He appears more a tick than a builder, an ebullient parasite delightfully dancing while gorging on wealth acquired without due payment. A behavior known in civilized circles as theft. He twists the letter of law to cheat and swindle; to suck life-blood from partners, associates and investors. In the mirror, he sees a king; a champion of loopholes willing to take advantage of anyone. Like a King Midas in reverse, the gold he touches turns to brass or worse. Failures he transmutes into success with enzymatic denial to inflate a perpetually bloated ego. Stuck to the host with media hooks, he hangs bloated and distorted; a parasitic vector infecting society with hate and misguided nostalgia; an anti-productive shell swollen with illusions of grandeur.
For the record, I do not agree that hot-heads, morons, undisciplined dreamers and untrained pretend soldiers should have unlimited access to firearms. Guns, like any technology, require knowledge and practice for proper use. Like automobiles and other deadly technology, firearms require respect; respect that comes from practice and knowledge; respect to not operate when impaired or emotionally distressed.
But that is not my message here, only a misplaced apology for any who might misunderstand what follows.
Firearms make hyper-violence possible, make everyday violence fatal and increase the potential number of victims in most violent situations. (As would explosives). Evidence indicates that controlling firearms nearly, if not completely, eliminates acts of deadly, mass violence. I accept all this but …
Firearms do not cause the violence. Something else does.
I think the root of that something else lives in the stories children hear and see.
Prior to the 1970’s, story-telling media presented heroes who overcame overwhelming odds using intelligence, determination and integrity. Collateral damage mattered. Villains were as well armed and often outnumbered heroes. Violence, for heroes, was a last resort. One they came to reluctantly.
In the 1970’s the action movie emerged with a new set of rules. Winning at any cost became important. Potential collateral damage no longer caused heroes to hesitate. Consistently high body counts could not be avoided. Violence emerged as the preferred, often only, response to threat, bullying and frustration. The guy with the biggest gun always won.
Complex, introspective heroes disappeared. Soul-searching and concern for by-standers fell by the wayside. The popularity of extreme action movies and our national curse of mass, public shootings increased.
I watched old movies during my formative years and suspect they, in part, shaped my character. Men and boys younger than I am, as are most who go on shooting sprees, watched action movies during their formative years; movies that taught, through story, that violence is an acceptable response to frustration; that collateral damage is inevitable; that the guy with the most and biggest guns wins; that dying is acceptable as long if you take as many of the opposition with you as possible.
I think common stories must affect decisions people make and action-hero stories inspire the emotionally stranded, small-minded and weak. Action-hero stories help them rationalize fantasies and actions the rest of us would find unacceptable. Yes, guns kill people but someone has to pull the trigger. Our stories make those trigger pullers. Extreme, unhesitant violence shapes life lessons taught by television, movies, books and games. It seems children are learning those lessons.
It seems we have suffered more presidential candidate debates than fit into seven or twelve martini glasses. With the entertainment value of cock-fights, they teach us nothing or less about candidates. Time for something new.
Let us petition MENSA to host a Presidential Candidate Qualification Test Day. Pick a school. Shut all candidates in a home room. Include everyone: Republican, Democrat, Green, Libertarian, independent and anyone else who might show up on the ballot. We can watch them test or wait for results. Watching might not be great reality TV and not entertain as much as watching presidential candidates crow at each other like territorial roosters but we will learn more from quiet testing than from noisy debates. And watching could have moments.
Consider watching for the subtle signs: who looks most frustrated; who tries to cheat; who finishes first; last; who does not finish. Will Rubio answer every question by filling in the dot under b? Will Cruz toss his pencil aside and let God fill in the form? Will Trump send an apprentice to take the test for him? Will Clinton sit behind Sanders? Will Sanders debate the validity of the tests? Do the third party and independent candidates sit to the front of the room or the back?
How will the pseudo-news networks play down the importance of test results?
As a side benefit, tests returning quantitative results would be heaven for bookmakers. What point spread will Las Vegas give candidates? Favoring who? Green over Democrats? Libertarian over Republicans? Or no point spreads because we have no idea who might score highest or lowest?
