Tuesday, August 30, 2005


I've been feeling sapped of the will to post anything for a while. And just as I was about to jump back into the midst of it, I read this, for the lack of a better word, perfect caricature of "poor little me". I laughed, sure, but this was a little too close to home. I've literally spent the last week locked up, or grudgingly going out and nursing that literary ambition. But at no point have I been less pleased with what I've produced. I remember telling my friend a week ago about my latest endeavor in passionate terms; now that I think of it, I should have thrown in the word "ourobouros"--because I've managed to take all the steam out of my sails by having the thrust of the text collapse under solipsistic fucking self-reference. (Losing steam is kind of like when a kid can only do a trick when nobody's looking.) And now what? Well, output proceeds apace, but it is unsatisfying output. I don't want to be raw or long-winded; I don't want hyperrealism; I don't want conscious intertextuality; I don't want -esques and -isms; no intentionally self-conscious stream of consciousness either. But what, then? If I don't let up on myself, I'm off to get drunk and see what happens.

What have I done recently? What experiences can I mine for content? I sat on a roof. I probably failed to stop a complete stranger from commiting suicide. I reaffirmed my love of cats. I watched two movies in a row. I read for two days straight. I upset my mother. I dreamt sparse romantic period piano sompositions. I sang negro spirituals ("swing low, sweet chariot") and wished I believed in all that "God" bullshit. I dashed my brain against Maxwell's equations. I set the aerial photograph of a run-down Guangzhou tenement as my desktop background. I wrestled with a bowl of Kraft Dinner into the wee hours of the night. And I decided to take the advice of an inspirational Ziggy calendar from August 1986 which hangs on my wall. So what?

(You should have just read the article I linked and left it at that.)

Consider: "Karuna."

Saturday, August 27, 2005


God, we are so viciously fucked.

I've been reading about peak oil. This was instigated, in part at least, by my friend who pops in from time to time and carries on about all the ways society can, and probably will, collapse. I agree with him. I've never been one to lead an optimistic lifestyle, and everything I see attests to our collective inability to tell our assholes from ground-holes. But oil seems to be at the bottom of so much; it is the fundament of so much of our shit. (It, quite literally, cooks our food for us, harvests our grain, powers our communications, drives our cars and trucks, explores for oil, pollutes our environment but also cleans our environment, brings us our water, heats our buildings, cools our buildings...)

Very quickly (in case you didn;t read the article): peak oil is the idea that when global oil production stops growing and so much as begins to decline, we're in for a world of shit. Once our extraction efforts start becoming less and less efficient, we'll be unable to power our economies, in which demand is growing. Note here that this is not the same as us running out of oil; we'll have some oil for at least a century in the future. The problem here is that our economy is based on this one ridiculous assumption: that we can sustain growth indefinitely. Which team of jackasses accepted this as gospel? You base your growth and peg it to a fucking non-renewable resource! Great fucking move! When armed militias begin forming after the oil crash, I want to line theswe people up in front of a wall and shoot them. (Nothing of the sort will happen, though; these profiteering assholes will be holed up in some fortress somewhere.) Anyway, the point is that peak oil will cause markets to go apeshit, and no human foresight can stop this. The market is greater than the sum of its traders.

But wait, you say. Alernative fuels and lifestyle changes can smooth this crash; something positive can emerge and our eceonemy can go on; morern industrial civilkization would be saved, or at least certain positive aspects of it, like decent individual freedom, tolerance, entertainment, electornics, science, art and so on. Nice thought; I wish that would happen. I'm all for it; I'm living that energy-reducing, recycling, non-car-driving, soon to be non-meat-eating lifestyle. But will most people do that? I maintain that people in large groups will never get their collective shit toghether; and this includes me, as much as I distance myself from it. An example: most people support public transit, but for other people. Responsibility ofr global catastrophes is diffused something fierce, to the point where it doesn't register. Ask yourself: how responsible do you feel on any given day for the old-growth forests that are cut down to bring you your "bathroom tissue"? How responsible do you feel for the brownish cloud of smog over your city? I won't belabour it; the list goes on. The markets--there go the fucking markets again--are not responsive enough to recognize the value of alternative energy until it's too late. Why? Well, partly because people in large groups are incapable of getting their shit together, but also becuase there is a fundamental inversion at work here. (Keep in mind I know practically jack-shit about economics.) It takes the form of this quote (which is in that article I linked to): "you can buy an apple for one euro. If you really want an apple, you might pay five euros. You could even pay a thousand euros, but you would never pay two apples." The apples here are oil. Markets ultimately trade energy and the products of energy consumption. Energy is more fundamental than market value; markets can only reflect the supply-and-demand situation of energy, they cannot shape it in any appreciable way. (I hope there's some fundamental flaw i nreasoning embedded here. It'd be nice.)

