Saturday, December 22, 2012

Seeking a Blog For the End of the World Post-Mortem

Ah, the title is almost as long as the blog: seeking a blog for the end of the world post-mortem. I woke up yesterday morning at 3:30 for the end of the world, which was scheduled to occur at 4:11 Mountain Time. I mean, I was awake, and I was at work when it happened -- or didn't, depending on your point of view. The world ended at 4:11 am -- or didn't. I was not sure which clock to watch -- there were four at my workplace, all with different times -- so while I debated and went about my work, it suddenly was 4:13. I took my first sip of coffee and the world began anew. But if the night crew had not set up the coffee pot for me, I would have suspected that I and all humanity with me had slipped into hell. I had spent the prior evening feeling a bit envious, thinking of time differences and realizing my family in Holland would be enjoying a lovely luncheon when the end time came, while most Americans would be sleeping through it. Was I disappointed that the world didn't end? That I had to go ahead and clean the toilets at Joe Blogz again? Did someone get the time wrong? Multi-year calendars are tricky to figure out, after all. So I set my mind to the task of predicting the true end of the world, and my guess is just as good as anyone else's besides Douglas Adams, and he unfortunately is done with such nonsense, passing the mantle to much less adequate prognosticators such as myself. But here goes: in the year 2442, on the 42nd day of the year, which will be February 11, at 42 minutes after midnight Greenwich Mean Time, a golf ball the size of Mars, errantly sliced to the left of the fairway, will collide with the Earth and end all reality TV shows forever. And on that day, I shall mourn.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Lessons from Sandy Hook

I have been struggling to find a way to write about the tragedy that befell Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, last Friday. The impact of the events, the slaughter of innocent children not much more than babies, has left me devastated, as I know it has left you. It has left me questioning and looking for answers. But you cannot make sense out of senseless; there is no point to try. And blame died with the wretched young man who perpetrated these terrible deeds. Still, there will be debate and discussion far and wide, and there are lessons to be learned. Incidents of mass destruction occur in America with alarming regularity. Case by case each incident is unique, but as a whole they demonstrate a trend within our borders. I can only guess the deeper meaning, the implications for us as a people. This incident does not stand alone, except in the unfathomable murder of so many so young. When a similar incident occurred years ago in Sacramento, a commentator offered at the time that such an attack, upon our children, is an attack on our society and its hopes for the future. The pain is so great that it reaches far beyond the crime scene. It is the same pain felt by any family or community when their children are slaughtered, be it by collateral damage in war, ethnic cleansing, or the acts of a madman. The pain touches us all, and maybe THIS TIME we will find a way to do something about it, to keep it from happening again. Enough said, for now. On the home front Diane is recovering nicely. She has good days and tends to do too much, then has a bad spell afterwards. But her bad spells are nothing like what I feared and expected. I say she’s at 94%, but her 94% is better than most people at 100. But I am prejudiced. We got Xander back for an overnight on Saturday. It was the first time he got to come over since the accident, and when his daddy told him he was going to stay with us, he told Nik, “This is the best day EVER!” No better endorsement of mutual love could exist. After nine days without a car, we have one on loan from Rachael and Jimmy. It’s a step up for us, a Honda Acura that drives like a dream. The car allows us to get places and allows us to take the time we need to figure out what we will do for a car for real. AAA still has not settled on the Kia, and seems to be dragging its feet. I don’t understand that: I have placed calls to the agent in charge of this part of our claim and gotten no response. Maybe she has so many totaled cars from that night in Montana that she has simply not gotten to us yet, but courtesy would dictate she at least let us know that much.. At any rate, we have survived the greatest hardship we have ever faces, being car-less. Up here, a car is a necessity. The Post Office is a three mile round trip up and down icy roads. By foot it takes an hour or more. Nik got up at 3:30 to drive me to work on my work mornings because he didn’t want me walking those roads in the dark. And since I don’t have a horse, I wonder how people managed before there were cars, or roads, and am glad I won’t have to anymore. Now to move back toward the serious, but only slightly: December 21 is coming. It is at the end of this week, and at the end of this week the world will come to an end. This is according to the Mayan Calendar. Actually, it is one interpretation of that calendar, and not a very good one. But the prophesy stands, and we all can stick around and watch. I did realize a couple of things. First, Congress is supposed to adjourn for the holiday recess on December 21. If they do go without a deal on the Fiscal Cliff, the world might just grind to a halt. Or not. But Congress will adjourn, world or no, agreement or no. Also, the 21st is the longest night of the year. Finally, 22% of all Americans think the world will end within their lifetime. It will, for them, someday. But cataclysms and disasters are not on the weather forecast. It comes down to this: hold onto one another. We do not know when we will draw our last breath. Cherishing one another is the greatest gift any one of us can bestow. Be kind, be generous, and do not live in fear, just live.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

An Open Letter to Steven Spielberg

My beloved sister-in-law Catherine reported to me yesterday that she had a dream. In it, she and her hsuband Guy accompanied my wife Diane and myself to the premiere of a theatrical motion picture based on my novel, "Amber Waves." As author of the original material, I was honored to attend. Her dream echoes my own, one I have harbored secretly and sometimes not so secretly for any one of my works at every Oscar celebration since, oh, since I was ten. It occurred to us as we discussed her dream that it was not an unreasonable one, and that, further, "Amber Waves" would make a wonderful, richly detailed film, just the kind that a great director like Steven Spielberg would have a great deal of fun bringing into reality. We even began casting the film, with Jeremy Renner as Jason Edwards and Viggo Mortinsen as Sheriff Frank. It has all the earmarks of a top box office hit, with a sequel in the waiting (indeed, I've begun sketching one). Knowing Mr. Speilberg's penachant for making one very important film and one very entertaining one simultaneously, we decided that "Amber Waves" would provide him both. All we need now is to capture the gentleman's attention. Mr. Spielberg, I would gladly provide you with a copy of my book if only you ask. As for the rest of you, if you haven't yet availed yourselves of the pleasure of reading my novel, I wish to remind you that it is available in paperback from or Amazon for $16.50, or worldwide on your Kindle for just $2.99 USD. It is also available worldwide on the Kindle lending library. Become one of the few who have read this book so far, and help make them many! And then spread the word! AN UPDATE ON DIANE: Every day gets a little better. We are still overwhelmed by how well she got through the crash. We now must await the whims of the insurance companies as they go about their business, and have decided we cannot worry about any of that right now. Worrying will not help, just borrow trouble. Instead we have to trust that all will be well, and focus on getting Di better and better, and finding a car we can afford. SHORT STORY: Unfortunately, my short story "The Anthropologist's Acquaintance" was not selected among the finalists for the contest. It was a long shot, entering late in the game and knowing how many fine entries there would be. We perservere. We move on. We await Mr. Spielberg's genius to recognize mine.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012


Yesterday I saw the car for the first time. It stood there, solemn and vulnerable, covered in a blanket of snow, as if to hide the full visual impact of the wreckage. But nothing could hide the vision. I took a few photos, then stood there wondering how anyone could have emerged from that accident with only "minor injuries," but, thankfully, Diane did. I thought about how close I came to losing her. The day will come when one of us will leave the survivor, but if I have anything to say about it that day will be decades off. It did not happen on December 7, 2012. I called Di from the tow yard to thank her for not dying. She replied, "Thank God, fate and physics." So I did that, too, holding back tears. Then she added that good engineering and safety belts were of help too. Every day is better. There are issues to deal with, as parts of her struggle to heal and impact other bits, and as we try to decipher the impact of the crash on our finances. We have no car now, and the settlement on a ten year old Kia will be meager at best, but a friend is going to loan us a car until we figure it all out, and the Post Office, local Grovery Store, and work are a healthy hike away. The insurance company in its infinite wisdom wants to claim the accident was Diane's falut, another issue of great disappointment directed toward Corporate America and meaning that our insurance premium will go up once the dust has settled. But everything will work out, and at the end of it we will be better than before, if that is possible. I do believe that life is a work in progress, so progress is the goal and love the fuel that drives us forward. Others have had much worse things to deal with, from actually suffering an unexpected death in the family to having their home all but destroyed by Hurricane Sandy. There are people in the world whose poverty is astounding, beyond an average American's comprehension. One in six people in the world live on a dollar a day or less. That's a bargain ornament or a jigsaw puzzle at the local Dollar Tree, or about a third of a latte at Starbucks. Twety-six million human beings worldwide are trapped in slavery. I remember these statistics with a heavy heart, because I can do so little to help, and today I feel the need to tuck up close to home. I am being selfish, but that is where I need to be. We are entrusted with a specific corner of the world to tend. Most of us have very small bits. Tend them well, and constantly renew that fuel that drives you.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Blog 251

I had intended Blog 251 to be a fun, funny little seasonal squib. But things change. Snow falls, roads get slick, cars slide. In one second everything can change, and even though change is supposed to be good, radical change can rip you apart and leave you reeling even when you're not the one who was hurt. Diane was in a car accident last evening due to slick roads and heavy snowfall. She will be okay -- her seat belt, the air bag, and the intrinsic soundess of our ten year old Kia probably saved her life. Another car was involved, and its driver and passenger were able to leave the hospital yesterday night after being checked over to make sure they were okay. Di suffered major bruising from being tossed and yanked by the impact, including a cracked elbow. She is swollen and sore and very tired, but otherwise she will recover fully. They are releasing her from the hospital this afternoon. Nik and I will bring her home. The car was totalled. Being ten years old, its blue book value will be small. We don't know yet how we will replace it, but we'll figure it out. We'll figure everything out, step by step, from the dust after the insurance companies settle. One painful step at a time, until the pain is gone. I blame myself. The snow was starting to get heavy, and I should have insisted that she not go. The people at her destination would understand. She blames herself. If she hadn't started to accelerate as she drove up the hill on 93 leading out of Lakeside. If she had stayed home. If, if. In situations like this, one wants to affix cause and blame. But it was an accident, no one was seriously injured, and our world may be more difficult for a period of time, we have each other. Incidents like this remind us of how precious each of us is to someone else, and that nothing else really matters. Our Kia died a noble death. But cars can be replaced, an our friend Joanne says. People -- in this case my bride of nearly 38 years -- cannot. So Blog 251 is turning out to be me counting my blessings once again, this time in the face of a misfortune that could have been far, far worse.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Puzzles and Planes

