My pilot light is out

Every once in a while, I get the urge to stop blogging. I sat and stared at the screen last night for a few hours, and just couldn’t seem to muster the energy or enthusiasm for it. I feel like blaming the baby, as he’s been keeping us up for the past two weeks, but my sense is that it’s deeper than that. Lack of sleep is surely a part of it, but I suspect there are other contributing factors, like the fact that the sun refuses to shine on Michigan. It also doesn’t help that I’m prone to depressive episodes. Linette must think I’m entering one, as she decided to give me my Christmas present early. It’s some kind of magic blue light that I’m supposed to stare into as I lean sadly over my granola each morning. I’ve agreed to give it a try, but I’m doubtful that it’ll make things better. You see, I don’t think the problem – when you get right to the heart of it – is me. I think it’s you. I think I’ve just finally come to accept the fact that, despite the transitory jolt of optimism I get when I see a handful of kids willing to be pepper sprayed for what they believe in, nothing’s going to change for the better. At least that’s how I feel tonight, as I sit here, in my tattered blogging leotard, trying to decide whether I want to write about the fact that Michigan legislators are systematically deconstructing and privatizing public education, or the fact that, despite his repeated vows to veto it, our President is preparing to sign legislation that would make it legal for the government to imprison American citizens indefinitely without trial.

It doesn’t take a lot to keep this site going. It only needs a tiny spark of hope. My OCD takes care of the rest. But, as of right now, the spark is gone.

So as not to end on a completely depressing note, here’s a photo of Arlo and me sleeping on the couch. Judging from the angle, I’d say that Clementine must have taken it. As for Arlo, I don’t know if I’ve mentioned it here before, but he was born at home, a few feet from where I’m typing this. It was an incredible experience, and some day I hope to tell you all about it. Unfortunately, though, I can’t do that until Linette has published the comic version, which is apparently already in the works.

[note: For our last conversation on the above mentioned indefinite military detention legislation click here. And, you’ll find our last conversation about the movement toward for-profit schools in Michigan here.]

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  1. Posted December 15, 2011 at 10:13 pm | Permalink

    I didn’t know why I was drawn to record Eye of the Tiger by Survivor TONIGHT, but this post now explains it. I was doing it for you, Mr. Maynard. DEar god, I DID IT FOR YOU!

    But seriously, keep blogging so that when Arlo unearths an ipad that has a miraculous charge left on it he’ll find a bunch of screenshots you saved of your blog and he’ll know that even though he hunts replicants for a living that at least you tried.

  2. Edward
    Posted December 15, 2011 at 10:35 pm | Permalink

    When my pilot light goes out, it’s usually because of raw sewage backing up into my basement, which I think is an apt analogy for what we see happening in Lansing and D.C. right now.

  3. Posted December 15, 2011 at 11:07 pm | Permalink

    I wish I had words of optimism for you, but I have to tell you that for the first time in my adult life, I am giving serious thought to leaving MI. It will depend on what happens in the next governor’s election, honestly. But between this bullshit charter school stuff, the restrictions on workers’ comp, the EM legislation…that man and his ilk have ruined this state for me.

  4. your son
    Posted December 16, 2011 at 4:41 am | Permalink

    You really are depressed. It’s Arlo, not Alro.
    You’ll be all right after some sleep.
    And maybe a blow job or something.

  5. Maria
    Posted December 16, 2011 at 7:30 am | Permalink

    Hmm. I think it’s a case of post partum blues,
    take care of yourself.

  6. Posted December 16, 2011 at 8:04 am | Permalink

    Honestly, I think you’ve got an #ows hangover. The movement can be inspiring, but it pushes an apocalyptic rhetoric that treats the failure of our political institutions as inevitable. But that’s neither here nor there. The cure for your symptoms, whatever the cause, is positive news. You could write about Elizabeth Warren, I guess, but she’s pretty far away. Maybe you could take on the All American Muslim controversy. Lost in the national conversation is, I think, an appreciation for how incredibly awesome Dearborn is.

  7. Posted December 16, 2011 at 8:53 am | Permalink

    2 kids…approaching 40…seems like you’re right on schedule to lose all hope. Not to be glib, but really, I’ve come to feel like we’re just collectively screwed as a species, damned by the fatal flaw of rising intelligence mixing with evolutionary holdovers.

