The second thing

Okay, so the first thing with the red circles overlapping in the sky was cool, but the friend I was with didn’t have her glasses with her. She couldn’t see it.

The second thing, though, was with a few friends, and we all saw it.

It was a clear night, we were either seniors or juniors in high school, and we were walking along the train tracks that run through Chico. One of us said something like, “What’s that?!” and pointed into the sky. It was hard to make out, because the thing was entirely black and moving very slowly. What I remember most about it was that it appeared like an upright rectangle, and it would block out the stars as it passed in front of them.

We didn’t get to watch it very long, as it soon passed behind some trees and was gone. Maybe 30 seconds max. I think we all just kind of stopped in our tracks and thought something similar to, “that’s definitely not a plane.” It had no lights, and was so black that it made the sky look a dark blue in comparison.

The strangest thing about it that I remember is that when it passed in front of a particular star, the star blinked out, then on, then out, then on again. Almost like there was a giant window in the center of the rectangle, or that it was shaped like a giant arch.

That would have been in 1996, or 1997. I’m sure we told everyone we knew about it at the time, but, it’s just one of those things. Probably a lot of people decided that we were making up a cool story. If you didn’t see it, or haven’t seen anything like it, it’s going to be hard for you to believe. But if you did see it, or have seen something like it, it’s the kind of thing that will change your whole worldview.

We’re not on this planet alone. I know that. And all this time and energy we’re spending to make a living in some sense is just going to waste. I can hardly pay attention to the news or politics anymore. It’s just so much mental masturbation and ego gratification. There’s an entire universe out there, and we are hardly aware of it. What we’re mostly aware of is ourselves, and we can’t seem to get out of our own way for long enough to see what’s on the horizon. I’d say we spend far too much time looking up, looking down, and looking across, and not nearly enough time looking *out*.

breaking down problems (and aliens), part two

This one is just going to be entirely about aliens.

The major part of it is going to have to wait, but I can very quickly share a personal story of my first impression that there was something out there.

When I was sixteen or seventeen, I was laying in a field with a friend, watching the stars, and I saw something unexplainable.

From two sides of the horizon, I saw two small red circles in the sky, moving very fast from one end of the sky to the other.

It was apparent after a couple seconds of watching them that they were on a collision course, since they were about 30 degrees apart, each on a linear trajectory towards the same point in the sky. Long enough for me to wonder, “I wonder what will happen when they meet?”

Well, they were moving so fast, that they quickly overlapped in the sky almost, but not quite directly, overhead. Nothing happened when they crossed paths, except that it became obvious that they were both the same size, and circular, and they formed one faint, red circle for a brief moment. Then they just continued to move to the opposite ends of the horizon from where they began. I think the whole thing lasted between 8 and 10 seconds. I have no idea at what altitude they might have been, but they seemed to be at least cruising altitude of a passenger flight. I had no idea then, but if I had to guess now, I would say they were moving about 4-5 times as fast as a fast jet, so maybe between 800-2000 miles per hour. Then again, the farther up the lights were, the faster they would have been moving, to cross the same amount of sky in the same time. They could have been much higher up, and moving much more quickly.

That was the first thing.

