Monday, August 17, 2009
But back to the scene. One moment, it's Doctors without Borders doing their thing in a sleepy jungle village and the next it is a war zone filled with flying bodies, burning huts, raped women and total wanton destruction. Too real, too realistic. T and I looked at each other and asked why would any human being do that to another? What reason could they have? Religious belief, a village built on top of valuable oil, political disagreement, or just destruction because they could?
Which brings me to Little Bee, Chris Cleave's 2008 novel about two women who meet through the happenstance of war, one from Nigeria and the other from England. I am half way through the story but still, here come the same questions, why and how can this be happening in the same world where T and I sit and watch Sly retaliate with more than equal violence?
Is it because we sit and watch? The Rambo film is simplistic in its answer. "You can't change anything.", he says. Cleave on the other hand maybe going for something different. A subject for my next post.
Saturday, June 20, 2009
Friday, June 19, 2009
Tuesday, June 16, 2009
"The war spending legislation (just passed by the house) carried a hodgepodge of other provisions, including $5 billion to expand the role of the International Monetary Fund in shoring up the world economy, $1 billion to encourage U.S. consumers to trade in gas-guzzlers for more fuel-efficient new cars, and limits on the administration's ability to bring terrorist suspects from the Guantanamo Bay detention facility in Cuba to the United States."
Politics again rears its ugly head. Trade off the IMF aid for friendly grades from Europe, trade the aid to car manufacturers for seeming to help the auto industry and the consumer, trade the limits on the Admin of Guantanomo for getting the Republicans to pass the IMF part, and trade the Democrats their anti-war feelings for some down the road support from President O.
This isn't what I voted for, hoped for, wanted. But what the hell, I am just one voter.
Thursday, June 11, 2009
We are a state in crisis and we've got to crack down or cut back or something else to deal with this crisis or else, he says. So close down the parks, shut down health services, summer schools, even social services for the elderly and the poor. "Cause "God, in his infinite wisdom, knows that these are the things that are dragging us down and holding this great state hostage.
But, you know what? I have a different idea. Lets shut down the whole state. No highway patrol, no colleges, no street repair, no fire fighting, no politicians in their fat little offices deciding the fate of the rest of us. Shut it all down and let's just go to anarchy. It can't be any worse than this living under the constant threat.
But, you know what else? I am still open to other answers. Just drop them in my mailbox. Yes, that's it over there, laying on its side and looking crushed.
Tuesday, June 09, 2009
The article goes on, as though point A leads to point 2, "Money woes could signal disorder in an individual's personal life that could translate into slipshod work habits, some staffing experts said. Companies lose billions annually to employee theft. A sterling credit history, they said, points to a worker who is more likely to be disciplined, trustworthy and reliable." So the workers having lost the home they bought because they thought they were secure in their job which they lost because the company they worked for laid off workers because the company itself had to apply for bankruptcy protection are now suspected thieves?
The fact that the credit industry is in full pull-in-your-head turtle mode apparently doesn't play a part in this analysis either. American Express has recently joined a number of other credit card companies in the following. First, they notify you that your available credit balance has been lowered to just above whatever the current balance is. Then they notify you that because they can, they are raising the interest rate on your current balance by 10 or 15 or, in some cases, 20%. This happens whether you are current and have a great payment history or not. Another company, Advanta, just closed its doors. Toodledoo ducks. And oh by the way, before we go away, you available credit has been lowered because you've had too many inquiries in the last 12 months and (since we lowered your available balance) your accounts are now too close to their limits.
Anyone else sense the circle here. The companies, and not just the ones you give permission to, are checking your credit history. Because you are applying everywhere and anywhere in hopes of landing something, that means a lot of credit checks which means your credit gets lowered and your credit report shows this. Yuck, or that other word that sounds like it but starts with F.
Friday, May 15, 2009
Maybe it is tied to the immersion in school spirit we receive as school children. You know what I mean. The school colors, the sense of community gathered around the team that defends our school's honor. Using those terms, honor, the sense of community, school colors, I can see, or rather sense the common thread. But what makes us want to do those things in the first place?
When we move from our home as children, the school out of necessity becomes our second home. We appear to need the stability that comes from knowing our school provides it. There is in this process a shielding effect. Of course, this is on our side.
On the other side lies society as represented by the adults whose power to influence comes from our allegiance to this elevated, and in many senses, created team spirit. In the blogosphere, it has become a very big deal these days to accrue followers and in turn become a follower. Is this just a process?
