Friday, January 12, 2007

From sentences to paragraphs (De oraciones a los párrafos)

First we crawl. Then we walk.

When I first found my way onto the Internet, as I have mentioned before, it had been alive and kicking for decades, ever since those grad students working on a DARPA grant in Utah smoked dope and dreamt up the protocol that yielded what the military couldn't use, but the rest of us could.

Some perceptive historian of the last half of the 20th century will trace the social revolution of the mid '60s to the emergence of the Web generation in the mid '90s. I know one candidate for this role, and his name is Fred Turner, on the faculty at Stanford.

Though I have not yet seen Fred's new book, we spoke often about it over my years on The Farm. Fred has keen insights into the connections between the emergence of collectives and networking in '60s hippie/radical culture, through personalities like Stewart Brand, founder of The Whole Earth Catalogue and The Well; and the Internet explosion of the '90s.

I remember clearly an interview some European television station conducted with several of us working at Wired sometime early in 1996. I think they shot us outside, in South Park, the hub of web culture at that time. My colleague Kevin Kelly, always one of the most expressive people in Louis Rossetto's extraordinary collection of brainpower on Third Street, answered one question this way: "It's not about the computer, it's about the network."

A light went on in my attic as I heard him say that. I'm not sure who first uttered that phrase, probably it was not Kevin. But he grasped the significance in a way that I, and many others, had not yet recognized at that time.

I was still mesmerized by email and by the automation of bank transfers. To me, the only child of Midwesterners to have migrated permanently to the west coast, it was almost miraculous to be able to reconnect so easily with my sisters and parents and cousins and old friends back in Michigan, Washington, and Florida.

It was almost a giddy feeling. We could "talk" for free!

The editor and teacher in me puzzled over what was clearly a new type of communication: "write-talking" I called it, or "talk-writing." One of my colleagues at Hotwired was working on a novel written completely in the form of email exchanges -- it was both a love story and a political tale. In fact, as she iterated, it became loosely based on a book I had co-authored, Circle of Poison.

But just like in the '60s, my mind was being blown daily by ever-more ambitious interpretations of how to apply technology to culture. One of our groups created "Webmonkey," a brilliant concept that I likened to driving your browser into a gas station for a quick tune-up, then pulling back out along Al Gore's "Information Superhighway."

Another group invented "Beta Lounge," an early attempt to webcast live musical events.

Others launched "Bitch;" and, of course, there was always "Suck;" and oh yes "Bianca's Smut Shack," and let us not ever forget "Cocktail."


Ten years later, the debate still rages in some circles over whether this massive global revolution and its latest phase (Web 2.0) is about “I” or “we."

Of course, the editors at Time and other elitists would misinterpret what is going on as a world fracturing into a billion selfish little "me's." These are the same clueless fat, sexist millionaires who declared that the essence of the '60s social revolution was the "Me Generation."

Of course, at the earliest stage of any revolution, people tend to make choices that appear selfish, as they experience new freedoms for the first time. But only those so disconnected from real people that they would work at a place like Time Inc. and not see the irony of their situation, could project onto an essentially collective network the characteristics of their own tiny nodes.

Forget that the "person of the year" (who, until almost yesterday was a "man") is supposedly "you." That probably has been declared a marketing coup among the inmates of the asylum in Manhattan and their sorry ilk.

The person of the era is "We." It's about the network, stupid. With apologies to another '60s' dope classic, "Let's Do This Altogether."

We don't have any other choice, do we? That's why it's not too late for you to donate money to the victims of Katrina! One day soon, you and I will be exactly as they are, flattened by the storm, in one way or another...

I don't think we can afford, as a nation, to forget.

Please scan the following material to get a sense of how much work remains to be done. Then please give to one of the five grassroots groups listed below. Thank you!

Amy Liu Report

Envisioning a Better Mississippi: Hurricane Katrina and Mississippi One Year Later

A Report of the Mississippi State Conference of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People

Executive Summary

When future generations reflect on Hurricane Katrina, as an event, much attention will be paid to the uneven capacity of government at all levels to manage the unfolding disaster. As important as that reflection is, true judgment and assessment of the period will focus on how the rebuilding process was managed, and the opportunity used to build a better Gulf region.

