Time For a Change?

It’s summertime! Well, officially, according to the calendar, it starts on June 21. That’s the day in which the sun, that bright bulb that permits life here on planet Earth, is highest in the sky in the northern hemisphere. It’s also called “summer solstice” or “the longest day”. Long, as in the most hours and minutes from sunrise to sunset. However, the “unofficial” start of summer was yesterday, May 27th, the day in which we, first and foremost, observe memorial Day, in honor of those who died in military service to our country. That aside, June 21st is the last day of increased daylight, a progression that started back on December 22nd, 2018, when “winter solstice” is noted–the day in which there is the least amount of daylight, sunrise to sunset, in the northern hemisphere. So, in a little over three weeks, northern hemisphere dwellers, it’s all downhill for the daylight, with summer solstice giving way to the inexorable diminution of daylight that bottoms out on the winter solstice. And so the cycle goes on and on and on, until what? Until that bright bulb burns out up there, right?

Not to worry, be assured, because according to those scientists who concern themselves with such matters, Old Sol has a ways to go before it flickers and flutters and gutters out: in 5 to 7 BILLION years time, the sun’s life will come to an end. It will then become a “red giant star”. It might even become so giant that it swallows the Earth whole. That is, if you want to believe NASA scientists and their ilk. But who in blazes (get it, blazes?) will be around to check the accuracy of this prediction? So, if the sun running out of fuel is your big worry, please relax. Wait, is there anyone worried about that happening? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller? I guess not. And I am not concerned, either. I’m simply trying to take your minds off the here and now by projecting billions of years into the future. In so doing, even if you properly react by thinking who cares about anything that far in the future?, it might compel you to think about the future in the context of the here and now. What does concern you right now? It’s none of my business, I know, but whatever concerns you right now has a future that will ultimately entail an outcome concerning your–well, your concern. Got plans for the future? No, well it doesn’t matter because the future damn well has plans for you, for everyone. All things must pass, right? Including the sun’s bright shine. Where does that leave us microscopic specs of human dust in the long haul? We’re along for the ride, but even the oldest of the old might reach 120 years; that’s not even measurable in geologic time. Not that we are meaningless. Hell, look at what humankind has created. From the slime we have progressed to technological wonders. The wheel. Bicycles. Railroads. Photography. Motion-in-pictures. Automobiles. Airplanes. Jumbo jets. Skyscrapers. Radio. TV. Cable TV. Steaming video. Fitbits. Elexa. Suburbia. Deep suburbia. Mega-malls. Moon landings. CGI. Smart phones. Social media. Drones. Virtual reality. Tanning beds! Craft beer!

What contribution to life on earth have you made? Maybe not reinvented the wheel but reproduced yourself, as in having progeny? If you are reading this, you are someone’s progeny. You didn’t create yourself. But you can reinvent yourself, right? C’mon. Not happy with all the technological creature comforts? Still feeling some void? You a penthouse dweller and still feeling unfulfilled? Is money your god? No? Good? It’s the root of all evil, ya know, right? Greed is good? Not a materialistic type? Are you living in a flophouse? Is less more for you? If more is more you are so screwed. And likely on meds.

Are you still a “work-in-progress”. You do have concerns about the future? You have plans for the future? Or is the future always now? The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry, as that saying goes. Keep on truckin. There’s possibly enough time to climb Maslow’s pyramid (hell, maybe climb Everest too!), and strive for self-actualization, although that tip-top of the pyramid is a relative matter. But get with it, no matter your current status, because while you can take time out for a break, you can’t take a break from time. Time is a tyrant, okay?

Even for Old Sol!

So, on this unofficial first day of summer, don’t waste any time. Keep on keepin on. Wait, we do that even if we are doing nothing, I suppose. Got a heartbeat? Then you are keepin on…so try for more than that.

…and while few make it to 120 (and who the bloody hell would want to get that old?, given we are subject to wear and tear from Day One), it would only be natural to want to feel as good about life as possible. But one person’s ceiling is another one’s floor and all that. Are you trying to right a perceived wrong? Are you resisting?, fighting back?, are you an “indivisible”? What’s on your radar? Anything seem alarming? That blip over there? What is that? Is that…is that a…

Leader or follower? Saint or sinner? Lover or hater? Dog or cat? Paper or plastic? Apple or android? Rock or blues? Jazz or classical? Pulp fiction or classic literature? Aisle or window? Progressive or conservative? True believer or a cynic? All of the above? None of the above. A and C only? Is this a test? How will it be graded? On a curve you hope , right? Life is a classroom and always in session. What did you learn today? Are you listening or just hearing?

The sun is not having to wait on any of us. In a billion years we’re all long loooooooooooong gone. Replaced by progeny and then it’s their problem figuring out what to make of being alive. A billion years? To get back to that science that asserts the sun “only?” has those billions of years left, they are also saying that here on Earth, time is running out right now, imminently so. And your progeny make have to pay the price. Wholesale. But who’s thinking that far ahead? What? By 2050, the oceans…blah blah.

