shelter in place: the trip that never was

Everyone has a story to tell about the virus. Ours is minor compared to most. It grows out of privilege, and we aren't suffering. 

Sometime today, we would have landed in London on the trip to Spain we would have begun last night. Oh, I'm not exactly sure about the dates. We were to be gone for four weeks, would have stayed a bit in London on the return to visit friends, but most of the time, we'd be in our favorite apartment in Nerja on "our street":

Our apartment is on the right (60 Carabeo) just past Mini Market Mena on the left just after the 4-minute mark. (We get most of our groceries at the Mini Market.) It would have been our third time staying there, our ... well, I've kinda lost track over the years of how many times we've stayed in Nerja. 2000, 2003, 2007, 2009, 2013, 2017, that seems about right.

I like to trot this out. There is a famous paella place on the Burriana Beach in Nerja. It has a long name, but everyone calls it Ayo's after the man who runs it. (He's in his 80s, I hope he's still with us.) In 2009, an Andalusian TV network, Canal Sur, visited Ayo's and the reporter took a turn helping Ayo cook. At about the 1:40 mark, someone special turns up for a few seconds.

We had already paid for all the plane fares, hotels, apartments, etc. Everyone is very nice about allowing us to postpone our visit at no extra cost, but so far, no one is actually refunding our money. Which is fine, except we were/are flying Norwegian, and we keep hearing that airline is going bankrupt, so we might want our money from them sooner rather than later.

Here is a little something I've been thinking about lately. No, I don't read French ... I've been reading this in translation for most of my life. But I thought it might be worth going with the original here.

Ecoutant, en effet, les cris d’allégresse qui montaient de la ville, Rieux se souvenait que cette allégresse était toujours menacée. Car il savait ce que cette foule en joie ignorait, et qu’on peut lire dans les livres, que le bacille de la peste ne meurt ni ne disparaît jamais, qu’il peut rester pendant des dizaines d’années endormi dans les meubles et le linge, qu’il attend patiemment dans les chambres, les caves, les malles, les mouchoirs et les paperasses, et que, peut-être, le jour viendrait où, pour le malheur et l’enseignement des hommes, la peste réveillerait ses rats et les enverrait mourir dans une cité heureuse.

Here is one of the English translations:

And, indeed, as he listened to the cries of joy rising from the town, Rieux remembered that such joy is always imperiled. He knew what those jubilant crowds did not know but could have learned from books: that the plague bacillus never dies or disappears for good; that it can lie dormant for years and years in furniture and linen-chests; that it bides its time in bedrooms, cellars, trunks, and bookshelves; and that perhaps the day would come when, for the bane and the enlightening of men, it would rouse up its rats again and send them forth to die in a happy city.

El Pulguilla:

Seven at la pulguilla

And the view from the balcony of "our" apartment:

Nerja balcony morning

a saint without god

I wrote this in 1995 for the journal Bad Subjects. I am reprinting it here, unedited, because the Bad Subjects website has been down for what feels like years. I chose this because it includes some thoughts about my favorite book, The Plague by Albert Camus, which seems appropriate these days.

A Saint Without God

This essay is dedicated to my mother.

St. Jude

'Kiss someone you love when you get this letter and make magic. With love all things are possible.'

Thus began a chain letter I received recently. Chain letters are interesting, if scummy, examples of what might happen to us if we let faith overrule other sides of our character. Someone, often a perfect stranger but sometimes, sadly, a so-called friend, offers us a chance at riches, if we only put our faith in the person who has sent us the chain letter. All we have to do is part with some of our hard-earned money, and as long as we can find enough chumps who, like us, are stupid enough to unthinkingly put their faith in others, we will make far more money than we are giving up.

This particular chain letter, which arrived, as far as I can tell from reading it, from St. Jude himself, differed from others I have seen, though, because this one wasn't asking me for money. No, all I had to do was kiss someone, and then send the letter along to twenty other people, and everything would start going my way, because 'with love all things are possible.' 'This is no joke,' read the letter, 'Send copies to people you think need luck.' At this point, I begin wondering which of my friends was thinking of me when they saw this line; clearly someone out there thinks I 'need luck,' or I would never have gotten the letter in the first place.

'Don't send money,' I was told, for 'Fate has no price.' I've been thinking about that last sentence for awhile, now, and can't decide if it is extremely deep or merely obscure. But if I have faith, its meaning will be irrelevant, since I'll be rewarded with great riches, just for kissing someone and for believing that with love, all things are possible.

