On the Scarcity of Smiles

Never before

have I seen such a large number of people

hide their chances to

smile
to
one
another.

Photo Credit: kieferpix Getty Images

Trumpvilles Are Coming To A City Near You: The Dilemma of Homelessness & Income Inequality

None are more hopelessly enslaved than those that falsely believe they are free.”
-Johann Von Goethe Wolfgang

When I say the word, homelessness…I also mean to say gentrification, fundamental human neglection and an enormous dearth of empathy. However the biggest reason is the familiar crepitaculum of the income inequality skeletons stuffed in Uncle Sam’s closet. I feel the problem of homelessness is a remarkable and aposematic precursor portending an upcoming major economic perturbation.

The last big swelling of homelessness here in Eugene and most other large principalities was the Occupy Wall Street movement that started in September of 2011. undefined

It was a semi organized and national response to the prodigious excess of capital and abject rapaciousness of banks and multinationals. The apex of this wonton greed was evinced in one of the highest CEO-to-worker ratios at the time in American history at a whopping 230 to 1. To give you a sense of scale, the CEO-to-worker ratio In the 1950’s was around 20 to 1. Nowadays there are some CEOs making over 1000 to 1. This movement consisted largely of students and protestors. Before that there were some homelessness spikes in the 1980’s.

However it was during the Great Depression that the US experienced its biggest and most prolonged period of homelessness and that is what we are starting to see now. Or at least what I see when I ride my bike to work everyday in Eugene. There have always been unhoused people around. Often times, they will set up for a day or two and then the police or parks and recreation personnel will get them to move along. These days instead of seeing a handful of encampments, I am seeing at least five or six times the amount of tents, tarps, pallets, scrap wood, and whatever spavined raw materials they can turn into makeshift ensconings. To deal with the influx of unhoused individuals, the city of Eugene is not currently fining unhoused people. I have also noticed certain areas are allowed to stay around for longer amounts of time. However, it typically takes just one police call due to an oftentimes petty criminal behavior before the spot is forcibly removed. Then the unhoused end up finding a new spot for a week or two before the same thing happens. So instead of just one big area that could be better monitored and secured with more basic sanitary infrastructure like portable toilets, we are seeing multiple areas being utilized. The abandoned areas after the unhoused leave are often contaminated with litter, trash, detritus, and sometimes used syringes. It would seem to me a better and more environmentally friendly idea to utilize one large, secured area. Perhaps if it was just one area certain rules like, cleaning up your messes and being good to each other could be implemented. If the area could reach a modicum of stability then social services and food provided along with basic sanitation and medical care could be introduced. It was recently announced in the Register Guard that a real estate developer out of Portland is going to build a large residential park along the Willamette river near downtown Eugene. From the Register Guard article, “The project, to be built in phases, features at least 215 apartments, 70 or so market-rate townhouses, a hotel with at least 125 rooms, a restaurant, retail space and an affordable housing complex with at least 75 units.”undefined The article goes on to mention that it is costing the city of Eugene 12M and that the developer’s cost will exceed 100M. My thinking is this, imagine what the city could do with 12 million dollars if it directed it to setting up the same area for the unhoused?undefined Imagine if the unhoused had a tent spot or a yurt or some alternative basic domicile with access to food, human services, and sanitation? At some point the critical mass’ tipping point of homelessness will have to be addressed like in the Great Depression.

