Sunday, June 5, 2016

The Rise Of Happiness Bigotry

"Just chill out maaaan, everything's going to be fine" could essentially be the mantra for contemporary Americans, and not just the Millennials either. It seems like everyone from pre teens to senior citizens have been bitten by the fake happiness bug here in the US. Many people claim that they are intentionally "choosing" to be happy, and if you happen to be radiating at even a slightly less sun shiny frequency than they are, well then, you must be miserable on purpose, and therefore, you should be shunned immediately. After all, why would you want to ruin the party for all these amazing people who are "living every day to the fullest" and "following their dreams"?

It only takes a passing glance at social media to realize just how badly the fake happiness virus has infected people here in the United States, and I suspect much of the Western world at large. If I were to judge the level of contendedness of most Americans by their online personas, I could safely say that most Americans are living in the adult equivalent of Disneyland. For instance, almost every single woman on OKCupid (a dating site I continue to waste my time on for some ungodly reason, probably because it's still free and I remember when it had a much more "fringe" clientele that has since been close to eradicated by the conformists dolts who now pollute it) claims to be nothing short of farting rainbows, and they demand no less of a sunshiney disposition from whomever they're hoping to attract on there. At the same time, almost every man's profile on there purports how "easy going" they are. Many of these people claim to be this way ALL THE TIME in their profiles, which has me furrowing my brow, scratching my head and often exclaiming "give me a fucking break..."

Facebook is even worse. It's so bad in fact, that much of the reason why I disabled my account was because I simply couldn't handle being lectured about my negativity and my propensity for complaining any more, often from people I knew only peripherally or barely knew at all. Any time I'd post about how I thought a movie sucked, or how my boss was pissing me off, some jerkoff couldn't resist chiming in about how I "needed to be more positive" or that I actually enjoyed being unhappy, and was making myself feel that way on purpose.

Positivity pep talks also came from people I knew well enough in real life to be even crankier and more miserable than myself, yet they felt like they needed to craft some kind of fake online persona where their lives were completely amazing. All the obnoxious memes they posted with pictures of kittens "hanging on", and various other slogans devoted to resilience and the importance of "never giving up" were completely disingenuous and I knew it. So did they. Yet somehow, they felt compelled to "call me out" on my negativity and literally ORDER me to be happy, as if it was a switch that I simply decided I was going to keep in the off position because I liked to annoy people or something.

Trust me, if happiness were a switch I could choose to turn on and off, I would have flipped that mofo on and left it "on" from the minute I was conscious enough to do so, but my life hasn't worked out that way. Moreover, when it comes to my relationship with my immediate family, I have legitimately been dealt a shitty hand. Shitty enough in fact, that I'm often amazed that I haven't ended up in a far worse place than I am now, given some of the dark emotional locales I've been forced to visit many times over the years. What some would call "low expectations" I call "extremely optimistic ones".

Simply put, I'm not wired for happiness, or should I say, the superficial "happiness" which has become a religion in this country. Of course, I enjoy and savor every moment of legitimate happiness I feel in my life, but I am also well aware that those moments are usually fleeting. That is ok with me though, because if there's one thing that can be downright dangerous to lie about, it's lying about how happy you are. If you are truly hurting inside and you do NOTHING to try and deal with that pain, the end result could be much more harmful and hurtful than it if you had acknowledged the problem early on and tried to do something to cope with it.

I'm starting to think that Americans are suffering from a real, deep seated, collective denial and even a bit of Stockholm Syndrome related to the fact that The American Dream, as it's been sold to us, is pretty much kaput. Americans are officially in the "denial" stage of this reality, and rather than confront the fact that, in many ways, we need to learn how to adjust to the economic and energy realities of the future, which will be much leaner than what we have today, they opt to essentially bury their heads in the sand and pretend they're full of joy and everything's fine. Much like how fracking is a desperate attempt to continue down the course of infinite growth and happy motoring, which seems to be reaching its zenith as we speak, the "happiness industry" is a desperate attempt to try and convince us all that "everything's going to be ok" when clearly it isn't.

The hysteria surrounding the upcoming presidential election is all the proof I need to validate this theory.

Over the years I've been given massive amounts of happiness haranguing from condescending, arm chair psychiatrists who thought they knew me better than I knew myself. Their "advice" usually consisted of reprimanding me for "spending too much time thinking about things I have no control over" and "wasting too much time worrying about what other people are doing" (again, if it were a switch, I'd be flippin' it kids...) Many times, these people made me feel REALLY guilty for being unhappy, even if they were only vaguely aware of what was making me unhappy in the first place, and sometimes, completely unaware of my state of mind, and largely uninterested in it. They just demanded that I behave the way they ordered me to behave. Welcome to my personal hell of "you be much happier and more successful at ______ if you only played by the rules/ did better in school/ ignored your basic instincts/ shut up and did what we told you to do".

