S’always Somepin


two points, actually. One: The NRA is one sick-assed concept of an association; and Two: The House Republicans are a bunch of no-good sons-o-whatever.

Since the later would appear to have priority, let’s begin with the GOP Representatives—they include a hard-core, tea-bag-stifled bunch of tax-nothings (magical economics?), a large number of scared-to-admit-it moderates who think it might actually make sense to set our federal financial house in order (especially when that self-legislated implosion of non-decisions-from-the-past is about to go BOOM). Then there are the vanguards—those so enameled by media-coverage, and those ensorcelled by power into irrationality—that nothing they can say or do will result in anything but delay.

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I’ve been kept from my keyboard a couple of days since I started simmering over this, so I’ve retreated from the full boil I had going just before Xmas. But I still want to point out that these officials are elected to represent the will of their electors, the people. Only those forty tea-baggers have the excuse that they were elected by ignorant fools. The other three-hundred-something House members have only the tissue-thin armor of being Dems or Reps, Red or Blue—and at this point, that still doesn’t free them to defy stark reality, or to accept an avoidable wounding of those people who voted them into office.

But that vanguard—well, give me two days with flashes blinding me every time I walk to my car and people shouting at me, and I’ll lose touch with reality myself. The President can’t do anything to help these legislators—because he still feels obligated to produce sensible results as a part of holding his office. And he knows that his name will be attached to this time in history, whether the House GOPs destroy our economy or not. He has to do what he said he would, come hell or high water.

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Plus, there is some evidence that this whole, protracted nonsense over taxes really only amounts to a barely significant fraction of the total being addressed. This gives rise, in me at least, to conspiracy-theory-like paranoia. How do I reconcile my optimistic attitude towards our nation with clear evidence of civilization becoming some monstrous distortion of all our vague notions of freedom, equality, and patriotism. This distortion has but one root cause—ignorance, not just in the young products of public schooling, but in individuals with responsibility for how we run our government and our businesses.

I’m an educated guy. I ain’t no genius, but I can carry on a conversation, OK? So when I see shifty-eyed, mealy-mouthed scam artists behind podiums with a sign over them that says “POTUS” (Thank God that one’s over for now.) or the Pentagon, or the House Of Representatives, or the Senate, or Mayor of AnyCity, USA, or Governor—it makes me mad. It isn’t so much that they are clearly egotistical or of dubious character—I can live with some of that—but that they are ignorant boobs who have no right to be a part of an adult discussion on the issues.

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I’ve told myself not to lean too hard on the evangelical types—there are many quite-mundane morons whose ignorance side-steps religion altogether. The only real beef I have with the former, that isn’t shared by the later, is a willingness to believe in things like ‘the end of the world’ as an ‘appointment’-event, or that harm, in the present, is not as important as quality-of-‘afterlife’, whatever that is.

Still, the down-to-earth idiots are just as dangerous in their insistence on confusing value with worth. These guys (and gals) will see themselves Chair-persons of the most powerful banks and corporations on Earth, even if it takes the destruction of the human race, either before or after the destruction of our very Earth.

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But whatever your (or their) poison, stupidity-wise, there are none so dangerous as those whose job it is to write our laws. Elected ignorance is no joke—but what can we do when we have legitimized ignorance by voting it into office?

Which brings me nicely around to Point One: the NRA—they seem to think that controlling who can or can’t own a firearm is as bad as deciding who is smart enough to vote and who isn’t. I see their point—it is a fact that most of these tragedies end in suicide by bullet or bullets. They are first exposures of the lethal psychosis that these mass-murderers never give a doctor a chance to diagnose. And with the highest frequency psychotic breaks occurring in otherwise normal adolescents and young adults, or in recently-returned service-people, it is also a fact that no legislation against those already diagnosed as mentally ill or mentally challenged, owning a gun would have prevented even one of these horrific incidents.

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Personally, I’m anti-gun. I feel that in such a fragile civilization as ours, people should be encouraged to trust each other, not to defend against each other. ‘Being prepared to fire back’ is a mindset that nearly begs for its own fulfillment. The idea that armed citizens of the fifty states could win an argument with the federal government is charmingly quaint. It’s also a good premise for an action movie. But either way, it is still fiction.

But a regular person wanting to own a gun, for whatever reason, seems like an important part of our heritage. If only the founding fathers had specified ‘flintlocks’ instead of ‘arms’—then folks could still hunt, still protect their home or family in an emergency, but there wouldn’t be any debates over magazine size or semi-auto vs. auto—it’d just be Flintlocks. Just one problem—Old Father George had some cannon, too. Damn! It’s always something.

