Kurt Nemes engrossing story contains an eclectic playlist–a must read….
Thursday, September 10, 2015 7:58 PM
This is what it comes to? Big numbers of folks so bitter, angry, and disillusioned that they’ll get behind our new reality-star ‘Mick Mussolini’ and the rest of us scared shitless of the possibility that ginger clown might have an actual shot at the White House. If you’re like me, your first thought was, “Hey—if the standards are that low—hell—I’ll be president. Better my incompetent ass than that citified red-neck from the bowels of Wall Street.”
I thought the domesticated Republicans were bad enough—dense enough to require remedial classes in just about everything and stubborn enough to keep pushing—let the whole country go to hell if they can’t have their stupid, thoughtless, selfish way. After decades of their favorite oxymoron, ‘Reagan-Think’, they’ve created a constituency of hate-zombies—people who can’t live with the idea of having to respect their wives, their daughters, non-whites, foreigners, foreign countries, or science. And Trump has out-stupided all of them so well that he’s stolen their troop of dunces right out from under them.
They’ve become so treasonously politics-first that they’d prefer their criminally stupid tycoon to a seasoned, capable political leader—just because all the candidates in that category happen to be Democrats. So they’ve gone from their first instinct—to ditch the jackass—to their fallback—embrace him as their only hope of dislodging the Democrats from the Executive.
They’re busily railing against the Iran Nuclear Agreement, just as they railed against Affordable Health Care, not because they have an alternative, but just because they don’t want the Dems to post a win—they should all be shot for treason. And they’ve ginned up this execrable attack on Planned Parenthood because they can pretend Planned Parenthood is code for ‘abortion clinic’—when in fact it primarily supplies important women’s health services—and those fuckers know that. But will that keep them from shutting down the government at the end of the month, trying to kill funding for women’s health? Stay tuned—or better yet, like I said, line’em all up against a wall and shoot’em.
Give me a billion dollars and a helicopter and I’ll show you a hundred better ways to use it than to make a joke out of our country. We don’t need to make America great ‘again’—it started out great, it has exhibited greatness over and over again, and it remains the greatest country on the face of the earth. If the Donald wasn’t such an ignorant asshole, he would know that.
Source: A River Flows in You
Saturday, August 29, 2015 12:27 PM
Claire and I have been married thirty-five years today. And as the world has changed quite a bit since August, 1980, so have we—but some things stay the same—I still feel incredibly lucky, Claire still puts up with me, and we are still both happy as clams when we know that our two kids are both fine and dandy. I feel a little guilty, however, since there is only one Bear—and the rest of male-kind has to make do with less-perfect mates—sorry, fellas.
Today’s first video is “Xper Dunn plays Harpsichord on August 29th, 2015 – J. S. Bach’s keyboard transcription of Antonio Vivaldi’s ‘Concerto in D Major’”. As you will hear, it takes me a minute to get me sea legs underneath me in the first movement. The second movement (the slow one, of course) is where I make the least mistakes. And in the third movement, you can hear the computer suddenly make a weird tone, apropos of nothing, which distracts me—while you can also see that I am tiring by this point—just as I’m supposed to be making the last movement all jig-gy and jocular. So, a pretty terrible rendition of one of my favorite pieces of music.
Why, you quite sensibly ask, would I post such a horrible excuse for a performance of a piece I love so much? Well, it’s not about me, really. I learned to love this piece by listening to it over and over again, incessantly, on an LP re-recording of a wax-cylinder master-recording of Wanda Landowska. Wanda Landowska was a legendary harpsichordist and a great proponent of Bach’s enduring legacy to musicians and to music lovers. Even on a scratchy, antique recording, she makes this Bach/Vivaldi piece sound like heaven itself—pure, sweet, perfect, simple. I highly recommend giving it a listen, either before, or in place of, my own awkward attempt:
Back to me—I first came across the sheet music in a library book which I Xeroxed and created my own copy of—years later I would buy a printed copy, which is much easier to sight-read. It tickled me, over the years, to simulate small moments of the beautiful sounds I heard Wanda make—even though I would practice it for years on a piano until I acquired the Yamaha Digital Piano P-95, with the harpsichord setting, that allowed me to make today’s recording. And, as bad as it is, this is by far the best performance I’ve ever made of the Concerto in D—or ever will make, most likely. And when I play this piece, I don’t hear myself making a hash of it—I hear Wanda making it sound like heaven. That’s the trouble with most of my music—I hear what I want to hear, and you poor suckers are stuck with what I actually sound like:
Then again, you’re not going to hear anything like today’s improv anywhere else on the web—at least, I haven’t found it. This leads me to a couple of alternatives—one, the most likely, that I’m a wanna-be New Age musician trying (and failing) to sound like Keith Jarrett or George Winston—while completely overlooking the fact that New Age is no longer new. Or two, that I have succeeded, against all odds, in finding a style that is all my own—which incorporates my failings and what few strengths I may have into a form of music like no other. That would be nice—though it still avoids the question of whether I’m worth listening to.
The Yamaha P-95 once again comes into play today, in that I find touching a ‘piano key’ and hearing weird electronic noises is very refreshing and inspiring to someone who has spent forty years playing an acoustic piano, where a key gives a tone, the same tone, timbre, and texture, always and forever. So, today we hear my usual guff, but rendered into something new by the simple use of a few ‘effects’ buttons—I almost like myself in this:
My mother-in-law dropped off some great blondie brownies—and later I’ve been promised Chinese take-out for dinner (my favorite). I hope you all are having as nice a day as I am.
Thursday, August 06, 2015 10:27 AM
The night before last we had some terrible news—Jessy’s wonderful dog, Tuesday, passed away post-surgery in San Jose, CA, apparently from a reaction to the anesthesia. Tuesday was the best dog ever and she had a full life, but she will be sorely missed. There is much sorrow here and in California.
On a happier note, I had a big day yesterday. In pursuit of my driver’s license I took my fresh-minted learner’s permit to the five-hour mandatory course last night. For those of you like me who got their first license in the seventies, the process used to be (1) learner’s permit, and (2) driving test. Now they have this middle step—a five-hour driving course with a certificate that must be surrendered at the time of the driving test. The hardest part is spending five hours in a chair—my ass is killing me—but I have a certificate now.
Meantime, I was running the Windows 10 upgrade on my home PC. It ran all day without doing anything. I thought it was no good. Then I remembered to turn off my anti-virus protection software, and the upgrade ran fine. I’ve spent the morning today getting used to the changes—but it will take awhile, as always, before I settle in to the new protocols. So far, however, I’ve been spared the inconvenience of having to upgrade all my other software and hardware-drivers, which is new—and much appreciated.
There’s a new feature to Windows 10, the One Drive—a ‘cloud’-like storage that allows ‘anywhere’ access to personal files—I’d be thrilled if I had an I-pad or other remote device—or if I ever left the house.
As for today I think I’ll just take it easy. I’m not used to days as busy as yesterday was. I can take one of them, but not a bunch in a row, like a normal person—I still have a ways to go before I reach that level of re-engagement with life. But I do have the latest OS on my PC, and I’m that much closer to regaining the driver’s license I let lapse during my long illness—and that’s a pretty big deal from where I’m standing. Who knows—I may get a job someday soon if things keep on this way—or, at least, I’ll be able to drive myself to a job interview.
More from sci-fi writer and Kenyon College microbiology professor, Joan Slonczewski:
Monday, July 20, 2015 1:03 PM
It seems that Ted Cruz’s stupidity goes unnoticed in the shadow of Trump’s monkeyshines. This morning I heard him say that he would defend ‘religious liberty’ for those being persecuted for their belief that marriage was a sacred institution between a man and a woman. I assume he’s talking about how horrible it is to ask a Christian to make a wedding cake for a gay couple.
But if you’re in the cake-selling business and you don’t serve gay people when they ask for a wedding cake, that’s bigotry, not freedom. If you don’t serve any group, for any reason, the way you do others, that’s bigotry. We have the freedom to believe whatever we believe, but we do not have the freedom to make our religious beliefs part of our business policy. If we did, the shop aisles would run red with blood from the stonings, the beheadings, and the crucifixions. And if they were honest about it, these ‘religious freedom fighters’ would hang a sign outside their shops that says, “Christians Only”. If they’re against anything non-Christian, then why would they serve Jews or Muslims or Buddhists? Doesn’t an altogether different religion trump a difference on a single point of protocol within the Christian faith?
Not that I wouldn’t put that past Ted Cruz, in his heart of hearts. The fundamentalists only attack gays as the most vulnerable target—and (this is important) the least likely to impact their revenue stream. They really are against other religions just as much as they’re against gays—but they can attack the gays without it being attached to a specific religion. As if gays are just evil incarnate (a sentiment I’m sure they feel quite genuinely, if quietly).
