Monday, 1 December 2008

Quantum Toaster of Improbability


The last time I wrote I was in Los Angeles and engaged in the art of smearing my presence all over the planet. It makes for a rather thin layer. I am not fond of thin layers really… especially not on toast. And this is a story about a toaster…

I like thick layers of whatever it is I have to hand. Even though it is a mood based issue - say like a base layer of goat's milk butter, followed by half an inch of creamy ripe avocado, some houmous, sprouts, tomato, cucumber, salami, roast pumpkin seeds and pepper (see pic). That may sound excessive but it is not and it is a meal in itself with all the nutrients you may require. On occasions the base layer of toast is almost just an edible plate on which all that scrummy goodness is balanced. But the quality of the toast is indeed essential to the sandwich. And bread is no more acceptable a substitute than cold water is instead of a hot shower on a winter's day with boiler troubles and no central heating (my current strife).
Anyway as I mentioned last read I was in Los Angeles. Now I am in London. I've been back a month. Back in my own house. Hooray. Its been good. It's the first time I've been in the same place for more than 15 days this whole year. More on THAT later. You see I seem to live my life at a pace and fullness which can cut out achieving some important things.

And here’s the example to somewhat illustrate – I love toast. It can be as comforting as a nice cup of tea and a sit down. But I no longer have a toaster. I used to have a fabulous gas stove with a lovely built-in grill that made superb toast and magical cheesey toasties (would you believe they make toasted cheese in pots on the stove in Canada, quite well admittedly but seems odd no?). But that stove broke and my landlords replaced it with a really rubbish thing that has an internal grill but its a real ball-ache to get to work and you have to have the door open for it to function which is a major design flaw and annoyance. So in this entire month I have not yet managed the minor achievement of purchasing one. I have been into an Argos store 3 times. Argos stores are catalogue stores. You look in a catalogue, find a product code, fill out a slip, pay then wait while in the depth of the store warehouse someone finds your toaster and sends it a collection point for you. All for £6.92. However I keep arriving at the store, filling the slip out then seeing a huge queue and catalogue shopping being an imprecise science, realising I don’t have time to do this before my yoga class on a, for example, Monday evening at 7pm. Well I probably do have time but these classes always fill up and become super packed and that’s such a drag being rushed going in and getting a bad spot etc... So I leave just thinking I will return the next day earlier or somesuch. But then my day fills up with all manner of more important things of great consequence! So I just keep putting it off even though, as mentioned I love toast. That juicy warmth... Yum...

Its Sunday night 30 Nov. All is well (aside for the heating issue). I was out with friends in Hoxton Square and left to return home – a drink or three having been imbibed. I was on my bike. I planned to go a certain way home – which would’ve meant going the wrong way up a one-way street on my bike with no front light. I was meeting a friend at my place and she was in a car leaving from the same bar so I was in a hurry being the proud cyclist in London determined to prove my simple transport quicker than the planet’s most popular A to B polluter. But something prompted me to take a new and slightly different route, realising it might actually be quicker. This shortcut as it happened was also the right and most sensible way for me to go resulting in me going the right way up a one-way street. But before I got to the street I traversed a pedestrianised section. And there on the side, shivering up against a brick wall was a sodden toaster (see picture). A 2-slot 4-slice configuration in white with some light turquoise details, brand unclear “D” logo. Something plastic stuck in its maw.

Naturally I was quite intrigued at this fortuitous find – it being precisely what I needed. It had about it every look of being a lost pet, bewildered and bedraggled. The remoteness of position, time of night and weather conditions made it highly unlikely that its owner intended to collect it. But why would someone abandon a working toaster. Then again why would someone bring a broken toaster to THIS place and abandon it there? Did this toaster run away from an abusive home or excitedly wander out for an adventure after some errant child left the kitchen door open and now it can’t find its way back to the pantry. Or had it been drinking? So I wondered – was the universe gifting me a toaster? Sure I hoped that would be the case.

At any rate, I was in a hurry (noted again) so I scooped it up and cycled with it under my arm back to mine. I put it on my kitchen table and marveled at the improbability of this circumstance. The universe will provide that which you seek and ask for. And even that which it knows you need.

But I have yet to test it. You see I was inspired by it to write this tale. And being of inquiring mind I thought I would be authentically journalistic about the experience and document the events as or nearly as they happened. So it still remains to be seen if the toaster works or not. I have no central heating so it is super cold but I do have some wonderful fresh sourdough bread purchased just today which would make super wonderful toast. Mmm… just the thing to survive a night of beastly British winter.

I introduced the toaster to my friend Anette who had arrived by car by now (ha! victory is the cyclists) and she raised the fear prospect that I could electrocute myself on it or do some sort of other damage. Now I very much doubt that I will but it is worth bearing in mind as a possibility though that would be ultra-random by the universe. Then again Aeschylus the Greek Father of Tragedy was killed by a tortoise dropped by an eagle who, intent on smashing the tortoises shell. mistook his bald head as a rock.

