Archive for February, 2012

The Conspiracy thing

February 28, 2012

Ok so I met this guy who’s convinced that this whole big mess is a conspiracy, most especially the 911 thing. And he had me convinced for a few milliseconds that maybe he’s onto something, what with mysterious fluctuations in airline stock prices the day before the towers went down, and that its all oil but I knew that anyway and that cheney knew what was going on and it was all a big plan because you know the govment is out to get us and to get us all constricted into a police state, and now we are in a police state and that explains a lot and theres plenty of proof on the internet that it wasn’t passenger planes that did the damage on 911, that it was missiles that hit the pentagon and that there were some asbestos problems in the towers that nobody wanted to fix because it would be too expensive and so the conspiracy arranged to have the towers destroyed and that there is no record in history of a steel structure going down without being calculatedly imploded and that the #7 building was imploded because of incriminating evidence that needed to be disposed of so as not to implicate the mayor and there was a puff of smoke at the grassy knoll and so forth and none of this is really new but you know what? it doesn’t worry me because Jesus said:

“You will be hearing of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not frightened, for those things must take place, but that is not yet the end.” Mt 24.

So in a way I already knew about this because we can see and sort of feel that there’s something rotten in danmark or somewhere or maybe everywhere you go on earth and we know this because Paul said:

“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.” Eph 6.

So it is not new and this conspiracy thing is really very old and there’s nothing new under the sun because its pretty obvious that humans are fairly well messed up maybe even rotten to the core and actually ridden through like bullet holes with depravity which is the old term for the sin nature before sin became in the popular way of thinking just an old freudian repression instead of the undeniable reality that it really is which is plain to see if you look around among the rubble and detritus of our civilization’s underpinnings and yes I have discovered this sin nature in my very own damn self but Jesus saved me, back in 1978. That doesn’t release me from any responsibility to try and do right in this life, but it does release me from the burdens of trying to correct everybody else’s messes, or even try to figure it all out and protest, a la quintessential existential dilemma.

And so maybe you’re a marxist and you think that I’m imbibing the opiate of the people by accepting religion and Jesus and so forth but hey its a free country or at least it used to be but I’m free no matter how you slice the rumor mill because Jesus has set me free now put that in your pipe and smoke it. Or maybe you’re a fascist and you think my religion is irrelevant and based on old mythologies and legends and is therefore no defense against your will to power. We shall see, you damned bully.

Well there is no denying there is some bad shit going down in this world and maybe there’s very little we can do about it because we’re all tied down to just makin a livin’, doin’ the 9 to 5 if were lucky enough to still have a job, and we know they’re cooking the unemployment numbers so as to manipulate us and its probably closer to 20% if you include all the people who would still like to be employed but the statisticians think they’ve given up. (Don’t ever give up.) and like I said before what else is new?, and so forth, cuz we don’t any of us have time to correct all the bad stuff. But its not your fault anyway. Just take care of your own bad self and do what you need to do. Remember Jesus said:

“…but whoever causes one of these little ones to stumble, it would be better for him to have a heavy millstone hung around his neck, and to be drowned in the depth of the sea. Woe to the world because of its stumbling blocks! For it is inevitable that stumbling blocks come; but woe to that man through whom the stumbling block comes.”

So if you are a conspiracy buff you would do better just to put your faith in Jesus instead of trying to figure out all the bad stuff in this world. And if you are one of the Conspirators, then you better get right with God before its too late, and end your wicked ways.

CR, with new novel, Smoke, in progress.

In Atlanta, cool fizzies and fuzzy worries

February 26, 2012

A surprise emotion bubbled up inside of me yesterday at the World of Coke: Joy.

There I was, sitting in the crowded theatre in Atlanta.  There, at the epicenter of Coca-Cola’s worldwide advertising mastery, whilst I least expected it, the tears rolled.  Their fuzzy video trip down memory lane worked its fizzy wonders on me.

But then again anything done in excellence has always moved me to tears.

