Showing posts with label Capitalism. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Capitalism. Show all posts

22 February, 2019

Reading the Grounds


Mick Parsons, #wellwornboots
Embrace the break in weather where you can. True, there are months when the last time you saw the sun feels like a dream; but when the rain break and there is a clear path, take advantage of it the best you can. [from Field Notes]

Even though I'm not bound to foot travel -- there is the bus, of course, and most recently, Mule -- I still like to walk. True, I could start up Mule and drive to a park and walk around a pre-designated track. I see merit in it, certainly for other people, because it's difficult enough to get exercise in a society that depends on us sitting in front of a computer, or staring at our phones, buying things. True, if you look long enough, nearly every aspect of the constructed reality we experience every day depends on commerce of some kind: whether it's the cappuccino I bought at the coffee shop today or the smiles my wife and I exchanged this morning before she left for work. But when I am not in motion in the world, there are fewer opportunities to see the world as it truly is instead of the filtered commodity that trickles in through my phone or my computer. When I am not in motion in the world, I'm not even certain the world exists.

Living as I do along the Ohio River, a once major artery of commerce of all kinds from coal, to slaves, to settlers, in a city whose very existence depended on commerce and The Falls that created a natural choke point for people to have to slow down and walk their boats through (Once Upon a Time), the metaphor and myth of commerce are a foundation upon which many myths have been  built.

But it's easy to let that take over... which is to say, it's easy to let that constructed reality dictate our
Mick Parsons #rubbertramp
Mule
our entire lives. And if the materialists are correct -- both the Capitalists and the Communists -- and we are simply matter in motion, then really, this constructed reality is nothing more than an increasingly complex maze we spend our days and nights in until one day, we stop moving and the maze moves on without us.

Unless there's something more. And when I walk around my neighborhood, or anywhere, and take in the sounds, the feel of broken cement underfoot, the vibrations of the coolish February air here in the grand divot that is the Ohio River Valley, I end up thinking of commerce as something more than buying and selling, more than money for sweat and blood, more than blood and bone in the name of man's most majestic and dangerous machination -- Contemporary American Society. 

This is why, I think, I am bound to travel whether I think I want it or not. A warm wind kicks up, the currents shift, and nothing is set right until I feel this world moving under foot. Because it's only in motion that this constructed reality shakes loose and the world opens itself wide for eyes willing to see, for ears willing to listen, and for hands willing to embrace it on its own terms. 


As old mystics read tea leaves
I flip my empty cup
open the heart, examining
the dark grounds and find
one more map towards
the river mouth and the sea.

Mick Parsons, #wellwornboots
The past is gone, the future is full.



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11 February, 2019

From Field Notes: I don't like Mondays (Tell me why)

Tim Wetherell's Clockwork Universe 
The Telex machine is kept so clean /As it types to a waiting world - Bob Geldof

There isn't an American alive who doesn't contend with clocks. They organize our lives: tell us when to wake up, when to eat lunch, what time we need to start our workouts, what time we have to make that meeting that would suffice as a well written email. My wife sets no fewer than 3 alarms to wake up in the morning. In addition to giving her  a sense of very much needed control over what is essentially beyond our control --she has to wake up, get moving, and be out the door to her place of work by 6:30 -- it also imbues the whole thing with a sense of ceremony. When she is on vacation and is  able to shut all three of them off, we do so with revelry and relief. When it's time to turn them back on, we do so solemnly and with as much stoicism as we can dig out of our unwilling amygdalas. 

I have a wind up alarm clock by my side of the bed that  I keep mainly for the sound. There's something in the tick tock of a clock that makes me feel like I'm closer to the mystical machinations of the universe -- a notion born out of the thoroughly Newtonian core of my brain that sometimes allows me to see the connections and tendrils and crystalline cogs that keep everything going. 

One of the blessings of my life is that I've been able to excise myself from the gravitational center of the time clock. I work project to project, which has deadlines. But those are more or less self-prescribed, or at least agreed upon. I'm bound to a clock when I travel, but that's really only dipping in to a world that is far more interested in schedules than I am. I tend to think of my life more in terms of rhythm than time. Time moves in whatever fashion it does and there's very little I can do about that, other than acknowledge it, imbue it with a certain amount of ceremony, and keep onward. But rhythm... that's something different all together. 

I like to think I live my life in Common Time. For those of you out there who don't catch the musical reference, Common Time is 4/4 or four beats per measure of music. (A measure is a marking of musical phrasing... but let's not get bound up here.) Most music you hear is in 4/4. It's the easiest and most commonly used... hence why it is called Common Time. You can play it fast (allegro). You can play it slow (andante).  All that matters is that the music goes on. 

Mondays are like time clocks. They tend to monopolize our lives because we've allowed them to. We obsess over Mondays ( and Fridays) like alcoholics obsess over booze and we've decided it normal because that's the song we were handed to play. We obsess over time to the point that our entire civilization has become a tug-of-war between trying to turn back time and trying to figure out how to spend it meaningfully -- or at least, giving ourselves plenty of time to binge Netflix. We're never really alone thanks to social media, but somehow people still manage to feel more lonely. We obsess. We mark time. We dread Monday. We pray for Friday... or maybe more specifically payday. We live for the weekends. Instead of rapture as the untenable and impossible to gauge end, we have retirement, which is just as untenable. But then Monday. And then Friday. And again. Tick Tock. Tick Tock.

Maybe it's time to smash the clock and get a new one. Maybe it's time to find rhythm and put away our Mondays and Fridays and all our somedays and retirement fantasies. 

But like anyone in the program will tell you, the first step is admitting you have a problem.