Of course, opinions differ on what will happen when we hit peak oil. I like to try to consider the worst: massive social unrest or war on a global scale; Ethiopian-style famine in first-world countries; massive profiteering and hoarding by corporations and the rich; the collapse of whatever egalitarianism we sought. So, when is it coming, this peak oil, this crash? Opinions vary, but even the most optimistic people don't put it much past 2015. That's right: 2015. This will happen in the prime of our lives; we'll have to deal with this shit. Or, more likely, we won't. If it's any consolation, it may already be too late, so the ones that fucked up were really the previous generation.

Consider: "Anything that can be done to a rat can be done to a human being. We can do just about anything you can imagine to rats. And closing your eyes and refusing to think about this won't make it go away."

Monday, August 22, 2005

Orphans and oligarchs

Travel writing is wearisome. One constantly hears about high-class restaurants and higher-quality tourist traps. One hears about where to sink one's money and where not to blow it, all accompanied by glossy photos of hopelessly photogenic people smiling their smiles around the world. There is not a cloud in the sky or any atmospheric haze, ever. So, instead of describing my vacation, I'll focus on what was its seamy underbelly thereof in the form of stories you'd find on the back of a postcard.

The Orphanage: As I walked the collonades of Chicago's waterfront, observing the pleasingly postmodern curvy and reflective architecture, I was approached by a man. He spoke to me, a little too passionatley, about the house he works at, and how someone is trying to shut them down. He was selling postcards to raise money for their defense fund. I comisserated with him, related to hime that I, too, am familiar with social work and wished I could help him but that I had no money on me at the time. I asked where this place was, intending to take a look at it if at all possible. (I did not get around to it.) The contrast was reason for brief pause: this semi-ragged and obviously harried man flitting between tourists here to look at reflecive spheres or bastardizations of Roman amphitheatres.

The Museum of Scam Art: I'll admit it right off: I got taken for a sucker. They managed to scam me. Who? Two young gentlemen in front of the hotel. The scam runs thus: they grab the sucker and begin shining their shoes, sweettalking them the entire time. The sucker is to believe that this is some sort of promotional giveaway or such. Halfway through sweet-talking, it becomes established that the cost is $8 per shoe ("plus whatever you want to tip me", said he). By this point he's shining your other shoe and there's no way to stop them. At the end, he says "did I say eight? I meant eighteen". by this point our scammers have switched from obsequiousness to an air of suppressed brutality as the sucker hesitates, taken aback by this outrageus demand. They apply standard psychogical sales pressure. Eventually, the sucker gives them something and walks off in a daze. I asked for change back, and my shoe-shiner said he had no change even though ten seconds before he clearly repeated that he had change. If this sounds ridiclous, it is in retrospect, but I'd like to point out the brilliance of the scam: the scammer has actually performed a service, and it is expected that one should pay them, so the customer feels trapped. On other days, I saw shrewd businessmen and seasoned travellers taken in. They all, like me, pulled out their wallets. Luckily this scam has a steep learning curve; I'll never again be taken in by it. But I felt violated and emptied of all pride for a long time, not least because I gave those assholes $20 and nothing to the orphanage man.

