Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Campaign Day Two

This is day two of my candidacy. I already have votes pledged to me (and one pragmatic friend who was bluntly honest and said a vote for me was a vote for Romney; I admire her position). One of my pledged votes is coming from a non-USA citizen, and much of my support is in the Netherlands, but, heck, I'll take what I get. Only one hundred million plus to go!

On Twitter I outlined a few of my planks today. In summary:

When I am elected your Presidentk, I vow:
----- to have full disclosure as to how much we are being paid to have our soldiers stationed in various countries around the world, and by whom;
----- to bring those troops home, to work on our infrastructure: build roads, not bombs;
----- to tell the truth;
----- to recuse myself if we ever go to war with Holland;
----- to call for Congress to resign en masse;
----- to send the Electoral College back to school;
----- to mandate that every citizen own a copy of my novel, Amber Waves.

Okay, the last one is self-serving, but what the heck? Politics IS a self-serving industry anyway.


Monday, July 30, 2012


Dear friends and family,

It is with a heavy heart that I announce my candidacy for President of the United States. This has been a difficult decision to make, but having been made, I plan to stay the course. Not only are my chances of victory slim, but I am actually not eligible to serve. This does not mean I am forbidden to run, and so I've put on my sweat shop sneakers and gotten on track.

Your support would be greatly appreciated.

I announced my candidacy on Twitter and intend to outline my platform -- which includes things I actually would DO if elected -- over the next few days. I realize that the Olympics are on and therefore politics has slipped into second position among American interests for the next few weeks. I think this may be to my advantage: both the President and Mr. Romney are otherwise preoccupied and I might get some points across before they notice.

My first point was this: it costs approximately a quarter million dollars to elect our President. That's a lot of dough for a $400,000 a year job. I say, lets see what zero bucks and a Twitter account can do!

Unfortunately, I cannot devote the kind of time needed to actually campaign. I must rely on whatever exposure I can garner from Twitter and my blog. I fully expect to run out of campaign funds by Friday. Wait, I don't have any funds right now. It's not an issue,

I just hope I did not announce too soon. Of course, I could set my sights on 2016. By then maybe we can get a Constitutional Ammendment passed allowing naturalized citizens to run for the highest office in the land. Knowing that the top spot was out of the question for me, I enever ran for any office before. If you can't reach the top, why bother? But my attitude has mellowed with age, and my wisdom has increased (not really, but it's a selling point). So there you are.

On Election Day write me in. It will not be a wasted vote: you will make a statement that you are as dissatisfied with the status quo as I am, and as disgrunted over the lack of activity in Washington. I call my party the DIP -- Disillusioned Independent Party. I was going to call it the IDP, but that sounded too much like a corporation or investment firm.


Sunday, July 29, 2012

Olympic Proportions

The Olympics are underway, in case anyone on the planet has not noticed. The opening ceremony rocked, for the most part, and Danny Boyle deserves cudos, especially for convincing the Queen to jump out of a helecopter! With James Bond keeping watch . . .

So now I have seen a Dutch female cyclist named Vos win the gold medal after a slick race (in more ways than one) and the Dutch women take the silver in the 400 M swimming relay with an incredible last leg to overtake the American team. The Americans finished with the bronze and our new darling Missy Franklin got her first medal. Americans have won gold, too, and so the duality of my loyalties is well pleased.

Of course, the American basketball dream team handily defeated Italy by only 25 points in their first go. I have always hated Olympic basketball because the deck is so stacked -- Americans love a winner, but this is rediculous. And while we're at it, is Lochte really that arrogant, or just sure of himself to the point of being embarassing? Or am I the only one wondering?

And this is just Day Two. So I end my Sunday with a double observation of things to watch: first, there's me and my not so surpirse announcement coming tomorrow, since I tweeted it Thursday but nobody noticed. Watch for it. And second, just three words: women's beach volleyball!

You go, girls!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Brief Look Skyward

Today is a good day. I thought about writing a blog about wanting what I don't have, but when I read over my brief notes for it I decided you didn't need to hear that kind of whining, and I didn't need to write it down. So instead I decided to focus on it being a good day.

At three-fifty-five this morning as I headed to work for my little three-day-a-week, three-hours-a-day fill in janitorial job at Joe Blogz, I looked skyward. Even with my cataracts I could see the stars shining down. I thought: how many of you are there, how many more I can't see, and this just in the corner of the Milky Way in which our mainstream sun resides. And instead of feeling small and insignificant, I felt large and important because there I was, admiring the Universe, with the comprehension of just how small and insignificant I was, which to me is a very big thing to realize.

We human beings are blessed with cognition. It is a marvellous gift. Add a dose of curiosity, and watch us go!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Personal Politics: the liberal conservative

the It has been suggested to me by a very dear friend that I consider writing separate blogs, one about the personal stuff, and one about the politico-economic world that always encroaches upon my thining. I understand the idea, and appreciate its intent: two blogs means staying focused on one issue or story at a time, and it could also mean having more people get interested in following me. I am dismal at recruiting followers. I'm like Kevin Costner in Field of Dreams: if I post it, they will read.