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08 September, 2016

Betrayed Testament: et schola vitae

Without realizing it, the individual composes his life according to the laws of beauty even in times of great distress. - Milan Kundera

Education is an admirable thing, but it is well to remember from time to time that nothing that worth knowing can be taught. - Oscar Wilde 

Life is a perpetual process of erasure.

This is the first fall semester since I moved to River City that I haven't had a single class to teach. When I went back to higher education I knew it was a safety move. Amanda and I talked about it more than once -- usually after the semester started to wear on me.  There was a point when I even thought that I could make myself happier as an academic worker by organizing with like-minded colleagues to address the problems I saw in the system: primarily, the exploitation of adjunct instructors as part of the corporatization of the last institution I could ever claim to love and respect.  

Well, that didn't work out, for a variety of reasons that I have already written about (Check the archive from last year for the  rundown on all that.) Kentucky labor flirts with Right-to-Work legislation like a $20 hooker who gets her price haggled down to $5, and because the Kentucky legislature interprets the NLRA as including higher education academic workers as exempt from basic labor protections, I had no real recourse when the legal department at the Kentucky Community Technical College System ordered my firing and banishment from every single KCTCS campus in the state of Kentucky.

This time last year I was teaching at the University of Louisville, where, in spite of the fact that only 17% of the total budget comes from state education appropriations, everyone was worried about the inevitable impact of Matty Bevin's budget hack-n-slash.  I had a schedule, but I was increasingly isolated from semi-like-minded colleagues. The semester wore on me. The lack of action, or reaction, and attempts to push forward any labor actions to improve the plight of my fellow academic workers. The internal politics of "the movement" were a grind, too; and so I came face to face with the number one reason why organized labor takes it in the back more often than not:

the radical left eats its own in the name of pointless ideological disagreements.    

Trying to manage a conversation or a planning session is, most of the time, like sitting through your basic department meeting.  Utter drudgery.

When the left is successful, they are because they set aside what can be considered deeply held convictions in order to focus on common goals and take on common enemies. Here in Kentucky, organized capital (READ: coal operators especially, but also corporate giants like General Electric and Yum!), with the help of now Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, has done such an effective job of convincing the working class it doesn't need unions that there isn't a single union coal mine in the state and both GE and YUM! have been complicit in driving down wages and maintaining an anti-labor culture.

Academic labor here in the Commonwealth, of course, has an even deeper issue in that most academic workers -- adjuncts -- refuse to acknowledge that they are a labor force and demand the same rights that trade unionists have fought for and kept for generations.

My permanent separation from The University of Louisville, and from higher education, was inevitable. When I wrote about it, I pointed out I was not given the bum's rush like I was from KCTCS. One adjunct with a (justified) paranoid streak was not a budget priority. Then again, students really aren't the priority there, either, so it was not surprising. 

I decided to walk away rather than let them leave me hanging in the perma-gray area of  "contingent labor." I haven't regretted that decision, though it does make for interesting conversational gaps with my father-in-law, who, to his credit, has not badgered me about my continued unemployed status. 

I cast a lot of nets these days. I work on my writing. I am putting together episodes for my new podcast Alidade: an audio map, that will start dropping around the middle of next month. I apply for jobs at least daily, none of which will probably call me back because even though I'm qualified they see a decade plus of a career in academics and disregard the fact that the first thing a neophyte scholar learns is how to learn. I'm exploring the limits of my incompetence in regards to general home repair, plumbing, and small engine repair.  The garden has been producing a lot of peppers and okra this year, and we're making plans to expand and alter our garden plans next year. We managed to go camping once this summer and I'm hoping to get out again before it gets too chilly. I've honed my backyard grill master abilities, and I'm on a regular workout routine. I build my life around embracing beauty and truth and creating a deeper and more meaningful connection to the larger and smaller world.

I miss teaching sometimes. But mostly, I like what I'm doing. When I say I feel like the institution of higher education betrayed me, I'm not talking about KCTCS or my decision not to allow the University of Louisville dictate my life to me. There was a time when a college campus was a safe space for me. I thrived there in many respects. I gained more than the education I went to get, and I learned more than I probably taught when I was teaching. 

The institution broke faith, but not just with me. They've broken faith with everyone -- with students, with full and adjunct faculty, and with staff.  And I don't really believe there's anyway to fix it from the inside, especially when the largest part of their work force keeps its collective head down and accepts being exploited as the price for being a "professional" instead of a "worker."







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01 October, 2013

Gator People Live In The River: Shut Down Smackdown, Cave RunStorytelling, Up and downdates

Loyalty to the country always. Loyalty to the government when it deserves it. - Mark Twain

Governments never lead; they follow progress. - Lucy Parsons


Well, they went and did it. The immortal game of chicken has resulted in yet another government shutdown. This will yield infinite public relations pundit points for the right as they scramble to find someone who can run for President in 2016 -- sorry, Ted Cruz, in all his Tex-Mex Tea Party Glory, cannot run because he is... in the parlance of the times... a Canuck.

The GOPers and T-Baggers will blame the White House. The Dems will blame the T-Baggers. Obama will stand resolute -- or not -- and either way his hand is played pretty much the same way. Those of use who question the usefulness of the government will search for signs and smoke signals in the landscape that the world will, indeed, move forward without the Beltway Bozos. 

My mind turns inevitably to a North Illinois agribusiness baron and good Rotarian-in-standing, who I had occasion to skewer in print for his absolute lack of humanity, Mr. Rod Fritz. Among the gems that have fallen from his sly, smiling lips as he rubbed his palms together waiting for a bushel of corn to top $8 so he could unload his hoarded store onto the market and make a killing, Mr. Fritz once pointed out that his life would not change at all except for he would not be required to pay taxes.

