Notes that Don’t Sing

By , August 31, 2009 12:41 pm

Before blogging, there was journaling. It was fun, but only one person at a time could share it. The advantage was that it could be more intimate. The disadvantage was that it would sit in the dark. Here, then, are some choice excerpts from something dark.

Possible subtitle: dripping with cynicism.

  • If you ask for it, you deserve it.
  • I don’t despise who you are. I despise who you believe you are.
  • Your lies are of no interest to me, even if they are only lies to yourself.
  • The tree of life obscures the target. Cut it down.
  • Responsibility automatically comes to those who are aware.
  • Somehow we come to believe that suffering will make us important.
  • Humanity might not be the place for greatness.
  • Fly away. I see you in the distance.
  • I have no right to say that I am lonely. I only have the right to be lonely.
  • You are out of excuses.
  • “It never worked.” -K, about our two years together.
  • Pure and simple vs complex and subtle.
  • I let the moment fill me with what is essential.
  • Despite the small people around me, I remain at large.
  • Why would I ever expect you to understand this?
  • “I’m not afraid of this. I know I should be.” -M, about a relationship with me.
  • I am Erebus.
  • It feels like digging a hole.
  • She’s like me: dirty, impure, raging, real.
  • “I’m not smart enough to be an atheist.” -Negative Guy
  • Women love young, fat guys because they look like babies, and women love babies.
  • I am more complex than this. I am more complex than you can imagine.
  • Hope and fear stand in their corners, blame and guilt their coaches. The bell rings.

The end of the black and silver notebook.

Late-August Song

By , August 30, 2009 12:00 pm
Rose of Sharon

Rose of Sharon

Last night I went out to the garden to possibly pick something to eat. There were about eight big tomatoes, and four bell peppers. The cantaloupe isn’t making fruit right now, and the watermelon is currently making two kinds of fruit: regular melons, and something that may be the result of cross-pollination with the cucumbers.

It’s been cool all week, but I haven’t had the chance to enjoy it – too busy at the office. But last night I bent over to pull up some grass from around the tomatoes, and ended up staying there 40 minutes. Then I decided to fertilize, followed by a comical struggle to get the soaker hoses to work. I ended up as soaked as the garden.

All the while, the evening got darker. The sky was perfectly clear, and the cool air was perfectly still. The goats looked on with great amusement, so occasionally I threw them a big weed or a cherry tomato.

This summer has slipped by. It’s almost September.

“Her violet sky
Will need to cry
‘Cause if it doesn’t rain
Then everything will die
She needs to heal
She needs to feel
Something more than tender
Come September…”
-Natalie Imbruglia

How Not to blog

By , August 29, 2009 3:01 pm
  • For starters, “blog” is slang for “web log,” even though blogs aren’t web logs at all. It’s all very “KFC used to be Kentucky Fried Chicken”-esque.
  • That stupid pale green and yellow polka-dot blogger.com background pattern is a death knell. I would rather cough up a lung than read a blog on that crap.
  • If your blog is called “(YOUR NAME)’s Great Blog,” give up. And not just at blogging.
  • “Brevity is the soul of wit.” -William Shakespeare. The details of the bus ride to get your new cell phone battery might not top everyone’s list.
  • No one wants to hear you complain about other blogs. Unless you are being ironic. I leave it to you to decide which this is.

Points of Order

By , August 29, 2009 2:29 pm

Here are a few bullet points from a notepad in my car…

  • Radio ad: “Tell congress to do its job and pass the new wiretapping bill to keep us all safe.” After hearing this ad in favor of continuing to allow warrantless electronic eavesdropping on American citizens, and thinking how much it sounded like the doublethink and newsspeak from George Orwell’s 1984, congress passed the bill. Fellow blogster Wil Fry wrote a brief opinion about it that mirrors my own. Read it here.
  • Thought: the reason most people don’t care about losing their civil liberties is that most people don’t have anything unpopular to say.
  • Catching a few minutes of an episode of A&Es series Intervention about a suicidal bulimic teenager who was ruining her family’s lives, I found myself wanting to put a bullet in her head. I get the same feeling about the suspects when I watch the show Cops, which is why I shouldn’t watch. Or be a cop.
  • When a new version of something is issued in the computer software world, it is usually given a version number, and usually it’s something like Version 2.0 (pronounced two-point-oh.) I have news for a nation of lazy, illiterate hicks: it’s not an “oh,” it’s a zero, and if there is a zero at the end of a number to the right of the decimal, you don’t say it.
  • Tobacco vs porn: both equally evil in every way (except porn doesn’t kill 400,000 people a year in the U. S.), yet one of them receives an $18,000,000 subsidy each year. (Or if you like, an eighteen-point-oh million dollar subsidy.) Guess which one.

Hand Me an Issue

By , August 29, 2009 2:25 pm

Wil Fry posted these items on his blog last year for consideration as issues of most importance. Under each one is my opinion…

* Dependence on Oil
I recognized this problem in 1973 when I was 10. I couldn’t solve it then, and I can’t solve it now, because the American people are too greedy, short-sighted and ultimately stupid to elect leaders who will stand up to global oil and say we’ve had enough, while at the same time stand up to Americans and say that they will need to make changes and sacrifices.

