Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Hot Air

Tonight I am going to discuss......lessee.......dryers. Yea. Dryers. Why dryers? Because dryers are the backbone of make-work for men with working wives, since no man worthy of his masculinity is going to dust. First came this asinine idea that in order to clean dirt out of clothes, you have to wet them and churn them around, basically beating them to death and shortening their life-span. Why the hell didn't they just invent a vacuum cleaner for jeans? They suck the dirt right out of carpets, even beat the poor things with those little brushes going some god-awefull RPM. No, they had to build this huge water and electricity hog that you take clothes you wore once and wet, churn and spin them to death, leaving you with these water-logged, heavy wads of textiles that now have to be dried back out. Oh, and you have to help this process along with detergents, which sucks even more money out of your pocket.

So, you now need the washing machines evil twin, the dryer, to finish this insane process. The washing machine spun about 23% of the water out of those jeans, and probably went out of balance doing so, causing your home, if it's up on blocks like mine, to change it's location according to the Global Positioning System. You are now left with a big pile of cloth that weighs enough to give you a hernia, only lucky you, you have to pull and pry each item separately out of the drum, untangling and pulling apart bra strap hooks, velcro, and other thin strappy things that ALWAYS get tangled up in the process. OK, so now you have transferred these sopping wet items into the maw of the dryer, whose door for some strange reason is on the FRONT of the machine instead of the top as was with the washing machine. Go figure. You are now met with a wide array of choices on exactly how you want your wet clothes made dry again. You get to choose between damp, sorta-dry, almost dry but not quite, perfectly dry except for the really thick items like jeans, and FRIED. And, you get to choose what temperature of air you wish to inflict upon these textiles, something like cold, lukewarm, sorta-hot, uncomfortably hot, and THE WINDS OF HADES. Hopefully you are somewhat smart and know intuitively that the higher setting gets the job done quicker, so you crank that puppy up to FULL BLOWN, toss in a thin little, waxy feeling sheet of white rag that will prevent your clothes from releasing an electromagnetic pulse when you open the door and pull a piece out, frying all your electronics and disabling every automobile in the neighborhood. You also intuitively know that if this machine had a meter on it showing in dollars and cents how much electricity it was using to do this, you would probably have a stroke, but then again, if you really cared, you would have hung these clothes on a clothesline outside and let the sun do it for you for free.

You can discover many lost items with the aid of a dryer. You will know that you lost something by the clanging sound you hear as your clothes dry. Most people by the age of 32 can tell by the tone of these clangs exactly how much money in change they just found courtesy of their dryer. Dull thuds signify that if you forgot to turn the heat down to "reasonable", those tennis shoes are coating the drum with melted latex, which will explain why you will be greeted by a flame thrower when you open the door.

It would have occurred to most reasonable people that combining these two functions into one machine would have saved alot of steps and work, but for some strange reason, it was decided that one machine doing both jobs costs more to build than two machines doing each job separately. And, if you really want to spend an arm and a leg, find a washer with the door on the front just like the dryer and pay the premium.

The coolest (is that a bad pun?) dryers around are those huge commercial jobs you find in laundry mats that can tumble a full-grown person, although it has never been proven they can actually dry one out, without killing him at least. You can put something like 32 loads of laundry into one of these suckers, and if you feed this thing with enough quarters and wait several days, it will actually dry it all. After having sat around staring at those portholes like some kind of weird kaleidoscope for hour upon numbing hour, I decided it was worth the extra few dollars to just let the laundry mat owners do it for me. Now that I actually own my own dryer, I get to pay myself to do it, and I come cheap, sad to say.

Sooner or later they have to add a microwave to these things to speed up the process. Then we'll get to watch the sparks fly as all those metallic objects create a lightening show, if your microwave dryer happens to have a porthole to watch the fireworks, because you discovered some more change you lost.

Next week we will examine the toaster, and that secret location between "no effect whatsoever" and "cremated" on the dial that is never in the same place twice.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

........And I Feel Fine.........

In the beginning, the universe was created, which was regarded by many to be a very bad move. Some believe it was created by a God, but this God was never pinned down for a proper interview, so the jury is still out on that one. However, it is an accepted fact in some circles that since the universe WAS created, it stands to reason that it will end, thus a whole cottage industry was created for the sole purpose of predicting when and how this will occur. One consortium of various species have banded together to open a restaurant, aptly named "The Restaurant at The End of The Universe", which will open somewhere, sometime, to host a gala event to witness this very phenomenon, and since this is the very last phenomenon worth noticing that will ever occur, the guest list is very exclusive and the cover charge quite outrageous. However, a rather chipper little crustacean that is considered a delicacy on the planet Vogon will be on the menu, which to some degree should negate any distress induced by this extreme example of price gouging, a practice which was copied from merchants on the Planet Earth, who tend to get rather more prosperous in the wake of natural disasters, with the possible exception of the destruction of same said planet, which had a similar detrimental effect on same said merchants.

It is very interesting to note, at least to those who pay attention to notes to begin with, that none of this would have come to anybody's attention had it not been for a book, the second in a series, actually, by a fiction writer by the name of Douglas Adams, also, by coincidence, a resident of Earth. He became somewhat famous for having described in painful detail the "Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy", a very famous publication known the Universe over as a bad copy of a very good idea. How this descendant of a primate happened to have guessed, however unintentionally, that such an instrument even existed, is still hotly debated by slug-like creatures that inhabit the second layer of a very scummy pond on a planet somewhere in the Crab Nebula. The story, which is actually quite factual in just about every detail, was even made into what humans describe as a "movie", which didn't quite make it to syndication and broadcast on terrestrial television in order to be sent into deep space along with other interesting cultural artifacts as "Amos and Andy" and "Friends", before the planet was demolished to make way for a hyper-space bypass.

Hidden somewhere deeply in all this is a true tragedy, for just 37 seconds before the planet was destroyed, Mrs Beverly Brokesdale of 3795 Martin Luther King Avenue, Port Sanders, Idaho (which incidentally has no body of water to host a port to) discovered cold fusion while attempting to program her coffee maker with the aid of a badly translated Japanese to English operating manual. Careful study of this event, most experts who study just this sort of occurrence agree, would have finally brought peace and prosperity, as well as perfectly toasted bagels, to the beleaguered planet, after years of strife and repeated elections of Republican Presidents. This method of energy generation, in fact, was so far in advance of anything that any other civilization had so far managed, that a superior race of beings on the planet upchuck (not to be confused with the Earth slang for "vomit") designed an advanced computer expressly for the sole purpose of recreated the conditions that led up to this discovery. Part of the Matrix, strange as it may seem, that comprised this computer, included the eventual birth of the exact duplicates of Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, whose fight for the supremacy of the personal computer market would result in the galaxies' most advanced operating system failing miserably to win market share against the galaxy's worst example of computer code ever written, strangely named "Windows", which indirectly would have something to do with an indian programmer being hired to translate Japanese owners manuals into English.

A common misconception is that this amazing computer was "Deep Thought", which was created for a similar, but entirely different project altogether. The computer we speak of here was cleverly disguised as a blueberry Imac, whose insides were actually designed to hold a 87 billion million quadrillion ziga-bite hard drive spinning at 789 million RPMs, a processor so fast it arrives at conclusions before they could possibly be computed, and a nifty little bottle opener, which oddly enough, only works on Heinekens. Originally, on the false assumption that an auditorium full of chimpanzees working double shifts were responsible for Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, twice that amount were bred to operate the keyboard, which they trashed within minutes. Then it was discovered that out of work American programmers, who had lost all their jobs to India, could be hired to do the job for half the cost, as long as they were supplied with pizza and at least one week of vacation at a Star Trek convention. Finding these programmers was the most complicated part of the process, considering no one was sure how and where these humans might be found now that their home planet had been vaporized, but it was assumed that at least a few might have been kidnapped by those infamous grey aliens with large heads and even larger eyes who enjoyed performing medical experiments on any one dumb enough to get talked into boarding an alien spaceship with promises of a lifetime of debauchery with blonde, large breasted women with the IQ's of toaster ovens. Just such a human was found on the planet Magrathea, where he was in the middle of a hunger strike to protest having been given a brunette, large breasted woman, instead of a blonde. The aliens were more than happy to part with him, as it turned out he rather enjoyed being experimented on, which ruined all the fun. One interesting offshoot of all of this is that having once worked for Microsoft, the programmer innocently incorporated the infamous browser known as Internet Explorer into the computer's matrix, which set off alarms all across the Galaxy, and almost resulted in the whole project being terminated.

