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!”

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Perspective



Be careful what you look at. You might see it.

I remember a con at the Brooklyn Fair when I was a kid. There was one of those Carnie booths. For a quarter you could try for a prize. But first you had to solve a puzzle. The game was rigged, of course. Aren't they all?

There was a circle on the ledge between you and the carnie magic. The barker took your quarter and gave you five metal disks. The goal was to drop those disks, one at a time, over the circle. You had to completely cover it. He would even do it himself to show you that it was possible. Easy, even.

Well, then. Twenty five cents, a meaningless task that he just showed me how to do, and I can get a Mr. Peabody doll for my girl? No problem. What do you take me for, anyway?

A rube. That's what he took me for. Rightly so.

Of course there was a trick. People tended to put the first disk down to cover as much of the circle as possible. As you continued covering big chunks of the circle and getting closer to disk number five, it became impossible to cover all of the neglected little bits around the corners.

You'd been had. By yourself. The con artist just gathered up the scraps.

I always remembered that. Of all the other cons and wonderlust of the fair, and they were legion, that one stuck in my mind. Give a sucker a chance and he'll pick his own pocket for you.

I think of it as a metaphor. When we look at things around us, we can't take them all in. There's too much data. So we compartmentalize them. We create categories and lump things together. We take our steel disks and drop them over the stuff we see. Disks with names like: Projection. Religion. Ideology. Perspective. Prejudice. Certainty.

I came up with a thought experiment. Don't laugh! It's just...thought.

In my thought experiment there is a table. And on this table there are several objects. A thimble. A pack of cards. A silver dollar. A pair of gloves. An aloe plant. Kleenexes. A TV remote. Car keys.

And I have a divider in my hands. The divider is a square frame with slats that criss cross and divide it up into several smaller squares, like a chess board. Or a sifter, which is what it really is. I take this divider and drop it on the table. The items are now segregated and grouped together in little clusters.

So. If I ask you to look at these groupings and tell me what the items contained therein have in common, you might say...

Well, the thimble and the car keys are together because they both have to do with hands. You put a thimble on your finger and you hold the keys in your hand while you start your car: Hands.

Oh, and the cards and the silver dollar are obvious. People play poker to win. So this us about: Money.

The gloves and the Kleenexes. Well, you put a glove on your hand to keep it safe. You use a Kleenex to clean your nose and make it safe. They're both about: Safety.

Aloe plant and a TV remote. Hmmm. OK. They are both things you have in a living room. Both things you can look at, well, the television that the remote is linked to is what you look at. So they are both items that are entertaining. Or at least pleasing. They are about: Entertainment.

Very good, I say. Now, wait a moment. I take the divider, pick it up off the table, rotate it forty five degrees, and set it down again.

Now. What do you see?

Well, the thimble is now with the aloe plant. So, they both have to do with hands, right? The thimble protects a finger. The aloe can be used as medicine for an injured finger. That's what they have in common: Protection.

The cards are now with the car keys. Well, when most people play cards they don't do so at home. They meet at a friend's house with a few others, play cards, drink beer, eat food that is bad for you. This partition is about: Friendship.

The gloves and the silver dollar. Well. You can hold a silver dollar in your hand. And flip it. And a glove holds your hand. This box is about: Having things.

The kleenex in with the TV remote. Simple. This group is about emotions. You watch a drama on TV and you cry, so you need a Kleenex. Simple: Emotions.

So. Depending on your grouping you get categories called: Hands, Money, Safety, Entertainment, Protection, Friendship, Having Things, Emotions.

Eight categories, depending on how you matched four random items with four other random items.

Our brains work the same way. We group things together according to what they have in common, but only after we decide how we will group them together. It's all in the divider you use to group them together.

What category does the divider belong in?

"I love humans. They're always finding patterns where there are none." The Eighth Doctor.

Post Script.

Here's another one for perspective. Or spin. As it is sometimes called.

Recently Stephen Colbert made a political joke about President Trump. It involved casting President Putin in the role of the oppressive, dominating, "male" figure using a sex act to subdue and humiliate Trump as the weaker, subservient, "female" figure.

Everybody laughed. Those who objected were shouted down. How dare you? Reprimanding Colbert would be to deny first amendment rights. Freedom of the press. Free speech. The right to satire. It would have a 'chilling' effect on the rights of the electorate.

Let's go back in the Waback machine for a bit. Back to 2009. When Secretary of State Hillary Clinton presented a reset button to Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov. The Obama administration wanted to restart detente with Russia. To build trust and confidence. Noble ideals.

Suppose Colbert had said that Hillary had let her mouth be bun to Lavrov's hotdog? And he'd supply the mustard! Would that be OK? Free speech? Chilling effect on our first Amendment rights if it was challenged?

Hell, no. The liberal left (that would be you and me) would be outraged, and rightly so.

Perspective.

