Tuesday, December 9, 2008


Fall and winter bring with them much more free time in which to write.
I wrote this soon after the election, however I now have an editor. Probably for the best.

So, of course there are pros and cons to working at home. Pro: You get to sit in your favorite chair and stream NPR all day. Con: You don't get any work done, because you decide you really need to go to Home Depot. At least that's what your unfinished projects seem to be saying with expectant stares from their various fixtures about the house. On your return, arms laden with lumber and plumbers tape, your two dogs ask with an unnatural persistency to be escorted on a long walk down to the river. So you close your laptop for the day, because these fall days are so short anyway and your significant other as well as yourself could also use the time outdoors.


She had been working at home for over a month now, and myself for just two days because I wanted to be in the big city for the historic election. She woke up very excited that Tuesday morning.

"Three pm and we put on the election coverage," she exclaimed.

Opening my eyes for the first time that morning I was able to discern that she was already dressed and ready for a day of telecommuting. I squinted to see through foggy sleep and without another word her blurred silhouette disappeared into her office with the dogs, and the heat. I managed to get out of our comfortably creaky bed half an hour later. A good fifteen in the bathroom, ten waiting for coffee to percolate, five getting dressed and I was ready to settle down for a good honest day's work in my favorite chair in our unheated living room.

It was a chilly morning and I could see my breath. It may have been my imagination, but the coffee in my hand seemed to cool much faster than normal. NPR was blaring from the speaker next to me loud enough so that she could hear it from the closed door of her office. Her office, which also served as guest room, yoga room, music room and only extra room we had in our tiny house, was equipped with baseboard heaters, a soft carpet and a door that closed but didn't lock. Every now and then a dog or two would push open the door and come out to brave the elements with me. Each time, as soon as the dog cleared the threshold I would hear her leave her desk and briskly close the door. As soon as the dog got a drink of water and realized how inhospitable the rest of the house was, he or she would nose the door open and slip back into the comfort and warmth.

"Ruby, close that door!" she would say with mock exasperation. Schwick! The door quickly brushed shut against the long strands of carpet.

That day an unnamed anxiety was getting to me. Was it the fact that one candidate in the final debate promised to eliminate my job? Was it that this was the first election in which I really felt emotionally vested, or was it nothing to do with the election at all? Was it that everyone around me was on the brink of losing their jobs, and myself and the lady behind the closed office door had an uncertain winter to look forward to in this tense economic adjustment, downturn, recession, collapse, DEPRESSION, whatever they were calling it.

So, an e-mail appeared in my inbox from my friend, Joe the Economy Professor. He laid out the schedule for his trip to London in the spring along with an open invitation to stay at his flat.

"Would I have a job in April?" I thought. "Can I afford to plan out that far?"

Will I have a job? I wrote to him, Can I afford to plan out that far?

He replied confidently that my job wasn't what he was worried about. If the economy got that bad, we would be looking at the New Deal 2, especially if the Dems won, which in that case would create more government jobs and public works.

"Oh good," funny how I come to trust his opinion only when something utterly incomprehensible, like the WORLD economy, threatens to adversely affect my life. Somewhat like religion. Sure Hitchens sounds good in the safety of my local coffee shop, but when turbulence knocks God Is Not Great from my hands at 30,000 ft, I have a more receptive attitude toward the blind faiths.

Don't know if I'll make it to London, I wrote. I need to be saving for our vacation in Greece.

I looked at my words. Was this what counted for sacrifice and suffering these days? From the ether of the tubes came the prophesy of an economic crisis never experienced since the Great Depression and this was how I was preparing for it? By wondering if I'd be able to swing the trip to Greece with the addition of a quick jaunt to London next year. I guess the underlying question prodding my anxiety was, "will I still be able to live beyond my means?"
Lord knows I've gotten used to it.

Three o'clock came around and she along with her knitting and dogs had settled into the living room.

"Wow, it's cold in here. Why are you wearing a T-shirt? And where are your socks?"

