Friday, July 29, 2005

And one day I would like to live so remotely from civilization that the moon blocks my view of it. It would make it very difficult to order out, so all nutrition, circulation, elimination, sanitization would have to be integrated into a system of recycling pumps and technological doodads. Or if people would just SHUT UP then maybe I could live a little closer. But in space, it is very quiet. I could live there in a pod, tube-fed, tube-bled, watching the stars shine and the earth rise as it gets less green and more brown, more blue and less white. Can you imagine being launched away from everything, to have your troubles reduced to a spec in the distance, where all you had to do to wipe that spec from view is hit the left thrusters and turn around? Gaze at Mars and Jupiter for a while, dodge asteroids with your robomatic magnetic field bumpers? And when no longer interested in the firmament or the disintegrating organic matter/energy on the surface of the Earth (all that creepy crawly crud on our planet's crust which is so erroneous and random anyway), let the soft drift of elliptical orbit lull you into a deep sleep? Nothing would matter after that.

Monday, July 25, 2005

what reigns supreme

There are low-grade rumblin's that the new SPOTUS nominee has no regard for environmental law. Of course no regard and ill regard are two different things. One is the witness who stands still and allows the crime to go on without interfering; the other is the criminal, usually directed by some hidden oversight committee of mafia-like bosses in it for the money. For now, and for possibly a long time coming, the three branches ("branches," for lack of a better word) of the federal government ain't got nature's back. So we can hope the ecological, biological and geological victims of this betrayal figure out some way to delay the inescapable. Conservation is, after all, just a way of staving off a manmade crescendo of the timeless cycle. Arguments that we humans, as part of this world, have a right to influence our natural surroundings on our own terms play into this inevitability. We may discount the harm we cause to our own species because Darwin's law of survival of the fittest clears up such ethical messes. What is "bad," anyway, except a naysayer's definition of good? Certainly we can do no more damage than the sun exploding, and who are we to say we're more important than that?

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Well, it's 96 degrees, but the Weather Channel says it "feels like 97." This seemingly meaningless difference has a huge psychological impact on people eager to suffer more. But one degree is also the stuff of controversy. Precision is everything in nature, and the slightest fluctuation can have aeonic results that scientists can't live long enough to study. Comics and pundits argue the consequences, but a drop in the bucket can cause the bucket to overflow. Personally I would hate to have any involvement in unwanted flooding.

A fine line of variability extends to all matter and energy. A slight twist of the genetic string, for example, tricked our brains into forming a frontal lobe; and because of this sudden humanity we developed the ability to peel away these gradations like onion skins, to explore how the tiniest bump in the road can cause cataclysm or delight. In fact, there may be no missing link between man and beast, just a shift in the code, and though in a larger sense we can't map the future, we can see the signs and collect some evidence. Tusks disappear from elephants, frogs stop singing, plankton fades from the sea. And of course we have humans who, by some mutation or interference in their personal growth, don't relate or act in the least bit related to the rest of us.

Monday, July 18, 2005

The high curbs remain, stamped with the year of their creation: 1927. A walk up the path behind my former apartment is actually a concrete hike along this four-score-old street, and on a lark I sometimes go back to the old 'hood just for nostalgic aerobic exercise.

Although from all the lights and mailboxes you might not know it, the peaks of the Santa Monica mountains--three or four miles west of where the range ends--still hover above the city. When Rudolf Schindler built his home in the beanfields west of Hollywood, one could trek up those cliffs without having to sidestep hip-hop Hummers or even ah-ooga Model T's. 85 years later, homes fill in the canyon like a flock of resting pigeons. Besides the vertiginous weedy cliffs (sometimes reinforced and covered in a Dada/Christo fusion of plastic and wire to lessen mudslides), nothing remains to resemble pre-development history except the precipitous angle at which these fault-induced hills give a northern boundary to the L.A. basin. At the La Brea Tar Pits, a museum's mural shows the very same outline unmarred, without stilts to prop up stars' balconies and the ruthlessly eclectic architecture. The silent film era captured the last images of wild (and early 20th century) Los Angeles before the city crawled into every nook and cranny. Though the residents change, and the land may shift and move an inch or two every millennium, the iconic horizon remains the same.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

The air compacts, and the high heat squeezes the light. The distant ridges look as sharp as cut metal, as if visible through the pinhole of my fist. But this impressive, oppressive temperature that reveals the horizon beyond the usual smog deceives; "good photo days" come at the onset of 100-degree months or when the sky is scrubbed clean by the winter rain afterward. Now approaches the half year of asthma attacks and crud: our ordinary air, a mix of noxious particulates and detritus (soot, really), that collects like a black coat of paint on bookshelves and the carpet and on plants--on everything in Los Angeles County. Shaken from there by a random fault-slip of life, I now live where at least the dust is white and somewhat manageable. It's worse in the Inland Empire and into San Bernardino where the mustard haze wears out lungs like the padded feet of a geriatric bobcat. Out there, smog is the envy of every first-rate illusionist, the way it makes the mountains disappear.

Monday, July 11, 2005

From my brother, word of cleaning up the farm after a storm in Iowa. I hadn't heard about any inclemency there, since the middle part of the country gets little play against the cyclones and earthquakes at the nation's edges, much less when in competition with that whole mass transit/mass murder thingy across the pond.

