Saturday, June 30, 2012

Grandkids and Dining

Xander is playing in the kitchen with play doh and Oma, so I am grabbing a minute to write my blog. I missed yesterday, but as I explained, the Xander-man is a handful and for some unexplained reason thinks I'm his best buddy. Maybe I shouldn't
play with him?

I do have a serious issue to discuss, and I invite anyone to challenge my mathematics, which are going to be my best guesses. Here goes:

Yesterday on "Today" they said that tomorrow we will spend one point seven billion dollars on restaurants. That's tomorrow, which is of course today,and again tomorrow, which will be tomorrow, and the day after that. In fact, we will spend $1,700,000,000 a day on eating out.

No wonder we're fat.

But wait, there's more.

Omlets, pancakes, croissants, pizza, burgers and fries, sushi, fried chicken, ravioli, steak, Mongolian fire pots, beans, potatoes au gratten and baked and julienned, tacos, escargots, and very, very occassionally a tossed salad, followed by cakes and pies and ice cream and tiramasu. Portions that could fill a plate and maybe choke a horse -- from the twenty ounce Porterhouse to blueberry pancakes by the stack to the ever-popular all you can eat buffets.

But wait . . .

$1.7 billion a day. In a year that's $620,000,000,000 -- almost two-thirds of a trillion dollars. That's about equal to what we spend on defense. In two years we will eat the equivalent of this year's budget deficit. Makes you think -- and want take-away.

It comes to $1,800 per person in America per year, including infants. That's $150 a month, $5 a day. Broken down like that, it makes bail-outs and deficits and overages seem not all that bad; or, our eating habits seem absurdly self-indulgent.

I'm not saying don't eat out. I'm just saying, keep things in perspective. When we complain about how much the government spends on things our citizens consider necessities -- like, oh, MediCare, Social Security, education, small business incentives, military pensions to name a few -- remember how much we citizens spend on a sheer luxury.

Gotta go. There's a new Applebee's opening tonight. Just kidding -- I no longer support Applebee's.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

The Supreme Court Decision

The Court has ruled. Obamacare is law.

Already Republicans are screaming, making it sound as though the Supreme Court acted in a partisan way to destroy health care and create an additional million jobless Americans in the bargain, while raising taxes. They clamor that they will repeal the law at the first opportunity. What they forget is that it is virtually impossible to repeal a law that has been passed by both houses of Congress, signed by the President, and upheld by the Court -- the legislative tridacta.

Obamacare is law. Get over it.

What remains now is to understand what the law means and how it affects each of us in turn. The first thing to remember is that the so-called tax, the penalty for not aquiring some level of coverage, does not take effect until 2014 -- giving anyone who does not have health care over a year to figure it all out and make an informed decision. Second, this is not universal health care the way FDR envisioned and the Clintons tried to make real. This is watered down -- by the same Republicans who claim it is too much, in compormises with the Democrats who claim it is too little. I personally believe the legislation does not go far enough, but it is the first successful attempt at trying to equalize the playing field for all Americans while reigning in the overblown, profit-driven insurance companies. It is not perfect. But, then, neither are we.

Much good can come from Obamacare. The opposition has to realize that it is time to suck it up and accept the law of the land. Challenge it through appropriate channels, of course, you have that right. But in the meantime, help make it work.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Stages of Success

A brief song of priase and frustration:

I have finished the latest draft of my novel. The ghosts have spoken, and turned my way of telling their story around somewhat. So be it. They have their own way of doing things, and sometimes I feel I am only the conduit. What has happened is that all the material I have been amassing for Ghost Music turns out not to fit together. Instead there are several stories that need their own, independent, voice. I therefore wound up working on just one story arc. Oddly, and perhaps perfectly (who knows?) that particular story is too long for one volume, so I have decided to make it two, and it is just Volume One that I have finished. I know exactly where Volume Two will begin and end, which is a comfort, but first Volume One must be readied.

So now I have to go back through the manuscript page by page, word by word. I have to make sure the timelines and story liines are consustent, that the facts are all accurate (except where fiction allows me to play with them), and that everything makes sense. Then I will have to proof it again, trimming excess and repetition out, before giving it over to my editor in chief, Diane. After that, probably another run-through, then formatting for Kindle and CreateSpace, unless I can sell the idea to a "real" publisher in the meantime. Which means queries, proposals, sample chapters, and lots and lots of leg work.

