Thursday, December 29, 2011

2012 Forecast

James Kunstler is in the habit of issuing a forecast for the coming year, so I thought I might give it a try. While I admire him and his work, he has become a bit hysterical of late, like he's contemplating violence too much, in the context of what he perceives to be the impending collapse of America. In his most recent post, he imagined impaling socialites who appear in The New York Observer "Shindigger" column, in Zuccotti Park, "in the manner of Vlad.” You know things are getting strange, when an internationally known writer publicly releases imagery of the torturous death of living people, and no one says anything about it - you can bet it's because they don't want people reading what he has to say, because too much of it is a bit too close to the truth. And it's not like he was singling out financiers. If you actually read the Shindigger column, you might catch some of his humor. You'll find people who fund the maintenance of Versailles, Dukes and Vicomtes, parade after parade of dilettantes and otherwise functionally illiterate pretty people. I'm not accustomed to reading such breathless writing, such fawning, self-satisfied fluff. I particularly enjoyed the image of Lou Reed, his fur-lined coat, extolling the virtue of Glenn Close, or was it Meryl Streep? (I don't mean to disparage those two great actors.) For the record, I do not advise violence against anyone. Kunstler sees it as an immediate concern. His forecast is sure to be unsparingly harsh.

2012, of course, is said to be a year of prophecy. It is said by some to be the year of the apocalypse. Can you hear the drums and bells sounding, for war with Iran? How about we turn the Holy Land and Fertile Crescent into glass parking lots! As if the state of the world isn't already condemnation of the existing order. Iran blocking the straight of Hormuz? Sounds like a pending Gulf of Tonkin false flag kind of incident, for those who remember how we got ourselves led into Vietnam, or the WMD that led us into Iraq. It certainly is shaping up to be a year of tumult, and it's an election year. The European economy appears to be buying time, perhaps hoping for a miracle. Plenty of Americans hoping for a miracle too. Even the great dragon China is looking like it might collapse economically, as there's no one to bail them out of the effects of what may prove to be the most laissez faire real estate bubble ever. I think there are basically two paths ahead for the American economy, either hyper-inflation or default. Thankfully, I'm not an economist, so you don't have to believe me. Though if you believe anything coming out of an economist at this point, I feel for you.

I'm actually torn between world views. The video on the collapse of the existential function, from Chris Martenson, combined with John Michael Greer's work, have left me with few illusions about the path humanity faces in an age of increasing scarcity. From that perspective, including Kunstler, we are facing a long decline as the resources to maintain the life we have grown accustomed to grow ever scarcer. At the same time, I read the work of Charles Eisenstein, and watch the film Thrive, and I want very much to believe that I will see the world they envision in my lifetime. I want to believe Terrence Mckenna's talk about radical transformation. I want to believe in rapid and fluid evolutionary shifts in consciousness, in the direction of balance, wholeness and healing. I want to believe this is a divine universe, and anything can happen.

There is of course plenty of disagreement that we are in any kind of end time. It's a cultural joke really, the territory of delusional weirdos, residue of Y2K. John Michael Greer, who is the Arch-Druid in America, who one might expect to have some spiritual sense of what is going on, considers the mythology of 2012 to be a fantasy, which he ascertains the Maya never predicted, and Terrence Mckenna never really saw on his "drug trips". He has even taken to printing weekly excerpts from his book Apocalypse Not, to dissuade people from falling into what he believes is a trap, a dead end (if you'll pardon the pun.) I agree with him basically, if any ideas about 2012 lead you to ignore or deny what John Michael Greer has to teach, which is mostly about getting clear in the head and grounded in the Earth.

I wonder though, about 2012. If the precession of the equinox is on a 26,000 year cycle, and the sun is as close to the line between the Earth and the center of the galaxy as it has been on that 26,000 year cycle, then I take the mid-point of that cycle, when the sun was furthest from that line, 13,000 years ago, as the time of the collapse of the last ice age. I'm not even entirely convinced there wasn't another advanced civilization, at that time, basically wiped from the face of the Earth. And 26,000 years ago, the last time the sun was in this place, was the approximate end of Neanderthal. I'd say that qualifies as epochal.

