Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Baking in the Las Vegas Sun

While we suffer through an unusual fall heat wave here in the Bay Area, I was sent this toasty story from Las Vegas. It seems yet another glass tower is turning people on the ground into sizzling strips of human bacon. This is not the first time this has happened in Vegas, they are known for buildings that double as solar reflectors. Today it is the brand new City Center on the Strip, more specifically the Vdara towers. Perhaps appropriately the focus of the heat wave hits the pool at Vdara, meaning the people are already bare and basted.

The curvature of the South Tower is the problem. It forms a really nice parabola that focuses the sun's rays into about a 10'x15' patch of sizzle that moves with the rotation of the earth. Pool goers have reported melted drink cups, scorched hair and many medium rare humans. You see these people are already laying out by a pool in the 100+ degree Las Vegas sun. Estimates are that the death ray reaches temperatures about 20 degrees higher than the surrounding safe zones, so we are looking at 130 even 140 degrees at times. By the way, management prefers "hot spot" or "solar convergence" to the more off-putting "Vdara death ray."

What is more interesting is that such solar problems were anticipated and a special film was placed on the glass surfaces of the Vdara towers which disperses 70% of the reflected energy. One has to wonder why the entire City Center isn't tapping this solar power to run the place instead of dispersing it below fatal levels. This is not the first time hotels towers have created hot spots, the golden towers of Mandalay Bay still do create a moveable baking spot, which pool staff note is often sought out by bathers in the early spring and late fall cooler days. In the summer apparently they simply avoid the spot, apparently there is a better early warning system at the Mandalay Bay pool.
artwork: Las Vegas Review Journal

Monday, September 27, 2010

The Fabric of Friendship

I base my fashion taste on what doesn't itch.
-Gilda Radner

Like Gilda I make my sartorial selections based solely on comfort. I once wrote that "96.4% of my clothes are cotton" but I really don't think I own that many shoes anymore. I remember as if it was yesterday the first dress slacks my mother bought me, they were gray and felt like fiberglass on my legs. I just don't get scratchy garments, perhaps there is a wide variation in tactile sensitivity or it may be that I am simply too sensitive for this harsh world. But this is not a post about clothing but rather one about comfort. I stumbled upon the Gilda Radner quote and it reminded me of one of my absolute favorite lines -

I like my friends as I like my sofa that they may easily be reclined upon.

Unfortunately I am reminded of this by an olde friend who is ever so slowly slipping away. Not from life mind you but from our friendship. I had not been able to figure out exactly why this was happening until recently when I was with him and a small gathering of his friends. The conversation was sarcastic, critical of everyone identified as "they" and just plain unhappy. I don't know what happened to my friend but he now runs with the truly disenchanted and morose.

I enjoy the company of bright, talented, interesting and interested friends and those who seek comfort in our friendship. Opinions can held and defended without vitriol, disagreements tend to be of degree not of core beliefs. Laughter is genuine, conversation is expansive and care is inclusive that they may be easily reclined upon.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Peripheral Epiphany

I got a call last night from the east coast, which made it a very late call for him. He was on his way home from the emergency room, she would stay the night for observation. During the call I switched off the reading lamp to accentuate the audio, after he hung up I sat in the gloom and wondered. The diagnosis was not life-threatening, there had been a couple of options in that ominous category but they had been ruled out. Probably just an added pill taken twice a day forever. Those were facts or at least medical opinions, not what I was pondering alone in the dark. Once again dis-ease, a lack of ease, eventually I drifted off.

This morning on my walk there was an accident. There was a car, there was a bike, it was an unfair fight. I was less than a block away and drew the bicyclist as my charge, a nearby neighbor got the hysterical driver, 911 had been dialed. He was fairly cool, the collision was mostly his fault, we agreed on the diagnosis - broken fibula, maybe the tibia too but the fibula for sure. His only real concern was not having to deal with the overly distraught driver, another neighbor ran interference for us and kept the victims separated. I asked about calling someone and then he got a overly defensive and much too nervous, I cut that off at the lymbic system by offering to make the call for him. "After the (now arriving) paramedics tell us which hospital and play it down, he can be a real drama queen." In twenty minutes the whole scene was over, only the police lingered with the driver but my supporting role had ended. 

