RULES FOR THIS GROUP


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ABILITIES YOU MUST HAVE IN ORDER TO JOIN THIS GROUP

You must be able to swim ten meters underwater on one breath.

You must be able to derive square roots without the aid of a calculator.

You must know which of these three words is not a word: irregardless, irrespective, immaterial.

Explain in fewer than 100 words why most harmonicas are sold in the key of C but most blues songs are written in B flat or E.

You must be able to whistle.

You must be able to recall the seven cardinal virtues and the six deadly sins.

You must be able to find on the map Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.

You must not be Vitamin B deficient.

You must be able to discern the difference between the Elmore James songs “Look on Yonder Wall” and “The Sky is Crying”

You must be immunized against Mad Cow disease and Epstein-Barre syndrome.

You must speak at least three languages besides your native tongue.

You must have spent at least a week in Albania.

You must believe that Artie Shaw’s band was at least the equal of Benny Goodman’s.

You must certify that the concept of spending your retirement years “kicking back in some beach community” sounds stultifying.

You must attest that you lost “that Christmas spirit” years ago and find most holiday promotions tiresome at best.

You must wake up in the middle of the night at least twice a month convinced that your body is riddled with cancer and it’s too late to do anything about it.

You must miss the character actors one used to frequently see in movies and on television fifty years ago more than the “stars” who got top billing and most of the attention.

You must admit to yourself and to others that you find the act of yodeling unmusical and watching old men in lederhosen perform it, distasteful.

You must refuse to accept the notion that all religions have some value, and are at least partially good.

You must get down on your knees and beg God for mercy.

You must admit the fact that you are hopelessly addicted to social media, and that its impact on your life has been almost wholly negative, except for providing a way to stay in touch with old friends, but the more you see or hear about them the more you realize there’s a reason you lost touch with them in the first place, and the only reason you log on so frequently is because you have absolutely nothing else going on in your life to fill the seemingly bottomless void that social media attempts to address.

ACTIONS YOU MUST TAKE IN ORDER TO LEAVE THIS GROUP

You must obtain written permission to do so from a group administrator. If you don’t know one, you must ask around.

If you can’t contact a group administrator, you must petition the National Security Agency for a Release From Page Membership (form 1099A-EX) or hire counsel to do the same.

If you are under the age of sixteen, or over the age of sixty-five, you must also ask that prayers be said for you at the Vatican, preferably on Holy Tuesday, a slow day during Holy Week, which as everyone knows, culminates with Easter Sunday.

If you are Vitamin B deficient, or suffer from restless leg syndrome or a transient certainty that nothing matters anymore, then there is no point in trying to leave this group, for we shall never let you go!

If your name is, or used to be, “Barnabas” then you have already automatically been kicked out of this group.

If you have ever attended a Bing Crosby Road Movie Film Festival and found Dorothy Lamour to be more interesting than either Bing or Bob, then write that in block lettering on a four by six inch card and mail it first class to PO Box 35446, Radio City Music Hall, New York, New York 10045. Allow six to eight weeks for processing, and your name will be expunged from this group.

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Euphoric Recall


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Euphoric Recall is the nostalgic version of Wishful Thinking. Only remembering the good parts is an understandable survival mechanism, but it doesn’t lend itself well to realistic decision making. It does a better job setting goals, but tends to minimize the difficulty in reaching them. It’s a great way to motivate a crowd, but a bad way to get through hard times, because the person who was once so enraptured now tends to fall prey to disillusion.

Who wants to grovel in world full of tedious reality checks when one could skip among the clouds? When Coleridge was having his opium dream about Kubla Kahn it took someone knocking on the door in order to convey a mundane message to spoil the whole fantastic vision. I’d rather be damned for being an enthusiast than praised for being a pragmatist.

The first explorers took to the seas with a minimum of technological support and a lot of wishful thinking. It’s hard to navigate when your map contains fanciful drawings of imaginary beasts and the text “here lie monsters.” They left port anyway, and even though half the crew often perished before the ship found its way home, everybody was in high spirits on the day they took off for parts unknown.

We are all doing this every day we’re alive, but we don’t realize it or admit it to ourselves, because it would be too upsetting.

I’m living in Thailand, a country with the highest motorcycle road fatality rate in the world, and yet the only vehicles I own are motorcycles. I like to think I’m well aware of the risk I take every time I leave home, but I’m not really, for habituation makes me drift into denial. “Sure, maybe it will happen someday, but not today,” I tell myself, or better yet, I simply don’t think about the possibility of dying at all.

