Archive for March, 2011

March 22nd, 2011

A Cog of God

If I were a whirling dervish, first I’d attach crayons to the ends of two long poles, which would in turn be fastened to my wrists, and as I whirled I’d make spirographic patterns on large sheets of butcher’s paper laid out on the floor. I’d sell the paper to tourists, or to crackpots intent on developing some kind of sacred dervish geometry.

I’d save up the money, and after a little while, I’d buy a furry mouse toy, probably one that squeaked on impact. I’d sew the mouse’s tail to the hem of my dervish skirt. I’d also buy an elaborate crazy straw. With the rest of the money I’d buy two turbines; one fairly small with only a few long, thin blades, with a flat nose at the center, and one fairly large, with a very long nose, attached on the other end to the ceiling of my dervish temple. The very long nose would have a special end cut to fit perfectly into my hollow fez.

With the turbines in place, I’d find a stray cat. The cat’s hind legs would be tied, loosely, to one of the blades of the small turbine, which would be laid only slightly above the floor. I would probably give him some catnip before placing the straw in my mouth and starting to go into my trance. Then I would stand on the flat nose of the small turbine, and connect my fez with the long nose of the large turbine, and I would spin, the toy mouse flying around in a circle and prompting the cat to pull the blade attached to its legs while the long nose nestled in my hat would spin with me.

I would, of course, before all of this, connect the turbines to proper gearboxes and generators, feeding into a transformer which would power a set of small electric burners strategically placed beneath a number of beakers, these items having also been purchased with the money earned from tourists and crackpots. The fluid from the beakers would slowly drip into a glass canal connecting each, the mixture producing a steady supply of dimenhydrinate, the active ingredient in Dramamine. Every hour, marked by the familiar sound of my mahogany cuckoo clock, which I would not have to purchase separately, it being the treasured and only relic of my pre-religious foray into antiquing, I would tilt my head slightly and catch the end of my straw in a pool of dimenhydrinate leaked by an outlet in the glass canal, making contact for just a moment mid-spin to suck down a tiny dose. And I would spin, then, and spin, free and not the slightest bit dizzy, a cog of god.

Sadly, though, I don’t think I’d ever get the cat to also use a crazy straw.

March 19th, 2011

Offsetting Hypocrisy

Scenario 1: You own a small courier service. You feel compelled to keep your business socially conscientious, and you hear about the ill effects that various company operations may have on the environment. There’s the modest fleet of vans and the gas with which they’re powered, the headquarter office where lights, computers, fax machines, and other power-hungry possessions demand a steady stream of electricity from the local coal plant, and there’s plenty of waste, not all of which fits neatly into the color-coded recycling bins out back.

So you decide you’re going to take the initiative and do something. Except, you don’t actually know what to do –a courier needs its fleet, after all. Then you remember hearing about some big company –or was it an actual country?– that used offsetting to “nullify” the ill effects of its inefficiency and waste. A swift bank transaction and a cute marketing campaign later, you’re satisfied with your trendsetting responsibility and the positive new image you’ve instilled in your customers’ minds.

Scenario 2: Let’s face it, Ted’s an asshole. You’ve known him since grade school, back when he wouldn’t let you play with his toys and got better breakfast cereal than you did, and he hasn’t changed much. Blunt, loud, selfish, and somehow always just sort of “around,” Ted makes your life more or less miserable. Unfortunately, this isn’t the experience of your boss at the insurance firm, who has recently hired Ted and is hinting that he’s on the fast track to usurping your coveted corner office.

The time has come to take action. You’ve entertained the fantasy of hacking Ted to bits with some kind of fancy martial arts weapon, which he would look at with crushing envy before his drawn out made for TV movie death, but surely you couldn’t really do that. Then you remember that time your parents made you go to the dentist for a painful procedure that, as far as you were concerned, had no real purpose other than to make you feel bad. When it was over, your parents took you out for ice cream, patted your head, and talked about how brave you were. Everyone seemed to feel that in the end, it was okay.

You don’t really know what to do with a katana or nunchucks though, so one day you simply poison Ted’s afternoon coffee, and serve it to him personally under the guise of clearing the air and making a new start. After Ted’s death, you start showering your friend John with as much kindness as you can manage. You take him to dinner and go to his house unannounced to deliver presents or help with household chores. John gets creeped out and tells you not to call him anymore. So you have a baby –hey, creating a new life oughta offset ending an old one–, and direct your affections to it, satisfied with your Ted-free existence.

