Promises

The voice that says the same thing
wraps from all points convincingly
tying my forehead to clothes lines
sent out and along creaking pulleys
to flutter and bend in the wind
where cats leap with claws to climb
and a bird lands too late to see

The throngs of bees hidden inside
drawn briefly by garment scents
flitter and fleet briefly, then away

And all that was Heaven became
a dangling white T, flittering and
fleeting hanging by a clothes pin
like an icon in the yard adjacent to
the stained floor garage where
the voice cooed I just love
how your home smells like you.

Lord of the Ants

Peaceful is how I describe writing computer code, when there are no pressures. The intricacies of systems to methodologies to result are centering, calming, even therapeutic. It is ordered, in the same way the molecules of a paintbrush are ordered, allowing a painter’s hand to sweep images onto a canvas. The order establishes a framework, utilized toward whichever creative or mundane ends the creator envisions. We adopt the rules and tools within this framework to manufacture foundations and scaffoldings that are, if we are skilled and full of care, completely invisible.

A neophyte sees challenges and struggles to overcome them. As such, they are well suited for smaller, detailed tasks. Given the broader scope of a more intricately woven system, neophytes easily loose their footing and eventually bend the smooth, larger flows of a functioning system into a more clustered and growing density, constrained around and upon the limits of their understanding and the breadth of their creativity. A mastery and comfort with the commonplace is essential before any neophyte should lead. At the same time, a willingness and curiosity to move beyond established structure is a prerequisite to true growth, true change, and is a hallmark of mastery. The neophyte believes that respect is earned and deserved based upon their commitment and hard work. The master knows that respect can only be given.

I recently listened to a lecture by a scientist who studies ant colonies. I am not fond of insects for wildly irrational and prejudicial reasons. This could mean I will be reincarnated as a bug until I can gain a proper appreciation for my insect life. Hopefully I won’t be a wicked bug that must bite humans or crawl around in their hair. Then again, my bug brain might not be the brightest. A failing of bugs, or of humans? Who can say? But yes, bugs. This scientist studied them, and it was interesting. And a little creepy. But it was, for me, incrementally enlightening.

My first proper job working with computers was in a large information systems facility running primarily behemoth IBM mainframes, which were both affectionately and derogatorily referred to as the “Old Iron”. Unending rows of refrigerator-sized devices flashed and whirred, all interconnected, crunching numbers every day, and every night. There was even a department of people whose sole task was making certain that programs ran in the correct order. These machines had access to vast oceans of information which they constantly chewed upon in their electronic brains, that always seemed to me more like a whirlwind of chaos than neatly ordered printouts that would provide people, somewhere, with insight.

PC’s were just beginning their adoption within organizations. The people dealing with PC’s in this information processing subsidiary where I worked were members of a small department called “End User Computing”. We, who occupied the parts of the building behind glass doors requiring key card access, who had two entire layers of people buffering us from those thousands of “end users” out there, considered the “End User Computing” department to be a cute little thing at best. But it turned out we actually could give those little PC’s nice snippets of processed data from the Great Storm, which those “end users” could poke around with in their fun spreadsheets, and find it useful. But it was a Pandora’s Box – once opened, never closed, while their hunger and demand only grew.

My title within this organization was Technical Systems Analyst, Distributed Systems Software. I made certain that the colossal Iron in the central facility would always cooperate nicely with the not-quite-so-colossal Iron located at remote facilities, in subsidiary organizations. This was, in a sense, a decentralized system, while simultaneously maintaining the benefits of centralization. That is, each subsidiary was free to operate how they thought best, as long as they communicated everything back, which we could monitor and process, then feed back down to them once again in arguably more meaningful and helpful ways. But this is Old Iron talking to Old Iron. With “End User Computing” suddenly run amok and every Sally, Steve and Gertrude whining about wanting everything their way, the balance began to shift.

The meaning of central planning began to shift. The notion of central control practically vanished. Although always a struggle to some degree, a new flow took form. In organizations this size, end user PC’s are inadequate. It’s a little like trying to fill a cup with a swimming pool, or trying to pump out just the specific water you want into your cup, from somewhere within all the water of the pool. End users, being whimsical and chaotic (note my kindness) never really know what they want, how they want it, or why they should have it. They only know that they want something specific, at some point in time. It became our purpose, at the larger well, to make certain that each of the wacky end users, with their varied and diverse tastes, had everything they could possibly pull out of their… hats… before they even knew they might want it. This gave them satisfaction, while giving us happiness, since satisfied people do not generally claw and pull at you.

