Tuesday, August 26, 2008

White Shoes?

I am on vacation until next week.
So I will see you after Labor Day.
Credits: That is the sign the Daily Show put up for the Republican Convention.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Petroleum Sunset

The Olympics are gone
Long live the Conventions
Obama does well with the technical routines
Let’s just hope he nails the dismount
I’m sure the commentators
Will be just as snarky as Costas
Meanwhile the campaigns
Are still willing to take your gold medals
During this critical time
And I’m sure the media
Will get lots of sympathy shots
Of the old favorites, the Clintons
Edged out by the young newcomer
The cameras love tragedy
As much as they love victory
Credits: Words and Collage by Jay Larsen,
Still just a spud boy, looking for a real tomato.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Music Killer

Music Killer
In the wires
In the home
I started this
You can’t even finish it
Seen him in the streets
Like most things
Fa fa fa far better
Vain and blind
In the wires
In the home
Cut me in half
Give me a bandaid
Music Killer
Credits: Words and Collage by Jay Larsen

With appologies to Adam Ant and David Byrne
Camo Chick Photo from my Brother's Blog

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Watching the Olympics

Watching the Olympics in China
Doesn’t make me unique
Just one of many sitting in their couches
Watching Bob Costas snipe
While pretending his insults are
Just done as part of the fun
Just watching young athletic bodies
Do amazing things
While eating another bowl of ice cream
Just watching hour after hour
And knowing I am seeing just a bit
A tiny itty bit of what is going on
Just watching years of hard work
Boil down to seconds on the track
Or the pool or the court
Amazed at what people can do
When they focus and try hard
Amazed at the winner’s success
Wishing the camera would linger longer
On the faces of those who came in
Second, Third, Forth, Fifth, Sixth, Seventh,
Eighth, Ninth, Tenth, Eleventh, Twelfth
(You get the idea)
Watching the commercials
Fast-forwarding past the commercials
With my DVR
Just watching and wincing at the pain
Inflicted on the bodies and minds
Of people trying so hard
To live up to expectations
Just watching the ability of people
People from all over the world
To come together and play together
Just watching for the brief glimpse
Beyond the barricade or the studio wall
When you see unscripted life
Happening in Beijing
Watching and feeling connected
Yet isolated by the TV screen
Just watching too many hours
Of the Olympics
And knowing I will miss them
When they are done
Words and Collage by Jay Larsen

Monday, August 18, 2008

Chipping Away

Keeping my eye on the ball
Cuing up my shot
Or am I teeing off?
Shut up and swing
Kung-fu sound effects
Only in my head
But I keep chipping away
At this monkey puzzle box
Dented and scratched
Dusty in an unused corner
I try not to think about what
That curiosity was originally for
Splitting infinitives
Spilling milk and crying foul
If only in my head
But I keep chipping away
As life chips away at me
Take away everything that I am not
And what do you have?
Cue me up like a billiard ball
Used in too many bar fights
Tee me up
Piss me off
Shut up and take your best swing
I may be a block head
But I keep chipping away
At this monkey puzzle box
Credits: Words and Collage by Jay Larsen
"Every day the bucket go to the well, but one day the bottom will fall out." by Bob Marley

Friday, August 15, 2008

Reading: Little Brother

Review of the novel Little Brother by Cory Doctorow

1984 by George Orwell is a classic political and sociological novel. Orwell’s book was meant as a warning. Unfortunately too many political leaders have used it as an operations manual. But at least we have words like “Orwellian” and “double-speak” to use to describe the actions of groups who want to put us all under surveillance and use twisted language to tell us that losing our privacy means being free.

If there is any justice in the world, Little Brother, the new novel by Cory Doctorow, will be just as influential as Orwell’s classic. Little Brother is set in San Francisco in the very near future after a terrorist attack on the Oakland Bay Bridge, and follows the adventures and misadventures of high school student Marcus, known online as w1n5t0n (pronounced “Winston”). Marcus and his friends get swept up in a Homeland Security dragnet and are held and interrogated as terrorist suspects.

Unlike Winston in 1984, Marcus’s attempts to fight back and subvert the system are a little more effective. But I don’t want to give away the plot.

Doctorow tackles all the tough issues of post-911 America, surveillance, security, the Bill of Rights, Constitutional authority, extraordinary rendition, and much more. Marcus and his friends, teachers, parents are all very real characters that have to make hard decisions in the face of real terrorism and real fear. There are no clichéd heroes and villains in this book, just people making decisions, hard decisions.

Little Brother should be required reading for citizens young and old. It is gritty, harsh, funny, scary, and heart rending but above all hopeful.