  8. Posted December 16, 2011 at 8:54 am | Permalink

    p.s. But don’t kill yourself. Your kids provide reason to get out of bed each day…at least for 20 more years, right?

  9. Anonymous
    Posted December 16, 2011 at 9:16 am | Permalink

    I was watching Angle this morning, as I was getting dressed for work. It was the episode where the gang has to go to a suburban hell dimension to rescue Lindsay. At the end of the episode, he had the following to say.

    Lindsey McDonald: Not “an” Apocalypse. “The” Apocalypse. What… you think a gong was gonna sound? Time to jump on your horses and fight the big fight? Starting pistol went off a long time ago, boys. Since you came to work here at Wolfram & Hart, you’re playin’ for the bad guys. Every day you sit behind your desk and you learn a little more how to accept the world the way it is. Well, here’s the rub. Heroes don’t do that. Heroes don’t accept the world the way it is. They fight it.

    For what it’s worth.

  10. Eel
    Posted December 16, 2011 at 9:32 am | Permalink

    In situations like this, I’ve found that drinking helps.

  11. Mr. X
    Posted December 16, 2011 at 9:46 am | Permalink

    I think it’s worth noting that Obama’s threat to veto the defense spending bill had nothing to do with the fact that it allows for the indefinite detention of American citizens. It would seem that he never gave a shit about that.

  12. Mr. X
    Posted December 16, 2011 at 9:50 am | Permalink

    Let me throw something out there and get your feedback. What if I told you that I was thinking of crossing party lines and voting for Ron Paul? I know he’s got some truly objectionable beliefs, but I’m starting to think that the good might outweigh the bad. As much as I’d like to to cast my vote for someone who believes in evolution, and birth control, I’m think maybe it’s more important at this point in our history to have a President that will end military intervention and ferret out of the corruption. Please try to convince me otherwise, if you can.

  13. Edward
    Posted December 16, 2011 at 10:38 am | Permalink

    It may not be much when compared to relentless onslaught of bad news, but I found this NYT article on progress that’s being made in spite of it to be be interesting.

    The benefit of writing a column about solutions is that it provides an alternative lens through which to view the world. The daily news tends to be dominated by daunting challenges (unemployment, climate change, the polarization of Congress) and flashpoint events (the killing of Osama bin Laden, the tsunami in Japan, the Penn State scandal). These stories are vital to cover. However, people often come away from the news with a lot more information about problems than about how society is dealing with them.

    One of the premises of Fixes is that society is often self-correcting in ways that go under-reported. We need to be able to envision possibilities before we can act on them. Looking back at some of the stories we’ve covered over the past year or so, I’ve found that a number of groups have made substantial gains even during this tough economic period. These stories also remind me that social change doesn’t always take the form of dramatic, televised events, like the Arab Spring or the Occupy movement. Often it is through gradual, unnoticed, yet steady advancements that new ideas take hold ― like trees spreading roots.

    A few examples: In our second column, late last year, I wrote about Root Capital, an organization that supplies credit to small-scale agricultural producers in poor parts of the world. In 2010, the organization disbursed $80 million in loans. This year, it disbursed $120 million: 50 percent more. It now finances farmer-owned businesses that support 220,000 producers, extending benefits to roughly a million people. In April, when I reported on Playworks, an organization that helps public schools create safe and inclusive recess and play periods, it was working in 250 schools in 15 cities. It has since expanded to 318 schools in 23 cities. In a survey of 2,591 educators, close to 90 percent said the program decreased bullying and disciplinary problems and improved students’ focus in class. Text4baby, a free service that provides informative text messages to women who are pregnant or have a baby less than a year old, has, since February, roughly doubled its subscribers to 265,000 (though it still has a way to go to reach its target of a million by the end of 2012)……

  14. K2
    Posted December 16, 2011 at 10:54 am | Permalink

    Don’t worry about indefinite detention. That’s only for people perceived to be terrorists.

  15. K2
    Posted December 16, 2011 at 10:55 am | Permalink

    Of course, it’s also true that the government views protesting as low level terrorism. So maybe a little panic is justified.

