5/31/2005

U.S.A.: United States of Alone

The myth of globalization lives on in the minds of business people only. The economic miracle, open markets etc. Is all a bunch of hooey to justify outsourcing of jobs and screwing the most profit out of a market place as possible. That it has nothing to do with the enriching and expanding of minds is a surety proved out by the insular attitude of the American reading public, which of course is a reflection of government policy aimed at mainting predominance through the preaching of our way is the only way. I recently wrote a review of a wonderful book by the Indian author Ashok Banker. He is in the midst of publishing an adaptation of a 3,000 year old epic Indian saga called the Ramayana. The tale has been used as a teaching tool for countless generations through the exemplary attitudes and behaviour of the central character Prince Rama. Through him concepts and philosophies central to "a good person" are explored and described. In a comment Ashok posted on his web site in response to my review he said that he was glad that I, a westener, was able to understand the precepts espoused in the story because he had already lost one publisher in the states through people's unwillingness to comprehend the ideas expressed. This didn't come as too much of a surprise to me. He is not the first author whose work has either been rejected, or been considered too "foreign" for an American audience recently. J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter books have to be translated into American, eliminating all those difficult to understand British figures of speech and sayings. Instead of a character " doing her nut" she gets angry, or being"barking" their crazy. Now that may not seem like much, but to me it's indicative of a culture that refuses to make the effort to understand the minute differences that give distinctiveness to a people. In Canada we have what we call a distinct society in Quebec. They have a culture and language that differs from the rest of the country, French. Even their civil law code is different from other provinces. Various provisions in Federal Provincial relationships have been developed to ensure the protection of that uniqueness. Although it can be at times a serious bone of contention it is also one of the things that many of us celebrate: a diversity of cultures makes for a far more interesting country. Instead of trying to assimilate new peoples into our country, we encourage them to retain pride in where they come from, recognizing that each new flavour enriches us all. The United States has always been a melting pot, where everybody has been encouraged, by one means or another, to be Americanized as quickly as possible. By cutting off the roots of their people they've made a potage of blandness which discourages diversity. In their ego they believe that after less then 300 years in existence they have created the ultimate in civilizations. When one considers that other countries have evolved traditions and cultures over the course of a thousand years plus this claim becomes even more ridiculous. But so firm are they in this belief that they have no hesitation in imposing their will in as many ways possible on the world. Whether it's a military invasion, the imposition of anti-family planning clauses in aid packages, or simply the exporting of their crass consumerism they continually attempt to influence the world to being more like them. I believe they will not be happy until the whole world is under their manifest destiny(In 1810 President Monroe proclaimed in the Monroe Doctrine that the United States of America had the Manifest Destiny to rule the Western Hemisphere without interference, much to the surprise of British Canada, Mexico, Central and South America, and the Caribbean) What I wonder most of all is what are they so afraid of? What scares them so much about other people's way of thinking that they feel the need to change them? How is it possible that a country founded upon principles of freedom has fallen so much under the spell of repression. Although Georgie boy has done nothing to discourage this behaviour this can't just be laid at his feet. Maybe it comes about due to the insecurity of being the new kid on the block and they're just trying too hard. But like any one who tries too hard to impress they end up just coming across as pushy and mean. I wish they as a country could take the time to realize how far they have come, and try to see themselves in context of the world, rather then being the world. They desperately need to get their house in order, millions of people without access to medical attention or homes, a deficit in the trillions, and massive discontent and apathy among the young. They have too many people who believe they have no future and they are a powder keg waiting to explode. Instead of manipulating it's people into believing what they want them to believe, their governments should be asking the people what they need for their lives to be better. Maybe some of you think I'm reading too much into the rejection of a book, or the re-editing of another, but those are symptoms of a society that does not want to expand their horizons beyond the familiar. Heavens, they may actually have a new idea or offer an alternative way of living. cheers gypsyman

5/30/2005

Cultural Appropriation?

I have been stewing about something for a while and I'm hoping that by writing out loud about it I may be able tome up with a solution. As I have hinted at in past postings I'm a non-native person who tries to walk what is know as a "red road", live in a spirit oriented, earth centric, native influenced way. I have received approval and acceptance from various individuals within the community of natives that reside in the area I live and around for my actions. But as a person of European extract(Polish, Romanian, Scottish, Portuguese) I am sensitive to accusations of cultural appropriation. This is especially relevant to me because I'm a writer and a lot of themes that I write about are inspired by my beliefs, beliefs that have been formed by the spiritual path that I follow. Accompanying this path are various rituals and figures of import who are central to the native belief system. The stories that and figures out of native teachings have enabled me to grow as a person and an inhabitat of this planet. Where things start to become problematic are the times I want to incorporate figures from these stories into my own work. In a previous posting I published a poem which featured Coyote. He has a variety of roles through out the nations of North America. For some he is a creator, others a prankster whose contrary nature teaches lessons in behaviour. Modern native writers like Thomas King feature him predominately in their work. He's not some dried out dusty idea in a book, for many people he is real and alive. The last thing I want to do is insult the very belief system that has freed me to become a better person. But Coyote is important to me. He's the best weapon we have against the stupidity of the world that is imposed on us on a daily basis. I only have to sit through some bullshit new age ritual to see his snout breaking into a wide grin. Listening to the justifications for the invasion of Iraq I could hear his snicker as the laugh track for the world. Maybe I worry too much, or even think too much of myself for who's going to read my books anyway, let alone publish them, but at the same time for me what has always mattered is intent. Coyote showed up on the side of the road in the novel I'm working on and is worming his way into the story. He waited until chapter 13 until he made his appearance but he looks like he's there to stay. I don't seem to have any control over his actions, he does have a life of his own you know, so I can't say for sure what he's going to do or who he is going to piss off but I'm hoping it will be all the right people. I don't care if liberals and p.c.'s are upset, but I care about stealing someone else's stories, someone's else's history, to use for my purposes. I worry about looking like another fucking wannabe white guy ripping off the Indians, and not just form their perspective but my own. Is this genuine belief or I am doing it because it's neat and different. I really hope not to the latter but I guess those are my equivalent of a Christian's doubts. If your wondering why I just can't be happy with my own so called cultural traditions, well I've got a problem with the whole Judeo-Christian outlook on the world. Starting from Genisis with the being given dominion over everything instead of being part of everything on down to original sin the whole thing gives me the willies. I live in North America not Europe so it makes no sense to me to try and adopt the old ways of Europe(Druids, Wickan etc.)which were also earth based, because so much of their tradition is centred around life in England, Ireland, and Scotland, or even the continent. It's like I said before I don't really care what my fellow European descendants think, most of them are the ones responsible for driving me to this path anyway. I just hope that I can prove through the sincerity of my depiction that I am incorporating Coyote out of devotion not greed. Of course these are the type of thoughts that contribute to writer's block and keep you searching for distractions so you don't have to write what's really important. Instead you spend your time whining about shit on your blog. Oh well, hopefully I got it out of my system and can get back to writing now. If you want to read this thing that I'm talking about, the first seven chapters are for sale individually at my storefront, see link in sidebar. It's call The trees were singing, first line naming by microsoft, I'll probably rename it when it's done, if that ever happens. That's enough now. I'm shutting up. Don't worry I'll get back to my usual style of ranting soon. cheers gypsyman

5/29/2005

Yet Another Thing I Don't Get...

A seemingly endless list

I'm a good weblogger, I follow the rules and hit the next log link on the top of my page periodically. See what other people are writing about, give support etc, etc. I go to these sites and they're littered with comments, people who have read and are responding. Now some I can understand, the ones by authors who have a following for instance, or the ones expressing a point of view, they all make sense. What I don't understand is the blogs where people list the details of their life being so popular.

Who are these people who care enough to read about the fact that somebody in New York had a fight with a girlfriend or whatever. Are we really that puerile? Reality T.V. shows are one thing, but reading and commenting, offering advice and encouragement to total strangers about their lives...Then there are the people who write them. Quite frankly I have no urge to spill the minutiae of my life to the multitudes, that's why I have a therapist isn't it? If I'm having problems with my wife I talk about them with her, not unknown readers.

Maybe its all just family and friends reading these things and instead of talking directly to them this is how they communicate. Through third party discussions. Perhaps the distancing effect of not seeing each other lessens the emotional commitment and limits involvement to such an extent that there is no longer any worry about hurting or being hurt. I mean your not even talking directly to the other person like you would with a messenger service. This is a continual stream of one way information with no need of responsibility. You can completely ignore the other person all that's important is your side of the conversation.

I know that answers the question somewhat, but that's also part of what I don't understand. How has it come about that communication has been reduced to selfish utterances without caring about the other person's needs. A continual one way stream of information is not having a conversation, it's orating. Now I know that's the purpose of a blog, a place where you can blab away to your heart's content about what ever you like. But if your going to talk about personal issues and then invite people to comment on them I think it's become more then just a forum for opinion.

To me it's the ultimate in objectification. Instead of people it's thoughts and feelings being used to satisfy urges. Pornography of the spirit instead of the body. The person posting is reducing emotions and feelings through the depiction of events to self serving attention seeking, while those responding are doing so not out of any genuine concern but as a means of participating vicariously in a life.

It saddens me the number of people who are reduced to this type of impersonal behaviour, and even more so that our society seems to encourage it through the proliferation of so called reality programming that advocates watching instead of participating as a viable life experience. Perhaps I'm old fashioned and out of date to think that people should actually talk to another and share a life, that one earns the right to hear and react to personal information of the level that is being published and responded to on the internet. Maybe this is how things are done in this new modern high tech age and I've just been left behind.