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Missed It By That Much…


Everyone has always focused on the Boomers, as they now transfer into their sixties. But few regard those of us who ‘just missed’ the era of the college protest, LSD, hippies, and civil disobedience. Some of us were close, but we were really the younger siblings of the boomers. We looked up to their idealism, their experimentation, their thirst for civil liberty (and every other kind of liberty) and their rejection of corporatism and environmental abuse.

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We lived ‘lives of what was left’—we experimented, but it wasn’t new; we protested, but it had lost its visibility; we were tempted to follow our elder, cooler siblings into communes and rogue armies, but heard about the psycho Manson and the victimized Hearst before we had a chance to see it with innocent eyes.

And so, what we are most familiar with is disappointment. The old media of networks and newspapers reported on all the latest wildness going on with young adults while we were still old children. Janis, Morrison, Hendrix—all dead just a year or so before we were old enough to attend a concert. On the first day of Woodstock, a VW bug stopped by our front lawn and asked if I wanted to catch a ride upstate with them—being fifteen and broke, I said no. So now Woodstock is a big part of my past—but definitely not in the same sense as those who were three or four years older and attended the event.

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For us the boom generation was the spoiled generation—they got to break in all the newest ‘toys’ of modern life: drugs, counter-cultures, sexual freedom, and birth control—while we were of an age formed more by cable TV, personal computers, AIDS, and the Internet. We harvested the wreckage of their dreams: side-affects, addiction, STDs, the pharmaceutical industry, the music industry, the cancelling of our space program, the death of cruising due to an oil shortage, lung cancer, no-smoking laws, the DEA, mass media, post-modern cinema, shooting sprees, and policing the world instead of supporting or assisting it.

While the world still changes, even faster now than then, it seems like they were the favored children, granted the 20th century’s explosion of innovation and liberty—the last to ever grab for all the gusto without any nagging concern for the inevitable consequences. And if it all turned to sand and slipped through their fingers, they did hold it in their hands—we just stood by and watched each new wonder become an old problem.

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Yes, we lived more safely—their trailblazing did spring a few traps that we were then forewarned against, but safety isn’t what young people look for.

And the true, the real, our broadened understanding of what is and what has come before—all these still ring-out as free-er attitudes and a greater sophistication of attitude than those of before, the whole of the rest of history, who saw the world with a superficiality that can never return. We will not go back to accepting segregation. We will not go back to willful gender-inequality. We will never give up the separation of church and state, or the Miranda rights decisions of ‘innocent until proven guilty’, or the protections against bullying parents that abuse both spouse and offspring—physically, mentally, or sexually.

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These levels of decency are, as always, a matter of location, regime, and economy. What is taken for granted here in Westchester County would seem a fantasy of impossible enlightenment to citizens of places where warlords continue to press-gang their children ‘soldiers’. But the world as a whole heads towards the advances made in the developed countries, especially the USA. Thus, when some aspect of our thinking goes deep enough to allow acceptance of the formerly unacceptable, it is a global benchmark—and a big part of the reason many of the world’s citizens still dream of coming here to live lives of freedom and dignity.

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The victories of the sixties and seventies weren’t the sensationalized behavior of protesters and hippy communes and acid-trippers—these things all paled with the passage of time. But the freedom-conscious thinking of that era helped to end institutionalized segregation, par-for-the-course misogyny, and the shunning of the disabled, the mentally challenged, and the impoverished.

This makes me happy. This is much more enjoyable than getting a police-baton upside the head—so I hold no true grudge against the boomers, I just enjoy complaining. And besides, when does one ever stop resenting ones older siblings for being older?

Unfortunate (Tuesday, December 18, 2012 8:37 PM)


For some pre-historic cultures, human sacrifice, even cannibalism, was an accepted part of the culture. In that context, being an overtly healthy and vital member of the community might have been considered unfortunate—for their being prime candidates for the rituals and feasts, etc. Even so, a slow-runner or a poor shot with a sling might just as easily die from starvation. At such a nadir of civilization one may suppose that all were equally unfortunate. Such is the perfect elegance of nature.

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The more civilization imposed on the human animal, the greater the possibility that some people might be better off than other people. The chiefs of the villages might get the best food, or the most food, or both. The villagers at the bottom of the pecking order were plagued by a concentration of fellow neighbors eager to criticize and ridicule.

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Some became unfortunate merely by being female—the absolute necessity of producing well-raised offspring was easily minimized by the breast-beating hunters and bullies. One of civilization’s worst aspects is its preferring of thoughtless categorization upon the individuals—both ignoring their special values—and assuming untrue attributes about anyone pigeonholed into any certain category.

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The development of rope, and later metal-working, allowed the practice of enslavement—an unfortunate predilection of ours that continues in the darker places of the world even today. This brought our ‘pecking order’ habits into the realm of law—and kept them there—arguably, until the American Revolution, but, in some matters, arguably, still clutching us in its grip today.