But Cruz skirts around the central issue of freedom—inclusion. He confuses inclusion with permission. America certainly includes Christians—even Ted Cruz can’t deny that. But he tries to make the case that denying Christians permission to force their beliefs on others is somehow exclusion—it isn’t—any more than we exclude gays by forcing them to serve Christian customers along with the rest of their businesses’ patronage.
Cruz is slippery—his stupidity is in his cleverness in trying to make a wrong a right. He can talk all day, but bigotry is still bigotry, even if you claim it as a ‘religious freedom’. His attempts to glorify ignorance are impressive, but he’s still not stupid enough to pull ahead of Trump in the GOP polls. I still remember when you shut down the whole government out of personal pique, Ted, and I ain’t gonna forget it. You suck.
It’s been said that religion is just an excuse—that the fighting in the Middle East and elsewhere all stems from more mundane motives: real estate, racism, greed, lust for power, etc. When fighting localizes down to Muslims of different sects, the mundane motives become inextricable from the differences of scriptural interpretation—just as they did during the European wars sparked by the Reformation.
There are very few saints among the believers—they are just as human as we atheists. Some of them secretly are atheists—a concept which should give pause to the atheist-hating fundamentalists—shouldn’t they be more afraid of the undeclared atheists in their midst? But, whatever. My point is that sometimes religion is used as an excuse—not always, but people under duress will sometimes reach for an answer. Worse, it is entirely possible that a ‘great religious leader’ is actually an insincere manipulator, using religion to further his quest for influence or dominance.
While such abuses are not the norm, they are also not unheard of. Thus even when we accept religion as the root cause of certain global aggressions, we still have not pinned the specific causes down with any great accuracy. Just as religion takes many sub-sects, all religions can be used to justify a variety of actions in a variety of ways. As many decisions are based on a limiting of piety as are based on a surfeit of it. If we apply these uncertainties to the virtually infinite spectrum of religions, we find that the only real compass for our motives is a gut understanding of the difference between good and evil.
If religion were the root of conflict, wouldn’t atheists be obliged to be the most pacifist humans on the planet? Well, I can assure you that we aren’t any better than the faithful when it comes to acting in good faith. There are just as few saints among the atheists as there are among the believers.
I think the root of all conflict is the will to fight. When a person has no sense of justice or respect for the peace and property of others, that person will commit injustices. That’s the bad kind. When people are oppressed to the point of feeling the need to strike back at their oppressors, they will fight. That’s the good kind. But once the fighting starts, all players play by the same rules.
And once the fighting stops, there will always be casualties calling to their loved ones for vengeance. Vengeance is a temptation, but it is also our greatest enemy. Many wars, ongoing and long-ended, are still being fought in the minds of those who loved the casualties or lost their homes—and will never fully end until the thirst for vengeance is foresworn. But how do you ask someone to lay that burden down?
The intermingling of politics and religion in America is a great danger to our government—but it is a greater danger to religion, and I’m surprised that more religious leaders don’t see that. America has always walked a knife edge, carefully deciding where faith will be spelled with a capital ‘F’ and where faith is spelled lower-case. The attempt to merge faith and government has innate hazards—the same hazards that drove the first colonists here, followed them, and plagued them anew, splitting off new colonies to accommodate the emerging sects of Protestantism. Ultimately, the American colonists adopted a policy of separation of church and state (and this was long before the Revolution) as a matter of practical need. Even the most staid religion is too amorphous to be a guiding principle of government—only justice can be counted on for universality of application in civil matters.
And justice sometimes has to be fought for. I tell myself that this is why America tries to inculcate world peace by having the most powerful military. And that is the true conundrum of war—it’s not about religion—ultimately, we can only hope for peace while fighting against injustice. The trick—and we seem to have lost the knack of it, if we ever had it—is not to compound the injustice being fought with the ways in which we fight it.
And that’s a thought worth considering, if your atheism is of the virulently anti-religious sort. Don’t be a carbon-copy of Ted Cruz for the other side—be better than that jerk, no matter which side you’re on.
Wednesday, July 01, 2015 12:00 AM
Today as I tried once again to make the perfect playlist I was eventually lost amongst a directory of albums in My Music—an eclectic music-lover’s senior-level over-profusion. In a lifetime of seeking out and collecting every possible type of music (though I don’t enjoy every type of music I’ve found) I’ve accrued a collection too diverse and frankly just too large to be encompassed in a single playlist. It haunts me.
It’s also an apt metaphor for my intellectual life. I’ve learned enough history that any part of it resonates with the echoes of similar eras, similar fears, similar crimes—even victories that have to be won again and again. Hook that onto my semi-awareness of current events and now, all the news reports send me into spirals of hope, dread, exultation, and despair—but mostly into extended musings on the tragedy of human nature.
My sheet music collection is stacked all about my piano—thousands of incomplete attempts to learn the music of a hundred or more composers. Then there are my piano recordings—I’ve uploaded over 1,700 videos to YouTube over the past several years. There’s no way I’m ever going to get that organized—or even get a vague sense of what the whole mess amounts to. This writing I’m doing right here—just the most recent addition to tens of thousands of pages of random, disorganized essays, poems, memoirs, anecdotes, and other involuntary effusions of erudition—although it could be described differently, depending on the reader.
I don’t see how anyone could enjoy it more than I do—it’s pretty egocentric, in the main. And even I don’t care for a lot of it. It’s not easy to write something worth reading—and I’m too OCD to simply delete my failed efforts. I’m an autobiographical hoarder—and the result is a mass of writing from which no one will ever extract a polished diamond, as Ezra Pound did with T. S. Eliot’s original manuscript for ‘The Waste Land’. My writings are destined to be merely a waste land—strictly lower-case.
If you’re not me, it’s kind of funny. All my life I’ve heard people talk about how you have to focus on one thing to ever get anywhere. I’ve ignored that bit of wisdom and here I am, at 59, running right into a brick wall of infinite beginnings and limitless unrealized efforts. It turns out there’s a reason why eclectic-minded people are usually a little screwy—being unfocused is a poor survival strategy—hell, it’s a poor strategy for anything—so you have to be a little crazy to go there.
I never get bored, at least. I do get confused however—but it’s a nice sort of confusion—the world is so big, so varied, so infinite—it’s like being stoned without being stoned. Not that I could speak to that.
Now here are two videos. One is very silly, because I just sing the word “Hey” over and over. The other one just has a silly title (a la Papa Hemingway) but the playing is serious, for me at least.
Thursday, June 25, 2015 8:01 PM
My friend Pete came by today. While I was waiting for him I took a few photos of my neighbor Bob’s big tree. My other neighbor Harlan happened to bicycle by and offered the loan of a Cajon—a sort of a box used as a drum—the different sides of the box make different drum sounds. It’s all the rage, or so I’m told. Pete made good use of it—but I’ll let you hear for yourself.
I’ve had a good week. Here are three more videos from earlier.
And here’s some more photos of the big tree.
Monday, June 01, 2015 1:05 PM
Okay, it’s June already. My how time, and all that. The rain falls, the grass greens but the sky is gray. I got drunk last night—and felt better for it—and that’s a change. But poisoning my brain seems a drastic step—is life really that hard? I’d rather be high on life, but life has been bringing me low lately—and I’m far too clever to let myself be cheered up. Oh, yes—I’m a regular genius. I fret and ponder and fume and wish and wish—no wonder poison is the answer.
If I work very hard and try with all my might, could I be stupid, someday? Could I be dumb enough to think that all’s well; that we live in a great country; that the powers-that-be will take care of everything? How nice that would be.
And what difference would it make? If the world goes to hell in a hand basket, wouldn’t I be better off looking the other way? Don’t they give the guy about to be executed a blindfold? And, really, I don’t see any good reason to wait until I’m facing the firing squad. Why not start wearing that sucker right now? It ain’t like I wouldn’t have company. Gimme that thing.
Some of my Facebook friends think it’s fun to hijack my liberal posts with neo-con dogma. Let’s see how they like having their ugly nonsense shared with everyone:
Earlier this week, I shared a political Facebook meme from Americans Against The Republican Party.
It showed photos of Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, Marc Rubio, and Lindsay Graham with a caption underneath them all reading:
“Every single Republican Senator running for president in 2016
just voted against paid sick leave.
Oh, and they’re hoping you’ll forget
by next year. Share if you won’t.”
