Category Archives: food

Free the Weed, Screw the Economy

weed economy

In the current debate over how to regulate cannabis in a legal environment, I hear an inordinate amount of concern about the possible economic effects of disrupting the current black-market. I mean, we didn’t mind when Amazon drove brick-and-mortar bookstores out of business. We didn’t care when itunes destroyed the record industry. “That’s progress,” and “You’ve got to stay ahead of the curve if you want to compete.” we said. It seems to me, that this whole internet revolution, that turned our economy upside-down, and ruined a whole lot of honest hard-working people’s lives in the process, remains hugely popular, despite the casualties.

record store

But I guess it’s a different story when it comes to drug dealers and the legalization of marijuana. That’s what they’re telling us, right? They are telling us that we need to regulate marijuana very carefully so that the price remains high enough to preserve the drug-gangster lifestyle. The recently passed CA state medical marijuana regulations will dramatically slow the development of new, legal, cannabis related business opportunities. Instead, they create a whole bunch of totally unnecessary, regulatory jobs for people who do nothing, except consume tax dollars and keep marijuana expensive. It’s appalling!


For decades, we’ve paid exorbitant black-market prices for pot. We’ve lost jobs, been denied jobs, paid fines and legal fees, and spent time in jail, as veterans of the War on Drugs. We’ve paid excessive taxes, suffered indescribable social injustice, and lost civil rights, to pay for the cruel, misguided, and completely unnecessary, War on Drugs. The War on Drugs has claimed millions of casualties. We’ve been through hell in the War on Drugs. We’ve paid enough for marijuana. After what we’ve been through, no one should ever have to pay for marijuana, ever again. Never.


We really shouldn’t worry so much about the effect the collapse of the marijuana black-market will have on our local economy. I know that the prospect of shrinkage in our local economy frightens people, but we should embrace it. What good does the economy do, if it destroys the environment, works us to death, and makes the things we need ridiculously expensive? The truth is, the marijuana economy does a lot more harm than good, and we’d be better off without it than you think.

better off than you think

It is important to remember that he economy is not one of those “more is better” kind of things. If you haven’t read my book, On the Money, Economics for the 99%, you owe it to yourself to do so. In it, I explain, in detail, how the economy works against you, and why making the economy larger, inevitably makes your life worse,. Consider this example:

consider this

Imagine a businessman, running his own small business, but business is slow. He’s just scraping by, economically. He goes to work at 9:00am, where he has a few orders to fill, and the phone rings once in a while. He makes a few calls himself, to drum up some new business. His customers like him because he gives them excellent service, and he’s built a personal relationship with most of them, but business is slow all around, so they don’t have much work to send his way. By 3pm he’s got his work squared away for the day, so he decides to knock off early. Of course he’s got his phone on, in case he gets a new order, but he’s out the door at 3pm.

Department of Lexicography:

Since it is such a lovely afternoon, he decides to take a walk in the park, and stop at the library on the way home. He arrives home around 5pm, with a stack of library books, and cooks his own dinner. Nothing fancy, but he makes it the way he likes it. After dinner, he doesn’t go out to a nightclub, because he can’t afford it. Instead, he picks up his old guitar, which he enjoys playing, when he has the time and energy. Since it was an easy day at work, he has some time and energy, so he has a good time playing the guitar, forgets about his money problems for a while, and maybe even teaches himself a new song. Then he relaxes a bit, reads one of the books he checked-out of the library, until he gets too tired to read, and then goes to bed.

lets go to bed

The next day, he wakes up, makes his own breakfast, and goes back to work, hoping he’ll have a little more business. Let’s imagine that on this particular day, he gets a big contract. I mean, an enormous new contract. Suddenly, this businessman is swamped with work, but his money problems are over.

no more money problems

He realizes he needs help. That means he needs to put up a sign, place some want ads, answer calls, conduct interviews, file paperwork, set up accounts, buy a time-clock, and train new workers. Then he needs to order more stock, buy new machines, and put an addition on his shop. So he gets right to work, and by the time he finishes working for the day, it’s already 9:00pm. He goes home, exhausted, orders a pizza, and falls asleep in front of the TV. He feels a little queezy after that pizza, but he chalks it up to the excitement of this life changing day.