The downside to all this was that Mr Douglas ended up dying, as humans have a bad habit of doing, and everybody lost interest in anything remotely having to do with his epiphany, such is the attention span of most inhabitants of the Universe, as measured in milliseconds on a very inaccurate device now out of favor with anyone wanting to time anything. Now, a very interesting thing happens when this many sentient beings lose interest in something simultaneously. The sudden disappearance of all that interest creates a sudden vacuum in the space-time continuum, which when it collapse in upon itself, causes such an upheaval all across all existence, that everything careens into everything else, which is a fairly close approximation of the end of the universe, which if you really want to get technical about it, IS the end of the universe, which incidentally occurred just five hours before the opening of the restaurant of the same name, which really pissed off those who had payed inordinate amounts of their planets' gross global product to attend the final show. However, it was finally agreed to amongst all the galaxy's philosophers just moments before the end that none of this would matter once there was no one around to worry about it. Which brings us back to this God character, who having been harassed for what seems an eternity to come clean on the big question, i.e. Life, the Universe, and Everything, finally agreed to an interview, which incidentally he did so only because he knew he would not have to carry through, and having such supreme foresight, took the advance and spent it all in one wild night at the Hard Rock Cafe in Miami Beach, without the slightest bit of guilt over the whole bloody affair, since in reality he had utterly nothing to do with the whole mess to begin with.

Now, I am sure that somewhere in your mind the question is being asked, "How in the hell could I possibly know all this, or even report it on it if it were true, if the universe has already ended? Well, I can answer that question, just let me program it into my Imac G-5, give me about 15 years, and you will have your answer. I will even set my processor to the "You're kidding me, right?" level just for you, because I like you, I really, really like you. All I know for sure is that it has something to do with relativity, like how time behaves when you are waiting for Friday to come along, which takes an eternity, and once it does, the next three days accelerate to 57 times the normal time it takes a weekend to pass, and you find yourself right back at work before you even left. So, if the Universe HAS already ended, that does not necessarily mean we are aware of it, since frankly ceasing to exist is not one of our priorities. Matter of fact, most of us will probably insist on finally getting our tax refund checks before we bother to acknowledge that there is no longer an IRS to send one from, which will have doomsday waiting impatiently in the wings so that it can do it's thing and put a stop to taxation altogether, which will please many people to no end, at least for as long as they are capable of being pleased about anything. So, let me get to work on this question so that I can answer it before it sinks in that doing so would be totally pointless, considering that I could spend such valuable time drinking Pina' Coladas and sunning myself on the septic mound instead.

Oh, and thanks for all the fish........

P.S. I would like to thank Mr. Adams for posthumously inspiring me to create this post, which was innocently created strictly for the purpose of producing some smiles in the wake of yesterday's sad atmosphere. I wish he was still with us.

Monday, May 29, 2006

What the fuck is WRONG with these people?

I saw this clip on my homepage news, and it sickened me.


It's people like this that test the very concept of freedom of speech.

P.S. This is a RealPlayer clip, hope you have it.

Brotherhood of Pain and Pride

There is a Brotherhood of "having been there" and having returned, never quite unscathed, bearing a burden no civilian can quite grasp. We witnessed, endured, and yes, even committed atrocities that haunt us to this very day, and it hits us hardest on this Memorial Day, while the masses crowd into the stores to take advantage of huge savings. As I sit here typing this, the one horror that occupies my mind the heaviest is picturing those young men mounting up in convoy to drive supplies from point A to point B along the shooting galleries of Iraq, knowing that at lest one of them will not make it to their destination. If you applied for a job and the interviewer told you upfront that you were going to be a fish in a barrel for several years and the chances were good that coming home in one piece was the rule rather than the exception, would you be happy to take the job?

We are proud of ourselves and our comrades, regardless of the fact that many of us realize, some even in hard-thought retrospect, that our service was pointless, and that many of our friends died for all the wrong reasons, even serving our country for all the right reasons. Many of us were drafted, many of us volunteered, but I do not discriminate between the two, because dead applies equally to both. The damage to our psyche's weigh heavily on us all. Those that had the arguable guts to say "fuck this shit" and headed to Canada......yes, even those bear a burden. You may notice that it is rare that any elected leader this country has had that served in the military started a war. When you have tasted the reality of war, you do not easily commit your comrades to the sacrifices such endeavors call for. All a soldier asks is that if he must die, that he leaves behind a better world than he was born in. How many of us get to do that?

I have far more respect for the civilian truckers who drive those rigs in Irag, and suffer the same consequences as our soldiers, than I have for Donald Rumsfield.
I want that son-of-a-bitch to ride with one convoy that gets hit with a roadside bomb. I don't even care if he gets through it without a scratch. I just want him to get on one of those humvees or tanker trucks with the same chances of getting his flesh scattered across the highway as the soldiers that do it every day over there. I want him to witness first hand the horror of being so helpless in the face of these kind of assaults. Then, I want him to return, and vow never to attempt to avail himself of the kinds of mental health care that these guys need when they return, and never get. I want some fucking empathy in this government.

Brothers, I am not "celebrating" this holiday. I am at home thinking of you. I am remembering with you. And I am mourning with you and for you. I will never forget those I served with, and those I never knew. I will never forget those of you we left behind, and I will never forget what these wars have turned some of you into. We are all monsters waiting to get out. I salute those of you who made it back with your monsters kept safely inside. And I forgive those of you who couldn't. I cannot claim to have faired any better.

Those of you with your yellow ribbons and "support our troops" bumper stickers, all I ask of you is one thing.......bring my Brothers home.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

The Steep Price of Novelty

My favorite example of old-school waste of resources was the "cricket", that cheap little Japanese made clicker made from used soda and beer cans. Of course, the examples of metallic thing-a-bobs the Japs used to make and send to us by the metric ton is legend, most of it involving springs and wind-up keys, much like that sick little alter-ego of Tims, the cymbal playing monkey. At least they were taking our surplus metal and making stupid toys and distractions instead of what they used to do with our scrap metal, ala Pearl Harbor.

Today, plastic has mostly replaced metal as the most wasted resource in the world. And today, my favorite, for lack of a better word, squandering of our ever dwindling supply of metal and plastic is the novelty pen. Everybody custom orders these things in every shape and function imaginable, mostly as a medium to promote their products or services, while Books-a-Million sells a large variety of novelty pens that ironically don't serve their basic function very well. Right now, on my desk in front of me, are two pens that were given to me as gifts or prizes for something or another at work. One has something that is supposed to resemble a lava-lamp, in appearance if not in actual functionality, that lights up the water filled endcap with differing colors, while the other pen simply flashes different neon colors in a pulsating light show near the business end. These things seem hefty and built to last, but they actually make piss-poor writing instruments and I never use them for that purpose. They really ARE nothing but novelties.

The pens I depend on the most for the limited use I make of a writing instrument are the cheap little black sticks that I usually get from work. I use these things all day there, and I use them at home. As pens, they work as well as a pen needs to, without all the flash and overblown style. To many times I have dished out some serious cash for a "quality" pen and have lost the damn thing almost immediately. And I can't remember noticing that the quality pens I have actually spent money on writing anything any better than the cheap sticks do. I wish this concept applied as well to automobiles and computers, but unfortunately it doesn't. You usually do get what you pay for.

The garbage I see in these vending machines lining the front of cheap supermarkets and K-mart type stores is the worst of it. The quarter you waste in these machines get you something that never should have been made to begin with. There will come a time, when the petroleum begins to run out, that plastic ware becomes to expensive for the common man to spend money on. However, there are so many things that plastics are made of now, from drug syringes to automotive interiors to drugs themselves, which have no other raw materials to base them on, that we will lament the waste we incurred in allowing all this garbage to be manufactured for no other purpose than novelty.

The whole concept of a "consumer" based society is what's going to kill us and/or the planet in the end. We consume raw materials and build the most asinine things not for some practical purpose that lends true value to our lives, but simply because it is a vehicle for producing this thing we have created called "wealth". We used to make things to either make our lives easier or for artistic pleasure, but now we make things simply because we can. Our opposable thumb coupled with our intellect were probably the two worst things that happened to us, all things considered. Common sense apparently was something that was bred out of our collective species. Our search for meaning, for pleasure, for purpose in our lives have taken on a rote method that doesn't truly hold up under sensible scrutiny, and does not serve the vast majority of us as we toil in our jobs, elect our leaders, and allow a select few to take advantage of us in ways that in serious retrospect should challenge our tolerances. Thus, we are programmed to consume, and that seems to be the one thing humans do better than any other life form we know of. Really think about what I just said and ask yourself why this shouldn't make you sad.