Friday, May 26, 2017

War is Hell




Sherman was right (the Civil War Sherman, not Mr. Peabody’s.) War is hell. It should be avoided by any means possible at every juncture, every diplomatic mission, every détente, and every cultural and economic exchange. But if it is inevitable, then it must be fought resoundingly. There is no in between.

And when that happens, civilians die. This is why war must be the absolute last choice. Many who die and many more who suffer were non-combatants who wanted nothing to do with it, would receive no benefit from it, and had no say in it.

We accept that, except for actual war crimes, civilians will suffer. War crimes are punishable. Collateral damage is tragic and regrettable, but unavoidable. But what is even worse, if possible, is using collateral damage as propaganda. Our war machine kills civilians. Not just Russia’s or Syria’s. Every army ever raised in anger kills innocent people. Sun Tzu considered actual warfare a failure to reach your objectives by other means. If you went to war you fucked up.

Let us mourn them, not use them as cynical propaganda.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Friend


I always assume, of another person, that we have vastly more that we agree upon than that on which we disagree.

That the past teaches us lessons that are appropriate to today.

That learning another language is gaining perspective.

And joining another culture is becoming a person.

A better person.
A kinder person.
A gentler, wiser, nobler person.

When we jump to conclusions we jump right over the truth. And fall into a bed of lies.

And when I look into your eyes, friend, and wish to discuss our differences. I always feel that you and I, friend, both want the same things. At heart, at home, at hearth. There we can come together.

We are more alike than we shall ever know.
We are more the same than petty differences will ever show.

Now. Let's talk. Friend.

Stir Crazy

I went down my hallway, glancing off my kitchen, and into the living room. I had to grab something and bring it to my office. The fridge made a slight, gurgle noise, then stopped. I stopped. That's odd, I thought. Refrigerators don't usually do something just for a few seconds. I went into the living room and got what I was after, my laptop, and went back to the hallway. "Gurgle," the fridge went again.

Now I was concerned. Maybe it's in need of repair? I've had it for a while. You never do anything to refrigerators, except sequester tubs of cream cheese in the back and fossilized lettuce in the crisper drawer. I stopped to see if it would do it again. Waited. Nothing. Then when I shrugged and turned back down the hallway, it kicked in full time.

Oh, my God! My refrigerator is flirting with me!

I've lived in this house for decades, much of it alone. It's been my sanctuary. My fortress of solitude. My, well. The place I hate to clean and generally use as a shield against homelessness. OK. I do stuff like build cabinets, put down hardwood floors, and stuff like that but I never expected it to evolve sentience and get a crush on me! Now, really? Who would ever expect a thing like that? A man's house is his castle, not his mistress.

"Jonathan," she said.

"What? Hey! Who's there?" I said. "And how are you talking to me? My cell phone's on silent!"

"Look under your arm," she said. "It's your laptop that's doing the talking."

Oh, great. Technology came to life and it's horny. This has to be some sort of a dream or something. Did Connecticut pass legal marijuana and am I on an epic stoner high? This is not how it was in the sixties. Houses were full of potheads and refrigerators were full of beer. And dead lettuce. No architecture sex!

Maybe I imagined it. That's what we tell ourselves when some shit happens that we can't process. I went to my office. I balanced my checkbook, or something. "You can balance me, dearie!"

"Yah!" I squelched and fell to the floor. The marquette I had built into the parquet floor took on an erotic form. "Yeesh!" I said, deliriously, and scrambled to the door. My house is going to kill me. But not before- The bedroom! Uh-uh. Not going there. I can see inside. The bedsheets are billowing sensually. They haven't billowed like that in years! Or had any reason to.

Down the hall. The fridge was fanning its doors. The cabinets were open and waving bowls and kicking pots and pans in a raucous can-can dance. The oven was up to steam.

"Just give in, honey." It was the laptop. I flew into the living room. The TV was on. It's playing, A Clockwork Orange? God, I didn't know my house was so sick!

Out onto the front yard. When did my house get two dormers on the front roof? Though they do look inviting. "I can play you some of those web sites you like."

"Who are you? The NSA?" I shouted and ran for my car. Inside. OK. Start up. Head on the steering wheel. Breath. Safe. Get outahere.

"Want me to take you for a ride?"

Oh, no! Not you, too!

Thursday, May 18, 2017

The Court of Public Opinion



There are allegations everywhere. Lot's of people are accused of doing lots of evil things and we are pressed to punish them. In western jurisprudence a person, whether an ordinary citizen, an oligarch, an aristocrat, or a world leader, is considered innocent until proven guilty. So, what are some of the charges?

