Archive for June, 2010

Progress Report #32

June 28, 2010

I finished Chapter Fifteen, aka, “Buddha’s Little Boy Scout.” It came in at 26 pages. I’m intent on making the chapters shorter now. The next chapter, which I start working on tomorrow, is about a “profoundly unsettling experience” I had at a Bob Dylan concert. Its working title is “You Go Your Way and I’ll Go Mine.”

Preface to Peak Oil

June 21, 2010

I came across an interesting quote from Barack Obama today. Addressing the oil well disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, he said: “If we’re honest with ourselves, we must recognize that the days of of cheap and easily accessible oil are numbered.” This is the crux of the Peak Oil argument, something that few politicians dare mention by name.

I first stumbled on the topic last year, and it turned out to be quite electrifying, so to speak. I want to start writing about it, but before I do, I feel I should explain how I came to the subject. Otherwise, my interest could be misconstrued.

Five years ago, I received an e-mail from a man named Richard Heinberg. He’d written a review of The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill and was sending it out in his newsletter, called Museletter. He thought I’d like to read the review. I did, and I enjoyed it. It was well-written, thoughtful, and complimentary. I saw on his web site that he’s known mostly for his writings on the subject of Peak Oil. I’d heard the term before, but had never read anything about it. I assumed it was about the world eventually running out of oil and how the pressure would be on then to go nuclear. Not something I wanted to read about. About a year later, I again heard from Heinberg, who wrote to tell me that he was including the essay in a new book, Peak Everything. I never bought the book and soon forgot all about it.

Then, last June, while killing some time waiting for a ferry, I picked up a copy of the North Bay Bohemian, an alternative newspaper, and read an article about something called “transition communities.” Again, the topic was Peak Oil and how it’s going to change, or is changing now, our entire way of life. Reading the article, it all sounded quite real. The article quoted Heinberg and referenced his book The Party’s Over: Oil, War, and the Fate of Industrial Societies. It sounded fascinating, and I bought a copy of the book that very evening. But before I could start reading, Judy picked it up and got so locked in that she couldn’t let go. I had to wait for her to finish. It’s that good. Since then I’ve discovered that there are many others who have had their own mind-changing “The Party’s Over” experience. I want to start writing about Peak Oil, but before I do, I want to make sure people understand that my interest is not the result of somebody writing about my book in his book.

More soon.

Progress Report #31: The Spirit of Place

June 15, 2010

This weekend a friend told me about a book by Lawrence Durell called The Spirit of Place. The book is about Durrell’s belief that individual places have unique energies or spirits, and how he liked to write about a place while physically present within it. My friend was telling me about the book because I’d mentioned to him my plan for September. I’m going to a small town in Germany and a village or two on the island of Crete to work on some passages for my book Street Song. In 1969, right after graduating from high school, I took a train-and-hitchhiking trip through Europe, and I’m including some of my stories from that journey.

While it might seem extravagant, I’d accumulated a lot of miles flying around promoting Wild Parrots, and I figure I’d better use them up before the airlines dump these programs, which I suspect they’re going to have to do eventually. It seemed to me the best way to use them was in service to the book. I thought it might be useful to write these third-draft-quality sections in the towns that the stories actually take place in. It’s an experiment. I’m curious to see how much the place influences the writing. Besides, the amount of time this book is taking has been wearing on me, and it seemed like a good way to inject new life into the work.

Progress Report #30

June 6, 2010

The specter of jury duty hangs over me. I have to go into Superior Court tomorrow morning. They never take me (I have an honest gripe with the adversarial system of justice), but I never know when I’ll be sent home. Since I seem incapable of writing at any time other than morning, I have to put my work on hold for a few days. On a more favorable note: My next door neighbor starts replacing his roof tomorrow, but a friend offered his studio space for the next three weeks while he’s on the East Coast. So I’ll escape the worst of it.

I’ve come up with a working title for Chapter 15: “Buddha’s Little Boy Scouts.”

Life Without a Cell Phone: An Addendum

June 3, 2010

I’d like to give a little more perspective on why I’m opposed to cell phones. There are several reasons (I’m not convinced they’re safe, for one thing), but most fundamental to me is that they add yet another layer of infrastructure that has to be maintained and protected. Life is so complicated now that we have very little flexibility. Because we depend on technology to do even the simplest things—check the weather, get from point A to point B—the current system has a greater claim to its self-perpetuation regardless of its worth. Tracy mentioned Peak Oil, which dovetails with my thinking. We’re heading into a period of enormous upheaval—historic times. I have no doubt about that. The less tied up we are in the fantasy of constant “progress,” the easier it will be to accomodate ourselves to the demands of the time.