We Have No More Passion

This is what modern life is:  All relationships are via some electronic device, or they do not exist at all. Meeting face to face is a rare occurrence except in the workplace, and if you work alone, woe be to you. If you want to find out what is happening in a friend’s life, you have to use some version of social media to discover it, because it will not be found out through real conversation. Even the phone has gone by the wayside and telephone conversations are rare. Everyone is too busy to connect with real humans that have any meaning to them unless those humans happen to live in the same house, and even then, it won’t be the sort of connection time and reflection bring, but the rushed and desperate connection of going to and fro. If there is a misunderstanding via electronic device which lacks the nuance of face to face connection, it is quite possible the relationship will end, regardless of how long you have known one another because with electronic misunderstandings comes the possibility of projection of whatever the person who misunderstands chooses to perceive, whether or not there is any basis in reality. Even when you do meet your friends in person, this is no guarantee you will actually connect with them. The devices are there too, intercepting. Faces don’t turn toward one another, but toward little screens, lighting the visage with cold, blue light.

These are the lives we have created for ourselves. In exchange for products that can do everything for us and do do everything for us, we have given up human connection, human passion. Maybe it isn’t such a travesty that we seem on the trajectory to self-destruction.

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STORM OF THE CENTURY!!

I don’t have a television, so I can’t watch the local news. It’s unfortunate. I miss out, I’m sure. I have little doubt that today I’m missing out on the STORM OF THE CENTURY!! There are pitiful snowflakes mixed with rain coming down in Portland. It’s barely at freezing and there isn’t enough precipitation to create any snow of any substance, but I’ll bet anything the local news stations have camped out at the highest elevations, looking for that razor thin layer of snow to indicate it’s sticking and a tiny flurry of flakes in order to justify standing outside in their perfectly matched snow bunny outfits to warn us all about the STORM OF THE CENTURY!! They probably also found some moron who drove too fast on a curve and whacked into a tree to warn us just how “dangerous it is out there, Bob, and back to you.” And back at the station, “Yes, be very careful. This storm will cause very dangerous conditions.  Very dangerous.  The world is full of danger. Watch out.  Don’t go out.” It must be thrilling for the local newscasters to live in a state where snow is a major news item. They’d poop their drawers if anything ever really did happen.  I guess they would be prepared.

The Internets Suck Out My Brain

Lately, as the days have shrunk further into darkness, and I feel even stronger the urge to settle deep into the comforters and down rather than getting up and moving around, ideas flicker in and out of my mind.  Clever ideas.  Interesting ideas.  Ideas I used to write and percolate and develop and turn into something for publication.  And yet I realized that I haven’t published anything in a really long time.  I haven’t written anything in a really long time, at least nothing creative for myself.  Oh, I’ve written work briefs and motions, but certainly nothing clever or interesting, and these lack even the slightest modicum of creativity.  I used to write all the time.  Little tidbits here and there would develop fully into ideas worth pursuing.  I’ve been lamenting this, believing it is having a toddler and a 12 year old and a job and being a single mom and all that.  But I did all this writing before while parenting and working and being a single mom.  I didn’t have the baby while I was doing this, but I had a lot more dogs, so I probably broke even in the busy department.  Really I can’t honestly blame these things.  It’s something else.  I had an inkling, but the idea never really germinated into a full fledged acceptance as to the reason for this creative apathy.

Then yesterday, a magazine I subscribe to arrived in the mail.  I was sitting at our dining room table and the mail slid through the slot in the wall next to the table.  Ah, reading material, I thought with a gleam in my eye.  I’m something of a reading addict.  I barely spend a moment without some grouping of words nearby to fill my brain.  The New Yorker is my favorite.  It comes frequently enough and with enough material to satisfy.  This was another, Poets & Writers.  I’ve only recently subscribed and this was my second issue. The first issue brought me a useful article, something I had been thinking about and needed confirmation about from another source. The second had something useful is well.  Good subscription choice, I thought to myself.

