Sunday, January 29, 2006

Good Site

Cym recommends an excellent site called "voice yourself".... its got a great spoken word poem by Woody Harrelsson. Check it out at Voice Yourself.

Woody's spoken word: Link

Friday, January 27, 2006

Don't Support the Troops

by Skald

"When a whole country is unjustly overrun and conquered by a foreign army, and subjected to military law, I think it is not too soon for honest men to rebel and revolutionize. What makes this duty the more urgent is the fact, that the country so overrun is not our own, but ours is the invading army."

--Thoreau, commenting on America's invasion of Mexico

We have a long history of this type of behavior. So long, in fact, that I marvel at the naivety of my fellow Americans. Do these flag-waving buffoons know nothing of our history? Of foreign leaders deposed or assassinated by the CIA? Of invasions of Mexico, Cuba, Nicaragua, Panama, Vietnam, Laos, etc..? Im stunned that there are so many idiots in this country.. who honestly believe that America invaded Iraq to "bring freedom".

The worst, in my opinion, are the soldiers who daily shoot, bomb, torture, and imprison Iraqis. We are cajoled to "support the troops", but how can a decent human being support this kind of behavior. These soldiers have a choice. They don't have to participate in this invasion. They don't have to fire a shot. They can refuse to obey orders.

The army recruits young, gullible, and desperate people. These kind of people are easier to control. They more readily buy propaganda. They dont ask too many questions.

Thoreau was right. To "support the troops" is a disgrace. Better to provoke them. Better to impress upon them their obligations as human beings... to think and make their own moral decisions.. and to accept the consequences of those decisions.

For those of us who have wisely chosen not to join the army, let us stop pretending to be loyal and supportive citizens. Let us withdraw both our support and our cooperation.

"How does it become a man to behave toward this American government to-day? I answer that he cannot without disgrace be associated with it." (Thoreau).

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

The Joys of Laziness

by Skald

Sitting in the H2O coffee shop. They are playing the "John Tesh" radio show-- hardly a subversive program. But tonight he's talking about the "benefits of living a lazy lifestyle." According to Mr. Tesh, research shows that lazy people live much longer. They have far less stress. And they report greater satisfaction with their lives.

Of course, readers of this blog already know that! The work world loves to send the opposite message. We are bombarded with propaganda about the "work ethic". People who work 50-70 hour weeks are admired for their "dedication" and "committment". In education, students learn that boring "hard work" is valuable, while play has nothing to do with learning.

What a crock of shit. Play is what its all about.

At my current job, I dont "work" at all. Everyday I tell stories, play games, connect with cool people, and have conversations. Since my students are not native speakers, I sometimes need to explain words/grammar. But Im not working. In fact, the minute it becomes work, Ill quit.

Work sucks. Hard workers have heart attacks. Hard workers get divorced. Hard workers never see their kids. Hard workers are resentful when they get laid off.

Lazy people celebrate (time to travel !!). Lazy people play. And in my experience, lazy people are more effective on the job. They dont want to do boring things, so they find ways to make their job fun. They dont want to work hard at drudgery, so they find easier, faster, better ways to do things. They bring in other people to make things easier... and to generate more ideas. They have a rich life away from the job, and so are more fun, interesting, and innovative.

Lazy people arent afraid to sit for hours, just thinking.

Lazy people arent afraid to remain silent and just listen.

Lazy people arent afraid to share power.... in fact, they love to give it away.

Cultivate inspired laziness and become what Kerouac called, "A do-nothing man of Tao".

You'll live longer. You might even make more money.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Be In Love With Your Life

by Skald

"However mean your life is, meet it and live it; do not shun it and call it hard names. It is not so bad as you are. It looks poorest when you are richest. The fault-finder will find faults even in paradise. Love your life, poor as it is. You may perhaps have some pleasant, thrilling, glorious hours, even in a poor-house. The setting sun is reflected from the windows of the alms-house as brightly as from the rich man's abode; the snow melts before its door as early in the spring. I do not see but a quiet mind may live as contentedly there, and have as cheering thoughts, as in a palace. The town's poor seem to me often to live the most independent lives of any... Cultivate poverty like a garden herb, like sage. Do not trouble yourself much to get new things, whether clothes or friends. Turn the old; return to them. Things do not change; we change. Sell your clothes and keep your thoughts...