I was not a block further on my walk when some semblance of clarity descended, I had been resisting mortality as the easy answer to what has been vexing me, then I began to assemble this list - in reverse order:

-the car/bike accident;
-late night phone call from the emergency room;
-she loses her job, they move-in together it's the "right thing to do";
-drowning death of a 4 yr. old. - three degrees of separation;
-second parent slides slowly into dementia;
-benefit for a lung transplant;
-another retirement date set;

And that's the list from just the last seven days. I kept on rolling back in time with illness, aches, pains, many more retirements, several additional job losses. I resisted once again the easy answer - just time and mortality.

The reason some events are labeled cliches is because we all recognize them as basic, common human experience. It is indeed normal, but we do so resist being normal. Part of me wants to come away from this with a simple and truthful acknowledgment that I am indeed a very fortunate fellow. Another part of me doesn't.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

$150 Million Dollar Governor

California politics are always interesting. They do things bigger, better, dumb and dumber out here on the edge. Right now for instance the former governor ('75-'83) and frequent presidential candidate ('76, '80, '92) Jerry Brown is running for one of his old jobs again. Jerry wants to be the Once and Future Governor. He is currently the Attorney General of California and has been the Mayor of Oakland, the chairman of the California Democratic Party and a candidate for U.S. Senate. He is remembered fondly and otherwise as "Governor Moonbeam", which had something to do with proposing a state owned communications satellite and dating Linda Ronstadt. 

So you might say this election is Moonbeam vs. Moneybags. You see Brown's opponent is former CEO of eBay, Meg Whitman. Last week Ms. Whitman became the highest personally financed candidate in U.S. history. She has now officially spent $119 million dollars on her own campaign. Extrapolated through the November election, she will easily top $150,000,000 in out-of-pocket expenses in her attempt to become the governor of California.

Now I acknowledge that all politicians have fairly hefty egos. The psychological factors behind running for public office would make Sigmund spin in his coffin, but what on earth would make someone want to be the head of a bankrupt state with a shrinking population, failing schools.... well you know the laundry list. On top of that, not only is Meg Whitman running to head up this disaster, she is spending one hundred and fifty million dollars of her own money to get the job.

Yes there is another argument to be made about internet multi-millionaires. Did eBay actually need to give her hundreds of millions of dollars for merely staying out of the way of that internet juggernaut, they did - well actually as CEO, she did. Now she wants to spend part of that cyber-wealth to be governor, I mean make a list of all the things you would or could do with a couple of hundred million dollars, where does politician fall in your rankings? Doesn't wanting to buy this office make you supremely unqualified to manage the California State budget?

Ah well, it is nice being back in California. You just have to be really quick with the mute button or you might actually have to listen to these egomaniacal millionaires tell you that they really care. Well that really isn't fair because her ads are not about her accomplishments or her proposed programs, nope -- the Meg Whitman ads are all attacks on Jerry Brown, including one where she uses a '92 Bill Clinton clip from a presidential debate with Brown. Such dirty politics in California may be the single largest drain on the State's water supply because every time they run an ad, we all want to take a shower. My solution - bring back the 'None of the Above' voting option.

By the way the the book cover up top is a parody, she really did co-author a book called: The Power of Money with the subtitle: Values for Success in Business and in Life. Values something else Meg Whitman and I do not share, that and a hundred and fifty million dollars worth of hot, dirty air.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010


Bernard "Hap" Kliban (1935-1990) is best known for his cat cartoons. But many of my generation first encountered him in Playboy in the early 70s, which was about the time most of us stopped reading Playboy, except for the interviews of course. In fact, it was a Playboy editor who spotted some of Kliban's cat cartoons and set him on his infamous feline career. Personally I knew he was "the other" cartoonist at Playboy because Shel Silverstein and Gahan Wilson were the more famous architects of illustration for Hefner.

