Started reading Ivan Illich’s Tools for Conviviality, which I bought for 33¢ at The Friends of the Library Book Sale. I’ve picked up shelves of books there over the past two years. Illich might say that we seem to be losing sight of what is important. We don’t want healthcare, we want health. We don’t want to go into debt for a degree that says we know something, we want to know something. The obvious problem presents itself — If you don’t have a degree, they will say you don’t know anything. Illich warns of this trap.
Once they accept the authority of an agency to define and their level of knowledge, they easily go on to accept the authority of other agencies to define for them their level of appropriate health or mobility. 
There was a picture from a political rally floating around on the internet “Homescholers for Perry” which I noticed was re-posted by professional teachers. I should remind them that plenty of public school graduates can’t spell. I like that the US provides a free education for everyone. I don’t like that our schools are factories trying to create an ideal product (student) and that kids who don’t fit the mold are discarded like defective units.
As we get older, it seems to be getting harder to go out and take advantage of what living in a city has to offer. We went to the street fair Saturday, saw Agent 24 Sunday, hung with Jervey Monday, saw Gary’s film Tuesday and so my first impulse on Wednesday was ‘stay home.’ When we were young in the 1990s, we thought nothing of going out every night. And because of this the 90s, in San Diego at least, marked a creative high point. An art scene that works creates a kind of positive feedback loop. People who make art were on the town checking out other artists. It was very exciting (irregardless of sustainability.) To sustain an art movement you also need patrons who are not artists, which is one reason people serious about art move to big cities like New York. Another reason is that cities provide more face-to-face interactions with creative people.
Here’s what I would have missed by staying home — I ran into Chris Woo who offered to help me lay out my novels so that people can read them in electronic formats; I ran into Kristian Dunn who composed the soundtrack for Urbanized with his band El Ten Eleven. He said he’d written his first novel and we made a plan to trade chapters, because I’m at the point in my Book of Books where I need someone who doesn’t know me so well to read it. And last night Angela and I made a tenative plan to go with Cecil and Amanda for a cocktail at the Riviera Supper Club. I wanted to go there because Mocha Joe Camacho’s band El Monte Slim was playing and I had seen them. As the hour approached (standard rock time) I felt tired and tried to get out of it. Cecil was adamant and I have to thank him for it. After the set, which was very cool, I was talking to Joe about Gary’s film Urbanized, it’s so good I can’t stop talking about it, and Joe said he would love to make a documentary about lap steel guitar players for a general audience. It’s the kind of thing that has to be done now because many of the great ones are getting old. We thought Gary Hustwit might help with that, but he lives in New York. Gary said during the Q & A the other night that he was able to make these films because they were films he wanted to see that didn’t exist. I suggested Joe contact local filmmaker Eric Rife about it, because he has the professional equipment to make documentaries and loves music. And then Tim Blankenship, who played with one of my favorite bands called Creedle, walked in with George the bass player from Uncle Joe’s Big Ol’ Driver. It was starting to feel like the 90s. And Tim said ‘Did Kevin Chanel call you?’ ‘He wants to come down and play some shows with Fern Trio and we want you to do the vocals.’ So just like in the 90s a lot of creativity energy seems to be in the air, but the real task will be to bring these ambitious projects to fruition. I don’t know if I will read Kristian’s book or play in a band with Tim, but I would like to.
Wangari Maathai died.
She recognized the importance of planting trees in turning around the health of society, a real life hero in the mold of Jean Giono’s great story The Man Who Planted Trees.
Here’s an excerpt from The Book of Books:
The Challenge for Africa • Wangari Maathai — The challenges include poverty, civil war, famine, AIDS, and malaria. Maathai recognized many problems with corrupt leadership too. Indeed not every person in a leadership position is truly a leader.  I find this belief in a “true leader” limiting. Does it take a charismatic leader, like Maathai herself, to accomplish something as important as the planting of 40 million trees?
Jerry Schad died.
Angela and I had been using his book Backcountry Roads and Trails: San Diego County to guide our hikes since at least 1993. And my dad bought me his 101 Hikes in Southern California for Xmas one year. My friend David Klowden would actually say ‘Let’s go Schad-ing’ and we did. Trudging through snow at Palomar and apprehensively past some very large cattle near Julian. My friend Pat Haley and I searched in vain for Cedar Creek Falls (HIke 79). ‘Do you think its this way?’ ‘I don’t know what did Schad say?’ That was the thing about Schad. Sometimes the directions were just vague enough to get you pointed in the right direction without relieving you of the sense of adventure. I lost Angela’s cellphone on the trail to Cottonwood Creek Falls (HIke 86) and Angela and I had such a good time doing it we brought friends back on the trail the next day. The verb ‘to schad’ should enter thre language meaning To trundle through nature with friends.
My old friend and former publisher Gary Hustwit is showing his third feature film in San Diego next week. He’s been showing it all around the country. The film is called Urbanized and is about how cities are designed. Urbanized forms a ‘design trilogy’ with Gary’s other films Helvetica and Objectified (available on netflix). Gary’s clean aesthetic was evident in the many book covers he designed including my novel The Sub. His books, like his films, are beautiful objects. I actually got to shoot some second unit footage for Urbanized with him under the 805 freeway when he came to town for our friend Stimy’s memorial service.
I started thinking about how cities work after reading Steven Johnson’s great book Emergence, which expains how cities emerge over time in a similar way to ant colonies. Your average ant lives about one year, but ant colonies may last 20 years. Older ant colonies, for example, are less likely to go to war with rival ants. The society of ants learns over time that war doesn’t pay. One thing that makes a great city effective is what Jane Jacobs called “eyes on the street.” Yesterdays robbery, at least anecdotally, shows San Diego’s great weakness. The robbers walked into a house at 9am without any of the neighbors, including myself, seeing anything. What is considered a “good” neighborhood here seems devoid of life. The affluent people who occupy the houses are at work, or watching tv with the blinds closed, or bbq-ing in the backyard. My neighbor is the exception to that rule. He is always out in the street, talking to people, offering to help. Now he wants to install surveillance cameras. I understand how he feels, after our old house got burglarized we lived with this creepy sense of violation and invasion. We became victims. I don’t like the idea of the totally monitored society, of cameras watching everything. Besides I’m not sure what sense of security watching the tape of people robbing your house over and over might give.