Techie revolutionists to regular folk: Drop dead

Waves closing inLike waves that lap over a seawall, we’re being inundated by the dissatisfaction of Silicon Valley creators.

The new new overlapping with the decaying nearly new. Messages pour out on a daily basis that the hyper entrepreneurial ethic of a small minority should be what everyone should embrace. Both in what we should consume and our career paths. We’re seized by it.

Waves of false bravado emanate in this mythology. Innovate or die. Don’t trust anyone over 30. You are hopelessly excluded; but you who look and think like us are in.

A HBO television situation comedy Silicon Valley was recently released which satirizes the silly inflated egos of the techies and their imagined futures. The bottom line is we are seeing socially awkward teenagers who refuse to grow up. Mostly it’s a psychology of impermanence and restlessness.

A burgeoning toy making economy has arisen that steam rolls over everything in its path. Geeks and nerds are the ones operating the machines with the financial backing of hyper-materialistic venture capitalists generating products for people who have a spiritual void remedied by the coolest new technology that affirms their self-concept. This tripartite has created an economy that sees human labor as causality to seamless delivery of entertainment and information.

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We can pave under or dismiss the social cost and complex human interactions as the price of doing business. However, this way is monstrously off course. An unhinged, one-sided culture destined to fail.

Exponential change is underway in 2014 but too many believe this is incremental shift. There is an urgent story and mythology about our technology that is being lost. An undertow. And it’s being played out in the economy, employment market and in public dialogue.

Picture a man or woman texting the positive and friendly to those they want to impress from their high-tech workspace. Then traveling home on the secret company buses back to San Francisco for the evening.

They settle into their home office to generate a prolific stream of hateful and threatening dialogue in response to online articles and web stories. Frowning in the blue light of their screens. Their attacks deployed like drone missiles as they hide behind the safety of their aliases and their certainty about the future and life.

They don’t have to think or go deeper with a life like that. But at what cost to the soul of the culture? Burning Candle

How can we bring balance to the trajectory so we won’t be destroyed by the juggernaut? We need dynamic tension. That requires depth and reflection. In good stories and exceptional individuals, you recognize this tension of opposites. Truly electric and greater than the sum of its parts. There is power in duality. The emotional and rational working in concert. Conscious and unconscious. The balance of light and shadow. You know it when it’s present. This force emanates from a person, economy or culture. If it’s done right, the good rises up from below like an iceberg from the water.

More than anything else we need a different perspective. Even the grown-ups of Silicon Valley are losing their bearings. There are lots of confused and perplexed people out there so your questions below are welcome. Write me and I’ll answer back.

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This Silicon Valley revolution making us poorer and more alienated

100_0790What’s a guy writing a novel about playing basketball in the Czech Republic have any right to write about Silicon Valley?

For one thing, I live here in Silicon Valley and have since August 1999. I’m not a tech person, I’m a writer, who will complete his novel at the end of 2014. But also one of my goals is to decode the myths and symbols of the culture. Secondly, I have some perspective in my 40-plus years of life.

 So here is my story. Soon after arriving in California before the turning of Y2K, I joined a Silicon Valley group called Phone.com. This tech company in Redwood Shores here in the Bay Area was working on early applications that were just starting to revolutionize the mobile phone marketplace.

It had a college feel. There were engineers and programmers running after each other with Nerf guns. People sitting in bean bag chairs, ridding skateboards and there were Friday afternoon Beer Bashs like some fraternity house. Only this was a converted factory made of steel and glass with windows facing the baylands.

Everywhere you looked, there was optimism. Even from my perspective as a temporary worker in human resources, it seemed that everyone would become rich and we would all rise together. Then soon after that the gold rush came to a stunning end. The market collapsed and many of the dot coms went bust. Phone.com downscaled and changed its name to Openwave Systems. It’s still called this today for Gold Rush Wave 2.0.

Then it began all over again. Steve Jobs said his new Apple iPhone launched in 2007 had liberated us. Google’s Android phones rolled out in 2008 and then Apple’s iPad was launched in 2010. These tablets and phones are everywhere. They’ve proliferated into our consciousness. Networked computing definably changed us as we crossed a new threshold. We can connect with more people around the world.

Whereas the real estate boom in the Bay Area benefitted many of us during the first boom 15 years ago. This time is different. People have been “liberated” to a shallower technology and communities have been destroyed. The downturn that hit critical mass in November 2008 never really brought many jobs back.

