Bond v. Bourne: Two American Stories

Yesterday an article of mine went up at Cinema Faith, comparing the James Bond and Jason Bourne films and the various versions of America that they present. The films are intertwined into American culture, spanning decades (29 films total, between the two of them), so I’ve planned it as a series of three articles.

Bourne’s journey mirrored my own, and many others. It mirrored our own spiritual and national amnesia. Like many of my peers, I was taught a sanitized, glorified version of American history, a Christian ideology of “one nation, under God.” Sure we had our messy periods — what with slavery and that nasty bit with killing all of those Indians — but we fixed all that, didn’t we? The America of today is a land of opportunity, opportunity for all, isn’t it?

http://cinemafaith.com/articles/bourne-vs-bond/

Bar Stool Politics, on North Korea

Dude I’m talking to: Okay okay but what’s wrong with talking tough? It’s refreshing, for me it’s refreshing to see that there’s someone finally willing to stand up to North Korea. And what’s wrong with that?

Me: Look man, I’m old enough to remember the last time America did the tough guy song and dance. It led us into Iraq and Afghanistan, two unwinnable wars that we paid for with borrowed money. It made the Middle East situating worse and led to the rise of ISIS. 

Dude I’m talking to: Well okay, maybe, but ISIS? That’s a stretch. 

United we sit, and the seats are small

There isn’t much to pack for this trip. It’s less than a week, and so I grab a few things on the way out. I have plenty of room, I think to myself. A book? Ha ha ha, I laugh, I’ll take two!

I check in with United and then learn the terrible truth: my ticket allows for only one “personal item.” No overhead baggage allowed.

Read more

Here’s the thing: There’s no such thing as a free market

 

I’ve reviewed (and highly recommend) 23 Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism by Ha-Joon Chang, but I’ve always meant to do more blogging on the details. For one thing, the layout of Chang’s book is such that it is conducive to blogging. Taking it bit by bit is also useful for digesting the (ridiculous) mythologies that surround the religion of capitalism. There is such a staunch reverence for capitalism that it’s helpful to take it in small bites.

Perhaps the greatest myth about capitalism is the idea that capitalism is a form of free market economics. We are told that markets should be free, that real capitalism is about a truly free market, and if we want to practice pure capitalism and good economics, then we will make the market free, truly free, because free markets make everything fair, gives everyone a chance, makes everything a level playing field.

There’s just one thing, one little problem here. There is no such thing as a free market. And actually that’s a pretty big thing, and in fact it’s the first “Thing” in Chang’s 23 Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism.

Read more

Hump Day Homily #4 – Prejudice

As it so happens, I was sent two “Ugh” links on the same day. It isn’t unusual for me to be sent two Ugh links in one day, after all this is the era of Trump, a time period in which there is a great push to entrench our nation in our old and enduring prejudices. Still, these two Ugh links seemed to sort of ding, for me, the kind of ding that makes me want to write.

Read more

Mike’s Hippie Friends Come To Visit | YouTube

As a writer and a leftist, I have always found All In The Family to be an intriguing sitcom. The show crammed together very different generational perspectives under one roof, together in one family. From a storytelling perspective, the show didn’t seek to make a point so much as to lay out the different perspectives, as in this episode where Mike’s hippie friends come to visit and Archie won’t let them sleep together in his house because they aren’t married.

I’m not saying that All In The Family didn’t have a particular angle or perspective, but rather that each side could identify with one or the other of the characters, while simultaneously laughing at the ones they didn’t agree with. Many artists (myself included) tend to feel compelled to take a side and make the point clear, but there’s something intriguing when a writer is able to bring together very different perspectives and put them in tension with each other.

Feeling a little crappy before a hike, but that’s cool

Of course hiking isn’t all mountain top experiences or epic Facebook photo-ops. If you hike regularly enough, much of it can start to feel pretty ordinary, actually, like my hike last weekend, where I woke up in an out-of-sorts mood. It was one of those moods where the trajectory of one’s life just feels off track, yet upon further examination there’s really no particular reason to feel that way.

