June 2002: The Tide Is Turning
June 30th 2002 The Love You Take
Here is a defense of western culture that I can get behind. The choice quote (lifted from a k5 sig) "Yeah, That's what Jesus would do. Jesus would bomb Aghganistan."
Hit up a good old ravish party last night with Julia and Andrew. It had its moments, including a great light and sound system and a kind of performance that ran through the main parts of the evening. I worked the 2-4am juice bar shift in return for free admission, a bit of a struggle due to the ecstasy and a "co-worker" who was just completely out of it. My workaholism and love of people kicked in though, so I made the best of it. The down side was that I didn't get to see much of my friends. I cuddled with one of the girls Julia was performing with a little bit -- a cute little Indian(?) woman with a masters in Psych who would giggle and bubble like a marvelous cross between a baby bird and a contented human when I ran my hands through her hair -- but by the time I was off shift everyone was tired and not really into making the livewire connections I crave.
|I am a Defender-ship.|
I am fiercely protective of my friends and loved ones, and unforgiving of any who would hurt them. Speed and foresight are my strengths, at the cost of a little clumsiness. I'm most comfortable with a few friends, but sometimes particularly enjoy spending time in larger groups. What Video Game Character Are You?
We piled out shortly after dawn. Riding my bike home underneath the elevated train tracks in Queens, I reached an intersection where there seemed to be some kind of disturbance. I didn't know what was going on at first, but I quickly realized I was in a Brazilian neighborhood and they were getting fired up for the World Cup, honking their horns and waving their flags while the lumbering N train rattled on oblivious overhead and little old me let out a whoop of encouragement (I approve of community in all its forms) as I pedalled south with the blood orange sun at my back.
I need to make a few fundamental adjustments to my life and attitude. I have a lot of ambitions, as I'm sure you know, but I have to work out some kinks if it's going to happen for me. Trying to start 3 non-profit organizations, running a bi-monthly arts showcase, working 2 pretty steady jobs and covering a slew of freelance assignments -- all this activity doesn't leave a lot of Josh Time, something I've been feeling the lack of more and more lately.
Boo-hoo, the workaholic is too busy. Ok, I'll cop to it: in reality all this explication is little more than a thinly veiled attempt to lend substance to my essential dilemma: the lack of a good woman in my life.
I ran into someone at the party last night, a friend of my old flame Yuliya, and she was asking me about why we stopped seeing each other. She said, "well, I heard that she's not the kind who likes really emotional relationships, and you didn't either..." and some other comments about how people perceive me ("you date a lot of girls..."). I was a bit surprised to hear these things. I know I don't talk about my feelings all that often, but that's more out of a desire not to bore anyone than anything else. I realize now that I do perhaps hold back a bit too much. The truth is, I'm a Love man to the core. It's what I believe in, but I have a hard time finding it. Lately I've decided that it's much better not to get hung up on all the dead ends or crossed connections, but the outcome is still materially the same. I keep thinking that maybe I really do just want too much. Maybe my demands are simply too high, and I should stop waiting for the miracle to come, settle down with someone rich and make the best of it. Yeah. Right.
I think I have an imbalance in my personality in that I'm much more able to give than to receive. This is a contributing factor to the general quandary because the product of this imbalance is a kind of isolation, a remoteness. If one never lets oneself receive, take, enjoy, then one will never really form any kind of mutual dependency with an other. Always giving makes you a bit of an island with a one way bridge back to the mainland. This deadly pattern plays itself out on a lot of levels (sexual, emotional, intellectual), and lately I find myself just getting pulled into other people's desire, subconsciously trying to give them what they're looking for, fulfill their fantasy, their idea. Those things don't last, and they don't get me anywhere either. Gotta knock it off and get back to basics.
June 29th 2002 Avarice and Envy
Ahhh... let's put the fun back into hangover. Went out rocking last night with the Boston boys. We hit Enids and then rolled to the City where we had margarita's then went to a rock'n'roll party. Good times: although the DJ played The Strokes, he balanced it out with Zeppelin. Still, the vibe wasn't quite right. Something a little bit too vice-like in the air, too much jaded cynicism and narcissistic self-centered indulgence. Everyone wants something for themselves, and at a certain point you just can't drink enough to keep from noticing the lack of eye contact going on in the room. Good to sweat and groove and scream and jump and leave the place ears ringing, but would have been better to come out with a fuller wallet, and smelling less of beer, smoke and avarice.