'This is true. Even if you are or are not superstitious.' This is faith: I believe something is true, whether or not other people believe it. If I have faith, I will be rewarded. In this case, my faith is magnanimous, it is a faith that asks only to be shared, even with non-believers. If we all at least pretend to believe, if we all keep the chain from breaking, we will all be rewarded with riches. And we don't send any money, we just kiss someone. 

'Do not ignore this letter. IT WORKS!!!!!!!' I'm an unbeliever, but I'm not going to ignore the letter. Oh, I never got around to sending it to twenty friends (although I did kiss someone I love). But I've been thinking about it off and on ever since it arrived; at this point I couldn't ignore it if I tried. Because it's about faith, it believes in something, it wants to share its good fortune with others, and it seems to leave room for an unbeliever like me. I am forced to break the chain, of course, if I am to remain true to my non-beliefs, but I'll honor the spirit of faith that drives the letter by thinking a little more about the Patron Saint of Lost Causes who sent it to me. 

We Are Bad Subjects

The more I look at the paragraph above, the more I realize I could be talking about Bad Subjects just as easily as I could about chain letters. Bad Subjects is about faith. Bad Subjects believes in something. Bad Subjects wants to share its good fortune with others, and it seems to leave room for an unbeliever like me. 

Faith requires a belief in the future, a sense that what happens tomorrow will be different from today in some critical manner. Last year at this time, Bad Subjects ran 'The Apocalypse Issue,' and for many of us writing then, the apocalypse evoked discussions of the meaning of faith. I wrote in that issue, 'At some basic level, all believers desire an apocalypse, a utopia, a definable, different, perhaps distant future where our beliefs will be proven true.' Believers have faith in that future; indeed, without such faith, action would seem irrelevant, unnecessary. It requires a leap of faith to believe a kiss and twenty sealed envelopes will lead to riches; it requires a leap of faith to believe that a critical analysis of the politics of everyday life will change the world in some central fashion, whereby our utopia will eventually be realized. It is exceedingly difficult, in fact, for any of us to work towards the future without having any real belief in that future. One could even argue that a belief in the future is a prerequisite to living itself, in that we might surely give up the ghost and waste away if we didn't have faith that the next second would be worth living. However, as I argued in these pages a year ago, our need to believe does not, in and of itself, make that which we believe 'real.' Our faith is real; the object of our faith may be real, or may be an illusion. That is to say, anyone who sends along St. Jude's chain letter is believing, at least a little, in the potential power of the letter, but the letter itself is probably only that, a letter. And anyone who works towards a better tomorrow believes in the potential power of their work ... but their work is possibly only that, work, and not necessarily guaranteed to bring about utopia, no matter how much faith we have. 

And so faith in utopia, in the future, inspires us to act in the name of that future. We believe in the future, and we apply our critical tools to the understanding of the future in which we want to believe. The present becomes merely the prelude to the future; faith allows us to sacrifice today in the name of tomorrow. 


And here I ask for the indulgence of longtime Bad readers, who may have tired long ago of my frequent contemplations of the writing of Albert Camus. Jean Tarrou is a character in Camus' great novel, The Plague, an allegory about (among other things) the Nazi occupation of France during World War II. Late in the novel, Tarrou asks the hero, Doctor Rieux, if they might 'take an hour off' from their work fighting the plague that has infested their town, 'for friendship,' as Tarrou puts it. He then proceeds to tell Rieux a story of his life. Tarrou's father was a prosecutor who sent many men to their deaths, a fact which, when realized, deeply disturbed Tarrou, who decided 'to square accounts' with the criminals in the dock. He became an agitator, working against a social order 'based on the death-sentence ... by fighting the established order I'd be fighting against murder.' He understood that on occasion the people with whom he worked would themselves place a death sentence on an enemy, but Tarrou managed to live with the contradictions involved in those sentences, until he saw an enemy executed and made an explicit connection between that enemy and the criminals in the docks of his father's courtrooms. At this point, he says, 'I came to understand that I, anyhow, had had plague through all those long years in which, paradoxically enough, I'd believed with all my soul that I was fighting it.' His comrades make 'excellent arguments to justify what they do,' but for Tarrou, 'my concern was not with arguments,' but with the men in the docks. 

