625. Mothly Shades of Grey

Related imageThe unrelenting grey of this early fall has been messing with my ability to tell time. Is it 8:00 a.m. or noon, maybe 5 p.m.? Can’t tell in the pewter haze. It’s later only because I can see more water in the rain gauge, not because shadows have grown long and languid. Light, or rather the lack of it, messes with one’s internal clock. If you can’t tell external time by visual cues, it’s harder to tell internal time, like lunchtime. Am I hungry? Can I be, I mean, if time has not moved perceptibly, how can I be hungry? I don’t eat according to the rain gauge after all.

Image result for graffiti photo times does not exist clocks do‘Time does not exist,’ goes the existential wall graffiti; ‘clocks exist’. Unpack that and we find that time is a man made concept used to explain and ultimately to control nature. Mankind likes control after all, so much that He gets out of control in order to control His world. He over hunted and over fished some species into extinction. He burned down acres of trees in order to produce buckets of iron ore back in the 1800’s. He ravaged mountains pregnant with coal or copper, gold or silver, in order to reap a harvest of energy or wealth or both. When the last nugget was raked out, the open pit mine was abandoned, left for nature to heal or poison herself alone.

Image result for abandoned strip mines in pa photosMan is a rapacious opportunist, not a trustworthy lover. ‘Hit’em and quit’em’ is the frat boy slogan, but it is just as applicable to American industry as you drive through the Rust Belt of abandoned coal mines and steel mills in Pennsylvania. We know Man was there because of the scars He left behind… unholy caverns where an insatiable monster roamed. Oh, but He is not finished yet… there is the issue of fracking nowadays, and like all nature rapes in the past there is only an up side, dontcha know? Jobs and money for now. Just don’t think long term and you’ll be alright. So you can light your tap water on fire? Get a fire extinguisher and smoke outside. Buy bottled water. Shut up, we’re making billions here… same old story.Image result for fracking water on fire images

The heart of time is change: if you don’t see change, then you don’t experience time. You begin to float or freeze in the scape of a desert or ocean or prison cell. The mind becomes unhinged from what passes as reality’s doorway when reality does not swing and revolve. Studies have been done on subjects in artificial settings where no clocks or external time hints were available. No sunlight, no television or radio to chart time. Only artificial light was available in the Max Planck Institute’s time bunker. In very short order the experiment’s subjects began to stay up later and get up later. Time slithered out of the environment when it was left up to the humans alone to determine time. Instead of a twenty four hour day, these bunkered subjects were operating on a 25 hour cycle, which messes up nature’s external cycle in just a few days. Imagine Daylight Savings Time happening daily. In six days time you would be eating breakfast at lunch and lunch at dinner and dinner at Manhattan diner hours. So what? you ask.Image result for times square at night photos

What does it cost one who becomes detached from nature’s rhythms? I can’t say with certainty. We all know night owls who are pale creatures with fluorescent light tans. They wake up around noon and work third shift at 10 or 11 p.m. As the sun comes up, these modern day vampires pull into their driveways and head to bed while their neighbors put kids on the bus for school and drive off to daylight jobs. You learn not to expect a call or text from them before 3 p.m. They adjust to breakfast in the afternoon and a mixed drink at 7:00 a.m. Yes, a mothball with a twist of lime. Instead of the evening news they watch the morning shows and go to sleep. Marriages and families adjust until there is only dust remaining. But don’t worry, you can make particle board marriages and families out of exhausted sawdust and glue covered in a thin wood veneer. It’s great stuff until moisture shows up. Then gravity pulls it back to the wet floor… unglued. Irreparable.

Image result for gif of a man checking his phoneHowever, hyper change frustrates time as well. If everything is changing at warp 9 speed, time seems irrelevant also. In the modern day 24 hour news cycle nothing can stick around for long. Today’s hurricane scours the memory of last week’s hurricane or tsunami or earthquake or shooting or whatever. Important news is pushed off the shelf by what’s breaking in behind it. Adult attention spans are now reduced to the length of a gnat’s eyelash. If you check your mailbox every fifteen seconds, it will seem as if time does not exist since the mail, I am referring to post office snail mail here, comes once a day in the afternoon. Ardently checking or begging for change does not make it come.

Image result for hershey garden butterfly house picturesWhat to do in this time warp? Find the sunlit moment and stay attached to it. My lovely wife and I recently visited the Hershey Gardens, which featured a butterfly atrium. To enter, you must wait to be escorted so that no butterflies escape. Once inside you notice the high heat and humidity, which is how butterflies like their weather. All over this brightly lit glass walled room flit amazing butterflies of all colors and patterns and shapes. Hundreds of them alight on walls and plants and rotting fruit. Some have just emerged from their chrysalises. Others are busy busting out of their ornate inchoate chambers. Caterpillars crawl about. A little stream trickles through the space. Change delights the eyes. Time moves along with the beat of these beauties’ wings… gently, disturbing nothing, scarring no one.  Dabs of bright paint float along on erratic wings, inspiring awe and wonder, but no desire to be a blind creature of the dark. Moths claim the dark shades of grey; men should not.

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624. Refugee of Hate Projection

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refugee is someone who has been forced to flee his or her country because of persecution, war or violence. A refugee has a well-founded fear of persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular social group. Most likely, they cannot return home or are afraid to do so. War and ethnic, tribal and religious violence are leading causes of refugees fleeing their countries.

Two-thirds of all refugees worldwide come from just five countries: Syria, Afghanistan, South Sudan, Myanmar and Somalia.

Image result for refugees picturesRefugees are exceedingly vulnerable people who live insecurely in legal limbo between two countries. In many ways they are similar to slaves who escaped southern plantations before the Emancipation Proclamation. Vulnerable, however, does not mean weak. Many American families can trace their roots back to refugees from Europe, Asia, and Africa. Some of the greatest American minds of the 20th century were Jews who fled Austria and Germany as Hitler turned his spotlight of hatred on them. All sorts of tricks were employed to limit and then exploit these vulnerable folks, some of whom eventually worked to defeat Hitler from afar.