Writing is easy. Re-writing is hard. Selling is impossible.

On that note comes the success and the frustration. I have placed three short stories wirh an online magazine called Black Heart Magazine, and all three will appear in their September 28 issue. All three are flash fiction, under 400 words. One contains less than 12! And Clever is going to publish me again, date uncertain, with a story about our trip to Yellowstone. Meanwhile, sales of my novel Amber Waves have stalled (not that there was much action to begin with) and I have no real idea as to how to make people aware of the book. So the frustration comes from being in print and still being unread.

I am working on it. But the axiom does not apply: if you write it, they will read. It ain't necessarily so.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Not My Words

Today's blog is a little different, and not because I'm being lazy. I present to you a series of quotes that are related, to serve as a reminder to both you and myself that no ground we can cover is really new, except the unseen ground of peace, and that others much wiser than me have been commenting on the human condition for a very long time. It was Georges Santayana who said, "Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it."

I spend my days wondering at what goes on in the world. It is a different place from the world the people quoted below knew, and yet the principles remain the same and the vigilance we are required to exercise is of ever greater importance, simply because, as the German people in the 1920's did not see what was coming, neither do we.

Enough said. So:

“One death is a tragedy, a million deaths a statistic.
----- Josef Stalin

“Man, biologically considered, and whatever else he may be in the bargain, is simply the most formidable of all the beasts of prey, and, indeed, the only one that preys systematically on its own species.”
----- William James

“The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness, it’s indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it’s indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, it’s indifference.
----- Elie Wiesel

“When Hitler attacked the Jews, I was not a Jew, therefore I was not concerned. And when Hitler attacked the Catholics, I was not a Catholic, and therefore I was not concerned. And when Hitler attacked the unions and the industrialists, I was not a member of the unions and I was not concerned. Then, Hitler attacked me and the Protestant Church == and there was nobody left to be comcerned.”
----- Martin Niemoeller

“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.”
----- Adolph Hitler

“In our country, the lie has become not just a moral category but a pillar of the State.”
----- Alexander Solzhenitsyn

“So long as men worship the Caesars and Napoleons, Caesars and Napoleons will duly arise and make them miserable.”
----- Aldous Huxley

“In all government, there is a perpetual intestine struggle, open or secret, between Authority and Liberty, and neither of them can absolutely prevail in the contest.”
----- David Hume

“All the world knows that the weak overcome the strong and the soft overcomes the hard.
“But none can practice it.”
----- Lao Tsu

“In my humble opinion, non-cooperation with evil is as much a duty as is cooperation with good.”
----- Mahatma Gandhi

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Tomorrow's Blog Today

Sometimes I seem to myself like some kind of fundamentalist bent on preaching simplification to the multitudes. It almost sounds to my own ears that I am telling the world of have-nots that not having is actually a good thing. It keeps the soul pure, the mind keen, the body active, the heart racing. That would be well and good, except. Always, except. Except it sounds too much like I am saying "accept your fate," which I am not. I may rail against the machine that demands from us in the so-called industrialized world to buy and buy and buy stuff we do not need, while so many in the world need simpler things they cannot have.

I am not Mother Teresa, or Father Teresa for that matter. I am selfish, self-absorbed, and self-contained. I like my creature comforts. I spend most of my time inside my own head, and let the rest of the world glide past me, doing its own thing.

I'm not much in "isms." Most isms are large scale controls designed to keep the multitudes in line and crush anyone in opposition. Go with the tide or drown. I love individuality, which thrives when the only constraints placed on it are moral constraints. Consumerism is my latest bane, but there are plenty to choose from, both historically and currently. Give me an ism and I will gladly tell you why I don't like it.

If you dare.

Yet I consume, so there you go.

I am not ready to sell all I have and move to a place where poverty and sickness need attention. I am not that brave. I admire those who are. I am not Saint Francis of Assisi, a man who believed in an ism with all his heart and lived his beliefs with every breath. Like Mother Teresa, he was in the trenches, helping. The Catholic nuns in trouble today with Mother Church because they won't allow themselves to become politicized when there are people to help, believe in an ism and live their beliefs. I admire people like that even when I find the ism to be faulty. They don't share my skepticism.

