Friday, October 19, 2007
When I was young there was no internet and computers were something that had to do with punch cards and "Stop" and "Go To" commands. There was still a debate in Math classes about whether students could use calculators in class that had the limited capability of doing addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. Our minds, outside of school were still being polluted by television but we only had 4 or 5 channels to choose from. This did not stop us from vegetating in front of the TV sets for hours at a time however.
Of course, evenings consisted of scheduling around such sitcoms and Welcome Back Cotter, Happy Days, and The Dukes of Hazard. Before School, we'd watch Captain Kangaroo and Romper Room and after school we'd plop ourselves in front of the television for a couple of hours to watch reruns of Gilligan's Island, Underdog, The Dick Van Dyke Show and Scooby Doo. Sometimes we would stay up late with our Dad's and watch Johnny Carson on the Tonight Show and late at night Tomorrow with Tom Snyder. Often, while learning the artful skills of flipping that would soon serve us so well once cable TV arrived, we would stumble upon The Dick Cavett Show.
If memory serves me correctly, he was on PBS. PBS is what brought us Monty Python and The Benny Hill Show. As teenagers, much of his intellectual and sophisticated humor must have went over our heads, but there was something there that held our attention and we would sit and smile as we watched him question his guests in his most unique way. As we aged we started laughing harder at his quirks and were let in on his humor. His humor required that we know current events and the political discussions of the day.
I have not heard from Dick Cavett for many years. A search on Google shows he has continued to have shows up to the present on one network or another. But, the multitude of channels on the dish network and Cable have turned many of us away from the information overload accosting us from our television sets, so he has been lost to us and the world for a couple decades or more. What a refreshing and wondrous relief to discover his humor again while reading the New York Times online.
Wednesday, October 10, 2007
It was spring and the sun was coming up earlier and earlier. Daylight Savings time came later in the year back then and it seemed as it was light by the time I made my first delivery. I usually awoke about 4:30 am and left to the central garage with my two older brothers to stuff ads into the papers before beginning my route. We opened the garage door, grabbed our Schwinn Stingrays, affixed the delivery bag to our handlebars and drove in a line two blocks to the High Schooler's (Gerard) garage who was in charge of our area.
I went to sleep every night seeing bobbers in my head disappearing below the surface. We came home with stringers of 1 to 2 lb bullheads. We had a 2 x 6 board set up with a large nail poking through. We would slam the bullheads down, one at a time, onto the board so the nail stuck through the head. Then we’d make an incision behind the head and skin the bullheads with a plier. Then we would walk into the kitchen, while our parents were still asleep in the bed (perhaps my father was recently awakened and sitting at the kitchen table reading one of our extra papers), mix a bowl of flour, salt and pepper and in another bowl crack a few eggs. The frying pan with vegetable was heating up and each skinned bullhead would get dipped in egg, flour mixture, and then fried several minutes on all sides till the bullhead meat was white and flaky.
These delicious breakfasts were almost as good as catching the bullheads, despite having to remove the meat from a large skeletal framework. I was strapping my rod and real to my Stingray. The rod ran from the back frame for my banana seat and through my hotrod handlebars at the front of my bike. We looked like three knights on horses with our Jousts protruding outward as we road down a back country road to the small pond near a park reserve.
I fell behind as I became distracted by a muskrat type animal on the side of the road, as I watched him scurrying through the grass. I looked up and noticed my brothers a quarter mile or more ahead of me. I rose to a standing position and began to pump my legs to catch up. No sooner than reaching a standing position, my rod somehow came loose in back falling to hit the pavement. As it bounced up, the front came loose from between the handlebars and the tip somehow became tangled in my front spokes. With a loud snap my fishing rod was sliced in two and the morning fishing trip was over.
I stopped my bike and looked at the disaster before I began to sob uncontrollably. My brothers were disappearing out of sight as I turned my bike back around and walked it home as I held my fishing rod in my hands. I was nine years old.
Monday, October 8, 2007
On my ride into work this morning the Minnesota Public Radio weatherperson was stating that there is no normal, just variations of extremes. hmmm.
I was reading the paper this morning and stumbled across an article on the reaction of Charles Shultz's family to his latest biography portraying the Peanuts creator as a miserable and cantankerous man prone to fits of depression. The fact that Charles Shultz was prone to melancholy is not exactly a new insight into the famous cartoonist. He said as much on the 60 minutes interview I saw several years ago. Shultz used humor to assuage his melancholy and funny may make us laugh, but it is rarely happy. We laugh at absurdities and to overcome the hardships and suffering of life.