Of course, he had already cashed his yearly subsidy check. He had a full growing season plus the winter to ferret out a way to blame Liberals while buying out his less moneyed neighbors and bulldozing their houses. 

Mr. Fritz is unencumbered this morning, as are his fellow robber barons. The gold-hoarders, the multinational corporations who actually run everything and who have been waiting on this shut down for their own nefarious reasons, are not affected. And of course, we are all glad to hear it. There is nothing worse than watching a rich man cry over spilled money. 

The sticking point -- again -- is Obamacare, which I have pointed out numerous times is probably the biggest money grab by the insurance industry since deregulation. Please bear in mind -- they are not against a mandate requiring everyone to have health insurance, any more than car insurance companies are against the law requiring people to have car insurance. They are against regulation, and that is why they're pulling the strings of their bought pets in Congress to fight the ACA. 

But whether the T-Baggers win their pandering attempts to de-fund Obamacare, or whether the law stands, the insurance industry will be rolling in money. Rolling. Like a pig rolls in shit. If that metaphor is overplayed, then please insert this one: the insurance industry will be lapping up ill-gotten gains with all the fervor of a dog licking his own testicles.

You're welcome.

Also do keep in mind that while the insurance industry doesn't suffer, while the robber barons don't suffer, while the multi-national thieves don't suffer, there is a short list of folks who will:

  • Active and reserve military and their families;
  • Children and the elderly on SNAP (food stamps); 
  • People on Social Security;
  • People on Medicare and Medicaid;
  • People drawing unemployment benefits.

But since that is, after all, such a short list that in no way takes up the same amount of space as the primary campaign contributors for the schleps in Congress. If I'm missing any, please mention them in comments. I'm writing off the top of my head here in the south side bunker where I am waiting for the world to not end.

While the Beltway Bozos were going through the dress rehearsal for their version of West Side Story, The Traveller's Angel and I packed up the truck and headed east for a weekend of camping and storytelling at the Cave Run Storytelling Festival. We had a blast. On Saturday evening, there was a story slam and both of us put our names in. I somehow managed to get on stage, though they ran out of time before Amanda could -- which is a shame, since she would have shamed the three folks who won. I was beat out by a lady preacher who needs a man (her words, not mine), and old guy (who was actually pretty good) and an art student who pulled in a 3rd place victory largely because it's understood that students are charity cases.

A good time was had by all, and I heard some really amazing storytellers. We also had a chance to stop out at Willow Creek for a brief visit with the Eklunds, who are amazing friends and amazing artists and amazing people. We should visit with them more often than we do.






20 September, 2012

Southern Jaunt: Intermezzo - Useful

It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society. - Jiddu Krishnamurti

He has a right to criticize, who has a heart to help. - Abraham Lincoln


The Parsons family are all about working hard and doing what is needed to get ahead in life and be the best we can, and making a good life for our children, and serving our Country. what in any of that have you done or are doing? - Screechy Mary, Gun-running Cousin


The autumnal tinge in the air is telling me it's getting time to move on, and so is the calender. This time next week, the local magistrate will have backwards genuflected and any reverse broom-hopping will have been done. My return tenure at the paper will be more or less done --much to the glee of the grumps who are content to strangle the town into the nitrate poisoned dust. As the song goes


The chilly wind will soon begin and I'll be on my way....



As much as I've enjoyed seeing my friends here, listening to some great music, and getting the chance to tell a story or two, I'm ready to shake some the dirt off, stretch my legs, and get back out on the road. I plan on staying in the Midwest for a bit before jumping down to Albuquerque, New Mexico for Mothpocalypse and The Happy F%$^^in' Endings  on November 2nd-4th.  After that, back up to the Ohio Valley, for some Turkey Day celebrating with My Dear Sweet Ma, and then, another run through Kentucky, hopefully to visit friends, to the East Coast, where I'm hoping to see The Kid in between her school and work and generally impatient insistence on trying to be a GROWN-UP. And then, down the coast, to Florida, down to Port Charlotte -- where the beaches are warm, the water is beautiful, and there will be no snow.

At least, that's the plan. For now.

Because I'm still pondering flying against common sense and my own inclinations and going NORTH, to the Bakken Oil Fields in the Northwest corner of North Dakota to see what a boom town looks like... particularly in far off off OFF chance that Mitt Romney wins the election, since he would have us drilling even more than we are (even though Obama has allowed more drilling than GW Bush and we're taking so much coal out of the mountains that we've graduated from mine shafts to strip mining to mountain top removal ... that's TAKING THE TOPS OFF MOUNTAINS THAT HAVE BEEN AROUND LONGER THAN WE HAVE.) 

To be fair, it probably doesn't matter who's sleeping at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue -- they're both backed by  big banks, big business, and big pocketbooks. 

Please don't take this an opportunity to flood me with the virtues of Ron Paul. You want to see his virtue, look at his son, Rand -- named after Ayn "Fuck the Poor" Rand -- and listen to him after he's finished telling you he would abolish every government agency that you think is making your life miserable. He's a mook of the highest order -- a Libertarian who's too scared to use the label, his idea of America would effectively take us back to the dark ages.

But... North Dakota is still on my mind, yes. And so is the fact that I hate cold weather. But I am (re)learning -- constantly -- that the universe will blow me where ever it damn well pleases, and not always to my preference.

A motif that has been coming up... well...  since January ... is What I Plan on "Really" Doing. And even though I have, at various times, stated pretty clearly what I intend NOT to do... and even what I intend to do --which is travel, write, not buy into the dead myth of Pax Americana, love my country, question the government, meet good people, find stories worth re-telling, and (re)learn to play the guitar --  the question keeps cropping up, though in different words.

