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…