Up A Tree
Song currently stuck on endless loop in my mind:
Song currently stuck on endless loop in my mind:
I have an independent study with one of my professors, to address “special questions” related to anthropology, sustainability, and philosophy. Instead of lectures and quizzes, he gives me good books to read. In return I give him my trust that as a learned professor he can accelerate my process of sifting through bullshit on the way to the way to the way to the truth.Today he and I talked about my role as a student, and I’m hoping our conversation carries with it some conviction for myself. As per usual I’ve been falling behind on assignments and relying on my ability to produce work of passable quality at the last minute. It’s a gotdamn talent. What we discussed is how I need to reaffirm that my top priority must be my education. Not to say that I shouldn’t be concerned with reducing my environmental impact, or weaning my peers of heteronormative behaviors, or learning how to hold down a job and buy enough groceries, these are all important charges, but I must make the advancement of my education second to nothing.
Professor Dizard put it nicely; I am not currently in a state of “suspended animation” but rather awash in “temporal capitol”. The time I have now could so easily and effectively be put to use sharpening my mind and honing my thought processes, that to not do so is to cede invaluable opportunity.
And the best way to do all this is to get my read on.
Taken from notes written on a train past the bay, November 25th, 11:40am.
There are hills on the other side of the water, almost swallowed by fog. Their peaks and summits appear as sharp creases in the heavy gray sheet that hangs down to meet the horizon.
Pelicans lazily flap their wings as they pace the train. Their necks crane downwards before they plummet into the water, where they do not splash.
Gulls perch on top of the splintered brown fingers that jut through the surface of the water. Their posture reminds me of bishops and cardinals, or cops. They monopolize the remains of the wharf, threatening the smaller sea birds.
Alongside a water treatment plant, new and old pipes are laid upon the ground. Arranged by color, the clean tan pipes resemble bones more so than the older rusted ones. The entire array resembles the prizes of an archaeological dig.
Tents of the homeless are constructed from tarps and rope. It is as if the sails and rigging of a ship were clutching the ground, embracing scattered belongings.
I have a lot to consider while on this train ride, but I instead pick my brain for descriptive language and try to avoid thinking in prose.
Abble had to go and update her blog. Next thing I know I’m up to my elbows in a migration from Blogger to Worpress, pretending to know php scripting, and weighing the ever-shrinking window of life before death versus an aesthetically pleasing layout. Hopefully the redirect found you well, I’m hoping there are no kinks.
Enjoy the new look, let me know if it’s broken.
I’m waiting in the Chico train station, for the 3:50am southbound to San Jose. In the company of 3 other passengers-to-be, sleeping peacefully on the indoor benches.
I packed my bag 3 times this morning. The first time I packed it with everything I wanted to bring with me to San Jose. The contents of the bag reflected what I wanted to do when I got there. The bag was too heavy though, so I unpacked the contents onto my bed.
The second time I packed my bag it was with everything I needed to bring to San Jose. A laundry list of assignment I needed to complete while away from school determined which notebooks and which textbooks to bring with me. The bag was still too heavy, literally and figuratively.
The third time I packed my bag only with what I believed I might actually use. The contents were reduced to those items I honestly thought my time in San Jose would necessitate. Laptop, notebook, sketchbook, book of poetry, two textbooks, a change of clothes, and a camera.
My bag is a box, more tangible than most. The final contents represent my intentions and aspirations, and they define my options and actions.
I am having trouble staying awake as I wait for the train to come, my eyes close on their own, and I long for a montage cut-scene to transport me to next week. Hopefully the train will get here soon.
I’ve been making mixes again, some for me and some for friends. I think it serves as a good example of making boxes, and also it is fun.
When I start making a mix, I have an idea of what I want it to feel like even though I can’t and won’t ever touch it. I have an idea of the message it carries, though it won’t ever be overtly stated. I know what it sounds like, but I can’t lure the sound of it from my throat. I know the vicinity of the box, but I don’t know exactly where it is or if what’s inside is alive or dead.First thing I do is to name them.