All this makes us somewhat more clever than ants. Male and female ants grow wings, fly off together and mate. After this, the females bury themselves underground and have babies while the males fall over dead. That’s not the more clever bit, at least I don’t believe it is. The queen ant births generation after generation to form the colony. That’s all she does, and she does it for approximately 20 years. There are four types of ants. Ants that do housekeeping, ants that work outside, ants that explore and ants that get food. On the average, about half the ants of the colony just kick back doing nothing at all, hanging out idly in the nest. Of the ants that do a job, they sometimes switch off with one another. Once a slacker ant starts to work, they never go back to being slacker ants. If there happens to be a lot of yard work one day, some of the explorers and housekeepers might help out. If a new food source is found, they yard work and housekeeping can wait.

This all sounds very sensible (except for the lack of TV). The queen controls none of it. She just keeps having babies. In fact, it all happens, in large part, due to chaotic interactions combined with a simple program. Younger colonies with smaller populations cope with unusual circumstances with a good deal more turmoil than older, more populated colonies. Since the lifespan of ants is around 2 years while the colony (the queen) is 20, an older colony does not mean an older and wiser ant population. It just means more ants. And, with more ants you have more ants bumping into one another, smelling what that other ant has been up to. And that might smell mighty fine to you, so you go off with them to do their job too.

So, we have all these mostly blind end users running around every which way, sniffing others nearby and deciding they better do this or that. And somehow it just works out. Then, after a colony has matured to a certain size after a few years, males start being born and females start sprouting wings to fly off, mate, bury, have babies, die, etc., and a new colony is begun. Now, I know what you’re wondering: how are we humans better than this? Is it because our males actually live beyond mating? No. Is it because we can squash ants with our boots or burn their nests with fire? No, and see what I mean about our males living? Is it because our females don’t have obscenely tiny waists like ants have? No, no and no. I’ll tell you why we’re more clever. We have God.

Okay, I know. Technically that’s not true. God has us. Or, rather, we think or oftentimes assume he does. Yes, ok – we possess some abstract notion of spirituality that is beyond us, and influences us. Alright! Alright!! We are capable of conceiving abstract and collective “rules” that influence us perhaps as heavily as biology. Satisfied!?

I’m not. Mostly because we still collectively, if not individually, embrace the “Old Iron” model of hierarchy and the centralization of control. I can’t be too bothered by it, though. After all, it’s a natural step along our path of discovering that we have brains. I am even willing to put our brains, biology and society, at least in a quasi-synonymous sense, with computers, in the same tired way that biologist cum Atheist cum philosopher Richard Dawkins is wont to do. Computers, when interconnected and operating as a non-hierarchical clustered system, operate far more efficiently, have far greater capacities and capabilities, while at the same time gain greater resistance to failure and disaster.

God is the ultimate in hierarchy. Whether we believe in God or not, the concepts we share related to religion, as a social unit, exert an influence upon our thinking, and therefore actions, perhaps second only to language itself and reason. For many, reason sits even lower down the totem pole than religion. And, lest Atheists think they are free, it’s a good idea to remember that reacting against something is being influenced as certainly as acting for something, though of course, your mileage may vary. The trouble (and perhaps benefit) of God being the ultimate big boy is that he never takes your calls or returns your emails, and the last time he bothered to write something down for us was a few thousand years ago, and that was done on unwieldy rocks, which seem to have been misplaced.

So in this circumstance we’re left with people having to interpret what God really means. The interpretations have been, and continue to be, interpreted differently as our cultures change and situations warrant. In other words, the human totem has moved reason up enough for us to all agree that it is wrong, regardless of what the Word of God says, to stone our mothers and sisters to death for eating fish while wearing green clothes on a Tuesday, so to speak. However, some masters, having been given enough respect by their followers, are able to rise up enough in a virtual hierarchy to cause a reinterpretation slanted toward their peculiar will. Some call them holy men or prophets, believing they have a direct line into the mind of God. Others call them cultists or criminals. Or, to a lesser, more down-to-earth degree, pick-pockets. Some might call them presidents. But if no clear hierarchy exists within the ultimate of hierarchies, how do we know what really is right or wrong?

