Age of Stupid

I just got back from the global premiere of a climate change movie called Age of Stupid. The experience was amazing, to say the least. First, I’d like to review the movie. Then, I’d like to review the state of the world in relation to climate change.

The movie itself was brilliant. The premise is simple: in the year 2055, the world has been devastated by the consequences of human generated climate change. Society has collapsed entirely, and the systems of life as we know them have largely unraveled. One man remains as caretaker of a collection of humanity’s relics and an archive of their knowledge. The film follows his narration as he reviews clips of the recent past (our present day) and wonders why people in the “Age of Stupid” didn’t do more to prevent the apocalypse.

Tonight’s screening was a huge worldwide event with a short pre-show and a longer post-show consisting of interviews and commentary on the subject of climate change. Unfortunately, I missed most of the pre-show and the first 15 minutes or so of the main event due to technical difficulties at our local theatre. I did see enough of the film, though, to be thoroughly impressed.

On the one hand, the film is intensely and transparently didactic. It’s an unabashed call to action on the issue of climate change. Active disbelievers in human-caused climate change will find it abhorrent, and some snobby film critics who dislike any overt politics in a film will say it’s too preachy.

On the other hand, it’s also very entertaining and compelling. It mostly consists of clips about the present day contributions to climate change, both good and bad, but the framework about a future apocalypse works well and emphasizes the seriousness of the information being presented.
The blend of individual people’s stories and global implications make the film’s narrative compelling, creative, and highly relevant.

After the film, there was a series of brief live interviews on the subject of climate change. There was a lot of chaos throughout the post-show due to a mix of technical difficulties and seeming disagreements as to who was supposed to speak when. The material itself, though, was pretty amazing.

Speakers included former U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, the head of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the President of the Republic of Maldives (the first climate neutral nation), someone from MoveOn, a British politician whose name I forget, and others.

First of all, I found it very impressive that important political officials like Kofi Annan and the President of the Maldives were actually there in person at the event. I also was impressed at how strong and well-stated all of their arguments were in favor of taking action on climate change in order to avoid the dire consequences on the horizon for both humanity and the planet. Finally, I was amazed and excited and taken aback by the confrontational attitude that one of the film’s creators took toward the British politician who had been invited to speak. He’s supposed to be leading their government’s action on climate change, but apparently he’s not going far enough, so the filmmaker kept challenging him and asking him why he wasn’t doing more to improve the agreement being formulated for the next climate meeting in Copenhagen this December.

All in all, the film premiere was an amazing experience, marred only by the 15-20 minutes of local technical difficulties at the very beginning. Unfortunately, almost all of the people who came locally gave up on the film due to these technical difficulties. And I can’t say that I blame them — I was about to leave myself when the video resumed! But luckily, I stayed long enough to see most of the film and be part of the global phenomenon.

And that brings me to my review of climate change itself.

I won’t speak much about the details of climate change because the film says more than I can or should in a single blog entry. Seeing this film, though, drove home to important points that I feel cannot be overemphasized.

The first is that our current situation is dire. Human-caused climate change has already started, and in order to keep it from spiraling out of control, we need to ensure that the global temperature doesn’t rise more than 2 degrees Celcius above the pre-Industrial Revolution temperature. And in order to do THAT, we need to ensure that our global carbon emissions peak in 2015 and rapidly decline from then onward.

This is serious business. In order to achieve that goal, we’ll have to work together internationally to change the entire direction of our economies and societies within a matter of several years. If we don’t achieve this unprecedented shift, then we will likely reach the tipping point soon. The destabilization of both climate and society will accelerate, and the systems of life as we know it will rapidly collapse within my lifetime.

This may sound very gloomy — and in fact, it IS very gloomy. This is the greatest threat to life on this planet that our species have ever witnessed.

The good news, though, is that there is still time for action. We are the source of this problem, and we must take action to resolve this problem, if only for the sake of our own survival.

The film itself is a striking example of the power of grassroots campaigns to create something inspired and transformative. Age of Stupid started as a small independent project and evolved into the largest simultaneous showing of a film in human history. It was funded by grassroots organizing, promoted by social networking, and made possible by communications technology which didn’t even exist 10 years ago. We have an increasing ability to network and communicate with each other on such globally vital issues, and an increasing power to take meaningful action both as individuals and as active citizens in our respective cities and nations.

There are many ways to take action. The makers of the film are encouraging people to take action through the Not Stupid site:

http://notstupid.org/

I’ll also have more news and more ideas for action soon. In the meantime, check out Age of Stupid when you get the chance, and do whatever it takes to change the present and the future for the better.

Each of us may at times seem small in the presence of local, regional, national, and international systems of power. But each of us in our own way can make a difference. And with our powers combined, we can change the world.

