Some Days Are More Delightful Than Others


Which is another way of saying “some days are downright boring.” Nothing delights me. After four months of drought, heat and smoke from burning vegetation, a rain storm came by. You’d think I’d be ecstatic. Instead, I complained that it was false advertising, all promise, no delivery. They sky grew dark, a few drops fell, and that was it.

I’ll admit it, I’m miffed. Disgruntled. Is this all there is? Life’s not fair. Why do some people get to have it all while the rest of us grovel around only inches from despair? Poor me. If God were listening, I’d try to get Him to feel guilty. But he’s not. He’s listening to the money problems of sexy celebrities.

 

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Stupid And Proud Of It


 

 

The first time I was exposed to the idea of “alternative news” was the Police Gazette magazine in our local barbershop. This was in the nineteen-fifties, a time when World War II was not that distant a memory. Every month the headline would concern Hitler found alive in Argentina, Brazil or Paraguay. Flying Saucers were also big on their list, and scantily-clad women in high heels attended secret parties in remote locations visited only by the super-rich.

About ten years later, when I was in college I discovered the National Enquirer, and its deranged cousin the Weekly World News. By this time, I had traveled to Mexico and realized that they had long proudly hosted a national press that catered to the functionally illiterate. You could buy comic books for adults, and books of photographed dramatic scenes that were the printed equivalent of soap operas. All these publications reflected a reality that America had largely bypassed and now downplayed, the division of our populace into varying classes based on education and literacy.

During the 1960’s,  children we would watch Three Stooges films played on television, and there was one episode where Moe played Hitler, and they showed a map of the world. They held on this map for minutes, giving the audience time to read all the funny place names. It took me seconds to read them, but back in the 1940’s, the average Three Stooges viewer needed more time. A lot more time.

Today we have Trump Supporters, the Deplorables, a group of proud anti-intellectuals who ape the Fascist leanings of their Orange leader, the modern-day Mussolini. They sneer at higher education and liberal values,  making 1970’s TV’s Archie Bunker look like Noam Chomsky. They laugh at “snowflakes” and those who expect our nation to be kind to the weak and dispense justice to the poor. The only interest one can be proud to claim is enlightened self-interest. Dick Cheney had it and look at him, now he’s a billionaire!

This will not end well. The deliberate embrace of the stupid, the transparently false, the celebration of belief over fact, the whole-hearted crassness that allows us to treat our allies and enemies alike as inconsequential suckers will turn on us. We will pay for our arrogance and stupidity. Or I suppose I should say, “we will pay for their arrogance and stupidity.” Because we already are.

 

 

here’s is a five-minute recording of the author reading this essay

Confession of a Restless Drifter


Endure and thrive

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I have come to believe that there’s something wrong with me that prohibits me from settling down. I’m always of the opinion that somewhere other than where I am would be better. More interesting, fun, emotionally rewarding. I would finally know peace and contentment if only I lived somewhere else.

I don’t know anyone who has drifted as far and wide as I have in these last ten years. Even before I reached the age at which I could draw social security, I was chomping at the bit and trying to find somewhere cheap and interesting to live. In the years since then, I’ve found quite a few such places. They all have their advantages and drawbacks. The places I’m most attracted to make the least sense for someone like me to call home. This is because I’m confusing fantasy with entertainment. The act of really living in a place…

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Who Do I Have to Blow to Get a Cup of Coffee Around Here?


Our plan for today was simple. We would find an air-conditioned train down the coast, ride for a few hours and then rest at an interesting small city. But all the trains were full because it’s the day after the coronation of the new king. So we bought the only ticket we could, on a third-class train that was full to the breaking point. People were standing in the aisles. It was very hot and humid. We rode for two hours and then when we stopped at a fair-sized town, we bailed. Our tickets had only cost a dollar for the two of us.

I really needed a cup of coffee. They hadn’t had a coffee shop at the new Bangkok train station, which is under construction and due to be completed in a couple of years if they’re lucky. Well, there was one but it was closed. Thai coffee shops are often closed early in the morning. They think of coffee as something you drink later in the day, when you take a break from shopping. This city we got off in, Nakornpatom has only one coffee shop, butt it too was closed. There are ample opportunities to drink instant coffee, but I would rather drink sewage than that swill.

I don’t know if it’s the heat or the caffeine withdrawal but I’m not feeling well. We got a cheap hotel room next to the train station and I slept for two hours. I went outside to find a cup of coffee and walked for half an hour in incredible heat. Finally, I found a coffee cart with a real espresso machine.

