Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Waiting or living?

I came across this video today and it reminded me of the person I want to be. Oh, I know it's cliche to love this book, but I sincerely do. And this piece of art, having people at Burning Man recite the lines, is inspired.

I watched the movie Point Break the other night. While mostly terrible, the movie has one very important redeeming quality: it discusses the difference between a sedentary life and one of movement. The distinction between the two is incredibly hard to parse out. In Morris Berman's book Wandering God he talks about the difference between vertical and horizontal ways of living. Vertical consciousness includes a lot of thinking about the future and the past, there is religion, a god or gods which control all that you are worried (and thinking constantly) about. Horizonality, however, is wrapped up in the present moment. It is about feeling the wind in your hair, or bobbing around in waves. Not thinking about bobbing around in waves, just simply doing it, without thought. That's what the surfers are doing in Point Break. They are living. Not thinking about living, but living. They feel the sun, the waves, the sand. They are moving, not waiting. There is so little time in life. Why is there ever waiting?!?!

This video is of people that are not waiting. Maybe this is an example of privileged people that have the free time for creativity like this. But horizontality is not limited to people like this. We find here only one example. But people all over the world can live horizontally. The people at Burning Man, they are living. Dancing, singing, playing, laughing, creating. Not everything they're doing is wonderful, but at least they're alive. They're not waiting!

But I am. I am waiting for so many things. In the immediate future I'm waiting for Friday, or the end of the semester, or for the end of the school year. I'm waiting for the end of next school year. But after that I'm still waiting. I'm waiting for enough money. I'm waiting for security. I'm waiting to start my life. And it seems that everyone around me is waiting too. So, it's hard to find the alive ones, because mostly they're gone. Once they realized all the time they'd spent waiting, they went seeking the life of living. I did it too once. But now I'm here, waiting again. I don't know how to get out of it here because I can't find many others that are not waiters. We are all waiting here. 

Monday, October 1, 2012

It is time to become intentional

Having been back in the flow of "real" life for a few years now, I am feeling sucked in to all that pushes me away from being present, growing, and happy. The routine leads to a lack of creativity, in that the ways of thinking become old, orthodoxies are perpetuated.

I want to marvel at the sand between my toes more. I want to be in awe of my surroundings. I want to find beauty in everything and grow, grow, grow beyond the limits of my known self.

It is hard to break out of this mess. Everyone I know is trapped, so I have no one guiding the way. The days are getting shorter and the sunlight is diminishing. I need it to live, yet it leaves me.

It it time to become intentional. You can choose your state of mind, and this choice is manifested through practice. Without sunlight or outdoor beautiful spaces, I must find joy in people. Some of the most joyful moments I've ever had have been with people. I felt joy the other night, dancing in a bar. I lost myself in the rhythm, only feeling the pace and my body swaying or crunching to it. I can loose myself in a conversation with someone new, or in a discussion of real truth. I can also find joy in sport -- swimming methodically in a peaceful blue abyss, or trusting in the centrifugal force of the universe as I leave my feet to catch a frisbee in the air.

If I am to survive this winter, I must reject all those things that make me feel sick and empty inside: facebook, meaningless entertainment, too many sweet foods, and instead take up all that grows me, makes me feel joy, and adds to my health: sports, conversations with good friends, cooking, creativity, meditation, meeting new people, simplicity.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

the closing of american academia

I came across a great article today on Al Jazeera, "The closing of American academia."

I find it fascinating, this myth that higher education always leads to more prosperity. That is it something to be sought after highly. I resent the baby boomer ideal that if you only work hard enough, you can achieve anything. So, if I do well in school and get good grades and try to get the highest degree available in a field I what? Earn $10,000 a year and be on food stamps? I', going to get this degree, but I'm doing it because I think we live in a world that values "haves" and "have nots." I think it will be easier for me to emigrate and easier for me to slip into upper echelons of society wherever I live. I am doing it because the prosperity is running out in America, and free graduate degrees are going the way of the dodo bird. I am sucking the last bits of affluence I can out of this dying empire and I'm getting the hell out. 

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

everything is a remix, or against individualism

I saw this video posted today by my good friend Bridget and it put together succinctly a lot of what I've been thinking lately. I read a book years ago called The Modern Mind. It describes the development of western thought through the twentieth century as a novel would. It tells a story. And in this story it is absolutely clear that ideas do not come from individual genius. Ideas are shared, developed communally, and inevitable.

This thinking that there are individual geniuses who are exponentially more creative and innovative than the rest of us blind, ignorant masses is so in alignment with all of the thinking that epitomizes this country. And the results of this thinking are catastrophic. If we think that individuals make the world, it leads to less sharing, and therefore less innovation. It also leads to a very western psychological problem which is what I think of as the flip side to the American Dream. Let's call it the American Nightmare Syndrome. This ANS engenders thinking such as "If I have not been successful (wealth/fame/innovation/etc), than it is my fault as an individual." The flip side of this is of course the American Dream Syndrome which states "I can do anything if I (individually) work hard enough, focus enough and have enough strength of character." However, what the speaker is saying in this video above is that these innovations come inevitably with the evolution of human society. If you have not innovated a new product, it is because those ideas have not yet coalesced enough to become possible.

Let go of the control you think you have on your life and circumstances. Let go and just be. Follow the path that makes you happy, and if you happen to be in the right place at the right time to do something great, do it. If not, you're still doing something great by taking in the creativity of others (which is an inevitable part of life) and making it new. Just by speaking or cooking or telling a joke you are making something new out of all of the creative input you've had in your life. Embrace it! Don't try to sell it or keep it to yourself. Love it! Feel the power in the fact that you were able to make that meal because of all of the meals that came before in your lifetime and the lifetime of anyone who has taught you too cook. Enjoy it!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

the sacred

I have an idea for a religion, one that I already practice. It involves not rules of how to live or how to relate to other people, but only the love of sacred spaces. This idea came to me in Arches National Park in Utah this past June. Walking through these caverns and under these magnificent stone arches, I felt a need to call this space sacred.

Well, but what is sacred if not a rule made by moral men dictating what much be done? I wondered if in this religion, my religion, if sacred could mean more than that. It could mean a space that is necessary for the existence of all things. A space that must be treasured and cared for. A space where no injuries such as loud motors or pavement should be allowed to exist. If there were any place that I would consider my temple, it would be the red rock desert of Utah. I wish the religious fervor of the world could be directed toward the truly sacred.