The Great Depression was a decade of economic cachexia marked by the sudden degringolade of the Stock Market and the tragic failures of the American banking system. Before Black Thursday on October 29th 1929 ever happened, there were already signs of danger. One was the debt accrued during the roaring 1920’s. Most individuals had to take out loans to purchase all the newest and glistery luxury items like refrigerators, washing machines, and one of the most evil inventions ever created in my opinion, the automobile. (I’ll save that topic for another day). The wild speculation and purchasing of items on credit well above everybody’s means, plus a meteoric rise in unemployment and large cuts to production caught the market off guard. Stocks had far exceeded their value. In the first couple weeks preceding Black Tuesday when the markets got rattled, banks were able to buy up the massive sell offs in the market. But eventually consumer confidence had waned to apocalyptic levels and hence Black Tuesday. By 1933 unemployment was around 25%. Are we not starting to see the same kinds of problems in today’s world? Unemployment today is around 16% and going up. The hysteria and fervor surrounding the coronavirus has all the makings of an over bloated stock market, boatloads of items purchased on credit, high unemployment, and a the true misery indicator, markedly increased homelessness. Hoovervilles soon spread throughout almost every American city in the Great Depression. Hoovervilles were communities of unhoused and unemployed people living often in squalid conditions that sprung up around the fringes of metropolitan areas. Most were laid out near rivers and sources of water. Hoovervilles received that name due to the POTUS at the time, Herbert Hoover who was widely blamed for his inaction to the economic tragedy. If I was more of a gambler, I’d predict we will see a similiar pattern of Trumpvilles or Bidenvilles in our lifetimes. We can see the similarities between the feds buying up most of the market. The Trump administration continues to add to the wedge of inequality by funneling most of their stimulus money to banks, large multinational corporations, and creditors instead of to the people most in need of the capital. The US dollar is increasingly become less valuable and if the stability of it begins to shake we could start to see a Wall Street panic akin to the same mania associated before Black Friday in 1929 occurred.

So what are some possible solutions to this lacuna of income? Before I delve into that let’s look at one of the reasons why there is so little affordable housing. Gentrification is the process of renovating or improving an area so that it conforms to the taste of the middle class. This in turn drives up the prices of rent and real estate prices in that area or district. To me that definition is flawed because I’d argue the middle class doesn’t even exist. I typically only see the haves and have nots or the 99% and the 1%. In my own personal life my landlord has raised the rent on us three times in three years without any upgrades. This came despite a cap on rent increases in Eugene to under 10%. But this does little good over the long haul. I understand that oftentimes these neighborhoods where the developers and gentrifiers come in are fraught with drug addiction, gangs, and poverty. However those are all issues that need to be addressed individually and not just kicked down the road as the process of gentrification does. So keeping developers and the circling sharks at arm’s length would be one way of staving off gentrification and thus homelessness.

Another solution to the unhoused quandary that jumps to mind is the tried and true Robin Hood approach. Jeff Bezos, the wildly successful CEO of Amazon has recently been reported as making 275 million a day! That is more than the GDP of countries like the Marshall Islands, Kiribati, and Nauru. Jeff Bezos makes more money in a day than some countries will make in a year. This should offend you. So the answer is pretty easy, what if we enacted a maximum wage law like the one proposed by Jello Biafra and put the money created over the limit back into a community fund? The community funds could be used for the unhoused, organic gardening areas, community services and facilities that the most vulnerable of the population depend on. I know it is unamerikan and anathema to think in terms of empathy and the benefit for all. But maybe after Bezos becomes a trillionaire the rest of his profit could start being allocated to a basic universal income? When you buy things off Amazon do you ever feel guilty? What if the money you spent there was going to pay the workers more and to those less fortunate? Would you feel better about buying a pair of socks from Amazon then? Or does that matter to you? Another way of combating the super rich and the problem of capital hoarding would be to levy a demurrage tax on the uber rich. From Wikipedia, German-Argentine economist Silvio Gisell proposed demurrage as a means of increasing both the rate of money and overall economic activity. So if the Uber rich hoarders just stash their money away into generational coffers then a demurrage tax could be placed on it until it became worthless. This would motivate the rich to eventually put their wealth back into the effects of the market. Reading up on the Great Depression a scrip system was actually codified into law. Again from Wikipedia, “Local scrip systems, many of which incorporated demurrage fees, were also used across the United States during the Great Depression and the Bankhead–Pettengill bill of 17 February 1933 was introduced in Congress to institutionalize such a system at the national level under the US Treasury.” My thinking is that would be a fantastic way of holding these 1% companies accountable. They would be issued a digitized currency equivalence of a prosperity certificate. So in order to keep them valid the company or individual would have to pay a demurrage or validity fee each week/month/year to keep its value. This would stop usury and emphasize a larger value on goods and services. My suggestion would be a sliding scale of demurrage from barely any fees for low income people to progressively higher fees for elite companies. It would have a couple effects. One would be that companies would undoubtedly skirt the certificate by stashing the money in assets and non monetary shelters. But if these transactions were traced by a mechanism like blockchain I could see the demurrage currency working. There is already a cryptocurrency called Freicoin that utilizes demurrage fees and in essence does what I am talking about. Here is a great article on Freicoin by Danny Bradbury. And the other effect would be more value placed on goods and services since the motivation to hoard would be attenuated.