I didn't really feel like telling her, that besides my backcountry gear, which I only kept in good order because it tended to be a matter of survival, I depended on her philanthropy to supply me with new warm clothing for the winter. I also didn't want to explain that I had stored my sweaters in a dark dirty corner of my apartment at the park all summer, and come sweater season they had become saturated with some mold that inflamed my eyes and caused a rash under my arms when I tried to wear them. I wondered if she knew that the trash bag stuffed under the table in our bedroom was filled with moldy sweaters.

"It's not that bad in here," I said trying not to visibly shiver.

From the couch I flipped between ABC, NBC, CBS as coverage of the 2008 presidential election began. We had an election celebration party to attend at six-thirty, and the beer and freshly baked cookies were already packed. At the time calling it a celebration may have been overly optimistic, but when Pennsylvania was called I found my spirits rising to the occasion.


"Don't worry." She would plead. Many a time in the past couple months I had gone on a rant about the worst case scenario that I feared was fast approaching. All I could picture was a cold January, both of us unemployed with debt creeping up on us.

"You'll have to go live with your mom, and Satch and I will be sorting through glass recycling by the Fred Meyers."

"Don't worry," she said.

"Okay," I lied.


The car ride to the party, for I knew it was a party by then because Ohio had been called, found me riding shotgun beside my English expat friend Malk.

"Isn't this amazing? We are finally going to win," he said.

"Well, I'm winning," I said. "You in fact, unless I'm mistaken, do not have the vote."

"Bastard," He grumbled. "Years of Margaret Thatcher. Then I come to this country just in time for eight years of Bush. I deserve this moment."

Democrats, even at the cusp of certain victory, were still fairly touchy. "Don't celebrate too soon. We made that mistake the last two times. We'll wait for the ether in the tubes to tell us it is okay to exhale and loosen our grips on our microbrews." I remember the sick days used and the tear reddened puffy faces from the Seattle elite on November 5th 2004. It took a long time to repair the damage when I told them in their darkest hour that I had voted green.

"No, I'm not quite sure who the party candidates were," I replied to the backs of their heads as they filed off down the hall to turn in their leave slips justified by mental distress.

That evening the party began in a subdued fashion. Relatively young democrats were nursing beer, wine and eating vegetarian pierogies.

After a long boring hour with Jim Lehrer we flipped from OPB to NBC to Comedy Central, where Jon Stewart declared Barack Obama the next president of the United States.

Everyone sat in mild confusion.

"Was that real?"

"Quick, change the channel!"

"We need to know from the real news."

"Yes, Jim Lehrer says it's true!"

"Now switch to Fox. Let's see how depressed Brit Hume is."

His victory speech was moving and inspiring and I was glad I voted for him. He told us that yes we can, and I got choked up. He told us we had to sacrifice, and I thought that I could, but still only had a vague notion about what that might consist of.

The cheers were cheered and the champagne was popped and except for the diehard local political activists, who kept refreshing their browsers, we all left that night considerably relieved and happy.

Her excitement still seemed elevated when we arrived home.

"I'm going to watch more of the coverage," she said, and I squeezed her hand and left her on the couch with the TV and her dogs as she savored awhile longer one of the most important moments in our lifetime.


I lay in our bed and wondered what had really changed. Tomorrow more jobs would be lost and the value of our house would decrease. Again, I wondered what sacrifice meant and what struggling really was like. When my parents got married they lived for awhile with two dogs in a tent in a state park. My mom was a waitress and my dad worked in a printing shop. She kept a coffee cup from that job. I remembered loving that old orangish- brown truck stop mug. Watching at the table as tendrils of coffee particles rose up through the morning light mixing with her cigarette smoke, I would picture her in a blue uniform, with a name tag, standing behind a laminate counter. I've had a few menial occupations like waiter and club bouncer. Though I felt I had left that behind, especially after I turned thirty. Years ago she had held those jobs also. She was a waitress, a daycare worker, etcetera. I wondered if either of us was really up for the task of moving backward struggling and sacrificing.

