Circa '68

Show ‘em don’t tell ‘em is the writers’ rule

Why keep on coming by, unless you see this site as cool?

Journalese, Ecologese, Free Enterprese, Philosophese

Loggerese, Psychologese, I’m at ease in all of these

Bureaucratese, Intellectualese, neither bring me to my knees

Marketese, well that’s a breeze

And Pollenese will make you sneeze

I like to think that what I’m saying isn’t said in vain

That in any of these languages, my meaning will be plain

So drop on by once in a while, for more than just one date

You never know, you might find that we can communicate

Belting Up

Posted by on March in Coastal Commentary, Garden Delights, Jest Thinkin' | 0 comments

Belting Up

My family and I have had great gardens and some pretty good ones over three decades on the Sunshine Coast of BC: Outside Gibsons, in Roberts Creek, on Nelson and N. Trail Islands and for the last eighteen years in Halfmoon Bay.  I’ve never created conditions superior to those of our first, a plot that is now a small wetland in Shirley Macey Park. It was on one of the first two homesteaded on the Sunshine Coast and was being cultivated when we inherited it. It seemed to draw nourishment from across the hard-pan one or two feet beneath a meadow that sloped gently down to it.  It never needed fertilizing or watering and gave meaning to the term bountiful.

Chamberlain Rd. 1972

We had pretty good gardens on Nelson Island and then Trail Islands….eventually to employing a good many raised beds over rocky terrain.

N. Trail Island circa 1990

I eschewed treated wood and soon found that cedar can rot and do so quite quickly, depending, I suppose, on where it was grown and the specific genetic signature of the tree from which it is milled. And sow bugs love to snuggle in between soil and moist, deteriorating wood, particularly with veggies close at hand. The extent of their depredations vary by the year but I have had them take a substantial and devastating liking to both bush and pole beans.

Sowbug used to be a more general problem in the greenhouse but giving my two chickens (and now one duck) access to it during late-winter layover months has thinned them down to the point of irrelevance and turning them into contributing elements of eggs.

I can’t recall where I saw my first pile of discarded conveyer belting. The imbedded value in terms of raw material and expended manufacturing energy and creativity would have been glaringly obvious, as it is in other discards of industry. It was crying out to be used. Immediately apparent was its potential as a replacement for wood siding in my raised beds.

An exoskeleton in the form of a short, open stud wall was all that was needed to provide shape. The belting was unlikely to degrade over time and could be attached with stainless screws through the rubber into the wooden top plate. This was more to position it than than to keep it in place. Outward pressure of 12”-16” of soil, though relatively minimal, does that. Capping the framing with a 2”x6” cedar plank made seats of the sides, for sitting to weed, taking the sun or laying tools out on so they didn’t go AWOL into the dirt or the grass. As an example:


Same bed mid-summer, gussied up with lattice and the odd flower

The black rubber sides of my raised beds retain water and draw heat. The hard use it was put to before being discarded, I think, would have probably allowed it to fully off-gas. And there is a lot of belting around. It’s a waste product hard to find a home for. It often gets buried.

I’ve been growing in raised beds made this way for two decades. In addition to rectangular beds (I like mine about 10′ x 30”), I have a couple of round beds and one in the form of an extended oval, each made of one length of belting with its ends secured together with short ss bolts through each end and through a narrow, vertical shim, also of belting. They require no framing, but also provide no seating. Practical but somewhat lacking aesthetically.

Bed in mid relocation....with reel-end top cover on standby

I’ve used it to informally retain soil and define flower beds, around my shop in lieu of concrete, made pathways of it and laid it out beneath quarter-logs to retard the intrusion of grass into vegetable and garden beds. It makes pretty good roofing in a pinch, and passable hinges can be cut from it. It’s heavy and a touch awkward to handle, but get past that and it has much to offer.

When we moved from North Trail Island to Halfmoon Bay in 1994 we brought our raised beds with us and (in five-gallon buckets by many a small barge-load) the soil from them too.You can see them below, freshly laid out and then flourishing during our first Halfmoon Bay summer, with a winterscape thrown in for good measure. Aint portability a grand thing.