All the cool retro images of droplet-laden green bottles being lifted to luscious lips on smiling faces had softened my jaded mind. That’s how it started. Then somewhere in all the carbonated imagery flow,  angel choirs of diverse singers appear, gathered  on a mountaintop somewhere in our hopeful world. Their universal brother-sisterhood effervesces as a song: I’d like to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony. That’s when I felt the little drop of Coke rolling down my cheek.

I mean, this whole thing surprised me from the start. I went into it with a curiosity about the history of Coca-Cola, which had started here in Atlanta back in 1865. Dr. John Pemberton had concocted the magic formula back in the day, in his drug store that had existed just a few blocks from where we now stood with this myriad of happy Coke imbibers.

Moving steadily through long (though quite speedy) lines of happy consumers, we had entered the huge pavilion. Disneyesque, it was. And large. Big space, bright, colorful, lots of people, children, and fluidic middle-class abundance at sixteen bucks a pop, maybe less for the kids, I don’t know. Ours our grown. Katie was with us.

The cool fuzzies exuberance had gotten to  me by the time I had gone through the four or five movies adventures inside.  All about the fizzy drink, of course. The last phase of your World of Coke experience comes in the samples corral, where those hundreds of excitable drinkers, me among them, get rounded up for some sweet diversities of tasting.  The folks are all spiriting around like bubbles, drawing samples into little clear plastic cups, through a multitude of soda fountains with all cokish drinks of the world.

That’s when it got to me. These people are having a great time! Its beautiful! Peace and love, man. And hey–it’s Coke, not cocaine. American as mom’s McD apple turnover and Chevy Volt.  Let us teach the world to sing in perfect harmony.

And it burst my bubble of environmental worry that had built up a few days ago while listening to a radio show on recycling. The law of unintended consequences is universally at work here, and throughout the world, wherever you see soft-drink bottles laying in the gutter or on some neglected hillside or roadway, not to mention all the unseen containers in landfills. PET plastic, polyethylene terephthalate, everywhere you go in the world, after I have enjoyed the pause that so refreshes.

It didn’t used to be that way.

I mean, when I was a kid– like, about the age of most of those young’uns we saw at the World of Coke yesterday– we’d pay bottle deposts at the store when we bought the Cokes. After slurping the drinks down,  we’d get the deposits back when we returned the bottles.

Whatever happened to that? One of my best memories was thinking that those much-loved little green glass bottles were being washed and refilled in a Coke plant somewhere, for other smiling drinkers to enjoy.

Glass half-Full

Starbuck’s Warning

February 19, 2012

Starbuck was the 2nd-in-command of the whaling ship, Pequod, in Herman Melville’s classic novel tale, Moby Dick. And a very good first mate he was, that Starbuck: a brave man, having great common sense, keen morality and natural leadership. He was extremely loyal to his captain–so loyal, in fact, that it cost him his life.

The captain he served was Ahab, a character infamous in American literature because of his fatal obsession with a “White Whale,” the hugely legendary Moby Dick. Ahab was bent on vengeance against the creature because it had bit his leg off during an early whaling expedition, back in the day.

Early 19th century, that is. Herman Melville published his magnum opus novel, Moby Dick, in 1851.

http://www.amazon.com/Moby-Dick-Collectors-Greatest-Written/dp/B000MMRLGC

If ever you read the book, you’ll embark on a literary voyage of prodigious explorations about the whaling industry during that era of history. Melville enshrouded his great tragic tale in massive whale-facts, whale biology, and twined it all about with archaic sailing lingo. Quite a maritime education it is, reading Moby Dick, and thus hauling in, chapter by chapter, great biological truths as copious as the squid in Pacific swells.

And very psychological. Captain Ahab was a real looneytune. But he knew how to rein in his own madness in such a way that it was not readily apparent to most folks, including the unsuspecting mariners who signed up for a 4-year whaling expedition aboard the Pequod under his quirky command. The whaling had company recruited thirty seasoned sailors at Nantucket, to sail around the world and gather great riches by collecting the precious, very costly whale oil, valuable for burning in lanterns for light during that era.