So there you go.

The Essentials

It is a lovely warm Sunday afternoon here in Lakeside. The skies are blue and clear, the thunder, lightening and rain storm that hit last night is long gone. Diane and I have spent most of the morning working on our personal projects and watching Harry Potter -- the film series is one of those guilty pleasures we indulge ourselves in periodically, usually going through the whole series, one by one, on DVD. We have a BluRay player now, but we have no intention of replacing our standard DVDs with BluRay editions. By the time we did that someone would come up with something else even better.

Which brings me in very general terms to the subject of today's blog: essentials. Our house is filled with non-essentials, the Harry Potter DVD series being a prime example. But I always like to ask myself, and therefore now am asking you: what do we really NEED? What is a true essential?

The list is small.

We need shelter, a place to live in that protects us from whatever elements are out in the environment we choose to live in or are required to stay. We need food to eat -- hopefully a healthy diet carefully chosen to prolong life and promote good health, but such diets cross over into expensive and therefore might be called luxurious. Still, it remains we need food. We need water, clean water preferred but bottled Artesian well water not essential. And we need the means to procure these essential things -- in Western parlance, a job. Lastly, we need sex. Without sex we don't have little we's running around to keep the system going. The fact that sex is fun and enjoyable is a bonus, not an essential, though one could argue that if sex were not enjoyable we would not do it, and there you go.

Paying for sex, that's another debate I don't want to enter into right now.

Shelter, food, method and sex.

All the rest is illusion, conditioning, advertising and want. Even things I consider essential to the nourishing of y soul -- music, books, good films -- are not essential to my survival. And my rock specimens and dragon carvings and other dust collectors are totally non. I love them, do not intend to part with them, but I recognize them for what they are. My Kia is essential, especially up in Montana, but my work is walking distance away even in winter. However, a BMW would be a bit excessive, especially given my budget. These things are WANTS.

Modern economy is based on wants, not needs. And wants are self perpetuating, if you buy in. Buying in is what we are constantly bombarded and cajoled into doing. It used to be that need created the tool to meet the need -- necessity was the mother of invention. This is no longer so. Invention now is the mother of need: faster than we can consume the newest gadget, someone creates an even newer one and we are told we must have it. And we believe. And we follow.

I am off that grid. I no longer fit the demographic that perpetuates the world's consumer driven economy. Slowly, ever so slowly, I obtain things I want, but I will not stand in line to purchase the newest fad. Eventually all markets will become saturated by new things no one can afford to buy or really find a use for, and the whole house of cards will come crashing down. I won't be a part of that, not anymore. Once upon a time I thought I needed all that sh#@#?!!, but I'm doing fine without it.

My needs have changed. I've rediscovered that a good conversation with a good friend is more valuable than any of that aforementioned stuff. A nice bottle of wine, though not needed, does complete the experience.

And that brings me to the final point for today's blog: there is one more item I should add to the list of essentials in a human being's life. Call me naive, or overly romantic, but here it is. Professor Dumbledore would agree with me. The last and most important essential is LOVE. And money can't buy you love. I heard that somewhere, years ago.

Saturday, June 23, 2012


It's Saturday afternoon. Xander went home about an hour ago after a cheerful night and day with us. He may be exhausting, but he's loads of fun. Conversely, he may be loads of fun, but he's also exhausting! Right now he says that Opa -- that's me -- is his best friend. I plan to enjoy that title for as long as I can because pretty soon he'll be going to school and will find a worldful of people his own age to play with. But for now . . .

This makes life in Montana more than bearable. The wonders of the area help. Diane and I have already had one nephew and niece come visit from Holland, and another set is coming in September. Meanwhile our nephew and niece from northern California, along with their two near-Xander-aged boys hopefully will be up for a few days in July. My brother ans sister-in-law have been up for a four day stay, and my brother has been up by himself as well. So here we are -- and people are coming to see us. Part of it is the area we live in, but part of it at least is our open door policy.

So when I complain that I am a little lonely up here, you have to take it with a grain of salt. Or pinch of herbs. Or shot of Scotch, single malt. I am a man subject to my moods -- something I think we all find ourselves subject to -- and a writer who looks for truth sometimes in odd places. Today is a good day; my fears are snugly tucked up in my closet.

