Hamilton on the Militia and the Limits of Legislation

Due to my workload during the school year, I’ve had to drop blogging except for occasional instances on my other blog, but due to the lovely three day weekend bestowed by our observance of Veteran’s Day, I have a chance to return to The Federalist Papers. Appropriately enough, in this one, Federalist No. 25, Alexander Hamilton discusses the limitations and dangers of maintaining local militias.

However, the most interesting point Hamilton makes here is a broader appeal to the limitation of legislation. I may be misreading this a bit, as I am pulling it out of context, but I’ll leave that up to wiser readers to decide:

Here I expect we shall be told that the militia of the country is its natural bulwark, and would be at all times equal to the national defense. This doctrine, in substance, had like to have lost us our independence. It cost millions to the United States that might have been saved.. . . the bravest of [militiamen] feel and know that the liberty of their country could not have been established by their efforts alone, however great and valuable they were. War, like most other things, is a science to be acquired and perfected by diligence, by perseverance, by time, and by practice.

All violent policy, as it is contrary to the natural and experienced course of human affairs, defeats itself. . . .

. . . nations pay little regard to rules and maxims calculated in their very nature to run counter to the necessities of society. Wise politicians will be cautious about fettering the government with restrictions that cannot be observed, because they know that every breach of the fundamental laws, though dictated by necessity, impairs that sacred reverence which ought to be maintained in the breast of rulers towards the constitution of a country, and forms a precedent for other breaches where the same plea of necessity does not exist at all, or is less urgent and palpable. [bold added]

This point of caution about the limitations of legislation made me think of a passage I just read in a short book called The Gardens of Democracy by Eric Liu and Nick Hanauer.

What’s lost is the willingness of people to make judgments in situations that are not formulaic but are messy and human, and then to trust each other to make the best calls we can. As Philip Howard has argued powerfully, in a society that over-relies on laws and rules to govern everyday interactions—one where much is prescribed and proscribed and “what is not prohibited is permitted”—people forget how to exercise both rights and responsibilities.
What’s lost, in short, is citizenship.
 
Hamilton’s point about militias has faded with relevance, but his point about the limitations of legislation remains salient to our time.

The Decline of Wikipedia

“As commercial websites have risen to prominence, online life has moved away from open, self-governed crowdsourcing communities like the one that runs Wikipedia, says Clay Shirky, a professor in the Interactive Telecommunications Program at New York University. Shirky was one of the biggest boosters of an idea, popular during the previous decade, that the Web encouraged strangers to come together and achieve things impossible for a conventional organization. Wikipedia is proof there was some truth to that notion. But today’s Web is dominated by sites such as Facebook and Twitter, where people maintain personal, egocentric feeds. Outside specific settings like massive multiplayer games, relatively few people mingle in shared virtual space. Instead, they use mobile devices that are unsuited to complex creative work and favor neatly self-­contained apps over messier, interconnected Web pages. Shirky, who is an advisor to the Wikimedia Foundation, says people steeped in that model will struggle to understand how and why they should contribute to Wikipedia or any project like it. “Facebook is the largest participatory culture today, but their mode of participation is different,” he says. “It’s aggregating rather than collaborating.”

Gardner agrees that today’s Web is hostile to self-organized collective efforts, likening it to a city that has lost its public parks. “Our time is spent on an increasingly small number of increasingly large corporate sites,” she says. “We need more public space online.” In fact, Gardner is leaving the foundation at the end of the year in search of new projects to work on that very problem. She contends that even with all its troubles, Wikipedia is one of the Web’s few public parks that won’t disappear.”

http://www.technologyreview.com/featuredstory/520446/the-decline-of-wikipedia/

What Modern Writers Mean When They Say, “Keep It Simple,” Dude

Desperate ScribblingSpeaking of bullshit and Alexander Hamilton. . . When I commenced exploring the Federalist Papers, I noted that the language can be at times dense and opaque. In #23, Hamilton must have shifted back into bullshit mode, as he squeezed out the following bollocks. In addition, note the frequent insertion of breathy commas:

Every view we may take of the subject, as candid inquirers after truth, will serve to convince us, that it is both unwise and dangerous to deny the federal government an unconfined authority, as to all those objects which are intrusted to its management. It will indeed deserve the most vigilant and careful attention of the people, to see that it be modeled in such a manner as to admit of its being safely vested with the requisite powers. If any plan which has been, or may be, offered to our consideration, should not, upon a dispassionate inspection, be found to answer this description, it ought to be rejected. A government, the constitution of which renders it unfit to be trusted with all the powers which a free people OUGHT TO DELEGATE TO ANY GOVERNMENT, would be an unsafe and improper depositary of the NATIONAL INTERESTS. Wherever THESE can with propriety be confided, the coincident powers may safely accompany them. This is the true result of all just reasoning upon the subject. And the adversaries of the plan promulgated by the convention ought to have confined themselves to showing, that the internal structure of the proposed government was such as to render it unworthy of the confidence of the people. They ought not to have wandered into inflammatory declamations and unmeaning cavils about the extent of the powers. The POWERS are not too extensive for the OBJECTS of federal administration, or, in other words, for the management of our NATIONAL INTERESTS; nor can any satisfactory argument be framed to show that they are chargeable with such an excess. If it be true, as has been insinuated by some of the writers on the other side, that the difficulty arises from the nature of the thing, and that the extent of the country will not permit us to form a government in which such ample powers can safely be reposed, it would prove that we ought to contract our views, and resort to the expedient of separate confederacies, which will move within more practicable spheres. For the absurdity must continually stare us in the face of confiding to a government the direction of the most essential national interests, without daring to trust it to the authorities which are indispensible to their proper and efficient management. Let us not attempt to reconcile contradictions, but firmly embrace a rational alternative.

I trust, however, that the impracticability of one general system cannot be shown. I am greatly mistaken, if any thing of weight has yet been advanced of this tendency; and I flatter myself, that the observations which have been made in the course of these papers have served to place the reverse of that position in as clear a light as any matter still in the womb of time and experience can be susceptible of. This, at all events, must be evident, that the very difficulty itself, drawn from the extent of the country, is the strongest argument in favor of an energetic government; for any other can certainly never preserve the Union of so large an empire. If we embrace the tenets of those who oppose the adoption of the proposed Constitution, as the standard of our political creed, we cannot fail to verify the gloomy doctrines which predict the impracticability of a national system pervading entire limits of the present Confederacy.

 

Hamilton and Taxation

Alexander Hamilton

Alexander Hamilton (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Continuing with my review of The Federalist Papers, I’m going to move to a couple of short excerpts from #21 from Alexander Hamilton (did you know his political career was nearly capsized by a sex scandal?). I love this first line:

The wealth of nations depends upon an infinite variety of causes. Situation, soil, climate, the nature of the productions, the nature of the government, the genius of the citizens, the degree of information they possess, the state of commerce, of arts, of industry, these circumstances and many more, too complex, minute, or adventitious to admit of a particular specification, occasion differences hardly conceivable in the relative opulence and riches of different countries. The consequence clearly is that there can be no common measure of national wealth, and, of course, no general or stationary rule by which the ability of a state to pay taxes can be determined. . .

This is an interesting declaration that I will admit I don’t fully understand. His argument seems to be essentially that there are too many intangibles in determining the true wealth of a nation, which lesson he then turns and applies to the impracticability of imposing a just tax on states. This quick dismissal of any attempt to quantify national wealth seems suspect to me, which is why I think I don’t fully understand this. It may be possible that there are political obstacles to a state tax which Hamilton doesn’t want to address here. He then goes on to examine taxation more carefully:

Imposts, excises, and, in general, all duties upon articles of consumption, may be compared to a fluid, which will, in time, find its level with the means of paying them. The amount to be contributed by each citizen will in a degree be at his own option, and can be regulated by an attention to his resources. The rich may be extravagant, the poor can be frugal; and private oppression may always be avoided by a judicious selection of objects proper for such impositions. If inequalities should arise in some States from duties on particular objects, these will, in all probability, be counterbalanced by proportional inequalities in other States, from the duties on other objects. . .

