Guest Posts

Todd Walton: Falling Behind


From TODD WALTON
Mendocino
UnderTheTableBooks.com

“If we weren’t still hiring great people and pushing ahead at full speed, it would be easy to fall behind and become a mediocre company.” Bill Gates

In 1983, as the trajectory of my writing career, commercially speaking, was turning steeply downward, my third-rate Hollywood agent gave me an ultimatum. “Get an answering machine or find another agent.” Thus I became one of the last people in America to discover the joys of screening my calls.

In the early days of owning an answering machine, I especially enjoyed making long rambling outgoing messages; and people seemed to enjoy hearing those messages a few times, after which they would urge me to change the messages because they never wanted to hear them again. So I got in the habit of making

Todd Walton: Complexity


From TODD WALTON
Under The Table Books
Mendocino

“Adam was but human—this explains it all. He did not want the apple for the apple’s sake, he wanted it only because it was forbidden. The mistake was in not forbidding the serpent; then he would have eaten the serpent.” Pudd’nhead Wilson’s Calendar

Are most humans inherently incapable of understanding complex arrangements of interrelated things and actions, or can almost anyone develop such a capability?

Yesterday I heard live coverage of the eviction of campers at Zuccotti Park in Manhattan, an occupation that began as a protest against rich people being further enriched by a corrupt financial system. After several weeks of camping in the park, the protestors morphed into an ongoing settlement of people who, judging from interviews I heard with a number of evicted campers, wanted to continue living in Zuccotti Park indefinitely because: “Where else am I supposed to go?” “The one per cent got rich ripping everyone else off.” “There are no good jobs left in America because the rich people sent all the jobs to China.” “It is my constitutional right to camp here as long as I want.” “Private property is a conspiracy

Todd Walton: Robbery


From TODD WALTON
Mendocino

Someone broke into our car last week while we were in Cotton Auditorium for another marvelous Symphony of the Redwoods concert, Marcia in the orchestra, I in the audience. I left our car unlocked, having lost the habit of locking up since I moved to Mendocino from Berkeley six years ago. The thief or thieves took a water bottle, a pair of dark glasses, and several CDs. They did not steal the stereo or wreck anything, but the invasion left us feeling sad and cranky. Marcia always locks her car, and I will do so henceforth, though it pains me to feel I must.

I’ve been robbed several times in the course of my life, each robbery ushering in a time of self-review. I’ve had six bicycles stolen, each theft necessitating the purchase of my subsequent mount, along with new and improved locks and chains. And because riding my bicycle was, until quite recently, my primary mode of transport, I understand very well why we used to hang horse thieves.

The grandest material theft of my life befell me two days after Christmas in 1979. I had just moved to Sacramento and was renting a house in a demilitarized zone—poverty to the south of me, wealth to the north. For the first time since childhood, and after more than a decade of living a monk’s life, materialistically speaking, I was relatively affluent. In quick order I had acquired

Todd Walton: 3-D


From TODD WALTON
UnderTheTableBooks.com
Mendocino

As the local and state and national and global economies continue to stagger under the weight of debt, real and imagined, and seven billion hungry humans vie for space and food and air and water on the besieged planet, and the Haves continue their eternal battle with the Have Nots, Hollywood has, in the last few years, been rescued from financial ruin by the advent of huge budget movies made in 3-D to be shown in special 3-D theaters and on special 3-D screens for audiences wearing special 3-D glasses. Yes, it was a close call. People weren’t going to the movies much anymore, preferring to wait to watch the junky new films at home for pennies on the dollar or pirating them off the interweb. Why drive to a multiplex and pay a small fortune to see crap when that crap can be delivered right to your doorstep, so to speak, like bad pizza?

But crap in 3-D is amazing. 3-D crap looks fifty times more real (and better) than real crap. And little kids, the second largest engine of movie ticket sales after kids slightly older than little kids, love 3-D, probably because their brains aren’t fully formed yet and the impact of watching massive multi-dimensional animated penguins and cartoon characters and toys and gigantic super heroes killing and killing and killing

Will Parrish: The Occupy Mendo Food Project


From WILL PARRISH
Laytonville
TheAVA

On the night and early morning of October 16th  to 17th, the San Francisco Police Department raided the Occupy San Francisco encampment at Justin Herman Plaza, disassembling people’s tents and nabbing basic provisions such as food, water, and utensils.  Five people were arrested.  Footage of the police roughly dragging protesters across the pavement and beating them with batons spread quickly across the internet, sparking widespread outrage among movement supporters.

Those supporters include Anderson Valley residents Lisa and Francois de Melogue, who had been following the Occupy movement since its genesis as a small protest in Zucotti Park in the New York City financial district in August.  “We just thought that was, in a nutshell, bullshit,” says Mr. de Melogue, 47, referring to the SF police raid.  “We decided right there and then that we would start bringing food down to the Occupy San Francisco camp as a show of support.”

The San Francisco protesters reassembled their camp only hours after the police finished the raid.  In a matter of days, the de Melogues had solicited enough donations from farmers, bakeries, and grocery outlets in Fort Bragg, Willits

Will Parrish: The Evolution Of Occupy Santa Rosa


From WILL PARRISH
Laytonville

“We are reclaiming those same spaces of public practice that have been commodified, privatized and locked into the hands of faceless bureaucracy, real estate portfolios, and police ‘protection’. Hold on to these spaces, nurture them, and let the boundaries of your occupations grow. After all, who built these parks, these plazas, these buildings? Whose labor made them real and livable? Why should it seem so natural that they should be withheld from us, policed and disciplined? Reclaiming these spaces and managing them justly and collectively is proof enough of our legitimacy.”  — Egyptian Tahrir Square protesters, statement of solidarity with Occupy Wall Street movement, October 2011

A small but promising model for a better world has sprung to life on the previously sterile and generic expanse of lawns at 1st St. and Santa Rosa Ave., location of Santa Rosa City Hall, where participants in the growing Occupy Santa Rosa demonstration have assembled in a protest camp for more than two weeks. It is part of the larger Occupy Wall St. movement, which consists of hundreds of encampments in cities from San Francisco to New York to London. The tactic of occupying physical space to press for demands from those in power was popularized on a global basis by the Egyptian Tahrir Square demonstrators and other protesters throughout western Asia and northern Africa this past spring.

Occupations of public space in New York City’s financial district first began in August, as a means of challenging the corporate greed and democratic unaccountability that characterize the dominant political and financial institutions in the US and also throughout most of the world. While this country’s political punditry has persistently criticized the movement on grounds that it lacks clear goals, much less a coherent policy platform, it’s a laughable criticism

Todd Walton: Occupy Yourself


From TODD WALTON
UnderTheTableBooks
Mendocino

“The young always have the same problem—how to rebel and conform at the same time.  They have now solved this by defying their parents and copying one another.”  Quentin Crisp

In 1972, when I was in my early twenties, I founded a commune in Santa Cruz, California, a collective of eight people (with numerous and frequent overnight guests). We were disenchanted with American society, with America’s wars of aggression, with America’s pyramidal scheme of things, and with America’s environmentally disastrous use of the land, so we decided to explore new (to us) and regenerative ways to interface with the world rather than follow in the destructive footsteps of our parents and forefathers.

To that end, the eight of us shared a house built for a family of four, created a large organic garden (some of us having worked with Alan Chadwick in the university gardens), and pooled our minimal resources for the good of the group. Our experimental community lasted two years before collapsing under the weight of selfishness, immaturity, and a profound lack of preparation for such an undertaking. Our intentions were flawless; our skills and execution abysmal.

Nevertheless, I learned many valuable lessons from that adventure, and my next communal experience was vastly more successful, though it, too, died a sorry death for lack of skills, experience, and commitment by the majority of the participants. We were children, after all, though we had attained the age of adults in other societies; and children, with rare exceptions, eventually need guidance from elders to make the transition from play into self-sustaining living.

A few nights ago, after watching a raft of Occupy Wall Street videos sent to me by fascinated friends

Todd Walton: Recent Studies Show


From TODD WALTON
Mendocino, California
UnderTheTableBooks.com

“As far as income tax payments go, sources vary in their accounts, but a range of studies find that immigrants pay between $90 billion and $140 billion in Federal, State, and local taxes. And let us not forget the Social Security system. Recent studies show that undocumented workers sustain the Social Security system with as much as $7 billion a year. Let me repeat that: $7 billion a year.” Luis Gutierrez

Which seems to contradict…

“The Center for Immigration Studies found that illegal immigrants cost the United States taxpayer about $10 billion a year. A large part of that expense stems from the babies born each year to illegal immigrants.” Nathan Deal

Marcia and I both have web sites and use the interweb for research, marketing, entertainment, and communication with the world outside of Mendocino. Her office and mine are separated by a wall through which we occasionally shout at each other, though we can never be certain what the other person is shouting about until one or the other of us rises from his or her chair and walks around the corner to find out; or we send each other emails. It occurs to me that we could call each other on the phone, since we have separate lines, but we never do. That would feel silly.

We both have taken to scanning news synopses and articles on the interweb and exclaiming about various horrors and wonders and nonsense we discover. These exclamations can be heard through the wall and often elicit shouts of “What?” or may cause the hearer to rise and walk around the corner to find out what the exclaimer is exclaiming about. We are particularly fond of reports of recent studies by so-called scientists that may prove or disprove something that absolutely, trust me, does not need proving or disproving, though this lack of necessity never stops the studiers from carrying out their needless studies because, hey, in these difficult economic times what else have they got to do with their time and your money?

Todd Walton: Whoopsie Doopsie [Local]


From TODD WALTON
Mendocino
UnderTheTable.com

“The one thing we can never get enough of is love. And the one thing we never give enough is love.” Henry Miller

A couple years ago I created a catchy blues tune entitled Whoopsie Doopsie, and after I performed the song to the apparent delight of my wife Marcia, I thought I might make a recording of the tune and see how the world liked it. I wrote a note to myself—Whoopsie Doopsie Project—and put the note in the center of my just-cleaned desk, thereby establishing a new bottom layer for the accumulation of papers and books and drawings and letters and bills that would inevitably grow into a high plateau of dysfunction until, in a fit of frustration, I abstained from eating and drinking for several hours until the mess was properly expelled.

Thus time and again over these many months, I worked my way down to a little yellow square of paper on which was writ Whoopsie Doopsie Project, a trio of words that sent me to the piano to bang out the latest rendition, after which I would say to myself, “Yes, I really should record that and see what the world thinks of it.” Then the tides of time and paper would rush in again and submerge the note, and the project would largely vanish from my consciousness, except on rainy mornings when I was practicing the piano, at which times I might essay a version or two of the pleasing apparition.

Feeling especially sad one such rainy morning, I played a very slow Whoopsie Doopsie, and the sweet little love song became dark and plaintive; and I appreciated the song in my bones rather than with my sense of humor. And that very night we went to a dinner party at which the hostess asked me to play, and Marcia suggested I premiere Whoopsie Doopsie for the public, as it were. So I performed a rather timid version of the tune, the piano unfamiliar to me, and everyone in the audience said