I still remember being introduced to Kliban's work in 1978 when I was handed Tiny Footprints, Whack Your Porcupine, and Never Eat Anything Bigger Than Your Head. Those to me remain the quintessential Kliban.
I thought we might reminisce with some of his drawings and commentary on life as we don't know it.

Attentive readers may have noticed I have varied a bit from my every-other-day blog production. Today was simply a visual thing. I use my blog as my home page and quite frankly having that cobra head pop up all day yesterday got a bit distracting, so I moved up my ode to Kliban due to reptilian hebbie-jebbies.

Who hasn't felt the need for such relief, I find the political talking heads drive me quickly to the mint flavored floss. I prefer the the Glide polymer variety and I like the flat tape over the string version, it gets into all those folds and ruffles of the cortex.

He just gets it. Anyone care to take a shot at defining "it"?

Of course I can't end without another cat cartoon, here his nod to Botticelli's Primavera (Spring).

Methinks I shall need a 2011 Kliban Kalendar. Search for kliban

Monday, September 20, 2010

In the News

I just don't understand why some things go viral on the net and others do not. Today two examples of stories I was sure would go as crazy as the MGM lion nibbling on its handler last week. 

First, I was on Facebook and noticed these items that were "Trending Now":
Jennifer Grey
Mortgage Rates
Gluten-Free Food
Candice Bergen
Emma Stone
Vanilla Ice
Seasonal Allergies
Liam Neeson
Escaped Cobras
Elizabeth Warren

Now I am guessing that very few of my readers are all that concerned about celebrity breakups, dieting tips or nasal irritation. But you just gotten wonder about snakes escaping, if only to ask escape from where - reptile rehab?

Well it seems a guy in southwest China was illegally breeding cobras when one hundred and sixty of them staged a break-out. This was in a small village and apparently the locals were a bit hissed off about this inconvenience. No one got bitten but there were several unfortunate encounters in bathrooms, apparently the cobras like cool, dark porcelain places. You may want to turn that light on before you take your seat. Handlers caught "all but four or five," which apparently is supposed to calm everyone.

Since this story did not go cyber-viral, here is my second choice for a huge internet story that also seems to have gained no traction whatsoever. Why I have no idea, like the cobras it struck a certain Freudian chord with me.

This story comes from an article that appeared in the Chronicle of Higher Education, which might explain the lack of wider coverage; it is a preview of the upcoming 2nd Global Symposium on Cosmetic Vaginal Surgery (September 23-25th in Las Vegas). The article is titled - Frankengina. Vaginal cosmetic surgery is "the fastest growing category of cosmetic procedures according to the statistics collected by the American Society for Plastic Surgeons." Apparently so much so that a 2nd Global Symposium is necessary.

I wish not to engage in any feminist rhetoric about the hows or whys of such procedures, nor do I intend to rally round the cosmetically enhanced vulva, which an astute reader pointed out is the correct description of the genitalia in question not vagina. I just want to know where is the internet coverage of this significant event? And will there be press coverage?

[Addendum: the accompanying photo was intended as a reference to the first story only; several readers suggested potential implications for the second item; I have, in turn, recommended a good therapist]

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Winter Window Weather

For those not familiar with San Francisco weather, I have been waiting for the fog since I moved in six months ago. While the imagery outside my windows remains spectacular, my very first night living with the view was in mid-March or right around the spring equinox. The sun was moving slowly north of the Golden Gate and the famous San Francisco fog was in its dry season. Now as another equinox approaches the fog is returning.

Last evening at sunset the silver bluffs had piled into the Bay like a thick blanket, the Marin headlands to the north had been overwhelmed, the waters of the bay were smothered in a twenty foot high layer with eruptions as high as 100 or more feet. A novice viewer would have supposed an island under those peaks but Alcatraz, Treassure and Angel were far off, these were just billows of happenstance. The City itself still stood out over the lower fog bank much like the picture above, but it floated alone in the gauzy mixture that I know is only a preview of many grey-white winter scenes to come. 

