Say it ain’t so, Joe

homeless armani“We’re defined by a common creed that says to our children that if they work hard, if they struggle, if they are loyal, if they are courageous — they will have an opportunity to live a better life than the generation before them,” Biden said.

http://www.cnn.com/2016/06/24/politics/joe-biden-brexit-ireland-speech/

Put forward as a positive-sounding antidote to separation, or isolation, or, by extension, xenophobia, bigotry and so on, this is one of the almost forgettable comments that spells out quite clearly the horror of the times. Not by what Joe Biden seems to believe he intends—as a pretty stand-up seeming guy with a ten dollar haircut—but by the underlying ethos driving the menacing principles within his words I can only guess he must be unaware of.

Still, in 2016, the second-in-command is explicitly defining what he means by work as “struggle.” And the point of this struggle is not for now but for some unforeseeable tomorrow, some amorphously defined “better life.” Combining a penchant for his militaristic terminology of being “courageous” with his homespun, off-the-cuff ease, the vice president is suggesting a way of living and a way of life that is a throwback to times at least as grim, demeaning, and dehumanizing as those lived by the suffering and exploited masses at the burst of the Industrial Revolution, the wars of Napoleon, if not thousands of years prior to the nameless slave-hordes of Egypt.

Offered as a way of worldwide grace and virtuous living which all people deserve, the monocultural, American blight of drudgery, oppression, and pointlessness proposed is the real terror inside this silk-gloved hand whose magical grip is so tight around the neck of the world it cannot see itself for the released dove it—in its nearly immaculate self-deception—sees itself to be.

Nevertheless, people in the U.S. and elsewhere, are like dogs buying in to the notion of “hard work” and its close friend “getting ahead,” two of many sub-categories beneath the rubric heading of “progress.” And that if we all do our share, all do our pull at the oars, our turn at the wheel, if not for ourselves, then for others living in the future, life will be better. Certainly, disease, starvation, and sickness are not anything like they were in the not too distant historical past in many parts of today’s post-industrial cultures. Obviously, the material quality of life is better than at any other time in human history.

At the same time, no other point in human history has had to bear witness to the common proliferation of human violence in all parts of the world (by both individuals and nation-states alike), the ubiquity of human diseases (made only obvious by the masses seeking to put to sleep both their physical and psychological ill health through pharmaceutical means), and the boundless human destructiveness of our own environment as this present one.

Consider how far the United States as a nation has fallen short of creating a civilization of people who actually struggle less, work less hard and—in turn—have more time available to think, create, and just be—nothing more than that! Consider how far along the rest of the world has followed this progressive nightmare, this God-awful creed, almost blindly, gladly, willingly, religiously, nationalistically. It is as though it had all been for the asking to line up on the front line, to be shot upon, to fall, to die—all for the next in line, row after row, to line up and in their time in their own history, to die, to fall, to have lived and to have fallen really for nothing.

Or, if they have have fallen, if they have died, it will have been for the sake of the smallest of small elites in all countries in all nations whose sons and daughters do not fight and do not die, who dine on abalone and wear the pearls others in the deepest of cold waters have dived for holding their breaths. For the smallest of small who do not seem to suffer so much, who do not seem to struggle so hard but whose belief-system, not different than those others, is no more than the flip side of it. And so, their perishing, though not as harsh, is just as pointless.

Walking On The Moon

How property rights in outer space may lead to a scramble to exploit the moon’s resources

pinhole universe

Even the Moon is no longer safe. The foot of mankind is everywhere. The quest for future ownership does not abate. Digging and scratching, we lay waste not just our world, but another. One more plot of land, one more survey to complete, one more war.

Here on Earth we are no longer safe. Ice caps melt. Plastic islands bestir the seas. Cities crumble. Infections spread. As if it matters, some distinguish between these as cycles caused by Nature herself, or Us ourselves.

The painted bench I sat on labeled “Wet Paint” did not ignore me, nor did it invite my body. It was apart from me, as I was apart from it. And when I rose from my cartoon folly, we were both a little bit a part now of each other.

The desire for minerals in Outer Space somehow exceeds the call for groundwater here on this planet. The yearning to find life elsewhere, too, seems to excite possibility beyond life being right here.

Dumbbells get up, left or right, and say whatever slogans and mottos they feel and have been instructed to utter behind wooden podiums will advertise themselves best in the most popular way, hoping to sell themselves as the sweetest slice of apple pie to the stymied American electorate.

