Thursday, September 20, 2007

Great Success!

Great success for me on the publishing front! I have been accepted by two publications. The first is Canopic Jar. I have two poems appearing in an issue in a week or so. The second just came to me in the mail. I was a little optimistic holding the letter because it was light and I saw no poems stuffed into it, which is a signal for rejection. It is the opposite of applying for most things. Getting into college, for example, means that you are receiving a big fat envelope in the mail. Not so with publishing. The less, the better. The thin envelope I received was for Lachryma, Modern Songs of Lament. My long poem “Starry Night” was accepted, and I received a check for $3. Enough for two Samosas, it is probably the same amount of money someone like T.S. Eliot or Pound could expect for publishing when they were my age. Back then it would buy a whole meal.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Why No Revolution?

It is time someone posted something on here that should be required to read, or at least something that approaches it. It is time that we start to use such forums as these to change the world and not simply tell anecdotes involving the adorable antics of our pets or gripe about being older. Things are too serious today for us to shirk our world historical duties.

We are living under an unsustainable regime. We are living on borrowed time and we can barely pay the interest. We are citizens of a country gone mad with wealth and power. We are living in a culture that has become a parody of itself. We are in an era of widespread pessimism and cynicism. We are surrounded by an abundance we have no way of appreciating. We have a way of life that is insecure and unable to procreate itself, it produces a society that collapses ever twenty to throaty years, with one generation torn against another. We are members of a government that no one can take seriously. We engage in public rituals that mean nothing for us, but we go along for the sake of appearance, even though we know no one is is watching. We have grown distant and cold to one another. We have given up our dogmas in exchange for new ones that preach total conformity to the consumerist way of life. We live and fight to live, even though we have no idea what to do with this life. We consider ourselves superior to the past, yet gradually sink back into it. We are unable to grow up. We are free but have become self-repressed. We feel no desire to defend the system and we all secretly hope that some deus ex machina will come and dismantle it.

Well, nobody is going to save us from ourselves, but us.

We're too strong to expect to be liberated. Who would do such a thing for us? Canada and Mexico could not do it, Russia and China are too far away, and they would not liberate us anyways, only treat us as a colony. We cannot expect an enlightened despotism to take root either. Our richest politicians, the ones poor into the patrician circles of New England and the South, feel no obligation to us, the common plebeians. Our system is an oligarchy on their behalf, yet their inability to pronounce the five letter C-word lets them think some grand meritocracy is at hand behind the workings of the system. Such a delusional group looks out for themselves because they think they are on an equal footing with us, even though they are in a world few of us could ever enter, no matter how hard we try.

The only solution is the most patriotic thing imaginable, a revolution. The founding fathers would be amazed that we have gone so long without one. They knew that they were necessary to keep our liberties fresh and the Constitution of our society up to date. Instead we have turned what was for them an imperfect document, into our Bible, infallible. Libertarians, for all their radical rhetoric, are more concerned with upholding the faith of the founding fathers as they see expressed in that flawed (yet still noble for its time) document, than with advancing the understanding of true freedom beyond the 18th century and its notions. True radicals ask only if something is right and makes sense. They do not ask if it is constitutional.

We need a complete overhaul of the system. Any system that could allow the abuses of this presidency to go unchecked for so many years, needs to be reevaluated. All the old institutions that were supposed to check the president's madness have been compromised. They have begun to engage in conspiracy with one another to keep things running smoothly, and to block any real change. Democrats and Republicans, we see they are the same. We all know things are rotten. We can smell the decay, almost taste it when we watch the news, yet still there is no revolution. Why?
There are plenty of blueprints out there for change. Countless manifestos that can be tried or combined. we have the whole history of the past to learn from, ancient Rome, Athens, the USSR, colonial America, Sparta, Florence, Venice, Absolutist France, Anarchist Barcelona, we can see different rules at work and we can compare these. If anything, we have Livy and Machiavelli to help us, along with Locke, Mill, and Marx, men operating on theory more than experience, but still giving us truths of human nature to consider.

