Monday, January 26, 2009

Crap in the World, or Current Event/Political Book Recommendations

First, and this is completely irrelevant: Adam or anyone, have you listened to Merriweather Post Pavilion, Animal Collectives new album? It's incredible, and definitely my favorite of theirs.

Anyway:

Everyone knows about the recent Israel aggression against the people of Gaza. If you don't, read that. Another sad case of civilians getting caught up in a useless war. There are petitions everywhere and such going around, if you see one sign it? Israel claims to have "achieved its goals" (which if we look at the reality on the ground there could only have been the destruction of Palestinian infrastructure, maybe) but any day the "truce" could be broken and Israel may once again start fighting there.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2008%E2%80%932009_Israel%E2%80%93Gaza_conflict

Beyond the obvious though, I want everyone to watch this Robert Fisk lecture. Was supposed to be an advertisement for his latest book of essays, The Age of the Warrior, but just trails off and repeats the talks he's always done. Which is fine, in this case it's the best of him I've ever seen, he's definitely the angriest now.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RfQYhU1IfbQ

It's an hour long but it's extremely informative and affecting.

Beyond that, I need to get back into political readings. Adam if you've come across anything you think I might like lemme know. Everyone else can start looking up these guys and their books, especially Shane (I think you wanted a list of recommendations back when?). A lot of these did appear in the list of books that I sent to Adam. The books I list here are merely their most commonly referenced (or the ones I have read personally and can endorse), not necessarily their best:

Noam Chomsky - The #1, talks about everything, has a million books. I'd recommend at first Hegemony or Survival: America's Quest For Global Dominance. This is not only a good introduction to the history and politics of the "American Empire" - which is usually referencing America in the world in the post WW2 period, rather than the late 19th century - but it also explains how American foreign policy has rarely been controlled by the whims of any particular administration, and rather that it is rooted deeper, in the so-far untouchable interrelationships of power and expansionist capitalism. Nothing new, maybe.

Howard Zinn - Socialist historian, wrote the infamous People's History of the United States; is awesome. The obvious choice is that book, if you haven't read it will infuriate you, with money, power, racism, schools, and much more.

Naomi Klein - Probably the best, or at least the most prolific journalist against capitalism in the US right now. No Logo is the clear choice here, though what excerpts I have read of her new book The Shock Doctrine, the Rise of Disaster Capitalism, makes it seem maybe indespensible as well. Any of her stuff will make you hate shopping at WalMart, if you don't already (I am preaching to the choir I know it).

Robert Fisk - Amazing journalist covered Western relations with and interferences in the Middle East for a good 30 or so years. I haven't actually read anything of his, because the local B&N removed all his stuff for some reason, but I very much want to read The Great War for Civilization. It is a whopping 1300 page history of Western relations with and interferences in the Middle East. Apparently it is very depressing. Like I said above, his lectures at least are amazing and depressing; he is not an optimistic person at all anymore, which can make watching his stuff slightly draining.

Robert McChesney - Professor of communications (I think?) who focuses on the ins and outs of the American propaganda system. I have read only articles and essays by him and they are very good, and people seem to point to his Rich Media, Poor Democracy: Communication Politics in Dubious Times as the starting point. I should pick it up.

Michael Klare - His thesis is basically that modern wars are fought over natural resources, or control over them or influence over those who control them. His stuff is extremely informative and his arguments appear irrefutable or at least really attractive. I have read, and I sent Adam, Resource Wars: The New Landscape of Global Conflict, but all of his books seem to be the same, so I'd recommend his most recent then I guess.

Chalmers Johnson - Writes and talks on militant foreign policy and its consequences. That's pretty much it. He expanded the idea of "blowback", which is just the fancy term for retaliation. His stuff is a wonderful revealing of 9-11-01. Blowback: The Costs and Consequences of American Empire is the one from him, and I imagine his newer stuff is similar but more up to date.

Edward Herman - Along the same lines as Robert McChesney, he writes on the US system of propaganda. His most referenced work is the book he wrote with Noam Chomsky, Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media. It speaks for itself, the title I mean, I think. Probably the most thorough popular study of the subject, and its where Noam Chomsky got his "propaganda model" that he references in pretty much every work after. Very historically oriented and packed with too much information.

I know there are more? This list is moronically incomplete, even as an introuction. But I am tired. Now, this stuff isn't the deepest stuff in the world and very little of it deals with any kind of theory. It is all history and current event analysis, focusing on immediate issues such as war, human rights, international relations, the corporate consolidation of news media, empire, and such. Such information'll be important if anyone wants to get off the ass and do something about something. I'm sure most people on here do more than I do know, but you know. These are good places to start, and each one will open doors to their respective subjects.

