largely a pretty good workshop, tho i was hoping more than 14 people would show up. Oh well.
After that was a meeting for a new campaign or group or collective. It's not clear. I don't know, practically, logically, why I went. I don't have the time to get involved in yet another thing. I guess I just can't say no many times. It was about forming a local group or project that has a more radical analysis and praxis on the border and immigration issues than what's currently here in southern arizona. This is of very great interest to me. But there just isn't any more time in the week for me to do this. I told everyone at the end that the only way I could come to another regular meeting is if there's alcohol involved. I was only partially joking.
Friday night was a screening of the little videos that the kids in my video production class made. It was really satisfying to see how all the projects really came together at the last minute. And they were obviously psyched to see their work in a real theater with all their friends and families.
After that there was a slideshow presentation by these 2 guys from Florida, about riding freight trains and distributing food in Mexico. They just went down there and would buy ingredients, then go to a train yard and cook, jump on a train and feed everyone on it. then get off and repeat the process. All the way from Guatemala to the U.S. It was an amazing and fascinating event, and they're such cool people.
Hmmm, so... yeah. anything else of interest in the last few days is way too personal to go into here. But, I'll just note that in that vein things are still really really good. yay.
So I spent almost all weekend editing the May Indymedia Newsreal. It was a lot more work than it's supposed to be because we only received one submission. So I had to montage a bunch of internet clips together to make a May 1st medley segment, which turned out alright, and then I also made an 8-minute piece about May 1st in Tucson. Just mailed out the master tape to FSTV this morning and now i'm building a DVD of it. will send that and another miniDV to the dubbers in Seattle.
I did take a little time off to go for an early hike saturday morning, since i had a friend's car for the weekend. Drove out to Ventana Canyon and walked a few miles. Shot a bunch of clips of myself walking around and being an alter ego I just made up on the spot. Maybe that will be the start of a new secret videoblog. or maybe not. you'll never know. hah...
Then last night my housemate threw a big party. He's finishing his MFA in dance so he was celebrating. Tons of very well-endowed, in-shape young BFA and MFA dancers were here drinking like mad. I mixed a bit, 2 of my friends showed up, after which we sat around grumbling about dancers like the bitter old nerds that we are.
Seriously, one real observation I made that's really interesting is that, from my chatting with these slim and beautiful people, I noticed that most of them who are finishing their graduate degrees this spring are all hoping to be or have already suceeded in getting academic jobs, teaching dance at some little university or community college. This is strange to me. In what seems like a previous life to me now, about 15 years ago, I hung out with lots of dancers at the University of Michigan, because I was composing music for several choreographers' pieces. Many of those dancers talked only of moving to New York and working crap jobs by day, dancing and choreographing and forming their own companies by night. And most of them went on to do just that. I'm still in touch with a couple of them and they still work as secretaries or whatnot, but have their own nonprofit dance troupe, for which I've written more music for a few years ago.
My point is that there was much more of a scrappy, fine art, new york, DIY, idealistic vibe back then, whereas now, or at least here at UofA, everyone just wants to settle for an academic teaching job, anywhere, be it missouri or Scotsdale or buttfuck, ohio - why, by the way? I guess so they can start paying back their enormous student loans? I dunno, but.. it just seems a little sad, a little soulless.... oh hell, here I am sounding like Grandpa Curmudgeon again. dammit. "kids these days wouldn't know a dream from a 401(k) if it bit 'em in the amygdala, gol durnit... grumble grumble..."
In the last 5 weeks I've written more in my journal than in the 4 months previous to that. I don't want to take the time to provide the visual proof of this - the photo of the edge of the journal, a marker on March 28 when this new thing with stillsecretperson began, clearly showing that the last 2/3 of this journal that i'm almost done with, which i started in mid-November, is from the last 5 weeks, and that's largely because of her, or more precisely, because of her and me.
[overpersonal stuff redacted]
Life seems on the very edge of control as big changes of all kinds float down like provisions and materiel being parachuted out of an Army cargo plane to the battlefield. What a weird metaphor. stop.
Other things on deck: increased involvement with border activist groups. a sort of whole different experience compared to media or environmental stuff. I guess I should blog about that in more detail some time soon. And increasing frustration with all the meetings I have committed or half-committed myself too. Pan Left, Dry River, Dry River events committee, Root Force, NMD, EF!, Indymedia, May 1 Coalition... it's dizzying.
I'm going to have to cut down very very soon, because I've just committed to doing a lot more work-work for awhile. And I'm just tired of so much stuff going on. I have to prioritize. and simplify. My top priority is really just to lay on a beach with her and a mojito for about a week. but of course that's not very realistic.
This week is proving insane for me: AZ Intl film fest started last week & is going through sunday; working with small adhoc group on a pamphlet for May Day that will be providing a radical context for the immigration rights struggles going on; getting more involved with No More Deaths, talking with them about a new media strategy; financial meltdown; dealing with all the bureaucracy and logistics of getting my DVD pressed; dealing with other possible opportunities involving my film; trying to think hard about a career choice a friend has unexpectedly thrown my way; and trying hard while i have all this other stuff to do during the day to not think too much about this special person who just made my life 10 times more interesting and complicated exactly 4 weeks ago today.... sigh...
Today I was in the bathroom at Epic Cafe and noticed some new graffiti, and it was about me:
Very weird. Very funny. A German pun on my name. I immediately thought I knew who my humorous admirer was. But as soon as I got back to my table I emailed her a question about it, and she denied doing it. Claimed any graf about me that she wrote would be much more poetic. And besides, she'd already left a note for me somewhere else that I'd found earlier today.
So it's some secret admirer, or just a joker with a Sharpie and a little knowledge of German. Or I did it, and then forgot about it. The writing kind of looks like mine. Maybe I'm like the guy in that film Memento. Hmm.
And also today I found something on another Indyblogger's blog that I wondered if it had something to do with me, but thought I was being egocentric to think that. Found out later, yeah, it was inspired by stuff I'd been writing here in my blog. Small world. I will leave it as an excercise to the reader (who gives a damn, and of course you do, right?) to find which blogger I'm talking about.
Yesterday I ran around doing stupid errands and then went home and actually got some paying work done, which is a big accomplishment. Pretty important, since I'm pretty broke.
In the evening I went to spanish class at Dry River. First time I'd gone in a few weeks. I really should try to go more. It's a nice casual thing that Varo runs. He gets other native speakers to come and help teach too. We watched part of a little video by Guillermo Gomez-Pena called La Frontera es La Lenguaje that someone had brought, she'd found out about him in an art class. I mentioned I'd seen him perform twice, once in San Francisco and once in Portland. Sometimes it's really weird, to have so many different experiences, because of my age and all the places i've lived and different "careers" I've had, such that these things get brought up as extremely "out there" but I'm already really familiar with them. Sometimes I'm worried that by expressing my familiarity I'm sort of squashing the youthful enthusiasm for some newly-discovered bit of coolness that the other person has. I'm sorry to sound like such an aging hipster. Just trying to be honest about my experience.
After the class I went over to the Earth First! Journal office to help with the mailing of the new issue. They were pretty much done with everything but one task, which I helped with: hauling big boxes of copies to FedEx to ship to retailers. This issue of the journal was produced car-free. All the shopping for the office and the hauling of copies back from the printer and out to be mailed, was all pedal-powered. Very cool. I hitched a trailer to my bike and was one of 5 people who transported about 20 reams of copies in boxes a couple miles. It was fun. We cut through campus, and the big 2-person, 4-wheeled "bike car" that Jonathan and Shanti "drove" just barely fit through between the metal posts designed to keep regular cars out. But we made it.
The other special thing about this issue of the Journal is it has something written by me in it. They asked me to write a review of "The Snowbowl Effect" and I suggested I also review "Mauna Kea: Temple Under Siege" because it's about a similar issue and was made very recently too. They agreed to that and it was a good experience working with the editing collective. If you told me 2 years ago I'd have an article in the EFJ I would have probably smiled in disbelief. I just never expected it.
I just caught up to only 2 weeks behind on uploading my photos. upload speeds at home really kind of suck, i've decided. i guess i should go to cafes and do it. Anyway, lots of interesting shots from Albuquerque in this last batch, so check them out...
I've been sick the last couple days, I guess mainly because I haven't been getting enough sleep. As I lay around trying to nap I've been reading my old journals a lot. There's this new person I'm getting involved with who I'm still not at liberty to say much about but she's really great, and she keeps a journal, and that has been making me think a lot more about my journals.
Anyway I've been scanning through these old journals looking for some sort of wisdom about life. I just found this entry about a certain neighborhood in Portland that some friends there will I'm sure find interesting:
There's a street fair over on Mississippi Street this weekend. Last night as part of it, Ed and I showed some videos outside in an empy lot next to a building. It was pretty cool. It's always good to see yr. work in different contexts.
It was strange because a lot of people in the neighborhood are just normal people, poor black families and some lower-income whites - basically what i'm saying is these are normal americans, they sing off key, they love america and macarme and apple pie and baseball. This guy put on a talent show that was mostly kids, which you can forgive, but the adults reminded me of what my old English professor called "The Art of the Feeble."
But that's okay, I think I was just in a bad mood or something. Maybe I'm bitter or something because the neighborhood is in the early stages of being gentrified. you can see it just getting ready to spring into action. There's a new, hip cafe that just went in, there's some hip little shops about to open, but it's still really formative. There's still lots of empty store fronts and shuttered windows and wierd, industrial/workingclass kinds of businesses.
In a few years I can see that all changing and there will be a a street lined with gift shops, bistros, and galleries.
It's so interesting. So what does that have to do with the lame talent show? Maybe because I thought "normal" people had more talent. Maybe I thought communities could live without professional artists and freaky hipsters-for-life, and still have an interesting culture. Maybe I'm just spoiled? Disillusioned, at least. Maybe it's that I wish I wasn't so spoiled. So jaded and ruined.
It's only early April and it's already super hot. Must be like 85-90 today. Wow. Really an omen for this summer. Everybody's been warning me, every time I say how I like Tucson, about the summer. Hmm.
In other news, last night was a super awesome art auction at the Dry River space, to benefit a political prisoner, Harold Thompson, an anarchist organizer who was jailed 26 ago for life+, for killing a guy who was going to kill his son. We had Patrick do the auctioneering and he was great. I guess he learned it from his Aunt who worked in a carnival in Texas or something. He was really entertaining.
My friend Lenara who was visiting from Brazil then took me over to this party, the closing night party for the Towards a Science of Conciousness Conference. That's why she was in town. It was a nice little party and I got a taste of the diversity of people in the field. Everyone from really starched neurobiologists to wacky extropians and new age freakazoids. Today Lenara headed off to the airport to catch her flight back to Sao Paulo and then Porto Alegre, and now I have another guest rolling in from San Diego, a member of the Organic Collective who is on a little Southwest roadtrip.
Tommorrow is what looks to be a massive student walkout and march here in Tucson, part of a national day of action against the anti-immigration legislation in congress. I'll be there shooting video, I think.
Last night at the Dry River space we had a dance party and I DJed. It was pretty fun. I've never really actually DJed at a party before - I've been a radio DJ, and obviously I've manned the stereo at parties, but its never been DJing in the sense of like mixing and beat-matching and stuff. I used a cool piece of software called Traktor, by Native Instruments, which auto-calculates BPMs and lets you sync 2 tracks by adjusting BPM of one or both, and you can loop, skip around, scratch, filter. I didn't do too much fancy stuff, just tried to keep the beat going and stick to a few conceptual themes, not paying much attention to genre. The latter made for a pretty weird set, lots of stylistic variety. It was fun. So below is the playlist, roughly, but at some point during the set I hit the button that sorts the list by beats per minute, so this isn't chronological, its roughly in order of fastest to slowest.
Awe by League of Infinite Justice
Vamos Con San Pedro (Son Times) by Los Sampler's
Rockstar by Z-Trip
Virus by Deltron
Life In The Greenhouse Effect by Steroid Maximus
Skelechairs (Venetian Snares Remix) by Doormouse
Evil by Paris
DJ Peron by Tango Crash
Give The Anarchist A Cigarette by Chumbawamba
Electrolatino by Señor Coconut
Mambo Brillante (HD Mambo) by Los Sampler's
Reanimator by Amon Tobin
AA XXX by Peaches
Rat Race by The Specials
Bullet by Wig
You and Me and the Moon by The Magnetic Fields
Mi Corazon by Campo (from Bajo Fundo Tango Club)
Nothing Better by The Postal Service
Love Me by Chumbawamba
push it by soulwax (Iggy vs Salt n Peppa)
Can't Get Blue Monday Outta My Head (DJ Krys X Extended Club M by Kylie Minogue Vs New Order
The ABCs Of Anarchism by Negativland-Chumbawamba
a16 by Ultra-red
my best friends girlfriend by the cars
Opportunities (Let's make lots of money) by Pet Shop Boys
Dont You Want Me Baby by Human League
New Order - The Day Would Never Come by New Order
New Kicks by Le Tigre
Sordid by Amon Tobin
Darn (Dawn of Lidell Mix) by Super_Collider
Long-Forgotten Fairytale by The Magnetic Fields
I Got A New Girl Now by Honeymoon Suite
You Sexy Thing (I Believe in Miracles) by Hot Chocolate
Special Delivery by MC Frontalot
Tainted Love by Soft Cell
This Is A Collective by consolidated
Anyway, other than that it was a good time and I'd like to do more "spinning" sometime.
Believe it or not I woke up basically at sunrise again. Not because anyone txted me, unfortunately. Just because I did. Taoists say one should rise with the sun. I've always kind of liked that idea. Though they say one should retire with the sun too and that seems pretty unrealistic.
Anyway, I laid there thinking for a while, then wrote in my journal. made tea. Then I checked my email, checked some blogs i read, checked Flickr - I'm sort of a Flickr addict - and decided to take someone off my contacts list there. He's someone I know from a long time ago, from an old circle of friends and aquaintances that I no longer keep in touch with, and he posts photos constantly but they're never interesting to me. They're just in a completely different plane of existence than where I'm at now, dabbling with video games, technology for its own sake, and disposable income lifestyle porn, what I just called in my journal the "digital dilletante" world.
But then, clicking onward from his contact list, I started trying to find other people from that social circle, way back when. It's now been 9 and a half years since I first started getting to know them. All caught up in the internet boom in San Francisco, a clique of cyber-hipsters bent on changing the world with HTML and chemicals. As one old friend from that time said "They watched way too many movies, took way too many drugs, and they made way too much money."
I dipped into that scene for a few years, really only because of work, when you get down to it. (I fell out with that wise friend who said the above quote - ironically because of a copyright/cash dispute - and never saw him again. I wish we were still friends.)
After a few years I climbed back out of that pool, shedding bad vibes and bad karma but also with some really valuable wisdom gained, lessons learned, and a few really great, wise people known. Perhaps it should be no surprise that some of the neatest and wisest of those people are the hardest to locate and learn about using the new digital socialising tools like Flickr, and blogs and stuff.
One of the top 5 songs to be stuck in my head for the last 5 or so years is a song by Death Cab For Cutie. Literally at least once a week since I heard it first, I find myself singing it to myself. Jay still never lets me sing it when I'm around her. It's a really sad song. The core of this sadness comes in the second stanza:
And this is the chance I never got
To make a move
But we just talk about
The people we've met in the last 5 years
And will we still remember them in 10 more?
Pues si, I'm meandering. But that song popped into my head when I was looking at all those bland photos by all those old digerati from a past time. A swirl of brief and mostly superficial friendships fluttering around a bright light of hope and money, like moths.
I'm getting so personal. I guess because there's been important personal stuff happening lately for me. Nothing bad. really good, actually. I better stop now.
I let you bum a smoke,
you quit, this winter past.
I tried twice before
But like this, it just would not last.
I just woke up to sound of my cellphone vibrating in silent mode. I reached over and there was a new text message from a friend. It said
Good Morning! a thunderstorm is colliding with the sunrise! You should go look from your deck! the storm is coming in from the north!
Well, things are coming together in many ways right now, some that I can't really talk about or even totally fathom right now.
Anyway, details of some things for me: I have sort of a preliminary batch of the final DVDs of my film ready for my little mini-tour of New Mexico. A friend and I assembled cases and inserts till late last night. Today I have to send 20 copies to Mexico Solidarity Network. Tommorrow at least 2 Dry River compañeras and I are taking off at 5am to get to Las Cruces in time for the Justice for Women Symposium. My film will show there at 2:30pm. After the Symposium we plan to go to Juárez for the day and visit with some activists there. Then they head back to Tucson and I head up to Albuquerque, and do a screening there on Monday night at 7:30. Then tuesday morning I fly back to Tucson, and my friend Lenara, an internet artist/researcher from Brazil, is flying in to Tucson at practically the same time.
So that's my next week in a nutshell.
Right now I'm at a meeting - there are usually like 6 people and tonight there's 18. It's incredible.
Umm. I don't know why I'm posting this other than that I'm sort of bored. There are lots of meetings in my life these days. It can be kind of frustrating.
Life is kind of crazy. I'm spending almost all my time getting ready for my trip to show my film in Las Cruces and Albuquerque.
This involves getting copies of the DVD ready to have available at these screenings.
And of course while I've been buying DVD cases and blanks and designing covers and all sorts of other related tasks, the rest of life goes on. All the other groups and meetings and stuff keep moving. And of course money hemorages out of my bank account too.
It's like juggling.
There are some, maybe many, people for whom it seems almost everything they do is a form of therapy. everything is about themselves, perhaps even about improving themselves, but always themselves. Turned inward. A self-focus. Always.
That's all I'm at liberty to say right now.
shit i just lost a long blog post about how i didnt have time to be even posting it and what i did today. stupid browser did some stupid fuckign thing and i lost it all. fuck.
I've been insanely busy working on the final DVD of my film. subtitling sucks and is very time consuming. i shouldnt even be doing this.
I did take time out to go "cover" the peace march today. unremarkable except that there was quite a big anti-peace turnout too. i took lots of photos.
back to work.
I have to admit, I've always been a sucker for vampire films. Not all of them. I go for the "cool" vampire films. Call it a guilty pleasure, but I love stories of immortal superhuman nightdwellers that take place in the modern world surrounded by pop cultural allusions. From Lost Boys to Queen of the Damned, even Blade, they may not be that good as cinema, really, but for some reason I go see them and usually enjoy them.
So, take that as an extended caveat. Maybe you shouldn't trust me to endorse the film I just saw today, Night Watch ("Nochnoi Dozor" in Russian), but I thought it was pretty great. It had incredible Matrix-inspired effects and a gripping "mythology" involving an age-old truce between good and evil "Others," who are basically superhumans with a variety of powers - seers (like the main character), witches, were-tigers, healers, and, yup, vampires. Plus, it all takes place on a backdrop of seedy Moscow nightlife, with goths and gangsters and bureaucratic officers of the Night Watch, which enforces the truce, driving around in big yellow rocket-powered firetruck-like vehicles. (I know, sounds silly, but I warned ya)
Seeing this film was my test, speaking of trust, as to whether I should give cred to the reviews of Tucson Weekly movie critic James Digiovanna, who basically panned the film. Now I know not to listen to his conclusions, though I can say he included enough factual description of the film in his review for me to think that it sounded interesting. One thing I hate is reviewers who only give their opinion and don't back it up with any facts about the film.
One of the things that Digiovanna got right was that the film has one very amazing innovation: the subtitles. It's really incredible how they've worked the typography and animation of the subtitles to fit with what's going on in the scene. For instance whenever the evil vampiress is calling her prey to come to her the subtitles look like floating, bloody smoke. Or when the good nerdy hacker is searching cyberspace for information and telling his boss what he finds, his subtitles have a cursor and they scroll like text on a computer. This could get hokey but it's not overdone; it's very artful. I wonder if this will inspire a trend.
One might just write this film off as good meaningless fun with great effects but not much else, but I actually think the plot is a subtle allusion to current geopolitics. The film depicts a classic, epic battle between sides that are literally called the Dark and the Light, and yet there's still moral ambiguity; there's the idea that the side that is supposed to be good is doing some pretty shitty stuff that makes them not that different than the baddies. I won't give away any more than that.
Anyway, I look forward to the second installment in this trilogy. It's called "Day Watch." Maybe it'll suck compared to the first one, but I'll give it a chance.
I went on an "adventure" to a "secret" part of southern arizona this weekend. I camped with a friend in a high desert valley, 2 miles from the Mexican border. Last night we got settled in and then saw lights and we knew it was the Border Patrol. We were all ready to be harassed by La Migra, though we knew we were doing nothing wrong that we knew of. We were on National Forest land, so it was fine to camp where we were. But there are countless anecdotes of Border Patrol agents giving shit to people, or at least bothering them with warnings of how dangerous it is so close to the border, that there are dangerous smugglers around, etc.
Anyway, we waited patiently for the truck to get to us. When it did it paused, lights blaring, then courteously pulled forward so the lights were no longer shining right at us. It was indeed border patrol. Then the driver said "how y'all doing?" we said hi and then he said "do y'all know which Forest Service road this is?" We didn't know, but offered to show him a map. He said no, that's okay, there's probably a sign around here somewhere.
He drove off and we laughed. A lost border patrol agent. hilarious.
The altitude was higher than we'd planned and so it was extremely cold. Probably in the 20s. So it was one of the least comfortable nights I can remember. It was not only really cold but my friend thrashed around in her sleep and pushed me off my sleeping pad halfway through the night. I got very little sleep. Finally dawn came and I watched Venus rise and then the sun rise, then I dozed a bit, woke up and couldnt sleep any more, though it was only about 7. We made oatmeal and tea and packed up and drove back to Tucson, stopping in Patagonia for coffee and bagels at the little cafe there.
I'd been asked to help drive Rod Coronado to San Diego for his appearance in federal court there tommorrow morning. I was willing to do it, but wasn't looking forward to it after getting so little sleep on the campout, but luckily when we got back Rod called and said he'd found others to go. whew. Driving all night from Tucson to San Diego on about 3 hours of sleep would not have been fun.
Plus, the other good thing is that now I can go see Awesome Ocealot tonight, a friend's band that I've been wanting to see. yay. i better go now, actually, before i fall asleep. heh.
i spent about 3 hours today covering the latest on Rod Coronado's situation. went to the hearing, then went home and wrote a feature for AZ IMC.
now i just screwed up cuz of one misclick and lost the first try at this post. grr.
so much stuff to do. schedule thrown off on multiple days because of this stupid indictment of a friend and member of my community. and of course this is why the govt does this sort of thing. to wear down and sabotage of the efforts of hundreds of related activists and supporters. It effects more than just the people held in jail, it disrupts whole communities and projects. of course this is not to minimize the experience of the prisoners, whose lives are infinitely more disrupted than their friends and supporters.
really the thing i should be doing is continuing to post the rest of the transcription of my film, so that people can translate it into spanish. that's my priority, but... other things get in the way.
The nonsequitur title of this entry comes from a friend who was telling me about Nietzche's position on anarchists. He said Nietzche knew various contemporaries who were anarchists but who just wanted to destroy, to tear stuff down, and Nietzche didn't want to be associated with them even though he was really an anarchist - but he said don't destroy, enjoy. Which should be a bumper sticker, even if Nietzche never said exactly that. I'll have to look into that idea. But I thought I'd just mention it because that conversation may have been one of the few redeeming aspects of my short trip to Tempe this weekend.
A bunch of us from Dry River and Indymedia went up there for Local to Global, a sort of conference held annually that includes all manner of different activists with different causes, from hippy biodiesel experts to Earth First! to 911 conspiracy types to border activists like No More Deaths. There were way too many workshops and way too few people. We had a table for Pan Left and AZ IMC and I co-taught a workshop on videoactivism but only 2 people showed up, which is no reflection on the workshop, I'm sure, it's just that when you have 50 people and 10 workshops going on at the same time, each one is not going to have very many attendees.
Add to that the brief but painful dip into the obnoxious Arizona State University college sports-bar district just to get a beer with friends last night, the filthy, hard, and cold floor I slept on, and the fact that I didnt sell any Pan Left videos at the Pan Left table - and I can sort of say the whole adventure was kind of a wash.
However, there were some things that maybe made it worthwhile - the couple people that did come to the workshop seemed really interested and dedicated; I sold another DVD copy of On The Edge; and I met or remet several pretty cool people from Prescott, Flagstaff, and Phoenix, including one of the members of the PMS Media Collective from Flag, who I have been wanting to meet for awhile; I saw part of a somewhat interesting if politically middle-of-the-road doc about urban development in Phoenix; I saw Joel Olsen talk about white privelege; and I attended a great workshop that Phoenix Copwatch did about knowing your rights when dealing with police.
So, I guess it was worth it. I got back this evening feeling exhausted and a little burned out. I was going to go to a friend's party but just changed my mind on that plan. Just going to take it easy and stay in.
I'm always amazed at how some people I know I find just really easy to be around and talk with, in fact, I often feel refreshed or inspired after talking with them, and yet with others, it's just a chore, a draining experience. I keep remembering the hilarious but profound William S. Burroughs bit known as "Words of Advice for Young People" where he says
If, after having been exposed to someone's presence, you feel as if you've lost a quart of plasma, avoid that presence. You need it like you need pernicious anemia.