I’m tired of hearing it. But I’m somewhat immune to being that concerned about the future, as I have no progeny. Or grand-progeny, so-to-speak, to pass on into the future. If I did I’d really feel something. All I feel now is resigned. In my opinion, Earth is our host, and we are a virus that has infected the host. Killing it. I see young couples pushing baby carriages and feel…sorry…for those tots. Their parents must have great plans for the future, no doubt (and must not be reading the climate science reports). And now that it’s virtually summertime, and the birds are chirping and the leaves are in full flush, the things that bloom are blooming and the sky seems normally blue, the future is so bright we all have to wear shades. And spread SPF 700 on our skin during the hours of 10am to 4pm. Ask any dermatologist. The ozone is stressed, but we seem to not have even a palliative plan to address that anytime soon.

Right now, I’m clinging to the still ascending number of daylight minutes leading up to June 21st. And even though it will be summery for another four months or so past that date, I cannot escape the cold fact that time is always, always running down. But it’s not about to run out on all of us. Yet. The future is always right now. If the clock is running out on mother Earth faster because of human activity, then we will get exactly what we deserve. I don’t think I have another 30 or fifty years to witness whether the dire predictions of the near-future will come to pass, and that’s probably for the better, no? You want to be around to the End Game? Who would?

In the meantime, think about whatever future you can be reasonably assured of having, time-wise, barring accident or disease rushing in to cut things short. What’s on that radar? Anything you want to see changed? Then do something. Don’t ask me what. Research it. Donate to climate science. Vote with your brain engaged. I’ve done those things in order to “try to make a difference” but now I mainly have this blog to sooth my psyche. I feel burned out on trying to help make percieved wrongs right. Enervation has set in, methinks. Or is it torpor? My postings are my only progeny. Hope someone likes a few. However. Just like not everyone likes kids, my cyber offerings may be an annoyance more than any uplifting attribution for the eyeballs that encounter them. And if we were to meet, and have a chat, you’d get the interpersonal version of my opinions (some “informed” while others, like this one, just rambling observations). Like I said up there, just trying to take your mind off…

…never…mind

Anyway. I just consumed about 90 minutes creating this posting, minutes that I’ll never get back. But I don’t think I wasted those minutes. I’ve done plenty of wasting time, and who doesn’t wonder about the wisdom of time spent doing this or that? Just keep in mind, there’s maybe only five billion years left of that great ball of fire in the sky. Get with it.

What? Confused? Frustrated? Numbed out? Adrift? Can’t seem to get a grip on how things seems so extreme these days, in many layers of life? In that case, take a number. I have zero answers. And so it goes, and goes. Until it’s all gone.

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Peter World

In the very well crafted satirical film, Office Space, circa 1999, the lead character, a corporate cubbyhole dweller named Peter, is quickly established as someone whose life is on a treadmill to nowhere. Both professionally and personally, Peter clearly has that is this all there is? feeling pervading his each and every day. In an effort to find relief–deliverance, more likely–he visits a hypnotherapist, to whom he expresses his life as “each day being the worst day of my life”. Peter then implores the therapist about what he can do to help him feel better, as in “Can’t you zonk me out? You know, maybe instead of thinking I’m at work, I’m out fishing?”. As satire, I would presume many viewers of this movie could identify with Peter, on one level or another. Life, right? It just seems to have a way of wearing us down, not just physically, but emotionally. But since the film is satirical, there is humor in the narrative of Peter’s yuppified angst and anguish. It’s not some somber slog through Russian despair and conflict, brought to life in color and widescreen super digital HD.

The therapist explains that what Peter is asking for is not a service he can provide, but does proceed to start a hypnotic incantation upon his patient, proclaiming that Peter will slowly be unburdened of his stresses, and completely in a state of mental relaxation. Before the therapist can finish his “countdown” and then presumably retrieve Peter’s mind from the hypnotic state in order to confirm that for the moment, at least, Peter has the residue of relaxing mind control with which to combat his quotidian funk, the doctor drops dead from a heart attack. Peter is still hypnotized, and so relaxed, that he appears oblivious to the tragedy that has occurred right in front of him. From that moment on, Peter is his own man, with a new, improved attitude about life, an avatar of Alfred E. Neuman and his personal mantra of “What, me worry?

Peter is then able to comport himself in as carefree a manner as he wishes, ignoring anything and everything (and everyone) that made each ensuing day of his life the worst day of my life. He decides that, since his job is an unrewarding litany of cubbyhole hell, with too many bosses who only confer negativity upon him, he simply will stop going to work. He boldly asks a waitress at a corporatized eatery that has her wearing sappy, happy expression buttons referred to as “flair” on her unform, to meet him for lunch–in spite of the fact that she doesn’t know him at all. With his unassuming and carefree mojo on dipslay, she agrees to meet him and in the course of icebreaking banter, when asked what he does, he barely attempts an explanation before simply stating “I don’t like my job so I’m just not going to go anymore”. When asked if he will get fired, he says he doesn’t know or care. He’s just not going to do it anymore. When asked about how he will pay bills, he again simply proclaims that he never liked paying bills, and he’s not going to that anymore either.

It’s satirical. Darkly comic. If you haven’t seen this film, trust me you could do a lot worse, what with the mindless assembly-line dreck of superhero, supernatural dumb rom-com cartoonish offerings and re-makes at your local cineplex (but that’s another blog for another day). But Peter’s hypno-infused give-a-shit persona undoubtedly resonated with many audience members 20 years ago. Who wouldn’t like to be free to expel the often enervating and seemingly intrinsic stresses attendant to being alive and conscious? Seriously, otherwise, why are there so many T-shirts, coffee mugs and other consumer products that are bought precisely because of the expression imprinted upon them that proclaims life’s a bitch, then you die? That’s what effective satire does. It taps into everyday life, and its various external forces that become internal forces of the not too happy happy joy joy variety and send them up and over for guffaws. It can be cathartic. We are constantly seeking relief, no? From…something. You know. From life, that’s what. There’s a rock song entitled Birth. School. Work. Death. It’s a satirical song, okay. It’s a close kin to Life’s a bitch and then… If you don’t like rock, don’t listen to it. But it’s a clever song and is damn good rock at the same time, for whatever that opinion is worth to anyone.