The cover proclaimed all sorts of stories that dealt with this issue I’ve been facing of never writing much anymore, never developing these creative ideas that flit in and out of my brain like sparrows flying through the treetops but never landing.  I immediately turned to the page with the article and read the author’s description of me.  He isn’t a working single mother, but he is a working writer father and he has been for some time.  It wasn’t this life that was sucking away his creative force, it was the internet, and the iPhone, and Facebook, and all these millions of distractions.  He described how so many writers have to work on computers disconnected from all this connection to get any work done.  Oh, ah ha! my brain cried. This is it.

I knew this.  It was when I got the iPhone that my productivity slowed to a crawl.  Since Facebook was added to the iPhone, my productivity has all but ceased.  I used to write at least a blog post a day, sometimes even more.  I haven’t done that in so long I can’t even remember.  Now I have an idea, I might write it as a status update on Facebook, and then that’s all there is to it.  On to the next thing. Nothing germinates.  Nothing grows.  Nothing becomes fully formed.  And most of the time I don’t even bother getting to writing down the point because I open the Facebook and see an article, read the article, pass the article on, then read the next article, or the next status update of a friend, respond or share, then on.  Then it’s 48 minutes later, I’ve done nothing of lasting creative effect, nothing that satisfies, and the time to do it is gone.

I have been feeling a strange, how do you say it? Dissatisfaction.  Yes, that’s it.  I’ve been feeling dissatisfaction with my iPone lately.  Even before reading this article, I’ve been annoyed with the thing.  The flat screen drives me to distraction.  I’m constantly bumping it and doing something like calling a client who recently called me, and who I did not want to talk to.  I rapidly hang up and hope my number didn’t show up on their screen. Or I’ll graze the glass with my wrist and bring up stock quotes.  Who the fuck cares about stock quotes?  Damn, that is one feature on an iPhone I’ll bet 99% of us could give a shit about.  Seriously Jobs, most of us don’t care.  I’ve been longing for buttons.  I want to feel the satisfying click click under my fingertips as I dial or type something.  And then there is the pain in my arm and wrist from typing on my iPhone.  It hurts.  All the time.  My right arm has golf elbow from using the damn thing.

Ooh, I just realized I spent the last half hour writing instead of surfing Facebook.  I might not have been writing anything clever or creative, but it wasn’t surfing uselessness, so that’s a start.

In any case, my iPhone has been giving me fits and I’ve toyed with the idea of getting rid of it and getting just a phone.  The thought gives me a panic.  It reminds me of going to Europe.  The first couple of days when I could not access the data portion of my phone, I had these mini panics.  It’s like some portion of my brain has come to depend on the instant gratification of looking and seeing that no one has called me.  No one has emailed me.  Oh yes.  I got the same political emails I get every day.  They are a let down. It’s like waiting for the phone to ring when you have a crush on someone, then discovering a salesperson on the other end of the line.  All these things we’ve created for instant gratification when it comes to contact from our friends.  Even in Facebook, the first thing I go to is the little red number in the top-right-hand corner of my iPhone to see what the notifications are.  Was it someone actually writing to me?  Oh no.  Just someone liking a link.  What a shame.

I’ve got to get off this train.  I have to somehow disengage from this iPhone and internet dragging me away from my creative work.  Even this morning, when I first sat down to do this, the WordPress page beckoned with its many new features.  I wanted to surf away and figure out what they are.  Distractions.  Distractions all.  Artists forever have had to deal with distractions, but never before, I think, have these distractions been so available and insistent.  Even more discipline is required to keep them at bay. I can’t stop the job.  I can’t push away my children.  But I can work around them as needed–Like right now, Isabel awakened because of my fake sunlight lamp, crawled into my lap, and started nursing.  I can type around that.

But I’m going to have to force myself to ignore the lure of the iPhone and the Facebook and the Internets. They will suck out my brain if I’m not careful.  They already have, to some extent.  I have these ideas percolating and dribbling and wanting expression. I’ve thought of so many ideas for my book I can’t even begin to count.  TextEdit has several pages of notes where I’ve jotted something down, but then I haven’t gotten back into the habit of writing every night.  I was doing it religiously before we went to Europe, and I was happy.  Nothing else was different except I was writing regularly and this made me happy.  Since we got back, school began, I had to catch up on work, the days shortened, we moved, and the iPhone and Facebook and the Internets began sucking at my brain and here I am, nothing further done on the book and desperate to write, and not very happy. I need that outlet for happyish to be a part of my life.  I realized I’m out of practice.  I used to actually practice writing, both here and in other journals.  I haven’t done that. I have to rein in that discipline. Maybe it can be a New Year’s resolution I start now.