Given a LOT of personal reflection, I'm starting to actually think that I might have done some of these Happiness Bigots a great service by reminding them that not everybody buys into this disgusting lie that has swindled the American public into thinking they can paleo, rock climb, yoga, feng shui or speed date their way to a brighter future (aka "spend their time and money on fruitless endeavors that will be largely unrewarding in the end"). Happiness Bigotry may very well be one of the shrewdest marketing campaigns ever engineered, as it tugs at our very heart strings, and coerces, guilt trips and ultimately BULLIES us into behaving the way the rank and file demand that we behave. After all, this phenomenon was created here in America, where virtually everything in the media is essentially a cleverly marketed consumer swindle. Perhaps I am, in essence, still a very virulent, rebellious, anti corporate rebel for denying the ultimate pyramid scheme of fake contentment.

Because, let's think about it, if Americans are so obsessed with happiness, then why are we so shitty at ACTUALLY ACHIEVING IT? Talkers talk and doers do. Today's happiness merchants are much like the mirror image of the Gnostics of the Dark Ages. While the Gnostics sought to find enlightenment in a rather Apocalyptic environment by rejecting most of the spiritual mores of orthodox Christianity, today's Happiness Bigots seek to find enlightenment by rejecting their own, very basic emotions. Their quest is similarly Quixotic, and ultimately futile.

No one is happy ALL the time, and we wouldn't be programmed with the wide swathe of emotions that we have if they weren't all, in one way or another useful for something. The nervous guy in your group may alert you to dangers you didn't immediately recognize. The angry girl in your group may have given you all the gumption to hit the picket line and ultimately get better wages. The sad, withdrawn kid may be trapped in his own personal hell, but he creates some beautiful artwork, that you ultimately enjoy and then praise him for. While your positive response doesn't cure him of his malaise, it gives him some warmth and some hope, enough to continue on to his next creation. THAT is real happiness.


1) For the purpose of getting more views on this article, I almost titled it "The Rise Of Happiness Fascism", but the use of the term "bigotry" in my title is NOT to be confused with the word "fascism", which is defined as "a governmental system led by a dictator having complete power, forcibly suppressing opposition and criticism, regimenting all industry, commerce, etc., and emphasizing an aggressive nationalism and often racism". "Fascist" and "fascism" often get thrown around by leftist nudnicks who don't feel like utilizing a thesaurus to make the correct, relevant point. And to be fair, I have seen plenty of right wing idiots use the "F" word to incorrectly defame zealous leftists as well. What both sides mean to say when they use the term fascist, is essentially how I'm using the term "bigot", which is defined as "a person who is utterly intolerant of any differing creed, belief, or opinion" and in the case of the current wave of people who "choose happiness" the term "bigot" is entirely appropriate.

2) "Happiness fascism" is mentioned in this article here, and although I dislike the incorrect use of the word, the author does make some good points.

3) Two books that deal with this subject quite eloquently are "Fuck Feelings" by Michael Bennett and Sarah Bennett and "The Upside Of Your Dark Side" by Todd Kashsand and Robert Biswas- Diener

Monday, December 19, 2011

Analog Games FTW

In the town where I grew up we had a really unique department store known as “The Fair”. The Fair tried very hard to be on par with other more established department stores at the time, such as Caldor, Sears and K Mart, but ended up being a lot more like the popular “factory closeouts” store Building 19 instead. The Fair always had a whole lot of second rate, sub par crap mixed in with a small amount of chic, quality new stuff, so it was a toss up as to whether you were going to leave there with a new pair of Levi's or a broken fishing pole you bought for $3.00. At any rate, whatever The Fair got in as a new shipment would be quickly bought up by the population of my little podunk town, whether it was reconditioned Sanyo “Walkman” knockoffs or really awful looking pirate Ozzy t shirts. Once you saw a good percentage of your classmates in school with cheap cassette players, cheap Air Jordan's knockoff sneakers, and/ or even cheaper quality bootleg t shirts, you knew they got them at The Fair.

The Fair often got really weird stuff you'd never find anywhere else, such as a few random Slayer, Metallica and Anthrax tour shirts (three bands I was the biggest and only fan of in my town), Vietnam war era canteens and covers, machetes, cheap hollow handled “Rambo” survival knives, and a widely revolving selection of board games and playing cards. Since thrash metal, military surplus and board games are a few of my favorite things, it wasn't uncommon of me to blow my entire allowance or paper route earnings there on a weekly basis.

One thing they had a very lucrative supply of for awhile were these small, travel sized board games with magnetic playing pieces that stuck to the metal surface of the game board. These game boards doubled as carrying cases that folded in half and held the small pieces inside. They probably only measured about six inches square when opened, and it was VERY easy to lose their miniscule pieces, but myself and a few other nerds at my school became obsessed with them. By the end of the first month of The Fair stocking these cheap games (they seemed to get two to three new ones every week), my friends and I had acquired backgammon, chess, checkers, reversie (more commonly known as “Othello”), Parcheesi and Chinese checkers. Our lunches and study breaks were soon consumed with very intense game playing, albeit with very miniscule, rather unimpressive looking game sets.