Late spring '94 in Halfmoon Bay

Summer '94

Winter '94-'95

The Repurposeful Garden

Posted by on March in Coastal Commentary, Jest Thinkin' | 0 comments

The Repurposeful Garden

Summer 2011

I wandered around my garden of a recent mornin’ snapping a picture of this and that, bare as it was of all but a few burgeoning hints of spring, so as to share some of its critical, skeletal elements with you (yes, you, dear reader), many of them fashioned of materials usually to be found in realms outside that of horticulture.

With a species so busy as ours, so industrial, so imaginative and yet quick to toss out and move on to other means and materials, there is no shortage of free or near-to-free-because-mass-produced repositories of our energy and investment…just waiting to be turned to new uses.

Fearless as regards full disclosure, I confess here at the outset that there is something so intrinsically lyrical about a garden that it seems to yearn to be thought of and spoken of and, yes, written of with the lilt of the Irish, as I do here. I have something of an ancestral claim to it and a smidgen of a talent, I like to think (migrate as mine can on, occasion, to other celtic tonalities). And it so lends itself to the long sentences for which I seem to have an abiding (and to some, I know, annoying) inclination.

So, here is a little gallery….snapped together, as it were…. to lure you in, so that you might return to these pages, should I feature a post  elaborating upon one of them until they are all brought fully to fruition. For me then there will be, for some weeks to come, a way to turn away from the follies that so often compel me to write to the wee joys of the imagination with which we are all blessed simply by virtue of being human….if only we are so fortunate as to know it.

To be technical for a moment, friends (and shouldn’t gardeners all be so; friends I mean….and technical as need be): Each image below can be clicked to enlarge it and, when I add text, to take you to the body of that, within which may well be found additional helpful images.


[nggallery id=20]



Undermining the Secret Ballot …… The Canadian Way

Posted by on March in Jest Thinkin' | 0 comments

Just what is difficult to understand about the concept of a ‘secret ballot’?

How is the keeping of lists of supposed party supporters, other than those having chosen to join one, anything but a transgression of the spirit and substance of the secret ballot?

How does a phone call asking how you plan to vote not invade the privacy of political choice you are entitled to?

How does the promotion of ‘loyalty’ to a particular party not seek to undermine your freedom to choose independently.

Those are the questions we should be asking.

I don’t need a poll to tell me how to vote, nor do I cloy to a particular party. The only loyalty I am interested in at election time is that of politicians and their parties to the populace and to principal.

It took hundreds of years for the citizenry to get the right to vote. And still political parties seek to trigger the serf mentality that seems to quiver, fearfully, deep in our DNA. Do their beloved ‘polls’ tell them it works for them, or are their ranks so deeply infested with advertisers disease that they  have become victims of it?

Either way, it doesn’t work for us. It is not intended to.

Conservative party fraud during the last Federal election, disgraceful as it is, criminal as it should be found to be, is in its way only a more gross example of what our laws accommodate as a matter of course.

Pre-election polls in general are a kind of large-scale contravention of the principle of voter privacy. Could there possibly be a more self-demeaning, disempowered reason for voting a particular way than to join the herd?  Could it be more demeaning to be encouraged to?

Make sacrosanct in every way the privacy of our vote and we might be able to reclaim some of the hard-won democracy that this Conservative government in particular demonstrates so little regard for.

Ours is a culture that fails abysmally to enhance, educate and develop the intellectual independence and capacity of its citizens. Our election campaigns seek to milk votes from a bovine population the way commerce milks dollars from ‘consumers.’

Our parties and the press passively cloy to the de facto ceding of power to leaders, devaluing the role of parliament and reducing the role of Mps to meaninglessness, after which we are audience to righteous hand-wringing when people don’t turn out to vote for them.

People around the world, including Canadian soldiers, get shot to pieces for what they think we have.

Meanwhile , Ottawa capitulates to temporal comfort levels. allowing social media to damage the integrity of national elections by publishing eastern results before western polls close rather than generating the tiniest bit of discomfort by waiting until the election is completely over to count votes and announce results.

Our democracy is a badly leaking vessel, captains and crews content to praise an empty, mime show, posing proud in denial of their dereliction of duty.
We can only hope that the current, ruthless exploitation of its shortcomings by Stephen Harper and his accolytes leads to a wholesale refit, something more than a patch slapped on to a fragile hull.

Now that would take some courage. Is there any to be found in these ‘leaders’ of ours….or do we only look to the soldiers they send to foreign lands for signs that we have any?