This all sort of reminds me of Schrodinger’s Cat. A philosophical quantum thought experiment:

Schrödinger's Cat: A cat, along with a flask containing a poison, is placed in a sealed box shielded against environmentally induced quantum decoherence. If a Geiger counter detects radiation then the flask is shattered, releasing the poison which kills the cat. Quantum mechanics suggests that after a while the cat is simultaneously alive and dead. Yet, when we look in the box, we see the cat either alive or dead, not a mixture of alive and dead. (wikipedia description and diagram...)

Whatever. I prefer the "Lobstonian Text and Voicemail". Turn your phone off, then you won’t know if that cute love-interest has left you a message yet or not. Either your social life is alive or dead. If you turn the phone on then you may find out that they have not and be bitterly disappointed like its the end of the world… but until the time you do turn the phone on you can bask in the golden valley of hope.

So too, I am enjoying the hope that this is a fully functional toaster. And if I turn it on I might be disappointed (and lumped with a useless appliance, I, in my turn need to dump). Anyway it is next to me and my typing is causing the table to jiggle just slightly which in turn is making the toaster’s innards rattle slightly like its purring or communicating with me.

I removed a milky bar wrapper from its innards (maybe that was what was confusing it and drove it madly out of its safe environment) and gave it a clean like one would a stray and its cord got all-a-waggling like a dog’s so I am thinking of it as a hound. And its male. Anette explained it is Der Toaster (sp?) in German not Die Toaster. So I will go with that… And while I find the improbability of the situation very amusing, in the event of it functioning, I have a very light feeling of guilt regarding ownership.

So I plan to paste a poster “FOUND - Male Toaster, white 2-slot, 4-slice Sunday 30 Nov off Hoxton Square. Call 07958 613 466 to reclaim.” With a photo and well if no-one comes forward to claim it then I will mark this event as example A and really trust the universe to provide.

aaarrgrghhhhhh ok – I can take it no longer – I must have toast!!!!!!!!!!!!!! lemme at it!

Ok the toaster is on… it sort of smells and looks like it might be working but the proof is in the toasting! And like a watched pot never boiling, watched toast takes much longer than it should. So I am recording the moment on my camera in the background, it’ll pop up and we’ll take it from there. There it goes!!!! Be still my beating heart… bugger inconclusive… stick it back in – there are worrying signs of a lack of filament in the middle… ooooo the disappointment and dashed hopes…

Darn it – there are vital pieces missing so it only toasts on one side. This is effectively a non-functioning toaster – one cannot be bothered with a toaster that only toasts one side really… and that’s a shame. Though it was still so much easier than that bloody grill. So what is very clear is that I should make the time to ensure I get a toaster asap. No more messing around.

And for the toast I did manage to get out I had the last of the goat’s milk butter with peanut butter and almost the last of the blackberry jam I got from the Frey’s vineyard in Mendocino county, California. And THEY are worth an entry all for themselves! And in time they’ll get it!

Ok its 0143am. I should’ve been asleep a long time ago… but I guess I am just doing what I was taught to do… creatively writing from my own experience.

And I am a little disappointed… after all it would’ve been really funny. So let’s analyse this in terms of cliché’s….

If something looks too good to be true it probably isn’t …

Slow time down so the next decision is the right one … missing filaments from a toaster are obvious problems even or especially late at night in the rain on a bicycle.

Hope springs eternal and one can really set oneself up for one’s own falls though its also a safe way to fulfill man’s need for suffering.

Post script… resolved to buy a toaster today. I still managed to think of several other things more important to do and finally only at 4.15pm left the office and just damn well bought the thing. Except that the model I wanted was out of stock. So I bought another at nearly twice the price… haha.

A curiosity to note was that 4.15 today was also the prime moment to watch the conjunction of Venus, Jupiter and the moon with Venus being occluded by the moon. Its rather rare. And as usual I did not get to see it because it was cloudy in London. So it goes. But my long-awaited toaster was acquired under its auspices nonetheless.

My next mission… get a new toothbrush…

Ho hum.

Monday, 3 November 2008

15 - Still Burning

Still Burning (Brighter than ever!)

So back to Burning Man I went. 3rd time in a row… is its brightness diminished? It seems not…

This is not going to be an exhaustive account – rather just a group of observations and anecdotes…

I have attached some snaps (thanks to Terri too) but all of my shots are available here:

I’ll start with some negatives about this year’s Burn… dusty… very very dusty… more dusty just on the first day than in the whole of last year!

TOOO much to do – its really an overload and I went into the week adamant that I would do the Monkey Chant (see Baraka tribal silly business) and a yoga class… but I failed in both endeavours. I don’t feel bad about this – I had remarkable experiences instead but they remain as things I would like to experience out there… so next year, it shall be!

Walking is the new cycling – normally it is very fun and easy to whizz all over the place on my specially decorated snow-leopard bike but this year the desert floor was very sandy and thus cycling in the wide expanse was nowhere near as easy… AND someone else hadn’t heard that walking was the best option and stole my bike on the last day… it was locked up but the lock was a bit flimsy and could easily be broken. It also puts paid to the idea that people are less likely to steal a bike that has been extremely decorated! Darn it.