In everywhere but here, there are too many coffee shops. Ten years ago, when I first arrived in Thailand, there were almost none. The coffee changed my mood. I began to look on the bright side. There is an amazing temple right downtown, that looks like something out of the set for the movie The Wizard of Oz, and a lot of 1960’s futuristic architecture that promises to make for interesting photography once the sun gets much lower in the sky.

My Brilliant Invention


Endure and thrive

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We’re closing shop. The business that we sank all our hopes and dreams and countless hours of efforts into is now tottering on its last legs. Fire sale time. Everything must go! Our loss, your gain! No reasonable offer refused!

You would have thought a machine and a drug regimen that would enable a person to learn to play a musical instrument or master a foreign language in two weeks would have caught on. It really worked! No hype, no false promises, no inflated expectations were involved. It really worked, was reasonably priced, and still no one cared. When I gave my harpsichord recital, people just assumed I had been playing complicated baroque keyboard music for years. When I conversed in Romanian with virtually no detectable accent, people assumed I had been born there.

Who would have thought that a few powerful magnets arranged in a precise configuration and a…

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WHEN THE SHIT HITS THE FAN, WHAT WILL IT SMELL LIKE?


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The ever-rising use of anti-fungicides on crops is driving the evolution of fungi capable of resisting all known drugs. Candida auris, a variant that is spreading rapidly in various parts of the world, is estimated to kill ten million people by the year 2050.

Here, the New York Times describes an outbreak in April, 2019:

hospital workers used a special device to spray aerosolized hydrogen peroxide around a room used for a patient with C. auris, the theory being that the vapor would scour each nook and cranny. They left the device going for a week. Then they put a “settle plate” in the middle of the room with a gel at the bottom that would serve as a place for any surviving microbes to grow, Dr. Rhodes said. Only one organism grew back. C. auris.

It was spreading, but word of it was not. The hospital, a specialty lung and heart center that draws wealthy patients from the Middle East and around Europe, alerted the British government and told infected patients, but made no public announcement.

There was no need to put out a news release during the outbreak,” said Oliver Wilkinson, a spokesman for the hospital.

This hushed panic is playing out in hospitals around the world. Individual institutions and national, state and local governments have been reluctant to publicize outbreaks of resistant infections, arguing there is no point in scaring patients — or prospective ones.”

So it’s spreading rapidly in many parts of the globe, and nobody wants to talk about it.

We’re all aware that Armageddon may be just around the corner, but we don’t know where to look, and even if we were looking the in the right direction, we may not see it. If there is a nuclear exchange between warring countries, or even a “dirty bomb” attack, spreading radioactivity from a conventional explosive encased by anything from radioactive waste to pure plutonium, most of us will not directly witness this event. Those who do will probably not be around to talk about it. We all will, however, feel the effects for years afterwards.

Even so, most disasters are harder to directly observe than one would assume. Most of us first witness a flood via a “road closed” sign and a policeman waving his torch to tell us to keep moving. Our first sign of a global catastrophe might be the ATM not working. The Internet might be down, or dramatically slow. Our cellphones might not work. Hours later, we might begin to hear rumors and then official announcements, explaining what happened and what we were supposed to do in response.

I was in Argentina when the currency suddenly devalued in 2001. Without warning (except that the higher-ups in government had advanced notice to send their savings abroad) bank accounts that had been equally denominated in dollars and pesos were now only available in pesos. Within a few months, the peso was devalued by four hundred percent. Withdrawals at banks were limited to twenty dollars per day, then ten, then five. The government declared a “bank holiday” to announce all this. Beware of sudden government-announced holidays.

If there is a enormous plague outbreak, or a nuclear war, you can bet the first thing that will happen is travel will become restricted. You will need official permission to go most places. Visa-on-arrival will disappear. Currency withdrawals will be closely monitored and limited.

In an attempt to quell panic, these changes will be announced as “temporary” but will soon prove to be permanent. After the Patriot Act became law following the World Trade Center attacks of September 11, 2001, many freedoms we took for granted were suspended and then eliminated. Most of us didn’t notice.

The fact most of us are reluctant to consider is that there’s a good chance at sometime in our lifetimes we’re going to face a catastrophe, and the governmental sources which we depend upon will fail us. If they are able to do anything at all they will, as happened in Argentina, take care of their own first.