Friday, January 22, 2010

The Fluidity of Life

Turbulence is a scientific term for the chaotic movement of liquids or gases. It is the messy part of the science known as fluid dynamics. The part that engineers and scientists struggle with because it is predictably unpredictable. Think of a body of water, or the room of air that surrounds you now. It is made up of a whole lot of molecules... for all practical purposes, an infinite number of molecules. Unlike solids, water and air molecules have much less stickiness to their neighbor molecules, which allow us, for instance, to swim or walk through it. With an infinite number of particles... each with a full range of potential motion, we would think that chaos would reign and the molecules would do whatever they damn well pleased.

But that isn't the case.

Air and water behave in specific ways, and even if they have the potential of a free range of motion, they do not take advantage of it. Instead, they follow well determined paths based on the movement of their neighbors. In other words, if one molecule is going in one direction, the nearby molecules are likely to follow.

You can see this dynamic everywhere. In a flock of birds or a school of fish that are flying or swimming together en masse with no apparent leader. Yet the group somehow collectively decides to suddenly turn to the left or right... or up or down.

So too, humanity. Each of us has a full reign of potential motion... the potential to do anything at any time. And yet, we don't. We follow the subtle unseen cues of our neighbors and collectively move en masse, the same way that fish or fowl or molecules of water do. On paths that carry us, and our neighbors onward in shiny boxes to and fro and on paved arteries. We rebel against this idea, especially those of us in a western world that prides itself on uniqueness. But in point of fact, we all choose what we are and what groups we belong to, not because we have full range of motion, but instead, because of the cause and effect of ideas and actions around us. The conformers, or the rebels. The main path of flow of humanity, or the subtle eddy that ripples off to the side. We are all following a path that envelopes those that we choose to associate with.

How then do we escape the predetermined pathways that would seem to take all the unpredictability out of life? That is the role of turbulence. That is the role of change. Turbulence is what occurs when eddies set up feedback loops that create other eddies which then increase the loops which ultimately infuse the flow with chaos. Throwing a seemingly ordered system into disorder. And as much as the scientists would like to write off turbulence... and as much as you and I would like to expunge disorder from our lives... it is the disorder that makes life worth living.

I see these things all around us in the macro and in the micro. It helps me to realize the role of the molecules around me, each quietly bumping me along a path, or off into an eddy of thought. And I watch as the turbulence boils over and turns the fine straight lines into jagged streams of chance. Each has its place... and each is necessary. Order and chaos. We often fight the flow, and fight the chaos. But these thoughts help me sit back and enjoy the ride, and take joy in my own part of bumping others along or instilling a bit of chaos every once in a while.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The World Spins Madly On

Last Wednesday a lot of people died on a little island. They say maybe 200,000. A number too big to contemplate.

Last Thursday an old woman died in her bed while her wedding soup simmered quietly in her kitchen.

I can't grasp the magnitude of many. But I can grasp the magnitude of one. She was there. And then she wasn't.

I can't really say that I will miss her. She was not the pleasant sort. And her family wasted no time in squabbling over her belongings, discussing it while her body lay in state a few feet away. It was sordid and ugly and... human. We cope by moving on. We must, because there is really no choice.

But as I watched the last week play out, it focused my thoughts again around the concept of now. Living now. And living the way we want to live. I wonder if she would have done anything differently if she would have known that Thursday was the end. Maybe. But maybe not. I wonder too if the 200,000 would have changed anything if they knew. One more hug. One more smile. One more... something.

As I write this, my feet are propped on a table that found its way to my living room from hers. A reminder perhaps, that waiting for one more whatever can't wait.

I thought of you and where you'd gone and the world spins madly on.

Friday, January 15, 2010

The Problem With Being Saviors

It occurs to me on a daily basis that we have an issue with being humble. All of us want to be saviors... even if the people that need saving don't really agree that they need help.

