Discovery new Open eye Around corners Beyond ends Possibility being Mind fluidly bends Within a keyhole Without into space Mental subduction Emotional chase Plainly found empty No up or down Given a choice Or never known Hiding is All But can it be you? Me rolling around? Unlikely untrue Message is heard Hardly lips closed But still the words Quietly transposed I only whisper Yet how loudly it shows
Re Veterans Day
November 11, 2016, 05:36 AM EST
My military service lasted six years and four months in the U.S. Army, during which time I experienced two deployments in the Iraq War. My life in the military would be unimaginable to most Americans, and it took a couple of years for me to adjust to civilian life after I left the military.
A military veteran's perspective on life and society tends to be very different in comparison to the perspective of a non-veteran. I know that most of my veteran friends would agree. Thus, on my own behalf and theirs, I think it is important that people know one of the biggest ways in which our perspectives differ, especially because it is that time of the year.
Most veterans whom I know, including myself, are uncomfortable with people saying "Happy Veterans Day" or even "thank you for your service."
There are several reasons why:
1) Plain evidence shows that too many Americans genuinely do not appreciate veterans' "service" most of the time, except for a couple of days out of the year when the calendar reminds them to.
2) Plain evidence shows that too many Americans take for granted their freedoms of expression, their right of duty to engage in civil discourse, their responsibilities and rights that are protected by the mere fact of the presence of the strongest military in the world.
Bringing up the facts (with which I happen to agree) that going to Iraq, and Afghanistan, and Vietnam, etc. did not truly protect Americans' freedoms is a moot point. You could successfully argue that U.S. military dominance and worldwide presence basically keeps any aggressors from messing around in our neighborhood, so to speak.
And all of that is beside the truth that most military veterans, including myself (even though I joined the army to escape my lifestyle), would humbly accept the duties of protecting this country.
3) "Thank you for your service" usually seems to be an empty statement. People seem to say it only because they think it is socially required. It might be more appropriate to say "Thank you for your MILITARY service" or "Thank you for serving this country."
4) In a country where the two top presidential candidates were abysmal options, a neoliberal war hawk and an unhinged fascist, it is obvious that Americans are less concerned with how their choices affect military service members' futures in possible wars and their responsibility (silence is consent) for deploying the military responsibly and safely than they are with whether or not their preferred political celebrity is winning.
So, please, do not thank me for my service.
If you want to thank a veteran for their service, think about the 100,000 veterans who were killed, maimed, or otherwise disabled because an irresponsible country sent them to war to protect and secure financial and oil interests for rich people.
If you want to thank a veteran for their service, then vote, engage in civil discourse, take up your duty as a citizen of a country that is supposed to be a self-governing democracy, and quit giving up your power to TV personalities who tell you what to think, what to buy, and what to like. If you want to thank a veteran, tell them that you voted and that you take your civic responsibilities seriously because you understand their importance and you don't take some poor sucker's (like me) life for granted 12,000 miles away, getting fucked up in a war zone.
October 3, 2016, 07:30 AM EST
Vote-against-someone logic brought us a president who had more financial backing from big banks than any of the other candidates at the time of his election. It brought us drone strikes on children, a worsening situation of violence in the Middle East, and the brink of a hot war with Russia. It brought us the Affordable Care Act, written by the insurance and pharmaceutical industries. It brought us more pipelines, more bailouts for CEOs, and more handouts to countries who bomb their neighbors for really bad reasons. It brought us a president who fails to do anything significant about the ongoing tragic conditions of the black communities; especially regarding prison populations, the enforcement of ridiculously excessive penalties for drug-related offenses, and the killings of unarmed black men by police officers. It brought us a president who hasn’t done anything about the abuses against women’s rights in various states across this country. It brought us the worst deportation policies we have ever seen, the broken promise of closing Guantanamo Bay, the use of armed drones against Americans on American soil, and the worst cases of election fraud/voter suppression in at least the past several decades.
Go ahead, vote against someone. Be like the tens of millions of people who do what the TV tells them to do and will do it again four years from now. But quit telling us that our votes for Jill Stein are votes for Donald Trump. Plenty of articles and rants already exist in the ether exhorting us to vote against him. Additional such arguments are neither original nor interesting.