It doesn't matter if you are rich or poor, both stratas of society are equally guilty of surrounding themselves with junk, all those stupid little things that haven't truly improved their lives to any degree, and are destined to litter the landscape or occupy the landfills. I would be willing to bet that no one, regardless of how rich they are, having bought themselves all the toys they can avail themselves of, are any happier than any monk of any denomination who has given up all the trappings of consumerism, owning nothing but the robes around their bodies. Happiness is a state of mind that no amount of "stuff" can achieve short of what goes on in the brain. When the poorest peasant families can, simply as a matter of course, take in complete strangers and share their meager meals with them, you have to ask what it is that they know that allows them to totally ignore the math that says they probably can't afford to be so generous. I would like to know that, and if I ever find it out, I don't think I will have to live another life on this Earth to collect all my points, pass go, and collect my $200.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

The Origin of Love

These are the lyrics to a wonderful song from a weird movie I saw awhile back. Enjoy!

When the earth was still flat,
And the clouds made of fire,
And mountains stretched up to the sky,
Sometimes higher,
Folks roamed the earth
Like big rolling kegs.
They had two sets of arms.
They had two sets of legs.
They had two faces peering
Out of one giant head
So they could watch all around them
As they talked; while they read.
And they never knew nothing of love.
It was before the origin of love.

The origin of love

And there were three sexes then,
One that looked like two men
Glued up back to back,
Called the children of the sun.
And similar in shape and girth
Were the children of the earth.
They looked like two girls
Rolled up in one.
And the children of the moon
Were like a fork shoved on a spoon.
They were part sun, part earth
Part daughter, part son.

The origin of love

Now the gods grew quite scared
Of our strength and defiance
And Thor said,
"I'm gonna kill them all
With my hammer,
Like I killed the giants."
And Zeus said, "No,
You better let me
Use my lightening, like scissors,
Like I cut the legs off the whales
And dinosaurs into lizards."
Then he grabbed up some bolts
And he let out a laugh,
Said, "I'll split them right down the middle.
Gonna cut them right up in half."
And then storm clouds gathered above
Into great balls of fire

And then fire shot down
From the sky in bolts
Like shining blades
Of a knife.
And it ripped
Right through the flesh
Of the children of the sun
And the moon
And the earth.
And some Indian god
Sewed the wound up into a hole,
Pulled it round to our belly
To remind us of the price we pay.
And Osiris and the gods of the Nile
Gathered up a big storm
To blow a hurricane,
To scatter us away,
In a flood of wind and rain,
And a sea of tidal waves,
To wash us all away,
And if we don't behave
They'll cut us down again
And we'll be hopping round on one foot
And looking through one eye.

Last time I saw you
We had just split in two.
You were looking at me.
I was looking at you.
You had a way so familiar,
But I could not recognize,
Cause you had blood on your face;
I had blood in my eyes.
But I could swear by your expression
That the pain down in your soul
Was the same as the one down in mine.
That's the pain,
Cuts a straight line
Down through the heart;
We called it love.
So we wrapped our arms around each other,
Trying to shove ourselves back together.
We were making love,
Making love.
It was a cold dark evening,
Such a long time ago,
When by the mighty hand of Jove,
It was the sad story
How we became
Lonely two-legged creatures,
It's the story of
The origin of love.
That's the origin of love.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

The Fall of the House of Blogger

There is a menace stalking us here in blogville. It is insidious, and has taken out several very good bloggers and is threatening to remove a few more, myself included. The name of this abomination (shudder) is...........don't close your eyes, you have to know it........BURNOUT!

Oh, you thought this creature only stalked teachers, nurses, cops, and professional novel writers, didn't you? Oh no, my friend, this beast feeds off any prey that is consistent in just about any activity, if said prey sticks with it long enough and falls short of enough validation to lend religious purpose to their endeavors. The mighty and the weak are both susceptible to this menace, and raw talent cannot in and of itself fend it off. Drugs might work for awhile, but only makes the morsel that much tastier in this spawn of hell's mouth.

I noticed this apparition hovering in the shadows behind me not long ago, when my muse began to tire just a bit. This predator can sense that weakness from afar, and waits in the darkness for one to stumble, at which time it's at your throat and it's all over; you simply can't stick with it anymore. I've been running with the herd, watching my fellow bloggers succumb to the hunt one at a time, and frankly, I can sense my own ending as I watch this horrible thing feast on the carcasses of good friends that couldn't outrun him. Safety in numbers only goes so far......

However, I shall not go quietly into the maw of this demon. I am fashioning talismans, spells, oaths, and even psychoanalytical mantras in an effort to keep him at bay. If I have to resort to writing insane rantings on par with those of Hunter Thompson or Mickey, then by Bob I will! If I have to start describing in nasty detail the more disgusting aspects of my job, so help me I will pull no punches! If I have to use my blog to make a hopeless run for President of the United States, SO HELP ME BOB I WILL. Friends, Romans.......(Romans?)....AMERICANS! Lend my your pupils! Upon this hallowed page yee shall know that THE Michael stood his ground, he gave no quarter, and fought the good fight! He took fingertip to key, mouse-click to "publish", and in a breath born of all known furies, proclaimed, "CRY HAVOC, and let slip the dogs of blogging!!!!!!!!!!"

Or something to that effect..........

Monday, May 22, 2006

AN ALL NEW EPISODE ( Well, sort of....)

I've been resting my muse and neurons lately, posting reruns, hoping some lightening strike of inspiration would nail me eventually and return me to blogging frenzy nirvana, but, sigh........instead I seem to be stuck in stasis; (a state of static balance or equilibrium : STAGNATION). There was a time when I simply couldn't accept such a condition, but these days it seems to be easy to just chill and accept, rather than get into some kind of tizzy over it. Six of one, half dozen of another......

I think perhaps the overwhelming weight of finances, ongoing problems, be they mechanical or medical, and the total darkness in my tunnel (there IS no light in this tunnel bearing down on me, period; that locomotive is just sitting on the tracks down there somewhere, mocking me) has somewhat numbed me, much like a torture victim simply zoning out having long past abandoned acknowledgment of his situation. This is not to suggest that I am not aware of how bad things have become, but I sense that the impact all of these things are having on my mental state has been re-routed to my angst-containment facility somewhere deep in my brain where they are being dealt with by some part of me that seems to be able to handle this shit subconsciously much better than I can consciously. This enables me to play the stalwart, calm, collected individual that my wife needs to support her as she deals with her own problems and chases after her own aspirations.

As sad as all this sounds, believe me, I like the me I've become a whole lot better than the me I used to be. Much younger me was a mental mess, and to think back on how I behaved in the face of adversity, especially in the areas of love, make me wince just thinking about it. Developing a sense of detachment, liaise-a-faire, whatever you wish to call it, seems to have been my saving grace, for I truly believe that the alternative would have broken me. I find much admiration in the demeanor of trees, rocks, and other long-suffering entities, considering the abuse that is heaped upon them by Man and their environment. If a tree had one coherent thought, or nugget of wisdom, it would probably be "And these things too shall pass". And thus that tree remains rooted and content in it's existence, till such time that the storm uproots it or the chain saw murders it, for that over which it has no control merits little concern in the grand scheme of things. Like that tree, any one occurrence has the potential to be catastrophic, yet I cannot grant these possibilities the same merit and hope to maintain my sanity. I like my sanity. I've lost track of it on occasion and in doing so proclaimed to the world who I was at my worst. I think I'll stick with what seems to work.

I do have a certain sick enjoyment in the possibility that my good friend the troll will find this post pushing more of his/her buttons, buttons he/she seriously need to get rid of. He/she is so certain, knowing me so well as they imagine, that I need a life, without having entertained the possibility that I DO have a life, thank you, even if said life does not fit within their definition. It is kinda sad to observe that one man observing himself in his journal can be taken as an attack on another's sensibilities, but alas, such has been revealed for all to marvel at. It's rather hilarious, actually, to see him/her performing the very thing he/she accuses me of, thinking some license he/she possesses gives his/her own vent more validity than my own musings.

