When a Drought Uncovered Ghost Towns & a Scary American Future
At face value, these ruins hold a certain charm. Cities flooded for progress, they took to the depths a vanishing world of temples and playgrounds. Now they fire up the imagination about lives that laid dormant for so long. But as they reemerge, a frightful vision of decay awakens, one that a climate gone awry may turn into routine. In Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, and the U.S., what once stood impervious is now shadows on a beaten land.
Mankind has been using the age-old mechanical power of falling water for thousands of years. But the technological explosion of the Industrial Revolution made it possible to be harnessed in large scale, and the 20th century saw an acceleration of this process.
Soon, these machines were transforming even the most inhospitable areas into arable lands, and the age of massive, miles-wide crops was born. It was far from such a neat progression, but water turbines became as inexorable as the force of nature they were designed to harness.
With power, however, came great irresponsibility. Soon, they were large enough to divert the ancient course of rivers, and favor some land properties over others, richer states rather than needier ones (we’re looking at you, California). THE GATES OF BLACK CANYON
The Hoover Dam, built to tame the Colorado River in 1935, is seen as one of the 20th century’s greatest architectural marvels, and still provides water and electricity to two million acres in three states. It also killed the town of St. Thomas, and drove some 500 souls away.
Drought conditions, which have worsen since 2002, have now rescued those ruins from the bottom of Lake Mead, and exposed a haunting landscape of half demolished buildings and silence. They’ve also (more) _______ Read Also: * The Third Rock * Going Under Continue reading →
I once went to a McDonald’s and stopped everyone’s conversation when I asked for a ‘medium rare’ burger, with no ketchup. There was almost consternation in the silent crowd of late night bums and fix-income elders. The only one laughing was my 5-year old son. It became a symbol of my inadequacy as an American dad, an outsider amid outsiders. Not so much as a rebel, who dares not to fit, and chooses to courageously break the rules, but as a prick, whose insufferable pretentiousness only got me singled out as a bore. Off course, it was their loss, I reasoned with myself. They mistook my ignorance about the assumed routines and conventions of a highway rest stop for a stupid pose. As if I was in need of making a statement of my ‘difference’ to oblivious strangers. After that, I never stepped into a McDonald’s again. Then again, they did catch a poseur in the act, I later admitted. At that time of the night, in the middle of nowhere, with plenty of road still to go, why on earth would a dad be so foolish to take his hungry son to a fast food joint and promptly upstage the kid’s hunger with a piece of vintage asshole-ism? That he managed to halt for a sec all the talk about the day’s scores, or the latest police shooting of a black youth, without so much as getting punched in the noise, may have taken some skill to accomplish. But while the stares and downright disgust were acutely obvious, his misplaced self importance was not. The great American failure of a dad finally got a hold of himself and tried to sneak a glimpse around, but didn’t go too far: the first eye contact with the crusty, battered man sitting next (more) ________ Read Also: * Ketchup With That? * Not Food * I Was Loving In Continue reading →
100 Years of the Einstein Theory That Jump-Started the Modern World
Most of the technological wonder mankind grew accustomed during the 20th century, and is still the basis of contemporary life, was not yet in place when a 36-year-old Albert Einstein published his General Theory of Relativity, after a decade of feverish research. Despite its far reaching concepts and complexities of its precepts, the theory became both popular and enduring, dismantling old assumptions and challenging scientific thought. Its astonishing accuracy has also proven resilient and still ahead of our time.
In fact, along Max Planck’s Quantum Mechanics formulations, Relativity is arguably one of the most comprehensive – despite its gaps – explanations of natural phenomena since Isaac Newton published his Law of Universal Gravitation, over 220 years before.
It guaranteed Einstein immortality and, even if indirectly, the 1921 Nobel of Physics. While only a few could elaborate on its implications, the theory‘s appeal lies on the simplicity of its outline, and almost direct impact and correlation to our world.