We don't like to hear the word "vampire" around here; we're trying to improve our public image. Building a kindly, avuncular, benevolent image; "interdependence" is the keyword — "enlightened interdependence".
Life in all its rich variety, take a little, leave a little. However, by the inexorable logistics of the vampiric process they always take more than they leave — and why, indeed, should they take any?
If you've known me more than 6 months you've probably noticed I used to have random quotations at the bottom of my emails. Like, for 10 years. Then when I switched to using apple Mail, I couldnt have that anymore, because it depended on the old unix .signature files and a cool perl script i wrote (why the hell isn't Mail compatible with the old .signature files? that's something I thought Apple would be cool enough to do). So I had over 300 quotes in my quote file and they were just languishing since August. Finally on Saturday I figured out how to do it. After looking for someone else's solution and not finding one for the last few months, then trying to write my own software that would generate an apple signature file (which involved generating XML, RTF, and MIME-base64 encoded data in just the right way, which proved insanely challenging), then failing, then looking one more time, and I found it! something called Mailtunes, a little shareware thingie that lets you insert the output of applescripts or perl or shell scripts into your email signatures (It's called Mailtunes because the default behavior is to put the artist and title of the current song you're listening to on iTunes.) So that allowed me to use my good old perl script i've been using for 10 years. I've been so happy with it that i just paid them the $10 shareware fee.
And the nice thing is that the random number generator on my powerbook seems a little more random, or at least skewed in a different way, than my old linux server, because i'm getting a pleasantly different than before array of random sig quotes now. yay.
i love quotes. here's a random sampling:
"An entrepreneur is a person whose profession is to respond to market forces."
- Paul Treanor
"Business is amassing great sums by charging admission to the ritual
simulation of its own lynching."
-Thomas Frank, 'Alternative to What?'
"Not even Adam Smith thought the market could do everything."
-Benjamin Barber, 'Jihad vs. McWorld'
interesting. everything in this sample is business-oriented. well, critique of business. but there's other stuff too. like:
"It's still shocking, but smoothly so."
-Jon Leidecker, on the new version of 'Plexure'
now there's a non-sequitur for you...
It's gratifying to see so many people I know around me (figuratively, not physically) working on cool projects. And it's nice to be able to help them.
For instance, on Saturday I spent 3 hours on a Skype call with José, who lives in Madrid, discussing, with many tangents along the way, a project he's been working on for 2 years (or more, in a way) that will someday become, I suppose, an animated web-based graphic novel. Or maybe even a movie? It should be a movie. Anyway, I won't link to the site for it because I don't know if he wants the in-progress work to be public, but it's pretty cool. A sort of science-fiction allegory set in a dystopian near-future.
Another example is more disappointing. Petr just reported that he is cancelling a film project he's been working on for several months. Doesn't really give a reason. This is one of 3 or 4 films he's in the middle of and on his blog he reports every day on progress he is making on one or more of them, in addition to other artistic pursuits. It's exciting but then I remember he has yet to finish a film. Even one of the many short projects I've seen him start over the years, to my knowledge has never been pronounced "done" and made available to the world. And I've collaborated and helped out (as crewperson, sound designer, etc) on several of these projects. I wish I could break into his house and make copies of a bunch of his raw footage and then edit it into something and release it.
See, I know how to polish a turd. José and I were talking about this during our long skypecall. I told him the story I heard long ago about Stanley Kubrick, who told a fellow director that, yes, you can polish a turd - if it's frozen.
The point in this case is, life doesn't usually give you jewels. You get rough stones, or even turds, and you have to figure out how to make them shiny and nice, or at least passable. But Petr seems, sometimes, to be unwilling to accept anything but jewels, which he will then polish into superjewels, he thinks.
sigh. No! take the crap and run with it, Petr!
Feeling a bit overwhelmed.
There's so many things going on, projects and things I'm involved with. And now I'm sick, for no apparent reason other than the stress of all this stuff going on - I've been eating right, sleeping enough, etc. Hopefully I can kick it fast, I already feel better than yesterday, but who knows what'll happen. I need to take it a little easier, I guess.
recent things not mentioned on blog yet:
The thing about living in the desert is I almost always get at least a little dehydrated while I'm sleeping. If I also have a little bit to drink the night before, I get even more dehydrated, and wake up feeling hung over, more so than in wetter climes. Last night was a preview screening of a new film called Presente by another member of the Pan Left video collective, Jason Aragon. The film is about the Migrant Trail Walk, a yearly symbolic 7-day hike from the border to Tucson organized by border activists here. After the screening was an afterparty that was pretty fun. There were border activists and video people and it was at this house that's actually a small, sort of weird college, just a couple blocks from my house.
So after the party last night today I woke up feeling really worn, even though I think I only had like 3 beers. And tried to fix that by drinking coffee, more coffee than I should have, starting off a whole process for the day of too much coffee. After breakfast I started transcribing all the english in my Juarez film so that it can be translated into Spanish. I had to wrestle with software, looking for something that was just right, and I just couldn't find something to do what I really wanted the way I wanted. But Transana almost is sufficient. It's a cool program, but it's written by academics who want to analyze how people talk, I guess, rather than translate films. But really the only problem is it doesn't export to the kind of text file that DVD Studio Pro wants, STL, so i wrote a little filter in perl that converts. It's a actually the perfect sort of job for perl. I'm so glad I know perl.
Then I had a headache so I went and had a coffee while meeting with Daniela, someone else from Pan Left, and a high school teacher she's working with on a video production class. I'm going to be helping them out with a day or 2 of editing instruction. That should be interesting, teaching 15-year-olds how to use Final Cut.
Then I still had a headache so I had more coffee and worked on transcribing more. I guess I should have just taken a long bike ride or something relaxing to enjoy the beautiful day, but I really felt like getting more accomplished.
Well, now I feel okay and I'm going to go downstairs and make dinner. yay.
I just went to get groceries. Recently whenever I go food shopping I'm just filled with dread and despair, because I'm sort of caught in a dilemma: On one hand, I'm not much of a cook. I've never been really into food, or cooking food (at least not in commparison to a lot of friends of mine) though it can be fun to cook with and for others. On the other hand, although that lack of interest in cooking leads me toward easy-to-prepare "instant" sort of meals, it lately has just disgusted me on so many levels that so much food is so processed. Even something as benign as tofu or rice milk is an incredible manufactured result of industrial society. A lot of it has to do with my travelling in the developing world and seeing people eat really simple food that they've prepared themselves. Like limonada homemade from real limes right in the kitchen instead of buying some can of frozen concentrate or whatever.
Ideally I should just get more into cooking and gardening and permaculture and stuff, and prepare more of my own food and eat less frozen/instant junk. It's pretty hard though. It's just one of many lifestyle things that's really difficult to change. In some ways I can look at how I live and feel good, like that I don't own and drive a car. But there's still so much improvement to do, and so much juggling of priorities. Like, how can one spend 6 hours a day editing progressive advocacy videos, and also have time to grow one's own soybeans and make one's own tofu from it?
A lot of the first half of this week I spent in the county and federal courthouses, for work. I'm going to be subsituting for a friend who writes for Courthouse News Service. They have correspondents all over the country writing up little summaries of every case that might be interesting to subscribers. What's supposed to be "interesting" is defined basically as follows: if it involves lots of money, someone famous, and/or a corporation, cover it. hmm. Well, that will only be for about 10 days, so, whatever.
Yesterday I spent all day working on a video about the sandhill crane hunt and the Earth First! campaign to stop it here in southern arizona. I have a rough cut done, and the plan was that that would get taken to Wings Over Wilcox this weekend. Wings Over Wilcox is a big annual event for birdwatchers that takes place in the nearby town of Wilcox. Lots of birders come from all over to see sandhill cranes here, and many don't know they're being hunted for sport, so the Chuk'shon EF! plan is to go to the event and try to educate people about this. The only thing is, after doing that last year the organizers have barred "political" groups from the event. I guess it's supposed to be for guides and equipment makers to sell tours and binoculars to birders, not to actually inform anyone about the truth.
Last night Walt, Jeff, Jessica and I had an Indymedia meeting and we talked about what we're going to do at Local To Global, an annual gathering of activists in Tempe with workshops and tabling and speakers and stuff. We're going to do a few indymedia workshops. I want to do one about videoactivism or video advocacy.
To round out a busy week, today I'm going to help Christian author a DVD of a film about Venezuelan oil called "Nuestra Petroleo y Otras Cuentas." It's a film made by a team of Italians and Germans this year, and he and Sonya have translated and subtitled it in English. They want to take the DVD to Caracas for the World Social Forum. Then tonight I will be heading out to the Dry River Collective retreat, which will be all weekend at the home of one of our members who lives out on the western outskirts of town. Should be fun and productive for the group, I think. We're going to have concensus and facilitation training and talk about the goals and vision for the collective, and stuff like that.
I'm a day behind, but I still consider what I'm talking about to be last night. Sunday night. Anyway, I went with some others out to the desert, to the foothills of the Rincon Mountains east of town, for a little memorial vigil for Bill, who took his own life a couple weeks ago in a Flagstaff jail after being arrested by federal agents in Prescott, allegedly for arson in Washington State, about 8 years ago. Anyway, it was a nice time, sitting under the stars while people shared stories of Bill, and sung songs.
When we all decided it was time to go, we walked back to the road where we'd parked, about a mile through the hilly desert, over rocks and through washes. I thought it would be dangerous in the dark, but it was really plenty light out with the half-moon blazing down at us, and it was like I was gliding through an alien dream world. Especially because Christian was playing guitar the entire way a few feet back down the trail behind me. night hike with soundtrack. It was really a new and marvelous experience, even though the original occasion for it was so sad.
So after I get back from Michigan to Tucson I have to basically run right over to Dry River and set up for a film screening. After the screening a musician who goes by the name Totally Michael plays, and he's totally hilarious. Sort of like a disco/funk/hipster PeeWee Herman.
Anyway, after that I head home, enjoying biking through the warm night air, glad I'm back in Tucson. Up by 5th Ave and 4th Street I see a cop car go by shining its spotlight all over. Even though I don't really know what I'm doing (I keep meaning to learn more about copwatching) I decide to stop and see what they're up to. They stop at a house and shine the light on it for a long time, then a cop gets out and knocks. No answer. He goes back to car. I start biking on, turn onto University Street like I normally would. I notice a "ghetto bird" - as I've heard it called here, a cop helicopter commonly used to harass parties and surveil people in the lower income and student areas of town - flying by. Suddenly 2 cop cars are behind me flashing their lights, so I pull over. Cop gets out, says they're looking for somebody that "looks sort of like" me, but he obviously doesn't really think I'm who they want. he asks for my name and birthdate and scribbles it on a piece of paper. He says in sort of weary tone, "somebody was at some house, I guess ----ing his girlfriend." The word I thought he said was "plugging", but then I wasn't sure - maybe it was "mugging" or "bugging"? Whatever it was, he was cynical and flippant about it. He's just going through the motions. It's like they can't just admit that they pulled over someone not remotely who they're looking for, so they have to pretend I might be useful to whatever they're doing. He says, okay, that's all he needs have a good night. whatever.
I don't have the energy lately to post an entry for every little thing I want to mention here. I'm just going to write a little list of unrelated recent things:
that's it for now. have a good new year's eve.
my friend petr made this drawing on a card for my birthday. isn't that great? I wish i understood it. hah.
Today is my birthday and I'm having a hard time deciding what to do with my day. If I had a car I think I would drive out into the country and take a hike. Maybe I'll take a long bike ride. But, I also might want to go to a movie. Or go to the Dry River space and mess with the sound system. I'm not really feeling that obligated to do something real special, since I had a big party the other night already. I dunno.
I found what I want for my birthday, though. or maybe christmas. or maybe the next 4 christmasses. heh.
Yesterday me and Jeff worked on the new indymedia computer lab at the space. We got a lot done. then Jessica and Walt showed up and we had an indymedia meeting. Walt told us the bad news about Bill. I just met Katie, his partner, on Monday. She was of course already suffering from Bill's arrest and the allegations against him. It's really really sad.
Ok, this installment of the continuing series of my observations of Tucson will cover a few things you see or experience while riding around on a bicycle:
First, biking conditions: In Tucson it's mostly pretty flat, but a lot of the streets are really, really, really bumpy and cracked. It's usually so rough that when you're biking it's like a sweet drink of cool water to find yourself on a stretch of smooth street. I think the streets are so fucked up because of the constant daily extremes of temperature causing expansion and contraction. There's also tons of broken glass on the sides of a lot of streets. What's up with that? I've heard Tucson is a "high property crimes city." Maybe there's lots and lots of cars being broken into. but also see lots of glass that is obviously from broken bottles.
Strangeness: There are lots of "for rent" signs that don't say exactly WHAT it is that's for rent. Is it a one-bedroom? a studio? a 4-bedroom? Who knows? Waste some cellphone minutes and find out. Waste the owner's time, too. I've never seen this anywhere else i've lived. what the fuck?
Yesterday I was biking along and actually saw a car accident 2 blocks ahead. A young woman stopped at a stop sign, then pulled out into the intersection, evidently not seeing that the cross traffic did not have a stop sign and that the cross street contained a very fast-moving pickup truck, which proceded to hit her. no one was hurt but her car was pretty much totalled, i'm guessing. I hung around, let her use my phone to call her mom, and told the police what i saw. It was clearly her fault but the other guy was clearly going way to fast for a residential street. she was only 19 and pretty upset, by the way. and she forgot to bring her license or her most recent insurance card with her. dumb! cars just suck. maybe she will learn this and get a bike.
ok, more coming up soon... oh and despite all these observations that seem like complaining, they're not. I'm happy here. These are more like descriptions of curious sightings rather than things I'm really pissed about. Next: Sprawl, the U of A, and the Air Force.
Well, it's been about 5 weeks now since I moved to Tucson. It's about time I wrote something with some observations about the place. I will post it in several short, topical parts.
1. In Tucson, as expected, it rarely rains, especially this time of year. It has not rained once since I got here. yay!!! I think I've seen a total of 2 days where it's overcast, and even then only part of the day. Of course, in January or February it rains, which I witnessed the last time I was here. And in the summer there are what they call the monsoons. But for now it is dry, dry dry. I really notice it in my nose, my hands, and getting thirsty faster, especially as it gets colder and I tend to forget to drink as much water (heat makes reminds you to keep hydrated, but if it's not hot, you forget.) Also the dryness means there's lots of dust everywhere.
2. It's been pretty warm during the days, but at night it definitely cools down, desert-style. Lately it's been even dipping below freezing a couple nights. But it still gets up to the 70s during the short day and is pretty darn pleasant.
Okay, that was not too exciting, but stay tuned for the next installment, when I will discuss conditions for bicycling in Tucson.
I've just been informed that there is something to do with combatting the forces of creationism called Project Steve (sic) that is being done by the National Center for Science Education. If I was a scientist I would definitely join that. Even though I'm not a Steve but a Steev, they'd probably take me...
Well, I didn't end up going to Ft. Huachuca afterall, today. I was up way too late last night.
Here's what I did yesterday:
9am - looked at a house I was interesting in renting. even though it's 2 bedroom i think it's too small for 2 people, and too expensive for just me.
rest of morning - caught up on internet stuff, made breakfast etc.
1:30 - rode to the Salt of the Earth Labor College to see the film "Salt of the Earth." It's a classic film dramatization of a miner's strike in New Mexico in the early 50s. It's a great film that I'd highly recommend. The other cool thing was that a man and a woman who were in the actual strike and in the movie were there at the screening and answered questions afterward.
7pm - met with some Earth First! people for a "debriefing" on the Sandhill Crane anti-hunt campaign. the hunting season just finished up last week.
9pm - saw a free outdoor performance of this cool firedancing, acrobatic, theatrical troupe called Flam Chen (pictured here). They do a lot of things around town, I guess. I saw them before already at the All Soul's Procession. Pretty accomplished, though I thought their attempt to make the show have a storyline was unneccesary and a failure. They should just rely on the cool surreality of what they do and not try to create a plot, unless they can really pull it off.
10pm - went to opening of annual BICAS bike art auction. Cool bands, great art and crafts and furniture made from bikes, and good homebrew beer.
12pm - went dumpstering with some friends. pretty lucrative haul. didn't get home till 2:30 or so. hence, not wanting to get up at 730 to go to the Fort Huachuca protest.
so, as you can, life is pretty full lately.
Hi. Well, lately I have felt like turning this blog into nothing but pet peeves and gripes. There are SO MANY things that are just annoying the hell out of me lately. Just lots of little things that are really irritating, from offensive menus at restaurants to veteran's day parade speeches to multiple flat tires to horrible customer service from DHL and Apple.
Why does it seem like there's so much of this? It has to be just me. I think it has to be that I am just in a general bad mood because of the 2 or 3 things that are actual major negative things in my life, and this causes me to notice and get pissed off about all this little stuff too.
The 3 things are: lack of money, no work, and no permanent place to live. I'm really getting very very broke. I really need to find some work. So far efforts have been proving fruitless.
I'll segue into one of the many related gripes now: I thought I was getting somewhere with someone at a headhunting agency who was looking for perl programmers in Tucson. But the guy was weird he seemed to only look at and answer his email once a day. WTF? what kind of Silcon Valley recruiter only looks at email once a day? Anyway he jerked me around for a week, asking for this or that tweak to my resume and then, as if it was the first time he'd seen it, he suddenly says, oh, sorry, they'll never want you for this perm job because you've been freelancing so long. they need proof that you'll stay for 5-10 years.
Such bullshit. First of all, what perl programmer stays at a fucking e-commerce gig for 5-10 years? Second, ok, that's fine, but at least tell me when i first send you my resume, not after we trade emails for 8 days. Lotsa luck, cabrón.
Well, I did tell you I'm in a bad mood. I really just need a little bit of good luck. Just a little paying work, and a place to call home. I'm staying on a friend's couch and that's okay, at least i'm not on the street. but i'd really like a place of my own so I can unpack, and not be a burden, y'know?
And some work so I can get some cash flow going. I have 10 years of experience doing what I've been doing for a living. Pretty amazing, I think. I would think it would be easy to find some work. Alternatively, I'd love to get more into editing video or other media-related work. But I've never been good at selling myself. That's really the problem. Anyway, if you hear about anything let me know.
Two days ago I finally sent in my powerbook to get repaired, because the optical drive is completely broken. It's putting a damper on a lot of things to not have my computer. But in the past Apple has always been good about pretty quickly getting repairs done fast. And it's as easy as it can be - they send a box next day air via DHL, you put it in the box, call DHL for a pickup, it gets to them next day, they usually fix it in a day, and they send it back next day. So it's like 4 days usually.
Well, for some inexplicable reason DHL is taking 3 business days instead of 1 to get it to Apple. Plus there's a weekend in between. basically it was supposed to get to Apple yesterday and it won't get there till monday now. And DHL can't explain why. They just can't. It's just sitting at their sorting facility. Fucking bullshit. Apple, maybe you should think about switching to FedEx or UPS.
As I moved myself from Portland to Tucson I shot little video clips with my still camera, and now I've thrown together a quickly edited but entertaining little montage.
Just a brief entry to note that I have successfully arrived in Tucson, Arizona. Set out from San Diego this morning after a fine breakfast burrito at a nice cafe there, and about 8 hours later, here I am in Tucson. It has been warm and bright the entire day, with lots of rocks, mountains, dirt and sand. Staying with a friend from Arizona Indymedia.
There are skateboarders next door who look like they are building a half-pipe out of plywood and stuff, and having a lot of fun doing it.
Not sure what else to say yet. I'm still a little dazed from the road.
This photo i snapped in San Francisco the other day, outside of Sacred Grounds coffeehouse. I thought it was pretty appropriate.
Yesterday I drove from Vallejo all the way down to Los Angeles and met up with my friend Kevin and his girlfriend Babs at her house in Echo Park. We had dinner and then went to a performance of TV Sheriff, pictured here. It was pretty amazing. Lots of punk energy and yet very accomplished media manipulation. A really great combination of craziness and genius, basically.
Next we went to a halloween party that some LA Cacophony Society people were throwing, which was pretty cool. It was not one of those parties where a bunch of lame people come uncostumed - just about everyone had some kind of outfit, and many were pretty extraordinary.
We got back to Babs' house and she insisted on watching my Juarez doc, even though it was about 1 am. I was so tired I left them to it and went to bed. The next morning we went to brunch, and then I hit the road again and headed south to San Diego. Arrived at the house of Lotus, of SD IMC. Just from my brief stay here I have already met many amazing, active, creative people. I wish I could stay longer, but Tucson awaits impatiently. I hope to be there early evening on monday.
I'd like to write more but I'm too tired.
In the process of my drive from the northwest to the southwest, I have reached Vallejo, in the northeast corner of the San Francisco Bay. I got here 12 hours later than I expected, because I got a later start yesterday and so ended up staying in a hotel last night, in wonderful Redding, CA.
So I'm in Vallejo staying with friends Bob and Adrienne and their 1-yr old, Stella. Vallejo was always, to me and others familiar with the Bay Area, "the ugly suburb you drive by on I-80", but no one ever went there or knew much about it other than that. Well, now I know it's sort of charming and there's a beautiful historic neighborhood and a waterfront downtown.
they (the gringos, that is) pronounce it like 'val-ay-ho', when it should be, if proper spanish, "vay-ay-ho." might as well say "valley-jo" to completely anglicize it. heh.
Tonight I'm going with Bob to the Negativland show in SF. I'm excited about that because they almost never play live and I've never seen them live before. I've seen Mark Hosler a couple times solo, and the rest of the band playing as "The Chopping Channel," but not Negativland itself. And Sagan is opening. might be the last Sagan show ever.
For my continued electronic appropriation and culturejamming pleasure, I also plan to go see TV Sheriff when I'm in L.A. on Saturday. What good timing.
Might ride in SF's Critical Mass tommorrow, since I have my bike with me. It's Halloween so it would be advisable. But supposedly it is going to rain. hmm.
Well, today is the big annoying day, I'm loading up a car with everything and hitting the road. Going to get to the bay area tonite, stay there a few days, then down to LA for a day, then over to Tucson by Sunday evening.
It's exceedingly bad timing that my powerbook's CD/DVD drive just suddenly stopped working. A few hours before, it was fine. Then just when I go to burn some music CDs for the trip, bam, broken.
Of course, when is it ever good timing for your only computer to break? At least it's still in warranty. Just barely.
I leave Portland, officially "for good," in 9 days.
Yesterday I went to Ken's place where the bulk (and I mean bulk!) of my stuff is stored, to survey all my posessions and plan what I'm keeping and what I'm getting rid of and how. It's odd when I've been basically living out of a backpack for over 8 months - and basically happy that way - to suddenly be reminded, oh, I have all these things, things I haven't really missed or felt I needed, but for which I'm still responsible for. Granted, some things I will definitely need, like my dishes when I get a new place to live. But most of the things are just a pain in the ass, and some of those things I will be jettisoning, but some I cannot bear to part with. Things like the 2 cubic feet of photos I've taken for 15 years before I went digital (this year!). Or the books, all the books which I might possibly want to refer to again. The journals, the heaps of paper. I mean, really, most of what I own is just remnants of my past, which I may someday, when I'm older, want to look at when I feel nostalgic, but is totally without a use in my everyday life now.
I wish there was a safe place to leave it here in Portland, or an easy cheap way to get it back to my parents' place in Iowa.
Actually I wish I could just chuck it all. Everything but the utilitarian things that I know I will need.
Along that same theme, for the last 2 months I've been ripping many of my CDs and then selling them at a record store. This has been to cut down on posessions and also to make some money. I may have done this anyway, even if I wasn't moving and poor, but who knows when I ever would have gotten around to it? So now I am carrying around hundreds of discs worth of music on my hard drive, and in a way I'm eating my CD collection and having it too. I just have to hope the hard drive doesn't crash.
It's weird going through all these posessions that are liabilities and are signs, remnants, of my past disposable income, income I should have never had, none of us should have had, or now should have, while people starved and are starving. I have thoughts like this all the time since returning from South America last year.
It's maddening. I almost can't stand it. And of course, no one else can, either, and that's why they don't think about it. They block it out, and keep buying CDs and drinking frappaccinos. And who can blame them, really? This is the life they've been given. They, we, are the lucky ones, given a life a plenty, to act as social ballast, giving the society inertia so that nothing changes, so that a tiny cadre of even luckier ones can be and stay at the very top of the pyramid and rule the world, and none of either of these groups thinking about the even bigger group at the very bottom.
This is the world we live in.
Today the WTR conference ended. It was good, though there was a packed schedule with no time for anything else. I shot about 12 hours of footage, including 7 interviews. There was another, for-hire pro crew there that shot about 16 other interviews, with lights and a real nice pro dvcam camera. They were locals just paid by the organization to do the interviews and hand the footage over to NWTRCC, they're not themselves working on a doc. But there was lots of talk during the conference about media, how much a new doc about war tax resistance is needed and so I think it's going to happen. I won't neccesarily be me making it, but I might, and I will be thinking about that and about what I will propose to them, in between all the other things going on. It would be great if NWTRCC could find funding for such a film.