How horrified will we feel when we find out how low the highest scorer scores? Do we want to know how low the highest scorer scores. Maybe not. On second thought forget this crazy idea. What does smart have to do with running a nation anyway?
I am a lucky guy. I escaped a cage of poverty and ignorance and learned to fly a little. When needed, individuals appeared and magically steered me into opportunity. As long as I kept my wings open, life got better; better beyond my limited, adolescent dreams. I am a lucky guy.
This post has been a year in the writing and not yet right: too much me and too too long. I hesitate to whine but need to write this so I can get on to other writing. Let us get on to it:
December, 2013. I stumble into a nightmare of pain. Pain intensifies daily.
March, 2014. OFC meds fail to keep pain bearable. During a visit to my GP I realize my feet feel numb. My GP refers me to back and spine specialists. I enter the embarrassing labyrinth of U.S. healthcare and health insurance.
May, 2014. Back and spine specialists casually fail to discover cause of my condition. The pain increases daily and numbness expands to feet and ankles.
June 2014. Prescription opiates fail to manage the pain. I cannot sit for more than 10 minutes and stop working. Lack of sensation creeps up my legs to my knees. I stop driving because I can no longer find the gas, break and clutch pedals.
July 2014.Reduced to lying in a semi-fetal position using maximum doses of prescription opiates. Numbness becomes partial paralysis and creeps to my thighs. I use a cane to walk. With difficulty. Back and spine specialists find nothing in MRI images of my lower and middle spine that might cause my symptoms but order steroid injections into my middle spine.
August 2014. Paralysis progresses past my hips to my navel. Opiates upset digestion. I am reduced to lying in a semi-fetal position and moaning like a wounded animal. GP and I discuss paralysis reaching my sternum and interfering with breathing. I see no light at the end of the tunnel and write obituaries for social pages and my out-of-the-office email message.
Then I fell.
I fall in the bathroom,get up but fall on my way back to bed. I fall again when getting up for another dose of opiates.
Falling changes everything. Prior I felt as if the specialists thought I was faking it. They could not find causes for my pain and paralysis, thus I must be a hypochondriac or addict scamming for opiates.
I tell my GP I fell three times in one morning. He takes immediate action, sends MRI images of lower and middle spine to a surgeon. My GP calls the surgeon, explains I am falling. Two minutes later the surgeon orders an MRI of my upper, thoracic spine.
Duh!. The back and spine specialists had ordered MRI imaging of my lower and middle spine. When they told me they could not find anything in the images I suggested MRI imaging my upper spine. The back and spine specialists told me it was unlikely that anything in my thoracic spine would cause my symptoms.
September 2014. Arriving for the MRI, I ask for a bed while I wait; sitting hurts. They do not have a bed.
Get into the machine and know something’s up when the 45 minute MRI session stretches to 90. Get out of the machine and nurses lead me to an improvised bed. Told to report immediately to my GP. My GP says they found a tumor in my spinal column. He delivers the news like a death sentence … I think “Yippie – finally a light at the end of the tunnel.”
My GP referred me to an amazing neural surgeon at the Wisconsin Medical School in Milwaukee. Three days later he and his team performed surgery and successfully removed the tumor. Like most tumors of its kind, it proved benign.
The damage done by the tumor and the trauma of spinal surgery left me partially paralyzed from the waist down. Since the surgery, I have been confined to a wheel chair.
My little nightmare lasted thru 2014. In January of 2015 I decided a certain amount of pain preferable to prescribed opiates. A few days of withdrawal and I felt comfortable downgrading nightmare to ordeal. Today as I write this, I feel comfortable downgrading ordeal to major inconvenience. Like I said, I am a lucky guy. Not everyone gets to downgrade nightmares.
That is what this post is about. I lucky and yet I am in a wheelchair.
Thank you for reading. I feel this post too much about me and too little about the world but for this one time I hope it is okay.
I enjoy winter but hearing birdsong this morning set my soul on wings to soar with joy beyond that of snow falling like feathers. On the other hand, it could just be proximity. My favorite poem has always been the most recent.
To say final adieu to our snowy winter, I share this photograph.
