"Undermining my electoral viability since 2001."

Romantic Polytheism

I've been reading this book my man Franz laid on me. It's less a book than a collection of essays, all by the recently deceased philosopher Richard Rorty, who calls himself a protege of the old-school American Pragmatist, and favorite of mine, John Dewey. It's been getting me thinking quite a bit.

Franz was the one who originally turned me on to Dewey. He gave me The Public and Its Problems when we first met in mid 2003; reading this book in the thick of the Dean campaign created the cornerstone of my positive political idealism (as opposed to my reactionary anti-war activism). I've long wanted to try and write this out as a kind of manifesto, and someday I probably will, but that's a bit off the track for this post.

So Rorty's book is a bit more unabashedly heady than the stuff of Dewey's that I've come to know. He's addressing an academically philosophical audience, so it's more obtuse and answers a bunch of questions that most of us take for granted. Still, those questions underly a lot, and I like the way he deals with them.

The first essays outline the concept of pragmatism as a romantic polytheism, which breaks down as follows:

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Spamming Cocksuckers

Well, it looks like someone out there figured out how to crack my math problems. It couldn't last forever.

So, just in case you see a bunch of crap, or maybe I turn on comment moderation, that's why.

The tragedy of the commons! Oh the tragedy!

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We Are All Outlaws In The Eyes Of America

I've been noodling around with this script concept for the past couple weeks, the first purely creative writing in quite a while. The gist of it is a disillusioned political operative raising cash money from black-market sources and carrying on an outlaw lobby campaign in DC. Thinly-veiled autobiographical content abounds, but they say you write what you know. My goal here is to start with that, and fill the rest in with what I dream.

The general concept can be exciting and sexy I think, and the rough plot arc I have sketched out should be a satisfying narrative, but I need to fill in some details before I can really finish a treatment. I need to learn more about the specifics of lobbyist culture, find out where and how Republican operatives party, and maybe investigate the rampant rumors about how the Humbold County DA raises money. I want as much authentic texture in the surroundings as possible; I think it will free me up to be more fantastical with the plot.

One of the big questions is "what's the outlaw lobbyist's agenda?" I think getting into the wonk zone would probably kill the writing, so the idea here is to sketch out something in broad strokes that has mass appeal, and then find something really specific that can be part of the primary dramatic conflict (e.g. what are the good and bad guys/gals facing off over?).

I'm not sure about this yet, but kicking the whole idea around with Franz, he gave me his wish-list, which actually seemed to be pretty decent:

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Scaling Satisfaction

Out last night watching some boxing on the pay per view with The Girth, then over to shoot a little pool at the ACME. The omnipresent question between the two of us is what the hell we're doing with our lives as "careers" begin to take off but everything else stagnates and the world around us seems to veer inexorably toward the ditch. What does it take to get a little satisfaction?

Harkening back to my post on Maslow's Pyramid of Human Needs, there's something wired into me and most of my friends that drives us to want to help people out, to look outward with a problem-solving eye. There's a kind of juice one gets from this that can't be replicated any other way, the cheap and generally unprofitable thrill of Doin' Right.

Mark's hooked on this too, via Americorps. There might be more money in being an artisan handyman, building fences from special Japanese cedar boards for the neo-bohemian HC bourgeoisie, but at the end of the day he says it can't touch the rush of helping a kid with a fucked up life steady his or her feet and move in a positive direction as a human being. Even though the latter pays less than minimum wage -- Americorps workers get s "stipend" and instructions on applying for food stamps, something that I find extremely unjust -- he's back again for another tour of duty.

For my part, I don't get this feeling too much from my work. Bootstrapping a business is kind of a cutthroat process, or at least one that requires a primary focus on self-interest. While I got a good charge out of starting the Drupal Dojo, and a healthy portion of our clients are do-gooders of one stripe or another, the main thing for the past 10 months has been figuring out how to pay the bills in a steady and dependable fashion.

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Travelin' Man

I have returned to the Bay Area, where I will take up in a new sublet o'er in Berkeley through mid-August. That is, except for the two weeks I'll be spending back in NYC and in Chicago.

I'm more or less of a ramblin' man -- something I've tried to fight before, yet am beginning to accept about myself -- but this summer's schedule is wearing me down. I think it's because most of the travel is predicated on fulfilling social, familial and career obligations: clients, weddings and family get-togethers have been behind most of my excursions (certainly almost every trip outside California) so far this year. It's not really "ramblin'" when you're doing it out of duty.

So I went from moving out to the hills to settle down, to being driven back out on the road by work and other obligations.

The past five days in Westhaven were good and recuperative, and I started to feel like I wanted to stick around and try to have a life there again. The past calendar year has been one of transition for sure, a little intentional experiment at "nesting" with some friends, a bigger experiment in starting a business. I haven't really "landed" yet, and I'm still not sure where how how I want to do that. Hopefully this fall it will happen, and the next leg on my cosmic journey through space and time can begin in earnest.

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John From Cincinnati

This show is getting predictably mixed reviews, but I am loving it. I'm not yr typical viewer: comfortable with ambiguity and mystery, and thirsty drama that rewards close attention. This definitely fits that description. The most recent episode (number six) reminds me of David Lynch at his best, but maybe better.

I'll admit I'm partial to David Milch's use of language, which is significantly more obtuse -- my housemates call it Shakespearian -- than anything you'd get on The Sopranos, so I can see why people are scratching their head about this. It's somewhat weirder and more jarring placed in a contemporary setting without the period drama of Deadwood. This show is a lot less realistic, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. If you're interested, don't buy the negative reviews without watching the first two episodes for yourself.