I don't know if it's true, but it has a nice symmetry. As for 2012, I think this may well be the year demand for oil exceeds supply. If you don't know what that will mean for humanity, you should. You're going to be compelled to face it, at some point soon. You'd be well served by not waiting until it's apparent to everybody, because at that point a significant portion of the world population is going to go functionally insane. If this is the year, you can bet people will spend another decade raging that it's all the fault of government regulation, environmentalists, activist judges, recalcitrant dictators etc. but there is no going back. After a hundred+ year climb, world-wide production has been on a flat-line since 2004. If you believe production will one day climb again, for any period of time, then you are living someplace other than planet Earth. At least, the planet in your head isn't the one under your feet. Two hundred years from now, when fossil fuels have been exhausted, and humanity probably too, we may measure 2012 as the time of that shift. That will seem pretty epochal too, the decline and fall of the Developed nations, the decline and fall of America.

Mckenna toward the end of his life imagined something even more dramatic, like humanity was embroiled in the ever increasing complexity of universal processes, and we are going to emerge quite suddenly into some higher plane of consciousness, unrecognizable to the paradigm of the day. When I get to thinking like that, I half expect Quetzalcoatl the plumed serpent, to come roaring out of the sky devouring the wicked and enlivening the good, like Daniel Pinchbeck predicts. I've long wondered about that curious serpentine spiral at the core of being...

I want to believe too, in free energy. I'd been hearing a lot about Nikola Tesla, before I stumbled on a PBS documentary, Master of Lightning, on-line. I started watching the video in the late afternoon, but I'm on city wireless, and my signal gets a little sketchy from 7-11pm. The video stopped loading about 42 minutes in. So I did a few things on the Internet that didn't require so much band-width, I went about a few things around the house, returning to the computer about five hours later. I'd closed the video, so I had to load it again from the start. I set the computer aside while the video played silently, the screen blacked out. I picked up Charles Eisenstein's Sacred Economics; near the end of the book, I opened it, and the first line I read was, "When JP Morgan abandoned Tesla..." The last page I'd read was about ten pages before that, so I told myself I'd read, and then check the video when I came to the passage about Tesla. When I reached the passage, I set the book down. The computer screen was blank, so I picked up the earphones, put them on - and heard the exact same phrase that I heard last, when the video stopped loading five hours earlier. When I logged in and the video appeared, I saw an egg spinning wildly, on the machine I had seen in the freeze frame earlier, which Tesla had built to demonstrate the safety of AC current.

JP Morgan supposedly abandoned Tesla because Tesla was trying to create (or did create) a device that would provide free energy for all. I don't know that Tesla was on the right track with his tower, and high frequency wireless transmission of electricity, though. The wireless electricity required to run this industrial lifestyle seems like it would ionize most of the atmosphere. The creator of the film Thrive, Foster Gamble, believes he has found a solution to that problem. It rests on the torus, or the energy that cycles around a dynamo, like the magnetosphere of the Earth, or the heliosphere of the sun surrounding the solar system, or the envelope that is believed to surround the entire galaxy, something like the shape of an orange. The film rests on the premise that devices have been created that defy the second law of thermodynamics, creating more energy than they use, by generating a torus. The story goes, that most of these inventions have been confiscated by governments, and the inventors have been harassed and even killed. The film goes on to surmise that there is an agenda of world domination with a goal of one world government.

I don't doubt there is such an agenda. I even have reason to believe that the government of the United States may be a kind of fraud. The Federal Reserve certainly is something very much like a fraud. My mother is convinced the government has built containment and extermination camps, in the States, in anticipation of social unrest. She believes the government we have is in fact a corporation, created in 1868. According to her world view, the Republic ceased to exist, we ceased to exist as sovereign individuals, and became corporate persons, or citizens. It's a very similar argument, this and what is found in Thrive, that if we just come together and realize that just about everything we've ever been told is basically a lie, we can build a better world together. We probably can, if we can get past the lie-thing without falling apart. As for world domination, it is all vanity. Two hundred years from now if we retain even a modicum of our technology, it will be something like a miracle.

Or maybe the Aliens will finally show up and set us right. For myself, in 2012, I want to be in southern England in July, dancing in the wheat fields around Glastonbury and Stonehenge, calling down a crop circle. Or, calling to those people who do it, that I might see such a thing done. At the least, I will have danced in the wheat fields of England. Because of all the very curious things about the backward nature of this Age, there is this strange silence about these crop circles. They are surely some of the greatest artworks of the Age, and yet the artists are unknown. Hardly even searched for. Perhaps it is fairies. I'm not sure what is more ridiculous, to suggest the artists are aliens, fairies or people.