Others out of circuit are free to blow our little systems to smithereens. It is not the rebellion from time to time anyone asked for, or could ever conceive. It is rather queer how these folk are labeled masterminds, which formerly had been the province of fictional folk like Sherlock Holmes, and honorable military commanders, not villains.

Why not blow apart the Moon instead? Why not unhinge the rings of Saturn? Were we to find life on our specious sister planet Mars, we would claim, register, patent, and copyright it. Any legal means would be enacted to possess and carve it up like a gigantic turkey farm.

Seas rise. Volcanoes spew blinding ash. Plates shift. The noble idea of being the trustee of the people rather than the immediate agent is gone. Nobody who is anybody alive can be permitted to care beyond an expiration date one day after the numbers branded on the lip of a carton of milk in any refrigerator anymore.

It is rather sad to see our DNA being its own sword in this lifetime alone. Some defect in our nature, I suppose, unapologetic and a bit obtuse. I’d like to blame it on Michael Faraday, Isaac Newton, or Albert Einstein, but don’t.

I’d like to banish from my mind the impulse to self-destruction; I’d like to pin blame on quickened religion, or the avarice of technological progress, but can’t. Instead, I slump back, lay my antiquated pith helmet to its side, and meekly admit the horror that it’s just us.

Our vanity for immortality, for life to be everlasting, this self-minded trip, a dystopian drive par excellence, has been our undoing, whichever be our political or theological party or faction. Mindig ugyanaz. It is all the same. And that’s the wry paradox—must take my leave now, dismissing far more important issues that bedew the Earth for a toasted bagel, a schmear of cream cheese, and several fine slices of Nova Scotia salmon.

The Saddened Angel Of History Being Blown Backwards Still

large format camera seashore

How do horses smell water? What makes the bluebird sing? They just do. The smoke drifts up from the stovepipe. The leaves tremble in November’s breeze, the few that remain. All the passion in the world does not change the idle passive ways of creation’s past.

The small rain down can rain. Tomorrow’s morn will come. A love note unwritten remains to be sent. A sleeping giant may sleep for all eternity. Hope unlasting can in abeyance remain. A world uncaring may orbit the Sun, in tow the shining Moon.

To do nothing at all. To become as near to zero as possible. To have had as little effect upon another as I can. To have been the velvet grown around the moose’s antlers, in winter fallen from its head.

What strange impossibilities become these days. To have been the architect and the architect’s father. The shoe and the shoemaker. In natural equilibrium as though it were no more in this clouded luminous standing than to be, nothing else.

Already forfeit. Already surfeit. Already too much. Beyond the nail once driven in the wood. After the ashes from the stove are carried out. Beyond the knapped tool no less than more murder, perhaps.

A pileated woodpecker drives its bill into a dying ash. The spider’s geometric magic deceives the flying insect next swaddled to death. Children, too, die by the school bus corner in the morning darkness for no purpose.

And in that time since Bethlehem no change at all. The leap ahead ‘to love’ slipped back to bloodshed, possession, and the commonality of war. Our evolution became one of longer lives, less sickness, better weapons, and Neil Postman’s hours and hours of pointlessness to kill off.

The burlesque thumb-nosing of Frank Gehry’s tin foil chewing gum wrapper buildings became la mode of international culture. Instead of who might have been another Henry James ruing the shuttered beauty of Venice, the puerile onslaught of Mark Zuckerberg. Rather than a minstrel wanderer full of song, rather than the murderer-thief-genius Francois Villon, here cameth the melted Emperors of Ice Cream, with wizard tricks, Jony Ives & Steve Jobs.

Once, as a child, I sculpted a human head made out of clay, put a band around his brow, and named him Caesar. My fourth grade teacher offered me fifty dollars to buy it, and even though I loved her, I declined. I darkened my heavy bust with brown shoe polish and hot-glued it to a wooden block.

I do not wish for a return to an age before movable type. Am no Luddite. Nor a eunuch locked in the safety of an Ivory Tower. Nor am I like Franz Kafka seeking to counter-propose a world of noir tradition, as evinced in The Great Wall of China. Rather more like a half-pedantic Jew in the tradition of Walter Benjamin, sans morphine.

I know the error of seeking the life pastoral, a willful negation of a world no longer simple (though once pure) which, no longer in existence then, so in turn, so pursued, becomes trite and sentimental. Not to be a quaint, landscape painting hanging from a nail on the wall.

I also know the calling of the wolf who when chasing a sleigh throughout a winter’s night can later convince the men escaped from death to drive themselves like wolves to avoid ever again the same plight, and quite merrily take home handsome profit by selling to others both fear and fast machinery to escape their imagined doom.

