On entropy

I went for drinks with my brilliant startup programmer friend the other week. It’s something I do from time to time and it makes me feel full of life (nothing like my dreary writers group!) and we talk about great things and we drink too much. Despite making his life as a programmer, his background is in physics and while discussing the current state of our union, he mentioned that it’s just the universe increasing in entropy.

Now I also loved physics as a high school and college student and while I didn’t major in it, I certainly got my fill as an engineer and I too know that the saying is ‘the entropy of a system always increases.’ I was mistaken however when I repeated my understanding of it(as I think many understand it) as the disorder in a system increasing (which also made sense given our current political atmosphere).

He corrected me by describing entropy as the release of energy, or restated it as a system will always find a lower energy state.

Now we were pretty drunk at this point but I tried to hold fast to my ‘but isn’t that still chaos?’ idea.

Your car wants to break down, it wants to stop working, right? That’s an increase in chaos.

No. You might experience chaos personally as it sputters and dies, but it, or its individual parts, are releasing energy and are then finding a lower energy state by not working anymore.

Ok, ok, so how is our current political system not going towards chaos?

It’s just a lower energy state. People don’t have to understand anything anymore, so they don’t. Less trying, less effort, less energy. They just latch onto a narrative. People stop voting, or they vote with the least amount of information possible, despite more being available. It would take more energy for everyone to engage and to get good people in place to fix the things. The low energy path is putting in more of the same, or encouraging the same system down its current path, until it inevitably breaks, you put an ego maniac in place whose proud of not reading and your pistons finally seizing and the car stops.

And then chaos! Right?

Well maybe, what is the next path to the next lower energy state? Is it riot and revolution and rebuilding, or is it a shuffling of the cards where only good people get through the door because that’s an easier system? I don’t know. I wish I could project but things only really happen if the system makes it easy and we’ve built a system for corruption. What does it look like when that system chokes itself out?

Enter the lake wobegon or dunning kruger effect: Dumb people tend to think everyone else is dumb and we’ve made it ok to be dumb, or at least validated the dumb persons idea that dumb is just as good as smart (a lower energy state, surely) when it comes to discourse. How is this increasingly relevant idea going to play out? Intellectual civil war? Books vs guns?

I wish I was Robert Reich here and could logically identify the historical trends that are about to reemerge but I can’t. I can say thought that you should go have beers with your friends. You’ll talk about some crazy things for awhile and you’ll feel better about the world because there’s someone out there who likes talking about the same things as you and you can reinforce all of your cognitive biases because that’s the easiest path.

Sorry.

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All My Future Homes

I had imagined living amongst Somali refugees, the hijabed children playing in the central playground. Imagined wandering down to the duck pond, maybe sneaking a joint out when nobody was looking, staring out in turns at the distant downtown and the immediate blanket of pond. Walking to the main street for a drink or a bite, biking to the beach or the grocery store. Out there across the bridge from the city, detached, in a residential mixed-income community, my immaculate condo with nine-foot ceilings and two soaking tubs. But a two-bus, hour-plus commute and the feeling of suburban isolation burnt the dream into ash, to be revived in another space, another intersection, another selection of pubs and restaurants.

Before that was the campy condo village in Northgate. There were various futures contained in the sunny window seat, a window that pushed out of the building allowing for sun or rain to more encompass the body that laid within its glassy bosom. The balcony festooned with plant life, enclosing two chairs and a small table from which vantage the chair-sitters could converse and drink or stay silent and drink, coffee or tea or beer or cocktail or wine, while the sun shot down in between the dun buildings and enlivened the landscaping or while the rain showed no end and the feeling of being protected and warm was accentuated and life-affirming. The ensuite bathroom, a luxury understood by any child of ubiquitous siblings, the solace of solitude in all toilet, sink and bathtub matters. The extra room for the extra human yet to be. Laundry with no lines, no coins.

Then a place not 10 blocks away. Southwestern windows, small plant balcony looking out over a pool and the highway and the future airspace of the above-ground light rail line. Open floor plan in a building from the ’70s, new hardwood, and storage galore. The dining table would sit next to the tiny balcony and fake fireplace, looking out through the veil of terrace plant life. A living room space near the front door, darker and cozier, a sweet little Netflix cove. Somewhere a small desk to write at, a little postcard picture of Ginsburg tacked up at seated eye-level. Outside, a future baby being bobbed up and down in the slightly cool water of the pool, wincing and laughing at the new stimulations, their little fresh face slathered in too much sunscreen.

Another one, Maple Leaf neighborhood by way of Lake City Way. Would need some work, but good enough light. Rip up the carpet and install hardwood throughout. Replace the hollow doors with something more substantial. New trim. New vanities. Truly adult shopping exercises. We could make something nice out of it, and that trailer park viewable from the balcony would soon be replaced. The Wild West car lot across the way, while not ideal, adds some grimy charm. We could make it ours. We could make it work. Bus lines and nearby parks. A beer palace down the street. Proximity. City life. Sometimes you have to give a little in order to gain. Then again, sometimes it all just ends the same anyway.