Today surprisingly broke in dull light but fog-less, the rain that was predicted to slide down from the north never arrived. It is as though a bubble has descended on the Bay and nowhere outside of this hazy scene exists, that somewhere just over the hills the world dissolves into a tommy-knocker nothingness. An interesting winter has been announced.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

You Say You Want a Revolution

The spirit of resistance to government is so valuable on certain occasions, that I wish it to be always kept alive. It will often be exercised when wrong, but better so than not to be exercised at all. I like a little rebellion now and then. It is like a storm in the atmosphere.    
                                                                    -Thomas Jefferson

Nope not a Tea Party fan here. I have stopped calling them tea baggers because of Bill, oops I did it again - nevermind. I am not a fan but I completely relate to their feelings of being disenfrancised and so should everyone of my generation. Remember the resistance of the great silent majority to the "revolution" of the 60s, you remember the one born of drugs, sex, rock & roll and then fueled by the war in Vietnam. There was simply mindless opposition to what was being said. Change was an evil word.

Now I will admit that the opposition to the Tea Party rhetoric is more articulate today and the opposition holds both the White House and the Congress. The Johnson and Nixon administrations had all the power around Vietnam until we took it away from them.

How did that happen?

Recruitment, which is precisely what the Tea Party movement must continue to do. Winning a couple of seats in November from a few old, worn political soft targets won't do it. Any revolution that seeks to overturn the current order without burning it down must have a strong, vocal base. Wacko speeches and thinly veiled conspiracy theories won't reach enough of the disgusted voters who may be sympathetic to the emerging platform of the Tea Party.

Many on the left and in the middle thought that Obama was going to be like a little rebellion now and then, clearly they were wrong. Sorry friends but I did tell you. Yes I know "only two years" and "Bush left the financial mess" and "worldwide economic downturn" but the left wing talking heads on CNN are just as much talking point mimes as are the Fox News naysayers. We've been through one revolution, how was that for you? I mean compared to today . . . Yes, you can work within the system, if the system works.

I'm not sure if the Tea Party will ever be the storm in the atmosphere that Jefferson was referring to but I, like most of you, feel the days of slow gentle rains are not going to cut it anymore. What we need is another good cleansing tsunami.
art: Barry Blitt-NYTimes

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Lyrical Nostalgia

But wait you say! You can't possibly be a Michael Jackson fan. Right you are astute readers. But on a long drive the other day I heard my favorite set of Beatles tunes and decided it had been too long. So today seven remastered Beatles CDs arrived and I shall be indulging in the Fab Four for some weeks or months and of course blogging about it. But why then Michael Jackson? Well he (and a division of Sony Music Inc.) own the Beatles library, well I guess it would be his estate but no matter, the MJ art is also social commentary, if you don't quite see it, try this larger version.

Also I promised I was going to wallow and float in nostalgia this month but I got a bit sidetracked with some favorite quotes and though the quotations are nostalgic for me, the prose I attached to them has not been conveying the lightness, wonder and remembrance of things past.

So I shall be interspersing the boys from Liverpool in order to pave the way down penny lane. I won't keep you speculating, my "favorite set" of Beatles tunes come from Abbey Road. I will be writing about why later but just as a taste -- John-to-Paul-to-George-to-Ringo they are: Here Comes the Sun, Because, You Never Give Me Your Money, Sun King, Mean Mr Mustard, Polythene Pam, She Came In Through the Bathroom Window, Golden Slumbers, Carry That Weight and The End.

