October 29, 2003

Ideology and fires

You know, way back when Darwin first came up with the idea of survival of the fittest, he categorized humans as an animal like all the other animals. Bears, pigs, monkeys and humans. We all eat, breathe, sleep, defecate and scratch where we itch.

The idea was hugely controversial. The church of the time wanted to believe that man was only a little lower than the angels, that animals were completely different from us altogether.

Now, we say that man is an animal without thinking about it. Yes: primate, vertebrate, whatever you call it, that is us.

And this classification brings us into greater relationship with our surroundings, our environment. Like cows, we eat grain. Like tigers, we eat meat. At least some of us do. And we grow grain and meat, using our environment to create food and do all the things we do.

As the smoke builds up in my city, we are saddened by the destruction of our environment. For some people, it is their whole environment, their home, that is destroyed. For some, like me, it is the beautiful outdoors, the natural environment that has been destroyed.

The fire was set by human means, there was arson which involved matches, and also a flare set by a lost hunter.

But the reason the fire became so huge is because of some bark beetles that killed the trees. They were standing timber, just waiting to be ignited. And we knew about this, we knew this would happen when the beetles first infected the trees.

This fire was inevitable. Perhaps the vast destruction was not inevitable, but a fire had to happen. Nature was doing what it does.

And we as humans, were decided what we wanted to do about that nature. Mostly, the idea that we should leave it entirely alone was the prevailing ideology.

For many years, most of which are in living memory, America with it’s democratic capitalism fought a war of ideology with Communist Russia. This war was called the Cold War, but it was only cold inside the two countries. It was hot as hellfire in some places.

Because we were using our ideologies to justify various actions in different parts of the world. Like one side or the other would prove themselves more RIGHT by having more little countries pick their ideology to govern with.

Lots of countries got caught in the middle. Remember Vietnam? Cuba? Zimbabwe? Tanzania?

Well, not all Americans are capitalists. There were and are a lot of lefty-type americans who were rooting for the communists, or at least socialism abroad. They, and socialists from other countries, were happy to see the so-called 3rd world countries embrace socialism.

Alright. I would now like to present Tanzania. Tanzania tried socialism. It tried it really hard. Socialism didn’t work in Tanzania. Nyerere, the president of Tanzania, and seemingly a very nice guy, admitted that it did not work and that Tanzania was pretty much impoverished by the experiment.

Tanzania was trying something out. It didn’t work, so maybe they ought to try something different.

Russia, the motherland of communism, is also trying this ‘something different’ themselves. Smart. If it’s broken, fix it.

back to the fires in Los Angeles.

These fires, as I said, were naturally ocurring. We kinda knew they were coming. Fires come every year.

There is an ideology of conservationism that says, “Don’t touch it! We have to pretend like we don’t exist! Humans should not touch nature, we’ll screw it up!”

Alright, I think the experiment of pretending that we are angels who float above the surface of the planet and don’t make any marks has come to a failed conclusion.

If we are indeed part of the ecological system that we inhabit, it is impossible not to interact with it. Denial is more than a river in Egypt. The time has come for the conservationists to realize that we should direct our interaction with the planet in a useful way.

Let’s use this human intelligence to choose wisely. Let’s cut down and use controlled fires to protect the environment, WHICH INCLUDES OURSELVES, from these kinds of uncontrolled acts of nature.

Let’s be wise and careful, and let’s use our smarts to protect the environment. This whole “Don’t touch it!” ideology has hurt my state.

It also hurt my home state Alaska, with people who want to treat the beautiful interior of Alaska as some kind of pinned-down insect. It’s not a dead, static thing. It’s a living place, and getting some people up there to get the oil out and spend a little attention on preservation will do a lot more to help the area than leaving it alone.

It’s time to change when we’ve been proven wrong. Don’t cling to outmoded ideas.

October 24, 2003 [fires and bus strikes]

I wish we’d all been ready

My new hometown in the middle of Los Angeles looks like a scene from the apocalypse today. We’ve had our troubles with grocery store strikes; we’ve had the buses come to a halt for a mechanic’s strike.