I spent considerable this year time checking out the ART. There was a lot and but I feel that the art this year was not nearly as impressive as in the first 2 years I went. There was good art this year but in 2006 and 2007 there were some really standout items that blew me away! These were partly due to their size and extravagance (Beaver Dam/ Waffle/ Big Rig Jig/ Oil Derrick) but also to their interactive ingenuity (Ping Pong Balls aka Cubitron/ Monkeys/ Serpent Mother). This year seemed to lack that… though there was a pretty cool 11-story structure that provided a great view… see pic of bendy-bus at night with giant flag. And hey wait a minute there was a giant 50’ high tetris game that was pretty funny too… but my favourite piece of art was a painting tucked away in a side section in the excellently atmospheric Entheon Village by Mark Hammond… I do not have a shot of it but I loved it sooooooo much. A quick google has revealed that Mark Hammond is a common name… whoever did THIS piece of work that I saw is almost certainly not the artist of the same name operating out of the UK doing some pretty simple abstract 8 brush-stroke pieces that I have found so far ('my' guy must've used around 30 million brushstrokes on his piece, mostly orange and blue – 2 reclining figures smooching but everything turning into a fractal pattern which was made up of minute but detailed pairs of every type of animal, bird, fish, lobster etc interacting and ‘being’ – intense, remarkable, astounding, sumptuous, thought-provoking and capable of spreading a warm sense of well-being through me). But I shall spend more time looking for this…tried good old google again – still no luck… more musicians than artists this time. Overall it might sound a bit like I was complaining about the art but I know art is subjective and I am hugely appreciative for all the artists that did take the time to put their work out there on the playa for our enjoyment. Just making the point that I did not see any super large-scale stuff that made me go WOW – that’s cool! Anyway here’s a shot of the giant Hummer art which fitted into this year’s Theme of the American Dream. The ‘theme’ is always given a good kicking by the participants as being lame or inappropriate. I normally do just ignore it – the event is so much more than the ‘theme’ and I appreciate that the organisers cannot please all 50000 city inhabitants with one theme. Whatever the theme I am still going to go. But I would say that this year it did seem a little bit extra lame to me... Next year’s theme is Evolution and I certainly feel more affinity with that! And subject to what happens to me in the year ahead I plan to bring a piece of my own art to the playa. “Hoarse” as exhibited in the Climate of Change exhibition on the South Bank in London last year. Its time I shut up and contributed something significant out there other than my own brand of wandering participatory interactionism.

So the good stuff… Well, one thing was absolutely clear to me – the best thing about this year for me was people. I was incredibly drawn to strangers and to interacting with them. This did mean that I spent less time with the (all incredible) people in my own camp. I think this was due to the lure of the unknown. In that instant of initial encounter I was able to be exactly who I wanted to be and indeed am free of any prior knowledge or conceptions. Of course one can do this at any time but out on the playa it is that much easier and attractive to do so.

Here are a few snaps of a few of the people whose paths I did cross and acquaint with. These were all incredible people who inspired me to interact openly with them exactly as I would like to – the shots can barely reveal their multi-faceted characters. These people were not remarkable for their outfits or anything overtly apparent but rather for the ease and depth of the energetic exchange they and I shared. There were MANY others but this year I took very few shots so the selection is quite inadequate. And I am fine about that too. I am certain that it was better to focus on the experiences and not on photographing things. Burning Man is so much about PARTICIPATION that photography often feels like SPECTATING. There is a lot of ‘pressure’ at Burning Man to PARTICIPATE but one should remember that participation could at times be providing an audience to a performance. For example firespinners – in cases like that you participate by providing that appreciative audience… but get involved in something else to be sure and partake of all that people have made the effort to bring to the desert be that roller disco, crazy golf, a pyramid made of baseball bats or free French fries late at night!

Anyway one evening while watching some incredible fire spinners doing their amazing things I befriended a couple of just off-duty Black Rock Rangers. I thanked them for their efforts at keeping us safe and all that and gifted them a few things (stickers wrapped around chapsticks, Licenses2Live and I Heart Life Buttons). We then chatted for some time – an excellent pair – I think they were just on the cusp of becoming a couple and I hope so because that was the assumption I had made on their behalf. Anyway the girl, on her 5th ‘burn’ volunteered that her 3rd ‘burn’ had been pivotal in that it was that year she clicked into doing just what she wanted to do. She knew by then that everyone there wants your participation in whatever it is they have set-up and for you to present your authentic self. And as per above, I couldn’t agree more.

