Tuesday, December 16, 2003
"...to look life in the face,
always to look life in the face,
and to know what it is
to love it for what it is.
And then to put it away."
With this, the final post of Jouissance, I wish both old and new friends of the Blog of Space Cowboy Dave a fond farewell as I depart the blogosphere in order to focus more directly upon other writing projects. The archived existing posts of Jouissance shall remain online at http://www.spacecowboydave.blogspot.com for as long as the good people at blogger.com and blogspot.com see fit to maintain them as permalinks.The Jouissance archives can also be viewed indefinitely at www.spacecowboydave.com.
Blogging has been a wonderful experience, experiment, and exploration as well as a marvelous form of writing discipline. It's nice to know that you really can turn out meaningful content, day after day, even if it sometimes takes the better part of the day to produce, self-edit, format, and publish. Not all blogs require such diligence and dedication, but those are the goals I set for myself at the outset. Not that I haven't taken the occasional day off, or opted for easy way out by posting little more than a link to the work of others from time to time, but in my own defense that was largely the exception. I sincerely hope that my readers have enjoyed Jouissance Blog of Space Cowboy Dave as much as I have enjoyed producing it. It has been a pleasure and an honor.
My one regret is that I did not complete a piece I had planned to post entitled, "Why I Blog." I made several false starts, but never felt that what I had created lived up to the importance of the piece. Before I ever began to blog I pondered deeply as to the wisdom of the enterprise. [In its favor one not requiring new clothes.] Did I really want to add to the cacophony which I had recognized the Web to have become? The answer to this question, and the essence of the message I had intended to deliver in this never-to-be-posted "Why I Blog" post is summed up in a quote from Michael Moore:
"...this cacophony of noise ...that's one of the wonderful things about living in a free society, that's the noise of democracy, that's the noise of a free people: people cheering something they agree with, people saying 'no I don't agree with that' ...you wish that we had more of [this] in our society, that people actually cared enough to feel one way or another"
"The noise of a free people." If for none other there it is, raison d'être. Though the noise at times be deafening and at times the messages maddening it is all part of the beautiful noise of freedom. Let it never be silenced. Blog on.
Copyright © 2003 David Walske Inc
Monday, December 15, 2003
by David Walske
The blogosphere is a forum for the exchange of ideas. A noisy forum, a virtual equivalent of London's famed Speaker's Corner, over three million blogs and growing, the blogsphere provides a free [or nearly free] soapbox to anyone with a desire for the dais. Jouissance Blog of Space Cowboy Dave has been happy to add to the din over the past several months with posts of largely original content, as well as attributed posts and links. Jouissance would not be what has been without the brilliant materials of research and inspiration behind the finished posts. As the year draws to a close Jouissance pays tribute to but a few of the many sources of inspiration and information.
If you subscribe to no other magazine, subscribe to The Week. I look forward receiving my copy each and every week, miss it horribly when I'm away from home or vacation, and read it word-for-word cover to cover when ever possible. If I'm particularly busy with other tasks it might take the week to read The Week, but usually I finish it over the weekend having received it in Friday's or Saturday's mail delivery. This is a real gem.
I have a Love/Hate relationship with Scientific American. All dressed up in its consumer friendly glitz and gloss cover - the old format had the look and feel of JAMA and the sexiness of Alan Greenspan - it really stands out on the racks of neighborhood newsstands drawing readers into the vital and authentic scientific data it has always provided. Bringing quantum physics, parallel universes, string theory, and parallel dimensions to the general public in a format that is not only understandable but entertaining is no small feat. Brian Greene's writing, the basis of the recent PBS miniseries "The Elegant Universe," and Greene's best-selling novel of the same name have been particular high points this year.
Then there's the evil flip side of Scientific American. Such as the constant irritation of the ever smug an overly self-congratulatory Michael Shermer and his insipid little column, "The Skeptic." Michael, I'm sorry you got beat up by schoolyard bullies all through your childhood, but please go see a shrink instead of taking it out on your readers each month. And then there's the opening statement - attributed amorphously to "The Editors" - of the December issue. This issue rightly helped to further popularize the scientific truth that "race" [Black, White, Asian, etc.] as a genetic reality is a myth, but chose to open the issue by railing against the rejection of Proposition 54 which would have prevented the State of California from collecting racial demographic information. "The Editors" completely missed the point that while race is a myth, racism is not, and that there is a great difference between being colorblind and simply turning a blind eye to injustice - a concept artfully and brilliantly depicted in great detail by the PBS miniseries "RACE the Power of an Illusion." Proposition 54, had it passed [thankfully it was defeated] would have created a dense cover of fog under which untold racist practices could have thrived without detection. And what is an op-ed political piece doing at the head of a "scientific" magazine anyway?