Image result for immigrant detention camps for kids pictures in texasListening to Tom Petty’s Refugee on the treadmill this morning as the news percolated through my neo cortex, I began to make associations and wonder who is the real refugee these days. After listening to the grotesque stories of 1600 migrant kids living in a tent city in Texas as more sites were being prepared for even more kids, disgust rose again for the orange haired baboon who is singularly responsible for this hateful treatment.

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I wondered why Trump hates foreigners, poor folks, women, Blacks, Muslims, gays, and intellectuals so much. As Tom Petty sang, “Somewhere somehow someone must have kicked you around some…”, it hit me that Trump is projecting his own self hatred onto the people he views as weak and lesser. His biggest fear is to be weak, poor, outcast, and powerless, so it seems. Rather than deal with his own insecurities, he tries to exterminate those folks who reflect his fears back to him. Hitler rejected many minorities and blamed them for bastardizing good Aryan stock; something in which he was likewise deficient. First he railed against them as the enemy of the state; then he litigated them into impotence; rounded them up; and finally he exterminated them. Steven Miller would have been so proud to serve the Fuhrer. But wait, he’s Jewish. I know, it makes no sense.

Image result for childhood pics of hitlerAdolf as a child.

Psychological projection is a theory in psychology in which the human ego defends itself against unconscious impulses or qualities (both positive and negative) by denying their existence in themselves while attributing them to others. For example, a person who is habitually rude may constantly accuse other people of being rude. It incorporates blame shifting. [Wikipedia]

If we dig deeper it seems that the Donald has such huge insecurities of his own impotence and insignificance that he must continually lie about how great and wonderful he is. He goes from rally to rally like some bride-to-be, beauty contestant goes from shower to shower and show to show. But that’s not enough to drink in his own self aggrandizing kool aid. No, he must denigrate others, always the easy targets to bully. Long before he ran for office, he convicted the Central Park Five of gang rape of a white woman in full newspaper ads. He was wrong but never admitted it. On the campaign trail he labeled Mexicans as rapists and drug dealers and murderers. One of the first things he did in office was establish the so called Muslim ban. Pretending to be interested in national security, he strained credulity to the breaking point by shutting out all Muslims until they could be fully vetted; something he failed to do with his own lily white staff, including his national security director. No worries along the way that he was ruining others’ lives. Not a bit. He’s got optic protection.

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Then the transgender ban was foisted upon the military, though no one in the military mentioned that it was a problem. The Don wanted to clean up the ranks so no gays were in tanks. He made the bogus argument that transgendered soldiers were costing the country uncounted millions with their sex change operations and expensive hormone treatments. No data, no evidence. Just raw fear mongering. The Don wants good looking soldiers who don’t get captured, see? He’d rather waste millions on needless expenses by his millionaire Cabinet con men.Image result for trump cabinet net worth images

When it comes to women, they are all tramps and gold diggers, except for Ivanka and his flavor of the week chick. Despite his campaign garbage gobbledygook that no one respects women more than he does, or that you will never find someone less racist than he is, he is exactly a misogynist and a racist. They are a notch or two or three lesser than Bully Don. Of course the jackpot is if you are Black, intellectual, and foreign born. Enter Barack Obama. The Don could not abide the ascension of an educated Black man, so he jumped on the Birther train to defame Obama and confuse the segment of the people Lincoln mentioned when he said, “You can fool some of the people all of the time”. That’s Trump’s base of blind moles. He is figuratively shooting people in plain sight and not losing one base vote. Why? They are blind moles.Image result for blind moles pictures

Self hate and fear that anyone might think too little of the Don is at work in his attacks on others. He defamed the magnificently articulate Kizr Khan, father of a fallen captain. Mr. Khan was proud of his dead son and proud to be an American. Little Donnie Trump, on the other hand, shamelessly tried to undercut this articulate man, suggesting that he squelched his wife into silence. Projection, Donnie Boy, once again. Not everyone else thinks and stinks like you do. His family made the ultimate sacrifice for their country. You, on the other hand,Donnie Bully Boy, have avoided any sacrifice and offloaded debt to the government and unpaid contractors.Image result for khizr khan pictures

Tom Petty’s chorus goes, “You don’t have to live like a refugee”. And I wonder, who is the true refugee? The man who flees his own narrative, and lives in some narcissistic far off country of delusions. The man who pretends he’s Swedish. The man who pretends he’s brilliant. The man who pretends he is a self made business titan. Truly, the Donald despises the Donald but lacks the guts to claim his self loathing, so he despises the tired, the poor, and those who yearn to breathe freely. Sad. #the real Donald Trump.

Image result for childhood pics of trumpHow is it possible that the boy born on home plate and told he’d hit a series of grand slams could have such a vacant self esteem? Well, self esteem has to match the facts of one’s environment. In Donnie Boy’s case the environment was manipulated so that his two year old self never had to adapt to external facts. By age 8 he had an unearned million dollar portfolio. And yet, the little bit of rational brain left in Trumpy must know he is a total fraud, a refugee, poor, helpless, foreign, unwelcome. Therefore, he must eliminate the human reminders of his alternative truths.

623. Aghast!

Related imageI’ve been wondering for years about words that seem to only come in one form and are never seen or heard in any other declension or parsing. What’s the deal?  Being a bit of a word nerd, I turn to the etymology of the specimen… and as I do, I realize how birders must feel in their odd pursuit of elusive fowl. “Look, Edna, it is the South African ruby throated thrasher!”

Let’s begin with the title word, aghast. Is it even an English word? It could be Indian or Arabic from the looks of it. Let’s run its license plate in Merriam-Webster’s data base….

Related imageIf you are aghast, you might look like you’ve just seen a ghost, or something similarly shocking. “Aghast” traces back to a Middle English verb, gasten, meaning “to frighten.” “Gasten” (which also gave us ghastly, meaning “terrible or frightening) comes from “gast,” a Middle English spelling of the word ghost. “Gast” also came to be used in English as a verb meaning “to scare.” That verb is now obsolete, but its spirit lives on in words spoken by the character Edmund in Shakespeare’s King Lear: “gasted by the noise I made, full suddenly he fled.”

