Posted by: ithacaisdoomed | March 27, 2010

Screen Screed

TV, yeah it’s always on
The flicker on the screen
A movie actress screams
I’m basking in the shit flowing out of it
-Porcupine Tree

In case you haven’t noticed, I am a closet basket case. I try to keep it hidden, and most of the time, I’m successful. Parenting, though, has given me new frontiers of anxieties so strong that sometimes the genie gets out of the bottle. My latest parenting anxiety: Screen time.

Porcupine Tree, Fear of a Blank Planet

Not just television, but the sum total amount of time my kid spends sitting in front of computers and cathode ray tubes. I’ve been asking all my parenting friends about their “rules” regarding screen time, hoping that they won’t catch on to the hidden message of my own anxiety, and that I might keep my sense of being a superior parent at the same time.
It’s funny, by most standards, “sheeple” standards, we’re already total freaks. My wife and I got rid of our TV at least 15 years ago, sold it to some poor old bastard who probably watched it while dying the slow death caused by the American lifestyle. We consider it one of the best things we’ve ever done and have never regretted it. We watch movies on the computer and recently acquired a portable DVD player, ostensibly for car trips. YouTube is a guilty pleasure from time to time.

As far as our son goes, the main things to avoid were any advertising, violence, and sexually suggestive imagery. This even applies to books; as a recent STAR WARS Return of the Jedi adaptation  was rejected for featuring a picture of the bikini clad Princess Leia. I know what that image did to my youth. I certainly don’t need my son’s subconscious to be haunted by the sight of a scantily clad woman being yanked around on a chain by a fat toad worm.  He might turn into one of these people…

It was actually his aunt and uncle who hooked our son on YouTube, feeding into his dual obsessions with cats and trains when he was about four. I hold myself blameless, of course. After that, our vigilance about screen time has slowly eroded, and now, we’re probably looking at an hour or two a day spent watching train DVD’s, educational DVD’s, or Lego train movies on YouTube. I quickly learned not to allow YouTube time unattended as sometimes, some highly inappropriate content gets inserted into the menus along with all the more innocuous stuff. God, am I ever glad the “homebirth” movie phase is over!

So what the hell’s your problem, you ask? My kid has basically avoided commercial advertising, violent imagery, and pictures of scantily clad women. (Though, he draws women with gigantic breasts. Perhaps this is an archetypal thing, like the Venus of Willendorf?) The problem is this: We recently asked some friends of ours how much screen time they allow their kids per week. These are friends whose parenting I respect. They were there long before us, so they seem like pros. Their answer: One session with a screen per week.  This could be a feature-length film or simply playing a game on the computer.

See, it’s not just about the content…it’s the mere fact of the flickering screen and its effect on the human brain, especially that super vulnerable, developing child brain. In the movie, The Tube, Dr. Thomas Mulholland from Lundenberg,  Massachussetts is featured for his pioneering research into the effects of television on the human brain.. His experiments with electroencephalograms and alpha waves with children were some of the first indications of an actual physical reaction to watching TV. Alpha waves are brain activity which increases as brain work decreases: closing your eyes and relaxing produces more alpha — looking around the room decreases alpha. Mulholland discovered that children watching TV had more alpha — which means less brain activity.  Here is an article about such effects on the brain.

Am I idly standing by while my child gets turned into a zombie?  I have seen that glassy-eyed stare, the hypnotic affect, and the irritability which comes after the Tube gets turned off.  Could it be that there is absolutely nothing innocuous whatsoever about spending time in front of screens, no matter what is showing upon them? 

We decided it was time to implement some better limits.  We are going for the one screen session a week rule, regardless of whether our son watches a DVD or a music video on YouTube.  (His genius father got him hooked on “The Safety Dance”, by Men Without Hats.)  On the first night, after explaining the rule, my son opted to watch his DVD of the week.    So far, so good:  he hasn’t really even asked about it. 

One side effect of this new rule is that my wife and I must now limit our own screen time.  We have to serve as good role models, and all that.  I certainly don’t want to be one of those “don’t do as I do, do as I say” types.  Perhaps there’s something to this?

  My son and I were playing Legos the other day.  He was building away, letting his imagination run wild.  He asked me to build something, anything.  I didn’t even know where to begin.  All these Lego bricks were before me, and all I could do was sit and passively wait for some inspiration, as though my own imagination was stunted from lack of use.