So tonite I'm staying and hanging out with my friend Alex Rivera, a great guy and much more accomplished filmmaker and documentarian than I who lives in Brooklyn. I look forward to showing him the Juarez doc and getting thoughts on it.
Flying home tommorrow.
I just realized that before today I hadn't blogged for about a week and a half, for some reason. Maybe because I've been really busy and time has just been flying by. Helping friends move, working on 3 video projects at once (including the Juarez doc, which is now like one day of color-correction work away from being done. No, really!!), working on the Computers for Bolivia Project, which took 1 step forward and 2 steps back in the last week... I dunno what else. Being sick. Helping a friend sell a bunch of stuff on eBay (high ticket stuff, ,so it's kind of intense).
Nice weather is still holding on here, for the most part, knock on formica. At this point I still want to get out of Portland and head down the coast in mid-october. I'm slowly getting rid of posessions to make the move easier.
Last night Portland IMC had its usual monthly video night and no one showed up except for IMC people. Talk about preaching to the choir. That kind of pissed me off. What's the point?
Well, that's about it. More as it happens.
In the last few days I have witnessed the travels or soon-to-be travels of various friends and aquaintances, and it has both thrilled me and made me a little melancholy, because I want to be on the road myself again.
My friend Joel is going to China, to be a stilt-walker in some parade. wow. On top of the Pyramid of the Sun in Teotihuancan my friend Jacob and I met Abby, someone I know from Portland, and her friend Lisa. Lisa is still travelling, has been in Guatemala for months and has a blog that is making me thinking nostalgically back to my trip in Mexico and Guatemala. She's even spent a lot of time in the same places I went, D.F., San Cristobal, Xela, San Pedro.
The other day I was covering a carpenter's strike for Indymedia when I ran into Bartolina and Patrik, who do community radio stuff here in Portland and are about to start a 6-month long journey through latin america, interviewing people and linking up with radio activists all along the way. Wish I was going with them, but I will live it vicariously through their blog, which will hopefully be a podcast with lots of audio, too. They asked me for contacts and I immediately started telling them about all the cool people and organizations I'd come across on my travels. I need to email them soon with details.
The other thing that has reminded me of Guatemala and Mexico is the fact that la pinche tos ha regresado (the damn cough is back). I haven't felt this bad since my first week in Chiapas. Thinking of that time reminds me not to be too positively nostagic, because I was sick almost the entire time that I was in Guatemala, and up till my second week in Mexico. See, I have this every year (except the time I was in South America, and managed to sidestep winter of any kind) It came late this year and was particularly bad when I was in Guatemala, probably exacerbated by pollution and chilly, moist climate of the highlands there. Now, as Portland moves into fall/winter/rainy season, it's back. I think I also am allergic to something blooming now, and the general congestion has triggered my cough. Maybe I have asthma. A doctor told me once that asthma and hay fever are genetically linked, and that often people develop asthma when they're older.
Anyway, it sucks. Another reason to get my ass down to Tucson. Or somewhere warmer and drier. But I'm stuck here waiting for the Computers for Bolivia Project to get wrapped up. I'm at the mercy of Free Geek, basically. waiting for them to tell me if we can have more computers. Pinche computadoras.
A friend of a friend does this great blog that mostly is a daily autobiographical daily comic strip, called Bitter Greens. It's really cute and fun and I love most daily autobiographical comics like this because they depict normal life, whether it's mundane or crazy-intense-weird. It reminds me of "Clutch," a comic done by a portland guy I know, or Snakepit, by a guy in Austin. It's just kind of fun and adorable to see someone has drawn a picture of themselves watching a boring movie, or just sitting on a couch, or whatever.
I also found out when looking at it that she's a friend of someone else I know, and a friend or at least fan of one of my favorite Bay Area bands, Dealership. Of course since she lives in the Bay Area and I used to live there and she's in the multimedia industry and sort of arty, it stands to reason there might be multiple links.
Yesterday I went for the first time since I've been back in town to a meeting of the Portland IMC video collective. No one else showed up except Deva and Blank, who live there. It was worth going anyway, just to hang out with them and catch up on stuff, but it was a little annoying. In fact many of that group's meetings, at least in the last year or so, have been like that. I think meetings could be a lot more useful, and hence well-attended. I wish other people were more into skillsharing and critiqeing each others' work, because that could be a really useful thing to do at meetings and would make them productive. But no one but me, that I can remember, has ever really showed the group a video that is still in progress and asked for feedback. I know at least some of them haven't because of a mix of lack of confidence in their work, and a sort of overconfidence, paradoxically. But I find it really helpful and important to get reactions to a video, especially a major one, before calling it done and "releasing" it to the world.
The group has been on a summer hiatus, I guess. But other portland indymedia things have been moving forward a lot, it sounds like. The space where the radio studio and servers live has moved to a larger space, more intelligently designed and with more room for stuff to get done. I look forward to seeing that. Today is a general IMC meeting, which I should probably be hopping on my bike to go to right about now. It'll be nice to see people there.
Last night after the abortive meeting I went to meet Ed for dinner, and then we tried to go to see a band that plays video game music, the Minibosses. I had seen them in Tucson and liked them. But it turned out the show sold out because the venue, a game arcade, was pretty small. That was allright. We ended watching some through the big windows in front, and then left, satisfied.
Today I've been working on the docu again. I have a little bit of room to set up in the place I'm staying, though I could use a TV and an extra monitor. Earlier I took a break and biked around and it's just beautiful out. It's hard to not get distracted and just go outside for all day. This is why Iowa was a good place to be for most of postproduction. Anyway, during my bike ride I found a community garden I'd never seen before, and it was unlocked. I went in a strolled around and picked some fresh basil and rosemary and sat on a picnic table and ate an apple i'd brought. It was great.
Someone from University of Iowa emailed me the other day after she saw the posters I'd put up at the Spanish department, a month ago now, looking for translators for the Juarez film. I do still need 2 more clips translated. So close yet so far!!!
Getting more and more into vlogs. I'll write more about them later and what I've been thinking.
This is such a perfect time to be in Portland. It's so great this time of year. I only wish it was like this all the time, or at least.. oh heck, i'd be satisfied if instead of only 2 months of niceness, if it were like this 8 months out of the year, and maybe half-nice for 2, and crappy for 2. Instead it's nice for 2, crappy for 9, and half-crappy for 1. approximately.
I keep thinking of the old "Ant and the Grasshopper" fable. There's nothing like Portland in late August that makes me think more of that story. Because even in August, even when it's so nice, one can't help but realize that it won't stay like this for very much longer. And every year at this time for the last 3 years I've thought, I have to get my shit together, because winter is coming. If I don't get it together, I'll be miserable.
The other thing I realize when thinking of that story is, though there is some wisdom in its moral, it is also sort of bullshit, and it is so much a part of our Mother Culture, as Daniel Quinn would say. Mother Culture is the mega-mythology that controls our world today - what some would call "Western Civilization." And this part of it, this fable, is reinforcing this idea: an agrarian lifestyle is better than a hunter-gatherer lifestyle.
Which is highly debatable.
I'm not at liberty to say anything else right now. I would normally go all into detail about what I mean, but I'm tired... just think about it. And read Daniel Quinn's books.
Tonight while attending an odd art performance/lecture thing, I looked down and saw on the floor the purse of the woman in front of me, and in the purse was "First World, Ha Ha Ha!", A good book about the Zapatistas, that I just read a few months ago when I was in Guatemala. I thought that was a funny and neat pseudocoincidence, just one of many little interesting things that happened today.
Wow, this is weird. While looking on Flickr for some creative-commons-licensed photos to use in my documentary I found this guy who had about 100 photos of crack pipes and other paraphenalia (I was searching for drug-related photos). He links to his blog, which he claims was entirely writtten, edited, "tweaked," etc, while on crack. I can believe it, from the obsessive and near nonsensical nature of the writing.
I think there's really everything possible out there on the internet.
Well, I've been back in Portland for a week and things still seem odd. But it's a good odd. It feels like I'm still travelling. Nothing too particularly interesting to blog about on the personal front, and I haven't been doing a whole lot of web surfing or media consumption at all, so there's not a lot of fascinating web links or factoids heard on NPR that I can be shovelling your way, either.
However, things are moving gradually forward, so that's good.
So, yeah, nothing superexciting but, y'know, things are good.
Thursday I flew back to Portland (and here's an interesting statistic: the pilot on one plane announced that we were expending fuel at the rate of $30 per minute!). It's pretty strange, a sort of culture shock thing, to be back in the thick of things happening and seeing friends, after having been isolated in rural Iowa for 2 months. But I'm happy to be back. It's also great to be biking again - I had not been on a bike since late February, in Austin during the Indyconference! You might think 'so what'? but when I'm in Portland I am biking somewhere pretty much every single day.
Last night I even went on this month's Midnight Mystery Ride. Usually I can't stay up that late, and the starting point is incoveniently far, but this time it was just a few blocks away, and my biological clock has shifted slightly forward.
We ended up by the Columbia Slough.
I just uploaded to Flickr a few photos from the last few days, including a couple from the mystery ride last night.
Last night I saw an M&Ms commercial on TV that used a song by the Postal Service. It wasn't the original recording, it was someone else performing it, in a slower, dreamier style, but the words were definitely Ben Gibbard's, the song about the freckles on our faces being aligned when we kiss, etc. All accompanied by those cartoon M&M guys floating around in kaliedescopic, mandalic patterns. Ugh. I groaned and yelled "NOOOO!" when I saw that. How disappointing. I've seen a lot of musicians sell out like this but none ever that I was this fond of.
My favorite mixed drink is the Mojito. A friend just emailed me asking for a reminder on certain details of the construction of a Mojito, and after answering her, I realized I should share this knowledge and more with the world here.
The Mojito is a hot weather drink, originating in Cuba, so it is prime mojito season right now, and hence the urgency of writing this blog entry, although here in Iowa for the last week it's been unusually cool, not the kind of heat where you have a desperate yearning for a mojito, like July and August usually provide.
Relatives of the Mojito include the brazilian Caipirinha and the mint julep from the Southern U.S. (In fact, I once committed the embarrassing faux pas of telling the parents of a cuban friend that the mojito is like a cuban version of a mint julep). All these drinks have the same goal of beating the heat but accomplish them according to local culture and with local ingredients, whether it be cachaca, whiskey, or rum. (speaking of Cuba, I just heard an interesting historical factoid on the radio: back in the late 60s, early 70s, there was NO security on U.S. airlines. you could bring a gun on board, whatever. There were so many hijackings of planes to Cuba that the Cuban government started cashing in on it - they started giving Cuban sandwhiches to the hungry passengers who'd made an unexpected trip to Havana. Then they'd send a bill to the U.S. State Department for $30 per sandwhich. The U.S. didn't start increasing security till some hijackers almost flew a plane into the Oak Ridge nuclear facility in 1972.)
I discovered the mojito accidentally in 1999 or 2000, hanging out with the video artists known as Animal Charm. They were visiting from Chicago and I was showing them a good time at one of my favorite neighborhood bars in San Francisco called The Skylark (16th and Valencia, the Mission), Suddenly a woman behind me put her hand on my shoulder and said, hey how's it going, you gotta have Pete make you his special. I turned around and didn't recognize this person, and she realized she'd made a mistake and had thought I was someone else, but by this time we were curious what Pete's special was. Pete was the bartender, and it turned out his special was the mojito. We were in love with it immediately and were so enthusiastic that Pete gave us his recipe, and even drew a little diagram on a napkin. (I scanned in the napkin years ago but I don't have the file handy, sadly.)
Anyway, that was the beginning of my apprenticeship and then mastery of the mojito. Since then the drink got really trendy, then a little less trendy. Most bars don't make them right if they make them at all, and charge too much, and the reason for all of this is that the mojito is very labor intensive to make. In fact Pete that night at the Skylark told us that after 9 he won't even make them because it's too busy and it takes too long. That's the sign of a true mojito purist. Rather than make a sloppy, substandard mojito, he just refuses to do it when he doesn't have the time. At the Skylark, a mojito is worth $5, but at most other places it is not. It's better and more fun to makek them yourself.
Now for the last few years my reputation amongst friends regarding the mojito has been such that at a party I'm usually cajoled into the kitchen to make them until the ingredients are exhausted. I enjoy it, usually, mostly because it's fun to show people how to make them, and people typically gather around watching and asking questions.
And I'm still learning. The thing i recently realized about the mojito with my newly increased spanish skills is that its name means "little wet one." i think that's cool.
Now simple syrup (don't buy it, it's easy to make, but you have to take time before hand) is just a supersaturated sugar solution. to make it i kind of just eyeball it. i take about 2 or 3 cups
of water, boil it and then start adding powdered sugar, a few spoonfulls at a time, stirring. just keep adding until you can't disolve any more into the water, till it starts taking a long time for the sugar to dissolve. then, let it heat lightly a maybe 10 more minutes, or more, if you want to make it more concentrated you can boil off more water. then put it in a squeeze bottle or whatever and refrigerate. preferably you want to refigerate it till it's chilled as far
as it'll get, like overnight, but if you're in a hurry, you can use it after a few hours, whatever. the thing about this recipe for simple syrup is it's going to be variable strength, so the first mojito you make with that batch of simple syrup will be an experiment where you figure outhow much of the solution you use to mamke it sweet enough. i like mojitos that are not too sweet, but sweet enough to just exactly balance the tartness of the limes and barely cover the
taste of the rum. it shouldnt be like drinking a mountain dew or something.
Or if you're in a real hurry and you want a substandard mojito, skip all that and just mix powdered sugar right into the drink, but it'll be hard to dissolve it. Once when some friends and I were toiling away over editing a video one hot summer, we were slugging down lots of mojitos and ran out of simple syrup, and then out of sugar, and we tried using honey. This is not advised! Using honey means risking the dreaded "honey clumps" as honey has even more of a problem than sugar dissolving into ice cold liquid.
Oh, and how much mint? well, i usually put 3 or 4 large leaves, more if they're smaller leaves. And the fresher the mint, the better. Grow some in your back yard, it's easy.
Well, there you have it, everything you need to know about the Mojito. Enjoy!
My good friend Jay is hanging out in Detroit for a month, where she's from originally, and near where I lived for 6 years during my college days. She told me the 4th Street Fair was happening this weekend, and I looked it up on the web. It looks pretty cool - I never knew about such freaky things in Detroit when I was in Ann Arbor. It reminds me of all the whacky street fairs that happen in San Francisco every year, like Folsom Street Fair.
Seeing this fit right into my mood that kicked off earlier today wheen meeting some old friends for lunch in Iowa City, a sort of wistfulness. I realized that I still love college towns and that I've been missing friends and counterculture. I think the last counterculture I experienced was El Chopo in Mexico City.
What a strange several months it has been...
I feel like I have 2 different readerships of this blog. There are my family and friends, who are interested in following what is happening in my life, for whom the blog is sort of a surrogate for actually seeing me every day and asking "hey, what're you up to today?" Then there's others who read it because they are colleagues in some way, from the activist world, the videography world, the art world. They are interested in what I write that has a direct bearing on those worlds - my thoughts on current politics, a link to an interesting art project, etc. The first group though is probably just as happy to see me mention little mundane things I do each day.
Yesterday I was thinking about blogging about the fact that I made a really good omlette for lunch. I thought about how silly that was but then thought how there must be hundreds or thousands of blogs filled with nothing but mundane, banal details of daily life. One can be contemptuous of this or not. Nevertheless, one possible project linked to this fact that I thought of is to make a sort of agregator/searchengine that looked for all the blogs each day that mention doing the same thing you mention doing that day. So in my example it would go find all the other people that blogged about making an omlette too. That would be an interesting experiment and perhaps an excellent demonstration of the common ground shared by so many people. Of course some activities you would rather feel are unique. If I blog about working on my Juarez documentary I would want the search engine to not come up with very many others who did that as well. (In a selfish sense, at least. Idealistically, it would be great if there were 20 people all working on using the medium of video to raise awareness of the femicides in Juarez.)
A good friend I got to know well when I lived in San Francisco has recently moved to Spain, and I've been enjoying his blog, which he started at about the same time that he moved. It's a way to keep up on his everyday life, his adventures in his new country, and also to practice my spanish (he's been blogging about half in english and half in spanish), and also to read his political and philosophical insights. He's one of the smartest people I know.
Today he blogged about his family history and his visit to the town in Spain where his mother's father and grandfather are from, which they left to emigrate to Cuba long ago.
I was happy that I only had to look up about 4 words:
I looked around at rss feedreading software this morning because it's getting harder and harder to manage all the blogs and other periodically updated sites that i try to look at regularly. At first I found these cool "docklings," software that runs in your MacOS dock and updates automatically, but after wasting time with those I found out eventually that Apple discontinued 3rd party docklings. Stupid.
Anyway, I ended up going with an app called NetNewsWire, the freeware version. Loaded it up with all the blogs and newsites and stuff that I want, and it seems pretty cool. I'm even subscribed to a feed of all my Flickr contacts, so if any of them post a new photo, I'll know about it within the hour.
here's an OPML file (whatever that is) of all my feed subscriptions, if you're interested. It was generated by the netnewswire, and I think a lot of other feedreaders can import them. So if you care about the blogs i read (I don't know why you would, but just in case), or try to read, there ya go.
I love not knowing how this stuff works. I mean, obviously I know, in theory, how it works, and I know I could find out exactly how in detail if I wanted to. But I don't care about the details, and I love just seeing it work and sort of pretending that it's magic. This may be a profoundly un-geeky attitude, but I think I've realized that's how I've always been, even when I was a clueless highschool nerd and thought I wanted to win the Nobel Prize in physics. I've always liked having some things be mysterious and magical. I'm not interested in knowing the inner workings of everything, like I think a lot of geeks are. Maybe that's why I hated engineering school. And yet it suceeded in permanently altering my brain anyway.
Speaking of brains, now what I want is an RSS feed of certain people's minds who don't have blogs and who aren't in touch with me often enough or in detail enough for me to know what the hell is going on in their lives. Like Jon and Jay - can I just wire my newsreader up to your heads somehow? what? why not? I think the NSA makes a chip you can get implanted to do it. C'mon, try it out!
Just uploaded a few photos (click on these to go to my flickr pages and see a few more. search on tag 'iowa' to see a few from last time I was here) just to give you an idea what it's like here on the outskirts of Shellsburg, Iowa. It's very green compared to 3 months ago when I was here before.
This morning I walked into town to the post office and back to mail some stuff but also I haven't been getting enough excercise so a long walk was in order. It's only about a mile and a half(?), but better than sitting on my ass. It's hot and really humid here.
In addition to the official "personal," this goes under the "mean spirited" category, as well as the "groan" and "there goes the neighborhood" categories. So beware.
I was looking through the archives of the little mailing list that started with a few very cool friends in Portland, a thing we use mainly just to invite each other to bad movies, usually, and gossip about silly internet humor. I guess maybe now that I'm back in gringolandia but still far from my best gringo amigos, I was feeling like I wanted to catch up on their doings.
Well, the list has gradually been expanding to include a wider and wider circle of friends of friends and aquaintances to where for the last year or so there have been some people on the list who have never ever met and probably never will. This is in stark contrast to its beginnings in summer 2002 when it was all people who saw each other and did cool stuff together almost every day. Well, alas, now the final nail is in the coffin, and another reason for me to be glad I'm not now in Portland, and will soon be leaving for good: I look through the June archives and find that my old San Francisco flatmate, who I absolutely detest, has moved to Portland and has just joined the list. Fucking A.
Now I'm not saying there's nobody that I don't not get along with on the list. There's one cabron in particular that is also in my email "asshole filter", but at least our troubles developed after we were already on the list, and he's moved away from Portland anyway. But this other guy, I absolutely can't freaking stand him. I guess that's what happens when you live in an overcrowded apartment that you can't move out of without leaving the whole city because of astronomical rent, with someone for 6 years, someone who you previously knew but not well enogh to know what an asshole they were.
Oh and I guess the other ingredient there in that recipe is "when you're me, an easily annoyed, hard to please dork with expectations for everything and everyone that are way too high..." It must be hard for some friends I know who seem to get along with everybody, to see me getting into these hateful conflicts. Another asshole that wants to sue me or kill me has repeatedly said, amongst other childish and not very creative insults, that I don't get along with anyone, but this is obviously bullshit. I just don't have any tolerance any more, at this stage of my life, for assholes. There is just occasionally the fuckwad that I cannot, will not, put up with. I always give them plenty of chances to redeem themselves, I always put up with their shit and am exceedingly generous and forgiving for way too long, but eventually my patience runs out. But it's not like this happens all the time. Out of the hundreds of cool people I know, I can count on just one hand the assholes that have elevated themselves into this pantheon I'm talking about. And I should stress that, like in George Carlin's great skit, I make a big distinction between an asshole, a scumbag, and a jerkoff. The latter 2 are much easier to forgive and forget, but the first, it's just hard to deal with them.
suspira [espanol for sigh]... well, I guess I can see a bright side in looking through the portland keyhole, and that is that I found out mi amigo Reverend Phil has a blog in which he describes his adventures biking to L.A. for Bikesummer 2005 and all the, I am sure, entertaining insanity that that involves. That makes me smile... I look forward to reading more of it.
Okay, sorry for this vindictive rant. I promise the next entry will get right back to the dark visions of opression, struggle, and injustice that keeps you coming back to this fine blog. :-)
You may have seen a few of them before, but I have posted today the best of the rest of my photos from Guatemala. It's way too many, about 200, I am the first to admit, but it was hard to pare it down even that far. I had more than 300 to start with. What do you do when everything is beautiful and strange for 6 weeks and you want everyone you know to see just how beautiful and strange it was? Aren't I good to you?
Si, soy muy chido, si? ja ja ja...
So I am back from Oventic as of 6pm last night, and back in San Cristobal. Here I will write about my week out in the country at one of the Caracoles, the seats of the Zapatista autonomous 'Buen Gobiernos'. My alter-travellerego-doppelganger Jacob has already written a lot more than I think I will about his experiences in the same place, about a month before me. He had a slightly different take, of course, but he described a lot and took lots of photos (as did I, but he has put more online than I want to take the time to do now), so if you haven't read his blog entries about it already you should now to get a more complete idea of the place...
(brief interrupt: In this cybercafe a table away is a REALLY dorky looking gringo with a straw porkpie hat, flipflops and Docker shorts drinking a can of Dos Equis as he surfs the web. One of the employees is whistling along with 'Dark Side of the Moon' playing on the stereo. outside the strains of a live mariachi band filter in from the street. Ah, its good to be back in San Cristobal.)
So, a brief primer on the Zapatistas: After their 12-day armed insurection in January 1994 and the ensuing armed counterattack by the Mexican military as it chased them through the jungle for months, destroying indigenous villages just for being in the way, things sort of settled down into a tense and long series of peace talks that started and stopped and finally in 1996 resulted in the San Andreas Accords, an agreement which the government never actually followed through on. President Zedillo actually never even submitted the treaty to Congress, much less made the legal changes neccesary to realize the accords.
Eventually new President Fox did submit them to the legislature but still things have not exactly moved forward too fast.
The Zapatistas didn't wait around for what they call the Bad Government to do what they demand, what the Accords demand. They went ahead with their part. Even before the accords were signed, they had set up what they called the Aguascalientes, which was a center of Zapatista effort and where talks and meetings with civil society would happen. The army destroyed it and the villagers there became refugees in their own country. Later the Zapatistas in response built 5 more Aguascalientes (they're named after the town in central mexico where the revolutionary forces met after the Mexican Revolution to finally get together and cooperate to bring order back to the country). Oventic was the first. Each Aguascalientes corresponds roughly to one region and one indigenous group. Oventic for example is Tzotzil. In La Realidad, another Aquascalientes, in 1997 ( i think) they had the first Encuentro, a massive meeting of people from all over the world to talk about how to fight neoliberalism and get the 3 things the Zapatistas are always demanding: democracy, liberty, and justice.
In 2003, the Zapatistas made news again by changing the Aguascalientes into 'Caracoles.' 'Caracol' means 'Snail,' and the community is modelled on the snail, in a way that I dont fully grok. (see the photo above, and 2 others I uploaded to my flickr page. just click on the photo) Its important to them and the Mayan worldview though, that a society is comparable to a snail. Each of the 5 Caracoles would be the seat of a Junta de Buen Gobierno. Each Junta has elected representatives from the municipalities that are clustered around that Caracol. Each municipality, really itself a cluster of villages and towns, has its own local government with 50 elected officials, presided over by a Consejo. They're elected by a huge general assembly ever 3 years or 1 1/2 years where people vote by voice.
