Reverie


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For the last couple of years, I have been waking up in the middle of the night.  I used to blame my bladder, but lately that poor inflexible bag isn’t even the culprit. I simply don’t sleep like a kitten anymore. Now I nap fitfully like an old lion, one eye half-open while my snaggle-toothed mouth flaps with my breathing.

 

During these times of nocturnal wakefulness I flip open my laptop. In the place I’m currently living, my landlord turns off the wi-fi from around midnight to dawn, so I’m not able to indulge in my Facebook addiction, the one where I scroll endlessly up the Meme River, looking for something that might interest me long enough to double click. I have come to believe that my landlord is doing me a service by depriving me of the Internet for this interval.

 

Most of the flotsam and jetsam I encounter are political posts,which bore and depress me. I don’t care much about the elections back home. I don’t even care about the lack of elections here in Thailand, which has enjoyed the relative stability of a military dictatorship for the last two years. I like coming across pictures with clever captions, and think that I’m especially good at coming up with them. By simply right-clicking, I can steal any picture I find on the net, then write a clever caption, but without pasting the words over the image, an act I consider inelegant and boorish.

 

Since my chromebook is barely a computer at all without wifi, I am forced to use it only as a typewriter. That can be a good thing. I am suddenly allowed to concentrate on one thing, instead of being teased and tempted by the torrents of online nonsense. Now, alone with the contents of my own head, I am free to pursue a series of thoughts that develop a common theme. I can write an essay!

 

These midnight moments are what has been called “reverie.” The word implies contemplation. It often happens at night, when the rest of the household is asleep.

 

Maybe someday soon it will be illegal to entertain your own thoughts without instantly sharing and mixing them with the thoughts of others. The conspiracy theorist in me can imagine such a future.

The Head Geezer Predicts…


 

The Head Geezer predicts that pretty darn soon:

 

Marijuana will be legalized in most of the world. There’s just too much money to be made not to. Countries that resist legalization will soon notice that their neighbors are getting rich off it and suddenly find marijuana less objectionable.

 

The truth will come out about 9/11 and Bush, Cheney and others will be forced to flee to exile at Bush’s acreage in Paraguay, the one he purchased just before he left office.

 

A natural catastrophe will occur that will severely stress all the nations of the world, causing us to stop whining about unimportant issues and band together for mere survival.

 

A man-made catastrophe will occur that after the blaming period ends will have the same result as above.

 

Eventually all nations will tire of North Korea’s Kim Jong Un’s constant demands for attention and he will easily be overthrown by more reasonable elements in that country.

 

The dollar will crash hard and we will activate our military to make it all better (for us) finally silencing people who lamented the size and cost of our military.

 

Russia will be forced to use its military might to grab the resources of others, after having nearly been bankrupted by their enemies in NATO.

 

A dirty bomb will be released in an important area, not killing many people but causing a terribly expensive loss of property as the area will remain uninhabitable due to radiation for the next hundred thousand years.

 

The effect this will have on world stock markets will be as expensive as the initial loss.

 

Heat That Stops Everything


 

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Here in Thailand, New Year’s Day occurs in April, the hottest time of year. It’s been hotter this year than any on record, 105 degrees Fahrenheit every day for the last three weeks. Most people don’t have air conditioning. So when it gets this hot, everybody just gives up. They stop doing anything and lie around in a stupor, waiting for it to cool down. I am one of these.

 

We do have air conditioning in one bedroom, but the house is so poorly insulated that keeping it cool enough to do more than just lie in bed and stare at the TV or computer is a losing battle. Last week we had the air conditioner serviced, so it’s doing its best grinding away sixteen hours a day fighting the good fight at considerable electrical expense. What cold is to Minnesota, heat is to Chiang Mai. You can’t just adapt. You have to fight back.

 

Yesterday, I took a bicycle ride during the hottest part of the afternoon. I had to leave the house and get some exercise, and the lanes that wind through villages are conducive to bicycle riding. It’s also reasonably flat down here where the rice paddies are, though there are big mountains nearby as well, which I enjoy on my motor scooter.

 

I only saw two people out and about in forty-five minutes. It reminded me of the time I visited Phoenix when it was one hundred and twenty degrees. The only people out walking were the homeless. I saw them stumble through the orange haze as I rode along inside an air-conditioned car. They seemed dazed, yet determined.

 

It’s also bone-dry here, and hasn’t rained in months. Everything that was once lush and green is now brown or doesn’t exist at all. The landscape is like a beautiful girl transformed into a withered hag. I watch movies set in rainy climes and feel bitter pangs of envy.

 

What Passes for Discourse Nowadays


 

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When I was a kid I used to turn on the TV so early that they hadn’t started regular programming yet. They used to show Industry on Parade newsreels. “Aluminum, Friend to the Housewife.” Even back then I knew what this was. It was propaganda. Advertising created by someone who would profit from selling aluminum pots and pans.

 

Then, when I went to grade school, we kids would buy bubble gum packs that came with baseball cards. We would then trade these cars on the playground. We guessed at the relative value of each card, and privately gave them value based on the inferred personality of the player. I’m a Don Drysdale kind of guy, but Billy over there is into Curt Flood. Again, we weren’t creating these cards, we were purchasing them and then imagining that this process would help us become like the men people pictured on the cards. Sympathetic magic.

 

College kids hope that certain bands on their playlist will attract the right kind of friends or mates. My record collection was more important to me than anything else I owned, because it expressed who I was, in case anybody cared to know. On the first warm day of spring I placed my speakers in an open window and blared out Crosby, Still and Nash singing “Four Dead in Ohio!” I was the kind of guy who hated Nixon.

 

Nowadays, on Facebook, people share political memes that attack certain candidates. We think of this as self-expression. Sure, the recipients of our posts are our “Facebook Friends,” so it’s basically preaching to the choir, but that’s OK. Sharing pre-manufactured memes that come our way is no more an example of creativity or self-expression any more than is collecting baseball cards or downloading other people’s musical output. We are buying into the idea sold to use by product manufacturers and their agents, advertising agencies, that we can be defined by our consumer choices. I’m an Apple person. Me, I’m strictly Microsoft. I’m better than both of you, I’m open-source Linux.

 

But what do any of us really know about these things we do not create but simply share. Remember, Facebook was created as a social tool to help college students find like-minded friends. So far all this sharing of “news stories” from various sites is neither research nor essay writing. These sometimes powerful and clever memes are not being produced by amateurs. They are the work of paid writers and graphic artists.

 

When we share a post that says “Share if you’re proud of your son,” or comply with the command “Share if you love Jesus, keep scrolling if you don’t care that he died for your sins,” we’re endorsing an ugly form of literary bullying. Someone is benefiting monetarily from our blindly playing along with this. This sort of activity has largely replaced reasoned debate and considered discourse. We never had a surfeit of those to begin with, but I’m afraid that today one ugly picture of Hillary scowling on Facebook could matter more than anything she may or may not have done or said.