Not true, said the wise man to the child.

But I am not quite certain that writing two blogs or alternating or not mixing personal with opinion is what I want to do. I will think on it. For me, right now, however, adding personal information serves to illustrate the points I try to make, to underscore them. I have lived 62 years so far, which means I have witnessed quite a bit of history. I am a valuable resource, not necessarily for my wisdom (I have known 17 year olds who display more wisdom than I ever did), but for my memory, which is still pretty sharp. I remember things. I remember where I was when JFK was shot, what I was doing and how I felt. I remember what Ronald Reagan's hair looked like six inches away from my own face as I held a fairly one-sided conversation with the then governor of California. I remember running from dorm to dorm the night of the very first draft lottery, which I won by losing so badly the draft board would have to draft dead people before they got to my number. And that was just the Sixties.

Fortunately, I didn't do drugs, so my memory is not clouded. At least, I don't remember taking drugs.

I remember being in love, being rejected, pining, crying, writing bad poetry about it all (I still have most of the poems tucked away -- they are appalling). I remember being raised to oppose war and be suspicious of all organizations at a tender age by a man who remembered what it was like to live in a country occupied by the brutal armies of another. To this day I oppose war and hold anyone in a position of leadership suspect. It is who I am, and how I choose to be. If that makes me a radical, so be it. I like to think of myself as a liberal conservative -- give me the old ways as long as everybody is taken care of; give me less government but make sure what government there is, efficiently does its job.

I have great fondness for the past, I always have. I am also heavily invested in the future, with my grandson lurking about the place, growing as I watch him. I have learned a few things I can share with him, step by step, and I have learned some things I will not bshare until the moment is right, when he is older and the cold realities of the world confront him, as they will. It's an idyllic time right now, a time when he can enjoy the hell out of playing with a cousin his age for two days this summer. His memories are starting to build their foundation for his life, and I get to witness that.

I keep thinking how simple things are, or ought to be. I keep thinking that the only thing that matters are the people around you. All the rest is just trappings, the things we want and the things we think we want, and as the cliche goes, you can't take it with you. So what matters is what you leave behind you, for those who will follow: strong values, clear concepts, and lots and lots of love.

I write my blogs to help define my values and my concepts, and express my love. Sometimes they overlap, and that's just fine with me.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Bold Economy

Today I feel bold. The temperature in the house dipped below 70 this morning for the first time in two weeks, and maybe the cooler air has made me feel brave. At least I awoke refreshed. Not pain free -- at my age you wake up wondering what part of you is going to hurt today, and you are rarely disappointed to find none. This morning it's my low back. Remember, dear friends, never to ask an older person how they feel unless you have three hours to spare.

Ah, well, on with the show.

The show, of course, is the world of politics and economics. They are two separate things, but seem forever intertwined. Economic interests drive politicians, and politicians promise the rest of us to spread the economic wealth around. This very dichotomy is intrinsically contradictory. Today we have two men running for the highest office in the land. One, the incumbent, says give me four years more to continue the path to recovery I began. The other says, well, my opponent has had four years and hasn't fixed it, so give me a try.

It is ludicrous and naive, even hubristic, to believe that a situation fifty years in the making, with root causes that reach back all the way to the end of World War Two, can be fixed in just four. This is especially true when the so-called problem-solvers turn out to be ineffective and ill-equipped, and when the people running the economic machines that dominate the globe see profit in what is, not what should be. Compound this with the ripple effect -- America's collapse is spreading around the world.

Make no mistake. We are collapsing.

In 1964 we escalated our involvement in Vietnam and began the deficit spending free fall. We tied our prosperity and our existence to the concept of spend now/pay later. It has taken nearly half a century, through presidents and congressmen of both parties and a boom period that turned out to be a house of cards, but we have discovered that this concept has one fatal flaw: the more you spend the less you pay and the more you owe.

Loan sharks love it.

As long as you're the one getting the interest payments on the debt, you don't care if the debt itself rises. Even a collapse can mean profits for you and your shareholders, or at the very worst you take everything back and save it to re-sell later. You charge penalties and interest that far exceed the definition of usery, and you reamin happily riding out the tide. You even donate to the elected officials who are supposed to be acting as watchdogs for the 99 percent on whose backs and illusions you built your fortune.

There are no economists in Congress. No housewives, no pragmatists, no common men or women who might be in touch with the real world. No a-political problem solvers. Even the President is more concerned with running for office than fulfilling his obligations.

The fact is: Everything that has happened to the general population is the direct result of greed, and greed has become an American institution. We've exported it, outsourced it, indoctrinated ourselves to believe that greed is good, and built an empire based on what we want and are told to want instead of what we need. I myself am very guilty of buying in -- I have lots of stuff and had to declare bankruptcy because I spent so much more than I could possibly repay and then lost the income I was using just to tred water. I am like the smoker who quits, reforms, and becomes fanatic about non-smoking. But I also see the handwriting on the wall.