Lately, I have decided to try to make my mindset more positive. This is a hard task in the world in which I live with the wars, environmental degradation, corruption, the endless stream of attacks on my person through advertising and marketing. For a good portion of my life, I found purpose in knowing these things. I could not stand listening to the half-baked explanations given by the people I know about the phenomena of our world. I wanted to truly know why things were the way they were. I looked into different continents, different eras of human history, and I got answers. Once I had these answers, I needed the solution for my life. How to avoid all this suffering? This modern American life isn't the way it has to be. There are options.

Then I chose my life -- the life of a homesteader. There are many reasons that this is the life that will work for me, but for now I'll just say it is because I think it will lead to the most happiness and the least suffering (which are not the same thing).

So, now I know the life I want to lead and why I want to lead it. The next few years will be devoted to getting there. Which brings me back to why I want more positivity in my life. Learning all I did about the world caused me a lot of pain personally. The truth was painful. We are not spiraling toward an ever better world. No one is going to solve the problems we have as a global society. These problems that exist now are an inherent outcome of the development of human society. These facts are terribly sad ones, and I am faced with evidence for all of these facts daily -- in our politicians, advertisements, news cycle even in the actions of strangers.

 So, I am in a point now where I would simply like to cut out as much of the negativity as possible. that includes too much internet news, or tv shows. I want to know some things that are happening in the world, but I am now getting diminishing returns from knowing all of it. It is not changing my plan for my life, it is only reinforcing it. With that in mind, here are a few videos that have made me feel really positive recently, from people who have brought positivity into the lives of many:

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

our wedding was featured on glamour & grace

Our wedding photos got posted by a fancy little wedding blog called Glamour and Grace. See it here:

Friday, April 20, 2012

how to go no 'poo: day four

Ok, so there's some catching up to do. After my routine on day one, my hair dried and it was incredibly greasy. I didn't have enough time to shower again before school the next day, so I just threw on a head scarf and made my way through the day. Remember, on the first day I used the mixture of castile, oilive oil and water for shampoo. This obviously didn't do the trick.

The next day, worried about having too-greasy of hair for school, I doubled down on my hair. I not only washed with baking soda and water, then I washed with the castile/OO/water mixture, THEN I washed with a simple castile/water mixture. I then followed up with an ACV rinse. This did the trick! Clean as a whistle! Although it looked/felt clean, my hair had a ton more body/bounce/softness to it. It didn't feel all dried out as it did with shampoo.

Later that day (day 2), we went to play tennis, so I got sweaty and had to shower again. This time, I only used the castile/water mixture for shampoo and it worked well. Although, using this I don't know if I am still technically "no 'poo." So, next time I wash I am going to do the baking soda and water wash and see if it cleans well enough for me to show my face in the office.

In the meantime, it has been two days since I shampooed last, and already I noticed that my hair is less greasy than it would have been before. Progress! Bow down before me overactive sebaceous glands!

Monday, April 16, 2012

how to go no 'poo: day one

Okay, so after having read obsessively on the subject over the past week, I have decided to not only stop using shampoo, I am also going to stop using soap, face wash and body wash. Well, not stop using them, but I have found alternatives to soap for each. This is an experiment in progress, so my routine may change as my body reacts. First, I'll describe my routine today and then I'll explain why.

what you need (all these ingredients chosen based on cost and availability):
1 bottle of castile oil (I used dr. bronner's, it is really inexpensive, $10, for a giant bottle that should last for weeks)
Organic olive oil
Apple cider vinegar (I didn't use organic, but it would probably be better if you did)
some little plastic containers that would be good for applying soap/shampoo/body wash

My routine from the shower I just took:
In place of shampoo: about a teaspoon of castile soap, 8-10 drops of olive oil and water
in place of conditioner: a capful of apple cider vinegar mixed with about a cup of water
in place of face wash: 8 drops of castile soap mixed with 5-6 tablespoons of olive oil
after face wash, out of shower: apply a mixture of one capful of apple cider vinegar to one cup water and apply to face like a toner
in place of body wash: a capful of castile soap mixed with a cup of water

For the shampoo and conditioner, these two concoctions are merely aiding the transition to using no shampoo at all. The sebaceous glands on your scalp get dried out by the harsh detergents in shampoo and so in response they over produce sebum (scalp oil). After a certain amount of time (ranges anywhere from 4 days to 12 weeks), your glands get the picture and stop producing so much sebum. At that point, theoretically, you should just need to rinse your head and massage your scalp everytime you shower. We'll see if that ever happens. (some people I've read just continue using the ACV mixture twice a week or so).

In the meantime, since you don't want to look like a grease monster, you can use these little concoctions that have a fraction of the degreasing power of regular shampoo/conditioner. It had been a couple days since I showered last, and my hair was quite greasy going into the shower today, so we'll see how it looks when it dries.

As to WHY I decided on these concoctions, it is really just an experiment based on a bunch of different sources of evidence. Some people use a teaspoon of baking soda mixed with water as their shampoo substitute, but I've also read that can dry out your hair a lot. I have read a lot about using oil as soap, since the idea is to clean out the dirt without stripping away too much of the oil. Castile soap, so much as I can surmise, is made entirely from oil products, some with stronger cleaning power than others. So, instead of the baking soda, I decided to use a little bit a castile soap, but I heard this can also dry out your hair. So I added some olive oil to the mixture along with water to thin it all out.

I have also read that your scalp and face both are naturally acidic. So, after both the face wash and the "shampoo," I use a mixture of apple cider vinegar and water to make these more acidic. On your head, this is supposed to work like conditioner, detangling and making your hair smooth. From my experience today, the "shampoo" mix did make my hair sort of tangly feeling. But the ACV "conditioner" did detangle and by the time I got out of the shower I was able to easily comb my hair and it felt smooth. My hair is in the process of drying now, and I have to admit it doesn't feel clean like it did before, but sort of sticky like it is greasy at the top, but it does feel a lot smoother all the day down to the tips. We'll see how it looks/feels once it is completely dry.

FYI: Most of these washes don't make any suds, and are quite liquefied, so you'll have to have a bottle that allows you to apply it all over your scalp and rub it into the roots.

