The Cult of Be Happy, Don’t Worry

earthThe science of psychology, such as it is, is catching up with the intuitions of depth psychology and the probings of literary critical theory. Depression is about to have another day.

A new book by Svend Brinkmann, a psychology professor at Denmark’s Aalborg University, is called Stand Firm: Resisting the Self-Improvement Craze, is just out. In it, Brinkmann says that our insistence have-a-good-dayism is “almost totalitarian” in its rejection of the tempests of being, e.g., sadness at loss, depression generally (which we embrace only with a happiness cure: tea, but rarely any real empathy)–and anger is right out of there. It’s exactly happy-norming that the alt right cucks are using when they say “quit being a sore loser.” Brighten up, lighten up, it’s all great again! Putting the squeeze on unstable emotions is an attempt to reduce the friction of resistance. It works, sometimes. Continue reading

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A cool band, Japancakes. This is their tune “Behind the Mountains,” from one of their many great albums, don’t ask me, I’m not the expert, but this song!

It’s about Coeur d’Alene! Kinda.

And, as is usual and great about Japancakes, it has sweet, sweet pedal steel guitar. “Behind the mountains, there are more mountains.”

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Eight Years

Eight years ago today I quit smoking cigarettes. After 32 years of Camel no-rags, I met a woman who answered “yes” when I asked if smoking were a deal breaker. Granted, it was the first time I’d asked that question: is smoking a deal breaker?

I made that promise to this woman I’d fallen in love with right around Dec. 31, 2008. I read up on quitting, and realized I needed a plan, and a memorable quit date.

Barack Obama’s inauguration was my memorable quit date. January 20, 2009. I haven’t smoked a cig since, and have regained considerable lung capacity–and added almost a fifth to my vocal range.

Today I came home from work, heart sick. I had to be with my dog, and wait for the aforementioned woman to get done with science.  The dog and me, we picked her up from work. He was glad to see her, painfully, his paws unintentionally scratching his lady’s face in a frenzy of howdies. Been at least nine hours, after all.

Enough time, as my work-friend said, “for the Father of Lies to swear an oath.”

And plenty of time, while we’re at work, at a university doing the people’s work, making things better for you and I, for’s faceless minions to leave a dirty “page not found” for LGBT rights, civil rights, and science. Entire reports: gone.

The future is disappearing. Which is why scientists are scrambling to save the data.

This octoversary of not smoking, the devil come up from the swamp.

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Zines, Clickbait, Surveillance, and the CIA

“Zines are accessible, often friendly to the reader and easy and cheap to make. If you have a printer and a spare few hours and some ideas, you can become a zine publisher just like anyone else,” writes Jonno Revanche in The Guardian.

That anyone is still–or again–talking about zines is wonderful. But Revanche says that zines are an escape from surveillance and clickbait, which I think is only partially true.

We know that the Paris Review and other magazines were, back in the 1950s and 1960s, funded by the CIA. That’s not exactly surveillance, at least not in the sense Revanche means, but zines do have a history of extreme partisanship as well as of both overt and covert propagandising–clickbait, in a sense.

Revanche closes with a thought that, while I agree with its spirit, is a bit off in the letter:

The main, streamlined forms of online news and communication that young people have taken for granted have not existed forever. As citizens, as responsible humans who feel a need for justice and transparency from the media and from corporate monoliths, we shouldn’t hesitate to look towards old media as a way to alleviate our anxieties about online communication.

ZInes are great and yes, we should revive them for the purposes they’ve long served well: to spread good writing in a palpable form. Zines were replaced by blogs but, as Revanche points out, blogs have IP addresses and can be hacked. But if we’re looking for justice, transparency, and relief from fake news, zines aren’t the answer.

Newspapers, and the fourth estate generally, are what need reviving. Or, more specifically and accurately, it’s journalism–its ethics and methodologies–that need to be reaffirmed as ways of exposing truth when it is clouded by capitalism, politics, and partisanship.

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Retreat from a Rising Sea

Retreat from a Rising Sea: Hard Choices in an Age of Climate Change
 Orrin H. Pilkey, Linda Pilkey-Jarvis, and Keith C. Pilkey
 Columbia University Press

retreat rising sea.jpgWhat’s going with our planet’s climate is going to make the bursting of the real estate bubble look like a picnic on a sunny spring day. Upside-down equity and underwater mortgages don’t begin to describe the scope of what rising sea levels are going to do to us.