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The self-fulfilling philosophy of the older world’s elite—that they were bigger, better, and superior to those around them—was reinforced by the greater health and stature conferred by a superior diet, and the greater reasoning powers that some (but not all) people gain from a good education.

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With both women (and their children) and slaves under some form of control, civilization has already improved some people’s quality of life even more than the acquisition of dogs and horses. Imagine a living robot that does whatever you say—and lives in fear of execution if it questions its status. What a sweet ride for the old-boys club, huh?

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The story of civilization, taken (I admit) from a certain point of view, is a journey away from our natural, balanced, primitive state and ever closer to a civilized state wherein we maintain what individualism we can whilst living within a ‘shared’ consensus of patterns and rules. As a simple example, take airplane travel—at first, it was thought impossible; then it was considered an unusual spectacle, then a military weapon, then a necessity, then a danger. When the skies became crowded enough, a regulatory system began to control the air-traffic in congested metro areas. At this point, we must all adhere to the consensus rules of air travel (and military flights) that keeps all the flying machines from crashing into each other all around the world.

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Many of our great technological enhancements require regulation, maintenance, infrastructure—all the rules and conventions and quality controls demanded by such industries as automotive, pharmaceutical, governmental finance, environmental protection, etc. We’re still getting used to shouldering the responsibility of the effects of our civilization on the natural world—keeping the water clean, keeping the air non-toxic—all those pesky details we did such a great job of ignoring for so long.

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We may have left it untended for too long already. The population boom that ecologists warned of since the 1960s has brought us to a total of seven billion people on our planet. Let’s experiment with the concept of scale, shall we? Pick one thousand places on the Earth where you can support seven million people in each place. Then look around and see what’s left for the additional billion people born in the next few years (and remember that seven billion people can make an awful lot of babies).

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But the schism between the high class and the low class is the most avoidable and irrational of our accommodations to civilization. We have gone from despising the mentally challenged, to imprisoning them, to trying to help them. They have made it into that exclusive club: the ‘unfortunate’.

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Single mothers faced similar challenges and only recently (historically-speaking) have we been open-minded enough to consider them (and all their children) worthy of our help or concern. The physically challenged, the maimed, the deaf, the blind, all the people whose presence once endangered our peace-of-mind—they are recognized today, by all right-thinking people, as ‘merely different’ rather than as someone to be shunned and shut out of society.

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We even have some legislation in place that tries to even the playing field between the upper class and the rest of us—but, when money is the root of all corruption, those laws are often side-stepped in a multitude of ways.

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Having recognized this pattern—the ‘why don’t we all just get along’ pattern of social progress—there’s little reason for putting each new hurdle through all the hoops that anti-Semitism, anti-integration, and women’s liberation from male chauvinism had to jump through. But we can’t seem to learn this lesson, as a society. We are trying to soothe our cultural constipation about homosexuality as homosexuals (et.al.) take a more exposed position in our society—and their would-be condemners are moved more towards the fringes of modern society with nearly every passing law—as it should be.

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And we gain also in the further refinement of our sensibilities (one of the many benefits of social progress) as when once, we lumped all these mentally challenged into one group. And, having accepted these benighted children as worthy as any other, we begin to perceive the various shades of what we once assumed was all the same, of Tourette’s Syndrome,  ADD, OCD, and the forms of Autism from high-functioning to low, and Asperger’s Syndrome. Not only do we then give more effective and customized support to these children—we also learn more about the human mind and, thus, about ourselves.

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Scratch any old prejudice or ostracization, and we will find the benefits of overcoming our primitive repulsion in both the more humane approach to treating with the unfortunate as equal in dignity, if not capability or appearance, and, ultimately, a larger benefit to society as a whole and, again thus, to ourselves. Put more simply, being sensitive is being sensible. It is not charity—it is an inclusion of everyone in society, which can only make our civilization a more balanced and stable organism.

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The problem of money, of rich and poor, shows no signs of changing in the near future. I have no suggestions on that score. However, I do have one thesis I’ve been incubating for a while now.

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The jobs of pure, physical labor shrink more and more, and even skilled jobs are being more and more done cybernetically, especially in the big-factory assembly lines. We are looking at an undeniable disconnect between people who want to work, who need to make a living, and the number of jobs our high-tech civilization requires to get the work done.

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With every step closer to the futuristic freedom from any labor or drudgery, we also draw nearer to the population of the existing employable. Before too long, we will simply have too few jobs and too many workers. And, on the face of it, we can’t really expect to create a support system (read ‘welfare-state-of-necessity’) with an open-ended population growth. Thus the specter of population control rears its ugly puss. But I am not clever enough to think of a proper way, an ethical paradigm, for controlling the birth rate—not to mention the inevitable loop-holes that young people will naturally create, out of desperation to have kids.