In spite of it's fissure-like deep flaws, Scientific American remains on the Jouissance list. When you spot Michael Shermer's smirking glirid visage, keep flipping. And as always, question, probe, and prod using your own powers of intelligence to separate op-ed from scientific fact. This magazine is rife with both, but look for the motherlode amongst the bauxite and you'll come away with a fistful of gold at least.
To quote Richard Saul Wurman, "It shocks me that I love this Disney [owned] magazine Discover magazine. And its a 'sleeper' magazine. I know a lot of people don't read Discover magazine, and it's a really good magazine... 'right at the edge' of me not understanding it, which is really important." I concur. A surprising find, this magazine. Cutting edge science presented in a most palatable form. Palatable but not sugar coated. This magazine does not shy away from the harsh realities, for example, the top ten most likely ways in which the world as we know it might end.
The Atlantic Monthly is ever an inspired and inspiring source of prose, poetry, and intellectual stimulation. Thoughtful and provoking this magazine makes a fine addition to the Jouissance list. Recently The Atlantic Monthly published the somber brilliance of "The Lesson" by Philip Levine.
Genre, the Gay answer to GQ, plus. Who knew there were so many ways to tie one's tie. Now if I could just get some of the guys pictured in the magazine to come over and instruct me personally. Is that a full Windsor?
And the list goes on: Metropolis, The New Yorker, and numerous online resources. All have provided inspiration, references, and points of view that have helped to make Jouissance the enjoyable experience that it has been for me over the past several months.
Copyright © 2003 David Walske Inc
Wednesday, December 10, 2003
War is NOT a Video Game
View "BushFlash" fullscreen.
Animation: Eric Blumrich
Music: Steve Roach
WAR is NOT a Video Game.
Many thanks to Robert Squires for this suggestion.
To make a suggestion for future Jouissance posts, please click here.
Tuesday, December 09, 2003
by David Walske
Sitting at the bar, I pondered aloud, "Why did I have to wait for the man to die before I started appreciating the music of Johnny Cash?" "Don't ask me," Chris, the bartender, replied in answer to my rhetorical question, "I'm from Nashville. I grew up with Johnny Cash music. I've always liked him." I think that's what I like best about Chris, he can slap you down with such a light touch. Like the time I told him I was once a bartender myself. Chris asked me,"For how long?" When I revealed that my stint behind the bar had lasted less than six months he rolled his eyes and, with just the faintest hint of a smirk upon his face said, "Yeah, you were a bartender."
Don't let the cowboy reference in my nom de plume lead you to misconstrue. I have never been a fan of Country Western music. Some of the crossover stuff, yes. But hard-core Country has always been strictly off of my chart. Same for most Rap. Although I am a fan of "FatBoy Slim," "Del THA fUNKé hOMOSAPiEN," as well as other artists that while not Rappers, exhibit a strong Rap influence in their music. So there you go. I'd say my taste in music is about as eclectic as it gets. From classical and opera, to pop and dance, and just about everything in-between, I'm listening - in spite of the fact that commercial radio has been an abysmal void for the past several years. [Will somebody please spear Britney?] If not for KCRW I'd probably never hit the FM button on my car stereo. [Friends have extolled the virtues of XM satellite radio, but that's a boundary I've yet to cross. Stay tuned.]
Country Western being off my playlist, I've largely avoided the music of C & W icon Johnny Cash until just this year. And suddenly I'm captivated by it. My recent enthrallment with the music of Johnny Cash actually began some months before his passing with the release of his final CD, entitled, "American IV: The Man Comes Around." Largely a cover CD this collection includes Johnny Cash renditions of songs as diverse as Simon and Garfunkel's "Bridge Over Troubled Water," The Beatles' "In My Life," and "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face," best known as made popular by Roberta Flack. But the track that caught my ear was the Nine Inch Nails song, "Hurt." Johnny Cash singing Nine Inch Nails. Talk about the man coming around - although I think the title track reference may have more to do with religion than industrial/alternative rock. No matter.
"I hurt myself today
To see if I still feel
I focus on the pain
The only thing that’s real
The needle tears a hole
The old familiar sting
Try to kill it all away
But I remember everything
What have I become?