The message reads: Corporate America is collapsing under its own weight.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Aurora Borealis

It is an unfortunate and sad light that shines upon Aurora, Colorado, in the wake of the mass shooting this past Friday. My mind is still trying to come to grips with an event of such magnitude that, however, did not affect me personally except in so much as it rendered me sad and pessimistic. Both emotions will pass.

It helps that I am listening to Benjamin Britten's delightful and playful "Variations and Fugue on a Theme by Purcell," better known as "The Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra." It is so upbeat and cheerful that it helps wash bad moods away. Yet, the thinking goes on, as it should.

Events like the one in Aurora spur us on. We scratch our heads and try to figure out how to prevent them from happening again. The truth is, as I alluded yesterday, these events will happen again, maybe not exactly in the same way but somehow. There always will be a handful of human beings who become so bent or twisted or sick or filled with unexplainable rage, or brainwashed by others with their own agendas, that they will lash out blindly. They don't write music or make movies; their symphonies become something altogether different.

What are they telling us? For them, it is the telling that counts. There is no message here, not from them.

But at these times we discuss other factors as well. Gun control becomes a major topic of debate. In the United States of America, ownership of firearms is seen as a God-given right, and anyone who is passionate about the issue can be blinded by the flash of gunpowder. The Second Amendment of the Constitution guarantees us the right to keep and bear arms. When the amendment was added, in 1791, the idea was to ensure that states could gather their militia in a hurry if the Federal government massed an armed attack: it was a safeguard. For practical purposes, as well, firearms were useful to people of the day for hunting and self-defense. In 2010 the Supreme Court upheld this right on the basis of use for peaceful purposes and self defense.

Overturning this ammendment probably will not happen within my lifetime. In Montana gun ownership is almost automatic. I do not own one myself, nor intend to, but most of the people I know up here have one or more. What I don't see are assault rifles.

I long have wondered what a hunter would do with an assalut rifle, other than to mince his meat on the spot in a hail of bullets. It seems only logical that even Americans accept that assault rifles are a bit over the top as firearms protected by the Constitution. Overkill, so to speak. Legislation to ban them has been sitting in Congress now for over a year, but the do-nothing Congress we have in DC these days keeps the issue tabled, and the National Rifle Association is lobbying hard to keep things that way.

Gun control is something that Americans will have to take one step at a time. It seems a good next step to ban these assault weapons. They were built with one purpose in mind, to kill human beings. The shooter in Aurora had four firearms. One was an assalut rifle, that jammed on him. If it had not jammed, the dead and injured could have numbered much, much higher.

Guns don't kill people. People with guns kill people. And yes, there will always be violence perpetrated by one human on another, here and there, now and then, even daily. The simple truth is, it is much easier to inflict maximum damage to maximum numbers with a gun. At the very least, getting one should never be easy. And any weapon that functions solely to obliterate human beings should be impossible to get.

Twelve hopeful and brilliant lights were extinguished in Aurora, Colorado, on July
20, 2012. It was the 44th anniversary of men first setting foot on the Moon. Looking out on the horizon, they saw an earth rising that looked small and blue and fragile, and they thought about the sea of humanity that lives there, on the third rock from the sun. They saw one light, reflecting back the sun onto them in a miracle of color against a black sky. In our pain just four days ago, we forgot to remember. It is our job now, each and every one of us, to shine our light outward and upward in honor of the victims. To remember.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

End of Story

Sometimes, horrific things happen. They grab the headlines and leave us with our heads shaking. They make us realize that life is precious, unpredictable, and always too short, and then we grab our precious ones and hold them tight for a moment or two. Eventually the horror wears off, but the wariness remains.

A few dyas ago such an event happened in Aurora, Colorado. In a movie theater. For a moment I had the fleeting thought, oh great, now everybody's gonna be afraid to go to the movies, just like it seemed most of us were afraid to fly after 9-1-1. And I thought, be ruled by your fears and then you let the bully win. Terrorist, bully, nutter, anarchist, rebel -- they win when what they do becomes the story, and when what they do makes us afraid to the point of irrational response.

It's a delicate balance. On the one hand, outrage, fear, indignation and caution are natural responses to such acts of violence. Our hearts go out to the victims, and to their families, and we go around feeling grateful it wasn't us. Then we look to the perpetrator and ask why. As if why mattered. When a crazy person commits an act so anti-social, he or she is way out of the norm. They are sociopaths. There is no way to understand insane behavior.

But the shooter becomes the story. He wins. The victims are mourned, buried, and forgotten -- it is the cruel reality of the conscious mind. We move forward and victims are left behind. Their stories are done.

I don't like saying those words. I think of my own life, a very lucky one in most respects. I think of my own death, whenever that may occur, and I realize that a few people will miss me for as long as they live but most of them will move on, me a distant memory (hopefully warm and fuzzy), but my story will be done. We climb up on the bones of the dead, but we climb up.