Moreover, if you are restricted in your range by poverty, you are but confined to the most significant and vital experiences; you are compelled to deal with the material which yields the most sugar and the most starch. It is life near the bone where it is sweetest. You are defended from being a trifler. Superfluous wealth can buy superfluities only. Money is not required to buy one necessary of the soul."

--Henry David Thoreau

The entire capitalist edifice is built on shaky ground. It is utterly dependent on the big lie that happiness depends on social status earned through conspicuous consumption. Without this mass delusion, it crumbles.

In America... and many other countries... poor people are trained to be ashamed. They may have plenty of food to eat. They may have an adequate place to live. They probably have functional clothing. Most of the "poor" in America are also blessed with luxuries such as TVs & stereos. Unless they are homeless, most have running hot water. Most have access to public libraries, and thus a wealth of books (and usually computers too). Physical deprivation is not the source of their misery.

Most "poor" people in America suffer as a result of shame and insecurity, not deprivation. They are taught, from birth, to envy the wealthy.... to equate worth with luxuries. Insecurity eats at them. Trained to think of themselves as "lesser", they naturally burn with anger and resentment. Their neighborhoods are often violent, mean places.

But Thoreau is right. The rich enjoy few real advantages.... and a great many handicaps. For they too believe the big lie.

Herein lies the power and magic of voluntary simplicity.... it erodes the power of delusion. Bit by bit, you come to realize that gadgets, luxuries, and wads of cash are not necessary for happiness. Get rid of your TV..... a year later you'll wonder what you ever "needed" it for. Buy your clothes at thrift shops.... and you'll soon discover that few people can tell the difference. Give away clutter: clothes you rarely wear, books you'll never read again, music you rarely listen to, appliances you never use. Downgrade to a cheap used reliable car... or switch to a motorcycle... or, best of all, live in town where a car is not necessary.

Having done all this, move to a smaller and cheaper place. Keep the process going... continually chipping away at superfluities. It doesnt have to be done all at once.

Each step will bring greater freedom. Autonomy will increase. Financial options will increase. Insecurity will slowly abate. Confidence and independence will grow. You'll need to work fewer hours.

Vouluntary simplicity is liberating. But dont stop there... go a step further. Let go of shame and envy. Follow Kerouac's advice, "Be in love with yr life". Get drunk on sunsets.... bathe in the winter rain. Be rich in love, rich in friendship, rich in experiences. Run, dance, play, read, write, breathe, observe.

"Cultivate poverty like an herb......"

Saturday, January 21, 2006


by Skald

" I had three chairs in my house; one for solitude, two for friendship, three for society. When visitors came in larger and unexpected numbers there was but the third chair for them all, but they generally economized the room by standing up. It is surprising how many great men and women a small house will contain. I have had twenty-five or thirty souls, with their bodies, at once under my roof, and yet we often parted without being aware that we had come very near to one another. Many of our houses, both public and private, with their almost inumerable apartments, their huge halls and their cellars for the storage of wines and other munitions of peace, appear to me extravagently large for their inhabitants. They are so vast and magnificent that the latter seem to be only vermin which infest them. I am surprised when the herald blows his summons before some Tremont or Astor or Meddlesex House, to see come creeping out over the piazza for all inhabitants a ridiculous mouse, which soon again slinks into some hole in the pavement."

--Henry David Thoreau

The mainstream stereotype of Thoreau is that he was some kind of anti-social hermit. Many imagine that he lived in a hut in a remote place... cut off from others... completely alone. But this is not the case. Thoreau often mentions visitors and friends. He lived in the woods and had a great deal of solitude, but was within walking distance of Concord.

