Thursday, December 18, 2008

stuff white people like

Funny, hits the spot, like kombucha on a hot day. It's like The Onion for white culture.


Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Data Store

[a story written long ago, but one that is frightening me how accurate it is becoming]

Civilization began with division of labor, with specialized labor, with surplus. Soon, someone had to manage that surplus efficiently and fairly, and thus begat government and bureaucracy. Someone had to defend that surplus, and the military was born. Someone had to sell this idea to the unbelieving public, and marketing came along. And that brings us to today.
The Data Store was the brainchild of Felecious Mumps. He devised a software/hardware gadget called The Key that used infinitely detailed codes to identify anyone and anything, anywhere this gadget the size of a grain of salt (often made into fashionable jewelry!) was placed. He made life very convenient for everyone, as no one really had time for details between a job, classes, and soccer practice. Gone were keys, checks or credit cards, identification cards, passports—anything that needed a password or number was made obsolete.
And then Felecious Mumps began to compile the data. Privacy advocates were appalled, but they were in the minority. With life so convenient, who cares about a bit of privacy? Marketing became much more efficient, and people were very pleased with that. No longer were they bombarded with messages about products and services they didn’t need. With the Data Store’s information, every consumer was assured that every ad they saw was something they needed.
In fact, it was practically impossible not to use The Key. Each person, product, and activity is assigned a number. One certainly had the “right” not to use The Key, but no transactions could be made without it. In the cities, tales arose of the country people (the Centrillic) not using The Key, but these tales were rarely believed. Who had the time to go back to paying for things, or worse yet, bartering? It was ridic to think these tales were real. Of course, the non-urban legends could not be verified because the InterSTAN Hiway did not go into the country.
And so it went, life becoming more and more efficient, creating more and more time for people to consume the need for more time to enjoy these things. Felecious Mumps sat in his castle, built upon the mountain, built upon what used to be the Sangamon Islands before the rising seas covered the tallest trees. Felecious played computer chess and ate tiramisu, and life could not be better, or worse, until the end of the system of things we now call civilization.
Although Felecious scoffed at his critics’ predictions of the end of the world as we know it and developed sound marketing strategies to defeat their concerns of overconsumption, he did listen to them and plan accordingly. It did not take a smart man to realize that resources were finite, although wealth was not. And Felecious Mumps was a very smart man.
The crash came at the end of June, a few days before Felecious’ birthday. He hadn’t told anyone about the upcoming shortage, and it wasn’t hard to keep it a secret since The Data Store’s recent takeover of UniCorp, its biggest competitor and fiercest ally. For weeks, he had been shifting around employees, even building new factories, so that all of the resources would run out simultaneously.
There was panic, of course, but Felecious appeared on television and radio to calm the masses. He had known, he told them, but they shouldn’t have worried. He had written a New Key that worked in conjunction with the Old Key but far exceeded the efficiency and usefulness of the Old Key. Since everyone’s buying habits, income, and personal data was programmed into the Data Store, the information would keep speeding along, just as if everyone were still working and consuming.
The people were relieved to hear that Felecious had thought of them and kept them in His plans. The New Key kept everyone notified of what was happening in their lives—promotions and raises, births, deaths, marriages, etc. And so it went on peacefully, for a week or so.
The people looked into their refrigerators and saw nothing there. “What will we eat? What will we drink?” they asked Felecious. “Do not worry, my children,” He said. “According to my records, your refrigerator was replenished at 10 a.m. today.”
And people held on for a few more days, until they realized that, suddenly, they were obsolete.
And Felecious Mumps sat in the tower of his castle built on the mountain, built upon what was known as the Sangamon Islands before the glaciers melted and covered even the tallest trees, playing computer chess and eating tiramisu, knowing that he was and would forever be the richest bastard that ever lived.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

mr. bush, here's some hair of the dog that bit ya

An Iraqi threw his shoes at the president in Baghdad, saying something along the lines of "This is a farewell kiss, you dog," for the first shoe, and "This is from the widows, the orphans and those who were killed in Iraq" for the second. The president wasn't harmed; saved by his quick Texan reflexes, he ducked. The man was tackled, some say beaten, and now will be prosecuted.

It was an insult, instead of a grenade, or else Cheney would be our president for a few weeks. (For cultural significance to shoe throwing, see here.) For many, this man is a hero, a folk hero, a David that stood up to the biggest Goliath imaginable. Thousands of people are taking to the streets demanding freedom for this man. I wonder if there government will listen to them as much as ours listens to us. Some news footage, woo.

