At the Hotel: If Walls Could Talk? Ha!

November 3, 2008

In this particular hotel, there used to be a lot of relics and animals mounted around the lobby area. They were a bit hit with all the tourists, who loved to come into the lobby to get a look of these animals they never would see normally. Kids would get scared of them, animal rights activists would get upset about them, the hunters of the fall would get excited from seeing them. Through the years, they were all removed for one reason or another. All but one: the moose head.

The moose head Moose Head has had several names through the years, from the common Bullwinkle to the uncommon Mortimer to the lame Moosey, to Dartboard (see below). The Moose Head is by far the biggest attraction in that lobby. If a tourist had the choice between snapping a picture of the head or the big Hollywood star in town, they would more often than not choose the head.

The Moose Head has always been there through the years, eyes glossed over and watching the happenings of the hotel carefully. The people and Colourful Five Percent it has seen must be incredible. The stories that entered those large ears, the ranting and raving of hotel staff, the outbursts from the guests. It all would be quite unbelievable and could fill tomes on the shelves.

When I see this Moose Head, my thoughts drift elsewhere. I think, “Poor Moose.” Not because the moose ended up hanging on the wall, but because it is hanging on the wall. The abuse it goes through is more incredible than the stories it sees and hears. I think of:

  • a certain manager reaching up and hanging from its antlers, almost bringing it crashing down to the floor.
  • the multiple attempts to throw things at it and occasionally hitting it (the list not limited to but including darts sticking in the side of its head)
  • being dressed up in Christmas lights
  • having a stuffed reindeer stuck on its head – the ultimate insult, surely.
  • witnessing its brethren being saved while leaving him hanging to continue bear the wrath of hotel staff
  • having to inhale cigarette smoke, pipe smoke, marijuana smoke, car exhaust fumes, Harley Davidson exhaust fumes, hair dressing chemicals and perm smells, and the combined B.O. of some of the sweatiest and dirtiest staff members alive – all taking place in the lobby at one time or another, not to mention spilt draft beer, spilt wine, wood stain, and a dirty diaper or four.

Even greater than all of the above, has been the more recent threats to sell the head to another bar to be beside a Bison Head named Bessie, or to be hung in another hotel bar known for its RCMP officers, as if it needed any more encouragement to be linked to the Rocky & Bullwinkle show.

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At the Hotel: Out of the Blue

November 3, 2008

Part of my role at the hotel had me working the graveyard shift from 11 pm to 7 am. Working the graveyard shift was never something I thought of before I started working at the hotel. My only previous encounter with a night clerk was staying at a hotel in Syracuse, and getting a phone-call at a weird hour to ask a stupid question. I can’t remember the question exactly, but I do remember it was something that could have been handled at another time. Little did I know that little encounter would have a lasting effect on me. The reason being, as anyone, and I honestly mean anyone, who has worked in a hotel will know that it takes a certain person to work the late shift: a kook.

I say that in the nicest way possible, because to me, the night audit shift is purgatory. You’re damned if you do, damned if you don’t. By that I mean falling asleep. It is definitely the hardest part about the job is keeping yourself entertained enough to stay awake. Reading a book doesn’t cut it all the time, computer usage is limited, and late-night television is rather boring. Fortunately for night auditors, the night time can present some of the best entertainment out there that makes some of these nights go much quicker than expected.

The possibilities are endless:

  • Conversations with friends while they drink draft beer at the Front Desk.
  • Downloading and playing World of Warcraft.
  • Kicking out someone from the hotel and having a finger get broken on a first or second shift
  • Watching couples argue through the lobby to the elevator and watch them return twenty minutes later in tears.
  • Hanging out with forty other people in the lobby waiting for taxis, while they’re in full costume.
  • Playing Johnny Cash loud – and thinking you are Johnny Cash.
  • Checking people in around 2 am, then checking them out at 6:30 am.
  • and, my personal favourite, the hotel getting shot.

If I were half the writer that Robert Service was, I would start this with rhyme like his Shooting of Dan McGrew.