* High Taxes
This isn’t ancient Rome or feudal Europe. It’s the 21st century, which means that your tax dollars don’t go into the king’s coffer. They build roads, educate children, kill Iraqis, subsidize tobacco, pay for air shows, pay millions of government salaries, allow the CIA and the NSA to listen to your phone calls, and all kinds of other wonderful things without which we would be genuinely free. The biggest slice of your tax pie, by the way, goes to “defense,” which includes…

* War in Iraq
Anyone who knows me knows that I thought the Iraq war was a mistake since I heard the first reports of armor moving towards Baghdad in March 2003. There are a lot of slogans and catchy phrases to describe the war on both sides of the issue, and I think the funniest was a bumper sticker that said, “U S A: We’re gonna free the shit out of you!” But the bottom line is this: it was never our country to invade, and it’s not ours now. It doesn’t matter if you think we’re doing good or freeing an oppressed people: it’s not ours!

* Gun Rights
Most gun owners, like my family and me, are responsible sporting firearm owners and users, and in hands such as ours, guns are safe and fun. But (you saw a “but” coming, didn’t you?) so many people in the world have too much rage, too much alcohol, and too many Dirty Hairy and Rambo viewings to be trusted with lethal force. By the way, the number one cause of firearms deaths in the United States is suicide.

* NAFTA
Taking jobs away from lazy, overweight, rich Americans and giving them to starving Mexicans? Fascism! (Also see my opinion of immigration reform, which directly contradicts this statement.)

* Health Care Reform
If I were a doctor in this country I would carefully screen my patients, and take very few new ones. Why? The reason medical care costs a fortune in the first place is that people don’t understand it very well, and often expect it to be perfect. The result is that when things go wrong, doctors are then greeted by lawyers, and greed gets thrown into the equation. Greed is also, by the way, why prescription drugs are so expensive. Sidebar example: when Abby and I visit our doctor, there is usually a drug company rep in his office.

* Two-Party Monopoly
The powers that be have spoken, and not well. Sometimes I think that the people have given up on any kind of dynamic government, and other times I think they are too stupid to care.

* Global Warming Controversy
This issue only appears controversial if you listen to Rush Limbaugh.

* Housing Market Crash
Stupidity and greed: kissing cousins.

* Same Sex Marriage
I think people who are concerned about this issue just don’t have enough to do.

* Abortion
As hotly contested as this issue has been over the years, the truth is that the people, by majority, have spoken, and the answer since 1973 is that abortion should be legal. If you respect democracy, you have to accept legal abortion. But here is a notion for conservatives to consider: no one is pro abortion. People who are “Pro Choice” really are for the right to choose. I know. Deaf ears.

* Immigration Reform
I was okay with the immigration situation pretty much as it stood until not long ago when I saw the news reports of the enormous reform protests in the streets of Los Angeles. Hundreds of thousands of Mexicans waving the flag of Mexico and holding signs that said, “This is our country.” Fuck each and every one of them. I can clean my own hotel room rather than put up with that, thank you.

* Social Security’s coming bankruptcy
This is the real world, people. If you can’t plan for retirement without leaning on the government teet, you probably should be screwed when social security goes under.

* Shrinking Middle Class
That’s funny, because most of the middle-class people I see are too fat to see their own feet.

Holic?

By , August 29, 2009 2:14 pm

At my office recently we all had to sign a document from corporate stating that we understood the drug and alcohol abuse policy they enforce. I certainly have no problem with that, since some of my least favorite ex-coworkers had drug and alcohol problems, including one who blazed up a doobie in the car in which I was riding one night.

Again, I digress. Signing this document reminded me of some complaining I needed to do, this time about the misuse of the suffix “holic.” Holic? What is a holic, Richard? Simply put, it’s the second half of the word alcoholic.

In case you don’t see it coming, this is another rant about the destruction of language. An alcoholic is a person addicted to alcohol. In chemistry, an alcohol is any organic compound in which a hydroxyl group is bound to a carbon atom of an alkyl. But in this context, it is ethanol, or grain alcohol, the kind in intoxicating drinks such as beer, wine, or spirits.

Why, then, are we unable to describe addictions to other substances without referring to alcohol? What, for example, is a rageaholic? Someone addicted to rageahol? When we work too much we are called workaholics, as if we can’t stop consuming workahol. Is a chocoholic someone addicted to chocohol? (Interesting side note: Firefox’s spell check thinks “chocoholic” and“workaholic” are words).

Perhaps I am naive enough to imagine it would be to all our benefits to be creative enough to express ourselves without shredding the very language of expression.

Sick Kids and the Boogie Man

By , August 29, 2009 2:09 pm

It seems to be a latter-day principal that the crowning achievement of an individual is that s/he be safe.

