October 24. Home internet is back! It's over phone now instead of cable, so we had to get a DSL modem, and I did some research and I bought a Zyxel Q1000Z off eBay for $29. Then I had to trace some phone lines in the house and do more research. This page, doing your own telephone wiring, was a big help. I ended up opening the box on the back of the house, noticing that a cable had been disconnected and plugging it back in, and tracing a Cat 5 cable from the box to a cut end under the back door. But the cable was long enough that I could drill a hole through the wall of the house and bring it into the utility room, where I wired it to a loose phone jack and plugged in the modem. Our CenturyLink promo offer is $15/month for six months and then it goes up to $47, which is not terrible, but if it goes up again we'll probably switch back to a fresh promo offer from Comcast. This is one of the ways that technology makes us poorer. I mean the internet is wonderful, but we all need the internet now. So there's a bunch of money we each have to pay, just to be included in normal society, that we didn't have to pay in the 1980's. When Americans talk about "economic freedom" they're mostly talking about the freedom of the rich to leverage their money into more money. Economic freedom for the poor means that everything necessary is free. And in a sane society, fewer things would be necessary.
I recognize that this kind of creepshow fanbase is an ongoing risk. So many of the topics that interest me - paganism, black metal, global health, informatics, ecology - are just shot through with Americans (mostly) who feel perfectly comfortable describing their insanely privileged lives as some kind of last-ditch bunker action against a howling paleo-Lovecraftian chaotic swarm of death.
The Western child today is mostly kept inside his own home, associating with other children only in highly structured, adult-supervised settings such as school and sports teams. It was not always so. Throughout history, bands of children gathered and roamed city streets and countrysides, forming their own societies each with its own customs, legal rules and procedures, parodies, politics, beliefs, and art. With their rhymes, songs, and symbols, they created and elaborated the meaning of their local landscape and culture, practicing for the adult work of the same nature. We are left with only remnants and echoes of a once-magnificent network of children's cultures, capable of impressive feats of coordination.
I don't know what to make of the fact that on reddit, this link did best on a right wing subreddit called Dark Enlightenment. How did overprotection of children become associated with the left?
October 18. Quick note: we had to cancel Comcast because it went up to $67/month, and it will be a week or two before we have CenturyLink. On top of that, Spokane Community College no longer offers open wifi, so I have to ride three miles to the public library to get online. So posting and emails will be light for a while.
October 18. Quick note: we had to cancel Comcast because it went up to $67/month, and it will be a week or two before we have CenturyLink. Until then I'll be getting online just a couple hours a day at the library, and probably posting less.
October 17. Read Iggy Pop's incredible John Peel lecture. This is the best thing I've read in a while on any subject. Some excerpts:
I always hated radio and the jerks who pushed that shit music into my tender mind, with rare exceptions. When I was a boy, I used to sit for hours suffering through the entire US radio top 40 waiting for that one song by The Beatles and the other one by The Kinks. ... I worked half of my life for free. I didn't really think about that one way or the other, until the masters of the record industry kept complaining that I wasn't making them any money. To tell you the truth, when it comes to art, money is an unimportant detail. It just happens to be a huge one unimportant detail. But, a good LP is a being, it's not a product. It has a life-force, a personality, and a history, just like you and me. It can be your friend. Try explaining that to a weasel. ... If who you are is who you are that is really hard to steal, and it can lead you in all sorts of useful directions when the road ahead of you is blocked and it will get blocked. ... When I was starting out as a full time musician I was walking down the street one bright afternoon in the seedier part of my Midwestern college town. I passed a dive bar and from it emerged a portly balding pallid middle aged musician in a white tux with a drink in one hand and a guitar in the other. He was blinking in the daylight. I had a strong intuition that this was a fate to be avoided. ... The most punk thing I ever saw in my life was Malcolm McLaren's cardboard box full of dirty old winklepinkers. It was the first thing I saw walking in the door of Let It Rock in 1972 which was his shop at Worlds End on the Kings Road. It was a huge ugly cardboard bin full of mismatched unpolished dried out winklepickers without laces at some crazy price like maybe five pounds each. Another 200 yards up the street was Granny Takes a Trip, where they sold proper Rockstar clothes like scarves, velvet jackets, and snake skin platform boy boots. Malcolm's obviously worthless box of shit was like a fire bomb against the status quo because it was saying that these violent shoes have the right idea and they are worth more than your fashion, which serves a false value. ... If I wanna make music, at this point in my life I'd rather do what I want, and do it for free, which I do, or cheap, if I can afford to... Every free media platform I've ever known has been a front for advertising or propaganda or both. And it always colors the content... I can't help but note that it always seems to be the pursuit of the money that coincides with the great art, but not its arrival. It's just kind of a death agent. It kills everything that fails to reflect its own image, so your home turns into money, your friends turn into money, and your music turns into money.
I want to mention here that my latest favorite band, Big Blood, all have day jobs and don't even try to make money from their music. And if we ever get an unconditional basic income, we will get to listen to millions of people who don't have to compromise toward what Iggy Pop calls "the kind of music that people listen to when they're really not that into music."