As well, if noone listened to Chomsky's talk on anarchism, do so!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l5yhsFCq8wY

On that note, I don't want to make another list of books introducing libertarian socialism because I am lazy or tired, but here's a list of authors? Starting from more recent/important through supplumentary. Just at least wikipedia them or something:

Noam Chomsky
Howard Zinn
Daniel Guerin
Rudolf Rocker
Derrick Jensen
Emma Goldman
Peter Kropotkin
Michael Bakunin
Crimethinc Ex-Workers Collective
Alexander Berkman
Pierre-Joseph Proudhon
Paul Avrich
Albert Meltzer
Karl Marx
Henry David Thoreau

This list is even more incomplete, Adam, gimme somor!

Friday, January 23, 2009

Alain-Fournier

I liked this excerpt from an article about Alain-Fournier's "Le Grand Meaulnes":

"Particular works, for example Le Grand Meaulnes , can tell you a lot about a bookshop. The bad ones won't have it, won't have heard of it, won't even be able to find it on their systems - not that the novel makes their lives easy, the title having shifted over the decades between The Lost Domain , The Wanderer and The End of Youth as well as the French original; the author's name - his pseudonym - appearing sometimes as Alain-Fournier, sometimes with his hyphen undone, and on certain internet sites, by a process of overtranslation, as Alan Baker.

Good bookshops, though, will have one copy. Usually it is just the one, thin and a little bit tired at the edges. Often the sellers won't need to replace it more than once or twice a decade - I bought a copy recently; the shop hadn't sold another in 13 years - but that's not the point: the kind of bookseller who stocks Le Grand Meaulnes doesn't really do so for good business. If you're going to run a bookshop, you had better love books, after all, and if you love books, then Le Grand Meaulnes is the kind of novel you'll want to have around.

If you talk to people about this book, you'll notice something interesting: not only have a lot of them read it, but they're still reading it. How and where they get hold of it is a mystery - possibly they are finding it on the shelves of better-read relatives (which is what I did myself). Some books succeed by word of mouth; Le Grand Meaulnes survives by even less than that, a barely audible system of Chinese whispers.But it remains a book that writers turn to; perhaps as much as any modern novel, it has a style which has echoed through the works of others. Despite the confusion of its titles and its dog-eared thinness and its faults, this is arguably one of the most influential novels of the 20th century."

http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2003/aug/16/classics.featuresreviews1

Monday, January 19, 2009

Funeral party

The dead man had only one wish
His funeral must be happy with
Musicians and dancing and plenty of
Drinks and drugs to go round

But with both their hearts
And his body in pieces no one
Felt it appropriate to celebrate
His untimely demise

The priest arriving in his ethereal gown
Examined the body and announced
This body never had a soul relief
Spread and the drinking commenced

Permits were attained and
The hallucinogens were spread
Amongst the living and the dead
Joined the crowded dance floor

The dead man began to DJ playing
songs never heard by the living
The dead man danced while
The living danced in joyous awe

The neighbors ordered the police
And the church to end this abomination
But no laws were broken or sins committed
The proper permits had been filed

So when the funeral took to the streets
The neighbors, the police and the church
All joined drinks in hand and narcotics in system
Dancing to the dead man’s beat

The strange parade was soon joined by
Worrisome parents and investigative journalists
Questions were asked and answers were
Given to these the newest disciples

The dead man’s funeral began
To feed the music into the city’s P.A.
And the dance of the dead soon took
The lives of the living

The dead city had only one wish
Their funeral must be happy with
Musicians and dancing and plenty of
Drinks and drugs to go round

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Cool Blog Alert

http://www.contemporation.com/

If you remember Olivia, who posted the photos of the West (more posts, please, O!), this is her blog. And I think her friend Taylor's too.
It's really great.
Immediately, it led me to a cookbook that I just bought and the discovery that O and I share an obsession with Sophia Coppola and the band Phoenix.

Just wanted to share.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Dream at Old Friends

I had the first "triple dream", if that is what the phenomenon is called - where you think you're awake but it turns out you were still dreaming. It happened twice, then I woke up. I think it was the first I've had. Hopefully not.

I was in bed, in a different bed, and I awoke to some noise downstairs. I lay comfortably in bed and overhear vague chatter - included are my current roommate Erik and some others I can't remember. I also hear mentions of "JT this" and "JT that", and the situation seemed to be was that he was there, talking with the other guys downstairs after having come back from where-ever-the-hell-he-is. I become excited, of course, but then I wake up, I think. It is silent now, but it doesn't feel like I woke up, exactly. I look around, there is pale yellow sunlight around the room and dust floating in the air near me. I am disappointed that I was apparently in a dream and that JT wasn't really home. Then, as I am getting out of bed and collecting myself, JT bursts into the room, jabbering about something. I am hit with relief and excitement for a moment, and we start chatting about some nonsense.