Tonight I'm going to another dance party, this time in Queens and more on the rave end of the spectrum. Julia's singing as part of the central performance. I expect it to be a little more nurturing than last night.
June 27th 2002 New Haircut
I got a righteous chop from the Polish hair cutter down the block. I wanted short, but this is a little more than I bargained for. However, I figure with enough gel and confidence, I could look chic. Style is something that still eludes me, so I tend to go for comfort and whatever makes me feel good and/or hot. I have to admit, I feel like I fit in at my gym a lot more with the cropped 'do.
I just got done sending off 300 letters to prospective clients of The Quick Fix. Cast member Joy Lynn and I put in 6 hours stuffing envelopes and another 2 getting postage, applying stamps and putting the bastards in the mail. Hopefully our gumption will pay rich dividends. Joy Lynn is one of the stranger, cooler people I know. She's just had this crazy life (her father, for instance, runs an underground cockfighting ring in Florida) with all these crazy adventures (like being homeless for two weeks and arranging to sleep behind the bar at Smalls, an all night jazz club). It's good to meet someone who makes me feel square.
June 25th 2002 Fight the Future
Still waiting on my DSL. Got into a bit of a flame-war with my provider about it. On a lighter note, other people paint their shoes too.
June 24th 2002 This One's Optimistic
I decided this weekend, even though nothing spectacular happened, that the tide is turning. It's still in the early inclings, and it's not a sure thing just yet, but a change in things is in the offing. I think it's going to be ok. I was taking stock on friday and I noticed that everyone I know out here seems to be down in the dumps about something lately. Moreover, I realized that the whole scene was kind of getting me down as well. But I made the decision that I wasn't just going to go along with it, and things are starting to look up. More of this romantic existentialism please.
What do we live for? To get inspired and then go inspire some other people. That's me and my art religion: holy ghost power. I like to distill all the inspiration, all the magic I've ingested, and concoct sweet sauces of performance in my creative kitchen. I steal spices from popular culture and recipes from my friends, and I slice and dice the stuff of my experience for the (hopefully transcendent) nourishment of others. Of course, I enjoy the status and hope one day soon to be granted the title of master chief. But the point is to have people ingest and enjoy my meals.
Yes, everything gonna be allright.
June 22nd 2002 Offline
Fscking telco companies and their bastard half-ass operations. Not only is my DSL delayed another week (that's how you know it's bullshit, when they delay you for a week for no other reason than it's 7 days) and now the phone itself has ceased to function. The shepards of our nations precious communications infrastructure are, it seems, a bunch of nincompoops. Lazy thugs, airheads, and mean little small-minded geeks, all of them.
I went out to a party last night, brought the boys across the hall from Boston. I worry about them a bit. Seem a little lost. I'll have to get to know them a little more before I put up a page for the two of them (and Alex downstairs too) but I'll get around to it one of these days, you betcha. Anyway, the party was a bit odd of an experience, reminding me pointedly of the ludicrosity of the ritual: young people pack themselves into a space, impair their judgement with chemicals, and play rhythm heavy music in the hopes that something (anything) will happen. Sex is the ultimate party goal, or at least the obvious one, yet for all that we preen and prepare ourselves to "go out," we never come straight out and acknowledge it in that way. Curious.
Or maybe I'm wrong. Perhaps that's the jaded single man in me talking. I remember a time (seems ages ago) when I had a steady girl and would show up places with her, it changed into a different sort of competition, a battle for status, a contest of success, of achievement -- a bit more civilized but still very much governed by the law of the jungle. I suppose in returning to the core concept of simply "having a good time," what makes a good party really depends on what it is that you find enjoyable. On the one hand there are the zero-sum pleasure games of sex and acclaim, which given the limited pool of people and permutations must eventually have winners and losers. On the other there are the substantial positive reinforcement cycles of real conversation, communication and creation, things that might include typical party activities such as telling jokes or dancing for the fun of it. But the inevitable delemma arises there as well: who do you crack jokes with? With whom can you make intelligent conversation? So then the real pecking order of the party returns again from who hooks up with whom, be it for quasi-anonymous nookie or great conversation. I suppose to really win the party game, to have a good time, one must rise above it all and do what one feels.