The opportunity to build a new future for Mississippi is fleeting. Devastation often brings the type of flexibility in hardened views of what government can and should do; and the lessening of social and economic cleavages necessary to realize a new day.

That flexibility and openness does not last long and every opportunity must be taken to push forward the type of policies that reduce physical, social and economic vulnerability. The Mississippi national Association for the Advancement of Colored People with the assistance of the Initiative for Regional and Community Transformation at Rutgers University undertook this project to document key challenges and opportunities facing the state of Mississippi in the next eighteen months.

We did not seek to cover all challenges and fronts, rather we asked creative thinkers and practitioners to suggest broad gauged policies needed to effectuate sustainable change and development.

The key findings flowing from this report are as follows:

* The focus and attention by federal and state policy toward rebuilding has been slow, disjointed and often not reflective of key voices in Mississippi.
* Rebuilding policy, especially those policies focused on compensating individual homeowners have the potential to shift resources meant for the most vulnerable communities to communities (while severely affected by the storm) do not fit the profile and guidelines for serving low-income communities as stated in HUD guidelines.
* The state and federal government responses have not sufficiently addressed the volume of rental housing units lost and damaged by the storm and the need to replace them.
* The state of Mississippi is facing a tremendous insurance crisis that must be addressed in order for large-scale long-term rebuilding to take place.
* While planning for rebuilding is in place, the actual capacity for physical development is limited due to the high demand for skilled labor, building material and project financing.
* Predatory lending practices that plagued vulnerable Mississippi communities before the hurricane are still in force and now retain the potential to drain away resources from newly compensated low-to-moderate income households.
* The faith community that was the first responders and most effective in delivering services are still called to perform similar duties without much assistance, compensation and training for what they do.
* Limited effort and policies are being invested in developing policies for those displaced to other regions by the storms.
* Given the limited base of capital in the private, public and regional philanthropic sectors, civil society in Mississippi must develop and nurture a philanthropic base that will help sustain rebuilding, development and transformation.

The People Who Need Our Help

1. Back Bay Mission is an interfaith effort working on recovery, homelessness, and affordable housing advocacy. This group, which has a long history (since 1922) of social justice work in and around Biloxi, helps the most vulnerable people that few others can seem to reach. There is a convenient online form for donations, or you can contact the organization at:

Back Bay Mission
1012 Division Street
Biloxi, MS 39530
Tel: (228) 432-0301
Fax: (228)374-2922

2. North Gulfport Community Land Trust
Rose Johnson

4803 Indiana Ave.
Gulfport, MS 39501
Tel: 228-863-3677

You can read more about this remarkable group and how it is trying to rebuild a once vibrant African American community in the wake of Hurricane Katrina:

Mississippi Center for Justice
Katrina Recovery Office
974 Division Street
Biloxi, MS 39530-2960
Tel: (228) 435-7284
Fax: (228) 435-7285

The Center maintains a Katrina Victims Legal Relief Fund that attends to both immediate and long term legal needs, including:

* A grandmother now caring for her grandchildren and needing legal guardianship
* Children who have special needs getting access to essential services in their new schools
* Insurance being denied because companies deem damages caused by flood not hurricane
* Families losing their homes because they can't access their bank accounts
* Veterans not getting their medical and other benefits
* Elderly homeowners being scammed by predatory lenders
* Families needing to file for bankruptcy protection
* Newly disabled individuals who need help getting SSI benefits
* Immigrant workers displaced from jobs at poultry plants and casino hotels

You can watch the Center's informational video at this link: MCJ Video

4. Moore Community House (childcare and family services)
P.O. Box 204
Biloxi, MS 39533-0204
Tel: (228) 669-4827

This local institution, which was damaged in Katrina, provides childcare and family services to people in Biloxi. Its website mentions that one donation of $2 arrived with a note, "I just wanted to help." The group answered: "We're so grateful for every gift -- together we'll rebuild East Biloxi."