I feel almost ridiculous saying this, but I am also continually astonished by the narrow, dark hallways of many people’s homes. Rules laid down by a supernatural entity are not the only means that we, as human beings, have at our disposal when we try to determine if something is right or wrong, or good or bad. The same holds true for the laws and bylaws, procedures, policies and even cultural “norms” of humankind. Collectively we might determine our best guiding principles and even enforce them. Critical thinking, openness and understanding are far better than coercion as a means to best ensure that our principles are followed. And in doing so we not only blunt the more destructive aspects of hierarchy, but we also finally achieve the informed and enlightened collective state that makes us better than the distributed ants, without the drawbacks a hierarchical ontology. What an accomplishment.

It is unfortunate, however, that this allegory is not quite as simple in a realistic application. The truth is, God is not, regardless of what you tell yourself, the most important thing. Money is, and by degrees, our own self-interest. It sits on the tip top of our totem pole. Will you lie? Will you take advantage of people or situations? Will you look the other way, even when someone is being hurt, if it protects you? Would you cause harm to another? Would you kill them? Would you help to bring down other people whom you know have done no wrong, simply for your own gain, directly or indirectly? Would you do something you personally felt was wrong, out of duty or loyalty to a person, position or some abstract idea? Would you cause harm to the world in any way if it brought you some benefit?

Religious people are lucky in this respect. They can go to the convenience store, insert a token, and out of the vending machine pops a dose of absolution which they down like Valium. Nothing is their fault, because they are flawed humans, pathetic in God’s eyes, but he loves them and forgives them anyway. Their only responsibility is to regularly go to the vending machine. They don’t have to be responsible. They can do something bad, go oops, and then forget all about it, with no reason to examine themselves, make amends, or even, God forbid (encourage?), make a real effort in the world to undo or somehow make up for the harm in which they participated. They even have the audacity to oftentimes believe themselves better off in some way, in a meaningful, spiritual sense.

Those people who do not take drugs like this are either faced with unrelenting pressure upon their conscience until something snaps, causing them to take rectifying action, or else something snaps and they actually do have start taking real drugs. Either way, religious or not, some people eventually just callous over, convincing themselves that regardless of God, or their sense of right and wrong, that what they have done, anyone else would have done, and by extension, it is a perfectly normal thing to do and therefore morally and ethically justified. Unfortunately, as anyone who looks closely at morality and ethics will discover, something is never justified wholly by looking at the number of people who might do it. Instead, it is the stupidity of individual ants or lemmings.

As a species we have undergone a remarkable ride along the course of our development. We have moved from base interactions with each other, to centralized hierarchical control that transcends any one of us, and are now moving, in some ways full-circle, toward a more distributed, self-actualizing and self-responsible model. And we bring with us a good deal of weighty baggage. Just as we had tribal or feudal individuals vying for power over us, so do we have power instilled within our centralized systems, and usually feudal lords, in one form or another, dominating them. We like this because we can place blame upon them. We don’t like this because our evolution into the distributed is at odds with a central authority – it interferes with our self-actualization and freedoms, while interestingly, we cling to the centralized because our self-responsible journey is not something we’re entirely comfortable with. It has to be someone else’s fault, right? We were designed pathetic, right? We balk at the ramifications of having to truly be responsible for ourselves and our actions, or inactions.

Coincidentally perhaps, these evolutionary concepts play very well into Libertarian ideals. That is not my intent. I believe many things are best handled by a massive collective effort on our part. It is an ability and strength we have developed over millenia, and it can be utilized for our good. For example, science should not be dominated by profit because the pursuit of profit is not objective, nor is it always entirely about profit, and science relies upon the purest objectivity possible. This includes the medical sciences and pharmaceutical science. Also, it is wise to keep in mind that the free market, contrary to what many believe, is not, in any way, “compassionate”. I believe that being compassionate is important, both individually and collectively. Compassion protects us and brings stability. Those things being said, hurray for Libertarianism!

Religion is a wondrous and powerful thing. It can perpetuate good as well as ill, both in a society, and within ourselves. However, religion is a disservice to all when it is utilized as a simple convenience, which is a contrivance, and merely helps perpetuate a static and even decaying social structure and also helps us not at all, spiritually as an individual. But taken seriously, without the dangerous components of domination and absolutist notions of righteousness, and a focus upon the spiritual, religion can be a compelling and worthwhile force for our betterment in nearly every way. Religion can give us principles to help guide us in larger, abstract ways that help keep us focused upon the betterment of our Earth-bound condition while simultaneously leading us to delve within ourselves to explore the condition we each, individually, find ourselves within. Hmm. I’m feeling myself waft into a dream state of Shirley MacLain, UFOs and Dennis Kucinich. Let’s see, that, or a federal mandate to pay insurance companies, continuing occupations of foreign countries, expanding the police state and torturing people… Not a tough choice, at least for me, but a somewhat sad one.