Recently I was cleaning my computer keyboard with Formula 409, the bottle for which says that it’s “antibacterial.” On its face, I have no problem with this concept. Digging deeper, however, are several ironic contradictions, not just about bacteria, but about the whole notion of safety, cleanliness, and the real and psychological effects of it. Here are a few myths about bacteria, disease, immunization, and safety…

  1. Bacteria is the enemy. Trust me, we need bacteria for life itself. Without billions of healthy bacteria in our bodies, each of us would be dead in a few days.
  2. Bacteria cause disease. In general, only a tiny fraction of the bacteria in the world cause disease in humans. A teaspoon of healthy topsoil contains more bacteria than there are people on the world. Don’t panic. Dirt from the yard isn’t going to kill you.
  3. The flu shot can give you the flu. People who tell me that they actually GOT influenza after getting a vaccination are probably wrong in the first place. Influenza is just one of hundreds of upper respiratory diseases humans can contract, and unless a doctor does a specific serological antibody test for influenza, you could have practically anything. Additionally, the viral particles in the vaccine are “killed” chemically, so the worst they can do to you is give you minor “flu-like” symptoms. If you really did get the flu right after a vaccination, you just got unlucky in your timing. Finally, influenza makes you really sick, not just achy and feverish.
  4. Childhood immunizations are dangerous. This is a very popular form of panicky idiocy for younger parents who don’t remember the world in which children got seriously ill or died from diseases like chicken pox or measles. They hear anecdotal tales from friends, the internet, talk radio, or other specious sources that claim a child somewhere died or got seriously ill from being vaccinated. And while a child or two might actually get sick or die from an MMR or DPT, you can’t take your eye off the big picture, that tens of thousands or even millions of children will be spared if they are vaccinated.
  5. Cleaning is always good. There is a great cadre of scientists who believe as I do that one of the most important reasons for the resurgence of polio in the mid-twentieth century was that many American communities cleaned up a lot of their sewage systems and garbage collection systems, and as a result children were no longer exposed to low levels of poliovirus, which is transmitted by the oral-fecal route. Eventually, they were exposed to full-blown polio in the schools and had no immunity built up to it.
  6. Children should always be safe. This also sounds plausible on the surface, but is a lot like vaccinations. If you keep your kids too safe for too long, they won’t have the ability to deal with the real world when they are thrust into it. It’s natural for kids to sometimes cut themselves, fall out of trees and off their bikes, and even break their bones. Their bodies heal.
  7. You should prevent your kids from getting sick. There is a big push to keep kids home from school when they have colds and flu, and to stay home from work yourself if you are sick. This attitude is somewhat short-sighted. It may be nice to prevent your eight-year-old from coming home with the crud since you don’t like to see them suffer, but consider the nature of the immune system: once your body identifies and eradicates a pathogen, you will be immune to that disease. That’s why we get fewer colds when we get older. There are only about 200 rhinoviruses and coronaviruses, the viruses that causes the common cold, and when one infects you, your immune system identifies it and eliminates it, leaving antigens in your system to quickly identify it if you are exposed to it again. Vaccinations for the flu are a good idea, though they only provide short-term immunity. Keeping your kids home sets us all up for more problems in the future, since it prevents us all from being exposed to normal, albeit miserable, illnesses, leading to a generation of adults with relatively naive immune systems. Scientists call group exposure to these pathogens “herd immunity,” and it can be achieved through both exposure or vaccination. It protects us as a species.
  8. Life should be fair. Nothing disappoints me more about modern education than the concept that everyone should be treated fairly. Come on people – the world is harsh and competitive, and the sooner our kids learn this, the better. There’s no such thing as “everyone gets a trophy” day in the real world.

Arbeit Macht Frei

By , August 29, 2009 1:41 pm

Damn the Nazis for ruining so many potentially cool ideas, like Friedrich Nietzsche’s Will to Power, or his concept of the Ubermensche. I’ve read enough Nietzsche to say with some authority that his idea of a Superman wasn’t about race at all, but about the potential of all humans who have the will to become great.

The Nazis also completely ruined “Arbeit Macht Frei,” a phrase that, divorced from it’s association with the death camps at Auschwitz and others, is nothing short of brilliant. Work, in its purest form, creating something from nothing for a purpose, will make us free. Unfortunately, much of the work that many people in the world do isn’t pure at all, but pointless repetition, though as my wife’s work ethic demonstrates, our jobs are almost certainly more purposeful if we actually do them well.

I think about this as I mow our lawns. It grows high for most of the year. I have several friends who hate to mow, and either pay to have someone do it for them, or grudgingly, resentfully mow it themselves. At least one couple I know are trying xeriscaping. I, however, find great purpose in the work I do on our patch of green here in bucolic Oklahoma. I look forward to it all winter. The smell of spring summons something in my nature that is powerfully optimistic.

This work will make me free.

richardbarron.net vs The Man

By , August 29, 2009 1:36 pm

As many of you know, last year I was forced to migrate richardbarron.net, to our new web host, ipower.com, which I picked because it has nice features and a bargain price.

The reasons we left mysitespace.com are…

  • They changed control panels from an elegant, simple interface to an awkward, incomplete system.
  • Our purchase plan included unlimited subdomains, yet the control panel no longer supports subdomains.
  • Our plan also included unlimited email accounts, but when I discovered in the control panel that I only had 250, mysitespace told me that they “no longer supported” unlimited mailboxes. Essentially, fraud.
  • My calls to tech support were answered by people in India, indicating that mysitespace has outsourced at least some of their functions to foreign workers.
  • Email complaints about these issues were answered with a “too bad” attitude, and they took 3 or 4 days to reply.
  • If you are a new subscriber, their prices are MUCH higher than when I signed up.

