Honestly Kid

by Daniel Damkoehler

 

Archive for September, 2009

My Head In Paris

Friday, September 25th, 2009
Nice Hat Lautrec!

Nice Hat Lautrec!

I confess.

True all week.

My head has been in Paris.

Having to shout across the Atlantic has caused some difficulty being heard (much less hearing), but the sore throat is well worth it. More challenging still: seeing what I was doing each day, where I was going, what I was ‘working on’, what I wore, and what I was feeding the cat.

Navigating Paris with just a head on the other hand wasn’t as challenging as one might first expect. First of all, it’s a city with a great tradition of people who are more head than body, I mean have you seen a picture of Toulouse-Lautrec or even Sartre? These men wore large hats.

For the first few of days, most every day Parisians didn’t pay any heed to my noggin bob-bob-bobbin’ along the Champs-Élyseé or parked in a café chair in St. Germain des Prés. On about the fourth day, someone did mention that my head was blocking her view of the Venus de Milo’s toes, but I rolled to one side and calm returned to the halls of the Louvre.

My body will wing its way to Paris this evening, there to join my head for a relaxing autumnal week in the city of Balzac, Hugo, Sartre, Débord, Picasso, Cocteau, and taking dreams for reality because there you may believe in the reality of your dreams.

Love to hear what I shouldn’t miss or best not bother with…

Aeschylus versus James Ellroy

Tuesday, September 22nd, 2009

My Google quote for today:

It is a profitable thing, if one is wise, to seem foolish.
Aeschylus

versus

James Ellroy plugging his latest, Blood’s A Rover, on NPR.

I’ve only read Ellroy’s The Black Dahlia and on the basis of that book alone (read the book before you see the movie)  the guy deserves all the bravado and swagger he can muster. Listen to today’s NPR interview and you’ll hear him muster quite a bit of both.

Sadly, at points his confidence made me doubt his wisdom. I’m not exactly sure people want to buy books from someone so sure of themselves. Then again, maybe they do, if for no other reason than to try calling his bluff. Good luck with that. Much as that kind of in your face self-confidence rubs me the wrong way, I don’t think Mr. Ellroy is bluffing and maybe he knows more of Aeschylus than I thought.

All opinions of Ellroy and his work are welcome here. Would you read a book by a guy who sounds a like a jerk or avoid him utterly? Is his attitude punk rock or simply tricky marketing (I link to think there’s difference despite Malcolm Mclaren)?

Conversion

Sunday, September 20th, 2009
St. Augustine Converst to Butane

St. Augustine converts to butane

Conversion.

What is it? Who converts and why?

Strictly speaking, to convert simply means to change from one form to another. To editorialize on that dictionary definition a bit, I’ll add that to convert is not quite to transform and a bit more precise than simply change.

Convert is a special kind of word, a special kind of change – it’s not the same as transform, revolutionize, invert, or simply adjust. It has something to do with taking what there is and using it to make something new. Maybe something is added, maybe not, but converted things reveal their origins to some extent. Convert a Ford Bronco to a truck and many people will know at first sight. Convert the miles between Vermont and the Mood to kilometers and the distance won’t change. Convert your bedroom into an office and people will probably suspect that the room in your house or apartment was intended for something other than work. Convert to Buddhism and you’re probably not going to kid anyone about whether or not you grew up in China or Tibet. As Ben Folds put it “You’ll never escape your redneck past.”

So a conversion is a very particular kind of change and a religious or ideological conversion more particular still.

Typically when people speak of another person’s conversion they are referring to a religious change of heart, but the truth is, I’ve seen converts to Marxism, Capitalism, Death Metal, Jazz, computers, the Internet, Futurism, espresso, green tea, cocktails and polite conversation, and every damned thing in between.

As I see it, there are different types of converts: the passive go-along, the safe-better, the seeker, and the radical convert, among many others.

I realized recently that many of my personal pre-occupations over the last 20 or so years actually have something to do with my need to understand how conversion works. What makes a convert convert in the first place? Do people really change? Are converts fooling themselves? Are converts waking up or lulling themselves to sleep? What makes some converts so incredibly inspiring and effective as leaders of other people? Do converts actually have to believe what they convert to or just make others believe they believe it or both?

I’ll be digging into this and posting some of my thoughts and discoveries here. Your thoughts, concerns, and conversion stories are, as always, welcome.

