Honestly Kid

by Daniel Damkoehler

 

Archive for October, 2009

For the Benefit of Yoko Ono

Friday, October 30th, 2009

One of my favorite distractions is the Ukulele and one of my favorite things other people do with theirs is holding benefits for the rich.

Playing a small instrument leaves you plenty of room for irony and good will toward others.

Last year everyone pitched in and helped Warren Buffet (a pretty mean Uke player himself) and this year it’s Yoko Ono’s turn.

I doubt I’ll make it this year, but if you’re in New York you should drop in on the The 2nd Annual Beatles Complete On Ukulele Festival.

Privilege: The Other Cancer – 2

Thursday, October 29th, 2009

Ten questions about the nature of privilege:

  1. Is it a privilege to question privilege?
  2. Is privilege an inevitable part of civilization?
  3. Is privilege inherently corrupt or corrupting (like power)?
  4. Can someone truly eschew privilege since having it in the first place is, in fact, a privilege?
  5. Does living in a wealthy ‘developed’ nation make one inherently privileged?
  6. Is freedom a privilege?
  7. Are human rights a privilege?
  8. Are political rights (citizenship, the right to vote, etc) a privilege?
  9. Who is more privileged a King or a Jester? A Pope or a prisoner? A Movie Star or a Politician? An Artist or a Scientist?
  10. Are you privileged? If so, how? If not, why not? You’re using a computer and the Internet, presumably know how to read and write, etc – are these not privileges?

Privilege: The Other Cancer – 1

Wednesday, October 28th, 2009
Emmanuel_Joseph_Sieyès

Emmanuel Joseph Sieyes, 1817 looking a bit privileged

The following post is taken from notes I made January 3, 2007 (ho-hum and garment rending are duly omitted)

“’What is the Third Estate?’ asked the title of the most celebrated pamphlet of that winter, by the renegade clergyman Sieyés, ‘Everything. What has it been until now in the public order? Nothing. What does it want to be? Something.’ Anyone laying claim to any sort of privilege, Sieyés went on to argue, excluded themselves by that very fact from the national community. Privileges were a cancer.”
–William Doyle, The French Revolution: A Very Short Introduction

I started reading The French Revolution: A Very Short Introduction with the (in retrospect) silly idea that everyone pretty much agreed about the importance, causes, and long term impacts of The French Revolution. I found out that people don’t even agree on when it actually started and ended.

It has been conflated with Socialist and Communist revolutions of the 20th century, colonial rebellions, and a hundred other things having to do with the rise of the secular state in Europe and around the world. It certainly is a nice marker for when Enlightenment ideas began to be used to guide or influence socio-political decisions. But we can certainly see the Enlightenment affecting things before 1789, but it runs into the church and tradition head on at that point.

Somehow, the secularization of the United States didn’t cause the same upheaval as the French Revolution. “Of course,” you might reply, “it couldn’t because things were so up in the air in the first place.” While we might see a secularist view as a contributing factor in the genocide of the indigenous population of North America, the religious view on this continent hardly slowed down those atrocities. We Americans have a history (and present) of retooling beliefs so that they don’t come into conflict with our more (ahem) secular aspirations.

Of course, it’s hard for me not to see that part of what Enlightenment and Revolutionary thinking gets lambasted for (in Western culture anyway) is really about an internal struggle between Greek and Roman strains of thought – the practical / engineered / provable truth idea at the center of things versus the individual / beautiful / subjective truth at the center of things. Meanwhile the church offers a god centered / goodness / external-inspired truth to center things. European pagans (and other pantheists) probably veered toward the Greek view, sans Socrates to provide a ‘rational’ basis for things.

What I think we find in history is that, rather messily, we human beings are used to having all three world views around. We know it’s messy and we know you can’t really have Non-Overlapping Magisteria (NOMA), but we also can’t find anything to please all of the people all of the time either. Revolutions may throw out the Divine Right of Kings and the church that supports it, but people want something to appear in their stead. Not everyone and certainly not for entirely defensible reasons – after all, by their very nature these things are unreasonable – but if a government now tries to throw out the Greek idea, people will respond.

At this point, back in 2007 I went off on what China is dealing with in this regard, but after seeing Michael Moore’s Capitalism: A Love Story last night, I think this is all going on right here right now in the US of A. Western European Churches have been replaced by the Capitalism and the temples of finance (someday I’ll post about the feeling one gets when entering the headquarters of a big I-bank for the first time (I temped in about half a dozen of them during the 90s) – these places are meant to be temple-like, no mistake).  According to Moore, the new religion is wearing thin. The have-nots are multiplying and the power grabs and bad behavior of the priveleged are becoming increasingly intolerable.