This is a service economy. Since they are providing bad service, I wouldn’t be surprised if many of their customers are leaving as well. I would definitely NOT recommend mysitespace.com.

Civil Liberties in the Face of Threats

By , August 29, 2009 1:28 pm

Here is an email I wrote to conservative/libertarian radio talk show host Neal Boortz, who like a lot of the shallowest in the public eye tend to wave the flag a little too hard to fan their ratings flames:

As a fellow pilot I am curious about your apparent lack of concern regarding the Transportation Security Administration’s erosion of pilot’s rights to due process, military harassment of pilots near Temporary Flight Restriction areas (especially in light of their far less than stellar performance in dealing with a legitimate threat on 9-11-01), and ongoing questionable practices of restricting General Aviation operations under the smokescreen of national security, when in fact the general aviation community, of which you and I are both members, poses far less a threat to America’s security than such entities as trucking, maritime shipping, or other industries that are far more capable of delivering blows to civil infrastructure. It is my view that the rights of pilots, as are many other law-abiding segments of America, are being degraded simply because they can be, in the name of security. The defense of freedom takes many forms, and is not simply the task of sending tanks and troops into towns where obvious enemies are hording arms and supplies, but is also remaining vigilant that our own governments, industries and businesses do not take from us the same liberties that terrorists would.

Once an Ass, Always an Ass

By , August 29, 2009 1:27 pm

In journalism, we run into, well, a lot of unpleasant people. We see the unwilling jackasses, who have had assness thrust upon then, like the victims of tragedies who don’t know how to handle themselves in a crisis, to the raw criminal element, who by virtue of raw stupidity or the occasional inheritance of fetal alcohol syndrome tend to go to extremes to ruin their lives by ruining their world.

But in my opinion, the worst of the worst we see in our profession are those who should know better, but are jackasses anyway. And the worst thing that they do is try to blame it on others, and on us, the media. In the national media, the Enron debacle leaps to mind.

Here in Ada, our news staff and I have seen the worst Ada has to offer. Just recently, a reporter was threatened by the owner of some dogs that killed an elderly woman. Later, that same dog owner assaulted an Oklahoma City television crew.

I get the same static too. A couple of years ago a murder suspect threatened me if I took her picture, which of course I did, then engaged her in a staring contest, which I won. On another occasion I was covering a warehouse fire in downtown Ada, when a Burlington Northern Railroad manager told me to get the hell off their property. I got in his face and we shouted at each other for a few minutes, and I was adjudicated when he backed down. (The next day Ada Fire Chief Marion Harris came by the office to tell me he wished he’d had that guy arrested, and that I was welcome at any of their fire scenes – what a stand-up guy!)

The most obvious and egregious example of committing a bad act and then trying to blame it on me was in 1995. The staff of a popular Ada restaurant, Bandanas, had used ammonia and bleach together to try to unplug a stopped-up sink, and as most of us know (though not the staff at Bandanas), mixing the two chemicals liberates chlorine gas, which is poisonous. I heard quite a commotion on the scanner, and went right out to see if it might make pictures. I had been at the scene less than five minutes, and had not yet taken any pictures, when then-manager Keith Cosby asked Ada Police Captain Rick Carson to arrest me.

Imagine the mentality, if you could call it that, of someone whose greatest concern, in the midst of endangering a restaurant full of customers, is how it will look in the newspaper the next day. It takes a pretty small, selfish man to think of your image in a situation like that. I never once ate at Bandana’s Restaurant, or any of its owners other restaurants, again. And they never made any effort to make amends. They certainly never got any more positive coverage from the news end of the building after that, either. Some years later, they closed.

Rick Carson didn’t arrest me that night, by the way. Like most cops, he knew the law, and applied it with a huge amount of common sense. I wasn’t committing a crime, obviously, and even if I had transgressed some ordinance or another, Rick had better things to do than help Keith Cosby save face. Like saving lives.

Rick was the one who called in that warehouse fire years later, by the way, and in classic small-town fashion, it turns our that Rick and my wife Abby’s late first husband Paul were best friends growing up.

Television Itself has Jumped the Shark

By , August 29, 2009 1:24 pm

If you don’t know what it means to “Jump the Shark,” read about it here, then continue.

Recently Abby, Mitchell and I were doing chores and piddling, and Abby had the TV on to her favorite network, HGTV. Occasionally I sat down to tell her something or bring her a drink, and listened for a few minutes to the program. Three things came to mind immediately:

  • The “G” in HGTV stood for garden at one time, but Abby and I searched the guide listings for the entire day and could find no shows about gardening.
  • Every show she watched was hosted by gay men and women who smile too much.
  • The ultra-upbeat music and flashy, always-moving videography got on my nerves in just a few seconds.

I noted some years ago that MTV didn’t have videos any more, and even started a second channel, MTV2, just for videos. Instead of videos, MTV’s regular lineup includes Jackass, Rob and Big, The Real World, America’s Next Top Model, The X Effect, and much more. I don’t know if anyone in our amnesiac American society remembers, but MTV once stood for Music Television (okay, obviously one would abbreviate “Music Television” with MT, not MTV, but that’s another post unto itself.)

