Thursday, December 24, 2009
And Elohim took one little quarky dork in that large expanse of matter and energy and matergy, and facilitated there on that one little blue-green speck optimum conditions for a new phenom called life. And as life was moving right along on the speck, Elohim was writing the DNA codes by which that life would further develop, Elohim had a notion to generate a new work capable of conscious response to Elohim's enquiries and entreaties. And so Elohim brought forth a piece of work that was, as they say, "in our mage," that is to say, capable of responding to his creator and therefore possessing God-consicousness, and also, as if that wasn't enough, self-consciousness, which later became a problem, but anyway,
That's how "man" came to be, near as I and Moses can figure it.
But then Elohim saw that man was lonely so Elohim fashioned a mate, and when man saw his mate he said "shonuff!. I shonuff do appreciate this development. Hubba hubba!" And so Adam shonuff did sound the shofar. No, that came later, getting ahead of myself.
Now since Elohim had written the code for man/woman to be "in our image," then that meant that the new piece of work had some elements of choice or what we call free will. Otherwise the new creature wouldn't really be "in our image," but would be unaware of the Spirit like the other creatures that existed prior to that day when Elohim breathed into Adam and gave a spirit--something quite unique and quite innovative and heretofore unknown on the blue-green speck.
And so because the human project had a free will but was not God the human had a steep learning curve. And he/she screwed up, like, you know, a baby trying to figure out how to walk and how to balance a budget and how to write a blog and so forth. And so this newly evolved being on the blue-green speck made some false starts and some mistakes and actually made quite a mess of things but that's ok because Elohim wanted a creature possessing free will. That was very important in Elohim's multiple eyes.
U see man/woman wasn't playing with a full deck because he/she wasn't Elohim, but only Elohim's creation. It was all part of the plan, written in the code, so to speak, but not entirely in the code because of the free will thing. Pick up a Chance card.
And so Elohim looked down on all this creation that had evolved on the blue-green speck, uniquely orchestrated and calculated, you might say pre-ordained or predestinated but only to a certain extent because of the free will thing and I dont care what skinner said. Anyway, Elohim said this is pretty damn good. "It is good."
And it was, in fact, so good that Elohim wanted to get in the game and so a little later on Elohim entered into the creation that Elohim had made, only this time with Elohim conscousness on the inside of a pair of human eyes instead of the outside and so Elohim did and that was the baby born in Bethlehem that we call God with us, who later got in trouble and got himself crucified but then raised from being dead. Yeah, that guy.
Sunday, December 20, 2009
This wintry morning, I ponder these questions while caught up in the current philosophical conundrum that seeks to discover the key to a productive life. Glimpsing into the lives of a few different people whom I know or have known, I find:
Person #1: "Jan" has had some bad luck. Jan is single, but was once married. Jan has kids, but sees them only occasionally. Jan has a disability, and collects money from monthly checks that come in the mailbox. Jan enjoys smoking cigarettes and watching TV.
Person #2: "Pat" has made some constructive choices. Pat has had a faithful spouse for many years, and a few children who are now grown. Pat has operated a small business for many years, employing an average of five or so people for most of those years, although the business is now quite slow. Pat also has a home-based craft/hobby which may contain some income-generating potential.
Person #3: "Michel" works as a dishwasher at a restaurant, and has done so for many years. Michel was married for a long time, and helped to raise spouse's kids from a previous union. In the spare time, Michel enjoys smoking cigarettes and watching TV.
Person #4: "Yves" is a professor, teaching business courses at a large university. Yves has tenure, and is generally well-regarded by students and faculty. Yves is divorced, has no children. But Yves always has some hot prospects. Yves enjoys skiing in winter and boating in summer, and appreciates wines.
Person #6: "Jo" has been a shift supervisor for many years with a large apparel-manufacturing company, but Jo was laid-off about a year ago. Being on extended unemployment benefits has been an ordeal for Jo because Jo's identity was all tied up in the position at work. Jo has never married, but enjoys fooling around and likes beer.
Which one of these individuals has the best chances of producing wealth and enjoying it? Why?
I'm wondering about this as I prepare to go and dig the car out of the snow.
Perhaps wealth is like a loaf of bread that you can break or slice and pass among friends. It may be a fine wine that is savored from the brim to the dregs. Wealth could be like, you know, dessert--you can have your cake and eat it too.
Who knows, wealth may be just a state of mind. If you have any thoughts to share about this situation, please let me know.
Saturday, December 19, 2009
Maybe I'll forget about the rising tide of disagreement in Denmark. There's something rotten there; I just know it. . These problems will be solved when Birnam wood doth move against Dunsinane.
Maybe I'll bury my obligatory obsessive compulsive fear of the sure-to-come medical bills blizzard in a flood of alien fantasy.
And I'll chill out the blast of hot air that inflates egos and deficits in the senate, so potent that it's warming us globally.
Of course, just now we could use a little hot air. Thanks Joe. Thanks Al.
Nah.I've got an avatar of my own. Don't you? Forget the blue meanies, I feel this is a good time to nest with the homies, find respite beneath a serenely silent mantle of rest and reflection, before white powder entropes to black stuff on the useless roads. Just ponder the incredible forces of nature unleashed in swirling vortices of crystalline purity as it has arrested our compulsion for noise and haste.
Just experience those ones we love, have some chai and conversation, maybe write down a few thoughts.
Water molecules that froze in the Arctic ten thousand years ago have descended on me.
Down the hill and across the road, interrupting the thick mantle of new snow is a creek that has been flowing for ten thousand years.
Freeze the haste and waste. Lose the worry. Pray. Hear the still, small voice.
Thursday, December 17, 2009
It's good to see a real dialogue taking place, to see protesters in the streets, expressing themselves freely. It's good to see developing nations calling the fat cat first-world countries to task, and not simply standing by complicitly while the big brother nations throw their carbonous weight around. We rich nations have had our boom times, largely during previous eras where environmental issues were not even thought about yet.