Then I actually woke up. It was very, very bizarre.

I don't care much for the analysis of dreams, so I don't really think there was any meaningful symbolism I should pay attention to, but it at least reminded me of the unfortunate mess that was his leaving and our mutual falling apart. Woe the days.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Cats

The dream begins with Chantal and I riding my Dad's motorcycle, strangely I was driving and yet had no inclination as to where we were heading. Despite my confusion I was comforted by the balance between the sun's warmth and the wind's briskness. Before I fully accepted that I was driving a motorcycle we pulled into an ice cream shop in Caseville. Realizing how convenient it was, since ice cream was exactly what I had been craving, I deduced that the motorcycle must be magical.

Dream Break

Chantal, Logan (a character from the t.v. series Gilmore Girls) and I were rather enthusiastically enjoying various desserts; I happened to have a rather delicious lemon ice. When Logan's sister and her usual entourage pulled up in an extraordinarily nice car, got out, walked passed us and began ordering. For some reason this infuriated Logan who began to glare furiously at his unyielding metal spoon, Chantal and I however turned and began to call out to her. However, much to our dismay, she and her goons just walked passed us and got in the car. Chantal asked Logan what her problem was and he furiously stated that she was just playing one of 'her games.'
At which point we all stood up and ran to Logan's ridiculously nice car.

A long and furious car chase ensued with all the absurdity of a high dollar movie, helicopter cam and all. We nearly crash numerous times but at the moment that we were about to roll/lose control Chantal's cat Bandit would be sitting in our path. Bandit being extraordinarily cute and extraordinarily absent minded would look at the car as if to say that it wouldn't dare ruin his day and we would slow to a stop, only to continue the chase.

The climax of the dream was a beach chase scene. In which, the beach gets narrower and narrower until it ends quite suddenly, with Logan's sister escaping in a speedboat and us flying off of a cliff. Bandit however is waiting for us at the bottom of the cliff and ends the dream by telling us that he has had quite enough our foolishness.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Recent Books

A Digest of Recent Reading

In the Skin of a Lion by Michael Ondaatje
Everyone should read this. It is probably one of the best books I have ever read. I won't even bother posting excerpts because it should be read as a whole.

The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje
This is the sequel and, though not as good as the first, is worth reading.

"I see [Herodotus] more as one of those spare men of the desert who travel from oasis to oasis, trading legends as if it is the exchange of seeds, consuming everything without suspicion, piecing together a mirage. 'This history of mine,' Herodotus says, 'has from the beginning sought out the supplementary to the main argument.' What you find in him are cul-de-sacs within the sweep of history—how people betray each other for the sake of nations, how people fall in love…"

"A man in a desert can hold absence in his cupped hands knowing it is something that feeds him more than water."

"And all the names of the tribes, the nomads of faith who walked in the monotone of the desert and saw brightness and faith and colour. The way a stone or found metal box or bone can become loved and turn eternal in a prayer. Such glory of this country she enters now and becomes part of. We die containing a richness of lovers and tribes, tastes we have swallowed, bodies we have plunged into and swum up as if trees, fears we have hidden in as caves. I wish for all this to be marked on my body when I am dead. I believe in such cartography—like the names of rich men and women on buildings. We are communal histories, communal books. We are not owned or monogamous in our taste or experience. All I desired was to walk upon such an earth that had no maps."

How I Became One of the Invisible by David Rattray
Memoir. Not amazing. Rattray is best known for his translations of Antonin Artaud and Roger Gilbert-Lecomte.

"He said he liked the idea of metamorphosis because change is the law of life and permanence spiritual if not physical death, both of which are also strongly suggested by the idea of closeness with another person: 'No one can ever come close to touching another person. Heaven help them if they try.'"

"I called the hermits in my story 'girovagos' because they were wanderers (vagos) who gyrated through both mundane and mystic spheres. They were also citizens of a secret utopia."

"The day itself is like an immense golden rind sectioned again and again, until there is nothing left except for the tears in our eyes and the smell of orange peel and the sky all around, blue and unchanging, because we can look at heaven any way we like, but it’s always the same."

"From the summit, Morocco is visible on a clear day. I wanted to see Africa. It’s said to be the cradle of the human race. But my immediate ancestry is European. To approach Africa, I wanted to have at least one foot on native ground. At the same time, I realized the geographic displacement was hardly necessary, considering the whole of Africa and her prodigious history were in me, too, and, for me, not elsewhere."