Recently I picked up a Sudoku puzzle book at the local dollar store, and began playing at once. It's funny: doing Sudoku makes me feel like I am on an airplane nestled in for a ten hour flight to Schiphol Airport. Driving to Kalispell these days with the cold grey overcast quality of light reminds me of driving atop the dikes outside Culemborg. But, then, as Diane will attest, it takes very little to remind me of Holland and our times there. I have choice pieces of Delftware on my walls and in or on my cabinets. I have my own set of wooden shoes displayed in my writer's garret, along with a huge collection of Santa Claus figurines and statues. There is nothing more Dutch than klompen -- clogs -- hand carved in the Netherlands and brought to America when we immigrated way back in 1952. And Santa Claus is derived from Sinterclaas, the Dutch version of Saint Nicholas, whose feast day is December 6 and whose arrival to treat all the little children is the night of December 5. The kiddies put their shoes, their klompen, outside the door and Sinterclaas places treats and candy in the shoes (or coal and twigs for the "bad" or "naughty" kids) to be discoverfed the next morning. Therefore: the Christmas season reminds me of Holland. Then comes New Year's. We have celebrated New Year's in Holland three times. They really know how to approach that holiday, marking fresh beginnings by getting rid, emotionally, of all the bad things you feel or see, and exploding fireworks the way we do for the Fourth of July. Plus, the cold weather and the bright lights combine to create that untranslatable feeling, gezelligheit. The closest translation is "coziness," but it is more than that, more like a warm fuzzy glowing comfortableness that reaches down to your toes and back up through the whole body, that links you indelibly to everything and everyone around you. Therefore: New Year's makes me think of Holland. The rest of the year I have less cues, but I really don't need them. I read Erik's blog, I talk on the phone to Erik and Annemieke and Olaf and Anneke, and we exchange e-mails frequently. If I don't hear from them, I think of them and wonder how they are. When I do hear from them, I think of them knowing how they are. It doesn't take much. I think about Vermeer's "The Girl With the Pearl Earring" at the Mauritshaus in den Haag, or Jan Asselijn's "The Threatened Swan" at the Rijksmuseum. I think about the rock shop in Giethorn. I Listen to a piece of music by Jan van Gilse -- admittedly not a great composer, but because of his life story and a few great works, he has become a "pet interest." I look at words in English that came from Dutch, like clomp, which means to walk heavily, and comes from klomp, which is Dutch for shoe. I have a proud heritage and have immersed myself in it, although my mastery of the Dutch language is non-existant. Something else to work on in the coming years. The best part, for me, is that Holland thinks about me. Specifically, both sets of nephew-niece loved their time in Montana with us this year so much that they want to come back. So they are the reverse of the coin on which I am featured, the yin to my yang -- for every memory or thought of Holland I have, they counter with one about Glacier International Airport and the surrounding wonders here. All we need is money and time -- ha ha. But we have our memories and our photographs and emails and telephones to sustain us. A man is supposed to be satisfied with what he has. I have much. I love what I have. But a man also wants more -- it is a large part of what drives us on. So I love my new home and my friends and family around me, but I dream of playing Sudoku on an airplane, because it's almost impossible for me to sleep on one.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Sharing the Wealth

Saturday, December 1 Fiber-optic Santa is shining on me as I write. Oma and Xander are building a gingerbread house large enough for a family of four, in the kitchen. The season is upon us. No snow yet, and no serious forecasts for snow below 5000 feet, but the air feels like winter and the atmosphere is definitely one of yuletide greetings and hot cups of ginger snappish tea. In short, the nights are long and filled with cozy togetherness. And, despite the fact that some other worthy persons won the Powerball, and not me, riches abound. It would be easy for me to find something to complain about today, if I try. Heck, if I had nothing to complain about, I would be complaining about that! But as I think through the words I want to use, I find myself wanting to talk about good things and only good things. The joke would be – well, that’s going to be a short blog, then. But wait, there’s more. Truth is, I have so many blessings in my life I am beyond counting them and strictly enjoying them. Looking back on my life, I realize that I have won the lottery time and time again. Fame and fortune may have eluded me so far – SO FAR – but I have to admit I have been a very lucky fellow, indeed. I have gotten to spend 38 years (come December 28) with a remarkable and loving woman. I have gotten to know a great many good people and felt their love radiate over me. I still have enough wits about me to tell you of my luck. Times are tough. Times are tough for a great many people, compared to whom I have it really, really good. My heart goes out to all of them. We forget they exist even when they might be living next door or down the street. When I count my blessings I always try to think of people less fortunate, less well off, whose struggles are far greater and profound than my own. That might be the season calling to me, or the fiscal cliff looming like the edge of Niagara Falls. Or it could be, simply, the realization that I have a computer to work from, a TV to watch, a stove to cook upon and food to prepare in my nice, warm, spacious house. Truth is, like Tevya would say, I still would like to have to prove I can handle fame and fortune. I want to believe I would spread it around, and I know my wife, my conscience, would help me do just that. Then among the blessings I could count would be the blessings I bestow. Meanwhile, we all are doing what we can. The blessings we do spread are small, not earth-shattering or life-changing, but Theresa the little flower honored life and her God with her little ways, and that can be enough. Doors need to be opened. Things on tall shelves need reaching for shorter friends. Conversations with complete strangers in long lines at the checkout make the time more enjoyable, or less irritating at least. The phone lines still work. And even a quarter makes a joyful noise as it drops into the donations kettle, manned by the Salvation Army volunteer outside your favorite store. Wealth is a relative thing, meant to be spread.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Sunday Christmas Movies

It is the Sunday after Thanksgiving. It is also that day of rest between Black Friday and Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday. We need to rest from all that shopping, I guess. Forty percent of the national non-essential spending for the year occurs during the Season. Not that there's anything wrong with that -- as much as I bemoan the commercialism of Christmas, I delight in giving gifts and I do not mind receoving them, either. That being said, I just have to note that Sunday, the day of rest, ain't. Shoppers are flooding the stores, planners are planning the holidays, and retailers are absolutely hopeful. And, for a time, our focus is firmly on each other, what will please you, what will fit, what to feed you when you come, how you plan to get here, where everybody will stay, how will the weather be. The weather, by the way, up here is cold enough that last night's dusting of snow is sticking on the ground, just a slight pure white accent to the mood that is threatening to overtake me. It's a wonderful mood, filled with all that hope and the wish to be generous. This year, generosity will have to find other, less concrete forms. Diane and I will have to be creative, something I know we are both good at being. This afternoon we start decorating. For various reasons, we are going to skip a real tree this year and rely on our old, faithful, very fake two foot tabletop model that we set up in 2001, the year we went to Holland together for the very first time, leaving the day after Christmas and not wanting the burden of dismantling a real tree the afternoon before our departure. There is a warm fuzzy attached to the tree, and a small heartache knowing that trips to Holland are much desired but far, far away. Up here in Montana we both feel a little displaced, trying to fit our traditional celebrations into an already existing array of traditions. We have ideas for 2013, centered around Saint Nicholas's feast day, but in 2012 that day is coming too quickly and the funding for a proper celebration is coming too slowly. We have to plan our events far in advance while living our lives day to day. That last line sounds like a nice, balanced Hallmark moment, the kind I hope to build into a mountain of moments remembered fondly by my grandson Xander. I already have a mountain of moments, a calendar filled with perfect days spent with my wife, my family, my friends. I want more of them. More than anything else in the world, I love perfect days. The sun is out, the sky is blue, the snow is still sticking around. Di and I are watching a movie on the Christmas Channel, better known as Hallmark. These, mostly, are fairly bad films, and no one will argue with me on that -- even, I suspect, the filmmakers themselves. But every now and then one shows up that is almost good, or even pretty good, or even as good as some of the stuff in the theaters we have to pay to see. And good actors, writers, producers, cameramen, directors, grips, makeup artists, and the rest, get work. Their paychecks ought to help them get through the holidays with relative comfort, and I laud them for that. I begrudge them nothing, and I am entertained, as well as given the opportunity to tell you how bad or almost good the films are. It's sort of like starting your day with sugar plum faeries dancing through your head, a hot steaming cup of coffee by your side and your snow shovel at the ready. Sounds like a good beginning to a perfect day to me.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Glacier Symphony Does Ode To Joy