Take for instance Brit Hume from Fox News. Last week Brit decided to dole out some advice to poor, ailing Tiger Woods. He suggested that Tiger give up his Buddhist ways in favor of Christianity. Now this was much ado about nothing for a few days because a lot of the dolts in America thought to themselves... "Hey, that's some darn good advice!" Now perhaps I should have let sleeping assholes lay, but this is yet another example of the world of AmeriChristian egotism that underlies a whole host of much larger and deeper issues with all that is us (and by us, I mean the white/anglo-saxon/christian us... as if I had to clarify). Not knowing Brit personally, I can't make a judgment call on his level of assholedness. I can assume that Brit really believed that he was giving out good advice to someone who is having a hard time. And that exact point is the problem that I don't hear discussed nearly enough in our culture today. Those who know better simply call him an asshole and move on. Those that agree with him are growing in number simply because there isn't enough discussion to combat his views.

Let's dissect a bit...

Brit believes, it would seem from his remarks, that Tiger stands a better chance of forgiveness under Brit's belief system than he does under his own. In other words... Christianity is better than Buddhism, and Brit is better than Tiger. And to reap the rewards of God, Tiger must become a Fox News contributor, or something like that. Brit, who doesn't seem very well versed in Buddhism to start with, jumps to conclusions about forgiveness without even the hint that Brit's path might not be the only path to enlightenment. The underlying message, for those that read the subtext, is that this is America... and to be a good American, and to get into God's grace... there is but one path. Brit therefore sees himself as the savior of Tiger. And anyone that doesn't think that he is right is either a Nazi or a Communist... or more than likely, both.

The savior complex is deep and profound in this country. It permeates all of us. To take an example from the other extreme, in Avatar, James Cameron's main character sets out to connect with an alien race by literally becoming one of them. He is thus able to understand them and their culture at a much deeper level than a regular white/anglo-saxon/christian would. This would seem to be the antithesis of Brit Hume, who I can't really see trying on yellow robes anytime soon. But even here Cameron's hero is us... and Cameron's hero is the savior. The aliens can not conceivably save themselves without our help. And the only logical alternative is that WE must intervene.

The downfall of the United States of Us will come, not from the success or failure of the liberal agenda, or the right wing egotism... but from forgetting the fact that money and military power don't mean that one's beliefs are therefore more right than anyone else's. Our foreign policy is rife this approach to things. In Iraq. In Afghanistan. In China. Even in Haiti. We run to be the saviors. I would hope that we do it because it is the right thing to do in Haiti (since several of those other problems were our own making). There is no doubt that tragedies like Haiti require help... money and power set forth for a cause to save and rebuild. But I think many do it because, like Brit Hume, we think it makes us somehow superior. And we can't wait to crow about what we did to help. Because, like a tree falling in the woods, no good deed is really a good deed if there aren't people there to brag to about it.

We all want to be superior in some way. Whether it be in the clothes we wear. Or the scores that we get on our tests. Or the wealth we accumulate. Or the religion we practice. All of it, at the heart, differentiates us from others for the purpose of making us feel more worthy than those that think or dress or act differently. The concept of "live and let live" does not play well in that arena. And every day I see a world striving to be saviors, instead of world that understands that "letting live" doesn't entail changing all the others to live just like you.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Orgasmic Cheese

My family tends to go on food kicks. I suppose this normal for all families. But this holiday season was designated "cheesemas". My MIL likes to overdo things when it comes to food. So I think she bought out the entire cheese counter at the local grocery. There was cheese from around the world. Cheese in blocks. Cheese in wedges. Fat cheese. Skinny cheese. Cheese with bacon in it. Cheese with horseradish in it.

Now, don't get me wrong. I like cheese and all. I like it on my hamburgers and on my ham and cheese sandwiches. I even like the dipping cheese that you get with the enormous pretzels with road salt on them at the hockey games. But the wall o' cheese was absurd in its cheesiness. I tasted a few and made my half hearted raised eye brow grunts.

Until I hit the orgasmic cheese.

Now, despite past blogs to the contrary, I tend to be fairly private about my orgasms. Especially when I'm surrounded by a room full of in-laws. So it was rather embarrassing when I sort of melted into a lump of gooey mess right there on the floor after the first taste of this stuff. "WHAT! was that..." I sighed, when I had regained my breathe. If I had a g-spot, this cheese would have found it and engulfed it in swooney goodness. It was like someone took a tuning fork and hit the resonant center of my universe causing me to lose all control of bodily functions.