just another day

The next morning, he gets up early, grabs a breakfast sandwich and coffee, which he consumes at his desk. It’s not great, but he ignores his disappointment because he’s got more important things to think about. Instead of lunch, he grabs a candy bar from a vending machine, and again, eats it at his desk, between interviews. His phone never stops ringing, and instead of knocking off at 3pm, he doesn’t get out of the office until 9. When he gets home, he orders another pizza, and eats it in front of the tube.

eating pizza in front of the TV

After a few weeks of this, he realizes that he’s drinking four cups of coffee a day instead of one, because he constantly feels run-down, but the caffeine makes it hard for him to get to sleep at night, so he has a few beers with his pizza. After a few months, he realizes he’s gaining weight, so he joins a gym, and orders some home exercise equipment he saw advertised on TV, but he’s too exhausted to exercise or go to the gym, and instead, decides that he needs to improve his diet.

gaining weight

He starts looking for restaurants that serve healthier food. Turns out they charge more money for it too, but he happily pays it. Instead of drinking four cups of drip coffee, he has a vente double cappuccino. He stops drinking beer, and becomes a fine wine enthusiast. Still, the money comes in faster than he can spend it. He commissions a master luthier to build him the guitar of his dreams. When it arrives, he realizes that he no longer has callouses on his fingertips, and he doesn’t have time to play it.

custom guitar

He still feels run-down, and has a vague sense that he’s not taking very good care of himself, so he buys himself a brand new luxury car with all of the amenities. This makes his employees jealous, because they cannot afford such extravagant wheels. They now feel exploited, and so they start asking for raises. They no longer see him as the hardest working member of the team, but as the boss who gets rich off of their hard work.

wealth asshole

Do you see a pattern here? Obviously this successful man deserves the money he’s making. He’s sacrificing his life for it. Clearly, we should view this successful businessman as a role model for the kind of job creator and consumer who drives economic growth That doesn’t mean he’s doing himself, or anyone else, any favors. In fact, he’s killing himself, and he’s killing himself, in part, because it’s the only relief he now sees from a life of too much work.

kill yourself working

That’s what economic growth does to us. For the economy to grow, we have to work more, and spend more, every year. Believe it or not, we’ve got better things to do. You might not remember what they are, because you’ve been a slave for so long, but really, you’ve got better things to do than feed your one lifetime to the goddamn economy.

better things to do

Too much money and too much work are much worse for people than too little. The black-market marijuana industry may have solved our money problems, but it has ruined the quality of our lives, weakened our community, and it continues to consume people, littering our streets with more of their broken husks every day. We don’t owe drug dealers anything, and we owe the economy even less. We deserve better, and it’s time we demanded it.

we deserve better

Who Buys All of This Weed?

bags of weed

I hear a lot of talk around here about the potential impact to our local economy from the impending legalization of cannabis. Suddenly, dope yuppies who, just a few years ago, weren’t even registered to vote, now spend money on lobbyists to convince lawmakers to construct a legalization framework that keeps the money pouring into the pockets of the same people who have profited from prohibition for more than 30 years.

pot grower

Dope yuppies have never cared about anyone but themselves, and the bankers and merchants who make dire predictions about our local economy, would be every bit as concerned about the potential loss in revenue if this county’s chief economic export were underage prostitutes and child-pornography. Money is money, after all.

teenage prostitutes

I don’t hear any mention, however, of the people who buy and consume all of this weed. As one of those proud pot smoking Americans, I am even more fed-up with the outrageously high price of black-market weed than I am with cops sticking their noses in places they don’t belong. While everyone pays for narco cops and prison guards, only cannabis consumers pay these ridiculous prices. Let’s take a look at the people who buy the cannabis grown in the Emerald Triangle, to see where all of this economic prosperity we enjoy, comes from.

owes buys

A recent study found that half of all cannabis consumers have not graduated from high-school. Some of those kids don’t have a high- school diploma because they are still in school. I mean. why do you think they call it “high” school?

kids getting stoned

Some of those kids dropped out of school to grow or sell cannabis as a career, but most of them end up in shitty low-wage jobs. The people who cook and serve your food, wash your dishes, change your oil and clean your offices and hotel bathrooms all smoke weed, and they all pay way too much of their hard-earned money for it.