"The modern person’s ability to access photo-image information has looped back so far into the deep structures of everyone living within electronic reach that memory itself refers less and less to the past than to the faculty of selectively retrieving bodies of contemporary information from a logarithmically expanding base, in a universe where each night in one or another library one more great book goes out like a dying star." (written in 1992)

“The life I accept is the most fearful argument against me.” –René Crevel

“To be liberated is to pierce the future with a destructive gaze that vanquishes omens and exposes the future as nothing but an illusion. What can be yet to come in a world that is absolutely full, where everything that has ever been still is, and where everything that will ever be, is already here? Let the fire of love devour future and past and deliver me into the jaws of a perpetual present…” –Roger Gilbert-Lecomte

Friday, January 9, 2009

Collapse

Jared Diamond's Collapse is another extremely huge book. It covers so many things that the beginning seems almost completely estranged from the end, except that it is logically progressive and makes a lot of important sense. Yet for some reason the conclusion is not the marketed aspect of the book, but rather the building evidence. For you see, this is a book about how civilization is killing the world.

However, Diamond first examines several older civilizations, mostly isolated cases that are easy to use as natural experiments, and defines a framework for the ways a society can fall, and also a "roadmap" of steps a society can take on the way to solving its problems. The first half of the book is fascinating for its history and romantic for its mystery (and because he writes about isolated Pacific islands and the Norse), but the second part is really the important part; after it, the first sort of pales.

At least at the end, it is, in essence, Derrick Jensen, except with a strictly scientific scope and with a different conclusion: Diamond never implies that this problem is inextricably tied with technological civilization, although one section does give really good reasons for this point of view, which he never contradicts (I'll quote below). The first part, that is, was essentially an inversion of Guns, Germs, and Steel.

Essentially, it is just as much of a must-read as Endgame, except that it may satisfy people (ahem, Alex) who feel Jensen is too Romantic and sentimental, and that this makes his conclusion less valid or biased. Really, I suppose the conclusion must be a matter of opinion, but the truth of the matter that both of them point out is what you all need to know of, I think. Thus, take your pick; Diamond is the scientist and favors the civilization proposal in a certain sense; Jensen writes with much more feeling, his books are much more emotional, and his conclusion is that civilization is undesirable in any manifestation, ever. Please read one of them, though, preferably both.

"Technology will solve our problems." "This is an expression of faith about the future, and therefore based on a supposed track record of technology having solved more problems than it created in the recent past. Underlying this expression of faith is the implicit assumption that, from tomorrow onwards, technology will function primarily to solve existing problems and will cease to create new problems. Those with such faith also assume that they will do so quickly enough to make a big difference soon. In extended conversations that I had with two of America's most successful and best-known businessmen and financiers, both of them eloquently described to me emerging technologies and financial instruments that differ fundamentally from those of the past and that, they confidently predicted, would solve our environmental problems.
But actual experience is the opposite of this assumed track record. Some dreamed-of new technologies succeed, while others don't. Those that do succeed typically take a few decades to develop and phase in widely: think of gas heating, electric lighting, cars and airplanes, television, computers, and so on. New technologies, whether or not they succeed in solving the problems that they were designed to solve, regularly create unanticipated new problems. Technological solutions to environmental problems are routinely far more expensive than preventive measures to avoid creating the problem in the first place: for example, the billions of dollars of damages and cleanup costs associated with major oil spills, compared to the modest cost of safety measures effective at minimizing the risks of a major oil spill.
Most of all, advances in technology just increase our ability to do things, which may be either for the better or for the worse. All of our current problems are unintended negative consequences of our existing technology. The rapid advances in technology during the 20th century have been creating difficult new problems faster than they have been solving old problems: that's why we're in the situation in which we now find ourselves. What makes you think that, as of January 1, 2006, for the first time in human history, technology will miraculously stop causing new unanticipated problems while it just solves the problems that it previously produced?"

