Archive for January, 2013|Monthly archive page

Technological Convenience: How Useful is it?

In Uncategorized on January 29, 2013 at 12:32 am

I’m having one of those moments where I hate taking the bus. It’s ten o’clock at night, it’s 42 degrees, I just missed my transfer from downtown, and now I have to wait 17 minutes for the next bus. But the truth is, as much as I hate waiting for the bus, I think I would hate owning a car more. The only vehicle I ever owned myself was a motorcycle: a Kawasaki LTD 750. It was a nice bike, but it was falling apart.  Every month was another problem. The thing was a money sink and the idea of having to deal with that plus car payments plus insurance seems horrible to me. Why would I want to lose my money in that fashion?
Besides, now I have time to read, and to write screeds like this one, while awkwardly avoiding people’s gazes, as I sit next to and ignore new people, and try to identify the source and ingredients of new smells.

This is telling of how modern post-industrial life is a balance of conveniences and inconveniences, weighing one against the other.

Another example: I’m worried that the smart phone I’m typing this on can make things too convenient.  I woke up this morning in a funk, remembering a friend’s advice about how she found videos of guided mediations on YouTube that helped her relax and focus when she was stressed.  So I planned to do this in the morning, but my mopey mood was so strong that I stayed in bed for 20 minutes after the alarm went off. And then I remembered I had a YouTube app on my phone, used it to look up “guided meditation deep relaxation”, plugged in my headphones, and was soon on a blissful journey.

Yet, my life doesn’t actually feel any better.
Instead, I find it scary how convenient this is. I take this as a sign that we’re on the verge of becoming Jetsons where machines dress us and brush our teeth. Today, I can spend 30 seconds to find a guru to lead me through a guided mediation without even leaving my bed. Next year, will there be an app that will rotate me in order to prevent bed sores?

But, am I overreacting? What if this turns out to be a good thing? I’ve been thinking about this as if new technology is the ruin of humanity as a species, as if technological convenience is a monster that will murder my family and motivate me to run to the arctic where I will die on an ice flow grappling my smartphone in eternal struggle. But really, it’s just a phone, not Frankenstein’s monster.

However, as I am typing this on the bus, I can see some of the paradoxical effects of the technology as I use it. I am surrounded by people who will not talk to each other, and I plan to later connect to people by posting this on my blog. That way we can all, separately, communicate, possibly reading the blog on our smartphones on the bus where we refuse to speak to the person next to us.

Yet, through writing this blog, I’ve come to see the undeniable power of the written word. By writing my “Time Travel Project” entries from journals from 28 years ago, I’ve realized that the true power of written language is that it is telepathic time travel. Because of written language we have access to thoughts from centuries ago. This is an amazing technology that we take for granted. Writing a blog on a bus with my phone is just another permutation of this technology.

I have yet to truly understand how to navigate the balance of these technologies of convenience in my life. This whole blog, hell, this whole life, is an experiment and I don’t yet know how this all shakes out.

UPDATE: Oh, crap. And just after I posted this, I found this article: Why the Secret of Happiness is Turning off your Mobile Phone

Which I found thanks to this video


Happy Social Justice Day

In Uncategorized on January 21, 2013 at 7:28 pm

Today is Martin Luther King day in the U.S. In my mind, it’s not just a little, “let’s get together and remember Dr. King” history lesson, but an attempt to continue his quest for social justice. That’s what, to me, this holiday really is about. It’s Social Justice Day. It’s about someone trying to get the U.S. to pay up on its promissory note of “equality and justice for all”. The problem is that people think of this as a black holiday, or that Dr. King is only important to black people. It’s because people who like simple pictures of history like to believe King’s struggle was solely about desegregation, as if not being able to use the same lunch counters was the greatest evil black people had to face. However, Dr. King was also responsible for action that led to the mandated minimum wage. He was against the Vietnam war. He was for all people receiving justice. This is why he was important. He was the person who tried to get the U.S. to pay attention to its own values and to make good on them, not just pay lip service to them. We have forgotten about this as a nation. This is why we need to remember Dr. King. I cannot communicate his message any better than he did himself. So I’ve included excerpts from his speech “Why I am Opposed to the War in Vietnam” and have posted an audio recording of the speech. Listen to what he has to say about how we’ve fallen back on our values, culturally and politically. These are the lessons we need to keep with us as we continue to shape this nation and our lives so that we may live up to the promise of America. Happy Social Justice Day, everyone.

“This is a role our nation has taken, the role of those who make peaceful revolutions impossible but refusing to give up the privileges and the pleasures that comes from the immense profits of overseas investments. I’m convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a thing-oriented society to a person-oriented society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, militarism and economic exploitation are incapable of being conquered.”

“It is a sad fact that because of comfort, complacency, a morbid fear of communism, our proneness to adjust to injustice, the Western nations that initiated so much of the revolutionary spirit of the modern world have now become the arch anti-revolutionaries. This has driven many to feel that only Marxism has a revolutionary spirit. Therefore, communism is a judgment against our failure to make democracy real and follow through on the revolutions that we initiated. Our only hope today lies in our ability to recapture the revolutionary spirit and go out into a sometimes hostile world declaring eternal hostility to poverty, racism, and militarism. With this powerful commitment we shall boldly challenge the status quo, we shall boldly challenge unjust mores, and thereby speed up the day when “every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the rough places shall be made plain, and the crooked places straight. And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.”