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We are still struggling, in our present, with the ethics of willing, voluntary birth-control—so, the idea that we might allow governmental policy to control, in any way, our individual decisions concerning procreation seems total madness.

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I would hate to be any part of a population-controlled society. Still, there is one thing that bothers me—if we don’t restrict our own population growth voluntarily, poverty and starvation will continue to do that for us, only in huger numbers and in places much closer than the third world nations of today.

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That we in the USA already have starvation and malnutrition in depressed and remote areas is only one of the reasons for considering a National Minimum Policy—a program that ensures no one goes without food, clothes, shelter, transportation, online access, education, and medical care. I would suggest repurposing military installations as barracks and communities for any homeless or unemployed person—and their children.

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Now that technology threatens to force us from our own lives, perfectly healthy, fairly bright people will join the ranks of the unfortunate—their plight will be just as dire, merely by reason of a lack of jobs that need doing. They will have no discernible disability except for not-being-a-robot.

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If technology is making our lives easier, it must be making our jobs easier, too. And in many cases, here in the 21st century, we’ve made some jobs so easy that no one needs to do them. So what we gain in productivity, etc. we lose in job-security. In earlier times (like my childhood) there was no way to run a business without a crowd of people. Nowadays, five people with laptops and a hotspot can run nearly any business you can name.

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We look at unemployment numbers in an old-fashioned way—those numbers used to reflect the overall economy, because more business always required more workers. This is no longer the case. Jobs will evaporate almost as quickly as the polar ice caps are melting—and the people in charge do not want the rest of us taking a serious look at these glaring problems. So they choose up sides and start a fake fight over a tenth of a percentage point tax rate change (up or down, it doesn’t matter) and they manufacture the image they allow us to see on mass media.

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We are so blind. Changing one thing always leads to changing another thing—all things are connected, all people are interdependent. It is a truth that we ignore every time we insist that money is all that matters. All that really matters is what we can do with money—and what no amount of money can change. If we institutionalize money out of the survival equation, we make our lives better. Even if we have a good job, we will still feel better knowing that getting fired doesn’t mean we are cut loose from our communities, but rather that we are drawn closer by our neighbors and friends.

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Once we iron out the initial wrinkles, we can look into designing original ‘support communities’ with their own special functioning in mind. It isn’t as though we want to keep a swollen standing military—but those communities where bases get closed will have the purpose, the heart, removed from their communities. And the poor, and orphaned, and seniors, and homeless, and the unemployed all need a place to stay.

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Plus, of necessity, we will need to employ some of these people as day-care providers, free public-schooling teachers that don’t end at High School, but can offer Bachelors, Masters and PhD programs to anyone capable of doing the work, and administrators, care-givers, cooks and craftspeople. With the correct planning and support, these centers could easily become the cradle, not of a welfare state, but of a new renaissance of American progress, invention and know-how. And it will not all be the province of just the wealthy, ivy-league grads—it will be the new frontier for the whole population, a world without a death sentence binding us to the whims of those 1%, ‘Master-of-the-Universe’ A-holes.

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Just as starvation now serves as our ‘population control’, desperation likewise serves as our present ‘social incentive’. A highly fragile, highly complex global society does not need a large mob of desperate, angry, hungry people with no jobs or hope or escape.

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If we begin to tone down the competitiveness that has been our driving force ever since capitalism replaced monarchism, we can transition to a newer, post-capitalist ‘—ism’  that tries to impose a sounder stability than the rough and tumble of the global marketplace. Think of the International Space Station—those astronauts, men and women, are aware that violence and selfishness are completely out of place in an artificial environment. If they want to act out, they wait until after splashdown, when being sloppy or careless isn’t instantly fatal.

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Our global society is even more complex and fragile than the ISS, yet we cling to the notion that ‘market forces’ and ‘competing in a free-trade market’ are not yet too volatile for an interdependent global commerce. We have to remove competition and replace it with cooperation, or everything will just continue to fly off in all directions, until we collapse under our own fantasy of infinite time, infinite resources, and the ‘benefits’ of a ‘healthy’ antagonism.

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Tragedy in Newtown, CT


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Claire is weeping. She just told me about the mass killings of teachers and pupils at a Newtown, CT elementary school. It is a horrendous body count. I don’t know the figures—I’m assuming I’ll see more details than I might wish for if I watch TV today, or this week, even.

Gunfire. We don’t get a lot of that in Somers—but then, neither does Newtown, I’m guessing. I’ve never owned a gun. I’ve thought about it. But in the end I decided that guns are not a part of my life and they are not a part of my community (audibly, at least). People might say, “What if you had to defend yourself?” and I guess I would simply die. For 56 years, I’ve done without and in all that time I have never once said to myself ‘Boy, if I only had a gun right now!’