5. Coastal Women for Change
336 Rodenburg Ave
Biloxi, MS 39531
Tel: (228)-297-4849

I've posted about this group several times, and their eloquent pleas for help for the poor in Biloxi. Please see: New Appeal From A Forgotten Coast and Plea From Biloxi for more details. The group makes it easy to donate online via PayPal.

Thank you! Love, David, aka Hotweir


De oraciones a los párrafos

Primero nos arrastramos. Entonces caminamos.

Cuando primero encontré mi manera sobre el Internet, como he mencionado antes, había sido vivo y que golpeaba con el pie por décadas, desde entonces esos estudiantes del grad que trabajaban en una concesión de DARPA en Utah fumaran droga y soñaran encima del protocolo que rindió lo que no podrían utilizar los militares, pero el resto de nosotros podría.

Algún historiador perceptive de la última mitad del vigésimo siglo remontará la revolución social de los mediados de los años sesenta a la aparición de la generación del Web en los años 90 mediados de. Conozco a un candidato a este papel, y su nombre es Fred Turner, en la facultad en Stanford.

Aunque todavía no he visto el libro nuevo de Fred, hablamos a menudo sobre él sobre mis años en la granja. Fred tiene penetraciones afiladas en las conexiones entre la aparición de collectives y el establecimiento de una red en hippie de los años 60/cultura radical, a través de personalidades como la marca de fábrica de Stewart, del fundador del catálogo entero de la tierra y del pozo; y la explosión del Internet de los años 90.

Recuerdo que claramente una entrevista que una cierta estación europea de la televisión condujo con varios de nosotros que trabajaban en atado con alambre alguna vez temprano en 1996. Pienso que nos tiraron afuera, en South Park, el cubo de la cultura de la tela en aquel momento. Mi Kelly de Kevin del colega, siempre uno de la gente más expresiva de la colección extraordinaria de Louis Rossetto de la capacidad intelectual en la tercera calle, contestada una pregunta esta manera: “No está sobre la computadora, él está sobre la red.”

Una luz entró encendido en mi ático como lo oí decir eso. No soy seguro quién primero pronunció esa frase, él no era probablemente Kevin. Pero él agarró la significación de una manera que I, y muchos otras, todavía no había reconocido en aquel momento.

Todavía mesmerized por el email y por la automatización de las transferencias de banco. A mí, el único niño de Midwesterners haber emigrado permanentemente a la costa del oeste, era casi milagroso poder volver a conectar tan fácilmente con mis hermanas y padres y primos y viejos amigos detrás en Michigan, Washington, y la Florida.

Casi era una sensación vertiginosa. ¡Podríamos “hablar” para libre!

El redactor y el profesor en mí desconcertaron sobre cuál era claramente un nuevo tipo de comunicación: “escribir-hablando” llamé lo, o la “hablar-escritura.” Uno de mis colegas en Hotwired trabajaba en una novela escrita totalmente bajo la forma de intercambios del email -- era una historia del amor y un cuento político. De hecho, como ella iteró, se basó libremente en un libro que co-había sido autor, círculo del veneno.

Pero apenas como en los años 60, mi mente era diario soplado por interpretaciones ever-more ambiciosas de cómo aplicar tecnología a la cultura. Uno de nuestros grupos creó “Webmonkey,” un concepto brillante que comparé a conducir tu browser en una gasolinera para un ajuste rápido, entonces tirando se retira a lo largo autopista de información de Al Gore de la “.”

Otro grupo inventó el “salón beta,” una tentativa temprana a los acontecimientos musicales vivos del webcast.

Otros lanzaron la “perra; ” y, por supuesto, había “aspira siempre; ” y del oh Smut Shack sí “Bianca,” y nos dejó no siempre olvidarnos “del coctel.”


Diez años más adelante, el discusión todavía rabia en excedente de algunos círculos si esta revolución global masiva y su fase más última (Web 2.0) está sobre “I” o “nosotros.”

Por supuesto, los redactores en Tiempo y otros elitistas malinterpretarían qué se está encendiendo como mundo que fractura en mil millones egoísta poco “yo.” Éstos son los mismos millonarios gordos, sexistas clueless que declararon que la esencia de la revolución social de los años 60 era “yo generación.”