The Unknown Coast, Hiding In Plain Sight….2/23/2012

Posted by on February in Coastal Commentary | 1 comment

The Unknown Coast, Hiding In Plain Sight….2/23/2012

Many of us who live on the Sunshine Coast of British Columbia, the part that stretches some 100  Kilometers as the crow flies from Howe Sound to Jervis inlet, call ourselves ‘Coasters’ but have little knowledge or substantial experience of the the waters that define it.

I’m sure it was somewhat different back awhile when logs were sorted on the water rather than on dry land, where log tows were smaller and more frequent, when more than a very few families were sustained by commercial fishing, when the price of fuel did not prohibit wide participation in recreational power- boating and fishing, as it does now.

But even then the full dynamic scope of what goes on adjacent to our shores was probably experienced by relatively few: Towboaters more than fishermen, log salvors perhaps more than anyone else, working as they did in close proximity to the shore, towing their logs with relatively small boats.

Tug Crossing Trail Bay off Sechelt-Tella Sametz image

Towboaters of necessity remain fully aware of the way the Fraser River can over-ride the tide, particularly when it pours out of the North Arm at five knots during the spring flood, still running at two and even three knots as it slides past Francis Point, just below Pender Harbour.

Installing a kilometer of water, power and telephone lines from West Sechelt to N. Trail Island in 1988 revealed a sea-bottom across that expanse pretty-well devoid of vegetation, due perhaps to the velocity of silt-laden tidal water scrubbing back and forth across it.

Tugs have been known to thrum away making negligible progress through the full turn of the clock and two full tide changes, unable to make headway with a tow of logs through Welcome Pass above Halfmoon Bay or past Mission Point just past downtown Sechelt.

The sea-level drops as the charts predict, but not alone as one might imagine, by swirling across the Strait below the Thormanby Islands to run out to Juan de Fuca Strait down the East Coast of Vancouver Island. It may in fact be running one way on the surface and entirely the other direction a fathom or two below it.

In the early 1980’s we looked out our window to see a small yarding tug passing below on Agamemnon Channel with a fresh-painted bright yellow sidewinder (log-sorting boat) riding under tow, precipitously high on the stern-wave.  So precipitously that it began to take on water.  When the skipper slowed to take a look at why his progress had slowed, the ‘winder,’ barely buoyant, wallowed around from the stern to the port-side of the tug and sank, rolling the yarding tug over, both of them to come to rest 160 meters down. The skipper and his crewman made it the 70 meters to shore through the icy winter waters but it must have been a close thing. It was the ultimately unsuccessful attempt, over several days, with cable and camera, to recover the two boats that was fascinating.  As the seven cm thick cable was lowered down the end of it was drawn first to the south and then to the north, alternating repeatedly as it made its way to the bottom.

Once the inflows of the rising tides coming in through Juan-de-Fuca win their own battles against the Fraser’s silty outflow, they join forces  with the flood-waters streaming up along the tenanted shores of the Sunshine Coast while a second force charges up past Keats, Bowen and Gambier Islands and on up to Squamish. Put a southeast gale behind that and you have a veritable phalanx on the move.  Turn a westerly gale against it and the waves will rear up like war horses bent on over-running everything in their path.

Waiting Out a Southeaster in the lee of N. Trail Island

This goes on day or night, sometimes predicted, sometimes not. It should be no surprise then that logs drifted free or spilled in or at the entrance to the Fraser, as well as those from tows caught crossing to Ladysmith and Nanaimo on Vancouver Island, end up on beaches on Thormanby and Lasqueti Islands and all along the shores of the Sunshine Coast.

With long stretches of shoreline from Grief Point down to the Town of Gibsons offering little protection from it all, it’s hardly surprising that log-tows have fallen not-infrequently victim to it.  It may be a matter of a bundle or two popped out by a big swell,  but if the tide and the sea-conditions so will it, whole log tows….boomsticks, bundles and loose logs, chains and cables….can be heaved up on to the sand and boulder beaches, the creek mouths, and into rocky coves and crevasses.

But mostly all of this goes unnoticed and unremarked by the majority of a population dwelling, as much of it does, within a few kilometers of the shoreline.