Although most of us couldn’t explain gravity to save our lives, many have at least heard about how massive objects, such as (more)
Conversations Across the World & the Comfort of Fellow Bloggers
No wonder blogging is on its way out; it’s something I do. No surprise that yet another little pleasure of mine is about to be retired; it’s happened before. Till then though, let me partake with some of my fellow travelers on this mostly thankless endeavor. I’ve known none of them in person, enjoying their company from afar: they sit at their desks in faraway lands and I don’t even get up to greet them. Ah, the cyberage: sharing most inner feelings but not our own collective breath. But I digress.
Blogging is a necessity to some, an escape valve to others. An open line with the world or a rescue rope amid inclement waves. It’s all but a hobby, or it wouldn’t last. More like distant voices that ebb and flow and add their own colors to an increasingly grey and noisy world.
Thus some stay and persevere, posting with the consistency of someone who’s chained to a dialogue with invisible foreigners they could never invite to dinner. Others walk away, stolen by life’s petty urgencies, or lost to the realization that it simply can’t be done.
I’ve found much solace from across the ocean, and meaningful feedback from someone living in a tent in Africa or a prairie in Australia. Which is more than all my loved ones combined, who mostly ignore that I even have a blog, could provide me if I’d asked them. At the end of the day, however, I blog to appease myself. WRITING LETTERS ON THE SKY
At this point, I’ve promise myself to quit it a few times already, just like an addict lies to himself just enough to get to the next hit. Right after one more post sent out there to fight the good fight, I feel the same comforting relief junkies must feel with dope running in their veins.
But I get sick with angst, I doubt myself, and roll on the littered ground of crappy sentences and too easy ways out of my almost unbearable urge to write these posts, ignoring and in despite of my best judgment which always yells at me: what for?
In fact, I’m aware that it’s partly this lack of self-awareness that allows me to cut myself a break and write just this one, before (more) _______ Read Also: * The Unconfessional
There used to be a constant applied to death and suicides in the U.S.: No one wanted to hear about them. That now may be changing, and it’s not because people are no longer dying or offing themselves. More likely, the Big Sleep itself has now joined the conversation. Take the increasingly popular Death Cafes, for instance. Or the Order of the Good Death, led by a mortician. Some may have finally found the guts to at least talk about it. But what when professional optimists choose to do it? And what should we write before we go? Paraphrasing a quote attributed to French playwright, and brilliant madman, Antonin Artaud, suicide is not a solution but a hypothesis. Great, but tell that to someone literally on the edge, and see how it works out. Fortunately, it’s not something taught to suicide helpline volunteers.
On the other hand, the whole death-as-a-subject avoidance has turned modern societies into pools of denial. It’s either changing the subject or outsourcing an answer. That’s when religion, as it happens, picks up the tab, in exchange for no small contribution. Thus, it’s not death but faith that’s a booming business.
It may be easier to delegate our fears to the embrace of a ready-made storyline than having to create our own plot about them. But there’s a price to pay for that. We freak out to the sight of a corpse because we’re so unfamiliar with our own mortality, at least, for most of our lives.
On top of that, sits the taboo of suicide, which is often regarded as an abomination, when it’s at the most, an act of profound individualism, taken when it seems the only option left. Despite the brutality of the act itself, the worst is usually inflicted on those closer to the one who’s gone.
While they’re left to agonize over somebody’s moment for the rest of their lives, studies have shown that suicide also impacts their own descendants. It is a curse to those left behind, a fact hardly ever considered when someone inches closer to their own murder. In the end, though, there’s no particular glory on dying or being born.