The difference between the people who urge you to vote against Trump and the people who intend to vote for Jill Stein is that, even if Trump wins, we Jill supporters carry enough conviction with our beliefs to follow up on our actions and resist blaming other people that things didn’t turn out our way.
1) Type exactly this: <a href=" 2) Make sure it is typed exactly as above, with a space between "a" and "href" 3) Add the URL (website address). For example, http://www.whatever.com 4) It should now look like this: <a href="http://www.whatever.com 5) Add this after the URL: "> 6) Now it looks like this: <a href="http://www.whatever.com"> 7) Now add the text, such as "CLICK HERE," that you want people to click on. 8) Now, it looks like this: <a href="http://www.whatever.com">CLICK HERE 9) Finally, add this to the end: </a> 10) You get this: <a href="http://www.whatever.com">CLICK HERE<a>
Now, when people read your profile, they will see "CLICK HERE" highlighted in some color (probably bright blue), and, when they click on it, they will be taken to your website, whatever.com.
There is a way to address social inequality (or, perhaps, other social problems one might ponder) without casting blame or demonstrating hostility.
As Paulo Freire explains, oppression is certainly morally wrong, dehumanizing; however, if a solution is to be successful and lasting, then the oppressed, in their struggle, must endeavor to avoid dehumanizing the oppressor. The oppressed must avoid "oppressing the oppressor," or else the struggle for the greater good is lost and the vicious cycle of tyranny begins again.
This might sound like some peacenik-idealistic mumbo-jumbo, but the importance of this topic's implications begs a while of reflection.
Example: responding to the attacks of September 11, 2001, with the knee-jerk reaction of invading Afghanistan, only made things worse for everyone.In turn, every terror attack in response to any other aggression has simply made things worse.
Who is going to stop the cycle of madness? It will not be one person, but rather a higher consciousness with a higher purpose, a purpose that serves all human beings, not just "us" or "them." This purpose must transcend religion.
It requires looking at a person and seeing the human being in them: the human thoughts, the human experiences, the human emotions, the human actions, the human knowledge. If one does not do this for the other, then they also cannot do it for themselves.
In other words, when a person dehumanizes another person, they also dehumanize themselves. I think this action is very easy to miss, very easy to ignore, because ignoring the bigger picture, ignoring the complexity of humans, makes immediate goals possible to achieve.
Let's just stop and say, "We all are people!"
If one does not appreciate being human and celebrate all of their humanity, then they must be, I think, less apt to recognize the humanity of another person, another human being.
I have often wondered why the Clinton campaign continues to do so well despite the huge number of Bernie supporters, the strengths of Bernie's policies, and the horrendous quagmire of Clinton's past.
But it took me only a couple of seconds to realize that the Clinton campaign is simply outperforming #BernieSanders in media exposure and in the game of mudslinging, which, by the way, is not a game that Sanders plays.
On the latter note, I believe it is fairly plausible that anyone who knows the Clintons' political history and their character also knows that they will stop at nothing to win. They will say anything and do anything. It would also be known that the Clintons sling mud with the skill, expertise, and subtle grace of fine arts masters.They might even have invented the game.
When history speaks on topics of political scandal, rhetorical evasion of persecution, and the politicians who were most hungry for power, then the Clintons surely will emerge. They will undoubtedly have chapters and books dedicated to their greed and ruthlessness.
If this what Bernie Sanders faces, then there certainly must be a compelling reason for so many people to support him.
Like many people, I am not a fanatic about politics, but I don't want to continue living in a world where I continually feel trapped in an Orwellian devolution, where the best that people can hope to achieve through both hard work and luck is nothing more than mediocrity, where social stability endlessly teeters on the brink of school shootings and terror attacks, where war is permanent, where you don't own your own property, where people end up fighting against each other due to the pressures of an increasingly divided society.