We have avenues for change. We have third parties that we can get involved in. We have labor unions, benevolent associations, churches, synagogues, reading groups, Internet forums, coffee houses, libraries, marketplaces, places to get together and try to make change. Why no revolution? Why not even a storm on the horizon? it is getting constantly humid, yet still, it is not raining, nothing changes and nothing is being washed away. Why?

We have become trapped. We have erected blinders, sometimes literal fences that prevent us from seeing things clearly. But our hearts have betrayed us. We can feel them sharply and our attempts at peaceful living are disturbed by events in the outside world. Some of us, like Ausonius in the face of the barbarian invasions, shut ourselves away, or like St. Augustine, engage in otherworldly contemplation. Those who are left in the streets, trying to find others to march with and banners to hold, as well as hands, are disappointed and we cannot but help feel powerless, freedom in our society has become an instrument of repression.

I am not talking about abstract freedom, the freedom that the founding fathers adhered too and valued, a freedom each person cultivates within themselves. I am talking about the freedom that has replaced that, consumer freedom. Real political choices, political parties, diversity of political opinion and religious ideas and philosophical contemplations has been replaced by the worship of coarse liberalism, the celebration of different kinds of toothpaste and thousands of channels to choose from on television (owned by the same group of people, showing the same kinds of programs despite claims to the contrary).

This consumer freedom works to make us hate choice, it presents us with responsibility for things which require no real decision making. These products are all the same, stripped of false coloring and fancy packages, there are no remarkable differences. yet still we must have these debates within ourselves when we go shopping, what to buy? Which container? Which label? Overwhelmed by this freedom, we hide in the labels. We run for these easier designations and give up thinking for ourselves.

If this attitude could contain itself to just our consuming sphere of life, it would not be a problem, but our attitudes do not contain themselves easily. They shape our world views and lead to other actions that we might never have considered to stem from them. Our fleeing into the safety of labels leads us to gradually abandon free though all together. We take up restricted isms and ideologies or worse, we simply go with the flow of things, we join the bandwagon. Though the devout Communist or Fascist might be simple minded, they at least take a position against the bandwagon and have some freedom of thought, even though amongst themselves they have their own churches and chains.

Because we have fled from thinking for ourselves, we let others think for us. We become deluded into believing this collective thought is democratic and comes from the masses. Our patriotism, our understanding of political reality, the holidays we celebrate and how we do so, are viewed as something we are a part of and that we are merely reacting to others. We fail to see that the elites, the oligarchs, really run the show and give us these values and these ideals to mull over. The Christmas Tree, the roses for Valentine's Day, the doctrines of the Democratic and Republican parties, all of these are produced, planned, and executed by the few on behalf of the many, tricking us with elaborate ruses to make it seem like these are simply manifestations of the popular will.

Another thing that holds us back from revolution is the leveling down of our society. This is a phenomenon that has occurred while at the same time society is becoming more stratified economically and politically. That is not to say that this attitude and its effects are very real things, but they are a show put on for us, a distraction that is used to hide the real differences in our society.

What is this leveling down I speak of? In a sense it is conformity, but it is more complicated than that. it is trying to make every opinion equal, to view everybody's contribution as the same, to celebrate every little thing and every choice as invovling something greater than all of us. it is the attitude that turns all choice into teh same thing, so that voting a tyrant out of office becomes the same as getting a new pair of shoes. it attacks intellectualism as a form of elitism because it is intellectualism that can stand up to the real forms of elitism, the concentration of wealth and therefore power, in the hands of a few. All articles, songs, movies, and books are to be dumbed down. No one is to be seen as haivng any hidden greatness within them. Everyone is presupposed to be the same, want the same things, be satisfied in the same banal manner.