Example use: I was aghast on November 8 when the ghastly orange haired baboon won the election.

Image result for conch shell pictures on beachSo there it is, a verb that washed up on the shores of England in the 13th century and left behind its shell after dying off, leaving a faint trace of what had been a living word. I sort of figured it had to do with ghosts at one time.  So there’s one mystery solved.

Image result for mouths agape picturesHow about agape? It means to have one’s mouth open in shock, wonder or surprise. But the word gape means the same thing… except gapers seem to be stupidly opening their mouths while having one’s mouth agape is more like a holy experience. It’s not fair, but language is exceptionally eccentric.

*gapōn- (whence Middle Dutch gapen “to gaze stupidly” )

Ex. use: The senator gaped as Judge Kavanaugh raged on about being disenfranchised by the Leftists.Image result for ted cruz gaping pictures

Okay, let’s look closely at abstruse, meaning “difficult to understand”. You never find struse running loose on its own. Well, maybe streusel, but that’s another word completely, and interestingly enough comes from the German word for “strew or sprinkle”, which is what you do with streusel, sprinkle crumbs of sugar and fat and flour on a cake. Back on point, ab means “from” in Latin, and once upon a time truse meant to hide or push away. The “s” is merely magic language glue to hold the prefix to the root. All together abstruse means “hidden knowledge that is hard to know”. Capiche? But how can you understand if it’s so hard to understand? You were testifying to falsehoods, Brett.

Ex. use: The consequences of trade wars and nationalism were too abstruse for the Panderer Bear in Chief to comprehend.

Image result for admiral picturesOnward Mr. Noodle!!  How about admirable. I’ve never seen mirable running about with out ad pulling it from place to place like a large lethargic rabbit on a leash. Yet, miracle of miracles, mirable does indeed stand alone!!  It means wonderful. By itself ad means “to or toward” so an admirable person is wonderful to know. It’s not the cleanest puzzle piece fit, but I’ll take it to the Scrabble bank. When you research admire, you get this…Related image

” from ad-AD- + mīrārī “to be surprised, look with wonder at,”

which gets us back to agape. I can imagine Lawrence Welk uttering “Wundahful, wondahful!!” as some polka crazed dancers in sequined outfits bowed obsequiously to a black and white camera in 1965. And even as I prattle on, you may have wondered if sequins are somehow related to obsequious. And… drum roll, trumpets, rockets red glare… they are not related. Different language bases. You still get ten points for sharp eyes. Perhaps birding would be a good hobby for you after all.

And you thought I was going to examine admiral. But once again, it is another word that originated in another language, Arabic, and was water boarded into English. I know, you are bored already, but hey, I don’t yawn when you talk about model trains or postage stamps or collectible gnome figurines.

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Ex. use:  Even the sequined garden gnomes were more admirable than the foolishly obsequious admiral Trump nominated to run the Veterans Administration.

Alright, alright. Just one more analysis and application. Ambiguous. It’s another prefix pulling a wild biguous by the nose ring.  But there is no such thing as a biguous. In fact, the prefix is amb- which means “both” and the root is a form of “agere”, which comes out as “lead or drive”. So something ambiguous is a message that can go in at least two directions. You’ve seen them all around, I’m sure. The other day on Facebook was a sign that said, “Red Squirrels Drive Safely”. At least two messages emerge: red squirrels are safe drivers; or (Implied YOU imperative) Drive safely because red squirrels are present. In any event you need not worry about feral iguouses or biguouses running across the road while you drive into the deep woods of sanity tonight. On the other hand, if you should make a wrong turn in those very same woods, run out of gas, and lose cell service, just practice your aghast face until help arrives.

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622. The Night They Drove Old Trixie Down

Timothy Kaine is my name

And I rode on the Hillary train

Till Jim Comey came and

distorted the facts again

It was the fall of 2016

We were leading by ten points  or so it seemed

By November 8 the steel hammer fell

It’s a time I remember oh so well

The night they drove old Trixie down, and the polls were swinging
The night they drove old Trixie down, and their people were singin’ they went
Don, donna don, don, don, Trump, trumpa bumpa bump ba bumpa trump.
Back with my wife in Dale City, when one day she called to me
“Timmy, quick, come see, there goes Donald J. Bigotry”
Now I don’t mind losin’ fair, but I still puke when I see his hair
He rapes what he sees and leaves the rest
But he should never be mistaken for the very best
The night they drove old Trixie down, and our hands were wringing
The night they drove old Trixie down, and all their people were singin’ they went
Don, donna, don, don, don, Trump, trumpa bumpa bump ba bumpa trump
Like my father before me, I vote for the good of the land
Like my brother above me, I served my fellow man
I was just eighteen, proud and brave, served in Honduras and gave and gave
I swear by the blood below my feet
You can’t raise a Kaine back up when it’s in defeat
The night they drove old Trixie down, and the bells were ringing
The night they drove old Trixie down, and all the people were singin’, they went
Don, donna, don, don, don, Trump, trumpa bumpa bump ba bumpa trump
The night they drove old Trixie down, and all the bells were ringing
The night they drove old Trixie down, and the people were singin’, they went
Don, donna, don, don, don, Trump, trumpa bumpa bump ba bumpa trump
Timothy Kaine is my name 
And I rode on the Trixie train
Till the Russian hacking came 
And blew up the facts again
It was traitorous and clearly a lie
We lost the road to victory and I…
It’s a time I remember oh so well.
The night they drove old Trixie down

621. male multi-tasking.sad.com

Image result for 8 am on clock face picturesI knew I had an eight o’clock appointment this morning, so I got up with the 6:15 alarm, intent on maintaining my minimal exercise routine even though an hour had been removed from my morning regimen. (Well, I actually consented to the early appointment since I make my own schedule, but that’s neither here nor there.) With sneaks and work out garb on, I scrambled upstairs for coffee and cereal, on point and focused like a Dollar Store laser. I carried down an extra cup of coffee for my bride also, multi tasking at a very low level and hoping I did not spill the milk-soaked granola on her freshly scrubbed floors.  Success. I can do it!!Image result for overloaded waiter pictures

Watching the morning news while eating and sucking down my coffee, it did not matter if I chewed my coffee and sucked on the granola, or sucked on the news and watched my granola, or if the news sucked and the granola chewed me. I don’t recall in any event. It was a long time ago, your honor. I was too busy multi tasking, see? Men can do this. It is not exclusively the domain of high functioning women. Watch me, watch me now… woolly bully.