For now then I'll just say goodbye from my world where we talk to each other and laugh and cry about things. Where we can get angry, and forgive each other and actually enjoy the company of friends.

cheers gypsyman

5/27/2005

In defense of America

They Treat Their Own equally Bad

I recently read a review of a book that examined the lives of people who subsist in the U.S. on minimum wage jobs with no health insurance and few benefits. What was interesting was that the reviewer was from India and while she was properly shocked an appalled by what she read, it set me thinking about something.

In so many countries the United States are seen as oppressors of the poor and supporters of the rich primarily as a means for achieving their ends in foreign policy. Needless to say this has made them widely unpopular in areas where there are masses of poor people held under the sway of a few wealthy individuals. It also makes these areas ripe breeding ground for potential terrorists. There is nothing like an empty belly, no hope for the future and a seemingly big and heartless enemy to rile up a mob. How do you think these people would react if they knew that this was not specific to foreign policy for the U. S., but just their attitude in general? That they treat their own population as badly and with little respect as any other population in the world.

Do you think any one would believe you first of all? The myth of the American economic superpower is so ingrained upon the mythos of the world that probably someone living in poverty in Afghanistan or Iraq couldn't believe that every American isn't living the high life. Sometimes your own propaganda machine works against you. Imagine if the American government admitted that millions of its people can't afford to get medical attention. That the vast majority of people live on foodstamps even if they work because their jobs just don't pay enough. That there are thousands if not millions of people in the United States living without housing, or in hovels so desolate that they fight off rats the size of cats.

What do you think that would do to the terrorist movements. Maybe there would be an outcry about the horrible conditions and movie stars and musicians would organize benefit concerts to relieve poverty in urban America. Or raise money for medical supplies for the millions who can't afford prescription drugs due to the lack of generic brand availability or programs to assist in their purchase.

Perhaps if the people in developing countries found out that the American deficit was into the trillions they would be less inclined to try and blow up buildings in New York and other places. Maybe they would organize telethons to help relieve the deficit. Of course they also might wonder how a government that can't afford to house, feed, clothe and supply medical care to it's people could still afford to bomb the crap out of them. But at least they would feel like they had something in common with the people who live in the U.S.A. There's nothing like sharing a common bond to generate sympathy for people you don't know.

It seems to me that the American government is missing the boat on the right propaganda attack. Instead of promoting democracy and their way of life as being the best, and backing that up with military might, they should be playing up their poverty. We're just like you they could say: millions go to bed at night wondering where their next meal is coming from, or how little Johnny is going to be able to go to the doctor for his dialysis. This whole might makes right thing is obviously not going to win hearts and minds, so they may as well go for the sympathy vote. I'm sure if they got their spin doctor's on it they'd see a marked difference in people's attitudes immediately.

cheers gypsyman

An Old Friend

I've got an old friend that keeps wandering in and out of my life. Like most old friends there are things about him that are endearing as well as enranging. Unlike most friends his existence is not physical. No I don't mean he is imaginary, although to some of you it will appear that way, he is way to real for that, especially as he affects my behaviour and moods. What or who am I talking about? Well I don't mean anything as stupid as a guardian angel or other such twaddle, he's the one who provides the inspiration for the rants I've written on those subjects. Maybe if I describe him you'll recognize his description, because his name won't mean anything to you, he's got lots of them depending on which part of the world you live in. The first thing you need to know about him is his age: he's thousands of years old. He is so old that he was old when Christ was born, he saw us building our first rude shelters on the African Savannah and laughed at us as we tried to understand what to do with the pointy sticks and fire. Laughter, that's his most memorable characteristic actually. His laugh. He constantly sees humour places where we wouldn't dream of finding it. Usually it is at our expense; when ever we do something particularly bone headed that little voice that sounds like laughter is bound to be him. There are times when it appears mean, but only because we don't get the joke, and let's be honest here shall we, when we're left with egg on our faces we don't general laugh too loudly do we? But his laughter keeps us honest. Honesty that leads to a great gift. Creativity. It's only when we can be brutally honest with ourselves, get down to our core being and look truthfully at our own foibles and flaws, into our dark parts so to speak, that we can truly be creative. There's no coincidence that the times he shows up in my life are those when I'm going through a particularly difficult growth period emotionally or spiritually. When and if ever I get too full of myself or start taking my life too seriously there he is with a rug to pull out from under me or a banana peel for me to fall on. Sure it pisses me off, especially when I'm feeling particularly sorry for myself, but what else are friends supposed to do? Let you wallow around in your mud? His eyes are always full of mischief, the sparkle puts me in mind of light tricking my eye so that I see one thing while another is really there. Practical jokes are his favorite pass time, although because they mainly backfire on him they provide a lesson for me in there failure. He teaches me humility and respect for others through his bad manners and pride. He's the biggest contradiction I've ever known but he's never a hypocrite because he's only being true to his own nature. He means well and always tries to do the right thing, but usually self interest trips him up in the end and he falls on face or trips over his feet. But he always gets up again, brushes himself off ready for another attempt. His contrariness extends to exemplifying the worst of our characteristics while showing us how to live a good life and inspiring us to create to the fullest of our abilities through the risks he takes. Have you come up with a name for him yet? Well I'll help you out, I wrote a poem for him a while back, and my wife drew a picture to go with it. I'm going to see if I can get them both to show up on this post for you. It may be tricky, but that only stands to reason given the nature of the subject.
The Hitchhicker
Coyote stood on the on the side of the road tongue wagging between his teeth. He adjusted his Black Stetson to shade his eyes for the sun, angled across his muzzle forty-five degrees to the earth. He wanted to snap at his tail, dance the circle dance. But black leather pants got in the way. A Gold tooth sparkled in the sun, a high beam to blind the unsuspecting. He stood on the side of the road, knowing his drive would be along soon. Well that seems to be the best he could do for you today. I did say he had a mind of his own.
cheers
gypsyman

Poetry

Well I don't feel up to ranting today and I need to remind myself of what it is that brought me to writing in the first place anyway, so I thought I'd throw up some more of my poetry today. The two pieces I'm posting today are ones that reflect a lot of the attitudes and feelings that I express on a daily basis here, but instead of focusing on issues they are more heart and soul centred. Enjoy. Of course, not being one to pass up a chance to plug my work, if you like them you can buy them from my store front link. I've got two published books of poems, both priced to own. Inspiration A robin’s song borne upon a morning air flutter past straining ear, the full notes throb with hints of promised beauty, mesmerizing joy. Tantalizing rainbows; refractions of spring’s first rain on budding leaves, stay nimbly beyond reach of grasping paws scampering to hold multicoloured prey. Is it possible, or desired, to pin you for display like some exotic specimen? Long targeted by courtiers of either sex, your charms are not so easily won, never will you ever commit to one alone. To have you swoon in one’s arms like a Pre Raphaelit heroine; fly away curls laid in the crock of an arm, china doll face looking back through half closed lids, would salve many an ego. But no fainting fancy you, no amount of blandishment entices you to fully expose your charms. A true burlesque queen, you proffer glimpse through feather, fans and veils, of what awaits those suitors who without success, storm your battlements. Whilst young heroes shower you with tokens of affection; praise your virtues, curse your fickleness, and pursue you loudly in the taverns and coffee bars. I have learned to patiently, graciously, await, appreciate, each casual glance and errant whisper that comes my way. new orphans We are orphans of the world. With no tribe to claim us or village for shelter, we wander the desserts of society. No god sent down plagues to frighten a pharaoh, no prophesies of hope or doom loosened fetters. Not for freedom our exodus, but exile. Each step from the womb, birth, childhood, adolescence, separated, changed and shaped us, leaving no choices. The grief of leave taking, the pain of those left behind; the incomprehension that shines from hurt eyes; accents the depths of our alienation. Out here is no faith to preach or follow, only the souls own teaching. Nor is their need for scraps passing for toils reward. Sorrow’s tears water garden that bring forth seedlings of hope which will bear the fruit of dreams and timber for foundations. The oldest of fires light our faces, warms our bodies, and ignites beacons to guide those who are to follow. Eyes the see deeper, ears that hear quicker, and tongues that speak truer. Clear notes amid dissonance: birthmarks that turn faces from the centre. Find the paths laid down, for others have gone before, make it out the wilderness to alone with all the others. hope you enjoyed cheers gypsyman

5/26/2005

Armies Of Hanuman: Ashok's Latest

Book Four of The Ramayana

I was just going to post a review I'd written about the latest chapter in the adventures of Rama et al, but I just had to boast a little as well. I submitted it to Ashok's site (http://www.epicindia.com) and it has been made a featured review. Wahoo I'm getting paid. Well I'm getting an autographed copy of book five when it's released anyway. I'm excited even if your not. Okay enough of my snide comments, on with the review.

