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I suppose it is inevitable for the time of year. Perhaps it is the sense of the long summer waning, its once endless expanse of days, now finite and running out like grains of sand in an hourglass.

Since childhood, I have experienced late August with a sense of foreboding. The shortening days and lengthening afternoon shadows were inevitably the unmistakable harbingers of irrevocable and systemic changes. The reality of the upcoming school year would suddenly loom like an oncoming ship, emerging from the quiescence of a fog bank. The languidity of summer seems to evaporate overnight into sharp little crystals of urgency. The nightly chirping of crickets is a little more frenzied now, signaling perhaps the end of unstructured time – at least for this year. The end of the endlessness of the season of the sun. Like it or not, the universe is shifting its gears. We must choose between frisson and dread. Somewhere a demon figure is pulling the levers. Click Click.

In the clear warm night skies, Mars has been shining like a pulsing red beacon, the closest it has been to the earth in 65,000 years. Mars is after all, the god of War. The last people to have seen it this clearly were the Neanderthals, and they went extinct.

A recent trip to the idyllic seeming little town of Courtenay BC and I am approached on three separate occasions by sad looking middle-aged women, begging for change. Middle aged and formerly middle class, they have somehow fallen like dried leaves from the withering bough of the bourgeoisie – the walking wounded in the Class War. Twenty years of economic brutalism have become so deeply entrenched, that this no longer seems remarkable – even in Lotusland. After all, the fear of winding up homeless, keeps a lot of low-income workers from fighting for better wages or working conditions. Keep poverty visible and you have a very effective form of social control. It keeps the cost of labour down.

Brian Eno, the godfather of ambient music writes a wonderful review of John Stauber’s Weapons of Mass Deception, in the Guardian. Eno, who brought us the seminal 1978 Music for Airports is now helping to deconstruct the ubiquity of ambient American propaganda. This is truly wonderful and dementedly mimetic. I continue to admire him greatly.

Renana Brooks writes in The Nation about the use of studied ‘empty language’ techniques and ‘negative frameworks’ in George W. Bush’s speeches, to create an ambience of learned helplessness and inevitability in the minds of the American public.

I remember once, (years ago, under the influence of some hallucinogen), suddenly and viscerally appreciating the interplay of flows, chaos and turbulence in the boiling gray sky of a Toronto spring. This connection never left me. It’s easy once you open your mind to the large scale patterns. Deep inside, we’re wired for it. We can read ambience.

Outside I see the gray skeins of an oceanic front scudding across what has, seemingly forever, been a painfully white- blue sky. It might be the first rain in weeks. . .

black current

One of the odd exigencies of living on the coast of British Columbia, is the moderating effect of the Japan or Kuroshio Current (the Pacific counterpart of the Gulf Stream), on our climate. While we are at 50 degrees north in latitude, (4 degrees north of Quebec City), it is possible to grow figs here. Several of them are ripening on a branch outside my window, where they look incongruously tropical against the backdrop of northern conifers.
While the fruits are oddly testicular in shape, the fig cannot reproduce sexually at these latitudes because we are lacking the tiny wasp that evolved to pollinate it. This might be just as well, as male fig wasps live out their little lives as wingless sex slaves which never get to leave the fig in which they were born. So our figs, sweet as ambrosia though they may be, are merely sterile ovaries which will never set seed.
Fortunately the trees are easily propagated asexually from hardwood cuttings, taken in the late winter
The fig is one of the oldest cultivated trees, going back to at least the Bronze Age in the region of Asiatic Turkey. It has the dubious distinction of being the first tree mentioned by name in the Bible. Its leaves were used by Adam and Eve to cover their genitalia after expulsion from the Garden of Eden. The fig was likely the ‘forbidden fruit’ from the ‘tree of knowledge.’ Jesus actually curses a fig tree and causes it to wither.
What did the Bible have against figs? Where they considered immoral in their deliciousness ? Was it the shape of the fruits? We may never know, but I for one will continue to eat from ‘the tree of knowledge.’ At least for the next couple of weeks.

tree of knowledge


Late summer is the season of moths. Every electric light left on at night seems to attract legions of them, relentlessly battering themselves to death against the bulb, shedding the fragile powder that covers their wings as they commit their tiny scorching suicides. Obsessively beguiled by the blinding brightness, it seems they just can’t stop themselves. Does any moth ever ask itself, “Why am I doing this?”

My old friend Neil recently reminded me of my favorite moth of all –
-, the mother of all moths, from the eponymous 1961 Japanese monster movie. He sent me an audio file of the Mothra song, sung by the Mothra twins, adorable miniature fairies that communicate telepathically with the ancient moth mother. In the first Mothra film, the twins (played by real life pop stars Yumi and Emi Ito ) appear in matching Chanel suits and jaunty Jackie Kennedy style pillbox hats. They try in vain to prevent Mothra’s giant egg from being stolen by evil businessmen from their home on Infant Island. What a great metaphor for modernity !

The original 1960’s Japanese monster movies were all about Japan’s loss of innocence as the first nation state casualty of the nuclear age. Godzilla himself, was a transparent trope for America – big and goofy, smashing up Japanese cities and withering the landscape with his radioactive breath. But nevertheless, he was kind of cute.

Like moths flapping at the window of a night-time kitchen, my tribe of WiFi enthusiasts in rural British Columbia clusters and presses against the side of a government building seeking proximity to a high speed data pipe. We bask in its flux of 802.11b, which like nectar feeds our ever increasing appetites for large downloads at high speeds.

WiFi Enthusiasts outside a rural British Columbia government building