Mostly, people want to know what I'm going To DO... as in, what respectable job will I get. I feel I've been perfectly clear on this one as well.  But if anyone is confused, I plan to avoid anything that might cause me to be respected. To be respected in this society is to acquiesce to the rules and machinations of said society... regardless of how screwed up it is.

Fuck all that.

My hope is to be useful, though. And in spite of one recent Letter to the Editor which referred to what I do as "spinning lies for pocket change" (thanks, Nina for that. Sorry that you're such a lousy writer yourself and a miserable, bitter hag to boot.) I do think there is merit in paying attention. Because, if I'm being honest, that's pretty much what I do. I pay attention. To people. To stories. To poems. To songs. To events. To history. To you. 

I was also called out recently for shaming my father's memory and for not following one particularly bitchy relative's notion of what my family tradition is. Then again -- it seems like the Parsons family tradition has more to it than money grubbing and exploiting misinformation to make more money selling bullets to people who believe Obama is going to take away their guns. My dad didn't keep guns around. He didn't need them. One tongue lashing / lecture from him and you'd rather be shot. Believe me. My Dad DID tell me some stories, try and get me to think right about some things, and tried to keep me out of jail (Which would have been preferable to any of his punishments.)  He did things his own way more or less. He told me about my grandfather -- who did things his own way. From what I can tell, the only thing anyone on the Old Man's side of the family has in common is that we have nothing in common except that we do things our own way.

In this, then, I am not far off the mark, at least.

With any luck, I will find ways to be useful -- and not in some way defined by someone else. Generally I find that most problems, personal and otherwise, arise from language barriers. Useful is one of those words that people tend to define narrowly and with very little imagination.  When you begin defining language for yourself, when you begin defining the elements that impact your life in your own way, you cease being useful to a lot of people. This isn't necessarily a bad thing. 

What can be a bad thing is when you stop short of redefining for yourself what it means to be useful. Or, in the process of defining what it means, you forget that humanity is more important the terms people often use to define it.

  

13 June, 2012

Eastward-ish: Isn't That Just Spacial? - Tempe, AZ

I refuse to quote the First Amendment because no document can grant me what is mine already. - Quote from Mick's Travel Journal, Tempe, AZ


I've never heard of a revolution starting because people protested where the cops told them to. -Noah S. Kaplowitz


Traveling as I do means that sometimes, health and wellness complications arise. As you may recall in The Rash, Part 1 and The Rash, Part 2 , a run-in with some of the local wildlife residing at the Lewis and Clark Inn (Rapid City, SD), resulted a rash I (briefly) took for a burgeoning peanut allergy. I find that being back in the valley of the sun, my feet -- which have been out to get me ever since I learned to walk -- are once again deciding to give me 10 kinds of hell for

  1. Being where it's too fucking hot, and
  2. For wearing sandals because... well... it's too fucking hot, and  (Don't remind me it's not August yet. I'm not going to be hear for that hell. And save me commentary about dry heat. Stick your head in a heated convection oven and tell me how much better dry heat is.)
  3. For not getting enough salt.
It should be noted, for the record  and for any potential future posterity, that my feet have continued a slow and steady campaign against my person AT LEAST since the age of 8. The evidence is more than circumstantial. It's an air tight case demonstrating that my feet are trying to kill me. Or at least, trying to get out  of working... which, on a philosophical level, I can at least respect. 

Now, because I've twisted and NEARLY broken both my ankles, mostly without insurance -- and, as a result, mostly without post-tumble medical aid -- some occasional swelling is not all that unusual. Sometimes I twist one of my ankles without realizing it.... though wearing a good pair of boots when I travel helps enormously.But I noticed last night, while I was settling down for the night, that my right foot and ankle was swelled. No pain. Just swelling. Then I looked at my left foot. Not as much swelling. But it, too was getting that shiny, slightly reddish appearance of microwaved hot dog.

Upon doing some research on the ever reliable Google, I found that this condition is tied to the weather, my diet, and a change in the amount of salt in my system. I actually avoid too much salt, even preferring unsalted peanuts. My dietary habits as I travel tend to depend on cash flow and whether I'm in between or visiting someplace.  I've mentioned my preference for trail mix and fruit when traveling. I avoid the gastrointestinal nightmare of fast food whenever possible. When I cook, I do use salt, but I never add more than the minimum required. I don't touch the salt shaker either, except to maybe unscrew the top for some unsuspecting salt-aholic. I do like sea salt. But it's healthier... right?

But what I had forgotten, since I haven't lived in a frying pan for a few years, is that the sun, in addition to cooking you in your own juices, will actually take the salt right out of you. 

Really. No joke. Not even a folksy metaphor.

And when that happens -- when there's any drastic change in sodium in your body... sometimes there's swelling around feet and ankles. 

Today it was a little better. Then, when I arrived at the Tempe Public Library to blog and drink coffee in the Friends of the Library Cafe, Tempe Connections, I ate a bag of Doritos. There's still some swelling. But not as much. 

So, I guess it's true. 

Salt really does heal all wounds.

As long as it's not cardiac arrest. or Cirrhosis. Or Diabetes.

Anyway...

This Machine Supports Fascists 
Outside the doors to the Tempe Public Library, there's several shaded benches, nicely paved sidewalks leading to from the door to the parking lot and back. Tucked off in one corner, almost to the through road that cuts behind the City of Tempe Museum and in front of the library leading from Southern to Rural Road, there's a tiny tree. The tree isn't tall or wide enough to stand under, but a person can, theoretically, sit under it... either on the ground or by using a folding chair. In front of the tree, next to a spigot for the Tempe Fire Department, is the sign that inspired today's blog.