After I'd become acquainted with most of the basic board games available to us here in North America, I started to set out on the task of trying to create my own. Not necessarily my own original games per se, but my own versions of existing ones, albeit with more exciting looking boards and playing pieces. I remember making a backgammon set out of scrap plywood and glass chips that were laying around in my basement in sixth grade, and although it looked cool, I don't think anyone ever played it with me. Still, I was determined to become the game master, although the demographics of gaming were beginning to shift big time.

By the late 1980's, myself and most of the kids in my town were fully immersed in Nintendo's first large scale video game system, so my love of board and card games went on the back burner. Although I owned a Nintendo (and before that, an Atari), I pretty much sucked at video games and still do. At this time I was also dabbling a bit with Dungeons and Dragons, which my friend Sang had a bunch of books and modules for, but that quickly got boring for me as it wasn't visual enough. There's just something about moving cool looking pieces around on a cool looking board, rolling neat looking dice and looking at cool playing cards that I'm a sucker for. If you try to replace that with a computer game controller, or using my imagination for some abstract role playing game it just isn't the same (although I do admit, the dice used in D & D are pretty bad ass...)

The only holdouts my friends and I had left for actual analog games in jr. high school were Risk and a game called Shogun, which we played religiously at my friend Neil's house every weekend. These were both involved, strategy/ conquest type of games, with Shogun being essentially a Risk knockoff, dedicated to the conquest of feudal Japan. Both of these games took hours, and sometimes even days to play, and the end result was often physical violence between friends if cheating was suspected or fake alliances were formed. I can only imagine what these gaming sessions would have been like if drugs or alcohol were involved, I think you would have seen some of the biggest nerds on earth transform into completely scary, feral barbarians.

So being the true Renaissance Man that I am, lately it has become my quest to make analog gaming cool again. This serves a multitude of purposes, but a few of them are as follows.

The first is, I'm sick of all this techno narcissism going on with people so I'm moving in the opposite direction. You just got a great new live action role playing app for your Iphone? Cool. I just got a cheap set of dominoes at the thrift store. You're treating yourself to the new Wii for Christmas? Awesome. I just bought a chess set for a dollar. You're working on your new World Of Warcraft character? Great. I'm going to make my own hafentafl set. My point is, like most of technology as we know it, I think gaming has also essentially reached its peak and has nowhere to go but down, so the time is ripe for the return of classic board, dice and card games.

The second reason for my current obsession with non electrified games is that they have an historical precedent that seems a bit downplayed by many archaeologists and historians. For instance, backgammon is one of the oldest board games known to man, and remnants of ancient backgammon sets have been found all throughout Central Asia, with Iran being host to the oldest known backgammon set (circa 3000 BC). To put it lightly, backgammon is older than dirt, and much like Iggy Pop, The Reverend Horton Heat and the late great Johnny Cash, being old doesn't make it any less cool. And even though ancient artifacts are usually unable to convey emotion, unless we are speaking about artistic rendering which clearly portrays a dramatic, violent or other such intense visage, I still think that antiquated games (even cheapo plastic ones) have a certain elegance about them that video games can't touch.

Games can be put into the same category as other mundane objects such as tools, pottery, weapons, clothing, etc. They usually do not carry any imprint of emotion, except in the case of stylized chess sets or some weird spoon with a really sad looking face carved into the handle or something. Unless you know the history of an ancient or otherwise antiquated object, you can only speculate that the wonderfully powerful looking Samurai sword we're viewing in a museum was once held up by a man named Kimura San who exclaimed “goddamn, Imma open a serious can of whoop ass on Yokozuna with this!” In actuality, ole Kimura might have been presented with the sword by master bladesmith Konishi- Sama and said something more like “goddamn, that dude needs to lay off the sake, this thing's a piece of crap.”

The point is, these old games LOOK like they were really important, and their preponderance in important grave mounds and ruined cities leads me to really want to believe that they held extremely important cultural and even spiritual significance. I like to envision important decisions being made by the glow of candles, with bone carved dice being thrown by bearded men who decided the fate of the civilizations of yore, based on the roll of the dice or the outcome of a chess match. Who knows, maybe they were just created for entertainment value and to combat boredom, but I really hope the conversation went something like “that's right Erik, when I beat your ass in hafentafl, you'll owe me ALL of your estate in Greenland!” and not “goddammit Olaf, I don't have TIME to play that crap, can't you see I'm cleaning that priest's guts off of my boots?”