Its good to see all this give-and-take in Copenhagen--people asking real questions, raising real issues. As an American, I would feel hypocritical insisting that developing nations uphold the same carbon-emission standards as we should be accepting. The developing nations have still got millions of folks who want to rise to the standards of living that we in the west have grown accustomed to--you know what I mean, the washing machine, microwave, car in the garaga and all that outher bourgeoisie blingbling. that is so carbon-intense.
We in the west have learned some hard lessons over the last hundred years or so about carbon, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, pcbs, dioxins and other destructive substances. If there is any belt-tightening in regard to these emissions, we should be the ones to step up to the plate with a willingness to conserve.
Did I say conserve? Not such a bad word after all. Only if you add "...ative" to the end of it. But I digress. Other countries, Brazil, India, even China--let them get their economies up and running at full clip while we conduct national experiments to conserve our resources. Let's go green and show the rest of them how it's done. Raise high the solar panels! Lift up the wind machines! Get charged up over battery power.! Become lean and mean and more efficient, less obese! Create jobs!
Conserve our resources, like granny and gramps did 75 years ago. Learn how to make do with less.
I want to commend the BBC for performing, today, a true "world service," as they broadcast/webcast the "World have your say" forum (Thursday, 12-17-09) in which I heard the voices of many young people gathered in Copenhagen expressing their fervent opinions and authentic thoughts about world environmental issues and glabal warming and all that jazz. So it's not just a bunch of prescripted drivel spin taking place there in Copenhagen. There's real dialogue taking place.
Cheerio to the BBC, and Owen Bennett-Jones, or whoever announcer was moderating that forum of freely expressed opinions about the heavyweight discussions taking place ostensibly down the street from them. The program was a good example of the power of democracy and freedom of speech to evoke multiplicities of opinion and wisdom and bring the complexities of a real issue to light so that concerned world citizens can be better informed.
Yes, thanks to the BBC, for your program today was so much better that the one last week in which you wasted an entire hour dithering about the unfaithfulness of a golf genius who happens to be a fool.
Just goes to show you, talent is not everything. There's also loyalty, true love and faithfulness to consider, and of course, consevancy. But that's another blog.
Sunday, December 13, 2009
Daddy climbed higher on the corporate ladder while mama kept the home fires burning, and their productive yearning kept those Chevy wheels turning while all the while spurning the hardscrabble life that grampa and granma had left in the dusty clapboard cobwebs of antetheGreatWar memory.
"Moon River, wider than a mile, I'm crossing you in style some day," sang Andy Williams, in the 60's just before everything hit the fan.
"In style," sang he, on TV.
As pursuing that 1950s cornucopic good life morphed through the convulsive 60s into the hyped-up 70s and blownup 80s, the commuterized suburban squirrel cagey treadmill produced a financial stress that daddy couldn't quite maintain; so mama went pounding the pavement too, stalking the elusive balanced budget by contributing a second income, and that worked pretty good for several decades until the rest of the world caught on to our picket-fencing ruse and decided to get in the game.
Gail Collins talked about this boomering lifestyle last week in her perpetual discussion with David Brooks. She called it an "unprecedented standard of living." Grampa and granma called it "high on the hog."
Unsustainable standard of living is what it later turned out to be, as many of us ultimately determined by the time that fall of '08 rolled in and the bubble burst.
But a sizable, you might say more introspective segment of the boomers had opted, back in the day, to drop out of the race. They started checking out Mother Earth News in lieu of of Wall Street Journal. I was one of them. However, in my case the effort to get back to the garden that Joni wrote about and CSNY sang about at Woodstock proved to be just as untenable as the keeping up with the Joneses suburban thing. It was just flat-out too much 1930s-type retrogressive, labor-intensive work, and as it turned out my bred-in postwar comfort quotient would not sustain it.
Viewed as dynamics in the Hegelian dialectic, it was something like adopting a drop-out anthithesis to counter the rat-race thesis.
Meanwhile, back at the office, enter the cognitive revolution that David Brooks talks about in his most recent NYT exchange with Gail, linked above. But that development was one that I, caught up in a 25-year routine of carpentry labor and the traditional responsibilities of raising a family, did not check into until much later, because I was, you see, a late bloomer.
A late boomer.
And so, now, the Hegelian dialectic squeezes out--from the clash of postGreatWar affluenc-seeking thesis against postVietnam enlightenment-seeking antithesis--a new synthesis:
It's a back to the future 1930s-style survivalism, but this time with a web-based cognitive revolution twist, and a dash of cloud computing resourcefulness sprinkled in for fun and profit.
The old physical resources that grampa and granma had--the back forty, the iron and the steel, the needle and the wheel, the tinkering with low-tech stuff--now are replaced, or at least supplemented, by winging it across knowledge-based cyber-resources.
Grampa's flea market morphs to our eBay and craigslist. Granma's cottage industry evolves as milking the internet, mommy-networking it like Charlotte spinning her web, weaving opportunities for strategic advantage in acquiring the necessities of life.
And those necessities--they're not what we had earlier expected. Welcome to 2010. As Yogi said, "the future ain't what it used to be." And we're looking more like granny and gramps with every passing day.
I'm betting David was right about the enabling progress of this cognitive revolution thing, though it may need a tune-up after a few years.
Thursday, December 10, 2009
Consider how much economic activity revolves upon the regular turning of those keys.
Go figure the immensity of prosperity that is set in motion as those millions of engines go tooling along on our roads and highways every day.
If you were the President, would you be concerned about what might happen if all those engines could not run, and those myriad producers of wealth could not commute to their GDP-generating daily destinations. Oh sure, this is not the way it should be, but hey, this is the way it is.
Like it or not, there is currently a lot of wealth riding on this fossil fuel thing.
And a large percentage of that fossil fuel, guess what, moves through the straits of Hormuz every day, destined for our American ports and gas-tanks and furnaces.