Today I want to start out with a strong note. Take any note from Beethoven's Ode to Joy, and it will do. On Sunday, Diane and I got the wonderful opportunity to hear the Beethoven Ninth live, thanks to the generous and delightful company of our friend Joop, a fellow immigree in good standing here in Montana. The thing that amazes is this: Kalispell city has less than 17,000 residents and all Flathead County has but 87,000. And yet, right here, we find a symphony orchestra and chorale that, to put it mildly, is surprising. I came to Montana from California with certain preconceptions and prejudices, I must admit. Having raised our family in or near the cultural hubs of Monterey-Salinas and San Francisco, I came here expecting to find nothing culturally exciting; I thought I might be wandering into a wasteland. And yet, and yet ----- The Glacier Symphony and Chorale are here. Not only that, they contain a compliment of musicians whose passion for their art is clear and displayed in their performance. They also like a challenge. In the short time I have become aware of the orchestra, they have tackled as complex and emotionally difficult a piece as Sibelius' Fifth, and as demanding and full throated a masterpiece as the Ode to Joy. This last symphony, coupled with Beethoven's charming and often surprising First, was our first exposure to the Glacier Symphony, and we came away enthralled. Any live performance is better than none, and a good performance is better still. I have experienced the Monterey Symphony on numerous occasions, and found their performances as uneven as their conductors. Most of the time, I have loved what they did, but once in a while, especially under the laborious baton of one particular elder statesman of the conductor's guild whose name I have conveniently forgotten over time, that orchestra has fallen far short of what I felt I understood of the composer's intentions. Given that, acknowledging that the Monterey Symphony is a small venue orchestra, and seeing that the Glacier Symphony venue is less than a third of theirs, I had every reason to expect this new group would offer a noble attempt and I would laud them for that. Not so. Perhaps because their conductor, John Zoltek, has been their director for the past fourteen years, and because he is not in the least bit afraid to challenge his musicians, the Glacier Symphony is pretty damn good. You could not stack them up against San Francisco or New York, who have deeper resources from which to draw. But in a small venue, these people make a huge -- and joyful -- noise. Once again blessed and surprised by the diversity and excellence of this area, our home!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Blogs Between the Snowflakes

I am issuing an apology, even if one is not needed. This is a very busy time of year for all of us. Conceeding the constraints of a 24 hour day, with the Holiday season upon us, I am apologizing in advance for the probable infrequency of my blogs during the coming weeks. It has not been a consistent year for me as a blogger to begin with, and as the year draws to its inevitable close, that trend -- or lack of a trend -- will continue. But that's okay, because the main reason for it is the fact that I am a busy man. I constantly wonder how in the world I had time for work when I was working full time, there is so much else to do! At least boredom is not an issue I ever face. All that being said, I also have to declare here, as much for my own inner deadline as for your entertainment, that I have begun what I hope to be the final reworking of my latest project before publication. I expect to have it ready by Spring and hope to pitch it to "legitimate" publishing houses or agents as the first of three interrealted books centered on one German's experiences during World War Two, It will not be like anything else out there on the subject, But,then, I have a twisted way of looking at things that sometimes takes me on directions that no one else seems to find. At least, that's what I think. The fact probably is that a hundred people come up with the same or similar ideas at about the same time, but only one can be the first to do it. I am trying to be the first here, and the only enemy I have to achieving that goal is my own procrastination. Procrastination is something I am very good at doing. I am so good, in fact, that once I was asked to join a procrastinator's club, but I never got around to it. That's okay, they have yet to hold their first meeting. I need to push forward. It is hard to follow the discipline I know I must. It is hard to work past all the distractions that come my way on a daily, sometimes hourly basis, from my wonderful grandson's afternoon tea after we pick him up from school to Brian Cox the scientist traipsing over the Scablands to talk about what water can do to a landscape, on the Science Channel. Cox explained that at the end of the last ice age a monstrous lake rested behind a massive glacier. When the glacier gave way it was like a thousand Hoover Dams releasing a thousand Lake Meads -- scouring the land into a gigantic coulee (dry ravine formed by rushing water) in a matter of two to seven days, an instant of geologic time. The Scablands, he said, were somewhere in the northwest. Curious, I looked them up to find that they are less than a day's drive from my home, right on Highway 2 west of Spokane, Washington, on the way to Leavenworth where the Nutcracker Museum resides. The more common name for the Scablands is the Grand Coulee. So another distraction is planning a couple of days to go to Washington, visit the Grand Coulee region, stay in this Solvang-of-the-Northwest town, and marvel at what human hands can carve out of wood, and nature out of the earth. And yet I am supposed to squeeze out snippets of time for my writing, with all this wonderment to see, appreciate, understand. Even the weather is baffling -- the arctic cold snap is gone and with it, the meager snow that fell, and we look to be in for a winter of miniscule snowfalls. So think of my blogs as coolees in words, gushing through the internet. If they make a mark, terrific. If not, the novel I'm polishing or the one after that just might push into existence an entire mountain with my name on it. I can only hope.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Dealing with fear

I have spent the last several days dealing with my fears. It seems odd to sit here this evening and admit that I am afraid. It is not something a man is supposed to admit out loud except in the waning hours of darkness before dawn brings a battle to be fought. Then, it's okay. Maybe in today's world it brings less of a stigma to admit one's fears. The temptation is to say, "Yes, I am," then make light of it. I intend to, in fact, as this blog goes on, so if the mood shifts jarringly, just go with it. I no longer have to fear the outcome of the national election, but I still fear the actions that might be taken by the various elected. But that is out of my hands. In fact, all the things that I fear, really fear, are things out of my hands, things that remind me that control is an illusion and, as Jim Morison once sang, "the future is uncertain and the end is always near." I fear the end. I fear that when it comes I will have done nothing remarkable or noteworthy or memorable to mark my time on this planet. It is the fate of most of us, that we are remembered fondly only by those closest to us, and our deeds are interred with our bones, as Daniel Webster once said. I fear that there will be no Christmas this year, that our new budget is far too small. I fear I may never again see some people I hold close to my heart, especially ones who live overseas. I fear the snow. These fears have had me down and almost paralyzed for the past few days. I have had distractions, like watching the entire extended edition of the Lord of the Rings trilogy. When we had enough of Middle Earth we switched to regular TV and found ourselves on Lifetime watching David Hasslehoff as "The Christmas Consultant." It was a total joy and sorrow combined. A few hours before I thought to myself, I fear I will never write anything a tenth as good as the Lord of the Rings. Then I see this 2012 Christmas movie and think, somebody got a heck of a lot of money for writing that screenplay. Okay, not THAT much, to be sure, but certainly more than I make in a year. And my biggest fear awakened in all its horrid glory: It's only mid-November. There's six more weeks of Christmas movies on the docket. What if they take over all network TV? Now that's something way out of my control and really really scary.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Post Election Depression: I Need A Doctor!

It is a cold November day. The snow is falling and the temperature is dropping. Right now, at four in the afternoon Mountain Time, it is 31 degrees Fahrenheit. For my European friends, that's about minus one Celsius. Brisk. Xander, Oma and Opa just finished our afternoon tea. Amazingly enough, we just discovered that Xander likes tea, really. It's "Ginger Snappish," and aided by a bit of almond milk and sweetener, but it's real tea and he is very much a part of the Montana tea contingent. Wintertime, the tea is hot. Summertime, it's usually iced. This is our second snow of the season. It is not going to amount to a heck of a lot of snow (in the higher mountains, on the passes, it could be significant), but very low temperatures will keep what does fall on the ground. The earth is dressing up for the Winter Ball. One season has passed, and another begins. It seems like only yesterday the World Series was on. It was only yesterday that our new President turned out to be our old President, much to the relief of many and the consternation of a few. This blog is not going to be about politics. It's about filling the void after election night, especially up here where the sky grows dark before five pm and the snow is falling gently but steadily outside. After all, the World Series was a major television event. Election coverage had us glued to the set. Now the television has reverted to the wasteland it was before, noisily repetitive where the best things to watch on most nights are re-runs of NCIS, the Mentalist and Castle, while I await the next arrival in my Netflix queue. I know I ought to join the 21st Century and learn how to do direct streaming. It would make the wait a great deal less weighty. But I am of that generation somewhat bewildered by modern technology. I have not caught up, and I doubt that I ever will. I know how to use a computer for some things, a DVD (upgraded to BluRay), even a cell phone. But I find I am getting by without an iPad, tweets and instant messaging. I know I am handicapping myself in the area of getting me out there to a wider reading public, but I am lodged in my comfort zone where I am cozy warm, and it's snowing outside. I don't need Facebook to tell me that. So I plow along. With a snow shovel, not an actual plow. I use a keyboard with relative ease, but the typewriter is not far away and I still use pen and paper for sketching out many ideas and assembling outlines. I still use snail mail, even when it snows. You know what they used to say about letter carriers -- neither rain nor snow nor dead of night, blah blah blah. In Salinas I had to deliver mail only one time when it was snowing, in 31 years. I did deal with earthquakes and flooding and torrential downpours, but never the powdery white stuff. I deal with that now, mostly by watching it fall. But watching snow fall is not enough to keep me busy. I could read a book -- or write one -- but what I want is compelling television! I look at the schedule and search desperately for the next great media event. When is Doctor Who coming back?