There is no normal, just variations of extremes. Look at the Colorado Rockies. They are far from the best team in baseball this year, but they are currently baseball's hottest team as they ride a streak of 17 wins out of the past 18 games. Despite the American league being the dominant league of the two, if the Rockies sweep the Diamondbacks the world series might be very competitive and exciting whether they play the favored Indians, Yankees or Red Socks. Hitters are usually either in a slump or on a tear and rarely are hitting their average over the season. Basketball players get hot or can't find their shot. Life isn't average or normal, it fluctuates between extremes.
When study statistics, the interesting pieces of data are always the anomalies. What lies within the Bell curve is never interesting. Our education system is all about getting more people to fall under that bell curve whether describing cognitive abilities, behavior, social interactions, or motor skills. Development must also fall into these trajectories based on statistical analysis and God forbid if someone finds themselves outside the range of their age group in any of the above categories. Early intervention is the catch phrase for prodding children back into the range of normal and keeping them from being in the extremes, at least on the lower end of the bell curve.
At the high range lies the gifted, and these become the prodigies who need their gifts nurtured, but often at the expense of the developments of their whole being. But, thats another story. My point here is the lower regions, because I am told my son is below the developmental average in fine motor skills and social interactions (recognition of boundaries, oppositional behavior, etc) for his age group. Obviously, I strive to be a good parent and I want what is best for my son. But, do we really know the optimum way for brains and humans to develop, and if we did, why would we assume that it would resemble anything close to normal or average. Ludwig Wittgenstein did not speak a word until he was four years old, according to his biographer Ray Monk. He would have been found to be developmentally delayed in cognitive functions by today's child psychologist, but without any outside intervention, he arguably developed into one of the greatest intellects western society has ever produced.
It all just makes me wonder what the hell is normal?
Thursday, October 4, 2007
In politics we can see the economic incentives playing out as corporate interests hedge their bets between parties and candidates, so they can receive the greatest benefit. Even if they know a candidate does not fully support the issues that benefit the donor's interests the most, they may still contribute to the candidates campaign so they may benefit from the candidates success in an election. In a strange way, this incentive gives us comfort knowing that corporations can still support candidates with interests that favor the majority and not the market, because they realize the people who vote are not in full support of their profit-driven agenda. Thus, we see the corporations and large donors filling the campaign vaults of the democratic candidates for the 2008 election in full knowledge that after eight years of the Bush administration, there is little chance the American people will choose another term for a Republican administration.
Although far from perfect, in some ways it is better than the alternative. Many people like to point out that economics and capitalism fail to portray the more beneficial aspects of human behavior. Any human that was only motivated by their own self-interest and strictly made decisions based on the profit motive would be institutionalized as a sociopath. Corporations, which legally are treated as individuals, are described as psychologically unstable and a danger to society because of its single-minded devotion to profits over all other motivations. However, human nature also has even a darker side than the profit seeking individual oblivious to the greater interests of humanity. The profit seeking corporation can be seen as standing in the way of power to these darker forces.
During Eric Prince's testimony to Congress he described himself as not interested in finances and anyone who knew him well could testify to this. Aside from the fact that as a man who comes from big money he never had to worry about finances, we can see that this also reveals a man who represents the darker forces of humanity. Eric Prince has never hedged his bets. He is from a wealthy family tied to other families of wealth who only support radical right wing neoconservative and radical Christian objectives. As an observer of American politics, Prince is not satisfied with the slow shift to the right resulting from corporations hedging their bets while prefering candidates that will put money in their pockets at the expense of the peoples. Prince sees a danger of a populace that will feel disenfranchised and will never be fully immersed in the Radical Christian ideology that sees the world in terms of good and evil.
Under Princes views there can be no hedging. We are in a war with the dark forces of the world represented primarily by the Muslim ideology. Previously, it was a war with the communist forces of Satan, but no matter, Satan frequently shapeshifts and can reveal himself under new guises depending on the times. There is no time to hedge your bets under Princes ideology and we must be prepared to meet the darker forces and battle these forces in the name of Good and fundamentalist Christianity. A military that is at the mercy of congress is a military that will never be fully prepared for this battle. I joked about this being the plot of a great science fiction novel, previously. I am not one to make predictions and I am humble enough to know that random events are much more influential to the forces of history than any other conditions. However, this trend towards the privatization of the military that has created a private military capable of overflowing the majority of governments in the world and that continues to grow, has the necessary ingredients for disastrous results.
There is a realization that we cannot keep funding the Iraqi war or even our bloated military forever. There are rivalries between the branches of the military over the funding of new weapons systems as well as the role each branch will play in the future battlefields across the board. We have heard concerns over the growing influence of radical Christians at focal positions in the Air Force and the Army. As these rivalries grew, it became obvious to some that the military needed restructuring. This restructuring has be done by neocons over the past eight years and has left the military power in new private hands with an ideology that is not represented by the majority of Americans.