Maybe this is what President Bush was thinking about when he sent our boys to Iraq.
No, you don't think so? A President wouldn't start a war over oil supply?
You think his rationale was, maybe, the possibility of Saddam's developing weapons of mass destruction? Or perhaps concern for the human rights of oppressed minorities under his regime--the Kurds and Shias who were in his prisons? Or maybe the Al Quaida gang really were hanging out there under his protection?
History may answer some of these questions.
Now think about this: if you were the President today, and had sworn to defend the United States and act on our behalf in all circumstances, and had just inherited this present situation, and felt yourself responsible for that gargantuan GDP and all that accustomed domestic peace and tranquility that turns upon all those engines every day. . . what would you do?
Whatever your decision, realize that there is an awful lot riding on it. You probably wouldn't want to do anything very suddenly that might prevent the daily cranking of those engines and the ongoing security of that sleeping-giant GDP.
You might want to walk softly and carry a big stick. You might want to go to Stockholm and persuade the rest of the world to bear with us while we slip into something more sustainable.
And only then bring the boys home, but not too hastily. They have to have jobs to come home to.
Furthermore, there is, you know, evil in the world--evil that, for instance, blows up cars on street curbs, evil that enslaves people with opium and heroin. Somebody needs to take a stand against those perpetrators .
Blessed are those who--though they themselves be cognizant of their own imperfection--are willing to oppose the slings and arrows of outrageous evil.
Blessed are the peacemakers; they should receive their prize.
Monday, December 7, 2009
The current brouhaha revolves around a few scientists who let their personal beliefs about the issues cloud their scientific objectivity. Their alleged fabrication, or improper manipulation, of scientific data centers on this: Scientists have been using analysis of tree-ring growth to interpret carbon levels in earth atmosphere in ages past. When the post-1960 data for those proxy (non-instrumental) tree-ring carbon levels showed a decrease, Dr. Phil Jones artificially adjusted (or supposedly "corrected") the numbers by completing a graph of proxy-indicated carbon levels with an instrumentally-obtained graph of carbon levels in the atmosphere.
This chimera of combined proxy data and instrumental data is not legitimate science. It's like mixing apples and oranges because the bad spots on the apples don't suit your taste. It misrepresents the actual carbon levels and further politicizes them.
However, in the big picture of this worldwide discussion, this controversy is a blip on the screen. It will not make a dent in the immense rationale for global collaboration to minimize carbon emissions. It's just a speed bump in the anti-global warming agenda.
Sunday, December 6, 2009
on the end of this proxy tree-ring strata,
Proxy data from a thousand fears
a thousand years
of fallen trees
and polar freeze
encrusted thoughts that ice is nice,
but will not suffice.
We've proven sure
it cannot endure.
As it turns out fire's the thing
that will surely bring
the end of life as we know it.
Now we gotta show it.
yeah yeah yeah
fire in our engines.
Should ha' listened ti the injuns.
So saith the tree-ring thing
among our data-wringing bling bling bling.
For many long hours I been thinking about this,
so I started to make a list.
early on a frosty morning I just knew
that polar ice is melting
due to our smelting
"somebody spoke and I went into a dream..."
Four thousand holes in polar ice I hear
our prosperity plans,
our old-growth stands.
A scientist who lets his foregone conclusions
comfort his illusions
is skating on thin ice,
but such science is nice
and will suffice.
Thursday, December 3, 2009
A farmer in Afghanistan cant afford the opportunity cost of not growing opium plants that means heroin cant afford to grow vegetables so he grows the poppies and sells them to the afghan powers that be who unload them into the local market for opium and heroin and goes out into international injections of stupidity and amerikan fixes of stupor while good ole boy soldiers from the states fight to end this corrupt mess and its so expensive to keep the boys there but we cant afford to bring them home cause there aint enough jobs to go around so keep them there to represent our national interest
Meanwhile across the paki border all hell breaks loose and then further on east indi guys sit at telephones making yankees mad cause they talk cheaper and more costeffectively then further on east chinese work for lowwages and this makes yankees mad too cause we cant compete on world labor market any more its bout time we admitted it and got busy findin better things to do like growin potatoes building railroads or investing in what really needs to be done here whatever floats your boat
And find some new direction where are the true capitalists who are willing to take a chance on our wellbeing and their longterm profit instead of playing the market like slot machine and skimming cents off hft backed up with cds and derivitive
No nobody will take the risk on amerika and what really needs to be done here i mean the real work that needs to be done not just getrichquick stuff like what was bubbling up in the '00s whos willin to take a chance on our survival forsake their own interest and act on behalf of the all of us now is the time for all good men and women to come to the aid of our country are ya gonna sit back be sucked into nonreality tv while twilight seduces us into torpor and wait for guvmint to do it all for you we got choices to make this is our moment of truth
Brooks says its time to choose between security and vitality well its nice of him to mention the alternatives as if we really had a choice cause security is not really an option at this junction I mean we left that possibility back in september 08 no security is just dust in the wind now we are going to have to spring for vitality and i do mean ingenuity innovation enterprise to work ourselves out of this mess aint no free lunch any more baby
Krugman wants to spend more money as if we had more to spend but why not its only money right i mean ink on paper but not as substantial as of the constitution paper we the people and all that jazz and even though its got watermarks and pix of andy Jackson ole wise ben abe and big george the man of faith and power for the hour but that was then in 1780 and this is now hate to tellya
Spalding says our societal problems are rooted in a deep confusion about the meaning of americas core principles and im sure hes right about that but perhaps the more pressing question would be what would edison do in this situation or booker t or rosa parks or anyone who is willing to break out of bondage reality tv virtual bullshit and depravity then I notice that ole lady on huffpost who was braggin bout her sex with twentysomethn boys but complainin cuz they came in her face with all the creative force of the universe the mismanaged dna cryin out from the ground and wed best keep our genes zipped get satisfied with our truelove mates avoiding hiv in the process and get back to works stead of shameful spewing and waitin for somethin to happen aint nothin gonna happen till you make it happen yes we better look around the neighborhood figure out what needs to be done to improve the situation of our bad selves and those around us whom we love and hope that god can find a way to still bless america
Sunday, November 29, 2009
The song is about a long ride on an old train. Have you ever taken a long train ride on an old rail clunker? If you have, perhaps you’ve experienced a pang of what Arlo describes in the last verse of the song: “This train’s got the disappearing railroad blues.”
