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Doesn’t Look Like Anything To Me

Snoqualmie Pass

In the snow, it is the same forward as it is back.

In the late winter at the Snoqualmie Pass, I walked into the snowdrifts under the fir trees. A truck on the freeway sounded its horn, and under that the rush of tires on the frozen concrete whirred and groaned. The crust of snow shellacked with a rain mostly held. When my boot broke the surface, my boot sole plunged into powder, filling my sock with shards of ice and a spray of snow. The snow melted and soaked my socks. The ice shards melted slowly as I pulled my boot back up to the crusted surface and kept moving across the ice.

I wasn’t sure where I wanted to go. I had wanted to go out into the snow and had this image of walking until I came to a creek that was free from ice out in the middle of the current. The flowing water would be black. And around it the white snow and blue icicles hanging from the trees would make it feel as though I had come to a place, somewhere out in the forest, but as I slowly made my way across the ice crush between the trees, the entire forest began to look the same. There was the sound of the freeway behind me, receding, until I could only hear the occasional flump of a tree releasing its snow load or I could hear the whistle of a marmot or the chatter of birds eating whatever they could find. A camp robber had been following me the half mile or mile I traveled into the forest.

A misty fog or clouds depending on how you wanted to look at it had descended to the tree tops and obscured the cliffs and mountain tops that would provide some sense of where I was. I could see how easily I could get lost. I kept breaking through the ice and left a trail back to where I came, otherwise, forward and back were the same sequence of heaps of snow and ice, trees with ice clinging to the bark. To head, back was the same as moving forward. Eventually, I arrived at a creek with free-flowing water in the channel. The water was black in the white landscape. I turned to head back but didn’t know where to return. To head back was the same as moving forward.

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Kickstarter Campaign for Total War – War in Globalism

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Hey baby, need to buy some weapons, some serious arms?

In the American Civil War a doctrine called the Industrial Production and Capacity Utilization was likely the most important determination of victory in the war. This may be the first war where this was understood by one side, and it would be the way in which the World Wars were fought. Victory in the world wars depended on disabling the capacity of the enemy to produce the material of war. The idea of total war had also been simmering and came into existence during the war between the Federalists and Confederacy. The wars of the Middle Ages were no less brutal, but were in fact kind of guided by ideas of chivalry and divine right but also were limited by the human scale of industrial production. Labor in the Middle Ages was the labor of humanity and animals. This had gradually given way to wars inflected by technology and more so by the industrial capacity of nation states at war. The World Wars saw the logical conclusion of war as a conflict between the economies of nation states. These wars of factories and the reproductive capacities of vast nation states. Without much of a surprise the losers of the war were industrial titans, Germany and Japan, and the winners of the war, The United States and Russia were monolithic and totalizing systems from top to bottom — Industrial Capitalism in one corner and Industrial Communism in the other. China was present in this war but was violently shucking off its colonialism and then embarked on the rational path of Industrial Communism.

But at the end of the war, technology and industry had produced the destructive capacities of the Nuclear Age, and at the same time, produced the networks that would give rise to Globalism. Globalism would in the end become the epoch that would replace Modernism with its nation states. In Modernism the corporation belonged to the nation state and while profits were vital to the mission of the corporation it was within the construct of the nation state. In the transition period between Modernism and Globalism, which might be called Post-Modernism, corporations gradually eroded their ties to nation States. For example corporations such as Apple Computers while being born in California in the United States by the first decade of the 21st Century relied on components from a global supply chain, Chinese labor, and sales to a global market. Apple is hardly as much a United States corporation as it is a Chinese corporation. It is a global company and does not really belong to any nation state. Continue Reading →

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The State Does Owe You A Job or 2 Millions Dollars

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We drink Coke. IA Richards is wrong. A paleolithic man wouldn’t drink a Coke, nor would he have any interest in Hamlet. In all Post-Apocalyptic stories the survivors want to roll the clock back; that is their central theme. If you have ever actually tried to survive in the wilderness, you know that water taps and central heating are worth the trade. Survival is not liberty, either.

