The thread increasingly surrounded by darkness Riding out the winter (decline) of industrial civilization


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To Katie:

When you two go out would you say you go out to look good?

Does he dance?—dancing is sexual confidence.

Asking her if he’s played anything for her she’s liked. I doubt it! ha!

Can he dance? Dancing is sexual confidence.

My logic may not be perfectly sound, although I think it is…

…shouldn’t she want to be spending her time with me?

I suppose this is a naive assumption. Maybe she really wouldn’t be happier with me.

Clark Kent’s strange spike in traffic.

You’ve had me at me best—the best version of me—why would you want the shitty friend version?

Proposal for Kyle
Plexiglas cubes
[From the guy who somehow got himself lost in The Meadows apartments last Saturday.]
Hey man-- this may seem a bit out of left field but I assure you it’s been in the works for quite some time. Also… I don't know how to say this enthusiastically without the subtle inflections of the human voice but trust me; it's there-- oozing from every pixel.
For me, Saturday night in Culver City bore one of those life moments that seem straight out of a film. It was the part of the flick where the main character—whose retrospective thoughts the audience hears as a Wonder Years style voiceover—is about to enter a strange and wonderful new phase of his life. The transition into this new paradigm is compressed into a single pivotal scene. The other night at Melissa’s I briefly stepped out of my head (yes, before the bong rips) and experienced this scene unfold in my movie. I watched myself sit down on the floor of that bedroom and heard my narrator (me) say, “…And that’s when I met Kyle…”

So after that elaborate introduction, an attempt to convey my seriousness, I have a proposal for you. I assume that for logistical reasons your clients can’t all be coming to you. You must be doing some delivery—or at least you’ve had requests. I’d like to perform this function for you: by bicycle.

I’ve been thinking about delivery for a long time—I’ve seriously considered moving to New York to perform just such a function. There are lots of personal reasons why I find it so appealing—I wont go into them here—but trust me, my heart is in it. What’s more important is that I’d be exceptionally good at it. After completing graduate school in Chicago, I rode my bicycle from Chicago to San Francisco via Portland. After waiting out the winter, I’ve just completed another leg: SF to LA. What I’m saying is: I was made for this. I've been doing 80-mile days with 50 pounds of gear for months now.
Santa Barbara has so far been the toughest place to move on from (partly because it’s where I met Jessica and partly because it’s beautiful). I’d like to spend as much of my summer there as possible before I pedal on to Texas. I’ve just needed something to do there besides sit in a coffeehouse, ogling girls. (Plus, LA is destroying my soul.)
So in case you’re not like, “Fuck yeah! This is the best thing I’ve ever heard!” let me pitch it a bit further:
Some benefits:
1.) Incredibly reliable:

I put 5000 miles on my bike this year alone. I crossed the Rockies in a snowstorm on it. It just doesn't break down. I can change the occasional flat in ten minutes. (Try getting a car back up and running that quick).
2.) Fast:

I ride like the wind. Santa Barbara is the perfect size for this kind of thing.
3.) Low profile:

Nobody is more innocuous than a dude wearing a bicycle helmet.
4.) It’s green! (Like the product):

That's right, no gas. Actually, no insurance, no parking tickets, no accidentally killing a small child. I can almost hear the backyard conversations of your clients: "yeah, our guy is sooooo progressive. He delivers by bicycle courier." Everyone can feel all warm and fuzzy about offsetting their carbon footprint: very SB. Plus, I feel like there’s something inherently sleazy about delivery by car that isn’t attached to the two-wheeled alternative.

5.) Capacity:

I have four waterproof Ortlieb panniers with plenty of room: almost too much. Unless you're delivering over sixty pounds at a time then there shouldn't be a problem.
I’d also be totally into learning about the various strains and refining a sales pitch. I imagine it would be the kind where you lay some samples out on the coffee table, articulately play up the qualities of each, then let the client do some sniffing before making a selection.
Ok, I’m donezo. If you've read this far and are genuinely interested than may I suggest a trial period of sorts. Let me do this for you for a week and if it works out we can proceed from there.
Think it over. If you’ve got questions, which you very likely do, ask away.


In case you're interested in those cross-country rides, which are actually an extension of my work in grad school:
So I’m at a shitty starbucks in Fullerton. If the music coming from the single wall mounted speaker gets any worse I’ll be forced to take myself elsewhere. There’s a dude—seriously red in color—wearing a really hideous shirt and playing roulette online. One table over from him is another dude with a crazy white beard playing some video game. So basically I’m hanging out with a bunch of losers with way too much time on their hands. Coming here is as close as I come to having to a routine.