A bunch of the boys were whooping it up in the Malamute saloon;
The kid that handles the music-box was hitting a jag-time tune;
Back of the bar, in a solo game, sat Dangerous Dan McGrew
And watching his luck was his light-o’-love, the lady that’s known as Lou.

Instead, I’ll give you the skinny of what happened.

It was a Friday, on a humid August evening. The bars were clearing out and the people were moving up the street towards the hotel to take advantage of the cab phones in the lobby. I always kept the doors unlocked to allow people to come in, because I was too curious to hear about their nights. My curiousity may be the death of me at some point, and nearly was this night.

While I stood talking with a young couple at the desk, a mob started to form in front of the hotel doors. There was quite a bit of yelling going on, and then one person separated out from the group to head up the street, still facing back towards the mob. I saw his hand go down to his waist, pulling back his jacket, keeping his hand on the ready. I watched as if I was a part of a movie, because it sure felt like it. Other people in the lobby were watching the same thing I was. The only thing missing was the popcorn.

As the mob moved further up the street, the young couple took a step outside to wait for their cab. I turned to work on something else when I heard one clear sound.

POP

The couple came running inside and down the stairs to the basement area. I picked up the phone and called 9-1-1. While I was on the phone with the dispatcher, I heard it again.

POP
POP
POP

The police arrived on the scene fairly quickly after that. As it turned out, there was a stabbing at the bar next door, and the police just happened to be huddled outside of the doors half a block away. They never realized what was happening five car lengths away, though. While the police searched the area, things were quieter until the night janitor came in. I explained the whole thing to them, and they were in disbelief. At that same moment, the first RCMP officer stepped inside the hotel lobby to talk to me about what happened. They disappeared for another while, and I carried on with my business.

Another thirty minutes passed, and the RCMP officer returned, requesting that one of us may want to come with them to look at things. I locked the front of the hotel, and walked up the street to see what the fuss was about. The gun had been fired four times in total, and three of those shots had been in the hotel’s direction.

  1. One bullet struck the hotel fairly high up on the side of the building, in line with the emergency stairwell.
  2. One bullet struck a rental car parked on the side of the building.
  3. One bullet went right through our emergency stairwell door, and into the wall.

The investigative officer arrived on the scene and told us that he had to extract the bullet from the wall inside the staircase. The night janitor said that she could call maintenance in for the morning to do it. His response was that it had to come out tonight one way or the other. Sure enough, within the hour, he had cut it out of the wall and left a nice mess for our maintenance crew to clean up.

Everytime I think of this story and re-tell it, the one detail in my mind that stands out is that we were all lucky that the gun wasn’t a higher caliber and that it was aimed higher and into the building. Why? There was a large 75 gallon propane tank, full, a mere ten feet away from the doorway where the bullet hit the car and the wall.

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universal nation

November 1, 2008

One of my favourite tracks that put me into an excellent mood instantly tonight while writing. Listening to it again, makes me excited for the Seb Fontaine party in Vancouver in a few weeks to celebrate my birthday. Can’t wait.

Track by Push

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counterculture

November 1, 2008

Blessed are I
Freedom am I
I am the infinite
Within my soul

I can find no beginning
I can find no end

Oh

This I am

-Richard Marley
Black Bear Commune
circa 1987
(transcript from a group howl)

I just finished watching a wonderful documentary, Commune (article about the documentary), about the Black Bear Commune of the late 1960’s. It still exists, but few of the original members are still living at the commune. I’ve always been keenly interested in the time period surrounding the end of the 60’s and into the 70’s. Around the time of the Vietnam War, there was a lot of activity both in political movements, social experiments, and the arts.

Initially, it was the arts that captured my interest about this era. Theatre, always a forum to show and open discussion in regards to politics, received a bundle of material to work with through the media. Experimental theatre is as old as theatre itself, but the late 60’s brought in some new forms that transformed it from a dialogue of actors on stage to a dialogue with actors and audience. Some of the notable companies that come out of this time period that I’m attracted to are The Performance Group which has transformed into The Wooster Group, and Living Theatre.