It is called Stiltson Mango Ginger cheese. Zing... I'm getting excited just saying its name.

Having described this to one friend already... I got a less than excited reaction. "Mango? In my cheese? No." And I can understand that. For I too never believed in the perfect "O"... and I realize that this cheese might not be your perfect "O".

But now I believe that the perfect "O" exists. I'm heading to the store to buy more now.


La Petite Morte d'Arthur

(reread this one this morning and thought you might enjoy it too)

I love Arthurian legend. How can anyone not? It is the basis for so much of western culture and Python humor. I remember sitting in Harry Pole's class (that's what we called him anyway... I think his last name was Pollson or something like that)... and learning all about the seedy world of double entendres. So today I give you a brief overview of some of the lesser known interpretations of the legend known as Arthur.

1) They all named their swords. I mean, come on... if you are a big virile knight you can't be running around with wimpy sounding sword, like Rocky, can you? You need manly sword names, like Excalibur.

2) There are two legends about the origins of Excalibur. The first is the well known Sword in the Stone. Uther, who was Arthur's father, stuck it in the stone before his death brought on by a husband he was cuckolding. The wife was chaste and he had to resort to Merlin "magic" to get her to spread her legs. (I could use me some of that Merlin magic) So anyway, Uther gets in a tight spot because of his dick and to preserve his "family heirloom" he sticks his "sword" in a stone... A "stone" is a well known euphemism for "a woman who won't put out"... "She lay their like she was made of stone, for Christ's sake." Anyway... the only one who could get this stone to put out was, of course, young Arthur. And after this, it was obvious that he should be king. I'm thinking he got most of the women voters.

3) The second origin of Excalibur legend is much easier to understand. Arthur gets the sword out of the Lady of Lake. So a wet lady gives him a big sword. This is simple enough that children can understand it.

4) Our hero's best mate is Lancelot. As his name implies, he likes to use his lance a lot. Particularly, as it were, on Arthur's wife.

5) One of the greatest heroes was Gawain, notable for his battle with the Green Knight. Green, as we well know, is the universal color of horniness. And so the story is actually a tale of Gawain's secret desire for men. Gawain cuts off the head of this man (latent homophobia) and the man walks off with his head stating that Gawain must come see him in another year for his own "beheading". When he shows up a year later at the appointed castle he is seduced by the wife of the Green Knight who gives him some green lady's undies to wear to his beheading. Kinky, no doubt. When he shows up, obviously finally accepting his gayness, he is spared.

I could go on like this for hours. But I shall spare you. I won't, for instance, go on with the Holy Grail since the legend has been so defiled by Dan Brown in The DaVinci Code. But I shall end with the death of our hero.

7) Now old and brokenhearted... Arthur is locked in battle with his son Mordred. Mordred's mother is Arthur's sister. Don't ask. Some skeletons should be left lie. But anyway... Arthur is banging away at his son/nephew when he is mortally wounded. And the dying wish of a cuckolded king? To dip his sword once more in the wetness of a lady. And so Excalibur goes back to the Lady of the Lake, put there by Bedivere (which I believe goes above and beyond the call of duty). Anyway... the wet woman takes all three feet of his sword and is so happy that she sends a barge to take Arthur off to the afterlife.

Now that, friends, is the way to go.

Friday, January 8, 2010

New Year's Resolutions: The Blog Variety

Okay... yes, I know it is 8 days late. But one of my New's Year's Resolutions is "Better Late Than Never"... which includes taking books back to the library and making New Year's Resolution's lists. This is the blog variety of resolutions.

1) Get more than 30 readers. Everyone else has like 100 or 300 readers. I have 26. I know! I know! Quality over quantity. And yes, you all are very quality readers. But I want at least four more of you in the coming year. One new reader per quarter... I think that sounds reasonable. I suppose this means I have to read other people's blogs and comment and generally act like I care. But what the hell... I'm sure that I can find at least one more blog worth the time in a three month period. You may make your suggestions if you feel like pimping.

