Tuesday, March 18, 2008


As most of you now know, we gave up our car last September and are experimenting with living an urban lifestyle dependant upon public transit and, well, hoovin' it. On the way to work last week, a new driver mysteriously appeared driving my morning route.

This guy was the MOST polished gentleman I have seen in some time. His navy blue shirt was crisp, ironed with precision for every crease and fold meeting military dress quality. His hair was perfectly manicured, shaved close around the temples and ears, sweeping up to a two inch stylish afro squared off atop his head. His beard was a sheer work of art. His chiseled features were strikingly matched by the carefully clipped hedging along his jaw. I've not seen anything like it before. A circular gray patch on his chin was the focal point of the masterpiece beard. From the white circle two black (I wondered if he dyed them that way) arcs raced up his jawline and ended in perfect points nearly meeting the bottoms of the lobes of his ears. Altogether the beard looked like a giant smile under his mouth. Or some kind of freaky clown face, depending on your personal knowledge of old Steven King movies.

At any rate, what was as curious as the new driver's appearance was his inability to drive anywhere quickly. The new driver somehow matched his articulate personal style with equal care driving. He was so cautious, it became annoying. At one point, it took nearly five minutes to take a right - TAKE A RIGHT - in light traffic! And, I swear, we never got out of second gear, like during the whole ride! He was a good driver. But too good. Too careful. Too cautious.

I got to work about five minutes later than when riding with the normal lady driver. Now, she drives the bus. And while she's doing it, she chats up the ladies in the front the whole time. She knows her business, does it well and gets us where we all need to go safely. She's a multi-tasking, quick-witted talent. Personally, I like CARTA's drivers, and rarely complain since I find riding the bus kind of entertaining. And riding beats the hell out of battling even the most occassional bouts of road-rage.

It's been a few days and I haven't seen the gentleman driver with the facial hair artwork. I'm sure if I do see him again, he will be doing whatever he is doing slowly and carefuly.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Ron Paul Gets It

Yet the main stream media ignores logic and common sense. Sorry to say, none of the other candidates for US President have expressed an understanding and realistic view on the US monetary system, role of the Federal Reserve and manipulation of currencies and interest rates to the detriment of our country. Hear Mr. Paul out. It may be in our best interest to pay attention to this candidate.


Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Review: World Made by Hand by James Howard Kunstler

Although neither of us typically read much fiction, we finally received our long awaited copy of James Howard Kunstler's, World Made by Hand. This book was devoured in one day's time. Gripping, compelling and a force to push the reader toward broad social introspection, this novel is difficult to put down.

Kunster's, World Made by Hand is clearly woven from his non-fiction work, The Long Emergency: Surviving the End of Oil, Climate Change and Other Converging Catastrophes of the Twenty-First Century. The Long Emergency details the difficulties that lie ahead for societies completely (and foolishly) organized around the existence of cheap fossil fuels. He builds quite a convincing case toward a looming degredation of life as we know it as limited resources are inevitably depleated. Ravaging resource wars, climate change and technologies introduced just a little too late for mass adaptation equate to a sour end to the American lifestyle in Kunstler's view. Building upon the research supporting The Long Emergency, Kunstler dives in deep projecting his vision into a future, possibly only a decade or so away, that spells drastic change from the mechanized and somewhat detached, long-distance lives Americans are currently living.

Under the surface, World Made by Hand asks us to take a look at our own personal belief systems relative to the design of modern daily life. Kunstler offers a variety of realities easily related to in a troop of well-developed characters trying to make sense of a world where everything has changed in the absence of mass production, mega-shipping and the systems they'd taken for granted most of their lives, i.e. running water, electricity, antibiotics, daily news and ten miles drives to the grocery store from suburban subdivisions. Kunstler ravels and unravels personalities as they transition from college students, lawyers and other professional positions to farm hands, food producers, candlemakers and a few sad alcoholics. Their lives become completely local. Undercurrents of global warming produce themselves throughout the book with attention to growing seasons, sheer record-breaking heatwaves, crop yield, dengue fever, a Mexican flu epidemic, gypsy moths and other challenges met by the townspeople of Kunstler's fictional Union Grove, New York. Although the idea of a return to "normal times" is desperately clung to and often a notion of the townspeople and the main protagonist himself, Robert Earl, each character finds normal to simply mean the circumstance of the present situation, whatever it may be.

In a moment of frustration, Robert Earl opines that he is tired of sleepwalking through life as if recognizing he'd been doing it even before the jihad bombs went off in Washington D.C. and L.A. shattering the US economy while choking off what's left of international trade. Within no time the character is provided ample opportunity to square off the illusion of security his old life as a software executive was built upon. Kunstler even focuses attention on the alternative; a heavy price for maintaining the illusions we tend to sell ourselves. Robert Earl embarks on a week-long horseback journey to Albany that by car would have taken only a day. Relying on the kindness of strangers for overnight shelter Robert and his group are taken in by an old woman offering her backyard for camp and a hot dinner. Sadly this particular woman lost her mind as she lost her definition of reality. Robert fails to know exactly how to react when served rocks and grass rather than the new potatoes and greens the stranger had promised. For the old gal, it must have been all about using the china (form with no substance). Haunting symbolism is not lost on Mr. Kunstler.

Kunstler is not just spewing doom and gloom, though. Humanity will and does survive, only in a different reality matrix. The individual and collective coping mechanisms he defines are the magic, the human touch Kunstler expertly spills over with hope. A consciousness seems to begin to reveal itself in these characters that is either forgotten or mowed over in their previously mechanized world. The world of current, modern society. Kunstler even proffers up a little mysticism as he paints an appreciation for life's simplicity, it's fleeting and organic qualities magnified; the respect built working side by side through dependance on neighbors and friends; the kindness and honor of men; love. These qualities present themselves as Robert Earl's story unfolds to reveal the power and ingenuity of average people who had not planned for the future they find themselves living in.

Kunstler addresses the serious question of what could happen right here in the United States should we as individuals, communities and a nation fail to be roused from a hard sleep in the aftermath of a long and cheap energy fiesta. Despite his account of a US economy rocked by energy shortages with bombs delivering a final governmental knock-out punch being fictional, the core concepts are not that far out of the realms of possibility considering the magnitude of the US' current oil dependence. The main character summarizes this nicely;

I argued that the human race should have known it was in for trouble, at least we in the United Stated should have, given how insane our way of life had become. (p. 181)

This is a great read that will undoubtedly broaden the perspective of anyone even remotely interested in America's oil dependency issue. With meticulous precision Kunstler dissects the industrialized world and rebuilds it by the hands of a weary yet persistent set of survivors once known as middle-class Americans.

In James Howard Kunstler's richly imagined World Made By Hand, the bone-weary denizens of Union Grove (with its echo of Our Town's Grover's Corners) cope with everything from mercenary thugs to religious extremists, yet manage to plant a few seeds of human decency that bear fruit.
- O Magazine