Another possible but crazy solution is the ZenVow Project. Also from Wikipedia, “The ZenVow Project implements a human generated Global Basic Income system using time dependent digital currency that derives from the demurrage system. Where the human average world life expectancy is used as the currencies lifespan and respective derived burn rate.” I was quite excited about this concept when I read it but then got turned off by the pure cheesiness of this promo I found for it. Just listen to the background music. Eek!!! But why not? A civilization based on currency and a universal income that can only be obtained or mined by mediation and yoga? Sounds pretty awesome. I’d also add other activities like hiking, cycling, and walking to the mix. How different the world would be if instead of banks and credit unions we had packed mediation centers at the heart of our financial districts?

The problem of inequality has been around for a very long time and I don’t expect any magic bullets. However, I do think a huge investment in empathy and basic human respect would go a long way to helping the unhoused and misbegotten. If ya don’t have empathy then I’d offer a suggestion to keep you all “occupied”, learn to build. Or work on developing carpentry know how and basic plumbing and electrical building skills. Maybe now is a good time to take up organic gardening?

Trumpvilles aren’t going to build themselves.

Cara Feral

Undefined

Watching the sun set every dusk
in my office between six inches
of drywall, stucco and glass
Rays wander through like roots
effortlessly pressing my soul
against the clear window
Life is breath to breath
and in this very moment
I only want to warm myself
with the last gasp of today

Modern space linearly wed
structure to function
Demarcated sequestered
Often times in fear
we label the unknown
Obfuscating and blinding
the truth in chaos
Being isn’t black and white
So do your goddamn best
to create the undefined

Octogram

I drew this one relatively quickly. It just came together. I have been meaning to add to it but sometimes it is best to just leave things alone.

Leave No Trace

Life is but a vapor
So be the source of your own ignition
Be the match
And the fuel
Be untamed
Find your home
Be an explorer and dig for buried treasures
In your soul
Make every fucking moment sacred
Piss on your p’s and q’s
Consecrate your irreverence
Find your holy places
Make sure to look above tree line
That’s where I have found most of mine
Get lost in the wilderness
Drink water from your boots
Dance with ecstasy in the rain
Work at being your best
Work out your neurosis
Work to become a master ninja
Just don’t work yourself to the bone
Take your opportunities
But leave some for your friends
Don’t regret telling them everything
That you have ever wanted
Before you finally lie down
Laugh at every chance possible
Laugh in the face of death
Laugh at the absurdity of it all
Be everything you have ever wanted
And whosoever’s name was not found
In the book of life,
Was probably too busy
Living one, to ever bother
To write it down.


Cara’s Music Corner

So I have decided to write a weekly or biweekly column on what tunes I am currently jamming. The one good thing about my job is I get to listen to music during my arduous work day. I work in a room with concrete floors and walls with three other people. Our music source is Pandora radio that one of my co-workers has an account with. He pays for it, so thankfully we don’t have any advertisements during playback. He also has an ok portable speaker/cd/aux in/out player. It’s speakers distort pretty badly if turned up too high but it gets the job done. Pandora works by playing different user created stations. So everyone in my department gets to have one radio station. Herein lies the rub. Pandora is a finicky thing. It has gotten better over the years but there are still some quirks. One of the old quirks was the thumbs up or down features. In the past if you make repeated thumbs up on almost every song it tended to play your station more often than people that didn’t thumbs up every piece of music that came on their station. Now Pandora plays every station in the order that the station was turned on regardless of the amount of times it has been thumbs upped. There is one individual in our room, I’ll call him coworker B, that has over 4000 thumbs up on all his songs. His station is mostly salsa music and Christian music. And so in the past I would have to hear tons of the same salsa music and Petra and Stryper (yes Stryper) songs everyday repeatedly. This irritated me immensely. And so I had to develop a unique hack to stave off some of the music I wasn’t enjoying, I did this by making the primary artist on my station the band Om.

Om is the rhythm section of the iconic stoner/doom band Sleep from San Jose, California. Their music is known to be really long, and drony. Similar to Sleep’s sound but with no guitar. Om’s lyrics are kinda chanted and they tap into an Indian/Krishna kind of motif. They do this with their lyrics which seem to be pretty random with reference to the BIble, Bhagavad Gita, and other eastern religious texts. They also use a small amount of flavor from musical instruments that are associated from this culture. I love listening to them especially at work. And the best part about them is the songs average at least ten minutes. So by selecting Om I have been able to effectively take up the space of 3 or sometimes 4 salsa and Christian songs which thankfully only last around three minutes. My other coworker is a classic Eugene hippie. We will call him coworker A. So most of the music on his station are jam bands like Phish, Widespread Panic, Grateful Dead, and Particle. His songs are usually pretty long. He also is into bluegrass like Poor Man’s Poison and Devil Makes 3. The latter I am totally burned out on but I have come to like some Poor Man’s Poison songs. My other coworker (C) listens primarily to Tool, Perfect Circle, the Mars Volta and some rap and 2000’s era alternative music. I usually catch myself enjoying most of his songs especially when anything related to the Mars Volta comes on. I, of course have pushed the limits on average lengths of songs as much as possible. I believe I got almost 40 minutes through a single Bell Witch song once before getting it fast forwarded by worker B. The song Mirror Reaper which deserves an entire blog post all it’s own for another day. Coworker B does not like my long, doom music and will thumbs down songs of mine that he doesn’t like or if the imagery is too dark or satanic and so as you can see the struggle is real everyday. A thumb’s down on a song in Pandora means that your station won’t play it for a month. However, this week I have been jamming some King Crimson at work and they are the band of the week that I am reviewing.

As with most bands on Pandora, if you just put the band on your station Pandora mainly just plays the “hits” or popular songs. I put the song Starless and Bible Black on it. So most of the songs I have heard by them on Pandora are songs off the album Red (1974) and the debut album In the Court of the Crimson King (1969). Of these songs I have heard and enjoy the most I’d have to say the song Fallen Angel is my favorite. I love the upbeat verses only to have that minor sounding guitar on the bridge and chorus come in. It changes the entire mood and feel of the song instantly. Also being a lyrics hound like me, I admire the imagery in them.

King Crimson
Fallen Angel
Tears of joy at the birth of a brother
Never alone from that time
Sixteen Years through knife fights and danger
Strangely why his life not mine
West side skyline crying
Fallen angel dying
Risk a life to make a dime
Lifetimes spent on the streets of a city
Make us the people we are
Switchblade stings in one tenth of a moment
Better get back to the car
Fallen angel
Fallen angel
Fallen angel
Fallen angel
West side skyline
Crying for an angel dying
Life…

I interrupt the lyrics as the loss of innocence that comes with losing a sibling. I just consulted wikipedia which describes the lyrics as a brother thats gets his younger brother to join the Hell’s Angels with him. He however later dies in a knife fight. The lyrics are a bit vague and random and I like lyrics that are written in a manner that leaves definition to be inserted or ones that simply fit the imagery being generated in my head. Other favorite songs from King Crimson that I love are, The Night Watch, Starless, Epitaph, Requiem, Moonchild mostly because of the movie Buffalo ’66 and the Larks’ Tongue in Aspic parts 1-4 instrumental series songs. However I think part III is my favorite. It has Adrian Belew and Fripp and the marvelous Bruford on drums. That lineup is probably my favorite one. I love Bill Bruford’s drumming so much!! His work on the song Starless is amazing. But the song I leave you with today is The Night Watch.. Fripp’s guitar solo in this is incredible!!! Hard to believe this was recorded just 3 years after I was born.

Welp I best mosy. Have a great week!!!

Peace,
Cara

Dragonfly Over River

I will share drawings I do on here. I finished this one a while back and will revisit it with a newer “Zentangle” twist soon that I have been experimenting with. This one also happened to be the one I showed at my work art exhibition and folks seemed to enjoy it.

The Fox In Me

Gender Dysphoria, there I finally said it
It’s cruel mythological paradox between my soul and body
Like Laelaps the hound that always caught its prey
and the cunning, Canis Minor that she never caught

I tried to escape it, drink, and ignore it away
I stashed it for years underneath my childhood psychosis
Next to my box of tattered bird feathers, acrophobia, and fear of clowns
I even tried hiking it 10,000 miles away from me

On the good days, it’s delicately courageous
Refulgent and vulnerable like a three-legged fox
Defiantly limping away from the hunter’s snare in the crooked dawn

At its worst is the smothering desperation of not being taken seriously
Stuck in a perpetual tug-of-war between awkwardness and my femininity
Spirit fettered inside an anomalous corporeal manifestation
Like my heart and the sound of my wings dragging on the floor

I love wearing things not built to be dirty and covered in grease
Things like perfume, makeup, bells, jewelry, ribbons, and tiaras
Adorned and crowned with the ability to melt hearts
Like my first true love and my mother’s plaintive voice

Growing up, my father hated me playing with Star wars dolls
and writing poetry and baking cookies in the kitchen with my mom
“No son of mine will ever be a sissy girl,” he often warned me

He tried showing me how to change the oil in his shitty, 1988 Ford Taurus
And explaining the intricacies of a shotgun offensive formation in football
But I was thinking about Princess Leia’s white dress and her hair buns

I remember my father’s funeral and all the sadness stuffed in people’s faces
and the fox in me thinking that losing a leg isn’t so bad if it meant being free

The Previous Owner

I wonder who lived here
Prior to me moving in to this
Conch shell and naked body
I never smoke but it sometimes
Reeks of stale cigarettes and beer

There are some vestigial organs
That I will never use but I am happy
They are still hanging around
And scars that I can only imagine
Why and how they were formed

Sometimes I feel strangers’ eyes
Examining me and I begin to worry
Maybe they inhabited this place first
Perhaps they just went to buy milk
And I somehow stumbled in here

There is evidence of disrepair all over
My eyes are getting worse everyday
My ankles and feet are always sore
Makes me curious how many miles
And places that it has been before

I don’t think I’d get much value
On a trade in for a better model
I am starting to get used to it
I’ve cleaned it up and added a few things
And learning how to love myself

Like the previous owner did

A Eulogy for Neil Peart: We Have Assumed Control

When I think of Neil Peart and the band Rush, the biggest adjective that resonates in my mind is the word, Apollonian. Not only due to their knack of borrowing heavily from Greek Mythology but just the amount of diligence every member paid to their respected craft. It is fitting to categorize them with the god of poetry and music. Unlike the band The Doors and a large portion of their Dionysian cohorts, Rush were orderly and dedicated to their art. Their music spanned over four decades. When I think of Rush I think of some of the happiest times of my life. Just hanging out with all my Wyoming homies shooting the shit and most importantly and implicitly just being young. For me there was a basal, quixotic invulnerability and belief of potential that fanned hotter and brighter listening to Rush songs. There was something positive that was going to happen in my life or the world. I believed in my imagination and the strength of my youth, I didn’t ever think I’d fall into a “ticking trap” like Peart warned of in Subdivisions. Back then I believed in the power of rock’n roll and in all that freedom of the eternal party….
I was really late to recognize the genius of Rush and Neil Peart in my life. With my interests lying disproportionately in hyper, testosterone laden speed metal, punk rock, and hardcore music, I often ridiculed Geddy Lee’s sopranic range. Unfortunately, most of the songs that I was exposed to back then were the “hits” played on the radio. I mostly pigeon-holed the band Rush with their schmaltzy ballad, “Closer to the Heart” , or the extortionate amount of radioplay given to major chord dominant songs like “Spirit of the Radio,” “New World Man”, and “The Big Money” into the same unremarkable corner that I reserved for Lynyrd Skynyrd, Nazareth, and that ilk. I couldn’t have been more wrong. I remember often times arguing with my friends about just how bad they sucked. Kinda funny looking back on my salad days. I was definitely an opinionated little punk. Today as I type this email and take intermittent hits off my cannabis pipe, I am listening to the full album “Hemispheres.” And at just a cursory listening, it has all the paradoxical qualities I have correlated to this enigmatic band over the years, The vocals are too high pitched, and the riffs are too rock’n rollesque. But upon closer listen, Lee’s iconic Rickenbacker bass tone, the band’s seamless chord progressions, byzantine time signatures and the exceptional percussion of Peart resonates through and through. And of course the true gem: Peart’s lyrics. One example is, Peart’s story of “Cygnus X-1 Book II: Hemispheres. He masterly writes and concludes a sci fi saga of a spaceship getting sucked into a parallel Greek Mythological universe via a black hole and the ensuing struggle between Apollonian and Dionysian populations. The protagonist is metaphorically named Cygnus (after the constellation of the same appellate) which means balance. Ironically it’s his presence thrusted into this parallel world that brings about a balance between the order and chaos of the warring societies.  Other songs like, “Losing It” and “The Trees” transude a sentience and empathetic point of view not often evinced in a rock song. The first time I really heard the song, “Trees” was back when my friend Kelly was learning, it on acoustic guitar. And even though back then I wasn’t a huge fan of the music I absolutely adored the lyrics. The instrumental song, “La Villa Strangiato” still tops out as one the biggest wet dreams of guitarists and prog rockers everywhere.

The first time I ever heard the band Rush was when my brother obtained a copy of Moving Pictures on vinyl .He was probably sixteen and I was thirteen. I remember him cranking “Tom Sawyer” through his 15″ Pioneer speakers on Sunday mornings after my parents left for church. I was unfortunately enveloped mostly in the music of my mother. And even though back then I would have preferred Christopher Cross’s, “Ride Like the Wind” or the song, “Convoy” by CW Mccall, I still remember the sheer sonic strength of that song and Rush’s magic. The song that finally won me over however was the iconic “Subdivisions. Me and my boyfriend had a few shots of whiskey and shared some epiphanic tears last night regaling in memories of listening to Rush. Still one of my all time favorite Rush songs,  “Subdivisions” speaks so much to the marginalised and disenchanted. Rush’s lyrical breadth and sheer depth of material covered an incredible expanse of subject, philosophy, science, mysticism, and wisdom. In one of Peart’s most recent interviews he discussed his legacy and the importance of inspiration and inspiring others…. Judging from the thousands of YouTube comments on every Rush song in the past few days after his death and outpouring of appreciation spanning multiple generations; it is almost too much to fathom. I’d offer Peart’s mission of inspiration and his legacy is most certainly realized. 
Somehow with Peart’s passing, the  militarized beats of drum machines, computers, autotuned vocals, and samples have replaced the genius of live drums and the interplay and nuanced and the organic syncopation between bass and drums like Lee and Peart’s chemistry. It seems most bands I come across either at live shows or as Pandora suggestions are all just derivatives of derivatives and facsimiles of a better band and a better time. I just don’t see any lyrics from bands these days that could convey entire nuanced stories of dystopian societies, struggles between trees, the dehumanizing effects of conurbations, mass production zones, and the death of individuality.  
To quote the song, “Solar Federation,”, 
Attention all planets of the solar federation
Attention all planets of the solar federation
Attention all planets of the solar federation
We have assumed control
We have assumed control
We have assumed control.
Peart is dead. 
Rock is dead. 

The shitters have won. 

About Me

I am excited to start this blog. I have been meaning to do this for a number of years. I hope to share my poems, drawings, thoughts, opinions, editorials, creative writings, photographs and whatevers. I am currently off social media and distrustful of their recent censorship; however I still enjoy sharing things and ideas. I have recently decided to try blogging. With folks all staying indoors and safe these days, I feel like blogging is my way of keeping my spirits up and ideas evolving.

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