June 21st 2002 Great Leap Forward
The DSL is allegedly getting juiced up today. I'll make some more updates when that happens. In the mean time, read Frank Zappa's testimony at a senate hearing about warning labels for explicit lyrics. What a great fucking American, you know what I mean?
In contrast, it seems like people are still clamping down on anyone protesting the Prez. Apparently students at Ohio State were told that they would be expelled, as in from school, not just the ceremony, if they protested in any way -- they planned on turning their backs -- at W's graduation speech. Read more here.
June 20th 2002 Hits from the Journal
Starting to get things under control. I'm finally producing results, getting on track to meeting my goals, etc. I tilled two thirds of the back yard by hand with a pitchfork in the evening, after buying my old landlords a case of Polish beer and some chocolates and picking up our security deposit. It's starting to really feel like summer -- the heat, the humanity -- and there's whiskey in the jar.
From the Journal:
I should tell more people about what I do. How much do Luke and Mark know about technology, about theater, about the reasons I strongly believe in both of these fields? Taking pride in one's work is a real thing, and I should do that more often. Sharing the feelings behind the work rather than the mundanities of the work itself, that's the way to go.
I'm getting a little case of the lonelies lately. It's to be expected to a certain extent, what with all the work and no play. Still, it seems a little silly that I have to choose one or the other... As I was showering after working with the earth, I realized I'd better go and do what I want to do in the world so that I still have time left over for kids. Because when that happens -- hey, it's your number one responsibility, bro. If I get my druthers that's not for about ten years yet, but I have a lot I want to get done and ten years is not a lot of time to do it all.
Again from the Journal:
- Additional qualifications for Soulmate: Must be socially more outgoing than I, the girl who's always putting herself out there. But still fiercely loyal and perhaps even posessive. I want her to say, "No one _____s me like you do," and I want to say this to her. She could have many lovers, but I would be the one, the one she returned to againg and again, as I would to her.
- A plan of action: Don't be afraid of heasatent in looking for this one. Don't get sidetracked into a making time comfort zone, but be sure that they know up front that just because you're sweet doesn't mean you're up for anything serious. In other words, look for the one who makes you stop looking.
- This is important because: we need to have the stability a woman affords if we're really to get it done. We want to channel all that tail-chasing energy elsewhere: 35% great lovin' with your old lady, 45% being a dynamo at everything life affords, and 20% experimental, super research/save the world storage tanks.
Well, working with the earth and saving my money can't really hurt for now. I think the thing is going to be biding my time until the electricity rises in me, then go looking for the opposite attracting pole to charge the field, make the lightning strike.
June 19th 2002 An Evening of Review
Just screened "Waking Life." What a great film. This is criticism, not a review. Criticism, by the way, is so much more prevalent in our culture than review because it allows the reviewer (now the critic) to say something about themselves. It allows them to exercise their opinions, either through the strength of their argumentation or on the premise their basic notoriety. It's an ego trip. Personally, I'd prefer getting a simple 4-star type review from someone I trust rather than a series of plot-based critiques before taking in a film. It leaves the experience up to me.
In other words, if you're like me and you're not into spoilers: it's a four star film; skip this entry until you see it. If you've already seen the film or are just interested in hearng what it pushed out of me, here's my take on why.
Such a consistantly high level of romantic existentialism must have been very hard to get money to produce, but I'm glad that it was done. My initial impression was that the ending was a down note, but then I realized that it was perhaps more of a "make you think" kind of thing. Nevertheless, I can't help but suspect that this potentially revolutionary film fell victim to the very demons it attempted to vanquish. In other words, if the filmmaker had the ability to believe that his film was heroic -- as he extols us to do in our own lives -- he would not have had to muffle the climax with his pinball-playing apologist. I just wish his film pedegree included a little more "revolutionary" and a little less "slacker".