Now, I know what you're going to say, Dear Readers.

"This IS the United States of America."

Yes, it is. Gawd save the Republic.

"We DO HAVE a CONSTITUTION."

Yes. We also have toilet paper. What a 1st World Country we are!

"And the First Amendment says --"

Did you know the Constitution also refers to blacks as 3/5th of a person?

"Huh?"

"Yep. That could be why, whenever the Friends of  the Tempe Public Library run people out of the cafe for not spending money, they're usually black. Sometimes Mexican."

"????????"

But I digress...

Sometimes there's someone out here with a petition or two, looking for signatures from registered voters. Don't let the tree fool you. It's fucking hot. And usually, it's not the people who actually CARE about whatever the petitions are about; it's usually people earning next to no money... often they use the homeless, and college students and the under employed... who really know nothing about what they're pandering. 

Come to think of it... except for the homeless, the under-employed and the college students, that sounds like most politicians, used car salesmen, and reflexologists. 

But especially -- naturally --  used car salesmen.

I've been coming to the library for the past few days to blog -- free WiFi, the smell of a library, and the potential for maybe sneaking a few pages from some book or another that I haven't read in a while. (Today I'm hoping to read a little from a collection of Henry David Thoreau's journals from 1837-1861.) The past two days, there wasn't anyone standing in the Free Speech Zone. 

On Monday, though, there was a guy. He was camped out, had one of those comfy camping chairs with a beer holder in the arm rest, a small cooler, and a plastic bag of munchies. His teeth hadn't seen a brush in quite a while. The front ones he had left were a green color. Red t-shirt, cargo shorts, gym shoes with the soles nearly worn through, an old ball cap, and really really new looking sunglasses. 

I'm guessing they were considered an advance on his paycheck; though I did wonder if he was getting paid hourly or by "commission." (I met a hot college co-ed once at ASU who tried to get me to sign up for the Republican Party by flashing her very smooth very tightly bound tan cleavage and insisting ... with a pout that would make any 4 year old jealous... that she would only get paid by commission based on the number of names she came back with. I didn't. My affection for tits will only go so far.)

He was trying to get people's attention, but no one was buying. I remember watching this when I lived here before. It's easy to walk by, and because of the limited and appropriated nature of the The Free Speech Zone, those trying to get petitions filled, or trying to sell one idea or another, are more or less limited to the green space... that which isn't burnt to dust... between the tree and the sidewalk. They're not even allowed to walk on either side of or behind the tree. They can't step on the sidewalk, or find a shadier place close to the entrance. 

If I didn't know better, I'd think they were treating people exercising their Constitutionally Promised Right like pan handlers.

As an occasional freelance journalist/muckraker/hack, I know quite a bit about the First Amendment. It's supposed to protect the press, particularly when it's being critical of the government. By practice and precedence, this right has been extended to groups, and to individuals.

As long as you stand in a space that is marked, appropriated, or apportioned.

As long as you purchase a permit to protest -- in a place that is marked, appropriated, or apportioned.

The very notion of a Free Speech Zone implies that everything outside of it is NOT a place where free speech is allowed.  Think about all the places you have seen where free speech is "allowed." And now think about the immense real estate dedicated to... say... real estate development. The usury-style theft and resale of our natural resources back to us, usually including the destruction of other natural resources they don't  about because they haven't figured out how to make a buck on them yet. Think about the amount of real estate with TRUMP on it. 

And then think about how many free speech zones you've actually seen.

Then tell me again about the Constitution and the First Amendment.

Since I had some time to kill on Monday, waiting for the Orbit bus (free), I asked the guy in the Free Speech Zone what he was trying to get people to sign. He asked if I was a registered voter in the state of Arizona. When I told him I wasn't, he seemed disappointed, but told me, very quickly, that one petition was in support of adding a $0.01 sales tax in Arizona for education. (I knew that one would die. People would rather pay for fences than for better schools; that's true in Illinois, it's true in Arizona.) The other was a petition for open primaries... and other sundry stuff having, I'm sure, nothing to do with transparency in government. 

Which is, of course, an oxymoron.

Then again, the ballot box is one of those marked, appropriated, and apportioned spaces.

Isn't it?

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23 February, 2012

A Baboon In New York, Part 2.1: A Baboon on Wall Street

“Let Wall Street have a nightmare and the whole country has to help get them back in bed again.” -Will Rogers

"The point is ladies and gentlemen that greed, for lack of a better word, is good." -Gordon Gekko



Big Brother: Police Tower over looking Zuccotti Park.
There's a spot, when you're at the Staten Island Ferry Station, where you can see the Statue of Liberty. It's at a distance, in relief against the western sky and the choppy waves of the Hudson River. I don't know if I'll actually take the ferry out to see it and Ellis Island up close; it's one of Those Things That Tourists Do. I have no interest in being a tourist and I'm entirely too cynical about the condition of our country to get all touchy-feely about it.

But I'm getting ahead of myself here.

When Susan asked me what I wanted to see, I told her one of the things I wanted to see was Zuccotti Park, and that I wanted to go Wall Street, and maybe Time Square. Zuccotti Park was and is the location for the Occupy Wall Street Movement that has spread across the country. When it started in October, I was itchy to be here... but life intervened and I wasn't able to get here. Luckily, my very hospitable friend, Susan, was here to give me a sense of what was really going on -- because I sure as shit wasn't getting it in any of the media coverage.

The first thing I learned... something I don't remember being much discussed... is that the Zuccotti Park, in addition to being close to Wall Street, is located in the shadow of New World Trade Center.