For the face wash, I have been doing a lot of research into this. Like I said before, different oils have cleaning/absorbing dirt power. The most basic oil-based face "wash" I have heard of was a mixture of olive oil and castor oil, but I went to the health food store and saw that a little bottle of castor oil was $10, so I thought I'd try out alternatives first. I decided to go with a few drops of the castile soap (assuming it is a cleansing oil like castor) mixed with olive oil. I just rubbed this into my face and left it on for the duration of the shower and washed it off with water at the end. This wash can easily be used outside of the shower and would probably be easier to clean off with a dry wash rag, as we all know that oil and water don't mix. When I have washed my face out of the shower with this mix, I then followed up with a steaming hot wet wash cloth which I then placed on my face for a couple of seconds. I read somewhere that this helps to open up the pores, but I think it also feels really nice. Like I said before, I then follow up with an ACV toner to bring my skin back to a naturally acidic place.

I should mention that I have been having problems with mild acne for a couple of years now and am hoping that this new routine will help. I have read that, as with your scalp, your face gets dried out with regular soaps which you then try to make up for by using lotions, but both the dry skin and the lotions can cause acne. Leaving the natural oils on your face where they belong and only cleaning out accumulated dirt and makeup may be a good route to clearing up acne. I am also going to stop popping zits, which I know leads to more zits as the bacteria flies all over your face when you pop one. This will be hard, but so far this method of oil cleansing followed by a dry washcloth and then finishing with a hot and wet washcloth has seemed to naturally take the heads off of white head pimples, without any popping.

Finally, for body wash I just used some diluted castile soap. Today in the shower my body felt sort of sticky after using this mixture. Kind of like the water was just beading off of me. This has got to be a result of cleaning with oils -- your skin just retains its natural oils while the dirt is carried off with the soap. so, we'll see if I am actually clean (tested by my smelliness). This mixture does make suds, but it is very liquidy and hard to apply without some sort of sponge or loofah. I don't have one of these yet, but I think it would be good for exfoliating purposes, so I will be getting one soon.

We'll see where this experiment goes. Keep on reading.

Monday, April 9, 2012

no 'poo

So, I am considering banishing shampoo from my life. It turns out it dries out the natural oils in your scalp and therefore forces your scalp to make extra oils very quickly, which is why I get greasy hair about 30 hours after shampooing. This total drying out caused by soap is not only bad for your hair, but it also requires washing so often, buying a product often and on top of all this there is research that shows that many of the chemicals in our modern soaps and shampoos are linked to infertility and cancer.

I think I'll start to make the transition once the summer comes and I am done with school for a while. I have been doing a lot of reading up on it and it looks like it take 8-12 weeks for your scalp/body to come to a more balanced place. At first your hair keeps producing oils at the rate as if you were still shampooing, and it takes a while for it to come to an equilibrium and stop producing so much sebum (scalp oil). So, I want to be away from a professional environment while my scalp gets crazy for a while.

I have been in a phase of my life for the past, say, 5 years or so, in which I question the most basic assumptions of the way people live their lives. I keep asking: why are we doing it this way? I began with food, water, career trajectories, money. politics, child rearing. So, this is a natural step in this trajectory. Why do we use soap? Animals don't use soap and they don't get itchy, greasy scalps. Why would we need a chemical in order to be comfortable? 

It turns out, like most other things we feel we need to buy, it is just a product we've been convinced we need by corporations. Same old, same old. If we didn't use soap at all, we would actually come to a pretty balanced place just by washing with water. However, if we want to smell good, we can just rub ourselves in essential oils (lavender, rosemary, lemons, whatever) ever once in a while.

In the meantime, until your body comes to a balanced place, one thing people often do is use a diluted mix of apple cider vinegar and water. This mixture does dry our your scalp a little (very very little in comparison to shampoo), but is especially helpful at the beginning of the process when the grease is almost taking over. Then they find some mix of essential oils so that they smell good and they're off!

If/when I decide to go 'poo and soap free, I'll document it here. What works, what happens to my body, how smelly I become, and let you know how to do it yourself. 

the most astonishing fact

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

health care reform to benefit big pharma CEOs

I think this woman has it right. The Obama health care bill is not enough. This is a world in which we cannot accept incremental change. We need systemic overhaul. We need a new system. One not run by corporations, but by governments, held accountable by an educated populace. 

This bill legally obligates American citizens to pay private health care corporations. This bill sets the stage for a world in which our government forces us to pay corporations directly, and then charges us penalties (going to other corporate subcontractors, undoubtedly) or puts us in jail (private ones) for not complying. We are seeing a disgusting and shameful merging of corporations and the state so that the state will soon be the military enforcer of corporate profits. 

What's the alternative? A system in which we don't spend hundreds of billions on military contracts (for corporations), but instead mandate universal health care for all citizens which will substantially drive down the cost for all. 

We need universal health care. We need to live in a society where we care about our least. This bill does not improve on the current system because it gets government more entrenched with corporations. People are MANDATED to buy something from a corporation! and the taxpayers will directly pay the corporations for those who can't pay.

What's the solution? Who cares? There's a big difference between IS and OUGHT to be. 

What OUGHT to be: a world where we want more equality, where we want basic quality of life for all citizens (literacy, infant mortality, clean space), where corporate profits are not the endpoint of all existence.

What IS: an ever-increasing merging of corporations and government, the rapid repeal of civil liberties (NDAA, Patriot Act, secret NSA domestic spy centers), raping of the planet  and its people for the benefit of the .001% of the world's population. 

Well, to be vague about my future, it has something to do with this:

Monday, March 26, 2012

The brain on love

Diane Ackerman is a wonderful writer, I know her from having read her book A Natural History of the Senses as well as seeing her at the Chicago Humanities Festival in 2007. That was the same festival where I saw Don DeLillo at the premiere of his play "The word for snow," but that is a discussion for another time.

I just came across an article by Diane Ackerman today in the NY Times: "The Brain on Love." It is astonishing how well she can weave through scientific facts and draw from them the most profound meanings. This skill is something I am constantly working on, and one I admire her so deeply for. I want to know, why does this matter? How can I show that this is important to everyone? It is something my professors say I'm good at -- making the case for why a particular topic is substantively compelling (as opposed to theoretically, i.e. it adds to the literature). Yet, I still think I have a lot of work to do in this area.

In any case, this particular article really moved me, the most substantial reason being I am currently madly in love and newly married. She makes the case that one of our fundamental emotional goals in life is to recreate the bond we had in infancy with our mothers. This is an argument first made to me by Erich Fromm is his seminal book The Art of Loving.  Whereas Fromm used philosophy and deductive reasoning, here Ackerman shows it through neuroscience.

The crux of the article comes here:

The supportive part is crucial. Loving relationships alter the brain the most significantly.