Some may want to point out the forces on the left that have contributed strictly to liberal and democratic candidates such as Unions or Moveon.org. I concede that these forces used to be a counter force to the forces on the right devoting their financial contributions strictly to right-wing and republican candidates. But, these powers on the right now have there own military that should bring cause for concern to all. Can you imagine if a similar force was funded and led by the left. What ff George Soros started his own security firm and began to get contracts under the next Clinton Administration? What would the right wing be saying and how long would it be before he was tied to terrorism and the war broke out between Blackwater and Soros firm [See, it is a great plot]? A more likely scenario will be a General on the battle field voicing the concern that Blackwater has made American soldiers larger targets for insurgents. This General might also feel slighted by his diminsished pay compared to Blackwater employees. A back alley war between Blackwater and American forces might result through the withholding of intelligence, funding of insurgents, negligence of duty, etc. Then it is only a matter of time before this war spreads home.
Obviously, my imagination is too active and this is likely to play out over a longer period of time for us to notice this drift toward Tyranny in America we are presently in. But, as unsettling as many of the impacts of the Bush administration has been on Democracy in the US, the privatization of military services is the most concerning and should be the red flag to us all that the empire will soon turn its violent hand against the citizens on the mainland as these armies increasingly come rushing to aide in disaster relief and urban unrest that is likely to increase over the coming years. I think I might prefer the profit-motive to these darker forces on the horizon.
I still have potatoes, broccoli and kale left to harvest in the garden. Soon, I must begin applying compost and mulch to prepare the soil for next spring and plant the garden along with other fall plantings of flowers and herbs.
Fall always arrives in a rush and I, as usual, am unprepared for the wave of hopelessness that overcomes me. The tomatoes, peppers, beans, flowers, and the lush colors of the summer suddenly give way to browns and decay leaving one in a general state of despair. Luckily, this feeling is only temporary and can be assuaged through the hard work of preparing the garden in anticipation of the following spring when the plants will once again begin to sprout and grow to full bloom. There is also the work in the kitchen of preparing and storing the harvest from the summer and fall. It is a time to grow closer to family and community.
I, like many people living in suburban communities, feel a disconnect with my neighbors. I am treated as a sort of oddity by my neighbors. They arrive in amazement during the summer to witness the bounty I have managed to grow, but seem puzzled by my efforts and slightly taken aback in wonderment over my motivations. Am I a survivalist, hippie, malcontent, liberal, conservative? All these questions seem to be forming in the backs of their mind as they make comments on the amount of work and time my efforts must consume.
Fall is a time for reflection and with the wave of hopelessness that accompanies the end of the harvest, one can be overwhelmed with grief. I don’t see a need to run from this grief or feel a need to medicate it. Rather, I let it flow through my veins and contemplate the loss I am experiencing with the fall while being aware of loss and death in the world that surrounds me. Life and death go hand in hand and the experience of fall should prepare us for our own deaths and help us learn to live with our mortality.
As someone who follows and sometimes obsesses over political and global events, fall can amplify the hopelessness of our times. But, it is only by experiencing the despair and working through the misery that accompanies the life cycle that we can retain our sense of hope and put it to use to build a more sustainable world beginning with our own lives. But, we are a society that treats depression and grief as a disease rather than a perfectly natural response to our changing conditions. Rather than experience this grief we medicate and dull it so we can forget about it. But nothing we do can erase the fact that we are all mortal and our death stalks us every moment of our lives.
What many of us do not realize is that medicating and forgetting about our inevitable death may prolong our lives and keep the physical body alive, but it creates a spiritual emptiness. Most of us spend the majority of our waking moments in a trance that might as well be death for the experience it gives us. Our lives are not killing us, our lives are already dead. This is why we must experience grief, taste it and glorify it. That is what fall reminds me, anyway.
Wednesday, October 3, 2007
Tuesday, October 2, 2007
One of the first products introduced was DDT as a pesticide and herbicide for agricultural products as well for control of Mosquitoes to combat malaria around the world. DDT was used extensively in rural communities in the 1940's and 1950's while my father was a growing up. My father was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease when he was 30 years old in 1970. As a young man he used to work for farmers and applied DDT in the fields without any protection getting covered from head to toe in the DDT dust. He is going to be 67 in December. He is a shell of the man I knew growing up. At 6'4" and 220 lbs, coming off of life on the farm, he was big, strong and skilled in a number of tasks such as carpentry, auto mechanics, fishing, hunting, plumbing, electricity, etc. Even when he was first diagnosed with the disease that would eventually cripple him, his medication slowed and controlled his digression enough that I still remember a man as a child who was infinitely stronger and capable as the adult man I grew up to be. The community my father grew up in is riddled with cancer and he has lost many friends to a variety of diseases. His younger brother died at the young age of 55 from a brain tumor.
