jeudi, juillet 31, 2008

Connected: to Nature.

As we sat in one of the five Starbucks in our small town, discussing issues of politics, art, and religion, (it would later be remarked how very European it all was) the natural world entered into the conversation. Specifically, a recent naturalist's thesis which posits that humanity is "losing its connection" with Nature. I got a little distracted when I realized that Starbucks had switched from carrying Odwalla to Naked overpriced health juices, but I think the gist of his argument what that there are fewer and fewer vacant lots for kids to play in.

Naturally, somebody cut to the heart of the issue.

"What does that even mean? What constitutes a connection with Nature?"

We were running out of time, and we hadn't spent any money whatsoever (now that's European!) so we ended up leaving before putting any kind of point on it. The closest we came was when someone put forth that there may be something meditative to the connection, something therapeutic. People who are connected to Nature turn to her for some kind of spiritual renewal. I've thrown it out to a few others, and (perhaps to put an end to the conversation) they seem to agree with that reduction rather readily. Someone very smart even brought up Emily Dickinson, for whom Nature took the form of her religion ("some keep their Sabbath going to church"--etc.)

But this is, without a doubt, too facile, if not a total cop out. It is proof that the question itself is uncomfortable--especially for people who consider themselves "in touch" with nature. Because if to answer the question ("what constitutes a connection with Nature"), you have to resort to something outside the scope of the subject of the question ("spirituality"), then your answer is that you have no answer. I cannot find a definition of Nature that even implies that it has anything to do with the spiritual essence of the creatures that inhabit it.
Let me admit that people who resort to Nature for a renewal of some kind, or who draw meditative calm from its wild places--these are my kind of people. But do we who love the great outdoors, who live in remote places so as to avoid the excesses of urbanization really have a greater "connection" to Nature? Can we claim such if we can't even really define what that means?

So, though I was at first offended when the heir to the Unabomber proclaimed that we are losing touch, I am now ready to take his argument a step further. We are not losing touch, we've lost it already. We lost it thousands of years ago. We might never have been in touch. We might not be meant to--except in the spiritual, meditative, caretaking way we have invented for ourselves. How do you like them apples?

Consider . . .
*Humans all over the world are warm when it is cold outside, and cool when it gets hot. We've been fighting it since forever. (Don't listen to losers who claim to not believe in air conditioning. When it gets into the triple digits, they believe. All of them.) From the moment the first of our kind decided to wear the remains of the animal he'd just eaten, we were out of touch. We didn't need to evolve blubber or body hair (Burt Reynolds excluded) or migrate long distances to avoid the cold. We were out of touch with the seasons of the earth.
*We are the only creatures I can think of who don't void the contents of their bladder or bowel all over the place. Except on the streets of Paris, France, we've stopped participating in the idea of randomly returning to Earth that which we have eaten. We even demand the same from the animals we have domesticated. The moment you suppress the urge to go--even for a second--you've lost touch.
*The rest of Nature's children have only 2 real interests, which are, in order: 1) the next meal; and 2) the next mate. I was about to posit that we have interests beyond food and sex. But come to think of it, in this sense we are very much in touch with Nature. There might be a rare exception here and there, of course. We're only human. But hooray for all of you gluttons, sluts, nymphomaniacs and ultrasexuals: in this one respect, you do not fall under the indictment of the so-called Naturalists.
*That said, we are almost alone in our constant preoccupation with and use of sex for some purpose other than reproduction. The entire existence of almost every other creature is centered on reproduction. We on the other hand have a never ending line of products and procedures to ensure that we can have sex more often than rabbits without the horrible side effect of actually having to deal with the most natural result of that act. Nature made it pleasurable so we would want to do it. We looked her in the face and said: Look, we'll do it like dogs in heat, we'll even call it a "reproductive" act, but we will tear that little nightmare out with a vacuum before we'll compromise our freedom, job, or wardrobe. If you believe in birth control like I do, admit to being WAY out of touch with Nature.
*We do not know where our food comes from. Noted naturalist Jason Adair would disagree that this constitutes a disconnect. (The only explanation for this stance is that he is heavily invested in McDonald's and its parent and subsidiary corporations.) I don't care if you know that the egg came from a chicken. Obviously any dumb-ass knows that. And only a dumb-ass would use that as proof that humans are connected in any way with nature through their food. We have taken the second most fundamentally natural act, namely, food consumption, and turned it into a pre-packaged jaunt down the aisles of a sterile, air conditioned supermarket. And you and I both think that is just great, or we'd be scavenging around the wilderness for whatever is in season, or sucking the blood from our fresh kill, or at least gardening.

