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If I Was A Religious Person

November 13, 2017 Leave a comment

I might have been tempted to believe that the wrath of God is upon us. The proliferation of hurricanes, tornadoes, cyclones, earthquakes, forest fires, landslides, avalanches, floods and tsunamis seems like punishment for our massive sins against nature and our planet’s people.

I am, however, an atheist, so I must find another way to explain the mess. It is nature attacking us. Nature does not seek vengeance or harbor a grudge. Nature responds to its conditions and works to survive, just as we people do when we’re up against a dangerous situation.

These days, it’s obvious that the climate is in the throes of change. Of course, the climate has always changed over the millennia, but human activities have made it change too quickly. We’ve crammed centuries into decades. The planet is unable to absorb and adapt so quickly to the atmospheric changes. Perhaps we, as a species have been so consumed with gaining and maintaining superiority that we gobbled up everything we could turn into ‘goods’.

Recent reports in the USA claim an increase in jobs. The reason is that the Trump administration removed controls that moderate our natural resources so he and his oligarch gang can enrich themselves at the cost of the planet. With no control over polluting water and air, industry can hurry on, free of expensive restrictions.

While they make more money from making more stink to make more widgets, Trump voters march happily to work, overlooking the destruction being foisted upon their grandchildren and beyond. In the end, nothing matters because eternity is not ours. We are limited in time but eternity and infinity will go on without us. It is not God’s work.

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2 Books, 2 Authors, 2 Plum Trees

October 26, 2017 Leave a comment

Two books that I consider to be among the best are: A Confederacy of Dunces and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Two more books that follow the life of Lisbeth Salander followed the latter. A Confederacy of Dunces stands alone. There will be no more books by Stieg Larsson, who wrote the Salander books, nor from John Kennedy Toole, who wrote the Dunces book.

Both books met with immediate acclaim when they were published posthumously. They are, in fact, fabulous stories brilliantly told. Anyone who enjoys reading strong, earthy, beautifully written books must read these four – the three by Larsson and one by Toole.

Films were made of the Larsson trilogy, I’ve not heard of a worthy one for Toole’s book. The American versions of the Salander story, to me, are not worth the time of day. The Swedish versions, with subtitles, are brilliant. The casting, the acting, the script, every scrap of them is great.

Ignatius Jacques Reilly is the morbidly obese and endlessly pompous star of A Confederacy of Dunces. He is unique in literature, and is purely wonderful. The lead character in the Larsson books and films is Lisbeth Slander, the most fascinating and exciting hero you’ll ever read.

You might well wonder where the plum trees come into this story. I used to own a hobby farm in the mountains where I kept horses and sometimes pigs and cows. There’s an ancient apple orchard behind the house. It’s very picturesque, with the old, gnarled trunks and untrimmed limbs.

At far corners of the orchard, diagonal from each other were two, old, sterile plum trees. For years, while the apple trees were bursting with huge, antique apples, the plum trees appeared to be little more than four inch wide sticks in the ground.

Suddenly, one spring, the plum trees came to life. To super life, I want to say. Both trees burst forth with volumes of perfect, beautiful, Damson plums. Bushels of them. Sweet, firm Damson plums from trees that we thought were long dead. They produced a vast amount of wonderful nourishment, and then they died dead. Forever.

Similarly, both Stieg Larsson and John Kennedy Toole burst forth with brilliant books. They created stories and characters unparalleled in modern literature. They nourished readers’ minds with intrigue and excitement. Then they died.

Stieg Larsson died suddenly, of a heart attack at fifty. John Kennedy Toole took his own life at forty-four. I like to think that, like the plum trees, the effort to produce such a fine result was more than life could sustain. They gave their all, the plum trees and the authors. We have their books, and they are as much a blessing as were the plums.

John Kennedy Toole

Stieg Larsson

Toole (top) – Larsson (bottom)

The Destructive Drive for Wealth

October 19, 2017 Leave a comment

When ‘maximized profits’ is the goal, someone or something is going to suffer. How can a marketer maximize profits, while it’s already doing everything possible? One can make the product more cheaply and charge more for it. When a corporation’s goal is to get rich no matter what, its staff, suppliers, and customers all lose out.

Companies fight to keep employees’ wages and benefits low so the company can flourish. At the same time, the employees are the energy that manufacture, deliver, and perhaps sell the product. Why would an employer not appreciate the employees? Because employees cost a lot of money, and companies don’t like to part with any money at all.

We ‘normal’ people might be unable to understand how a company can deny living wages to its employees while awarding huge bonuses to senior executives. Well, perhaps those greedy people have a weakness in their spirit that enables them to be selfish at all times.

Personally, I would reject the life of the wealthy, because it doesn’t suit me. I was raised in a wealthy family, and felt out of place. The quiet life among simple people suits me better. At the same time, I enjoy a great deal of intellectual stimulation on social media. The Internet is also a great creative stimulus that helps me to live comfortably.

Living in Overtime

October 16, 2017 2 comments

Gloria Steinem is about 83, just 3 years older than I am. I plagiarize her excellent statement: “Most people my age are dead.” It is true, and it feels a bit strange. I can think back to many times and many things that are perhaps unknown by many people.