As I was forced to dream last night, I dreamed a dream I never dreamt. And in this dream I dreamt, the one I never told, there was a lady stopped by birth, who gave the world straight from her womb a hairy clumped and bloodless thing, which borne away by nurses horrified, had to another’s hands been sold, slouching towards another holy land.

(read more & play @ egbertstarr.com)

Alphabetically Searched & Engineered Optimization

googling alphabet

H. bared herself for all she had been, the way a vampire bares his fangs before an open throat thrust back, the eyes horrified, the day she signed off with just a capital letter at the end of her tweet over the young man’s untimely death. This public little capital left at the end of the string of characters, like an initial scribbled on a napkin on a kitchen table, or at the end of a little note left behind for a colleague missed who’s already gone out to lunch, that sort of thing, where the truly genuine is present, the daily forgettables of intimacy, this little calculated gesture of authenticity at digital inauthenticity’s most uncalculated worst, now this shall have been the moment when all the chickens came home to roost.

The idea of using backdoor analytics is anathema if not altogether repugnant. It is to devise digital corridors, sluices, to fill the seats of a stadium that has not been built to be filled with fans who are not there to watch a game that has not existed. It is the difference between even those magnificent ones who begin by almost drowning, who become our precious Dutch uncles, and then sadly they lose us altogether—and complete despair. In the first, picture a writer who is seeking his voice, who in the next picture he altogether has it; and in the third one he pretends for the so-called sake of his listeners, to have had one. This is similar to the breakdown in the famous triad of Socrates, Plato, Aristotle. We could also call this the private, the public, and the political (or poof!).

Imagine a snout rooting in your backyard. Picture the animal turning up grass, dandelions, and violets. See for yourself how everything now that you think has been carefully optimized. You want to catch this. You want to catch that. You put things you never thought of before in quotation marks before you put them down in what becomes print (of one kind or another). You are already quoting yourself before you have begun. And you force yourself to avoid the plus-que parfait, even though everything is basically jettisoned there anyway. Time is staked behind you. You know that. But you smile ahead, pretending that you are walking naturally, wondering to yourself how a friend is getting on. In fact you will use anything: ‘literature’, ‘Kafka’, words to get what you want. You became the Little Engine That Could, not in the sense of the conditional, which you had always understood that to be until now, but in the past tense conjugation, as in the past tense of what: I can, You can, She can do, or, did.

Planet Nanny Earth Takes Care of Herself

brooklyn truck trash

What fill up rain barrel of water? Raindrops. Every person who alive is only raindrop. All person filling up rain barrel. This barrel of life. So long barrel good, life good. When barrel weak and tired, human life it in a great jeopardy. Anybody own this barrel? Cry it out! Anybody own this barrel! Without a raindrop in it, what use is a barrel? Without a barrel full raindrop in it, what purpose has rain barrel got? The barrel, people, need the rain and the raindrop we all need the barrel. We are all on planet. We on a rain barrel call planet Earth. It contain us all. What kind use it got without us people? It got some! For many many million year it got stuff growing on it! Mildew in your wet shower towel you throw in corner, mold in shower you no scrub for so many week in row, old kitchen sponge you too lazy and cheap change, flake of wet skin come off in between toe, there all kind of life everywhere you find. But human life, it a special kind of it. It know it mildew. It know it tiger. It know it slow slow grouse in wild laurel bush puffing out all feather.

Planet do quite quite well without human being animal long long time before you up running around swimming pool on two legs getting chased by a mother who catch you, throw you in, and break open by accident your chin on blue cement side of it. Other animal never remember it so clearly, never tell it to be love story. Other animal only see a danger in it. Human being animal very complicated. It can see a love in a danger. It kind of animal who know what mean being sometime very very cruel to each other being very very kind to each other. Sometime too kind! We actually way too smart sometime for our own good. The planet Earth it contain us and we special animal people, we give it special purpose. We create on it love. We create on it picture on cave for other people animal to see tomorrow. We special because we think about tomorrow. We always do. We sad when people die because when they die we remember there really is tomorrow. So we have sorrow. So we have joy. We mix together two sorrow and joy and we make beauty. Can who else make this? Spider web very beautiful. You think spider done and think about how beautiful trap it make? Beaver house very beautiful. You think when done it swim to shore and go flap! flap! flap! with broad broad tail to say like whoopee! To self? You think bee go wiggle each other how pretty hive look when you think about it? You think bald eagle couple up high in tree with enormous nest built of branches ever go over how majestic a view they got or how they so majestic looking themselves up there in it? You think acre after acre after acre blue spruce with thin white poplar tree poking through in place ever know about how peaceful peace of self is? Why we think dolphin happy when jumping and jumping and jumping with ship on side? Or mother monkey take care of baby monkey picking out bug in hair? It because they more like us! Of course! You know that already! We see some of own happiness and care and love in other animal. More like us, more we see.