And the final reason I want to make analog games cool again is because their appeal is literally timeless, and they require very little in the way of resources to be able to play them. You don't need electricity, the internet, lots of money, sobriety, physical fitness, expensive sneakers, lots of room or even all of your fingers to be able to play most of them. Hell, in most instances you can even make your own damn games from easily acquired cheap or free materials.

Analog games serve as a bonding experience for friends and family, and even in the case of my aunt and my cousins (who have all been playing cribbage practically as long as they've been able to walk) they inspire healthy competition and something to do at family outings. Granted, not everyone leaves the kids/ card table in a jovial mood after taunts and jeering, but at the very least, it gets people talking, interacting and doing something. Video games just seem really... I dunno... sterile to me. Sure, they can definitely be fun and create a lot of drama, but I actually miss conversations like “you sided with Jason's army behind my back!? I'll fkin KILL you!” which was brought upon by a cheap game of Risk gone wrong.

Non electrified games have been enjoyed long before we even had a grid and will be enjoyed long after it goes down. You can bet that I'll be pulling my magnetic travel checkers out of my knapsack to decide who'll be milking the goats when I finally purchase my dream homestead, and the only grid I'll need is the one I'm playing “go” on dammit...


-I actually have to take back some of the derogatory comments I made about video games, as I am guilty of playing two semi regularly. One is the PC freeware version of Stratego, and the other is a Bicycle "abandonware" cribbage game (both are easy to find as free downloads). Granted, I'd much rather actually play both of these games with actual, physical game boards and opponents, but that isn't always convenient. So, much like an inflate- a- mate, they serve as the next best thing.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Irony We Can No Longer Afford

Ahhhh the irony. The Grand Old Party, hell bent on returning us to the glory days when god, guns and guts made America free, appoints a blubbering, emotionally unstable clown with a fake bake as their spokesperson. The party determined to sustain the absolutely idiotic and unsustainable lifestyle of suburban sprawl gleefully backs a semi literate nudnick named Sarah Palin as a potential presidential candidate. The Grand Old Party, known to be notorious shills and lobbyists for multinational corporations and the uber- rich, actually supports the actions of a bunch of overgrown children known as the Tea Party, claiming that they are the voice of Joe Sixpack here in America.


The Democrats are just as bad. Mr. Change himself has yet to grow the cajones necessary to throw even ONE SINGLE THIEF from Wall Street in jail, after the banks, GM, Fannie, Freddie, ad nauseum extorted trillions of dollars from the federal government that the American taxpayer will ultimately have to foot the bill for. Mr. President has himself proven to be nothing more than yet ANOTHER shoeshine boy for the multinationals, the entity which we can plainly see is REALLY in charge of our destiny here in the Western world.

More and more these people appear to be nothing more than over glorified cartoon characters. Talking heads on a television screen, reading scripted dialog off of teleprompters. Their MSNBC/ Fox News crew of cheerleaders come across as awkward high school students in a corny after school play. You can't help but laugh at them, and pity them a little bit at the same time.

The irony is that our corporate masters dumped us a long time ago for younger, cuter, cheaper and lower maintenance Asian mistresses. They've been skipping their alimony payments, and pretty soon won't be paying us at all. For awhile we made out ok, as they were treating us to regular dinner dates at Burger King and KFC, but their Asian harem is getting restless, and demanding to be fed more than just Top Ramen. Their harem seems to have expanded quite a bit over the last decade too, taking on exotic lovers from India, Southeast Asia and South Korea.

The irony is that the banking sector held America hostage and extorted trillions of dollars in "bailout" money, so that wealthy execs could keep their condos in Antigua and give themselves raises. The irony is that these thieves stole our money and not a single one of them was held accountable for ANYTHING. The irony is that these plutocrats continue to rip us off, and we're doing absolutely NOTHING to stop them.

Irony. You see it everywhere. From overweight, suburban wanna be thugs, to "hipsters" wearing stupid trucker hats and growing bad moustaches. From ridiculous TEA Party idiots who rave on and on about freedom, yet insist that Creationism is valid and climate change is not, to "environmentally aware" leftists who drive to the farmer's market in SUV's. The whole kit n kaboodle is starting to look rather ugly, and not in a way that I find ironic at all.

Irony is a luxury we cannot afford anymore. It's time for us to get serious and start acting like adults, because it's clear that adults aren't running the show here in the US. Post industrialized America has been a prolonged exercise in trying to sustain a society built on dwindling fossil fuels, and even though those fuels are diminishing in supply, they are increasing in demand exponentially by the day. America has set the standard worldwide for reckless, wasteful behavior and somehow made it look glamorous. Since no one wants to be left out of the party, we'll soon see the price of oil skyrocketing as oil producing nations are unable to keep up with the demand from "up and coming" economic giants like China and India.