Posted in Uncategorized

My New Logo

Treesong Logo, Transparent, 500x500: This is my personal logo. It was designed by Josh Guess on September 6, 2009. The roots and trunk of the tree are a musical staff, while the leaves and branches are musical notes. This is a very dynamic and artistic interpretation of "Treesong." I am pleased to announce that I have a new logo! A friend of mine named Josh Guess stepped forward and drew the first design that came to mind. Thanks to Josh for a job well done!

Posted in Uncategorized

Artist Needed for Logo Design

I have big plans for the coming months. The details are still emerging, but these plans will involve my return to a more active role in the local community as well as a renewed effort to advance my career as an author, teacher, and public speaker. In light of these plans, I’m looking for an artist who can design a new personal logo for use on my website and any printed materials I produce.

Earlier this year, I discussed my new logo plans online in public and private conversations with a few dozen friends. I originally was planning on using a popular tree image that I found online as a template for this logo. However, it turns out that this tree image is copyrighted and unavailable for use. Therefore, I’ve decided to seek out an artist to design a new logo from scratch.

This logo — or sigil as I prefer to call it — will be used in a variety of personal and professional contexts. It will appear on my website, business cards, letterhead, and any books or other materials that I self-publish. I may even put it on my clothing eventually. In essence, it will become the artistic equivalent of my signature, much like a family crest or seal.

Unfortunately, I don’t have the money right now to pay an artist for their services. However, if I do use the logo you’ve created, you can add it to your portfolio of professional work, and I will give you credit on my website and in my books.

I already have a fairly clear understanding of the basic elements I’d like included in this logo:

(1) A circular border, preferably in the style of Celtic knotwork.
(2) The silhouette of a tree, specifically an oak.
(3) A treble clef in the trunk of the tree at the center of the image.

The image should be high resolution and scalable, looking good at both 2″ on a business card and 10″ on a sign or T-shirt. It should be in either black-and-transparent or black-and-white.

If you’re interested in submitting such a logo for my consideration, please let me know either online or offline. Since I currently don’t have the money to pay what such a logo would normally cost, I’m going to have to rely on the kindness of any artists who are reading this message. If you’re a new artist with little or no professional experience, then hopefully the extra exposure for your work will help you out too.

Thanks in advance for any submissions or other feedback. If and when I find the logo I’m looking for, I’ll be sure to let everyone know.

Posted in Uncategorized

A Night at the Gallery

About two weeks ago, I went to a place called the Gallery. In case you haven’t heard of it, the Gallery is the most well-known gentleman’s club of Southern Illinois. In other words, it’s a strip club. Since I’d never been to one before, and since I have a lot of thoughts about what it was like, I thought I’d write about the experience here on my blog.

At first, I wasn’t sure if I would even write this entry. I have friends and loved ones who read this blog who either won’t approve of my behavior or will consider it Too Much Information. I wouldn’t be surprised if at least one or two people are very condemning and judgmental and don’t even read the full entry. But for a long time now, I’ve considered myself a public person. Between my radio show, my writing, and my past involvement in community groups, I’ve grown used to being in the public eye and expressing some of my innermost thoughts and feelings publicly. At times, I’ve held back from saying or doing things in the interest of avoiding conflicts or steering clear of topics that some people find offensive. But I’m tired of playing that role, and I’m definitely not going to play it here on my personal blog.

And so, I’ve written a detailed account of my experiences at the Gallery. In the interest of protecting the identities of people whose lives aren’t as public as mine, I’ve replaced any names with made-up initials. People who I’ve mentioned can feel free to reveal themselves if they so choose — but I’ll only be talking about my own experiences unless they choose to mention theirs.

The story starts a few days prior to my visit to the Gallery. My female friend, M., sent me a brief and somewhat mysterious late-night message about stilettos and poles. When we talked online the next day, she told me that she had just spent a night on stage at the Gallery and would be working there on weekends. Our mutual friend, S., had introduced her to the Gallery and would also be performing.

My response was very simple and supportive. She sounded excited about performing on stage and earning extra money. I was glad to see her trying something new and exciting, and glad that I would get to see one of my very beautiful and charming and attractive friends doing some erotic dancing. So, she told me when she’d be performing, and I told her I’d be there.

I didn’t mention anything about this online — at least not in public messages. I did, however, tell a few friends about it.

My male friend, T., had been to the Gallery a few times before and agreed to be my ride. I also invited two of my female friends, and made an open invitation to a small group of friends who I see on a regular basis. One of my female friends was potentially interested but unable to attend that weekend. The other one, R., replied to my invitation by expressing a degree of concern about the situation.

I was mildly surprised by her response. R. is pretty comfortable about sexuality and very supportive of consenting adults doing whatever brings them happiness and pleasure. But R. is also a very empathic and compassionate person who likes to look out for people, especially her friends and their loved ones. In this case, R. was worried that M. would have a bad experience in such a potentially banal and burnout-prone environment.