In the near-decade I salvaged logs from a base on North Trail Island just off the shore of West Sechelt I would occassionally find myself nosing into the beach mid night to pull bundles off the beach as they finally floated on a high tide, my exhaust pipes rising out of the water and dropping back in the swell, rumbling loud and quiet, but never so silent as all the houses and shops resting from their daily labors just across the lamp-lit black strip of highway separating them from the sea and me.  It was quite lovely, really. Surreal.

My family and I left N. Trail and moved to Halfmoon Bay, just up the shore from Sechelt, in 1994. I tired, after a year or two of dealing with my boats at a distance.  Soon thereafter I ceased to peer through the trees as I drove along the highway to see who might be towing past with a log-boom or which log salvor might be working the beaches for their daily bread. It was a few years before I stopped pulling my truck down to the shore to see, for curiosity’s sake, what might be there in the way of logs worth pulling from the beach, gathering up and pulling to market. I took a certain delight in dancing as surely along the beach debris as I once tripped across the sinkiest tiers of salvaged logs. Rarely do I stop so now and nor am I so sure-footed, ‘though still willing to persevere at it for a minute or two.

We move on don’t we…..and take pleasure in new things.Living on N. Trail and working the beaches from Roberts Creek to Middle Point led to a role as navigator for the ‘Save Georgia Strait’ crossings between Sechelt and Nanaimo, and the reverse, in the early 90’s. Coming Sechelt way most of the rowboats, sailboats, canoes and kayaks kept their bows pointed, as advised towards Roberts Creek regardless of official tidal ebb or flow and came ashore, as intended, on the beach at fronting the town. Those who didn’t had to be escorted back to Sechelt from W. Trail Island and even from a few kilometers away at Sargeant’s Bay.

Speculatin’ On Oil

Posted by on February in Current Despairs, Dissin' Dat | 0 comments

Speculatin’ On Oil

Does it strike anyone that there is an undertone of panic to the rush to get the Northern Gateway project up and running?

A lot of money has gone into pulling transportable oil out of Alberta’s tar sands….at a time when great strides are being made on the technological side globally to bring alternative energy closer to being competitive even with oil produced far less expensively.

This shows up perhaps most obviously in the broad commitment to production of electrical vehicles which clearly takes the switch from petroleum out of the realm of pie in the sky. It is also there via nano-technology, improved power management and battery technology that is making all forms of alternative energy more economically viable.

Plans are in the works for EV charging networks in North America, Europe and parts of Asia. Technology is in the works for wireless charging of Evs.

If the big auto companies can see it, so, without question, can petroleum producers.

Dialing into CBC at 3 a.m. gets you a lot of programming from elsewhere in world where energy efficient buildings, human-powered personal transport, and rapid transit, not to mention lower consumption due to economic woes are all trending upward. The latter is no small thing. Consumer-capitalism is such a bust, reliant as it is on sustaining neediness while purporting to gratify – brainwashing and dumbing us down. Living without much of what it has been feeding us could well lead to the hardly remarkable realization that we are psychologically, socially and certainly environmentally better off without  it.

Surely, once current calamities are sorted out there will be little taste for merely another version of what brought so many economies to their current sorry state.
I speculate that Alberta oil interests are applying every bit of leverage to their Conservative friends in good part out of fear that what they have already invested may be disastrously lost. Disastrous for them, a boon for the Canada’s environment. In terms of recovering their investment and profiting from it they are in a race against the recognition in much of the rest of the world that oil is already, in principle, on its way out as the king of energy. With their ultra-expensive version of it, they are almost certain to lose and may well smell that.

The recent reference of Shell Canada president Lorraine Mitchelmore to a ‘short window of opportunity’ to establish a Chinese market for Canadian natural gas strikes me a hiding a kind of willful naivity, with lessons in it for all forms of energy exports.

Why would we possibly want to export natural gas to a country said to have the world’s largest reserves of it? What possible guarantee is there that China, a country that behaves as a unitary corporation, but with the additional powers of nationhood, will not simply undermine those deals if it becomes in its economic interest to do so? The same goes for oil.

I don’t blame the US for being pissed off at Conservative courting of the Chinese. Like it or not, for all of its faults, the U.S. has been a pretty decent neighbor and steady trading partner, now it is having some troubles and we are heading for the hills.

What we might want our corporations to be thinking about is converting tar sands oil to electricity and using existing grids to share it with our long-time economic allies.