Without a human being animal, rain barrel Earth just interesting kind of shape with all kinds interesting thing growing on it all over place. It will still be interesting, but not so special. It why it so important to be taking good care of rain barrel. How sturdy the rings it got? Very sturdy. But all chemicals and heat human animal people put up in air, very bad for what hold it together. Ozone apart. Greenhouse effect. Thermal pollution. You think factory in China that make my shoe very good and cheap there good? No. They bad. They make rings of planet weak and rusty. You think all garbage put in ocean day and day and day, or bury in ground place where not many people live close, or burn and burn and burn is good? No. It also bad. It pretty obvious! We all know it! All this make wood of barrel rotting. Some slats they very bad already. So far, people, it ok. But once barrel go, it go! All water in barrel it flood all out. It ruin everything and go everywhere all over the cosmos.

It why now people we need pay attention, people, to care of planet earth and repair of it where we can to our mother barrel. It only one we got! It great big treasure chest. We already it jewel. But we digging out of treasure chest and into it same time. This really very crazy to do! What we looking for we don’t got? It in us. We the treasure. We the sparkle, we the shine; we would glow and shimmer. What give a moon it lustre and a sunshine it smile. That what we do! All that shine and glow already in us! Next time you see raindrop, make cup with hand. Catch that little raindrop, and remember as you close hand now that it all raindrops who fill earth with life. Without human animal raindrop already sparkle. With human being animal it also very very precious.

Truth is: World ok without you. World ok without me. World ok without people. Then it just world. I see sometime purple bumper sticker it say: SAVE OUR PLANET. I alway want peel off. It not about planet. It about people. When I grow up, planet great. We go McDonald™ and when everybody done, we put all garbage in big white McDonald™ bag all food come in. Then roll down side window and throw on highway. It normal. That what a highway shoulder suppose be used for. It like a white tumbleweed rolling. Big bunchy white McDonald™ bag, and I feel so lucky I one who get to throw it out. It best part McDonalds™. You think earth care about people garbage? Not really! You think ocean water care about chemical drum we dump there? Not really! You think state Arizona care about nuclear bomb explosion underground? Not really! Earth don’t care. Earth like big nanny. Earth no matter what it take care self. We mess up nursery, throw round toy and break all sort things, scream and yell. We take off diaper and throw round room. We swear at each other and use very very vulgar language. Planet Nanny Earth, she don’t really care! She take care self! She got a job no matter what! Long as she got a planet, she got job! Who on it, it don’t really matter her.

(Sergey Gashchak/Chornobyl Center)

“It shows I think that how much damage we do,” said fellow co-author Jim Smith, an environmental science professor at the University of Portsmouth. “It’s kind of obvious but our every day activities associated with being in a place are what damages the environment.”

“Not that radiation isn’t bad,” he added, “but what people do when they’re there is so much worse.”

Playing Tag, Or: Duking It Out On The Playground

good men mining

Many schools tried to improve standardized test scores by cutting recess time several years ago, but elementary school principals realized that play time had actually helped test performance . . .

http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/Society/2015/0926/Ban-on-Tag-Are-school-children-getting-the-right-playtime

The best thing to be and the worst thing to be is It. When you’re It you get to run around and chase everybody else who isn’t. You want to make them what you are. The moment you are successful, you aren’t It anymore. Somebody else is. Then the moment that happens somebody else begins chasing you. And you are chased as if you never were It yourself. There is no history. This is pretty much true unless the same kid gets getting tagged over and over. Given the randomness of Tag, and the built-in privilege of being that paradoxically wanted and unwanted thing, I’d never seen it happen. Who’d be so lucky? Who’d be so damned? Who’d get all that privilege to be the scourge of the playground again and again? But only a sad and pathetic ethos could ever link the viability of Tag to achieving higher test scores. If there is a directly proportional relationship to time to play Tag during recess, keep it. If not, delete it from the curriculum.