Here is a little taste for you -- musical link

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

If You Meet the Buddha on the Road

Believe those who are seeking the truth. Doubt those who find it. -Andre Gide

The San Francisco Bay area has a lot of teachers. A wide variety of traditions spawn these transmitters of wisdom - buddhist, hindu, new age, tantric, christian, jewish, islamic, gaian, feminist, eco, gecko, whacko and other. With several invitations to local events this past week, I have once again encountered a cross-section of these teachers. Invariably I am struck by the same observation when I attend such a gathering, a reflection I first had over twenty years ago which seems to be as accurate today as it was then.

Nearly every lama, priest, rinpoche, tulku, mahatama, guru, maharishi, mawlawi, mullah, rebbe, goddess and just plain teacher I have encountered over lo these many years has devotees. I have no problem with the teachers, my issue is with the followers. OK, so maybe I have some issue with some of the teachers, but they can teach, push, hawk, sell or prostelytize any position, scripture, devotion, gospel or worldview they like. As someone once said: "It's nearly a free country."

No my gripe, complaint, distain is not with the guru but with the devotee. The slavish devotion, which in many eastern traditions is referred to as Bhakti -- that I have a problem with. I simply have a full body revulsion listening to any presentation where when the speaker enters the room, half of the audience falls on the floor in worship. What brilliance has this person offered up that prompts someone to extremes of adulation?

"He's a man, he's just a man and I've had so many men before in very many ways. He's just one more." lyrics from Jesus Christ Superstar.

The title of this post is incomplete, the full title of the book by Sheldon Kopp is: If You Meet the Buddha on the Road, Kill Him!

True teachers, in my view, tend to admonish their listeners away from disciple-hood; they advocate a free and questioning approach to their teachings, not a prostrate worship of someone who is just another seeker with some insight to share. But clearly there is some wide spread need to bow and scrape to a slightly more enlightening being than oneself, which is why I suppose I stop to pet every cat that crosses the path of my journey.

Sunday, September 12, 2010


No real need for a 9-11 post this year. The Florida fool didn't burn any books. The Manhattan community center debate has gone so virile that it has become passe to mention it. I object to many thoughts, debates, expletives and explanations around the World Trade Center blogoverse but mostly the politics. Both sides, hell all sides, just take too much liberty with the facts of that day. Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?

I did catch a documentary on the 9-11 Truthers last night. I did a little investigation on them earlier this year when the carpet cleaner gave me the seventy minute version of their thesis. The problem with all of these conspiracy theories is that they use a selective filter; facts, inferences and extrapolations that support their view of the world are truth, anything else disappears in a haze of "they did it" verbiage. Plus people who are determined to be right at the top of their lungs and in my face, have no chance of convincing me of anything and a greatly expanded potential of needing medical attention.

But like I said, no 9-11 blog yesterday, no need. Today, 9-12 is significant to many if only as someone's birthday or wedding anniversary but in the world of events the 12th has been fairly quiet. Sometimes it seems that we could use a lot more of these uneventful days when we can fill in the significance for ourselves.

September 12th - Adopt a Kitten Day. I'll bet no one would care that the litter box is two blocks from People's Park.

Friday, September 10, 2010


Every increased possession loads us with new weariness. -John Ruskin

For me it began in 1999, I was moving from San Francisco to Ann Arbor. I had lived in the Haight-Asbury section of the City for a decade and while I had not accumulated a lot of new stuff there, I was still living with the detritus of my profligate years in L.A. Besides I was moving to a fully furnished house in Michigan and there was simply no place for my stuff.

The living room went to a couple of friends who had just returned to the City. The kitchen I still visit in Sonoma, there was a lot of divestiture and donation. But still a load went by moving van to the midwest, far less than had made the L.A. to S.F. move a decade earlier but I still was burdened.

After six years in Michigan I uprooted again, this time for Las Vegas. Once again, I tried to untether myself from more of the stuff of life. I gave up my 15 yr. old platform california king and my wide wooden desk of 25 years. I managed to depart for the desert with only a car load of personal items and three boxes shipped ahead. I was feeling lighter.

Three years in Nevada and I was even less encumbered, the memorabilia box was ceremonially cremated, the family album was sorted and parsed. I do still have a half empty storage closet up in Sebastopol waiting for my next surge of dispossession. 