I also found this interesting. This sounds like an awful lot like a description of the ideals of a free market–that imbalances will organically be corrected, without requiring the constricting oversight of regulation. I suppose this philosophical underpinning in capitalism is unsurprising–Hamilton did become the Secretary of the Treasury, after all. However, my understanding is that Hamilton’s running of said office resulted in more central planning than otherwise.

No Apologies

I’ve decided I will no longer apologize–neither to myself nor to my anonymous audience here–for failing to write on this blog. Part of getting older entails sacrifices and necessary shifts from idealisms of youth and hobbies once held sacred. Writing for most of my burgeoning life has been a method for me to cogitate and develop independence of thought, but most importantly, to relieve myself of loneliness and give voice to an inner life long held silent.

But now I am married and professionally immersed. Though I don’t have many close friends in NYC since I moved here five years ago, I don’t generally have time to feel lonely. I continue to develop and refine my philosophies, but that development now either takes place amongst discussion with colleagues at my school, at education conferences or events, or on my professional blog, Schools as Ecosystems.

So while I do miss the personal and introverted creative explorations/exorcisms I once performed regularly here on this blog, I won’t allow myself to be burdened by guilt that I am compromising some essential aspect of my existence. The reality is that I am developing in other ways, and such is as it should be, because it must be, and it will be.

In a Sense

Today we forced ourselves to take the train northwards, out of the gridlock reach of the city, to visit an acquaintance and a museum in a small town with one main street called Main St.

As we wandered the vast warehouse expanse of “modern” art, I reflected on how some pieces seemed calculated to create a sense of alienation, even disgust, in the viewer. What is the purpose of this sheet of metal laying in the middle of a room? What is the purpose of this room filled with paintings of stripes of off white colors? I don’t get works of art like this. There’s something infantile, inaccessible, or passive-agressive about them, in that whatever meaning meant to be constructed is either entirely within the mind of the artist, or peevishly left to be determined by the viewer. The intention of some of the pieces were interesting in a sort of anthropological way, in that they took ordinary objects or materials and attempted perhaps to heighten attention on what constitutes the ordinary, either by way of transplanting them into a gallery, or by way of transforming them into distorted mutant and hybrid objects.

Other pieces were more playful or contained elements of awe, beauty, or surprise that made them much more palatable to non-modern-artistic senses such as mine. Perhaps that means I am just not immersed enough in the lingo and arcana of the visual arts to truly appreciate the more challenging pieces. Maybe I should just stick to Monet and pieces of art appealing to the eye and easily digestible without much further thought.

It’s not that I shrink from intellectual challenge, but I suppose I have never been one to be engaged by cold puzzles of logic, either. I can’t tolerate Sudoku or riddles for this reason. If I’m not engaged by either some deeper purpose, beauty, a sense of connectivity, or at least by just plain old physical engagement (artwork that lets you walk around inside it or on it is always cool), I don’t see the point in it.

Ultimately, art must engage the viewer by telling a story. The artists whose pieces are displayed in this museum are fortunate in that even the most isolated, passive-aggressive, or alienating pieces are united by the encompassing and beautiful layout of the museum itself. The story that is created by the viewer comes from walking around the museum and enjoying its expansive spaces. In some cases, the design and placement of the pieces in the warehouse were more powerful than the actual pieces themselves.

Doubt

To be reflective is to be filled with unending self-doubt.

There is a moment every day during which I consider whether teaching is the correct profession for me, whether I am too unyielding, too introverted, too unempathetic. Do I give everything I could possibly give? Am I incapable of extending myself further, or am I simply unwilling? Are my decisions best for my students, or best for me?

Such reckoning speaks to the quality of my colleagues, who push me everyday to consider whether the tack I take is the proper course. It speaks furthermore to the quality of my school environment and student body, challenging daily the strictures of my limited thought.

