Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The New Explicitness“

It seemed like a nice neighborhood to have bad habits in.”
Raymond Chandler

Recently I checked out a copy of Anne Hooper’s book “Erotic Massage”, lavishly illustrated with nude photos demonstrating the moves in the text, nubile young couples, with bursting pectorals and yearning nipples, and the elderly librarian didn’t even blink. They know me by name there even though I never introduced myself. People talk about me when I’m not around.

Tell you what. Georgia has a hell of a library system.

I wouldn’t have thought that when I first came here, after wandering like a prince among letters through the arrogantly lush aisles of the Midtown Manhattan library in New York City, and later the Pretty Good libraries of San Antonio. When I moved here the libraries of Richmond and Columbia county seemed poor and lonesome shelters for homeless books. I felt as though I’d landed in purgatory. Whatever Georgians were spending their property tax dollars on, it wasn’t books. I couldn’t bear to go in there after awhile for the sheer pain of viewing such intellectual poverty. Then one day, a maternal library worker who saw me staring at my shoes, drew me aside and told me an esoteric secret known only to a few. The card catalogs of all the libraries in Georgia are interconnected on the Internet. You can order a book from any library in the whole damn state of Georgia. Any book they have anywhere anyhow, flat out.

Library kung fu.

BAM! Pow!

Say it brother. Georgia has a helluva library system.

I’ve been slowly burning my way through Suzie Bright’s “Best Erotica” annual series year by year, culled from shelves in small God fearing Baptist towns around the state, Anne Hooper’s picture books for adults, Desmond Morris “The Naked Female”, comic book anthologies by Robert Crumb and the usual classics an apprentice writer must be well acquainted with. One of the austere ladies behind the desk, with glasses on a chain around her neck, thumbed through the Desmond Morris book with an air of respect and asked me to let her know when I was done with it. Mr. Garcia. (So you’re that guy.)

And then there’s Google.

Omniscient as God, Google is evolving the human species into a huge colonial organism. These days revolutions aren’t carried out with guillotines and cheering bodies flinging themselves over the barricades. They happen quietly with legal negotiations and HTML code. When Google Books solved their copyright problems last year a revolution occurred that has not yet shaken the world but will.Take Henry Miller. Published in France, his books were banned in the United States for decades as obscene. A friend of his did prison time when customs munchkins fished out a copy of “Tropic of Cancer” from the bottom of his suitcase, probably taking a moment to peruse page five. Man, those were the days.

Perhaps you’ve never read “Tropic of Cancer”, would you like to? For free? Without the prison sentence? Starting with tasty young Tania on page five? Sitting in Taco Bell with a wireless laptop and a beef gordito? You can read most of it here:

Hell, your kids can do a book report on it for English class. They can read Suzie Bright’s books too if they want and maybe do a book report on “How to Tell A Dirty Story”.

“Mommy? What’s a butt plug for?”

The first time I realized I was heterosexual, I was a young kid and wandered into a car repair garage in my little town of Gilbert Iowa. This would have been around the time of the Kennedy administration when people were still getting busted for reading Henry Miller. My friend Andy and I had been collecting pop bottles in ditches and fields. If you got about 6 of them together you could take them to Ruthie’s Drug Store (also a pool parlor) and cash them in for an ice cream cone, or maybe a new Spider-man comic that today you could sell on eBay for enough to pay for my kid’s college fund. I usually took the ice cream, what did I know. I knew I had to “go real bad” and the mechanic waved me into the back where the toilet was. Over the sink was a fold out pin up of a naked woman, the first I’d seen since emerging from my mother’s womb seven years before. Breasts the size of a catcher’s mitt and that downy delta ofhair with its mysterious vacancy below. It was as alien and strangely compelling a sight as if a spacecraft had landed in our backyard corn field. I never knew there was anything like this in all the world and I forgot all about peeing and went to get Andy so he could see too. The forbidden image stuck in my mind for days and caused strange stirrings in me when I went to bed at night. Now its everywhere.

In the movie “Spiderman”. Aunt May asks Peter Parker if he knows about the birds and the bees and he sighs “Aunt May, we’ve had cable for years.” There are no mysteries for kids anymore, they just grow up knowing everything and no knowledge is forbidden territory. I suppose that’s good, and yet I feel a little sorry for this generation. They’ll never know what it feels like to be stunned into awed silence by that first sight of a nude woman the way I did, or the feeling of doing something daring the way Jack Kerouac did when he gothis hands on his first felonious copy of Henry Miller and suddenly knew what he wanted to write.

These days it’s been taken to an altogether new level of banality with something called “sexting”, which it turns out one out of five teenagers has done. This is where you take a cell phone with a camera or video cam and take nude photos of yourself and send them around to your friends. It seems like a kind of young whacky thing to do but kids are getting charged with child pornography over this.

They’re playing with fire at the same time the walls are coming down.

C. Sanchez-Garcia

Tuesday, February 3, 2009




Why It Really Sucks to Be a Satere-Mawe Indian Boy

When I was living in Panama in 1995, broke and out of work, I went looking for a photography job. One of the places I stopped was the Smithsonian Institute’s tropical field office in the Canal Zone and found the head of the little photography department there. No, they weren’t looking for any photographers, thanks. But these are the real world Indiana Jones guys, very cool to talk to, so I hung around and failed to make an impression, but got to talk about cool Guy stuff. We got to talking about Panama and the work they did and he showed me a glossy photo he’d taken in Darien of a huge purplish ant with big jaws. “See that? Know what that is?” “No, sir.” “Hell, son, that’s a Bullet Ant. Now there’s a real piece of work.” “Oh, a Bullet Ant. Wow.” He lifted up his leg, peeled back his pants cuff and showed me an old scar about the diameter of a pencil eraser. “That’s where I got stung by that nasty sonovabitch. Know why they call it a Bullet Ant?” “No sir, I haven’t given it much thought.” He leaned in confidentially and said “It hurts so bad, it feels like getting shot with a low caliber bullet, that’s why. The pain? It lasts a day and a night. Oh, yeah. Think about that.”


According to Wikipedia, the Satere-Mawe tribe chooses its warriors by using these ants in an initiation rite by sewing about a dozen of them into a glove and making a young man wear it for 10 minutes by which time his whole arm is paralyzed for a couple of days and he may go into seizures. He has to do the glove thing 20 times without freaking out. I just thought getting a girl to go out with me in high school was tough.

The Satere-Mawe are a tribe. Initiation has always been about tribe. I’m sure this ritual with the ant glove isn’t simply about macho courage. It’s about commitment to an identity, as one of the warriors, the fierce and trusted guardians of the tribe. It means you’re committed to doing what you’re expected to do, even in a life threatening situation to defend the tribe. In others words, you can be trusted to be a stand up guy.

Another form of initiation is the apprenticeship, the novitiate, which is where I find myself when I’m sitting in the back of the Burger King with my elderly laptop and my story notes, resuscitating a sinking story for the fourth or fifth draft. I don’t see myself as a professional writer yet, because they’re still sticking that ant glove on me and it hurts every time. I’ve got a hell of a long way to go. It takes me a long time to write a story. Any story. The novella you see on the side bar - “The Color of the Moon”, hell, that took me ten years to get it right. College courses and writers workshops are nice if you’ve got the dough. But every writer, from Joyce Carol Oates on down to my wretched level pays their dues the same way, at the keyboard first, one word at a time. The written word is deceptively cruel. When you first get it down in the heat of inspiration, your scintillating prose, your impassioned dialogue makes you just fucking weep, because you’re just so goddamned good and someday the world will know you’re an artist and you’re as deep and sensitive as Saint eff-ing Francis. The next day when you read that stuff cold, it sounds like you spent two hours yesterday shoveling horseshit with a keyboard. You put on the glove and start again. The world of the apprentice writer is that you must always start again. The day you refuse the glove is when you stop kidding yourself and get a real job.

There is also the initiation of abandoning the person you once were and starting over. It might be a divorce or a change of career, or just getting sick of who you are and reinventing yourself. I think the best evidence of reincarnation for me, is the fact that I have already been so many different people in this one life. In my case when I left the religious life I had completely devoted myself to for twenty years – when I left my tribe – I suddenly found myself haunted day and night by the ghost of a young schoolgirl I had once known, until I could get her to talk to me.

But that’s a story for another time.


Sunday, January 4, 2009

Homo Noeticus

Yes, Homo Noeticus, this was Taillhard de Chardin's idea too that human evolution had moved beyond the physical/mental to the spiritual/conscious ness plane. He called it the Noosphere if I remember rightly. I got into all that in College before joining the church.
* * *

(Me) I found out about Teilhard De Chardin only a few years ago and I was fascinated by his ideas as long as other sources explained them to me. I found his books very hard to read. Too often brilliant thinkers aren’t brilliant writers. The Noosphere I thought was one of his most important ideas, and I find that I believe in it and am seeing the advent of this coming true if our species survives long enough. You can see the beginnings of it already in this new generation of young people who have grown up on the Internet, interconnected in a very flat world.

nightstar5039: What if, and I'm just throwing this out there, our consciousness affects our DNA, so by changing my consciouness I change my DNA and so that would then affect my offspring.

* * * * *
(Me) Now there you’ve said something. What if consciousness affects DNA? I don’t know. But if that’s true – Homo Noeticus could come about even as a response to the advent of information technology weaving the human species together into a world community, which – ironically – is something religious people fear! The anti-Christ!

nightstar5039: There are techniques out there that claim to heal and activate the DNA. After all what is all that junk DNA doing? What if it could be activated? Also most humans use about 10% of brain capacity. What would happen if we could activate the DNA to turn on some of that unused capacity. Interesting possibilities, no?

* * * *
(Me) I suspect that may be partly what meditation does. The effects of meditation happen largely on the right hemisphere of the brain, and curiously, if the left hemisphere is disabled, such as during surgery, the effect on consciousness while that lasts is almost identical to the ecstatic Nirvana experience. There is even a form of epilepsy which afflicted Fyodor Dostoyevsky, which causes the most intense religious ecstasy, described as a pleasure and happiness beyond human experience or description.
It may be that the physiological result of a lifetime of mediation is a disproportionate strengthening of the right side of the brain. So you wonder how that would affect the genetics of a person if it happens before the person entered reproductive maturity.

nightstar5039: I never BTW, thought that I had been taken for a ride by the church. I see it simply as a step on my personal and unique path to self-knowledge, or self-realization as Paramahansa Yogananda called it. I'm all for us all realizing our Buddha mind, but all of us becoming little REv. Moons, Heaven forbid!It could be argued that the reason why the blessing didn't work, if by working we mean the birth of children free from sin, was because the requisite change in consciousness was not to be found in the UC, neither in its leader or its members. Just a thought.

(Me) That’s what I was saying to Teresa in my post to her. I think we came close enough to hitting on something that it makes you wonder late at night, what might have been going on. Maybe God gave religion a try and it didn’t work out. Maybe he’ll try it through technology next. But it makes you wonder, if enlightenment could be achieved without strenuous effort, just by surgery or a pill, what would it be worth? How deep would it be?
By the way, I find this correspondence on the subject so interesting I’m going to stick it on my blog. Hope you don’t mind.


Fiction By C. Sanchez-Garcia\csanchez_garcia

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Election Night: How I said Goodbye to my Father

--- In, "Forrest A. Wright" wrote:
> I think life, even in the ideal world, must grieve. I think grieving> is an essence of eatings, drinkings and sexings.>
> Let us say good bye to the dead with tears but without damnation.
> Good bye old friend, mother, father or others. Rest in peace. Tears> and snots.> > Any words?

Hi Forest.

This is something which has been on my mind a lot these days because my father is dying. We don’t expect him to last out the month. I’ve mentioned it here before. He has been battling leukemia since February this year. He went through some hard chemo therapy which appeared successful, all the cancer cells were gone. Then he went in and out of a coma, and a few weeks ago the leukemia cells were back. The American health care system, second to none except Costa Rica and about 32 other countries according to WHO, told him to have a nice trip and that was that.

When I got the word I had to decide how to say good bye to him. He and I are both fierce Democrats and were excited about election night so I proposed to spend election night with him, as a final father and son thing we could do together. I arrived on Monday the 3rd.

In the evening my sister Anna and I dug out some photo albums left by my Uncle Tony. They had pictures of dad long before I was born. Images of him as a young man in the Navy, and National Guard, then as a teenager, then as a child, then as a baby. It had photos of my ancestors going back 5 generations, almost to the very invention of photography. We spent the evening before election night in the living room, my Dad tired but spirited, the leukemia blisters ravaging his face like ulcerous warts. I scribbled fast in a notebook I’d brought along for a short story I’m writing, as he went through each old picture explaining who it was and what the story was behind it. It was as if his life was flashing by him, but one black and white image at a time. They were incredibly sharp images, and in pristine condition. One image shows the shadow of his brother snapping the camera with the sun behind him. The shadow is hunched, looking down, the images 2 ¼ by 2 ¼ (“two and a quarters” in photographers terms) confirming that these were shot by an old Kodak ”Brownie” camera, the camera of the masses for generations. They were ghosts. Many of the people, even the children, were all dead. Their time, their generation had passed as Dad, the youngest of them, was beginning to pass away.

What a strange thing it must be to see the changing faces of yourself as a teenager with all the mystery of your future in front of you, and now to meet these ghosts with your grown son, knowing that death is finally coming down the road for you, to see it at the door and looking you in the eye, to know your fate, to have no doubt of it and to wonder what the answer to the next great mystery will turn out to be. What will it turn out to be; who finally got it right? The great religions? The mystics? The atheists? Heaven? Hell? Graduation? Reincarnation? Dumb oblivion?

At the end of the evening he went upstairs and came down with something I had requested he give to me. Some things can’t be taken. They have to be given. It was an antique in perfect working condition, which fifty years ago had been the jewel of his eye back in the day when I was too, when this thing and I were both brand new. It was an old professional camera, a German made Zeiss-Ikon twin lens reflex. When I was a little kid, Dad earned his living with this beautiful machine as a photo-journalist. For years I coveted it, even though no one made film for it anymore. It was the old samurai handing down his Katana sword. He passed it down to me. It was a pleasure to hold in my hands, the finger the dials, frame the image and to remember how it was when he was my Dad and I was his kid. It’s the way I want to remember him.

On election day we took it easy. Dad had voted by absentee ballot. We raked leaves and smoked a cigar together outside and talked politics. It was if the past had never happened. As we raked the leaves out front, friends drifted down the sidewalk on their way to the polls. They stopped or pulled over to chat with him as he introduced me. This was an upper middle class neighborhood such as I will never be able to live in, the neighborhood I might have had if I had chosen differently as a young man. Almost every front lawn, in an unbroken chain had a big blue Obama sign on it. I felt sorry for any Republicans in the neighborhood, they must have felt defensive. I looked at this stream of people, popping in to pay their respects and wondered what it would have been like to have been one of them. What a tribute to have so many friends come by to see you in your last days.

In the evening we went downstairs to the basement where the big TV was, and ate popcorn and drank beer and watched it all happen. My sister Anna, another sacrifice of my religious life, a person who grew up without ever knowing me, came in and hung out with us for awhile. I kept switching over to Fox News, which Dad hates, but I always find losers more interesting than winners. It was fun to hear the other side. We were tuned into Fox when it was announced that Obama would be the winner. You could see a noticeable sag in the announcer.In the morning it was time to leave. We parted in tears. I had failed to shed tears for my mom when she died, and when you’re seeing your parents for the last they deserve your tears, its your offering. My last offering to my Dad was my tears when I told him I wouldn’t see him again. It reminded me of the old days, saying goodbye to the old gods and the ghosts of what might have been.


Exosloar Planets, and the question of Good and Evil

(non-political!) Random thoughts: Exosolar planets and extraterrestrial life.

Someone recently posted about planets discovered outside our solar system and that it turns out Hubble has pictures of them. I went to NASA’s web site and after some difficulty found one of the pictures.It’s not much to look at. A red background with tiny white dots and some boxes pointing at the planet “fomalhaut”. I’m trying to imagine aliens stepping out of a flying saucer and saying ”Beep-beep. Greeting earthlings. We are from the planet Fomalhaut. Take us to your leader.”

You can see images of this tiny little white dot, such as it is at:

When you look at this unsexy dull little thing, you have to remind yourself of what a miracle you're seeing. What a privelege to live in a time when we can see the great dream of science fiction, an alien world. A real one.

Eastern polytheistic religions have a way of explaining good and evil by assigning the roles to different gods. The most familiar is Hinduism with Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva, the creator, sustainer and destroyers respectively. But all the gods in that trinity are regarded as being essential. Without Shiva, Brahma doesn’t have new ground for creating new things. Without the asteroid of Shiva destroying the dinosaurs there would never have been the rise of mammals and homo sapiens, the clever ape that worships. It brings two things to mind.The big mystery with the search for intelligent (technological) life in the Universe is that we haven’t found any by now. There has been small incidents but nothing that meets scientific standards. Why? It may have to do with the Brahma Vishnu, Chesed-Geverah dichotomy. If there is too much benevolence, not enough severity, destruction and death, then evolution stagnates.

Death is the great engine of evolution. When confronted with change the best adapted species resists death better than the less. Nature is not sentimental. Nature goes for turnover. In fact the species that live and die off the most quickly (microorganisms) are the ones that evolve the fastest in response to change. That’s why viruses like tuberculosis and Stapholococcus drive doctors mad, they mutate to resist anti-biotics very fast. You will never meet a microbiologist or a virologist who doesn’t believe in evolution. So if you have a world where there is a benign environment, a paradise, the march of evolution stops. Who needs it? Intelligent life will probably never evolve in paradise. What about Hell?

If you have a planet where life gets a foothold, but is constantly struck down by volcanic catastropes, viral plagues, or by large bolides setting off mass extinctions every few million years, some of them severe, then intelligent life doesn’t get a foot hold either. We exist largely because of the planet Jupiter.Jupiter exists outside our orbit, and has immense gravity. It plays shortstop to about half the space junk that goes falling into our solar system before it ever reaches out orbit. Without Saturn and Jupiter we would have gone the way of the dinosaurs several times already. There was a time, about 100,000 years ago, where the entire population of hominids’ of all species totaled a few hundred thousand, and lived mostly in Africa. If something big had hit Africa then, setting off a mass extinction on the level of the KT or Permian extinctions, there would be no human beings in the world at all. The smartest thing on earth might be a porpoise, and because they live in water they’re incapable of radio technology.

It also brings up the problem of monotheism and evil. All living things resist death. Human beings especially fear death and look for explanations. In the case of a religion where there is one God, you either have to blame evil on that image of God or create a devil as a dump ground for all evil events. This places a great burden for people who want to have a personal relationship with God and yet have to fear his power and judgments. Mysticism sets aside the whole question of evil as being naturalistic, a perceived element of nature, but as illusory as goodness. God is beyond these things the way natural law is beyond these things. I think this is probably the way things really are, but there is no comfort in it, and its power to inspire people to great deeds is very limited.The belief in a humanistic image of a God of love and goodness is the power to inspire faith. Faith is that natural magic that enables our species to bend reality itself.

Now there's a great idea for a story.