The one thing that those theatre groups and the social experiment of Black Bear Commune has in common is the open communication. None of the groups had one leader, nor was it really ruled by majority. They were controlled by circle discussions with free form dialogue passing between members. Communicating amongst the group members in this environment, having open arguments, cultivated the spirit of community for the groups and ultimately was the sole reason they have existed for so long.

Open discussion and debate exists in our societies, but the levels of bureaucracy hinder these discussions from going anywhere. Movements of revolution to change society have been a constant through human history, but there seems to be a lack of courage to make changes in a place of work or small organization. Compounding this problem is the lack of openness in these organizations to try a shift in hierarchy or in the flow of information. I’ve always approached my workplace openly and feel the more people that feed at the pool of knowledge and information, the better the organization will run. Information can breed motivation in people to work harder and smarter, with one eye on the future towards promotion. It certainly has been the case with myself in how I’ve been able to get to where I am within the business.

The leaders of society who have or are evoking change are numerous, but where are the leaders of the workplace to cause that seismic shift and improve our morale when going to work? Where will the winds of change blow from that will enter large corporations and make things better? And what documentaries will be made about these experiments in social structure in the workplace?

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At the Hotel: Trouble

October 19, 2008

[I’ve been working in the hotels for over two years – time to share some of the stories I’ve experienced and have heard about from other locations. Names will have been changed to protect the guilty. Everything has been written as though I was actually there, which wasn’t always the case.]

It started innocently enough with a guest approaching the Front Desk to request a new set of room keys as their keys had expired. I took a quick look at the computer monitor to verify the length of stay, then proceeded to make up the new key cards. I made the keys and passed them over to the guest, and that should have been the end of that transaction. Upon closer examination of the guest details, the credit card on file was only a cash card, not a valid credit card produced from a financial institution. I tried to pre-authorize the credit card for a larger amount, and it was declined.

Knowing that the guests had left the hotel for a while, I proceeded to lock out the room so they would be forced to come down to the front desk to collect new keys. I left it at that and went for lunch. Upon my return, it was discovered that there was someone still in the room and they had let in the other guests, defeating the purpose of locking out their room keys. After a few phone-calls to explain the situation, one of the guests came down to the lobby. She remained downstairs while we tried to sort things out.

She was visibly upset as her boyfriend remained in the room with someone else, but she wasn’t entirely sure who was actually in the room. She was quite intoxicated and you could smell it clear across the lobby – mind you, this was only around noon, so not completely unexpected. A few more phone calls to the room and a visit by some staff members, and the remaining people finally left the room as they did not have a proper credit card to pay for the room.

At this point, there is nothing truly memorable about this little incident. The revelation comes from the staff members who approached the room:

  1. When they entered the room, the man and another woman were naked in bed together, fornicating.
  2. The man, as a reminder, is the boyfriend of the girl in the lobby.
  3. Both were as intoxicated as the other girl.
  4. The other woman was the girl’s mother.

After this was discovered, the entire hotel staff practically shared a communal bucket to defecate into. Not the typical day in the hotel, but then again, anything can happen in the hotel and it will never truly surprise us. This continues to be a highlight-of-the-day and a story to share to this day.

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the raven

October 19, 2008

[A story that was started in October 2007. It’s unfinished and I’ve lost the idea of where it was going. Instead of writing an ending that goes against the original intentions, I’ll post it as is.]

I am perched on top of a street lamp, glowing lights underneath warming my dark rear quite nicely. A wonderful invention these lights. A handy heating unit in the cold nights, and also a convenient lookout to spy from. A breeze blows through the city, coming down through the valley to ruffle my feathers only a slight bit. No matter. I sit, warm and cozy, while my counterparts down below are more than likely cold.

Funny chaps, them. I’d give them names for you, but they’re just birds; who cares about their names. I will name one of them for you though. Cross is what I shall call him. A dangerous raven, a smart bird, but as evil as they come. There are rumours about him that go around our circles on the street. Rumours of him eating cats when he feels like it. Rumours of him living not in a nest in the forest like most of us, but in his own private place up high in the buildings of the city, a raven’s penthouse. Most of these things are rumours, except for one night.

And I happened to be there.