The memorial for the 3000 people who died in the two towers is in the process of being constructed BEHIND two new towers. The construction of One World Trade Center (1 WTC) and another tower were delayed because of disagreements about design, planning, etc.


Sitting in Zuccotti Park, aka Liberty Plaza Park, staring up at the rising skyscraper, it struck me yet again.

We haven't learned a god damn thing.

3000 people die for no good reason, and the absolute best that we can come up with, other than a war in Iraq that made no sense -- in which the official number of American deaths is estimated to be 33,186 (antiwar.com)-- is a symbol that the business of America is and will always be BUSINESS.

(The actual death toll is probably higher. And if you take into account allies and civilian "collateral damage, the number is staggering.)

Since the encampment was destroyed by the city under the pretense of "cleaning it", most of the occupiers are finding ways to wait out the winter. Another interesting tidbit that was left out nearly all the ridiculously ineffective media coverage of the Occupy Wall Street Encampment -- technically, Zuccotti Park is joint Public/Private property.

In order to build a really tall building to house a Brooks Brothers store and a couple thousand anonymous offices no one gives a shit about, Brookfield Office Properties entered into an agreement with the city to make the Park into Public Space. And because it's Public/Private Property, unlike the other parks in New York City, it's open 24 hours. Thus, Liberty Plaza Park -- a place that was considered part of a 9/11 memorial --  was renamed for Brookfield Chairman John Zuccotti.

I guess you know you've arrived and conquered New York when you can put your name on stuff. And whoever has the most stuff wins.



Then again... there's always a bigger hair piece. Sorry Johnny boy.

40 Wall Street. Right down from the New York Stock Exchange
There's never a Magic Marker around when you need one...

This was as close as I could get. The whole area is blockaded and protected like Buckingham Palace.
... no paint filled balloons, either.

My initial impressions of Lower Manhattan were claustrophobic. Especially Wall Street. The labyrinth of skyscrapers and alley width streets block out the sun. The wheezing mechanical money heart of America thumps and bumps in the dark, hidden by long shadows. Light and air are expelled by the very nature of the place -- which probably explains why so many stupid things happen there.

           It's common knowledge that denying your brain oxygen kills you brain.
           It's common knowledge that an absence of sunlight causes sadness.
          It's not commonly known, however, that over time, the absence of air and light
          will strangle your soul. 

         And then, they name a park after you.

Being in Lower Manhattan on Ash Wednesday was an interesting experience. I'm not Catholic, and except for the fact that my name is probably still on a list buried in an ancient file cabinet at the Bethel Church of Christ in Bethel, Ohio, I'm not listed anywhere as a Christian -- Catholic, Protestant, or otherwise. 

I've made up my own label, primarily for reductive and Facebook related reasons: Zen Transcendentalism. All it means, Dear Readers, is that I believe we are more than what we are. I also believe that experience is its own sacred text -- more sacred than any text that's been handed down and re-translated through cultures and generations.

There's a great quote by Lenny Bruce that goes something like this:

"When you live in New York, even if you're Catholic, you're Jewish."


With all respect to Lenny Bruce, this may not necessarily be the case in Lower Manhattan on the first day of Lent. I saw so many men in tailored business suits and women wearing business couture with ash crosses on their foreheads that it seemed almost like part of the uniform.



Then again, it is derived from the ancient Jewish tradition of placing ashes on one's forehead to indicate mourning. So maybe Lenny Bruce had a point, after all.

The thing is, when you consider the mess that the Financial sector has made of this country -- spare me, please, from that tired adage about the business of America being the systematic rape and pillage of people's life savings or that other one about boot straps and S&M masks -- maybe they ought to be asking someone for forgiveness.

I mean, it can't hurt. Right?

(Cont. in Part 2.2)

[If you like what you read here, you can help by:
  1. Passing the link around.
  2. Graciously donating to the cause using the button on the right hand side of the screen, or by going to paypal.com and donating to mickp@gmx.com. THANKS FOR YOUR SUPPORT. If you DO decide to donate, I will mention you in the blog. Promise. 
  3. Contact Catherine Sellers at Greyhound, 415-331-6049. Tell them you are asking about a sponsorship when the operator picks up. When I go to Boston, I'm riding a Bolt Bus... which owned, or is in partnership with Greyhound. Any single guy will tell you... if you can't get the girl you want, go for the friend. You just never know.
THANKS FOR READING AND FOR YOUR SUPPORT!!]



16 February, 2012

Mr. Mick Goes to Washington, Intermezzo (Necropsy, Report #1)


“Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment.” - The Buddha



Real generosity toward the future lies in giving all to the present. --
Albert Camus






Just as I was able to hobble around on my left foot, last night I fell and hurt my OTHER foot... the ankle, to be precise... so I am spending today (again) on my hosts' couch... which is entirely frustrating. The ankle is fine... swollen, but fine. Having fallen many, many, many, MANY times in the past, I know there's no need to worry. The swelling has already gone down from last night, when I tripped walking up Georgia Avenue with my friend and host Eric Riley. I stepped off the edge of the brick sidewalk to make room for two women walking the other direction... one of whom was a not unattractive blonde in a short business skirt and high heels.

And here, I must confess -- though I am staunchly opposed to Capitalism, the women are hot.

And while that may not be definitive proof that chivalry is painful, it at least provides more evidence to suggest that at least some of the pain some men put upon themselves comes from sex and it's related mess.

I hobble forward -- metaphorically -- however, undaunted.

Prior to my first real tumble (no metaphor) in more than a year, I had spent several hours that afternoon in the East Building of the National Gallery of Art. My plan was to visit several sights of interest and report to you, Dear Readers, on it all; and that may happen yet, since no one knows what tomorrow brings. But I did know I had to go and see ONE THING, even if I didn't get to see anything else:


3 of more than 30 of the Seagram Murals.