The film is a success in art for purely visual and conceptual reasons. It's also a success because it made me think. However, because it made me think it stoked my appetite to a level on which it could not deliver, and therein lies it's measure of failure. It did not cause me to rise up and cast off the trappings of my "dreaming life", but only to question its intricacies in more detail. It made me think, "I'll have to put that theory into practice one day."
That being said, one might argue that it's lack of revolutionary effect is likely due, in no small part, to of my own situation, in particular the fact that I watched the film alone and not with any soulmates. This is my own romantic gloss, I know. Still, the provocation of questions is in good company the ultimate source of pleasure. While I like having the questions brought in any case, in poor company (or alone) there no greater reminder of good company's lack. Cheers to Linkleter for reminding me to check in on a deeper level with the reality and people around me, if not truely lighting a fire under my ass to do it tonight.
In case you can't tell, the existential romanticism in the movie rubbed off on me. In the end it really is all about connecting with and understanding other people. That's really what we live for. What a trip. Need to fix the music.
This is why LSD can really excite people, and make them crazy and burned out too. Can you handle the intellectual and emotional responsibility of being really always alive at all times? We've all only got a certain amount of that in us, you know. This it probably why actors have such a hard time being 'in the moment' offstage: they've worn out those muscles, in spite of how hard they work building them up. Maybe that's why lazy actors actors are usually bad: they don't work to build the muscle, or they're not born with it, and they use up all their mojo in their private life.
I must say, though, lack of capacity to fully experience seems like it would be more of a problem on stage (live) than on film (canned). To act well on film you don't have to feel anything. You just need to look like you do. On stage you have to actually feel it, you have to actually bring it into your body and let people see it. You can't just be living in your face if you're live and in person. You have to be in your whole body being. Rather than just dazzling them remotely, you have to be alive in your heart and inspire the people right in front of you to do the same.
This is why we have the culture we do. Because there's a lot of money riding on top of all that anomie, a lot of efficiency won through mass production and mass media. But the revolution doesn't start on television. Odds are it will eventually end up there, but by then it will be over. The revolution starts in real life, with real actions and real words and real people understanding eachother in real time. So we must all be as children, and act beautifully with openness and compassion. A life well lived is in the high points and the shaded lows which consrast it all out. It is as rich and full a life as you will let it be. Dream on.
Elsewhere on the Web...
You can make virtual booty calls. Just so you know: porn doesn't have to be fake and exploitative. Of course that letter could be trickery on another level. Who's to know who wrote it? Ahh, the ever-present question of identity in the virtual world...
June 16th 2002 Father's Day
Oi... that was a lengthy and confusing entry there. Need to rein it in a little more around here, tighten some of those gaskets. In recognition of the day I've invited my dad to outlandishjosh.com. It's a step. We'll see how he likes it.
I've known for a while that I need to invite the man. It's just the whole nature of full disclosure is a bit foreign to our relationship. But after talking with some people about it, and hearing how close/distant other people are with their parents about their lives, I've decided to hew to the ethos. Secrets and silence are the seed of our undoing, the seeds of bitterness and insanity. Get it all out in the open, pals.
Also, while we're at it, a tip of the hat to Papa Bill for doing a lot of fatherly things as well. He doesn't so much dig the official titles and trappings of being a Dad, but I'm glad he was around when I was growing up.
June 15th 2002 Y'see!
For what it's worth, in spite of increased corporate dominance and veneer for the masses, the internet is spawning facinating (sub)culture like the sprawling, festering, beautiful pitri-dish that it was meant to be. The proof is in the pudding. Wade into any online discussion forum (the places where people hang out and actually interact with eachother) and you'll see it happening live. It doesn't matter whether you're a Slashdot-reading geek or a horny fucking indie-rock hipster looking for booty on makeoutclub, there's something out here for you. There's even a community site for internet-trolls.
I'll be fascinated to read the historical sociology that will doubtless occur in a few decades, chronicaling the waves of the population that joined the online world...
First were the professional geeks, the founders, the professors, the people who were stable, had their shit together, and loved machines. They started linking the machines together, communicating through them. Then came the amateurs, the hobbyists, the crackpots with access, bringing crazy mad genius and epic flamewars of uninformed drivel. The virtual world began to accrue charachter.