The snow piled at either side of our driveway attained greatness in mid-March. I used our diesel Jetta – 50 mpg btw to provide scale. The photo looks a bit contrived, as if I used models, but this is really our mid-sized sedan parked by the snow. I shoveled most of the snow. At the time I shot this photograph, the snow stood higher than I about 6 foot 3, which meant I tossed snow skyward and wondered where the next bunch would go. Who needs a gym membership when you’ve got that going?
I post this now because enjoying winter includes whinging about winter. Not seriously whining but looking back and saying “I put up with this for why?”
Today, the first of May, winter feels finally over. The birdsong this morning felt like the official announcement. It snowed after I posted Winter Part 1, which caused a bit of hesitation …
The birds began about forty minutes before sunrise. As always, a sparrow opened the show. What he lacks in range and melody he makes up for in volume; a harsh, three note line followed by four edgy, staccato chirps – repeat – repeat – repeat; short it is but the world can hear it.
Eventually, others join in. As the first, faint grey line of false dawn backlit forest-top, a beautiful cacophony echoed between trees; each song unique and competing but connected in a weird, natural key. The cardinal’s ethereal whistle stands out for a moment. Then the warbling of the Robin catches my ear. Finches and other sparrows, more melodic than the opener, arrive. Finally, a surprise. The soft rising whistle of a chickadee; not the chick-a-dee-dee-dee that gives the name but his other, more elegant song.
Hooray, hooray for the first of May! For the next five months my mornings will begin with this feathered symphony.
Unless a new ice age is about to begin, a possibility I consider close to probability. In one of the narratives I play to amuse myself, global warming leads directly to a new Ice Age because the complex system we call Nature overcorrects. I regret the days of my life likely last only long enough for me to experience the whispered beginnings. I would so much like to see an Ice Age up-close and personal.
Big snow started to fall at end of January and lasted through mid-March. We enjoyed the snow when it fell soft through still air and suffered when bitter winds drove icy pellets across roads, through trees and into tender cheeks. Over the month and half, snow fell three or more days each week. Twice in February I shoveled seven consecutive days. Some days, twice. I took photos but for reasons all my own did not share. I shall share a few now.
This one was not taken during the big snow but shows how it begins. Streets lined with freshly fallen white and neighbors out early enthusiastically clearing driveways and sidewalks.
I like the Americana look of the photograph. To my eye, it suggests old prints of New England winters published by Culver and Ives or Currier and Ives or Burl Ives – something and Ives. It makes winter look wonderful and at the moment of exposure, winter felt wonderful; a moist chill refreshing cheeks; the finespun aroma of new snow, indistinct, sweet, unique; the brilliant unsoiled white spoiling the eye and the refreshing taste of atmosphere filtered of impurities by a million snowflakes.
If I’d taken a photograph of Morning, you would look at it and think “Meh.” – Sun bringing in light; not bright; a soft ochre smudge quietly reproaching with soft cast an impervious, gray on grey sky above incoherent articulations barked with shadow contrast by leafless trees, stark against uniformly white lawns; all unsaturated, colorless at a glance though elegant in a faded, woolen carpet sort of way.
But, if you could stand with me beneath the black walnut trees, feel the refreshing cool against your skin, share with maples across the lawn sweet suggestions of rising spring, embrace promises of imminent, immanent green, breath braided perfumes of snow and ice reaffirming destiny with thaw, I think you would, like I do, feel a moment of cosmic awe.
Yesterday, it snowed. Last night, it rained. This morning we woke to new snow covered by a thin layer of ice like syrup poured over frozen sugar. I had a childhood love/hate relationship with this kind of snow. Working carefully (tough job for a kid) I could lift slabs of the ice. In perfect conditions they were like poured glass. For some reason the ice fascinated me. Looking through it changed the landscape. When I tired of looking at it, I could break it into smaller pieces and sail it like frisbees. The ice also had a mean side. It broke beneath my feet and sharp edges painfully nicked ankles. Falling, a common side-effect of running, sledding and otherwise enjoying winter, into ice snow resulted in cuts on cheeks and wrists; wounds frequently not evident until after play when cold numbed skin warmed in front of the stove.