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Postmortem - the People's Mandate

It's over, done, in the can. President Obama won re-election. The people have spoken. But what did we say? Even though Obama won handily in the Electoral College, he won key states by narrow margins and the overall popular vote margin is far from impressive. This was not a decisive victory. It was not an endoresement of policy. Several things do emerge from the results that are, at the very least, interesting. The first is the realization that white males no longer dominate in America. This will be a hard pill for white males to swallow, but the demographics have shifted. No matter how political views among the voters shift and change over the next four years, the new political reality is that the balance in this country has changed to finally reflect our diversity. The net meaning of the election seems to be that America is divided on how to go forward and meet the crises that face us, and therefore chose to maintain the status quo. Progress will continue at the same pace it has maintained over the past two years with a Congress with split loyalties. There is no mandate. The House leadership will not, as I see it, move toward the center and the Senate leadership will not find any of their movement met with counter-compromise. In short, very little will get done as long as one party in opposition can obstruct the other's agenda. Apparently, this is just what Americans want -- or, more likely, the election reflects our disconnect from the system that gives us two rich kids from which to choose. It was an expensive choice. It cost an embarrassing amount of money to run the 2012 elections, on all levels. In Montana, as I have noted, the pricetag for the Senate seat was something like 60 million dollars, and the nationwide pricetag exceeded the billions. One can't help wonder where that money would have been better spent, perhaps on education, infrastructure repair, job creation. Of course, values are relative -- Americans spent six billion dollars on Halloween costumes. Barach Obama is the new One Billion Dollar Man. It cost that much for the Presidential campaigns to be run. But he is no cyborg, he is a politician who spends most of his time running. Well, he does not have to run anymore. So, Mr. President. pardon the language, it's time to show us your cojones. Call on the other side of the aisle to join in helping America move forward, or at least repair the damages done by a wartime economy during the last fifty years and an investment bubble that coincided with that economy before bursting. And if they don't compromise with you, don't compromise with them and still get nothing, as so often happened during the last two years. Fix your sights on them and do not let them squirm and equivocate away from their responsibility, but do not squirm or equivocate away from your own responsibility either. LEAD! The last thing I want to mention in this blog is a hefty reminder that still seems to elude most of the pundits. Even though race and racism is still a palpable part of our mentality, class distinctions will continue to grow and the schism between the power elite and those they rule will widen. If we don't address that, the problems we face today will seem like an expired outdate on the milk in the fridge. But wait, there's more ---- and a note to my eldest -- the two party system is deeply flawed, more so in such a diverse nation. Multiple party systems do allow for coalitions and compromises between elements that shape policy and engage action. However, when I talk to people overseas who live under multi-party systems, they find flaws there as well. But they would not trade. Either way, the Power Elite -- a term coined back in 1956 by C. Wright Mills, will call the shots, and I agree with you on one fundamental reality: we may as well be serfs working the fields on Charlemagne's estate.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Election Night Blues

Here we go! The American people have spoken. At least, a great number have spoken, while uncounted more await their chance to cast their ballots in long lines kept open even after the polls technically closed. I don't remember ever seeing that before -- perhaps the turnout will be a record in 2012. We have spoken, but we don't know yet what we have said. And I wonder: is there a morning-after-election pill, because many Americans will want to take it. Of course, such a pill would be outlawed by the Republicans, while the Democrats would insist it be covered by Obamacare. Tomorrow morning, a few questions will be answered. Many more will be asked. My first question will be: how long will I remain free to spout off, speak out, exercise my First Amendment rights? Question two: how long before hawks take over foreign policy with an eye fixed on Iranian oil? Question three: what will the three branches of government do in the next two years to change America's political and economic realities for the better, and better by whose definition? The truth is, we will survive whomever we elect as President. Our rights will stay intact as long as we ourselves do not surrender them. America faces major problems -- it seems we are always facing major problems -- but we Americans will solve these problems only as long as we work together to find, impliment and promote reasonable solutions. This means we have to re-evaluate our role in the world, and our priorities at home. We will have to focus on education first and foremost, followed by the rebuilding of our own infrastructure and the creation of work opportunities at a fair wage. Our position in the world is slipping because the example we offer today is terrible in so many measurements. Paraphrasing my favorite quote, America is moving away from the world by standing still. The greatest tragedy that could come out of the 2012 election would be the continuation of obstructionism -- from either side of the aisle. Oh, and invading Iran: not a good idea.

Monday, November 5, 2012

The Penultimate Day of the Campaign

Tomorrow is Election Day, for better or for worse. Millions upon millions of Americans will turn out to vote at whatever polling place is convenient, taking time from their busy schedules to exercise this most fundamental right granted us under the Constitution of the United States, its various Amendments, and the laws of the land. I once was told that there are only three ways by which an individual in this country can affect the political atmosphere -- first and foremost is vcting. The other two are serving on a jury and serving on a grand jury, if you want to know. There is another way: exercise your freedoms as outlined by the same laws, especially freedom of speech. So tomorrow we vote, and the ballots cast already by early voters such as myself will be tabulated. We will pick our President and set up the balance within both houses of Congress, declaring the climate for at least the next two years, until mid-term elections give us another chance to vote. Someone said that our voting system allows Americans the chance to overthrow the government peacefully every election, by mandate. Sometimes we choose to overthrow the whole thing, other times we keep part and discard part, and others we leave the status quo. Even though it is predominantly rich people who select rich people to run for office, particularly the Presidency and the Senate, in each case leaving us with a choice of the two remaining candidates, we the voter get the final say. No one should give up that power voluntarily. We are the deciders, to borrow a mis-used phrase. The balance in Washington is crucial. As we have seen over the past two years at least, with a roadblock to progress lodged firmly in the House of Representatives, if any one part of the legislating leadership triumpherate (President-House-Senate; the Supreme Court is the non-elected watchdog)is dominated by one party and the other two the other party. we will stagnate for at least that next two years and probably four, especially given the derisive climate that exists in the Capital today. I fear a Republican majority in all three branches will set us backward, but at least it will be movement. I believe that a Democratic majority will be able to push forward an agenda that will benefit the majority of Americans, and so I will spend tomorrow evening rooting for that, state by state. When FDR took office in 1933 he had Democratic majorities in both houses, and in his first hundred days he pushed through masses of legislation as if he had a blank check. The Supreme Court sorted things out later, overturning several of his programs. But several key ones remain to this day. When Obama took office in 2009 he had the chance to act in a similar way, but did not push his advantage. In two words, he was too polite. If re-elected, I hope he realizes that it's time to take the gloves off. But we shall see, and very soon. No matter how America votes, it may be comforting to know how much money was spent on getting these people elected. The Presidency will come with a price tag (from all corners) of one billion dollars. I think that's twice what Big Bird and Company get per year. In my adopted state of Montana, the two men running for the Senate seat will have spent sixty million dollars, and we're a small state. I don't know how many people got jobs because of it, or how many will join the ranks of the unemployed on Wednesday, or how much of an infusion political spending has given the economy. I only know two things: that's an awful lot of money spent to gain power. And, two, no matter what else, there is one hooray for every one of us: Wednesday morning we will turn on our TVs and THERE SILL BE NO MORE POLITCAL ADS! AMEN!!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Ian McShane Can Sing!

There are times when the world of men creates something absolutely beautiful. The striking thing to me is that such moments most often are totally unexpected, even if it comes in the middle of something much bigger that is supposed to be striking, artsy, or monumental. In Sibelius' Second Symphony, for example, the entire piece is filled with profound moments linked together movement by movement into a cohesive whole. The coda, or final breath of the score, grows naturally from all that preceeds it, in an eight note bar. But then Sibelius repeats the bar, adds a note, and changes it from up to down, before presenting it in its original form to end the symphony. The change is breathtaking and unexpected, the brilliance an emotional one. As Spock wouild say, listening to it, "We reach." It has taken Diane and me six years to catch up with the HBO series "Deadwood." Over three seasons and thirty-six episodes blaringly and openly tell the crass and bloody story of "miners and whores" and the people eeking out a brutal living and struggling to bring civilization to the mining camp in the face of at least one robber baron with murderous intent. Episode 9, Season 3 is called "Amateur Night." While townsfolk show off their talents, bar owner and main protagonist Al Swearingen, played by Ian McShane, waits alone in his empty saloon, empty because everyone is outside. But Al's concern is not just for a night without business. There is a storm brewing over him and his life choices, a storm that could destroy him. The episode ends with him singing, a cappella, a sad and brutal song. It takes a minute to recognize the tune as he sings it, slightly embellished by an amateur's interpretation, and we did not get to hear the first stanza, a dead giveaway. But suddenly we realize he is singing "Streets of Laredo," a classic story of a young cowboy instructing his finder on how to deal with his body, as he lay dying. It is a poignant moment, an underscore to the entire season, sung in McShane's precisely unprofessional bass-baritone -- and is the best moment in the entire 36 hours of "Deadwood." I look at the world and see that we have not progressed, grown, evolved a single iota from the men and women of Deadwood, South Dakota Territory, or further back in time and history. It depresses me, distresses me, gives me cause to wonder about the future with fear in my heart. I look at my grandson and wonder what battles might be placed in his path and how he will deal with them. Rationale, deceit and murder are the norm. Read any paper, watch any news broadcast. Those with power will do anything to keep it. Those with ambition for power will do anything to attain it. The rest of us happily choose sides based on promises and lies, and greedily embrace hatred as our fuel for action. This scenario plays out on every stage on which humans assemble, from corporate takeover to outright war. I know that Mankind is a work in progress. But sometimes the progress is negligible or seems to have stopped altogether and slipped into reverse. Then I hear Ian McShane sing "Streets of Laredo."