All along there had been a trickling in of teens as more geeks were born and raised. At some point though the immigration of teenagers must have really taken off as computers in the home became more and more common throughout the 80s. Often times the children quickly learned how to use these tools better than the parents who had bought them. By the 90s, there were parents buying their children computers as gifts, never intending to touch the machines themselves.
The flood of hormonally unstable, socially underdeveloped mostly male youths through the gates of their vintage modems into the online world was truely a revolution. First in the small isolated local pockets of the BBSs at a dawdling 2400bps and then later on the fully connected fronteer of the internet via their ethernet-wired college dorms, script kiddies, wannabees, and half-bright techno punks with no respect for authority or history were making themselves heard. Before widespread spam started originating from shady marketing departments in all four corners of the earth, hoax emails about cancer patients and opportunities to save National Public Radio, even simple chain letters, were reguarly clogging inboxes with unwanted forwarded traffic.
Eventually, the number of dissafected souls who take joy in causing confusion grew, and the practice of "Trolling" became an art in and of itself. Trolls insert their comments to online discussion to elicit argument and dissonance without adding any value to the conversation. This practice is as old as online forums, been around since the early days of Usenet Newsgroups, but the flood of gulable marks into the online world has created a really interesting phenominon: a community of trolls, a virtual sub-culture based completely around virtual activities.
Trolls should not be confused with zealotous flame-warriors (those who beligerently argue without seeking resolution), they are rather a new breed of virtual sociopath. Sometimes troll posts are way off-topic or non-sequitor, but the best and brightest find ways to slip into conversations smoothly, and then expertly derail the dialogue from within. Real trolls are highly creative, very intelligent, and utterly misguided, another example of what happens to exceptionally smart children who grow up in frusterating and socially retarting environments, like your average public school.
Back in The Real World
Here's an important article to read from the good old NYT. The news is that post September 11th, racial relations have improved in the five boros. I've been harping on that event as a lost opportunity for progressive leadership ever since the smack-down on dissent, indescriminant millitary actions, and "just keep shopping" messages started eminating from the White House. The one minute I actually liked Rudy Guliani was when he got up and said in no uncertain terms, "nobody's going to fuck with the Arab-Americans in this community. We're going to stick together." Of course, that kind of message lasted about two weeks and then the usuall politics and business shenanigans (this is the biggest development deal to hit the city in two decades) started back up.
Some credit also goes to Bloomberg, who's made an effort to distance himself from Guliani's divisive style, but he's not really makeing better relations a priority. The point is, people, that with or without leadership from the top, change wants to happen. People don't really want to dislike eachother. It's stressful. It feels better to live in a community, a neighborhood, a place where there's a mutual investment (be it financial or simply emotional) in the communal/public good. However, this is not currently the foundation for our culture, society and economy. Today we have a few very powerful and influential decision-making entities that more or less conspire to keep us apart from eachother, the better to exctract the money from our wallets.
As I've said before, there's a lot of wealth and power riding on top of all this anomie. But anomie is not a solid foundation. Either people realize that our world is (and hopefully always will be) in a state of transition and get on the progressive bandwaggon, or there's bound to be a blowup, a crisis, a breakdown.
Politics. It's somehow in my blood. Not the petty infighting that cripples many organization, or the influence peddling that poisons and slows our government. I'm talking about real political science, the questions of a right and wrong, a better and a worse way to govern a country. I was watching a documentary on Berkeley in the '60s with Frank earlier today and it really got me thinking about my generation. I read somewhere not too long ago a description of our generation that cut to the bone and won't leave my mind. From memory, it went something like:
In contrast to Generation X, which apathetically rejected popular culture, the current generation, which as yet lacks a pervasive and popular moniker, apathetically accepts it.
It simply sickens me how immobalized we are as a group of people, how few dreams we have about the future. The old radical spirit seems to have spun itself off into fringe groups and pirate utopias and the mainstream is coming down from on high pure and unchallanged. "You want to wear rolled up jeans? That's fine son, we have that at Abercrombie. Hip-hop more your style? Great! There are any number of hearless multinational corporations ready to feed your needs." The truth is, most of my peers don't even care. Do I even? I rant and whine, but I don't know if I actually do anything to make a difference.