The grim picture painted and the solid evidence presented by the Pilkeys in Retreat from a Rising Sea is one of inexorable foolishness and inequity. Through a combination of denial and greed—often interlocked, as with politicians and real-estate developers—we are doing pretty much the opposite of what we should be doing.

It’s a kind of willful blindness, as described by Margaret Heffernan in her book about why we ignore the obvious at our peril: “we could know, and should know, but don’t know because it makes us feel better not to know.”

Instead of buying people out of their repeatedly flooded coastal homes and businesses, we are, through the National Flood Insurance Program, forking over billions of taxpayers’ dollars to enable people to rebuild in the same spot. And then, after the next storm, we do it again, and again, and again… It’s a grotesque Groundhog Day. Continue reading

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Michael Gulezian

“Mile High Country” performed by Michael Gulezian in Tucson in 2007.

No shit, mile high! Damn, son, that’s some mighty handsome playing.

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What to Say to the Deplorables

I like what Bertrand Russell said to a fascist, a person he’d been corresponding with for quite a while.

I have given some thought to our recent correspondence. It is always difficult to decide on how to respond to people whose ethos is so alien and, in fact, repellent to one’s own. It is not that I take exception to the general points made by you but that every ounce of my energy has been devoted to an active opposition to cruel bigotry, compulsive violence, and the sadistic persecution which has characterised the philosophy and practice of fascism.

I feel obliged to say that the emotional universes we inhabit are so distinct, and in deepest ways opposed, that nothing fruitful or sincere could ever emerge from association between us.

I should like you to understand the intensity of this conviction on my part. It is not out of any attempt to be rude that I say this but because of all that I value in human experience and human achievement.

Yours sincerely,

Bertrand Russell

Via Brain Pickings, a great site for all things literary, philosophical, and thoughtful.

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Harry Manx Does an Irish Raga

Here’s Harry dang Manx covering Van Morrison, “Crazy Love.” “Dang” because I really want him to come to Spokane.

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Blue Bossa

Here’s me and Scotty Thompson covering “Blue Bossa” by Kenny Dorham.

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Two Guns

It was 1976 or 77, I was 18 or 19, not much older anyway. Bi-curious, I was in love and living with another boy my age, Michael. Michael and I had for a few weeks or months shared an apartment in San Bernardino. This is a terrible town, torn apart by freeways (just to mention one reason). And it was like that J.G. Ballard novel where a guy crashes into a zone encircled by freeways, by which I mean Michael and I both thought we were living in a kind of hell, a purgatory, a ghetto of color, gender, sexual orientation, here because we’re poor–and in fact a freeway bridge ramped in a broad arc right around the block our building sat in. And one late night we stood in that tiny living room with its one window on the world offering an engineeringly intriguing view of the freeway but not much else, and we were embracing and we were kissing and–zhit–a bullet zinged through that window and into the wall over Michael’s shoulder. It could only have been fired from that soaring arc of interstate. It looked small caliber to us–but still. A foot in our direction and we might both, either have been injured, killed. We grabbed our shit and right that moment moved into Michael’s VW bus. Left the apartment key on the rickety dining table and left no forwarding address. The landlords can have the deposit, we’re out of here.

That was the second time in my life I had a gun’s attention. The first time, as far as I recall now, was also with Michael. So perhaps these events came in either order, it only matters for narrative drama; which fuck.

We were in Michael’s town, La Puente, west of Berdoo, nearer the malignant clot of L.A., staying at his parents’. We were out late, walking home from, somewhere, a friend of Michael’s with drink and smoke. I don’t think we were committing any public displays of affection. I mean, fuck. 1977. We’re two guys walking down the street, but for sure with alcohol-fueled cockiness moving our groove. Or whatever, cause then there’s this car with, 4 guys? More guys? Fuck, and the guy in the back leans out the window and is pointing a gun at us, and the car goes by so fucking slow, we can’t speak and they just go by. I don’t remember any of those guys laughing or saying anything at all: just staring at Michael and me frozen into the city sidewalk. My memory is silent, as if there were only menace in that moment. Nothing happened; it was only a chill shadow that crept over us, and past.

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