Rocket Stove

Posted on 14 April 2012 | Comments Off on Rocket Stove

One of the things I like to focus on is how to live more in harmony with nature, and how to live without relying on the fossil-fuel based infrastructure of our society. One word for this mode of being is Permaculture, but there are many ways to describe it.

One of my preoccupations this summer is in learning to deal with fire more efficiently. How to start a fire without fossil fuels, and how to cook food without relying on fossil fuels. I came across the concept of the rocket stove which is a way to concentrate heat, enough for cooking, while burning wood very very efficiently. With a well-designed rocket stove, it’s possible to cook a meal with only a few twigs, and with very little smoke and pollution. Despite the fact that many people are using these indoors, I wanted to build one outside our front door near the house.

The basic concept of a rocket stove is that you have an L-shaped chamber that is insulated. A fire burns at the bottom angle of the L. You feed wood into the bottom part of the L, and the upright part of the L acts as a chimney. When built correctly, these burn very efficiently, drawing air up from the L and through to the top. All the heat is concentrated so that it comes out the top.

There are many different plans for rocket stoves available, but to begin with I wanted to keep things as simple as possible so that I can experiment with the design. For my first attempt I was inspired by this design that uses only bricks that are stacked together, thus allowing for easy modifications or repairs:

I used basically this same design, except I added 4 more bricks to the top to make the chimney “taller,” and I put the entire thing up on cinder blocks so that it was more accessible. Also, the arrangement of the top cinderblocks gives me a place to store processed wood for burning. The longest part by far was leveling the base so that the entire stove is level (I was picky about it so that the airflows wouldn’t be hampered by funny angles), and it came out great, as you can see in the photo here.

The base used 8 cinder blocks I had laying around, which brought it up to a comfortable height, and also gave me 2 spots to store processed wood ready to burn. Then the stove itself used 21 bricks, 20 in the main structure (2 of which are half-bricks), and the 21st is in the front on its side, which gives the sticks a platform to rest on while the burn, while still allowing air to come in from underneath.

This photo shows the sticks in the burn position. As the fire in the main chamber burns, you shove the sticks in further and further. 4 sticks the size shown here (roughly the same thickness as 2 fingers, each about 18″ long) along with some birch bark and twigs as tinder and kindling, burned for about 30 minutes. I still have to learn to be more efficient with the tinder/kindling to main fuel wood ratio so that I get the cleanest possible burns. Once the rocket stove is operating efficiently, it should burn very cleanly with almost no smoke or fumes — clean enough that this design is commonly used indoors.

After the fire had been burning for about 20 minutes, I left it unattended for a while to do some other chores. When I came back, this is what was left in the photo to the right. All in all quite a clean burn, and I look forward to getting more practice with this technique and seeing how I adapt it over time. I think I’ll make some lunch on this tomorrow, using an old cast-iron skillet I inherited from my grandmother.

Update, Apr 16

I’ve now successfully made my first meal on the rocket stove. It came out great! However, there are still a few tweaks I need to make. This first update photo shows my grandmother’s old cast iron skillet, resting on 4 small rocks leaving about a 1cm clearing above the mouth of the stove. This allows the heat transfer to happen very efficiently. You can see the sticks coming out of the feed hole below, and the fire happening within.

I think there are a couple of problems with the stove preventing it from giving the desired “rocket” effect, where the flames shoot up into the “chimney” part of the stove. First, I think the opening I have in the feed hole is too large. I need to find a brick that is half the thickness of the other bricks and put it in the bottom to reduce the size of the feed hole. The size of the feed hole is tricky, it needs to be large enough to allow adequate airflow to feed the fire, but small enough that it focuses the heat up the chimney.

Second, I think the chimney is a bit too tall (note the original design calls for a 4-brick height and I have it at 6-brick height). I had read that the taller chimneys draw better, increase the chimney effect, and cause the fires to burn hotter. This was not the case for this fire, 2 different times I had to feed some fuel down into the chimney to get the fire to burn hot enough to cook the food in the skillet.