One cannot simply be in any relationship in order to alter your brain chemistry for the better, but only in a good one. I find that this lesson, although intuitive, is one that I must continuously be reminded of. I read Ackerman's book about 5 years ago, and it abounded with little wisdoms such as this, yet much of the efficacy of those lessons has melted away with time in me. It takes constant effort to maintain good love. For me, right now, it flows effortlessly. I want to love deeply, kindly, fully. I want to nurture and protect. Yet, there are moments of callousness, times where I am not empathetic but selfish.

I think the lesson here is to love totally and all the time. Not only in our romantic relationships (although they seem one of the only outlets in our individualistic society), but with everyone we know.

Friday, March 16, 2012

a love poem to adbusters


I went to visit Adbusters the other day. For those of you who don't know it, it is the magazine/entity that called for the original Occupy Wall Street protests which have manifested into so many protests around the world today.

I have been a subscriber for a couple of years now, but have been reading the magazine for long before that, since I first ran across a copy in City Lights bookstore in San Francisco and read it cover to cover. The next day, I went to the San Francisco Public Library and read all of the back issues in the facility.

Adbusters is more than a magazine for me, it is a a space where all of the big ideas I care about collide in a way that is palatable. It contains art, writing, poetry, letters, no advertisements. It includes all of these things in a way that is accessible and inspiring.

They're based in Vancouver, and I was planning to take a spring break trip to Vancouver and Victoria with Patrick, so a sent them an email a week before the trip asking if I could stop by. They said they're around most days from 9 to 5, and that I could stop by anytime.

I looked up their address and it seemed to be a simple house in a Vancouver neighborhood. When the day came, I got really nervous. I had been reading the work of these few people for years, and think of them as visionaries, the philosophers of our time. I almost made an excuse to ditch out on the visit, feeling like a silly fan girl, but Patrick thought that maybe if we picked up some doughnuts some of the awkwardness of the encounter could be negated. So we did, and we went.

The offices were indeed in a simple basement of a house in Vancouver. There were about 7 people, dressed as you would expect with plaid shirts and winter hats sitting loosely on the backs of their heads, but not trying too hard. They mirrored us in that way, I guess. Patrick and I don't work to cultivate an image, but we pick out clothes we like that are comfortable and don't pay much for them.

They were all very gracious and kind. I was too nervous to say anything special, but after I left I wrote them the following email:

Hello All:

Thanks so much for entertaining our visit the other day. I hope the doughnuts helped you all get a littler closer to deadline.

I wanted to share with you all a poem. It is a love poem from me to you, but it is also to all the readers, occupiers, thinkers, monks and poets looking for a different way in this world of multiple collapses.

The poem, "September 1, 1939," was written by W.H. Auden on the eve of world war two. I feel that we are in the same predicament now that he was in then. We are in the throes of all the history that has lead us to this point. 

Yet, in the midst of all of this pain, death, destruction, uncertainty, there is a simple hope. Not the unrealistic techno-fixes of those who hail to the idea of human progress as if it were a god. But to each other. This poem is for all who see clearly where we are now, try to understand how we got here, and to look for something different, better, more. 

You are the "ironic points of light," in the words of Auden, and this poem is for you. Thank you for lighting a path out of this darkness. The more we get together, the more our lights will shine, and just maybe we will then be able to see out of the darkness.

"September 1, 1939" by W.H. Auden

I sit in one of the dives
On Fifty-second Street
Uncertain and afraid
As the clever hopes expire
Of a low dishonest decade:
Waves of anger and fear
Circulate over the bright 
And darkened lands of the earth,
Obsessing our private lives;
The unmentionable odour of death
Offends the September night.

Accurate scholarship can 
Unearth the whole offence
From Luther until now
That has driven a culture mad,
Find what occurred at Linz,
What huge imago made
A psychopathic god:
I and the public know
What all schoolchildren learn,
Those to whom evil is done
Do evil in return. 

Exiled Thucydides knew
All that a speech can say
About Democracy,
And what dictators do,
The elderly rubbish they talk
To an apathetic grave;
Analysed all in his book,
The enlightenment driven away,
The habit-forming pain,
Mismanagement and grief:
We must suffer them all again.

Into this neutral air
Where blind skyscrapers use
Their full height to proclaim
The strength of Collective Man,
Each language pours its vain
Competitive excuse:
But who can live for long
In an euphoric dream;
Out of the mirror they stare,
Imperialism's face
And the international wrong.

Faces along the bar
Cling to their average day:
The lights must never go out,
The music must always play,
All the conventions conspire 
To make this fort assume
The furniture of home;
Lest we should see where we are,
Lost in a haunted wood,
Children afraid of the night
Who have never been happy or good.

The windiest militant trash
Important Persons shout
Is not so crude as our wish:
What mad Nijinsky wrote
About Diaghilev
Is true of the normal heart;
For the error bred in the bone
Of each woman and each man
Craves what it cannot have,
Not universal love
But to be loved alone.

From the conservative dark
Into the ethical life
The dense commuters come,
Repeating their morning vow;
"I will be true to the wife,
I'll concentrate more on my work,"
And helpless governors wake
To resume their compulsory game:
Who can release them now,
Who can reach the deaf,
Who can speak for the dumb?

All I have is a voice
To undo the folded lie,
The romantic lie in the brain
Of the sensual man-in-the-street
And the lie of Authority
Whose buildings grope the sky:
There is no such thing as the State
And no one exists alone;
Hunger allows no choice
To the citizen or the police;
We must love one another or die.

Defenceless under the night
Our world in stupor lies;
Yet, dotted everywhere,
Ironic points of light
Flash out wherever the Just
Exchange their messages:
May I, composed like them
Of Eros and of dust,
Beleaguered by the same
Negation and despair,
Show an affirming flame.

Ashley Colby Fitzgerald

To which they replied:

Hi Ashley,

Thank you so much for the kind words. I wish I could have been in the office to meet you! I've passed the beautiful poem that you sent on to our editors. Thanks for spreading our message. 


Thursday, February 23, 2012

the problem with academia and a light in the face of that darkness

I had a breakthrough today in my graduate program, and I'm really happy about it. Lately, I have been feeling like I am running on a treadmill: working hard, going nowhere, and quickly losing energy. I kept trying to make contact with professors, looking for guidance on completing my master's thesis.