My sweetest friend
Everyone I know
Goes away in the end
You could have it all
My empire of dirt
I will let you down
I will make you hurt"
- Trent Reznor
The lyrics, Shakespearean in their duality of expression of the profoundly tragic essential human state, voiced in the vernacular of the time. The Johnny Cash solo rendition, accompanied by a lone guitar, begins pensive but unapologetic. The deep crackled voice conjures images of a sweat-drenched cragged brow, etched by a life deeply felt. Slowly and powerfully the performance builds, finally climaxing in the third line of the fourth stanza. Denouement, "I will make you hurt." I was driving my car the first time I heard this track, on KCRW of course. It had such effect upon me I pulled the car over, sat quietly and wept. This was the beginning. The end.
The next Johnny Cash track that came roaring into my head was, "Rusty Cage," from his CD. "Unchained." Powerfully sad, rough-edged, resentful, tortured, and yet hopeful. Speaking to inner demons, external oppressor, creator?
"You wired me awake
And hit me with a hand of broken nails
You tied my lead and pulled my chain
To watch my blood begin to boil
But I'm gonna break
I'm gonna break my
I'm gonna break my rusty cage and run"
- Chris Cornell
At the end of the fifth stanza, the tempo changes, slows as it builds in intensity like a prizefighter changing pace, zeroing in on his opponent's points of fleshy vulnerability. Cash's rendition effervesces from musical performance to poetic reading. "When the forest burns along the road, like God's eyes In my headlights... and it's raining icepicks on your steel shore... I'm gonna break my rusty cage and run."
What's next for me in the Cash legacy of 141 albums spanning some forty years? I'm not sure, but "Hurt" and "Rusty Cage" are two gems that have opened my eyes to a prejudice of genre that has kept me from a trove.
Copyright © 2003 David Walske Inc
Monday, December 08, 2003
What is a Liberal?
by David Walske
What is a conservative? The terms liberal and conservative have been thrown about so much, for so long in the political arena, that they bear little resemblance to their original forms. In Marie Hardenbrook's Political Science class at McClintock High School in Tempe, Arizona I learned that in the purest sense, political liberalism favors, as the name connotes, larger and more liberally far-reaching government, and conversely that political conservatism favors restricted, less intrusive government. Remember laissez-faire from your History classes? It's a word borrowed directly from the French: laisser faire to let (people) do (as they choose), which espouses concepts of small government and a "hands off" approach to "the people" as respects the rule of law whenever practicable. I'm no political science expert - obviously so, in that for my initial scholarly reference I had to reach back to High School - but this is my understanding of the concepts.
The mid-1970's of my later High School years was an unusually tumultuous time in which to be studying political science. No less so for being a Democrat in the Arizona of pre-recantation Barry Goldwater -[ Man, did that ever piss off the Republicans when in the waning years of his life Barry saw the light and embraced many liberal causes including full acceptance of his openly Gay grandson. I'm sure many a Republican volunteered to climb a ladder to personally rip the letters of his name from the sign adorning the the Phoenix airport terminal named in his honor]. The Goldwater political climate I endured as a naïve, fresh-faced McGovern Presidential campaign volunteer in the 1974 election, before I could even vote myself, was very different from that produced of Barry's parting salvo. There were moments at which I felt as though there were but three Democrats in the entire state, myself, my teacher Marie Hardenbrook, and my best friend Mark Feldstein - one of few people of true genius-level intelligence I have had the pleasure to call friend, who drifted out of my life - after departing McClintock High School for an Ivy League College career on a full four-year academic scholarship - and remains estranged from me yet today, in spite of my best efforts to reconnect with him. I always knew Mark had the seeds of greatness in him. Long before he won his two Peabody awards for excellence in journalism.
Back to remedial poli-sci: Conservative = small government, less of the hand of of government on the individual, for better or for worse; you're on your own buddy, it's the land of rugged individualism and we'll leave you alone to get on with it, whatever "it" is. Liberal = larger government, more public assistance programs, in general more care by the state for the individual. Simple, correct? No. Somehow concepts of social conservatism and liberalism came to mire the clarity of this simple concept of a linear political spectrum. Nixon called us, "dirty hippies," as he hid behind the skirt of what was referred to as conservatism. But a political conservative by its original, and most pure definition would embrace the laissez-faire hippy lifestyle. "Hey man, you're harshing my buzz. Get your government off me." A very politically conservative statement, this. But indeed the Nixon conservative Republicans and us, "dirty hippies" -[hey, personally I bathed every day and got mostly A's in school]- were sworn enemies.