Back in the Caracol, the representatives that form the Junta follow the will of the people to get things done in the community. There's a great saying they have, you see it on signs a lot, that translates to 'Here, the people order and the government obeys.' Whenever theres something that has to be decided, people go to the Junta house. Someone goes out and gets a quorum of Junta members and they go to the house and put on the Zapatista ski masks (no, people dont just wear them all the time in Zapatista land) and then let whoever needs them come in.
For example, when I got to Oventic, an hour ride in a collectivo (like a taxi but you share it with others and it only goes to predefined places, so its cheaper) away from San Cristobal, I had to wait 2 hours. Finally I was let into a building with 2 masked Zapatistas. They were from the government of the immediate municipality where Oventic is located. They asked me some questions and looked at the letter from the Mexican Solidarity Network and then let me move on to the next house, the house of the Junta. There were 6 masked people there. They asked me more questions and then gave me a stamped form and told me where the school was. So then I hauled my pack down the hill to the school, and met Efrain.
Efrain is the head teacher of the Oventic Language Academy. He's an amazing man, not only a language teacher but a philosopher poet mystic wiseman. He's also friends of a filmmaker friend of mine, Alex. When I first got there Efrain look at the form the junta had given me and got confused. It said 'Esteban', because the Junta seemed confused when I told them my name, like many spanish speakers seem at my name. So often I tell them Esteban. The Junta all nodded and said, 'ah, Esteban es mejor' (Esteban is better (than Steev)). But Efrain had 'Steev' written in his list of incoming students. Well, we got that straightened out and I found a place to sleep in the little dorm room full of other students (mostly from North Carolina), and then I and the other new students watched a little video about how the Zapatistas built the Oventic Aquascalientes (now Caracol). The video shows tons of army tanks and troops driving past the village and the people shouting angrily at them.
The point is that the Mexican government wanted the Zapatistas to sit around and wait for them to do nothing until the problem just went away. But the Zapatistas went ahead without waiting for handouts or some profound change in Mexican society or politics. They went ahead and started building the kind of society that they wanted, in their territories that the peace accords had ceded to them. And the Caracoles are where most of that is happening. The Caracoles are the space set aside for Civil Society (Civil Society? what's that, you ask, maybe, since even in the 'first world' the idea of civil society has mostly atrophied. Isnt there just the Executive, Judicial, and Legistlative, and then the mob of people that vote every 4-6 years, and that's it? no). Civil Society is the national and international group of people which the Zapatistas appealed to from the start in their uprising. If it wasn't for Civil Society, the Zapatistas surely would have been crushed by the Mexican Army's overwhelming armed force. But the people of Mexico and the world spoke up and said, no, we want you to stop fighting and settle this matter peacefully.
So Civil Society has this space in the center of the snail, so to speak. that is where foreigners can come, meet with Junta, and in the case of Oventic, go to school. Also in the Caracol are the headquarters of various productive cooperatives, like a coffee growers cooperative, a weaving one, one that makes really nice Zapatista leather boots, etcetera.
At the school foreigners who pass through the accreditation process run by the Mexico Solidarity Network may study Spanish or Tzotzil. Last week I was there with 7 other students. One was studying Tzotzil and the rest were learning spanish. I was the third most advanced of the spanish students, after Andreas, a guy from Switzerland who is a really cool computer/video geek and who was also spending the week fixing all the Caracol's computers, and Coqui, a young punky activist woman from Asheville, NC. The others were all basically still beginning students who didnt know any of the language at all when they got there. Which kind of surprises me.
The main thing to understand about the school in Oventic is that it's not really a language school. I mean, you learn some Spanish or Tzotzil, but its mostly about something else: learning about the Zapatistas, about the indigenous culture, and the Zapatista/indigenous way of looking at reality. And, its a yet another way to support the Zapatistas - the money you pay helps support the secondary school that the Zapatista kids go to right there in the same complex of buildings.
But if you want to go there just to learn Spanish you'll be frustrated and disappointed. I had learned this earlier, so I knew what to expect, but I was still frustrated sometimes, by this and other related matters. I kept comparing the experience to my experience at the Escuela de la Montana in Guatemala. I wanted to go out and see how these people lived. I wanted to eat in their homes and hike around the area. None of these things are possible. The Caracol is where internationals can be, not in the communities. And you can't just wander around the country, because its dangerous. In a sense the Zapatista people are still in a state of war. The army and the police and the paramilitary groups that they support are still out there doing horrible things from time to time, and foreigners who are suspected of being involved with the Zapatistas can be deported - this doesnt happen much anymore but it is possible, and often the advice you get is to act like you dont know spanish and youre just a stupid tourist if the police or army question you.
So, at the school you're basically confined to a small little area about the size of 2 football fields. One street where the Junta and other buildings are, and the school grounds at the end of the street. So when you're not in class (and class is only 2 hours a day), you just sit around and read, or talk (and the attitude of most of the other students was not very studious, so no one really practiced speaking spanish amoungst themselves outside of class).
I got a lot of reading done, and I listened to a lot of cynical complaining about Asheville, North Carolina, and participated in various conversations comparing Portland's activist scene to Asheville's. And I walked around taking photos of the huge numbers of murals in town. Every day there was 2 hours of class and one hour or more of some activity - watching a documentary, learning and singing Zapatistas songs, and taking a tour of the medical clinic there, and one day we went to San Andreas, the town where the peace accords were signed, and met with the Zapatista government there.
The 2 hours of class were great, especially because I had Efrain for a teacher. I shared the class with 2 other students, so that was another difference from teh school in Guatemala that was sort of frustrating. When you're used to one on one, undivided attention of the teacher for 5 hours and then you get a shared class for 2 hours, its pretty different. Especially when the other students are quite a bit lower level. I'm sure I helped them a lot with vocabulary, at least.
But again, as I accepted quickly, its not about learnign Spanish. In fact, to avoid further surprised and disappointed students in the future, the should stop even calling it a Language School. It should just be called the Intergalactic Zapatista Political Philosophy Academy for Internationals. I'm not being cynical, I assure you. Like I said, I accepted the situation, and I still got a lot out of it. I was happy to be supporting the Zapatistas, and to be learning more about them. and the classes with Efrain really were great, not for the grammar but for the philosphy, because Efrain really is a very profound, smart, wise man who is very passionate about the ideals of the Zapatistas and teaching others about them in a very mystical way, full of riddles and enigmatic discussion.
The fact that I was able to have these conversations reasonably efficiently is some evidence of my progress at Spanish, I suppose. And certainly linguistic concepts were a wonderful springboard into very deep other subjects. For instance, we learned that the Zapatistas always stress using the active voice rather than passive voice in their communications. Zapatistas would never say, 'The village was destroyed.' They would say 'The army destroyed the village.' the passive voice hides the responsible party, the active agent of the action being performed.
We also had an amazingly deep and mindboggling conversation about the subjunctive mode, and why english doesn't make as much use of it as spanish. What does that mean, culturally, socially? We all admit by now that language has alot to do with the culture that speaks it. But is it the chicken or the egg? Is English the language of capitalism by accident, or did England and then the U.S. become 'masters of the universe' partially because of their language, so precise and streamlined and easy to describe cold hard facts and numbers and monetary amounts? Contrarily, As a mexican woman in Livingston told me, Spanish is like dancing. And the mayan languages are even more different. Efrain told us that in Tzotzil there are no direct objects, only subjects. And there's only one pronoun, or something like that.
The point is that we were delving deep into the fabric of reality there. It was great stuff. If I had signed up for that, it would have been that much greater. But I had signed up for Spanish. Again, I AM NOT COMPLAINING. I'm just saying, right now in my life my priority is learning Spanish. Knowing mayan philosophy is not going to help me conduct better interviews with the mothers of dead mexican girls. Spanish will. So, for that reason, I decided one week in Oventic is enough. This coming week I'm going to enroll in for a week at a school here in San Cristobal, where I can get one on one instruction, lots of it, and stay with a mexican family i can practice talking with.
Then my plan is to get a bus to Mexico City, meet some Indymedia 'kids' there (I'll blog more soon about what I call 'the kids phenomenon') and hang out there for a few days. Then head to the coast just to get a couple days of beach time at Mazatlan, and then north to Juarez, by June 15 or so.
Wow, its amazing how the list of blogs on Indyblogs has ballooned in the last few months, I think as a result of the Indyconference in February. When the story about the conference appeared on the global site, about a month later, with links to indyblogs and my blog and other bloggers that were there, a bunch more imcistas were like, hey, i have a blog too!
Anyway, that was an aside before even starting. Uh... anyway, pues si... oh yeah, i was going to talk about my plans. I think maybe ive been reading too much stuff by Subcommandante Marcos, his style of tangents and postscripts and riddles is perhaps rubbing off...
So, I feel a lot better today. Its quite amazing. The cough is still with me, of course, like an old friend. But the other stuff is mostly disappeared. So, I'm going ahead with my original plan and going off to the village of Oventic tommorrow morning.
Oventic is one of the seats of the Juntos de Buen Gobierno, 5 places of governance which the Zapatistas set up in 2003. It was also the 2nd Aguacaliente, a gathering place where they invited people from the rest of mexico and the world for a conference, i think in 1995 or 1996. I'm still a little hazy on exactly what happened when in the 20 year history of the Zapatistas (yes, 21. they started organizing in secret in 1984, 10 years before they hit the spotlight on january 1, 1994). But I've now, just this week, seen 3 documentaries and am reading a new book called Ya Basta! which is the collected communiques of Marcos, I think everything he wrote for the public since 1994 that was not fiction (he also wrote some collections of stories, and also some children's books). He's an amazing writer, with a really playful but intellectual style.
Anyway, pues si, I am going to Oventic and the conditions will be rustic, as they say, so i may not be online again for a week. My original plan was to be there 2 weeks. But I have heard even more than I heard before that the school there is good for learning about the Zapatistas but not the greatest for spanish. So I might come back after a week and go to a school here in San Cristobal. Or I might stay in Oventic. And even if so, I will probably come into town on the weekend anyway. its only 40 minutes away, i hear.
I'll be sleeping in a hammock and i hear its really great and muy tranquilo. Jacob from SD indymedia wrote about it in his blog, he was there about a month ago. (livejournal doesnt seem to have permalinks to individual blog entries, stupidly enough, so i cant link you straight to the oventic entries he wrote. just scroll down till you find them, if youre interested. he wrote a lot.)
oh, other news: I met Paco from Chiapas Media Project and showed him and a few people from Chiapas Indymedia the rough cut of my Juarez documentary. They had lots of really great comments and advice about it. The mexicans brought up some stuff that was totally right on, that I hadnt thought of before and was embarrassed about, but I had never thought what a Mexican audience would think of it. I was always thinking of the audience as being all gringos. and still i think the majority will be. but it would be nice if the film didnt totally offend and alienate mexicans, no? claro.
Yesterday I went over to the office of Chiapas Indymedia to let Paco make a copy of my Bolivia DVD. He said it would be very interesting to the indigenous people here that he works with. I'm glad I could bring it here to yet another interested audience. Then we went over to Timo's house (Timo is part of Chiapas Indymedia) to watch the first cut of a video that he and Nancy are workign on about International Financial Institutions like the World Bank and IMF. Its going to be good. They have a lot of work still to do but its a good project.
So, yeah, just so ya know, i'm fine, and not seeing a blog entry for a week doesnt mean ive died of dysentary (neccesarily), it just means i'm out in the campo. (country) Hasta luego!
So, as you know, Ive been sick. During this whole trip Ive been sick at some level and type. Lately Ive been dealing with this respitory thing that I get every winter (this time it came a little later in the season). But Ive found I could hold it off and be somewhat comfortable by just taking a lot of drugs - cough syrup, pseudephedrine (sudafed), and acetomeniphen (tylenol).
But its always annoying looking for this stuff at farmacias. All the names are different, brand names of course but even chemical names are sometimes difficult to decipher. I go into a farmacia and ask for somethign for a cough and they bring all this stuff out that I have no idea what it is. Then I just say, tienes dextromethorphan? and they go oh, si, claro, and go back and bring something else out. Also you just cant get pure pseudephrine, in Guate or Mexico. Its always got some other shit in it, either a pain reliever or i dont know what else. But, it works at least.
However, speaking of pain relievers, I cant find acetomeniphen here. It just doesnt exist. I found it in Guatemala, both generic and in Tylenol. But here in Mexico even when you ask for Tylenol they bring you Tylenol that has Parecetemol in it instead. What the fuck? Is it just not sold in all of Mexico? is it illegal, banned? In my experience Paracetemol doesnt work too well. I guess I'll get some ibuprofen, but that doesnt help with a fever. Fucking annoying.
To top it all off yesterday I started getting stomach problems. Just typical travellers digestive ailment, probably, but more serious than before so far on this trip, and I was already sick. Isnt there some rule that you cant have 2 illnesses at the same time? hah. right.
During the past night I was feeling bad enough that if I still feel that bad on monday I dont think I'll go to Oventic like I was planning, whcih would suck. I might have to just hang around San Cristobal a few more days, because Oventic is out in the country and having all these medical problems there would not be good. Maybe I'll study spanish here instead.
It just sucks being sick, especially when youre travelling. especially for 2 months.
Well, yesterday I had another amazing thing happen. I was walking around town again, on my way to get my laundry, actually, and I was right about in the same place, by the bookstore, where my amazing coincidence the previous day had happened. And I hear this voice say my name. I looked around and couldnt see anyone that looked like they were talking to me. Then someone said it again and I was better at figuring out where it came from. A woman, a gringa, was standing there that I didnt recongize at first and she said 'your name is steev, right? we met in Buenos Aires last year.' It was Jen, from Virginia Indymedia, who I had indeed met in Buenos Aires. Wow. I was almost speechless from surprise.
I told her about the Chiapas Indymedia office and she decided to walk along with me there. We caught up on stuff as we walked. She'd been travelling in Mexico for 3 months and was in San Cristobal working at Chiapas Peace House. Wow. I think I'll go back to that same block again now and see what happens today. hah.
I have been on the computer for about 3 hours now so I need to make this quick and wrap this up. I have actually been doing some remote programming work, believe it or not. Just a little, for a friend. He said he would pay me, and would be proud to say these cgi scripts will be 'hecho en Chiapas' (made in Chiapas). Also I just uploaded some photos again, just a few highlights. The one to the left is an example of the huge profusion of grafitti and stencils in San Cristobal, much of it political. Click through to my flickr pages and check out the latest 6 photos.
Sometimes the most amazing coincidences, luck, fate, or will of some higher being happen. For all indymedia people everywhere, a rule of thumb - when travelling, or at least travelling to a place with an Indymedia Center, always have a patch, sticker, t-shirt or something on you that has the name of your local collective, or at least advertises the fact that you do Indymedia work.
My experience yesterday is a perfect case in point. It was truly incredible. In the morning I went to find the office of Chiapas Indymedia (its address was given me by my friend Marcos from New Mexico Indymedia). It was difficult locating it because I dont seem to understand the way the street numbering system works here. But by asking people on the way I figured it out. The office is in a larger building, which I thought at first was a private residence. There were some sleepy looking people washing up and they told me, after I managed to convey what I was looking for, that no one was in the office yet. (I kept asking, at first, for Chiapas Centro de Medios Independentes and they didnt understand till I said Chiapas Indymedia. heh.) I saw the door plastered with indymedia stickers from various other places and a sign with their hours. They were due to be open a little later so I said I would come back.
So, I went walking around, intending to kill a little time (it was about 11am), have lunch somewhere, then go back and see if anyone was there. Bookstores are always a great place to kill time for me, so when I ran across one I stopped in. Another customer stared at me for a second, maybe he was noticing my coca-cola parodying 'anti-capitalista' t-shirt. I smiled and then turned around to look at books, and when i turned back, the guy and a woman were standing there looking at me and she said, 'perdon, vienes ahorita de Guatemala?' (did you just come from Guatemala?) Astounded I said yes, and she introduced herself as Luz. She was the person from Chiapas Indymedia who I'd been corresponding with for the last few weeks! She had seen my Portland Indymedia patch on my backpack when I turned around, and that's how she guessed it was me. She introduced the guy as Timo, also from the IMC there. Amazing. Luz asked if I'd found a place to stay and I said the hotel I was at was not good and I was looking for somewhere else. So she told me that the place where their office was might have space for me. Then she said she was going to Guadalajara for a few days but would see me later, perhaps. Timo said he'd be at the office later that day, and they left.
After lunch I went back to the place and it turns out that the building is a sort of hostel for volunteers and activists working in San Cristobal. Its called Junax and I would recommend it to any IMCistas or others active in social movements who come here. Its at 17 Ejercito Nacional, near the interesction of Calle Cristobal Colon. The woman that runs it, Carmen, is very nice and the place is super comfortable, clean, and beautiful. There are a couple of dorm rooms and many smaller rooms that are all occupied but I happen to have one of the dorms all to myself. There's hot water and access to the kitchen and a nice sitting room, and best of all the indymedia office is right there.
It reminded me a bit of Postal Station 40 in San Francisco, where 3 indybay people live, a block from the offices of Indybay, Whispered Media, and Enemy Combatant Radio. Its much more legit and less dusty than Postal Station 40, but it has a similar feel, a communal atmosphere with many people around working on important socially helpful stuff.
Later in the evening I met Timo and Adolfo at the office and we talked a bunch and I got online from there.
So, I am just super pleased with my luck, especially after being in a really ratty, moldy, musty hotel the first night. I guess I will knock on wood now and hope I will have a similarly nice and fortunate day today. I think I will wander the city a bit more, do some laundry, maybe get a haircut, maybe try to hook up with a guy from the Chiapas Media Project, and maybe climb up to the church of Guadalupe, up high on a hill to the west side of town. Yesterday I went up to the San Cristobal church, also up high but to the east. It was nice but cloudy. Today it's sunnier so it should be a better view.
Following the example of Jacob, another IMCista blogger from San Diego who is in this part of the world too (and is in fact almost doing the inverse of my itinerary - he was in Chiapas and then went to Guatemala. maybe we'll meet when he comes back to mexico), I am going to blog a bit about what Ive been reading.
Local papers are always a great way to get to know a place and here a great way to practice spanish, so I've been reading Prensa Libre a lot. Its the national, sort of slightly left mostly center intelligent newspaper, as opposed to Nuestra Diario, which is the other big national paper but is almost exclusively lowbrow stories about murders and car crashes and photos of pretty girls. Easier to read, but not too interesting. Prensa Libre is actually very interesting, lots of stories you would never see in a gringo newspaper and a usually good, nuanced angle on the TLC (CAFTA) and other important issues. However according to one of my teachers at the Mountain School, their columnists are all over the political map, several are rather conservative.
Today I took the 730 am bus from Tapachula to San Cristobal. It was 8 hours but pretty comfortable except that I didnt eat anything. I guess I expected the bus to take a lunch stop or that the vendors that are ubiquitous in Guatemala that get on the bus and sell food and drink would provide me with something, but none appeared on this one, I guess because it was too first-class. But it was way better than anything I rode in Guate. a bathroom (which worked, unlike Bolivian buses that have them but they're always broken). Air-conditioning. hardly anyone on it. movies (not good movies, but oh well). The only other problem is that the road up into the highlands was insanely curvey and for the first time since childhood i was getting pretty queasy, i wasnt even trying to read. But that passed.
Anyway, I made it to San Cristobal at about 4pm and found a cheap hotel and bought a leftwing national Mexican paper, La Jornada. Its pretty great, though the trade off is that the deeper the political analysis the harder the Spanish is for me to decode. But the greater the motivation is too.
I've been trying to meet up with people from Chiapas Indymedia but the 2 people I have personal addresses for, Paco and Luz, have not answered lately. I think tonite or tommorrow morning I will just go over to the space they have, which I have the address for, and see if I find anyone. It would be great to get a place to crash while I'm here.
To get back to reading material - when I've not been poring over newspapers or my guidebooks, the last 2 books I read were 'First World Ha Ha Ha!' and '100 Years of Solitude.' The first is an anthology I picked up in Xela that collects short essays by dozens of different writers about the Zapatista uprising. Its a great book and I learned a lot, though its now 10 years old and i'm itching to find out more about more recent EZLN events.
The second aforementioned book is the great and famous novel by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Colombian Nobel Prize-winning author. Cien Años de Soledad is a long complicated fantastic history of the fantastic Buendia family and the town that Jose Arcadio Buendia helped found. The book traces 5 or 6 generations of this ill-fated clan and their fairy-tale like exploits. Its full of tall tales, subtle commentary on latin american culture, and veiled allegories to actual political events, though the story takes place in some never-named land that borders the Carribean Sea. The characters all have similar names so you have to keep referring back to the complicated family tree diagram at the beginning of the book. There's incest, bestiality, 32 civil wars, a rainstorm that lasts 4 years, mystical searches for alchemical inventions, an insomnia plague, magical gypsies, ghosts of ancestors, and an evil banana company that slaughters thousands of employees. Its a really sad and disturbing yet whimsical and hilarious and profound book. Someday I want to read it in Spanish.
San Cristobal is muy muy amable (very agreeable). Pleasant. There are lots of tourists, but not as many as in Antigua. Theres a big university here too, which locates here a bunch of the most hippyfreaky young mexicans that I've ever seen. And the signs of political radicalism and Zapatismo are omnipresent. There's a hunger strike going on in the Zocalo just down the street right now. I don't fully understand what its about, something to do with protesting the relocation of people here. There are cute little kids in the Zocalo selling little dolls of the Zapatistas. A little girl came up to me a while ago and showed me a little doll of a horse with 2 black-masked figures on it. 'Este es Marcos, y este es Ramona' she said, pointing out 2 of the most well-known figures in the EZLN. The horse and 2 riders was too big to carry around but I ended up buying a little Marcos one just to satisfy her. They're really cute and funny. Each one is holding a tiny wooden rifle, or a piece of wood shaped vaguely like a rifle.
I have the feeling that San Cristobal was already a tourist heavy place even before the Zapatistas took it over for 30 hours on January 1, 1994, but that event and those following provided another rich source of material on which to base more locally crafted souvenirs for foreign purchase. It feels like at least half the gringos here are just normal tourists, here just for the pleasantness, on their way to the Yucatan or whatever, and the rest are more socially concious types that are here specifically because of the political situation.
The army is definitely a constant presence in Chiapas. The police or the army stops buses regularly and searches. Once right after the border on the bus to Tapachula yesterday an army dude searched my daypack. But he didnt search my big pack. Same with the soldiers at customs. What the hell? Why only search my little pack? I could be carrying 20 kilos of coke or 6 submachineguns or a stack of childporn or a suitcase nuke in my big pack, and you're not gonna even open it up? are you stupid? Or is it all just a sham? The cursory search of the one bag is just for show so that they appear to be doing something. Just like security in U.S. airports.
Its all just simulacra.
No, not that border. Mexico's other one, with Guatemala. I just crossed it today and am now in Chiapas.
(Before I continue I should just throw this very important link at you, more wonderful hijinks from those political pranksters the Yes Men.)
Pues si, so anyway, I left the mountain school this morning a little sad. It was such a wonderful experience and I learned an incredible amount. The best thing this week in my spanish studies, i think, is something you cant really put on a curriculum - i feel like i got considerably better at understanding when people are talking to me, which used to be what i considered my weakest point. Of course now that i am in Mexico i'm a little worried that people here will be much harder to understand since everyone says they seem to talk a lot faster and less clearer than Guatemalans.
At this moment I'm in Tapachula - i just wrote all this in my journal in spanish, but for your sake i'll translate- about 20 kilometers into Mexico from the Guatemalan border. I thought, till a few days ago, that I could get all the way to San Cristobal, but then discovered after reexamining my guidebooks that it would be too far to do in one day. So I took it easy and stopped here. It was still a 9 am to 4pm process (I did lose one hour befcause Mexico observes daylight savings time and Guate does not).
1 pickup, 1 minibus, 1 chickenbus, one tricycle-taxi that charged too much biking me across the border bridge, and one airconditioned mexican bus from the border to here (I like mexico already!), and I made it to this raindrenched but muy amable city. the streets are filled overflowing with rainwater but the rain stopped and i am at a cybercafe after having just had a delcious dinner at a place right on the Plaza Hidalgo, the central square of Zocalo as they say in Mexico. 4 mole enchiladas, a cappucino, and a mineral water for about 6 dollars. Cheap but I spent way too much on the rest of the day. It almost happens on travelling days, especially on border crossing days, cuz you dont know where stuff is, and hence whether to pay for stuff like taxis or walk, and then if its rainy of otherwise inhospitable sometimes you stop at a hotel thats more expensive that you otherwise might stay at.
esta bien. its okay.
Tommorrow, a 9-hour bus ride into the highlands and to San Cristobal, which is sort of the cultural capital of Chiapas, sort of a hip city, i hear, and where Chiapas Indymedia has an office. I hope to hook up with them this week. Then next week back to studying spanish, this time in Oventic, the Zapatista spanish school.
Hola from Coatepeque, Guatemala. I had to come here, a medium sized city about a 50-minute ride from the school, because i need more cash to pay for next week's classes, and the nearest ATM is here. Its quite a bit lower in altitude so its hot and steamy and has a different culture than the mountain highlands towns.