It's fun seeing actors from Deadwood turn up again, especially Dayton Callie (aka Charlie Utter), who plays Steady Freddie, the Hawaiian Drug kingpin. "I took more acid... than you ate fruit loops for breakfast... in... inside a volcano!" Oh man. There are a bunch of others too.

It's kind of cool how HBO has a little talent pool rolling. You get to see range. For instance, Paul Ben-Victor who plays Palaka, Steady Freddie's stooge, has also been on The Wire and Entourage. Palaka is a real character, a shuffling simpleton thug, and a real contrast to the big studio exec Ben-Victor played on Entourage, and with the Greek gangster he did on The Wire.

And the acting is key. Anything as strange as this, with language this artistic, is going to rise or fall on the basis of the performances and direction. Luckily, the cast seems up to the job, and the direction and use of music are strong.

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On A Less Heady Note

On a less heady note, here are two things to enjoy.

First a link to everyone's favorite lost rebel, the crackademic, who has a fucking brilliant gonzo account of his recent excursion to Copenhagen. Some choice quotes:

bq. I recruited some loafing street children to find me a place to eat. While this gave me fleeting delusions of gangsterdom, the children were ultimately unsuccessful.

bq. Ultimately when I meet a woman for the first time, and she can't stop talking about her sex life, it's a turn off. In my experience these women are usually batshit crazy.

bq. This scratches the surface of my subtle unease around all old Germans: Is that leather that Grandpa's wallet is made of? If I opened the Ark of the Covenant would his face melt off? You know what I mean.

There's more, including a 7-step recipe to 7/11-inspired charm, hot Brazilian girls into Corporate Social Responsibility, some vague hints at what our man in Germany is actually working on, and so on. He's a great writer, and the flow is worth appreciation. A they say, read the whole damn thing.

After that, all I have is a short video I dug out of my camera that shows some of the road I went 17 miles down last month to camp on a derelict mining claim. I post it because it communicates, I think, the reasons why I like doing that sort of thing:

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Me And Maslow's Pyramid of Human Needs Down By The Schoolyard

I've been contemplating Abraham Maslow's Pyramid of Human Needs a lot lately. He actually called it "the hierarchy of needs," but I like the words Pyramid and Human more; better branding. In any event, it's a really handy idea to have in your toolbox, one of those semi-obvious insights into human nature that's easy to miss, or forget, but never gets old.

Basically, you start at the bottom with your fundamental Physiological needs, starting with the need to breathe, because if you can't breathe or eat or perform certain biological functions, those things more or less take over your existence. That's the bottom line, and most of us first-worlders have it covered, thank goodness. Direct manipulation through the withholding of food and water is rare in our lives.

After that you climb up to the level of Safety. If you don't have a sense of security about yourself and the things you consider yours, be they material, familial, or whatever -- if you're afraid -- you're stuck with that, and you really can't go much further as a human being. Safety is a psychological concept of course (real security is impossible; you can't control rocks in space that might fall on your head or wipe out your species) but it's important for this concept to make its way into your mind, however that happens for you.

For most of us, being in debt, especially "bad debt," can stick us at this level. Sickness definitely pegs us here. Also, this is arguably the level on which a lot of politics operates; overt fear-mongering, appeals to anxieties about "them," the specter of ruin, apocalypse, etc. Unfortunately, when an appeal to this psychological level works, it's very potent.

Assuming you're able to rise above the chains of fear, uncertainty and doubt, you reach the level of Social needs, summarized as:

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I'm back in the old homestead. It turned out I did have some kind of flu back there in NYC. Suxxorz. I spent a couple days laid up at my sisters, which meant no socializing to speak of. My apologies to all the folks I missed. I'll be back, and I'll make it up.

Still, on Thursday I was feeling about 80% ok, and it was a beautiful day, and it made me realize how I do miss New York. There's something so very evocative about it as a place, makes a young man dream. Perhaps someday I'll make it back for another run at Glory.

For now, I'm totally exhausted and looking forward to a weekend of doing very little, though maybe some writing will be in order.

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Well, I'm back in the Big City, trading off two days and a night in the air-conditioning of Bablylon -- corporate HQs, Chilli's bar'n'grill, hotel room, places where people are comfortable with a certain amount of bureaucracy -- for the kind of specific swelter that you only get when your rubbing up hot and raw against eight million or so of your fellow monkeys.

Indian Lake is burnin'
New York's skyline is hazy
The River Thames is turnin'dry
The whole world is a-blazin'

It actually made me sick. Maybe it was my cafeteria salad lunch, but when I got back to trendy trendy Williamsburg and Atlas Cafe, I started feeling ill. When I finally got up to walk to the park and lie down, I made it about a block and a half before bending over and puking down a storm drain. It all happened so fast, and I felt immediately better. So I called up Frank -- who this made me think of thanks to a little bit of shared history -- and drank 1.5L of new water in the park while relaxing sans-shoes and watching the McCarren pick-up softball practice (a random mix of Poles, Hipsters, Dominicans and Orthodox Jews, which made me happy).

New York seems good. The heat brings out some of the best, as does the cold. I suppose we thrive on adversity here. Inexplicably, I don't feel so outraged by hipsters here as opposed to San Francisco. They're less pretentious and somehow more butch; more beards and sweaty white t-shirts, less designer printed long-sleeves.

I'm looking forward to a few more days here and then another weekend in Weshaven. The way things are going, I'm gonna need it!

...adding, I seem to be running a persistent fever even now that it's cooled down and I'm all hydrated. That's not good, even if it does make me feel a little tripped-out. Now would not be a good time to succumb to some damn airplane flu. Bleah.

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