Meanwhile my bride was up and getting ready for breakfast. I was styling in front of her, putting my rinsed dishes in the dishwasher while talking to her at the very same moment. Boom! Can’t touch this!  I told you homeboy (You can’t touch this)
Yeah, that’s how we livin’ and ya know (You can’t touch this)
Look in my eyes, man (You can’t touch this)
Yo, let me bust the funky lyrics (You can’t touch this)

It was super impressive as my squeaky sneakers chirped across the tile floor. Just a moment to massage her tensed shoulders, as I was on a roll, singing a Stones’ song as well.

Image result for stationary bicycle  picturesDownstairs on the exercise bike with a vengeance. Go, dog, go. Back and forth between various news programs and Sports Center without breaking my cadence. I was very impressed with myself. Check e-mail and FB and blog stuff during commercials. “Yeah, Please allow me to introduce myself, I’m a man of wealth and taste. Hoo hoo.” Down on the floor with the weight ball for crunches and modified old man sit ups. Leg lifts. Switch channels on the remote like a t.v. gunslinger. “I’ve been around for a long, long year
Stole many a man’s soul to waste.” Crunch crunch. Image result for man doing sit ups pictures

Watching the clock, calculating the time needed to walk the treadmill with dumb bells while listening to Lou Reed, I moved out of the t.v. room at 7:17 a.m. putting out the lights as I exited. The dog was outside, fed and watered. Doors locked. I smoked out a mile at 4.7 mph while Lou sang “Sweet Jane”, “Walk on the Wild Side”, and “On the Dirty Boulevard”… oh, and “Satellite of Love, boom boom boom”. 7:31 a.m. move sweaty self toward bathroom; leave Alexa on with Lou cranked up. Shower. Dry off and get dressed. Beat the clock, Burrito. Launch time had to be 7:40 plus or minus a minute. Image result for space shuttle pictures on launch pad

Comb hair and add starchy products to prevent fly aways. Good look. Now, mouthwash gargle while shaving. Clever double duty.  Finish shaving and notice the shirt I chose is wrinkly upon closer inspection. Continue garglation. No worries, hop upstairs to the ironing board in back bedroom. Oooh! grandson’s lion costume is pinned and prepped for sewing. Executive decision: just wear the wrinkles and prepare defensive jokes for any comments made. Zoom back downstairs with warm gargle juice. “Awexa, sschlop!” Problem solved. Change shirt to something without gargle juice dribbling down the front. 7:40 quickly brush teeth as sweat dries into new shirt. Feeling good but a bit hurried. Need to bear down and focus hard. How do women make it look so easy?

Image result for dick dale picturesExit efficiently, precisely two minutes behind schedule with book I’ve been meaning to re read in my hand, “The Brain That Changes Itself”. Good stuff, and I am living proof that a man’s brain can change… sort of, given enough time and female help. Driving out to the main highway I changed radio stations three times till I hit upon a tune to drive by. Surf rock by Dick Dale and the Del Tones. Alright! Catch the traffic wave for the next five miles at 60 mph, stretching yellow lights at intersections, knowing my 8 am client was certainly waiting at my locked office door. Whew! I had grabbed change off the dresser for parking meter coinage I’d need to park close to the office.

Image result for big ben clock at 8 oclockOn two wheels I caught the final left hand turn behind the big church and up the alley. I saw the teen client and her dad waiting under the awning out of the drizzle. Slam, bam, park. Quarters in meter. Auto lock… as the church bells tolled the first of eight somber tones. “Clang, Clang, Clang, Clang, Clang, Clang, Clang…”

“Hey, how are you? I hate being early. How about you?” “Uh huh.”

“Pleased to meet you, hope you guess my name.”

“What?”

“Oh nothing, not a thing.”

“What’s the wet spot on your pants?”

“Oh that? Uh, gargle juice?”

Away we shuffled up the stairs into the darkened office,  walking and talking simultaneously. “You can’t always get what you want, but if you try some time, you just might find you get what you neeeeeeed.”

The rest of the day was a blur. Finally I sat down to look over the brain book again. I opened to page 68 where I had highlighted a paragraph in fluorescent orange.  It said,

“Finally [Michael] Merzenich discovered that paying close attention is essential to long term plastic change (in the brain, i.e., learning). In numerous experiments he found that lasting changes occurred only when his monkeys paid close attention. When the animals performed tasks automatically, without paying attention, they changed their brain maps, but the changes did not last. We often praise “the ability to multitask.” While you can learn when you divide your attention, divided attention doesn’t lead to abiding change in your brain maps.”

I almost fell off the toilet when I read this, proving once and for all that even reading on the toilet is a vain attempt at multitasking that is doomed to failure.

Tho I Thayed AWexa, ssschhhlop! Too late though. The final lyrics to “Sweet Jane” came up the drain pipe to soothe my fevered brain, as I tumbled over tangled pants at my ankles, 

But, anyone who has a heart
Wouldn’t want to turn around and break it
And anyone who ever played the part
He wouldn’t want to turn around and fake it

So there you have it, friends. Male multitasking has been exposed as a fraud and a myth.

 

620. Ultimatums and old tomatoes

ultimatuma final demand or statement of terms, the rejection of which will result in retaliation or a breakdown in relations.