But the unsuspecting sailors didn’t know what they were getting into. What they understood to be a potentially profitable whaling expedition turned out to be something quite perilous and different. Halfway across the Atlantic,  cranky ole Ahab gets up and starts his eerily obsessive spiel about the White Whale. The irrational look in his eyes indicates that his interest in their exploit is manically different from their own hopeful profit motives. Could be trouble.

In contemporary parlance, you might say Ahab was OCD.

These days, you may occasionally hear people mention, in a casual way, obsessive compulsive disorder. They may even joke about it, with a flippant phrase–“my OCD.”  For instance, my wife points out to me, whenever we’re traveling in an unfamiliar city, that I am obsessive about not ever going in “the wrong direction” just for the sake of getting on some main transportation line or interstate highway. I admit this is mildly obsessive, because our sojourn might possibly be simplified just by heading in the wrong direction for a block or two, or a mile or two, in order to eliminate some other logistical problems.

Ahab’s obsession, however, was of a different species. His peculiar OCD allowed him to rein in his madness until the object of his obsession was immediately at hand. This didn’t happen in its full destructive capacity until the Pequod had sailed over halfway around the world. His eccentric captaincy permitted the crew to navigate successfully across the Atlantic, down and around the the Cape of Good Hope at the southern tip of Africa, through the Indian Ocean, Indonesia, and out into the vast Pacific where they finally encountered the great Leviathan, Moby Dick.

The truly disorderly part of OCD is when a person’s obsession is irrational, and injuriously counterproductive. When the fretful sailors find themselves in the middle of the Pacific tropics, having suffered a multitude of dire warnings,  omens,  prophetic signs, and a perilous near-death encounter with the phantom himself, Moby Dick, Ahab’s irrational obsession is suddenly let loose in all its frothy turbidity:

“Quick!–all hands to the rigging of the boats–collect the oars–harpooneers! the irons, the irons!–hoist the royals higher–a pull on all the sheets!–helm there! steady, steady for your life! I’ll then times girdle the unmeasured globe; yea, and dive straight through it, but I’ll slay him yet!”

‘T’was then that Starbuck spoke his warning, passionately:

“Great God! but for one single instant show thyself, … never, never wilt thou capture him, old man–In Jesus’ name no more of this, that’s worse than devil’s madness. Two days chase; twice stove to splinters; thy very leg once more snatched from under thee; thy evil shadow gone–all good angels mobbing thee with warnings:–what more wouldst thou have?–Shall we keep chasing this murderous fish till he swamps the last man? Shall we be dragged by him to the bottom of the sea? Shall we be towed by him to the infernal world? Oh, oh,–Impiety and blasphemy to hunt him more!”

But Ahab didn’t listen. His OCD had turned darkly agin’ him. In this tragic tale, the consequential fate was laid upon not only his own damned self, but also upon the thirty men under his command.

Be careful, all ye sailors upon this world’s myriad of vessels, to whom you entrust your fate!

Glass Chimera

The Give and the Take

February 18, 2012

If each person produces

a little more than they receive,

then the increase he induces,

our abundance may retrieve.

 

But if each citizen collects

more than he does contribute,

our collective task reflects

a deficiency to distribute.

 

So how can each one be induced

in the system and in the fray

to make more of what’s produced

than what he has consumed today?

 

But does it even make sense

to think of productivity this way,

when dollars turn to cents

and abundance slips away?

 

I mean the world is really not

so logical as we would wish;

some neglect to give from what they’ve got

when we pass around the dish.

 

Some will always get more than they give

while others give more than they get.

We see its just the way folks live.

So get used to it; don’t fret.

 

If you’re disturbed ’cause of inequality,

and you find this world’s so unfair,

just make the most of your potentiality,

and try to do your fair share.

Selah.

