Thudeh, Thudeh, Thudeh, That’s All, Folks!
I Do Believe In Spooks, I Do Believe In Spooks, I Do, I Do….
Wednesday, February 26, 2014 1:00 AM
So I wanted to say to all my friends that in spite of my being atheist, I still believe in the impossible—and I believe in magic, spirits, UFOs, and anything else—but having said that, I don’t believe any of us really knows anything—thus it would be idiotic not to believe in the unknown.
The thing about most religions is that they seem convinced they have specific knowledge of something none of us can possibly know—like what ‘happens’ after we die. I haven’t the slightest idea, but I don’t think anyone else does either. And I’m highly suspicious of anyone who says they do.
People say, “You have to have faith in God”, but all I really need is to have faith in the person or persons saying that. If God wants me to have faith, he/she/it should say so, and stop all this passive-aggressive nonsense. If someone wants me to have faith, they need to start with first principles—why should I trust the person speaking? I’d be likelier to clap for Tinker-Bell than to pray to a God who is at once so unknowable—and yet so well-known-and-understood by the leadership of these religions.
I saw a TV ad for a drug—the announcer was saying something about side-effects ‘may include swelling of the lips or throat’, but I misheard it as, ‘smelling of the lips’—and that got me thinking about random side-effects—this is a bit that Colbert (on his ‘Report’) does a lot—and I came up with—
Side-effects may include:
smelling of the lips, lobster-jaw, enphlegmation of the flamm, kitten-sneeze, and boxer/brief bruising..
(But, with my useless memory, I may just be sub-consciously plagiarizing Colbert for half of these.)
Yet Another Thought:
I’ve just burned my newest CD of improvs—a full hour and twenty minutes worth of what I consider some of my most listenable piano-playing ever—if I could just remove my first 1,332 videos, maybe someone might actually listen to the last 15—still, I had to post the 1,332 to get here, so nix mox…
I’ve also written an entertaining essay or two (although, as with my music, amongst the dross of hundreds of essays) but it has become clear to me that there aren’t a lot of people looking online for witty banter in essay form—who’da thunk it?
Lately I’m really upset about my hands shaking—drawing wild pictures was always my big crowd-pleaser, and now that I have the globe for an audience—I can’t draw!
Sucks to be me. But only once in a while…
I am now———-Thoughtless.
Seven Songs from the Sixties:
[NOTES & CREDITS]
Strangers in the Night
[From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia]:
“Strangers in the Night”
is a popular song credited to Bert Kaempfert with English lyrics by Charles Singleton and Eddie Snyder. Kaempfert originally used it under the title “Beddy Bye” as part of the instrumental score for the movie A Man Could Get Killed. The song was made famous in 1966 by Frank Sinatra.
“Strangers In the Night”
Song by Frank Sinatra from the album Strangers in the Night
Recorded April 11, 1966
Genre Traditional pop
Length 2:35 (original album/single version, incorrectly listed as 2:25 in the original back cover)
2:44 (extended version from “Nothing But the Best”)
Writer Bert Kaempfert, Charles Singleton, Eddie Snyder
Composer Bert Kaempfert
Producer Jimmy Bowen
Strangers in the Night (1966)
Writer : Bert Kaempfert, Charles Singleton, Eddie Snyder
Composer : Bert Kaempfert
[From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia]:
Song by Leonard Cohen from the album Songs of Leonard Cohen
Writer Leonard Cohen
“Suzanne” is a song written by Canadian poet and musician Leonard Cohen in the 1960s. First published as a poem in 1966, it was recorded as a song by Judy Collins in the same year, and Cohen himself recorded it for his 1967 album Songs of Leonard Cohen. Many other artists have recorded versions, and it has become one of the most-covered songs in Cohen’s catalogue.
The Sweetest Sounds (1962)
Song by Richard Rogers
The Sweetest Sounds
[From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia]:
“The Sweetest Sounds”
Song from No Strings
Writer Richard Rodgers
Composer Richard Rodgers
“The Sweetest Sounds” is a popular song, written by Richard Rodgers (unlike most of his compositions, writing both music and lyrics) for the musical No Strings, in 1962. It is also used in the film adaption Cinderella starring Brandy, Whitney Houston and Whoopi Goldberg in 1997. Barbra Streisand recorded the song for “Barbra Streisand…And Other Musical Instruments”. Sergio Franchi recorded the song in 1963 on his RCA Victor Red Seal album Broadway, I Love You. Ella Fitzgerald’s swinging version can be heard on her Verve Records release “Hello, Dolly!”. The melodic theme appears to have been inspired by an orchestral figure in the final movement of Johannes Brahms’ Piano Concerto No. 2 (Brahms) (measures 64-80).
Those Were The Days (1968)
Writers: Boris Fomin and Gene Raskin
Those Were the Days (song)
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
For the All in the Family theme song, see All in the Family#Theme song.
“Those Were the Days”
Single by Mary Hopkin
B-side “Turn! Turn! Turn!”
Released 26 August 1968 (US)
30 August 1968 (UK)
Format 7″ single
Recorded mid-July 1968
Writer(s) Boris Fomin and Gene Raskin
Producer(s) Paul McCartney
“Those Were the Days” is a song credited to Gene Raskin, who put English lyrics to the Russian romance song “Dorogoi dlinnoyu” (“Дорогой длинною”, lit. “By the long road”), composed by Boris Fomin (1900–1948) with words by the poet Konstantin Podrevskii. It deals with reminiscence upon youth and romantic idealism.
Georgian singer Tamara Tsereteli (1900–1968) and Russian singer Alexander Vertinsky made what were probably the earliest recordings of the song, in 1925 and in 1926 respectively.
The song is featured in the 1953 British/French movie Innocents in Paris, in which it was sung with its original Russian lyrics by the Russian Tzigane chanteuse Ludmila Lopato, but is probably best remembered in English-speaking countries for Mary Hopkin’s 1968 recording, which was a top-ten hit in both the US and the UK. On most recorded versions of the song, Raskin is credited as the writer, even though he wrote only the later English lyrics and not the melody.
In the early 1960s Raskin, with his wife Francesca, played folk music around Greenwich Village in New York, including White Horse Tavern. They released an album which included the song, which was taken up by The Limeliters.
Raskin had grown up hearing the song, wrote lyrics in English and then put a copyright on both tune and lyrics. The Raskins were international performers and had played London’s “Blue Angel” every year, always closing their show with the song. Paul McCartney frequented the club and, after the formation of The Beatles’ own Apple Records label, recorded the song with Mary Hopkin, McCartney’s agent having purchased the song rights from Raskin’s.
The song was subsequently recorded in over twenty languages and by many different artists and Raskin was able to live very well on the royalties, buying a home in Pollensa, Mallorca, a Porsche Spyder and a sailing boat.
At the peak of the song’s success, a New York company used the melody in a commercial for Rokeach gefilte fish, arguing that the tune was an old Russian folk-tune and thus in the public domain. Raskin successfully sued and won a settlement, since he had slightly altered the tune to fit his lyrics and had taken out the valid new copyright.
Although the song was popularized in the early 1960s by The Limeliters, Welsh singer Mary Hopkin made the best known recording, released on 30 August 1968, shortly after Hopkin had been signed to the Beatles’ newly created Apple label. Hopkin’s recording was produced by Paul McCartney and became a #1 hit in the UK Singles Chart.
In the US, Hopkin’s recording reached #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 and topped the Billboard Easy Listening charts for six weeks. In the Netherlands it topped the charts for 2 consecutive weeks.
The Russian origin of the melody was accentuated by an instrumentation which was unusual for a top ten pop record, including Balalaika, clarinet, hammer dulcimer, tenor banjo and children’s chorus, giving a klezmer feel to the song.
Paul McCartney, who produced the session, also recorded Hopkin singing “Those Were The Days” in four other languages for release in their respective countries: Spain, Germany, Italy, France.
A Time For Us
-Romeo and Juliet (1968 film soundtrack)
[From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia]:
Romeo and Juliet 1968 film Soundtrack album
Released October 8, 1968
Genre Film score
Producer Neely Plumb
The soundtrack for the 1968 film Romeo and Juliet was composed and conducted by Nino Rota.
It was originally released as a vinyl record, containing nine entries, most notably the song “What Is a Youth”, composed by Nino Rota, written by Eugene Walter and performed by Glen Weston. The music score won a Silver Ribbon award of the Italian National Syndicate of Film Journalists in 1968 and was nominated for two other awards (BAFTA Award for Best Film Music in 1968 and Golden Globe Award for Best Original Score in 1969).
The soundtrack is referred to as “Original Soundtrack Recording” on the front cover with further credits to the film itself.
The original track list includes anthems, song snatches, compositions for the ball and for a strolling trombone player.
The neo-Elizabethan ballad “What Is a Youth” is performed by a troubadour character as part of the diegesis during the Capulets’ ball, at which Romeo and Juliet first meet. The original lyrics of “What Is a Youth” are borrowed from songs in other Shakespearean plays, particularly Twelfth Night and The Merchant of Venice.
Although Rota’s original manuscript is believed to be lost, the love theme is known to have an original published key of G minor. Romeo’s theme was described as “a slow-paced minor key idea, first played by a solo English horn with strings”. In the scene, where Romeo sees Juliet dancing with her family, the theme is sounded by a solo oboe over a background of tremolo strings.
The Times They Are a-Changin’ (1963)
Song by Bob Dylan
[From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia]:
“The Times They Are a-Changin’”
Single by Bob Dylan
from the album The Times They Are a-Changin’
Released January 13, 1964 (album)
March 8, 1965 (single)
Recorded October 23 – 24, 1963 at Columbia Studios, New York City
Writer(s) Bob Dylan
Producer Tom Wilson
“The Times They Are a-Changin’” is a song written by Bob Dylan and released as the title track of his 1964 album, The Times They Are a-Changin’. Dylan wrote the song as a deliberate attempt to create an anthem of change for the time, influenced by Irish and Scottish ballads. Released as a 45 r.p.m. single in Britain in 1964, it reached number 9 in the British top ten and was Britain’s hundredth best selling single of 1965.
Ever since its release the song has been very influential to people’s views on society, with critics noting the general yet universal lyrics as contributing to the song’s everlasting message of change. The song ever since has been an occasional staple in Dylan’s concerts. The song has been covered by many different artists, including The Byrds, Peter, Paul, and Mary, Simon & Garfunkel, The Beach Boys, Joan Baez, Phil Collins and Bruce Springsteen. The song was ranked #59 on Rolling Stone’s 2004 list of The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.
Inspiration and composition:
Dylan appears to have written the song in September and October 1963. He recorded it as a Witmark publishing demo that month, a version that was finally released on The Bootleg Series Volumes 1–3 (Rare & Unreleased) 1961–1991. The song was then recorded at the Columbia studios in New York on October 23 and 24, and the latter session yielded the version that became the title song of Dylan’s third album.