Anyway, I can’t think of any clever ending. Isabel is done nursing and it’s time to go to work. So I’m just going to stop. Hopefully I’ll write more again soon if the internets haven’t sucked out my brain.

The Shocking Truth About the Crackdown on Occupy

The Shocking Truth About the Crackdown on Occupy  The violent police assaults across the US are no coincidence. Occupy has touched the third rail of our political class’s venality.

by Naomi Wolf

This post is a reprint and can be found here.

US citizens of all political persuasions are still reeling from images of unparallelled police brutality in a coordinated crackdown against peaceful OWS protesters in cities across the nation this past week. An elderly woman was pepper-sprayed in the face; the scene of unresisting, supine students at UC Davis being pepper-sprayed by phalanxes of riot police went viral online; images proliferated of young women – targeted seemingly for their gender – screaming, dragged by the hair by police in riot gear; and the pictures of a young man, stunned and bleeding profusely from the head, emerged in the record of the middle-of-the-night clearing of Zuccotti Park.

But just when Americans thought we had the picture – was this crazy police and mayoral overkill, on a municipal level, in many different cities? – the picture darkened. The National Union of Journalists and the Committee to Protect Journalists issued a Freedom of Information Act request to investigate possible federal involvement with law enforcement practices that appeared to target journalists. The New York Times reported that “New York cops have arrested, punched, whacked, shoved to the ground and tossed a barrier at reporters and photographers” covering protests. Reporters were asked by NYPD to raise their hands to prove they had credentials: when many dutifully did so, they were taken, upon threat of arrest, away from the story they were covering, andpenned far from the site in which the news was unfolding. Other reporters wearing press passes were arrested and roughed up by cops, after being – falsely – informed by police that “It is illegal to take pictures on the sidewalk.”

In New York, a state supreme court justice and a New York City council member were beaten up; in Berkeley, California, one of our greatest national poets, Robert Hass, was beaten with batons. The picture darkened still further when Wonkette and Washingtonsblog.com reported that the Mayor of Oakland acknowledged that the Department of Homeland Security had participated in an 18-city mayor conference call advising mayors on “how to suppress” Occupy protests.

To Europeans, the enormity of this breach may not be obvious at first. Our system of government prohibits the creation of a federalised police force, and forbids federal or militarised involvement in municipal peacekeeping.

I noticed that rightwing pundits and politicians on the TV shows on which I was appearing were all on-message against OWS. Journalist Chris Hayes reported on a leaked memo that revealed lobbyists vying for an $850,000 contract to smear Occupy. Message coordination of this kind is impossible without a full-court press at the top. This was clearly not simply a case of a freaked-out mayors’, city-by-city municipal overreaction against mess in the parks and cranky campers. As the puzzle pieces fit together, they began to show coordination against OWS at the highest national levels.

Why this massive mobilisation against these not-yet-fully-articulated, unarmed, inchoate people? After all, protesters against the war in Iraq, Tea Party rallies and others have all proceeded without this coordinated crackdown. Is it really the camping? As I write, two hundred young people, with sleeping bags, suitcases and even folding chairs, are still camping out all night and day outside of NBC on public sidewalks – under the benevolent eye of an NYPD cop – awaiting Saturday Night Live tickets, so surely the camping is not the issue. I was still deeply puzzled as to why OWS, this hapless, hopeful band, would call out a violent federal response.

That is, until I found out what it was that OWS actually wanted.

The mainstream media was declaring continually “OWS has no message”. Frustrated, I simply asked them. I began soliciting online “What is it you want?” answers from Occupy. In the first 15 minutes, I received 100 answers. These were truly eye-opening.

The No 1 agenda item: get the money out of politics. Most often cited was legislation to blunt the effect of the Citizens United ruling, which lets boundless sums enter the campaign process. No 2: reform the banking system to prevent fraud and manipulation, with the most frequent item being to restore the Glass-Steagall Act – the Depression-era law, done away with by President Clinton, that separates investment banks from commercial banks. This law would correct the conditions for the recent crisis, as investment banks could not take risks for profit that create kale derivatives out of thin air, and wipe out the commercial and savings banks.