However, we must cope and manage the stresses of life, do we not?. Short of hypnosis, there’s alcohol, which life has made clearly necessary for coping, as proven by the 18th Amendment’s disastrous results. And currently the massive opioid addiction problem. Drugs! And this is nothing new, of course. It goes waaaay back. Waaaay back. And ironically, the booze, nicotine, opioids, marijuana and more are all derivatives of nature. What is Nature trying to tell us? Pathological use of drugs has been described as early as classical antiquity. Loss of control of drug use goes back to the 1600’s. Peyote, or mescaline, a psychedelic is making news lately, as in some states considering making its consumption legal. And why not? There’s a lot of reality from which humans want to escape–still, as in the same as centuries ago. In our native American Indian cultures, ingesting mescaline was felt not to disconnect its user from reality, but to actually see reality. The “real’ reality, as it were. Hmm. Drop acid, see god. Or see something besides what you thought you were seeing before you dropped…

We be trippin!

Back to Peter. He’s not tripping, he’s in a trance. His mind has been set free! Anything goes! Maybe he could walk on hot coals, or lay on a bed of nails. Probably not, but all he wanted, after all, was to not be hassled. Work? Just say no. Bills? Just say no. Speak your mind. Say what you actually think and feel, not what you have been programmed to think and feel in order to “fit in”. Good luck with that. And fitting in is indeed what we are programmed to do. Virtually, from crib to crypt these days, advertising and consumption is taught either overtly or covertly. To consume, to shop, is a drug. Conform. Make no waves. In the digital age, try getting advertising out of your line-of-sight. Sure there are things we need to buy. Food. Clothes. And we need shelter. But it’s not enough to just have the basics. To be satisfied or fulfilled, we need that latest gizmo. Super cable TV (with 700 channels and next to nothing you can enjoy watching) The flashier car. The finer threads. Baubles, bangles and bright shining beads. Parents are supposed to control their kids, but advertising appeals directly to the kids to tell the parents what junk they need to buy for them, all of which inevitably ends up in a landfill. And parents mostly do want to please the kids (parenting is still another topic for another blog, context as above, in the digital age). The media exists to distract us from reality, the kind of reality that maybe dropping acid would cut into, eh? Bread and circuses. Stale bread. Cliched circuses.

Seeing a satirical movie or even some snarky televised offerings lets us identify with that which is being satirized. Art imitating (and mocking) life but at least for an hour or two one can consume that product and have a laugh or two in the process. But good satire is rare. The arts in general, methinks, are getting watered down. All the stories have been told but now they can’t seem to be told in much of a re-imagined, neo-creative manner. Hmm. I’m watching a crime series on dvd, but I swear I’ve seen this exact story before. However, I KNOW I haven’t seen this production before. That’s why Office Space still resonates. It is very clever, and original in its construction. Although I assume it will have an unnecessary re-make any year now

Are we not all part of Peter’s world? Even before there was a Peter circa that movie. What? You say you’re in control and that you have no stress issues? Okay, I believe you. Half way. You mean you’re being “medicated” but I doubt you’re in control. And as such, indeed you damn well fit in! Even though you’re trying not to.

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Law and Order

I was trying to find Maw and Paw, and son, down there in Wazoo City, somewhere in old Dixie but they are being rather subdued these days. The kid, Billy Ray Joe Bob Tucker Bubba Cole Monro Jethro Scruggins might have gotten in over his head at a local rally in East Wazoo, where he apparently shoved a woman, knocking her down and injuring her. The rally had to do with Planned Parenthood supporters demanding a women’s clinic to open in their area. It seems that the closest facility that focuses on women’s reproductive health in their Deep Dixie District is at least 120 miles from Wazoo. Maw was at the rally, and along with other locals, was shouting death threats at the pro-clinic supporters, calling them commies and baby killers, rapists and terrorists. This information came to me by way of one the Scruggins clan’s second cousins who has a Facebook page, who was also at the rally and took video with a cellphone. 

Billy Bob Joe Ray, uh, well let’s just go with Joe Bob. Or Billy Ray. Or Bubba Tucker. Or simply The Kid, had to spend a night in jail, Maw not being able to post the $50 bail for his actions. The local sheriff later stated he borrowed the fifty bucks from his boss at a local glue factory where he moonlights because he hated having to arrest The Kid, but “we gots laws and orders here too,  evens iffin they aints always makin any senses”.  He tried to locate Paw, but was told Paw was down in Hempter, at a combination laundromat and saloon named Sack O’ Suds. I’m not sure of the ethics of the arresting sheriff, but hey, what do I know?