My last post was an essay written for the E-Learning and Digital Cultures offering by coursea.org. I will not be posting those essays here again. The tone and topic do not fit what I intend for this blog. Instead, using my alter-ego Chrome Poet, I am posting the essays at Cow Dot Chromepoet where, if you are interested, I posted a follow-on to the first essay. Writing the second essay proved as difficult as the first. I suspect reading it feels only slightly, if at all, easier. As I noted in the first essay, I do not find the current focus interesting. In the second, I think I explain why better than I did in the first. Though the essay appears at chromepoet.com and has a Chrome Poet byline, it was written by the Karl May side of my brain. I think a Chrome Poet version would be more entertaining albeit less polite or politically correct.
I would recommend avoiding the second essay but my ego is great. Having written and posted the essay, I would like to think someone read it. I doubt other students will.
Now, off to something real, shoveling ice snow. Thank you for stopping by.
This is a writing assignment. I signed up for E-Learning and Digital Cultures at coursea.org. I enjoyed past courses and wanted to see what academia was thinking about digital culture. I am enjoying the course but, as usual, find my reality does not align with an academic pov.
Week one addresses the Dystopian and/or Utopian nature of digital culture. After ingesting background material, I began working to write a short essay. That did not work out. Pen and ink slathered page after page after page. Ideas emerged, altered and reemerged. A blinding blizzard of ideas, a diarrhetic spewing of words and phrases, unthreaded, each an island occupied by howling inmates or cackling chickens but eventually, patterns formed and I got a feel for how I feel.
I learned I do not care. Attaching Dystopian or Utopian labels to digital culture feels meaningless to me. Fiction does well with with Dystopian and Utopian themes. In real life, those themes depend on what I ingested in the last hour. Coffee and yogurt: Utopian. Fries and soda: Dystopian.
A garbage dump of reactions, ideas and theory lie behind my conclusion. I list a few for those of you who made it this far.
Your Utopia is not my Utopia. Your Utopia might be one of my Dystopias. Society lacks a common Utopian dream. Individual Utopias emanate from that strange cocktail of personal history, neurological capacity and internal chemistry that makes each person unique; every man and every woman a star. The same Cocktail of Difference generates the fear, ego, resentment and morality that expose Dystopian nightmares. The lack of common criteria renders the contemplation meaningless.
If society agreed on commonly accepted visions of Utopia and Dystopia the discussion would remain relatively useless. People who have time to discuss the dystopian and utopian natures of digital culture are not setting the agenda for society. Those who set the agenda for society do not have time to discuss the Utopian or Dystopian natures of digital culture.
People would not recognize Utopia if it bit them. Provided with 24/7 access to food, people lament obesity. Enjoying 24/7 entertainment, people bewail lack of time. Take away the cakes and circuses, people yearn for the good old days of obesity and deadlines. The cup remains forever half-empty or half-full by attitude.
We are born. Life is dangerous. Sooner or later we die. Society could do better to eliminate arbitrary precarity caused by policy and misguided mores but at the end of the day: We are born. Life is dangerous. Sooner of later we die. Eliminating 100% of precarity created by commercial, religious and political interests does not affect the precarious nature of Nature.
Not much of an essay. As noted, I find the topic meaningless and of little use. This does not mean I am not enjoying the course. I enjoy the barrage of idea and learning what I think about things.
This image began as a photograph but ended up somewhere between photograph and digital painting. I grabbed the photograph in Green Bay during a Tall Ship Great Lakes tour. The beauty, the art and the size of the figurehead intrigued me but I failed to get a great photograph. Haze and low cloud cover gave the sky a uniform grey and the Fox river had a green tint – a hint at the name of the bay.
While modifying the photograph, I wanted to bring focus to the figurehead and provide a better backdrop than dull sky. I considered masking in a new sky but to digitally paint instead. In my opinion result falls somewhere between photograph and digital painting. I hope it goes far enough.
Ships like the Bounty changed the world. We tend to forget that prior to ubiquitous, internal combustion engines sea lanes and rivers were the highways. Fleets of ships like the HMS Bounty were the airlines, trains and trailer trucks of the age.
I was working on the image when I read the Bounty and two crew members were lost at sea while trying to evade hurricane Sandy. I set the project aside for a few weeks but after further consideration, decided to continue.