The following Facebook comments from my ‘friends’ are cut-and-pasted verbatim:
Gerry_A: _ Did you happen to notice 50 percent are Cuban American. There are 3 Hispanic Senators when you add melendez whose a democrat from New Jersey and all 3 are Cuban American and represent Texas, Florida and New Jersey. Isn’t America great!!! I am friends with all 3.
Xper Dunn: _ I’m sure they’re lovely people, Gerry. But I disapprove of wealthy white men who oppose social service proposals. They have zero understanding of how ugly that makes them look. And, I’m sorry, but it reflects on their character, as well.
Gerry_A: _ It is naive to think politics are run by evil men who do not have logical analyzed arguments for their opinions. Educated people all seek justice and the best for mankind. You can disagree with a conclusion, but you should never use wide brushstrokes in labelling their character. I recall your comment about your tax dollars concerning the military. I chose not to respond to you then, but found your comment completely inaccurate. Only 3 percent of income taxes pay all military salaries and of that only a small share are combat troops. I doubt you finance even a hundreth of one of their salaries, while their sacrifice protects your right to say whatever pleases you. Even if you are wrong.
Back to my Cuban American friends, it is interesting you are now delineating between race in judging hispanics. We do not. Ted Cruz is a Princeton alumni like you. Perhaps you should further divide out that niche group. We Princeton Cubans are even a smaller niche!
Xper Dunn: _ I was referring to all of them–anyone who can become a conservative senator is as white as they need to be, whether they have Cuban heritage or whatever. I got nothing but love for hispanics, rich or poor. And I think the naivety is in thinking there are no evil men in politics. Reasoned arguments can be made about lots of stuff, but that doesn’t help a single working parent much—neither does it bring America any closer to the standards enjoyed in the rest of the developed world, vis-a-vis workplace conditions and benefits. As far as military spending goes—I wish their salaries WERE the lion’s share of the cost—I think you’ll find that Equipment Expenditures are the real budget-killers…but that’s another debate.
Xper Dunn: _ But I do dislike it when people throw the military in my face when it comes to my sometimes liberal use of our freedom of speech. I respect the military plenty—but they don’t protect my rights, they protect our country. It’s up to me to decide whether I risk being confronted by others when I open my mouth. I sometimes say things that I’m well aware may attract violence from some crazy person–they might decide that people like me need killing–I say it anyway because freedom only exists if one is willing to die for it. There’s no military cordon around my house, last time I looked–it’s my ass on the line.
Gerry_A: _ Chris , I am sorry I mixed a response to another friend with yours. The military reference was for him and something he wrote
Xper Dunn: _ Ah. Nevermind.
Gerry_A: _ The political response was for you!!! Sorry we do not always agree. Those like me who came here are thankful for the priviledge and tend to be very protective of the USA. I understand that to keep it special sometimes criticism and change are necessary.
Jerry_J: _ The way the bill is currently written, I have to agree with them. I fully support sick leave but in some business’ the current system won’t work. I hire well over a hundred people a year – some of them may only work for us once. The way the bill is written; someone who works for me once will receive the same benefits from me as someone who works all year for me. The same thing happens in unemployment. The way the unemployment law is written, here in Florida folks who work for me once are able to collect unemployment (after just four hours of work).
Xper Dunn: _ This isn’t a wealthy country anymore–it’s a country with a lot of wealthy people in it. When people can earn better wages and work less hours here than elsewhere, then we’ll be the richest country again. Now we are just fetishizing ownership over humanity–it may be American, but it isn’t very sensible. I don’t see how anyone can watch a news program and NOT think that criticism and change are called for. And Jerry_J: _–all entrepreneurs and business owners take risks–let SOME of those risks be on the part of the people who you depend on to make your business work.
Gerry_A: _ Jeryl, you are clear and concise with your argument. I agree with you and cannot understand how any educated intelligent person would not agree. It is the blind criticism that makes me disregard people where I would otherwise try to listen and analyze their position. Unfortunately politics is deteriorating into sound bite mass opinion making. I built a 3000 employee media company from scratch and confronted the shananigans and theories of 2 unions which represented the lion’s share of my employees. Without entrepreneurs they would not have a job and yet the next day after getting the job of their dreams, many spend their efforts trying to demand the most compensation for the least amount of work. I no longer have union employees and would rather close businesses than deal with their counterproductive demands and disheartening blind theories. The bill you and these politicians challenge is absurd, yet they were labelled negatively for not allowing it to cause job losses.
Xper Dunn: _ People are SO unreasonable when they’re not in charge, aren’t they?
Xper Dunn: _ Gerry, you invite yourself to my Post, spouting your ‘money is everything–unions are evil’ nonsense–and then you have the nerve to say you don’t bother to ‘listen to or analyze’ people who disagree with you. Gee, I wish I was that smart.
Gerry_A: _ The problem with your politics Chris is that you think only those not in power are reasonable! When you build a company you sacrifice alot. It is alot easier to let others work long hours, sacrifice their sleep, health and diet and then turn around and demand unjust compensation just because the owner has more. You act as if the owners abuse their employees when the truth is the reverse. Owners sacrifice their lives and suffer much more than a regular paycheck provides. Centuries ago unjust labor practices were anialated in the US. Our court system has become a redistribution center. Juries and often judges vote contrary to the laws in order to reallocate resources from a company to a litigant. You preach as if justice is unilateral. It should not be! Right now it discriminates against the business owner. Longterm it is terrible for the winners as a whole as businesses close, cut jobs, or relocate to friendlier markets. You are your own worst enemy! You will end up with what you are complaining about- more jobs disappearing, lousy work product and inflated prices. Try to deal with that environment. The hardworking studious entrepreneurs will continue to excell without you elsewhere! I love the USA and am sad to see it torn apart by those unwilling to make an effort
Jerry_J: _ I love you, Xper Dunn: _ – I so hope you will be at the Reservation this year for the reunion – do you think we should get podiums so we can debate or maybe just make do with both sides of a random picnic table, stone or tree?
Xper Dunn: _ I don’t enjoy debates, Jeryl, I just can’t keep still when people champion Capitalism over community. We are all responsible for each other.
Jerry_J: _ One must debate and be able and willing to back up ones opinion with action if they want to teach change.
Xper Dunn: _ Jeryl—as a business owner, your actions speak for themselves. I don’t think of what I do as ‘teaching change’, I think of it as ‘advocating decency’.
Gerry_A: _ I listen when they state analysis not blind rhetoric! I never spoke about money! You asked me to the party when you asked me to accept your friend request. You analyse our discussion the same as you do politics. Now you claim I invited myself when it was you who asked. If you do not want me to comment thats fine. It is your call. No hard feelings.
Xper Dunn: _ Okay, Gerry—that last comment was just crazy. Business owners make all the sacrifices and the workers are the lazy, greedy bastards? Have you had your head checked recently? I think you might have suffered a blow.
Xper Dunn: _ Stop all this defensive rationalizing–you’ve got a lot of money–isn’t that enough? Do you have to crap on those who work for you?
[At this point, things devolved into name-calling and other emotional responses having little to do with the subject at hand.]
Friday, May 29, 2015 11:48 AM
Yesterday I watched Warren Beatty and Diane Keaton in “Reds” (1981). It reminded me that the USA’s initial renouncement of socialism was due to the Russian peoples’ poorly timed revolution—they overthrew their Czar just as he was allied to the US, England, and France during the first World War. Rather than accept that as an unfortunate piece of timing for a completely legitimate attempt to end the Russians’ starvation and suffering, our government chose to view their revolution as a betrayal of our efforts at ‘making the world safe for democracy’ and beating back ‘the Hun’.
As with the early struggles of the Union movements, this very public alternative to absolute Capitalist rule was demonized by our government—demonstrating that, no matter how idealistic our governmental system might be in the abstract, the people who are its elected officials invariably become the creatures of the wealthy and powerful. Any erosion of the absolute power of the dollar is a threat to the fat-cats’ status quo—and they see to it that any such proponents are labeled enemies of the state. Thus the rich, who fear nothing so much as change, managed to criminalize any philosophical discussions that question the weaponization of commerce, i.e. Capitalism, the source of their power.
They seek to disguise the communal aspect of Democracy—it’s okay for us to share our decisions through voting, but God forbid we share anything else—that’s treason. Meanwhile, the power of the wealthy and the owners overturns those communal decisions through influence on the elected individuals, who are supposed to represent all of us. These mental gymnastics are sheer lunacy to those who haven’t been incubated in the ‘greatest nation on Earth’. But we Americans see it as common sense. Common? Yes. Sense? I don’t think so.