I have said this before, but I doubt everyone has seen it: I have watched Bernie Sanders for the past several years. One reason for this is that I was once inspired by my participation in Iraq, and my subsequent awakenings as a civilian in college, to become very bitter with the American political institution. This kept my face in the news until I had headaches and a new-and-improved layer of depression. History is depressing. There's no doubt about it.
The other reason is that, if one indeed had paid attention to politics deeply enough, they would have seen Senator Sanders's name emerge often during debates about the rights of workers, about the unfairness of the American economic systems, about the rights of military veterans, about a woman's right to control her own body, and a panoply of other issues currently sitting at the core of the American conscience.
When I learned last year that Bernie was running for president, I couldn't have been happier! Here was someone who had the GUTS to vocalize dissent against the whole of Congress, the Administration, and the courts. He was very passionate. He was very consistent.
I have lived through five presidents. I remember when my father's factory job was shipped overseas in the early 1980s, not long after President Reagan broke accord with the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights; specifically, by allowing companies to save money by taking people's jobs overseas.
Looking back on those times, it seemed as if almost everyone's life revolved around the television set and regularly-scheduled programming. It seemed they were mesmerized by, and living vicariously through, characters who didn't live in the sad and cold reality of a declining civilization. We had WWF heroes, the A-Team, Family Ties, Saturday Night Live, Johnny Carson, etc.
Entertainment, entertainment, entertainment! Life itself was too miserable to ponder with a sober head for very, I suppose. Folks really needed an escape.
In cities, crack cocaine became pervasive, low wages became a virulent cancer, deteriorating neighborhoods became a norm, secret wars increased in number and in scope.
Bernie Sanders was there, and he was already on our side. He understands the social and economic hardships at the core and has been fighting for decades over them - very bravely, I might add.
I support him very simply because I believe leadership must be more than charismatic and bold, clever and innovative, etc. It must begin with the right ideas, from a perspective that accurately ascertains the right reality. Without that, the greatest leadership can result in a grand crusade towards failure (forgive the tautology).
Of course, we know this from having survived through President George W. Bush.
Of course, I certainly do not believe that Bernie Sanders is the Messiah. He may very well find his hands tied if he gets into the White House. (I am not under the illusion that the world as I see it is the same world that any president sees.) But his very presence there would instill momentum going in a better direction, possibly for generations to come. He might be the next Abraham Lincoln; yet, he might be the next Chester A. Arthur - if you don't know who that is, my response is "Exactly."
But we tend to know people are great only after there is a sign of it, when there is a prestigious award given for it, when there is a huge ceremony denoting it. We don't suffer through the economic recessions that were prevented. We don't hear about the crises that were averted. We're not aware of the social chaos that never happened.
Often, we don't realize when the ordinary reality is the extraordinary outcome of a potential catastrophe.
I probably don't need to persuade anyone reading these words to vote for and support Bernie Sanders. But I am writing this to inspire. I am writing to tell you that I would gladly stand in front of a bullet so that this country could have President Bernie Sanders.
I don't know nearly as much about history and politics as some of you do, but I know we want mostly the same things, that we are smart, and that we could beat almost any existing force when we put our heads together.
Yes, the HRC campaign my might be pulling through by having strength in the mainstream media's bias, at this point, but I hope you will join me in resolving to squash that insofar as we have the power.
Now, I want you to go out there an inspire someone to feel the Bern.
It's mating season in my house. That is, it's mating season for Parasteatoda tepidariorum. For info related to other species, stay tuned.
I have seen eight of the P. tepidariorum in different corners of the house for the past few weeks. A couple of them have gotten pretty big by eating stink bugs, and I am certain there are a few more hiding in places I haven't seen. I remember to shake out my shoes before putting them on, so don't worry.
Out of the eight visible spiders, there is only one male, and I have seen him "hanging around" in four different webs, so far. At least, I think it has been the same male in all four of those webs. I have not put him under my magnifier, yet.
Before I took an interest in learning anything about spiders, I used to kill them when I found them in the house. I would pick up a tissue, catch and squeeze the animal with it, and then flush it down the toilet like any good, patriotic American learned to do when they were four years old.