Glass half-Full

The Sanctum Sanctorum

February 13, 2012

Before men learned how to tap the great resources of oil from earth’s crusty mantle, certain bold mariners ventured onto the high seas in search of the Whale. After harpooning the megacreature and bleeding the life out of it, they would drag it alongside their ship,  then hoist the expired leviathan and tie it to the side of the ship. In this position, the sailors would puncture a hole in a sperm whale’s head and draw whale oil out from it, sometimes 500 gallons or more.  This precious oil would then be stored aboard the ship until they reached port, at which time the ship’s captain would present their costly liquid to the owners of the ship. Then the whale oil would be sold. Whaling was thereby a profitable venture for the owners of the ships, and also for the seamen who manned the ships.

The availability of whale oil, as near as I can determine, is what generally got people in the habit of burning oil to produce heat. But in the mid 1800s, the development of kerosene from coal, and petroleum oil, eventually rendered the difficult capture and extraction of whale oil obsolete and cost-ineffective.

Herman Melville explained (1851), in chapters 77 and 78 of Moby Dick, the strange process by which whale men would harvest, from the head of a sperm whale, this unctuous resource, beginning with this description:

“…so the tun of the whale contains by far the most precious of all his oily vintages; namely, the highly-prized spermaceti, in its absolutely pure, limpid, and odoriferous state.” The “tun”, as Melville calls it, is a very large natural cask inside the whale’s head wherein the oil is contained. He compares the huge chamber to a famous wine vat in Germany, known as the Heidelburgh Tun.

But at the conclusion of his two-chapter discourse about this unique resource recovery, he refers to the secret inner oil-chamber as the “sanctum sanctorum” of the whale.  Sanctum Sanctorum is Latin for Holy of Holies.

To an ancient Israelite, that phrase, when translated to Hebrew, meant the most sacred place in their Tabernacle, and later in the Temple.

To me, “sanctum sanctorum” means the womb of my wife, where our three unique children began their very special lives, when I delivered my very own 23-chromosome spermaceti to be united with the 23 chromosomes in Pat’s oocyte.

I bet you didn’t think I would end this blog about the sanctum sanctorum of a whale with such a statement so personal, and seemingly irrelevant to the subject, mentioned above, of whale oil.

But I want you to understand that raising children in this world is a whale of a job, and a very precious one, certainly the holiest of all holy projects that any couple could take on.

CR, with new novel, Smoke, in progress

The wreck of ’97

February 7, 2012

Scene 1, Tuesday, Feb 5 2012: I’m listening to DRshow radio discussion about  the foreclosures debacle, and being informed, to whit…

Back in ’07, the decades-long  housing boom starting turning to bust. In the retractive credit  emergencies of ’08, a plethora of foreclosures broke out rather suddenly, like mushrooms on neglected suburban lawns. Since the big banks had been set up for many years to mostly just dish out loans, the sudden onslaught of foreclosures caught them bureaucratically unprepared.

Swamped with overwhelming unprofitable paperwork, the banks sought to simplify their numerous foreclosure processes. They cut corners and got sloppy in documentation. The big banks got together and devised a way to cut costs, most notably those expenses incurred through courthouse fees and title registrations; they instituted the Mortgage Electronic Registration System (MERS). Unfortunately, this newly-improvised MERS  greatly complicated the later questions surrounding actual ownership of each home.  According to Arly in Vermont, a caller on yesterday’s (Tuesday, Feb 7) Diane Rehm show, the MERS “broke the chain of title.” This later gave rise to mucho confusion. The banks had put MERS together in–remember this–1997.

About ten years later, as the sheer volume of mortgaged-backed-securities slicing and dicing jammed up our banking system, the loss of an easily identifiable thread of ownership for each foreclosed house became, cumulatively, a huge problem, a can of worms, as it were.

But Kathleen Day, of the Center for Responsible Lending, used a better metaphor to describe the situation. During Diane Rehm’s discussion, Kathleen referred to the foreclosure mess as a “train wreck.”  A few minutes later on the radio program Ed Pinto, of the American Enterprise Institute, also used the “train wreck” analogy in his description.