Cross is so-named because he doesn’t have any one joint to hang around. Take me, for instance, on my perch on this silly street lamp. I sit here day in, day out, flying around a little to gather my food, but otherwise I return to this one spot. It’s my spot. No one will challenge me for it because there are plenty of other street lamps in this city. But Cross is different. He rules where-ever he is at that particular moment. There is no stopping him, no challenges going his way. In a moment’s notice, he will show up and take over. He thinks he is more important than everyone else- he isn’t, but don’t pass that along to him.

The incident involving Cross occurred at one of the local hangouts in the city. It’s not well-known by the humans, and the other creatures of the night shy away from this place. It’s not very welcoming to newcomers, a bit raw I would say. Drishunlong. The name alone has caused the older animals of the villages to run away. Those animals are tough, but not tough enough to venture into this world. I have only been there once before, which was long enough for me to be imprinted with a memory.

Drishunlong is not a place in the sense of a bar or restaurant. It is an area where certain ravens find themselves to discuss raven matters – who has access to X dumpster, who gets to fly across the river and who doesn’t, how many ravens can exist at any given moment downtown. Important things for us, no more foolish than human matters. What does exist at Drishunlong are a pair of dumpsters, fifteen feet apart, along a chain-link fence. On one side of the fence, is a parking lot; on the side of the dumpsters, some old, decrypted buildings that are still occupied. The dumpster doors are more often than not propped open, rubbish overflowing onto the ground. It’s a raven’s waterfall of goodness. If you show up late, you miss a lot of the good parts that could have been found. Appear late and you’re stuck scavenging up the broken up nacho chips of a week old bag of Dorito’s. Even worse is not having any edible substances there and being left with broken up pens or cardboard – an unnecessary evil if there was one. The lighting at Drishunlong is poor, as it is everywhere in the city that isn’t on a major roadway. Even the raven’s backyard of the alleyways, it is incredibly dark. On occasion, an idiot will be sitting in the alleyway shining his car headlights down our way, illuminating the decay stuck underneath the fence and up against the old buildings. We do not like such things, as it reminds us that we are standing around squawking about our matters while our feet are mere inches away from the latest dog shit to be dropped onto the ground. Thankfully, the mice of the world are pushovers and can be made to clean the stuff up. The morons.

The sounds coming out from the building beside us are loud. Too loud for my liking, but the music is decent. A low rumbling beat with the vocals barely audible through the many layers of walls and other crap it has to pass through. It’s a fitting underscore to the events that are about to transpire at this place, known as Drishunlong.

I, as usual, am to be found on top of the chain-link fence, towards one end of the dumpsters. My eyes are split between looking at the ground, and looking at the building that owns the parking lot. An area of safety, just in case. A few other ravens are picking through the remainders of the trash, and not having much luck at finding anything decent either. They’re squabbling amongst themselves about how the older ravens always get the best of life while they’re left with nothing. More ravens are gathering towards the other end, muttering away. I strain to hear them, and debate about flying closer, but I do not want to draw attention to myself. It’s risky enough as is being in this place, so I’d rather not remind them that I am actually here. A screech comes screaming down the alleyway followed by the insistent honking of a car horn. The noise causes all of us black birds to close our beaks and stare down towards the vehicle to see what we had missed. We all have our suspicions, and sure enough, a cat slinks out of the shadows of the car. It heads up against the wall of the building, and the car drives on. We turn our heads away from the nuisance and go back to out business.

As mentioned before, raven business is not all that interesting. There was one major problem of late, however, and that is much interest. It concerns a rival spot, a rival murder of ravens, that have started to frequent the area known as Sermawkt. It’s much cleaner than Drishunlong, which doesn’t make the ravens that frequent there any better. They do pretend to be better than the rest, and there lies the problem for us Drishunlongers. Of late, the Sermawktens have started to guard dumpsters and attack any other ravens that have been hoping to feed there. They are a ruthless bunch, plucking the feathers of some dear friends of mine. They harass our group constantly and don’t let up.

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Best of the Past: Belief

January 26, 2008

[July 7, 2005]

What is the nature of trust and belief?