In this the fourth book of Ashok Banker's retelling of the Ramayana we are reunited with our characters 13 years from the date we left them beginning their fourteen year exile. Rama, his wife Sita and his brother Lakshman along have fought alongside a motley band of outcast and outlaws against the Asur hoard for the whole time. At the onset of the novel we learn that Rama has decided to end the war one way or another. Although still outnumbered 5 to 1 he has devised a plan that he hopes will even the odds in his favour. Although there are unexpected occurrences during the battle(the rakshasas meld together to form super beasts made up of fifty of their kind) Rama's forces eventually prevail. Rama, Sita, and Lakshman are free to to spend their final year of exile in peace. Or so they think. If you are someone like Rama who has successfully conquered the rakshasas at every turn, you are bound to have made some pretty bad enemies. The rest of the story is bound up in the telling of the resurrection from near death of his major foe(Ravana the king of the Asura world) and his plots for revenge on Rama. But allies can come from many places, and in this case Rama's prowess as a military leader and unfailing commitment to dharma(sacred duty) has attracted the attention of the vanar, a highly developed species of ape. Hanuman of the title has had Rama under observation for some time and has entertained hopes of enlisting his aid in restoring his king to his rightful throne. Through circumstances they end up joining forces and becoming friends and allies. In this fourth book Mr. Banker continues to do a masterful job of bringing an ancient story to life and making it accessible to those of all cultures. Again he has managed to walk the fine line of neither over explaining concepts and beliefs to those who are unfamiliar with them and thus boring others, while at the same time never leaving any reader in the dark. In fact in this volume I found that, either from the knowledge I had accumulated from the earlier installments, or even cleverer integration on the author's part, the story, the characters, and the moral lessons and education were woven together even more seamlessly. Maybe it's because now that Rama and ourselves have proceeded down our paths together into maturity we are living our teachings instead of learning them. Whatever the reason, or however the Mr. Banker has done it I found Armies of Hanuman had an even better flow and narrative then any of the previous titles. Instead of admiration for simply managing the feat of presenting the story in an understandable way competing with enjoyment of the tale, I was able to just sit back and read the adventures of Rama as I would any other novel. That is an amazing accomplishment on the part of Mr. Banker. I'm left with only one question, being unfamiliar with the original text(Out of interest I took out an adaptation from our local library that was done in 1910 and found it totally incomprehensible in terms of plot and story line so I can't use it as any basis for study)was the inclusion of Ratnaker's conversion to Valmiki, the ant hill. Had the original author included himself in the tale as an example of how even the most corrupt could be changed for the better? Or was this Mr. Banker's nod to the originator of the story? The Armies of Hanuman is another example of Ashok Banker's abilities as a story teller par excellence. The characters continue to develop and mature, his villains although evil and despicable, are multifaceted and interesting and the introduction of new characters is handled seamlessly and naturally. Their is a certain organic quality to the way this tale is progressing; it's like watching the development of an exceptional plant from a green and tender shoot to the point that it bears fruit. Right now we are beginning to taste it's first sweet rewards.

Well there you go. I hope you enjoyed it, and I really hope it makes you go out and buy the book, and if you haven't bought the first three, do that too. It's well worth the effort and the read.

cheers gypsyman

What Ever Did They Do Before

Or Get A Life

My wife and I were walking down the street one day and a guy passed us on the sidewalk. He was ambling ahead of us and something about him gave Eriana the creeps. So we stopped to light cigarettes and let him get well ahead of us. As we followed him up the block I noticed we were approaching a computer store, one of those places which sell parts and bits so people can build and tweak their own machines. I said to Eriana that I bet he goes in there and damned if he didn't. She turned to me and said how did you know? My reply was that I know the type.

But what type is it. I mean I hate playing the stereotyping game, labeling and categorizing people by appearances is not a cool thing, but sometimes there are patterns that can be observed and applied which give you clues to a person's character. There is a new breed of people out there who are obsessed with all things computer. They live and breath with the latest in drives, storage, and whatever. They can discuss in detail the intricacies of what this motherboard can do as compared to that, and probably write html better then English, or any other native tongue.

They use their computers and the internet to make up for whatever they perceive as the inadequacies in their own lives. Maybe they have a horrible job, or a boss that abuses them, or no love live, but when they are at their key board on line they are king. They rule cyberspace on gaming portals where their characters have a kazillion hit points(is that still the right jargon, that's dreged form old memories of drunken/stoned games of dungeons and dragons)message boards about tech matters, and where there are rules to be applied or points to be accumulated they are the final word and the in the top ten.

In an effort to promote this space to actually get somebody aside form Eriana to read it I've been exploring various means of getting it listed in directories etc. There are also a few other sites which I think are great and worth visiting(links in my sidebar) so I've tried to get them listed as well. One such site in particular stands out for its anality(if that's not a word it should be)I'll give them the benefit of anonymity for now, but they are a fine example of people who need to do something else once in a while.

I'm a big fan of Ashok Banker's adaptation of the classic Indian epic The Ramayana, and I thought it would be a fine thing to get more people turned on to his work. So aside from this site it was the first place I tried to get listed. A month latter and I realized nobody had bothered even reviewing my submission. In all inocence I went over to the sites message board and asked if there was a specific reason for this, and could someone tell me why. Good Goddess the results were astounding.

The first person who responded(23,000 points) had numerouse suggestions, some of which even applied to the situation at hand, number two (235,000 points, does he ever get off the computer) thought something else and cited minutiae in the guidelines for reference, and yet a third person( over 350,000 points, I don't even want to know how she did that) had even more to say on the matter with reference to sub headings and previous listings etc. etc. . Then of course each of them had to rebut and counter rebut the other's point, bringing more and more issues to bear on what I thought was a relatively straightforward question.

The really funny thing was that none of them had answered the question I had asked. They all gave reasons as to why the site may not have been acceptable for listing, but never once said why nobody had even looked at it yet. Maybe they all work in the press offices of politicians or something and don't know how to answer a straight forward question, I don't know. But it's a fine example of powerless people exercising power in meaningless places.

I guess that is the real service that computers and the internet offers: an outlet for people who need to exercise the power of petty tyrants to rid themselves of the frustrations of their own existence. It is a sad reflection on the state of the world we live in that this happens. The fact that people are reduced to such pathetic attempts to salvage self esteem reflects poorly on the way in which our society treats people as individuals. There are too many who feel of no use, trampled underfoot, and cast aside by the callousness of our win at all costs morality for anybodies comfort if we this type of behaviour is a mirror reflecting the affect it has on individuals.

Behaviur like this only drives home the point of how horrible existence has become for a vast majority of people in this loveless modern age. How anybody can advocate our way of living as better then any other is beyond me if this is the result. When this many people feel like they are left out and without significance then the problems we face are far more numrouse then just whether all people have jobs or not. Their is a serious moral and ethical vacuum that can not be addressed by any so called religion that just props up the status quo. As long as we continue to act as if some life is more sacred then other, whether it be man, critter, tree or water, we will never work out of this mess.

There is more to a person then what they do for a living, they need more then the vacuous stuff forced down their throat on a daily basis that passes for entertainment to be complete. Sure food and shelter are important, but so is quality of existence. That does not mean material goods, or any other things provided by the market place. A culture that is driven by greed instead of need will always leave far to many people behind, and that is exactly where we find ourselves.

I don't pretend to have any answers, there are no quick fixes, but like they say about all addictions, the first step in recovery is being able to admit there is a problem. Our society needs to go into a detox centre soon and begin to dry out from rampant consumerism and mass envy soon, or the problem will become irreparable.

cheers gypsyman

5/24/2005

Energy: More New Ageisms

I'm sure you have heard someone, or maybe even you have, say that something or somebody has "negative energy". My favourite is hearing a person's energy being described as dark, or that their energy field gives off bad feelings. Have you ever thought about what that exactly means? I know that in the past I have been guilty of saying the very thing and found myself latter puzzling over my choice of words. What exactly had I been trying to say about a situation or a person anyhow with that catch phrase? Let's look at the word energy first of all. What exactly does it mean? All of us who practice various healing modalities use the word in various circumstances: we call what we do energy work, we refer to something we call a person's "energy field", or we make reference to the energy in a space.(see above negative energy comment) But do we really know what it is we are saying or describing? Funk and Wagnells Standard Dictionary offers the following three definitions: Vigor or intensity of action or expression, capacity or tendency for vigorous action, and physics, the capacity for doing work or overcoming inertia. In the first and second cases it is being used describe either a person's action or their character. If we say a person has a lot of energy we are using it in the second case, for we are describing what they are capable of, while if we say they used a lot of energy we are talking about the amount of effort they put forth. The last is a term in physics describing its function, it enables us to do things and get off our butts. Now where do our qualitative judgments of good or bad fit into any of those definitions? I don't think they do. While we could say a person's energy is low, or they didn't put much energy into that job, saying that their energy is bad really doesn't mean squat. Energy is a quantity not a quality so calling it bad is the same thing as calling a cup of salt bad. Now a cup of salt may not be the healthiest thing in the world for you if ingested all at once, but there is nothing intrinsically bad about it's size. Energy is a measurement of "how much" not of value. So while a person may have an energy field, a manifestation of how much they put forth into living, there is no value that can be placed on that field. Value may be placed on what that person does with the energy at their disposal, but that has nothing to do with energy. The reason I'm making such a big deal out of this is because its so typical of new agers to try and make themselves sound important at other people's expense, or to use catch phrases that have no meaning to make excuses for something not working. "They have so much negative energy that there's no way this could have worked" Excuse me are we batteries here that we're polarised with negative and positive ends? My personal favourite is: " Oh I felt like there was something evil in their energy field and it was very threatening, I was so worried about corrupting the sanctity of my own energy that I decided not to give them a treatment." These statements and others just like them mean absolutely nothing. When you hear people talking like this my advice is to turn and run, don't walk, away from them at your earliest convenience. The sooner we start talking about how somebody's behaviour affects us the quicker it is we can start making decisions about whether we want to help them, know them, or run away from them. None of us have the energy to waste on prattling on about how their energy is this that or anything else, it's just too much gossip. cheers gypsyman

5/23/2005

If That's Smart

Let Me Be Stupid

Further to what I was writing upon the other day of the dumbing down of people's intellect through the misuse of language comes the news that television and video games actually are making us smarter. Although the literacy gap is growing, the number of people who can read, comprehend and form sentences is lessening compared to even a couple of years ago, so called other abilities are being strengthened. T.V. And video games supposedly teach people how to comprehend multiple images and ideas at once, be ideally suited to compete in today's frenetic high tech world. Supposedly being able to follow an episode of the Sopranos makes you more intelligent then someone who watched television in the seventies with their simple plot lines and narrative structure.