But why do I torture myself, trying to reconcile the human race with rational thinking? I might as well try to make artillery out of paper mache. And why do I care if millions of people are suffering? Suffering and unfairness are a part of the human condition—some might even call it character-building. Perhaps people who never suffer aren’t worth a damn—maybe we need to suffer. And what’s so great about logic? Is a ‘correct answer’ as valuable as a kind word? Not to me. So do whatever you want—it probably doesn’t matter one little bit. We live, we die—nothing can change that. So, be a monster or a saint or a nobody or a somebody—what’s the difference? Please yourself.
Saturday, May 09, 2015 12:52 PM
In the last thirty days I’ve typed 81 pages, approximately 24,000 words. You’d think I had something important or entertaining to say. But I have, unfortunately, reached a point where I’m able to capture some of my stream of consciousness and hold it steady long enough to type two or three pages of (mostly) coherent commentary on whatever subject is drifting through my mind at any given time. There’s a difference between just writing, and writing about something. Having recently begun an attempt to write something specific about a single subject, I’m made aware that stream-of-consciousness writing is not actually writing. Actual writing requires the writer to take a step outside of one’s stream of consciousness and write with intent—far more arduous and demanding than simply jotting down thoughts as they cross one’s mind.
So, as with many things (music, art, lifestyle…) I am not learning to write—I’m trying to unlearn bad habits in writing. Well, perhaps ‘trying’ is an exaggeration—I’m writing stream of consciousness right here and now! But I’m just taking a break from the effort of writing something other than the obvious. Question: Is it wrong to do something the wrong way as a respite from the hard work of doing it properly—or can I do both? We’ll see, I guess.
I went through my blog yesterday—I wrote a post about drinking tea and half-way through I started to get a bad feeling that I was repeating something I had written before. So I went through my blog to check the other posts related to tea. It turned out that I hadn’t actually repeated myself—I only thought I was because I was in the same stream of consciousness from which I’d written the other posts. My comments and observations were unique, but they all related to the frame of mind in which I contemplate the ancient cultural art of tea—the growing, the buying, the brewing, the methods, the taste, the varieties, et.al.
But tea accounts for but a handful of my posts. Many posts are political, philosophical, or music-related—and over several years of blogging, the probability of repeating myself is far greater than with, say, tea. Then there’s the drawback of simply talking about the same subject all the time—my son once complained that he didn’t want to read any more of my blog posts concerning the evils of Republicanism and Capitalism. He wasn’t complaining that I was unoriginal in any specific way, or that he didn’t like my writing—he was just sick of that subject—and who can blame him?
Thus, I try to avoid politics in my new posts—aside from tiring my readers, I feel that evil is something we should avoid obsessing about, no matter how excited we get about specific evils. It’s the same reasoning that made me stop watching crime procedurals on TV, like “Law & Order” or “Criminal Minds”—I figure it can’t be good for my mental health to watch shows based on murder and other violence. The shows make heroes out of crime-fighters, and that’s all well and good, but the overall subject matter is murder—and I don’t want a lot of that floating around in my brain. And since I don’t want to be an audience for evil, it makes little sense to be a propagator of such.
On the other hand, there’s a reason for all the murder shows. Conflict in drama—in storytelling in general—is a sine qua non. You can’t have a good story without a struggle. You can’t tell of a glorious victory unless it is also a narrow escape from disaster. Two people who fall in love and live happily ever after isn’t a story, it’s a sentence. And while modern entertainment has some pretty simpleminded premises and plotlines, even Hollywood needs more than a single sentence.
I have no idea why social media has suddenly gone dark for me. At first, MySpace and Blogger seemed delightful toys. The re-connecting with long-lost acquaintances, the connecting with new people of shared interests—both presented as technical marvels, bringing everyone closer and giving everyone a voice. Increased bandwidth made uploading every little essay, artwork, graphic image, audio or video recording a matter of moments—I have uploaded my share—hundreds and hundreds of them.
People read them, saw them, listened to them—they liked them, shared them, and commented on them—a dream I didn’t know I had, came true: an audience inside a box on my desk. In the world in which I grew up, a sickly, un-talented artist could only annoy his or her immediate family—now, people like me can annoy the entire globe. But I loved it. To date, I’ve uploaded 1,673 YouTube videos, with 70,335 views and 60 subscribers since 2009. My blog on WordPress has 576 posts and 80 followers since 2012. It wasn’t until now, in 2015, that a sense a futility has crept in and tainted the ‘innocence’ of my uploading ‘spirit’.
The only trouble is: my writings appear now on the same screens as Shakespeare and Poe; my drawings appear on the same screen as Da Vinci and Escher; my piano-playing is side-by-side with Horowitz and Glenn Gould. I could get more followers and increase my Klout score if I simply posted links to Shakespeare, Poe, Da Vinci, Escher, Horowitz, and Glenn Gould.
But when did I switch from “sharing my interests” by uploading my own junk, to worrying over the reactions, the interest, the attraction of my posts over someone else’s? In a way, uploading original content makes me a performer—and as I became conscious of having an audience, I naturally fell into the mindset of one who performs. It’s the old Heisenberg Principle—the act of observing a thing changes the state of the thing. My awareness of being observed changed the way I felt about what I uploaded.
It wasn’t only my awareness of an ‘audience’ that changed my view—I also became aware of the ‘competition’, if you will. The above-mentioned ‘great artists’ are a tiny sample of the enormity of culture online. I didn’t even mention the hundreds of pop artists, the thousands of comics and graphic novels, the many museums with images of their entire collection available online. Symphony orchestras by the score, performing uncounted classical masterpieces are, even so, outdone by the Guttenburg Experiment, a free online source for every English-language book in the public domain. Every book. Every. Book.
So, yeah, my perspective was altered by my growing awareness that sharing online isn’t just a personal act—it is also a small addition to the entirety of Western Culture, most of which has found its way onto the Internet. That stuff wasn’t there before—my stuff didn’t suffer so by comparison. Now it does.
Beyond the use of the Internet as an audience, there is the social aspect. My social awkwardness was greatly reassured by the distancing effect of social media. But even a couple of prisoners, communicating by tapping Morse Code on the walls, will eventually grow familiar and get personal—social media only starts out as distancing—it ends up as the same collection of repressions, politenesses, sensitivities, obligations, and awkwardnesses that comprise real socializing. Arguments are had, illnesses are discussed—even deaths in the family come fast and furious when you have hundreds of Facebook friends. Being obligated to wish someone happy birthday every day will start to make it seem like a chore. And with all that agita, all those people are still miles away, in different states, different countries—even different continents. There’s no touching.
I’m still drawn to my PC, hoping for distraction, looking for attention, or just conversation—but when I sit down and take the mouse, I don’t know where to click anymore.
Recently, I let myself be convinced that I might write something in the professional sense—a bit of fiction—and my editor’s prime directive was, “But you can’t share it all over the Internet, like you do everything else!” So I can’t tell you anything about it, Mr.-and-Mrs.-Nobody-Reads-My-Blog. And here I experience a strange phenomenon—my blog posts are casual ramblings wherein I ‘share’ with the universe—they make me feel less isolated. But writing something I can’t share with anyone (except one person who’s going to be judgmental about whatever I share) makes me feel more isolated.
In school we are often told to ‘show our work’. In the world of grown-ups, you never show your work—a professional never shows the public anything but a finished product—otherwise, it ‘ruins the magic’. To prove the rule, there will sometimes be an exhibit of say, Michelangelo’s sketches—or a book of T. S. Eliot’s unpublished poems—but such exceptions can only exist after the artists in question have established their greatness. Once a person’s name becomes more than an identification, that name’s ‘brand’ can be stamped on anything, tee shirts included, and marketing will take care of itself.
Truth from afar…
Saturday, May 02, 2015 3:18 PM
Last week was a doozy. An old friend passed away suddenly. My wife succeeded in her five year quest for a MS degree in Occupational Therapy. The weather demonstrated that winter is well and truly over. I played Gershwin well enough to share it with the public on YouTube. I did a pretty good job of ignoring the news, but I heard about the five Baltimore cops charged with the death of a suspect in custody (and the demonstrations and riots). Bernie Sanders announced his candidacy for President in 2016—apparently more to provide fodder for Jon Stewart than from any real desire to be in charge of this troubled country. But if he thinks he’s too busy being senator, I’d advise he drop out of his run for the presidency. A guy with that short a fuse would probably implode the first year. Not that I wouldn’t relish seeing that old curmudgeon in charge. They thought they had trouble with Obama? OMG.