Scene 2, blast from the past…

All of which solved a problem about a phrase–the “wreck of ’97– I had written into a song  a few years ago. In composing Boomer’s Choice, I included a verse about each decade of our collective American experience, beginning with the 1950’s, then covering the ’60s, ’70s, ’80s. After the turn of the century, I was having motivation problems in the writing of a verse for the 90s. In fact, I dilly-dallied around and didn’t get to the 1990s verse until the mid-’00s. And when I  finally did write that last verse, I combined that decade with those first years of the ’00s. I don’t know why. But I tossed the phrase “wreck of ’97” into that last verse, perhaps flippantly, because I didn’t know why the image of a wreck in 1997 arrested my imagination. In fact, I have often wished that I had sung the metaphor as “wreck of ’07’ because 2007 is when the housing boom really jumped the tracks and ran off the rails.

But now I understand. The wreck of ’97  was the MERS contortion of ownership tracks that  later provoked a jumping off the financial rails– the  wreck of ’07!

So this is what it’s come to

February 6, 2012

As a working citizen of these United States, I am struggling with this notion of personal responsibility.

Many leaders, most notably our President, speak publicly about the idea that everyone is duty-bound to “do their fair share.” This is certainly true.

How do we construct a society in which everybody can be incentivized to “pull their own weight?”

Almost everybody seems to be running out of money. The government is gone hog-wild with uncontrollable spending. Its as if we’ve got a monster perpetual motion societal machine that grinds up resources and assets and then extrudes them as public benefits–“benefits” if you’re poor, “profits” if you’re rich.

Some people game the system and do really well at it; they come out smelling like a rose, and richer. The liberals call these “the rich,” or the “1%.” The Dems and the Occupyers  want to up the ante on these opulent types by raising their tax rates, so that there is more for the rest of us. I’m not so sure the system actually works that way. Once assets get ground-up in that perpetual motion spending machine, maybe they’re lost forever. Maybe they come out in a black hole somewhere out in space beyond the demoted Pluto.

Other Americans, on the low-income end, barely get by. They wander around looking for employment, and get public assistance–welfare, subsidies, disability, and whatnot. But there seems to be a dropping point, a precipice, at the end of a slippery slope of public assistance. If po’ folks have been on the dole long enough they forget (or do they?) how to really look for work. Do they forget how to think like a person who needs a job and must go out and just dam-well find one? Like, the next-one-that-comes along! What if it IS McD’s? What if they DO have a diploma that is irrelevant to our present situation? Do they, instead of taking that minimum-wage insult, then choose to ease on into the public fix? Will they drift into our 12-step welfare enablements until they have at last lapsed into a prison of their own making?–a hazy cubicle smoked-up with cigarettes, beer, narcotizing tv, maybe little pops of legally-acquired or not-so-legally-obtained pills? These are the ones that the Repubs and the Tea Partiers want to cut off, because they are not pulling their weight.

In my helpless opinion, we’ve got dead weight on both ends–the rich skaters and the poor slackers–and there’s very little we can do about it. The Dems and the President cannot fix it; the The Repubs and Romney cannot fix it, although they claim that they can. Ha! We’ll see about that round about this time 2013. Furthermore, Congressional supercommittees, God help ’em, have passed the buck as business as usual.

I certainly don’t know what to do about it, so I guess I’ll just go to work this Monday morning–thankful that I have a job– and hope for the best, and pray: May God help us work this dam mess out in some kind of way that every citizen will somehow find cause to  somehow “do their fair share.”

So you see I’m praying for a miracle here. But I have faith in God.

CR, with new novel, Smoke, in progress

Son delivers father, Utah 2007

February 4, 2012

Wide. That’s what Utah is. And bright. Bright as a sandstone mesa under noonday sun. Dry, as a bone.

That’s where we were, two men walking on hot, dusty trail in the middle of Nowhere, Utah. With a pack on the back, an old fifty-something like me couldn’t hear the unexpected as it lurked somewhere in the distance.

The near distance, on the middle of the trail, and the same color as the sand itself: death.

Potential, death.

