Monday, November 10, 2008

Rolling Quiet Time

I've been turning the radio off in the car lately. Not switching to a tape (I have a very old car), but just turning the damn thing off.

I tended to have five different radio-listening modes. Either KJR-AM for sports, AM1090 for lefty-talk, KUOW for national NPR programming, KEXP for general music, or the occasional dial-surfing for some groovy tune.

Now, nada.

And it has felt good. I don't know what it says about my mental state that I need this, that I have become more noise-averse. Maybe the intensity of the last few months of Campaign'08 or the rise and fall of child-induced anxiety or just the need to give my brain some free-play time in the hopes I'll have the time and energy and material to write.

It would be unsettling, as neurotically self-conscious as I am, if it weren't so peaceful.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008


I am beside myself. There have been tears and whoops and an overwhelming feeling of hope.

And now, not a praying man, I offer my prayers to President-elect Barack Obama. Bush is a tough act to follow, though not in the traditional sense of the phrase.

Let's help President Obama realize what the word "mandate" really means, and change the image of government at home and the US abroad.

Many thanks to my friends at SEI for brotherhood through the process and my spot on the soapbox.

I'm proud to be an American tonight, which is damn refreshing.

And very glad I shared all of it, including the voting booth trip, with my girls.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Yahtzees and Valleys

We have a handheld Yahtzee game in our bathroom. I bought it for Tricia’s stocking a few Christmases ago, and it has lived most its life in the bathroom.

I am unrepentant about the games function. I’ve always been a bathroom reader and I don’t care who knows it. A game of Yahtzee is the perfectly complimentary length for the other business that needs doing.

But there is a problem.

When you play enough Yahtzee, especially at the solo handheld pace, you begin to see patterns. Repetition reveals the subtle but important strategies to the game, constantly angling to put yourself in the way of happy accidents, keeping an eye on secondary options in case the optimal outcome isn’t achieved.

I suppose, for better or worse, there is a metaphor in there for how I have chosen to live my life, but that is a story for a different time.

The issue here is that by finding resonances within the patterns and strategies, the game takes on the air of a gateway to the universal. It becomes, like tea leaves or candlelight or smoke, a meditative focal point for expanding one’s awareness.

But, unlike those things, it also has a win/lose aspect, a metric of success. And I use the game as my own Golden Compass, orienteering the state of my karmic pendulum, taking the measure of my luck, my ability to read and write probalities.

Which is crazy, because it’s just a fucking game.

I put my the health of my mental state into a dollar worth of plastic and circuits loaded with trademarked proprietary code. If I’m feeling down and lose, or second-guessing myself and make a poor game choice, I accelerate myself into a downward slope. And I allow the happy accidents to falsely elevate my self-esteem

All based on pure dumb luck. All based on just things as they happen to be running up against my narratives of how things should be.

Which, perhaps, places my Yahtzee play firmly alongside every other spiritual tradition. And maybe no better or worse because of it.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Down with "middle" fingers!

I think we've been profoundly unfair to our middle fingers. Only they have no name that is really their own, marks them as individual. They are known only in their relationship to the other fingers.

Thumb. Pinkie. Index. Ring.


What happens if you lose a finger? What then? Or, taken further, what if you lost two, thumb/index or pinkie/ring? How could it still be a "middle" finger?

How can we saddle one of our digits with an identity so easily undercut, so mutable and yet without agency?

I, for one, am not going to stand for this. I propose an immediate rename of the third digit, formerly known as "middle" finger.

I'm going to call them the "fuckyou" fingers.

Think how satisfying this will render a session of "Thumbkin."

"Where is fuckyou?
Where is fuckyou?
Here I am, Here I am."

No more of a name dependent on others for meaning.

Thumb. Pinkie. Index. Ring.


Thursday, October 09, 2008

The Alpha Bum

I've wondered for years about the Alpha Bum. Some say he's a myth, but I tell ya he lives on these here streets.

No, just kidding. I had to write that second sentence in the voice of some old-timer con artist in a Scooby-Doo episode. Because if I didn't, my head might've exploded, or at the very least I would have had my poetic license suspended.

Now, where was I?

Right, the Alpha Bum.

I probably first started noticing the "Why lie? I need a beer!" signs in use by panhandlers ten years ago. I'm sure they've been around longer, and had I been paying more attention would have noticed at least one in college, where the sales pitch seems particularly suited.

It occurred to me at some point that there must have been some first use of this begging tactic, some panhandler who struck upon the reverse psychology in a moment of inspiration. In short, an Alpha Bum. And, somehow, the stories of this one Alpha Bum's success spread, maybe along the rails, until bums across America, nay, across the globe, were using this now-familiar tactic.

How familiar? It has become self-referential, capable of its own shorthand. On the way to pick up the Munchkin at school today, I passed a panhandler holding a sign that said only "Why lie?"

That is how might the legacy of the Alpha Bum is - it is an accepted meme, capable of carrying it's meaning with an ultimate economy of words.

I'd like to meet the Alpha Bum someday, and give a quarter to Greatness.