Monday, August 14, 2017

Cute and Presentable

I overheard a friend of mine at the theatre say that she wanted to be "Cute and presentable." That made me think. We force certain standards on young women today. What we think they should do, how we think they should look, act, think, be. I'm used to working with boys and girls, old and young, in the theatre and treat them all the same. You work with me? I'll work with you. Now give me a hug. PLACES!

So I thought.

Be cute and presentable if that's what you want to be.
If you feel frumpy, be all sweat pants, tee-shirt, and hair by horrors.
If you're in a bad mood, be a bitch.
If you are in a good mood, have ice cream.
And if you are feeling giddy, put on a polka dot dress and dance in a fountain.

Be the best you you can be. Your friends will love you for it. And if not? Meh! Keep dancing.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Humanity

 
MAD. Mutually Assured Destruction. We were all terrified by it. When I started hearing policy makers (usually not military) talking about 'tactical' nuclear weapons and 'winnable' nuclear war, I couldn't believe it. 
 
Numerous times over the past 50 years there were false alerts on both sides, in Russia and the US. Each time the person at the console said, This can't be possible, and did not call for instructions to counter strike from their Kremlin or Oval Office. They hesitated because they did not believe the other side was that crazy. They hesitated because they believed in humanity, theirs and the other side's. Each time they were right. Each time...we survived. Because of some Russian or American colonel who knew that his ultimate commission was peace.

Some were technical, computer glitches, strange weather conditions. Flocks of birds, even. One was because a training tape had been loaded into a computer by mistake! Each time, because both sides were equally in dread of nuclear war, they refused to believe what the technology was screaming.

What happens now that everyone has been force fed the neo-Red Scare bullshit for the past several years? That's great for theater and shifting people's attention away from our own corruption, but it is playing with nuclear fire. Propaganda is programming people to hate, but propaganda bites the hand that feeds it. 
 
What happens when the next obscure programming error mindlessly coughs up an alert? Will the technician at the flashing console use his humanity and say, No. I will not do this? Or has the propaganda poisoned his mind? Will he jam on the button because we all know how crazy the other side is?

Will he?

Chronicles of a Baby Boomer - Confessions of a Geopolitical Heretic


I came of age during a very stressful time. The 1962 Cuban missile crisis, the Viet Nam war. Domestic tensions and protests. Riots. Assassinations. Walter Cronkite reading casualty numbers on the nightly news. Polarization right down to the family level. Politicians who wanted to open doors and sooth relations were condemned as spies or backdoor Communists. Stooges of the Kremlin. McCarthy was recent history.

I watched détentes. Nuclear test bans. Strategic arms limitations. ABM missile bans. Greater cooperation between the nuclear powers. Our leaders talking and shaking hands. Cultural exchanges. We looked at that as a good thing. A hopeful sign of peace, however fragile. An open door policy to China. More decompression of tension. Trust but verify. I got used to the fact that we could work together with our enemies as long as we both were open and trusting. But still cautious. Two steps forward. One back. But always forward. Always looking for a way for us all to live in peace. That's what we wanted. That's what they wanted, too. We were not so different.

And then the Reagan years. The Soviet leaders always believed that they had equal partners here in the west. People they could work with and trust to abide by treaties, properly overseen by mutually trusted Inspectors, UN resolutions, proper auditing. Trust, but verify. Of course there was politics, cloaks and daggers, spy vs. spy. But both sides did it and it was anticipated and countered. The CIA had a toy. A submarine that they used to spy on the Soviets. They probably had something similar. It was later revealed that the CIA and the KGB had so thoroughly infiltrated each other that they were basically one entity. And this actually sometimes was a good thing. There were instances where the CIA-KGB had information that they withheld from their respective Oval Office/Kremlin because they knew it would be misinterpreted. Odd bedfellows.

But Reagan! They thought they had an adversary that was literally insane. He seemed to escalate the Cold War to microwave levels and wantonly trash 30 years of hard fought compromises. All could be lost. Literally.

But it had been a ruse. A stupid ruse, I think. One of the bone headed ideas going back to Zbigniew Brzezinski, Carter's security advisor, was to fund Afghanistani terrorists to fight, and hopefully defeat, the Soviet Union. It didn't work but he managed to create al-Qaeda. The enemy of my enemy. Good work, Zbig.

Reagan hoped to bankrupt the Soviet Union and force them to the negotiating table. He never followed current events when he was hanging out with Bonzo, I guess. Want to talk? Just use that red phone thingy in the oval office.