Old trains are like old starlets; your thoughts seem to swirl around, not what they are, but what they once were.
A hundred and fifty years ago, you see, trains were the movers and shakers of emerging technology. They were like iphones are now (except iphones cannot take you anywhere.) Great mad beasts bellowing steam and sound—the trains came bursting forth on the world stage in the mid-1800s. They were the iron horses of industrial hegemony, the thundering herd of collective progress, the unstoppable enforcers of manifest continent-wide destiny. Trains didn’t halt their hubric trek from down east to sagebrush west until they reached the Pacific Ocean; and there they dumped every genre of American adventurers—carpetbaggers, scalawags, gold-seekers, desperate immigrants, ramblers, gamblers, cowboys, Indians and even a few regular people. It seems the belching railroads dumped their restless passenger loads in LA and Frisco until airplanes could, several decades later, scoop the travelers up and extend their westward sojourns across the vast ocean where west morphs into east.
Locomotives were the kings and queens of industrial revolution transportation until mid 20th century, when cars and trucks captured our imaginations and our payment schedules.
Here's something to think about.
In a train, the conductor drives while everybody else rides.
In a car, each person becomes a conductor, guiding their own itinerary.
That’s what, I think, slowed the trundling of trains in America to a crawl—everybody wanted to do their own thing, control their own destin(y)ation. I can relate to that.
But we lost something when we waved those trains ‘bye about sixty or seventy years ago.
One line in Goodman’s The City of New Orleans song describes rolling past “graveyards of rusted automobiles.” That’s something to think about; there are megatons of extracted resources in America that, having endured the slow scourges of moth and rust, still exist beyond their ten or twelve years of utility; now rusting in the hidden corners of our properties and memories, they lapse to being just more junk. You see a lot of it if you do happen to ride on one our modern trains; the ride comes with a close-up view of civilization’s arse-side that you don’t get when you’re whizzing along on the freeway. You notice that obsolescence generates piles and piles of fashionable stuff that nobody seems to want. Have you been to a flea market lately? But I digress.
Cars, you know—they seem so convenient. But are they really?
I’m beginning to think they’re more trouble than their worth.
What’s inconvenient about operating a car is you can’t do anything else while you’re driving. You’ve got to keep eyes on the road, and remain attentive to what you yourself are doing and of course what all those other freaks on the road are doing.
No reading a magazine, no laptopping, no cellphone talking. No!
Haha. No cellphone talking!?
The roads are full of cellphone retards. (Don’t bug me about the use of the word; I chose it carefully.) Have you ever spotted a cellphone driver from behind? It makes you wonder if they should take a breathalyzer test. Some of them are even texting while they drive. They are a national menace.
You shouldn’t eat fast food while driving either! Guilty here.
If they were riding on a train, they could do all texting they want, all the yapping with Aunt Sally they want.
We should revisit trains. Their second wind could prove an impressive growth industry when we desperately need one.
Friday, November 27, 2009
Great Societies make strange bedfellows. Forty years later, the Repubs endorse patients' end-of-life choices by protecting what already exists as government-financed health care.
As one concerned recipient famously objected: We don't want the government messin' with out Medicare.
The Dems, bless their bleedin' hearts, want to enact new programs (of course) so that everybody, young and old, rich and poor, can have immediate, subsidized access to the system. It's a noble idea; but the government-wary conservatives ask: will that public option thing really work as cost-effectively as you predict? The repubs don't think so, and believe that it's just a slippery slope into more bureaucracy, taxes, and probably poor health care.
But the Dems are pretty dedicated to this thing. They're searching out ways to locate the obligatory, deficit-defeating appropriations (at least on CBO paper) to legitimatize their proposed near-universal coverage. Meanwhile (back in September) the Washington Post reports that "a quarter of Medicare costs--totalling $100,000,000,000 a year--are incurred in the final year of patients' lives, and 40% of that in the last month."
So the progressives take a hard look at that big pile of Medi-money that we just know is wastefully expended to keep the elderly extended.
The repubs bellow and get all melodramatic about death panels when what they're really hittin' on is: advanced care planning consultations, palliative care and hospice care replacing extreme interventions where appropriate, medical councils setting policies to reprioritize taxpayer money spent on both artificial and authentic life supports.
And thus do we Americans discover that government health care programs are not unlike artificial life support. Dead if you do, dead, sooner or later, if you don't. Either way, you're a goner. Or aunt Em. Question is: how long does it take? And who pays for it? I mean, there are kids down in the ER just dyin' to get into this place.
Up on the fifth floor, here's an old guy strung up in a high-tech hospital bed. His feeble, comfort-seeking attempts to dislodge self from those irksome tubes and wires is, medically speaking, ill-advised.
The family hovers at the bedside; they're unsure of what to do. Perhaps they've never been in this situation before, or maybe they've seen it all before in some other relative's slow demise. Either way, their decisions are not easy.
The doc walks in. He's doing a good job, protecting that elusive, electrified heartbeat, enabling that regular intake and output of precious oxygenating air. In the back of his mind, tucked strategically behind the costly medical knowledge (expensive to acquire and expensive to dispense), he feels vaguely threatened by the ever-present possibility of a malpractice suit. It could be lurking anywhere between the pulmonary edema and the abdominal aneurysm; even now it could be adjusting its briefs in preparation to impose shock and awe upon a hapless jury. Or the doc could be preoccupied with someone down the hall who's in even worse shape than the unfortunate guy that he's now smiling at because the family is in the room and how many times a day does he have to do this, and doc's mind is troubled by the dim awareness that there's something he forgot to do, or some question he forgot to ask while in that other patient's room an hour ago. The busy doc doesn't really have sufficient time to spend with each patient and family in order to thoroughly discern their unique requirements and intents and end-of-life preferences and accompanying documents thereof and after all he's only human and how much more hectic and depersonalized would this pace become if it was all "socialized?"