breaking down problems (and aliens), part one

this one’s going to have to be in installments. okay, so wow do we have problems… like, I, personally, have problems (no joke), but we, collectively, have PROBLEMS. and the relationship between me, my personal problems, and us, and our collective problems, is, I’m finding, an interesting thread to pull on. the first problem I have, and always have, every day, is that I need to make money. by some miracle of fate, I find myself “the breadwinner” keeping my family afloat through the month, earning just enough to pay the bills, the rent, the debt, and the food. But I’m not “well-off”, and have never been well-off. If I were well-off, I (presumably) would not need to worry about when the next check would arrive and how much it would be for. But, (but!) part of my problem with money is that I *don’t* just pay for the rent and the bills and the food, but I buy other things as well, less *necessary* things. I buy things like movie tickets and books, dinners out, and various toys. And I know that part of my problem with money is psychological, in that I grew up poor, and I think of myself as being poor, and when the check does arrive, I have this tendency to spend it as quickly as I can so that I can *stay* poor. so there’s this pattern of behavior, bundled up with my sense of self, with who I think I am and want to be, and it keeps me in this state. being a kind of science nerd, the analogy that comes to mind is one of an atom and its electron cloud, where I’m the atom, and the money coming in is energy, and rather than jump to a higher energy state, I keep shedding photons to get back to my normal, “poor” state. and, well, speaking of “poor states”, I live in Northern California. (ha ha.) and I don’t think I really realized, like, really *grasped* how poor my surroundings are. Until now. Part of the reason why I am beginning to realize just how poor this area is has to do with the Camp Fire, and another part has to do with a friend I made at the Library. so there’s this aggregator site that I read (religiously) called Hacker News, or just “HN” if you’re in tech. And since the Camp Fire, folks on HN have been talking about the town of Paradise, which is a town that I, living in Chico as a kid, partially grew up in. And I’ve got to say that it’s pretty surreal to be reading these comments on HN that are usually *far-removed* from Paradise and the surrounding area, to reading comments that are all about it. One of those comments that I read last week was this one: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=18476916 The gold in that comment is this line:

Not sure how well this has been represented in the media, but Paradise as a community is poor as shit.

That line just really hit me. Part of it is because the author does seem to know how well that fact is being represented in the media, which is basically not at all, and the other part is that they have lived there themselves and saw it first-hand for what it was. And the whole reason this person is able to identify that Paradise is in fact poor as shit is because they are from somewhere else, or at lease have lived somewhere else, less poor than Paradise. the other “nerdy news” site that I read is Slashdot. And part of their dopamine-trigger effect is a little quote at the bottom of the page that updates periodically. Apropos of the current topic, a recent quote on Slashdot was this:

We Don’t Know Who Discovered Water, But We Know It Wasn’t a Fish

I hardly need explain the point of this quote. But you get the idea. Here I am, a poor person, living in a poor county, and I don’t really *see* the poverty, because it is all around me, and all I have ever known. OK. So now the second part, — not the second installment, but the second part of beginning to understand the poverty around me — which has to do with my new friend at the Library, Roman. Two weeks ago, I was talking to Roman about his plans for the future. And Roman, like the poster on HN, lives (lived, now) in Paradise, and is anxious to leave the area. You can imagine the reason why, and it is partly the same reason that the HN poster had, which is that Paradise is “poor as shit”. But that’s not the only reason Roman wants to leave. Roman had to remind me (funnily enough) during our conversation that he is Chinese. And if you’re a Chinese man in a poor town in Northern California, you get the kind of looks just walking around town that you’d rather not get. Because Paradise is not just poor. It’s poor and white. And you know what that means. That’s right. It means they voted for Trump. I think Trump is going to have to be a regularly featured character in these posts, because he really does *highlight* so much of what is currently taking place in the psyche of the American population, of which I must count myself a member. So then, what does Trump highlight? Racism, absolutely. Specifically the historical racism of this country, tied up with the KKK and lynch mobs, after the genocide of the natives, but also the modern racism of the new jim crow, the war on drugs, mass incarceration, for-profit prisons, etc., etc., etc. When he came to the area and had his photo taken with the locals, I don’t believe there was a single person of color in any of those photos. And Butte County has its own fair share of white cops killing unarmed black men. It happens so regularly across this country, I’m beginning to wonder if it isn’t some kind of ritual. So. Problems. Racism. My president is a racist, and the cops in my town are racists, and I despise them both for it. But then, why aren’t I racist? I mean, I must be, right? I’m just going to assume that I am, but that it expresses itself differently. I think that somehow, in Chico, during the 70s, the town was *just big enough* to be a part of the hippy movement. And the hippy movement was in turn part of the civil rights movement, if only tangentially. And the message of the hippy movement was love and peace and “imagine all the people”, and I grew up with a lot of that influence. But you know what wasn’t, really wasn’t, part of the message of the hippy movement? Wealth. There didn’t seem to be any … accountability. And that’s the other thing that Trump represents. The guy’s name is practically synonymous with “Millionaire.” And so here, in my little town, filled with poor white people driving around in their 4x4s with Trump bumperstickers, we’ve also got a community radio station that picks up Democracy Now, and Amy Goodman swings by every so often to rally the liberal troops with their “coexist” bumperstickers. But to what end? Problems. Poverty. Politics. And when am I ever going to get around to talking about the aliens?