Normally I’ll work on several mixes at the same time. Building them at the same time lets me compare and contrast, cull them when they grow to similar, and in another way hone in on their boxes. Listening to music, certain tracks or artists will grab my attention and find themselves added to a mix. Others will inspire the creation of new mixes or the nixing of the old.
A song is picked to go into a mix if it matches up with the criteria of the mix, if it lies within the box. And yet, a mix is defined by it’s songs, they connect as dots to outline the box. So which comes first, the mix or the idea of the mix?
And also, they are fun.
I think something very important happened last night.
Lindsey dropped by the bike shop a few hours before closing and we talked about getting together later in the evening with other kids and instruments. Five hours later I was walking with my guitar around my neck and Ryan hefting his upright bass beside me. We cut a zig-zagging path through the frat district of Chico and made our way downtown. Converging with Lindsey and her fiddle in an empty web-design office above a bar, we tried to make noises.
Before Ryan and I had set out from his house with our instruments, he mentioned some ideas for improving our chances of making actual music, particularly how essential it was that the three of us actually listen. Because we each come from what we would consider very different musical places, it might be difficult to identify a common ground. If we didn’t, he warned, it would be the three of us playing three different things, just in the same place at the same time. Real listening, as opposed to merely projecting, would facilitate a treatise of taste.
A few hours later, after much noise and a bit of cooperation, we called it quits for the evening. On the streets below us the bar patrons and police were just beginning their early morning dance. Our trio hadn’t simultaneously erupted into an aural experience remarkable and new, but progress had been made toward something musical.
Ryan and I debriefed the situation once we had our instruments back at his apartment. Whenever I’ve played along with Lindsey on fiddle before, I’ve found myself lost. My abilitiy to follow melody, rhythm, or mood seems to take a nose-dive as the bow makes it’s way across those four taut strings. Lindsey plays a lot of traditional Irish folk music, and it may be with this style that I have such trouble.
Listening to her play, considering my difficulty with playing or even listening along, and understanding the style of music with which I am comfortable playing, finds me in a box. I’m not able to satisfactorily define the perimeter of this analytical division, but I can tell when something lies within, or as with Lindsey’s traditional fiddle skills, outside of my box.
Thinking of experiences as divided and grouped by boxes can imbue the experiences with a different significance or cast them under a new light. Right now I believe very strongly in the importance of turning ideas into things. Be it music, text, art, or sounds traveling from our mouths to our friends’ ears. Immaterial ideas afloat without context aren’t enough, though they’re certainly aplenty. If all we have is our ideas with no manifestation to show for it, they are but data without value.
These boxes are really easy to make, to give them form and to see them surround experience, to watch as fields of data become valuable information encompassed by classification and context. These boxes verb nouns.
In the article, Klein addresses the growing presence of privately operated emergency response services that cater only to those who can afford them. One such example is HelpJet, which offers it customers a “first class experience” as it shuttles them from an emergency (something like Katrina or SoCal wildfires) to a five star hotel in some far-away jet setting locale. Other companies offer services that range from the fire fighting offered by Firebreak to the “full spectrum” services soon to be offered by our friends at Blackwater USA.
While the operation of private prohibitively expensive emergency services doesn’t necessarily harm the state provided emergency services that are offered to all, it still creates a two-tiered system that offers superior protection to those who can afford it, while those who can’t are left with state-operated services that are often the victim of severe budgetary cuts.
In some cases, the privatization of services even usurps state provided services. For example, many on the ground in Iraq have said it would be impossible to continue operating there if not for private security like Blackwater USA.
Privatization of these kinds of life-or-death services takes us in a direction that brings both profit margins and the value of human lives into the same decision making processes. As with any other privately operated corporation, these emergency service companies’ ultimate bottom line will be one of financial gain, and not necessarily the value of human lives.
Klein ends her article,
The same pay-to-be-saved logic governs this entire new sector of country club disaster management. There is, of course, another principle that could guide our collective responses in a disaster-prone world: the simple conviction that every life is of equal value.
For anyone out there who still believes in that wild idea, the time has urgently arrived to protect the principle.