I think last night it really hit me what it would mean to be an Iraqi. Not that I hadn't thought about it before, but reading what this guy has said about hating America and hating Iran, and not wanting the rich Iraqi culture and way of life to be swallowed up by either threat, it became clear. This is the fertile crescent, the garden of eden. America's first invasion of Iraq was when I was 17, more than half my life ago. I can't imagine living that long being occupied by armed street thugs (our military), living your daily life, trying to make some sort of sense of it all and provide for your children a life worth living. The shoe throwing for some reason put that all into clear perspective for me.

Muntadar al-Zaidi, I can only imagine how good it must have felt to chuck a shoe at W. I can only imagine how many Americans would love to have been in your shoes that day. Please know that a lot of us in the United States feel our country has been taken over by greed, by corporations, by the wealthy and powerful. We feel we have no say in our government, nor what atrocities it commits. This country has been entrenched in the same Leviathan that has gobbled your country. I hope someday we will again find ourselves living in the garden of eden, but until then, I wish you peace.


Monday, December 15, 2008


A few weeks ago, I posted about our kitty dying. We've moved to an acceptance of his untimely death, although we still miss his warm softness.

A few days before Thanksgiving, my cousin died, being shot in the head, supposedly by his wife. An investigation continues, and no one has been charged in his murder. He was a few years younger than me, and had two children, one of which he was raising by himself. We weren't close; we hadn't seen each other in 15 or 20 years.

Yesterday, my aunt died. She had had a stroke, most of her body was paralyzed, and she passed away. She was my mom's older sister. I was not particularly close to her, as she was the aunt who most vehemently thought I was stuck up since I attended college. I am the only person to have graduated from college in my family, ever. She, married at 15 with children soon to follow, thought life experience was what mattered. I think learning through life experience and books are both important, but she never asked me my opinion on that.

My last memory of my aunt was in my grampa's hospital room where he lay dying, with her telling me off that I didn't know nothing despite my education, and that I was going to end up like him someday, not knowing what was going on, dying from Old Timer's Disease. He didn't have Alzheimers; he lay dying from neglect, from lack of concern from several of his children and his country doctor who kept him on meds that his "big city" doc put him on, despite the quite obvious signs that his medications were greatly interfering with his ability to live. I really hated her then, and hadn't talked to her since. And now she's dead.

It's strange when distant relatives die. It's not that we're distantly related, but that there was distance between us. And it still affects me in some way. My cousin, we spent a summer together taking swimming lessons, with our aunt who was only a few years older than me. Since I never did anything remotely fun in my childhood like take swimming lessons, it was a special treat to do so. I hadn't had much of a chance to hang out with my cousin and my aunt either, since I hadn't met my dad til I was seven. (Blood tests later proved he was not my dad, and my cousin was no longer my cousin, but once you're related, you're related.)

My aunt lived a few blocks down from my grandparents, with whom I lived, when I was a young child. I often walked to her house by myself, believe it or not, when I was 5-6 years old. This was an ancient time ago, apparently, when children grew up in a society they could trust for the most part. My aunt at this time was in her late twenties, had a houseful of kids older than me, and her husband was making a relatively good living. She was kind. I enjoyed playing with my older cousins, and especially liked it when they would get down their jewelry box for me. They'd open the lid and I'd get to see the tiny ballerina going round and round, and listen to the music. We never had much for Christmas, but I remember around that time, my aunt made for me a dozen polyester barbie doll outfits, trimmed with rick rack. I enjoyed putting them on my barbies, clasping the hook and eye closures. She apparently felt something for me then, perhaps pity, or maybe love.

But as an adult, I don't know what happened. I tried to keep my nose clean, getting good grades, not partying or even swearing, rarely dating. But she would tell people she saw me on a street corner late at night, trying to pick up guys. When I went to college was the last straw for her, I guess. I found myself at college not because I had a desire to go, but through bizarre circumstances, it seemed better than my alternatives at that moment. I don't know if it was envy on behalf of herself, or maybe that of her children who also did not go to college. She was never nice to me again, and I didn't care.

This year marks the 10th year since I lost my grampa, and the 25th since I lost my gramma. They both raised me, and it's been a long time without them.