This leveling raises no one up, but lowers them to the lowest common denominator. Democracy infects the culture as it leaves the sphere of political economy. The thumping sounds of punk and hip hop are mistaken for real revolution while jobs are sent overseas and people's votes are gradually rendered meaningless, the elites already having decided what the political agenda for the country is going to be. That everyone comes together to listen to the same songs and laugh at the same jokes is mistaken for democracy in action despite the advertising that makes avoiding such phenomena impossible.

This leveling fails to inspire people to better things and that is what is most dangerous and repressive about it. It creates a world where people can be lazy and they become lazy in droves. It does not challenge, it rejects the concept outright and because it does so it weaves a cocoon of false security around people.

Unprovoked, people fall back on cultural artifacts that are easy to absorb, that require no advanced taste or comprehension. Junk culture you could call it. It is soothing, it is comfortable, like a pair of pajamas. It makes you fall asleep and issues no call to action, only inaction. If someone is inspired by it, usually it involves buying the handbag the character in the book has or to grind on the dance floor and try to physically abandon one’s own self for the frenzy of the mob.

A culture that embraces heroics, troubling questions, unhappy endings, not-so-catchy tunes, that challenges people with real dilemmas, makes them see the world in new ways and is enlightening. It lets people become aware of their own powers of thought and perception. From this they can begin to question, they gain confidence in their own abilities and gradually educate themselves. They seek out others and because they are challenged they seek out others who can help them overcome trying to understand the more difficult books and pieces of music. Together, these groups can then turn their attention to unraveling the socio-economic knots that hold them back, and thus real change can come about.

Is this an elitist view of culture? Of course, but it is also a meritocratic view as well, one that wants to lay open possibilities for people, not shut them off. It is a view of culture that is in actual practice far more freeing than what currently passes for music, art, and literature. This is not to say our culture should be difficult to understand, but it should not deal with what is given, to operate slowly on a machine made of clich├ęs, familiar notes, expected colors, and worse of all, labels and brands.

But besides this is our material culture than accompanies it. This is the culture of consumerism. It is the way we consume now that prevents us from coming together under the banner of revolution and bringing about change. Compare our time with the 1960s and 1970s, when people came together over many marvelous projects. Not everything they stood for I agree with, but it is admirable that they had such energy and hope. They undertook it upon themselves to bring about change, in some cases, they succeeded. Why were they so eager to go into the streets and we are content to let the world grow ever more terrible?

Because they did not have the consumer culture we do to soothe them. They were able to open their eyes and keep their ears open because they did not have ipods to block everything out. They did not have to worry themselves with all kinds of summer choices. They were not busy wondering what their ring tones should be or what color their cellphones had to be. They did not take pictures of everything hoping in vain for something to be preserved for posterity, they went out and they made history.

A rejection of the “false” new is what we must first undergo in order to set the groundwork for collective change. The false new is the new of consumer goods which float past us and sing their siren songs asking to be snatched from the corporate vines through make them sprout from the ground. We must embrace the true new, the new of institutions responding to popular demands, the new of social change, the only change that matters. What new products might be dangling in front of us we must ignore. They are part of the whole culture of leveling down, not the culture of rising up, which we wish to cultivate, those of us who still carry the embers of some hope inside of us.

In addition, revolution must become a good word again. It must inspire us and makes feel arm just to hear it rubbed between the lips of another, as flaming as any cigarette. We in America have a unique opportunity to reclaim this word and shape it because we were the first ones to make it practical, to turn it from an abstraction, or a mere reference to astronomical bodies, and bring it down to the earth. We are in love with change, we must learn to once again love radical change, change that shifts the ground beneath us and creates a whole new way of seeing the world.

We are in a sense blessed by the fact that none of us lives with the memory of a domestic revolution. Revolution has become a tainted word because of other countries’ failures, but not our own. We have no reason to doubt ourselves capable of creating a better order, a more humane and rational society. We should not be depressed like those in Europe, Asia, or Latin America, if they have failed it is their own doing, we should critically examine such failures, but they should not hang like millstones around our necks, but rather serve to help make our path forward straighter without the distractions of collapsed utopias.