Today's blog is more like an exercise, one letter after another, one word after another. There are a couple of story ideas kicking around in my skull, but I am a little tired right now, so I am letting them ferment. One, at least, is perfect flash fiction; the others have not decided how long to be, yet. I like them so far, but I've been awake since 3:40 this morning and my energy is waning.

Maybe after dinner the stories will come out to play. It's all part of the process. These things must be done delicately.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Consequence: The Anniversary of Barbarossa Day

Xander is here today, so normally I would not write a blog, but I have to squeeze this in because today is a monumental anniversary that few people will talk about, at least in the West, or even remember.

71 years ago today, on June 22, 1941, Adolph Hitler made his greatest mistake, launching Plan Barbarossa, the invasion of Russia. Over two million soldiers crossed into Russia after a pre-dawn bombardment, in a three pronged attack designed to knock Russia out of the war, secure the Ukraine for living space, and establish Aryan supremacy in Europe. But the launch was six weeks behind schedule, and that six week delay turned out to be crucial.

Uprisings in Greece and Yugoslavia against their occupiers -- Mussolini's Italy -- caused the delay, and the delay may well have cost Hitler the war. Mussolini asked Hitler for help against the rebels, and Hitler sent 24 of the 28 Panzer divisions earmarked to spearhead the invasion instead to suppress the uprisings. With that much firepower, the Axis crushed the rebels easily. But by the time the 24 Panzer divisions were beack in place and re-outfitted, the target date for invasion of May Day was long past.

The consequence was not obvious, especially when the German armies rolled through Russia. By October both Leningrad and Stalingrad were encircled and the Nazis were poised just outside Moscow, ready to deal a fatal blow to Stalin. They had advanced so quickly that their supply convoys were two hundred miles behind. Then, on October 16, the snow began to fall.

Fighting would be brutal in the extreme on the Eastern Front, but Hitler would not take any of his targeted cities.

Those Greek and Yougoslavian freedom fighters had no idea they were delaying Hitler's plans. For them, ultimately, defeat was what the survivors tasted. It was a bitter taste.

I am a pacifist. I believe in non-violent resistance to authority, and in the vigilant monitoring of all authority all of the time. Having said that, I tip my hat to those brave souls who, in the spring of 1941, won World War Two.

Thursday, June 21, 2012


There is a word for what I am. It's a fancy word, maybe four bits worth because I don't think I have ever seen it used before. Its opposite I know well, because that one is a loathsome creature.

I am reading a book about a paranoid schizophrenic who killed an innocent man he thought was a would-be assassin, then spent the rest of his life in a mental institution, contributing to the creation of the Oxford English Dictionary for over twenty years. The book is called "The Professor and the Madman," by Simon Winchester. I am only a few pages into the book so far, but it has my attention.

At the back of the book are some of Winchester's personal favorite words from the OED, and this one stands out. The irony is that I found the word just casually flipping through the book, hours after finishing my latest blog.

The word is "philogynist," from "philogyny." Its opposite is misogynist, someone who dislikes, distrusts or outright hates women. Pilogynists love women; they prefer the company of women to that of men. Winchester notes that "the man who seeks out feminine company in preference to bonding with his brothers is much derided -- or much envied."

So I have a label!

I like talking to and listening to women. They like talking to and listening to me. It's a good arrangement. Everyone feels comfortable, at ease, and never threatened. I am like a brother to be confided in, and a buddy to be joked with or to do things with -- but I am not a friend with benefits. That last bit is not part of the equation: I am a happily married man an halve been for 37 and a half years, and everybody knows it.

I also like couples, but I don't know the word for that.

There are men in my life whom I respect and enjoy interacting with, but they are the exceptions that prove the rule, and they tend to be philogynists like me. Funny, that.

Montana so far is a little lonely for me. This is not to complain, even though it sounds like complaining. I love my solitude, especially for the writing, and I have not made any changes that would socialize my existence. I have opitions I have not used -- volunteer work, perhaps, at the local library, for example. This means my loneliness is curablke and up to me. There always are options, always.