This year, there were many moments in which I found myself caught lightly between duty/desire and insecurity/motivation. And on reflection, even the ‘duty’ was light pressure stuff that I worried more about than I should have. I chose to just do and go where I wanted to. The most poignant of these was whether to stick to my “Greeter’ shift on Wednesday night or to go on Art Appreciation with the 1st Republic of Slacking (Slacktoria and Slack Franciscans – I am a Slack African). I felt the duty of greeting and it had been a major highlight of my 2007 burn and I had officially volunteered but then again Art Appreciation, which I’d missed in 2007, had been THE highlight of 2006. Following the lead of camp-mate Wontastic, I examined my feelings regarding what it was that I really wanted to do. I found it was easy to say I wanted to be with Slacktoria for this experience and chose in favour of Art Appreciation. And I am thankful for doing so as it was once again an incredible time and probably my best or 2nd best night at Burning Man ever. Funny and inspiring. And all it took to allay my feelings of guilt was to go and apologise to the Greeters and warn them that afternoon that they were going to be 2 short that evening. They seemed surprised that we were even letting them know but thankful of course that we were!

OK I’ll own up… I was a bit chicken and got a friend to go tell the Greeters Camp that Doctor Lobster and Golden Arse (another friend who was ditching greeting that night for Art Appreciation) were unable to attend. I wait outside for my friend to make our excuses. While doing so, I, in my Yeti Overlord outfit (Doctor Lobster’s dark shamanic side - see pic of Golden Arse and I posing it up at The Deep End), am interviewed by a Swedish Television station. It was relatively amusing and I gave them some good silliness to record… The presenter was a Burning Man Virgin but admitted that they had not been given the traditional on-entry Virgin spanking by the greeters when they arrived! As we were at Greeters camp I insisted this wrong be righted! And there was no way I was going to let a TV crew get away without PARTICIPATING. So hopefully there is some footage being shown in Sweden of me spanking the presenter. And relax its just silly irreverent lightness. Anyway it was rather all fun and good spirits. With any luck my estranged sister will see it. No doubt she still won’t talk to me though. So it goes.

And a big thank you to Kris and Jo (and anyone else) from our camp who went and greeted that night in our place!

Backing up to Art Appreciation – what a crazy night. Forty people get together, take acid and try to stick together all night while wandering around the dark wide open desert appreciating the art and of course each other’s company. Sticking together is half the fun and quite tricky as there are so many distractions with tons of wink blink lights, crazy art cars, fun folk, dancing options. It is dark and we cover a lot of ground, but employing the age-old buddy and meta-buddy system with the incredibly resilient and adhesive qualities imbued by Trevor, Lianne (even with her undercover buddy) and my distinctive el-wired top hat the whole ‘Shit Show’ managed to stay together until about 4am by which time everyone’s water, juice, grub and strange crazy winky-blinky tricks have run out so we returned to camp to replenish. Extra points definitely do go to Trevor’s blue muppet as the best funny trick though I think my extreme glowing bright red delicious and nutritious Chernobyl worms must rank a good second. Some of you actually ATE them – haha – good on ya. Anyway the return to the camp separated the lightweights out and the dawn squad of 7 of us (see pic) continued the adventure. We saw the day in at HOME (see pics) a super great cozy loungey theme camp in a prime location. And for those of you who do not know – ALL of this stuff has nothing to do with the organisers but is built and provided by the general participants (i.e. you) at the event for your entertainment. And is open and free to everyone!

While watching the sun rising we observed a befuddled cyclist ride straight into this huge ball and fall over. This snap was taken just after he had righted himself. How do you not notice THAT!?

We took the Safety Third route home via a tightrope walk (see pic) and then, one of our number, Dustin, voices his desire to play Twister… Immediately this chap pictured offers us his spare twister set as a gift… This is good example of a relatively common type of occurrence of synchronicity that goes down at BM. Voice a desire for a thing or object and lo, it appears! The wonder of the Gifting economy…

And here a few shots from our camp Recharge Ranch – specifically a very special Dr Lobster sign (Always Fresh) made by good friend Gem. Another shot taken by our neighbours of Warwick just finishing setting up… This is a rephotographed print given to us by the folks across the street from us. A very surprising gift to receive in the middle of the desert!

One of the nicest exchanges I had was with a couple Jess and Alyssa (see snap above). These 2 lovelies were so cool. I encountered them briefly on the playa and then saw them again on top of the 11-story tower. Turned out they were virgins and had arrived a mere 2 hours before our encounter and that this was pretty much the first thing they were doing. I asked what kind of initiation they’d got from the Greeters when they’d arrived. They said they had got to ring a bell. I asked if they had got their spanking too? “No!” they said. “Well”, I said, “It is your right! And I am a deputised Greeter so we can rectify this wrong right here right now!” And produced the ever-popular vibrawhip once again… We chatted and laughed and connected and it was all super great. When it got around to introduction time and I revealed my identity as Doctor Lobster – they burst out laughing. Turns out that they or perhaps just he had once been in a band called Doctor Lobster and the Dolphinettes! But that Doctor Lobster never ever made it to a gig and the Dolphinettes always had to play alone and come up with a new excuse as to why Dr L was unable to attend that night. Apparently they even had a shrine built to Dr L! And now that had finally met me! Naturally I apologised but pointed out that I was very seldom in this dimension and if they’d please not mention to anyone our meeting, as I felt awfully bad about never actually getting around to attending even a single gig. When we parted a while later, Jess said they felt like they had just been born into this world. To which I replied: “And what was the first thing that happened to you after your birth? The doctor spanked you!” Badabing.