I’m wondering if evolution has changed how humans think of trust/belief and how we ultimately decide whether we do trust someone or not. In my mind, the beginnings of trust and belief belonged with witnessing the leader of your tribe do an action (like killing an animal for food). The tribesmen would view this action and decide on their own that the leader should continue be the leader. The leader did not need to prove his worth to the others except through his actions, or inactions. The system was basic and had very little room for a wrong decision, at least, on the end of the tribesmen. The leader still had the pressure on their shoulders to provide, but they were able to focus on that goal.

In our modern world, I feel like this trust and belief has been muddied and twisted into a whole other contraption. We no longer get to witness our leaders in action and get to make up our mind about that person. Today, we are fed a constant stream of images, of words, of stories from a large number of sources. The arguments for and against the leader(s) is a “he said, she said” deal, rather than obversation from the tribesmen. Whereas in the past, it was the action that was significant and the telling of that action memorable (the story), today it is the opposite: the story is more significant and the action becomes more memorable.

Here’s a few crude examples to prove my point, first from the past, then from the present.

Story A:

Charlie goes up to Bob, in front of a dozen spectators, and stabs him with a knife. Bob dies in front of the dozen people, who bow down in fear of Charlie. They know he can kill people and is powerful. They write stories so we can remember how Charlie behaved that day and worship him. The stories evolve so the action seems even larger than life, that it was destiny, or an act of God that did this to Bob. In the recent future, they will see Charlie and remember that day’s events; the future will remember the stories and preserve Charlie’s history that way.

Story B:

Charlie goes up to Bob, in front of a dozen spectators, and stabs him with a knife. Bob dies in front of the dozen people, who know surround Charlie to get his response to the death of Bob. What his reasoning was, what his future plans are now, etc. They no longer fear Charlie, but want to understand Charlie so they can better place their trust in him. They turn away and tell their stories to the people. People begin to forget that Charlie killed a man, but remember Charlie killed Bob because Bob was a ruthless rapist in the past, and it was his destiny to die at the hand of Charlie. The recent future and the further future forget that Charlie killed Bob in front of all those people, but rather it was a justified murder by Charlie, and that Charlie would never kill again. They remember the layers of information built up on top of the action, not the action itself.

In case you didnt’ pick up the distinction between the two, in Story A, it was the observers who created the stories; in Story B, it was Charlie creating his own story to sell to the people, despite there having been witneses. In the past, the general population took a story and let it grow amongst them, while in the present, the people involved are doing the work for them. The exaggeration of a story comes from the people involved, and not in the people just hearing it wrong.

Here’s a more complex and relevent example:

Action we can indirectly observe through cameras and photographs: thousands of American and international soldiers being at war in Iraq.

The layers: Bush says Saddam Hussein has weapons of mass destruction, we can’t trust him, is a major threat to the world, is harboring terrorists, we went to war to bring democracy to the middle east, to give people a better life, etc.

When we remember this war, or for that matter any war, we will never remember it solely as Bush going to war against Iraq. We will remember it as Bush going to war against Iraq to bring democracy there, or protecting the world from an evil dictator. We’ll remember how much corruption exists in the country, how long it took to accomplish, how much death was lost, but in the end it was a good thing to happen. We’re going to believe that the war was necessary and completely forget the fact that it was a fucking war. No matter what happens in the future, we’ll always remember the layering stories on top of this action and forget what it really was.

Now, why would we allow this to happen in our society? The power structures evolved and grew larger. What was once a tribe leader and tribespeople, has become a king/president, a senate, a parliament/congress, and the people way down at the bottom. The people could no longer see the events that were taking place by their leaders. If the leaders had told the people plainly that, “We attacked a country and won,” the people will start to have visions of what that invasion looked like, felt, and create their own reasons for why it happened, just like in the past – the story growing to support the action. Except, the problem was the people couldn’t see the action so their stories were highly inaccurate and possibly damaging to the leaders/government, etc.

The solution to this was to create a media, a way to get the leader/government’s message out to the people to describe what happened, why it happened, how it happened, etc. The government, in corporation with the media, took away the power of controlling the stories from the people and put it into their own hands. The stories they told were elaborate, and the media supported them, so over time the people became to believe in them.