In the past, this melancholic frame of mind might really throw me off, leading to a variety of interrogations: perhaps I’ve not got my shit together in life, or maybe I haven’t been meditating enough, or perhaps I’m in hte wrong place, doing the wrong thing, and on and on, trying to locate what’s wrong or what’s off.

I don’t really take my feelings very seriously anymore. Does that sound drastic? I don’t know, maybe it is, but the mind and the heart are a bit crazy and seem to me to be so very random so much of the time. Frankly, it’s hard for me to take it all too seriously these days.

Read more

Ice Caves

Ah the joys of spending the summer in a place where you can hike to a mountain peak and swing by an ice cave on your way back. It was a great end to a hike up to Bonanza Mine, my favorite hiking trail, and definitely one of the tops for this area.

The ice caves here, as elsewhere, glisten a beaming, bright blue. I set my black backpack down and watch as they shimmer and they shine, almost oceanic, and I find that I just sit there and stare at them, just like I can at the open ocean. And I can sit and ponder because there are no tourists here. I can sit and relax, listening to the rush of water from Jumbo Creek.

And so I sit. As I contemplate the ice caves I begin deliberating about whether or not to leave. Mostly this involves calculating how much time it takes to get back to the shuttle, which leaves every half hour, taking me from Kennicott to McCarthy. My calculations, however, are interrupted by the sound of falling rock. I look up to see that my black backpack has been pelted by stones. I cover my head. The stones have rolled off of the glacier. I step back and make the decision in an instant, considering it an omen that it’s time to move on from my reflective little spot in front of the blue ice caves. I’d like moments like these to last forever, but on I walk.

Busy techno-bees be busy buzzing, busy buzzing in my busy brain

So, the title is a tongue twister, for those who are into such things, people weird like me.

We’ve all now extended ourselves via the virtual world of the Internet, it isn’t science fiction, it’s just our daily reality, a reality that is both virtual and real…and often times, our lives lie somewhere in between.

Here’s the leading idea: Technology is an extension of the self.

It ain’t all bad, I’m not saying that, not really. Speaking for myself, my brain remembers more shit, due to the fact that I have the Google Note app on my smartphone. I have access to a wider variety of news and current events info., because I can browse through the vast infinite space of information and ideas, aka the world wide web. I can retain and recall more of that information because I use the Evernote app to save web pages and notes as well as my own thoughts and writings. And I correspond quicker — instantly sending messages around the world! — and I correspond more often, via email and text and Instant Messaging and, yes, Facebook.

These are a few ways in which my life is virtual, ways in which my self is extended out past the “realness” of the real world. It’s weird, though, even though for most of us it feels normal. It’s weird because we weren’t really meant for this. That is, we didn’t really evolve to have our self extended in this way. Our cognitive equipment wasn’t necessarily meant to be so spread out.

Read more

California Honeydrops

 

The California Honeydrops were rocking it out at the Golden Saloon in McCarthy on Wednesday night, and it was a blast.

For me it was a little strange to hear a Bay Area band in McCarthy. I haunt the Bay Area, during the cold winter months, but even so I’m usually still something like three hours away from the buzz of the San Fran scene or the East Bay (Oakland, Berkeley) action, and without a car, well, I rarely get out to these cultural Meccas. Lucky for me, The Honeydrops came to me, this time around, all the way up to the end of the road to our little bush community in the middle of wilds of the Wrangell-St. Elias National Park.

Read more

No Photos, Please

I’m a David Sedaris fan, and I’m looking forward to purchasing his newest book Theft by Finding. I will do so this Saturday, this Saturday and no sooner. No sooner but no later.

I have to wait until this Saturday, because I want to listen to the audiobook (Sedaris himself is also a lover of audiobooks), because the pleasure of a David Sedaris book is increased exponentially when you listen to the author read it. Unfortunately I am all out of Audible.com credits, which is important because one book usually costs one credit. I’m an Audible.com Gold Member, but my allotted credits have all run out — I burned through the 12 yearly allotted credits last spring, plus the extra three I purchased after the first 12 ran out — and I don’t want to buy the book at full price, not when I can wait until Saturday, because this Saturday is the big day, the day when my Gold Member membership renews, and I get loaded, loaded up with another 12 credits (which I hope last me at least 9 months, if I exercise great self-control).