work form weed

The people who work at Walmart smoke weed. The people who work at McDonald’s smoke weed. Almost every low-wage worker in America smokes weed, or they would, if they could afford it. Low-wage workers often spend more money on pot than they do on food. They do without basic necessities like clothing, like housing, so that they can afford marijuana, because marijuana makes their lives tolerable. High prohibition prices keep them poor and insures that they can never afford to buy their own home, start their own business or get more education. The people who buy marijuana today pay for it with their lives. They pay for it with their futures.

smoke weed at work

Other low-wage workers turn to alcohol, because under prohibition, a few dried cannabis flowers costs more than a big bottle or brewed, fermented, distilled and bottled liquor. People literally choose to sacrifice their health to alcohol, rather than the precious income it would cost to switch to cannabis. A lot of people have quit drinking, by switching to cannabis, and it has saved their lives.

weed beats alcohol

A lot more people would do the same, if cannabis didn’t cost so much. All across America, the people who can least afford it, pay way too much money for marijuana, or do without, when it could really help them. High cannabis prices cause an enormous amount of unnecessary suffering especially among the poor.


People all over America consume cannabis to relieve stress, but high prohibition prices make cannabis itself, unnecessarily stressful. Artificially inflated, prohibition pricing completely undermines the ability of cannabis to relieve stress in the vast majority of it’s consumers. Unless you grow your own, or have more money than you know what to do with, you don’t know what it means to have plenty of weed, and not to have to stress about how much it costs. Cannabis is only effective as medicine, if people can easily afford it.

price of weed too damn high

Millions of Americans enjoy cannabis, millions more rely on cannabis for medicine, and still millions more of us do both. We deserve a break! We are the ones who dragged this state, and the unholy cadre of drug-dealers turned special interest group, kicking and screaming towards legalization. Both the state, and drug dealers have taken advantage of us for decades. We’re sick of it! Now that legalization will finally happen, no thanks to them, they act as though they are still entitled to our money.


The Nerve!

entitled not

This Spring, Just Leave The Dirt Alone for a Change


Here’s a novel idea for my neighbors in Humboldt County this Spring: It is OK to just leave the dirt on the ground. You don’t need to dig it up. You don’t need to plant anything in it. Something will grow there. You don’t have to worry about what it is. Just leave the fucking dirt alone for a change.

hands off our field

You don’t have to water it. You don’t have to fence it. You don’t have to feed it a special blend of organic nutrients. Just leave it alone. Too much gardening has a dulling effect on the mind. That’s why farmers are so fucking boring. Do something different this year. Cultivate an interesting personality. Cultivate an unusual hobby, like whelk racing, amateur rhinoplasty or squirrel-suit diving,

squirrel suit

or better yet, cultivate an original idea for a change. When was the last time you had one of those? Well here’s one for you: The dirt on the ground is just fine as it is. Leave it alone.

freud quote alone

Don’t get me wrong. I like gardens, if they’re small. I mean real small.

small garden

I have a three foot by four foot cactus garden that I love dearly. I might give it as much as 50 gallons of water in an entire year. It takes up about a half-hour of my time, maybe once a month, but that’s plenty. It never seems like a burden. I get all the benefits of nurturing living plants, and I get to enjoy some exotic greenery around my home. What more can you ask of a garden? Really, there’s more to life than gardening.

theres more to life than eating garbage

Besides, there’s no shortage of greenery around my home. Like most of us here in Humboldt County, I’m surrounded by green. I’m 50ft deep in green. Green I got, and all of it producing food. I get pelted with acorns every Fall, I’ve got more huckleberry bushes than I’ve got time to pick, not to mention madrone berries, manzanita berries and wild raspberries to name a few. Everywhere I look, it’s all green, and it’s all producing food. Why would I want to cut that down, dig it up and replace it with Lima beans, Brussels sprouts, and hours and hours of backbreaking work in the hot sun?

tired of working in the garden

Contrary to popular belief. Gardens are not attractive. I’ve never seen a garden that looked better than anyplace that has been left alone for twenty years. I find vegetable gardens especially ugly. They look like desolate wastelands all winter, and then all Summer they look like a rag-tag army of plants, all lined up in straight rows, and as the season wears on, they start taking casualties, as they get eaten, either by the people who planted them, or by nature’s guerrilla army of insects, rodents, lagomorphs and ungulates in their relentless battle to reclaim the stolen territory. By the end of the season, everything is dead, and the field is full of corpses. Every vegetable garden is just another battle in a long ugly war, and gardeners are not the “good guys” in this war.

ugly garden

That’s why I don’t have a vegetable garden, and that’s why I don’t want to hear about your vegetable garden. I don’t want to know what you do to get rid of Japanese beetles. I don’t want to know what you do to stop gophers.