Gone were the days of deciding whether an action was good or bad. That decision was now being told directly to us and we either believed it, or we went against the government. The government could protect themselves from this dissent by calling out to the rebels that they were aligning themselves with the devil, because they were going against the grain, standing up against the good of the people.

Since this system was to believed in at the higher levels of government, it made sense to the people to accept it at the lower level as well. We could no longer lead by example. We had to explain our actions to everyone around us to protect ourselves, and the others, so people could agree that what we were doing was good. It wasn’t an option to do things on our own and let people make their own decisions. We now had to conform to the higher ideals that were being placed upon our society by government.

Somewhere in this journey, the feeling of doubt was created. Relying on our gut instincts was useless in the modern world, because we were now told to compare the actions to a higher level, an abstract rule. When witnessing an event, or hearing it through the media, we now had to decide whether this action was agreeable to this abstract idea or not. When something happened that involved the leader, you had to rely on the information they provided you. The more information they dump on you, the more likely it becomes that it may not be true or just. You start to have doubts that it is right, but you can’t clearly say “It is wrong” or “it is right,” because you lack critical information (witnessing the event) and you have to compare it to something that isn’t concrete. How can you condemn something if you’re not even entirely sure of the guiding principles yourself? You can’t play the role of god, so you get comfortable with the feeling of doubt and let the world correct itself.

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Best of the Past: Obsessions

January 26, 2008

Why do obsessions exist and are they healthy for a person or not? What separates an obsession from a neccessity in someone’s life?

I was thinking about these two questions after reflecting back upon my experience of not having my laptop for almost a week. In the previous post, I was writing about how humans have become attached to technology like it was a friend or person in their life who had significance to them. But then I started thinking about today how email isn’t just a tool anymore for people, or how cellphones aren’t just a convenience. People have started obsessing about these things, amongst other things.

One of the first things I noticed when I moved to Syracuse and went into the theatre department was how frequently the students whipped out their cellphones while walking out of a classroom. Worse was how people called people on their cells even though they only had a five-ten minute break. Are their people in the world that are that important that we have to talk to them at any given chance? During the major wars of the century, people back home could wait weeks to receive a letter from the soldiers abroad. They didn’t go insane because it had been less than an hour since they had heard from them. I know we’re a much more connected in our world now, but these social networks have become extreme to the point where we’re at a loss if we don’t have them.

I’ve seen several people get rather annoyed when looking down at their phone and they had a missed call, or they didn’t have any calls or texts, or even more frustrating was not being able to get a decent connection while in the basement of a concrete building. I’ve seen people check their phones every five or ten minutes for no apparent resaon. We all have our subtle body gestures when we’re uncomfortable or bored, but I guess that has expanded into looking at our cellphone in hopes of escape.

The same seems to be true with email, with all the various software notifiying you instantly of new messages. It doesn’t matter if the messages are important or not, most people will check them to just delete them (if they aren’t important) or read them. The annoying thing for me is how people will take the time out of their day to read a message at that instant, but can’t take the time to reply to it then. It’s kind of a double standard – your emails are important when addressed to me, but my time is more important than sending an email back to you. Knowing that someone could respond that moment but doesn’t is a frustrating feeling for a lot of people.

This has even become worse in the world of instant messages. Even though people may carry on a handful of conversations, everyone has the same expectation of being responded to quickly. People actually get annoyed at me because sometimes I’ll use my cellphone to communicate with them and it’s slower compared to when I’m sitting at a computer. It’s only a delay of maybe 10-15 seconds, but it’s still the end of the world. I suppose it’s a carry-over from the real world. It’s a problem with me, because instead of saying “uh” or some other filler words, I’ll just leave pauses while I’m thinking or looking for something. A lot of people will think I was disconnected from the phone. But it’s rather unfair to give the same sort of expectations to people using the IM clients. People use the clients as secondary uses of their computer. They’re surfing the web, writing a paper, listening to music, etc. They don’t turn on their computer to primarily chat, so why should they be expected to respond immediately if that’s not their sole purpose of actually being online? I’m going to have to start putting messages in saying “Chatting is not a priority at the moment” and maybe people will understand better.