That's all very well and good, but the problem I see is that it is a matter of style or form over content. Lets take the example cited of t.v shows. Compare an episode of Lost with its multiple characters and plot lines with an episode of MASH with its at most two plot lines per episode and familiar cast. Both shows deal with a set situation removed from normal circumstances, a group of people from diverse backgrounds and differing personalities, and then a plot for that weeks action to give those people a chance to interact. With an hour to at its disposal Lost is able to give us back stories on it's characters which provides us with understanding of their motivations. MASH on the other hand relied on the actors developing their characters to fill in those details. Individual episodes for each are sub plots within the over all storey line.

In other words they both follow the same basic formula that all television shows. The difference being that in most cases the shows of today(Lost is an exception but it still falls into this trap on occasion)sacrifice content for form. Where we used to spend a half hour to hour with people getting to know them and their situation, shows today prefer to bounce all over the place, piling scene after scene on top of each other in the hopes of maintaining interest: if you didn't like that well maybe you'll like this.

They are the equivalent of sound bites trying to trigger a manipulated response from an audience. Instead of allowing us to develop an opinion over time we are told to feel something. There is not enough time allowed for assimilation and decision making. Sure we are able to follow more plot lines at once, but there is no room to draw conclusions or come to realizations about the characters or the situations. There is no thinking.

As is the case with Internet short form the ability to form structured thought processes is being eroded in favour of short bursts of information that are designed to stimulate a desired effect in the receptor. We are all being turned into programmable people, who like our computers will respond to a series of prompts eliciting required responses. Any thing can input massive amounts of information and be directed by them, but it's the ability to be able to interpret this information, make choices about it, and then act on that choice that denotes intelligence.

It seems to me that our definition of smart is being changed to accommodate the fact that people are not being encouraged to think or form opinions anymore. So not only are we dumbing down on an individual level, but as a society.

cheers gypsyman

5/20/2005

Here we go again.

Vanity Pets

Here we go the latest in stupidity from the human race. Vanity pets. I can't think of another name for it. What am I talking about? I'm talking about the breeding of domestic cats with breeds of wild African cats to breed an expensive exotic pet for those bored sociallites who have more money then sense. There can't be any other reason then status for owning one of these animals, what with the huge numbers of domestic cats already being put down because of lack of homes it certainly isn't because there's such a pressing need to create more breeds for people to have as pets.

Why do we continue to mess with nature. Time and time again we have proven that when we start directly interfering in the evolutionary process we screw things up royally. Just look at what we have done to sustain the various strains of domestic cattle: destroyed massive amounts of rain forest in Brazil so that McDonald's can have grazing for it's herds, committed cultural genocide through the destruction of North American Buffalo herds so ranchers could run their cattle, and turned massive tracts of delicate grasslands in Africa into wastelands through over grazing. All because some bright light decided it would be a good idea to domesticate cattle. Cow meat and cow dairy products are not even eaten by a good portion of the world's population: 60% or more people of colour are lactose intolerant, either to the point of not being able to drink milk or to not being able to ingest any dairy.

In that instance at least they had the excuse that they believed they were coming up with a viable source of food, but in the case of cross breeding animals for the sake of new breeds of pets what other excuse do they have except for simple greed. It's just another example of people believing that nature is there for them to exploit, not an equal partner in existence. This is the attitude that has got us into the predicament that we are presently in. Worrying about the state of the ozone layer, whether there is enough food to feed all the mouths on the planet, wondering when the supply of fresh water will run out, and watching species after species of animal and plant die off on a daily basis.

We can not continue on this path for very much longer with out risking the destruction of all life on this planet. Vanity pets may seem like a it has nothing to do with that risk, but they are just the tip of the iceberg of our selfish and short sighted view of nature. Is it any wonder that people who care about the environment and animal rights are turning to more and more desperate actions? When nobody listens you have to figure out a way to shout louder.

cheers gypsyman

In So Many Words.

Dumbing Down: Writing for the Internet.

In one of my very first posts I mentioned that I had little fondness for the use of internet abbreviations. At best they are a feeble attempt to make oneself sound significant through usage of jargon familiar only to those in know; at worst it sounds like simple laziness. So what's the big deal. Why get so uptight about something as insignificant as that? Don't I have anything better to do then be some sort of elitist asshole coming across like everyone's worst nightmare of a grade school teacher? What real difference is using "prolly" instead of probably going to make in the world?

To be honest probably not much. On an individual basis its more pathetic then harmful. I can't help feeling sorry for those who believe they are obtaining some sort of status by using this shorthand, in fact if it gives them some shred of self-importance, no matter how misguided, then it's not even that bad. The problem is a little more serious when it comes to the issue of laziness. I'm going to try and wax philosophical here for a few seconds, and I'm not sure how successful I'll be, it's early, and I'm tired so we may all get lost, so hang on for a bumpy ride.

Language is the basis for thought. Without language we would not be able form or articulate complex thoughts. Words are the basis of language. The way in which we utilize words, string them together etc. form the basis for our means of communicating, thoughts, and emotions on a day to day basis. Visual artists are able to circumvent this through their talents, but they are unique in their ability, and usually apply those to universals, not mundanities. The more articulate we are the easier it is for us to express ourselves.

It only follows then that the simplification of language would result in the simplifying of thought. Continuous use of short forms and catch phrases result in the eventual loss of the ability to absorb or create complexities. Once this nadir is achieved responses becomes limited to a reaction to blunt stimuli. No longer capable of, or willing to, understand we turn to simple solutions. The easy answer, or the one that provides the least amount of effort on our part. That's where the problem starts.

It's hard enough as it is to communicate thoughts and emotions. We have our natural inhibitions and insecurities that get in the way, without diminishing our potential for talking to each other in this manner. People bemoan the fact that relationships don't seem to last nearly as long as they once did. If you talk to people who have been together for any length of time a common thread will appear, almost all of them say that talking to each other was what kept them together. If we have lost the ability to adequately express ourselves how in hell are we going to be able to talk to our partner. No wonder most marriages end after a short time. I bet most couples have never even had a decent conversation about anything more important then their clothes and what car they drive.

Attitude becomes another casualty. If thinking becomes a matter of always looking for the easy way, that's going to be reflected in people's approach to life. Striving to achieve a goal has been replaced by the desire for instant gratification. Instead of an appreciation for process the result has become all that matters, who cares the cost. The ensuing selfish behavior and callousness that accompanies this should come as no surprise. Our society is degenerating into a culture of single minded pursuit of individual material success with compassion and consideration falling by the wayside.

Ultimately though the worst fallout is what I refer to as the creation of the herd mentality. Manipulation is never easier when people surrender their ability to think. Whether ad agencies, politicians, or religious leaders there are always those willing to take advantage of this. Pulling simple emotional triggers like patriotism and family values only works when people don't question the logic behind such stratagems. It's far easier to listen to someone say this is good and that is bad, then to the person who says well it's neither and let me explain.... People don't want to have to make up their own minds. Say a nice catch phrase that they can latch onto and their hooked; wrap it up into an emotional response and their doubly yours.

Many of you may find this far fetched, but I'm not claiming that this is a conspiracy by any government to turn populations into sheep. But I do believe that the leaders of the world's powers are taking advantage of the circumstances in a big way. Why else would the Republicans constantly make disparaging comments about intellectuals, suggesting that there's something wrong with thinking. Politicians everywhere have learned to speak in catch phrases that mean nothing of substance, and by the time anyone figures it out the world's moved on to the next day and its forgotten.

Maybe I'm just a crank, and there's nothing wrong with people saying addy instead of address, but I look around every day and see more and more people acting like they don't think, or don't care, I hear the leader of the biggest military machine in the world unable to complete a sentence, I'm bombarded with advertising and so called entertainment that's aimed at eight year olds, and I've got to wonder. I don't think it's the cause of all problems or the root of all evil, that would be simplistic, but it sure is a symptom of a very ill society. Try this as an exercise, the next time you write anything on the internet use complete sentences and words, see how it feels, it really isn't that hard who knows you might even enjoy it.

cheers gypsyman

5/19/2005

Most Dangerous

F.B.I.: Animal Rights and Environmental groups Biggest Internal Terror Threat

That's right, that's not a mis print or a typo. So you can stop worrying about people flying planes into buildings. Or if you are a doctor who performs abortions your safe too, don't have to worry about fanatical Christians. Those right wing militia types that blew up the office building in Oklahoma and threatened other similar type explosions? Harmless. Its those damn tree huggers and anti animal testing people you've got to be scared of.

There you are sitting in the comfort of your living room and then boom all of a sudden they burst in and kill your family all because your youngest daughter is putting eye liner on the family cat. Or one day you're innocently pumping oil in your back yard and kaboom, they've blown it sky high. Yep they sure pose a threat of random violence against individual people don't they?