A recent post on the forum over at Life After the Oil Crash asked the question, “What would you be like if you had never watched TV?”  My son lives in a world where people have actually walked into traffic because they were staring at  portable screens, where people tend imaginary crops playing Farmville, and where rabid marketers with PhD’s in Pediatric Development scheme to occupy space in his mind.  And it’s only getting worse, as even pop (Pahp) cans may soon feature tiny screens to increase advertising time.  Over-educated people with truly evil minds are plotting to insinuate screens into every aspect of our lives.

For me, rewilding is about getting back in touch with an all too abstract entity known as “reality.”  I can say for certain that watching  television and other time spent in front of screens has been part of the barrier, a root cause for the need to “get back in touch” with reality, rather than already “being there.”  I don’t want my son to have to find out what is real when he is an adult.  I want him to already know.

So what do you do?  If you’re a parent, what are your rules governing “screen time?”  If you’re not a parent, what would they be?

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Posted by: ithacaisdoomed | March 17, 2010

Coffee, the Sediment Plume in my Soul

We’re perched on a wire between Winter and Spring here in sunny (for today anyway) Ithaca. The last great snow of the winter has melted away, burdening the creeks with silt that accumulates in a great plume at the bottom of Cayuga Lake.

A sediment plume entering Cayuga Lake via Taughannock Creek. Photo by Bill Hecht.

The NYS Department of Environmental Conservation has designated the south end of Cayuga Lake a “threatened water body” due to just such events. As I watch this annual event, I want even more to limit my own contributions to this ghastly sight. The drainage ditch in front of my lower property is full of dirty water and trash once disguised under a blanket of salty snow sludge. My lower property (where I have a large crop garden and forest garden under construction) turns into a marsh right after snow melt, so my wife dug a few channels into the ditch to drain the lower yard. Clean water gushed into the creek and it struck me how connected we all are: the water draining from my land will quickly dump right into Six Mile Creek, the water source for Ithaca, a city of over 30,000 full-time residents. I want the water leaving my land clean enough to drink. I shudder to think of my property eroding away, forming part of the plume.
These thoughts lead me to want to feel cleansed, both physically and mentally. After a long winter, I feel like there might be a metaphorical sediment plume inside my mind and body. I feel gunked up. I wonder if others experience this feeling of malaise, especially considering the events of recent weeks. Over the past 30 days, three Cornell students have ended their lives in our gorges, another all too unfortunate annual event. Perhaps these young men might be alive now, if they could only have waited for the plume of despair in their own minds to settle, just waited a bit longer for the cleansing powers of an Ithaca spring to do their work.
I’m on my fourth day of kicking a massive coffee addiction. At the age of 12, I started smoking, drinking, and consuming vast quantities of coffee, becoming sufficiently addicted to them all to make my life difficult. Today, only coffee remains among my roster of peccadilloes. I drink coffee in the manner of Balzac, the 19th century French writer who famously killed himself with the stuff. This marks the umpteenth time I’ve quit caffeine, the withdrawal symptoms being so familiar that it’s like a script I’m rehearsing. What is different this time is my resolve.
As a self-respecting “doomer” preparing for The End of the World as We Know It, it seems neither reasonable nor prudent to support any sort of addiction whatsoever, especially to an equatorial adapted berry that is the world’s most second traded commodity, second only to oil itself. For one thing, any addiction, no matter how seemingly innocuous, would present someone with an excellent resource to leverage power over you. To the man with the Arabica, go the spoils? There’s a good reason all those lists of preferred items for barter always include liquor, cigarettes, and, I would hasten to add, coffee. Just make sure it’s Fair Trade Organic, m’kay? I certainly don’t want to end up licking some new Master’s boots so I can get my lips on some coffee. Secondly, when the shit goes down, I want to be cool as a cucumber. For the good of my family and friends, I certainly don’t want to be dealing with a massive headache and the urge to crawl in bed because it feels like spiders are erupting from my face. (That was day two.)
So here I am, on the fourth day, sucking down my dandelion and nettle tea, cleansing body and mind, ridding myself of that most terrible habit of compulsives and addicts everywhere: Mistaking freedom for the right to change how you feel anytime you want.