It is peculiar for me to realize that most of the girls I dated in high school are dead and gone. My first wife died recently, at 77. Men with whom I grew up, some with whom I had business dealings, most are gone. The worst thing about it, about social media, is that I’ve learned that I wasn’t as well liked as I thought I was.

I thought a lot about why some friends since high school would not remember me fondly. The only thing it could be was jealousy. I regarded myself as the same as any of them. Our neighbourhoods were just blocks apart in various directions, and we were a group of teenaged boys and girls, most from the same high school.

In spite of the neighbourhood proximity, it seems my family was somewhat wealthier than others. I was really not aware of it at the time. If I think back and picture some moments, I see what they saw. After a dance, 2 or 3 couples would get into somebody’s father’s borrowed car and head for the coffee house. I would get into my car, which was a new Corvette, and meet up at the coffee house. I didn’t see that I had any advantage or superiority, but they seem to have cloaked me with it.

The few friends I retained, who saw me for who I am without envy, are still friends today. Well, two of them are. The other passed away some years ago. This brings me back to living in overtime. Some old folks forsake the opportunity to explore the world through the Internet. It saddens me, because there is a great deal of pleasure in seeing what’s going on through a faster method than television. The inter-active aspect keeps one busy.

The best thing for a writer to have is a good supply of experiences on which to feed one’s creativity. I can remember horses on the streets of the city, pulling wagons with bread, or milk, cream and butter, or blocks of ice for the ice box. There was the coal man, too. He would carry heavy sacks of coal on a leather-padded shoulder. One after the other, he’d carry them up the driveway and empty each sack through a basement window where a coal chute slid the black rocks into the coal bin.

One of my parents, usually my mother, would go down to the basement from time to time to shovel coal into the old furnace. Sometimes they would clean out the clinkers, the terrible rocks of razor sharp points and edges. The geniuses at my grammar school, which was virtually a 19th century institution, thought it would be good to take clinkers, points and edges and all, and spread them evenly over the schoolyard. You can easily imagine what happened to a kid’s knee and pants when playing tag and falling.

The life and comfort of my great-granddaughter is assured. Wiser heads have prevailed, and safety and comfort of our upcoming generations is a priority. I just enjoy being old, and watching and learning from the varied societies that surround me. I don’t fear death. Never have. Meanwhile, I’m having as much fun as I can until overtime is over the limit.

Wealth, Location & other disadvantages

October 12, 2017 Leave a comment

Creative people who come from wealthy families have less to struggle for than do impoverished creative people. A person from a simple, working-class family has dreams to pursue: a new car, a new smartphone, a home on a hill – things that draw the person ever forward, like a carrot on a stick.

A person who grows up in a small village is not exposed to a wide variety of environments. The experience the city person has is much more varied. . Underground trains to all parts of the greater city are mere steps away. Underground gardens and waterfalls, surrounded by stores offering styles and labels from the designers of the world, are not experienced by the remote village person

Theatre options, concerts and movies are available in great numbers. Art gallery openings and museum exhibits are frequent. People from virtually every nation travel the streets of the city. Every profession and every job position is available to those who pursue them.

Wealth in a creative person can be a distraction. One does not dream of a nice car that one already owns. One has a fine home, respect, and most importantly; alternatives. One who has alternatives has the finest life.

When one has a fine, high quality life, one has little inspiration to pursue risky options. One who has suffered deprivation because of location or poverty, has a lot of reasons to push hard against the vagaries of life.

Two People are Questioned…

June 27, 2017 3 comments

First to face the inquisitors is a mature person, basically intelligent and well educated in top quality schools. The inquisitors lay out a conundrum for the wise, mature, intelligent person to consider for one calm, thoughtful hour.

The conundrum is this: The leader of a nation lies steadily and obviously, while the truth is evident to all. The leader fails to deliver, or attempt to deliver the promised needs of the general population. He tramples the nation’s laws, rules, and constitution and steers wealth to oligarchs while wreaking hardship and health hazards on the average citizens.

The question to the intelligent person is this; can you find reason and justification to believe in and support such a national leader? Consider carefully for one hour.

The hour passes quietly as the educated person analyses the conundrum. At the hour’s end, the person admits that there is no way to not hate and reject that leader.

The second person to be faced with the conundrum is a handyman that lives in government subsidized housing. He said he didn’t “need no stinkin’ hour. It’s obviously Trump, and Trump is the best, straightest president ever, and the media is all lies and fake news.”

And so falls the hard-earned dominance of the USA. They’ve got it coming to them.

Dr. Huxtable, Please Stop!

June 17, 2017 Leave a comment

I assume the Bill Cosby hung jury is because some jurists just didn’t want to tarnish the ‘America’s Dad’ image. I sympathize with that. I loved Cosby’s stand up acts, when he was just out of college. I guess I saw him on late night talk shows in those days.

Later, he was co-staring with Robert Culp in a mock cop show. I think it was called ‘I Spy’. I liked the show and the actors, and it hurts to think that Bill Cosby was drugging and raping women during those years. Why would he? Perhaps his personal kink is that the woman has to be inert. It’s abnormal, but it’s been heard of.

I was expecting, and hoping, that the prosecution would not retry Cosby. He’s guilty, and he’s old and somewhat blind, so what would the law do to him? If they would elect not to retry, the kids that loved the Fat Albert cartoons and other comedy things that Bill Cosby created, could continue to be cool with Dr. Huxtable.