So who exactly are these people such a threat to that would make Republican senators exclaim that we need to examine the funding of all environmental groups and animal protection agencies to make sure they have no links to terrorist activities. Why the very constituents who propel every decision those erstwhile lawmakers make. Their campaign contributors. The big pharmaceutical and cosmetic corporations who rely on the torturing of animals to mass produce their products. Where would North America be if we couldn't know how a bunny would react to the latest Maybeline product?

Of course the logging industry and the oil companies have no ulterior interest in this at all. There they are innocently clear cutting forests, destroying habitat on land and under water and there are actually people who would like to stop them from doing this. What's worse these people have the nerve to be invoking direct action against them. Its one thing for the American government to take direct action against the nefarious Iraqis for holding out on their oil supplies, but it's another thing altogether for American's to take direct action against the oil companies for despoiling the world we live in. That's not fair.

Of course then there's the insurance companies that have to pay out for the damages that occur because of the actions of these vigilantes. I mean there is only so many dollars they can milk out of people for their medical, home , and auto insurance before they start feeling the pain in their balance sheets.

The problem facing us is the fact that the people who govern us can not see that the actions of these companies are the terrorist acts being committed. The destruction of the environment and the wanton needless testing of animals is a far bigger crime then any retaliatory action any group could take, even to the point of destruction of property. These are actions that are being forced upon people who see no other recourse to get their point across. Protest and scientific proof seem to have no effect upon those intent upon killing all of us for the sake of a buck.

I don't endorse violence of any kind, nor do I support the an action that will see the taking of innocent life, but to so lightly classify these people as the biggest danger facing the United States at this time is ridiculous and misleading that it is a crime in itself. This is obviously the beginning of a misinformation campaign against environmental and animal rights groups in an attempt to alienate the general public from the seriousness of the situation the whole world is in right now. I can only hope that no one in their right mind will actually fall for the idea of feeling sorry for any multinational company who deals in destruction of anything.

If the governments were serious about stopping these acts of sabotage they would effect serious changes in law and procedure. They would immediately take steps to stop the needless use of animal testing, invest money in exploring alternative energy sources and stop the exploitation of our natural resource. Until that time they will only continue to sound like shills for the energy, pharmaceutical and cosmetic businesses. cheers gypsyman

5/18/2005

Reality

I thought you might like a peak into the world of Mr. And Mrs. Marcus. So I offer you these three photographs, that show us at our best and worst. I'll leave it to you to figure out which is which. Hint: One is of us in our natural environment.

and finely

I hope you enjoyed your peek into our life, and I hope Homestead updates the files so that you can actually see the second picture. I had to resize the picture of Eriana playing in dirt slightly, and Homestead has not updated the published file yet.

cheers gypsyman

Us and Them

The Polarization of Politics

Eriana(my wife) and I were talking the other day about the legacy of a Prime Minister of Canada. Brian Mulroney was around during the heydays of Ronald Reagan and Maggie Thatcher and was a big fan of their politics; he was our first right wing ideologue. Being a Canadian he was not as severe as them, but he was enough to plant the same seeds as his fellow travelers. Until his tenure you could feel fairly secure that no matter the political stripe of the party that things would be governed according to a certain standard. That a certain code: universality of social programs, respect for the poor, and compassion, would be maintained. But in his wake we have been left with the polarization of our political spectrum.

On the one hand are the social and financial conservatives who preach stop spending on social programs, less government interference(read regulating business practices concerning labour, the environment, and equal pay for equal work) and something called traditional family values(American sit-com from the fifties and early sixties lifestyle) Mixed in with them are middle of the road liberal/conservatives who preach a more moderate approach, social democrats who want increased spending, and then the variety of groups who have sprung up to defend the various groups affected by the reductions in spending on social programs, or whose lives have been damaged by the imposition of a rigid morality.

On reflection I realize that this of course is not a uniquely Canadian experience. As usual we are a milder reflection of what has occurred in the rest of the world. Since the onset of globalization, the fall of the east block, and increased demands by the "developing"nations for a better life, we have been witness to an increase in regional tensions far beyond anything witness during the height of the Cold War. Instead of the easily monitored maneuverings of two major players, each day brings a new point of conflict into focus. Divisions fall along lines ranging from tribal to economic, religion and regional. A whole new lexicon has been invented to describe the horrors we have learnt how to inflict on each other: ethnic cleansing and collateral damage make inexcusable behaviour sound mundane enough to be read on the nightly news.

If I were as truly paranoid as I think I am I would give credence to those who claim this is all part of the agenda of the conservative Christian right. These are the people who actively support the idea that Armageddon would be what the world needs right now so that they can ascend and assume their place on the right side of Christ leaving the unbelievers to rot in hell. Believing as they do that the beginning of the end will occur in Israel they actively support the more militant factions who want nothing to do with the peace process with the Palestinians, hoping to ensure the battle to end all battles.

I know this sounds like the work of a few isolated kooks, and I continually reassure myself of that fact, but sometimes the facts fly in the face of such reasoning. Both Ronald Reagan and the current incarnation of Bush were or are either firm believers in this prophecy and are surrounded by people who both endorse it and are capable of bringing it to fruition without leaving any fingerprints. American foreign policy has for the last twenty years(more really but its only recently been so overt)created the conditions that have given rise to the fanaticism in the Muslim world. There's nothing like ostentatious displays of wealth combined with aggressive behaviour, plus throw in support for seemingly oppressive regimes, to make the job of leaders like Bin Ladin easy.

Add in the hypocritical policy decisions of the past: arming Hussein to fight the Iranians, arming the Taliban to fight the Russians, working hand in glove with Bin ladin family in order to curry favour with Saudi Arabian governing party and you a sure fire recipe for Muslim unrest. This is the ideal situation for the right wing Christian movement. An enemy who is easy to stir up unrest against because they look different, believe different, and whose pride and honour can only take so many beatings.

Now you can't give the policy makers all the credit for the situation we're in, not even they could have orchestrated all the details to fall out the way have, but they sure have taken advantage of them in order to suit their needs. Instead of working with peoples to come up with viable alternatives to violence and poverty they have instituted a policy of hit them while their down. When a people are completely without hope, they are going to grasp at any hand that offers them a chance to retaliate at the one who has seemingly put them down.

Although the polarization of the world appears at first blush to be merely happenstance, or even simple short sightedness, I do believe that a very definite agenda is being followed. I do not believe it is with the ultimate goal of Armageddon as is so hoped in certain circles(too many wealthy people have too much money invested) but the us against them feelings generated have made circumstances easier to manipulate for governments, allowing them to sway populations to their view points by pushing the right emotional buttons.

There is of course a solution, and that is to provide a viable alternative to what is being offered. It could be left up to people at large to accomplish this by letting politicians know we would support a more conciliatory approach to governing. They do not like taking chances, so until we let them know that this is what we want none of them will have the bravery to stand up and say we have to do something different. Why not keep that in mind the next time you have to vote for somebody?

cheers gypsyman.

5/17/2005

An Artist For All Seasons

Viggo Mortensen: Modern renaissance Man

If you've read me before you know that I'm not the effusive with praise, and that for me to write a headline like the one above means I believe someone is truly exceptional. I'm reprinting a review of Viggo that I wrote for another site here. Whenever I publish anything about this man it is with the intent of getting more and more people to read and peruse his poems and visual arts. So go to the link and be challenged and enjoy the work of an artist

For most of us our introduction to Viggo Mortensen came via the Lord of the Rings movie trilogy. His portrayal of Aragorn will undoubtedly be forever engraved in the memories of all fans of J.R.R. Tolkien's work. Ironically enough those were not the first movies I had seen him in, but it was not until going back through my library of D.V.D.s was it revealed I had seen him three times previous. Obviously it's not that he is forgettable that caused this memory lapse on my part so I set about trying to figure how this could have happened. In all three movies (Young Guns 2, 28 days, and a murder mystery with Gweneth Paltrow and Michael Douglas whose name escapes me) he was not in the leading role, save for the last where he was second leading man to Mr. Douglas, so there was that to allow him to stay in the background. Although he was central to the action in all cases our attention was on how the central character or characters reacted to him, rather then him controlling the movie. But aside from the role of his character there was more then that. David Cronenberg whose just finished directing Mr. Mortensen in a Movie called "A History of Violence" said that he choose him for the part because he combined the charisma of a leading man with the abilities of a character actor. "Viggo is less concerned about how he appears on screen then with the truth of his character" That to me is the answer to my question. For each movie that he performs in Mr. Mortensen creates a character who is distinct from the personae of Viggo Mortensen. Not once do we ever see him playing himself. Emotional reactions are based on how a character should react in a given situation not how he would. Most Hollywood leads(men and women)let there star power carry them through a performance. We know when we go to a Mel Gibson Movie or a Goldie Hawn movie who we are going to be seeing on screen. This is not the case with Viggo Mortensen. This is why I could not recognise him from his performance in Lord of the Rings as the same actor who performed in 28 days or either of the other two movies I mentioned. As a former stage actor I am always deeply impressed when I see that kind of work being done on screen. It is so rare Hollywood films to see anybody willing to take that kind of risk, especially a leading man. I think that I gained a deeper understanding of the man when I learned that his artistic endeavours stretched beyond the silver screen. I had greeted the news of his ability as a painter, poet, and photographer with some skepticism I must admit, there are so many "stars" out there claiming the title artist these days that I greet any pronouncement of professed talent with more then a grain of salt. But his work is for real. Not only is technically skilled in all three areas but he brings a unique creative vision to his work. His poetry speaks from the heart and the brain; his paintings use abstract technique to explore emotions; and his photos of even familiar subjects like fellow actors tell a story that was not previously known. Like his acting there is an element of risk in all his projects. They are not easy to approach or understand either intellectually or emotionally. No Hallmark sentimentality here, the audience has to make a decision about how to react on an instinctual level. He leaves no room for ambivalence, he will force you to have an opinion of his work, whether positive or negative it doesn't matter. But there is not a chance of someone saying "Oh isn't that nice" That's the element that also makes his acting so unique. In even the bland world of Walt Disney in his creation of the character Frank Hopkins for the movie Hidalgo, we see a person of many layers, warts and all. Not your typical Saturday afternoon matinee idol. In a world of paste reproductions Viggo Mortensen is a rare gem of creative energy. His work as an actor goes far beyond the normal level of effort exerted by a conventional leading man which results in his performances being elevated into works of art as unique as his poems and pictures. If the chance arises for you I strongly urge you to read some of his poetry or look at some of his visual art. The web site that I have mentioned is a link to his publishing house where you can buy his work and the work of other artists. I purchased "Coincidence of Memory" which is a collection of work from the last twenty years, so provides a good introduction to all three modes of expression. Take a risk, you'll find the rewards far out strip the cost.