Por supuesto, en el primero tiempo de cualquier revolución, la gente tiende para hacer las opciones que aparecen egoístas, pues ella experimenta freedoms nuevos por primera vez. Pero solamente ésos desconectados tan de la gente verdadera a que ella trabajaría en un lugar como Time Inc. y no ver la ironía de su situación, podría proyectar sobre una red esencialmente colectiva las características de sus propios nodos minúsculos.

Olvidarte de que la “persona del año” (quién, hasta que estaba casi ayer un “hombre”) es supuesto “tú.” Eso probablemente se ha declarado un golpe de la comercialización entre los internos del asilo en Manhattan y su ilk apesadumbrado.

La persona de la era es “nosotros.” Está sobre la red, estúpida. Con apologías a otros años 60 ' dopar la obra clásica, “hagamos esto en conjunto.”

¿No tenemos ninguna otra opción? ¡Ése es porqué no es demasiado atrasado para ti donar el dinero a las víctimas de Katrina! Un día pronto, tú y yo estaremos exactamente como él es, aplanado por la tormenta, de un modo u otro…

No pienso que podemos permitirnos, como nación, olvidarse.

Explorar por favor el material siguiente para conseguir un sentido de cuánto restos del trabajo que se hará. Entonces satisfacer la elasticidad a uno de los cinco grupos de los pueblos enumerados abajo. ¡Gracias!

Informe de Liu del Amy

Previsión de un Mississippi mejor: Huracán Katrina y Mississippi un año más tarde

Un informe de la conferencia del estado de Mississippi de la asociación nacional para el adelanto de la gente coloreada

Resumen ejecutivo

Cuando las generaciones futuras reflejan en el huracán Katrina, como acontecimiento, mucha atención será pagado a la capacidad desigual del gobierno en todos los niveles de manejar el desastre del unfolding. Tan importante como que es la reflexión, el juicio y el gravamen verdaderos del período se centrarán en cómo el proceso de reconstrucción fue manejado, y la oportunidad usada para construir una región mejor del golfo.

La oportunidad de construir un nuevo futuro para Mississippi es efímera. La devastación trae a menudo el tipo de flexibilidad en vistas endurecidas de qué poder del gobierno y debe hacer; y el disminuir de las hendiduras sociales y económicas necesarias para realizar un nuevo día.

Que la flexibilidad y la franqueza no dura de largo y cada oportunidad se debe tomar para empujar adelante el tipo de políticas que reduzcan vulnerabilidad física, social y económica. La asociación nacional de Mississippi para el adelanto de la gente coloreada con la ayuda de la iniciativa para la transformación regional y de la comunidad en la universidad de Rutgers emprendió este proyecto para documentar los desafíos dominantes y las oportunidades que hacían frente al estado de Mississippi en los dieciocho meses próximos.

No intentamos cubrir todos los desafíos y los frentes, pedimos algo que los pensadores y los médicos creativos sugirieran las amplias políticas calibradas necesitadas para efectuar el cambio y el desarrollo sostenibles.

Los resultados dominantes que fluyen de este informe son como sigue:

* El foco y la atención por la política federal y del estado hacia la reconstrucción ha sido lentos, desunido y a menudo no reflexivo de las voces dominantes en Mississippi.
* Reconstruyendo la política, especialmente esas políticas centradas en compensar a dueños de una casa individuales tienen el potencial de cambiar de puesto los recursos significados para las comunidades más vulnerables a las comunidades (mientras que es afectado seriamente por la tormenta) no caben el perfil y las pautas para las comunidades de ingreso bajo de la porción según lo indicado en pautas de HUD.
* Las respuestas del estado y del gobierno federal no han tratado suficientemente el volumen de unidades de cubierta de alquiler perdidas y dañadas por la tormenta y la necesidad de substituirlas.
* El estado de Mississippi está haciendo frente a una enorme crisis del seguro que se deba tratar para que reconstrucción a largo plazo en grande a ocurrir.
* Mientras que el planear para reconstruir está en lugar, la capacidad real para el desarrollo físico es limitado debido a la alta demanda para el trabajo experto, el material de construcción y el financiamiento del proyecto.
* Las prácticas de préstamos rapaces que plagaron a comunidades vulnerables de Mississippi antes de que el huracán todavía esté en vigor y ahora conserva el potencial de drenar recursos ausentes de las casas bajas a boderadas nuevamente compensadas de la renta.
* La comunidad de la fe que era los primeros respondedores y el más eficaz de entregar servicios todavía se llaman para realizar deberes similares sin mucha ayuda, remuneración y entrenamiento para lo que él lo hace.
* El esfuerzo y las políticas limitados se están invirtiendo en las políticas que se convierten para ésos desplazadas a otras regiones por las tormentas.
* Dado la base limitada del capital en el privado, los sectores filantrópicos públicos y regionales, sociedad civil en Mississippi deben desarrollar y consolidar una base filantrópica que ayude a sostener la reconstrucción, el desarrollo y la transformación.