But I fear change. There's a word for that, too: metathesiophobia. Now that one's worth a buck fifty, easy.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

It's What I Meant

Yesterday’s blog was kind of a downer. I apologize, but only partially. I needed to say what I said. The great British composer Ralph Vaughan Williams once commented about his Fourth Symphony: “I don’t know if I like it, but it’s what I meant.”
I have so much to live for, and I know it. I have all of you, I have my family here, my grandson, my patient and ever-supportive wife. I have my writing, and I make pretty good use of my time, enjoying every minute I spend punching keys on the keyboard or scratching ink onto sheets of paper. I hunger to do it. I even enjoy the breaks I take from the writing – any excuse will do, ask almost any writer – to play solitaire or watch a syndicated rerun of House, NCIS, the Mentalist, or Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Thanks to Erik and Annemieke, I have a decent sound system now, and have vowed to go through my CDs A-Z. I also have discovered the visual delights of BluRay, even with these old eyes of mine.
But the anger is there, under the surface, as I reported yesterday. No number of Silents on Buffy or symphonies by Shostakovich can make it go away. It’s under control, but it is in no way abated. And I thought about it and made a startling discovery: I’m lonely. I miss my job.
It’s not the job I miss, really. I hated the job, the organization, the attitudes. My current job is much more satisfying. But I loved the people. Mostly, I loved the gals. I miss them. I miss the banter, the joking, the self-depreciating humor, the candor, the sharing. I miss being around a delightful, insightful and attractive group of women.
In a time for confessing, I confess that. All apologies to the guys, but women are much more interesting to be around than men, and more fun to look at in the bargain.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Dark Matters

My world, and welcome to it.
The Roger Williams song went, “Welcome to my world,” while Jamnes Thurber declared “my world, and welcome to it.” One is a sentiment, the second is more of a challenge: see just what you make of me, when I look around and tell you what I see.
There are times when I feel sentimental like Williams, others when I feel satirical, like Thurber. Still other times I feel totally blunt and honest and revealing, for better or worse, and today is one of those times, so bear with.
I’m angry. There is much anger in me, and it comes out at odd times, when I am alone in the house and the garbage can liner doesn’t come out easily or the computer jumps from the page I am working on back to the default web page without my asking it to. I explode, scream, pound the floor with my fist when no one can hear or see me. I always have done that – scream in silence. But why now? Why so much anger right this minute, when my life seems to have picked itself up off the floor and started me on a really good, positive path?
I rage against the machine. Sometimes it’s the political machine, sometimes the economic one. Pick a machine and watch me rage. I am a self-appointed rage, who sees how others are treated and listens to their hearts, and takes it inside myself until I explode. It has been my way. But the anger is within me, and it has its own roots.
I am not excited about getting old. I hate the inevitability. And Death may be a distant friend, but She’s not welcome here,
There. I’ve said it. I’m scared of Her.
I’ve always thought that there was something wrong with me for being such a coward. They say, cheerfully, a coward dies a thousand deaths but a hero dies just once. It’s crap. We all die once. I suspect more of us think about it more of the time than anyone will admit, at least until they get older, like me.
I don’t quite know why my thoughts have grown so dark. There is new life going on all round me, oblivious to my moods. My grandson treats me as if I were as capable as his father at keeping up, and I do pretty well. Tonight out in our yard a beautiful doe lumbered across, her brand new fawn working hard to keep up. But the truth is that I am 62 years old and some mornings my body really lets me know it. Death is coming for me someday. I am in no hurry, and I have sent no invites to Her, obviously. She may be kind and gentle, or matter of fact and unmovable. It doesn’t matter.
I think that’s what angers me most: it doesn’t matter.

Monday, June 18, 2012

The Joke's On Them

A brief blog is better than no blog, I suppose. I have prepared a few blogs ahead, and yet find myself not using them today. Instead I sit here typing blissfully after a long morning and early afternoon of chores, particularly stretching our earnings to maximize our food larder for the upcoming week. It is a dance we all know too well, but I have to admit that it;s fun to spend money.

It's not so much fun to spend a set, limited amount, and make the most of it. But that's okay . . . as they like to say up here, it is what it is. Since our bankruptcy we have sworn off credit cards altogether. The offers keep coming -- rebuild your credit; zero APR for nine months; up to $3000 credit limit. I have to admit the offers are tempting, briefly, especially when they come between paychecks and annuity payments, which seems to be twelve out of every fourteen days.