Trump's people spoke to diplomats. That one's not even a crime. That's why we have diplomats.
Trump's people had financial ties to Russia. And Israel, and Saudi Arabia, and who knows where else. So? Bush was pretty chummy with the bin Ladens. Clinton got donations/bribes from a lot of shady foreign nationals. And some shady national nationals.
Russia interfered with our elections. And AIPAC doesn't? How about Sheldon Adelson? George Soros? Investigate them, hmmm?
Clinton had some debilitating disease. Well, now we're hearing that Trump has all sorts of brain diseases from Alzheimer's to Chronic Baby Syndrome (it's there. Look it up in the DSM!)
The Assad government nukes kittens. Have you looked at Yemen lately?
There are 'moderate' terrorists in Syria. Yes, and I've got a pyramid in Cairo to sell you.
Vladimir Putin eats babies (human caviar.)
Julian Assange is a rapist.

Innocent until proven guilty, or rediculous. Yes. Let's have investigations. Let's have independent prosecutors conduct transparent investigations where all of the facts are open and subject to scrutiny. Have the OPCW investigate chemical weapons releases in Syria instead of blocking legitimate investigation. Allow Assange to defend himself with guarantees that he won't be kidnapped and transferred to an American torture facility. Let the accused face his accuser and have a chance to defend himself before a jury of his peers. And let's not be so choosey on who we condemn and who we ignore. Last year all the outrage was directed at Aleppo. Today in Mosul? Nothing. No, two wrongs don't make a right. But we first must decide if it is a wrong. And why do we choose one to declare wrong and another to ignore altogether? Who decides that?

Instead we have degenerated back to the old Anglo-Saxon champion system. If my champion can defeat your champion, I am innocent. Or off the hook. Same thing. Today we have different champions. There're cruise missiles, the shiny toys of adjudication. Propaganda, or Fake News, is powerful. Guilty in the Court of Public Opinion, also known as a Lynch mob. As vigilante justice. Is that what we stand for? How are we any different from those we condemn?

If you were accused of a crime, which would you prefer? That a judge and jury consider all the evidence and demand proof? That they weigh that evidence and insist on credible witnesses that can be cross examined and validated? Or would you prefer rumors and accusations that are immediately taken as gospel by your jurors who then refuse to consider any new evidence?

Justice is blind. This is supposed to remind us not to look at appearances but to listen to the facts and the arguments and weigh them all in her scale. The scale is tipped to remind us that we can never get it 100% right. Never be sure that justice is being served. Be not so quick to mete out death in judgement!

Next time, we might be the ones tried for crimes against humanity. Which justice would we hope for?

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Shoot me if you’ve heard this one




A chicken, a fox, and Donald Trump walk into the oval office. They get into an argument about who is more qualified to be president. “I am, of course,” says the chicken. “How do you figure?” says Trump. “I can keep a secret. I am so good at keeping secrets that no one even knows why I cross the road.” “Nonsense!” says the fox. “I am an expert at guarding hen houses. I’d get my fangs into your secrets in no time.” And Trump says, “Sad. You’re both a couple of losers! I’ve bankrupted four corporations in my lifetime. And to get away with it, I have a phalanx of lawyers. It’s just like the US Government. It’s bankrupt and all that keeps it going is the military. And, yes. I know what a phalanx is. I’ve had it done to me lots of times! #PhalanxMeBaby.”

The chicken and fox had to agree that Trump was right for the job. So the first thing Trump did was appoint the chicken as Secretary of Transportation and the fox as Secretary of Defense.

Chronicles of a Baby Boomer - A Philistine’s Thoughts on the Second Coming




I hear the braying of a rough beast far away,
Across the wadi, beyond the ridge.
Another road to another village, whose name I cannot say.
Beyond the olive groves, vineyards, and tents,
The limestone cities with their central squares and bazaars,
The crush of humanity that never relents.

There. Just there. Beneath that star. Can you see it?
Oh, wait. I cannot see.
The cold gears of earth and sky turn and never quit,
But hide as much as they reveal, for they turn also you and me,
And drag us, none the wiser,
Away from that we seek to see.

The widening gyre goes where it goes,
For a while widening, unrestrained.
Tis good I do not see beyond the edge’s threshold.
For a while. Some waiting time was bought.
I lived outside its widening, but the gyre widened relentlessly.
I saw it coming into view and saw my view coming into naught.

Fleeing away from it. For now,
The gyre keeps me out of reach.
But not of thought, the where or why or how,
The gyre cannot widen forever, no?
The wonder, what is on the other side?
It must relent, or slack, or slow.

The widening gyre has overcome me,
And in its wake I see legions. I see empires,
The Fertile Crescent and the brain pan of philosophy.
The mystics in their fervor dancing,
From the Middle East through Persia, India, and China,
I see vast fields of time and beyond… Nothing.

The center cannot hold because there is no center,
Only occasional pools of meaning,
That form from mind and matter,
And swirl around some imaginary point for a time.
Real and unreal. It’s nothing,
Until it is taken away. And then the anarchy unwinds.


Toward what Bethlehem is this rough beast slouching? And to do what?