The house I’m staying at is like a time warp back to the 70s. There’s wood paneling in the living room, four cats, one incredible afro, and a glass piece that never seems to be empty. Last night I went with a couple girls to pick up $280 dollars worth of ecstasy and mushrooms. So that’s the OC third of my life at the moment.

I met a designer of eco friendly wedding dresses who I’m more or less entangled with romantically. She splits her time between Santa Barbara and Westwood Village and I strut my stuff for her gay roommates so they don’t notice I’ve basically moved in. She has a four-year-old daughter, an ex-husband, and is almost five foot ten.
Meanwhile my ex has arrived in LA with the spectacle that is Dirty Dancing the musical and I’m trying (half heartedly) to steal her away from her new boyfriend. Imagine Superman if he grew up in Canada instead of on planet Krypton. That’s my competition. This guy seriously picks people up and twirls them around over his head with one arm. Only slightly exaggerating here. So far my efforts have been less than fruitful and it’s not helping my small guy complex.
Last weekend I went to a party in Culver City and got seriously lost inside a giant apartment complex. I thought I had somehow crossed over into another dimension where there were no exits and all the paths led back to the same point. The Labyrinth basically. I was gone for so long the apartment party organized itself into a search party and set out to locate me—which they eventually did.
I have almost no money. I feed myself with a delicate balance of shoplifting and food stamps. Every day is vastly different from the previous. Not having any particular place to be is a weird condition. You really have to be honest with yourself about how you want to spend your time. Some people can’t handle it and I’m beginning to understand why. It takes creativity and homegrown motivation to not sleep all day. I’ve been riding around LA a lot—just for fun, and recently finished the coast highway—riding all the way to the US/Mexico border.

The “project” is going fine, I’m just way behind on the writing and my hard drive is now completely full which means I need to find work. I finally met a dealer with enough connections in SB that I may be able to start delivering soon. We’re meeting Thursday to hash out some details- pun intended.

So that’s the situation.

Now you go…!
Hey! [I apologize for not catching your name]
I realize you don’t need messengers at the moment but I thought I’d at least put myself on your radar for future consideration.
I finished graduate school in Chicago last summer then rode my bicycle across the country to San Francisco via Portland. I’ve recently pedaled the rest of the way down the California coast and am looking to spend a few months in Santa Barbara before heading eastward.
I’ve wanted to deliver for a long time but the whole artist’s career thing has gotten in the way. I’ve been doing 80-mile days with fifty pounds of gear for months now meaning I’m basically made for it. I’m educated, articulate, good with navigation, and I ride like the wind.
Documentation of the cross-country tours if you’re interested:
So maybe I’ll stop in one of these days and introduce myself in person. If, in the meantime, if a tour bus hits one of your couriers: drop me a line.

Ran on not fighting the unplanned thing:

in some ways, collapse will improve our quality of life. I've written plenty about this already, but here's another way to think about it: The culture of Empire fears anything it didn't plan. Anything that goes "wrong" is not just a challenge to be overcome, but a threat to our feeling that we are in control. Consider how people react to disease, or "terrorism", or unruly kids, or weeds. The best thing to do is keep it from happening in the first place. If that fails, we must forcefully destroy the unplanned thing, or build a wall against it. And if those moves fail, we are ruined, game over. What we don't consider is that our plans might be mistakes, and that if we don't fight the unplanned thing, but listen to it, it will guide us back into balance.

Shoplifting episode:

First in the “how I would have behaved differently“ series—tow versions of particularly vivid episodes. One, what actually happened, and Two, what I’d with I’d done. There has to be some overarching theme that ties everything together and adds up to more than the sum of the fragmented episodes. What would you be saying about how one should live one’s only life?

Make a big scene—where is you allegiance people?! Seven dollars?! From Albertsons?! I’m trying to feed myself here. I’m trying to get my antioxidants
I could see this series becoming: “how I would have behaved if I wasn’t a pushover”
What has to be the problem here?

Write, write write—don’t stop until something intelligent comes out—no anal punctuation behavior. Please. Ok so why is she here? I mean I know why but in the larger philosophical context of the universe? The “meant to be this way” path opening up before you—the “this has got to be occurring for a reason.” Dimension—the unplanned “plan” going completely according to plan. No she just works here—she’s here all the time—but that skirt is ridiculous. Seriously. So good. Really good. Great actually. She’s absolutely prefect. No correcting asshole. She has no idea. No idea—no idea—no idea—no idea—no idea. That didn’t go so well. Forward? Maybe. Progress. Why does she have to be so young? Fucking ridiculous. Fucking hell man. Unfair! Truly unfair! Anyway- may have to just let this one go. Not likely to work.

