02 June 2006

The One Thing Big Oil Can't Beat

Killin' stuff has never been so fun!
Want your kids to grow up "green bonded"?
Get 'em the new Deer-Killin' Barbie!


Hi, it's me, your dirt-hugging tree-licking brother. You and Marie sell dirt, right? ("Real estate", okay, whatever.) So I imagine you guys are out in the toolies every once in a while selling psuedo-ranches and mini-mansions to jodhpur-clad horse-weenies - people who consider themselves "outdoorsy" because they circumnavigated Lake Tahoe in their Escalade. Okay, so, tell me what you think of this. I was recently introduced to the term "green bonded" by a writer from The Mountaineers. In the piece I read, he posited that people who spend time in the outdoors become bonded to nature and the outdoors, and are thus more likely to back ecologically-minded legislation. Interesting thought, however I believe there needs to be an allowance made for the way in which you become bonded to the outdoors. For instance, do you become bonded to the outdoors through hiking and backpacking, or through chasing down pregnant caribou with a snowmobile?

I get catalogs from a whole slew of outdoors outfitters, among them REI and Cabelas, which is just like REI except that it's outdoor gear for people who like to kill stuff. Take both catalogs, put them side by side, and turn over the idea that both sets of folks are "green bonded". By the way, believe it or not, I don't have anything against hunting (except that I wouldn't do it). I do have a problem with leghold traps and high-powered rifles. I say that if you're of a mind to eat some deer, you oughtta at least be able to physically dominate it. At least be able to beat it at leg-wrestling. That's all I ask. Speaking of physical domination, certain Great Plains tribes used to get two guys to chase a deer down until it dropped from exhaustion, and then they'd hold a bag over its head until it smothered. (It can be done. Deer are built for short bursts of speed. If you get one boxed in between two Kenyan long-distance runners, the deer'll be sucking wind and crying uncle in no time.)

Which brings me to global warming (didja see how I did that - pulled a logical flea-flicker?), and how I hear the Big Oil is running a campaign to discredit my most beloved green-bonded tree-hugging brother, Al "Stiff As A Larch" Gore. Short story: Big Oil (or Greasy Bastards as I like to call them) is running some TV ads to say that the science behind Gore's film "An Inconvenient Truth" is turds. So yeah, they're fuckers. Not surprising. They think that people will just go "Oh - I see. It's turds. Lemme go back to flaming off this thirty-gallon barrel of sweet light crude I've got in the backyard."

Here's why this smear campaign will never work: COGNITIVE SCIENCE. The brain is really interested in self-preservation, so much so that it is impossible for any living thing to suppress its own startle response. S'a'fact. You can't do it no matter how much weed you smoke while watching "Gilligan's Island". Believe me, I've tried. As organisms, we're way into staying alive by way of staying alert. That's why news stories of danger and tragedy are so engaging and compelling to the human psyche. We believe that we have somehow avoided danger by being informed of it, even if it happened on the other side of the globe. Add to that the fact that every bit of weather we get is now underscored in common conversation by "because of global warming", and you have an indelible connection. Hurricane Katrina? Global warming. Floods in France? Global warming. Pizzlies invading Los Angeles? Global warming and photo op with Al Gore. So yeah, so Greasy Bastards, Inc., will spend all this money saying, "It's poop-science!" and then the next big storm we get (which will be about twenty minutes from...thousand one...thousand two...now) will completely erase from every human mind whatever Big Oil was blathering about. There is not a single goddamn thing anyone can do to stop humans from being afraid of the weather.

Don't get me wrong. That's a good thing. People should be afraid of the weather, considering how many people get killed by it every year. I believe that "green bonded" or no, folks who were otherwise uninterested in the outdoors will become keenly interested in the short-term future. For the first time in modern history, they will come to understand that their personal survival depends on that vast expanse outside their window.

I'd like to hear what you think of all that. Oh yeah! Totally off the subject, but only marginally related: a zero-energy home that doesn't look like a spaceship piloted by stinky hippies AND only costs a buck-two-ninety-five to build! Smoke that, Big Oil!

Cheers, and give my best to Marie.


28 May 2006

My Sole Literary Ambition

Let's make some noise! Avant garde composer Karlheinz Stockhausen
(pictured here, preparing to kill everyone) gets paid to
make music out of train wrecks and ostrich farts. Why can't I make a
living with my obsession?