The following morning I began to stir at the sound of the dogs eating breakfast and the tea kettle boiling.

"Wake up," she said with a kiss. "Welcome to a new world."

Groggily I opened my eyes and saw her blurry figure standing in our bedroom. The two dogs bounded through the light that fell in from our wet single pane windows. I rubbed my eyes and everything began to clear up.

"I'm ready," I said.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Bon Iver

So, my buddy sent me a block of cds by mail.  His friend runs a series of labels.  One of which is Jagjaguwar.  Home to Bon Iver.  As legend goes Justin Vernon, the band creator, holed up in a cabin in the wilderness.  Instead of sending folks letter bombs he composed the album "For Emma, Forever Ago".  Reeks of longing.  Anyway, I'm considering it the best album I've heard since Beirut's "The Flying Cup Club".  The following is another one of those amazing Take Away Shows.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

The Way Of The Chicken

I'm sure I don't know how to use the semi-colon, but I don't know what else to do with my fragments. Here is another installment on the theme of man vs. nature.


So chickens are fragile creatures.

I was standing outside of the coop not paying much attention as Em introduced the crowd to her brood.

“This one is the banty Emerald. See she's very friendly and loves to perch on top of the-" and that’s when Satch made his move. The coop door swung wide and like a banty rooster he was at their throats. Screaming issued from chicken and owner and onlookers alike. I knew Satch had probably blacked out overcome with instinctual fowl-lust. Beer in one hand and being on the opposite side as the door I could do little but shout feebly to grab Satch. Suffering from a car crash related arm injury Em could not wrest Satch from his targets. When it was all over I found myself dragging Satch by the scruff of the neck staring into his crazed eyes and the thick ring of molted feathers stuck to his slobbery muzzle.

“No blood” I said, hoping that observation meant no lasting damage had been incurred. I took a long pull from my beer. “Bad dog,” I said.

Malk and Nae being chicken enthusiasts themselves stayed with Em as she comforted the worst casualty of the attack. In the dusky drive home I watched the silhouette of Satch’s head extended into the breeze in my side mirror. I’ve always had this delusion that he was a pacifist. I guess I must have known that a mad killer wagged within him. He evidenced himself every time I was forced to pull back on the tether as he attempted to lunge at a cat, squirrel, porcupine, skunk, elk, but these chickens were so defenseless. Their evolutionary track divorced itself from nature as soon as humans decided a basket of wings went nicely with a frothy pint. They lost every notion of survival.

In the evenings from Malk and Nae’s kitchen window you would notice small humps of shadowed feathers lying still in the yard and realize that the chickens hadn't quite made it back to their hen house before the sun went down. You ended up stumbling through the yard retrieving slumbering hens and stowing them safely away from the raccoons and dogs and whatever else threatened a nasty end for an oblivious bird.

A call arrived at my house a day after Em’s party. The banty is fine but the other two are limping around, but look like they might recover. The yellow one can't stand, and she won't eat or drink. I just wanted you to know that I don’t blame Satch.”

“Thanks,” I said, “You know if you need help putting her out of her misery let me know.”

At the time I felt very confident about that offer. Of course I would do it. Unlike Em who had nurtured those chickens for a good three weeks in the shower stall of her trailer, I had no attachment to the animals. I am a scientist, an archaeologist and I know without any delusions the relationship between Homo sapien sapien and Gallus gallus. Then why did I have the irrational delusion that my Canis lupus familiaris would be a contentious objector to his predatory urges?

Driving to work I thought of how I would do it. I ruled out as a viable method the thirty stroke spade routine that Malk employed; definitely too messy. I recalled that my father had killed a number of chickens in his day. For the first decade of my life there was a raggedy rooster pelt above my parent’s bed. It was displayed all black and red feathers spread eagle tacked to the wall. My parents told me that was a mean rooster and too tough to eat.