No, I think it goes back to my earlier questions. It seems to me that at some core level, maybe through evolution even at a genetic level, our sense of fear of the world is what is at play here. Picture the cave man, woman, child. Go see Disney's new film, Earth, if you need a reminder. The world is a cruel and beautiful place, dangerous and unforgiving. We humans have spent, do spend, most of our creative time trying to move away from that fear. We call it civilization.
When we connect with a sport team, we are really combating our oldest fear. That the world is just waiting to eat us as we would eat it if we could.
So what happens to us when Kobe doesn't do his job and protect us by winning the game is really just elemental my dear Watson. The other team is the barbarian at our gate, the tyrannosaurus rex nuzzling our cave door, and the need to escape this threat is just driving us wild. And in this sense, what we lose when they lose, our team that is, is our sense of being safe in the world.
Friday, April 10, 2009
I have written before about how I feel about people who use and then run away when caught. I have also pointed out the obvious mistake in President Obama's comment that he didn't think that legalizing was the way to go. But this story is just great. Not only does he admit his use and explain how it works, he also talks about how he is going to continue to use it. Meanwhile, the reporter clearly is trying to show all sides but misses an important point when he quotes Nevada State Athletic Commissioner, Keith Kizer. "The drug is banned because of the damage it does to the person taking it. It could make you lethargic, slow your reflexes, and those are dangerous things in a combat sport."
Obviously, the commish never used the drug himself when he argued that Diaz' use of the drug before a fight made him "numb to the pain because of excessive marijuana in his system." What are these commissioners on drugs.
No, that's actually my point. Rather than take a face value the honest information of a real pot user, they always, always, fall back on the "it's illegal" excuse. Well, this time it didn't work. Diaz plans to keep on keepin' on. And I'll toke to that.
Tuesday, March 31, 2009
But I think that President Obama and his commission are right on course in this case. The facts stand out. GM and Chrysler are perfect examples of how the power of a monopoly of ideas (free market expansionism and profit first) can be distorted into a disaster. If we had time or were in another place, this situation might be something that could be managed by just letting the hand play out. But, to my mind that just lets the situation, like a bamboo plant, have another chance to do the same thing all over again.
It is time that we all grew up. Teenagers want fast cars. Macho men need Hummers to pose their image. Well-to-do Matrons and their clones have to have fear safe SUVs. But what an adult and intelligent person needs is sensible, affordable transportation. The auto industry has spent years and billions of dollars selling us on the idea that a car is an expression of our personality. Only a kid would believe that. Only a mercenary industry would think that such a morally reprehensible position was right and justified under the free market bannerism of "Caveat Emptor!"
But that is just my opinion. What do you think America, are you ready to give up your toys and grow up?
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
Meanwhile, the clamor of voices trying to be heard about all the very important issues to be resolved does make it difficult to trust that politics as usual isn't hard at work. A politician by nature must please the ones who put it in office first and those general community of voters second. Otherwise, goes the traditional wisdom, the politician won't stay in office long enough to accomplish any work. So along with the "Earmarks" attached to the bills that congress passes, we also should expect the vocal earmarking that allows the politician to broadcast where his or her loyalties lie.
They say in real estate that its location, location, location and in business that there's no such thing as bad pub. Well, the same thing appears to be the play in politics. Which brings me back to Mr. Obama.
Every time he chose to use the code words, healthcare, energy, and education, I found myself questioning his answer. What I find difficult to hear when somone uses code is what their real motive is. Just like when a questioner asked him about China by including the phrase, a communist government, and I immediately wondered about the motive behind the question.
So this brings me back to this question, was this Q & A just politics as usual?
Monday, March 23, 2009
So, was it a trick ending? A St. Elsewhere snow globe in a child's hand? Who knows? Have we been here or somewhere else like this before? God's plan - we start in a garden and end with ruins. The Statue of Liberty lying in the sand.
You know there is some truth to the weariness thing. I know I am tired of our failure to reason out a way for us all to live with just enough and no more. Tired to the death with the constant tearing down, the constant obstinacy of politics.
Battlestar Galactica not hope just dreams.
Friday, March 13, 2009
If you are used to John Rain's inner search for meaning even as he plots his next assassination then Ben will be no puzzle to you. Alex, however, is a bird with different feathers. His voice is the one we all need to hear. The one that speaks to our puzzlement at how the war against terrorists has turned into a war against the very freedoms we hold so dear.