Saturday, December 6, 2008

eco bling

Ever hear of eco bling? I've never seen something that more makes me want to retch. But, it's so funny, I can't stop laughing. Here's a definition:

"eco-bling is something very special in the world. eco-bling is when something is both ecologically sustainable and brilliant, corporate and clever at the same time. eco-bling may not save the planet, but it will certainly get some attention."

Yes, green is the new pink, making cooling the earth, hot.

The proposed Anara Tower in Dubai, where shortly ago was the it place, but now reeling from cheap and unwanted gas, has also been tagged as eco bling. Scroll halfway down this page until you get to the view of the Palm Island from the Tower (it's not the Tower of Babel, we swear!). If you don't know about the man-made and very exclusive Palm Island in Dubai, it's worth looking up. There's even some nice pictures on google earth.

A no doubt very expensive eco bling car. Doesn't it make you want to run out and buy it?

Even Wal-Mart is getting into the action:

I really don't see how buying crap is going to improve our environment, build soil, clean our air and water, or free our minds and souls and those of our descendants from the black iron prison/cave of treasures we find ourselves in. It seems like the same old crap in new packaging. It's like buying a solar panel to collect dust or a new hybrid suv to commute to your world-damaging job from the burbs.

Surely, we can use our vivid imaginations and large brains to create something more useful than this shiny repackaged crap. Surely we can take another step, and create a new paradigm, enter this frontier of living in a way that doesn't destroy the earth. Well, you know as well as I do that when we talk about saving the earth, we are really talking about saving ourselves, saving humanity--not saving it, but not killing it off, and letting the humanity of the future have some chance of living a decent life. In fact, we could create new systems of living that are low-tech, cooperative instead of competitive, and that will outlive us, with full invitation from our offspring to improve them and make them more relevant. Sounds better than eco bling in this ghetto.


Friday, December 5, 2008

my fancy speech

This here is a 10-minute speech I wrote about citizen action, specifically about food not lawns, to give at the local Meet Your Producers (farmers) event in Springfield. My hope was to incite a riot of internal passion and subsequent changed behavior in favor of living in a new paradigm. However, the event was a lot less formal than I anticipated, and I scrapped the speech in favor of dialogue. But if I ever get a chance to speak in front of a ladies' club, like dear Vachel Lindsay, here is what I will say:

Citizen Action

Food not lawns is a network of gardeners who encourage folks to plant up their yards in food instead of grass. We encourage sustainable organic practices, and the joy that comes from planting food and eating it. We are very much into sharing our collective knowledge and skills with our community. We hold monthly educational meetings on a variety of topics, from worm composting and the honeybee die-off to the basics of gardening and permaculture design. This past spring, our members hosted several garden tours, and a free seed and plant swap. We’ve attempted to answer a multitude of gardening questions, and give encouragement to those who have sought it. We place ourselves within the whole of the context of community.

Some statistics on lawns: Americans spend approximately $30 billion every year to maintain over 23 million acres of lawn. That’s an average of over a third of an acre and $500 per lawn. The same size plot of land could still have a small lawn for recreation, plus produce all of the vegetables needed to feed a family of six. The lawns in the United States consume around 270 billion gallons of water per week—enough to water 81 million acres of organic vegetables, all summer long.

Lawns use ten times as many chemicals per acre as industrial farmland, including about 150-300 million pounds of pesticides annually. Pesticides, fertilizers, and herbicides run off into our groundwater and evaporate into our air, causing widespread pollution and global climate change, and greatly increase our risk of disease. Of the 36 most commonly used lawn pesticides, 13 can cause cancer, 14 can cause birth defects, 11 can interfere with reproduction, and 21 can damage your nervous system. Lawns use more equipment, labor, fuel, and agricultural toxins than industrial farming, making lawns the largest agricultural sector in the United States. But it’s not just the residential lawns that are wasted on grass. There are around 700,000 athletic grounds and 14,500 golf courses in the United States, many of which used to be fertile, productive farmland that was lost to developers when the local markets bottomed out.

Citizen action, to me, is a key in changing our future. If you pay any attention to news stories, you know what kind of dire straits our nation and planet are in. And yet, for all our lawmakers have done and have attempted to do, we are still deeply in the hole we have dug with our past actions. I think real change will take each and every one of us thinking deeply about what we are doing every day in our lives. What kind of world are we building each day with the choices we make? What kind of future are we building? Are we designing functioning low-tech systems that will outlive us? Or are we building deserts and landfills for our children to inherit? You may think we’re attempting to save the world, but really, we’re attempting to save humanity. Without a livable functioning planet, there can be no human culture.