Many will tout alternative energy sources as the solution to our oil addiction, but they are living in a fantasy world. We missed the boat on that 20+ years ago, as the infrastructure and production facilities necessary to make the switch from fossil fuels to alternative energies were never built. In typical American fashion, we shirked our responsibilities and fell asleep at the wheel because we were too busy partying during the cheap oil boom the realize that it wasn't going to last forever. We never took any pause to realize that we were going to have to wake up eventually with a rather unpleasant hangover.

It's up to us to get plan "B" in action while we still can, and contrary to what WAYYY too many optimists want to believe, plan B will have little to do with driving electric cars or relying on an economy solely based on mindless consumerism. The days of spending our money on superfluous crap and gambling for commodities in the stock market are soon to be over, likely for good.

I don't proclaim to be an oracle with the ability to predict the future, and I would caution against taking the advice of anyone who does. I WILL however, say that I feel that now, more than ever we are on the verge of a global economic collapse that will affect the way of life in the US in ways that almost NO ONE is prepared to deal with.

When I do talk to so- called "survivalists" who claim to be ready for the collapse simply because they own a lot of guns, it's laughable. Have fun eating and drinking bullets Rambo. When I talk to Christians who are convinced that the Rapture is coming, it's sad. What if there is no Rapture, and what kind of god do you worship who tells you that the best thing you can do to help your family and your community is to die?

When I talk to conspiracy theorists who think the US government is all powerful and will soon institute a One World Government, I shudder. We have the most powerful military in the world, and it took us almost a decade to restore order in the antiquated city of Baghdad. The fact that conspiracy theorists actually think our governement has enough resources and man power to hold a siege in EVERY modern US city overnight is laughable. Especially in a country of 3 million gun owners.

Truth be told, I don't know what is going to happen, only that I hope that Americans can figure a way to make it through the collapse without re- emerging as a nation full of fundamentalist Christian cavemen who bring back the practices of burning witches and exorcisms. I hope that Americans are deep down, actually not as self centered and sociopathic as I see them acting now, because if they are, we're in some serious trouble.

As the ramshackled empire of the United States of Rome burns right under our feet, the many many Neros of this country keep fiddling on whimsically, preoccupying themselves with video games, "reality" TV, P' Zones and football. Unless these people morph into something resembling responsible adults (and soon) I do not want them on my team. We need to stop looking to our government for answers, help, or guidance, because they are no longer fit for the job of governing. We need to learn and apply all those old world skills so that we can (hopefully) emerge as a stronger nation comprised of significantly less materialistic and shallow children.

In a word, we need to grow up, and fast.

Friday, July 23, 2010

My Run In With Oscar The Death Cat

Awww, check out that pwecious widdle kitty witty! Cute lil guy aint he? Little do you know, ignorant human, that this cat is literally the Grim Reaper himself, wrapped up in a fuzzy disguise of feline fatality.

This cat goes by the name of Oscar, although Charon, Hel, Thanatos or Set would probably suit him much better. You see, Oscar has the uncanny ability of being able to predict when patients at Providence's Steere House nursing home are about to die.

That's right, when a patient in the Alzheimer's ward on the third floor is about to kick the bucket, Oscar likes to get all warm 'n fuzzy with them. In fact, he's accurately predicted over 50 patient deaths at Steere House. He does this by laying down and snuggling with them rather than ignoring them like he usually does. Two hours later, Oscar wakes up and the patient does not. The victims of this terminal tabby are often touted as going "very peacefully" because of his presence.

Two months ago I took on a courier job where I deliver medications to nursing homes. The first stop on one of my routes is Steere House, and I remember vaguely hearing some chatter about a cat that could predict the death of the patients there. I kind of forgot about this until a friend recently inquired if I'd seen "the death cat" yet. Since there are about 55 cats in that home, I figured I'd google to see if the death cat was mentioned anywhere online. There are a myriad of articles about him, and one of the better ones is here:

Aw yeah, "furry angel of death" indeed. I was happy that I'd never seen Oscar before, and was admittedly a little disappointed that he looks well... so damn cute! I figured a "death" cat would be much larger, blacker, scarier and surlier looking. Oscar's such a little cuddle bug, you almost can't resist snuggling up with him, and that's the most frightening thing about him. If he has the ability to bait people into petting themselves straight to Purgatory, well then Oscar needs to stay far far away from me.

Ahhh, but my luck was bound to run out eventually. You see, Oscar and I finally met tonight, and not only did I see him, but his full attention was placed squarely on ME from the second our eyes met. I was delivering meds to the third floor, when all of a sudden, from under the nurse's desk, ole Kitty Cat Charon himself jumped up on the counter. Recognizing him immediately, I jumped back as he started rubbing my med bin with his face.

Sensing that I was trying to avoid him, he jumped off the counter and started jogging over to me. I screamed "Get that cat AWAY from me!" but the nurses just laughed, saying "Oh come on, he likes you!" like that's a good thing or something. I wanted absolutely no part of his bad juju, and couldn't wait to get the hell out of there.