  16. Ron Paul Money Bomb
    Posted December 16, 2011 at 11:01 am | Permalink

    Ron Paul is having a money bomb today, for those who would like to contribute toward his campaign.

    It’s also being said that Joe Rogan (Fear Factor) will be endorsing him when they appear together on the Tonight Show this evening.

  17. Meta
    Posted December 16, 2011 at 12:09 pm | Permalink

    It’s also worth noting that yesterday’s NDAA vote took place on the 22oth anniversary of the signing of the Bill of Rights.

  18. Posted December 16, 2011 at 12:15 pm | Permalink

    So you got one of those Seasonal Affective Disorder lightboxes? Does it actually work?? I get the same way each winter and I’ve been wondering if I should get one. It can be pretty rough to get through…hang in there.
    For what it’s worth, maybe you’re just experiencing burnout. Not sure what else you’ve got going on but having a new baby and trying to juggle your other activities can be hard as hell (obviously).

  19. your son
    Posted December 16, 2011 at 1:24 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for the correction.
    You’re a sweet old fucker. I think I’ll keep you.

  20. j
    Posted December 16, 2011 at 1:39 pm | Permalink

    I have a little one who refuses to sleep longer than 2 hours at a time so I am right there with you. The first weeks are especially rough since you aren’t getting eye contact, never mind smiles or “Thank you Daddy for rocking me back to sleep every hour.” Judging by how many “Enjoy it while it lasts” we got early on, I’m guessing most parents gradually forget just how hard it is.

    Not sure if it’s placebo or not, but I have found that Vitamin D drops can help. Especially important for new mothers so says our doc. Exercise helps too, not that I would know from personal experience.

    If some of my more cynical comments have helped to blow out the pilot light I apologize. I envy those who trust that another world is possible. It is my opinion that the human gestalt consists primarily of misery, injustice, and stupidity. At times we may achieve a respite from the pain caused by our baser instincts, but humanity’s best is all too rare and fleeting.

    Why then expend so much energy for a world that cannot be? It is the struggle that makes us free and beautiful. The arts we maintain as the pinnacle of our achievement–our music, theater, film–are processes of exploration, conflict, and synthesis. The joy is in the experience, not the completion. If listening to the hopes and fears of our neighbors, building complex relationships of love and trust, and standing in solidarity with those subject to the violence of our sick civilization is all that will come of our efforts then so be it. In the end we all lose anyway. When the movement is complete, was it a dirge? A celebration?

    At least that is what keeps me going on days I can’t find much hope. That and one too many good beers.

  21. tommy
    Posted December 16, 2011 at 2:38 pm | Permalink

    I was born right around the time that some well known politician had this to say to the nation – If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich.

    Arlo was born around the time where saving the rich is Job #1 on either side of the aisle. Not gonna be an easy gig for you my friend.

  22. Mr. X
    Posted December 16, 2011 at 3:06 pm | Permalink

    I was born around the time that Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King were attempting to engage the nation in a discussion on poverty. As you’ll recall, it didn’t go so well for them.

  23. Jim
    Posted December 16, 2011 at 4:48 pm | Permalink

    Here’s some good news on SOPA for you:

  24. Andrew Jason Clock
    Posted December 16, 2011 at 7:38 pm | Permalink

    Its a good week for it. I just deactivated my Face Book. If you’re taking a break, I can pretty much just write off all “modern” forms of social interaction and go back to doing it the old fashion way, slurring over a pile of empty bottles. See you at the bar, when you can find a sitter.

  25. Posted December 16, 2011 at 7:42 pm | Permalink

    Speaking of indefinite military detention, a friend of mine just released a short film based on the detention of Bradley Manning.

  26. alan2102
    Posted December 16, 2011 at 8:38 pm | Permalink

    Cheer up, Mark. The moment — the very MOMENT — that President-Elect Gingrich takes his oath of office, things will start turning around, and we’ll all be entering a much more hopeful future. Really!

  27. alan2102
    Posted December 16, 2011 at 9:04 pm | Permalink

    Mr. X, re Ron Paul:
    “….maybe it’s more important at this point in our history to have a President that will end military intervention and ferret out of the corruption.”