I am so passionate about my topic, yet academics find a way to smother that excitement with as much banality and specificity as possible. There are things I knew about academia before I came here, general rules about how academia works, its place in our society, and the culture of it. Here are some of them:

- write as obscurely as possible. that way, no one can critique your work because no one knows what you're talking about.
- pick obscure and highly technical topics. that way, no one can criticize you because no one knows what you're writing about.
- treat the scientific method as a religion. care only about the mighty power of the rational human mind, and scoff at anyone who defies the holy dogma of the Enlightenment.
- care about hierarchy and competition. always find a way to compare yourself to others.
- love individualism. don't help anyone, they're your competition. every man is for himself.
- when someone asks you something clearly and sincerely, give them book recommendations and talk about theories that have big words in them. that way, you won't reveal that you don't know anything about what they're asking.
- never say I don't know.
- promote yourself, market yourself, sell yourself. Always know how to answer the question: 'I am amazing because...'
- truly think that your work is important even while talking about the incremental nature of the scientific method.
- espouse ideas that are en vogue in the discipline, even if they're wrong or make little to no sense. academia is a religion with a thousand sub-cults.
- never tell a story or talk about emotions or senses in your research. stories are for novelists. never mind that they're more compelling. stories are for sissies (or, even worse, dumb people who don't understand logistic regression).

So, I forgot a little about these things last semester. I was all caught up in figuring out my place, goals, and life in this new program. I didn't see the world around me, or I was too cognitively occupied to notice these things. But this semester, these aspects of academia about which I learned in college have again come to light.

I was trudging along, trying to get help and meeting resistance by all members of the academic-stasi who shot down what I want to study, how I want to study it, and why it matters.

Ok, so here's what I care about. I think food matters. I think it matters in a lot of ways. It matters that people have enough to eat, it matters where it comes from, how it gets where it's going, who grows it, how they grow it, how people eat it, how people feel about all of these things. I want to tell a story about some aspect of food. I think stories are the best vectors for ideas. I know how to do statistics, I get good grades in math classes, I just think they're boring and arrogant.

So, my ideas were met with a lot of hostility both for the content and the methods by a lot of people. Yet, the clouds of skepticism broke for a moment today with the chair of our department. She not only nurtured my ideas, my way of thinking, but also filled me with more enthusiasm than I came in with. She pushed me to think about the classical theorists, to consider different ways of thinking about my problem, while also coming up with tangible goals toward a realistic master's project.

She and I discussed the silliness of purely rational thinking, how academics write obscurely and why, the futility of thinking only in terms of the scientific method. She gave me practical advice on how to approach difficult theories (read two interpretations of someone like Marx and then read Marx himself). On top of all this, she said she would be *honored* to be on my committee. Que simpatica.

My chair is a rare gem in this individualistic world of academia. She renewed the spark in me to learn for the sake of curiosity, not just because I'm doing it professionally. Without her, at this moment I'd be lost.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Ranting Ron Paul in Idaho

I met Ron Paul in Friday. He was in town for a rally at University of Idaho's student center. I popped in to get a sort of anthropological sense of the event. Who would be there? How many people? What kind of rhetoric would Paul be spouting?

I stepped into the student center only to be greeted with a line of people waiting to get into the auditorium. What were they waiting in line for? The rally had already started. There was no chance that the people filling the auditorium would be leaving -- so what was the point of these people outside the auditorium standing in line? For a country that is remarkably selfish, I was surprised to see how these dumb people just stood around for no end. I walked right past the line to another entrance to the auditorium. I couldn't see Paul from where I was, but I could hear every word.

The place was packed. It was mostly students, but I don't know if that is because it was at a university, or because young people have been flocking to Ron Paul lately. The usual republican types were there -- the leather american flag jacket type, the collared shirt buttoned up to the top type, the old and racist-looking type -- but at least there were no corporate types. There were a decent amount of young student-types, and I couldn't tell if they were just gawking or supporters.

I like some of what Ron Paul had to say, mostly his anti-war policies along with his monetary policy. He knows it is expensive and reckless for the American military to go policing the world in our own interest. It is so rare to have a mainstream candidate spouting this kind of anti-military isolationism, and it is refreshing. I also really like his populist rants against the 1%. He knows that the reign of the monetary system in the country (and therefore the world) is over. The creation of fiat currency away from real value commodities like gold has been taken to an extremely abstract place. One where money doesn't really mean anything anymore since the idea of trading paper has been abused by financial investors for all of us.

But the flip side of Ron Paul's love for a gold standard is his love for true free market economics. Economies will not regulate themselves to do what is in the best interest of the common good. He thinks they will, and for this he is insane. He went on and on at his rally about how government is taking away civil liberties (which it is, NDAA), but governments don't necessarily do this. This reminds me of a few posts down when I added this Elizabeth Warren video from the Daily Show. Just because THIS government is corrupt and useless doesn't mean ALL governments are.

The governmental system in this country has most certainly already failed. It is not going  to fail, it has failed. That's for sure. The country is too big, too heterogeneous for a two-party system, too injected with capital to be any good for anyone but the already powerful. Yet, that doesn't mean that any government is necessarily bad. We need laws. Laws represent us coming together and agreeing that some things that people (or groups) do are not good for all of us.

Well, since I've given up hope that this country will turn around long ago, I guess Ron Paul is the best candidate for radical change. Even if his platform is really messed up in a lot of ways, at least we'd see some radical transformations under President Paul.

So, after the rally, I saw that Paul was exiting out of the side of the building. I quickly moved outside to the door where he'd be leaving. I was standing there alone. A crowd of a few thousand people and I'm the only one who thought to meet him at the exit? Hm, bunch of geniuses here in Idaho, I guess. I waited there casually as his security were covering the door, I pretended to be waiting for a friend and called Patrick.

He came out within a few minutes and I pointedly asked him if he would put the US back on the gold standard and get rid of fiat currency, something Max Keiser has been ranting about for a while now. I don't think he heard me, or thought I was crazy, so he kept on walking. Oh well. A moment alone with Ron Paul and I didn't even get him to do his little elfish gold dance. Dang.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

The suburbs

"So can you understand why I want a daughter while I'm still young? I want to hold her hand and show her some beauty before all this damage is done. But if it's too much to ask if it's too much to ask, then send me a son."

Will there be any beauty left to show? Maybe in some remote corner of the world, far enough away from the capitalists and the killers to have some beauty remaining. We'll go there and live a life that few in the world will ever experience again. One with cool shade under big trees and soft grass to walk on, clean water to drink and birds flitting through the trees. No sirens or smoke stacks or weapons. Just lemonade and fresh baked bread and warm blankets at night. Is it too much to hope for this life? Is it too much to ask? 

