Sunday, January 27, 2008

Life and Death

So, I've had a chance to calm down a bit after my previous outburst.

Nothing's really happening here, my Grandfather's illness hasn't really manifested itself yet...

Except for this persistent cough. Innocent sounding enough, you'd think he had a cold, if you didn't know about the tumor sleeping in his lungs.

When I first got here, he told me he was afraid. He asked me if there was anything I knew that could help him.

You know, me with all my advanced education that he never had. Seems logical enough to expect me to know something useful.

All I could come up with was, "well... you aren't alone."

And I'm thinking of Conrad noting that we live and dream alone. I'm thinking of Baudelaire rejecting the rotting flesh for gleaming metal. I'm thinking of the cyberpunk kids trying to crawl out of their doomed bodies through their modems.

I'm thinking, that none of that would probably make him feel much better. But then, I'm not trained to comfort people, I'm trained to upset them.

So all I can really do is be here, and only be here for a little while, before the needs of my own life call me back halfway across the country. It seems like too little...

Everything is coming out wrong tonight. Not like I want it to.

Let me just leave you with a verse from a Chris Pureka song I find fairly apt right now...

Life is cruel and it's clumsy
(but we never explain)
I wish I could say that it's better than that
(why we treasure our secrets)
but this is our time
(how we're in love with our sadness sometimes)
this is all that we have 'til we turn out the lights...
Take care of yourselves, everybody.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

This one is a bit personal

And I wanted to keep this blog from being too too personal. But fuck it. I need to write this. My google analytics numbers say this blog is only being read by like, 4 or 5 of my closest personal friends anyway. So fuck it. This one is a bit personal. So be it.

Where to start...

So I get this phone call, a week ago, from my father. He sounds weird. Not himself. I ask him what is up.

"I, um, guess it was a good thing you made it to see your grandfather over Christmas," he says.

My family, we seem like very blunt people at first. Get to know us, and it turns out we have a hard time saying certain things directly.

He finally manages to get out that my 88 year old Grandfather has been diagnosed with a cluster of quite lethal conditions. I won't spell it all out. Let's put it this way. The Cancer will kill him of one of the others doesn't get him first.

(Does this seem written in a manner too stylized? Does that seem cold? I feel strange about it, the prose. I'm sorry for the pretense of art or something like art here. It is selfish. But there's nothing I can do about this. All I can do is write. Writing is all I know how to do. It is so little.
It is all I have.)

Anyway, I spend this last week in a bit of a daze. Pack up after my class on Thursday. Drive back East to where my Grandfather lives... for at least a little bit longer.

And now I am here. In the condo on the Connecticut side of the sound where they moved after leaving the house on Long Island they raised my father in. The smell of my grandparents is thick here. Sweet, and somehow still faintly smoky though my Grandmother has been in a home since her stroke, and no longer sits in the kitchen smoking and making chicken cutlet. It is a family smell, somehow, my Father's home in Ithaca has taken on a hint of it. Some protein in our skin perhaps.

We are not to tell my grandmother her husband is sick. She can't speak since the stroke, her understanding is suspect. I think she's still smarter than all of us, though, I think she knows the score.

The strange thing is, how normal everything is. My grandfather has changed not at all in his outward appearance since I last saw him. He has declined any treatment. Hospice care visits the home once a day to check on him. He has been prescribed atavan for his anxiety.

The anxiety of, you know, dying.

This, I think, is the ultimate expression of our consumer culture. We must make even comfort for the dying into a consumable good, into a pill. Into a commodity to be produced and circulated. All our needs must be fulfilled by capital.

The thing that really set me off was the box in the refrigerator. A box full of morphine - the drug of last resort, the thermonuclear weapon of pharmacology.

This box, mute testament to the imminent mortality of someone I love, carries - like everything else in 21st century America, a brand label.

It is a Hospice Care ComfortPak(tm).


This sent me over the edge. Made me briefly channel Theodore Adorno. What fucking soulless marketing major threw that one out to the 8am meeting. ComfortPak. Missing a goddamn letter. You know. To make sure they can trademark it. Claim it as property. Commodify it. Properly seek return on their investment.

Oh, and by the way, shit on the dignity of the mortally ill by refusing to call the medicine that will ease the agony of their final hours by its proper fucking name. Or at least with real words. From a real language, spoken by an actual, living culture.

That, of course, might suggest that there are things that ought not to be commodified. That human beings are more than just consumers. That comfort for the dying is not a thing to be bought and sold, but a human right and a human responsibility. That caring for each other might be our human responsibility.

But what would I know about that?

All I can do - is write.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Post Human Reverie

My right hip pocket holds a microwave transmitter smaller than my wallet. My left hip pocket holds 24 hours of music frozen in a solid-state logic with no moving parts and wrapped in clean, polished metal. My backpack holds: a Charged-Coupling Device based Digital Imager with a thousand image storage capacity, a multi-processor computer running a souped-up descendant of BSD Unix, and a moving map display screen that by listening to radio-frequency whispers from a dozen screamingly accurate atomic clocks in low earth orbit can fix my position on the surface of the earth to 3 meters accuracy. I just got off the phone with a nice man somewhere on the Indian subcontinent. He's sending me 5280 milliampers of electrical power stored in lithium metal with a solid polymer electrolyte.

It all sounds pretty bad-ass and cyberpunk if you write it up right. :P

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Fun with old technology

Pictured above, two distant cousins - my beloved Macbook, and an ancient Compaq Presario 1210. I snagged the compaq from a buddy of mine who was chucking it out, I decided to be geeky and put linux on it for the heck of it. The compaq will run Damn Small Linux, but just barely. However, it lacks network capability, and even USB ports (at least that I can see, Linux says it detects USB on boot, maybe an unused controller built into the mainboard somewhere?) so I'm scratching my head as to how to use it. Digital picture frame maybe... but the screen is only 800x600 and a bit grainy. I wish I could think of some sort of, shall we say, artistically interesting one-time use... but I'm drawing a blank.

Anyway, it felt like time travel to switch between the compaq and the macbook, so I thought I would take a snapshot of them side-by-side. With my motorola razor picture phone. Which also seemed a little anachronistic as the compaq brought me down the memory lane of boot-floppies and text-only displays.

Then, just to be fair, I had my macbook take a picture of my phone.