Generations ago we traded our ability to support ourselves off the land for the coordinated, collective action known as The State. We traded this ability for the collective gain in productive power so that we could benefit from the bounty of this increase known as the division of labor. This trade came with an obligation from The State to provide for us. It is not possible for a contemporary human to survive off the land. A contemporary human does not in fact own enough land to survive. Because of this we are in fact entitled to support for our survival. The existence of The State makes the phrase an Nanny State an oxymoron. All nations are Nanny States.

We are entitled to support in the same way that a fish is entitled to water, a bird to air, a contemporary man to his Nanny State. Our greatgreatgrandmother’s gave away our ability to support ourselves long before we were born to The State. The State, in turn, must make certain that we have food, shelter, and education. In the United States this contract is the promise of the Constitution and includes the slightly weird concept of “the pursuit of happiness,” not happiness itself, but its pursuit. You can chase it if you want. Happiness I suppose is the carrot. Unhappiness is the stick. But any threat of starvation or denial of anything else at the base of Maslow’s Hierarchy is breaking the contract.

If The State breaks this basic provision of food, water, shelter, health care, personal security, privacy, education, and the time and freedom to make and maintain social bonds then The State has broken its contract and should provide you with the ability to do this for yourself. So at my age that means the basic survival of my family will cost about 2 million dollars (with education and health care being completely covered on top of that). This figure came from the The Self Sufficiency Calculator for Washington State.

If The State fails to honor this agreement, than the agreement would seem to be null, and yet the void of no state — the appeal of zombie narratives, Mad Max, and other end of the world narratives — is another world and one that in which we are not designed to survive. Even in these myths the survivors end up like maggots surviving on the corpse of The State and the only way that the survivors survive is by creating a new state.

Why would anyone want to void the existence of The State? We traded our ability to take care of ourselves for the reality of cooperative action and the effecinces of the division of labor. The State does not have ability to restore us to our condition before this trade. It is merely a myth to think that we could return to what we were before The State. As a species we have been altered forever by The State.

If I were you right now to give you a parsec of land, like the Romans did to their citizen soldiers, could you turn that land into a living? Of course not. In America, only a libertarian nostalgic for a golden aged pioneer world that never quiet was would yearn for such a thing. Continue Reading →

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Mowing the Lawn

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I am aware though after I mow my lawn in a strange suburban pride in having a neat and tidy lawn.

I am aware though, after I mow my lawn, in a strange suburban pride in having a neat and tidy space to call my own.

I mowed the lawn yesterday. This morning I’m looking out on the bluish early morning light and seeing the edged and smooth and somewhat green velvety texture of the lawn coated with early morning dew. There are drops in the scraggly and mostly dead rose bush. I like the collapsing and tangled and probably unhealthy rose bush and don’t want to trim it, but the lawn itself is something I feel a degree of suburban energy around. I don’t even know know how to phrase this. I didn’t have a lawn when I lived in an apartment while going to college. In fact the entire building didn’t have a lawn. It had a hedge of bamboo where raccoons would hide while migrating from Lake Union to Green Lake. There were planters for the Japanese maple trees along the street. But otherwise the building was free of vegetation even though it was under very tall city trees that left leafy, cool shadows on the side of the hill in the Spring and Summer. But after this I lived in houses on city lots with tiny lawns that required mowing and I would kept these patches of grass trimmed and short. It would take less half an hour and I would be done. I didn’t think much about the lawn or lawn care or mowing lawns in these rental houses. We lived for a time in a house north of the city, and the previous tenant had left the back lawn to grow. He’d had a bon fire in the middle of the grass that had gone to seed for several generations leaving clumps of golden straw and a brown morass of old seed pods. I used a weed whacker to cut the grass down to a manageable size and then began to cut the grass and after a season the grass was a plush bed of grass and the old fire-pit disappeared into the soft bed. It calmed me, but it wasn’t until I bought a house in the algae coated suburbs filled with cul-de-sacs, pastures holding drainage ponds, and houses with somewhat vast overgrown yards that I became the owner of my own bit of managed lawn. Continue Reading →

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Gun Violence

British #4 Rifle

My stepfather had a British #4 with a magazine and a bayonet. He told me once, if the blade get stuck in a rib cage, fire the rifle to clear the corpse.

