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 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

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.


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.


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.