Day five here and now, and it’s getting better.  We’re told from an early age “The best part of waking up is Folgers in your cup.”  Unfortunately, some of us fall for it.  What about just waking up?  For the past 27 years, I have never been content to simply “wake up” in the morning.  My five-year old rolls out of bed ready to go, ready to live his life to the fullest.  I, on the other hand, stumble around until I get my fix from the sacred equatorial berry shipped by plane or boat at enormous carbon emitting cost.  The absurdity of it all finally struck me to the point where I could no longer deny it. 

Addiction impedes rewilding.  There’s no moral judgment inherent in this.  For me, it’s just a simple statement of utilitarian fact.  How can I possibly know reality, and how I interact with reality, when I don’t  even know how I feel, when I don’t have any true basis for comparison?  When I was 27, I went out on a sort of “vision quest” alone into the wilderness for a week of solo backpacking.  I brought several flasks of rum, two packs of cigarettes, and all the coffee I would need to get me through.  Basically, unlike the archetypal Native American vision of such a thing, I brought all the accoutrements of civilisation along with me–and the “change the way you feel because you deserve it” mentality.  Rather than hearing what the wilderness had to tell me, I shut it out with every sip from the flask, puff from a cigarette, and cup of coffee.  I either augmented my experience or changed the channel when I didn’t like what I was seeing.  This is how I have lived my life. 

When the Buddha sat under the Bodhi Tree, awaiting a vision, I doubt that he was drinking, smoking, and sipping coffee.  I would venture that any addictive habit, any compulsion that you simply cannot live without, is going to impede your ability to simply “wake up,” to roll out of bed and experience life with all your senses and a sound mind intact.  Here is a quote that gets at what I’m trying to express:

“Animism, because it seeks to relate and converse with the world, rather than to define and control it, always renews itself. It wakes up every morning fresh and alive, and every evening it tucks itself to bed to dream again for the very first time. Since animism involves a relationship with the world, a living being that exists in the now, the present moment, what more relevant perspective could you find?”

– Willem Larsen, The College of Mythic Cartography

With all the addictive substances, I have sought to define and control the world, or at least my experience of it.  When I set about my rewilding activities this Spring, I want to come at it fresh and unsullied by anything outside myself.  I want pure, unmediated experience: to feel, to taste, and to touch with no intermediary.  As I sip another cup of nettle tea, the sediment plume is diluting, the cloudiness in my mental waters is settling so that I can see with renewed eyes.  Let the true Rewilding begin!

Posted by: ithacaisdoomed | March 6, 2010

10 Square Miles Surrounded by My Naive Misconceptions

Prior to moving to Upstate NY in 2000, I always thought of this place as a kind of “promised land.” People from around here thought I was insane. After all, New York now ranks number 1 in per capita taxes and has a horrid unemployment rate, which just gets worse as the Great Recession drags on. My wife and I would come up here on vacation, always in the summer, just passing through on our way to Canada or staying longer in the Adirondacks. New York, at the time, seemed a land unspoiled, with mountains and forests stretching as far as the eye could see, a more enlightened populace, and a history rich in noble characters such as Harriet Tubman, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and James Howard Kunstler.
As time has gone by, cracks have grown in the façade. For one thing, visiting here only in the summer was a huge mistake. We should have come up in late March, when the entire state is one giant mud bath from the Hudson Valley to Niagara Falls. The taxes are bat shit insane, but I’ve always considered them a kind of “surcharge” that keeps away yuppies, expressways, office parks, and other signs of what the rest of American considers “prosperity.” In fact, I kind of like the rundown, ramshackle small towns here, even if they seem like recreations of a Russell Banks novel.
Over the course of 2009 to the present, however, the cracks are growing wider. The naïve misconceptions I had about Upstate New York are starting to come back to sting me in the ass. Here are some of the major naïve ideas I had about New York as a sheltered Southern boy who grew up in the suburbs of the Capital of the Confederacy, Richmond, Virginia:
#1) “I won’t have to hear any more obnoxious accents now that I live in New York.” Wrong! According to a post on city-data  “People in Upstate New York have the Great Lakes/Upper Midwest accent. It’s much less harsh than the New Yawk accent. The most noticable part of the Upstate NY accent is the strong “A” sound. For instance, Rochester, is pronounced by locals like “Raaaaach’ster. And carbonated beverages are not soda, but rather “pop”, which is pronounced “pahp”. It’s a very humble accent and sounds much more “friendly”.