Somewhere, a ferry overturned, and 146 people died. 20 people died in suicide bombings in Afghanistan. Syrian civilians are being killed daily; a handful of their government officials were killed in a bombing a few days ago. All this happened at about the same time as the Aurora shooting. A hundred years from now each event may warrant a footnote in the history of the world, but probbably won't even get a mention.

But we live in the now.

President Obama said something profound in response to the Colorado tragedy, when he asked for a moment of silence for the vitims and their families. He added, "and for the less publicized acts of violence that occur in this country every day." He could have said, throught the world.

As long as our nature is what it is, these things will happen, end of story.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Brief Education

This blog will be brief. I am pretty tired and have to get up early tomorrow to fill in at
work. Xander was here overnight, and as I mentioned before, he is one busy little bee, and that adds to the fatigue without the benefit of knowing I can sleep in on Sunday.

I learned something this visit with him: I would not have been a good kindergarten or early childhood educator. I just don't have the patience. Xander is of an age when he is curious and wants to learn but is determined to do things his own way, which does not always mean he is going to get the right answer on the Curious George game, or make the right move. Sometimes he answers wrong on purpose just to see what will happen.

This is frustrating to his Opa. The answers are so obvious even a child could figure them out.

I run short on patience as he asks me, "Is it this one?" knowing full well it isn't, or suddenly cannot count to three. I forget that he's just four and that making mistakes -- even on purpose -- is how he's going to learn. I forget that I like to do things my own way just as much as he does -- or maybe that's why I find it so difficult to watch: he's not doing it my way.

Get us outside with a ball to toss, and I'm great. But when it comes to learning games, Oma is much better at letting him lose. Still, I don't think Xander notices. He still loves playing with his Opa. And as for me, I'm working on the patience aspect.

You're never too old to learn.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Running For Office

I can't resist. I can't resist commenting on the political scene even after already writing a blog today. I am getting ready to launch my own Presidential campaign, for S and G's, so I need to practice speechifying.

By the way, I am not eligible to be President of the United States. I was not born in Hawaii two years after statehood. I was born in the Netherlands to Dutch parents who immigrated to the US when I was two. According to the rules, which are terribly, terribly wrong, of cfourse, I cannot actually serve.

But I can run.

Of course, I have no money, no supporters, and no chance. I still want your vote -- write me in, and when I get more votes than anyone else we'll let the Supreme Court decide the eligibility issue.

I have platform planks aplenty. When I wrote about the budget and suggested cutting defense spending in half, I emphasized this did not mean firing our soldiers. I say bring them home and put them to work on the infrastructure. I think we have enough weapons lying around waiting to be blown up, for now. I know, I know -- asking our weapons manufacturers to stop making weapons would jeopardize jobs when jobs are scarce. Well, Krups and Farber managed to transition to peacetime back in the day. With government encouragement, maybe Lockheed and Boeing could put their considerable talent and energy into designing a passenger plane with decent leg room in coach.

Elect me, I'll see to it.

Swimming Weather

It's a beautiful day. The temperature is rising up toward 90 degrees and in the house it's creeping up toward 80. We don't have airco, and wouldn't use it if we did, so we are a bit warm. But that's okay. We're watching Season Seven of the BBC pricedural New Tricks, featuring three retired police investigators now acting as advisors to the cold case unit. It's brilliant, funny, dramatic, and I relate to it completely. I love the heroes to be my age. It gives me hope.

Life ain't over till it's over.

Earlier we talked to newphew Erik in Holland. There, it's raining. More than usual. I was curious because more than half the United States is draught-ridden and hot. More than unusual. 2012 is shaping up to be a strange year weather-wise, which seems to be something we say every year. Whether it is the natural cycle of things or human-impacted global warning or both or neither is for others more expert than me to debate. Diane and I do have a theory: the great earthquake that hit Japan last year rang the earth like a bell and shifted the earth on its axis. We think it was enought to change climate patterns planetwide, the way volcanic ash in the atmosphere cools the planet. This time the result has to do with currents and water flow. Even a subtle change can impact the weather for decades.

Earth's weather is complex. There are patterns within patterns within patterns, ten thousand year cycles, 500 year cycles, 50 year cycles, ten year cycles, all playing around within each other. We're just along for the ride, and yes, human activity is exaserbating the situation, but Gaia has her own ideas on how to be.

We won't save the earth. The earth will survive despite us. Things may change on the surface; other life forms may rise to prominence. We human beings are just fleas on the back of a dog, and sometimes she scratches.

I can argue, complain, suggest, cajole, protest and support to my heart's content, and often do. But I still can't control the weather. My grandson is coming for his overnight tomorrow. It will be warm. We're going swimming.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Happy Birthday, Love of My Life

Today is Diane's 61st birthday. I felt bad. I had no money for a gift, not even flowers. I gave her a card with a poem, as I usually do, and she was very happy with that, but I wanted to mark the day with something much more momentous, some sort of token.

After all, 61 is quite an accomplishment!