I'd also like to plant about ten fruit trees, tear down my house and start building the off-the-grid marvel I can see in my head. Which is not what one does if one believes the world is going to end. There may be a global financial apocalypse, perhaps. A severe oil shock, probably. The emergence of a kind of rabid desire to exploit every resource everywhere, complete with frothing at the mouth, and the biting of those who stand in the way, metaphorically speaking. Iran will probably eclipse Jobs in the election cycle, so politicians don't have to talk about a thing they don't know how to create. War is easier. We know how to do that. And it's good for the economy, like tax cuts and eliminating regulations. Might as well rack up another few trillion in debt. It's never going to be repaid, you know. Actually, I would like to see debt forgiveness across the board, the elimination of the Federal Reserve, of central banks everywhere, and the creation of an entirely different kind of money eliminating interest. But I'm probably a few decades ahead on that one. Or centuries.

If oil demand does exceed supply in 2012, I suspect what we will see is not a broad scale shift toward renewables, or some steady-state “ecotechnic” economy, but rather epic denial, and a last push to open up every available source of oil, gas and coal, after the model of Canada. If that is the case, and Aliens or Quetzalcoatl or Christ or the Singularity or free energy doesn't show up to save us, then we are certainly headed for a long decline, with probably a great deal of violence and death, on a scale never before seen, in the long story of the species - in the midst of radical environmental shifts humanity has not had to face since the end of the last ice age. Can you imagine both poles ice free, most of the year? Who knows? Maybe even a breaking up of continents, so thoroughly have we been de-greasing tectonic plates. A few centuries from now, when things settle down, perhaps we will be in a position to create the beautiful world that is possible. If we have not lost most of the technology we have today, the best of it, the most useful.

I recommend in 2012, letting go of conventional thinking. Conventional thinking has led us into a very tight corner, and it is leading us to our cultural destruction. Let go, rebuild your world view from the inside out, take nothing to be The truth, while grounding your body in the rhythms of the Earth. Flood the Earth with whatever Art emerges from your core. Be good to people. Be kind. Dance, sing and smile. And be good to yourself. There are difficult times ahead, and that will go better for you and yours, if you are clear about it.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Sacred Economics

Whatever one might think about the future of humanity, it is hard to argue that we are not in a place currently, of mounting, epic crises. The potential collapse of the European Union, an ever expanding world-wide debt bubble, mass specie extinction, deforestation, the depletion of fisheries, peak oil, mass unemployment, governmental incompetency, pending nuclear proliferation, the ongoing proliferation of toxins, expanding income inequality, exponential population growth, etc. etc. It isn't any wonder that extreme thinking should become a hallmark of such crises, be it the messianic tendency to believe in the return of Christ, or aliens, or simply human ingeniousness that will result in some technological gimmick that will make all those crises go away. That kind of thinking, of course, is not seen anywhere near as extreme as that thinking which looks directly at the data, and acknowledges that the near future isn't going to look anything like what most people expect, or indeed anything that humanity has had to confront before -the perspective which looks for solutions to that predicament, outside the bounds of conventional economic thinking. There is in fact a vibrant dialogue going on, at the periphery of the culture, at the leading edge as it were, which the culture has not yet awakened to.

Into that dialogue, Charles Eisenstein has offered his book, Sacred Economics: Gift, Money and Society in the Age of Transition. Eisenstein asserts that we are living in an Age of Separation. At the core of our culture, is the paradigm he calls Ascent, or the idea that humans are "a discrete and separate self," fundamentally self-interested and without responsibility to any whole; and humanity, as ever on some upward, exponential trajectory to some sublime technological utopia, "moving inexorably toward our destiny of complete mastery over, and transcendence of, nature." From that perspective, it is a book that cannot be taken seriously. It is a book however, that if one can open one's heart, it becomes apparent that much of what he is saying is both true, and possible. And that is the nature of the Age, if one hopes to navigate it with anything resembling grace, the ability to set aside the cultural perspective, to see with ones own eyes. He suggests, out of separation, and the story of exploitation, we are in fact moving into a paradigm of Connection, "an economics of Reunion as well, an economics that restores to wholeness our fractured communities, relationships, cultures, ecosystems, and planet."