My experience with gun ownership begins and ends (well except for the military where I did train to shoot people like me who were stupid enough find themselves in a situation where they were shooting at other people) with my stepfather who owned a number of military rifles and bayonets that he kept under his bed in the security of the cardboard boxes in which they were shipped to our house. My stepfather was a Northern Irish man who was not very comfortable in Reagan’s America but he loved having the firepower to execute any of the people he did not agree with; he had the odd habit of identifying someone in a check out line at the grocery store — typically some 80s dude with a mullett and baseball hat that had been artfully curled wit the application of pressure and palm sweat at ether end. Often the dude would just ignore my stepfather. Other times they would go, “What you looking at?” My stepfather wouldn’t answer but would just star at them and scrunch up his lips until they turned white. And then the dude usually backed down which may been the game of chicken my stepfather was aiming at. But if things continued to escalate my stepfather would turn his head away. And when the dude went back to buying his cigarettes and Olympia or whatever my stepfather would mutter, “I could kill him. He’s a dead man now.” This man, my stepfather, was typically a sweet guy but a nasty drunk and even a nastier hungover person. He had a copy of Mein Kempf in the back window of his car probably in a provocation to people carrying the Bible around in the back window of their car. And he had three assault rifles. He took me to a range and we fired the weapons at targets that had the silhouettes of human beings on them. We were both a terrible aim. Things got really bad when he started listening to Wagner and his lime green lederhosen arrived via mail order. (I’m unsure how a person discoverers where to order lederhosen in the pre-interent world?) He armed one if his army rifles with his bayonet and began to goose step up and down the hallway. I don’t know what happened next because we got out the house and we didn’t live with him after that. But at the root of his inability to interact with other human beings and his inability to navigate even the Fred Meyer grocery store line was a fall back position of lethal force and a fantasy of Dirty Harry style firefights not against “bad guys” but against his children, dudes in the grocery store, against women driving vans with their kids to the movies. Far from taking personal responsibility, the “clinging to guns” of those who would keep our gun laws as they are strikes me as an abdication of personal responsibility, an active fantasy of dehumanizing “the other” to the point where these people entertain the fantasy of putting a bullet into their “center of mass” (that is their torso). You only need to look back at the needlessly fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman to understand guns must be regulated and anything short of very strict controls is to pander to the fantasy life of adult children and lunatics like my stepfather (who was likely just a bad drunk and hardly a candidate for psychoactive medication.)

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Clothing Mandatory, Style Optional

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Corey Feldman in the 1980s wearing the uniform of the 1980s. In 1984 there was only one jacket and one band.

I have never owned distinctive clothes. I can recognize the use of such things but I never wanted anyone to look at me in public. I don’t want them to ignore me, but I am content if they don’t bother me. I can remember the times I have been chided for things I wore. I had a green sweatshirt, a Generra sweatshirt, where the fabric at the cuffs and collar turned lime in the wash machine. The sweatshirt itself retained a deep green, but the cuff and collar turned lime green. A girl in my class noted this … “your shirt,” she said, “clashes with itself.” The phrase blue and green will never be seen crosses my mind sometimes. I have still have green clothes.

When I dress, sometimes I’m afraid that I look like a park ranger. Continue Reading →

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Learning my Pronouns, Queer Rock Camp in Seattle

The band,  Joe Bitin.

The band, Joe Bitin’.