Why is it that vowels become more nasalized as one moves northward? I used to find the Upstate NY accent “friendly” and quaint, but now it annoys the shit out of me. Pronounce the ‘ing” at the end of your verbs, dammit! People who live around Binghamton do have a quite awesome habit of using “wicked” as an adjective, though, which sound so incredibly 80’s to me that I just have to love it. Perhaps the real reason I don’t like the accent is because I’m starting to sound, after almost 10 years, like I’m actually from here. “Can I have some pahp? This is wicked good!” Nowadays, when I venture too far below the Mason Dixon Line, I can’t understand a damn thing anyone says. Nothing like a snotty New Yorker!
#2) “People in Upstate New York don’t listen to country music.” Wrong again! I guess I thought people up here, rednecks included, listened to Ronnie James Dio (he’s from Cortland) or 70’s arena rock, like Foreigner. How sad it was to find out that country music, the bad kind of country music, is a universal lumpenproletariat passion. I still cringe when I remember when I used to ride the bus more often, listening to that stupidass song about the party barge  over and over again. Ugghhh! Haven’t you people ever heard of Merle Haggard?
#3) “I’ll never see another Confederate Flag outside of a history book.” Wrong! (See number 2, above.) One can view the Rebel Flag flapping on the flagpoles in a trailer park, proudly emblazoned on the windows of certain pickup trucks, and hanging in the Clove Valley Rod & Gun Club in LaGrangeville where Dick Cheney likes to go duck hunting.

Yeehaw!

The Ku Klux Klan was even active around here back in the day. In our local history museum, there is a KKK Robe and hood someone found hidden behind a wall of a house they bought out in Dryden. At least around here, they had to keep that crap stored in a niche behind a wall.
#4) “Our taxes may be high, but we get enough in return to justify them.” This remains partially true. There are thousands of acres of public land up here where one might hunt or wander for days, weeks, or months at a time. Our libraries kick ass! We have a superb system of public universities that ranks very high by all measures.  However, I mentioned those cracks growing in the façade? Lately, it seems like we’re all getting taken for a bunch of suckers. Those thousands, nay millions of acres of public land? Much of it in Central NY could soon be leased out to gas companies for intensive hydrofracking. In fact the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation has the oxymoronic purpose of both protecting those lands and exploiting them for their natural resources. Ever since our State Leaders, in their infinite wisdom, decided they should actually do something about the massive budget deficits that stand to crush us, New Yorkers are beginning to feel “blackmailed” through the use of various cynical ploys in to accepting whatever extortionist tax hikes get dreamed up. Locally, this has come by way of the Ithaca City School District whose planned “closure” of a beloved elementary school reeks of cynical manipulation. Fall Creek Elementary is a cute, walkable elementary school located in Ithaca’s premier neighborhood, Fall Creek.  We used to live in Fall Creek, but were rapidly priced out by the yearly tax hikes, rises in assessments, and a “shift” in income after we had a child. That “sour grapes” side of me says “fuck ‘em all!” After all, I hate public education with a passion and often wonder if children might be better off if many were left to their own devices, free to learn on their own. The more sane side, the side that considers taxes a tool for achieving the common good, is sure that someone is getting something out of public education and doesn’t really mind helping paying for it. When the bastard school district does something like this, holds an elementary school hostage, forking over the taxes feels like getting raped and then having to pay for it. “ Thank you, may I have another?” After all, what do homeschoolers get from our school district? Excluded from any participation in extracurricular activities and required to submit paperwork under threat of jail time. And to think, people once fought compulsory education at gunpoint!
#5) And the greatest naïve misconception I had about Upstate New York is: “Our leaders are benign, if not enlightened.” When my wife and I moved to New York, George Pataki was governor. Pataki, a Republican of all things, set a goal to preserve 1 million acres of public land in New York…and he achieved it through conservation easements and outright purchase. Pataki, despite being a Republican, was more like a Virginia Democrat to us. Pataki started turn into a douche towards the end of his term, sidling up to Georgie Bush for brownie points when he thought he might seek the Presidency, but still, I have respect for the man.  1 Million Acres!