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Lately a lot of ultimatums have been hurled across the public soundscape like rotten tomatoes in a country boy battle around a fading fall garden. Tossing rotten veggies at your opponent was/is an early form of paintball, by the way. The added benefit of using decaying vegetables is the smell of death and the possible presence of insect life. Plus, you don’t need a gun or any added expenses. In Spain rotten tomato fights are legendary. La Tomatina festival even attracts tourists annually. Safe aggression is practiced so that no one gets hurt. What a deal!Overly-ripe tomatoes are brought to Plaza del Pueblo, the center of town, by the truckload.

The event lasts for an hour, give or take a minute Roma or two. I imagine the clean up lasts for weeks, and then it’s time for ketchup. How fun to safely pelt other volunteers who are just as eager to pelt you with funky fetid tomatoes. I’m sure some readers will be offended by the waste of wasted food. I suppose it could be fed to goats or pigs or turned into an alternative veggie fuel to operate your powder blue Prius. Perhaps that will come later as the festival evolves. For now it’s just one big acidic mess. Like Woodstock only in a non-pharmaceutical sense.People smash tomatoes into each other's hair and faces.

Back on this side of the pond ultimatums are flung with just as much intensity minus any fun attached. Ultimatums are actually a form of extortion. They come in two colors– red and black. The red variety goes like this: if you do what I want, I won’t hurt you, although I easily can. Imagine Jack Nicholson saying serpently, “Jussst be nicccccce and nobody getsss hurt.” The black variety is the opposite: Stallone, “If youz don’t do what I want, I will hurt youz and this is how. Snap! Oh, that’s was just ya thumb. Youz got another one, heh heh.”  The tort in extort is the same root word in torture, meaning “twist“.  Arm twisting is another visual expression of extorting someone to do your will. So is ear and nose twisting. There are other anatomical parts that can be twisted as well but don’t need to be mentioned here. 

In the current political environment the art of negotiation seems dead. There is no fun and no process, no give and all take. One side issues ultimatums to the other. Then the other side counters with their own ultimatums, resulting in extortionists extorting other extortionists. Remember the war among the families in The Godfather? All the families were extorting money from legitimate businesses in New York. And they had the NYPD in their pockets as well. But greed and lust for more power blew up into murder… as usual. It’s an old inhumane human interest story.Image result for blood bath photos from the godfather movie

There was impulsive Sonny, riddled with bullets as he drove out to protect his sister from Carlo. A set up. It looked bad, and then worse. But then murderous Michael came back from Sicily and wiped out the heads of the other families.

A few weeks after Vito’s death, Michael struck fast and hard. Barzini, Greene, TattagliaStracci and Cuneo were killed in rapid succession by Corleone button men while Michael stood at the baptism ceremony for his nephew, Carlo’s son. Fabrizio, who had been hiding out in Buffalo, was blown up by a car bomb planted by the Corleones. 

You know how it is… what goes around, comes around like old tomatoes in Spain.

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Throughout the baptism scene, as Michael agrees to the vows and makes his profession of faith, his hit men wipe out the other families’ leaders close up and personally. Criminals recriminating with lots of lead. All the talk of peace and a truce was cotton candy for fantasy suckers. In the end it was the Corleones who ruled mercilessly with bloody hands. Unlike La Tomatina festival people were hurt and killed in this movie. There is no happy ending or ketchup scene at the end… just monster Michael alone with his demons.Image result for Michael Corleone at end of Godfather one photo

Today in many state capitals and the swamp of Washington, D.C. a similar slaughter is ongoing. Verbal and financial bloodbaths are fought over the same turf without any regard for those who actually inhabit that turf, i.e. American taxpayers.  Television and radio hit men and their favorite politicians (think the NYPD and the corrupt politicians in The Godfather) use rhetoric, drama, and slick words to defame the other side, and lo’ and behold it’s for the same reasons that the mafia families collided:  greed and lust for power. Gerrymandering and voter suppression tactics are ongoing in many states to ensure the consolidation of power. Neither party has bloodless hands. And God forbid if a third party candidate would rise up. Third party folks manage to unify the Red and Blue families like a foreign invader.  Ralph Nader, Ross Perot, John Anderson, George Wallace, Teddy Roosevelt, and a pile of other, lesser known candidates. Both shores of the swamp are threatened by independent folks who are not wholly owned subsidiaries of one party or the other.Image result for Ross perot pictures

Which leaves us with a zero sum game of politics, all or nothing. Every inch gained on one side comes from the commensurate loss on the other side.

In game theory and economic theory, a zero-sum game is a mathematical representation of a situation in which each participant’s gain or loss of utility is exactly balanced by the losses or gains of the utility of the other participants. [Wikipedia]Image result for zero sum game images

Such an approach to our democracy reinforces the tribe mentality, and what a bunch of tribes we have in the U.S.A. when we refuse to melt together. Instead of finding a more stable center, the adversaries lean as far back on their party planks for increased leverage, driving the polar express faster and farther.

So how about an annual tomato war in Congress? After an hour of rotten veggie hurling, perhaps we can all get down to the business of serving the people and not just the party.

619. The Marriage Monstera Memories

Related imageThirty nine years ago my wife and I moved into a cute little two bedroom, white clapboard house on 1/2 an acre in Vienna, Virginia at the corner of Church Street and Beulah Road. It was the perfect size for us; charming too, maybe built in the 1940’s. We cared for it like it was our own, as I recall, we even scrubbed the fine paint spots off the oak floors in the living room. Don’t bother looking for it today, though; it was razed twenty years ago. I know because my brother in law drove the debris to the dump. He called me to say so. “Hey, I’m hauling away that house in Vienna you used to live in.”