No 3 was the most clarifying: draft laws against the little-known loophole that currently allows members of Congress to pass legislation affecting Delaware-based corporations in which they themselves are investors.

When I saw this list – and especially the last agenda item – the scales fell from my eyes. Of course, these unarmed people would be having the shit kicked out of them.

For the terrible insight to take away from news that the Department of Homeland Security coordinated a violent crackdown is that the DHS does not freelance. The DHS cannot say, on its own initiative, “we are going after these scruffy hippies”. Rather, DHS is answerable up a chain of command: first, to New York Representative Peter King, head of the House homeland security subcommittee, who naturally is influenced by his fellow congressmen and women’s wishes and interests. And the DHS answers directly, above King, to the president (who was conveniently in Australia at the time).

In other words, for the DHS to be on a call with mayors, the logic of its chain of command and accountability implies that congressional overseers, with the blessing of the White House, told the DHS to authorise mayors to order their police forces – pumped up with millions of dollars of hardware and training from the DHS – to make war on peaceful citizens.

But wait: why on earth would Congress advise violent militarised reactions against its own peaceful constituents? The answer is straightforward: in recent years, members of Congress have started entering the system as members of the middle class (or upper middle class) – but they are leaving DC privy to vast personal wealth, as we see from the “scandal” of presidential contender Newt Gingrich’s having been paid $1.8m for a few hours’ “consulting” to special interests. The inflated fees to lawmakers who turn lobbyists are common knowledge, but the notion that congressmen and women are legislating their own companies’ profitsis less widely known – and if the books were to be opened, they would surely reveal corruption on a Wall Street spectrum. Indeed, we do already know that congresspeople are massively profiting from trading on non-public information they have on companies about which they are legislating – a form of insider trading that sent Martha Stewart to jail.

Since Occupy is heavily surveilled and infiltrated, it is likely that the DHS and police informers are aware, before Occupy itself is, what its emerging agenda is going to look like. If legislating away lobbyists’ privileges to earn boundless fees once they are close to the legislative process, reforming the banks so they can’t suck money out of fake derivatives products, and, most critically, opening the books on a system that allowed members of Congress to profit personally – and immensely – from their own legislation, are two beats away from the grasp of an electorally organised Occupy movement … well, you will call out the troops on stopping that advance.

So, when you connect the dots, properly understood, what happened this week is the first battle in a civil war; a civil war in which, for now, only one side is choosing violence. It is a battle in which members of Congress, with the collusion of the American president, sent violent, organised suppression against the people they are supposed to represent. Occupy has touched the third rail: personal congressional profits streams. Even though they are, as yet, unaware of what the implications of their movement are, those threatened by the stirrings of their dreams of reform are not.

Sadly, Americans this week have come one step closer to being true brothers and sisters of the protesters in Tahrir Square. Like them, our own national leaders, who likely see their own personal wealth under threat from transparency and reform, are now making war upon us.

The Olympics

I tried watching the Olympics on the internet tonight.  Greedy NBC can’t even let you watch old stuff without inserting hideous commercials so I turned it off.  Then I decided to try and watch it from another country. Canadian Television worked just fine without the stupid Proctor and Gamble ads.  Gag.  Commercials are one of the main reasons I do not own a television.  That, and most shows are so inane I can’t stand to waste my precious time watching them.  Life is happening; I would rather experience it (even when it’s not that exciting) than spend my time staring at some dumb television show.  I think back to the shows I used to watch when I had a t.v. and none of them were worth the time I spent.

I do like some of the cable series and have watched them on DVD, Six Feet Under, Weeds, and Dexter.  Unfortunately, though, whenever I get into one of these shows, they take over my life because I just want to watch and watch until I get to the end.  However, I do look back fondly on them, like a good book, which is different than mainstream television shows I spent years watching (ER, Party of Five, and Ally McBeal).  Years after I quit watching ER I tuned in.  None of the characters I had watched before were left.  I quit when they took the adopted child away from the gay doctor because she was gay.  That just made me too mad and I didn’t want to hang around for weeks to try and find out what happened, plus they always took months long breaks.

