Archive for July, 2009

PART I: Tales From An Alternate Reality

I remember thinking as a child, that the year 2000 was destined to be that penultimate year of the future so idealized by pop culture. Movies like Back To The Future part II, with its flying cars, fusion-powered engines, and hoverboards, seemed like a feasible roadmap to a future within reach. Back then it seemed that technology had no limits and was growing at such a rate, we could hardly keep up with it–and it was, for the most part.

There came a point, I believe, where we reached a fork in the road to our advancement as a civilization. I haven’t been able to pinpoint exactly the point of departure, but it seems that somewhere along the lines, this technological growth has slowed, halted, or maybe even regressed. If technology is a natural extension of human evolution, which I believe it is, then we are experiencing a disruption of our progress as a species.

My critics have argued against this idea, pointing to advances in computer technology, wireless communication, advanced weaponry, and even those nifty little HD T.V.’s that are becoming ubiquitous. They claim that I expect too much too soon, and we are still advancing at the same breakneck speed. But still, as I sit in front of my computer, sifting through its myriad of petty problems, I can’t help but wonder: What century do we live in?

When I watch T.V. commercials, especially car commercials, I get fired up at the absurdity of the ideas that are presented. The simple fact that we are still a society mainly influenced by solicitation and provocative advertising shows how little we’ve progressed. We are moved by influential “powers-that-be” who peddle their version of reality under our noses, and presto! It becomes the established reality. Those sad souls who would rather passively stand by and accept this version of reality chime: “Well, that’s just the way it is. Without advertising there wouldn’t be funding for T.V. shows.” I, on the other hand do not accept this version of reality as “the way it is.” It didn’t have to go this way. We were on a path and we strayed.

Take car commercials for example. When I see these ads that create a fantasyland of flying automobiles and whimsical landscapes, when I see through the car corporation’s ploy to elevate the act of driving to some sort of transcendental experience, I get angry. This is due not only to the advertising industry’s tendency to pander towards the stupidity of humans, but also because the auto industry is flaunting, onscreen, the very thing that they have failed to produce! They mock us with tantalizing images of cars that float along sky highways, or cars that transform into giant robots, or cars that speed through fantastical worlds that have nothing to do with the product itself. We are presented with a vision of the future and it is sad to behold the true lack of vision that exists as the centerpiece of the ad: the gas-driven internal combustion engine car (ICE-car for short).

Here is a technology that has remained virtually unchanged in the last 100 years. Sure, automobiles have become sleeker, air-conditioned, and more expensive, but the essential technology that resides at the core of this product has stayed the same. And what are the reasons for this? Is it because the design of the modern automobile is the pinnacle of human ingenuity? Is the technology superior to anything else that might have been created for the same purpose? How about a lack of imagination? Car commercials demonstrate that there is certainly not a lack of imagination. No, I believe that the reason we have not yet surpassed the worn-out paradigm of the ICE-car, rests squarely on the shoulders of the auto industry itself.

Right now, we live in a society that is pre-dominantly focused on the American economy. One of the historical pillars of this economy has always been the automobile industry which is, finally, seemingly, on the verge of collapse. I, for one, am applauding this inevitable collapse.

Why? Because of the auto industry’s ultimate lack of vision. It seems that more thought was put into the “vision” of their overpriced, overhyped advertisements than the actual product itself.

Why? Because the major American car corporations have squandered their massive wealth only to deliver more of the same, lame cars at increased cost to the consumer.

Why? Because they allowed untethered greed to establish such a sprawling system of mass-production, bloated sales-driven dealerships, and flamboyant product lines that collapse was always inevitable.

Why? Because the auto industry has failed to progress according to the needs of the consumer and the environment.

Why then, if the auto industry has achieved such a massive failure, do they still operate today? The answer, sadly, is that we as American consumers would buy just about anything as long as the product is presented with slick advertising, a vanity-driven desire has been created for it, and no better alternatives have been presented to compete with it.

The first two reasons are societal/psychological symptoms, but the last reason is solely the responsibility of the “powers-that-be” in the auto industry.

It has been well documented that the auto industry has long held on to beneficial/progressive technologies that would literally revolutionize the industry. Advances in extended battery life, alternative fuels (not ethanol), and electric motors are just a few examples of existing technologies that the industry has purposefully withheld from the public, in order to maximize profits from their current invested technologies.

So powerful and influential has this industry been, that they have had the purchasing power to literally buy off patents from independent inventors. In fact, GM did release a limited number of fully electric vehicles in the early 90’s, but was able to successfully recall and destroy all existing models under leasing protection. Only one electric car was spared, and it sits in a car museum (for more information on this, check out the film “Who Killed The Electric Car?”).

Another fact is that electric vehicles were actually more dominant in the market before Henry Ford revolutionized the mass production of gas powered cars in the 1920’s. This only further illustrates my theory that technology could have gone in a different direction.

I put greed at the center of the auto industry’s , and ultimately the “powers-that-be’s” monumental gaffe. But if technology is the extension of human evolution and consciousness, then what right do they have to slow, regulate, or halt the rate of progress? People are hungry for progress. They are hungry for change.

Science and technology used to stem from an organic process of problem solving and discovery. Now it seems that research and development (R&D) in the form of more advanced technology has become so intertwined with corporations, that the independent inventor has become all but snuffed out. Who else has the investment capital? Who else has the R&D infrastructure? Who else has the ability to recruit the top scientists and brilliant minds? Oh yeah, the government has that ability too.

So basically what I am asserting is that somewhere along this road of technological discovery, the path split, and we have taken a turn towards the dark side. What used to be an organic province of the human mind has been hijacked, at the highest levels, by corporate and government interests, who have either slowed or halted the natural flow of this process (at least when it comes to the public interest).

This is demonstrated by their massive failure to deliver products and establish a society where technology benefits all of humanity and the planet. Much of this technology has been used to wage war, keep the public distracted, keep the wheels of industry rolling, and to deliver vanity products that promise more flash than substance.

We somehow turned right when we should have turned left, and have ended up in this strange alternative reality where the big technological breakthroughs aren’t flying cars and meals in a pill, but are rather gadgety cell phones, SUV’s, and more cable channels.

Don’t believe me? Don’t wanna see? Try taking your imagination off the shelf, dust off the cobwebs and ask yourself: “Is this all there is? Is this where we’re supposed to be?” Ask yourself: “What Century Do We Live In?”

Coming soon:

ENDANGERED SPECIES PART II:
So Much For The Afterglow…

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Ode To My Computer…

Posted: July 21, 2009 in Poetry, Technology

It thinks It has an opinion
It thinks that It’s alive
But when I want It to do something
All It does is shuck and jive

I bought It as a tool
Like a hammer to a nail
But when it comes time for work
It has a tendency to fail

I try to talk some sense to It
To be a sensitive guy
But nonetheless It fails me
And I’m left here asking why

So I bought another unit
To make up for Its mistake
But now I own two lemons
And I have twice the headache

Now I’m out of money
And frustrated to boot
All I wanted was a machine
That acted like a tool

But then I have an idea
Maybe I’ll start from scratch!
If I erase Its memory
Perhaps we’ll be a better match

But as fate would have it
Amnesia wasn’t the trick
My Computer had other plans
And now It’s really acting sick

Error warnings left and right
My face is flashing red
The only thing that seems to work
Is when I pull the plug dead

Now I have less headaches
Now I feel more alive
Since I’ve kept the power off
I get more exercise

No more lame excuses
No more silly games
Just a carcass of a computer
Used as a paper weight…

LONELY PATH

Posted: July 9, 2009 in Poetry

The mountains are my mistress.

I explore the rise and fall of her breasts, walking along this lonely path, feeling her smooth contours, resting in the protection of her valleys.

She both welcomes and chastises me like a lover who is not always easy to please, familiar in places, yet mysterious along the ineffable landscape of her body.