Related imageFunny how memories cannot be razed and turned to rubble, only to be carted away to an anonymous land fill. We had no more than a year in that house, in which time I helped install storm windows and replace the back door steps. I recall repairing the toilet seal once and noting how old and dry rotted the floor boards were that held the drain pipe. Someone else’s problem then. Our landlord was a guy named Nick Starr, who worked at the CIA, where my mother in law worked. She found the rental notice posted there on a community bill board. It was 1980. There was no Craig’s List, internet, or cell phones. I think the rent was $250 per month. Crazy, huh? I have more good memories from there than I realized. A big black walnut tree out back, two kittens, a little garden in the side yard with corn, primroses on the east side.Image result for quaint white cottage yard

Nick was a nice man. He told us he wanted to hang on to the property for his sons’ college expenses. He knew it would be gobbled up at a good price whenever he decided to sell. Not sure when he cashed out, but get this: in the 1993 terrorist attack outside the CIA’s gate, Nick was one of the shooting victims who survived. I did not know this factoid until years later when the terrorist was sentenced to death and Nick was interviewed on one of the morning news shows. It was surreal to see this kind man, living in New England I believe, still showing the effects of his injuries as he was asked about whether the shooter should be executed. His answer?  A definitive yes.

Image result for monstera plant picturesWhen we moved in, we found the previous tenants had left a monstera plant on the back enclosed porch. It was sickly and in need of nurture. We watered it and what do you know? It came roaring to life. We incorrectly called it an elephant ear plant forever. No matter. What did  matter is that we saw it as a symbol of our marriage. We continued to move and take the plant with us. North to Pennsylvania from one rental to another for a couple more years. Finally in 1985 we built the house we live in today. And the monstera plant still grows.

Like our marriage, it has had its ups and downs; times when it thrived and unfurled new branches, and times when it dried out and turned brown and yellow. We have re-potted it several times along the way. Just the other night my wife was at an evening of plant arranging with her fellow occupational and speech therapists. Two of them were talking on about getting married, when my bride shared the story of our marriage plant. These two twenty somethings asked how old the plant was, which was also asking how old our marriage was. When my wife replied, “At least 40 years old”, they were shocked. In fact our monstera could be older than both these young ladies put together. Age has been kind to both my wife and the marriage plant…evergreen.Image result for shocked female faces

Back in those days my friend Mark Craver lived with us and eventually took over the lease when we moved. It was a pleasant summer and early fall that he lived in the smaller bedroom. Crave’s mother must have known something intuitively because she sent my wife a Navajo vase from out west as a thank you for our large house guest. We still have it, but we don’t have Mark.  He died 14 years ago, at about the same age as our house plant is now… 46. He and Dan Hasset lived in that house for a few more years. Two big boys. They weren’t much for housekeeping. I recall visiting a year or so later and they had a wood stove hooked up in what had been the dining room. Crave told the funny story of Dan sitting on the toilet one day when it fell through the floor, stopping at the bowl rim. Maybe I should have mentioned something about the rotting floor boards, or maybe not. A good story is hard to come by.Image result for man on toilet pictures

Wolf Trap Center for the Performing Arts  was just a mile or so up the road. We went to a show or two, the operetta Der Fledermous and the ballet Le Papillon. I’m sure there was another winged event or two that have escaped my memory’s cage. We were young and vigorous. We had parties that wound up as sleep overs. There was a pre-wedding party for Jack and Katie, who divorced many years later. Jack died a long while back also. But in the shade of that old black walnut tree on a hot summer day we had no tragedies in life, only jet streams of optimism across turquoise skies.Image result for wolf trap center pictures

There were some lovely snowstorms over that one special winter. We walked down a hushed Church Street that mercifully held no traffic, only fat snowflakes in the bare maple trees that arched overhead. I worked in D.C. for most of a year and then bailed out of the craziness. I wound up working at a construction site a mile up the road toward Wolf Trap. I always liked the name of the company, Ironwood. Reagan got elected the first time and it was time to leave the Beltway madness behind. We headed north and never returned.Image result for snow covered streets with overarching trees

 

618. E Unus Unum

The recent kerfuffle over Tucker “the shmucker” Carlson’s latest stupid utterances regarding American diversity continues to echo and simmer in my marrow. As a White privileged dude who has benefited from living and working in a White silo of radical conservatism, he wants to portray multicultural, multiracial diversity as the enemy of the state, i.e., his state of comfortably privileged White radical conservatism. It’s disturbing that an educated, high profile American citizen, who is all about a certain kind of super patriotism, would  take the pluribus out of e pluribus unum and slam in the unlikely unus. Instead of “from the many, one” Ole Tucker Shmucker would have us say, “from the one, one”. [You just know he eats vanilla ice cream in white bread cones with lots of white linen napkins.]

A quick review of his life shows that his mom was an heiress to the Swanson Foods fortune, but she had a bohemian streak and left the family when Tuck was 6 years old. His father raised him in wealthy, conservative La Jolla, California, and then Tucker went to boarding school in Rhode Island and Trinity College in Connecticut. Silos of sameness and entitlement are the pillars of his life. His current net worth is estimated at $39 million. You know, just the average shmuck kind of money. His antipathy toward diversity lines up with the demographics of La Jolla… and Fox News.

Image result for la jolla california demographics

Don’t run away too fast. Here’s another visual.

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As he naively or nefariously stated in his latest stupid rant,

“How, precisely, is diversity our strength? Since you’ve made this our new national motto, please be specific as you explain it. Can you think, for example, of other institutions such as, I don’t know, marriage or military units in which the less people have in common, the more cohesive they are?

Do you get along better with your neighbors, your co-workers if you can’t understand each other or share no common values? Please be honest as you answer this question.

And if diversity is our strength, why is it okay for the rest of us to surrender one of our central rights, freedom of speech, to just a handful of tech monopolies? And by the way, if your ideas are so obviously true, why does anyone who question them need to be shamed, silenced and fired?”

Lovely deceptions in here. The YOU are gauzy, Joe McCarthy suspects– Democratic candidates/socialists/vermin. Notice the you vs. us frame up. YOU have made diversity our new national motto. Curious that Tucker does not know of the e pluribus unum motto, especially since he was a history major in college. There is nothing new about diversity unified equaling strength in America.