When we use computers, are we using them as a tool or have we been trained that we *have* to use them, similar to what happened with television? First, television was an entertainment centre for the family, but as it exploded in popularity, it suddenly become odd if a family didn’t have a tv, or two tvs for that matter. It become a neccessity, even though there are better things in the world than a television. I’m thinking that trend is continuing with computing, and by extension, gaming, cellphones, PDAs, etc. It’s not that we need to use a computer at home for stuff, it’s more that we’re accustomed to having them around us everywhere. Instead of picking up a book to read, we’re more likely to rely on technology to entertain us rather than our own brains.

I think of tools as something that helps us in accomplishing a task that normally we couldn’t do on our own. For example, a hammer allows us to bang in a nail – something we couldn’t do with our bare hands, and something that’s easier than using a rock. When we go to a hardware store, there are a lot of variety of hammers to choose from, but each hammer has a specific purpose where it’s better suited. At a computer store, however, every computer isn’t fine-tuned for certain applications. There’s no true home computer to buy (that allows you to surf the web, email, word/office applications, basic games, etc). Instead, people are talked into having to buy the 80 Gb hard drive, 3.0 ghz and 1 gig of RAM machines. That sort of power is not needed for basic things, but that’s all there exists on the store shelves. Humans have this obsession over “newer is better” which was probably true in other times, but I don’t think it’s neccessary anymore.

And a neccessity is just that: something that you need to survive. We need to eat. We need to drink. We don’t need to email daily.


Best of the Past: Changesurfer.com

January 26, 2008

[May 2, 2005]

A few months ago, I came across a website) which expanded on the ideas found in the author’s book Citizen Cyborg. An off-shoot of this website is another website focused around the idea of transhumanism (transcending the human being through implants, cybernetics, genetic modification, etc). A part of this website is the Changesurfer radio shows, which doesn’t necessarily focus on the ideas of transhumanism directly. I’ve only gotten around to listen to some of the episodes, and thought I’d share my thoughts on them.

Are you a Transhuman? Remembering FM-2030 – the audio track to a film created by Dr. J

Having never heard of this figure before, FM-2030 (a Belgian) sounds like a man who lived ahead of his time. He was talking about a wired world, a connected world where far seems near, and how borders should be dissolved to create a global community. FM-2030 was writing and talking in the 60s and 70s, and was a guest on tv shows like Good Morning America and Larry King Live. He passed away in 2000.

Some of the items mentioned in this particular radio broadcast were:

Marriage isn’t necessarily the best thing for the future. Children raised by a couple who are open to other relationships will help the child not be focused on his parents and fall victim to jealousies and mourning. A child raised be several adults will give the child a wider range of experiences and better prepare it for the real world ahead. A child should be raised by a small village or community of adults.

I have to agree with his statements about marriage and child-rearing. As more marriages disintergrate into rough separations and divorces, the need for another layer of support systems is needed for the child. Currently, that layer may be coming from therapists or a day care centre or school teachers. It is only temporary (a therapist session is only an hour, or only at school for 8 hours, etc). A more permanent and important solution for the child should be found. Having a household with two couples raising several children would provide that. It would give the child options at home to talk things over, hear other experiences, have more children to play and experiment with. The benefits of this could be endless. Numerous parents will sit their children in front of the tv or computer or video games so they can escape them for a little while. They have to hire babysitters who are mainly bored teenagers in it for the money. Having more people around will allow the child to socialize with other human beings, not with a television or computer. An intergrated family of various races would be a further enhancement to this model to help eliminate racism, along with sexism and possibly homophobia.

The world is becoming more fluid, mobile.

I agree with the fact that the world is becoming more mobile and fluid, but the catch is that this is only an option for a limited number of people. I don’t think we’ll ever see the day where a mass amount of people from the deserts of Africa can migrate to a European country freely, without worrying about immigration laws or having to be marked as refugees. People are too protective of what they own or claim ownership to. Especially in the current turblent times of our global politic scene. Opening borders to international people is seen as a security threat on both the potential for human violence front and job security. On one hand, I’d like to see a more global world to see where it would take us (new political organizations, morals, value systems, etc); but on the other hand, I like the idea of keeping human cultures separate and preserve them (language, dances, food, etc). I think it’s a big part of what makes the human race so special throughout our history.