I assured R. that I shared these concerns, but told her that as long as M. was having a good experience at the Gallery, I would go out there and support her. I also wrote M. a somewhat lengthy message saying how much I respect and care for her, and that if she didn’t want me at the Gallery, or if she got burned out with the job, I would be there to support her in that too. M. assured me that everything was good between us, and that she would be happy to see me there.

And so, that weekend I went with my friend T. to the Gallery.

As we were walking up to the front door, T. and I were joking that it would be funny if someone recognized me and called out my name as soon as I entered the club. My friends have joked about how often I get that response whenever I’m out in the community – and I stick out even more than usual at a place like the Gallery. Sure enough, as soon as we stepped onto the club floor, someone at the bar recognized me and called out my name. As it turns out, it was the partner of one of the dancers, who had never actually met me before but presumably recognized me from my online profile and their partner’s descriptions.

So even at the Gallery, there were people who knew me, or at least knew of me. I guess when you live in a relatively small town for 12 years and are one of the few tall men with long hair, a long beard, and a penchant for public ecological musings, it’s hard to remain anonymous. In addition to M. and S., a third dancer turned out to be an acquaintance of mine. We hadn’t seen each other in quite a while, but she spotted me at a distance and talked to me off and on throughout the night. I also recognized a few of M. and S.’s friends as mutual acquaintances, though we didn’t get a chance to talk.

Once T. and I got our drinks and found a table to sit at, I really started to take in my surroundings.

The Gallery has two stages – a larger main stage and a smaller side stage. At almost any given point in the night, there was a dancer on each stage. Each dancer performed for two songs, and then another pair of dancers took to the stages. In the meantime, dancers who weren’t on stage mingled with any friends in the audience, or gave private dances, or headed back to the restroom or dressing room.

On the surface, it was all very exciting. Nothing I’d seen on TV and in movies could prepare me for the excitement of being in the presence of mostly naked women doing provocative erotic dances on a stage just a few feet away from me. When you read about it or see it on TV, it all just seems like a fantasy. But when you’re there in the club, it’s undeniably real. Real women are up there dancing and performing for the audience’s pleasure, and all it takes is a few dollars to get even closer to the action. Even in a place like the Gallery, which has the more subdued atmosphere of a “gentleman’s club” rather than a rude and rowdy “titty bar,” there’s still an intense sexual charge in the air.

For me, the best part of the night was definitely watching M. dance. She was still very new to the club, so she wasn’t doing any of the fancy pole tricks that one or two of the other dancers pulled off. But she was definitely very smooth and sexy in her dancing and performing, whether she was on the pole, or strutting across the stage, or crawling on all fours in her playful sexy kitty mode.

And then, there was the private dance. When I bought a private dance from her, she lead me over to a more secluded corner of the club set off from the main floor by several short walls that created half a dozen cubicles. Each cubicle had a posh leather chair and offered about as much privacy as you can manage without placing the dancers’ safety at risk through closed doors or curtained rooms. Once I’d given her my money, she started dancing for me.

Clients aren’t allowed to touch the dancers, but dancers are allowed to touch the client. And so, this turned out to be more of a full body dance than a lap dance. Without delving too far into the realm of erotica, suffice it to say that I enjoyed the dance thoroughly. And I’m pretty sure she did too. Of course, since she was in the role of performer, it’s hard to be sure. But since we’ve talked at length about life’s mysteries and hadn’t really explored that side of each other yet, I’m sure she at least appreciated the attention and positive reception.

My friend T. can testify that after my private dance, I was a bit dazed and giddy. I joked that this might be just the motivation I need to find more income so that I can afford to come back here. For better or worse, though, this would prove to be the high point of the night.

Over the course of the night, I got to watch M. and S. dance up on stage a few times each. Once or twice, I even approached the stage with a tip so that I could get some special attention from them. But as the night wore on, a couple of things started happening that wore down my appreciation of the experience.

First of all, the dual nature of my experience of this place really started to set in. On the surface, it was all excitement and glamor and a pulsing spring of sexual energy. But even early on, I began to feel something hollow about the experience. It wasn’t as bad with my friend M. because we had our closest interactions early on in the night, and I knew that at least a large part of her reason for being there was because she actually wanted to give exotic dancing a try. I knew that she appreciated my presence, and our interactions felt real and meaningful. But the place in general had a very hollow feel to it – a shiny outer shell of sexuality-as-performance with an underlying emptiness where some spark of deeper meaning ought to have been.

Let me be clear about something here. My views on sexuality are radically different from what is considered mainstream in our society. I believe that sex is sacred, and that our sexuality can be one of our primary ways of connecting with the Divine, however we may understand or experience it. I also believe that social or public forms of sexuality – sexually-themed clubs, erotic dancing, even orgiastic parties or rituals – can in theory be a tremendously beautiful and powerful way of sharing our sexuality and divinity with each other.

