Tuesday, October 30, 2007

64; Halloween

So it would seem apropriate to write a column about the holiday I am about to vigorously celebrate. Most of the campus is in a post-Halloween mentality, since the party was held on Saturday, but I resist. Halloween is on Wednesday? So be it. I shall celebrate on Wednesday.

My concern, however, is the topicality of these columns. Upon review nearly all of them have to do with specific events. Rarely do I write about things which I can recycle at any time. Perhaps that's why I kept the pet column up so long.

The pet column was my attempt to write on a subject that had nothing to do with the weather, politics, holidays or Bennington-specific information. It's intent was to be broadly applicable and identifiable.

This lead, inevitably, to a severe backlash in response. Some critiqued my pretentious writing, assuming I was not using hyperbole when I stated that "Cat people are what's wrong with the world." For the record all of my columns ever have always used hyperbole.

Then came accusations that I hate cats. No, I do not. I merely made the point that cats are dumb, equally so to dogs. Perhaps slightly less. But perhaps slightly more. Point is: they get stuck in paper bags. Not a bright animal.

From which it does not follow that I hate them. I am capable of liking dumb things. Examples: Slinkies. Democrats. Pet rocks.

Maybe it would be better to keep away from universal topics and instead write solely about current events. Like the upcoming holiday which is my favorite day of the year.

Halloween is the one thing New England has going for it. When I was growing up I would read books on Halloween. They always took place in this creepy place, with pumpkins and dead leaves and large orange moons. The houses were old and spooky and the trees and plants were different. When I was older I realized these were depictions of New England, aparently a real place, and not a mythic creepy land I had assumed was just the setting used for Halloween stories.

New England may not be real. As one of my professors said, "Vermont is a mythical place built on a foundation of granola." I wonder if this mythicality doesn't extend to the rest of the states. Only on Halloween do I get a sense of the New England I mythologized as a child, and so doing just perpetuate the stereotype those books taught me. All the same there is something special about that holiday, and celebrating it out here. Kind of like Chinese New Year in San Francisco. Some holidays are associated with places. And since the spooky night is my favorite I'm glad to be out here for it.

Birthdays are just dumb luck survival celebrations accompanied by presents. Christmas is a fictionalized guilt-ladden goodness knows what anymore. Increasingly I identify with Charlie Brown rather than Linus as I used to. On a bad day Ebenezer Scrooge. Christmas is as phony as the sentiment of the cards that accompany it.

But what am I doing talking about Christmas? Its almost Halloween! Let's get ready to scare people and dress up and eat sugar! And when that's over we can take out the Thanksgiving decorations.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

63; Pet people

Ask me if I'm surprised about an increase in rat conumption. Not at all.

Of course I am referring to the consumption of rats as pets. Ever since 'Ratatouille' hit theatres rats have been big pet store business. Sound familiar? Ever wanted to by a clown fish, say around 2003?

People are oblivious when it comes to animals. I don't mean to generalize, but they are. People want pets. Scientists, those shady and selctively trustworthy types, say pets are good for your health. Get something furry and you will live longer and have a better heart rate and cut down on anti-oxidants and calories. Or was that pomegranites?

So you get something furry to pet. I know many folks who are furry and wouldn't mind being petted, but they have consciences of their own, and insist on personal freedodms. Personal freedoms: another reason why getting a dog is not practice for a child or lover. People who need people are not people who need pets.

Pet people want control. For the non-furry critters they get to observe them in cages and tanks and control the heat, weather, food source, and play God. Of course the creature won't love you back, but I suspect that's the case in the real scenario anyways.

If you want control over something which adores you you get a dog. Dogs are happy and stupid. Some dogs are smart, but it's a type of smart that requires training and guidance from you, the master. That's why people have badly behaved dogs, they are not dominant. It's very primal and Konrad Lorenz would love it.

Cats are furry and aloof, an attribute often associated with intelligence. They want to be free! Therefore they must be smart. I think that argument only speaks to the owner's personality such that is that even a cat wants to be free from their presence. Cat people dote on cats because they see them as aloof and smart and selfish and perhaps even cunning.