Rothko has been one of my favorite painters for several years. Prior to seeing these up close, the color field paintings were my favorite. But now... at least at this point in my life... these are my new favorites.

These three are part of a series he painted as part of a 1958 commission for the Four Seasons in New York by Joseph Seagram. Rothko, notoriously OCD about how his work was shown, and feeling like a restaurant wasn't the proper place to show his work -- maybe out of fears that people would be too busy eating to really pay attention -- pulled out of the commission. But continued to paint the series anyway.

These three murals -- and really, all of Rothko's later work, including the color fields -- are all about boundaries for me. You see this more by comparing these to his other works; but the work is in all the fine detail. Sometimes he paints staunch impassible lines through which no color bleeds. In others -- like these in the National Gallery of Art, the colors bleed. (To see the difference, look at  these Rothkos at the Tate Museum of Modern Art.)

I sat in front of them for a little over an hour, taking them all in. It was something of a religious experience for me, sitting there

-- even with the insufferable noise of some stuck up art critic trying to impress his views on a much younger and thoroughly enraptured student about the "message" of a surrealist mural placed inappropriately near Rothko's murals.

The word that kept filtering through my mind was boundaries. Rothko battled them in his work, and in the end, when he sliced his wrists open and committed suicide in 1970. I've always fought them, too. Boundaries define us as much as they hinder us. As Americans, we have grown accustomed to boundaries... set by government, primarily... but also those boundaries set by other people.

And it is those I found myself meditating on.

I started this blog with the tagline:  NECROPSY OF THE AMERICAN DREAM. Okay, so I tend to be ambitious, and I'm still gaining momentum. Traveling around has always suited me. Visiting friends, seeing places for the first time or revisiting them with new eyes. You can't get a sense of the country you live in while you're on a guided tour. To really see it -- and to have a chance to experience it without someone else's interpretation -- you have to set out and see it.

One thing you begin to realize is that most boundaries mean very little except to others. State boundaries. County boundaries. City and town incorporation limits. Abstract. Nothing. They bleed, always bleed, whether provincially minded residents believe it or not. Every place I've been in my life, someone has said:

"That's the weather here in [insert locale, county, region, or state]. It can turn in 20 minutes." 

[Translation: the weather is never as predictable as we'd like.]

Boundaries bleed, and sometimes the blood is real. We have proof enough of that in every war in history.

I've been dealing with a sudden lack of boundary... which is freeing and terrifying and heartbreaking all at once.  And this first segment of my travels has been, in some ways, a methodical autopsy of the relationship.

But the boundaries bleed.  A marriage in America is about more than love. It's tied into tax money, real estate, visions of success and failure, manhood and femininity. Marriage in America, like it or not, is tied to our culturally driven definition of The American Dream. That's why political sex scandals are so interesting. Most politicians are married -- because the electorate like "family oriented" folk -- so when a politician gets caught diddling the intern or looking for anonymous gay sex in airport bathrooms, we become hyper-focused. Marriage -- and our conceptions of it -- is tied to everything.

And when a marriage is over, all of those things change.

For me, there's a still certain bitter-sweetness to all of it. 

Yet as I sat in front of Rothko's murals, the proof of his own struggle with the boundaries that defined and confined him, I began to reflect on the fact that even though I've been essentially decompressing and dealing with a complex amount of emotions, that I've also felt pretty good. Settled in my soul, somehow. Because while I may need to eventually find a place to store my books and keep my cat and have a place to write, I also just need to be able to go. 

P.S

If you're into Post WW II American Artists, it's worth checking out the Jackson Pollock they have in the same gallery as Rothko:

Number 1, 1950 (Lavender Mist)


This one, too, and the rest of Pollock's splash paintings, also remind me of boundaries; but we each have our own ways of fighting them.

P.P.S


(More today. Still.)



[If you like what you read here, you can help by:
  1. Passing the link around.
  2. Graciously donating to the cause using the button on the right hand side of the screen, or by going to paypal.com and donating to mickp@gmx.com. THANKS FOR YOUR SUPPORT. If you DO decide to donate, I will mention you in the blog. Promise. 
  3. Contact Catherine Sellers at Greyhound, 415-331-6049. Tell them you are asking about a sponsorship when the operator picks up. At this rate, they're losing my love to Amtrak.
  4. NOTE: My next stop will be NYC, and then Boston for a long weekend. After that I'll be swinging back through the Midwest to in order to take care of business in Illinois and to gather steam for a push west. Stay tuned.

02 November, 2011

Truck Day Blues


Yesterday morning, I was waiting for my wife to get ready so she could drop me off at the newspaper office, one town over. Tuesday is Truck Day. That means I drive the company panel truck to Sterling, where they're printed, load most of the bundles in the box and deliver them to the post offices and news stands. It's not a bad gig 80% of the time. One day a week, I get $10 an hour to drive around and haul newspapers. And for some reason, as annoying as being up early is, one of the moments I enjoy in the day is walking into the warehouse and getting that first whiff of newsprint.

I have no idea why.

But while I was waiting, I decided to turn on the TV. Most of the time, I watch ESPN. Just because. A lot of times I regret having cable... mostly when the bill comes due … but I do like ESPN. There's something about it that just makes me feel … I don't know... connected to the universe in some ball scratching, Al Bundy sort of way. This particular morning, though, they were talking about the World Series, and I could seriously give a shit less since I wasn't invested in either team. I'm against Texas on principle, but I have no geographic love or hate for St. Louis, though I do vaguely remember their bus station. (Please see The Greyhound Quarto for further explanation.) Flipping around trying to find something else, I ran across MSNBC and Morning Joe with Joe Scarborough.