My thoughts are confused and scattered. My plans are bleak. My health could be better—but it could be worse. I’d truly love to have something useful to do. Those advocates of service have the right idea—but how to serve without becoming a servant? I’d like to be useful without having to diminish myself—is that possible? It was so much simpler back when I felt that being useful at any job was acceptable—now I’m so old that I can’t help thinking about the ethical probity of anything I do—it really gets in the way. Plus I’ve lost all patience with self-important assholes—it’s too bad that they are the gatekeepers of just about every activity on the planet.
Anyone worth their salt tells themselves ‘the hell with someone else’s project’ and starts up a little project of their own. And I want to—Oh, how I want to. But it takes drive—and I only have drive on every third day. It takes me a couple of days to recover from those days, so I can’t expect to have them one after the other, like a normal entrepreneur.
This writing business—I started to just ‘stream-of-consciousness’ write this blog a few years ago—I figured I’d get warmed up and then write something with some substance to it. But years later all I have is a blog about the search for substance in life.
The same happened with my YouTube channel—I figured there might be something to my piano improvs—they’re not consciously derivative of anything other than Western Music in general—and they are different from anything else out there—even the New Age piano improvs (though some might say that difference is only in a lack of something in my own efforts). Unfortunately, instead of building an audience, I’ve started to become disenchanted with my own work, wondering if there was ever anything there and if it’s good enough for other people to get excited about.
It becomes increasingly clear that my history will not be that of an obscure musician, but that of a musically-ungifted man with a compulsion to make music, however poorly. In a way that is less painful than my experience with the graphic arts. My early gift for draughtsmanship misled me into thinking I was an artist—but an artist needs to have something to say, something inside that needs expressing. Once I had learned to draw, I was faced with the awful question of ‘what to draw?’ and I had no answer.
Writing, too, is misleading. I spent more of my lifetime reading books than I spent talking to people and, with these years of blogging practice, I’ve learn to speak back in the familiar language of books. I write better than I can talk—but, again, the trouble is in finding a subject—a story that needs to come out of my soul. All this verbal meandering on my blog is simply evidence that I can write just fine—but I have nothing important to say.
I should have been a craftsman. I should have taken my love of music and become a harpsichord-maker. I should have taken my love of graphic arts and become a designer or a sign-painter. I should have taken my love of words and become a journalist. But these things take time—they should not be left for late-middle-age.
My main problem was having the guts of my life torn out by HepC. I began suffering physical and mental degeneration in my early thirties—just when I would have started coming into my own after youthful success in systems and programming. I even left my job briefly, seeking something new—but my brain could no longer absorb the new ideas I needed to learn for the new job. I flunked a course at IBM on using the new 360 mini-computers—which may have made no difference since the world was turning to PCs just then, but I was out of the fight, intellect-wise, regardless. I returned to my old job and hung on there until my fatigue and my brain-rot got me fired.
In the process, I took on stress to the point where I’m still trying to shed it. So my emotional health isn’t too sturdy. And the HepC cure was available only last year, when I was fifty-eight. That’s a full quarter-century of my life wiped out by my near-death experience with HepC, liver cancer, and a liver transplant. And after missing out on the meat of life, now I’m supposed to do something with the dregs.
Can you see me at a job interview? I can—it’s a frightening vision—the interviewer is half my age, thinks my education ended in high school (Can I blame them? I have no degree.) and I’m sitting there trying not to swear and hoping I don’t get diarrhea before the interview is over. I don’t respect the product. I don’t respect the management. And I certainly don’t respect this young pain-in-the-ass who expects me to be ingratiating and submissive. I’d just as soon kill the son of a bitch. Good thing I’m on disability.
So that’s my brilliant career. So far.
Friday, April 10, 2015 1:05 PM
Happy Bear’s Birthday, everyone! (It’s a national holiday at our house.) For her birthday, Bear brought my PC home from the repair shop. I’m a lucky guy. But not always—my PC broke three days ago, just when I had written a nice new poem—I even drew an illustration for it. But when I tried to start my CorelDRAW program to create the final ‘graphic poem’, I blew out my graphics-interface card.
My PC doesn’t announce this, however, which is why it took three days of diagnostics on my software before Chris, at Advanced Computer Repair in Somers, was able to determine the problem. I had spent a few days on it myself, and I was more than happy to hand it over to a professional. So remember, folks, if your OS gets a little buggy and your Photoshop software goes kablooey, check the graphics-interface card. And if you have any problems with your computers at all, you should definitely call on Chris at:
Advanced Computer Repair
253 Rt. 202
Somers, NY 10589
Chris has worked on four of our PCs and laptops over the last few years, he’s done great work for us, for our neighbors, and our friends. He’s the ‘holy trifecta’ of PC repair—honest, competent, and prompt. He charged us $75 for the graphics-card replacement—we tried to pay him more, but he wouldn’t take it. Chris should suffer the fate of all great, undiscovered deals—he should be swamped with work—so make a note, he’s worth the trip to Somers.
Okay, enough about the other Chris—let’s get back to me. Don’t get me wrong—it was very nice of Bear to get my PC back, but she does have yellow roses, pinot noir, a silver Swedish necklace, and a new cookbook (which she asked for) and we are awaiting the Chinese take-out as I type, so it’s not like we’re ignoring her birthday completely—and Bear doesn’t care for a lot of fuss anyhow. She’s been quite busy completing her final Masters thesis and preparing for the national OT test. We’re all very proud of our Bear, when we’re not feeling a little intimidated by her drive, her capability, and her courage.
But I keep myself busy in my own small way. Now that this computer is back on the job, I’ve got some catch-up to do. There’s the poem and pictures, and (oh joy! and oh rapture!)—Pete came by yesterday and we made some fun recordings, with him on bongos and me at the piano. So there’re those videos to edit and upload. The videos aren’t going to go viral anytime soon, but I think these sessions are great, so if you don’t like’em I’m afraid that’s on you. I’ll keep posting them as long as Pete is kind enough to keep showing up for them.
One advantage to having my computer break down for a few days is that I was unable to comment on the recent news about the cold-blooded police shooting that was the focus of most of this week’s coverage. I am horrified by the video of the murder (technically, I suppose it’s still an alleged murder). What else can a thinking, feeling person say? Words fail.
I will say one thing. When I was a kid, I figured that if the American Empire ever declined it would break my heart—I was wrong. The heartbreak comes first, fast, and furious. The actual decline lingers on, getting worse and worse, but the pride I used to feel for this country gets eroded with every new and tragic day.
Our founding fathers devised a very clever container for human nature, but in the fullness of time, our natures find a way to re-introduce the wildness of anarchy and selfishness. Ancient empires, too, had their moments in the sun, when their ideals were new and their spirits were fresh—but human nature always had the last word. And it’s talking loud and clear right now.
–a cogent post re-blogged from our favorite scientist and sci-fi author, Joan Slonczewski.
Wednesday, February 18, 2015 11:36 AM
Okay, now I’m well and truly confused. You may remember I wrote a little post the other day, bitching about how no one gave my blog any ‘likes’ for a few days. But I looked at my ‘stats’ page and guess what? Over 10,000 people have viewed one or more of my blogposts. 29 people ‘follow’ my blog—which only means that my posts show up in their ‘readers’ (no guarantee they actually read the posts). Nonetheless, I get an average of 15 to 25 views a day—even today, before noon, when I haven’t posted anything for two days, I’ve gotten six views so far.
Ordinarily, I have to assume, several people a day are looking at my blog posts, but no one is being impressed enough to click that ‘like’ button. It would seem that when I do get a handful of likes for a particular post, it is not a sign that a handful of people have read the post, but that the post in question was impressive enough to entail a response.
In a way, it’s kind of creepy to imagine those 15 to 25 people lurking in silence, reading my thoughts without giving back squat. Even creepier is the question of ‘How did I trigger likes with one certain post and not the others?’ Am I resonating with their own thoughts on things? Or do people enjoy my posts more when I’m in obvious emotional distress? What is it?! And do I want to follow that ‘likeable’ thread, or avoid it? It would be so much easier for me if the likes corresponded to my own feelings about my posts—but many of what I consider good posts get zero likes, while some surprise me with the strength of their response. It’s confusing.
Meanwhile, I’m getting tired of ‘the big picture’. The power of money has more influence than any other force, particularly any force for good. People such as myself can rant and rail until the cows come home—without money to force it down people’s throats, my opinions don’t mean squat. And the moneyed interests have lost any sense of shame or decency. A recent satirical piece by John Oliver on the shameless behavior of Philip Morris Inc. prompted that corporation to attack Oliver’s research as ‘misleading’—and they don’t see any irony in a tobacco company accusing someone else of being misleading or unfair. But what can you expect from a company that profits from killing its customers? With that as a starting point, the rest of their hi-jinks shouldn’t surprise anyone.