Since moving into the Berkeley apartment I have acquired the high mag. binoculars w/ tripod, which break down and fit under the back seat of the car; one rotating fan, which will be donated to a forever overheated friend and one blow-up bed. I really, really don't want stuff. I have also learned that actual baggage is much easier to put down than the psychological leavings of a life. Real permanent things truly do make me weary. The head stuff -- well that's what wisdom is all about.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010


Nobody realizes that some people expend tremendous energy merely to be normal.
-Albert Camus

Today a little vignette to illustrate my point. About twenty years ago, I knew a lady, perhaps she was a client. Marnie was 36, had three kids and a husband who traveled for work often. She worked full time, kids were in school - 9th, 6th and 3rd grade; family planning don't you know. Big comfortable house that came with a big uncomfortable mortgage. The office where she worked was about fifteen miles from home, not a long commute but not right around the corner either. Dean, the husband, worked in the city a solid 40 miles one way and he was out of town two weeks a month though not always for the full week each time. Enough frequent flyer mileage that airport travel and big winter weather patterns were a family concern, at least for the adults.

Money was not tight but they did spend what they made. They did not want for the stuff their social standing required but without any real savings they were precariously perched on the lowest rung of the upper middle class. There was no marital cheating, no heavy drinking except perhaps at the two or three major social events of the year. Sometimes they had sex but mostly they were too tired. The kids were everything and as Marnie said at our first meeting: "Our family is everything and that's not enough."

I had scribbled in my notes: "middle class malaise" - a pithy but accurate diagnosis.

A couple of months into our conversation I had a vacation coming up and Marnie joked about patient abandonment. When I returned there was a cancellation for her next appointment, so we had a interlude of nearly a month between sessions. When we met again, she had a new plan for her family. There had been an accident, four of the neighborhood boys were in the car and one was killed. He was the son of one of Marnie's neighborhood friends. He was one of her son's friends but David, her son, had been at a weekend soccer meet and not in the fatal car. 

Marnie and her family were past the trauma, it had been over three weeks since the accident. But her plan came out of the realizations of that loss so close to home. She and her husband were about to tell the children that they were going "slow down the treadmill" -their imagery not mine. No more designer clothes, no more new gadgets, more home cooked meals, more family time. Eventually, dad was going to cut back on travel. Basically, they were going to stop living up to some ideal that Madison Avenue was promoting, again their language. Oh and -- no more therapy.

If you will, try to put yourself inside Marnie's body before the life changing accident. Feel the pressure of keeping up, get a sense of the frustration that comes out as "it's just not enough." Imagine the stress of each child, not one not two but three, the husband, job, bills, the future and the path that stretches in front of you. Got it?

Now take all of that angst, pack in all into one big amorphous blob; detach the family, the job, the entire external world. All you have left is the feeling of dis-ease, of not being calm or content or quiet or relaxed or at ease. Now stuff that big gob of unsatisfactorness into your body, your heart, your spirit, your soul. And wake up every morning feeling without ease. Nothing to attach the feeling to, not a job or a bad relationship or too many bills. The feeling of dis-ease exists as an entity unto itself and unto yourself.

There are people who have that experience every day of their life.

Sure there are degrees, sometimes you can control the darkness with strength of will. Pharmaceuticals work sometimes too, of course, what suppresses the anxiety also damps down the joy. Then you get to add in life, you remember this dis-ease comes fully formed without the everyday anchors of work, money, relationship, health care, Iraq, hurricanes or oil spills. No you get to start your day already burdened by the grey of greys, now stir in what the "normal people" call life and prepare for the big overwhelm.

The point? 

Nobody realizes that some people expend tremendous energy merely to be normal.

Don't be a nobody [or be a nobody, wait reverse that].

Monday, September 06, 2010

Writer's Block

When your imaginary friends won't talk to you.