So you’re in charge of figuring out your life this weekend—to make a plan of action—to establish your goals-- To make USEFUL lists. What’s important? What are your needs? Are they being met? God everything about her is perfect. Forget it! FUCK! She is the center of the universe. Too much man, too, too much. Anyway—stay focused. I’m like a blind spot in the room she can’t look at. I don’t want that to be the case. No, really—not at all. That would be awful. Like a certain kind of hell. Got the look of recognition from beard dude like, “oh hell—how are we supposed to deal with this? It’s beyond our power of male self-control what you’re asking here.

take it delicately.—lightly—easy steps—baby steps—not too aggressive—subtle. Classy yet kinda dirty at the same time—because lets face It, it’s a bit dirty in general. You could do it slowly like a glacier [said with an English accent]. Glacier—one cute text at a time. Just completely pretend not to be paying attention. She’ll dig it, or be really creaped out. Either way, could by fun. This is seriously the most ridicules way to spend your time—it’s like pure time wasting—nothing short of--- in its most concentrated form— maybe not—watching sports maybe takes it. I swear to god my pits produce acid when I’m nervous—like sulfuric acid—that feeds crazy acid loving bacteria that swarm and reproduce and put out some super stinky smells. She can’t know what she’s missing. Can’t know with whom she’s dealing. Right? Don’t delude yourself man. No good.
Seriously, you make working here really inefficient for me.

Not that I was getting anything done before she got here but now there’s absolutely no chance.

Now we’re into new territory. No response—that guy’s either a dealer or a pimp. Oh, the phone is out. It’s like—see, I’m not responding on purpose. I’m ignoring you. That would be mean though. Oh, what the fuck are you doing you asshole. Grow the fuck up man.
Putting your ignoring skills to the test.

Then she puts my bloody valentine on again and my heart breaks.


--Establish an income that will provide for the next leg. You need several thousand dollars to get you to the east coast.

--Finish the site! That’s right—you should feel stupid that you’ve done so much but not taken it that last little bit.

--get the word out—emails to all potentially interested parties.

-- Grant proposals.

Wow, you don’t have too many, goals do you? But the ones you do have are pretty involved—multi stage affairs. Maybe you should add “fall in love” or maybe just “do ecstasy with someone that’s into you.” That is certainly on the agenda. Nice—otherwise just enjoy your summer to the fullest. Like best summer ever!!! That’s pretty ambitious though.

Herman Daly: From a Failed Growth Economy to a Steady-State Economy

I think the answer is distressingly simple. Without growth the only way to cure poverty is by sharing. But redistribution is anathema. Without growth to push the hoped for demographic transition, the only way to cure overpopulation is by population control. A second anathema. Without growth the only way to increase funds to invest in environmental repair is by reducing current consumption. Anathema number three. Three anathemas and you are damned—go to hell!

And without growth how will we build up arsenals to protect democracy (and remaining petroleum reserves)? How will we go to Mars and Saturn and “conquer” space? Where can technical progress come from if not from unintended spin-offs from the military and from space research? Gnostic techno-fantasies of escaping earth to outer space, and of abolishing disease and death itself, feed on the perpetual growth myth of no limits. Digital-brained tekkies, who have never heard of the problem of evil, see heaven on earth (eternal growth) just around the corner. Without growth we must face the difficult religious task of finding a different god to worship. Too scary, we say, let’s try to grow some more instead! Let’s jump-start the GDP and the Dow-Jones! Let’s build another tower of Babel with obfuscating technical terms like sub-prime mortgage, derivative, securitized investment vehicle, collateralized debt obligation, credit default swap, “toxic” assets, and insider slang like the “dead cat bounce”. (If you drop it from a high enough tower of Babel even a dead cat will bounce enough to make some profit.)

Hum, hum—a game in the park—lots of other people—very public—probably a good place to start. Potentially awkward but also potentially really fun. I knew it! I knew she was intrigued. Unless this is about getting more people to play—which is unlikely. You should be thrilled. You’ve had a fantastic couple days. You danced until sunrise on top of a mountain for fuck’s sake.

What’s to be done with lots of unstructured time post: You have so much time to manage your relationships—that is such a blessing. I don’t mean manage in the sense of manipulating people-- you can evaluate how you’re treating people—how well you’re able to empathize with them. You should send more emails though. Send more love out into the world.
Link to idle foundation site.
Turning coffee into a verb…

…you’re such a dick.

Reread picture of Dorian grey—somewhere there’s a painting of me looking really bad.

Literary reference.