Everything is going absolutely great at the Mountain School, except for the small detail that my stupid cough, my mystery respiratory thing that happens to me once a year and holds on like a claw around my lungs for months, is still with me. it receded while i travelled in the hot humid atlantic coast area, but getting back to the highlands brought back the cough. it started feeling better a few days ago but then wednesday it got worse again when i went on a hike to this cool volcanic lake on top of a mountain where sacred stuff was happening for Ascension Day - the day Jesus supposedly ascended to heaven, 40 days after Easter. Mayan people gather at the lake and burn stuff and set up little altars and stuff. Very holy stuff. It was super beautiful, fog rolling in and out of the crater above the lake every few minutes. But the ride and the hike up and in were brutal, and my lungs just hated me for it.
So since then the cough is bad again. I dont feel like its really bad aor painful or serious. Its just annoying, needing to cough all the time and annoy people around me like my roomate trying to sleep, for example.
It just really really sucks something like this to mar what is a challenging situation already but ultimately one that, if I was fully fit and robust I would get more out of it.
But, I am learning a lot of spanish. Theres tons of stuff pouring into my brain i have to keep practicing and reviewing it all or it will go no where. but i think i can do that. its really really great.
I'm writing this from an internet cafe in Columba, a little town in the coffee-producing western highlands region of Guatemala. This is my second full day at the Mountain School, a project of PLQE, the school in Xela where I was before. They started this second school out in the country at what used to be a finca, a coffee plantation. The income from the school helps the 2 little villages that are right next to the school, called Fatima and Nuevo San Jose. Its an incredibly poor community, only about 40 or so families total. Many of them make less than minimum wage for Guatemala, and almost all the men work on coffee plantations nearby.
The school is great. Classes are like at the school in Xela, one on one, either 4 hours in the morning or 4 in the afternoon. The classes are in these cute little huts with thatched palm frond roofs out in the 'yard'. The school also has a little building it uses for special events and meetings for the community, and it raises chickens to sell the eggs.
We students at the school sleep at the school, 2 per room, but we have meals with different families in these villages. Its an incredible experience, getting to know these people who live in a totally different way than most of us have ever seen up close. The family I eat with lives in a cinderblock house with a corrugated steel roof. It has a little front room, a kitchen in back, and about 3 bedrooms off to the side. There's a grandmother named Pabla who does most of the cooking, her daughter, Wilma and Wilma's husband, Eddie, and Pabla's son Carlos. Then there's a little boy, francisco, and a little girl, Yasmi, who are Wilma's, and then 2 little cousins, a boy and girl, but I'm not sure whose kids they are or if they sleep there or just hang out and eat.
The men, like i said, work at the plantations, and are gone all day, from 5 am to about 5:30 pm. Meanwhile the women cook, clean, make tortillas (Pabla and Wilma said they make about 100 a day between them), and haul wood. This wood hauling is the most amazing thing. You see women all day walking down the road with these HUGE bundles of sticks, probably waying about 80 pounds, on their backs. ropes from the bundle go around and to a little piece of cloth that goes on the woman's forehead, and that's how they haul the wood. The need so much wood because that's what they use to cook with. All the cooking is done over a wood fire with a big metal plate over it that they put pots or pans on.
The kids who are 7 or older go to a little school right in the village, and i think older high school age kids go somewhere else, like maybe here to Columba, about 10 km away. younger kids run around in the dirt streets and are very friendly and entertaining. Everyone is really friendly, actually. apparently the language school has really done good things for and has established a great rapport with the villages.
The natural surroundings are incredible. Its like the classic archetypal tropical mountain jungle thing. The climate is mild, not too cold, not too hot, and it rains every afternoon on and off, sometimes pretty hard, but mostly just a light warm drizzle. Its great to be away from the cities, the pollution and noise and stuff. Its pretty relaxing and I feel like the environment is helping me learn more and faster, or maybe its because i'm not as sick as before.
So, that's the basic lowdown on the mountain school.
They are all pretty well described on my Flickr pages so just take a look there. I wont really say much more about them, other than to say they are all out of order, because I couldnt figure out how to define the order to upload them. Plus the software I used seems to have not preserved the data for each photo, like the date and stuff. Oh well.
Today I am heading out to la Escuela de la Montaña, like i think i mentioned yesterday. I found out that there is a village 30 minutes away with an internet cafe, so maybe i will be getting online more than i thought. Which is good and bad, know what I mean?
Anyway, enough. I have my usual computer internet cafe headache. Chao.
Buenos Dias from La Capitol, Guatemala City. Yesterday was another long gruelling day of travel. I got up at 5, caught the 6am bus out of El Estor with 2 others travellers I had met there. We got to Rio Dulce and had breakfast, and then they were headed down the river to Livingston, where I had already been, so we said goodbye. It was fun doing the tour of the nature reserve, hanging out in El Estor, and at least a short leg of travelling with some others.
My new friends jumped on a little boat leaving for the river right from the little gringo-owned lakeside restaurant where we ate. I sat there a little longer and finished tea, and then went to the bus station and got a ticket for the next bus to Guatemala City. The bus ended up being an hour late, or perhaps it just never came and I actually got on the next hourly one. At any rate, it was a great example of people who sell services here telling you what you want to hear, especially when there is competition. there was another bus company just across the street, so I think they tried hard to make their service look comparitively attractive. leaves early, cheaper, takes less time. It turned out to leave only a half hour earlier and it took 6 hours as opposed to the 5 that I was told, but if they had told me the truth (assuming they knew the truth), I might have gone with the other company.
Anyway, the trip was pretty miserable. At least the bus was a greyhound style bus and not a school bus, but we drove through the hottest driest parts of Guatemala, and the bus was really underpowered when we got to the mountains leading up to the capitol.
Finally we got to the city, shortly before dusk, and I found the hotel I had planned ahead of time to stay at, just 2 blocks away from where the bus stopped (each bus company has their own terminal in Guate, its strange, but thats privatisation for you...) The neighborhood is really grotty, Zona One, which is the historic town center, but now the most crime-ridden and dangerous place in town, I think, except for maybe parts of Zona Four. I checked in, then quickly hoofed over to get dinner a few blocks away before it got too dark. I ate at Camparo, which is like Guatemala's answer to Kentucky Fried Chicken, because I didnt want to take chances in this neighborhood with searching for a better restaurant and I wanted to get done fast and get back to the hotel, and I knew Camparo, its a chain so like all chains you always know what you'll get.
It was friday night and I was kind of bummed that i felt not safe enough to go out and try to see a little Guate City nightlife. I could have taken a cab to a bar or club, but i didnt want to spend the money. So I just glumly trudged back to the hotel. However once there I realized the hotel room had cable TV, and I ended up watching a bunch of gringo movies, with spanish subtitles so i could justify it as practicing spanish. I saw the end of a jackie chan film about stolen nuclear bombs, and then most of the Ali G movie, which was hilarious in sort of British Beavis and Butthead sort of way, and then most of a Chris Rock and Anthony Hopkins movie, also about a stolen nuclear weapon.
Seems to be a current zeitgeist or fear within the collective imaginary, the idea that there are all these old soviet warheads floating around the former soviet bloc, maybe getting sold by mafia to terrorists. Probably a lot of truth to it, and indeed something we should be worrying about, a lot. In a way the situation is more unstable than before the USSR fell. But no one ever talks about it in public. Everyone thinks ah, cold war over, we are safe. yay. no nuclear holocaust. think again, people.
Here in the Capital its a constant fume filled noisy polluted mess. My cough has gotten worse, logically, again since getting here from the relatively more fresh air of the coast and the Lago Izabal area.
Anyway, this afternoon after my laundry is done I am hopping a four hour bus back to Xela, staying a night there in town, and then tommorrow getting a bus in the afternoon out ot the Escuela de la Montana, the mountain school, which is another location that my school has, on a former coffee plantation out in the country. So ill be away from the internet for all next week. I'll probably check it one last time tommorrow morning. Then maybe i will come into town the next weekend just to get on the internet, and maybe get a change of pace, and then ill be at the mountain school again for another week.
After that i head out of Guatemala and north into Chiapas, Mexico.
I have lots of good photos I'd love to show you but i am out of time again today. hopefully tommorrow morning. Ive been given a free pro account on Flickr too, so maybe i'll upload a whole bunch. yay.
Hi there, I am writing this from a little internet cafe in El Estor, a block from Guatemala's biggest lake. I have decided that this place feels hotter than anywhere else I can ever remember being. I say feels because I dont know exactly if it technically the highest temperature, etc. I think its somewhere around 38 degrees Celsius. The nearest city that shows up on weather maps is Puerto Barrios, where its supposedly only 33. (91 F). Who knows? the important thing is that its also insanely humid, and unless you're right down by the water, there is almost zero breeze. At least in Livingston, where I was before this, it was just as hot but seemed cooler because there was a nice breeze from the ocean most of the time.
So I found this internet place and walked in and its actually the only place in town that is airconditioned, which at first seems heavenly but the AC doesnt really help much. it might have dropped the temperature by 1 degree, and only when you are standing right in front of the machine.
Constantly dripping with sweat, and even thinking too hard make me seem hotter. Not to mention trying to pick bones out of a fish for dinner. Thats hard enough work to leave you drenched with perspiration.
But, I like it. Its all worth it. I think I last blogged from Copan. Here is what happened since then, briefly. on Monday morning I grabbed breakfast and then caught a bus for the border. I crossed back into Guatemala and got another bus to Jocotan, about 30 kilometers and a half hour away, and then another bus from there to Chiquimula, about 45 km and an hour away. Then I got hustled onto another bus to my next destination, Puerto Barrios, 4.5 hours away.
I noticed that the best thing for short local bus trips is to get on a little minibus, because they fill up fast and then they go faster because they dont stop, because no one else will fit in. Unless someone gets off. If I ever have time to do a not quite so political documentary I would like to come back to Guatemala and do a film about the guys who work on the buses. Not the drivers, their job is pretty straightforward. They just drive. But there is always another guy who basically does everything else. Takes money, advertises the bus and its destination to people on the street (usually by shouting the destination and then 'Hay Lugares!', which literally means 'There are places!' (on the bus, still, for you to sit). Often a 'place' is definied quite loosely here. It might be an actual seat, or it might be a tiny patch of floor on which you are welcome to stand, wedged between 2 other people and a giant sack of potatoes, for instance, for 3 hours.
To make a long story short, the trip on monday was hot and long but I was lucky to get a seat on all the vehicles and none of those vehicles were school buses, meaning they were actually designed with adult-sized bodies in mind.
I got to Puerto Barrios at about 3pm. Puerto Barrios, on the Carribean coast, is Guatemala's main sea port. It used to be basically the monopoly property of United Fruit Company, and the only way to get there was by the railline that United Fruit also owned. Now there's a highway. Theres nothing in Puerto Barrios really but dust and sweat and noise, so I immediately found my way to the boat dock where the ferry and other boats go to Livingston. The usual entreprenuerial spirit is alive and well there, with guys trying to sell you passage on the smaller faster and more frequent launches. i saw that they were the same sort of plastic bathtubs that i experienced at Lago de Atitlan, and I also wanted to save money, so I waited for the ferry. No tengo prisa, I said, I'm not in a hurry. I also noticed a gaggle of 18 or so blonde white gringos get on the launch and I was like, nope, definitely not. I relaxed at a little diner near the pier and had lunch, since I had not eaten since breakfast 8 hours ago.
The I got on the ferry, with the locals, and it was so much better. Over and over I make these kinds of decisions and am so happy with them. At first I argue with myself, thinking, oh wait, maybe you should go where all those other tourists are going... but no. There are so many reasons not to. Usually I get more chance to practice my spanish, to relax, to pay less money, and its usually less stressful. Like in this case - Those little boats are scary!
Anyway, then at 630 pm i found myself in Livingston, a little town you can only get to by boat, where a river meets the Carribean. Shipwrecked African slaves formed their own society with Carribeans natives on the island of St Vincent in teh 18th century, and when the British finally kicked them off they ended up in Livingston and a few other places on the Honduran and Nicaraguan coast. The culture is very different there.
Tuesday I went on a tour around the town and area, went swimming and walking on the beach. Wednesday I left Livingston and took another boat down the Rio Dulce to the town of Rio Dulce. Its classic tropical jungle kind of surroundings. I'll write more, i hope, about my thoughts about archetypal images during this jaunt. Anyway, in Rio Dulce, which is where the river flows out of a huge lake, the aforementioned Lago de Izabal, I then caught another bus to this little town, El Estor. It gets its name from a store that these gringos had here for years. People said 'vamos para El eStore', cuz thats how you pronounce an english word like Store. (similarly they pronounce my name 'Esteev'). So gradually the town that grew up around the store just got called El Estor.
Anyway, I was here to see this huge nature reserve, a river delta that drains into the Lake. Shortly after I got to town, which is really a very small town with hardly any tourists (yay!) i ran into a woman from Holland who had just arranged with a guide to go to the delta. Its cheaper with more people and so i was happy to have met her. it was really great luck. and it was fun hanging out with her. We found 3 other travellers, all from Italy and Switzerland, who also wanted to go, so at 6am we met Benjamin Castillo, local boatman and nature expert, and he took us into the reserve. It was really really great and beautiful.
Ive been sitting here too long already so I will end there for now. Hopefully soon I will upload some of my amazing photos of the tour this morning. Great birds, howler monkeys, turtles, mangroves, manatees... it was super. okay, chao for now....
next time i form a progressive rock band, that is what i'll name it: yup, 18 rabbit's hieroglyphic staircase. Doesnt that sounds great?
18 rabbit was a Mayan king who ruled Copan in the 8th century AD, or DC as the say here ("Despues Christo" i guess). And the hieroglyphic staircase is an amazing set of steps going up a pyramid in Copan that is covered with thousands of hieroglyphs that tell the story of his dynasty.
I happen to be in Copan right now, just over the border into Honduras. or rather, the little town next to the ruins of Copan. Ironically this little town is called Copan Ruinas. the town is really pretty pleasant. ancient Copan was on of the biggest mayan cities, and has some of the best sculpture and most well-preserved stuff with lots of hieroglyphic texts that have been deciphered to learn about the citys history.
i got here early this morning, found a hotel and then promptly headed to the ruins. they are amazing. i would post a photo but i just dont have the energy to try to hook up my camera. hay mucho calor aqui! and muggy! very tropical. nice. the ruins, anyway, are really stupendous, and fascinating, and theres too many to see in one day. unfortunately the museum where a lot of the sculptures have been moved, to keep them preserved, is closed for repairs till november. but there are replicas out in their original places. The experience has me wanting to read more about the mayans. and the olmecs too.
slight political note: lots of honduran soldiers are about here, with M-16s. many guarding the ruins. others you just see around town.
tommorrow, day 3 of my 9 days off from spanish school: back to guatemala and north east to Livingston, on the carribean coast.
After 8+ hours of buses I am now in far eastern Guatemala in the small city of Chiquimula, about 60 km from the Honduran frontera. At least this trip I took first class buses, which means it costs maybe 2 dollars more but you are sure to get your own seat with adult-sized legroom. But, they still stop at random places to pick up people by the side of the road and squeeze them into standing in the aisle. Anyway, I wanted to make it all the way to the border and to the Mayan ruins of Copan just across, but it was just too long of a trip to make it before the border closed, i realized, so i stopped here. Also I met with Otto, who lives here and works with Sister Schools International. He found out about the Bolivia computer project and wanted to meet me to talk about getting computers here to Guatemala. So we´ve been chatting about that. I keep trying to get him to understand how hard it is and that i still have not finished the Bolivia project. Anybody want to head up yet another Tech Solidarity project?
So he took me to an internet cafe and here i am. the connection is SUPER fast here, for some odd reason. Some kind of secret Guatemalan-US military CIA fiber backbone near here? I mean this is almost as fast as if i was down the hall from my server. Like back in the good old days on Ramona Street....
Anyway, tommorrow, the early bus to Copan. Cool ruins, jungle, birds, etc.
Last weekend I went to Lago de Atitlan, which was formed thousands of years ago when a huge volcanic explosion made a giant crater that then filled with water. It´s really beautiful. this photo was taken in San Pedro last sunday morning, note local women doing the laundry on the shore. San Pedro is kind of the Haight Street of Guatemala. Tons of gringo hippies, guys tryign to sell you all manner of chemical recreation in the street, and lots of hippy restaurants and stuff. But it was kind of relaxing, especially being on the lake. And that kind of tourist infestation is a little less obnoxious to me than the sort of mainstream disneyland kind of shit that is in the main town on the lake, Panajachel.
Anyway, i´m glad I went, it was a nice little weekend excursion, thought the bus trip back was hellish.
I need to run. Tommorrow morning, I head to Copan, which is a set of Mayan ruins on the Guatemala-Honduras border. That will be the start of my weeklong break from spanish school. More later...
Hola, well I said I would write about Guatemalan food so vamos. Premiero, queiro dicer que WINDOWS SUCKS. Again I´ve just wasted a half hour trying in vain to get Windoze to recognize my camera. And this is even XP. What the fuck? Why can´t they get shit right, still? when you plug any camera into a mac, it just automagically knows its there. with windoze i waste time downloading a driver, installing, and it still doesnt work. godammit. I got lots of good photos too.
Anyway: With food, I think i will end up writing more about eating customs than food itself. First, Guatemalans, like Mexicans, at least non-rich ones, have the following daily eating habits: medium-small breakfast, which is usually, for my host family, 2 or more of the following: some kind of eggs, cereal (in warm milk), fruit, tortillas or bread, and sometimes pancakes or mosh, which is a guatemalan thin hot oatmeal dish. Then for almuerzo, lunch, they have their biggest meal. Usually some kind of meat, maybe soup, vegetables, and of course tortillas or bread. Since I told them i didnt eat red meat we´ve been having lots of chicken, and once we had fish because they went to visit a town near the lake where you can get good fresh fish. For dinner, its almost the same as breakfast. often some kind of eggs, maybe vegetables, and once we had these things like tamales called chuchistes. but dinner is small, and eaten at about 7:30 to 8:30.
I like this arrangement a lot. Its much more healthy and logical than the way a lots of norteamericanos eat, and way way better than the way porteños (people in Buenos Aires) eat - almost no or no breakfast, large lunch, huge and very very late (like 10pm) dinner. No no no. you dont eat a lot before you go to bed. thats how you get fat. also breakfast is neccesity, totally, you have to have fuel to start your day.
Anyway, i am happy with the food mostly, here, and my gut hasnt been rebelling too much. Oh the thing I forgot to mention is all the meals come with black beans. Lots of black beans. Which is hard to deal with. But, my host family has been really good. It was sort of surprising to not find myself in a large family with little kids. This one is just Aviel, who is an accountant, and his wife Pilar, a law student, and her mother Yolanda, who is a schoolteacher. And sometimes other family members show up for meals, like an 18 year old nephew named Julio, or a couple other men who I havent figured out what relation they are.
Often at dinner Yolanda is watching a soap opera on TV from mexico called Un Apuesto Por Un Amor - A Wager for A Love. Its just as cheesy as any gringo soap opera but its on at night, and its more violent. This week one of the stars stabbed her guy in the chest with some scissors after he found her in bed with another hombre and threatened them with a gun. Then the other hombre accidentally killed her banging her head against a wall, and stole another woman's baby. Tommorrow night is the 'gran final', but i think i might miss it.
Its sort of good practice of spanish listening, though since its mexican they speak a lot faster than guatemalans, so its hard.
okay thats all for now. off to study some more. Tommorrow is my last day at the school in Xela, and I take 9 days off to travel, then i have 2 more weeks at La Escuela de la Montaña, the other school PLQE runs, on a former coffee plantation out in the country. chao.
Wow, it has been so long since I've blogged. Disculpa. But if you know what I've been up to it will come as no surprise that i've been busy, and have not been able to get much internet access.
Also, I have for the last week or so always been envisioning this grand blog entry in which I completely describe in great and eloquent detail my experiences here in Guatemala for the last 2 weeks, or since I last blogged. But this very idea has daunted me from being able to do it, because it seems like such a big task that will take a lot of time that I don´t have.
So, I´ve decided to reject that idea and take the opposite tack, blog often, blog fast, and blog short. IF possible.
So, to just quickly get you up to date - I am in Xela, which is Guatemala´s second largest, or second most important city after the capital. Don't try to find that on a map, because the name that the spanish conquorors called it was Quetzaltenango. Lots of towns here are something-tenango, which i havent quite figured out but it must mean something like 'ville' or 'town' or whatever. Anyway, Xela is the old Mayan name of the original town.
Xela is pretty nice - like almost all latin american cities, a little too much air pollution, but otherwise, wonderful. Its in the middle of a valley surrounded by green mountains and a few volcanoes, the narrow streets are paved with cobblestones. It´s pretty oldish, except for frequent gringoesque advertisements for things like puppy chow and aspirin and stuff. The climate is sort of san franciscan, tho more extreme: pretty hot in the day, rather cold at night, fog coming in in the evenings.
I´m going to a spanish school called Proyecto Linguistico Quetzalteco Espanol. This is my second week here and it's really great. I'm learning a lot, it seems not as fast I hoped, but maybe that's an illusion. also I´ve been sick, first last week with a weird reaction to my malaria pills, which has gone away, but now this week the cold that I brought with me from Iowa has worsened into this really annoying lungflemfest. I went to a doctor again, and he said i have a little bronchitis and gave me antibiotics. So hopefully i will get better soon.
Anyway, the spanish studies are great, the school is great. It's one-on-one, and many of the teachers are very political, and some in fact used to be guerillas in the civil war, for decades. So there is a lot to learn here besides just grammar and vocabulary. And there is plenty of chance to practice, around the city and with my host family.
My host family is really nice. The other day they drove me to their family doctor. The husband is an accountant and also a student, the wife is studying law, and the grandmother is like an elementary school teacher. I especially get lots of practice talking to her, she's very talkative, but very patient and used to repeating herself. They've been very good to me and the food has been good, if sometimes strange. I'll write more about that next. Guatemalan food.
Well, I'm out of the sweltering heat of Monterrico and halfway up into the highlands, in Antigua. And as you can see, I've made it to a place with a much faster internet connection and managed to upload 3 photos. The first is an example of a typical chicken bus. the second is a section of beach in Monterrico, and the third is the fountain in the central square of Antigua.
I arrived here yesterday after taking the boat and 3 chicken buses, with virtually no waiting. The whole process was much faster than getting there from Guatemala City, but no less stressful.
First when we got to the boat dock a local dude that new really good english tried to scam me and a french woman I'd met who was going my way. He told us we had missed the boat and the next one wouldn't be for another hour and a half, but if we wanted to pay an extra 6 Quetzals a little motorboat could speed us over so that we could still catch the bus. We thought about it and decided we werent in a hurry, but then the regularly scheduled boat that he told us had left early started filling up with locals and we knew he'd been screwing with us. This was pretty interesting, and made me realise that kind of thing probably happens all the time but even if the gringos notice, they dont care much, because the difference is like one dollar or something.
Anyway, then we caught a bus, and then I said goodbye to Eugenie to switch buses. She was going a different way, east into El Salvador. She is French, and was in the process of going from the Yucatan, where she'd been working for 9 months, to Costa Rica, where she wants to get a job and live. I had met her the night before and the 2 of us and this guy from Denmark hung out quite a bit. She's one of those rare ultra interesting people you meet when you're travelling. I've been thinking about how when you're travelling you meet other travellers and because of the nature of budget, backpacker-style travelling, just about everyone is at least somewhat more interesting than the average person you'd meet back home, just because in order to be the kind of person to take the risks and the discomforts and unpredictability of this kind of travel, you have to be somewhat unusual.
And so if you're lonely, which you usually are, you think, cool, another cool person who is from some other place... and sometimes they are really really cool. but lots of times they are a wide range of types that vary from relatively normal, to fratboyish, to dorky, to freakish to... well, you get the idea.
Anyway, I jumped onto a few more buses and eventually got here. each time i was worried about my large pack, which had to be stored up on top of the bus. I crossed my fingers that no one would steal it or slash it or something, but everything worked out.
I'm skimming over things cuz I don't want to spen a lot of time here.
But let me just briefly describe Antigua: it's a beautiful and pleasant little city. It used to be the capital till an earthquake demolished it, but it still has lots of wonderful old colonial architecture. It reminds me a lot of Cochabamba, especially the Parque Central, or what they'd call in Bolivia the Plaza Principal, or in Mexico the Zocalo. The big difference from Cochabamba is that there are way more white folks here. This place is crawling with gringos - i use gringo in the larger sense of foreigner, not just U.S. citizens. There are foreigners from all over, mostly here to study espanol. Antigua is the foremost town to do that in, and you can tell that from the businesses that have sprung up to serve that demographic. It's kind of disturbing, actually. I feel like a typical north american collage campus has been sort of pasted down over the city. For instance this morning I stumbled onto a little placed called The Bagel Barn. It might as well have been any typical hipster cafe in Portland or San Francisco. It even had wireless internet.