Revolution must become celebrated again as the last real adventure for us to take.
The present system has mapped everything around us, has come to understand geography, astronomy, and the most relevant parts of physics and psychology. But still it has no idea of the future and what potential human effort and endeavor can hold. We must turn to revolution if we are going to feel truly free and in any way the crafters and shapers of our own futures. If nothing else, hopefully it can be fun for all involved, exciting and enlightening, with every experience important and nothing regretted because lessons will always be learned. We have such short lives and there is no scoreboard ready to reward us for being meek, or laid back and letting things go on. There is no consolation prize. Even for those who believe in an afterlife, such a thing can only be won through a struggle. There is no reward for those who take a hands-off approach to life and society. What would be the point of getting in if it was the case?

I am not here to advocate one kind of revolution, but to call for a lifting of the repression around this concept. This is in fact a revolutionary approach, I feel. You, loyal reader who has reached the bottom of this article, could have dismissed this essay as a simple tirade, an angsty denouncement of everything coming from one who has not grown old enough to sample the delights of the status quo. Such an ad hominem attack might have merit if I was arguing for the overthrow of the system to be replaced with a definite alternative, providing you with knee-jerk revolutionary propaganda.

However, what I am in fact calling for, is for us to begin to debate radical change and what we can accomplish, how and why. We must throw open the doors to discourse first, realize what our possibilities are, and then work to achieve them in practical terms. We must start being as radical as reality itself.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

American Cheese Represents Everything Wrong With Our Country

Back in the day, I used to really love American Cheese. I was soft and yellow and I love how malleable it was. I used to try and see how many times I could fold the slices, creating tiny squares that I could put on my pre-pubescent tongue and feel them melt. Part of the reason was that my father used to eat them too, a dozen or so Kraft singles at a time. We would watch the evening news on the bed together, pulling apart pieces of cheese or eating the slices all at once.

Now, I've graduated to eating better kinds of cheese, French, Italian, Spanish, English, all the great cheeses of Europe. It's not an act of anti-American feeling, I enjoy cheddar cheese from Vermont and Cream Cheese as well. But I will not touch American cheese, will only eat it out of desperation, or in a dare. When I think back to how much I used to eat of it, I get sick. My Father has stopped his regimen of Kraft singles too, mostly for health reasons.

When I look at it, I cannot but help to look at the name of the product. Most cheeses are given regional names, but here is one that has a national moniker. That attaches all sorts of images and ideologies to a simple slice of cheese. One might be able to transcend the regional implications of a cheese, but national ones are harder. Eating American cheese is the patriotic thing to do, it is a unifying bond that holds all of our grilled cheese sandwiches together.

But naming a cheese after a country also makes you see the downside of it. All the negative facts can become symbolized. France avoids this problem with 400 different kinds of cheese. No one can hold one up and say, "this Brie shows us how we are failing as a nation." Because then somebody can hold up a Roquefort and challenge the assertion. But when you have "American" cheese, you cannot but think of America. I know that how they sell slices.

You see in American cheese a miracle of modern science of mass production. There is no miraculous feeling in eating it, but it comes to you regular and without any frills, just like our elections. Constant and always present, yet never exciting. It has great uniformity of taste, which leaves it without any sense of distinction. It is bland and every piece is like the other, just like the suburbs of this country. Save for the flora and fauna, you could pretty much go to any suburb and not know where you are (unless you see a Waffle House).

It does nothing to offend. It has no bitterness, no sharpness, it contains no smoky flavor, or crumbling texture. There is nothing to object to, except the lack of things to find fault with. It is an angelic cheese, once that is alien to everything about the world. It contains no impurities of field or cave, from wooden vat or leather case. It was conceived in a laboratory, born in a factory, living on a shelf after being taken there by a truck. The air was never allowed to touch it. It is isolated, it is alone. It likes to think of itself as pure and that is why it is disliked, but in reality, it is because it is a boring cheese to know.

