Sunday, June 19, 2005

Greetings, traveler

Editor's note: This entry refers to the previous name of this blog, 'Pornstar,' and as such doesn't make so much sense now. As you were...

Greetings, wayward internet traveler in search of porn. It's late at night, you're a lonely fellow, and you've probably stumbled across this site by accident. Perhaps you have seen the disclaimer at the beginning which...

Q: Fuck that. I'm looking for porn. Not some weird new-age acupuncture student freak and his musings about the nature of being. Give me some pictures of hot naked chicks doing questionable things with light industrial farm equipment.

A: I was saying, I have this disclaimer at the top of the page. See? It's "Porn" with an asterisk after it, so it's like, "Porn Star," but then also it's like, not really, because the asterisk indicates qualifiers...

Q: Screw you, hippie. I have already hit the back button and am scrolling down the page of my Google search, hoping to find some hot Wankel-Rotary-Engine-on-girl action.

A: No you haven't. You're still here, reading this.

Q: Well, okay, yes I am. But I'm using a browser that supports tabbed browsing, such as Mozilla, or Safari, and I've definitely got a lot of internet porn open in other tabs.

A: Fair enough. I'm glad to have been a short stop in the midst of your long journey. Even if it was due to slight duplicity on my part.

Q: Um...slight? "Porn" appears in huge capital letters at the top of the page.

A: It's actually...

Q: "Porn Star," yes, thanks. I got it. What's your point? Pick a demographic.

A: I have. I am looking for the person who thinks everything I think now is complete and utter useless flakey weird crap. I am looking for the person who lives in the actual material world, who knows all about it. I am writing for the person who understands it all. And then I'd like to quietly, subtly, and insidiously, blow his or her fucking mind.

Q: ...

A: Yes?

Q: Well, I mean, for starters, you haven't said anything about "what you think now." Or how it's different from "what you thought then." Or who you are. Or what you think. Or, anything about nature or the meaning of life.

A: Yes, yes. I'll get to that. Soon.

Q: When?

A: Soon.

Q: I'm closing this tab.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

This week's truth

I love The Stranger. It's the alternative weekly tabloid in Seattle (that is to say properly that it's only one of several, but that's only true in theory. In practice it gets a definite article in front of it). It's a newspaper written by people squarely in my demographic, most of whom live in my neighborhood (Capitol Hill--Seattle, like many cities these days, is a very neighborhood-y city). They're unabashedly liberal, gay, offensive, crude, funny--the mouthpiece of the kind of society that gives the Religious Right fits.

But this is not a mash note for the paper edited by sex-advice columnist Dan Savage. The Stranger, like probably every other free weekly tabloid in the nation, runs from time to time full page ads from whomever cares to pay to run them (I assume also there's some manner of editorial screening process, but The Stranger seems generally not the type of organization that would judge you). This week there's a two page spread, consisting entirely of type that appears to be about .000016 point Times New Roman, from this guy. He appears to have, in the past, claimed to be the reincarnation of Christ. On the other hand, in his messianic state of being he also claims that George W. Bush is his opposite number, so it's, you know, hard to argue with that. This week he seems to be claiming that people who reject the idea of incest are full of shame, whereas people who accept the beauty of it are full of love, and that soon the incest taboo that exists in our society will be destroyed, possibly violently. There also seems to be something about Niel (sic) Young and how he's some manner of prophet. Also somebody named Reuben seems to be involved. I couldn't quite understand it all. Though I tried.

It's pretty easy to skip these things over. I assume that's what nearly every body does. It's also pretty easy to read a paragraph or two to your friends, laugh hysterically, take another hit from the gravity bong, and turn back to re-runs of The Simpsons (I'm not saying you're a bad person if that's what you do. Like Dan Savage, I'm not here to judge you). What turns out to be surprisingly hard is to try and figure out, I don't know, what the hell this guy is trying to say.

