Enjoying dinner in our new digs

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Life in the Lighthouse

22 October 2009 – First Day in the Lighthouse

Jasmine and I have managed to sell off quite a bit of our stuff. It has been a bit of a challenge for her to let go of some of the material attachments. One of the most difficult seems to be the understanding that our stuff is no longer worth what we paid for it. She has been fastidious about keeping all of the receipts for our big ticket items and offers to show them to anyone who shows interest in purchasing them; however no one has taken her up on it.

I keep telling her that no one cares how much we paid for something; they just want to know how little they are going to pay. She tells me it’s a woman thing and that I wouldn’t understand. All of the women I ask tell me it’s a Jasmine thing. That I can understand.

Nevertheless, we are selling quite a bit of stuff and finding good use for the things that we can’t sell. Only our dining set, washer/dryer, wicker chairs, and teak TV cabinet remain as the larger items to sell. Altogether, we paid $4,761 for the lot of them. At the current asking price, she’d like $3,325. I’d be content with far less just to be rid of them. But I’ve never been known to be one who gets very attached to material goods.

However, I still have a few piles of nostalgia in my office that I’ve managed to store up for myself over the last few years. Newspaper clippings for shows that I’ve been in. Original writings from the first draft of The Rucksack Letters. Stuff from college that I just can’t seem to let go of. High school yearbooks. Two decade’s worth of name tags from an assortment of different jobs. It’s really amazing all of the stuff that I’ve held on to.

Part of me thinks that some of it will one day have some monetary value, like the typewritten Rucksack manuscripts or the original screenplays. Part of me just likes to revel in my ego. Since I accidentally smashed our fire pit a few months ago, I’m going to have a ceremonial shredding of all of the crap I’ve held on to as I move on to this new life.

Fortunately, we were able to move in to the Lighthouse early. Life without a sofa is kind of hard and neither Jasmine nor I deal very well with being in flux.

We signed the papers last night at six and started moving some of the essentials in. Jasmine and I have very different definitions of what an essential is so we didn’t actually stop moving until almost ten. I of course slept like a rock. Jasmine had a little bit of a harder time. Since the house is right on Osprey, traffic on the road is a little heavier than our last house, and it is much nearer to Fruitville which offers four lanes of bad Florida drivers. The way the house is constructed, it is sort of in the shape of a megaphone so any noise I make downstairs when I get up in the morning, she hears in the bedroom as if I were right next to her.

The main structure is octoganal with three stories. The first two floors have a rectangular extention off of the back, due west. On the first floor, we usually enter through the back since the owners prefer we not open the front door to keep a low profile. We are, after all, living in a historical landmark. The back door opens into a galley kitchen which takes you into the living room. It also contains the refrigerator and a small folding table attached to the wall. A staircase which some would actually call a ladder runs up the north wall to the second floor.

The bedroom on the second floor is a little bit smaller than the living room due to the inward pitch of the walls. Still, it fits a full bed, has a small closet, and now contains a wardrobe that Dad and I remarkably maneuvered up the stairs this morning. Jasmine said the bathroom reminds her of a cruise ship, with a tiny sink, small window, and sliding glass doors on the shower.

The room on the third floor is even smaller than the bedroom. It’s pretty empty now, but one day soon, we’ll be getting a desk up there. However both of us are on laptops now, so I do the majority of my work on the couch. Still, though Jasmine and I are pretty comfortable with the 550 square feet of tight quarters, we know that there will be those occasions where we’ll need our own space. When that happens, I can banish her to the tower.

The animals seem to be taking to the new digs quite well. Our dog Gizmo still goes pretty rigid when we carry him up and down there stairs, but he’s loosening up. And our cat Misty, though she cried all morning, has really taken to the steps and is treating the entire structure as her own personal playground.

All in all, it’s a pretty good beginning to what should be an interesting year. Jasmine and I enter our third year of marriage next month. There were a few times we thought we wouldn’t make it, but we’ve managed to pull through so we’re in it for the long haul now. We pretty excited about the prospect of going to France next year and are taking a closer look at our online businesses in hopes of making them work well enough for us to allow us the opportunity without having to slum it over there too much. There will be plenty more about that later.

