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May. 22nd, 2011

The unraptured

When I arrived to the bay area in early 2007, I noticed something surreal--the same crusty old hyperfundamentalist minister I picked up on shortwave many years earlier in the middle of the country was much more prominently signalling his message to the irreligious left coast not on shortwave, but on FM, AM, and television. Furthermore, his international media empire was stationed out of Oakland and Alameda, of all places! Stupid me for ever entertaining the notion that moving to the bay area meant leaving bad religion behind for good. A bit of listening reminded me that Family Radio and its host Bible teacher are a far cry from the slick, consumer friendly televangelical bible-kitsch of TBN, or defiant Republican agitprop so prominent in the programming of typical midwestern FM "christian radio" or Robertson's "Christian Broadcasting Network." Instead, Family Radio's programming style appears to have been freeze dried the day it went on the air in 1959: The mental hygiene production style that was so useful against commies, acne, heavy petting, and marijuana, so good for promoting safe driving and table manners, had another use besides classroom filler-time to justify the price shools paid for expensive media gadgetry: Making sure the whole world knows that "God's Word, The Bible" (a frequent on air mantra) is exactly the kind of perfect instruction book that early twentieth century fundamentalists said it was.

The relaxing, almost hypnotic flow of 1950's hymn performances, methodical bible recitation, and Harold Camping's bible teaching and Open Forum on-air call-in that I remembered for the 80's was utterly the same in 2007 as it always had been. A perfectly intact hold-out of crew-cutted, pioneer bonneted, King James bible thumping, non-voting, non-smoking, anti-rockin-rolling, apolitical mid-century fundamentalists whose only deviation from the time they went on air was to believe that their bible teacher knew more and more with every passing year about what "God's Word: The Bible" actually said.

The knowledge Harold Camping imparted grew ever more appropriate for such a singular hold-out to change: Only quitting church and listening to Family Radio meant hearing the True Plan of Salvation. Only Harold Camping had properly handled God's Word: The Linguistic Divination Stone in a way that extracted the perfect truth from it. And that perfect truth: The world will end, starting on May 22, 2011, with the rapture of saved souls into heaven.

The second failed apocalyptic prediction emanating from Family Radio's airwaves, and an even more successful basis for gaining listener donations than the first

Apr. 17th, 2008

ABC just shrunk our brains

There remains a long standing question regarding the effects of non-ionizing electromagnetic radiation on living things.

The question is finally resolved by what ABC broadcast on its megawatts of transmission power last night: EMR shrinks brains.

Last night's Obama vs. Hillary "debate", with about one hour of its 90 minutes devoted to such issues as why Obama doesn't wear flag pins or whether his former pastor is sufficiently patriotic (an actual question worthy of Joe McCarthy) had to have been the most brazen example I have ever seen of a corporate media fully devoted to using their allotment of broadcast radiation to induce the public into being stupid at a time when intelligence could actually get our collectively sorry asses on a better road than our current one, with a destination of financial, ecological, and moral ruin becoming ever more certain.

Mar. 6th, 2008

Some of the finest television journalism I have ever seen

This just in: Bullshit is the defining issue for voters this political season:


Mar. 5th, 2008

Putting Buckley to Rest

Recently, the death of the big name "public" intellectual of conservatism (oxymoron intended) William F. Buckley died, to an inordinate amount of both scorn and eulogizing. Whatever good and evil has emanated from his life (and in my opinion mostly evil) has already been amply documented elsewhere, so I don't want add my own, except regarding the modest way he influenced my adolescent and young adult life before I had the sense to at least try to ignore him and his kind.

Around 1993, he spoke at the University of Missouri to a packed house in Jesse Auditorium. Not the podium type, I suppose, he was a lone, suited figure slouched back in a chair in the middle of the stage, who, in spite of his hour-long discourse on basically everything, pontificated on only three issues I remember to this day: 1. Drugs should be legalized but the death penalty should be given to adults who give them to children. 2. In response to the question "do you like Rush Limbaugh?" he told an anecdote that likened his admiration to that of a secret admiration for General Franco--a private opinion it is only safe to whisper to a drinking partner after leaving the bar for some quiet streamside sandbar. 3. "Ethos"--a single word he uttered in closing his talk--is his solution for the various moral crises he perceived as troubling the nation.

During his lecture, I was surprised at the extent of the crowd's rapt adulation for a seventy year old man whose relation to the world seemed to be like mine as a tenth grader--the know-it-all back of the class underachiever whose seated body never found a posture it didn't like, so long as it was more obtuse than about 120 degrees.

Although I only dimly perceived the brutality of most of his opinions then, his affectations of posture, accent, gesture, and vocabulary struck me as elitist, and his ideas as irrelevant thought experiments. Furthermore, his statement that "ethos" was the solution for the nation's problems seemed an evasion in an area where someone of his self-pronounced expertise would have much more to say.