Maybe this is guy is literally having sex with his uncle on a regular basis, and he's trying to make it okay, hence his fascination in this week's two-pager with incest, shame, and "Niel Young." But I doubt it. Or rather, I hope not, because in that case...well, first he's literally having sex with his uncle (but again, I'm not here to judge), and second, this installment of his on-going, ten-trillion word manifesto has a lot less potentially interesting subtext (literalness is soooo mundane, don't you think?). Whatever the case, this guy is not on the same plane of existence as I, whereas he's clearly got a lot on his mind and has gone to great lengths to say it, whether anybody else is listening or not (though probably orders of magnitude more people are reading his thoughts than are reading mine these days). (Apparently in the process of writing this entry I have been possessed by the parenthetical-comment making spirit of David Foster Wallace. Sorry about that). (Have you seen that David Foster Wallace wrote a book about infinity? It's like irony is dead. Or something that's like irony, only with more footnoted digressions). I can't understand his symbolism, or metaphors, or what his personal shame is, or what he thinks mine is. But what really is the difference between this Manifesto-Man and somebody else with a lot on their mind, say David Foster Wallace?

Q: Um, the difference is that David Foster Wallace is not totally freaking insane.

A: Actually David Foster Wallace is totally freaking insane.

Q: Okay, yes he is, but you know what I mean.

A: Yes. I could argue semantically with you for hours, but I do know what you mean. I'm looking for the other side of the coin, though. Isn't his being insane also equivalent to my inability to perceive reality on the same level as he?

Q: Uh, no?

A: Perhaps you're right.

Q: Can I just say that none of this is making me want to get acupunctured by you, now or ever?

A: Hmm...interesting.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Jos Claerbout

Today, Flag Day, is my friend Jos' birthday. The morning of August 20th, 1999, Jos got up, went to the gym to lift weights, and then biked to the offices of WebTV, in Mountain View, California, where he worked. A few minutes later he was dead of a heart attack. Today he'd be 31.

Do a Google Search of his name and you'll find hundreds of references to him--many of them are kept by his father, who has collected a virtual memorial of many of things Jos wrote, made, filmed, recorded, or otherwise produced. If you happened to be a knitter, you might have stumbled across the incredibly elaborate, incredibly funny site he created about the hats he made (on which, if you hunt closely, you will find my picture). If you write software, you might have run into Don't Fear the OOP, which compares object-oriented code to a trashy western novel, and has been reprinted all over the web.

Jos' father Jon also collects friends' memories of Jos. There's a brief paragraph from me among them, something I rattled off a few months after he died. It wasn't really what I wanted to say on the subject, and it's been six years and I never did get around to saying it. I don't think I ever got around to figuring out what it was, actually. I guess I read what other people had written and it seemed like everybody had better memories of him than I. They were clearer, more articulate, smarter, funnier, and more real than anything I had to offer. So I never did write anything down.

Maybe that's what I want to say about Jos. He was clearer, more articulate, smarter, funnier, and more real than anybody I ever knew. He had that thing that you want, that you want to be around all the time. He was that person whom you wanted desperately to like you, and then he did, and you couldn't believe your luck.

Jos and I met in college, where a long, slow conversation about life started. We carried it on via the U.S.P.S., and then later electronic mail. Every couple of months or so I'd write something long and involved and then a couple of months later he'd write something back, and I'd go about my daily life and sift it over and then the next time it came into my head, I'd write him back. Jon has published an expurgated version of part of the dialog here. It was called 'The Utility of Belief'. There was a lot more to it than appears, but it was also very personal and so it seems appropriate that Jon has edited down to Jos' writing about his experience finding the first job he really loved.

This was the part of the conversation where Jos realized the value of faith in something you couldn't experimentally verify (yet). It didn't matter whether you believed there were aliens in spaceships on their way to bring us peace and love, or that the unified universe is made up of tiny pieces of vibrating string of unmeasurable length, or that there was a girl out there that was your one true soul-mate. The important thing was to believe it, because that was what was getting you where you were going, and that was making the universe go around. I never really stopped to think about it in an analytical way, but I think that idea got absorbed right into my core tenets and it forms the basis of what I'm doing with my life now. I miss that conversation we were having. But then, I guess I'm still here, having it.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Fight fight fight

I also read a lot of blogs--I'm not just the president of Hair Club for Men, I'm also a client. Daily Kos and Salon's War Room are two of my favorites. I was wondering if one of the things I'm not doing, that I should be doing, is pulling out and posting the writings of my critics, and systematically taking them to pieces. It looks really, really fun.

Earlier today, I was reading the writings of some critics, particularly this. The temptation to excerpt whole paragraphs of it with copious comments is, well, overwhelming. I'm basing my whole future career on the idea that acupuncture works, so it's hard not to take some psychic hit to the gut from all the people who say that your chosen discipline is bunk.