Luckily no physical contact was made between Oscar and I. When the elevator reached the first floor, I asked the nurse if she had everything she needed and she replied,

"Oh, this was marked wrong, it has to go up to the third floor."

My heart sank to the bottom of my chest. I was not prepared to have to face Oscar again, having narrowly escaped my first encounter with him. When the elevator arrived at the third floor, Oscar made a b line dash out the door, with a nurse screaming "don't let that cat out!" from inside. Part of me thought it might be a good thing if Oscar actually escaped, as with the rest of Steere House as a buffer zone he'd have less chance of finding me again. Unfortunately though, that was not the case, as from the window in the door I could see him sitting in the middle of the hallway.



In front of the elevator.

For me.

Not wanting to try and cheat this hirsute hitman again, I figured it was time to stand my ground. I cleared my throat as I entered the hallway and said "Oscar, get out of my way, I'm getting on the elevator." He didn't budge.

I tried a firmer approach; "Oscar, I'm leaving now, YOU NEED TO GET OUT OF MY WAY." Oscar started licking his paw and then cleaning his ear with it.

One final time I said "DAMMIT OSCAR, GET THE HELL OUT OF HERE, WHY DO YOU WANT TO KILL ME???!!!" Oscar then lazily walked over to a nurse who was sitting in the lounge area who said "Aw, be nice, he's famous you know!" to which I replied "Yes, I know, and I know WHY he's famous, and I want no part of it!" To which she replied "You don't really believe that do you?" To which I retorted, "Better safe than sorry!"

I breathed a sigh of relief as I got on the elevator, and I hope I never see that charming (yet deadly) cat ever again. It's not often that you meet a cat who has real supernatural cred., and given his impressive track record, I'll err on the side of caution and avoid him as much as possible.

But... but... he's so CUTE!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The Evolution Of A Modern Survivalist

From the time I was knee- high to a grasshopper, frugality, conservation and self reliance were values that were drilled into my head (and no, I did not learn them from the Boy Scouts, as my parents were FARRR too poor to afford that.) The methods my parents and grandparents employed to teach me these skills were often akin to a trial by fire, but I am happy to have learned those hard lessons, as they have proven to be invaluable to me to my survival as an adult. I have always liked to abide by the old adage of "better to have and not need, than to need and not have."

Survivalism and sustainability became a bit of an obsession for me by the time I'd reached my late twenties, and I tried to cover all the bases from urban to woodland survival, from hunting and foraging to herbalism and basic farming. I geared up and tested my ability to survive in extreme heat as well as extreme cold. I also devoted a lot of time to both armed and unarmed combatives training, finding that my initial cockiness in these areas often ended up being my most invaluable teacher. There's nothing like a few fractures and knock outs to prove just how tough you really are(n't).

Like many young survivalist types, I envisioned myself as some kind of post- apocalyptic John Rambo who ran around shooting at bad guys, taking whatever I needed and having no accountability to anyone. This is the pitfall of many modern survivalists, as they seem to romanticize an "every man for himself" type of scenario, or at the very least, a scenario where only their family/ gang/ tribe and themselves matter. This myopic super hero fantasy will not get you very far, unless your bullet belt can somehow miraculously fertilize plants and purify water.

More and more I started to realize that these "lone wolf" types were overtestosteroned, paranoid idiots, and generally just a mirror reflection of the Conquistadors we already have in our government. The Rambos would swear up and down that the government was their mortal enemy, but they seemed to employ exactly the same type of fear mongering and macho posturing that the mainstream media did. Sure, they had SOME good ideas, but their plans to rise above the rubble armed with AK47's and cans of Spam started to sound ridiculously cartoonish to me. The bottom line is- if you want to make something worthwhile happen, you NEED to learn how to work with people.

Add to that, much of the propaganda coming from the Lone Wolf Rambo crowd was brought to you courtesy of Christian fundamentalists, right wing racialists and various other sociopaths I wanted nothing to do with. I'm seeing many of these 1990's "militia" stereotypes reincarnated in the current Tea Party and Constitutionalist movements, and they still leave a bad taste in my mouth. Moreover, I'm starting to become concerned that the Rambos might actually be gaining a foothold with the status quo, and the idea of plowing some Christian lunatic's beanfield with a bayonet in my back doesn't sound too attractive to me.

As I grew older with my survivalist mindset, I started to wonder if any community of rational, pragmatic individuals could be built around the principals of self sustainability. I wondered what the role of women and children would be, and how would we address issues such as child care, education and health care. The Rambos never showed any interest in these issues. Luckily though, I was quite happy to see many inroads being made for realistic sustainability right in my hometown. By the early 21st century, farmers markets, biking and urban farming were coming into vogue, but I was still hungry to see more discussion on what REALLY could be done in the event of a societal collapse.