Dylan recalled writing the song as a deliberate attempt to create an anthem of change for the moment. In 1985, he told Cameron Crowe: “This was definitely a song with a purpose. It was influenced of course by the Irish and Scottish ballads …’Come All Ye Bold Highway Men’, ‘Come All Ye Tender Hearted Maidens’. I wanted to write a big song, with short concise verses that piled up on each other in a hypnotic way. The civil rights movement and the folk music movement were pretty close for a while and allied together at that time.”
Try To Remember (1960) from “The Fantasticks” -
with music by Harvey Schmidt and lyrics by Tom Jones
[From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia]:
“Try to Remember” is a song from a 1960 musical with music by Harvey Schmidt and lyrics by Tom Jones, “The Fantasticks”.
It is the first song sung in the show, to get the audience to imagine what the sparse set suggests.
Its lyrics famously rhyme “remember” with “September”, “so tender”, and “December”, and repeat the sequence -llow throughout the song:
Verse 1 contains “mellow”, “yellow”, and “callow fellow”;
verse 2 contains “willow”, “pillow”, “billow”;
verse 3 contains “follow”, “hollow”, “mellow”;
and all verses end with “follow”.
“Try to Remember” was originally sung by Jerry Orbach in the Original Off-Broadway production of The Fantasticks.
“Try To Remember” made the Billboard Hot 100 pop chart three times in 1965 in versions by Ed Ames, Roger Williams, Barry McGuire, The Kingston Trio, The Sandpipers, and The Brothers Four. Patti Page released a version in 1965 on her album Hush, Hush, Sweet Charlotte. Andy Williams released a version in 1966 on his album The Shadow of Your Smile. Perry Como released a version in 1968 on his album Look to Your Heart.
Thursday, February 20, 2014 12:52 AM
The beauty of the world can be so sharp it cuts—the singer’s voice, the crystal etched, the colors of the paintings, the smell of weather outside the front door—it’s really quite painful when one fully opens oneself to it. So, with paradoxes like that, it seems lunatic to expect our society to make the least bit of sense. Michelangelo said that there is no beauty without some strangeness of proportion—and the Japanese craftspeople always add an imperfection to finish their works, as a concession to the Universe. We research scientific minutiae without the slightest regard for all the really big, completely unanswerable questions in life. We speak of differences of opinions and orthodoxies of faiths—we know nothing, we understand nothing—we care only for ourselves, except when love kills our sense of self-preservation.
I was just watching “The Life of Emile Zola” (1937) on the TV—its ending focused on Zola’s championing of Alfred Dreyfus, the French Officer falsely accused of treason and kept imprisoned on Devil’s Island even after the French War Dept. were informed of his innocence—just to save the Army Ministers from the public embarrassment. It is a damning portrayal of corrupt authority and the injustices it forces on all of the people they purportedly serve. Then, before I turned off the TV, CNN showed footage of the Kiev riots, in Ukraine.
Those Ukrainians were protesting their government’s choice to sign a trade agreement with Russia, rather than sign a trade agreement with the EU. Many people were killed and hundreds wounded as Kiev riot police clashed with huge mobs of protestors—I couldn’t say what the truth is, concerning the Trade Deals, but I do know that it is much easier to have a meeting with concerned groups’ leaders than to start a pitched battle in the streets of the capitol city.
There’s been a lot of news stories lately about legislation that is in the interest of banks and corporations, rather than the good of our country’s citizens. These, combined with recent rulings allowing unfettered financial support to political campaigns, are only two of the many unsettling changes we seem to face in 2014. Capitalism has evolved into a modern weapon, and the taking hostage of our government is its most threatening act. We were fine with using it against other countries, subsuming their living culture into our consuming culture, but now that it has turned on us we are at a loss. What can we do against the owners of everything, even those who own the right of self-expression, i.e. the media moguls? How do we fight an enemy that we use as a reference source? How come history is so full of stories about corrupt leadership and self-interest among authority, yet we still act as if our leaders are honorable folk?
When I see a parade of legislators on TV, each making statements more ignorant than the one before, I always wonder why anyone takes these people seriously. Whenever they lobby to roll back some piece of modern progress I am stunned to hear them advocate racism, sexism, rejection of science, rejection of our social conscience, and the social services it compelled.
These are double-whammies in that a supposedly sane and educated person mouths these foul sentiments and that our media amplifies their ‘legitimacy’ by covering such things in lurid detail, leaving no even-stupider sentiment go unheard in the process. There should be a military base somewhere, with a guy whose finger is on the button, ready to call ‘bull-squat’ on any of these distracting idiots, and cut them off from all media notice with the touch of a red button. Now, that’s national defense. Call it Home-brain Defense—stupidity, psychos, and rank fiction will no longer be tolerated.
Trouble is we’d probably have to impeach every member of both houses, at least 48 governors, and who knows how many mayors.
Wednesday, February 19, 2014 12:21 AM
Whenever our ethics are discussed the conversation goes on and on—like philosophy, it’s all just a bunch of words we use to entertain ourselves. But whenever such issues become a question of income, we fold like cheap lawn-chairs. When it comes to supporting our loved ones, we will brook no risk to the family’s shelter and security. Having had personal experience of the question, I can’t argue the point—like all behavior based on our instincts; there is no rebuttal, no matter how intellectual or attractive the alternative view.
But foresight is part of our nature as well. Long-term threats allow us to break out from domestic security and go to war. And war is just as much a part of human nature as protecting ones family. Wars were much simpler back when the paradigm was one-leader-vs-another leader, one nation against another. But modern warfare is more about fairness in leadership—one country after another exploding into violent rebellion against the powers-that-be, who (let’s face it) are often more concerned for themselves than for the needs of their citizens.
We here in the USA are struggling to hang on to the image of ‘protectors of democracy’ while ignoring some of the more egregious retaliations against popular uprisings throughout the globe—and while becoming, through corruption, a bastion of Capitalism rather than a bastion of Constitutional laws and humane ideals.
Being public-spirited is no longer considered a serious part of one’s character. It’s okay to be a liberal activist or a tea-partier protestor, or an advocate for a specific cause; it’s okay to be angry and forceful and even unreasonable in support of one’s views. It is not okay to simply want to make a contribution to our communities’ maintenance and progress—today’s civic duty is to pick a side and fight like hell.
And so, we have fought amongst ourselves, goaded by extremists of every stripe who are, in turn, funded by more well-heeled extremists with a big stake in continued, unregulated Capitalism. Our global civilization’s growing complexity, coupled with its sudden ability to talk person-to-person with virtually everyone else in the world, has filled our media and our minds with struggles and debates and injustices and dangers. We have become used to this chaos teetering on the edge of our self-extinction, this roiling debate fueled by the urgency of a world grown more fragile with every technological miracle we dig up.
We are so inured to our ‘situation’ that we now accept ‘apocalyptic’ as a new entertainment genre. What worries me about all those movies and shows is that they describe the horrendous aftermath of just one thing going wrong. No one has yet shot a movie where everything goes wrong at once. But there are scores of issues that threaten our health, our happiness, our lifestyle, our rights, our freedom, and our equality. I’m guessing at some point we will all realize that discussing all this stuff is not enough.
We will eventually go to war against Capitalism. And our beloved USA will almost certainly be on the wrong side of that fight. What is today our strength will become the millstone ‘round the neck of our tomorrow. When rebels start agitating against big money—corporate or personal—they will find, I fear, the United States leading the fight against them. By destroying (or absorbing) all alternative socio-economic cultures, Capitalism has become a twisted exaggeration of the system that once allowed ethics and power to work hand in hand—by becoming the only game in town, Capitalism slowly but surely eclipsed every other ‘value’ we once valued.
Money has become power. Once, capital was mere wealth—a questionable luxury, as often responsible for unhappiness as is stark poverty. But now one can buy security teams, private jets, and multi-media opinion generators, etc.—things that promote a disconnection between the money-empowered and the money-enthralled.
But the skewed perspective imposed on us by Capitalism is not a scientific fact—it is a consensus. It is a collective choice. Once capital ceases to be the choice of the majority, its power will evaporate—but that can only happen in a world with a viable alternative—and what could that be? I wish I knew.
XperDunn plays Piano
February 12th, 2014
3 Standards: ‘Look of Love’, ‘Lovers Concerto’, ‘Love Is All Around’
[From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia]
The Look of Love (1967 song)
Released January 29, 1967
Recorded Philips Studios, London
Composer: Burt Bacharach Writer: Hal David
Ursula Andress inspired Burt Bacharach to compose “The Look of Love” watching her in an early cut of the film Casino Royale.
The track is played while Vesper Lynd seduces Evelyn Tremble, observed through a man-size aquarium.
“The Look of Love” is a popular song composed by Burt Bacharach and Hal David and sung by English pop singer Dusty Springfield, which appeared in the 1967 spoof James Bond film Casino Royale.
In 2008, the song was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame. It also received a Best Song nomination in the 1968 Academy Awards.
[From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia]
“A Lover’s Concerto” a single by The Toys
from the album: The Toys Sing “A Lover’s Concerto” and “Attack!”
Writer(s) Sandy Linzer and Denny Randell, Christian Petzold
“A Lover’s Concerto” is a pop song, written by American songwriters Sandy Linzer and Denny Randell and recorded in 1965 by The Toys.
Their original version of the song was a major hit in the United States, the UK and elsewhere during 1965. It peaked on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart at number 2
[From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia]
“Love is All Around”
Single by The Troggs
Released October 1967
Label(s): Page One/Fontana UK; Fontana (Mercury) US
Writer(s) Reg Presley
“Love Is All Around” is a song composed by Reg Presley and originally performed in 1967 by Presley’s band, The Troggs, featuring a string quartet and a ‘tick tock’ sound on percussion, in D-major. Purportedly inspired by a television transmission of the Joy Strings Salvation Army band’s “Love That’s All Around”, the song was first released as a single in the UK in October 1967.
On the US Billboard Hot 100, the record entered at No.98 on 24 February 1968, peaked at No.7 on 18 May 1968, and spent a total of 16 weeks on the chart.
Lastly, the graphics are by Hokusai
Friday, February 07, 2044 6:59 PM
I’m the one. Fate had to pick someone to be here, now, at the end. Well, not the end—you know what they say about endings. Say rather at our leave-taking. And I am the one who last boards the last shuttle, after all the others have embarked. I look around—not too bad, ‘though pretty bad, of course—but there’s hope of recovery in a distant future…
As I strap myself into the lift-seats in the Maintenance section (back of the rocket, as it were) my mind is suddenly filled with the enormity of it—here we are, following in the footsteps of the Fell, taking wing into the cosmos. As I leave this planet, we repeat a step that many have taken—the Fell, and who knows how many sentients before them. We say good-bye to planet Earth.