Then, in 2006, we elected Eliot Spitzer, a lion of a man, ready to take on Wall Street.  Less than two years later, he was mired in scandal for taking part in a prostitution ring.  Sure, it may have been a honeypot trap, but really, is it that hard to behave impeccably when so much is on the line? Lieutenant Governor David Paterson stepped into the role and I thought this might be a blessing in disguise.  Paterson announced intentions to legalize same sex marriage, spoke some harsh, but necessary truths regarding New York’s dire fiscal straits, and was our first African-American governor to boot.  Now, as his term shrivels down to its ineffectual denouement, Paterson, too, is caught in a scandal.  Paterson is accused of playing a role in trying to quash a domestic-violence case brought by a girlfriend of former aide David Johnson. Paterson has denied wrongdoing.  Apparently, he used the State Police as his personal gendarmerie in this situation.  (The Chief of Police resigned the other day over it.)  What’s really pathetic is that Paterson heralded domestic violence prevention as one of his major issues.  The girlfriend was beaten within an inch of her life. 

New York State Governor LePetomane

 

With the spotlight of scandal upon him, Paterson, who I now agree resembles Governor LePetomane from Mel Brook’s film Blazing Saddles, has been the subject of ever more allegations, the latest of which involves perjury charges that he testified under oath that he would pay for some free World Series tickets he received last year.  

Thanks a lot Fuckwits!  With friends in government like you, who needs enemies?  Now New York is poised to go the way of Massachussets, set to elect some douchebag whose major qualification for office is that he drives a truck.  At a time when it would have been easy for Democrats in our state government to seize the moral high ground, our leaders opted for roles in a tragicomic opera that doesn’t even have the saving grace of being funny.

So there you have it, my top five naïve misconceptions about my adopted State.  Lessons learned?  Question your thinking when “the grass is always greener” and for Christ’s sake, research what kind of mineral riches lay underneath the place you’re planning to move.  Still, for all its warts, I wouldn’t live anywhere else, except for maybe Canada or Vermont, because everywhere else in North America scares the living shit out of me.

Posted by: ithacaisdoomed | February 26, 2010

In Sickness and in Doom…

In Sickness and in Doom…

I’ve got a snow day this morning since we had our first real storm of the season.  The world outside looks like Ice Planet Hoth and there’s a fire burning in the wood stove.  Life is good.

First off, I want to apologize for the sporadic posting lately. The 90’s were a Lost Decade for Japan. The month of February has been a Lost Month for me. The Sickness started out as a run of the mill cold, then turned into this vomiting thing, and now it’s back to a cold, and sometimes makes me think I have Walking Pneumonia. I alternate between deciding I should go to the doctor, and then giving it another week.  There’s nothing like an extended bout of illness to call into question your faith in societal institutions such as Western Medicine and journalism. 
A little back story is in order, and I don’t see this as complaining, because I do have a “doomer” related point, which I’ll get to presently. I’m allergic to dust mite allergen and prone to psychosomatic illness symptoms due to stress. I’ve been to see doctors numerous times, thinking I had some rare syndrome, when in all reality; I just have allergies that get exacerbated by being stressed out. These days, my life is fairly calm; there’s no more stress than the usual paranoia and nightmares that I’ve had my entire adult existence, and, since I quit drinking back in May, I’m a whole lot healthier. In fact, just prior to this illness, I was getting cocky, and patting myself on the back for not having been sick since I could remember, which was probably the last time I got drunk. Hubris is always my Achilles Heel.
What makes this all pertinent to the question of Doom, is that it plays out against the backdrop of SWINE FLU!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