Despite these problems, I’ll calling this first meal a success! It was a basic pasta sauce with oil, onions, celery, ground pork, celery, rehydrated dried tomatoes from last fall, mushrooms, tomatoes canned last fall, salt, pepper, basil, and oregano. Delicious!

Looking toward the future I am looking at other rocket stove designs, but this first experiment has been great fun.

Arcane Theology or Practical Ethos?

Posted on 24 November 2011 | Comments Off on Arcane Theology or Practical Ethos?

It’s a strange night. The full moonlight is diffused through the mist, illuminating everything moving in the wind. It’s not as bright as a full moon in a clear sky, but there is plenty of light to see by — everything has a silvery glow. The breeze is comfortable: cool, not chilling, and it smells like a long-lost friend. It’s a scent I know well, but haven’t experienced in a while. It’s the smell of winter. She is coming.

One of my most sacred practices as a pagan is spending time in nature, no matter the season and in all weather, as often as possible. I try to do the best I can with this practice, but the realities of my domesticated life mean that sometimes weeks go by where the best I can do is to put my bare feet onto the ground (or snow!) just long enough to watch the sunset through the trees for a few moments. Most often I am outside in my own local ecosystem, in the woods where I live. To me, being outside in nature is the essence of what it means to be pagan — “pagan” is Latin for “redneck”; literally translated paganus means “country-dweller.” This term came into widespread use in the Roman Empire, with so much of Roman culture centered on the glory of the city of Rome. Paganus was used to describe those alienated from Rome-the-city, away from the direct protections of the Roman Empire, and the nascent conveniences of urban civilization. It described those who lived in nature.

Now in the 21st century, it is difficult to appreciate this pagan way-of-dwelling, this pagan ethos of living in honorable relationship with nature, since the vast majority of us are urbanized, domesticated creatures who have our basic survival needs met by our  participation in the infrastructures of civilization. Our ancestral, pagan lifestyles are no longer the default way we live our day-to-day lives. If we truly want to live as pagans, I believe we must work to learn and reclaim these ways-of-being by not relying upon the very structures that have alienated us from them. It is up to each of us to individually decipher these once-common skills and abilities buried deep within our collective, ancestral memories. Luckily, there are clues everywhere, embedded in our pagan traditions.

For instance, we can look at the four Hallows, the cardinal tools depicted in many  neopagan traditions. These four tools can be found in the four suits of the tarot — blade, cup, wand, and disc. These are powerful symbols and magical archetypes, but they are  also the basic tools of survival our ancestors have carried on their persons for thousands of years, enabling them to live more fully in nature. A knife is arguably the most important tool one can have. It allows one to create other tools — I think of it as a  meta-tool. Its primitive ingenuity is a result of higher circuits of consciousness exhibited in humans: some shrewd primate in our distant past discovered the utility of a sharp stone edge, which later evolved into flintnapping, and still later into the sophisticated techniques of forging metal into cutting tools. Wise, insightful humans imagined and understood these techniques, which over time came to be sacred. Magically, the knife, the blade, the athame, is an air symbol, representing intellect and imagination. The knife allows the magical practitioner to cut through layers of illusion, increasing one’s ability to live well, to adapt to one’s environment, and ultimately to literally carve one’s stake into the ecosystem.

The cup is important in a survival situation because we all need a source of clean, potable water; without it, we will die in a matter of a few days. As a symbol for water, the cup represents intuitive and emotional being. Interestingly, symptoms of dehydration include dizziness, unexplained tiredness, irritability, headache, insomnia, confusion, fatigue, and negative moods. Is it any wonder that the cup represents the emotional realm to the modern neopagan?

The wand is associated with fire, and most of our ancestors carried such wands with them for their use in firestarting. All ancient cultures in all parts of the world have devised ways to create fire using only materials from their ecosystem, such as the hand drill or the bow drill, both of which require wand-like pieces of wood with which to create heat through friction. If one has these tools, along with dry tinder and an adequate supply of wood (fuel), one is never far from fire. The ability to make fire — particularly in colder climates — means the ability to survive. It is also the magical ability of transformation: wood logs become ash; raw animal flesh becomes delicious meat; or a wet, shivering body becomes warm and comfortable. The fact that fire can also transform a vibrant, living forest into a charred wasteland shows us the dark side of its power. Fire’s transformative power is inherently neutral, so those working with it soon learn to be careful. When used skillfully, fire is another tool to survive — and to transform our immediate ecosystem into something that allows us to better live within it.

