The River

Monday, August 22, 2005

I was in the check out line at the grocery store this a.m. buying tea and spring water when I noticed the headline: Iraq Closed to Accord.

I looked again: Iraq Close to Accord is what it actually said.

But I was right the first time.

These kinds of misreadings that are truer happen to me periodically. It's odd.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Turn off your TV! Get off the Interstate and out of your car! Stop being an asshole!

It’s your only hope.

The negations of the human heart, begot by interstate travel, are manifold: Traveling upon interstate highways delivers emptiness and desperation, because the act conjures the seductive illusion of unfettered mobility, novelty, and freedom, rousing within us a yearning to throw off the soul-defying yoke of our mundane, commodified existence. But, instead, it, only serves to hurdle us from one meaningless, mundane, time-sucking, commodified sensation to next.
Ergo, what is more mundane than a commodified human being ... one whose spirit has been broken, heart caged, and instincts harnessed almost exclusively to labor and reward, labor and reward? Thus, we corporatized animals are conditioned to fear life outside of our economic cages -- and, as is the case with many unfortunate animals, confined for many long, dismal years within a cage, we come to believe the confines of our cage comprise the whole of existence.


via wood s lot

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Passed my second anniversary last month, and so why not look back at...

The River, Year Two


I wrote plenty about Fahrenheit 9/11, but you don't wanna go there again, suffice it to say, as I sufficed it to say back in July 2004,

Michael Moore has made a film suggesting the Bushies are anti-democratic warmongering profiteers and the wars on Afghanistan and Iraq are complete fuckups, mass murder for money, oil, and power lust, covered over in transparent lies enabled by the media.

Good on ya, Mike.

Better to buy an obscure film guide like Barry Gifford's Out of the Past,

and let the chiaroscuro flow over you.

Of all the misguided crap I wrote about the election and John Fuck You Kerry, ABB -- Anything But Bullshit, please best captures the predicament, thanks to the inspiration of the documentary The Corporation.


I know you dont' want to look back on The Horror that was The Election Game,


because, as The World's Oldest Curmudgeon says, it's all about Fatigue. I wrote a boatload on it, including wondering is our candidate learning?. Obviously not.

Much better to concentrate on seeing the natural-born artist in your child, or seeing art on candy wrappers:


By October, election season was making me crazy. I had delusions about one man’s war, and fantasies about Jim Learer, staff writer for PBS, moderating a presidential debate. It was a shocking night.


By election night, my nerves were shot. After the election, there was, uh, things to write about:

No way all that energy, new voters, etc. generated more homophobic, religious crusade fucktards at the polls than it did Americans pissed off at Bush’s hideous four years.

Right? (tell me I’m right)

I was definitely right. The election was stolen, again. Work was slow at that time, so I was rather busy covering the travesty. But the picture below best sums up my reaction:

Over 5,000 people hit the streets in San Francisco the night of November 3 to protest the re-election of the worst president in living memory. The demonstration was sponsored by Not in Our Name and included the participation of the ANSWER Coalition and many others.


I tried to be philosophical:

Democracy, such as it is

Consumerism is what emerges when we are duped into having desires that we would not normally have. -- saw it on Yule's blog

I remember during one of the debates when President Bush said the Iraqis long for elections. I said to myself, disbelieving, “you mean they want *this*?”


Being completely spent, I turned the blog over to The World’s Oldest Curmudgeon. At least he was doing well (they say it’s the best revenge).


Nothing. Nothing left. Darkness. Saw a Van Gogh exhibit. Felt like this:


What’s the point?


Still nothing. Although a post from the future, from some poor working sap way worse off than me, did strangely appear on The River.


That time of year when a man’s thoughts turn to buddhism.


And, of course, rock-n-roll, such as it is in the hands of Mr. Bruce Springsteen.

Not dead yet.


Remember when “Star Wars” was just a scrappy, crowd-pleasing '70s movie? Don’t you just know Han Solo would love to blow up Skywalker Ranch?

Yep, screw politics. Culture will save us. Not the media monster we’ve created, no, no, not that. But…something. Someone, somewhere said something about blogs. Dunno. Guess we just have to be patient.

That about does it for year 2. Thanks for stopping by. Let’s do it again sometime soon.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Firsthand Report from Camp Casey

The power of Camp Casey is what is happening between everyone who steps foot on that small strip of road and realizes they aren't alone. And hearing one person say, "We are tired of this shit and we want it to stop." (Cindy speaks from the hip!) gives another person the power to say it, too.


Monday, August 15, 2005

Friday, August 12, 2005


"Security" = militarism and the imposition of the police state.

"I sympathize with Mrs. Sheehan," Bush said. "She feels strongly about her position. She has every right in the world to say what she believes. This is America. She has a right to her position. And I've thought long and hard about her position. I've heard her position from others, which is, `Get out of Iraq now.'"