Friday, November 2, 2012

All Saints and Sinners, too

This is the day of the following night . . . I wrote this yesterday, on All Saints Day, think at least in part about what so many of the people sanctified over the centuries had to endure for what they believed. Agree with them or not, their courage astounds me, and from it I draw inspiration. Yet I find myself holding back. Every now and then, I stumble over what someone else might think or judge about me from my words, whether it's another fiction about World War Two (old hat, who cares?) to a blog about America slipping (where's your patriotism?). I need a tougher skin. After all, a saint would not concern himself or herself with negative press. As Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, "To be great is to be misunderstood." I am not a saint, I am not great, I am not Emerson, and I do not pretend to be. My own voice is small. Sometimes I feel it is insignificant. But, then I realize that I am not alone, and, no matter what, silence serves no one. I must continue my work, no matter how small the audience or how challenging the material. I cannot worry about what you think. THAT you think means I've done my job.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Nothing, and then some

Last night's blog today . .. I feel as though I have nothing to say. This is an unusual place for me. So I figure if I start writing something will come out. It always does -- with a certain almost biological regularity. Tonight is Halloween, All Hallow's Eve, All Souls Day, the Day of the Dead. Xander is a pirate arrg'ing his way through a "safe" neighborhood in Kalispell with his parents and a handful of cousins. We're at home. No parties, no trick-or-treaters. Even the deer elude us this evening. Halloween is not what it used to be for me, and hasn't been for a very long time. With Xander, I thought some of that old magic would return, but a cold night escorting him house to house while the adults out of costume would outnumber the pirates and princesses, it feels better to wait until next year. Maybe we'll be better prepared. Pumpkin Day sort of snuck up on us and suddenly was here, and tomorrow will be gone. Sort of like our first snow. Both snow and Pumpkin Day herald the beginning of the holiday season -- and that IS my favorite time of the year. Decorations, family meals, Saint Nicholas Day are all coming fast. Long nights, a Christmas tree, Santas and nutcrackers, warm feelings. Even on a fixed income and meager budget, the holidays are going to be fun because the holidays are about love, and love we have in abundance.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Horror Double Feature

Last night we watched the two scariest movies ever made. I did not realize how scary they are the first dozen or two times I saw them, but in today's climate these films frightened the hell out of me. Both were made over fifty years ago and both starred Spencer Tracy, a man not noted for horror films. What scared me so terribly is the fact that films made that long ago remain relevant today, in some ways even the more so because, as the saying goes, he who forgets history is doomed to repeat it. The first film was "Inherit the Wind," the great play turned movie based on the Scopes Monkey Trial of 1925 wherein science and religion clashed head-on over the issue of teaching evolution in school. The film really is about a man's right to independent thought, a concept that is precious to us in this country but relatively recently accepted as the pervue of all men and women. Line after line, thought after thought in that film screams against intollerance. The difference between the fundamentalist Christian Brady and the agnostic free thinking Drummond comes down to this: Brady will not allow for other points of view, while Drummond will. Put another way, when Drummond slams Darwin's book on evolution and the Bible together and carries them off as he leaves, it is an admission by a thinking man that he believes in science, he believes in truth, and he believes in possibility. At one point he says that ignorance and fanaticism are constantly hungry and need feeding. In America the rise of the Creationist movement arrogantly proclaims its own self-importance: no other way is possible. I have known people whose view is even more narrow, that their way to God is the only road available. I believe in what Arthur C. Clarke said, that there are nine billion roads to God; mine might work for me, but you have to find your own, and I encourage you to seek. But do not exclude mine in the bargain. Ignorance and fanaticism need feeding. They also propogate readily, spreading their poison everywhere, a poison that tastes of lies. Adolph Hitler once said, “The art of leadership . . . consists in consolidating the attention of the people against a common adversary and taking care that nothing will split up that attention.” Keep them ignorant, stroke their fanaticism, and hold it together with lies, and they will do anything for you. The second film, "Judgment at Nuremberg," dealt with the consequence of wielding that kind of power over others when you yourself had intellegence and knew the required course of action was wrong. Gandhi said that "non-cooperation with evil is as important as cooperation with good." I follow this solemnly with this unpopular observation: The United States is a warrior nation. Our militancy is the face the world sees. Our actions abroad have become as questionable as the motives behind them. Our unmanned drones kill civilians and no one bats an eye. In fact, we have gone nearly to bankruptcy largely on our extreme military spending over the past decade, and yet Americans at home act as if we have not been at war for the last ten years. WE KILL PEOPLE, and too many of our victims are not guilty of anything -- they were in the way. How do we reconcile that with the good we want to do? Or do we hear Spencer Tracy's words echoing in our heads when Burt Lancaster's Ernst Janning asks for forgiveness and says he had no idea Nazi Germany would come to such horrors -- Tracy said (I'm paraphrasing), "It came to that the first time you convicted a man you knew to be innocent." In some things there cannot be any compromise. Ignorance and fanaticism need constant feeding, but non-cooperation with evil is as important as cooperation with good. Even small people with no power at least can state their opposition, and if the course they object to is the wrong one, maybe they still can turn us onto the right path and promote and protect the greatness of their homeland. If not, be scared, be very very scared.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

At Least Somebody Is resting On Sunday!

It is late Sunday evening. Diane and I have spent a quiet afternoon and evening, resting. As if we needed the rest -- but we do. Quiet days are good for the soul. So this blog is filled with a handful of tidbits, jotted down as Miguel Cabrera bats for Detroit. His two run homer had the Tigers ahead, but Buster Posey just gave the Giants back the lead. Cabrera just struck out. It's hard to keep good hitters down, and impossible to keep Cabrera in the yard for long. But as I write, SF defense and pitching still dominates the Series. Time is running out for Detroit, and as I say THAT Delmon Young just tied it up. I love baseball. On that note I have a suggestion for Tim Lincecum -- maybe you should think about changing your job. As good as you were as a starter in days past and might be again (I don't doubt you can regain form in that arena) your work in relief this year has been nothing short of amazing. As quickly as you can get ready, as devastating as your stance is to batters, you might consider becoming a closer. Just a thought -- you will be remarkable in 2013 regardless. And what about Hurricane Sandy? This storm may prove to be a President maker if it disrupts voting on the mostly Blue Eastern seaboard. Or will the election officials postpone the election on account of rain? And 95 mph winds -- voters would feel like they just walked into a baseball park with a thousand Justin Verlanders and Tim Lincecums throwing at their heads. Final note for this blog is more personal. This week Xander got to go on a field trip to the Apple Barrel, where he learned about how apples are turned into apple juice, repleat with samples. Curious George had an episode about the same subject, but there's nothing like the real thing. It was also the very first time he got to ride on a school bus. His Oma and Opa got to ride along. It was great fun to be a part of this first for him, and it reminds me that this preschooler is going to have a great many firsts coming at him fast and furious. There are two blessings in that. One, when a young person learns something new or has a new experience and you get to witness it, that same thing becomes new for you as well, as if you are learning it all over for the first time. And two, as Neal Degrasse Tison happened to observe Thursday night as a guest on Totally Biased, we have to let our children experience and experiment. He said it something like this: we spend a child's first year teaching him how to walk and talk; how can we then spend the rest of his youth telling him to sit still and be quiet? After all, he (or she) might grow up to find a cure for cancer, pitch the clincher in the World Series, run for President of the United States, deliver your mail to your doorstep or NDCBU, protect you, take care of you, prepare food for your consumption, or teach your children's children well.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Giant Success!

I love baseball. This time of year I love baseball so much I overlook the high salaries and inflated egos that sit in the club boxes, and watch the game and its players at their finest. It's World Series time, and there are two fundamental rules about World Series time as opposed to the rest of the season. First, the post season is comprised of short do or die sets, which means each single game is crucial to the success of the team. There are (this year) a maximum of 20 games available to the last two teams, the ones facing each other in the Series, and the first team to win eleven (or twelve with the extra wildcard) takes all. You can't have a four game losing streak in the Post Season and still come out on top. That said, my hat is off to the San Francisco Giants. It's still early in the Series, but they did what they had to do so far, against a very heavy hitting team. Now, I grew up a Yankee fan, but I also grew up a Giant fan, allowing me one favorite per league. I had hoped for a NY-SF series, reprising the 1962 games, but Detroit's pitching and the Yankees' total lack of hitting outside Ibanez put an end to that dream. It did give me a no conflict choice to root for, and the Jints have done to Detroit in Games One and Two what Detroit did to New York. Sorry, Bill! The Giants won Game 1, 8-3. But it was never that close, largely due to Panda slamming three home runs, Blanco making two great catches, and Zito and Lincecom baffling Detroit hitters. What I saw was a great pitcher bested by a good one, and a good hitter having a great night -- and how a bad hop can open up the floodgates. The Giants showed the Cardinals that they were stingy with runs allowed, would not beat themselves on the field, and had a knack for grabbing opportunity when it came to them. Game Two against Detroit followed the same formula, as great defensive plays robbed Detroit of any scoring opportunities, the starter and relievers gave up zero runs -- managing to keep both Cabrera and Fielder in the yard -- and the hitters manufactured the only run they needed late in the game on a double play grounder, with an insurance run on a sacrifce fly after a bunt that should have rolled foul didn't. The Giants only got five hits in the game. Detroit got two. Who are these guys? Detroit must be wondering the same thing, like Butch and Sundance persued relentlessly. The Giants hit 103 home runs as a team, lowest total in the majors. Their name recognition players are mostly on the mound. And yet, over the last five games they played, they have allowed four runs and hurled three shutouts while scoring thirty times. Go Giants! Detroit is an excellent team. They will be playing at home in a short while for Game Three. It is hard for me to imagine the Tigers not taking at least one game at home. If they take one, then Verlander will get the chance to pitch again, and he probably won't repeat the mistakes he made to Sandoval in Game One. But the Giants will take the Series, in six games, back home to a screaming crowd in PacBell Park. If they don't, and Detroit rebounds, well, after slipping into this hole it would make them as remarkable a team as they seem to be. Right now, the Giants seem just that little more remarkable, and for a Giants fan it feels really good to have the edge be in our favor for a change. But baseball is a funny game. That's why I love it so much -- anything can happen, and with the Giants, it usually does.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012