a deep state of denial

this is a post I wanted to write a few days ago.  then the town of Paradise was engulfed in flames. a lot of us in Chico hit the road Thursday night, and I was one of them.  I got back Sunday, and things are appearing to stabilize again.  It’s hard to imagine anything ever being stable again right now, but I’m feeling now like I need to write.  We’ll see where it goes.  so…

it’s an obvious play on words, “a deep state of denial.”  And google trends tells me that the phrase “deep state” has really taken off in the past two years. And then you’ve got “state of denial”, which is a phrase that has been around for as long as I can remember.  My best guess is that a psychologist invented it.

so, what do you do, but google it. and what you get back when you google this new play on words is a lot of hate.  and this is why i wanted to write this down and put it in front of you. i want to draw your attention to how words are being used, and hopefully help you to recognize when a person is using words to attack someone, and why.  because a lot of people are going to come across this new and somewhat humorous phrase, and immediately use it offensively*.  they’re going to say that someone (other than themselves) “is in a deep state of denial”, or that some group of people (not one they belong to) “are in a deep state of denial”.

whereas if you search specifically for *individuals* who “were in a deep state of denial”, you get many fewer hits, and mostly from the time before “deep state” really took off.  they weren’t referring to *the* deep state, but to their own, actual, deep state of denial.

similarly if you search for *individuals* who, currently, “are in a deep state of denial”, you’ll get roughly ten or so hits — as of 11/14/2018.

this is certainly obvious to anyone who’s been on the web for more than a day, but basically, on today’s internet, we’ve got roughly ten times more hateful and offensive* speech compared to the self-examining, introspective speech that you’ll find on personal blogs and support forums.

do i even mention Trump?  I guess i do, because here was President Trump’s first response to the Camp Fire:

There is no reason for these massive, deadly and costly forest fires in California except that forest management is so poor. Billions of dollars are given each year, with so many lives lost, all because of gross mismanagement of the forests. Remedy now, or no more Fed payments!

I hardly want to dwell on this at all, but only to point out that we have just experienced one of the most devastating natural disasters in years, and the first thing the president thinks to do is to go *on the attack*.

Who is he even talking to here? Who is supposed to “Remedy now?” Is it me? Is it you? Is it himself? I mean, is the man even sane? I … have to move on.

So.  Here we are.  The end of the post.  There’s going to be a lot more words after these ones, and most of them are going to be attacks.  I just attacked the president myself by questioning his sanity, I suppose. (Sorry!) But it should also be obvious by now, that attacks are not going to help the situation.

The situation is that we are all in a deep state of denial (about ourselves, the world), and we’re going to need as few attacks on each other as possible if we’re ever going to get out of it.

* I’m footnoting the word “offensive” here to indicate that I’m using this word a little differently than it is usually read. I mean “offensive” like the offense on a soccer team; not offensive like something that “offends” your sensibilities.

the safe thing

i should add, you know, that of course i too am selling something. i’m selling my services. i’m selling my time. i’m selling myself. i think i have to.

and i’m just torn, you know? because on the one hand you have to present this professional persona to the world, to, basically, anyone who might hire you. (that’s a very specific subset of the world, i know.) and on the other hand you have to stay true to yourself, your ideals, and, hopefully, stand for something.

the normal(?), natural(?) (safe?) thing to do seems to be to just keep it all hidden. keep your past hidden, your mistakes hidden, and press on each day as if you were a new person in the world. those things that happened to you when you were a kid, the trouble you got into down at the bar, that’s just like, your *personal* life. nobody needs to know about it. right?

certainly you don’t want the world to know about it. you don’t want the people who *might* hire you to know about your mistakes. right?

because the fear is, the fear is that *everyone* will find out *everything* about you, and there you’ll be, flat broke, shivering, on the street. because you’re not perfect, and you made mistakes you wish you hadn’t, and now nobody wants you. (replace all those “you”s with “I”s and “me”.)

but what if they — and by “they” i mean *everyone* — did know everything? and this is the trouble with the surveillance state. it takes the personal and private  and makes it public. and so hardly anything makes sense anymore. it’s a mindfuck.