Remember, the ants run around sniffing each other so that they know what their neighbor has been up to, so that they, in turn, can know what to do as well. And we must come up with a system that pulls from the Great Pool, giving these end users what they need to carry on happily, even before they know what they need. What use is an army of Lawyer Worker Drones to a society that does not claim money as the highest rung on the totem? What value are the top 1% of the wealthiest people who account for the entirety of our economic growth over the past few decades, when what we value is no longer monetary wealth?

In the terms of science, and evolution specifically, we have reached a plateau for the first time in our species’ history where we are no longer bound entirely by the random happenstance of natural selection. We have collectively evolved beyond the pedestrian notions of “the survival of the fittest” where we now can grasp the building blocks and wield the tools that shape our very existence, both present and future, and even the fate of our world with all its multitude of species. What staggering potential! What a monumental responsibility! Can we realistically and ethically allow our course to remain unchanged in its long history of petty domination and inefficient hording? Or is it time, at last, to truly begin re-shaping how we view ourselves at all levels, in more than just speech and intent?

One of the best philosophical excuses for our recent behavior has come to us through hedonistic economists and philosophers, popularized by Ayn Rand, in the form of the oxymoron “enlightened self-interest”. Obviously, the self-interested portion we have no difficulty understanding, adopting and running with. It’s the easy bit. You cannot claim the enlightened part by simply going to a church vending machine after doing something bad in the name of self-interest. To claim the enlightened part, you must act accordingly before you require forgiveness. Furthermore, you if you commit the act, you must also act after to correct the wrong. It is not enough to whisper to an invisible entity, “oh gosh, I’m sorry” and leave the evil in the world, believing yourself absolved. Doing so is one of the worst self-deceptions and disservices to the world. Freedom and Good require individual responsibility, not a scape goat on which to hang our conscience.

Considering our far-reaching capabilities as a species it might well be necessary to now drop the self-interested portion altogether. Enlightened is not change, nor promises of change. Enlightened is not giving money to a charity. Enlightened is not doing something for someone’s benefit. Enlightened is not “working within the system” to make things better over the long course of decades.

Enlightened is a state of being and awareness which can comprise all of those things, but is far more. It does not require secrets – it unravels secrets. It does not require paternalistic law, because each being is its own. It does not require money, because money is law. And it does not require religion, because at the most fundamental levels, they are the same.

Enlightened self-interest is an excuse – the last, best effort of mean domination to survive within simian evolution. Some people know this. Many suspect it. Some can deny it all they like, dragging us all through more painful years, before dying off into an inevitable extinction. And to these people, I ask you, in the kindest terms possible, that if you reproduce, please do not inflict your mindset on our future generations. It is in your own, enlightened self-interest not to do so. For it will only be a few years, after growing into their own being, when your progeny will force you to confront your decision, in one way or another. And they deserve the most and best that we can conceive.

Forgotten Along the Trail

The full fields of dandelions popped in ripples
as a breeze moves along strings producing
sounds vibrating as a single drone affixed
within the multitude of green blades each
one holding up a petaled face, round and
yellow centers with white light streams
flowing out in brief stubs for want, of trying
to reach what burns intimately far, away
past the chill, what was thought, was night
but merely turning; a flung axis caught
within the bend of actuality by gas and stone.

Fields affixed and flung of dandelions, each
vibrating in the blade of drones holding up
the yellow, stunted stubs in white briefs
trying intimately to reach past night the chill
of thought caught bending like strings in
streams of burning actuality turning upon
mere centers of stone that pop with sound
when ripples round the petals caught.

while above, flying over this ghost
the shriek of prey in line
topples the erstwhile scenery

And the bean maker arrived with cast
iron gills rummaging under his cowboy
hat around the train of wagon wheels
that cut and creaked in tracks, made
from the many settlers gone before now
dead along the plots in buried thickets
of bramble and mounds with little white
nameplates crossed as signs.