No I don't have writer's block. Since the time when I first considered myself "a writer" I have never experienced a lack of or a loss for words. Oh sure there might be a piece I had to set aside for a day or an hour but blocked -- never. I do remember the experience from my undergrad days. Back then I didn't understand the craft of writing. Not only did I not get the whole concept of outlines and paragraph structure but I lacked what fortunately I now have in abundance - inspiration. So many stories, so little time.

I do use one technique on the order of a cheat sheet, which is simply that I have a lot of projects going at once and more often than not have the luxury of choosing what I want to work on each morning. Deadlines do come around, but I am generally ahead of the curve on the ticking clock issues. There is a little trick I stumbled on when I sat down to finish my dissertation. Back in 1999, I had just left an all consuming job in Silicon Valley and needed to complete my P.D. dissertation I had put on semi-hold; twas time to close a life chapter, which required a check mark next to the grad school experience. I had continued to do weekend research on my topic: Exploring the nature of qualitative research: Assumptions, attributes, definitions and antecedents. But I was not producing text or content. So my first day back at the desk, I did a little sorting and pencil sharpening before producing the updated outline of the entire project. An introduction, five chapters and a conclusion.

Then I broke each chapter into sections and those sections into sub-sections. When the parsing was done I had ninety three little pieces, some done, some drafted, others outlined and a few with just notes or question marks. Then the process was simple, each morning I would drift through the list and find something that interested me to start the day. Slowly the list of potential bits became drafts, drafts were polished and finally there was just the task of stitching the quilt together and fixing the then's, than's and that's.

Today I know as soon as I hit publish on this post, I will be working on a query letter for a novel (Grey Angel) that has been back-burnered for several months. Inspiration struck in the wee hours this morning, my bedside notepad was full of restart ideas when I rolled from the covers a short time ago. I am both inspired and infused with a new direction for that story. Another project, also fresh from several months in a temporal cul-de-sac surfaced this past week, that will be project #2 on my list; unless, of course, we experience a muse war, in which case I will offer up another blog post.

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Facts, Family and Distortions

Parts of my far flung family have been reconnected via several social networks and while keeping up with the relatives adds some flavor and spice to life, there is the matter of conflicting politics. In particular, what passes for truth. Now there have got to be several hundred quotes about truth and politics repelling each other like opposite poled magnets. Just turn on any news talk show (Fox, CNN, MSNBC, LSMFT), the plot goes like this. The anchor names a topic. A question is asked to the talking head from one side. They respond not to the question but with a talking point, which attacks the other side. Anchor steps in asks for a response from the other "guest", who then does their own talking point counter attack. To this point nothing has been said about the actual topic. The gritty anchor then offers up another question that can only be addressed with a fact, which let's the audience know we have now moved into phase two which means we are about to hear a huge distortion of reality, not fiction but distortion. But let me clarify a bit for those not used to logical, empirical debate.

Fact: The sun rises in the east.

Actually "sun" is a label by which we mean the large yellow star around which the solar system we inhabit more or less revolves. "Rises" is also inaccurate since the sun itself is stationary with regards this planet we ride upon. So, in fact, the rotation of the planet and the orbit around the "sun" causes what appears to be a "rising" of the "sun" each morning. Of course, it is the "sun" causing the morning and not the morning heralding the "rising." Finally, "east" is another construct we have created to mean "over there" or "that way." What is "true" is that if you stand facing the arbitrary direction we call west, you won't see the illusion of sun coming up. So as qualified as it is, there is at least some discernible truth in the statement: The sun rises in the east.

On the other hand, what politicians, talking heads and unfortunately many citizens, including my relatives state as "truth" is in fact opinion generally based on "distortions" of the truth. For instance:

Distortion: They want to build a mosque at ground zero.

"They" want to exercise their property rights to build within all the local codes. Fact

It isn't a "mosque", it is a community center. Distortion

"Ground Zero" is near Alamogordo, New Mexico where the first nuclear explosion in history took place. Japan also has a fairly strong claim to not one but two "ground zeroes." In New York City, the former site of the World Trade Center is several city blocks from the proposed community center. You need a map to find it and once you did, you would have no idea you were anywhere near the current construction site. Distortion.