you might think, well, i mean, it’s just a *blog*. if this guy (me) wants to shoot himself in the foot by mixing his personal and public life, sure, give him enough rope to hang himself with. but i’m just trying to get to the other side of this thing. this situation. this river.

because i don’t want to live two lives. i don’t want to have a “phone voice”. i want to be a whole person. and i want to bring that whole, singular person to bear on the tasks i undertake, the jobs i do. and i want the people i meet to know that they’re dealing with a straight-up, honest (and yes, *flawed*) person. and if there was any doubt of that, they’d just say, “well, did you see what he wrote on his blog?” (and hopefully not, “yeah, they’re probably going to kill him.”)

i think i’ve been living this life as if i could go back, fix what was wrong, whatever happened, whatever i did, and then everything would be okay. but i can’t. i can’t fix my past. this isn’t Quantum Leap.

so i’m tired. tired of thinking like that — thinking like that has made me tired. and the words you’re reading now are just my own. my own tired words. and when you’re talking to yourself, and to everyone, and you’re sorry, and you’re trying to be honest, this is what it sounds like.

so! tomorow! tomorrow i’ll wake up, i’ll press on, and i’ll be a new person in the world again. because at this point — let’s face it — there’s no going back.

not a monk

of course if i were an actual monk, i would have access to the infrastructure and financial support of some religious institution. the books i would be transcribing would be well-cared-for and sheltered behind brick and mortar.

needless to say, i am not a monk. i grew up in front of the television, watching ducktales and playing excitebike and dragon warrior. i went to elementary school and got punched in the stomach and walked home crying. like, daily. (that’s an exaggeration.)

sometimes i used to wish i was a monk. or maybe i just wished to belong to a culture other than my own. or maybe just to belong. i mean, it’s not like i never got laid. i did, and that helped. and eventually some kind folks took me in, and treated me kindly. but was it because they recognized a fellow freak? or was it just that my freakishness was useful to them? for a while? who knows.

no i’m not a monk. most likely i’ll never be a monk. because i have to pay the rent, and i have responsibilities to my family, and my community. and my culture. and i can’t just run away. though i do think about it. like, daily.

so here i sit in the modern police surveillance state. still. afraid to speak truth to power, now. afraid to express my true self, but fighting like hell to do so. it’s funny how a little veiled threat against your life can shut a person up real quick. but not funny ha-ha. funny sad.

one to many

what to say? when you can speak to millions of people in one moment? this new art form that lacks any sense of time or process. it’s just immediate. thoughts move from mind to fingers tapping at the keyboard and out into space. how does it look? how does it sound? like a keyboard. like a mouse click.

some use it to say something. but most (most?) use it to sell something. and if you had something to say, other than, “for sale”, what would that be?

would you say anything worthwhile? worth remembering? if you were a monk and a keeper of knowledge, would you pass it on? i imagine you would. i imagine you would spend years of your life transcribing book after book, keeping the knowledge alive, and adding to it.

and now? information overload. next up: mona lisa overdrive. next?

it goes like this: “those who know do not speak, those who speak do not know.” if there’s any truth to that, then surely everyone here must know nothing, for here we are all speaking.

[*hits “publish”*]

the early web (omg!)

hey! do you guys remember the early web? where you could see all kinds of shit? where people were like, actually cursing on their “blogs”?

i’m talking like, 1995, 96, 97? Do you remember the first time you read somebody’s “web log”???? Like, someone who was writing a private journal, but on a public URL? And you felt all weird because you were getting this weird *private* look into someone’s life, but at the same time they were just like, *putting it out there*, for anyone (well, anyone with an internet connection) to see?

Only, all the sites were all funky-style, with creative backgrounds and expressive fonts and spinning gifs of envelopes and planets and just, crazy, crazy shit, man.

and you felt like some of the people on there were just, like, talking to you, like you would talk to a friend, and they weren’t really, like, holding anything back?

and that maybe made you feel a little better about what you were doing on there. like there were people out there that you could actually relate to.

and maybe THAT made you feel just a little more at home. maybe.

and did you ever think ever? ever that it would turn into this?