Why this huge leap of faith in the economic future of China? It reminds me of the praise heaped just a few decades ago on the Japanese economy…..which shortly thereafter was revealed as a chimera propped up by cronyism. It is still trying to pull out of the consequential quicksand.

China has massive social and economic challenges, exacerbated by the always attendant risks of moving too far, too fast.

We in Canada need to stop sucking on the resource nipple and begin to treat our energy resources as essentially a long-term domestic backup for development of apex training and employment.

If this runs against the interests of existing corporations, it is their own policy failures and blind orientation to the short-term that have put them at risk; theirs and that of governments saying thanks for their election funding and media propaganda support: something Harper Conservatives only reinforced by cutting public election funding.

There are far too many democracies fallen victim to the divide and conquer techniques of the corporate culture that colonizes them, lacking the cohesion and supremacy of government that would allow them to become nations in any real sense.

We need governments that actually honor in practice the managing of the nation’s resources long-term on behalf of the population as a whole, that see fostering the education and skill-development of those already within the nation as their duty. We need an educated populace, one capable of understanding that short-term gratification should never trump long-term well-being.

Image courtesy of  daveknz photobucket…….http://s672.photobucket.com/profile/davknz

A Token Take on Toking

Posted by on January in Jest Thinkin', Pagin' the Agin' | 2 comments

A Token Take on Toking

circa '68


Well, well, well the polls begin to tell a tad more honest tale about that sweet resinous smell.

Even with the majority of Canadians now found by some polls to favor decriminalization of marijuana, it is unlikely to come about until the US goes first. And it may: It’s pretty hard to keep the stuff draped in the costume of evil and decadence when it is proving more and more frequently to be useful therapeutically. And it could, as is often mentioned, generate potential, desperately-needed tax dollars and less futile expenditure of them on policing and jailing.

The stuff is clearly not addictive. If it were there would be a lot more lawyers, teachers, professors, politicians and realtors nodding out on street corners rather than practicing their professions, some with far more than adequate success and perhaps a little clearer comprehension of the appearance/reality riddle that puzzles, intrigues and discombobulates us through all our days .

The usual intake, a toke or two for most folks, can get synapses firing more effectively, thoughts expressed more artfully, more knots danced away than might otherwise have been the case and with more musicality, grace and inventiveness. Folks are generally kinder to one another and may well be more lovingly attuned to those closest to them in all ways.  And it can definitely smooth the way to the muse.

What got me sputtering and coughing more than any toke ever did was the purported legitimacy of studies in which ‘subjects’ were tested for the effects of smoking two joints a day over extended periods of time. Jeeeez……anybody willing to smoke that much had a wee problem with judgement to start with.

There is reason to think that once brought into focus and practice with the assistance of marijuana, those capacities last, with or without continued access to it. Lots of folks who once employed the herb have ceased to do so. The value of their experience isn’t diminished if some keep those capacities, others lose them and some do a little of both. Marijuana aint going to render you immune to the vicissitudes of life. It can be an aid, not a panacea.

As bizarre as were the reasons for banning it, even more retrograde factors may trigger its decriminalization and legalization.

With global economic stagnation rooted in the west and spreading east, with some forecasting decades-long effects, governments may well opt to sanction anything they believe might keep the masses pacified.

And if a side effect of that is reasoned acceptance of a less consuming economic culture, well, the planet may just breathe a sigh of relief for it….particularly if it were to become a more sharing and less greedy one at the same time.

Here in Canada the best we can probably hope for is to replace as soon as possible a government reefing mostly on self-righteousness and hallucinating that disenfranchising more citizens by jailing them, most of them young, is in the best interests of the country. A bad trip that if there ever was one, both for its victims and for the country as a whole.

Me and My Analgesic Smile ………1/12/2012

Posted by on January in Jest Thinkin', Pagin' the Agin' | 0 comments

Recently I’ve been sharing, mostly with chronological peers (CP’s), the concept of ‘the analgesic smile.

Just as I speculate that it is endorphins associated with regular exercise that got me past a long spell of enduring, mantra-resistant angst, I now seem able to mute pain associated with deterioration of various joints by laughing (well, smiling) in response to them.

It seems to generate an immediate endorphic relief, with the bonus of a small sense of triumph.

I get there by seeing myself and the importance of what I’m experiencing in a global/universal context. It reminds me that I and my pains are blips on the radar of time and space…..that being overly focused on it either is, well, laughable. It works, which is the objective. Is it illusory…..why would I care? The perspective is valid and can comfortably coexist and swap dialogue with other, more-self-concerned observations.