La gente que necesita nuestra ayuda

1. La misión trasera de la bahía es un esfuerzo interfaith que trabaja en la recuperación, la falta de vivienda, y la defensa comprable de la cubierta. Este grupo, en el cual tiene una historia larga (desde 1922) del trabajo social de la justicia y alrededor de Biloxi, ayuda a la gente más vulnerable que pocos otros pueden parecerse alcanzar. Hay una forma en línea conveniente para las donaciones, o puedes entrar en contacto con la organización en:

Misión trasera de la bahía
Calle 1012 de la división
Biloxi, MS 39530
Teléfono: (228) 432-0301
Fax: (228) 374-2922

2. Confianza de tierra del norte de la comunidad de Gulfport
Rose Johnson
Avenida de 4803 Indiana.
Gulfport, MS 39501
Teléfono: 228-863-3677
Puedes leer más sobre este grupo notable y cómo está intentando a la reconstrucción a comunidad americana africana una vez vibrante como consecuencia del huracán Katrina:

Centro de Mississippi para la justicia
Oficina de la recuperación de Katrina
Calle de 974 divisiones
Biloxi, MS 39530-2960
Teléfono: (228) 435-7284
Fax: (228) 435-7285

El centro mantiene un fondo legal de la relevación de las víctimas de Katrina que atienda a las necesidades legales inmediatas y a largo plazo, incluyendo:

* Una abuela ahora que cuida para sus nietos y que necesita tutela legal
* Niños que tienen necesidades especiales el conseguir del acceso a los servicios esenciales en sus escuelas nuevas
* Seguro que es negado porque las compañías juzgan daños causados por huracán de la inundación no
* Familias que pierden sus hogares porque no pueden tener acceso a sus cuentas bancarias
* Veteranos que no consiguen sus ventajas médicas y otras
* Los dueños de una casa mayores que eran scammed por los prestamistas rapaces
* Familias que necesitan archivar para la protección de la bancarrota
* Los individuos nuevamente inhabilitados que necesitan ayuda que consigue SSI benefician
* Trabajadores inmigrantes desplazados de trabajos en las plantas de las aves de corral y los hoteles del casino

Puedes mirar el vídeo informativo del centro en este acoplamiento: Vídeo de MCJ

4. Casa de la comunidad de Moore (servicios del childcare y de la familia)
Caja 204 del P.O.
Biloxi, MS 39533-0204
Teléfono: (228) 669-4827

Esta institución local, que fue dañada en Katrina, proporciona servicios del childcare y de la familia a la gente en Biloxi. Su Web site me menciona que una donación de $2 llegó con una nota, “acaba de desear ayudar.” El grupo contestó: “Somos tan agradecidos para cada regalo -- juntos reconstruiremos Biloxi del este.”

5. Mujeres costeras para el cambio
Avenida de 336 Rodenburg
Biloxi, MS 39531
Teléfono: (228) - 297-4849

He fijado sobre este grupo varias veces, y sus súplicas elocuentes para la ayuda para los pobres en Biloxi. Ver por favor: Nueva súplica de la costa olvidada A y súplica de Biloxi para más detalles. El grupo hace fácil donar en línea vía PayPal.