There was a March article in the Palo Alto Weekly about the transformation of California Avenue from its small town feel to high end restaurants and high density housing near rail transit. All this to accomodate the tech boom. This is Palo Alto’s second downtown about a mile from University Avenue, Palo Alto first downtown sector. This redevelopment begins in the next few weeks.PaloAltoWeekly12-18Cover_business_slide_full

Young high tech workers quoted in the article said it wasn’t a good idea. That’s telling. It’s not an incremental shift, it’s exponential.  Tech is moving out of the Bay Area. There is foreboding about this current revolution because these passionate exciting workers rightly sense they already have missed the boat. That’s true. Regarding the new housing that will arise on a repackaged California Avenue, the only ones that will truly benefit are people that own the property and of course, if trends hold up, foreign investors snapping up this real estate.

This new wave largely benefited the few entrepreneurs and manufacturers in other countries. The system today is based on making larger parts of the population disenfranchised so the 1-2% can continue their privilege.

The dominant media technology of the age acquired a sacred status over the last few years. Screen worship doesn’t promote community and organize chaos. It creates chaos and an unraveling.Silicon Valley

It’s unsustainable on our health, too. My county alone (Santa Clara County) has 24 Superfund sites from silicon chip-making and other associated electronic technology dating back to the 1960’s. We are paying for it. This county has probably the most pollution underground soil of any in the United States. There is a price for paradise. In comparison, Illinois, where I came from, has 13 federally-declared Superfund sites in the whole state.

These are underground wastelands that leach into the soil and drinking water. It’s being treated but I wonder about all this. Once it leaves Mountain View, Calif., the toxic waste gets shipped, treated and burned in places like Oklahoma and Arizona, discharging waste in small towns and on a Native American reservation, and in some cases creating even more harmful chemicals, The Center for Investigative Reporting has found. All of this costs billions of dollars.

The Bay Area has to rethink its fifty-year agreement with high technology but so does the country and the world. We’ve given technology all sorts of incentives and preferential treatment
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>Our leaders and even Apple launched Siri, the artificial voice that answers your spoken questions on iPhones after 2010, can’t do it. They’ve had their chances.

Only you can shift this world and to point us to something greater. A new dynamic has to be established. Not toward elitism, puritanism or prohibition but to things that work for us. A new narrative has to be written and we need each other on the journey ahead.

 

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Fighting it out through Czech March Madness

When I told people about my soon-to-be-done novel, several writers told me it sounded like John Grisham’s Playing for Pizza.

So I read Playing for Pizza. A good premise but he rushed it into production, it seems. One of the first mistakes is he has the aging professional quarterback in Parma end up/settle with an American woman for his love interest. But that’s after he feigns that it’s going to be a beautiful Italian opera singer. I was ready for it. It was such rich territory: American star athlete and Italian woman for him to explore that but he drops it.

One fault that many sports books (and movies) share is that they don’t contain a whole lot of sports. Grisham follows that trend. I’ll do better all around. You’ll see. There is a lot at stake for me to finish this novel.Czech memoir

The Universe sent the right focus my way in 2014. My lucky break came from research. I put in the keywords Czech basketball in the computer. Then an intriguing book title popped up on the screen.

Expatriate Games: My Season of Misadventures in Czech Semi-Pro Basketball

If I would have been standing in the Globe Bookstore and Café, Czech Republic’s best and well-known English language bookstore on Pštrossova in Praha 1 (downtown Prague), this 2008 book would have fallen off the shelf and into my hands. Maybe more fittingly hit my head.

Then two weeks ago the book arrived. I poured into Expatriate Games and finished it in a few days. The author Dave Fromm, left his home in Lenox in Western Massachusetts, to join a Prague team that battles against other teams in the city and suburbs over the course of the 1994-95 season. This memoir happens to be right around the same time my story is set!

It’s been like a Bohemian March Madness reading this and exploring what’s opened these last two weeks here in California. That’s why I’ve not posted since St. Patrick’s Day. It’s been a good time to write.

In Working the Glass, my main character Frank Savek plays for the Svet team in the 10-team Czech Superliga. The Superliga is the Czech Republic’s highest and most elite basketball division. While Expatriate Games is set in the lower league and mainly in Prague, I found this book entertaining and rich.

For example, the Czech language from everyday basketball life is great. Words like perfectni. For a great shot. But others like tobe do oci meaning right between your eyes, the Czech equivalent of “In your face.” Ti vole is another one. That means, you big ox. So you would say tobe do oci, ti vole! These are great.

Fromm describes walking along a path along the Vltava River in Prague with his Czech girlfriend. Then proceeding toward them was a group of 4-5 skinheads. Then a lone African American man comes out of nowhere and walks through the skinhead pack and one of the skinheads elbows him in the stomach. The short dark man is undeterred. He moves in a direct line through their group. And into the darkness on a Prague Saturday night.

