Collaborator


There is no Internet, so I’ll have to do this offline, recording voice on my phone. I’ll upload this when and if I can connect again to the web.

The takeover was subtle. One night we went to sleep and things were normal but by the next morning, our government had been dissolved and all our officials were dead or in prison. We were in prison too, only we didn’t know it yet.

The first thing they did was take away the telephone and the Internet. Without them, no one knew how to communicate.

It was obvious from the beginning that they were smarter than us and more capable of making decisions. Maybe they had a detailed plan already in place. We wandered around in a fog, waiting for someone to tell us what to do. Turns out the only people who wanted to tell us to do were our new Masters and for now, at least, they remained silent.

They broke their silence on the third day.

In order to tell us things, they didn’t bother with the Internet or broadcasting. They went straight to telepathy. We each heard the voice clearly in our head. Ironically, their first message was the same one Jesus told his apostles on Easter morning. “Be not afraid.” That turned out to be a lie. The first of many.

At first it seemed like they wanted to be our friends. They wanted to “work with us.” When those who found themselves seduced by this notion asked for details, few were forthcoming. Time would tell. Let’s just relax and enjoy the ride. Then people started disappearing. Some of these were important people who had been in charge of things. Now they were nowhere to be found.

Their telephathic powers allowed them to reach every person on the planet, but since we had no way to talk to each other, we didn’t know how other people in other places reacted to their existence. Were they as worried as we seemed to be or were they thinking of our visitors as liberators or saviors?

Other than meeting someone face to face and talking, there was no way to find out.

Maybe huge numbers of them were collaborating with the Visitors to enslave the rest of us. How would we know?

I received a message that inquired if I would be interested in taking on a position of authority which would grant me special priviliges and considerable wealth. They had been watching me for some time, monitoring my publications, blogs, kindle books, even the comments I made on social media. They were wondering if I could take on a position that would finally suit me, after numerous failed attempts to “fit in” in the world that came before.

Flattered that they knew my history and were aware of my output, I still held grave reservations. Did I want to become a collaborator? How much would I enjoy selling out my countrymen? If the Visitors had everything on their side already, what would they need from me? Was I simply being flattered in order to be seduced? What did they need me for, anyway?

I was eventually summoned for an interview. A beautiful woman talked to me for over an hour, but the harder I looked at her, the less of a fix I could get on who she really might be. The visual information I got was pretty consistent, but her voice, mannerisms, and the things she said didn’t really gel. I decided she was a bot, some kind of AI, and maybe that’s why they were hoping to recruit real people to work for them.

Maybe they sensed my mistrust, or maybe they were just playing “hard to get,” but they said they’d get back to me.

As I walked back home, I thought “I failed at selling my country out to alien invaders.” That’s gonna be a hard one to explain, if anybody asks.

Fortunately, no one asked, because you’d have to ask me to my face, and nobody talks to each other anymore. Without the Internet, there’s no social media where user can post snide comments to fallacious whimsy. My “interview” with an AI Bot was the closest I game to yakking it up in months.

I didn’t hear from them for a while, but they hadn’t forgotten me. I was contacted by the head of “Human Resources.” Yes, they had plans for us all right. No, they hadn’t been dissapointed with my original interview, in fast they had been impressed. I showed “pluck.” “Get up and go.” They hoped I was a “self-starter” who wouldn’t need to be continually monitored or directed.

My next interview was with a blob of Jello that quivered when it talked and lit up when I said something interesting. We seemed to hit it off pretty well, and I anticipated a job offer any day. Later that week, two identical twins who looked like 1950’s burlesque blonde bombshells came to my door. I invited them in but they fluttered their mascarad eyes and smiled shyly while handing me a large envelope. In it were black and white photographs of me having sex with children and animals. They were obvious photo shop creations, and often my head was the wrong size or lit from a different angle than the other objects or people. Then a hand written note in florid, old-fashioned handwriting: “Let’s talk again, soon!”

The next week, on the same day at the same time, the twins were back, this time arriving on a motorcycle with a side car. I got the idea that I was to occupy the sidecar. We rode off at a brisk speed, the girls happily chatting back and forth. I didn’t want to bother them by asking where we were headed. After a short while we came to a vacant field. Weeds of various stripes waved in the breeze.

Then a flying saucer appeared about fifty feet off the ground. It didn’t arrive, it appeared, as if it had been there all along. It looked just like those saucers you used to see in books and magazines when I was a boy. All that was missing was the caption “Flying Saucers are Real!” A bright green beam of light came our way and the girls urged me to step into it. I did and the next thing I knew I was inside the craft, surrounded by various people who strongly resembled the actors one would see in the movies of my youth, character actors, men with strong chins and women with curvy bodies. They all sported strawberry blonde hair and lime-green jump suits. You never knew their names, but they were stage names anyway, and half the time they never even appeared in the production credits.