It’s what happens in between that counts. Then again, the zeal with which many insist that everyone must be happy, no matter what, can drive frail souls to the brink. Such a sunny outlook has its own dark (more) _________ Read Also: * Epitaphs * In Their Own Rites * Round Robin
Dear Recruiter, in Case You Won’t Reply, I’m Prepared to Be Ignored
I’m applying for the Jack-of-All-Trades position, as advertised. Please find my resume enclosed. (Apparently you need to be told that it’s attached.) Since you’ve failed to find a fit for this job, and your boss is up your ass about it, consider me your rescue line. You’ll see than I’m a bargain candidate, whose experience at way more prestigious institutions than yours will have to be checked in at your desk. Such disclosure places me in the insufferable asshole bracket, while also inconveniently aging me above your average employee. ‘Whoever believes that great advancement and new benefits make men forget old injuries is mistaken,’ wrote Niccolò Machiavelli in The Prince. Even with jobs following on the tail of an economic recovery, those making do without one for a while won’t forget their injuries too soon.
Those hordes are split between those who continue shadowboxing, and those who couldn’t be bothered. Whether redemption is in the works for either of them, they’re passed such concerns, busy sending out resumes, or simply improvising on their way to despair.
It’s not a pretty picture, that of the unemployed, even before he or she’s convinced they’re also unemployable. So it’s downright Machiavellian to put on the spot those whose skills selling themselves are appalling and are even worse at putting it all on writing.
Hence, the feared cover letter, which anyone with a toe in the labor market will tell you, beats building a stellar resume in the difficulty scale. It also heaps undue regard to the corporate recruiter, or a robot acting as such, who’re merely the company’s first line of diversion. Currently, I’ve been working on a more or less steady but freelance basis for three other organizations, which pay ridiculously low rates and have no intention of hiring me for a full time schedule, despite requiring around the clock on-call availability. I’ve also been taking classes in subjects completely unrelated to my professional field, as a way of avoiding cobwebs. But that may put me and my florid resume in the toilet, er, category of potentially ‘difficult’ hires, a fact that you’d never ever disclose to me.
It was horrible when JPMorgan, once again, laughed at everyone else’s face, about a letter it’d received from ‘Mark,’ a few years back, asking for a job. As usual, a chorus of the self-entitled Masters of the Universe joined in the collective mockery, as did their media cronies.
‘I am unequivocally the most unflaggingly hard worker I know, and I love self-improvement. Continue reading →
Nevermore, or When the Corvus Talked Through Poe & His Poem
Emissaries of rebirth from the great beyond, or omens of bad things to come in ancient traditions, crows have soared over our imaginations for ages. Scientists are baffled by their social skills, cognitive abilities, and use of tools. Old Aesop may have been onto something after all. As January 19th marks Edgar Allan Poe’s 206th birthday, and The Raven’s first print 170 years ago this month, we review research being done about the black bird that feasts on carrion and whose collective nouns convey the finality of sudden death and sorrow of lost souls.
Before Claude Lévi-Strausscalled the raven a mediator, antiquity took care of inscribing the winged creature into an assortment of narratives and roles, including it in all holy books, from the Talmud to the Bible to the Qur’an, Greek-Roman mythologies and Hindu cosmology.
Old Germanic and English texts also assigned the species a prominent role, and so did Pacific tribes and Native Americans. Which may confer oversized meaning to their annual winter arrival at Waterloo, England, for example, or instances of mass deaths, as it just happened in India.
But before going any further, let’s get the distinction between crows and ravens out of the way. Crows are smaller and live only eight years, to raven’s average 30-year lifespan. Crows, which caw-caw, also live closer to humans; ravens’ croaks are heard mostly in the wild.
A crow’s wing is blunt, and its tail, fan-shaped, while ravens have pointed wings and wedge-shaped tails. All else may not be easily noted because the birds are commonly sighted in parks and cemeteries, where people go to fulfill a function or when they’re, well, dead. WHO IS BIRD-BRAINED NOW?
We should all be weary of studies comparing the intelligence of radically different species, say primates vs. cetacean, for instance. Mainly because for a long time, we’ve considered cognitive intelligence and social skills to be our monopoly and of a few other animals only.
Also, we still don’t know enough Continue reading →