And yet I still sense the palitable potential for change. It's a crisitunity we have over here. People want to believe in things. It's innate. In a world awash in so much literal and metaphorical bullshit, the Truth can be a mighty force. But where's it happening? I'm smart enough to know I can't make much of an impact alone, but not dumb enough to be discouraged by that. If you know where it's happening, please clue me up.
June 14th 2002 Non-entry
Odds and ends today, lacking focus. I got a new credit card today. After not being able to use my mastercard over in Europe, I decided to pick up a Visa. Low APR (7.9%) too, though I think I'll keep this one in the filing cabnet rather than in the wallet.
I've been visiting kuro5hin.org a bit more lately. It's a community site populated by slightly more deepthinking tech people. There's a lot more culture and politics and less discussion of kernel updates. My favorite feature is the diaries section: you can just browse through entries until you see a slice of life that interests you, then investigate. I was doing this a little while ago when I was inspired to detail the proper making of a martini.
It's been cooler the past couple of days here. Rainy. I like that much more than the sweltering swamp heat (waiting on a paycheck to go after the AC) that dominates the NYC summer. I'm still waiting on the sweet mammon of DSL to restart. My service date got moved back a week and it's bumming me out. This 56k connection is for squares.
There's more content coming soon. I've got the next-to-last edition of Ren Fayre about half-baked and I'm finishing my reportage on the Netherlands trip as well. Feeling a bit feverish and unfocused, but that's probably because of all the street noise I get in my new apartment. I'm devising ways to soundproof my space. Anyone have experience with this? The big problem is that I don't want to completely block off the windows (and their accompanying natural light) but they seem to admit a fair amount of the truck-rumble from the BQE, which is about 20 feet away. Although having an AC unit in and keeping the windows closed will probably help. Still, they don't really block the rumble. Also, due to the inopportune electrical layout of the apartment, I'm back to having my office stuff in the bedroom, never my favorite arraingement. It'll just take time to adjust.
Or maybe I'm dehyrated. General dehydration causes all sorts of problems with focus and mood, you know.
June 11th 2002 Freedom
Called it quits with Jenna tonight. I'd been thinking there would be at least a skosh of scorn, but it slid out of exitence as easily as it wandered in. I'm relieved, though slightly ego-hurt. Don't really know what else I should have expcted, seeing as how she's nearly 30 and by her own admission "a naughty girl." Not that I really feel used, but maybe just a little.
I've been working on an entry into this contest from the Economist and Shell that my mother sent to me. It's a set of questions I've actually devoted more than a little independent thought to, especially in wake of 9-11. So I've got a few things to say, and I don't take in the talking heads, so my train of thought is fairly untainted by the popular media opinion. As such I think I might have a few original enough opinions to take one of the prizes. Or maybe not. Either way, it's good intellectual exercise, the kind I've not been getting much as of late.
On other fronts, I've arrainged for Julia to definitly come along to this years country fair with all the monkeys. Pumped. I hit the gym for the first time in 6 weeks or so. Feel like a bit of overcooked spaghetti but it's a good feeling. I'm happy being a wandering starchild for the summer, just waiting to see what happens next... "Baby, when the lord made me, He made a ramblin' man."
June 10th 2002 Marching Onward
Interesting maintream journalism from the NYT on blogging, and the boom in right-leaning logs post 9-11. Since blogging is arguably what I'm doing here I took an interest. Though I'd like to think my eventual product is a bit more ambitious than a daily log, in the meantime -- while content accrues -- I suppose the term applies.
June 9th 2002 More Deep Thought
Ahoy there! The next Ren Fayre installment is up and running, covering our antics through to sunset on Saturday. Lots of pictures, including the bug-eating contest. You can start at the beginning or skip straight to the new stuff.
Good old slashdot pointed me to some neat articles in the NYT magazine about money. I found this bit, "Why America Will Always Be Rich" (registration required for reading), especially good at sparking my motor. I wrote the following response:
I actually found [the article] a little sickening, but also very difficult to refute. I've been thinking about this topic long and hard already after a recent trip to the Netherlands. Their country makes so much more sense than America in terms of infrastructure, land use, and even on some levels culture (e.g. live events are more popular than TV), and yet there's a certain spark over here in the US that just doesn't seem as present. For all the great stuff they've done with their nation, the Dutch struck me as generally bored, laconic, maybe even a little down in the dumps. And I know it's not just because their Football team didn't qualify for the world cup.
