synthetic zero


April 30, 2004

I've recently switched to a Cingular Bluetooth phone (Siemens S56) with unlimited Internet service, which I am using with my Palm Tungsten T3. Suddenly I've got Bluetooth everywhere --- my laptop, my GPS, my phone, my Palm --- and they're all talking to each other. I get in the car and I have a Bluetooth GPS talking to my Palm running Mapopolis mapping software --- I sync my Palm with my laptop via Bluetooth, I get online and check email and run AIM via Bluetooth tethered to my cell phone. It's kind of amusing and somehow futuristic in a way that ordinary computers and even laptops really aren't.

April 28, 2004

Yesterday I was feeling rather out of sorts and it occurred to me to do everything very deliberately, paying exquisite attention to each second of my existence, for a little while.  I picked up the block of cheese -- crinkly sound from the plastic wrap, carried it over to the cutting board ... picked up the knife (tinkling sound of knife against other utensils), walked slowly over to cutting board ... cut slices of cheese ... opened refrigerator door (smwoosh sound of door opening) ... took out can of beans ... etc.

After a while doing this everything became so vivid.  All those sounds were so detailed when you really listen to them.  I realized I ordinarily tend to abstract that all away -- I just think "I am making nachos" or "I am putting the beans on the plate."  Then I suddenly remembered --- I don't exist!  I am also far more than just a "me" doing things, I am all these processes, vast in scope, moving in different directions, sometimes at cross purposes.  There is much more to "me" and the situation of "me" than I normally ever conceive.

But the "me" that supposedly owns all of this doesn't really exist, at least not as a unitary entity.  And thus, why worry so much about how the "me" supposedly has this or that property, success, reputation, etc... it's all vanity and neurotic worry.  It is just what it is.  So I felt tremendous relief to have re-remembered this thing that I've known before but it is so easy to forget.

Heather Anne mentioned that she likes this trick but there is the danger of getting lost in the universe and being unable to find yourself there. But somehow I don't mind getting lost in the universe ... before that happens, I try to remember the universe is able to take care of itself (i.e., it can "find" itself simply by being itself).  Oddly enough when I let that happen, it also seems to grab "me" and pull me into something gigantic.  Yet everything that was happening before is still there, just open somehow (as though before my life processes seemed to be happening inside self-contained tubes, and then "afterwards" it seems to be like aurora borealis, spreading out and spectacular, with no defined edges).  Those processes themselves just go on as before, so in a sense they are self-finding (though I can still be aware of them, which is enough finding for me).

April 26, 2004

From this New York Times article on Islamic extremists in Europe:

"Iraq dramatically strengthened their recruitment efforts," one counterterrorism official said. He added that some mosques now display photos of American soldiers fighting in Iraq alongside bloody scenes of bombed out Iraqi neighborhoods.
Today I just spent the day at home. Sometimes it's more rejuvenating to just hang out at home than to go out and have fun or activities. I am so exhausted recently by all the projects I am doing that spending the day at home was a welcome relief.

April 25, 2004

Immense sense from Richard Clarke. It occurs to me that the problem with Bush's "strategy" of attacking Iraq is that it plays perfectly into the hands of Al Qaeda. What they want is to turn an intra-Islamic battle into a battle between Islam and the West --- they want to radicalize moderates, they want to incite sloppy and indiscriminate overreactions from America. And we're going along with their plan, pretty much to a T. If we had kept our reaction absolutely precise we would have had a chance of marginalizing the terrorists within the Islamic world --- instead we've mainstreamed them, made them more popular, broadened their appeal. Thus, one can say without a hint of hyperbole that President Bush has significantly aided and abetted our own enemies, albeit unintentionally. And he continues to do so with nearly every boneheaded foreign policy decision he makes.

My friend Heather Fenby is performing Monday evening, 7:30pm, at the "fab 30 Vandam emporium", at 30 Vandam, between Ave of the Americas (6th Ave) and Varick, as part of a series of performances that evening. She's an excellent performer and is well worth seeing. Admission is $10 (I think), cash only.