This makes it impossible for Tarrou to work with those comrades, of course. 'Once I'd definitely refused to kill, I doomed myself to an exile that can never end. I leave it to others to 'make history'.' 

What Tarrou decides is that he can no longer sacrifice the present in the name of the future, can no longer do that which he hates in the name of a faith in what might come. He recognizes the limitations this places on the ultimate usefulness of his actions, but he opts against ultimate usefulness in favor of living as properly as possible in the present. 'I have realized that we all have plague, and I have lost my peace,' he tells Rieux, 'And today I am still trying to find it.' Tarrou's life becomes purposely smaller in its scope, for he has moved outside the bounds of 'making history.' Now his life is simpler, if no closer to utopia: 'All I maintain is that on this earth there are pestilences and there are victims, and it's up to us, so far as possible, not to join forces with the pestilences.' 

Faith and Propaganda

Tarrou's comrades had faith. They believed in their vision of the future, believed with enough certainty that they could justify behavior which mirrored that of their enemies. They were revolutionaries, believers in a cause, dedicated to making history. Tarrou answers their faith with only a recognition that we all have plague, and a desire to, 'so far as possible,' refuse pestilent forces. 

Recently, the Bad Subjects Mailing List has featured a fevered thread on the contemporary issue of affirmative action. Bad Subjects, being critical in the past of some of multiculturalism's flaws, and the Bad Mailing List, where like-minded people (and some not-so-like-minded people) hang out to critique the politics of everyday life, are enlightening places to analyze the complicated issue of affirmative action in the mid-1990s. Some of us have faith. We believe in our vision of the future. That vision, informed in part by a ruthless criticism of everything existing, leads us to question the very roots of affirmative action and the multicultural movement. Our faith in the verity of Marx' challenge to be ruthless led many on the Bad List to construct effective, well-stated objections to affirmative action, objections that in their intelligence did much to advance the debate on the topic, at least among list members. 

But in the meantime, it's up to us, so far as possible, not to join forces with the pestilences. To quote Doctor Rieux in The Plague (as I have done far too often in my short life), 'For the moment I know this: there are sick people and they need curing. Later on, perhaps, they'll think things over; and so shall I. But what's wanted now is to make them well.' Let others with more faith take care of making history. Later on, we will all benefit from their faithful efforts to remake the world in the image of the believed-in utopia. But for the moment, the forces of pestilence are upon us, they have the upper hand ... and sick people need curing now. 

And so some on the Bad List suggested that this was not a time when we have the luxury of ruthless criticism of everything. The plague is upon us now; faith in the future won't do much good for those who are the targets of our enemies in 1995. Faith, to paraphrase, is the opiate of us all; it deadens our ability to feel what is happening right now, allows us to become what we hate in the name of the future. Faith is a luxury we can't always afford, even though it seems most appealing at just the moment when we need to reject it most violently. 

And so, with Tarrou, I move outside the bounds of making history and concentrate on curing the sick in the here and now. For me, in the fall of 1995, this means that I fight against those who would destroy affirmative action. 

A Saint Without God

'Do not ignore this letter. IT WORKS!!!!!!!' 

How ironic that my chain letter 'came from' St. Jude. How exactly does it work, being the patron saint of lost causes? If they are lost, what can a saint do? 'Can one be a saint without God?' Tarrou said to Rieux. 'That's the problem, in fact the only problem, I'm up against today.' 

A saint without God. Living without faith. Somehow reconciling the desire to cure the sick, with the crushing knowledge that we all have plague. When you've got a lost cause, you can always pray to St. Jude. Have faith, and no cause is lost. With love all things are possible. Do not ignore this letter. It works!!!!!!!

Copyright © 1995, 2020 by Steven Rubio. All rights reserved.

long tales

Sometimes I wish I had gotten into Star Trek when I was a teenager. I've never had anything against the show, the various permutations that have followed, or their fans. Jealous of those fans, actually. I never watched any of the series. I saw a couple of movies. Like most people, I know who Kirk and Picard and Spock are. I just never watched.

Marvel is another example. I read a few comics back in the day, most specifically the original Dr. Strange series (I was a wannabe hippie, what can I say). And my wife watches the movies, so I've seen some of them. But I'm never quite sure who does what.

Doctor Who, Star Wars ... I know little (Doctor Who) or some (Star Wars), but I am no fanatic, and I don't get tingly when a new Star Wars movie turns up. Again, I don't hate them or their fans, I'm just not a part of that.