Send Kyle black book gift.
It was great seeing her in your fleece—mostly because it’s totally not her style—but she still pulled it off
The dried flower that came home in your hair.
I hate getting on an airplane for something that isn’t completely worth it.
A day with Kyle and Ariana: Post—party on the mountain.
For project description—allude to the lifestyle—how you live in between stages as an equally significant component of the project—how you spend your time—how you manage to thrive on so little.
How to introduce industrial targets aspect: include in ‘why energy infrastructure’ section of project description. If at some point we decide that the prudent course of action is to jump the tracks and derail industrial civilization then this map of industrial targets should give us something to aim at. (with a brief discussion of whether or not this is a good idea.)
On the importance of being idle.—on the “in between time” of a multi-year project.
Dropping a Prius key down an elevator shaft—

The more complex the systems we depend on become, the more of a pain in the ass it is when they fail.

Post on—unusual camp sites—with site images taken from above—skills post.
Dream- reading a coffee table book on crash-landed and abandoned military aircraft (the Balkans, China?) in some really mountainous areas from the top of a pole I’d climbed.
From Tom:

Be specific and honest with yourself regarding what it is you want out of life.

Seemed to be a really good exercise in taking direction. I watched.
The only thing I have to bring to the table in this business partner thing is myself.—my body really although I assume I’d be good at marketing.
You could shoot the Domenico monologue in the concrete riverbed near orange.
Someone is going to enjoy me.
West-Minster refineries. Southern California destinations.
D. Orlov lecture: on the point at which high energy costs cause economic collapse

Back to what is actually happening right now. There seems to be a wide range of opinion on how to characterize it, from recession to depression to collapse. The press has recently been filled with stories about "green shoots" and the economists are discussing the exact timing of economic recovery. Mainstream opinion ranges from "later this year" to "sometime next year." None of them dares to say that global economic growth might be finished for good, or that it will be over in "the not-too-distant future" -- a vague term they seem to like a whole lot.

And so, the actual limiting price, beyond which no economic activity is possible, is certainly a lot lower, and last summer we seem to have experimentally established that to be around $150/bbl. which is something like 25% of global GDP. We may never run out of oil, but we have already run out of money with which to buy it, at least once, and will most likely do so again and again, until we learn the lesson. We will run out of money to pump it out of the ground as well. There might still be a few gushers left in the world, and so there will be a little bit of oil left over for us to fashion into exotic plastic jewelry for rich people. But it won't be enough to sustain an industrial base, and so the industrial age will effectively be over, except for some residual solar panels and wind generators and hydroelectric installations.

harness the heirloom technologies that can be sustained without an industrial base, then we can stretch out the transition far into the future, giving us time to adapt.
Global GDP is a function of oil consumption; as oil production goes down, so will global GDP. At some point, the inability to invest in oil production will drive it down far below what might be possible if depletion were the sole limiting factor. Efficiency, conservation, renewable sources of energy all might have some effect, but will not materially alter this relationship. Less oil means smaller global economy. No oil means a vanishingly small global economy not worthy of the name.
Lastly, we can concentrate on what is important: preserving a vibrant ecosphere that supports a diversity of life, our own progeny included. I can imagine few short-term prerogatives that should override this - our highest priority.
Market research shows that there is a great reservoir of pent-up eco-guilt out there for marketers and advertisers to exploit. Industrial products that help the environment are a bit of an oxymoron. It's a bit like trying to bail out the Titanic using plastic teaspoons.

The biggest risk of all, as I see it, is that the industrial economy will blunder on for a few more years, perhaps even a decade or more, leaving environmental and social devastation in its wake. Once it finally gives up the ghost, hardly anything will be left with which to start over. To mitigate against this risk, we have to create alternatives, on a small scale, that do not perpetuate this system and that can function without it.
The idea of perpetuating the status quo through alternative means is all-pervasive, because so many people in positions of power and authority wish to preserve their positions. And so just about every proposal we see involves avoiding collapse instead of focusing on what comes after it. A prime example is the push to develop alternative energy. Many of these alternatives turn out to be fossil fuel amplifiers rather than self-sufficient resources: they require fossil fuel energy as an essential input. Also, many of them require an intact industrial base, which runs on fossil fuels. There is a pervasive idea that these alternatives haven't been developed before for nefarious reasons: malfeasance on the part of the greedy oil companies and so on. The truth of the matter is that these alternatives are not as potent, physically or economically, as fossil fuels. And here is the real point worth pondering: If we can no longer afford the oil or the natural gas, what makes us think that we can afford the less potent and more expensive alternatives? And here is a follow-up question: If we can't afford to make the necessary investments to get at the remaining oil and natural gas, what makes us think that we will find the money to develop the less cost-effective alternatives?

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