Then I remembered just how fortunate we are: I counted my blessings. It's a good thing to do, to remind yourself. We already have so much. In fact, we have so much more than most people in the world. On top of that, we have wonderful friends, a loving family, and we have each other.

Diane did manage to get a gift, or rather, give herself one. She has been working on it for over two years now and the work is still ongoing, but the fruits of her labors are showing mightily. This afternoon she managed to get into her wedding dress after 37-plus years -- and it was too big! Not only that, but she managed to put on a special blouse that a friend gave my mother decades ago, and it fit like it was made for her.

It looks nice on her, and I feel proud.

Monday, July 16, 2012

The Wind in Washingron Doesn't Blow

Tonight I will be brief. Not much to report. The weather is warm and a bit muggy with a twenty percent chance of rain that never came. It's a far cry from the deep freeze of winter, and I am still slowly adjusting to the fact that we have real seasons up here after half a lifetime in Salinas, where the TV weatherman gets orgasmic if we have real weather.

The isolation is insulating in some ways. It reminds me of my days at the University in Santa Cruz. We called it the City on a Hill, and sometimes the Magic Mountain, because we felt so far apart and away from the nasties of the world. That was the world of the 1960's, the Civil Rights Movement, and the Vietnam War. We could see it all clearly and yet felt separated from it. The world kept assaulting us, but our fortress remained secure.

It feels a little like that up here: safe.

I need to feel safe these days. I think about that world out there and how life has changed just in the last few years. I think about how hard the economy is treating the people I know and love. I think about people I do not know who are struggling to make ends meet, living paycheck to paycheck, or trying to live without a paycheck at all. I think about the minimum wage not neing enough to raise a family of four above the poverty line even if both parents are working,

Then I think about the members of Congress sitting on their asses arguing about laws that have already been passed, and tax breaks for the rich. Then I think about how much it costs for just one of these elected officials to run for office, something it seems they spend more time doing than their jobs. I don't know the numbers, and it varies from race to race and constituancy to constituancy, but it seems that a member of the House will spend more money to secure his job for just one term -- two years -- than I will have earned my entire working career. And then he doesn't do his job.

That's why I think they all should resign. I think the election process should be radically altered to prevent all that money from being spent on people running; if it were up to me I would find a way for politicians to run at their own expense and see how fiscally responsible they could be then.

I apologize; I went on longer than I intended. I guess that means I would make a good politician!

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Olympic Uniforms and Other Bombs

Why are people complaining about the 2012 edition of the US Olympic Team's uniforms? I mean, what could be more American today than a military style beret, a corporation logo on the jacket, and a Made-In-China label tucked in, out of sight?

If anything demonstrates the flavor of American thinking and doing today, well, the uniform fits.

And while we're on the subject of American internationalism (you didn't know that was the subject, did you? Well, ultimately, it's not), why doesn't anyone seem willing to discuss military spending? It has often been stated, and not just by me,that the United States annual military budget -- not counting the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan -- is almost equal to the military budgets of all the other nations of the world combined. That's a lot of bombs. Do we really need them? Do we really need so many soldiers overseas? Whom and what are we protecting?

The answer is not the American citizen. Americans faced, and are slowly trying to regroup from, the greatest Depression (they still call it a Recession) since the
1930's, with millions losing their jobs and millions losing their homes and no end in sight. And it's spreading around the world, and having the bigest military in the world did not forstall our real disaster. Standing armies are supposed to deter invasion, but who in their right minds would invade us now? Instead, we ARE the invaders, mercenaries in the employ of Corporate America to protect ITS interests even at the expense of our citizenry, and this status has allowed our economy to tank.

Think of it this way: I remember being told that it cost about $350,000 to kill one Viet Cong soldier during the Vietnam War. Just how much money did it cost to kill Osama Bin Laden?

Meanwhile, the House of Representatives spends two weeks, according to CBS Face The Nation this morning, symbollically voting down Obamacare. There is no "make it work, fix the kinks" attitude there, no progressive legislation pending, or if there is, it's pending forever, while congressmen spend untold millions of dollars to prove a point that was clearly made weeks ago. They do this, then how can we expect them to do anything meaningful?

By meaningful, I mean make some hard decisions, and start with military spending. Cut spending in half. I think we have enough drones and humvies and tanks and bombs for the moment. Bring our troops back home. Don't put them on the unemployment line; assign them to infrastructure repair. Stop building bombs, whose sole purpose is to be destroyed. Build roads.

This kind of thinking is subversive, and I know it. It's like the water engine -- there's no profit in it. But in the long run, three hundred billion dollars saved or re-directed won't solve the problems facing us, but it will help.

So, Mr. President and Mr. Romney, don't keep telling me what the other guy did wrong or failed to do. What is it, exactly, that YOU do plan to do?

And, dear members of Congress from every side of the aisle, why don't you resign en masse so we can start over? Do your job, or get out.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012


This is a short blog today, unless of course you follow the enclosed link. It's time for a small celebration -- onc again I am in print! It is electronic print, but, hey, that's the wave, right?