I want Japanese beetles. I want gophers, and deer, and rabbits. If I see an animal in my yard. I want to watch it, maybe take a picture of it, maybe even shoot it and cook it for dinner. The last thing I want to do is chase it away. These animals are my neighbors, and I don’t want to have conflicts with my neighbors over broccoli.

deer eating

If you were smart, you’d plant just enough of a vegetable garden to attract deer, and then, the first time you see a deer in your garden, shoot it, dress it and eat it. You’d get more food out of one deer than you’ll get out of your whole garden. Really, if you subtract all of the calories you burn working in your garden, from the total calories in the food that you eat from your vegetable garden, you’ll be lucky to break even, but if you throw a few seeds on the ground and sit on the front porch with a rifle in your lap all summer, you’ll put some real food on the table with a fraction of the effort.

fat couple with rifles

I realize that here in Humboldt County, gardening has become a cornerstone of our rural lifestyle, and that it won’t be easy to give it up. Around here, if people simply gave up gardening, their lives would revolve entirely around reckless driving, violent crime and drug abuse. People really need to find something better to do with their time.


That requires imagination, and thought, so dust off your imagination, and tune up your thought process and find something better to do this year. I know that it seems like gardening is the most wholesome thing you do with your time, but in reality, gardening destroys the environment and enslaves humanity. When you work in the garden, you do the devil’s work.

the devils garden 1970

Think about it. Over 100 species of plant and animal go extinct every day. Rhinos, orangutans, manatees, wolves, kit foxes and coho salmon all teeter on the brink of extinction. Who is pushing them over the edge? Farmers and gardeners, that’s who. And what are they replacing all of those wild animals with? Lima beans, or some equally repulsive vegetable like Brussels sprouts.

die sprout die

Who wouldn’t rather eat a big fat rhino steak, which would still be plentiful if farmers hadn’t run them off all of the arable land, rather than a bowl of Lima beans, for dinner. No one in their right mind would ever eat a Lima bean if farmers hadn’t already destroyed most of the world’s natural habitat, and replaced it with their gross and disgusting vegetables.

yuck broccoli

As if digging up Mother Earth weren’t bad enough, gardeners then fill these open wounds with the most foul-smelling stuff they can find. They actually buy the filthy crap they sweep out of commercial chicken coops, and then bury it in the ground. They bring in truckloads of cow manure, boatloads of rotting fish guts and they pay people to go spelunking for 5,000 year old bat shit. Then they expect us to eat the Lima beans they grow in this filth. The next time you bite into a Lima bean, remember that that pasty, nauseating green goo is made of chicken poop, cow pies, and fossilized bat-shit. Mmmm, mmm, no wonder they taste so good. You might as well eat out of the toilet.

toilet dinner

As if Lima beans aren’t bad enough, now they’ve got these new, upscale, yuppie Lima beans. They call them Fava beans. Fava beans taste every bit as disgusting as Lima beans, but they’re even bigger and grosser than regular Limas. As a kid, I was forced to eat Lima beans, against my will. I learned to eat them by swallowing them individually, like pills, with a glass of water. I could not stand to chew them. I still can’t. Fava beans are too big to swallow like pills. You will choke to death on them if you try. Fava beans give you no choice but to chew them, which is sick and cruel.


Do you remember the scene in Silence of the Lamb where Anthony Hopkins says: “I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice Chianti.” Personally, I like liver. I’ve never eaten a human liver before, but I’d give it a try. I don’t mind a glass of wine on occasion, but the fact that he intentionally ate fava beans, in any context, totally grossed me out. Those beans have forever prejudiced me against psychopathic cannibals.

anthony-hopkins-liver and fava beans

All kidding aside, this issue is serious. 38% of the Earth’s land mass has already been stripped of rhinos and orangutans, and planted in Lima beans. Most of the land that’s left is barren desert, tundra, salt flats, inaccessible mountain peaks, or steep, unstable forest-land situated over major seismic faults. All of the wild animals in the world now have to live in these inhospitable places, because greedy Lima bean farmers have taken over all of the good real-estate.

