Strange

“There's something strange going on tonight/There's something going on that's not quite right.”—R.E.M. “Strange”

It came out in 1987, but R.E.M.’s album Document is the perfect album for this year. Each song fits with the apocalyptic-tinted, Trump-tainted incoming year. For the remainder of January, all my posts will share an R.E.M song title.

Questions I don’t feel the need to entertain: Why did so many women march? Why can’t people unite under our new President? Why are women angry? What was the purpose of the march?

I don’t want to ignore those subjects, but the questions, especially online, seem to be posed only for the sake of beginning an argument. In a recent online post, a local resident was writing about the overwhelming positive experience she had gathering in downtown Portsmouth NH as a part of the Women’s March on Jan. 20th. One commenter kept pestering her to answer his question: Why did women march? She advised him to do a little reading—google, it! But he wouldn’t let up. “It’s a simple question, right? Shouldn’t there be a simple answer?” He just wanted to argue. It was worse because I am acquainted with the rude-commenter, someone who seems nice enough if you were to meet him in the store. Online, behind the veil of the comment box, his questions was simply bullying. He might as well have been saying: “If you can’t answer me here, then obviously you don’t know what you’re talking about! You’re experience was useless and stupid.”

Seriously, in this age of information, you don’t have to ask those questions. A real debate does not start with those sorts of questions, or at least not those questions asked in service of belittling an experience. So how do I find answers to questions I have? I read. I’m doing my utmost to find the answers to all of these questions by reading. There is plenty I don’t know. I’m learning too. Although I’ve posted them many times in the last few weeks, I wanted to share again the list of news sources that I’ve been drawn to since Trump’s victory on election day (there are new sites on this list as well): Seacoast Online, Boston Globe, NYTimes, Washington Post (these guys have the best iPad interface, which really makes me want to read them more), ProPublica, Mother Jones (a friend notes correctly that MJ’s headlines are often divisive clickbait, but their investigative journalism is the real deal), The Economist, The Nation, Slate, The Guardian, BBC News, Frontline, NPR News, Investigative Reporters and Editors (through their blog Extra Extra), the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, Real Clear Investigations, The Intercept, The Center for Public Integrity, Reveal News from the Center for Investigative Reporting, and about a half-dozen other newspapers from around the country that I’m paying attention to on a less regular basis. Here is a link for many of these groups: http://billmoyers.com/story/10-investigative-reporting-outlets-to-follow/ I’ve decreased my dependence on aggregate news sites—I’ve deleted those from my devices—and increased my intake for news from specific publications.

The tidal shift in our government has lead to an adherence to authoritarian rhetoric, self-aggrandizement, and doublespeak. Kellyanne Conway’s recent invoking of “alternative facts” during an interview with Chuck Todd on NBC is frightening, but it’s only the tip of the iceberg. There are facts and there is interpretation of facts. In my news reading, I’m looking for facts (i.e. Here’s what happened; here is what was said; here are the numbers.) And then I’m looking for critical, verifiable, quantifiable, well-sourced interpretation of those facts.

If you want to argue, you can ask loaded questions that are designed to hurt or bully. If you want actual answers, facts and interpretations, I offer the only path: seek out reputable sources and read. Once that happens, a real debate can begin.

When I post about my political or social justice activities, it’s not an invitation to debate in the comments sections. If you yell at me online, I’ll just delete the comment. If you’d like to have a conversation about any of my ideas, I’m pretty easy to find. Let’s do it in person. I’ll even buy the first cup of coffee. We’ll get along famously in person. And in return, I promise not to yell at you online, too. Deal?

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superbowlCould this be the last Superbowl I’ll ever watch? Perhaps. I feel un-American just typing those words. I’ve been watching the BIG GAME since the third or fourth grade, nearly forty years of football. So why the change? I still like the game of football. In fact, it’s probably the only sport I enjoy watching on television. I even like the Superbowl commercials and the cheesy halftime shows. The games recently have been mostly exciting and well paced, not over by the end of the second quarter like they were so often in the late 80’s and 90’s. So what’s the deal?