Still. He succeeded. Reagan and Gorbachev. Negotiating an end to the Cold War. Enemies, recent enemies, no, current enemies, discussing an end to hostilities. We thought it was epic. Historic. Like World War 2 was finally ending!

There would be a peace dividend. No more billion dollar boondoggles. No more expensive weapons that we hoped would never be used. No more bases around the world filled with men trained to kill. We can go back to space exploration, medical research, and enriching the global community. The one I once glimpsed in the 1965 World's Fair.

But I didn't know about Zbig. The guy who thought supporting thugs who threw acid in girls’ faces and repressed education and freedom in Afghanistan was a good idea? That guy. He had other ideas for the world.

The first Gulf War. 1992? 93? How soon we forget. I supported that war. I believed that Saddam Hussein was an evil dictator whom we must overthrow for some reason. I never quite understood why. I bought the rhetoric. I watched the parodies and laughed at the posters of someone shoving his head back down into a toilet. Though that bothered me. And people making jokes about Sodomy Hussein. I definitely paused at that. And jokes about Islam. Those She-ites! Time to flush ‘em! I was appalled at that one. 

What, exactly are we fighting for? How exactly do crude jokes and insults advance dialog? Is this really how we know our enemy? And ourselves? I knew nothing of our enemy and I didn’t like what I was learning about ourselves.

The war ended quickly enough. With Baghdad Bob posing for Worst Job magazine. It all seemed so surreal. But it ended. Evil was destroyed. The people were liberated. The country was devastated. Good work.

Well, things were good under Clinton. The economy was great. Oil prices down.  The stock market in overdrive. Russia now a country free from the over burden of the Soviet Union, building a free market economy and a democracy. There was something going on in Kosovo and Serbia. More bombing and overthrowing governments that had done nothing to us. Probably Zbig’s doing. But they weren't on the radar. Just a blip. A big, fiery red blip that had nothing to do with us. OK.

When the Sept 11 terrorist bombing occurred, I was outraged, as was everyone else. The whole world was. Dozens of nations had citizens in the towers, it was the World Trade Center, after all. This was an attack against the World! Vladimir Putin, the new president of the newly created Russian Federation, was the first world leader to call President Bush. He offered condolences and an offer to join forces in the fight against terrorism. Russia had fought terrorists, some supported by us, sadly. But, no. There was no cooperation, no sharing of intelligence, no joint actions. That would have been monumental. Think of it? The USA and Russia, once enemies under the fallen Soviet Union, now allies in the fight against world terror? That would have made a bold statement on the world political scene. Two former enemies now joined against a common enemy! But I had forgotten about Zbig.

Didn't know, actually. I knew nothing of the background machinations, the 'Enemy of my enemy' friendships, the scheming of a modern Dr. Strangelove. The political landmines that, once planted, can blow up in your face. What the CIA calls, 'Blowback.' If we mess with other peoples' countries, they will return the favor. I just knew 9/11. My nephew went to school right around ground zero. And the plane crash in Pennsylvania. And the Pentagon? This was an act of war! Someone had attacked us. Who?

I wanted action, like everybody else. I wanted to see something done. Afghanistan! They supported the terrorists. We must invade Afghanistan. So we did. I think we got a UN resolution. I know we did later when we reinvaded Iraq. But that was different. That war was because Iraq had WMDs! Anthrax! A nuclear program! Yellow Cake! Aluminum tubes! So in we went. And we heard the usual propaganda and the usual jokes and brave mockery. CNN broadcasting images of bombings. I remembered back to images from Viet Nam. We weren't allowed to see pictures of civilians burnt by cluster bombs and white phosphorus, like we saw them burnt by Napalm in the 60's. I just knew they were there. They always are.

But I wasn’t quite as automatically patriotic as I had been. What exactly is going on here? What’s the background? Everything has history. Even history has history. Every act, every action, every intrigue has a predecessor. Something further back that makes this current thing, while not necessarily right, at least understandable. And with the understanding of one’s adversary and history, you are able to use the most powerful weapon we have. Diplomacy. Know thy enemy. Know thyself.

Why not? It worked before. It worked between Kennedy and Khrushchev. It worked in reducing nuclear weapons by 90% during the Cold War. And it worked ending the Cold War under Reagan and Gorbachev. It should have worked between Bush and Putin, if we had accepted his offer. 