Friday, September 7, 2007

The Only Thing I Can Do Right is Write

Oh well, I hope at least someone other than me thinks so

Today I was supposed to have a meeting with someone for Teach for America. We would sit around a table, drink coffee, and talk for an hour. Actually I was hoping that it would be less, because I had to take part in an economics experiment later on today. I was looking forward to making a few bucks for a minimal amount of work. However I was running behind as soon as I woke up. I haven't been able to sleep well, or do anything well for that matter, and I called the guy I was supposed to meet and said I would be fifteen minutes late. he said that was fine and hung up.

It was time to get dressed. I threw on the shorts and shirt I have been wearing for the past four days and left my room and took the elevator down. I had forgotten one crucial detail. Earlier in the week, I had received an e-mail telling me about the meeting and what to look for when trying to pick out one young guy sitting by himself from a whole room filled with them. It turns out the distinctive marker was a blue mug that appropriately said "Teach for America" on it.

Well, I didn't know that at the time I was out of the building and making my way to cross Houston Street. So I went into the coffee shop and looked around, expecting someone with a giant sign above them announcing who they were and what organization they were representing. I had no id what he would look like. I suppose I thought young and urbane, not in a suit and tie, maybe glasses, but probably not. If he had been a teacher himself, he probably would have exchanged rims for contacts, to appear younger and less overly erudite.

I saw plenty of people who could have been the man I was looking for, the man who was looking for me. There were some sitting with lap tops and I wondered if these were likely candidates. I had expected to share an empty table and exchange forms, brochures, numbers, and my resume. So what would he need a computer for? Maybe if I bored him he would starting surfing the Internet, checking out personals on Craigslist.

Pacing around, looking at my watch, and rocking back and forth on my toes didn't seem to catch Antone's attention. A few people looked at me, but not int he inquisitive way I hoped, trying to figure out if I was the one they were waiting for, the promised child, the future teacher for America. I'm sure the staff working behind the counter were pleased, seeing this young man with a beard looking around, clutching a bag close to himself, not ordering anything.

Finally, I gave up. I left, wanting to catch my experiment in time and to be able to catch a bite to eat before then. I had a pumpernickel bagel and in change I got back dimes and nickels, the man was out of quarters. it was a bad omen. Or a bad closing. Well, one thing that I didn't expect and know how to deal with.

I went inside the building for the experiments and waited until they were ready to let me into the lab. Now these were economic experiments, I would play a lame computer game and I would be paid base don my decision making skills. The people running the experiments would collect the data and weave grand theories out of it. I would get a few bucks and science and society would be advanced by the cause. I suffered no setback in getting into the experiment, my name was on the list and there was a computer available for me. I was relieved. Something good was going to happen.

However the experiment was more structured than I thought it would be. There was little left up to me. I had to choose the right combination of balls, marked with either an X, a Y, or a Z. Then I was eligible for a lottery were I could win $105 dollars. If I chose wisely, or more accurately, I was lucky. I could choose to change the balls I had, in any combination, or to keep them the same and then risk not getting the payout. If I did not choose the right balls in the electronic urn (harking back to Ancient Athens' juries) then all I would get was a show up fee, minus the cost of switching balls.

I decided on a compromise, changing one ball and keeping the other two the same. I thought that this was like a Monty Hall problem or something like it, but I didn't know what was the best solution in this case. I wanted to keep as much of the show-up fee as possible, so I lost a dollar by changing one ball. Anyways, the computer turned its gears and decided that despite my efforts, I was not worthy of the grand prize. I knew I was not alone, most of the people in the room with me probably didn't get it either, but that solidarity would not pay for a nice meal and a bottle of Scotch.