cheers gypsyman

5/16/2005

Enemies List #3

My attempt to maintain a weekly listing of the worst environmental villains has failed miserably. As we are closing in on the three month anniversary of this blog(have you notice that spell check doesn't recognize blog) I have devoted a grand total of two posts to the topic. Its not that I'm not fanatical about the topic, more that when I think about it I get completely overwhelmed. There are just so many to choose from I don't know where to start. There's the American government sponsored by the oil industry raping the Alaskan wildlife preserve instead of investing those billions in developing alternative energy; the builders of subdivisions everywhere destroying land of all types to build butt ugly housing; the Big Three auto makers and their insistence on performance over efficiency; electrical suppliers returning to coal powered generators instead of enforcing conservation efforts. The list is endless. But the real reason is that you can reduce the list down to one commonality that is painfully obvious. There is only one thing that drives all the different enemies, one desire. The fulfilling on the needs of the consumer. Each of the aforementioned groups of people do what they do based on the demands placed on them by us. Human beings. That's the painful truth. We can try and blame it on corporate greed, government indifference, or some other excuse, but if we were not compliant, or even worse, demanding of the services provided, there would be no need for them to deliver. As long as we demand the luxury of five bedroom houses for two people to live in, massive automobiles for no other purpose but to convey us to and from work, and conveniences to cool our air, trim our hedges, change our environment, and open our cans we create the raison d'etre for all of these crimes. By sitting at my computer at this time of day and writing this blog I have very little idea of how much demand I'm making on the system but at a guess I'd say there is the minimum of a light on to see with, the power to run my computer, to run my internet connection, to have the blog's server on to pick up post, and the power on in all the offices that are needed to be staffed to allow all of that to happen. That's just scratching the surface. When it comes down to it there is really only one enemy of the environment and we are it. None of our actions do anything to recompense for what we take. We don't even make good fertilizer as corpses. Most other animals, minerals , plants etc either give something back or are neutral. When was the last time you saw a rock use a hair dryer? Prey and predator serve a purpose, make a balance. If left alone most animal populations adjust themselves over time, or there is sufficient habitat to allow for one area to be abandoned in favour of another for a time to allow overgrazed areas to recover. So called primitive tribal humans recognized this flaw in our make up and organized specific rites to remind themselves of their need for gratitude to the natural world. The "give- a-ways" and the "pot -latches" of native Americans were in recognition of the fact that we don't give anything back, that we have no integrated way of saying thank you. Even though those ceremonies did not actually give anything back in the Physical sense they served as a reminder of our limitations so that we could govern ourselves accordingly. humans leave a massive "footprint" behind and do little or nothing to repair the damage. Whether strip mining pumice to make stone washed jeans and leaving the tailings to pollute the water table, clear cutting old growth forrest destroying thousands of species habitat in order to build more housing modules on farmland, or refusing to practice sensible family planning in order to maintain sustainable levels of population. The ever continual population boom is probably the biggest contributed to the ill health of the planet. In the wild when a population booms one of three things happens, predators thin the herd, the food runs out and famine reduces the population to a sustainable level, or decease ravages the group. Since humans have no predators except themselves, we are mainly the victims of famine and decease of our own making. Each no virus that springs up, every new famine in sub Sahara are a direct or indirect result of our overpopulation. We in the so called developed world have stood idly by for too long allowing the populations of the former colonies to be manipulated by the religious and political agenda of a minority. Under the guise of aid they ensure their morality is imposed upon populations that are suffering from the rapid mutation of viruses via the huge petrie dish of a large population weakened by starvation. A virus is like any species playing out its little evolutionary war, mutating to resist our medicines at an alarming rate. As far as a virus is concerned the more warm bodies to grow in the better. We must pressure bodies like the U.N. etc. To start handing out condoms instead of prayer books. If the world population is not brought under control soon, well, to put it succinctly we're f***ed. The thing is that there is good news. It has been predicted that the upcoming generation of women in the developing world, with the advent of education and the opening up of options for a better life, will actually have less children then previous ones. But that has to be sustained over the long term, and we have to actively work to promote that lifestyle everywhere. There is no way this world can hope to support the over 5 billion people on it for much longer. It's already cracking at the seams. What had started out as a sort of neat idea to highlight the worst poluters or environmental offenders just sort of fizzled out as I whittled it down to the bare essentials. Sorry about that but sometimes looking in the mirror isn't pretty. Our species has been partying without caring for a while now, its time to deal with the hangover. cheers gypsyman

5/15/2005

Personal Diary

Don't let the title mislead you, this is not going to be a confessional. But have you noticed how many blogs are just that. Where did this spilling your guts to complete strangers come from? How about we come up with a name for it. The Oprah Syndrome!! Find yourself a large audience and blat out your sob story. Feel the love and sympathy be orchestrated for you by a benevolent host(as long as you fit the theme of week: reunited mothers with their daughters lost in tropical storms off the coast of Maui) That's what everybody has come to expect. We all have an audience. Or even worse we all need an audience. It's fascinating that as our one on one communication skills have deteriorated, our public confessional ability has improved. Is it the lack of emotional commitment required that makes getting up in a studio audience of strangers, and an potential audience of millions seemingly so easy for countless bewildered and put upon people? Maybe it's the "fifteen minutes of fame" that so they find so appealing. Whatever it is there seems to be an insatiable appetite for this type of television from the relative sophistication of Oprah to the white trash circus act of Jerry Springer. No longer satisfied with the mass media coverage of so called celebrities and their foibles we have now begun to feed upon ourselves. Willing victims bring their lives up on stage to be dissected in the forum of television. Instead of an emperor passing thumbs up or down judgment we are treated to the even further spectacle of a smug interviewer posing the ever provocative "Audience what do you think?" Then the hapless fool, who had to have known what they were getting themselves in for, gets to here the accumulated wisdom of the couch potato philosopher. Accompanying chorus of Right Ons, Nos, rain down on the stage to the point where I half expect to hear Praise the Lord so much like a revival meeting has it begun to sound. Damn, that's what they are. It just hit me as I was writing, they are revival meetings. Public confessionals orchestrated by a charismatic leader, the audience singing out inspirational phrases, and the atonnee welcomed back into the embrace of their loving society. These shows allow people to "witness" their beliefs and morals. To stand up and be counted in front of their fellows and pass judgment on those who dare deviate, or to offer guidance to the lost. They are in a hallowed space after all, the place where there beliefs and thoughts are shaped and orchestrated, a T.V. Studio. Is it any wonder that these shows are just an extendtion of what we watch and call fiction. They may not look as glamorous as the soap actors they watch in the afternoon, but goddamn it their lives are just as important and are governed by the same laws. So in this new court of Solomon they air their petty grievances, complain about the emptiness they feel, and are reunited with somebody they abandoned thirty years ago. I started off with the intent of wondering why people used their blogs as a personal journal, when they know that others are very well able to read them, and I think I answered that in a very roundabout way. But you know what? I've just found something else I don't understand. I don't think I want to either. cheers gypsyman