I, for one, have been rambling on about revolutions and the need to finally reshape this Society of the Spectacle for so long I decided I was a nut and kept my darkest thoughts on the subject to myself  or until I was into the bottom of my fifth drink. Meanwhile I try to take the body blows of this economic system with good humor and remember there are viable alternatives. The world always changes when it must and rarely sooner.

Keeping Your Head in the Game

Friday, October 23rd, 2009
788px-Proportions_of_the_Head

A human head – not mine

I’m not doing so well at that whole head in game thing. Not today.

I have a lot of distractions.

Of course, it would help if I could decide exactly what my game is, I suppose.

Then again, see also my post on specialization.

Anyway, I’ve caused some minor disasters at work. Okay, maybe they aren’t minor. I suppose that depends on who you ask, but we agree on the disaster part.

So, now that we have a point of agreement, I suppose we can move on to solutions, right? Maybe you gentle readers can help me answer these questions:

How do you keep your head in your game(s)?

Why do we have trouble keeping  our heads in our games?

Where is my head if not in the game?

What’s my game?

What’s yours?

InSight Phototography Project Needs You

Thursday, October 22nd, 2009
Photo © David Kennedy  www.davidmichaelkennedy.com

Photo © David Kennedy www.davidmichaelkennedy.com

Okay, maybe I wasn’t clear about one of the greatest things about the  InSight Photography Project in my last post about it. John Willis, one of the co-founders reiterated last night at the board meeting that the point isn’t just to provide young people an opportunity to learn about photography and themselves, but to provide that opportunity regardless of their ability to pay. That’s right, students taking InSight classes don’t have to pony up any money to gain access to film and digital cameras, a dark room, computers, and knowledgeable teachers and staff.

This means InSight needs to raise funds and to that end, professional, amateur, and student photographers contribute images to the annual InSight Photo Auction. Here’s what John has to say about it:

In-Sight needs you. Many have commented that the In-Sight Photography Project’s 11th Annual Benefit Auction Exhibit is the best collection of images yet. However, in this extremely tough economy, honestly, the number of bids placed is far lower then normal. Please consider helping us with our mission to offer programming to youth, regardless of their ability to pay, by bidding generously on prints and spreading the word to others who may do so before the auction ends on Sunday November 1st. Every dollar bid goes directly to helping youth learn new skills and become creative, positive members of our communities. There is art for all budgets and some great investments to be had.

If that’s not enough, every bid made this week (only two days left) automatically enters the bidder in a drawing to win a print by John Dungdale donated by Paul Taylor (who has also contributed some of his own work to the auction).

The artists are contributing, how about you?

Why I Left Theatre Part 2 – Fear

Tuesday, October 20th, 2009

Maybe it’s the cover of the latest issue of Wired that clunked its way through our mail slot yesterday, but I started thinking about fear in the shower this morning. Pretty quickly my thoughts drifted to theatre and what I didn’t do with it since earning my two degrees.

I’d be kidding myself and lying to you if I didn’t admit that Fear played a pretty major role in my departure from the world of theatre.

Fear of what?

Failure. Looking stupid. Poverty. Working on material and with people I didn’t like. Oh, the list goes on.

Are those points of fear or just excuses? Is there a difference?

Connecting the Unconnectable

Monday, October 19th, 2009
Pompidou Centre Connections

Pompidou Centre Connections

I began the day with a not wholly original post on the dissolution of French identity, this time slanted toward the destruction of their revered fine food culture. Let’s face it, the French have been decrying the dissolution of their culture (and by extension all the rest of Western culture) due to American insanity pretty much since de Tocqueville. That said, the Reuters entry is a thoughtful and well written look at the way 21st century corporate, manic-consumption culture destroys the very thing it claims to hold out in offer to its subjects: namely, the good life.

This afternoon I followed a friend’s FaceBook link to Howard Kunstler’s offering of the day. A rant no doubt, but one worth the 3 minute read. It does feel like the world (and particularly the US) is going down the tubes fast (economic recoveries without job or real value creation, climate change, costly ‘wars’ on a variety of designated UN criminals), but it seems that Kunstler holds out revolution as the only hope in the face of a rather bleak set of alternatives.

So, two posts with few surprises, but Kunstler made me think of the Reuters piece. It seems to me that they’re talking about a single crisis with many varied symptoms. Sadly, the crisis does center here in the United States and more specifically in our philosophy of unrestrained individual liberty.

The Reuters reporter laments the disappearance of time when families stopped working – stopped everything – in order to choose the very best foods, prepare them very well, and sit together over a long and rich meal. Yes, the nobility of France took this to insane extremes, but everyone did it, because the interpersonal connections to be reaffirmed at table each day were at least as important as any individual pursuits. That is disappearing in France, because their entire economy (our economy) puts value on money over time, the individual over the community.