You will find my article and photos, "The Scariest Creature in Yellowstone," on the following link: www.clevermag.com.

Or if you Google me you should find it under my name. While you're at it visit my author's page at Amazon.com or look for my novel Amber Waves on that site or on CreateSpace. I am proud of the work, but no one knows I exist and I need the help of anyone and everyone willing to spread the word. My book is not 50 Shades of Grey, but it's a ripping good yarn!

Maybe 50 shades of history . . .

Clever is a great e-zine and editor Diane Kochenberg is a pleasure for writers to work with, very encouraging and helpful. I recommend that you look through it after you've read my article, and support the mag if you can.

Selfish self-prmotion, I know, but Celever has published me twice now, and I am grateful and proud.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

No New Taxes???

It's always fun to listen to the morning news and then react to what you hear. Sometimes what you react to is the stuff inbetween, the political ads and the fluff pieces. I think the morning TV is at once the most entertaining and most disheartening programming on air. Thank God I always make my coffee first -- a dark roast Columbian or Organic that we grind fresh every day.

What caught my attention today was the re=emerging rhetoric about the Bush Tax Cuts. Obama wants to renew them for anyone making $250,000 or less but repeal them for anyone making more; Romney says it's a tax increase that will stall job growth. Like job growth has been bolstered by the tax break in the first place.

Congress is likely divided right on policy lines.

The dilemma seems so obvious to me, but then I've been through bankruptcy and I also know that a housewife is probably ten times better at budgeting than a hundred economists given a government grant to solve the problem. There are basically four thgings we can do to re=balance the budget and perhaps encourage economic normalcy. Increase revenues, reduce outflow, do a combination of both, or barring being able to do any of the first three, restructure.

The Republicans will not raise taxes. They've drawn a line in the sand on that score, a stupid and useless place to make their battle. Democrats refuse to cut entitlements, and nobody wants to cut military spending. Getting both sides of the aisle to combine the two approaches seems impossible. What's left is restructure -- after which taxes will be raised and programs cut anyway.

So what do we do? Solutions are out there. Between reports this morning I saw an advertisement that coined a new word proving my point, about a company dedicated to solutionism. Yeah, like that's going to work.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Somebody has to

I present you with another list, but before I do I want t comment on a very warm, very family friendly weekend. Richard, Caiti, Jackson and Franklin came to send the weekend at our house during their cross the west camper excursion, and we all had a fantastic time. Di and I had never actually met Franklin before, and Xander had never met any of these four amazing people. Jackson and Xander bonded immediately and were almost inseparable; even when fatigue brought the inevitable melt-down and the little bits of friction that come with it every time they recoevered quickly and were ready to tackle the next game or assignment -- as far as gathering stickjs on Uncle Nik's yard and CAREFULLY tossing them on the big bonfire last night, The boys all went fishing yesterday bat Lake Mary Ronan, and though Opa has never been much of a fisher of fish -- wink wink, nudge nudge -- I enjoyed weatching the big bnys do catch and release while the little boys were much more interested in the bait.

Therefore no blogs since Friday, and a tired afternoon for me today. But I did come up with a list of thoughts to share, sortof a Gallagher-type concoction of things that SOMEBODY ought to be thinking about, and I of course elect me.

Here goes:

1. Why do we go to mall the trouble of making a nice mixed green salad if all we're going to do is toss it?
2. As my friend Darryl once pointed out, there is no such thing as a hot water heater.
3.If Left is liberal and Right is conservative, is it the other way around in England?
4. Why do people say "How are you?" if they don't really want to know?
5. So, who WAS buried in Grant's tomb, anyway?
6. As Axl Rose pointed out, the biggest oxymoron in history is "civil war."
7. How many lightbulbs does it take to change a psychiatrist?
8. Why is sex dirty? Seems like the most natural thing in the world . . .
9. At my age you no longer dream about sex. You have nightmares about getting a prescription refilled but you can't understand the pharmacist. Maybe it's the sasme thing?
10. You also have a better chance of remembering your dreams at my age because you have to get up several times to go to the bathroom.

Finally, it seems that fame keeps eluding me. Maybe that's a good thing,but I'd like to prove I can handle it. I've got this unknown stuff down pretty good; time to move on.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

War Talk

Yesterday afternoon we went to a barbeque at the in-laws' wonderful home. The place was built to entertain, with roaming gardens, three koi ponds call connected by a circulating stream, and magnificent vistas of Flathead Lake. Add to that good food, a nice Malbec or Cornoa beer, and a set of gregarious and friendly people, and you have a time ripe for good conversation.

You never know what you will hear, or learn.

I spent a good part of the occasion getting to know a fellow named Jop. He is a Dutchman, aged 84, who still has an eye for the ladies, an active mind and keen views on politics, war and the world with which I found myself in complete agreement. I learned that Jop was born in Rotterdam in the Netherlands, and that he was 12 when the Germans attacked Holland. It was the bombing of Rotterdam that forced the Dutch to capitulate after only five days of fighting -- Jop was there.