"And it would be a mistake for the security police state of this country and the ability to lay the foundations for peace militarism of society in the long run if we were to do so," the president said. [source]


George W Bush, with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, at the Crawford Ranch, disagreeing with critics on a troop pull-out. - PHOTO BY AP

No snark needed, but you have to admit, Harry, that if you had looked like this, maybe a few more people would have noticed.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

The old days

I used to think the Happy Tutor was a young, bearded, post-graduate livin off his inheritance. Maybe you had to read the site back then. It was different than it is today. Short, sharp and a bit odd.

Five minutes at Golby’s would give you a headache. Small type on a black background. That was Golby’s template. If you saw it somewhere else, it was, “that guy’s using Golby’s template.” They say the music just poured out of Jerry Garcia. He couldn’t stop it if he wanted to. Same thing with Golby’s site, except words. Gave you eyestrain, but you were high so you didn’t care.

Frank Paynter used to make the rounds, always supplying an idiosyncratic comment out of left field. He was outstanding in the field of commentary, that’s for sure. Did his best writing in comment boxes. Some of his turns of phrase became Internet hits, at least among a few people I know. “Wherever there’s a coherent signal, these fuckers have instrumentation.” That was his.

Chris Locke used to get into fights with the old crone of blogdom. That would be Elaine Frankonis. Everybody would be beside themselves. “You can’t fight in here. This is the blogosphere!” At any given time back then, 65% of all blog posts were about what the hell was the matter with Chris and Elaine.

Ray joined the fray. Nice guy poet, everybody loved him. He caught streams of our words, in and out of the blogosphere, and showed them to us. We laughed, we cried. It was a service few could provide. We were happy and grateful he showed up.

Jeneane was inspired. She helped define the medium, such as it was back then. Actually, she didn’t believe in definitions, boxes or limits, and so each post burned with an independent spirit. She was a shot in the arm, Janis Joplin with a laptop.

Shuggie let it roll with honest ruminations of the most elegant sort.

Bill never took breaks and/or hiatuses, and had no pet trolls either.

Marek "J" was tuned in.

It all felt like we'd dropped out, or just dropped in. And nobody was drivin the bus. Which was maybe the best part.

I’m not sayin it was better. But it was different.

Monday, August 08, 2005


Hey folks, I'll be spending Aug. 25-28 in sunny Southern California, the San Diego area to be exact. I'm meeting one of my best friends there for a racetrack holiday (Del Mar). So if any readers are out that way and would like to meet for a favorite beverage, let me know. And if any readers have any tourist, or better yet non-tourist, tips for the area (bars and restaurants), I'd appreciate that too.

Posting may continue to be light, as I have a piece to write on navigating the corporate bureaucracy. Irony is my middle name.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Welcome to the Machine

I keep the above book at work on a shelf with some others -- Cluetrain, The Gregg Reference Manual, Gramophone Jazz Good CD Guide, The American Heritage Dictionary, Burn Rate by Michael Wolff.

"Welcome to the Machine, Science, Surveillance, and the Culture of Control" is by Derrick Jensen and George Draffan. It's a knock-out, and not in a particularly pleasant fashion.

In an idle moment the other day, I snatched it off the shelf and began reading a random page. Some of what I read is below. I thought it rather appropos to my Dark Days musings.

"Welcome to the Machine", copyright 2004, Chelsea Green Publishing, pages 100-104


Wealth and consumption have come to form a never-ending circle: once work and wealth have been turned into a religion and made compulsive, the machine becomes self-propelling.

The dehumanizing impacts of bureaucracy also become self-propelling, as bureaucracy comes to dominate the quality of life and concentrate social, economic, and political power in the hands of a few. The concentration of wealth and power become inner and outer mirrors of the same dynamic: “This whole process of rationalization in the factory and elsewhere,” Max Weber wrote, “and especially in the bureaucratic state machine, parallels the centralization of the material implements of organization in the hands of the master…[and it] takes over ever larger areas as the satisfaction of political and economic needs is increasingly rationalized.”

The problem, Weber understood, is nothing so straightforward as the existence of private property, or even a question of who controls the means of production. Weber and his colleague Robert Mitchels saw that the problem isn’t – and I hate to break this news to all you old commies out there – capitalism, with its basis in private property and profit. Michels, a socialist himself, described how socialist organizations are also dominated by a few leaders, declaring hi Iron Law of Oligarchy: “Who says organization, says oligarchy.”

In other words, regardless of mission statements that appear to be leaning left, right, up, or down, or whether they appear to be operating in the economic, political, or cultural domains, large organizations mean bureaucracy, and bureaucracy means hierarchy. Industrial society is too complicated for democratic governance. Once you accept the premises of our machine culture, centralization is inevitable, and efficiency must allocate the resources and rules control the machinery of the bureaucracy. This isn’t a (merely undesirable) by-product of industrial organization: it’s the purpose. Organization: from the Greed organum, tool or instrument.