These spiders are helpful to you, though. In this time, when we are threatened by mosquitoes that bring deadly viruses to us from all around the world, a spider just might have saved your life without you ever knowing it.
The dangerous spiders are found usually outdoors, in the woods or undisturbed piles of dead foliage. They don't like human contact, and usually they will be found in only homes that have not been cleaned for a long, long time, or homes that have been abandoned.
The widow spiders and the brown recluse have very distinct appearances, but the easiest way to tell whether a spider is dangerous is to observe whether it is inside your house or not. If it is inside your house, then it is almost certainly harmless.
In your house, there will be spiders - no matter how clean the house is. There probably is a spider just within a couple of meters from you right now. But it is hiding and doesn't want to say hello.
I like the Parasteatoda because they happen to like out-of-the-way corners. As well, I think they are pretty, although you need a magnifying glass in order to truly appreciate their appearance. (What kind of weirdo keeps a magnifying glass for looking at spiders?) If I find one in a corner of the floor and wall, then I might persuade it to move a little higher so that it won't get swept up. You can pick them up and move them with a piece of paper or a credit card. If they run away, then let them run away. They may move on to build their web in a less obtrusive area.
I am not afraid to handle them. So, when I need to move them, I prod them to run onto my hand. They will almost certainly run off of my hand, so I have to catch it in the other hand, and keep doing this until I get them to another location.
I hate mosquitoes and flies, but I have to put up with them because my house has many gaps and cracks and holes, like it was built by someone who was really pressed for time, and all they had to build with was old and used material.
Mosquitoes: spiders eat them, but so do dragonflies. Dragonflies are great mosquito hunters because their vision is excellent, they are very fast, and they can maneuver incredibly well. Aeronautic engineers have been trying to design aircraft using the dragonfly as a model because it is such an amazing flier.
Ever notice a dragonfly suddenly appear and then hover for a while, seeming motionless before suddenly darting off again? They stopped to hunt. Don't kill them. Don't swat at them, don't bat at them, don't be afraid of them. They are beautiful and they are your friend. They will never bite you. I once had a dragonfly land on my arm to rest for a while before it went out again.
Another animal that is a great mosquito killer is the wasp. There are certain wasps, in particular, that kill mosquito larvae because the larvae compete with their own larvae. Let the wasps live, and they may do you a huge favor by reducing the mosquito population.
Though, people tend to have an aversion towards wasps because they can sting. Yet, people who get stung by bees and wasps usually get stung due to their own actions. I have never been stung in my life, even though I have had wasps and bees floating around my face, or buzzing around in close proximity. Please, leave them alone.
If you don't want wasps to build a nest on your house, then fill a paper bag with paper, or some other light stuff, and hang it up where you don't want them to build. They will think it is another wasp colony and they will leave the area alone. I have to do this around my front and back doors in the late spring. The rest of the house is a free-for-all.
I want to keep alive the things that kill mosquitoes: spiders, wasps, dragonflies, et al. Dragonfly habitats are available for sale on the Internet, but you can build one yourself. It doesn't have to be magnificent and expensive -- it can be small and affordable, but it must be functional.
You will need a small pool of water -- I think a couple of gallons will do. The pool must contain some sticks and rocks on the bottom, so that the dragonflies can lay their eggs on them. There should also be sticks projecting out of the water so that the dragonflies can perch and their babies can crawl out of the water. Also, a small water plant or two will do the trick.
We should be friends with the environment and let it work for us. If we treat it right, it will be good to us.
A 53-year prison sentence is, for practical purposes, life for a 16-year-old girl. In 2004, Cyntoia Brown received this sentence, without possibility of parole, for murdering 43-year-old Johnny Allen who had picked her up for sex. Brown was a prostitute at the time, and Allen apparently had been a previous client.
Brown currently serves out her sentence at Tennessee Prison for Women. Although there is evidence that she acted in self-defense when she killed Allen, she was tried and convicted as an adult for first-degree murder.
According to medical experts, including mental-health professionals who interviewed the teenager during the time of her trial, Cyntoia had suffered from mental-emotional disorders after a history of childhood maltreatment, including sexual and physical abuse and physical and emotional neglect.