King Corn

For those who were shocked and amazed by the workings of the food industry in the documentary Food, Inc. There is another little known film that came out in 2006 that serves as a sort of compendium project. King Corn documents a year in the life of two Bostonians who lease an acre of land in Iowa to grow a crop of corn.

Ironically, the college chums, a couple of likeable fellows with an affinity for whiffle-ball and fast food, both had a great grandfather from the same county in Iowa. So once the two find a landowner to lease them the property and a farmer to help them plant their crop, they start to explore not only their familial roots, but the roots of the corn industry. As the corn grows, so does their search, bringing them to some truly eye-opening realizations about the US food industry.

Though a lot of the information has been touched on in films like Food, Inc. and Super Size Me as well as books like Fast Food Nation and The Omnivore’s Dilemma, King Corn delivers it from a different perspective. By telling the story from a would-be farmer’s perspective, the filmmakers are just as amazed as we are when they learn firsthand some of the inner workings of the agricultural industry. From the realization that US farmers are paid primarily through government subsidies since they often actually lose money on their crops to the fact that the majority of corn grown in Iowa is so genetically altered that it is not suitable to be eaten, even for those who have heard this information before, the film delivers it in such a compelling way that it seems fresh and consistently alarming.

The filmmakers deliver an evenhanded expose of the corn industry that doesn’t seem as scathing as so many documentaries of late have. Nevertheless, by the end, when they actually have to take their harvest to market, you can really feel their heartbreak as they sell their prize crop with no idea where it will be going or what it will be used for. Will it be one of the 20,000 acres of corn it takes just to sweeten the sodas consumed in Brooklyn, NY in one year? Will it be used to quickly fatten up cattle? Or will it be used in one of the thousands of other food products made primarily of corn?

The film points out that we now spend less of our income on food than any generation in history, and fewer of us are needed to produce that food. However, considering that we are sacrificing so much of the nutritional value to keep costs down in a society with an explosion of problems like obesity and obesity, we have to wonder if we shouldn’t reconsider our food budget. As one interviewee says of the government agricultural subsidies, “We subsidize the Happy Meals, but we don’t subsidize the healthy ones.” And yet so many of the farmers in the film insisted that if the American people demanded healthy food, they would be glad to grow it, but the current schism of quickly grown, high yield, low nutrition agriculture is going to be hard to break from. Nevertheless, considering that the impetus for the film was the realization that for the first time in history, this generation’s life expectancy is lower than the generation before, our diets need to become a higher priority.

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How am I going to get anything done now?

Yesterday, I leapt into the technological revolution and purchased an iPhone. When my wife informed me a few weeks ago that I was due for an upgrade, I dismissed it, quite content with my Blackjack. Then I had lunch with some friends last week who had iPhones of their own. While I was incredibly impressed with all of the gadgets and capabilities, it was the video aspect of the iPhone 3GS that won me over.

As a filmmaker, I’ve been limping along for awhile now. When I decided last year to focus primarily on my writing, I sold my good video camera, leaving me only with my Canon hand cam (primarily used for capturing due to its grainy and pixelated recording). However, there were still films I wanted to make. Possibly not big anything of any budget or anything for any money, but I tend to enjoy doing smaller, more passionate projects anyway.

Nevertheless, when I recently got a new laptop computer that would help me write wherever I want without having to set up the portable but cumbersome Palm Pilot and wireless keyboard on which I had written my last book and screenplay, it came without a firewire port. This meant that even if I could afford to purchase another copy of Adobe Premiere Pro to edit on and a camera with the picture quality to make it worthwhile, I would have no way to capture from it.

And then I saw the images captured on the iPhone. Granted, the screen was small, but it looked so much crisper than anything I had ever thought to record on my Blackjack. A little more research, and I realized that Windows Movie Maker was quite suitable for what I would want to edit. Not being that technically adept, I never really used most of the capabilities that Adobe Premiere Pro offered anyway.

