Archive for November, 2003

I don’t believe we should delve too deeply into the subconscious. The inside of our head is a very slipperly slope…we may reach the bottom, but how then do we return?

Somewhere in the recesses of our head is the motivation for our actions. The serpent of our desires is always slithering around in there somewhere, lurking about, affecting our decisions.

We weigh pros and cons, mull about, converse with friends, dilligently research…and think we arrive at a “rational” decision.

But that snake in your head is making a mockery of you. It pushes you to weigh the pros as more important through the cons be more numerous, to mull about for the correct period of time, to converse with friends that reinforce what you want to believe, to research the idea that supports your subconscious desires.

I believe in free will mostly. I am free to write these words after all. They are not predetermined.

But if you put a rat in the middle of a tube with food at one end and nothing at the other, the rat will move towards the food. It assumes in its little rat head that it made a decision. (I am not a licensed rat psychologist.)

We see that the rat is simply responding to a food incentive, that it will always make the decision to go towards the food. In effect, it is not deciding, but responding to stimuli in the same way plants grow towards the light. The rat is not making a decision any more than the plant is……anymore than we are.

Rationality is what we use to justify the decisions we’ve already made…or have been made for us, depending on how you look at it.

Of course, this does have some bearing on my life otherwise I wouldn’t be thinking about it. The problem lies in the number of serpents. If there were just one, how easy then would it be to make a decision? The number of competing desires and the degree to which those desires disagree with each other can cause some serious dissonance.

It is truly a den of snakes in my head.

Comments No Comments »

I read the Ten Pillars of Wisdom years ago. It is from that book that I take one of my favorite quotes:

All men dream, but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find that it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dream with open eyes, to make it possible.

I once visited Wadi Rum and Aqaba while living in Israel in 1997…or maybe it was 98. I went to Jordan to see Petra, which was in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Wadi Rum was far more impressive although it was semi-accidental that I went.

Lawrence of Arabia is a very long movie, split into two parts by an official intermission. I saw the first half years ago in Wadi Musa at the Petra Hostel, where I am sure they still show it nightly.

The second half I watched for the first time tonight. It is one of the most amazing stories I could ever conceive: that a man could lead an entire race of people, to which he didn’t belong, through sheer strength of will for no other reason than to feed an ego that he feared and a belief in himself that threatened always to swallow him up. And yet you knew his love of Arabia was real at the same time.

It is a similar story to that of Kurtz in the Heart of Darkness, yet not so allegorical. The story of T. E. Lawrence is true. Crazy.

Comments No Comments »

Last I checked I am still human. Although we all love to maintain that we do not need external reinforcement of our opinions and lives, it is still nice when you get it.

A Mr. Frank Furedi has written a book, reviewed here, that restates much of what I have been screaming on this web site for over a year, using nearly identical language even.

I thought it particularly relevant because my last post touched on similar themes…albeit from a different angle.

Some of you may think, “What difference does it make?” My answer is that to me it makes a very big difference.

As a whole, these are the ideas that make up my life and I would like to see a future that is better than the present, one where our most treasured human values are still treasured.

Comments 1 Comment »

Albert Einstein said in 1954 (near the end of his life): “If I would be a young man again and had to decide how to make my living, I would not try to become a scientist or scholar or teacher. I would rather choose to be a plumber or a peddler in the hope to find that modest degree of independence still available under present circumstances.”

Mr. Einstein is a very smart man with a unique insight into the human psyche. Though even he would admit that longing for freedom from the demands of being an internationally famous scientist is understandable and not a justification to give it up in favor of plumbing. If he had been a plumber, there would always have been the nagging suspicion of unrealized potential.

He would’ve died in anonymity, ignored as he had the following thought: “If I would be a young man again and had to decide how to make my living, I would not try to become a plumber or a peddler. I would rather choose to be a scientist or scholar in the hope that I might leave mankind with some indelible mark and die knowing I did all that was possible.”

“A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, design a building, conn a ship, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve an equation, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.” – Robert Heinlein

Specialization is not for insects. It is for workers in an industrialized world. Without it there would be only farms with family units desperately trying to be all things at once, excelling at nothing.

