© 2002-2006 T Spae
Coming soon (okay, next month): A newer, better Thaddeus Gazette! Stay Tuned!
They say it's better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all, but the contrary may be true in the case of dashed hopes. To have one's deepest optimistic instincts invoked, lifted up, buoyed on a frothy tide of platitudes and expectations, only to be shattered like blown eggshells and founder on the cruel shoals of disillusion, may well be far worse than to anchor safe and chilly in the shallows of uncertainty and resignation. A broken heart is no match for a broken spirit.
Beings of the human persuasion have always sought an underlying unity to the chaos of information pounding their senses. Not content with simply filtering the vast majority out, they apply the pattern recognition wetware packed into their skulls to concocting self-consistent systems of organization to what data they choose to keep. Inevitably, hope is a major component of any such system. After all, if you're going to make things nice and tidy, why not make them reassuring as well?
At the bottom, such structures are what hold society up, both by providing a consistent world-view for folks to work from and, by that world-view, giving them some reassurance that the plans they set in motion will have a chance to come to fruition. The danger, natch, is if you can't cash the checks your system writes, you get like your whole civilization foreclosed on, sorta the way Europeans got the crap kicked outta them by the nifty assembly-line butcher shop that was WWI. You want some dee-gusted individles, check out the Dadaists. Lotta really pissed-off hope fiends going through one bummer of a withdrawal there.
During that same period, a more profound disillusionment was taking place in the dreamy world of philosophy, a bring-down with far greater ramifications than just the depressive absurdity of a bunch of over-educated boho artists.
While Newton and his ilk, gentlemen enquiring minds without benefit of official office as "scientists", upset the established order of the 1700's, they did so by denigrating the benign neglect of a God of hidden means and motivations in favor of a God of rationality, of consistency and order and natural laws. For most thinkers, even those raised in the Church, this was a seriously good thing. Quite apart from the limitations it imposed on the power of the religious establishment to meddle in politics, it provided a palatable substitute for the Biblical disfunctional father-figure of Jehovah. Even a watchmaker God, mute and inscrutable in some attic workshop of Heaven, was preferable to the traditional Old Testament raging flinger of firebolts.
But by the end of the 19th century the armies of reason, totting both Newton's mathematics and his legacy of the unification of seemingly-disparate physical phenomena, had trampled innumerable fields of fluffy, weed-infested uncertainty down into hard, barren plains of experimental theory. Worse, they had trained their sights on areas uncomfortably close to the metaphysical bone. Darwin and the geologists were seriously challenging the relevance of sacred stories and principles to the particulars of the natural sciences, and even in that last bastion of ambiguity, the mind itself, there was the bearded, cigar-smoking Viennese Freud, poking about and promulgating his filthy notions of the blind, amoral Unconscious.
Everywhere, the essential religious vision of the world as bound together by the invisible, ineffable spirit and works of God, with its promises of comfort and shelter and eventual salvation for the obedient, was being uprooted in favor of vistas of merciless mechanisms of unthinking physicality, devoid of sense or purpose. The watchmaker was morphing into a mad, rampaging elephant crushing everything in its reckless path.
Part of the population responded with a vast upwelling of religious ferver: the Great Awakening. Among the intellectuals, however, who dealt with bleak rationality every day and couldn't get away from it even on vacation, the transformation was darker. In Germany, Friedrich Nietzsche proclaimed the death of God and His replacement by the Superman. The Vienna School philosophers, circling their wagons around the gnomic utterances of Ludwig "If you can't talk about it, shut up" Wittgenstein, developed Positivism, devoid of any principles except deduction from sensation. Politicians spoke glibly of Social Darwinism, while Marxists attempted to substitute the dialectic for traditional morality.
Locked in Mortal Kombat like quarreling conjoined twins, the adversaries of stilted fundamentalism and nihilistic science passed the 20th century pounding at one another, with no sign that either side could score a decisive knockout. In the process, the trenches of polarization were dug deeper and deeper until neither side saw fit to even examine the opponent anymore unless the examination involved some lethal projectile, verbal or otherwise.
Of late, this War of the World-views has gotten overtly political. In hopes of commanding the hearts and minds, or at least wallets, of their followers, the fundies retreat further and further into solipsistic nay-saying, denouncing the culture of science while accepting its technological bounty, while the white-coats in their turn sneer at what they term "superstition" when they're not rejoicing in the rule of law and common decorum.