Meanwhile the nurse palliates and monitors, with the aid of her arsenal of life-extending paraphanalia. She keeps the old guy hydrogenated and his electrolytes balanced. She facilitates the ongoing operation of bodily functions, some of which are quite disagreeable, just like the patients from which they efflue. She dutifully administers the meds, but only, of course, the ones that doc allows, even though she knows in some cases doses are inappropriate and orders are obsolete or insufficient. On this particular day, she may be my wife. But that's not my point.
The pressure's on. Life and death situations are hitting the fan every hour.
Downstairs in the ER, more patients are sitting in chairs, delauded by the droning TV, opiate of the people up on the wall. They wait expectantly to receive what the hospital has to offer; they're limping in with wounds, dragging in with their diseases, some with cancer who don't even know it yet, some with nothing more than sprained ankles.
On the third floor, the hospital's financial legions are trying to reconcile the bills--the hospital's own and also the ones being sent out to cover the complicated expense of all those life-extending services. Statements are being prepared for the patients and their families, their insurance companies, their Medicaid and Medicare, blahblahblah...
Oops. There goes an alarm. It's a code being called. The appropriate personnel gather and do all they can, but one on the sixth floor slips away in spite of their skillful efforts.
"Goodbye," she whispers.
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
And so I was thinking about people sitting on the couch, unwinding after the feast, viewing movies that project a kind of modern mythology of interstellar diversity and fantastical space travel.
We've come a long way from celebrating the peaceful union of alien European settlers whose viands were combined, almost 400 years ago, with the amaizing native fare of "Indians." That whole turkey and pumpkins scene has become an idealized ritual of familial sharing and neighborly goodwill. It has become a part of our national heritage.
But it's slowly becoming our old mythology; now we're replacing it with a newer set of fables, like Star Wars, or football, or Twilight at the local megascreen, followed up the next day at the mall with sacrificial oblations of ecstatic acquisition. And now that we're in the Great Recession, those black Friday organized expeditions of spending become expressions of patriotic confidence. Consumerism and entertainment overshadow the quaint monotheism that once enfolded our gratitude into prayers of Thanksgiving to a transcendent God.
How quaint now are those old tales of Pilgrims and native Americans in New England.
While Mara read the email on the radio about the family watching Star Wars, she included a statement that in successive years other families or persons had joined in the popular after-turkey viewings. She used the phrase en masse to describe how relatives and neighbors were establishing this new tradition of gathering to celebrate the adventures of our new intergalactic heroes-- Obi-wan and Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader and all those other characters who never really existed.
Mythology, you know, en masse.
It's a little like going to mass in the old days, or prayerfully expressing thanks to an unseen Creator, or sharing bitter herbs and lamb while passing along ancient histories of deliverance from oppression.
Our ancient talebearers stand aside while a new cast of characters takes center screen. But what d'ya say we leave a place at the table for Elijah, for Abraham, Isaac and Jacob? Or for the spirit of those Pilgrims and Indians, or even Jesus. Maybe they'll show up again someday.
Monday, November 16, 2009
But no, the population-control bureaucrats are still so intent on manifesting the postmodern thanatos zeitgeist that insists this world is not predictable and safe enough for children to be born into. On the other side of the Pacific Ocean...
"A woman pregnant without permission has to surrender her unborn child to government enforcers, no matter what the stage of fetal development."
These quoted words were written by Kathleen Parker last Wednesday in her
Washington Post column. They represent a statement from Reggie Littlejohn, founder and president of the Frontiers Group.
This statement from Ms. Littlejohn grabbed my attention when I read it in Kathleen's republished column today, Monday, 11/16/2009 in the Charlotte Observer.
I appreciate Kathleen's boldness in highlighting this issue, even as our President negotiates with Chinese leaders about important economic issues. In honor of her courage, and the courage of any women in the world who choose to give life to children and properly raise them, I include in this posting a pertinent passage from my novel, Glass half-Full.
From chapter 24:
But now the plane was landing, the time for reflection suspending. Life must go on.
The first familiar person that Lili saw on the ground was her housekeeper, Pao, who had dutifully secured a cart for their luggage. Pao was smiling broadly, glad to see them. After David had gathered their baggage and stacked it on the cart, she directed their attention to a Chinese woman who had watched their reunion activities while patiently sitting nearby. As the young lady stood up to be introduced to them, Lili could see that she was pregnant.
Wang Chuanxin had managed to do what few women have done: she had escaped the draconic bureaucracy that sought to extinguish the prenatal life of her second child. By the ministrations of a devoted husband and a few well-placed bribes, she had managed to board a plane out of China, to Honolulu, and so the child was still alive within her. Now she was in a foreign land with a foreign fear and nowhere to go. But at least her child was alive. She had been sitting in the baggage claim area for three hours, waiting for someone she didn’t know.
Pao introduced her as Wang Chuanxin, who had just arrived from Beijing that very day.
"Chuanxin is a friend of my friend Chen. She has eluded the party officials in her home province; they had conspired to abort her child."
Lili had not expected an encounter such as this in a routine airport arrival. She looked at the waifish mother with alarm and curiosity. "How did you manage to get out of there?" she wondered aloud.
"She speaks no English. I will translate," Pao said.
As Pao spoke to her in their language, Lili noticed the fearful look on Chuanxin’s delicate face as she responded to Pao’s question with rapid Mandarin.
"She says that her husband bribed some officials in order to get her on the plane that brought her to Honolulu. She still doesn’t know how the situation will be resolved, or how she will reunite with her husband."
