Friday, June 29, 2012

The Hippie Missing Link

Hippies in theory are a sound idea. Any person or group who advocates a counterculture perspective is a good thing for society. Unfortunately the Hippie movement has failed to gain any traction or leave any legacy over the past forty years. Sure, there was a spike in Hippie activity directly after "Hippie-Genesis" occurred in the 1960's but throughout the following decades the thrust of being a Hippie lost all importance and credibility. If you asked an average Joe on the street today to describe a Hippie  they would render them down to drugs, joblessness, The Grateful Dead or Ben and Jerry's Ice Cream. Although there are many flaws with Hippies (shudder) the most glaring error in their evolution is the lack of a Hippie moderate.

As I see it there are two predominant groups of Hippies:

1) The Dirty Hippies.
2) The New Agers.

The Dirty Hippies are the easily recognized Spicoli type. Part surfer, part skateboarder, part singer-songwriter. You'll often smell them coming before you actually see them. Not because they rarely bathe (which they don't) but because they'll be driving a biodiesel Volvo puffing exhaust clouds of repurposed french fry oil. In the back yard of their shared housing they will most likely have a complex handmade filtration system that indirectly irrigates thier tomato garden with excreted piss and shit. Almost all Dirty Hippies have an idiot savant knowledge on the multifaceted uses for hemp as well as the beneficial applications of medicinal marijuana. Don't be fooled by a DH's lopsided information ratio, you see Hippies are not consumed with the legalization of drugs for their own recreational benefits NO! they are in fact fighting a war on personal freedoms. Armed with ponchos, patchouli oil and puka shell necklaces these birkenstock bearers will never harsh your mellow.

 New Agers are to Hippies as born again Christians are to Christianity. Born Agains are essentially criminals or deviants who did terrible things early on in their lives that forced them into rehab or jail. During their time in the clink they rediscover the word of God in order to absolve their sins. The byproduct of being reintroduced into the faith however is an overwhelming desire to (cram their beliefs) instruct any non believer that they might encounter in their daily lives.

New Agers are usually former Hippies who abandoned the Hippie lifestyle once they realized that love (and LSD) could not in fact conquer all. They threw away their bandanas, suited up and got real jobs for a couple of decades so that they could pay the bills. But, the nagging desire to celebrate their vague spirituality and fascination with the healing power of gems finally overcame them. All of their repressed Hippie urges started a wheat-grass-roots campaign in the bottom of their souls and began screaming "Kumbaya." What resulted was a need to preach Hippie platitudes funded with the finances collected during their time working for "The Man." Whether they are on their way to Whole Foods or a Phish concert or just topping up their Tesla with a fresh laptop battery a New Ager is never too busy to pontificate on the dangers of plastic, the importance of recycling or the necessity to integrate solar panels into every light reflecting surface on the planet. 

The unfortunate consequence of the New Ager's monetary success manifests itself in a lack of awareness of how the other 99% actually live. The average American does not have the 50 extra dollars necessary to purchase a pound of organic buckwheat nor do they have the means to buy and service a Prius. 

What Hippies have created then is disconnect. In one instance you have young (perhaps misguided) drug laden folk with a passion for living off of the grid. On the other hand you have organic elitists whose monetary class renders them unrelatable to the rest of the world. It is not just a matter of money either. Like a modern day Atheist New Ager's operate with righteous indignation. It is not enough to provide information and to be inclusive of any step in the right direction. Anyone who has been to a Trader Joe's knows the smug look you get from your fellow shoppers if you forget to bring your reusable nylon bags and instead have to opt for a paper one. The irony of course is that the Hippie culture was a response to popular culture and like other countercultures was intended as a refuge for all of the freaks and nutters of society. What it ultimately has created however is a no man's land that only seems to breed spite and derision.

Friday, June 8, 2012

So You're Thinking Of Moving To Oakland

I live in Oakland California and I concede that some of the rumors are true. Every couple of months there are random gunshots outside of my dwelling. Some of those gunshots are directed at people but most of time a drunk guy is just having a little fun discharging his weapon into the sky.

I concede that on more than 3 occasions felons who are fleeing the police have run through my backyard. Yet on ONLY ONE of these occasions did a swat team (complete with attack canines and assault rifles) have to enter my basement in a desperate hunt to find a fugitive.

Besides the few (perpetual) instances of random extreme violence my neighborhood is a relatively quiet one. Well, it's quiet when the Hell's Angels bikers aren't ripping down the street on their Harley's. In those few fleeting minutes when someone isn't blasting the latest hip-hop or mariachi jam through a trunk full of speakers you can almost hear the birds chirp.

Seriously though, I'm under selling it. At worst, I live in the upper crust ghetto. Sure there is lady who is addicted to crack who lives a few houses down. Sure, she has a small white dog named "Kilo" (short for kilogram i.e. kilogram of cocaine) BUT, she is very pleasant. Every time that she accosts my wife for drug money she has the decency to pretend that any "loan" my wife might give her will be paid back post haste.

There are many hidden benefits to living in a city like Oakland so today I'd like to take you on a tour of my neighborhood to show you why the prospect of living here is ever so enticing. For the record the majority of these pictures are screen caps taken directly from Google maps and have not been doctored in any way.