So please join with me in seeking [un]natural spiritual renewal through Nature's gorgeous green places. Appreciate unspoiled wilderness. (You can even read Wordsworth and agree with him that people who don't are "dull of soul.") Please love your fellow creatures and preserve their habitats. You can even make Nature your religion, or at least part of it (if it isn't, then your religion is totally screwed up). But let's hunker down and admit that you and I are observing from the outside. And have been since we could be called Human. And there is nothing wrong with that.

dimanche, juillet 27, 2008

Ears, Bud.

I tried shouting this from the housetops. But nobody heard. (Guess why).

Hey, Soccer moms! Hey, newly minted faux yuppies! Hey, formerly technophobic Seniors!
The new law stipulates that you must use the bluetooth--or other hands free technology--whilst DRIVING. You are not required to keep it in your ear in the grocery store. You will not be fined for talking on your phone at the bank. The Highway Patrol cannot pull you over while you walk with your baby in the park.

Please spread the word amongst your ilk.

vendredi, juillet 25, 2008

Mr. Clouds/Mr. Sunshine

The standard formula for political discourse hasn't changed since the disgusting idea of being a politician entered into the first Greek head. It goes something like this:

Part 1) Let me tell you about all the problems (if there aren't any, I'm the incumbent).
Part 2) Let me tell you how I'm going to fix the problems.

Simple enough. But a good politician doesn't just follow the flow chart. A really slick one makes it seem like there isn't any formula at all. A legendary one speaks from the heart, where a bedrock of firm principles and well conceived, actionable plans dictate words we won't soon forget. A bad one has only the formula to offer.

And then there is Barack Obama.

With full apologies to the intelligent, forward thinking, principled people who have latched on to idea of change in American Politics (and NO APOLOGY WHATSOEVER to the orgasmic hoards who mindlessly worship him as the Great and Eloquent Messiah who shall deliver us from the Abominable Satanbush--this second group includes a sizable portion of the American Press Corps), I find myself in the regrettable position of having to do some playah hatin'.

Let me first admit that I found myself drawn to the man. Seriously. I'm not setting up a punchline. I wanted to believe in him. Despite his almost total lack of relevant experience (just over a hundred days in the senate is his only official qualification), and willing to turn a blind eye to his truly ridiculous affiliations with really horrible people, I found myself listening to his speeches, becoming really enamored with the idea of a President who was also an effective public speaker. I was so into his early offerings that I was even willing to overlook the sneering comments of his wife, who took it upon herself to go on record saying that she was never proud of her country until it started salivating over her husband. I liked the tone of his voice. I liked his look. I liked the way he handled the female embodiment of all that is evil in the universe. Had my affection continued, I might have even been ready to forgive the way he defiled sacred spots in Israel with campaign posters for a photo op, or the way he mumbled and fumbled his way through a recent press conference in Jordan (where, between unquotable hesitations, he ingeniously observed that "Israel is a friend to Israel.") [editor's note: the author is not Jewish. Obama just happens to have been most recently in the middle east.] I was even completely ready to overlook the fact that he is, technically speaking, whiter than Tiger Woods. The fact is, the man had my ear. I was listening.

The problem is that I kept listening, and began, almost against my will, to perceive his transparent use of certain rhetorical traditions. I don't begrudge him using the formula--they all must--but I am bound to despise the shameless sophistry with which he employs it. Every speech he gives comes down to a shallow litany of how bad America is, followed by him filling a hot air balloon made of gold colored tin foil with billowy clouds of empty ersatz eloquence.

The OOPAPOTS translation of any randomly selected Obama speech comes out as the following. (Please read it in your best Obama voice replication pattern).

This horrible place cannot be allowed to exist as it does any longer. Show me your guilt button, I will push it. Don't tell me you're not suffering--you are. Show me your panic button, and I will massage it for a moment before lowering my fist upon it with a mighty force. Now everybody drop your pants and bend over. I'm about to blow copious amounts of warm, meaningless sunshine up your ass and you're going to love it. It feels so good. It will not satisfy your mind. It cannot. But you will feel uplifted. NOW. Did you hear me? I said feel uplifted! YES! I AM THE WALRUS!