The problem, then, as Weber saw, is that rationalization, order, and alienation are inherent characteristics of bureaucracy, and common to all forms of industrialization, socialist as well as capitalist: “The apparatus (bureaucracy), with its peculiar impersonal character…is easily made to work for anybody who knows how to gain control over it. A rationally ordered system of officials continues to function smoothly after the enemy has occupied the area: he merely needs to change the top officials.”

Every conqueror knows this. Don’t destroy the bureaucracies. Use them.

That is, if you want to keep the machine running.

It doesn’t matter who runs the machine, or ever for what purpose: “From a purely technical point of view, a bureaucracy is capable of attaining the highest degree of efficiency, and is in this sense formally the most rational known means of exercising authority over human beings. It is superior to any other form in precision, in stability, in the stringency of its discipline, and in its reliability. It thus makes possible a particularly high degree of calculability of results for the heads of organizations and for those acting in relation to it. It is finally superior both in intensive efficiency and in the scope of its operations and is formally capable of application to all kinds of administrative tasks.”

Do you want to put a human on the moon? Assemble a bureaucracy. How about eradicating Jews, Slavs, Roma, and other untermenschen? Assemble a bureaucracy. Want to try to by up land to protect it from being destroyed by industrial civilization? Assemble a bureaucracy. Want to try to dismantle the Panopticon? Assemble a bureaucracy.

But it’s not quite that simple. Bureaucracies – like other machines – are better at some things than others: just as guns can’t give birth and pesticides can’t make plants, a bureaucracy cannot foster a vibrant community embedded in a thriving land-base. Unfortunately for everyone and everything on earth, machines – including bureaucratic machines – are better at destroying than nurturing, better at destroying than letting alone.

Weber also saw the irrationality of rationalization – that it works against values, emotions, and happiness. He wrote, “No machinery in the world functions so precisely as this apparatus of men and, moreover, so cheaply…Rational calculation…reduces every worker to a cog in this bureaucratic machine, and, seeing himself in this light, he will merely ask how to transform himself into a somewhat bigger cog.”

We too soon forget that we are not machines, that we are meant for something better than this. We search for rewards only within the system, having forgotten that there is a whole world waiting for us to remember that we are human beings and to drop out of – and destroy – the machine, and to rejoin the living world.

Weber continued, “It is horrible to think that the world could one day be filled with nothing but those little cogs, little men clinging to little jobs and striving toward bigger ones…This passion for bureaucracy…is enough to drive one to despair. It is as if in politics…we were deliberately to become men who need ‘order’ and nothing but order, become nervous and cowardly if for one moment this order wavers, and helpless if they are torn away from their total incorporation in it. That the world should know no men but these: it is in such an evolution that we are already caught up, and the great question is, therefore, not how we can promote and hasten it, but what can we oppose to this parceling-out of the soul, from this supreme mastery of the bureaucratic way of life.”

Weber held little hope that we would be able to oppose the inexorable grinding of the machine. He thought industrial bureaucracy was so efficient, so powerful, that is was inescapable. He wrote, “The needs of mass administration make it today completely indispensable. The choice is only between bureaucracy and dilettantism in the field of administration.” Why is that? “The decisive reason for the advance of bureaucratic organization has always been its purely technical superiority over any other kind of organization. The fully developed bureaucratic mechanism compares with other organizations exactly as does the machine with nonmechanical modes of organization.” The result is that , as Weber states, “Without this form of (social) technology the industrialized countries could not have reached the heights of extravagance and wealth that they currently enjoy. All indications are that they will continue to grow in size and scope.”

Bureacracies, it seems, are the gray goo that is eating the planet. Weber states, “Precision, speed, unambiguity, knowledge of the files, continuity, discretion, unity, strict subordination, reduction of friction and of material and personal costs – these are raised to the optimum point in the strictly bureaucratic organization.”

This is all true whether the bureaucracy is killing Jews, trees, or rivers. It is true whether you’re running a professional army or professional baseball team.

And the future? According to Weber, “Not summer’s bloom lies ahead of us, but rather a polar night of icy darkness and hardness, no matter which group may triumph externally now.” He also wrote, “It is apparent that today we are proceeding towards an evolution which resembles (the ancient kingdom of Egypt) in every detail, except that it is built on other foundations, on technically more perfect, more rationalized, and therefore much more mechanized foundations. The problem which bests us now is not: how can this evolution be changed? -- for that is impossible, but: what will come of it.”

Indeed what will come of us, and what will come of the living planet?

“No one knows who will live in this cage in the future, or whether at the end of this tremendous development entirely new prophets will arise, or there will be a great rebirth of old ideas and ideals, or, if neither, mechanized petrification embellished with a sort of convulsive self-importance. For the last stage of this cultural development, it might well be truly said: ‘Specialists without spirit, sensualists without heart; this nullity imagines that it has obtained a level of civilization never before achieved.’"