Year-to-Date   (2015Dec31)

Thursday, December 31, 2015                                         1:14 PM

Happy New Year’s Eve, everyone! I feel a lot better than I did yesterday—yesterday, I was just gnawing away at my own insides for some reason—I get like that sometimes—temporary insanity—I’d be more comfortable with full-time work, as far as that goes—but we don’t get to pick and choose our personal brain chemistries, so what can you do, right? I’ll append my unposted rant from yesterday below—but don’t take it too seriously—it represents a mood more than a state of mind.

But before I get to all the screaming and shouting, let me talk about today which, as I say, finds me in a far more temperate state of mind. I was just watching “A Night At The Opera”, starring the Marx Brothers and Kitty Carlisle—the shipboard music number, to be precise, when first Chico plays piano, then Harpo goes from piano to harp, with the male lead (I forget his name) singing “Cosi Cosa”. The Marx Brothers make music seem so simple and easy, like they’re not even paying attention to what they’re doing. It inspired me to the point of muting the TV and going to play some piano myself.

Today’s improv is me trying to emulate the breezy, simple music they always played as a feature in each of their films. Can I play the piano as if I’m shooting the keys with my forefinger, like Chico? No, sadly, I can’t. Can I add that soupcon of old-world classical style, with a hint of angelic despair, like Harpo? I wish. But I can play in the same spirit—and that is what I’ve tried to do with today’s offering.

As much as I admire the Marx Brothers, I must admit I’m glad it’s New Year’s Eve—weeks of movie marathons, Hallmark movies, holiday specials, and Top-10-retrospectives of the year—with commercials promising to resume first-run programming, airing fantastic new stuff—has me wishing that at least the late-night hosts would come back from holiday re-run hiatus. Why interrupt a re-run to tell people that good TV will be shown next week—are TV execs just frustrated torturers that missed out on the Inquisition?

I depend too heavily on TV as pastime to be comfortable with half-a-month without oxygen. I’ve started checking the year-of-release of all the cable movies—I say to myself, “1992—let’s see, that came out twenty-three years ago.” I wonder how many times I’ve wasted two hours re-watching this movie on cable over the decades. It’s a sad exercise—one I would gladly give up to watch a new release—but even the VOD-movie-releases dry up during the holidays—as if the whole world had ‘things to do’ during the holidays.

Some genius should start a new cable channel for TV addicts—no commercials and nothing is ever shown twice. I’d watch that, no matter what they put on. No, I take that back—the so-called Science Fiction Channel (or Syfy) taught me that TV can ruin anything. There’s very little sci-fi on Syfy—it’s mostly horror and paranormal garbage. There’s little science on Science—and scant history on History (unless you’re obsessed with Hitler—what’s with that?) TV can be so disappointing.

Here’s wishing everyone a Happy New Year, with lots of good TV to watch. Now as promised, I append yesterday’s horrible writing, by turns deathly boring and insanely spiteful—enjoy:

 

Wednesday, December 30, 2015                                               8:52 AM

Those NASA photos get to me after awhile—they’re pictures of things so immense that if the entire planet Earth was in the picture, it wouldn’t be big enough to make out against the backdrop of nebular clouds and lenticular galaxies. Then there’s the ‘pretty picture’ issue—when astronomers take pictures using radio-waves or x-rays, the pictures are the color of radio and x-ray, i.e. invisible—and so are displayed using false colors—which is fine. I mean, a picture that can’t be seen by the human eye is of limited use—using false-color hues to indicate depth and shadow is mandatory—but when you give someone a box of Crayolas, you have to expect a little creativity in the result. And while the resulting NASA photos are spectacular, they bear little resemblance to what I see when I go outside at night.

Not that I want NASA to be boring—I find the whole subject fascinating—humans spent centuries puzzling over the nature of light—which can exhibit the characteristics of both particle and wave—before we realized that light is simply that range of electromagnetic radiation which our optic nerves respond to. That is just wild, to me—imagine—radio waves with wavelengths longer than a grown man, and microwaves of (naturally) microscopic wavelength, are also electromagnetic radiation, but too big or too small to be sensed by human eyes.

There is nothing special about visible light—except to humans, which have evolved eyeballs to see green—that’s why green is smack in the middle of the visible spectrum—because human eyes evolved to better find food (green vegetation). The other colors are just extra, a way for our brains to separate out the green. Electromagnetic radiation in the infra-red range—now that’s special—infra-red is what we call heat—small enough to be invisible, but big enough to excite molecules (which is where the heat comes in). Infra-red’s wavelength is so close to that of visible light that we can make goggles that display infra-red imaging as visible—though I couldn’t say how they do it.