2) I'm going to get rich. Seeing as how I will have at least 30 readers I think this is a doable goal. I've added the ridiculous AdSense ads to the side of the blog. Originally it was mostly a joke for my blog about my cover letter. But then I got all into seeing what queer things came on my blog based on what I wrote that day. For instance... yesterday's ads were "Want Disciplined Kids? Free Trial" (I clicked just to see if they were giving out kids) followed by "Bahamas Sailing Vacation". I can almost see the smoke coming out of the Google computers as they try to figure me out. So far I've made $2.27, but only because Mandy and I have a reciprocal click pact that goes way back. I encourage you all to click on my ads, even if you don't want a "Bahamas Sailing Vacation with Disciplined Kids". Moby's got to make some coin.

3) I'm going to win one of those awardy things that all the cool blogs have. Even if I have to make one up myself. Like "Most Likely to Blow Up Google Computers" or "Least Talented Lemur Blogger", because awards mean everything to everyone... and I want to impress my four new readers when they stop by (as well as the Google people who are going to stop by to see why they are paying me big bucks every month).

That is all. Modest goals. But things to strive for.

Carry on.

Oh... and PS... 4) I'm going to try blog more than once a month. But only so every blog doesn't have to be some sort of description of where I've been.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Avatar: A Review

When I was little, one of my favorite books was The Wump World by Bill Peet. I've read it to my own kids dozens of times. And I could not help by think about it as I sat through 2 hours and 40 minutes of Avatar. The Wump World is about a group of blue aliens, called the Pollutians, who come to a peaceful green planet of the wumps, who are small rodent like creatures. The Pollutians have destroyed their own home and now destroy the wump world in the name of progress. In Avatar, the Pollutians are us... and the blue aliens are the wumps. The rest of the story is pretty much the same, except that the wumps didn't have bows and arrows. I've heard many people compare Avatar to Dances with Wolves... and there is something to that too. But The Wump World came out in 1970 and I have yet to hear anyone connect the two. I think the point is that Avatar was predictable from a story perspective, because most of us have seen it before.

Because of this many have already criticized the film, calling it everything from derivative to tripe. And yet the same people that lambaste Avatar are the same ones that look at Greek myth with reverence. We story tellers admire these myths because they form the foundation and roots of our own collective literary knowledge. But they were, themselves, derivative stories of their time. I am not saying that Avatar is in the same category. But the story it is telling is. It is the new mythos that we have seen repeated over and over again for decades... the need to connect to this planet. This idea grew out of James Lovelock's theory of the 1960s that all the world was an interconnected organism. This theory, commonly called the Gaia Theory, informed a generation of storytellers to come... James Cameron included.

Cameron is our PT Barnum. He is a man who is a highly proficient story teller. But he is extraordinary at creating interesting worlds... be it The Abyss, Aliens, Titanic... he has the capacity for drawing an audience into a world with a hyper sense of being there. He is also a showman... like Barnum... who is able to trumpet his own legend and groundbreaking technological expertise while being completely lacking in the humility for those whose shoulders he has stood upon to get there. The 3D effect in Avatar I have seen before... at Disney World among other places. But the 3D in a world that was thought up by Cameron, and filled in with some of the greatest sci-fi and fantasy artists in the business, is spectacular.

I am a fan of cinema. I am a fan of the spectacle of sitting in a darkened theater with a huge image and loud sound and experiencing a movie with others (as long as those fellow watchers are also movie fans... and thus are quiet). For years after I graduated from film school, my friend Dave would call so we could discuss the latest "groundbreaker". Like many of our generation, we got into movies because of George Lucas and the world that he created. But as we have aged, both Dave and I have become a little more jaded by the business... to the storytelling... to the attempts that many make to recreate what Lucas did many years ago. Like Cameron, Lucas was an okay writer with an extraordinary abilty to create a world. And at the time, it was groundbreaking and it was, for Dave and I, the beginning... because for us, it was the moment that started it all, regardless of what came before. There were moments, as I sat alone in the theater watching Avatar, when I felt some of that wonder return. When I talked to Dave later on, our views were the same. We remembered, if for a short time, why we love the movies. It is spectacle on a grand scale. It is the retelling of a story that brings us together... as myth should. It is a movie which will lose much when viewing on a television and thus it was build and should remain in the hallowed and darkened halls of the theater. And while it was not necessarily groundbreaking for me... it will, perhaps, begin a new generation of movie lovers.