The result of our meeting was unexpected and highly encouraging. We were going to offer flying saucer rides for a nominal sum to the American public. While the victims, I mean customers, were temporarily blacked out during the intial acceleration in orbit, their DNA and memories would be harvested, in much the same way social media now uses the content and consumer profiles of its “users.” Our intial efforts would begin in heavily touristed areas, like Grauman’s Chinese Theater in Los Angeles, or Weeki Watchie Springs, in Florida. At the first spot the Elvis and Marilyn imitators could join in the fun, in the second, mermaids could vouch for the out-of-the-wold experience. The saucer would appear nearby and take twenty-five customers for a twenty-five minute ride in space. Fun for the whole family.

I’m proud to say that my input had a lot to do with the generation and acceptance of the idea. And that’s why I still work for these people, I mean creatures, I mean beings today. Sometimes a fella just gets lucky. And sometimes he’s smart enough to know when that is.

HOW TO GET YOUR FRIENDS TO STOP TREATING YOU LIKE A THERAPIST


When you’re talking to your friends, avoid asking “How did that make you feel?” When conversing, face them directly. Don’t let them lie down and start at the ceiling while you sit nearby, holding a note pad and a pencil. Do not bill them for your time. If they suggest sexual activity with you, do not protest that doing so will cause you to risk losing your license. If you’re not interested, just say so. If you are, go for it.

In fact, trying to maintain any type of stereotypical image is a barrier to true partnership with others. Even if you haven’t the faintest idea of who you really are, try your best to be that person. Stop acting. Drop the foreign accent, the expansive mannerisms.

What might at first seem interesting or evocative might prove tedious and false in the long run. Leave acting to actors paid to play a part. Unless someone calls “action!” and later “cut!” do not assume you’re on stage or in a movie.

If someone confides to you that he is angry with another who cheated him, or broke a promise, do not say “Does this bring up any issues from your childhood?” It’s none of your business. Try to focus on what this person is telling you here and now. Forget about fifty years ago. It was another time and another place, and you weren’t even there.

No, you would do better to keep the focus on yourself, and if engaged in conversation with another, do your best to truly listen. Drop the scramble to come up with advice before the other person even stops talking. Relax. You’re not a therapist. Not really.

MUSICAL MUSEUM


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As museums go, it was a real sleeper. Somebody had walked off with all the portable instruments, and the piano and organ were covered with mold. But I enjoyed the setting, nestled deep in several vacant lots.

 

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The groundskeeper was neither talkative nor helpful, but he did cast a menacing air that might curb further vandalism.

 

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There was a lunchroom just  down the road where the food was as cheap as one could hope for in these uncertain times.

 

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Apparently, the museum’s director is a graduate of Moscow State University, but when he returned to his home country for “continuing education” he was never seen again.

 

GREECE. Mani. Pirgos Dirou. 1962. Woman at graveside. "A Greek Portfolio"

 

I’ve heard his wife took it pretty hard, and is now housed in a nearby rest home, at the end of the one of the vacant lots.

So Excited


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We were so excited by the three new bridges across our divided highway. So this was the Progress we had been promised ever since the War ended! Just think of the high standard of living we’ll enjoy thanks to Atomic Energy and Free-Market Capitalism!

Let’s face it, motels used to be so modest as to be dumpy by today’s standards. There’s a new energy that is seeping into everything, a new confidence in a better future. I guess you could call it a “Hope In A Better Tomorrow!”

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Of course, not every building can be exciting. Sometimes, if you can’t see the sign you can’t tell what a building has been designed for. Is this a real estate office or a vacuum cleaner repair shop? No, there’s the sign, it’s coffee shop, or cafe as they say in France! Here in the Midwest, severe conformity and lack of imagination have their way with almost everything you see. That’s just who they are and they’re proud to let their buildings let you know!

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But drive a thousand miles to the southwest, and things perk up! Vacationing families can tuck the station wagon behind a saw palmetto bush and enjoy themselves at the pool, relaxing later at the piano bar. Like exhausted families, you can bet that lonely sales representatives need a good night’s sleep after a hard day of cold calling, and this is just the kind of place they can find it!

Hot Off the Kindle Press!


 

The family-friendly, feel-good book of the summer. A real page turner, even though no one falls in love or receives an unexpected windfall. Reading this book is guaranteed not to tax your brain, nor result in suicidal impulses! This tome contains the distilled essence of centuries of human experience, yet retails for less than a dollar! So you don’t forget, download today!

 

 

 

IQ AND ME


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When I was twelve, I took an IQ test and scored a 75. The nun who administered it took me aside and sadly informed me that I was borderline retarded and should not attempt going to a college preparatory high school. She said I would be better off pursuing vocational training, like small engine or shoe repair.

Turned out she was right. A few years ago I took the MENSA test and passed, so I guess I got smarter in the interim. She was right about the vocational training suggestion, though. In the long run, I would have done better learning how to do something practical, and might have prospered if there had been an established need for my services.

Instead I tried to enter the world of college teaching and never secured a full-time position that would lead to tenure. I took social security early and live on a pension that would not permit me to live as anything but a charity case in America. Today, I live in Thailand, where my social security pension is enough to live without having to eat my lunches along with my homeless neighbors in church basements.