She is responsive to my touch, yet aloof to the inconsequential footprints I leave on her skin as I make every step a devotion.

When I am here, I am closest to nature, closest to death, walking a path between peril and salvation.

When I am here, I am closest to life, as my own body comes alive, feeling the grind of bone and muscle as I take each step, tasting the sweet air that is the breath of my lover.

When I am away, I dream of her unfound depths, places yet unexplored by my wandering feet.

I have yearned for her, sweated for her, bled for her.

She haunts my dreams and sobers my wake.

Her size both defeats and cajols me ever onward, and I am not walking with her as much as I am carried away by her.

It is only an illusion that I am able to keep my feet about me, because I know deep down that she could swallow me anytime she wanted, uniting us forever in the depths of her unconquered hollows, or propel me to places on high, as I dance in the shallows of the clouds…

stock-footage-hi-tech-elements-motion-graphics-hdPLE
INTERLUDE
Early Excursions Into A Cosmic Doctrine

BEGIN TRANSMISSION>>

the world is a much bigger place…life looks different from behind the window of a moving car…things swirl by in motion at different rates-therefore time is different for the Explorer on foot…the Explorer on foot walks upon the skin of the earth as if walking on his own skin…the earth and the universe as self…the vehicular traveler-isolated-disengaged from direct communion with nature observes the world speeding by…passive mind…meditative thoughts…the wellspring of creation…looking under rocks for signs of life…creatures that thrive in the darkness of log-rot…fear and fascination…learning about electricity for the first time…making small light bulbs glow takes many batteries…will not work properly unless there is a complete circuit…universal principle…all positive and negative terminals must be connected-aligned…same as magnetism…here is a great mystery: positive/negative-North/South…everything is cycles…reading book about powers of the mind…can sense-feel that physical matter can be manipulated by the mind…concentrate hard…close eyes…believe…no results…something left out…blocked somehow…what is blocking me?…flirtations with the martial arts…calm deliberation in one’s actions…protection-power…elegantly moving bone-muscle-mass through time-space…no longer stepping on the universe’s toes but dancing with it…mesmerized by fire…what substance are flames?…they move-dance with a sort of intelligence…something real-tangible but untouchable…dangerous beauty…being surprised by a spider then seeing myself through its eyes…the spider as self…strong sensation of awareness of the presence of another life form…sharing consciousness…looking into mirrors…seeing other worlds…a small window to which my mind can travel into-through-around…do I look into the reflective world of the mirror or am I the reflection of someone else looking in?…saw magic trick…coin disappeared in midair…some magic is real…music-art-writing…the ability to touch another soul…to evoke real emotion by the expression of sounds-images-words is magic…dreaming of the source…all is one…answers to everything because there are no more questions…ultimate knowledge…ultimate peace-for a time…connected to everything…we are all one…during conscious state-partitions in place to block access to universal consciousness…we are all one-but separate…there are ways to gain access…insights-glimpses…the conscious human mind was not intended to retain ultimate awareness…only in death do we return to the source…life=struggle…chick must break through egg shell as a demonstration of its will to be born…to live…seed sprouts break through the soil…human existence is to fight a losing battle with gravity…in the end gravity prevails…to live on is to continue to struggle…to enter into motion…karma is motion…life is motion therefore karma=life=struggle…life is a game…perhaps the ultimate game…life is a choice…to go on living is a choice…all things must come to an end sometime…more cycles…birth and death…crest and trough…on and off…life does not have to be preserved indefinitely…some death is honorable…death is as natural as life…life is illusion…self as an illusion…there is always a choice…there is a way out of the illusion…death=game over…

END TRANSMISSION>>

crazymusic

 

episode 002:

The Sound of Music

No quest to rediscover one’s past would be complete without exploring their musical tastes. I’m not just talking about run-of-the-mill genre-surfing or a distillation of one’s essence through musical hairsplitting. What I’m talking about is my own musical appreciation, irrespective of anyone else’s experience or any other trend of the times. It seems like I have absorbed a lot of music out of sync from the times they were most popular, thus bypassing waves of fanaticism and death by radio. Bands like Led Zeppelin, Alice In Chains, Pink Floyd, and Tool are just a few examples of bands that I have come to appreciate as their popularity has waned.