1. We’re ditching cable television. There are so many channels and yet nothing is ever on. We only watch stuff on DVR or streaming through a service like Netflix or Hulu. On demand is fine, but they won’t let  you fast forward through many commercials there any longer. Plus, take away the cable and phone and leaving only the internet will save us about a grand a year. One side effect of this plan will be that we have no access to sports, unless they offer a streaming package online. But…

2. Once I accepted the fact that I no longer needed nor wanted cable and confronted the fact that I’d be no longer be able to watch football, I found I didn’t really care. It just didn’t bother me. Why did I lose interest? The game has certainly changed. The players are all over the league. Fantasy football has altered the conversation. Aside from a few players, it seems that “team” means little. Follow the check. It’s a business. The pay scales are beyond ridiculous. The injuries are constant. It’s only a matter of time before a player is hit so hard that they are killed. And…

3. I’ve been trying to focus my attention on important things. Being where I am. Not being tethered to devices. Appreciating the moments that are passing me by. And when I pondered the Superbowl, I found that it wasn’t important in any way to me. Football was not important. In fact, it felt like a trap–just another extravaganza to muddle my thinking and keep from pondering the larger verities. Maybe this isn’t just about football. Maybe it’s not about cable television itself. Maybe it’s just about me. Aren’t there things I want to do?

4. Yes. Be with my family. Practice yoga. Read more. Write more. Visit with friends more.  Be outside more. Build more. Search more. Connect. Only Connect! (thanks to E.M. Forster).

5. No, I’m not saying I won’t watch TV shows. I’m ready to start watching season 2 of Homeland and season three of Justified and a whole host of comedies (Parks and Rec, Modern Family, and Bob’s Burgers), but when I turn the television on, I want to be in charge of what’s on the screen. And football is one of the casualties.

6. So, yes, this might be the last Superbowl I watch. So, I have one request to the giant gladiator-like men that are about to collide with each other next Sunday: please make it a good one.

 

Oh, Walking Dead #Plotholes, You Slay Me…

…let me count the ways…

I’m late to the Walking Dead Party on season two. A few days ago, I watched the season opener. Here are some thoughts:

1). Monologue on top of the building to start the show. Bye buddy. We’re leaving Atlanta. How’d you get away from the exploding CDC? Why’d you go back to the city? Why’d you climb to the top of the building? Where were the other people? Did they okay the return so that you could call your imaginary buddy and say goodbye? Stay safe, good buddy. Stay safe.

2). The Cars People! The Cars! They are still driving the same shitty cars! It drives me crazy that they drive around in that stupid ancient Winnebago. And that Jeep! At one point, they push a perfectly good Ford Explorer off the road into a ditch. SO THAT THEY CAN GET THEIR CRAPPY JEEP FURTHER DOWN THE ROAD! TAKE THE FORD, YOU IDIOTS!

3). Okay, so they come across a five hundred car pile up in the middle of nowhere. That could happen, I guess. I suppose people were all driving bumper to bumper and when the first car suddenly burst into “zombie,” all the other cars just rammed right into each other. Or, a few cars had a zombie “incidents” and all the other cars came blazing down the highway and slammed into the other wrecked cars. I suppose it could happen, that everyone could totally not be paying attention that way.

4). Worse still, they argue about whether or not they should take things from the cars. Then one guy finds a water truck and wastes an entire five gallon bucket of water for no good reason. The old guy climbs on top of his Winnebago to look for zombies. Good idea. Smart. As far as the eye can see: NO ZOMBIES. It’s a long straight road. He’s scanning North, South, East, West. WITH BINOCULARS. Big binoculars. He should be able to see forever! Suddenly, out of nowhere, a zombie. That’s understandable. It’s a zombie show, after all. But then there’s another. And then two hundred or so. OUT OF NOWHERE. Where’d they come from? Where are they going? Why don’t they smell the humans? The living characters hide beneath cars and no zombie smells them. One zombie (a pretty scary looking one… I should give props where they are due) walks into the Winnebago and finds the one person hiding inside. The rest of the folks stay under the cars. UNDER  CARS! The hungry, hungry zombies can’t find the people outside, but put one scairdy cat blonde inside an RV bathroom and a zombie will find her every time. I reckon.