The video captures Bubba Ray cursing up a storm, telling the pro-clinic people they were breaking the law by interfering with the peace and quiet before, to quote, ” youz be gottins dems nervins wantin to be being gettins a weemens store to go and gets peepals babies kilt”. When one of the women stood up to The Kid and accused him of being full of hate, he pushed her hard enough to cause her to fall and injure her wrist on the pavement in front of the weed-infested empty lot where the clinic might be built. His Maw dragged him away, but the other women holding signs demanding the clinic be built then demanded the sheriff, who was just standing nearby to do something. At first he said the woman pushed Ray Joe Bob but a few of them also had cellphone cameras going and when they kept saying they had PROOF The Kid was at fault, he finally slapped cuff on Bubba Joe, and put him in his cop car. The rally continued, but now the others who came from Wazoo and nearby to protest against the clinic started accusing the sheriff of being a “commie simpletizer”  who “ougta shudda be gettins them babies kilters” arrested, not Joe Ray Billy. They basically started accusing the sheriff of being a “babies kilter too!” and that “you best be espectin nots to be being re-lected”. Law and order they said. 

The women who witnessed the The Kid pushing their fellow supporter to the pavement started yelling back that law and order means just that. That no one is above the law, especially when there is irrefutable PROOF that a crime had just been committed. This just seemed to further inflame the Wazoo-ians, who again accused the women of wanting to kill babies, and probably use terror tactics  “tils you be dun kilted allins of usins”. They then began warning that “whens ourins guy done be hearins bouts dis, he be being makins surins they be pays for it cuzzin he be being bouts laws and orders!”

I inquired about what media coverage was present at this protest rally and apparently just one reporter, from the Wazoo Stars and Bars Gazette, was present. I looked up what story was reported by that paper. All I read was a short piece on how Ray Joe Bob was arrested for his actions but that the next day charges were dropped when the women he injured said she felt sorry The Kid, who she felt was already suffering enough, filled with hate and in need of intense counseling. 

I’m not sure if that clinic will ever get built. Seems those folks in Wazoo are against it because their local preacher says the women wanting the clinic are all just abortionists wanting to control other peoples lives by making sure none of them can ever be born. Or something like that. 

My take-away from seeing this video is this: that cousin really knows how to handle a cell phone video app. He or she ought to think about a career in video production. I’m sure they’re looking for someone to accompany the next Stars and Bars Gazette reporter sent to document the god-fearing, anti-rapist, anti-commie, anti-terrorist, anti-abortionists that “therin guy” has proven need be stood up to. As for the sheriff, if doesn’t get re-elected, he might be able to catch on full time at that glue factory. Or he can work delivering the Bars and Stars Gazette. 

I’m going to try and catch up with the Scruggins clan, especially Paw, who seems to spend a lot of time in Hempter and that LaundroBar down there. Maybe Joe Bob Billy Ray blah blah has learned a harsh lesson in how no one, no one, is above the law.

Then again, maybe not.

 

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May Day!

May Day. One aspect of this historical day of observation is the one relating to the accomplishment of workers. You know, having a job. Work. Making a living. Having a place to live, put clothes on one’s back and food on one’s table. At the height of the industrial revolution during the 19th century, having a job was one thing. Being able to make one’s life easier by means of their paychecks providing for basic needs and security was quite another thing. In many cases, one’s job was certainly a matter of labor, but the pay was crummy, and the working conditions often less than ideal, as in at times fatal. Their employers weren’t concerned about their working conditions or an honest return on their labor–which aided in the success of the employing company. The owners–eventually labeled “robber barons”  might hear their workers complaints through the managerial pipeline, but didn’t feel any obligation whatever to address their concerns with compassion. If the job being performed injured someone or at times caused a fatality, it was simply harsh reality. There would always be someone to replace those who fell victim to that reality. However, the workers eventually began to organize and demand change. Their struggle to gain worker’s rights, often a bloody clash with company-backed head bashing goons, took many years, but did force management to guarantee rights to both better pay and safer working conditions, and eventually such “perks” as the 8-hour work day, the 40-hour work week, overtime pay, and eventually other upgrades such as sick days and even paid vacation time.

I’m condensing a lot here, but this annual May Day observation typically goes by unnoticed and not the least bit celebrated. Many people who gripe about organized labor as some form of counter-productive influence on the marketplace probably have no idea that without the labor movement that took on those robber barons, their own jobs and whatever benefits they are granted as terms of employment would likely not exist without the historical fight for their ever being granted at all. I just feel, in my gut, that some people have to be forced not fuck over his/her fellow human. There’s my cynicism again. Dang!  But when I hear someone bashing unions, I chalk it up to the person being either an ignoramus or a shill for management.

Not that there hasn’t been documented corruption within unions. Of course they aren’t completely without fault, but I truly believe the corrupt “case studies” depicting abuse of union power is the exception and not the rule. As a teacher, I have worked as such without union representation/membership and with it. No doubt, my work life has been improved since being able to join a union. Better pay, other guaranteed benefits came with the advent of faculty fighting to have a union, even for adjunct instructors such as I am, one of the field hands of higher education.