Cat people are what's wrong with this world. Cats are anthropomorphized into these seeming vices, and we praise them for it. We wish we could live like cats. They are, as is a common repeating theme in my writings on humans, as selfish and egotistical as we wish we could get away with.

Yet cats are complex creatures. (Perhaps. This may just be our desire to see ourselves in the analogy as something more than yowling animals who like food but not your company.) They kill things, and go on adventures. Cats are known to attend secret cat-only meetings on fencetops and hidden places. Cats are mysterious. 'Lolcats' helps dissuade this theory.

Because cats are just as dumb as dogs. They aren't trainable, though. Cats do stupid things like get stuck in bags and chase strings that wiggle, and we embrace this. Perhaps we see these foolish things as part of our own nature. Yeah, we're composed most of the time, but sometimes the mood lightens and we make fools of ourselves and are thought endearing for it.

We're not, incidentally. But its a nice thought.

So maybe that's why people are now turning to rats. Think of your old cartoons, who go the upper hand, the cat or the rat? The rat always won out and was loved for it. Often the rat sided wiht the dog and the two fought the cat together, the little man with the brains and the big man with the brawn fighting the middle man with neither.

Are cartoons the opiate of the masses or a medium that lays down the ideological grounds for revolution? You decide.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

62; Weather and Seasons

The sun produces ultraviolet light, which in turn stimulates endorphins. So grey weather should make us feel blah, since we aren't recieving our gift of endorphin stimulation from above.

Somehow, though, I find crummy weather pleasant. Its not some affinity for Gene Kelly which brings it out in me either. Nice movie and all, but 'An American in Paris' was better.

My mood remains unaffected, O Ye Daemons of Crummy Weatherness. I shall prevail and flourish with the Fighting Spirit of Progress and Humanity!

On the bright side (intentional) the snow demons have been placated so far. Late October, in Vermont, and still no sign of Winter on the horizon.

Many people say to me, 'Ross, if you hate winter why did you come to Vermont for school?' I generally reply that I don't hate winter, I hate snow. I can't avoid Winter. I blame Northern Europeans for exporting it around the globe. But I can avoid snow. Not that I have in the past.

I went to high school in Colorado. In the rockies, about an hour down-valley from Aspen and the tourists and the richness and the skiing lodges, and quite possibly ice spiders. So snow and me go back at least to my adolescence. I quickly had a distaste for the stuff. My curiosity and wonder evaporated after about a month back in high school. Now it lasts roughly a week.

Snow is pretty, and it illuminates the night, and serves as an insulating layer for heat and other things. But snow turns to ice. And ice melts and mixes with dirt. And mud cakes the boots and trouser cuffs.

'Ah ha! You do not really hate snow!' my interogators reply, 'You hate mud season. Well join the club. Everyone hates mud season. You're laminated ID will arrive in six to eight weeks.'

They don't get it. Mud season would not exist if not for snow. Its equivalent to saying you like burritos but hate gas. (Not one of my classier examples, I admit. But it works.) Had you not eaten the burrito in the first place the gas would not be an issue.

Besides snow has many other faults besides brining about mud. Its cold and slick and can be formed into projectiles and yar boo sux.

In the mean time I sall concentrate on my Halloween preparation. Halloween is one of the few holidays I enjoy any more. Thanksgiving is tasty, but slightly guilty, Christmas is really guilty. Valentine's is an abomination. Halloween is just glorious. I think kids like to be tricked, and Jack Handy agrees with me:

"One thing kids like is to be tricked. For instance, I was going to take my nephew to Disneyland, but instead I drove him to an old burned-out warehouse. 'Oh no,' I said, 'Disneyland burned down.' "He cried and cried, but I think that deep down he thought it was a pretty good joke. 'I started to drive over to the real Disneyland, but it was getting pretty late."

And with that Deep Thought I take my leave to continue work on my costume and do a tribal dance to appease the snow demons.