"In the beginning was the Gift." With that one sentence he begins his book, and sets a kind of stage of naiveté. We enter this world incapable of fending for ourselves, and so, however one might feel about one's upbringing, making it to adulthood is a kind of gift. In early cultures, hunter/gatherer, clan, tribe, gift exchange was predominant, when one's own health and well-being could not be separated from the health and well-being of the community. Money likely began as a kind of ritual acknowledgement of the gift, a token of gratitude. Only later, in the large neolithic agricultural communities, did money become a means to facilitate exchange between unfamiliar parties. From there, it became a thing unto itself, a means to accumulate wealth, and power over others. When money began to have the power to generate more money, in the form of interest, it became a tool of oppression, a means to engender in others servitude. Eisenstein's purpose is not to return to primitivism, but rather to restore to money something of the sacred nature of the gift. Because, "If we are to have a world with technology, with cinema and symphony orchestras, with telecommunications and great architecture...we need money, or something like it, as a way to coordinate human activity."

Unfortunately, money as it stands is money that is loaned. Which is to say, there is always going to be more debt than money, which is also the assumption that there will always be growth. There is currently, approximately, 58 trillion dollars worth of debt in America alone, with a corresponding GDP of 15 trillion. Money at it's core is meant to "facilitate exchange - in other words, to connect human needs with human gifts. Instead, it has come to generate a sense of scarcity, which then generates greed, which in turn leads to the maximizing of self-interest at the expense of the whole. It leads to consumption for the sake of consumption, and the increasing transformation of "the commons", the resources of the Earth, into money. And with every increase in debt, there is more pressure to generate wealth, to service that interest, exacerbating the exploitation of resources on which all life depends. Money should facilitate connection, ease and leisure; instead, it exacerbates separation, anxiety, consumption, pollution, ecological destruction and income inequality.

And now the ability of the Earth to provide for continued, exponential growth, is at an end. We have strained the Earth's capacity to absorb toxins, to maintain ecological equilibrium. Despite the most sincere efforts to protect resources, we are now at the cusp of one last push to open up all the last of the pristine lands to industrial exploitation, in an effort to maintain growth. But that is only putting off and exacerbating the inevitable crash, when there are no more resources to exploit, because we have turned them all into money, infrastructure, or garbage.

But this is not just another book detailing the path that has brought us to the cusp of ecological oblivion. It is very much a book of prescriptions, a book more than any I have read recently, that believes in the inherent generosity of the human being, which the vast majority of economists know nothing about, or at least do not and cannot factor into their models.

The future, as Charles Eisenstein sees it, involves these prescriptions for the Age of the Gift:

1. Negative-Interest Currency - Money as it stands violates nature's law of decay. If money is allowed to decay, no longer able to generate interest, it will increase in flow, "enabl[ing] prosperity without growth, systematically encourag[ing] the equitable distribution of wealth...so that we are no longer encouraged to mortgage our future for short-term returns." Little would change, but for the investing class, who could still save money, but "the value of savings would gradually decrease unless invested at risk. There would be no easy way to grow money risk-free," simply by owning it.

2. Elimination of Economic Rents, and Compensation for Depletion of the Commons - "Polarization of wealth is inevitable when people are allowed to profit from merely owning a thing, without producing anything or contributing to society." As it stands, some of the most wealthy among us are those who are most effective at transforming raw resources into money, and many of the most rich are simply those who excel at turning money into more money, while hoarding it. It can be said that the only thing we truly own is oneself, and one's time. All property is founded on an ancient crime. "With a shift of taxation onto property and resources, sales and income taxes will be reduced or eliminated," as the incentive will be shifted to conservation, and the individual ability of contribute to the common good.

3. Internalization of Social and Environmental Costs - "Today, pollution and other forms of environmental degradation generate costs that are usually borne by society and future generations, not the polluters." This amounts to a hidden subsidy, and "encourages continued pollution and environmental degradation." By taxing pollution and resources, allocating the use of resources and the ability to emit pollution according to what the Earth can withstand, we create an incentive to conserve and reduce pollution. "New industries will arise devoted to conservation, pollution control, and toxic waste remediation," and, "with economic dis-incentives for cheap, throwaway goods, manufactured items will become more expensive, more durable, and more repairable."