I made sure I re-encountered these 2 at their camp, which turned out to be the one with the tightrope. This also turned out to be a group of chiropractors offering their realignment techniques free to those in need of them. I took great care to give these 2 my contact details but I managed to not get theirs, or else I’ve lost them and all memory of getting them and now I have no way of getting hold of them… just hoping that they one day get hold of me! Well - so it goes…

Another excessively fun themed and interactive art event a few of us enjoyed one night early on in the week (and not the ‘art appreciation’ evening) was the Department of Dreamland Security. See pic, This gang had erected this giant skull and crossbones enclave topped with barbed wire and aside from being pink and covered in a brain-like pattern it was kind of intimidating. You went through a tunnel guarded by some very stern people who gave you a very bureaucratic form to fill out along with the instructions to not talk to anyone else, not pass contraband and not to try to have fun while you were here. They would bark and shout at anyone who tried to say anything. Very stern indeed. The Dreamland Visa application form was exhaustive and authentic with all manner of questions about whom you were planning to dream about and whether or not you had been refused a dream visa before, or had ever engaged in subversive dream terrorism etc. When you THOUGHT you had filled out the whole thing you showed it to a set of guards who tutted and noted SOMETHING you had done wrong and would make you redo something. Finally that was acceptable, they issued you with a passport and you had to wait in a queue to enter another building.

For some reason I was awarded VIP status and rushed through the queue to the head and let in (probably just to annoy the others and increase the authentic wait they were having! Though I did offer the guards a few gifts, which might’ve acted as an implicit bribe haha). Inside another room filled with security cameras and screens, a guard checked my passport, asked me some awkward questions about why I wanted to enter the dream of my choice and then stamped a visa in the passport and cheerfully announced that I was free to enter my dream. I passed through a yellow and black chevron door to the sound of a loud klaxon. This door just led out the back of their construction onto the playa replete with all its amazing splendour. It was a very authentic bureaucratic visa experience with a remarkably good job done by the organisers. They really made it feel like school or governmental in a very fun way even though you were NOT allowed to have fun. And the result of it was absolutely perfect. Coming out their space was exactly like stepping into the most wonderful of creative dreams. And Burning Man certainly does do that for me – its helps me fully realise much of my potential and allows me to know that the only way to live your dreams is to make them a reality! Yay for that… Great effort from a great gang! 1000 thanks! And you know that this was ART so I take back a bit of what I wrote above… there was some great stuff!

And then there was another dust storm…

And then they burned the man… (pic pre-burn)

And then they burned the temple… (pic)

And then we had to leave which was super easy at 6am Monday morning – we just drove out without stopping in half an hour (unheard of!). I think many people had left on the preceding 2 days when the dust storms came in.

Only then our RV broke-down (pic). But at least it was right next to the Empire Store so we had access to tea and a telephone for the 10 hours wait to get towed to Reno. We also had to leave some of our stuff behind and drive through the night to get back to LA on Tuesday morning in a rental Jeep.

All that could still not dampen my spirits though! It was, once again, an excellent journey. I do feel like I am going “Home” when I am in Black Rock City and sharing myself with all the others there. This year was perhaps less outrageous than last year but that might also be down to the the kind of year I have had – traveling all over the place with minimal responsibilities. It allowed me to approach BM this year quite calmly. Treating it pretty much as ‘just’ another stop on my travels and doing the same type of things that I might’ve done in any city I went to – seek out some good people, climb the highest thing I can find and live my life my way.

Will I go again? Hell yeah! Hope to see you there…

I have not written much about what Burning Man is as I have done that before. Rather I am just leaving you with a few tiny titbits of an experience that has to be lived to understand. And if you want to read more about what the Burning Man event is, as written by myself – then go to these links on my blog.

2006 Burning Bloody Man

2007 Part 1 With Goose-like Tread Upon the Way I Steal

2007 Part 2 The High!!!

Or to the site itself

Much Love

Doctor Lobster

Thursday, 11 September 2008

14a - No-thing is the Key to Something

Within one’s life there comes an important moment.

It is the moment of NO-THING

It is easily confused with NOTHING

They appear very alike. Yet while one is doing NO-THING, the wheels of indolence are grinding away deep within the well of one’s creativity. Grind grind grind they go, revolving and machinating. It’s a curiosity that even while one is doing no-thing there is always something going on. If it were not so then why would it be so pleasurable to rest after doing no-thing?

So. Just so in fact.

This all brings one to wonder what NO-THING is. Well, I believe it’s a threshold state. Those indolent wheels are doing whatever mysterious work they need to do to make one simply stop the nothing and start the something. Indolence does not answer to the laws of societal gravity. Instead Indolence revolves in the dim light of Languid Languishing. And by that light many a fancy is considered and laid back down to rest, stillborn as an idea of the world. Until one among them all provides a spark to ignite the fuse, blow the keg, burst the dam and flood across the realm of action. Whether enough water has flowed under a bridge, off a duck’s back, or a coil is wound, a bridge crossed, an empty glass half-filled who knows. But the period of no-thing ends in a flurry of activity.