This self-doubt serves to partly explain the reluctance I have evidenced for writing during this–my fourth–school year, as to reflect on such weaknesses is like rubbing salt into an open wound. The other part of the explanation is that I have been exhausting my reserves in creating a curriculum which I have been stubbornly attempting to create from the ground up, as well as working as special education coordinator and learning the byzantine byways of special education service jargon, systems and regulations.

But such excuses will no longer serve. I am in danger of becoming complacent, fattened by the distance between my heart and my action. In recognition of this, I hereby resolve to be more reflective, even as it entails greater vulnerability, and may even take away from time I could be spending “being productive.”

There must be a balance.

It’s Been Awhile

It’s been so long since I’ve written anything other than IEPs or lesson plans I don’t know if I can even write anymore, but I figure it’s worth dusting off the old fingerjoints to give it a shot for old times’ sake.

Commitments require sacrifice. I’d like to write blogs, write a book, read books, and read articles, but this year I’ve had to put those things mostly to the side to focus on my curriculum and instruction. 

I’m now working in a school with educators who challenge me every day to be better than who I am and to rethink my beliefs and assumptions. One day I am filled with self-doubt, the next I am ready to stand up for my vision. I’m learning the value in professional debate, a continuously evolving wrestle with complexity.

I’ve got a long way to go in becoming the kind of person that I wish I could be. I suppose half the battle may be that I am aware of this. 

Tisha’s Dream

Tisha dreamt of the light that seeps down through the canopy of old growth forest, drifting finally to rest on a loam of humus. In this place, sentience is rightly perceived as stillness. Everyday city life overturned through the imagined primordial lens of encompassing wilderness, everything that hums and flits and flashes falls away, leaving this shell-of-Tisha, this oblique presence. Even in this light, the dream light, soft and downy in her quiescent mind, her mother’s voice drifted, gravelly with smoke and unfiltered territoriality, shards of motorcycles and manufactured bass lines brushing against Tisha’s veil, a temporal safe haven known even to her dreaming self as fragmented, not-enough. Never enough. Arriving at school the next day scattered, stretched, frantic again. To be yelled at by her teacher. To be yelled at later by her mother. To be yelled at by her mother’s boyfriend. Get this. Do that. You’re stupid. You’re never enough. You’re never good enough. You’re never whole enough. Pieces of a self being eaten.

Let Obama Stand for What He Truly Represents: US

Well, corporate media has done it, you gotta hand it to them: they’ve consistently portrayed the presidential campaign as completely boring, distanced from all real issues, and overblown so many small dramas out of proportion that most people are sick of it all already. Good job guys! Way to promote apathy!

And guess who the winner will be if this environment of apathy and disconnect continues to be so convincingly portrayed? Why, the party that appears to best benefit from voter apathy, ignorance, misunderstanding, bipartisanship, and bigotry: the Republican party.

I don’t want to see this happen. So I’m urging you to please bear in mind when scanning your newspaper or Google news or whatever source you use to get your information that politics is not simply about soundbytes, allegations, and big media-backed rebuttals. Politics can be whatever people demonstrate concern about. We don’t have to allow ourselves to be steered into gossip politics, where the “hot topic” revolving around Barack Obama is something that his pastor said. Who cares what his pastor has said? (Heard what some of McCain’s spiritual advisor has said?) What about what Obama himself is saying, or any of the other candidates, for that matter? Have you been listening to any of that? Well, the media sure ain’t. They are just looking to sell drama and sensationalism. Apparently they don’t think that issues that actually matter will mean anything to the masses.

What’s frustrating is that the whole national discourse has changed, and politicians are reflecting this change, but the big media is still desperately plugging away with the same routine. Haven’t they gotten it yet? I want to see headlines describing the environmental policy stances of the candidates. I want to see investigative articles about long-term plans the candidates will have to combat our country’s educational system decline, global warming and carbon emissions, and suburban sprawl.