October 15. I got several comments via email on Monday's post. Here's my condensed version of a comment from Jed:
I'm not even sure young people are that unhappy, but to the extent they are, I think it is because of a mismatch between time scales. Young people have only been around a little while, they are immersed in a world where things happen quickly (online, media) and they feel like they can't affect things. They can, they do, but the way water wears away rock. Real social change is multi-generational. The changes that stick are the ones that people live and pass on to their children in a new form. Regarding "saving the world" - prior to the 20th century we didn't even have a good sense of the whole world, much less any sense that we were responsible for it. With nuclear proliferation, whale management, ivory trade, the ozone hole, etc. we have been pragmatically dealing with the fact that we're all in this together. I'd guess that the sense of responsibility will just get stronger (one of the things we pass on to our children). Young people, especially elite ones, are sloshing around the world, taking for granted that they can live anywhere and quite likely will. They will see it as one world, their children even more so and that perspective will be influential. That doesn't mean that we'll get the management right. There will be a lot of bad decisions because of ignorance, fixed beliefs, special interests with excessive influence, truly conflicting large-scale interests, etc. We'll keep banging up against those problems and hurting ourselves as we learn. Some mistakes will do permanent damage. But we will learn - slowly, with a lot of regrets, which the next crop of young people won't really grasp unless they get interested in history. I don't think there's a faster or cheaper way.
New subject: Adam Curtis is a filmmaker and blogger who does long thoughtful posts that typically do a close reading of 20th century history to reveal some dark narrative. His latest is called The Vegetables of Truth. First he argues that the role of science changed when we realized that technology creates new dangers:
Because a new breed of scientists came forward and said that they knew how to analyse the dangers - and anticipate the risks. They wouldn't try and build dazzling new futures, instead they would keep the world safe by spotting the dangers before they arrived.
And this goal of avoiding bad things, instead of doing good things, now dominates our culture and has pushed out the older goal of political and economic equality. Curtis brings this together with a scientific study showing that people who eat more vegetables live longer - but the scientists failed to take a political stand for the most likely interpretation: people with more money live longer, and they eat more vegetables, so to increase public health and lifespan we should redistribute wealth.
October 13. The other day I got an email from a reader asking for advice, and while thinking about it, I came up with a theory of why young people are so unhappy. I mean obviously the main reason is economic: they have huge unpayable debts and it's really hard to make money. But on top of that, I think first world middle class Millennials carry a psychological burden that is not shared with other struggling people around the world: they have inherited the Baby Boomer culture of global responsibility, without inheriting the political power to do anything about it.
This fits with an idea from this podcast, In The Dust Of This Planet, which Anne wrote about in this post. The idea is, in the 80's we were all worried about global nuclear war, and we stopped it. Or really, the people who run the world made a show of reducing nuclear tensions while we all watched (because politics has become a non-participatory spectacle like sports but much more scripted) and the danger of nuclear war remains. But the point is, now we're all worried about climate change, and they can't even pretend to stop it. And yet they still ask us to care about it, and they still frame the issue as if power and responsibility are shared by all. What a head trip!
My favorite idea in the podcast is that there is strength on the other side of nihilism. A rapper in a video is wearing a jacket that says "in the dust of this planet" and the message is that he understands that everything falls to ruin and life has no greater meaning, and he doesn't care. My favorite book of the Bible, Ecclesiastes, has the same message: everything you do will come to nothing, but it's wonderful to be alive, so take pleasure in whatever you're doing right now.
I'm also wondering, when did "saving the world" become a popular myth? Did anyone think that way in the 13th century, or even the early 20th century? Did it become popular because of superhero comic books? Because of pictures of Earth from space? I wonder if "saving the world" is a fad, a beginner's way of thinking globally. In a hundred years, when we have a better sense of how "the world" (depending on your definition) is permanent, we'll have more complex ways of thinking globally.
October 10. Anne, a valuable email contributor to this blog who has had her own blogs in the past, has her own blog again: More Crows than Eagles. So far there are three posts: a link to a good article about climate change, a long and very good post about Ebola, and an analysis of the horror novel Harvest Home. And some culture for the weekend. In the last month I've uploaded three videos of songs that were not yet on YouTube: Rain by The Punkles is a great Beatles cover. Secret Picnic Spot by Beat Happening is simple and spiritual. And this KEXP live recording of Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots by The Flaming Lips is better than any other version. I've also continued to shuffle my , with a new number one that almost all of you will hate. Leigh Ann and I have been watching a British TV comedy called Fresh Meat, about a group of college students living together, and I'm amazed at how much better it is than any American comedy. A lot of the humor is from conversations about awkward subjects done completely in subtext. We've also been continuing to watch Skins. What we call a "season" here, they call a "series", and each cast gets two series before they switch. One and two are great, three and four are lame, and five and six are great again. One thing they do on Skins that they would never do on American TV, is show teenagers taking drugs and simply having fun.
September 1. Gene, an accomplished guitar player, sends a long email on the subject of motivation, with some ideas I've never seen before. Condensed excerpt: