December 2002: Reductionism is Monochromatic

I wrote this in my journal on Christmas:

‘Hegel is more poet than philosopher. He calls reductionism thought that “culminates in a style of painting that is absolutely monochromatic.” (Phenomenology of Spirit, 31) Reductionism has lifeless determinations, but the universe is a living thing. No, it is more than a thing. Whatever the universe is, it is alive.’

This beautiful thought was my Christmas present to myself. To me it means that a philosophy that is worthwhile and meaningful has many colors. Science is one color; poetry and music are other colors.

November 2002: Opera

Music: Die Meistersinger
Book: Aristotle’s Ethics

The first opera I saw was not my favorite opera. I was hoping to get some sort of ecstatic experience out of it, but the whole time I was listening to “Die Meistersinger” in Covent Garden, London, I thought, “I need to get a job. I need to get a job.” That’s basically the message of the opera, so ya, the genius of Wagner at work.

London wasn’t exactly fun. I went out a few nights, got into a few random conversations, but didn’t make any connections.

Like any large city, if you can’t unlock its secret handshake within a few days, it’s really not worth the bother. You move on… in my case, I went up to Manchester…

I returned back from London feeling that I needed to find some sort of work, something that I was passionate about and that would pay the bills.

October 2002: Planning for Travel

Reverse culture shock hit me. I was so happy to be back home, but now I was starting to see things I didn’t like. Unemployment sucked, especially since I didn’t qualify for any. Also, the wonderful social life I was hoping to have never came to fruition. I thought that by really spending the time to pursue my passions I’d have awesome people to hang out with, but I found myself reading alone a lot in different cafes. Sure I had my Tuesday nights with Spinoza’s Coat, but during the day, when most people worked, there was nobody to hang out with.

I started taking Greek lessons from Ken Quandt with about half of Spinoza’s Coat. He gave such an awesome description about Wagner’s Die Meistersigner and how it’d give balance and meaning to life as well as rock my world. His description was so awesome, that I booked a flight to the only place in the world performing it: London. My flight would leave in November.

Books: Aristotle’s Politics
Music: Fallin’, Alicia Keys — so nails my love and not-so-much love for San Francisco

September 2002: 10 Year Critical Mass Anniversary

Things that happened in September of 2002:

  • The 10 year anniversary of Critical Mass
  • 1 year after 9/11
  • Benjamin Hollander reads his “film noir” poem, “Levinas and the Police,” on the 22nd.

I don’t recall exactly what the turn of phrase in the poem was that I liked so much but it went something like this:

Levinas said it.
You cannot plan it.
Raison d’etre. Tibet.

For the 10 year anniversary I brought a bouquet of daisies to give out to cyclists.

August 2002: A Mentor Dies

It was really hard for me to right this one. It was a busy month. I started dating again. I started working again doing Perl work for $15 an hour. Yes, the web industry crashed that bad. A mentor of 5 years, Hal Sarf, passed away from cancer.

Books:

  • The Symposium
  • The Phaedrus
  • Aristotle’s Politics

On-line dating sucked so bad this month that I swore it off forever. One of the last things Hal taught me before he died was how to get a number from a waitress, which impressed me from a 68 year old.

Also, if it wasn’t for Hal, I wouldn’t’ve gotten to meet Richard Rorty. His lecture on why Hegelian language can do nothing for social justice really impressed me. He read a newspaper clipping about a Jacquard loom worker who died and left his family in abject poverty and then went on to read some Hegelian non-sense about the progressive march of history towards the wellspring of Being. Okay, I’m convinced. Obscurantism in philosophy is a crime.

July 2002: Milk and Cookies

For my birthday, I had just milk and cookies. It was interesting to see who was “struggling” because they seriously needed booze to have a good time and folks who really enjoyed the occasion.

Money worries started to creep in, so me and a pal got it into our heads to drive to Reno and bet $20 on black jack. If we won, we’d stay, but if not, we’d drive back. We drove back.

June 2002: The Yoko Ono Exhibit

In June of 2002, at the Reverie, I met a very beautiful, young woman, who reminded me in wit, style and mien of my first love. On her table at the cafe, she had a copy of “The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind,” which she was reading for fun. I will not mention her name here because she is the sort of person who has just deleted all her flickr and Facebook accounts. I respect her privacy. All I can say is that for this month, she was my muse.

Spinoza's Coat holding copies of the Timaeus

We went to the SF MoMA to see the Yoko Ono Exhibit. At the time I was trying to find work as a writer, and hoped that building my portfolio through art reviews in print would work.

For this review, I would write about our date, which got published in a small zine called H2SO4 (defunct).

We both liked the chess board with only white pieces which forced you to imagine peace.

White Pieces - Imagine Peace

Books: The Origins of Consciousness in the Bicameral Mind
Art: The Yoko Ono Exhibit at the SF MoMA in 2002

Another wonderful thing happened. I got to do my first poetry reading at the Van Der Zanden Studio in Berkeley. The poems now seem naive, but here’s one:

Nothing like the coast
To tie the land and the sea,
To manage the soil's daily greed...
To greet the pounding
   the sounding
The rush, crush, crash and fall for every wave.

Far away from the coast
There is no in
Between.
Everything
That can be thought
Defeated sinks so easily.

The coast remembers everything,
Who has drowned, or been floundered,
Saved.
Yet it has no permanent measure
Like an ever shifting interpretation of an ancient myth
Sung new.
Morning and evening tide.

Also, my pals, Sam and Ani, who met at the Reverie, got married on the 15th. I helped them clear out a Rose Bush from Ani’s mother’s backyard, where the wedding was held. They both co-founded an Internet App business that is still around called Radical Fusion.

top photo: Spinoza’s Coat holding copies of Plato’s Timaeus

bottom photo: Yoko Ono’s White Chess Set

May 2002

I was living in a Victorian on Frederick Street between Waller and Ashbury.

I was living with 6 other people. Half of us were part of Spinoza’s Coat and the other half weren’t. Not that created any tension, or anything.

The first big outing I went on after returning back home in San Francisco was seeing “The Royal Tenenbaums” at the Red Vic. All my flatmates were there as well as some folks from the Reverie. Most of them were either poets or musicians who barely made a living in San Francisco as barristas.

One of my flatmates started crying while she was watching the movie. I really didn’t get it at the time.

During that month, I volunteered a lot. I went to Bayview to fix bicycles because although lots of people ride bicycles in the Bayview, there isn’t a bicycle shop close by like in the Haight.

When I would go to the Reverie, I would write poems. I wanted to be like the poet barristas I saw.

Movie: The Royal Tenenbaums
Book: The Timaeus by Plato

Leaving San Francisco: April 2002

Before I leave San Francisco and leave for Los Angeles, I’m going to spend some time each day thinking about the months I’ve been in San Francisco.

In April 2002, I just returned back from living in Bolzano, Italy. Half the people there spoke German. I have the journal where I would write all my thoughts in German. I wrote my last German entry the day I got back to San Francisco.

I thought I would never come back to San Francisco, but I was pulled back by all these wonderful people I met when I’d come back home.

April 2002

book: The Timaeus by Plato

music: Lenny Kravitz

food: Mahi Mahi with coconut Rice (cooked by Matthew Morrissey)

My favorite party question: What about you do you think is sexy?

Quote of the Month: “Who somebody is or was we can know only by knowing the story of which he (or she) is him (or herself) the hero.” from Hannah Arrendt’s “Human Condition,” p. 186.


During this time, I would spend most of my days in the Reverie Coffee Shop. I would wake up in the morning, get my coffee and just read philosophy and write. During the day random people would stop by, and we would chat for as short as a smoke or as long as an hour. People have lost the art of doing this, but at that time, the web was thought to be dead. We returned to a more natural way of relating.

My life was carefree.

I belonged to a philosophy group called Spinoza’s Coat. We would meet every Tuesday evening to discuss philosophy. It consisted of mostly like minded folks who met at the Reverie, or what we nicknamed, “The Rev.”

That April we were reading Plato’s Timaeus. It’s Plato’s attempt at a metaphysics of the material world. I like how he just defined something like time as “the moving image of Eternity.”

I was very happy to be back in my home town after living abroad.

I hope you’ll stick around for my blog post on May 2002!

Description of AI from Caprica

Zoe Greystone: The human brain contains roughly contains 300 megabytes of information. Not much when you get right down to it. The question isn’t how to store it. It’s how to access it. You can’t download a personality. There’s no way to translate the data. But the information being held in our heads is available in other databases. People leave more than footprints as they travel through life: medical scans, dna profiles, psych evaluations, school records, emails, recording, video, audio, cat scans, genetic typing, synaptic records, security cameras, test results, shopping records, talent shows, ball games, traffic tickets, restaurant bills, phone records, music lists, movie tickets, TV shows… even prescriptions for birth control.