People need to re-evaluate themselves. If we eat animals, wear furs, watch violence on tv, and have the death penalty, we need to rethink our humanism. Rethink our values.

I am strongly for this idea. I don’t understand how violence can be so accepted in our world today. It’s rather ridiculous how the US stresses the importance of gun ownership and the freedom of death, but not when it comes to abortions. If they believed in life so much, they should ban the death penalty and severely limit how guns are used and owned. If showing a breast on national television is a crime, maybe all the gun fights and beating of women should be, too. If kids grew up in a non-violent atmosphere, who knows what the world would be like. It’s only one problem to solve, but it would be a huge one.

A totally unbiological body, allowing us to get a new body, a new shell to live in.

FM made this statement while in a hospital to the interviewer, ironically, He believes by 2030, people will be able to live indefinitely through various technological advances. The possibilities range from transferring our conscious minds to a computer or replacing the human body completely. He felt that if humans can replace certain organs with live or artificial ones and can change entire limbs with prosthetics, we should be able to replace the entire body. I’m not sure how this would be entirely possible, but it’s interesting to think about. The other question is whether it is the right thing to do. Should humans want to live forever or for 120 years? How long of a life is too long for our species? Would this be a new form of eugenics for the 21st century, where only privledged people are allowed to extend their lives indefinitely while the lower class people from India and China perish after 60 some years? It feels like too fantastic of an idea to be workable in our society. Maybe a thousand years ago when our human population was much lower and the chances of including everyone were higher. But it feels like an impossibility to include every person of the six billion on Earth – some exclusion would have to happen. The more I think about it, the more I realize how screwed up the world could potentially get with this. You could have a select number of people in the US and other first world democracies living extended lives, with another group in he same countries living to be 80, while the third world countries still struggle in their current (or worse) situations and barely managing to live past 45 or 60. Maybe a thousand years from now when the world’s problems have been solved and our population has leveled out would extending human age boundaries be reasonable.

I’ll continue these posts another night. Didn’t realize how much I actually had to say on this subject.

Here’s a biographical website of FM-2030 with articles, pictures, etc: here


Best of the Past: Abstractions

January 26, 2008

[February 27, 2005]

How can a simple thing, like a piece of art, be called abstract?

Simple. Abstraction is merely a form of us seeing. It has nothing to do with what is being seen and how complex that image may be, but rather in how that form is being seen by the viewer. For some, a painting or dance piece could be called abstract because they are missing the underlying beauty that is simple in nature- ie lines of paint or the arcs of the body in space. Anything can be seen as abstract, and yet everything is simple. It all follws a pattern, a set of rules, is contained in a physical or metaphysical way. Abstraction is the rule of nature.

Nature is abstract? No. Nature is beauty.

But beauty is an abstraction, as well, or rather a confirmation of how simple and elegant something is to the mind. But if that same mind took that same object and started repeating the imagery in their mind or said that word over and over again, the object starts to abstract itself from its inherit beauty. The simplicity and beauty still exist but the word plays tricks on you and fools you. Abstraction is the jokester of life- making you believe in something as it isn’t and ignoring the truth.

How do you get past the abstraction?

By learning how to see again- to learn how to discover again and experiment with your vision and your other senses. Expose yourself to a multiplicity of images, scents, sounds. Accustom yourself to the diversity of our world and how there is more than meets the eye. Draw objects by not how you see them but how they move or take up space. Don’t only listen to music, but dance and move to it – and don’t resist the urge to move a certain way if the music is telling you to move that way. By breaking things down into an essence, you’ll start to see things as they are deep down and not just on their physical form.

Why is it important to understand abstractions?

Because you’re missing out on a lot of great art, music, environments, and so forth, because you choose not to see everything and understand. If you can appreciate abstractions, then you’ll appreciate other human beings and make this world a better place.