What’s especially interesting when it comes to Barack Obama is that they are obviously looking for some weakness in his armor, something they can use to bring him down. But the worst they can find is something his pastor has said. The worst they can find is the fact that he is calling for trying diplomacy first before wildly dropping bombs and invading all enemies (remember why we ended up in Iraq in the first place?). These tactics must be seen as the pathetic diversion that they are: attempts to keep the public from concentrating on the real issues that matter that Obama and Hillary have been bringing to the fore, such as increased coverage of health care, working together across party lines to create a common plan and vision for the future, dealing with climate change, and attempting to address the problems in Iraq in a more healing manner than simply throwing contracting money and troops at it.

I’m going to keep bitching about big media until I consistently see important issues reflected in the presidential campaign, not just squabbling, gossip, and smear tactics.

Organize Your Self

I grew up with my momma cleaning up most of my scattered detritus after me. I’ve never been a terribly messy person, but I certainly wasn’t clean either. I considered myself organized because I would make piles in terms of accessibility: the most recent thing that I had just used would be on top, so I would know where to find something I used frequently.

Since then I’ve learned how to maintain cleanliness and organization. Having girls as roommates for a couple of years has helped, as they would yell at me about being messy until I started cleaning up after myself. Then after working in the housekeeping department for a few years, I developed a higher level of personal standards of organization and cleanliness, because I had to tell other people how to clean, and not only how to clean well, but furthermore why they should want to clean well. I would generally approach this issue from a philosophical standpoint regarding the broader issue of why working hard and applying yourself fully to work–no matter the given task–is a definitive life-skill.

I’m going to take the argument for why working hard is an important capability for everyone to have and broaden that concept a little more to introduce the idea that how we think, act, and organize ourselves in our private lives is deeply and intimately related to how we develop and achieve our goals professionally. This might seem simple to you in concept, but in reality not many people really make that connection. So let me see what I can make of it.

Clean Up, Organize, and Maintain Your Life

Yeah, I know. This is sounding like a self-help, motivational thing all of a sudden. But sometimes hearing it from other people is refreshing, because I can tell ya, hearing it from myself is refreshing. Look, you need to clean up after yourself. And I’m not just talking about your dishes or your clothes. I’m talking about behind your couch, behind the toilet, underneath the sink, those boxes full of junk in the attic. Every inch of living space that you leave to fester unattended is representative of a space within yourself. If you have a tendency to hoard things and allow them to pile up until it overruns your living area, then guess what? Chances are quite good that you allow emotional baggage in your life, both professionally and personally, to build up until they affect and infect your everyday existence as well.

Obviously, there’s differing levels of maintenance required, dependent on high and low traffic areas. But it’s all ultimately part of a whole. You’ve got to get a handle on the whole thing in order to know that you are on top of it, and the only way you can do that is by starting now in tackling all the areas that you’ve been pushing away and allowing to sit unattended. Once you’ve done a “deep clean”, or “spring clean” or whatever you want to call it, then you can settle back into the daily routine of doing your dishes, picking up your clothes, vacuuming your carpet, etc, and simply doing semi-deeper cleans periodically. But every single space, outer and inner, top to bottom, must be accounted for if you want to get your life in order.

Don’t believe me? I don’t got no psychology degree, but I can tell you that cleaning (please only use non-toxic cleaners!) is indeed therapy. We reflect our living environments. There are some things that we can’t control, like the guy on the subway who curses us for no good reason, or the pinecone that fell on top of our head right as we walked underneath it. But in the areas of our lives that are under our control, it is imperative that we empower ourselves to organize and maintain those areas in order to allow ourselves to develop.

I’m not saying to be OCD about it. But I’m letting you know that allowing your baggage to build up and sit for years in a corner is equivalent to effectively blinding yourself to your own problems, even as they culminate to become a visible monster, visible to everyone except yourself.

This baggage, this junk, this dirt, mildew, mold, mice, and other assorted benefits of laxness will manifest itself in your life in terms of your relationships and work life as well. You will be the person who never moves upward in job responsibility, who never moves forward in a relationship. You will be the person who wants to ignore their own hand in their failure to achieve. You will be the person whose computer runs so slow that it’s basically an Apple IIe in boot time.