If you’re wondering what all these non-music-video shows have in common, it’s this: “reality” television is cheap to produce because you don’t have to pay actors or writers.

And like CNN, MSNBC, TLC, QVC, ESPN, TNT, HSN, or even “TV” itself, MTV doesn’t even call itself by the words its letters abbreviate any more.

I don’t know when, exactly, television jumped the shark. Maybe Fonzie’s bold leap across the ravenous selachimorph marked more than the demise of one situation comedy (annoyingly abbreviated with the snappy moniker “SitCom”.) Maybe 1977 was the last great year of the tube.

The Mentality of the Wealthy

By , August 29, 2009 1:21 pm

In high school and college, I used to have three friends who were the sons of very wealthy families. They were all incredibly arrogant, and all shared a common feeling that they should be, or were, above the law. They all routinely used their fathers’ money to purchase expensive radar detectors, buy their way out of traffic tickets, illegally modify their expensive cars, etc.

One of them collected guns. He had dozens. Eventually all three of them had lots of guns, and one of them, my room mate for a little while in college, once told me, “Chicks love it when I carry this.” It was a .41 magnum, and of course, he didn’t have a concealed carry permit.

They all got high, and thought they were entitled to get high if they wanted. They all littered as much as they could. One of them hated pennies so much that if he got pennies in his change, he would throw them on the ground, or in the trash.

Their favorite thing to do on a Saturday night was piss off cops and run from them, their expensive Swiss stereo systems blaring. Once, one of these guys left his car in a tow-away zone, with a loaded pistol in the front seat. It was towed, and the gun was confiscated. The next day – the very next day - his father got the car out of impound, and managed to get the pistol returned. That same guy thought he shouldn’t have to use unleaded gasoline, so he illegally used premium leaded gas.

I confess, it took me a long time to realize what a bunch of d!ckwads these guys were. We are all arrogant when we’re young, but these guys never seemed to grow up. I say that with a sense of irony, since one of them shot himself in the head when he was 19. I was 18 at the time, and saw his suicide with some wonder and sympathy, but in the last 20 years or so I have opened my eyes and seen it for what it was: a petulant, spoiled, rich a$$hole throwing his life away in a tantrum.

As adults, these are the people who live in gated communities, taking their vacations in the Bahamas, and hosting cocktail parties for important guests, meaning wealthy ones. I don’t ever see their kind on the trail. I see all races, faiths, and walks of life in the wilderness, with the exception of the filthy rich.

This kind of wealth corrupting lives is ultimately manifested in heads of state who also think they are above the very law they are charged with governing. From political corruption in its purest form, like Richard Nixon’s Watergate scandal, to personal indiscretions like Bill Clinton’s Lewinsky mess, all the way to the George Bush father-and-son war dynasty, which sacrifices the blood of honorable soldiers not for the people, but in the end to keep the rich rich.

Sidebar: I was incredulous that Bill Clinton was actually impeached for the Lewinsky fiasco. He may have lied about his relations with her, but come on, people. Are we really so sexually infantile that it’s more important to us that a man lied about having sex versus a man who led us into a war in which we lost thousands of soldiers? Are you freaking kidding me?

The Devil Inside

By , August 29, 2009 12:28 pm

I found this posted on a forum I frequent:

“Why Doesn’t Healthy Food Taste Good? I have a theory on this. Satan works hard every day to deceive us. Infiltrating our food supply with foods swimming in calories, fat, sodium, and sugar is a subtle yet powerful way to get us down. Fruits, vegetables, and whole grains did taste superior to any other food at one time—before our taste buds were introduced to the food of the twenty first century. So think about that today. Give credit where credit is due. Satan has succeeded at creating a relentless pressure to eat; he wants you to eat a bunch of junk that provides temporal satisfaction only. He is jealous of your physical body and wants you to degrade yours. The more advanced our food supply becomes, the more power he has to tempt you. So don’t let him. You are stronger and better than he is. Let that give you the willpower and determination to make the healthier choice today.”

My reply:

The biology of obesity in an affluent, technology-based society is somewhat simpler than the myth of a pitchfork wielding demon: human bodies are designed to store calories in the form of fat in preparation for times of drought and famine, and to that end are naturally attracted to foods with the most of what the body needs to store to survive. If you take that kind of evolutionary adaptation and short circuit it by removing most of the exercise and all of the famine, and add to it an unlimited supply of fats and sugars, you get a population that ends up lazy, decadent, obese, and most importantly, unhealthy. The industrial and technological revolutions are rife with potential, but only to those who understand how to discipline themselves.

The devil didn’t make you do it.

Broken Machines

By , August 29, 2009 12:05 pm

True Story: in the winter of 2001, a woman I know named “Barbie,” good-looking and successful, is found in the trunk of her car one morning with her eyes and mouth taped and a cord wrapped around her neck. Two weeks earlier she had shown police and coworkers a doll in the same condition that she said she had received in the mail.

The day after she was found in the trunk of her car, the sheriff told me that she had done it all to herself.

I found this story much more chilling than the story of my mentally ill neighbor who left street garbage as a gift for me, for one central reason: if it could happen to “Barbie,” it could happen to me.