¡Gracias! Amor, David, aka Hotweir

Lowered Expectations

Here in the land where the pursuit of happiness is enshrined in the Constitution, it can be hard to rationalize the pains and losses so common in real life. Maybe the founding fathers should have added a phrase "without guarantee of success" in attaining said state of happiness?

As usual when I return from a visit to a fundamentally different culture, I'm struck by our collective sense of entitlement here in America -- we seem to expect good health, love, wealth, friendship, comfort, job security, safety, a range of possessions, sufficient space, freedom to do whatever we want to do, and, yes, happiness -- to be not only attainable but sustainable.

Of course, a massive army of advertisers, marketers, snake oil salesmen, and political demagogues are employed in doing little more than selling us these myths day in and night out. Today, along the side of the freeway, I saw a large ad picturing an oversized bottle of beer, a football player, and a scantily clad cheerleader. The only text I noticed said "Raider Time."

Last night, commuting in the opposite direction after dark, I pulled along side a vehicle three or four car lengths longer than my own. It was a yellow stretch hummer with a license plate that read "Kisses4." I would not call this bizarre vehicle a limousine, but it is probably classified as such.

Through the darkened glass of its windows I saw the flickering light from a small TV screen, no doubt one among many therein. Suddenly, I realized that this vehicle plying the same boring highway traffic as mine was a moving entertainment system, where customers could all, if they wish, watch their own TV shows or movies or music videos simultaneously.

Now that sounds like big fun.

How long, seriously, do you think vehicles such as that one will be running on our highways, given the cost of oil and global warming? My only advice: consider leasing, not buying, if the urge ever strikes you to possess one of these monstrosities.

Which brings me back to my opening. The only society that could even consider tolerating stretch hummers is a society in serious denial. As a planetary species, we have already passed "peak oil," that point in time when we reached the maximum possible world oil production. It's all downhill from here.

Might be a good time to investigate Hybrids.

But whatever it is about us, as a people, that allows us to feel "happy" as opposed to foolish when we sit in a stretch hummer consuming videos on small screens is what will doom this society, if, as it now appears, we indeed are doomed.

While in Japan, I bought small wooden trays for my adult children. When asked what it was about these inexpensive items that so attracted me, I answered the grain in the woods. It reminded me of my father's love of working with wood, his lathe, and the many candlesticks he made.

I have a large collection of his work in my kitchen window. Not every piece is necessarily effective as a candlestick; some are too narrow for any but the tiniest of candles. But each is a work of art, in my eyes.

Quite different than a feeling of happiness washes over me whenever I look at the candlesticks my father made. It is serenity. He is gone, but his candlesticks are not. The artist is dead; but not so the art.


Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Night Fears

A long time ago, far, far away, there was a little boy who used to be me. He had an overactive imagination, and was prone to anxieties. When he overheard a news report that a child had been kidnapped by a stranger (yes, this also happened way back in the 1950s!), he created a recurring nightmare that he was sitting high on a telephone pole, all alone, while mean, violent people below shook the pole back and forth, eager to make him fall into their hands -- for what purpose, he had no way to know.

He always woke up, in a sweat, as he was falling...

Among the most memorable nightmares he later created for himself as a teenager, was the fear of transitioning to a higher grade -- high school, and then college. These anxiety visions were so powerful that he kept having them for decades afterwards. He also acquired a fear of not knowing when or where his classes were, and therefore missing them, and therefore failing them. These "dreams" still visit him today, 40 years after he first arrived at his college campus.

I do not pretend to understand why we dream what we do, or why certain nightmares persist over time. I'm sure they are clues to our subconscious, but beyond that, I believe making too much out of them is pointless.

I was reminded of all of this tonight when my ten-year-old, he of an overly active imagination himself, knocked on my bedroom door at 10 pm to say he had heard scary sounds outside and he just couldn't go to sleep. Do you know what one of the major privileges of being a single parent is? You can tell your son, on a scary night like this, that he can crawl into bed next to you, that you will keep him safe, and that nothing bad can reach him.

