You may have noticed — or not, as the case may be — that I haven’t been posting regularly in a month or so. The week I spent in Taos seriously disrupted my schedule, which had already gotten a bit shaky with the end of the semester and the coming of the summer. I was trying to get back into my routine, and then the fence happened. I managed to blog and work on the fence at the same time — well, on the same days — for a week or so, but then I ran out of energy to work on anything but the fence.
The fall semester starts next Monday, and so now most of my energy is going to last-minute
panic preparations, but I hope to get a least a few real posts written this week. Once the semester starts, I should be able to get back into the groove. It doesn’t seem right: I’ll have less time, but my time will also be structured and divided and allocated and whatever. During the summer, I let myself go to seed.
Anyway. Excuses, excuses. Stay tuned.
There are so, so many possibilites here.
Shall I just put them in a list? I think I have to, or I’m not going to be able to keep my head on straight.
- Pretend to be a time traveller.
- No bathing.
- Only eat foods whose names are four-letter words.
- Shirk responsibility.
- Confound a bureaucrat.
- Communicate only in nods and grunts.
- Wander aimlessly in a grocery store.
- Skip work and read a book.
- Eat cereal for every meal.
- Urinate in an unlikely place.
- Chase a stray cat, yelling protestations of love and/or anger.
- Crack an egg with one hand, like Audrey Hepburn in Sabrina.
- Make lists for everything, and don’t stop making them.
I actually did a few of these — I won’t tell you which — but all of the above are mere runners-up. The winner was going to be “Do something you’ve been putting off” — dangerous, because there are plenty of things on my “I’ll do this eventually” list, which is really my “I’m probably never going to do this” list — but circumstances intervened. Elanor is staying with my parents, and Lorna was at band practice all evening, so Jack and I were left to fend for ourselves. He went to bed without much hassle, but I fell asleep in the bed with him, around 7:15; I woke up about an hour later, groggy, and stumbled to the couch, where I promptly fell asleep again; at about 9:00, I woke up — still groggy — and stumbled to bed, where I slept until Lorna came home, around 10:00. (It might take a few bourbons, but I’m going back to bed soon.)
So: today is “Take an evening nap” day — an almost necessary follow-up to yesterday, at least for crotchety old men like me.
I have nothing to say to you.
You’re all either living in thatch-roofed huts and scraping by on squirrel and wild apples, because society collapsed under its own weight between us and you, or you’re all cybernetic super-people with no senses of humor, and you won’t get any of my jokes, which are both numerous and quite funny.
If you’ve all been swept up by the Singularity and turned into prosthetic-enhanced Nietzschean super-people, good for you, I guess. It doesn’t sound all that awesome to me, but I’m a Luddite and I don’t like things that are fun or exciting, either.
My guess, though, is that you’re all living in huts, because western civilization is probably going to crumble any day now. Too many people, too much stuff, not enough vegetables, bad television, ugly shoes, poorly-designed cities, and not enough beer. It’s like someone built a model of the Empire State building out of dominos, and then put it on top of a slightly-rotten orange: it doesn’t make sense in the first place, and it’s a pretty bad idea on top of that, and there’s no way it’s going to work. So in light of your post-disaster existences, I have some advice for you:
- Build your hut near running water.
- Don’t shit upstream.
- Skin the squirrels before you cook them.
- If you don’t have a gun with which to defend yourself — and you’ll want one, because you’re living in a Hobbesian state of nature, and everyone is trying to kill everyone else — I say, if you haven’t got a gun, kill someone who does and take theirs.
- You should have stockpiled seeds and gardening tools.
- Enjoy yourself while you can, because you’re probably going to die in your early thirties (if you make it that far) from a minor infection that is totally treatable now, but not in the future — your now — because there are no antibiotics.
- Nobody likes you.
Alright, that last bit isn’t really advice, in the traditional sense, but it’s still a good thing for you to keep in mind.
I’m sorry that I didn’t do more to stop the collapse while there was still time — but honestly, there’s not really anything I could have done, and I had better things to do, anyway, like drink beer and watch bad television and look at pictures of cats on the internet.
Those cat pictures aren’t going to look at themselves. Speaking of which, I’ve wasted as much of my time on you as I’m going to, future people, and now I’m moving on to something more important: sitting at the airport, staring into space, thinking about how awesome and meaningful my life is.
Some dude from the past.
…for things like “one hug” and “honest advice” and “one round of drinks,” which turns into “one drinking binge,” to be followed with “one embarrassing secret” – although you’d have to give all the coupons to one friend in order to get that progression to work. That’s not a problem for me, because I don’t have any friends.
Seriously, though, I don’t like these things. They work for children, and what I mean is that they work for children of a certain age to give to parents, or caretakers, or whoever (whomever? —whatever), usually at the prompting of a different parent or caretaker or &c. I can remember making them as a youngish child, and Elanor is about the right age for such things (she has, in fact, given her mother a coupon good for a ‘tea party’, which is sweet, except that she made it with the expectation that Lorna would make the tea and cucumber sandwiches).
Coupons like this can be useful tools: they can teach children that familial relationships and friendships work because people who care about each other do things for each other – because love is expressed in sacrificial action, and the most meaningful sacrificial actions are those that seem most mundane: emptying the dishwasher, taking out the trash, folding the laundry, scrubbing the toilets, mucking out the pig-pen. At some point, though, they become bad things, because they encourage people to think about relationships as transactional.