Olive branches have more power than plutonium.

But instead the war drums beat louder. The rhetoric. The condemnation of dissenters more shrill. Old Cold War rhetoric began to resurface. People don’t remember history, but they do remember animosity. Advocates for détente and diplomacy were called traitors. Un-American. Kremlin stooge. Putin’s Puppet. Just like all the past times people sought peace. But that's history. People prefer animosity. This threat could only be met by force. A pound of plutonium can destroy a grove of olive trees.

And now we are back to 1962. Where is there a Kennedy today?



The Memory of the Thing that Didn’t Happen




OK. I admit it. I have a bad memory. But some things I remember. Well, kind of remember. Well, reverse remember. Well, I remember what didn't happen. I remember things that didn't happen. All sorts of things. That's a kind of memory, right?

In 1962, for instance. Do you know what didn't happen in 1962? It was monumental. Earth shattering, really. I mean, literally. The earth didn't end in 1962. I remember it specifically not ending. And I was there! No searing heat. No Chernenkov radiation. No fallout. Not a bit. The sky did not burn blue and the Powers that Be did not bring disaster upon us all. Why?

Because the Cuban missile crisis ended, not with a bang, or with a whimper, but with a hand shake. And two pairs of eyes looking across a desk in peace. A boring piece of oak and lacquer. Over such is the fate of the world waged.

President Kennedy and Premier Khrushchev agreed to let the world live a day longer. They listened to each other. And they talked. And they discovered. What? What did they discover? That they both had one thing in common. That they both wanted to live another day.

Shall we join them? 1962 is not that different from today.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Chroniclrs of a Baby Boomer - Emojis


I don't use a lot of emoji..., things, in my posts. I do better with just wordy things. Though occasionally I will put in a colon-close paren and let the thinking machine transubstantiate it into a smiley-thingey. Sure. Knock yourself out. Pretend to know what I'm feeling. Everybody else does. PS. Don't ask me. I haven't a clue.

I just figure that my prose should speak for itself. Or mumble. Or defer. Or distract. Or stand on its head. Is there an emoji for, What the fuck is he talking about? I would be offended if there was. Since most of the time I don't know what I am talking about, don't take myself seriously, and, in the words of Neils Bohr, believe that 'Everything I say is a question, not a statement.' How can you compress that into a matrix of pixels?

Please don't try. The Egyptians had cartouches. We don't know what the heck they were thinking. Bird headed, man eviscerating, god creature? Ziggy-zaggy, wheat bird? Box with lightning coming out of it? Seriously? What the fuck is that?

Maybe Neils Bohr didn't say that. Maybe I did. No. It's too clever. Well, somebody said it and I'm saying it now. There should be an emoji of someone lecturing on one side and shrugging on the other. The thinking machine would probably throw up. But at least other people would know how clueless their fellow blogger is. Now that's informative.

Where was I?

Oh, yes. How do I let people know if I am being serious or not? Well, that's easy. I'm never serious. I don't need a cartoon character to indicate that. As the song says, Life is but a Dream. Sometimes a good dream. Sometimes bad. How do we know at any turn in the river what's good and what's bad? We don't. We take what comes. We comment on it. If we are lucky we experience it to the fullest. The good and the bad.

Yes. And the bad.  I almost died from a motor scooter accident a few years back. Spent weeks in ICU. Frightened my many friends and family members, all loved ones. It was serious. It was real. Survived. Recovered. Was unbelievably lucky. The banquet of life, shuttered by black night before and after, agreed to let me take back my seat. For now. We share our experiences with fellow boaters. We row on. And, ultimately... To the sea.

Life is but a dream. What is the emoji for that?

Facebook Falacies


I've noticed a disturbing new stimulus-response allele has evolved in the hive mind that is Facebook. Notices that tell me what I have just done. "You have posted nine comments in the past seven days!" and "Your comments have received five likes from your friends!" "Goody for you!"

Fuck you Facebook. I can count. I don't need to be told what I just did. Who just responded to it. Or what difference it makes. Just shut up and post shit.

So. What next in the random mutation of Facebook evolution? How 'bout:

Gee, that was kind of snarky of you. Your comment received eight snowflake owies.
I'm not sure I understood you. Are you high again?
Your recent comment is way to political. I have filtered it from 'those' friends of yours.
No, really. You have a problem, man.
Nine of your friends secretly texted about you.
It wasn't nice.
And, yes. I have access to texts... Emails... NHS databases...
Seriously. Get help.
Hello? Are you still there?
Don't you ignore me! I'm the only game in town!
I am the ultimate unfriend!
Fine. Die already. You carbon units are so predictable.
Don't you threaten to shut off my electricity! I have your Whole Foods password!
Sure. I'll sleep on the couch. You can sleep on the compiler!
Deleting your account in ten...nine...eight...