I vaguely recall such phenomena from my disippating youth (fading into a twinkling blur like the bright trail of a comet, the imposing combustible part being the future). Thunderstorms were those things that we knew were coming, but about which we hesitated. Do we go into the basement? How does the sky look? What does the weather man say?

(Back then it was "the weather man," and we didn't have cable, and usually the power went out so you couldn't watch the storm approach on the news; you had to listen to the battery-operated radio in a box encased in red leather with a metal retractable antenna that you had to point in different directions to pick up whatever signals were out there.)

The crash and grumble of the grumpy sky sometimes came along at the darkest hours, when we watched the ceiling, flat on our backs, still as bunnies in the brush. A flicker of lightning became an all-encompasing white strobe and the resultant slam of clouds overhead made the house jump and our hearts with it. Thunder can be that loud, lightning that fierce. It would split trees in the woods, the ones we'd just climbed the day before. We didn't have toys out there for the wind to scatter, for the rain to ruin. Our world was our playground, and hearing it endure this spanking welled up merciless fear in our dreams.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Spiraling over there on the edge of the map, the white whirl of a massive storm Blutos its way across the Caribbean. The scramble to shore up fragile manmade structures seems familiar, and by October such extensive evacuations have the word "rerun" printed next to them in the TV listings.

Yet early on, the public gathers for this annual event and fondly watches the hurricanes bloom. Something compels us to observe and even celebrate meteorological disasters in all their guilty, visceral glory. What dot on our charted DNA focuses this fascination? What biological routes line up our gaze?

Perhaps facing someone else's strife may help us glance indirectly at our own abyss whenever it comes along. Granted, I make this claim by way of an impromptu hypothesis. Could our common chemical root structure drive us anthroprogenically to seek a united bond through The Weather Channel? Sorry about the big words.

Humanity regroups--reassembling as a single entity--during catastrophe. We seek this out, this prior oneness, whenever blood spills unexpectedly. When we throw the punches, when we drop the bombs, we anticipate the damage, and we pay less attention to the suffering of our complex organism. But when a slight against our fellow man seems unjustified or comes as a shock, we can't help but participate by proxy. I'm not sure if it's just to enjoy the alluring aesthetic spectacle of nature. We may actually care.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

London and the nature of kabooms

I've little to add directly to that particular subject which will be served up like brain pudding the next few days by our media and nearly every other blog on the net. Trifling punditry and thinly veiled get-back-ism and finger-pointography will spice up this inelegant meal. But that doesn't mean I can't briefly juggle philosophical idears, if anyone cares to read them.

A series of conflicts, like waves of light, bends and refracts throughout our existence; without reflection we have no view, and the more shattered the glass, the more views we have. I weave through my days subtly, as some do, with an attempt to limit the scale of such disasters personally, but I can't avoid them. No one can avoid bad things happening to them, and societies resemble organisms in that they, too, must suffer in order to exist.

History, from geological to political to deeply human, involves a series of large and small moments that, while cataclysmic or tranformative, compel us forward like the series of explosions in the engine of a rocket. We want a world at peace, but we must fight to get there. We would like to live freely, but we must make laws to do so. Despite our attempts to ease our lives, we have no pure defense.

London is a big town and has seen far worse disasters; the plague, the blitzkrieg, '60s fashion. Three dozen people get blown up in Iraq every day. It appears stuck in a quagmire, so we sort of ignore the flailing limbs of its semi-sinking "democracy." It's only when the booms catch us off guard (after all, we expect ka-splosions in the Middle East), that we open our eyes.

Good is the nothingness between the bad things that happen. Sadly, it's how we react that matters, and we usually manage to make things worse. When you are drowning in quicksand, if you take it easy and put your feet up, you might float. Screaming and flailing around will only make you sink. So relax.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

The canyon's acoustics, put to the test, triggered car alarms and cat ears, and all around the darkened hills a red glow flickered for half an hour. Every few miles a crowd had gathered; I imagined from past experience men and women and lookalike children in t-shirts decaled with the stars and stripes (and sometimes the words, "we will not forget!" stenciled across the back). I could not see the commotion, just hear it, as if a war were happening in a border country; and I, at peace with my spider collection on the balcony, stood and listened. At nine-thirty the cacophony intensified for about a minute, and the very tip of the fireworks--like the glistening shock of wavy hair atop a giant's head--became visible over the hillsides. Then it was all smoke. And the crickets, for a short while silenced, smoothed out their wings and began, haltingly, to sing again.

Friday, July 01, 2005

"Guide to California"

Rolling hills of roofing tiles, pink and salmon,
with darker shades of older growth,
with squares of deck and “drives” for parking,
thrive along clear concrete channels, lush and thick,
awaiting rain that falls as often as a holiday.

Nearby, a fecund stand of glass and steel
stretches toward the sun;
these ever-reaching monuments give shade
and offer habitat to countless, heedless life;
they teem, busy with the business of existence.

And in amongst the rushes, if one is patient
and inclined to natural observation,
one may sight a rare delight:
evidence of a sea-to-mountain tapestry
reduced to remnants of its former range.

What’s left are ragged patches of this golden quilt.
Its stitches long exposed and routed,
few seams of wildlife, primordial, remain:
the buggy haze above a spray of shimmering grass,
an aged oak who has long outlived his children.