4. Economic and Monetary Localization - "Global commodity production puts localities into competition with each other, fomenting a "race to the bottom" in wages and environmental regulation...When production and economic exchange are local, the social and environmental effects of our actions are more obvious, reinforcing our innate compassion." There will always be a place for global commodity exchange, or at least trans-regional. But much of the economic policy of the day has decimated local economies and put us in servitude to distant powers. Local currencies backed by local resources would strengthen local exchange, and put us at considerably less risk to the vagaries of centralized powers who do not have our best interest in mind.

5. The Social Dividend - "The current economic system essentially forces us to work for what is already ours." If you follow the logic that we own ourselves and time only, it follows that the Earth and its resources are common to all. Taxing the use of those resources, and the pollution that follows, that income then should be shared by all. A social dividend, something like the Alaskan citizen's share in oil extraction, at the minimum required to provide the bare necessities. Anyone would be free to earn more. Freed from the pressure to "earn a living...we will turn our gifts toward that which inspires us - for more and more of us, that is the healing of society and the planet from the ravages of Separation." The idea that people are inherently lazy, that if people are provided with basic necessities and are not forced to work, they will do nothing, is "the logic of control, domination and the war against the self....But is it really human nature to want to do nothing productive? Do we really need rewards to cajole us into labor and penalties to punish indolence? Or, put another way, is it human nature to desire never to give, but only to take?"

6. Economic De-Growth - Currently, we are talking about generating growth, by investing in infrastructure or new housing, outside of any real discussion about whether or not we actually need the infrastructure or the new houses, whether or not what we are building actually makes sense. And despite the promise of the industrial and technological age, we have chosen, or been compelled, "at every turn to consume more rather than work less....Absent the driving force of positive risk-free interest [and with the existence of depreciating currency], economic growth would no longer be necessary to promote the flow of capital." That flow of capital would mean greater affluence for the poor and middle classes, while having to work less for money, with more time available for those non-economic, unquantifiable activities that promote well-being. De-Growth is inevitable anyway, in this Age of reduced resources; it would be best to go about it consciously, with intent.

7. Gift Culture and P2P Economics - Meeting each others needs in the form of gift exchange and peer to peer economics, both engenders a sense of connection and empowerment, and de-growth in the current economy of alienation and separation. Technology, primarily the Internet, has forced many things into the gift realm, including advertising, journalism, music, etc. The Internet itself is largely the work of gift culture, which is why the Government is trying to take control of it, like corporate attempts to control water, making you pay for what was once free, in service to growth, GDP, and the creditors we are in thrall to.

As I said, one must read with a kind of naiveté, or it would be easy to ignore this book in it's entirety. It is one thing to say that all property is founded in some ancient crime, it is another to imagine how that would play in the mainstream. And one may well be asking, yes, these prescriptions have some merit, but what can I do? First, ask yourself if what you do for money is in fact maximizing your gifts? Next, ask yourself if you truly believe in the story of Ascent, that there will always be growth, that a world based on credit and exploitation is sustainable? Finally, ask yourself in your heart - not in your head - whether or not you believe a different kind of world is possible?

Recently, I was lead to this piece by Derek Andreoli, by way of a piece by Herman Daly, by way of a piece by John Michael Greer. It fairly succinctly states the basic pattern of resource extraction, of gold, and oil, which is a steep upward trajectory, and then a peak, and then a collapse. The otherwise often indecipherable Miyamoto Musashi, said of strategy, that to know how to fight against ten is to know how to fight against ten thousand. In other words, extrapolating out from the pattern of extraction of ten oil wells, is to know the pattern of ten thousand. It occurs to me, as it occurs to some, that we are at the peak, and perhaps at the very tip of the crest of that exponential curve, in world oil supplies.

In a comments thread on Huffpost, I found this, offered by jcaunter. It is a video presentation by Chris Martenson*, who ties together what is happening in the economy, with resource constraints, as succinctly as anyone I have seen or heard. It is significant that the presentation takes place in Spain, as the conversation he is advocating is not even on the radar of American discourse. Basically, that if we begin thinking of the three E's, Economy, Energy and Ecology, as connected and intertwined, we can follow a relatively orderly and even prosperous path into a steady-state economy - but first we must acknowledge that easy oil has come to an end. I think very likely, the year 2012 will be the year humanity becomes aware to a great degree, the predicament we face, that there are very hard limits to the amount of resources we can economically extract from the Earth.