“You don’t want to use an axe,” he said, “that’s just in the movies and cartoons. What you do is grab the chicken behind the head and spin it around a couple of times like drying a wet towel in order to break the neck.”

Arriving at work I was feeling a little queasy about the whole thing. I’ve never been responsible for personally ending the life of anything larger than a trout, and that was more like murder by neglect leaving it in the bottom of the boat to suffocate, not from my bare hands wringing its squawking neck. I could imagine my heart race and my stomach turn as its wriggling body revolted against my grip from the knowledge built in from ancestor upon ancestor suffering the same fate. This apparently involved me emulating some slap stick kung fu routine. As if unnoticed, my nunchuck had been switched out for a rubber chicken.

I walked though the office door and a note was waiting for me on my desk with a reprieve.

“Good news,” it said. “She hopped around today and drank some water. I think she’s going to pull through!”

“Well, good for her,” I thought and sat down at my desk noticeably relieved.

When I’m out on a run or bike ride, I watch as Satch darts into the vegetation after a grouse, or deer. I pass by the forest road borrow pit and think of the fall when it is filled with the sounds of gunfire and bullets ricocheting off the piles of garbage. I think of my friends who make their annual hunting trips to Montana and come home with a freezer full of deer and elk meat. As I’m running I realize that I don’t think I can be that person; the survivalist who is prepared with his guns and his skill. Fleeting past trees and over logs I feel a lot like that animal on which Satch finds the irresistible urge to pantomime evisceration, and I know that makes me the fragile one. The one whose evolutionary track has gone the way of the chicken.


Friday, June 27, 2008


Here's something from All Songs Considered
My number one was Bon Iver.  A lot of folks are with me on that, but it looks as though Death Cab and Vampire Weekend have the most votes.
By the way, this post will become obsolete on July 6th.

Edit:  Panic! At The Disco?  Boourns.

Thursday, May 29, 2008


So, ASC is back from Japan, and feeling up to contributing once again. For this post I will pass along this short paragraph. The back story involves my brit friend Malk who becomes enamored with this beautiful japanese american yonsei, Nae. They settle in to a semi urban life in Portland with chickens and numerous sheds in the yard.

One of our chickens got attacked and half eaten by a raccoon this morning.
I feel really sad for her, Marigold.
She was slower than the other two, but would allow me to pick her up.
Nae thought she was dead when she found her,
but when I checked she was still breathing, but in terrible shape.

I told Nae to go inside and make a cup of tea.

Then I took a sharp spade and bludgeoned her to death.
I did not realize what tough birds they are.
It took about 30 strikes to finish her off, she just would not go.
Thankfully Nae didn't see it.

That is not a good thing to do to one of your animal friends.


Later Malk called me and told me they made a chicken run.
"Oh, really," I said, "don't you think it's a little soon? I mean shouldn't there be some sort of mourning period?" After much confusion it was made clear to me that a chicken run, unlike a beer run, is an outside enclosure protecting the chickens from predators.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008


The following is another manifesto.  A manifesto for honest film making.  A style known as Dogme founded by a few northern European socialists.  The following is copied from their website Dogme95

Dogme 95

.. is a collective of film directors founded in Copenhagen in spring 1995.

DOGME 95 has the expressed goal of countering “certain tendencies” in the cinema today.

DOGME 95 is a rescue action!

In 1960 enough was enough! The movie was dead and called for resurrection. The goal was correct but the means were not! The new wave proved to be a ripple that washed ashore and turned to muck.
Slogans of individualism and freedom created works for a while, but no changes. The wave was up for grabs, like the directors themselves. The wave was never stronger than the men behind it. The anti-bourgeois cinema itself became bourgeois, because the foundations upon which its theories were based was the bourgeois perception of art. The auteur concept was bourgeois romanticism from the very start and thereby ... false! 
To DOGME 95 cinema is not individual!