The ‘ancient aliens’ nuts had it partly-right—we weren’t the first ones here—but we came from here—we evolved within the mega-ecology of the ‘virgin’ Earth. The way it was told to me was that the Fell left Earth for good, many millions of years before we did. Once they had left—and enough time had passed—this holy planet reverted to its teeming oceans, crowded with whales, sea-beds covered with lobsters—forests grown so profusely that a person couldn’t walk into one, never mind walk through one. The plains spread out over fertile lands packed with maceratory herds—and permafrost and sand covered the cold and the arid. Flocks of birds once again filled the skies, sometimes, during migrations, blocking out the sun for days.
That’s what makes it holy. No matter what damage we do to her—we eventually do one of two things: we disturb this place until it can no longer support us—or we wise up and hit the road—and having done either of those things, we relieve the Earth of her burden of sentients—and she re-purifies herself.
Eventually, even the metals used to make orbital-labs and satellites will come back down to where they came from, back into the Earth. It’s isn’t a fast process. It takes long enough that by the time a new sentient species evolves, it has petroleum underground and rare metals scattered all over the world. Those millions of years—those are ‘user-transparent’ (as we used to say)—the new species will never have any inkling that their world has been used before. In the face of supereons, even gems and stainless steel parts become dust in the wind.
There’s a trick to it—that’s why all sentients are clever—if you miss the tricky part, you never leave. Earth is a playpen—each of the new, sentient species must grow up in it. You can just imagine how much time it takes an entire civilization to grow up—hell, even thirty years ago we had no idea of the ‘trick’.
But we got lucky—some gal with enough money to make herself heard managed to convince some people to prepare for leaving Earth, and they convinced others, etc. until it became a world-wide issue. Leaving Earth is the tricky part—the Earth is a great place to grow up—but being confined to a playpen as a teenager is simply wrong. Our survival depended on our maturity—if we lacked the courage to leave the nest, we would stay there until starvation ended us.
So we had a world-wide consensus (not without detractors, of course) by 2030. The next decade was an epic parade of cooperative construction on massive ships, colonies, and space-platforms. Countless boosters pushing away from Earth’s gravity-well filled the horizon like distant fireworks. A few scientists began focusing on the technology that would transform space-debris into water, atmosphere, fertilizer, and building materials. Sub-ecologies, like Kansas farmland and Louisiana rice paddies, had to be transported to labs where they could be the ‘sour-dough’ that we would use to create new fertile growing areas amidst the vacuum of space.
The whole project was weakened by lack of a plan to get everybody off the planet—until, in 2038, materials science finally gave us Arthur Clarke’s holy grail—a space elevator! Ethical qualms thus reassured, the only remaining difficulty was the significant number of people that didn’t want to go. Removing people against their will was a non-starter—we weren’t going to do this if it demanded blood on our hands—our future voyage, as mankind, could not begin with a mass murder.
The problem was picked at—turns out that any one past menopause wasn’t a problem, anyone too young would be legally required to go with their families, and most adults that didn’t want to go weren’t all that ambitious. Holdouts were informed that most factories and industrial facilities would be destroyed as a final, helping hand on Earth’s long voyage to its next sentient explosion.
Great, curved windows showed the glowing, blue ball with the white stripes. There were less than a hundred-thousand humans remaining on our old playpen—scattered widely enough that they’ll never join up, in small enough groups that inbreeding will doom them, if it isn’t something else first. What reasoning could be done had been done—they know the same facts. They’re just downright ornery—who knows? Maybe that’s the last cut of the umbilical—shedding the downright ornery, those so well adapted to their cradle that they will die in it rather than be discomfited.
I think of the billions of us out here, a fledgling civilization, not even ready yet to pass across to neighboring stars—and how long it will take us to fill up our new home and suck dry the solar system’s vast resources. And I wonder if it will last long enough for humanity to reach for the stars.
Wednesday, February 05, 2014 5:40 PM
There was a kerfuffle in the news media not too long ago over the idea of Business Owners being taxed more—the conservative argument was that these titans of industry had created their empires by the sweat of their own brows, single-handedly; and the liberal rebuttal was that America, as a work environment, deserved some credit since it provided a friendly culture for the yeast of business owners’ phenomenal growth and profits.
That is to say that having paved roads, well-regulated commercial practices, and well-funded customers—all had something to do with any single businesses’ success. The furor disappeared quickly—but on further thought, that may not have been the best outcome. One way in which businesses resemble their individual employees is that when they stop carping, they can seem to be reasonable—even wise.
No, having had a think, I’m thinking the conservatives didn’t suddenly become reasonable over a logical dispute. I’m thinking some one of them was clever enough to foresee the ultimate terminus of the debate—that the interaction and interdependence of businesses and government and the rich and the rest of us—is quite total.
For my money (pardon the pun) whenever the high-muckety-mucks start to bitch about a government plan that means reductions in their profits, when the other side of the argument is perhaps sheer survival for millions of homeless, of the poor—and all their children, as well—I get angry! Who the hell do they think they are? I experience a profound wish that they were stuck on a street corner tonight with no money, and their kids there too. Maybe that would influence their ethics—or perhaps, by reflex, they will simply stop a passing stranger and take everything they own.
TCB, Money Talks, I Got Mine Jack, and other hillbillian hits through the years have always enforced the Prime Directive: money isn’t everything—it’s the only thing. But where do we start? How do we push back against this societal virus whose only claim to legitimacy is that —after having bested Fascism and Divine Unification—it has done better than Stalin’s purges and Mao’s purges? Capitalism hasn’t shown itself to be the more humane form of democratic government—it has only proved that it’s the lesser of five evils.
Our faith in Cash is as willful and self-determined as our faith in our religious institutions—and both have proved, over and over, to be rather leaky vessels under the waves of real life. If one decides cash is worthless, it ceases to have worth—if a person won’t sell anything they own, or buy anything with money, they have effectively removed themselves from Capitalism. But that person has not removed his or her Society from Capitalism—so Capitalism’s power will still control that person’s fate. Indeed, if someone did it really well, capitalists would spring from the bushes, copy the basic concept, and start marketing it.
One beachfront to be considered is this: changing the positive status-symbol of continuous acquisition of more wealth into a symbol of childishness—and create a status symbol out of divesting oneself of wealth and possessions—Wouldn’t it be funny if ‘poor’ people resented not having enough money to give any of it away? If they got annoyed by the persistent nagging of ‘..would you like a better apartment?; …would you like to eat at a great restaurant?; …does your family have enough blankets tonight?’ Imagine annoying people by trying to give them too much, instead of cancelling ‘milk for enfants’ (How any congressperson could allow that and still look at themselves in the mirror is beyond me).
And I’m beginning to see the conservatives’ attraction to Christian Fundamentalism—it allows us to talk a good prayer, without actually taking responsibility for anything changing—whereas Ethical Humanism actually requires a person to take part in a humane society. If that got popular, Capitalism would start to see some real push-back. While I recognize the great comfort that billions are afforded by their respective religions, I cannot accept any premise based on pure faith. To me, faith is something we have in each other, regardless of our spiritual choices. Someday someone will figure out how to make it easier for us to have faith in each other, even though we can see each other’s faces (and we don’t even like some of them). We would lose the feeling of being entitled to let other people suffer needlessly. It would be very unglamorous, except perhaps for the result.
So I keep dreaming up possible ways to make society less dysfunctional. I keep getting angry when I hear about rich people and big corporations that look down at us, coldly calculating the next advantage Capitalism will allow them to take of us. I keep feeling sorry for all the people whose world is too isolated to realize that their critics are the only ones who have anything to apologize for—that there is nothing wrong with their differences—that their differences are, in fact, a part of what makes them a whole, beautiful person. I keep worrying that America will not supersede itself, that we will allow some more regimented dominion to perpetuate the cycle of entitled carelessness by a chosen few—and suffering for the rest. And I keep on keeping on.
Today being my birthday, I was sung to quite a bit. It’s a nice song, but I went ahead and played two improvs of my own: ‘Happy’ and ‘Birthday’. I hope they sound happy–I certainly felt that way while playing them.
Friday, January 31, 2014 8:59 PM
Unfortunately, my PC’s sound system is not up to drowning out “Undercover Boss”’s final reveal moment in the next room. The unctuous ‘boss’ is being patrician in stages, ticking off each of his encounters with the female employee and the ‘prizes’ that come with each so-called lesson he’s learned in ‘his time with her’ (a condescending angel in the lower muck of the masses, I guess) which I couldn’t hear clearly but were obviously greater and greater ‘gifts’, judging from the female employee’s greater and more tearful outbursts of thanks and disbelief with each new debt paid off, new car given, and all culminating in her promotion to some heavenly post within upper-middle management.
I have two problems with this noise blaring through from the TV room. Firstly, it’s mostly men bosses and female employees—just as well since a female boss would not need to ‘learn’ that it matters how the staff are treated; that not everyone can charge off whatever comes along on the old Amex card; or that human nature creates office politics like air comes from trees.
Secondly, it seems to encourage an attitude of ‘classes’ of people—something that is never acceptable outside of the workplace. Most bosses take advantage, consciously or unconsciously, of the fact that employees aren’t actually answering a bosses questions so much as answering the question ‘Do you want to keep working here?’’ When the boss smiles, the employee smiles back—what in hell else is he or she supposed to do?
And no acknowledgement is made of the fact that of the many millions of ‘employees’ (AKA people) who are not appearing on “Undercover Boss” this evening—that all the fairest and rightest things gone awry in their lives, find their only succor in daydreaming about being this poor working girl who is brought to tears by the idea of living without fear and want and injustice (or, at least, with less fear and want and injustice.)
Besides, all this ‘reality-TV’ stuff gets my goat—people, like Heisenberg’s sub-atomic particles, change their behavior as a function of being looked at—and these programs are the best evidence of this theory I’ve ever seen. Not so long ago, most citizens would back away from the idea of being on camera—it is only with the decades of reinforcement that TV equals money, that celebrity equals money—people nowadays are actually becoming sociopaths to achieve this new ‘goal’ which, only a generation or so ago, required professional people be well-paid to even consider doing. Comedians are laughed at in theaters and on TV, around the world, for a virtual eternity—how many of us are comfortable with that idea? Not to even mention paparazzi…
Please Note: The last video is two song covers of songs written by : Howard Dietz and Arthur Schwartz
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia: Dancing in the Dark (Howard Dietz and Arthur Schwartz song)
“Dancing in the Dark”
Music by Arthur Schwartz
Lyrics by Howard Dietz
Recorded by Artie Shaw, Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra, Fred Astaire, et. al.
“Dancing in the Dark” is a popular song first introduced by John Barker in the 1931 revue The Band Wagon.
The 1941 recording by Artie Shaw and His Orchestra earned Shaw one of his eight gold records.
It was subsequently featured in the classic 1953 MGM musical The Band Wagon and has since come to be considered part of the Great American Songbook.
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia: Alone Together (song)
“Alone Together” is a song composed by Arthur Schwartz with lyrics by Howard Dietz.
It was introduced in the Broadway musical Flying Colors in 1932 by Jean Sargent. The song soon became a hit, with Leo Reisman and His Orchestra’s 1932 recording being the first to reach the charts.