As we talked over his fears, it turns out that Dylan was worrying because he had overheard some news reports of murders, etc. I just don't want him to ever imagine that he has to sit up there on a telephone pole as I did as a child, with evil murderers below, rocking the pole for their chance at him.

No one will ever harm my children on my watch. Not even over my dead body.


Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Checkout Times

Let's face it. All of us, as we age, start contemplating our deaths, and hardly in the way young people do. Dying becomes less a scary idea than a strange kind of relief, a letting go. Of course, when one has arranged his life in such a way that he still has very young ones depending on him by my age, savoring death is a luxury one cannot afford.

But there is an undeniable urge to depart this tortured planet.


I remember answering the phone one night at a friend's house. I was housesitting; he was overseas, maybe in China. The caller was a very depressed man, seeking my friend. His name was Phil Ochs. Since I didn't know him except by name and his reputation as a famous folk singer, and since I was very young, in my 20s, I didn't offer any words of comfort, even though my intuition told me he needed that, even from a stranger...

Not very long afterward, probably just a matter of weeks, I learned that he had committed suicide. He was 36 years old. It was reported he suffered from depression and alcoholism.

I never met the man but I felt certain that what he really suffered from was a broken heart, broken by the failure of a social revolution all of us in those years felt was inevitable. But it never came. So the most vulnerable among us took their own lives, offering themselves as sacrifices to a culture that didn't seem to care anymore.

Why is it that we keep having to lose our artists in this way?


One of the people who used to call us collect at Rolling Stone was Abbie Hoffman, then on the run as a fugitive in Mexico. He was a founder of the Yippies, a brilliant activist and writer. When he was 43, Hoffman took his own life.


Many people have taken their lives by jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge. One night, as I was driving across the bridge in the fog, I saw a man with a frantic expression weaving his way through traffic toward the side facing land. I will never forget the terrible look in his eyes. The next day I read that a man had jumped to his death from the bridge at just that time, from just that place.


Sons and daughters of friends have committed suicide. During my recent trip to Japan, I heard of many other suicides.

Strangely, I have always felt protective of anyone’s choice to end his or her own life. Whose business is it other than their own? But slowly, over the years, I have come to realize it is the quintessentially selfish act. Whether you believe in a god or not, we are here, either for a purpose or due to the random beauty of genetic selection.

No matter how depressed you may get, please do not ever take your own life away from the rest of us! Furthermore, I won't if you won't. Let's agree to keep struggling toward a better future until our natural checkout time, when it will feel good to finally let go.


Monday, January 08, 2007


I must have been due for a fall. For weeks, it seems, I have been floating on the good feelings given me by my children, my exciting travel to Japan, the birth of my first grandson. But today that unwanted shadow, depression, returned to my side. At certain times it does not take much, and part of what triggered today's slump was the realization that I really have a pretty hard challenge, raising three young children half-time, generating enough resources for everyone, working in a technology environment when I'm about as technical as a log.

I try never to cut corners, but sometimes I have to make choices between career and family, like leaving work a bit early to see my son play in a JV basketball game. He swished a jumper from the 3-point line, fed a pass to a teammate under the basket for an assist, stole one pass, blocked another, drew a shooting foul. He committed no turnovers or fouls himself. Overall, then, he played a very good game.

Under normal circumstances, getting to watch his game would have been enough to cheer me. But as I dropped him off at his mother's afterwards, I was suddenly struck by that old feeling of sadness about my broken marriages. It is harder to drop your kids off sometimes than others. Tonight, I must have needed something other than to be reminded that on Monday nights, no one ever comes home with me.

I guess I started feeling lonely.

After a while, I walked to Luna Park, where I had a lovely dinner with my buddies who are publishing TODO Monthly, that sexy city guide startup that I've long felt would be a success. The two of them are both such charming people, witty, intelligent, creative women, I couldn't ask for better company. It is the kind of dinner in the kind of restaurant with the kind of people I enjoy most, and it did indeed boost my spirits a bit.

But on the long walk home, my thoughts were consumed by other visions. I thought of one good friend, an executive secretary, a calligrapher, an incredibly well informed amateur historian, a gay man, and a speed addict. I'd tried to help him with his addiction several times, and for a while it looked like he had gotten himself clean.

