Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Orchard Thieves

Just to keep the record straight, here's an example of a gigantic book with some attempt to entertain the reader. Moby Dick is peppered with entertaining passages but a stand-up-and-applaud one can be found merely 4 pages into Ishmael's justification of his desire to go to sea as a paid sailor instead of a paying passenger:

"The act of paying is perhaps the most uncomfortable infliction that the two orchard thieves entailed upon us."

This guy slings his pen like a lion tamer. Calling Adam and Eve orchard thieves in a tossed off, pretty much expendable line is ballsy. If I wrote that line I'd be calling all my friends to brag about it, but old Herman Melville is just getting warmed up for 550 more pages. This is some gifted writing because the humor is focused on you getting the joke on your own rather than a big dance to get you to laugh or no laugh at all.


"And, doubtless, my going on this whaling voyage, formed part of the grand programme of Providence that was drawn up a long time ago. It came in as a sort of brief interlude and solo between more extensive performances. I take it that this part of the bill must have run something like this:

'Grand Contested Election for the Presidency of the United States



Though I cannot tell why it was exactly that those stage managers, the Fates, put me down for this shabby part of a whaling voyage, when others were set down for magnificent parts in high tragedies, and short and easy parts in genteel comedies, and jolly parts in farces--though I cannot tell why this was exactly; yet, now that I recall all the circumstances, I think I can see a little into the springs and motives which being cunningly presented to me under various disguises, induced me to set about performing the part I did, besides cajoling me into the delusion that it was a choice resulting from my own unbiased freewill and discriminating judgment."

How is that for a long sentence? Go ahead and read it twice. I read it three times before I figured out what the hell he was saying and it's really a funny way of saying, "I wanted to believe I am the master of my own destiny but that's all bullshit."

And the list of grand design that Melville intentionally set in smaller type point. It's a joke that he's telling on himself in such a subtle way that I can already tell, 5 pages into it, that he's at the peak of his powers.

I like to talk about timing when it comes to writing. A book like this, 540 pages long, was written in less than one year in 1850. Written by hand on a farm in western Mass. In a situation like that he's got to be in The Zone when he puts pen to paper. I should point out that there's evidence that Melville met H. D. Thoreau via joint friend Nathaniel Hawthorne while in Concord. I see similarities in Melville and Emerson and Thoreau. The word "Providence" was used more by these three writers than anyone in history. If you can use the word "Providence" even once in every day conversation then you are guaranteed to impress people. They all must've been touched a little because no amount of editing or education would produce this kind of writing. It's pure personality shining through in every word.

I've been talking about writing my Santa Cruz book for a few years now. But there's a fluidity to my prose that I haven't mastered. Personal essays and political rants are easy but I want to combine that with a third person narrator who exchanges some of his bitterness for some of my wit. 500 pages get written fast when you write obtuse sentences as long as most paragraphs. When it goes on as smoothly as this then you don't have to go back and retouch it. Of course there is the awful possibility that lightweight first person humor writers like me have no business writing serious third person novels but I choose to ignore that until it has been proven.

If I'm stating the obvious that Moby Dick is well written then I apologize. I bow before his talent.

Icarus or Prometheus?

Joplin, MO is across the state from St. Louis so the Mosaic floor wasn't damaged. But I reflected on this tornado season in the Midwest and compare it to the deer slalom on I-70. Someone is going to get killed and some deer are going to die. It's unavoidable based on that configuration of highways splitting wildlife habitat in half. From a global POV we only inhabit a little bit of space but from the point of view of a deer or turtle we are the black plague come to life. A world class sprinter couldn't cross that interstate at midnight. It was an unbroken chain of trucks and cars in four lanes. One need only use their eyes to see that isn't going to last. In a similar situation the warming of the world is creating a abundance of rain in some places and a deficiency in others. However, when a group-think experiment gone terribly wrong is taking place then we've got Atlas Shrugged being released as a feature film the same year the climate finally fights back against the beating Industrialists like John Galt have been giving her for 500 years. I think that's a noteworthy coincidence because a freethinking person would've recognized the peril involved in drilling for oil, refining it and then burning it on a scale of 7 billion people.

I want to photograph a city street with 10 or 20 thousand silverback gorillas all walking to work with briefcases. "The world with 7 billion silver back gorillas" Because although we use far more resources than a gorilla our bodies don't take up too much more space. It's only if a silverback gorilla got his thinking so completely twisted around that he procreated beyond the capacity of his habitat and he started building higher and higher buildings to enable him to continually enslave poorer apes. The total earth population of gorillas is probably a couple thousand.* You could fit them all into Fenway Park. And they manufacture nothing but manage to survive and raise young'uns. And they precede us on the mammal tree. My point is that if there were 7 billion gorillas on earth devouring every resource and destroying the climate and only 10,000 humans all either in zoos or protective sanctuaries, what would you think? Would you think, "Boy, those gorillas are pretty smart." I guess we are the most clever animal out there in the sense that a virus can develop an immunity to empirical data. That takes a prolonged propaganda campaign of the kind to be found in Edward Bernay's book and Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand.