Becoming ok about being in a state of NO-THING is a necessary precursor to returning to the world of SOMETHING as an inspired contributor.

I have thrived this year by having to hand a ready clutch of handy yet flexible plans. Its meant my course has had motivation. This course has led me to munch my way through one tasty experience after another just like the hungriest of caterpillars. It is no surprise to me that this period has contained many references to The Little Prince. It is my favourite book. And within it my favourite line is: “Everything that is essential is invisible to the eye”. Caterpillars only feature in it quite early on when the author speaks of the questions that adults find important. He ridicules adults as being interested in things such as a person’s age, or how much he earns and so on whereas adults ignore the most interesting questions about a person such as whether or not someone likes caterpillars or what their favourite colour is... Mine is normally a deep emerald mossy green like in this picture of these stones...

Thus far, this year I have been in all 4 hemispheres of this Earth. I have been under the Moon, ridden the waters of 3 oceans, climbed a mountain, paid tribute to my tribe, established love within some stones, buried the ‘parents’ of my childhood and loved the parents I still have, forgiven everyone and myself, faced death and ‘died’ only to rise refreshed and aware that I am able to use my past to brighten my future. In doing this I harmonised the 4 parts of my being and received planning permission for the necessary character building still to come. All of this has added to an understanding that there are alternate realities. And the knowledge that one can move between these as required. It’s an exhausting list and I feel like a crazed prospector dusty from blasting dynamite yet laden now with the chore of collecting and refining many tons of experience-bearing ore. But being so used to blasting I was a little uncertain of doing this NO-THING.

You see, right now I have no specific plans or goals, I am waiting to hear news of a film, which if it happened will provide the necessary emphasis for another phase of life. Oh sure I have SOME plans but they are just a week in Shanghai area around 22 July next year for another eclipse and Burning Man at the end of August but other than that I am shamelessly lounging in Los Angeles. But here’s the catch… the loot is running low so I am accepting that another film is a good idea in order to restock the coffers… and it does limit me somewhat in where I can go and for how long…

But now I know the way the spot a valley - having nothing to do but everything to choose from. Thus I hold in one hand my powerlessness and in the other my destiny.

So, for now, I really am going to do NO-THING. And I am going to feel good while I do it.

Provided I stop eating so much dried mango too... My tummy hurts. I wonder if a caterpillars tummy hurts before they cocoon themselves? Maybe I should have just one more piece of mango…

But as I wrote above I believe NO-THINGNESS is an exciting threshold period. It’s just like being a pupating caterpillar. Its lethargy could be the hallmark of succumbing to banality or death or it is the prerequisite stage before an improbable metamorphosis to a creature wholly and entirely different. Time will tell. And if it is metamorphasis it will also be interesting to see what emerges – butterfly, moth or fly!

Seems like i do not have a shot of a moth with which to represent that possibility...

Now move on to Scales of Reality

14b - Scales of Reality

Last week I realised and made great use of the ability to shift realities.

I was being set-up (by myself) on the advise of society to deprive the world, myself and others of an excellent friendship in the name of the pain of rejected intimacy. That one needs to retreat into solitude to heal when one has been hurt.

You see Society’s advice by necessity has to work for everyone within it. As such it needs to cover the lowest common denominator. This generally makes its methods cautious and time-consuming. I am not saying that Society’s advice is wrong just that if one is cunning one can usually find a better way to do it. Though I will concede one does run the risk of falling on one’s face. And only time will tell on THAT.

For my own part I was also allowing some pretty low-level patterns to intrude on my life and cause some trouble. These are patterns that I regard as relatively childish and puerile.

They are in no particular order:
• Not accepting no for an answer
• Melodramatic / have to push an issue
• Stubborn
• Must have my own way
• Moping / Sulking
• Holding a grudge / lash out / get vengeance
• Things have to be bad
• Backed into a corner
• Self-destructive
• Obsessed with sex and possession

Earlier in the year I completed the Hoffman Process (I'll post something directly about this soon) and did a lot of valuable work disconnecting from these patterns. That they rose again is testament to the strength of the lessons learned in our childhood and just perhaps I was reverting to ‘type’ after the very successful conclusion of all my life’s plans for the year!

Anyway I was able, through a very conscious decision, to sweep these aside and be the bigger person I’d like to be. This was also assisted of course by the lessons of the year’s travel – that alternate’s to this default reality do exist!

Some of the core loopholes I used were:

1) I live life according to my own rules

2) I make them up as I go along.

3) I will give as much as I can to this world for as long as my heart beats and there is a tooth left in my mouth with which to gnaw on the bones of life in search of marrow.

4) Basking in the afterglow of Burning Man and the Eclipse trip to Mongolia. These heady experiences make it difficult to mope about for very long as they were so inspirational and give one an enhanced appreciation of absolutely EVERYTHING

5) Yoga – hard Yoga, every day. I find the power of sweaty focused exercise an incredible resource for guidance and enlightenment.