So today was a day of failure in regards to events within my control and for events regarding luck. At least I was able to buy my groceries without any problems. If only the one guy who did win the huge prize wasn't in line next to me at the Bursar's office, waiting for the petty cash officer to count off his plethora of twenty dollar bills.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Should I Vote in 2008?

Seriously, I wonder what the point is.

Let me preface this by saying that I never would have thought I would ever think like this. Such a question used to hit me as the most unpatriotic thing a person could consider. Flag burning and draft dodging have their place as far as I was concerned, but the ballot was sacred. To not put a marked card into a slot, or press a button to deliver an opinion, this was the highest sacrilege, as bad as burning the original constitution or moving to Canada.

Basically, I used to care who won the elections, specifically the presidential ones. Every four years it was exciting to see who would get their party's nomination, who said what, the promises that were made, the characters revealed, the stump speeches delivered, it was all so interesting to me. I was a Democrat and believed that my party could change things and that it was always right, and everyone else simply had to be educated to understand why they were wrong. This is after all, the opinion of anyone who identifies with any party. It is the belief of anyone who holds Liberal Democracy dear to their heart, that reason and discussion will lead to change, and change for the better. Education and discourse are all you need.

But as I saw how the Democrats lost their spine during the Clinton years and under the Bush presidency, I wanted to supposed another party. Certainly it was not going to be the Republicans, whose hypocritical religious stances I could never support. I believed in radical change. I believed the system was rotten, so in 2004 I voted for Nader. I knew he had a long shot in winning, but I wanted to at least vote my conscience. So many liberals I knew did otherwise and even though they compromised during that election, they still lost.

I thought the solution was supporting a third party. But the system seems to be so stacked up against the formation of any new political entity that could seriously challenge the Demopublican machine. it is so hard for new parties to get ballot access, media exposure, funding, and to be allowed to debate on national television. Willpower isn't enough. One of the major parties has to self implode. That was how the Republicans got started, in the collapse of the Whigs in the 1850s. Maybe it could happen in the Republican Party, as I explained in my essay, 'End of a Marriage" and it could always occur for the Democrats, who have a much broader tent, so to speak.

Still, that leaves me dependent on two parties and what they think the major issues should be. If it is not on their agenda, it does not exist. Between the parties I see no difference on Iraq, as much as the Democrats claim to want to get out, no difference on political reform, and fundamentally no improvement for the working classes of this country addressed by them. Getting rid of the stupid electoral college and granting real rights to people in DC and those who have served their time in jail never enter their radar screen. It's all about gay marriage and looking tough on terrorism and soft on immigration.

I know I'm not alone. Most Americans generally don't vote, especially in the primaries and in congressional elections. These are the worst, it is nearly impossible to unseat an incumbent, unless they literally unseat themselves with a wide stance like senator Craig of Idaho, or put their foot in their mouth like George Allen (I suppose Va. senators are cursed with running lackluster campaigns, unless they were married to Elizabeth Taylor). But the Presidential race looks depressing despite it being full of promise.

Why? Two things. First there is no one from the two major parties who is either running again for the presidency, or was vice-president (baring Al Gore entering the race). this means that everyone is able to run on their own records and will face competition within their ranks. Second we have had such a bad eight years under this administration (there really is not any precedent for how incompetent Bush is, he should be impeached for Iraq or Katrina alone, but this again proves my theory about the weak spines of the democrats) that for the first time in years, Americans are angry enough to have real change happen.

But the candidates that have forward are depressing. The Republicans can't either be trusted (Mitt Romney with his false conservative credentials) or have sold out (McCain, there is a reason his campaign does not have the momentum of 2000, when I was depressed he failed to carry Va.) or do not offer any significant challenge to the status quo established by the Bush administration. Stay the course seems to still be the party line.