The debate for today is if we are symbolically following in the footsteps of Prometheus who stole fire from Zeus and gave it to mankind (a kind of forbidden fruit fable) or Icarus, who flew too close to the sun and burned the wax from his wings and fell to his death.

Anyone have an opinion before I tell you why you are wrong?

I think that without even looking into it very deeply the chances that mankind is lurching madly and violently, via wars and genocide and waste toward a utopia is very unlikely.
Atlas Shurgged basically argued that all waste, death, destruction, greed, and violence are broken eggs in the omlette of a peaceful and waste free world. Does this make sense to anyone?
At one time I felt that this was true because Rand used the most clever argumentation skill which is to propose the opposite. I've learned this one well enough to use it against her. She presented her ideal man, John Galt, a self-interested, guilt-free, emotionally independent free thinking electrical engineer. The short explanation she gives is that if this isn't the ideal man then let's examine the exact opposite characteristics and see if they hold up. I really applaud this method of debate because it plays with the mind and if well manipulated in her fictional world you can reach no other conclusion except that rational self-interest in the form of emotional independence is preferable to the co-dependent disaster that most of us live with. Of course. When given the two extremes the John Galt one is better. And if Galt is persecuted through the whole book not because of what he represents but because the failures of the world (me and you) can't even live with ourselves because Galt is alive, then he becomes even more attractive. Galt becomes the underdog and we identify with him even if we are at heart looters and mooches living in their father's attic apartment and driving his car for slave-made ice cream and buckwheat soba noodle stir fry.

That's the argument of the opposites.

But here is where I use it against Rand by saying, first of all, a utopia that is reached via genocide sounds PRETTY FUCKING SUSPICIOUS. Second of all, if conservation, humility and compassion are the trademarks of the self-sufficient Amish farmer and Kenneth Lay and Jeff Skilling are the embodiment of pure self-interest (persecuted because we are self-loathing moochers) then what is that utopia going to look like? If the maxim of your actions justifies unlimited use of planetary resources then isn't it possible physics will not accommodate your goals of a waste free energy source? I think the hell-bent exploitation of the planet has been fundamentally for the good of humanity...the pursuit of waste free energy, long life, human knowledge centralized in one globally accessible location, mattresses that don't burn when your crack pipe turns over, etc. Ok. So, we've gotten a little off track with toys and gadgets and multiple cars so movie stars can go in circles to a studio. See, none of this is part of the equation/resource budget plan. It's all frivolous but the waste is concrete and the consequences are real.

So, you might look at my life and say it's unrealistic. Low resource ride sharing mass transit hell. What good is it doing? Who knows? Well how realistic is it that the resources of the planet will only be used in critical operations? It's ludicrous, correct? But, the equation Ayn Rand's giants of industry map out demands that the resources be used exclusively for developing certain improvements. The finite nature of our natural habitat absolutely requires a very tight budget when it comes to resources. VERY VERY TIGHT BUDGET. Go on a trip to Labrador with me and you will know the meaning of a VERY VERY TIGHT BUDGET. Because if my budget gets stretched even a tiny bit I KNOW that Ellesmere Island will never be reached. This is as close to a privately funded moon mission as I can get. There is a point I will reach where there is no return and there is a point I will reach where there is no going on. My destination is close to the North Pole. It's going to be down to the pennies and fingernails. I know this. And the place Rand's theory falls apart is where she almost guarantees an oasis of peace because "the great minds will prevail" but she is assuming resources are so unlimited we can frivolously waste them in pursuit of video games and nothing will happen to impede our progress like a tornado six miles wide.

I already know Rand's defense of our planetary exploitation: Someone will make a tornado-proof house. That's the basis of her philosophy. Humans will adapt to anything because a free thinking, guilt free John Galt will always find a way to adapt. But the theory breaks down when the John Galts of the world ARE CAUSING THE NEED FOR THE JOHN GALTS OF THE WORLD. We're not at the mercy of nature, we're at the mercy of unnatural disasters caused in the pursuit of streaming video. The Amish don't need John Galt and they aren't fucking everything up. Their solution to tornadoes will probably not include geoengineering...which will be Galt's first plan of attack...because he's so smart.

This isn't a well thought out essay so don't feel bad if none of this makes sense. Years ago, I tried to write philosophical essays and, speaking of conservation, managed to take 5 pages to say a page's worth of arguments.