Read It! You can download it for free at Doctorow’s website. Or buy it.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Fire Made of Bones

A fire made of bones
Sings from a hill
Overwhelmed by
The clatter of clichés
Cascading down
Bell Mountain
Hear it ring
As the bones sing
Of the giddiness
Inherent in amnesia

A centaur full of memory
Weaves a tale of heroes
Stopping from time to time
To sip his medicine
To ease a back
Aching from the insistent
Pull of gravity
Gypsy girls threaten
To steal his hunting horn
If he does not craft
Bangles to adorn
Their giddy forms
Unsuited to his union

A fire made for bones
Dances on the hill
Overwhelming the clink
And clatter of coins
Thrown at the feet
Of dancing gypsy girls
Hear the centaur moan
As they warm the bones
And sing and dance
For forgotten heroes
Credits: Words and Collage by Jay Larsen

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Gratitude, Idiots, Resistance, and Attitude

My friend Steve asked me a question after the last post:
> How much better would every aspect of the world's existence be if each day
> people were aware of selfless acts that make the world better and looked at
> the positive that occurs simultaneously with the negative? It would be
> immeasurably better.
> But I just had a thought. Since growth takes place in the face of
> resistance maybe idiots and their effects are a necessity for our growth just like
> air and food. And if that's the case should I be just as grateful for them as
> for clean mountain air and a delicious crab? Because I have a hard time
> feeling that.

Carlos Castaneda was told by his teacher Don Juan Matus that he was a fortunate man to have found a worthy adversary, an enemy who could test him to the core. Don Juan told Carlos that withstanding life’s challenges with unbending intent was the only way to walk the “path with a heart”. Only a worthy opponent can blast your world to pieces. Teachers and friends will always show you mercy. Only a true adversary could take you past your limits and enable you to experience the impeccability of your free will. (Note: all of this is from memory of books I read 20+ years ago. I’m too lazy to look it up.)

Most of us don’t have a “worthy adversary” or even an “enemy”. We just have encounters with dopes and mean people. Does that mean you have to be “grateful” for the idiots of the world and the shitty things people do to you? I don’t know that there is a simple yes or no answer to that question.

Yes, I find it incredibly helpful to balance my otherwise pessimistic world view with a frequent survey of all the selfless and supportive things ordinary people do every day. Many of those actions go unnoticed yet they still have a helpful and nurturing impact on my continued existence. I think the media (news and entertainment) tend to focus on harsh and violent aspects of life too much. But there are still examples of good news and plenty of opportunity for observing goodness and love first hand. And it is humbling and gratifying to notice the countless beings who contribute to my life, enjoyments and health every day. It is easy to feel grateful for the beings who serve you dinner when you are hungry.

But it can be difficult to feel gratitude for the actions of idiots, fools, enemies and the blind forces of nature that cause you problems or knock you down or injure you or deprive you of comfort and loved ones. Things and people can hurt and kill you, and often do. Yet overcoming those obstacles, those situations often causes us to grow in ways we had not imagined before. That growth often makes us into better human beings. But should we be “grateful”? Good question.

Too much blind acceptance of whatever happens probably isn’t a good thing. So baseless unthinking “gratitude” for the guy who just kidnapped you, may not be good. But too much unthinking “resentment” for the guy who imprisoned you 20 years ago probably isn’t good either. Somewhere in the middle I think you can be honestly pissed off that you have been injured by someone. Work to withstand those challenges with your heart intact. And then you can be honestly “grateful” for the strength of will you developed under those harsh circumstances, even as you fight with all your passion to make sure no one has to be subjected to imprisonment again.

Even the idiots of the world contribute to your environment. And we can be “grateful” for the richness of our environment. We can be “grateful” for the precious human life that allows us to experience such a wide range of spectacle, emotion, sensation and thought. You may not find it easy to feel “grateful” for the idiots in your life. But you can marvel that some part of you thinks maybe you should or could be equally grateful for clean mountain air and that asshole that mows his lawn at 5:30 am every Saturday.

For me personally, I know I can’t control the billions of things that go on in my environment. But I have found that I can make choices about how to respond to things in my environment. Mental and emotional habits can be hard to break, but by turning my attention on them I can often derail harmful habits early and encourage helpful habits. Attitude has a lot to do with happiness and satisfaction. Good things happen in the world. Bad things happen in the world. Joy happens in me. Anger happens in me. I can give them their brief and natural time on the mental stage and remain undamaged. But when I chain myself to either of them (joy or anger) and imprison them and replay them over and over again I miss out on so much and always feel drained and diminished. I drag myself through some hard depressing episodes despite all I have learned, sometimes for minutes, sometimes for months or years. But eventually I remember how to let go and clear the stage for the next performance for the next chapter of life. On good days I let go quickly. On bad days I don’t. But I am grateful that I always remember eventually.