I get confused by the idea of imaging non-visible electromagnetic radiation—I know that the original discovery of x-ray photography was based on the reaction of photographic plates to x-rays—but how in the world do they do that digitally? Mysteries abound. How does a magnet know which end is positive? How does a circular magnet know where the ends are? What is the difference between electric current in a wire and electromagnetic radiation moving through space? I love physics, but it’s very confusing.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015                                               1:08 PM

I don’t know why I’m so full of frustrated rage today—maybe I’m coming down with a cold or something—I have no patience, no mercy, and no interest in being polite. It’s probably best if I stay off of social media today—I was just cursing at the News on TV—just sitting by myself, watching the news, and cursing a blue streak at high volume, directed towards the subjects of the news, the interviewees, and the talking heads themselves, each in their turn. No one meets my apparently-too-demanding standards of common sense and objectivity—but I usually just turn the channel—not stay there, screaming at my TV. I need a change of scenery or something—I’m really starting to lose it altogether.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015                                               9:26 PM

Trumpelstiltskin   (2015Dec30)

Donald Trump is a pompous dick. He says he’s a successful businessman but he’s really just a successful greedy person—there are lots of ways to get rich off of strategic bankruptcy filings, which let principle officers walk away with all the cash and leave the creditors, suppliers, and employees with nothing—but that’s not ‘good business’—that’s just being good at unethical, yet still technically legal, dealings. Trump, in his Mussolini-esque way, would insist that that’s still business—which says a lot about his take on ethics.

He’s never held office or won an election—how do we size him up? Maybe we should ask the people he has done business with—or maybe ask the people who work for him. He does a lot of talking—but we don’t hear a peep out of the people that know him. He’s pretty good at publicity—how is it he’s never been able to introduce us to his friends and colleagues? What is he afraid they might say?

Does he need ethics for a career in politics? Sadly, no. Politics is a cesspool and always has been—but the Republican solution—to elect incompetents and delusional morons to the legislature—is actually making things worse. This last hurrah of the Tea Party—a bid to elect the most incompetent moron to the highest office in the land—has been side-tracked. There are so many candidates with equally empty skulls—Cruz, Rubio, Bush, Christie—that they should by all rights be spoiled for choice. But that has all been swept aside by a reality-TV personality who has years of experience playing to the mouth-breathers. The Tea Party constituency has forgotten this is an election—they think it’s a game show—and they want their hero to win.

The GOP has only itself to blame—they’ve trained these knee-jerk reactionaries to run counter to common sense—and the party faithful have learned their lesson all too well. The Republicans wanted stupid voters and they’ve got’em—and they’re all gonna vote for the bully who’s ‘on their side’—how little they suspect what an elected Trump would truly mean for them and their families, and their day-to-day reality.

President Obama has been notably focused on positive results—so much so that, even with all the push-back, he has almost undone all the damage Bush did—but that still leaves us sixteen years behind where we should be. Imagine what would happen with Trump in that office, knowing nothing except how to bitch and blame and criticize other people. As an atheist, I can only say, ‘God help us’ if that happens. On the other hand, Trump actually making policy, making decisions about America—is an even more terrifying prospect. Bush showed us how dangerous a simple idiot president can be (the fucking ‘decider’—what a tool)—and we don’t want to find out what a reckless idiot president entails.

Doesn’t this smarmy, entitled prick have enough? Does his ego truly require the destruction of the greatest nation in the world? Why doesn’t he go back to ripping off anyone stupid enough to trust him, and building surprisingly ugly buildings with his name plastered over the door? Fucking asshole.

I call this election the last hurrah of the Tea Party because it can only end one of two ways. Either they’ll lose, proving that the electorate is too smart to fall for another Bush, or worse, a Trumpelstiltskin—or they’ll win, which will mean the doom of America—either way, the Tea Party will die. Republicans will have to go back to pretending they believe in science and pluralism and all those things they hate—they will have to accept that voters are people, with all the horrible variety that implies. Sorry, right-wingers—the world is just too serious for your childish tantrums; too complex for your simplistic pretenses.

In a world where change is so frighteningly fast that nobody can keep up, the conservatives are bound to take a beating—and ever since the digital revolution, they have had to rely on misdirection and dirty tricks to maintain any kind of influence. In fact, for people who want to live in the past, they are surprisingly adept at absorbing new technology to enhance all the misdirection and dirty tricks. The fat cats love the right because nothing panics a fat cat like the prospect of change—or fairness—and Americans, historically, have a bad habit of changing things for the better, making things fairer—so conservatism is the only safety afforded the wealthy and powerful—it’s been that way since we kicked out the British.

We let ourselves be fooled by leaders like FDR and Kennedy—men raised in wealth who still had more concern for the people than for the ruling class they came from—and boy, did their peers hate them for it. But they were special men—great men. Outside of such rare exceptions, we should never be voting for rich people—rich people suck. I submit that Trumpelstiltskin sucks big red hairy ones—he’s special, alright—just not in a good way. If he wasn’t so afraid of political correctness, he’d probably ask for a wheel-chair ramp for his brain. Then again, he’s very sly and nasty—that’s almost like being intelligent, if you don’t look too close.