As with fitness I believe that I have experienced music at a somewhat different pace than many other people. This is true not only within the context of my own musicianship but with the music that I have listened to for enjoyment. This music has, like none other, inspired, influenced and shaped me during very crucial times in my life. I find it fascinating to look back at my earliest musical experiences and see how differently my young mind had interpreted them, something more as an abstraction than as a comprehensive analytical experience.

When I listen back at some of these tunes with my adult mind, and years of hardened musical training, they sound different to me. This training has helped to tune my ear to the richness and depth that so much music contains. I am now able to pick out individual riffs, or bass lines, or intricacies in the vocals. I can picture in my head a session player as he or she lays down tracks in the studio. I can hear the subtleties invoked by the editing and engineering process. After all the years of music appearing to me as an enigma, I finally have a working knowledge of it.

Paradoxically however, as my training and experiences in music-making accumulated, so did my disillusionment with the process of producing commercial music. I have often wondered if this disenchantment would someday ruin my ability to simply enjoy music aside from the technical components that make it up. Would I be able to use my knowledge in order to deepen my enjoyment of music, or would I become like a musical mad-scientist, cynical and unappreciative of more simple compositions?

Like any discipline or craft I believe that one should never lose sight of their basic enjoyment of music. I don’t think that there is a single person out there that doesn’t enjoy music in some form or another. Music has a very personal meaning and significance to each person, each having his or her own musical journey which is as unique as their own fingerprint.

I used to lament over the possibility of my CD collection getting stolen back in the day when I still had CD’s, back before the digital revolution took over and made them practically obsolete. The thought of the sudden loss of my beloved music was indeed terrifying, not only because of the money invested, but more so because it was MY collection.

I remember the days of wandering through new and used CD shops listening with wonder at the treasures I found. I thought to myself that I would be devastated if someone snatched my collection (which numbered at about 700-800 discs by the time I went digital) because I had handpicked each one of these CDs and no one else could really appreciate them as I did. Sure, some enterprising sneak-thief could have made a modest fortune selling them. But all the time I spent harvesting the music, all the love I put into these particular songs and bands…well, like I said, the thought terrified me and fortunately my collection went un-stolen and remains with me to this day. Some of my friends were not so fortunate. But the point is that I spent, and still spend a great deal of time pursuing music, not only as a creator, but as a listener.

Some people listen to music as mere spectators, not having the slightest idea how to play a musical instrument, nor do they care to. They could care less about the inner workings of the record industry, or the studio recording process, or any other technical component involved in getting the music from the players to the listener’s ear. I used to hold these people in contempt for I was a: Maker of Music. Surely music meant more to us musicians who understood the language of music, who had the ability to dissect songs and point out what key- or time-signature they were in. Surely we who participated in the creation of music were the ones who really understood. But then I began to realize that music means different things to different people. It is a very personal experience, even akin to one’s religious beliefs for some.

The great thing about music is that it is a language that speaks to the emotions of a person and therefore cannot be qualified by someone else’s subjective opinion. This is where I believe music critics err. Music is feeling. Music is color. Music is nothing short of magic itself. The simple fact that music has the ability to touch us in a way that nothing else can, is a testament to its magical qualities. Think about it. Music has its origins in the hearts and heads of its creators who, by an almost alchemical process, transmute these thoughts and vibrations into tangible patterns that reach out and touch another’s soul. Anyone who hasn’t gotten the chills from listening to a song needs to have their souls examined. There’s something almost ineffable in the appreciation of music.

Now, I’m not saying that one should approach music without a critical ear. It is natural to want to make distinctions based on favorable patterns, but no one else can give or take away the meaning that music brings to us. This is why I feel kindred to the lessons of Pink Floyd. The discipline of Led Zeppelin. The iconoclasm of the Beatles. Bands before my time who have not only transcended the human-to-human gap but also the generational gap.