    Yes, of course it is.

    Paul moved me to go out and vote (in the primary) for the first time ever. At this moment I cannot see a single politician, anywhere, worth voting for except for Paul and Kucinich. Maybe I’m missing one or two.

    Paul is the only candidate, and I believe the only national-level politician, who takes a principled and non-waffling stand (or indeed ANY stand) against empire and the military-industrial complex — which are among the main ongoing causes of our increasingly-disastrous predicament. No other politician (not a single one, not even Kucinich) takes seriously Article I Section 8 of the Constitution, which enumerates the powers of congress, and stipulates that the raising and financing of an army is to be for TWO YEARS ONLY, i.e. it is to be raised for a specific PURPOSE, and then dissolved. There’s no room for this endless blank-check bullshit with $trillion-per-year budgets to infinity. For that matter, no other politician, except Paul, gives two shits about the Constitution. But the Constitution, however flawed, is still the law of the land, and it is a whole hell of a lot more than a “goddamn piece of paper”, as per the recent idiot POTUS from Texas, whose name I will not mention. Among other things, from the Constitution, including the Bill of Rights, comes Paul’s stunningly enlightened view of the War on [Some] Drugs — again, far ahead of that of any other politician, bar none. Yeah, Paul is lousy on some stuff, but the stuff he is good on he is very very good on, and it is stuff that could not be more important. Additionally, he is truly a man of principle, NOT FOR SALE, and that alone is a worthy quality in these times.

  28. Demetrius
    Posted December 16, 2011 at 10:33 pm | Permalink


    Unfortunately, I’ve been far too busy lately to comment (long story) but I AM still reading … and I truly appreciate your posts — especially the ones regarding big, important issues: The demoralizing erosion of American democracy, justice, economic opportunity, etc.

    If you’re tired, take a break (you deserve it – especially with a new baby), but please don’t stop blogging — especially about the things that really matter. I (we) appreciate your perspective, and the role you play in creating a forum for worthwhile, interesting (and sometimes, even, intelligent) discussion!

    – Demetrius.

  29. Jim
    Posted December 17, 2011 at 10:11 am | Permalink

    Nix the alleged good news about SOPA:
    Sigh. See you at Krampus!

  30. Meta
    Posted December 17, 2011 at 2:16 pm | Permalink

    Only 7 Senators voted against the NDAA. None of them are from Michigan. They are:

    Sen. Thomas Harkin (D-IA)

    Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY)

    Sen. Thomas Coburn (R-OK)

    Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR)

    Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR)

    Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT)

    Sen. Bernard Sanders (I-VT)

  31. alan2102
    Posted December 17, 2011 at 8:58 pm | Permalink

    Rand Paul and Bernie Sanders, eh? I love it.

    If they could see clear enough to dump their respective (worthless and evil) parties, Ron Paul and Dennis Kucinich would make a fantastic third-party team for POTUS and VPOTUS.

  32. j
    Posted December 17, 2011 at 11:17 pm | Permalink

    When Bernie Sanders was in the house he frequently worked with Jeff (the) Flake and other libertarian leaning republicans. We can disagree respectfully with people with differing opinions provided those opinions aren’t up for sale.

  33. Ale Roka
    Posted December 17, 2011 at 11:52 pm | Permalink

    The spark of hope is a picture of a son sleeping on his father’s chest.

    Everything else is a fight for consumption equality.

    Rest in hope.

  34. alan2102
    Posted December 18, 2011 at 10:21 am | Permalink

    Mark, if you’re still depressed, I respectfully request that you:

    1. Ponder the first sentence of the fine analysis below (from Proyect’s blog), and consider that, as Tom Atlee says: “things are getting worse and worse, and better and better, faster and faster”. Lots of things are fucked, yeah, but there are also incredibly hopeful and positive things going on — best in a long generation.

    2. Get your 25-OHD (vitamin d) blood level checked, and if it is low, as it
    is for almost everyone at these latitudes, then supplement accordingly.