Crude Dystopia

Monday, September 14th, 2009

crude_300_250George Orwell would be 106 years old, just a few years shy of today’s oldest man in the world. Quite a bit less than that lifetime ago, Orwell foresaw a world controlled by double-speaking oligarchs who manufactured information, global conflict, and the war machines to wage it in order to control human beings as resources owing service and obedience to the powerful.

Guess what? It’s a lot like Orwell’s 1984 in Burma/Myanmar. People there are forced to work without pay, have their land forcefully taken from them without recompense, and are subject to all manner of punishment for daring to think things should be otherwise.

Two new reports by Earth Rights International detail the extremes we less furry monkeys can go to when we consider fellow humans ‘resources’ rather than conscious beings with basic rights irrespective of color, cash, ancestry, religion, and/or what-have-you:

Total Impact: The Human Rights, Environmental, and Financial Impacts of Total and Chevron’s Yadana Gas Project in Military-Ruled Burma

Getting it Wrong:
Flawed “Corporate Social Responsibility” and Misrepresentations Surrounding Total and Chevron’s Yadana Gas Pipeline in Military-Ruled Burma (Myanmar)

Don’t have time to delve into the dirt on this? Check out the new movie Crude by Joe Berlinger (the guy behind Brother’s Keeper and Metallica: Some Kind of Monster) – coming soon to a movie house near you.

Remembering

Friday, September 11th, 2009

rememberthumbSeems like a good day to quote myself.

Despite the bummer beginning, I think my prologue to this site ends with a bit of hope. I’d be kidding you if I said this was a direct response to the events of 9-11 or Hurricane Katrina (both of which deserve remembering right about now), but I’d be kidding myself if I denied that both those things have added shape to the existential quandary that was my philosophy. Honestly.

Honestly Kid Prologue

The whole thing gets me down. The world shows almost no sign of getting better and most of the time we don’t do much in our daily lives to help things in a positive direction. But that’s not really what bugs me day in day out. It’s that so few of us pay any attention at all to this stuff. Why is it so damn hard to give a damn about anyone else on this world.  more >>

Peregrinations #1: My French Revolution

Wednesday, September 2nd, 2009

The following post is taken from notes I made January 2, 2007 (ho-hum is duly omitted):
sing-it-pretty-french-lady

“Poles, who first sang the Marseillaise in 1794 as they resisted the carve-up of their country, sang it again in 1956 in revolt against Soviet tyranny. In 1989, as France commemorated the Revolution’s 200th anniversary, the same anthem of defiance was heard in Beijing, among the doomed student protesters in Tiananmen Square.”
— William Doyle, The French Revolution – A Very Short Introduction

And here I thought it was just a catchy tune for the French. I mean, who doesn’t love the scene in Casablanca when the French nationals fleeing the Nazis use it to drown out the German officers singing their hearts out for the fatherland. And, of course, the girl who leads the musical resistance is a bit of French tart (to put it kindly). One who has, in fact, been running around with some of these same Germans in order to win her passage out of Casablanca.

The cultural and political residue of the French Revolution is rich fodder, though reading about it is as much a flashback to abandoned personal projects as it is inspiration for something new. My advantage now: I’m a bit more comfortable with my ignorance and so, steadier in my approach to the material – more open to it.

Why was I originally interested in the French Revolution all those years ago (I bought a couple of books about it back in ’94 or ’95 when buying books meant skimping on food (no joke))? I think I was planning to write my graduate thesis on the revolution or Napoleon or something.

Why? What was I thinking? Napoleon?

What was that impulse? Where did it go and why? [Instead I wrote something about mud. It required far less research.]

My interest now has more to do with gaining a broader understanding of politics and history and the characters which shape and alter those things. It is more genuine and less random. In the mid-90s, I think I wanted to be writing about something important. Now, I want to understand the world around me – to know why I care about the way it works.

And there’s something more too. It has to do with slowly gaining consciousness through 2001-2003, the aftermath of my marriage and divorce, 9/11 and facing up to my fading faith, making discoveries through reflection on my personal history, predicting and then watching the invasion of Iraq, and maybe through all that, the beginning of a deeper understanding of the complexities of a world I simply dismissed back in college/grad school as too aesthetically displeasing/uninteresting to give a shit about.

Somehow, without God or a Revolutionary outlook of some other breed, it is all the more important to understand and articulate what is actually going on in the world.

And this brings me to Tolstoy, War and Peace, Wittgenstein, and reflections on the impossibility of accurately saying anything having to do with everything…