Maybe I am too cynical, but I feel pretty sure that, in many, many, many cases, if an employer didn’t have a Collective Bargaining Agreement with its workers, benefits would be harder to come by, if at all.  This fight for a decent wage, worker safety, decent benefits and job security is never ending, certainly. Look at Amazon, the richest company in the known universe. I keep reading about accusations of how it mistreats its workers. I’m not digging into the weeds on what that reality is, but my instincts tell me that Gordon Gecko (remember him from the movie Wall Street? “Greed is good”) is alive and well, having become the guy who runs Amazon. You know, the guy who tries to extort money from cities before agreeing to set up 2nd or 3rd command stations in their area. This CEO is one scumbag, greedy motherfucker, okay? But there are many like him. It’s in the DNA of some people to be scumbags, and when they attain more and more power the scum-o-meter keeps notching up. I personally try not to do any business with Amazon, but in the age of mergers and acquisitions, this company has tentacles reaching into our pockets on the sly, as in Whole Foods stores. Not that I could afford to shop much at that chain, but when I heard Amazon had bought it, I never go there anymore. I’m sure I have made zero difference in the company’s bottom-line, but it’s part of voting with the wallet, dig? For all I know, Amazon owns the company that makes the coffee filters I use, or the duct tape I recently bought to temporarily re-secure my side view car mirror to the door of which it is part.

Amazon does get blow-back. New York City told it to take a hike and go extort another town that is idiotically willing to bargain with its slimy CEO. And it gets that blow-back because there are plenty of case studies on workers standing up for the greater good. Norma Rae! Win some, lose some. But once upon a time not that long ago, workers were always on the losing end of things, working 60-70-80 hour weeks. Even child labor was common–here in the U.S.–during those robber baron days.

However, the more things have changed, the more they seem to have slowly been changing back, to the bad ol’ days. Job stress? Every job has stress. Imagine if the labor movement had been beaten back and no gains ever made? Stress? You’d be ordering creature comforts on the cheap. Therapy candles. Bath salts. Lava Lamps. And Amazon Sub-Prime would deliver it to your ramshackle doorstep, for a nominal charge. Adjusted for robber baron era rates, the company would make calculations on your pittance of a wage so you’d still have a few nickels available for the goods (in spite of them being marked up 300%). Then you could kick back and relax for a few hours before going back to the assembly line. At some point, maybe a century later than what did happen, the labor movement would still come around. After all, we are not sheep are we? Are we?

Hmmm. I’m going to have to think on that for a bit. As I look at the news of the day, day after day, I do wonder how we got to this bizarre point, when so few people control so much of our lives and the cost of that lopsided equation keeps going up. Maybe it’s time for another Howard Beale moment, as in we’re mad as hell and not going to take it anymore! That’s what May Day celebrates. Not Howard Beale, from the movie Network. The righteous rebellion! Great movie. If you haven’t seen it, It’s probably available on Amazon. Or your local library. For free.

Choose wisely…

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Cinema Verite

“Did you steal him, or are you using him to beg?” Who is “you” and who is “him” you should want to know. Also, who is asking the question? In a moment…

“Why are you so much lighter skinned than your brother?” The questioned individual replies, “His mother drank lots of coffee when she was pregnant” It’s the same “you” as in the above, and the little brother in question is the same “him” as above. But the question, however, is not asked by the same person up there in the first sentence of this entry.

The first questioner is a very young girl–possibly about the same age as the young boy she is inquiring about. The young boy, scrawny, maybe 12 years old, is seemingly unfazed by what is being asked. The young girl is only a momentary presence within the young boy’s life but she is asking a question that is not all that outrageous, and the young boy knows it. Why? In a moment…

The “Why are you so much lighter skinned…?” is asked by an adult, someone who is a very fleeting presence for the boy who is simply trying to survive–along with his “little brother,” who is not much more than a year old.

The boy has run away from his parents. Why? He has many reasons for such a drastic decision, but the tipping point was when his parents sold off his younger sister, only 11 years old, for marriage. So, by the time he is asked about stealing the semi-toddler, possibly to use him to beg for money or food, he has already been living on street smarts, gumption and guile, and takes no offense from the question. And why should he?, as the young girl is something of a street urchin too, working at surviving, but apparently on her own.

How did this young boy become what would seem to be the guardian of his not real little–one year-old?–“brother”? The tike’s mother has been taken by authorities for being an undocumented person from Ethiopia, herself struggling to survive and care for her child. She has taken in the runaway, whom she meets as he is asking for any job at a seedy amusement park–in Beirut, Lebanon. She has been hiding her child, and when she’s suddenly taken while away from the the boy and the child, the boy takes it upon himself to look after his “brother”.

Preposterous, you assume? Well, not so fast. The young girl mentioned above is Syrian. In Beirut. Is it that hard to image an Ethiopian mother can end up working in another country, without “papers”? With a one year-old son. Is it absurd to think a young boy, a runaway who enters into a flimsy “quid pro quo” with her so they all might have a better life could, not knowing what has happened to the mother, and having been alive long enough in a rough and tumble, gritty and seemingly callous, cruel world, want to take charge of Little Brother, not trusting the adults that made this world he sees before his eyes?

This narrative is by way of the movie Capernaun. Film critics have likened it to everything from Dicken’s “haves and have nots” stories, to Vittorio De Sica’s Bicycle Thief, to a fairly recent film entitled The Florida Project. Rightfully so. In any of the those three comparisons is a distinct narrative thread of children, very young children, having been brought into a world that all too soon bears down upon them, at best teaching skin-toughening, harsh lessons on the vagaries of life, and at worst killing them.