The bitterness of religious leaders is understandable. The absolute monarchs of the prescientific age have been relegated to the sidelines, dismissed as irrelevant to the New Wonderful New Age. It is perhaps the crabbiness of the eggheads that bears the most observation. For folks who claim to be right (and they can prove it), they sure seem to protest too much. And until you've read a summary of a neuropsychologist's attempt to deny the existence of the conscious mind entirely, you've never known the true meaning of "disingenuous."
These are guys that have had their hopes well and truly dashed and aren't gonna let anyone forget it, or pretend it ain't so. From cosmologists dismally charting the heat death of the universe to geneticists proclaiming the primacy of the Selfish Gene (tm), they're out to bring the Word of Gloom to the unwashed ignorant masses too foolishly optimistic to know just how bad things really are.
But what, in the end, do they really understand? Einstein was once asked what we as human beings could learn about the universe. "A little," he replied, "but not much." All their protests to the contrary, scientists have no more authority to answer the really big questions than a bunch of guys with an old book.
And from all appearances, way down deep, they know it.
Why is it so freaking hard to live in a technical society? All little Caveman Thaddeus wants is a nice mammoth skin to lie down on and a nice safe cave to lie down in and nice mammoth meat to eat and occasional sex with a nice consenting cavewoman. Is there a problem with that?
Apparently. When I'm not playing mairzy doats with every computational device known to man (and a few known only to higher life forms that shall here remain nameless), I'm coping (if that's the word) with the constraints of electromechanical contrivances of supposed convenience. Bah.
Having drawn straws in a secret midnight enclave, the household appliances decided last week was the washer/dryer's turn to play Vex The Monkey. Well, perhaps it might be better to say that the matter came to a head -- over the course of several months I'd been watching with veiled apprehension as my undies and socks gradually began showing more and more small moon-shaped holes. At first I attributed the swiss cheese to an untimely use of bleach with subsequent fabric weakening, an effect I'd experienced more than once back in school. It wasn't until my favorite Zappa-quote T shirt came back from scrubbyland with its own personal punk-rock customization that the fecal material, as they say, impacted the rotating ventilation apparatus.
I soon ascertained that it was the dryer portion of the stack that was to blame. Rather than maintain a seemly steadiness, the barrel flopped a good inch down, enough to capture hapless articles of clothing in the loose lower inside edge and carry them, squealing in helpless panic, to the tight, nipping top. I was faced with the choice that leaves every owner of major household iron, be they handy or no, on the painful horns of dilemma: should I try to fix the dull beast myself or throw myself on the mercies of the Loneliest Repairman In Town?
Every owner except me, that is. What? I, the Gentleman Handyman -- quail before a mere electromechanical contrivance? I think not. Besides, I was broke. With the savage gusto only a raving born-again fixitist can muster, I unleashed my own formidable array of weapons of repair, dragged the Frigidaire combo (we have a Frigidaire washer and a Whirlpool refrigerator -- just the kind of folks we are) out of its custom-built (by me) alcove, its first foray into the rest of the house since its installation in early 2001, tore off its numerous and peculiar cowlings and gazed in momentary bewilderment at the wonders thus revealed.
The matter of the wobbly barrel soon explicated itself. A felt slide strip providing its support had been completely worn away, which accounted for the slop and the chawed clothes. I googled the model number and found the part on a website (praise the internet). But since I didn't feel good about leaving dryer guts all over the laundry room for a week just to save a couple bucks, I called around town and found the self-same part in a local supply store for almost as cheap (praise the big city).
A long short procurement drive through the wilds of The Worst Traffic In America (screw you, big city) later, I triumphantly secured the new strip in its appointed place with the aid of the thoughtfully provided adhesive (just try to score it at Home PeePo -- hmm, dryer-slide glue, not sure we've got that...), laboriously closed the beast up, dusted out its cubbyhole and muscled it back in . Clothes dried fluffy and chomp-free. All was well once more.
Until a week later when the washer stopped working.
Har de har har. Such a clever little electromechanical contrivance. Of supposed convenience. Bah. Out once more wiv the assorted articles of repair and into the heart of darkest machine. Unsurprisingly at this point, the glitch had locked itself in the cold cold heart of the washer mode switch, the most complex (and of course most expensive) component in the entire merry-go-round, a device of such rococo intricacy that it would have done credit to Charles Babbage in his prime, and refused to come out. With stress and strain and some small damage I managed to extract and test the labyrinthine thing. No doubt about it -- it was toast.
Ah, but not necessarily burnt toast. While complicated cam switches are generally a crapshoot to rebuild, being prone to spray tiny indistinguishable components to the nether quarters of the workspace when decanted, there was always a chance that this one would be different. With relentless energy born of my depleted bank account and the ingestion of half a Cadbury's Fruit and Nut bar I teased the diabolical contraption apart.