Image result for e pluribus unum pictures
E pluribus unum. A motto of the United States; Latin for “Out of many, one.” It refers to the Union formed by the separate states. E pluribus unum was adopted as a national motto in 1776 and is now found on the Great Seal of the United States and on United States currency.
[Hmmm, new?  No, Tucker, it’s original equipment as I’m sure you know. So, how to explain this misrepresentation of an established fact? willful ignorance. But why?  Hey, it pays for the lifestyle.]
Image result for tucker carlson and wife pictures
As for his next rhetorical question, how about diversity in marriage or military units? Well, unless you marry a clone of yourself, there are going to be differences, lots of them. Tucker married his high school sweetheart, in love since age 15. How quaint and unchallenging. Gosh, the old saying goes like this: if two people always agree, one of them is not thinking. And then thirty years later… well, you know how that ends… like astro turf, unchanged despite heavy traffic. Oh unceasing sameness is a virtue, right. But if you believe the limited info about Tuck and his wife Susan Andrews, sweethearts from exclusive boarding school days, theirs is the perfect marriage and family. The exemplar, I suppose, for all other American families, providing they are Nordic Whites from the upper income and education levels.
We have another common truth that opposites attract in courtship. But if we follow Tucker’s flawed reasoning, opposites should repel. Followed out to its natural consequences, this would mean that rich should marry rich, Black marry Black, Jew marry Jew, poor marry poor, liberal marry liberal, etc. ad nauseam. How quaint and 19th century in its exclusivity. But it fits Tuck’s world. His parents both sport Scandinavian surnames– Carlson and Swanson. They were drawn to one another, just like Tucker suggests is the natural course of human relationships. And then Mommy left. Well, crap! So much for that theory. Related image
“What this country needs is more smart, successful Norwegians”, said another moron.
His next example is diversity in military units. This same infantile argument was made to keep Blacks out of mixed units in World War II and women out of active duty altogether. Lately the argument has been retooled to discriminate against LGBT service men and women, and then shamelessly trumpeted as a national security issue by the dumbest president in U.S. history. But this post is not about him.
The next point of deception from Brother Shmucker is a bait and switch deal where he substitutes incomprehension for diversity. Suddenly if your neighbor is Black, Hispanic, Asian, Russian, Pacific Rim origin, you magically cannot communicate with him/her.  What? Here’s a spot for the famous pout and squint Shmuck has refined. What?
And the false conclusion that your neighbor cannot share your values? Uh, apparently by purchasing the house next door, my neighbor believes in home ownership, the bedrock of the middle class. He/she is on the hook for property taxes and compliance with applicable codes and covenants. My neighbor is following the American dream, right? In fact, my neighbors are a diverse bunch– retired, widowed, divorced, Hispanics, Blacks, atheists, Christians, Whites, mixed race, dog lovers, cat lovers, car lovers, campers, etc. So let me be perfectly honest, Shmuck: they are simply people, from other silos, integrating and cooperating in the quilt that is America at its finest. Perhaps you should get out of your lily White silo.Image result for picture of racial diversity
Finally, the false claim that anyone has to surrender their First Amendment rights to vague tech companies… I guess this is an obtuse reference to the despicable Alex Jones, purveyor of hate driven delusional conspiracy theories. Yes? Maybe? It’s just another handful of feces thrown against the community wall, aimed at stirring up primal fear. Thanks, Tuck, for putting yourself, the anus, in the unum. Enjoy your blood money with your perfect family mirage. E Anus Unum, from the asshole, comes one.
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617. The Panderer

panderImage result for trump face

VERB

[NO OBJECT]pander to

  • Gratify or indulge (an immoral or distasteful desire or taste or a person with such a desire or taste)

    DON:Oh well I’m the type of guy who will never settle down
    Where pretty girls are,well, you know that I’m around
    I kiss ’em and I love ’em ’cause to me they’re all the same
    I hug ’em and I squeeze ’em they don’t ever once complain
    They call me the panderer, yeah the panderer
    I grope around around around around around
    Image result for pence sessions and others group photos
    DONETTES: Yeah, he’s the type of guy who tells it like it is
    Doesn’t care bout no morals, doesn’t give a holy fizz
    He lies about it raining, he lies about the news
    He lies about his lies and then he pisses on your shoes
    Cuz he’s the panderer, oh the panderer,
    He bones around around around around around
    Image result for marla and ivana trump photo together
    DON: Oh well there’s Marla on my left and there’s Ivana on my right
    And Karen is the girl that I’ll be paying for tonight
    And when she asks me which one I love the best
    I tear open my shirt, I got Stormy on my chest
    ‘Cause I’m the panderer, yeah the panderer
    I grope around around around around around
    Image result for schumer and sessions photo together
    DONETTES: And he’s got Shumer on his left and there’s Sessions on his right
    But Putin is the man he’ll be bleepin’ with tonight
    And when Vlad asks Donnie which one he loves the best
    He’ll tear open his shirt and show him Rudy on his chest
    ‘Cause he’s the panderer, yeah the panderer
    He moans around and round and round and round and round
    Image result for rudy giuliani tattoo on chest
    Don: Oh well I roam from town to town
    I hold rallies and I swear
    ‘Til I’m as happy as a clown
    With my forked tongue a lyin’ and I’m going nowhere
    Image result for trump rally pictures
    Donettes: … happy as a clown, and he’s goin’ noooooooowhere
    All he does is lie and lie, and lie and lie and lie,
    and lie and lie and lie and lie and lie and lie and lie,
    as he roams from here to there
    Don: I’m the type of guy that likes to run my mouth
    I’m never in one place I blow from north to south
    And when I find myself a-fallin’ for some girl, yeah
    I hop right into Air Force One and ride around the world
    Yeah, I’m the panderer, yeah the panderer
    I roam around around around, let’s goImage result for trump and air force one photos
    Donettes:  Yeah, he’s the type of guy who likes to run his mouth
    He doesn’t like your accent if you’re from the south
    And when he finds a fall guy to take all of his blame
    He dangles shiny pardons cuz loyalty is his game
    Yeah, he’s the panderer, he’s the panderer
    He spins around and round and round and round and round
    Image result for manafort pictures
    Don: Oh yeah I’m the type of guy that likes to roam around
    I’m never in one place I roam from town to town
    And when I find myself a-fallin’ for some girl
    I call up Michael Cohen for a nondisclosure purl
    ‘Cause I’m the panderer, yeah the panderer
    I pander round and round and round, and round, and round
    ‘Cause I’m the panderer, yeah the panderer
    I pander round and round and round and round
    Image result for trump face