I should be writing about the World Series, or the weather, or my grandson Xander. I would like to, but instead my mind keeps drifting toward a frightening image: what the world will look like when we all awaken from our slumbers two weeks from today, with Mitt Romney as President-elect. It could happen. I am still convinced that it will not happen, that President Obama will win re-election by a comfortable margin, both by popular vote and in the Electoral College. But two things have to happen for that result to occur. One, people have to come out and vote, and they have to vote in favor of their own interests and not the imagied greater good as postulated by an outsourcing Prince from the American elite who wants to up military spending and down women's rights. Perhaps we believe in American militarism. I'm not talking about military preparedness and defending ourselves. We proved in 1941 that we could mobilize an entire nation in short order and fight a massive two front war with a Citizen Army. I am talking about the fact that we hold the most powerful military in human history and out spend per year the next fifteen great nations combined. What is all that hardware for? Look at the map, and follow the money. The American military is not there to protect you and me. I repeat, they are not our protectors. They are deployed all around the world to protect somebody, but it is not the common citizen of the United States. Look at the map, follow the money. Under the guise of promoting democratizing the Middle East, we are taking control of the region and its oil -- and the "we" in that sentence refers to American led corporate interests. And if you disagree that our motives in this region are driven by profit, at least you should acknowledge that the people in the Middle East believe it is, and winning their allegiance under that cloud will be tricky at best. We were warned 52 years ago to beware the military-industrial complex, by a man who was an great American hero, a Republican, a President and a General, by the name of Dwight David Eisenhower. We have forgotten his warning, while the MIC has grown and entrenched itself to the point that America's military has become a mercenary force basically for hire. Candidate Romney in fact wants to increase military spending should he win, by something like 25%. Meanwhile our poor grow in number and our status among other developed nations in education, health and welfare keep dropping. Taking care of our neighbors is not a priority. Add to that the growing repressive attitude toward women, and a domino effect seems to be building, but this time as the dominos fall they will tumble over our rights, our freedoms, and the already outsourced American Dream. But our military is strong! The Romney Presidency promises to look something like this: By 2014, women will no longer have the right to choose, down to contraception. Barefoot, pregnant, and in the kitchen with ya, gals! Abortion will be illegal even in the case of rape. Legitimate rape to follow. But don't ask the State for help. And there will be a war, probably against Iran. Maybe we should elect Mitt Romney President so the illusions Americans persist in holding dear will be blasted apart by the truth of just how little we really matter to the powers that be and their bottom line.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Brief Weather Report

Hello everyone! Tonight politics takes a day off in the Blokker household. I am more excited about the Giants' stunning victory last night than the fact that the Presidential debates are in the bag for better or worse. It's more fun to write about what I call the revenge of 1987. In '87 the Giants were up three games to two in the NLCS and had hammered nine homers against Card pitching, but the Cards shut them down in Games 6 and 7, allowing narry a run. In this year's NLCS the Cards were up three games to one, and this time the Jints shut them down, outscoring them 20-1 in the final three tilts and getting a well earned ticket to the World Series. The only damper for the City By The Bay was the rain -- the last three outs came in a downpour. Since a post season game, by rule, cannot be called before nine innings are played, and the umpires knowing this kept the game going so it would not have to resume the next day with three outs to go and the result a foregone conclusion. That same rain storm wound up dropping two feet of snow in the mountains of California and covered the entire northwest with weather. The snow began to fall here in Lakeside right around nine, gently but insistently. By this morning the snow had stopped falling, but what had fallen managed to gather into about four inches of fresh pack. And, yes, I got my snow shovel from the shed and cleared off both porches and the walkways and driveway, just as if this were the middle of winter! Olaf and Erik, I got some great shots right from my Sun Room window in the bargain!

Monday, October 22, 2012

News and Notes

Today's blog is sort of a personal miscellany. First, I have to say that humble pie is not very tasty or satisfying but sometimes you have to eat it. The second half of my last blog was a bit of a gripe fest, and now, as it turns out, I was unreasonably unforgiving. The fact appears to be that all of the State of Idaho is a dead zone when it comes to cell phone reception. Add car trouble to the mix, and I wind up asking for their forgiveness for my attitude. Plus, the visit went really, really well, and it was good to see them all after a very long time. Other matters: when the Catholic Church demands not to have to pay to cover health care costs for contraception, I understand their point of view. After all, I pay taxes and have no say about where my money is spent. I have a religious and moral objection to military spending, so I now demand that my tax dollars be spent on things to which I do not object. Like education, PBS and NPR, oh, and univeral healthcare including everything that helps support a woman's right to choose. And if any of my tax dollars go to the Catholic Church, I hereby withdraw them. An observation about the minimum wage: If I did the math right, given the Federal minimum wage is $7.25 an hour and the poverty level for 2012 for a family of four is $23,050, to earn that amount in a year at the minimum wage, it would take approximately 397 days at eight hours a day. Ask Paul Ryan if THAT math adds up. Now, for the virtual tie in the upcoming Presidential race -- WTF???? I mean, if Obama has a sizable lead among women and minorities, how can he possibly lose even if white males are overwhelmingly voting for the Great White Hope? It is a sad state of affairs that so many people are ready to vote against their own interests just because the incumbent is the worng color. But, then, we did re-elect George Bush and most of us are finding ourselves having survived that chronic illness. We just have forgotten who the doctor is. Part of the problem, I think, comes from the non-reality of our two party system. The Republicans have shown again and again that they are a Party -- solid, unified, determined to undermine the opposition at the expense of everybody else. On the other side, the Democrats are a coalition, everybody welcome, but without a solid voice. Given the dynamic, no matter who becomes president in 2012, we're in for four more years of Washington Gridlock. Finally today, I am happy to report that I am back in print with three very short stories on Black Heart Magazine. The link is: Paste it in and enjoy!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

In A Spare Moment

It is a beautiful autumn afternoon here in Lakeside, Montana. The sky is a mixture of clouds and blue skies, and the wild turkeys just paid a visit, passing through on their way up the hill to find something to eat easier to grab than grubs off our grass. The grass is short; I mowed it for probably the last time this year a few days ago. Jumpy the Squirrel and JR (Jumpy Redux) are chittering away, busily gathering nuts and bits of bread for winter storage in one of the tall trees adorning our yard. They seem happy in their work, scampering and sqwaking as they go about their business. It is a good day to ignore politics and other worldy events and hunker down with a lovely espresso brewed tenerly by my bride. Nice to write about the quiet. We are awaiting more guests from California, but we have no idea when they plan to arrive. It is frankly a little annoying that they have not made the effort to clarify their plans or their ETA, or if they are even getting here today. I know that we have no real plans for the day, but if we had we would have had to put them on hold, and besides, we have a lovely meal prepared for guests who may or may not make it. One call would have sufficed -- please let this be a message to all of you that it is only polite, if you've made arrangements with someone, especially long distance, to let them in on your progress so they can prepare. But that's just me. It does give me a few minutes to write about the weather.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

One of the 47

Last night's debate seemed like a pissing contest between two boys squaring off in the school yard. Still, much came out of the meeting that proved informative but nothing that changed my opinion. Good thing, that, since I already voted. After the debate, PBS aired a special concerning race in America. Several diverse and inciteful people made comments and observations, some of which had not occurred to me before. Among them was the idea that white people for the first time see the world they are leaving for their children as worse than the one they inherited, while people of color have a much more optimistic view. This stems from the fact that the whites in America pretty much ruled the roost and had all the priviliges, while most minority families can look back one or two generations and see how things were then and how far they have come. With the country now 36% non-white, this strikes me as an element in the blending of America that I hope is taking place. Another sign of that blending is the feeling that the younger generation does not see color lines as sharply as we do. Their icons and heroes are more of a mixed bag, and though race and culture make up a huge part of a person's identity, all those factors seem to be cross-polinating. This is good, but scares quite a few of us who don't want to see it coming. Racism still exists, and we talk about it in couched terms behind closed doors. But we talk about it and some of us get downright loud, even nasty. One presenter in the special made a most interesting observation, that race and racism are a cover for class difference. I have often thought (and said) something similar, that racism is a smokescreen used by the ones in power to keep us at each other's throats so we don;t see the real issues. Divide and conquer. We use racism so we don't have to confront classism in America. We deny that there are classes here. The example the gentleman in the special cites is poverty: when we think about the poor in America we see Black faces. But poverty cuts across all racial lines. It has become a class in America. I am lily white. In fact, I'm an import from northern Europe, the whitest of lands. My parents were both Dutch, and though a Spaniard might have gotten into the mix along the way, I'm pretty much ethnically un-mixed. I live in a state which has very few people of color, and attitudes toward those people fall in line with white attitudes nationwide. I have no illusions. Anyway, I am a white dude in a white state, and of a certain age. Diane and I will earn just enough money in 2012 to stay above the poverty line. It looks like we may not even have to pay Federal taxes this year, making us part of the 47%. This after a lifetime of paying our fair share. In fact, due to an odd set of circumstances, in 2011 our tax rate was about double that which Mitt Romney paid. We are doing fine. Things are tight for us, as they are for millions of Americnas, but we have a roof over our heads and food on the table. The point is that we are not part of the upper class, the upper middle class, or the middle class. We are both well educated and well spoken and, racially, part of the majority, but fiscally we don't belong. As for savings, we don't have any. It is so very nice of Mitt Romney to offer tax breaks for middle class families saving up to $250,000. Most of the people I know have trouble saving $250. A good number of them had their savings invested in their homes before the bubble burst on GW's watch. There is a ruling class in America. Under that elite group there are several layers separated not by race but by income, education, living conditions. All too often racial minorities find disproportionate numbers from their ranks within the lower levels, but this is changing, and the winds of change usually foreshadow the storm to come.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Writing about Hitler