"Ask her where she is going to stay."
Pao’s translation was followed by a quick, two-word reply.
"She doesn’t know."
Lili looked directly into her housekeeper’s eyes. "Pao, how did you know that she would be here today?"
"I received the phone call last night from my friend Chen. He asked me to help her."
"And who is Chen?"
"We are in church together."
"I see." Lili’s queenly heart was moving her toward a response of compassionate action. I was a stranger and you took me in.
"Ask her if she wants to come stay with us for awhile."
Pao spoke to their new friend energetically. Her plan was actually working out just as she had anticipated, for she knew her employer well. Chuanxin replied happily, with a large smile suddenly appearing on her formerly-strained face.
Pao did not bother to complete the verbiage. She grabbed Chuanxin's two bags and slung them on top of the loaded cart, there being just enough space for them.
Then David spoke to Pao, "We’ll wait here while you bring the car around."
"Yes, sir," she affirmed, and was off to get the car.
Lili sighed. It had been a long couple of weeks."
Saturday, November 7, 2009
You, O America, are the nation of nations.
And wherever on earth the people dwell,
or the icons of the web do sell,
and planes of air descend,
you inspire their poverty to end.
Then do they bid you adieu, like they did the British
Your golden-headed ingenuity hath inspired them all;
still, do you evade the final margin call?
In days of old, your silver-shielded inclinations gave breath to greatness.
With your strong-armed enterprise enabling masses to bust the hardscrabble,
O America! how your simple speech doth strive to overcome the Babel.
Back in the day, your bronzen halfbacks scampered,
through smoke of kamikazis
past the ghoulish camps of Nazis
which now you accuse each other of becoming.
You're so cunning.
Oh iron-legged one, who runneth at the game
and at the mouth,
in all directions north and south,
what will you do now upon your feet of iron and clay?
Shall I compare thee to a tragic play?
Entropy doth assail thee like a worthless m-b-s,
which thou doth seek to unload before it can digress.
Yet it sachs thee to the ground, bearly stearns thee round and round;
with jolting, bofa torts, you fall like ponzied citicorpse.
Oh! quoth the raven evermore,
upon thy credit-defaulted shore:
Prosperity, prosperity, burning bright
in the newshours of the cabled night
what financial convoluting instrument
can forestall thy fateful detriment?
What prophetic lens or scope could foresee such slippery slope?
Upon what back of mortgaged securitee
will he who bailed the bank bail thee?
But wait! What light through yonder window breaks?
What hope, what blessing, for what
Arise! and go, and fly with me
Saturday, October 17, 2009
by the schoolyard door,
and turns its big brother hand
upon the downcast eyes
of a child?
What insidious thanatos
with shameful spewing,
thus undermining daddy's counsel
and mommy's tender wishes?
Oh, It'll take a village
to deliver us from such misdirected trust--
the betraying of education
with a kiss
Oh, may God help us.
Wednesday, September 30, 2009
I mean, how many people do you know who don't have indoor plumbing? How many in your circle of friends don't have a car or a TV? We are rich, I tell ya. Even the folks whose incomes hover around the poverty level all this stuff.
In the developing nations of the world, folks don't have all this booty yet.
In the formerly-third-world places--India, Brazil, South Africa, and even in China, the streets and malls and markets are teeming with millions of people who have yet to acquire the wealth-multiplying trappings of middle-class comfort. These are great, teeming markets yearning to be full. They're the next wave of aspiring consumers, like your kids in the supermarket with miniature shopping carts and little flags that read "shopper in training." So many of these minions have yet to buy that first washing machine, that first microwave, that first automobile.
But they will eventually, as their collective economic tides swell and their proverbial boats rise. Then the enterprisers among them will form companies and employ neighbors and friends to manufacture goods to meet the escalating demands of prosperity. But it's not likely their new acquisitions will originate in Dayton or Birmingham or Oxnard where the costs of affluent American labor render finished prices prohibitive.
We've got a high standard of living in this country that has propelled us, for lo these many decades, ahead of the the thundering herd. But now our opulent baggage has landed us in the dust as the pack passes by. We've priced ourselves out of the world market. But don't go blaming our politicians or our business leaders. This is just the way things work in a world where energetic workers and smart managers are free to make a better affordable mousetrap. It had to happen sooner or later; it's been a long time coming. We had an incredibly long ride on that post-wwtwo wave while it lasted; now it's time for us to paddle out and catch the next set.
Here's what needs to happen: find a way to pump some of the hot air out of our expansive, expensive American standard of living. Position us, once again, as lean and mean, efficiently productive contenders in the world marketplace. We've already, you know, burst one bubble. Can't we puncture another one? Dean Baker opined yesterday that economists should have identified our "over-valued dollar as a main cause of imbalances in the US economy."
As it turns out though, the reserved Fed has issued a prescription for our economic obesity. They have found a way to trim the fat real quick. And it just might work. It's called: the devalued dollar.
If Joe Sixpack and Jane Doe found, rather suddenly, their wallets full of greenbacks that had the purchasing power of, say, 60% of last year's dollar--the effect would be just like knocking our standard of living down by 40%. That might be enough of an overhead reduction to get us back in the game of competitive manufacturing. Then maybe we can again crank out washing machines or widgets or memory chips or hula hoops or solar collectors as inexpensively as they will in Manila or Mumbai or Mombasa.
Devalued Federal Reserve Notes will be a mixed blessing. On the down side, they'll mean less buying power for us yankee producers. But hey, we've got plenty enough stuff to last us for awhile anyway.
Folks would have an abundance of dollars again; everybody could get back in the game, pay off some debts, maybe take the kids out to eat.
Now, if that "over-valued dollar" could be knocked down a notch or two so that it is no longer so uppity, what would it take to accomplish such a feat? Everybody take a 40% pay cut?
No way. It'll never happen. Too complicated, and politically impossible. But there is a fix. It might hurt a little bit, but it would work pretty quickly, though not quite as fast as instant breakfast or drive-up food.