616. Bad Jokes that should never be told

Image result for peroni draft picturesAfter ballroom dance lesson #345 we reconvened at our usual Italian restaurant and ordered draft Peronis, a wonderful beer sometimes held in stale hostage within clear glass bottles. Never confuse the effervescent draft with the stultified bottle version, my friends. The bottle is like a junior high girlfriend… unfulfilling. In any event I sat next to DDS Don, who is now in retirement from the wicked world of broken bicuspids and moldy molars. Despite his recently revealed right wing nut beliefs, we are still cordial buddies. He tosses out incendiary terms like “socialism” and “liberal” expecting me to take the bait, but I resist his lurid lurings. I believe Fox News, like a cranberry/ walnut Rudy Giuliani word salad, is best served silent if at all. It is the wormwood absinthe of zombie nation, allowing the appearance of rapt attention while silently destroying brain cells.

Image result for pink desoto car picturesLast year (or was it two seasons back?) Don told the tale of the pink Desoto that he and his college roommates bought collectively (socialism, Don?) from the local bartender/part time sheriff in Ohio Wesleyan days… late 1960’s…for $100, not each but total! It lasted 9 more months, but they were months of Dionysian legend, according to Don’s memory. Its nickname was the Pink “Female Genitalia” Wagon, give or take a word or two, like the ones in the middle… think Trump vulgarity for the crossword… a type of willow.

So Don told me he had a great joke that he would likely butcher since he was known by his friends as the Joke Butcher. He thought I’d enjoy the dark irony within it. “So let me see where to start. Uh, okay, there was this gorgeous woman who walked out on a bridge to jump to her sure death. Okay? And, uh, this really hideous, filthy, stinky, homeless guy sees what she’s doing and says, ‘Lady, don’t. You have everything to live for.’ And, let’s see, the woman says she gonna jump no matter what and he should just shut up and leave.Image result for lone figure on a foggy bridge images

But the homeless bum has an idea, you know, like, uh, reverse psychology. So he says, “Well, since you’re gonna jump and nothing matters, can we have sex right now? I mean, you’re just about dead anyway, so there’s nothing to worry about. Right?”

The woman is appalled and disgusted. In a rage she screams at him that she’d rather die than have sex with his filthy carcass. And, uh, uh, let’s see, the bum says, “Okay then, I guess I’ll see you at the bottom.” Ha ha ha ha.

“You’re not laughing.”

“No. I’m still waiting for the punch line, Don.”

“That’s it, see? See you at the bottom, you know, like he’s gonna meet her there and do it anyway.”Image result for deep sea divers pictures

“Don, your delivery lacks something. I feel like you shot me up with novacaine and my laugh muscles are frozen.”

“Oh, come on! Uh, maybe I should have prefaced it that it was a suicide intervention joke.”

“Yeah, maybe. And maybe you left out critical information in the big reveal.”

“But, ‘I’ll meet you at the bottom’ is a funny line cuz the woman never jumps, see?”

“Don, you didn’t mention that she was so repulsed that she did not jump.”

“I didn’t? Well, I guess it’s implied.”

“So you told me a joke with an implied punch line?”

“I am a butcher. My friends are right: I butcher jokes. Okay then you tell me one, Mister Jokester.”Image result for butcher pictures

“Okay, now mind you I am repeating this one that I read on Facebook not an original.”

“That’s okay. You’ll be judged on delivery.”

“Alright, Don. So there was this elderly couple of widowers from the retirement home who were dating.”

“Are you making fun of me? I mean my age?”

“Don, you’ve already butchered one joke tonight; must you slaughter another?”

“Okay, I’ll shut up.”Image result for elderly couple pictures

“Good. So the time came in their relationship for the issue of sexual relations to be discussed. The elderly gentleman inquired of his lady friend what she thought about how often couples should have sex. She replied, ‘Infrequently’.  He paused for a moment and asked back, ‘Is that one word or two?'”

Don laughed out loud as he reviewed the double meanings. “Ah, that’s good. Yeah. Okay, you win.”

“Don, I don’t want to win. What is the prize anyway? Infamy? Putrid pride? No. Some jokes should never be told.”

“I, I don’t know what you mean. If it’s a joke, why not tell it?”

“Because some are too far gone, too inappropriate, offensive, disgusting, etc.”

“Like what?”

“Jokes about death, suicide, racial and religious bigotry, misogyny, to name a few.”

“But I thought you were a liberal, you know, anything goes.”

“No, Don. You have conflated a liberal stream of consciousness blather with clever word play for a liberal political agenda. I’m actually a registered Republican. I get robocalls from Trump cheerleaders urging me to go to his frickin’ feckless rallies or urgent fundraiser requests when he has stepped into another pile of his own excrement.”

“But, see there? You hate Trump so you’ve got to be a liberal and a socialist.”

“Don, check your Peroni for goofy koolaid mix.”

“What?”

“You are practicing binary thinking, which is not thinking at all.”Image result for light switch pictures

“What?”

“You’re starting to look like Tucker Carlson with that squinty-eyed, head tilt, and the pursed lip look. I expect you to start pounding on the table and over talking me right now.”

“What? You watch Tucker? I mean, you must, you do a good impersonation of him.”

“Yes, I watch him with the sound off. It’s like watching a Siamese fighting fish sucking slime off the inside of its fish bowl.”

Image result for siamese fighting fish pictures faces

“He can be aggressive.”

“Yes, but that’s his only trick. He floats along, squints, tilts his head and then attacks.”

“But he’s sharp, dontcha think?”

“No, Don. He is a bowling ball with hair. Nothing sharp about the guy. A puppet of the fear mongering far right.”

“But, but…”

“He is another joke that should never be told, my friend.”

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