When I as in Oklahoma City, we visited the memorial to the domestic terrorist bombing. My reaction was not meant to be cynical but honest. I thought that if they built a memorial to every attack in Israel the entire country would be one big memorial and since you can't allow people to live on such hallowed ground, the Middle East problem would be solved. Israel would be one big memorial to human hatred. Guess I am not an advocate of memorials to terrorism, doesn't it just encourage them to commit more acts of violence so they can be memorialized?

Now there are some other WTC/mosque distortions as well. Not all of those opposing the building are bigots. Fact. Some of them are. Fact. But generalizations are generally soft facts. You know like there actually were some African Americans who voted for John McCain, which proves nothing other then human beings have free will. But let's look at some hard facts that don't seem to be useful to either side of this false debate.

The World Trade Center terrorists were all males. Well we can't really condemn 49.4% of the planet's population, even thought they do start all the wars and commit 93% of the murders, 99.9% of the rapes and cause 99.4% of the urine splatters in public restrooms.

The World Trade Center terrorists were all citizens of Saudi Arabia. Now there' s a nice big fact that no one really wants to look at. There are 1.5 Billion muslims in the world but only 25 Million Saudis. So why the focus on the religion and not the country of origin? Best estimate of the number of members of Al -Qaeda, you know the group that actually admitted to being behind the WTC attack - best guess at the high end is perhaps 150 Thousand members. Seems like a better investigatory or military strategy to focus on 150,000 instead of 1,500,000,000. But that's a number thing and you know how numbers tend to be all factual & focused.

Today's conclusion. Think for yourself, whether you are on the right, left or middle. Stop quoting politicians to me, it simply cannot be true that "your guys" are truthful and honest and the "other guys" are liars, socialists or fascists. It can't be true because I have friends and relatives on the "other side" who send me internet propaganda that says exactly the opposite of what you send me. Its called free and open debate but I am really only interested in what you have to say, not what some paid talking head as vomited up in a sound byte.

Pass the chocolate and don't forget to take your meds before the family reunion.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Backwaters of Time

August, die she must
The autumn winds blow chilly and cold;
September I'll remember.
A love once new has now grown old.
-Simon & Garfunkel, April Come She Will

Autumn is my favorite season, not so much in California and not at all in Las Vegas but I do get nostalgic for the midwest come autumn leaves. This year I will have a different perspective, not only does my apartment aerie have a grand view but I look down on about ten square miles of Berkeley and this city does love its trees. Granted there are a fair number of evergreens and I can even see a few palm trees, not the brilliant maples and oaks of my dappled memories but color is acomin'. Already the greens have muted and dulled or begun a subtle yellowing. The trees are withdrawing their life force for the winter, more a seasonal ritual here than a freezing winter necessity.

So as fall in Berkeley plays out, I thought I would ponder and muse about where life doth wander. Time has been on my mind often lately. My high school friends gathered last weekend for a 45th reunion, the pictures from the pavilion at the legion made we wonder. I placed a couple of calls to olde classmates from those days and wondered even more. Facebook has put me back in touch with several college friends, many of whom I saw last fall at our 40th class reunion in Kalamazoo. Makes you think, OK makes me think and then write.

I am going to devote September to all of this nostalgic meandering, mixed in with autumnal musings from my perch, I might have to toss in some musical references not only because it was the sixties, but I've also just received six new remastered CDs that will occupy my ears for the near future.

Come October I shall be ready for something new. A leaping off or a vaulting over but this month, well this month we shall laze in the backwaters of my times.

A final word to those readers who never click thru my linked offerings out onto the wonderful world wide web. Try it this month, I promise at least two or three delectable surprises. I will turn one hump day into a super special link day and include several other hidden gems for your amusement and bedazzlement.