I’m like Captain Cook heading toward Tahiti with a crew of drunks and enough provisions to last a few weeks.

In fact, no matter how much insurance we think we have to guide our actions, we’re all just flying blind. As Helen Keller said “The reason no one experiences security is because it doesn’t exist. Life is either an exciting adventure or it is nothing.” If a woman born deaf, dumb and blind can say that, I suppose I can, too.

An Abandoned Well at the Leper Colony


 

 

I recently found a secret entrance to McKean Rehabilitation Center, a former leper colony near my home. At this rarely used section of the colony there is a water well, which although no longer in use still has some water at the bottom. I thought “hmm, maybe there’s money to be made if I drop a bucket into the well and bring up some of this water.” That’s the kind of guy I am. Always full of good ideas.

 

So if anybody else thinks this is a good idea, or would like to sample the water, let me know. I could videotape the whole process. insuring that I wasn’t just bottling tap water but real, McKean Leper Colony Abandoned Well Water! Accept no substitutes.

 

The leper colony was established in the early 20th century on land given to the Church of Christ by the King of Lanna.  The buildings are 1920’s tropical, the cabins are awfully small by modern standards.  There are only a few lepers in residence, mostly poor refugees from nearby Burma.

Whistling in the Dark


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Arrogance can be cute in children but appears decidedly less so in adults. Presumption borne of inexperience is understandable. There are situations when humans are operating in the dark and forced to simply make stuff up in order to cope. These situations may be more common than we would care to admit.

The thirteen Thai boys who were trapped in the cave sat in the dark for over a week until suddenly, and from their perspective, unexpectedly an Englishman in a scuba outfit surfaced, shone a flashlight into their faces and asked “is everyone all right?” They assured him they were all OK. He said “Help is on the way” and went back where he came from.

Naturally the boys talked among themselves, and hatched a plan. The first boy they would send out would be the strongest of the group. He would be best able to quickly ride his bicycle from the cave entrance to his parent’s house and assure them they were OK. Little did these boys know that as each arrived to safety he would be conveyed by a personal helicopter to a hospital, assigned a personal physician, and that hundreds of millions of people in different parts of the world were watching the progress of their rescue with baited breath. They had no prior experience or current information to make them think their plan for the strongest boy to pedal home was not a sound one.

Another example of trying to make plans with limited data.

In the mid-1960’s, anthropologists discovered that people living on remote Pacific Islands had built replicas of radar towers, airplanes and army barracks out of bamboo. They were hoping these would once again attract “cargo.” The oldest members of their community remembered that over twenty years earlier, their peaceful island had suddenly swarmed with United States Army soldiers who built landing strips, barracks and then airplanes arrived with cargo. The islanders’ lives were changed in an instant. The army and all that equipment stayed for a while, then when the war ended they quickly packed up and hurriedly left. A few things were inadvertently left behind, and these things became sacred objects, deciphered only by priests. The chief of their tribe would don a pair of headphones that had been rescued from the burn pile in order to hear spirit voices tell when Cargo would return. He chanted “Roger Wilco” into a bamboo replica of a microphone. Young people begged their elders to recant once again the stories of that glorious time, when their island was awash in cargo, when chewing gum and snickers bars flowed like water.

We like to think we’re more sophisticated than either of these groups for we know what’s up. We’ve identified the causative factors at work in our lives, that we’re in control of our algorithms and hence our destiny. But there’s a good chance that we’re just little boys whistling in the dark to keep our spirits up. If we enjoy good fortune, we like to take credit for it. If not, we complain bitterly and try to blame the persons or forces we imagine have robbed us of our happy birthright.

dancoffeypostdotcom

12764456_10154018288953993_5512391176604870963_oArrogance can be cute in children but appears decidedly less so in adults. Presumption born of inexperience is understandable. There are situations when humans are operating in the dark and forced to simply make stuff up in order to cope. These situations may be more common than we would care to admit.

The thirteen Thai boys who were trapped in the cave sat in the dark for over a week until suddenly, and from their perspective, unexpectedly an Englishman in a scuba outfit surfaced, shone a flashlight into their faces and asked “is everyone all right?” They assured him they were all OK. He said “Help is on the way” and went back where he came from.

Naturally the boys talked among themselves, and hatched a plan. The first boy they would send out would be the strongest of the group. He would be best able to quickly ride his…

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Lock-Down


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You’ll have to stay put until something can be established. As long as no one is certain what’s going on, or can reasonably describe what happened, we’re going into lock-down mode. All exits will be sealed until further notice.