Jeffrey Dahmer told the news media that by the time he was 15, he was killing animals all the time, and that he knew it was wrong but could not stop. He also said he felt his feelings and actions had become “unconfessable.”

What do we do to keep the machine from breaking?

Trivial Pursuits

By , August 29, 2009 12:01 pm

Friday night, Nov. 2, 2007, the Ada Cougars, a football team that for 25 years has made a playoff appearance, lost to their traditional rival, the McAlester Buffaloes, in a contest that featured the most points scored in any game at ECU’s Norris Field, 101 (final score 59-42). The loss meant that for the first time since 1982, Ada wouldn’t be in the playoffs. In our community, this is a big deal, but to me, it points out a couple of important things…

  1. Rivalries are pointless, arbitrary excuses for people to be ugly to people they don’t know.
  2. An enormous amount of emotional energy is wasted on trivial pursuits, particularly the pursuits of those who are relatively unlikely to make any kind of real contribution to the world, jocks.
  3. Athletics is increasingly split between competitions that center around winning at all costs, and affairs that water down rewards and congratulate every participant no matter how poorly they perform. Both are dangerous distortions of what has the potential to build character, healthy competitive spirit. As with all things, balance is the key.
  4. Sports as a release for pent-up aggressive energy can be healthy, but is often distorted to pretentious levels of importance. Example: I have witnessed players yelling, “Go out and hurt someone!”
  5. Sports fans can be hypocritical: several Ada fans expressed outrage and dismay at McAlester’s display of signs and chants that said, “POTAC.” (Years ago, this stood for Piss On The Ada Cougars, but has since been civilized by administrators to replace the “Piss” with “Pounce.”) I feel with a great deal of certainty that if Ada had won the game, no one would be complaining about POTAC.
  6. Imagine if, as a people, we devoted all our useless NFL, NBA, MLB, CFA, NCAA, etc., energy to activities like addressing starvation, ending disease, caring for children, cleaning up and preserving the environment, etc., etc.
  7. Do you really think that if an athlete’s uniform says “Ole Miss” or “Green Bay” or “Texas” or “New England” that he/she represents the people who live there?

A Few Good Ideas about War…

By , August 29, 2009 11:16 am

Let me make a few things clear…

  • I do not believe that the war in Iraq addresses terrorism.
  • I do not believe that the war in Iraq can be won.
  • I was against the war in Iraq since the day it began.
  • I believe it is a very serious mistake for America to assume that nations in other parts of the world want American-style democracy, and it is a mistake for America to act on that assumption.
  • I do not believe that George W. Bush is an intelligent man, nor do I believe he had America’s interests at heart, and I am absolutely certain he dis not represent me or my beliefs. I am more optimistic that Barack Obama is an intelligent man, although I am more cynical about his ability to act with that intellect.

2000 Presidential Election Results:

  1. Al Gore: 51,003,926 votes
  2. George Bush: 50,460,110 votes
  3. Bush wins! Somehow!

Is My Chevrolet a Chrysler?

By , August 28, 2009 10:29 pm

I am quite sick of hear people asking me “Is Ada Magazine the same as The Ada Hub?” I have to admit that I don’t understand why illiterate people would care about magazines, but apparently they do. They just can’t read the names of the magazines.

It also annoys me to no end when people ask me questions I can’t answer because they include an incorrect assumption. Example: one time a basketball player looked at my 200mm lens and asked me, “What kind of a zoom is that?” Not a zoom, idiot. Maybe I should come to your farm and ask what kind of goats your sheep are?

The Daytona 500 of Funerals

By , August 28, 2009 10:21 pm

The state’s police training facility, located here in Ada, CLEET, called recently and told me that all their students were being let out of class today to drive north to Seminole in a convoy of nearly 100 vehicles, to attend the funeral of two Seminole County deputies who were killed in the line of duty Sunday. I thought it would make a decent shot, so I drove out to the highway north of town about a mile north of CLEET and waited for a few minutes.

I didn’t have a radar gun, but by the time the convoy passed me I would guess they were going about 90 to 95 miles an hour. I know they were going to a funeral for their fallen comrades, but come on! I find the fact that they were speeding very offensive. Do you think they would let me speed to a funeral? Do cops even care about the law?

Slamming the Orally Fixated

By , August 28, 2009 9:31 pm

I was scanning my Yahoo! News a few minutes ago and read an article about weight loss. Maybe I should say yet another article about weight loss. In it, I read this paragraph:

And yet obesity figures have risen dramatically in the same period: a third of Americans are obese, and another third count as overweight by the Federal Government’s definition. Yes, it’s entirely possible that those of us who regularly go to the gym would weigh even more if we exercised less. But like many other people, I get hungry after I exercise, so I often eat more on the days I work out than on the days I don’t. Could exercise actually be keeping me from losing weight?

This is appalling. Point of order people: you eat because you are hungry? Come on, tubby. Babies eat when they are hungry. You are a sentient adult; you don’t have to suckle at the teet of Twinkies and Whoppers just because your poor little chubby tummy says you’re hungry. Put down that hot dog!

I know: deaf ears, a nation in which, according to this article, only a third of the population is a healthy weight.