The Hook (2014Nov15)

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Saturday, November 15, 2014                       1:02 PM

 

Everything today is about the hook. I saw an online ad for Star-Trek spaceships (“Enterprises”, that is) for a low, low price—plus plenty of free extras—the only catch was that it was a subscription, and they would be sending me different spaceships, once a month, forever—and billing me for them, of course. I saw a newly released movie on my VOD menu. It was about a boy and girl who were far distant from each other but could see what each other thought and hear what each other said—it was a romance. I’ve seen the same premise, but only seeing through the other person’s eyes—it was a horror movie about a serial killer. Communication is so important.

The king of the hooks would have to be ‘The Heart Of Joy”, AKA the Hallmark Channel. Every year about this time (just before Thanksgiving) their schedule becomes one long expanse of Christmas-themed movies, most of them produced by Hallmark itself. I am shamelessly addicted—it’s worse than Law & Order re-runs. I just saw one where the young lady protagonist, who just happens to be named Krissy Kringle and just happens to live on Candy Cane Lane, receives a lot of mistakenly-delivered letters to Santa. One little girl sends a book, explaining that Santa had accidentally left his “Naughty or Nice List” when he visited her in the hospital.

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Hijinks ensue, of course, and of a very Christmassy flavor. In the end, people are healed, lessons are learned, and Santa gets his book back. It’s like heroin—I can marathon this stuff for days at a time. But it got me thinking. Hallmark is like the Manhattan Project of sentiment—all things treacly are massaged to a fair-thee-well and dutifully squished out like Play-Doh from a Play-Doh factory. Is it evil? It’s difficult to say with the rubber hose between my teeth, probing for a vein—but I have my suspicions. I mean, it makes perfect sense—here are these actors—and actors are paid to pretend—so they pretend that they, and basically all people, are earnest, conscience-stricken, and well-fed.

It’s the season, so it’s no fair calling them out on the ugly truths of domestic poverty, bad parenting, etc., etc.—thus the problems are manageable in these movies, unlike the real problems we face in the real world. But then they have to add in ‘the real Mrs. Claus’ masquerading as a nanny for a troubled single-parent family or an Elf who wants to see what’s outside of Santa’s Workshop (and in a masterpiece of fiction, doesn’t go sprinting back home in screaming hysterics) or an old homeless man who turns out to be someone’s long-lost father, just waiting for love to make him whole again.

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If, like me, you’ve seen news stories about some of the nightmares that pose as nannies for unsuspecting families—or rape statistics for elfin-shaped young ladies just moved to the big city—or the mental health obstacles that are so much of the problem when trying to undo homelessness, then you may find yourself strongly attracted to the Heroin, I mean Hallmark Channel. But is it healthy? I guess what I’m really wondering is—is it merely escapism, or is it as delusion-inducing as the Southboro Baptist Church? If we whip ourselves into a frenzy of Christmas-time love and faith, we may find ourselves hating The Un-Christmassy enough to kill somebody. It wouldn’t be the first time someone got upset about someone else killing the mood.

And what of the crash? When I switch off the TV and walk into the kitchen, I may find it difficult to handle the newspapers, visitors, and telephone calls I find there. Those other people may not have watched the same movie as me. They might not be quite brimming with the same surplus love of their fellow man—and punch me right in the nose, figuratively or literally. Watching the Hallmark Channel Christmas Movie Marathon may make it impossible for me to survive, away from my hi-def flat-screen.

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However, there are commercials. The TV commercials, even Hallmark’s own, have a different texture from the movies—the treacle is still there, but the main motif is altered to ‘you need this thing to be happy’ followed by ‘buy this thing’. And even a Hallmark movie can’t completely obliterate such unadulterated huckstering. So, to be fully dosed with Christmas syrup, I always make sure I have a book to read. Yes, a book! You wouldn’t believe how long the commercial breaks in these movies are. One can easily read three or four pages before the movie comes back on—and, of course, I’m a virtuoso of the mute button—so I go from movie to book and back to movie quite seamlessly. The tone of the book can be problematical—the otherwise phenomenal Stephen King, for instance, is not recommended for this particular purpose. But I find that science-fiction novels can be a wonderful counter to Hallmark, as they both believe in wild optimism—even wishful thinking—but in two very different settings. My current commercial-break reading material is “The Peripheral” by William Gibson. It’s excellent, so far (as Gibson always is) if you’re looking.

But let’s return to the movies. By the end of New Year’s, I’m actually relieved to turn to that channel and find “Little House” re-runs, or something equally repulsive. I turn to the more reality-based programming of the other channels and Christmas is over for me. So what is this extended trance that takes me hostage each year? Perhaps, for me, it supercharges the ambient ‘Christmas cheer’ that naturally occurs in our lives. Or perhaps it makes more visible the falseness of the Season, a specific time in which we are obligated to be better people, to think kinder thoughts. Is it the human condition that caring must have a start and end point, like a race? Maybe we have the Holiday Season because humanity cannot bear very much reality—and the reality of kindness and caring is just too much of an effort to be part of our ongoing, normal lives.

It could be that the season of giving, rather than being a false pretense of our ‘better selves’, is really just the best we can do—one month a year, we try to be good. We don’t necessarily succeed—but we try—and that’s more than we can be bothered to do the other eleven months of the year.

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