My jealousy comes from wishing I was a part of it. Star Trek especially ... there are so many series and movies that I could binge the rest of my life and not catch up with all of it. That sounds appealing ... not the binging, just the part where there is so much and you are part of it.

Then I realized, there is one area where I participate that is similar to what Trekkers enjoy: sports. You follow something over the years, as history builds up and each season brings a freshness you don't find anywhere else. The Giants are in Spring Training, and Pablo Sandoval and Hunter Pence are back, and they are "Good Giants" and I think of the past when I see them in the present. Johnny Antonelli died the other day, and he was a Giants ace pitcher the first few years after they came to San Francisco. I relate to the Giants the way Trekkers relate to Star Trek: a continuing story that I take part it, year after year, drawing enjoyment not just from the present, but from the present's connection to the past.

I've never held it against people who are "fair weather fans", who show up at Giants games when they are winning World Series but are absent the rest of the time. Why shouldn't they get in on the enjoyment? But when the Giants won the Series in 2010, it was especially sweet for those of us who remember 1958 and had been waiting our whole lives for that moment. Same thing with the Warriors ... I remember when they were NBA champs in the mid-70s, but I also remember decades of underachievement, and so their revival in recent years was particularly cool.

Maybe we all need long tales to help us survive.

music friday: valentine's day

I'm driving a big lazy car rushin' up the highway in the dark
I got one hand steady on the wheel and one hand's tremblin' over my heart
It's pounding baby like it's gonna bust right on through
And it ain't gonna stop till I'm alone again with you
A friend of mine became a father last night
When we spoke in his voice I could hear the light
Of the skies and the rivers the timberwolf in the pines
And that great jukebox out on Route 39
They say he travels fastest who travels alone
But tonight I miss my girl mister tonight I miss my home
Is it the sound of the leaves
Left blown by the wayside
That's got me out here on this spooky old highway tonight
Is it the cry of the river
With the moonlight shining through
That ain't what scares me baby
What scares me is losing you
They say if you die in your dreams you really die in your bed
But honey last night I dreamed my eyes rolled straight back in my head
And God's light came shinin' on through
I woke up in the darkness scared and breathin' and born anew
It wasn't the cold river bottom I felt rushing over me
It wasn't the bitterness of a dream that didn't come true
It wasn't the wind in the grey fields I felt rushing through my arms
No no baby it was you

So hold me close honey say you're forever mine
And tell me you'll be my lonely valentine

are we having fun yet? happy birthday, steven rubio's online life

Today, this blog turns 18. Man, that number is both delightful and bizarre. Back in 2002, it was on Blogger. I apparently moved to TypePad because Blogger's site was always down in those days. (I think I moved in late 2003.)

Here is an excerpt from what I wrote on Online Life's 14th birthday:

This blog began 14 years ago today.

Who the hell does anything for fourteen years?

There is something old-fashioned about persisting in a format that has long been overtaken by other forms of online presentation.

And there is something odd about continuing to write for the smallest of audiences.

But think of this: my blog has never had advertising. I’ve never made any money from it, unless you count published writing that had its root here (i.e. I was “discovered” via my blog writing ... of course, much of my published writing has been unpaid/academic). This allows me to pretend my writing is “pure”.

Changes have occurred over time. I used to write about a broader area. I hesitate now to write about things where I know people who can do better jobs, so I rarely write about politics, and I write less about sports than I did in the past. The blog has become an arts site, where I write about TV, movies, and music ... and admittedly, when someone has asked me to write for publication, it’s those areas that come up.

I know there is some good writing buried in the past fourteen years, pieces where I happen to read them by accident and don’t always know they are mine until I’m finished, and I think, “I am good enough”. The published stuff, which doesn’t appear here, is of varying quality ... I think my piece on punk cinema for Nick Rombes was good, ditto for my Bugs Bunny Meets Picasso essay for Michael Berube. My Battlestar Galactica and King Kong essays might be the best of my Smart Pop work. Point is, the form is shorter, but I occasionally reach those heights on this blog. Maybe for 2016 I should find a way to foreground Past Classics.

What I hope to avoid as much as possible is the type of naked confessional I am far too capable of indulging in. It’s worth repeating every once in awhile the motto for this blog, Kael’s “I’m frequently asked why I don’t write my memoirs. I think I have.”