It feels so odd to stay away from my craft for so long -- to be too busy to write. I am at a point where the writing is so crucial to who I am that suspending it normally would lead me into a minefield of frustration, dispair and outright grumpiness. But no -- I'm having too much fun! Since May Di and I have had an almost steady stream of guests, including Erik and Annemieke from Holland, the McPalmer crew from California, Olaf and Anneke also from Holland (and their very first trip to America), Brenda and Bill from California with two cats in tow, and this upcoming weekend, if the weather holds, part of the de Bord clan. People want to come to Montana. Nobody ever wanted to come to Salinas. In the middle of that, we traveled to Oregon for niece Myra's marvellous wedding, at which we got to see all four of Diane's siblings and their significant others and many other friends and family. Busy having fun indeed! I did manage to finish the second draft of my novel between Dutch visitations, but I have not looked at it since September 1. The third and hopefully final draft awaits me, as well as plenty of material for several more long projects. Then there are the poems, short stories and articles I want to write. And my blogs, which serve as both a journal and an outlet for my political opinions, and which keep me in contact with all of you, call to me daily. I love being so busy! But, as I have said in the past, a writer will use almost any excuse not to write, and a retired person finds himself way too busy to do anything resembling work. It's the post season in baseball, which always distracts me at least as mong as my Yankees are in the running (not looking so good right now) and especially if the Giants are vying too (looking a little better after yesterday's win). Then there is Netflix, which allows Diane and myself to view entire TV series in a stream. Right now we're caught up by "Deadwood," with "Homeland," "Fringe" and "House" on the horizon and the ninth season of our favorite geriatric detective show, "New Tricks," finally available. And there's politics. You know my views. The debate is on tonight and I can't help but wonder of the President will be able to dislodge Mitt Romney from some of his falsehoods. I also can't believe, that any middle class American, or woman, or minority member, would vote against their own interests, but that is what it will take to elect Romney President. But we live in a diverse and fascinating country, wherein I have seen at least one Black male Mormon Republican. But I digress. I often do. It's fun, after all. I started writing about writing, and I hope to get back into full swing by World Series Game One and well before the anxious night of November 6. Writing about Adolph Hitler may alleviate some of my stress. At any rate, the creative juices are stirring, and there are many stories to tell.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Riding a Pale Horse

You had to know that I couldn’t stay away from politics for long. Second blog since my return from vacation and I’m already at it. This is the most important election in the history of the United States. Both sides say so. The choice is clear, they say. Each side claims theirs is the new direction, even though the incumbent wants to continue on the path that seems to be leading to recovery, albeit much more slowly than our instant-breakfast fast-food nation wants; while the challenger wants to return to the policies that created the problems we face in the first place. I don’t see change on the horizon. I don’t smell it in the air. This is the most important election – every election is the most important there ever was. The truth is, I suspect the super rich don’t care who is President of the United States, which is why they back both sides with their surplus cash. President Obama has been a big disappointment to me. Well, frankly, not that big because I did not expect that much. I saw him for what he was, a politician. As Rage Against the Machine co-founder Tom Morello commented on Thursday on “Totally Biased,” even Alan Cranston, much farther to the left than Obama ever thought of being, spent most of his time running for office, which meant begging for money from fat cats of all persuasions. On the other side, Romney is a liar. For example: how can we expect him to create 12 million jobs by outsourcing? And what exactly are the details of these so-called plans he keeps mentioning? Oh, you know the joke. How can you tell when a politician is lying? His lips are moving. It’s been refined further, of late: How can you tell when Romney or Ryan is lying? They use the word ‘values.’ Unfortunately, the louder someone screams a lie, the more likely it is to be believed; the more reasonably the facts are presented, the more likely they are to be ignored. I have no other explanation for how Romney could pull dead even with the President in the polls even for a single day. Obama and Biden may be moving us forward slowly, but at least they are moving us forward. We didn’t start the fire. When he took office in 1969, Vietnam became Nixon’s war. He did not end it as soon as most of us wanted, and he did other things to make us disrespect him as a man and as our leader, but it was a war he inherited from his predecessor, who happened to be a Democrat. When he took office in 2009, the burst bubble became Obama’s debt crisis. So far he has done nothing that I am aware of that should make us disrespect him, but he is resolving the crisis much more slowly than we want. Still, we have to remember that he inherited the crisis from his predecessor, who happened to be a Republican. It is not a failure of current policies but of previous ones that we have to consider when we vote. Not that it matters: millionaires elect millionaires. We’re just along for the ride, but Americans don’t think we have a ruling class. Still, there are only a handful of ways the common man can express his opinion about the course our country should take, and feeble as they might be, weak as each single voice might be, taken together we can still shout out a mighty message to our ruling class. Your message might be different from mine, and the choices we are given might be seen as picking the lesser of two evils, or at best, the better of two possible goods. I have voted. Have you?

Friday, October 12, 2012

Back in the Saddle

Hell, everyone! It's been a long while since I've written a blog. The cobwebs have settled in and it may take me a little bit of time to shake them off. No matter -- truth is, I have been having so much fun that I haven't had time to write, and not writing has not bothered me! I know, that seems to be a crazy idea, a writer who is not bothered by not writing, so not bothered, in fact, that he cannot seem to put a sentence together without so many negatives that it's not funny. Well, the writing itch is returning already, just one day since the last of our scheduled guests departed the homestead. I like the itch, and I like to scratch it. So much has happened over the last six or seven weeks that I don't know where to begin. There has been family visiting from Holland for whom we got to play tour guide especially in Glacier and Yellowstone. There was a magnificent and fun wedding down in Portland -- actually in a fantastc spot within the Columbia Gorge, and the drivin' drivin' drivin' we did to get there with a four and a half year old riding in the back seat. But I choose to begin with the most recent event. The cats came back! Anyone who knows us well knows that cats have been a part of our lives since, well, since we've had a life together, and for me before that. But when the maneur hit the oscillator and we found ourselves moving to Montana, cats could not come with us. Even though our cats all were geriatric or approaching it, we managed to place all but four in good homes when our dear friends Brenda and Bill volunteered to take on all four. One passed away before we left, and a second passed away while in their care. But Kevin and Jane remained with our friends since March 2011. We never expected that we would be in a position to take them back, but we found ourselves in a comfortable home actually larger than the one we left in Salinas. But getting the cats to us formed a major problem, until B and B decided to drive them all the way up to us! Which they did, arriving late Sunday night and staying until Thursday. Not only did the cats come back, but we got a warm, fuzzy, laugh-filled visit with two of our favorite people in the whole world. I am reminded that a man's riches are not measured in money, but in friendships. Even among the four-legged community.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Pulling Out

It's simple. To every nation in which we have an embassy and soldiers stationed, whose people have expressed that they don't want us there --- LEAVE! State it simply as well: "We understand that an angry mob does not mean that you as a nation hate us, but we cannot allow our people to remain at risk. Therefore we are closing our embassy there and removing our soldiers as well, effective immediately, and we are suspending all aid to you. Have a nice day." I know this will not happen. I see it on the walls, written boldly. Education in America has gone from great to mediocre to terrible, and we all know that an uninformed population is easier to control, and to indoctrinate. An ignorant population that is also under financial pressure is easier to steer in any direction the leaders of their country want. My fear is that instead of pulling out we are more likely to go in. We are angry and incited, with more justiciation than the angry mobs have for their murder of American citizens on their soil. Some of us will want to kick their butts overseas. With the most powerful army in the history of the world and an increasingly gingoistic sentiment growing on our home soil, we run the risk of becoming a major aggressor, not unlike Germany in the 1930's. Beware. The other element is always money. Follow the money! Who exactly would benefit if the United States successfully waged wars throughout the Middle East and ultimately took control of every oil field there? Would such people be cold enough to find an indirect way to incite such wars, even at the expense of their own citizenry? Conspiracy theorists would havce a field day while Corporate America would see its coffers grow and grow. Anyone who cannot see that, rights and freedoms aside, the very very powerful still control the rest of us, is naive. Anyone who thinks that killing another human will solve ANYTHING is flat out stupid.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Embassy Attacks

Upon our return from Yellowstone National Park we discovered the terrible news that American citizens have been killed in acts of violence directed against our embassy in Libya, and that attacks have been made against the embassy in Yemen as well. The attacks seem to be ignited by an anti-Muslim video posted on YouTube. We are learning more about the man allegedly behind the video, while reeling from an attack that occurred on the eleventh anniversary of 9/11.

None of it is good, or easy, or easily resolved.

The tragedy of the embassy attacks goes deeper than most of us will want to contemplate. A stupid and disrespectful act apparently has triggered an equally stupid and ultimately deadly response. It's like a forest fire we thought was under control, but lies in wait, smoldering in a deep corner of the forest, ready to re-ignite when the perfect conditions are met.

In America we can say what we want, for the most part. Common sense might dictate caution, and good manners might suggest gentleness, even an attempt to be understanding, but neither are laws of behavior.

Ironically, if what we are learning about the man behind the video is true, his own rights to free speech have already been curtailed by previous criminal actions, and his act of expression may in fact be illegal in his own country. Yet no one has taken into account that the voice of one does not reflect the voice of the many, only the right to speak even when the message is insulting or inflammatory.

Freedom of speech unfortunately allows ignorance and intolerance to mouth off. The video that allegedly inflamed the violent protests in foreign countries whose people look at things through different eyes than we do, also reinforces the image of America held in much of the Middle East. The response reinforces the image of radical Islam held by many here. Which is worse? The insult, or the response?

All I know is that the death by violence of one innocent goes against the teaching for all Children of the Book, be they Jewish, Christian or Muslim. But that has never stopped us from ignoring the Word, or using the Word against its own intended meaning, and therein lies our greatest tragedy and our universal shame.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Is The GOP on self-destruct?

These are interesting times. For me, in particular, the coming month is going to be filled with joy, laughter, long walks and hopefully a very cool boat ride that will include a stop at Wild Hose Island. It does mean that I may be too busy and too happy to blog, at least every day, while Olaf and Anneke are here. It also means that the world at large can do its worst, and probably will, considering the state of politics today, and I won't comment.

Yeah, like my mouth can stay shut.

Remember the bumper sticker I mentioned the other say? "The problems we face today cannot be solved by the minds that created them." I keep thinking about those words, and I look at the political animals that roam the Washington zoo unchecked, unvaccinated, and unrepentant. The fact is that Barack Obama is perhaps the only man in Washington who didn't have a hand in creating the mess he inherited. Among the choices available, he is the closest thing we have to a fresh approach.