I try to think of what it must have been like to hear these bands when they first came out as true innovators. Now I’m no Beatlemaniac by any stretch of the imagination, but I can certainly appreciate their music, especially when placed in the context of human history. The Beatles started out making mostly bubblegum-esque pop rock similar to other music of that era. Then they started getting weird. Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band is a prime example. Here was an album that cut against the grain for its time. Even more remarkable is the fact that the Beatles didn’t have “The Beatles” to inspire them like so many other bands that were inspired by the Beatles. The sound they created was original and by God, even catchy!

I have received much scoffing over these observations by indignant classic rock patrons complaining that “You youngsters don’t know what real music is,” as if my own personal connections with that music were somehow invalid because of my age, my second-hand discovery of it, or my surprise that it was so ahead of its time. I used to get offended by their admonitions, but now I just laugh to myself, wondering if the day will ever come when I will be the crotchety old-timer chastising the younger generation’s notions of music, defending bands like Nirvana, perhaps. But until then, my goal is to listen to music with the same wonderment and fascination of the virgin y(ears) of my youth.

bicep-flex

episode 001:

SURVIVAL OF THE FITNESS

So I’ve been wracking my brain trying to decide where I should begin my experiment of digging into my past. I’ve settled on fitness. Aside from any New Year’s resolutions I may or may not keep, I must ask myself, “Why is fitness important to me?”

Being close to the start of the New Year, it seems that most of the collective consciousness of society is geared towards fitness and weight loss. Actually, come to think of it, the concept of losing weight is relentlessly pounded into the collective psyche year-round these days; it’s just a bit fiercer around this time of year. There is the pressure to lose all of those excess pounds gained from gorging on all that rich holiday food, typically in time for Beach Blanket Bingo in the summer. Advertising frantically conveys the urgency to shed the pounds and the message is reinforced by media icons and starlets who ultimately influence the behavior and habits of the masses, and so on, and so forth, and the whole machine keeps rolling on.

Like George W. Bush always said, “You’ve got to keep repeating the propaganda for people to believe it…” And so countless scores of people put themselves through the rigors of cycle-dieting, doomed to live a calorie/carb-centric life, obsessing over body-image, only to inevitably return to that which gives them comfort: FOOD. And for a good reason. Food is supposed to comfort us.
It’s like a biological imperative. How many other life forms on this planet obsess over their body image? It seems that only humans could be so flamboyant towards something so survival-based.

But what does fitness mean to me personally? Fortunately, I was raised in a very fitness-conscious household, so I have been lucky enough to have those values instilled and reinforced in me during my childhood and teen years. But for all of my efforts, my own fitness always seemed out of sync with the rest of the world. I loathed all of those silly little exercises they make you do in gym class. They were boring, exhausting, and I didn’t really excel at any of them. I wasn’t into sports, or jock-like camaraderie. Gym class to me was just another way that the popular kids got to show their dominance, just like the good old days of sandbox rivalry.

I would stand by and watch the effortless physical prowess of my peers and wonder how they could virtually sprint the entire mile run. Or how they could fly up the climbing rope like some sort of weightless human-monkey hybrid. The only explanation for these seemingly abnormal feats of human capabilities I could think of is that they were the products of some freakish genetic experiment, or that they had had drill instructors for parents. Every time I did the mile run, I would heave and gasp for breath like an 80 year old smoker. Every time I tried to climb the rope, I made it about as high as the gym teacher’s head. No, I didn’t really see much value in these forced physical rituals.

Enter my post high school/early adult years. I got most of my exercise bicycling to and from work, racking up dozens of miles per day just in transportation. I look back on the experience and wonder how I ever kept going. The thought of bicycling 20 miles round trip per day through the slanted hills of Greenwood Village just to get to and from my day job, seems to me, today, as being daunting and excruciating. But there was a time when it was automatic.Maybe I have become stingy, over the years, over my choice of energy expenditure, selecting more comfortable venues. They say that people become more sedentary as the years go by, and I’m sure that it is true, but I have always thought of lifestyle as being a conscious choice.