So this article does a good job of capturing That Thing (opportunity, real or perceved) that makes America glimmer, hum and sing, but it convienently glosses over the rough spots. I'm talking about things like the amount of trash we produce, the violent crime, or the soaring numbers of citizens who subscribe to anti-depressant prescriptions. You know, all the fscked up stuff that's wrong with this place.
The trouble with the cult of money is that as good as it is for getting people off their ass, it's an empty temple. There's no there there, no nirvana, no peace, only endless and relentless pursuit. I'm fine with this kind of thing in theory. It is, after all, all about the journey. We're still evolving as a nation, thank the constitution, gutted as it may be, but we're not there yet. That's why it's so important to keep the playing fields open (copyright law) and the spooks off our backs (civil liberties) and keep a careful eye out for the nasty leviathans that tend to rise up (anti-trust). If we declare this or any other time to be, as they used to say, 'the end of history', then we will surely go the way of the Romans.
In the end, I encourage the impulses that drive the consumer machine. How can I not? It's energy, and energy is the potential to make some of the wrong things right. We've all got a bit of that progressive energy in us. I just wish we were a little more progressive about how we applied it.
It's also over on /.
June 8th 2002 Trip Record
These are notes and thoughts from my recent one-week trip through the Netherlands. I've been writing a bunch since being forced offline (and now for a week onto lowly dialup) by moving apartments, and the completion of my ren-fare gonzo journalism is immanent as well. If you want a little context on my trip, you can check out the last few entries of may. I'll leave this up for a while until I get more fresh content cooking, then probably abstract it and place the whole thing at a deeper link.
The beautiful people, it seems, fly international. It's no shit -- the difference in average look between your common domestic flier (say, destination Omaha) and your connoisseur of trans-atlantic travel is vast. Maybe it's a class thing; takes a lot more dough to hop the pond.
Brits in the waiting area. They seem a pretty happy lot. The BA employees even seem of a higher caliber, dressing sharp and apparently taking pride in their labors. That's a real thing, being proud of what you do for a living. The shiny new terminal 7 at JFK is a sea of expensive perfumes and modern design. There's one domestic gate, good old America West, the redheaded stepchild of it all - the plain old American Phoenix-bound passengers clearly a bit uncomfortable in midst of this global future.
They treat me well on the plane. Nice chardonnay and edible food, friendly scottish stewardesses and a pretty nice film reel to keep me company in the north atlantic night. I catch "A Beautiful Mind" and there's Frank, plain as day. Exciting to see your roommate in an academy award winning film. He's good too! A non-speaking part, but the face says it all.
Change planes in Manchester. I'm the only one not wearing a suit on the 6am flight to Amsterdam. Not a big tourist timeslot I imagine. It's a tiny little plane, but they serve an honest English breakfast and enough coffee to keep me going for a few hours more. I haven't slept yet really, and it's getting to be around 3 or 4am NYC time when I finally get to baggage claim at Schiphol airport in the Netherlands.
British Airways has lot my bag, the bastards. I fill out a form, take my complimentary over-night kit and proceed to customs. Oddly, the kid who checks my passport looks exactly like Mark's younger brother. Uncanny. Anyway, it's easy to find my way around, and soon I'm in the front concourse of the airport, which also serves as a main train station. The whole place it supremely well-designed and easy to get around in. In minutes I'm on a train bound for Eindhoven and Joost's house.
The presence of intelligent design pervades my initial assessment of the country. I witness bike paths along all major roads, canals and rivers with room for barges, train stations with on-time and regular access to almost any point in the country. This is a nation of 18 million in an area smaller than Pennsylvania that doesn't have to import food. Much of the land was once under water. It gives me hope for the future of humanity, that we might learn to manage our space effectively enough to survive.