It's only gotten more muddled and confused in the intervening decades. The conservative Christian Republican right wants to dictate religion, morality, and ethics. George Bush, like Ronny Reagan before him, thinks God put him in the White House. I wasn't aware that God was registered to vote. [How do you register a non-mortal deity to vote? Does Zeus get a vote too?] When I worked canvassing door-to-door for McGovern in the 1974 campaign, again in my naïveté expecting a civil response from those who answered the door when I rang in Phoenix, Arizona, I once found myself staring down the fiery end of a shotgun being ordered by it's owner as he pointed it at my head to, "Get off my property you pinko." Pinko? Pinko is slang for a Socialist and/or Communist. But I'm a Democrat. I didn't' want the KGB down my throat any more than I wanted Nixon's thugs up my ass. Nixon's conservative government grew ever larger, taxing its constituency ever harder and deeper, shaking out every last possible dime to fund the nascent military-industrial-complex that both fed and ruled him, straining the country to near breaking point until his own greed and malice became his unraveling.
Flip-wipe to present day. George W. Bush, meat puppet of an even more evil agenda than that of the Nixon years seemed for a time almost unstoppable. At first he's a lackluster joke of a president - he's still a joke, but now a sickly sardonic one. Then a single day in American history changes all that. Thousands die in a matter of hours in New York City, and a presidency is transformed through carefully choreographed media campaign. The so-called "liberal media." What Liberal Media? And what does this newly "transformed president" do with the international goodwill heaped upon him and America. He squanders it. He pours billions, and incalculable future trillions into a "new Vietnam war" in Iraq. He plays dress-up soldier on a US Navy aircraft carrier turning circles off the coast of San Diego. Personally I'll take an oversexed president getting a haircut aboard Air Force One while parked inconsiderately on the tarmac of a public airport, to a draft-dodging meat-puppet spending the wealth and lives of our nation and the nation of our children and the nation of our children's children while playing GI-Joe dress-up, any day of the week.
The "blow-job Bill" versus "GI-Joe doll George" comparisons are of course the lightly humorous side of the issues. The real issue is the ominous and occult seething underbelly of the dark Presidential puppeteers working the meat puppet Bush. 9/11 gave them their "in." Hysterical fear kept things going. Hitler had the Jews, Nixon/Reagan and others of their ilk before them had "the commies," Dubya's puppeteers have Islamic fundamentalist terrorists. No doubt the free, peace-loving world has something to fear from terrorists and fundamentalists - fundamentalists of all religious creeds that put so-called faith above life, limb, and freedom. Our threats come from within and without, including those from within the White House, the Pentagon, and other corridors of Washington power. Lining the pockets of Halliburton et al will do nothing to stop the real threats to our life, liberty, and happiness.
Trillions for defense contractors, peanuts for domestic welfare. And filthy corruption all around that far exceeds in depravity any possible bodily filth of the dirtiest of Nixon's "filthy hippies." Nixon thought he could keep up the ruse indefinitely. He was wrong. Bush thinks he can as well. He is also wrong. The cocoon is already beginning to crack, and what's inside is not a pretty sight. Even some of Bush's staunchest Republican allies, Newt Gingrich for example, are beginning to run for cover. The 2004 Presidential election is less than a year away. Bush thinks he can gloss everything over by then, perhaps with some last minute "cheeseball" ploy. Maybe he feels buoyed by Arnold's success in California. But wait a minute, Arnold won on a platform that called for [at least in word if not deed] fiscal responsibility which ousted a sitting Governor largely by attacking him for the buildup of the California budget deficit under his administration. Dubya's term in the White House has seen America plunge from a budget surplus to the worst - and still building - deficit imaginable.
"...truth pressed to the earth will rise again. ...no lie can live forever."
-Martin Luther King
Copyright © 2003 David Walske Inc
Wednesday, December 03, 2003
And I Feel Fine
Click here to view "The End of The World" fullscreen.
If you know who the author is please click here. Please? Word.
Many thanks to Carole Goldstein for this suggestion. To make a suggestion for future Jouissance posts, please click here.