The GOP, worthy of being renamed the Party of the Wealthy, has recently urged a cancellation of ACA (which would reverse our great increase in those covered) cancellation of history courses in high school (which would help keep us all in the dark about how un-American they are) and cancellation of the Dodd Frank bill (which would allow them to rip us all off in as unfettered a fashion as they did to bring about the Great Recession). Everything they do, everything the Republicans support, is unequivocally in favor of the rich over the rest of us. And how did they get elected? By spending so much money spreading lies and half-truths that they scare the less-educated into thinking they’re needed. Oh, we need them, all right—to screw us in the ass.
The Koch boys have declared war on science ever since science found out that Koch oil profits are based on our suicidal addiction to petroleum energy. Even stupid, rich people like them have a sense of self-preservation, right? Wrong. These bitches have some kind of fundamentalism that tells them they’re supposed to end the world. Isn’t that special? (As Dana Carvey would say.)
But what bothers me more than most things is the tendency of rich people to blather on about ‘hard work’. Yesterday I watched “Better Angels”, a beautifully-filmed re-enactment of Abraham Lincoln’s childhood. Talk about ‘hard work’. Pre-industrial people had a job—staying alive—and that was hard work, morning ‘til night. To pretend that such conditions still obtain, now that we have remote controls, heavy machinery, appliances, and robots, is a convenient pretext for the rich. If there were any mathematical fairness in labor, we’d all be getting paid top dollar for working about three hours a week. But no, say the rich, good people work hard—only lazy people want money without slavery.
Let me tell you what ‘hard’ is. Being a good parent—that’s hard. Being a good citizen—that’s hard as hell. Thinking things through, even when we don’t like the results—that’s hard work. Slaving through unpaid overtime, without benefits, for minimum wage—that’s not ‘hard’, that’s unjust—and it benefits only one group. Guess how hard they work.
Will people ever be fair to each other? Will people ever stand up on their hind legs and say ‘enough’ to their bloated overseers? No, it’s not in our nature to be fair. We prefer to compete, to win. That’s some win. Our society has become a suicidal enslavement-scam run by capitalists—and, bottom line, when money can’t buy enough influence, it just buys guns instead. It’s exhausting to have our every inkling towards freedom and fairness trampled by these sons-of-bitches. I’m sick of it. I’ve gotten past the fact that we can’t beat these bastards—nowadays, I focus on my outrage that everyone around me accepts the status quo, which is understandable, but nonetheless insane.
My disability allows me to stand outside of the rat-race and view it objectively as the farce it has become—but am I being more objective or more over-simplified? Ask yourself this—how many people work hard every day at a job that means something to them other than a paycheck? In America, I’d guess that lucky few comprise maybe five percent of all full-time employees. The rest are just doing whatever they’re told, to keep from starving in the street. Is that a job, or slavery?
worth a second look…
Here’s a fair-to-middling improv through which I attempt to express my feelings as the very crowded, chaotic 2014 comes to a close, and a very daunting but hopeful 2015 begins.
In addition, here’s over thirty minutes of sight-reading from a book of songs from the 1930s. For my generation, the 1930s were a time when our grandparents were pushing our parents around in strollers, looking for work (or food), and worrying about Hitler–but they were also humming these tunes, and occasionally dancing to them…
Here’s hoping everyone has a happy and healthy new year in 2015!!!
The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.
Here’s an excerpt:
A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 4,600 times in 2014. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 4 trips to carry that many people.
We got our tree up and decorated! Check it out…
Monday, November 17, 2014 11:12 AM
I’m hopeless. I just don’t get it. My last post to my blog was what I considered to be a fairly funny take on the phenomenon of ‘Holiday Movies’. I’ve re-read it a few times now and I’m pretty sure it’s amusing and entertaining. But no one else seems to agree. Maybe no one actually looked at it—am I wrong simply to expect someone to read a few pages worth of commentary by someone they know? Maybe they didn’t think it was funny—am I too amused by myself? What is the nature of the bubble I live in—and how completely different is the public consciousness I am so helpless to reach?
I wrote a book of illustrated poetry—I’m no Robert Frost, I’m not even Rod McKuen (nor would I want to be) but it’s readable and the pictures I drew have some small charm, from where I’m sitting—no one cared. As far as I can tell, no one read the thing—from all evidence it appears no one even started to read it and got bored. It was simply ignored. I was disappointed.
To date I’ve posted over 1,500 YouTube videos of myself playing the piano—after five years I have 63 subscribers. I’m hardly ‘blowing up’. To be honest, I’m not very good—but there are occasional flashes of entertainment value. Perhaps I shouldn’t even confuse the issue of my selling myself online with my piano-playing. When I write or draw, I know when I’m good and when I’m failing to reach the mark—when I play piano, it’s all a crap shoot.
Most of my blog postings take the form of essays. I’ll be autobiographical once in a while, even posting on some rare days what could be called ‘journal entries’, but mostly I try to assume the role of social critic, or political commentator. I know that stuff is dry and lacking the punch of say, fiction—but I do try to keep it amusing and straightforward, i.e. easy to read. Perhaps it’s my vocabulary that puts people off—a life-long bookworm like me acquires quite the word-count.
The most frustrating aspect of my online transparency is my certain belief that my stuff would have killed, fifty years ago—that, in spite of my creativity, my creations are from an out-of-date template that no longer interests the present public. The other truly difficult aspect of not ‘catching on’ is my total ignorance about the ways in which modern, online content producers get and keep their audience. I’m left to wonder if, given the right approach, my work might have a huge following. Third, and last, I worry if I ever got a huge following, how big a hassle that would be and how miserable my life might become if the world actually did decide to take notice of me.
Should I be proud of how ‘outsider’ my art is—or should I despair that my art is not art as the world sees it? These mysterious difficulties would be a lot easier to handle with the help of a group of like-minded people to discuss it with—but without connecting on the internet, the chances of becoming part of a creative group are very low—catch-22.
Monday, September 15, 2014 12:24 AM
How do I reach the mind of a reader and convey our times with any grace? As with all things now, the list of imagery or phrases would make Whitmann blanch—back in his day, he was delighted that there were so many wonders and charms to be catalogued in his poems. In our time, a writer despairs of there being far too many details in even the merest moment of our lives. That may be the cause of the popularity of lists.
Actual paper-printed books of lists were authored, and made bestseller lists, even before the advent of social media memes. Our collective consciousness has determined that a list gives more information in less time, by virtue of confining itself to a category and a list of members of that category—it’s virtually mathematical. It also feeds our pre-occupation with competition. In time we can have standardized lists so well-known that the title of the list (say List A) will take the place of paragraphs of re-chosen, re-worded examples of the list.
For instance, instead of my wasting time writing down a lengthy indictment of the GOP, I can simply reference List F (the List of Things Progressives Dislike about the Republican Party) and carry on with my point unhindered. Instead of re-writing the National Anthem and the Constitution in my summary, I can simply print ‘List I’ (the List of Things that Over-Intellectual Bloggers Love about The USA). These two lists alone would reduce my blog posts to a single page, instead of the usual three or four.
Think of it: List R (the List of Remaining Examples of Blatant Racism that Still Persist), List E (the List of Reasons Why Education is Vital to National Security and Economic Growth), List P (the List of Crimes Against Humanity (and Especially Minorities) in the Present Prison System)—how much time they would save! There are so many details that there are bound to be Lists so numerous people will question whether Lists really save time. I’m reminded of the early days of office computers. Back then, the first step in computerization was to data-enter the last six-months-to-two-years of paper records (and this while also using the system to enter new paperwork and bookkeeping).
Naturally, people were doing at least twice their usual work while learning to work with this new thing: a mini-computer work-station. Inevitably, the workers would begin to comment on how much time and effort the new computer was ‘saving’ them—and question whether computerizing had any advantage at all over the old ways. Hey, if start-ups were easy, everyone would be an entrepreneur—and there were many an old, revered (but now defunct) business that failed to realize that computerization was, in effect, a ‘second start-up’ of every company in those days.
So lists will probably remain a pleasant bit of diversion posted to Facebook by George Takei (dear old Uncle George) for some time to come. But they are inevitable—whenever something becomes too awkward and bulky to memorize and repeat again and again, we rename the whole kit-and-caboodle ‘the Revolutionary War’ or ‘the British Invasion’ or ‘LGBT’ (a mini-list as anagram). In the future, with population growth as it is, there will be very few things on this earth that will stand alone, without a category to be listed in.