Well, this is what happens when the need to get out a new episode slightly exceeds the material needed to actually do it. I did rather enjoy the responses to some of my old material that the readers might not have encountered before, so I will post a few more while I try to get my muse on and come up with some stuff truly worth the keystrokes. Until then, I just want my loyal "fans" to understand how much I appreciate their feedback and their own good works out here in the blogosphere. And Buffalo, be safe, my friend, I don't want to see Willow writing the last chapter of your upcoming masterpiece because some idiot in a big-rig didn't notice you and sweet thang as he ran over you both. That would NOT be a good thing. LIfe IS sweet, you big lug, us knowing that you are out there living that dream.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

The path to Armageddon is Paved with Bad Intentions, or Why I think Carl Rove is the Anti-Christ

Ah, the people we elect to office in this country. On what basis do we choose who will be CEO of the largest corporation in the free world? It's no different, really, than that totally illogical and asinine way that our bosses make their way into the big chair in the boardroom. The cronies, the frat boys, the guys still smoking those illegal cuban cigars in the back room; they pick a favorite based on who's going to take care of them and then parade them out in front of us to vote for. Of course, whoever gets tagged is run thru the mill first, coached and vetted, some even going thru an extreme makeover. They don't have to BE good at the job, they just have to LOOK good doing it. Well, at least it used to be that way.

Then a young man named Carl Rove discovered a huge, untapped reservoir of votes out here in the hinterland, those the elite and the educated and the aware forgot were there.........all those salt-of-the-earth, ill-educated, rabidly religious, hyper-patriotic good old boys and trailer park mothers of 8 kids who all could fall in love with a candidate who looked, spoke, and acted like them. Those of us living in our cities and suburbs with our college educations and stock portfolios had no idea that these are truly the silent majority in this country. People who live hard, play hard, and die even harder in the rural and semi-rural outback where judgment is easy when some preacher assures you that going to HIS church has saved YOUR soul, devil burn the rest. Republicans have always known how to appeal to the baser instincts of this constituency; resist change, resist diversity, instill fear of difference, encourage keep-your-mouth-shut patriotism, and create an external enemy to keep their minds off the unemployment that constantly haunts them. Just as the lamb looks at you for that treat in your hand, ignoring the knife about to cut it's throat, this mindless herd lacks the capacity to know when they are being bent over and sodomized, all in the name of good old fashioned family values. It's sickening to watch, and even harder to explain to them.

The Republican Machine successfully recruited the raw power of this demographic just in time for one of the most successful (actual performance wise) presidents ever elected to make the ultimate mistake, i.e. getting CAUGHT involved in sexual hanky panky in the oval office. To think that Bill Clinton was the first president ever to suffer from such a brain-fart is laughable considering all the dirt we have dug up concerning past presidents, but this time there was a rabid dog outside the gates just waiting to take that bite. So, a president that not only LOOKED good doing the job but was actually GOOD at it almost got thrown out of office, despite having done some incredibly good things for this country. Then comes good old Dubya.

Listening to George Bush trying to elucidate his platform was like listening to Buckwheat trying to recite the Gettysburg Address. This was a college "educated" man who is purported to have actually flown a fighter jet, yet couldn't have possibly written a college essay that would have allowed him into a community college. Listening to what he wanted to do with the country was even more painful, alarming even, but it wasn't his philosophy people were eating up; it was his STYLE. This good-old-boy was JUST LIKE THEM. An angry, marginalized mob loves nothing more than being led by somebody just like them, whether or not that somebody has a clue as to what leadership is.

So, Carl Rove and his buddies had struck the jackpot. The traditional candidate spouting promises they may or may not honor once elected, looking good while they did it, didn't stand a chance. And every money hungry corporation in the country knew a good thing when they saw it, a candidate with no brain of his own that they could manipulate at will, ensuring that they would get their cut of the spoils. Plus, there was that added bonus of having an external threat out there brewing on the back burner that this new president could use to keep our minds off the massacre of everything American back home. That threat was not Al-Quida, but an arab mafia chief that had managed to slip from the grasp of Dubya's daddy, the OTHER George Bush. Revenge and vindication would be sooooo sweet!

The worst possible thing that could have happened to both America AND the middle east occurred shortly after this new kind of president took office. The twin towers in new york were brought down by a collection of suicide terrorists that had been right under our noses. The author of that attack was living in the relative shelter of an oppressive Islamist regime who had thumbed their noses at the civilized world. Once we got our vaulted "intelligence" machine (the CIA) to wake up and notice what was going on, we knew the attack had originated in Afghanistan. We knew where the enemy was. But Dubya didn't. It took alot of arguing and cajoling by his advisers to convince him that Saddam Hussein was not the primary target, but that didn't stop the president from putting into motion his hell-or-high-water effort to take the Iraqi president down. First, a minimal effort utilizing airpower and the afghan Northern Alliance was undertaken to bring down the Taliban, the regime sheltering Ossama Ben Laden. But the REAL effort underway was to fabricate whatever it took to hoodwink the American people in to thinking that Saddam was the real threat and had to be eliminated.

So, years later, what do we have? We have the architect of 9/11 still hiding out, and a mess of a so-called occupation of a country just waiting for us to leave so they can get on with their civil war. This quagmire has already taken more than 2000 of our sons and daughters, and promises to take many more before we finally find a way out. We have the largest federal deficit this country has ever had, down from the first surplus this country ever knew thanks to the efforts of President Clinton. Social services have been gutted, only because the Republicans haven't had the guts to try and eliminate them altogether. The rich have enjoyed tax cuts that would put a glutton to shame, and the oil companies are swimming in an ocean of cash courtesy of the administration and our thinning pocketbooks. The environment.......hell, you can just kiss THAT goodbye. And, if all that isn't enough, this proud country, that shining city on the hill, is now despised in most parts of the civilized world and pitied in the rest. We have become the new Roman Empire, rotting within even as it begins it's march to "bring democracy" to those places that wouldn't know what to do with it if they had it. Meanwhile, China is quietly buying us up, waiting patiently for the day when they become THE only superpower that we used to be once we outlasted the Soviets.

I do not believe in the end times as prophesied by the bible, but I DO believe in self-fulfilling prophecies. The United States is in the grip of people who actually believe in a rapture, a coming kingdom of God on Earth, and an Armageddon that shall wipe the blasphemers from the face of the Earth, thus, there is no need to worry about social justice, the environment, or all those silly things that God himself will set straight one day anyway. So where does that leave the rest of us? It leaves us in HELL as the world is brought to the brink of ruin by this president and his army of religious zealots. But that's alright, for they have been SAVED.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Be carefull what you ask for........(or What DUBYA did for Democracy)

I honestly think Dubya needs a lesson in basic democracy 101. It's a hard lesson even we here at home seem to have to learn about every four years. In a democracy, people run for office, promising what they will do once there, and the guy with the best story gets the most votes. Now, the best story means different things to different people, which is why there was such a shock when more people bought Dubya's story than Kerry's this last election. As a story, it might not make alot of sense to people with a certain understanding of what the truth really is, but if you are outnumbered by enough people who disagree with you, you are shit out of luck as far as seeing your candidate elected.

Now, Dubya wanted to see "freedom" and "democracy" spread throughout the Middle East, and got the ball rolling with a nice little war. And, as expected, Iraqi's are voting along party lines, just like we do here in the good old USA. However, unlike us, the losers over there don't take losing anywhere near as graciously, and as they always have, if they don't get their way via the ballot box, they try and get it via the gun, the bomb, and any other method that intimidates the opposition. Nice try, Dubya. Did you honestly think it would be that easy?

And now the Palestinians have decided that HAMAS has the better story in the gaza strip. Imagine that. HAMAS has been the major thorn in the side of the Israelis and the west, and have been very successful with their social programs aimed at gaining favor with the masses. All the old regime did was make corruption a household word, never getting anywhere with the goal of a free and independent Palestinian homeland. Well, HAMAS put it's money where it's mouth was, and it is actually no surprise that a majority of Palestinians decided maybe someone else should take a shot at lifting them out of their misery. They really don't care that the Israeli's and the West have promised they will never work with a government that pledges to wipe Israel off the map, since that has been a muslim sentiment in general since the beginning, and denouncing terrorism while not being able to control it made any real chance of success a no-win situation for Arafat and his corrupt minions anyway.

Surprised, Dubya? Did you think that because your patriotic, God-fearing constituents happened to outnumber the other guy's patriotic, God-fearing voters, that your place in history was a given? Did you honestly think that just because people in other countries get to vote for their leaders that they would naturally always make the right choice? Oh.........stupid me.........of COURSE you believed that! Just like you believed that the Iraqi people would all joyously embrace the American Occupation, showering our troops with rose petals and celebrating you as the great liberator! Just like you believe that cutting taxes on the rich and sticking it to the poor is the Christian thing to do.