Keep in mind that not only do I not watch Morning Joe, I tend not to watch or listen to news first thing in the morning. And no, it's not because I don't care about what goes on in the world – I do. I find my news from a variety of sources and a variety of perspectives. But I have learned – maybe because I'm in the news business – that watching, listening, or reading news first thing in the morning does nothing but sour my day and my mood. Early morning news is a combination of current event memes for the memory impaired that is often mistaken for hard news (Kim Kardashian's divorce, for example... not only is it fluff, but it shouldn't count as news. After all, does Good Morning America report every time the sun rises?) When I tuned in, though, I found former NBC Nightly News Anchor Tom Brokaw on talking about his new book, and spouting, as Brokaw often does, his thoughts on how things are going in America.

One of the things I like about Brokaw is that he's one of the few left from his business who understands the importance of context. For some reason, the American people have gotten in their heads that the news ought to be objective, without context. And naturally, which ever news outlet most reflects their views (this is true all philosophical and ideological bents) is the one given the prestigious label of “objective.” One of the things about Brokaw is that he spent so much time in the corporate media machine that the context for all of his criticism is a Post World War II 20th Century America. Rather than looking at the whole, trying to wrap his brain around history as more than Manifest Destiny, he ignores the fact that most of what we're dealing with in the Post American Century is the bullshit byproduct that's been left behind to fester since the original 13 signed off on the U.S. Constitution.

The gist of the conversation as I tuned in – as described by the caption at the bottom of the screen – was that Americans need to “re-enlist as citizens.” He went on to explain that real leaders – the people he writes about in his new tome, I guess – are people who led through action, who came up from among the people. He bemoaned the absence of “larger than life” leaders who could capture the minds and imaginations of his fellow Americans.

And I had a few thoughts, which I'll list here:

  1. “Re-enlist”... a militaristic term. Maybe we ought to consider the possibility that being in some army or another is the problem.
  2. People DO need to be directly engaged in and with their community and their country... as individuals coming together for the common good. (This, kids, is the root of all civilization.)
  3. Brokaw's critique regarding the absence or need of “larger than life” leaders is incorrect. The issue is that corporate media empires like NBC and MSNBC (wholly owned subsidiaries of General Electric) ignore them in favor of spouting non-controversial public relations reports they claim are true news reports.
  4. Underlying every argument Brokaw has made since he wrote about World War II is “These kids today... what pussies!” Maybe if he were talking to them instead of a table of talking bobble heads, he might get more of the reaction he's looking for. Or if he was paying any attention at all to current events.

That was before the coffee kicked in... which it did somewhere on Benson Road between Lanark and IL-40 headed towards Milledgeville.

19 October, 2011

“What a world you must live in.”


Here's the thing: people are like cats. I suspect that's why people hate them so much. People that tend not to like cats say it's because they're dog people (I always imagine McGruff The Crime Dog and some Planet of the Apes scenario.) Some people think cats are just too sneaky. Some think cats are to feminine and flighty – including some newly minted feminists who haven't read or thought about what feminism actually is. But As critters go, human beings are incredibly predictable in at least one way: we tend to like things that mirror the attitudes and attributes we'd rather have, instead of those we actually have. And because there is no yin without a yang, no Starsky without a Hutch, no Cagney without a Lacy, it is also true that if we like the people and places and things that represent what we aspire to, then we hate the people and places and things that remind of who (and what) we really are.






Which is why most people don't like cats. They're too much like we are.

Now, don't get me wrong. We should always aspire to be more, to be better. Of course, we're short of heroic icons in these modern times. Two of my heroes, Utah Phillips and J.L. “Red” Rountree – are both dead and have been for some time. I was introduced to the stories and songs of Utah Phillips in my early 20's, and it was through him that I began to learn about the long memory he sang and talked about – the memory of workers, organizers, unions, anarchists, pacifists, agents of change... and those those who believed in and harnessed the positive power of chaos... such as Albert Parsons, Big Bill Heywood, Joe Hill, and Ammon Hennacy. I chose as my heroes those who embody those ideals I believe are important and that I hope to better exemplify and live by in my own life. Red Rountree was maybe the last of the philosophical bank robbers. He didn't hurt people, and believed in having fun. He also had a deep grudge against banks.


But it's difficult to get around that fact that most people are like cats. Cats are moody, territorial, and dislike having their routine interrupted. I have two cats, and if their daily ritual is maligned in anyway, they simply don't know what to do. And people are the same way. We like our rituals, our patterns, our hegemonic convergence that defines each and every day of our lives. We like it so much that even if we become unhappy, we live with it.

And if we're forced to face the idea that something has to change, we look for a way to change as little as possible, lest we upset our all so sacred routine.

Which is, of course, the problem people have with the Occupy Wall Street Movement. At it's core, it represents the idea that something has be done to change the inequities that most of us life under. This means not just adding new rules. It may mean throwing the old rules out and starting from scratch. Because the problem isn't just that the rules aren't fair. The problem is that in America, the Golden Rule – “He who has the Gold makes the Rules” is the only rule that matters. It is upon that rule that Capitalism is built, and it is for that very reason that Capitalism is a wholesale failure as a social, political, and economic model. We have lived under it so long that people have forgotten that Democracy – the idea that all people are equal and deserve and equal voice – has been consumed by Plutarchy and Capitalism.

Keep in mind, not all #occupywallst folks are anti-capitalists. But they do recognize that something's fucked up. And they're willing to do something about it. It's not a revolution, that's true. But maybe... just maybe... it is a kind of evolution.