For example, the decision of the Supreme Court, split 5-4, to allow private citizens to abide by the constitution’s authorization to own guns for self-defense via the 2nd Amendment is echoing through the corridors of power like a tommy-gun gone berserk. Gun nuts are delirious even though they had probably already broken existing laws and owned guns. Anti-abortionists, many of them gun owners and ready to shoot first and wonder what about god’s plan later, were ecstatic because Roe vs Wade could only be next. I guess it’s lucky for Pro-Choicers that there isn’t an Amendment that directly applies. Meanwhile, Charlton Heston doesn’t have to turn over in his grave, and of course, school children are now much safer in Utah where their parents can now pack quick draw sidearms openly.
Still, with all the amusement that this decision provides me, I am personally ambivalent towards this issue. I don’t live in a neighborhood where armed thugs drive the streets. I don’t spend time in the post office or at local colleges or at the Mall where people apparently most like to go berserk. Will I feel safer knowing that most likely my neighbors now have guns to go along with their security cameras and purses filled with mace? I don’t think so. Will I buy a gun myself? Not yet.
To me this is just another sign that in America we are less safe than ever. As individuals in the country that is famous for allowing us to be independent, we are subject to search and seizure at any moment in the name of security. The newest and hottest job (see the ads on your own TV) is joining a security company. Security is an industry in a country that apparently feels so insecure it goes crazy with happiness over being allowed to bear arms. Ah yes, happiness is a warm gun.
Meanwhile back in the novel world of Barry Eisler these issues are brought into focus as betrayal follows betrayal and both brothers find themselves up against silent agencies that somehow have become the way our country is being run.
"Stock Exchange" to them is to trade a horse or cow:
their market is the Sale Barn while on Wall Street it's the
There's never been a program to bail out the livestock man;
when things get tough their motto is to "Hang on if you can!"
Yvonne Hollenbeck draws praise for her stance and applause for her words but I wonder if she appreciates the irony of her case? There are over 2 million definitions and examples for irony available through a Google search but I like this one from Wikipedia, "ironic - Both coincidental and contradictory in a humorous or poignant and extremely improbable way" because it lays out for me the simple truth behind the poems that took the day at this year's convention.
I can appreciate that when she says we are all, the independent individuals that make up the working class, heart of America, in this together, and then sets up an us versus them scenario. The question is though, who is them? For that matter, who is us?
Remember in the 80's when the markets were so low,
and interest hit an all-time high?
There was no bailout dough.
Half the farms and ranches were foreclosed on and were lost;
no bail-out plan was offered and the small towns bore the cost.
Then more were lost in '96 when blizzards swept the range
and then came several years of drought but still there was no
in attitudes in Washington, they didn't even seem to care,
I doubt they even knew there was a problem way out there.
So there's Them - the rich-don't-tax-me one percentile. The Mega-corporations that get to act and be taxed like an individual but really are made up of thousands of individuals backed by thousands more stock holders, etc., etc., . . . The "Stock Market" whatever that means. The banks, the politicos, the war-mongerers that put us into a three trillion dollar war. Both political parties who let thirty years of de-regulated "free marketeering" go on and on and on. The real estate gurus, Trump and Kiyosaki, et al, who advised everyone who would buy into their program to USE OTHER people's money (read borrow to gain leverage to the hilt).
And then Us - The more than 16 million unemployed. The single farmer/rancher/employee/independent contractor/small business owner losing dollars by the day as the economy tanks. The fifty-five percent of the voters who put Obama in office to stem the tide and change the circumstance and believe in the hope of a turn around.
Well, here's the irony in that folks. This is exactly the fertile ground in which the hate-mongerers like Limbaugh and Coulter plant and grow their seeds of distrust. Right there in the interstice between the way we feel and who we blame for it.
No one helped/helps me cries the farmer/rancher/little guys and girls/finacially crushed US.
So don't help anyone else. Leave my tax money in my hands and I'll figure out how to make it through to next year.
Yet, in cities folks buy houses that are bigger than our barns,
when they cna't make their payments, Congress says, "Well, darn!
We'll gather up some billions so they can pay their debt,
and let their dandy banker get his biggest bonus yet!"
And as true as that is, it is also false because the irony is that the farmers and rancher weren't immune to this financial bubble's lure. They too bought into the big pile of manure.
The final irony, the very reason people need help is the very reason they won't get it. 'Cause, as Bill Maher has often pointed out, we quite often have demonstrated a mind-boggling ability to vote against ourselves. The Black Swan effect to the max.
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
The first spacecraft dedicated to finding potentially habitable planets
beyond our solar system is poised to blast off from Cape
Canaveral tonight in a three-year mission to probe 150,000 stars in the
most sweeping hunt for Earth-like objects ever undertaken by NASA.