Finally, the disc (or coin, or pentacle) is the earth symbol, and has the most abstract connection to traditional survival tools. It is the most unclear of the four Hallows to us modern humans. For instance, in the famous Ötzi the Iceman discovery of a startlingly-well preserved 5,000 year old human corpse in Europe, one piece of gear he carried with him was a Stone Disc and its use remains unclear to those studying him. In some Wiccan traditions, the earth symbol is used to cast sacred space, to create a within to which there is an outside. It is a boundary. It is, in a word, shelter, yet another basic requirement for survival. In other traditions, it can serve as a plate for food offerings — food being another earth-nourishment necessary for survival.

Air, Earth, Fire, Water. Knife, Shelter and Food, Firestarter, Cup. Our ancestors were not speaking abstractly or arcanely, they were speaking practically, telling us the Hallows, the sacred tools, necessary for us to subsist in right relationship with nature. This, to me, is the core of what paganism is and should be — a set of traditional practices, rooted in nature, that allow us to live not only as spiritually awake, powerful humans, but also as a part of something greater than ourselves, from our local ecosystem all the way up to the living, breathing Earth itself and beyond. The many, when living this way, become one. This point of view has serious consequences for those of us living in the 21st century. Our planet is in deep crisis on countless fronts, from vast oil spills, nuclear radiation, and the toxins of industrial civilization now ubiquitous in every part of the planet, to the horrors of industrial, monocrop GMO farming devouring all the planet’s topsoil and leaving deserts in its wake. The tragic reality is that there is almost nowhere left on Earth where it is possible for large numbers of people to live in the wild as pagans, even if we wanted to. First of all, virtually the entire planet is now private property, so there are legal barriers. Secondly, 97% of the native forests, and 98% of the native grasslands, are GONE (see Derrick Jensen, “Preface” in Deep Green Resistance [New York: Seven Stories Press, 2011], p. 11.). Gone, as in no longer exist. Gone, as in 1 or 2% of nature is left for us to try to live as pagans, in a time when there are more humans, by far, than ever in history.

Yet, there is not enough outrage in our community. And if there is outrage, it is often squelched by other neopagans as “being negative” or “attracting negative energy” or “practicing bad magick.” As pagans — as those who aspire to live in harmony with nature — we should be on the front lines, protecting our ecosystems from the assaults they’ve been enduring for centries. Most of us, myself included far too much of the time, continue our domesticated lives as if nothing is wrong, divorced from authentic, meaningful relationship with nature except in the abstract, complaining about politics or climate change while living our lives as part of the vast machine causing the destruction in the first place. Lierre Keith sounds a wake-up call to the neopagan community in Deep Green Resistance:

Some white people say they want to “reindigenize,” that they want a spiritual connection to the land where they live. That requires building a relationship to that place. That place is actually millions of creatures, the vast majority too small for us to see, all working together to create more life. Some of them create oxygen; many more create soil; some create habitat, like beavers  making wetlands. To indigenize means offering friendship to all of them. That means getting to know them, their histories, their needs, their joys and sorrows. It means respecting their boundaries and committing to their care. It means learning to listen, which requires turning off the chatter and static of the self. Maybe then they will speak to you or even offer you help. All of them are under assault right now: every biome, each living community is being pulled to pieces, 200 species [that go extinct each day] at a time. It’s a  thirty-year mystery to me how the neopagans can claim to worship the earth and, with few exceptions, be indifferent to fighting for it. There’s a vague liberalism but no clarion call to action. That needs to change if this fledgling religion wants to make any reasonable claim to a moral framework that sacrilizes the earth. If the sacred doesn’t deserve defense, then what ever will (see Lierre Keith, “Culture of Resistance,” in Deep Green Resistance [New York: Seven Stories Press, 2011] pp. 165-166)?