Helicopter Used to Insecticide and Fertilize Wheat

It’s time to take a stand, and to stand up for wild animals.  You might want to be one yourself someday.

stand tall

Say NO to Lima beans, and leave the fucking dirt alone for a change this year.

leave planet earth alone

Make the Connection

the connection

By now you should realize that the 5th Sunday of the month means you should turn your radio on first thing in the morning for a stimulating, thought-provoking, in-depth discussion of the issues that define our times. If you are not already hip to The Living Earth Connection, and you have an IQ just slightly higher than the average garden slug, you owe it to yourself to listen to one of the most interesting hours of radio programming you are likely to hear anywhere at any time.

living earth connection

The Living Earth Connection airs on the fifth Sunday of the month, in those occasional months that have five Sundays, at 9:30 AM on KMUD, Redwood Community Radio. That’s THIS Sunday, March 29 at 9:30 AM Pacific Time. My partner, Amy Gustin, hosts the show. She does an enormous amount of research for her show. She usually reads 20 to 25 books in preparation for each show, and this one is no exception.


For this upcoming edition of The Living Earth Connection, Amy examines the dynamic relationship between agricultural development and biodiversity. In 2014, the Living Planet Report cited a 52% decline in global biodiversity since 1970. In a discussion that encompasses biology, ecology, and island bio-geography, Amy reveals that the key to our collapsing ecosystems lies in the habitat requirements of certain “keystone species.”

keystone species sea otters

These “keystone species” tend to be relatively small populations of relatively large carnivores. Although few in number, as individuals, these “keystone species” require an enormous “home range,” and much of the biodiversity in their ecosystem depends, in one way or another, on their presence. Developing land for agriculture punches holes in the habitat that these animals need to survive. When development crowds out the “keystone species,” most of the natural biodiversity in the area disappears as well.

keystone species biomass

This is a show about natural science. I know you all like science when you get to watch them put a nuclear powered car on Mars, or when you think it means we understand how the universe works.

biodiversity cities

Are you still interested in science when it tells you that agricultural development is causing mass extinction on a global scale?

biodiversity basics

Does biodiversity matter?

biodiversity loss


Biodiversity laid off

That’s the topic. Please tune in.

kmud logo

Star Trek Predicted, Mr. Spock Inspired


We all mourn the passing of actor, photographer, and singer, Leonard Nimoy. But let’s face it. Were it not for a single role he played, on a short lived TV show from the ’60s, most of us wouldn’t give a rats ass about Leonard Nimoy.

leonard nimoy piano

Mr. Spock, however, the eminently logical, half-alien, science officer of the Starship Enterprise became a role model for a whole generation of emotionally distant men, and Star Trek’s vision of a bright, high-tech future captured our imagination and defined our aspirations as a culture.

spock live long and prosper

Star trek provided us with a vision of the future that we could look forward to. We had solved all of our Earthly problems, managed to have friendly, cooperative relations with thousands of other civilized high-tech cultures from far-flung galaxies. We had plenty of resources, and the technology, to send 5,000 young people into deep space on a giant spacecraft capable of traveling several times the speed of light, just to see what kind of trouble they could get into.

star trek USS_Enterprise_(NCC-1701)

Star Trek showed us that we could go anywhere in the galaxy, at any time of year, and we didn’t even need to bring a sweater.

star trek landing party

Star Trek taught us that the universe was full of intelligent alien species who were, inexplicably, sexually compatible with humans, and spoke English, and Star Trek demonstrated how hairspray had become ubiquitous throughout the cosmos.

star trek alien women-tile

It’s an attractive fantasy, but a fantasy nonetheless. Today, in honor of the, by all accounts, warm, loving, and emotionally secure Leonard Nimoy, who, through his timeless portrayal of Mr. Spock, inspired so many naïve young men to become lonely sociopaths, we look back at Star Trek to see just how well it predicted the future. For instance:

spock generation of sociopaths

Star Trek correctly predicted that we would have wireless communication devices that fit in the palm of our hands. They had these devices in Star Trek, yet somehow, they did not play with them all day.

star trek kirk communicator

Star Trek correctly predicted that we would talk to our computers. However, on Star Trek, the computer understands what they say, and responds. We mostly just curse at our machines when they crash.