Spit on the ground the sizzle of beans
jeans stinking and adjust the crotch
technicians marveled the curious site
while collecting on their pay, the priests
in shambles foreclosed the night and bundled
up the day as magicians coiled the brandy sticks
while trotting amid their way. And beans smell
in the field reached out to gather up the ghosts
who passing through the cast iron clutched
nothing more to fill, above flying over
the prey lined sight, his hackles stirred
while fed the bean maker grizzled another
pump then headed off to bed. A thin spread
on blades beneath what never came to mind,
but did from bardic songs released in air
which wafted through his head, that wafted
under the frying pan he held for all
his worth and held his bedroll tighter still
within his turning world.

Dawn rose swift the priests might say
from what was turned away yet foreclosed
still in yellow pills the blood remained at bay
yet rising up from mounds of verse the cackles
and the sprigs, the forsworn gift of falling leaves
to point inside the dead, and dead not only
as coin rusts on to fill the hearts of men but dead
as voice in memories brings a life to all that's said
in memory of the gleaming fields that stumbled
from our chest and bitter deeds that made the day
when glory stooped to rest.

Anomalies of Intention

I work with information. So do you.

Information is like little eyes, only they’re abstracted out, looking down from behind our head, onto what’s in front of us. Even truly empirical information, which is rare and precious, passes through this lens.

We make our own information. We consume the information of others. One of the striking problems in black hole theories is information loss, or preservation.

In science, something is likely true if it can be tested by multiple, independent information sources. The more independent sources, the better. The more angles of approach, the better.

These messages I send you also get posted on a blog. Excluding spam and search engine pings, there are approximately 150 different people who read something I’ve written each day. The largest majority of people are Comcast customers, followed by Road Runner (Time Warner). AT&T, who monitors us — you don’t see their name faded through the background of these companies. But it’s there.

Oddly, considering the content of what I write, most people arrive here because they were seeking information about gay men. Married gay men, hot gay men, bad gays, gay hugs, gay love, gay muscle men and naked gay men. One out of three people choose to say “gay guy” rather than “gay men”. That’s a somewhat interesting subtlety.

Most view what I write from the United States, followed by the United Kingdom, then Australia, Canada and Germany. The most links that come to my blog are from other people’s sites – individuals linking from their personal profiles on Rupert Murdock’s MySpace site.

The vast majority of visitors do not leave comments, but read more than one article. In all that I’ve written, the second most commented-upon piece is the one that talks about gay marriage and has a picture Andy and Mark. The piece is about our perceptions, mental and spiritual, that change over time, mixed in with time travel. The comments are mostly about “hotness”. For some reason, the piece that receives the most spam is the one about Amy and Jarreau’s wedding.

I certainly can’t bitch about horniness, hotness and being confused since I have a glass house of my own. As one guy commented on my piece about time and perception:

I love how half the gay men missed the point about the story.. and went straight for sex.. It’s pigs like you that give us all a bad rep. Take your postings to the other. sites..

But that’s what sells, isn’t it? The sexy, the glittery, and the easy packages. The attention of where your dick or ego draws you, that goal, where everything else is just noise. That’s okay, though. The subconscious works wonders, as probably does other things. It’s just slower. And almost everyone fights what they cannot control, or buries their heads.

Love holds a ranking, though. It goes: cartoon, sex, time, old, then love. It is ahead of bad, supercomputer and muscle. The fifth piece I wrote here is the second most popular and the most commented-upon: “Married Men Who Aren’t Gay“. It is also the subject I receive the most personal emails from the blog about. They have all been confessionals, but I have no absolution.

Of all the pieces not related to sex, the most popular is about the observatories on Mount Graham. And this reminds me that I never finished writing about the observatories in Arizona and New Mexico. Positivity comes in next.

Not surprisingly there is a predictability about all this — the same predictability that causes many people to become irritated with me. I used to get told a lot to look what other people are doing when I create software. One of the great, old postmodern questions is, does TV reflect society, or does society reflect TV? A historian once told me, there is nothing more dangerous than the self-educated.

Then, in a question where you have choices A, B, C and D – “none of the above” is the safest bet. And depending on who wrote the question, it might also be the best. But you have no voice choosing “none of the above”. The publisher has played their part, while the tallying machine munches on.

It makes me care, strangely, all the more, what you might be feeling underneath the words. Maybe it’s just empathy for the underdog, no matter how many dogs live below. Maybe it’s self-justification. Or maybe just being alive within something.

A game is nothing more than its players — the rules, shaped by their individual peculiarities. Another person, another body, and the game. Drawn in one direction, then yanked in another. Loose chains, willingly worn.