 In fact, one of my co-workers asked me just yesterday, upon hearing my hacking cough, if I had Swine Flu. (For the record, I don’t think I have Swine Flu.) I don’t know if you have this problem, but I have not been able to figure out what to make of this one, the Swine Flu Pandemic. For one thing, the whole Global Pandemic thing scares the shit out of me. It seems like a highly plausible scenario, given the cess pool disease breeding grounds of factory farms, the concentration of human populations into squalid cities, and a general laissez faire attitude on the part of the medical/industrial complex about shoving antibiotics down the gullets of farm animals and Chinese humans alike.
On the other hand, there’s been the whole Swine Flu Vaccine Hype, and I like to think that I’m immune to hype, and can spot bullshit when I see it. In my neck of the woods, Tompkins County, New York, one Cornell Freshman died, and that was about the last I heard. Then there were pictures of people wearing masks, lined up waiting to get their dose at the Shoppes at Ithaca Mall. OMG, lo and behold, there was an acute shortage! A few week’s later, there’s more than enough to go around and the clinics can’t give the stuff away. I’ve read stuff from the MSM. I’ve read stuff in the alternative press. A Google search on “swine flu is bullshit” reveals several sites that use bullying language to convince you that you’re a dumb ass if you even consider the possiblity that you fear Swine Flu.  I have come away not really knowing where to stand, other than deciding to let Nature take its course.
I’m not anti-vaccine. In fact, I had my five year old son vaccinated against both seasonal and Swine Flu’s. I researched it, talked to our pediatrician, and came out deciding that the risk of the vaccine was worth it, in his case. For kids in the era before vaccines against diseases like Meningitis, Measles, and Polio, the month of February could have been the month they spent in quarantine and you, the parent, spent wondering if you were ever going to see them alive again. So, the risk of death from influenza being highest amongst the young, particularly with Swine Flu, we had him take the vaccines. My son has never had an adverse reaction to a vaccine mind you, and if he had, that would be a game changer.
For me, a middle-aged freak pushing 40, I felt like I could afford to gamble, so gamble I did. Usually, my work offers us seasonal flu vaccines. This year, for whatever reason, they didn’t, though they did offer to reimburse us if we got the vaccines at a clinic. In part, this is a story of my sheer laziness, just simply not feeing bothered to get my sorry ass to a clinic to get the shots. At the same time, though I am cautious, the risk from contracting the Swine Flu seemed fairly minor for a man in my position. So, ultimately, here is what I came up with: I won’t get the vaccine. If I contract Swine Flu, and get sick, or even die, damn .I should have listened, played it safe, and gone with the dubious advice of the various experts. If I don’t get the Swine Flu, then it’s all bullshit, and I can side with the skeptics and various other experts who came out against the vaccine. As of February 23, Swine Flu is bullshit. I prefer the skeptic side, in general.
Despite all we know, and our all-powerful ability to disseminate information, the world is still a chaotic and uncertain place. It remains, incredibly difficult, in my opinion, to know what to believe. In the Main Stream Media, Junk Science gets equal billing with peer-reviewed , consensus science and there’s been an endless hype of horrors, waiting to waylay us, from Tylenol Scares and razor blades in apples, to terrorism and child rapists. In reality, you’re more likely to get sick from eating ground beef, hurt while riding in a car, and more children die from diarrhea and malnutrition than at the hands of monsters. We, in the Developed World, have the luxury of manufactured fears.
As our country tilts more towards a Third World type of existence, it is scary to think how unprepared we are for such a “lifestyle.” We’ve already lost trust in our institutions (government, journalism, even science) due to their tendencies towards hyperbole, scaremongering, and outright lies that are later revealed.  What will we do when even those institutions (mainstream medicine, journalism, government at all levels) are rendered completely impotent in the face of the problems that beset us? Can we trust ourselves?
So this brings me back to my own “Swine Flu Scare.” Like a lot of people, I get most of my news and other information via the internet.  What if my knowledge about Swine Flu came only from word of mouth? Would it seem more or less frightening? Would people be willing to indulge in all sorts of superstitious quackery or would people feel more empowered in the absence of both the media hype and the expert opinions? Let’s theorize a “relocalized perspective” sans internet. 

 Iwould remain firm and confident in my decision not to get the vaccine, if such were even available. Thinking about it from my local perspective, I don’t know anyone who has died from it; seen a few who’ve been sickened and it wasn’t all that bad. I would still have vaccinated my child (if such were available) given the rumors heard from afar of pregnant women and children dying from “the illness.” I remain a reasonably healthy male. “Know thyself” has always been the best advice, and it will probably remain so in a depleted future. I have a good baseline established for my health. I know my own body. I’ve eliminated toxins and addictions (such as alcohol) that could skew my perspective. I have a good doctor and there’s a trained nurse in my family. I hope both will happily barter their services for chickens or some such in the event that it’s needed.
Life, especially in a depleted future, will remain a balancing act between varying levels of risk. Knowledge will remain power. It remains of tantamount importance to cultivate sources of knowledge that you can trust, especially within yourself.  Know your body.  Get rid of your addictions and anything toxic you put into your body.  Booyah, Swine Flu!