I find myself recently being grateful for friends who ask good questions. Hopefully I didn’t answer them. But I had fun pondering them.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Through My Car Window

The American automobile is designed to isolate
In the name of freedom we lock ourselves
Into metal cans with powerful engines
We filter and condition the air
We dampen the sound from outside
And fill our movable terrarium with
Stereophonic sounds from CDs, tapes
And radio waves terrestrial and satellite
Then we stop relating to others on the road
As actual human beings like ourselves
And instead we rage and bully our way
Through streets congested with
Asshole Pontiacs and Fucking Dodge Trucks

But even from this vantage point
While listening to the morning news
I managed to see some real people
Through my car window
This is what I saw this morning:
A woman pouring birdseed into a feeder
I can’t imagine she will make a profit doing that
A couple picking up trash as they walked
They weren’t wearing uniforms
So I doubt they were hired by the city
But the city looked better for their efforts
An elderly woman taking a toddler to the park
That couldn’t have been her child
But she was taking him to the park to play

What do you make of that?


Credits: Words by Jay Larsen
Yes, I really saw those things this morning on my way to work.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Black Star News Company

Black Star News Company

Catastrophe Commerce
Peddlers of the news cycle
Shining a light on current events
But at such a frequency
That it highlights the dark
With moments of glitter
And flash that makes the shadows

Disasters, Portents, Doom
Violence, Theft, Fraud
And did we mention Violence?
The dark images
The dark words
The darker innuendos
Keep the news cycle spinning
Around the Black Star

Somehow the gravity
Of the news cycle
Keeps billions of people
Queasy and inactive
They believe projected images
And become blind
To what is beneath their feet
And in their hearts

Yes, there are disasters
And emergency relief
Yes, there are thefts
But countless more give
Parents give to their children
Neighbors give to their neighbors
Friends give to their friends
Strangers give to strangers
Look and see it

The Earth holds us
Gives us a place to stand
Ancient cycles of life
Replenish our air, our water
We are interconnected
Supported by and supporting
Each other
Every day a million people
Do not hit me with their cars
Every day ten thousand people
Do no violence to me or mine
Every day uncounted people
Support me with food, clothes,
Information, services, companionship
And even love
Our Sun gives such a light
That I wonder that we are so prone
To being dragged down
By the Dark Star News Company

But I am just reporting
You decide
Credits: Words and collage by Jay Larsen

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Crude Arguments

Yes inflating your tires properly will reduce your gas consumption.
No, that is not the entirety of Obama's energy plan.

Yes, if oil companies drill new wells off the coast of America there will be more oil eventually.
No, that is not the entirety of McCain's energy plan.

But this is the part the Main Stream Media is not covering:
Just because the wells are on or near America, does not make that American oil.

The oil will belong to the oil corporations, Exxon, Mobile, etc..

The MSM and the Republicans act like all that oil will be American oil, that it will cut down American dependence on foreign oil.

But they are not talking about nationalizing the oil companies (that would be political suicide for a Republican).

All the oil taken out of the ground or the sea bed by the oil companies goes on the global oil market. Exxon can and will sell that oil to the Chinese or the Indians or the Russians. The new oil will only effect America as much as it effects the global oil market (which won't be much of an impact).

So properly inflating American tires will make a difference for American energy consumption.

Drilling new wells offshore will add a tiny amount of oil to the global oil market.

So which candidate has American interests in mind?

And which candidate has oil company interests in mind?

And who do the MSM corporations have in mind?


Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Clear as a Bell

The butterfly sleeps well

perched on the temple bell...

until it rings.


To cover one's ears and steal the bell.

-- Zen Saying

Happy Hiroshima Day?

August 6th is Hiroshima Day, the 63rd anniversary of the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima, Japan. That attack, and the bombing of Nagasaki three days later, remain the only nuclear attacks on civilians in history. The only country to drop the bomb on humans is the United States of America.


True Majority did the video

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Swimming Against the News Stream

Don’t think for a minute that the Main Stream Media (MSM) doesn’t have a particular story that they want to tell (make that SELL), a particular narrative that makes you react in ways consistent with their interests.

For all the good it does me, I try to swim against that stream when things in the MSM story don’t match up over time. So here are some of my recent MSM Things in the Stream that make me go hmmmm? (or more correctly WTF?)