The problem, though, lies in the gap between theory and practice. The Gallery, like any other gentleman’s club, isn’t quite a place where people come together to explore and share their sexuality in a mutually supportive and appreciative context. To an extent, that happens for some individuals, given the sexual nature of the place. But in the end, it’s primarily a business where women perform for the pleasure of a mostly male audience in exchange for money.

The unidirectional, non-reciprocal nature of the experience felt strange and alienating. It was strange, too, to have several feelings and experiences simultaneously: the excitement of being surrounded by these women and their performances; the delight of experiencing a taste of my friend’s sexuality; the alienation at having my time in the presence of these women being defined by money rather than affection or attraction; the political and philosophical analysis of the situation; and the knowledge that most of the men (and women) in the audience were probably just enjoying the outer shell of excitement without giving any thought to the rest of it.

If I’d had more than one drink that night, I might have just gone with it too, and not had much thought about the complexities of it all until later. But since I was sober, I had a very nuanced and complex and mixed experience of the place. It was still exciting, but with an undercurrent of restlessness and alienation.

As my experience of the place was shifting from mostly excited to mostly reflective, I noticed that M.’s mood seemed to be taking a turn for the worse. Given the context, I wasn’t able to talk to her about it at the time, which added to the overall alienation of the experience. Eventually, when T. and I were both ready to go, I just said goodbye to her, gave her a hug, and wished her good luck with the rest of the night.

With all of that said, I hardly know where to sum up this entry. Maybe there’s no grand conclusion; maybe life is complex, and we can’t always make any clear sense of it. I feel like I want to say at least a few words in conclusion though.

First of all, I’m glad I went to the Gallery. I was there to experience this part of my friend’s life, and I was there to push past my own boundaries and have a new and exciting experience. I definitely did both.

Second, I won’t deny that it was an exciting experience. Even though the context had its flaws, there’s simply something amazing about watching a group of beautiful, attractive, alluring, mostly-naked women get up on stage and do some erotic and provocative dancing. It would be absurd to deny the sheer pleasure of such an experience.

Third, I won’t deny that it was also alienating. Once the excitement wore off, the experience left me feeling hollow and restless. I like the thought of being able to go to a club and have a sensual and erotic experience — but I’d like it to be more mutual, and more focused on celebrating the ecstatic dimensions of human experience rather than being defined by a financial transaction.

This hard-to-quantify feeling of alienation made me realize that the genuineness of the affection and attention that I receive really is important to me. It also made me realize that one of the things I miss most as a single person is not the opportunity to receive affection, but the opportunity to show it. I’m a very affectionate person, with a lot of love in my heart, and a strong desire to show that love through various forms of affection. I think more than anything, I want to hold someone in my arms, and look them in the eye, and tell them that I love them, and know that they fully feel and accept and appreciate this love. And on an emotional and spiritual level, going to a strip club is about the exact opposite of that experience.

Finally, my trip to the Gallery left me with plenty of food for thought about gender, sexuality, politics, economics, and beyond. I think that strip clubs and gentleman’s clubs, at least in the current social context, serve on the whole to contribute to a sexual culture of objectification and alienation. Individual customers and dancers can have experiences which are unique, and meaningful, and personal, and maybe even thoroughly satisfying to them on a personal or social or political or spiritual level. But the context as a whole is sorely flawed, and serves to perpetuate a lot of problematic issues related to gender and sexuality and beyond. I want to love the open and rebellious sexual nature of such places, but I also want to fix the power dynamics and other flaws before I give it my full endorsement.

So, it was a complex experience. On the whole, I enjoyed myself; on the whole, I’m glad I went; at the same time, I really wish that there were contexts in our community and society in which people could share their sensuality and sexuality in an open and social way without so much baggage and potential for dysfunction and negative power dynamics. As it is, most people seem to either see sexuality as sinful/objectifying, or go off and lead a sex-positive life in private without really challenging any of the negative aspects of the broader society’s attitudes and practices toward sexuality.

That’s what I’ve got for the time being. As always, your responses are greatly appreciated, so long as they remain respectful. If you have anything more suited for a private rather than public discussion, feel free to contact me in private, online or offline, and I’ll see what I can do.

I look forward to hearing other people’s feedback on my experiences, or even other people sharing their own experiences. In the meantime, I’m off in pursuit of other adventures.

Posted in Uncategorized
My name is Treesong. I'm a father, author, talk radio host, and Real Life Superhero. I live in Carbondale, Southern Illinois. I write novels, short stories, and poetry, mostly about the climate.

My Books

Subscribe to Blog

Enter your email address to receive notifications of new posts by email.