Here is the #1 song on Billboard's Hot 100 Chart for January 6, 2002:


Some things last forever. I don't know if I'd say that about this blog, but it would seem that Nickelback will never die. Here is a Saturday Night Live skit from 2018 (!):

creative nourishment

My daughter has begun a new enterprise that is fascinating to me, for its combination of modern-day smarts and an almost 60s approach to the land. It's called Creative Nourishment. As she says on the website, "As a design guide, I am here to support you in defining your ideal landscape and creating a step-by-step action plan towards your long-terms goals. I look forward to Co-Creating and guiding you towards your vision of how you spend time in your space! I use a Permaculture design framework as well as Rescape California principles to create a balance between beauty and function."

In many ways, this project has been a long time coming ... she has worked with Permaculture forever. Check it out!

Creative nourishment

adventures in dishwasher maintenance

Five years ago, we watched this video, which proved to be a lifesaver when we were able to follow its instructions to clean our dishwasher, which was no longer cleaning dishes.

After five years, it was time for another cleaning. But this time, we had our seven-year-old grandson to "help". The little fart knows what he's doing. He kept wanting to jump ahead, since he often knew in advance what the video would suggest for the next step. He's a pint-sized marvel.

Félix dishwasher

xmas 2019

I'm supposed to say something nice here.

My sister-in-law died in 2019. People say someone "died too young", but as far as I am concerned, all of us die too young. She brought love and pleasure to my sister and our family for such a long time. Here is a picture of some of my siblings and their partners, with Karen in the middle, from Spain in 2013.

Seven at la pulguilla

Our son and his wife lost one of their doggies this year. No one loves their dogs more than they do ... like I said above, we all die too young, including our pets.

Soon after that, our own cat, Six, died, just before turning 13. There are still two more cats around the house to pick up the slack, but Six was unique. There's not really any replacing her. And yes, she died too young. Like all of our cats, she loved Robin's knitting:


A long time ago, I began a running joke about our dog, Spot. Doesn't seem all that funny anymore, but it wouldn't be xmas without the damn thing:


Over the years, I've tried to improve my attitude about xmas, which I mostly hate. It's not fair that I've dumped that on my family, and I really do try to do better. But what a fucking year.

Still, there's this:

The guys 6-30-19

And William Maranci gives us a xmas mashup:

in defense of fucking off

I wrote this in 1997 for the journal Bad Subjects. I am reprinting it here, unedited, because the Bad Subjects website has been down for what feels like years. Perhaps it reads differently, now that I collect a monthly social security check.

In Defense of Fucking Off

The proletariat ... remains irreducibly present ... in the shape of the vast mass of workers who have lost all power over the use of their own lives and who, once they realize this, must necessarily redefine themselves as the proletariat - as negation at work in the bosom of today's society.
-- Guy Debord 

I worked as a steelworker from the summer of 1973 until the summer of 1984. Our plant made the bodies and lids for cans; we did not make the actual cans, but instead made can parts that were sent to other factories in other companies to be filled and sealed. For most of those years, I worked swing shift, from 3:30 in the afternoon until midnight, with half-an-hour for lunch. As factory jobs go, it wasn't bad, I suppose. The physical work was rarely heavy. But there was nevertheless something heavy going on: each night when I would climb into my car for the long ride home, the first thing I would do is adjust the rear-view mirror downwards. Apparently some time during those eight-and-a-half hours I spent in that factory, I had gotten smaller.

For all I know, that factory is long since closed down. I am sure that the plant underwent what later became known as downsizing some time after I left. Most of the work was moved to another of the company's plants, where workers under a less-powerful union than our own United Steelworkers of America made less money than we did to perform the same work. I know that I was lucky enough to get out; others were not so lucky, and still others never wanted out and were thus perhaps the most unlucky of all, if they lost their jobs. In any event, I've spent most of the subsequent thirteen years fucking off. 

We aren't supposed to admit such a thing. First of all, I'm lying. Writing this essay does not fall under most people's definition of fucking off, although a lot of my former work mates might disagree. Second, I have a lot of things on my To Do list, and I've had a lot of things on my To Do list for most of those thirteen years, so if I admit to fucking off, I'm also admitting that I'm not "getting anything done." Finally, I owe my ability to fuck off largely to the efforts of my wife, who is not fucking off as I type this, who is in fact "at work" and whose paychecks give me the luxury of fucking off without starving to death. It's bad enough that I'm a leech; it's even worse that I'm admitting it. Some things in our society are better left unsaid. 