On a June Monday I dropped off my daughter at Queer Rock Camp at the YoungTown’s Cultural Arts Center at the base of Delridge in West Seattle an area that is part of the Duwamish tribal lands and the neighborhood that Richard Hugo wrote about in his first three books of poetry and his memoir about Seattle, The Real West Marginal Way. Waze, a navigation app designed to shunt you around traffic, guided me down West Marginal Way in the morning. We travelled through an alternate version of Seattle with empty streets, green belts, industrial lots, and Pigeon Hill a neighborhood of one-room houses. We drove through the knot of overpasses and bridges that pass over Harbor Island and the river and connect West Seattle with Seattle, GoergeTown, Beacon Hill,  99, and I-5. The cultural center occupied one of the old Seattle school buildings, a massive brick rectangle with a steep slope for the roof. On the way there was passed a sallow looking teenage person on Delridge in black clothes. I said, “I think she’s a vegan.” (Later I found find that the pronoun ‘she’ is an assumption.)

We were on time which meant that we were early. A few volunteers hurried down the hallway carrying handful of guitars. A volunteer greeted us with name tags, and this was the first sign that this wasn’t going to be just about rock and roll, this rock camp, and the guy (and as I might learn later if I needed to distinguish someone by their presentation, the male presenting individual said, ” please fill out your name tag with the name you would like us to call you and your pronouns.” Continue Reading →

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Crimes of Dispassion, Death Grips at the Showbox in Seattle June 19, 2015

Death Grips at the Showbox in Seattle on June 19, 2015. Photo taken by Cassandra Bermudez-Lopez (@casskittie).

Um I don’t get it. I thought at first, “How can any woman really go see the Death Grips and not defend AC/DC?” And then I began to wonder how can any human person go see the Death Grips and not defend AC/DC, or for that matter defend sexual violence?

There were woman in the audience, so it was all right, wasn’t it? It wasn’t a secret male hate rally against women kind.

There is a thread of sexual violence toward woman by men (and a rare and occasional response from women such as Geechie Wallace nearly 85 years ago in “Skinny Leg Blues” (1930):

I’m gonna cut your throat baby, gon’ look down in your face
I’m gonna cut your throat babe, gon’ look down in your face
Ah, I’ll look down in your face
I’m gonna let some lonesome graveyard, be your restin’ place

(Lyrics / Song) Continue Reading →

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Bullies

Ron Briggs (my father), Fred Briggs III, Fred Briggs Jr., Colleen Briggs

Ron Briggs (my father), Fred Briggs III, Fred Briggs Jr., Colleen Briggs

One instruction that my father gave that was wrong, and I had to learn his wrongness the hard way, was to always run from trouble. If someone challenges you to a fight, my father said, run to the nearest police station and report the people who are trying to get you.

My father had a story about a crowd of kids who would follow him and his brother, Freddie, home from their school in Fremont, a neighborhood in Seattle. They lived in Interlake then in a tiny house that has since been turned into a storage facility for Ben Law Appliance. They lived near the dump that is now a mini-golf course. Every day these kids would follow him and his brother home. We started to run home. When the bell rang we were ready and we just ran home as quickly as they could. “Those kids never got us.” I tried to apply my father rule growing up.

In elementary school in Fall City I was the weird kid and because I’d grown up with those kids they accepted me for what I was: the weird kid. I wore a velour sweater in brown and orange colors. I had a massive Beatles style bowl cut. I wore a blue hoodie on the playground and played with my best friends Wyatt, an asthmatic, and Sam Sudore. Sam’s father was a hairdresser and owned a couple of hair salons. Wyatt’s dad was a dairy farmer.

Most of the other kids in the school dads fell trees for Weyerhaeuser. Their Moms’ worked as waitresses. That’s what my Mom did too.My dad was the local pot dealer. Our dad’s had the traditional non-traditional jobs of rural Washington State. Continue Reading →

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