But they are as evil as ever. The temptation quickly goes away when you see that the APR after the introductory period will be 22.99 percent -- in some cases as high as 29.99 -- variable depending on the prime lending rate. Yeah, the credit card companies know I'm a sap from my past history, but if they think they're doing me a favor with highway robbery and rape in the bargain, they have to be more delusional than I ever was.

We put ourselves on the opt out list -- no more pre-screened credit card offers will come in the mail. I will miss them. It's gotten to the point where they just make me laugh.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Distraction Number One: My Grandson

Xander spent the night Friday. It is always a joy to have him, but of course the writing goes on the back burner for 24-48 hours. It's a small price to pay. I find that I still write while he's around, but with pen and paper between moments when he needs my focus. At four years old, he needs my focus a lot, or Diane's, or -- often -- both.

He won't be four forever. And the work is always there, waiting. The best part is that I have learned that I won't be able to finish all the work, I just have to tackle one thing at a time and see it through. Unfortunately, my imagination is fertile and I often find myself with a dozen things tumbling through my mind, at least half of which are writing-oriented.

For example, this is not the blog I intended to write today. I had another all mapped out, the notes ready to transcribe and expand upon here. But I started writing that first sentence and my fingers took over, leaving the sheet of scratches and scrawls sitting alongside me untouched. At least tomorrow's blog is pretty much pre-ordained.

The thing of it is, I love to write. It scarcely matters what I write; doing it is the fun part. Short projects are the best because you do them and they're done, or done with just a little editing. Poems require inspiration and playfulness; articles and reviews require a bit of Wikipedia research to get the facts right; short fiction requires what long fiction demands -- a rewrite or two -- but that's easy when you're looking at 1000 words instead of 400 pages. So what gets back burnered is the longer project. But when it gets rolling, all else gets ignored for weeks at a time. My latest book length project is like that -- I worked for six straight weeks on nothing else. Then company came, I shelved the book, and it's been six weeks since I touched it -- and I am reluctant to go back for fear of being sucked in again. But I need to get sucked in.

I promised myself, though, to keep the smaller stuff going as well, and my blogs. We'll see how that goes. It demands an adjustment of the mindset: when I say I have to see one thing through at a time, WRITING becomes the one thing, chapter by chapter, verse by verse.

Patience! Patience for you, who hopefully like to hear from me, and patience for me, who really likes to talk!

And thank Goid for Xander, my excuse not to write at least onmce a week!!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Damn Yankees

So who is Bernie Williams, you may ask. Bernie used to play major league baseball. He spent his entire career with the New York Yankees and provided a solid glove and stready bat for a team that went to the post season time and again. In fact, Bernie holds the record (so far) for most post season home runs and RBI, lifetime, mainly because he has had so many chances, and has capitalized on them. He is a lifetime .300 hitter with one batting title to his credit and career statistics that ought to make him a shoe-in for the Hall of Fame. But, like another Yankee great, Don Mattingly, the Hall may prove elusive, Just remember his name when he comes up for that vote, and root for him.

Mattingly's statistics are almost parallel to Hall of Famer Kirby Puckett down to the number of years each man played. But Mattingly had the misfortune of playing for a Yankee team constantly in the throes of rebuilding, and never got into a post season until the end of his career, in 1995, just when Williams and current team captain Derek Jeter were staring. In that one post season the Yanks found themselves battling the Seattle Mariners in the best of five first round and losing in five mainly because of Ken Griffey Jr.'s five home runs and the masterful pitching of Randy Johnson. So Mattingly went home, became a coach, and still belongs in the Hall.

Sometimes it's fun to write about something other than politics and aging.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The Creep

I feel old today, an anachronism with creaky knees and screaming hips. I woke up this morning like any other, wondering what parts of me would hurt, and lo and behold, my body was generous in that regard. It is going to be a day when nothing will get done quickly, if anything gets done at all. I can feel it.

In fact, this blog is a minor miracle.

My computer wants to fight with me. Once upon a time it was top of the line, state of the art, back when Windows Vista was called the great new hope. But it, too, is a dinosaur now that won't allow upgrades. My car is nine years old, and the navigational system is called a map. My cell phone is just a phone -- it has a couple of apps, but I don't know how to use them and am not particularly interested in learning. I do have a brand new notepad -- it cost $1.39 at the stationary department; I already had a pen.

Complain, complain, complain -- I feel like a curmudgeon. I fear I am becoming one of those wise old ancients who warns you, eye gleaming, "Don't ask me how I feel unless you've goit three hours."