5/14/2005

I don't Understand

Sometimes I just don't get it. I mean I don't even know what "it" is that I don't get I'm so far removed from what other people do with themselves. I 've lost track of the number of times I say to Eriana(my wife) I don't understand... It could be in reference to people using power tools, men hanging out in groups watching one person work, why people prefer to complain then do something about a problem. The list goes on. I don't understand television, radio shows, political motivation, sexual and racial intolerance. I don't understand one country's need to go to war against another, food that's packaged and will keep on a shelf for three weeks(and that people eat that stuff and then wonder why they never feel well), or accelerating a car to full speed to get to a stop sign quickly. I don't understand the fascination with the minutiae of stranger's lives just because they make movies or play sports, I don't understand talking endlessly on the phone when your going to see the person on the other end in half an hour. Eriana usually has one of two responses to my plea of I don't understand: either I'm glad you don't or why would you want to. That I can understand, and while I accept the compliment of the first it still doesn't prevent me from being confused by the behaviour of beings who look like they're the same species as me. I know that I'd be considered the one that's odd because of my questioning. Maybe I slept through more of school then I thought because most everybody else seems to adhere to a code of conduct that they only could have been taught en mass somewhere along the line. It's become so bad that I don't even understand why it should matter to me what others do, but it does. I do care. Whether it angers or saddens me depends on the mood I'm in that day. Angers me because of the effects their actions have on everybody around them and the little they care, or the pathos of the meaninglessness of it all can just over whelm me. I think how empty their lives must be if this is how they fill those hours allowed outside the struggle to survive. Three years ago an illness that I've been fighting( a chronic pain condition) finally over took me. Not being able to work has resulted in my perspective of time changing. I no longer have my life segmented by how time is to be utilized. To the extent my body and pain medication allow I'm free to do with it what I will. The irony of this is that for the first time in my life that it is far too valuable a commodity to be wasted. Instead of a fixed schedule that blocks life into segments, I'm at the whims of a capriciousness that forces me to literally seize the moment. Every able second must be utilized to it's fullest or I feel like I'm short changing myself. In the days when I worked in theatre the separation of work and leisure was non-existent because the creation of art is a full time vocation. Time only existed in as it related to the movement of the hands of the clock or the passage of days. It was something to use to it's fullest, whatever you were doing. Talking about nothing, passive entertainment, and the other acceptable diversions just seemed like such a waste. Even now Eriana and I only have a television for use as a monitor for our D.V.D. and video machines. For us that is the major concession to our illnesses, accepting that there are moments when we can not function to the fullest of our capacity, but still need something to provide stimulation when we are not capable of providing it for ourselves. It feels like such a last resort. I'm having a hard time figuring out what my point in all this might be, but it all seems to centre around what we do with what we are given. Living up to our potential as a species. I don't feel like I'm superior or anything like that, and like I said before I'm sure most consider me the freak, but it appears that we live in a society which encourages people not to strive, but to accept. Have you ever noticed in oppressive regimes that the first peoples rounded up, or brought under state control are the artists? Is it because these people are the ones who will not be limited by the convention of acceptance, are not satisfied to just while away the hours without at least dreaming or listening? Maybe its because that lack of compliance leads to questioning, and the last thing that a dictatorship wants is people asking questions. An artist is continually doing, even if not actively working, because every little experience is something that can be drawn upon for latter inspiration. Perhaps I'm different and should give up trying to understand why people are the way they are. The wonderful British playwright Harold Pinter wrote a short piece called "The Last To Go". In it two elderly men are talking about newspaper sales at a particular kiosk. For four pages of dialogue they say absolutely nothing more substantial then which paper sold last, and have you seen so and so. It remains to this day one of the most realistic pieces of theatre I have ever seen performed. Well I hope you don't feel this was too much a waste of time. cheers gypsyman

5/12/2005

What a relief

My wife and I dream of escape. "Wouldn't it be nice to live out of the city in a place with land where the noise would be less, there wouldn't be the demands of the city etc. etc." I'm sure some of you out there have had similar thoughts. I know that we are supposed to live in the world, anything else is a denial of existence, and running away doesn't solve anything. But is leaving the city life running away? Why is choosing an alternative way of living considered not living "in the world." If I decide I no longer want to deal with the noise and crap associated with the city it doesn't make me any less involved. Achieving isolation in this day and age would take an inordinate amount of work. I suppose its theoretically possible, but how many places are there where its not possible to intrude. Just think if you managed to get there how unlikely is it that someone else won't follow. Once there's more then two the first MacDonald' can't be far behind. So-called civilization is everywhere so to think of running away, save through a coma or lobotomy(tempting on occasion), is a bit of a farce. Even those who have retreated into convents or monasteries aren't escaping the world, they are just dealing with it from a very singular point of view. The truly spiritual person in retreat believes they are working for the betterment of all through their devotion, and that commitment expresses an attachment that view of us could hope to emulate. I could be living in a cabin in the woods and still be writing these pieces, still be using the medical system that supports me in times of illness, buying essentials in the same consumer marketplace that everybody else uses, and paying taxes. But it would be the way in which I choose to relate to the world which would be the escape. Instead of letting the world dictate reactions, traffic noise, neighbour noise, street violence etc., responsibility would fall directly on the individual for all responses. Anger, sadness, and other emotions would come from within, or from interpersonal relationships not from extraneous stimulations. Its easy to imagine an idyllic situation where in there is the freedom to be what and who you truly are without compromise. The thing is that when faced with that choice how many would truly be willing, or in fact, are able to follow through on surrendering the convenience of having excuses for our behaviour? Its easy to justify being angry when there are plenty of reasons every day to raise your ire. Living surrounded by distractions gives you built in excuses for not reaching your goals or daring to live out your dreams. "If only I had a little peace and quiet I could...." Is the most often used excuse in contemporary life for not accomplishing those things that are supposedly dear to you. But what happens if your find yourself with all kinds of time, and little or no distractions? Believe me there's always something if you really look hard enough that can justify anything. For the last three years I've been unable to work because of a chronic pain condition. For the last two of those years I've been receiving a disability pension from the province of Ontario. This would appear to be ideal circumstances for achieving my goal of writing a novel. But it took me almost all this time to simply work up the nerve to take responsibility for doing the work. Some of the reasons were legitamet, I am disabled and it is difficult to focus through the pain on occasion, my wife is not well and we had things we needed to do to ensure her sanity and well being, but it always seemed there was something. It's easy to come up with excuses when living surrounded by others, you can just blame it on them, its too noisy, they've pissed me off too much, and so on. Ten years ago I volunteered to teach theatre at a day camp that was situated on a camp site. I was given a spot to set up a tent, and free board for the duration of the summer. I had two glorious months of living by myself in a tent, isolated from the majority of humans for a good chunk of time. I had to rely on myself for everything. If I wanted coffee in the morning, I had better have gathered enough wood the night before so that I could build a fire no matter what the conditions. There was no one to blame but myself if it didn't happen. I've since realized how fortunate I was to have had that experience. It taught me more about taking responsibility for my actions then a ton of self help books or years of therapy. The unfortunate draw back is that I get disappointed quickly, or fail to understand how, others don't show the same independence. The last time I mentioned to my wife that it would be nice to have a place where we could take people who we knew away from the difficulties of living in the city, her answer caught me by surprise. She said you'd be surprised how few people would actually go through with it. People don't want to surrender their excuses, or by implication take responsibility for their feelings and actions. They need the distractions of the city in order to continue the pattern of their life in a way that's comfortable to them. People have become accustomed to passivity. They don't like taking the initiative, they would rather simply react to situations. Whether sitting staring at the television being spoon fed entertainment, or responding to the stimuli of city life, they don't have to be responsible for anything. The new age philosophies that tell you how to behave, dress, what foods to eat, etc., so you don't have to make any decisions are simply an extendtion of this mind set. It's far easier to have some guardian angel telling you what to do then actually make up your own mind. The next time someone accuses you of running away from the problems of the world when you suggest moving out of the city, or that by doing somehow is shirking responsibility, ask them exactly what responsibility they are so worried about. Personally I think the more people who are responsible for their own actions the better. cheers gypsyman

5/11/2005

As I Please

George Orwell: The original Blogger

Over twenty years ago Penguin books published a three part series of the collected essays, letters, and articles of George Orwell(Born as Eric Blair) These covered the period from the 1920's to the time of his death in 1948. They were a fascinating account of a world going through massive changes by a man with a keen eye for political, personal, and social stories that were indicative of the state of human nature. Discourses on the nature of British cooking(much underrated according to him because it's never properly done), the search for the ideal pub, and of course the state of the world. An unabashed left winger Orwell was never afraid to speak his mind on any issue, even when he would find himself in direct opposition with the conventional leftist opinion. He was a free thinker who would no let himself be blinded by "party" affiliations or loyalties, and the thing he hated most in the world was hypocrisy, which he was quick to point out when and where ever it revealed it's ugly head.

Probably best known for two novels, 1984, and Animal Farm, both of which dealt with the failures of trying to create ideal societies, he was long pilloried by the left for being anti socialist. In truth he was far more left wing then any of his critics could have hoped to be. His biggest crime was to criticise the Stalinist regime of Soviet Russia when they were still the darlings of the left. He had first hand experience of their oppressive nature when he served in an Anarchist Brigade in the Spanish Civil War. He watched as the initial victories of war fell apart when the communist backed forces became more concerned with purging the federalist forces of anarchist troops then fighting Franco. So while Hitler was actively supporting the fascists the Soviets were actually undermining the fight for freedom.

Orwell accounts the whole sordid mess in the wondrous Homage to Catalonia, one of the best first hand accounts of the forerunner of the Spanish Civil War. For those interested this is the war that if the powers in Britain, France, and the U.S. had gotten involved in, would have prevented World War Two, because it would have crippled Hitler and Mussolini's war machine's before they even got built. As it was it provided a perfect training ground for them to prepare for the invasion of Poland and France three years later.

It was during the war that Orwell started to write his column As I Please. As the title suggests he was give carte blanche to write about anything and everything with no suppression of his opinion. Whether it was crtictism of the Soviet Union, or the behavior of American soldiers in London, reviews of books, or observations about daily life during the war they are fascinating to read for the picture generated of a very specific time in history.