He is, when you get right down to it, damned insulting. Why not just say "if you vote for me, all your wildest dreams will come true" and then get Napoleon to dance? He says nothing. I don't care anymore if he delivers it well. What good has ever come of a politician whose message amounts to "close your mind and open your anus"? I'm not by any means endorsing McCain. But I've had enough warm gilded air, thanks.

mercredi, juillet 16, 2008

Free Translation Service

As it turns out, people do not always mean what they say. Even less often do they say what they mean. Which used to be one of the more demoralizing elements of public discourse. No longer.

With our database, software and search engine at last complete, we are pleased to announce the launch of our new Translater. The Obscure, Overly-Partisan, or Purposefully Arcane, Political Opinion Translation Service (O.O.P.P.A.P.O.T.S). Readers of Girl Pants can now send in comments they have proposed or overheard, and OOPPAPOTS can render them into a cogent, cohesive statement, stripped of obfuscation, sophistry, and based on the brazen reality of the situation. With our "Input Context" option we can even account for a wide variety of source material.

Here are a few of the samples our research team have released.

COMMENT: The Daily Show and the Colbert Report are what I watch for news.
TRANSLATION: I am uninformed. Let us share some ripping good rips on people with whom I disagree. After that discard my views on current events.

COMMENT: Coldplay is overrated.
TRANSLATION: Coldplay is either too mainstream, or not mainstream enough for me.

COMMENT: Bush is an idiot. (true BTW)
TRANSLATION: (*Input Context /loyal republican/) I am willing to concede that the president might not be a brilliant man if you are willing to shut up about Iraq, the price of gas, and to never say 'nobody died when Clinton lied' ever, ever again. Oh, go ahead. I guess this is my punishment for rubbing Jimmy Carter's royally inept destruction of the economy in your face all these years;
(*Input Context /stodgy conservative/see also older white male/) He ran as a conservative and governed like a liberal. I can't believe I voted for that chump;
(*Input Context /average middling or lazy social lefty/) I love saying things that don't have to be researched or backed up because they are accepted as media fact;
(*Input Context /activist liberal/) If I could spit acid on him I would. If he was on fire I wouldn't piss on him to put out the flames. But my virulent hatred is justified by my bumper stickers. I am at peace and love all people. Except for George Bush, for whom my heart burns with an everlasting red hot hate that I can barely even conceal when broadcasting the news.

COMMENT: We are destroying the planet.
TRANSLATION: Human beings tend to have a destructive effect, and need to do better. I might be a democrat or a republican, on this issue it really doesn't matter. Also, I have researched it and discovered that Mother Nature can cause, and has caused on hundreds of thousands of occasions, more damage to herself in a day than we could in our best 100 years. So I take a calm level headed approach to it. I don't fall for junk science. I accept that human beings, destructive as they may be, have a right to exist as children of this planet. I do my best to accept other people's choices. I truly love nature and make every effort, with my time and with my pocket book, to preserve and appreciate it.

COMMENT: WE ARE DESTROYING THE PLANET!!! (note tone of panic and exclamation points)
TRANSLATION: I am desperate for some emergency to get heated up about. It makes me feel important and sates my need to feel socially responsible, if not socially superior. The "devoted to a higher cause" vibe that other people get from their religion, or their job, or their family, or from actually helping people, I get from hyper ventilating over imminent disaster that has been steadily and wrongly predicted in various forms since the beginning of time, and telling other people how to live their lives. In fact, I am, socially and philosophically speaking, NO DIFFERENT from the panicked crowd in the 1800's who were convinced that the 2nd coming of Christ was around the corner and went around telling everybody how badly they were screwing up and how imminent was their demise. Remember, we blew out record amounts of hot air fretting about an upcoming ICE AGE back in the seventies. We've switched to global warming now, and I don't know what it will be tomorrow. But whatever it is, you can rest assured I'll give you an earful and tell you all the ways that YOU and the rest of humanity are f*cking up the planet.

COMMENT: Those pants do NOT make you look fat.
TRANSLATION: Either I do not have sufficient respect for your ability to handle the truth, or I don't want to mess up my chances of having sex with you later, or both.

As you can see, the applications of OOPAPOTS are numerous. While it is no help at all with a person who simply lies to you on the bald face of it all (for which there is no remedy), you can get, within an increasingly small margin of error, right to the heart of the matter, or to the matter in other people's hearts, thereby avoiding a good deal of the rancor and misunderstanding that has become the norm in American Arena of Ideas.

mardi, juillet 08, 2008

Hands Free

As you are most likely aware, California has recently made it official: as of July 1st you can no longer speak on your cell phone without a hands free device whilst driving.  You will get pulled over.  