Anthrax Guy:
The Feds just paid off their old public suspect in the Anthrax case (to the tune of 5+ million dollars). Part of the settlement is that they guy can’t talk about the investigation and the FBI doesn’t have to go to court, where records are still public. Then said Feds announce that their shiny new suspect just killed himself and now they might close the case without presenting evidence to a grand jury, where records become public eventually. We are supposed to believe that recently and conveniently dead scientist guy was behind all those mailings of anthrax to Democratic politicians and we are supposed to ignore the fact that said scientist was a registered Democrat.
Can we prove the recently deceased was set up? No. But will the FBI have to prove he was guilty? No. Hmmmmmm…

Military Tribunals:
Finally the Pentagon is beginning to hold trials for all those guys locked up in GITMO. That’s good news, right? If they are guilty, they get punished. If they are innocent, they will be let go. No. The Pentagon says that despite the outcome of these tribunals the status of these men as “enemy combatants” will not be changed. In other words, if Osama Bin Laden’s driver is found “guilty” his time served so far (5 years + so far) will not be applied to his sentence. And if he is found “innocent” that will not change is “enemy combatant” status and he will continue to be held indefinitely at Guantanamo Bay Cuba by American military personnel.
So, these prisoners might get executed because of the out come of these tribunals, but no body will be released.
Justice, you ask? Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmm…

The Tight Presidential Race:
The MSM insists night after night that the Presidential Race is too close to call. Yet Obama’s voter registration drives in all 50 states are ignored. Surveys only call cranky old people who don’t have caller id on their phones. And nation-wide surveys don’t count in the Presidential Race, Electoral College delegates are what count (that and the Supreme Court). According to most of the Electoral College counts done by non-MSM organizations (including right-wing groups) Obama is leading by any where from 68 to 137 Electoral Votes.
Obama McCain Margin
Real Clear Politics 322 216 Obama +106
Electoral-Vote.com 316 209 Obama +107
FiveThirtyEight.com 303 235 Obama + 68
Pollster.com 284 147 Obama +137
AVERAGE 306 202 Obama +104
Last time I checked, +104 Electoral Votes makes you President of the United States.
That is not a very close race. So why is the MSM telling and retelling this close race story? Do they expect enough Election Day shenanigans, enough voter purging, enough electronic machine hacking, enough denial of service to make this a “close race” at the last minute? Close enough that the Supreme Court can call the winner again? Do they need to prime the pump so that the expected “official” results seem reasonable and expected on November 5th? Hmmmmmm….

Experience vs. Celebrity:
People are just fascinated by Obama. But he is just a celebrity. He doesn’t have any real experience. Only John McCain has real experience.
Well if McCain is so damned experienced, how come his campaign commercials are so ham-fisted? Why has McCain’s campaign been the one on the rails so many times, running out of money, turning over staff, changing strategy? He has campaigned before. He has been an elected official for 28 years. Why can’t he bring all that experience to bear on the campaign? What, didn’t getting shot down in a plane give him the experience he needs to run an effective campaign? Maybe hiring all the sleazebags that ran Bush’s 2000 campaign will help?
Meanwhile, Obama has run one of the most efficient and effective campaigns of my life time. His staff has been stable. His message has been consistent. His ability to excite the voters and to raise money has been incredible. But we are supposed to believe that he has no experience and that his success is just due to celebrity. We are supposed to believe that a Constitutional Lawyer with experience in local, state and federal government is an untested neophyte with no ability to lead or organize people.

The Housing Crisis:
The “housing crisis” has undermined our economy. All those people borrowing money they couldn’t pay back for homes they couldn’t afford are dragging down the system.
There is no “housing crisis”. There is a mortgage investment problem fueled by Wall Street and enabled by the Banking Industry. The Wall Street wizards told Congress and the people that we were too stupid to understand how their financial instruments work, so we shouldn’t even try to regulate there profit taking activities. They skimmed off all the profits of the “housing bubble” as their demand for more and more mortgage activity drove up the price of housing for all of us. And now that their scheme has fallen apart and they are losing money, they want government welfare for their Wall Street firms and mortgage banks to cover their losses. They weren’t willing to share their profits, but they are willing to let us cover their losses. Is that “free market capitalism”? No. That is “oligarchical socialism” (where the rich few get government handouts paid for by the taxes paid by the many poor citizens).

The Rants of Bloggers:
Has this new medium changed the way people get their news and information? Does the ranting of some obscure blogger make any real difference? Can bloggers, who post what ever crap they want for free, compete with the corporate budgets of the MSM? Hmmmmmmmmmm….



All words spun off the top of my head.

Research done: 0, zero, nada, none.

References: none, zip.

Don't believe anything I say. Go check your own facts.

But don't believe CNN either without double checking.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Russian Tea

Russian Tea
Masks in place
Prepare for the drill
Rushing TEE
Toward the brink
Russian Tea
Too forward I think
Masquerade disgrace
Propose we read the will

Credits: Words and Collage by Jay Larsen