The first jazz artist to record the song was Artie Shaw in 1939.
Please note: these photos are from “The Atlantic”.
[ "Thanks to Chris Kearin, for pointing out this post from "www.theatlantic.com" ]
Richard and Peter Cianflone’s most excellent CD!
“Rowynn | Subjective” is Brand New….
Buy Now–show your support!
(or get it at Amazon: “Subjective” from Amazon)
I enjoyed multiple listenings to this wonderful album–yes, they are old friends, but that’s beside the point. I would feel quite an idiot if I were to recommend any music other than my own favorites…
Sunday, January 26, 2014 4:48 PM
I’ll tell you what gets me about the whole thing—in a time when we demand incredible precision in our electronics, we have ceased to respect precision of thought. We’re showing our respect for the luckily talented and / or rich—we get behind slogans that can never be specific. Celebrity, the once onerous duty of the great and justifiably famous, is now available to our most decadently wealthy and our sickest sociopaths. And with all those psychopaths being scrutinized in the media, our kids have taken that as encouragement to bring small arms to school—and even to use them on their teachers and classmates.
In an incredibly complicated world we tend to overlook the details—just as these details become more important. We reject the unfamiliar and cling to what used to be good enough. We are impatient with explanations—and our TV journalism responds by being more about sensation and less about information.
A lot of the trouble comes from two things: parents and pastors. Now, wait—there is nothing better for a child than a good parent—or even a pair of them; and nothing is more edifying for a community than a good pastor. We both know this is true—however, we do not have any definition of a good parent. Indeed, defining a ‘good parent’ may be an impossible goal—even more so may be defining a ‘good spiritual leader’ for a community.
On the one hand we have the premise that parenting is natural, instinctive… whatever your word for ‘seat-of-the-pants’ happens to be. On the other hand we have Child Services—a municipal recognition of the fact that some people are ‘bad’ parents. Some parents are so un-good they are a danger to the welfare of their child or children. But Child Services can only respond to really gross, bare-faced parental misconduct—and even then, only if some Samaritans (or the children themselves) report it.
There is a new-ish concept in health care known as Preventative Care—meaning the pro-active inculcation of a healthy life-style combined with enough testing to catch serious maladies in their earliest, most treatable stages. The main idea of this being that it is easier to keep someone healthy if they don’t wait to see a doctor until they’re already very ill—and this idea has borne improved health stats and lower health costs.
Parenting might do with some of that thinking, too. I’ve heard that a person’s psyche is almost set in stone after the first few years of life—a time when infants are almost exclusively under the care of parents (or other relations). By the time children get to public schools, their ability to deal with social situations, learning and study habits, and personal hygiene—all these things have already been imprinted—for good or bad. So why don’t we monitor new parents’ interaction with their first-born?
Because parenting is sacrosanct—if liberty ever had a highest value, it is the value of being free to raise one’s children according to one’s own lights. So it is, in some ways, even more important than freedom of speech or freedom of religion. Yet Child Services is still standing by—if you abuse your responsibilities as a parent to such an extent that it becomes known to them.
But we can’t define ‘good parenting’. A bell-curve, often used in sociology, implies that for all the bad parents, there are many more not-so-bad parents who raise their children badly, but not so badly that the children are taken away. With a significant percentage of the population parenting poorly, it would seem that we should have some standards—but we can’t have standards without first having definitions. And until we do, parents will remain a crap shoot.
Worse still is the problem of spiritual leadership. We consider religious freedom very important in the USA—even if it involves poisonous snakes or sacrificed chickens—so when a church authority goes bad, he or she has a lot of latitude to take advantage of the community. And if we could define ‘spiritual leadership’, we could hold them to account more rigorously—sadly, as with parenting, only the grossest of misconduct sees the light of our judicial system. Despite its huge importance to a community, ‘spiritual leadership’ may be the most undefinable quality of all–what is it? Is it Goal-Setting? Supplier of Meaning? Practicing Self-Control? Perhaps one, perhaps all–the only sure thing is the definition will differ with each individual.
And this is the trouble with overlapping value systems—what is good as a ‘freedom’ may not be good as a ‘behavior’; what we want and what we need are rarely the same thing.
We are destroying our environment, and even now that we know how deadly that is, we’re still doing it.
We are killing each other and we won’t stop, even though killing someone never accomplishes anything.
We know that it is foolish to trust a banker, but we still give them our money to hang on to for us.
We know that throwing people in prison never makes them change, but we keep doing it.
We know that elected officials are usually corrupt, but we still vote them into office every Election Day.
These are all simple, indisputable facts—and a fair indication of how much we value common sense (i.e. really not much at all).
No, I can’t write another poem—it’s not like there’s a button I push and bam, the poem comes into my head. I wish there was, of course, but too much poetry can rot your brain, so just be thankful you’re not getting any here, today.
I started to try to make a poem. I listed all the plain facts about us Americans that show how crazy, almost sociopathic, our culture is. Look at foreign ‘first-world’ countries like Sweden or Spain—they’ve broken step with our ‘march towards the future’. They’ve banned putting hormones into cows; they banned Genetically Modified grains such as those sold by Monsanto. They are pushing ahead with alternate-energy infrastructure and non-petroleum car fuels. The most advanced thing the USA has managed is a recent ban on making electric light bulbs exactly the way Thomas Edison made the first one—whew! —my head is spinning.
Meanwhile, we gouge the planet for rare earths useful in electronic components and batteries—third world kids have day-jobs in China and India, just chipping these precious (and highly toxic) elements out of old motherboards and Intel processors. Taking these minerals out of the Earth seems no like big thing—but you’re forgetting the most important part of their name: ‘rare’. To get this stuff, they chew away entire mountains, forests, islands—wherever it is, it is far more valuable on the open market than the lives of the helpless people who used to live on top of these ‘earths’.
But today, I’m trying to stay away from rant-territory. I want to talk about how we see sanity and insanity. Everything is fractal these days, so a small crook gets a big punishment, and a big crook gets to take over his domain; small lies are despised, but really big lies form the bedrock of most political platforms; insanity in an individual gets you locked up, but refusing to accept society’s insanities is even more likely to get you locked up.
These insane ‘givens’ are so important to us that we get angry, or at least annoyed, at anyone who wants to talk about them. We do this because we believe that insanities such as bigotry, pollution, etc. cannot be changed—we believe that talking about these ‘infra-problems’ is a waste of time.
We believe this mostly because these problems are only symptoms of the big problem—differing attitudes. Some people will take advantage of a good deal to the point where they get more than any one individual was supposed to get—leaving some less-pushy, less-advantaged people to go without. This happens with food, with shelter, and especially with money. It happens with everything, really.
And the reasons can vary—some takers are selfish, but others feel ‘self-less’ because they’re taking all they can for their children. We all accept that insanity is part of being a parent. But we also laugh at comedies which exaggerate this trait in some characters, especially the mother-roles. This indicates that we recognize that parental drive, but we also recognize that society requires us to keep a grip on it and not get carried away beyond all fairness. Unfortunately, this doesn’t mean we all get it, just that it is there to see, if you’re looking.
Divisiveness comes in a million flavors: from benign loyalty for your local sports team to cabals of bigots trying to manipulate legislation. Competition is a good thing, in its place. But I think we need to decide where competition’s place is, and we need to keep it in its place. Competition is fun, when it’s just for jollies—but is competition a perfect way to choose a leader? Is competition a perfect way to drive our economy? Does competition have no limits in our society because we can’t change the rules, or because we don’t want to change the rules? The later, I think.
It becomes ever clearer that we will need to supply base-minimum revenue to all citizens—computers and automation are shrinking the job market while our population grows. This can only end in disaster for the huge number of people who don’t have jobs—or have jobs that pay less-than-subsistence wages to easily-replaced employees. Workers’ strikes hold little punch when laborers in ‘emerging’ countries are already siphoning away all the unskilled-labor jobs. And it’s hard to form an effective global union—Europe is having enough trouble just trying to standardize their currency, and unions are a much harder row to plough.
The business owners that still say ‘An honest worker can always find a job, if the worker tries hard enough.’ are living in the 19th century. Back then, our whole world was work—no electricity, no appliances, no cars, no supermarkets —more work than you could shake a stick at. But here in 2014, things have changed—there are lots of jobs, but those jobs aren’t nearly enough to employ the full workforce available.
Look at our ‘recovery’ from the Great Almost-Depression—stocks are up, profits are up, bonuses are up—but jobs, not so much. Between my camcorder and my PC, I can make an hour-long video in HD and Dolby sound, entirely by myself. Claire has software that does her taxes in April (and emails in the return). I correspond with people from all over the world, nearly every day, in e-print, audio mp3, or video uploads; I can post photos on my blog, share e-documents for my online-university professor to grade; I can even shop for virtually anything without leaving the house—and it will be on my doorstep the very next day.
Yes, yet another list of ‘the wonders of modern technology’—but that is not my purpose. I want you to imagine all the jobs that a person could have held in 1964, just 50 years ago, that would play a part in all these things—all the lighting and sound and film-development and film-delivery and editing people needed to create a TV video in 1964; all the accountants and mail carriers and bankers that were a part of annual tax-filing in 1964; how difficult, not to mention expensive, it would have been to send notes and photos and make telephone calls every day to people in Germany, South Africa, or Iran—hundreds of film-developers, color-film producers, switchboard operators, and telephone linemen.
Well, the telephone linemen are safe, for now, I guess—at least until optical-cable replaces phone-lines completely (and they’re still going to need someone to run those cables) so who knows. But my point, I think, still stands—millions of jobs are now mere memories of the quaint, pre-digital America. And the race to create new jobs is being undercut by the race to automate whatever can be automated (destroying jobs).
And, no, the answer is not to stop automation. Repetitive or difficult work should be given to machines—it’s more efficient. But if progress is to maintain its position as a positive force, we will have to stop making people compete for jobs—this isn’t Thunderdome. FDR began the process when he called for support of those who couldn’t support themselves. Those people were then considered ‘excused’ from the competition to survive—partly because they were doomed to failure in that competition, and helping them seemed preferably to watching them starve in the streets.
Well, I think the time has come to at least start thinking in terms of the day when a miniscule job market dooms virtually everyone to fail in finding work. The day is coming soon when significant percentages (even majorities) of the population cannot possibly find work in a shrinking job market. What will we do? Don’t healthy, well-educated people deserve as much respect and comfort as senior citizens on Social Security or wounded veterans on Disability? How can we condemn someone for not working when there is no work to do?
And the first thing, as usual, that needs to change is our point of view. I’m old enough that the idea, to me, of being unemployed is an embarrassing one—we are used to thinking of jobs as something we compete for, and not finding a job makes one a ‘loser’. But things don’t work like that anymore. We should get the ball rolling by granting revenues to the millions of long-term unemployed—the ones so long out-of-work that their length of joblessness makes them undesirable—and the ones who just gave up, after years of sweating the job market, chasing interviews, printing resumes—when the futility of it all finally beat them.