When Cyntoia was arrested in 2004, there was no question that she had killed a man. A filmmaker, Daniel Birman, questioned the circumstances that could have led up to this event. It seemed to him very unusual that a girl Cyntoia's age could have been involved in such a violent crime as the perpetrator. It was apparent that she had grown up in a reasonably safe home environment. Birman's investigation culminated in a film, and it revealed to him that violence among youth was much more common than he had realized.
Birman's film tells Cyntoia’s story, explores her history, and questions her future. "Without attempting to deny the reality of Cyntoia's actions, or to portray her as an example from a generation gone off the rails, Birman simply follows Cyntoia through six years of life after her conviction and searches for answers to persistent questions."
In the cruel environment where children are trapped within the chaotic lifestyles of abusive adults, a shocking number of children eventually find themselves facing lengthy prison sentences. Cyntoia Brown is one of these children, for she had been born into a life of parental substance abuse, prostitution, and eventually foster care. She was conditioned early on to treat others the way she herself was treated and to suffer through prostitution not as a quick way to earn money, but rather a means of survival.
When the details of such living conditions become clear, and their extremely harmful effects on social and psychological development become known, there is little wonder why many youths subject to such circumstances eventually face punishment by the criminal justice system. Society revolts when a child is physically, emotionally, or sexually abused, and it condemns the perpetrators of these disgusting behaviors. Should this child have been seen as so vile that no one should have tried to reach out and save her?
Placing children in adult prisons is an exceedingly common practice in the US, condemning children to futures ever-more likely to result in abuse, crime, drugs, and violence. The goal of this practice is retributive, not rehabilitative. Rehabilitative measures would focus on instilling and restoring humanity to the child’s life. Rehabilitation benefits society, not merely the individual alone.
I would ask for people to hear Cyntoia Brown’s story and to recognize that the process administered to her by the criminal justice system was not only unfair, but tragically so. Cyntoia was not a child of affluenza. Quite the opposite, she was a child with severely limited resources and hardly any options for escape.
For being a scared young girl, raped and abused, surviving in a very harsh environment, Cyntoia Brown should have received compassionate consideration by the criminal justice system. Both her placement, at age 16, in the adult criminal court and the sentence she received were unduly harsh and irresponsible in the light of what is considered to be Justice.
I believe that enough people, with enough strong voices and the willingness to act, can have the influence to compel the court of Tennessee to re-examine Ms. Brown’s case and apply the compassion and understanding originally lacking in the conviction and sentence she received. Please help this young lady who was subject to the mistake of issuing a sentence of life in prison to a child.
I recognize that 2016 is a leap year, which rouses my curiosity to know if any of you were "leap babies." Do you celebrate your birthday on Feb 28 or March 1st? Or what?
This year, I am going to leave negatives in the past. I will do this by seeking the positives and making this a habit; i.e., adopting the positives. These can be thoughts, practices, feelings, moods, or what have you.
One personal-improvement practice that has profoundly impacted my wellbeing over the past couple of years is meditation. I will thusly do this more often and continue to learn more about it.
Another practice I will do more often is book reading. I read many newspaper articles, journal articles, and a lot of technical-educational material, but I do not read enough books. This especially is true of fiction and literature of more-artistically, -refinedly, and -elegantly expressive forms relating universally relevant content of intellect and emotion. There is beauty in much existing literature, and reading it is healthy for both mind and heart. Some of the beauty in literature lies in how well words combine to express ideas clearly and efficiently. The more such writing is understood, the more likely that the reader will integrate clarity and efficiency into their own thought process. Good literature, including the dryly and esoterically technical material, is food for thought. You are what you eat.
None of these is a resolution in the pop-traditional sense of "new year's resolutions," however. Resolve is an attitude, a state of mind. A resolution is a commitment, a decree. I won't feel that I had failed, if I do not rigidly adhere to a highly regimented schedule comprising the activities described above. They are what I wish to do, things I believe embody happiness in my life.
Of course, I won't anger if anyone dislikes my lack of ardent commitment or disapproves of my nonconformity to New Year's tradition. I simply like to get on with the show and be comfy wherever I go.