6) The negative provides a perfect starting point/mirror from or in which one can see the positive alternative. Anything DEFINITE provides you with a platform to know what you do NOT want and then you can use that as your pushing off point to go somewhere (anywhere) else positive.

7) If your only tool is a hammer you will treat every problem like a nail. If you only have bristling defences then you will treat every interaction like an attack.
Have no need of a defence by not being a target. And if you aren’t a target you’ll not get attacked (so much if it after all is in one’s own head)

This last corresponds to being a victim and the pattern of ‘things have to be bad’. They don’t have to be… so when they are not don’t try to make them.

It worked for me. And I think the key ingredient’s are loophole 1 and 2.

Returning to the concept of scale and this year. Most of what I have done has given me a substantial appreciation for scale. Eclipses hint at the size of the galaxy by making it just that much more obvious to observe things such as the sun and moon. The Hoffman Process showed the wonder of our inner workings and how an unkind work spoken at the wrong moment can cast a longer shadow than a kind word said at the right moment! Mongolia’s landscapes are all about crazy scales. And Burning Man – well it’s an event on a scale in a location that defies belief.

What is also remarkable is the way in which we are so damn tiny and yet all of this practically infinite multiverse can be rendered utterly irrelevant simply by one of our own experiences or emotions.

This piece of writing is not exactly about very much. But that is just the way it is... just some creative writing for its own sake really. As after all I am clearly doing SOMETHING not nothing...

Next up some stuff about Burning Man...

But wait there's more... have a look at this image below…

Now click on it and see the real scale!

Tuesday, 12 August 2008

13 - E5 Mongol-time

I am a man prone to using the words “the greatest” in somewhat less than short supply. Some may say this is due to being judgemental. We are warned against being such with phrases like “judge and ye shall be judged”. But I don’t think its all bad. For example it is deemed positive to be a good judge of character. At any rate there are 2 reasons I use those words. One is that I can and am willing to make certain qualitative judgements or decisions regarding events in my life. In accordance with there being no such thing as an ordinary moment I regard all my ‘moments’ as significant but my internal measuring system allows me to accept certain as and when they occur as being the “GREATEST XXX”. Of course I offer no definition regarding “greatest”. You’ll also have noticed the “XXX” which is the second reason I use “the greatest” a fair amount. I invariably apply a rather specific noun or description of “the greatest” thing as a get-out-of-misinterpretation-jail-free-card. For example the “greatest weekend” may well not have included my “greatest night” or my “greatest moment”.

So this trip to Mongolia... Well... It’s been the Greatest Expedition I have ever undertaken.

And I choose that last word carefully.

All of our lives tell a story and all stories have an ending and they all end the same way.

For the most part Death may as well shout itself hoarse for all the attention we’re going to pay it until its usually untimely arrival.

At the end of mine I know I die. I have a feeling it will be one the most beautiful things I ever do. On this trip I paid death some attention and I feel exquisitely alive.

I have always been a fan of the unexpected and clever non-linear narrative. E.g. those books that one knows the ending to in the first chapter yet the story is still well worth the read or better still, in Pulp Fiction when John Travolta’s character gets killed half way into the movie yet then just reappears later as Tarantino fills in some earlier details in his tale.

So rest assured I am ever so happy to continue filling in more details in my story before that pre-set end. I have no idea how many details there will be and I certainly do plan to share them with you along the way.

So in short I look forward to hearing, seeing or hugging any and all of you at the soonest convenience...

Now the dramatics aside here is some of the juice...

There was a 2-day mountain-jungle hike, which gave me some good pointers as to my own endurance and willpower levels. In short I am my own worst enemy. By not relenting I got to a point in a steamy jungle of recognising that I might die by virtue of the pace and rate at which I push myself. An exploration of a glacier (see previous posting) complete with scary sinkhole moment. Followed by the climbing of Mount Malchin, which showed me just how much the spirit could carry one beyond one’s physical boundaries and complete with super scary rockslide moment on a scree slope followed by nerve-shattering ice-slope cracking incident (again see previous post). Out camping in several astonishing landscapes, partaking of nomadic family hospitality (with strange cheeses) and holding an eagle (and getting a bleeding claw puncture despite the thick protective gauntlet) provided other highlights but generally the entire trip was conducted with a high base level of intensity not least of which was the huge amount of time spent driving through one breathtaking but arduous landscape after another. All of this was in Mongolia and then at the end we had a few days of preconceived misconception smashing go on in Beijing. Sure – they are putting on a good show for the Olympics but really that town seems quite extraordinary and has awoken in me a desire to see much more of China. Other silly events surrounded Dave’s adventurous and levitating toothbrush, horse and camel-riding, yak investigations, outdoor pool madness in very local areas and eating every type of crazy bug and animal part at the night-market in Beijing plus going to the Olympic beach volleyball - a sport which specifies the maximum size a contestant’s bikini can be!

