Getting Better As Well As Older


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OK, so last month I celebrated my sixty-eight birthday. I admit, I never thought I’d last this long. I figured by now I’d be drooling in a nursing home or dead. Instead I’m swimming regularly and tooling around on a big motorcycle.

I feel younger and more vital than I did thirty years ago. Go figure. But I still have to do something with myself, and in order to feel like I’m not just a drain on society, sucking air, I have to get better at something. I have to apply myself.

When I was a kid, we lived in St. Louis, the home of Monsanto. Along with Dow Chemical they are reviled for their work in toxic chemistry. In New York, General Electric was once a major employer, but now they occupy a shell of their former glory. Their slogan was “Progress is our most important product.”

Kodak was once a powerhouse and today they barely exist.

Now thanks to their ham-fisted marketing of Roundup Ready GMO seeds, Monsanto has fallen into such bad repute that the brand name no longer exists. They’ve been swallowed by Bayer, a German company best known for aspirin.

No one can accuse me of having progress as my most important product.

So I’m doing two things: I’m learning baroque piano pieces and I’m learning Thai. That’s not much compared to working for a living, but it’s something. I”m not sitting in a recliner watching television. Even though the blogs and books I write are seen by only a few people and generate no income, I write anyway.

What’s the alternative? If I were to completely retire from the world I’ve known, I guess I could become a Buddhist monk. There are hundreds of temples all around me, and the biggest ones accept foreigners into meditation retreats. That might not be fun, but it would be different.

I’ve given up a lot already. I’ve stopped recreational shopping, I no longer apply for jobs I don’t want, and I’m comfortable hanging out at home for far longer periods than I was for most of my adult life. Heck, I can sometimes concentrate on an activity for a full hour!

No bells ring to mark the beginning or end of my activities, I take no cigarette breaks, at the end of the day I have no visible gain or result to account for my time. I piddle. That’s it. I’m a piddler.

 

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OK, so last month I celebrated my sixty-eight birthday. I admit, I never thought I’d last this long. I figured by now I’d be drooling a nursing home or dead. Instead I’m swimming regularly and tooling around on a big motorcycle.

I feel younger and more vital than I did thirty years ago. Go figure. But I still have to do something with myself, and in order to feel like I’m not just a drain on society, sucking air, I have to get better at something. I have to apply myself.

When I was a kid, we lived in St. Louis, the home of Monsanto. Along with Dow Chemical they are reviled for their work in toxic chemistry. In New York, General Electric was once a major employer, but now they occupy a shell of their former glory. Their slogan was “Progress is our most important product.”

Kodak was once…

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Blogs About Blogs


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These are tough days to try to make it in the creative arts. Most people don’t value content, much less content creation or its creators. They value gizmos, apps, things that do something clever. An app that compares your shoe size to the outside temperature and hair color and then tells you your horoscope. Write that code and maybe you’ll attract venture capital. Wrangle that algorithm and maybe you’ll get bought out, so you can start work on your memoirs.

Writing. What’s writing? Isn’t writing that horrible school assignment where you had to go to the library and do research and then you copied a bunch of crap out of some books and tried to change it a little and then you got your paper back all marked up with grammatical and stylistic errors. We hate writing. Writing is something done by others that you highlight, copy and paste, but…

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Communalism vs. Rugged Individualism


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I saw a picture again today on Facebook that really bugs me. It’s a picture of an American soldier crawling through a Vietnamese tunnel in search of people to kill. He’s holding a flashlight in one hand an a pistol in the other. The picture was meant to inspire Americans about bravery of our troops who would crawl through such little spaces at such great risk.

Having visited Vietnam multiple times now that I’m just a few hundred miles away from the country, the picture seems more absurd than ever. Why were we crawling around in their tunnels looking for people to kill? They didn’t come to our country to do the same. When I posted that on Facebook, somebody responded “he’s looking for enemy combatants.” I thought about saying “you mean he’s looking for people who are willing to die to rid their land of invaders.”

I’ve been living…

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Tube Junkie


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For as long as I can remember I have been a sucker for electronic gadgets. I was about nine when the transistor was invented. Before then, everything used tubes. The local dime store had a tube testing machine, and I found that I could collect old radio and televisions from the neighbors that no longer worked and find out which tubes were burnt out. Even though I couldn’t buy the replacement tubes, I could tell someone else how to fix the set.

We also had an X ray machine at the local shoe store that allowed you to see the bones in your feet. The salesmen would chase me away when they found me playing with it.

In the sixties, everything electronic began to change rapidly. Printed circuit boards containing semi-conductors don’t have the same panache that wires and tubes had. I began to lose interest. The more I learned…

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Inspiration or Compulsion?


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Do nothing. Be sure to rest afterwards.

Sometimes the hardest thing to do is nothing at all. It’s often more difficult to sit still than to run around in a flurry of activity. If you do manage to stop all activity, a loud voice will enter your head and chastise you for being lazy, a loser, a washout. If you can resist that voice, then you might surprise yourself with inner peace and an occasional unanticipated inspiration.

I’ve considered myself a writer for almost fifty years now, and in the times I’ve lived with women, especially when there were small children around, I’ve never been able to convince a woman that sitting in front of a keyboard and staring off into space is “writing.” To them, writing was pecking away at the keys.

A typewriter made a lot more noise than a computer keyboard, and so the act of writing…

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The Bully in the Schoolyard


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When you have a group of five thirteen-year old boys, they have a collective mental age of about eight. The larger the group, the lower the mental age. They have the same ability to discern right from wrong, appropriate from inappropriate as someone five years younger than their physical age.

I was just watching a group of such boys playing at the swimming pool and they kept getting into my lane, but I realized that none of them could be reasoned with, because they didn’t know why they were doing what they were doing. They were simply following the group. When a group of boys lights a homeless person on fire, and you ask them individually why they did it, they will say “because Joe said it was a good idea.” And if you then ask “why didn’t you object?” they’ll say, “I don’t know. Seemed like a good idea…

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