I like to think that I'm a highly rational individual. I was educated to think critically about everything I read and learned. I learned to look for the places in which I accepted some facts and not others due to my existing beliefs or prejudices. And, mostly in the time after my formal education was over, I also learned to examine the model in which those facts existed (and then, of course, the model which I was using to critically examine those models, and then the model that I used to model those models, and then the way I thought about the nature of models, and so on, until my brain collapsed into a huge gross, smelly mass of meta-, and I found myself on the ethereal plane having tea and sticky buns with Jacques Derrida and Michel Foucault. may they rest in peace, whatever that means to them). Um...sorry, what was I saying?

We have a definitional model of science that boils down to, essentially, this tautology: science is whatever we can prove using our present rational model. Whatever has been demonstrated in the past using this model is science. So, in the past, it was the excepted principal of learned men everywhere thought that the earth was the center of the universe; that the planets moved in perfect circles around some invisible fixed point, and that fixed point moved around the earth; that a twenty pound weight would fall to the earth twenty times as fast as a one pound weight; bleeding a sick patient would remove the poisoned blood from his or her body; that frontal lobotomies were a fine cure for mental illness; and so on. Some of these models were crap and some were fine--Ptolomy's model of the solar system, e.g., made much more accurate predictions of planetary movement than the later Copernican model in which orbits around the sun were perfect circles--but all were replaced when somebody, somewhere, stepped outside the accepted model of how things were and thought...what if?

Imagine the scientists 100 years from now, looking back at us. Imagine the ones a thousand years from now. Imagine someone looking at us and regarding our science, our medicine, being as medieval as we regard the science and medicine of 1000 B.C. Try and imagine what among the things we're doing now in the name of science and medicine that they will find inhuman and unfathomable. Because I'll tell you what, I'm pretty sure performing surgery on people with chronic back pain isn't the end-all be-all of therapy. I'm pretty sure the true answer to hyperactive thyroid disease isn't to dose patients with radioactive iodine, which kills their thyroid and forces them to take those hormones by pill for the rest of their lives.

So I could be crazy, irrational, and wrong-headed to pursue the career I'm pursuing. As listed above, there are plenty of people who think that I am. I've got my own evidence, too (which maybe I'll get around to talking about some day), and my own reasons for following this which I think are pretty rational. But most of all, I think this: 99.9999% of the people who step outside the accepted model of things, looking for a better one, get nowhere and nothing. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't try. I mean, it's not a terrible thing to do with your life, is it?

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Friday, June 03, 2005

Oh...THAT American Life

My fiancee and I are sitting at home tonight listening to This American Life which, this week, is doing a show ostensibly on the separation of church and state. This is the kind of thing that makes my darling wife-to-be insane, because Ira Glass is letting the other side speak and isn't, well, correcting them. She doesn't ask much, really, just that somebody, when Kenneth Blackwell maintains insistently that Christians are oppressed in America today while at the same time claiming that the point of democracy is to enforce the legislative agenda of their super-majority over the objections of the non-Christian, says, "Actually, Kenneth, I don't think that is the point of democracy, and your two points contradict each other besides." But the interviewers don't oblige her, so she becomes insane.

Before I return to my zen-like, acupuncture-acolyte, at-one-with-the-universe self, I'd like to say this on the subject of the media: presenting "both sides" of an argument when one side is giving making an actual argument and the other side is telling lies IS NOT OBJECTIVE REPORTING. I'll leave it to the reader to apply any context that may be lacking in this statement.

Where was I? Oh yes, the separation of church and state. A little later in the evening, my local NPR station was replaying Friday's Talk of the Nation interview with Bill Clinton, and for just a little while we got to re-experience a time when just hearing the sound of the voice of The President of The United States didn't make us completely insane.

Apparently, in the eight years when Bill Clinton was President, there were some conservatives in this country who were driven insane (insane!) when they were forcibly reminded that he was leading their country in the same way that I, and 125,000,000 of my closest friends are presently driven mad by the fact that George W. Bush is the holder of the highest office in the land when he is, well, the very beatable combination of religious conservative and a not very smart man. It's obvious to me what makes us insane about GWB, but it's not so obvious to me what makes the right so insane about Bill Clinton leading the country. Nor is it immediately obvious what makes the Religious Right so insane that some people in this country don't agree with their beliefs, don't take the bible literally, and don't particularly want to have their lives governed by laws based on those beliefs or a literal interpretation of the bible when, in fact, we live in a country founded on the very idea that this was wrong, very wrong, incredibly and demonstrably WRONG.