I'm really glad I'm not staying here to study spanish. I wanted to see it, cuz of the history, but I expected to not like it. I'm here for just 2 nights, and then onto Xela tommorrow, to get situated with my host family and stuff. Then on Monday I get started with classes.
In other news, I am still sick, but a different sort of sick that is new and strange. For the last few days I have had this growing and ebbing wierd tingling in all my extremities, and a slight dizziness, and just a feeling of extreme fatigue and weakness. But I don't have a fever, that I can tell, or any other symptoms. I can't figure it out. My theory right now so far is that it's a side effect of the malaria pills I've been taking. I don't know, though. It's worrying me. Could someone please google chlorquine phosphate and find out?
Don't worry about me though. When I get to Xela, if I don't get better in a couple days I will see a doctor.
that's it for now. chao.
I am typing this in an internet center on the Calle Principal of a tiny town in Guatemala called Monterrico, on the Pacific Coast. As I sit here typing this my body is dripping with sweat. This is just about the most humidity I have ever experienced. Maybe Corrumba, Bolivia was worse. If you are outside, on the beach, laying in a hammock as breeze from the ocean blows in, it is quite pleasant here. But right now Im in a little stucco building into which very little air is circulating, even though there are numerous open windows and doors.
So, I will make this short. I basically want to say that I am here, and having a wonderful time. AFter a day of travelling to get here which consisted of 2 hours of driving to OHare, 2 hours of flying to Houston, 6 hours of waiting in the Houston airport, and then 3 hours of flying to Guatemala City, I arrived at the very pleasant Hostel Dos Lunas. After a night there I spent another day travelling from Guatemala City to here, getting my first experience of "chicken buses", the main mode of distance travel in Guatemala - these are actually old school buses from the US and Canada, usually painted some garish combination of colors and given a name and other decorations. I am attempting to upload a photo from my camera of one of these.
Suffice it to say that I eventually made it after 5 hours of travel to get what i think is only about 150 kilometers. But it was fine. The last half hour featured a small boat which took down a mangrove canal from one little village, La Avallana, where the bus route ended, to Monterrico. Monterrico is a dusty little town devoted mostly to weekend Guatemalan beach enthusiasts, and the beach is supposed to be the best in the country. It is a black, obsidian beach, very beautiful, very hot, with beautiful crashing waves. Im staying at a hotel that is literally right on the beach, called Johnnys. I woke up and stepped outside, blinking, and had one of those moments where I couldnt quite remember or believe where i was. Its a paradise. palm trees, hammocks, little bungalows and a bar that serves cheap food and drinks. Various tourists, including several gringos, but not too many, since this is during the week. Overall I am having a thoroughly wonderful time. I am still getting over my cold, but I feel the hot weather burning it out of my body as I lay on the beach.
On Sunday I am due in Xela, the small city in the highlands, not far from here )nothing is THAT far, Guatemala is fairly small. where I will be studying Spanish. Till then, Im just trying to relax, and get some hot climate time in, since Xela is very high altitude and is quite a bit cooler temperature. This sweltering place will help me to appreciate that, I think. Anyway, learning spanish is the important thing, and I feel like even lounging here in this beach town for the last 24 hours i have learned, or reinforced, a lot.
ugh, i am beginning to wonder if i will be able to upload a photo. i have already spent an hour installing software, etc, which has costed me 12 quetzals. only about US$2.70 but i was hoping to be out of this hot room sooner! see what i go through for you? well, screw it. another time. this connectino is too slow, the computer is too slow. fuck it.
but anyway, here i am.
Well, I'm almost all completely packed. It seems like whenever I go anywhere, I not only have to pack what I'm taking but also pack what I'm leaving. It's a bloody pain. Especially when I don't know where I'll be returning to. Oh hell I don't even want to try to explain it right now. I'm tired.
At least I managed to get the rough draft of the Juarez doc done, and copies mailed out to people who will hopefully look at it and give me their thoughts, and then when I get back I can finish it up, taking their advice into account
Anyway, this seemed like a good time to upload my collection of all the best photos I've taken over the last month back here in Iowa. It's pretty interesting.
In other news, today I also mailed out a screening copy of a short video of mine, The Pitch which is appearing in the Portland PDX Film Festival this month. It's interesting how this piece that was done really quickly and is really just a silly joke video is the one they wanted, as opposed to the short Bolivia doc that I also sent, which I spent far more time on and really is more important and needs to be seen by more people. sigh.
Well heck, it's been almost a week since I last blogged. Not good.
Well, it's been crazy lately. The Collage Conference in Iowa City was nonstop intensity, fun, and thoughtful but energetic conversation with really smart people from all over the world. It was really great. I don't have time to say much more except that I got far too little sleep and so shortly after, I got sick. I'm getting over it now but am still full of snot and just sort of feeling crappy. Anyway I took a bunch of photos at the conference. I hope to write a little more about in the detritus blog later.
So, now I'm scrambling to whip my Juarez film into good enough state to at least be able to show it to a small select group of people I trust to give me constructive advice about how to finish it. I'll send them copies and then jet off to Guatemala and in 2 months come back and finish it, taking into account all the wondeful and wise suggestions i'm sure they'll have. :-)
Meanwhile other preparations for my trip are gradually coming together. Medications, mosquito stuff, etc etc. This time next week, I will hopefully be on a black sand beach on the pacific coast of Guatemala, and especially important, I hopefully will not be worrying about anything.
I'm at Java House in Iowa City, which is halfway between my Dad's place near Cedar Rapids and my Mom's place in the Quad-Cities. I just had lunch with Kembrew, ,who's a professor here at the University of Iowa, and then I had coffee with an old friend from high school who I hadn't seen for like 6 years. It was great. We had a really great conversation. It's cool to know that someone who was one of my favorite people 20 years ago is still a really really interesting person.
Not much more to report. Oh, it snowed last night. That's it for now.
For the past couple days I've been just outside of Shellsburg, Iowa, at the house of my father and stepmother. It's a comfortable place, and I'm looking foward to relaxing and also getting lots of things accomplished, most importantly getting my Juarez documentary finished, or mostly finished.
Above is a photo from the large backyard, looking past my father's robotic telescope observatory (not quite finished) up the hill to the house. When the observatory is done, he'll be able to remotely control a telescope and take photos of the sky, via wireless internet. He started putting it together last summer, but didn't quite get it working before the weather got bad.
Is it any wonder why I'm so geeky?
Anyway, so I've been trying to get "organizized," to quote deNiro in Taxi Driver. I've started trying this new method invented by David Allen, called simply "Getting Things Done." A friend gave me some audio files of Allen doing a presentation about the whole method. It's pretty exciting because he seems to really have a handle on how our minds work and how to be more productive and less stressed-out.
One interesting tidbit he mentions is that people who are intelligent, creative, and sensitive tend to procrastinate more than others. Which makes total sense - people who can clearly visualise how difficult something will be or the possible failures involved will be scared off and delay doing that thing, whereas dumb oafs who can't imagine anything but simplicity will just blunder on ahead. I definitely know several people in both categories...
I've gone to 4 musical events here in Tucson in the last 8 days, and 3 of them have been at the same club, Club Congress. Sunday I saw an awesome show featuring the Tokyo band Polysics (sort of like a japanese Devo), and 4 amazing opening bands. I took lots of photos, and even a few video clips.
In other news, I'm going to leave Tucson and head for Austin tommorrow for the Indy Conference there. I'm riding with focus, also from Portland IMC, and 2 Tucson IMC people, Walt and Jessica. I'm looking forward to the conference, seeing a bunch of indymedia people from all over, and seeing Austin again. Out of the many places I've lived I think Austin is the only place I felt like I didn't want to leave when I moved away, and that I could envision living there again.
Well, I definitely have not been blogging much lately. That's because I've had pretty limited access to the net, since I'm staying in a house that's pretty primitive conditions, at least for this pampered country. There's no phone and no heat, I'm sleeping on the stone floor, and shower takes hours to drain and leaves sediment on the floor. so of course it's not suprising there's no internet. Luckily there is a really cool cafe a pretty short bike ride away (I rented a scrappy but nice bike from BICAS on tuesday, for cheap!) which has wireless. So here I am drinking tea and looking out the window at the rainy street.
Rain? you ask incredulously. Yes. It rains a little bit in Tucson in the winter. And this year, a little more than usual. Apparently the rain is coming from the Gulf of Mexico, which is even more unusual. But this means that at least the rain and the air is warm (unlike in Portland, where rain this time of year usually means ice-cold rain). In fact, before last night, the nights were pretty chilly, but because of the weather change it was much warmer.
Luckily, Shawn looked at the weather forecast and saw that the rain was coming, and planned to go the desert yesterday while it was still nice. I went with him, and it was a lot of fun. We went to Saguaro National Park, which is split in half by the city of Tucson. The east half is just on the east edge of town, so it was relatively easy to get there. We took the bus to get past the nasty miles of strip malls, and then biked the rest of the way.
Once at the park we biked halfway around the 8-mile loop drive, and then took the dirt multiuse trail that cuts across the loop. Neither of us are big mountain bike enthusiasts, we're urban, everyday bikers, not recreational weekend lycra-wearers. But the trail was pretty easy for most of the way, though at some point it got to where only skilled rockhoppers would have felt comfortable. we walked past those spots. Anyway, I took lots of nice photos and it was a lot of fun. And the return trip was relatively easy, being mostly downhill, back into stripmall land where we caught the bus back downtown.
I was going to write some further, more pensive things about what I think of Tucson but I'm going to wait, as it's getting late, and I need to think some more. The rain, the nightly chill, the city, the house... there are many things to meditate on and write about. But that will have to wait. If you're been waiting for this kind of stuff, thanks for your patience. In the meantime, enjoy those photos.
Well I made it to Tucson, after 48 hours of travelling on 3 different modes of transit (car, bus, train), and am now ensconced in a very basic dwelling with my fellow portlander, Shawn. I'll blog more details later, but for now, look at some photos.
I started really packing today. Packing what I will store here in Portland, what I will take, and what I will ship to my Dad's house in Iowa. I hate packing. I hate finding enough boxes. I hate organizing. Mostly I hate seeing all the stuff I hardly ever use, even some stuff I've never used. Like books I've only barely looked at. I have way too many books in general. It's incredible. I've actually sold quite a few over the last 10 months, but I still have a lot. I have too many CDs too. I hate seeing the stuff I was planning to do something with. Books that were going to be the start of some project. Videos I was going to use as source material. Footage I still haven't logged. Piles of CD-Rs and DVD-Rs of data that I've backed up, that need to be organized. The bittersweet sting of potentials unrealized.
In other news, I got a notice in the mail today that my last semester of undergrad tuition is 2,955 days late. That is hilarious. Somewhere a computer actually keeps track of that. I've been slowly paying off the University of Michigan like 10 or 20 dollars a month for the last 13 years, but this is the first time I've seen that days overdue count. Hee hee. wow.
Well, I'm definitely leaving Portland this Saturday. The plan is to ride with a friend who is driving to the bay area, stay the night in San Francisco, then catch a bus to L.A. in the morning, then get the train out of L.A. sunday night to arrive in Tucson monday morning. It will be approximately the same amount of time as if I had taken amtrak the whole way, which is now impossible because of track repairs and resulting overbooking. The good thing is that I will see more people I know on my way down.
So this week is the usual craziness of getting packed. I'm packing things into 3 groups, actually: things I'm taking, things I'm mailing to my Dad's house in Iowa, so I'll have them when I'm there in March, and things I'm storing in the basement here till I return to Portland this summer. And of course there's a pile of stuff I'm trying to get rid of.
Meanwhile I'm trying to getting what I can done on the Bolivia project. The good news is that another quote I got today for the shipping is much less than the others, though still higher than the super low one we thought we were going to be able to use. So there is hope that we are closer than I thought. Maybe we'll only have to raise another $1000 or so, intead of $3000.
Also today while I should have been working on that stuff, or other things, I spent 4 hours fiddling with Exim, the mail software I use on my server. It was super fucking annoying. I had to figure out how to exempt just ONE of my users from the new greylisting scheme, which for ALL my other users is working fine now, but for some odd reason, he is losing mail. So fucking frustrating. Why does EVERY MTA have to be like fucking black magic? Why does delivering email have to be so arcane?? Just makes me furious.
I have so many things to blog, but I will relax for the moment and just post this one nice photo.
I uploaded this straight from iPhoto using a cool plug-in written by a flickr user.
I'm not religious or a believer in fate, but it's definitely uncanny how 3 different things have come up that are making it difficult for me to leave Portland next week like I planned: 1) The Bolivia computer project has hit some snags regarding shipping - i was hoping they would be on their way by next Monday, but now I don't know; 2) a small health situation that makes it advisable for me to not do much heavy lifting for a few days, which makes it hard for me to pack all my stuff up (both what I'm taking with me to Tucson and also what I'm storing here); 3) I plan to take the train, but Amtrak has these rail repairs happening in California that mean I may not be able to even get to Tucson.
So, it's weird. Am I meant to stay in Portland a little longer?
At least the weather is kind of nice (knock on wood), so I'm not like miserable about that while wishing I could escape to the desert. Still, it's very frustrating.
Freezing rain is falling here in Portland. I can't wait to get out of here and head south in a couple weeks.
It's funny, the range of behavior in people here when it's cold. Some crazy wierdos wear shorts and t-shirts no matter what time of year. Others don't know how to deal with it. Drivers are all idiots here in this weather, they're so unused to these road conditions. I saw out my living room window this morning a woman getting her car ready to drive. She got out some can of some spray-on stuff and squirted it all over her windows. Like ice is some magically difficult substance that you need some weird chemical to get off your car? what ever happened to just a scraper and a little elbow grease?
Anyway, I'm from Iowa so I remember worse, but that doesn't change the fact that I hate this. I can have better, and I will. I was in Porto Alegre this time last year, drinking Brazilian beers on a floating bar on the shore of the Rio Guiua.
Oh well, at least I don't have to go far today. All I need to do is go a few blocks to Free Geek later today and build some computers to send to Bolivia.
but anyway, Fuck Winter.
I just discovered that if there's a bright light (like the sun, for example) behind my powerbook display it shines right through the apple logo on the back and shows up on the screen. Kinda funny. Seems like a mistake, like they would have thought to put something opaque between the back of the display and the little logo LED assembly.
In other news, it's really really really cold today. A friend's dad arrived in town last night from Michigan and said it's colder here in Portland than in Detroit. Depressing. But, at least it's nice and sunny today. Of course the clear sky is WHY it's so cold, but i'd rather have sun and cold than overcast and a little less cold.
I was invited to try out the newest 43 things site. It's about the same as the old one, post your goals in life, but you can also write stuff about them and denote certain goals that you've already done, and it's not anonymous. seems to have potential, on one hand, but on the other I think it's just another way to waste time on the internet. however, it's cool to see people I know on there, like rabble and gaba.
I just have to go on record to warn people, a sort of consumer report, I guess, about an online camera store called A&M Photo World. I ordered a digital camera from them yesterday and got totally jerked around. I've cancelled my order.
I don't want to waste too much time on this, I just want to briefly describe the problem. no, wait, fuck it. I have better things to do. let's just say they are typical sales weasels and leave it at that.
In these dark days of winter it is indeed good to have music. I've always liked this drawing. Not sure where it's originally from. I just now scanned it from a flyer for a local record shop that i've been carrying around for a couple years.
I'm scanning stuff like that today. scraps of paper that I've been saving for too long.
Yesterday was my birthday and I had a little party at my house. It was a collage-party as well as a birthday party. I brought out gluesticks and scissors and my box of source material (magazines, newspapers, old books, etc) and we went at it. Now I have a hangover and the livingroom is a quite amazing mess of paper scraps and chai mugs and wine glasses. And I don't feel like cleaning it up at all. Luckily i still have something like 12 days till my housemates return. yay!
UPDATE: I scanned some of the collages and uploaded them.
I just participated in a Gallup survey for the first time. Very interesting. I received a phone call from Gallup and was asked a bunch of questions about my bank and the service I received upon my last visit to one of their branches. I now understand a little bit more about how ridiculous surveys are. All the questions required me to answer with a number between 1 and 5, and they were all very fake, vague kinds of questions, like "Did the teller make you feel welcome?" or "Did the teller genuinely thank you?" What the fuck? Initially when I got the call I was sort of glad because I thought I would be able to tell them something that I had noticed recently about that very branch: previous to a couple months ago, the tellers all knew me by name and greeted me and didn't ask for my ID. It was like I was in a small town bank, real friendly. But lately, all the tellers have been replaced and they don't know me, and ask for ID and social security number and all that jazz like I'm just some number. I'm used to that, and sure, new tellers are going to take awhile to get to know people. But did they have to replace every single employee in that branch? What the hell happened, did they all embezzle a bunch of cash and run off to Tahiti? I hope so.
But anyway, none of these Gallup poll questions enabled me to convey any of that. It was just "4.... uh, 3.... yeah, also 3... 4... umm... 4..." Lame. And that's I'm sure the kinds of surveys that we hear the results of all the time, the ones that say 78% of Americans think George Bush is "a great guy" or something. Sigh.
My housemates just left on a trip to Costa Rica, so I have the house to myself for 2 weeks. I'm pretty happy about that. Not that they annoy me that much, but it is nice to be totally undistracted by other humans shuffling around living their loud lives in the same space. I plan on getting a lot of things accomplished, including a lot of work done on my Juaurez documentary. In fact as soon as I post this I'm going to start transcribing a presentation by Ramona Morales, the mother of one of the murdered women in Juarez, Silvia Elena Rivera Morales.
I think I spend too much time blogging. Kind of silly that I posted this. Especially since I used to live in a house with 3 web cams. One in the kitchen, one in the living room and one in the hallway. I really should do something with all the archived shots at some point. Seems like so long ago. Like a dream. Even though it was only about.... 6-7 years ago. The dream of those heady days during the "digital revolution." hah. hah.
So yesterday, as the previous entry shows, I found out about a site where you can see the collective life goals or desires of many web users. Now this morning, by odd synchronicity I discover almost the exact opposite in a new eBay feature called Want It Now. Users can post things they want to buy, and sellers can "reply" to these by offering to sell that item. How fascinating to compare these two sites. On one hand we have a place where people are obviously being rather philosophical and contemplative, where they post long term plans and hopes and dreams, anonymously, but collectively with others. And on the other hand we have very very specific, consumerist desires, very specific to each person, which can be specifically answered by someone else.
I blew a few hours yesterday surfing 43 Things and Del.icio.us and Flickr, convinced that some kind of clever conceptual net art project was just waiting to be hatched, by somehow relating or connecting those 3 sites. I didn't really come up with much. But all these sites, and now this new ebay thing, just fascinate me in their common characteristic that they are vast databases of people's lives and hopes and wants. I really feel like something profound and wise could be created by somehow cross-connecting these huge piles of personal information, somehow seeding one with the other.
So, I'm throwing out this idea and giving it up. Go ahead and do it, please, I don't have time. Some clever net artist just waiting for a new idea, here you go, run with it, baby.
I'm not sure exactly what this is, and maybe nobody does other than its creators. It's a list of goals for life. You can add to your list, and see what others have added to their lists, and how many have put a thing on their lists. Ok, cool, but, I don't understand what each page means. the list keeps changing whenever you click on one item. I don't know if it's randomly picking an assortment, or if there's some algorithmic thing going on.
Its fascinating. I'm conducting an experiment: the biggest text on the page indicates the item that is in most people's lists. I keep clicking the biggest one and seeing how it flows.
take more pictures
fall in love
stop wasting time
work because i like to not because i have to
Very very interesting. So simple yet so damn fascinating. It's like the world zeitgeist, or at least the zeitgeist of privileged people who have access to the web. You can search for things, and I cannot find "become a U.S. citizen" (though I do find "become an Egyptian citizen"), I don't see "get my green card," or "feed my family," though I do see that 29 people want to "survive," but that was probably entered as a joke.
Anyway, if you want to see my list, go for it. I of course need to add some stuff to it still.
By the way, I found this by looking at a friend's bookmark list on Del.icio.us
Ok now I gotta get off the web and get something accomplished today.
I can't stop thinking about how people from closer to the equator never have to deal with nights that are much longer than days. Of course they also don't get the flipside in the summer of nice long days, sunset at 10pm, etc.
Decided to take a nap at 3:30 in the afternoon yesterday and didn't wake till midnight. dammit. Now what do I do. It's good though cuz I was short on sleep, but, wow. I think these short days are really difficult, my sleep pattern is all screwed up. Plus I am worried about a lot of things so when I wake up, I have even more of a hard time getting back to sleep.
In other news, a big power outage on sunday blew out a backup generator at my server's colocation spot, which took the server down. I had to go out there and fsck one of the partitions by hand after it failed to boot back up on its own. So if you were dying to read this blog sunday night you were out of luck. sorry. heh. December seems to be the annual time for my server to go down. odd.
I love how after an outage I get like 100 delayed emails from users telling me the server's down. as if i'm going to be able to get email if the server's down. ha ha, funny users. sigh. I am SO TIRED of being a sys admin. Especially an unpaid one. doublesigh.
This evening I saw the new Werner Herzog film "Incident at Loch Ness." It is really really really great. It's the story of Herzog shooting a film that goes very wrong. I will not say anything else about it, because that would spoil it, except that it is very postmodern. If you haven't seen it, go, a soon as possible, and do not read any reviews or anything else about it, just go, before you know too much and your experience is ruined forever.
I just had one of the stranger experiences in my career as a freelance computer consultant. I've been doing, now and then, little things for a local union local (heh), and talking with them about doing more. Today I came in just to go to a meeting that they were having with a rep from the company that wrote the software for their membership database and hosts the server it runs on. They're unhappy with it, but whenever they have questions they haven't felt like the guy was giving them the real deal. So my job was to just sit there and ask a few intelligent questions, provide a sanity check, and just make him uncomfortable. And it seemed to work. They said, afterward, that he was more helpful and forthcoming than he ever has been before. The fear that they may be hiring me, or anybody else, to do what his company does (and there's no way I easily could, or would want to, anyway) made him more cooperative.
What I kept wondering, and what I finally asked was, why doesn't the international union come up with a database solution that fits all the locals needs? why does each local have to reinvent the wheel everywhere? They agreed, it was silly, but evidently it's not a priority with this union. In fact, maybe all unions are like that, I don't know.
Anyway, I'm happy to be of assistance, but it sure felt weird.
Woke up at about 5 and couldn't get to sleep again. Many would assume this is insomnia but I got plenty of sleep. I don't need a lot. Plus, I read in a book about Taoism a little while ago that the best way is to rise with the sun, it's the natural and healthy way. It wasn't quite sunrise yet, but still, in this time of year when there's only about 8 hours of sunlight it's good to be awake during as much of it as possible. For me, at least. It's nice how quiet it is in the very early morning, too, before anyone else is up.
Wow what a mundane post. oh well.
Apropo of nothing, this is just totally hilarious. The Infinite Cat Project.
A year ago yesterday I escaped from Portland for 4 months, I suceeded in my plan to exempt myself from the worst time to be there. Of course I have to state once again, I love Portland for so many reasons but I just can't stand the climate. I remember the day before I left it snowed, like it was Portland's weather god getting one last parting shot at me. It basically NEVER snows in November here. Maybe sometimes in January but never November.
I'm sad because this year I'm stuck here, at least for a month or two, and winter has descended. A plan is forming to permanently escape, but it will be awhile before I can make that happen, because of finances (if you'd like to make a donation to the Steev Escape From Portland Fund, click here. hah.) . So I'm stuck, and it's REALLY COLD here.
I know, it's tough all over. I know, it's cold where you are too, that's what happens in winter. Yeah but did you ever think about how you COULD live somewhere ELSE? Why do you stay? I just don't get why so many people put up with shitty winters. Please add your comments and tell me why you do, if you do.
Also about a year ago, or 13 months ago, Elliott Smith stabbed himself in the heart and died. I remember the extreme sadness people felt around here. He's from Portland. Now his new album is out and I'm downloading the mp3s from Gnutella. I felt a reflexive twinge of guilt and then I thought, no, wait, he's dead, there's no way my $15 would do him a godamn bit of good. I bought 4 of his records when he was alive and I sure hope some of that cash went to him, but now I feel no obligation to help out his record label and other beneficiaries of his celebrity.
Well, just like magic I flew from Tucson yesterday and now am back here to chilly and moist Cascadia, dealing with catching up on things and "normal" life again. My laptop broke down on my trip so i'm dealing with having no computer, and i need some work and my camcorder needs to be cleaned or repaired or something, etc etc blah blah.
I'm also catching up on email and other blogs and stuff and i have finally gotten up to date on my brother's blog, which is really quite entertaining. I also still need to finish my last Juarez story, which is very close to being done.
Yesterday I caught a ride down to Tucson from Tempe with Jessica of Arizona Indymedia. She happened to be driving from Flagstaff back to Tucson so just swung by and picked me up on the way. I was very grateful for that because the Greyhound, for some bizarre reason, takes 7 hours to travel what is a 2-hour drive.