MLK: Still dazed from the shoe-shine scam, we (my brother and I) had ourselves a hell of a time on the elevated train ("the El" or "L train", colloquially). After wasting somewhere in the neighbourhood if treefitty ($3.50) on getting on the wrong-direction platform, we finally boarded the El going the right way (towards a museum that was part of the standard touristic superstructure of most trips). The only problem was that I had misread the map (probably because my eyes are in some stage of deterioration--not enough Vitamin A or precursors thereof) and instead of getting off at 57th street, where the museum was, we got off at 37th street. We looked around: this did not seem like the sort of neighbourhood to house a museum. It was, and I say this very reluctantly, the ghetto. Low-rise brown nondescript buildings littered the streets; tufts of crab grass fought for dear life; the cracks in the sidewalks seemed to have not been repaired in decades. Old decrepit men walked around looking as broken as the broken saplings and scratched-out bus maps that decorated the street. Young boys rode around on bicycles, some pointing at us in conspiratorial ways. I had not caught onto my mistake yet, so we proceeded deeper and deeper into this gutted neighbourhood, past the police stations, past the half-assed consctruction work, past the flocks of gang colours. I had never so actively thought about the possibility of my death. After catching my mistake (after which I let loose with the worst cursing I knew, drawing more attention to us and the fact that we were lost, clueless tourists) we tried to hail a cab, except no cabs went here. It would be an hour and a half until I stopped being jumpy. In a way (of course, after the fact) I'm glad I saw just what wealth disparity America generates.

Photography: I bought no postcards, but I did have a digital camera. My favouriste shots were ones of buildings surrounded, positively steeped in haze on our first day. I think by this point it's pretty obvious I try to not go in for the tourist mony-grabs. But I also realized such things are inevitable. One must take the fuided tours; one must wait in line with obese Nebraskans; one must force oneself to do nothing upon hearing evolution-bashing in, of all places, a science museum. To be a tourist is tiring and shallow, but to try to blend in on one's first visit is just stupid, as I came to realize in the ghettos. Sometimes, one has to flock to safe venues.

Consider: "If you love something, you hold onto it until your arms are wrenched from your sockets... and then... then you put it in a scissors hold."

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Weights & pulleys

At last! That time has come for which we collectively long all summer. The season to travel. The season in in which we are unemployed but full of money from the past four months' toil. Because of that, the cities of Chicago and Montreal will see a lot more of me. They will see me looking at their art; they will see me jaywalk their streets; they will lull me to sleep; they will see me buying their cabbages; they will see me stumble out of bars and trace arabesques on their nightscapes with my index finger. (If the trips don't turn out exciting, I can at least imagine them exciting.) If there is time, I may hop a bus going somewhere north; somewhere new: new dilapidated hotels and new pld-folks fishing spots, among others. The GTA will also see a lot more of me; it's time to use theo ld bicycle until it falls apart and dies its death with dignity; it's time to explore the ravines and malaral breeding grounds of our rivers; it's time to stop semi-avoiding the pseudo-brothel blues bars; it's time to eat more and eat heartier than before. This is the time to indulge the wanderlust, because something tells me I'll need it when we're back in the lecture theater & library & work desk.

Consider some Scripture: "Then, the Licchavi Vimalakirti set set himself in such a concetration and performed such a miraculous feat that thse bodhisattvas and those great disciples were enabled to see the universe called Sarvagandhahasugandha, which is located in the direction of the zenith, beyond as many Buddha-fields as there are sands in forty-two Ganges rivers..."

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Symmetry breaking

Another letter to no-one:

Nobody will miss us in that time that may come after death. No-one was disposed to sing songs to us, or of us, especially us. But let it be known that I never turned my back on a pretty piece of flesh, something I could pierce to the marrow. (Incidentally, that's how you have to pierce animals to tame them.) The big thick ideas overshadowed the music of my flailing arms and my belly. I'll admit this unapologetically: I've always valued conversation with a clever man over the variegrated suppurations and tensions of sinews and muscles, even when everyone tried to inculcate me with the transcendental holiness of some wired-in neurology. Whose ideas are bigger and grander? The little greasy man in the corner who wants to build robot hive minds for social justice, the clean bowling-ball-head monk spouting his discourses on seeing the "actual nature of reality", or the (again) clean and symmetrical hedonist raking in the hedons (and incidentally quantifying them with a device resembling one of those Church of Scentology-esque readers). But I've digressed to far. I'll say this as well: what I meant by "love" and you meant by "love" were not neccessarily comaptible things. They were like our colour names; we will never know that what we name and what we experience are the same thing. If I didn't know that I loved you, how were you to know what I knew, or I to know what you knew. Was I supposed to feel it in my belly? This is not some testament to the "impossibility of modern romance" or some bullshit like that. Anyone can jockey for status and buy someone else a drink and go walking on the dance floor and fill up with X and lubricant and crysanthemums. Anyone can feel a pressing need. And it's not even a conceptual confusion. My stomach tends to give me contradictory inclinations depending on the time of day. Rest assured, though. You will most likely have children; you will call yourself happy; you may even feel it in your sinews (or belly, whatever shorthand we want to use). But don't get any ideas; don't export them; don't recommend them as stranscndence or wisdom. Because the worms don't care, and they will come for you.

Your sometime partner in the struggle,

A. D.

(Again, keep in mind that this person does not exist. This is not a love letter. This is not a suicide note. This is not a covert pick-up attempt. And this is not a pipe.)

Consider: "...you can do as you will, but you can't will as you will."

Friday, August 12, 2005

Black box

In the 19th century, it was perfectly rational to posit the existence of a "luminiferous aether", the substance through which light waves propagated. For of course there must exist some medium for those disturbances in electromagnetic field to travel through. The aether (or "ether") was also the absolutely still frame of reference, which in some minds kept the whole of the universe on a tether: something from which we may judge all other frames of reference. Of course, along came the 20th century; along came Einstein and cut the moorings of the aether. Suddenly everything was caught up in a mind-fuck of non-simultaneity; suddenly space and time were spacetime: one and the same, in fact.

I'd just like to point out that this is not some sort of philosophical coup. Every postmodernist ever has to stop creaming themselves with "relativity". Light and the universe behaved in exactly the same way in 1969 as in 1867. It was a coup in terms of how we think about space and time and absolutes and so on; but only in terms of physics. What implications does the invariance of c in all reference frames have to do with ethics or politics or literary theory? Fuck you, that's what! Politics has always been a grab fore resources: too many hands partitioning too small a pie. It has never been a "celebration of diversity", or a "self-evident harbinger of heterogeneity". You want to help the working class? Help them get resources. Out of resources, diversity flows. Not the other way. And base your arguments on at least semi-solid or semi-rigorous ideas, not "language games".

Sound bite: relativity has nothing to do with relativism.

Consider: "the pursuit of truth and beauty is a sphere of activity in which we are permitted to remain children all our lives."

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Bay Window (Part IV)

Yes, there have been too many posts to this effect, but I do spend the majority of my life in front of this window. And if I can't think of anything to put down, what impresses itself on me? It's the recourse of the lazy and recently unemployed (something I'm thankful for).

Well, today I'm thinking about our neighbours' front yard. It's best feature is that it's empty. By which I mean just dirt surrounded by trees forming a grotto-esque atmosphere. Except they had to bugger it up and throw down a dozen of those concrete slabs right into the middle of it. A discarded and melting (I'm not making this up) folding chair is facing toward my window. They ruined a perfectly good concept just like they buggered up their backyard. I once studied in there, on the hammocks tied to the unreasonably large sideways-pointing trees. (Some of the oldest trees in Toronto, by the looks of it.) That was a fine and peaceful experience, except for the textbook which was crushing my abdomen with its erudite mass. We haven't been back since this new crop moved in. Sometimes they burn random shit in there. Every other day, piles of garbage adorn what was a pretty unspoiled piece of urban-decay-turned-wilderness. (A family of raccoons lives in there, or somewhere nearby.) They also like to start hobo fires (garbage-can fires). I think they took our hobo fire can. So it goes, I guess. I suppose these neighbours are not the worst of it: between the rapist lurking on our street and the homeless people sleeping in the community garden (more loud than scary) they're pretty mild.