A Cartoon:

The Devil The Magician The Lovers
8 of Spades 9 of Clubs 9 of Spades
8 of Hearts The Star The Fool

The Challenge of Omniscience

Jake uses his front paws like hands. He lays on his back, holding a tennis ball in the air between his paws, gently nibbling it while upside-down. He grabs your leg with his front arms and pulls when you go places he wishes you would not. He is an assertive and expressive communicator.

My dad often chants playfully to him, “Jake knows everything. Yes he does. Jake knows everything” as they’re dancing around.

My domain is in the basement. When I step down the stairs, Jake runs to the railing, pushing his head through the slats, even though it often gets stuck, to see me down the steps. I stop midway down the flight when we are eye-level. He rolls onto his back, stretching his paws out to my face while upside down, tongue hanging out, with a silly grin on his face made of sharp canine teeth.

Tanner, his “big brother”, left the night before after a week-long stay. Jake’s melancholy was tangible I looked into his eyes, and he into mine, and I wondered at such a sweet little beasty as this, alive, so similar, and so different. I imagined; I allowed myself to feel the depth of what he was, bringing to mind images of reincarnation and the manifold ramifications — an openness much like all he might have been, or might be. Then suddenly it seemed he sensed what I was thinking and became unsettled, abruptly getting to his feet, trotting to the bathroom door where my dad was sitting on the toilet, clawing at it for entrance. I stood for a while on the stairway and smiled.

Jake loves having things. And the things that you might have, he loves having all the more. The tennis ball in your hand is always more desirable than the tennis ball he already has. The food in the mouth of another dog is far more succulent than the same food he has. Even a quick, harmless pat upon another dog’s head is an unbearable affront. Jake knows everything.

Marines have been given guard dog duty at Guantanamo. We’re sending 3,000 more marines to the Middle East as part of a new, smaller buildup. A friend of the family who is in the Coast Guard Reserves will be sent in a few days to Guantanamo for a tour of guard duty. He is a policeman, and a Christian. Guantanamo is one place of many. We have hundreds of prisoners there, most held for several years. None of them have been charged or tried with any crime. A journalist for al-Jazeera (the Middle-East’s CNN equivalent) is there, held prisoner for more than 2,000 days. Prisoners are routinely given psychotropic drugs for personality deconstruction. He was told he would be freed if he would report the news agency’s activities and contacts back to US Intelligence. I wonder if it’s like a movie being dragged around on the floor by a rope around your penis. He went on a hunger strike early last year. He is kept alive by a tube inserted down his nose, through his throat, and into his stomach. The Christian policeman says the “liberals” are to blame for our current state of affairs. The Mormon presidential candidate wants to expand Guantanamo.

Jake likes chasing after little animals he sees moving. He feels compelled to catch them and bring them back. A small dog who used to visit has decided he doesn’t like Jake and attacks him now on sight, with all the little dog’s might. Jake doesn’t know what to do, so he lays down to surrender, but the little dog just keeps attacking.

I don’t remember exactly what it was about, but I was told recently it’s all just survival of the fittest. Was it money? Power? Politics? War? Religion? Like evolution. It’s just natural. And I wondered, if we have the awareness, must we follow what is “natural”? If we do not, are we somehow “unnatural”? But I soon figured it was a trick, just another one of those get out of jail free cards we so readily pull out for ourselves. Another way to say, that’s just how the game works, and you gotta play it. Then you’re absolved. Then you’re forgiven. And you don’t even have to repent.

And I was looking at the TV when I realized, nobody I know is like what I’m seeing there. Nobody is that profoundly stupid. Right? It’s all about getting out, free, right? Yet there was the TV, going on along its merry way. There were the 2-D songs and dances, right before my eyes, with sound. While everyone around me was saying something completely different. And I heard a loud, frenzied pounding on basement door, from the other side, on the stairwell. There must have been two balls instead of one. When two balls land on the bottom stair, Jake can’t fit them both in his mouth at the same time. Yet he will struggle forever trying, instead of just taking one, and then later, the other. It has to be done, or to die in the trying.

Our leaders want to cut taxes now to help us spend more money in the economy, while at the same time throwing away more and more on war. You know how they can spend more and more, while bringing in less and less, right? I don’t know how conservatives can complain about liberal spending, when liberal spending is always so much less. It’s like Willy Wonka traveling in that mad tunnel. And people believe it. Or, they don’t, but don’t say anything. We all know how much of our property has been seized by financial institutions recently, don’t we? We all know how our taxes will be given to these same companies so they won’t loose money, right?