To further this inanity, Tag is also referred to as “free-range” game. Besides the inherent reference there to wandering chickens and their straw-nested eggs hatched and laid in some equivalent of rustic comfort (and perhaps herds of buffalo in Montana), it brings up the unspoken “other”: games that are not free-range. These are games that are carefully controlled, and which take place in small cubby-like spaces, or cubicles, the little blank available corners of civilization’s meager enough existence. After years during which one has learned to sit in row after row, room after room, and being tested over a variety of abilities to be able to endure sitting in rows and rows, room after room, year after year, one becomes, at last, well-conditioned to sit in a chair with blinders on both sides of it on a floor in a building (any building anywhere) and do some kind of business with a computer and computer programs on computer screens among strangers doing more or less the same thing and feel really nothing particular toward or against any of them, as they neither feel anything particularly particular toward or against you, and make a living—even if, you might otherwise, under altogether different circumstances, have felt a sort of murderous rage or even dislike toward some of your now colleagues; or, on the other hand, had an elective affinity such that you wanted to hold and embrace and love some of them.

The very fact that childhood games such as Tag were ever played, games which have inherently no point at all except the most potent and glorious one, to have fun outside together, was an unthought of blessing at school once upon a time. That physical contact, the obligatory hashing out of “Yes, you were” or “No, I wasn’t” touched or “hit”—kids running around helter-skelter will of course sometimes get pushed, and sometimes there might even be a trace of menace in it, but mostly not—that these have, like so many things been raised to the level of question and censure, presents a queer little paradigm for kids to be learning to lead a productive life and to become contributing members of society from the moment they are vying for their parents’ attention onwards. Having, however, rid all such chaos and disorder and random fervor from the playgrounds of yesteryear certainly presented the world we now live in an effectively solid strategy paved with asphalt intentions to be tread upon, I am rather certain, by our having installed in the stead of such idle games as Tag obedient troops of drones, drone-like human beings, and automatons among whom constant good conscience and measurably historical upward progress will ineluctably be achieved in a straight and steadfast line until old age or technical obsolescence hits them and they expire.

“Tempus Fugit” (29 BCE)

christ under construction

It had been millennia, some said, since there was a blessing worth a shaker of salt. So much had gone by already, what news of yesterday were it not to have been repeated again today in some other, newer vessel. Having watched by the while upon the outposts of the swamp, I kept my steadfast sights on a future that I knew. Where St. Petersburg would once be built. Where the Uffizi would one day be. Where phalanxes of soldiers would march. Where Cato proclaimed again and again his injunction against poor Carthage. I had heard it every time. Where Dresden would be bombed, around 135,000 dead or so (and a half a page in moldered history books). Where Little Boy and Fat Man were and had been. What were Nevada and what were The Housatonic. I watched John Rolfe take his sacred vows and once Pocahontas she, too, was then dispatched, he was soon taken up with a third wife. All this and more, the villainies of Cabeza de Vaca, and many more just like him, all this I have watched go by like fallen sands blown upon the desert. Ave Maria. Urbi et Orbi. Requiescat in Pace. Shantih. Shantih. Shantih.

Beyond Moore’s Law

folders

Picture an Operating System called Extinction. When this system is installed successfully, and enabled (or activated), the user becomes extinct. In the ever-increasing acceleration of the march of time, this is not so far-fetched. The speed with which the acculturation of technology spreads around the globe speaks to this. Slogans that are rooted in an overall system that to give a laptop to a child in the third world can change that human being’s life, presume much more than literacy and democratic opportunities. That child will become an operator of that computer or technological system on par with a child in North America or Central Europe or any other spot on earth where, like brushfire, technological advancements are occurring at their own pace, a rapidity behind which, like the ruts of a wagon’s wheels once left in the prairie grasses of Nevada, the past as biology is left far behind forever. My own written notes and scraps [a child’s]—stories, reports of family trips, poems—left in a three-ring binder and a scientific record book whose maroon plastic cover guarded the inscribed contents against chemical accidents and laboratory spills, will be, if they are not destroyed soon, readable by a human being in a thousand years, just as Catullus’ poems uncorked from a merchant’s wine bottle breathed new life into the world of love a millennium later. But, already, writing that I committed to a computer’s operating system even twenty-five years ago is not just obsolete: it is gone. It cannot be read. Either the machine on which it was recorded or the program by which it was saved, these devices in the service of keeping memory, that is to say, in the service of passing on human memory beyond the existence of that human’s biological existence, are already gone, or as good as gone, before I myself have died, within barely just half of my mortal lifetime thus far. Thus we live, or we are about to live, in an age where there is and the can be no difference between Gabriel’s horn being blown and the blowing of Gabriel’s horn, between one moment and the next moment, but during which we are all in and a part of the process of recording it, the motions and sounds of erstwhile human life, become now a giant God-less movie in a giant outdoor (and indoor, too!) theme park for nobody watching.

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