Things might have been different for me if I had taken to carrying a gun. Having a gun near to hand is a powerful thing in the more violent parts of the world. Here in the tri-state-metro part of the world, it’s just dead weight. Gunplay happens occasionally, but around here it interrupts the normal course of events rather than ‘fitting in’.

If guns are outlawed only outlaws will have guns? Yeah, I guess—but we don’t have a great many outlaws around here either. I’d hope that the police force’s weapons stockpile would be a match for the small percentage of our community that could be considered dangerous outlaws.

Nor do I hold with the whole ‘4th Amendment’, or is it ‘2nd Amendment’? I can’t keep them straight. But I do know that if the conditions of our nation brought on a tide of rebellion, handguns are not going to make a decisive difference against fighter-jets, missiles, and smart bombs. Plus, things are quite different from the eighteenth century, nowadays—defending our farms with long rifles isn’t in keeping with today’s conditions. So the ‘right to bear arms’ has little bearing on daily life in America—and when it does, you can count the number of times an armed civilian improved the situation on the fingers of exactly no hands.

In more rural areas, where meat isn’t necessarily bought at the store, hunting-rifles make sense. Home protection can be considered, in which case having a gun inside one’s own home might be allowable. But to carry a gun around in public, unless you’re a law officer or a bank guard, is to invite gun violence wherever that gun goes. People rarely pull out a gun and shoot unarmed people—and when they do, it is always so psychotically unreal that the people in the line of fire are likely to forget they are carrying guns of their own. And if they did remember, how good a shot might they prove, in a panicked crowd?

If I walked around town with a well-sharpened axe over my shoulder, wouldn’t that seem a little asocial of me? Would people feel safer because I was ready with an axe, if any trouble should arise? No, I don’t think so. And a gun, if you’re a good shot, can kill people from two blocks away—it is even crazier than carrying an axe. No, the ‘right to bear arms’ is a nonsensical paradigm, particularly in such difficult times, when so many are out of work, frustrated, angry, and even desperate.

I believe that American men covet firearms simply for the freedom it implies—‘I’ve got a gun, so if I don’t get my way, you might regret it. Even a police officer has to take me seriously, because I’m packing.’ If we look at the stats, we see no figures on successful, armed self-defense—we see shootings, we see robberies, we see hostage situations—all perpetrated by desperate, dangerous psychos. But we do not see many Terminators who save the innocent bystanders with a hail of bullets and a few well-chosen grenade launchings. This is not a movie.

No, the stats show us that our only real danger is ourselves—the numbers of people who shoot members of their own household, mistaken for intruders, is much higher than the few in-home shootings of actual intruders. Additionally, the potential for tragedy is too great—I’d rather be shot-up as badly as Bonnie and Clyde than to live with the knowledge that my child found my gun and shot him- or herself in our own house. I’d much rather be dead.

The NRA says, “Gun control is using both hands.” But I don’t know if that is funny enough to stop the wave of fury that this Newtown K-thru-4th school’s slaughter is likely to incite. So many innocent children–I feel sick.

 

XperDunn Explained—As If Someone Were Asking


I’m afraid no one understands my music. I’m no musician, in the straight and narrow sense. I am an improviser.

O, I try to sight-read music, but it’s an ugly process, for the most part—its best results come when I can play a popular song and sing along—because I’m familiar with the song’s piano accompaniment and its lyrics. The main pleasure of the classical stuff is that I get to sit in the cockpit while I remember the great recordings I’ve heard, and I touch the actual keys and hear the same sound from the recordings—it’s rather like being inside of something, or being a part of it—something like that.

Nevertheless, I enjoy sight-reading as a private pleasure and I don’t see asking people to listen as a luxury I can afford. My sight-reading includes frequent dead-stops for mistakes or page-turnings. It also includes a lot of missed notes—and their deadly after-shock, the striking of the correct note. With my memory problems, only Skinnerian behavioral training takes hold—I can’t let myself play a wrong note without correction, or I’ll unwillingly play it that way forever.

So I can say, without any sense of false modesty, that my sight-reading is a pleasure only for me and any of my acquaintances lax enough to enjoy my ‘walk-throughs’ of beautiful piano works in the same sense I do, as the guts of a great recording brought to semi-life, live in the comfort of our living room.

That said, I’m of quite another mind concerning my improvising. It began as a way to play like a real musician without having to read any sheet music. As I became comfortable with a certain chord progression, a certain figure or phrase, I would become unsatisfied. I would try something new, something I wasn’t comfortable with. I would look for a new sound or rhythm and play it in different keys and at different speeds, etc. I would then go back to my comfort zone to get my ‘faux-musician’ fix—but I would play the new thing over and over until it osmosis-ed itself into my comfort playing.