These are not lazy people. These are not shirkers. These are people like me and you, but without any revenue, or any hint of a possibility of a revenue-producing job. There are not enough jobs for these people—even with vocational training, the new jobs just aren’t there. I think it’s time we stopped waiting for that to end—I believe it’s only the beginning of a new paradigm. The future is a place where having a job is a status symbol, not a dire need. Without any change in this direction, we can just sit and watch while the USA tears itself apart—rich against poor, race against race, violence for its own sake.
You know, all those crazy suicide bombers in the Mid-East—they didn’t start out that way—they weren’t born with a compulsion to lash out at the Powers-That-Be, they weren’t born with the desperation that devalues life itself. They become crazy because of the hopelessness and want and fear that they grow up in.
We have to start thinking about how much more gets done through cooperation than competition—we may need to find something else to compete about in our daily lives—I don’t know if people can be happy without competition. But we need to stop making survival a competition. If half the country is out of work and we still produce the same, let’s give revenues to the unemployed half—it’s better than letting them starve in the street, and it’s much nicer, which (in my view) is always a good thing.
And don’t think I’m talking pure charity here—an economy can’t function if everyone is broke—and hungry, rioting mobs just ruin property values and insurance rates. We need to have everyone supported, even if we don’t all work for our revenue. Science fiction tales such as Star Trek are always positing a future where money is obsolete, where people only work at what suits them—well, believe it or not, it’s time to start planning how to really do that.
(with my apologies for the mistakes…)
Illustration from Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s “The Rhyme Of The Ancient Mariner”
Engraved by “Paul” Gustave Doré [Jan. 1832–Jan. 1883]
[From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia]:
“Evergreen (Love Theme from A Star Is Born)”
Single by Barbra Streisand
from the album A Star Is Born: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
B-side “I Believe in Love”
Released December 1976
Writer(s) Barbra Streisand, Paul Williams
Producer Barbra Streisand, Phil Ramone
Streisand and Williams earned an Academy Award for
Best Original Song as composers of the song.
With “Evergreen”, Streisand also earned a
Grammy Award for Song of the Year.
She and Williams also won Golden Globes
in the category of Best Original Song for the song.
Tuesday, January 14, 2014 6:23 PM
Just watched “The Butler”—very inspiring and uplifting. Even Cuba Gooding, Jr. was afraid to make a joke. There’s such a division between me and black people—their last half-century is a history of struggle and strength and dreams and has, for the purposes of this movie, at least, found a happy, even glorious, ending in Obama’s 2008 election as the first African-American President of the United States. My last half-century has been spent resembling the rednecks whose behavior and ignorance have brought shame to all Caucasian-Americans.
But enough about me—every president in the movie is a major star (I can imagine the wrestling agents, maddened by the blood-scent of a good cameo role). As the story of one man going through his life, the only meaty roles went to Oprah Winfrey (Gaine’s wife) and Cuba Gooding, Jr. (White House co-worker). There were many characters in passing, which I didn’t even get a good look at before their brief time on screen ended, but whom I learned watching the ‘Cast’ credits, was over-stuffed with actors and actresses who wouldn’t normally be seen in bit parts.
I also watched “Enough Said”, James Gandolfini’s last film, which also starred Julia Louise-Dreyfus, and in which both are confident, comfortable actors with a great script. Humorous, but not cringe-worthy—and I think that’s a rare compliment among Hollywood’s recent romantic comedies. Granted, the two star-crossed lovers are divorced fifty-year-olds—but as a fifty-something myself I can tell you that it was a much-appreciated crumb thrown in the direction of we ‘old people’.
Last night, I screened the current remake of Stephen King’s “Carrie”, which kept me awake until 3 am, but not because I was scared. Perhaps I was put off by the demonstration of how mean girls of today torture their classmates—worlds away from 1970s practices, but no different in their cruelty. In this case, a reminder that ‘the only constant is change’ was an unwanted one. Modern CGI gave a few interesting moments to the graphics, but they forgot to put anything behind the characters’ faces–which made it very hard to stop seeing them as actors and to get involved in the story.
Techo-Industrial progress is generally thought of as a growth process, a progression of steps towards a brighter future. But as I look back on my Computer-Whiz career, I can see that digital technology outgrew me. It outgrew me and thousands of others, men and women who had struggled through the early days of the digital office revolution.
In the 1970s and 1980s there were hundreds of new products and programs every month, eldritch code and cabling that went through an evolutionary maze from Pre-PC, room-sized standalones, to PCs using Basic, to PCs using dBase, to LAN-connected PCs, to PCs with Windows 2.0, to email, bulletin boards, and the dawn of the World Wide Web—and all these stages had commensurate enhancements in printer technology, analog-modems to cable, cabling, through its various incarnations of ports and plugs, to wireless, Faxes, scanners, laser-printers, mice, keyboards, and monitors, in-house programmer to off-the-shelf-software to Office Suites, Adobe graphics suites, ‘Meeting-minder/Contacts’ Sales suites, and bookkeeping programs galore.
I began as one of those ‘in-house guru’-types, doing everything computer—setting up the machinery, running the cable, hardware repairs, software programming, user-training, de-bugging, printer-paper schlepper, printer jam un-jammer, etc.
In the course of the next two decades, I would read badly-translated-Japanese users’ guides on modem installation, hard-drive installation, balancing the voltage on the CPU, 200-page tomes on how to set all the settings for all the users of a new LAN version, dictionaries of code-syntax, and a lot of other documentation that would never make the bestseller list (or in some cases even qualify as being written in English).
I sucked it all up in my brain and it was quite a suck—but I was pretty sharp back in the day. Twenty years—the computer industry from its first shoots, growing into the ‘monster with a billion tentacles’ we have today—I rode the wave and fully enjoyed being up on that big tech wave with relatively few peers.
Now, I’m in no shape to go back to a life of coding, so you needn’t think this is sour grapes, but the digital culture has outgrown all the many things I once knew or used. Anybody can use a computer now, hell, it’s not even a PC anymore, it’s just your phone mostly now. User-friendliness, once a big issue, has disappeared from the lexicon, owing to how completely it has been achieved. Even someone with a PhD in Computer Science, in 1989 (assuming no further education) would be as digitally-illiterate today as I am. Technology simply outgrew the need for our skills.
But we are not lonely in that category—millions of others are in this group with us—letter carriers, phone-jack installers, radio DJs, journalists, fighter pilots, astronauts, camera and movie film processors, electronics cable manufacturers. Now there’s talk of 3-D printing opening wide someday soon—there goes factory work—whatever hadn’t already been replaced by robots, that is. Fortunately, we have some breathing space in this area—it’ll be quite some time before 3-D printers will be cheaper than 3rd-world labor. I’d bet a guy with a fax machine business in 1990 probably thought it would last.
New jobs? Sure, new tech is bound to create some jobs—but not for hordes of employees. Most innovation these days is achieved through enhancements in software and the electronics—the small part of innovations that create new jobs usually create only one or two jobs, and very specialized ones, at that.
And so we see progress. Our technology is growing like a weed. It is outgrowing the need for hands and eyes. Soon the cars won’t let us drive ourselves—too risky. And virtual meetings take the place of many arduous junkets to far-off customers or suppliers. Wikipedia is, for virtually everybody, a better memory than the one we were born with—and if some of its data is false, just imagine how much data inside your own head is a bunch of BS and you can rest easy that it’s still a good trade.
Luckily, no one has a job remembering, so at least the economy is safe from Wiki—if you don’t count World Book or Encyclopedia Britannica—both of which no longer print paper-books, having migrated online years ago, so those printers were out, regardless of Wiki.
But I like work. Our cultures are always founded on work—our bodies need work to stay healthy, our minds need work to stay sharp. Mobs of farmers used to get plowing, sowing, reaping, milling, whatever. Craftspeople used to make stuff with their hands—that sounds like a nice way to go through life. But there’s no need any longer. Machines do the farming, factories make stuff in bunches—and all of it quicker and cheaper than people.
Without the need for those masses of workers, there’s still plenty for a person to do. Medicine, Computers, Law, Construction—jobs all over—for now. But that doesn’t mean those jobs are still going to be there in ten or twenty years. As technology grows, its growth accelerates—the more jobs it does for us, the faster it will be taking more jobs away. Even if our profligate consumerist lifestyle wasn’t killing the planet, our notion of ‘progress’ has our own erasure from the list of significant things built into itself. We are rushing towards our own uselessness. Onward!
I watched “The Magnificent Seven” yesterday and was reminded of one of the reasons it’s a classic–that incredible Elmer Bernstein score, including the theme used for so many years by ‘Marlboro Man’ TV spots, back when Marlboro cigarettes were allowed to advertise on TV. Unfortunately, my improv has no connection with that stirring music, except as the inspiration for today’s title…
Perhaps it will help if I include a YouTube link to the M7 soundtrack
(It’s most Magnificent thing about the movie):
Cold? O yes! The whole Atlantic seaboard region is below zero—and that’s in Fahrenheit, folks. We here in Northern Westchester are right in there, as is NYC, though the urbanites have the standard ten degree boost upward that all big cities generate (in waste heat). Up here in ‘god’s country’ the temperature is closer to the rest of the Hudson Valley, but not quite so cold.
Our snow is middling, less than a foot high—and hasn’t fallen anew for two days now. Our house has no insulation worthy of the title and our windows are all old school, requiring the summer screens and the winter storm-windows, of which we have none. And the glazing is so old the panes rattle in the frames.
We do all right, indoor-temp-wise, as long as the wind doesn’t blow. That’s when things get dicey at the Dunn homestead. A stiff wind can blow, seemingly, right through our living room and into the kitchen! The rooms that withstand it best are those that are stuffy at any other time. But ice on the trees can knock out the power lines—and does, on an average of twice a winter. The house becomes a dank, dark cave—then it’s time for staying in bed with extra blankets and warm clothes. Better to move to Nana’s, over in Heritage Hills—unless she’s got power out, too.
So winter is my least favorite season—I’ve always been overly sensitive to cold and my tobacco-smoking makes me even colder in my extremities due to clogged capillaries. I can easily stay warm by active exertion, but only until I get tired and sweaty—and then the sweat makes things worse. Plus, I get tired out in about 90 seconds, nowadays, so that’s no help at all.
But winter can be wonderfully silent. All the windows and doors are closed; none of the hot-rods are burning rubber in the street; no one is setting off fireworks—and the snow is something of a sound-baffle, absorbing sound rather than reflecting it. With really deep snow, we do get snowmobiles dragging around the local streets and that noise is terrible, but that’s only when the snow falls so hard and thick that the plows can’t keep up.