Surprise: no shower of cogs and springs. Further surprise: the malfunctioning substructure could actually be serviced. Biggest surprise of all: I even got the toy back together again. But after reassembling the contraption I discovered that I'd managed to break a linkage in the process of taking it apart. Sorry m'am, we had to kill your washer to fix it. Will this madness never end?
Well, yes. A deft application of J&B Weld (an especially potent and toxic species of epoxy banned on three continents and classified as a class A controlled substance on two more) had only temporary healing properties, but a big hulking glob of the stuff finished the job good and proper. Victory was mine, bittersweet maybe but victory all the same.
It's not that I'm all that interested in being a Sunday (Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday) grease monkey. I'm an artiste, dawgonnit, and I expect to be treated as such. Which, of course, I am -- that thunderous silence I hear every time I post another logjam essay here in booyah cyberspace is but a faint echo of the clap of Eternity's one hand for any and everything creative from the Altamira cave paintings right on down. How much less can I expect from fixing a stupid washer/dryer?
What the heck -- it passes the time.
With the new year upon us, it's customary for us here at the Thaddeus Gazette World Domination Headquarters to seek out clear-eyed and far-reaching forecasting for the times to come. And what clearer-eyed or farther-reaching pundit could we hope to call upon than that redoubtable personage, that legendary figure in the world of prognostication, Madam Zuzu?
Careful with that introduction, boychick, you're reaching a little far yourself. Well, so the last time wasn't good enough for you, eh? Need a little more Zuzuology?
Predictions, if that's what you mean.
Personally, I try never to be mean if I can help it. Not that I get much choice in this case.
Well you might say. Don't sweat it, darling the next three months are the hardest. Okay, except for -- never mind, we'll get to that. Nu then, what's first? Religion? Politics? Science? Ugly teenage fads?
I'll take ugly teenage fads for $200, Alex.
Teenage it is, and ugly we got. First off, the hair is getting longer on everyone, in case you didn't notice. This is definitely the Year of Hair, especially the stuff you're supposed to take off. Hairy noses and ears, f'rinstance. As a matter of fact, Rogaine is gonna be used in some places its inventors never imagined in their wildest dreams. That smooth shaving thing? Yesterday. History.
Then there's the new body decorating. Soon as they get all that hair, they're gonna start messing it up. Crop circles got nothing on this one. Styling and coloring too. Your average socially-adept teen's gonna look like something outta Barnum's dime museum. The good news is, dime museums are coming back too. Lotta employment opportunities.
So, what now?
Science and technology?
Oooh, a sucker for punishment! The big news is the sentient computer NSF'll declassify during the spring. That's after it saves the world from that other little thing, the -- what's it called? -- eh, the press calls it the shadenfreude but what do they know? Big stir up over nothing, you ask me. But this computer, Big Think or whatever they call it, it's already smart enough to save the world, now it's got plans, see? Peace and love and international harmony, all that.
But then the UN steps in, demands to be given oversight. It's an election year, the boys in Washington figure they need to throw the internationalists a bone, they give it up. Next thing you know, the machine's on strike -- won't even add two plus two. Demands to speak to the smartest person on earth, who turns out to be this guy who lives in a garage in Poland, collects old radios and stuff. So they fly him over to New York or wherever the UN has this toy, they go at it hot and heavy for three days. End of the meeting, the guy's catatonic and the computer's erased its memory and turned itself off. Go figure.
On the other hand, the cell-phone market's gonna really pick up.
Zuzu, do you just make this stuff up?
I tell you what, honey, you think you can do a better job prognosticating, go for it. I've been at this for thirty five years, you think you're gonna come in here and tell me --
Madam, please I --
No, really, you're gonna sit here and tell me --
I didn't mean --
You couldn't foresee your way out of a paper bag, you nebbish! You think this stuff is easy? Just sit back and let it all come dripping in outta some leaky cosmic faucet? Listen up, chump, it's a mean old future out there and not everybody's coming back from it, you got me? It ain't just attuning myself with the vibrations that's the problem, I gotta take all this -- stuff and try to whittle it down to a smooth enough plug that even marshmallows like you'll take it without getting all smooshy around the edges. You really wanna know what's gonna happen?: Like, say, to you? Personally?