However, I like Mr. Heinlein’s quote and think that, while specialization does lead to an increased efficiency in the allocation of resources, it also leads to a lack of perspective, inability to empathize with others, and a disconnection from yourself. It is hard to fully develop as a person and understand your neighbors if you do only one thing.

I sometimes think we’ve traded life for something less but safer. Life and work were hard in the past. Now only work is hard and life is spent without real risk in a mind-numbing wage slavery. In some respects life is meant to be difficult and risky. The more you distill it into something manageable the farther you move from its essence.

A man could once feel good about the work he did. At the end of the day it was hard, but it made him able to stand proudly in any room. The house was built by his hands, the food raised by his family.

And then one day workers did not own their tools, did not own the product of their labour and did not make decisions as to the nature of their work. Rather than finding fulfilment and pride in their jobs, workers instead exhausted their mental and physical energies in an unrelenting pursuit of more, yet unable to identify more when they attained it.

In fact, the resiliency of capitalism stems partially from its ability to create new forms of psychological insecurity and material scarcity at the same time it eliminates the old forms. It creates a host of artificial needs and wants that can only be satisfied through a renewed commitment to work.

The constant struggle that once defined our lives is now re-defined as anxiety disorder and depression. We are cured of the pride we once felt in overcoming those obstacles by support groups, therapy and prescription drugs.

Don’t misunderstand me. What I want is an option for the present, not a return to the past. Why must we all work ourselves to death for plasma TVs and anti-lock brakes? Where is the other option? The one where I get to trade those long hours of work for life balance, personal growth, a rose garden, time with friends and hours at the library reading books about stuff that I’ll probably never do, but love to think about?

It is the lack of options that bothers me. Either we can work long hours and get ahead at the big job, or we can work long hours and not get ahead at the trade or mill job. Where is the job you can work 20 to 30 hours a week that doesn’t put you in government housing?

I am not glorifying the past. People once died in the streets by the thousands because we lacked basic santition and personal hygiene. In the winter they died from the cold. I don’t want to go back to the past…the good ol’ days weren’t all that good. What I want is an option for the present.

Comments 1 Comment »

We had a family implosion tonight. (No I didn’t do anything)

For a moment I almost felt like I can only suppose people in normal families feel when there is a situation. You have a latent issue, an argument, fallout and then a resolution/compromise.

Of course we haven’t gotten to Fallout yet, and are no where near Resolution/Compromise. But you see my family (cough under breathe that means I’m talking about my father) is really remedial in that we never even get to the much vaunted and often occupied family state of Argument. We (cough=He) opts instead to replay Latent Issue over and over and over again.

Comments No Comments »

Most of you know I am a basketball freak. I would play everyday if I could, and right now, being unemployed, I do just about that.

I am very particular about my basketball shoes. They must be black with high arches and good ankle support. I am ashamed to admit I often gladly pay over 100 bucks a pair….usually Nikes.

I generally went through a pair a year, replacing them at Christmas. Then, about 5 years ago, in a moment of serendipity, I ran across the finest pair of shoes on the planet. I loved them so much I wouldn’t play outside with them…..which is why they lasted 5 years.

They were/are the perfect shoe….and as Nike floods the market with new shoes every year they age like a fine wine….still the most perfect kicks ever to grace the hardwood.

Sadly, my shoes are dead. They will soon go to basketball heaven, which is the part of my closet that houses my worn-out high-tops….an assortment of sneakers that would make any collector proud.

Buying new basketball shoes is a little traumatic for me. I admit it. In fact, I didn’t want a new pair at all. I wanted the same pair, not a new, improved model but exactly the same shoe.

So I called Nike and it went like this:

Me: I want to buy a pair of shoes.
Them: Uhh….ok. What kind?
Me: You don’t make them anymore, but I think we’ll be able to figure it out. They’re really unique.
Them: Ok, tell me about them.
Me: They are a pair of black basketball shoes….(dramatic pause)
Them: …………..
Me: I pretty sure they’re the most expensive shoes you ever produced. They have a foamposite shell that surrounds a neoprene sock. They cost $180 when I bought them new about 5 years ago.