Consider: "Probably the single most influential articulation of a poststructural anti-universalism in the area of postcolonial studies remains Gayatry [sic] Spivak's 'Can the Subaltern Speak?' in which the author has famously declared that 'the colonized subaltern subject is irrevocably heterogeneous.' " (Actually, don't consider.)

Monday, August 08, 2005


I was a Chernobyl baby. That is to say, I was about 14 months old when the big gasket blew, so to speak. People were advised not to eat anything growing out of the ground. As you might imagine, I was quite a bit closer to the epicenter of the horror than most of the people I know who were being born or nourished around that time, most of them in the confines of teched-up nurseries in the West. I was as exposed as all the Bulgarian children, as the East German children, etc. The prevailing winds blew the mass of the fallout slightly ot the north of us, so we were more-or-less safe. Yet when a few years ago an X-ray of my mouth revealed an extra tooth in the roof of my mouth, I was not all that surprised.

What factors cause a cell or cluster of cells in the inner lining of the mouth to become a tooth? I am interested in biology in general, but self-reference always lends an extra layer of interest. I want to know exactly what molecules may have been messed with, what morphogens misplaced, what receptors sensitized/desensitized, etc. As a future people-mechanic, this is nothing but useful knowledge. Who wouldn't want to look under the hood and tinker for a little while. Getting there might be too exhausting, but people have managed and survived. And they are, after all, people.

Cons: "...It would be nice to have a deductive argument that p from self-evident premises. Unfortunately I am unable to provide one. So I will have to rest content with the following intuitive considerations in its support: p."

Friday, August 05, 2005

Stem cell

That's what I feel like: a stem cell. I'm too filled with potentialities; I play with these potentials and hold off actually becoming anything. I tried the whole wearing-my-identity-on-my-sleeve business back in high school, and it didn't really get me anywhere constructive. If only I could dispel some doubt and swallow my pride and take some basic assumptions as given. That would allow me to build my systematic scaffold into an identity, into a broad social group, into a circle of easy acquaintances, into a "scene". What is open to me? All these would not be great stretches of what can already be considered the core of my identity.

The Environmentalist: I'd have to assume inherent and not utilitarian or relative value in the natural world. My inclinations against humans make this possible. I could either leave school and travel the world on eco-battles or stay in school and use words as daggers. I'd have to grow a beard, which wouldn't be a problem, seeing as the substratum is already well established. I could outfit myself with diverse cultural trinkets. I'd become an animist. Sneakers would give way to sandals; my hair would grow wilder than it already is. Singer's ethics would not be questioned on foundational grounds. On top of this, the animism or very weak pantheism would sustain me. From these principles, the dedication would flow. (Sex acts viewed as natural. Regressing to the limbic.)

The Marxist: Assume: people are inherently good, or barring that: rational, barring that: empathic with at least an incipient altruism. Assume: we in the rich countries can do better than all previous attempts at societal betterment. Auxillary assumptions: human behaviour can be molded. Minimize biological contributions to human potentiality as "ideological". From here, the course is simple: grow a beard, stand behind a lectern. Preach that economics is the substratum of all human essence: our philosophies, our morals, our thoughts and inclinations, the paradigms through which we perceive the world. Stay in school as long as possible. Read big thick books. Let my glasses get thicker and thicker and my paycheck thinner and thinner. The ultimate goal would be to gain a professorship and "corrupt" tomorrow's young minds, to keep the thread of continuity with the great passionate past. Ah, what a life: hidden behind tenure, keeping some benighted hope alive. Arguing endlessly with young undergraduates: beating out God, beating out self-interest, beating out middle-class world-views. Alternately, end school after my earliest degree. Travel the world and stir up agitation: protests, marches, street debates, bar fights, organizing drives, agitation and propaganda, youth groups. Hug the poor and destabilize the stable. See firsthand the suffering that is behind revolutionary theory. Develop praxis to the utmost. (Sex acts: struggles for toeholds in human minds. And acts of love. No revolutionarty should ever forget that righteous anger is born out of deep love--see assumptions.)