Keith is right to criticize us in this way. We, as pagans, must lead the way by rediscovering ways of living that are not in conflict with our metaphysics, our theology, and our ethics. This Yule season, I challenge the Maine pagan community to begin embracing the pagan ethos by spending more time in nature and to reduce dependence on the “grid” for one’s sustenance. These are not abstract bits of theology, these are real things you can do immediately, things that will enrich your life, exercising mind, body, and spirit. For most of us, the following step would be a radical change: spend a day — or better yet, commit to one day per month or even per week — where you go off-the-grid entirely. Power down all electricity in your house. Turn your heater off for the day. Spend as much time outside that day as you can. Observe the flows of nature around you. Learn how to make fire using only materials found in your ecosystem. Don’t eat food from the grocery store; spend the day fasting or eat only what you can forage or hunt in your ecosystem. Drink only water from melted snow, hand-pumped from a well, or best of all collected from a spring if you have one near you.

Obviously, I’m not suggesting you endanger your life here. We are domesticated humans, and it will take time for us to re-learn how to subsist outdoors for extended periods of time in a Maine winter. But we can do it. Even if it’s only for an hour, for many of us that’s more time than we would normally spend outdoors in the winter. Take your first steps in this direction, be mindful of how you feel while you are outside — it is likely you will feel more alive than you have in a while. If nothing else, this is good training for the frequent power outages that come with the Maine winter.

As you get better and better at these practices, take fewer and fewer things with you, ultimately taking only your 4 personal Hallows (knife, cup, firestarter, shelter). If you make this a regular practice, journal it each time you do it. Record what you did that day, how you felt being in the wild all day, along with any lessons or insights gained. Nature in all of her vast forms will speak to us using her many languages, but we must be present in order to listen.

From Alcohol to Alchemy

Posted on 29 October 2010 | Comments Off on From Alcohol to Alchemy

Just a note here, for those of you who read this blog but not BardicBrews.net, I am hosting a Mead Workshop with my friend Daniel Vitalis coming up on 16 November:

I’m greatly looking forward to this. Mead has become a very important part of my reality as of late and I look forward to sharing what I’ve learned with others. Furthermore, it’s always a treat hearing Daniel Vitalis speak.

thoughts for/about Isaac Bonewits

Posted on 10 August 2010 | Comments Off on thoughts for/about Isaac Bonewits

The Neopagan community is losing one of its pioneers and Elders. Isaac Bonewits is nearing the end of his journey with cancer.

I never met him, but I really loved his writing. His book on Druidry was the first one I read on the subject, and I loved the humor lurking behind each sentence. It was a great introduction to this branch of neopaganism.

I don’t have much else to say, other than I’m thinking of him, and those close to him, and sending energy for a peaceful and inspiring passing-over.

Also, his medical bills are piling up, so head on over to neopagan.net and support them, either by purchasing products or simply making a donation.

UPDATE: Isaac passed on around 8am on August 12. He indicated that he wanted his memorial to be a good party, with “Into The West” (from the LOTR movies) to be played in his honor. I’ll raise a glass of mead to you tonight, Isaac.

Brewing Mead

Posted on 29 June 2010 | Comments Off on Brewing Mead

I haven’t written much about brewing yet, probably because I’ve only gotten into brewing since I moved into this house 3 years ago, which coincidentally is when I stopped posting to this blog with the same regularity as I once did.

I started off brewing beer, and learned quite a bit about how to make good clones of popular kinds of beer. Some of the brews were quite delicious, but it never seemed quite right to me. Hard to explain. I had been sitting with this thought for a while when I saw this video of Daniel Vitalis talking about the health effects of hops, which in a way sealed the deal for me:

After I saw this video, I started experimenting with herbal beers, brewed with herbs other than hops. I started to feel better about drinking these beers, but honestly they just didn’t taste as good. Daniel has since become an even bigger influence on my health strategy, as well as a friend, and we did some experimental brews together.

Then I re-discovered mead. A friend of mine has been brewing mead for many years, and hosted a workshop on how to do it. That was it. From the moment I tasted my first batch of mead, I have yet to brew a batch of beer. I’m just not interested.