Have you seen images of U. S. soldiers at the start of World War II? Most of them were farm kids who had just spent 10 years growing up in the Great Depression. The food they ate was basic: the corn and onions they could grow. The work they did was hard: cutting timber, loading trucks. Few of them had even been to a restaurant. None of them worked at a computer all day.

So, here is my point: people in the information age are fat because it’s the information age, and they won’t get thin using the machinations of the information age. Gyms won’t help. Diet foods and low-carb diets won’t work. The only way out is very, very hard work, and work that means something. I would be willing to wager that part of the reason our fat Yahoo! writer is so hungry after exercising is that chugging along a rubber treadmill in front of reruns of CSI:Miami is, like so much we do in the information age, a fundamentally empty experience. Of course he needs to feel full in his stomach: his spirit is empty.

Try raising a barn or chopping some firewood (preferably that you will need in the winter) instead of riding a bike that doesn’t move. Maybe afterwards you won’t be hungry, in your stomach or your heart.

“The ones that don’t fit in…”

By , August 26, 2009 10:44 pm

This afternoon as I drove to a photo assignment, I had my stereo turned up with a Third Eye Blind CD in it. The song “Misfits” played and I remembered that tonight Abby and I were having Wil and Marline Fry down from Seminole for dinner at our favorite restaurant, Papa Gjorgio’s.

Wil Fry with His Camera

Wil Fry with His Camera

They are moving to Texas this week, and we wanted one last chance to hang out with them before they left. They came down, and we all enjoyed sparkling conversation and an excellent meal on this wonderfully soft, warm August evening.

The reason that song reminded me that they were coming is that Wil and I think alike a lot of the time. I know that he was as big a misfit as I was growing up, and I know from conversations with him that we share a lot of key paradigms. Example: our minds are always racing with thoughts, even when we are trying to sleep (maybe especially when we try to sleep.)

I told him to download “Misfits” and listen to it like it was something of a theme for people like us.

Those are the ones for me
Those are the ones for me
The misfits, the freaks, the enemy, you and me
Those are the ones for me
Those are the ones for me
The misfits, the freaks, the enemy, you and me

Sidebar: I detest it when people who were popular and good-looking in high school later claim that they were awkward, shy or insecure. It’s a crock. Their arrogance kept a lot of people like Wil and me down, and they knew it at the time. Their latter-day claims of nurdishness are made to look like an apology of ignorance, but are really just another way to rub our noses in it. I tried to be friends with a couple of them over the years, and I know the truth, that they are still just as full of themselves as ever.

My people are the misfits
I won’t let you down…

Snotmosis

By , August 24, 2009 3:56 pm

Wow! It makes a really cool noise when I whack this notebook on my steering wheel!

Myiasis = infestation with maggots.

“Government pork is lower than dog vomit.” -D

“Am I sharp and pointy and heavy?” -R

“My modus operandi is nothing but a diarrhea-ic thought process.” -D

Boulevaardvark.

If you don’t try to drag me down to your level,
I promise not to try to haul you up to mine.

Abbrevurrito = small Mexican snack

Free-range Janitors Association

“If you poke into something hard, back up! You may be in the wrong hole.” -T

My apartment is so small you couldn’t raise veal in here.

-Bagmire
-Christmosis
-Snotwater

Beer on chili, farts really silly.

“She’s just like him, only she doesn’t have a dick!” -D’s friend

Carefully vomit.

“The search for the absolute always ends in hot, futile tears.” -D

“If the world ends, what about all those people who live underground? Under the earth,
you’ve got movement and motion everywhere. What would happen if gravity stops working?
I pray every night that it doesn’t.” -a friend’s mom (“Is she institutionalized?” -T  “No, she’s dead.” -R)

My Position on the Use of the Atomic Bombs

By , August 22, 2009 7:51 pm

This month is the 64th anniversary of the first use of atomic weapons in warfare.

You can do the research and read up on your own, but I believe that the use of the atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was justified, and that Japan, not the United States, is culpable for the necessity of their use, by starting the war through aggression, fighting a brutal, immoral war themselves, and by refusing to surrender when it was obvious that the end was at hand.

Unprofessional Photographer

By , August 22, 2009 1:07 pm

At at a photo assignment recently, a photographer, representing the pet supply chain Petsense, physically shoved me out of the way without asking me to move. I found it both personally and professionally offensive.

If he had shoved my wife the way he did me, with her arthritis, she might have fallen and been seriously injured.

At the request of those involved, some of the specifics of this entry have been edited. I will say, however, that I was not prepared for the hostility this entry elicited. My colleagues and friends were universally supportive of my reaction to this affront to my professional position.

On his excellent blog the other day, David used the phrase, “It’s as true as a pile of mirrors.”

Man, that guy is sharp. I can tell you that if that douchebag photographer had shoved David out of the way instead of me, that guy would need a cane to walk for the next six months.

Here’s something else: just prior to shoving me out of the way, he took out a refs whistle and blew it several times to get everyone to line up.

It’s still kind of amazingly sad to me that the corporate powers that be are circling their greedy little wagons on this one. Maybe they are forgetting that I am not just a photographer, but also a customer and a community member. I’ve been a part of this place for nearly 21 years, and I am admired and respected.