Thoreau advocated simplicity, not isolation. And he recognized that housing was the best place to start. Even in his era (pre Civil War America... 1800s), houses had become insanely large, cumbersome, and expensive. Thoreau was bewildered. He couldnt understand why people chose to work their asses off... for 30 years to life... just to pay for an unnecessarily luxurious house. So he walked into the woods, found a nice spot next to a pond, and built a small, warm, comfortable home for next to nothing. Freed from paying outrageous rent or mortgages, he had plenty of time for writing, long walks, reading, and visiting with friends.

Thoreau's choice is still available to us. We must remember the point, however. The point is not isolation. Or forced deprivation. Read Walden and you get no sense of deprivation whatsoever. Thoreau writes of abundance, freedom, ease.

We can still go into the woods. But there are other options as well. Van living is one. Or car living. Communal living is another-- this is a popular choice for new immigrants. Its not uncommon for 4, 5, 8 or more immigrants to cram into a one room apartment. And why not.

We are not enslaved by force. We are enslaved by our expectations. No where are these expectations so ridiculous as in America.

I think, for example, of a couple I met in Bangkok. The woman was American, her husband was Thai. They had a 4 year old boy and a newborn baby. I visited them one evening and was happily surprised to find them all sharing a small one room apartment... an apartment somewhat smaller than the one Im now living in.

The parents slept in a double bed. The newborn slept with them. And the young boy slept on a rollout pad at the foot of the bed. They struck me as a particularly happy and close-knit family. I asked them why they chose to live in Thailand, rather than America. Their answer, 'Life is so much easier in Thailand. Everything is simpler.'

Their arrangement would be considered "deprived" by most Americans. In the States, many think that EACH CHILD must have their own room. A living room is thought to be necessary. So too a television, stereo. Increasingly, computers are considered a "necessity" too. And a separate room for the kitchen.

Thoreau is right. We live like vermin... infesting obscenely large spaces.

And what a price we pay. In San Francisco people tell me that my rent is "very low". Im paying $500 a month! I consider that borderline obscene. In most parts of the country, its difficult to find a house for under 100,000 dollars. One hundred thousand dollars! Madness.

We're taught that more money, more money, more money is the key to happiness. If we could only make more money, we could be free. We could retire early. We could escape.

But most of us dont need more money. Its our expectations that are the problem, not our income.

Freedom starts in the mind, not the wallet.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

The Assassination

by Skald

Watched "The Assassination of Richard Nixon" last night... a great film. Frightening in fact. I felt a visceral connection to Sean Penn's character... right up until he started shooting people.

But prior to that... dead on accurate. The degradation of being an employee. The "positive-thinking" boss. The brainwashed or beat-down friends who accept it all as "normal". The frustration and rage. The questioning of one's own sanity.

"Slavery didnt end in America. Its now called employment". Thats a paraphrase from the movie and once again echoes my own experience. Is there a more degrading experience in modern American life than employment? Other than school, I cant think of one.

And whats so sick is that its a form of degraded slavery accepted by nearly everyone. Few people even acknowledge the problem. While everyone bitches about their job, few seem to arrive at the realization that perhaps employment itself is the problem--- "working for" someone else. Taking orders. Being regulated and controlled. Scolded. Managed. "Motivated". Brainwashed. "Please Mr. Boss sir, may I visit my sick mother... Ill take a week without pay?".

In fact, not only is this sick state of degradation accepted,... its actually celebrated. Countless people speak proudly of their "work ethic". I find nothing so pathetic as the loyalty of employees to companies that mistreat them.... exploit them... and eventually discard them. These poor bastards will moan about all their years of service... their belief and loyalty in the company. They feel obvious pride for their servitude. What clueless suckers.

I cant help but feel contempt for anyone.... ANYONE.... who proudly surrenders their dignity to a so called "boss". Sure many of us have to get by. And sure, some "bosses" are decent people. But at the core, the very idea of a "boss" is twisted and flawed. A healthy dose of suspicion and wariness is the only sane attitude to have towards one's employers... however nice they are as people.