I haven’t had a television now for years and I don’t miss it.  Thought I missed it some when the Olympics started, but having tried to watch via NBC, I’ve gotten a clue how they run things and I would hate it.  I’m not missing anything.  NBC would chop the shit out of it all, ruin it with ads and cuts to other events right when things were getting interesting, keep out the athletes who aren’t their pets, and generally make viewing miserable.  I can get whatever I need right here on the internet.  I’ll log in to Ukranian television.  Yeah, that will work.

Let’s Put an End to Pat Robertson

This article can be seen here on Huffington Post.  If you like it, Digg It or Buzz it Up.

Pat Robertson has been getting a lot of attention for his hateful, insensitive remarks about the victims of the earthquake in Haiti (and the victims of 9/11, and the Christmas Day tsunami, and Hurricane Katrina). This is understandable. Those of us with anything resembling a moral compass are shocked that he could believe such things and that he has the audacity to spew them in the wake of such tragedies.

Yet as horrendously mean-spirited as Robertson’s statements are, we should also be upset that his opinions receive national attention. Why? Because broadcasters choose to air his program. If broadcasters refused to air his nastiness, no one would have to hear about it. The way to keep him from getting national attention is to get broadcasters to stop airing his show.

Viewers can control what is shown by boycotting advertisers who fund his offensive program. If we want to stop hearing Pat Robertson, we need to make sure the broadcasters who air his program are not paid for it, thereby removing their incentive to air him.

The primary network airing The 700 Club is the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN). Call the CBN and tell them to stop airing this show. Call networks and tell them to stop airing the show. Tell them if they do not pull the show, you will boycott their advertisers. Then call their advertisers and tell them you will not buy their products if they advertise on networks that air The 700 Club, or if they advertise on the CBN until the network pulls the show.

The CBN should drop Pat Robertson and The 700 Club. He does not espouse Christian values (or any values at all), such as compassion, kindness, generosity, humility, or selflessness. Let’s all do our part to ensure the next time tragedy strikes, Pat Robertson’s ugliness receives zero attention because none of us have to hear it.

Watch Out for the Big, Bad Pig

So a week ago I published a blurb about the swine flu thinking everyone was freaking out for nothing.  For a few days after, I wondered if maybe I got it wrong.  Now however, I’m back to my original premise.  I was also right about the foolish overreacting that would take place.  Some ountries have banned travel to Mexico.  Others have killed off a bunch of pigs.  Everyone is still all freaked out.  Yet the numbers of deaths have remained quite small and very contained even though the flu itself has shown up in many places.  Craziness.

The killing of the pigs really bugs me.  In spite of assertions by doctors and other scientists that this flu isn’t caught from eating pork, nor can it be transmitted from pigs to humans, Egypt killed over 300,000 pigs.  In response, the WHO came out with a statement that the name needs to be changed because killing pigs is unnecessary.

All the news organizations went nuts when a toddler died from the flu outside of Mexico, the first case outside that country.  EGADS!  It’s spreading!  Someone outside Mexico died!  We’re all going to get it!  It’s pandemic! We’re all dead!  Um, yeah.  Lost in the uproar was the fact the child was Mexican and had just been in Mexico.  It wasn’t like the flu came crawling across the border, snaking its way north in ever increasing tentacles.  Yet that is what the media worldwide seemed to want people to believe.

The actual truth is that most of the people who died had not gotten treatment when they should have.  For everyone else who has contracted the flu, their illnesses have been sh0rt-lived and they have recovered.  The trick was early detection and intervention.  It would be nice if the news media could find a nice balance between letting people know they should do something and acting like lunatics.  Unfortunately they usually lean towards lunacy.

The nasty right-winger radio hosts have used the swine flu as an opportunity to spread their hate mongering, lies, and racism.  They blatantly lie, claiming that we’re all going to get sick from Mexicans and we better close our borders further.  It’s disgusting.  Maybe any idiots who believe their bullshit will lock themselves in their homes with a gun and stop wandering the streets. If this happens, I guess in a twisted way the hate mongerers have performed a public service.