I’ve set up a website to chronicle my brews, and other interesting brew-related data points I encounter at BardicBrews.net so if you are interested in more detail about what I’m up to go check it out.

In the meantime, I’ve set myself up that I can have several batches of mead going at once… and in a few weeks I’ll have the beginnings of a good variety of mead that will be in constant rotation.

One difference between mead and beer is that mead (like wine) gets better with age. So far by the time my next batch is ready to drink, the previous batch has been gone! Hopefully the new setup will mean I can actually have a respectable mead cellar within a few years.

WordPress migration

Posted on 8 June 2010 | Comments Off on WordPress migration

I’ve migrated this blog over to WordPress! It contains everything from both the old Blogger edition of JWL.Freakwitch.net, as well as my first blog at JWL.blogspot.com, all hosted locally. These old blogs will continue to be hosted on blogspot (the old JWL.Freakwitch.net blog is now here).

I will be tinkering and reconfiguring this blog moving forward, both in terms of apperance and content. You have been warned.

UPDATE: The banner image is from a shot I took at the ruins of Glastonbury Cathedral, looking up at the Tor, when I was in the UK in 2005.

Oh, the Sanctimonious Outrage!

Posted on 15 January 2010 | 1 response

I’m still on moveon.org’s mailing list, and I just got an intriguing email from them. Apparently, they are outraged that Visa is collecting their customary 3% fee for Haiti donations:

… when Americans donate to charity with their credit cards, the credit card companies get rich. In some cases they keep 3% of the donation as a “transaction fee,” even though that’s far more than it costs them to process the donation. It’s outrageous and wrong—and it needs to stop.

I completely agree with this sentiment. Where we apparently disagree is that I think it is ALWAYS wrong for people to profit from the infrastructure of our economy. The fact is, Visa (or another credit card) is used as cash by a huge number of people. This means Visa gets a percentage on EVERY SINGLE TRANSACTION. This amounts to nothing more than a tax.

It’s funny to me that people only get outraged over profit happening around sanctimonious causes, ie, “think of the children” or “relief for the latest disaster.” Just because a Haitian needs medical attention because of a hurricane, it’s not OK to profit, but if some kid in south Portland gets hit by a car and needs medical attention, then profit is not only accepted and normalized, but encouraged.

Makes no sense to me whatsoever.

Farewell Football

Posted on 3 January 2010 | 3 responses

For a few years now, I have joked that my lingering interest in NFL football is one of the last vestiges of my middle-American upbringing. This might come as a surprise to readers of this blog who don’t know me personally, since I almost never write about this facet of my life. The fact is, I really enjoy the game of football. I know the game well, and spend a lot of time reading about my favorite team from my hometown, the Cincinnati Bengals. I grew up a big baseball fan, but my interest in baseball faded after one of the labor strikes many years ago. My interest in football, however, has never wavered. Until now.

I’ve recently made a decision. This is the last year I will spend following the Bengals in particular, or professional football or sports in general. I want to talk about this decision from two points of view.

First, from a “fan loyalty” point of view for the sports fan. I’ve been a Bengals fan for more than 30 years, and anyone who knows this team knows that this is truly a feat of loyalty. The Bengals did well in the 1980s, going to the Super Bowl twice. Then the 1990s, and the first few years of this decade, the Bengals decayed into a run of sports futility only rarely seen in professional sports, losing far more games than they won. Despite this run, I remained a fan, watching games as often as possible, and particularly since the advent of the ‘net, staying on top of what my team was up to.

For the past few years, since the Bengals hired Marvin Lewis as a coach, this tide has begun to turn. The Bengals have won more games than they lost, and in 2005 made the playoffs for the first time since the early 1990s. That didn’t end so well, but it provided hope.

This year seems like a storybook year. It began with the Bengals being featured on Hard Knocks, an HBO reality show that documents training camp for one NFL team. It provided an unprecedented look into my favorite team, and I really enjoyed watching it. The last game of the regular season is tomorrow, and the worst the bengals can finish is 10-6. They have already clinched an AFC North championship and will therefore go to the playoffs.