The mind is the most critical battleground. Never... NEVER... EVER... accept the notion that another person has the right to claim "authority" over you.

Let us be anarchist-kings (& queens)... absolute rulers of our own lives.... each and every one of us!

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Secret, Sinister, Salvia,.....

by Skald

Simplicity. Subversion. "Disciplined Hedonism".


These are more than ends unto themselves... they are strategies to a more relaxed, interesting, and enjoyable life. As I continually stress... there are down-to-earth practical advantages to these strategies. I feel no need to emulate Gandhi for the sake of supreme enlightenment. Nor do I take comfort from Thoreau merely for philosophical reasons.

Ive got extremely selfish reasons for advocating this lifestyle. Since Ive embarked upon it,.. Ive had a better life. Ive travelled extensively and lived abroad. Ive had plenty of "free time" for writing, walking, contemplation, reading, making home videos, and anything else that captures my whim. Ive felt more autonomy and control at my jobs... less anxiety and worry. Life has not been perfect.... but there's no comparison to the years I (lamely) tried to follow the mainstream approach.

But for all their benefits, simplicity and freedom are not the whole story for most. Except for the rare loner, most of us also require a sense of community to feel happy and engaged with our lives. We are social creatures. Like wolves, we evolved to live in packs (bands, clans, tribes,... ). We have a need for support. Its an emotional need, a biological need, and increasingly-- an economic need.

This need becomes ever-more critical as modern capitalism works to crush communities and atomize families.

Hakim Bey correctly identified "addiction to bitter loneliness" as one of the most destructive aspects of modern life.

His response: the Tong...

The secret society. A band of like-minded people who meet (in person) for conviviality and support. But the "tong" goes beyond that. Its members look out for each other... help each other into jobs,... protect each other from bureaucrats, bosses, and "the law".

Im quite fond of Bey's suggestion... though secrecy is not necessarily required (unless engaged in illegal activities). Over the years, Ive been fortunate to belong to just such a tribe... a loose collection of hobopoet friends who continually look out for each other. Im in SF because, and only because, one of my "tong" came here first, and let me crash with him till I got a place. He also set me up with "freelance" income till I got a job.

Ill be doing the same for two more friends who are currently in Thailand, but will be migrating here within the next year. None of us has family here. And none of us has family who travel much. So we've created our own nomadic family.

This is a vital step on the hobopoet path.... we need to connect. We need to back each other up. We need to cover for each other, give an assist when needed, and work together to subvert the work-consume lifestyle... in secret or in the open.

Join together.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Taming the Food Lion

by Skald

In my quest for freedom and simplicity, Ive had one constant rival: food. I hate to cook... and I love to eat out. In Thailand, this was no problem. Cheap street food was everywhere. I ate Som Tam at sidewalk cafes. I indulged in cheap restaurant eats.

In fact, in Thailand I rarely thought about money at all. There was always an abundance.

Things arent quite the same in the good ole USA. Budgets are tighter. Everything is more expensive. Especially restaurants.

Dancing on the edge of poverty, Ive been forced to find alternatives... namely, cooking for myself. While Id much rather be dining in cafes.. and sampling SF's incredible selection of restaurants... I am learning a valuable skill. I am, in fact, amazed by how little money I spend now. By sticking with simple foods, Im able to eat plenty without spending much.

Bulk items are my favorite: Brown rice, nutritional yeast, nuts, amaranth. Add some soy sauce, some veggies, maybe a few spices... and you've got a super-cheap AND super-healthy meal. I bought a cheapie rice cooker, so none of this requires much time or effort on my part.

Raw foods are another great choice-- fresh fruit, dried fruit, and nuts require no preparation whatsoever.

Finally, fresh juices provide a super-jolt of nutrition with little time or expense. Just shove a variety of fruits and veggies into the juicer.... and you've got a health-cocktail.