"So move your feet from hot pavement and into the grass."

A motto for the rest of my life. I hope I can find some grass to lie in and show my children a world without concrete and polluted air. Where we don't have to worry about dying from cancer from all of the man-made chemicals in our daily lives. Where I won't die by car accident. Where breast milk isn't toxic. Somewhere where there are no suburbs.

Empire of illusion

"societies that break down economically... have political consequences that are immense."

Bleak, bleak, bleak. I read this book, "Empire of Illusion" by Chris Hedges years ago and all of his cassandra-like indicators of the death of this society are becoming more and more visible in our everyday realities.

We are living in Weimar Germany, we better get out of here before Hitler comes to power. Political boundaries matter in this era of nation-states. I know people like Sharon Astyk call people to adapt in place; not to move, but to make a home and a place wherever you happen to be. Yet, you can put up all the electrified fences you want, but you are not stopping the heavily armed American populace from stealing from your pantry once the supermarket shelves run dry.

Each day that passes induces in me more urgency to protect myself. I am not sure what my threshold is to finally stop preparing for my inevitable emigration, but just to pick up and leave. If it is not the passage of the NDAA, then what is it?

Maybe once the threat of physical violence to my person becomes salient, I will go. Either that or I graduate from school. Whichever comes first.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

life timeline

Sometimes I mention to someone that I have been some place, and then they ask, "when was that?" and I really have no idea when it was. So, I wrote myself a timeline of when I was where doing what in the world, and I am going to write it out here. Later, I can refer back to it if I ever need to know when I was, say, in India riding camels.

1985 - born in Oak Lawn, IL
1985 - 2003 in Chicago with a few trips around the midwest (esp. Michigan) and the occasional road trip to see my grandpa in Florida and a trip to NYC in high school
Fall 2003- Summer 2005 University of Chicago, school and some other misc. jobs like babysitting and building managing
Fall 2005 study abroad in Rome
Winter - Spring 2006 UChicago
Summer 2006 travelling and volunteering at an orphanage in Ecuador
Fall 2006 - Winter 2007 UChicago
Spring (break) 2007 Belize, Guatemala, Mexico
Summer 2007 babysitting full time in Chicago
Winter 2007/8 a short trip to Hawaii then to California from which I worked for Obama in Reno, NV. Then went skiiing in Colorado with my family. Then went on a road trip around California and Arizona
Spring 2008 Europe trip from Morocco to Turkey to Sweden to Ireland and everything in between
Summer 2008 babysitting full time in Chicago, trip to Miami, again to California where we do another road trip around the US southwest
Fall 2008 - Winter 2009 Asia: China, Tibet, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, India, Taiwan
Spring 2009 trying to find work and subletting in San Francisco
Summer 2009 giving up on work and doing a camping road trip along the Pacific coast, yellowstone and WWOOFing in Washington
Fall 2009 WWOOFing in Italy and the middle east: Morocco, Jordan, Egypt, Isreal
Winter 2010 training to be a truck driver - CDL in Modesto, CA
Spring 2010 truck driving
Summer 2010 back to Chicago with trips to Canada (Toronto, Montreal, Quebec), and Florida and Georgia (Savannah)
Fall 2010 Chicago, babysitting and working at UChicago
Winter 2011 Chicago, WWOOFing in Wisconsin
Spring 2011 Chicago, Costa Rica
Summer 2011 Chicago, New York, Badlands National Park
Fall 2011 Pullman, WA, Boulder, Olympic National Park, Seattle, Yosemite
Winter 2011-12 Chicago wedding
Spring 2012 Pullman, Canada (Victoria and Vancouver)
Summer 2012 National Parks, NYC, Delaware, Argentina, Uruguay

Oh, isn't it great to be an American? being poor, body invasion, and illness on the Daily Show

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Money Talks - The Haves & the Soon-to-Haves
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire BlogThe Daily Show on Facebook

There has been such good analysis on the Daily Show lately. Firstly, this segment above displays the disgusting flip side to The American Dream. The positive side to the American Dream goes something like "well, if you just work hard enough you can be rich in America too! Anyone can make it big (i.e. become wealthy) in America, it is the land of opportunity."

The flip side of that dream, however, is that if you don't make it (which 99% of us, factually, don't), then it is because you haven't worked hard enough. You failed not because of the structural inequalities that work against you, but because you are fundamentally bad and lazy.

Well, people have been figuring out very slowly since the financial crash that maybe this dream is really a nightmare. It is a way of keeping us thinking that it is our fault if we are poor or in the debt of large corporations or the government. When in reality, many many people are losing their homes, savings, retirement, ability to eat. 14% of Americans are on food stamps. People are beginning to see that it is not just their own individual problem, they are gaining the courage to say: "this is what is happening to me, and it is not my fault."

Here's where this clip comes in. The people who have been perpetuating the American Dream are getting scared. These protectors of the wealthy at the expense of everyone else are trying to spin the American Dream 2.0. They claim we are a country not of haves and have-nots, but a country of haves and soon-to-haves. Oh, if only you work a little harder, you too can have wealth. It is a disgusting lie that has gone back to the beginning of this country's history, as explained thoroughly by Morris Berman in his most recent book "Why American Failed." 

Ok, onto the next clip:

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Poor Pee-Ple
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire BlogThe Daily Show on Facebook

Here there is something interesting happening, and it is not talked about explicitly in the clip, and that's the invasion of the bodies of U.S. citizens by the government. If the citizens of this country are not invaded enough through laws that allow corporations to rape us with debt and take any amount of wealth we save and redistribute it to the wealthy 1%, now there is the actual invasion of our bodies. 

There were signs of this bodily invasion before with the full-body scanners at the airport administered by the Transportation Security Administration. I went to the airport recently and asked if I could simply go through the metal detector instead of this full-body scanner, which I feel is an invasion of privacy. What can they find out by seeing the details of my body that they can't detect with a metal detector? So I refused to go through the body scanning machine and they said that I would then be subjected to a full-body pat-down. 

I was placed in a special holding cell and subjected to a pat down of every inch of my skin by the federal government. Although I prefer this to the radiation of the full-body scanner, both are an incredible invasion of my body and my privacy in the name of security. Just like torture, these tactics are advanced in the name of security, but are doing less to address the problems they seek to solve and instead manipulating powerless individuals according to the sadistic tendencies of an empire that is losing its grasp on world power.