The democrats have failed to produce anyone with a real vision for this country. Worse, it seems Hillary Clinton is in the lead. This is disastrous for the Democrats. We need change. We need someone from outside the Beltway to tighten it and make it fit this country's needs better. She is more of the same. We cannot go back to the 1990s, and we shouldn't. There are a lot of problems we face today because we let them simmer during the Clinton years. I hate so-called liberals who praise her pragmatism. Pragmatism in the absence of real idealism is hollow electioneering. When power becomes its own ends, rather than a means to an end, nothing ever changes. The other candidates for the most part are the same, with the except of Kucinich and Gravel, the latter is too old, sorry to say, and the former does not give off the kind of charisma necessary to make major change happen. We need a radical version of Reagan, no more Dukakises. Sadly none have come forward.

Obama has potential and if he wins the nomination, I might vote for him. He's a freshman senator, he doesn't have the most experience, but Cheney & co. had plenty of it and look how fine they have been for us. But an Obama - Hillary ticket I just couldn't stomach. unfortunately this appears to be the most likely outcome, since the media likes to do everything they can to make this seem inevitable. Maybe if it is a really close election I'll go out and vote, and even then, only if it is a sunny day. No use feeling limited in your options while standing in the rain.

A Shot at Upshot

Okay, so school is starting and that means lots of people who aren't students descending on campus. I go to school in a city so it is easy to get in and get things to students. We are a group of people, largely foolish, with a lot of either cash or plastic on hand so promoters of all types want to get us hooked on their products. Even living in the dorms I have menus and postcards for promised wild parties slid under my door. it irritates me because they are getting paid to litter.

Anyway, many times people hand out small promotional samples of their products. It is never for anything useful, such as wine, cheese, or gasoline. Usually it is for a drink of some kind because everyone who goes to NYU is on a strictly liquid diet, except for Ramen, which is of course cooked in a quid with flavoring. I enjoy a hearty meal (just ask anyone who runs a buffet in a thirty minute radius of Washington Square Park) but most of my peers live off of coffee, juice, and energy drinks. Consequently, this is what I usually see samples given out of.

Turning the corner, I saw people with stacks of little bottles. My first thought was that I had hit pay day, they resembled the small bottles you get on airplanes or in hotels, small containers of scotch and whiskey, vodka and gin. The liquid diet I enjoy involves these and clamato or orange juice. However I saw they were not handing out liquor, of course, but samples of an energy drink. A promoter saw me standing, trying to gaze at the labels looking for a proof. She handed me two samples of an energy drink.

It is called Upshot, One bottle was magenta colored and is considered to be "fruit" flavored. The other was brown, a light brown, and is "mocha" flavored. One sees the problem here and I should have seen the fruit flavor as a magenta flag. An orange, a grape, a melon, a kiwi, and a tomato are all 'fruit" something that tries to resemble all of them is doomed to distateful failure. No doubt about it. Unfortunately I had faith in modern science and chemistry and took the two bottles, drinking them on a street corner in front of a garbage can, so I could dispose of them if I found them horrible.

Since I was sure teh mocha tasted better than the fruit, I started with the fruit flavored concotion. Opening it up, i saw that it was bubbly and sticky, like a bottle filled with soap for blowing bubbles. I had a drink. it was disgusting. It tasted like window cleaner. Something trying to hide its being sanitary with a color adn a smell. I finished the bottle and grasped for air, hoping the stale scent of cigarettes and piss would give my mouth something better to grasp.

Failing that, i tried the mocha instead. it tasted like mocha, but with a shot of bleach in it. I thought I was drink something collected off the floor of a Starbucks. Examining the labels on the bottles I saw that they claim to have "More Power. Less Liquid" I think this is precisely the problem. They need less power and more liquid. They need to be diluted. I can say though, they do provide one with energy, as I am able to write this whole article rather lucidly despite it being mid day and time for my usual dozing off.