I just passed through Tucson during the Caravan about 2 weeks ago, and now I'm back and I still think it's a pretty cool city. MUCH better than Phoenix, for sure. Today I rode Jessica's bike around, mostly in the University area. There's a few blocks of hipness on 4th Street, and a cool bike collective called Bicas which I went to but they are closed on Mondays (I'll return tomorrow).
The city is subject to constant overflights of military jets, because of the nearby airforce base. I've seen F-15s, A-10s, and some big cargo planes. Ah there goes some now. it's been pretty constant, at least a pair of them every half hour or so. It kind of made me try to imagine what it would be like in Fallujah, what it would be like to multiply those numbers by what, 100? And then add the fact that some of the planes would be dropping bombs nearby and the bombs would kill people I might know or destroy stores or restaurants or homes that i had been to.
Anyway, other than that I like Tucson, so far. It's a warm mostly sunny day, probably about 70, though there was some very light rain for 2 15 minute periods early today. I think people here loved it. It rains so little that they smiled as they walked through the light mist. Tonite is my screening here, the last one of my tour, and then on Wednesday I fly back home to Portland.
In the waning hours of this afternoon I am working on my last report about Juarez. So I'll hopefully be posting that in a little while yet today.
Oh, and also I just found out about this book that sounds really interesting called Confessions of An Economic Hitman, by this guy who used to work for a financial consulting company, and he would fly around the world doing the World Bank's dirty work. Now he's sort of a New Age shaman wannabe, it seems. Wow.
I arrived in Phoenix very very early this morning to do another video screening this afternoon. Actually, I'm in Tempe, the college town on the east side of Phoenix. I woke at 3 am this morning in order to get a ride from Flagstaff to here, since Carly, my host in Flagstaff, was heading to Phoenix airport to get a plane to L.A. It's a beautiful day now that the sun is up and I am killing time, wandering around Tempe till the show, which is at Gentle Strength Coop at 3pm. All the people here in town who set up the show for me are not available.
Last night's screening in Flagstaff was really great, at least compared to the last 2 shows, and it raised as much cash as did the one in San Francisco. I'm really impressed with the strength of the activist community in Flagstaff, which is a pretty small town. I guess there are a lot of progressive students, and a lot of issues people are passionate about there: water issues, native american issues, the public land fee demo thing, which is or was also a big deal in the Northwest, nuclear stuff, and more.
I guess maybe the timing is right, too. It's been over a week since the election and people are perhaps starting to snap out of their shocked depression and starting to get active again, starting to stir out of the disillusioned lethargy which perhaps was the cause for low turnout at my shows in Santa Fe and Albuquerque. Some people in Flagstaff seemed excited, looking forward to people radicalizing even more in the wake of this latest fraud-ridden election fiasco. Learning about the resistance to opressions in Bolivia and elsewhere fits right into this mood, as people start to really consider that more drastic measures than get-out-the-vote campaigns are needed to save our country.
Many of the Flagstaff folks are in the grip of a horrible local situation that I think I should mention here. When Kerry came to Flagstaff in August, several of them showed up in wacky costumes, chanting and singing, to excercise their free speech rights and remind people that Kerry wasn't neccesarily the wonderous answer to all our problems that the DNC would have us believe. They ended up getting attacked by local police and 3 of them were actually arrested and charged with various ridiculous felonies like assaulting a police officer. One of them is still in jail because bail was set at $15,000 that he didn't have. This kind of repression at Kerry campaign events is not a surprise, and we saw similar things in Portland, but not, I think, to this degree. Rudy, one of the people who arranged for my screening in Flagstaff, was one of the others charged, and he has had to change his whole life in order to deal with his legal defense. He's gone from a very simple lifestyle, basically supporting himself through dumpster-diving, to doing 12-hour shifts waiting tables in order to pay for his lawyers, extra rent (his housemate is the guy still in jail), and other expenses incurred as fallout from the arrests. This kind of thing is just infuriating. I'm sure that eventually they will prevail, because the police don't have a leg to stand on, but it just sucks to have to deal with this kind of totally undeserved bullshit. I guess Flagstaff cops are as bad as Portland's.
Anyway, it's really exciting and great to be meeting all these great activists in the Southwest and learn what struggles they are involved in, and share with them what's happening where I live and what the common concerns are. I feel once again that I'm an agent of network-strengthing again, like I was in South America, a contributor to the complexity and emergent behavior of the global progressive movement.
Greetings from Flagstaff, Arizona. Tonight is the third show in my rather relaxed 5-city Southwest Tour of my "Bolivia In Crisis" videos. The shows in Albuquerque and Santa Fe were good - the turnout could have been better, but the people who were there were great and there were great discussions. Plus, even if I'm not making tons of money for the Computers for Bolivia Project this trip has been really a great success just for all the cool people that I've met.
Another thing I'm really happy about is that on tuesday I had enough downtime staying with a friend in Chimayo (out in the country near Santa Fe) to produce a short summary video about the Juarez Caravan for Indymedia Newsreal. I was lucky that my friend there had a Mac with Final Cut on it, and though it was an ancient version of Final Cut that I'm not used to using, i still managed to bang out a pretty decent little piece, though not as polished as it would be if i had more time. I just sent it off in the mail this morning to the Newsreal folks in Boulder. I love that I'm travelling but I can still get a piece of videojournalism done less than a week after the delegation in Juarez ended!
Speaking of Juarez, I still have a lot to write about it, but I just do not have time yet. I need to go get some Flagstaff-style Food not Bombs lunch, and then get ready for the show tonite. Chao, from the office of my very helpful and gracious hosts, Flagstaff Activist Network.
Yesterday I returned to my sadly screwed-up homeland from the sadly-screwed up Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua, Mexico. I am now in Albuquerque, New Mexico, staying at the house of a participant in New Mexico Indymedia.
After a week without accessing the internet I have a lot to catch up on (even though we were in a pretty nice business-class hotel in Juarez, which had a computer room, the computer would not connect to the net for some reason). I think I will take it gradually and chronologically, starting with Tucson where I last connected from. The morning of the 30th in Tucson our caravan to Juarez met with some car troubles, as documented by our main driver, Swaneagle. Sadly, we were forced to leave her, her daughter Taina, and Luma, in Tucson. Luckily the breakdown did not happen earlier in the trip. We were done with all of our events, but we still needed to get to Las Cruces so that the next day we could cross into Mexico with the rest of the Caravanistas and Delegates. Jessica rented a car and she, Ramona, Nicole and I drove to Las Cruces across the beautiful desert.
Once there we were immediately plunged into the hectic excitement of the dinner and meeting of all the different caravan legs from all over the U.S. and Canada. We were hosted by local activists Amigas de las Mujeres de Juarez, a Las Cruces group that works to assist the mothers of the murdered women in Juarez. It was an exciting time, a flurry of activity in a small house in suburban Las Cruces as people planned for the next day's border crossing and other events.
I will stop here for now. This is just a first return entry to say "I'm back safely."
I will add that being in Mexico during the election was strange and oddly comforting, like being shielded from the grief and outrage and anger that I would have experienced had I been home (don't worry, I voted early before I left Portland). Now that I am back, the full impact of the horrendous results of November 2 is still hitting me. I'm especially disturbed by the sweeping success of the bigoted anti gay marriage measures across the country, even in Oregon. I am truly ashamed for my nation and people.
I'll blog more as I get time. Today should be pretty relaxed, as I don't have much to do till my screening of Bolivia videos here in Albuquerque tonite (Saturday Nov. 6th 7pm at the Center for Peace and Justice, 202 Harvard SE).
other dates on my tour:
--Monday November 8th 7pm at Warehouse 21, 1614 Paseo de Peralta, in Santa Fe.
--Saturday November 13th in Tempe, AZ at Gentelstrength Coop, 7pm
--Monday november 14th in Tucson at Sexto Sol(?? not sure of the name of the venue)
Today started with a disaster that happened with one simple mistake that could have potentially been tremendously costly. I picked up my iBook rather quickly and forgot it was plugged in, and evidently the shear force was enough to damage the power adapter's plug. So it wouldn't charge the computer. At the time I didn't know whether it was the adapter or the jack on the computer. If it was the adapter it would have been 80 bucks to replace; if it was the jack, there's no telling how much it would have been to repair, and who knows if there would have been time before I have to leave town on Monday. I was freaking out and furious with myself for such a stupid blunder, starting to panic and wondering what I could do.
I decided to go over to Postal Station 40 where some Indymedia folks live that I met the other day. I knew that Ali had a powerbook and by plugging in his adapter I could at least test to see whether my problem was with my adapter or my computer. When I got there I found out the possessive verb was definitely past tense for Ali - his powerbook had been stolen 2 days ago! Someone had snuck in through the adjoining yoga studio somehow and grabbed it. He was bummed big time about it, of course, but, he still had the adapter, and obviously it was of no use to him now, so he gave it to me. I plugged it in and the iBook started charging! I was in luck, doubly so. I felt horrible to be benefiting from Ali's misfortune, and what a bizarre coincidence. But given that both unlucky events had happened, it was some sort of strange good luck on my part. I was saved from a world of hurt by his even bigger world of hurt.
I hung out for awhile there and then I went with Ali and Liam to distribute the new issue of Faultlines around town. Faultlines is the Indybay newspaper which comes out monthly. We dropped off little piles of them at cafes and stores around the Haight and the Mission, and went downtown to bring them to striking hotel workers, because there's a front page article about the strike in this issue. It felt great to show our solidarity by bringing them this media that reports on their situation, and see their faces light up when they saw the story. Some even recognized people in the photo. They've been locked out for 3 weeks now and continue to picket every day.
Now tonight, in about 2 hours, I have my screening of the Bolivia videos at ATA. I feel pretty exhausted after running around delivering papers, and I still need to print out some recent news stories about Bolivia to have on hand at the screening, and do some other preparations, and eat dinner. whew. well, wish me luck....
Organizing this screening tour of the southwest continues to be a big pain in the ass. There are a host of reasons. Email problems on both sides, lack of equipment, contacts, experience... I'm starting to think it was a mistake to even try. If it comes together, will it even be worth it? I'm even thinking of calling the whole thing off, it's such a mess. Although I know that some people in Arizona and New Mexico have been putting time and effort into helping me out and I would hate to let them down. But I still have zero, that's NO, confirmed shows set up, just a bunch of maybes.
Right now it looks like:
But I don't really know if ANY of those will really happen.
Tonite is the show here in San Francisco. It will be my litmus test. However, I'm not sure what the test will mean. If it's successful it will encourage me to do these other shows. At the same time if it's REALLY successful maybe I won't NEED to do any more Bolivia fundraising and I won't NEED to do the other shows. However, I doubt the latter. I will be happy if 30 people show up at ATA tonight.
In a way I just want to cancel the tour and go to Guadalajara instead, y apprendo mas español.
Yesterday was a day of making contact or almost-contact with people, here in San Francisco, across the Bay, and elsewhere. I got a call from someone at the Flagstaff Activist Network, which I've been trying to contact for 2 weeks about doing a show in Flagstaff. Later I met some bay area indymedia people at their cool collective dwelling, which used to be a huge postal station. Then I met some cool people at the Longhaul Infoshop in Berkeley when I went there to watch the documentary "The End of Suburbia" -- which is an amazing and very disturbing look at the fact that the world is running out of oil and we (as in, the "developed world") are going to need to start learning to live very differently. Then I got a call from another bay area indymedia videographer. Then I found out that rabble is in town and wants to meet. And I heard from a friend of a friend who is helping me set up a show in Santa Fe.
So, I feel good, connecting, and seeing connections start to bear fruit.
So I'm up early way before my host and I go down the street to the cool café to get a snack and caffeine and get on the internet, and the place is totally full. There is not a single table free, and of course half of them have laptops on them. It's 9 am on a Sunday morning and people are ensconced in their neighborhood café, studying or doing their bills or downloading porn, I don't know. I was so exasperated. What are all these people doing getting up so early, in the Mission, on a Sunday? I shouldn't complain much because 3 more blocks away is another café that is just as good, with plenty of room, just not as trendy. So here I am. But I just had to vent about that....
One day to go and I'm off away from home for a month. The planning and the wrapping up stuff here has been driving me crazy, as I think I've already blogged.
Anyway, here is my schedule so far:
October 16 Saturday: fly to San Francisco.
October 17 Sunday: a friend's wedding.
October 21 Thursday: Screening the Bolivia videos at ATA.
Then on the 24th I hook up with the Juarez Caravan:
October 24 San Francisco, CA: 7-9PM, New College of California, Cultural
Center, 766 Valencia St, San Francisco
October 25 Santa Barbara, CA: 6PM, Event at La Casa de la Raza, 601 E.
October 26 Los Angeles, CA: 6-9 pm, UCLA Public Policy Building, Room #1246,
Parking: Next to Lot 3, contact: [email protected] or 310-709-1864
October 27 San Diego, CA: 2PM: Protest at the Mexican Consulate, Downtown
San Diego, India Street.1549 India Street, SD 92101 619-231-8414. 7-10PM:
World Beat Center,2100 Park Blvd, 92101-4752
October 28 Phoenix, AZ: 7PM Phoenix College Theater in central Phoenix, 15th
ave and Thomas Rd, [email protected], 602/665-2450
October 29 Tucson, AZ: 6PM, Armory Park Senior Center, 220 S. 5th Ave,
520/770-1373, [email protected]
October 30 Tucson, AZ: 8:30AM, St. John's Church Parking lot to San Xavier
Mission, Caravanistas will participate in Dia de los Muertos Border
Pilgramage with local human rights groups. Caravan then travels to El Paso.
October 31 - November 5 - Delegation to Juarez and Chihuahua City
Then my tour of the Bolivia videos starts:
nov 6 el paso -> santa fe
nov 7 or 8 show in santa fe???
nov 9 show in albuquerque at Albuquerque Center for Peace and Justice.
nov 11 flagstaff show ??
nov 13 phoenix show?
nov 14 tucson show ??
Then I think I'll fly back to portland from Tucson. I was thinking about L.A. but decided I don't want to go to L.A. I'll be lucky if I get all these dates figured out.
I don't know why I make my life so hard. Well, no, I do, I just sometimes wish I didn't do it.
I've been spending a crazy amount of time trying to organize this tour of the southwest. calling people over and over and over, emailing, etc etc. this is why bands hire bookers, i guess. i've been thinking about calling off the whole damn thing.
the stress of this and all the other things i'm trying to get done before i leave in 2 days is likely the cause of my feeling sick tonite. like, fever and splitting headache sick. godammit. this always happens when i travel, i get sick either right before i leave or just at the start. it's gotta be because of the stress. i need to relax and get some sleep and just start lowering my ambitions.
For the last few days indyblogs has been down. They had a hard drive failure. It's odd because I sort of felt like people looking at indyblogs were my main audience. I don't know how many people look at this blog but I feel like most of them get here via indyblogs. So, it's weird.
I wrote a few months back about my involvement in Collaborative Technologies. I was so hopeful back then.
Now, well, I'm not quite at "regret mode" yet, but I'm pretty disillusioned and disappointed. The project that was the proof of concept is STILL not done, just keeps stretching on and on. The project management has been dismal, and I have not been paid more than 10% of what I'm owed, in 5 months of work.
My travel plans were dependent on being paid for this by now. So I'm really upset. I'll write more about this later. I can't think straight enough to really analyze what went wrong and why.
Excitement in Cascadia - Mount St. Helens is acting up again. According to USGS Cascades Volcano Observatory (CVO), little earthquakes are happening on the mountain at a rate of about 4 a minute!
Cool. Maybe we'll be bathed in ash soon.
In a few weeks I will be on another travel adventure southward. I'm going to try to write about what my rough plans are and what the details and background is.
This time I will not be going quite so far, but I still, again, have this feeling of being about to drop off the edge of the world. Of course it's really just the edge of my little "world as usual," and of course that usuallness is one reason i go on these trips.
My main destination is one of the largest border communities in the world, El Paso/Ciudad Juarez. Believe it or not, I've never been to Mexico; the closest I've ever been to it is El Paso. I remember, on our way moving from Austin to Los Angeles in the summer of 1995, my girlfriend and I stopped in El Paso for lunch or something. It seemed to be mostly a city of strip malls. And I could look across the Rio Grande and see the sort of brownish-grey blur of short buildings on the other side: Juarez.
At that time the issue that is my reason for going there now was just getting started: hundreds of mysterious murders of women in Juarez in the last 10 years. No one knows who is doing it or why. Most of the women were workers in maquilladoras, the border factories that serve the free trade sweatshop needs of U.S. companies. So there are several theories about why: perhaps something to do with the women trying to organize in the maquilladoras, perhaps men jealous that the women were hired instead of them... recently the Mexican police were reportedly rounding up random criminals and blaming them, just to appear to be doing something about the killings. And the latest news is that the state government seems to be trying to buy off the families of the victims.
The Mexico Solidarity Network is organizing a caravan from points all over the U.S. to converge on Juarez, and then a 5-day delegation to various locations and events in Juarez. I've decided to go on both of these. I'll be joining the west coast leg of the caravan in San Francisco.
First, though, I will be spending a week in the bay area., starting October 16. I'll be attending a friend's wedding, and presenting my collection of Bolivia videos at ATA in San Francisco, on October 21. I'm also looking for a place to show a collection of Portland bicycle videos that a friend and I have put together. I'd also like to meet with some bay area indymedia people.
After the delegation, my plans are quite a bit more vague. I'd like to show my Bolivia videos in some other places, so I'm trying to set up a little tour in the southwest - Albuquerque, Santa Fe, maybe Tucson and Phoenix. I'd also like to spend some time in Mexico and study Spanish and travel around. Ideally, I'd like to spend all winter there, but financial concerns and other factors are going to make that a little difficult, I fear.
If you're reading this and you live in any of these places and would like to help in any way, please add a comment. thanx!
Today and the last few days have been full of computers and other machines being difficult. I know nothing about and do not believe in astrology, but once I heard that when Mercury is in retrograde, communication and technology goes wrong. So I always think about that when machines start really fucking up more than usual - and the usual is a lot, actually.
So, yesterday I took my ibook into MacForce. The video cable was frayed, stupid design flaw on Apple's part. This MacForce place is one of those parasitical places that preys on people who are either ignorant, or have expense accounts, or both. I saw one poor guy who was bringing his G5 tower in to have a new harddrive added to it. Dude, you could do that yourself in 15 minutes, don't pay these slobs $90 for an hour of labor!!!
Anyway, they also preyed on me because taking apart an ibook's display is not on my list of desired activities. Luckily it WAS only the video cable, so they do the work and i'm only $190 poorer (that's a month's living expenses for 4 Bolivian peasants). So anyway I get it home and I have almost zero wireless reception. I'd already read about how the Airport antenna is in the display, so obviously the repairdude had fucked up the antenna during his operations. So I'm pretty mad, and then today I take it in and i have to keep coming back cuz they take longer to correct their error than then predict, and it just fucks with my whole day, so finally when they're done I stand up for myself, which I don't normally do, and I say, hey, I think you should compensate me for this, and so I get to talk to a manager and he almost laughs cuz he's apparently so shocked that someone would ask this but i stick to my guns, is say, well, it's your mistake, I'm a consultant, I get paid for my time and i've lost lots of time today because of your mistake. Eventually he reluctantly agrees to knock $25 off the original repair charge.
Might not seem like a big deal but like I said, I don't usually stand up for myself like that. Normally i'd rationalize to myself how it's not really their fault and shit happens and blah blah and then just meekly shuffle off. but not today.
Meanwhile, "indian summer" has kicked in here, it was BEAUTIFUL today and that's great if only i wasn't so damn busy and i could enjoy the sun and the warmth. I'm too busy getting stuff done so that I can go to Mexico and enjoy sun, warmth, and the fallout of globalization. More on that soon...
Winter seems to be starting early here in Portland, screwing up all sorts of hoped-for "last nice days of the year," at least in my humble opinion.
Yesterday was the Geek Fair at Free Geek, which was fun but would have been a lot funner if it was warmer and sunnier. Like, warmer than 55 degrees F. But it was cool, there were bands and printer smashing and geek quiz shows and videos, including a new rough draft of a video i've been working on about worker collectives.
Now today the weather looks to be about the same and we're having Portland Car Free Day. I'll probably be inside most of the time anyway, working on a documentary about zines that is almost done. Joe from Microcosm Publishing has been working on it all summer at my space, Gavel, and he asked me to clean up the audio now that the editing is done.
I'll probably stop by the last couple hours of Car Free Day, but the event really seems like such a tiny, futile gesture. The city allowed us to do it but only on a Sunday and only on one short block that hardly anyone drives on even on weekdays. The only people that will be there will be the already converted hardcore bicyclists, especially on a shitty day like today. So, it seems sort of pointless.
In other news, my neck really really hurts. If I bend it a certain way, it's that kind of pain that is so intense that it makes one nauseous.
Beautiful sunny rainy day. Weather forecast says 10 days, at least, of rain, but today we are rewarded with strange 5-minute showers while the sun shines. Typical Portland Spring or Fall weather.
I'm sitting at Tiny's Cafe on the porch. It's one of my favorite wireless access points cuz there's a porch with tables, and it's not RIGHT on the street, though there's still busy Hawthorne Street nearby. Portland needs more outdoor places to eat and drink that are not on fucking heavy traffic streets. But I guess that's not a big priority. If people really liked being outside a lot they wouldn't live here.
Anyway it started raining so i moved inside with my laptop, and then it stopped after 5 minutes so now i'm back out. yay.
I'm just gonna whine about various stupid personal things right now. Don't mind me.
( I think ultimately this mood i'm in, which has been around for awhile, is due to the fact that I know I have to leave this town that i love, and I have to figure out where I'm going and how, very very soon.)
First, my ibook's display is dying, or rather some connection between it and the rest of the computer seems flaky. As I move it back and forth the display flickers on and off. It's out of warranty so i'll probably have to spend mucho plata to get it fixed. Which I don't really have.
Someone's been sawing something with a loud power saw in my neighborhood for the last 20 hours or so and it's really fucking annoying. Why does there always have to be a fucking powertool going all the time?
It's a beautiful day but I have a buttload of stuff I need to do, stuff that involves sitting in a dark cement basement staring at a computer... My life is this constant struggle between Production and Relaxation. I just want to live a stress-free, care-free, relaxed life, I want to drift like a taoist and enjoy every shred of nice weather that i posisbly can before there is no more or before I die, but I also have all these ambitions, these videos I want to make and shit it's just maddening.
I keep thinking of Derrick Jensen's "A Language Older than Words" in which he talks about how our culture values production over anything else, over people and community, especially. When I distilled his thesis down as far as it would go I came up with:
Production = Murder
But escaping that aspect of our culture is about as hard as escaping commerce. I mean, we are soaking in it. And if you have goals, even the goal of tearing down the master's house with the master's tools, well, shit, you need to produce. You're not going to dismantle the system by lying on the beach. Unless we can get everyone in the whole world to lie on the beach instead of going to work. But that involves production right there, getting that message out there.
In other news, first thing in the morning today one of my housemates put on a Shellac album, the one that starts with "Prayer to God," which is a song I dearly love, one of my favorite songs ever, for it's sheer ferocity and the lesson it conveys about religion and hate and love. But it's one of the last songs I would pick to listen to first thing on a beautiful cloudless saturday morning full of possibility. I just don't understand people sometimes. Well, most of the time. I think maybe my use of music as precise emotion-matching ambience, something to positively support your mindset at any given moment, is something most people don't think about very deeply. It's just "good music" and it doesn't matter what mood you're in or how it might change that mood.
It made me want to do something drastic like sell every one of my CDs.
ok, enough griping. thanx.
I didn't really do it conciously, but in response to or in spite of my thoughts expressed in my earlier post this morning, I spent most of the afternoon at the Portland IMC space, helping out with the audio webcast. Before that I talked to friend on his cell phone who is in New York, and got news of everyone he knew who had been arrested or detained or was just missing. Then I wrote a story about it for the portland site.
All of this was fun and interesting and I felt very useful. It's hard to tell how useful it really is because we seem to be just duplicating the efforts of the NYC people, but I guess that's better than just passively watching from across the country. At least we're taking on some of the bandwidth load, and we have been getting lots of hits and listeners.
Again, I don't know if I should have instead worked on Bolivia videos today, or something. I'm really feeling indecisive lately. I wish someone would tell what was most important. No I don't, actually. But still, the Burden of Freedom is a heavy weight. sigh.
Last night was the start of a project to make a film in 72 hours. The idea is to do it collaboratively, non-hierarchically, and a little surreally, like "exquisite corpses," the surrealist parlor game. It's weird and complicated and the third time we've done something like this. All the details are on the site so be sure to click that link if you're interested. There's a blog and a wiki that I set up for the purpose.
I think we're off to a good start. The only unfortunate thing is that I ended up being the director of one crew and the editor of another, because we didn't really quite have enough people show up to the first meeting, especially enough experienced people. oh well.
This article talks about the villages in Bolivia where Che Guevara died and was buried, the reverence many people have for him there, and the rise in tourism there.