The logic is that if you are taking taxpayer money, then you should be subjected to this screening so that the taxpayer isn't funding something like drug use. Yet, as with the clip above, this logic is only extended to recipients of welfare, or poor people. What about all the bank employees or auto company executives who took taxpayer money? What about government officials? Why does this logic not extend to them? Furthermore, why are drugs (especially marijuana) even criminalized in this country anyway? We have the largest incarcerated population of any nation on the planet, including China and India, but that's a discussion for another day.


The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
David Agus
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire BlogThe Daily Show on Facebook

There are some important things being covered in this interview. One of the most important things discussed here, something I have been thinking about for a while, is the way Americans think of illness. The way we think of illness is influenced by the Enlightenment and the medical discoveries of that era. During that time, we discovered "bugs" (microbes) like bacteria and viruses that were external organisms which made their way into our bodies. We had to fight them as if they were a foreign invader. 

This way of thinking (fighting an illness that is external to us but temporarily in us), has pervaded our thinking about all illnesses from cancer to diabetes to depression. However, we now know that most illnesses, especially ones that are afflicting Americans in high numbers, are ones that are deeply a part of us. That is, cancer is a result of all of the genetics and environmental interactions your body has experienced throughout your life. It is not some external bug which happened to finally get into your body randomly, it is a part of your very body, a result of your body and your life.

That isn't to say that it is your fault, which is why most people prefer to think in terms of disease as a foreign invader. They want to absolve themselves of the responsibility of their bodily upkeep, and that is one way of looking at it. However, I think the most important lesson here is to recognize that a lot of what causes these illnesses is environmental. For cancer, there are clear environmental causes like interacting man-made chemicals in your body which you might not have even known existed in the products you buy (back to food quality/'s all connected). For depression, you live in a society where the external world tells you through advertising that you suck every day. If you only bought this product, maybe you wouldn't suck so badly.

So what happens is people get depressed or cancer or diabetes and they think of it as a disease which can be cured with a pill (like a microbe). But in reality this illness is a part of them, something caused by a lifetime of interacting with a toxic environment with chemicals (cancer), advertising (depression), or engineered high-fat processed foods (diabetes). 

My only problem with this doctor is that he is so hunky-dory about the solution, and even he is subjected to the individualistic way of looking at cures for these illnesses. That is, he claims if we only walk around then we will have less of these illnesses. Yet, there are structural constraints (cars, for example, or desk jobs), which stop people from enacting this seemingly simple solution. So, then people think "oh man, I just need to walk more," but then they go out of their house to try to go for a walk and find there are not sidewalks and cars are splashing dirty winter slush in their faces. 

It is important to remember BOTH that most illnesses are a part of you and all of the interactions between your body and the environment you've had AND that many of the causes of these illnesses are structural in nature and to start being skeptical of the way people do things since it is obviously not making them healthy. Pay attention to what you put in your mouth, in your eyes, ears, what you let touch your skin, what you breathe, how much you move your body. It all adds up, and if you maintain the status quo, especially in this country, you're more likely than not to end up on an array of pills for depression and blood pressure and pain killers (the pill-pushing is also part of the pharmaceutical industry's influence, but that's a discussion for another time...but it's all connected, again).

Thursday, February 2, 2012

may you live in interesting times

A few months back, when the occupy protests were new, one of our professors sent out an email to the graduate students about an "occupy the future" conference at Stanford. James F. Short Jr. an emeritus professor here at WSU, who is nearly 90 years old, sent this in reply:

This is an ambitious agenda, to say the least. We were at the CASB at
Stanford during the height of Viet Nam war protests and had the opportunity
to hear Linus Pauling and others speak at rallies and marches. While most
activities were peaceful, the Center was firebombed in what seemed obviously
to be a target of opportunity rather than a target of protest. It was an
exciting time to be alive, confirming the ancient Chinese curse: May you
live in interesting times! We appear to have two large-scale social
movements under way and headed for confrontation: the Tea Party, which has
had some time to mobilize politically, and the Occupy movement which has yet
to coalesce around central issues. The Tea Party seems likely to fragment as
it becomes increasingly involved in electoral politics. Perhaps the Stanford
movement can provide the intellectual capital and momentum to mobilize
campuses elsewhere. Stay tuned!

I keep thinking about this note he sent out, especially that center line: confirming the ancient Chinese curse: may you live in interesting times. I had never thought of it in that way, but since he said it something has become clear to me. I want an uninteresting life. My ultimate goal is to seek a life of simplicity, peace, and love. 

After I came to the fundamental realization that this world in which we live is not ok, I began to deconstruct why. At what point in history was it ok? The more I searched, the more I recognized that it was the times in human history that were not under the purview of an empire that were probably the most simple and happy times to live. Sure, in ancient Rome they had lipstick, but they also had slaves and death matches for sport. I want to be in a place that doesn't matter, off a "little road barely on the map" as Feist puts it. 

After years of seeking out the most extreme lifestyles my time and place in history allowed me to try, I have decided that all I want in life is to live a life that is above all uninteresting. I think this is the least risky life to lead, truly, and those who think it is taking a risk to break from the status quo should talk to anyone who lived in europe during WWII. They would've taken uninteresting over mass killings any day. Give me knitting by a fire, you can have your collapsing empire.

the dream of the 1890's

This is funny. However, I am still not sure how much of this show just makes fun of everything to the point that it is totally nihilistic. I mean, if you make fun of everything and everyone, what do you believe in? On the other hand, they're comedians and the point is satire, and with that in mind this show is perfect.

But deep down I do love the 1890's. Actually, I take that back, the 1890's were too tumultuous (although it would have been fun to live in montmarte in paris at that time). I am thinking small-town Europe in the mid-1400's. Quiet, simple and beautiful. No industry, machines, petroleum. Just bakers and cobblestone and stone churches and leather and wells. 

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

college is a rip off

Whole paradigms are shifting.

food security

How much do you think about food security? I never experienced a life in which I didn't have enough to eat, but food security means more than that. It means that you have both enough to eat and food of good enough quality so that you are able o maintain a healthy and active lifestyle.

According to this understanding, 1 in 6 Americans are food insecure, and this number has been on the rise. How does this happen in a country with such an overabundance of agricultural products that we export food? Well, firstly, there are simply poor people who do not get enough money for food through their jobs, food stamps or other welfare benefits.