The work during that period is the forrunner of the modern columnist is style and format. Wide ranging, provocative, and thought inspiring, they were what are attempted with various degrees of success today by anybody writing an op-ed piece. What separated and continues to separate Orwell from the rest of the pack was his breadth of knowledge and experience. Few people alive now can hope to match in a life time what he had achieved to that point: Served as police man in Burma, fought in Spain, lived as a down and out with the working poor to better document their lives for a book, worked as an interviewer for the B.B.C., and published three novels.(The Road to Wiggen Pier, Keep the Asphrodite Flying, and Down and out in London and Paris)

A life such as that could not help but formulate an innate sense social justice. His exposure to the poor, colonial oppressed, and people willing to die for their freedom ensured that he would always speak out against inequity no matter whose feathers he ruffled. Remarkably no matter what he said about who his work was never censored, widely criticisms maybe, but always printed. What he would have thought of the quality of our press currently, their willingness to censor themselves by being embedded and hand fed pool reports, is easy enough to guess. One only need look at the disdain he held for the "jingoists" who held in such high contempt for simply parroting government statements as gospel without question and calling it news to fathom the contempt he would have held current standards of reportage.

When I started on this blog I did not have in mind the idea of emulating George Orwell, but I was suddenly reminded of him the other day when I was attempting to describe what it is I do with this site. It made me think of what a wonderful time he would have had with the internet, and having his own blog. He was always highly skeptical about things that were claimed to bring people together, in his age the radio and the airplane were supposed to the tools that brought about international co-operation through the closing of the physical gap between countries, but I do think he would have appreciated the technology that would have allowed him to have his words read anywhere across the world for free.

With this in mind I dedicate this blog to the memory of George Orwell and will attempt at all times to follow in his footsteps, pointing out hypocrisy, knocking over statues, and generally doing what I do best- being a gad fly. I hope that I can least be a pale imitation of what he started.

cheers gypsyman

Faith, or lack there of!

As you may have gathered from previous posts I have some pretty firm opinions about a lot of the New Age goobledy gook that's out there. Now most of its pretty harmless; doesn't hurt anybody except maybe the participants I.Q. in that thinking along lines that fuzzy has got to do you permanent brain damage. But if you want to believe your channeling space dolphins that's your business. You may not be doing anything for yourself but your not harming anybody. But there is a new trend out there which while not necessarily dangerous, is down right insulting to people who have genuine beliefs. I don't have much use for any of the big religions but that doesn't mean that the people who believe those tenets shouldn't be treated with respect. The problems I have with them are based on the ones who don't respect another's choice of faith. If I can't honour their choices then I'm as bad as the ones I critasise. The trend I'm talking about is to take figures who are central to people's belief system and co-opt them to your own needs and giving them designations that make them palatable to you. Somebody somewhere out there has come up with the designation of Ascended Master. A meaningless appellant if I've ever seen one it lumps together people of disparate backgrounds into a convenient package. At best it seems a way to justifying believing in somebody without giving credence to their original designation, while at worst its name dropping of the worst kind and absolving yourself from any responsibility for your actions. Its very convenient to be able to say that I consulted the ascendant masters and the angels and they said I was doing the right thing. And did the avocado tree in the corner burst into flames? Look here's the thing. Either believe in them or don't. There' s no half measures when it comes to this. You either think Jesus Christ is the Son of God who died for our sins, and you buy into the whole original sin Garden of Eden story or you don't believe in Jesus. Don't insult people by saying he's not the symbol he was intended to be. If you can't bring yourself to believe in the whole package then don't believe at all. Changing the nature of a God or Goddess to suit your own needs is the worst sort of cultural appropriation. The whole ascendant master(I'm not going to capitalize that any more) thing sounds like the biggest cop out going. Don't want to be bogged down believing in anything, well have I got the answer for you. You don't have to have any faith, follow any structure, hell you don't need to do anything and they're here to serve you. Problems, concerns, should you put out $500.00 for that angel workshop? Ask the ascendant masters, they have all the answers. I seriously wonder what answer you would get from somebody who followed that shit if you asked them what they believed in. What moral code did they follow? How did they judge right from wrong all those sorts of things that a belief system does for you. Whether you agree with peoples replies to that question is irrelevant, but at least the people who follow religions have a point of reference when it comes to moral issues. I fear that with crap like this more and more people will be living in a moral vacuum with no value system what so ever. It will be all based on what suits their individual needs at the time, what's convenient for them, not what's good for others. Ascendant masters range from Jesus to Isis, with probably anybody they can think of thrown in for good measure. There's nothing to believe in, just a bunch of names who maybe signify something but gives you no moral firmament to stand on. The best definition of an ascendant that I've ever seen was in Steven Eriksons' Malazan Books of the Fallen, where they are described thusly" when ascendants start messing about on the mortal plane, mortals better look to their skins" That's probably not quite right but you get the idea. In those books ascendants are simply beings, human and otherwise, who have achieved immortality. Their arrogant, merciless, and care little for the people anymore. When they do interfere it's for their own personal gain, not to be helpful or beneficent. If you want to worship Isis, or start up the cult of Dionysus then that's all fine and good, but really worship them and understand what it is you are doing. Don't just drop their names into conversation to justify yourself as being enlightened or in the know. It's insulting to people who genuinely believe and its not helping you in any real way. cheers gypsyman

5/09/2005

Sherman Alexie

Turning Indians into Humans is a hard sell.

I remember reading an article/interview about Sherman Alexie where he was talking about the problem about being an Indian in contemporary North America. What he described was a sort of bizarre form of prejudice in that everyone expects all Indians to be mystical and prophetic. Ridiculing this idea he stood on stage at a college lecture, spread his arms wide and faced east with his eyes closed. Opening his mouth he slowly intoned the mighty words of his people "super size me" Although funny this exemplifies the situation facing the modern native north American: getting the rest of us to see them as human . Going from the object of government planned cultural genocide to metaphysical beings may seem like progress, but the results end up the same. Stereotyping and marginalisation no matter how they are disguised still confines a people to the fringes of society.

It's so much easier for us to think of an Indian living in conditions worse them most of the developing world, if we can console ourselves with the fact that they have their connection to the universe that keeps them strong. The problem with this is that it's really hard to eat a "connection" or pay for education, or get decent housing. Not to mention that the governments of the Americas did their best to eradicate them and their culture over the last hundred years. The suicide, substance abuse, and alcohol abuse rates are higher among native teens in Canada then any other group. Although some efforts been made to revive a culture that would stimulate self worth, pride, and hope for a future is still too faint a glimmer for most of them.

The world of Sherman Alexie's Spokane Indians is not one that would be recognized by Lynn Andrews and her ilk. Unpaved roads on which cars drive backwards; fetal alcohol babies; basketball as a warrior cult; surplus government food stuffs to bloat empty stomachs; alcohol to desensitiise; and stories that wander across generations of lies, broken promises, and dreaming has become futile. The magic is not what you'd read about in First Nations section of your New Age bookstore. It's the people who are brought to life by Sherman Alexie's words and love that is magic.

He talks about the drunk on the street who we don't want to know, about the stealing of a man's pride, the subjugation of a people's culture, and the theft of dreams. At every turn they run into the walls we have set up to confine them to the place that makes us most comfortable. These are the stories of a people who see us as an oppressor: the Europeans have destroyed the land, stolen their way of life and now conspire to abscond with their religion. Alexie makes no bones about it we are the enemy, and to be honest what other perspective could an Indian have.

These books may not sit well with white liberals, in fact they may alienate a lot of people for how poorly white society comes off in general, but the opinions uttered by the white characters are things you hear everyday out of the mouths of politicians looking to score points with the red neck contingent: welfare bums, drain upon our society, leeches, they lost the war so what do they expect, going to take your house out from under you and so on. In my view just in our occupying and living on this continent we are complicite in the oppression of natives everywhere, and that is the point that comes across in Sherman Alexie's books.

As a non native who openly embraces the philosophies and ideals of native beliefs I admit to feeling discomfort at times when reading these books for his characters have a low opinion of what they call wannabes. There was a time when I was directly involved with the native community in the city where I live, volunteering at a friendship centre and participating in events. During those times I was never made to feel unwelcome because of my background, in fact whenever I expressed my discomfort over walking a red path I was met with reassurance, understanding and humour(what your part Jewish, hell that's great you already got the suffering down, but we've got a better sense of humour)But in the end I decided that it was more appropriate for me not to be involved within the community for a variety of reasons, but primarily because it did not feel appropriate. This has not changed my belief system, I still walk what's known as the red road, but that is a personal choice, not out of any desire to be an Indian.

What it comes down to is respect. So much has been stolen from Indians as a people that seeing white people parading themselves around as teachers, shaman, and faith healers has to be particularly galling. Every buxom blond blue eyed native, crystal gazing "we're all natives under the skin" espousing, money grubbing, bookselling shaman is another massacre at Wounded Knee. Killing, oppressing, and cultural genocide are one thing, turning around and taking the things from that same culture that appeal to you in order to make a quick buck is just rubbing salt into a wound that your knife made. Exploitation is Exploitation no matter what you call it.

Sherman Alexie's books make real what we have mythafied. He destroys the image of the nobel savage and replaces him with basketball players , university students, drunks, storytellers, in other words people who get angry and sad, happy and outraged, do stupid things, are brave and cowardly. But they are these things within the context of a conquered people who have had everything stolen down to their pride in self. Hope can not be bought at the store like commodity cheese and when you are told often enough that you are worthless it becomes easier to believe that then to crawl back out from under the hand pushing you down. Alexie's people show the strain of trying to push the fingers of that hand off their head so they can peak out and say "We are here and we are real"

Read these books if you have the courage to look at yourself in the mirror, because the only way things are going to get better is if we all start to take responsibility for our participation in cultural genocide. What can you do? You can write your elected officials and let them know that you will not accept the fact that there are people living here who have lived here longer then most of our so called civilization has existed and they need to be treated with dignity and respect.

cheers gypsyman