In The Time Travel Project on January 15, 2013 at 1:16 am

Time Travel Project Introduction

Dear Younger Derek,

On March 19, 1985 you wrote:

“I wish there were more hours in the day.

“I wish it was always spring or summer.

“I wish there was no such thing as disease, sickness, and famine.

“I wish people could make agreements and not argue.

“I wish I knew Indiana Jones, Woody Allen, The Doctor, and Eddie Murphy.

“I wish people could be nice to each other.

“I wish school could be shorter and we could still learn.

“I wish Ms. La Flamme wouldn’t get so upset sometimes.

“I wish I lived in England so I could watch my favorite T.V. show.

“I wish I had more wishes. “

Again, this is another assignment from Ms. La Flamme’s 8th grade English class. I realize that I have different wishes now.

I wish that the public schools now were at least as good as the schools I went to. I had my gripes about school back then, but I did not realize how good an education I was getting compared to what is going on in schools now.

I wish I had learned to be okay with arguing and not be so quick to agree as if agreeing in and of itself were a virtue. Self-possession and assertion are important qualities that you will work on developing your whole life. When someone argues with you, breathe, and remember what it is you value and what you really believe and what it is you actually know to be true. Agreeing without critical thought can become acquiescence, allowing people to slide over your boundaries and step on your sense of self. Conflict is not the end of the world. In fact, it is where the beginning to solid agreement actually begins. Become more comfortable with it and it will serve you well.

I think the secret embedded in my wish to know the famous and fictional people I mentioned was really the wish to become part of a creative, intelligent, progressive-minded community that didn’t take itself too seriously and went on great adventures. Or at least that’s the wish now.

I’d like to visit so many other places in the world than just England. And I don’t need to go there to watch my favorite T.V. show. Doctor Who is now being broadcast in the U.S. and UK at the same time. And if I didn’t have cable I could still download it through iTunes. What I wish now is that I’d have a chance to write an episode of Doctor Who, but since I’m not British I don’t think I’ll ever be given that opportunity.

I wish that I could stop wishing, accept things as they are, and move ahead. Without forward movement, wishing can quickly turn into worry and I know your wishes have tendency to stagnate in this way and become the cause of stress. The first thing you’ll need to accept as it is is yourself. Then you need to realize that wishes either need to have action applied to them or be abandoned. Wonder tends to be good, inspiring, and motivating for you. However, wishing without action seems to add to your inertia. Let’s trade that in for exercising wonder and positive action.

Why I Write

In Creative Inspiration on January 7, 2013 at 9:57 pm

This post, admittedly, is fairly self-indulgent. Thankfully, it is short. It is written primarily as a reminder to me on days when I’m not sure if it’s important to keep writing this blog. If I need to remind myself why I should bother writing, I can return to this post.

I write, not in order to produce or accomplish anything, but to get in touch with my writing self – the creative self that helps me order my thoughts and gives flesh to imagination.

I write because over the decades I’ve created a version of me that remains dormant, embedded in my bones, until I write. This self is never apparent in the result of my writing but in the process of my writing, as if selecting words erects a scaffold over which I build this edifice of person, assembles a skeleton over which I’m prepared to wrap my muscle and skin.

Writing allows me to move through the world in a way that allows my bones to float, opens my throat and lets in air, gives permission for me to wander into wonder and transcend headaches and back pain, finances and work hours, into possibility. Writing allows me to return to that time when there was no distinction between imagination and interpretation of reality and then pull down any vision for the framework of the world I want to live in.

I write because, as difficult as it is, I have found no other process as meaningful to me in my life.

I write in order to become me.

My Favorite Movies of 2012

In Movies on January 1, 2013 at 6:14 am

A lot of people do year-end lists at this time of year. I didn’t pay enough attention to books published or music produced this year. I did see a lot of movies, though.

Here’s my top five movies of 2012:


I’ve said enough about Skyfall in another blog so I’ll just link you to that here.

Beasts of the Southern Wild

Beasts of the Southern Wild is a post-apocalyptic fairy-tale of survival and coming of age. Best film I’ve seen set from the point-of-view of a child that didn’t doubt a child’s wisdom but was realistic about the limits of her understanding.

The Master

The Master: An alcoholic befriends a charismatic self-help cult leader in the 50s. The main reasons to see this are the compelling performances from Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Joaquin Phoenix.

The Avengers

The Avengers expertly pulled off an impossible task by creating a light but intense superhero movie with five leading men and one leading lady who wasn’t simply the love interest. Bravo.

Cabin in the Woods

Cabin in the Woods was just fun. There’s one “Oh Shit!” moment that is worth the price of admission. It helps if you’re a fan of horror movies, but fans of Joss Whedon should enjoy it as well.