Still, they don’t have it in them to say, “We’re sorry, Richard. That guy shouldn’t have shoved you.” Instead, the photographer ended up calling my editor and accusing me of having a drinking problem (to explain why I stumbled away from him), then accused me of having an inner ear problem (when told I wasn’t drinking at 9am). He ended up peppering the conversation with profanity and hanging up on my editor.

One community leader actually had the chance to take up for me, but ended up throwing me under the bus. He’s the kind of guy, apparently, whose priority is not doing what’s right, but doing what is most profitable. Oddly, this guy, and Petsense, seem to have disregarded the fact that we are influential members of this community, and now ex-customers of Petsense.

Shame.

The Predator

By , August 19, 2009 11:55 pm

I know two people right now who are seriously ill with cancer. I can only imagine their pain and fear. All I can say to them is that every breath is precious, and that we are all, one day, of the earth.

I smile and hold them in my thoughts. Every moment. Every breath. This moment is our home.

“A mathematically precise feeling of complete inadequacy.”

By , August 15, 2009 2:06 pm

Sporadically Interwoven
by Miminus Infectant

Occasionally He had felt
deluded and cheated by misplaced
guilt, but lately he felt better, he
felt like he could stand up and
say that he was a worthy person –
that he deserved the good things
that a life in this modern country
could offer a moderately talented
man such as himself.

Then. Later.

He figured out the deserve has
nothing to do with it.
Everything was just a matter
of finding some stupid and
tottering piece of reality and
then holding on for dear life
and in the end,

nobody deserved a fate like
that.

As brilliant as it is stupid.

What’s for dinner? Roots and gazelle.

The go-go bar on the edge of forever.

The first wipe breaks off the turd that can’t decide whether to come out or not.

Folding stool.

8200 people were hospitalized in 1996 for injuries that occurred while wiping their asses.

Real answers given in game of Tabloid Teasers…

Manager reveals that Frank Sinatra had ________
a symbiotic relationship with an unusual species of blue-green algae.

Skydiver _______
falls into open cockpit, flies to Las Vegas.

Woman rescues three-year-old from _______
cougar.  (That was the best)

“and after all,
this song has been sung,
still there ain’t no lifetime
metaphor for dung.” -Musical dream fragment

Max vs the ROFL Gator

By , August 12, 2009 8:04 am

Abby asked me to bring her a surprise from Florida, so I picked up this fun toy at the Daytona Beach airport. It’s a ROFL Gator, which rolls on the floor laughing. Not only did Abby laugh, Max decided it was, well, see for yourself…

Towering Achievement

By , August 11, 2009 12:48 pm

On his blog, Wil C. Fry says that he picked up his parents at Will Rogers airport in Oklahoma City last night, and drove home through a spectacular thunderstorm. I flew into Will Rogers last night too, and this is what that thunderstorm looked like from the right side of the aircraft as we deviated around it to the south…

View from my window tonight

View from my window tonight

The “E Machine”

By , August 9, 2009 3:15 pm
Nicole pilots a facsimile of the "E-Machine"

Nicole showing us how the "E Machine," which later was a popular device used by the internet-impaired to retrieve their emails, flew.

Nicole and I were somewhat inadvertently ahead of our time as children. In our daily play, one thing we did was gather on her bedroom floor with all her Barbie crap and all my G. I. Joe crap and make a big compound of houses, dolls, pillows and such. Since it was a trip to imagination land, one thing we needed to imagine was a transportation system. The evolution of that was a device we named the “E Machine,” so called because as it flew along, carrying Joe, Barbie, Long Locks, the German light infantry, Dawn, and any other toys, dolls or characters in our playland ensemble, the bathing cap that carried them all was accompanied by the sound, “EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!”

Sometimes on the weekends, Mom and Dad let us make a pallet in there and sleep on the floor, surrounded by our valley of the dolls.

Long in the Teeth

By , August 9, 2009 10:09 am
Nicole using the shredder, wearing Mom's "Ask me about my granddog" shirt.

Nicole using the shredder, wearing Mom's "Ask me about my granddog" shirt.

My sister Nicole and I are in Florida, tending to the details of our mother’s estate. One of our tasks is shredding the thousands, or maybe hundreds of thousands, of documents of Mom and Dad’s. They kept it all, and it all has key account and ID numbers on it. We have decided that in our personal lives, from now on when we get a bank statement, an old bank statement at the other end of the file comes out and gets shredded right then. Mom’s tiny office shredder has needed to be MacGyvered with a paperclip, and requires rest periods when it gets too hot, but otherwise has performed admirably. We have named her “Tenacious S”. I am using the shreds as packing material for items I am shipping home.

Since the cable TV is disconnected here (not that we are hugely into TV), we have been listening to internet radio through Nicole’s Sprint wireless card, and are enjoying reminiscing about hits from the 70s and 80s. Nicole pointed out that with the exception of The Carpenters, Mom and Dad didn’t listen to any popular music at all, and Nicole wondered how we got so much exposure to it. I pointed out that in junior high, I actually listened to Dad’s favorite easy listening station, the long-defunct (and now in California) KNTO in Wichita Falls, Texas. Yet, to this day, I listen to what I think is pretty cool music.

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