Present Yourself Well to Everyone

We like to think that when it comes to friends that we can let our guards down and just let it all hang out, without being judged or condemned. But in fact, it is often our friends that are our harshest critics–for the very reason that they have greater insight into our lives and how we live it. Unfortunately, our friends don’t often want to tell us straightforwardly their criticisms, and so we rarely get the feedback from the people that are best capable of giving us that feedback. Instead, we get that critical feedback from strangers or hostile acquaintances, and by then, we aren’t really positioned to listen to them.

It’s important that we present ourselves well to everyone, from strangers to family members. Everyone judges. It’s human nature. We aren’t saints–we use our brains and our eyeballs and we compare and contrast other people with ourselves. With friends and family members, we CAN let our guards down, and we know that we can always come back to open arms. But only to a certain point. You see, if you keep acting like an inconsiderate slob or snob around a loved one, at some point, they will get fed up with it. And no matter how much someone may like you for your wit and company, they will probably not recommend you to their employer when you are looking for a job if you walk around all day with the crack of your ass showing. You can’t take your friends and family for granted. In fact, you shouldn’t take anyone for granted. You should treat every single person in your day with the same respect. Because it all comes back to you.

And another point here is that appearance is related to integrity. That ties in with my overall theme, which is that your personal life ties in intimately with your professional life. The way you look, the way you talk, the way you think. How you lead your private life has repercussions on the way your interactions on the street and on the job go. Call it karma, call it do-unto-others-as-they-would-do-unto-you, call it what you like. Just recognize that everything you do is related to everyone else, and that people may not be able to see who you are in your fundamental being, being as it are that they are not saints, don’t really give a shit about you, and have enough to deal with in their own lives, BUT, even completely random strangers on the street get a vibe from you. People in your workplace get a feeling from the way you talk, the way you carry yourself. Your friends know you for certain qualities. Your family jokes about how you always did this and that as a tyke. Who you are and what you do are unimpeachably interrelated.

Take All Criticism Into Consideration

I kind of went into this point a little bit above when I talked about how even the closest of friends can be your harshest critics. But sometimes a complete stranger will criticize you. Sometimes it will be your boss at work. And you will want to say “fuck you” and disregard everything they said to you. And that’s completely understandable, and in certain situations, that is exactly what you should do. However, there are also many times when you should be listening. Criticism, especially when it occurs on the job, should be taken as constructive, even when it sounds harsh and demeaning. Some managers simply aren’t good people, aren’t good managers, and don’t know how to communicate well with different people. But they are trying to get something across. And sometimes your friends, family, and even complete strangers are as well.

Taking a criticism of yourself into consideration does not weaken you unless you feel that it is so valid that you can’t see any way of answering it. So you need to take it head on. Let yourself be challenged. Take every criticism as a lesson from a teacher, and see how you can use it to develop yourself and make yourself stronger.

It’s like on American Idol. Paula Abdul thinks she’s everyone’s friend. She’s not. Simon Cowell is the one to listen to. He is honest, to the point of being brutal. If you did a shitty job, he will tell you that you did a shitty job, while Paula blathers on about dreams and how wonderful you are. If the contestant listens to Paula, and shuts out Simon, then he/she is most likely just about to be voted off the show. Simon may be harsh, but he is attempting to provide constructive criticism that should be taken into consideration if the artist wants to develop and progress.

Sometimes people just don’t phrase it to you in the right ways so that it can slip in past your ego. So you need to just drop your ego sometimes and really listen to other people when they critique you. Let yourself be judged. Learning to wade through other people’s problems and picking out what is of use to you and what drags you down is how you grow. Often in the midst of the bricolage of someone elses’ jealousy, desire, rage, and anguish is a gem of constructive criticism that is waiting to be taken into your consideration and worked on.

Alright, so I think I am just about cleaned out on any further burning nuggets of wisdom that I feel the need to bestow on you right now. I’ll plop out any new ones as they come along. I’ve still got a lot of growing and learning to do myself, but I’ve been thinking about these particular things that I’ve learned as I’ve been coming up against extreme change in my life, both professionally, emotionally, spatially, and otherwise.