If I buy a friend a drink, I’m not doing it because I gave that friend a silly piece of paper at some point when I felt guilty or otherwise obligated, and that friend then ‘cashed in’ the silly piece of paper. No, I buy friends drinks – rarely, but it happens – because that’s the kind of small sacrifice friendships are built on. More than that: the buying of a drink, or the receiving of a drink, is a symbolic, ritual action – it’s the outward sign of the communion that happens in the conversation and time shared over those exchanged drinks. It doesn’t matter if nothing ‘important’ gets discussed, which is usually the case when guys talk over drinks – although after a certain number, shit can get real – because the sacrifice, though a small one, hallows the entire experience.
Nobody gets hugs, though. Nobody.
If I’m avoiding all sources of electromagnetic radiation today, I think I have to stop existing. Right?
Even if I’m just avoiding all man-made sources of electromagnetic radiation, I’m still in trouble, because there are radio waves all around us, all the time, and I’m not about to wear an aluminum-foil suit all day.
Fortunately, the Book only wants me to avoid those things that are “known to the state of California to cause cancer”: high-voltage powerlines, microwave ovens, radio/TV/cell-phone towers, electric blankets, and
peacemakers pacemakers. I don’t normally hang out around any of those things, so this was a pretty easy task, I guess?
The pacemakers make me nervous, though – surely they don’t generate much electromagnetic radiation? Surely my cellphone and my laptop – two things I use all the time – generate more? And my phone and computer partake of the great æther of information known as “wifi” – and that wifi stuff can’t be good for me, either, right? I mean “not good for me” in the sense of giving me cancer eventually, because the wifi also allows me to enjoy things like “Hipster Ariel” and Zombocom, and those things are definitely good for me.
Probably I should have avoided using my phone or my laptop or the desktop computer today, just to be on the safe side. How would I have written this post, then? I could have written it yesterday, and just scheduled it to publish today – but that would have been cheating, to have written about doing a thing before doing it but as though I’d already done it. Alternatively, I could have gone without internet-capable technology all day today, written today’s post tomorrow, and scheduled it to be published in the past – that is, today.
I think that would work. I guess it did work, if you’re reading this on the 4th of April, 2011 – the day on which I used no technology and the day before I wrote the post that was published the day before it was written. If you’re reading it at a later date, I guess it doesn’t matter if this post was published before it was written, because both the publishing and the writing happened in your past – and if you’re reading it at all, it means I didn’t collapse the universe by violating the laws of physics. Good job, me!
If you’re not reading this, though, we might have some problems. Someone should double-check that the universe still exists.
—I always find a way to have problems with the tasks, I know, but that’s what makes this fun, so just deal with it—
—the first problem being that I have no friends across any oceans, and the second being that I don’t like to talk on the phone. Fortunately, there’s another way for me to “demonstrate the arbitrariness of human timekeeping” – Daylight Saving Time, which started while it was still winter this year.
I hate Daylight Saving Time. I hate it with the fire of a thousand suns. I hate it with a hatred that precedes reason, though I think there are valid reasons to dislike – though probably not to hate – DST.
I used to decry DST precisely for its arbitrariness, for the casual way in which we decide – or go along with the decision – to ignore solar time and do our own thing. I don’t mind the arbitrariness so much anymore, because our globalized world requires a bit of arbitrariness: clock noon and solar noon are only the same time in a narrow band of longitude in an given time zone, and there’s not really a workable way around that.
The primary reason I hate DST these days is that it’s a completely ineffective solution for the problems it purports to address. It’s like putting a band-aid on some dude’s toe when his wife is having a heart attack, and declaring the problem solved.
More hours of daylight leisure time is good, sure: more hours of leisure time, period, is even better. I have only my own experience and anecdotal evidence to support this, but I think that productivity in a lot of industries would go up if the number of hours an individual employee worked went down. I have a feeling that the average cubicle-dweller gets three hours of real work done in a given eight-hour day – less if the day is full of meetings – but that the same worker might get five hours of real work done in a five-hour day.
Such a solution, though, would require radical and fundamental changes to the values that drive our economy, and the first would be removing the economy from its primacy of place in our society: the pursuit of wealth is, I think, far more important to most people than life, liberty, and happiness – or, at least, we are constantly told that we ought to value material accumulation above all else, because material accumulation is what makes everything else (life, love, liberty, happiness) possible.
Another really important change would involve making it possible for more people to work at what they love, because that sort of work isn’t really work, in the sweaty-bitter-toil-and-anguish sort of way: it’s still labor, but a good and joyful sort of labor, even when its difficult. I work much more than 40 hours a week – but very little of it is unpleasant, and most of it is what I would do if I were independently wealthy (that is, read and write all the time).
More vacation time would be good, too: at most places, you’re lucky to get two weeks, and many people are forced to use that time during holidays. When I worked at Starbucks, which is fairly progressive for an American corporation, I had to use half my annually-allotted vacation time if I wanted more than a day off at Christmas (and I usually had to make the request six months in advance, because everyone wants time off at Christmas, and nobody gets any, because everybody else wants to go to fucking Starbucks or Wal-Mart or wherever on their holidays, &c &c – you can probably finish the rant on your own, and if you can’t, maybe you should try working a retail job for a few months).
It may seem that I’ve gotten a little off-track, but really I haven’t. We nonchalantly decide that, for nearly eight months of the year, noon should happen at 11 a.m. – and this nonchalance about time-keeping reveals a much deeper flaw in our attitudes toward time-spending. We – as a society, notwithstanding individual exceptions – we believe that our lives ought to be work and toil and accumulation, but never enjoyment. A moderate amount of work is not just necessary, but its own sort of good; but in work, as in so many things, we have such trouble with moderation.
My advice? Work less, live more, and don’t worry about having a glass of wine at 11 a.m., especially when the clock tells you it’s actually noon.