Make dollars. Print so many of them that Uncle Tim can push a big stack of chips out on the table to stay in the game. The bluff might just work if he keeps a poker face, although it's Uncle Hu's face that the world will be watching.
Carey Rowland, author Glass half-Full
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
“Inflation or deflation… stag-flation, stag-deflation … hyper-inflation… possibly even hyper-deflation… or maybe just a bout of frisky-flation? Never has it been so hard for the consensus to agree on the coming trend in prices”
2.) Everything you do really need, like say, food, will gain price in the days ahead. This is called inflation, and it's going to happen.
Is this a contradiction? Yes, but it doesn't matter, because these economic indices are just human concepts.
What's real, and what is more and more real, is what it costs you, in labor and resources, to get a loaf of bread, a taco, or a salad, or whatever.
Are you playing the market? Consider this:
According to Klaus Vogt of Money and Markets, there are three ways to determine the of value stocks that you may consider buying:
1.) the Fundamental Valuation method, which calculates the dividend yield by dividing stock price into annual dividend
2.) the Macroeconomic method, which utilizes the broad statistical indicators to infer value
3.) the Technical Analysis method, which quantitatively compares short-term and medium-term trends in the context of long-term trends.
Mr. Vogt’s general projections on the stock market as a whole, based on these approaches, are:
1.) by the Valuations method: Long-term Negative, Medium-term Meaningless
2.) by the Macroeconomic method: Long-term Negative, Medium-term Bullish
3.) by the Technical Analysis method: Long-term Bearish, Medium-term Bullish
Klaus concludes his presentation with this observation: “This is no time for buy and hold investors. But there are attractive opportunities for medium-term oriented investors willing to buy now and get out on a moment's notice.”
“…get out on a moment’s notice”?
We see worlds of strategic difference here between the predominant, speculative modus operandi of many (most?) investors and the substantive, Fundamental Valuations approach of traditional investors. Furthermore, we do not fail to notice in this wide gulf of equity-worldviews an indicator of our present catastrophic, bubbular problem.
The old faithful Valuations method, using profit/price ratio, has been tossed out the window. Does a real, innovative company startup have a snowball’s chance in this heated environment?
Perhaps meaningful financial reform will require something much more apocryphal than just throwing devalued dollars and new paper regs at the problem.
How many speculators are sitting on a keyboard perch trying to decide when is the optimum moment to “get out on a moment’s notice?”
How many mortgage-holders are standing in line for a job?
As Ringo once said: “This is not your father’s Oldsmobile, ” although your dad may have been piloting this same vehicle in September of ’87, or your great-grandfather in October of ’29.
Conflicting interests, conflicting signals, conflicting emotions, conflicting people. . . Get ready. Watch and pray.
Carey Rowland, author of Glass half-Full
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
"Everybody talks about 'transparency' these days like they used to talk about 'free love' at Woodstock. What does it mean?"
This is a question posed by Andrew Butter a couple of days ago on the Seeking Alpha forum, in his article about securitization of mortgage-backed assets, many of which have come to be known as "toxic assets" in the financial markets.
After presenting the problem, Mr. Butter then defines transparency. It means, in the context of investment transactions, that "that participants need to be provided with sufficient information about the stuff they are buying in the marketplace to be able to make rational and well-informed decisions."
This need for transparency comes as a result of a convoluted mess in which investors purchased, during the years 2000-2007, about $14 trillion in securitized debt. But the buyers paid too much for these assets--probably somewhere between $2-5 trillion too much.
Securetized debt based on mortgage-backed securities had contributed largely to the stock market bubble that later burst in 2008, bringing the whole American economy down with it. The toxic securities are just about impossible to evaluate, and so they become a source of confusion, like having millions of little black holes that suck value out of the financial universe. That's my take on it anyway. I'm not a financial analyst, but I did learn a lot by reading Mr. Butter's report.
And Mr. Butter definitely added an element of generational interest in the comparison between transparency in money matters and free love at Woodstock. That's a stretch, but there are, you know, a few parallels.
Alex Garcia-Ditta reports in the Charlotte Observer that "an estimated 200,000 people bought $18 tickets to Woodstock." But then, hey, 400,000 kids showed up. The concert organizers, realizing that they did not have the personnel on hand to properly manage the situation, wisely declared the event to be a "free concert."
So as it turns out, about half the people paid to get in; about half did not. Do you think the paying celebrants cared? I don't think so. Most folks were just groovin on the music and passing joints, and were not interested in asking such questions. (questions like, "who's paying for this thing?") Or that's what I heard anyway. I wasn't there. I was back in Louisiana winding up my first semester of college at LSU.
So this went on for about three days. "Three days, man!" And while a great time was had by all, it was not what you'd call a sustainable situation. It was a euphoria not unlike the bubble that later kept our money floating around, intoxicated, for several years until we all had to come down, go home and wonder what the hell happened.
Many have said that Woodstock was that muddy weekend concert back in '69 where "everything went wrong but turned out right." Maybe so. Jimi's star-spangled finale brought an appropriate end. And it's a good thing it did.
Then Monday morning blues were probably twanging and jangling around in all those homebound hippie heads. And who could have then found, in Yasgur's field, a fresh flower with which to brighten their hair? The place had become a mudhole that would require a major cleanup. This is what humans do.
The coming-down was similar to, like, what we're in right now. The party's over. Time to clean up the mess. And I think, in spite of all the deflowering and deflating, things have gone rightly, because a bubble (there has to be a correction some time) cannot inebriate forever. Janis and Jimi later proved that, and so has our economy.
And I'm like, the coming-down-after-the-free-for-all has come to an end. We've learned a few lessons along the way. Don't eat the brown acid, and don't buy toxic stocks unless you're ready to do some serious cleanup.