In the meantime, while cruising through some of my writing notes, I happened upon this random bit of David Sedaris hilarity. It sort of sums up the off beat sense of humor I most appreciate about his writing:

If anything should be bracketed by matching bookends, I suppose it’s an author tour. The ones I’d undertaken in the past had begun in one independent or chain store, and ended, a month or so later, in another. The landscape, though, has changed since then, and it’s telling that on my ’08 tour I started and finished at a Costco….
Shoppers passed with their enormous carts, most loaded with children who gaped through the bars at this ridiculous nobody, sitting by himself at a folding table. Making it just that much more pathetic was the sign next to me, the big one reading “No Photos, Please.”

Hump Day Homily #3 – Sex before marriage and waiting for The One

As many of you know, I am a former Evangelical, the fascinating American religion of the frontier based on the dramatic born again experience and a life dedicated to the Bible and to the fighting off of the evils of liberalism. And for the first nearly thirty years of my life, that’s how I rolled.

There’s a weird obsession with virginity, within evangelicalism, at least there was when I was growing up and when I was in my twenties. There were stern warnings for the youth against all of the evils of premarital sex, along with subtle (and not so subtle) forms of slut shaming for those who indulged the desires of the flesh.

Read more

Secrets of the blank no place

Also on this weekend’s hike, as I stood at the top, socked in, surrounded by the white foggy clouds, visibility severely limited, I can’t help but notice that there’s also a different sort of quiet than I usually experience. Typically when I stand at the top of Bonanza or any other epic peak, there is a sort of silence of the vastness, and in the vastness, something that adds to the mountain top experience of standing in solitude above the world, somewhat god-like. There often isn’t much to hear, just maybe the wind brushing along rock, but it makes for an epic sort of hush.

On this foggy day, though, I can’t see the world below, there is no silence of vastness. It’s a silence of blankness. I’m surrounded by white, and it feels like a suspended moment from childhood, like a blanket fort, like I’m surrounded by white sheets, and it’s late, and everyone else is sleeping. It’s some sort of tantalizing no place, it’s a place to whisper secrets, perhaps secrets that we never knew existed, and perhaps these become humble epiphanies, but they remain secrets still, secrets that we are free to feel because it seems like they will forever remain within the empty blankness, held somehow, in the no place.

 

Bonanza Mine

 

Bringing things into sharp relief that you might otherwise overlook

20170729_162601

 

This was my view, hiking up Bonanza last Saturday. It looks a little like my thumb was covering half of the lens on my smartphone cam, but no, that’s the fog line, and that’s often what it’s like when you hike the last stretch of Bonanza. There’s a big altitude gain in a short period of time, and at the top you can get socked in. Sometimes it’s surreal because in more than one instance when I finally get to the peak, the fog lifts and I suddenly have a spectacular view.

Today, no such sense of divine intervention, which is okay, because fog gives things a different look, and with it a different form of appreciation. Like the ghostly way in which the ruins of the Bonanza Mine appear.

The fog also brings certain things into sharp relief that you’d otherwise not focus on. Instead of sensory overload, with all the grand and epic views, you see funky rock formations that you’d typically look past.

Paradoxically, our limitations can be surprisingly expansive. They set our attention on the intrigue of things too easily overlooked.

 

20170730_123418

The Violent Bear It Away by Flannery O’Connor

From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent bear it away. ~ Matthew 11:12

The Violent Bear It Away is one of the less-hyped works of Flannery O’Connor, but this is easily my favorite work of the great Southern Gothic writer.

A young boy was raised by his great Uncle, a former inmate at a mental asylum and self-anointed “prophet.” The Uncle raises him to be a prophet, but when the great Uncle dies, the boy is in his teens and must decide the course of his life. While drawn to the exotic and dramatic elements of a prophetic calling (e.g., calling fire down from heaven, etc.), he greatly fears prophetic poverty, most notably the hunger he senses from his Uncle, who longs for the Bread of Life to satiate his spiritual deprivation.

Read more