Today a technological storm is raging, the result of which will be the ultimate democratisation of the cinema. For the first time, anyone can make movies. But the more accessible the media becomes, the more important the avant-garde, It is no accident that the phrase “avant-garde” has military connotations. Discipline is the answer ... we must put our films into uniform, because the individual film will be decadent by definition! 

DOGME 95 counters the individual film by the principle of presenting an indisputable set of rules known as The Vow of Chastity.

Now not only is the following a beautiful song... 

Beirut are the best indie kids out there.  A bunch of folks from Albuquerque, at least one I think from Taos “eeee”, lead by Zach Condon.  They perform each of the songs from their album The Flying Cup Club captured on the streets of New York by the La Blogoteque Dogme theory of film.  Natural lighting, hand-held cameras, no sound dubbing.  Beautiful idea and exactly the essence that gives you the feeling of amazement that only comes from an intimate live show.  Lars Von Trier missed the mark with all his films except Dancer in the Dark, why?  Because that style of filming works best with the naked performance of music and choreography.  The second rule of Dogme is the most important and the most honest.

The sound must never be produced apart from the images or vice versa (music must not be used unless it occurs where the scene is being shot).

So check this out from the Take Away Shows and Beirut.  I am inspired. 


Tuesday, March 11, 2008

T.K. And The Manifestos

On a related subject to the previous posting I would like to turn attention to another Manifesto of sorts.  One that was written in blood, insanity and a manual typewriter.  I wonder what TK thinks about text messaging?


All, I just finished reading Ted Kaczynski's manifesto. I am now ready to live in the wilderness and commune with nature as it was intended for us in the beginning. Ted's thoughts on the perpetuation of technology and how it robs us of important natural goals such as sustaining life and replaces them with "surrogate activities" is interesting. He feels that we need to destroy the techno-industrial juggernaut and revert to living in small tribe-like communities. In addition, the only technology allowed to exist would be "small technology" things like hand tools, wells, and waterwheels.

I now want to create my own manifesto. The problem is that I am not impassioned enough about anything to pen such a doctrine. Maybe I will write a manifesto about apathy. An apathesto if you will. I will quit halfway through and try to hang myself with my own underwear. I wont have the energy or enthusiasm to kill myself though so I will end up loafing around my house with my underwear around my neck.


Monday, March 10, 2008

Let Them Eat Plants

Evolution has caused Homo sapiens sapiens the undue burden of desire.  Namely, that is the instinctual craving for sex and food.  Our large brains have led us on a doomed journey with the sole purpose of sating those desires.  Other animals are limited with what nature and primal social structures can provide.  However, we seem to be driven to add wondrous and ultimately soul and body torturing complexities to our lives. 

I won’t even get into the sex portion of this equation because it is way more painful and ultimately the endgame of sex is the over indulgence of things taken internally.  By that I mean food, booze and emotional trauma.  Nonetheless, if that be a corned beef sandwich, quart of whiskey or self absorbed guilt it all leads to the same thing, poor health.

The ability of our modern skulls to hold 1400 cc worth of brain matter has led to some horrible consequences.  Humans have evolved with an overwhelming desire for sugar.  A product that was very rare in nature.  That was until our big brains told us that we could make our own sugar from corn.  Now that sugar is in everything humans eat, especially American humans.  Corn is in water, and bread, and meat.  Sugar is so innately desirable to us that we will fool our brains.  We will disguise sugar to look like real food.  Products masquerading as the food with which humans need to thrive.  We go through all that effort to trick ourselves just so we can eat sugar instead of…  oh, say broccoli.  Homo sapiens sapiens americanesis eats so much of what he desires that he is killing himself rather masochistically.  Like love and sex we don't think about consequences until it is too late. 

Those consequences happen to be cancer, heat disease and diabetes.  American's have developed mythologies propagating this lifestyle.  Take Santa Claus the cookie eating sugar junkie who secretly had an insulin pump installed in his belly.  Don’t tell the kids, and don’t worry it still shakes when he laughs.