I do realize now, that there were a great many things that used to come relatively easy to me. I rarely ever had to watch my weight or monitor the things I ate, or how many calories I burned, or any of that nonsense. Now it has become an ever-increasing theme in my life. Every little choice I make concerning food, diet, exercise, nutrition could have far-reaching consequences, not only of an aesthetic value, but more importantly, affecting my life-long health. It is all those things you hear as a kid, things that adults obsess over, then you realize that you are not invincible, and nothing lasts forever.

So I re-visit the question: Why is physical fitness important to me? There’s always the looks factor, immortalized so eloquently by Kevin Spacey’s character, Lester Burnham in the movie, American Beauty. When asked by his athletically-savy neighbors what his fitness goals were, he simply answered, “I want to look good naked!” Yes, there is that. But other than cosmetic reasons, why drive myself to the point of madness and exhaustion just so I can look at myself in the mirror and say, “Great BOD!”

I have never been a huge fan of trends, especially the kind that involves sycophantic posturing in order to be more acceptable in society-at-large. The truth (or the skinny, if you will), is that skinnier, and well-proportioned people tend to be comelier to the opposite sex, therefore generating more positive attention. This is obviously not true in every case for every person, but in the case of our society, it is mainstream to want to lose weight. You don’t see advertisements on T.V. promoting massive weight gain. You see the opposite. But I think where things have gone wrong is where body image and self-esteem have become the image of what others think it should be, rather than a personal preference.

But it takes a lot of hard work to have and maintain that BOD. I don’t care what anyone says about so-called “naturally skinny people.” They are not natural. Either they starve themselves, have a drug habit, a tape worm, or some sort of personality disorder that causes them to fidget a lot. The only other way to stay thin is to work at it, whether it is achieved through a person’s occupation, active lifestyle, or the dreaded D: dieting. The only reason why people in third world countries are skinny is because they are on the brink of starvation, not because they can’t get enough of: America’s Next Top Model.

That being said, I believe that there are many valid reasons to stay physically fit, with or without the BOD to show for it, and here are my reasons:

1. I want to live a good life. Now, this saying can be interpreted in many ways, but to me, the continued ability to experience the physical activities I enjoy, means living a richer life. Fitness is life-prolonging, age-defying, health-generating. I want to enjoy my life throughout the duration of my life, not just the brief window of my prime years.

2. Mobility. If I could sum up my fitness goals in one sentence, it would be something like this: My ultimate fitness goal is to maintain the ability to move my body through time and space. Once again, this could be a loosely interpreted concept, but to me it means that I am ultimately the captain of the good ship Chadstract. I can never become so dependent on vehicles that the sudden loss of them renders me paralyzed.

3. Survivalism. Ever hear the old adage: Survival of the fittest? Well, fittest=fitness. For reasons I will divulge in an upcoming episode, I believe that survival skills are going to be an indispensable asset to anyone that has the discipline to learn them. Before all of this technological wizardry came along to dazzle and distract us, humans were more in touch with the natural order of things. The reliance upon modern societal conveniences has enabled me to distance myself from nature to directly provide my needs. If I want to hunt and gather, I go to Burger King and King Soopers. But ultimately, this is not a sustainable practice. Corporations and the World economy might just let me down someday, and it will be up to me to survive in the wild.

Animals in the wild are naturally fit because they have to be in order to survive. Roughing it, as it were, is about as natural as it comes, and if IT-ALL-COMES-DOWN, the more physically fit I am, the more I will be able to endure the hardships that such a paradigm shift would imply.

The world is tough. The world is cruel. Nature does not make distinctions based on moral fortitude and good intentions. If my intent is to live, then I need to possess the strength to really live. If my intent is to live, then I want to live well. What is living well? The strength to keep getting up everyday, to take me where I need to go, and a body that’s in it for the long haul.