"To grasp the worldwide scale of unintentional garbage transport, consider the garbage collected on the beaches of tiny Oeno and Ducie Atolls in the Southeast Pacific Ocean: uninhabited atolls, wihtout freshwater, rarely visited even by yachts, and among the world's most remote bits of land, each over a hundred miles even from remote uninhabited Henderson Island. Surveys there detected, for each linear yard of beach, on the average one piece of garbage, which must have drifted from ships or else from Asian and American countries on the Pacific Rim thousands of miles distant. The commonest items prove to be plastic bags, buoys, glass and plastic bottles (especially Suntory whiskey bottles from Japan), rope, shoes, and light bulbs, along with oddities such as footballs, toy soldiers and airplanes, bike pedals, and screwdrivers.
A more sinister example of bad things transported from the First World to developing countries is that the highest blood levels of toxic industrial chemicals and pesticides reported for any people in the world are for Eastern Greenland's and Siberia's Inuit people, who are also among the most remote from sites of chemical manufacture or heavy use. Their blood mercury levels are nevertheless in the range associated with acute mercury poisoning, while the levels of toxic PCBs in Inuit mother's breast milk fall in a range high enough to classify the milk as "hazardous waste." Effects on the women's babies include hearing loss, altered brain development, and suppressed immune function, hence high rates of ear and respiratory infections.
Why should levels of these poisonous chemicals from remote industrial nations of the Americas and Europe be higher in the Inuit than even in urban Americans and Europeans? It's because staples of the Inuit diet are whales, seals, and seabirds that eat fish, molluscs, and shrimp, and the chemicals become concentrated at each step as they pass up this food chain. All of us in the First World who occasionally consume seafood are also ingesting these chemicals, but in smaller amounts. (However, that doesn't mean that you will be safe if you stop eating seafood, because you now can't avoid ingesting such chemicals no matter what you eat.)"
Gah!!!


Suggestions as to what an individual can do to make a difference.
Vote

Buy with a conscience and information

Increase public awareness - Get other people to do what you do, to increase its effect.

Praise good companies and good policies, instead of just damning what is bad

Learn what links in the chain are susceptible to consumer action (retailers)

Work to fix the local environment - Form groups, communicate with other local groups, and set a good example.

Donate to good organizations

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Fragments of the West

To the readers and writers of this blog, my name is Olivia. I was invited to join your collection of musings and add my own thoughts. Specifically, it was requested that I share some of the pictures I have taken while living in and with the west. I am originally from Ohio. During my senior year of highschool, I was enticed and smitten by On the Road by Jack Kerouac - like several others around my age before me. I was bewitched by the descriptions of the vast and open west - the dust towns, the dramatic prescence of mountains and canyons, the never ending road. The idyllic simplicity of what others might call 'nowhere'. I was seduced. I wanted to be caught at midnight in the warm desert with nothing but a backpack and my introspection.
It's true that perhaps I was more in love with the idea of the west then actual places. However, I was willing to risk it. After graduation, I left Ohio for Idaho. I was accepted into Brigham Young University in Idaho and began my own journey. I could see first hand the true allure.
Over time, I made friends from the big cities I had read about. I found that I had a weakness for boys from Colorado. I found myself at home with girls from Seattle. The opportunities for travel
were awoken.
I was invited to stay in Denver for the week of Thanksgiving and have taken pictures there and the other places I have experienced. Included are pictures of Idaho, Utah, Colorado, and the surrounding west.


A local small town saloon ...
(Rigby, Idaho)

The road to St. Anthony...
(Eastern Idaho)

Perhaps the only tree for miles ...
(Eastern Idaho)

The highway from Salt Lake City to Idaho ...
(Southern Idaho or Northern Utah)

The beginning of the Rockies ...
(Northwestern Colorado)

The end of the Rockies ...
(Near Denver)

This is the west as I see it.
All photos copyright to Olivia Dudding 2008.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Things that Happen

by Eugenio Trueba

Why am I the son of Francisco and Elvira? How did they meet? It seems that both were in the same festival that she had refused to attend because her boyfriend had a cold, with a fever, and it didn't seem right to go have fun in his absence. But she gave in to the insistence of her girlfriends, and it was on that occasion that she met my father. Forgetting her former suitor, she began a relationship with Francisco Miranda and ended up marrying him. I am the fruit of that marriage and so my appearance in this world would not have occurred if not for the cold of a stranger that caused the casual encounter of my progenitors, who eventually fell in love. Who would have guessed?

But, digging a little deeper, I know that my father attended that festival - so defining in my life - because that night he was visiting the city and was supposed to take a bus to Guadalajara. He couldn't board the bus due to a labor strike on the bus line, and so, to pass the time, he went into the festival where he met Elvira Garnica, my mother. Thus, thanks to an unrelated transportation strike, I am here, still living. It's true that the sentiments of the protagonists may have had something to do with this event, but it's undeniable that I would never have been born without the cold and without the strike.

Why was my father visiting the city in which he was to become my father? I know that Francisco Miranda, then a resident of Texas, won in a raffle a trip to Mexico, with its final destination at that city where he met Elvira. Therefore, before the cold and the strike, I would not have been born without my father's good luck to have been favored with a free trip to the country.

What about where I was born? I must point out that I did not choose the location. I know, then, that my father's bosses decided to send him to Guadalajara as a representative in the sale of agricultural equipment; whence came his interest in seeing said city. Who would have guessed that from a decision of some business owners, Francisco Miranda and Elvira Garnica, already married, would have established themselves there, where I was given birth to. Everything was developing through events outside anyone's control, me least of all.