5). I have to lump some of these together: one girl gets freaked out and chased. Now they zombies are running. Running zombies. Which are they people? Stumblers or runners? The two worlds cannot co-exist, right? The sheriff saves her by drawing off the zombies but dooms her by sending her off on her own to find her way back. Ultimately, he hacks open a dead-zombie stomach to see what it has eaten. Somehow, the zombie has swallowed a bone that is identifiable as a varmit, not a girl. Meanwhile, no one is worried that two men have dug around inside a zombie. I’m still not clear on why that won’t infect you. Is it the actual bite that is the issue? Do the teeth carry the virus? Is it something about zombie dental hygiene? Too many loose threads. Can’t the virus enter through a hangnail if you’re digging around in zombie guts? Later, they come upon a dead man in a tent. Apparently, he reeks pretty bad, but the nylon of the tent holds the stench away. Once they open the tent, however, they’re bowled over by the smell of the decomposing body. Then they hear church bells and dash over to a church in the middle of nowhere that has three zombies in wedding outfits sitting inside. Why? Why? Why? Why are the zombies sitting there? It’s not a plot-hole, necessarily, but it’s as if the writers said: “Okay, let’s drop wedding zombies in here. That’ll be cool.” It simply doesn’t do anything for the story. But once they dispatch those undead, the real boredom starts.

6). Prayer. In the last half hour of the show, there’s a whole lot of praying. Praying out loud, too. In front of an audience. BOR-ING. Hanging out in the church with the chunked up zombies all over the floor, just praying and praying to the gigantic Jesus. I kept hoping that Jesus would climb down off the cross and demand their brains. Finally, the sheriff–despite the dire urgency of the search (night is coming and the girl is out there….ALONE) decides he needs to go in and talk to Jesus too. His prayer is long and windy. He asks for a sign. Later, in the woods, he sees a deer. Everyone knows that deer are signs from baby Jesus himself. Pffftttt.

I’ve decided, for better or worse, that I can’t watch anymore of this show. The hype is unbelievable, and many people I know love it, but the characters all seem like idiots and the writing is simply too inconsistent for me to devote my time to it. I’m not a tv snob–not everything has to be The Wire–but life is too short to spend even a second more annoyed at what is happening on the screen.

They called it the Robot in my day

But Dubstep is what the kids call it now. A bit of sonic and physical strangeness. Haunting, really. The guy must have leg muscles like steel wires. I don’t know why this thought struck me, but: if this guy is still dancing when I die, I’d like him to come do some dubstepping at whatever memorial/funeral there is. Just alone in a room, this guy and some trance-y music. It shouldn’t be explained, either. Just put him a room and put a velvet rope across the doorway so no one goes in there. Let him do his thing. And if that gets too serious, then people can walk over to the Simpson’s room and laugh for a while. I can think of nothing better than to have Ralph Wiggum saying, “I bent my wookie” and this android-dude dubstepping at a memorial service.

The Real Truth About President Obama

There are those that think our President is not an American citizen–that he somehow tricked a whole mess of people into believing he was born in Hawaii so that he could ruin the country with his radical socialism. These “birthers,” as they are called, have sought the release of President Obama’s birth certificate for a long time and now that it’s been released, they’re crying foul. Normally, I try to stay clear of such political hullaballoos on my blog, but, like the old blind lady said in movie based on that book, “You gots to make a stand.”

Hey, look, I have nothing against the “birthers.” I suspect they’re nice folk. But they’re way off, naive even. They have this little string that they’re pulling, trying to unravel a sweater that doesn’t even exist. They look under one rock, then another, but they aren’t getting any closer to the real truth. Up till now, I’ve not told anyone of my findings. It’s just too scary. But now, it’s go time. Plus, I just drank a double quad-expresso and I have some time to kill before the Benadryl kicks in.

You thought not having/forging a birth certificate was big news? Pfffftttt. That’s nothing. I’m officially announcing tonight the formation of the “Projector” movement, which is seeking to demand that our “President” prove to the citizens of our country that he is not in any way a digitized form or projected hologram. I’ve had people on the ground (literally, on the ground, often “re-grouping” or “resting” after a heavy “lunch”) and you won’t believe what they’ve found. It turns out that there’s really no proof, none whatsoever, that “President” Obama is actually human at all.

Fact: I’ve never touched Obama. How do I know he isn’t a hologram? That right there should proof enough for anyone. Not enough for you? Fine. On we go.