My father was no sissy and I am sure he came off of the farms without the slightest fears of pesticides and herbicides such as DDT. I can imagine he moved into the suburbs around Minneapolis as a young man and brought home pesticides from the hardware store in town and applied it to his garden and lawn by the handful. I was born in 1964 and I would not doubt he would come in from outside and take me crying from my mother's hands in his huge DDT dust covered hands, and slowly rock me and comfort me to sleep. DDT was not banned until 1972.
I've been playing with my balls my whole life. The human body is mostly smooth and hard and the testicles encased in the elastic scrotum provide an interesting exploratory landscape for the fingers to investigate under the covers and away from the sight of everyone. I have observed my son sitting naked on the couch while discovering this pleasure himself and from my childhood I remember my father napping on the couch with his large hands tucked neatly into his pants. Obviously, this is an inherited trait or perhaps universal amongst all males. We are socially conditioned to play with our balls in the privacy of our homes away from the prying eyes of our neighbors. If not for this conditioning, I am sure men would be walking around with their hands stuffed neatly into our pants all day long as we twiddled to our heart's content. After 43 years of playing with my balls I mostly do it subconsciously now as I put myself to sleep. My hands pull and play with my scrotum and softly manipulate each testicle, one at a time, not to derive any sort of pleasure, but rather to just comfort myself. One week ago, when I first noticed the lump on my right testicle, I thought I should just ignore it. Immediately, I did think of testicular cancer and Lance Armstrong and all that, but I also thought even if it was cancer I should be able to heal myself with positive thoughts, a good diet and a healthy lifestyle.
I am not worried about universal health care. In many ways I distrust everything about the modern health industry. Everything is presented to us with scientific certainty derived from statistical analysis. I have had enough post-secondary education to understand that nothing is certain about statistics and what is certain one day from one specific study will be announced later as false due to a new study with slightly different parameters producing different results. So, my natural inclination is to push everything modern and scientific aside and try and live naturally and healthy through diet, exercise and as much distance from the modern world as one raised in it can muster in a week. I didn't want to believe I had cancer and I had told myself, that even if I do have it, I would not undergo putting radiation and chemical poisons in my body to counteract the growing cancer.
On Sunday I read of a recent scientific study showing a correlation between breast cancer and DDT exposure. I suddenly began to think of the possibility that no matter how healthy I lived the seeds of cancer may have been sown in my body as an infant. I thought of my son and my desire to see him grow up and my father crying at the realization that he can no longer play with his grandchildren in a meaningful way like he dreamed of as a young and healthy adult. I called my doctor yesterday and made an appointment by phone for tomorrow at 1:00 pm. I stayed up all night rehearsing what I will say to him.
"Doctor Clavine, I play with my balls a lot and recently I notice a lump on my right testicle. I'd like for you to play with them awhile and see what you think - if it is cancer."
Depending on what he thinks, I will take it from there. I suppose I can stand the thought of putting myself to sleep each night while playing with one less testicle if it came to that. I'll have to think about the chemotherapy and I am sure I will be given plenty of statistics to help me reach a decision.
Monday, October 1, 2007
I don't know why, but I've never liked bringing attention to myself. I have always been competitive, but I'm always embarrassed by seeking approval from others. So, when I later went on to play in bands, my least favorite part was trying to sell the bands I was in. I could not stand telling people to pay attention to us, because we were good. I just wanted to play and let people form their own opinions as I had fun playing my guitar and singing my songs.
I think I feel the same about writing. It is not that I am humble or modest. I can actually come across as quite arrogant and I don't tolerate mediocrity very well. But, what I most hate are the self-promoters. I have always been sickened by the salesperson mentality and thats what you see in blogs the most. Especially, as time goes on and more and more people join the information age and chime in on any number of subjects while attracting donations and sponsors to their site. Its this that makes me queasy. Obviously, I am not in the market or doing this to attract visitors to my site. But, whenever anything is done these days it is impossible to judge the worth of how we spend our time without considering costs and potential revenues. Worth for anything that we do with our time is judged almost strictly in monetary terms even when we pursue our hobbies and interests, because "time is money" as they say.
That's why I haven't posted in over a month and explains my previous post. Let's see if this post gathers any momentum.