It can't be denied that only by accident am I the son of two people determined beyond my will, as I could have been son of any couple in the world. Why Francisco and Elvira? Why an unexpected festival, a cold, a strike, and a raffle? Why Guadalajara? I have grown up where I was born - without my own will having anything to do with this - and I have learned to speak Spanish - without having any choice about this either - and I have studied in various schools of diverse grades, etc. You will all have to recognize that everything could have happened another way; I could have been English or Korean, Latvian or Malayan. I could even have grown up in Uganda, Aruba or Hungary. No, Guadalajara, with no other possibility.

The friends I had, as is natural, are people who live in the same city. One of them, Ramon Esparza, I met in school. The first day of classes he appeared at my side, on the bench next to mine. It is to this involuntary encounter I owe my relationship with his sister Clotilde. She said she loved me and had decided to marry me, but at this time I lacked the resources to sustain a home, so marriage was made impossible by forces beyond my will.

After graduating, I knew I had to earn a living. My mother set out to find me a job because I refused to choose, with the certainty that the business would resolve itself without my intervention, as with everything that happened to me. It so happened that Clotilde's father died in an accident, and she and her brother inherited the factory and a regular fortune. She put her share in my hands and we were married, all due to a bad bus driver who crashed head on with the vehicle Clotilde's father was driving, causing his death, and the fact that I had met Ramon in school. All the sign were united, from the marriage of my parents, my involuntary birth and upbringing, my casual encounter with Clotilde and the death of her father.

As I learned very early that I had little or nothing to do with what happened to me, I abandoned myself more and more to the play of circumstances; in such a way that every time I had to choose one thing or another, far from choosing, I waited, trusting the action to fate. My libertas arbitri, if indeed it exists, has always been overcome by the fatum of destiny, starting with being who I am.

Clotilde was made desperate seeing that I trusted everything to chance and that I didn't move I finger to manage our home. To any problem I told her "Don't worry, the solution with come."
One of the problems was the management of the factory. The market was flooded with the same products we produced, and the ended up losing any value at all. There was nothing to do but close down, and it is clear that in this neither I nor Clotilde nor Ramon were at fault.

A severe family crisis followed and she, seeing that I abstained from any action to take care of it, left me, saying that she couldn't take any more of my lack of worrying. As it can be seen, a market phenomenon that I had nothing to do with caused the destruction of my home. If it was something already written, why beg Clotilde to stay? She will return, certainly, when something unexpected happens.

I have accepted the decline of my good luck because it is useless to fight the facts. The years that have passed since Clotilde left me have had the virtue of teaching me to endure misery. I can do nothing against it. I know that I am sick because of an unexpected germ. I know that I may die and that this too is inevitable.

Translated by Adam Kranz on January 4, 2009
Written by Eugenio Trueba, published in "Once Cuentos"

The Study of Philosophy

by Eugenio Trueba

When I started to worry about the origin of everything, my teacher told me that that was the business of philosophy and there was nothing else to do for it except to study the greatest thinkers of all time. Trusting that in this manner I'd find the solution, set to work reading the philosophers.

Arduous task. I found languages much different from normal and in every one of my attempts to learn them (which I do not know when will end) I spent a lot of time untangling their unsuspected meanings, without ever being sure of the meaning I gave them; I typically change them every time through.

Generally, on the first reading, I sympathize with the author, to whom I have to give credit for contradicting a preceding author of high standing in the wide world of philosophy; but later, when I learn what another has said about the same topic, I doubt what the previous one said. I always find clear discrepancies (or at least I suspect that they exist, although of this I cannot be sufficiently certain either). It would seem that the last I study is also the final truth, and to deduce something more definitive, I return to the previous readings in order to compare, without ever being able to take sides. Then I turned to the commentaries and secondary texts hoping to obtain a better understanding. I am entering myself in diverse currents and schools of thought in which coincidences almost disappear and give way to simple differences or frank oppositions, with respect to which it is not easy to form an opinion.

I should point out that before I seriously began to search for the origin of everything, I had a few ideas, products of my ignorance, which I favored very boldly, as I had no basis for them other than my own beliefs. When I realized this, I thought my ideas might coincide with some philosopher, allowing them to become mere ignorant replications.

Not without some happiness did I find that they could have some grounds. I found some writings in which I see a suspicion of support for my old inclinations. Stupid of me. In the next pass I found arguments truly destructive of any approximation of an agreed truth, giving way to ideas as distant from mine as they were unexpected. I adhered then, violating my liberty, to the opposite point of view without knowing that further ahead, upon analyzing these new currents, insecurity would reappear even stronger.