This response, alluding as it did to Aristotle, strikes me now as a way of thinking and engaging with the world which needs to be abandoned: The reiteration of old abstractions, copped out of the pages of "western civilization" as if their ability to set things aright, through recitation, were a manifest divine power. Like an animistic religion that attributes divine, world ordering powers to certain plants and animals, Buckley's conservatism seemed to worship a bunch of old books and other europhiliac cultural accouterments in belief that they held the same power.

Note to self: May the falsity of such culture-worship and logocentrism die with him and real compassionate engagement with the world begin.

Mar. 2nd, 2008

Wild Goose Qigong and biomimicry

With "biomimicry" all the rage these days, I decided to do my part and take a Wild Goose Qigong class, which is an internal martial art in which the practitioner learns to move with the grace and fluidity of the bird in flight. Of course, this is not quite the same thing as modeling some industrial technology on a natural form, and plenty of Cartesian scientists would laugh at goofy Taoist metaphysical practices while being all about the instrumentality of nature in modeling "designs" with potential for profitable nature-to-capitalist intellectual expropriation.

But what I want to biomimic is something beyond science and beyond thought itself, so even though I have no particular affinity for Taoist metaphysics, I'll gladly oblige its imperative to stop thinking and move, to embody myself in fluid motions the way the wild goose does. I want my movement to partake of architect Christopher Alexander's "quality without a name," and in so doing, maybe grace in thought and deed will follow.

Feb. 20th, 2008

Beat Peak Oil by Overridding the Law of Conservation of Energy


This is the silliest piece of spammy fake-green propaganda with an MLM twist I have ever seen.

And yet there is an actual business behind this spiel.

Please don't die of laughter when you visit the website.

Oct. 31st, 2007

(no subject)

I moved to the bay area just in time to enjoy several significant earthquakes. The timing of thelast (5.6 magnitude) one was creepy: It occurred literally 5 seconds after--while adjusting the fireplace screen so that it wouldn't tip over--I mentioned to my wife and sister in law that an earthquake would knock it over anyway. The minutes prior to this earthquake, I was absorbed in imagining the chimney collapse on me as I fiddled with the fireplace, and thinking about the inherent seismic hazard of it. So how goes it that the largest quake in 18 years occurred immediately after I was talking about earthquakes? The coincidental odds of this are outrageously low enough to blow our minds.


Oct. 19th, 2007

Thing more things change...

That so many are ready to live by luck, and so get the means of commanding the labor of others less lucky, without contributing any value to society! And that is called enterprise! I know of no more startling development of the immorality of trade, and all the common modes of getting a living. The philosophy and poetry and religion of such a mankind are not worth the dust of a puffball. The hog that gets his living by rooting, stirring up the soil so, would be ashamed of such company. If I could command the wealth of all the worlds by lifting my finger, I would not pay such a price for it.
-Henry David Thoreau, Life Without Principle

Sep. 22nd, 2007

West Coast Green

Just finished with the West Coast Green tradeshow/green building conference in San Francisco. A very (over)stimulating experience, with an ecumenical inclusion of the corporate, the counterculture, the green, and the greenwashed all under one roof for three days.

The green: The architect talk-slideshows I attended were fine--abundant with impressive images of beautiful, albeit expensive, homes. (To be fair, what home isn't in the bay area?)

The sacred geometrist did an incredible job of explaining the timeless proportions that shape great architecture as well as our collective unconscious.

The counterculture: DIY greywater, permaculture, and and natural building talks.

The corporate: The Feng Shui consultants who help tract developers minimize the negative energy in their desolating McMansions are at least helping keep the bad from being terrible.

The Lotus MKII modular green home exhibit demonstrated the power of "green" manufacturing to create homes that look .... manufactured. It was an interesting moment when I discussed the home with another attendee as we toured it. She remarked about how stupid it is to bother with site-building anymore when prefab can be like what we were touring. The disparagement of site-building is, in this humble contractor's opinion, full of disregard for a process honored by millenia of precedent. The apeothesis of green, is not, in my vision, a factory product, but a site specific creation of toil, community, and wisdom. It only makes sense that this house was designed by a Frank Gehry-trained designer. I would rather suffer the splinters and bruises of building myself, than have a built environment controlled by the despotism of Gehry's sadistic machine-made artsiness. Kaufmann's home evoked just a bit too much of the latter for me to be all that impressed.

The greenwashed: those nifty fireplaces that burn 6.00 per gallon alcohol. So sustainable (NOT.)

Jun. 29th, 2007

livable communities vs. biofuels

Perhaps the best article I have read explaining how "biofuels" posture as green while being very brown is here: http://www.commondreams.org/archive/2007/06/28/2153/

The author, Joe Brewer of the Rockridge Institute, argues that the climate crisis will only be solved by a complete restructuring of society that facilitates "livable communities" at a localized scale. Biofuels, whose production relies upon the machinations of corporate-industrial agriculture, are therefore obstacles to solving the problem rather than part of the solution.

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