He's not perfect. In the American climate of "I want it now," he has not righted the ship of state as quickly as we all want. He has spent much of the last four years trying to get the Republican members of Congress fall in line through compromise, and yet they did not play. In that way he wound up taking many of the best parts out of Obamacare, for example, and still the GOP opposed it, and still does. Obama's greatest weakness is that he tried to find the middle of the road in a town that has lost the concept of compromise.

I was sitting at the car shop today while my car was being readied for our upcoming trip to Yellowstone (incidentally, a Republican was at the helm when Yellowstone was made the first national park, for what that's worth). I read a Newsweek magazine article written by a lady GOP leader who complained, what the @*&@!! are the republican men thinking? She stated that the men in her party are actively alienating women by focusing on issues long ago settled -- they're not stupid, they're suicidal.

I only hope she's right. If it works out, I'm going boating with dear friends who happen to be Republican, as well as my Dutch family, and although I am dying to know how much the leaders of the GOP are embarrassing them, I plan not to talk about politics at all. No elephants or donkeys, just horses. Wild ones.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Red Moon Rising

Last evening the moon was red as it rose over the Swan Mountains. Some might take that as an evil omen, but I know the reason is smoke in the air from the many forest fires raging south of us. But it could have been the GOP platform planks rising up and revealing themselves.

Yes, the GOP Convention is in full swing even as Hurricane Issac breezed by Tampa. Maybe the hot air present among all the politicians preparing to speak pushed the storm further west, I don't know. It might be a method for warding off future tropical storms -- someone should look into that.

Just as I was complaining that there is no difference between the parties, the Republicans began to open their mouths. The GOP has decided to underscore the differences between "right" and "left" by drawing a line in the sand within the line they drew when they declared, "No new taxes."

They are officially the party of No.

No on abortion. No on same sex marriage. No, of course, on taxes. No on cooperative government, bipartisanship and compromise. No on Medicare. No on Social Security. No on universal health care. No, no, no ----- their voice will extend to a policy of not simply saying NO MORE, but also to YES LESS. They want to take back. Under attack: health care, elder rights, gay rights, minority rights, a woman's right to choose.

Meanwhile the American infrastructure is crumbling. President Obama has done what he can in a combative Washington, but the Republicans depend on our short memories. They say he didn't fix things, forgetting their role in creating the mess they passed on to him. It's as if they are saying, hey, we gave the Black kid his chance and he's blown it. Give it back to us now.

We are at a crossroads. The election in November has grown into one of monumental importance and the choice is actually crystal clear because neither party seems able to find the middle anymore. So we must choose which road we want to follow -- forward, or backward? Turning right, you head back the way we came. Turning left, you head into the unknown where adventure, chance and hope reside. Neither road is safe. You decide.

And if you are blue collar, female, gay, a member of a minority, or at or near retirement age, I cannot believe that Republican Red is your color. Blue is so much cooler.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Offline, Old Hope, and Bumpers

There are days when I have so much to write about that I have trouble deciding which subject to choose. Today I decided to write about everything, and let the words fall where they may.

First writing subject is "not writing." Things are going to be wonderfully hectic over the next few weeks (all of September, actually). That means my blogs will be hit and miss, mostly miss. My projects will sit by while I have fun playing tour guide for Olaf and Anneke, who arrive September 1 for a three week stay. It's their first visit to the United States. They love mountains and hiking, so Montana is tailor made for them. For Diane and myself it is a perfect excuse to explore our new surroundings.

Then we have a wedding at the end of the month, plus we may be getting two of our cats back during the week between O and A leaving and Myra and Ryan's event. Not much time for musing on the keyboard.

Next, the old hope. My nephew Richard forwarded me a fun article for anyone like myself who thinks his age means the limits are falling on him "fast and furious." Roger Clemens has been making news by un-retiring (again) and preparing to pitch at age 50. Minors to start, Majors to follow . But Richard's story is about an ancient player named Bill Lee, the Spaceman, who had a colorful career back in the
80's and now is 65 years old. Seems Ole Bill just won a professional game on August 23 for the San Rafael Pacifics, a Minor League team. Think of it -- competing with the big boys, young enough to be his grandkids, and winning the game! Forget the New Hope. Pin your star to the Old Hope!

We read a bumper sicker yesterday that read: "The problems we face today can not be solved by the minds that created them."

I love those words. They are not party or agenda specific, they merely state that if we want to solve our problems, don't rely upon and re-elect the very officials who brought them into being in the first place. Problems need innovative solutions from people with fresh perspective.

So, you might ask, what problems? On MSNBC this morning, I heard that the United States ranks 78th in the percentage of women in elected office. 78th! We're behind Afghanistan. So who exactly are we to criticise anyone?

It occurs to me that the GOP likes us to be backward. Another area where we rank far lower than we should is in health care. Their opposition to Obamacare means that they want us to wallow in mediocrity. There must be money in it. We rank somewhere in the middle of the pack among industrialized nations, and to hear the Republicans talk, it would be okay with them of we slipped further back -- anything would be preferable to agreeing with the Democrats on any issue. This divisiveness rears its head every time we turn around, but Obamacare is one of the hot button issues the GOP continually harps on as we march toward November. Obamacare is not perfect, but it is a step in the right direction -- that is, if you believe that every American deserves health care coverage.

The GOP does not.

We are also mediocre when it comes to education, particularly mathematics and science. Once upon a time we led the world in these fields, and drew to our shores great minds from everywhere else to help us lead. No more. Look elsewhere for new discoveries and technologies unless they come from a handful of brainiacs sitting around figuring out how to make last month's newest fad obsolete. No child left behind is a bust. The gaps between the United States and the rest of the world are widening, and the GOP seems to want to accelerate the process. The world is moving away from us, or, as the saying goes, perhaps it is we who are moving away from the rest of the world by standing still.

I do not blame the GOP entirely. We the people elected them and many of us push their agenda of non-compliance and progress stalling. Meanwhile, the Democrats do nothing but compromise, only to have the Republicans obstruct anyway -- like the pre-war allies offering Hitler what he wanted on the promise that he would be satisfied until the next time.

People shout from the rooftops how important this election is going to be. I don't see it. The people running in 2012 -- all of them -- are exactly the minds who created the problems in the first place.

Okay, okay, I'm going to backtrack a little bit, but I'm not the first politician to do so. Come November, a choice must be made, and the candidates both have clear agendas each is pursuing. In that sense the election is crucial. Do we pick a man who inherited a mess forty years in the making and who has made steps to improve our lot, and who seems to be in touch with what a human being, male or female, is; or a man who cannot seem to differentiate between what is good for a male dominated businessman society from 150 years ago and the world we live in today?

Look at Todd Akin. Members of the GOP will say that he is not typical of the Party's values, but this is the man who co-authored a bill that wanted to redefine rape. With Paul Ryan. That Paul Ryan. The Paul Ryan who himself wants to impede a woman's right to choose. Comic and commentator W. Kamau Bell (catch him on F/X before his show's six episode run ends) refers to the GOP as the Circle of Idiots. And yet the polls show the race for President is neck and neck.

Akin's words were poorly chosen, but the sentiment expressed there demonstrates the reactionary vision the GOP has for America. Everybody has to know his or her place.

It is a world that may have worked once, a few centuries back when most people did not know better and before the invention of the guillotine. All it gets us now is the same stuff, different day. Democrats may be progressives who are not progressing, but Republicans are running backwards at full speed.

So maybe it will be the most important election ever. Which direction do you want to go? Please remember that, no matter what Washington has done for the past several years, standing still is not an option.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

$३०० Tennis Shoes?

Today's blog is sort of a news items miscellany.

We begin with the latest technological advancement from Nike. Somehow the company has seen fit to justify a new pair of tennies with a price tag exceeding $300. I can buy a kayak for that, no shoes required.

At $300, those shoes ought to be able to run the 100 in 8.9 seconds no matter who is wearing them.

Then there is Mitt Romney pointing out that President Obama pinpointed $90 billion of the stimulus package toward research and development of green energy. Romney bluntly states that this is a waste of money, that green energy isn't working, and that the price tag is outrageous. Of course, $90 billion is less than ten percent of the overall stimulus, and green energy is an area upon which we are going to have to rely at some point in the not too distant future, when the fossil fuels run out or get so audaciously expensive as to be useless. And, of course, we spent twice that per year during the Bush administration on the two wars we were fighting. Iranian oil? I don't see much. Afghani oil? Non-existent.

Everything is relative.

Romney also speaks highly of creating jobs in America, forgetting conveniently how many jobs he himself has outsourced. If he were really honest he would tell us why he outsourced, and call for remedies to the issues that prompted him to find a better bottom line overseas.

The Republicans still go on and on about Obamacare as if it were the greatest scam and deadliest sin ever perpetrated on the American public. To me, after compromises and adjustments, Obamacare is far from the plan it should be. But then, I look at the eighteen or so countries with better health care for their citizens than the United States and dream of universal health care. I guess that marks me as a socialist. But FDR called for just that in his second Bill of Rights back in 1945, three score and seven years ago.

This means liberals are looking backward, trying to bring equality to all citizens, from a playbook set down long ago; while conservatives are looking someplace altogether different from a playbook based on obstruction and partisan politics that was established only recently.

It's a topsy-turvy world.

The fact is, the political discussions that we hear on the TV these days are utterly disturbing. Real issues slip by the wayside while opposing candidates keep telling us what their opponents did, not what they themselves will do. It's politics as usual, which is to say politicians running on vague promises and empty words.

I keep saying it: these guys (and gals) ought to try walking a mile in my shoes. I paid sixty bucks for them five years ago and thought the price was outrageous then.