I remember sitting down to watch the Super Bowl at the end of the 2001 season, when the Patriots played the Rams. The Patriots were heavy underdogs. As the game was starting, I remember turning to a friend of mine and saying: “there is no way the ‘Patriots’ lose this game after 9/11.” Sure enough, the Patriots shocked the world, beat the Rams, became world champs, and launched their “Dynasty”.

I have a similar feeling about this Bengals team this year. Fans got a close look at the team in Hard Knocks (which had the highest ratings ever for the show). The Bengals have dealt with adversity, one of the coaches’ wives died suddenly, and one of their players, Chris Henry, was killed during the season. None of their players made the Pro Bowl (the allstar game for the NFL). It’s a feel-good story, and we’ll see what happens. It will be fun to watch.

So, you can’t accuse me of not being “loyal” to my team. I’ve been a loyal fan to one of the worst franchises in professional sports for more than 30 years. My interest and support in my team and the game as a whole has never wavered. Until now. I will finish out this season, see how the Bengals do, and at the end of this season I’m done following football.

Second, the obvious question is, why? It has become clear to me that there are some fundamental philosophical differences I have with participating the spectacle of modern sports. Here are a few of them:

  • Vicariousness. Every moment I spend watching or reading about what other people do on a practice or playing field is a moment I have not worked on myself, experienced life in a more vivid way, or become a better person.
  • Distraction. Related to the above, football, and profession sports in general, is a distraction from more important issues of self and society. This reason alone is probably the biggest reason for my decision. I remember Noam Chomsky responding to a question about “sheeple,” or why the “average person” (whatever that means) isn’t smart enough to be aware of what’s happening in the world. He said something like “on the contrary. For evidence of the analytical capability of the average person of the working class, turn on any sports talk radio show. You will see perceptiveness, nuanced opinion, and the like.” If people were to stop their interest in sports overnight, and turn their time and attention to more pressing issues (opening their spirits, understanding the frightening political machinations happening, understanding what’s happening to our planet, etc.), then things would change much more quickly. Widespread common interest in professional sports, as it stands, is one of the main mechanisms of social control, distracting people from real, vivid, important issues of the day and giving them somewhere to focus their primal, competitive urges where nothing of any importance, personally or socially, is at stake.
  • Capital and class warfare. NFL players make millions of dollars per year. Team owners make even more. It is a multibillion dollar industry, nearly all of which extracts money from the working class, transferring it to the economic elite.
  • Glorified violence. Football is perhaps the most violent game in the world. Players suffer horrific injuries, even death, regularly. And of course the players who lose their millions are, like all other members of the working class, spit out and not cared for. For more on this I suggest reading former NFL player Dave Pear’s blog, where he documents the plight and declining health of former NFL players.
  • Polarization. Widespread interest in sports polarizes people into “Us vs. Them” mentalities, making it much easier for the illusion of, for instance, the two-party system in America to survive.

Ultimately, I think this decision has been in the making for many years now. I’ve known for years that despite any enjoyment I got from being a Bengals fan, it was ultimately a pretty big time sink for me. The fact that there are now many facets of my life that need more of my attention actually made this an easy decision. The fact that I have a hunch that I’ll say “Who Dey” for the last time after the Super Bowl this year just makes this decision all the more resonant.

Avatar, Allegory, and Capital

Posted on 30 December 2009 | Comments Off on Avatar, Allegory, and Capital

I just got back from seeing the film Avatar. I enjoyed it greatly, it pretty much instantly propelled itself into one of my favorite films of all time.

Visually, of course, it’s stunning, but I’d expect nothing else from the WETA crew in New Zealand. Great eye candy, especially in 3D. I haven’t seen a 3D movie in 25 years, since Jaws 3 was out. My, how technology has changed. I think Avatar will be regarded as a revolution in filmmaking similar to the LOTR series earlier this decade. Certainly, the computer animation and stop motion technology recalls Gollum but with another several years of refinement.

But apart from the eye candy, I was interested in the plot. I wasn’t really sure what to expect. The main theme, of course, is Soulless Greedy Capitalism vs. Enlightened/Attuned Indigenous Population, or simply an allegory on Colonialism. I wasn’t sure what to expect, normally I don’t like to be spoon-fed which is what allegory turns into all-too-often. But there were some subtleties that I really appreciated.