It turns out that my analgesic smile is indistinguishable from one generated in other ways. Nor could it or should it be taken by anyone concerned to indicate that I am in pain because it reduces and can completely eliminate my experience of that. You don’t have to take a class in it and it can be done anywhere. I don’t suggest that it will work against deep, chronic pain. But who knows? Lets hope I don’t have to find out.

If you can pull it off…. it is just another little way to be self-reliant, always a good thing, and regularly integrating the perspective of your small part in the great unfolding can only contribute to an overall improvement in peace of mind.

That, surely, is of value when living with and benefiting from the understanding that today is not just the first day of the rest of your life but ever-more possibly the last.

You have to love life for the humor and delicious irony imbedded in it. Here am I, regularly and cumulatively picking up a drib here, a drab there of age-related discomfort, yet finding myself perhaps more consistently in good humor and for perhaps longer stretches than I can otherwise recall.

No guarantee that it will last, of course. But there never is. Never was. You relish what you can while you can.

I find it kind of fascinating really to be both the observer as well as the subject of this altogether new-to-me experience of aging. Particularly so in being part of a phenomenon unique to the experience of our species, where a whole generation looks likely to continue living well beyond any biological requirement to do so.

There’s a pile of opportunity in that.

Many of us will not fall prey to intellectual decline. We may instead find ourselves able to think more clearly, unconstrained as to what is permissible, to say what we might have been afraid to during lives bound by an array of compromising obligations and servitudes.

Everybody Wants to Go To Heaven…. Nobody Wants to Die………1/5/2012

Posted by on January in Current Despairs, Jest Thinkin', Pagin' the Agin' | 0 comments

Everybody Wants to Go To Heaven…. Nobody Wants to Die………1/5/2012

I had an unusually real dream the other night, one I wasn’t prepared to forget the details of it as quickly as I do with most.

Its theme was an attempt to go through with a decision to end my life of my own volition.

I had used an unspecified but powerful tranquilizer of some sort that would in a painless, unhurried but purposeful way bring about the planned result. The dream provided no preamble that I recall as to specifically why I’d embarked on this course.

Still, as I began to experience physical effects seemingly consistent with my objective I became quite fearful. One would, given the survival response deeply imbedded in us. I knew that could not be avoided. Even believing that we don’t fear death, cut off our air and we struggle for breath.

It was only at the point of something close to panic that it occurred to me that I might be dreaming and that so, even a dream this convincing might actually cause all some essential system to shut down.

I began to struggle against the grasp of it, as if I’d been too long under water  so deep that making it back to the surface was by no means certain.

When I did manage to will my eyes  open it was to find myself physically shaken as if I had indeed been too long deprived of oxygen.


A Veritable Babel of Babble…………..12/29/2011

Posted by on December in Current Despairs, Dissin' Dat, Jest Thinkin' | 0 comments

A Veritable Babel of Babble…………..12/29/2011

Language is such a double-edged sword. It can inform or confuse, clarify or obfuscate. The economic, political, professional and social environments we have created are failing in so many ways to meet our expectations. The gratuitous diversity of their languages plays no small part in this.

The understood objective of each is to meet our needs: Food, shelter, material well-being and personal fulfillment. The latter speaks not just of what come along with intelligence and a capacity for spiritual awareness but of a corresponding need to have both be manifest in our lives if we are to be fully human.

So how are we doing on that count? Does a lifetime of indebtedness serve us well? How about the ever-speedier converting of biological diversity to monoculture, of declining resources to waste, of limited and finite resources to food production for a population that grows seemingly without limit?

How are we doing on the utilization of human resources? How much of a contribution can the poor, the uneducated, the criminalized contribute to their own potential well-being and that of the whole? And what the hell has language, the purported subject of this piece, got to do with all of that.

As far as widely utilizing individual capacity goes we are doing extremely poorly. The only trickle-down effect of a system accommodating self-conceived notions of success on the part of the greedy and arguably sociopathic turns out to be the vast majority, to one extent or another, being pissed on.

Keeping the current systems and values in place, are the language bandits.  Heading them up is the advertising industry, overwhelmingly purveyors of lies, dedicated to generating need (the illusion of it will do) under the guise of seeking to satisfy it.