When it comes to living a free and healthy life.. we (drastically) underestimate the importance of basic essentials. How we feed, clothe, and shelter ourselves-- those are core issues. Luxurious houses come with large mortgages.... which necessitate long working hours to pay them. Expensive clothes likewise create an addiction to wage-slavery.

But its not too difficult to bypass these traps. Few of us need more than a small and comfortable room with a bathroom and tiny kitchen. Few of us need more than a small, cheap, used car (and some of us dont need a vehicle at all). None of us "needs" to eat crap processed food.... or dine in expensive restaurants.

Nor do we "need" televisions. Or stereos. Or huge CD/DVD collections. Or high-tech gadgets. These are all superfluous luxuries... and in most cases... they are actually detrimental to a happy, free, enjoyable life.

Thats the paradox of simplicity. Most people think "voluntary simplicity" is synonymous with deprivation. Its quite the opposite. Simplicity frees us. Simplicity enriches our lives and opens MORE possibilities. Simplicity increases our financial flexibility, freedom, and power. Simplicity gives us more time.

And simplicity makes us less dependent on wage slavery.

Less is More.

Much More.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

by Skald

The game world, as Leary called it... the world of human society and human interaction. Easy to forget its only a tiny slice of life, the universe, and everything. Our conditioning teaches us to myopically focus on human society. We read the newspaper, watch TV news, and stay up to date on "current events". We fret and worry about the doings of far away people. We become enraged by the actions of leaders.... we bemoan the state of "the world". We feel these events are important... vital. But perhaps they are less significant than we imagine. Thoreau considered all "news" to be gossip and nothing more.

Easy to forget. To become lost in language and symbols. Its easy to be a pessimist if human gossip consumes your mind.

But other worlds and other worldviews exist. In the vast, cosmic, Carl Sagan sense.... human society appears barely significant. Could there be far bigger, and more intimate, issues than what's happening in Iraq? As a society, Americans tend to shun big issues. They steer away from questions of life and death. They avoid thinking about disease, impermanence, interconnectedness. They strap on the blinders and firmly avoid a wider perspective.

But while scary..... there are practical, game-world benefits to contemplation: thinking about the nature of life and death, detaching from human society for a while, taking a respite from language.

These activities put the game-world in perspective... allow us to be less emotionally tied to its outcomes. Optimism tends to flower when this occurs...... because its easier to be an optimist when humanity is not your only benchmark.

Quite amazing, really, how narrow and backwater our perspective is. Scientist and philosophers have given us a glimpse into the infinite: billions of galaxies... each with billions of stars and planets. Infinite, non-local connections. Awesome internal vistas of the mind.... infinite sky mind at large. Matter and energy dancing, flowing... winking in and out of existence. Our own species... spinning in a millions-of-years evolutionary dance.

But what occupies our minds on a daily basis?

How many widgets can we sell? How many numbers are in our bank account? What some jackass in Washington is doing?

Avoidance and escape-- the roots of America's tragedy.

Friday, January 06, 2006


by Skald

Ive been accused of "having a problem with authority". But thats not quite true. The truth is, I dont even understand the concept of authority. It baffles me that people give more weight to other people than to themselves. It baffles me that they trust other people's judgement more than their own.

Many people seem to place importance on arbitrary titles... such as "boss", "president", "teacher", "student", "client". I do my best to pay lip-service to these roles... but at heart I just see people. I dont see much difference between the "boss" and the "employee". Or the teacher and student.

In the end, I instinctively feel I have the right to do whatever I want to do. How can anyone be more of an "authority" on my life than me? How can I expect them to know what is best for me?

Deference to authority strikes me as infantile... a failure to advance beyond childhood. Obedient people are emotional retards who never learned to take responsibility for their own lives. They disguise their infantile state with appeals to "morality", "patriotism", "responsibility", "maturity", etc. But at heart they are cowards or simpletons.

They love to quote "them".... "the experts". They live by "conventional wisdom"....... by the accepted "rules" of society or media. And they trust these sources more than their own experience. They love to say things like, "you cant do that"... or "you must do this".