Enter the writings of James Howard Kunstler, particularly his books entitled The Long Emergency and World Made By Hand. Both of these books deal with the condition known as Peak Oil, with The Long Emergency being a nonfictional prediction of what might happen and World Made By Hand being a Novel about life after the collapse.

I found both of these books (as well as Kunstler's website and blog) to be very inspiring because they are quite a departure from the gloom and doom of most survivalists. Rather than pushing a "Mad Max lording over the post apocalyptic wasteland" angle, they espouse a far more pragmatic and humanistic worldview. To me this stance is crucial, because the doomers leave me feeling highly uninspired, and I suspect that I'm not the only one. Their obsession with violence and retribution is not anything that anybody could build a society around, at least not one with any longevity.

The thing is though, for as grandiose as Kunstler' claims of the importance of community are, I wonder if he actually believes his own propaganda. His snarkiness and cynicism is apparent in his blog entries and lectures, and he seems to get quite easily sidetracked and offended by non- issues such as people wearing clothing he deems too baggy, or enjoying mainstream sporting events and getting tattoos. What James needs to realize is that in order for his own vision to become a reality, he needs to get anyone and everyone on board, including the types of people he may not like very much. He also seems a bit folly to, dare I say; a bit of undeserved self importance from time to time.

But the thing about Kunstler is- we need him and people like him. We need him because whatever he lacks in charisma, charm and tolerance, he makes up for in his ability to tell it like it is, not to mention being able to outline a workable strategy for surviving the impending collapse. He's not likely to be the standard bearer on the battlefield, much less the cool neighbor you drink beer with after work, but he's definitely someone worth paying attention to.

It's easy to hate on the self centered Baby Boomers, the whiny, apathetic Generation X-ers, and the cynically paralyzed Millenials, but every once in awhile I'll meet someone from one of these age brackets who is a bit different. They'll have a glint in their eye, a positive outlook and a lot of great ideas. I hope these people keep appearing in my life because it is far to easy these days to throw your hands up, say "fuck it!", and dismiss our future entirely. Those who are idealistic and pragmatic are as good as gold to me, even if they are as irascible and tempermental as Kunstler is. Those who fight the good fight and are simply far too dedicated and strong (and maybe just a little too naive- in a good way mind you) to even think of capitulation or defeat are the people I want in my tribe.

You can watch a good James Howard Kunstler lecture/ debate at Brown University here:

(sorry for some reason the hyperlink wouldn't work with this address, so you'll have to cut and paste)

Unfortunately, you can't scroll past where the cursor is cued up, you have to wait for the video to load and get ahead of where the cursor is. At 90 minutes it takes a LONG time to load, but if you can make it to the 67:00 mark you'll see where my question about his tattoo prejudice pisses him off and gives Randall O'TOOL a chance to rip on his earring.

some great books:

Ragnar's Urban Survival- Ragnar Benson
No Such Thing As Doomsday- Philip L Hoag
When Technology Fails- Matthew Stein
World Made By Hand- James Howard Kunstler
The Long Emergency- JHK

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Happy Eostre!

How Eostre is usually recognized by modern Heathens is by having what is called a "blot" or "forn" where an offering is made to the appropriate goddess which represents fertility. The Germanic peoples had a LOT of goddesses, many unique to a specific locale and tribe, and many having overlapping attributes, fertility being just one of them. It could be appropriate to have a forn (which is what about 99.9999% of Heathens do, as blot literally means "blood" and there isn't a whole lot of animal sacrificing going on these days) to any of the following goddesses:

Freya- Goddess of war and fertility, with a distinct focus on female sensuality.
Frigga- Odin's wife- goddess of hearth and home.
Idunna- Keeper of the apples that made the gods eternally young.
Ostara/ Eostre- German and Anglo Saxon goddesses of fertility.

Sadly, we really only know Ostara/ Eostre in name only, but we do know that she was associated with the month of April, and likely to be associated with the return of spring and fertility.

The first three goddesses I listed are from Icelandic lore, with Freya also being sporadically mentioned in what little surviving German and Anglo Saxon lore remains. Personally though, the fact that very little info about Eostre is out there is actually very exciting to me. This allows room for creativity, something that is sometimes lacking in the Heathen community. Heathens often make many lofty claims to authenticity, but it is still a reconstructed religion which is likely to bear almost no resemblance to the original faith. Since my focus is on Anglo Saxon Heathenry, I will now speak about an obscure, but still very powerful goddess and Holy Tide, both known as Eostre.