People don’t just turn into liquid and flow down the street. Babies don’t spontaneously combust. Sure, unusual things can happen, but then the burden of proof is greater. No one is going to believe you were taken up to Heaven, met Jesus, and then came back down to Earth to tell us all about it. At least they won’t believe it unless you can start showing some miraculous proof.

Miraculous proof is all that we require. Oh, and promotion. Nothing matters without proper promotion. In a better world the important and true would rise to the top, but not here. On this miserable rock bathed in a veil of tears, if it hasn’t gone viral, it simply hasn’t gone anywhere.

What you witnessed may or may not have happened. You might be deluded. Many deluded people aren’t aware of their condition. Look at our President. Just because you fervently believe in something doesn’t mean it exists. Artistic types make stuff up all the time. Some are quite convincing, but everything they invent is conjured up out of thin air.

These are not necessarily bad people who invent things that don’t actually exist. They might be benevolent, caring, imaginative, and supportive of creativity in others. They might also be pathological liars. We who are inclined of give the benefit of doubt are potential victims of this latter group.

And so for the time being we must seal or borders. We must suspect that everyone has a malevolent purpose. Their intentions are to do us harm. “What would Jesus do?” you ask. He would do what we are doing. He would hunker down.

“But” you protest “the Jesus I met in Heaven after I had been swept up to kneel at his feet would embrace even the most snarky of us.” Maybe. But we are not Jesus.

We are simply your neighbors who are trying to make the best of a bad situation. We did not cause this calamity, but we are trying to minimize the negative outcomes. Maybe there won’t be any. Indeed, we could be making a mountain out of a molehill. But someone did testify that he saw another person liquefy and that other person has not been seen since. There is a noticeable smell in the air, like burnt toast, except it smells a bit like burnt rubber and burnt toast. There is also a dog that won’t stop barking, but no one has been able to find the dog. So we are confused and anxious. We will batten down the hatches until the storm has passed.

DOWN THE DRAIN


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What happens, happens. We can delude ourselves into thinking that we’re in control, but we’re not. Not even close. Things will work out the way they’re going to. We could assume, the way they’re supposed to, but that implies there’s somebody else in charge who knows what’s best.

Recent evidence suggests that’s probably not the case.

The catastrophic and sudden collapse of our government took everyone by surprise, even those who hastened its demise. Trump never expected to win, and when he did, it shocked everyone, even Trump. Well, that shock was nothing compared to the sudden realization that we had lost every bit of democracy and benevolent rule we once enjoyed. Thugs were now fully in charge, and they seemed to enjoy their thuggery.

It was like watching Clockwork Orange, only it was real, and instead of England, it was America. Now there were no longer simple hints of anti-intellectualism, but a full-blown assault on intelligence and reasoning. Truth was an outdated concept. There was only belief and submission to the state. What Mussolini had hinted at, Trump had accomplished.

People had to pretend to be stupid in order to escape being targeted. Suddenly we became a nation of good old boys, Stepford Wives, grinning hayseeds. Rumors of lynchings spread, but none were reported by Fox News. The official face of America, at least the one you could see on TV, looked like the Mormons were in charge. You simply couldn’t be too white.

Homosexuals, intellectuals, people of color, and immigrants all kept their heads down. Better to blend in than to attract attention. Maybe this was just a phase we were going through. Maybe this would soon blow over. Somebody pointed out that’s how the rich Jews felt when they didn’t abandon their homes in Poland, Belgium and France. When they didn’t get out while the going was good.

The startling fact was that no one was making this happen. This wasn’t a conspiracy, a plot by the Deep State, this was simply mob rule. The Madness of Crowds. When 330,000,000 people decide to swerve, it’s a change with momentum behind it. Maybe unstoppable momentum.

The fact that the friendly neighborhood policeman had been replaced by a hormone-hopped hulk dressed in camouflage and body armor hadn’t really caused alarm until now. Now there were unmarked buses with blacked out windows moving about, taking somebody somewhere. Rumors spread that the FEMA camps were filling.

Popular entertainment and broadcast journalism simply ignored the phenomena. Movies starring superheros continued to be made and distributed. Sometimes that’s all you could find at your local cinema. Nobody complained, at least not out loud. Studios and cinema owners were happy because audiences kept coming. Not just teenagers, even adults thronged to view empty spectacle.