I’m always struck by the uselessness of modern homes without electricity running through them. It’s all fun and games until the power goes out. Suddenly, there’s no heat; there’s no running water (toilets don’t flush); there’s no phone or lamps or TV or Internet. In the warmer weather, a power outage can destroy hundreds of dollars-worth of frozen and refrigerated food—that’s the one advantage of a winter power-outage—the frozen food is still safe, if I put it on the porch. Small comfort, when it gets so cold that I go outside to warm up; when reading is only possible during daylight; and when, the one time I really need the comfort of music, the iPod never outlasts the outage. Play my own music, you say? Sure, but when my fingers are cold nothing is more painful than playing on keys that are colder—when my fingers actually get colder from touching the keyboard!
When I said winter was nice and quiet, I didn’t mean quiet during a power outage—unlike me, everyone else in this neighborhood has a generator. It’s a chorus of diesel combustion engines, night and day, until power is restored. Now that’s annoying—and no less so for knowing those thumping-generator-people still have lights and running water—probably even heat. Speaking of which, I should like to know who designed home-heating furnaces to require electricity?—the darn things burn fuel, a AAA battery could handle the thermostat’s requirements—it’s poor design that’s lasted decades, and will no doubt remain for decades longer! O, I get so mad.
Luckily for me, I had just received my two new blankets, a queen-size and a throw, from Amazon when this cold snap arose—I had a wonderfully cozy few nights, rather than cursing the drafts and wishing I had more blankets. This new ‘plush’-type blanket material is very soft and warm—and they’ve somehow determined how to make them less static-ey than wool blankets, which is great. And my fears of a blackout during this big freeze were without cause.
I love winter when it stays outside.
Snow has fallen. Air is sharpened by wind. Good day to stay inside.
Jessy lost one of her memory cards–if anyone knows where she left it, please advise…
Well, I don’t usually inflict an entire Bach keyboard partita on my long-suffering followers, but today I had a whack at the a minor, see results below.
Hope you like it….
Monday, December 30, 2013 1:44 AM
On Bill Moyers tonight a guy said, ‘There’s really only two sides: kindness and cruelty.’ And I agree. When all detail is scraped away, a kind person will do what they can, and a cruel person will do what they can get away with. The main obstacle to that clarity is human history. We start focusing on debts, borderlines, dogmas, politics, and whose dad could beat the other guy’s dad. The cruel side uses all this ‘white-noise’ to tap-dance endlessly around the simple issue of ensuring that no one starves to death.
My South African friend became quite exercised about we Americans always bringing up Apartheid. (On Bill Moyers they also talked about Mandela’s turning away from revenge or bitterness towards his oppressors—and how that was as rare a thing as a thing can be.) I think South Africans have a false sense of how easy it is to end bigotry—their miraculous, overnight switch from apartheid to equality, as an entire nation, could have gone in many different, less peaceful, directions after Mandela’s release from prison.
But the funniest thing on TV today was mentioned on both Bill Moyers and Religion & Ethics Newsweekly—The new Pope, Francis, is throwing a huge monkey-wrench into the neo-con evangelists’ secularizing of Christianity. He reminds the world that ending poverty and hunger must be a Christian’s highest priority, Catholic or otherwise—this flies in the face of pious Republicans whose decidedly selfish narrative ‘explains’ cutting food stamps for poor families and refusing to raise taxes on the wealthy.
The Roman Catholic Church, prior to Francis, was a major banking institution and the single biggest holder of real estate around the globe—an institution soaked in power and property—and was thus reliably on the side of big business and high finance. Pope Francis’s new thrust seems to be a sharp break with expectations. He wants Christians to live their faith: mercy, charity, and love—and he’s not inclined to spiral off into some distraction that allows the status to stay quo. Recently, the Pope even mentioned the existence of atheists like myself—and not as damned souls doomed to perdition, either!
This pleases me more than I can say. I was happy enough to hear that the Catholic Church had finally seen the light, vis-à-vis pederasty and general corruption amongst the priesthood, and would no longer consider buggery an ‘old tradition’, but rather as the crime it was always (quietly) known to be. But now—O, to have a Pope stand up and tell the world that we don’t know what Christianity is. If Christians want to be worthy of their faith they have to act like Christians. They have to believe in mercy towards, charity for, and love of our fellow men and women.
You know, people talk about the Jews having to avoid the flesh of scavengers, like pigs and shellfish; or the Muslims having to pray four times a day (or is i
t 5?). But Christians get a pass. To believe in Christ is to want to follow his teachings—which say plenty about the poor and the outcast, but nothing at all about mortgage derivatives or early foreclosures. There was a story about J. K. Rowling in the news this week—she was a billionaire, but now she’s given away so much to charities that she’s become a mere multi-millionaire. I was shaking my head at the thought that this was news—it was news because no one else had ever f*#king done the same.
But between her, Bill and Melinda Gates, billions of US $s in foreign aid, and the Catholic Church, we still have starving kids and homeless victims of a global system that says, ‘not my problem.’ Just within the USA alone, we have erosion in our beautiful Capitalist sand-castle—Detroit declared bankruptcy a while ago—the whole city. Of course, rich people can move. But what does civil bankruptcy mean to the Detroit denizens that were already broke before the crisis? It means that what little support the poor were getting there will become no support at all. A major city in the USA!—O how the mighty have f*#ked up.
And often we hear about the churches of all denominations being the major source of soup kitchens, charities and volunteer work. There’s only one problem with that—nobody goes to church much anymore. Hey, don’t shoot the messenger—but there are definitely a lot of people besides just me, all staying home from church—some just lazy, yeah, but a lot that just don’t have religion in their lives now. A lot of Catholics are staying away because of the betrayal of sexual misconduct committed by their once most-trusted and respected civic leaders, their local priests. And don’t even ask about the number of young men deciding to enter the priesthood–who in their right mind would jump into that abyss?
I don’t want to go into that cesspool of a subject, but my point is—the church is no longer the core of a town or a neighborhood. And without the collections funds, the charities have no cash to operate. It is time we stopped looking to church charities and began implementing something more secular. We could call it “The Centers For People We’ve Finally Stopped Pretending Weren’t Suffering” (“…and stuff”, as Derek Zoolander might say).
Well, I Googled, so now I know the guy on “Bill Moyers” was Thomas Cahill—and he was right: ‘There’s really only two sides: kindness and cruelty.’
Happy New Year!
Okay, I have a long one here, 20 minutes or so of xmas carol songs–I neglected to sing along, so it’s just the piano part.
Then I did two improvs in that same recording session that I’m calling ‘xmas stuff’ & ‘more xmas stuff’.
And the final upload, a left-over from a few days back, totally non-holiday-related.
Thursday, December 19, 2013 4:54 PM
James S S
18 hours ago via mobile · Like
Janine S C
What type of group is this ?
13 hours ago via mobile · Like
Randy W D
I have the same question, what’s this group about?
5 hours ago · Like
I think it’s about love, freedom, idealism, sharing, music, light, and the good stuff—like all groups, n’est-ce pas?
2 hours ago · Like
Freedom? Love? Sharing? LOL. America is slowly losing freedom because everyone takes their freedom for granted and try to use it against the law. No one knows what love is, having over 50% of divorce rate just in America. No one pays any attention to anyone else unless they’re dating, close friends or family. Other than that, they are wasting their life away on their phone playing Candy Crush or tweeting like a fucking stupid ass bird.
28 minutes ago · Like
Freedom is the willingness to die for what you care about—it can’t be given or taken. Who said marriage?—we just met, man! Besides, love and marriage are two diff things. What have you to say about idealism?
25 minutes ago · Like
That is why I only said those 3 topics. But, marriage comes with love. And family is unconditional love, you grow up to naturally love your guardian. Freedom is the ability to do what you want, but America has regulations. Technically every other country has more freedoms than America. (aside from freedom of religion and cultural beliefs/practices). In other countries, we would be allowed to just walk outside our house and go and kill someone if we wanted to. (Not saying this in all countries, but it’s partially true. People join the army to sacrifice their life in order to have the people they love to live in freedom and safety. Just saying.
20 minutes ago · Like
And when I say marriage, I mean the traditional marriage where the two mates actually love each other and want to make their relationship official forever. Not when military people get married to make more money or other meanings other than love. Which is the reason that most marriages end in divorce.
18 minutes ago · Like
America has a constitution that says what we can’t do, and we are legally permitted to do anything else. It isn’t against the law to do anything unless there’s a law against it. In other countries, the constitution sets out what is allowed, and reserves the right to arrest you for doing anything that isn’t on the list. That is why America has more freedom than anywhere else.
12 minutes ago · Edited · Like
Most marriages end in divorce because mostly young people get married—Claire and I have been married for 34 years, but we had to learn to live with each other—lust is easy, living together is hard.
14 minutes ago · Like
Ehhh, understandable. Just people take their freedoms for granted. There are quite a lot of people that know how to settle down and be with a person they love. Others just don’t, and most guys now treat girls like shit to the point of girls just treating guys like shit. (I.E. My parents. Mom was treated bad, almost didn’t marry my Dad.)
12 minutes ago · Like
People don’t treat each other very well. I don’t know how to fix that except for not joining in. And people take EVerything for granted—I was only a day or two away from dying of liver cancer, then all of a sudden I got a liver transplant—and I haven’t taken much of anything for granted in the ten years since.
8 minutes ago · Like
It’s just annoyingly pathetic, hearing all these people that complain for not getting a black iphone but got a white one, or getting 400 dollars instead of an Iphone. Or when someone is trying to help a friend that is being suicidal and the suicidal person just treats that friend like shit (been there done that so many times) Please do take into account that I’m only 18 and talking like this.
5 minutes ago · Like
The duality is funny, don’t you think? No one is as giddy and thrilled with life as someone who has just narrowly avoided a fatal car crash. Most successful people grew up in tough conditions and that makes them tough and strong and ambitious to get something better—children of successful people grow up with the best of everything—and end up being weaker and less able to compete. It’s crazy
5 minutes ago · Like
You can’t help people that don’t want your help—sad, but the simple truth. 18 is a good year in only one way—no subsequent year will be nearly as hard to live through. Also, don’t go looking for bad stuff—look for good stuff, or just enjoy what you have…
5 minutes ago · Like
I don’t complain about much of anything. Literally the only thing I ask from my parents is some money for soda or gas, that’s literally it. I’m happy with everything I have. Computer, Xbox 360, some games, netflix, a house, food and my parents. They are paying for my college so I try hard to not ask for much. But other than that, I’m quite happy. I’d love to have more, but I’m not a brat about it. it’s just the fact that when you try and help a person, they shoot you down, but later come to you crying for help.
2 minutes ago · Like
Your peers are eighteen too, which means that they will all be kinda selfish and manipulative–you may even catch yourself at it once in a while.
Thursday, December 12, 2013 3:30 PM
“For old Ralph, former top quick draw artist,
lousy guitar player, tossed in the ground yesterday[…]”
— (c) Dec. 12th, 2013 by Dean J. Baker http://deanjbaker.wordpress.com/
I highly recommend Dean Baker’s blog “Dean J. Baker – Poetry, and prose poems”. I read this today, from his poetry-blog, and it struck me how my take on these words would differ from that of others’. You see, I’ve been playing lousy piano for most of my life, and I’m proud of it.