1) Free Garbage Delivery

In this computer age we rarely ever get mail delivered. Because of this it is truly a special moment when we get an actual letter or a parcel. In Oakland, the gifts just keep on coming. Several times per week an anonymous donor drops off a package in front of my house. Sometimes it's a collection of fast food paraphernalia, sometimes it's a bag full of soiled diapers but every once in a while you'll get an entire garbage bag full of some really sweet child size clothing.

Conversely, Oakland also engenders a Buddhist lifestyle. What better way to free yourself of your possessions and live only in the temporal world than to have everything of value go "missing" by the time you return home from work.

2) Pet Friendly

Unlike many other snooty towns we don't have any regulations about what kind of an animal you can have. Not only are Pitbulls, German Shepards, Dobermans and Rottweilers accepted in my neighborhood they are almost a prerequisite to get in. In fact, most people have more than one attack dog and they rarely if ever bring them inside so you can always hear their comforting barking especially in the stillness of the early morning hours.

Often "pet people" are weird about their dogs socializing with other dogs and they'll cross the street to avoid an uncomfortable dog on dog butt sniffing incident. In the ghetto this absurd notion is hardly ever witnessed. In fact, Oakland has a communal approach to dog ownership. On any given week you can walk out your front door and encounter five different types of dogs sniffing around in the foliage leash AND owner free.

3) Cars

Got a hot ride? don't worry, we've got ample street parking/front lawn parking to ensure that you don't get any scratches in the clear coat or dings in the bumper.

4) Schools

The old adage exclaims: "Stay in School" well, with our 20 foot high jail spec fences your children will have no choice. During recess they can play soccer on our simulated field (read: painted concrete). Also, our delinquency and dropout rates are so high that the remaining students are guaranteed to get a lot of extra attention from teachers.

5) Fine Dining

Do you enjoy delicious food with an international flair? Do you like saving money and not having to worry about making reservations? Would you love the convenience of eating freshly cooked food at all hours of the night? Well, look no further we've got all of your needs covered.

Are you planning a cheese tasting party? Do you need a delicious chablis to serve with oysters? One of our alcohol dispensaries conveniently located on every corner will help you scratch that itch.

6) Je ne sais quoi

There is something to be said about the architecture of older buildings. Our ancestors revered style over function and as such many properties are outfitted with ornate wrought iron fences that represent the pride of a past era.

Some houses were built with ingenuity ahead of their time. Take for example this one with the suicide suite on the 2nd floor.

With scenic views and lush gardens second to none as well as the ability to cash a check at over 30 locations within a one mile radius Oakland truly is the "Do Everything" city.

I hope that this brief tour of my neighborhood convinced many of you that Oakland is more than just home base for a myriad of gangs. In many ways it is a misinterpreted and undiscovered gem hidden beneath a canopy of drive by shootings and spontaneous home invasions.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Stupidity: The Next Evolution

Let's face it, we are nearing the end of what humans are capable of. This isn't a lament it is just a recognition that in order to move forward as a species we must be willing to leave more and more of what we consider "us" behind. Past generations created machines to do the heavy lifting and made vehicles to transport us to places that we could not travel to with our own two feet.  Eventually we concocted computers to do our deep thinking and more recently our short term memory has been replaced by a google app on our smart phones. Scientists have also made exponential leaps in recent years toward the eradication of potent diseases and have explored the benefits of cloning vital organs to increase our chances of survival.

Sadly though in spite of our inventive spirit we are struggling to reach a new frontier because of the limitations of our human bodies. Our eyes have a specific resolution capacity and spectrum of colors. Our brains do not process that quickly. Our tissue (the breathing, eating, shitting parts) are so haphazard and unreliable it is a wonder we can get anything done in a day besides keeping them running. They don't hold up when it's too cold or too hot. They are neither strong or durable and tend to operate very poorly without oxygen  or when placed under extreme gravitational pressure.

An Asimovian future imagines us blending with machines, having them assist us first as peripherals and then as androids before their eventual take over and destruction of the earth ala The Matrix. I disagree with this imagined end. I think (potentially) it would be much more gradual and much less violent. 

At some point it will become clear to humans that all of our action to enhance and further human life have been in vain.The human form is antiquated and has no place in the harsh comet colliding future. The computers that we have created will eventually surpass us both logically and artistically and our relevance will no longer exist. Certainly a few proud, ignorant fools may cling to their egos but the rest of us, the forward thinkers will eventually seek to bolster the superior race that we created. We will begin to feel silly and inadequate, our numbers will dwindle until we finally will ourselves out of existence.

So what then is the purpose and prevalence of stupidity in this day and age? Stupidity is a subconscious human defense mechanism whose purpose is to inhibit the annihilation of the species. What other possible reason could there be in a world where we know what the right answer is but continually choose the opposite?. Instead of living as civil citizens we desire to dream up absurd and logically unfounded reasons to go to war. We elevate idiots to the height of royalty and shower them with money and praise. We've accepted "nerd cool" as look so that ugly people can get laid and forget about their textbooks. We pass all of our life observations through a Larry the Cable Guy prism in order to achieve cheap meaningless laughs. we scoff at politics and philosophy and adamantly deny their application in our current lives. The word "thinking" has become synonymous with the word "boring." 

I won't deny that a small dedicated collective of forward thinkers exist who are trying to massage the world into a more intelligent era. However, the rise of intelligence seems to have bred a louder crop of apathetic idiots. The purpose of these idiots is to defeat intelligent thought or at least muddy and encumber its forward progress to extend the life of the human race. It is an evolution posing as a de-evolution that your grandchildren and your grandchildren's children will live to appreciate.