We’ve just been through Christmas with the usual inverted drivel obligating us, guilting us into a rush of buying to prop up a consumer economy dependent on our capitulation. Theirs is the language of excitement, selling fulfillment by portraying us as unfulfilled.

It’s big annual boost comes from pounding home that dissatisfaction in us, that neediness, at precisely the time of year dedicated in spirit to what we are most justifiably grateful for and satisfied with: family, friends, a level, in the West at least, of material well-being previous generations could have not dreamed of.

I don’t believe for one moment that the majority using or employed in producing advertising are fundamentally morally or ethically bankrupt. The master-manipulators who formed and shaped this industry are a different matter. They have been overwhelmingly successful in co-opting writers, artists, sociologists and psychologists simply by providing them with employment, which our incarnation of civilization fails to. The combination of necessity and on the job training in the creation of illusion makes it inevitable that those employed in this industry will delude themselves as to the value of their work.

One could go on of course, but this is an article not a book. If you need convincing, pull a copy of ‘Toxic Waste is Good For You’ out of the library, hold your nose and read as far as you can stand to. I made it about half way before becoming too nauseated to read further about the extent and depth of the contamination our civilization suffers at the hands of this ‘industry’.

How about economics in our time? Want to know what a derivative is? From the root word ‘derive’ it means simply ‘to take’. It is indeed at heart merely a device for taking money or assets already milked of at least one commission and packaging it with other people’s money or assets to be sold to generate yet another. It does not and never was intended to benefit in any way the providers of the original funds or assets. A derivative is, in that way, a mechanism designed to accommodate and even legitimize breach of trust.

Are you confused by the language of finance and inclined to trust ‘advisors’ to sort it all out for you? Let me suggest this: If the language is confusing it serves only those who can then make an exclusive claim to comprehending it. I put single quotes around ‘industry’ because as currently operating there is nothing industrial about finance, in the sense of producing a reliable, long-lasting, useful end product. Complexity in financial instruments is innately untrustworthy. It should be made illegal.

Remember how grade three girls used to freak us boys out with ‘secret languages’ with which they’d communicate while casting meaningful little glances our way then bursting into giggles. Wall Street, when it comes down to it, are doing some serious giggling these days at the expense of taxpayers and mortgage holders.

This sector is by no means alone in using language to create ‘consumer’ dependence and the status for themselves of sole interpreters. Off the top of my head I can’t think of a profession that does not. Want to read a book that articulates example after example of this? John Ralston Saul’s ‘Voltaire’s Bastards’ might reveal to you not just the author’s in-depth knowledge and understanding of this phenomenon, but your own deep sense of it. It catalyzed this song:

[audio:http://www.johnmarian.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2010/12/Pulsus-Paradoxus-.mp3|titles=Pulsus Paradoxus]

‘Pulsus’ sprang into existence one evening as the love of my life studied to requalify as a Registered Nurse. Idly picking up one of her texts, I scanned a paragraph or two and came across the phrase ‘pulsus paradoxus.’ The little Latin I knew suggested a definition that a question to my lady pretty-much confirmed. Dance around it merrily listing symptoms, as a medical linguist might, it still simply refers to is a pulse behaving in a way that can’t be explained.

And hey, I’m entirely sympathetic to the profession on this. After all what patient wants to hear their doctor say, “Jeez, what the ‘f……’ is going on here.”

The amazing thing is that we communicate as well as we do. On top of deliberately or culturally-created linguistic impediments, we all, from the get-go, learn our ‘common’ languages in circumstances and with nuances particular and unique to the unfolding of our individual infant lives. As a result we, at best, communicate in approximations.

So, why the title for this rather long post?  You can google ‘Tower of Babel’ for more but, briefly, the reference is to the biblical tale of once-unilingual humanity setting out to build a tower to reach the heavens, ostensibly (love that word) to celebrate the glory of God. He, however (not my gender assignment) took umbrage at the presumption of the developers of the day and caused the single language of those involved in the project to become many. For good measure he scattered the language groups around the planet. So the story goes.

I’m not personally drawn to a focus on the Bible, given how diversely its passages are interpreted and how perversely they have often been acted upon. However, the story does resonate for me when today’s engineers compete to build ever-higher towers at the edge of vast deserts: What a bizarre waste of human capacity and of planetary resources needed like never before and sure to be more so in the future: What a testament to the present-day self-delusive egotism of the sort that supposedly drew the wrath of God in the tale of Babel.