Freshest wound in the form of another two-bed two-bath (ok, 1.75 technically). Not far from the first two. Lovely open kitchen with a gas range and plenty of counter space, a conversation kitchen which could speak out to the bright living room and even out to the covered balcony. Yes, another balcony. Said balcony already fixed with hooks for all the plants with all their verdant draping parts, and room enough for a grill and an intimate seating situation. Another ensuite bathroom, newly updated. Quiet rooms with storage enough for all the various baubles and thingies and wearables we keep around. And covered parking to boot.

All our future homes. Temporarily ours and only in the mind. Despite all legalese and officially signed documentation, the offers were just a flash in the pan, considered for a couple hours at most and then recycled. My imagined realities, our imagined home lives, dissolve away in the incinerator of useless memories or get boxed and mothballed to be dredged up at the most appropriately vulnerable time.

Stoicism serves us well in this life. Giving too much power to the dominant flux that life can present allows for tumultuous internal strife. Realizing instead that these are just little simulations, little fantasies that can sometimes come to fruition, allows that no particular outcome can affect your essential disposition.

So you forge on into the great dark gray of the future, that future you can’t fully imagine, waiting for the next flux, the next flash of fantasy, to present itself. Consistently, it will.

The Redfin app never stops with the notifications anyway.

Less Than Sixty Days

Just past the seven-week mark of this, the longest-seeming presidency of mine or many other’s experience, and the atmosphere is one of exhaustion and the taint of hopelessness. I try to not let the gravity of this whole thing weigh down on me. I live in a sanctuary city, in a state whose AG is fighting or vowing to fight the various and multitudinous injustices of a demagogic federal executive, on a coast which is unilaterally against the Orange Menace. And, I am objectively smarter now than I was when Bush slimed his way into the presidency (and subsequently injected the various neo-conservative filth from his father’s posse in the rooms adjacent the Oval Office), and certainly more sober. All the same, the shadow of it follows wherever I go.

This is not liberal over-reaction or the hurt feelings of some special little snowflake. We should not treat this as normal. Bush was not terribly normal himself, but compared with the present he would be a breath of fresh air.

Speaking of fresh air, try not to get attached. For all the crowing about the rights of businesses to make money without hindrance, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of sympathy for the rights of the humans within (and without) those businesses to continue breathing freely, or for that matter drinking freely. To be presented with clear evidence of destructive pollution and follow that by allowing for more is unthinkable. Businesses that do not respect people do not deserve to make money, let alone exist. Their rights end where they obstruct our rights to basic human needs.

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Flint, Michigan has not had clean water for three years. THREE YEARS. They are still being told to drink bottled water. The effect of this issue will haunt them for many years, an unalterable wrinkle that will decide the fates of so many people.

Coal will make a comeback, no matter the consequence. We can expect an increase in the usual air pollution but add to that increased pollution of creeks, streams, and rivers. With a lobby-driven flourish of his pen, 45 has stricken regulations on the mining of coal near streams (a regulation to protect water sources from surface mining debris). A government that protects business interests over human interests is a terroristic government. Without direct violence, they become responsible for the deaths of many.

A citizenry that openly applauds these efforts has been blinded by party politics and a false idea of American individualism. That citizenry heralds their own dismal future. We are not animals that can exist on our own. We are pack animals. We created government as a means of directing and protecting all of our kind, not just those who were able to climb over their brothers and sisters to stand on the tip of the pyramid. We are nothing if not a giant family. Our differences are what makes us dynamic and competitive and interesting. To deny that is utterly disheartening. We cannot become a country of villains, a country undeserving of any title of honor on the global stage. Not even a participation trophy.

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This turned out to be a bit of a rant, for which I am not sorry. If nothing else, this counts as therapy.

If you are still here, I would recommend a podcast I just found. There may or may not be a bias in the annals of the Washington Post or New York Times (despite being still very good journalism), but one outlet I’ve found to be unceasing in criticism no matter the party is The Intercept. They also have a podcast, which you should listen to, called Intercepted. Hosted by Jeremy Scahill (who most notably covered the evils of the mercenary group Blackwater) with great production and wonderful music.

And that is where I will leave you. Have a great week! Let’s hope for the tweet to end all tweets. And, not to overstate it, but Lucas would’ve hated this.

Lucas Would’ve Hated This

It’s been awhile. A pin drops in this blog and it rings loudly, like that sad and sleepless silence that pervades the countryside in the dark of night. Between the last post and this, many things have happened, too many to truly enumerate. I will cover a couple.

Occasional contributor to this blog and frequent contributor to my joy, Lucas Cain, passed away. Or that’s too soft, “passed away.” Lucas dropped off this world, suddenly and tragically. He was here and then he wasn’t. Laughing with us in a bar too late and then not doing that ever again. Theoretical loss can be painful, that is until real loss is born. Absence, and the knowledge that this absence is permanent, is flashing and loud in its lack of substance. That emptiness is what sits invisibly on your chest, obstructing breath and clenching the throat.