Revolutions and military coups rarely lead to freedom, yet democratic elections, even the one's mostly fair and honest, can sometimes open the door to oppression. You simply ask the electorate, "What kind of system do you want to live under?" and they answer you. Amazingly, they sometimes choose the way most likely to strip them of their freedoms and their future right to choose. Russia is a classic example of a country so broken, so dysfunctional, that it's citizens, having gotten a taste of what capitalistic freedom is all about, have begun to change their minds about living in a society where it's every man for himself, allowing Putin to slowly put the screws to their new democracy and gently pull them back into a new style of Soviet style dictatorship. So what if freedom of the press is a threat to the state? No news is good news.

So, you see, George, democracy is not a state of being, it is a means to an end. And it's strange that you don't know that, although I suspect you do. Look at what you've been trying to do to our own democracy. The Patriot Act. Violations of privacy with nary a hint of judicial overview. Shape-shifting the war powers act to mean anything George wants it to. Calling anyone you suspect to be a terrorist an "enemy combatant", which you claim gives you the right to ignore the the very basis of our judicial system by denying them any rights whatsoever, not even charging them with a crime, torturing them, and locking them up indefinitely. Will there come a time when we might expect to receive better treatment from our enemies than our own government?

Yes, George, you asked for it, and you got it. Democracy in action. The plain ugly truth, this idea of people not acting according to your assumptions. And what will you do when the government of a nation hostile to us is elected overwhelmingly by it's citizens based on a promise to stand up to us? Will you insist that the bombs you drop on them is not meant for them put only for their leaders? Will you invade yet another nation in the name of freedom and democracy, only this time put in some fine print stating that they can elect anyone they want to, as long as they are approved by us? Well, Dubya, thanks to you, people are going to elect the bad guys if for no reason other than to spite us, even if they have to cut off their own noses to do it. Thank you for teaching them the lessons of democracy so well. We'll remember you always for it.

Monday, May 15, 2006

The Unbearable Lightness of STUFF

Have you ever suddenly looked around and actually noticed all the STUFF surrounding you in your home? I mean, this stuff has been part of the background noise of your life for so long it's like the blue in the sky or the green in the trees; you don't even notice, it all blends in so well.

I'm sitting here at my desk and I'm focusing on individual items that have been part of my life for decades. Why do I still have them? There's this REI candle lantern that I used on my hiking trips in Alaska, which was back in the mid-eighties, and I haven't used it since. A cracked and retired coffee cup that was a Christmas present from my employer at the photo lab I worked at in Anchorage hogs valuable space on my desk. In the book case next to me are paperback books I bought and read once years ago and probably will never read again. Across the room is another bookcase full of photography books which in this digital age are obsolete at best. Once a year I go on a stuff reduction frenzy in a vain attempt to reduce the clutter and yet this stuff survives. Are these things actually some sort of life forms that mentally influence my values system in order to ensure their survival? Something to think about, indeed.

I wonder if this can somehow be blamed on genetics. Before my Mom died, she had become the ultimate pack rat; she simply could not throw ANY thing away. If these things I still have I never use and have a hard time picturing ever using again, what causes me to value them so much I allow them to take up space, unused, ignored for the most part till I have to move them around again? It does not matter even that some of these things are truly functional, for if I have no need of that function, then I have no logical reason to keep them. This is sad. This is very, very sad.

I think we all suffer from this strange syndrome at one level or another. The rich certainly can't garner enough STUFF, but even us po' folks manage to build our collections of stuff that perhaps makes us feel better for having it all. I'm sure our consumer driven society has made this all but inevitable, for what other purpose does there seem to be in life than to consume and collect STUFF? Perhaps if we could all wean ourselves off this obsession, be it mild or out of control, the entire race, the planet indeed, would be much better off.

Take a look around tonight and see how much STUFF pops out from the background when you actually look and see it all. Scary, isn't it?

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Suffer the Children

I was watching this thing on the news about how desperate couples are to have children, even going so far as to buy unused fertility drugs from others on the internet. The featured couple had blown $28,000 on these treatments, maxing out their credit cards and taking out a second mortgage. Now really. Is it just me or is there something a mite bit over the top with this mindless need to procreate?

This planet is bulging at the seams, so crowded with humans it is on the brink of collapsing under the weight of so much humanity. With increasing numbers and the effects of a polluted environment on fertility, it's no wonder there are quite a number of couples who share at least one member who is not up to snuff in the sperm or egg department. Yet we are overwhelmed with unplanned and unwanted pregnancies, or children thrown to the wolves of the child welfare system due to the meltdown of families left and right. On one hand, we have infertile couples desperate to "complete themselves" by having children, while on the other, we have people desperate to get rid of them.

That's another thing I despise religion for. The tenants of most of them encourage rampant childbearing, albeit that we not enjoy the process of doing so. This is truly a selfish and reckless mindset that takes no heed of the reality that this planet is finite in it's resources and room. Of course, since HAY-ZEUS is coming on down to lay waste to Sodom and cart off all these billions of souls to live on fluffy clouds for all eternity, we need not worry about overpopulation and the hell it can make of life on Earth. Yea, right. We could solve alot of our problems if these millions of people lusting after afterlife would just go ahead and go there, leaving the rest of us with at least SOME common sense to enjoy the lives we DO have.

So, I propose this; that those who are naturally childless yet feel there is such a hole in their being they MUST have children, then adopt. When you refuse to consider such an option, you pay these poor children the ultimate disrespect by telling them they are not good enough to fill that hole that haunts you so. You tell them you would rather bankrupt yourself attempting to have a child begat of your own genes than bring them to your dinner table and love them like your own. You tell them they are worthless.

I do not have a maternal bone in my body, yet I love my wife's twin daughters as though they were my own. They will not continue MY genetic line, but guess what? I don't give a shit! Really! People who have or want to have kids look at me like I'm some kind of monster when I share my total lack of enthusiasm for the "joys" of parenthood or passing on my genes to the next generation. I was lucky by virtue that my step kids were grown up by the time I entered the picture, yet they treat me more as their Dad than the one who knocked up their Mother. Being a parent has alot more to do with what's in your heart than what's between your legs.

So, before any one of you who are striving to have children thru artificial means dare to suggest that I just don't get it, let me suggest to you that it's YOU who have to examine your motivations concerning childbearing. There are thousands of children rotting away in less than ideal foster situations, or worse, that are hoping that maybe you will too.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

A Post which will live in INFAMY (not the original title)

Oh, the humanity! Somewhere over my location in the upper atmosphere, molecules of hydrogen and oxygen are somehow being forced together in just the right combination to, my god, how do I say form water! And it's not that wispy white stuff that floats around in the sky, no my friends, it's forming into actual DROPS and falling from the sky! It's everywhere! I can hear these horrible chemical bombs impacting my roof as I type. If you read this, tell the world! It could be spreading even now! The ground outside is actually saturated with the stuff! The weather people tried to warn us, but did we listen? Noooooooo! We in our arrogance dismissed the whole silly idea, "there's no such things as condensation..." Idiots! My porch is actually coated with water! Pray for me, my fellow humans; I will hang on here as long as I can...........

Now that I have gotten THE Michael's overly dramatic weather report out of the way, it's time to get to the meat of the matter. Did you know that on this day, December 8th..........

Having been shown in no uncertain terms the previous day that Imperial Japan actually DID possess weapons of mass destruction, President Franklin D. Roosevelt thought it would be a good idea to take the focus off our intelligence failures by declaring war on Japan.

The Chinese Nationalists, having lost too many ping pong games to the Communists, take their paddles and retire to the island of Taiwan.

President Richard Nixon finally admitted to having an exit strategy from Vietnam, which consisted of training the South Vietnamese to take responsibility for their own security. I think we all know how well THAT went......

Humorist James Thurber is born, author of "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty". He wrote some other things too, but who cares.

Jeanette Rankin, first woman to be elected to congress, casts the lone dissenting vote against the declaration of war against Japan. This was a repeat performance of her vote against war in WWI. Two years later, actually convinced that her vote had killed any chance of winning reelection, she retired from political office, returning to her home-state of Montana, where she took up the cause of the state's oppressed cattle population, to no avail.

Mark David Chapman murders John Lenon outside his apartment building in New York, proving once and for all that "The Catcher in the Rye" should be banned from all the nation's libraries. This also demonstrated what happens when you listen to Beatles tapes at the wrong speed.

On this day the Toyota Motor Company received permission from the Allied Occupation Government to start production of buses and trucks........a day that shall live in infamy.

And.......Soon to be dead President Abraham Lincoln issues his Proclamation of Amnesty and Reconstruction, failing to address the issue of who was going to do all the work for Southerners now that the black folks, now second class citizens, were all moving to Detroit to cut record deals as soon as the record was invented.