So the Prague Fromm writes of appears romantic and dangerous. Raw and refined. His Vinohrady team wins only four games in the season. Then my favorite part of Fromm’s book comes when his team fights for their lives in a post-season international basketball tournament in Maurienne, France. A 17-hour from Prague by bus. When the drivers of the team bus shut down the interior lights and broke out the beer while driving through the night through Germany, Fromm said a short, silent prayer that he would make it to France alive. Havel

His team was older and slower made up of overweight ex-first division players from the Superliga. They are great characters right out of my Lithuanian basketball days back in Chicago. Fromm, a 24 year old point guard, mixed in with this group well. He describes his tallest teammate at around six-seven as “likely to dunk the ball as he was to buckle a knee.”

This team of Czech barnstormers goes to the twenty team tournament underestimated by the French and Italian teams they face. They are a rag-tag bunch that smell of body odor, strudel, knedlicky and sausage. It’s clear Fromm was playing for much more than pizza. These Czechs looked more like a band of gypsies than a basketball team. Yet they win game after game, capturing the third-place trophy. punch

Like basketball players in Fromm’s book and my story, grit and resilience are the keys. That very doggedness remains essential for success as a writer, too. Writers know genius-level excellence takes enormous dedication to complete a great novel or memoir.

You have to move back and forth between getting stuck to reimagining the way. Like a superliner, you have to switch off the autopilot and make course corrections. Don’t mistake a clear view for a short distance/journey.

Sometimes finding a book like Fromm’s memoir Expatriate Games changes everything for you and helps you stay on target. Perfectni.

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Like a bride ripping off her dress

We kissed the world and life for a few hours. Our wedding rose up to become a public celebration. Not profane but sacred in its own right. Our wedding guests can tell that. There was conviviality in it all. The toasts, the stories, and our moving from table to table to talk to our guests. We looked each wedding guest in the eyes like they were the bride or groom.

Just before at the reception, the Catholic priest that married us told us we were on a spiritual journey; that’s what our marriage would be. I believed it 19 years ago. Sir Gawain

That priest held a prophetic wisdom like Merlin in King Arthur’s Roundtable or something. In his wedding homily he told my soon-to-be-wife and I that we were a powerful couple. Like Sir Gawain and Lady Guenevere. And like Sir Gawain, I would be tested on the journey by the Green Dragon. There was a sacredness in choosing one person for the trip.

A bride ripping off her clothes. That image has an exuberance to it. Innocence, purity of love and yet unabashed understanding of the world. Our journey to this private moment was a river that we have crossed. We know that there is no going back.

Wait, a minute, what about those young women that pulled over in the gas station when I went up to that mountain in the Snowy Range near Centennial, Wyoming? One flirted with me. They were Indians from the Cheyenne or Shoshone Tribes.

I could have gone with them that day. That dark-haired woman could have shown me her ancestral lands in the mountains. We could have ridden wild horses-mine, brownish-red and hers, white. Crossing streams, meadows and ascending the heights on the mountain. Talking, laughing. Trying to understand each other.

Our lives are short-like clouds moving west to east-across the canyon in the Rocky Mountain National Park in Montana. From the sunrise to sunset is what we are given. I followed a different call across the grasslands on a personal vision quest up Corner Mountain alone and didn’t go with those Native Indian women that day.Rocky Mountain National Park

Now I wait for that woman to make her appearance. There are flowers in the shape of a heart that a Mexican maid lovingly placed on the bed spread in our honeymoon hotel room. Sure, I’m tired from giving so much to the world as I mentioned earlier but there is a special reserve in me for this moment.

Yes, this bride rips off her dress and I’m ready for it. She’s beautiful in the darkness.

Yes, my wife and I lost each other in the mountain snowstorms of life during these nearly two decades since that day we married. It’s easy to despair after being trapped in the blizzards like that. But somehow the Great Spirit led us out and we found our way again.800px-All_Ireland_Flag

And 19 years later I still believe what the priest said, marriage is a spiritual journey.

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What a magical shirt, Mark Twain, and the Zim Run reveal about writing journey

running photoI was wearing my yellow and blue t-shirt from high school Physical Education (PE) class. It read Quigley South Spartans and A. Kloak written in black marker underneath that. Where did that shirt ever go? If I did throw it away, I should have never have done that. The boy wearing that gave his heart to the world and everything he did in the world in that.