Tuesday, December 02, 2003
In Search of the Perfect Chair
- Burt Bacharach
"A House is not a Home"
I don't think that an "electric chair" is quite what Burt and Barbara had in mind. But to hear Niels Diffrient diffrient speak of the office chairs most commonly in use today one might believe that Diffrient means to imply that what passes for office seating in many work environments is something akin to cruel and unusual punishment. And if you've ever spent a day toiling away in one such chair, you might agree. Diffrient, designer of the "Freedom Chair," espouses that the human body is simply not designed for prolonged periods of sitting. A difficult sitting position for a chair designer, but one that perhaps opens up new ergonomic possibilities.
- Niels Diffrient
Diffrient is a member of a unique class of designers. A small class, but one with an ever increasing popularity. I heard Niels speak at the 2002, TED12 conference held in Monterey, California. TED12, billed as "The Greatest Design Conference that Ever Was or Will Be," -[Richard Saul Wurman was never one for subtlety]- opened with a session entitled, "The Chair." In this session, after a solo presentation, Diffrient squared off in a panel discussion that included Bill Stumpf, designer of the highly popular Herman Miller produced Aeron chair, as well as representatives from the IBM of office furniture manufacturers, Steelcase, manufacturer of the Leap chair. He opened his preceding a capella segment with an anecdote about the painter Pablo Picasso. As I recall his telling of the story, at age seventy, Picasso attending one of his own gallery openings was approached by a patron of the arts about a particular work. So simple, yet so expressive, a mere scattering of three lines depicting a complex visual statement. When she inquired as to the purchase price and Picasso informed her of it, her rhapsody acquiesced to "sticker shock." "But there are only three lines; why such a high price?" she asked. "My dear woman," Picasso replied, as the story goes, "it took seventy years to paint those three lines."
The Picasso story highlights concepts of design that embrace a simplicity of form in obfuscation of an underlying complexity. This is the essence of all great design. As stated by God himself - as a character in Matt Groenig's Futurama, "When you do things right, people won't be sure you've done anything at all." As a consumer of office chairs - sometimes referred to ask "task chairs" - if one is required to understand too much about ergonomics or master details of technique as to how the chair is to be adjusted for optimal ergonomic performance, then the chair has failed. At least from the perspective of transparency in industrial design. Diffrient found that no matter how many ergonomic features were "designed-in" to task chairs, most users never made any adjustments to their chairs at all. Once a chair was delivered, the user sat it it just as it had arrived from the factory. An adjustment that is never adjusted is not an adjustment at all.
I personally have an Aeron chair. I love my Aeron chair. I've had it for several years. But have I ever adjusted any of its ergonmic settings, save for the height of the armrests? No. I don't have the time - or don't feel like devoting the time - required in the learning curve to making the proper ergonomic adjustments.
By the way, this ubiquitous word, "ergonomics." Did you ever wonder where it came from? Such an odd word. Most of us understand it to represent the science of the interaction between man and machine, but why not orgamechafusion, or some such machination? "Erg" is defined as the smallest discernible unit of work - sort of the subatomic particle, quark, or string of the business or industrial world. The rest is self-explanatory, as its meaning can be deduced from other well used words such as economics. I just thought you should know the derivation of the word, since we all seem to like to throw it around as if we learned it right after "Dada" and "Mama".
Diffrient's "Freedom Chair," has no user adjustable parts - save for the height of the armrests - yet it meets even the most demanding standards of ergonomics. The ergonomic adjustments of the chair operate transparently to the user as the chair automatically adjusts itself to each individual, in each of several possible poses: leaning forward to type, leaning back to think [or nap], etc. Leaning back the user finds that the headrest has automatically positioned itself to cradle the head, removing a significant weight load from the spine. That head of yours weighs a good eight pounds or more; resting it on a proper headrest takes a lot of pressure off of your spine and lower back.
The Freedom chair is a bit pricier than the Aeron Chair, but appears to be well worth the added cost. So am I on my way out to pick up a new Freedom Chair? Not just yet. Besides any penuriousness on my part, I'm still rather fond of my Aeron chair. Also Bill Stumpf really reminds me of my favorite, now deceased, Uncle Fritz. So on irrational emotional grounds alone, I'm attached to my Aeron chair. But Freedom sure is tempting.
Copyright © 2003 David Walske Inc
Monday, December 01, 2003
World AIDS Day
December 1st, 2003
30 Million Deaths Worldwide
World AIDS Day 2003
"Whereof what's past is prologue,
what to come, in yours and my discharge."
- The Tempest
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Blog of Space Cowboy Dave
Culture, science, politics, life, death, love, lust, Gay issues, other matters of import
Blog of Space Cowboy Dave
Culture, science, politics, life, death, love, lust, Gay issues,
other matters of import