    Guest post by Pham Binh
    Occupy and the Tasks of Socialists
    By Pham Binh
    December 14, 2011
    Occupy is a once in a lifetime opportunity to re-merge the socialist and working class movements and create a viable broad-based party of radicals, two prospects that have not been on the cards in the United States since the late 1960s and early 1970s….

  35. alan2102
    Posted December 18, 2011 at 10:23 am | Permalink

    Whoops. Pardon. the link was bad. Sorry.

  36. Thom Elliott
    Posted December 19, 2011 at 10:38 am | Permalink

    Depression isn’t merely chemical, if only you had some positive beliefs about existence, perhaps life wouldn’t seem quite so persistently bleak. Maybe instead of constant submersion in the dreary work of attempting to parse the incomprehensable happenings of the present infinite constellation of human self inflicted misery, maybe read a little Sartre? Or Rawls? Give some Hegel or Plato a shot? Walking is an excellent depression cure, as well as vegetarianism, quitting smoking, perhaps instead grimacing into a light as you despondantly ponder circuitously the grim visage of the event horizon, maybe try a little meditation every day, clearing your mind and holding it open.

  37. Meta
    Posted December 19, 2011 at 12:49 pm | Permalink

    From the Discover Magazine blog:

    The United States House of Representatives and the Senate both passed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). This Act lays out the budget and expenditures of the US Department of Defense, but also has provisions for its authority. Since it defines the DoD budget, a version of it passes every year, but this year, the NDAA includes provisions that codify the ability of the President to basically snatch people off the streets inside our own country, and hold them indefinitely in detention without trial or hearing, and torture them. While some are saying that this ability already exists for the President, it is being codified into law by this Act.

    Lest you think I am being reactionary, there is a vast outcry against these provisions, which includes the voices of the Defense Secretary, the Director of National Intelligence, the Directors of the FBI and CIA (!!), and the White House Advisor for Counterterrorism — all of whom spoke out that these indefinite detention provisions are bad for the country. The ACLU, which is all about defending civil rights, is strongly opposed to this. Even President Obama had threatened to veto the Act if these provisions were left in.

    Yet despite this, Congress passed these terrible, terrible provisions, and now President Obama has rescinded his veto threat; most people seem to think he will sign this into law.

    Both of my Senators voted to pass this legislation… one of whom, Mark Udall, actually tried to get an amendment into the bill to strip out the language about indefinite detention. It was voted down, in case you were unsure what Congress actually wanted from this bill. What boggles my mind is that even with his amendment shamefully voted down, in the end Senator Udall still voted for this Act. Did yours?

    For what it’s worth, my Representative, Jared Polis, voted no. Did yours? Al Franken wrote an excellent essay on why he voted no as well.

    I admit here I did something foolish. Because Senator Udall so clearly was against this horrifying provision, I thought he would vote against it. I also took President Obama at his word that he would veto the Act if those provisions weren’t stripped out. I should have written letters and made phone calls to both my Senators and the President, but instead I took no action, and now I’m worried it’s too late to stop this (though I urge everyone to write the White House and express their opinion).

    However, I did send notes to my Senators. Here is the text, verbatim.


    I voted for you in the last election, hoping that you would add your voice against the growing fear-mongering and radical far-right movement that I think is plunging our country in the wrong direction.

    However, put simply, your “Aye” vote on NDAA means I will not be voting for you in the next election cycle. The horrid provisions for indefinite detention and torture in this piece of legislature are what I might expect from the 1950s era Soviet Union, but not in our country, not today. This blatant codification of the violation of citizens’ rights by Senators and Representatives – men and women who swore to uphold the Constitution – is galling and disgusting.

    You, sir, have lost my vote.

    For Senator Udall, I added this before the last line: “I understand you tried to have an amendment placed into NDAA to reverse those provisions, and I appreciate that. But after it was voted down, leaving indefinite detention and torture in the Act, you still voted for it.”

    I’m very angry about this. And you know what upsets me the most? I was worried about writing this post. I was concerned that in the United States of America, a nation of laws founded upon a Constitution guaranteeing my rights, that I might go on some sort of watch list somewhere.

    And it is for that very reason I posted this article. I refuse to live in fear of my own government. We cannot fear them. But they must respect us, because our government is of the people, by the people, for the people. And we are the people.

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