What, you guys didn't know all this? Well, that's why I, THE Michael, is here. Now you do.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

The Great Ascent

It was a cold, crisp night, the harvest moon creeping over the tree-line, and I was arriving home after a twelve hour shift, the house dark and empty, since the wife was putting in a late night shift herself. I loaded up the plastic bags of items I had picked up on the way home and headed for the steps of the porch when suddenly I was confronted with..........the first step. I froze. The step was intimidating, to say the least, as one would be required to lift their foot a good 8 inches into the air in order to mount it. To make matters worse, there was another step above that one that rose the same distance, only this one was further back, which would require that a forward as well as lifting motion would be required with the other foot in order to get to it, a daunting proposition to say the least. These two feet of mine had not risen much further than perhaps 3 inches at the most all day long in order to propel me along the floor, and now they were being tasked with a whole new motion I wasn't sure they were prepared to make. I stood there with two gallons of wine in one hand and a frozen pizza in the other, my keys grasped somewhere in the mix, wondering what I was going to do. There was no getting into the house without first surmounting this intimidating obstacle, and it was dark, since the outside light had not been turned on when the wife left the house. Damn her! How could she not foresee the quandary she would put me in by her incompetence?!

It was not long after I had gathered the courage and fortitude to attempt the ascent up this Everest when, looking up, I was horrified to discover that there were not simply 2, but a total of 5 of these terrible wooden platforms that I was going to have to circumvent if I ever hoped to get within the comfort and safety of my abode! Can you imagine the state of mind I must have been in at that terrible moment? I could say that my entire life flashed before my eyes, but I would be exaggerating, for my mind was racing so fast I couldn't even remember how I had managed to climb into the car, a feat that surely should have prepared me mentally for this challenge. Oh, the humanity! What WAS I going to do?

Then, the answer to my quandary came in a flash in the guise of a small, furry animal that zipped right past me and ascended the dreaded staircase in such an easy, fluid motion the very grace of it simply astounded me! Within the span of 2 seconds, this creature had made it to the top of the steps and onto the porch with a motion that could only be described as effortless, which so impressed me that I almost dropped the heavy wine bottles from my weakening grasp. Suddenly, I was in the grasp of an epiphany, as if the truth of the universe had been revealed to me like a spotlight in the darkness.

With the enlightenment that comes to few people caught in such terrible circumstances, I centered myself and lifted a foot, propelling it forward as I did, daring to believe that I, empowered with the faith one must have to challenge and conquer such a beast, could do this as easily as this feline wonder had. Imagine the pride that swelled within my breast as I shifted my body forward and was rewarded with the solid and comforting feel of my foot cleanly placing itself upon that first step! The sensation was, for lack of a better discription....exhilerating! With a newfound gusto, I brought up the other foot and followed thru with the same motion that had enabled me to attain that first step, and, WAH-LAH! There I was, safely ensconced upon the first step and ready to propel myself upward to the second. I now knew I could do this; nothing on Bob's green Earth had a snowball's chance in hell of stopping me now!

I would like to report to you now with great pleasure that I managed to climb this huge obstacle with no less effort and grace then the cat had proven to me could be done, but sadly, my friends, at that very moment I snapped out of the silly state of mind that Lights-in-the-Wake had put me into before I had left for this trip. So, there I was, standing on the porch, looking down those steps, smiling at how I, THE Michael, had managed to take such a mundane occurrence that did not deserve such a complicated rendering, and RENDERED that sucker for all it was worth! I would like to thank Lights for providing me with the inspiration to make this story possible. Without his able assistance, you surely would have been subjected to another rant, inane observation, or dose of Madness for which I have become infamous.

Tune in tomorrow when THE Michael attempts to collect various foodstuffs in a four wheeled conveyance which will surely terrify ALL of you when one of those wheels begins to WOBBLE! Don't say I didn't warn you.........

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

The WORD According to BOB, as told by his prophet, THE Michael

Well, it's about time. I had my vision. I used to be secretly jealous of all these self-proclaimed prophets of yesteryear and today, walking the streets with a sign or hawking their truths on television. How come God always talked to these lunatics and never to me? Does one have to go bonkers or wear outlandish makeup in order to hear God? Well, those days of insecurity are over, my friends, praise BOB!

I was making my occasional run into Walmart to pick up cigarettes and my wife's prescription, when I almost ran smack into what I thought was one of their greeters, you know, the old or disabled guys or ladies with the blue vest? Well, he appeared out of nowhere, or so it seemed, and I came to a screeching halt in order to avoid bowling him over. I started to mumble an "excuse me" and dart around him, but he stuck out his hand, smiling, and said, "Howdy, partner, glad to meet you. I'm Bob.........Bob the almighty."

Now, just out of polite habit I took his hand, which he happily started pumping, but I was staring at him, not replying, due to two good reasons. First, I wasn't sure, but I'd swore he just said something about someone being almighty, and second, that blue vest I had assumed he was wearing was actually gold......solid gold.....the real deal gold......maximum bling bling gold. So, as my mind starts to adjust to the absurdity of this situation, I mumble something about being in a hurry and complete my jig around him and dart thru the double doors into the store...........and again, almost run Bob over as he appears in front of me again. Another screeching halt, and I glance over my shoulder to see that no, his twin brother is NOT outside where I first started having this problem.

I turn back to Bob, getting somewhat annoyed, wondering how this sucker moved so fast, and before I could open my mouth, he gently puts his arm around my shoulder and starts walking me over to the bench in front of the in-store McDonalds', you know, the one with the big plastic Ronald sitting on it. My natural fight or flight instincts still aren't kicking in and he sits us both down on the bench. This is all to friggin surreal.

"Relax, Michael, I'm suspending your nicotine addiction for now, and your wife's prescription will be there when we're thru. I've been on vacation for awhile, touring the ether, having a grand old time, and I come back and see I've apparently left a real mess to simmer down here. So, to try and get some sanity going, I'm gonna need a prophet, and guess who got elected?"

Strangely, I had arrived here really craving a cigarette, but for the first time in decades that urgency didn't seem to be nagging me at the moment. But this situation was. So, I take a deep breath to steady my nerves, give this Bob character my best "how's this for a nice, polite eat shit and die" smile, and ask him....."OK, who are you really, and how do you know my name, amongst other things? And, just so you know, I'm about as "saved" as I'm gonna get, so put your bible away, I'm not at all interested!" I glance down real quick to see if for some reason I'm wearing my ID badge from work, and of course I'm not, because I'm off today.

"No bibles, Michael, "he says in that ya gotta love him friendly tone of his, "I had nothing to do with that work of fiction. And of course I know your name, I know everybody's' name, which is only natural, considering I'm part of everybody and vice versa. You see, Michael, I really have no name at all, not even "God", I'm just using Bob because it's a pretty easy going, non-threatening kinda name. You can call me Ray, or you can call me A.J., "he chuckled, at his lame joke", but it's all good. So, I just wanted to reassure you that no, you don't have to have that nagging worry deep down in your psyche that you're going to burn in hell for questioning all this religious stuff, and yes, despite all your flaws, you ARE a good person, and you are where you are supposed to be right now for very good reasons, even tho you may never figure out why, at least in this lifetime."

I'm sitting here listening, instead of looking around for the guys in the white coats, because he's right......he DOESN'T seem threatening to me, and nothing he's saying, so far at least, is the least bit scary. "So Bob", I ask him, "You've picked ME of all people to reveal the secrets of the universe to, so I can run out there and proclaim and end up on permanent vacation in the loony bin, is that what you're telling me? I gotta tell ya, guy, people rarely take me seriously for the SANE shit I think up, much less what some guy told me in Walmart wearing a gold vest claiming to be God. Can I take a rain-check? I'd just as soon get back to reality if you don't mind!"

"No, no, Michael, no evangelizing, no proclaiming, none of that crazy stuff. Your right, one of the burdens you bear this life is being short and not quite handsome enough for many people to take seriously, but you DO have harmless little conversations with friends and coworkers, and better yet, you have this wonderful thing you've gotten involved with called a blog.......hell, I wish I'D thought that one up! All I wish for you to do is take the knowledge I'm sharing with you today, mull it over and let it out in your own words, you're own understanding, and let the peace of this knowledge sort of infect peoples minds. I just want all of you here to know that it's ALL good, that yes, we will all suffer in one form or another, we will all know some sort of joy, and every single minute of it is for a reason. Slaves as you are to the forms you inhabit right now, there is so much I could tell you, but it would only go in one ear and out the other, for it is beyond understanding even by the most brilliant amongst you, but as you inch closer to the collective consciousness that we all share, you gain the knowledge and understanding you need to be one with me, Bob, who is really within you as well as beyond. All things in this universe started somewhere, somehow, sometime, and it's all headed in a direction according to the rules laid down from the very beginning, rules you understand, like math, gravity, and physics, and rules you can't comprehend, as in other dimensions or planes of existence. But, it's all GOOD Michael. Without fear, there is no peace, without hate, there is no love, without the ying, ya got no all amounts to something that, believe me my friend, is well worth this long, strange trip we've been on. That's it. Nothing fancy. No hallelujahs, no Amens, just good!"