When I became a parent was when the state of our world really hit me. I decided that there was no more passing the buck, no more putting off until tomorrow what I could accomplish myself today. I do not want my child and her children to inherit an uninhabitable world. I want her to grow up in a vast lush forest, feeling deeply connected with a living world. I want her to be able to drink the water and breathe the air. I want her to know vitally what living in a strong intensely caring community means. I am not willing to wait for someone else to create this future.

What can we do as citizens? Anything we can think of! We are humans; we have big brains, vivid imaginations, and an amazing ability to adapt. Creativity is our most valuable and versatile design tool. We can see solutions, not problems. What kind of life would you live if you had no constraints of time and money? Think about this. What does a life well lived look like? Envisioning a sustainable future is the first step in enacting this story. Spend time thinking. Think about where your food and material needs come from, and what kind of damage to our planet must happen to enable it to arrive on store shelves. Think about if this is the story you would like to enact.

The farmers and producers in this room have a lot to contribute to enacting a sustainable future for all. Here you see men and women who do what they can to provide nourishment and sustenance on a local level. They are most likely not wealthy. Being a farmer today does not usually bring a lot of riches unless you are getting taxpayer provided subsidies for dumping chemicals on what used to be the most fertile lands in the world, and building deserts. The producers in this room go beyond the desire to make a living for themselves. Often times, they are agents of change. The first time I ever tasted a naturally raised chicken from Bear Creek Farm and Ranch, I knew I could never go back to eating Tyson’s chemically and industrially raised chickens. I don’t desire to eat torture and habitat destruction, even if the monetary price is less. The social costs far outweigh the economic cost. There isn’t any point in eating imported tomatoes out of season, nor tasteless vapid strawberries.

And now we’re back to Food Not Lawns. You may have heard of the 100-mile diet, the attempt to eat regionally, to eat food raised within 100 miles of your home. I challenge you to supplement this with the 100-foot diet. Make a change, starting at your doorstep. Plant food you and your children and your grandchildren enjoy eating within walking distance of your front door, and taste the difference. Taste what food grown with your own two hands in nutrient-rich soil is like. In a life full of health instead of health care, your food is your medicine.

If circumstances do not allow you to walk out your front door and plant, get creative. Use that big brain and active imagination! Put potted plants on your balcony or in a sunny window. Get involved with community gardens or garden swapping. Plant an edible landscaping, so persnickety neighbors will not be offended–and share your harvest with them! Have a brown thumb? Experience and observation will soon turn it green. Attend our free gardening workshops in January and February to learn all about gardening, from building nutrient-rich soil, saving seeds, all the way to designing with permaculture to create sustainable human habitats. We’re going to cover it. Need seeds or plants? Come to our seed and plant swap to get a start. Need advice or help? Ask us. We have an online group with experienced gardeners, and our meetings are always attended by knowledgeable folks.

More than simply raising your own food, you may find yourself in the midst of a community you never knew could exist. The economy of community is abundance, sharing and helping, as opposed to the money economy of scarcity, which encourages competition and ever widens the gap between us and them. You want unlimited growth? You can have it: relationships and experiences, self-awareness, community and connection, spirit, love, purpose, meaning and vision. Value cooperation instead of competition.

A crisis is an opportunity for change. If there is a happy ending to the story of humanity, it will be because we envisioned and enacted a new story, with the rest of the community of life, on the pages of the living world. We are pioneers, not on a mythical far-away frontier, but in our hearts, our minds, our communities, our future. We can build up a new world. Once occupied minds are activating. People are waking up. We can step to the heartbeats of our granddaughters and grandsons, and rise together to meet this challenge, this opportunity, to build up a new world, a world worth inhabiting.

It is time to show up in our own lives and speak our truth. It’s time to talk about this with everyone we see. It is time to act with great intention. Citizens, find your work, and do it. We need it all. It may seem an immense challenge, but if our alternative is extinction, what do we have to lose? Whatever path you choose, choose. Do not sit idly by.

When you plant a seed, you are planting hope. After the seed sprouts, grows, and you eat the fruit of your labors, you are a changed person. Change yourself, talk to others, encourage the people in your community to walk away from war and building deserts and landfills. The proverbial garden is beneath our feet, under the pavement, pulsing with life, waiting for sunlight, moisture, and a caring heart and tender hand. We are citizens in action. We are the change we want to see. I invite you to join us.