Friday, October 19, 2007

61; Blogs

My sister Jess is travelling around the world. Like you do. And she has a blog of her writings of her travels, like people of our generation increasingly do. I include the following excerpt from one of her recent entries, and not just because it makes reference to my own blog:

"So, what do I check on a regular basis? (aside from Cleolinda and my friends blogs and journals – shout out to http://pokingbadgerswithspoons.blogspot.com/)

The news and columnists: NYTimes, SFGate, BBC, Jon Carroll, Mick LaSalle, Maureen Dowd, Paul Krugman, Violet Blue, and the latest Colbert Report because they don’t broadcast here.

I no longer check my non-profits on a daily basis (I know… I know…. I’m a bad, selfish person), but I still try to check out Grist for environmental news on a regular basis.

The movie stuff: Cinematical, Aint It Cool News, The Movie Box, Entertainment Weekly, Coming Soon, trailer spot, the Envelope, Box Office Mojo, Rotten Tomatoes, IMDB. Occasionally; Variety.

The comics: Pearls Before Swine, Get Fuzzy, Sherman’s Lagoon, Sluggy Freelance, Questionable Content, PBF, XKCD, All Over Coffee, Doonesbury, Opus, the Editorial Cartoonists archive, Indie Tits.

Other: Go Fug Yourself. Occasionally I Can Has Cheezburger when I get bored. Once I get home, I’ll probably check out bandsintown regularly. And Craigslist and Citysearch SF. Let’s see… I spend time on Amazon and Netflix rating movies. Garbage Disco Box, but there’s nothing going on there now. Merle Reagle’s crosswords.

It’s amazing our generation accomplishes anything. Then again, we are very good at multi-tasking and budgeting our time. And it’s not as if my job occupies 8 hours of every day."

You can read up on her travels and musings, generally with regards to entertainment, at http://blogs.bootsnall.com/Jessica+Dillon/. The job she is refering to is her day job in Christchurch, New Zealand. NZ is the last stop on her year+ tour of the globe, having started in Ireland working, then travel through England, Scotland (with me!), Italy (with me!), Madagascar, Mauritius, and Australia.

Italy was particularly amusing. My sister and I get a plane from Gatwick to Rome. In the airport we find and get in touch with our mother. She had planned a trip to Italy for about two years and graciously timed it so we would coincide with Jess' travels and my spring break last semester in Leeds. We were there for half a month, and then went our merry ways. Whenever we were asked where we were headed next in the last days of the trip my sister was going to Madagascar, my mom was going home to Boston and I was going to Turkey to explore. The day after Easter each member of my family was thousands of miles away from one another strewn across the globe, considering that my dad lives in the San Francisco area.

It was cool. I felt like a global citizen, our family was cosmopolitan and world-traveled. I recognize that is shallow, but it was pretty nifty to have our family on three continents. (Four, I guess, if Istanbul is both in Europe and Asia.)

Two kinds of cosmopolitan lifestyle, one taking advantage of the diversity to explore on the world wide web, the other the advantages of the world.

60; Procrastination

Procrastination lead to agriculture. Picture this: you're a nomad. Forgaging? No one's better at it. In roughly 10,000 years some pope named Greg will invent a calendar that will clarify that this is taking place 8,000 uncivilized (read Christian) years ago. You forage, like everyhting else around you, and get tasty things from plants, as well as killing the other foraging things to supplement your diet. Somehow it seemed like an intelligent idea.

But not all plants are producing fruits at the same time. Shoots and leaves appear at different times. So what do you do? You want them, but you don't want to wait. So you leave and come back. Go do something useful somewhere else. Until one day. One day you don't feel like going anywhere else. (You know there's a nasty river to ford up ahead, and doing so will kill your oxen, mayhaps.) You'll just stick around for a bit. And you wait, your tribe goes on perhaps, and hey, you notice that all the plants sprout at the same time and then grow and ripen at the same time, according to type. Handy. So you plant some seeds and wander off, make a prediction, and return at the time you calculated to find a crop of what you planted has grown and produced fruit.

But not all. Let's say you planted a dozen seeds, now only six grew up. You wanted a dozen, but the animals and inclement weather carried off half. You eat what's there and then, realizing the tribe is wandering into mountain lion territory, make an excuse to stay back again and plant, and this time take care of all the plants and make sure you get the crops.

Incidentally this is all bogus.