The last symphony orchestras and dance companies folded quickly and quietly. Universities shut down programs that didn’t attract grant funding. Since most jobs had already been sent abroad, there wasn’t much for most young people to do. Almost half of the people under thirty were in drug treatment or prison.

And this was just the beginning.

It got worse.

It wasn’t just America that was in crisis. Europe was roiling with social unrest. Huge numbers of immigrants were no longer even the least bit welcome in their host countries, and yet they had nowhere to go. You can’t very well send someone back to Kenya or Nigeria who spent his life savings traveling across Niger and Libya to board a rubber raft to take his chances crossing the Mediterranean to get to Sicily and then up to France where he hoped to hop across the English channel and take his seat on a cardboard box next to the homeless in London. You can’t simply send them home. There are too many of them, and besides, they’d just return.

All of a sudden, any progress mankind seemed to have made or have been making disappeared. We were heading down, straight down, swirling down some sort of cosmic drain, and the process seemed to be accelerating. Some people offered solutions, but nothing stuck. Some people claimed to know who was at fault, but a strange lethargy took over, and no meaningful actions were taken.

Then the plague started. It moved with lightening speed, killing half the population of China in a week. India and Africa were next. No one was certain how many had died, because the scope and scale were unheard of. The first peaceful use of nuclear weapons was to incinerate huge mounds of bodies. Burial was unthinkable. Disposal at sea unacceptable.

With so many dead, the support structures of these countries collapsed as well, leading to waves of subsequent deaths to to famine and cholera. All borders were closed. Air travel ceased.

For some reason, only the United States and Western Europe seemed to have been spared, but then their turn came. Fatality rates of eighty percent. Much higher than Ebola.

By now the rich and powerful had long ago disappeared into hidden bunkers. Since they were hiding they weren’t communicating with anyone, so no one was sure they had survived.

Someone who still managed to reach an audience compared the collapse of civilization to a motor that had been allowed to fall into disrepair. At first it wobbled, groaned, screeched, and finally ground to a halt. No amount of kicking or prodding got it running again.

The collapse of the power grid, food distribution, water treatment, and transportation continued. Just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse, it did.

Capitalism still functioned to provide for people who could pay for goods and services, even though the prices were sky high and selection severely limited.

By now, the only restaurants were owned a a conglomerate of Monsanto, Dow Chemical, Bayer, Pepsico, and Nestle. Their favorite locations were the food courts of shopping malls, where they could have ten or fifteen various outlets with different names and themes, but all basically serving the same food under different labels.

Most of it was pizza or bread of some kind holding a meat of dubious origin. The drinks were artificially sweetened and mildly radioactive. Each featured several large-screen televisions which also served as surveillance cameras.

Finally, Donald Trump surfaced. He or someone resembling him appeared on the only television channel still working, Fox and Friends. He blamed Obama and Hillary Clinton for what had happened, and claimed that if people had only trusted and respected him, we would by now have been enjoying the great future he had planned for us.

Then the picture went dark and food court patrons who had been watching continued to stare at the dark screen for a very long time because they had no where else to go.

It’s a Trump World Out There


VIP’s Only Need Apply

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In the Florence Train station, the waiting rooms were reserved for VIP gold card members of some business or other. So even though I was wearing a suit, I had to sit on the floor of the train station, as there were no benches. Benches would just encourage the homeless to congregate. There are a lot of African men milling around with nothing to do. If there were benches, they would probably sit on them.

Here in the Delhi airport, the only WI-fi can be found by going to a “lounge,” from a hotel or airline. If you’re not flying business class, that costs $20. It’s a Trump world out there. Non VIP’s are left to their own devices.

You are, however, forced to march through the confusing illusions of the Duty Free shops when you make your way to your departure gate. These are the airport equivalent of Pleasure Island, where bad boys are turned into Donkeys in the Pinocchio story. It’s easy to lose your way in the Duty Free arcade, because all mention of your flight has temporarily disappeared. They do this for the same reason they don’t put clocks in casinos. They want you lost in a dream. They’re the Dream weavers.

The African men who seem so out of place came to Italy to pursue a dream. Even if they are simply beggars in Europe, they’re better off than living where they were. They made a perilous journey by sea to get as far as they’ve gotten. There’s a well-worn route by rubber raft from Libya to Sicily.

I am reminded of Hillary Clinton’s comment “we came, we saw, he died, (Snort)” She was referring to the death of Ghadaffi, who died having rebar shoved up his rectum by a mob urged on by the U.S. and with the approval of the Madam Secretary of State. It’s a Trump world out there.