Pick a subject, any subject, and Google it—you’ll see what I mean. Nothing comes back all on its lonesome—it’s either ‘not found’ or it has one hundred listings, or ten million. The Internet is the soil of global culture—the layered detritus of millions of data-points, comments, articles, and opinions. As they age, they creep lower and lower on search results, supplanted by fresher entries of the same. The New is precious to the World Wide Web—and it can get pretty precious about what’s new—if you’ll pardon the wordplay. For example, I saw a recent video getting lots of re-posts (meaning it was popular) and it was just the song “Let It Go” but re-worked with the lyrics, “Fuck it all. Fuck it All…” …you get the idea.
That’s the sort of thing that eats up the seconds and minutes of my life, amounting to several hours a day. I’m chafing at the bit as this drug-like escapism takes over so much of my time. I’m hoping that after my treatment is over, I’ll get healthy enough to do something outside the house. I have no idea what that may be, but I know I’ll like it better than my computer keyboard.
In the meantime, I’ll continue on my main project—finding a form of words that will clearly set out my thoughts on how ending employment-as-we-know-it is a necessary step towards a just future. The axiom that a man must earn his way in the world makes little sense in a world with too much technology and not enough resources. Today, the number of jobs available and their salaries are casual decisions made by the business leaders and bankers. We all pretend that the system is merit-based and recognizes hard work and loyalty—but we know that’s not really true.
All the legitimate work in the world today could be done by a fraction of the 8 billion people in the world—how can we continue to fantasize about ‘earning a living’ when we’re already completely dependent on these economic ‘rulers’? They decide how many people get jobs, they decide how much—scratch that—how little those workers will be paid. It’s all a pretense, desperately trying to maintain the status quo that keeps those ‘rulers’ in charge.
For our society to be humane it must eventually bend towards socialisms of one sort and another—competing over jobs has become a cruel joke. And those that lose the competition don’t deserve any less than the fortunate employed—nor do the employed deserve the draconian forms employment has taken in this long slough of high un-employment.
Everyone has to get an allowance—the same subsistence wage that people now work three jobs to acquire—and those with ambition can go out and look for work, while the rest of us just live. Corporate Slavery is my mental label of employment-as-we-know-it—no escape from poverty, no chance of advancement, not enough funds for education (O, that’s another thing that has to be subsidized), and the poor living conditions and crime that such a horrendous system perpetuates.
The filthy rich like to bitch about illegal aliens, but it’s mostly to divert our attention away from how we citizens are being shafted by Capitalism. They tell us to be afraid of Terrorism, when they are stripping America of all its Freedoms and Opportunities. They tell us to ignore Climate Change, but only because Petroleum is such a big part of their status quo—and Progress is the thing they most fear. Change threatens them, but it beckons to us. Listen, you can hear it calling.
Joan Slonczewski, intriguing insights ‘inside’ us.
This is a re-post from NASA’s website:
Joan Slonczewski addresses a problem I, too, found disturbingly un-news-worthy in the eyes of the media…
One of my favorite T.S.Eliot poems
Thudeh, Thudeh, Thudeh, That’s All, Folks!
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.
brings Snare and Cymbal to the Party!
XperDunn plays Music
February 6th, 2014
Improv – Pete’s Back
Sunday, February 02, 2014 8:51 PM
Nine minutes left in the third quarter, Broncos would need four straight TDs (with extra points) and keep a lock on Seahawks offense, just to tie the game. I love a comeback, but I don’t see this one working out—so, here I am at the keyboard. I was remembering flashes of time in my past—I was stuck on outdoor scenes, and their attendant emotional effects.
Many times, before I got sick, I’d take long walks—sometimes the walks were so long that I’d be miles away when I realized it was getting dark. I can remember one particular night when David Streeter and I were walking back to Katonah on Rt. 35, and we were just south of the traffic light by John Jay High. There was no moon and the clouds obscured the stars. It was pitch black—it felt like I was walking into a wall—I put my hands out and I realized that only helps indoors.
This presented a dangerous situation—we could be walking in the middle of the highway, for all we knew—and we would only learn that from the lights of an oncoming car. Eventually we just walked blind, stopping to correct every time we felt our feet hit the shoulder’s gravel. Only one car came—it was easy to get to the side of the road in time—but that was the only car. We walked and it seemed to take forever to reach a place with lighting (the traffic light just past the dam). It was the only time that happened—virtually all my life I’ve spent the nighttime on well-lit streets, but that was when I realized that street-lights weren’t a given.
But that’s a special case. Mostly I would find myself somewhere remote, the weather would change, and I’d walk back thinking about living without a home, with nowhere to go from the windy, drizzling shoulder of an anonymous-ish numbered route. Sometimes I would look out at the view from John Jay Junior High, gray trees, yellow grass, a slalom of low hills that went forever, still sporting patches of snow in the shaded places.
Westchester is far from the true nature of ‘upstate’—we’re a suburb of the big city—yet the northernmost parts of the county contain small pockets of the ‘upstate’ that reigns just to the north. New York State is amazing—a huge state, tons of farmland and hillside, but the majority of the state’s citizens live in the paltry square-mileage of the Five Boroughs. People seeking colorful autumn vistas will suppose that New England is the place, Vermont, Maine, and all that—but New York State has the highest number of different species of tree than any other state—and our upstate, in the fall, blows away anything those Down-Easterners can summon.
Winter in a woodsy landscape uses a pallet of grays and light browns, so if you enjoy the bitter-sweetness, you may rest assured it won’t change until well into spring. While winter lasts, however, a mere hour in the open can chill a person to the bone. When I would sit on the ground to rest awhile, I could feel the energy just being leached out of my body until I was shivering too profoundly to even walk properly. When the wind blew needles of sleet into my face, I would consider how quickly something could be killed by exposure. I’ve always kinda wished I was chubby, just because it’s so much warmer than scrawny (more comfortable, too, I’ve always supposed). And I eventually got my wish—around my waist, at least.
To be alone in nature, even if walking along a paved road, is a fragile perch. Whenever I get upset about something in our house, I can always stop fretting by reminding myself that it’s heated and sheltered from the wind. Those two qualities, plus discouraging other animals from joining us with solid walls, are such incredibly luxurious possessions. I mean, the electricity, the refrigerator, running water—all those are very, very nice as well. But if I’m out on a winter night, with the wet and the chill and the darkness, I would gladly settle for a heated shed.
Rain, too—especially when it’s cold—rain can make you spend the hours getting home either cursing yourself for being under-dressed, or congratulating yourself for staying dry all the way home. As a kid, I can remember many occasions where I’d go outside without a coat on. I was a kid—that’s my excuse—I didn’t think it mattered. And it doesn’t, really, not for the first five minutes, at least.
I don’t know. I was drawn to the outdoors, to the woods. I wanted to live in a simple shack in the wilderness—it sung to me. But I always reached a point where the temptation of a hot bath and cable TV made me re-assess my love of nature. I compromised by drawing the trees I saw outside my window and spending a lot of time in Pound Ridge Arboretum. But even in fairly developed Katonah, there were still woodsy spots—we lived at 51 Parkway, at the bottom of the hill that the Memorial Park is atop of—and we never walked up there using the streets. We took a path through the woods that covered that hill—and that’s one example of what I always loved about Katonah.
There was the dam road at the end of Jay St.—a beautiful walk, especially when the wind shhhsh-ed through the fir needles, making the tops of the trees sway provocatively—or when, one time after a blizzard, the road became the entrance to the Winter Queen’s Castle, all ice-coated and snow-frosted, arches of fallen trees and large boughs—all gleaming in the next morning’s sunshine. There was the walk to Deer Park (no great trek from my old house), using the old, forgotten street off Jay St. (It had trees growing out of the pavement and most of the asphalt was obscured by the detritus of time.) It wasn’t a big part of the walk, but the surrealism made for a great sense of faraway-ness.
My dad had a rowboat chained to a tree just by the reservoir, behind the old train station’s parking lot. I could row my way nearly to Carmel, reservoir to reservoir. On a blustery day, I’d row like a madman, singing pop tunes at the top of my lungs, with a chop that one doesn’t expect in fresh water causing the boat to roll and slap and yaw. And there were cross-country trails in the woods behind the High School—great for endurance runs or quick stops to smoke weed before the next class. I loved the sense of being a race-car in an all-terrain rally—banking on the turns, jumping the fallen trunks—it was great!
But I suppose best of all was Pound Ridge—the old Pound Ridge, with the fire tower and the big tree in the middle of the giant field. As a teen, I simply could not walk across a big field—I would sprint into it a ways and start running in broad circles—not unlike a dog. It’s really strange to recall those days here in my new world of sitting and lying down, never even walking around the block.
Dean J. Baker’s latest collection of his poetry and prose poems!
reblogged from: Greater Striped Swallow.. unafraid of humans, so they say..