***

There are some laws that govern potential environmental damage and related activities, just as there are laws that relate to killing people. Certain things, we’ve decided, are wrong, and how reprehensible or threatening they may be is a matter typically dealt with in terms of sentences. Somehow, though, we’ve recently talked ourselves into believing that some bad things are okay if we “offset” them by doing good things in the meantime, mostly because we just don’t know how to stop doing the bad stuff.

The offsetting hypocrisy sets a fairly dangerous precedent for moral action, and for interaction with the law. And while I don’t know what to do about -that-, I’m going to publish this instead of not writing anything today and then playing with magnetic poetry on the fridge later to make up for it.

March 13th, 2011

Only the Privileged are Left Behind

-or-

You probably won’t be able to buy anything like a banana soon enough.

A few weeks ago I was confronted with the happy and relaxing task of reinstalling Windows, a tradition I’ve heard is enjoyed among the people of the world in a ritual celebration filled with cursing, feelings of being completely dead inside, and microwaveable sandwiches. My attempt at joining in on this unifying horror of the international computer-using community was abruptly halted, however, when I found the tool I’d need to copy the installation disk to reinstall the operating system was only available in a conveniently bundled package containing about 15% what I wanted, and 85% proprietary junk. Junk without which no modern program can possibly work, seeing as its absence might reveal the embarrassing nakedness of actual content.

The best course of action seemed to be complaining, which I immediately directed at an innocent friend:

Once upon a time, a girl could go to the store and get a banana. She could peel it, and eat it, and all was well. Then as the years went by, bananas started getting all of these extra things added to them. Nutritional boosters and peel decorations, and little baubles that hung off the tab at the top. Genetically engineered brown spots that ensured an even distribution of burnt sienna. And if you wanted to buy a banana, you had to first sign up for a banana membership and have your banana receptors scanned and catalogued, and you had to have a fruit processing unit to get the peel open, and you had to have a government approved pre-mastication operator.

The friend asked me where I was quoting from, as if I’d been reading a bizarre science fiction premise mysteriously preoccupied with fruit.

In the sense that it’s excessive, obnoxious, and illogical, sure, it’s bizarre. In the sense that it is, I’m convinced, entirely likely, it’s not bizarre at all. Nearly everything intended for human consumption, no matter the delivery method, is being geared towards the lowest common denominator. Towards a barely-human mass of coveted expendable income and Cheez-It crumbs that has no idea what a consumable object is, nor how it could possibly be useful, and therefore needs enough packaging and sensual lubricant to ensure objects of any size or purpose can be uniformly sent careening down its gullet.

Why is it that almost without fail, videos online are defaulted to the highest possible volume? Why does nearly every purchase come with an opt-out phase to avoid automatically buying more products or attracting more offers to buy more products? Why are the gripability and mouth girth of bottled soft drinks worth “improving,” or even pointing out? Are you tired of having to get up in the morning? Don’t worry, now auto-complete will fill in your day for easy and immediate living.

It seems that the ability to establish a meaningful connection with what we consume is becoming more and more rare, a superpower of the privileged. Today’s luxury isn’t about adding more value. It’s about the pure and simple delivery of the thing desired, an experience that’s always been marked by bliss, but which is increasingly closed off to masses of people who are relegated to life lived under the suffocating cellophane of the Value-Pak.

As the world hurtles towards its latest rendering of progress’ horizon, the privileged stand back, in a three-dimensional space where there exists more than flat and infinite forwardness, enjoying the fruit of the earth, of their labors, and of each other. It’s explained away as luxury, but it’s in fact reality, this world where you open a banana and you eat it, and it’s good, and that is all.

And that is all.

March 12th, 2011

The Venus Project: Your Description has been Fixed

The Venus Project presents a bold, new direction for humanity that entails nothing less than the total redesign of our culture. There are many people today who are concerned with the serious problems that face our modern society: unemployment, violent crime, replacement of humans by technology, over-population and a decline in the Earth’s ecosystems. As you will see, The Venus Project is dedicated to confronting all of these problems by actively engaging in the research, development, and application of workable solutions.

The Venus Project represents a new generation of passionately decerebrated activists committed to the use of sweeping generalizations about the boogeyman and his cohorts, as well as the uniform distribution of stupidities digestable by today’s neediest directionless youth. There are many people in many countries who have recently discovered the complexity of bipedal existence within the Earth’s ecosystems. As you will see, The Venus Project has no idea what such complexities entail, but is steadfastly dedicated to collecting funds and mindless comments in the pursuit of making life as sterile as possible.