Posted by: ithacaisdoomed | February 20, 2010

Fear of February

First off, this isn’t really a post, because a post has a certain level of quality and this will not have any of that.  It’s basically just to say, “I live and I’ll be back.”  I know I keep saying that, but I suffer from the terrible Curse of February right now.  For the past several years, February has been a cursed month.  Two years ago, I lost my beloved cat of 15 years in February.  I also got this weird stomach illness and had to go to the hospital, during a snowstorm, and sit in the waiting room for five hours before finding out there wasn’t anything wrong.  This year, I and the other two members of my family,have been sick for the past three weeks.  February just sucks.  But there was also a child recently born into my extended family, so I don’t want to bad mouth her birth month too much.  I’m actually looking forward to meeting her, once I get out of quarantine.  Well, I was going to post yesterday morning, but I decided to go shovel my brother–in-law’s driveway and sidewalk instead, so as to make way for their new baby.  That’s my excuse…and I’m sticking by it.  The lesson being, remain consistent, and go do something nice for someone.  I’ll see you, dear reader, on Wednesday.

Posted by: ithacaisdoomed | February 17, 2010

New post up Friday morning

I know, it’s bad sign when a writer, repeatedly missing his deadlines, keeps promising to deliver, but there will be a new post up Friday morning, come hell or high water:)  I’ve been sick so please humor me.  And I do this for the 16 people who have looked at my blog today and for the person who accessed my blog by searching “shitty snowman.”  You are all the True Doomers!

Posted by: ithacaisdoomed | February 5, 2010

New post up Saturday morning

Just in case you follow this blog, and if you do, I sincerely appreciate you from the bottom of my doomer heart, I will be updating tomorrow, Saturday. Thanks for checking in.

Posted by: ithacaisdoomed | January 28, 2010

“Poached” Pears

It’s Midwinter here in Ithaca and every day looks like a film set from The Road, the skies more gray than gray and a layer of scummy, rubble -crusted snow everywhere.  The news of the world is increasingly bleak.  It is a time of waiting, for the return of the sun, for the first green shoots of spring–or economic recovery.  In a not-too-distant, post-Peak future, two weary travelers scour the ground for signs of life.  On finding the rising green of a nettle plant, one turns to the other and says, “Look! Green shoots, heh heh” and another phrase of Orwellian double speak takes on a new, ironic meaning.  With all these winter doldrums, it feels like time for another

GLOATS FROM THE WINNER'S CIRCLE

“Let free fruit fall edition”:  My job takes me all around the county where I live.  One thing I do to both amuse myself and train my mind, is to be vigilantly aware of the plants growing at the different places I travel.  I’m always on the lookout for anything edible or otherwise useful growing in some neglected corner of Ithaca.  These are the traits of the successful “freedom forager” and it was by this awareness that I located the productive, yet utterly unnoticed pear tree that provided me with the free fodder to construct this delicious Pear Pepper Salsa.

Pear Salsa on Potato Kale Enchiladas!

When we cracked open a jar last night and ate it on the Potato Kale Enchiladas, I could well remember the clandestine gathering in the early morning light of a September morn.  I even brought my pole picker with me so I could get up to those top branches.  The tree was positively laden with fruit, seemed like a Bartlett variety.  Now I can’t tell you where it is, because I’d have to kill you, but I will admonish all to be on the lookout for such delightful opportunities.  Who knows how many neglected fruit trees there are  in the cities and even in the office parks of suburbia, you know the ones, built right on top of an old farmstead.  I’m not advocating any outright theft, but I will say allowing perfectly good fruit to go to waste is “criminal.”  So do what you must.

Price of materials:  “Poached” pears, grew the peppers.  For the price of a little vinegar, sugar, and the gas to run the canner, I got 6 pints of pear salsa.  We also canned up six pints of sliced pears and ate who knows how many fresh.

Price of labor:  Needless to say, I  derive great pleasure in clandestine fruit gathering missions.  It helps to practice making yourself as unnoticeable to others as possible.  Or simply act like you belong there when you’re harvesting with a pole picker.  Practice.  If you don’t enjoy cooking and canning, then there’s no hope for ya.

Price of hearing my five year old beg me to open another can of those sliced pears for dessert:  Absolutely pricelesss!

Posted by: ithacaisdoomed | January 23, 2010

10 Square Miles: Surrounded by Cannibal Rednecks

Before I saw The Road, I though I knew my darkest fear:  being sodomized by deranged hillbillies a la Ned Beatty in Deliverance.  I saw that movie when I was 13, and like many other middle class men, the fearsome specter of rape by redneck has stuck with me for life.

