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Nowtopian

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New Year, Old Back

Happy New Year to everyone… hard to believe it’s 2008! I’m still pretty laid up with my bum back and the worst sciatica I’ve ever had. Huge thanks to my sweetie Adriana who has been taking care of me the whole 3+ weeks; thanks to Dr. Rupa for a painkiller prescription; thanks to everyone for sending me good thoughts and visiting and hanging out… My recovery is underway, but surprisingly slow. I keep thinking I should be OK by now, but I’m still in a considerable amount of pain when not on drugs, and my leg continues to be numb nearly all the time. Walking has gotten better, and I have managed to sit for almost a couple of minutes a few times in the past few days. So I’m starting to regain some normal functioning, sort of, but still no bicycling, and walking uphill is really painful. I got a car ride up to the top of Bernal Heights the other day, and walked a short distance to get a photo of San Francisco’s new Middle Finger:

For about 10 minutes I felt stiff and sore and not too great, but still, I was up and walking! That’s when Adri took this photo:

But just a few minutes later, as we walked back to the car, I was overcome again and had to lay down on the bench:

It’s really a gut check to be so damaged as I’ve been. Staying patient is hard enough, but feeling like maybe I’ll never regain my former normal mobility is scary. I think I will, and the chiropractor thinks I’ll be much better in another couple of weeks, but it’s hard to believe right now. It’s such a drag to not be able to go out on my own and ride across town, or take a long walk…

I guess when you’re in a physical funk, a mental funk comes along with it. The circus of the presidential primaries managed to poke into my consciousness briefly, kind of similar to my interest in sports. I really am amazed (again, for the ??th time) at how many people are all worked up about Obama, or Edwards, or any of them… I watched a bit of the New Hampshire debate last night and couldn’t have been less inspired. I vaguely remember once 32 years ago getting all hopeful about Jimmy Carter and a New South and some kind of move beyond the imperial barbarity of normal American politics… didn’t happen then, and it sure ain’t gonna happen with any politicians running for office now. Different strains of populist rhetoric notwithstanding, they are all creatures of the same politics and priorities as the folks they’re ostensibly running to replace. Obama’s taking cues from Brzezinski for chrissakes! Clinton is obviously the same ol’, and Edwards is talking anti-corporate but he was careful to qualify it that there were “good corporations in the U.S., like Costco, or AT&T”!!! Is that the same AT&T who is clamoring for legal immunity from having rolled over for Bush’s illegal wirtaps? The same AT&T who is busily re-monopolizing telecommunications? Jeeeeez!

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The View from my Bed

Yeah, hard to believe, but this sciatica is keeping me down. I’m on Day 12 of mostly lying prone in one place or another. My folks are setting up a mattress near the xmas tree in their living room where I’ll be eating my holiday dinner later today. Blessed with a couple of nice dinner party experiences, both of which accommodated my horizontalism… Adriana has been simply angelic, revealing herself as a great chef, and enormously patient in the role of Florence Nightingale to my role as simply patient, the injured one. Now she’s sniffling with a bad cold, so we’re laughing about our mutual incapacitation…

Anyway, good time to catch up on reading (as if I will ever finish reading the books I already own!), and like this typing I’m doing right now, I find I can do my “normal” work pretty easily too, laptop in lap… I went next door last week to a small party that included what was labeled a “heart circle,” wherein any of the 15 people in attendance could take the floor for as long as they wanted and speak to anything that mattered to them. It was a cozy and intimate evening and a lot of emotions flowed, personal sagas were touched upon, memories and hopes and fears were shared. I’m glad I went, but as often happens to me in such situations, I found myself slightly revolting against the extremely personal and quasi-narcissistic focus of most of the comments. Instead, I wanted to contextualize the commentaries in the bigger picture, the end of 2007, the beginning of the 21st century, the incomprehensibly enormous moment in world history that we’re living through, mostly unconsciously.

I’ve been reading some books that encourage this longer view. In particular, the sense of collapse that I touched on in my last blog post, whether the climate change that is threatening fresh water and food production, energy and resource wars, the slowly unfolding international financial crisis that is far from finished and may land us in this century’s first Great Depression, the diminishing power of the U.S. over its own fate–a degradation made much more rapid by the Bush years… all this and more. I see it as part of a moment in history when the old paradigms are giving way, and the new ones are far from clear. It’s much more complicated than the demise of U.S. empire and its replacement by China, or by a new multilateral world order, even if those latter developments are part of what we can perceive. There’s also the demise of nation-states after the furious and passionate and urgent rise and spread of nationalism in the late 20th century.

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Physical collapses! The Planet and Me!

Yup, that’s me, bedridden as of two days ago, with an unbelievably painful sciatica. So I’m eating at the trough, here enjoying a Pad Thai and glass of wine brought over by good friends last night. Being stuck in bed has allowed me to put the laptop on my lap (of all places!) and finish the last pass through Nowtopia, and catch up on lots of net surfing.

Last weekend I went to Atlanta with Adriana to visit some old friends of hers. I can’t say I fell in love with Atlanta, which is about as unlovable an urban space as I can remember visiting. Still, we managed to make it an interesting 3 days. I read an article on Tomgram a couple of weeks ago, about the remarkably severe drought in the southeast. But as you can see in his piece, there are severe droughts going on in many places around the world, and we’re having a lot of trouble as human society wrapping our heads around the unfolding collapse of modern life. I cite and quote another article below that is even more thorough at collecting the signals of irreversible physical collapse globally, but first let me show some pictures of Atlanta. Here’s a shot of their Olympic-inspired Centennial Park, right in downtown beneath the looming CNN world HQ (where we also took the tour, an 8-story descent through the CNN universe of 24/7 infotainment).

Apparently this brown lawn and the dry fountains around the park are symptoms of the severe drought. The governor of Georgia recently held a rally to pray for rain, which our hosts held in reasonable contempt, since there’s been very little practical preparation for coping with the water crisis. I recommend the Englehart piece cited above because he returns repeatedly to the basic question: what happens if the water runs out? No one wants to think about that. In some ways our entire global climate change crisis is similar, insofar as we just can’t imagine life as we know it changing in significant ways, and yet it’s clear that water and agricultural productivity are both in serious jeopardy in the coming years. I’ll come back to this below…

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