I’m now an Ubuntu geek

I’ve made the leap into a completely new operating system for my laptop, Ubuntu 8.04, and I am extremely happy with my decision. For those of you who don’t know about Ubuntu, as I didn’t until very recently, let me fill you in with a quick overview: Ubuntu is a completely free operating system which is offered as a platform for Linux, which is an open source/free software kernel for computing systems. It is just as powerful as Windows Vista or the Mac OS, except that there is a collaborative, open-source community behind it.

I grew up with computers, and I was what one would definitely call a computer nerd for a good portion of my developing life. My dad is an electrical engineer, and so he liked fiddling around with new gadgets and technology. He brought home our first computer, the Apple IIe, and I can remember sitting and watching the computer booting up off the floppy disks for 15 minutes, saying “please wait . . .”. I would play games like Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?, or Oregon Trail. I also would make up my own little games or graphics in the BASIC language.

DOS was something that I could understand. I knew how to navigate in it. Windows 3.1 threw me for a loop at first, but eventually, I grew used to that as well, and learned how to configure it for my needs and know its shortcuts. During this time in my computer geekiness, which was now around middle school, I would spend hours on-line in chat rooms, learning how to type at super quick speeds, learning that I can be witty if I have time to type it out on a keyboard, and learning also that there are a lot of weird people on the internet (I almost had an affair with an older married woman). But then the next version of Windows came out, and I suddenly no longer felt engaged with my computer any longer. Windows shut me out. It was overly secretive and didn’t allow you to configure it and personalize it easily unless you delved into much more complicated and confusing languages and processes. I was also growing older at that point and had other interests and methods of relating to other people, and so my computer nerdness was put on a long-term hiatus. Since then, like most people, I’ve only used computers primarily to write emails, use the word processor, and surf the internet.

Now that I’ve switched to Ubuntu, however, some of my computer geekness has suddenly came back out of the closet. I am excited about messing around with my computer again, not simply using it for my normal computing tasks. I feel once more that I am in control, that I can personalize it and configure it however I want to, as long as I spent some time learning and exploring the new environment. I feel like I’m engaged with a community which is just as excited to explore new possibilities that are all oriented around the power of the individual, not simply the power of a corporation making money off of the individual by keeping its information secure.

There are other benefits, too: Ubuntu is simply faster and better organized, allowing for higher productivity. I had already been using the OpenOffice.org‘s suite of office programs, as I was unwilling to shell out the doe for the WIndows programs, and programs such as Mozilla’s Firefox have long been on my must-use program list for the same reason. The difference between Ubuntu and Windows is like the difference between Firefox and Internet Explorer: one is extremely quick, secure, and easy-to-use, the other is cumbersome, fraught with latent security issues, and overly programmed. Guess which one is which.

Ubuntu, Linux, and other open source and free software communities are all about computer geekiness and that excitement that spawned the computing revolution and internet sprawl in the first place. So I highly recommend switching to Ubuntu if you have any computer nerdiness lurking inside of you, waiting to come out.

Soul Searching

The purpose of this blog is as a venue for me to dig down deep inside of myself to find connection to my greater environment. I feel that I’ve been extremely lax of late, for various reasons that are not all my fault, but still, I feel the days slip by without a cathartic post like a weight over my shoulders. I feel like I’m letting not so much my readers down but the very blog itself. It deserves better. It deserves my best, my most attentive and heartfelt soul searching, my most creative and risk-taking aplomb.

I believe that the act of creative writing is of the utmost importance to everyone who searches, not simply to “writers.” The act of writing creatively is to reach down inside of yourself to discover meaning and purpose from places that you may not have known even existed. It is something much deeper than journaling—though journaling is a step in the right direction. It is an attempt to move beyond surfaces, plunge straight through into the threshold between sub and super-conscience, to delve beyond action and narrative and directly into feeling, and to bring these inarticulate ranges into sound, into sight, into the world where they can be related, communicated, and transformed. To write, then, is in a sense to shed, to seek, to grow.