The Kepler spacecraft will be positioned so it can capture the slight dimming
of stars as planets pass in front. The variation in brightness will
produce readings that can be used to calculate the planet's size and orbit and
the temperature of the star. Planets in habitable zones are most likely to
have conditions favorable for life as it is found here on Earth.
Unfortunately, for those of you unable to get the paper, the online version of the article is sans the graphics and much of the explanatory text. But that's a discussion for another space. Right now what is important is that someone in our government still has the vision to keep looking.
The Kepler mission is looking for another Earth. But we need another Earth like a hole in the head. (see Wallee) Replicating what we have created here can't be what this mission is after. We need a fresh start and a new idea. Anyone who believes that we will be able to come up with one or the other by the time this three year mission ends should stand up and get in line for the next flight. Or as project administer, Ed Weiler points out,
It's also possible that Kepler will discover how rare Earths are, "That to me is scary, because I don't want to live in a universe where we're the best there is."
Sunday, March 08, 2009
Remarkable the stories and the intertwining of the unknown with the absolutely unfucking believable. From Alice's scheme of connectablity to the hidden talent of Max as a man as a woman as boy trying to find some sense of self, to the reveal of wanting to be married, to the facing up to the Don't Ask Don't Tell assholeinity of our military, to insatiable sex with
Shane, to tender confidences told through straight and gay actor alike. Who or what is rarely seen is the chance to understand through the art of story telling what this special agony is really all about.
So that's it with a special nod to Zena.
Thanks girls. A lot.
Monday, February 16, 2009
Yesterday, a receptionist at my doctor's office asked about the book I was holding. "Is it good?" she asked. To which I replied, "Well, it is well written but the story is terribly sad, so I can't call it good." The book we were discussing was Irene Nemoirovsky's, Suite Francaise. "It is a story, the story of the early years of WW II in France and how the people fled Paris and how the different levels, classes of society and even the Germans reacted. The author died in Auschwitz."
"Oh, it's based on a true story, then?"
"No, it is work of fiction."
It was as though I had told her that the story which was as true to life and as close to the reality of being there as the author could make it, was actually not true. I know other people these days who hold this same position. They only go see movies or watch TV shows that are based on a true story. It is as though that's all it takes to make them believe it, the plot of the story really happened and if that's true then any other part of the story can be taken at face value, too. So the question becomes, what is the true story?
I can't be the only one who has noticed. After all, even scripted stories have tag lines like "You've been watching too much TV." when a character alludes to the way things are supposed to happen. Medical dramas, and courtroom/police shows dominate what I call spare time tv. Cable loads up hours of these shows and they in turn carry a sense of being real. And if they are real then the behavior and the beliefs and especially the actions of the characters are then real. Meanwhile, scripted reality shows go even one better. The people really are just people. So that makes what they do and say have a certain kind of validity. But they are also acting too, and extremely aware, as we all are these days of the camera's eyes.
Real CSI workers laugh out loud at the way TV shows portray their equipment and the flashy way they demonstrate their results. Last week on Medium, a news report of an arrest carried this piece of false information. "The police recovered 9 fingernails torn from the victom's fingers covered with the person arrested's DNA." This amongst real world news reports saying that DNA testing has fallen as far as a year behind in reporting results because of the glut of work.
What is the truth against this? The public actually appear to believe the story over the facts. This inability to separate truth from fiction is a major factor in our continuing stress as we try to figure out which person, newsreporter, politician, preacher, or story to actually trust.
What is it House always says, "Everybody lies." It's funny to me that the natural response is "trust no one."
Sunday, February 15, 2009
From my point of view, this only works if the state can show that the benefits of sacrificing in the long term will out weigh the short term drag on Californians who are already dealing with job losses, foreclosures, education cutbacks, and the high cost of living here.
Meanwhile, Republicans and some Democrats have another plan they want to put into play. In what is called an incentive strategy, they have added a corporate tax break to the budget that will give up about a $1 billion a year from the budget supposedly to keep those said corporations from moving out of state, and to encourage them to hire more workers, too. The only thing is, "the cost of the tax break has far outweighted the job-creation benfits in states where it has been instituted." according the Center on Budget Policy Priorities. Not to be cynical but Corporations are famous for stock piling cash and are already laying off workers across the board. A $3,000 incentive doesn't seem like enough to convince a corportation to hire someone it may cost $40 to $50 an hour or $40,000 a year to employ. And the kicker is that around 65% of the break they will get will become permanent law. Meaning once it is in place they can take the money and go on about their business as usual.