Eventually, I reached a saturation point with chords, figures, and patterns—and I was forced to look at the more subtle aspects of music—melodic lines, key changes, blues chords, rock chords, base-line and so on. And over forty years of this, my piano improvisations have become more versatile, more under control of my extrapolated intentions, and slightly more subtle. However, it still isn’t music in the normal sense.

First of all, the beginning is always the worst part—if a listener has little patience, he or she will never enjoy my improvs. I can’t just explode into a full-blown improvisation—by their nature, they must be approached gently.

I will often doodle on the keys, stretching and cycling a musical phrase or type of chord—and allowing myself to start and stop, to go back over something I liked, that went by too fast. It’s all a horrible travesty of ‘normal’ musical performance, but it is the only way to get from a purposely-blanked mind, sitting on the piano-bench, and touching a first keyboard key at random—to a temporal flowing of the wrestling match with the twelve tones as represented by the keys of the piano, and the soul of the wrestler. Like water-fowl, I start off ugly and have to get well aloft before I can be relaxed and graceful.

Unfortunately, while such aimless scattershot is flying everywhere at the start, it never really dies off completely—the rhythm can still change drastically and even stop completely. Plus, there can be a lot of comfort-music repetition hiding the good parts (if any) inside a long-drawn-out exercise of musical ‘Om-chanting’.

Here is my rational: music is sometimes expected to ‘drill through’ ambient noise—the subtleties of the concert hall experience of a century ago are rare and usually private at present.  Pop music is meant to accompany dancing, or fun of other sorts. Clubs will require people to shout into each other’s ears to communicate over the din of, say, metal, or rap. Car radios, too, have always added aural challenges to music-lovers.

My personal un-favorite is the classical-channel broadcasting a lush, luxurious piece of paradise-soundtrack but is cut-off every few minutes by a short cross-transmission of a seedy, made-for-the-ignorant preacher program. The vile slatherings of this Babylonian Whore of Rationalization-in-the-name-of-Faith come loud and clear, just a second or two—but just enough to get his current, fear-mongering, money-grubbing  gist—and then back to the beautiful, beautiful music. That is my own personal hell.

But cable-TV viewers have seen the 21st-century version of this maddening techno-glitch—the screen that freezes into a blur of pixels, with no sound, for ten or twenty seconds during the best part of the movie, right at the end—and it’s fifty-fifty whether it will let you off with a few final lines unheard or it will light your main fuse by turning to black and staying that way. Turning black is the only indication one ever gets of a cable-feed break—there is also the ‘channel temporarily unavailable’ screen, but that only prevents one from starting to watch a movie and is, therefore, lower on the fuse-lighting scale.

These beat my old ‘radio days’ peeves by an order of magnitude—they come right into your home; they don’t just stalk you on a driving trip. And, these feed-breaks disappoint so much more, when the whole audio/video/storyline gets yanked from under ones feet—it’s almost painful.

Smaller blips, like an actor’s voice doing a ‘digital-strobing’ for a moment, whenever his or her voice hits a particular register—or the pixel ghosting that sometimes leaves brief, pixelated trails of the outlines of the moving objects on the screen. I think of this type of glitch as a ‘cable brown-out’, which means watchable but not reliable.

Ordinarily, these failures and frustrations are few, and have little impact on news-channels and TV shows. But I find them unacceptable when the subject is musical performance. Those little bleeps and blops don’t matter a bit, until they are interrupting a Tchaikovsky ballet, a Beethoven symphony, or a Verdi opera. And while such randomization ‘fits in’ better with pop music, it can still ruin a classic rock or blues concert.

So, I see watching music on TV as a sorry substitute for either a good recording or a live concert. The camera-folks often lack the knowledge to anticipate the soloists in an orchestra—and generally overdo their camera work, otherwise. It makes no sense to render the video more franticly than the musicians are playing their music! I also find that filming the orchestra is arguably the least interesting video with which to accompany the performance—haven’t these people ever seen a music video?

As for iPods, there is the hopeless choice of higher fidelity versus greater storage space when choosing the quality of the uploaded mp3s & -4s. In many ways, we have gone far beyond the traditional ‘spoiler’ with a bad cough who sits obliviously in the front row, competing in volume with the performers. We can anticipate a wide variety of interruptions, glitches, and aural-strobing in the course of our digital-music-scored days.

This being the case, I have decided that my piano improvs can afford to be imperfect in musicality, so long as they have a strong dose of self-expression. Pop music is what it is—if people ever get past that and start listening to some more fragile experiences, such as Glenn Gould playing the Goldberg Variations—for instance, they may decide they’d like to hear someone’s musical meditations that are more about the person playing the music, and sound itself, and would be a modern-day equivalent to the ‘stillness’ of good Classical pieces.