What is the nature of the gift? From Eisenstein's perspective, this life is divine, it is sacred. By giving, and receiving gifts, we enter into a kind of magical exchange, in which gratitude expands, and gifts circulate. To begin to see one's life as a gift, and to treat ones own wealth as if it were a gift, is to be given a corresponding and equal gift in return, strengthening a sense of community and connection. Our sense of separateness is a consequence of our heritage, that tells us we are independent beings who do not need others. But we do, and no action by any can truly be seen as separate from the greater matrix in which we reside. Every action has consequence, and every action is a consequence of the cultural ideas we are immersed in. If we want to climb out of the polarizing, alienating, destructive, exploitative mindset that says we are all separate from each other, into some kind of life that generates love, beauty, and abundance, then that can only come through a shift in consciousness, and actions that clarify, and expand that consciousness. As for money, we cannot live outside the commodity creating culture in which we exist, but we can use the money we come by to undo the workings of exploitation, in the culture, and in our own life. We can use that money to create beauty, to empower others, to strengthen community, and to heal ourselves and the Earth, inspired by the inherent beauty and abundance of the Earth, letting go of the feeling of scarcity, and the ability to exploit.

In my own life, I seem about to climb the curve of a potential economic bonanza. HD Masks is a gift unlike any I might have expected. I said last week that I do not know who I am. Well, that is partially true. My ego has come to seem to me a small, flimsy thing in comparison to the entirety of my Self. Still, I am William Hunter Duncan, radical anarchist gorilla gardener, in service to the Goddess, which allows me to write about any number of topics, wherever my interest leads, but it also prevents me from being taken seriously by any but the most intrepid seeker. Which is unfortunate, because I believe there is a great deal of healing to be found in the work of Charles Eisenstein. He has helped me recognize that my failure to accumulate wealth is very much about an unwillingness to participate in the ongoing destruction of the Earth, that I have not found any way in which my gifts perpetuate balance, healing and wholeness, while also generating income. Perhaps until now I have never felt responsible enough to use money in a sacred way? Am I capable of creating the beautiful life I have imagined? Can I both give, and receive? Can I trust, that the more I give, the more I will receive? I am living now as if a cultural, social, spiritual collapse has already happened. I would prefer to live in the midst of abundance, modeling for others what it is to live in a Sacred Economy.

And so, I vow that I will, from this day forth, treat both my life, and any money that comes to me, as if it were a gift, as if it would decay if I hold on too tight. And I will endeavor to generate with any surplus money, as much social and ecological capital as I can, to nurture beauty, to strengthen community, as if this world were divine, as if it were sacred.

Happy Holidays.


* While I see Martenson's perspective as important, showing as astutely as he does how our culture is headed for collapse, I cannot see his advocation for gold and silver as a proper means of investment. Gold, in the traditional sense of investment, cannot be separated from the actions of multi-national corporations, preying upon weaker nations and their people, as described in this piece found on Huffpost, (buying land or mining rights in a Central American country, and then suing the country on the basis of free trade agreements, when the people object to their resources being absconded with, and mostly pollution left behind.) None of the writers I cite in this piece, as far as I know, advocate for the change in investing as advocated by Eisenstein, from a Sacred Economy perspective, though each does in their own way advocate for a steady-state economy.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

MLB Trade Show

My trip to Dallas, for the Professional Baseball Winter Meetings Trade Show, began at the airport here in Minneapolis, where I inadvertently carried a bag of marijuana and a box cutter through the TSA checkpoint. Yes, that's right, a bag of marijuana and a box cutter. I say inadvertently, because I was very hung-over after drinking late with the Co-Owner of HD Masks who was not attending the trade show, and I was flying on about four hours of sleep. The items were each in a separate pocket of my winter jacket liner, which I sometimes use as a separate coat, and I hadn't thought to put my hands in them. Checking my bags, I was nervous without knowing why - I am not generally afraid of flying. I suppose I was aware on some unconscious level, what I was carrying. At the checkpoint, I put my coat in a plastic bin and slid it through the sensor.