Its not only a tragic stance on life... its vaguely pathetic. Where do all these rules come from? And why do so many accept them without question?

Simply put, there are no authorities. No one knows better than you. And no one is better than you. The concept of authority is, at its root, a demeaning one.... a lie... a control mechanism and nothing more.

Recognize no authority but your own.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Just Let Go!

by Skald

"Stop trying to control things and just let go....!"

--from Fight Club

This line from Fight Club is my new mantra. Its a very strange thing.. the way culture and environment effect us. Since returning to America Ive felt a surge of anxiety. The rules of the culture awaken... start chatting in my head. I find that Im criticizing myself all the time (for my "irresponsible") hobopoet lifestyle. I feel more timid... and doubts plague me.

After a month of doubt and stress, I began to question my sanity... just what the hell was going on? Where was the confidence Id had prior to coming here? Where was the audacity? The trust in my self...?

As I thought of this, one phrase came to mind: "Anxiety Culture". I followed the link to the website of that same name and found my mental state mapped out in great detail: guilt, worry, distraction, doubt.

Culture is powerful. In truth, we are not domesticated by violent methods. We are domesticated by belief systems... systems of thought that work to undermine our independence, our defiance, our natural ease. I rarely felt these systems in Thailand... a blessing of being a foreigner who did not speak the language. But as soon as I landed in my home country, they kicked in with a ferocity I didnt expect.

And they are still with me... now requiring great mental effort and discipline to root out. Though Im employed and have food and shelter and basic needs met... powerful anxiety lingers. "What if I lose my job?" (always a risk for me). "What if I can't make new friends... can I be successful socially in such a materialistic culture"? "How can I save more money and have more financial security?", "How much should I conform... or pretend to conform?", "Do I dare reveal my true feelings, thoughts, and actions to anyone here?"..... on and on and on. Some based on rational risk assessments... some completely irrational (yet very powerful).

Im sure most people have had these thoughts and feelings... and Im sure most people attribute them to personal psychology. That was my first instinct... but now Im not so sure. Why was I so much more relaxed in Thailand.... with dwindling cash? Why did these insecurities kick in so powerfully the instant I landed in the US? And why do they persist so stubbornly despite my relatively safe situation now?

Media and culture are my prime suspects. Uncharacteristically, I have watched a bit of TV since landing here... (a huge mistake I have since corrected). I also have no connection to like-minded hobopoets here. Not only do I feel foreign and alien... I feel "wrong".

Which brings me back to Fight Club. There is tremendous wisdom and power in that line. Just Let Go. I may indeed lose my job. I may indeed be forced out of my apt. as a result. I may indeed fail to connect with people here. I may go completely broke.

And so what? These are not things I normally worry about.... (being blessed with a family that would never let me starve... and two degrees that allow me to find income quickly... almost anywhere).

External enemies are easy to blame. So easy to rant about "George Bush", or "Iraq", or even "work". But its our minds that give them power. Its the guilt, insecurity, doubt, and distraction that ultimately ensure our alienation... and our obedience.

And so it is the mind that is truly the battle ground... where the root of this work-consume-die sickness begins.

And ends.

Sunday, January 01, 2006


by Skald

Had a fantastic New Years eve last night.... brought in the new year at a salsa club.... shuffling like Mr. Roboto as others spun, twirled, and grooved. But what the fuck... the music was great. And Im hooked. Already thinking of taking salsa lessons. After two years in Asia.. Im ready for some salsa boogie in my life.

Last night was another illustration of SF's amazing diversity... latin music... but the dance floor was a UN assembly of nationalities/cultures. There's major mojo there.... in that blend. Its unique, few places on earth have this many cultures, religions, sexual orientations, etc. peacefully coexisting, cooperating, dancing together, dating, working, and thriving.

For all my viceral criticisms of the good ole USA, this is one aspect of America that I love. This is our power! This is our promise! And this is our future...( if we have one )!

Tear down the fences. Open the borders!