spocks computer

Star Trek correctly predicted that we would all wear ugly polyester uniforms.

star trek shore-leave

Star Trek could not have predicted how we look in them.

fat person in polyester

Star Trek correctly predicted that we’d always be at work. You never see anyone wearing civies on the Enterprise. They’re always in uniform, and they’re always on duty. Get used to it America.

overworked employee

Star Trek correctly predicted that, women would have to wear mini skirts to work, and take orders from an asshole like William Shatner, if they want to earn a living. Who would have imagined?

star trek kirk uhura

Star Trek correctly predicted that doctors would have better things to do than see patients. Look, doctors are the only people who can afford to do what they want in this society. If you could afford to do whatever you wanted to do, would you choose to preside over an endless parade of sick people complaining about their illnesses. Fuck no! You’d be like, “Gimme a phaser, Jim, and let’s go check out the local action.”

star trek spock mccoy guns

Star Trek correctly predicted that everyone would be single. I believe that Mr. Spock’s parents were the only married couple ever depicted on the show. Other than that, everyone in the show was single. Today, for the first time ever, more American adults are single, than in a committed relationship, yet oddly….

star trek spocks parents

Star Trek correctly predicted that no one would have sex. In Star Trek, it’s like everyone is so impressed with their own intelligence and sense of purpose that they’ve lost all connection with their genitalia. Maybe “getting fixed” is a prerequisite for admission to Starfleet Acadamy, but a crewman on the USS Enterprise is at least 20 times more likely to be killed by hostile aliens than get laid. I’m afraid that’s true of most of my friends as well.

Star-Trek crew

Star Trek correctly predicted that in the future no one would cook. On Star Trek you never see a kitchen. Instead, they take a lump of inedible inorganic material, put it on a plate, and place it inside of a high-tech box for a few seconds.

star trek food synthesizer

Miraculously it comes out looking something like food. Yes, Star Trek predicted Hot Pockets.

star trek hot pockets

As you can plainly see, a lot of things that looked cool on Star Trek, kinda suck in real life. If you think about it, a cheesy sci-fi TV show is a pretty stupid thing to build a cultural mythology around, but its a pretty stupid culture, or as Mr. Spock would say, “Highly illogical.”

spock highly illogical

Wildlife Matters #5 Debuts Today, Thursday, Feb 26 @5pm PST

Sea otters

Today, Thursday, February 26 at 5pm, KMUD Redwood Community Radio will air the latest installment of Wildlife Matters.  On this month’s show Amy Gustin and I will talk about Sea Otters, and the crucial role they play in maintaining healthy coastal ecosystems.

sea otter hurray

We’ll hear from sea otter biologist Dr. Jane Watson

dr jane watson

…and noted ecologist Dr. James Estes.

dr james estes

They talk about sea otters’ peculiar adaptations which allow them to flourish in the chilly waters of the North Pacific.  they’ll teach us about “trophic cascades,” a fancy word to describe the consequences of eating habits on ecosystems, which explains how sea otters can turn a barren sea floor inhabited by nothing but sea urchins, into a lush kelp forest teeming with biodiversity.

sea otter eats urchins

Wildlife Matters airs on the fourth Thursday of the month on KMUD, and is available to all Pacifica Affiliates through  In the future, wildlife Matters will alternate the fourth Thursday at 5pm time-slot with my other new radio show called The Adventurous Ear.

ear to bell

Next month, The Adventurous Ear, a radio show highlighting music of exceptional originality, will bring you the music of Arcata based improvisational ensemble Medicine Baul.  I hope you’ll tune in today at 5pm for Wildlife Matters, and March 26 at 5pm for some wild music on The Adventurous Ear.  Just remember the fourth Thursday at 5pm as the time for something wild on KMUD Redwood Community Radio, or listen online at


What Can We Learn From 2001 A Space Odyssey in 2015

2001 aso

I recently revisited the opening sequence of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001 A Space Odyssey. You remember how it goes: We see a desolate landscape, almost Martian. Some early hominids, actors dressed in Planet of the Apes era costumes, huddle in a dark cave. They look stupid. They grunt like apes, and walk on their knuckles They freak-out at the sight of a monolith in their camp. Then we see one particularly dumb looking hominid pick up a bone. He drops it. Then picks it up again and hits the rest of the skeleton with it. You can almost see the light bulb appear above his head, and he starts excitedly whacking the rock with the bone.