On the other side, I heard the people monitoring the sensor, talking about a guy who earlier tried to bring a bag full of knives on-board. No alarm sounded as I stood there oblivious, I took my things and walked through the terminal, sat down at the gate, reached in the pockets of the liner I was wearing sans coat, and realized what I'd done. I immediately threw the box cutter in the trash. I thought about putting the pot there as well, but then decided the only thing I had to fear was police dogs, and the pot was dry as dust and not very aromatic, so I kept it, traveling to Dallas via Denver. I will let the reader decide how it is the box cutter got through. Had they found it, with a little research into this blog, I'm quite certain I would never have made it to the trade show. Prosecuting me as a terrorist would prove a bit more difficult, but then, they could say anything they want, if they can pull down this blog. Which would be a very real possibility, if Congress gets what they want.

Texas has been suffering through the worst drought in historical times. Flying in, it was raining. Minneapolis has been cold, and I assumed a week in Dallas would be a nice warm respite; the first night there, it was something like 25 degrees, with scattered snow. We flew in Sunday, and began setting up the booth Monday morning, with the trade show to open at five, until 8pm. We returned to our hotel, rested, and then returned to the Hotel Anatole, where the meeting and the trade show were held, walking through the packed lobby, the Co-Owner of HD Masks who did attend wearing an Obama mask, while I wore a mask of Babe Ruth. The young woman we hired through an ad on Craigslist arrived, her blond hair dyed partially black, her face pierced; when we asked what she did before she moved to Dallas, she said something about a dominatrix, and a go-go dancer she knew in San Diego. On the back of her neck was a tattoo, "Jesus Saves." When I asked her about that, she said something about being created in God's image. I replied that Jesus loved everybody. We gave her the Sarah Palin mask, and took turns walking around the 100,000 sq ft venue, handing out fliers. Occasionally, Obama and Palin went out arm in arm.



The masks were very well received, and after three hours we had a thick stack of business cards to prove it. The Co-Owner and I went out that night, on a quest for Gators. The cabbie, Henry, of West African origin, who said he would have multiple wives if it were allowed, diverted us to the neighborhood Deep Ellum. We went on a walking tour then, bar to bar, starting at the Trees, then City Tavern, and a few more, before we found ourselves under an overpass between Deep Ellum and downtown. I was very glad to have the weed. The Co-Owner took this picture, with a simple digital camera, at midnight:



Miraculously, neither of us ever having been to Dallas, we found the bar Gators at 1:23am. There were five people there, including the bartender. We took pictures from the upstairs patio, I danced downstairs for the duration of one song, and then we called Henry and returned to the hotel.

Tuesday the interest grew, until people began to say that we were the talk of the trade show. Periodically, we took turns, on loops through the hotel lobby, where ESPN, MLB.TV and a half dozen other networks were set up, and baseball executives and staff were always gathered, including a few notables. That night, as we were standing outside the Media Bar and Grill, talking to two guys who had traveled from Chicago just to hang out, they pointed out Jerry Reinsdorf, owner of the Chicago Bulls and Chicago White Sox, who is attempting to buy another MLB team. I was wearing the Babe Ruth mask on the back of my head, so I turned it around, walked over and stood silently next to him, in his circle. He turned to me, flipped the mask up so he could see my face, and said, "Who the hell are you?" I told him my name, flipped the mask back down, and said that we were HD Masks. Ok, he said, and "Who the hell are you supposed to be?" and then he answered his own question. I handed him my card, thanking him, and he accepted both. I would very much like to see a stadium in Chicago full of people wearing bull masks. They of course would do so in support of their team. I remember, the bull was long a symbol of the Goddess.

Wednesday, interest grew until we had given away a hundred-plus masks in exchange for contact information. One man from Mexico requested a hundred-thousand masks for a political rally. An ESPN anchor stopped by, looking for an Obama mask, which he wanted to wear on camera, and to give to his mother who is a big fan. Sadly, I had just given away our only Obama, to a man whose brother is in the hospital, and who fed us a great deal of beer. I gave the anchor a lion mask instead, which he said he was going to wear on camera. I don't know if he did. MLB.TV stopped by, to interview me (as Creative Director of HD masks, not the blogger.) The guy said, astoundingly, that the interview was made for TV. I'm not so sure, and I don't know if anything aired.