It is extremely hot, unseasonably hot-reaching the 100s. And the Santa Ana winds, the ones Raymond Chandler blames for murders have begun to wake up.

The heat, the wind and I believe the discontent have resulted in many fires in our surprisingly brambly metropolis. One in particular is out of control.

45 miles away, where I work and breathe, white ash flecks were raining down. I walked through the grand opening of disney hall, with red carpet and velvet ropes mutely broadcasting BY INVITATION ONLY. And just in case you didn’t get it, there were cadres of police security to remind you that YOU were NOT invited.

The cloned waitstaff lined the street in a military at-ease position, their red-vested backs to us, the unininvited. The huge metallic hall, more modern than the day after tomorrow is blurred by the thick air.

The commuters walk in lines to their cars, and the cars file in lines to the freeways, which are far from free at this time of day.

Some self-employed commuters in unwashed clothing hold cardboard signs for the cars driving by: “Hungry. Homeless. Need Help. Need Food. God Bless.”

At my space in the wavy asphalt, my sedan gathered small drifts of white ash.

October 18, 2003 (with notes)

*I’ve since been to Canter’s, Hollywood Bowl, but not Pink’s or the Beach yet.
So I’ve been here more than a year now. I still feel like I have no idea what’s going on. But the truth is, I ‘ve seen through a glass darkly what it is I have no idea about. I know more about what I don’t know about.

As I was walking to work today (yes, you read that right. SATURDAY. This is why I haven’t had time to explore my new city..bloody attorneys), I saw a “Best of 03” publication in the LA Weekly newpaper dispenser. I snagged it.

Thing’s the size of a phone book! Holey Moley! I’m keeping it, it is giving me all kinds of ideas of things to check out.

And it’s inspiring me to make my own list of random stuff. Here goes:


Pink’s Hot Dogs
Canter’s Deli
The Beach (aka Surfing)
Hollywood Bowl


Getty Museum
Free Shakespeare in the Park
Norton Simon Museum
Central Library
The Symphony (including the new Disney Hall)
Swing Dance lessons at the Derby
Museum of Contemporary Art (Twice!)
a bus
A night class at UCLA

Farmer’s Market
Concerts at the Greek Theater
had an extensive conversation with a dicey used merchandise store owner about said merchandise
the Soda Pop Fountain (mulholland fountain on Los Feliz Blvd by the 5)
Bought FOR PROMOTIONAL USE ONLY cd’s and movies from used cd stores
Bought vintage and obscure designer clothes from vintage and obscure shops
joined a book club
Celebrity sightings
done open mike performances
Had highly abstract conversations with just-met strangers about pursuing creativity and staying centered
Seen a Laker’s Game (Go Fisher!)


see original live theater ( oh wait, I did that…so do it MORE)
Drive to Mexico
go to hear authors and artists talk about their stuff
Drive to Vegas
Go to a dance club on Sunset Strip
Go the the H.O.B. Gospel Breakfast
Take a Yoga class

Just for starters.

I guess I ‘ve done a lot of activities that have a hushed-voice environment…the museums, the symphony…That’s due in part to the fact that my honey likes calm, contemplative places of beauty. He doesn’t feel like doing the loud and crazy stuff. I do that with other people.

There’s a ton of stuff I still want to do here. I suspect that there is no danger of running out of kick-ass fun stuff to do in Los Angeles. One of the biggest differences between LA and everywhere else I’ve lived is the willingness of the people in LA to do stuff.

The difficulty I’ve had in trying to start a group to do almost ANYTHING…Lord…Everyone seemed to just want to talk about doing cool stuff, but not actually start it.

HERE, I meet tons of ambitious motivated people who are willing to show up and do it. Maybe this place is the place where people come to make their dreams come true. They arrive with their sleeves already rolled up.

Maybe. I don’t know. What I do know is that I LOVE that about this city. You say, “Want to start a writing group?’
YES! and they do it.
“Want to work on a project with me?”

I love that kind of YES.

So I say YES to this city too. YES, let’s go do it!