(Sorry, I lost my "objective" slant there for a second. It won't happen again. Until it does.)

So in that respect, what makes us (by "us" here I mean my fiancee (who, in a sub-parenthetical remark I will here and now dub 'L.' and refer to her as such from now on) and me, but you can substitute whatever "us" you like) insane about people spouting that they're being oppressed for trying to express their religion is that they so fundamentally don't "get it." At the same time, they're sitting around thinking the exact same thing about me (or, people like me, since I'm pretty sure they don't know me. Yet). So what is that thing that I'm not getting?

I would imagine it's the "God" part. Sometime in the future I'll talk about my huge problem with the anthropomorphic Christian God that--while apparently unconditionally loving and all-powerful--hates homosexuals, people who have sex before a Christian church okays it, people who choose to use birth control or have abortions, and people who vote for any of the people who believe that any of these things are actually not mortal sins. And, oh by the way, sorry, but the same God, again, all-powerful and all-loving, gives you one 80-year shot at figuring out that you, e.g. have to hate homosexuals, is going to fuck with you the entire time, and if you don't get it right in that time, is going to banish you for all eternity to unbearable torture and damnation. I mean, nothing says unconditional love like that.

(I'm sorry, I did it again. On the bright side, now I don't have to write that entry about my problems with the Christian god. Pretty much covered it there.)

*ahem* I imagine it's the "God" part that they're insane that I'm not getting. Because of course the "God" part is there. I have to imagine a reasonable, loving Christian is a little embarrassed about the people who interpret the metaphor of the Bible as literal fact, but at the same time recognizes that their hearts are in the right place because they recognize the truth of "God." What that truth is, I gotta tell you, I have no idea. But I'm working on it.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Everybody in Seattle...

If you live in Seattle and are ever downtown during the day, then you know this guy. He's been standing there, shouting at buses and cars most days since he was kicked out of his residence in the Frye Apartments, a subsidized housing development in Seattle. His name is Juan, he's mentally ill, and he's incredibly persistent. It's not just that he's been there at the same location, 6th and Pine, in Seattle, day after day, for years now. It's that his determination is unshakeable. He shouts the same message to whatever unfortunate vehicle happens to get stopped at the corner when the light changes. It sounds something like this:

" Seattle! Outsidah! Ah pee-po! Below below! The Seattle Police, they're COM-munist!"

It's like Starbucks or McDonalds: when you see one, you know what you're going to get. Each repetition every day every year has been exactly the same, the meter and rhythm, the intonation. I was once riding a bus and the bus-driver pulled up and at the light and repeated Juan's rant right along with him (We all chuckled, which inspired a woman sitting on the bus to say indignantly, "That man is braver than any of you people." Which I can't disagree with. But it was still kind of funny).

I've wondered what the world looks like out of the eyes of..insert your own musings on the nature of mental illness here. Consider the way in which we deal with it in our society, on a socio-scientific and spiritual level. Tie in the effect of the conservative hack-job of social welfare that was performed by Ronald Reagan in the 80's and how he literally and figuratively created "the homeless." I would have done this for you, but it's time you stopped drafting in my wake and held your own for awhile. Also, I'm lazy. Anyway, back to the regularly scheduled program....with the chicken and five yards of surgical tubing. It's truly a profound lesson about interconnectedness and the true nature of being.

I ride the bus through downtown to work in the morning, which is usually when I see Juan. I'd been away for a while, so yesterday morning was the first time I saw him for awhile. He's still there with the same sign, but all of sudden, he's mixing it up: "Below-below! Below-below! Everybody in Seattle! Everybody! Everybody! Ah peepo! Ah peepo! Below-below! Below-below!" It's like suddenly something shifted and he found a new rhythm. He's singing a different tune. He's downloaded and installed the latest security patch. He's made some new playlists for the iPod (no, no, wait...this is going to get funny any second now). It wasn't a big cosmic shift or nothing, but it was enough to move the otherwise intrasigent and immovable, just a little bit. Big change is afoot, I tell you what.