It is also a stepping outside of time, outside of the everyday world, to take stock of what is within. It is an alternate world momentarily created in the space between my fingertips that rove over the keyboard, and thence between your eyes that draft over the word bits on the screen. It is movement into the void, into the darkness within yourself that folds over you in times of stillness, despair, and loneliness.

It doesn’t have to be pretty. In fact, it shouldn’t be pretty at all. It should be challenging, breath taking, anguished, perplexing, staring you down across the subway tracks. It should call out to you like a baby in a vacuum, words mouthed through a telephonic lens, fire capsuled in a flow that can’t be confined simply to this subject, this person, this place. It should reach through, eventually, somewhere, at some level, to everything.

Tracing the path of the roots to the sky is the reason why I bother to focus on this, at the behest and detriment of my everyday self. Here, I can find something better, yearning, unashamedly ambitious and desirous of beauty, yet still backed by my own breath. Here, I can try to be what I can’t be in the busy ebb and flow of surface life, the self that sits, the self that waits patiently to speak when the passionate pulse of life is through. Here, I search and I seek the soul that meets me halfway in the night to you.

An Ode to Zit

What a terribly wonderful word is “zit.” It encapsulates so appropriately the moniker for a pustule. It is rare, I feel, in the English language that words often sound truly appropriate to their designation. But “zit” really does it. It sounds like something that would be bursting forth with pus, irritated, erupting, bubbling bloody red and yellow. Zit. Furthermore, the fact that it so wonderfully utilizes the letter “z” is another great thing to attribute to it. So concise and vivid! When one says, “I’ve got a zit,” there is no questioning that you have just made a statement about something terrible. Even if you didn’t understand a lick of English, this declaration would be sure to instill insecurity and trembling in the listener, simply due to that condensed trio of phonetic terror, the “z” to the “eh” to the “tuh”. It’s a word loaded with loathing, dimunition, and disgust. A bullet of despair, yet with a kind of stoic pride, too. A kind of pragmatic zip, a coming to terms with the situation. “I’ve got a zit”; not, “I’ve got a pimple.” (A sort of stately evasion, an attempt at nobility.) And god knows, you ain’t sayin’, “I’ve got me a pustule.” You wouldn’t say that unless you were in the doctor’s office. No indeed, the use of the word “zit” is a kind of acknowledgment of the direness of the situation, that requires getting down into the muck of slang language to wrestle with in terms of one’s self image. It demonstrates an ability to cope, to look at the zit square in the pus, to say, “I’m gonna wait until you are ripe, and then I’m totally gonna pop you, motherfucker” kind of thing. You know what I mean. It’s just a totally inappropriately appropriate word, like “motherfucker” or “douche-bag.” And don’t even get me started on those ones.

Piss-Farts

Let’s be frank: there is nothing quite as good as the feeling of emitting a sizeable portion of gas while you are engaged in the act of pissing. Known as the piss-fart, this is truly a moment of bliss. Just that little puff of fart that you emit in a moment of dual release–for not only are you pissing, which is in and of itself a wonderful feeling if you really engage all your senses whilst in the act (as long as you don’t got the clap or something)–but you are further sliding out that awaiting toot that had been creeping amidst your lower intestinal tract for just such a moment. It feels good. The fart is like a punctuation of well being, a verification of your existence, accentuating the fact that everything now is well, is being put into its proper place, siphoned appropriately, relaxed–you sigh appreciatively, waggle the wand, and walk from the location of waste disposal feeling accomplished.
Go ahead, admit it. A piss-fart is akin to some of the highest states of ecstasy. If Mark Twain was more of a crass sort of open-minded feller, he would have written about a piss-fart as told through his character of Huck Finn. A piss-fart on the banks of the Mississippi. What could beat such freedom?

Tell Ya Momma Come, Tell Ya Poppa Come

If you come acrost these pages and peruse them for longer than 0.01 seconds, indeed, if you come back multiple times, please spread the word, get other folks in on this here shit. Word of mouth and such. I’d like to expand my reader base, in other words. World domination being the ultimate goal, of course. Post the website address on lamp posts. Send it to your friends. Etc. Thank you for reading. Grassroots.