At various points during his career as a research scientist, Jop was involved in understanding the effects of radiation poisoning, for a considerable period at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and more recently in Chernobyl. It was interesting to hear that the damage done by Chernobyl may not have killed nearly as many people as the dropping of the atomic bombs on the Japanese cities, but the damage overall was much more wide-spread there; more territory, more drift -- and, though Jop did not allude to it, the crushing blow to the Soviet system. Still, he believes in the ultimate viability of nuclear power when run properly and carefully.

Having seen all this, Jop is a devout pacifist.

It is a belief system I understand well, and share. It is not a matter of age; I have always felt this way. If an enemy who had no regard for life attacked us, I think I would not last two minutes in the holocaust that might follow. I accept that, just as surely as I accept the serious unlikelihood that anyone in today's world could attack us and maintain that attack without destroying their own economy in the bargain, well before their troops reached Montana.

War is outdated, and so is the standing army prepared for war. Unfortunately, no one seems to realize this, and we spend billions of dollars and thousands of lives under our illusions. Al Qeda will not conquer the United States -- and does not want to -- but they can hurt us where we live, in our pocketbooks, and have done.
But only because we let them. As long as there is money in it for someone . . .

The 84 year old and the 62 year old have some wisdom to impart. We have learned from history, from the history we lived through and the history we studied. We scream against ignorance and forgetfulness. It's our job.

There are those who listen. The number is growing.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Happy Birthday America!

Today is the 236th birthday of this great country. And though I sometimes disparage where we seem to be going, I have great admiration and respect for where we have been, and I always remind myself that it is because I am an American that I have the right to disparage. I also have the right to rejoice.

So Happy Birthday America!

Let us remember what our forefathers fought for:

Freedom of religion.
Equal rights for most (it's an ongoing, ever expanding equation; we're nearly there).
No representation without taxation.
Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness (keep in mind that just because you pursue happiness doesn't mean you attain it -- this is not a guarantee or an entitlement).
The right to have bare arms in public (although it took almost a century and a half for swimsuits to catch up).
The right to your own opinion.
The right to share your opinion.
The right not to listen to anyone's opinion
The right to scare animals and little children and keep early morning risers past their bedtime with explosive displays.
The right to pun, but only on Sundays and holidays.


Tuesday, July 3, 2012

The Dumbing of America Redux

Today's blog is a continuation, of sorts, on what I touched on the other day. The focus is on education.

I came across a passage in a book I was reading, Music and Musical Life in Soviet Russia, 1917-1970, by Boris Schwarz. This passage concerns the visit to Russia of a noted American classical composer, Roy Harris. Most of you probably have not heard of Roy Harris. He was born in 1898 in a log cabin on the prairie, but became a major force in formal classical music in America. Among his many compositions over 90 odd years of life were fourteen symphonies, including the concert favorite Third, the Folk and the Gettysburg, as well as the concert overture to the Civil War balad, "When Johnny Comes Marching Home." At one time he was considered as important as Aaron Copland to American music. In 1960 he was among the group of American composers invited to Soviet Russia to see how things were there. Schwarz records his impressions.

"Roy Harris was visibly impressed by the organization of the arts in the Soviet Union . . . . (Harris said) 'Ballet, opera, drama are not only well supported by the state, but enthusiastically received by large masses of the population. In Tashkent, in Central Asia, we found a city of 400,000 people with six or seven theatres, one of which gives 200 performances of ballet and opera each year to a consistantly filled hall.' (Schwarz added) Such a situation made Harris think of the uncomfortable conditions of the arts in the United States where orchestras and opera houses go begging for private contributions year after year."

These comments were made half a century ago. I do not know if the arts are still that strong in the new Russia, but I suspect that they are: it wasn't the Soviet State that promoted the passion for performing arts, it was the passion that prompted the State to continue to sponsor the arts. Lively discussion about how to approach state support of the arts topped agendas for Lenin and his government within weeks of taking power in 1917. But the state of the arts in Russia is not my concern -- my interest is academic. It is the state of the arts in America that has been worrying me for, quite literally, decades.

Americans don't seem to care about opera or symphonies or chamber music or poetry or drama, or NPR, for that matter. These exist because a certain percentage of the population cares enough to keep them going despite all odds. It has been, as Harris observed, an ongoing battle here. I accept that these venues are not for everyone, but they face extinction. Add to that the growing dismissal of art and music in the education of our young people, and America faces yet another divide from the rest of the so-called civilized world, this one in artistic expression. As long as we continue to teach our children how to pass tests and answer questions instead of how to test oneself and ask questions, the divide will grow and the dumbing of America will reach its ultimate goal before my grandson reaches high school.

The same concern can be expressed toward other areas of education: we rank in the middle of the pack when it comes to mathematics and science. Our understanding of ancient history is dwindling to nothing and our understanding of world history comes all too often from films like "Inglorious Basterds." Even our spelling is suspect.