I’ve noticed when listening to playbacks of my improvs that the apparent speed at which I felt I was playing seemed much faster than the actual speed I later heard on the recording. This is due to the busy little machinations of a mind attempting to do something complicated in real time, and at a steady rhythm, that involves all ten fingers and a hopefully creative mind.

In those moments, one feels a rushing along of all the motions and choices and anticipations which, in the ear of a leisurely listener, are simply plinks on a piano, proceeding at a less-than-breathtaking tempo. I’ve been frequently disappointed by lack of the frisson I’d anticipated. But this is not normal music—and any attempt to enjoy it requires a generosity of standard that includes my mental process (and physical limitations) as parts of the show.

One of the easiest ways for me to ‘show’ this to listeners is to produce a YouTube video that runs 50%—100% times faster than the original. This sped-up recording highlights the phrasing and rhythm, while minimizing the various imperfections of my playing—it sounds almost as good as it did in my head when I played it. I fear I will always feel some disappointment when comparing the experience of improvising with the play-back listening experience afterward!

In other words, only by listening very closely and non-judgmentally can I enjoy my recordings—and I assume the same is true for anyone else who cares to try. Sometimes, when I miss the beat, or slur a note, I think it sounds good that way. Am I just making excuses for ‘bad’ music—yes, in one sense I am. But I wouldn’t bother going through all this explaining if had never gotten any pleasure from hearing my own music.

As mentioned above, I get a lot of pleasure out of playing the piano, mostly due to my refusal to criticize myself in the context of a musical performer. The physical and emotional pleasures are only part of the satisfaction. Think of it—how many of you (Glasers, Wainwrights, and Marshalls excluded) have your own music, your own sound? Mine is not a very good one, but it is a nice thing to have. My family and close friends could recognize me from around corners, if I’m in a room with a piano—that’s kinda cool, isn’t it?

Yes, I can well imagine what you’re thinking—it’s all very marginal and self-indulgent, isn’t it? Vanity music, I dare say. I don’t expect anyone to read this and suddenly be convinced I’m some kind of artiste. I’m just saying some of my stuff isn’t bad and some people like it and I get something important out of doing it and sharing it. So I’m really writing this in the unlikely case that you wondered why I bother.

Then there are the applied uses—for reading, rocking a baby, writing a term-paper, going to sleep and other, similar activities, my music is the least intrusive way to break the silence. Other music is more striking, it almost demands to be heard, and can be distracting. My music almost resists being listened to, which can come in handy at times when there would otherwise be a deafening silence.

One of my biggest flaws is the single sound I’ve always used. I think that some of my improvs, had I been able to capture the MIDI musical notation, would make for some interesting experiments in music producing, orchestration, and, of course, the recreation of the piece in a steady rhythm, as I would have played them if I could. Then I could just tell my PC to play it back, even using different sounds from a synthesizer, or leaving it as piano! I would love to do that.

Because I believe that some of my improvs were close calls that, had I not been rushed, would have been some pretty nice tunes. I could have written a few songs, given some of my better, passing ideas a permanent home on paper… stuff like that. To attempt to work in music without the physical ability to properly keep time is a very limited arena—some would term it idiotic, I’m sure. But I go where I’m lead. What choice do I have?

I’ve Looked At Greed From Both Sides Now – (Cont’d)


Friday, December 07, 2012                1:55 PM

 

 

I’ve Looked At Greed From Both Sides Now – (Cont’d)

(Or —  “Hey, There Are More Than Two Sides To This Stuff”)

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But I meant to go on—producing these vanity, xmas-card music-CDs is so distracting I keep losing my train of thought.

 

I wanted also to explore the ‘in the mood’ aspect of society. To be cheery and charitable during the yule season is the video-image ideal, nearly from the week of Thanksgiving to New Years. A friend and I spoke of it recently, we both had the ‘tall corn’ gene, apparently, and neither of us ever got tired of ‘wishes come true’, miracles, reconciliations, homecomings—all the happiest of happy endings. Hey—I say, “If other people can enjoy horror movies, action flics, ‘war-of-the-worlds’es , and other apocalyptic explosions of use in soothing the suppressed rage of the human animal forced to live in a cultural strait-jacket—the viewer, that is—then we more-sappy sapiens have just as much license to rot our brains in our own way, even if it includes Christmas movies.

To match Special Report MORMONCHURCH/

But I sidetracked myself. Yes, Christmas Time, the most ethereal aspect of the season, is not a fixed thing, it isn’t a specific day, a specific agenda, or any special gathering of folks together in celebration of anything specific—other than the shared understanding that for about three weeks, we will obligate ourselves to look strangers at the mall right in the eye, with a bit of potential smiling, remaining uncommitted until the waters have been tested. Will the stranger be in the head-space of Christmas Time? Or will the stranger have annoying relatives on the mind and very little time left on the parking meter while turning back for the one thing they came for, forgotten amongst the shopping?