I realized that reflecting deeply about one of the thousands of questions that arise doesn't necessarily mean to propose a solution (although every philosopher always ventures certain deductions) but that what's important is to introduce, in a more or less ordered form, profound debates that culminate in darkness or plant the seeds of doubt in what could have seemed clear and luminous.

Admitting that such deceptive reasoning couldn't be right doesn't mean that the task is futile, although on various occasions I have found myself tempted to abandon it all and return to the primitive dogmas of my ignorance. Everything depends on the form in which they are presented, in philosophic language that I have learned to dominate. But this would be a lie; the beliefs are not valid even when they are disguised scientifically.

I gathered my patience and continued, and arrived at the conclusion that there are as many discoveries as philosophers, in no less than two and a half millennia, starting with the Greeks, with no prejudice to previous cultures, to other civilizations, who also formulated terrible questions. Will the time come when I have to take sides?

Callicles said that spending too much time on philosophy can ruin a man, but as man is the animal that asks questions and I am a man, I have no recourse but to keep asking.

I should point out that I am not searching for answers for their own sake, but principly to know how to act. This has been the base of my worries and I've found many diverse and contrary responses, yet still I have no idea to which I am inclined. This perplexion is, for the moment, my state. I sometimes think that the philosophers just like to talk to compete with each other. When someone affirms something, immediately someone else goes on the defensive and starts to criticize all of it to justify a new position, and so on.

The problem is, I still don't know how to act because I don't know how to think. But as it's impossible to stop acting while I still have life, I spend my existence in uncertainty, without knowing if I'm in the right or if my life is only a chain of errors, impossible to amend.

Everyone knows that Socrates said that he only knew that he didn't know anything, understanding the great difficulty involved in establishing the final word in any problem. For me, that is only a starting place, an invitation to keep investigating, which I am doing now and will keep doing while I still have life, because being able to say "I only know that I know nothing" is indispensable to finding all that is unknown. On the contrary, how can you affirm that something is already known, when at least that isn't known.

I'm tired, but it is impossible to renounce my quest. So far I haven't encountered anything that brings me repose, and I have to keep consulting the great philosophers, although they don't agree on anything, in hope of discovering, finally, an answer to the origin of everything, even if it is my ruin.

Translated by Adam Kranz on January 4, 2009
Written by Eugenio Trueba, published in "Once Cuentos"

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Heart of Darkness

"It seems to me, I am trying to tell you a dream - making a vain attempt, because no relation of a dream can convey the dream-sensation, that comingling of absurdity, surprise, and bewilderment in a tremor of struggling revolt, that notion of being captured by the incredible which is of the very essence of dreams. . . "
He was silent for a while.
". . . No, it is impossible; it is impossible to convey the life-sensation of any given epoch of one's existence - that which makes its truth, its meaning - its subtle and penetrating essence. It is impossible. We live, as we dream - alone. . ."
Page 78

I read Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness; it's short, only 100 pages or so, and really richly written. The book inspired Francis Ford Coppola's Vietnam movie "Apocalypse Now," and I downloaded that and watched it after finishing the book this afternoon. In my opinion, the movie does everything the book does (except Conrad's delicious prose) but better; things are elaborated more, more things happen, and there is considerably more characterization. Both recommended. That passage above is one of those passages you feel is written directly for you, because I've had that revelation before.

New Short Film! and a thought.

First:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cgDDGadhOZs

"T Bird" - Please go and watch this. I am tremendously proud of it, and in my opinion this is the best thing we have put on film.

Secondly:

Adam I started keeping a journal. I have gone through some extremely interesting revelations that I'm sure everyone goes through when writing in a journal. Going back and actually reading what I have recorded as my thoughts in a certain emotional state is a really bizarre experience. I am glad that I've begun one, better late than never. And in writing in it, I made an interesting observation: I think my educational sloth and my restlessness go hand in hand. Not surprising, probably. It seems I have run out of the lust for learning and right now the only thing that satisfies me is actually doing something. You know what I mean? I even hate reading things like A Walk in the Woods, just because I know that those experiences are within my reach at this very moment. Science reading doesn't captivate me because I just want to buy a damned telescope or magnifying glass. I think the same goes for reading fiction and such. I think that's why I've had this irritable burst of creative output in the past few months. I don't mean I don't like it, because I do think right now it - creating - is more worthwhile than learning. What does anyone think about this? Adam, do you think you will hit this hump?