Boeing workers are currently fighting to get cost-of-living increases included in their retirement pensions. My dad barely has any money now that property taxes have risen so much. In just a few more years, if he is unlucky enough to live, he’ll have to try selling the house to survive his remaining time. The privatized prescription program of Medicare enacted recently has caused him to pay double for prescription coverage, until he just canceled it. The Democrat’s solution for universal heath care is to mandate that we all purchase health insurance. Just like we’re all mandated to purchase auto insurance.

In the Reagan Era it became commonplace for corporations to spend their employee’s retirement fund. Boeing barely escaped a corporate raider who came after them solely because of their large cash employee retirement fund. I own part of a company that is trying to get exclusive control over a publicly-owned park with a multi-decade contract, displacing arts and civic groups. I tried long ago, for a long time, to put them on a positive route with all the other bad stuff they did. But apparently, I was being negative. The FDA has proclaimed meat from cloned animals safe for our consumption, but asked the industry to hold off putting it in the market until we can get “used to” the idea. The cloned meat is already in the stream. Most cloned animals die from molecular/genetic errors. The few that happen to survive, are the ones whose offspring we will eat. This has not be been proven harmful to in the last few years. So it is okay.

My Christian friend (practically a family member) will be leaving in the next few days to hold people in prison indefinitely for torture. Scant funding continues to be available for alternative energy sources that cannot be controlled centrally by a few people. Money for universities continues to flow into the technical instead of liberal arts. Science continues to have its focus drawn forcibly into a narrow, money-making scope. All the while, our government has now made it possible for all our news, entertainment and information to come from as few places as they might — even though, like the parks, we the public own the air waves. They also allow themselves to monitor us and intercept our communications under the guise of protecting us, ignoring the fact that any truly nefarious communications would be encrypted. But, as Hoover has show us, such things can be beneficial in maintaining power (status quo). They even snuck through national ID cards, that ties agency information about us together, buried in a funding bill. AP reporters have been told to follow Brittney Spears at all cost, where any news is big news. They don’t follow our lawmakers or business people, though.

I’ll stop. That was a bit of a tirade, not really a rant. It’s been so long since I’ve written anything to y’all that I feel I deserve a little indulgence. There are so many issues, and so many changes we’ve collectively gone through, over such a short time. I wonder — try to imagine and remember what you thought, and how you felt, before all these things. What are the forces that are causing this? The young will say, that’s just how things are. The older will say, nay, nay!

The neighbor lady I grew up with, who was older than my parents, died around Christmas. She was loud and energetic, even into her 90’s. Every time she came to visit, she brought with her a bottle of vodka or whiskey. One of her sons and their family have lived in the house for the past several years. Mabel lived in a nearby apartment. I always loved Mabel. She was loud, but wonderful. Dan Walker laughed and gave me hell for a long time after he met her, when she rasped at me, “Mark, you little shit” in that carrying, jovial voice. She couldn’t afford the apartment any more with the money from retirement, having lived so long. The neighbors are staunch, Limbaugh-listening Republicans. They were overwhelmingly relieved when they found a very nice retirement community for her that would take people on a sliding scale, being government-subsidized. What a wonderful use of our collective tax money. But their conservative schizophrenia dominates, allowing them to love the place, while simultaneously hating and wanting to destroy the very institutions that made it possible.

They had started moving all her things to the new place, though she didn’t want to leave her apartment. They moved them while she flew down to California to visit her other son. She died on the toilet there, before she even had a chance to try out the new place. They were a little worried about the money, but the liberal place told them not to be, and to take their time getting her things moved out, even though there was a waiting list of new tenants. Even the wife next door loves the war.

Jake, who knows everything, is lying on his back right now, on the bed, with his legs in the air, sleeping. He twitches in his doggie dreams. I’m imagining what it would be like to tie some twine to his ear and drag him off the bed, then along the floor. I’m sure he’d be yelping. I could use one of those nice, sharp new Chinese pairing knifes to slice little bleeding slits across his belly, too. Crazy thing. He’d be confused, but he’d let me do it all. And he’d even love me just the same afterward. I deserve that, though, don’t I? He’s just a dog.

Yes. Just the way things are. Or was I imagining it?