We bad musicians are an elite few—we cannot restrain ourselves from playing badly, figuring lousy music is better than none—we don’t concern ourselves with bad reviews because we’ve never gotten a good one. (O, sure, you get those fake good reviews from people who love you—but they only highlight the lack of enthusiasm amongst strangers.)
It doesn’t surprise me that Old Ralph was homeless—we lousy musicians are easy prey amongst the people that face reality, that have black and white judgments on things—we need our dreams and we don’t see any great value in tearing them down. We dislike the smart-alecks who insist that hungry is hungry and cold is cold—as if we have never been hungry and cold (or, as if they ever had been).
It is the voice of fear. Yes, fear has its place—but I’m convinced that we’ve taken ‘fear’ into a strange, new place. We’re not concerned so much about climate change, but we fight like dogs over water rights. We’re not concerned so much for fundamentalists who endorse ignorance over curiosity, but we argue late into the night about why God created us 10% homosexual and how we should treat that 10%.
We witness politicians legitimize fear with legislation. We see capitalists use our fears against us. We see major faiths enshrine age-old fears. And more and more we see the powerful super-wealthy advertising their most cherished fears as if they were common sense—actually spending money to form puppet NPOs and buying airtime to spread their solipsisms from coast to coast.
We can never go back, either. When society makes a technological advance these days it is pre-formatted to fit in with the existing tech (think USB ports). To fail to use the new, next thing is to be instantly mired in obsolescence. High-finance types and legislators use this to their advantage—if they can put in a fix, the world goes by too fast for anyone else to undo their treachery (think the ‘derivatives market’). And the truly gigantic egos that struggle to keep their hands on that tiller—well, their interests aren’t exactly congruent with the 99%.
But I digress. Shying away from advanced tech, or circumventing tech altogether, as the Amish sometimes do, is only protected by the massive civilization that surrounds them—this is a dead end, as it would put us even further under the sway of the top of the pyramid. See ‘hippy communes’ for more information regarding the abuse of power in a small community—and how it makes just as much trouble as the super-wealthy do in their element, i.e. world domination.
Thus we are disabused of the fantasy of idyllic retreat. Pollution, de-forestation, and gorging on non-renewable resources are all in fast-forward mode. We can’t turn our backs on the entrenched powers-that-be, because they are rushing pell-mell towards the destruction of the planet. And speaking of speed, this situation isn’t static—the human race has jumped onto a speeding, out-of-control train—we have to fix things with one hand as we hang on for dear life with the other.
Which brings up another problem—we already have a lot of problems, many of them involving hunger or hatred, and we can interrupt any effort to alleviate one of those problems simply by pointing out that some other problem is being neglected—the politicians keep us running in circles while little change is realized. We now have a full panel of distractions (other problems) the number of which is so large that conversations may go on for days without reaching any clear point.
So, yes, I say that maintaining our dreams is invaluable—and this applies to easily disproved fantasies as well—because modern problems surround us, threaten us, every damn day. We must do what we can, try as we might—in spite of our society appearing to head full-speed towards its own destruction—and in that struggle for change and the struggle to survive, to care for our families and their futures, we need a little rest stop now and again. If I pretend to be a piano player, where’s the harm? If I was trying to interrupt a concert at Carnegie Hall so I could play for the audience myself—well, that’s just plain crazy—and I am by no means endorsing crazy (another time, perhaps). But if I just play to myself there’s no reason to cure me of that delusion other than cruelty or spite.
And so I mourn old Ralph, the lousy guitar player—and I mourn the loss of his brave example, playing guitar to soothe his soul — even when others didn’t applaud.
Monday, December 09, 2013 7:57 PM
If I stop and think about it, I can barely remember what was ‘important’ two weeks ago. There was a government shutdown, a chemical weapon in Syria, a record-breaking typhoon devastated the Philippines, a record-breaking cold snap in the whole western half of our country—there were a lot of things. But whenever something newer comes up, suddenly the disasters and shutdowns are passé and the new ‘News’ is all that matters. It happened with Zimmerman’s third arrest on gun-nut charges, it happened when Miley Cyrus twerked her ass on TV, and it happens when a wife throws her brand-new hubby off a cliff during their honeymoon.
It all changes so fast, so randomly, that when something like Nelson Mandela’s death is reported, it almost hits us in the breadbasket (emotionally speaking). The sudden appearance of a terrible loss like that is out of place in the corn-popping procession of fear-mongering, bear-baiting, and trivia that the News normally shows. And, as happened after the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assassination, some conservative politicians were publicly embarrassed by archival videos of remarks they made concerning Mandela before history exalted him to his rightful place among world leaders.
The scariest part is that the President and First Lady, former Pres. and Mrs. Bush, and former Pres. and former Secretary of State Clinton—are all attending Mandela’s memorial in South Africa. And this is at the same time that concerns are being expressed about the ethical vacuum that the great leader left in his wake. It may be a tumultuous ceremony with who knows how many dangers for these American Executives, past and present. If I ran the Secret Service, I’d be sweating bullets over the possibility of some chaos or rioting breaking out.
The ‘next president’ was a concern shared by George Washington—our first president of a free nation—and few precedents were set during his office that might be turned to abuse of power by any subsequent office-holder. To wield power without setting precedents is virtually impossible—and like Washington, Mandela’s journey to leadership was a refining fire that few would afterwards endure. Finding a replacement even half as selfless and visionary will be no easy task.
We see this in the reports of young South Africans for whom Apartheid is a chapter in a history book, not something they truly appreciate—paradoxically, because their parents and grandparents had already gone through the struggle. In making their country free, they have taken the steel out of their children’s lives. This Catch-22 of history always appears, taking the children of the generations that fought in the Revolution, or in WWII, or in ending Apartheid, and making them ignorant of the price of their liberty, because it was there from their first memories—a fact of life.
That is not to say that I would be afraid to walk around in South Africa—they’re bound to be more civilized than the denizens of NYC, or at least more polite. Politically, however, there may be numerous factions who are waiting for their own specific ‘shoe’ to drop—and this time and place could easily become a downpour of shoes. Not the best place, perhaps, for the President of the United States—still, Mandela’s legacy deserves that recognition and more.
It’s difficult to describe my feelings about modern history. Two of the greatest heroes of my lifetime were Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela—both men (and their huge followings) were in a pitched battle with Caucasians like myself, except for the fact that those many Caucasians believed in racism. I’m happy to be on the losing side. I’m sad that I look like those idiots, the White Supremacists and the even-worse closeted bigots who never speak straight about their own hate. I’m relieved that the thrust of history is driving this ignorance from modern cultures. I’m afraid that being pale-skinned makes me part of the problem—even though my sentiments are entirely pro-unity. It’s difficult to describe—especially because my problems pale in comparison with all the non-whites who still face a torrent of bias every day.
In my youth, protestors would see TV cameras and start chanting, “The whole world is watching… The whole world is watching….” And back then it was true—broadcast TV had three major networks and those networks decided what ‘the world’ saw. Protest strategy of the time was targeted towards getting a news camera to show up—that was all that mattered. And if the protestors were lucky, Johnny Carson might make a joke about them in his monologue—which legitimized whatever cause it was as being of national importance. It didn’t seem as strange then as it does now to describe it—it was all part of the culture back then.
Nowadays, the whole world is not ‘watching’, the world is surfing the web and texting on its I-phones. The only unification to be found is the phenomenon of the ‘viral video’—the only trouble with these clips is that they are never of any use or value—other than that they are all something we all agree are delightful distractions. Do not hold your breath waiting for the first viral video about trigonometry or astrophysics.
Will South Africa be able to stick to its founding president’s goals and ideals? Only the people of South Africa can decide—I hope for the best for them—nothing would be more tragic than for Nelson Mandela’s dream to die with him.
Sunday, December 08, 2013 8:01 PM
Super-Spencer! The grasshopper has become the master! My computer suddenly decided that logging in as myself was a system error—it’s amazing how electronics can find an infinite number of ways to piss a person off—I’ve been at it (electronically) since the Bicentennial and in all those 37 years I’ve seen a lot of computer errors, but this was a new one.
I messed around with it for a while, but not being able to login as ‘xperdunn’ (the only login with Admin powers) I was stumped as to how to fix it—Spencer came upon the scene and offered to help—what a man, huh? So, I went back to bed and Spencer worked on the problem—late that night, and all the next day, and the next… He forum-ed and he downloaded and he searched the internet—although the problem was a common one, the only people on the ‘login/sys error’ forums were systems managers—so when he finally found a fix, it turned out to be only valid for Win7-Professional, whereas I, like an idiot, had Win7-HomeDeluxe or whatever it’s called.
Now, I’d spent years as a systems manager and I knew how lonely and desperate the search for solutions to new errors can be—the worst ones had me searching and trying and banging my head against the wall for days. At some point, I’d lose the ability to think about anything else; I’d lie awake and try to make sense of the kaleidoscope of pieces of information, trying to determine what was pertinent and what was noise.
And here’s the weirdest part: when I finally found a fix and got the whole system up and running again, I’d have gone so deeply into unfamiliar territory that I wasn’t quite sure exactly how I’d fixed it. Strange, right? But that’s what happens. If the problem recurred, I’d almost have to start from scratch to fix the thing—the only ‘easy’ error-fixes were the ones that happened so often I became familiar with the fix.
And, while I was a little concerned about not knowing exactly how to fix something I’d just fixed, I was still a long way from the rest of that office, the people that just hung out and waited for the Geek to fix the computer. Those folks could be a mixed bag—some resented me not fixing something instantly, some were very grateful that I had finally restored the computer, and some didn’t care one way or the other. More importantly, none of them had the slightest idea what torture a new error can be—there’s no guarantee that I’d find an answer (although, somehow, I always did). It was impossible to take a break from an error problem since it kept everyone else sitting around waiting for me to do my job—if I sat around, even a few minutes—I’d get the stink-eye from management, i.e. ‘how dare I?’
I taught Spencer a lot about computer fixes—he was interested, so I’d walk him through what I was doing—even before he was out of grade school. We used to get phone calls from grateful parents of play-date friends—they’d say, ‘We’ve been trying everything to fix our PC and your son just pressed a few buttons and fixed the whole thing.’ It made me ridiculously proud of him—I could barely contain myself.
But now that my brain is on permanent vacation, I can’t deal with such things like I used to. And to have my boy find a real killer error’s fix for me—I just can’t tell you how happy I am. And I’m pretty happy about having my computer back, too.
Sunday, December 01, 2013 3:32 PM
Well, it’s December, at least—long past the appropriate time to bring up the holiday season, to most marketers. But Xmas is not so easily tamed. We give our thanks in November, we give our presents in December, and we give ourselves new goals at New Year’s, the first day of next year. Xmas is in the middle but gets the lion’s share of the focus—giving things to each other calls to that materialism we all have at least a spark of—but it is an event, and in so many senses, more engaging than the more ritualistic form of the ‘book-ends’ holidays.