Kunstler fingers the same problem with the recent investment bank bonuses. The bankers simply cannot see what could be worth more than the time they’ve spent manipulating money, securities, bonds, and their markets to appear valuable. What community could be worth foregoing a million dollar bonus? Why should destruction of a factory, jobs, a town, or even a planet be included as a negative in the balance sheet as long as you, the banker, can avoid harm and gain profit?

I don’t profess to know the answer. I don’t think it’s some big Communist give away or bombing Wall Street, but it might start with the wankers there putting their Ivy League heads together to understand the true costs of ignoring the value of communal responsibility in favor of unbridled individual liberty.

Am I making any sense here?

World Food Day

Friday, October 16th, 2009

I think a lot about food these days. Maybe it has something to do with turning 40 or maybe I’m just a pawn of popular culture, but I devote more time than ever before to examining exactly what I’m putting into my body. I haven’t read any of In Defense of Food: An Eater’s ManifestoMichael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Mealsbooks or Alter’s Fast Food Nation, but most everyone in this most liberal of states tracks these ideas fairly closely.

Add to that my lovely partner’s interest in solving her body’s negative reactions to wheat flour and dairy and what I eat is more than an idle preoccupation. As a side note, I recently joined her in the Dr. Mark Hyman’s Ultra-Metabolism Diet and I confess to feeling great  and loving the food despite the many restrictions. In fact, I’m beginning to get a bit queasy at the sight of the kinds of junk food I used to love so well.

Of course, it is not lost on me that this kind of self-conscious dietary meddling is in fact a luxury. I have often joined in singing the familiar “only in America does anyone actually feel the need to go on a diet” chorus. In a world where most people live on less than 2 dollars a day, worrying about 10 to 20 extra pounds brings to mind anecdotes about Marie Antoinette and the Romanovs.

While I wonder if I can possibly avoid sugar and flour all weekend long, tens of millions of other human beings are trying to get through the weekend not knowing if they’ll have any food at all. World Food Day is a day for those of us with too much to think a bit more about those with too little. More specifically, the organizers of this year’s World Food Day are asking that we consider the problem of food security.

What is food security?

Ask Wikipedia: “Food Security refers to the availability of food and one’s access to it.” Ask the Coalition for Community Food Security and you’ll get a more holistic answer, but the concept is pretty much the same: people shouldn’t have to worry about getting their next meal or obtaining their next day’s or next week’s food supply.

I don’t think it’s easy to grasp just how far we are from the reality of not knowing where to find food. Sure, we have homeless and poor in America, but the vast majority know they could beg, borrow, or steal food (hopefully they never need do any of these things), but in other places not even these things are an option.

Support the solutions to our worldwide food security problems. Feed someone locally. Or at least carve out some time to think about it.

Saving the World One Letter At A Time

Thursday, October 15th, 2009

So, this being Blog Action Day, you’ll find many bloggers going off about slowing down human caused climate change on planet earth. My favorite link so far has to be the one I stumbled upon to Ecofont, a font that slows down the resource drain of printing fonts by excluding itty bitty bits of font information (saving 20% of the ink used to print your words using other fonts). And it’s a damned attractive font too.

gcfinal

WHO gives us the truth about human health and climate change

Of course, we should be asking why are we printing whatever we print anyway? Full confession: I’ve been known to print emails and even web pages. I try not to, but I know I don’t always try hard enough.

Okay, so you figure the planet can go to hell, as long as you have an O2 take you’ll be okay. Guess again. The World Health Organization has some rather disturbing facts about the impacts of climate change on human health.

Take a look at the flow chart WHO put together.

Scared?

Why I Left Theatre

Wednesday, October 14th, 2009

If you develop an ear for sounds that are musical it is like developing an ego. You begin to refuse sounds that are not musical and that way cut yourself off from a good deal of experience.
– John Cage

Substitute theatre for music in the passage above and that’s pretty much the problem I was facing back in the mid-90s. I wanted more experience. More life. And it had to be life beyond/outside theatre. I didn’t see how I could ever make meaningful theatre otherwise.

Because I was 24, over educated and under-experienced I didn’t realize that life happens no matter what we do or where we go until it’s done with us and we don’t get to know what happens after wards. I didn’t necessarily need to drop theatre, I needed to pay more attention to the rest of my life and integrate what I found there into  theatre whenever and how ever I could.

Now, fifteen-plus years later, I feel a bit locked out of theatre. Rivers crossed. Bridges burned. Chance and opportunity neglected. Contacts lost.

I know. I know. I’m not dead yet. It’s just not an easy thing to fix, folks. And you know it. And if you know me, you know it’s not about joining a local community theatre group (may Shakespeare bless them from his perfectly worded Elizabethan heaven). It’s about generating material and getting it heard. Performed. Produced.

Pro forma blogging says I should end here with a question, instead I ask you for yours.