But the tribe gets angry, claims you are dodging you're duty to protect the tribe. You say you'll protect them when they get back to where you've planted the seeds. You're procrastinating. You rather not go and forage, sitting around watching seeds is much easier, or so it seemed initially.

But was it? Oh, no. You're lazy procrastination did not pay off as you expected. You had to fight off critters, shelter the seeds from frost, build a fence around them, clear off other tribes, build economic infrastructure, invent Coca-Cola and crisps, build flying fortresses and write manifestos on population control.

And that's the history of civilization, yet again brought to you by me.

In other news: Turkish PMs decide to procrastinate joining the EU by backing an invasion in to Iraq to kill Kurds. The US decides to procrastinate open confrontations with China, instead giving the Congressional Gold Medal to the Dali Lama. John McCain procrastinated giving up the election by taking his mother campaigning to prove that he is not too old.

Also the BBC procrastinates on pronouncing a death sentance on bluefin tuna by attempting to raise awareness that it is overfished far too late. But as is the procrastinator's motto: better late than never. Unless of course it is in reference to unrenewable resources like species.

"And so the story ended./ Do you know it oh so well?/ Or if you need I'll tell you/ the end end end end end end end end and..." Slight hope in Love's lyrics not present in the reality of species loss. I think back now that 'The Lorax' may've proven a more forceful book had the onceler not saved a seed and finished his story instead with: "So, yup. They all died out. That's pretty much it. Thanks for the fifteen cents and the nail and the shell of a great-great-great grandfather snail."

This is why I'm going to teach highschool. The little ones still need to believe in hope. Once adolescence has them sufficiently jaded then I can go to work.

In conclusion this entire column, Loraxes, agricultural allegories, politics and tuna was brought to you by the letter P. P for 'Procrastinating'. Which is what I was doing when writing it.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

59; Gallimaufry

Originating circa 1556, according to Mirriam Webster, 'gallimaufry' is a hodgepodge, originating from galimafree, a French hash (or by some sources English stew) comprised of various meats. It could also be synonymous to 'medley', although 'hodgepodge' suits me better.

I am working on creating a gallimaufry. It won't be a work of completey undecernible theme, there will be four overlapping sections. The notion is that the four areas that cover the ground are: Society, Philosophy, and Science. The fourth section, Personal, needs explanation.

"My work is not a peice of writing designed to meet the taste of an immediate public, but was done to last forever." Such a claim is rather presumptuous, and decidedly pretentious. Yet Thucydides' 'History of the Peloponnesian War' is still read nearly 3,000 years later. During his time the work may have not been to taste, but as a document it is vitally important for his audience, the people of the future, to make sense of the time. Xenophon, a connosieur, wrote more popularly, and has been lambasted in recent times for his poor accounts, by contrast.

Doubtless my Gallimaufry will not be as esteemed as Thucydides' 'History'. Yet in the act of compiling the point of view and notions of a person of my time and place I may be able to create a document of some value for the future. Which is why the fourth section must be Personal, so as to give a fair depiction of the author to the reader. Thucydides was writing in a particular position: he had been general of an Athenian navy, and had been exiled for losing a key battle. With this in mind the point of the 'History' takes a shift in purose, and speeches by Pericles or praises of Spartans make more sense. A description of the author will aid the future's knowledge of my position and biases.

Yeah, it may be pretentious for me to write this. Why am I worthy? What makes me so special or important to write this gallimaufry of how humans make sense of the world in this day and age? But these questions are precisely the point. An average person's views, that is of someone sufficiently rational, would be of use to those who wish to study this period. There are, however, elements of my position which are unique, such as my wealth relative to most other countries, living in the United States, being male, white, etc. It would not be far from saying that I am writing from a point of privelege. There is something fascinating about reading the Stoic 'Meditations' since they were written by Marcus Aurelius. Other writers of my time may not represent what is most current in science, for example.

The other point is to be guide. This age has produced a wealth (perhaps an excess) of the written word. Sorting through may be, I consider, a difficult task. Wading through novels, humor, cookbooks, histories, biographies, mathematical treatises, and so forth would be quite over-whelming. Hopefully my book can help give a good thumbnail sketch of what people generally thought. Presumptuous? Meh. I don't mind.