Whetting My Appetite for Destruction
December 16, 2015 09:17 AM EST
The music industry has seen a Cambrian explosion since the mid-1980s. This revolution has taken many directions - artistically, culturally, for the better, for the worse. The extremes are much more extreme than they used to be.
Thusly, the dirty sounds and dirty lyrics characteristic of Appetite for Destruction, Guns N'Roses' 1987 debut studio album, would not be considered nearly so controversial, if published today. When they actually were published, however, heads turned.
I believe it plausible that the workings of my imagination, along with much of my personal history, could be illuminated to a significant extent by observing that I received this album as a gift around my eighth birthday, and that I listened to it almost incessantly for the next several years.
I still have most of the lyrics memorized, and I am grateful to Slash (Saul Hudson) for the influence of his musicianship on my past foray into rock and blues.
An excellent example of this musicianship is reflected in Nightrain, which I would choose as my favorite song on the album. It represents so much of the album's best artistic qualities, and its guitar tracks simply bleed effusively with Slash's playing. If pure music could embody such thematic essence as these songs belie, then that music would come from Slash's bluesy, fiery guitar - fleeting, flashy, captivating, jagged, descending into some oneirically dystopic paradise.
The other two favorites are Mr. Brownstone and Rocket Queen. The former has a few brilliant lead-guitar tracks, along with a very bold and pompous hook riff. The song itself is quite bluesy, with a series of crescendos up to the point where the vocal is practically crying for Mr. Brownstone "leave me alone," and following a classic blues pattern, of course translated through a funky hardcore rock band.
Rocket Queen is almost anomalous to the album, becoming very personal and narrative, especially with the music's somewhat subdued presence in comparison with the other songs. The music doesn't take over the presence of the lyrics, but seems to feed them like smoldering embers feed heat into the fuel set atop of them. The ending of this song is special. It radiates a bit of warmth into the heart of the listener after the previous ten tracks stun it, kick it around, pour whiskey down into its right atrium, slap it with an ounce of speed, and make it do all sorts of naughty things with any transient biker who’s willing to pay the price. After all that, you finally get to know that someone cares. And that’s all they ever wanted you to know.
I will never forget that I learned the word "innuendo" from this song. Thanks for enhancing my vocabulary, Guns 'N' Roses.
Most of the songs on the album contain many of the elements I like about the album overall, but they tend to end with cheesy abruptions. As well, they tend to be a bit rarefied of the creative originality so apparent in the best songs. It’s almost as if the band said, “We’ve got enough hits, so let’s just call these ‘done’ and go have some #!$&*$#^% fun!”
Aside from the themes of narcissistic violence, dark insanity, lubricious vulgarity, copious substance use, misogyny, pathological maladjustment, and the tortured appeal to an essential vulgar intimate connection, the album altogether serves, in my mind, as a great document of the post-industrial-wasteland, nihilistic subculture that fulminated concomitantly with the era's new brand of American conservatism, also known as Reaganism.
Along with Dark Side of the Moon, Appetite for Destruction stands out in the memories of my childhood soundtrack. Without it, I wouldn't be the person I am today, which is not to say I am a violent, drugged-up degenerate, or anything of the sort. These days, I tend to listen to only jazz and classical music, and my general cultivation has approached, I like to think, an educated and sophisticated state.
However, I am able to portray a bit of edginess and am not entirely ignorant that "unseemly" ambience often belies a spirit and intellect of creativity and survival that might be inaccessible to "white-washed" ears and minds.
Well, I had words to write, and it seemed fun to write them down. I'll see you on the dark side of the moon.
A Candidate for the Change We Need
November 11, 2015 05:45 PM EST
In the late 1970s and early 1980s, Bernie Sanders claimed that the entertainment media and "news" media intended to make people dumber and more manipulable. He still holds that position.
With such insightful candor, he deserves a fair look in the current election cycle. Who else will endeavor to break up the current media monopolies and dissolve those very powerful regulating government bodies, such as the FCC, that condone problems that include disinformation and manipulation of public perception?