The reason I scored so low on the IQ test I took when I was twelve is because I was very angry. I had been repeatedly humiliated and stifled by schooling and it was all I could do not to leap out the window like young Jim Thorpe and run off into the woods. I could read better than any of the other students in my class, but reading facility wasn’t something the nuns measured. We were learning to diagram sentences, a grammar game I could never get the hang of because I saw no point in it.

To this day, I am very sensitive about the notion of IQ. Testing and schooling are not high on my lists of activities. From my time in academia, I never met a college professor I thought was especially intelligent. I met many people who knew how to follow rules, play the game, and kiss ass, but I met very few brilliant people.

THE FOLLY OF TEACHING LITERACY


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Can literacy be taught? I don’t think so. You have to enjoy reading and writing and the thinking that goes into it before you can be taught anything, and even then you’ll probably end up being self-taught because you’re already interested. Being taught rules won’t help. Rules just take all the fun out of it.

I’m good at learning foreign languages but have no interest in rules of grammar. I think I’m good at it because I don’t care about the rules of grammar. Correct usage will come from practice, but the first steps are to have fun communicating in this new lingo.

School and schooling are a way of killing any natural interest and resultant delight that comes from interacting with the world. Standardized testing is the ultimate distillation of schooling and all that it entails. If you don’t get off on taking tests, then you’re probably not going to do well in school, anyway. Might as well start a garage band or learn to work on your own vehicles.

Certifications are false promises delivered by educators and enforced by those empowered to police the marketplace. The missing ingredient that cannot be taught is “get up and go.”

If I really want to learn something, I’ll find someone who’s good at it and ask him the explain it enough to get me started. Then I’ll go it alone.

WINNERS KEEP ON WINNING


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Losers rarely climb out of the hole they find themselves in. Often this is because they haven’t finished digging. The longer we stay stuck, the harder it is to see what’s holding us back. The more we keep winning, the harder it is to understand why we’re enjoying such good luck.

In most cases, there are forces at work which we undervalue. Looks, race, hair color, eye color, straight teeth, pleasant speaking voice, good personality, all matter more than high intelligence or moral character. Look at our politicians for examples.

Definite turn-offs. A hint of desperation. The glimmer of mental illness around the eyes. Bad nerves, jitters, bouncing leg under the table. Forced enthusiasm.

Going to a prestige school matters more than what you learned there. Who you know matters more than anything. You meet people at a prestige school who will go on to be very successful. You can reconnect with them after graduation and let them know you’re “available.” But by all means, don’t act desperate.

When I was a child my father was out of work for a long time, and during that period I happened to watch a televised version of the drama “Death of a Salesman.” The excellent Lee J. Cobb played Willie Loman. It was, as was intended, heartbreaking, but held special resonance for me. The scene where goes to one of his son’s friends and begs for a job almost made me swoon with nausea.

Better to not risk too much too late in life. What seems adventurous and fun-loving in a twenty-year old seems reckless and foolish for a forty-year old. For a sixty-year old, the scope of acceptable behavior narrows dramatically. By seventy, people begin to suspect dementia.

THE SEDUCTION OF EVIL


 

 

All the absurdity and stupidity displayed every day on the news, then amplified and echoed on social media, has the ability to distract us from developments more worthy of our attention. Yes, our government is corrupt, surely everyone is aware of this. We could consider the present state of affairs a crisis, or we could simply acknowledge that there are problems for which we will need to find solutions and move on.  To allow ourselves to be absorbed by horror and anxiety serves no one. Maybe this permanent state of emergency is the plan the tyrants had all along. We can immunize ourselves by directing our attention at things that empower us.

 

I’m not talking about limiting ourselves to “happy news.” Being absorbed by the news in general, just like being too rabid a fan of any entertainment, is a large step on the path to powerlessness. What did people do with their free time before the Internet? Lots of different things that are still available to us now, if we can only look away from the fascinating horror that tempts us online.

 

 

 

 

Way Too Much


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Too much already so nothing matters
 
I keep thinking I should start a project that would take me months to finish, write and photograph a long piece, and then find somewhere to publish it. But then I look at the steady stream of detritus that flows through my laptop every day and realize that nobody needs any more writing or pictures. Nobody needs any more of anything.
 
I could delude myself into thinking that my diligent and purposeful activity would eventually make some sort of difference to somebody, but I think it would at best amount to self-deception.
 
There are too many choices for my limited attention. I subscribe to Netflix and there’s a lot out there for which pay a paltry sum. Last night we watched one of  the worst movies I’ve ever seen on Netflix. Last month we watched one of the best TV series I’ve ever seen, three seasons worth, thirty-nine, one-hour episodes.
 
I saw a movie in a cinema last month, but it was the first time I’ve been out to see a movie since we started up with Netflix.
 
I no longer “read” anything. I skim. I’m always browsing, hoping that something substantial and evocative will grab my attention for longer than a few seconds. That rarely, if ever happens.