Art imitating life? Well, I doubt that Dickens, De Sica or Sean Baker (Florida Project) created their stories from pure imagination. Lebanon. Syria. Ethiopia. That’s three places where maybe life isn’t all candy colored and easy to survive, especially if not of the manner born. What about Yemen right now? Take a close look at that waking nightmare. Then imagine being a child witnessing it first hand. Or…

Somalia. Nigeria. Central African Republic. Venezuela. Afghanistan. South Sudan. Democratic Republic of Congo. Those are the currently ranked worst human catastrophies. Capernaun isn’t a documentary about the rubble and ruin that surrounds the lives of its characters in Lebanon, but it is based on the reality that informs it. Most of the performers are non-professional, people whom the filmmakers took from the real mean streets and gave them a means of telling their story. It looks and feels like a documentary, no doubt.

The intense focus on such young children being caught up in real world chaos, (Chaos is one definition of movie’s title) begs the question: why so much suffering? Hard to imagine the children of the world are the cause. Certainly, some kids do really bad things, but then we get to nurture and nature cause/effects. Hey, there’s 7.3 billion of us humans on Earth now, so sure maybe there is an inevitable bad seed here and there. But that wouldn’t play out if the parents were in charge, capable and caring enough to reign-in the feral child that might lurk within all of us, possibly part of of our collective DNA. If unchecked, those bad seeds grow to be bad and big. Some of them become dictators. Autocrats. Presidents! Who the fuck is in charge in all those African countries? Or Yemem. Or Afghanistan. Or…

…right in your neighborhood. Around my slice of the world in Chicagoland, just a few hours ago, a 5 year-old boy’s body was found after several days of searching. I didn’t voice my opinion to anyone, but I’ve been around long enough to know how the narrative of this missing boy would almost certainly play out and it now officially has: the parents have been charged with his murder.

That’s worse than what happens to our young boy in Capernaun (though I’m not going to reveal exactly the outcome should you not have seen this great bit of filmmaking). What did the missing boy who was found dead today do to deserve that fate? What did the parents of his parents possibly do to turn them into child murderers? And so on and so on.

This is one sicko world when seen from a good distance, let alone from up close and all too personal. Why is this so? How do so many rotten assholes get to be in charge? Of anything?! Where there is poverty and desperation somewhere, no doubt that same somewhere houses those who are wealthy and quite secure.

Power corrupts. Absolutely. Know the history of the world. As far back as you can read about humans being in the picture, born innocent, but not always staying that way, eh? Or just keep up with the reports from the front lines in those impoverished, war torn countries. Good people risk their lives to document the carnage, the cruelty, the dispassionate means of someone controlling and conquering as much as possible, as though they alone are entitled to what simple comforts and security life may offer one and all. It’s the 21st century and Maslow’s Pyramid is likely quite crowded with people on the ground floor of that theory of human motivation. But like all pyramids, there is only the tiniest of fractions of space available at the top compared to its bottom. According to Maslow, we are all capable of reaching its pinnacle, labeled self actualization. That doesn’t seem to be playing out so well though, ya think? Well one person’s self actualization may be another person’s ground floor, as in just managing to live from day do day, getting “food, water, warmth, rest”. Hey, don’t take Maslow seriously. It’s a pyramid! If he really thought we could all through grit and determination, psychologically driven, reach the top, he’d have made it a flat, very very wide and not too tall metaphorical structure.

Back to that little girl from sentence one up there. She tells her similarly struggling, grubby looking fellow pre-teen bottom-feeder that going to Sweden would be the best place of all. Why?

“Kids there, they die only from natural causes”. Crazy, eh? Well, maybe. As some philosopher once said “We are poor indeed if we are only sane”.

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What News?, AG Barr edition

You’ve heard the expression if it bleeds, it leads? If not, it refers to the inclination of many television news programs, especially the local news stations (many of them affiliates of NBC, ABC, CBS) to begin their broadcast with some report on blood having been shed somewhere. Somewhere as in likely not anywhere close to 99% of the viewing audience. In my Chicago area, there is usually no shortage of gun violence leaving one or more persons dead, be it a result of a targeted or seemingly impulsive killing, on a street corner or in a club, outside the club, at a gas station or in someone’s home. The victims of these bloody narratives might have paid for simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time, or because he or she owed money or drugs. Not that the reason matters to Brad Blowdry and Brenda Breathless, the human templates for the typical duo who serve as the bearers of this deadly news, who usually mechanically shake their heads to acknowledge their disapproval and sadness about the story before moving on to other important matters. Like the weather. Even if the weather is PERFECT, the staff meteorologist dutifully breaks down the essentials of temperature, wind speeds, and a glimpse of what the future may hold. If the weather is in the least adverse, it will be broken down with intricate analysis and a promise that Mr. or Ms. Weatherperson will keep close track of developments.

The exception to this first several minutes of the broadcast occurs when the lead-in, bloody story is really, really big news, as in yet another mass shooting. However, even the mass shootings seem to get coverage proportional to the number of dead involved in the event. Seriously. There’s been so many of them that a “leader board” could be charted for quick visual reference to the historical magnitude of each. Three or four dead? Borderline sensational, unless it has happened in the nearby broadcast area. What video is there? Is the shooter dead or on the run? 10 or more dead and it demands longer, more probing consideration. If the carnage is in the dozens, it’s “team coverage” and unless the horror played out locally, reporters are dispatched to ask local authorities what is to prevent such an incident from happening closer to home? If the mass shooting has a quantifying shock value to consider, it even kicks that all-important weather report out of the broadcast completely (leaving the viewer to step outside to get a hint). But, one way or another, the newscasts, even the national evening news, stick to lead-ins that offer a story whose implications are capable of eliciting a what the hell?! response from its audience. Maybe the lead-in isn’t bloody at all. But there’s turmoil out there somewhere, right? Oh, is there ever…

Naturally we all hope there won’t be another mass shooting–anywhere. Or that the innocent child isn’t picked off as collateral damage on the mean streets of urban USA. But that’s hoping for a lot, no?