But that's just today.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Some Thoughts


Our grandson Xander spends Friday nights with us, allowing us to enjoy him and be a part of his growing up. It is an honor and privilege that our own children never really got with their grandparents, who were not keen. Much was missed. One drawback is that a four year old is exhausting! Play is work!! But he helps make moving to Montana the best worst thing that ever happened to us -- those of you who know our story will underrstand what I mean. Still, writing goes out the window the days he is with us, and is hard to focus on the next day (Sunday). So my blogs become sporadic although I promised myself to write every day. It just can't happen.

I'll take Xander anytime.

It does not follow that on Today this morning an expert talked about the fact that kids waiting for their inheritance won't likely have much to wait for -- duh. We retirees live longer and need that money for ourselves. And there isn't as much as there used to be. The expert talked about a strict class of people, those with $250,000 in their portfolios. I had a portfolio once. It was called my house.

In that vein, I repeat how rediculous the disconnect is between reporters and experts like these and the reality of life in America. We still talk about portfolios and home ownership and retirement funds as if everyone in the United States had a pipeline to them. Not so. The same expert on Today recently stated that you needed a million dollars in your bank account to afford retirement (siunce then, the figure has bumped to, I believe, 1.7 milion). At $20,000 a year it would take you fifty years to save that much. How many people do you know who can set aside $1800 a month for a lifetime of rainy days? One in six Americans barely make that much to live on in a year.

As for retirement, the million is a myth anyway. I sure as hell don't have a million bucks in my account. A hundred is more like it. But i am retired (nearly, at least), and loving it.

If I had a million bucks . . . . . I'd still be writing this blog.

Monday, June 11, 2012

The Make-Itself Bed

I saw it on TV. I saw it on the Today Show. They now have a bed that actually can make itself for you. Isn't that amazing -- amazingly stupid?

I think it takes five minutes to make a bed. Ten if you're fussy and have a nice group of Teddy Bears to put on top. Come to think of it, even with the make itself bed you have to manually put the Teddies on yourself -- so what good is it?

We have park itself cars, tell you where to go navigational systems, make itself beds, meals in a bag (you do still have to set a tiomer and push the start button on your microwave), movies on your phone. What's next?

We complain bitterly that the next generation doesn't have the work ethic of their mothers and fathers. I think it;s like today's music -- we always complain about the upcoming generation and fear for the future. It's the job of the present (my kids) and the past (me) to do that. But the fact is that, in our benign efforts to make lives better for our offspring, we promote laziness. We hand the young entertainment in a box alongside a happy meal. This is observation; I offer no solutions to the problem. I think the solution begins at home, one on one or two on one: parents have to instill a work ethic into their children, a sense of reality predicated on the simple truth that youy have to earn anything you get, be it respect, love, trust, or an iPhone.

But there is another issue. There are people in Amnerica who cannot afford things like iPhones, make itself beds, park itself cars. They can barely afford a happy meal, but go that route when regular nutricious food costs even more. They are bombarded by the ads and social pressures to consume, consume, consume, just like the rest of us, but are expected to grab their share of the American Dream without the means. One in six Americans live below the poverty line -- which is $22,350 total income for a family of four. $22,350. If one member of the family has a job paying $7.75 per hour, which is the high end of minimum wage, he or she would have to work 55 hours a week just to get there. Someone working full time, 40 hours a week, at $10 per hour, for a full year would fall $350 short. No wonder families fall apart. No wonder one in four children in the United States goes to bed hungry every night.

But we have beds that make themselves now. We have newscasters who talk about bargain homes for sale around the country, or harp on how much you have to save in ordfer to afford being retired. We have a movement circulating that wants to destroy unions, one of the few organizational groups that tries to protect worker wages. We have an ever growing schism between those who struggle and those who don't -- and the number of those who struiggle who still believe in the American Dream is bound to shrink. Can we say "disconnect?"

So now will hotels and motels invest in self-making beds so they can fire their maids and save that minimum wage? After all, maids don't take vacations -- they can't afford it.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Quick Confession

I have picture envy.

My nephew Erik takes incredible pictures. I don't. I don't have the patience or the equipment; he has both. I love his photos, and I see them in my mind sometimes, before he shows them to me. I see great pictures through the viewer screen of my own camera, too, but those pictures never get on the memory chip.