Carey Rowland, author of Glass half-Full
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
Being put out to pasture may not be so bad; it's just that I had hoped it would happen at age sixty-five, not fifty-eight. After twenty-five years as a carpenter, then a career change to become a teacher, and two years of part-timing while attending education classes. followed by two more years of jumping through hoops while hovering on the edges of American education, it appears that my bid for educator status was ill-timed. Apparently I didn't make the cut. The Great Meltdown of '08 has overtaken my good intentions and well-laid plans. Or was it my own failings and eccentricities as a human being?
Anyway, at least our three kids are raised and educated, and my wife is working productively as a nurse (although she complains about the drug-seekers and the alcoholics who are milking the system), and I have a roof over my head.
Maybe I'll be a farmer before I die, and grow my own food so I won't have to pay for it, but I don't think my 58-year-old back can take all that hoeing and weeding. I suppose my grandfather did it long ago but that was a different time and place. Am I making excuses here? Crying in my milk? Evading reality? Maybe. Let me know what you think.
Our 1.5 acres is mostly wooded, so there's not enough sun to sustain a garden. I tried growing shiitake mushrooms once a few years ago, but as it turned out I didn't have the thumb for that enterprise. But hey, I'm happy to be an American in 2009, and not a Chinese teacher wannabe in the 1960s, being herded out to the countryside by Mao's cadre of young bucks to spend long hours toiling in a rice paddy to achieve cultural revolution.
Although we are now enduring a cultural revolution of some sort. The times they are a-changin'. And I am grateful that I'm not mired in Albert Camus' existential dilemma, concluding that the most important decision in life is whether to commit suicide or not, as someone pointed out on Diane's NPR show yesterday.
No, it's not that bad. I suppose I'll just wake up with the sun tomorrow and walk through that awful door of unemployment one step at a time, like however many thousands of dazed Americanos have done, are doing, and will do. I'll play my part in the Great Recession. The current debate about health care and the public option becomes a moot point for me. I'll take what I can get. I had hoped to teach the next generation how to deal with what life throws at us. But I still have a few lesson of my own to learn.
Thank God I married a nurse, and she's a good one too. Perhaps, as I walk through that dismal government-agency door this morning, I'll be whistling that old Dean Martin tune, Everybody Loves Somebody Sometime. And I'll be singing the best line: "If I had it in my power, I would arrange for every girl to have your charms (and employment skills). Then, every minute, every hour, every boy would find what I found in your arms..." Thank God I married a faithful one, and she loves me too.
Maybe if Camus had been faithful to his wife he wouldn't have had to grapple so fiercely with the suicide question. Oh, but of course I'm oversimplifying the problem, as most Christians are known to do.
Would you like fries with this entry?
Carey Rowland, author of Glass half-Full
Friday, July 17, 2009
Friday, June 26, 2009
For ages and ages they had grappled in fierce contentions; then along came new inventions, so they debated with fierce intentions.
"Yada, yada, yada," roared Dragon Whole.
"Blah, blah, blah," Dragon Hole retaliated.
DW: "You're outmoded and irrelevant."
DH: "You'fe outlandish and irresponsible."
DW: "You would forever tolerate the haves taking advantage of the have-nots."
DH: "You want the government to do everything."
DW: "Only the public sector can clean up this mess you've made."
DH: "Who are you kidding? Fanny and Freddy started the whole dam thing."
"Yeah? Well the dam burst because you overloaded it with derivatives and CDSs."
"No. The dam burst because you've got everybody expecting a handout."
"Yeah, right. BofA and Citi."
"Uh, no. They'll pay that back. It's UAW and Acorn that got this economy hog-tied."
"Yada, yada, yada," roared Dragon Whole.
"Blah, blah, blah," Dragon Hole retaliated.
DW: "You never found those WMD, did ya?"
DH: "Don't go changing the subject. You don't even know what a balanced budget looks like."
DW: "Excuse me. It was Billy bob who had a balanced budget before you started throwing money at the eternal Sunni-Shiite bone of contention."
There's another Dragon Whole vs. Dragon Hole thing going on. Anyway,
DH: "Don't forget 9/11."
DW: "How can I? That's all you ever talk about."
DH: "It never happened again, did it? We chased their terrorist asses out into the desert."
DW: "Uh, more like, into a hole. A bottomless cave in Afghanistan that--"
DH: "Bottomless? Bottomless is what the dollar will be when Bill and Ben crank up those government printing presses."
Dragon Whole: "It's all relative. As a percentage of GDP it's nowhere near what it was after WWII, and we recovered from that well enough."
Dragon Hole sighed and cast an exasperated eye upon his nemesis."You know, that's your problem. You think everything is relative. You have no absolute values, no moral compass."
Dragon Whole: "Oh yeah? Don't go changing the subject on me now. Besides, who are you to claim the moral high ground? You should have given your boys on Wall Street a little moral instruction before they ran the capitalist system aground on the rocks of greed. Now we have to bail them out."
DH: "No, you don't. We don't want your money."
DW: "What are you talking about? It was your man Hank who cut the deal. The fox guardin' the chicken house is what that was. Furthermore, don't give me that 'We don't want your money' crap. That's what your man San said before he took his little state-financed holiday makin' whoopee in Argentina. No, you guys are so, like, totally without a leg to stand. It's time for you to abdicate, just get out of the way, and we'll take care of everything from here on out. We'll clean up this mess.
Dragon Hole hung his head in shame, let his tail fall between his legs and started to walk away. Red scales fell like rain. Hole no longer went to play along the merry lane.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch...To be continued...
Carey Rowland, author of Glass Chimera
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
allow me in your Republic if you can.
As we approach your Middle Kingdom shore
we'll thank you for the open door.
I have a passport and a visa too.
I hope it's sufficient between me and you.
And if to our US Treasury you will lend,
I'll bring some dollars for us to spend.
And while you're at it tell Mr. censor man
to unblock my website if he can;
release my TPM and blogspot too.
Please do it for me, Mr. Wen and Mr. Hu.
Please and, Xie Xie, thank you.