The Grad Student: Really compatible with The Marxist and The Environmentalist, except here the emphasis is on reading books, or more generally manipulating symbol systems. I'd have to cut my hair but make it more ragged and disorganized. I'd make no money, living in quarters more heated and unaccomodating than my present set-up. I'd be a shit-in, one of those people you see on campus and know they're pretty smart but aslo on the verge of anervous breakdown: who lide won for hours on the bumpy and unaccomodating statues of wild horses, or float in fountains half-naked, or splay out on the roots of the largest park trees. (Sex: minimal and probably co-dependent.)

"Bukowski": If I alienate those I love. If I become so inner-centered that I forget about the people next to and over and under me who also breathe, who also cook and eat and shit and piss and sweat and pant just like me. If I leave school but for a few used old textbooks & some browned-out maps for phone no.s and ideas that continue to rattle in my head. If the wanderlust takes me to a bar half a meter below some street which is here there & nowhere. If my only means of atoning to dear father & mother & scattered love seeds & random anonymous drop-in centre angels is some lines long & short, descriptive or maudlin or incantatory. Poetry and literature and publishing as main concerns. The cliche of the 50s & 60s now with a quintillion times more processing power and memory. Screaming at the reasserting abyss: "da capo! Da capo!". Maybe there will be occassional recognition. There will definitely be alcohol aplenty for me and the imaginary omnisexual harem surrounding me at all times. Maybe: schizophrenia. Maybe I'll graduate to other drugs, so as to add junk-sickness to my delerium tremens. (For sex: endless bejeweled parades of Madame Deaths adorned in whisky & cigs. Loveboys and girls of brick and mortar. Cash & influence peddled like the approach of the stiffening neurological orgasm.)

The Scientist: Assumptions: the scientific project will bring into existence something new and unpredictable, something which will stand the state of affars on its head; science is the candle in the dark of the demon-haunted world (with apologies to Carl Sagan, whose thought has graced this weblog many times before). Whether in medicine or biology or evolutionary psychology, human nature or frailness unravels before me and presents the obviousness of its manageability. This is compatible with the Grad Student aspiration. I'd have to work hard to get comfortable, and after that is established, I'd take up something similar to The Marxist's project. A professorship would be wonderful. But I wouldn't preach answers, though the notion that God can be overcome will linger. To see the world in comprehensible material terms: what satisfaction! But how would I take the barbs of the intranisgent humanities people and their inflated self-importance, as if they ever brought anything new into the world. Well, they have, but in form, not in content. And their assumptions remain unquestioned.

This unofficial survey of the future has exhausted me. I forgot to add the Slacker, the Brute, the Sanguinary Friend, and of course the Suicide At 23.

Consider som Buk: "...why do we go on / with our minds and / pockets full of / dust / like a bad boy just out of / school-- / you tell / me, / you who were a hero in some / revolution / you who teach children / you who drink with calmness / you who own large homes / and walk in gardens / you who have killed a man and own a / beautiful wife / you tell me / why I am on fire like old dry / garbage."

Tuesday, August 02, 2005


...from the big school of life, especially on-one's-own life:

Being cheap with regards to food is not a virtue. Furniture never loses human smells, so don't ever consider the mad Golgotha that is chemical cleaning. A walk is more entertaining than a mediocre TV show. Conversation is overwhelmingly valuable in form, not in content. Privacy is an illusion; the best we can hope for is discretion. Life is not fair to anyone, ever. I have the capacity to pre-judge, to hate based on a first impression, to protect my own interests parochially, to assume and "us versus them" mentality. Fruit flies are not to be beaten; they are to be nudged along. There are situations in which lifeboat ethics still apply. The feeling of entitlement is madness, but a useful madness. Nobody ever has enough money, so don't worry about it. Every place is not the same. More than ever, I want to see a mountain. (Not all these are lessons, but are realizations, epiphanies, brain-gasms, I've forgotten many because I lack the proper retrieval cues and am too tired to attempt a more efficient exploration of my loger-term memory.)

Consider: "the cutest forced binary decision task I've stumbled across."