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Escape from Freedom

"The right to express our thoughts, however, means something only if we are able to have thoughts of our own; freedom from external authority is a lasting gain only if the inner psychological conditions are such that we are able to establish our own individuality."
Page 266

"Instead of allowing the awareness of death and suffering to become one of the strongest incentives for life, the basis for human solidarity, and an experience without which joy and enthusiasm lack intensity and depth, the individual is forced to repress it."
Page 271

" . . . to know what one really wants is not comparatively easy, as most people think, but one of the most difficult problems any human being has to solve. . . . he is deeply afraid of taking the risk and the responsibility of giving himself his own aims."
Page 278

"Whether it be the fresh and spontaneous perception of a landscape, or the dawning of some truth as the result of our thinking, or a sensuous pleasure that is not stereotyped, or the welling up of love for another person - in these moments we all know what a spontaneous act is and may have some vision of what human life could be if these experiences were not such rare and uncultivated occurrences."
Page 286 - Cf. Crimethinc. - all

"Love is the foremost component of such spontaneity; not love as the dissolution of the self in another person, but love as spontaneous affirmation of others,as the union of the individual with others on the basis of the preservation of the individual self."
Page 287

"This implies that what matters is the activity as such, the process and not the result."
Page 288 - Cf. Crimethinc. - Product is the excrement of action!

"He is aware of himself as an active and creative individual and recognizes that there only one meaning of life: the act of living itself."
Page 289

"Positive freedom also implies the principle that there is no higher power than this unique individual self, that man is the center and purpose of his life; that the growth and realization of man's individuality is an end that can never be subordinated to purposes which are supposed to have greater dignity."
Page 291 - Cf. Crimethinc. - No Gods

"If by anarchy one means that the individual does not acknowledge any kind of authority, the answer is to be found in what has been said about the difference between rational and irrational authority. Rational authority - like a genuine ideal - represents the aims of growth and expansion of the individual. It is, therefore, in principle never in conflict with the individual and his real, and not his pathological, aims."
Page 296

"One condition for this is the elimination of the secret rule of those who, though few in number, wield great economic power without any responsibility to those whose fate depends on their decisions."
Page 299

". . . unless the stream of social life continuously flows from below upwards, a planned economy will lead to renewed manipulation of the people."
Page 301 - Cf. Anarcho-syndicalism

(from Dec. 28) It is around noon, and I have been awake since 9 PM last night. I will hopefully be awake until a similar hour tonight, so that I can reverse my devilish nocturnality and get some real food. In the meantime, I am trying to accomplish something. I finished Erich Fromm's Escape from Freedom just now, bringing my book list total for the year to 55, providing I don't sneak any more in (there are two days until 2009, and Collapse is 500 pages long. . . ). The book is only 300 pages long, but mentally, it is huge. This is my justification as to why it took me so long, anyway. I have made a draft to save all my notes and quotes from the book, and it will be The Devil's Own Task weeding out a few quotes for this post in a minute.

Fromm thoroughly analyzes the human relationship to freedom and the history of this relationship. He determines that, if we are allowed to interact with the world spontaneously (of our own free will) and fulfill our potentials, we will have gained true positive freedom. This is the end of human progress, in his mind: a sort of anarcho-syndicalist society based on technology. However, we have not reached this point in our development yet, and so various factors are colluding to induce destructiveness and the willingness (read: eagerness) to submit to authority. These factors have arisen because of the course of certain events in recent history. To make a very long story short, the rise of capitalism and the increased freedoms of modern democracies have left the individual alone and anxious, without the safety of a feudal social order or the Church to dictate one's place in the cosmos, and the other side of things has lagged. We have not sufficiently developed the capacity to self-define, to truly become an individual, and to relate spontaneously with the world.

Obviously, I'm having a really hard time summarizing this book. It covers everything, and Fromm leaves no question unanswered. Critically, I'm still having a dilemma regarding the scientific value of his techniques. His claims seemed to be based more on that Freudian species of hypothesizing than on real evidence of any sort. However, this is not the whole of the book, and if these things entirely lack value, the book is still important and worth reading on other merits.

He takes a very clear view to human nature and the nature of society, and the dynamic and impossibly complex way they are related. His explanation of the rise of Fascism seems essentially sound even if it is a bit vague (perhaps necessarily, as he's describing psychological phenomena occurring over a broad population). Further, his ideas regarding the progress, history, and ideal end of the human search for freedom are provocative - though I have decided I disagree. He also understands and articulates the problems with modern society, the things that are causing massacres and meaninglessness and conformity.

His ideas regarding conformity are especially interesting and problematic for me, as they seem to be based on intuitive truths, things we've all experienced, and they are major obstacles to an objective viewpoint in any matter. What I'm referring to is summed up here:

"He has the illusion of having arrived at an opinion of his own, but in reality he has merely adopted an authority's opinion without being aware of this process."
Page 215

Fromm is a genius and wrote a decent number of these passages, and, towards the end, starts sounding exactly like Crimethinc.