However, there is also the question of access to quality food. The most simple way quality results in food insecurity is that people who cannot afford to buy more nutritious food for their families resort to calorie-dense but incredibly unhealthy foods such as chips or pop.

However, the more I learn about toxins that are all over the food produced by industrial agriculture, the more I think this definition of quality should be extended to include access to truly safe food.

Is this potato safe to eat?

Some of the most common produce items that people buy have been labelled the dirty dozen and should be bought organic due to the incredible amounts of pesticides they are doused in. How much does this matter to food insecurity? There are unknown chemicals saturating our daily food intake and there is no understanding of the effects of these chemicals as well as the effects of the cross-reactions between these chemicals in our bodies.

One way to solve this problem is to grow food yourself. In your backyard. Then you know where it's coming from, and it tastes better anyway. I think I want to do my master's thesis on this topic: how does household food growing help to address food security?

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Elizabeth Warren and a renewed faith in the idea of government

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Exclusive - Elizabeth Warren Extended Interview Pt. 2
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire BlogThe Daily Show on Facebook

Elizabeth Warren is amazing. She is the only person who could steer me away from Ron Paul at the moment. Ron Paul represents, for me, a nhilistic view of this country. I want it to fail, but while it fails I don't want the rich to all go out with golden parachutes. That's why I like Ron Paul -- he will continue this country on the path of destruction (along with every other candidate of a major party) while keeping the rich from getting the increasingly sparse amounts of wealth there is left to confiscate from the poor.

Then here comes Elizabeth Warren. She has renewed in me the idea of what the government is here for: it is all of us coming together to form a pact to take care of one another for all of our mutual benefit and the benefit of our children. Although I hold no hope for this vision she has presented above in America -- I hope to recreate what she has promoted here in the local government in whichever country I eventually settle. 

Monday, January 23, 2012

Getting Out of America

ordered this book the other day:
ever since getting married I am starting to look more seriously into what I want out of this stage of my life. I think a life outside of America is quite high on my list. this books claims that 300,000 people per year are emigrating out of the US. We better get on it before the borders of desirable countries start to tighten up.

the solution of self-sufficiency

I came across this article today:

by my favorite feminist/self-sufficient/mother/farmer/blogger Sharon Astyk. She makes the argument here about all the ways individuals and even states and nations who are poor actually have a life that is more expensive. I just became aware of this fact when TAing for my SOC 101 class here as WSU I came across a statistic about the average cost of food in an inner city grocery store versus in a suburban Walmart -- food is consistently cheaper in the latter. This is among many ways in which it is much more expensive to be poor in this increasingly stratified world.

I like especially that she doesn't leave it at that. Yes, we're poor and the deck is stacked against us. She offers a working solution to this problem: self-sufficiency. Infrastructure and supermarket prices and job availability become a lot less impactful when we have some measure of self-sufficiency, or providing ourselves with our own material needs through practices such as farming or hunting, gathering, canning, sewing, etc.

On a related note, I spent a good deal of the morning reading through and looking into the best and least time-intensive ways to keep chickens, how to build a rocket stove, and how to reduce energy consumption for personal heating in the winter.

It all started when I saw this video -- heating an outdoor shower with the heat of a compost pile. Who needs to worry about electricity bills when we've got decaying compost that heats up to 160 degrees?

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

a new direction

I don't know why I ever started to write this blog. It is probably because I wanted a record of my travels -- where I went, for how long, what I thought about it. Yet, now my life is a lot more amorphous and part of what is keeping me from writing is that fact that I have so much to say, so many observations and thoughts and I don't know how to catch this journal up in a way that fits into neat little categories.

So, to overcome this block, I am going to list all of the things I wish I had written about and then move on from them. After that, this blog will take a new direction.

Fall 2010:
pumpkins, bike rides, halloween, uchicago

Winter 2010:
first eating contest, backyard fire, cooking, christmas, babysitting, snow month, art, gardening class at chicago botanic garden

winter 2010: organic farming in Wisconsin, chopping wood, killing/dressing/eating rabbit, hockey on a frozen lake

Spring 2011: Costa Rica, engagement, cloud forest, tropical paradise, monkeys, sloths, wildlife, volcanoes, soccer with children, new friends

Spring 2011: new growth, new garden

early summer 2011: New York, killing the "bu," Ithaca organic gardens/homes

summer 2011: gardening, wedding showers, bachelor(ette) parties, moving, saying goodbye

late summer 2011: driving across the country, badlands, idaho, washington, starting graduate school

Fall 2011: brett's wedding in boulder, pat's trip to yellowstone, washington apple picking, olympic, seattle, morris berman, thanksgiving in california, colin's music, new friends, old friends, the future

Winter 2011: our wedding, chicago, friends, family, love

along with all the usual themes: peak oil, climate change, environmental degradation, baby boomers, the suburbs, the industrial revolution, hunter gatherers, farming, philosophy.

So, since the nomadic period of my life that revolves around exploration has ended and the period of planning and settling has begun, this blog will now focus on materials which I am consuming daily that inform my choices of how/where/with whom to live my life. Before, the places I went informed and educated me. Now, it will be sources of information that are less experiential and more text-based that teach me, and this blog will be a place where I can keep a record of what I think of what I'm seeing in the world.

I think it's important to state here that I am still unsure of where I stand on the format of a blog anyway. Isn't it just the mouthpiece for a generation of narcissists? Isn't it a place where we see our own reflection and somehow that makes us feel we exist? I think it can be, in some cases.

Yet, I do think there are two reasons for blogs that are not (as) narcissistic. The first is for a personal journal, which would be private. It is just an electronic diary that is kept for your own purposes in which you can write any stupid shit you desire because your only audience is you.

The second is to write a blog that is somewhere between opinion and journalism. This can be public or private, but the main purpose is to display the world (or aspects of the world such as art or literature or news) through the lens of this particular writer. We all know that writing is good not just because of style, but because of content. We also all know that writers have biases. The purpose of this second non-narcissistic blog is to both keep track of one's own viewpoints on things that matter and to maybe inform a readership of certain aspects of reality through the eyes of the writer.

I hope to make this blog less and less personal and more the second kind of blog -- bearing in mind of course that the personal influences the public. It is hard to see the fine line drawn between these kinds of blogs and the sloppy, selfish trash that is put out by most people. I hope to keep conscious of this distinction and to try not to veer too far into the abyss of mirrors and self-indulgence. Here we go again.