28 July 2013

Good Wishes From Simon, Dude.

The Dude

The Dude

Simon is liking the stylish look, loving his hat. I can't decide whether to give it to him or to wear it, I like it. We are thinking of getting him his own straw hat with earholes, but this one seems to suit him. I have always thought Simon thinks he's very studly, he sure acts that way.

Posted in General

Liberation Technology: Bite Of The Apple. Can A Corporation Love You?

Bite Of The Apple

Bite Of The Apple

As corporations take over more and more of our culture, especially our technological culture, I have more thinking and managing to do about m relationship with technology, now the foundation of much of my work. There are many issues relating to technology and social media for me to sort out and ponder – boundaries, privacy, addiction, obsessive communications, hostility, money,  among others – but for now, I'm dealing with rise of the technological eco-system – how corporations like Apple, Google, Amazon are not simply selling products and services, but drawing us into purchasing systems that are increasingly expensive, complex and manipulative.

Amazon sells Kindles and discounted books on them, but they also ties us to the company's vast and growing system of products and free and cheap deliveries.

We become dependent now just on technology itself, but on these eco-systems, which are just another name for monopolies. Not too long ago our government used to try and curb monopolies but corporate America has invaded the political and legal system as well as our personal lives. Our government routinely terrorizes publishers and independent bookstores into never colluding with one another, but nobody seems to care that Amazon is very close to monopolizing publishing. It is unimaginable to think of the federal government challenging Amazon.

For all of my creative life, I have used and loved Apple products. I think Steve Jobs was one of the great minds of my time, one of the great and positive influences on my life, for all of his intensity and cruelty. His company is a corporation, not a noble cause, but he seemed to me a ferocious advocate of people like me, not technically minded but drawn deeply into technology for creative reasons. His customer service was fabled and hardly ever replicated. When I called them, they made it right. I've written every book and blog post and magazine article I've ever published on an Apple Computer. I know better than to romanticize or personalize corporations but I always felt Apple was my partner, helping me navigate this difficult and confusing world, helping me do my writing, take and store my photos, write my books, publish my blog and podcasts.

Now, I'm getting uneasy. Apple is vast, and they have a hand in my entire creative life. This week I realized that my Ipad 2 was getting funky, and I gather this happens now to these devices, their processors are not fast enough to handle the rapidly changing and extensive interfaces of the Internet. I researched this. I was considering a smaller tablet, I looked at the Ipad mini and also at the new Google Nexus 7, getting a lot of good attention. I talked at length with an Apple sales person and  she persuaded me I needed a new Ipad, not a smaller tablet. Following her counsel, I ordered a regular Ipad without cellular capabilities – WI-FI is almost everywhere – and with a relatively small amount of memory, since I don't store videos or play games. I did not want to spend a thousand dollars.

But I found out if I didn't spend a thousand dollars, I couldn't get the Ipad I needed.

When the Ipad came, it was the wrong size, I couldn't transfer my stuff from the old one. I spent hours on the phone with tech support before we figured out they had sold me the wrong tablet. The nearest Apple store is an hour and a half away, and there are no appointments available for at least a week. The tech support rep said I would need to go there and spend a few hundred dollars more on extra memory.  I didn't feel as if I needed to spend an afternoon driving around for a mistake I didn't make.  In the meantime, I had purchased extra space in the cloud to try and save my content and transfer it.

I tried to cancel the order, but I can't reach the right department until Monday, and because I couldn't remember the security answers I entered 20 years ago, I couldn't cancel the cloud storage purchases either. It has never been so frustrating or complex for me to deal with Apple, they are doing so many things it is almost impossible for me or them to really keep up. So I made what is a big decision for me. I don't want to be entirely dependent on Apple, and the company seems to me to be getting big and unwieldy, growing well beyond me. Perhaps I always was alone and just didn't get it, but I know I am on my own now.

I am naive this way, I think it's the little boy always wanting support, even when there is none. I learn the same lesson over and over again, you have to be your own support, your own customer service.

Steve Jobs was not like other CEO's, perhaps the reason Apple was so inventive and successful. He didn't listen to bureaucrats or lawyers. He always sat on the tech support desk one morning each week and talked to callers like me, and now I increasingly feel I am just talking to another company out for money, this is also an example of my own fuzzy thinking.  Jobs was manic about making his products easy to use for creatives and about supporting them.

But Apple is a corporation, and has always been, what am I thinking?  I'll have to get on the phone again, but I will return the new Ipad and today I bought a new Nexus 7. It costs a little over $200 (as opposed to the $1,000 I was about to spend on the Ipad,  the additional memory I would need, insurance and Apple care, case, and the cloud storage. It's supposed to be easy on the eye and great for e-mail and Web browsing and social media management, just what I need. I have a good friend who is dying for an Ipad. She'll get mine.

The Nexus mini-tablet is the first piece of technology I have ever owned related to computing that was not from Apple. And the first time I have not listened to Apple advice.

I decided I need some liberation technology. I found myself reaching for the Ipad a little too often, doing things I don't really need or want to do. I want to understand Google and it's different operating system, I want to liberate myself from the grip of any one corporate system. I understand there is no longer any such thing as privacy, but I do want some independence. It sounds like a small decision, but it is a big one for me. I am managing a lot of technology now, and it is not natural to me, something I am learning  in order to change and evolve as a writer.  Apple and my creative life have been so entwined, I feel I'm cutting lost a bit of my creative soul, it feels a bit like a divorce, even though I have plenty of Apple products and will keep them.  I'll get the Lexus this week, I'll let you know how it goes.

I have to say this decision makes me sad, this was something I trusted for so long, it is hard to let go of the idea. Corporations are not built for trust. I suppose you just have to buy local for that.