What is the world? What is our society? What do people think about thought? What do I think about all this? Just another way of wording my project.

Also its a part of my ongoing fight against specializaion. Specialization leads to beureacracy, I reason, which in turn leads to societal problems. Example: trash collectors. Not many people, given the choice, would choose to be a trash collector for their living, goes the argument. So how do we solve this? My notion is that everyone is a trash collector for a period. Yes, 'tis unpleasant, and no, we'd rather be doing something else, but it is for those reasons that we must all take a shift. Taking shifts leads to increased awareness and ownerhsip of your society and resources. But maybe that's just me. A book that transcends boundaries on subjects may, too, be blasphemy. But the feeling I get is that the time is right.

I acknowledge that these words can and may be used against me in a court of law.

Whatever. Its the effort that counts for me. If there was no effort I couldn't claim to have tried.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

58; Color paradoxes, B&W movies

Well, the Nobels are all but over. Technically Economics hasn't been dished out, but, eh, its economics.

Never read anything by Doris Lessing, so I can't really say anything about her taking the Lit prize. I thought the Chemistry and Physics awards were interesting and worthwhile.

Peace? Al Gore? I mean, he only got half the prize, but, really? It's hard for me not to think the Peace prize is just a political thing anymore. I think the other half, to the UN committee on climate change is deserved. I'm just wondering how the current administration will respond to Gore. I think the prize may be desserved, but perhaps conservatively, awarded a few years down the line.

There's no real doubt to my mind that we are affecting the climate, but I wonder if An Inconvenient Truth is worthy of a Nobel prize. I know Gore has done more than that, but if he were to be hit by a bus that would be one of his biggest legacies.

In other media news, since I don't linkspam, a few quick movie reviews.

Man with the Movie Camera, by Dziga Vertov, 1929. Absolutely amazing. An incredible tour d' force that should be watched by everyone with a brain. Really, probably the best peice I've seen so far in my quest to watch the great movies. It instantly shot into my top five, perhaps top three. It completely reinvents, in a way I've not seen duplicated, the grammar of cinema. And it's on DVD with orchestral accompaniment based on the director's notes which really is fabulous.

Metropolis, by Fritz Lang, 1927. Oh sweet Jesus. Why has this film garnered such a high reputation? It's so bad! Like, really, really, awfully bad. With all the subtlety of a brick to the groin ("THE MEDIATOR BETWEEN THE HANDS AND THE HEAD MUST BE THE HEART!! DO YOU UNDERSTAND!? IT MUST BE THE MEDIATOR!! HANDS, HEAD, HEART, MEADIATOR, MUST BE!!") The pancake makeup expressions, the ridiculous socialism and Biblical overtones, undertones and betweentones, the absurd scenes. Perhaps it was revolutionary when it came out, I don't doubt it. It has some great cinematography. But it simply has not stood the test of time, in my point of view. The acting is silly too. Only watch if you plan to MST3K it.

Also discovered in the past few days of tremendous entertainment: Harvey Birdman: Attorney at Law. What happens when you buy the rights to all of Hannah Barberra's cartoon creations and make your own surrealist humor show with them, voiced in part by Stephen Colbert? You get a full load of amazing incredibleness.

So that covers media and real news. Personally little to report. Bennington is going swimmingly. The habit of life back on campus has finally set in. The house is still predominately cool. Fire alarms are still going off randomly. Everything back to normal.

Here's a paradox I used to worry about as a kid. What if you visual light receptors in your eyes processed colors in negative? What I mean is, what if physiologically I saw red as blue, for example? I'd have no objective menas of knowing that what I saw as red and was taught to call red everyone else saw as blue. How do we know we see the world the same way, if our means of seeing may be reversed. In the red-blue scenario objective red (viewed blue) would always be seen as blue, with corresponding shades and vice versa. If someone asked me what color a lobster is I'd of course say red, since that was what I'd been taught that shade as it appears to me is called, even though it is objective blue.

Of course, blue lobsters exist. So that settles that. Right?