I guess it is a trade off. there is no good tasting energy drink, except for coffee itself, the original energy drink, the one fortunes, empires, and the rise of the industrial society are dependent on. today's energy drinks have nothing on coffee. Coffee brings people together for intellectual stimulation. Energy drinks keep one awake at bars or at work. They make one bluntly awake, providing no sharpness of vision.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Online Addictions

Maybe people claim that they are addicted to being online, some are serious addicts who need to pull the plug on the computer or turn it off, but many simply spend a lot of time on the Internet, looking at things and reading about all the world has to offer. I consider myself part of the later group. After all, I do have a blog.

But i do more than just work with Lo Specchio e La Spugna, I am on Facebook and Wikipedia too, and recently I've just gotten into Craigslist. It is amazing how much people are willing to give, especially in the personals section. Of course many of the postings are not serious there, but I have been looking at the writing gigs, going to magazines that need submissions and sending in some of my work. It is a fantastic device for bringing people together, the essence of the Internet. If you need something, there is a good chance you will be able to find it on there.

Because I am a writer, I also spend time looking at literary sites. One of them is Cosmoetica, which I like because its author is very open and honest with his criticism and I learn a lot from his dissection of poetry modern and old. I don't always agree with him, but I don't agree with myself half the time. He helps me understand what I believe. Also, I go on a lot of sites with information for writers, listings of literary magazines and calls for submissions to anthologies. The New Pages guide has a good list with information for every magazine they feature. The Writer's Directory is another good one.

The problem with all of this information and then reading about submissions and what my friends are up to, is that it gets in the way of working. I don't end up with anything as tangible as a finished poem or short story. It does not affect my friendships and going out, but I do admit to missing a meal or a shower because I was engrossed in something online. I'm sure you all can relate, I know this is not a rare issue.

What I am wondering is why we do it? We usually have something else we could be doing, something that once finished will usually give us more pleasure than the slight buzz of finding out about the atomic weight of Gold or what group our best friend in high school just joined on Facebook. This only applies IF there is an alternative. If you have nothing better to do, truly nothign better, then going online and reading and browsing makes more sense. It would be like going out for a stroll at night because everyone is out of town.

I think the reason we spend so much time online to the detriment of activities we know we will appreciate, is that we are in a sense addicted to the feeling of control the internet gives us. We can keep tabs on people we know, learn about countries and celebrities, see the weather wherever we want, and submit our work to communities for evaluation. It is especially tempting when we live in a world where so much of it is beyond comprhension. So much is beyond our control and we are reminded of it more than every before, thanks in no small part to the very internet we look fo rinformation on.

One might say it is a cruel paradox, the thing that we spend all our time on drives us to it. Online news stories and headlines remind us of a world that is at our fingertips, but refuses to let us pet it or do tricks for us. Perhaps it is best to cut out the internet of one's life, or maybe instead to embrace fully that one has such little econtrol, but reading about it, thinking about it, and wasting time trying to dance aroud it, will not do. We need to do something that truly does give us a feeling of control. We must create.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

The NYU Home Homepage

Well they updated the NYU Home Homepage (I have to figure out a better way of saying it) which I don't understand. They are always messing with the colors and where things are on the screen. It is frustrating having to learn it all over again and I don;t understand why we should pay money for people to design things constantly and to worry about how to change the color. It should just be a variation on the school colors and that should be it. You seen enough purple and white here, so they should not be offensive. However what I dislike the most is on the sign-in page. Now I appreciate eccentricity, that's why I go here. I was a big supporter of the dinosaur on the page, which was a mistake that become popular, and rightly so.

Yet the new homepage features pictures of the study abroad sites. I know we are big on study abroad (rumored to be because it opens up space in housing) but I don;t think these images should be on there. i think that the point of NYU home having pictures is to create a sense of community. The library, Silver Center, and Washington Square Park are all used by the students. Only a portion go to any one study abroad site, some go to more, but very few have been to all of them. They are good pictures and make me wish I had studied outside the US, but I think they work against what the design of what the NYU Homepage should be.

Go to home.nyu.edu and refresh the screen to see them and compare to the shots of the campus around Washington Square Park