Thoughts on Culture
I spent a lot of my spare time there thinking about how much more sense the Netherlands makes as a country compared to America. The US is so clearly unsustainable, full of gross luxury and crushing poverty, pollution putting 2/3 of its residents at elevated cancer risk, drenched in slick media saturation and driven by ever growing credit card debts. Yet despite all that, there's a spark in America that's missing over there. People here are ambitious, or at least greedy. In the Netherlands they've designed the foundations for a utopia of sorts, but they all seem rather sad, or at least nonplussed, to be living there.
So I wondered a bit about why this is. When I commented on it to Frank upon my return, his response was interesting. "Of course they're depressed: their country's flat as a pancake and it rains all the time!" Though I'm sure geography and climate figure into the equation somehow, I just don't think it's that simple.
I started thinking about how there didn't seem to be much contrast in the Netherlands, and I mean in more ways than topology. It struck me how over there everyone was pretty much good-looking, but there were comparatively few standouts, how you didn't often see people who were really down and out, and at the same time if there were people around who were super-rich you didn't notice that either. Things just didn't get very extreme.
In contrast, an emblematic image of the US for me has always been the phenomena of Times Square, or rather The New Times Square. I first apprehended this the first time my mother visited me in New York. She was on a work junket and stayed at the Mariot Marquis and we were having a drink in the rotating bar on the 7th floor which looks out onto 44th street: smack into the pulsing neon heart of it all. Here you see the brightest corporate logos, the biggest televisions in the world, all the evidence of America's economic supremacy. And down in the concrete island separating the confluence of 7th Ave and Broadway there's a couple of can-people, huddled against the light with their bags and bags of 5-cent aluminum in a couple of cast-off laundry carts, layers of sweat shirts and ripped coats hopefully keeping off enough of the December chill to make the streets sleepable for the night. That's America, in all it's potential, promise and terrible crushing reality, all it's sickness and power and lumbering ugliness.
This seems to be a part of the equation too. Somehow that vast differential between wealth and poverty, the fable of John Rockafeller, creates potential energy, the potential for change, for advancement, for progress. It would seem however that in the current moment this sense of possible progress, this potential to move forward, has been fragmented, split into 250 million individual bling-bling self-help fantasies. For all the potential energy in America, there's an awful lot of entropy and friction chipping away at it. Gives me hope though, thinking about what we might be able to accomplish as a culture if we greased the gears and got someone with half a brain to steer this crazy train of a nation.
Life and Times Overseas
My ticket overseas came from work at logreport.org. We were showing up in force at SANE 2002 (that's the Systems Administrators and Network Engineers conference to you, bub) which is one of the bigger UNIX conferences in the Netherlands, and also getting together for a few days to talk about the future of our logreport venture. We're looking at a funding crunch sometime soon, and we all agreed that meeting in person would be the best way to deal with the tough questions. This would be the first time I met these guys in real life, at the "Logreport Summit". It was pretty successful. Not only did it pay for my ticket over there, but it was a hell of an experience, and we may just keep LogReport rolling for another year or three.
Since I'm still on limited access for now, you can get some photos of this part of my trip off Joost's webserver in Eindhoven. Check the links toward the bottom with the 20020529-20020601 date stamps. For some highlights, try this (Joost and Francis eating herring the traditional Dutch way), this (dancing at the social event: that's me on the right and Joost getting seriously down on the left), this (Wessel, the lone sober man on the way back from the social event, watching Joost sleep) or this (the whole team in Joost's idyllic back yard garden). You can get some other general photos from the conference (if so inclined) here.
The conference was a big success for us. We made a load of contacts and got a lot of helpful input from people. We also won the best poster for all the poster presenters (a field of 15) at the competition, which was quite an honor. I didn't know there was a competition when I designed the poster (thanks also to Mom for the pagemaker layout and PDF conversion help). As a prize we got one of Bill Cheswick's maps of the internet. Ches was the keynote speaker at the conference and we got him to autograph the map (a big poster-sized printout) for us. Who's got the juice now!
Travel Notes To Be Continued...
I'll catalogue my non-logreport portion of the trip, which includes visits with my friend Emily at her experimental dance school in Arnhem and a day-trip to Amsterdam, real soon now. Scouts Honor. Until then, salut!
Back in time to May