Never mind that this law was obviously enacted with funds from the lobbyists representing the makers of hands free devices, (since studies have shown fairly conclusively that it is, in fact, the CONVERSATION that distracts, and not the act of holding a phone).  Here is a list of things you can still do at the wheel and not get pulled over.  This list contains things I have either done, observed, or heard direct testimony about.  I suggest you try these while you still can.  If the fascist law makers and special interests have their way, we'll have no choice but to focus on the road.

Shave (face)
Shave (armpits)
Read the paper
Put on make up
Change your nylons
Watch a DVD
Receive oral sex
Engage in sexual intercourse
Paint and/or file your nails
Eat a variety of food items
Stick your left leg out the window in a desperate attempt cool off by getting air to funnel past the groin and down the other leg
Yell at your kids
Physically discipline your kids
Play the Harmonica (this one was my brother, who did get pulled over, but not for being dangerous at the wheel: the cops thought he was smoking a crack pipe)
Play air guitar
Rock out in general (not possible with the Dave Matthews Band)
Pop Zits
Brush Teeth
Urinate into a bottle
Try to communicate, with various hand gestures and "looks" how stupid, how desperately, INFINITELY STUPID a person's bumper sticker is.  

Feel free to add to the list. It is by no means definitive or exhaustive.

jeudi, juillet 03, 2008

Eugenically Speaking . . .

In my never ending quest to bring the peoples of the worlds together, (and with a brain aflame in the sweet, sweet fever of sleep deprivation) I've spent a few hours reconciling various poles of contradiction.

For instance: What happened to cops? Everyone seems to have a problem with law enforcement. Yet somehow I have never met a bad one. Every cop I meet is courteous, respectful, often lenient. Even as a teenager skateboarding in technically illegal places, I always seemed to be caught by the patient officer with the kind word. No power trips. No smug authoritarians. No short (or otherwise undersized or testosterone deficient) men who needed a gun to compensate. Not even any Porn 'staches. Where are the corrupt asses I see in every movie? The shiftless ineptitude portrayed on television? There must be something missing from my experience, since everyone else seems to hate their guts. (Or worse, like my good friend who, as a teenager, could NOT get cited for anything in her home town, because her father was Chief of Police. And believe me she tried. They'd see her I.D. and just let her go.) Since I refuse to believe that television and movies have betrayed me, I have no choice but to determine that my experience is an aberration.  My anecdotal evidence is suspect.  

The question is, Was there ever a time when one joined the force for the right reasons? Maybe the old West. Because let's face it, in the here and now, if you're interested in real Justice, you become a caped vigilante.

On to another contradiction: I think you can believe in Evolution and God at the same time. Einstein did. (Set aside for a second that Evolution is not something that requires belief, and that saying you "believe" in Science belittles both Science and the being religious types call the Master Scientist. Why are both sides of this issue so invested in acting as if these elements are mutually exclusive? Why must evolutionists make it their religion while religionists make every effort to exclude it from theirs?  But that wasn't the point. . . was it?) It seems to me that most of the devout evolutionists I know are also on the political left, really into Utopianesque visions of a humanity where everyone takes care of everyone else and compassion rules the day. (Never mind that what they really mean, whether they know it or not, is that the government takes care of everyone while a small percentage of the citizenry pays for it.  Either that or the Vulcans are about to detect our warp drive experiment, land here, and inaugurate a new age of exploration where money is meaningless and technology will save us all.  But what was the original point?)  

The question is, if evolution is your "belief," where does compassion figure into it?  Nature has none.  NONE whatsoever.  Make no mistake, she is beautiful.  She is wise.  She is also the baddest pimp on the block.  Diabetes, Cancer, etc. are her ways of selecting you out.  So technically speaking we have no business preserving you, especially if you plan on reproducing.  If Nature is all there is, and we are simply a part of the beautiful ecosystem of earth, what business do we have acting differently from the other cogs in the natural machine? Why Art?  Why Charity?  If we are allowed to differ from the ecological consensus in so-called good ways, why is it such a tragedy when we do it in destructive ways?  And why do we seem to have so much more power to destroy and preserve?  Every creature produces waste.  But we are the only ones that make it with something other than our anus.  Is that significant?  

Wait.  What was the original point? 

 I guess sleep deprivation is not the path to enlightenment.