Posted in General

The Bedlam Farm Barn Fairy: Sunshine, Strength, Parenting In The Fear Machine

Bedlam Farm Barn Fairy

Bedlam Farm Barn Fairy

Nikolene Norman has been in our lives for five or six years, after she first appeared in old Bedlam Farm big barn in her fairy costume, it was just before Halloween.  Her father, Ken Norman, is our farrier and friend,  he comes to the farm every month or so, often with his wife Eli he is wonderful at his work.  Ken helped save Simon's life when he was found dying, and has helped bring his legs back to strength.

Nikolene appeared out of nowhere that afternoon, like a vision, she was dazzling. Apart from her wondrous costume, she enchanted us with her innate charm, her sense of herself, her confidence and poise. She crawled on hay bales, kissed donkeys on the nose, seemed so completely at ease with herself. She became the Bedlam Farm Barn Fairy, and still is. Maria and I have both watched Nikolene evolve from a small child into a young woman, all of the traits we saw in her are  even more pronounced.

She is emblematic for me, because I admire the way she was raised, the person she is becoming, the risks her parents took to help her feel secure, loved and confident in a world filled with fear. In a culture that teaches a phobic fear of strangers, Nikolene has been taught confidence, how to make good decisions, how to be in the world with strength. She welcomes people, smiles on them, she has not learned fear and suspicion of people. In a culture where most people are clustered in cities and suburbs far from animals or the natural world, Nikolene lives among dogs, donkeys and horses. She approaches our donkeys with understanding – she knows to be aware around them – but without fear.

She looks adults in the eye, talks to them about their lives, answers questions about hers. In a culture in which parents prevent their children from having even the smallest problems and make even the smallest decisions about their children's lives, Nikolene works in the barns, shovels hay and manure, handles horses and donkeys, makes decisions for herself all the time, is allowed to have problems and figure them out.  She always wants to help.

When we were done trimming the donkeys' hooves yesterday, Nikolene asked if she could shovel out the barn for us. We said sure, and she did a great job. That does not happen frequently, if ever. Nikolene is strong willed, but obedient. She does not have to be shouted at. She is listened to, and she listens.

Many children come to the farm to meet the donkeys and it is sometimes sad for me to see how frightened they are, how frightened their parents are around our gentle animals, how tentative they are, how distant, often how repulsed they are by the smells, the flies, the manure. Many city parents even bring antibiotic lotions and make their children clean their hands immediately after touching a donkey.  You never know, they say, they've heard all kinds of stories. This distance and wariness is picked up by all of the animals, they smell and sense it, they return the favor. You can always tell what a person thinks of a donkey by what the donkey thinks of the person.

Nikolene will hop up on one of the donkeys, ride them for a bit, then hop off and kiss them on the nose. They are at ease with her, safe and trusting. She brushes them, talks to them. They are at ease with  her.

I can hear some of the people reading this and thinking, "oh, but there are great dangers, just look at the news, strangers can be evil, animals can spread disease, they can be dangerous." To some extent, all of these things are true, although I think Nikolene is picking up the strength and confidence and experience to make good judgments about herself and herself. We always have a choice – to buy into the Fear Machine's legalistic, greedy and phobic notions of the world – trust no one, beware of lawsuits, see the world as dangerous place, buy our ideas of safety and prevention  – or to buy some or little of it. There is big money in fear, not much in hope and promise.

I love many things about rural life, and one of them is that there aren't enough of us to attract the full attention of the fear mongers. They haven't quite poisoned the well where I live, we can't really afford to hide behind walls. Rural communities are about community, and that means finding reasons to turn to one another, not away from each other. Nikolene is a strong woman already, sensible, empathetic, at ease with herself.

I look forward to seeing Nikolene enter the world and prosper in it, and I appreciate her parents, who have let her live with some sense of freedom and exploration, have problems and solve them. They wanted this life for her, they made sure she had it, it was not easy, like me they often have to go against the grain. But this is why they are here. In their honor and hers, I'm putting up a Bedlam Farm Barn Fairy album on Facebook.

Posted in General

Good Morning: Creativity Today



Good morning from Bedlam Farm 2.0. I was thinking about Bedlam Farm 1.0 and I told Maria we should buy another farm, perhaps have three, go in the opposite direction. Just kidding.  The news here is that creativity is the order of the day.  I will post a Bedlam Farm Barn Fairy album. I have another Royal Baby of Bedlam Farm story, an update on the Princess Lenore's run-in over food with chickens. I am in the mood to write another poem that will hopefully make your toes tingle. I am having brunch with Maria, the photographer George Forss and the artist Donna Wynbrandt, George's conspirator in art.

And what is creativity? Is the the province of the exclusive and tormented few? Or are we all endowed with the creative spark, as God says in the Kabbalah and elsewhere. Do a few critics and gatekeepers get to decided who is gifted, or do we get to decide for ourselves. Check out the Open Group At Bedlam Farm and see for yourself.

And thank you for subscribing to bedlamfarm.com. The future seems to be approaching, and I am meeting it half-way. The blog remains free to those who cannot pay or don't wish to, but the  dynamics are changing. The blog is becoming my living book, and books are something people have to pay for. Options are $3 (for those under pressure) or $5 a month, or $60 a year. You can subscribe via Paypal, or, later this week, using your credit cards.

I do not accept contributions or donations, the blog is not a charity or a worthy cause – subscribing is not a way to help me out, rather to pay me for the work I do – and thanks to those of you who are  paying me for my work. I like it, it makes my work more valuable to me, and, I hope, to you.  Paper books are one thing I do, no longer the only thing. This blog is my daily book, I work hard at it, every day.  Mobile and smartphone version of the blog will be available shortly, you don't need to do anything to receive them, that will be automatic on you smartphones.

Posted in General