It was August of 2010. I saw the lights of Anchorage from the seat of my plane as we prepared for landing at Ted Stevens International Airport. My family had lived in Anchorage for a few years when I was very young but at age 32, this was my first time back in Alaska, as an adult. This trip had begun in my imagination, about a year before, as I walked around the Indianapolis Zoo. I was fascinated by a placard about grizzly bears, located nearby to a rather sad looking, caged Griz. The placard told of how a woman was attacked by a grizzly bear, in the city of Anchorage no less, while out for a jog in the park. For some reason that resonated with me. It wasn’t a sadistic thing, I don’t take pleasure in the suffering of joggers. I was just completely enchanted by the idea of a state like Alaska, where bears and moose made their presence felt, even in the biggest of cities. It was strange, that moment, but …
I’m trying to make the most of my remaining time here in the Santa Cruz Mountains. I start out tomorrow and in the meantime, I’m packing and getting the car ready for the trip up north to Alaska, but I try to squeeze in some walking and hiking time. I was hiking a few weeks back with an activist friend, Nick, a union organizer. I was introducing him to Fall Creek State Park, which is walking distance from my house. Fall Creek is also my go-to trail because apart from being so close and accessible it’s also not very heavily trafficked. It’s got all the splendor you’d expect from a Redwood forest — towering, serene trees, a barrage of gorgeous greenery, and a stillness that serves to refresh the civilization weary soul.
If you’re an avid reader, you are doubtless acquainted with a familiar phenomenon, the thrilling but also potentially problematic process of choosing the next book. I usually have at least two or three going at a given time, but right now I’m working the tax season at a CPA firm, so there isn’t all that much time to read. But I have a 20 minute commute, plenty of time to enjoy an audiobook. Surprisingly, choosing a book for my daily commute took a while, as can be the case when I want to find just the right book, the right book for the right time, the book that excites me and makes me want to dig in, ASAP.
I’m nearly at the end of watching HBO’s My Brilliant Friend, the recently aired adaptation of the Elena Ferrante Neapolitan Novels. I’ve now read all for novels, though I’ve only reviewed the first, My Brilliant Friend. The books were quite brilliant and the new HBO film series builds on that. I’ll gave more to say on that another day — because, my god, there is so much to say — but for now I wanted to pass along the thoughts of Rhiannon Cosslett, writing in The Guardian. Her analysis of females portrayed in film brings out the richness of the new HBO film series (and by extension the novels): what struck me most about the shifting of the story into a different medium is the time given to the two main – female – characters, and how revolutionary it still feels to see female friendship explored onscreen in this way. If the portrayal of this friendship was revelatory in the novel, with all that form’s facility for introspection, then on screen it is even more …
I’ve just finished watching the second season if Westworld — and wow — but more on that wow at another time. For now I wanted to share this vid, since for me a major part of the pleasure of watching Westworld is the music, the symphonic sounds of Ramin Djawadi, the composer of the music of Westworld. There are beautiful recreations of old grunge tunes, like Soundgarden’s “Black Hole Sun” or “Heart Shaped Box” by Nirvana. And perhaps that’s meant to be metaphorical, like Arnold and Ford’s recreation and re-imagination of humankind.
I was listening to the evening news tonight, on my commute home from work and heard the recap of Trump’s visit to the border, as part of his attempt to manufacture a border crises so as to 1) deflect attention from the mounting evidence that Trump knowingly worked with the Russians to win the 2016 election and 2) legitimate Trump’s use of “emergency powers.” (I don’t expect that the government shutdown will end anytime soon because the main purpose is to deflect attention from Trump’s dirty deeds in 2016.) They played a sound byte from Trump. He sounded a little shrill, but that only helps to ramp up the hysteria, and Trump needs hysteria. The so-called “news media” is all using the same term, Trump said, calling it a “manufactured crisis.” But it’s not a manufactured crisis, Trump said, rather the news media is manufacturing the term “manufactured crisis.” Perhaps in response, critics of Trump would say that he’s manufacturing the idea of manufacturing a “manufactured crisis.” This, ladies and gentlemen, is your Postmodern President. …
I spent a pleasant New Year’s Day in my pajamas, binge-watching the first season of Westworld with one of my friends. Westworld is a beautiful show; it’s visually elegant, the pacing is deliberate but builds on itself, and the writing is fantastic, there’s nothing wasted. I’ve heard, in fact, that they interrupted the whole production process, putting the show on hold, all so that the writers could fine tune the show. It certainly paid off. It hooked me in, and I stopped only to satisfy the most basic of biological needs. It all made for a hellagood New Year’s Day.