And so most people would never admit that they ever fuck off. It's an odd reversal of the usual interpretation of work in the capitalist era, where actual work being actually performed gets obscured, as if it never happened, the entire process of production being mystified so we won't notice those workers busting their asses on our behalf. Fucking off is almost as mystified as working, though. It happens, but the actual fucking off takes place off-stage. It gets mystified, so we won't notice all those workers fucking off on our behalf. If anyone catches you fucking off, they will tell you to "get to work," although once you get to work, your labor will hopefully disappear from view so we won't notice you busting your ass.

Nonetheless, sometimes you just have to fess up. So I'm confessing: I fuck off, I've been doing it for years, and the main reason I continue my sinful ways is simple: I hate work.

And so should you.

Personally, I have nothing against work, particularly when performed, quietly and unobtrusively, by someone else. I just don't happen to think it's an appropriate subject for an 'ethic.'
-- Barbara Ehrenreich 

If you take a guided tour of Monticello, Thomas Jefferson's self-designed home, you are told that most of the work that kept the house running was performed out of sight of the residents. For instance, Jefferson placed rooms like the kitchen in a separate building from the main home, so that when he had James and Dolly Madison over for dinner, they could enjoy their repast in the dining room without having to experience any of the sights and sounds of the meal being prepared. It would be a bit of a stretch to describe the life of Jefferson at Monticello as one of fucking off. Still, the amateur architect made certain that he would be able to attend to the important work of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness without worrying himself over the less-important work of cooking and cleaning.

Jefferson was a great spokesman for agrarian virtue. "Those who labor in the earth are the chosen people of God," he wrote, while the non-farmers amongst us mark the general degradation of society. In fact, Jefferson believed that the proportion of non-farmers to farmers in a State "is the proportion of its unsound to its healthy parts, and is a good enough barometer whereby to measure its degree of corruption." A trip to Monticello helps us to understand how Jefferson might have come to his conclusions about the importance of farm life; the land on Monticello is vast and beautiful, breathtaking to even the most citified of visitors. One is left to ask, though, exactly who were "those who labor in the earth." One doubts it was Jefferson the slaveholder.

Jefferson had the luxury of letting other people do his shit work for him. This gave him the time to fuck off, which he seems to have used to write the Declaration of Independence, buy Louisiana, serve as President of the United States, and mess around with his slave mistress. OK, Thomas Jefferson was a very busy man, who probably never fucked off a day in his life. But if he did work, it was work that he chose to do. He could have fucked off if he'd wanted to. If there was work to be done and Thomas Jefferson didn't want to do it, well, that's what slaves were for, and by the way, could you take that hoe over yonder so I don't have to watch you use it?

Another American icon, Henry David Thoreau, came closer to admitting he was a fuck off. One could make a case that all Thoreau did during his time at Walden Pond was to fuck off. But there is a utilitarian sense to his fucking off. When he writes, "The really efficient laborer will be found not to crowd his day with work, but will saunter to his task surrounded by a wide halo of ease and leisure," he is not promoting fucking off as an end in itself, he's describing efficient labor. And even Mr. Self-Sufficiency himself still needed help on occasion: as he informs us during one of the anal-retentive recitations of his accounts, payable and receivable, which he offers as proof of his frugality, "washing and mending ... for the most part were done out of the house." Still, we know that ultimately Thoreau wasn't fucking off, for he was too busy living life to spend any time playing it. (We also observe a devaluing of "domestic" work in this passage, for it would seem that Thoreau sees nothing contradictory in his willingness to farm out the laundry while professing to self-sufficiency.)

In the lives of both of these great Americans, we can see a near-obsessive desire for accomplishment (although Thoreau might define accomplishment differently from Jefferson), but also a desire to let others do the shit work (although again, the two men might define shit work differently from each other). And that's the problem with leisure, with living life, with liberty and the pursuit of happiness: as society is presently constructed, and perhaps in the entire history of humankind, one's opportunities for fucking off are dependent to a large extent on reducing the fucking-off opportunities of others. Those others likely have an appetite for fucking off at least the equal of the rest of us. But they don't have an opportunity to satisfy those appetites, because they're too busy busting their asses on our behalf.