SPOILERS BELOW. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.

The Na’vi, who are the indigenous population, exist on Pandora, a stunningly beautiful moon teeming with unbelievable life. This race of humanoids is deeply attuned to the life on the planet, fully aware of their connections to one another, across species, past and present. Their greeting to each other is “I see you,” where “see” is something akin to “grok” in Heinlein’s Stranger In A Strange Land. It is a verbal acknowledgement that the seeing speaker has fully focused their attention and consciousness on the other individual. This reflects a common pattern with indigenous peoples all across planet Earth: these people often have a way-of-seeing that is much deeper than awareness of resources to exploit so common in our western culture.

The Na’vi have a sacred tree, called the Tree of Souls. The scientist characters are intrigued by this tree, apparently it has a network of intermingling roots not unlike a neural net, with a complexity on the scale of, or superior to, a human brain. This network reminded me a lot of the mycelium network that mushrooms create in forests, acting as the “brains” of the forest, and shunting nutrients from one part of the forest to another as needed. The Tree Of Voices also allows the Na’vi to commune-icate with their ancestors, and even to transplant consciousness from one body to another.

Of course, the capitalists don’t care about this sacred neural net. They wish to destroy it to intimidate the Na’vi and get them to abandon the Tree, so that they can mine for the (horribly-named) Unobtainium that exists in abundance near the tree.

This is the central part of the conflict in the story: the military/capitalists (mechanized thinking) wanting to exploit the ineffable natural resources the native people have attuned to over thousands of years (organic thinking), all in the name of short-term profit and without regard to the damage this exploitation will cause.

The Na’vi, of course, resist. They are portrayed as the “white-hat good guys” in the story, and the militaristic capitalists are the clear bad guys. The Na’vi have a Mother Goddess called Eywa, and when the protagonist prays to her for help “defeating” the Evil Greedy Capitalist Fuckers, he is told that “the mother doesn’t take sides, she protects the balance of life.”

This statement got me thinking. Let’s assume the Gaia hypothesis for a moment, here on Earth. If this is true, then Gaia will understand that our present system of Capitalist expansion and Colonialism is completely unsustainable; all Gaia must do is wait it out until “victory” occurs and the Capitalist Empire crumbles under its own weight. Once this occurs, in a planetary blink of an eye (a few generations in human terms), the planet will reclaim the earth to Nature.

Of course, this is a Hollywood movie, so the good guys always win. On Pandora, the Colonialists are defeated, despite their superior technology, when Eywa hears Jake’s prayer and sends the various denizens of the forest to fight the Capitalist Machine. Apparently in this world, set about 150 years from now, Capital has lost its ability to morph and adapt into a new role able to exploit each situation as it changes and evolves.

Not coincidentally, tonight I got into a “comment discussion” on Facebook with a Democrat. There I said that I believe our current system of government is broken, probably irrevocably, and the only way out is for more people to wake up and abandon capitalism as an ideal.

Hopefully, a few people will get their head cracked open by this film, and begin to see Capital for what it is. Ironically, Capital (and more specifically, James Cameron and the Hollywood MegaCorporations) has already profited $400 million within a week of this film’s release.

What was it I said about Capital morphing to profit from any situation it finds itself in?

The Facebook machine

Posted on 9 October 2009 | Comments Off on The Facebook machine

Apparently, this blog is now being “followed” on Facebook. Thanks to whoever set it up that way. :-)

Obviously, I haven’t been posting here as much. I have, incidentally enough, been Facebooking somewhat regularly and posting the occasional burst of neural activity there.

Life pretty much continues as it has; keeping busy with work, building my studio, playing music with my guys as often as our schedules allow, trying to find time to finish our album.

Politically, I remain suspicious of the Obama administration, the bailout package, the War On Terra, etc. etc.

Personally, I have been undergoing a fundamental change. My HealthQuest is a big part of this, stepping up and putting things I’ve learned over the past few years into regular, disciplined practice. This is already bearing good fruit.

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