Sensational news? For me, it has become difficult to be shocked by much anymore. I’ve lived to see decades of coverage that invokes how bad things can be, far and wide. Unfortunately, we now even have “fake news” as a common usage term—even invoked by the news media that the expression seeks to mock! Truth? You want the truth? Can you handle the truth? So, the weather report has been cut due to that HUGE story. If someone says it’s cloudy and about to rain, and someone else says it’s sunny and not going to rain, do you treat both opinions as having equal credibility , or do you simply step outside and check the weather yourself? Weather reports aside, in journalism, it used to be check it out before reporting/repeating something. Not so much these days. Otherwise, how is it that there’s so much anger and divisiveness in the air these days, with shouting matches replacing honest, reasoned debate? Fake news? That expression has come along in just the last few years. It comes from the human mouth or the digitally delivered Twitter-mouth of a certain someone residing at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. Methinks that come tomorrow, the fake news perpetrator will be hogging the headlines more so than he has ever hogged them before–and we know how the media loves to simply repeat his blatherings, rather than stepping outside and looking for what’s really there to see. Or not see what has been purported to be there. Why? What’s so special about tomorrow? That Mueller report, of course. Barring a mass shooting of grotesque proportions or an invasion by alien creatures from deep space, it’ll be a day when that elusive “truth” will be debated and argued over (reasonably? Hmm.). Except, there isn’t going to be much to actually see in the report. It’s clear that AG Barr will have redacted chunks of the 400 page document. I’m not going to hold my breath waiting for either the media or congress to demand to see what has been blacked out. I mean, c’mon. When has the media or congress done anything to challenge the typically implausible, reality-denying, derisive, hateful, nonsensical, impulsive, petty vitriol that has emanated from 1600 Mar-A-Lago?

That’s tomorrow’s big story. In case you missed other news from far and wide: 150 children–on average–per day die of malnutrition in Yemen. A piece of legislation was advanced by our usually less-is-more modus operandi that guides most of congress to end U.S. support of that Saudi-backed war. Benedict Donald vetoed the legislation. He seems to prefer the bloody Saudi regime more than those Yemenite children. But we know kids don’t count for him, as in the children of the brown-skinned refugees, offspring of those “rapists and drug dealers” that he insists are their parents. Who must be kept out of our country. Which he says “is full”. And speaking of the Saudi regime, I read a blurb stating that in spite of the proven regime-ordered murder of Mr.Khashoogi, a reporter who actually worked hard to expose the Truth about the corrupt and bloody Saudi royal family, that business is again booming for them. So much for the consequences threatened following the grisly documentation of that murder/dismemberment.

Oh, and back to AG Barr. He ordered that those migrants/refugees being held by our government near the southern border cannot be granted bond. Thus, they may remain in confinement for…well…until hell freezes over, which would be an ironic twist on weather reporting being kinda overblown by the media. Not to mention, when there’s the not so unusual historic storm or weather event there’s no mention of the documented climate change that threatens Mother Earth. Which reminds me of another blurb I saw reporting that a couple hundred Extinction Rebellion protestors were arrested in London recently. Talk of ironic! They get arrested, while the Saudi Prince who–as proven– ordered Khashoogi’s murder is not. Isn’t this one wacky world, my fellow humanoids?

Oh wait. Another irony. Extinction Rebellion? Climate change. The end of life on planet Earth. Guess who doesn’t believe that’s a problem? Hint. He doesn’t seem to like children..

But what the hell? It’s all bread and circuses that really matters to many of us. For instance, back to Chicago for a moment. Very recently, there was the annual (starting in 1999) Star Wars convention in town. That “bleed and lead” mentality at play with news broadcast? I recall at least a couple of local stations actually LEADING with THAT “news” when the convention started. And 30,000 or more people packed the convention hall for the 3-day event (almost 100,000 for the weekend?). I wonder: do those attendees–most of whom are grown adults–have a life at all? I also wonder how many of them pay attention to what is actual news.

Bread and circuses. One more blurb I have to mention. And this really is important news! Kim Kardashian wants to become a lawyer.

Star Wars? I don’t get it. Never got Star Trek either. But one thing I’ll say for Star Trek (which has its own convention too) is that it did provide one of my favorite expressions, one that seems so fitting in our Mad Magazine, Looney Tunes world-at-large:

Beam me up Scotty. (implying that, and this is NOT fake news, there’s not much intelligent life detected by Scotty, from wherever he needs being beamed back from; or at least I like going with that tag).

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Reality Bites

I came across a great quote by that brooding philosopher Nietzsche that is surprisingly positive at the expense of a perceived negativity: We have art so that we shall not die of reality. See what I mean? Art good. Reality, not. Well, it’s not that simple, of course. Since–as the saying goes–beauty is in the eye of the beholder, who can be the ultimate arbiter of what is “art” or what “reality” is similarly pleasing or not?