April 23, 2004 (part b)

I'm very proud of Japanese culture and my own heritage, but there are things about modern Japanese culture for which they ought to be ashamed, and one of these is their neurotic worry about inconveniencing others. As I've mentioned in the past, I come from a samurai line, and in many ways I was raised with a certain sense of honor and responsibility much of which I got from my parents. The Times article seems to think the main reason Japanese are angry at the hostages is that they defied a government advisory --- but I think the more important reason is that they caused other people to be inconvenienced. I feel this in myself as well, this desire to avoid inconveniencing others --- it is a strong impulse, and in many ways admirable. But to denigrate these hostages --- it goes too far. These Japanese who do this really should be deeply ashamed. The true culprit in this is the Japanese government, who should never have sent troops to support such an ill-conceived war. I do not believe there is in Japan any longer a leadership class which really understands the nature of the samurai culture which once flourished there --- I feel my family, oddly enough, has a much closer relationship to it, here in America, having preserved more of its true spirit than those in Japan have. (In some ways, because my family emigrated here a while ago, like many immigrants we preserve an older version of the culture that the home country has blurred or forgotten). Sending troops to Iraq represents a laughable lack of international political sophistication --- a lack of understanding of the basic principles of military strategy and politics. I think perhaps the hundred plus years since the samurai disbanded their own class has left Japan without enough true military thinkers --- the country is being run by people who have little understanding any more of these matters. It's tragic and pathetic, and disgusting. Japan: take a look at yourself, you have forgotten that which once made you great. War is not about bluster and arrogant posturing --- it is a terrible thing that one ought to engage in as an absolute last resort, never as a choice. If you really understood this wisdom from your past, you would have been far more ashamed at the "inconvenience" you have caused these hostages and their families, and the damage you have done to the world by supporting such a poorly conceived effort by sending troops to Iraq than upset at the insignificant difficulties the hostages have caused you. The absurd thing about all this is the so-called "conservatives" who think they're somehow representing the old values by supporting such a mistaken misadventure, when in fact all they're representing is deep stupidity. I have nothing but contempt for them and their ignorance.

It's not that I have contempt for everyone who supported this war --- people who are misinformed can make mistakes. I have contempt for those who pretend to be representing old "traditional" values who don't really understand what was at the core of those values. It's one thing to be wrong, it's another to be wrong while wrapping yourself in the mantle of a false version of the past, using authoritative symbols when you have lost touch with what they really stand for. The samurai ethos was not about power --- it was about responsibility, and the leadership of Japan today only wants to deflect blame. It is shameless and despicable.

April 23, 2004

We're having another loft art/film/performance/salon event on Wednesday, May 5, 6-10pm, and Sunday, May 9, 6-9pm. Tons of people came to the last one, and it was very fun. This one should be even better --- so many people have applied to show in the event, and we have excellent quality work. Please come, tell your friends. And if you'd like to show at a future event, let me know.

April 22, 2004

Very good news for a change.

April 19, 2004 (part b)

Okay it turns out the show with my friend, below, will probably be next week, April 26, at 9pm Eastern, 9pm Pacific (6pm on satellite Pacific).

Polls show Bush increasing his lead over Kerry, even as public approval of Bush's performance in Iraq erodes. What an idiot Kerry is --- he's being a coward. He should be standing up and calling Bush on his horrific foreign policy --- a policy that has gone so terribly wrong that even former supporters of the war are apologizing and admitting they were wrong. But what does he do while Americans suffer the worst combat casualities since the Vietnam War? Talk about economics. This is a campaign blunder of the same magnitude (if not worse) than Clark's skipping Iowa or Dean's scream. The guy is going to lose just because Americans see him as providing no clear alternative to the disaster that is Bush.

What Americans want to see is a clear-eyed strong alternative to Bush. They want to feel confidence that here is someone who has a vision for getting us out of this mess. As things devolve overseas, this is the perfect chance for Kerry to rise up and make his mark. And what does he do? He runs. What a contrast from his Vietnam days.

April 19, 2004

My friend Darlene Waddington will be featured with her Candy Wrapper Museum on the Food Network show "Unwrapped" tonight (Monday), at either 7:30pm or 9pm Eastern and Pacific --- not sure which (the TiVo says she's on the 7:30pm episode, but for some reason her producer told her it would be the 9pm show).

April 16, 2004

On the way to the Kinko's to copy tax forms, we ended up driving through Central Park, completely by chance --- it's really quite surprising and wonderous to drive there late at night, the city buildings far in the distance, shrouded by trees. It feels like something open, relaxed, quiet --- nothing like what one normally feels in the city, even when sleeping in one's own bed... It's definitely an experience one should have at some point if you live here.

It's hard to even begin to say anything about recent developments in the Middle East --- precisely the thing that every Administration has wisely avoided for --- for pretty much ever, which is blatantly endorsing one side of that regional conflict --- now we've done it. Of all the terrible things that have happened as a result of the Iraq war, the worst was promoting our image not as a relatively disinterested arbiter, but as an active and biased participant in petty regional conflicts... and now Bush has made things about a million times worse than they already were by shattering any shred of remaining doubt about our bias in that dispute. Now we have not only Al Qaeda to contend with, but the entire panoply of Palestinian terrorists, not to mention drawing us inexorably into the same self-defeating cycle of violence that has trapped Israel since its inception. Way to go.