And oh yes, there was the eclipse itself! Ah, as ever a sublime dream again. The days leading up to it were the usual scurry to find a good viewing place. This time it was against the odds of terrible mountain roads. We were part of a group of 40 or so folk in a 9-vehicle convoy. It was a package tour as such but this seemed pretty much the only way to ensure we even had a vehicle let alone food and so on in the far west of Mongolia. This is a hard and very remote part of the world. To give you a vague idea, it takes 7+ hours to drive 200km on these roads though they often resemble rockslides better. Where we were was near Russia/China and Kazakhstan and it’s easier to understand the mountain goats than to crack the Cyrillic alphabet to read the Mongolian or Kazakh language. And Panoramic Journeys did a great job in extreme circumstances so well done James Moreton!

At any rate, David Haupt, myself and the Northern Californian wine-making Frey family (Johnathan, Katrina and Caroline) were released from the rest of the group along with a Mongolian guide, cook and 2 vehicles to go off by ourselves for 3 days to observe the eclipse in a place of our own choosing. We looked at several spots, each further towards China and presuming better weather prospects. Amongst the sites we checked was an astronomical tour group’s chosen location. They were in the midst of a very wide and barren plain, far from shelter, far from water. They were a nice friendly bunch but had chosen their site based on it providing for the absolute maximum amount of eclipse time. I guess about 2min 10 seconds of totality. Whereas we chose a site that gave us only about 2min 5sec!!! It does amaze me that people will make such a big deal for those few seconds. Our site was only 3 or so km away from them and offered so much more than just a few more seconds of day-darkness. I have come to enjoy this aspect of eclipse-chasing the most. The lead-up time scurrying around assessing options and pondering weather prospects. And each location in itself is an experience as it is generally just a place on the planet with little draw other than its coincidental alignment with the eclipse. And yet I get a chance to observe it and pay it some attention. There is a store of these locations in my head now. I still remember most of them from previous eclipse trips. As equally I remember many of the people I met in those locations too. Its something about the purpose of the event that makes them memorable even though it is just another form of tourism I guess. Just somewhat more random and never in a guidebook.

Anyway what I have now discovered is that the instant one finds ‘the’ location, one knows it is the ‘right’ place (which makes me wonder if that’s the feeling when one meets one’s spouse and has ‘that’ feeling). This at least was abundantly clear in the case of the Turkish eclipse and this Mongolian one. Last time it was a lighthouse with 310 degrees of ocean around it. This time we were on a hillock overlooking a salt flat. The salt flat combined super rosy beige and grey textures with the rare opportunity to have the eclipse reflected into water during totality. For all the world it looked like another planet. So we likened it to another moon of Jupiter, this time Ganymede. Thus we can now claim to have explored both Titan and Ganymede. To add to the perfection the Frey’s found a hidden freshwater spring and pond next to the flats, which provided the means to chill various beverages in the 35-40 degree plus heat. A luxury we had not experienced in a week.

Once again the eclipse itself was haunting in its beauty. This time it did not get as dark as Zambia or Turkey. We could only see 2 planets/stars but that barely matters if one gets to see it at all! Of the other features – I never saw the shadow-wall approaching but did see the light-wall coming in. Relished in the weird otherworldly glow of the 360-degree sunset and the steely-grey colour-drained rocky landscape around us. Marvelled at the solar corona. The only note worth mentioning regarding wildlife was the onset of the evening mosquitoes, which was not a welcome eclipse-effect. Photographically I am really happy with what I got. The reflection shots are my favourite. They even contain an indistinct cow skull to the mid left! And when several are played in a slideshow one can see the arriving and departing curves of the moon’s shadow. I feel the diamond rings are equally better than anything I had to date plus the fisheye material is new too – so that was good.

Over all I still remain fascinated by the phenomenon though on this occasion the general events or the entire expedition surrounding the eclipse were so extraordinary and testing that the eclipse itself had a warming familiarity about it. Perhaps after having now seen 5 I am proficient without being blasé! What was the best thing on this trip was the company of the ever-delightful David Haupt. And sharing a second eclipse with him I’d say is the highlight of our 30 years of friendship. In fact getting to spend 23 days with him was an honour and a privilege and it must be a testament to his easy affability that we never fought during that entire time. And for someone to be able to do that with me, a man who guards his time and freedom so damn closely is equally special. Hopefully it was a 2-way street. Anyway thank you David.

So enjoy the snaps. The sunset and gradients of light are so smooth on some of these that the compression required to make them internet friendly can’t handle them very well... So it goes.

To be fair too, and just in case it all sounded too good I did suffer a severe bout of bottom trouble a week after the eclipse. And believe me with toilet paper in the form of wafer thing sheets of cement suffer indeed I did! And see the shot of the toilets at the AIRPORT we flew into in Western Mongolia… nice huh?

Oh yes, one more thing...

It can be said that every Doctor has a dark side and on this trip Doctor Lobster’s was revealed as the Yeti Overlord. Most people when asked if they are afraid of the Yeti make the 2 worst possible mistakes... One they don’t believe they (its a species not an individual) exist and two they mistake them as being the same as Bigfoot... Foolish people all... I have heard the Yeti and terrible are his howls.