And here’s another expression to add to this line of thinking: opinions are like assholes. Everyone has one. So you look at a piece of so-called art and think: I don’t like it. Or maybe you just don’t get it. Then again, if you dislike something and someone else does like it, how to determine who is right or wrong? Then you have to define some terms, as in what is “right” and what is “wrong”. Hey, what’s wrong with this picture? You’ve heard that one, no doubt. Sure. But what is the picture? Is its content blatantly repugnant? Offensive? Insensitive? Inconsiderate? Appalling? Depraved? What are the parameters of such judgments?

Hey, this blog entry is getting rather philosophical, methinks. I thinks. Therefor I ams. But what is being thought? There’s that expression: what were you thinking, which usually implies the “you” in question did something bone-headed. We can have a field day defining what constitutes being “boneheaded” right?

You bought THAT for how much? What the hell were you thinking? In this scenario, what difference does it make what the person bought and for how much? Different strokes, okay? But those assholes–uh–I mean opinions. One man’s/woman’s ceiling is another man’s/woman’s floor. Round and round we go, with Earth spinning on its axis, tilting away on its journey around the sun, indifferent to human thought. Good thing the sun doesn’t make judgments, or our Earth either. One or the other might decide it doesn’t like this or that and one thing dims and other spins slower or faster. Then reality is clearly a bummer. But while that might not happen, Mother Earth is–in my humble opinion–judging its human inhabitants. Those beautiful oceans, glaciers, greenery, lakes and streams, the air we breathe and the water we drink in order to simply stay alive are under stress. If Nature does think, methinks it is thinking, in its unfathomable power and beauty, what are you people thinking? What are you doing? If you don’t stop it, then…

However, not all of us see this unfolding climatological reality the same way as far as what thinking has led to what we are doing and what doing so needs be thought about a bit more clearly. Is this climate stuff alarming? It should be, but many choose to believe it is Nature being “normal”. Hey, opinions…lead to choices. We all make our choices. We make our judgments. Almost constantly. Much of it impulsively. Or compulsively. Some very deliberately and with no malice intended. We make plans, but then life/reality gets in the way, eh? Or Nature gets in the way. Going to that ballgame today? I doubt it, as it’s only 37 degrees and wet out there, in spite of what the calendar says and how it was 35 degrees warmer and brilliantly sunny just 48 hours ago. Nature, the only real superpower (take that you absurd, comic book frauds!).

Okay, back to Nietzsche. He also famously said: hell is other people. True dat! Oh, c’mon, you know what I mean. But that’s selective. Not all people are hellish, except that history would appear to proclaim that we human beings are a very belligerent, cruel and thoughtless lot. But history is a chronic occurrence. That paragraph up there that started this entry? That’s history. Is history artful? Maybe Nietzsche was alluding to the historical evidence that would possibly have him think of how art is an antidote to historical reality. The arts. Visual, performing art. Dance. Music. Literature. For me, especially those last two. But what I like others may dismiss as drek. Different strokes again…

Get real!

Art is a reality that can save one from reality? Go figure. And again, we all have our opinions. Based on, what? Intuition? Experience? Impulse? Does it matter? Yeah, it does. Take a look around. Who would want to choose this reality?: The Sultan of Brunei declares adultery and homosexuality shall be punished by stoning the accused to death. Stoning? it’s 2019! Not that any prior time legitimizes such cruel and unusual punishment…for simply being human. Nature? Yeah, as in human nature. Look around. What do we hear and see? Our sick world, far and wide. Not exactly a love fest. Or, close to home, our current government wanting to cut 1.2 billion dollars for both academic, plus before and after school programs. Or cutting $190 million for programs to boost literacy from birth to age 20, or another 27 million for grants aimed at school libraries. And 25 million or so for arts education programs that someone in D.C. thinks is a waste of money. I guess the art budget cut is intended to deny many students of the ability to escape dreaded harsh reality. Damn. Absolutely Draconian.

This is reality, folks. And so, a tip of the hat to that brooding philosopher about art helping us survive. Or at least endure. While we all wait for an outcome. And if painting, sculpture, dance, singing, playing music, taking in a puppet show or watching some TV series, or a movie, a documentary or reading some author just doesn’t connect with you, then maybe that long walk along the beach. Watching that sunrise or sunset. Smelling those roses. If for only that brief moment. Listening to and watching the birdies. The wet grass beneath your feet. The oddly comforting–at times–sound of the rain falling. Yeah, maybe it’s Nature that is your art that takes you away from what you need being taken away from.

Or petting the pooch or the kitty. Think about how many people freely admit to liking animals far, far more than people. Opinions. Makes sense to them.

Me, I’m getting a bit tired of waiting for reality to make more sense, at least as I judge right from wrong and treasure from trash, and all the rest. One person’s rapture is another person’s dread I suppose. Think of Van Gogh cutting off that ear. Great art from great suffering? Maybe.

Suffer no fools, though. And don’t argue with a fool. Others may not not be able to see the difference–to throw down one more expression that fits our current national dysfunction. Unfortunately, some fools display that characteristic as an ugly form of art. You might know what/who I’m alluding to. My eyes are wide open. A blessing and a curse. And so, to quote from one of the forlorn characters from what I consider a monumental work of art–The Iceman Cometh: Don’t be a fool! Buy me a drink! To What point did you think this discourse was leading? Something profound? I’ll leave that to O’Neill or Nietzshe.

Nostrovia!

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