I'm beginning to think Bush is not merely inept, he is a lunatic.

April 11, 2004

It's heartening to hear that we have listened to the demands of members of the Governing Council and are trying to negotiate a cease-fire in the Falloujah disaster --- one of the first signs of hope in this Iraq mess that I have seen for quite some time. Should we manage to negotiate an end to the seige, it could mean a great deal in stabilizing the situation there, at least for a while. I had read an interview with the Marine commander a while ago (before they went in to replace the then-current Army contingent) in which he underscored the need to use a light touch in Iraq --- if it is the same commander in charge now, he may be able to modulate the disaster somewhat. He seemed to have some appreciation for the issues, at least. Of course, no matter how competent the commanders may be on the ground, they're still having to follow orders (in this case, the order to take Falloujah by force, without serious attempts to negotiate first).

Meanwhile, however, hundreds have died in Falloujah already, including many women and children. How we end the fiasco there will determine a great deal in terms of the long-term impact of this.

April 10, 2004

Iraqi-American on Iraq:

Abbas al-Jidui, a dentist from Corona, returned Tuesday from a 10-day vacation in Iraq. It was the first time he had been back in the country since he left in 1992, and he said he was devastated to see the ruined neighborhoods and lack of infrastructure.

"It's a disaster. It's like an earthquake hit," al-Jidui said. "I had a picture in my mind from when I left. The picture now is completely different. I forgot where I am."

He said he was worried about the safety of his wife and five children, who range in age from 3 months to 13 years, and who are in the country for another few weeks.

"You can smell death everywhere. There's no security, there's gunfire."


April 9, 2004

I am quite solemn... what is happening in Iraq is the realization of every one of my worst concerns about what was going to happen there --- it's the beginning of the slow disaster, the slow-motion car crash I was talking about before. We're not just fighting Saddam's forces anymore --- we're fighting angry Iraqi citizens, militant, yes, but they're far more ordinary citizens than those who have attacked us in the past, and the people with the guns have brothers, sisters, wives, parents, children ... who will want revenge. They're burying their dead in the soccer field. The city of Fallujah, where, early in the occupation, we shot and killed quite a few civilians who had come to demand that the school we had been occupying be re-opened ... now is fighting us with everything they have. Fallujah is like Vietnam, according to Lieutenant Colonel Brennan Byrne. This is a very black comedy indeed. I am at a loss for words.

April 7, 2004

Twelve Marines die today. It's a horrific story. It feels as though this absurd war has gone from a painful plateau to falling off of a cliff. I can't help but be angry at the senseless waste of life, the utter idiocy of this war, of the policymakers behind the war, the lack of preparation, the lack of foresight and planning, the list goes on and on. There is a very good reason one ought never to go to war unless the need is absolutely compelling: because war can go disastrously wrong, and you had better have the best reasons in the world to do it or you will almost certainly be swallowed up by it. It is not only a crime to wage war unnecessarily --- it is self-destructive and incredibly stupid. As I've said for some time, I actually believe this war could be the beginning of the end for the United States as we know it today --- I don't know in detail why I've felt this, but that is how I feel. The arrogance of this Administration, to play so foolishly with our national security, to handle foreign policy as though it were a role-playing game conducted by pimply-faced teenagers --- this is not a game.

There is a light side to all this --- the ridiculousness of this enterprise for some reason comes out in bits and pieces of comic relief. The code name of one of the main sources of fake intelligence, a man whom, it turns out, was the brother of a top aide to Ahmad Chalabi, someone who was almost certainly coached by the Chalabi crowd to feed false intelligence to us --- was "Curveball". Harry Shearer did a hilarious bit about this on his excellent show. One of the top "private security contracting firms" (what a nice euphemism for "mercenary") in Iraq is named Custer Battles (apparently based on the last names of the two founders). Meanwhile, Bush continues to push for a "missile defense" program --- a program that is a waste of money, won't work, is unnecessary, and is completely ineffective against terrorists. It's just a laugh a minute.

April 5, 2004

Today I was thinking about how easily we tend to get sucked into the delusion that the important thing to worry about are the conditions we face, when in fact the most important thing is the way we are participating in the world.

I spent a while getting my Palm to sync with my Linux laptop via Bluetooth. Finally got it mostly working, sort of. I will write something up on it later.