I came across an article in The Guardian ranking the best albums of 2018. In recent years I’ve drifted father and farther away from new artists and new music and new releases. What better way to remedy the situation than by utilizing the full power of the awesome music library that I have at my disposal (Spotify subscription) to begin updating myself. Most of the albums on the list display a preference for identity pop or “a fine selection of albums that range from the socially conscious to the political, as well as pure slices of ecstatic rock and cutting rap.” And so it was that in listening through the list that I came across Chicago native Noname, a talented poet and rapper. I’m quite taken with her 2018 album Room 25. The album starts out with a bang. Here are the first two tracks, Self and Blaxploitation. Self Blaxploitation
For me, 2018 was another bad year. Apart of me really hates to call a year “bad” — or any time period. We live and learn from any and all experiences, blah, blah. We call know that we can make the best of difficult situations, etc. A part of me gets it and understands that I can’t control the circumstances of my life and that in order to successfully navigate tough times, I ought to be mature and learn from shitty experiences, but some years are just harder than others. So, another part of me is fine with saying that 2018 sucked.
Short animated video by David Graeber, economist with a wry and witty anarchistic inclination. I think he’s really onto something, here, in terms of analyzing a certain shift that a lot people seem to be having, in our perception of work. For example, how people seem more aware that their jobs don’t really have value and how more and more people are looking to do work that matters and/or that benefits humanity and/or has some greater meaning. It certainly isn’t the first time that workers have felt disgruntled with work and/or disenchanted by corporate bullshit. The potential, though, now, is that people seem to be connecting their underwhelming experience of work with the bigger picture and with politics. For example, A lot of the folks who got active with Occupy, a few years back, were from “caring occupations,” which caused Graeber to view Occupy as a sort of revolt of the caring class. So, could this shift toward more meaningful work completely change how we structure society, poltically and economically?
To take the sting out of winter, I turn to Sting. It’s kind of homeopathic, an approach to healing that prescribes a remedy to mirror the malady. If you’ve got a sour stomach, then eat something sour, that sort of thing. During the winter season, listening to Sting seems to be some sort of musical homeopathic treatement for the weirdness and wonder of the wide range of the winter mood. Winter is a season of contrasts, when things get dark and contemplative yet at the same time it’s paradoxically festive. One might as easily brood in a corner chair, nursing another glass of cognac, or one might just as easily find that a random group of smiling strangers is standing on the stoop, in the icy cold solely for the purpose of belting out, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year!”
I watched Solo last night. I like these anthology films, these stand-alone, supplemental add-ons to the Star Wars universe. Solo is the second installment, Rogue One (2016) being the first. In many ways, I like them better than the continuing epic trilogies, now numbering eight in total. The filmakers for these big blockbuster trilogy films are putting a lot of effort into trying to finish playing out the George Lucas formula so as to pull themselves loose from the Lucas strings, but while they are busy trying to sort that out, there are the satisfying supplements.
Good reading in The Atlantic on Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and the Green New Deal. It highlights one of the overarching differences in the political strategy of the old Democrats (Obama/Clintons) versus the new progressive/leftist breed. The difference isn’t so much about policies as it is about how these policies are framed. The new progressive wave is based more on story and narrative, and this makes it an exciting time to be on the left because the leaders of the movement are appealing to something that can inspire a movement. It’s an approach that could win, and that means there is hope.
“Whether the Republican establishment likes it or not – and more and more are actually perfectly happy with it – the Grand Old Party is now Trump’s Party. Their fate is intertwined with his. The old conservative Republican party is dead, for now. In the coming two years they will campaign as a radical right party, led by an omnipresent leader, who will define the Republican party for a whole generation of Americans.”
Trump is hitting the campaign trail, hitting it hard in the way that Trumpty Dumpty sort of way he has, and one of his repeated platitudes is some variation of “I’m not on the ballot, but I’m on the ballot,” also taking the form of “think of yourself as voting for me.” I haven’t been following this election as carefully as I should. I haven’t been well. I’ve been struggling with digestive/gut issues since last spring, and it’s taken its toll. My energy levels have been pretty low.