I realized the full depth of this fear while I was on my first  solo backpacking trip, on Virginia’s Massanutten Mountain.  By day, I felt great.  I communed with nature and felt one with the universe.  The long nights were a different story, a listening for the slightest footstep, clutching my knife to my chest story.  One night, I camped next to a Forest Service shed where there was a full gas can.  I had to hide the gas can for fear that a pyschopathic redneck would come and douse my tent with it.  How the pyscho would find me in the dark, I did not bother to question.

Such were the depths of my irrational fears, born of one too many viewings of Deliverance, The Hills Have Eyes, Wrong Turn, and lately, The Road.  Having seen the latter film, the fear has taken a whole new turn with the advent of the image of not just your basic inbred, family of hillbilly pyschopaths, but a new breed of highly realistic Cannibal Redneck, lacking in  the slightest twinge of humanity or even character development.  There’s no back story to the Cannibal Rednecks in The Road:  They are a force to be reckoned with, pure death hunting the last of the normal humans left,  down to the last child.  You’re either with them, or you’re dead meat, or worse, kept in a cellar to be slowly dismembered, raped, and eaten alive.

"Get in the truck, boy."

Cannibalism, from Canibalis, was the Spanish name for the Carib people of Hispaniola.  Historically, the eating of human flesh, from dead or alive victims, has only happened in certain circumstances.  It has been employed as an act of pyschological warfare, as happened during the Liberian civil war of the 1980’s.  Cannibalism has also been the province of the criminally insane, as in the case of Jeffrey Dahmer and more recently Armin Meiwes, a German who posted a wanted ad for a willing victim to be murdered and consumed.   Surprisingly, someone actually answered it and he went through with it.  Finally, cannibalism has been practiced in cases of extreme hunger, but usually only after all other avenues had been exhausted and even then, the victims were usually already dead, as in the case of the Uruguyan soccer team featured in the film Alive.

I suppose extreme hunger is what would have driven the rednecks in The Road to those extremes of cannibal malevolence.  It’s best to suspend any disbelief and let the full horror of the spectacle overtake you.  One wonders, though, why didn’t the survivors band together against them–instead of giving in to peer pressure suicide?  This could be a metaphor for how cut off we are from each other in our hyperindividualistic society–and The Road is merely taking that metaphor to its logical extreme–it’s psychopaths versus everyone else, only everyone else is scattered and divided, incapable due to social conditioning of even having a prayer to band together is such a “dog eat dog” world. 

While The Road is a work of literature and can stand on its own, I still must contend personally with the horrifiying threat of Cannibal Rednecks.  Their prevalence in horror films has rendered them a virtual trope of cinema, making the fear common enough that it must say something about society and the American middle class mind.  Generally, I console myself that the Cannibal Rednecks are usually from West Virginia.  Maybe they might breed as far north as Pennsylvania, but no way, not in New York.  We’re just too civilized.  This rationalization has not prevented me from having nightmares since The Road, of being chased by Cannibal Rednecks who were riding various thrill craft: 4 wheelers, snowmobiles, and once even on jetskis.  All that aside, what is this fear and the characterization of the inbred, West Virginia cannibal redneck all about?

One major use of the cannibal epithet has been to denigrate a population, a form of cultural libel.  Has there been a group of white people as thoroughly denigrated, ridiculed, and stereotyped by other white people as the people of Appalachia?  In these days of Avatar and its theme of resource warfare, perhaps we could turn that thought back on our own country.  Does making West Virginia into a freak show of inbred cannibal rednecks within the popular imagination somehow make it easier on our collective conscience to blow up every mountain in the state to get cheap coal?

West Virginia--Almost level, but cleansed of cannibal rednecks...

I’m saying it’s about time we all faced the fear of cannibal rednecks.  I’m not going to call John Hillcoat irresponsible for his portrayal of them in The Road.  (That was in Tennessee.)  However, maybe some of the horror movies are being a bit irresponsible… or maybe they’re financed by Massey Energy Company, the largest producer of coal in Appalachia.  I’m fighting back with the cannibal rednecks of West Virginia.  It’s not that their lifestyle is necessarily so wrong—it’s just that they’re eating the wrong people.

Don Blankenship, CEO of Massey Energy Co. and possessor of marvelous fat deposits.

Posted by: ithacaisdoomed | January 21, 2010

Internet Doom!

Due to some technical problems, there will not be an Ithaca is Doomed update this morning. There will be an update later this evening or tomorrow morning, depending on said technical problems, and it will be good on the topic of REDNECK CANNIBALS! So stay tuned!

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