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“Resting Man” Anne Petty

Lucas still lives on in our memories, in paintings that adorn my apartment walls, and in some pieces of this blog. He occupied a large space in many of our minds and continues to do so after his physical existence has ceased. He’d be overjoyed that we keep talking about him. He died with the real possibility in his mind that Bernie could take the White House, and for that he was lucky. He’d never believe the shit we’re in right now.

Which brings me to the other thing. He whom we shall not name, the Cheeto-dusted and bloated bag of Confederate memorabilia. A reality TV spectacle was elected to the highest position in our government. A man whose Goodreads account would begin with Mein Kampf and end with the assembled speeches of Adolf Hitler (where in reality he just scanned the Cliff Notes of each). A man who shits on a golden toilet but can’t seem to buy a suit or tie that fits. If the descriptor “presidential” had any meaning before, it has completely ceased to mean anything at this point. There was a time where we could laugh at memes of a child-like dictator pointing at various objects safe in the knowledge that no such idiot strongman ruled over our much more competent and thoughtful nation. Ah, the good ole days!

I wasn’t around for this country’s other more fractious and frightening times (or else I was too young to be aware of it), so where we are at is very disorienting and stressful to me. I assume that this is still the case for those who’ve been through such times (assuming they aren’t fawning after the failed steak salesman and his assembled band of clueless silver spooners). At no point could I have predicted that a party so vigorously opposed to the very idea of Russia would be, if not openly praising their dictator, shrugging away the blatant attempts at bending the West to their purpose. It defies logic.

At the same time, nothing short of this wannabe emperor could have engaged so many people in protest and activism. From coast to coast, we’ve assembled with passionate or comedic signs, to march, to chant, to debate, to express, in the streets, in city parks, at town halls, in each other’s living rooms, outside reticent congressmen’s homes. We’ve talked about things we’d kept to ourselves, admitted mistakes and committed to actions, watched documentaries and read non-fiction books. We’ve started reading more news than at any times in our lives.

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Seattle Womxn’s March

These are the times that we need to understand what the essential character of our country should be, no matter where on the political spectrum we fall. Decisions based on fear, free of fact, cannot be trusted. Look at the statistics, mine the underlying reasons for the problems we face, understand the complaints of our neighbors. To line up blindly behind the big red R or the big blue D gives a sense of civic duty without the work to back it up. We need to stand for ideas, not for parties. If something is wrong, it is wrong, no matter what jackass found himself behind the big desk in the Oval Office.

Obviously, there is too much going on right now to speak to each unjust and/or idiotic action. Various news outlets can elucidate the particulars of the day (and, seriously, be various with your new sources). Suffice it to say, Lucas would’ve hated this (though he’d make a mean protest sign).

Gallery

“Observing Observing (a white cup): Anne Petty”

Interview with my very talented wife for an upcoming show.

PROGRAPHICA: In the Mind of the Artist

With each exhibition, we will post interviews with the participating artists along with a photo of said artists in their studios and images of their work. In the future, we will post videos of artist interviews.

“Observing Observing (a white cup)” opens September 12th and continues through October 31, 2015

Curated by Eric Elliott, Michael Howard & Norman Lundin. More than twenty artists (both gallery artists and not) accepted the invitation to submit work.

Reception for the artists, Sept. 12, 2 – 4 pm

Artist Interview #15: Anne Petty

1. How did you respond to the idea of the white cup?

My first instinct was to stick a figure into the paintings, as that is my usual subject matter, however I don’t often paint still life’s, so I thought I’d take this as an opportunity to do so. The cup I used is ceramic and reflective. I wanted to use that quality and…

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A Summary Reflection on Summer and Matrimony

Wow, time sails by. Here we are in the latter part of July, three months from the last post on this page, on the ringed side of a solstice wedding, deep into the sinews of a roasting summer, the grills in the distance spinning out smoke and that sweet caramelized smell reminiscent of all those others summers when you were younger and probably drinking Rainiers like bottled water, or too many IPAs before they got warm. Here we are on top of our blankets at night, spread eagle before the box fan. Here we are, figuring out who’s got beer and A/C and a table in the corner where you can be anti-social with a book or a journal or the crossword, the Sunday crossword, that you’ll fill out a bit of before just staring at the ceiling because you can’t remember the word “epee”.

I got married. In the rainforest heat of St. Louis, which was receiving the wet end of some hurricane somewhere else. His name was Bill. This hurricane. The rain neglected to show up the day of the wedding. And returned the next day. We got lucky. And in everything else too we were lucky. Thanks to the efforts of so many family and friends, the thing went off amazingly. The bride and groom didn’t break down during vows. They didn’t falter when speaking. Or fall at any time. The Kiss was photogenic and not weird (because usually we don’t kiss for an audience, which is weird). They gave each other rings and said sweet incantations to tie it all up in a bow. Married.

Now back to Seattle. To working. To biking and grilling and drinking IPAs in the park (or on a roof or in front of a fan in your apartment). Back to a slightly different existence of legal commitment and referring to someone as “wife” casually (so so strange!). We can all be married now. Let’s all be merry now.