Breaking news! Nobel Prize in Economics goes to 1920's silent film actor for studying the economic ramifications of viewing green sunsets as green instead of orange as means for raising awareness about climate change.

Monday, October 8, 2007

57; Regular Column

It's Nobel season.

To heck with baseball, rugby, and all that stuff. Unless the SF Giants are doing well sport just doesn't interest me. But the Nobel Prizes do.

Its exciting! Developments in Medicine, Physics, Peace, Literature! And Chemistry! I don't care about Economics, but someone reading this might! Genes and Banks and Acids and Books!

And here's a huzzah to the the three scientists who won the first prize, in Medicine, for discovering gene targetting. It's really tremendously useful, speaking as someone whose parent works in biotech which has benefitted tremendously from the knowledge. If you want to make a couple mill get a PhD in genetics, work your ass off, and then study mice. More reliable than the lotterey, I'd guess.

In other news life is going well. Nothing shocking to report, I know, but sometimes, hey, life just goes well. I've started a three-year overdue reconcilliation project, met a bunch of cool alumnae this weekend and idealism is on the upswing. With regards to the alumnae this weekend was celebrating 75 years of Bennington, and lots of alumns showed up. It was really nice, although work-intensive, to chat with them and see how my dorm had evolved since back in the day. True story: There was a party in the '90's called the Fear and Loathing party which saw students breaking down the walls of the dorm, hiding bowls of stew in the beams, spackling, and sanding them up again before redisguising the holes with paint. Why? Who knows.

But things are good. And good is contagious. Considering the spread of the deaths and the plagues and the HIVs onthis campus at the momment mixing some good in the disease-pool is positive. Yeah, you might be on death's doorstep, but at least you've got a case of good to take with you when you go.

I am also looking in watching one of my favorite films this weekend if I can get my hands on it: The Three Caballeros. I will let Amazon's reviewer do the work for me:

"As a Disney oddity, they don't get much odder than Three Caballeros. Donald Duck receives a birthday package from South America, and the film proceeds to unravel like some peyote-induced hallucination. It starts out reminiscent of other Disney films, where shorts are cobbled together, such as "Make Mine Music" or "Fun and Fancy Free." The film has vignettes such as "The Cold-Blooded Penguin" and "The Flying Guachito." After them it careens straight into part-travelogue, part-stream-of-consciousness animation. Not helping out much are Donald's "friends," Joe Carioca (a parrot) and Panchito (a rooster). They spend most of the rest of the film watching Donald chase skirt. That's right, Donald Duck is a wolf in this movie, and he chases every live-action seƱorita who bustles across the screen."

I love this movie. Surreal does not begin to describe this lunatic film. If you thought Dumbo's pink pachyderms are odd this will blow you out of the water. And, hey, it has Carmina Miranda's sister Aurora! Live action spliced with insanity and surrealism that would make Salvador Dali gape in confused terror. Disney gets a bad rap, and sometimes deservedly, but they really did make some fantastic films back in the day. Although the 'Disney is sexist' argument cuts no mustard with me. As I once wrote before in response to an academic who thought Disney over-portrayed the barrel-chested hero and male dominance in fight scenes:

"So 17 films that have either a male-male fight scene, a barrel-chested hero, or both. 17 out of 46. Roughly 27%, or less than a third, if I'm not mistaken. Definitely not most. There was a string of them from 1991-1997, and a longer run from 1991-2007, but all the same the first male-male fight scene came out in Disney with Peter pan, almost 20 years in (not including Bambi). Barrel-chests are occasionaly heroes (Tarzan, Hercules, the Beast) but more often characters who do not fit this stereotype are the heroes, and barrel-chestedness is also commonly portrayed in villains. As such the physical build and body-type is not seen to be the important factor, but personality."

Statistics aren't that hard to find out. And Three Caballeros definately has none of the above traits, it is reamarkably sexist, and probably the most so in the Disney canon. But I choose to look beyond that and see the technicolor swirlings and hallucinatory mix of animation and live action. Does that make me an idealist. No. No it does not.

This just in! The Nobel Prize in Chemistry goes to a team who studied the effects of 1940's animation on the mind's chemical balance! Helps add to writer's happy state!