It makes me think back to when I was there. My late, gruelling bus ride from Cochabamba to Santa Cruz, which passed through and stopped in Vallegrande (where Che was buried) for dinner on what happened to be Christmas eve. I rememeber thinking of the Che connection, though I didn't really see any signs of it during my brief presence there.
This guy is putting video cameras on animals and plants, I guess so people can see what the world is like from their point of view. It's really cool.
Yesterday it got rainy and cold just as a friend and I reached the Coast to go hiking. We stopped at a cool recycling center called Cart-M off of highway 101 and bought some cheap used raingear, since we had not thought to bring any, and then we went hiking anyway, but it was not as fun, of course, as if it was the hot and sunny weather that it has been all last week, the way it's "supposed" to be in August.
The forecast says it's going to stay cold and rainy for the next 4 or 5 days. I'm going to dub it the "Invierno Portlando," inspired by the Invierno Boliviano - when I was in northern Chile I learned that every summer many roads are washed out up in the Altiplano because intense rains sweeps in from the east. They call it "the Bolivian Winter."
Whatever I call it though, it sucks, and it reminds me that Portland's climate is not suitable for me. However, it motivates me to get my life figured out and to try to come up with a plan for the real winter - I've been planning to go again for the winter to Latin America, but I really know that I need to leave for good. It's not practical to be a snowbird. I need a place to settle and set up shop, so to speak.
I just don't know where, or how. Plus, it sucks that I have to do this, because I have so many friends and connections here. I love Portland dearly, EXCEPT for the horrible weather. Ironically, I knew that before I moved here. I just didn't care because I had to get out of San Francisco.
i'm finally tired of my stupid little usb wireless adapter that keeps making my ibook crash. so i think, hey i bet apple airport cards are getting cheap now, i should just get one of those. Turns out they have been discontinued just recently and are now practically collectors' items and super expensive. God I hate Apple.
Today 3 banks in my hometown were robbed during Bush and Kerry appearances there.
Good old Davenport. Actually I wasn't born there, but I grew up there, from about the age of 5 till I went off to college. I think it's great that the bank robbers of my homeland were smart enough to take advantage of the preoccupation of the city's boys in blue.
I wonder which banks they were. The second-to- last time I was back to visit, I noticed that the old Davenport Bank, which was based in the city's tallest building (I think 12 stories), had been taken over by Wells Fargo. And of course so many other things keep changing all the time. My mother and stepfather live in a suburb that was a cornfield when I was a kid.
I went camping this weekend with 8 friends in Mount Hood National Forest, near Estacada, just about 1 hour from southeast of Portland. It was for the most part really great. I really wish I could go camping more often. It's hard to organize a whole group of people to go, and arranging transportation. I almost feel like I should buy a car just so I can get out in to nature more often. Pretty ironic, isn't it. Alter the climate, pollute the air, so you can enjoy nature. sigh.
Anyway, the one part of the trip that sort of marred the whole experience was this morning when the bullets started flying. I mean literally.
The area is full of gun nuts who are doing target practice. We had heard the firing far off last night, and on the drive in we saw some people in a little quarry-like cliff face area shooting stuff. But this morning we ended up downrange from some yahoos who weren't thinking too clearly, I guess.
At about 9 in the morning bullets began whizzing by our campsite. It was terrifying. For everyone else, this was how they woke up, which must have really sucked. Not a good way to start the day. I always wake up much earlier than anyone else, and I had gotten up 2 hours ago, made tea, and was hiking around within a few hundred yards of the campsite when the shots started. It was hard to tell exactly where they were coming from or how far away they were.
This morning was probably the closest I've ever been to the wrong side of gunfire. The sound of a bullet passing through air very close to you is really an amazing sound. It's not anything like the sound effects in movies, or rather, it is much much more. There is a strange little sound around the sound, around the simple zing - what I think is the sound of air being violently pushed aside, and vacuum being created behind the bullet. It's a sound that makes you imagine the turbulence patterns, the vector forces of air compacting a swirling around the metal projectile.
Anyway, I only experienced this after I got back to the camp, having concluded that the firing was far away and not in our direction. I returned to see my friends all ducked for cover behind logs and rocks and stuff. They yelled at me to get down, and when I heard more shooting I realized, yeah, the shots are coming up over the hilltop that we were on top of. It turns out that these dudes with 45s and all sorts of other shit had set up targets halfway up the hill and they were shooting up the slope at them. the ones that missed were zinging up over the hilltop. I swear one of us could have been killed.
We kept trying to yell at them, and eventually got the idea of honking the horn of one of the cars, but nothing seemed to help. Finally Jason and Bengt took the car and drove down to try to find these guys. It turns out that they were really nice and apologetic about it, and had not heard our shouting and honking because they had earplugs on. Of course.
Of course with movies like "Deliverance" in the collective concsiousness, some of my friends were really waxing horrific with possible ways the situation could have gone wrong, like the gunmen refusing to stop or just shooting Jason and Bengt or whatever. Too many people watching movies, mass media striking fear of our fellow man into our hearts. But I believe most of those people out there blasting bottles and paper targets are not evil, despicable people, they're basically good people, if perhaps a little unthinking, and if perhaps not the kind of folks I would hang out with. It was really just a case that these guys never considered the possible dangers of what they were doing. They were probably locals who come out there all the time and rarely see anyone camping on that hill. It just never crossed their minds.
I wonder how many accidental deaths occur every month nationwide from stupid accidents like that?
Techdirt reports that Venezuela is going to use untested electronic voting machines in the August 15 recall vote. Sounds familiar...
It's the word I kept thinking. "cowboy". First I would think "yee-ha," as I rode around through Portland, on my way home from my fourth BBQ/Party of the day, as blasts of firecrackers, bottlerockets, and roman candles punctuated my journey, my otherwise silent and swift ride though the dark streets. Little pockets of boys playing with fire served as gauntlets for me to pass, and as I passed I would quietly shout "yee-ha!" as the rockets red-glare drowned out the LEDs of my blinking bike lights, and right after saying that I would think "cowboy," and murmer it to myself, emulating the voice in the old Ministry song that I can't really remember, I don't know which one it was, or maybe it was some other Al Jorgensen related industrial music project, but all I remember is the voice in the sample they used saying the single word, "cowboy" calmly and deadpan.
And speaking of music now I am back home and I rushed to my CDs as soon as I got back looking for the most unamerican thing I could play on the stereo and I was looking for "Afraid of Enduring Freedom: A 'War on Terrorism'", by the Australian experimental group B'O'K', a really excellent sample-based CD, but I couldn't find it, I must have mis-filed it in my collection, so my second choice was what I'm listening to now, a Muslimgauze CD called "Zul'm", which I think means "tyranny" in Arabic. The album is dedicated to all the unknown Palestinians buried in a certain cemetary in Kuwait City. It's really fucking great music, lots of really great Arabic and Indian percussion. I think out of all the albums I own it's the music that is furthest from celebrating the United States of America, other than the previously mentioned one I was looking for and could not find, hidden in the depths of my music collection.
Today my first thought was to do absolutely nothing out of the ordinary, to just do what I would normally do and completely not acknowledge this 228th birthday of my fucked-up country. but a lot of friends were having parties and barbecues and it was a beautiful day and after all i don't really have a "normal" thing I do on sunday. So I went to 4 different BBQs. At the last one I burned myself firing off bottlerockets from a stupid little PVC tube contraption that my friend Reverend Phil made. Then I rode home through throngs of people sitting and watching the stupid city of Portland fireworks.
What was much more interesting is all the people having their own decentralized firework rituals, rather than just consuming the centralized downtown on the river fireworks. But still, this whole pyromaniac glee was pretty pathological, pretty american, and I just kept thinking of that word, "cowboy."
As I wound my way through all the pickups and SUVs that people had DRIVEN in order to get to the river and see shit blowing up, I rode by one truck with some people in the back and one woman shouted to me, "happy fireworks!" And I just marvelled at how that is what this day has become. It's not Independance Day. It's not even the Fourth of July. It's just "Fireworks." All the meaning leached out of it, nothing to it other than the ritual lighting of fuses and watching of the resultant explosions and loud bangs in the clear night sky. Wow.
I wiped out and hurt myself last night while zoobombing. It sucked and still sucks. Lots of scrapes all over and my left hand is all swollen up. my fingers still work pretty normal so i can type, luckily, but i have a hard time gripping anything firmly.
Hopefully this is nothing serious and it will heal up on its own soon, cuz, suprise, i have no insurance.
I'm lucky, though, it could have been a lot worse.
Ironically, this was my first bomb with a helmet. The other five times my head was bare. I didn't hit my head last night, so it wouldn't have mattered.
My bike's totally fine, too, except i broke my front light. Like i said, i was really lucky.
On the way home i was having all these negative thoughts about zoobombing and other idle decadent things we do in our "spare time" - in Bolivia people are hurting themselves while putting up roadblocks and running from soldiers, meanwhile we're up here making up stupid meaningless ways to put ourselves in danger. sigh.
Today is Bloomsday, and in fact is the 100th bloomsday, the day that is the day James Joyce's Ulysses takes place.
I read Ulysses years ago, liked it but I'm sure I didn't get as much out of it as I could have. It took me 8 months, and I was pushing it even at that.
However one passage from it has stuck with me lucidly ever since, furnishing me with a phrase I repeat to myself often when appropriate it. I don't quite remember the context, some moment when Leopold Bloom is thinking about all the people that die every day around the world, and he says "shoving them under doublequick"... or something like that. Such a powerful, but brutally simple, thought.
I heard about the 100th Bloomsday weeks ago, but it took Google to remind me today. They commemorate it, as they do many holidays, with a cute little image on their front page. I thought it was supposed to be a cowboy at first.
In other news, it is finally summer, I think, here in Portland. It has been totally beautiful today, actually hot. I'm sitting on my back porch looking at the garden and looking at the internet on my laptop. A long yellow ethernet cable connects me in the backyard with cyberspace, and with the reminder that today is the day Leopold Bloom and Stephen Dedulus lived their fictional odysseys in Dublin...
Godammit, i fucking HATE it when i have to listen to somebody sitting in a cafe talking on their damn mobile at elevated volumes, and even worse is what happened just now, when 2 of the jackasses where doing it. It would be hilarious if it weren't so annoying, 2 people sitting together at table, both talking on their cellphones, yelling into their phones, actually. I mean, it wouldn't be that bad if they would at least talk in a normal tone of voice, but so many people have this "HI!! YOU PROBABLY CAN'T HEAR ME CUZ YOU'RE ON THE PHONE WITH ME! SO I'LL TALK LOUDER" way of speaking.
The other day, walking into this same cafe and seeing all the wireless laptop wankers, I felt slightly annoyed, in that "and I'm one of them" kind of way. And I wondered if cafe laptops were the new mobile phones, in terms of people being annoyed and having contempt for them as a symbol of yuppie affluent lifestyle, now that mobile phones are used by everyone of all classes everywhere. But laptops will never, ever be as annoying as mobile phones. you don't yell into your fucking laptop, even if you're an asshole. grrrr....
I've been keeping a journal since I was 17 (basically my entire adult life!). So this blogging thing seems redundant sometimes. Often, though, it seems like trying to keep 2 journals, because I obviously can write some things in my private little notebook that I wouldn't want to put here on the web. I value being transparent and open but there are limits. hah.
Also, the fact that this is syndicated on indyblogs has made me happy but also put a different feel on writing stuff. I feel like there is a definite audience of which I need to be conscious, and a larger audience. For example, there are a lot of uncomfortable, controversial things about Indymedia, both locally and globally, that I have been thinking about and discussing with others, but that I can't really voice here.
Meanwhile I keep losing my pens, my really good pens that make it a pleasure to write in my journal....
What am I doing, I guess I'm just providing excuses for why entries both here and in my journal have been few and far between...
I've been and will be super busy this week, not only because i've finally found some paying work but also i've been rushing to finish some videos about Bolivia in time for a an evening of talks and videos on Saturday called Bolivia In Crisis. One video is brand new and based on footage I shot when I was there in December. Another is from last February, made by Bolivia IMC which I was given a copy of by Libertino of Uruguay IMC, to which we are adding a voiceover translation. Then there's one from Argentina IMC, and another by a trio of gringos who I don't know much about - I got their film, called "No Se Vende El Gas" from a Colorado State University student who I met in Cochabamba.
All of this is to raise money for our project to send computers to Bolivia. So I hope lots of people show up... ok, gotta run... busybusybusy...
My show at the KNOW the other night about my trip to south america went really well. There was a good turnout and we earned a lot of money for the Computers for Bolivia Project. Well, not a lot compared with how much we need, but it was something.
I feel sort of relieved that I have done it. Like there is some sort of closure. I got lots of good feedback too. It seems to have been informative and inspiring to many who were there. That makes me feel good. Also doing the show, and preparing for it, has reinvigorated my desire to travel more next winter, and also to work on my spanish more.
ok i'm mostly just posting this because i said if i didn't post for a few days i would have been apprehended by government security forces. Nothing of the kind, I've just been crazy busy (or maybe they just want you to think that).
All the busy is a good busy, but I can't help thinking it was avoidable. I'm giving a presentation about my trip to south america tommorrow, but I procrastinated on preparing for it - capturing the video and audio, etc. So I've been scrambling to do that. I think I procrastinated because, I think, I felt uncomfortable about looking at all that footage, for some reason. I found it difficult to do. Perhaps because those electronic representations are so far from the real experience. I don't know.
This morning I'm at the house of my brother and his wife, in Colorado Springs, having just flown in last night from Portland. I'm in town for the semiannual national meeting of the National Coordinating Committee for War Tax Resistance, which starts tommorrow. It was easy to decide to come to this meeting, since my brother lives right here (the meetings are in different cities every time).
This post is about other easiness. The ease of mobile networked computing, I guess. This is totally nothing new, and if you think I'm writing this as some earth-shattering news, you're wrong. This is just a personal observation of the first time this phenomenon has really happened to me.
What phenomenon am I speaking of? I guess i'm talking about the long-promised, much-hyped "work anywhere", locationless world we have supposedly started living in over the last few years, thanx to the Internet, laptops, etc. We've heard about this for so long, and I guess I'm suprised that, being the supergeek that I am, that I haven't really felt this before. But here it is: today, a couple hours ago, I woke up in this strange bed in a strange house (well, not totally strange, I've visited here before a few times, but still). I fired up my laptop, plugged it into an ethernet jack in the wall (yes, allan and jeannette are supergeeks too), and just... started doing what I usually do in the morning, which is: get my email, post to my blogs, read the news, read urls people sent to me, answer questions about various projects I'm involved with that people have emailed me about, etc etc. And I'm even drinking cup after cup of green tea, which is my usual morning ritual, too.
...And I suddenly got this weird realization of what was happening. I've got my laptop, internet connection, green tea (which i left here last time I visited, i think!), a reasonably comfortable chair -- that's all I need. I could be anywhere, doing the "work" that I do. Almost all of it, other than the video and sound stuff (which I could probably do portably too, most of it, if I had a little bit faster powerbook).
And yeah this is the first time I've really felt that good about it, I mean that things just work the way they're supposed to, bookmarks and cookies and passphrases and network protocols and batteries and browsers and RJ-45 jacks. It's pretty nice. I am not an early adopter. I get excited about new technologies but I am also fervently anticonsumerist. I am not going to go out and blow cash on something just cuz it's a snazzy new piece of gear. I wait till they work the kinks out, and till it becomes clear that the gizmo will really make my life better. These are things John Perry Barlow and Bruce Sterling were crowing about in Wired magazine half a decade ago, but it was mostly vaporware, really. I mean when you got down to it, until recently, only if you spent a shitload of money and time and happened to be at a high-tech office or school did this shit really create a net positive effect on your life and work. It was all just "gee whiz", it's the future!
A lot of this is real subjective and other factors help out. The sun is shining, it's warm and comfortable in this house, and I am in a good mood. These things help me to have a good attitude about this hunk of plastic and silicon i'm starting at. But the fact remains that other than the type of cereal I ate, I got up and pretty much did the same things and accomplished the same little tasklets that I would have done had I still been back home, even though I'm, what? about 1300 miles away?
But, speaking of sun, it's time to get dressed and get a breath of fresh Colorado air.
I went to "alternative" Critical Mass on Friday. I plan to write something for portland IMC site later, but I want to get some thoughts down here now. It was the first time I even tried to ride a Critical Mass for almost a year, I think. I used to go every month but then after the war started the tremendous police backlash/crackdown just made it not fun anymore. People were just being herded around downtown by the cops every month.
Alternative massess have occasionally been tried, with varying success. This time it was the most fun I've had at CM for a long time. This was due to the fact that people were informed about the gathering place only by word of mouth, and we tried a new tactic which turned out to have great results.
The basic idea of the tactic is simple, and I don't feel bad about publicly writing about it, because it doesn't matter if the enemy knows it, it will still work. These are the best kinds of tactics. Anyway, what we did is this: agree upon a spot to meet at, then agree to split up if the cops get too bothersome, all go in different directions and gather again at the meeting spot. Then repeat the process, as many times as desired.
It was really great - our second application of the tactic ended up with a squad of motorcycle cops following us around Ladd Circle, round and round, with the bikes eventually lapping the motorcycles. It was hilarious. Finally we started to peel off one by one, heading out different spokes of the big wheel that is Ladd's Addition. We met up later just as planned, cops successfully hoodkwinked.
I've been involved in a lot of other bike fun lately too. I was cameraperson on a little film that re-enacted the altercation between some bikers and some meathead motorists a couple weeks ago. And yesterday I went to a zoobomb wrenching party, which was fun and perfect timing because I needed to replace my rear brake shoes.
I'm glad I've been able to take advantage of the great weather we've been having and be outside doing this great bike stuff.
A good friend sent me to this Personality test based on Jung - Myers-Briggs typology. She has taken it before, talked about it a lot before and is really into the whole idea of dividing people into various personality categories.
I always find them lacking, for the same reason I find astrology lacking. They are just too general. People are more complicated than these tests imply, and they vary over time and with situation.
Any survey about myself that consists of only yes/no questions is not going to be something I trust very much. A lot of the questions I really felt up in the air about and pretty much just flipped a mental coin to decide whether to check 'yes' or 'no'.
I won't tell you what it rated me as, but I was pretty suprised. It didn't seem to fit very well. But then I have to admit that when i read the detailed descriptions of the type I was, it sort of made sense. Sort of. However, I can often also say this about my horoscope.
Here's something entertaining: I supposedly am of the same type as Thomas Jefferson, JFK, Hannibal Lecter, Professor Moriarity, Dan Akroyd, and Rosencrantz & Guildenstern. Wow.
"Its ads may evoke rugged outdoorsmanship, but Levi hasn't promoted any particular life style to sell other products" - Naomi Klein, No Logo
Here's what the meme suggests you do:
1. Grab the nearest book.
2. Open the book to page 23.
3. Find the fifth sentence.
4. Post the text of the sentence in your blog along with these instructions.
Now that I'm back to a place where I can walk into a bookstore and actually be able to read the books there, it's all I can do to stop myself from buying a bunch. I'm a book junkie. Luckily, I can't afford to indulge in this vice right now, and I just keep reminding myself of the shelf of books that I've bought in the last couple of years and still haven't read. I just looked over there and yikes! - There's about 25 of them!
Anyway, I have a list of new ones I want to read.
There's one that I actually did break down and buy and read a couple weeks ago, at a reading and signing: The Fountain at the Center of the World, by Robert Newman. It was one of the best readings I've ever been to, the guy is so completely entertaining and knowledgeable. The book is an amazing novel, a piece of political fiction that takes place against a backdrop of globalization, privatisation, and the protests thereof. It's about 2 brothers born in Mexico, separated when very young - one grows up in England and becomes a PR flack for big corporations, while the other stays in Mexico and grows up to be an activist and sabateur.
The book is almost like the fictional accompaniment to We Are Everywhere, and having just read that and just come back from a long trip to South America, it was the perfect book for me.
Other books I've recently found out about and want to read:
--Craig Rosebraugh's "The Logic of Political Violence": someone at the video collective meeting yesterday was suprised I didn't know about it when I expressed pleasant shock at seeing it. Well, when did it come out? Oh, 3 or 4 months ago. Well, how long have I been travelling and out of touch with new books being published? 4 months!! Anyway, I've been interested in Craig's jihad against non-violence dogma for a while now so this is a very interesting publication to me.
-- "Change the World Without Taking Power", by John Holloway
-- "Upside Down: A Primer for the Looking-Glass World ", by Eduardo Galeano
-- "The Open Veins of Latin America," by Eduardo Galeano
-- "Free Culture" by Lawrence Lessig
-- "The Anarchist in the Library" by Siva Vaidhyanathan
These are 2 books about intellectual property, mostly, that I just found out about thanx to a blog entry by chuck. I feel it is my duty to keep up on this issue, even though I confess to being less and less interested. I've been involved in the struggle against totalitarian IP for over a decade but it just seems like there are other issues that are a lot more urgent right now. Isn't it crazy that there's people who don't have land to live on or food to eat and we're here worrying about not being able to legally duplicate a DVD? ugh.
Maybe I should get rid of some of the books in my to-read pile. A lot of them I no longer am as interested in. Isn't that fucked up? My reading backlog is longer than the churn of my interests... argh....
I've decided to announce this blog to some friends today. Why not, that's what blogs are for, right? They're up there for others to see, right? I've always thought the whole website as personal exhibitionism idea is pretty interesting. I mean, it's not neccesarily exhibitionism. There's a fine line between communication and exhibitionism, isn't there?
I've been journalling since I was 17, but they've been pretty private affairs. Who are they written for? Mostly myself. Though I often have the fantasy that when I die, someone will go through all those journals (I suppose I've averaged about 300 letter-sized pages per year, maybe more. It's varied so much, it's hard to say), and learn about who I was, and perhaps publish them, and the world will learn all these private things about me.
But that's different than what blogs are. Blogs are a much more outwardly focused project. And yet, because of the difficulties of the "Attention Economy," some blogs might as well be scribbled in notebooks and kept under a mattress. For many blogs, actually, not many people will see them. It's a bit like doing late night college radio. Is anyone listening?
anyway, what am i up to these days?
--going over my video footage from south america
--trying to figure out how to ship computers to bolivia
--other indymedia-related stuff
--starting up a cooperative video editing studio
--slowly starting to look for paying work
--learning how to use MovableType, for the sake of turning Detritus into a community blog.
--i don't know what else. seems like more is going on but i can't think of it.
On the border of Brazil and Bolivia I met 2 cool guys from france who were travelling around the world on a project called hydrotour.
Here is the text, translated from the French very badly by Google, of the portion of their adventure that intersected with mine:
After a forwarding in the boat worthy of "the broken ear" and to have thwarted the traps of the road, we arrive at healthy Corumbá and except December 29 at the evening. The city is superb, which lets guess a past in charge of history. Corumbá was, indeed, at the XVIII century the first not-coastal port of the world. The stripped plaster same frontages of the houses leave, despite everything, to show through of rich person hot color. But the hour is not with contemplation, it is necessary to find a housing decent without too much pointing out itself with our superb car which smells the nine more. A rapid tower of horizon leads us to throw our reserved on an unspecified hotel near to Rio Paraguay. Once the last night it was necessary well to go to the obviousness which our hotel was not other than a vulgar hotel used by prostitutes. These things there, it is not known it unfortunately that after usage?Le next morning we make all the same the meeting of Brazilian and of an American. The goal of their peregrinations is to make reports vidéos on interesting people. With them we visit a favela of Corumba. The family met lives a housing more than simple, it is a hut of 15 m² makes of a part. Small advantage compared to their fellow-members of São Paolo, they have a garden in which they can make a kitchen garden. We decide after grinds reflexions to remain one night more in Corumbá in our hotel seedy character. Our friends Brazilian and American dégotté a family not like the others which accomodates us around a beer and of Assado (meat roasted with the barbecue) on their boat the evening of the midnight supper. He is old of Navy. His wife is white of Kenya. They have two children and furrow since always the rivers of Latin America. Does their boat have a single past since it was in its time, the boat of Eva Peron? Fires of artifices pètent in all the directions. Here are 6 months exactly which we are on the roads of monde?Vive the new year!
Okay, so now it's tuesday.
To be like a real blogger, i will mention that i just found out about Nick Broomfields new second look at Aileen Wuornos. here's his site.
He did a documentary about her years go, but then was suboened to testify at her final appeal, and asked by Aileen to do her final interview. So after that he made another film. he's so fucking great. i wonder if michael moore was influenced by his work. because broomfield, i think, has been doing stuff longer than moore has.
Wow, the potential is pretty high, i think.
hmm... i wonder how you display categories. i've set up a couple, but the entries don't look any different. there's probably a special tag to put in the template. hmm.
oh, i see. i should just RTFM. hah. <$MTEntryCategory$>
Ok, here it is, the first moveable type blog entry here.
woohoo. sort of more easy and more hard than i thought it would be to install.
the docs could be a little better. in fact the installation docs are unlike anything i've ever seen. i'm not sure why. they seem aimed at below the level of geeks, but above the level of most non-geeks. strange.