I was wearing that shirt when I ran out a single in a softball (same as baseball except the ball is larger) game in class. Then I took off from first base with the crack of the bat during the next play. I rounded second and ran with abandon to third base.

The ball was hit to the outfield; the player there had woken up by the time I ran toward home plate. He fired the ball toward home. I slid. There was a cloud of dust. The catcher held on. I was out.

But my PE teacher named me best athlete in the school and I won a P.E. Excellence Award (this play probably sealed it for me.) I learned a lesson with my magic shirt that year. You can lose but still win.Pope at QS

Flash forward to me at 23-years old. I was in a hotel room in Hannibal, Missouri. This old river town on the Mississippi was the boyhood town of Samuel Clemens. He situated many of his best novels there. He left Hannibal and headed to California and renamed himself Mark Twain. I was mapping out my writer’s life from a desk in my room.

I thought, if could only follow in his footsteps I could have a life like him. So when he went to work for the Territorial Enterprise in Virginia City, Nevada, I went to work for the River North News in Chicago. When he went further west, I followed him to California. I read his books. He and I were writers.

He accelerated to a grandiose life and I became a married man, then a family man with two daughters. But now after all this time, I’m finding my way as a writer. I won’t be Mark Twain. I will be me.

Last March I ran in the Zimbabwe Run at my daughters school. Before the mile-long race started I thought of my magic shirt but, of course, I didn’t have it. At the starting gun, I took off and rounded the first curve (about an 1/8 mile into the race). I was moving like a lightning bolt. My daughters watched from the sidelines. They reported seeing me in front of everyone. They also saw me put my hands in the air like I had won the mile in the Olympics or something. They were right.

However, there were runners from Kenya and Zimbabwe (i.e. serious milers) in a pack behind me. And I was out in the front, winning. This was as close as I was ever going to get to winning! Soon after my body told me it was unsustainable. I slowed to my regular pace and the speedy runners started to move past me like gazelles. I ran hard for my 6’-5” height. There were moments of feeling great sandwiched next to feeling terrible like my insides were coming out. That’s natural. Then to my shock, I had a blast of energy at the end and threw my body across the finish line in a surge comprising everything I had. Training

Somehow I scanned my finish time on the official race clock. 6:34. I had not run that well on the mile-run since I was in high school wearing that magic shirt thirty years before. That 6:34 was my personal record dating back to 6:01 on the mile when I was 17 years old. This tells you that you can improve with age and perform some of your best athletic and writing feats as you age. We all can!

You can bet that I will be running in this year’s Zimbabwe Run on March 23 and complete my best writing in the weeks and months ahead.

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Silicon Valley not what it purports itself to be

Stanford_LKC_02Silicon Valley, once situated between San Jose and Palo Alto, has grown to ring the bay. All the way to the tip of the peninsula at the Golden Gate Bridge and in the eastern areas stretching out as far as the San Ramon Valley, that’s Silicon Valley now. It’s no anomaly. This massive build-up of Deep Tech, as I like to call it, is pervasive in the society.

The impact of the September 11 attacks created the vast expansion of the Deep Tech in our lives. And we have fallen for it. It is hidden in plain sight. The architects of Deep Tech use the major cultural apparatuses to convince people that there is no alternative to existing relations of technology and each other. Except through glass screens.

Brett Robinson in his 2013 book Appletopia says Apple is a Catholic application while Microsoft is Protestant. He says that there are too many bugs and viruses in Windows. Remember all the glitches in the Windows predecessor DOS? That was painful. The Apple brand is better than the Microsoft brand for PCs because it has purity to it. Apple products are easier to use because they work (up to a point).

Apple’s founder Steve Jobs unveiled these machines like a magician during his product rollouts. He pulled a machine out of the box that had his picture on the screen. He said Click. Boom. Amazing. Today that picture on the screen is of you. He was right; each person is amazing. You are amazing!

Okay, they won’t bring us deeper toward creativity or authentic life. These aren’t Jesus phones and they are not making us smarter in any deeper sense. Jobs ushered us into age of nihilistic transcendence.

Let’s take a deeper to look at high technology companies themselves. They want influence and money. Profit is the highest good for Silicon Valley companies making this transcendent technology.

The libertarian pose of the Silicon Valley moguls, so carefully cultivated in their public communications, has always been a sham. Silicon Valley has long been tracking for commercial purposes the activities of every person who uses an electronic device. Silicon Valley

Silicon Valley overwhelmingly sells to the private market, but its business is so important to the government that a strange relationship has emerged. There is cooperation between the National Security Agency in the United States and Silicon Valley. They use secrecy and obfuscation. The Valley allows the NSA surreptitiously breaking into technology companies’ systems. They are profiting from it and rewarded for helping the cause securing and controlling of the masses.