Fact: Holograms exist. George Lucas used them extensively in his epic Star Wars films and most of Alan Alda’s scenes in M.A.S.H. were projected via “phax” machines, an early squash based digital projector, precursor to the more popular “walkman” projector made famous by Robert Redford in Electric Cowboy. In fact, Alan Alda rarely left his home in Venice Beach during M.A.S.H.‘s heyday.).

Fact: Nobody you know has ever touched Obama. Sure, there are the “urban myths” we all hear. My cousin’s best friend’s uncle shook Obama’s hand at a rally in Pittsfield. Sure, he did. And Mr. Mumboto, esteemed colleague from Nigeria desperately needs your help to get his funds into the United States. Trace the myth, people. You’ll see that Obama has never come in contact with any human skin, anywhere. Is that the American way? If I was running for President tomorrow, wouldn’t I have to touch people? “Have to?” Forget “have to.”  I’d demand it. My slogan would be: Touch me now, Vote for me on Election Day.

Fact: In twelve states, including Michele Bachmann’s own Minnesota, there are now Resolutions before State Electoral Boards that would require Presidential candidates to dedicate sixteen campaign hours per week to “kissing” or “touching” booths to ensure that enough people physically touch the man destined to be their King President.

Fact: In no less than twenty speeches that Obama has given, he has mysteriously flickered and become translucent before large groups of people. White House staffers have routinely blamed the lighting technicians of different venues, claiming that the “hippie” spotlight operators were having fun messing with the “man.” Has anyone ever spoken to one of these longhair theater technicians? One must question their very existence.

Fact: Despite what that other group (the “R’Obamas”) claims, there is no way that President Obama is a robot socialist sent from the future to weaken our country. First of all, time travel is ridiculously expensive and arduous, even for a robot. Second, we’ve found no proof that a robot could travel through time in any of the known time machine apparatti–and if a robot socialist is impossible, the very idea of a future-human-socialist-time-traveler is simply ludicrous. First, do you have any idea how much time you’d spend simply traveling back and forth to the future to talk with your socialist leaders in their grey and imposing offices? Like half your life! After a while, you’d be all like, “Hey, man what year is this? Am I duping you now or am I reporting to my superiors?” And you know what you’d be doing the other half of your life? Well you’d either be puking in your oval office toliet or you’d be on the floor trying to deal with the effects of H.G.Wells-Lag: heavy bones, viscous lungs, and fluttering liver. So if you see Jerry Mandrake over at the R’Obama headquarters, you can tell him that Clark Knowles and the Projectors totally dissed his stupid conspiracy theory and that we didn’t want to meet in his rec-room anyway, no matter how cool his new snow-cone machine is.

Fact: There are eyewittness reports of Obama mysterious appearing in small scale from the video-ports of a number of small robots, including but not limited to: soda machines, Zunes, BSG Toasters, and random boxes of Pop-tarts.

Fact: The American people deserve better than a visual figment that can produce a birth certificate and bio/neuro/digi or chemically reproduce with the always classy first lady to sire two lovely daughters (note to self: check on safety of First Family. Do they know into what nefarious schemes they’ve been duped? My guess, no.). They deserve a real man who can reach out and touch. A husband, father, friend…lover.

Fact: Even if he can reach out and touch, why hasn’t he done so yet? And if he does tomorrow? Why then? What’s going on over there? Is anyone watching the henhouse? How come the Lamestream media isn’t looking into the virtual fraud that is turning our country into a socialist paradise nightmare? Is there no one left to protect our freedoms?

Fact: Yes, there is. Join the Projectors today. Contributions can be made via PayPal. All donations are(not) tax deductable.

Be ready, America. The lid is about ready to be flipped.