 

And these are modern, sophisticated times—nobody disses someone who hasn’t the time to smile—we’ve all been there ourselves, and you have to roll with the punches. So, you cancel the burgeoning-smile status and allow yourself, for a minute, the luxury of downcast eyes. When and if your spirit picks back up again, you raise your eyes and try again….

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Thus we see that gladsomeness comes and goes, and none of us can be our best selves on a permanent basis. There are indications that having some small amount of personal privacy, at least once in a while, is necessary to avoid mental illness. Our moods are fragile—they find rest in a shared mood, and they are quickly cancelled with the appearance of someone in emotional distress. Whatever happy mood one is in, such an appearance will blow it away like a puff of smoke. It is odd that such a wrenching-away from one’s own state of mind is considered not an attack but a responsibility innocently imposed by someone else’s upset—that is to say, ‘you can’t yell at them for it, no matter how bummed out you are.’

 

So emotional distress is considered a trump card—society demands that we pay attention to people who cry or scream or yell in anger. Telling them to ‘shut the hell up’ is unacceptably cold-hearted behavior, or so we would think.

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But this puts us in the wrong when dealing with businesspeople. They represent a mindless, for-profit corporation, but they can use their appearance of humanity to chivvy us into acting as if we believe they have integrity, ethical motives, and feelings—just as a real human does.

 

Such foolishness belongs in the same category with ‘raising taxes on the wealthy’ or ‘keeping abortion legal’. Everyone knows that we 99% (and yes, the majority of that 99%–for all of you pro-democracy nuts out there) want it to happen, but we are not surprised that it’s eternally portrayed by mass media as a noble struggle between differing opinions, never to be enacted or reconciled. We are not surprised when something that makes billionaires sad just never seems to pass into law.

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When I see Speaker Boehner at the podium, blatantly supporting some stupid delay or obstacle, while our national credit-rating gets worse, instead of better, I could just spit. Just the thought of taxing the biggest of the fat cats would seem to be his worst nightmare, yet we have historically had tremendous taxes on the wealthiest. They were taxed as high as 70%–because they were rightly expected to pay the most out of their huge profits and revenues.

 

And this “I’m a Corporation! / I’m a person!” comes back into it. Serious, old, wrinkled, white faces mumble into the microphone about stability, or global economic forces, or economic collapse due to the Dems airy-fairy socialism. I don’t hear them say much along the lines of “Let’s just get back to those values we supported during the Bush administration.” You don’t hear that. You only hear a lot of blame thrown the Dems’ way for not fixing Bush’s car-wreck fast enough—surely those who believed in Bush’s policies could do a better job of fixing his mistakes. Or does that sound crazy? Maybe.

 

We give them credit for being experienced, thoughtful legislators—they dress the part, they talk real edjicated, most on’em, and they become very grave (indeed!) when they link their own probity and dignity to the continued existence of our great ‘God bless all of you, and God bless the United States.’—well, you know. You’ve heard it. You’ve seen it. You can tell these people are living in some kind of bubble that reality will never intrude upon—at least, not until they’re out of office.

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Meanwhile, I am often awe-struck in the middle of my day, thinking of millions of jobless trying to survive, for years it’s been now, right? And I am so happy that my family and I are among the lucky ones who get by very comfortably, if not luxuriously. I try not to imagine what could be, if a thunderbolt happened to strike our happy lives. I try to relish life, to taste every moment of time, to always be aware of how wonderful my life is.

 

But sometimes I’m just not in the mood. Battle, struggle, controversy, opposition—all these aspects of life demand a different and less sensitive frame of mind. There have been times of my life when weeks went by, even months, without a happy thought or greeting—there are difficulties in life that occupy more of our lives than the rare gladness of goodwill. We must turn one off to turn on the other—but we must always be ready to change. It’s unstable—a moving target, if you will.

 

And so I believe that the federal government is in the best position to see to it an uninterrupted stream of aid goes to the under-served. Making the program a national one insures the best spread of the total resources, without regard for State or Local budget concerns. These fragmented attempts at aid have the same vulnerability to changing moods and changing times that we individuals have—but the Federal Education, Welfare, support-whatevers will remain stable for the much longer term. Sometimes the fact that governments are slow to change can be used as a positive thing.

 

Taxing the wealthy? That’s what we’ve argued over for two years now, to the extreme neglect of other, more serious issues? And we are expected to believe that the lobbyists pulling the GOP’s strings are not the sole reason for all this debate. Walk down the street. Ask each person you meet if they think we should raise taxes on the wealthy.

I dare you to keep walking until someone says ‘No’.

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