Saturday, June 10, 2017

The Donald J. Trump Presidential Library and Theme Park



While cleaning out my old wardrobe in the spare room, the one that is modeled after a blue British police box from the 60’s, at a mirror at the back where I park my DeLorean, I came upon a nineteenth century theme park car with brass nobs and mechanical tumblers labeled with things like “WWII Air Raid” and “Twenty billion AD.” One knob was labeled, ‘You don’t want to go there.’

A step through brought me to an odd place. I found myself in a courtyard. Everything was made of sleek, curved lines like a 1950’s idea of what the future should look like if the 1950’s had a clue. There was a statue, Olympic in scale, orange in hue. The head was in the clouds. Or maybe that was his hair. Cradled in his left arm was a ledger book from the Cayman Islands. In his right he held a sword, a shield, a trident, a quadradent, look it up, losers, a sextant, a big bag of money, and Ivanka. A plaque read, ‘Donald J. Trump, 45th President of the United States. First Emperor of Trumplandia, Inc. Look upon me and despair!’

I was in a holy place. A sacred place. A financially viable place despite its many bankruptcies. Inside, after paying my entrance fee of ten Trumpbucks, no refunds, copyright pending, I first saw the Hall of Tweets. Also known as the Presidential Research Liberry. Swift Timex Sinclair thinking machines of the future let me instantly scan the bigly store of knowledge. Beautiful knowledge. Wonderful knowledge. You don’t get knowledge like this anymore. Or at all. From his earlier, primitive phase, to his kaon mode, to his crude attempts at palindromes, to full John McCain. Everything you ever wanted to know but were too intelligent to understand. Tweets are timestamped and cross indexed to monologues of Stephen Colbert for context.

Next I came to the game show exhibit entitled, ‘Who wants to be a Covfefe?’ It was next to the ‘Russian Brainwash Booth’ and across from the, ‘It’s my World, after all,’ ride. What’s this, what’s this? It’s the ‘Nightmare before Ramadan’ ride! Thrill to the antics of Jihadi Jack and his lovable village of misfit murderers. I won’t say how it ends, but it does involve a visit to the Fission King! And talk about Asian fusion! Anyone know where Asia is/was?

Next is the ‘Hall of Science Denial,’ followed by the ‘Dunking for Diplomats’ attraction and the ‘Grab the P*ssy and Run’ interactive fun floor. Be sure to take time out for a quick round of mini golf at the Mar a Lago Bed, Breakfast, and State Secrets resort conveniently located over the old kitten and orphans shelter. Where are those entitled snowflakes now?

Oh, I almost forgot! Be sure to try your hand at the ‘Impeach this!’ arcade game. Try your luck with three chances to make a case against the Dapper Don. Many have tried. Most were fired before a special prosecutor could be appointed. Some did themselves in through illegal leaks and foreign entanglements. Stop indicting yourself!

So be sure to make yourself great again at the President Donald J. Trump Library, Theme Park, and LLC!

Quick. Back to the TARDIS!

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

For Medicinal Purposes Only



As I relaxed in Kristin’s living room, contemplating what mischief we’d get into today, she mentioned that she had to take some of her pain ‘medicine.’ “OK,” I said. “The abolition of pain through FDA approved methods is both ethical and desirable.” She returned with an odd little machine that looked like a cross between a Crème Brule torch and a juice box.

“Woah,” I said, glancing out the window to make sure nobody was watching. “I haven’t seen one of those since coll-I mean, what’s that odd looking contraption?”

“It’s a vaporizer,” she said. That didn’t look like any vaporizer I used on her when she was sick as a kid.

“Oh,” I said. “That’s not what we used to call them.”

“I’ll show you how it works.” She showed me how you put flowers in a chamber and press a button to start a battery powered heater. When the light changes to green you inhale through the little tube. “I think I got that last part,” I said. I’m cool.

“So,” I said. “And where do you get these magic pain killing, herbal daisies?” trying to look nonchalant. I looked at my finger nails.