Which helps to explain why both work and fucking off are mystified in our society. Those with the opportunity to fuck off don't want to piss off the workers busting their asses, so they never admit to fucking off, even if they're doing it. But they don't want to be bothered with the details of the work being done on their behalf, so they move it to another building on the plantation. They can't see the work, and they live under the illusion that the workers can't see them fucking off. Any connections between work, fucking off, and the relative level of opportunity to fuck off amongst the various classes in our society is obscured. But ultimately, fucking off is the thing that really disappears. The workers don't have the time and resources to indulge in fucking off, and the leisure class appears so susceptible to "accomplishment" that even though they have the opportunity to fuck off, they spend their time working anyway. Youth, they say, is wasted on the young; fucking off, it seems, is also wasted in our culture, wasted on those who have no idea how to do it.

 You think you're so clever and classless and free

 But you're still fucking peasants as far as I can see

  -- John Lennon

Clearly, we need to take the role of fuckoff away from the leisured elite who don't know how to do it and give it to the rest of us, who would like nothing better than to fuck off the rest of our lives. We need to claim the right to be lazy, along with Marx's nephew Paul Lafargue, who wrote, "The objective of the revolution is ... to work as little as possible." The problem remains the same, though, no matter who gets to be the fuckoff. Someone has to work their ass off so the rest of us can fuck off. The idea, then, is generally presented as the need to revolutionize our approach to work, to recognize that a society that gives all of the fucking-off opportunities to a small elite is a bad society, to spread the wealth around so we all get to have equal opportunity for fucking off, which suggests that we would all then take part equally in doing all of the shit work that gets done to support the fuckoffs. This utopian vision has been espoused on many occasions, including an appearance in the Manifesto for Bad Subjects:

At Bad Subjects we believe that having dreams and fantasies of a utopian future is integral to conceiving of an alternative radical politics.... we want to put utopia back in the future, where it belongs.... we can only see glimpses of it, because it's impossible to imagine a world so completely unlike our own.... But this is what we know. In the future, we will always work in solidarity. No one will compete for jobs. And your work will not be painful, nor will it deprive you of family and friends.... Certainly, there will be death and there will be labor, but we will not see them as being in conflict with life and pleasure.... All work will be freely chosen. And to work at one thing will not be to sacrifice your life to it, for you will work at many different things. 

This beautiful vision brings tears to my eyes every time I read it. But for me, it doesn't go far enough. It's still about labor, it's still about work. We're still fucking peasants. We're equal peasants with everyone else, to be sure, but peasantry ain't my idea of fun. And this is utopia we're talking about here, where you can dream big. It's time to take fucking off out of the closet and onto the streets. Doug Henwood, who has argued convincingly against the "End of Work" ideology currently making the rounds, is certainly not advocating a new era of fucking off when he writes in a recent edition of In These Times, "few people have any good idea of what to say yes to. We've said 'No!' to NAFTA, to the abolition of welfare, to budget cuts and so on without any positive vision of what the alternative is." But these words inspire me, in any event. And so I offer the following Manifesto for Fucking Off:

This is what we know. In the future, we will always fuck off. No one will work. You won't feel pain, you'll revel with family and friends. There will be no labor; what the heck, since this is utopia, neither will there be death. No work will be freely chosen, because no work will be done. You will fuck off forever, you will make no sacrifices to the work ethic, you will fuck off in as many different ways as there are molecules in the universe. Fuck work. Fuck off! 

Who knows how many potential Jeffersons and Thoreaus are hiding out there, buried in their work? How many Debords, how many Ehrenreichs, how many Lennons?

 Oh baby, it would mean so much to me, 

 to buy you all the things you need, for free ...

 When you're dreaming, when you're dreaming, when you're dreaming

 Free, free money, free money, free money, free money

  -- Patti Smith 

Copyright © 1997, 2019 by Steven Rubio . All rights reserved.

six (2006-2019)

Earlier this month, we put our kitty Six to sleep. She had tummy problems pretty much since the day we got her, and while we tried a few times to take her to the vet, she was so hostile they couldn't even take her temperature. It was a very gradual process ... she lived almost 13 years ... but Robin started noticing that she was getting worse, having trouble jumping on the couch, things like that.

She was probably the most bizarre cat we ever had, so as Robin pointed out, we have lots of memories of things that she did. She didn't take much to others ... our grandson calls her "The Bad Cat" ... but she loved us, and that's good enough.

Her sister Boomer and her arch enemy Starbuck are still around to fill our cat-related lives, which is good.

Image9   IMG_0493