Don't get me wrong: there are great American artists, writers, poets, film makers doing incredible things. There are great doctors and scientists on the cutting edge. But the dominance we once had is gone. We seem to be emphasizing education geared solely to apprenticeship. This may be practical up to a point, because each of our young needs to be able to survive in the adult world. But it leaves the soul wanting and the quality of life equally deminished. It turns us backwards, back to a feudal society wherein the peasant/serf existed only for the Lord's bidding, and knew nothing and cared less about the rest of the world.

Tomorrow is the Fourth of July. Our founding fathers meant for us to have a better life, and we are giving it up. We know better -- and that is our biggest sin.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Love's Language Lost

Language changes. Words develop, evolve, change, become extinct. Every now and then a word long dropped from common usage crops up, usually in a poem or a song, triggering memory and a sense of loss.

Listening to Crosby, Stills and Nash's "Guinnevere" the other day, I had just that experience. The word was "milady," as in: Guinnevere had green eyes/like yours, milady, like yours. And I felt a longing for that word. Milady -- a word showing respect and affection.

The original meaning of the word is "an English noblewoman, akin to the word milord." It belongs to a genteel time (genteel at least in our imaginings), a time of knights and damsels and heroic battles that rarely involved civilians; the word was how one addressed the Lady of the Manor. As such, the word died long ago, with those times.

But there is a somewhat poetic application to the word as well, the way CS and N meant it way back in 1967, and that is the poetic sense. My lover is my lady as well, and by addressing her in that way I show the world how much she means to me; even if I am a pauper, she remains my lady, milady fair.

I was raised to respect women. Even through the movement to establish equality and equal rights between the sexes (a road still under construction though in much better condition than ever before), that sense of respect remains, as it should. There is nothing wrong with having a romantic notion of the other sex as long as one does not transport oneself into a fantasy realm and starts actively looking for dragons. And just because men finally realize that women like sex, too, does not detract from women as people. It enhances them. After all, if it weren't for the fact that human females can have sex pretty much anytime, men would not stick around and societies never would have formed.

That's a fact.

As I told you last week, I am a philogynist -- a lover of women. It happens to be the 38th anniversary today of the day my bride and I became engaged. She is milady -- and a more perfect word could not exist for my head or my heart.

But no one uses it, and that's a sad loss.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Just Another Sunday

It's Sunday afternoon and I know I should be talking about politics or something important, and I imagine some of that may creep into this blog. But I am thinking that I don't really want to be serious today, and that there will be plenty of time for all that later, like tomorrow. I know, I know, tomorrow never comes, and we don't know how much time we really have at any given moment, blah blah blah. It's just another Sunday. After a massive thunderstorm at one am last night with an equally impressive display of flashing lightening -- I felt I was inside a strobe light in 1967 -- the air is a bit cooler today, and clear of dust, and the sun is out making me feel lazy.

Xander spent an extra night this weekend so Nik and Holli could attend an afternoon wedding and not have to worry about picking him up. It never ceases to amaze me how a four-year-old can dominate your day non-stop. Thank God there are two of us! At the same time, it is also remarkable to watch him grow and learn and develop. He is also remarkably self disciplined for a child his age, and still likes savory foods, which makes it easy to get along with the little bagger. By seven last night Xander was asking for a story and we read six -- all four stories in Maurice Sendak's Nutshell Library, and then by special request The Very Dangerous Alphabet by Niel Gaiman, and finally, by special special request the Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein. He sat through three and a half stories without moving, then got wiggly for the rest but still attended and listened. It was the longest reading session we've had yet. By next year I plan to start reading him A Child's History of the World.

Now for the serious bit. I can tie it in because I have a grandson who soon will be beginning his career as a student, and students can be bullied by others or become bullies -- both outcomes I hope he studiously avoids. He is being brought up to respect others, and I suspect he will always be too physically large for others to mess with, so I am not too worried. But bullying is an issue that seems to be making headlines almost every day.

Yesterday in the news there was talk of the wrongness of bullied kids taking the law into their own hands, so to speak, and turning the tables on the bullies with the encouragement of their parents. Fascinating, the outrage. I do not condone vigilanty activity of any kind. But I seem to recall that a major plot line in one of our most popular Christmas stories, A Christmas Story, centers on the protagonist retaliating against a bully violently. It's ingrained in our culture. Just an observation.

Americans believe in direct and forceful solutions to complicated problems. It's who we are. It gets us into trouble sometimes, because we lack subtlty and we display arrogance, as if ours were the only way to do things, and we are reluctant to see anyone else's point of view. Others might be just as short-sighted, but they are not my concern right now. We have issues we must confront. In a politcal arena so rabidly divided, in an economic arena so obviously flawed, and with an educational crisis so amazingly huge, America has become a second rate power -- we are Great Britain in 1946, and yet we do not see it.

I do not mind the direct approach. It has its place. When Xander says "Tickel me!" I do it.