Bucket List Pubs hits the Islands–check out these snaps!!
Joan’s latest missive–I share it with you here:
Ladies and Gentlemen—Mrs. Linda Ainslie!
One of the old giants–he’ll be missed.
Every year, on our anniversary, I re-post the link to my old anniversary present, an illustrated book of thirty Bear poems, in celebration of our time together. If you haven’t already seen it, please check it out and let me know how you like it…
Raul di Blasio “Sante Fe” (on YouTube)
I Love the Mermaid Alphabet!!
This is the last part of a great read–I’ve enjoyed it immensely and I recommend it to all my fellow bookworms and -wormesses….
XperDunn plays Piano Covers – July 16th, 2013
Two (2) Songs: “Three Coins In The Fountain” & “Time On My Hands”
WIKI sez: “From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
“Time on My Hands” is a popular song with music by Vincent Youmans and lyrics by Harold Adamson and Mack Gordon, published in 1930. Introduced in the musical Smiles by Marilyn Miller and Paul Gregory. Sometimes also co-credited to Reginald Connelly.”
and WIKI also sez: “From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
“Three Coins in the Fountain” is a popular song which received the Academy Award for Best Original Song in 1954.
The melody was written by Jule Styne, the lyrics by Sammy Cahn. It was written for the romance film, Three Coins in the Fountain and refers to the act of throwing a coin into the Trevi Fountain in Rome while making a wish. Each of the film’s three stars performs this act.”
XperDunn plays Piano Covers
July 16th, 2013
Improv – Chicken Fricassee
This image from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope captures an ongoing cosmic collision between two galaxies — a spiral galaxy is in the process of colliding with a lenticular galaxy.
The image also reveals further evidence of the collision.
There is a bright stream of stars coming out from the merging galaxies, extending out towards the top of the image. The bright spot in the middle of the plume, known as ESO 576-69, is what makes this image unique.
This spot is believed to be the nucleus of the former spiral galaxy, which was ejected from the system during the collision and is now being shredded by tidal forces to produce the visible stellar stream.
Image Credit: European Space Agency/NASA Hubble
Be there or B squared
Things get reversed for the slightest reasons. I’m drinking coffee right now—it was made hours ago and I put too much sugar and cream in it. It doesn’t taste as good as the last cup—but I know if I were starving or dying of thirst, this simple mugful would seem nectar from the gods. Whenever I’m not enjoying my food, I try to imagine I’m in a death camp—I take small bites and chew for longer than I usually do—sometimes enjoyment is missed simply because we pass by too quickly.
It’s always ‘backwards-day’, in my view. I have found that ceasing to need to find something makes it suddenly appear—and you can’t fake it, it only works if you’ve really stopped caring. Another example is from our younger days, when Claire and I would frequently dine at the finest restaurants (and this was back before they outlawed smoking in bars and restaurants). Claire and I joked one night that my having just lit my cigarette was the cause of the waiter’s appearance with our next course. But we used it ever afterward—when we would tire of waiting for our food, I would light a cigarette and, voila!—our food would appear. It was really quite effective and rarely failed us.
And I am prone to noticing these things because I’m a great ‘achiever’—I want to get things done, I want to close that sale, I want to make friends and influence people. But I never do a proper job of it—no one who goes straight at their objectives ever has an easy time of it. The truly successful people in the world are those who want to avoid specificity, and straight lines.
A banker, for instance, will never look you straight in the eye, having just heard your uninterrupted business-proposal pitch, and say, “Loan approved, my good man.” Life doesn’t work like that. It took me a long time to appreciate the importance of being comfortable—comfortable people are in no hurry—they cannot be frustrated by long pauses, additional questions, or verbal BS without end. They are the ones who still have half their drink left when everyone else in the meeting room is trying to pretend they’re not chewing on the ice cubes.
Of all the things a person does, being patient, not being in a hurry, and most certainly not being eager, is one of the most important—successful people never buy during scarcity or sell during a glut—they wait. Successful people like to complicate things—they don’t waste a transaction when they can also use that transaction as leverage for some other, future transaction. Successful people are rarely gracious, although they will go to great lengths to appear so—being truly gracious is simply too much overhead and extra time for successful people to spare.
Successful people try to appear under many disguises (the better to eat you with, my dear): the knowing old man, the sensitive person, the philanthropist, the concerned friend. All these masks have been so effective over time that even corporations will try to wear the same masks—‘at Gadzooks, Inc. we really care…’, ‘Mutual of Plymouth helps protect you from the unexpected.’, or try, ‘We at BigOilDotCom are ensuring a cleaner world for your children and your children’s children.’ And to finalize the confusion, there actually are such things as ‘knowing old folks’, ‘sensitive people’, philanthropists, and concerned friends!
Advertisers use these transparent manipulations because they work. And they have worked, on a more face-to-face level, for centuries. People want to believe—they want to trust—and that’s very nice. But it’s really great from the standpoint of manipulative, non-linear, successful people who want to get something from someone less ‘worldly’.
That word bothers me—‘worldly’—as if learning about the commonness of human deception automatically equals the taking up of this practice without question. We who feel too soft to join in are despised out loud by the players and shakers. They assume we despise them, silently, in return—but we are more likely to feel sorry for their jaundiced view of life and the way in which such an attitude prevents anyone from ever finding happiness, or even contentment.
And there is another example—to pursue happiness itself is a foregone failure—one only finds happiness in forgetting oneself. This is often cited as a reason for charitable activities—but one needs only to forget oneself—it is not strictly necessary to serve others. Hence the popularity of movies, books, TV, hobbies, and gardening. Of course, there is nothing wrong with charity—but it should not be held up as a highway to happiness, only as a righteous activity—and an opportunity, for some, to forget themselves in service to it.
But this is just one aspect of ‘backwards-ism’ in daily life—we are happiest when we forget ourselves. Also, we are at our most capable when we don’t watch ourselves too closely. I used to be very good at eight-ball—I would make incredible shots simply by taking them without lining them up or aiming at all—it’s that ‘Zen’ thing—as soon as someone exclaimed at how great a shot I’d made, I would become too self-aware, and I always missed the next shot because of it.
That may even explain the ‘beginner’s luck’ phenomenon—on our first try at something new, we haven’t yet learned what to worry about doing wrong—we have no precedents to trip ourselves up with.
When we can’t quite remember something, we have to wait until we’ve stopped trying to remember before the memory will return. When we try to be friendly to others, we get tongue-tied—but if two people, total strangers, say waiting on line together, see a kid being really cute, and their eyes meet, they experience something together and they suddenly feel a connection that no amount of small talk would engender.
My motto has always been ‘Moderation in all things—including moderation’. It speaks directly to the issue of ‘backwards-ness’. If I like to eat something, I eat too much and I never enjoy eating it again. If I enjoy reaching out to others, I do it too often, and people begin to avoid me. If I want to be able to concentrate, suddenly the whole world is knocking on my door, ringing my phone, and emailing me multiple times. If I feel like company, the whole world has gone out of town for the week.
We delude ourselves with the concept of ‘qualities’. Example: “Women are weak”. It’s true. But it’s only true in one way—upper body strength and aggressiveness. In all other ways, Women tend to be superior—they’re better insulated against cold, they have greater stamina, their pain-tolerance is much greater, and they are less vulnerable to stress. I remember much was made of this subject at the time of the ‘Space Race’—the question arose, “Can women handle the rigors of space-flight?” and one pundit’s op-ed pointed out that, from a purely biological point of view, women were in fact better suited to space travel than men.
Women, though incredible, are not perfect. They have that whole menstruation meshegas to deal with every lunar month. Men are always quick to jump on that fact whenever the subject of female superiority is broached. We’re drones, trying to find self-justification in a women’s world—we can’t help it. But it is only ‘backwards-ness’—women are stronger but weaker, women are steadier but less steady. I think that’s what the whole Yin-Yang thing is about—everything contains its opposite because it wouldn’t be ‘everything’ if you left out opposites.
The sci-fi writer, Joan Slonczewski, brings to our attention this ‘truth in fiction’ scenario–and there’s no sign of Sigourny Weaver showing up to save the day…
Randy Bell’s verse is apropo for St.Paddy’s Day—
nice–I’ll have to update my MySpace songs menu..
In which I sing..
XperDunn plays Piano and Sings selected songs by the legendary songwriting team of Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart
The lovely and talented Ms. Bucket List -travel critic and guide…
The state of entertainment from where I’m sitting….
XperDunn plays Piano
XperDunn plays Piano
February 2, 2013
XperDunn plays Piano Feb 22, 2013
Illustrated poems for and about bears…