I guess if everything but the environment were progressing smoothly then I would jump on Rand's ship and sign up for the solar energy engineer degree at M.I.T.


Did anyone read how there are 30,000 prisoners in California who have to be released? That's more than the total population of Earth's silverback gorillas! And they are surplus criminals! Jesus Christ!
And the general adaptability of mankind hasn't changed at all. All that has changed is our means of communication. We have almost 3 million people in jail in the US alone. What possible utopia is going to exist with 2% of the population going to jail?

There's a fundamental flaw in the ethics we're being taught and my mission is to find it and change it. Right now you could say we've exchanged a stable climate for internet access. Rand suggests that's a fair trade but she's exercising control over all the other inhabitants on earth which, I think, negates any positive accomplishments. Otherwise, you have a pathological pursuit of self-interests provided you disregard the existence of anything else living.

I have an affinity for the Kogi tribe. I think: How will this affect the Kogi living on a mountain-top in Colombia? And if I suspect it will affect them negatively then I must change my course of action. And I will end with this question for Ayn Rand: If I suspect my actions will hurt the Kogi and I do them anyway then what kind of a person does that make me? What value does anything I do have? And if I don't even consider the Kogi then I'm not an ethically thinking human and have already joined the worst company in history so there is no argument to be had.

*It's less than 50K or about the capacity of Angels Stadium in Anaheim.

Floor De Lis

Here are the final pictures of the mosaic. For anyone interested, I fixed the jagged tile edges by grouting more grout on top of the grout. This raised the grout to the level of all the edges so it was more or less flat and comfortable to walk on in bare feet. You can see the grout overlap if you are on your knees but this is art and not a mini mansion presentation piece for Mexican Merry Maids to clean on callused knees. Thanks to The Nurse for working with me and letting me learn something that is not easy.

Here is the dog Alabama. The morning after we sealed the floor with this waterproof sealer stuff she begged for food and water and I gave her some and she didn't even move her feet before she puked some onto the floor in the kitchen. I said what any normal person would say, "Aw, Alabama!" and she walked toward where I was standing on the mosaic floor and, as I was about to say, "At least she didn't puke on the..." she let loose the remainder of her stomach contents, half a gallon at least, onto the mosaic floor. Yellow and orange bile and food and puke and water. Like the cocktail of death to bright white grout.

We flew into action to clean it with towels but our haste was unnecessary because the grout sealer had created an invisible barrier over the grout and tile. It was amazing but the floor was completely spotless after we soaked up the puke.

The oak threshold were the Nurse's idea and they make a big difference in framing the piece and hiding my atrocious edge work. Tours are by appointment only.


I want to post at least one thing on the internet that proves Jimmy Z surf pants did exist and some people did wear them. I was one of those people caught up in the fad that involved velcro belts. The shorts were more popular but I went all out and bought the pants. I could be wrong that these were those Jimmy Z pants because a lot of pants had velcro belts. I guess I had a zipper head and cleanly shaved for my job (that Help Wanted sign would soon be removed thanks to me) at the Golden Goose on Sagamore where I drank Yoo Hoos in the walkin cooler with Billy D. and checked out the discarded Hustler mags and filled the beer bucket with ice from the cooler in back. That box on the wall is called a telephone booth. Me and that trash can got real close that summer of 1986. Go Sox!

How many gallons of water did this beard save? And when you are living in the desert water is something you pay attention to. This was during my "Zero Resource" period in California. I felt and still feel that the environmental crisis is so compelling that major sacrifices are all that will save the wolf. This period of time in 1994, and the exact events that led me to repair my cheap sunglasses with a paper clip carefully drilling the hole out with a discarded heroin needle, will be described in my Santa Cruz novel.

Part of a portfolio that I brought to several San Francisco modeling agencies where trim men with fingernail polish on looked disdainfully at my mug and the cheaply printed photos and tossed them aside, "Thanks for coming in. Next." and the next man or woman, prettier and slimmer than I would saunter in as I was shuffled out into the rain of 1997. Not only did I not hook up with any aspiring female models I didn't even get asked to give my digits to a gay guy. That's pathetic! My Schwinn Varsity bicycle got stolen on one of these trips to the city. And then the young man who took this picture succumbed to a lung condition. The price he asked to take my vanity pictures involved me getting completely naked in Golden Gate Park and lurching through the woods where hippies shit and junkies shoot up. This was before small video cameras or else I'd post a video. Those nude pictures are somewhere in the ether along with the photographer RIP.

My mug shot today: gray of the years gone under so many Pierce Island bridges. Tides like a feathered hair cut combed by a rain storm. Caught inside a tent where the air smells like heavenly shampoo. Necklaces lost in the hurricane.

Creative Commons License
Man in the Van by Oggy Bleacher is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License.