We human beings have ‘challenges’ galore these days and might do better at confronting them and perhaps even doing something about them if we go back, for starters, to accepting that they really are deep-seated ‘problems.’ What we are dealing with could use the gravitas.

We have capacity, all kinds of it. We are simply tripping over math that assigns value where it is not justified. Develop unrealized capacity in the poor and the uneducated and enough of us might become knowledgeable and sane and realistic enough to know that, among other things we have to dial back our population growth and, given a badly shrunken resource base, do it substantially and expeditiously.

That would mean using our accomplishments not to generate individual wealth and accolades (bizarre in a population of mortals) but to delight in them for their own sake, as gifts if you like, that we could choose to see as coming to us all through the catalyst of individuals. We could celebrate the creativity of teachers, engineers, academics, inventors, scientists and artists as attributes of our species, not as vehicles for personal wealth or status.

Too idealistic? Well, how are we doing without such an ideal or set of them as a functioning foundation?

The Shadow on Christmas

Posted by on December in Jest Thinkin', Making Music | 0 comments

The Shadow on Christmas

The seemingly eternal human mix of high-minded good intention and ruthless materialistic exploitation come together in a temporal microcosm every Christmas. Good versus goods, you might say, our economics hopelessly tied to the excessive and wasteful production of the latter, never more obviously, desperately so than at this time of year.

Christmas was never an uncompromised good time for me as a child, negotiating the season with little consciousness of the greater issues. My father’s recent war experiences as a medic in North Africa undoubtedly undermined any ability he might have had to see anything other than pretension in the holiday. My mother did her best to engage the spirit of it regardless. The food was wonderful, but the actual….supposedly celebratory….meal was often conducted in the mute aftermath of the annual argument.

Neither of my parents had apparently been the beneficiary, as I was, of actually having awoken in the middle of the night to see Santa Claus and his team of steaming reindeer cantering along the snow-clad street below the long bay-window of our third-floor London flat.

I came to see the legitimacy of my father’s skepticism but never did buy fully into the toxicity of it. There was no hypocrisy to my mother’s efforts to make the season special.

It had little to do with presents. In the rationed aftermath of WWII there were relatively few. My mother and I would adorn the tree and criss-cross the ceiling with strings of cut-paper decorations. She was a singer of considerable talent and we would carol together or partake of the ecstatic auditory feast of Ave Maria and the Hallelujah Chorus broadcast on the BBC.

It was later pretty easy to enjoy Christmas when my lady and I got together and even more so when our daughters came along. During their early Sunshine Coast childhood we lived simply, just outside the boundaries of Gibsons and then on Nelson Island. We would often surround a long table with friends and dine on duck or turkey or venison, the meal crowned with plum pudding and traditional trifle.

We eventually learned to hike the woods for new wind-falls from which a treetop could be removed and, with a little judicious drilling and temporary grafting, be made into a more-than-adequate Christmas tree.

There was a lead-up week or two of caroling accompanied by my guitar. Presents would have been limited to one or two of reasonable value, so there was little in the way of clutter to be cleared away. Much of what there was would be folded for re-use the next year, put away with the decorations.

We had much to be thankful for, not least of it being our affection for one another and the beauty of our surroundings. And it is, after all, the turning of the year towards ever-longer days.

My lady would create a creche, not required by my own metaphysics but not something I felt moved in any way to object to. I was the beneficiary of her kindness and generosity of spirit and unconcerned with her particular ways of sustaining it.

Now it is my daughters that carry it all on. I play for the carol-singing on Christmas Eve, drive down to Roberts Creek the next morning to witness the opening of presents and, of course, share the dinner and the company of their own extended families.

But how could something as well-intentioned in so many ways as Christmas not automatically bring to our minds the stark contradictions to its purported spirit of the world in which we live and the terrible ways in which we so often affect it? It is there in the undertow at the same time as it warrants our taking a break from awareness of it.

And so, I offer this song that is about that: My very own Christmas Carol, featuring the exquisite guitar interpretations of Robbie Steininger and the powerful production skills of Bill Buckingham.



 [audio:http://www.johnmarian.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2011/01/No-Believer-.mp3|titles=No Believer]


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