At one point Wednesday, a man who did not speak much English, a representative of a Korean professional team, stopped by asking for a mask. I gave him a Babe Ruth, and then 11,000 Korean Won (USA equivalent = $9.73), which a homeless man named Jackson Williams gave me in exchange for $20 (He told me it was worth $60, though I knew he was a hustler and didn't believe him), Monday night on our walking tour through Dallas. I don't know if the Korean man was more surprised than our young Ms Palin (I told her, magical things happen when you hang out with the folks of HD Masks.) He gave me his team baseball cap in return, to which I replied with an eagle mask, which is also their team mascot.

What can I say about the meeting itself? It was a guy fest, to be sure, about 85% male. It would not have been easy to be a woman in that environment; the young lady working the booth across from us received seven direct propositions, and if she did, though she was pretty, young and innocent, there were no doubt women there who must have received dozens. Most of the men we talked to, be they job seekers paying for attendance, or baseball staff, thought the meeting was the most incredible thing, which from my perspective and the Co-Owner's, despite both of us having played baseball for the same University, it was a bunch of guys hanging around. I can say the Major League guys were a good deal more aloof than the Minor League guys, to the point that some of the Major League guys who walked through the trade show wouldn't look at me, as I stood there, looking at them, through the Babe Ruth mask. There is a very high prestige factor, I suppose, for those who have reached the pinnacle of the Major Leagues, no matter in what capacity. Which I am happy to say, I am immune to (attracted as I am to what is genuine and authentic, which is not the ego derived from one's social status.) That said, the vast majority of people I met were very friendly, and some of them were very good to us.

We could have sold a hundred Obama masks. There was also a great deal of animosity toward it. While the Owner was wearing it, as example, one man walked up and cocked his fingers within inches, as if to shoot him in the face; another man said he might as well be wearing a monkey mask; another man threw a bean bag at him, making contact. Ms Palin received a fair number of propositions herself, being the liberal, alternative Palin that she was, and quite a bit more sexy. I told her it would be nice if there were more Christians like her. We had a Gingrich mask as well, an early prototype not really suitable as a mask, on display. Plenty of requests for that one. Plenty of speculation. And look at that - I just censored myself, briefly. I was going to say that he would be the perfect President to usher in a new age of ecological devastation in America, but I almost didn't because I want to sell a few hundred thousand masks to the Gingrich campaign. In fact, I want to sell masks to every one of those ego maniacs campaigning for President, including the President.

It is indeed a strange thing, to be in that environment, knowing what I do about the future of America, of the species really. The fate of the Earth. I censored myself quite a bit actually, at the meeting: I didn't ask the guys at the Yankees Baseball Daily studio booth, wearing the mask like I imagined I would, if they wanted to interview The Babe; I didn't dance to my Bose sound dock behind the ESPN studio in the Babe Ruth mask, like I imagined. Precisely because of what I write here. My truth is not widely shared, and I resist the urge to share it more than I do. The Owner at one point this weekend said to me, "I don't know what you are." I just looked at him sideways and smiled slyly. Because I do not know what I am, either. I consumed 250 seeds of the heavenly blue morning glory in an attempt to find out, shortly before I went to Dallas. I kept repeating then, aloud, "What am I? Who am I?" All that happened was, I was drawn down into the mundane, into the primal, reptilian-like spiral at the very core of my physical being, and I danced, and bared my teeth as if to defend myself from an onslaught of the irrational.

Late Thursday, Friday morning actually, with my plane set to leave Dallas that morning, out of the bag I brought, I found a different stash in a contact lens case, and I puffed and danced to a Monster Bash on HBO, by Lady Gaga. It was a nice capstone to a wonderful week, and I was surprised, her questioning the value of money, and her continuous calling out to Jesus, as to reclaim Him. Whatever one might think about Ms Gaga, she certainly can sing. To what degree she is conscious of what she is, and what she is doing, I am less certain, though I can say I am a little bit in love now, like a few other millions of people.

Anyway, I think I will comment on money, in the next post, with a review of Charles Eisenstein's Sacred Economics: Money, Gift and Society in the Age of Transition, a book that has given me hope that we are in both an end, and a beginning, as a species.

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