Thursday, October 4, 2007

56; Evil

My desktop has few things on it. Front and center is Jean-Marc Nattier's image of 'Thalia the Muse of Comedy', whose original resides in The Palace of the Legion of Honor in San Francisco. Trivially it is also one of my favorite paintings. But this is not an art column.

What I realized was two symbols of modern evil had appeared on my computer's desktop. One of them I am responsible for, the other snuck it's way on during 'routine' system updates. I am reffering to Google Earth and iTunes.

I consider these programs to be evil. Google's image of the happy-go-lucky useful little search-engine-that-could is being replaced with the evil, soul-scarfing, malicious, giant. And iTunes, besides being clunky and a nuisance, is run by the evil Head Quaters. Should the two ever meld all hell would break loose. Demons, harpies and fiends would take to the skies, the ground would split asunder belching magma and flame, Murdoch, Schmidt and Jobs would wait a sec...Okay, research has shown that Schmidt, the CEO of Google is on the Board of directors for Apple. Maybe they need Richard Parsons of Time Warner to join them to complete the pattern. Some things come in threes, but evil may come in fours. Or sixes. Depends.

Lots and lots of people have these programs. Lots of people own Macs, use Windows, and trade in pounds of flesh for gold. Well, perhaps not the latter, but they're close. They also like to drive cars with poor gas mileage, buy cellphones and laptops, and eat McDonalds and drink Coke. Sin upon sins: they shop at Wal*Mart and watch Fox News! They are evil consumers who spent oodles supporting mega-super-giant conglomerations. They pour, willingly, billions upon billions into the pockets of the Murdochs, Parsonses, and Gateses.

And I have to live with myself as one of them. I have iTunes, use Windows, and have Google Earth. I own a laptop and a cell phone. Most people reading this probably fit the bill in some way or another. I take a self-righteous pride in being a vegetarian, not shopping at Wal*Mart, etc. It's democracy in action: by buying more expensive products elsewhere I choose not to give Lee Scott five bucks.

Oh what to do? I could go Deep Green. Renouncing the consumer world is the obvious first step, but to go Deep Green I'd need to fully reject materialism. The slippery slope of anti-consumerism leads to Deep Green if you let yourself fall down that bank. The Green voice will plague you, whisper in your ear:

"Sure, sure. Buying vegetarian is better. Good choice. But now wouldn't it be better if it was organic? Or free-range? Cage-free? Locally grown?"

"Well, I guess so..."

"And stop using those bags. Sure paper is better than plastic since you can recycle it,"

"And I do!"

"Yeah, but bringing your own tote bag will last forever, and you've already got it.

"While you're at it, why are you still driving a car to the store? It's only three miles. You can walk it. I'd suggest a bicycle, but you don't know where that frame came from, not to mention those wheels.

"Your house. Far too much in it, lots of uneccesarry stuff, inefficient light bulbs, electricity burning day and night. Especially night. Plastic, plastic everywhere. Most unrecyclable.

"Asbestos. Microwave ovens. Thin windows, air conditioners and forests of trees upon your bookshelves. Tsk tsk. Your not being very green after all, are you? You just want to pay lip-service to green and give your money to the man living the corporate lifestyle."

It's about then in the conversation I decide to watch some T.V. Morally wrong? Yes.

People in advanced societies can't handle their wealth and fortunate status. We can't cope with the knowledge that money I spent last night on something as frivolous as ice cream and Chinese food could have helped save other human lives. Or helped rebuild a broken city. Saved an animal at our local shelter. We must Schindler our eyesight. We cannot view possessions as things that make our lives easier. Instead they are potential human beings. Each item we buy, when we choose to endorse the profit of the big guy, very literally aides in the death of another. It is sobering, and disquieting, and the choices we make to do so are fully ours. No one else can claim responsibility for them but us. Of course it is more difficult, but unlike the people our purchases effect we at least have a choice.

So perhaps consumerism isn't such a bad force after all. Perhaps the real question lies in how we choose to consume, or overconsume. We can either buy things, stuff, thneeds, objects to make life better, or we can buy, invest if you prefer, in the bettering of lives for the less fortunate. It's up to you.