So as of tonight, Sunday, no deal is final. Personally, I don't see giving the corporations a break if the rest of us have to take on more fiscal responsibility. The news media reports however make me very aware that this all is still much more about making deals behind closed doors than thinking about what is right for all of us.
Friday, February 13, 2009
Two things might be playing a factor in this: One, no one wants to let go of their cash and Two, a lot of people seem to be noticing that they don't really need the things on sale. It may well be a dawn of a new age. Less is more.
Meanwhile, there is a lot of concern about where the actual stimulus money is going to go and how much of it will actually get to we individuals who know we are going to need help in the near future. Are there going to be more and larger stimulus checks? Or will it show up in the form of better transportation and cheaper and more complete health insurance? Will the jobs that are supposed to appear actually be ones that people will want to work?
I asked the question other day - what is going to be the business/commerce of the 21st century? What will we produce that people need to exist healthily and happily? I think we need to broaden and deepen our commitment to the education of our future citizens. We need life long education for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is the need to learn how to live intelligently with our fellow human beings. But deeper than that we have to acknowledge that the computerization of our culture will lead to more leisure or at least more extra time that we will have to know how to use creatively enough so as to be happy in the result. I know this sounds idealistic but I am a realist. We have to face ourselves and where always wanting more has brought us.
Okay, that's enough for now, I need to research and to think more before I go on.
Sunday, February 08, 2009
That’s because as the debate has roiled on and Roffman has followed it, heMeanwhile though Paul Armentano, deputy director of NORML, says the time for the cheap joke puns maybe past. Our writer couldn't resist cheapening his own arguements with a few snipes of his own. To my mind this is one of the main reason this has gone on so long. No one takes the complaint seriously. After all, pot isn't addictive so we could just stop toking and the problem would just go away, so goes the arguement.
has detected four sides, all of which, he said, don “blinders” when regarding
the other three. Group 1 emphasizes that most adults who smoke marijuana do so occasionally and “without really any harm,” Roffman said, “and that’s a very hard thing for us to publicly acknowledge.” Group 2 stresses that “a substantial number of marijuana smokers get into real trouble” and “derail” from functionality. Group 3 considers marijuana central to life on Earth and tends to live alternatively both culturally and politically, yet manages to function. And Group 4 entails medical users, whose approval in various states – California in 1996 – has helped soften
the stigma over time.
The writer then goes on to discuss the way the advertising world, the Kellog and Subway and Omega sponsors, have chosen to respond to this gathering storm of a situation. Finally, he takes a serious look at the real way real people through their achievements have blown the mythology about the harmfulness of this particular drug completely out of the water.
Saturday, February 07, 2009
Meanwhile, my favorite story about this issue is from Japan where a group of Sumo wrestlers have been allegedly suspended for using pot to enhance their appetites.
Sunday, January 18, 2009
Meanwhile, back to the T problem. See the day long series of workshops she went to on Saturday were all of the motivational type. Fire up the audience with platitudes, send'em out into the lobby to purchase your books, cds, dvds and programs, and your work is done. Your success is in the selling not the doing circle which is where it gets confusing because your book, cd, dvd, etc., is always about how if the reader just follows your plan millionairedness is bound to happen. Of course, no one is supposed to notice that your success is tied to the catchy catch phrase you have used to sell your program - Rich Dad, Poor Dad, Chicken Soup for the Soul, the Millionaire Next Door, etcetera, etcetera . . .
So she's all fired up, goals laid out, $200,000 in this quarter, a million by year's end. (And I am not against setting goals) But what happens to being realistic when the person presenting the idea is really just another new car salesman in motivational speaker's clothing? Wait, aren't they all used new car salespersons? Yes, but that is the subject of another rant.
Meanwhile, here are five things you can do to wean your love from her excessive belief in trusting these mortals:
- Let her talk, or him if it is a he. Talk is good for letting things out where the mind can hear them and sometimes even notice the discrepancies. It also lets you listen and possibly come up with something to say that clarifies and edifies without making you the negative one.
- Fix dinner. I know sounds useless right? But people actually forget to eat, or worse eat just junk food, at these events. Who knows, this might even be a part of the sales pitch? Anyway, give your partner some good home cooking to help level the energy and support their having been hard at it all day.
- Spend some time looking at the books, etc., that were brought home to help her or him on their way to reaching that workshop goal of being the best millionaire you can be. Ask honest and clarifying questions about them without trying to argue their mertits.
- Oh by the way, don't be scarastic, like I am prone to be.
- And finally, be willing to accept whatever she or he learned as something of value to your partner, especially if after following all four steps above, some of it makes useful sense.