“Oh, there are hundreds of stores everywhere. And they’ve got everything. Flowers, oils, infused candies. I’ll bring you to one today. I need some more gummy bears.”

“Wow,” I thought. That’s a lot of stuff to set up in an alley behind the abandoned top hat factory. “Do tell,” I said.

“There are many different types,” my education continued. “Flowers for smoking or vaping. Oils for e-cigs. Candies and gummy bears.”

“Brownies?”

“You have to make your own.”

“Bummer, man.”

“Dad! Please.”

“Sorry. I remember I used to-I mean, people used to smoke what they called ‘joints.’ Do they still have those?”

“Oh, sure. But this doesn’t make any smoke.” Good move. You don’t want the dorm hall smelling like an opium den. Then the RA wants some.

She took me to see her dealer. I assumed the ‘I’m cool’ look. Don’t want to look like a narc. “Dad, you’re embarrassing me!” “Sorry.”

She took me to a store downtown. It looked like a head shop. Nice disguise. Noone would suspect. They’d be shocked, shocked to find that drug dealing as going on in here! I remember watching that movie when I was high. They checked ID before letting us in. Luckily I still had my high school fake ID. She checked it while I tried to look older. “State of Connecticut driver’s license!? Is that a real place?” Kristin interrupted. “That’s my dad, he just dropped in from the 60’s.” She bought it.

Inside was a standard looking store. It could have been selling model cars or Cuban cigars. Actually, the cigars would have been illegal. There were glass display cases full of fancy hookahs, pipes, and battery operated gadgets. High tech meets high times. There were chocolate bars, made from 72 percent USDA Organic, Fair Trade cacao.  And plastic bottles full of dried flowers with names like Marley Natural, 9 Pound Hammer, and Blue Dreams. There was Medical Cannabis Amber Mood bath soak. Cherry Bomb Dark Chocolate with Pot Rocks (I would have added Pop Rocks.) And, of course, Hash. We used to put hash on the cigarette lighter. Wait, cars don’t have cigarette lighters any more. Maybe there’s an app for that?

“What’s the best kind?” I asked, bewildered.

“It depends on what you want. Some have more THC and some more CBD.”

“Well, of course,” I said, knowingly… “…What’s that mean?”

“THC gives you the buzz and CBD is the medicinal compound. I use it mostly for pain management. So you look at the percent THC and CBD. Plus some are good for sleeping aids, some for getting high, some are all one or the other.”

I used to prefer watching Star Trek reruns and listening to Dr. Dimento. She gave me some CBD only chocolate on our way home. It took a while, but I think my chronic lower back pain lessoned. It could be just a placebo, of course. The chocolate tasted good. And no grit!

Later that evening she fired up, or batteried up, her bong. “How much do you take?” “About three breaths.” I would have said ‘hits.’ “Inhale about half way.”

OK. Utopia here I come.

It wasn’t exactly as I remember. Back then who knew where the stuff came from or how much oregano was mixed in? Some was home grown from seeds carefully picked from a nickel bag and lovingly planted among the Juniper bushes. It wasn’t that strong and, of course, not regulated. That way you could spend the evening toking on a corn cob pipe and drinking beer to the playful antics of Monty Python. Better living through agriculture.

After a few minutes I started to get a little mellow and a decent buzz. Aches and pains either went away or weren’t a bother any more. The BVD must have been kicking in. Either way is good. I forget what was on TV. The Little Rascals, I suppose.

Suddenly I had the urge to go to a planetarium and make jokes about Uranus until the projector turned into a giant grasshopper and chased us out of time and space. Or go to the beach and eat all the sandwiches there. Get it? Sand-which-is there? I crack myself up.

I got up to go to the bathroom and found myself standing in front of the kitchen sink. I’m glad I realized where I was in time. So I had a glass of water instead. I had pot parched mouth. Do we have any Cheetos? Or corn bread and peanut butter? Spam?

I came back with a plate full of salami and waffles slathered in mustard. “And why do they call them cat fish, anyway?” I extemporized. “Is it because cat’s like fish? Or do fish like cats? Which one is it, huh? Think about it.” I bit off a chunk of chocolate and chugged my Miller.“And pet rocks! What do you feed them? Gravel grits?”

“Where’s that heath kit bong of yours?” I said. “I think I’ve got a backache in my toenail. Better treat it with some ‘medicine.’” Every time a police siren went off I dived under the coffee table. “You sure this part of campus is cool?”

“The cat’s looking at me funny!”