So the old guy, father, couldn’t hear death wait for him, just a pebble-toss ahead. The rustle of the pack, the shuffle of feet, the heat of the day. Dad’s old ears render him clueless sometimes.
But the son heard, and he responded.

Quickly.

Old dad shuffling right along on the trail, heading directly for death. Suddenly, he is pulled backward rudely, violently.
“Dad!” shouted the son to the father who had given life to him.

Dad got stopped in his tracks, son’s hand firmly jerking him back by grab of his pack.
The snake was coiled in the middle of the trail, coiled, rattles just a-hissin’ through the desert heat.

Son who had been given life through the father gave life back again. Thanks, son.

(This really happened.)

Glass half-Full

Inevitable forces of history

February 1, 2012

There’s only so much that a man can do. There’s only so that any nation can do, to put a stop to inevitable forces of destruction during their lifetime.

That’s not to say they shouldn’t try. We’ve got to somehow oppose the evils in this life, in this time.

This is what I’m thinking about as I research my current writing project, a novel about inevitabilities in the year 1937. Fascism, was a damn near unstoppable force during that time, although the Allies were later able to pull it off when they had defeated the Nazis of Germany, Italy, and Japan by 1945. But there were eight years of pure hell before the beast was put back in his cage.

However, there was another rising tide during those turbulent times of the late 1930s and ’40s– communism. It was in the background.  Over  yonder in Russia, eastern Europe and China, the ideology of Marx and Lenin was a slumbering giant.

Consider the plights of two military leaders (later political leaders) of that time: Tomas Masaryk of Czechoslovakia and Chiang Kai-shek of China. These two men and their armies were contending against the terrible fascist war machines of their era.

But life is never simple, and the perils of war are never predictable. In Czechoslovakia, Tomas Masaryk was trying to lead his fledgling democratic nation into an alliance with the Allies of the west, most specifically France. However, Vladimir Lenin’s revolutionary mustering of the Comintern would inevitably blind-side the Czechs and overtake their democratic impulses, but that didn’t happen until the late 1940s, after a whole damn world war, the Second! one, had been fought and driven into the dust of tragic history.

In the 1920s and ’30s. the Czech leader, Masaryk, had his hands full trying to deal with the after-effects of German-Austrian militarism (left-over from WWI) even as the fascist beast began to raise its ugly head again as Hitler’s zombified nazi war machine.

So it was quite sensible, quite understandable, that Masaryk did not want to take sides in the Russian civil war–communist Reds against nationalist Whites. Masaryk didn’t want to involve his people in a bloody Bolshevik struggle when there was still so much to be dealt with on the German side of his problems.

While developing an alliance with the French in the aftermath of WWI, Masaryk and his Czechs neglected the Russian bolshevik threat from the east.  But that same Russian bear later reared up in the late ’40s and overtook the Czechs anyway.

How could Tomas Masaryk have known? It was all he could do to handle the snake-pit of military and political evils on his western front.

There’s only so much a man, or the nation that he is leading, can do.

Chiang Kai-Shek had the same problem in China. His nationalist armies were fighting Mao Tse-tung’s communist Reds in the 1930s. Meanwhile, just across the sea, the fascist imperial Japanese were about to devour half of China (and all of China if it could have). The Japs took advantage of the Chinese infighting between Chiang and Mao’s opposing forces, until the Japanese threat became so undeniably serious. Both Chinese factions had to lay low against each, even in some cases work together, to run the damn Japs back to their island.

But then after all that had blown over–after the World War in which millions had died–in the late 40s, Mao’s unstoppable communists ran Chiang Kai-Shek and his Kuomintang army off the mainland to Taiwan.

There’s only so much a man can do. Communism, during the 1940s, was a slumbering, though inevitable, giant in both Europe and Asia. Now, alas, seventy years later, the whole idea of communism–the whole Marx/Leninism platform– has kind of ground itself into a post-1989 skid; it lingers confusedly with its finger occupying its nose as the world arranges itself into a new set of slings and arrows and inevitable evils and the heroics that oppose them.

Go figure.

CR, with new novel, Smoke, in progress