National security and corporate power are wrapped around each other. If you question it, you are questioning the lifeblood and vital engine of the nation’s economy. Your patriotism will be questioned.

But questioning we are. Across the globe people intuitively know national security and corporate power are worn out dogmas. Silicon Valley’s brand name is now endangered by the reputation in international markets as hiding spyware that gets reported to government authorities. Silicon Valley is losing billions in overseas business from companies, individuals and governments that want to maintain privacy. So the cash nexus is ultimately more compelling than the U.S. government’s demand for patriotic cooperation.
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Deep Tech is vulnerable to a vigilant public. Once people are more aware of the light and darkness in themselves things will open up. There is dynamic tension (a good thing) in each person. Self-awareness, integrity and connection to others will change everything.
A confluence of forces will sweep away these external constructs. These hidden factors that are the unconscious forces (emotion) will cause the change.

The meaningful life is much more than you looking at your electronic gadget throughout the day. However, this may seem to be a liberating form of transcendence as many look to secular humanism as their mythology. No, it’s undertaking the soul journey and going deeper that will thwart this Deep Tech order. The interior life will expand and we will gather our momentum toward a deeper spirituality and empowered consciousness. The trouble is consumerism is the current mark of citizenship and making money is the essence of individual and social responsibility.

There is no communion in this beyond the superficial connection to others and an amplification of the Self. Although each of you is great and dynamic! Now what about you as a writer, authentic spirit and champion of something greater within you and in the world? The greatest changes in this life are within. Use these machines to appreciate your good qualities and relationships with each other but the nuances of meaningful accomplishment need to be found elsewhere. And that elsewhere is the heroic trek we all are on in this mysterious world.

The response to Deep Tech’s threat to the soul is to go deeper. Now is your time for awakening.

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Synchronicity, a forgotten concept, will show the way

Life takes you in directions you would never expect.

Look at the life of Tommy Makem. His story has the mark of riding the wave of synchronicity all over it. Makem, born in the County Armagh, Ireland in 1932, was scratching out a living of potatoes and acting. Neither was sustaining his soul. So he headed to the United States (New Hampshire) to follow his dreams. His acting career wouldn’t take off so he turned to his family passion: Irish folk music. Then his career opened up when he connected up with another group called the Clancy Brothers from the County Tipperary. They just arrived in America, too.Country Road

Makem incorporated his acting into his singing performances. He did something no one else did: this bard of Armagh entertained with funny stories, jokes, and he often asked people to sing along. On March 12, 1961, there was a cancellation on The Ed Sullivan Show; his band the Clancy Brothers with Tommy Makem got the call to perform. Eighty million Americans were transfixed that night as this replacement act from Emerald Isle led by Makem performed masterfully for 16 minutes. Soon after, they got another call. This one from Columbia Records offering them a contract.

Okay, their 16 minutes of fame was lucky break. Plus the time was right. We had an Irish-Catholic President in John F. Kennedy and there was a nascent folk revival underway (i.e. people were interested in exploring their roots and ethnic music.)The Clancy Bros and Makem

This isn’t about us getting a contract so much as living a life embracing magic, mystery and boldness outside the conventional sphere. The universe conspires on your behalf when you are open to the power of some greater hand in all this. Trust in the confluence of forces.

Science and the rational world can’t incorporate genius, intuitions and the poetic sense of mystery into their motifs. That’s for a reason. It’s impossible. Synchronicity is the experience of two or more events that are apparently unrelated, yet are experienced as occurring together in a meaningful manner.

Acknowledge the integrity of your solitude and settle into its mystery. For one thing, synchronicity appears. For a second thing, your relationships with others take on a new warmth, adventure and wonder. So does your writing in this mode.

You need love if you are to come into the fullness of your being. Our souls delight in this movement. The journey of the soul doesn’t care about success or failure, it just loves the excursion.

Paying attention is a form of love. It’s easy to believe from a position of strength. Can you have faith from a position of weakness or powerlessness? Trust in synchronicity when there is no hope to change the situation. Only genuine passion and vulnerability will survive that.

Plenty of people can’t accept love or kindness. You can pick them out. They cannot accept love because they don’t love themselves. It starts with gratitude; it just hasn’t come to them yet.??????????????????????????????????????

A daily routine of solitude will allow your public presence to grow. The world needs you. It also needs your writing that flows from private silence. And finally, the world needs your service to synchronicity.

Trust in the force of synchronicity in your life.

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