I remember one night as I was driving through the Haight, far from his home in the Tenderloin, I saw him walk rapidly across the street, carrying his shoulder bag, and I just knew he was high. This must have been what he did -- walk the streets quickly, here and there, all over town, probably feeling invisible.

Then I remembered another friend, a Vietnam vet who had a drinking problem. He had started going downhill, I heard, and my impression from someone was that he had become homeless. One day, a homeless man died on the sidewalk outside our office on Mint Street in downtown San Francisco, and one of our young interns so freaked out when she bent to help him and discovered he was dead that she quit, left San Francisco, and headed back for her parents' home somewhere in the Midwest.

A few days later, standing at the window of my office, I looked down and was sure I saw a roughened version of my friend, the drunken vet, staring up at me. I really had no idea what I would do if he showed up, wanting something. But he never did.

Years later, I found out he had cleaned up, gotten married, moved to Oregon and was steadily employed. He found his escape from the streets, which otherwise turn deadly in the end. Average life expectancy of a homeless person? Five years.

Then, I thought of another friend, a woman colleague who was so devastated by her divorce that she suffered an emotional breakdown. I helped her for years, getting her a job and supporting her find a new career. Her ex-husband, a good man, was generous to a fault. But she, too, developed an alcohol addiction, and her calls became more and more strange and tearful over the subsequent years.

She died at age 57, alone in her bed, letters from her sons at her bed table.


Who knows why sad memories suddenly flood our brains on otherwise perfectly innocent nights. Maybe today's problem for me is I am acutely aware of how far out on the edge I have to live my life.

I was puzzled about how a series of laptop computers got "broken" at my house or in my car recently, mainly three broken latches or hinges. Did my kids or their friends possibly break them, while I was distracted, as I often am, making dinner or packing school lunches or cooking breakfast, or cleaning or dishwashing, or doing laundry, or helping with homework, giving baths and shampoos, checking for ticks after hikes, putting band aids on scrapes, administering medicines for coughs, stomach aches, etc., locating "lost" clothes, comforting a kid who thinks he is no good at math or who thinks she is no good at reading, and on and on and on?

So, I may be making excuses, but given the pressures I am constantly under, with no help whatsoever from any quarter, how in the hell could I possibly know if one of them accidentally broke a latch or a hinge on some stupid laptop computer? Why don't they make stronger latches and hinges, anyway?

While I am on the subject, why is this society so relentlessly hostile to families and children? Why do I have to pay full fare for two-year-olds on airplane flights? How can one salary ever stretch far enough to cover this kind of expense, even though air travel is mandatory in our modern way of life, with dispersed families, and the desire to remain connected with relatives, no matter how far apart we may live?

I just feel sorry for myself tonight, disrespected. There's nothing much to be done about it, save for acting like a gentleman, which is what I always try to do. But it is at times like this that my unwanted shadow returns.



How do you react when you're confronted suddenly by unimaginable beauty, the kind that takes your breath away?

I recall a friend's words when she was on the set of a film shot in Paris, and a male actor so gorgeous he almost made her eyes hurt appeared before her barefoot.

"Even your feet are perfect!" she blurted out. How can that be?

Last night, minding my own peculiar business in my neighborhood Safeway, I rounded a corner and suddenly encountered this type of breath-taking beauty. Now, I know what you're thinking: that I bumped into that lovely Asian woman from Hong Kong fussing over the price of Tattinger's or that sexy African-American security guard muttering about how she couldn't scare nobody, nowhere, no way.

But you're wrong. The object of my lust in this case was the quintessential green bell pepper.

Tonight I sliced its rounded curves off with a sharp knife, and placed them on a pork roast that I baked ever so delicately with onions, red potatoes, garlic, and spices. I also served a fresh salad of baby carrots, daikon, and Persian cucumber.

Meanwhile, other objects of beauty sit on the counter between my kitchen and the living room. These are the tiny things I brought back from Japan.

Of course, in my mind, the overriding sense of visual perfection these days are the images emerging from Portland of my tiny grandson, James, and his lovely mother, my daughter Sarah.