Got your message. Heard you were going to be out until Monday. What do you have to do that's so all-fired important that it's going to keep you away from the telephone for that long? Are you camping out for tickets to an Imax film about the history of the slide rule? Or is the Nevada Whores Orphan's Symphony mounting a retrospective of the works of Karlheinz Stockhausen? Whatever it is, I hope it brings you joy, and that you return to the telephone with your voice intact. I know how you like to shout yourself hoarse at Stockhausen concerts.

Which brings me to my next point which is things that bring me joy. Correction: "the" thing that brings me joy. It's just that yesterday while I was revising my profile to say "My sole literary ambition is to write these letters to my brother Greg", I realized that my sole literary ambition is to write these letters to my brother Greg. So it's the joy of self-actualization, one that you are keenly aware of being a musician and all. It seems that those who are aware of exactly what their self-actualizing gig is - the one thing that they do with their own hands that gives their life purpose, meaning and direction - are understandably the ones who feel the constant frustration of not being able to do just that one thing all the time.

Some folks might say that's just the way life is, that you don't just get to entertain your obsessions, artistic, scientific or otherwise. I say that's a load of hooey - you don't get to entertain your obsessions if you can't make money doing it. But this is America, dammit! There's a way to make money doing just about anything!

So what predicated my assertion of letter-writing as my sole literary ambition was a recent compliment I received from one of my co-workers. Patrick Kevin, a marketing - wizard? junkie? stylist? seargent? - anyway, he came into my office, apropos of nothing, and asked me in (what I took to be) abejct flabbergastration, "What are you doing here?!" At first I thought he was implying that I blew off a deadline by sitting on my hands or playing Frogger or something.

Clarification and amelioration: I do, at times, sit on my hands and/or play Frogger. I do not, however, blow deadlines. Why? Not because I have a good work ethic. Because I'm as neurotic as a hamster on meth, and believe that I'll be stricken with boils if I'm dilatory. This digression has been brought to you by GlaxoSmithKline, makers of both Dexedrine and Paxil.

So I says to him I says, "uhhhhhwwWWwhhhhuhhhh?" And he surprises me by telling me that he's been reading my blog and why am I not making big cash dollars writing screenplays or something instead of writing junk - excuse me, opt-in email when all the writing he sees out in the world can't touch mine with a three-meter pole and so on. I know that Patrick knows his way around good writing from our conversations. And I could see he was really serious about what he was saying by the way he was stirring the air in my office with his right arm and then his left, as though he were making peanut brittle and trying to make good and goddamn sure it didn't scorch before it reached the hard-ball stage. (That's a little confectionary insider joke.)

I have to tell you honestly, it was the best compliment I've received on my writing since PEN/Faulkner and National Book Award Winner T. Coraghessan Boyle called me "a fine and pithy writer who won't miss any more classes." (Emphasis: his.)

So anyway, yeah, that about made me stammer and blush. But it also made me think about why I'm not making big cash dollars writing screenplays. Then I remembered how I've already written six or so screenplays, ranging in quality from "sucky" to "unbelievably sucky" to "unforgivable", and that I really didn't like the whole film culture (oxymoron?) or writing screenplays. It also occurred to me that I might write a novel or something, but coming home mentally knackered after a hard day at the email factory left me precious little motivation to even press the start button on the TiVo, let alone coordinate the mammoth task of creating an ampersand by way of pressing the shift key.

Then I realized that the one thing that taps into a boundless well of desire to write is the simple thought of writing to you. There's nothing I'd rather do than gab to my brother Greg on paper every gol-durn day. Honestly, I can only - and do often - converse unceasingly with you on subjects as diverse as game theory, The Funkadelics, my cat's ass (aka The Brownstar), and the hubristic hegemony of the right wing. Watch, I'll prove it. I can say, "Fast and bulbous, The Mascara Snake!" And you'll automatically say, "Also a tin teardrop!" And I bet you even said it before you read that sentence. Why? Because you get it, and by extension, you get me. And there's nothing more affirming and comforting in this often confounding and heartbreaking life than being understood.
It's the one time you're sure that you're alive.

Thanks for being my brother, and thanks for giving me a reason to write.

And if you enjoyed this, please send $75,000 and full medical coverage to my home address.