I stare at what I'm thinking might not be a figment of my active imagination, and I can't help feeling good, even tho I haven't heard any really good cult-like material. What he's told me doesn't seem to be answering allot of questions, but it does seem to lend a sort of peace to my ingrain paranoia about God, the universe, and all that shit. I stand up, offer HIM my hand, which he takes and shakes, and he gives me that grin, and next thing you know.........well, that's just it. I don't know if I then woke up, or it really happened at Walmart like I think it did, I just know something happened, something I remember as clearly as feeding my goats today, and here I am, hammering it out on this blog. I don't think the dream police are monitoring my posts, or homeland security, or the vast right wing christian conspiracy, so I guess I'm safe. I know this will come across as great comedy, but I really don't mind. I'm doing what Bob suggested, and I'm actually enjoying it. And if you stumbled across this blog and actually read this entire thing, then perhaps, like he said it would, you've been infected, and my job has been done. Oh, and by the way, if you could link this blog to yours so others can read it, I think I might talk Bob into giving you a few credits towards your karma, if I happen to see him again. He seems to be a nice enough guy......I mean, aren't we all, deep down inside?

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

The Lucky 13

Me and my friend Davey stood next to our lockers, and it was though the idea hit us simultaneously. He said it first, but I was thinking the same thing. "Let's join the Navy, dude!" And we did.

Davey and I were two opposites of a coin. He was big, a whole lot bigger than me. He was the bad-ass, I was the low key runt. How he got to be a senior was beyond me. He had several sisters and his father was an abusive terror. One night he, me, and the mayor's son ripped off a nice set of chrome wheels right off the auto-shop instructors' car. Well, those two did, actually, I was just along for the ride, as I never had the mind or the guts for crime. I have no idea how me and Davey hooked up to begin with, but as long as I in his shadow, I never had to worry about guys whose key to self-esteem was making life miserable for guys like me. Davey is not the kind of guy I would associate with these days, but back then, fate provided me with many strange associations.

Davey and I had spent the summer previous to our senior year traveling around the state of Alaska with a carnival. I had already turned 18, and didn't ask my "parents" so much as inform them I wanted the experience. Davey was still underage but illogical as it seems, his father gave him the nod. I grew up really fast that summer. But when September came along, and we made the odyssey back to Fairbanks in an old station wagon on it's last legs, I discovered that my Mom and Stepfather had actually been just shacking together the whole time, had never been married, and had decided to separate, thus I really had no home to return to. So here I was, working a late shift dishwashing job, going to school during the day, and living in a run-down apartment with a bunch of other dislocated kids, none of whom were very good at coming up with their share of the rent. Then the real school guidance counselor (talk about an oxymoron) informed me that I wouldn't have enough credits to graduate from high school that year, and would require summer school to get my diploma.
Seems the dozen-odd school systems I had passed through as a welfare kid all had differing crediting systems which left me short in my final year. Which brings me back to the locker with Davey.

I was not clueless to what was going on in the world. Half my life was spent seeing reports coming back from Vietnam, the peace marches, the body bags, the whole mess. At 5 feet three inches and 120 lbs soaking wet, and not one violent bone in my body, I couldn't picture myself with an M16 in my hands wading thru rice patties shooting at anything that didn't look Caucasian. I knew if I was drafted, I was either dead meat or judged a misfit. In 73 the war was not over, and since it was looking dicey just to even get my high school diploma, I knew I wasn't going to have some college to hide in. So when Davey said, "Hey, Dude, let's join the Navy!", for once in his life the guy came up with something that actually made perfect sense.

I had been an avid fan of WWII history, could describe in every detail every sort of warship every nation had ever built, and was a great fan of "Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea". So joining the Navy to see the world, get some sort of job training, and saving my butt all seemed like a great idea. The idea of serving my country had never been a problem for me. Vietnam just wasn't my idea of serving my country.

We both went down to the recruiter, let him give us his spiel, got what "guarantees" we could out of him, and joined up on the delayed entry program. Then he sent us down to take the GED test. Except for math, I pretty much aced the test, but to this day I think they fudged Davie's scores. However, come the day to fly to boot-camp in San Diego, Davey's father refused to sign the papers, as Davey was still 17. I was entering my new life alone. Davey eventually talked his old man into signing, but he was always about four weeks behind me, from boot camp to "A" school, till eventually he managed to finagle some kind of medical discharge. Knowing Davey, I wasn't surprised.

I suppose by now you are asking, "Well, where does the number 13 come into all this?" Well, I joined on December 13th.
I was formed into company 382, which adds up to 13. Somehow, come time to make our company flag, everybody in the company looked over my shoulder as I was sketching out an idea for the flag, Trentcamp's Truckers, the Lucky 13, and all proclaimed I had designed the flag. We lost 13 guys exactly before graduation day. I went on to "A" school, where it was decided I would make a great Personnelman, working in a ship's office managing personnel records. While there, this guy comes into class asking for volunteers for submarine duty. I knew I was never going to make the Navy Seals (which, ironically, would HAVE landed my ass in Nam), but submarine duty to me sounded like the best of the best, and my hand shot up faster than anybody's. I wouldn't learn until much later that they had only just recently included Personnelmen in the billets approved for submarine service because they couldn't get enough volunteers from the Yeoman ranks, which was taken up by mostly women, who weren't allowed to serve on subs. The women also took up most of our shore duty billets, which stuck our male asses out to sea for most of our tours. I made it thru sub school easily enough, and reported to my first command, the USS RAY, a nuclear fast attack submarine based in, where else, Norfolk, Virginia (which we referred to as No-Fuck). The ships number was 653. Yes, that adds up to 14.

Why do I consider 13 my lucky number? Well, I had been on board RAY for three months, had made short runs including the Virgin Islands, and was not far from completing my submarine qualifications, which would have awarded me my "Dolphins", the proud insignia of a sailor qualified in submarines. To be qualified in submarines meant you had to know your boat from sonar dome to screw, knew where every valve to every systems was, where every wire and pipe ran, and how to respond if anything bad happened to any of it, including a hull breach. And as an added bonus, the RAY was scheduled to go into dry dock for an overhaul, which would have meant essentially we'd be on shore duty for most of my remaining tour.
Well, much to my dismay, another boat getting ready to deploy to the Mediterranean for a six month tour was short a Yeoman, and guess who got picked to transfer to fill the billet. You guessed it. At the time, I begged my skipper to get me out of it, I loved my boat, I was almost qualified, and I was feeling so cheated. There was nothing he could do about it. So, I ended up reporting on board the USS LAPON (SSN661), which, you guessed it, adds up to 13. So, apparently, fate made a minor mistake and came back to correct it. Thus, I got to spend six months seeing places I didn't care to see, with the exception of Pompeii, near Naples, Italy, and Lisbon wasn't such a bad shore leave, but most of our time not on patrol was spent tied up to a tender stationed at a tiny island made of rocks and nothing much else.

Before I finally completed my four years of active duty, most of which I can't really talk about, we found out that RAY, due to a really bad navigation error, had run full tilt into an underwater mountain while on patrol. Thankfully, the worst damage she sustained was a stove-in bow, totally destroying the sonar dome, but as far as I know there hadn't been a hull breach.
There were plenty of injuries sustained by the collision, as the inside of a submarine is a nightmare of exposed metal pipes, brackets and hard surfaces, and there had been no warning of the impending impact. A submarine travels pretty damn fast underwater, and it has an impressive mass, and you can just imagine the physics involved. That's why I wasn't on board the RAY that fateful day.............she wasn't my lucky 13.

Monday, May 08, 2006

The rats have fled, now it's MY turn.........

It was only a matter of time. I returned from vacation to the offices of "Dances with Leaves" to be greeted by my dimwitted staff, stupid grins on their faces, an air of smug satisfaction hanging like some pungent odor I couldn't quite identify.