An Open Letter to Gil Grissom

We miss you Gil. The team isn’t the same without you. They’re doing okay, solving crimes, using those micro-wave type machines to analyze anything under the sun, accessing the incredible array of databases (an entire database for the fabrics used in automobile trunks! A national list of shark DNA!), putting on their sunglasses and shining flashlights into the already brightly lit corners of murder scenes. Vegas is still glitzy and sinny and Nick has become a solid, dependable man in your absence. Catherine has struggled some to come to terms with being in charge of the team. She’s had this on and off thing with one of the detectives (does it matter which one? Gil, please. You know it doesn’t!) and he’s pressured her to become something she isn’t. She simply wants to be back in the field. Turns out, she’s come to some sort of acceptance about her father’s life. She owns a stake in a casino, but she’s as straight an arrow as ever. Sarah’s been back for a while, but you know that. I suspect you miss her fiercely, but also clinically. Hard to tell how deep your passions run; your attentions are always been drawn to some insect somewhere, some indicator of decomposition. Greg nearly got sidetracked by a dame this year. Almost. But you trained him good. Truthfully, everyone is doing their best, but something is lacking. Ray’s been a good part of the team, certainly, but we’re all wondering how carefully you vetted the guy. He’s a deeply strange man. He’s hiding something–or wants us to believe he’s hiding something and you know better than anyone that can’t be good. When did a secret turn out to be good news? If nothing else, it means he doesn’t trust his team, yet. But is that it? We’re worried that he might bring down their world. You gave him your seal of approval, of course, so we keep fighting to like the guy. He’s capable and can be quite imposing, but distant too. Not distant like you, Gil. You were distant, but human. Ray seems too composed, with too many skeletons waiting to gum up the works. Ecklie is barely around these days. Maybe because he has no foil, no dark office to barge into demanding results. Maybe he knows that without you, he’s just another bureaucrat trying to close out open cases? Brass? Brass is all sarcasm now. He’s hurting without you. He’d never say it, of course, and I’d hate to be in the interrogation room with him (he’s a pit-bull, that guy, he just won’t let go) but his undeniable, unshakable sense of justice feels more lonesome now, less emphatic. Working without you has simply exhausted him. You were his anchor, but you knew that. Part of the reason he relied on you was because he trusted that you’d never say things like, “I’m your anchor.” It was just something we all felt. And face it, the rest of the world isn’t so pretty either Gil. There are bugs you can examine right here in the deserts surrounding Las Vegas. Part of you left because you could no longer take the ugliness of the streets. But here’s the rub: no matter where you go, people are going to be awful to each other. You leave Vegas, head to Peru or Indonesia, but you find the same stuff there. And you bring yourself with you wherever you go. But us? Left here alone? Our streets are worse without you Gil. The team brings all their best selves to our service. They do, they really do. They are troopers. But they’re not making it without you. And when they hurt, we all hurt. We aren’t the sort of people that would ask you to return simply because we missed you. We aren’t that shallow nor insensitive. We saw you last week, you know. We were peeking over Sara’s shoulder as she spoke with you via iChat. Just seeing you there Gil, that quick flash of your smile, the no-nonsense explanation of how we got the word “sex-pot” into our language, undid us. It wasn’t until maybe that very instant that we realized how much we missed you, and how much we needed you. You carried us through it all, Gil. You made our lives a bit better, hour by hour. So we’re asking–and we know what this entails, we understand the sacrifice–that you come home. We’ll make your return a joyous affair. We won’t take you for granted. We’re sure the powers that be would let you dictate your own terms. So, we aren’t asking that you make a split-second decision here. Take your time. Talk it over with the wife. Get back to us in a week or so. We’ll be waiting. Thursday night is always a good night to call. Or don’t call. Just show up. Surprise us. It’s something that’s been lacking in our lives, that sense of surprise and discovery that you bring to every crime scene you analyze. At least think about it, okay? Your office remains as you left it. Waiting, waiting.

Toyota ads…

Top ten things I’d say to the annoying blonde kid in the Toyota commercials that shames his parents into buying a better car:

1. Shut up.

2. We’re doing the best we can. You want me to get a second job so you won’t be embarrassed to be seen with me? Your selfishness is making your grandmother cry.

3. Peace comes from within. Do not seek it without.—Buddha

4. That man is the richest whose pleasures are the cheapest.—Thoreau

5. Seriously, shut up.

6. We found you in a Kmart. All the customers drew straws to see who took you home. We drew the short straw.

7. Sure, the basement is cold and dark. You’ll get used to it.

8. Elmo does not love you. Get in the car.

9. That car you covet so is a symbol of all that is wrong with American consumerist culture. Besides, I could squash you like a bug.

10.  Every time you talk, God kills a puppy.