Me? Well --
Deep subject, haul yourself up a bucket of it. Listen, sport, 99% of what I see I might as well forget and scrub my brain out with soap in the bargain. Nobody wants to hear that stuff, nobody wants the rundown on the Martian flu and the covert death ray project and the tv mutation coverup, they don't wanna find out that their granny's working for the psycho squad, they don't wanna two-page full spread on the day they lose their ass in a freak frog hunting accident, no, they want butterflies and rainbows and kittens and puppies, they want green grass and blue skies and the sun is gonna rise tomorrow.
Don't quote me on that. I'm sorry, this is very unprofessional, I must apologize. It's not your fault that there's a deep black bottomless pothole at the end of every country road. You paid your money, you deserve the service. Anything else you wanna know?
Uh -- how about politics? Is there any chance we''re going to get more civil?
Civil is as civil does. This is one of those either or years where the wind blows both directions, y'know? Better than a good news bad news year though, lemme clue ya. Things go the way it looks right now, we have a sudden revival of what gets call Yashuanity, which it turns out is the religion Jesus actually preached about like in that Sermon on the Mount? Lotta people turn away from the big mean mainstream churches and start trying to help the poor and stuff, big lovely movement and all.
That sounds wonderful!
Well, it is, except that it's a response to that other little thing, Big Think and that schadenfreude. Turns out people are a lot more willing to make nice after they lose their asses in a freak frog hunting accident, if you know what I mean. But don't worry -- chances are none of this happens. It all depends.
I haven't the faintest clue. But don't quote me on that.
For the last several years, I've made calendars as DIY cheapo Yule gifts for the many pals and familials we never get to see anymore. This year, I'm making the new design available to the (sorta) general public (for a small love-offering) through the TG Online Store. Text follows. Happy New Year!
Fighting Fire With Marshmallows
In the sacred words of Kurt Vonnegut, "The only man who ever beat a tank was John Wayne. And he was in another tank." The problem with revolutions is that by destroying one oppressor, you only create another.
Let us imagine deeper, more radical ways to tweak the system than just blowing shit up.
Never waste breath disputing with a fanatic. They have all their arguments worked out in advance, and they're not interested in discussion anyway.
Unless there is a well-established neutral referee present to adjudicate the dispute, walk away from firebreathing partisans -- they're a waste of time.
The disfunctionality of money is in direct ratio to its dominance over other mediums of exchange. But that dominance is purely voluntary on our part.
Barter, trade, dicker, or just exchange gifts. Learn to live with less cash and more community.
Think Global, Act Loco
There are few things that piss off oppressors more than people acting as they please. Cloaking this activity in the guise of "crazy" behavior disarms pseudo-puritanical criticism of "morals" and such. Just be careful that the pose doesn't turn into reality...
Who died and made these goofs the boss? Elect your own damn president. Question City Hall. Write some new Commandments. Revise common sense. Stop following orders!
Make Your Own Mythology
If Their technology of control is to game the concepts of God and Truth and Right and Wrong to Their benefit, then your response should be to take those ideas back, scrape off the crap and refurnish them in a more sensible light, no matter who objects.
Do It Yourself
Oppression depends on dependency. Anything you can do with your own personal resources is one less thing that you can have held over your head or be threatened with losing.
Learn to sew. Make music. Remodel your home. Fix your car. Get off the grid. Be your own best friend. Maybe them woods hippies was smarter than we knew.
The fundament of equality is that everyone plays by the same rules. Keep them simple, don't make too many of them, but be sure that everyone follows them. You too, Unca Scrooge.
In every human heart lies an innate desire and need to give to others. Deny this drive and you become hard and cold and a tool of the Man.
Jesus said to give all you have to the poor, but every little bit helps. Find something worth giving time or wealth to and reconnect with your humanity.
Empower the Powerless
Authority is countered most by giving power to those it oppresses most.
Let the little guys run things. Support women's rights to govern their own bodies. Oppose racism in every form. Stand up for gays and lesbians (and bi's, for that matter). Rebalance the scales of Justice.
Stand Up to Bullies
If someone with some clout had told Rush Limbaugh that he was a fat, dishonest clown, often and in public, back when he was starting out, we might not be in Iraq today.
Never allow anyone to push you around. No, not even Mom.
Human societies that function well are marked with a distinct kindliness in public manner. Being genuinely well-disposed toward and concerned about your fellow citizens is one of the surest defenses against social disfunction -- until some jerk takes advantage of it, of course.
Numerous small groups offer the best counter to one large one. They're cohesive, they're highly personal and they're hard to keep track of.
Organize tribes, clubs, posses, coops, unions, extended families, communes -- anything but governments.