"Ok, guys, spill it. What's this thing you seem to be just dying to tell me?" I glanced at Me who glanced at myself who pulled the object from behind his back and set it on the desk in front of me. "We did it, boss, we finally won an award!"

I'm staring at this....this....THING, which resembles a clear plastic question mark (it was obvious as hell it wasn't made out of rare lead crystal) glued badly to a cheap wood base. "Award? Award for WHAT? That looks like something I don't think I want to win, not by a long shot."

Me grabs the "award" and peers closely at the base where some sliver of paper was glued to the front of the base and reads it to me. "For outstanding Mediocrity in Blogging", he read aloud, a puzzled look on his face. "Mediocrity......that's a good thing, right? I mean, it says "outstanding", so it's gotta be good, huh?"

I'm staring at my writing staff and suddenly realizing that the sum could actually be superior to the parts, who individually didn't seem to be operating on a full tank. Proof of that was this blow to my ego that these clowns were assuming was some form of praise from our peers. It was anything but.

Myself had a pained look on his face which seemed to indicate that he was perhaps the more observant of the three. I was simply non-committal, waiting to see how the boss was going to take the news, which by now he appeared to understand wasn't going to be in a good way.

"Well, guys", I said, the resignation in my voice quite thick, "I guess I only have myself to blame, me to take the fall, and I to cry in my beer. You are all three the worst staff I have ever had the misfortune to hire. Thanks to you, this blog has gone from an average 8 responses to two if I'm lucky. According to blogshares, we owe THEM money. Clear out your space and get the hell out of my head! You're FIRED!"

And with that, they were gone. I was alone with my thoughts, which were lonely thoughts indeed. All the grand plans I had for this blog were sitting in the corner gathering dust, and I truly had no back-up plan to fall back on. So, what do I do now? Already it seemed like half of my peers were taking extended vacations or outright quitting blogging altogether, shrinking the universe I had become accustomed to dramatically. It was like some sort of black hole of indifference was sucking the life out of everything I held dear.

That's when the neon sign which spelled EPIPHANY went on over my head. I was never happy with simple light-bulbs. Neon expressed ideas MUCH better. I reached over and grabbed the phone and hit the speed dial number to the guru who gave advice to the television networks.....NBC, CBS, ABC, eyi eyi oh.

"Freakin' Genius here! What can I do for ya, my man?" "Hey numbnuts, how's it going?", I replied. "Look, I'm stuck in a rut over here at "Dances" and I was wondering if you could lay some quality advice on me? How do the networks stay on the air year after year despite short seasons, constant reruns, and copy-cat writing?"

"Well, there you have it, you answered your own question, bub!" And he hung up. I stare at the phone in amazement and the neon sign shatters into a hundred pieces of imaginary glass over my head. "Well I'll be damned, he's right! It's obvious as HELL! All I have to do is take a nice long posting vacation and simply fill in the space with RERUNS! THAT'S IT! "THE BEST OF THE MICHAEL"!" Hell, half my audience hasn't bothered to scroll back into the archives, so it will seem to be perfectly new material to them, so who's to even know? Those guys really ARE friggin' geniuses!

And so, with a renewed sense of purpose, I quickly typed up something to occupy the few remaining souls who visited my blog and budgeted some time to go back and review some of the old material to reuse, recycle, regurgitate, whatever it took to not have to actually try and come up with something entertaining OR informative. I mean, my life had gotten so stale, so uninteresting, it could only be considered an act of kindness to spare my audience any more of it, for awhile at least.

Boy, imagine their overwhelming excitement when I eventually get around to writing an ALL NEW EPISODE! He he. And to think I used to hate that term with a passion...........

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Return of the Prodigal Blogger

WE'RE BACK! We woke up this morning having dreamt all night about being back in our own bed, packed our bags, and returned to our lives here at Pendragon Hold. After feeding the goats, unpacking our gear, emptying the overflowing mailbox, making a food run, and enjoying a nice, luxurious hot bath, we put on a Netflix movie, "The Aristocrats", which we are trying to survive right now as I write this post. Ever try to experience horror and laughter all at the same time? Watch this movie.
The trip? OH, the TRIP! Of course.......let me post some pics here and try to provide a rational explanation for them........

This is our Son-in-law, Steven, wearing a understated yellow boa. Notice how it accentuates his broad chest and yellow all-terrain undercarriage. A "must-wear" accessory for the season!

Next we have Steven's hot, sexy wife, Heather, with her favorite toy, a python. No batteries needed, just an occasional rat. No Father-in-laws were injured in the filming of this dance, just mildly intimidated.

To give you guys a better appreciation for the incredible size of this snake, I was brought in and placed on the safer end of this rather large eating machine. I assure you I was not peeing my pants.

One thing that amazed me was the awesome bird population around this place. The coolest was this tiny pair of screech owls that made their home in this tree right behind their house. These are the cutest little owls I've ever seen.

Then of course there's the cemetery. A place like this has a thousand stories to tell, you only have to listen. There's the areas roped off with chain where the Jewish people were planted, segregated by choice or not I'm not sure. Then there's rich mosoleums versus simple little stone plates to segregate the rich dead from the poor. The one great equalizer in this place is that they are all dead, no matter their status otherwise.

But the focal point of this hallowed ground is the gnarled dead pine tree and the huge nest that is home to a pair of bald eagles. Sorry, we couldn't catch them at home for a picture, but I did see them. The nest is incredibly large, and beneath that tree on the ground you can find fish bones and other things blown from the nest on windy days.

Of course, we made our rounds to the local new-age shops, visited the St Petersburg Pier, and discovered to our dismay that the festival we had hoped to attend had already happened the week before.

I know, this trip wasn't exactly Disneyland, but I did warn you guys that it was simply a cheap getaway simply to relax and visit the kids. Sometimes simple decompression is worth alot more than recreation, and is a whole lot cheaper to boot.

As I type up this last paragraph, we've started a new movie, "The Weatherman". with Nicholas Cage. "The Aristocrats" was a little to rich for our tastes and had to be shut down. Not that I myself am not about as profane as they come, but there's a thin line between profane and funny. Plus I simply think it was getting a bit asinine.

The wife gets one more day to rest and then it's back to retail hell. I'll have another week of my own vacation to enjoy, but I will be at the mercy of her "honey-do" list, so it's all relative.

I did manage to keep up with most of your blogs and it was a comfort to be able to see them as I tried to enjoy myself out of my element. Amber, that "Gardeners of Gor" thing was a real hoot! Tim, I actually like your photoshop zeal, and no, I will not be limiting myself to 600 words, although I will endeavor to rob it of any possible relevance as not to accidently win a pulitzer before you do......grin.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Candy Stores

Well, we toured two of the shops catering to people who do strange things like buy crystals, and I found a nice Athema and a stone which is purported to attract wealth somewhere in my general direction. Go ahead, laugh.

One thing you never really prepare for is trying to sleep in someone else's bed, which in our case was the polar opposite of our waterbed....rather hard. We have attempted to rectify the situation by purchasing an arrived.

I haven't taken any pictures yet, but hopefully I will come across something cam-worthy tomorrow to grace the blog with. Just remember that this is the economy version of what we laughably refer to as a "vacation", so don't expect much.

Right now the wife and my son-in-law are out at the nearby cemetery, probably communing with the spirits as I type. I sometimes envy the wife her sensitivity to these things, but at least I don't have to worry about dead people pestering me ala "Medium". I realize that being so grounded in reality is no where near as much fun, but what can I say? I just don't see dead people.

I at least have access to blogville, so although I did have to suffer through Amber's decision to take a blog break, I did get to catch gina's wonderful post, which is a poem about life on the web that says so much. And of course, I am secure in the knowledge I am getting my daily minimum requirements of Tim and his photoshopped insanity.

Goodnight, and I'll get back to you guys with another exciting episode of "The St Petersburg Affair"......

Monday, May 01, 2006

St Petersburg

Well, darn, no comments on my last far. Anyway, we've arrived in St Petersburg (I know I said Tampa, but it's all the same, really), intact, and I'll be reporting on anything needing to be reported on as soon as said anythings occur. The kids are already plying us with liquer and Steven has given me and the wife a tour of the nearby cemetery, hoping we might catch a glimpse of the eagle or two that have a HUGE nest in a HUGE pine tree deep in the cemetery. Tomorrow we will hit the local hocus-pocus palaces in search of spiritual, (as opposed to sensual) toys. Yes, it seems I have access to the net, albeit via a (shudder) PeeCee. I miss my Apple already. Anyway, for all of you toiling away at your thankless!!!!! HeHe.