She couldn’t search by price, so she gave me the phone numbers of the largest outlet stores in the US (SF, NY and Miami). The dude in Miami was really knowledgable, so after one more call to Nike corporate I knew the shoe name and stock number: Foamposite Pro 630304-002

Problem was they didn’t have any left….anywhere in the United States.

So I did some research on the shoe. It turns out this shoe has a cult following and a history that reads like a Behind the Music.

It is the most expensive shoe Nike ever made. Management almost shut down development when they thought the shoe would have to retail for $400. The foamposite material took two years to develop, the molds alone cost almost a million dollars apiece and new machinery had to be invented to mass produce the shoe. Extra stability is provided through a carbon fiber base plate, the same material used in bullet proof vests.

Shoes are made in pieces and then stitched together to correspond to different sized feet. The Foamposite is the first (and still the only) unibody shoe ever made. Every size needed a different mold. The shoe is not stitched together; it is molded whole from liquid foamposite. The sole is simply the bottom part of the upper; the shell is one piece. The inside of the shoe is a neoprene glove. The foamposite materially is built to mold to your foot, literally. The longer you wear them, the more comfortable they get.

Nike brass almost axed the shoe once more when they said it would kill the footwear industry. Costs were out of control. No one would buy a $400 shoe so they would have to sell them below cost. Consumers would get accustomed to the unbelievable comfort and support and wouldn’t buy other shoes. The footwear industry would be stuck selling shoes at a loss.

Of course that didn’t happen, but they never really did get costs under control, so they quit making the shoe and, in effect, the footwear industry took a step backwards in quality and technology……but not me. I want the same pair.

So I bought a pair off Ebay for the excellent discount price of $144 (including shipping). It is nuts that someone is willing to pay 140 bucks for a shoe that originally came out in 1997 (I won the bidding in the last minute by $1).

Here is a picture of the Foamposite Pro:

Comments No Comments »

There was a time I stayed awake till 7 in the morning, eyes bleeding red, in the dark, staring at this same screen. I made 8,000 dollars that night hitting refresh on the browser, trading stocks, thinking I knew everything. The headphones played Alanis Morisette – Uninvited, Sheryl Crow – Riverwide and Enya – China Roses while Peter slept on the inflatable mattress 6 feet away. I remember all that and the rain, grey like a dirty window, neon lights and pigs floating dead in the river. I remember cigarettes on the beach and confessing secrets and making prayers with those silly incense sticks.

There was a time I left Spain at midnight on a train to Morocco devouring pages of my journal hungry with dreams of snake charmers and desert campfires. I was leaving one of the best runs I ever had and knew it. The first day in Tangiers I almost turned around. I was scared for my life even though I had 5 years on the road by that time. Good thing I didn’t leave. I would’ve missed this:

There was work in Chile, lunch everyday alone to get away from the office, trying to imagine how to quit gracefully, wondering at how most of the modern world can drag themselves through that gutter everyday. I remember calling my dad from the street, looking up at the skyscrapers, telling him how depressed I was. It probably was the worst I’ve ever felt, not in a sad way, but in a desperate way. Sundays I would wake late after a long night of drinking and wander Santiago aimlessly trying to feel far away, to forget that work was Monday. I would watch people in parks and restaurants with their friends and be pleased with what I imagined their lives were like.

There was that time in Israel I put up a flyer saying I was too lazy/drunk to hit on women but that if they wanted to sleep with me I was staying in room 22. We all laughed when I put it up. We laughed about everything in those days. What’s even funnier is that someone actually took me up on it. I still keep in touch with her. Here is a picture of the Moon (the flyer was on a bulletin board inside):

There was that evening in…..actually fuck it. I could go on like this forever. I have a thousand stories like these.

This is what I wrote as I left Salamanca that night:

I´m going to shave my head and catch a bus to Morocco tonight at midnight…me, the journal, a few books, and the thought that I´ve done the best i could here…I´m content…I´m younger than I´ve ever been. For me to say I´ve been lucky is almost blasphemy because i know little of it has been luck, but I´ve been lucky still. Its so hard to recover from the time of your life. The years keep rolling by and there is so much for me to miss, because there has been so much for me to love.

As true now as the day I wrote it.

Comments No Comments »