2001 bone whack

Then, the Hollywood hominid throws the bone, and it turns into a space ship, while we hear the opening fanfare from Richard Straus’ Thus Spake Zarathustra. Classic, right? Iconic even. This famous scene has become a part of our cultural mythology, and it tells us a lot about how we think about ourselves.


I realize that this movie came out in the 1960s and, like almost everything from that era, feels dated when you watch it, but for our culture, this movie encapsulates where we think we came from, and where we think we are going, as a culture. Leave out the mysterious floating slab, and you have the creation myth according to the Church of Popular Science. Sure, it’s a great movie, but we should remember that 2001 A Space Odyssey is also a very dated piece of fiction.


Think about it. The world looked very different in the 1960s. Back then, we all thought that space travel lay in our future. We expected to build floating cities in space orbiting the Earth We had plans to colonize the moon, and eventually mars. We had big plans for space, and we spent big money to get there. If you asked a kid from my generation what they wanted to be when they grow up, at least a third of them would have said, “an astronaut.” If you ask the same question of today’s kids, they’ll probably say something like, “professional snowboarder.” Even they know that there’s no future in space travel.


Arthur C Clarke envisioned a future year 2001 in which space travel had become routine, and computers were huge and dangerously intelligent. Today, in the real year 2015, space travel is nothing but a quick roller-coaster ride for the ridiculously rich, and computers are tiny and maddeningly stupid. Clarke could not have been more wrong about the future, and Kubrick’s depiction of our hominid ancestors in 2001 A Space Odyssey couldn’t have been more wrong about the past.

couldnt be more wrong

Our hominid ancestors were not clumsy or stupid. They knew what they were doing. They would not have survived otherwise. Our Cro-Magnon and Neanderthal ancestors were probably smarted than us. We know they had bigger brains. They may have been better conversationalists and had more charming personalities than our contemporaries. We know they had music. Archaeologists have found bone flutes among their remains.

neanderthal flute

They must have walked the surface of the Earth with the easy grace of a lion, or a leopard, or any other top predator. They had keen hunting skills, could read their surroundings, and each other. They knew which plants were good to eat, which were good for medicine, and how to encourage their growth. They laughed and told jokes. They sang and danced. They fell in love, had bitter disputes, and fought, but when they fought, they didn’t fight like the idiots in Kubrick’s film. They had weapons, and they knew how to use them, but they also had strategies to avoid conflict, and to minimize its impact.

neanderthal man

Really, when you think about your hominid ancestors, don’t think about “cave men.” Forget all of those stereotypes. They have no basis in fact. Those ideas come from a cultural mythology that tells us that civilized human beings are more advanced than our “primitive” ancestors. Because of that cultural myth, we always imagine those ancestors to be like us, only dumber. Probably more people now believe the story of the dumb neanderthal, than take the story of Adam and Eve literally, but they’re both wrong. Whether you believe the fundamentalist Christian lie or the fundamentalist Church of Popular Science lie, you’re still wrong.

still wrong

In the middle-ages, Christian people found fossilized ammonites They decided that these fossils must be the devil’s discarded toenails, and sited them as evidence of hell.

ammonite fossil

Modern scientists discovered that our ancestors lived in small groups, and had very few material possessions, and because of their cultural prejudices, leaped to the conclusion that our ancestors must have lacked the intelligence to improve their miserable condition.

dumb cavemen

The evidence tells us they ate well, had nice clothes (real fur is real nice) and didn’t have to work very hard to get by. We assume they didn’t work harder because they didn’t burn with curiosity like us, their more advanced descendants. So, even though they ate well, dressed well, and enjoyed a lot of leisure time, we believe that their primitive brains prevented them from unlocking life’s riddles and finding new ways to work themselves to death in ugly synthetic clothes while getting fat on junk food.

fat guy snacking at work

In the 1960s, when 2001 A Space Odyssey first came out, the future still looked cool, and the prehistoric past looked harsh and brutish. Today, 50 years later, the future looks harsh and brutish, and the lives of our prehistoric ancestors look pretty cool. In other words, watching 2001 A Space Odyssey in 2015 should remind us that it is time to update our cultural mythology.

the astronaut


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