So, since we are moving to a new place with lower rent and lower utility bills, I discussed the iPhone with my wife, and we decided to purchase one.  For the waking portion of the last twenty four hours, I have been figuring out how to best use it and spending inordinate amounts of that time playing with apps. Did you know that you can make your iPhone sound like a lightsaber?

Have the Right taken over Amazon?

I recently wrote and posted a review of Threshold by Thom Hartmann. When I went to Amazon to get the link so that my readers could purchase a copy, I did a search for “Threshold.” Considering that Thom Hartmann is an extremely vocal Progressive (some would say Liberal), I found it incredibly odd that his book was the seventh in the list of results, the first several were books by the notoriously Conservative Glenn Beck, none of whose books have anything to do with the word “Threshold,” and the other was a Conservative manifesto by someone named Mark Levin.

What’s going on here? Why would Glenn Beck’s book come up when I’m looking for Thom Hartmann? Is it a conservative conspiracy? Have they infiltrated the Amazon search engine in hopes of dissuading free thinkers from gaining access to ideas that are contrary to theirs? Very odd.

Just in case, now more than before, I highly recommend everyone get a copy of Threshold and read it cover to cover.

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Crossing the Threshold

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Thom Hartmann is a man of many voices. To many, he is the harbinger of optimism for those afflicted with Attention Deficit Disorder. To others, he is a guide to conscious living in such books as The Greatest Spiritual Secret of the Century, The Prophet’s Way, and The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight. To more still, he is the radio talk show host and political analyst who penned What Would Thomas Jefferson Do?: A Return to Democracy and Screwed: The Undeclared War on the Middle Class. With his latest book, Hartmann has truly crossed the threshold to becoming one of the most lucid voices of the Progressive movement.

In many ways an amalgam of many of his previous books, Threshold: The Crisis of Western Culture serves not only as a cautionary proclamation of our unsustainable lifestyles, but also a guide to getting us back on the right track toward environmental sustainability, working democracy, and social justice. Hartmann highlights three main areas where Western Culture and the Capitalist/Consumerist mentality have impacted the planet: the Environment, the Economy, and the Population. He then outlines the four mistakes which have led to the perils we face and how we can correct them. Hartmann postulates that the greatest detriment to our future is our way of thinking. If we can only change that and look at the world and our interaction with it from a different perspective, we can avoid what could possibly result in the extinction of mankind.

First, we need to stop thinking of humankind as something separate from nature. Though we like to classify ourselves as more than animals because of our opposable thumbs and ability to philosophize, it is imperative that we realize the planet is a living organism of which we are a part. It is not something that we can beat into submission, but a part of ourselves for which we must take care.

Secondly, we must unravel the myth that our free market economy is the natural order of things and the only way to run a democratic society. With the misguided acceptance of a corporation as a person though it needs no food, water, shelter or any other basic human need, America is coming perilously close to becoming completely “corporatized” and sacrificing the experiment of democracy for fascism. Hartmann demonstrates the truly natural order of democracy and the unfortunate plight of 95% of our wealth and decision-making being placed into the hands of .01% of the population.

Third, we need to validate the role of women throughout the world and empower them. Hartmann reveals the differences in societies that honor women and those that treat them as the property of man. By realizing the wisdom they offer and empowering them to make their own decisions, our population crisis could be averted, abortions would be largely minimalized, and balance could return to our society.

Lastly, we need to realize that we cannot bomb the world into democracy and force the world to like us through violence. Just as we need to realize our unity with nature, we as Americans need to realize our connection to the rest of the world. The ongoing tragedy of our fear-based reaction to terrorism is not only that we are depleting our financial and human resources, but that we are also disintegrating our souls and becoming exactly like the enemies we have sworn to rub out. To truly oppose the activity of terrorism and to gain allies around the world, our own activities must be those of creation and not destruction.

As an author and researcher, Hartman weaves a stunning array of information into an accessible page-turner that should be considered required reading for everyone in the Progressive movement. He pulls no punches in his disdain for the conservative ideology and the desire to trade democracy for the feudal “corporatocracy” of fascism. To those who continually decry the role of government and view it as an enemy to be fought against, Hartmann reminds us that in America our government is supposed to be comprised of the People, was created for the People, and must be reclaimed by the People.

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