But more so like a bowl full of fruit flavored high fructose corn syrup. 

So while we all die of Western diet diseases, large corporations sell us medicine to keep us alive so we can continue to eat sugar and poison infused fake food.

So instead of popping another hot pocket into the microwave read Michael Pollan’s book In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto

The book does tend to be speaking more to the upper income folk who can afford to eat well.  Everyone should eat out of their gardens (I guess, if you own enough property for a garden), or stay out of discount grocer (another financial issue), but all said, there are good rules to live by in this book.  In fact I synthesized the rules into this nice long list.  If you want more exposition on these check out the book.

  1. Eat food mostly plants
  2. Avoid food that makes health claims
  3. Don’t eat anything your Neolithic ancestors wouldn’t recognize as food (such as Go-Gurt)
  4. Don’t eat anything incapable of rotting
  5. Avoid food products containing ingredients that are A) unfamiliar, B) Unpronounceable, C) More than 5 in number, or that include D) High-fructose corn syrup
  6. Bread should be flour, yeast, water and a pinch of salt
  7. Shop the peripheries of the supermarket and stay out of the middle
  8. Get out of the supermarket whenever possible
  9. Food doesn’t seem like the smartest place to economize
  10. Eat mostly plants especially leaves
  11.  You are what what you eat eats too
  12. If you have the space buy a freezer (for storing your grass fed cow and/or your bulk farmers market produce)
  13. Eat like an omnivore (as in lots of different things)
  14.  Eat well-grown food from healthy soils
  15. Eat wild foods when you can
  16. Be the kind of person who takes supplements and then save your money (This one is kind of lost on me)
  17. Eat more like the French.  Or the Italians.  Or the Japanese.  Or the Indians.  Or the Greeks
  18. Regard non-traditional foods with skepticism
  19. Don’t look for the magic bullet in the traditional diet
  20. Have a glass of wine with dinner
  21. Pay more.  Eat less
  22. Eat meals (no snacks)
  23. Do all your eating at a table
  24. Don’t get your fuel from the same place your car does
  25. Try not to eat alone
  26. Consult your gut (eat till you are 80% full)
  27. Eat slowly
  28. Cook, and if you can, plant a garden



Friday, February 29, 2008


So I'm living out my dream of being a radio dj.  Sure it's not radio and no one is listening, but it feels real.  This first episode of DarkCast is fairly mellow, but don't think that is indicative of the future direction of DarkCast.  If you don't like this one please give other shows a chance.  I do have good music in me somewhere.  Also I posted one of JB's Pacific NW in Upstate NY shows. His show starts about 4 min into the recording.


(the recordings are to your right.  You can download or stream!)

Sunday, February 10, 2008

I Fail More Often Than Not

So. Snow is falling. Rain is on its way promising to turn those fluffy crystals into wet slushy soup. I'm hitting an 11 am flight to Vegas tomorrow. I haven't packed. I've calculated my current momentum and figured I won't get to sleep tonight until at least 2 a.m.

That said, I realize submissions to Dark Cedars have lagged in the past few weeks. Four writers and not a man of action among them. In kind with our lack of creativity, this post will be short and sweet, also keeping in theme with tonight's subject.
Via NPR I came across Smith Magazine who have taken it upon themselves to solicit life stories from everyone and anyone who will submit. Famous and innocuous alike. They have even published a book (watch the video it's good) of the received memoirs. The catch. Your life story must be fairly concise. Six words concision to be exact. My Six-Word Memoir is posted to their website and I am fairly happy with it. However, in accordance with my life story it may be way off the mark. You be the judge.
I challenge you all to whittle the intricacies of you respective journeys to the bare minimum of what they represent thus far. Mine are filled with regret, but scrambling for optimism. Realism delving into animism.
In conclusion I would like you to take this opportunity to strip yourself down. By that I mean find the essence of your self at this moment in this time. And, after posting your memoir on Smith Magazine, please post them here in the comments of Dark Cedars.