I have a little Nikon 10 byte snapshot camera. It was designed for memories, not greatness. Erik's camera system, lenses and all, probably cost as much as a small car (in America, not in Holland). And small cars are all I drive -- Kias, to be exact. I don't deserve anything better.

The same with cameras.

He has earned the right to use good stuff to take good stuff. It's his hobby, his vocation, his calling. He is an artrist with an artist's eye. I'm a poet and a writer. I use words. And you all know what they say about words in the "grand" scheme of things.

So I leave the photos and the dsrawings to him. I appreciate them, admire them, think about them, work them into my writing sometimes, display them in what I laughingly and lovingly call the Rutgers Art Gallery West.

I do envy him this gift, buit, of course, I have my own to share, so too bad for me, suck it up, and write!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012


Here are some freshwater cultured pearls of wisdom for a civilized person:

1. Do no harm, and never ever run out of toilet paper.

2. I cannot remember who told us this joke, but it bears repeating:
Define politics – a gathering of many blood sucking bugs

3. It took me a while to figure it out. Corporate taxes in the United States are higher than almost any other industrialized nation in the world. The United States military is the largest in the world, so large that our military budget alone almost equals the combined military budget of all the other nations of the world combined. What does this mean? It means that Corporate America is paying protection to the US government.

4. Upon hearing that the peasants had no bread, Marie Antoinette famously said, :Let them eat cake!” this was not arrogance or malevolence talking, it was a pure misunderstanding of the realities of her world. Marie was in full disconnect. I fear that we Americans today have reached the let-them-eat-cake level of compassion. The average American household has cell phones, iPads, computers and more than one TV. What people who have tend to forget is the profound difference between having and not – a chasm that grows wider, not more narrow. If you have four phones, three TVs and two computers in your house, along with a DVR and BlueRay player for every set, and you do your banking online, do your shopping online, share your information online, and even date online, you lose sight of the millions right here in the US who can’t, let alone the billions worldwide who live – or try to live – on less than it costs you per day to run just one of your phones.

5. The American Dream may not be a myth, but it has been severely downsized and outsourced.

6. And, finally, this month marks the 25th anniversary of one of the greatest albums of all time, Paul Simon's GRACELAND. I saw a photo of Paul today. Anyone else notice that now he looks a great deal like Mel Brooks' slightly younger brother?

7. Afterthought: Bernie Williams

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Back on line

It's been a while since last I blogged. The world has not changed much in the bargain, just matured, or at least gotten older. Erik and Annemieke came to visit from Holland and spent 22 days with us, including a trip down to Yellowstone and several day trips to Glacier, two of the most incredible spots in the entire world and thankfully protected by far-sighted politicians (in 1876 and 1910, respectively).

They are back home now, safe and sound. I think of their visit as a 22 day summit, the SM2 (for two silly men), during which e addressed every conceivable problem facing mankind and discovered solutions to at least two of them (hint: good coffee is key). Alas, no one else was listening and the Bushmill's has clouded my memory of our brilliant and profound conversations. It was a good visit filled with many perfect days together. But reality is back, and, like I said, it hasn't changed much.

This makes me debate where I want to go with my very first blog in over six weeks.
There are so many issues to discuss.

The fact is, the first day after they left, Diane and I spent recovering as if we were the ones with jet lag. Day two was a holiday and we went to see the very disappointing Dark Shadows. We had gone to see Marigold Hotel with Erik and Annemieke on the Saturday before they left and werew reminded of what a really good film could be, making the Burton-Depp effort that much more lame. Then Tuesday Di went back to work and I found myself alone in the house for the first time in 24 days. i was not in gear. i spent my day in busiwork. I wrote five movie reviews. I made dinner. The day sort of escaped. The next day was better although I have not yet touched either my own book or the one I've been asked to go over. Ah, well, tomorrow is another day. I heard that somewhere.

So. Issues. Boring. I just hope everyone went out to vote here in Montana and wherever else there's a primary election being held. I say that because, as I have said before, there are only a handful of ways that the average citizen actually can participate in the direction that government takes, and even if the power is slight, not using it at all is an insult to those who bled so we could have rights as individuals. Individuality is sacrocanct.

So, let's talk baseball!