Eostre is an important and joyous, albeit somewhat obscure Heathen holiday. Much of our knowledge of it is recorded by the Christian scholar Bede who tells us that the month of April was known as Eostremonath by the Anglo Saxons. Although Eostre's true attributes are unknown, it is speculated that her name means "east" and that she is associated with fertility, as in the sun rising in the east, and spring returning. This confuses me a bit, as the previous month's Holy Tide is known as Hrethmonath, and is related to the goddess Hretha. Hretha is speculated to be associated with sacrifice and war. The month before that (February) is Solmonath, and is associated with the goddess Nerthus, also known as Hertha or Aertha. All these goddesses who possess similar names (and functions) seem to be an overlap of various local dieties who could have been one in the same, or evolutions of the same godess(es).

In the interest of keeping with the Anglo Saxon traditions, I may very well hold a Hretha forn next year, as any "tough" goddess is surely one I can relate to, having worked with both Freya and Skadhi in the past with great results. Hretha may have actually been the Anglo Saxon's version of the Norse goddess Skadhi, as we associate both goddesses (with what little is known about Hretha) with winter and hunting.

Since I like to keep the Holy Tides distinct from one another, I prefer to look at Hertha as a goddess of the earth and agricultural fertility, and Eostre as more of a goddess of the flesh and human reproduction. Both have their place in worship of course, and both have very similar, almost interchangeable characteristics, but as a modern Heathen I feel it is necessary and useful to differentiate the two. Hertha is also known as Jord by the Scandinavians, and Hretha seems to be unique to the Anglo Saxons. I have often held my Hertha blot in March rather than February, as February hardly feels like the end of winter here in New England!

Hot cross buns, rabbits and eggs all come from ancient Heathen customs and were appropriated by the Christians in order to convert the Germanic tribes more easily. Much like "Christmas" trees, by appropriating these familiar images the Christians were able to sell their new religion to the Heathen tribes more easily. The problem with this appropriation is that it came at a price, and that was the destruction of the native gods and goddesses. That doesn't mean that we cannot bring them back though, even if we don't know much about them. Through working with them and embracing the holy powers, we can re- learn the knowledge that has been lost for so long, and regain our connection with the Holy Powers!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Alex Jones and Mark Dice aint nice.

(Ahem) to all you conspiracy theorists out there (and I know a few of you...)

What's a whole whole hell of lot better than thinking that the big, bad evil government of ours is up to all kinds of no good, and responsible for everything from 9/11 to the swine flu, I offer you a better alternative. TAKE CONTROL OF YOUR OWN LIVES! There's no Bilderberg conspiracy, the Jews DON'T control everything, Bohemian Grove is NOT Satanic, the government is not going to declare martial law, and there's no such thing as reptilian aliens.

Although these beliefs are deeply held by many people, the people that hold them both frighten and depress me. They frighten me because they are just as zealous about these beliefs as any religious fundamentalist. They'll try to hard sell you on their bs and if you tell them you don't believe their crackpot theories you get subjected to a barrage of "but but but buts!!!" They're just as bad as born again Christians who try to convert you on the spot. In fact, many of the heavy hitters in the "NWO, 9/11 truth" movement ARE Christians, and not very open minded ones at that.

Conspiracy theorists depress me, because rather than take some positive steps forward "just in case" (like becoming more involved in their local farming communities for example) they opt to become a bunch of chicken littles who try to scare everybody into becoming just as paranoid as they are. Rather than empowering their community to become more respectful and self sufficient, they encourage everyone to mistrust each other and aspire to be a bunch of Mad Max thugs who think they'll rule the post apocalyptic wasteland after "the shit goes down".

Alex Jones, Mark Dice and David Eiche are a bunch of semi literate con men who use the same mainstream, sensationalist crap to try and spread their propaganda that they accuse the government of using. They run around with bullhorns and act like macho idiots towards anyone who criticizes them, and utilize nothing but scare tactics to get their message across. They are egocentric attention whores selling snake oil to people who are too ignorant to realize that they are no better than the government they so vehemently claim to despise.

I will just say this about 9/11. If the government really DID intend to use that as a mechanism to usher in a "new world order" why the hell are they waiting ALMOST TEN YEARS to do so? Wasn't Bill Clinton supposed to usher in the NWO back in the 90's? Give me a break.

Our government does not have the resources, organization or manpower to undertake such an endeavor. We currently have 150,000 troops in Iraq alone, trying to get Baghdad under control. It is completely unbelievable to me that people actually think our government could possibly declare martial law in this country, where there are over 3 million gun owners willing to shoot each other if they have to wait in line too long to purchase a Wii. If our military can't get Baghdad (a city of roughly 1 million people with an antiquated infrastructure) under control, what makes anyone think that they could hold a siege in ALL the major cities here in the US?

Conspiracy theories are like a new age, gnostic religion, sucking in gullible rubes who are afraid to take control of their own lives and actually LIVE them. I feel that the big bad ugly truth about our government is exactly the opposite of what the conspiracy theorists claim it is. Rather than being an omnipotent, all seeing, all knowing entity, it is in reality quite disorganized, corrupt and painfully inept. Essentially a lion without teeth.