So I prefer to keep each event to its place and I never begin to play Xmas carols on the piano (and worse yet, sing) until December 1st. Xmas has pressure enough—and in the nadir of Winter—with the expectations needing filling and the mandatory purchases having unbalanced a recently comfortable account balance.
More’s the pity—the Winter fest of Europe’s ancienter times was a blow-out in every sense of the word—even sometimes electing a ‘governing fool’ who gave orders to the gentry—but always including drinking too much, brawling for no reason, and debauchery among the adults of the community. Even burning down a house or two was considered no great extreme—and the first thing the Reformed Protestant Churches did was outlaw the celebration of Twelfth Night, or Yuletide.
This did not stop people from celebrating—and it’s my guess that the raucous outburst of pent-up tension was the very best way to prepare for the group to live all huddled together, indoors, for most of the winter. Today, with stress an unavoidable fact of life, it makes little sense to have the holidays be filled with guilts and repressions—as it is celebrated by a tremendous number of Americans today. But even that undertow of familial and social demands on the celebrants does not define Xmas (no matter what Chevy Chase would have us believe).
I believe that Xmas has become an emotional refuge, its most important function being to allow us the fantasy, at least for a day or few, of thinking our lives have the same simplicity and cyclic regularity that those pagans once enjoyed. Most rituals have been stripped away from modern life, aside from weddings and birthdays—the number of people with ashes on their brow on Ash Wednesday is so sparse that it can disturb non-Catholics coming upon it the first time that day—they impulsively tell one he or she has a smudge on their forehead.
Those fortunate enough to be raising children focus the entirety of the ‘Season’ to their children’s (hopefully) treasured memories—the things parents hope their children will reproduce with their own families, some day. And no childhood fantasy is so seriously guarded as the ‘belief in Santa Claus’. This dichotomy between kids and adults has its good side, I guess, but I could never see it as different from ‘lying’, so we had no great emphasis on Santa’s reality—the kids are more interested in the presents, anyway.
That it is a stupid idea is confirmed, by my reckoning, by the number of stupid Christmas movies that focus on the maintenance of this myth as a humorous plot point.
Xmas has to do with being in the northern states, Washington to Maine, or thereabouts, and walking through snow to bring your freshly chopped-down pine tree into your living room. Anything else is not a Hollywood-approved location for this coziest of holidays—one can never feel quite as good about oneself as when donating to (or better yet, feeding) the wretched poor when the ground is covered with snow.
New York City has a slightly different take on the season, but is still within prescribed conditions to be a ‘real’ Christmas. It adds a lovely dollop of urbanity—window displays, municipal decorations, office parties (though not as solid a tradition as once was) and seeing the toys in FAO Schwarz’s and the big Xmas Tree in Rockefeller Center, on ones way to Radio City Music Hall for the traditional “Nutcracker” show.
But the full-on, tradition-filled Christmas happens in New England—plenty of indigenous pine trees, a good chance of snow on the ground (before Climate Change, anyway) and tree ornaments that may have passed down through three or four generations. Ordinarily, the head of the clan will have ‘the family’ to their big house and make a short week of the holiday.
I watch nothing but the Hallmark Channel for the whole of December—I can’t get enough of these crazy movies—Elves fall in love with humans; Santa’s son doesn’t want to take over Christmas; a poverty-stricken family somehow find themselves living in a big, beautiful house in a lovely, loving, small town; Santa’s sleigh is stuck in the shop; A reindeer with a fluorescent nose flies at the front of Santa’s team—you know the drill.
However, it isn’t entirely Hallmark’s fault—it was Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” that gave Christmas its wish-fulfillment aspect. It was his idea that the ‘Christmas Spirit’ was a mandatory giver of grace to even the most twisted misanthrope. The idea that hard-nosed business-people were a blight on society wasn’t new, but the ludicrous suggestion that they can be convinced to open their hearts one day a year… —all Dickens.
And now Hallmark channel has evolved into a cornucopia of sappy, sentimental hogwash, non-stop for 25 full days of nothing but Xmas movies. I am fascinated by their transmutation of human ritual into wish-fulfillment fantasies and Cinderella-type romances. There’s plenty of sneaky elves doing magic and smirking behind a corner at the surprised humans—there are plenty of BFFs that make seemingly trivial remarks that resonate with the movie’s plot-line (or it’s title—which in some cases is the movie in a nutshell, for example: “Snow Globe”).
But sometimes I catch them in a new bit of blasphemy—this year (unless I didn’t notice in previous years) was the use of the tag-line, ‘Hallmark, the Heart of Joy’! Can you imagine? “Joy: def. Intense and especially ecstatic or exultant happiness”. In a religious context (if I may suggest that Xmas has a religious context) ‘joyfulness’ is the ecstasy felt by those who worship the newborn son of God. I’m sure Hallmark was just looking for a generic word, like ‘tinsel’ or ‘stocking’, to suggest Xmas without confining their audience to any specific religion—but in my opinion, ‘Joy’ can be seen as overstepping by sensitive folks like me.
Besides, Joy is pretty strong language, especially when describing the most shamelessly sugary genre of cinema in the world today. Maybe ‘Hallmark, the Heart of Sweet’ ? If you want to see something crazy, check out the Xmas Movies listing of your current cable provider, TV, Hulu, or Netflix—thousands of these films—and Hallmark makes five or ten new ones every year, just to cement their place at the forefront of kitsch. So I guess it’s what you call a ‘guilty pleasure’ for me to watch these movies on Hallmark channel for hours on end. I don’t approve of Hallmark’s immersion in the treacle of holiday sentiment—far from it.
Hallmark has a much older claim than computers to destroying our literate holiday traditions—the whole point of a card, back when, was that you made it yourself—put some thought and feeling into it. Lots of people still do that, but very few Americans—‘we care enough to send the very best’, as Hallmark once drummed into our ears, back when they were merely a greeting card company. All the little notes and present tags and letters from old friends—they are nowhere to be seen in modern American Xmases.
So I lie in bed and allow the false joy of Hallmark channel to wash over me. I wonder about the kids of today—how much of their holiday season is torn from their focus on the gadgets they all have now? How many kids get sleds for Xmas, compared to how many get the latest gaming consoles or handheld electronics? And I wonder at the power of my conditioning as a child, that even now as an atheist of decades, I still think Xmas has great value and should be treasured for whatever few truly human exchanges of love and joy (and presents) it still engenders, in spite of the tinsel.
There seems to be a rise in mental issues that may or may not be part of the dip in our economy. After all, if you take someone’s livelihood away and practically guarantee that he or she won’t be able to find a new job, ‘reactive behavior’ occurs—you can call it insanity if you want, or call it desperation, or cognitive dysfunction, or even maybe hunger and shame.
Suddenly ‘life on the street’ gets a little more crowded, a little more dangerous—people with poor coping skills feel pressure, newly homeless are still reeling from the collapse of their lives, families, self-worth… As for me, besides the terror at the thought I could someday end up there (!) I see it as a scary sci-fi story—the rich people have hacked the system, disenfranchised much of the majority’s (the Saps’) democratic, legislative machinery of redress and reform, and have settled in for a long era of sucking our blood, like tics, and laughing down at us from their penthouses.
Having had Arnold Schwarzenegger serve as Governor of the State of California, it is difficult to imagine his sui generis Action-Hero-role swooping in and kicking ass and blowing up bad guys—when Ahnold is blatantly a part of the current system—a system that is proof against any uprising of the heroic or the violent. When your enemy is the system, you are facing down the heavily armed, the decidedly uninterested, and the pitiful few whose life is nearly as bad as one’s own.
Even some of the worst-off, the real ‘nose-divers’—they want nothing so much as a chance to buy back into the system that brought them where they are—on the street. And for many people, there seems little difference between business and gambling—both want something from you, both offer you future advantages that may or may not happen, depending on how honest the table is—and the luck of the draw.
But what does business offer during these hard, hard times? A virtual guarantee that the game is rigged, that the fat cats make the big dough and all us little people just keep on working, and taking it, without much to show for it. But let’s not be silly—in a world where our banking and finance industry big-shots are convicted felons, how can we possibly maintain our hope that the dice aren’t loaded in Vegas and ACNJ?
A fascinating field for debate–can civilization contain the animal within all of us? Do we want it to? If so, how much containment is enough? How much is too much? Should society try to accommodate our animal-humanity, or repress it? Can we, as a group, or even I, as an individual, ever match up our late-night resolutions with our early-morning excuses?
If everyone is at some level of mental health, how far should we go to splice that psyche onto a digital world of yes and no answers? Are people called ‘sane’, such as you or me, only to say that we are somewhat less crazy than the institutionalized crazies? We all live inside our heads–society lives outside of everyone’s heads–can we ever synchronize the two or are we doomed to mob-mentality forever?
Fascism? Not at all–I believe the problem is less amenable to brute force than it may seem–the biggest question is how aware people are of the various attempts at all those things that are currently underway–we use iconic words like liberty and freedom to represent the value of each individual life and heart. Nonetheless, we have a criminal/justice/penal system to exert constraints against anyone getting too ‘free’. We have ‘social services’ which imply that even the poorest soul will be kept from harm. Nonetheless we write budgets that curtail those services at the very time when their need for expenditures increases and unemployment is high.
We aren’t talking about ‘two steps forward, one step back’, we’re talking about two steps in every direction. People love being ‘hooked up’ to the world on the internet, but they don’t want anyone to peek at their private business as it streams to every hub across the globe. People will endure personal searches to get on a plane, but they don’t want their freedoms impinged upon by setting up DWI roadblocks in their neighborhood.
To me, it’s a matter of facing facts–you can’t have a globalized ‘community’ without its mandatory troublemakers (every community has them) not to mention Big Bro checking out our keystrokes–but digital surveillance doesn’t actually focus on an individual, it just monitors all traffic for key words and phrases. We like being able to track our car when someone rips it off, but we don’t want the police to be able to track it. We like to check out of a store where the counter-person just aims a laser gun at the RFID tag, instead of using a brain that may or may not be there–but we don’t want that data to be used for inventory, marketing, sales projections, etc.
We don’t even have a clear demarcation line between what is our behavior (our private business) and what breadcrumbs we leave as consumers (corporate research)! There’s a lady’s family that has been fighting to take the patent for her cancer-cell genes away from a pharma-R&D corporation and return them to the deceased’s family’s possession–but it’s all new law. People don’t notice what a brouhaha goes on in civil courts for all these new legal issues raised by new technology, particularly in biology and surveillance. The faster they drop in our laps, the more new law is required to control all the new abuses all this tech progress makes possible!
And, as someone (finally) began pointing out, our legislation has no ‘housekeeping’ function–we never repeal outdated laws–which in some cases can be a good or a bad thing. I don’t have a solution–but I know it’s a problem, and I know no one is talking about it.